Drivers can easily save $130 a year without big performance concessions, researcher says

March 13, 2013, Eindhoven University of Technology
Drivers can easily save 100 euro a year without big performance concessions

Drivers can make fuel savings of as much as 12% by shifting up to a higher gear sooner, without having the feeling that they're sacrifcing too much performance. That's the finding of a graduation project by an Automotive Technology Master's student at TU/e. His 46 test subjects made average fuel savings of 6% – often to their own surprise – by finding the most economical gear-shifting strategy that still gave them acceptable performance. That means drivers can easily save 100 euro ($130) or more per year on fuel costs.

Student Luke Lathouwers first let his test subjects use their own . Then he asked them to make five test runs, using a different shifting strategy each time, by following signals that showed them when to change gear. After the test runs, the drivers had to indicate which strategies they found gave them acceptable performance, and which didn't. This showed that the most economical strategy which they found acceptable gave average of 6% relative to their 'normal' driving style. All the test subjects were able to make savings by better shifting behavior; the highest saving was 12%. However the most economical strategy isn't always the best for all drivers – those with a 'sporty' driving style were less willing to make concessions in performance. But even so, they were the ones who achieved the biggest savings. "Often to their own surprise", according to Lathouwers.

'New-style driving', in which shifting up earlier is tip number 1, has been encouraged in the for almost 10 years. But there are still a lot of gains to be made. "Some people think they already change gear at the right time, but they can still make big savings. are often better, but they too have room for improvement", Lathouwers explains. His tip for drivers who want to save fuel? "Find your own lowest acceptable performance limit. That's almost always lower than what people themselves expect. If everybody did that, it would mean fuel savings of hundreds of millions of euros nationwide."

Lathouwers presented his graduation project last Thursday, 7 March. The aim of his research is to gain a better understanding of gear-changing strategies. This can then be used to develop new technology that will advise drivers on shifting, braking and accelerating, in combination with traffic information. It can also be used to improve the performance of automatic gearboxes.

A better understanding of drivers' acceptance limits will enable manufacturers to program more economical shifting strategies.

Explore further: Saving on fuel and safeguarding the environment with smart driving

Related Stories

DrivingStyles, save fuel by driving better

January 10, 2013

The Group of Computer Networks-DISCA of the Universitat Politècnica de València has developed a mobile phone application called DrivingStyles that characterizes our driving style. The system detects bad habits and helps ...

Saving fuel on the buses

March 5, 2012

Bus and truck companies could cut their fuel bills by more than 7% simply by training their drivers on more efficient driving techniques and offering a financial reward to those who improve fuel economy. A study published ...

'Gently does it' drives you further in electric vehicles

December 21, 2012

Drivers of petrol and diesel cars are usually aware that driving at high speed, harsh acceleration and hard braking all contribute to lowering their fuel economy. Scientists can readily explain in terms of the thermodynamics ...

Software patch makes car more fuel-efficient

February 28, 2007

A car wastes energy almost continuously. Whether it is running in first, second, or a higher gear, there is only one position of the accelerator that guarantees optimal performance. Accelerating a little less or a little ...

Recommended for you

World's biggest battery in Australia to trump Musk's

March 16, 2018

British billionaire businessman Sanjeev Gupta will built the world's biggest battery in South Australia, officials said Friday, overtaking US star entrepreneur Elon Musk's project in the same state last year.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
Hmpf, maybe save fuel costs, but spend more in maintenance.

VW TDI drivers are informed by empirical evidence to "drive it like you stole it." This prevents/avoids/minimizes coking the intake manifold with cold exhaust gases. Cleaning the IM should be done with the 100K mile service. My 10 y.o. TDI stll produces 50 mpg.
not rated yet Mar 13, 2013
The odd contradictory behavior of many regarding gas (petrol) costs. Freak out over the rising cost of fuel -


But still go out and buy a big SUV. Several of my co-workers have just bought new vehicles - SUV's that get 15 - 20 mpg. One person I know commutes 80 mile round trip - and has just bought a big Toyota SUV. At 20 mpg highway - it costs her $14 a day to get to work - but she brings cans of soup for lunch because she is always broke. Strange world we live in.
not rated yet Mar 13, 2013
Doug, the need for high RPM in TDIs has been exaggerated, at least for drivers that drive the car far enough for it to warm up.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2013
One person I know commutes 80 mile round trip - and has just bought a big Toyota SUV. At 20 mpg highway - it costs her $14 a day to get to work - but she brings cans of soup for lunch because she is always broke. Strange world we live in.

In a perfect Darwinian world she would starve to death, increasing the average mileage.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2013
That's easy to say, "Shift to a higher gear sooner" until you realize that most vehicles today are, by default, automatic transmissions; and that to have a manual shift costs more than the fuel savings you might realize by grinding your own gears.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.