One of the most popular programs on the Discovery Channel is a show called MythBusters featuring two FX/scientist/nerd type dudes that put myths, mostly urban, to the test to see if they hold up. On a recent show they decided to try and bust the myth that ‘hypermiling’ could double a car’s fuel economy. (Hypermiling is a technique that some people use to get the most miles out of a tank of gas.)
To test their theory they used two cars, one a newer sedan and the other an older coupe, and drove them on 3 gallons of gas to see exactly how far that they can go. They then used hypermiling techniques to do the same thing and to see what would happen.
At the end of the show what they found was very interesting. The newer car was able to get 30 miles more using hypermiling techniques, an improvement over 21.3 mpg. The older car went up a surprising 70% further, increasing its mpg from 26 to almost 46. While technically the hypermiling myth was busted, the fact remains that a 70% increase in fuel economy is pretty darned impressive.
The driving techniques and the car modifications that they made were all legal in California (that’s where the show was shot) meaning that they will probably be legal for most people in other states as well. Of course, checking with your state to make sure would probably be a good idea.
In any case, below are some of the hypermiling tips and tricks that they used and that you can use also if you’d like to improve the mpg of your own car. Keep in mind that these are the techniques and tactics that the folks on MythBusters used and that we’re not exactly espousing any of them.
First, never drive over 45 mph. This includes while you’re on the highway as well and, even though you might make a few enemies while doing it, you’ll definitely use a lot less fuel.
As anything that sticks out or off of your car creates wind resistance, removing the passenger side mirror as well as roof racks or anything else that creates drag will increase your mileage and decrease your gas usage.
At the foundation of hypermiling is the notion that you should practically avoid braking at all costs and avoid rapid acceleration the same way. This means that you’re going to be driving slower, breaking glass and looking as far ahead as possible so that you’ll know exactly what’s coming,
On MythBusters, every time they were at a stop they turned off the car’s engine. This certainly helped to lower the amount of gas they were using per gallon but, in real life, may cause people to become ‘frustrated’ with you, to say the least.
They also kept the windows completely up to reduce drag and turned the A/C off. While this may work in some states, in other states like Nevada, Texas and Florida it’s probably a bit too hot to do this.
Not long ago MythBusters tested the myth about angry drivers using more gas. Their results said yes and it’s become part of hypermiling lore. People who drive angry or stressed usually drive faster and more recklessly, two things that will use more gas. Relaxing and taking if you deep breaths is probably a better solution.
Drafting, the technique of driving closely behind a bigger vehicle like a van or truck, has also been found to lower your car’s gas consumption. Of course, it can also be a little dangerous and some hypermiling advocates think it should be avoided.
The same can be said for over-inflating your tires by 10%. While you may get a little bit better gas mileage, the fact is that tires are one of the most expensive parts to replace on a car. The savings that you may receive from over inflating them will more than likely not be enough to cover the damage that you’re doing and the cost of a new set of 4.
Finally, they reduced the weight in both cars on the show to practically nothing besides the driver. If any of the techniques are a surefire way to lower gas consumption, reducing the weight in your car as much as possible is definitely it. Get rid of maps, golf clubs, half full gallons of washing fluid and anything else that you don’t need while on the road.
At the end of the day some of these techniques may be quite practical and some not. Removing your side view mirror, drafting behind a huge truck and over-inflating your tires may actually be dangerous enough that you shouldn’t consider them. All of the other techniques are definitely worth a try however, and with gasoline averaging $4.00 a gallon nationwide, today may be a good day to start.