What is Hypermiling?

Hypermiling refers to the practice of squeezing every last possible mile out of a gallon of gas. Judging by the numerous news articles from 2008, when gas prices soared and the economy tanked, the practice became known through Wayne Gerdes, publisher of cleanmpg.com. The movement has its supporters and detractors.

For example, in a 2008 CBC article on hypermiling, OPP Sgt. Cam Woolley said that the OPP had noticed a general decrease in speed since the movement began. However, he realized it wasn’t for safety reasons. “I’m not going to look a gift car in the radiator. The truth is that people are prepared to risk their lives, but not 20 bucks.”

Is Hypermiling Safe?

The practice advocates various driving techniques that help save on gas. Some examples include:

  • keeping speed down
  • accelerating and decelerating slowly
  • avoiding excessive idling

However, not all hypermiling techniques are safe. For example, one technique espoused by some followers is drafting, i.e., driving closely behind a transport truck to take advantage of the vacuum and save on your own fuel.

Unsafe tactics are the reason Postmedia’s David Booth doesn’t like the movement. He wrote in 2013, “You don’t have to dig very deep into the blogosphere to find someone recommending that you shadow that tractor-trailer ahead like you were Dale Earnhardt Jr. drafting Jimmie Johnson on the high banks of Daytona. Never mind that it’s illegal and dangerous (hey, if you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the driver sure-as-shootin’ can’t see you).”

The AAA Explains

The AAA released a statement on hypermiling in the movement’s early days. They said, “These extreme driving behaviors are dangerous, and some are illegal.” The organization recommended that drivers use several safe techniques to save on fuel, like:

  • smooth and easy acceleration and braking
  • a steady speed
  • cruise control where possible
  • continually anticipating changes in traffic conditions

AAA did also acknowledge, though, that the movement’s goals of saving energy and driving more carefully are certainly good.

Hypermiling with Passengers

I once drove with someone years ago who was experimenting with pulsing the gas pedal. This involves accelerating to speed, letting the car decelerate, then accelerating again. The drive was maybe two hours, and by the time we’d arrived at our destination, I had a headache and light nausea. Although I can’t read in cars, I don’t typically get motion sick.

So, if you have passengers and practice hypermiling, please think of us!

General Rule of Thumb: Safety First

The movement isn’t all bad. Some of the techniques do boost your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. However, please put your own safety and that of other drivers first. If you are trying to save money, remember that an accident will cost you more. You risk income loss or reduction, car repairs, increased insurance payments, and possible legal cases. Life needs to come first.

But if you drive sensibly and safely, then incorporating safe hypermiling techniques to help you save a few dollars on gas could well be worth the effort.

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