Article,EPA,Hypermiling

Planning Trips

5 Sep , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

In another post, we discussed how to best handle your day-to-day commute by finding a mileage-friendly route, memorizing it, and documenting how well you do. This article will address how to handle those unexpected and irregular trips. For example, running errands on the weekends.

Combine Trips

This should be obvious but I’m just throwing it out there.

Quite possibly, the silliest thing you could do is to make a bunch of little errand runs throughout the day. As long as you’re out running errands, hit all your stops in one go. Seriously, there’s not much more to write about this except to make note that the order in which you combine all your trips is important. So with that…

Go to the Farthest Destination First

It seems like the easiest and best thing: go to the closest destination and progress out until you’re at the farthest destination and then head home. However, in terms of mileage, this is the worst possible way to approach the situation. Here is the underlying reason: cars get better mileage once they are warmed up. If you string together a bunch of short drives, the engine will never have an adequate chance to properly warm up. It will always be running in an inefficient warm-up mode.

By starting with the farthest destination, the engine will have that initial chance to get completely up to temperature and start running efficiently. Then, when you head to the second stop, the engine is starting from a warm condition and is more likely to return to optimal temperature before stopping again. The same goes for all subsequent stops. The point here is that you want to give your car at least one long drive to reach optimal temperature.

As with all things, there are exceptions. The above advice works great for non-perishable errands (crafts store, hardware store, library, etc.) However, if the farthest destination is the grocery store with frozen food, you might want to plan the route so you get there last before heading home. If the farthest destination is a restaurant of the theater, you’re going to want to end there.

Consider Taking a Roundabout Route

If you are out running errands, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the area within about 5 miles of your house. With this in mind, you should have a pretty good understanding of traffic fluctuations in relation to a place, time, and day of the week.

When provided the opportunity, take a more roundabout route if it means dodging traffic situations and stoplights. Keeping clear of traffic situations could mean better constant-speed driving as will dodging the stoplights and stop signs.

Did you know that UPS drivers are routed in such a way as to minimize their number of left turns?

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. From 2004 to 2012, the right turn rule combined with other improvements saved around 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.

Think about that. Not only does turning right mean that you spend less time waiting for traffic to clear, it means that you do not cross lanes of traffic as much. Turning right is much safer than turning left.

One consideration that might be a bit of a stretch is that the less-than-direct route might have better roads. In other words, find a path that avoids crappy roads. No doubt you have noticed that your car rolls better and gets better overall mileage on freshly paved, smooth roads. If provided the opportunity, define your route based on traveling on the smoothest roads. Besides, driving on rough roads just plain stinks.

All these things, when put together, might provide a more fuel-efficient route than heading directly to the destinations without any forethought.

Run your Errands when it’s Warm Outside

This concept works in combination with driving to the farthest destination first. Driving when it’s warmer outside will help your engine warm because the air rushing past the engine will be warmer. In some geologies, the morning-to-afternoon temperature swing can be several degrees. You need a sweater in the morning but have stripped down to a T-shirt by mid-afternoon.

If you like to get up and out as early as possible, that’s fine; just as long as you know that you might be taking a hit to your mileage. If you can wait a few hours, when the outside temperature is higher, you will be rewarded with better mileage. In the meantime, find other things you can do perhaps around the house or whatever.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

This is a tried-and-true mainstay of hypermiling. When we feel rushed, we tend to make bad decisions, press a little harder on the pedal, and generally compromise the hard work we’ve done so far.

So here’s what you do: as long as you’re waiting for the temperature to go up, plan your trip so that you hit the farthest destination first. Once you’re done with that, figure out how long your entire trip will take and leave on time. So you see, a bunch of these concepts fit hand-in-hand.

Conclusion

Sometimes we have to make that one-off trip to the grocery store or hardware store or whatever. But when a series of errands require that you top at multiple destinations, taking a little time to plan it all out could reward you with improved overall mileage.

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What Drives Us episode

Hypermiling in the Social Media Age

28 Aug , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

A lot of people are seemingly (or actually) addicted to Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, InstaGram, and/or whatever new social media app / website just went online while I was writing this sentence. So much time is spent (some would say ‘wasted’) electronically interacting with people, the whole concept of social media has gotten a really bad reputation. However, it can be argued that there are  beneficial facets to social media interactions and the ability to instantly engage with multiple people regardless of time and distance.

This article will discuss ways in which you can use social media and internet communities to improve your fuel economy. When possible, links are provided to online sources; this is not a promotion of one site over another. If one of your favorite online resources is missing, let us know so we can include it.

