Washington Post Article on Hypermiling

Discussion in 'General' started by Regaj, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. Regaj

    Regaj New Member

    Every Sunday the Washington Post has a special section called "Sunday Source" in which they provide brief coverage of various topical subjects. Today's (8/6/06) issue is called "The Eco Issue" and among other short articles, includes one by Post staffer Joshua Zumbrun on hybrids and hypermiling. It's on page 5 if you've got the print edition; or here's the link (requires free registration).


    There's nothing new to anyone on the board here, but it's nice to see the exposure. And Wayne Gerdes (XCEL) gets a nice plug as "America's greatest hypermiler". Way to go Wayne!

    Cross-posted from Green Hybrid...

  2. tbaleno

    tbaleno Well-Known Member

    It would be cool if someone did the online chat thing and plugged the website (hint). I think wayne will be at work or sleeping, and I have work, but if someone else were up for it ;)
  3. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

    Attn: Wayne Gerdes:

    Increase Your Gas Mileage

    By Joshua Zumbrun
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, August 6, 2006; Page M05

    There was good news and bad news, I learned. The good news: I got a promotion. The bad news: I landed in The Post's Howard County news bureau -- a wonderful spot, but about 35 miles from my front door.
    This was last summer. I didn't own a car, the job started in two weeks, gas prices were climbing, and a 70-mile commute (instead of 10 friendly minutes on the Circulator bus) was looking expensive.
    [​IMG] Joshua Zumbrun relearned how to drive for fuel efficiency after buying his 2001 Honda hybrid. (By J Carrier For The Washington Post)

    Monday, Aug. 7, Noon ET

    Washington Post staff writer Josh Zumbrun reveals what he's learned about hypermiling with his car.

    The Insight, Honda's two-seater hybrid with amazing gas mileage, sounded almost too good to be true. A lot of reports said it was -- real drivers don't get the numbers Honda touts. (The Department of Energy has a useful site explaining why this is at http://www.fueleconomy.gov./ ) The cars were scarce, so I flew to Wisconsin to become the proud owner of a 2001 Honda Insight, with an estimated 57 mpg in the city, 56 on the highway.
    That's where I randomly met Bradlee Fons, an enthusiast of the cars who starts spouting hybrid statistics the moment he introduces himself. He and his son Justin are part of a rare fraternity: hypermilers, people who modify their driving to improve mileage and reduce emissions.
    Fons explained that you need to "relearn how to drive" in order to appreciate a hybrid's benefits. After averaging around 48 mpg on my way home -- good, but not what was advertised -- I logged onto InsightCentral.net and GreenHybrid.com, two sites Fons had recommended to learn the ins and outs of hypermiling. The sites are full of people obsessed with their mileage gauges, people who log their mileage on each tank of gas, even people who photograph the odometer and post it online to show off particularly successful runs.

    Fons also suggested I talk to someone he's dubbed "America's greatest hypermiler," Wayne Gerdes. The nuclear power plant operator in Illinois ("producing electricity with zero greenhouse gas emissions," Gerdes observed) averaged more than 90 mpg for more than a year driving a manual transmission Honda Insight. He was part of a team that drove a Toyota Prius for more than 1,200 miles, in two straight days of driving, on a single tank of gas, an effort that was featured in an HBO Earth Day Special "Too Hot Not to Handle."
    Gerdes says he has always kept records for every vehicle he's owned. Tired of paying for gas, he started watching the way he drove in his Toyota Corolla, thinking about the physics of driving and experimenting with ways to improve mileage. "I hit 52 mpg in my Corolla and I said, 'Wow, this is pretty special. I bet there's more.' "
    Turns out, there's a lot more. And the handful of driving tips that I adopted worked wonders. On a recent drive home from work, I checked the odometer as I coasted across the Key Bridge: 82 miles since leaving home that morning, or 75.6 miles per gallon.
    From Georgetown to Columbia, and back -- on barely a gallon of gas.

