What is hypermiling and how can it save you money?

Millions of Americans run to stay in shape, but a relative handful of ultramarathoners run more than 100 miles in one race. Extreme athletes show us what is possible, even if we never expect to match it ourselves. Knowing what they can do helps push us toward new possibilities.

With that in mind, we want you to know that a couple of drivers once drove through the contiguous 48 states averaging 81.17 miles per gallon in a car rated at 31 mpg on the highway.

There is a subculture of drivers who compete to see who can go the furthest on a gallon of gas. Called hypermilers, each combines the skills of an engineer with the mindset of an elite athlete to achieve mpg ratings that would shock even the people who designed the cars they drive.

As a weekend runner learning from an ultramarathoner, you may not decide to incorporate all the tips from the hypermiler’s book into your daily life. But when gas prices hit record highs, as they did in the spring of 2022, it can make you think like a hypermiler.

Here are some techniques learned from the hypermiling world that can stretch your money. These techniques assume you’re driving a car with a gasoline engine, although some can also help you extend the battery range of your electric vehicle.

1. The goal? constant movement

Off the highway, most hypermilers learn to time red lights. Engines use the least amount of gas when they maintain a constant speed. The goal is therefore not to have to slow down and speed up again. It means strobe lights. Practice your usual routes and try to find the speed that gets you to most lights when they are green. Never speed at a red light – there’s no need to waste gas stopping sooner. A hypermiler’s worst enemy is an “old green” – a light that has been green for an unknown amount of time, so they don’t know if they’ll be able to make it through.

2. Hill at stops

When you ride a bike, you don’t rush to stop and then hit the brakes. It’s a waste of energy. So why do the same in your car? Take your foot off the accelerator well before the required stops and drifts and gradually slow down. The goal of the hypermiler is to “drive without brakes”—get to its destination without pressing the brake pedal, keeping momentum all the time so it never needs to burn more gas to retrieve it.

Related: Save money on gas with these 6 apps

3. Never settle for zero mpg

Hypermilers don’t idle. If they are facing a red light, they turn off their engines. Yes, this can mean that the car is restarted several times in a single drive. It is well. Starters today don’t wear out from overuse like they did a generation ago. Some vehicles even come from the factory with a start-stop feature that will do this for you. Some drivers find this annoying and turn it off. Even with gas prices under $4, you might want to keep this feature.

4. Consider wind resistance

Some hypermilers modify their car’s bodywork. Smooth panels covering the rear wheels reduce e.g. resistance. You don’t have to go that far. But removing a roof rack can allow your car to slide through the air more efficiently.

Aerodynamics make a big difference.


5. Keep your engine warm

Engines are least efficient when cold. Turning them on to warm them up before driving uses gas to get nowhere, which is counterproductive. But parking inside when possible helps prevent the engine from cooling down too much between trips. When driving, many hypermilers look to combine their trips. They will first reach the farthest stop on their list to warm up the engine, then do other errands on the way back, keeping the stops as short as possible to avoid cooling off.

6. Treat electricity like gas

All the gadgets that use electricity, even in a gas-powered car, add work to the engine. Some eat little. Listening to the radio makes almost no appreciable difference in mpg. Some use a lot of it – turning off the air conditioning can save a measurable amount of gas.

Lily: Yes, we can make electric cars cheaper and charge them faster, say scientists

7. Plan your route and avoid the bumps

Nothing robs your car of its momentum like a pothole. Even small bumps in the road can turn forward movements into unnecessary vibrations. Make an effort to stay in the smoothest part of your lane. Some hypermilers go so far as to deliberately drive over the painted lines to minimize drag, but this may be illegal.

8. Follow gravity

Maps has a great tool to help you save gas. It marks the most fuel-efficient option with a leaf icon when it offers multiple routes to your destination. The system uses the number of red lights and the elevation change to do this, giving you downhill routes when possible. Some hypermilers even turn off their engines when going downhill. If you try this, be aware that it also disables the power steering, requiring more effort to steer the car when the engine is off.

9. Use effective tuning of your automatic transmission

Most automatic transmissions are set to shift at the most aesthetically pleasing time, in the middle of their power range. But many have a sport setting, which shifts them more aggressively, and an eco setting, which changes the timing to be most efficient.

10. Consider the humble switch

Better yet, change. Many hypermilers swear by manual transmissions and shift as quickly as possible (keep the revs around 2,500 rpm in most engines) for maximum efficiency.

After: These are the last remaining luxury cars with gearshifts

11. Observe the speed limit

Most cars reach maximum efficiency around 60 mph. Every 5 mph over 60 can make your car 10% less fuel efficient.

See: Several ways to save gas, and some of them you might not like

12. Park strategically

Some hypermilers use what they call “potential parking”—parking at the highest point in a parking lot so you can use downward momentum to get going. In a vacant lot, never back up. Drive straight into parking spaces and straight ahead – it requires less use of the correct pedal and therefore uses less petrol.

Also read: More young middle-class Americans are flocking to dollar stores, seeking refuge from record inflation

13. Keep your car well maintained

Major engine problems, like a bad oxygen sensor, can make an engine 40% less efficient. But even minor problems, like older, thicker oil, prevent an engine from reaching maximum efficiency. Hypermilers are obsessed with maintenance. Use our service and repair guide to find dealers and workshops so you can keep your car in top condition.

14. Track your mpg

What kind of mpg are you getting now? You don’t know, do you? Most drivers don’t. If you want to start becoming more effective, you need to find out how effective you are now. Many modern vehicles will show your fuel economy, or you can use an app on your phone like Fuelly or FuelLog, found in Apple’s AAPL,
App Store and Google Play Store.

This story originally took place on KBB.com.

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