Learn To Hypermile Like A Boss

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Follow these tips on how to hypermile, and you'll be saving fuel in no time

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Hypermiling (also known as ecodriving) is exactly what it sounds like - getting as many miles out of a gallon of gas as you possibly can by employing various fuel-saving tactics. Each tactic might only add an additional two percent of the range, but combining them leads to significant returns. There are hypermilers out there who claim an improvement of over 50% over their vehicle's EPA mpg estimates. Most hypermiling tips are just common sense but, in recent years, people have started deploying suspect tactics. That's why it's worth investigating the topic properly and providing a thorough guide for a hypermiling beginner.

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Common Hypermiling Terms

If you want to hypermile, you need to speak the language. Here are a few standard abbreviations and what they mean. These will help guide you through the steps.

  • FE: Fuel economy.
  • DWB: Driving without brakes.
  • FAS: Forced auto-stop.
  • P&G: Pulse and glide.
  • ICE: Internal combustion engine
  • D-FAS: Draft-assisted forced auto-stop.

Top Hypermiling Tips For Everyday Driving

The top hypermiling tips and fuel-saving tips include a combination of common sense and a few things you might not have thought about before. Here's a breakdown of how to hypermile.

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Plan Your Route

The shortest route may not be the most efficient. It may seem counterproductive, but it may be more economical to drive the long way around in some cases. Exploring multiple routes is a worthwhile investment because you'll get a sense of which path is best at different times of the day. A five-mile journey in rush hour traffic will likely be less economical than a seven-mile trip where you constantly move. This is because engines are less efficient at low speed. There are also multiple apps available to help you plan your route with live traffic updates, such as Waze, which can save you a lot of time and fuel.

Clear The Clutter

Ideally, the only items you should carry in the car at all times are a bag for trash, a first aid kit, and a spare tire. However, life is messy and any daily car will eventually fill up with unnecessary items. Eventually, it can be like having an extra person in the car. Once a week, clear out the extra clutter. We know it's as annoying as doing the dishes, but it takes a few minutes and saves a few bucks.

Limit Idling

This was once a topic of serious debate on the internet, but some recent scientific research has provided an answer. If you know you will be stationary for more than ten seconds, it is worth turning the engine off. This practice is usually associated with traffic lights, but there are multiple everyday examples where you just know the wait will be more than ten seconds. According to experts, you can save anywhere from three to 11 fluid ounces of gas on the average one-hour trip, if you limit idling this way. Many modern cars are equipped with a Stop/Start (auto stop) system, removing the need to think about this tactic.

Keep A Steady Speed

To drive economically, you need to concentrate. But, in addition to saving fuel, it will also make you a better defensive driver. The key to maintaining a constant speed is to be aware of your immediate surroundings and what's happening 300 yards ahead. The idea is to keep the car at a constant speed with as little throttle input and braking as possible - basically, the human equivalent of cruise control. The key here is to lose as little momentum as possible as you've already used fuel to gain it. Braking to match the slower car's speed and then accelerating to overtake uses more power as you have to build that momentum up again. The set speed limit is generally the best balance between efficiency and safety.

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Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly

This is our first properly controversial statement. Each car comes with a series of recommended tire pressures for various situations. Usually, these recommendations can be found on a sticker located inside the driver's door, or you can find them quickly enough in the owner's manual.

There are two reasons why maintaining proper tire pressures is critical.

A tire with low pressure poses a severe safety risk and increases drag, which negatively affects fuel consumption. Then we get to the controversial part. The higher the pressure, the less drag there will be. Unfortunately, it's a massive safety risk. Overinflating doesn't just increase wear and tear, but it increases the risk of a blowout and aquaplaning. You should stick with the manufacturer's approved figures.

Keep Your Car In Optimal Condition

As the various components of a car wear down over time, it becomes less efficient. Clogged filters, faulty spark plugs, broken sensors, or incorrect oil grade will result in an engine that's not running optimally. A service may feel like a grudge purchase but if you don't take a car for a tune-up and a tire rotation at least once a year, you will use more fuel. Keeping the vehicle in optimal condition means you should perform regular maintenance checks; this will save you money in the long run. Here is a guide to a routine maintenance checklist.

