AutoblogGreen takes the #F150Challenge
Sebastian Blanco - AUTOBLOG
- May 12, 2011
Another journalist speaks out about the hypermiling adventure and the #F150Challenge . --Ed.
The first time he suggested it, I hesitated. After all, I'd never tried to drive a vehicle at 45 miles per hour with the engine completely off.
But here I was, cresting a long hill on a highway somewhere in Oklahoma and Wayne Gerdes was saying in a strong voice, "Do a FAS. Turn it off, turn it off.
Shift to neutral, then turn it off." I followed his instructions, finally, and hoped that the nice people from CleanMPG who were in the truck with me were not going to get hurt when we crashed.
Of course, that didn't happen. A modern Ford F-150 will, when you turn the key to the accessory position after shutting down, operate mostly the way it does when the engine is on. (See Ford's official disclaimer below; these are not fuel-saving tricks that the untrained driver should attempt.) The power steering is active, the radio doesn't even stop playing and the brakes work (not that Gerdes would ever touch them). Once I got used to how the truck works, I was FAS-ing every chance I got. On one particularly amazing FAS (don't worry, acronym explanations are coming up), I hit 67 mph. It was a triumph.
Learning to FAS – one of Gerdes' many hypermiling tips – was one of the main reasons I was along on his latest high-mileage challenge. In the past, he has gotten 59 mpg out of a Hyundai Sonata and 81.5 mpg in a Ford Fusion Hybrid, so he's more than familiar with beating expectations. This time, the idea was to see if a fully loaded truck packed with five people and a bed full of gear could drive coast-to-coast (California to Georgia) while getting over 30 mpg. For the trip, Gerdes selected the 2011 F-150 XLT with Ford's EcoBoost 3.5 liter V6, which the EPA says gets 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. What do they know? Heck, what did I know?
I joined the trip from Oklahoma City to Atlanta, a distance of around 870 miles the way we were going. Hopping in on the middle portion meant that I missed the mileage-crushing Rocky Mountains (with, granted, its wonderful downslopes) and some desert heat (hypermilers shun A/C use). Most drivers can tell you that gradual starts and stops can increase your mpg, as can driving below the highway speed limit. CleanMPG, though, is about really proving that the EPA's MPG numbers are much too low. By the time I got behind the wheel, the overall average mpg displayed on the stock Ford info screen was 34.1, a thoroughly impressive figure.... [Read More]