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Old 11-01-2008, 12:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Another Hypermilling article, but I'm quoted in it!

The Low-Carbon Diet - San Diego Magazine - September 2008 - San Diego, California

The Low-Carbon Diet
Hypermilers take fuel efficiency to the limit
Leslie Church
Next time you’re driving down the freeway, if you happen to whiz by another car that’s moving slower than the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, don’t just assume the driver is some clueless out-of-towner. He or she may be a hypermiler, and when you're stopped at the gas station to fill up, they’ll coast by with gallons to spare.

Hypermiling is a new term coined on an old idea — one that was popular during gas shortages in the past. It describes drivers who get the most out of their tanks, using techniques that help them stretch each gallon of gas to more than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems the most fuel-efficient.

Recently the hypermiler label has taken on a negative connotation, with media sources showcasing drivers such as Wayne Gerdes, one of the faces of hypermiling who uses extreme and sometimes hazardous techniques to get 59 miles per gallon out of a Honda Accord.

These extreme hypermilers are like The Fast and the Furious of the fuel economy world, utilizing whatever means necessary, short of hopping on a bike, to burn the least amount of gas possible.

They’ll drive 50 mph on the highway or tailgate a big rig truck to reduce wind resistance. Braking is the enemy and is avoided at all costs, be it by rolling through stop signs and around turns, or coasting down a hill with the engine off, right foot resting merrily on the floor next to the pedals.

Such attention prompted the American Automobile Association (AAA) to issue a press release defining what practices are safe and reasonable for optimal gas mileage, and which are downright dangerous. Unfortunately for hypermilers, this only reinforced the bad rep they were getting.

Not all hypermilers trade safety for fuel efficiency; some have found a healthy balance right here in San Diego. With a 41-mile commute from Poway to Julian and back for work, Roger Covalt drives over a lot of hills in his Honda Civic. Yet coasting with the engine off is not an option, he says, because he would lose his power steering and power brakes. Instead, Covalt has mastered the art of cresting a hill at just the right speed so he can cruise down it without touching the brakes. Less braking means less accelerating at the bottom of the hill, and less gas being drained from the tank.

It took about a month for Covalt to achieve just the right speed at the top of each hill; 35 miles per hour was too fast, but 25 was too slow. In the process, he has received plenty of shaken fists and a few middle fingers from other drivers.

“I know I annoy drivers,” he admits. Oftentimes down the road at a red light, however, a driver will ask Covalt why on earth he was driving so slow. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m trying to get as many miles per gallon as possible.’ And they say, ‘Oh, good job,’ after they know what I’m doing.”

Using common sense about upcoming traffic lights is a gas saver as well. “Planning traffic ahead of you means avoiding having to stop at traffic lights,” says Benjamin Jones, co-founder of the fuel-saving forum ecomodder.com. “A lot of it is about knowing what’s going on and anticipating.”

Covalt even takes a cue from Olympic swimmers: By keeping his car squeaky clean, he claims to cut down on wind resistance just as a sleek body suit eliminates water drag in the pool. He takes a dust rag to his Civic once a week.

One tool that hypermilers swear by is the ScanGauge, a device that allows drivers to track their fuel consumption at any moment on the road. When it’s shown in plain sight just how much gas pedal-to-the-metal driving wastes, feet tend to get a bit lighter. For many it becomes a daily game, trying to beat their mpg from the previous day’s drive. Covalt rejoiced recently when he passed the 42 mpg mark — while the EPA estimates his car would get 36 mpg with careful driving. The challenge provides what he terms “psychic rewards.”

Other benefits of hypermiling include less road rage. Dino Tsimboukakis of San Diego averages 51 mpg in his Toyota Prius, and has a relaxing drive to his destination once he’s planned out the trip that takes the least amount of fuel. It’s not unusual to have a truck tailgate his bumper and then switch lanes after honking the horn a few times. Tsimboukakis doesn’t let the rage get to him, though. He used to be that guy, flying down the highway in his V-8 truck.

“I’ve kind of brushed off the aggressive drivers,” he says. “It’s funny how attitudes change. You don’t get as angry. It’s more relaxed.”

The hybrid convert also aims to keep his tires at the maximum recommended pressure to cut down on rolling resistance on the road. According to AAA’s Automobile Club of Southern California, proper tire inflation can improve fuel economy by 2 to 3 percent. Keeping the car well-maintained is equally important.

While it may not seem like much, the little things do add up. Another tip is to fill up the tank in the morning when the ground temperature is coolest and gas is the densest. Also, common sense will tell you that lugging around unneeded items in your trunk will weigh down the car and drag down the mpg.

Hypermiling the safe way is all about being a conscious driver — one who doesn’t use jackrabbit starts when the light turns green and who considers the speed limit to be an actual boundary. You might have to get a thick skin to ignore the other road-raging drivers, but just remember that when you see them at the gas station, they’ll be sighing at the pump while you’re just grabbing a soda.

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Old 11-01-2008, 12:41 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Good to see some positives for hypermiling being published. Congrats on being mentioned.

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