Category Archives: Hypermiling

The Latest Hypermiling Technique: Buy a Car That Gets 150 Miles per Gallon

If you think gasoline prices are out of control here in the U.S. you’ll get no sympathy from the Brits who’ve been paying upwards of $1.40/liter (that’s nearly $6/gallon yo!) for several years now. As a result, diesel powered cars — which get better mileage and have lower overall emissions — have grown very popular.

So why in the world aren’t we all driving diesels over here?

Here’s why. What’s the first thing you thought of when you heard “diesel car”? If you’re like most Americans, you thought about big giant pickup trucks which are excessively loud and driven by rednecks that appear to derive a special enjoyment from engulfing your car in a gigantic cloud of noxious black smoke whenever you get anywhere near them.

Redenecks and their trucksOr maybe you remembered when you were 16 and got your first job at the local McDonald’s and some redneck hick comes through the drive through and orders a “rumble-rumble-rumble.” And when you kindly ask the hick to turn off their engine, rather than complying they rev their engine and curse you out. Then you spit in their fries and put a little rat hair in their burger.

Okay… maybe MOST people don’t think that, but I certainly do. Growing up, rednecks in oversized pickup trucks that belched black smoke everywhere and were so freakin’ loud you couldn’t hear yourself think were the only diesel-powered consumer vehicles I ever saw. So the whole idea of every person’s car being powered by a loud, black-smoke spewing diesel engine made me cringe.
Giving rednecks everywhere a bad name
Then, later on in life, I learned that it’s actually possible to build a comparatively clean-burning and quiet diesel engine that is still more powerful and more efficient than a gas engine. And yet, the diesel has been ignored in America save for those who have an affinity for exhaust pipes large enough to fit medium-sized dogs (or little children) into and who just seem to love to torment folks such as myself with huge clouds of choking black smoke and excessively loud engines.

Oh yeah, and those few folks who actually get a diesel truck for the extra torque, power, hauling capacity and other legitimate reasons.

It was in the 90′s that I read an article about a car that Volkswagen developed. It was a small hatchback (very much like the Rabbit) powered by a three cylinder turbo diesel. It was rated at 65mpg… better than any hybrid available in the States at the time! But it was sold exclusively in Europe. I guess America wasn’t deemed ready for it.

The ultra high efficient LoremoI have since changed my misguided hatred for the diesel and come to wish we had more of it here in the U.S. And maybe, just maybe, the Loremo (a crazy acronym that stands for Low Resistance Mobile… yeah, it’s European, can you tell?) will change American attitudes regarding the diesel.

While the cost of a typical hybrid either puts it out of reach or makes it undesirable for most folks, the 150 mpg Loremo — with an expected price tag of $22,000 — is designed for the masses. And with the ability travel more than 5x farther on each gallon of fuel than even “high efficiency” gas-powered cars, for every 1,000 miles you travel, you’ll be saving approximately $79 (based on $2.95/gallon versus a 30 mpg vehicle).

That means a savings of nearly $1,000 per year for the average driver and quite a bit more than that for the majority of commuters.

Wanna get really crazy? Power it with bio-diesel and not only will you have the most efficient zero-emission car in town, but the sweet smell of your exhaust will have everybody asking you where you’re hiding the burritos.

Now, the environmentally friendly (though not so friendly to those who like their Hummers) residents of upscale Washington towns and other like-minded persons won’t have any problem with the 20 horsepower two-cylinder turbo LS model that is being introduced to the U.K. next year. But for the rest of America, they expect to produce a 50 horsepower (only slightly wimpier than my old 1985 Mazda 626 which rated about 65 HP) three-cylinder turbo GT model that will do 0-60 in half the time, yet still break 80 mpg.

Slated for a 2010 release in the States, let’s hope they actually follow through.

Only problem? No automatic transmission, so I guess I won’t be getting one :(

Hypermiling Not Always the Answer – Consider the Alternatives

ABC’s Nightline recently ran a story on hypermiling in which they interviewed one Wayne Mitchell, engineer for the City of Chicago and consummate hypermiler. Thanks to my friend Mikal for the head’s up on the story.

Wayne drives a Toyota Prius hybrid. He drives a hybrid and hypermiles not for the money savings (like I do), but for the saving of oil. Says Wayne, “Oil is a finite resource.” He wants oil to still be around when his kids grow up.

Wayne has an 18 mile commute. It takes him nearly an hour to get to work. Hearing this, it made me quite grateful for my situation.

