The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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HYPERMILING: Time V Money, Who Wins?

July 28th, 2008 by Derek Sheppard

I had to make a 400-mile round trip journey this weekend, and I’ll admit it. I hypomiled it.

Staring at a three-hour chug, I couldn’t convince myself to drive 60 the entire way. The speed limit (For cars) was 70 a good bit of the way anyways.

I’ve already incriminated myself enough on this blog, so I’ll just say I did what people do when they have long road trips and free flowing traffic. Yes, I turned the radio up.

I also got thinking about the age-old struggle, so perfectly summed up by Pink Floyd, between time and money.

Get there fast and burn money/gas, or take your time and save some coin (and maybe a speeding ticket.)?

Mathematics, my old nemesis, is making an encore. If you drive 200 miles each way, the trip out would take 2 hours 51 minutes at 70 mph. At 60 mph, the same trip takes 3 hours 20 minutes.

The EPA cites a 1999 study that claims every mile per hour over 60 is like adding $0.30 to every gallon of gas. So is the cost worth the time? In my rush to get to my destination, no, it wasn’t.

But what about your morning commute? We’ve all seen, or been, those people rushing down the interstate at  or north of 70 mph.

Let’s say your commute is 20 miles to work. The same speeds result in times of 17 or 20 minutes, respectively.

Driving faster in this case is a much harder sell. Yes, you could argue that over the course of a year (50 weeks, 5 days a week, twice a day) that extra three minutes each way adds up to 25 hours to your commute. But is leaving three minutes early really that bad? If you’re at work right now, and you’ve read this far, you’ve probably already wasted three minutes.

I can’t seem to find it, but I recall reading one debate (I’ll use loose judgment and call forum flame wars "debate".) about lowering speed limits to 55 mph that focused on saving money versus longer drive times.

When people ask me if I’ll keep hypermiling after I’m done with the project for the blog, I break it down this way.

If I’m driving to California for vacation, I’ve only got so much time for vacation, and I want it to be spent sitting on the beach, not I-5. In that case, if I’ve got the money to spare, hypermiling is probably out.

But every day (Where I rack up the most miles) when I drag myself into the office, I can afford to take an extra couple minutes. I can use the money for my next road trip.

(PS: Before I left on vacation, I filled up again. Even with a fair portion of the tank being non-hypermiled, frantic, Seattle-ized, get to the airport fast driving, I got 33.7 mpg. The nearly all-highway tank for the weekend road trip was 34 mph. Imagine if I’d gone 60 how high the number could be, remembering that my COMBINED mileage on the first tank was 36 mpg.)

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2 Responses to “HYPERMILING: Time V Money, Who Wins?”

  1. damonk Says:

    As a new hypermiler myself (you may recognize my name from cleanMPG.com), I can understand the frustration of having to drive for that long for so slow. I had trouble when I first started maintaining my speed. All I can suggest is keep hypermiling in mind on your next trip. At the very least you can do so when driving around your vacation spot. There is one problem with your math on figuring traveling time, those times assume that you are always traveling at that exact speed. I just did some figuring before reading your blog and found that my average speed over my 25 mile commute is 43 MPH when hypermiling and 48 when not hypermiling. Most of my commute is 50MPH or more speed limit. If I don’t take the interstate it is a 23 mile commute but takes me 45 min no matter how I drive. I think I’ve rambled on long enough and wish you luck on your future hypermiling expeditions.

  2. derek sheppard Says:

    You’re right about the numbers. I was just making the math simple, and only including freeway portions at what would be considered average speeds. Your point does illustrate something else that I’ve noticed – but don’t have any evidence to support other than observations.

    In urban driving – which would account for people’s lower average speed during a commute – I’ve found little compelling evidence to avoid hypermiling. I don’t know how many times I’ve driven through Bremerton gently between lights and arrived at certain points about the same time as people gunning it between lights. Sure, if you tear through 25 mph zones at 50 you’ll save some time, but we all know what the other dangers are associated with doing that. I’m convinced that my 28 to (33-36)MPG increase is largely because of more efficient driving in urban environments.