I wrote previously that I got 53 miles per gallon (during one day) in my 2009 Honda Fit (a full gas car). This is no fluke and I’m prepared to share with you now how I average in the high 40’s regularly on my tanks of gas. Remember, a curious mind and a willingness to do what it takes are required :)
1. Relax and Enjoy the Ride
To relax and enjoy the ride, I either go to work early, or arrive late to avoid rush hour traffic. This way I’m not in a hurry. But wait, I just said I’m arriving to work late… Won’t I get fired? How does that work? It’s easy – I just stay at work later that day and avoid the rush hour traffic while leaving work. Most of you drive to a place of employment each day. Plan your driving around rush hour traffic and this is a huge step to having a relaxing and enjoyable ride.
I also listen to music and audio while in my car. A good piece of music or learning DVD really helps the ride go by fast and invigorates me. Instead of listening to the same old songs/shows on the radio, I make a conscious decision to listen to what inspires me.
2. Don’t Let the Car Idle
When I get in the garage to leave for work, I first open the garage door. Then I get in the car. Once the garage door is opened and I’ve verified nothing is behind me, I quickly turn the car on and back out, still making sure nothing is behind me. If I hit a red light that just turned red and it’s a busy intersection, I turn the car off and wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on. When I pull into any parking place, my priority is to stop and then turn the car off.
In winter time, do not get stuck in a position where you are leaving the car on and scraping snow and ice off of the car. Take care of that business first. Then get in the car and turn it on. I know idling uses gas because in my 2009 Honda Fit, I have a miles per gallon gauge. When I’m stopped and the car is on, that gauge slowly goes down.
3. Don’t Accelerate
Accelerate means putting your right foot on the gas peddle to move the car forward or backward. Any acceleration uses gas. You actually use less gas idling than you do accelerating. You might be wondering, “How do I get my car to go if I don’t accelerate?” Perfectly valid question. Acceleration cannot be avoided. But by having a mindset of no accelerating, you will then be able to master principle 10 – Coast.
Here’s a list of the don’t accelerate’s:
- Don’t accelerate to red lights
- Don’t accelerate to stop signs
- Don’t accelerate in a traffic jam
- Don’t accelerate going down a steep hill
- Don’t accelerate when a green light is far ahead (more on that later with principle 7 – Anticipate)
4. Treat the Accelerator Like a Newborn Baby
When you do accelerate, picture in your mind a newborn baby under your right foot. This baby is precious and if you press your foot hard on the accelerator, you’ll hurt the cute little thing. When you do have to accelerate, ease into it. Sure, you might get a person or two who passes you. Watch them as they siphon their gas away.
5. Don’t Break
Breaking is using your left or right foot to hit the break peddle and slow down or stop the car. There’s two reasons not to break. First, breaking causes wear on the breaks, which will eventually have to be fixed. Prolonging this saves you money. The second reason is breaking will cut into your gas mileage. Why is this? Simple: after breaking, accelerating usually follows. Accelerating uses gas. Only break if you absolutely have to (a car pulled out in front of you, you are at a stop sign, a light turned red, a cat ran out in front of you and is enthralled with your vehicle).
6. No Air Conditioning
No air conditioning. This is where I’ve lost all credibility right? Let’s view this from a slightly different lens. Let’s say you just keep your windows down about an inch from the top on each side of your car and the air conditioning is off. On the hot summer days, it may feel like a minor sauna. But over the course of a couple months you adapt and become used to it. And the sweat is a nice little detox as well.
When the air conditioning is on, the engine has to do more work to make that cool air – this uses more gas. However, if you have small children in the car and it’s dreadfully hot, then put the windows up and use the air conditioning, I’ll let that one slide ;) But it will still use more gas.
Anticipation is an art. It requires using the human brain. When driving, become aware and engaged with what is going on. Doing this will give you clues as to what will happen next. Anticipation is most useful when you are in city driving with plenty of stop lights. Here’s the rules for anticipating stop lights.
Note: Far in front of you is a stop light you can see, but is a ways away – more than 200 feet or so. Close in front of you means you’re within 200 feet or so.
- If a stop light is far in front of you and is RED, and it just turned RED, ease off the accelerator and coast your way to it.
- If a stop light is far in front of you and is RED, and it has been RED for a while, you can probably celebrate and drive at just below normal speed and it will turn green, letting you go right through.
- If a stop light is far in front of you and is GREEN, and it just turned GREEN, celebrate and drive through like normal.
- If a stop light is far in front of you and is GREEN, and has been GREEN for a while, anticipate that it might turn red and ease off the accelerator a little.
- If a stop light is close in front of you and is RED, no acceleration and coast to it.
- If a stop light is close in front of you and is GREEN, and it just turned GREEN, celebrate and drive through like normal.
- If a stop light is close in front of you and is GREEN, and it has been GREEN for a while, you might have to break a principle and hit the accelerator hard to get through and avoid stopping. But only if you can do so safely.
Of course there are exceptions to these rules – some stop lights last only 5 seconds or there are weird intersections. But in general, these rules have served me well.
In a nutshell, the favorable conditions to create through anticipation are: 1. a stop light far in front of you has been red for a while and will probably turn green. 2. A stop light far in front of you just turned green and you should be able to drive through it without stopping. 3. A stop light close in front of you just turned green so you can just drive through.
Finally, anticipate other drives and traffic conditions. I always leave about 15 car lengths in front of me (freeway) and about 10 car lengths (city) so if I see break lights, I can just coast without breaking and traffic will probably start up again before I need to stop. I would say find what works for you, but leaving this distance has allowed me to coast and not stop a countless number of times.
8. Keep Your Tires Inflated
When your tires are filled with air, there is less friction on the ground. This means the car takes less work to move along the road using less gas.
9. Take Turns Quickly
Taking turns slowly means you’ll have to accelerate after the turn. If you can take a turn at about 20 miles per hour, you’ll need less acceleration after the turn. This means getting used to faster turns. Only turn faster if safety permits. If there are schools nearby or pedestrians, then safety first and take the turn slowly.
Probably the most important principle. Whenever possible you should be coasting and not hitting the accelerator. This means the car’s own momentum is pushing it forward. When I coast in my 2009 Honda Fit, I get over 80 miles per gallon. Nice! If you follow the other principles, you’ll have a much greater chance to coast.
When you are getting to your freeway exit, stop accelerating and coast to it – most of them have a stop light or stop sign at the end anyway. When you are approaching a steep down hill – don’t accelerate – let the car carry you down it. On the freeway when you have small downhills, let the car coast down them. Coast, Coast, Coast!
Bonus: Stay Within the Speed Limit
Always stay within the speed limit. Some hyper-milers may drive like granny’s, but I always drive at least the speed limit. The law is the law I say.
Bonus: Stay Safe
Safety must always come first – even ahead of saving gas. However, I’ve found that most of the time I can follow these principles without compromising safety. If I see pedestrians and bikers, or other cars in the way, sometimes I have to hit the brakes or slow down.
Even if all you did was decide to coast as much as possible and avoid accelerating hard and breaking hard, you’ll probably get 10% to 20% more gas mileage. The benefits to many drivers doing this are huge – both in dollars saved, and in gas reserves saved. Safe hyper-miler driving has served me well, and my hope is that it will do the same for you. I’ll do some videos in the future illustrating some of the principles outlined here.
Happy safe, efficient, and cost effective driving my friends!