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Jul 11

How Telematics is Reducing Car Emissions

With climate change already showing its effects with increases in hurricanes and floods, it’s time for everyone to cut down their personal emissions. Motoring makes up a significant chunk of total CO2 and other climate changing causing emissions, so has rightly been an area where many have looked for solutions.

Viable electric cars have been seen as almost the ‘holy grail’ of the search for a carbon free car, but like the holy grail for most of us they are unattainable. With too few charging points, high purchase prices and the inability to be used for lengthy trips these cars are not yet a viable answer for most motorists.

Engine technology that has reduced emissions in ordinary petrol and diesel based cars and hybrid cars are helping and are the best options for most motorists currently. But emissions aren’t just affected by engine efficiency – they’re also linked with how we drive.

Every time we stop at a junction using the brake we’re wasting the energy that is pushing our car along. Looking ahead and planning to stop by easing your foot off the accelerator earlier can save a significant amount of fuel. Similarly accelerating steadily when setting off rather than zooming up the gears burns less gas. A good rule of thumb is to keep the rev counter under 3000. A good way remember to correct your driving is to think of both the brake and accelerator as pedals you press to spend money – the more and harder you press, the more you’re spending.

If your car isn’t an automatic then ensuring you switch to the highest gear possible as soon as you can also has a real benefit. Of course you shouldn’t switch before your engine can handle the higher gear, but neither should you avoid switching because you’ll be slowing down again in a minute. It might mean changing gears more regularly, but it saves fuel.

You wouldn’t think it, but making simple changes like these can cut down fuel usage by 30% for a typical driver. 30% lower fuel usage means 30% lower emissions, meaning your motoring is doing 30% less damage to the planet.

So how does all this fit into telematics? For those not familiar with the technology, telematics is the term for monitoring your driving using a little device that is fitted to your car and transmits data from it to the internet. The box collect information about your acceleration, breaking, location through GPS, and various datasets from your car.

Software for the devices, typically in the form of a website, can then show you how you are driving and point out ways you can improve so you burn less fuel. Some products can point out exact junctions where you frequently brake excessively or put your foot on the accelerator too much when setting off. Other great functions include the ability to find quicker routes for regular journeys that will burn less fuel.

Of course will all technology the devices cost money, but increasingly insurers are offering them for free for a new type of insurance based on how much you actually drive. These new policies are typically also much cheaper than standard insurance and are being taken up by many young people who can’t afford the super high premiums insurers charge their age group. The insurance policies also incentivises good and environmentally friendly driving by charging drivers with bad practices more.

But the real emissions savings of these devices so far hasn’t been from individuals taking up the devices though. Commercial fleets, especially in haulage, have been taking them up for years knowing that their low-margin business will be more profitable the less fuel is burnt. Fleet controllers have access to data in real time about how each driver is performing and whether they are taking the best route to their destination, if they are likely to hit traffic and burn fuel sitting in a traffic jam they can be directed away by head office.

Fleet telematics has proved so effective as a means of drastically reducing fuel consumption and emissions that manufacturers of trucks are considering installing them as standard, and most already offer the option of pre-installation. Many car drivers too are taking telematics up as a means to save money on fuels and insurance. Until the electric car goes mainstream this technology is perhaps the best way of reducing our motoring emissions.

Robert Prime writes regularly as a contributor to telematics.com.

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