Friday, June 20, 2008

Hypermiling ... it's more mental than physical.

* Note: updated for grammar, added a 2nd mechanic opinion concerning oil additives, added navigating as a hypermiling technique

I know very few people who maintain a strict budget. I know very few people that balance that their check books. I know a lot of people.

The following is based on my personal experience with Hypermiling and should be looked at for informational purposes only. Each technique mentioned here has at least some controversial advice. Integrate these techniques carefully, slowly and sparingly. Use common sense. Discover which of them will truly help you.

One thing I can't stress enough is:

Please be respectful of other drivers around you!

The majority of Hypermiling is really about patience. It involves going slower - which also means having more time to get to the places you need to go. Rushing around isn't just costing you lost fuel efficiency - it's causing you stress. Slow down a bit.

The concept of Hypermiling is mostly a budgeting issue. Just as it's difficult for someone to learn to keep tabs on their finances - it's difficult to start budgeting and dramatically changing your driving habits.

Hypermiling is a buzzword at the moment that refers to a mostly unrealistic approach to saving gas. The main principles behind Hypermiling are coasting, drafting, slowing, weighting, navigating, and maintaining. Because I've studied Hypermiling extensively and tried out a few techniques ... I'll try to tell you which you can integrate into your own driving. Know that Hypermiling, in its truest form, is dangerous and doesn't save you much money in the long run due to added stress put on the automobile used. You can expect 10% - 20% in fuel efficiency if applied as described below. Some Hypermiling aficionados claim 40% increases in fuel economy.

Coasting is the most controversial part of Hypermiling - it's also the most unrealistic. It involves, for the most part, turning off the engine to stop the vehicle and/or to stop at a red light.

Coasting can be used realistically though. You can start by getting a better feel of your gas pedal. If you notice your car going faster than the speed limit while going down a hill; take your foot off of the gas pedal and maintain the car at a safe speed using the brakes very sparingly. When exiting, maintain the speed limit until reaching the point of having to merge off of the highway - coast to the stop at the top (or bottom) of the exit. Let your car's momentum (or lack thereof) control your speed more than your brakes.

Other than these two suggestions, you know what the word coasting means, so I shouldn't have to describe it any further. The best suggestion to take from this part of Hypermiling is to get a better feel for gas pedal and how it is affecting the speedometer.

Next up is Drafting ...

Drafting is also a bit dangerous if applied to the extreme. Use caution when using this practice.

Essentially, drafting is getting behind a less aerodynamic vehicle to minimize wind resistance - such as a semi truck. With no air for your car to fight, your car's efficiency is greatly increased.

Discovery Channel's Mythbusters, in their June, 2008 episode drove a station wagon at 55 mph behind a semi truck with a transfer trailer. Their results ranged from a baseline (no truck) figure of 32 mpg to 35.5 mpg (an 11% improvement) at 100ft behind. Their mileage progressively increased 39% (up to 44.5 mpg) at 10ft behind a semi truck. They strongly emphasized that drafting a big rig at such close distances is life-threatening and extremely dangerous. The recommended minimum safe driving distance from a big rig is 150ft.

Next ... Slowing

Cars have been designed to go the speed limit. They work optimally at those limits. They are the limits that the EPA tests gas mileage. So, in order to get that gas mileage as stated on the sticker on the window when you bought your car, you must go those speeds. Slowing down is the easiest of these techniques, but one of the hardest to do - particularly if you are a habitually late person or just have a lead foot.

Slowing down isn't just about reducing your speed though. Jamming on the accelerator to merge into traffic or a rev up from a stop sign or stop light can cause an immense fuel drain. The next time you're in your automobile, try to be aware of your driving habits regarding hard accelerating and try to adjust a bit.


This is certainly the easiest of any of the Hypermiling techniques. Get rid of dead weight on and in your car. Most insurance nowadays has roadside assistance - all but eliminating the need for a spare tire. Most of the time, I'm uncomfortable changing a tire on the side of the road anyway. Eliminating your spare could be an easy way to reduce some weight in your vehicle. If you don't have it on insurance, check to see if your bank, credit card company, or your car mechanic gives free roadside assistance. If you must purchase roadside assistance - I strongly suggest AAA. I've never known a AAA customer that wasn't satisfied 110% - plus you get free travel maps, travel insurance, and travel discounts to boot.

* Make sure you have a roadside assistance plan before removing any safety or repair items from your car.

* If I'm driving in a downtown setting with narrow roads - it is dangerous for me to change the tire - why would I need the spare. I can just have it in a convenient place and carry on a day that I might possibly need it. Remember - saving money is more about planning.

Do you have an extra cab truck, an SUV, or minivan? Did you know those extra seats weigh a good bit? If you don't need them - take them out.

