Posted on March 27th, 2010 No comments
The Daily Telegraph says a lot of good things and stupid things. This one falls into the latter category:
Look, I love Top Gear but it’s a TV show and all which that implies. It’s sometimes silly and shallow. It’s sometimes quite stupid. It is however, frequently entertaining, something which more TV shows could look into.
And with all that said, Top Gear isn’t the problem. It’s “motorsports” which are the problem. Let’s be realistic. Motorsports are defined as sports with motors in them, and by that I mean, gasoline motors, often, large, loud, polluting, fuel inefficient motors. It’s the way the genre has been defined for generations. Top Gear is hardly to blame for this.
And while I’ll leave the main blame laying to others I’ll tell you who I think is also to blame for this, many of us eco-driving warriors, that’s who.
Look, cars, motorcycles and the lot are fun. They are. You can do all sorts of exciting things with them and people do. They drive them in circles really fast. They drive over exciting and challenging dirt surfaces. They drive them in marathons. They crash them into each other. They do things with vehicles that are exciting, for many people, to watch.
What have we, the alt-car crowd come up?
Seriously. That’s our contribution to motorsports.
Why aren’t having fun with fuel efficient cars? Why aren’t coming up with exciting new ways to compete in vehicles that aren’t necessarily wasting inordinate amounts of fuel and creating enormous clouds of oil tinged pollution? What have we done to change the existing paradigm? Nothing. Well, very little.
It’s partially our fault the public thinks fuel efficient cars (and EVs and electric scooters…) are boring because that’s all we shown them. We can drive them slow, we can compete saving fuel. Chess is exciting in comparison. And don’t get me wrong, MPG Challenges are fun (for some of us). I’ve been to more than a few but frankly, it’s never going to be a widespread phenomena and for good reason.
It is incumbent upon us, the fuel efficient, low pollution devotees to come up with something less environmentally disastrous than the Daytona 500 and slightly more exciting than watching corn grow. I think we can do it if we try.
One of the most fun things I saw at the Tour del Sol in 2006 was the autocross competition amongst the vehicles there (EV’s, biodiesel, hybrids and whatnot). That was fun. It was relatively low impact and it was a chance to use those vehicles in ways most people never consider. Why aren’t we, we being the green car community, doing more things like that? Why aren’t we sponsoring efficiency contests that not only reward MPG but add in a real life element, time. If all you are doing is managing your MPG chances are, you’re a road hazard. However, if you had to do that and stay within a realistic time bracket, suddenly your skills must be a bit more attuned to, dare I suggest, the real world? The world most people live in? I’d like to see more rally style competitions where timing and efficiency are the point. Rewarding only efficiency is too narrow. There’s no reason why we can’t organize fun rallies that aren’t tortoise versus tortoise competitions. Car clubs do it all the time.
And I don’t mean to limit these competitions by other traditional definitions. Why doesn’t a car company who is often proud that so many of their older vehicles are on the road honor that more tangibly? Yes, building a great car is the main point but again, we’re talking about changing paradigms here. For most of my life I was a devoted Volvo owner (until I bought my very first new car, my 2005 Prius). Volvo has a wonderful program whereby they send very nicely done metal plaques to owners of Volvo who have clocked over 100,000 miles. They also do it for 250K and 500K. What a great program, rewarding and recognized longevity. And while this isn’t exactly related to what I am discussing here, it is outside the “norm” when we think about cars. It’s this kind of thinking that we need to engage in.
I’ve always wanted to put one of these logos on my Prius. Why? Well, I love the idea that TRD isn’t just about bigger, louder, faster. I love the idea that anything can be “raced”. A great driver can compete, in any number of ways, in any vehicle. So yes, right now I love the TRD logo that isn’t (but should be) on my Prius because it’s kind of ridiculous. But I also love it for what it could represent, a rebellion against the louder, faster, bigger and towards something else. A whole new definition of performance that isn’t so narrowly defined.
Which brings me to the final bit of finger-pointing, I’m going lay part of the blame one other place. The car companies. All of them. They spend tens of millions of dollars supporting motorsports as they exist now. They have, as much as anyone else, created the paradigm that bigger, louder, faster and gas-hoggier is better. It’s time they diverted a small amount of that money in a different direction. It’s time for, especially the companies for whom fuel efficiency is a major selling point (Yes, my dear friends in Torrance, I’m talking to you) to invest some small part of what they pump into F1, NASCAR and all the rest helping to build a new paradigm. A paradigm which, I would hasten top point out, supports their long term business model much better than NASCAR or Formula One. This won’t be changed overnight. It will take decades but now is the time to help the pioneers reshape the perception of the personal transportation device, help people who are trying to reframe the conversation away from horsepower and torque to one where agility, efficiency and versatility are more important. You can do it. After all, you built the existing motorsports model. Imagine in fifty years people looking back with a whole new view of “motorsports” and seeing what we could do today as groundbreaking. Now that’s exciting. If we do it.
