10 smart driving tips to maximize fuel efficiency

Whether driving on pure gas or a plug-in vehicle, there are more ways to save than super-slow driving. With gas prices predicted to rise past the $2/litre threshold in 2023, where Canadian diesel prices have stubbornly remained for a prolonged period it’s worth looking at any way for driver to save money, especially with inflation eating away at savings and raising prices everywhere.

But there can be different strategies and driving techniques depending on whether you’re driving a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle or an Electric Vehicle (EV) of any type, whether plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or a battery electric (BEV) that uses electrons only. Yes, traditional fuel-saving tips such as ‘accelerate slowly’ and ‘avoid exceeding the speed limit’ will help, but newer vehicle technologies bring different efficiency strategies that may or may not be the same depending on what vehicle you’re driving.

Here are 10 tips and strategies that go beyond super-conservative driving techniques that will help save drivers money: the first five no matter which fuel used, while the next five pertain more to plug-in vehicles specifically.


Look far ahead to smooth out traffic flows. This key driving and safety strategy helps drivers avoid unnecessary and efficiency-hurting full vehicle stops, especially in city driving. You’re less likely to accelerate briskly (and inefficiently) when you see a red light or stopped traffic ahead, while seeing a person approaching a crosswalk in the distance can help drivers slow down and avoid unneeded stops in the first place.


Be wary of traffic and construction patterns. Avoid rush hour if possible, streets clogged with long-term construction, and even a quick check of your route before setting out through various online apps can help you save on fuel and aggravation.


Car care can bring savings. It’s not only oil changes and tune-ups that can increase fuel efficiency, but basic items you can do yourself such as keeping up tire inflation levels, removing roof and bike racks when not in use, and reducing heavy items in the trunk will help as well.


Avoid cruise control on hills. It’s true that cruise control can help avoid little throttled blips on the highway that over time can add up faster than a constant electronically-controlled speed. But even a gentle hill can cause a cruise-controlled vehicle to down-shit multiple gears, raising engine revs and fuel use to maintain that speed. A wiser fuel-saving strategy is to increase speed gently (watch your speed, be gentle and within speed limits) on any downhill portion if possible before the road rises, then click off cruise control right around the set speed.


Consider your driving patterns. Short-term, this means considering your daily schedule to combine trips, saving time and fuel. Especially in colder temperatures, all vehicles are more efficient once warmed up. Longer-term, it may mean considering where you do most of your driving, and which vehicle type will cost you the least to drive overall.

For plug-in vehicle owners


Search out all home charger incentive programs. Most potential buyers will be aware of the larger new vehicle government rebates, like the federal rebate of up to $5,000 for a BEV or longer-range PHEV (50 km or greater of all-electric range), and similar amounts offered now in most provinces. But there are also various types of local government or utility green rebates which provide subsidized or low cost loans for home EV charging stations (EVSEs), which provide a quicker overnight charge to all-electric vehicles, though the standard 110-volt charge cord may work overnight for some PHEV owners


A.B.C.: Always Be Charging, especially at free chargers. Their number may be decreasing, but for maximum fuel savings, it’s worth seeking them out. But be courteous, and move as soon as you’re done.


Study and practice your drive mode moves. Most plug-in vehicles have different drive modes that vary the level of regeneration when you let your foot off the accelerator. It’s worth checking your manual for recommendations on each one, and to keep your eyes on the ‘game-ification’ scores or ratings your mode moves achieve you.


Precondition the interior while charging. Having that home EVSE is super helpful for cabin comfort, as you can use your app or your vehicle’s climate control timer to warm up or cool down the vehicle while plugged in just before you depart while still leaving with a full charge.


Regen braking is not always your friend. While hybrids and PHEVs all offer regenerative braking that efficiently reclaims power lost to friction heat on regular brakes, keep in mind that coasting is usually better than regenerative braking for maximum efficiency. So keep your eyes up, avoid coming to a full stop when possible, and extend out your regen braking for red lights or on long downhills.

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