Friday, May 30, 2008


As gas approaches a national average of $4 per gallon, everyone is looking for ways to reduce fuel costs. The most obvious solution is to purchase a more efficient car, possibly a hybrid. But if you have to buy a new car to achieve greater fuel economy, are you really saving any money? Probably not. Hybrids ain't cheap and trading in one car for another is almost always a big money loser (and often counter-productive).

So what to do? How about fixing the way you drive right now and saving just as much gas as you would by switching to a hybrid? You need to try hypermiling. Hypermiling is pretty simple actually. The gist of the concept is that you should change the way you drive to be more efficient. Accelerate more slowly. Use your brakes less. Try to avoid red lights. And most importantly, track your fuel economy so you can see how you're doing! According to CNN, if you follow the basic steps outlined at, you can increase your gas mileage by 35 percent. If you get really serious, you can be like this guy and get 70 mpg out of your Honda Civic (OK, that requires a bit of body work as well)!

One really cool side benefit of hypermiling, is that some of the techniques can actually reduce traffic congestion, helping everyone on the road, not just you. If that sounds preposterous, check out this paper on reducing "traffic waves" by maintaining a generous gap with the cars in front of you. If you keep at least a two-second gap, you can greatly reduce the number of times you have to quickly brake. Each time you brake in traffic, you force the car behind you to brake as well, and the car behind them, etc. Every time that happens, it compresses traffic at that spot, making a small, compressed "wave" in the flow of cars. If you instead cruise along with a buffer in front of you, you can ignore some of the annoying little stops that you normally encounter in heavy traffic. If you don't have to brake, then neither do the cars behind you - suddenly that "wave" of slowed (or stopped) cars goes away. Just one car can make a huge difference. Read the article to get a clearer picture, because it can be a bit difficult to describe.

1 comment:

uncleham said...

So maybe you're not a physics whiz like I happen to know the author of this post is? You can convince yourself of the inefficiency in over-braking on your favorite mountain bike trail.

Pack an extra Nalgene of water and an extra bag of beef jerky, and try being really sloppy with your acceleration & braking on your next trip. Prepare for the bonk! The difference between actually thinking about your acceleration and braking versus not doing so is staggering.