The car market is rapidly changing. A few years ago the choice was a simple one between diesel and petrol. New options on the market include electric, hybrid or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Larger vehicles often run on bio-diesel or ethanol. As we all become more interested in the environment and emissions from engines, we’re likely to see more changes in the way we fuel our family car.
A Bit of History
When cars were invented in the 1890s, petrol was already around as a by-product of kerosene, which was used for heating and lighting. Early motorists didn’t have the option of driving to the local filling station for their fuel, as the first one didn’t open in the UK until 1919. Before then, the only way of filling your car was with two-gallon cans, refilled at the local chemist shop or garage. Diesel was introduced as an alternative to petrol in the 1920s for commercial vehicles, and the next decade for passenger cars. Leaded petrol, known as “four-star”, was banned in the UK at the end of the 1990s over concerns about the health effects of the additives in the fuel. Around the same time, the first hybrid cars emerged, designed to run on both conventional fuel and an electric battery.
Without fuel in your car, you’re not going anywhere. Checking the fuel system is an essential component of the MOT test too. There are various elements which might result in an MOT fail, such as evidence of any sort of fuel leaking from the tank, a split in the neck of the tank or damaged fuel pipes and hoses. If you notice spots of petrol on the road after you’ve parked up for the night this is really something which should be dealt with immediately. Fuel systems are checked during a routine service, but if your car is coming up for an MOT soon, mention it to your mechanic so they can put any faults right before checking it comes up to scratch.
Alternative Fuel Cars – the Benefits
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of petrol and diesel engines, then the obvious choice is to opt for an electric vehicle or one with a hybrid engine. These types of car are undeniably cleaner and better for the planet. They’re not without their downsides though. The range is the main problem owners have to consider. This has been improving over recent years though and many of the most modern models can achieve 120 to 130 miles on a single charge. If you have to charge facilities at home, that’s usually plenty for your everyday commute. Electric cars are also coming down at price as more drivers start to use them, and there is a booming second-hand market too. Charging up your electric car is cheaper than buying petrol, and as there is no fuel system, there’s less to go wrong too. For example, one of the main reasons for a car failing its MOT is problems with the exhaust system. As this is completely absent in electric vehicles, your car is more likely to drive off with a pass certificate. Electric cars have the added benefit of zero road tax too.
What’s the Difference Between the Grades of Fuel?
If you are driving a standard petrol vehicle, you’ll be used to choosing between standard and super unleaded fuel when you pull up at the pumps. Standard unleaded is 95 octane, whereas the super unleaded petrol is 98 octane. Octane is a rating of how well the engine performs. For most family cars, the standard petrol is perfectly adequate and there is no need to spend extra money on the premium fuel. However, some owners of sports cars find that their vehicle runs more smoothly and with greater fuel efficiency if they choose the more expensive stuff. Take advice from your mechanic about the best fuel to use, or look on the manufacturer’s website for detailed guidance for your make, model and type of engine.
Maximizing Fuel Efficiency
The price of fuel has risen steadily over the years, as a consequence of government taxation and a rising global oil price too. There is a lot you can do as a driver to maximize fuel efficiency, and save yourself a bit of money too. Try to reduce your speed – there have been several studies which show that driving at a steady speed of 50mph rather than 70mph can cut your fuel use by up to 25%. Try to drive smoothly where possible as sharp braking then acceleration means you’ll be using a lot more fuel. Cruise control can be useful when motorway driving to maintain a steady speed and make your car more efficient. Check your MOT too; if they are too soft, you’ll use more fuel. Most cars have the recommended tyre pressures listed inside the fuel cap, and it only costs 50p at most garages to use the air to fill tyres to the right level. Heating and aircon use more fuel too, so there’s no point in running it at full blast while having the windows open. Finally, if you’re in the market for a new car, compare running costs and fuel efficiency as well as the headline purchase costs.
Is Cut Price Fuel Available?
Fuel prices are in large dictated by the government taxation levels and the global oil price. That doesn’t mean that there are ways to cut the price of your motoring though. There are several websites which will help you compare the costs of fuel locally and find out which filling station is currently offering the best deal on fuel. Supermarkets often have the best prices, and will regularly run promotions offering 5p or 10p off a liter of fuel when you spend money in the store. Signing up for the loyalty cards offered by the other fuel brands might put you in line for discounts and vouchers too. The key to cheap fuel is shopping around and keeping an eye on prices and promotions.