Posted on May 27th, 2009 No comments
just some of it. And here’s one I’ve seen a lot of on TV of late that is really dumb. Check it out…
So, what we learn from this latest blather from VW are two important things:
-Making loud noises with your car is really cool, quiet car, not so cool
-Diesel is more fun than hybrid, cuz it’s faster, or something
So, what’s the other side? Well, the EPA rating for the TDi is 30/41. But wait, didn’t the cute old timey bug say something about 51 MPG? He did. It was a world record attempt by a couple of who have made quite a career out of hypermiling and there’s nothing wrong with that, just keep in mind where this “world record” comes from. They drove the TDI 9,419 miles in 20 days. There’s no mention of average speed interestingly enough though the phrase “real world driving conditions” is dropped. I’m not skeptical they achieved what they did, I am skeptical about how “real world” it is and given that vroom vroom is a selling point, methinks Volkswagen is contradicting itself more than a little bit.
All of which ignores two things about this comparison.
-The joy of owning a diesel. The noise (oh wait, that’s cool, right?) the smell and the pleasure of memorizing every diesel station in your area.
-That no matter what, that “clean diesel” was pumping out pollution every minute that car was turned on. Sitting in traffic, check. Waiting at traffic lights, check. Unlike the Prius which shuts itself down when the gas engine is not needed.
In the end, yes, I think the Prius is a better solution, environmentally than the VW. Volkswagen makes great cars and the Jetta has had quite a run, there’s no doubt about that. But the idea that the TDI is cooler because it goes vroom vroom seems a bit childish to me and that it can outperform a Prius is just silly. Sure, on the slalom course I’ll take the Jetta. For all the rest of the my driving, I’ll stick with my quiet Prius thankyouverymuch.
Posted on April 13th, 2009 No comments
It’s not just about hypermiling but as with any paradigm shift, it’s being led by the hypermilers. It’s about people realizing that going fast between stop signs isn’t as much fun as having a few extra bucks in your pocket and maybe not adding quite as much smoke to your local environment.
Posted on January 16th, 2009 No comments
Wayne Gerdes is the man who coined the term “hypermiling”, see the 2008 Oxford English Dictionary (See the photo of Wayne with the certificate from the OED noting his involvement).
This is Wayne at the Prius Connection Detroit meeting this past weekend. And just for sake the nostalgia, here’s a shot of Wayne I took at the 2006 Tour de Sol (with another MPG trophy).
Posted on October 29th, 2008 No comments
There’s no doubt that the way you can and will affect your MPG in any car. It may be the most significant factor in getting the best MPG your vehicle can achieve. Ford is taking a good step to help people assess how they drive.
Ford Device Stretches Gallons
By MATTHEW DOLAN
Rising gas prices have dramatically increased Americans’ interest in tailoring their driving styles to save fuel. Now auto makers are rushing to help out.
On Wednesday Ford Motor Co. will unveil a new dashboard system that is supposed to help people modify the way they drive to get every last mile out of a gallon of gas.
Called “Smart Gauge,” it will debut next year in the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan gas-electric hybrid sedans. The interactive system provides four levels of information display, from a basic “Journey” mode to the content-rich “Empower” level that will offer the most detail on engine performance and feedback on how to improve fuel efficiency.
In the past, some cars and trucks had a rudimentary fuel-economy indicator, often a needle tied to how hard a driver hit the accelerator, said Edmunds.com road-test editor Brian Moody. But now more people are becoming tuned into fuel economy as concerns grow over wildly fluctuating gas prices and as drivers become more environmentally conscious, Mr. Moody said.
The trend accelerated with the introduction of hybrid vehicles, especially the Toyota Prius, which offered a display screen that looked like a mini power plant, where rising and lowering bar graphs showed battery usage. And a conservation movement among drivers known as “hypermilers” is burgeoning, using bold driving techniques, from extremely slow speeds, to driving single-file behind tractor-trailer trucks to share the same pocket of air, a practice known as “drafting.”
Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of hybrid-vehicle programs, said in an interview Monday that the new Smart Gauge system will act as a friendly teacher, offering kudos to those who change their driving behavior to improve fuel economy. “We tried to create the ultimate coach, and good coaches are the people that don’t point out the errors all the time,” Ms. Gioia said. “When you get it right, they say ‘Well done, do that again.”‘
In one of the two LCD screens on either side of the speedometer, bright green leaves will indicate how fuel-efficient the driver is. “You don’t have to count the leaves,” Ms. Gioia said. “But if you’re in a forest of leaves, you’ll know you’re doing well.”
