The Volvo Cars Driving Academy works in a very concrete way to spread Volvo Cars' core values of safety and the environment. The demand for its eco-driving classes is increasing all the time.
"By changing one's driving pattern, it is possible both to reduce fuel costs and have a favourable effect on the environment. Many companies see sound commercial sense in allowing their employees to acquire eco-driving skills," says Tommy Andersson, head of the Volvo Cars Driving Academy.
A benefit for business
Although the Volvo Cars Driving Academy is a relatively unknown part of Volvo Cars' operations, it has been around in various forms since 1989.
"We offer a wide variety of courses every year, both for professional drivers and private individuals. Safety driving is still our biggest-seller, but the demand for eco-driving is increasing," explains Tommy Andersson, Volvo Cars Driving Academy.
Sweden's VEAB Mark & Trädgård, which sells construction services, is one of the companies that decided to let its employees undergo an eco-driving course at the Volvo Cars Driving Academy.
"Several of our clients demand this if we are to be included in their purchasing contracts. We work on behalf of large companies, the municipality and the Swedish Road Administration. They all wish to assist the environment so they impose demands on us suppliers," says Håkan Persson, President of VEAB, and adds:
"We have ISO 14001 environmental certification. One of our stage goals in the environmental sphere is that all employees should undergo an eco-driving course at the Volvo Cars Driving Academy. We see it as a sound investment."
A day of "aha"-experiences
Since VEAB is located in Göteborg on Sweden's west coast the training can take place at the Volvo Cars premises. About 12 students at a time get to learn the secrets behind driving more economically.
It's a windy day and the students are hastening to their cars. They first get to drive a set urban route in the Volvo Cars Driving Academy's cars, which are equipped with instruments to measure exact fuel consumption. This is followed by a lesson in eco-driving. The students then get to drive exactly the same route once more, applying their newly learned skills.
As the line of Volvos rejoins the urban traffic, several of VEAB's employees are pretty sceptical. Will it all make any real difference? Can it really be so simple?
When they later receive information about the difference in fuel consumption between their two drives, nobody any longer doubts the benefits of eco-driving. All the drivers have reduced their fuel consumption and some have also saved time.
Some cut their fuel consumption by more than 30 percent, which surprises Tommy Andersson. Such a big difference is rather unexpected.
"The average fuel consumption reduction is about 8-10 percent, but it is possible to reach reductions of 15% and more" he says.
When the students at the Volvo Cars Driving Academy receive their certificates, they are more than satisfied. Several of them come away with real "aha"-experiences.
"From now on I'll be thinking more about which road I choose. For example, I'll avoid roads with many traffic lights where the traffic has to stop so often," comments Stefan Fredriksson, landscape gardener.
The Volvo Cars Driving Academy does not deal only with eco-driving, having a particularly broad operational base. Security driving in cooperation with the police in several countries and winter driving for ski-tourists in northern Sweden and Norway are just a couple of examples.
"We tailor our courses to suit the customer's wishes and can implement them virtually anywhere. One good example is a five-day security driving course that we had in Sweden for a Russian oil company," relates Tommy Andersson and adds:
¬"At one time we had a special course for the FBI and we've had several spectacular courses for the British High Performance Club whose members want to test advanced driving skills."
Driving a car on winter roads is a challenge for any driver. That is why the Scandinavian winter is the high season for the Volvo Cars Driving Academy. And that is also when the number of instructors peaks.
One highly popular part of the operation takes place every winter in the Dalarna region of northern Sweden. Between Sälen and Mora, where the world's largest skiing competition, Vasaloppet, takes place, there is an ice track that is perfect for winter driving courses.
What does one get to learn in a winter driving course?
"What is most important is that you get the opportunity to test the vehicle's various safety systems in an extreme situation. ABS brakes, four-wheel drive, anti-skid and anti-spin systems. Most people know they have these features in their cars but they've never experienced them to the full," explains Tommy Andersson.
"It's better to test the car's safety systems on a closed track than in traffic.
We generally receive highly positive responses from the participants and hear many comments such as "Is that what it's like?"
Every winter, tourists at Sweden's Sälen skiing resort are given the opportunity to improve their winter driving skills. The Volvo Cars Demo Center is on hand for most of the season, providing cars for the purpose. During certain weeks, tourists also get the opportunity to drive on the aforementioned ice track with instructors from the Volvo Cars Driving Academy.
"We don't just lend cars to ski tourists in order to sell Volvos, it's also about doing our bit to improve their safety awareness."
According to Tommy Andersson, most of the car's safety systems are easiest to test during the winter. This is something that the Volvo Cars marketing company exploits through a variety of customer events.
During the past winter, Volvo customers from various countries were invited to Lapland. There they had the opportunity to experience the full Scandinavian winter with the Northern Lights, the Ice Hotel and extreme driving on ice with the Volvo Cars Driving Academy.
"We had participants from countries such as Japan, Canada and the Netherlands and they got the opportunity to test their ice-driving skills on a frozen lake. It was highly appreciated and for many people this was the highlight of their trip," says Tommy Andersson.
The future for eco-driving
The Volvo Cars Driving Academy will continue to offer a broad-based operation. Tommy Andersson predicts that courses in eco-driving will increase.
"Our aim is to focus more on environmentally friendly eco-driving. For example, we are discussing cooperation with companies and municipalities regarding company cars and pool cars. It's only a matter of time before they realize what they stand to gain by giving everyone knowhow about this issue," he concludes.
Ten simple tips for more economical driving:
1. Start with as little throttle as possible
2. Change up quickly
3. Maintain a steady speed
4. Avoid really high speeds
5. Don't let your car run at idling speed unless necessary (it's worth your while to switch off the engine if you're going to be at a standstill for more than 20 or 30 seconds)
6. Use engine braking
7. Don't brake unnecessarily
8. Always maintain the correct pressure in your tyres (this saves both tyres and fuel)
9. Don't drive around with a roof box unless you actually need it
10. Don't carry around any unnecessary loads in the car
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