2011.10.12 Those annoying hypermilers

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I saved some gasoline today.

I drove to Fayette to take a photograph and got stuck behind someone doing about 52 miles an hour. I was in no hurry so I relaxed and puttered along.

Puttered? I know, it was only 3 miles an hour below the speed limit, but who obeys the speed limit? Everyone knows that if the sign reads 55, you’re “allowed” to go 60.

I was experimenting with hypermiling. I don’t mean the form of hypermiling that requires driving 20 feet in back of a semi. That’s definitely not for me.

This was the gentler form of the practice. Slower starts. Slower stops. Sticking to a speed that gives good milage. The goal is to obtain more miles per gallon than your vehicle’s EPA fuel economy rating.

Hypermilist Rance Russo figures that if everyone improved fuel efficiency by just two miles a gallon, the gasoline saved annually would be equivalent to 11 billion gallons, and that’s about what we Americans consume every month.

I know I’m getting better milage if I drive 55 instead of 60. I suppose it would be better yet if I drove 50. I’m not sure what speed gives the optimum fuel efficiency with my old beater Chevy Venture van. It’s traveled over 210,000 miles now and still performs well.

I drove south along County Road 23 Saturday morning—a stretch where I’m known for pushing the limit in order to show up at a village council meeting on time. This time I tapped the brake early before I came to the stop sign at County Road T. There was no one behind me to annoy.

When I reached U.S. 20, I pulled out  slowly since there was no semi barreling down the road. On my return trip, I entered U.S. 20 a little slower and obeyed the speed limit going out of town.

I was soon doing 60 until I realized the speed. It was a rare time on U.S. 20. There was no one behind me and I kept slowing down until I was crawling along at 52 mph, all the way back to the turn-off at County Road 19. 

I kept up the slow-down all the way to Morenci. It was nice. It felt leisurely.

News Flash! I just experienced the opposite of hypermiling. It was just plain old hyper, without the miling attached. I stopped in the Observer this morning before going to Fayette and dropped off my notes from the football game, along with notes from talking to Coach Wallace.

A few minutes later I noticed they were no longer on the front counter. I looked and looked before concluding that Mailman Mark accidentally took them when he stopped by with the mail.

Off I hurried to the west end of town—the far reaches of City Route 2. I was not driving efficiently. It was closer to frantically. And Mark was nowhere in sight.

I finally tracked him down just two blocks from the office. I’d forgotten that Route 2 includes some stops in this neighborhood before moving west. Mark didn’t have my notes and I returned feeling a little dejected, especially after I searched once again all the likely locations.

Then it came to me. I grabbed all the stuffings from the Tecumseh Herald that Mark delivered and introduced them to the recycling box. There were my notes on the bottom, so I’m going to blame the Herald for that waste of gas. It’s preferable to blaming myself.

Hypermilists want you to begin saving fuel by checking your tire pressure and having your oil changed on schedule. On the road, slow down and go the speed limit. Anticipate changes in traffic to avoid heavy braking, because what follows is using more gas to get back up to speed. Quick starts rob you of MPGs, as does the air conditioner. If you really want to get annoying, drive as if you have no brakes.

I’ve used the word “annoying” in connection with “hypermiler” because I suppose that’s how they’re viewed. For years, before I knew about hypermiling, if I saw a green light changing up ahead, I slowed down. There’s no reason to get there fast, step on the brakes, then gas it again. But that’s brought some dirty looks and some pretty tight tailgating, too.

Join me as we roll under the stoplight that just turned green. We can all be hyperannoying,

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