All posts by Derek Sheppard

HYPERMILING: The Gas Pedal Has Had Enough!


That’s right, Nissan is developing the “ECO pedal”:

Nissan Motor Co said on Monday it has developed an accelerator pedal that can push back on the driver’s foot when it detects excess pressure and poor fuel efficiency.

The article goes on to say the company claims it can improve fuel efficiency 5-10 percent. Apparently it will also come with a real-time fuel use gauge, which to me sounds similar to the major function of the ScanGaugue.

The ECO pedal makes me immediately think of an egg. Let me explain.

I have a free ECO pedal. It’s called my foot.

Instead of relying on my car’s computer, I let the ol’ soggy noodle do the work. Admittedly, sometimes it fails. But here’s my tip for gentler acceleration and improved MPG ratings.I got the idea from tips I’d read about driving in the snow, in which people suggest treating the brake pedal like you’ve got an egg between the pedal and your foot. Nice and gentle. With hypermiling, think of the gas pedal the same way. In fact, I’ve taken to lightly resting my foot on the gas, and leaning into it slightly just with my big toe.

HYPERMILING: Time V Money, Who Wins?

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.)


I’ll be hypermiling my way to Bellingham tonight for a conference over the weekend, and then I’m on vacation next week. Unless Ed decides to hypermile next week (Hint, hint, Ed…I know you want to keep the blog going…), there won’t be any entries from me.

HYPERMILING: Less Gas = Less $$$, And Hybrid vs Diesel – FIGHT!

I went off and saved all that money on gas, so am I supposed to feel guilty now?

Apparently with people driving less, the state is worried that decreased fuel consumption means less gas-tax revenue for road works.

At first blush, sure, it seems like it could be a problem – and I’m no expert so I’ll say it could be.

But isn’t there another side? If people aren’t using roadways as much, shouldn’t there be a corresponding decrease in demand? Which would mean maybe we won’t need (at least as quickly) those costly road improvements?

This is obviously more complicated that I’ve mentioned here – and clearly isn’t something I’m an expert it – but it should be something worth keeping an eye on.

Speaking of saving fuel, which one do you think will get to San Francisco on one tank: A Toyota Prius or Volkswagen Jetta TDI (The D=diesel)

Let the “yeah, but” smackdowns begin. Or continue, really.

This whole dog and pony show is a stunt by Auburn Volkswagen with the intent, I’m assuming, to not sell more Priuses. Priui? Prii? (Plural of Prius, anyone?)

This adds a new dimension to the Interweb fights that usually ensue when you bookend “vs” with two car models in Google. (Try THIS ONE.)

While the example above has little to do with fuel efficiency, the Prius/TDI thing has been done before.

Not to be left out of the current debate, some Prius fan boys and girls get their say, too.

What this really means is that the Prius and TDI drivers have no right to complain if they hit a rough patch of road along Washington state highways.

HYPERMILING: More On Efficient Tires

Have you figured out yet that proper tire inflation is kind of an important element in this hypermiling journey?

I wasn’t aware of this, but hybrids usually come with low-rolling resistance tires.

Today, the Detroit News has a story about them.

Basically, the less flex and friction a tire causes, the more efficient it is, leading to better MPGs. (Also worse braking and off road performance.)

It makes sense. I’m into mountain biking, and rolling resistance along with tread pattern is a big concern when deciding what rubber to put on your hoops. If you’ve ever ridden a knobby-hoofed mountain bike on the street, versus one with slick tires, you know all about what rolling resistance does to efficiency.

And even if you won’t cough up the extra dough for low-rolling resistance tires, and can’t seem to find the time to keep your current tires inflated, you can always hope for some tweels.


So, I bet you’re wondering how I got 36 miles per gallon out of my trusty steed?

First, let me get something off my chest. I broke a promise.

Remember when I started this whole thing I mentioned not doing anything crazy or illegal?

I might have fudged a little on the second part…specifically the issue of coasting downhill in neutral.

Though, the legal cosmos are more than balanced because I rarely eclipsed the speed limit, which usually amounted to no more than five over. I went 65 on the highway once, but that was to pass an erratically driven truck.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating people break traffic laws, but my rationalization went something like this: What’s worse, knowing you’ve broken the law by driving 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit, or coasting down a few hills?

