How Big Brother showed me how to save money on fuel by driving a little differently
Eddie Cunningham was the first non-Ford driver here to try out a new system that monitors every millimetre of your driving and pinpoints how and where you can improve. The Econo Check 'data logger' has been developed by Ford. They reckon drivers can save hundreds of euro a year as a result. How did Eddie get on? Just one finding showed how he could saved €178 a year by driving just a little bit differently...Of course I was conscious of it. Well, for the first couple of days anyway. They had this hi-tech 'data logger' called Econo Check somewhere in the car I was driving and I tried to be a good lad at the start of the week. Then I began to pass fewer remarks on it and only now and then 'behaved' myself. Otherwise, the exercise would have been futile and conveyed a different impression of what I do right and wrong when driving.
The accompanying graphic tells the tale. Basically, they took all the data from my driving -- which was untypically short, I must admit -- and sent it off to Germany to be number crunched. And back came the report, pointing out in clinical fashion the good, bad and ugly of my comings and goings over a week.
Was I surprised, offended, humiliated, happy?
Well, let me tell you a little about this Econo Check first.
It is free to Ford owners and is offered as part of a wider package when someone gets their car serviced at a participating Ford dealer. But you can also just try it out without getting a service, for free.
The majority of dealers -- but not all -- are offering the service. And not all Ford models can be 'Econo Checked'. Virtually all newer models can. Automatics and some older models can't. Check with your dealer.
There have been mixed results elsewhere. In Britain, they charged for the service and take-up wasn't great.
Luckily, Ireland is one of the few countries offering it for free.
How do you get feedback? When you are having the "data logger" fitted, you provide an email address. Then when the test is over (ideally a week long), the full report is emailed to you -- usually within 24 hours. It takes less than five minutes to fit the 'logger' and the same amount of time to take it out.
So, was I in any way surprised?
Yes, I was.
I felt I had driven much less than I had. A lot less.
And I didn't realise I spent so much time idling (the Mondeo two-litre diesel that is, I was busy) -- I presume at traffic lights.
Mind you, it was cold at the time and I do remember having a great chat with a friend one evening and I think I kept the engine ticking over for a bit of warmth. As you do.
But I was shocked to see my idling came to more than an hour overall. The experts advise that if you are going to idle for any more than 20 seconds, you should turn off the engine. One side effect of that is that you'd spend less time gabbing in the car.
I might as well be totally honest about my driving and the overall findings because the printout is ruthlessly clinical.
I must have been conscious about motorway speed limits because I usually drive up to 120kmh where at all possible. I see from the chart I was a 'good boy' and kept to 110kmh a lot of the time. I reckon my overall result is a bit -- not a lot -- better than it might otherwise have been.
And I was genuinely surprised to see how much I could save over a year if I was just a little bit patient and didn't accelerate or slow down as harshly.
It is worth remembering that fuel prices rose quite a bit since I undertook this test so the savings would be even larger.
Ford reckons you could reduce your fuel bill by up to 25pc if you follow the report's advice for greener driving, based on the trends it finds in the course of a week.
I don't doubt them. I was surprised at what I could save. And I was being a 'good boy'.