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Economical driving

Driving economically

By learning how to drive economically, you can reduce your car's fuel consumption by 10-20%, while at the same time subjecting the car to less wear. Over time, driving in this manner can save you a lot of money in reduced fuel and repair costs.

An economical driving style also produces less exhaust emissions and noise than a more aggressive one.

By driving economically you reduce both fuel consumption and exhaust emissions

In short, driving economically means that you should:

  • Upshift gears early and skip gears.
  • Accelerate firmly and drive in the highest possible gear.
  • Avoid engine speeds above 3,000 rpm.
  • Avoid excessive speed.
  • Maintain a steady throttle.
  • Engine brake whenever possible.
  • Plan your driving.
  • Avoid unnecessary braking and stopping.
  • Roll downhill without accelerating and maintain a steady speed uphill.

Driving economically is good for both the environment and for traffic safety as it is a very calm, smooth and calculated driving style. However, traffic safety always has higher priority than driving economically.

In a situation where you have to quickly stop the car to avoid an accident, you should not think about engine braking or braking softly. It is far more important to stop the car as soon as possible.

Upshifting early and accelerating firmly

To drive economically, you should try to quickly shift to your car's highest gears and reach your cruising speed. This is because a car moving at a constant speed consumes less fuel than one that is accelerating.

You should therefore upshift as soon as possible once moving, or when you need to increase speed again – for example, after braking. Only drive a few car lengths in first gear before shifting to second. After that you should try to skip gears when possible. Shift from second to fourth, from third to fifth or, if you are driving on a downward slope, from second directly to fifth. The higher the gear, the lower the fuel consumption.

Almost all modern petrol-powered cars can be driven in their highest gear at 50 km/h. However, if the car seems sluggish in a high gear you should shift down to a lower one.

Upshift early and skip gears to reduce fuel consumption

Try to reach your cruising speed quickly by accelerating firmly. Unnecessarily prolonging the acceleration phase only increases fuel consumption. When driving a petrol-powered car you should upshift gears at 2,500 rpm. If you are driving a modern diesel-powered car you can shift up earlier, at about 2,000 rpm.

It is important not to accelerate at more than half-throttle or to exceed 3,000 rpm. If you do, the catalytic converter can stop working properly. If this happens, the emission of substances hazardous to health and the environment, such as hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, increases.

By changing gears and accelerating in this way you minimise both fuel consumption and engine noise.

Note that you should not attempt to drive on the highest possible gear if you are driving an old car with a carburettor as this may cause the engine to soot up.

Speed considerations

To minimise fuel consumption, it is also very important that you not drive at excessive speeds. The faster you drive, the more air resistance there is. This leads to an increase in fuel consumption.

  • Reducing speed from 110 km/h to 100 km/h decreases fuel consumption by 10%.
  • Reducing speed from 110 km/h to 90 km/h decreases fuel consumption by 20%.

High speeds mean high air resistance and high fuel consumption

It is also important to maintain a steady throttle as your car consumes less petrol than it does when varying throttle depending on, for example, traffic density. A car that maintains a constant speed consumes less fuel than one that is accelerating.

Driving at a lower speed and with a steady throttle not only reduces fuel consumption and the emission of air pollutants, but also the amount of particles produced by tyre, road surface and brake wear.

Lower speeds also reduce engine, wind and tyre noise.

Engine braking

Using engine braking, you can slow the car without supplying fuel to the engine. Engine braking is much more energy efficient than using the foot brake.

In order to engine brake effectively release the accelerator at 1,500-1,600 rpm and downshift when the engine speed drops to 1,200-1,300 rpm. Repeat this process as long as it is needed and is possible.

Some cars sound strained during engine braking while others are almost silent. If engine noise disappears the sense of speed may decrease. To avoid driving faster than you think, or are allowed to, while engine braking, it is important to keep an eye on the speedometer.

