Are you a smart driver?

Sotiris Vassiliou dons sandals and realises how environmentally-friendly the Ford Focus Econetic is

I am a bit sceptical about all this global warming malarky. I mean, I do not dispute that it exists as the hole in the ozone over Antarctica proves. It is just  this hell-bent obsession with carbon dioxide emissions is just that; an unproven model that MAY enable the world’s temperatures to be altered by a reduction in carbon output. Recently, I was listening to a discussion about the ‘greenhouse effect’ on BBC radio and one caller ridiculed the assumption that we could alter the climate by reducing carbon emissions. He added that the biggest ‘greenhouse’ gas in the atmosphere was water vapour, understandable because there are clouds. I thought it was a coherent explanation, abruptly cut short by the presenter.

Image courtesy of Ford Press Office

Anyway, this was in the back of my mind as I parked my sixteen year-old Audi by a fleet of Ford Focus Econetics as I am about to embark on the Smart Driving Challenge. “115g/km” displays the stickers down the sides of the cars, or £35 in car tax per year in band B for the layman. Fair comment, but what about the energy used in their production and that involved in the possible scrapping of the previous car?  Driveline, with the backing of the Energy Saving Trust have their instructors ready to advise motorists on how to get more miles out of their gallons. Now, I think that I am au fait with this as I recently had training with the Institute of Advanced Motorists and passed, first time.

We move off and the instructor observes my usual driving on a set route and offers me tips such as changing into a higher gear as soon as road conditions are suitable. This Econetic is a 1.6 diesel that will increase speed in fifth gear on a level road with no throttle, such is the high torque availability. Of course, in traffic and built-up areas, this could prove dangerous if a pedestrian suddenly walked into the road as that forward momentum would make it more difficult to react to any possible danger. Efficient driving seems to be about planning ahead to see whether you need to brake or change gear and to regulate or ‘feather’ the accelerator. I was accustomed to this but switching off the engine at temporary traffic lights seemed over-zealous, to say the least.  The Focus Econetic costs £17,495, £250 more than the ‘normal’ 1.6 diesel and has a fuel consumption (according to Ford) of 65.6 mpg on the combined cycle compared to 62.7 respectively. Other tips that I gained from my training were to coast in gear, well before a red traffic light, so as to ‘catch’ them when they changed to green, by watching the other traffic lights at the adjoining junction. On my second Econetic drive, I achieved an overall mpg figure of 52mpg, an improvement of 8 on my previous run but nothing compared to a rumoured high of 70mpg! Did he propel himself via methane emissions, a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, gained through a hearty helping of beans? I digress. The ‘smart driving’ boffins calculated that I achieved an annual saving of £620 or 668 litres of fuel and 1549 kgs of CO2 HAD I driven efficiently in the Focus Econetic, as on my second run, compared to my archaic Audi.

Ford Focus Econetic

So, was I swayed into exchanging my Audi keys and a substantial wad of dosh for the Green Econetic machine? In a word, no. Apart from depreciation of a new motor which could cancel any savings on fuel compared to my Audi, ‘smart’ driving is dependent on driving style, as we have just proven. You may have a swanky new ‘clean’ motor but you may still drive it like little Lewis, and that is assuming that this whole global warming debate hinges on carbon emissions.

Ford Focus Econetic badge

© Copyright  September 2008 . All Rights Reserved Sotiris Vassiliou

Images are copyright of Ford Press Office

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