With the current price of oil climbing to $145 per barrel, combined with gasoline ringing in at over $4 per gallon at the pump, Americans are looking to save on fuel costs any way possible. From hybrid, electric and smart cars (fortwo) to the four-day work-week mandated for government employees in Utah, everyone is looking for tips on how to increase fuel efficiency. One of the latest trends is called hypermiling, which is the technique of modifying your driving habits in order to increase your fuel efficiency.
History of Hypermiling
Hypermiling is a skillful method of driving that allows you to decrease your gas consumption, thus optimizing fuel efficiency. The term “hypermiler” is used to describe a group of drivers able to exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel efficiency on their automobiles by using driving techniques like “pulse and glide” and “ridge riding.” Basically, it is managing your momentum to conserve gas.
According to an article on MSNBC, the term “hypermiling” was first coined by Wayne Gerdes of Illinois, who achieved 84 mpg in a Ford Ranger pick-up, and an impressive 180 mpg in a hybrid electric Honda Insight. Obsessed with methods to increase fuel efficiency, Gerdes once drove 800 miles from Chicago to New York using less than nine gallons of gasoline. For his energy saving efforts, Mother Jones Magazine named him “the most fuel efficient driver in the world.”
Although hypermiling is often associated with hybrid vehicles due to its popularity among Prius owners, the techniques can be used to maximize your fuel efficiency in any automobile.
Increase Fuel Efficiency with Hypermiling Techniques
These basic hypermiling techniques can help to increase fuel efficiency:
Keeping your tires inflated to the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer. Also, make sure to keep up with the proper maintenance of your vehicle’s engine control monitor, especially the oxygen sensor.
Minimizing your vehicle’s weight by eliminating unnecessary items. Don’t drive around with items you don’t need in your back seat or trunk. The heavier your vehicle is, the more fuel you will use.
Maintaining an efficient speed. According to fueleconomy.gov, your gas mileage decreases up to 10 percent for every 5 mph driven over 60 mph.
Avoiding “jackrabbit” driving. Hypermiling.com estimates that drivers apply their brakes 10 to 25 percent more than needed. If you brake hard, and accelerate quickly, you use more fuel. Maintaining a buffer zone between you and surrounding vehicles enables you to coast to a stop, thereby increasing your fuel efficiency.
Using trip computers to help you monitor your fuel efficiency. Products like ScanGauge and DashDyno SPD connect to your onboard computer and provide real-time feedback on your fuel economy performance. Using one of these trip computers can help you determine what hypermiling techniques work best for your vehicle and adjust your driving methods as needed.
More advanced hypermiling techniques include the “Pulse and Glide” – accelerating to a specific speed, followed by a period of coasting, then repeating the process. Note that the ability to increase your fuel efficiency with this hypermiling method will depend on the type of engine in your automobile. It is most effective in a hybrid vehicle, or one with a manual transmission.
There are several other advanced hypermiling techniques, but mastering the basics first will enable you to save on fuel by increasing your fuel efficiency.
Is Hypermiling Safe?
As many drivers have adopted techniques that place the importance of fuel economy over power and performance, a debate over the safety of hypermiling has surfaced.
Of course, properly maintaining your vehicle and eliminating unnecessary items from your trunk won’t affect road safety. However, there have been many reported cases of road rage due to drivers unfamiliar with hypermiling techniques, like coasting. Driving slower than the flow of traffic, even at legal speeds, can encourage tailgating and cause accidents. Drafting behind semi-trucks is another well-known, but unsafe technique (not endorsed by true hypermilers) that can lead to accidents. In addition, there are claims that drivers coasting in neutral have less control over their vehicle, thus increasing their reaction time during an emergency.
If you choose to employ hypermiling techniques to increase your fuel efficiency, use common sense and be a cautious driver. Be aware of your surroundings, including the other drivers on the road, the road conditions and traffic patterns. Never put yourself, or others, in jeopardy just to increase your gas mileage.
You can get more in-depth information on hypermiling by visiting Wayne Gerdes’ post on titled “Beating the EPA – The Why’s and How to Hypermile” on CleanMPG.com.