Whether you drive a hybrid or a regular car, you have probably tried to think of ways to reduce your gas consumption. One group of drivers has decided to go to extreme lengths to make sure their vehicles sip fuel rather than guzzle it. They are called hypermilers, and they have been known to get upwards of 180 miles per gallon. (And no, that is not a typo.)
Steps to Better Efficiency
The official website for hypermiling, www.hypermiling.com, details six steps to improved fuel efficiency. These steps begin with knowing your mileage, which is necessary for improvement. (The government fuel economy website provides an easy-to-follow guide for how to calculate mpg here).
From there, hypermilers take a long, hard look at their driving behaviors. Aggressive driving is a big no-no in hypermiling, as it leads to rapid changes in speed on the highway, as well as the “hurry up and wait” method of going through traffic lights in the city. Rethinking your driving etiquette and attitudes will not only help you calm any road rage, but it will also allow you to leave ample room between cars, reducing your braking and ultimately your fuel usage.
Another important technique that hypermilers use is called anti-traffic. William Beaty, an electrical engineer in Seattle, discovered this technique over a decade ago. Beaty realized that it was possible to help break up both traffic waves (stop-and-go driving on the highway) and traffic jams by altering your driving patterns when you see one of these problems on the horizon. By reducing speed and leaving more room in front of your car, you can help regulate traffic and reduce the wave or jam behind you. For a full description of the process, read Beaty’s article.
The final tenet of hypermiling is taking it easy, both by anticipating stops so you can take your foot off the accelerator before having to brake, and by slowly accelerating after a stop. Both of these techniques require you to give more thought to your movement than most lead foots, but it will lead to savings in your fuels costs, as well as more mindful driving.
All of the official steps to hypermiling are safe and can potentially make you a better driver. However, the hypermiler who clocked in with 180 mpg did not simply go through the steps advocated by hypermiling.com.
Many hypermilers take their quest for better economy to an extreme. Some habits, like driving according to the mpg display in hybrid cars, driving only when wind conditions are favorable, driving without A/C or open windows, and plotting out routes that minimize stop signs and traffic lights are safe but too onerous for most drivers. However, other habits are downright dangerous.
Some hypermilers turn off their engines and coast to a stop at traffic lights. Others consider braking to be “stoptional” and will glide through stop signs and lights, rather than brake. The most dangerous and irresponsible hypermiling technique is to “draft” behind a semi-truck. By tailgating very closely behind a semi, a car can reduce its wind resistance to the point that it is possible to continue at a high speed with your foot off the accelerator.
Obviously, these hypermiling techniques are not reasonable ways to increase your fuel economy. A good rule of thumb for anyone tempted to try the more extreme techniques is to think about a 16-year-old child trying it. If you’re horrified at the idea of an inexperienced driver doing something like that, then don’t do it yourself.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to increase your fuel economy by becoming a more defensive and mindful driver. That will also help reduce your chances of getting into a wreck. Done safely, correctly and legally, hypermiling is a win-win.
So, do you practice any of the above, and if not, would you try it?
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