Every Gallon Counts: Hypermiling Tips to Save Gas

You can improve your car’s efficiency, save gas, and save money by following these basic and intermediate “hypermiling” tips.
By Monica O’Rourke
June/July 2010
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Give these hypermiling tips a try, and get more miles out of a tank of gas.
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/SKIP ODONNELL


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Gas-saving driving habits, called hypermiling, can help you achieve up to 40 percent more miles per gallon (mpg) than your car’s official fuel economy estimate. Take, for example, a 2005 Honda Accord, a bestselling sedan with an mpg rating of 24 (21 city, 31 highway). According to Wayne Gerdes — who coined the term “hypermiling” and is considered by many to be its leading expert and trainer — an Accord driver who is savvy to hypermiling can expect to get about 35 mpg. Dedicated hypermilers can achieve 50 percent or better improvement over their vehicles’ estimated mpg figures. Last year, Gerdes set a world record for distance in a gas-powered, midsized sedan by driving 1,445 miles on a single tank of fuel in a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. That’s 81 mpg — more than double the vehicle’s Environmental Protection Agency rating of 39 mpg.

Out of a desire to lessen the United States’ reliance on foreign oil and show us all how to save gas, Gerdes started an online community In 2006 to provide hypermiling tips and a forum for hypermiling enthusiasts.

“The world has experienced fuel economy tips and tricks, snake-oil magic elixirs, and eco-driving tips for well over two decades,” Gerdes says. “But what did we get? Broken promises and shattered dreams. Hypermiling not only makes you a more aware driver, but it also produces fuel savings that few other methods or practices ever will.”

While Gerdes and his experienced team used advanced hypermiling methods to achieve the extraordinary results in the Fusion Hybrid, it’s possible to significantly improve gas mileage in everyday driving with simple hypermiling techniques.

Some of the following gas-saving tips may sound familiar — you’ve probably been hypermiling without even realizing it.

Basic Hypermiling Techniques

Slow Down. When it comes to even minimally improving gas mileage, this an easy and effective technique. Speed increases wind resistance, which ultimately reduces gas mileage. Lower speeds lead to less gas consumption. Observe the speed limit and stick to the right-hand lane.

Brake Less. Excess braking can reduce gas mileage by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds. Avoid tailgating, which is not only dangerous, but leads to frequent braking. Every time you brake, you waste some of the gas that was burned during acceleration.

Lighten the Load. Gone are the days of towing cargo trailers, of loading the trunk with sandbags for traction, or of leaving cargo racks stored on top of your vehicle. And put those beach/lawn chairs back in the garage. All optional weight decreases your car’s gas mileage.

Minimize Air Conditioning. Running the air conditioner can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 25 percent. Instead, increase airflow by cracking the driver’s window and rear passenger’s window on the opposite side. When driving at high speeds, close your windows and use the ventilation fan to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Ongoing Maintenance. You’ll burn less fuel if you keep your engine clean and running well. A dirty air filter can decrease the fuel economy of older cars with carbureted engines.

Avoid Excessive Idling. Turn the engine off if you’re not going anywhere in 30 seconds or more. A modern fuel injected engine consumes only about five seconds worth of fuel to restart.

Intermediate Hypermiling Techniques

According to Gerdes, it’s wise to first practice more advanced hypermiling methods on a low — traffic country road to get a feel for your vehicle’s limitations (as well as your own).

Drive Without Brakes. This technique is not as dangerous as it may sound; you simply drive as if you’ve lost your brakes, even though you still have full use of them. The idea is to anticipate stops and to decelerate by simply taking your foot off the gas — coasting to a stop rather than speeding toward it.

Alternate Routes. Choose routes that are less traveled and thus allow more flexibility to employ a wider range of hypermiling techniques than if you were surrounded by other vehicles. Leave early and try not to rush.

Smart Braking. Brake early to avoid starting again from a dead stop, especially when facing an uphill climb (the worst scenario for gas mileage). If you can avoid a complete stop by slowing early to allow a pedestrian, turning vehicle or other impediment ahead to clear, you’ll conserve fuel.

Rabbit Timing. This technique works at traffic lights with sensors. When approaching a “stale” red light (one that has been red a long time and will soon turn green), slow down early and let the other traffic around you (“the rabbits”) trip the light’s sensor as they race ahead and then stop. They may cause the light to go green, so you may not have to stop at all.

Perhaps best of all, any of these strategies will help teach you how different driving habits affect gas mileage. While the techniques listed only scratch the surface of the available mileage stretching methods, with time, whatever degree of hypermiling you’re comfortable with can become second nature. You’ll have numbers to be proud of, both in mpg and in savings at the gas pump. To learn more about hypermiling and engage with a community of mpg — thrifty drivers, visit CleanMPG.