Thanks to other advances, the Fusion and Milan hybrids will be able to operate longer at higher speeds in electric mode — up to 47 mph in pure electric mode, or about twice as fast as some competitors, according to the Dearborn, Mich., auto maker. Ford says the driving range on a single tank of gas on city streets is expected to be more than 700 miles.
Ms. Gioia at Ford said that the auto maker sought to provide a graduated level of information to drivers in order to satisfy both the Luddite and the techno-enthusiast among its customers.
The auto maker also scaled back the amount of information it offered to drivers after discovering during testing that the overstuffed display could pose a safety hazard.
At General Motors, spokesman Roger Clark said the auto maker’s Tahoe SUV hybrid has a detailed display screen for fuel consumption. Many of its current models offer more basic information, including instantaneous and average fuel economy. In some vehicles, Mr. Clark said, an active fuel-management mode allows the driver to run on half the vehicle’s eight cylinders.
Wayne Gerdes, a pioneer in the hypermiling movement who runs the Web site CleanMPG.com, said Honda is at the top of auto makers when it comes to displaying fuel consumption. He said he has not yet seen the new Ford display to be introduced today.
The Honda Insight, according to Mr. Gerdes, has a clear bar graph showing fuel consumption from 0 to 150 mpg and four levels of average-fuel-consumption display. Driving one in May, Mr. Gerdes said he achieved 213 miles per gallon at the World Fuel Economy Championship in Elkhart, Ind.
He also singled out the Acura MDX, which increases the width of the bars on the fuel-economy display for an easy-to-read indication of driving performance. One of the best features, he said, is a lifetime-fuel-economy gauge, giving a used-car buyer a unique window into how the vehicles were driven previously.
That feature is not available on the new Ford hybrid sedans, Ms. Gioia said.
“It’s an accountability thing,” said Mr. Gerdes, who lives in northern Illinois between Chicago and Milwaukee, Wis. “Because gas has been cheap for so long, we didn’t have to be accountable.”
For customers without the fuel-economy display, an aftermarket for gauges has cropped up in recent years.
Joey Snyder, marketing manager at Linear-Logic of Mesa, Ariz., said that sales of the company’s Scan Gauge II rocketed 300% between April and July this year as gas crested above $4 a gallon.
Write to Matthew Dolan at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a very good idea. Kudos to Ford for doing this.
Posted on August 22nd, 2008 No comments
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.
Posted on August 8th, 2008 No comments
‘Hypermiling’ techniques offer gas gains for gas pains
“Hypermiling.” We may want to say it together.
Chances are the relatively new term is going to be part of our vocabulary as long as gas pump prices are through the sun roof.
Loosely defined, hypermiling is the practice of trying to squeeze every last tenth of a mile from a tank of gas by modifying driving habits, the vehicle or both. As the name implies, hypermiling leans to extremes.
AAA recently cautioned that some hardcore hypermilers may be putting themselves, their cars and other motorists at risk by shutting off engines or shifting into neutral to coast down hills, rolling through stop signs and tailgating — or drafting — larger vehicles.
“Dozens of Web sites have sprung up promoting hypermiling techniques that range from sensible to downright dangerous,” wrote Richard Hamilton, president and CEO of AAA’s East Central division.
Jud Engels, a cartographer from Fort Thomas, insists the informal group to which he belongs, the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Hybrid Hypermilers, promotes the sensible and safe approach.
Engels — whose map business puts about 40,000 miles per year on each of two vehicles, a Toyota Prius and a VW Jetta TDI — claims to have increased average gas mileage on his fuel-efficient cars by 20-30 miles per gallon or more using common-sense modifications to driving habits and equipment.
One of the fuel economy Web sites that inspired his efforts is www.CleanMPG.com, created by the man who coined the term “hypermiling,” Wayne Gerdes of Wadsworth, Ill.
Engels first studied his owner’s manual to learn what made his car operate most efficiently. Then he bought a scan gauge for his VW to monitor miles per gallon, engine loads and gallons per hour. He cleared the trunk of all excess weight, and inflated the tires to the maximum recommended by the tire manufacturer.
“If you have underinflated tires, that could mean a 5 to 10 percent increase right off the bat,” said Engels.
He claims that by reducing his speed where possible from 65 mph to 55 mph he has sometimes saved seven miles per gallon.