Driving Without Braking

This sounds more dangerous than it actually is. It essentially boils down to remembering something we mentioned earlier: maintaining momentum. An ICE engine burns fuel to gain momentum, and braking simply converts that energy to heat. It dissipates, and it is of no use. By simply planning ahead, you can maintain a slower speed to arrive at traffic lights just as they turn green. This means avoiding coming to a complete stop and a lot less fuel used on regaining momentum.

How To Use The Climate Control

The short answer is don't. Research has shown that an air conditioning or climate control system can increase fuel consumption by ten percent. However, an open window increases aerodynamic drag. The only option is hotboxing the car, so in the case of climate control, you need only ask yourself one question: is the cost of that ten percent worth my comfort? Read more about this here.

Park Smart

This method is right on the edge of simply saving fuel and being a zealot. The theory is based on the concept that an engine is least efficient when it's cold, in other words, when it has been parked for a while. Examples of the so-called "smart park" trick include parking in the sun to keep the engine as warm as possible, and reverse parking on an incline so you can simply roll out. This may be more effort than it's really worth, though.

Winter Hypermiling Tips

We're treading deeper into hypermiling fanaticism with hypermiling habits according to season. But, in all seriousness, cold weather has a dramatic effect on fuel efficiency. Cold weather affects idling, tire pressure, grip, and even aerodynamics. To save fuel during the winter months, consider some of these tactics:

  • One of the most annoying things about winter is a layer of ice on the windscreen. Defrosting it can mean leaving your car idling with the heater on for quite some time. You can reduce idling time by parking your car in the direction of the sunrise. But, ideally, park in a garage, or use a car cover to lock the heat in.
  • The cold weather will also reduce tire pressure. As discussed above, that increases drag.
  • It can be tempting to just leave excess snow on the hood and roof to melt naturally. But, as mentioned earlier, weight and aerodynamic drag increase fuel consumption. Having an inch or two of snow on top of the car will increase consumption.

Summer Hypermiling Tips

It turns out heat is also your enemy. The problem isn't the car, though, but rather keeping the occupants comfortable. To avoid needing to use the air-con or other features, consider these tips:

  • Park in the shade, under a tree, or use a sun deflector.
  • You can go old school and hang towels in the rear passenger windows, but this also blurs the line between fuel-saving tips and safety hazards.
  • If you can't stand the heat, open the windows a little bit. It's still more efficient than using the air conditioning.
  • In some states, living without air conditioning is an unreasonable recommendation. When using it, set it to recirculation mode as it requires less energy than chilling fresh air from the outside.
  • When driving in the rain, use the heater to get rid of condensation on the inside. It's more efficient than using the air-con.

Gadgets That Help You Drive Economically

As with everything else in the world of hypermiling, you get basic and next-level stuff. Most smartphones have a built-in accelerometer and GPS, and an app can use this information to keep track of fuel efficiency. You can use this to see if your hypermiling tactics are working.

A step up from this is plug-and-play hypermiling gadgets that give you real-time information about the car. It's like a trip computer, but way more advanced. Plug it into the vehicle, and it will provide you with all sorts of information that the car's ECU has access to but that you never see. It's essentially modifying a car for improved fuel efficiency, rather than performance.

How to Hypermile: Tips and Tricks

Here are a few more advanced hypermiling techniques and our opinion on them:

Coasting

Hypermiling and coasting go hand-in-hand, but it's also one technique that crosses the line in some instances. Coasting is making the vehicle move as far as possible without using power. Examples include going downhill or driving toward a stop sign. There are three kinds of coasting:

Neutral coasting

Neutral coasting is often misunderstood. People think that because the transmission is in neutral, it's not consuming any gas. This is not true, as the vehicle is still idling, and the fuel injection system will keep on injecting gas into the combustion chamber. There is no difference between putting the engine in neutral and keeping it in drive. While it's not as bad as engine-off coasting, the driven wheels are disengaged, and the car might pick up more speed than you intended. Going around a corner at speed without applying some throttle is extremely dangerous.

