Adventures in Hypermiling

July 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm 1 comment

Using my car is my biggest sustainability vice. I commute a lot and make trips out of the Madison area at least once a month. It’s a challenge for me to let go of the steering wheel and find other ways to get around. I do try my best to keep my car’s eco-footprint down as much as possible, but I’ve been finding my efforts a little low lately.

I recently got a pick-me-up with a new ‘technique’ called hypermiling. Fun to say, and fun to do I’ve discovered. It’s been an eye opening experience and I have seen not only my habits change, but my perspective on driving as well.

Hypermiling is a simple concept really. It is the use of techniques and driving habits that increase your MPG. The first step is knowing your MPG average. The best way to do this is to get an MPG gauge for your vehicle but not everyone can invest in this. You can always just calculate it by miles driven and gallons of gas.

The next biggest technique comes from reducing your ‘brake time’ and stopped time. Drivers apply their brakes 10-25% more than needed. Braking turns gasoline into heat instead of making your car accelerate or run. It is essentially wasting gas every time your foot is on the brake pedal.  This was the most eye opening pattern change for me. Once conscious of it, I began to realize just how much I had my foot on the brake. I drive down university and used to be the person trying to get one car ahead at a time and hitting every red light. Now I try to keep gaps between me and the car in front so that I can simply let off the gas and coast instead of continuing and then braking last minute. I do the same at traffic lights. If there is a red light ahead, I immediately take my foot off the gas. Why continue using gas if I know I need to stop? I find that this usually results in me not having to apply any brakes at all for long durations of my trip. Instead I slow enough to a coast and by the time I reach the light, it has turned already and I can accelerate again. I consider myself the coast master now.

Slow acceleration is another tip. We all know the harder you press down on the gas, the more you waste.

Traffic can be a terrible gas guzzler. Stop and go means gas wasting and braking. There is an amazing article and video that describe the technique of passive space driving in traffic jams and how it can help your gas mileage even in these tricky areas, as well as lower your blood pressure and stress. I highly recommend watching it. We all know there is nothing more frustrating and aggravating than traffic jams. I’ve started using his techniques of leaving lots of space and aiming at cruising, even at lower speeds than other lanes, in order to avoid the inevitable stop and go again. Most of the time I barely have to brake at all, I just cruise along at an average speed. It’s still a lot slower than I normally would go, but at least I am not accelerating and braking continuously. I’ve also found that the people behind me start doing the same thing. It’s almost impossible for them not to.

With all of these changes, I’ve grown from crazed driver to Zen warrior on the belt-line.  So many of the changes are based on ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and not driving so competitively. I notice other frustrated angry drivers more too. Some of them don’t take kindly to not accelerating all the way up to a red light. Most of the time people get angry, pass me quickly and rush around me, only to come to a stop.

I averaged 25-27 MPG before starting on the path to hypermiling, and I just got my first complete reading after using hypermiling and I am at a lovely 30 MPG now and I am still new at it. Challenge yourself to push your MPG limit and save time, energy, gas,  money, and the environment.
~Madison Environmental Group Intern Kayla Baake


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Karl Dyson  |  July 4, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Great to hear of your experiences with Hypermiling. Armed with a few Hypermiling tips you could see huge increases in your MPG.

    With all your travel on motorways drafting would be a great way of helping you further, just make sure you are using safe distances.

    See other tips from, they have some great tips and also a growing community of like minded hypermilers.


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