Use fuel better to use less.
Basically, this is what, by implementing a few small recommendations, we can do to get the best from our campers. Optimising fuel consumption and costs is easy if we know what we need to do at three different times, in the three fundamental phases of getting ready for outdoor holidays:
- the first phase takes place before purchase, and concerns the choice of camper;
- the second is preparation of the vehicle before each trip;
- the third, and most important, is during use of the camper, and involves specific driving techniques and best practices.
The choice of camper
When choosing a camper, the type of engine is a very important factor. The engine must be chosen in relation to the camper's overall weight, its size, and the frontal impact of models such as low-profile or A-class motorhomes; the last-named are less aerodynamic than the low-profile category, for example, and need powerful engines.
We also have to assess the main way the vehicle will be used: if we are intending to use it first and foremost on mountain roads, we will need to opt for engines with higher displacement and power, which provide better performance and less wear, meaning lower fuel consumption for the same duty cycle.
The Fiat Ducato-based motorhome range of Euro6 engines, from 115 to 180 horsepower, offers the right engine for every outfit type and driving style.
Preparing the camper for the trip
Making the most effective use of your camper also means preparing properly for every trip. Obviously, here we are talking about checks: start by estimating the camper's total weight when fully loaded and take care not to overload it. We must try to limit the weights and the number of things the engine will have to move around - and this also applies to the contents of the tanks. One useful rule is never to travel with the tanks completely full; it is better to use camper service points and dump stations along our chosen route. By doing this, we can reduce our vehicle's weight by as much as 100 or 200 kg, with consequent fuel saving and a sharp improvement in engine performance. Naturally the camper's aerodynamics also have to be considered, so, if possible, we should try not to add bulky accessories such as rooftop luggage racks or other items which modify its profile and downgrade its aerodynamic performance.
Without a doubt, one essential point to be checked before every trip is tyre pressure: a correctly inflated tyre not only prevents risks to the safety of the vehicle and passengers but also ensures the right road holding and will be subject to less wear, apart from significantly reducing fuel consumption.
Camper driving style
Nowadays, on-board electronics offer a large number of aids for optimising and reducing fuel consumption. Amongst them, the Fiat Ducato-based Gear Shift Indicator is extremely effective: it is a sensor that monitors the gear engaged while the vehicle is on the move and signals the ideal gear for use in relation to the conditions, advising the driver to shift up or down.
Use of the climate control system is another important factor. Useful to ensure the comfort of all passengers, it can also be deactivated when not required and if we realise that the outdoor temperature is at comfortable levels: a simple, common-sense rule that will definitely avoid unnecessarily high fuel consumption.
Naturally, when on the move we should bear in mind the road conditions: urban, motorway, mountain or very busy roads all require different strategies.
The aim is to keep the engine within the maximum torque cycle by trying to accelerate and decelerate gradually and exploiting the vehicle's own inertia, such as when going downhill.
On motorways or fast out-of-town highways it can be very useful to use the Cruise Control, which lets us set and maintain a constant cruising speed. This avoids sharp acceleration and sudden braking, and helps to save fuel. An average speed of 100 km an hour is recommended on motorways, because above this threshold fuel consumption rises by as much as 15%.
Also remember that when approaching uphill inclines it can be a good idea to increase speed a little (within the limits set by the highway code, of course), to "take a run at" the hill and reduce the amount of work required of the engine. In town, it is best to try to keep the engine turning over evenly and always use the highest gear available, so that the rpm are as low as possible.
Following these recommendations will enable us to enjoy our journeys, benefit from our camper's agility and reach even distant destinations without too many fuel stops.