Engine-off Coasting

This is the primary source of contention when it comes to hypermiling. To reduce fuel consumption as much as possible, people turn their engines off completely when going downhill or coasting towards a stop. This is not just risky, but straight-up stupid. While it may be true that a disengaged engine uses no fuel, it also means losing access to power steering, servo-assisted braking, and all active safety systems. Some hypermilers hit back, saying that they keep the ignition on to simply pop the clutch and bring the car back to life. In an emergency, it's hard enough to brake and swerve to avoid an accident - imagine if you had to pop the clutch before you could do any of that. Avoid at all costs.

In-gear Coasting

In-gear coasting is the safest way of coasting. In modern cars, the fuel injection system will cut the fuel supply when a vehicle is coasting when in gear. The drive wheels keep the engine turning over. Fuel will only be supplied to the injection system once you press on the throttle. This ensures all systems remain fully operational, and you can intervene if need be.

Drafting

Another controversial hypermiling technique is called drafting, which is slang for reducing wind resistance. In our opinion, it's also a euphemism for idiotic tailgating. There are two ways you can do this, but we don't recommend either.

Regular drafting

The whole concept of drafting is based on the premise that the car in front of you breaks through the air, allowing you to glide in their slipstream. For it to work, you have to get very close to the car in front. The USA Highway Code suggests a following distance of four seconds, making it impossible to get in another car's slipstream without breaking the law.

Forced auto stop

This takes the concept above and adds another layer of irresponsibility. It combines drafting with engine-off coasting. The idea is to get up to speed behind somebody and use their slipstream to coast as far as possible with the engine switched entirely off. Just don't.

Ridge riding

This technique centers on the idea of driving off-center in a lane for two reasons: According to hypermilers, driving on the ridges instead of on the worn tracks creates less friction, resulting in reduced fuel economy. Secondly, it's a way other road users can identify you as a hypermiler. Ridge riding may seem a little over the top, though.

Is Hypermiling Safe, Or Is It Just Reckless Driving?

The answer is both yes and no to the first question. It is perfectly safe if you stick to common sense tactics while remaining courteous to the drivers around you. In many ways, hypermiling makes you a safer driver, as it requires a lot of planning and presence of mind. But there is a clear line that should not be crossed. A few tactics are just plain irresponsible, like engine-off coasting. Other dangerous tactics include drafting and overinflating the tires. We've also seen reports of what's being labeled "stoptional," where a hypermiler simply cruises straight through a stop sign without braking, just to save a droplet of fuel. Fuel economy should never be prioritized over safety.

Trying to hypermile with your car responsibly may take some forethought, but it can also be annoying for those around you. When we go out onto the road we share a social contract with other drivers to be responsible and courteous when driving - hypermiling while driving courteously is a skill that not many can master.

Conclusion

There are some excellent tips here, which may be worth implementing. Frequently checking tire pressures and keeping a car's service record up to date doesn't just help with fuel economy, they are things you should be doing anyway.

There is a case for some people taking it too far, though. As we've seen, some tactics are just plain dangerous. Try some of the safer tips and see what works for you. Decide whether you're willing to give up some comfort to save a few gallons over a year.

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FAQs

Can hypermiling tricks damage my car?

Not directly, but if you are coasting with your engine off and can't brake in time in an emergency, your car is done for. Many hypermiling tactics are calculated risks.

What is the best car to hypermile with?

A hybrid like the Toyota Prius is a perfect car because it does most of the work for you. The electric motor is usually used at lower speeds where an ICE engine is less efficient. Once it's up to speed, the electric motor is also responsible for coasting, as the car only needs minimal power to maintain momentum. In addition to all of this, hybrids are by definition designed to be aerodynamically efficient and are more often than not equipped with specially designed, low-resistance tires. You can even capitalise on fuel savings with a large family hauler such as SUVs with the best mpg.

Can you hypermile a muscle car?

Yes. In theory, at least. Every car can be hypermiled, from your standard Honda Civic to fast muscle cars, but why would you want to? Some of these tactics can be used, but a bigger engine will always consume more fuel. If you find yourself questioning whether your muscle car can be more efficient, there's a good chance that it might not be the right car for you anymore.

Is a pickup truck more efficient with a bed cover?

Yes. Studies conducted in wind tunnels proved that a cover reduces drag by around 5%, which results in roughly a 2% increase in efficiency. But pickups are inherently inefficient, to begin with, so it may be barely noticeable. Still, there are numerous fuel-efficient trucks to consider if you're wanting to spend a little less on your fuel budget.

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