Frustrated by that tediously slow driver coasting along in front of you on the road? You could be following a hypermiler, who is in the process of getting 100kms more from her tank of fuel than you are…
What is hypermiling?
Hypermiling (also known as eco-driving in Europe) is the process of taking driving (of both hybrid cars and normal vehicles) to extraordinary lengths to get as much as you can from each litre of petrol. In fact, hypermilers claim to get up to 100% more kilometres per tank in extreme cases, but average a fuel saving of at least 33%.
Hypermiling is not a new phenomenon. During the fuel crisis of the 1970s, Reader’s Digest published a guide that included many techniques now commonly used in hypermiling. Today, however, hypermilers are more serious about this activity and also rely on new technology such as vehicle cruise control to achieve incredible fuel economy.
US hypermilers compete in “hybridfest
” In the USA, hypermilers compete in “Hybridfests,” where fellow hypermilers compete on specific routes for the title of “most fuel-efficient driver.” At the 2006 Hybridfest MPG Challenge in Madison, Wisconsin, the winner, Wayne Gerdes, took home the title after completing the route with an incredible average of 180 miles per gallon. (that’s approximately 72kms on about one litre of fuel!)
For hypermilers, improving their fuel economy is an entertaining (although serious) game. Every trip for this elite group of fuel-savers is a chance to beat their own record. They may never stop — literally — in their quest for ultimate fuel economy.
Hypermiling tricks to save you money
But how do hypermilers do it? There are various practices – some practical and some extreme – employed by hypermilers, but many of them are not recommended here as they are both dangerous and can cause damage to your car if not implemented properly.
For example, Drafting is a technique that comes with a warning sign: according to many hypermiling experts, it is incredibly dangerous. A “deliberate form of tailgating,” the forced auto stop involves turning off your car’s engine and then following closely behind the vehicle in front of you “in order to take advantage of the reduced wind resistance in the other car’s immediate wake.”
Safe ways to hypermile
Below are some safe hypermiling tactics that practitioners say will save at least 25-30% of fuel while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. (It is recommended that you practise one or two tips at a time and gradually work your way up the list so that you don’t spend all your driving time concentrating on trying to remember everything at once.)
1. Change to a manual transmission: If you’re used to driving an automatic, switching over to a manual car might take a little practice, but it’s definitely worth it. Once you have more control over the vehicle, you’ll be able to master more hypermiling tricks.
2. Slow down: The harder you press the accelerator, the more fuel you’re using. If you’re driving over the speed limit, you might save time, but you’re definitely wasting fuel and money.
3. Coast instead of braking: When you see a stop sign up ahead or a traffic light turning yellow, immediately take your foot off the gas and let your vehicle slow down by itself. If you wait until the last possible minute to brake, then you’re wasting all the fuel you used when you could have been slowing down.
4. If you have Cruise Control, use it: One automatic setting that actually helps hypermiling is cruise control, which prevents you from “creeping” over the speed limit without realising it.
5. Coast with your car in neutral or freewheel carefully on the downhill stretches: This takes the burden off your accelerator, preventing you from wasting fuel. If you’re not driving in heavy traffic, experiment with this effective money saver.
6. Don’t transport junk in your car: The heavier your car, the harder it has to work to propel itself forward. Empty your boot and backseat of golf clubs, beach chairs, umbrellas and other items that you’re not using to lighten the load.
7. “Drive slow and low”: whenever possible to give your vehicle more mileage.
8. Optimise your route: There are huge benefits to “optimising” your route” when implementing hypermiling tricks. Instead of taking the scenic route to work, which could include more hills, twists, and dips, try finding a route that features level roads and less traffic lights or stop signs. Generally, a longer route with better driving conditions can use less fuel.
9. Park in the sun: The blogger Joe Future believes that parking your vehicle in the sun is a hypermiling tip for two reasons: “On a cold day, parking in the sun keeps your car warmer.” Also, a warmer car “will get to “auto-stop” mode faster than a cold car, so you’ll sit idling at fewer red lights while you’re waiting for auto-stop to kick in.”
10. Drive with a window open if you’re not on the highway: In the cooler months, stop blasting the air conditioner and roll down your windows. According to Drive.com.au, “It is generally accepted that air-conditioning increases fuel consumption by about 10 percent but winding down the windows increases drag, which is also an enemy of good fuel consumption.” If you’re going to be on the highway, keeping your A/C on low is still a good idea, but if you’re taking a joy ride, think about getting a little fresh air.
11. Don’t leave the engine running: It may seem like a good idea to let your car idle while you dash out to close the gate or drop off a DVD, but doing so wastes fuel. Take the extra few seconds to pull into a real parking spot and turn the car off first.
12. Service your car regularly: Taking your car for regular services, oil changes, tyre pressure and wheel balancing checks etc., is another easy way to maximize mileage.
Driving defensively is a means of not only saving fuel, but will also help you to avoid dangerous situations, as coasting up to a traffic light instead of speeding up and then slamming on the brakes is also a safer way to drive in South Africa, where dodging hijackers is as important as saving fuel.
To summarise: When trying to save fuel, drive as if you have a raw, rotten egg under your accelerator.