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Post a comment below.

 

Ironhead
10/26/2013 7:10:20 PM
This is rude and stupid in busy traffic situations. Rabbit timing? So you're the doofus that is always crawling or coasting up to the light and keeping people from getting into or across traffic when the light cycle's natural "hole" opens up. Probably the same guy that idles away from the green light so slowly, causing ten or more other drivers to sit at idle through another light cycle, burning extra fuel while patting yourself on the back and thinking how "green" you're being. In the big picture, you just wasted a gallon or better to save a thimble full. Do us all a favor and flog that Prius when the light turns green so we can make the light too. Once you're up to speed and on the open road, you can soft pedal all you want. It costs me nothing at that point because now I'm through the choke point. Plus I can pass you if I want to.

Roland Green
8/17/2010 1:04:33 PM
Can someone explain how braking uses more petrol.

Wendy_34
8/8/2010 8:36:57 AM
My driveway is steep and when I must drive more than once in a day, I leave my car in the street so I don't have to back out, change gears, etc. (Toyota Prius)

J Russell Bailey
8/7/2010 3:01:59 AM
Hey there all, Sadly, the author illustrates a severely myopic view, which is arrived at by being a Big City/Geographical Elitist. Some of his ideas are great, but like millions of other folks throughout the Rockies, I live in the Middle of Nowhere: 40 miles OUTSIDE of town. Further, here in the Rockies, if you don't carry extra weight in your rig during the Winter, you WILL end up getting stuck at one point (or more) or another. Quite frankly, I'm tired of the Big City/Geographical Elitists making out as if EVERYONE lives just like they do, so obviously ALL their 'solutions' work for EVERYONE! The corollary to this sad attitude of theirs is that if ANYONE doesn't do EVERYTHING on their list, such persons MUST by defintion NOT be really 'for the planet' and not doing 'all that they could' to 'help the environment.' I'm really tired of the elitism. How about some OPEN MINDEDNESS from the Big City/Geographic types? It's almost gotten to the point where the Sierra Club, WWF, Greenpeacers have become Neo-Brownshirts! You don't accept that GW is man made and they want to find the nearest telephone pole or lamp post to string you up!!! Tolerance my foot...these people have gone totally NUTS! Mind you though, the same voices touting GW now, were once saying something totally the opposite (I'm OLD, I remember when they were screaming it on the Evening News, Radio, and in Print): I'm STILL waiting for that Ice Age to appear and ahem, we STILL seem to have plenty of oil.

john m_3
8/6/2010 6:36:07 PM
i have looked at all things possible. my car is always in tune, the tires are always inflated to the recommended max. here in central texas, you use the a/c, there is no option in the summer. my wifes car is a toyota corolla. 2006. for some reason it gets 34 in town and 41 all highway. i had a prius, a dog, it never got more than 27 in town. toyota, when told this retreated into the cult of of deniability. they would test the car and then tell me there was nothing wrong. anyway that was totaled, none of the bags deployed, and i bought a 1990 honda crx. put on as much carbon fiber as i could. manual trans, and got better milage. the big key is to push the clutch in in those situations where you are approaching speed changes , stops, my car was built with heavy steel. a car hit me from the side, and her car was undrivable. i drove away wiht minor dents. the honda crx hf model got over 50 mph in the early 1980's. n plastic, carbon fiber. something is wrong here

tony_32
8/6/2010 6:03:15 PM
ok im ok with almost everything in the piece but i live in southern florida and running with the window cracked like the article says wouldnt work here it can get to the high 100 dreds in side parked cas here

Bakari Kafele
6/4/2010 5:21:14 PM
Thank you for bringing attention to hypermiling. While we should all work towards driving less in the first place, when we do, it should be as efficient as possible. One clarification for your readers: slowing down is the single biggest change you can make, but it only useful down to a certain speed. If you go so slow that the car needs to downshift, mileage gets worse again. This will usually happen somewhere in the 40-55mph range, slower than that will not help your mileage (the 55mph speed limit was not arbitrary). Slowing down from 65 to 55 only adds a few seconds per mile to your trip time. As an added bonus, lower speeds are substantially safer. Combining good driving technique with a few minor and inexpensive vehicle modifications, it is possible to improve mpg even more. I am getting 100% better mileage (30mpg out of a 2.5 ton work truck). You can read about my project at www.instructables.com/id/Vehicle-efficiency-upgrades For a more extensive list of hypermileing techniques and vehicle mods, try ecomodder.com








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