A Google search for "hypermiling" will turn up a lot of links about saving gasoline by changing your driving habits. Most of them are just common sense: accelerate slowly, try to avoid stopping completely (slow down if a light ahead is red to give it a chance to be green when you get there), use your speed control..
Some of the suggestions cause great arguments. Windows down or A/C? Most everyone agrees that it depends on your speed; windows down is best at low speed, use A/C on the highway. But "low speed" of course depends on the aerodynamics of the vehicle, so the arguments about how much fuel is saved or wasted ensue.
Another controversial subject is coasting in neutral. Aside from possibly being illegal, some sites argue that this can damage an automatic transmission. Other sites say that with some vehicles, it's smarter just to coast in gear as the fuel injectors will actually shut off in that circumstance but will stay on idling if coasting in neutral.
Even more controversial methods have you coasting with the engine key shut off! That's definitely tricky and dangerous..
Our 2007 Subaru Outback was averaging a little more than 25 miles per gallon when gas prices started creeping up. I changed my driving habits immediately but had a harder time getting my wife to consider fuel economy. It wasn't that she didn't want to save gas, but that she felt that she was annoying people behind her by driving and accelerating slowly.
What changed my wife's mind was the MPG displays. Our car can show both current fuel consumption and average MPG over either of the trip odometers. When I'd take the car, I could boost the mileage up over 30 MPG, but her driving would drive it back down into the twenties almost immediately. Pointing that out aroused her competitive nature and she changed her mind and her driving habits. We now compete for the best mileage - I have managed to push it to 31.6 now and then, but she doesn't do quite as well so we hover around a 30.9 average now.. pretty strong improvement!
But her objections are true: people get ticked off if you creep away from a stop sign or drive less than 70 on the highway. I received more than my share of one finger salutes until I found the compromises that let me save gasoline without annoying people too much.
This is probably the thing that will tick off a following driver the most. My compromise is to try to average it out. When there is no one behind me, I really creep, being extremely gentle with the gas pedal and taking my own sweet, fuel saving economical time getting up to speed. When there is someone behind me, I don't push it to that extreme - I don't make a jack rabbit start, but I don't creep along as I would if no one were behind. I figure my extreme economy measures at other times let me be a little bit wasteful here (though in a smarter world everyone would be driving gently and it wouldn't matter).
To anticipate and avoid stops, you need a big following distance. Staying far behind the cars ahead of you gives you the time you need to slow down so that you ran still be rolling when they start up again. Around town, that's not much of a problem: trailing cars don't get annoyed by my large following distance and don't usually get annoyed by my slowing down when a light turns red or people stop for a temporary obstruction and so on. The highways are a different story: when you leave a large following gap, somebody from another lane will usually fill it, forcing you to slow down more to get the gap back where you want it. This was one of my wife's objections: constantly slowing down to maintain the distance. She's gotten over that because of our mileage contest. After all, we're never in a hurry; why do we need to be driving fast?
Because other people get very upset if you don't. There's nothing like driving the speed limit to attract a long line of tailgaters off the highway and to get people flashing their lights and waving their hands on the interstate. You can almost hear them screaming "Pull over, idiot!".
So we do. Saving gas isn't worth having some angry fool riding your tail lights. Around town, we'll pull right over and let them go by the moment they start crowding our rear bumper.. unless..
Unless there's someone in front doing the same thing. That doesn't happen often off-highway, but it's getting easier and easier to find other fuel conserving drivers on the highway. When you find them, fall into line. Maybe they are driving a little slower or just a tad faster than I would have, but that's OK. If the speed limit is 65 and I can fall into a line of people doing 62, I'm saving gas. I'd rather find a group doing 60, but this is OK for now, and because there is a line of us, nobody behind gets upset.
The issue I had some difficulty with is removing unnecessary weight from the car. I like to have stuff I might need with me - tools, mostly, and of course these add weight; every extra pound being dragged along costs gasoline. I had to ask myself the tough questions: how many screwdrivers do you really need? Are you really going to need that cable testing kit today? How about that jug of windshield washing fluid?
We also just plain drive less. We plan our trips carefully - no more casually running out to pick something up. We wait until we have other reasons to head in that direction, and even get into detailed discussions of prices as opposed to the cost of gas: that gallon of milk is twenty cents more if I buy it here, but otherwise I have to go seven miles out of my way.. so buy it here.
Within our community, we use our golf cart or walk when we need to run down to the mail or the gym. Of course I had to do the math on that: the cart costs about 7 cents per mile for raw electricity, and about 75 cents per mile overall (maintenance, battery replacement). That's not necessarily better than using the car, but as gas prices continue upward, that stays fairly stable as the electricity cost is very small.
As to walking, I figure my base fuel cost is about 10 cents per mile and around 50 cents per mile over all. Of course my idling cost isn't a lot less and while there are several ways to cut consumption to zero, none of them are very attractive and some lack any ability to restart. The cost of walking should be balanced by its health benefits too, so I do that when I can.
I'm happy with the improvements we've made. We actually cut our gasoline costs by almost one third since we started - that's significant.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-07-12 Anthony Lawrence