Guest Post: Adventures in Hypermiling

Hello everybody! I´m Gen.

Geoff had to deal with an unexpected power outage and subsequent disasters so he asked me to do a guest post. I hope you all bear with me, because I´m not the expert that Geoff is. In fact I´m pretty much an all-around car disaster, as you´re about to see.

This is the story of the first (and last?) time I ever hypermiled.

I was 16 years old and plain old crazy just like all 16 year-olds get when they first get their driver´s license. My dad lent me the car to go to band practice but I decided to visit my best friend instead. Of course Dad probably knew that I would be tempted to step out and run away from band after signing the attendance sheet, but as the tank was basically on empty he thought he could trust me. Little did he know to what extent I was prepared to go.

The first couple of miles I tried to go really easy on the gas pedal, but that meant that the car went Slow, way to slow for a girl on the move like me. Teenagers do not like to go slow. Slow is neither cool nor gratifying.

Then I came upon the insight that coasting through intersections would really cut down on the stopping and starting. It worked like a dream for the first few stop signs in a quiet residential neighborhood. The highlight of my ride was when I successfully stared down an elderly lady driving a minivan. She might have technically had the right of way, but I obviously ruled the road.

The next tactic I tried was shifting into neutral and coasting down some hills. That was good but it didn´t really save that much gas, and by now the gas gage was alarming. So I turned off the engine on the next hill. Now that was gratifying. Thanks to the rolling hills in my home town I was able to coast for almost a minute before turning on the car.

A mile before my friend´s house I had to turn off onto a steep gravel road. Everything was working fine, and it looked like I would be able to reach my destination before the tank ran out. I should have counted my blessings and left it at that. But teenagers never do.

Inspired by my god-like powers of fuel economy, and gifted with a mpg that would make hybrids weep, I tried coasting down the gravel road with the engine turned off. To my credit it did work until the first switchback turn, when I used up the hydraulic pressure in the brakes. Then I tried to start the car, and the engine wouldn´t turn on. Then I had to take another switchback turn and realized that the steering wheel didn´t work so well with the engine turned off.

Fortunately the crash wasn´t so bad for me, the car or the tree. With the help of my best friend, her brother and his friends we managed to get me and the car home. However, explaining to my Dad how on earth I managed to get wood chips into the front bumper and why there were pine needles in the back seat was quite a task.

To summarize I highly recommend that all of Geoff´s readers think twice before using advanced hypermiling techniques, especially on switch-backed gravel roads.


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