Hypermiling Cardinal Rules

30 Jan , 2016  

-Tony Schaefer

Perhaps the word “rules” is a little too strong. After all, there aren’t really “rules” to hypermiling. The following is more like suggestions. But very strong suggestions indeed. This is more than just one guy deciding that he gets to set the rules or is in any position to make a bunch of suggestions. Actually, the following list is a boiled-down version of rants, gripes, and observations from fellow hypermilers and average drivers.

We all know there are stereotypes for all sorts of drivers: the Corvette drivers, Tuners, and hybrid owners. Here’s the rub: it is absolutely wrong to stereotype an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. Unfortunately, that very type of grouping is basic human nature. The reason I harp on that is because when one Prius is holding up traffic, all Prius owners are categorized as horrible drivers. In other words, you – yes you! – have the ability to make us all look bad. You also have the ability to make us all look good except that’s just called normal driving.

So that’s where these rules very strong suggestions come in. While pursuing better fuel efficiency, don’t make yourself and the rest of us look bad.

(Yes of course there are very valid reasons to violate the following items from time to time. I will not entertain a discussion that includes reductio ad absurdum.)

The point of hypermiling is to achieve really good average mileage. There is not, nor will there ever be, a valid reason to consistently break the law in pursuit of really good mileage.

There are often reasons for minor, quick infractions, but intentionally violating the rules of the road is not a good idea. What do I mean by this? Here is an example. There have been people in online forums that have calculated that the most fuel-efficient sustained speed for a hybrid vehicle is less than 20 miles per hour. While this might be true, interstates have minimum speed limits, which must be obeyed for everyone’s safety.

Another example is that coming to a complete stop and starting from a dead-stop is counter-productive to high mileage. As we’ll cover in a later article, maintaining momentum is a key factor to hypermiling. But guess what: you have to stop at stop signs. Even the 4-way stops when there are no other vehicles. You know why? Because it’s the law, that’s why. Suck it up.

Always obey the law. It’s the law.

2) Get the Hell out of the left lane!
I often drive on multi-lane roads and sometimes on the interstate. Just like everyone else, I am irritated to no end by those people who sit in the left lane. The “Left Lane Cruisers”. I’m not talking about people who are passing other cars on the left. Oh no; I have no beef with those people. It’s the people who are driving the same speed – or worse: slower – than everyone else but somehow feel obligated (or is it entitled?) to squat in the left lane mucking up the flow of traffic.

Here’s another one: I was riding with a coworker to a group dinner. I didn’t know where we were going which is why he was driving. We had driven about a mile in the left lane for no particular reason and quite frankly I get a little jittery when riding with a LLCer. I checked over my shoulder and said, “we’re clear over here if you want to get over.” He replied, “that’s okay, we’ll be turning left up ahead. And sure enough, about fifteen minutes later, we turned left. For the love of all that is Holy, just because you’re going to turn left eventually doesn’t mean you should sit in the left lane.

I’ve even read some of these people attempt to justify their actions by claiming they were helping maintain the speed limit by not allowing others to speed. Of all the people in the world, guess who is NOT in charge of controlling other drivers’ speed. Hint: YOU!!

If you are not passing someone, stay right and get the Hell out of the left lane!

3) Those people in the other cars don’t care what your mileage is.
In the previous point, you might have noticed that I refer to people and not cars. That’s because the cars don’t drive themselves. We’re not courteous to other cars; we’re courteous to other people. Don’t forget that.

I am writing this because I care about my mileage. You are reading it because you are concerned about your mileage. Everyone else? They don’t give two shouts what your mileage is. Or mine. Or probably their own.

There was this one day in particular when I was really wrapped up in my mileage. During this morning commute, I felt like I was really crushing it and my average was going up late in the tank. If you’ve ever monitored a tank, you know how hard it is to get the average to go up during the last quarter. My mind was focused on my driving and I was in my own little world.

There was a car right behind me on this single-lane road. He was uncomfortably close to my rear bumper; I could tell he wanted me to speed up. But it was a 35 MPH zone and I was already going 40. I had no intentions of breaching 40 MPH because that would wreck my pulse and glide.

He was frustrated that I was going so slowly and I was frustrated that he wanted me to go faster. What popped into my head was “do you have any idea what that would do to my mileage?!”


He didn’t know and he didn’t care. Here was me: all wrapped up in my own little world, feeling hypersensitive to the road and how my car was reacting to the subtlest of terrain changes. There was him: just trying to get to work. Some people might argue that I have every right to limit my speed to “only” 40 in a 35, but I chose to write rule number 4.

4) Don’t be an ass!
All those other people are just trying to live their lives. They have somewhere to go. Possibly, they have someone waiting for them. Perhaps they are late for whatever and already agitated. It is not your job to regulate the flow of traffic. You will only end up agitating them more. When drivers become frustrated, they make poor decisions. When people driving multi-ton vehicles make poor decisions, lives are at risk.

This means that from time to time, you might have to suck it up for the sake of traveling with the flow of traffic. If the traffic flow is faster than you would like, so be it. That might not be your best drive ever, but so what?

I have the opportunity to interact with other hypermilers. I always enjoy these discussions. However, sometimes, one or two people will defend their assish ways by arguing traffic laws: how they are correct because they know exactly how the law is written and how everyone else was wrong. If it ever reaches a point in which you are defending yourself by arguing the nuances of traffic laws, you’ve already lost.

While I’m not promoting a lemming approach in which you’re obligated to do exactly what everyone else is doing, I am saying that from time to time, given the situation, there’s a difference between what’s correct and what’s best. Always try to do what’s best even if you know it’s not what’s 100% correct.

So that’s it.  In a nutshell: “don’t be an ass and don’t annoy people.”


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