Surging fuel prices ‘adversely affecting 80% of Irish drivers’

Pump prices have gone up 45% in the past year for diesel and 41% for petrol

The AA has warned that 80 per cent of Irish drivers are being adversely affected by the surging price of petrol and diesel. Prices at the pumps have gone up by 45 per cent in the past year for diesel, and 41 per cent for petrol, with an 11 per cent rise just in the past week alone.

The AA’s research showed that 27 per cent of drivers are now spending more than €100 per month to fill up if they have a petrol-engined car, while for diesel drivers it’s 34 per cent. The AA estimates that an average car costs €108 to fill from empty.

Because of those costs, one in 10 say that they’re switching to walking instead of driving, while one in nine is shifting to public transport. While those are not bad things in and of themselves, it’s clear that there is a danger of low-to-middle income workers being priced out of jobs because they cannot afford to commute or travel to work.

“We are reaching very worrying levels in terms of fuel costs and the survey shows that these fuel costs are affecting other areas of family life, such as food shopping and family activities,” said AA Ireland spokeswoman Anna Cullen. “Where people can, they should use public transport, walk and cycle, but this isn’t always possible in rural areas, where public transport options can be limited.”

AA Financial Services in the UK estimates that an electric car is two-thirds cheaper to run than a conventional diesel or petrol vehicle

Many are now looking for cars that are less costly to run — similar car shopping habits in the oil crisis of 1973 kept the original Mini on sale for many years longer than it should have been. AA Financial Services in the UK estimates that an electric car is two-thirds cheaper to run than a conventional diesel or petrol vehicle, even with spiking electricity prices.

James Fairclough, chief executive of AA Financial Services said: “Recent cost hikes has brought what people want from their cars into sharp focus. A car is a significant part of the average household’s finances. Saving money and reducing fuel costs are becoming absolute priorities which dictates not just the type of car they choose but also how they finance it. What people want from their cars versus what they need has been brought into sharp focus by recent cost hikes. The car is a key part of a household’s finances and in times like this many are thinking clearly in terms of ‘need to have’ as opposed to ‘nice to have’. Saving money, lowering taxes and charges, and reducing fuel consumption are absolutely priorities ― both at the moment and in coming months.”

Of course, switching to a more economical car, or an electric car, is not an option for all not least because of the rising price of cars, and the current bottlenecks in supply. So, hypermiling has come back into fashion.

Hypermiling is a driving technique that may best be described as “aggressive gentleness” — using the utmost precision, concentration, and anticipation to squeeze as much economy out of each drop of fuel as possible. It is not just driving slowly.

Hypermiling starts with preparing your car — making sure the tyres are correctly inflated, making sure that all air and fluid filters are clean and fresh, that your engine oil is fresh and filled to the correct levels, and removing any extraneous weight from within, or un-aerodynamic add-ons (roof racks, spoilers, wind deflectors) from the outside.

Drivers are being warned that while hypermiling can save you fuel, it can also damage your car and even yourself

After that, it’s a matter of intense concentration for the driver, never accelerating too hard or too fast, keeping up momentum, and sticking rigidly to speed limits (or just below them).

However, drivers are being warned that while hypermiling can save you fuel, it can also damage your car and even yourself. Some drivers are tempted to over-inflate their tyres, as that reduces their rolling resistance and saves fuel, but it also reduces grip and increases braking distance.

Speaking of brakes, dedicated hypermilers hate braking as it wastes precious momentum and means you have to use more fuel to get back up to speed again. While looking further ahead up the road and using anticipation can mean that you won’t have to brake as hard, as often, it’s obvious that resisting braking until you absolutely, really have to can lead to dangerous situations. Drivers are also often tempted to knock their car into neutral and coast down long hills, which itself is dangerous as you’re then not in full and complete control of the car.

The website hypermiler.co.uk warns its users: “Hypermiling, as with any other form of driving technique, can be dangerous if used on the wrong road and in unsuitable traffic conditions. Please always be aware of other road users and do not endanger yourself or others for the sake of saving a few miles per gallon.”

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring