9 Steps to Saving Fuel, Saving Money and Saving the Environment
Hypermiling refers to a collection of driving techniques aimed at improving your car’s fuel efficiency by reducing the demands placed on the engine. Since it’s possible to improve fuel economy by 37% just by changing the way you drive hypermiling is gaining interest in light of high fuel costs. While some hypermiling methods are controversial and potentially dangerous, this article will focus on safer techniques that can still save you gas and money.
1. Drive as if you don’t have brakes. Stopping and starting kills gas mileage. Increase the amount of distance between you and other vehicles, don’t race to red lights or traffic obstructions. Coast as much as possible. On newer cars (Manual Transmission) if the car is in gear and your foot is off the accelerator, the injectors shut off completely, creating FREE mileage at the cost of some minor engine braking. Engaging the clutch and/or putting the car in neutral causes the car to idle, using up gas as opposed to using none. Coast as often as possible, because if you’re smart enough with your coasting, your acceleration won’t even cause a hiccup in your cruising mpg.
This may be frustrating and difficult, however, if other drivers keep cutting in front of you. You should keep your foot ready to use the brake so that if you do need to stop suddenly you can react quickly. If using this technique at night, make sure you have clean headlights and that they are working properly. Obviously, you still need to obey all traffic laws and common sense. For example, you wouldn’t roll through stop signs; the increased risk of a car accident and/or traffic ticket is not worth a few extra cents saved in fuel costs.
2. Be gentle with the accelerator. When you slam down on the gas pedal, it pushes more fuel into the engine, making it run faster (and lowering the fuel economy and increasing your output of pollutants). Push the pedal down slowly, and lift it up as soon as you know you’re going to need to stop (when you see a red light, a stop sign, or brake lights from the car ahead of you) so that you can coast the rest of the way. You should never need to push down the pedal by more than an inch (2.5cm). Some cars are even being designed with pedals that “push back” when you’re accelerating too aggressively!
If you have a choice between various routes, go for the one with the least number of stops; country roads are good because you don’t have to stop (and go) as much and you don’t have to accelerate/brake to get on/off (like with the highway).
If you’re driving on sloped roads, it’s useful to think about where you should come to a full stop because that’ll affect how hard you need to accelerate:
- Fuel efficient vehicles actually generate better gas mileage when a “brisk” acceleration method is used. Acceleration makes for terrible mileage, so get the acceleration out of the way so that you can cruise (excellent mileage!) Slow acceleration will yield less mileage on efficient cars.
- Avoiding stopping on an incline heading upwards. Starting from a dead stop on a hill is the worst scenario in terms of fuel economy. Stop at the top of the hill, or stop before you climb the hill (if it’s safe).
- When coming down a hill and faced with a red light at the bottom (where it levels out), try to stop well before the light so that you can use the remaining downhill slope to your advantage when you need to move again.
3. Avoid idling. Turning off the engine when you stop for more than one minute can improve fuel efficiency by 19%. In cold weather, letting your car idle to warm up reduces fuel economy and creates additional pollution; all you need to do is drive gently for 5-10 minutes and if you’re following the previous two steps, you’re going to be driving gently all the way anyway.
If you have multiple stops in one trip, plan it so that you go to your furthest destination first and make the rest of your stops on your way back. By taking your longest drive at the beginning, you give the car enough time to warm up for the remainder of the trip; if you took the short trips first, your car would take longer to warm up (because of the brevity of each trip). Since engines do not operate efficiently until they are warm, taking your longest drive first increases fuel efficiency.
4. Go slower up hills, and faster downhill. Going uphill slower allows you to use your momentum to help keep your car from using extra gas to get up the hill. If you plan for a hill by going faster you’ll get further up the hill before you need to use extra gas. While going downhill you can go faster using less gas, as such don’t lay off the pedal completely, use it until you’re going a little faster than normal. If you combine the two in areas with small hills you’ll see much higher mileage.
5. Minimize the engine load. Generally, it’s better for your fuel economy if you maintain a steady speed, which is why using cruise control and driving at or below the speed limit is an important part of hypermiling. If you’re driving on a hill or any kind of varied terrain, however, you need to consider how much work the engine is doing. Sometimes, a steady speed means unsteady strain on your engine, which lowers fuel economy. Let’s say you’re approaching a hill. When you go up the hill, you should slow down, or else your engine will have to do extra work to maintain your previous speed. Practice with caution as you may annoy other drivers.
6. Park for easy departure. Instead of searching for the perfect spot close to an entrance (which will involve stop and go driving, especially with pedestrians involved and other drivers pulling in or out of their spots) pull into a spot that’s further away from the entrance. Look for the parking spot with the highest elevation and park face-out so that when you start the car and the engine is cold (at the lowest efficiency) you can use gravity in your favor without having to spin your car around.
7. Check tire pressure regularly. If the tires are incorrectly inflated, then there will be excess drag, or not enough surface contact with the road. The car therefore suffers a drop in efficiency.
8. Reduce the junk in the trunk. The more weight you’re carrying, the more the engine and drive-train have to work. Removing all of that unused junk in the trunk increases efficiency.
9. In a hybrid, Pulse and Glide. If you own a hybrid car, you can increase your mileage by learning to pulse and glide. Pulse and glide is a technique that can dramatically increase your mileage, but is best when you are on a road where there are few other people around.
- “Pulse” or accelerate up to a speed that is the higher end of a range of speeds that are appropriate. Do this using one of the sweet spots for mileage/power ratio on your car. For the prius these spots are ~15mpg and 25mpg, and correspond to times at which the gas engine is powering the car and charging the battery.
- “Glide” between acceleration, but use the accelerator to provide electric assist. This requires knowing how hard to push and in which circumstances, but is very easy to see on the consumption screen. Get used to the maximum electric assist you can use and you’ll go further between pulses, further increasing your mileage.
Many haven’t heard of the term ‘hypermiling’ but have probably practiced some of the tips mentioned above. This shows that you don’t necessarily need a green car to drive green. As a student, I remember trying all sorts of fuel saving tips out of necessity- who wants to spend money on fuel when there are so many other better things to spend it on? Even if saving money is not the primary incentive, reducing fossil fuel usage reduces your carbon emissions and lessens your environmental impact. The same can be said for water- when you save water, you generally save money too. Water Rhapsody has a solution to all your water conservation requirements. See the water systems featured on our product demo and contact us for a FREE quote! We also supply and install JoJo water tanks (we are authorized JoJo dealers in South Africa).