Join a Hybrid / Car / Hypermiling Community

Have you ever heard of those car clubs or motorcycle clubs who just get together once and a while to talk about their cars or motorcycles. All they do is get together, hang out, talk car, and perhaps drive around. Sounds really silly, doesn’t it? Well, congratulations: now you can do all those things online!!

Thanks to Google, online car forums are really easy to find. In the forums, you can find information about driving techniques, how to perform regular (or not-so-regular) maintenance, or speculation about upcoming models and features. Some forums are broad in their scope while others are relatively granular. But they all have one thing in common: they are all sustained by a group of individuals with mostly the same interests and concerns as you. Because of that, it is usually pretty easy to be welcomed into the community and easy to form friendships with other forum members.

Here is a list of some online forums and communities. This is clearly just a partial list:

Send us links for your favorite online community or any other community you know of.

Create / Join a Fuel Consumption Challenge

A few years ago, a couple coworkers were curious about this whole hypermiling thing. The best way to get them personally invested was to set up a competition between them. Using a relatively simple spreadsheet, we used their car’s EPA numbers to gauge how their MPG improved by implementing some basic hypermiling techniques. The entire thing was based on the honor system so there’s really no way to vouch for its accuracy, but according to their self-reporting, each were able to achieve more than 10% above their EPA ratings. It’s hard to say whether they would have achieved these results had they not been competing.

When you know your results are going to be seen by others, you will try harder. This is why a little friendly competition might give you the push to kick your efforts up a notch or two. It’s not only competition that provides the incentive to improve; sometimes simply knowing others are watching is enough.

If you join one of the online communities mentioned above, see if they have a place where people can post their fuel economy averages. Many do. If you are using a spreadsheet to monitor your mileage, consider making it available online via Google Docs, DropBox, or any other online storage service. If that’s not possible, consider creating an account at Fuelly where you can enter your tank-by-tank averages. Then you can distribute the hyperlink to your Fuelly account.

Participate in Ride Sharing Programs

While this might not improve your individual fuel economy, it will reduce your overall fuel consumption.

Check around to see if there are any local web resources where neighbors can set up a ride-sharing program. You know, a good old-fashioned carpool. For example, check out NextDoor.com to find neighbors and start a chat. Find out if anyone works near you.   The best-case scenario would be if someone lives and works near you.

If you like your coworkers, at least a few of them, find out if they live near you or between you and your job. Some days, you can pick them up; other days you can park at their place and they drive. Either way, that leg of the trip is done with one car rather than two. Word to the wise: you have to really like that person because if it gets to the point that you can no longer stand riding them or if one of you gets a promotion and now it’s awkward, you will need to cancel the carpool. Of course, you’ll still see that person at work every day.

Use Waze

Waze is a free, real-time traffic service owned by Google (or Alphabet, whatever). It is primarily used via the phone app. As people drive, Waze uses geotracking to monitor their speed to provide everyone else real-time traffic information. Drivers can also manually provide information to the system such as backed-up traffic, a traffic accident, car stopped on the road, or even where the police are hiding today.

Once the user enters their destination, Waze evaluates all its information to determine the fastest and most trouble-free route. Unfortunately, Waze cannot apply hypermiling logic to calculate the most fuel-efficient route. But by directing you around stopped traffic, the amount of time you spend idling is greatly reduced. This will save gasoline and/or battery charge.

One note about Waze: you are providing your real-time location to the Waze application. As the adage goes: if the product is free then you are the product. If this makes you a little uneasy, just skip this suggestion.

Attend Driving Clinics or Seek Help from a Hypermiling Expert

In addition to the first suggestion promoting online communities, you might want to also look into local, real life groups. As a side note, it’s funny how we now have to distinguish things as being in real life (IRL).

These groups are usually formed and populated by like-minded people. Some of the events I’ve attended have been held in parks, parking lots, even car dealerships. In some states, it’s not legal to sell cars on Sunday but it is legal to have the service center open. This means a friendly dealership might welcome a group for a meeting.

At these meetings, technical car reviews might be provided, maintenance information, and tips from other drivers. It’s usually pretty easy to find someone who is achieving really good gas mileage and who is more than willing to talk with you about improving yours. Many of the meetings I’ve attended have include “ride alongs” in which the ‘expert’ hypermiler will ride with the learner, providing advice for improvement. I’ve performed several ride-alongs; trust me: people are happy to do it. Just ask.

Search your local area for car groups. Here are two groups on MeetUp.com that might help get you started:

Conclusion

In this day and age, it should be easy to find like-minded people which whom you can discuss fuel efficiency. Whether online or in real life, working with others – and maybe even competing – will certainly give you that extra boost to improve your overall mileage.