    Want to know more about hypermiling? Join Joshua Zumbrun for an online chat Monday at noon at http://www.washingtonpost.com.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica][SIZE=-1]Hypermiling Techniques
    Hypermiling is all about making adjustments to maximize your gas mileage, and many techniques work whether you're driving a hybrid or a Hummer.
    "Anybody can be a hypermiler. It doesn't matter if you're in a Dodge Durango getting 10 mpg today. You can get 15 mpg tomorrow," says Wayne Gerdes. "It's going to save fuel. And this country needs that."
    Below are some common hypermiling suggestions -- and an expert's view on whether the technique is smart and safe. We asked auto expert Pat Goss -- owner of Goss' Garage in Seabrook, commentator for PBS's "Motorweek," and host of a regular chat on washingtonpost.com -- to weigh in on what works.

    [​IMG] Joshua Zumbrun relearned how to drive for fuel efficiency after buying his 2001 Honda hybrid. (By J Carrier For The Washington Post)

    Monday, Aug. 7, Noon ET

    Washington Post staff writer Josh Zumbrun reveals what he's learned about

    Expert's take : Goss says that as you go above 38 mph in most cars, you lose mileage. For every 5 mph above 55, he says you can lose as much as 10 percent of your fuel economy. So slowing down can save you gas.

    DRIVING WITHOUT BRAKES (or in hypermiling lingo, "d.w.b.") is all about coasting. Congestion is constant in Washington, and accelerating from zero to 20, then back to zero, is inefficient. Instead, if the car in front of you is speeding up, maintain a steady speed and let it get ahead of you, when traffic starts to slow back down you'll catch up.

    Expert's take: Do it when possible -- but be careful. "You're probably going to have some highly ticked off people if you do it on the Beltway," Goss warns.
    TURN OFF YOUR CAR AND COAST , aka the "forced-auto stop." In hybrids, the internal combustion engine shuts off at stops to conserve fuel; the electric batteries keep the car running. To save even more fuel when decelerating, some hypermilers -- including Gerdes -- shift to neutral and turn off the engine while coasting to a stop.
    Expert's take: "Highly dangerous. You don't have your car under control," says Goss. (In other words, not all hypermiling techniques are good ones.)

    OPTIMIZE YOUR ROUTE : Avoid big hills or stop-and-go traffic. Test different routes to see which is the smoothest ride. Sometimes, a longer route with better driving conditions uses less gas.

    Expert's take: "Basic driving techniques. I teach this the first day," Goss says.
    WATCH YOUR TIRE PRESSURE . It takes a lot of extra energy to move even slightly flat tires. Some hypermilers recommend over-inflating tires.
    Expert's take: Goss says this works but is very risky. "When you over-inflate a tire, you can compromise its traction and . . . make the tire wear out more rapidly," he says, adding that it could be "very negligent to recommend that someone do that."
    STAY ON TOP OF OIL CHANGES , and use thinner oil.

    Expert's take: "It can have a significant effect on fuel economy, especially as the oil ages," Goss says. "The viscosity of engine oil is always increasing. . . . The thicker the oil is the harder it is to push through the engine."
    -- J.Z.

  4. tbaleno

    tbaleno Well-Known Member

    Actualy you probably have more control than someone talking on a cell phone. I don't know what he defines as not having your car under control. If he is talking about braking ability then wouldn't you also not be under control if you don't have the best tires on the market? I think he should have said "You have less control"

    This guy looses 1 credibility point
  5. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

    I have to go along with Baleno on this. My HCH II when you do a FAS just simply has No-Change at all in {Control}. Why? you ask?, because it has (Electric) Power Steering and I have "Never" yet used the Brakes enough where they did not Perform-as-Always. I guess everyone has the right to their individual opinion/opinions regarding this. So I'm just adding my opinion here because I do own a HCH II and I think that should account for something. (IMO)

    tiger (Terry)
  6. Regaj

    Regaj New Member

    Well, I suspect the author of that opinion based it on the notion that being able to accelerate is a central part of "control". Free-wheeling in neutral, regardless of its FE benefits, certainly raises issues in that regard. Characterizing that as being "out of control" certainly overstates the condition, however. Having "less" control is a far more accurate depiction, as pointed out. I also agree with the comment that it's probably safer than talking on a cell phone!

  7. brick

    brick Answers to "that guy."

    Pat Goss needs to check some facts.

