On the most recent episode of Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters,” Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara tested whether a few techniques collectively known as “hypermiling” can double your fuel economy. They took two cars, a new sedan and an older coupe, and drove normally as far as they could on exactly 3 gallons of gas. They then repeated the process using hypermiling techniques.
The results? The new car was able to drive 40 percent farther while hypermiling (30 miles per gallon, up from 21.3 mpg), while the older car went 70 percent farther (45.3 mpg, up from 26 mpg). The myth is busted, because they couldn’t double their fuel economy, but a 70 percent improvement is impressive. And it could save a lot of money at the pump.
Only driving techniques and modifications legal in California were employed, so everything they did to get that massive improvement in miles per gallon is probably legal for you, too. But since laws vary from state to state, you’ll want to make sure anything you pull from this list is permitted where you live.
Here’s what to do:
Never drive above 45 mph
Yes, this includes highways. And yes, you’ll make a lot of enemies. But if you can pull off driving no faster than 45 mph, you’ll use a lot less fuel.
Remove passenger side mirror
The thinking here is that by reducing wind resistance, you’ll improve mileage. Removing things sticking out from the side of your car should do that.
Avoid braking and rapid acceleration
This is the foundation of hypermiling. Not only do you need to gradually bring your car up to speed, but also drive to minimize braking. This means driving slower overall, looking as far ahead as possible, and braking less around turns.
Turn off engine at red lights
If the engine is off, you’re not using gas. If you can ignore a little horn honking and spiteful hand gestures you’ll get from the cars behind you while you start back up when the light turns green, you’ll spend less on gas.
Windows up/AC off
If you can stand the heat, you can save some money. By keeping your windows up and the AC off, you reduce the strain on your engine and maintain the aerodynamics of your car.
Try to stay relaxed
Angry drivers burn more fuel. It’s a myth that “MythBusters” has already tested, but the lesson learned has become part of hypermiling. If you feel yourself getting stressed behind the wheel (and if you’re driving without AC no faster than 45 mph on the freeway and turning your engine off at every red light, you probably will) try taking a few deep breaths to calm down and remember that your goal is zen-like fuel savings.
Legally draft when possible
This is another technique that’s been tested by “MythBusters” (albeit to an extreme). If you can find an opportunity to legally draft the vehicle in front of you, take it. Drafting is simply driving at a close but still reasonable distance behind the vehicle in front of you.
But while driving extremely close to something like a big rig will save you a ton of gas, it’s incredibly dangerous. Always remember: Your life is more important than your money.
Overinflate tires by 10 percent
Though it may reduce the lifespan of your tires, slightly overinflating them may help you get a few more miles out of each tank of gas.
Cover car in streamlining skin
While it may seem a bit goofy, “MythBusters” covered the cars in some kind of streamlining skin. It’s unclear exactly what they used in this episode, but they’ve already shown that adding dimples to your car can increase its mileage, so a skin might not be so far-fetched.
Try to navigate intersections to always go through green lights
If you have to stop, you’ll have to start back up again. And accelerating up to speed takes fuel. Minimize the number of red lights you encounter and you’ll use less.
The spare tire in your trunk is convenient when needed, but adds a bunch of weight to the car. If you’re comfortable driving without it, remove it. And while you’re at it, remove anything else that’s adding unnecessary weight, like that set of golf clubs still in your trunk.
Is all this practical?
You’re probably not going to remove your side mirror and spare tire, cover your car with a streamlining skin, or sit in a steaming car all summer. But because you won’t use all of these techniques doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use any.
As we reported in “The 4 Best Ways to Improve Gas Mileage,” simply driving proactively can increase mileage by 37 percent, while turning off your car at lights can save 19 percent. That’s a huge improvement, and one that doesn’t require spending money on silly gas saving devices.