Does Using Your Air Con Really Have An Impact On Power And Fuel Economy

Does Using Your Air Con Really Have An Impact On Power And Fuel Economy

Does Using Your Air Con Really Have An Impact On Power And Fuel Economy?

How do you get round the Top Gear” test track faster?  Switch off the air con in the reasonably priced car according to Clarkson.  Ok, this might save a percentage of power, but in the real world would this tactic have any significant effect on fuel economy – which is what most of us are interested in?

Your air conditioner becomes your best friend if you are driving in high temperatures under direct sunlight.  Ok, not a scenario we’ll face in the UK very often, but I hired a car recently on holiday in Rhodes.  My preferred vehicle was a Ford Focus, but the only one they had didn’t feature air con.  Having driven in Greece and Crete during August before, I cheerfully settled for the alternative of the Fiat Panda with air conditioning (surprisingly nice car by the way).

Fiat Panda Front Wallpaper:
Fiat Panda wallpaper

Most people are still under the impression that the more you run the car’s air conditioning system the more petrol it will guzzle, but that may not be absolutely true. With the advent of modern, more fuel efficient lean burn engines, leaving your air conditioner off makes barely any difference to the amount of petrol consumed.  OK, the air con unit does draw its power from the engine which uses some fuel.  Depending on the type of unit or car, fuel economy can be reduced by up to 20% in some cases.  But, driving with the air conditioner on is probably just as fuel efficient as the popular alternative ventilation/cooling method of driving with the windows down.

Driving with the windows down creates drag, which means that the engine has to work harder to keep the car at the current speed and therefore burns just as much petrol as running the air conditioner.  Obviously, if you’re driving in city traffic you are probably not going very fast, so the drag on the car is minimal.  But at least the air con could help in filtering out the pollutants and particulates that you’d otherwise get streaming in.  Honestly, as far as I can tell there is no noticeable difference in fuel economy, especially driving at speed on motorways and the like, between the “air con on”  or “window down” approach.

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