    "Negligent" to recommend inflating tires, which results in loss of traction and accelerated wear? Not on this planet. I'm preaching to the choire here, but...no. If anything I can take corners faster at 44psi than I could at 32. (Especially in the rain!) And as for tire wear...less pressure = more sidwall flex = more heat = *drumroll please* faster wear.

    I can think of a few reasons not to recommend FAS, but they don't have anything to do with "you don't have control of your car." Rather, it might be a little more than a hypermiling novice can handle before getting comfortable with the fundamentals. Or possible increased wear on the starter or clutch. Or, as I've recently started to investigate (but have not yet reached any conclusions), there may be situations where keying off and re-starting might burn significantly more fuel than allowing it to idle for brief period of time.

    Oh well. At least they made the poing that changes to driving technique are significant in the fuel economy game. The misconception that you need a new car to get better mileage has got to go.
  8. philmcneal

    philmcneal Has it been 10 years? Wow

    i don't blame the guy, writing for a popular paper that is read daily by people he must be cautious of what he says... don't want any lawsuits now for a moron fasing his way into a tree ;)
  9. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    ___I have to do some toning down of this one I believe …

    ___First, we have Randall currently going to break the record of miles on a single tank of fuel and the highest FE in an Insight over a tank. We have Sno and Chuck running 150 + mpg segments, we have Justin Fons (mentioned in the story) who is just 17 years old and without mods, nailed 117.x mpg in the FE comp at HF2006. There are so many more members and drivers yet to appear that have perfect routes via better alternatives, even better skills, and yet to be manufactured automobiles that will make all of our efforts look like the gas guzzling crowd that we are.

    ___I have mentioned this in the recent past but the real “Best Hypermiler’s” include just about the entire CleanMPG membership as we all continually strive for higher FE by pushing tanks far beyond where most would have believed possible.

    ___About Pat Goss. I have tremendous respect for him and his segment on MotorWeek. Watch it all the time in fact. The problem is he as well as the tens of thousands of other gear heads are walking around completely clueless … Given the story was looking for sound (text?) bites, I am sure Pat had much more to say just as I would if I had the chance for a rebuttal. DWB on the beltway … Losing control … Tire pressures … I teach this every day … He is not an expert when it comes to high or even middling FE unfortunately to the detriment of his readership :(

    ___On a much nicer note, “The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades” as the song goes and in some cases, I believe it :D

    ___Good Luck

  10. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    Reader Replies

    I am surprised nobody has mentioned installing a manifold vacuum guage. These cheap devices used to be common and give you an instant and accurate indication of your fuel usage and teach the correct driving techniques on the job. There have also been simpler devices that take the same information and indicate when to shift a manual transmission, but they miss a lot of important signals.

    By PanamaJohn | Aug 5, 2006 10:35:03 AM | Request Removal

    Hey I have always wondered whether larger than recommended tires would help increase your MPG. Will it? Thanks.

    By tmccarty | Aug 5, 2006 7:07:23 PM | Request Removal

    I get 43 miles per gallon on my Impala instead of 30 mpg by coasting, driving at 55-60 mph. Also I get a lot of honking from irate drivers.

    By jaihariom | Aug 5, 2006 7:46:34 PM | Request Removal

    _________________________________________________ Good points all. I mounted full-size tires on my 02 Ford Ranger. Theyve 5 more circumference thus, I get 1 more mile every 20 on the odo. Compensating for that and adding in the increase, I find Im getting 24.5 mpg on this 6 cyl truck instead of the original estimated 20 highway mpg. A lot of older cars trucks are under-tired and would fare better at the pump if they used the largest tires applicable.

    By geoanon10 | Aug 5, 2006 8:03:18 PM | Request Removal

    Crappy article. The writer is not very intuitive about emgines etc. Btw shutting off your engine to coast is a thing you may try once, just to get the thrill of a locked steering wheel in a moving vehicle - super dumb! I do not believe the claims, certainly not by the techniques described. I drive as efficiently as possible albeit not slow, I hardly ever touch the brakes, and I get 28 mpg in my 94 Accord. PanamaJohns vaccuum gauge idea is better than anything in the feel-good article.

