isettaYou recycle, you just bought a hybrid and you use your own shopping bag when you go to the store; but how do you drive?

A few months back I heard a story on NPR about this man name Wayne Gerdes and how he gets 60 miles per gallon in his Honda Accord.  No, it’s not the hybrid type.  In the story he talks about all these strange things he’d do to get higher gas mileage, like tailgating a 18-wheeler and using its draft to pull his car.  He calls this practice “hypermile”.  There were other stuff that he said was pretty stupid (as in dangerous).  He started doing this after 9-11 because he felt that we as US citizens should be less dependant on foreign energy.  In a sense, I absolutely agree with this guy, but on a more global sense though.  As a species, we’re pretty screwed when it comes to energy expenditure.  Our entire society is based upon non-renewable energy.  So what does that mean when the gas runs out whether it be in 50 years or 500 years?  Not to mention to amount to pollutants we put into the air burning fossil fuel.  (news flash for all those people who own electric vehicles….how do you think that energy is generated?  The US uses 1 billion tons of coal yearly, about 20% of world consumption, and 90% or 900 million tons of it we use for electricity)  Unless your electric car plugs into a solar panel, wind turbine or some other renewable source, that electric car pollutes just like any other car on the road (maybe less, maybe more, I have no idea how much).

I’ve been side tracked.  So the point is, I’ve taken up some of Wayne Gerdes’ advice and started to be more cautious about how I drive.  I need to tell you that I have a lead foot.  If I can, and there’s an open road, I’ll take the car up to as fast as it can go.  I once took a ’86 Honda Accord up to 124 mph on the 73 in Orange County (I was young and stupid then….and I was also 19!)

These are some tricks I’ve picked up:

  1. Drive slower.  Wayne is nuts about his driving habits, but I typically stick to driving at or lower than the speed limit.  I stick to the slow lanes on the freeway and I typically drive at 60 mph.  Driving slower on the highways decreases drag.  I stick the the speed limit on surface streets.  I would never recommend driving so slow that you’re a hazard to other drivers.
  2. Properly inflate your tires.  Driving with flat tires will really kill your mileage.  They hypermilers will even over inflate their tires so they have less rubber touching the road, which will equate to less friction, but I don’t recommend going higher than your tire’s recommended pressure.
  3. Keep your car well maintained.  The story here is internal friction due to poor oil.  And only use synthetic oils, they’re much cleaner than regular oil.  And keeping your car well maintained, you’ll be able to keep it longer.  If you’re driving your car for 15 years rather than 10 years, you use less natural resources to build that newer car and you save it from going to the dump.
  4. Coast as much as possible.  I don’t want to use the term “don’t break” because that’s just excessive and it doesn’t adequately describe what you should be safely be doing.  For example, I won’t drive to a light ad then slam on the breaks, I just let my car coast to the light.

You can read more about what the hypermilers are doing to increase mileage on their site @ .

My results?

In my ’96 Toyota Tacoma V6, I get 23 mpg with mixed city/hwy driving.  Purely on highways, I got 34 mpg driving between LA and Palo Alto.  What are my factory or EPA estimates for this car?  17 city/ 19 hwy.

My numbers aren’t that great by themselves, but consider that is a 21% improvement of factory EPA numbers.  I am very proud of it.  I don’t think I’ll ever go to the extremes as some of those guys do, but if you do decide to do it, know that it’s not the car, its the driver.  Driving takes 100% of my attention to avoid breaking, coasting and not going too fast!

next step, I gotta get a bike!