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Article,Features,Hypermiling

Pulse and Glide

17 Jul , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

In this post, I will attempt to provide a simplistic overview of a hypermiling technique known as “Pulse and Glide” (P&G). Before we get started, you need to know that the application and technique for P&G is variable based on many factors such as the car, terrain, traffic, current speed limit, etc. For all those reasons, this will be an overview and not overly detailed. My concern is that if I provided any real details: 1) you would try to apply the details where they don’t fit, and 2) someone will argue the minutia of the details.

How Do You Pulse and Glide?

Many times, I compare hypermiling to riding a bicycle. This works because almost everyone knows how to ride a bike, which makes it a universal reference. Also, you most likely remember how tired you can become if you do not ride efficiently. Though neither you nor your car will get tired, you have to focus on the amount of effort being exerted; the goal is to travel farther with less effort.

The Pulse. Just like riding a bike, the intent of the pulse is to get up to speed. When accelerating from a dead stop, use a brisk acceleration: accelerate quickly but not stomp on the gas. Once you have reached a speed that is, perhaps, a little faster than the speed limit or average traffic speed, let up on the accelerator.

The Glide. Think about riding that bike. Once you have reached a decent speed, it requires only a minimal amount of effort to maintain it. In fact, depending on the situation, you might be able to coast for a long distance before needing to pedal again. In exactly the same way, the point of the glide is to “stop pedaling”.

The first and second generation Prius were exceptionally good at gliding because they had a “dead band”. This dead band is a spot in which there would be no power coming from the engine or batteries to drive the wheels and also no regeneration from the wheels to the batteries. A practiced driver could work the accelerator into that dead band and let the car roll.

Unfortunately, this type of “free wheeling” is nearly impossible in almost all modern hybrids. And so it is with modern hybrids that the glide is an attempt to reduce the energy flow to a point as low as possible.

Pulse Again. As you can imagine, after coasting for a while, you will start to slow down. Once you’ve slowed to a speed you are no longer comfortable with, pulse again. Unlike the dead-stop pulse, this time you want to use just enough acceleration to get back up to speed. Just like riding that bike, it’s not a sprint back up to speed but rather just enough.

And then you glide again. Then pulse, then glide, repeat.

Why Does it Work?

The concept is simple: the entire intent of P&G is to glide more than you pulse. The following image provides a sort-of representation starting from a dead stop, accelerating up slightly above the desired speed, gliding, pulsing, and then gliding again. As you can imagine, the farther you can glide the better. The black line in the following image might represent the average traffic flow, the speed limit, or simply the speed you want to average. Your situations will vary.

Pulse and Glide Image

It works because gliding is essentially free. It’s the pulsing that costs you. Therefore, rather than paying to constantly maintain a steady speed, you allow your speed to vary. The trick comes in making sure the pulsing uses less effort than would otherwise be used maintaining a steady speed.

Situational Considerations

  • As with all hypermiling techniques, obey all posted traffic signs and do not impede the flow of traffic for your selfish desires.
  • If you have rolling hills, that is awesome. Pulse up the hill and glide down the other side. They key is being able to gauge the most efficient time to transition from pulse to glide and vice versa.
  • One hypermiler told the funny story of being pulled over because the policemen observed he was “incapable of maintaining a steady speed” and assumed he was drunk. I didn’t say it was funny for him. He said that once he explained what he was doing, the policemen didn’t bother writing a ticket.
  • If you see a stoplight up ahead, consider modifying your pulse and glide timings to either glide into the stop or pulse a little faster to ensure catching the green light.

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What Drives Us episode

Check Your Tires’ Pressure

21 May , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

According to FuelEconomy.gov, under-inflated tires can lower your mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop of all four tires. Other sites put the figure at 0.4%. Even though it doesn’t sound like much, the point of this ongoing series of articles to make clear that all things – when taken together – can account for a significant improvement in overall efficiency.

When to take the Measurement

Hot air expands.

That’s it. Now you understand how the temperature of the tire will affect the temperature of the air and therefore the measurement of pressure. Always measure the tire pressure before driving the car. Taking the measurement after a long drive – especially at high speeds – will return a deceptively high reading.

Ideally, you should measure your tire pressure every month. First of the month? Check your pressure.

Winter versus Summer

In addition to hot air expanding, cold air constricts. Most sources put the anticipated psi drop at 1psi for every 10 degrees of temperature drop. In some locations, the difference between the hottest Summer day and the coldest Winter morning could be more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For tires, that’s a potential 10psi swing.

When Autumn comes, don’t be surprised if the tires start reading low. It will be necessary to add air to maintain pressure. In the Spring, – and this is important – it might be necessary to remove air to keep the tires from becoming inadvertently over-inflated.

