Posted by Jon Roth - 2010-06-27
I read an article in Mother Earth News (June/July 2010 issue) about a group of people who call themselves hypermilers, meaning that they intentionally dive their cars using habits and techniques to get the maximum miles per gallon. I started driving a hybrid (Honda Insight) over a year ago and immediately enjoyed significant fuel savings over my old car, but what enthralls me most about the car now is the constant feedback it gives me about my driving and fuel efficiency. It provides real-time mpg data plus trip averages and over-all averages, and it lets me select different modes of displaying the information. It also has a color-coded background display integrated with the speedometer (almost like a 'heads up' display in a jet) so that it can keep me informed peripherally without pulling my attention away from the road and traffic. The result of that feedback is that the car has taught me over the past year how to drive it more efficiently. While the EPA rating for the car is 41/45 mpg, I routinely achieve low 50's to low 60's around town and mid 50's on longer trips. My average over 11,000 miles since buying the car sits at 52.3 mpg
The techniques my car has taught me agree with those in the Mother Earth News article. The first tip the article gives is to slow down. Not always easy to do in our "imina hurry" and "need4speed" culture, but fluid friction being what it is and physical laws not caring about our cultural self-image, reducing your speed is the easiest way to save gas. Here is the quick lineup of easy gas-saving tips from Mother Earth:
1. slow down
2. brake less
3. lighten your load
4. minimize air conditioning
5. keep up with engine maintenance
6. avoid excessive idling
The article also includes some more advanced tips such as 'smart braking', that is, braking early to anticipate stops lights to avoid needing full stops, planning routes to minimize required stops and to use lighter trafficked roads so that you have more flexibility in your speed and braking.
I think of it as driving as though I have a wedding cake in the back and no brakes.
If I drive off without thinking and pretend I'm in a race car, then sure, I'm getting 41, 42 mpg in the Honda, but if I pay just a little attention to how I'm driving, and if I can chill a little and not be in such a hurry, then 54,55 mpg is no problem.
This time of year, though, my favorite way to save gas is still to ride my bike.