April 30, 2017

How to Drive to Save Gas: Hypermiling

Man Upset About Gas Prices

Original image entitled $56, by Miss Kari Baby

With the price of gas rising with no end in sight, it’s important to get every last inch out of every drop of gas in your tank. While the price of hybrids has been dropping and there are now used hybrid on the market that weren’t here in 2008 (the last time gas prices were this high), many people can’t afford the sticker price.  And unfortunately the people who are having the most difficult time paying for gas are the ones least likely to be able to afford a hybrid.

Fortunately, there is an option.  Anyone can hypermile! In fact, in 2008, I was driving my only option, a 10-year-old Cadillac that got, optimistically, 25 m.p.g. on the highway, but was getting more like 18 m.p.g. in city driving. But when I learned to hypermile, I was getting more like 22 to 23 m.p.g. in the city and closer to 30 m.p.g. on the highway.

I knew, because Cadillacs have both instant and memory mileage settings. This allowed me to experiment and see what worked and what didn’t.

Some suggestions I saw online, like actually turning off your car for downhill coasting, I thought to be too dangerous, because I’d lose power steering and brakes if I did them.  Maybe if I lived in Wyoming or Nevada, but not in an urban area. So that one I tossed.

Here are a few things I found that worked for me:

  • When on city streets, try to accelerate and decelerate slowly in order to not have to stop. Rather than racing up to stoplights or roaring away from them, coast and see if you can avoid having to brake.  Once you’ve used your gas to get up to a speed and have some momentum, why waste it braking? I love it when I can drive five miles or so at around 40 m.p.h., never braking.  For most cars, speeds between 40 and 55 m.p.h. are the most efficient for gas usage.
  • Coast whenever you can, unless it’s dangerous. It shouldn’t add more than a minute or so to your commute, and could even save you time if you are able to time it so that you glide through traffic lights. I’ve also found that hitting the lights on my usual route can add 20 minutes to my trip, but if I hold back on just one of them so that I can be in the middle of the light cycle instead of the end of it, I can shave roughly 17-18 minutes off–but I have to “miss” that first light.
  • Remove excess things from your car.  They will decrease your gas mileage.  My kids tend to leave books and toys in the car; my pre-pro ballet dancer daughter tends to leave her ballet bag and extra shoes in the car.  This didn’t bother me too much when gas was in the mid-$2 range, but now that it’s over $4 a gallon, I don’t want extra pounds in the car. Which means I’m dieting, too, and cleaning out my purse, which needs it anyway.
  • Keep your car in good repair, and your tires properly inflated.  Some hypermilers swear by overinflating tires, but the risk of blowing a tire could incure a higher cost than a month of hypermiling would save, plus the possibility of having a wreck if you lose control of your car as a result.
  • If you’re really serious about saving gas, keep your windows closed and your air conditioner off (but your vent and fan on). Some hypermilers will use ice packs or wet towels in hot weather–that’s up to you. For me, hauling 3 kids, the weight of the ice packs/wet sweat towels, and the resulting crankiness, offsets any savings I might make by keeping the car shut and the air conditioner off. And if I have groceries, I don’t want them cooked before I get home! So, literally, your mileage may vary on this tip.
  • If you live in the city, be a “waverider”.  This is related to the stoplight-timing, but is used on highways during traffic jams.  It is possible to completely break up a traffic jam, and my kids get a kick out of it when they look out our rearview mirrors to see an area that was at a standstill when we entered it moving smoothly after we leave it.  How to do that will be the subject of another KAB article in this series.
  • While it’s tempting to completely fill your tank at each fill up, unless the price has dropped at least 25 cents a gallon, don’t get more than about half a tank when prices are pretty steady. This is because gas is *heavy*, and will drag down your gas mileage so that you don’t go as far on that full tank.

Featured Video: Hypermiling Tips

In this video, the presenter talks about most of the above tips, and adds the tip of using the thinnest oil approved for your car.

Do you have any good hypermiling tips?  What has worked for you? Let other readers know in the comments!

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