Tires are Part of the Suspension System

Before getting into maintaining and manipulating tire pressure, it should be mentioned that the tires are an integral part of the car’s suspension system. Having shock absorbers is great and all, but it’s the pliability of the tires that cushions the car from all the bumps in the road.

Over-inflating your tires will create a rougher and bumpier ride. It does. There is no way around that. If you decide to over-inflate your tires, you must realize that you do so fully understanding the impact it will have on the smoothness of your ride.

At the Very Least: Maintain Recommended Pressure

door-placardEvery car has a sticker somewhere indicating the recommended tire pressure. Usually, it’s on the driver’s door jamb but some cars have the sticker on the inside of the trunk hatch.

It is important to keep in mind that the tire pressure on the side of the tires might actually differ from the pressure recommendation on the sticker.

The reason for the potential variance is that the tire is manufactured for a wide range of cars. The tire manufacturer does not know the size and weight of the car it will be mounted on. The manufacturer of the car, on the other hand, knows all the variables and calculates their recommendation. This is why you should always refer to the sticker on the car rather than the sidewall number.

If you do nothing else, absolutely maintain the recommendation on the sticker.

The Dangers of Under-Inflated Tires

Most people who have ever ridden a bicycle have ridden on under-inflated tires. Squishy tires make controlling the bicycle very difficult because the rim is sliding from side to side. The same is true on a car except that cars travel much faster and corner much harder. An under-inflated tire could potentially create the situation in which a quick decision cannot be realized with a quick movement.

Do you remember when all those Ford Explorers were losing control and sometimes flipping over? In every case, one of the tires exploded, which make people suspect it was the fault of Firestone. After a bunch of investigating, it was found that in almost every case, the pressure of the remaining tires was low. As a result, it was determined that the exploding tires were cased by under-inflated tires overheating and rupturing resulting in sudden loss of control. Under-inflated tires create additional friction and could possibly become so hot they weaken and rupture.

It has been proven that under-inflated tires are more prone to skidding in the rain, making stopping more difficult. At the very least, braking distance is increased. Worst-case situation: braking distance is farther than the distance to the car in front of you.

Under-inflated tires do not contact the road the way they are supposed to. This affects overall handling and tire wear. Some estimates put the impact of under-inflation as high as 25% faster tire wear.

So there you have it. If you take nothing else away from this article, please check your tire pressure once a month to make sure you are safe.

Exceeding the Recommended Tire Pressure

NOTE: This is a contested concept for the reasons explained below. It is assumed you are a mature and responsible adult capable of making decisions for yourself that affect the operation of your vehicle. If any part of this bothers you, don’t do it. Just because you read about it on the internet doesn’t mean you have to do it.

There are many people on PriusChat.com working to improve their mileage. They employ many techniques and reliably report their results. I mention this because there is substantial anecdotal evidence that increasing your car’s tire pressure can return higher mileage.

The recommended tire pressure for a 2004-2009 Prius is 42psi front and 40psi rear (42/40). The 2psi difference is explained as additional support for the engine in front. Some people increase to 45/43 and report repeatable mileage improvements. Some have gone as high as 50/48 and continued to report even better overall mileage. However, above this pressure, on real significant improvements are realized.

These results – though shunned by many – seem to indicate there is a mileage improvement to over-inflating tires. To a point.

Concerns of Uneven Wear

Many opponents to over-inflating tires use the argument that the tires will develop a bulge and develop a bald stripe along the radial axis. This was true a long time ago. Modern steel-belted radial tires, however, are reinforced in such a way that over-inflating does not bulge the tire.

Concerns of the Tires Exploding

The level to which some drivers over-inflate their tires is only a few psi. Perhaps as high as 10psi. This sounds like a great amount. But the realization that it’s intentionally a fraction of the tire’s potential is not something you will ever see advertised.

I had the pleasure of meeting an actual tire engineer at a car show. I can’t mention his name or which manufacturer he works for. To be honest, it has less to do with confidentiality and more with a horrible memory.

In our discussions, I mentioned that I had inflated my tires above the recommendations and was mildly concerned. He gave a “pa-shaw” sound and rolled his eyes. He then explained that the sidewall tire recommendation is based more on the risk of litigation than the potential of the tire. This gave me a certain level of ease.

Summary

As I look over this article, it’s clear that much of it addresses arguments against over-inflating tires. It’s just that this article only addressed potential mileage gains of over-inflating tires the comments section would light up with those very arguments. So they are pre-emptively addressed in an attempt to make it clear that I’m fully aware of those arguments and am not making blanket suggestions without realizing potential consequences.

