Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: Going the Distance on a Gallon of Gas
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It’s Easy Being Green: Going the Distance on a Gallon of Gas

The Oxford University Press goes green by selecting “hypermiling” as its word of the year. But just what is this practice?

A miles per gallon meter is an essential tool for hypermilers who want to know just how many miles they can go on a gallon of gas. (Flickr/tango_28)
A miles per gallon meter is an essential tool for hypermilers who want to know just how many miles they can go on a gallon of gas. (Flickr/tango_28)

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Is last year’s locavore this year’s hypermiler? The Oxford University Press certainly thinks so.

The dictionary publisher this week named “hypermiling” the word of the year for 2008 (locavore—or one who eats food grown within a 100-mile radius—won top honors for in 2007). The word refers to the practice of maximizing gas mileage through fuel-conservation and efficiency adjustments.

Hypermiling received a lot of attention this summer, when gas prices topped $4 per gallon and then-candidate Barack Obama suggested fully inflating tires as an energy conservation tactic. Hypermiling measures like this are no joke. Edmunds.com, a website for car buyers, claimed in 2005 that drivers could improve fuel economy by up to 37 percent simply by changing driving habits and making small vehicle adjustments according to the website’s tips.

The most advanced hypermilers, such as Wayne Gerdes, who coined the word and is the self-styled “most fuel-efficient driver on the planet,” increase their mileage with riskier techniques that may even be illegal in some places. For example, turning off the engine and drafting behind trucks to reduce air resistance, making so-called “death turns” at high speed, and driving without brakes (DWB in hypermiler parlance), all increase FE—that’s fuel economy.

Gerdes also coasts out of his driveway in neutral, parks in the highest spot in the parking lot, and always tries to park where he can face forward, driving directly into and out of a spot. He claims to get between 50 and 55 miles per gallon in his Honda Accord on a regular basis.

But you don’t have to be as dedicated as Gerdes to save money and gas by making small tweaks to your driving.

Edmunds.com’s tested tips include such suggestions as “Stop driving like a maniac” and “Drive the speed limit.” Moderate driving by accelerating slowly and braking long and easy is the most effective way to conserve gas. Hypermilers also claim that constant movement in congestion at a slow speed, rather than giving in to “stop and go” traffic patterns, can save gas. Moral of the story? Control your road rage and increase your fuel efficiency.

The easiest way to squeeze more gas mileage out of your car is to change your driving habits. Leaving the car at home in favor of walking, biking, or taking public transit is the first step to conserving fuel. Other easy steps include taking the roof rack off your car, driving with a lighter load, combining short trips to avoid starting the car’s engine cold every time, going without 4-wheel drive when you don’t need it, idling less, and even turning the car off to avoid idling at long lights.

You can find even more tips on websites where hypermilers convene online, such as cleanmpg.com and hypermiling.com, where you can also buy a miles per gallon monitor.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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