Hypermiling: Save On Gas ($30/tank!)
I'm not a speed demon by any stretch, but I do tend to go most places while travelling about 10km over the limit. I am sensitive about using my brakes unnecessarily (to save gas yes, but more to save my brakes), and I've always known that better driving can = better fuel economy. Still, this particular experiment astonished me. In one round trip, by following a few really simple rules, I managed to save almost $30 in gas.
My experiment involved making a 200km trek, using a route that I know well. Normally the trip requires about 1/2 a tank. Instead of speeding, I swallowed the feeling that it would take me all afternoon if I were to drive slower, and forced myself to go the limit – at no point did I go faster than 110km.
Related: Save On Gas, Drive Like a Granny
Like I said, my observations floored me. First, the trip didn't take much longer that it would've normally – I think I might've been in the car for 15 minutes longer, at the most.
Initially, it was a lot like learning to drive again: I was hyper-conscious about my speed, and I was quite happy when I was able to find someone going the speed I wanted, so I could let them lead while I followed at a safe distance behind them.
When the OPP passed me at one point, I didn't get annoyed at the way traffic around me slowed to near-comical speeds because I was already going that speed.
There were definitely fewer incidence of ignorance along the way too. No one came hauling up on my bumper, dodging traffic to get on their way even faster. (I saw this happen but I wasn't engaged like I would've been if I'd been travelling in the fast lane.)
The end result? At the end of my trip we'd only burnt 1/4 tank, worth about $15.
At one point I did try drafting a larger vehicle as well. It's not a recommended practice at all – tailgating is dangerous and illegal – but it's been said that driving behind a larger vehicle that's breaking the wind resistance for you, can help save on gas if you're in a tight spot, so I gave it a go.
Interestingly, in this case, it did no such thing – the effort it took to stay in the sweet spot behind the bus I'd chosen (my guess is the bus was narrower than a conventional transport truck), actually used more gas than if I'd just been coasting along at my usual 110km.
On our return trip, I admit I did lose my head a little – I was tired and in a hurry to get home. I talked to Jo Pavlov, who's been practicing this sort of thing for more than five years now, and she confirmed my suspicion: In her experience, fuel efficient driving and being in a hurry are generally not all that compatible.
Today, she says she's a completely different driver than she was in the past. "It will turn you into a less hurried person. I think that's a benefit all around."
After a time, I reigned things back in and returned my attention to the gas gauge. Again I was amazed: I swear to you, after dropping notably while I was speeding, the gauge didn't budge for the rest of the trip. All told, the return trip totaled 212 km and we did it using only 1/3 of the tank.
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few things that will kill your numbers:
- Low air pressure in your tires – keep them inflated to the maximum recommended pressure.
- Dirty air filters – get your air filter changed once a year.
- Snow tires will kill the mileage you get too, to the tune of about 1.5 litres per 100 km in some cars.
- Don't speed up to or away from stop signs.
- Turn off the cruise control and instead focus on keeping a constant, consistent load on your car's engine.
By the numbers
Experiment #1, 205 kilometers.
The rules: Go the speed limit in my aging Ford, travel no faster than 110km at any point, coast whenever possible, stay in the slow lane and avoid putting any additional load on the engine when climbing hills, etc.
Result: Despite my concerns, the trip took only 15 minutes longer than normal, and required half the gas. (Normally the trip requires 1/2 a tank. This trip only used an astonishing 1/4 tank.)
Experiment #2 – the return trip, 212 kilometers.
The rules: See above.
Unfortunately I ended up reverting to my old ways for a substantial part of the trip. (I really wanted to be home.) About 50km from home though, I stopped and went back to using my hypermiling habits. Notably, the gas gauged actually stopped dropping once I stopped speeding.
Result: Even driving for 80km with old habits re-asserting themselves, our return trip only required 1/3 of a tank.
PHOTO GALLERY: How to Hypermile Like a Pro
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Kate McCaffery is a freelance writer, editor and former urbanite, now living somewhere in between the lake, the ski hill and some farmer's cow path. Visit mccaffery.ca/kate2.0/ for more information.