Higher MPG: For Those Times You Do Drive

As much as I preach that two wheels is the superior mode of transportation (which it is), the automobile is still quite an amazing machine. When used correctly, cars allow us to explore far away places and accomplish some amazing feats in record time. When used incorrectly, cars will quickly turn on us, becoming detrimental to our health, our wealth, and our environment.

So how can we avoid using cars incorrectly? By understanding more about how a car works, it is easy to minimize the use of gasoline as well as reducing wear and tear on your ride. A typical car is around 20-30% efficient. In other words, only about 20-30% of the energy in the gas in your tank actually goes to the forward motion of your car. At least 70% of the money you spend at the pump goes to heat exhaust, friction and moving air around rather than getting you from point A to point B.

As you should notice, this is extremely inefficient! Retiring early is all about living more efficiently, how can we do this when our cars are bleeding waste out of every orifice?

As it turns out, drivers have a bit more control over fuel consumption than they think. It’s true, miles per gallon is not only determined by the car you drive, but also the way you drive. There is a method of driving called Hypermiling. Hypermiling is all about making tweaks that minimize your fuel consumption, all without sacrificing safety, of course.

Before I give you a detailed list of ways to increase your fuel economy, let me begin by saying THE NUMBER ONE WAY TO SAVE ON GAS IS TO NOT DRIVE. Trips within a few miles should cost you calories burned, not gas burned. Now, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of a few hypermiling techniques.

Below is a list of adjustments, either to your car or how you drive, that will give you unprecedented mileage.

Asses the car you drive

If you drive a truck, it is time to get in front of the mirror and answer some questions. Are you a farmer? What about a carpenter? Do you have any need to be lugging a few hundred pounds of equipment around, or do you drive around with an empty bed and no passengers like a jackass, doing ten point turns in the Walmart parking lot 2 miles from your house? If you own too much car for your needs, you are systematically lining up your dollar employees and shooting them in the head. If you use you car for commuting, make sure it is a vehicle for commuting. The only two things on your mind when purchasing a car should be safety and fuel economy.

Minimize your drag

Much of the energy from the gas in your tank doesn’t actually move your car forward, it goes to moving air out of the way in front of the car. This is especially true while speeding, as aerodynamics drag increases exponentially with linear increase in velocity. President Nixon apparently understood this concept quite well, as he saved a good bit of gasoline when he imposed a 55 mph national speed limit to decrease america’s dependency on foreign oil. Although it varies a bit from car to car, peak fuel efficiency is reached around 40-55 MPH. Fuel consumption increases by at least 15% over peak efficiency when you are doing 75 on the highway. Speeding may save you time, but at a cost of up to a few bucks every trip.

Drag can also be reduced drastically through drafting. Commercial Trucks often have expert drivers behind the wheel who maintain a steady speed and provide great drafts. Just make sure the back of the truck is no bigger than your thumb held at arm’s length. You never want to sacrifice safety for the purpose of hypermiling, and besides, the Mythbusters showed you use MORE gas if you draft too close to a truck. This is because you will be constantly adjusting your speed to maintain a steady distance.

Fuel savings: 10%

Stop blasting the AC

You don’t need the cabin of your car to be 67 degrees on a 97 degree day. This type of senseless blowing and cooling burns more gas than you think. Plus your body becomes conditioned to different temperatures very quickly, really, give it a try.

Fuel Savings: 4-6%

If you have to break, you’ve made a mistake

Obviously this is an exaggeration, but the idea behind this is not speeding up just to stop 100 feet later at a red light. Be aware of what is 30 seconds ahead of you as well as 2 seconds. It may be a challenge at first, but you will quickly form the habit of anticipating events ahead of time, allowing you to avoid unnecessary accelerating and braking.

Fuel savings: 3-5%

Inflate your tires

Go deflate one of your bicycle tires and see how much fun pedaling is now. The effect is similar on you gas usage if you have flat tires, you just don’t notice because it doesn’t take much extra effort to push your big toe one centimeter further while sitting on your motorized throne. Check your tire pressure every time you get gas and before long trips to make sure you are at the recommended psi. This will also decrease wear and tear on your tires and allow them to last longer.

Fuel savings: 2-4%

Ride in neutral

For inner city driving, you would be surprised how far your car will go while in neutral. Anywhere there is a good straightaway or downhill you can use almost no gas at all by not even being in drive! Many newer cars do this automatically when you take your foot off the pedal, this is especially common in hybrids. If the automotive industry is catching on, you can to!

Fuel savings: 2-4%

Lose the weight

For every 1% of the weight of your car that is taken away, the result will be 1% less fuel consumption. So if your car is 3500 pounds and you remove 70 pounds by removing some junk, you save 2%.

Fuel Savings: 1-2%

Taking the minimum savings from these tips, you can easily make a difference of 22%! The little things really do add up, don’t they?

If you were getting 25 mpg before, now you are getting at least 30!

A few other tweaks

  • Consolidate trips: Tie multiple errands together, rather than doing them one at a time.
  • Drive during non-traffic times if possible: Too many cars on the road can impede hypermiling techniques.
  • Keep up with your oil changes: Having old or low oil can negatively affect your car’s mileage.
  • Make sure your tires are balanced.
  • This last one should be obvious, but don’t leave your car idling. In starting up your car, you use about ten seconds worth of gas while idling. So if the wait is going to be longer that ten seconds, shut the engine off.

Anyone out there have more hypermiling tips and tricks? Put them in the comments below!