Hypermiling: The art of increasing car mileage to save fuel

This is the best time for you to learn the art of hypermiling and improve mileage to save fuel as fuel prices go through the roof.
Hypermiling to save fuel and improve mileage and fuel economy of the car

Having just got a new car that drinks petrol like there is no tomorrow, I was searching for ways to improve mileage. That search bought me to the concept of Hypermiling. Hypermiling is quite simply the process of driving as efficiently as possible in order to save fuel. It is about getting the maximum miles out of a tank of fuel.

With fuel prices shooting for the stars, now is a good time for you to pick up the hypermiling technique and improve your driving, car handling skills and overall fuel efficiency of your car. And, in my opinion, fuel prices wont come down much as it play’s beautifully into the government’s agenda of pushing electric vehicles.

Before I get into the detail about how to save money by modifying the way you drive, I should note two important matters at the outset. The first is that the best way of using less fuel is to drive your car less :P. Specially in densely populated countries such as India, where traffic can get really out of hand, hypermiling is only an alternate solution. Living close to work, riding your bike or using public transport are the best ways of lowering your gas bill.

The second is that the type of car you drive will largely determine how far you can go on a tank of gas. This does not mean that it is frugal to go out and buy an expensive new car because it’s more economical than your current carRarely will that be a good move.

It also means that the tips below are more important if you drive a gas-guzzler, not less. If you drive a gas inefficient car, then you stand to gain more by driving sensibly, but at some point you’ll be limited by your car, not the way you drive.

Some people suggest pretty crazy ideas in the search for kilometers per liter, like tailgating and other dangerous ideas. It should be pretty obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: Staying safe is the most frugal way to drive, even if it costs a bit more in the short term. Avoiding hospitalization or long term injury is frugal. Getting home safely is more important than those additional kilometers, so if you’re looking for ‘extreme hypermiling’ look somewhere else.

The best hypermiling techniques

I’ve done a fair bit of research into this, and hopefully I’ll save you scouting around a number of other sources – here are the best tips to increase your mileage:

Utilize the fuel economy gauge

If you are driving one of the newer cars that has the fuel economy indicator then that is your best friend when using hypermiling technique. Here is a picture of the fuel economy from my Kia Sonnet.

The fuel economy gauge helps you work out what is the most efficient cruising speed for your car, and it also provides feedback in real-time so you can drive as efficiently as possible.

The fuel economy indicator will show you the best speed to maintain in order to minimize fuel consumption and maximize fuel mileage. Driving within the speed limit indicated and coasting will help a lot towards hypermiling.

If your car does not have a fuel economy gauge then you can speak with your mechanic to see if you can get one installed at an additional cost. Most cars that were built post 2000 support this.

Coast rather than using your brakes

If you have your foot on the accelerator right up until you have to brake to go around a corner or a speed bump, you are wasting precious momentum (read fuel) that you built up whilst accelerating.

Think of it like this, every time you press the accelerator, your car drinks some fuel and moves faster, so if you accelerate hard and break at the last moment, then all the fuel consumed to reach that momentum will be lost.

It is much more efficient to get off the gas pedal far enough before a corner or a bump, so you don’t have to brake. The more time you spend with your foot off the accelerator the better. This is one of the best hypermiling tips that you can employ. With some practice, this will become your driving style and part of your normal driving.

The ultimate example is people who speed up very quickly between lights, even if they know it’s a red light coming up. Let the car coast as much as possible. It’s also good for saving your brake pads from unnecessary wear. Don’t take it to the extreme obviously, brake if you need to stay safe!

Use kinetic energy to your advantage

This is similar to the hypermiling tip about coasting – where possible, try to maintain your momentum while driving. If you are driving over rolling hills, speed up slightly on the way down the hill to make use of the natural ‘free’ speed, and slow down as you near the peak of the hill.

This is another one that can be added into your driving habits so over time this is your driving style and helps increase fuel savings.

Make sure tires are inflated

This can make a considerable difference to your rolling resistance. Make sure they are inflated to the factory recommendations at all times. Maintaining correct tire pressure will also improve the life-span of your tires as well.

New cars these days come with an inbuilt TPMS(Tire pressure monitoring system). See my car’s pic below. If you don’t have one, you can spend 500 to 600 bucks to buy a tire pressure gauge from Amazon. Or even better, if you can shell out a bit more, consider buying the Amazon Basics tire inflator that can help you check the tire pressure and also inflate, instead of taking your car to the station every time.

Use cruise control

If your car has cruise control, use it and learn to use it well. Contrary to popular belief, cruise control does not take up more fuel. In fact it improves fuel consumption.

Your car will be better then you are at regulating your vehicle speed. This will stop you creeping up in speed without realising it. Once you work out the optimum speed for cruising, set your car to that speed to make sure you sit at the best speed for as long as possible without deviation.

Be careful though as an automatic car, cruising automatically will mean you have no work at the pedal or managing gears, so it can make you loose focus and bored. Be alert.

Aerodynamic drag and hypermiling

Remove unnecessary weight

The more weight you carry, the more fuel you’re having to burn to travel the same distance. Remove any unnecessary weight in your car – if you’re storing something in your boot because you’re too lazy to take it out, do it now!

This applys to both hybrid vehicle and electric vehicle too.

Remove roof racks

They ruin the aerodynamic performance of your car and cause a lot of drag. If you can do without one, then try to remove it and use it only when you need it.

The aerodynamic drag caused by the roof rack and other additional protrusions mean your car needs to burn more fuel to go forward.

Roll up your windows

This reduces your drag and will help with your aerodynamic and hypermiling performance. Open windows allow wind from opposite direction to push against your car, putting up more force for your car to move forward and higher speed. This means, your car needs to use up more fuel to move forward than necessary to over come this resistance.

Few other hypermiling tips

Optimize your route

Planning ahead can help you avoid unnecessary city driving, and to make sure you take the shortest route possible. Avoid idling at all costs, it’s a killer when it comes to fuel economy.

Highways over city traffic

If you have a choice where you need to drive a few kilometers extra on the highway vs spend more time in the city traffic, choose the highway. The additional kms is not going to be difficult. But the idling time and time spent in bumper to bumper traffic is going to cost you more in terms of fuel consumption.

Turn off car if stationary for more than 30 seconds

Provided you have a very reliable car, it’s normally more efficient to turn your car off if you are going to be idling for more than 30 seconds.

Turn off AC

Some cars lose up to 10% efficiency by using air conditioning. If it’s not too hot, make sure it’s off, and just use your cars fans. Some people who live for hypermiling take things to an extreme use just the fans and carry a spray bottle of water to spray their face to keep cool. Personally, I just reduce my use of AC as much as possible.

Accelerate slowly

There is no need to speed up quickly, all it does it burn fuel unnecessarily. A decent guide is to try to only use the first inch of your accelerator where possible.

Driving mode

Higher end cars come with multiple driving modes. If given a choice, chose the Eco mode as that is best tuned to deliver better fuel economy and milage. On the other hand, Sport mode is the opposite that is tuned to give better speed and performance in exchange for more fuel.

Think I’ve missed something? Let me know in the comments below. What are some of your hypermiling tips?

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Abhi is a 29 yr old Indian, on FIRE to retire by 40. He has been investing and learning Finance for the past 12 years. After completing Mechanical engineering, he started working in a multi-national Bank and grew to become an AVP. Currently with an IT MNC as a VP. He lives in Bangalore with his wife and their 1 year old daughter. In his free time, Abhi loves to game on the Xbox, watch movies, read and blog.

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