Monitor both the tachometer and speedometer while engine braking

Engine braking is generally much more efficient for petrol-powered cars than it is for diesel-powered cars.

If you are driving an old car with a carburettor you should not engine brake as it does not reduce fuel consumption.

Planning your driving

By planning your driving you can avoid unnecessary braking, stopping and starting. Every time you brake or stop, the energy used to increase the car's speed disappears. To increase speed once again, new energy must be consumed. In order to reduce your fuel consumption you should make as few stops as possible and maintain a steady speed.

To be able to plan your driving, you should keep a proper distance to the vehicle in front so that you can see what is happening further down the road. Adapt your speed by engine braking as you approach intersections, roundabouts and traffic lights so that you can, if possible, avoid stopping.

It is much easier to plan your driving if you keep a proper distance to the vehicle in front

Rolling downwards – accelerating evenly upwards

To minimise fuel consumption and wear on the brakes when driving down steep inclines, you should use a low gear without accelerating (release the pedal completely). This way you engine brake, which reduces speed without consuming fuel and avoids excessive brake wear.

Release the accelerator completely and use a low gear when driving down steep inclines

Try to maintain a steady throttle in the highest possible gear in order to drive uphill economically. Provide support with the accelerator but avoid increasing speed. Try to build up speed before the incline so that you can use a high gear while ascending without having to push the accelerator too hard.

If there is an uphill slope after a steep downhill one you can take advantage of the higher speed generated from going downhill to use a higher gear on the way back up.

Driving economically with automatic transmissions

Today, there is an insignificant difference in fuel consumption between new automatic transmission and manual transmission cars. Older automatic transmission cars, on the other hand, usually consume much more fuel. However, fuel consumption is affected more by your driving style than your car's type of gearbox.

Even if you are driving an automatic transmission car, it is very important to drive economically

Three tips to save fuel when driving an automatic transmission car

  1. Do not idle the car to warm it up – A cold engine at idle consumes a lot of fuel to no avail. The exhaust emissions produced during cold starts are also very harmful. Use an engine pre-heater instead.
  2. Start smoothly – A car consumes a lot of fuel when starting from a standstill. Therefore, take off smoothly by accelerating carefully. After the first gear shift, accelerate more firmly to shorten the next acceleration phase. Thereafter ease off the accelerator after each gear upshift.
  3. Avoid unnecessary stops – Every start from a standstill consumes a lot of fuel. Plan your driving and try to keep the car rolling to avoid unnecessary stops.

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Fuel-saving tips

It is not just your driving technique that affects fuel consumption. There are also other things you can do to save fuel:

  • Do not idle the car. In most municipalities it is prohibited to idle the car for more than one minute.
  • Use the car's climate control sparingly, as it increases fuel consumption by 5-10%.
  • Remove roof racks and roof boxes when not in use. A roof box increases air resistance and thus fuel consumption by approximately 10%.
  • Make sure the tyres have the correct pressures.
  • Service the car – regular engine servicing can reduce fuel consumption by 5-10%.
  • Check that the air filter is not clogged occasionally.
  • Use an engine pre-heater.

You can save a lot of fuel by removing roof racks and roof boxes when you do not need them

Cruise control

Modern cars are usually equipped with cruise control, which can monitor and regulate the car's speed automatically. When you activate cruise control, the system regulates the throttle to maintain the speed the car had when you activated it.

Cruise control makes it easier to maintain a steady speed, which can reduce fuel consumption. Other advantages with cruise control are that you can pay less attention to the speedometer, which allow you to focus more on the road ahead, and that you can take your foot off the accelerator, which can reduce fatigue and leg discomfort.

Cruise control is ideal when driving on straight and flat roads with little traffic and good road conditions. It is less suitable when driving on smaller, curvy and hilly roads, in heavy traffic, in poor road conditions and in other situations where the car's speed needs to be adapted more actively.

