Blog: Mark BursaEconomy starts with your right foot

Mark Bursa | 28 May 2010

The clever gizmo is easily fitted

The clever gizmo is easily fitted

Car makers are very keen on stressing how eco-friendly their cars are, quoting impressive mpg and CO2 figures. What they often neglect to tell you is that in order to achieve the quoted results, you have to change the way you drive.

The trouble is, eco-driving is not something that comes easily to many drivers – especially lead-footed sales reps who think they’re Jenson Button. To drive for maximum economy, you’ve got to step off the revs – keep below 2,000rpm at all times and change up as soon as possible. You’ve got to lift off the throttle on down slopes and anticipate the traffic conditions to avoid heavy braking.

But how do you monitor this? If you’re a fleet manager, for example, how do you separate the eco-warriors from the F1 wannabes? Ford has the solution. It has come up with a device that’s smaller and lighter than a mobile phone, but that can provide detailed information about your driving patterns – and suggest areas where you should hone your skills. It’s called EconoCheck, and I’ve just spent a week driving an S-Max equipped with it, analysing my driving.

Fitting EconoCheck doesn’t even involve opening the bonnet. It just plugs into a concealed port on the dashboard, where the diagnostic tester goes during servicing. It then analysed my driving for a week, generating detailed data about how many miles and minutes I spent on the road each day; how many journeys, my average speed and how long the engine was idle.

And although I was trying to drive as smoothly as possible, the results show there was still room for improvement. The bottom line was that I had the potential to make an 8% saving in fuel economy – at the mileages tested (the equivalent of 23,000km a year), that equated to a saving of 107 litres of fuel, a reduction in CO2 emissions of 282kg and an annual financial saving of €155. Over a 50-car fleet, that’s more than €8,000 of free diesel – just for driving with a bit more care.

And it identified specific areas where I could improve - I’m revving too hard in fourth and fifth, it seems, and leaving the engine idling for too long. “Your engine idled for 29:25 minutes. This is the equivalent of a distance of around 6.1 miles at 30mph,” said the EconoCheck report, rather sternly. As a rule of thumb, 5 minutes idling consumes as much fuel as driving 1 mile at 30mph. So switch off and save!

Ford of Britain marketing director Mark Simpson is excited about the product: “Green driving is not all about the vehicle – it’s about how you drive it,” he says. “If we can also help the driver, it’s a good fleet proposition. If you’ve got 10 cars and you can get a 10% fuel saving across the fleet, for a small business that’s a big deal. It’s free fuel for one car.”

Ford is still piloting EconoCheck, with a view to a full pan-European launch later in the year. Ford wants to charge for the device, and hasn’t defined the price yet. “It won’t be hugely expensive,” says Simpson, “but we have to cover our costs.”

For fleets, it’s likely to be a loyalty-generator – so it could be offered as a free service. “The units are reusable, so the investment won’t be enormous,” Simpson adds. “We don’t really see it as a revenue stream – it’s much more about doing something for our customers and potential customers. We’d like it to represent real value.”

It’s an excellent idea, and it seems to work. Full marks for imagination, Ford!


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