    By cxk2 | Aug 5, 2006 8:52:51 PM | Request Removal

    People have been writing pointless, increase your mileage tips since 1973. Try to be intelligent for once. Try to be clever. If your ideas fall into either of these two categories, 1 Murder is a bad thing obviousness or 2 You might get shot for doing this but..., then just go home and separate your recyclabes. You will do the world a lot more good than you will by pissing away profitable advertising space by publishing useless crap like this (Delta Flyer note: Have I seen you on a forum?).

    By tvsfrank | Aug 5, 2006 9:00:36 PM | Request Removal

    Interesting suggestions that I think people here in Chicago really need to read. The most basic idea here, not using excessive brake and gas, is something my Dad taught me when I was learning to drive. People in the midwest are absolutely clueless on even this idea they are big fans of speeding up just to slam on their brakes. I would love it if someone would do a study on how driving tactics affects traffic--I am absolutely convinced its responsible for a lot of the traffic here.

    By deibelt | Aug 5, 2006 9:04:01 PM | Request Removal

    lotza crappo--i do not drive a japanese rice-burner, nor do i intend to--the practical way to get the most from each gallon is to pay attention to road conditions: dont race up to a red light and then slam on the brakes--no jack-rabbit starts from the traffic light--be sure the air filter element is clean--are your tires properly inflated??--dont expect big savings if you are driving 250 horses under the hood--close the windows and set the air conditioner at a reasonable temperature such as 75 degrees--keep your speed at 70 miles an hour or less, but dont play games with shutting off engine--use downhill to your advantage by coasting whenever practical--dont spend 20,000 dollars on a hybrid thinking you will save big bucks on fuel--truth is youll never recoup your purchase price unless you keep the new car at least 10 years, if the car lasts that long--remember, the hybrid battery costs very big bucks to replace when it no longer can hold a charge--use cruise control whenever possible with a setting of no more than 2,000 rpm if your car has a tach and you are out on the interstate--dont believe the epa ratings--good luck, and remember: theres plenty of gas left out there waiting to be refined--remember the experts in the early seventies telling us that we are running out of petroleum--yeah right!!

    By rencarl | Aug 5, 2006 9:44:48 PM | Request Removal (Delta Flyer's note: How many beers do they allow readers have while they post? )

    Our minds should be applied to more useful challenges than any of this trivia.

    By caroleannetax | Aug 5, 2006 11:44:25 PM | Request Removal

    Actually, driving behavior is a large factor in not just fuel economy, but many of the daily beltway backups. Drivers here do not seem to make the gas pedal to fuel economy connection. Oh, and the guy with the Ranger pickup has me chuckling. You drive a large pickup truck, and are weighing in on fuel economy? Do you have diet coke with your hot fudge sundaes, too?

    By robert7ii | Aug 6, 2006 6:34:46 AM | Request Removal

    Previous poster writes, Our minds should be applied to more useful challenges than any of this trivia. Must be a Hummer driver . . .

    By robert7ii | Aug 6, 2006 6:36:28 AM | Request Removal

    Let me include this link as Edmunds seems to have actually *tested* what they promote: which finally lays to myth that tire underinflation hurts gas mileage significantly. Excuse me now while I drive down the road and turn off the engine !!!?????.

    By tkrotchko | Aug 6, 2006 12:12:16 PM | Request Removal

    I notice the post filters out URLs. Go to google and look for tire underinflation does not hurt fuel economy. Ill try to be tricky with the link to see if that sticks. /advice/fueleconomy/articles/106842/article.html

    By tkrotchko | Aug 6, 2006 12:14:20 PM | Request Removal

    I notice the post filters out URLs. Go to google and look for tire underinflation does not hurt fuel economy. Ill try to be tricky with the link to see if that sticks. /advice/fueleconomy/articles/106842/article.html

    By tkrotchko | Aug 6, 2006 12:29:54 PM | Request Removal

    Re forced auto stop. Not only is it unwise, its illegal in MD and VA to do so removing motive power from a moving vehicle.

    By rzeman | Aug 6, 2006 9:30:17 PM | Request Removal

    Living in a country where gas prices are over 5$ per gallon I am glad to see that people in the US are catching on on saving energy. Regarding the hypermiling techniques Id like to add the following: I think you have to keep the big picture in mind also. If for example your gas saving causes the tires to wear faster, that in the big picture is just as bad since fuel will be burned to manufacture tires. Aspects I was missing were aerodynamics like open windows and roof racks not to mention bullhorns and flags and turning off air condition, hifi amplifiers and other electrical devices not needed.

