Saturday, June 23, 2007

On hypermiling in moderation:

A few months ago, I came across an article in Mother Jones about people who use all sorts of techniques to increase the mileage (and thereby decrease the emissions) of their cars. They’re known as "hypermilers," and the best of them get 50 miles to the gallon in a conventional vehicle and 100 mpg in a hybrid! We were frustrated with the less- than-stellar mileage our new car was getting, so we began employing some of their techniques. We can’t endorse all of them, however, since some are downright dangerous or even impossible in some vehicles.

Moderate Hypermiling Techniques

• Accelerate slowly
• Maintain your speed once you reach it by pressing very lightly on the gas
• Avoid extraneous breaking
• Anticipate lights (Red light ahead? Shift into neutral early enough to roll to a stop.)
• Don’t accelerate to move up when you know you won’t be able to go far; idle up or wait for traffic to start moving before accelerating
• Shift into neutral and Coast downhill (Preserve momentum where possible by avoiding breaking.)
• Don’t run your air conditioning (Sometimes I run it just to cool the car off after it’s been sitting in the sun, or periodically but not continuously.)
• Keep your windows rolled up (Of course, it’s not moderate to do both in summer.)
• Don’t keep a roof rack on when not in use
• In highway driving, do not exceed 60 mph
• Park at the highest point in a parking lot, facing out so you can roll (in neutral) to start; turn your car on only when you run out of momentum
• Avoid traffic (You can turn your car off in stand-still traffic.)

Extreme and Dangerous Hypermiling Techniques

• Overinflating your tires (This compromises your ability to break)
• Driving in the draft of a tractor trailer truck (The driver can’t see you; you may not have time to stop.)
• Turning off engine while coasting (Some cars can’t be controlled under these circumstances.)

We don’t get 50 miles to the gallon, but our mileage has improved significantly. In his Mazda Protégé, my husband got 30 more miles than usual from a tank of gas just by coasting! Our Honda CR-V currently gets 22.5 rather than 18.5 in solid city driving. I’m finding too, that the longer I do it, the better my results. I think you begin to notice the opportunities to coast more, develop a feel for slow, steady acceleration and gain confidence over time. I am much more likely to coast while tracing regular routes than while going somewhere new. There is one .5+ mile stretch near my house that I can travel without touching the accelerator as long as I start with a little momentum. It is also easier to anticipate lights when you know their patterns.

It’s kind of fun too! Hypermiling makes driving an automatic almost as much fun as driving stick.

I hope readers will try some of these techniques. Almost everybody is coming around to the conclusion that we need to burn less fossil fuel (Even George Bush!—sort of). Hybrid cars are expensive. Riding a bike isn’t feasible for everyone. Moderate Hypermiling is something anyone can do to burn and emit less and love the planet more.


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