Monday, June 23, 2008

Driving in the Slow Lane

In my never-ending quest to squeeze dollars out of pennies, I've been trying to figure out how to get better mileage on the car. Gas is now well over $4 a gallon (on my last fill-up I paid around $4.40) and the experts are talking about it reaching $5 before the summer is over.

Even though I'm as cheap as they come, I'm not actually too upset by these new gas prices; living in an affluent area, most of the cars on the road around here are SUV's - and not the little SUV's, the big earth-shaking, taking up 2 parking spaces kind of SUV's. I've actually noticed a decrease in the hugest of these cars (the shameful Hummer) on the road, and the other day saw 4 Prius's in a row waiting at a stoplight.

Last year we traded in our mini-van for a more fuel efficient car. We were looking at the Prius, but it was out of our price range, and the trunk was too small for us, as we have just the one car. We got a SULEV (super low emission vehicle) and have been getting around 25 mpg on local driving and have surpassed 38 on the highway (is it sad that my life has become so mundane that this got me really excited?).

We've now entered a new phase, and this phase is called hypermiling. I ran across some articles about this on the web (the web continues to amaze me - articles, message boards, groups for ANYTHING you could want) and was somewhat intrigued. And, just like anything, there are some real nutjobs out there that call this a sport and take it to the extreme. But, if it will save gas and money, why not give it a try?

Basically it boils down to altering your driving style in such a way that you use the brakes less and use the momentum built up in the car as much as possible so that you don't need to accelerate so often. The basic things we have been trying this week are:

1. Driving 60 mph on the highway with cruise control
2. Driving as if your brakes don't work as well - I used to drive this way when I drove a stick because it was such a pain to work the clutch from a full stop. You basically leave more of a buffer between you and the car in front of you so that you don't have to adjust so much to their stopping and starting
3. Coast when you can

There are a lot of other wacky suggestions that the hypermilers have come up with, and the real serious ones have special gauges installed in the car so they can always see their fuel consumption. We decided to just employ the above suggestions, which seemed to be the safest and easiest to implement. We've gone through 1/4 tank of gas doing only local driving, which usually ends up being around 80 miles. We've gotten 110 out of this 1/4 tank, so I think it's having an effect.

The only drawback is that now I am the person that I would have been really annoyed getting behind in the past. I figure we eat at the same time as the elderly now (5:30) why not drive like them?


Bezzie said...

Great minds baby! I've determined it's like a live-video game--and it does take some practice getting used to it, that's for sure. I find it takes a lot of concentration and I"m usually pretty good at abiding by the "rules" of hypermiling when the kid isn't in the car to distract me. We'll see how this tank of gas stacks up to my non-tries.

The Professor said...

Well, the first tank of hypermiling gave us improved mileage, but not astonishingly so. (Like Bezzie, we found that it takes practice to follow the rules.)

The EPA estimates for "Tiny Shiny" (even the cars get pseudonyms around here) are 25 city and 35 highway. On this tank of exclusively around town, stop-and-go traffic, we got 26.95 mpg. About 2 mpg better, by simply adjusting driving style.