My recent move cut my commute of six miles and 15 minutes to two miles and five minutes. While I spend way less time on the road, a couple of things have occurred that reduce my overall mileage. First and foremost is the colder weather. Block heaters might fix that, but I’m just not crazy enough (i.e. committed) at this point to go through the bother. Second is the shorter distance. I have less opportunity to practice hypermiling techniques.

Both the Nightline story and my own experience in having my mileage reduced because I’m now closer to work got me thinking about what my goals are in regard to hypermiling. Is it so I can brag about my incredibly high mileage and make myself feel better by looking down on gas guzzlers, or is it to use less gas thereby costing me less money?

BegleymobileThe truth is, it has always been the latter. If it were the prior, I’d get rid of my V6 Sonata and get an Ed-Begleymobile. Or I’d move to Nephi so I can travel the 40 miles to work each day and get double the mileage I’m getting travelling just two miles. On the other hand, if I were truly committed to saving gas money, I’d probably get a bicycle and take that to work instead. Doh!

And honestly, if I had the money I’d be guzzling gas myself driving around in a Corvette for the road and a Hummer for off (the big and uncomfortable, but incredibly capable H1, not those wussy H3’s).

Anyway, back to the original point of my post. If you’re practicing hypermiling techniques to save money like me, start looking at the many other methods that are non-hypermiling related that can save you gas money:

  • Move closer to work, or take a job closer to home
  • Start riding your bicycle
  • Take mass transit, like the bus or train
  • Avoid driving unless absolutely necessary (no more leisure Sunday drives)

Finally, and it really pains me to say this, but a scooter (which you can often nab for sub $2,000 brand new) practicing hypermiling would likely slaughter the mileage ratings of any very expensive hybrid vehicle (a new Prius goes for the price of 15 scooters). Personally, I recommend getting a motorcycle. Your mileage will be half that of a scooter, but at least you won’t be, you know, on a scooter.

As for me, I do things only if they’re convenient. The hypermiling techniques I employ are easily done by anybody. I don’t take it further because, frankly, I’m too busy trying to enjoy my life to make it more inconvenient for me (which is why, unlike Wayne, I wouldn’t wake up an hour early, drive in a manner that frustrates everybody around me, or take the back roads and extend my commute just to maximize my mileage and save gas). Life is short, and I really don’t want it to suck any more than it already does.

For all hypermiling tips that I’ve tried over the past year, take a look at my hypermiling category.

Hypermiling Success Found in Compromise

As you may recall, I first started hypermiling (driving in a manner that maximizes fuel efficiency) back in June. Well, after three months of trying different things, I’ve kind of settled into a mix of hypermiling and my (formerly) normal driving.

Acceleration – This is my biggest adjustment. I used to just accelerate quickly everywhere I went, not quite maxing out, but getting very close. Now, I have decided that the best strategy is to accelerate “briskly” rather than like a grandma. It actually seems to conserve gas better (in my town at least) to briskly accelerate, reaching your cruising speed quickly, rather than accelerate like a grandma.

Whether this is best for you depends on your driving conditions (and the type of car you drive I would imagine). If you have to stop at a light every two blocks, driving like a grandma is probably better.

Coasting in neutral – I stopped coasting in neutral most of the time, though I still catch myself doing it sometimes out of habit. I’m too concerned about increased wear and tear on the transmission and brakes. However, for long downhill stretches I’ll still pop it into neutral.

Air conditioning – One thing I found out is that running with the A/C on absolutely kills mileage. I knew it was bad, but I sure got a lesson these last few months. In the city, running with A/C drops mileage to about 19 mpg, whereas without I’ll get anywhere from 23 to 25. I try to avoid A/C whenever possible, suffering from some uncomfortable heat sometimes. But I’m a wimp when it comes to temperature, so I run it more often than I really need to.

Timing traffic lights – I’ve gotten pretty good at timing the lights on the main streets here in Orem. I found out that if I can drive 40 mph consistently (the speed limit on our main road, State Street), I’ll get 40 mpg. I discovered this one day after freshly filling up my tank and pulling onto State Street. I somehow managed to time the lights perfectly, driving about 3 miles without stopping, and slowing down/accelerating very little.

Shutting off the engine – Well, I’ve pretty much given up on this. Again, it comes down to wear and tear. However, when going to fast food restaurants I’ll park and go inside rather than waiting in the drive through. Just today, I made the mistake of sitting in a Taco Bell drive through where I watched my mileage drop from 21.9 to 20 (this was after only 12.4 miles were put on after fill up though, so it was dropping faster than normal… but still!)

