Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere and you’re stuck behind a car that drives at a snails pace?  You know, the car that seem to taunt you with their slower-than-molasses acceleration… incredibly infuriating, right?  I mean, get the hell off the road!  This is 2009… people have stuff to do, places to be!… I hate to break it to you folkies, but I’m the guy pissing you off!!!  I’ve been experimenting with this thing called ‘Hypermiling’ and I’m pretty much hooked!

Hypermiling is a method of maximizing a car’s gas mileage by making skillful changes in the way we drive.  Basics like fully inflated tires, clean air filters, slow acceleration, not running the AC, and minimized braking can go a long ways in increasing a car’s fuel efficiency… more hardcore things like drafting behind trucks, driving 50 in a 75, over inflating tires to twice their recommended specifications, and screaming around corners to avoid losing momentum have been utilized to drastically improve mpg’s, but are not always the safest or most ‘legal’ things to do.

So I recently put hypermiling to the test!  I used my last tank of gas as an experiment to see how much extra mileage I could tack on with basic (and legal) driving alterations.  Below is the story…

This is my chariot, parked in front of my ma’s place in Minnesota.

I’ve had my lil red rig for almost a year now, and I love it!  The Smart is unbeatable in the city, and has actually impressed me on the open road as well.  I’ve found that I average between 36 and 38 real world mpgs, and most of that is city driving.

I instantly found that hypermiling is far from mainstream… the majority of people’s driving habits are incredibly inefficient and erratic, and this experiment made this much more evident.  I can’t count the number of times people would scream past my slowly accelerating car waving the fist of fury with a look of pure evil in their eyes… only to slam on their brakes and wait at the next signal!  I would slowly keep my pace and do everything in my power to not touch the brakes and lose my momentum, and more times than not I would catch up to the people driving like Mario Andretti!…. If I saw a red light up ahead, I would attempt to coast (sometimes switching my gear into neutral) to the signal and time a smooth transition into reacceleration… Another thing I did that was unconventional was, get this…. drove the speed limit!  Dear god, it felt like I was driving backwards at times!  Incredible how the flow of traffic can be 15 miles per hour over the posted limit!

I paid close attention to my fuel gauge and would respond with a defiant yelp each time I saw the fuel bar go down… I did however realize pretty quickly that I was getting significantly further on this tank than what I’d grown accustomed to seeing.  Below are my results:

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I could have pushed it a bit further, but I delightfully hit the 400 mile mark on the tank for the first time… the Smart holds about 10 gallons of petrol and I ended up needing a little over 8.6 gallons to top it off (the thing screams bloody murder if you’re within 2 gallons of empty)… Simple math shows that I got about 46.5 mpg, almost 10 miles per gallon more than what I usually get, giving me almost 90 bonus miles for free!… not too shabby!

Now clearly I’m a hypermiling amateur… I’m just dipping my toes in the water and am doing some super basic stuff.  It was interesting to discover that there are heated competitions out there that test the world’s most efficient drivers against each other.  The Fuel Economy World Championships was held last year in Elkhart, Indiana and some ridiculous results were achieved… One dude got 213 miles per gallon out of his Honda Insight!!!  Another competition called the Insight Marathon had a driver get an astonishing 2254 miles from a 13.7 gallon tank of gas… that’s an AVERAGE of 164.5 mpg!  Why don’t they televise this stuff?… It could be the Nascar for non-hicks!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.