Consumption was cool. Bigger was better. More was marvelous.
Those were the roaring nineties. The internet boom was upon us, and new words entered our lexicon: IPO, cell phone, AOL, grunge, NASDAC, Starbucks, and most of all SUV. We were richer, we were bigger, we were stronger, and we were riding high above all the little guys. When our four ton behemoths were getting about the same MPG as a semi-trailer, we didn't even notice. After all, we were sitting on piles of tech stocks that were hotter than an afternoon jog in the Sahara.
Then came the new millenium and we learned a whole new jargon: outsourcing, foreclosure, Enron, layoffs, inflation, recession, and most of all, "pain at the pump" and the $4 gallon. People began cutting back on driving, GM shut four SUV plants in April, laying off 10,000 workers in the process. Selling an SUV today is like selling laptops to the Amish.
Today consumption is contemptous. Smaller is superior. Mini is magnificent.
Now hybrids, super-compacts, and SMART cars are all the rage. But what about the millions of us who already own cars that guzzle, throwbacks to the Age of Unchecked Consumerism? How can we stop spending more on gas than we do on health insurance?
By hypermiling. Hypermiling means getting better gas mileage out of your car than its EPA rating by drastically altering driving habits. There are some basic techniques that any one of us can do, and then there are the outrageous techniques that are unsafe but have yielded well over 100 MPG!
Hypermiling.com claims that the most important thing to do is to keep a record of exactly how many MPGs you got every time you drive. Too often we don't improve our driving because we don't realize how far from target our MPGs are. Once we know the MPG, we get we can get to the second most important factor -- modulating your speed. You don't want to accelerate too quickly, as it strains the engine, and you definitely don't want to brake too quickly, as you are erasing energy your car already had.
Wayne Gerdes, the father of hypermiling, regularly gets about 59 MPG in a Honda Accord. Here are some of his techniques that we all can implement. Keep tires inflated at the manufacturer recommended pressure. The firmer the tire, the less friction it creates with the road, and the less energy it needs to keep rolling. For every 1 psi (pounds per square inch) that tires are underinflated, a car loses 1.4% of its gas mileage.
When at a red light for longer than 10 seconds, turn off the engine. With today's engines, very little fuel is used starting the engine, but a lot of fuel is used idling at red lights. If you're not using your engine, turn it off, even for 10 seconds.
One more method to get great MPGs on the highway is to draft behind a truck. A car loses a lot of energy cutting through air on a highway, referred to as drag or wind resistance. When one drives behind a big truck, the truck cuts the air for them, and they are driving in a drag-reduced zone. Staying about 100 feet behind a semi increases fuel efficiency by almost 20%.
Tips for Life-Hypermiling
My lead foot doesn't make me the best candidate for hyperlmiling but I did find some important lessons in my research. We all want to hypermile in life. We want to be able to go the farthest distance we can on our tank of gas before we run out of fuel. So what can we do?
Once we are aware of the mileage we get out of each day, we are likely to improve it.
The most important component of life-hypermiling is to constantly be aware of the MPG we are getting. How far are we going each day? The first step in character building is taking a daily accounting of our actions to see what we gained or lost that day. Just as any responsible business manager takes inventory and counts the cash flow daily, so too, we should take inventory of our actions daily. Once we are aware of the mileage we get out of each day, we are likely to improve it.
The next important change is to ensure that when we are not using our engines, we turn them off. Our engines are our mouths, as they are the primary tools we use in navigating this world and communicating with each other. The uniqueness of man is his talking engine, and it shouldn't waste energy idling too much.
"All my days I was raised amongst the Sages, and I found nothing better for oneself than silence." (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:17)
Another way we can hypermile is by following behind people much greater that us. Having to cut through all the resistance ourselves creates an enormous amount of drag, and makes progress very difficult. Fortunately, we have a rich history filled with great Sages who have cut through the chaos and have left us a path right behind them. They pointed to it in their books, in their sagacious advice, and in the instructions they left us. We don't need to get held back by the confusing laybrinthe surrounding us because we can follow the draft, the pathway of the people who have already navigated it.
Lastly, we can learn from hypermilers the proper pace for human development. We shouldn't suddenly push ourselves too hard, as that wastes energy and burns us out. Nor should we brake too hard and leave all our gains behind. We need to accelerate slowly, setting small goals for what we want to achieve this month, and then picking up speed the next month, and so on.
Using these tips from the hypermilers will give us the ability to maximize the fuel we have in our tanks, and go the distance on this road we call life.