The bad thing about this though is that if I just quit going to fast food restaurants, I’d save enough money in one month to pay for that month’s gas, plus half the next month’s.

Overall, my mix of adjustments has brought me to a happy place where I’m comfortable that I can maintain safe driving habits (some hypermiling techniques are simply too distracting), and not cause too much wear and tear on my car. I guess it’s better called “enthusiasticmiling.”

This results in about 22 mpg in the city. And, since freeway hypermiling techniques are very easy to follow, I still get around 35 mpg freeway, which is no change from before.

For all the hypermiling techniques I’ve tried, check out all the posts in the Hypermiling category.

Is Hypermiling Worth My Sanity?

So here’s an update. One thing I’ve found to really motivate me to maintain my hypermiling driving habits (ie: prevent me from romping on it like I usually do) is to always display the mpg meter on my dash.

It has become a game of mental discipline, and the freakin’ Sonata is in my head! Every time I accelerate, no matter how smooth and controlled, I always lose a tenth of a mile on my average mpg rate. I have to then drive for a couple miles at a rock-solid steady pace to gain that tenth back.

But it never stays. Each day, the mpg meter gradually drops a tenth of a mile. I’m closing in on 300 miles (about half freeway) since the last fill up and I’m barely hanging on to 27 mpg.

So I’m left to wonder if it’s even worth it at this point. I’m sure I could get 23 mpg city if I just stopped opening up the throttle every time I accelerate, but I still wouldn’t have to accelerate like a grandma. Is it worth the extra 3 mpg to be constantly shutting off my engine, popping it into neutral to coast, and driving like a grandma? It’s really not that safe do drive that way, and I wonder if the wear and tear on the transmission and starter motor negate the advantage of getting a measely 3 extra mpg.

I usually fill up after burning 14-15 gallons of gas. All this hypermiling in the city gets me an extra 45 miles between fill ups. That’s around 1,200 to 1,500 extra miles per year. Hmmm… okay, maybe it is worth it. To go 1,500 miles at 23 mpg would require 65 gallons of gas. At today’s price of $3.229 per gallon (gotta squeeze that extra nine-tenths of a cent out of everybody), 65 gallons costs roughly $210, which works out to an extra $17 or $18 per month.

That’s enough money to buy me three extra Little Caesar’s Hot n’ Ready pizzas every month! Okay, maybe it’s worth it. I’ll keep trying for a couple more fill ups and see if I can retain my sanity.

As a review of what I’ve done for this, my first tank of hypermiling:

  • Filled my tires to 42 psi (2 psi short of the max)
  • Accelerate like a grandma
  • Coast when possible (especially when approaching red lights)
  • Shut the engine off if I know I’ll be waiting more than 20 seconds
  • Try to always pull forward into a parking space that allows me to pull forward to get out

The improvement this kind of driving has gotten me over EPA estimates:

Old EPA estimates: 30% and 17% improvement city and freeway respectively.
2008 EPA estimates: 53% and 29% improvement city and freeway respectively.

Most hypermilers don’t consider it hypermiling if you don’t get at least a 20% improvement over EPA estimates, so it looks like I need to work on my freeway hypermiling skills.

Now while I’m trying to squeeze every penny out of my fuel economy, I’ve noticed that having gas cost over $3/gallon has done little to curb fuel consumption. At most gas stations, I find that I have to wait in line to fill up. I can take solace in knowing that I will be there less often now though, as in addition to hypermiling I also try to avoid driving as much as I can.

First Day of Hypermiling

Well, it was more like “vigorous” miling, not quite hyper.

Today, I took the family to Syracuse, which is about a 70 mile trip. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to try out some hypermiling tactics on the freeway.

In about the 5 or so miles of city driving I’d done since filling up, I had averaged (according to the meter on my car) about 19.5 mpg, quite a bit of that being spent sitting at red lights. It was interesting to watch the meter drop every time I stopped at a red light. Every few seconds, the mpg rating would drop a tenth of an mpg.

After hopping on the freeway, my main strategy was to maintain a consistent speed of 70 mph without any slow downs, and thus no gas-wasting acceleration.

First thing I did though was pump the tires up to 42 psi, just short of the max.

After hitting the freeway, the mpg meter began slowly but surely crawling upward. It didn’t take long for it to break 30 mpg. There were a couple of times I drafted off a semi-truck, but because they drove slower than I wanted (and their speed wasn’t very consistent) I didn’t spend more than a few miles drafting.

