Proper Hypermiling Techniques Equal Fabulous Fuel Savings
Since hypermiling is a term that seems to be used almost like a ticket to some exclusive club, I thought it warranted some clarification. I had not used it to describe the driving I practice as I did not want to condone the somewhat esoteric, strange, and dangerous techniques often referred to as effective.
The idea behind hypermiling and other fuel-saving driving techniques is to be safe and reduce fuel consumption. This goal should be behind all your driving practices. It should shape your overall driving style.
What Hypermiling Is Not!
One technique that is often mentioned is the act of drafting another vehicle, especially a larger one.
This driving style is loosely based on auto racing by drivers who do not understand its reasoning. It is not about fuel economy. It is about maximizing momentum, power, and speed.
A driver will follow another car until he has an opportunity to pull out and hopefully pass the one he has been drafting. During drafting, he can maintain his speed and momentum while building a small reserve of power to gradually increase speed until he is ready to pull out and pass.
Here are some reasons that no sane driver would never use this alleged hypermiling technique on a public highway.
Most drivers on public roads do not have the experience or training that race car drivers have. Or, at least, you have no idea if they have since you generally have no idea who is sharing the road with you.
The vehicles on a public road vary from smart cars to transports. This is a different situation than a Nascar race, just considering the cars. They are all very similar in style, power, and even handling, controlled by the set of rules under which they compete.
You would never see a smart car and transport competing on the same track unless it was for stunt purposes. And that would be carefully choreographed for accuracy and safety.
The proximity of the vehicle being drafted for any noticeable or measurable effect is such that it does not make any sense to practice in an arena where the prime aim is safe to travel, not being first.
You will also use up any alleged savings just trying to get into a position behind the other vehicle. Savings will further be offset since you are now in a place where sudden, hard braking will almost certainly be required.
Even if it just because the driver you are drafting is annoyed at you and touches his brakes to scare you. I would also slow down fast without braking, downshifting, or using the hand brake to scare you!
Like other risky driving styles, tailgating is illegal since it does not belong on public roads where the primary goal is to travel and arrive safely. Leave being first on the track where it belongs.
Another technique mentioned is to coast down hills in neutral, or even with the engine off. This is best left to little-used country roads when you are alone. You will find that getting back in gear and under power again is not a smooth transition without some practice.
And if something unexpected should happen, like someone pulling in front of you out of a lane, the only control variable you have is hard braking. Such a self-imposed limitation is never a part of safe, economical driving.
This practice also adds unnecessary risk when other traffic is around. That is enough justification not to use it on most roads.
Proper Hypermiling Techniques That Work
Let’s go back to the context within which you should always be driving. First and foremost is operating safely.
Safety Rule #1: Drive according to the road, weather, and traffic conditions.
Driving safely is done by being aware of what is going on around you on the road. This means continually scanning using your mirrors. It also means seeing beyond what you may consider your normal range of vision. Do this by opening up your peripheral vision.
Fuel Economy Rule #1: Drive at a constant speed over an extended distance as safely possible.
Regularly scan in front, behind, and around you to see any potential interruptions to your ‘flow’ and to see paths opening to help maintain your constant safe speed.
With average and instant mileage readouts available to me as I drive, I have become aware of how the slightest change in the amount of pressure on the gas pedal alters fuel economy. I aim to keep the instant readout below the average readout as much as possible. That way, my overall mileage is continuously improving.
For instance, going uphill, especially on divided highways, I can generally stay under my average reading by applying slightly less pressure on the accelerator. The result is that I may lose a bit of speed, depending on the angle and length of the grade.
While doing this, in the right lane, I am also continually observing other traffic to maintain my savings while avoiding any interruptions to the overall traffic flow or my steady, safe speed.
When I find myself on a highway stretch by myself, I experiment with how much my speed will vary if I use downhill momentum and light acceleration, still under the average readout, to enter an upgrade at a higher speed. This will enable me to drive up the grade, under the average readout, at a slightly greater speed.
Testing like this while driving, probably unnoticed by most other drivers on the road, gives me a better feel for my vehicle to maintain a steadier speed under various traffic conditions. This always leads to better fuel economy and safer, more relaxed trips.
Again, I am careful not to interfere with traffic flow around me and tend to stay in the right lane, except to pass.
Remember that any sudden, hard acceleration and braking are not part of any driving style adopted for better fuel economy.
Practice these driving techniques, and soon your rides will be smooth as silk. Then your friends will be asking you to drive them everywhere. How to deal with that is a topic for another day.