How To Use Less Fuel For Local Car Trips

Day 28 of 365 Days Of Low Carbon LivingFuel gauge, white on black, red needle near E

Despite my best efforts, sometimes it seems I really don’t have much option but to drive.

Usually it is because I have multiple commitments and/or errands in places that are far apart in distance but fairly close together in time. That combination makes it impossible for me to get to them all by walking, cycling, or public transport (at least the with the current public transport where I live).

And sometimes I am travelling to places that are not reachable by any of those means…like the municipal resource management centre (AKA the garbage dump or rubbish tip). And often I am travelling with a purpose that is not suitable for such travel…like carrying something dirty or too bulky to fit in a lot of car boots.

I also know I am resistant to travelling by taxi or ride sharing because of the cost and because of the dirty nature of much of what I cart in my car…and the cost that is so visible at the time of use.

(On the latter point, it is, of course, worthwhile weighing up the cost of car ownership and use versus meeting my transport needs by other means of personalised transport.

Also, if I were a bit more organised, I may not have been in the position of needing to drive a fuel-powered car.  For example, I may have been able to:

  • re-organise the day so I did not have to travel so much in such a short period of time
  • organise to get my shopping from local farmers in a different way than personally going to the farmers’ market
  • own an electric car – powered by clean, renewable energy of course!

But they are topics for other days…)

The situation

I need to get to three different parts of the city in one day: church, farmer’s market, meeting.

The big question: Can I do it all by bus?

On a Sunday?

When the middle destination is my farmers market…and it’s a really hot day (which means that I need to keep the produce cool, which really means take it home because I haven’t got the means of keeping it all cool and easily portable for several hours)?

You never know if you don’t have a go.

What I did

The first thing with any potential new public transport trip: look up timetables (or use a handy and easy-to-use app like Google Maps) to see how you could make the trip to your timetables.

So I did.

The result?

Yes, I could…if it wasn’t a really hot day.  Unfortunately, the way the buses run (at the moment) would mean:

  • a 20 minute walk in the heat between the last bus leg and my meeting…and back again
  • no time to take my produce home
  • lugging my trolley of produce up a steep unsheltered hill (which, at the end of a long hot day, would probably mean a slow 20 minute walk instead of a brisk 10 minute one).

And I really wasn’t prepared to shop at a supermarket instead of the farmer’s market

So the real answer for my question for this day was No – I couldn’t (wouldn’t) do all that I wanted to do by public transport.

I also wasn’t prepared to go to the expense and extra inconvenience of taxi or share ride.

So that meant travelling in my own (fuel-powered) car.

As it happened, with all my non-car travel, my car needed a decent run to keep it working properly.

Short trips don’t do that. That’s because, according to my battery supplier, any trip of less than about 1/2 hour drains the battery and  it takes at least 1/2 hour to charge it. And on short trips the engine stays cold and so uses more fuel.

However, by doing several things in one longer trip (without the engine cooling completely at each destination), I can save time and fuel (and therefore save a little more climate damage) compared with separate short trips to do each one. That’s because the car will already be out and have warmed up.

So that’s what I did.

My produce stayed cool and fresh, I stayed reasonably cool and fresh, and the car only cooled down once (during my meeting) yet it seemed to run a lot better by the end of my day out.

And, of course, smooth driving reduced my fuel use even further.


Transport is a major source of the pollution that damages our climate and air quality. The less fuel we use, the less we damage our climate and pollute our air.

Why now?

The consequences of damage to our climate are unfolding and accelerating…right now…and worse than predicted.

The faster we reduce and – most importantly – stop further damage, the faster climate change will slow.

The challenge

If you really do need to drive your fuel-powered car, aim to:

  • achieve several things in one trip
  • only drive for periods where the engine heats up fully
  • drive smoothly.

Join me!

Any change or challenge is easier if you have company along the way.

So let’s embark on this journey together.

  • Read my blog every day for ideas, thoughts and experiences for living a lower carbon lifestyle, more in harmony with nature – while also adapting to the consequences of our damaged climate.
  • Subscribe to get posts direct to your inbox.
  • Commit to taking action yourself.
  • Add a comment to let me know you’re joining in the effort to turn around our world so it can remain liveable – and what your experiences are.
  • Share with others my posts and what you’re doing – our efforts, progress, experiences and challenges – on Facebook, on Twitter, in conversations with friends, on talkback radio and in letters to the editor.