I had a couple of opportunities to pop it into neutral, which I noticed bumped the mileage up pretty quickly. Just as I rolled onto my exit, the mpg meter clicked over from 34.9 to 35 mpg. Not too shabby for a car with an EPA estimated 30 mpg freeway — though with the new 2008 EPA estimates, it drops to 27 mpg. A 16% and 30% improvement over the old and new EPA standards respectively.

I drove around the city for about 30 minutes, where I was able to maintain 33.6 mpg, thanks mostly to driving on back roads where traffic was very light. On the way home I flipped on the A/C, where mileage dropped below 30 in the city, and climbed back to 33.4 by the time I got home.

It’s not quite 50 mpg like some Honda drivers I’ve heard from, but it’s a start, and not bad for a 235 hp 3.3L V6. And it shows that even with very minor adjustments, anybody can get substantial gains in their vehicle’s mileage.

To be continued…

I Got a New Sonata, and I’m Gonna Become a Hypermiler

So I recently traded in my Impala for a 2006 Sonata. It’s about 30% more powerful, but lighter, and therefore gets only slightly worse mileage. But with gas prices breaking the $3 mark, I’ve decided to take up a new practice known as hypermiling.

Hypermiling is an emerging trend where drivers tweak their driving habits, and many times their cars, to squeeze every last ounce of mileage out of them. In some cases, simple driving habit changes have resulted in up to 50% increases in mileage over EPA estimates.

I’ve always beat EPA estimates on city mileage (EPA estimated 20mpg on my Sonata, and after going through my first tank of city-only miles, I got 21.6), but never been able to quite match the estimates for freeway mileage. So when I heard numbers like “50% higher than EPA estimates,” that really intrigued me, so I thought I’d look into it. Since I’m not about to start trimming crap off my car to make it lighter or remove pieces off the body to make it more aerodynamic, I thought I’d go with the driving habit changes. Here’s what I’ve decided to try:

Max out your tire inflation – The maximum rated inflation on most passenger car tires is 44 psi. I’ve always run at 35 psi, so I’ll be bumping that up. During the winter I’ll lower it back down to improve traction in snow and ice, but that won’t be an issue during my test.

Highway drafting – Tailgating an 18 wheeler is the best way to go. Problem is that it’s really dangerous (and illegal). So the recommendation is to follow about 10 car lengths behind. I’ve drafted off of big trucks before, but they usually are driving so slow that I can’t stand to follow them for more than a couple miles. If I can be patient enough, maybe I’ll do it longer. Be careful not to get in the spot where the air comes down right on top of you. The turbulence will actually worsen your mileage.

Shutting off the car when waiting – Back in high school, I read that starting your car requires gas equivalent to 30 seconds of idling, so I’ve already been shutting off my car in fast food drive-throughs and red lights when I know I’ll be waiting a long time. But I just learned that modern vehicles only require gas equivalent to 10 seconds of idling to start up. So it looks like I’ll be shutting the engine off more often. My only concern is the wear and tear on the engine and starter motor.

Never backing up – The trick here is to always pull forward into a parking spot that allows you to pull forward to get out. I question whether the time spent looking for a spot to do this with negates the advantage. On the other hand, I generally park out in the boonies just to be away from everybody else, so I guess this won’t be too difficult.

Slow accelerating – This will be the toughest for me, but I’m going to try.

Approach red lights slowly – This conserves the motion you create by trying to keep the car moving, never actually coming to a complete stop. It takes some practice to learn the timing of the lights in your home town, but this is something that I’ve already been doing for years, and started doing more seriously and consistently for about a year now.

Drive slowly in rush-hour traffic – The idea is to maintain a constant speed rather than the stop and go most drivers do. I’ve actually been doing this already for about 14 years now. Most people have a hard time because it can leave a large gap between you and the person in front of you. Most people can’t stand having other cars pull in front of them, or they feel like they will reach their destination faster if they ride the tail of the guy in front of them. Think logically instead of emotionally, and it’s easier.

Coasting when possible – When I visit family out at Strawberry Reservoir, there’s this huge hill I pass over. I’ve coasted up to 8 miles down the long side. The recommendation is to shut your engine off when coasting, but doing so means you lose power brakes and power steering. I’ve shut my engine off in a coast a few times (I used to do it a lot when I was 16), and I guess it would work for approaching long red lights. I’ll try it more often.

A big concern is doing all these extra actions increases distractions and can result in a nasty accident. And the whole idea of coasting with the engine off… not a particularly great idea. So I’ll only be doing most of this stuff when it’s safe with few or no cars around me. But I’ll let you know how my mileage goes.