Top tips for greener driving – how to save money and the environment

An OPAL car which runs on hybrid technology

It's great to jump in a car and visit friends, travel to work or go shopping, but cars are also a major source of atmospheric pollution.

The exhaust fumes that petrol and diesel-powered engines produce contain soot and a range of polluting gases including carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides - all of which can reduce the quality of the air we breathe. They also contain high concentrations of carbon dioxide, a ‘greenhouse gas’ that has been linked to climate warming.

Help reduce the impact of cars on our environment by following our simple tips for greener driving. Why not start today?

Three ways to drive greener

1.    Drive less

Do you need to take the car? Try using public transport, or why not walk or cycle instead? You’ll save money and keep fit.

If you regularly drive the same route as friends, then consider car sharing.

2.    Drive ‘green’

Sometimes we need to travel by car, but there are still ways to reduce the impact on the environment.

Follow these tips to drive more efficiently – you’ll burn less fuel, reduce emissions and save money:

  • ensure tyres are inflated to the correct pressure;
  • reduce the vehicle drag by removing roof and cycle racks when not in use;
  • accelerate and brake smoothly;
  • avoid over-revving the engine and use higher gears as early as possible.

3. Investigate cleaner fuel technologies

There are many cleaner alternatives to petrol and diesel-powered engines. Consider the following options when buying a new car.

Electric cars – are powered by a rechargeable battery, so do not produce exhaust fumes. The UK government is offering financial incentives to purchase electric cars.

Remember when considering electric that:

  • electric cars have a limited range and need a place and time to be recharged;
  • batteries have a limited life and are expensive to replace;
  • much of the UK’s electricity is still produced from coal-fired power stations.

Hybrid vehicles – are powered by both a petrol engine and a battery, which recharges as you drive. They are more fuel-efficient and emit less pollution than a standard engine, and do not need to be recharged like an electric vehicle.

Gas-powered vehicles – use gases such as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). This fuel produces less soot and waste gases like nitrogen oxides, but still produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide. Bio-methane made from waste products is another fuel in development.

Biodiesel and bioethanol – are both fuels that can be produced sustainably. Biodiesel can be made from old cooking oil and specially grown plant crops, and bioethanol from fermented plant material. Existing engines can already cope with a careful blend of petrol and bioethanol or diesel and biodiesel.

Although biodiesel can be produced sustainably, it still produces polluting gases when burnt.

Fuel cell vehicles – use hydrogen to create electricity and power an onboard motor. The only emission is water (steam). However, producing hydrogen does create pollutants, unless renewable sources are used. This technology is expected to become widely available within the next 10 years.

Interested in finding out more?

Carbon Trust:
The AA - Eco-Driving Advice: /fuels-and-environment/drive-smart.html
Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership:
Biomethane as a fuel: