Improving vehicle technology is not the only answer to the environmental challenges posed by transport. Drivers must also play their part in reducing energy usage. The choices they make have a very large effect on fuel consumption and resulting CO2 emissions.

Understanding the driver's actions and improving performance

The Bath based Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre (PVRC) has engaged in pioneering research since the 1990s to understand the actions of the driver and improving their performance. We realised a 10% improvement in fuel economy of an engine was achievable, but at a cost in terms of the driver’s experience.

Our researchers conducted an extensive series of experiments with Ford and Torotrak to link fuel use and emotional response of drivers to acceleration performance.

We found that for some specific road types, the most aggressive drivers could easily use 50 per cent more fuel than the least aggressive. This has significant implications for both traffic planners and for vehicle designers.

In a subsequent project in partnership with Mahle Powertrain, we examined the impact of driver behaviour on the effectiveness of the on-board systems used to monitor emissions.

Mahle Powertrain has used the results of this work to develop their ProLogiq™ data management product sold worldwide to automotive suppliers.

Savings of 10% in fuel use and CO2 emissions per year

We deployed these techniques in a government funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Ashwoods Automotive, designing and developing a new and award-winning product called Lightfoot™. The product aims to change driver behaviour to reduce fuel emissions by offering targets and ratings to make up for any perceived loss of driving enjoyment. The product is marketed by Ashwoods to fleet operators of light commercial vehicles and gives reductions of at least 10 per cent in fuel use and CO2 emissions.

The product has significant environmental impact, with a potential saving of over a million tonnes of C02 annually if it was adopted by all the light commercial vehicles in the UK.

REF submission

This research was part of our REF 2014 submission for Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering.