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How I Became a Hypermiler

By Steve Jones

It began the first time I 'face-out' parked. I'd carefully chosen a spot in the back of the grocery store parking lot so that my Hyundai Elantra was 'face-out'. From a hypermiler standpoint this meant that I could drive forward without another vehicle in my way. The stares from the few folks who noticed felt good. Why park in such a strange manner? Because I had read my first article on hypermilers and I was trying to squeeze a few more miles per gallon out of my tank of $4 a gallon gas.

Hypermiling means driving more efficiently in order to exceed the EPA mileage rating for individual vehicles. For example, a car rated at 20 mpg by the EPA is driven more efficiently to attain 25 mpg. The term was coined by Wayne Gerdes, generally recognized as the most fuel efficient driver in the world. Wayne lives with his family on Lake Michigan and works as an operator at a nuclear power plant 90 miles away. After the attacks of 9/11 he became convinced that U.S. petrodollars had funded Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin-laden. Wayne saw an implicit connection between American oil consumption and the 9/11. At that point his obsession with improving his own gas mileage began.

My story is not as grandiose. I was simply trying to derive as much economic benefit from every mile driven. In these tough times, every dollar saved is almost as precious as each gallon of gas. Then I began to try some of the hypermiler techniques and my thought process began to change.

Driving Tips

First though, how can one save gas by driving? The following are some simple hypermiler tips on saving gas;

Slow Down

That's why it's called the gas pedal. Driving the speed limit or under increases mileage. Speeds above 60 mph cause a car's mileage to plummet.

Accelerate Slowly

Slower acceleration can save up to 50% in city and up to 33% highway.

No Racing to Stoplights

Coast slowly with minimum braking into stops. Also coast whenever possible downhill.

Reduce Your Number of Trips

Instead of numerous short trips, plan your route to encompass as many stops as possible. Begin with the furthest away stop as that will allow the motor to warm up and increase efficiency, especially in cold weather.

Reduce Use of Air Conditioning

The EPA does not calculate AC usage when determining mileage ratings. Turning the AC setting up from 'Max' can save from 5% to 25%. Obviously, turning off the AC is even better.

Face-Out Parking

This eliminates the need to back-up as well as one less forward acceleration.

Reduce Load Eliminate extra weight from unnecessary items not needed in your travel.For instance, extra stuff in the trunk or a cargo rack not in use.

While the above list may seem odd and even boring, the opposite holds true. By undertaking a few of these steps in my day to day driving, something unexpected occurred. My driving thought process completely changed. I realized that my driving persona was now relaxed as opposed to hurried.

Previously I hunted for the closest place to park. Now, I quickly locate a spot towards the less populated part of the lot and ease in face-out. Not only does that improve my mileage, the added few steps of walking make me feel better.

Rarely do I touch the gas pedal when driving downhill. My speed maintains itself. I coast into stops. I've begun anticipating light changes and traffic flow in order to reduce the amount of braking. I allow an extra few minutes of travel time to arrive and bunch my errands together into one trip. Driving has become in essence a game to see if I can "beat the man" out of a few bucks. Suddenly my brain is engaged more while driving than my gas pedal!

And not to seem overly preachy, but the less gas I burn then the less carbon emissions and contribution to global warming I personally make. Also, the less of my hard earned cash goes to corporations and countries with which I have serious differences.

Maintenance

I am not mechanically inclined so here are some simple vehicle maintenancetips for the mechanically challenged.

1) Inflate your tires to the recommended pressure (p.s.i.) listed on the driver's side center pillar (passenger door opening).

Some hypermilers recommend inflating to the 'Max" listed on the tire sidewall, but safety experts do not. Loss of traction and greater tire wear result from higher tire pressures.

2) Use the lowest viscosity oil recommended for your vehicle, i.e. 20w, 30w, etc. Use synthetic oil.

Other advanced hypermiler techniques can be dangerous and I do not recommend them. Two of them are as follows;

1) FAS or forced automated stop

This occurs by putting the vehicle in neutral and turning the engine off. It is used while coasting or drafting another vehicle.

The risk is with the engine and thus the power off, cars will lose their power steering and braking and therefore your control. Also FAS is illegal in some states.

2) Brakeless turns

By entering turns at a high speed, the car can coast longer upon exiting the turn. The risk is losing control of the car by rolling the car or otherwise wrecking.

A phrase Wayne Gerdes also coined for driving inefficiently is "throw it away". When we are inefficient in our everyday driving, each of us is "throwing away" gas with all the economic and global implications that such waste entails. The U.S. dependency on oil is a direct threat to our national security. Our addiction leaves our economic future in the hands of others. It weakens us as a nation.

Also it runs contrary to the history of our great nation. When challenged, we as a people answer the call. The technological wherewithal and the ability to unite in common cause can meet the great challenges that we currently face.

Let's each do our own part. Hypermiling is a start. Just don't accelerate too fast.