Drivers eager to limit the impact of rising fuel prices have flooded Ford with applications for its summer Smart Driving Challenge.

The strong response to the Ford Focus ECOnetic eco driving competition, launched in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust, has led to the challenge being extended to run throughout the British International Motor Show in London from July 23.

Smart driving techniques deliver environmental, financial and safety benefits by reducing fuel consumption thanks to a smoother driving style aimed at eliminating wasteful acceleration and braking.

Eco driving will be taught at six venues, including the British International Motor Show, as part of Ford's nationwide challenge to find the UK's greenest motorist. On the first day of registration alone, over 50 people signed up.

Candidates will tackle a three-part test: the first to establish existing eco driving skills among the 200 participants, with fuel consumption/CO2 output recorded.

Next comes a session of eco driving instruction from the Energy Saving Trust before a second mpg/CO2 measure is produced –expressed as an annual fuel saving. Fuel consumption is typically reduced by 15 per cent and savings can be as much as 25 per cent.

Ford Focus ECOnetic Europe, 1 of 4
Ford Focus ECOnetic Europe, 2 of 4
Ford Focus ECOnetic Europe, 3 of 4
Ford Focus ECOnetic Europe, 4 of 4

The driver with the most improvement at each event will win the loan of a new Ford Focus ECOnetic and a £1,000 eco home makeover, which looks at the fuel efficiency of a property and its appliances to deliver lower utility bills. Britain's top eco driver will win £10,000 worth of free advice and appliances for the home.
The Focus ECOnetic has a combined fuel consumption figure of almost 66mpg – resulting in a class-leading 114g CO2/km.

Andy Taylor, Ford's sustainability director, said: "Designing and manufacturing fuel efficient cars such as the Ford ECOnetic range becomes even more meaningful when linked to other measures to reduce emissions. Smooth and smart driving plays a huge but often unrecognised part in motoring – both financial as well as environmental."

Nigel Underdown, Energy Saving Trust head of transport advice, said: "The Energy Saving Trust believes that typical savings of 15 per cent – in litres, pounds and CO2 – are achievable and realistic by adopting smarter driving techniques. Drivers will welcome the savings as fuel prices reach record levels and will also help address climate change by reducing CO2 emissions."

Ford Focus ECOnetic Smart Driving Challenge
Murrayfield Stadium Scotland 5 July
Longleat Safari Park Wiltshire 12 July
Blue Reef Aquarium Tynemouth 19 July
Knowsley Safari Park Merseyside 9 August
West Midlands Safari Park Worcestershire 16 August
British International Motor Show ExCel, London 23 July – 3 August

What is eco driving?

* Change up through the gears at between 2,000 and 2,500 rpm
* Ease your speed. Driving at 70mph uses around 15 per cent more fuel than at 50mph
* Anticipate to avoid unnecessary acceleration and braking
* Use auxiliary equipment selectively, eg air conditioning
* Switch off the engine whenever safe to do so
* Check and adjust tyre pressures regularly, according to load and speed driven
* Remove unnecessary cargo from the car to reduce weight
* Reduce aerodynamic drag whenever possible, eg close windows or remove roof racks

What are the benefits?

* Reduced fuel consumption
* Lower fuel bills
* Less CO2 emissions
* Lower accident rates as a result of improved anticipation