Gas Saving Driving Techniques or "Hypermiling"

Gas Saving Driving Techniques or "Hypermiling" - It is inarguable that one’s driving techniques and habits can severely impact or vastly improve the gas mileage one gets on their car. If you have to change any one thing to increase your gas mileage, the most effective thing you can do is to change your driving habits. There is even a new term for this. It is called "Hypermiling". There are people out there that are fanatical about this and many can carry it to an extreme (40MPH on a Major Interstate might be an example) but following many of the techniques that "Hypermilers" use will save you gas!

Many of us may unconsciously drive in a manner that may reduce our gas economy without even realizing it. Hopefully by going over the techniques you should use for the best fuel efficiency you can start with a clean slate and relearn driving habits that will net you the best MPG. Here is a list of driving habits that can help you achieve the best fuel economy in your vehicle.


Moderate acceleration is the most Gas friendly way to get your vehicle up to speed in the most fuel efficient manner. A recent study showed that the fuel savings that can be achieved by modifying this single habit ranges from 10% to 33% depending on your current driving habits. Keeping the accelerator depressed to 1/4 to 1/3 throttle should put you in the most efficient and gas savings mode of acceleration. Moderate acceleration will get you up to speed quickly, get you through the lower gears in the quickest amount of time (driving in a lower gears while accelerating consumes much more gas then the higher gears) and result in the best fuel economy. One side note, extremely slow acceleration may actually backfire and cost you more fuel as the vehicle will stay in the lower gears for a longer amount of time, burning more fuel then is necessary.

Driving Speed

A small difference in your cruising speed, particularly on highways can make a big difference in your overall fuel economy. In my experience, many vehicles seem to have a “Sweet Spot”. The sweet spot is the velocity that gives you the best balance between speed and fuel economy. While it is true that if you drive slower you will get the best MPG you have to be practical. If you are on an interstate with a speed limit of 70 MPH and are driving 40 MPH to get the best gas mileage you are inviting disaster. Most of the vehicles I have owned in the last few years seem to have their sweet spots between 60 and 65 MPH. The best way to find your sweet spot is to monitor your instantaneous fuel economy with the vehicles computer. Unfortunately, not all cars are equipped with this. For you die-hards that are focused on really squeezing the last mile out of every drop of gas there are plug in types are available (they work via the OBD plug) but are costly. The Scanguage II is one of the most popular ones in use by the die hard Fuel Economists amongst us. Smooth and Stable Driving Whether accelerating or cruising, how you handle changes in acceleration are cruical. Your foot should only make smooth and gradual adjustments to the throttle. Quick acceleration or sudden hard stops will not only decrease your MPG but are hard on the vehicle as well. Being well aware of what is happening ahead of you on the road can let you react well ahead of time, letting you make required changes in speed over gradual periods of time rather then abruptly. There is a term called” situational awareness” that you should become familiar with. Situational awareness basically describes the act of knowing what is happening on the road ahead of you (for defensive driving you should also be aware of what the conditions are on either side as well as behind you). By being knowledgeable of the conditions around you, you can react with plenty of time, gradually easing off the accelerator if traffic ahead appears to be coming to a slow down. From an unrelated but important perspective, situational awareness is a key to defensive driving as well. Knowing what road conditions you are getting ready to encounter well ahead of time can allow you to avoid any dangerous situations gradually without having to make a panic maneuver.

Stop Lights

If you are approaching a stoplight, don’t wait until the last minute to brake. Take your foot off the accelerator and let the vehicle begin to slow on it’s own as you approach the light. Ideally, the light will turn green as you are approaching it and you’ll never come to a complete stop, allowing you to begin accelerating again before you hit the light.

Why is this important? Resuming your speed from a rolling start rather then from a dead stop burns far less fuel and will significantly help in your overall fuel economy! Every time you have to start your car rolling from a dead stop you burn a significant amount of fuel. This is one of the reasons that a vehicles fuel economy rating is so much lower in the city then it is on the highway.

Speed Changes

When you are at cruising speed and need to change the speed at which you are traveling do it slowly. Lets say you are on an interstate highway and are traveling at 60MPH. The speed limit changes to 70MPH and you want to increase your speed to match it. Many drivers will punch down on the accelerator to get it up to speed and then back off to cruising speed. This forces the vehicle to downshift to allow the engine to bring the vehicle up to speed. Why is that a problem for fuel economy? Any time spent in the lower gears, whether you are driving an automatic or a stick is time spent burning more fuel then is necessary. The lower the gear you are in the more gas that will be consumed to cover the same amount of ground, so by increasing your speed gradually you will remain in the highest gear your car supports and slowly reach the desired speed without burning additional gas.

Skip Gears This would be for chiefly manual vehicles. You don’t have to go through all the gears when accelerating. In a five speed when I’m pushing for economy I typically shift from first to third to fifth. By staying in each of the lower gears a moment longer and letting the engine reach a slightly higher RPM you can get up to your desired speed quicker, while at the same time spending less time in the lower gears. This chiefly applies too manual vehicles. You don’t have to go through all the gears when accelerating.

Once again (I’ll repeat myself endlessly on this point) the less time you spend in the lower gears, the better gas mileage you will get in the long term. If your driving for the best MPG then you need to think along the lines of getting your vehicle into the highest gear as quickly as possible and keeping in the highest gear the driving conditions will allow. If you drive an automatic you can actually learn your shift points and by slightly backing off on the accelerator when increasing speed, force the vehicle to shift sooner and then continue accelerating. It takes some practice but once you get the hang of it you shouls be able to accelerate smoothly and briskly for the best fuel economy.

Overdrive If your vehicle is equipped with overdrive, use it! The higher gear ratio of overdrive allows your vehicle to cover more ground with less revolutions of the engine. This results in better MPG as well as less wear and tear on your vehicle. One word of caution, if you are driving through a hilly or mountainous area or are towing you should turn your overdrive off as it will be constantly downshifting to keep your vehicle up to speed. This will result in worse gas mileage as well as excessive wear and tear on your vehicles engine and transmission

Air Conditioning There are few topics that are as hotly debated as whether you should run the car’s A/C ot open the Windows or even swelter in the vehicle to get the best fuel economy. It seems that every reference I have encountered has a differing opinion. I’d rather use the A/C and roll the windows up. A recent study by Edmunds showed that the gas savings between the two is so minute that it’s close to imperceptible. Their take, do what it comfortable for you.

Idling An idling vehicle gets ZERO MPG. If you are going to be stationary for an extended period of time turn it off. While there is some truth that older carbuerated vehicles would consume more fuel when starting up that is not true of modern fuel injected vehicles.

Driving Aids Changing the way you drive can be a difficult task. You're basically undoing a lifetime's worth of experience and rebuilding it from scratch. One way to help with this is to make it a challenge, and too use a tool that helps you measure how well you are doing. There are numerous stories of people that have done that my using a gas consumption meter, either one that is built in to their vehicle or an external device. Some cars have built in Fuel Consumption meters that will tell you what your MPG is. For those of you that own vehicles without them you can use a Scanguage II to help you understand how your driving habits affect your fuel economy. By understanding your overall, as well as your instantaneous fuel economy you'll be able to "fine tune" your driving techniques to get the best fuel economy possible.
Gas Saving Driving Techniques or "Hypermiling"