Fuel For Thought

Winter motoring adds 3p a litre to petrol cost misery

11 February 2010

Winter motoring adds three percent to fuel costs

Higher fuel consumption from winter motoring is ratcheting up driver costs by three per cent, the AA's Fuel for Thought campaign reveals. In effect, it is adding 3p to a litre of petrol – equivalent to drivers paying 115p instead of the current 112p a litre at the pump.

Warming up an engine's oil in cold weather and greater use of heaters, windscreen wipers and lights account for the three per cent increased engine workload. Even at relatively mild winter temperatures, the fuel consumption of a cold car leaving its driveway is 40 per cent higher than normal.

Fuel facts

To help drivers understand better the impact of winter driving on their fuel bills, the AA Fuel for Thought campaign offers the following facts:

  • The heated rear window uses around two per cent extra fuel. If both the front and rear heated screens are used the increase in fuel consumption equates to six per cent as heated front screens consume more power than the rear screen.
  • Even at a relatively mild outside temperature of +10C, a car's fuel consumption for the first mile will be around 40 per cent higher than with a warmed-up engine. This falls to around 16 per cent over the next three miles and, even up to 6.5 miles from start-up, fuel consumption can be 8 per cent higher.
  • The increase in fuel consumption due to cold weather is similar for both diesel and petrol cars. AA tests show extra fuel use after 1 mile and 3 miles respectively are:
    • typical small petrol car – 34% and 17%
    • medium petrol car – 38% and 16%
    • small diesel car – 32% and 12%
    • medium diesel car – 43% and 18%
  • For demisting windows and getting the cabin comfortable, basic air conditioning on a small car can increase fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent. A more powerful petrol engine will suffer less, as will a larger diesel.
  • Getting stuck in a traffic jam is another daily problem with winter driving. Even with a warmed-up engine, a petrol car can lose at least two-thirds to three-quarters of a litre of fuel every hour, or 1.2 to 1.4p a minute. A diesel car can lose a third to half a litre of fuel an hour, or 0.6 to 1.0p a minute.


"With fuel prices at a record for this time of year and a severe winter making fuel consumption and costs even greater, it helps for drivers to understand how their money is being drained," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

"For the most part, the extra cost of winter motoring is a bullet most drivers will just have to bite. However, there are ways to reduce higher expenditure, such as using garages or covering windscreens on frosty nights, using a windscreen ice-scrapper rather than leaving the engine running, turning off electrical items when not needed, combining journeys, car sharing and looking at travel alternatives, such as walking or cycling on short trips."

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11 February 2010