The Crazy Sport of Hypermiling

There’s a new sport sweeping the globe. It requires nerves of steel, mind-boggling strategy, extremely precise timing, and an eagerness to expose yourself to dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations.

It’s called hypermiling. The goal is to maximize your gas mileage in your vehicle and/or to travel the longest possible distance on a single tank of gas. Which… come to think of it, sounds a lot like trying to drive like a little old lady.

But in reality, serious hypermiling incorporates some very strange (and even perilous) driving habits in order to achieve your goals. Here are some tactics used by competitive hypermilers:

  • Taking all excess weight out of the car – including passenger seats
  • Driving with two wheels on the painted stripe on one side of the road (to decrease tire friction with the asphalt)
  • Pretending to have weak or no brakes, and altering driving behavior accordingly by increasing following distance and coasting up to stoplights
  • Overinflating tires by as much as 50% higher (or more) than recommended levels to lower tire resistance on the roadway
  • Repeatedly “pulsing and gliding”- accelerating to five to ten miles per hour above their target speed, then turning off the engine and coasting until they drop about five or ten mph below their target speed
  • Driving in the slipstream of 18-wheelers to increase “draft” – and sometimes even shutting off the engine while doing so

So what kind of results to hard-core hypermilers get?

Well, like many sports (such as track and field, swimming, or gymnastics), there are different categories of hypermiling. Helen and John Taylor are in the Guinness Book of World Records under “highest mileage for a journey” for traveling over 9,000 miles while circumnavigating their native Australia – at an average of an astonishing 75.6 miles per gallon! The Taylors also hold the mark for “longest distance traveled on a tank of gas” after they filled up their 15.3 gallon tank and traveled an amazing 1,192 miles! What’s even more incredible is that they set these world records in their unmodified, non-hybrid Peugeot 308 HDi 110 (which runs on diesel fuel) – which, by the way, is not available in North America.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: can I still improve my own gas mileage numbers by hypermiling without engaging in some of these extreme techniques?

Heck, yeah! Here are some hypermiling tactics you can use in your everyday driving:

  1. Don’t speed. Stay at or below the speed limit.
  2. Brake and accelerate gradually and smoothly.
  3. Don’t make numerous short trips. Combine them into one trip with several stops instead.
  4. Keep your trunk empty (or as empty as possible).
  5. Never idle if you can help it. If you have a fuel-injected vehicle, turn off your engine if you think you will be idling for as little as seven seconds.
  6. Don’t use four-wheel drive unless absolutely necessary.
  7. Keep your tires properly inflated at all times (and always err on the side of “too full”).
  8. Keep your vehicle properly maintained.
  9. Avoid journeys with hills or frequently ascending and descending roads whenever possible.
  10. Scan the road ahead for conditions which might slow your momentum and decrease your gas mileage.

It remains to be seen whether hypermiling will catch on as a sport in the U.S. But it’s safe to say that taking steps to improve gas mileage (and thus save money) will never go out of style. Who knows – maybe we’ll one day see hypermiling become an Olympic sport!

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Hey, if rhythmic gymnastics made the cut, anything is possible.

Image credits: funz.eu, chestercountyrants.wordpress.com, topnews.ae.

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