Make sure to check your tires’ pressure every month. At the very least, maintain the tire pressure recommendations listed on the sticker in your car. If you choose to over-inflate your tires, be aware that you will experience a bumpier ride because the tires are part of the car’s suspension system. Though there are concerns of damaging tires with higher pressure, the evidence simply isn’t there to support them.

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What Drives Us episode

Drive Less

23 Apr , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

Yesterday was Earth Day: a perfect time to talk about hypermiling and reduced emissions. But I’m not going to. You see, if we really try, we can do even better than hypermiling. In fact, focusing exclusively on driving more efficiently is not always the best approach. After all, it assumes that you will always be driving. Also, there are stories about people literally driving farther than necessary just to make sure their engines warm up so they can register better mile-per-gallon averages.

Today we’re going to shift our focus from driving more efficiently and focus on driving less. There are several approaches to reducing our dependence on our vehicles. This article might not get to them all but hopefully it will serve as a good start and get you thinking.

Walk

The most obvious alternative to driving is walking. OK, I know what you’re thinking: “I live too far from work” or “I have to haul things” or whatever. Yeah, I get that. I have those things too. Walking is not an all-or-nothing alternative. The point here is not to walk everywhere all the time. The point is to know your walking speed and acceptable distance. Then, when you have to get yourself from one place to another, ask yourself whether it is within your acceptable distance. If it is, seriously consider walking.

On a more personal note, we have become a sedentary society. We sit in our car, at our desk, and in front of the television. No matter who you are or what your current state of health might be, we can all benefit from taking more steps every day.

Bicycle

Stepping up from walking is riding a bicycle. The same concept applies: know your acceptable distance and situations. If the current need fits your parameters, ride your bike. From time to time, someone at the local fitness center will wonder why there are so many parking spots and so few bike racks. This is a perfect example of when to ride your bike.

Not only does bicycling extend the distance and shorten the time compared to walking, mountable carriers allow for light grocery shopping. If you need to run to the local store for a few things in order to complete the recipe, don’t bother firing up the vehicle; hop on your bike.

Carpool

Some of us are lucky in that we have coworkers who live within a mile or two of our homes. This makes carpooling pretty convenient. Some companies have bulletin boards where people can post interest in ride sharing opportunities. Some are actual bulletin boards in a common area such as the cafeteria whereas tech savvy companies might have information on their intranet.

When it comes to driving less, any improvement is an improvement. Let’s say you have a coworker who lives halfway between you and work. Even if you drive to their house and park your car, you are not driving the entire trip. Even if the coworker lives a few miles out of your way, the fact that you are not driving every day means that you are driving less.

Of course, carpooling means taking turns. Don’t be a carpool leech! The only acceptable exception is that you do not have a car at all.

Mass Transportation

Some people have mass transportation options and don’t even realize it. Make sure to check your community’s internet site or other information to see what mass transportation options exist.

Some people place a stigma on riding the bus or train. Their belief is that not rolling up in your own set of wheels somehow makes you less of a person or they see mass transportation as a lower form then car ownership. But these people are spending money on gasoline and potentially on parking fees. They log more miles on their car, which will result in faster wear-n-tear maintenance. They aren’t aware the amount of money they are spending just because of their personal belief.

Those who ride the train and/or bus to and from work do not have to drive in the rain or snow. They save money on gasoline and potentially parking fees. Ridding as a passenger is much less stressful than driving and provides ample opportunity to get a little more work done, sit quietly, or catch up on that podcast.

Plan your routes

Have you ever been our in your car running a few errands and realize that you’ve crossed town twice already and will need to do it again? Hopefully, it occurred to you that had you planned your errands a little better, you wouldn’t have to do so much driving around.

Not only does better planning reduce the miles you log in your car, it saves you time and money. You save time because, of course, you spend less time in your car. You save money because gasoline is not cheap.

Next weekend – or whenever – when you are about to run a series of errands, consider writing them down and then numbering them based on a preferred route. You would be surprised how much time you end up saving this way and how much better you feel for having gotten through them faster.

Conclusion

Reducing the miles driven in your car by any amount is an improvement. Even if carpooling and mass transportation are not available in your area, you can still find other ways to drive less by biking and walking from time to time.

Here is my biggest rub. I pulled these tips from international sources. These things are tightly integrated into the very fiber of most Europeans. Trains and buses are used to capacity and many companies have as many bike racks as parking spots. Some European companies charge their own employees for parking in their garage as a way to encourage carpooling and mass transportation. Sadly, these things are usually either ignored or rebuffed by most American citizens. I shutter to think how bad things would have to get before more people here started acting more like the people over there.

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