Four-dollar-a-gallon gas seems here to stay and five dollars
may not be too far off. Oil has more
than doubled in the last twelve months ($142/bbl as of July 1, 2008) and is
forecast to go even higher. This means
that drivers that rarely spent more than $35 to fill up their tanks in the past
are suddenly watching the dial on the gas pump continue past $70 in most parts
of the country. While drivers have
little control over the price of oil or gasoline, they do have a great deal of
control over how many miles that they can squeeze out of a gallon of precious
Hypermiling is a collection of techniques made famous by
Wayne Gerdes, founder of the movement and developer of the techniques. These techniques help drivers exceed, or even
far exceed, the fuel economy ratings that the manufacturer applies to their
vehicle. So, for example, if your family
car is rated for, say, 19mpg on the highway, these hypermiling techniques could
boost that figure to 30mpg or even higher.
It seems like a great way to get a great deal more mileage out of a tank
of gas with little effort and no additional cost.
Most of the techniques are easy to do and seem like common
sense. Other techniques border on dangerous
and are only practiced by the more adventurous hypermilers. Indeed, police
authorities in some areas are becoming aware of some of the more extreme
techniques (shutting of the engine when going downhill, for example) and
informing drivers that these practices are illegal and dangerous.
The techniques are actually quite easy to follow:
Drive the speed limit. This alone will increase fuel economy for all
drivers. There is evidence that once a
typical passenger car exceeds 65mph, half of the fuel expended is used to fight
the air colliding with the vehicle.
Brake less. Avoid use of your breaks except when
necessary – don’t ride your brakes. Some
hypermilers take this to an extreme and coast through stop signs and even
traffic signals to avoid coming to a complete stop. This is illegal and dangerous and not
recommended by the groups that promote hypermiling.
Tire pressure is important. Low tire pressure, while great for traction,
is lousy for fuel economy. If your tires
are rated for 44psi (pounds per square inch) than you should maintain that
pressure. Some hypermilers suggest one
or two psi higher than the suggested pressure.
Check your route.
Are you taking the most optimal route to get to your destination? This is not necessarily the shortest. Fuel economy is affected by stop-and-go
traffic and the need to constantly accelerate and decelerate. A good route will be a balance of distance
and traffic flow.
A car’s engine will use less fuel during a more gentle acceleration than
when sharply accelerated. There are
times when safety calls for rapid acceleration: swerving to avoid an accident
or merging into the flow of traffic.
Most of the time a slower and surer acceleration works fine and will
increase fuel economy.
Some hypermilers do employ extreme techniques such as
shutting off their engines at times and driving very close to a big truck so as
to get a drafting effect. These
techniques are very dangerous. Most
steering wheels lock when the engine is turned off. In addition, with the engine off, power
steering and power braking are generally not available. These techniques are not recommended and
certainly not necessary to get a big gain in fuel economy.
Hypermiling techniques are at least a partial solution
to the incredible increase in the cost of fuel.
The techniques are behaviors that most drivers can learn and get
accustomed to very quickly. As the price
of fuel inexorably climbs and climbs, more drivers will likely begin to turn to
the hypermiling style of driving to keep a little more of their hard-earned
money for themselves.