He recommends accelerating slowly and braking gingerly, finding a fuel-efficient throttle setting and steadily holding that speed manually, even on inclines, which may cause your car to slow down a few miles per hour.
Does Engels’ hypermiling work?
Cincinnati Local 12 television anchor/reporter Paula Toti spent several days riding with Engels and trying his techniques in her own car.
She reported that he had increased mileage in his Prius from the high 40s to 70 miles per gallon, and that on one test drive with her and a photographer as passengers, he was able to register 88.1 miles per gallon.
After installing a $150 scan gauge on her own car and following some of Engel’s driving tips, Toti said she boosted her car’s city mileage by four miles per gallon and increased its highway mileage from 30.6 to 36.8.
“This is not a business venture for me,” said Engels. “I’m not out there to make a big deal out of it, I’m just doing it to save money.”
Byron Crawford’s column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at (502) 582-4791 or email@example.com. Comment on this column, and read previous columns, at www.courier-journal.com/byron.
Posted on July 21st, 2008 No comments
Hybridfest was this past weekend, did you go? Tell everyone what you thought about Hybridfest 2008 in the comments.
Everywhere you looked inside part of the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall this past weekend, it was hybrid this, gas-electric that, with a good bit of other alternative car technologies for good measure.
It was part of the third annual HybridFest, taking place in the middle of the Dane County Fair. “When we can deliver an audience who might not be familiar with these technolgoies, that’s good for all,” said Eric Powers, the event’s founder.
Powers quit his day job at Meriter Hospital to devote more time this event. He said it’s a way to “build community, to meet other people who are interested in hybrid cars and alternative fuel.”
By his estimation, HybridFest 2008 was five times larger than when it began two years ago. Even non-hybrids are allowed, including the completely electric vehicles, and the completely tiny Smart Car, which runs on gas, but only seats two.
Also at the event this weekend was Japanese automaker Toyota, the behemoth of the hybrid-world. “The individual that we see here at HybridFest are the ones that really understand it,” said Mark Ulrich, who showed us an exhibit that teaches people the promises and pitfalls of all sorts of future car technologies. “These are the people that are grassroots, taking the Toyota Prius vehicle, and they’re converting that in their garages.”
There were also hyper-enthusiasts challenging each other to eek out the most miles from a drop of gas at Friday’s MPG Challenge. “We’ll have guys who wear nothing but shorts, because they want to keep the windows all the way up and they don’t want to turn on the air conditioning,” said organizer Bill Robbins.
Guys like our own environmental reporter Carl Agnelly took part. He basically got a lesson in how to drive a Prius and take advantage of the car’s eletric system to max out his mileage. Then he was off on a 30-mile course. He has to leave his photographer behind, however. Between the person and the 25-pound camera, it’s just too much extra weight (sorry, Phil).
An extra passenger in a hypermiling contest, however, doesn’t pull nearly as much weight as the larger HybridFest event itself.
“I get calls and email and posts on the Internet asking when is there going to be HybridFest East or South,” said Powers. Powers said he’s heading out to California next week about starting up a possible west coast HybridFest. He won’t say exactly where just yet. Powers did say he intends to keep a version in Madison.
By the way, Agnelly doesn’t mind tooting his own (car)horn. He won the media division of the MPG challenge. The Prius he drove is rated at about 48 miles to the gallon. Agnelly averaged 93.6 miles per gallon driving through parts of south Madison and Fitchburg.
Posted on July 19th, 2008 No comments
Hybrid Texas Tour Compares Regular Driving to Hypermiling
Expert Shaves Gas Cost, Uses One Tank on 844-Mile Tour
In an 844-mile tour of Texas, a hypermiling expert driving a hybrid Toyota Prius was able to average 68.5 miles per gallon of gas, 49 percent more than the EPA estimate of 46 mpg for the car. On just one tank of gas, the driver was also able to get markedly better gas mileage and use much less gas than a driver in a Prius on the same route, using normal driving habits.
Dan Bryant, the high mileage expert, used hypermiling techniques to drive a Toyota Prius from Houston to Corpus Christi, then to San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and back to Houston. Michael Garfield, “The High-Tech Texan(R),” drove the same route in a Prius using only normal driving habits.
“Over the course of this trip through Texas, hypermiling saved about 40 percent over normal driving, by using some basic driving techniques aimed at increasing mileage and saving gasoline,” Bryant said. “Anyone can use these same methods to save money, no matter if they are driving a hybrid or a big truck.”
Garfield pointed out, “Even using normal driving methods, hybrid technology can save significant amounts of gasoline and money, by wringing the best mileage out of every gallon in town and on the highway.”
