The Commute

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HYPERMILING: It’s All A Game To You, Isn’t It?

August 11th, 2008 by Derek Sheppard

Sometimes things just pop into focus.

Today, I had one of those zen-like moments, just like I did when I learned how to beat those pesky Bullet Bills, or later, when I discovered that a carefully placed crouch in Super Mario Bros. 3 leads to a secret room.

Anyway, I promise there’s a reason I’m writing about Super Mario Bros.

People of my generation (At least the slightly geeky set who don’t mind prolonged couch surfing.) should be called “The Gaming Generation.” Not pinochle, but video games. Eight bit, then 16, 32, 64, 128, and now 98073497239084023.

And video games might help your driving.

Yes, that’s right motorists of my generation, Super Mario Bros. could help you use less gasoline.

My watershed moment came today when I read a blog post on Wired.com equating the blogger’s friend’s successful Weight Watchers experience with an RPG. (RPG = role-playing game. You know, like Zelda, or World of Warcraft if you’ve cultivated your dweeb quotient a little more.)

It all came together. I’d seen isolated reference after isolated reference about hypermiling as a game. A game, of course! Duh!

Right now I’m still playing pinochle in my Vibe. My games involve throttle actions, deft shifting and praying that the gas needle moves as slowly southward as possible. But this game could be SO 8-bit.

I’m getting closer to buying a ScanGaugeII, a digital device that plugs into your car and gives you real-time fuel consumption data.

“With the ScanGauge, the effect of driving style on fuel economy is instantly apparent. My mileage game just turned pro, and now I can have as much fun as those Prius and Civic hybrid aficionados with their fancy dashboard displays,” wrote metrompg.com.

Sounds like the Camry Hybrid is even better.

A CNNMoney.com article about the Camry Hybrid tells of the virtuous mpg game that is “Excellent!”. When your trip is at least 35 mpg, “Excellent!” flashes on the dash. (I should lobby Toyota to include “All I have to say about that is, asphinctersayswhat.” when you’re below 35 mpg in the next Camry Hybrid.)

Lots of newer cars already have similar (though more boring than the Camry) readouts. I’m all for them. After all, we’re hardwired to compete whenever there’s an LCD around.

It’s no secret that auto manufacturers are doing whatever they can to spur a sale or two. What if the mpg gauge kept track of your mileage, as compared to the vehicle’s combined average calculated the EPA? By the time your next service rolls around, if you beat the EPA, you get a free oil change. Or an album from iTunes.

It’s all the fun of Super Mario Bros. and you get paid. And your thumbs aren’t sore.

Mario would think the idea is “Excellent!”

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One Response to “HYPERMILING: It’s All A Game To You, Isn’t It?”

  1. Cean Says:

    As a Prius driver, I pay a lot of attention to my dashboard display and try my level best to get better results. However, I live uphill from everything that I do away from home. If I crawl up those hills at ten mph, I annoy a great number of my neighbors.

    Still, I have more fun with my car than with Guitar Hero!