Those of you who've been following my personal blog know that this year I started The Conscious Shopper Challenge, a year-long series of challenges to help you go green without going broke. I recently decided to quit blogging at The Conscious Shopper, so I'm moving the challenge over here to the Green Phone Booth. Right now, we're in the middle of the travel-related challenges. If you want to go back to the beginning and work your way through the whole series (complete with checklists!), you can find the index here.
This week's challenge is...
Learn to Hypermile
Photo by Robert Couse-Baker
While researching for this post, I read an article on Mother Jones about a man named Wayne Gerdes, who apparently invented the term hypermiler and at the time was the world's most fuel efficient driver. The journalist describes going for a drive with Gerdes and deciding that "hypermiling consists of driving like a 90-year-old in a mobile sweat lodge..." That is, until Gerdes takes the 270-degree exit at 50 miles per hour.
You've probably heard of some of the other crazy things dedicated hypermilers do: "drafting" behind semi-trucks, driving with the car in neutral or with the engine off, refusing to using their breaks, etc.
When I say "learn to hypermile," I am not referring to those crazy stunts. It is completely ridiculous to me to put yourself at risk just to save some gas. There are better ways to improve our fuel efficiency. So maybe "hypermile" isn't the most accurate term here. Maybe I should just say that I'm challenging you to be a better, more conscious, less aggressive driver.
To complete this challenge, you can:
- Stop idling. If you know you're going to be stopped for several minutes, turn off your car (for example, in the carpool lane when picking up your kids from school, when picking up your significant other from the "kiss and ride," at a railroad crossing...). Turning off your car and restarting it a few minutes later is NOT bad for your car.
- Keep the junk out of your trunk. And off your trunk. And off your roof. And out of your car in general. And definitely don't haul a trailer if you can avoid it. Excess cargo and cargo racks make your car heavier and increase aerodynamic drag.
- Keep up with your car's maintenance. This was a challenge in and of itself a few week's ago, but I'm reminding you again because a maintained vehicle is most efficient.
- Don't be aggressive. Fast accelerations followed by slamming on the brakes are a big no-no if you want to improve your gas mileage and are more likely to induce a foul mood than save you time on the road. According to the Mother Jones article, "one study found that jackrabbit starts and hard brake stops reduce travel time by only about 4 percent—that's 75 seconds on a 30-minute trip."
- Drive the speed limit. If you're in town, speeding will just lead to aggressive driving (see above), and if you're on the highway, driving too fast can actually lower your fuel efficiency. Most cars get their best mileage at around 55 mph.
- Avoid making lots of small trips. Instead, plan your errands for one day and plot out an efficient route to hit all of your stops. In cold weather, start with the farthest destination first and work your way back, allowing your vehicle to get warmed up and thereby achieve it's most efficient mileage.
- Avoid using the air conditioner. For the extremists out there - your car will always run most efficiently with the A/C off and the windows rolled up. If you're not into melting every morning on your way to work - my husband heard recently that the magic number for air conditioner use is 45 mph: if you're going slower than 45, keep the A/C off and the windows rolled down; if you're going faster than 45, keep the windows up and turn on the A/C.
- Anticipate light changes. Pay attention to what's happening on the road several lights ahead so you can anticipate if the light is going to turn red and cruise to a stop rather than hitting the brakes.
- Ride the ridge. On the highway or interstate, drive with your right wheels on the white line. This lets other drivers know that you're a slow driver so they can avoid you and also gets your wheels out of the watery grooves made by other drivers when it's raining.
Will you take the challenge?