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How Far Will You Go?

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The DriveWrite Archives

How Far Will You Go?

Geoff Maxted
January 5, 2014

There’s a problem. You encounter it every time you call in at the petrol station. Once you’ve finished hyperventilating and cursing that Osborne joker and all his antecedents and heritage, you try to convince yourself that what you really need to be doing is getting a few more miles per gallon out of your car. If you want to keep your fuel bills down then the only solution is to slow down and drive frugally - it’s called hyper-miling.

You’ve probably never heard of Wayne Gerdes, a one-time worker in a nuclear power station in Illinois. He was the chap who coined the expression when he did his best to wring every last mile per gallon out of his car. To be honest, he’s probably not the first guy you’d sit with down at the pub, but he was able to demonstrate the skills needed to save on fuel.

It will take more than global warming to get us out of our cars and into alternative transport. It isn’t a case of not being eco-friendly. Some of us are not quite being convinced that we’re getting the true and honest facts when it comes to climate change - there’s a lot of vested interests out there - allthough there is a basic truth to the phenomenon, whilst some find public transport too expensive and inconvenient. Nevertheless you can still do your bit and save money into the bargain by following the wise words of Wayne.

The first thing to do is to lose some weight. I’m not being personal - although you could probably do with shifting a couple of kilos - you need to take all the unnecessary stuff out of your car. If you’re an Italian businessman then there may be a dead body in the boot, but for most of us it’ll be superfluous toolkits, holiday detritus or camping gear (just in case!). Also, if you’re not using them, remove the roof bars - apparently that’s a 3% saving right there. The lighter and sleeker your car is the more economical it will be.

Remember to turn off electrical equipment. Infotainment centres, heated rear windows and air-con all consume energy which has to be provided by power from the engine. If you can manage without air-conditioning for most of the time your fuel economy could improve by as much as 12% - now that is amazing. It’s worth getting sweaty. Also, don’t forget the mechanical side of things. Make sure your tyres are at the correct recommended pressures and check the air filter regularly. Filters are so cheap that they are worth changing annually.

Look, I know it’s boring and I don’t want to go on about it like Wayne does but you could try slowing down, couldn’t you? If you change the way you drive you could increase your fuel economy by a whopping 33%. Driving 5 to 10 miles slower than your regular speed saves approximately 10% alone. On a downhill stretch, ease up on the throttle pedal and work with gravity to build up speed. Similarly you can ease off the power and use momentum to get you up the next hill. Cruise control will not do this. It is a sledgehammer when what you need is the tender sensitivity of your right foot.

Peer into the distance and try to anticipate braking. If you have to brake hard then you may well have used too much fuel getting to an unnecessary speed. Avoid vivid acceleration and keep religiously to speed limits.

Hyper-miling is dull, just ask Wayne Gerdes. Actually, no, don’t, you’ll be there all day; but he’s not wrong. When the pound in your pocket is suffering and you need to put food on the table it won’t hurt you to give it a try, will it?

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