All this talk of “hypermiling” – you may or may not have heard about it already. With the cost of fuel increasing it’s perhaps no surprise that there is a huge community of drivers out there who are challenging themselves to achieve the best possible fuel economy from their vehicles on a daily basis.
I’ve only recently become aware of this “phenomenon” and I must confess that already I’ve become a little bit addicted to it – it’s almost like a game where you repeatedly try to hit a higher score. This is quite a confession coming from me, as only 2 or 3 years back, I was a serial speeder or “hoon”, trying to get from A to B as fast as possible, and getting myself worked-up and stressed out over people who seemingly couldn’t get out of my way fast enough.
So…just what is this “hypermiling” business all about?
Basically, you take a car – any car (preferably your car mmkay) – and you set about driving in the most efficient manner possible. Note: this does NOT mean you drive as slowly as possible, making every other poor driver who’s stuck behind you furious and ending up late for every appointment.
Rather, hypermiling is all about getting the most out of your tank of fuel. There’s heaps of hypermiling guides out there (some of them pretty extreme) on attaining the absolute pinnacle of fuel efficiency from your vehicle, but that’s not what this post is about.
This post is intended to introduce you (and I’m not calling you an Average Joe btw – not directly anyway hehe) to hypermiling and open your eyes to just what it can do for you and outline some simple things you can try next time you’re out on the road to start you on your own way to “hypermiling”.
So let’s get started…
1. Get your car serviced
It should be no surprise that a well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel. The main thing is to ensure that your engine’s oil and filter is changed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations – generally every 6 months or 7,500km if you drive regularly and drive in traffic (who doesn’t these days). Apart from this though, ensuring your vehicle is serviced and tuned regularly will go a long way to helping you save cash both in the long term (by avoiding costly repairs later on down the track) and the short term (by saving you money in fuel).
2. Check your tyre pressures
Yes this might seem obvious, but when was the last time you checked your tyre pressures? Low tyre pressures have the effect of increasing drag and friction on the vehicle and can also adversely affect your road handling. Properly inflated tyres help your vehicle move along the road as efficiently as possible. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to pedal a push-bike with flat or under-inflated tyres…believe me, it’s no fun. The laws of physics for cars is no different.
Check the tyre placard inside your glovebox or on the driver’s side door jamb which shows you the manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressures depending on your vehicle and its load. If you have aftermarket tyres and wheels of a differing size than the manufacturer’s standard, this placard may not be of much use to you, but generally speaking, the lower the profile (skinnier the sidewall) of your tyres, the higher the tyre pressure you should run.
3. Lose some weight
Every single object inside your car requires energy to move it along as you drive. Things like unnecessary boxes loaded with miscellaneous paraphernalia and any other junk which you might be carrying around in the car with you – it’s safe to say if you won’t need it at your destination today, then leave it at home. The lighter your car is, the less energy it will take to move it along. Some might argue that most items you remove will make such an insignificant difference it’s almost not worth it, but I believe that every little bit counts and it’s the mindset that matters.
Plus if you regularly cart around your favourite 5 bowling balls in the boot of your car, they definitely can’t be doing you any favours in the fuel efficiency department…
Note: I’m not asking you to be paranoid here and start removing everything from your car (you can leave the back seat and the spare tyre in the car – you might need them one day) – and I’m not asking you to flatly refuse taking your slightly obese Aunt Betty along to her doctor’s appointment once every few years either.
4. Leave early – relax!
A lot of people these days jump behind the wheel of their car and start racing towards their destination. Sure, we all have our days when we’re running late and simply must GO, but speaking in an overall sense, if you finding you’re having to do this more often than not, it will actually contribute to you using more fuel, wearing your car out faster, AND, perhaps most importantly, stressing you out more as well.
By leaving the house a few minutes earlier than normal, and driving at a comfortable pace (read: not a snail’s pace), you will find you will eventually end up being a calmer person behind the wheel and you may even save yourself some money at the fuel bowser too.
5. Accelerate gently
Moving a car from a dead stop takes the most amount of fuel of all and this is arguably the most fuel inefficient time as you drive (see point 6 below on ways to avoid this). Once you get up to speed and start “cruising”, you’ll find that your fuel consumption drops off quite significantly (provided you’re not “cruising” at 120mph). This is the main reason that cars generally use more fuel “around town” – because driving in busy areas generally requires more stopping and starting (and thus more fuel) than say, cruising comfortably down a quiet country highway at a constant pace.
So, with that in mind, the goal is to accelerate from a stop gently, and reach the speed limit (yes that means staying within the speed limit – see point 7 below) in a timely manner – not too slow, but not too fast either – and to try and maintain that speed for as long as possible.
If you have a manual transmission or an automatic transmission which allows you sequentially select gears (+ and -), aim to shift as early as possible as you accelerate (but not so early as to labour the engine). Holding gears excessively and building up engine RPM as you accelerate will only hurt your fuel economy. You will get to know when your own vehicle’s “sweet spot” is to shift up. In my Tucson, the transmission will shift up into top gear at a measly 57km/h and the torque converter lock will kick-in straight away provided the throttle application is light or moderate allowing the revs to drop right down.
6. Build a “buffer”
As you drive, particularly in urban and built-up areas such as cities and towns, you’ll generally encounter many sets of traffic lights. As we’ve learnt above, starting from a stop is the most fuel inefficient time as you drive a car. This is because it takes much more energy to move a stationary object from a standstill than it does to simply maintain speed or slightly increase your speed.
With that in mind, aim to “time” your red lights, i.e., lights ahead just gone red? Start slowing down earlier (again, be mindful of drivers around you – don’t be a snail) and you may find that by building up a so-called “buffer zone” between you and the red light, the lights will more likely go green again before you reach them, allowing you to coast through them perhaps even without ever touching the brakes. This is obviously much more fuel efficient than speeding right up to the red light, stopping the car, then starting it back up again.
7. Stick to the speed limit!
This is probably the most annoying point of all to a lot of people, but believe me, speed limits are there for a reason. Driving at elevated speeds only causes more wear on your car, more stress on you and of course, increased fuel consumption.
By driving the speed limit, you’ll be able to react to events around you earlier and with greater efficiency, not to mention you’ll definitely use less fuel cruising at the limit (or dare I say it – just below it…).
8. To sum it up…
There’s loads of other little things you can try to get better fuel economy from your car, but the above is what I consider to be the key points for starters. I may no doubt delve deeper into this “phenomenon” in future posts, but I figure this is enough bed time reading for the time-being.
You’ve probably realised by now that hypermiling is all about “energy preservation”; by driving in a consistent manner, changing your speed as little as possible, and if you need to make changes in your speed (stopping or starting) aiming to make those changes as moderately as possible. Hypermiling is not about driving slowly, but about driving as efficiently as possible, as much as possible.
Until next time, happy hypermiling!