Are you hauling around unnecessary weight? Do you have heavy boxes that you constantly carry around in your car for no reason other than once monthly (or even yearly) convenience?

Do YOU weigh more than you should? Did you know that for every 15lbs you carry in a car you are having to spend 1% more energy to haul it around. That's 4¢ a gallon with gas prices at $4 per gallon. That's a $400 annual savings average for each driver in the USA.

Navigating ...

A few of you may have heard that UPS has created software for its driver's GPS units that tries to route the delivery vans to the most right turns possible. UPS estimates this saves them 10's of thousands of dollars each year.

You can use a similar technique by not only planning your trips, but using a GPS and getting the "shortest route".

From a reader comment:

Garmin GPS units have a trip computer on them that's easy to read and can help you figure out your miles per gallon very easily. My Garmin c340 GPS had a "quickest" and "shortest" route option.

This will certainly be an advantage of the iPhone 3G with GPS .... maybe someone will make an application for the GPS that is more car specific - meaning that your car's average weight along with your personal weight + gas tank capacity could be filtered into an equation and give the same kind of data.

Maintaining ...

Maintaining your car properly helps with gas mileage, but if your purpose is to save money - make sure you balance premium parts and modifications with the fuel efficiency benefit.

Hypermilers prefer a lower winter* oil - which generally a synthetic and is typically a 5W instead of the more common 10W. This can be achieved in two ways - buying more expensive, more refined oil at your next fill up or buying an oil additive. I use Lucas. I have yet to hear a good mechanic say that Lucas is a bad product - even though there's this website that I found when I researched for this article.

From Bob Is The Oil Guy:

"... add in the Lucas Additive, designed for both engines and gears. This also states "Use Lucas Oil Stabilizer in gear oil to stop leaks, reduce operating temperatures and increase the life of the gear oil. Since it is pure petroleum, it can safely blend with all other automotive lubricants, even synthetics."

Here it starts to climb...Very impressive and is working as it should be according to their ads.

WOW! This I didn't expect! Notice how it has frothed up! I will say this, Lucas works. It is causing the oil to climb as advertised
Ok, What happened here? Well, I think I can give you an answer.

Notice how the color of the right side has turned extremely light? That's because of the higher amount of air trapped in the gear oil. Again, this is the full synthetic. Why'd this happen?, Ladies and gent's, oil has antifoamant additives to reduce air bubbles. In this case, there was not enough Antifoamants to keep the oil from trapping air with Lucas added to it.

Also notice how the oil on the right has settled down to the bottom leaving very little on the gears."

The article is faulty according to one mechanic I spoke to.


"The test appears to have introduced air into the equation somehow. Once the engine oil cap is replaced; the engine becomes compressed and forces out most of the air - I'm not sure where the author of that article is getting his idea that there would be enough air to "foamate" the oil once the additive is introduced"

And another mechanic:

"The test provided LOOKS detailed but two key elements of the test are missing: compression and heat. Both of these factors not only activate the anti-aerating agents in oil, the compression itself prevents aeration. And as a note; "foamating" is not a word. The correct term would be "aerating". That misuse of terminology discredits the author of that website a bit to me.

* What does the "W" in motor oil types mean?

According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the "W" in oil stands for winter. (IE: 10W30 or 5W30) Essentially what it means is; that on the coldest day of the year, 5w30 will have the viscosity of 5 weight motor oil at that particular temperature. There is no specified temperature. The "30" represents the viscosity at or above 100 degrees centigrade.

Maintaining a slightly higher tire pressure is another way Hypermilers mod their cars. Adding nitrogen to your tires keeps them inflated more stably. Nitrogen is less prone to shrinkage in cold weather, and expansion in hot weather. Properly inflated tires create less resistance for the car. This is why you don't see tread on NASCAR car tires - it is creating resistance. Tire pressure is constantly monitored by the pit crew.

Keeping your air filter clean is also good. I recommend buying a "permanent" filter rather than a disposable one and cleaning it every 5000 miles instead of disposing of it at 10,000 to 12,000. The air filter provides airflow to your air conditioner and to your engine. The less this system has to work (and work around dirt) - the better the performance you get from your engine.

Choosing a better grade of gas has no real benefit to your car. Every now and then, I put 93 octane in my car to clean out the fuel line. The higher the octane the higher temperature the fuel burns at. The same cleaning can be achieved with an octane booster product and may in some cases be cheaper than paying the price for premium gas.

Good spark plugs and spark plug wires are important. If a spark plug is worn it can throw off your engine's timing and cause you to get less performance from your engine and therefore making you have to press the gas pedal slightly more to merge or to accelerate. Spark plugs should be inspected every 20,000 miles and replaced every 35,000 - 40,000 miles.

