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We cannot always prevent the emissions of CO2; but we can do our best to keep it to a minimum. In this article we will highlight our preventive measurements we took for The Carbon Priates Roadtrip, creating easy steps that everyone can apply.

How to reduce CO2 emissions

To limit your carbon emission (and fuel usage) when driving there are a few things to keep in mind: The distance you travel, the speed you travel at, the aerodynamic properties of your vehicle, the weight you are pulling along and the style of driving.

Distance & Speed

To tackle the first two items we will limit our hours on the highway and take more direct roads with lower speeds. The ideal speed to travel at would be between 50- and 80 km/h, without too many stops or busy traffic. We will drive outside rush hours to prevent any unnecessary braking and going. By sometimes diverting from highways we will make less kilometers and drive at lower speeds.

When taking the highways we limit our speed to a maximum of 100 km/h, reducing it to 90 km/h where the situation allows. If you cause other vehicles to break for you, you are indirectly still producing extra CO2 emissions so be aware of your surroundings.

Aerodynamics & Weight

Even though we would have loved to chuck a big roof storage on our car for some extra space, adding such an item can increase your petrol usage up to 25%. This is an unacceptable high number, so we have decided to take less items and fit everything in the car. Of course the same reasoning holds for why we are not traveling with a trailer, caravan or camper. Not only does this add a massive amount of air friction; it also adds 100’s of kg’s of weight. Every 100 kg you add increases your fuel consumption between 1-3 %.

Tire pressure is another very important factor. Not really aerodynamics, but definitely a big part of the cars friction. By not having the right tire pressure they are more likely to blow out, are less efficient and have more wear and tear. There is really no good reason for having the wrong tire pressure. Having soft tires can add another 10% to your fuel usage, and it can be fixed in 2 minutes at almost every gas station. Most cars will need a tire pressure around 2.2 bars.

Driving sustainable

Besides limiting your speed and the weight you are dragging around there are many more things you can do to save some petrol and limit your pollution.

Of course try to limit your revs, shift up to higher gears when possible and try to limit your breaking. We have been driving for many hours without hitting the breaks once. By being patient and looking ahead you can usually let your car slow down on its own and come to a stop. Please note that traffic has to be low to allow this, never put yourself or others in danger by not using the breaks. Every time your car needs to speed up or slow down it ‘loses’ energy, and the faster you do that the more of the energy is lost. Just like hitting the breaks, accelerating quickly is also a great way to burn through your expensive petrol. Try to keep a steady speed, cruise control can help with that.

One more thing to point out is cars are using more and more energy besides that needed for driving. When you fully turn up the airconditioning this can add another 10% to your petrol usage; but be aware that opening all your windows can also add air resistance. Usually the best approach is to let the hot air out the first few minutes by opening the windows, and after that have a gentle blowing AC. Driving with your headlights during the daytime can add an extra 5 to 10%.


OK so what do we have so far:

  • Limit distance
  • Limit speed (save 15-25% petrol)
  • No roof storage (save up to 25%)
  • Limit the weight (save about 4%)
  • Prevent rush hour (save up to 20%)
  • Don’t blaze the AC (save about 6%)
  • Turn off the headlights when not needed (save about 5%)
  • Drive with Cruise Control (save up to 5%)
  • Anticipate and look ahead (save up to 5%)
  • Limit your revs (save up to 15%)
  • Proper tire pressure (save up to 10%)

Hopefully it is clear that all these percentages add up!
By not doing these, you might add over a wopping 100% to your petrol usage!
Most of these steps are easy to apply and don’t take any efforts; others might take some practice.
Try to integrate one at at a time and see how low your petrol usage can go.
Sometimes I challenge myself to get a record-low usage for certain journeys; which can be fun after a while.

Our car

For the Carbon Pirates Roadtrip we used a Toyota Corolla Verso. We offset our carbon with Stand for Trees but were also very conscious of how we were driving and took the following steps:

Our car has six gears, allowing us to do around 1400 revs when driving 80 km/h.

The engine has low-friction oil which limits the friction inside it.

The car had a check-up, filters were cleaned or replaced, spark plugs where checked.

Cruise control allows for a constant speed. The car has low-resistance tires with great miles to the gallon.

Furthermore the car has heat-reflecting tinting on all the back windows to limit the need of AC.

On a rural road driving at 80 km/h on cruise control we use about 3.5 liter per 100 km.

Note that we have not discussed many other options you have, like traveling together, not traveling at all, combining travels or taking holidays closer to home.

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