Zionsville — Hypermiling hit its heyday back in 2008 — also the year the term was coined — when gas prices hit $4/gallon during the recession.
As fuel prices climb once more, you may again hear the term and are likely to run across some hypermilers. Some who don’t flinch at $60 fill-ups (my 2004 Ford van has hit more than $80 for its 22 gallons of stimulant) may find hypermilers a bit annoying. But we are just trying to stretch out our mileage.
Hypermilers don’t drive like the average American driver with quick starts and racing speeds. We also don’t come to a screeching halt at stoplights. We do obey all laws, and drive well within AAA recommendations for safe driving. It’s the average American driver who doesn’t.
Hypermiling is a cost-conscious effort as well as a challenging game of Beat My Best MPG or BMBMPG. Everyone can choose their own rules, and there are many options on the web. I have just three basics.
1. No jackrabbit starts. This is hard for me with a V-8 engine that was made before there were such concerns about mileage. Knowing there is power in my minivan, I find it difficult to sit next to a sporty convertible at a red light, knowing I could blow it away… (Yes, I’ve done it in the past). Now I’m guided by more than a quick chuckle at a stoplight. I know that such jack-rabbit starts not only cost me real money each time I race away, but also send a needless surge of toxic emissions into the air for us to breathe.
Instead, I slowly power down on the gas pedal, watching my tachometer. For years, I had no idea what a tachometer was. However, in 2008, someone told me that by watching the tach and my driving habits, I could achieve better mileage. As I accelerate, the tach should not go above two (or 2,000 RPM). This provides slower starts, less gas waste, better mileage. In general, the lower the RPMs at any speed, the less gas is being used.
2. Turtle down to a stop. This action needs forethought. It’s necessary to watch ahead — you should be doing that anyway — for upcoming stops. Estimate when to let off the gas, reducing speed gradually and coast to a stop. This actually is challenging, and inwardly rewarding when timed just right.
3. Don’t idle. At idle speed, you are getting zero/MPG. That can really wreck your average. If you expect to be idling for longer than 10 seconds, turn off your car. This is easy especially in bank and fast food lanes, although I often opt to go in rather than sit in a line of exhaust-belching vehicles. School pick-ups, winter warm-ups, train-crossings and other in-car waits are great opportunities to drop idle speed.
After a few more budget-busting fill-ups, you may decide to try these additional gas-saving techniques.
• Don’t speed. 60 MPH is the most fuel-efficient highway speed.
• Get a tune up; check your air filter.
• Inflate your tires without going over the maximum recommended pressure. Check weekly.
• Use your windows, not the AC.
• Plan your route to avoid stoplights and rush hour. Start-and-stop traffic is a real gas-guzzler.
Consider this: a savings of only 0.1 gallon of gas each day could save you more than $130 per year. That’s worth hypermiling through the village and beyond.
Lynn Jenkins is a Zionsville resident and member of ZIGG, Zionsville Initiative to Go Green. Email her at LJenks@tds.net.