On some cars, cruise control is operated with a control on a lever

On other cars, cruise control is operated with buttons in the steering wheel

Cruise control can be operated and turned off with a control on a lever or with buttons in the steering wheel. Cruise control is also deactivated automatically if you push the brake pedal or clutch pedal.

Note that a standard non-adaptive cruise control never reduces the speed or brakes as you approach a vehicle in front or any other obstacle. You must brake yourself when driving with cruise control.

Adaptive cruise control

However, there are more advanced cruise control systems that, with the help of various sensors, can brake the car automatically if the speed becomes too high or to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front. These systems are usually called adaptive cruise control or dynamic cruise control.

Note that an adaptive cruise control is not a collision avoidance system. For example, the system does not brake for pedestrians, animals, small vehicles like cycles, nor for oncoming, slow-moving or stationary vehicles.

As a driver, you are fully responsible for driving, regardless of the type of assistance systems your car is equipped with. You must always be prepared to brake or manoeuvre the car yourself if necessary to avoid an accident.

Engine pre-heaters

Using an engine pre-heater is a simple way to minimise negative environmental effects. A preheated engine consumes less fuel than a cold one and also produces a smaller amount of exhaust emissions. During short journeys, especially, there is a big difference between driving away with a cold and a hot engine.

Engine pre-heaters should not be connected for longer than recommended, as that would only result in unnecessary energy consumption.

Connection times

  • Below -15 °C: 1.5 hours pre-heating
  • 0 °C: 1 hour pre-heating
  • 10 °C: 30 minutes pre-heating

Engine pre-heaters should not be used at temperatures above +10 °C.

Compared to a cold engine, a pre-heated engine consumes less fuel and produces 50-80% less exhaust emissions during short journeys

Environmentally friendly measures

As a car owner, there many other things to consider in order to minimise its impact on the environment:

  • Buy tyres without HA oils. They should preferably be Ecolabelled (Svanenmärkta). You can also buy retreaded tyres (used tyres with renewed tread), which are better for the environment but can lead to inferior driving characteristics.
  • Share and ride a car with others by joining a carpool.
  • If possible, buy a car that is powered or partly powered by non-fossil fuel.
  • Leave all car-related waste (such as oil filters and car batteries) at an environmental station.
  • Wash the car in an environmentally friendly way, preferably in an environmentally adapted car wash with oil separation and purification facilities.
  • If you wash your car at home you should choose eco-labelled car care products. Avoid cold degreasing agents and never allow polluted water or car care products to flow into street drains. If you must wash your car at home, do it on a lawn or gravel surface (it acts a basic filter).

Driving a car is considerably worse for the environment than traveling by bus, train or subway. Replacing as many car journeys as possible with walking, cycling or traveling by bus, train or subway is the most environmentally friendly measure you can take as a car owner.

Out of all modes of transport, flying affects the environment the most, calculated per passenger and kilometre. But since the vast majority of all passenger journeys take place by car, car traffic has the greatest overall affect.

Do what you can for the environment to contribute to a sustainable future

Electric and hybrid cars

An electric car is powered by one or more electric motors. It does not release any exhaust emissions, but because the electricity with which its battery is charged must be produced somehow, electric cars also have a negative effect on the environment. However, they are still better for the environment than ordinary cars powered by internal combustion engines.

Electric cars that are only charged with electricity coming from solar, water and wind power has the least impact on the environment.

Electric and hybrid cars also adversely affect the environment, but not as much as those powered by internal combustion engines

Hybrid cars are more common than purely electric cars and, unlike those, hybrid cars are powered by two or more power sources. Usually, in addition to a petrol or diesel-powered internal combustion engine, a hybrid car also has one or more electric motors that help power the car.

Hybrid cars use the internal combustion engine to charge the electric motor's battery while driving. Brake energy and some of the energy that becomes waste heat in an ordinary car can also be used to charge the batteries that power the electric motor.

Regular hybrid cars cannot be charged by an electrical outlet. So-called plug-in hybrids, on the other hand, can.