Hypermiling: Drive like a Girl

Hypermiling is the sport of parking your testosterone at the race track and driving GENTLY for fuel economy. Avoiding sudden braking and acceleration, letting other cars go around you as you mosey up to traffic speed, coasting up to stoplights; these are the fine, feminine arts of hypermiling!

Whether you've got a Chevy Bolt, a Nissan LEAF, or other electric vehicle, you'll need the skill of driving feminine if you want maximum range satisfaction. It works on gas-guzzlers, too, by the way. Heck, you can even go hypermiling in your Hummer if you want to.

Hypermiling How-to

EV Limitations and Hypermiling

I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but even if you lay out your cash and convert your new Prius into a plug-in hybrid, unless you also convert your driving habits, you won't get any better gas mileage than you did with a standard Prius off the shelf! In fact, you might do just about as well in a (much cheaper) Corolla.

Google's RechargeIT project demonstrated this in typical Google style - with technology, mounds of data, and a little friendly competition. They converted a fleet of Priuses and Ford Escape hybrids to plug-ins and then set their drivers out on the road to test the average fuel economy. The news was great! The converted Prius really DOES get 100 mpg or so in real-world conditions. Cool! Then...

...after the "project" was over, they used the same fleet of Priuses and Escapes as errand-running cars. And what happened? Those same cars got really bad fuel economy comparatively, about half what they'd done in the "project". What's up with those results?

Nobody really knows, but a lot of people are speculating wildly on why the converted Priuses don't do as well in real life as they did in the experiment. I might as well throw my own wild speculation in the ring, don't you think? So here's my bid: Human nature. It all comes down to driving habits and the human need to "win the game".

The art of getting the best gas mileage possible is made up of a lot of little things, maybe 100 different decisions in an hour's drive (you'll see which decisions equal maximum fuel economy below). During the project, the way to "win the game", in the driver's mind, is to get the maximum fuel economy possible by hypermiling. Google WANTED those results to turn out that way, and even among scientists, this desire has been known to skew the results.

After the project was over and the drivers were using the cars to run errands, however, the way to win the game became "getting the errand done as soon as possible", so fuel economy became less of a priority.

It turns out that these are two entirely different games, and you can win one game, or the other...but not both at the same time.

Sound kinda familiar?

In an EV, you can have range, OR tire-smoking acceleration...but not both. There's a trick to getting the maximum range out of your battery pack, and it's pretty much the same as hypermiling.

Pulse and Glide

Hypermiling Driving Habits

These are the driving habits that will help you win the game:

  • Drive Gently.
    Like there was a double-tall extra hot with no foam sitting on the dashboard in front of you and you didn't want to WEAR it.
  • Find Your Sweet Spot.
    There's a "sweet spot" for every motor (maximum efficiency RPM's). If you keep your eye on the ammeter, says the new Build Your Own Electric Vehicle, you can maximize your range by minimizing your current flow as you drive.
  • The Meter's Running.
    Use the accelerator and the brake like they were on a meter, and you had to put quarters in to use them. I learned this hypermiling technique a long time ago, in a car with worn-out brake pads. I didn't care about fuel economy, I just didn't want to hear that awful scraping noise. Hey, a habit is a habit; )
    The accelerator drains your battery pack in two ways: First, by increasing your need to brake (what goes up must come down, including your speed!), and second, because of the Lead-Foot Tax (Peukert effect).
    The brake drains your battery pack by converting your hard-earned momentum into friction. Who needs more friction?
  • No Tailgating.
    Unless the Raiders are in town and you're thinking "barbecue in the parking lot", tailgating is a bad thing. It only invites you to accelerate and brake on somebody else's schedule.
  • Pulse and Glide.
    There's a trick to this, but in a nutshell, it means accelerate (gently) up to a certain speed, then back off the accelerator, then start again before you lose too much momentum. You're going for an average speed.
  • Go With The Flow.
    Noticing what other drivers are doing around you will minimize the need to do the Brake-Stomp. If you had to drive with no brakes, you'd be watching what people were doing several cars ahead and behind, not just the car immediately in front of you. Hypermiling actually requires more attention to traffic flow to maintain an average speed, so hypermilers probably get in fewer car crashes, too.

Hypermiling Just for Electric Cars

(Thanks to our collective EV wisdom and Seth Leitman's Build Your Own Electric Vehicle )

  • Coasting.
    It's a whole different ballgame in an electric car, because you don't have engine compression to slow you down. You can coast a long, long time - provided you don't have regenerative braking - and most EV drivers take full advantage of it.
  • Regenerative Braking.
    Uses your motor as a generator to stuff your momentum energy BACK into your battery as electrical energy. An AC system does this rather efficiently. I've never heard of a DC system that had regeneration worth bothering with. If you've got good regeneration, your driving technique can afford to be less fuel-economical, because you can recapture your momentum energy. There's still a Lead-Foot Tax, but less of a Brake-Stomp Tax. It's not perfect. The motor can't regenerate electricity as fast as you can stomp the brake, so some will be lost.
  • Eye on the Prize.
    Driving an EV is unfamiliar at first, but you have a meter on your dash to help you learn to drive correctly: the ammeter. Less is more. Notice what stomping on the accelerator and going up a hill do to the ammeter reading.
  • Lower Gear, Better Range.
    With series DC electric motors, a lower gear increases the RPMs, which reduces amp draw from the battery (and increases range). Dan Bentler, EV Motors instructor at SSCC, says, "Gas-guzzler engines have a different torque curve than do electric motors. You want to be in whatever gear it takes to get you at the optimum spot on the torque curve. A lot of electric car converters are using series wound DC motors, so use a lower gear, speed the motor up, reduce the amps and save the controller."

So what's missing in hypermiling, EV or otherwise?

The testosterone!

Driving with your joystick might win you the NEDRA records, but for everyday driving, even my favorite bad boys drive like girls - hypermiling - to get maximum range out of their battery packs. Men have one great advantage when it comes to hypermiling, though...

...they don't let other people's opinions matter too much. This really helps when some sweaty Neanderthal is swearing and yelling out the window of the Hummer for you to get off the road. Just wave~~(all five fingers, please)!

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