In these pages, we’ve never really given much recognition to the phenomenon of ìhypermilingî, as practised by those who are seriously devoted to achieving maximum fuel economy in their cars. It’s surprising to discover that hypermiling, something essentially imported from the USA, arrived nearly ten years back, when the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary, and given recognition as 2008’s ìWord of the Yearî. We somehow feel that the impact of the hobby, pursuit, or possibly obsession, has not had quite the same impact this side of the Atlantic, but we’ll take a look at some of the proclaimed fundamentals of hypermiling. You can make up your own mind if some of them are worth putting into practise, since they often mirror our own theories.
Firstly, the basics seem sound enough. They say at hypermiler.co.uk that you won’t achieve much towards saving fuel without closely monitoring your mpg and keeping good records, you’ll waste your time and effort if you don’t keep your car well maintained and serviced, and your tyres at the correct pressures. We’re on common ground with them on that, and when they stress the importance of not carrying excess weight and removing equipment like roof racks and bicycle carriers attached when you’re not using them. They also mention air conditioning, and the economy gains of not using it unnecessarily, and at lower speeds when an open window can be a better choice. But we were rather taken aback by one item that we’ve certainly never mentioned on this page, when they say ìdon’t drive in big shoesî! This is interesting, because I know a certain lady contributor to Diesel Car always kicked off her shoes and drove in stockinged feet whenever she competed in the MPG Marathon, with considerable success over the years. Maybe that’s extreme, but ìdriving shoesî, usually of a light moccasin design, can add to the driving experience, and the benefits of better pedal contact and feedback cannot be denied, particularly if compared with driving in Doc Martens, welly boots, or the frankly dangerous summer trait of driving in flip-flops!
Some of the ìtop tipsî from UK hypermilers also make a lot of sense. They discourage you from making uneconomical short journeys with a cold engine, they highlight the benefits of driving defensively, driving no faster than necessary, and avoiding braking by anticipating likely events and the actions of other drivers. What they say about ìcoastingî is little different from what we preach. Don’t ever take a car out of gear and coast in neutral, and certainly don’t ever turn the engine off, for obvious reasons. Similarly, coasting round corners with the clutch pedal depressed is certainly a ìno-noî. But, with a keen eye on your mirror, and avoiding any obstruction of following traffic, particularly HGVs, lifting off your accelerator and dipping the clutch early to coast down to the right speed for a corner, or traffic lights, or a roundabout, with a touch on the brakes as you drop into the right gear, surely isn’t that dangerous, or a bad practise? We’d welcome your views on this!
But British hypermilers don’t appear to offer any threats or sources of annoyance to ordinary drivers. Neither will you see any wild body modifications to improve the car’s aerodynamics, or hear of people changing rear axle ratios to raise the gearing, or any magic potions to add to your fuel tank, as they do in the USA. As we’ve often said, saving fuel responsibly is all about using your engine efficiently and practising your skills, but without it being too obvious or obstructive to other road users. Drive smoothly and responsibly, and others on the road will be happy to follow you, although hopefully not too closely. It’s always a pleasure to find that you’re following a good driver, and you’ll rarely want to overtake one who is holding a sensible speed for the conditions and driving smoothly, even if you have previously been cruising a little faster. The difference in journey time will probably be minuscule, and you’ll save some fuel by dropping a few mph, and not wasting any fuel in a pointless overtaking exercise that might find you following an idiot, of which there are, sadly, far too many on our roads. Plus, the driver in front will appreciate being followed at a safe distance.