High Miling

I got an extra 140 km (87 miles, for you Americans) out of my last tank of gas. Let me tell you how…

images.jpgA couple weeks ago, I read an article about these guys, they call themselves “High Milers” or something like that, and they’ve made a sport out of increasing their gas mileage. One guy went 900 miles on a 17 gallon tank of gas (1450km on 65 liters)! They meet every year and have contests to see who can go the farthest — one competitor drove for 9 hours with the fuel gauge on “E!”

Now these guys take it to the extreme: shutting their car off when coasting, slip-streaming transport trucks, and other crazy stuff like that. But some of their, less dangerous, tips when applied in moderation, can have some pretty amazing impact on your mileage — and your gas budget. Here’s a couple principles I’ve extracted from their experiments…

Don’t Use The Gas

We tend to think of going and stopping as a binary operation: your foot is either on the gas pedal to make you go, or the brake pedal to make you stop. We frequently forget what we all knew when we were kids riding bikes through the neighbourhood — you don’t need to pedal all the time, nor do you need to use the gas pedal all the time. In fact, once you start thinking this way, you feel kind of silly about how much you press down on the pedal. Going down hills, getting off the highway, coming up to a stop sign, rolling into a parking spot — you don’t need the gas pedal for any of these things. You’d be really surprised at how far, and how fast, your momentum will take you. Slide the car into neutral (or put the clutch all the way on) to make sure you’re really coasting.
Don’t Use the Brake

Once you get used to employing your momentum as much as you can, you start to realise how tragic it is to throw that momentum away by using the brake pedal. The goal here is to time your release of the gas pedal such that your momentum carries you exactly to the place you want to stop. Then you haven’t thrown away any fuel.

One example on my trip home is the road that we live off of. When you round the corner, there’s a curvy stretch leading up to our driveway. I’ve found that if I get to the speed limit by the time the curves start, I can put the car in neutral, maintaining a decent speed all the way to our driveway, make the turn into our apartment complex, and coast right into my parking spot, with still a little bit of momentum left. It’s a little under 2 miles where I have no need for the gas or the brake — I don’t waste any gas at all for that stretch.

Use the Brake

This might seem contradictory, but if you drive a vehicle with a standard transmission, as Nicole and I both do, you’ve probably gotten use to gear braking. While there are certain benefits to this technique, fuel conservation is not one of them. If the circumstances don’t allow you to coast to a stop, use the brake — you’re still throwing away momentum, but at least you’re not consuming fuel to do it.

Don’t Drive in the Grooves

I estimate that this strategy alone probably got me an additional 25-35 km on this last tank of gas.

In any given lane on a highway, there are a set of grooves, roughly in the center of the lane, in which the majority of the traffic travels. In the winter its good to be able to find those. The rest of the year, they waste gas. Dirt, water, oil and other debris all settle into these grooves and create drag that imperceptibly, but significantly, impacts your momentum. Drive to either side of the grooves to avoid this waste of fuel.

Tire Pressure and Other Maintenance

This is one I haven’t done yet, but I really should. Having the right tire pressure makes a real difference to your mileage. A clean air filter is another cheap and easy way to get a few extra miles out of your gas tank.

Normally, in exclusively highway driving, I can eek 600km out of a tank of gas. With mixed city and highway driving, which I do on my typical work week, I’m usually lucky if I break 500km.

This past week and a half was the latter kind of driving, and I got 640km out of my tank — and I could probably get a little bit further. My ultimate goal for this project is to get 700km to a tank of gas… I’m pretty sure I can do it.

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10 thoughts on “High Miling

  1. Hey, this is a great post. I especially like the part on using the brake instead to engine brake to save some fuel – sounds logical, though I never thought of it that way.

    Also, having the correct tire pressure cannot be emphasized enough. In so doing, it ensures that there is not excessive area of contact (as compared to under inflated tires – which is a common thing for many cars), which uses more energy and therefore make the car less fuel economy.

  2. Thanks a lot for posting this…now I can’t drive without playing games with myself and trying not to use the gas. You have ruined the mindless therapy of driving for me altogether.

  3. Your grandfather, Wyndham Townend Wise, mechanic and personal friend of the legendary British race car driver and developer Raymond Mays (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Raymond-Mays-Story/dp/B000060O00) who kept a mileage log every time he filled his car, would have been proud.

    He claimed his Rambler Ambassador, the first North American car to feature reclining seats, would give him 40 mpg on the highway and 30 in the city, in an era when cars still weighed in excess of 2000 pounds. Just thought you might like to know.

    Incidently, in a modern context, I got 5.9L/100km going from London to Coburg in my 3.5L G6. I think I might have touched the brake twice going through Toronto. Inexcusable, really. I should have been thinking further ahead.

  4. Just think of it as a new game, Libby. But I’ll admit, it does make it harder to just relax…

    That’s pretty cool about grandpa. I’m not keeping a log, but I do try to beat my mileage each tank. Dumb snow last night totally messed me up this round…

  5. I’ve got a 94 Ford Escort wagon and am getting 46mpg on average, but I’ve broken 50mpg which was my goal. As well as all of the above, I keep the rpm low, turn off the engine at traffic lights, park so that I don’t have to reverse, start moving immediately upon engine start, try not to drive at night (lights take energy)and keep the AC off. I’ve gotten 472 miles on a tank, but there were still 2+ gallons left when I filled up, so could have made 500 easy. With old habbits, I got about 300-330miles/tank

  6. Just saw a TV story on a guy getting 71 mpg in a Prius on highway which is rated at 40 to 45. He used the term “high miling” which I Goggled to this site. The most exciting thing is I own a 94 Escort wagon (manual trans) for which I’d been averaging 30 mpg since I bought it in Aug 07. I had been driving more carefully by leaving more space in front of me. After hearing the story, I reduced my highway speed and started the coasting technique on the last half tank and got 33 mpg. Now I can’t wait to try these ideas on a full tank.

  7. That’s fantastic mileage. I can get 30mpg out of my ’02 Saturn SC2 by high miling — although I found out after I wrote this post that the term “Hyper Miling” is a little more popular.
    Contrast that against the 2008 Ford Edge, cross-over vehicle, which is rated for 13MPG, and you gotta wonder just what that company is thinking, trying to sell a vehicle like that these days — especially when their ’94 Escort was so much better!

  8. Just re-filled my 93 Escort wagon. I thought it was a 1994 but no it’s a ’93. After using hyper miling techniques. I am at 36.0 mpg for this tank… Sweet. The EPA site fueleconomy.gov lists this vehicle at 25 city/ 33 highway. Part of this may be due to the warmer weather (without use of the AC). I’m starting to teach the other drivers in the family which includes two boys: 17 and 20. Actually, they are interested because they have to pay for all non-school use fuel consumption. The other vehicles all have auto trans which requires altered technique.

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  10. Had to drive about 300 miles on Sunday. Great chance to push ahead on driving techniques. Ended up with 33.6 mpg, a bit disappointing. I had to run the AC flat out due to 100° temp. Still not bad. Today when I filled up, I had to wait a while due to Ford Explorer and Chevy pickup ahead of me (30 plus gallon fuel tanks) so I got out of my car and chatted with these guys. They were complaining about mpgs in the mid-teens. How can I tell them how stupid they are and still be polite?

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