Guide to eco driving
If you're not sure what effect driving a car has on health – let alone on the environment – here are a few for starters. Breathing carbon monoxide, which is emitted by vehicle engines, can cut down the amount of oxygen in your blood and can be particularly dangerous for people with heart disease.
Exhaust fumes also release substances called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Experts believe these could cause cancer, liver and kidney damage, birth defects and central nervous system disorders. Further research shows that relatively low levels of certain traffic pollutants can cause cell damage in the airways, causing inflammation and increasing your susceptibility to allergies such as asthma and rhinitis.
Government and local councils can do much to help reduce traffic emissions, but it’s down to each and every one of us to chip in too. Here's a quick guide to what you can do:
• Share your car Currently, there are just 1.2 people to a car on the average commuter journey. But if this could be increased to two, then fuel emissions could be cut by 20 per cent. Try joining a lift-sharing scheme that matches people travelling the same journey.
• Get on your bike Ten per cent of all car journeys in the UK are one mile or less. When you’re not going very far, find another way of getting from A to B, such as cycling or walking. It will also keep you fit and reduce your risk of heart disease as well as many other illnesses.
• Ditch the school run Find alternative ways of getting your kids to school, whether that’s walking, cycling or using public transport. Get help on how to do it safely by visiting www.saferoutestoschools.org.uk
• Make your car more fuel efficient Cut down on the amount of petrol your car uses by removing unnecessary heavy items, removing roof racks, checking your tyre pressure is correct and your engine is properly tuned.
• Kill your speed Your car produces the lowest emissions when you drive between 50 and 60mph. Driving at 70mph, for instance, uses up to 25 per cent more petrol. On the other hand, you don’t want to go too slow either, as travelling under 15mph creates the most pollution.
• For more green car tips, visit the Environmental Transport Association’s website www.eta.co.uk
Alternative fuel systems
But what about alternatives to using petrol? If you drive a diesel vehicle that was manufactured after 1990, for instance, you could use biofuels. A growing number of petrol stations in the UK are selling biofuels – visit www.biodieselfillingstations.co.uk to find one near you.
Liquid natural gas (LPG, or autogas) is another alternative fuel that can be used in converted petrol- and diesel-powered cars. LPG is cleaner than both petrol and diesel and it’s cheaper too. But since it’s made from oil it’s not a sustainable fuel. Find out where to buy it at www.lpgmap.co.uk
According to a report by the University of York, electric cars produce a third of the pollution that petrol cars make. However their batteries need recharging every 40 or so miles and their top speed is typically around 40 mph. If that hasn't put you off, check out the electric models at www.goingreen.co.uk, including the dinky G-Wiz.
Meanwhile, there’s the electric-petrol hybrid car, including the eco-trendy Toyota Prius. These use battery power at slow speeds and petrol when you want to go faster. Naturally, they produce cleaner emissions than petrol-only fuelled cars, but they are quite a bit more expensive.
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