Mileage maven Wayne Gerdes says drivers can improve fuel economy by 20 to 40 percent beyond their car’s EPA rating, simply by adopting techniques that he and his fellow enthusiasts have perfected.
Gerdes, who lives in Wadsworth, Ill., coined the term “hypermiling” to describe tactics that significantly extend a vehicle’s gas mileage. He has set numerous records, prompting more than 8,000 compatriots to follow his lead. Gerdes tracks their feats at www.cleanmpg.com, which offers a “buffet table of techniques.” Simple steps include driving at slower speeds, avoiding quick accelerations and removing unused cargo racks, which create drag. Intermediate practices involve coasting in neutral, turning the engine off during long stops and installing a gauge (common in hybrid vehicles) that displays instantaneous fuel efficiency, which can train drivers how to maximize gains.
Some extreme aficionados have been accused of drafting closely behind trucks and risking other actions that could be considered dangerous or illegal. But Gerdes says hypermiling should not be equated with unsafe driving: “There are many basic techniques that are safe and actually make you a better driver. It is up to you.”
Gerdes turns to hybrid vehicles for record setting. In 2006 he and a small team averaged 164 miles per gallon in a standard 2001 Honda Insight over a 2,000-mile road rally course in Oklahoma. This year Gerdes averaged 71 mpg driving on regular roads from Chicago to New York City in an unaltered Toyota Prius.