Miracle tech improves fuel efficiency up to 50%

Written by adam


Recession blown a hole in your plans to upgrade to a fancy new plug-in hybrid? Fear not — according to the Wall Street Journal you can boost your current car’s mileage 20, 40, even 50% just by learning a few simple “eco-driving” tricks.

We’ve covered the ways in which driver behavior interacts with fuel efficiency on a few prior occasions, but this latest article has some useful new takes on old tricks. For example: “Drive as if there is a hot cup of coffee in the cup holder at risk of splashing.” In one study, this simple tip — which motivates drivers to start, stop, and turn more smoothly — boosted fuel efficiency by an average of 10%.

An increasing number of trials in different countries are confirming and replicating the findings. In Germany, driver education classes now incorporate three eco-driving tips:

> First, watch the tachometer, not just the speedometer, and shift gears before the car’s engine speed reaches 2,000 revolutions per minute to minimize how hard the engine has to work. Second, don’t tailgate, because tailgating requires a lot of unnecessary braking and accelerating. Third, coast if an upcoming light is red, letting it turn green so there is no need to stop.

Smooth starts and stops are the key to the amazing results that hard-core hypermilers achieve:

> The basic hypermiling technique is the “pulse-and-glide,” says Dan Bryant, a Houston-based competitor whose accomplishments include driving a Toyota Prius on an 844-mile trip around Texas last year on a single tank of gas. The driver slowly accelerates to about 60% of full throttle — the point where a car’s engine tends to operate most efficiently — and then steps off the gas, coasting until the car’s speed drops. At the right moment, before losing too much speed, the driver gently presses the gas pedal again.

Other tips are more straightforward. For example, drive in the right lane of the highway as much as possible, and keep your speed to about 60 miles per hour. The WSJ has put together a handy little guide (pdf).

Researchers have also noticed that instant mileage feedback helps drivers improve their fuel efficiency. So if that Prius is out of reach, keep in mind that a ScanGauge II mileage computer — available in the TerraPass store — should pay for itself in fuel savings in short order.

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  1. mdf

    I also turn off the engine at stop lights and in traffic where stop-time is expected to be 30 seconds or more. Sometimes, if stuck in traffic that is inching along on a downhill, I turn the engine off and rely on the handbrake and what’s left in the brakelines until those last few pumps disspiate, then i start the car momentarily to repressurize them. I figure this not only (greatly) improves mileage, but reduces the emissions that come out the tailpipe. Someday, my starter will give out, and the cost to replace that will be offset, but in the meanwhile, I’m doing my part.

  2. Paul S.

    As I’ve said several times before on this subject, I’ve increased the mileage in my Saab 900S to 35mpg (average) using techniques like these.
    Driving gently also reduces wear on your car, extending its useful life. The Saab has gone 308,000 miles with no major engine or transmission work.
    The hardest part is getting others to accept that driving gently is actually pleasant.
    If you’re convinced you’ll be late somewhere (which is actually unlikely), then leave a few minutes earlier. You might even notice that you are more relaxed when you arrive.
    Save money, be less stressed.
    It’s a win-win.

  3. Garrison

    I used to drive 85 on the highways. When gas hit 4.00 in SC, I started to look for ways to increase my mileage, since I didn’t want to get a new car (I have a 96 Avalon with 200k miles on it).
    I started driving 65 on the interstate (70 speed limit). Obeying the rules of the road and staying in the right lane as others flew past me, I realized how calming a drive can be now.
    Before, after long trips at 85, my body would be fatigued. I realized it was because the stress of attempting to maintain 85 MPH while in slower traffic was making me brace my muscles and not breathe as much.
    I also started practicing the coasting stop and slow acceleration, and have been able to max my V6’s MPG to 28 MPG–pretty good for a 13-year old 4-seat luxury car.
    Now, driving is so stressless that I’m actually having to find ways not to fall asleep. I may actually have to increase my speeds for long trips so that I get some of that stress back. But that’s beside the point–these techniques work!

  4. Rebecca

    That is a fantastic graphic with this article; great for explaining the concept to people who are unfamiliar. Would TerraPass be open to letting others use that graphic as long as TerraPass is properly cited for it?

  5. Adam Stein

    Hi Rebecca,
    The graphic belongs to the Wall Street Journal (link is above). You’ll probably have to check with them if you want to use the full thing. I’m pretty sure our little snippet falls under fair use.
    – Adam

  6. Anonymous

    i have a better answer. drive like your 85 yrs old. then you,ll never use any gas at least not from the car!

  7. kmag

    Both emissions and mileage are pretty bad starting the car. You’re probably much better off putting the car in neutral rather than shutting it off for 30 seconds. If you have a manual transmission, putting it in neutral and also keeping the clutch in will reduce the number of parts moving, but the savings from that little bit probably aren’t measurable.
    Note that in many states it’s illegal to shut off your car in traffic, and in some states even to put it in neutral while in traffic.

  8. Michael Knight

    YOU can measure human intelligence quite easily; go for a drive. And/or notice the idiotic consequences of your State’s Dept. of Transportation.