Tag Archives: hypermiling

HYPERMILING: Now, A Real Word! Mostly.

"Hypermiling" was the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year.

It vindicates all that hard work . If one gets philosophical, one could ask, "If one is a hypermiler, is one really doing anything? Can one perform an action that has no dictionary-approved verb?" (One is also the philosopher’s preferred pronoun.)

Now it’s official. You’re hypermiling. Sounds a lot better than "driving slow," anyway.

HYPERMILING: A Frugal Journey Ends. Sort of.

I was walking to my car after work recently when a maroon pickup roared past.

Hard on the brakes, a quick look at the intersection, and the engine growled again as the truck accelerated – to another stop sign.

All I could think of is, “Man, that guy’s wasting a lot of money for nothing.” I never would have thought that before.

I’m not here to wag my finger with a holier-than-thou rant about drivers like that. I was “that guy” about two months ago.

I didn’t know if hypermiling was going to work, but I decided to bring you guys along for the slow, slow ride. As far as the blog is concerned, I’m done.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with, and transformed by, the experience. I’ve discovered the near limits of my car’s performance on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m much more aware of the cost of driving. I even learned a lot about myself.

Usually we write stories and never hear a word from the public. With these blog entires (especially when they ran in the paper.) I heard from more people than I ever have – especially the one about coasting in neutral. (BTW, I don’t do it much anymore. Sixth gear works fine. And a informative morsel – the nice folks at Kitsap County District Court did some sleuthing. Guess how many tickets they found for coasting in neutral? One.)

In two months, I burned five tanks of dino juice and averaged 33.7 miles per gallon. (And that includes a couple tanks where my right foot got a little heavy.) Up from 28 before. I’m living proof that a lead-footed rat race commuter can save money without queuing up for a Prius.

Did I mention I saved about $50?

Some people hypermile as a political statement against American dependence on foreign oil. Some people do it to save the environment. Well and good.

I just want to keep more money in the bank. Feel free to choose your own reasons. That’s the crux of hypermiling – it’s your choice. You don’t have to boost your mpgs, but the money’s there waiting to be saved.
Do any combination of these things, and you’ll save at least a little.

* Keep your tires properly inflated.
* Change your oil.
* Take all the junk out of your trunk.
* Accelerate gently, and try to gently slow to a stop.
* You know the speed limit? Obey it.
* Imagine there’s an egg between your foot and the gas pedal.
* Unless an emergency maneuver requires it, don’t drive over 60 on the highway. Use cruise control to prevent your lead foot from taking over.
Pick out more of the legal hypermiling tips, and you’ll save even more.

More importantly, the first step is to change the way you think about driving. You’ve got to convince yourself that rocketing around usually doesn’t get you there much faster – ESPECIALLY in urban driving. (That’s where my greatest gains were made.) On the highway, stay right and take a deep breath. It’s OK to let people pass you. If you’re late for work, is 2 minutes really a big deal? It can be, but at least consider it. If it’s Saturday and you’re just getting groceries, what’s the hurry?

Now that I’m done blogging about this adventure, I will keep hypermiling. I’m hooked. (Maybe not on long road trips.) We can’t control how much we pay per gallon, but we can control how many gallons we use and how many miles we drive. I’m cutting back on how much I drive, too.

And I’ve come to accept that slow and steady is OK.

Don’t get complacent because gas prices are a little lower. We all know that over time it’s a graph that favors climbing the Y axis. Only four years ago gas topped $2.

More often, we either grumble about what we payed at the last fill up, or wax nostalgic about when gas was only (insert small number here.). Consider the future, and whether you’ll change the way you drive.
I’ve been number happy the last couple months with the blog, so I’ll toss one last equation your way. (Help calculating is HERE and HERE.)

Imagine it’s 2012 and you have the same respectably-economical 24 mpg car, and you drive the same average of 15,000 miles a year. And get this, gas is $6 a gallon.

Here’s an odd way to imagine how you’ll pay for your petrol.

Drive over to the bank and ask the (now stunned) teller for a wheelbarrow packed with rolls of quarters. Sorry, you’re going to get terrible gas mileage on the drive home.

Anyway, grab a couple rolls every time you get behind the wheel. For the next 365 days, every time your odometer ticks off another mile, toss a quarter out the window.

I’ll let you do the math this time.

HYPERMILING: Is That Trip Worth It?

It took a pair of running shoes and a conversation with a coworker for me to realize something. Thinking in miles per gallon is (almost) pointless.

It’s good to keep track of how many mpgs you cobble together each tank, with the goal of scrounging up more. But when you’re really trying to map out your finances, think in terms of cost per mile, which is an easy bit of math to the cost per trip.

Reporter Steve Gardner brought that concept up over a conversation a while back, and it made sense when I thought about a recent trip I made to buy a pair of running shoes. I live in West Bremerton, and couldn’t think of anywhere in town to procure said sneakers. (That’s a WHOLE other issue by itself.)

What if I drive the approximately 15 miles to the consumer megaplex in Silverdale? What’s that trip cost me? If gas is $4, I get 34 mpg, and drive 30 miles roundtrip, I’ve spent $3.60 on fermented dinosaur juice.

What if your truck gets 15 mpg? The same trip costs you $8.10. Is it worth it?

To make it easy to calculate your cost per mile, GO HERE.

(If you really want do extract the numbers, including insurance, etc., go HERE.)

A logical way to think about your next shopping trip might go like this: I need to drive 30 miles roundtrip for my Very Important Household Object. If my SUV’s gonna charge me $8.10 for the pleasure of driving, is that a trip I’m willing to make? Will it cost less to buy it online, including shipping? Can I take care of several errands at the same time, avoiding future trips and saving some dough?

(If you really want to get fancy with the math and Google maps, figure out the costs of your ferry destination – Seattle or Edmonds – versus driving around.)

Every time we step or drive onto a ferry (if it’s a discretionary trip) most of us instinctively do the “Is the cost worth it?” dance. When we drive, we don’t.

If we take the cost-per-mile equation further, and calculate our yearly gasoline bill…well, the numbers can speak for themselves.

The left column includes groups of two. A high and low number. The low is a theoretical current mpg. The high is an mpg increase of 20 percent, a figure that isn’t ridiculous to attain if you hypermile, or EcoDrive, or whatever you want to call it.

The next column shows the cost per mile for the respective mpg ratings.

Column three is your annual fuel bill, at $4, if you drive 15,000 miles (A figure that seems pretty commonly used as an average yearly clip.)

The fourth shows your annual cost if you drive 12,000 miles.

15    .27    $4050        $3240
18    .22    $3300        $2640

20    .20    $3000        $2400
24    .17    $2550        $2040

25    .16    $2400        $1920
30    .13    $1950        $1560

30    .13    $1950        $1560
36    .11    $1650        $1320

Just for giggles, let’s peer into our crystal ball for a moment. In 2004, gas was around $2. If it’s $6 by 2012, what’s your annual gasoline bill going to be?

If you go by today’s average fuel economy in America (See it HERE. PDF) of 22.5 mpg, the average American will pay $4,050 per year if they drive 15,000 miles. If they still have a 15 mpg truck or sports car, it’s $6,000 (40 cents per mile).

That’ll really make you think, “Is this trip worth it?”

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

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!”

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.)