Monthly Archives: June 2007

Heading to Boston for eBay Live! 2007

So I’m heading off to Boston for my fourth eBay Live! event. Originally, I was to attend for Doba. Well, they bought me a plane ticket before I quit working there (and before I knew that they were planning on sending me). And so, even though I don’t work there anymore, they offered to fly me to Boston anyhow.

Upon hearing this, I went to work convincing my new employer that it would be beneficial to send me to eBay Live! Thus, I have room and board paid for by OrangeSoda while Doba takes care of the plane ticket. Not a bad deal, even if it is a bit unconventional.

Within the United States, this will be by far the farthest east I have ever been. Prior to tomorrow, the farthest east I’ve visited in the U.S. was New Orleans when I attended eBay Live! 2004. Prior to that however, Colorado marked the farthest east I had ever traveled within the States.

It adds another state I can add to the very few that I have visited in my life: California (state of my birth), Utah, Hawaii (lay over when I was a baby returning from the Philippines), Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Louisiana. Ten states visited, 40 more to go!

My plans during my visited to historical Massachusetts include egging Paul Revere’s house, dumping two tons of chocolate mix into the harbor, hacking into the computer databases of MIT to award myself a PhD. in metaphysics, and changing the Harvard motto from “veritas” (meaning “truth”) to “subjectio” (meaning “falsehood”).

Actually I’d prefer to go do some card counting and poker playing in Atlantic City, but at 450 miles from Boston, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Anyway, I’ll take lots of pictures and let you know how it goes.

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.