Save Money on Gas the Way the Pros Do ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Save Money on Gas the Way the Pros Do

Friday, May 25, 2007

Save Money on Gas the Way the Pros Do

As you head out on your long weekend of traveling, I thought I'd share some gas saving tips from the pros (hypermilers). Hypermilers are a select group of drivers who go out of their way to not only get what the EPA says their car can get, but exceed all expectations when it comes to fuel economy.

You've probably already heard most of the basic tips. Clear out your trunk; stay up to date with oil, keep your tires inflated, and get a tune up when you're supposed to; slow down or at least follow the speed limit; and turn off your a/c and heater and/or roll up your windows. So I'm going to concentrate on those efforts you probably haven't heard about.

Now some of these tips are not only dangerous, but they are also illegal. I present those more dangerous techniques here for your information, not to encourage you to copy some of these more risky techniques.

Tools of the Trade
Unless you own a hybrid or a luxury vehicle, you probably don't have any way of measuring your current fuel economy. You can always track your mileage and how much gas you are buying, but that doesn't really tell you how you're doing moment to moment. If you're serious about it, as hypermilers tend to be, there are inexpensive tools you can buy (i.e., ScanGauge II).

Another great tool to use is your foot. Take off your shoe and your ability to control how much gas you use at any particular moment will be tenfold. Shoes deaden the feel you have between yourself and your car.

Pay Attention to Everything
Hypermilers become hyper aware of their surroundings. Not only do they plan their route carefully to avoid stopping (see more about that later), they even take into account wind. That's right, they like to use tailwinds or they will avoid driving if there's too much wind in the wrong direction. Not very practical for most day to day driving.

More importantly (and more applicable to you), hypermilers tend to be more aware of where stop signs and lights are located. They will try to avoid stopping as much as possible because you are just wasting gas when you are at a standstill. They will also try to time lights so as to avoid using their brakes (unless you have a hybrid and regenerative braking can be helpful to recharge your batteries, brakes are a no-no when it comes to saving gas). It's called driving without brakes and it may be the best thing you can do to increase the time between fill-ups.

Cold is Bad, Heat is Good
Colder temperatures and the time it takes for your engine to heat up have a profound effect on your fuel economy. Keep that in mind when you start keeping track of your fuel economy. A warm sunny day can do more for your gas bill than any other tip you follow.

Parking Preferences
Where and how you park can have a profound affect on your bottom line. Keep in mind that you get your worst fuel economy just after you start your car up. Backing into or out of a spot can be a complete waste of fuel. If you parked farther out (no other cars around you, or near the exit, you're saving that much more fuel. You can also give yourself a little more leg work. Also, if you park at the top a parking lot, rather than at the bottom, you may be able to coast your way out without even turning your engine on.

Riding the Ridge
A nice little trick is to put your wheels on the painted white lines. By reducing resistance (rolling), you save on your fuel. You can also over-inflate your tires, but that's a risky move in my book. You will save on gas, but you may end up blowing a tire. The risk of a blow out is small if you're careful, but it's still a risk.

Hybrid Cars
Hybrid cars can also use the method called pulse and glide. I detailed it in this article way back when: Hypermilers and Hypermiling. It's a method reducing the amount of time you use the gas engine and maximize the time you use the electric motor instead.

Extreme and Dangerous Methods
Again, I don't recommend these. In fact, I would warn you against them. Not only are they dangerous, but they are illegal and should not be done. Some hypermilers will recommend drafting. Getting close enough to an 18-wheeler so that you can benefit from his trail breaking is dangerous and foolish. If he stops suddenly, you're now involved in a life threatening situation.

Another dangerous method is forced auto stopping. Basically, if you can't avoid stopping or if you are on a large hill turn the engine off. Just put your car into neutral and turn the key. This is dangerous (and illegal) for all sorts of reasons. You lose a lot of control when the engine is off. At the very least, you won't have power steering and you won't be able to accelerate out of the way if something comes your way you weren't expecting.

Want More?
Want to read more about hypermiling techniques? Head over to cleanmpg forums, or more specifically, you can read about hypermiling techniques for the Ford Escape Hybrid. I tried to avoid the hypermiling techniques for hybrids only, but there are several tips for those of you with hybrid cars there. There was also an article at Edmunds about hypermiling that inspired me to talk about these techniques today.

Enjoy your long weekend, and I hope the weather there is beautiful.

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