Driver's Ed For the Eco-Concious

Christine Arnefors, Special to PAPERMAG

It's no secret that Europe is the first to pick up on the cool, new trends. Their latest innovation -- ECODRIVE, a driving school that teaches ecologically-conscious driving skills. Omed Hamlan is a certificated eco-driving teacher at the Traffic School of Heden in Gothenburg, Sweden which mandates including eco-driving as part of the test to get a drivers license. contributor Christine Arnefors interviewed Hamlan about daily tips for saving fuel.

GT: Tell us more about eco-driving school.

OH: I teach students how to drive in a more economic way, saving both money and time. On average, my students use 13 percent less fuel after taking the course, and another positive effect is that they drive more safely, and save time, since they learn how to plan and be more conscious about their driving. My average pupil saves around three-to-five minutes when driving for 25 minutes. In my opinion, there are only advantages to eco-driving: our nature, health and economy are benefiting from it.

GT: What can you do to decrease your fuel consumption?

OH: To decrease their fuel consumption, I teach students not to have unnecessary luggage in the car, or drive with empty roof boxes or roof racks. Everything that creates extra air resistance costs more money. It is also important to be aware of the tire pressure, and of the tires' condition. Another word of advice is not to wait too long to overhaul the car for scheduled maintenance, because the car will not last as many years and use fuel less efficiently. The block heater is another great invention for saving money and the environment; you can use it until the temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius.) Your car will last longer and a hot engine consumes less fuel than a cold one. Also, back into a parking lot when you know you will leave the car for a couple of hours. When you back in with a cold engine your car uses an extreme amount of fuel, and all the harmful substances go straight into the air since although you might have a catalytic converter, it doesn't work on a cold engine.

GT: Which cars do you recommend?

OH: It is difficult to say which cars are the best, but most manufacturers are producing more environmentally friendly cars. However, today we have electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and flex-fuel cars, which use both ethanol and gasoline. Those cars are clearly discharging less greenhouse gas emissions. My car is a flex-fuel car that holds 50 liters. If I use only gas, I can drive 700-800 kilometers ,while if I use ethanol I can drive 500-550 kilometers. Driving on gas is a bit cheaper and the use of ethanol is also a political question partly because of the foof versus fuel debate. So it is a difficult question, and a political choice.

GT: So what are the most common mistakes people do when driving?

OH: They drive in a low gear in high speeds. They accelerate too much, although the car can handle a lower gear than they think. The lowest gear is the most expensive and least environmentally friendly gear. Don't use it for more than 1-2 car lengths. It is also common for people to start their car 5 minutes before leaving in the morning. They think it is better for the car but on the contrary it only wears it out. Just start the car and drive.

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