Bryant got 68.5 miles per gallon on the trip, while Garfield averaged 40.4 mpg. Driving the 844 miles on the trip, Bryant used only 12.3 gallons of gas, while Garfield used 20.9 gallons. At $4 per gallon, Bryant’s hypermiling techniques cost $49.20 and saved $34.40 over Garfield’s gas cost of $83.60.
Hypermilers use a collection of fairly simple driving techniques designed to optimize gasoline mileage. Bryant says, “Our tips on how to save gas money are easy to use, and work no matter what kind of vehicle you drive.”
Posted on July 17th, 2008 1 comment
I like the money per gallon saved at the bottom of the piece. It’s an interesting way to look at driving more efficiently.
Hypermilers strive for maximum mileage; Increase gas mileage, help environment
Amid countless reports of an economy in a downward spiral and skyrocketing gas costs with no end in sight, Ben Nelson of Oconomowoc does not seem to mind filling up his tank – even going so far as to describe it as “fun.”
Amid countless reports of an economy in a downward spiral and skyrocketing gas costs with no end in sight, Ben Nelson of Oconomowoc does not seem to mind filling up his tank – even going so far as to describe it as “fun.”
As gas prices continue to climb above the $4 mark, a subculture of drivers, including Nelson, is emerging who use specific and well-thought-out driving techniques to increase their gas mileage, save on fuel costs and help the environment – all while having a good time.
It’s “always fun when I go to the pump to see if I beat the fuel economy from the last tank,” said Nelson, 32.
As people strive to save money and conserve fuel in order to get relief from the pain at the pump, the latest buzzwords are “hypermiling” and “ecodriving.”
Hypermiler Bradlee Fons, 58, of Pewaukee said he gets about 100 mpg on his 2008 Honda Insight just by paying attention to his driving habits and keeping his car in shape.
To increase fuel savings, hypermilers and ecodrivers clean out the trunk to get rid of excess weight, time stoplights to avoid unnecessary braking, keep tires properly inflated, avoid jackrabbit starts, pull through a parking space to avoid going in reverse and more.
By modifying his driving, Fons is now one of the better hypermilers in the nation, he said. And it’s easy to see why. His Insight’s EPA rating is 66 mpg – about 30 to 35 miles lower than what Fons typically achieves.
James Thompson, 28, of Sussex admits he drives his 2005 Toyota Prius at or below the speed limit. He said even his parents tease him that he drives too slow.
But Thompson’s technique is an essential way to save money and fuel.
Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 mph, as reported on fueleconomy.gov, a Web site maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
For every 5 mph over 60 mph, assume you will pay an additional 30 cents per gallon of gas, based on a fuel price of $4.08 per gallon, according to fueleconomy.gov.
Based on Thompson’s personal calculations, he figures he’s saved about $1,400 on gas in the last three years, by among other things, reducing speeds.
He might even be helping others save money.
“I feel like I’m saving them (other drivers) gas by getting them to slow down a little bit,” Thompson said.
Nelson said there is “always the passing lane for drivers that want to waste gasoline.”
Fons said the two biggest things a driver can do is watch speeds and eliminate aggressive driving.
While hypermilers and ecodrivers have the same goal, there is a difference between the two, explained Fons.
Hypermilers consistently get better than the EPA fuel economy rating on their vehicles. Ecodrivers are what Fons prefers to call those with less experience. They are people who get better mileage on a consistent basis but are not quite to hypermiler status.
Although Fons drives a hybrid, he said, it does not matter if you have an old car, new car, sport-utility vehicle or pickup truck. By changing driving habits, anyone can save money and improve their fuel economy, he said.
“Everyone learned how to drive when gas was cheap,” said Fons.
So Fons shares cost-cutting, gas-conserving methods with others. A few years ago, he founded the Milwaukee Hybrid Group that not only unites hybrid owners in their conservation efforts, but also teaches anyone who’s interested how to increase their miles per gallon.
“Drive less when you can; drive smart when you do,” said Fons.
In addition to slashing gas costs and improving mileage, driving more efficiently protects the environment and conserves resources.
Burning fossil fuels like gasoline or diesel contributes to environmental problems such as air pollution and climate change, and because oil is a nonrenewable resource it is important to conserve it while alternative energy sources are developed, according to fueleconomy.gov.
Nelson said it is a win-win situation. Driving differently saves money and is good for the environment.
In addition to a pickup truck that Nelson has made fuel-efficient modifications on, he also drives an electric Geo Metro and an electric motorcycle that gets about 300 mpg, he said.
If saving money, improving gas mileage and helping the environment aren’t enough, many hypermilers and ecodrivers find great enjoyment out of the experience.