Do you have any "Hypermiling" techniques not mentioned here or is there something you'd like to add? Tell me and other FixYourThinking readers in the comments.

Tune in Monday for an interview with a large car dealer to see what his thoughts are on gas prices and what his company is doing about it.

* The best resource that I know of that gives great tips and advice on fuel efficiency and hypermiling is; ECOMODDER.COM.


Anonymous said...

Getting rid of your spare tire is plain stupid. There are a number of situations where you may not be able to call roadside assistance. Your phone battery is dead, or you forgot to bring your phone or there is no reception or etc etc etc. The one time you actually need that spare you're going to regret every penny you saved by removing it from your car.

FYT said...

In the modern age you are throwing a lot of regrets into the equation. First thing ... I'm thinking you skipped over the common sense sentence... if you are travelling a lot around downtown areas what's the use in carrying the extra weight... Second you are having a dead cell battery and left a charger at home, and no one is around, and no one is coming by in less than five minute intervals? That's what I would call a bad day. If you are travelling to place where you would consider being left with no options - then of course you'd have the spare handy. Secondly, it is only a suggestion. If you can't lose the spare tire ... Lose the spare tire around your waist.

Anonymous said...

That last bit of advice is probably one of the best you've given. Don't have the link handy, but I had read about the economic savings of losing just 15lbs yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Getting a car that has a consumption meter built into the electronics is a great idea. I drive a Volvo that has digital readouts not only for average mpg, but also shows you how many mpg you are getting as you drive. This is great feedback for driving habits. You can instantly see the effects of slowing and easing on the gas and coasting down hills, etc.

There are devices that can be added to your car that can give you this kind of feedback as aftermarket devices as well.

Simply changing your driving habits by driving slower when you can and planning your trips with a GPS or internet tools can save quite a lot of money.

FYT said...

Great suggestions buzmania ...

I had the GPS in my notes and forgot to add it.

Anonymous said...

Using cruise control also helps to avoid excessive speeding and automatically adjusts to other factors impacting speed.

FYT said...

Actually ... using cruise control is NOT a good hypermiling technique. Cruise control is only good for flat roads. Cruise is very inefficient on even the slightest of inclines ... this is why I posited that getting a better feel of the gas pedal is what you really want to do.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR uses has no tread on their tires because they run RACING slicks. They don't need tread to channel water or grip in snow. They need rubber on the road for grip, and to make the tires last longer. Can a bad plug really throw off your timing? I am asking. In old school cars, it would not. You would not be properly burning all the fuel in that cylinder, but your timing would still be fine. Is that not true on newer cars with computers?
I also question how much replacing your air filter helps milage. You see claims that it improves HP, and I believe that. To test HP you run an engine full out on a dyno and it needs a LOT of air. Under normal conditions and especially if you are hypermilling you don't need that much air and if your filter is dirty the computer reduces the amount of gas in the mix.

FYT said...

if you believe it increases horsepower ... then the less you have to rev your engine the better ... to me its more of an interior auto air quality issue as well ... Plus in the long run it saves money ... the goal of hypermiling is saving money

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe it increases HP. AGAIN: HP is rated at WIDE OPEN—FULL THROTTLE. If you are hypermilling at full throttle then you suck at it. I agree that a clean filter is a good idea, but don’t see the need for aftermarket filters. . When you are hypermilling you are nowhere near full throttle and more then enough air can get through a clean stock air filter. If the goal of hypermilling is to save money, then spending a ton on a K&N makes no sense to me. Also: the air that comes into your car through the A/C is _not_ filtered through the engine’s intake filter so it has nothing to do with air quality inside your car.

FYT said...

You are mistaken on both accounts of air filters and horsepower ...

A car with more horsepower has easier startup, easier acceleration (as would be needed in merging traffic) at EACH GEAR, not at 4th or 5th gear with the accelerator all the way down. A car (or truck) that tows something that has more horsepower can tow with less energy put into each gear.

As for the air filter, if you NEVER have to replace it - it saves money after 3 or so changes.

MY AIR FILTER states on the box ... "This AC Delco air filter keeps the air inside your automobile's cabin clean and fresh. It provides clean air to help cool and power your engine - giving you more horsepower; longer."

I also confirmed the inaccuracy of your two statements with a mechanic.

Anonymous said...

There's no mention of anything full throttle here:

Or in wikipedia.

Horsepower is (plain and simple) how powerful a car is at accelerating and how efficiently and quickly the engine can produce that power. Period.

A car with more horse power is going to be able to accelerate faster with LESS throttle - not because it opens the throttle up more.