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Hypermiling: Techniques to Increase Fuel Economy

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Hypermiling: Techniques to Increase Fuel Economy   

By Erick R Williams    (2008)

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 fuel.    

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.   

Accelerate gently.  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.

erick99 posted Feb 15, 2012
1 Comment

and don't use premium fuel unless your engine knocks. higher octane doesn't give you better gas mileage unless your engine was designed for premium fuel.

encorez (rep: 10k) posted Feb 16, 2012