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180 Miles Per Gallon? Welcome to the World of Hypermiling

Bill Wilson

The current outrage over the cost of petroleum began in 2005. That’s when the price for a gallon of unleaded first topped $2.00 and stayed there. Instantly, cries went out from an enraged public. We demanded government action. We threatened boycotts. We talked about car-pooling and switching to horse-drawn carriages. Then, after the powers-that-be called our bluff, we resigned ourselves to paying whatever the oil companies felt like charging us. So much for “power to the people.”

In every revolution, though, there are a handful of zealots who stay true to the cause no matter what. In the struggle against high gas prices these brave resistance fighters are known as hypermilers. For these folks, the 50 MPG rating of the Prius is a joke. They’ve found ways to get more than three times that figure. In fact, one leader of the hypermiling movement, a fellow named Wayne Gerdes, achieved an unbelievable 180.91 miles per gallon back in 2007 while driving a Honda Insight. Wayne received a $25.00 gas card for his achievement, which probably covered his fuel expenses for the next five years.

Honda Insight

Tricks of the trade:

What secrets do the hypermilers have? Here are some of the more unconventional (some might say “insane”) methods they use:

• Driving with all the windows up, even in the middle of summer.

• Forgetting that air conditioning was ever invented.

• Parking on the highest spot available, so that, when they leave from somewhere, gravity will get their car rolling all by itself.

• Driving behind 18-wheelers to take advantage of the wind draft these giant trucks create.

• Coasting as much as possible. Some hypermilers deliberately take 25 MPH curves at 50-60 MPH, then use the momentum created by the turn to cruise for miles with the engine off.

• Making motorists behind them go berserk by staying five MPH below the speed limit, even on busy interstates.

• Coasting to a stop instead of using the brakes.

• Removing all unnecessary weight from the vehicle. Some hypermilers go on weight-loss diets simply to improve their fuel economy.

Are they crazy?

That depends on your perspective. The hypermilers would say the rest of us are nuts for wasting fuel on frivolous things like climate control and quick starts. One thing’s for sure: if their movement ever really catches on, then there will be more than one oil company executive who has trouble sleeping at night. That alone makes hypermiling worth a second look.

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