Hypermiling: Teaching an old dog new tricks

With gas approaching $4.00 per gallon, the economics of driving can no longer be ignored. I knew attitudes were changing when my Dad, who loves driving and commutes about 350 miles a week to work in a car that gets about 30 mpg, told me that he had started carpooling. Others are boarding commuter trains and bus service in record numbers to travel to and from work.

I'm cheap, so last year I read with interest an article about a guy getting over 50 mpg in a non-hybrid vehicle, but many of his methods were extreme (never using the air conditioner) and often dangerous (like taking a 25 mph turn at 50 or drafting directly behind a semi). With gas at $2.139 last February, these "hypermiling" tactics weren't worth it as I only fill up once or twice a month. Times have changed, and even though it cost over $75 at $3.769 per gallon, I was looking forward to filling up my '96 Ford Explorer (an automatic with all-wheel drive) this morning because I wanted to calculate its fuel mileage.

For the last month I've been utilizing several hypermiling techniques:

  1. Inflating my 35 psi-rated tires to 40 psi
  2. Removing excess weight (tools in the trunk)
  3. Eliminating jackrabbit starts by accelerating gradually
  4. When approaching a stop sign or red light, putting the car in neutral and coasting to a stop (known as forced auto stop)
  5. Turning off the ignition at long stop lights
  6. Using cruise control
  7. Maintaining a highway speed of 55-60 mph

Fortunately I was already in the habit of documenting mileage, gallons of gas, and price per gallon at each fill-up, so I was able to calculate my average gas mileage for 2007 at 15.6 mpg. My average cost of gas last year was $2.74 which correlates to 17.5¢ per mile (cost per gallon ÷ miles per gallon). Thus far in 2008 I was averaging 14.8 mpg at $3.13 per gallon or 21¢ per mile.

After utilizing the above hypermiling techniques, I am now averaging 17.3 mpg, an 11% improvement over 2007 and 17% better than my average this year! And while gas now costs 20% more than my 2008 average, the cost per mile remained steady at 21¢ per mile.

For additional information on hypermiling, visit this post on CleanMPG.