What is hypermiling and how can it save you money?

Sean Tucker

Turn to this weird driver subculture and find ways to use less gas or extend the range of your EVs

Millions of Americans run to stay in shape, but a relatively small number of ultramarathon runners run more than 100 miles in the race. Extreme athletes show us what’s possible, even if we never expected to match it. Knowing what they can do helps us push ourselves into new possibilities.

With that in mind, we want you to know that there was once a pair of drivers driving a car certified to do 31 mpg on the freeway at an average of 81.17 mpg across all 48 adjacent states.

There is a subculture of drivers who compete to see who can go the furthest on a gallon of gas. They’re called super runners, and 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.

Just as weekend runners learn from ultramarathon runners, you probably won’t decide to adopt every trick in the ultrarunner’s book in your daily life. But when gas prices hit record highs like they did in the spring of 2022, it might make you think like a superhero.

Here are some techniques learned from the world of speeding that can cost you a fortune. These techniques assume you’re driving a car with a gasoline engine, although some can also help you extend the range of an EV’s battery.

1. Goals?keep moving

Off the highway, most speeders are learning to time traffic lights. The engine uses the least amount of gas while maintaining a constant speed. So the goal is not to have to slow down and speed up again. That means timed lights. Practice your usual driving, with the goal of finding a speed that allows you to hit the lights when most of the lights are green. Never accelerate towards a red light – there is no reason to stop sooner. The hypermiler’s biggest enemy is “stale green” – a light that’s been green for a while, so they don’t know if they’ll be able to glide through it.

2. Coasting

When you’re on a bike, you don’t run to a parking space and slam on the brakes. This is a waste of energy. So why do the same thing in your car? Lift your foot off the throttle and drift before the desired stopping point, gradually losing speed. The hypermiler’s goal is to “drive without brakes” – getting to a destination without hitting the brake pedal, always maintaining momentum, so they never have to burn more gas to regain momentum.

Related: Save on gas with these 6 apps

3. Never settle for zero mpg

Hypermilers don’t sit idle. If sitting at a red light, they will turn off the engine. Yes, that could mean restarting the car multiple times in a single drive. It’s ok. Today’s beginners don’t wear out from overuse like the previous generation. Some vehicles even have a start and stop function from the factory that can do this for you. Some drivers find it annoying and turn it off. You may want to keep that feature even with gas prices under $4.

4. Consider wind resistance

Some supercars have their car bodies modified. For example, a smooth panel covering the rear wheel reduces drag. You don’t have to go that far. But removing the roof rack allows your car to glide through the air more efficiently.

5. Keep the engine warm

The engine is least efficient when it is cold. Turning them on to warm them up before driving will cause the gas to go nowhere, which is counterproductive. However, parking indoors as much as possible helps keep the engine from getting too cold between trips. Many super drivers want to combine travel when they drive. They’ll get to the farthest stop on the list first, let the engine warm up, and then do other things on the way back, keeping stops as short as possible to prevent cooling.

6. Think of electricity as gas

All those gadgets that use electricity, even in gasoline-powered cars, add power to the engine. Some are used very little. Listening to the radio has little noticeable effect on mpg. Some people use a lot – turning off the air conditioner can save a lot of gas.

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

7. Plan your route and avoid bumps

Nothing robs your car of power like a pothole. Even small bumps in the road can convert forward motion into useless vibrations. Try to stay on the flattest part of the driveway. Some speeders even deliberately drive on painted lines to minimize drag, but this may be illegal.

8. The pursuit of gravity

Google (GOOGL) Maps has a great tool to help you save some gas. When it offers you multiple routes to your destination, it marks the most fuel-efficient option with a leaf icon. The system does this using the number of traffic lights and changes in elevation, giving you as much downhill as possible. Some super runners even shut down their engines when coasting downhill. If you try this, be aware that this also deactivates the power steering, requiring more effort to drive the car with the engine off.

9. Efficient setup with automatic transmission

Most automatic transmissions are tuned to shift in the middle of their powerband at the most aesthetically pleasing moment. But many people have exercise environments, which make them more active to transform, as well as ecological environments, where time shifts are most effective.

10. Consider the humble gear lever

Better yet, change yourself. Many super riders swear by a manual transmission and upshifting as quickly as possible (around 2,500 rpm in most engines) for maximum efficiency.

MORE: These are the last luxury cars with gear sticks left

11. Obey the speed limit

Most cars reach peak efficiency at around 60 miles per hour. Every 5 mph over 60 miles can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency by 10%.

See: More ways to save on gas, some of which you might not like

12. Park strategically

Some super runners use what they call a “potential parking spot” — park the car at the top of the parking lot so you can use downhill momentum to help you get started. In a clearing, never reverse. Go straight into the parking space and go straight out – it requires less use of the right pedal and therefore less gas.

Also read: More young middle-class Americans flock to dollar stores to escape record high inflation

13. Take care of your car

Large engine problems, such as a damaged oxygen sensor, can reduce engine efficiency by 40%. But even smaller problems — like old, thicker oil — can keep an engine from reaching peak efficiency. Hypermilers are obsessed with maintenance. Use our service and repair guide to find dealers and repair shops to keep your car in top working condition.

14. Track your mpg

What mpg are you getting now? You don’t know, do you? Most drivers don’t. If you want to start being more productive, you need to figure out how productive you are now. Many modern vehicles display your fuel economy, or you can use an app on your phone, such as Fuelly or FuelLog in the Apple (AAPL) app store and Google Play store.

This story originally ran on KBB.com.


(End) Dow Jones Newswires

09-12-22 0502ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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