This space is usually relegated to discussions centered on fried baloney sandwiches, classic TV shows, and the like. But today, I’m venturing into Dear Abby territory.
With apologies to Abby, Heloise, and Anne Landers, here we go.
No one actually wrote me for advice, but let’s pretend they did:
My Toyota Sasquatch isn’t very fuel efficient. My budget no longer allows for driving and buying food. What should I do?
Hungry in Houston
Have you tried hypermiling? It’s a trick you can do with your vehicle that can, in some cases, significantly increase your miles per gallon. It requires no modifications to your car or truck and you can start implementing it immediately. And it’s easy to do.
(and now back to our regularly scheduled column)
If you’ve read this space for any length of time, you probably know that my wife and I were early adopters of hybrid cars and electric vehicles.
Before you go thinking that we are leftover hippies, let me explain that we live out in the country and I’m a cheapskate. I was raised by family who lived through the Depression. If you can save a buck, you do it.
When hybrid cars (vehicles that have both a gasoline engine and a battery system) first came out, I was amazed to learn that they could get 50 to 60 miles per gallon. Our vehicle at the time got about 16, so the thought of more than doubling our fuel efficiency meant we keep more of our money.
So we bought a Toyota Prius.
A few years after we purchased it, fuel went to $4 per gallon (sound familiar). We were still getting great mileage, but now I wanted to improve it even more.
Then one day I read an article in the paper about hypermiling. A man named Baber had manipulated his Prius and reached 120 mpg.
I read on.
Mr. Baber explained that by keeping the engine’s rpm’s under 1500, fuel efficiency doubled.
So, how do you accomplish that? A number of steps help.
First, remove any items you don’t need in the vehicle. Added weight requires more fuel to haul it. So toss out anything that isn’t necessary. This may or may not include a cousin or other relative.
Next, and this seems like common sense, slow down. Racing from one red light to the next does not get you there any faster and it burns a lot of gas.
Slow down when you leave an intersection, take your time to reach your desired speed, and coast instead of riding your brakes.
You use more fuel if you come to a stop because the engine has to burn more fuel to get the entire weight of the vehicle moving again. The goal is to coast as much as possible between lights so that you can hit as many of them when they are green as possible.
You can do this fairly easily by eyeing ahead and reading the movement of the cars so that you can coast instead of stopping.
It helps if you have a manual transmission, but one isn’t required. A stick shift provides the ability to use neutral as a coasting mechanism.
Few people have a manual these days, so don’t use neutral in an automatic transmission. You can damage it.
Hypermiling works in town and on the highway. We may not have liked Nixon, but he was onto something with the 55mph speed limit. For every 10 mph you increase your speed, your mileage drops significantly.
If you go 55 on the highway, your outcome is far better. That is if you don’t use cruise control.
Cruise control is not efficient. When your vehicle sees you aren’t going exactly the speed you set, the motor is constantly racing to maintain it. To hypermile, you need to lightly manage the gas pedal to keep your RPMs down and your speed consistent.
Keep in mind that if you’re driving slower than other traffic, stay in the right lane.
Another tip some hypermilers follow is to find a tractor trailer rig and ride a safe distance behind them so that they are piercing the wind for you and your vehicle isn’t driving head on into it.
I have tried this and it does seem to work to a degree, but you should not follow too closely for safety reasons. You can’t see other vehicles very well, and if the truck suddenly stops, well, you get the idea.
I personally have hypermiled for years, and have achieved over 60 mpg in our hybrid. I also achieve excellent results in our electric car.
Look, new technology is a good thing. In the early 20th century, New York City was filled with electric cars and charging stations. There was competition between electric and combustion motors. Gasoline engines won because the infrastructure for fueling came into place when America found lots of oil.
We still have lots of oil. And regardless of whether you choose gasoline or electric, what’s wrong with beating the system a bit by hypermiling?
It works. Believe the hype.
©2022 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.