    By e.fernbach | Aug 7, 2006 12:02:07 AM | Request Removal

    Slowing down really does help. About 2 gallons on the trip from NoVA to Philly. My gas-guzzler 1994 Lincoln got about 19.5 MPG/highway with my normal habits I once got it up to 26 MPG after slowing down. I stay on the far right lane and dont go above 65 60 in a 55 zone.

    By get00smart | Aug 7, 2006 12:34:28 AM | Request Removal

    Great article! Ive been doing this for years with my Honda Civic Hybrid had an 03, now I have an 06. I average about 48 MPG and its not unusual to hit 50-53 MPG with the A/C on. In heavy traffic, this can go much higher because of the AutoStop feature. Also recommended pretend as though theres a raw egg between your foot and the gas pedal. It will cause you to gently apply pressure instead of using a hard throttle. Modern hybrid tires are harder than most cars, less rolling resistance, so I would keep those tires at the normal pressure. Some hybrids use a special motor oil, I wouldnt mess with that either. Keep cargo weight to a minimum. If you dont need to carry a lot of stuff for ordinary trips, then remove it from the car. Wax on, Wax off , less wind resistance. The new spray waxes are easy to apply and only takes a short amount of time. Nice thing about small cars, less surface area . Look for opportunities like hills and banked curves to maximize coasting and to keep the battery charged. With practice, youll know exactly when to let off the throttle, charge the battery and still have enough power to make it up a hill at a suitable speed. I LOVE my hybrid!!!

    By harothberg | Aug 7, 2006 2:51:43 AM | Request Removal

    After reading the other posts, the Civic Hybrid does include a manifold vacuum guage. Its a toggle on the temp display. It has a fancier name though . Good recommendation. Turning off the car while driving, not good... we use to do it as kids to hear the muffler backfire from unspent gases. It was stupid then, and still is. Finally, for the folks that say it isnt worth the extra money. I disagree. The longer the Mid-East is in conflict, the more gas will go up. And, I would rather pay the extra money to companies that are on the cutting edge, to help them improve this technology, or develop something better?, than to see my hard earned money going to terrorist states. Driving a hybrid is patriotic, unless you want to continue to fund terrorist regimes. Does anyone remember where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from? Need I say more?! Besides, whats wrong with conserving? Are we that selfish not to want to leave our children a better future, or do we feel weve got to use everything up before someone else does? What a spoiled, selfish society we have become...

    By harothberg | Aug 7, 2006 3:09:17 AM | Request Removal

    I have owned a 2000 Honda Insight since they first came out. Mine was the first hybrid registered in Florida, and it is now getting rather long in the tooth, with 131,000 miles on the odometer. I still use it every day and three weeks ago I got a speeding ticket in South Carolina for stupidly going 85 in a 70 mph zone -- I wasnt in a hurry or anything, but if you dont watch the speedometer like a hawk you creep up to 90 mph because the car is so smooth, quiet and stable at speed that youre always pulling back on the reins. But I averaged 63 mpg on that trip from Orlando to Washington, D.C. WITH THE A/C BLASTING the whole way. With the climate control turned off, I have routinely beat the EPAs estimate of 70/61, with my best trip being one of 51 miles between Orlando and Cocoa Beach where I obtained 106.7 mpg driving with a deliberately light foot. I would have gotten about 135 mpg except I got caught in stop-and-go rush hour traffic in Cocoa and Merritt Island along the way. I am dismayed that Honda will discontinue the Insight after the 2006 model year. I really love mine and would have chosen to replace it with another new one when it finally gives up the ghost, which it seems to be nowhere near. I have heard rumors of its demise every year since 2003 and, although I hope that this too is just a rumor, this time I think it may be true, alas! I also have a 2005 Toyota Prius, which is MUCH harder to get up to its EPA rating but the things practically a limousine so I can tolerate only getting in the high 40s and low 50s for all that luxury -- the high-end audio, the voice-activated NAV console, the spiffy keyless entry and ignition, the very professionally dealer-installed leather seats, the HID headlights, the comfy seating for five, the whole nine yards
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2006
  11. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    Reader Replies - Page 2

