How many miles do you get per gallon?
Probably not what Google says when you search your vehicle’s make and model.
Your fuel efficiency might suffer from your driving habits, especially if you speed, frequently brake or overload your car with heavy cargo.
If you optimize your driving habits, you could push your fuel efficiency way up — and save money.
Hypermiling and Ecomodding
Most of us know about fuel efficiency tricks like drafting behind big trucks, avoiding excess speeding and maintaining a constant velocity.
But there’s a whole community of so-called “hypermilers” and “eco-modders,” who take optimizing their vehicles and driving habits for the best fuel efficiency to the next level.
There are two types of optimization, explains Darin Cosgrove — or “MetroMPG,” as he’s known on Ecomodder, the online community he co-founded.
“Hypermiling is about strictly using driving techniques to save fuel,” Cosgrove says, while “ecomodding means making changes to the vehicle itself to improve its efficiency, regardless of driving style.”
Pretty cool ideas, right? We think so, too — but some folks really go to extremes.
Competitive hypermiler Wayne Gerdes was featured in a recent Mother Jones article. He achieved 59 mpg in his Honda Accord — a vehicle normally rated for a mere 27 mpg city or 37 mpg highway.
Some of his methods included lightening his car’s load — even removing his keys and wallet. He also makes extreme turns at high speeds to avoid braking.
Budget traveler Jema Patterson of Half the Clothes took advantage of gravity by driving 160 miles from Crater Lake to Eugene, Oregon — with her manual-transmission car off and in neutral.
She took this dangerous measure to save fuel while she was a poor college student… but even if you’re totally broke, we don’t recommend it!
Saving Gas by Getting Conscious
Even if you’re not ready to get out your riveter or give up braking, take some tips from hypermilers and ecomodders to save money on gas.
Cosgrove makes the following recommendations to those looking to get serious about saving at the pump:
“First, you need feedback,” he says, “because you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
Cosgrove says to make a record of each time you fill to see frequency changes as your fuel efficiency goes up.
Make sure you have an mpg gauge installed — aftermarket options are available if your car doesn’t have one.
“Some people call these a ‘game gauge’ because they let you turn your regular commutes into challenges,” Cosgrove explains. Try to beat last trip’s high score!
Another important rule: Don’t idle!
“If you’re going to be stopped for more than 10-15 seconds and it’s safe to do so, shut off the engine,” Cosgrove says.
Similarly, start to pay attention to your braking.
“Only fools rush in,” Cosgrove remarks. “Every time you hit the brakes, you’ve made a mistake: You’ve converted gasoline into brake dust. People waste more fuel with the brake pedal than the gas pedal in city driving. When you see a stop ahead, lift off the gas sooner and coast in.”
In fact, taking it slow is a good idea all around — slowing down on the highway will have the biggest impact on your fuel consumption.
“Generally, cars are most fuel efficient just after top gear has engaged, usually in the 40-50 mph range,” Cosgrove says.
So if you want to save some pennies, leave a little earlier and stay firmly in the right hand lane. Just make sure to obey the minimum speed requirements in your area!
Get Going — But Slowly!
Don’t forget: Routine car maintenance (regular oil changes and tire rotations) can take your investment much further in both machinery and miles per gallon.
Your Turn: Will you apply any of these hypermiling or ecomodding tips to your own vehicle and driving habits?
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes other stuff, like wine reviews and poems. You can follow along at www.jamiecattanach.com.