Plus, the allure of saving money when everything seems to get more expensive by the day was too much to ignore.

In fact, I got even more curious about the law prohibiting coasting in neutral. It was passed in 1965, and has never been amended. Jerry Sheehan, the director of the Legislative Information Center, was kind enough to see if his folks could dig up any info on why and how this law came to be. It’s so old, there might not be anything out there, but you never know.

Enough about that.

Now, for the other ways I saved:

Slow down. Go the speed limit.

Fill your tires. I filled my tires to 35 psi, the max sidewall recommendation. And check them! (I’ve noticed my front right tire deflates faster than the others.)

Keep the revs low. Here’s where I have an advantage with the 6-speed manual. I’ve tried really hard to keep the revs around 2,000. That’s a far cry from the banshee wail of my engine in second gear ripping up to 60 at 8,300 rpm on freeway onramps. (Anybody whose driven a car – Vibe GT, Matrix and Corolla XRS, Celica – with my engine knows what I’m talking about.)

Time the traffic lights. This is a big one that I never thought about before: Don’t speed up to stoplights. Meaning, keep an eye out waaaay ahead. If the light’s yellow, red, or has been green a long time, gradually slow down. Often times you won’t even have to stop at the light because it’ll turn green by the time you get there.

Take all the extra junk out of your car. (For me, it was mostly garbage and my golf clubs.)

Don’t run the A/C. Yes, it was hot, but I lived.


I finally filled up today, and all I can say is WOW. I have two new important numbers: 36 and 434.

Remember one of my numbers in the first blog post? 28?

That was my typical combined mpg. When I filled up today the trip odometer read 373 miles, way more than usual of course, and I put in 10.244 gallons until the “click” of the pump. (I hadn’t quite yet the fuel light come on, but it was close.)

That calculates to 36.4 mpg, an increase of 30 percent. Honestly, I’m stunned.

Let’s do some more (ugh…) math.

Remember, that driving an average of 12,000 miles a year at 28 mpg and $4.55 gasoline (I’m on premium, remember?) means I’d spend $1,950.

At 36 mpg, I’d spend $1516 a year, given the same variables.

That’s a yearly savings of $434, which is actually low because it assumes gas is going to stay at $4.55. (Ha!)

Alas, it’s a sunny Saturday and I’m off work. I’ll write a little more on Monday.

HYPERMILING: Where Are The FREE Air Compressors?

(EDITED: Now includes the map.)

View Larger Map
Keeping your tires property inflated is an important, and EASY, thing you can do to improve your safety, and gas mileage.

Only one problem. Most gas stations make you feed quarters into the air compressor.

So, as a service to myself and anyone else, I’d like to make a Google map with all the Kitsap stations that offer free air. Send me the name and address (if you have it) of the station, and I’ll create a map.

HYPERMILING: A “Community” Is There To Help

“Community” means something far different today than it did 15 years ago.

If it weren’t for the Internet, and the ease of finding new information, I probably wouldn’t have a clue what hypermiling is. Really, the term “hypermiling” probably wouldn’t have been invented.

But today, whether you’re trying to learn how to squeeze out the most MPGs or kite aerial photography, there’s a community – and more collective knowledge at the click of a mouse – than we ever could have imagined decades ago.

To start my journey, I went to and posted a message about my project.

So far, I’ve gotten a good bit of advice.

Not to leave out the other outlets, there’s, and If I’ve missed any, post a link in a comment. Marketers looking for a free ad for your Wonder Gas Saver 3000!!! (Exclamation points always=great products!!!!), save yourself the trouble. Please.

Don’t forget about communities for you car, too. Each vehicle has it’s own quirks and idiosyncrasies, so you can seek out communities dedicated to your ride.

In my case it’s and (The Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix share nearly everything but the body panels.)

So if you’re cruising in your Ford Focus, swanky new BMW M Coupe or even your economical Kia Rio, “your people” are out there to answer questions about your ride.

Just pick a search engine and enter your car make and model, and “forum.”

Ex: “Ford Focus forum”.