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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gas Saving Tips: Hypermiling Part 1

I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you something extraordinary that can literally double your car's fuel economy, blowing away the EPA mpg ratings. What is it and how much will it cost, right? Well, it's called hypermiling and the techniques are actually free. Just to get started, here's the video that ultimately led me to investigate just what this hypermiling thing was all about:

Now lest you think I'm crazy, I'm not some advanced guru on the subject like this guy. He's the nuclear engineer who came up with the idea. Me? I'm just you're average Joe trying to make sense of the rising fuel costs and figure out any way I can to combat the effect on my bottom line.

The problem actually started about two months ago. As a matter of routine inspection, we randomly check our mpg on our main vehicle every once in a while. The vehicle is a 1996 Mercury Villager with over 160,000 miles on it. It's not in bad shape, but it's not in the best shape either. Well, when we purchased the van used, we were getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 mpg, which was right on the mark for the EPA ratings, surprisingly. After a few years and adding over 70,000 of our own miles ... we were getting roughly 12 mpg. Yes, that's right, 12 mpg. I about freaked out, to be honest.

So, I did a complete maintenance overhaul, otherwise known as a tune-up. Turned out that the spark plugs and wires were in pretty bad shape, not to mention the distributor cap than had a broken center pin in it! After it was all said and done, and I replaced the air filter as well, ... we tested again. I spent roughly $100 on the tune-up (but keep in mind, this should be a regular maintenance item anyway) and we were coming in at an average of 18 mpg. An improvement to be sure, and still in range of the EPA rating, but I had been hoping for more. That's when I saw the CNN video with Wayne Gerdes. Talk about inspiring!!!

So I did it. I took the hypermiling plunge and ate the blue pill (or was is the red one - I can never keep it straight). I utilized three or four of the basic techniques that I found on Gerdes' website today and took a trip to pick up some stuff from a Freecycle contact. Since the merchandise was free, I figured it was a steal even though the round trip would be close to 100 miles. So I filled up the tank before I left and set out with a rugged determination to hypermile my rear off!!! Just for the record, our in-town driving prior to this trip (as measured when I topped off) was averaging just over 13 mpg ... pretty crappy to be sure.

So I completed the trip and the detour to top back off when I came back. It took a little longer to be sure, as one of the tips has to do with adjusting and modifying your maximum speed. However, it only added about 10 minutes to each end of a 1 hour trip, so I didn't think that was too bad. The key would be did it help my fuel economy any? Well, the total trip was just over 96 miles, and when I topped off again I put less than 2 gallons of gasoline back into the van. OPEC hates me now, I'm sure of it. But the calculations revealed that I had hypermiled my way to 51 mpg in a 12 year old gas-guzzling mini-van!!! I know it sounds incredible, but it is true!

I'm going to scan in my gas receipts so you can see for yourselves and I will also detail exactly the top three things that I did to get such incredible results. Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are ... but as fantastic as it sounds, it is true!

Stay tuned for part 2!

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