Drivers throughout the United States are feeling the squeeze at the pump as the average price of a gallon of gas reached an all-time high of $4.43 on March 8. At a time when there seems to be no relief in sight from ever-rising gas prices, there are lessons to be learned from extreme hypermilers – the driving enthusiasts who are obsessed with increasing their fuel economy and squeezing every last drop of gas out of their tanks.
Extreme hypermilers – also known as ecodrivers – are those who have mastered the art of being efficient with their engines. When gas prices rise dramatically, their driving techniques and hacks more than offset the hit to their wallets.
Some of the tips hypermilers suggest smack of common sense. They recommend never braking hard, never accelerating too quickly, and generally becoming a more passive driver – even if it goes against your basic driving instincts. These particular tips alone will immediately translate to better fuel efficiency.
But their tips don’t stop there. A hypermiler’s goal isn’t to better their fuel efficiency, but rather max out their fuel efficiency – to extreme levels. Here are some of the best hypermiling tips that any driver can immediately start taking advantage of.
It’s a tip that a lot of everyday drivers take for granted, but to a hypermiler, any trip that can be taken without driving is a successful trip. Always consider the cost-benefit analysis before you start up your vehicle.
If you live within walking distance to your gym or your grocery store and you use your vehicle to get there, your fuel economy is taking a massive hit. Spare the gas (not to mention the wear and tear on your engine on such a short trip) and walk instead.
Track Your Fuel Consumption
Next time you put gas into your car, open your note-taking app on your phone and record the date, the amount of gas you bought and how much it cost. Do this always; make it a habit.
Being more aware of your fuel consumption will make you more aware of the amount you are spending on it, and often will translate into a less aggressive driving style that will help your fuel economy.
Keep Proper Tire Inflation
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, your gas mileage lowers by 0.4 percent by every 1-psi drop in tire pressure. Hypermilers are obsessively aware of their tires’ air pressure – and so should you.
Fall into the habit of checking your tire pressure every time you stop for gas and keep your tires inflated to your vehicle’s factory specifications.
According to hypermilers, every second you’re idling (red lights, traffic, etc.) takes a big toll on your miles-per-gallon rate. That’s why they recommend avoiding drive-thru restaurants.
The combination of a potential long line of vehicles and the amount of time it takes for your order to be prepared all come together to wreak havoc on your fuel economy. Starbucks has walk-up windows too.
Limit Unnecessary Weight
Any vehicle will run more efficiently when it’s not weighed down. Consider all the factors that are currently weighing your vehicle down and how you can eliminate them. Vehicles with clean and empty trunks and backseats are more fuel efficient than the alternative. You can always put the car seat or booster back in when the child is actually riding with you. Even a roof rack can contribute to less than optimal fuel efficiency.
Leave Earlier and Don’t Rush
While this is more like a mantra than a gas-saving hack, it’s still a tip that extreme hypermilers swear by: leave for your destination earlier and take your time. Your overall driving style should be described as relaxed and non-aggressive, and the last thing a hypermiler likes to do is drive quickly, erratically, or aggressively to make up for lost time.
Start Your Engine Last
When you first sit down in your driver’s seat, before you turn on the ignition, make sure to do all the little things: put on your seatbelt, adjust the mirrors, plug in your cell phone. Most drivers do these things after they’ve already started their vehicles.
An idling vehicle is doing nothing but wasting gas, so make sure to only turn on your engine when you’re actually ready to start driving. The seconds your car is idling while you’re adjusting your mirrors add up in the long run.
Shop at Places That Are on Hills
Extreme hypermilers are laser-focused on eking out the last drop of gasoline out of their tanks, even going as far as advising that you shop at stores that are located in higher elevations. The logic: you’d be driving uphill with an empty vehicle and returning going downhill with a (presumably) full one, and physics will handle the rest.
Time Traffic Lights
A lot of us may already do this subconsciously, but hypermilers give this technique the highest of priorities. When you see a red light coming up, start easing off the gas. Don’t start braking; let the car glide confidently to its destination. More times than not, by the time you approach the red light, it’ll have already turned green.
Voilà! No braking needed, just a simple, fuel-efficient approach to driving. This technique works great on local roads where you have a clear view ahead of traffic or are especially familiar with. Rumor has it some larger cities like St. Louis have their traffic lights timed to allow cars maintaining the speed limit to zip right through.
Make Fuel Economy a Game
Extreme hypermilers pride themselves on being laser-focused on their fuel economy, so they suggest making it into a game. Many vehicles allow the current MPG to be displayed with a touch of a button, and this makes it effortless to compete against yourself in trying to raise your fuel efficiency higher and higher with each trip.
To take this a step further, you can even find online communities for your specific vehicle where drivers will post their own personal MPG records to compare with other drivers. For especially competitive people, making fuel economy into a game will inherently save you gas in the long run.
Sometimes you find yourself in a situation that requires you to move your vehicle just a few feet, such as taking your car out of the garage. Most people would hop in, start the vehicle, and drive forward or backwards a couple feet.
This is not recommended by hypermilers. Instead, put the vehicle’s transmission into neutral and push it. It’s all about saving gas, and starting your engine for a few seconds just to turn it off is a waste of fuel. The act of pushing your car to its destination may seem odd, but it consumes zero gas – the best-case scenario.
Extreme hypermilers are experts in maximizing fuel economy and saving gas. As prices at the pump keep surging upward for drivers across the country, the lessons and tips learned from these hypermilers are invaluable – after all, record-high gas prices become more palatable when you have mastered the art of extreme fuel economy.
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