🕔Apr 07, 2009

Hypermiling, ecodriving, and fuel-efficient driving are all terms used to denote squeezing every last drop out of a tank of gas. Although current fuel prices are no cause for complaint, that should and will change. Whether you are a fleet manager with an ever-tightening budget, a parent who logs more miles than Greyhound, or a teen driver who is trying to make a tank of gas stretch longer on your minimum-wage paycheque, how you drive makes a significant difference. (There’s no point dropping a wad on a hybrid or an energy-efficient compact if you aren’t driving it to maximize those green features!)

It is self-evident that in the north, where driving is often the only option, it makes even more sense. (Haven’t we all turned west from Prince George at some point or another and groaned when we saw it was ONLY six hundred plus more miles to Prince Rupert?)
Mackenzie King, who served as Canada’s Prime Minister for over twenty-one years, once famously stated that while some countries have too much history, Canada has too much geography. We are tied to our vehicles; that is the irony of rural living. Public transit is limited; carpools are a pain; places are spread out. We don’t have a lot of choice. So if you can’t bike or walk, be strategic, and become a hypermiler—it pays.

Fuel Consumption 101
First, find out how far your gas dollar is taking you. A metric calculation measures litres per hundred kilometres (L/100 km), which you want to be a low number, whereas Imperial shows you the miles per gallon (mpg), which you want to be high. For example, the top-rated full-size car for 2009 is the Honda Accord Sedan, with 9.4L/100 km or 30 mpg.

To find out where your current vehicle is at, fill your tank completely and write down your odometer reading. When it’s time to refuel, record how many litres it took to fill the tank as well as the vehicle’s new odometer reading. Subtract the previous odometer reading from the new odometer reading, divide the number of litres by the distance driven and multiply by 100. To convert to mpg, divide 235.2 by L/100 km.

Fuel Efficiency for Dummies
Accomplished hypermilers in conventional vehicles meet the mileage of Joe Average driving an equivalent hybrid; when in hybrids themselves, they achieve staggeringly high fuel efficiency (e.g. often exceeding 2.35 L/100 km, or 100 mpg). Yet anyone can learn a wide variety of these skills.

• Drive more smoothly. Natural Resources Canada states that ‘jackrabbit’ driving (aggressive accelerating and hard braking) reduced travel time by only 4 percent—about two minutes out of a 60-minute trip—but increased fuel consumption by up to 37 percent.

• Avoid idling. Modern, fuel-injected vehicles don’t need to idle to warm up – it actually damages engine components and burns more fuel than driving.

• Drive slowly to warm up your vehicle. Do your farthest errand first. By the time you get there, your vehicle should have warmed up sufficiently to be operating at or near peak efficiency, and will consume less gas during all the stops and starts on the way home. (An engine can burn up to 50 percent more fuel for a short trip in the winter than for the same trip in the summer.)

• Remove excess drag. This means rooftop cargo boxes, trailers, and excess weight in the back of the vehicle (unless you need it for safety reasons).

• Use four-wheel drive only when required. In many cases, defensive and/or slower driving can be an adequate substitute for four-wheel. You’re still a man; it’s okay; we still love you.

• Know when to use cruise control and when to make the decision yourself. There are times when skilled driving will save more fuel. With most vehicles, increasing your cruising speed from 100 km/h to 120 km/h will increase fuel consumption by about 20 percent. On the other hand, reducing your speed from 100 km/h to 90 km/h improves fuel economy by about 10 percent.

Intermediate Ecodriving Techniques

• Ride the ridges (the center or white line) where less rain and snow accumulate, reducing drag.

• Leave space between vehicles you are behind and ahead of (buffers) and aim to slow your overall speed, thus reducing the need for brakes and saving fuel.

• Smart braking: – When coming to a red light on an incline, slow down so that you aren’t starting uphill from a dead stop; – When coming to a red light at the bottom of a descent, slow down well in advance of the light so that you can coast through rather than coming to a full stop; – When driving in traffic, transition gradually between gentle braking until the light changes and then accelerating, avoiding the “slam and jam”;
Advanced Techniques to Save Fuel
If you really want to take it the extra mile, search out Wayne Gerdes on the web. He is the reigning guru of hypermiling, and as such takes the drive for fuel efficiency to a whole new level. The Hypermiling Safety Foundation (http://www.hypermilingfoundation.org/) is dedicated to increasing vehicular fuel economy while maintaining highway safety. As they say, “Saving fuel is never worth risking an accident.” I think I’ll start with trying to avoid the brake stands, myself.

Did You Know?
There is often an appreciable difference between the posted mileage and the achieved mileage of a vehicle, even with subcompact, compact, and hybrid vehicles. When the tests and the driving techniques used in the tests are scrutinized, it becomes apparent that the cars are driven in conditions that simulate moderate climates and in such a way that their fuel efficiency is optimized. So, if you aren’t getting the mileage you expect out of your new wheels—hypermile. They did. (And move south—cold is the enemy of fuel efficiency.)

Future Tense?
The pressure is on in Canada to show leadership in implementing tougher requirements for fuel economy in new vehicles, and Federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has stated that ‘made in Canada’ standards will meet at least the minimum level of proposed laws in the United States (where motor vehicles would be required to meet an average 35 miles per US gallon (6.7 L/100 km) within 12 years). According to Transport Canada, our current combined average for new cars and light trucks is approximately 8.6 L/100 km (27 miles per gallon).

Time to Upgrade?
The 2009 Yaris and 2009 Yaris Hatchback (manual transmissions) are the perennial winners of Canada’s Most Fuel-Efficient Sub-Compact vehicle. The Yaris achieves a fuel consumption rating of just 6.9 L/100 km (city) and 5.5 L/100 km (highway), while the Yaris Hatchback delivers a fuel consumption rating of 7.0 L/100 km (city) and 5.5 L/100 km (highway). To see the rest of Natural Resources Canada’s 2009 picks for fuel efficiency, go to http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/transportation/personal/pdfs/most-efficient-vehicles-2009.pdf

Hypermiling (also known as ecodriving or fuel-efficient driving): a method of increasing your car’s gas mileage by making skilful changes in the way you drive, allowing you to a) save gas and thereby have an easier time withstanding rising gas prices, and b) reduce your carbon footprint and our collective dependence on fossil fuels.

Fuel efficiency: the output one gets for a unit amount of fuel input such as ‘litres per kilometre’ or ‘miles per gallon’ for an automobile.

Natural Resources Canada Auto$mart website: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/transportation/personal-vehicles-initiative.cfm
Hypermiling Manual: http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1510