Fuel consumption is an ever-present concern with almost any motor vehicle, and motorhomes are no exception. In fact, because a motorhome is most certainly larger and heavier than your typical family hatchback, its fuel consumption will inevitably be worse.
Although modern vehicles are more fuel efficient than ever – and more powerful to boot – the size and weight of a motorhome is always going to be the killer where the question of fuel consumption is concerned.
However, one fact worth bearing in mind is that the average motorhome does relatively low annual mileage, so its fuel consumption might not be a huge problem, relatively speaking.
Our own motorhome has done less than 2000 miles per year for the past couple of years, and at 500 or so miles to a tankful, that equates to three to four fill ups per year.
Another important consideration is how you actually measure your fuel consumption. I often hear people making similar comments to mine above – so many miles to the tankful – but really, that is a poor measure. For a start, we will almost never refill the tank with exactly the same amount of fuel: sometimes we’ll be refilling at a quarter tankful, other times, we might go down to an eighth of a tank before we start thinking about refilling.
The size of the fuel tank also has a bearing on this calculation, of course, so quoting “500 miles to the tankful” is actually fairly meaningless. Miles per gallon or litres per kilometre are much more useful measurements, being quantifiable volumes against measurable distances travelled.
Digital readouts supersede maths
In the bad old days, we had to record mileage covered and accurately note the fuel used to refill the tank, then do some fairly simple maths to get a measure of our consumption rates.
Nowadays, of course, almost every vehicle provides a digital readout of fuel consumption, often configurable to the units of your choice.
I frequently hear people complaining that these on-board systems are not accurate, but the truth is, their overall accuracy doesn’t really matter. As long as you only use the data from the same system, it all becomes relative, which is fine – you can see at a glance if your fuel consumption is consistent.
To use our own motorhome as an example again, it is generally returning about 30mpg, depending on the type of journey. Short, start-stop local driving knocks it down to about 26-28mpg, whereas long motorway cruising trips can easily see 32mpg. Whether it really is 32mpg, or 30 or even 34, doesn’t matter, as this is only a comparison against what it has done previously, using the same measuring equipment and units.
So, what can you do to minimise fuel consumption? For a start, check your tyre pressures – soft tyres consume energy, which in turn, uses more fuel.
In addition, you should have your wheel alignment checked if the wheels aren’t running straight and true, their tyres will be scrubbing, and consuming unnecessary power and fuel into the bargain.
This one is important = a scrubbing tyre will not grip the road properly, will wear out prematurely, and because it is, in effect, skidding all the time, will potentially overheat.
Make sure your vehicle is regularly serviced – annually is good. If you travel in very dusty conditions, have the air filter changed more frequently. A blocked filter restricts the amount of air going into the engine, which will make it run inefficiently and consume more fuel.
Another item of relevance during the service is the brakes. If they’re binding, they’re consuming power and costing fuel consumption.
Think about your ‘van’s aerodynamics
Wind resistance, however, is the one thing that has the greatest effect on fuel consumption, and to be frank, most motorhomes will have the aerodynamics of a small block of flats!
Pushing a big square box through the air takes a lot of energy, and the bigger the box, the more fuel will be used. Likewise, weight is a factor, because the heavier the vehicle is, the more energy is required to accelerate it to a given speed.
There isn’t a lot you can do about your motorhome’s aerodynamics ; they pretty much are what they are. What you can do, though, is ensure that you don’t make them any worse.
Adding equipment to the outside of the vehicle will change its wind resistance, even an awning on the side of the ‘van will create drag, which costs in terms of fuel.
Putting a big roof box on top will make a significant difference to the drag on the motorhome, and putting the box on the back is going to be only slightly better.
Finally, the driver’s right foot is probably the one area that we can all influence. I’m around 95kg, but my right foot is lighter than a feather!
Accelerate smoothly to your chosen cruising speed – planting the gas pedal to the floor and racing through the gears uses lots more fuel.
Keep your cruising speed steady and reasonable. I’m not suggesting that you should crawl along, but there is a very good reason why trucks are limited to a 56mph cruising speed. This is the best compromise for getting along without burning too much fuel.
Whenever I’m driving, I find that cruising at 60mph is quite reasonable. It keeps me from getting tangled up with the trucks, but still returns an acceptable fuel consumption level.
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So, what can you do to minimise fuel consumption? For a start, you should check your tyre pressures. Soft tyres will consumer energy, which in turn uses more fuel