“Ever since I learned hypermiling, it has turned into a game,” said Thompson. “It’s a never-ending process I’m always trying to perfect.”
10 tips to save
• Nonaggressive driving – up to $1.32 per gallon
• Observe the speed limit – up to 92 cents per gallon
• Timing stop lights – up to 80 cents per gallon
• Avoid engine idling – up to 76 cents per gallon
• Use of cruise control – up to 56 cents per gallon
• Check air filter – up to 56 cents per gallon
• Properly tuned engine – up to 20 cents per gallon
• Properly inflated tires – up to 12 cents per gallon
• Remove excess weight – up to 8 cents per gallon
• Use of synthetic oil – up to 8 cents per gallon
Posted on July 15th, 2008 No comments
When government fuel economy testers drove the Acura MDX sport utility vehicle, they got 23 miles per gallon on the highway.
When Wayne Gerdes drove the Acura MDX, he got 37 mpg on the highway.
Gerdes is the man who came up with hypermiling, a grab bag of techniques that many economy-minded drivers are reaching into to cut their fuel consumption.
But AAA recently said many hypermilers are taking driving economically to a dangerous level.
In a June 27 statement by AAA, vice president Marshall L. Doney conceded that while the goals of hypermiling are positive, such as eliminating aggressive driving and saving energy, much of what they do is not safe and possibly illegal.
The controversy comes from some hypermiling techniques that reach beyond staying off the gas pedal.
What Gerdes calls advanced, AAA calls extreme.
Shutting off the engine or putting the vehicle in neutral while coasting downhill are two points of contention.
Capt. Michael Patrick of the state police said that while the state doesn’t have laws outlawing coasting, a motorist would likely be cited for reckless driving if he were involved in an accident while doing so.
Gerdes also recommends inflating ties to the maximum sidewall pressure rather than the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure, usually found on the door jamb. That reduces rolling resistance and bumps up the mpg.
Dan Zielinski, Rubber Manufacturers Association spokesman, said motorists shouldn’t exceed the recommended pressure.
“The recommended inflation pressure is not just a suggestion,” Zielinski said.
He said along with a harsher ride, tires may wear out sooner and are at a greater risk of damage from road debris.
But Patrick said there isn’t a law specifically regarding tire pressure. However, there is a law that requires tires to be in a safe operating condition.
Still, Gerdes and local hypermiler Rich Mazzeo, 27, of Maidencreek Township say they’ve not had any problems with tires inflated to the maximum sidewall pressure.
Other practices AAA calls dangerous, such as ignoring stop signs and closely following — or drafting — vehicles, isn’t part of hypermiling, Mazzeo said.
He said he never drafts anyone, joking that he couldn’t even if he wanted to — the tractor trailer rigs are usually going too fast.
Ultimately, Mazzeo said, being courteous to other traffic and driving safely is more important than fuel.
“Stop signs are not good (for mileage) but you gotta take the hit,” he said.
Speaking personally, I don’t agree with some of it. I don’t think some hypermiling techniques are practical or reasonable given where we are now. There’s little argument that it’s not safe to be going 10-20 MPH slower (or slower) than the flow of traffic regardless of the law. Law enforcement cannot slow cars down, we’ve decades of practical experience there. Until most motorists decide that following the law is a good thing, for a number of reasons, being the one person in the slow lane going much slower than everyone else is, to one extent or another, dangerous. And that’s sad commentary on how we drive in general.
I don’t much like the idea of turning your car off while it’s in motion. There may be and are exceptions where this might be a safe practice but in general I would opine that it’s not a good strategy for anything other than saving fuel.
There are so many variables it’s difficult to comment on something like “hypermiling” in a general sense and say anything meaningful. Tire pressure, for instance is one of those things. Keeping your tires properly inflated is critical to maintaining the life of the tires and getting the best MPG possible. In some cases inflating higher than the car manufacturer (but not exceeding the tire companies sidewall pressure guidelines) is an excellent idea. I think it contributed a great deal to my Goodyear Integritys lasting 35k miles and me getting strong overall MPG but for other tires, it may not be as good of an idea.
The big problem here is one of context. We’re transitioning from a place where MPG meant little or nothing to manufacturers. You still can’t find decent data on low rolling resistance tires for instance. It’s spotty at best. Figuring out the optimal inflation for a given set of tires, ignoring manufacturer specs, is experimental at best. One has to rely your own tracking of MPG and reports from other drivers. In the instances where there is a wealth of data that’s fine but in many cases car owners may be breaking new ground on their own. I don’t know how comfortable I am encouraging thousands of hypermiling test pilots to find the limits of tire inflation. It’s a potentially dangerous situation.
