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