Monthly Archives: June 2008

HYPERMILING: Starting With The Numbers

Whenever you’re doing a pseudo-scientific study, baselines are important. You know, for science.

Actually, in the case of getting better gas mileage, it really makes sense. Will you know if you’re getting more MPGs if you don’t know how many MPGs you get now?

(Not to mention, tracking your mileage can give you early clues when something might be amiss with your lovely auto carriage.)

Here’s what I do: Set your trip odometer right after you fill up. Every time. I drive until my light comes on, which usually leaves me with between 10.8 to 11.2 gallons to fill it back up until the *click* of the auto shutoff.

Now’s where you look at your trip and enter the miles in your calculator. Virtually every cell phone’s got one, so no excuses. Divide by the number of gallons you put in, and viola!

Another good idea is to check your vehicle’s MPG rating at to see how you stack up. Somehow, even with a slightly leaded foot, I manage better than my car’s 26 mpg estimate.

You should also note that if you still have your window sticker from your 1990 Chrysler New Yorker, disregard the MPG figure. The EPA has changed the way it calculates MPG and most numbers are now lower than the old system. The Web site has recalculated numbers for all the pre 2008 vehicles.(Including mine.)

Now you and I should have a pretty good handle on where we stand. Let’s hope the numbers go up next time at the pump.

An Adventure in Hypermiling Begins

I hate math, but these numbers have never been more important to me: 4.55, 49.14, 1950 and 28.

My high school math teachers would be so proud to see me hunched over my cell phone calculator every time I’m about to leave a gas station. This is where I wage my battle with numbers as I carefully plunk in numbers after a quick peek at the trip and the pump’s gallon readout, followed by a bit of advanced calculus (for journalists) called dividing.

Twenty-eight miles per gallon. Not bad. $49.14 for 10.8 gallons of premium $4.55-a-gallon fuel. Ugh. Even if gas stayed the same price (funny, huh?) for a 12,000 mile year of driving, I’d spend $1,950 on gas. I don’t even need the calculator to know I don’t like that number.

Now I have a new number in mind: 35. Miles per gallon that is. It’s a 25 percent increase in fuel efficiency. Doable. Again, assuming those figures, I’d save about $390 a year.

No, I’m not going to buy a new car. I’m going to employ some techniques of “hypermilers” who take a different approach to driving to squeeze out every last penny and wheel rotation from their fuel.

The premise is simple. I’ll take my car, a 2004 Pontiac Vibe GT (It requires the pricey premium fuel.), and drastically change the way I drive. Along the way, hopefully you’ll learn something, and I’ll give you honest observations about the monetary, logistical and psychological effects of hypermiling.

You and I, we’re probably pretty similar out there in the concrete jungle. I see you all the time. Accelerate too fast? Brake a little too late? Enjoy cruising at 67 (80 if you’re on I-5) on the highway? For most of us, driving habits like these are buried deep like a little petrol-slurping chigger under our skin.

The bottom line, is that the WAY we choose to drive can really save or cost us money.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be transforming my own driving, and proving links to gas-saving stories, making some videos, talking with local hypermilers, mechanics, you name it.

If you’ve got ideas, send them my way, and if you want to take this ride with me, keep track of your mpgs. We’ll see who makes the most progress. OPEC dares you.

Snohomish Co. Joining King, Kitsap in Raising Bus Fares

From the AP wire:
Most transit bus fares in the Seattle area appear to be stable as fuel costs soar, but that could be changing.
Community Transit of Snohomish County is proposing increases as high as 75 cents for most commuter buses between Snohomish and King counties, starting Oct. 1. That would boost the fare to $3.50 each way. On trips within Snohomish County, the fare would go up a quarter to $1.50. The action is subject to board approval in August.
Metro Transit of King County raised fares by 25 cents in March, and officials say another increase is possible. Kitsap Transit is boosting fares by the same amount in August.
The three-county regional agency, Sound Transit, is not contemplating any rate changes, nor is Pierce Transit, which relies on less expensive compressed natural gas.

Seattle Traffic Only Ninth-Worst

Just found an Associated Press story that Seattle is ranked ninth in the nation for traffic congestion. Considering how bad traffic is over there, it’s hard to imagine there are eight cities that are worse. There aren’t any real surprises on the list. I wonder what big cities have good traffic. I’ll see if I can find if there’s more of the list that shows good places to drive.
Here’s the little story:

KIRKLAND (AP) — A national traffic information provider based here didn’t have to go far to find the region’s worst traffic bottleneck.
Inrix Inc., which is based in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, reported Tuesday that it’s the State Route 520 corridor between Seattle and the suburbs east of Lake Washington.
Founder and chief executive Bryan Mistele says, “the worst traffic bottleneck in our city is directly across from our corporate headquarters, so we’re definitely feeling the pain ourselves.”
In overall traffic congestion ratings, Inrix ranks Seattle ninth nationwide. Los Angeles was ranked first, followed by New York, Chicago, Washington, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, Houston and Boston. Atlanta was ranked 10.

Take the Pain Out of Missing the Boat

Folks at the Alexis Hotel in Seattle say they’re seeing a lot more walk-on ferry riders, and more people missing the boats. So at the hotel’s Bookstore Bar, one block up from the ferry terminal, they’re offering a ‘Miss the Boat’ drink special. Show the bartender a ferry pass or ticket and get $2 off the first drink.
It sounds a lot like an advertising gimmick, but it works for me.

Riding the Bus More?

I’m going to check with Kitsap Transit about what effect high gas prices have had on its ridership. I know it has gone up, but I don’t know how much. I’d like to hear from some of you who have stopped or cut back on your driving and are getting around in other ways, such as the bus.