Back to that context…until the majority of motorists change the way they drive, driving in a manner different from that majority is going to carry with it some added risk. That’s not a statement in favor of exceeding speed limit (to use one example) but it’s one example. Perhaps increased fuel costs will slow some people. I think I’m seeing some of that now. I don’t see the Navigators racing through parking lots as much as I used to. That said, driving the beltway around DC and Baltimore, where the posted limit is 55, at 55 is a stunning way to raise your blood pressure and make you feel as though you’re going at half the speed as everyone else. Until those people slow down going slower is carry added risks (just as going faster carries risks of their own).
There’s a lot issues wrapped up here under one heading. I think, in general, the AAA was pretty stupid to say what they did the way they did. I think it would have been better for the AAA (and its members) to have talked about hypermiling in the context of demanding better information from manufacturers, better law enforcement to curb scofflaw speeding and aggressive driving and support getting the best MPG from your vehicle. Instead, AAA took a slap at hypermilers.
That’s just my take, YMMV.
Posted on July 14th, 2008 No comments
TORONTO — Erik Haltrecht has kept track of every fuel purchase he’s made at the pump since 2003.
He’s not sure what made him become a “hypermiler” – a person who tries to conserve as much gas as possible – but he has a few ideas.
It could be his career as an electrical engineer, his environmental conscience, or his unwillingness to be dependent on foreign oil.
Or perhaps it’s because he and his father tried to build an electric car when he was 18.
In any event, the retired 63-year-old Thornhill, Ont., resident is part a fuel conservation subculture that is gaining momentum across North America as gas prices continue to soar.
“My gas tank wins, my pocketbook wins, politically we win and environmentally we win. So it’s not just win/win. It’s win/win/win/win,” said Haltrecht, from behind the wheel of his hybrid Toyota Prius.
Hypermilers like Haltrecht are drivers who aim to meet or exceed their vehicle’s federal fuel economy rating.
For example, if a car is slated to use 10 litres of gas per 100 kilometres, a hypermiler would try to beat that number by using a variety of driving techniques.
The movement started in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when American Wayne Gerdes decided he no longer wanted to depend on foreign oil.
In response, he started a group called Clean MPG, which looked for ways drivers could conserve gas.
What resulted was a variety of techniques, including travelling below the speed limit, creating buffers between drivers and other cars to decrease abrupt stops, reducing an engine’s revolutions per minute and accelerating as slowly as possible.
“We built a tool kit of techniques and if somebody wants to hypermile they just select from that tool kit,” said Manuel Santos of the Canadian arm of Clean MPG, in a phone interview from Winnipeg.
The organization has a few hundred Canadian members, with ranks continuing to grow, he added.
As Haltrecht pulled into traffic on a busy Saturday morning north of Toronto, he was unfazed by the cars whizzing past him.
“I’m going to let this guy go by, because he’s in a bigger hurry than I am,” said Haltrecht, who is a member of the Ontario Hybrid Group, an organization that preaches the benefits of both hybrid cars and hypermiling.
Haltrecht estimates he gets about 1,000 kilometres every time he fills his 45 litre gas tank.
A gauge on the dashboard alerts him to his fuel consumption ratio. It calculates he’s using about 3.8 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres on the road.
Most conventional drivers don’t realize how much gas is being wasted by racing to intersections, only to sit idle waiting for the light to turn green, he said.
“At the end of the day, I will probably get to my destination almost at the same time (as a conventional driver),” said Haltrecht.
Authorities are aware of the hypermiling phenomenon and have no issues with drivers looking to conserve fuel if it’s done safely, says Sgt. Cam Woolley of the Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division.
“The hypermilers are trying to squeeze every possible bit of energy out of a vehicle, and some of them are doing some dangerous or unlawful things to do that,” said Woolley.
These practices include tailgating larger vehicles to avoid wind resistance and over inflating tires to decrease their surface area, he added.
These hypermilers, known as “renegades” among their peers, are in the minority, said Santos.
“We totally reject those techniques,” he said. “It’s extremely dangerous and against the law.”
Back on the road, Haltrecht wonders when other drivers will embrace hybrids and hypermiling, the benefits of which are plain to see, he said.
“It’s the bridge between the terrible technology of yesteryear…and tomorrow’s car, which will be all electric.”
As always, it’s the “radicals” the people who push the envelope who are the catalyst for change. The moderate, find a compromise folks do not spark meaningful change. So cheers to all the hypermilers out there. I may not personally agree with everything you do but you are the cutting edge.
