Barry Thomson and the Art of Hypermiling
The next time you’re in traffic, cursing because you’re stuck behind someone who you can’t seem to get around, relax.
They might be a hyper miler.
“Whaaaa…?” is something I’m hearing a few of you say.
Hypermiling.com defines the practice as“…a method of increasing your car’s gas mileage by making skillful changes in the way you drive, allowing you to save gas and thereby have an easier time withstanding the rising oil and gas prices.”
That’s a very milquetoast statement, especially coming from a site with a name like “Hypermiling.com”.
A better definition is at CleanMPG.com:
Hypermiler is a term coined by Wayne Gerdes to describe a driver who strives to exceed their vehicle’s EPA fuel economy rating. In conventional vehicles they can often match the mileage of an average person driving an equivalent hybrid. Hypermilers driving hybrids tend to achieve tremendous mileage, with some even exceeding 100 MPG . That being said, anyone can learn a wide variety of these skills. This site is dedicated to educating the driver of these techniques, so that they can raise their vehicles fuel economy no matter what they drive.
While Hypermiling is about a variety of techniques to improve a vehicles fuel economy, Hypermiling should not be equated with dangerous driving. While some hypermilers favor certain advanced practices that entail some risk and are in some areas illegal, these are not required nor encouraged. There are many basic techniques that are safe and actually make you a better driver, it is up to you, as a driver, to find your own particular level of comfort and fuel economy.
If you click on the image at right, you will be able to access a very nice infographic with details, tricks and tips for becoming a hyper miler. Of course this won’t help the pain of going slow when you need to go fast; but it will provide some context.
I was aware of hypermiling, but a bloke named Barry Thomson really brought it to the forefront of my ADHD-addled mind. As you’ll read in the Q & A below, he’s relatively new to hypermiling–but completely smitten with it. The infographic came from him.
Barry founded ShowplatesDirect.com. It’s a fascinating business that is unique to the UK. You can use his service to customize your license plates. Showplaces Direct can change the background color and font of your plate, as well as add a cheeky slogan.
Since Americans use letters and numbers on their vanity plates to code cheeky slogans of their own, there’s little chance the model will work on this side of the pond.
But enough about Barry’s day job, read on to learn more about hypermiling and why he loves it.
Q: What is Hypermiling? What drew you to it?
A: Hypermiling is the practice of a driver changing how they drive in order to use the least amount of fuel. I came across hypermiling through an online forum on Pistonheads.com. I was saving for a house for me and my partner so I thought it was a great opportunity to improve my driving habits, save money and contribute a small part to the environment by consuming less fuel.
Q: What are your results ?
A: I must admit it was a lot harder than I realised to drive like a hypermiler. It requires a considerable amount of patience, especially when in a hurry! So far I have improved my MPG from 30MPG to around 36MPG. An improvement of 20%. Not a huge amount but over the span of 12 months it’s a fair chunk of cash saved.
Q: Was it difficult? How much extra did or do you have to spend to keep your vehicle in hypermiling shape?
A: It was extremely difficult especially commuting to and from work, when you’re in a rush and you have to be somewhere. Other times you just forget to drive more carefully and practice the various techniques which are used.
Q: Are there hypermiling forums, clubs or organizations in the UK? How about in the US?
Sure. There is Hypermiler.co.uk and CleanMPG.com, these would be the two which I have been on the most and learnt a lot from. They are great sources of information as well as being a great community.
Q: When did you feel you “understood” how hypermiling worked?
A: I am not quite sure I still fully understand how it works, but what I do understand is that if I follow X technique it does improve my MPG. On the other hand there are some techniques which are a lot harder to comprehend how that small detail can improve your MPG.
Q: What do you have to do to improve or maintain your current results?
A: Well my next step is getting a fuel consumption monitor so that I can really monitor how much fuel I consume and my MPG in a really accurate method.
Q: Tell us more about Showplates Direct. Where did the idea come from, and how long have you been at it?
A: Show Plates Direct sell number plates for cars and motorcycles. Not the registration plate for the car, that’s different. But the actual plastic which sits on your vehicle. We will print your registration number out on the plate and post of to you.
Q: In the US we have vanity plates. How different is that from Showplaces Direct?
A: Vanity plates are personalised number plates whereas showplatesdirect.com don’t sell the actual registration number but make the plates the number sits on which you put on your car.
Q: Is this a UK-only product? If so, do you see coming to the US of A?
A: This is not a product as such. It is just the printing of your cars number plates should you lose it or perhaps you want it as a novelty plate for off road purposes.
Q: Part of the hypermiling infographic is simply driving less. If the goal is to extract the most MPG as possible, it seems like not driving is cheating. Why or why not?
A: Well it is about changing your driving habits in order to consume the least amount of fuel as possible. Not just getting as many MPG. So it is about driving less and when you are driving driving in a manner which uses less fuel.
Q: There are some interesting bits, like the “Corridor Effect”, driving within a flow of traffic; or watching the pedestrian signal as a cue to slow and stop. Which are a couple of your favorites?
A: My favorites are probably the easiest! Because hypermiling can be hard work as it does take time and dedication. So my two favourites are simply listening to calming music rather than something like rock or dance which will get your driving fast! Secondly “stop and crawl” because it really does make such good sense to carry out this one.
Q: What’s the one thing you absolutely refuse to do under the guidelines as a hyper miler?
A: Well for some people something might not be practical. For example park and ride instead of driving my car is not possible for me. So I have to commute every day in my car. I do wish could park and ride because then I could save money, have less stress, and I would have free time on the bus to do other things like clear my email inbox, return phone calls and text my wife!
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