There is a new trend called “hypermiling” that is becoming increasingly popular among American drivers. Hypermilers obsess over increasing gas mileage in order to save money and energy. I am a fairly dedicated hypermiler, and have been since 2002 when gas prices hit the “insanely high” price of $1.70 a gallon! I say “fairly dedicated” because I am all for the safer hypermiling practices, but I am a little wary of tailing semis to reduce wind resistance or turning off power-steering.
Today on the news (part II), testers drove two already fuel-efficient cars from Chicago to New York. One driver hypermiled, and the other drove normally. The hypermiler used 8.9 gallons of gas, not even a full tank, and averaged 71 miles to the gallon. The regular driver used 20 gallons and averaged 45 miles to the gallon. Of course, it took the hypermiler 3 hours longer to get to his destination (17 hours versus 20)! At $4.00/gallon, the hypermiler saved a little over $44.00. This means that someone commuting for an hour round trip each day would save about $20.00 a week by hypermiling (he would have to leave early, of course, and get home a little later).
Also, watch the video I have linked to above, and see how the news reporter made a few minor driving adjustments (that only added 3-4 minutes to her drive) that sent her mileage from in the 40s to 79 mpg! At times, she was getting over 100 mpg!!
You may be wondering why I am raising this issue on a Catholic blog. The main reason is because many of us are feeling squeezed, especially those who are poor, and those with large families, because of high energy prices. It causes real frustration. High energy usage – and high prices – have serious consequences on the financial health of the family, and our oil addiction is, among other things, funding countries hostile to the U.S. I was watching a special on F.D. Roosevelt last night, and I thought about how when we were at war with the Axis Powers, Americans banded together and conserved resources for the country’s benefit. Today, we seem to be much too selfish to even attempt such a thing. However, now that American pocketbooks are taking a hard hit, more people are finally starting to worry about how much gas they use.
Below are a few of the hypermiling “tricks” I use. Note that I drive an Impala, which gets 30 mpg highway. It is pretty aerodynamic, which makes coasting easy. Trucks and SUVs will not be able to coast very well (which is one reason why they get worse mileage to begin with).
– I take off pretty slowly, which sometimes annoys the drivers in the gas guzzlers behind me. I can deal with their glares to save money. Sometimes I even try to set personal records and see how slow I can take off. Some drivers brag about going from 0-60 in 5 seconds. I brag about going from 0-60 in 45 seconds (if I even get to 60!). I guess I have more time than money.
– I coast into stops if possible (avoid braking). Basically this means that rather than driving at normal speed, and braking right before a stop, I do my best to wind down from top speed to a stop without using the brakes. This is not possible in all circumstances, and may really annoy drivers behind you if you coast into a stop from 55 down to 0. I once ticked off a lady in a hummer by doing this, but I probably have the last laugh now that she is paying $100 each time to fill that baby up.
– I don’t speed much anymore. I have really changed my basic attitude about driving. I no longer view trips as hurried, stressful treks to the next destination, but rather as times to relax and enjoy the ride, by listening to music and/or talking with my wife or friends. Now, I give myself plenty of time to get to a place, and take my time.
– I do not idle anymore. This means I try not to go through drive-thru windows. If I do, I turn the car off if the line is long and slow moving. I also turn the car off if I am stopped at a light that I know lasts a long time. If I am waiting for someone in my car, I turn it off.
– I drive with the terrain. This means that when going down hills I let off the gas, letting gravity do its work. However, when going up hills, I keep the accelerator as stable as possible, so as to not increase gas consumption, which means I slow down when going uphill. I have found that on many drives, I accelerate about 1/4 less than what I used to, just using gravity. On the route to my old job, there was a downhill part where I could coast for about 1/2 mile! Become familiar with your terrain, and you will eventually figure out where you can coast.
Try it yourself! For more tips (more extreme than these), visit CleanMpg.com
Image taken by me on a rather snowy day!