Hypermilers are serious about saving gas
A few simple changes add up big, drivers say
BY DAN GEARINO
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Cut your speed. Pump up your tires. Lay off the brakes.
Those steps could put you on a path to mileage enlightenment — and lower fuel costs.
Aaron Carito, an educational aide from southwestern Ohio, thinks just about anybody can get on the path, regardless of skeptics who question the validity of the methods.
“To me, it’s all about saving money,” he said.
Carito is a hypermiler, someone who alters his driving habits to boost mileage.
Or, to be more accurate, he is an apprentice hypermiler. A week ago, the Monroe resident attended his first meeting of the Cincinnati-area hypermilers, an informal group of about a dozen.
He sat in the passenger seat and watched someone get 114 miles per gallon in a Toyota Prius, a gas-electric hybrid. When he got home, he used the techniques he learned to get 80-plus miles per gallon in his own Prius; the car’s government-rated mileage is 46 miles per gallon.
One of the group’s unofficial leaders is Jud Engels of Fort Thomas, Ky. He began altering his driving habits about two years ago when he saw the potential for savings with his Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a diesel vehicle from which he can squeeze more than 50 miles per gallon.
“It’s just common-sense stuff,” Engels said.
For him, high mileage is a necessity. He is a cartographer for a small mapping business, a job that involves long trips to meet clients.
He begins with some basic tips: First, drive the speed limit or even a little below; second, inflate your tires to the maximum amount in the range recommended by the tire manufacturer.
Progress is measured with a mileage gauge. The Prius has one on its dashboard display. Owners of other vehicles can buy one for about $150.
Lee Peterson, an executive at WD Partners, a Dublin retail consulting firm, found that the gauge in his Prius has a way of encouraging him to get good mileage. He gets an immediate idea of which driving methods are good for fuel economy.
“Information is king, right? Knowledge is power,” he said.
Peterson, who doesn’t consider himself a hypermiler, gets about 55 miles per gallon. He estimates that he will fill his tank only about 14 times this year.
On the freeway, he watches his speed, which he has found is one of the simplest ways to boost mileage.
“I always try to go 65, but if you go down to 60, there is a massive difference,” he said.
Local auto experts view hypermiler techniques with a mix of bemusement and scorn.
Bill Linsenmayer, director of automotive services for AAA Ohio Auto Club, is particularly skeptical of the tire-inflation recommendation. He says drivers should follow the inflation guidelines printed on the vehicle’s door rather than use the higher numbers that may be printed on the tire.
“It’s not going to increase (gas mileage). It’s going to give you a rougher ride, frankly,” Linsenmayer said.
Engels, the Kentucky hypermiler, has a few advanced suggestions for drivers who’ve mastered the basics.
To start, he advises drivers to shut off the ignition if they think they will be sitting still for more than five seconds, whether at a traffic signal or a drive-through window. He says idling burns more gas than starting the engine.
Next, Engels recommends using the lowest-viscosity oil — also known as the oil weight — allowed by the car manufacturer. He says a switch to lower weight can lead to less engine stress and a boost in mileage.
AAA’s Linsenmayer says otherwise, that the potential gains from the oil switch are so small that it isn’t worth trying.
Another advanced tip is something Engels calls “anti-cruise control,” which means he lets the vehicle slow down when going uphill and allows it to speed up while going downhill. This is different from cruise control, which often kicks into high gear while going uphill. He calls that a big waste of fuel.
The most complicated technique involves braking — or, in this case, not braking. Engels frames the topic with a question:
“If I didn’t have brakes, how would I drive?”
He says experienced hypermilers can control their speed with the gas pedal, and they try to use brakes sparingly. To do this, a driver needs to be keenly aware of what’s ahead, including the likelihood that a green light is about to turn or the chances that a nearby vehicle is about to slow down.
Carito describes this last item as a heightened level of awareness, kind of like the Zen of gas mileage.
“You know where the stop signs are, you know where the lights are, and you can anticipate that stuff and get better mileage,” he said.
Hypermiler clubs have grown over the past few years as Prius owners have begun to notice how easy it is to boost mileage. And now, with gasoline prices above $4 a gallon, the groups have been thrust into the spotlight. Engels has been featured on local television news and CNN.
With the attention has come a backlash. Some media reports have featured hypermilers who try dangerous techniques, such as turning off the ignition and coasting on the highway, rolling through stop signs and tailgating large vehicles to reduce wind resistance.
Engels takes great pains to distinguish between his group’s techniques, which he says are safe and legal, and the unsafe methods used by a few bad actors. He sees his group, and most hypermilers, as regular folks.
“We’re just some people who want to save money on gas,” he said.