No stops necessary: The phenomenon of hypermiling

You don't know what hypermiling is? Don't worry, Alex Jones will explain...

MPG statistics mean very little to Wayne Gerdes, the man who is, officially, the most fuel-efficient driver in the world. Gerdes gets behind the wheel of a car and rewires the miles per gallon capacity of it. He’s the champion of fuel-efficient driving, the holder of Guinness world records, and is credited with inventing the technique known as hypermiling.

If hypermiling means nothing to you, that’s because it’s a relatively new term; it was added to the Oxford Dictionary as recently as 2008. Essentially, hypermiling is the act of driving in such a fashion that the car’s performance is as economical as possible. By doing this, the fuel consumption is lowered and you are able to cover many more miles than expected. Gerdes is the absolute king of hypermiling. This guy can eek an extra couple of hundred miles out of just about anything on four wheels. He’s set mileage records in more than 100 vehicles.

Wayne Gerdes, world record holder for best average fuel mileage
Wayne Gerdes, world record holder for best average fuel mileage

Photo by: Wayne Gerdes

Last year, Gerdes and a co-driver, Bob Winger, set a world record by achieving 77.99 miles per gallon as they pootled a Volkswagen Passat around the lower 48 American states. It’s the lowest fuel consumption for a non-hybrid car and also beat the hybrid vehicle record (64.6mpg) by more than 13 mpg. The pair left Virginia on June 7 and returned on June 24, after covering 8,122 miles.

Meanwhile, in 2012, John and Helen Taylor achieved a 1,626-mile drive, again in a Passat, without stopping once for fuel, and setting a record for the further distance travelled on a single tank. The couple have consistently set World Driving Records since 1982, starting with a round Britain trip in a Ford Fiesta. Their latest adventure was a record economy drive in Australia in a Jaguar XF 2.2 Diesel. John and Helen also run fuel economy/safe driving workshops and clinics around the world.

Hypermiling covers a broad range of techniques. Some of these are advanced and probably not recommended for newcomers or the inexperienced, but at the other end of the scale the basic steps to incorporate are just common sense. Any motorist, with a little care and attention, can improve the fuel efficiency of their car, whatever the model, by following a few tips and advice.

Preparation before a drive is important. In recent years, there has been a raft of coverage on tips and advice to save fuel and reduce motoring costs – an article published by motor dealership T W White & Sons, which you can read HERE, is one example. Another comes from the AA who insist that their tips are, ‘the motoring equivalent of insulating the hot water tank, fitting low-energy bulbs and not leaving the television on standby.’ So how can the average driver go from “gas guzzler” to “hypermiler”?

Streamline the vehicle and its contents. Extra weight means extra fuel, so if the boot is carrying items which aren’t needed for this particular trip, take them out – perhaps a sports bag full of kit, wet towel and trainers from a visit to the gym, or the kids’ scooters, left in the car from the weekend but not required during the standard working week. Roof racks, bike racks – remove these if not needed. They add wind resistance, which increases consumption. Two of the more surprising suggestions are to reduce the use of air conditioning, as that increases fuel consumption, and to turn off unneeded electrical functions such as demister blowers, headlights and heated windscreens.

There is always the added option of purchasing a more economical vehicle anyway, and this is one of the most important factors for new and used car buyers; fuel efficiency is on every motorist’s mind.

It’s worth taking on board Auto Express’s overall view of the general ‘rule’ which is, though small diesel cars tend to have the highest MPG, there’s little point buying one of these models if most of your driving is done on short trips around town. You simply won’t see the benefit.

However, if you want to take the fuel efficiency a stage further, you might fancy splashing out on what has been billed as the world’s most fuel-efficient production car, The Volkswagen XL1.

‘Pioneering construction techniques, an advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain and innovative packaging all play a part in allowing the XL1 to return 313 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 24 g/km of CO2 to set a new benchmark for vehicle efficiency.’

Sounds pretty good, right? There is bad news, however. The XL1 has an initial production run of 250 examples, and an estimated price of around £100,000. Clearly, the car will be the used by the privileged few only. For the rest of us, smarter driving and better preparation will achieve improved fuel economy, and with a bit of practice we’ll be Hypermiling in no time.

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Series Automotive
Article type Commentary
Tags hypermiling, vw passat, wayne gerdes