    I agree that there are some good basic ideas here, like driving gently and maintaining your car mechanically. Many folks are so out of touch with their own cars, regardless of efficiency type, that they have no idea what condition the vehicle is actually in. Learn how to take care of your own vehicle, and for what its worth if you are inclined towards saving fuel as well as lowering emissions AND lessening depencence on petroluem..go biodiesel OR WVO! Biodiesel and hyperefficient diesel vehicles will be the best future for American car-owners. The absolute best would be a biodiesel/electric hybrid! That way one could really economize AND limit global impact simultaneously. Just my personal 2 cents!

    By toecutter64 | Aug 7, 2006 10:13:34 AM | Request Removal

    I drive through four counties to get to Baltimore everyday. I could use a commuter flight every now and then joke also, there should be some sort of reward for driving more than forty miles to and from work without causing or being mixed up in any accident.

    By lka08_17 | Aug 7, 2006 10:24:23 AM | Request Removal

    Almsot forgot to add: check out greasecar dot com and learn more about using veggie oil as a gasoline and diesel alternative!

    By toecutter64 | Aug 7, 2006 10:24:57 AM | Request Removal

    Wayne Gerdes drowe my car after a couple of weeks ago, and Ive learened how forced auto stop FAS can improve fuel economy.

    I drive exactly what the author drive, only its a 2000 5-speed Insight. Hybrids in HOV lanes is a hot topic, but I do the reverse as a coureous hypermiler. Ill take the rightmost freeway lane and accomodate those who wish to pass. Also, Ill exit to the access roads if its possible to go along the freeway without going thru stop lights. This way, there is less chance of gettting the wrath of agressive drivers.

    One other thing - being several lengths behind a big rig can still improve you fuel economy and still be safe. I take more chances and was one car length at 70mph, getting 73.5mpg. Without drafting, my Insight would have gotten about 60mpg. Most would not do that, hardly any would recommend such, but keep in mind that this is what wind resistance does to your fuel economy at speeds over 50mph.

    By orangekatt | Aug 7, 2006 7:57:06 PM | Request Removal (probably should remove this one :D )
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2006
  12. JZumbrun

    JZumbrun Member

    Somebody just e-mailed me a link to this thread. Pretty weird to find this a year later. (Sorry to revive such an old thread!)

    First, wanted to say a word in defense of Pat Goss. You gotta understand this story was written for an audience who had never heard of hypermiling before, but many of whom drive daily on the Capital Beltway. Now, imagine if you're first attempt at hypermiling was an FAS on the Beltway? Oh the humanity! That's all Goss was really saying about that.

    He was talking about these techniques in terms of the average American commuter. So I felt that for beginners, it's best to start with the easy stuff (i.e. drive slower, coast more) and if they get good at that, if they really get into hypermiling, after having read the article they will know the rest of these techniques are out there. They'll know to look and see how it's done.

    But frankly, forums like this or personal training (like a Hybrid Club) are the places to learn these techniques and not a relatively short newspaper article that can't go into all the details! Also, remember, since Goss was talking to the broadest possible audience -- if you key off in certain cars with power breaks and power steering... that's definitely a loss of control. It's not "airplane-that-lost-a-wing out of control" but when you're making a recommendation to the Post's 1,000,000 Sunday readers you have to err on the side of safety.

    Hopefully that makes sense. Cheers guys!
  13. tigerhonaker

    tigerhonaker Platinum Contributor

    I agree with your comments on your Post here. Makes perfect sense to me.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  14. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi JZumbrun:

    ___It has been a while, hasn’t it!

    ___I will have to go back and read the Pat’s response but IIRC, he was stating stuff that was not even close although I can understand his perspective and audience. I only wish I had the chance to respond in person with a clinic so he could see first hand that he was incorrect on a number of fronts. Kind of how a Prius driver feels when he or she is stuck at 45 mpg and with a little help, they are all of a sudden in the low 60’s or 70’s without much other then a few techniques under their belt ;)

    ___Good Luck and welcome to CleanMPG!


Share This Page