gas tankThe word Hypermiling was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2008, they named it “word of the year” .

Hypermiling is a term coined by Wayne Gerdes to describe the activity of driving that nets the most miles per gallon. If you are the type of driver that would like to exceed your cars EPA fuel economy rating then you are a good candidate for hypermiling. Surely you bought your hybrid because you wanted to create a smaller carbon foot print or you were just fed up paying the big bucks at the pump. Either way, the idea is to get the best gas mileage possible, right? So let me help you with that.

Many hybrid owners love it when they see the MPG display on their dashboard shoot up to 100. The sad reality is that most hybrid drivers fail at knowing how to hypermile.  For the record I was able to get 65 mpg from a tankful on a 2007 Prius whereas most people I talk to are averaging low to mid 40’s. So hear me out.

First off, how do you hypermile?

There are five primary considerations when seeking the best mileage on any car but especially a hybrid.

1/ Drive Like You Would Ride a Bike

If you do nothing else except this, you will be well on your way to getting a big increase in your fuel economy and can claim a stake in hypermiling. When you ride a bike  you would not peddle away from an intersection and continue peddling fast until you were right up on the next intersection and then brake hard. You wouldn’t do that because it would be a total waste of your energy. No, since you are acutely aware of your body, you would see the stop ahead and coast towards it. It’s called momentum, and when you are on your bike you intuitively use it. Understand that, and you are half way towards understanding hypermiling.

In order to fully realize this concept of maximizing your momentum in a car I have a term that I created. I call it accelerator to brake ratio, or the “A/B Ratio” (my 12 year old son totally understands it so it is pretty easy to implement).  Next time you are in the passenger seat of a car, take notice of the driver’s feet. You will notice that when the driver is approaching a stop you will see their foot go from the accelerator to the brake. If the foot goes from the gas pedal immediately to the brake pedal, the driver is failing to take advantage of the precious commodity called momentum. That is bad A/B ratio. So what you want to do is create as much time as safely allowed to lift the foot off the brake, coast, and then at the very end brake to a stop. Increase the time between the accelerator and brake pedals and you will be achieving the optimum A/B ratio and great gas mileage.

2/ Drive Consciously

Read the road ahead of you. Anticipate. This ties in with the coasting aspect but has more to do with your eyes than your feet. See what is ahead of you and act proactively. While driving through town you might want to see the stop lights that are way ahead of you. I have done this only to be passed by unconscious motorist who keep their foot on the accelerator and whiz pass me. Thirty seconds later I am showing up at the same stop light right beside them.

3/ Maintain proper tire pressure

Under-inflated tires will increase rolling resistance by approximately 1.4 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. If you were 5 psi low you would be losing close to 3 ½ miles per gallon.

It stands to reason that having properly inflated tires will help you achieve the best gas mileage that is possible and will allow you to efficiently coast to your next stop.

4/ Practice Regular Maintenance

Engines are designed these days for low maintenance. However in order to achieve the best possible fuel economy you will want to keep the maintenance up to date. This may seem obvious but I have taken an older Prius in for a client with well over 100,000 miles (and yes they are good for way more than that) without the plugs being changed. Follow the maintenance schedule for your Hybrid and you should be just fine.

5/ Remove Your Stuff
Carrying unnecessary items around in the back of your car means extra weight. The more your car weighs, the harder the engine has to work. Leave your stuff at home and then watch George Carlin talk about your stuff.

The Myth of Higher Octane Ratings:

Some people ask me if they should be using a higher octane fuel to achieve better fuel economy. It is commonly believed that fuel efficiency is related to the fuel’s octane level. This is not true in most situations. Octane rating is only a measure of the fuel’s propensity to cause an engine to ping.

If you had a high compression racing engine (which your hybrid surely is not) then you would need to worry about the octane levels in your gas. But for the vast majority of vehicles including your beloved hybrid, standard-octane fuel is the perfect fit. Save your money for a life changing yoga class and chai tea and be healthier and happier as a result.

Filed under: Consumer Tips

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!