Petrol and diesel drivers warned as common car warming habit wastes fuel

Motorists with a petrol or diesel vehicle are squandering a combined £188million on fuel costs while idling over winter. The fuel costs equate to the same amount of carbon emissions that would be produced if more than the whole population of Cardiff were to catch a flight to Egypt, the host nation of last year’s COP27.

A new study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), found that 64 percent of drivers let their engine idle during the colder months.

More than four in 10 admitted to doing so at least three times per week.

More than a million motorists idle every single day during winter, producing a carbon footprint over a lifetime of 825kg.

Highlighting the extent of the issue, the average idle time during winter is 4.79 minutes but one in six motorists leave their car running for at least 10 minutes to get everything warm.

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“Excessive idling can also actually damage your engine’s components, including spark plugs, cylinders and exhaust systems – and an idling engine can produce up to twice the emissions of a car in motion.”

Rule 123 of the Highway Code deals with “the driver and the environment” and outlines how motorists should follow the rules.

It states that drivers must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road. 

Generally, if the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, drivers should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution. 

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Farooq Yaqub continued, saying: “The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) will be so critical in the long-term in helping reduce emissions from petrol and diesel engines. Yet the research has demonstrated a clear financial barrier to this being a straightforward process, amplified by the cost-of-living crisis. This is why it’s so important that the Government provides further support and incentives for EV uptake if they are serious about meeting their 2030 net zero goals.”

To help Britons save money and the planet in the meantime, the IET has developed some tips to help lower motorists’ winter idling carbon footprint.

One of them is the 10-second rule. If the car is going to be stationary for more than 10 seconds, it is best to turn off the engine.

The IET said restarting the car does not increase fuel consumption after it has been off for a short period of time. Alternatively, if their vehicle has the stop/start technology, they should make sure it is always turned on.


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