Four dollars can buy a lot. It can get you a fancy iced coffee, half a matinee movie ticket, or four items at the dollar store (behold the wonder of a journalist doing math!). What it can’t get you—at least in the D.C. area—is even a single gallon of gasoline.
Americans everywhere are feeling the numbers crunch when it comes to their cars, and those who can’t walk or bike are coming up with some pretty interesting solutions—everything from taking summer staycations to running vehicles on vegetable oil. But some of the less dramatic of us might want to consider one of the country’s fastest-growing trends, a phenomenon known as hypermiling.
In its most basic sense, hypermiling means driving strategically to increase gas mileage (technically, it's defined as exceeding the EPA fuel economy rating for your vehicle). In a recent Washington Post article, Nancy Trejos tells us how this can be done: by traveling at or just below the speed limit, accelerating gently (some advocate a “feather light” touch), and coasting to a stop at lights and stop signs. Techniques such as these often get hypermilers 10 to 20 percent more miles to the gallon, although some hypermilers have taken it to the extreme: This group of men drove their Toyota Prius a total of 1,397 miles (2,248 kilometers) on just under 13 gallons of gas, for a grand average of 110 mpg (Okay, I’ll admit that this time, I pulled the statistic straight from the news story—no actual math involved).
It’s not all smooth sailing (or downhill coasting), however: Hypermiling has come under the attack of critics who say it promotes dangerous practices, such as turning off the engine at stop lights—even at busy intersections—and tailing tractor-trailers closely on interstates to take advantage of the lack of wind resistance. And when hypermilers travel too far below the speed limit, the result is not only dangerous, but also frustrating to other drivers on the road.
IT’s verdict: Conserving gas is important, but drivers should definitely put the brakes on any reckless driving. In the end, safe hypermiling comes down to driving smarter to save money and energy. And that’s something we can all grab the wheel and get behind.
Photo by Wolfgang Staudt, via Flickr photo pool