With continued high gasoline prices, many people are seeking to improve their fuel economy. Some people are purchasing new, hi-tech gasoline-electric hybrid cars. Alternatively, you can also improve your gas mileage simply buy changing your driving techniques.
When I wrote an earlier piece on not using cruise control, my friend Kevin inquired if I was familiar with hypermiling. Hypermilers change their behaviors to maximize fuel-economy. Dennis Gaffney wrote a fascinating article in Readers Digest on how a driver of a traditional automobile can get 100 mpg or more:
Wayne believes that if we all boosted our fuel economy by 25 percent (less than the 50 percent improvement he gets), we could halve the amount of Middle Eastern oil we import for our cars. That would be a boon to a broader economy and a step against global warming. “I’m not doing this just for myself,” he says. “I’m doing this for my country and the world.”
In 2002 Wayne bought a Toyota Corolla to replace his 1999 Nissan truck. Online he saw “guys in Priuses bragging about 44 mpg, and I was doing better in a Corolla.”
Besides not trying to maintain speed when going uphill, other good techniques include not racing up to red lights, avoiding jackrabbit starts, and slowing down early before turns. The Readers Digest article also mentions coasting in neutral. Coasting in neutral is actually a 3-point violation in my home state of Virginia, but it is not clear how you would get caught doing so, unless a police officer happened to be sitting in your passenger seat. When using techniques to improve your fuel economy, the main thing to remember is to use common sense. You won’t want to do anything unsafe like obstructing traffic, which could lead to a rear-end collision. Other common sense ideas include not carrying extra weight and keeping your tires properly inflated.
Is old-tech better?
Are Hybrids a Scam?
26 Jun 2008 12:06 pm
Talk about the hybrid car scam! With the exception of the Prius, it seems like most hybrids have highway mileage somewhere in the 30–35 mpg range. This is a little better than those same car models with a gas engine. But I own a 1984 Honda hatchback, obviously not a hybrid, which gets 40-odd mpg on the highway…
My thoughts are that hybrids are not a scam and that Wayne Gerdes could likely achieve even better results driving a hybrid such as the Toyota Prius or the hybrid version of the Honda Civic. Some good friends of mine own a Honda Civic hybrid and they are highly satisfied. However, it is interesting that cars manufactured many years ago do just as well in terms of petrol economy.
Kris De Decker, of Low-tech Magazine, published a recent article on 1940s and 50s Citroen automobiles getting 50+ miles per gallon:
If you sometimes wonder why more energy efficient technology does not bring about more energy efficient cars, you should take a look at this collection of Citroën brochures…
Despite the fact that new technology has improved the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, Kris explains that fuel economy has not improved in modern vehicles due to manufactures building cars with increasingly high horsepower ratings.
23 Years Too Early?
American automakers have been criticized for not increasing fuel efficiency and for focusing on building trucks and SUVs. However, in 1985, Chevrolet teamed up with Suzuki to produce the Chevy Sprint, a three-cylinder engine vehicle rated for 47 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway. At the time, the car was considered severely underpowered and was subject of numerous jokes. I would bet the car would do considerably better today.
The Bottom Line
If you need to buy a new car, hybrids deserve a look. But if your old vehicle is not worn out, you should consider utilizing some low-tech driving techniques to maximize your fuel economy. Let’s hope that automobile manufactures consider building lower horsepower cars that achieve even higher gas mileage.