Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 25, 2008
Hypermilers take energy conservation to the extreme
By SUZANNE ELSTON
Forget about street racing and performance cars, the newest extreme driving challenge is hypermiling.
As the name implies, the idea behind hypermiling is to constantly push the limits of fuel efficiency. If you think this is about simply slowing down and driving less aggressively, think again. Die-hard hypermilers employ various driving techniques and take dangerous, even illegal steps in their quest for the ultimate gas mileage.
In the process they have also created their own language of acronyms and terms. Here's a sample:
FAS or Forced Auto Stop is a favourite of hypermilers. It involves putting your car in neutral, turning off the engine, and gliding. This is not only illegal in many jurisdictions; it's also very dangerous. Without engine power, you have no power brakes and power steering, making the vehicle much more difficult to control.
D-FAS stands for Draft-assisted FAS, and doubles the danger of simply FASing, by tailgating an 18-wheeler or other large vehicle to cut air resistance.
Ridge-riding, means driving with a vehicle's two right wheels touching the right white line of the road, and has two distinct benefits. The first is that it lets drivers know when a vehicle is moving slowly. Second, it saves gas in rainy weather, when water accumulates in the grooves in the centre of the road.
DWB or Driving Without Brakes isn't quite as dangerous as it sounds. It actually refers to driving as if you don't have any brakes. This means learning to anticipate stops and then decelerating by taking your foot off the gas pedal and coasting to a stop.
Face-out means pulling through two parking spaces so that your vehicle faces out. This avoids having to back out, brake and then move forward.
Potential parking involves parking at the highest spot on a parking lot so that you can use gravity to get going, rather than relying on ICE.
ICE stands for internal combustion engine, something hypermilers strive to use as little as possible.
"Throwing it away," literally means throwing away or wasting gas. It refers to what most of us do when we accelerate too fast, brake too quickly, speed, idle or drive with the windows open, use air conditioning, or drive around with excess junk in our trunk or racks on our roof.
We also "throw it away" when we fail to have routine oil changes or maintain proper tire pressure.
Other hypermiling techniques include getting to know your route so you can time traffic signals, avoiding left turns whenever possible and using rolling stops (very illegal.)
While many of the above techniques are probably beyond the average driver, for Wayne Gerdes, the man who currently holds the title of the Most Fuel Efficient Driver in the World, hypermiling is a way of life.
Gerdes routinely gets 59 mpg (US) out of a non-hybrid Honda Accord and more than 100 mpg (US) from his Toyota Prius.
Until 9-11, Gerdes admits that he drove "75 miles per hour in the left-hand lane" on his daily two-hour commute. After the attacks on the World Trade Center, Gerdes vowed to minimize his consumption of imported oil. He calculated that if everyone in the U.S. reduced their fuel consumption by 25 per cent, they could cut Mideast oil imports by 50 per cent, while dramatically reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
"I'm not just doing this for myself," Gerdes said in an interview with Mother Jones Magazine. "I'm doing this for my country and the world."
In 2002 Gerdes traded in his 1999 Nissan Truck for a Toyota Corolla for his daily commute and began searching for techniques to improve his gas mileage. Three years later, Gerdes and a team of four other drivers officially put hypermiling on the map when they shattered the existing record for the most miles on a single tank of gas.
Using many of the hypermiling techniques described above, the American team drove a hybrid Toyota Prius 1,397 miles on 12.8 gallons of gas - that's an average of more than 100 mpg over a 48-hour period.
Despite all of his hypermiling techniques, Gerdes' most powerful tool is a simple fuel consumption display (FCD). He believes that if drivers could see how much gas they were guzzling in real time, they would instantly reduce their fuel consumption by 20 per cent. Now that's performance.
To read Dennis Gaffney's profile of hypermiling Wayne Gerdes, "This Guy Can Get 59 MPG in a Plain Old Accord. Beat That, Punk," visit motherjones.com.
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