Monthly Archives: July 2008


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.

Any Bridge Haters Still Around????

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridge celebrates its first birthday next week. I was wondering how people feel about it after the first 12 months. I covered much of the early going, before any concrete was poured, and it was PAINFUL. At times it looked like it would never get built. There were lawsuits and nastiness. It finally got pushed through, some believe unfairly. That was the hard part, because construction itself seemed to go pretty smoothly, outside of oxidized cable. Most of those who set in traffic before the bridge I bet think it’s a good thing. If you just move into the area and take the free-flowing traffic for granted, the $4 toll might seem like much.
I want to write a story about the users’ impression of the first year. If you respond, please included your first and last name and town of residence. I’d be nice to have a phone number, too, in case I want to call you, but not necessary.

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”.

HYPERMILING: What’s With The Speedy Gas Needle?

This whole hypermiling thing’s been a popular discussion when we reporters and editors go out for lunch.

A couple of days ago, I posited this query: “Why does the gas needle drop faster after the halfway mark?”

I believe there was a chorus of “Yeah!?!?!?” that followed.

Thanks to the wonders of the Interwebs and its vast network of information (sometimes mis) there’s an answer.

Or should I say, several answers. Most of the answers based on the physical properties of gas tanks and electrical circuits make the most sense, though I won’t put this one out of the realm of possibility:

New car owners were complaining that the new cars were not getting good gas mileage. The manufacturers found out that if they made it take longer for the gauge to reach the half tank mark, the number of complaints was reduced.

I wonder what happens with these gas gauges.


“I don’t know of anything that says you can’t do that,” said Krista Hedstrom.

The Washington State Patrol trooper said she learned to drive doing it, and I’d just commented on how a lot of people ask me about it when I tell them I’m hypermiling.

“Do you coast down hills?”, people ask.

To the RCW book and online reference Hedstrom went.

“I’ve never had to look that up,” she said.

Sure enough, RCW 46.61.630 spells it out:

(1) The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a down grade shall not coast with the gears of such vehicle in neutral.

(2) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle when traveling upon a down grade shall not coast with the clutch disengaged.

Now, let’s be clear, I’m not trying to make Trooper Hedstrom look silly for not knowing that one off the top of her head. If you look at the “Rules of the road” section in the state’s RCW database, you’ll quickly realize that no one probably knows EVERY traffic law. And realize that most of the laws you see have sub, sub-sub, and maybe sub-sub-sub laws.

I went to Hedstrom’s office this morning because I’ve wondered, and some have debated, what’s legal and what’s not, when it comes to hypermiling?

Laws vary from state to state, and I get the feeling a common sense approach is the best way to go about things.

Some more “advanced” techniques are no-brainers, when it comes to safety and legality. Drafting behind a semi? Take a guess. Cutting off your engine while coasting? If you can’t coast in neutral, again, take a guess?

“If you think in your mind it’s a bad idea, it probably is,” Hedstrom said.

During this experiment, I’ve agreed not to do anything illegal or crazy, so I suppose I’ll “coast” down hills in 6th. Even with that, there’s debate over whether in-gear engine braking or coasting in neutral uses more fuel. (Anybody have an answer?)

Every time we get behind the wheel, we take a calculated – or sometimes random – dose of risk in breaking or bending the rules of the road.

If you speed, you know you’re risking a ticket, or increasing the likelihood of a crash. One could say the same about coasting in neutral.

You exercise discretion in your driving style. Police exercise discretion in writing tickets.

“We don’t really have a choice what we pay for gas,” Hedstrom said.

When you can, choose wisely.



I know gas gauges aren’t the most accurate devices, but the view of the little red needle was nice when I pulled into work this morning. 120.9 miles so far. Usually it’s about 20 miles short of that mark.

All I’ve done so far is slow down on the freeway to just shy of 60 with the cruise control, pumped up my tires, and my standby cargo – in my case, golf clubs and a fair bit of junk.

If I get to 360 miles by my usual fill-up time, I’m looking at about 32-33 mpg. We’ll see.