Why we Hypermile

2 Apr , 2016  

-Tony Schaefer


There are many reasons to hypermile.  A while back,  some friends and I came up with about five different and distinct reasons. I’ll try to recap them (assuming I can remember them). The point is not that there is one specific reason to hypermile. Nor is it to argue that any one reason is better than the others. The point is this: any reason to improve your car’s mileage is a good reason.

Save Money

This one is pretty easy.  The less gasoline you consume, the more money you save.  The problem is perception and association.  When people go to the gas station, they complain about the cost of gasoline.  But when they are driving, they act as though gasoline is free.  The problem is that people only feel the pain of purchasing gasoline when they are actually at the station.  After that point, they quickly forget. They fail to associate the pain of buying gas with the way they drive.

Perhaps it would help if we replace gasoline with something else.  If gasoline is $2.00 per gallon and you have a 15 gallon tank, that’s $30 for a fill-up.  If you took that same $30 and purchased several gallons of milk, you might think of it a little differently.  Let’s say your child poured a large glass of milk and only drank half of it before pouring the rest down the sink. There’s a very high probability you’d get upset.  Why?  Are you concerned that the world is running out of milk cows?  Nope.  Are you worried that milk might clog the pipes?  Probably not.  What really gets you riled up is the realization that you paid real money for that milk and your kid is wasting it.

Replace “milk” with gasoline and “kid” with you. Then you will realize it is no different than when you buy a full tank of gasoline and drive in such a way as to waste much of it.  Why is wasting gasoline perfectly justifiable when wasting milk pisses you off?  There is no difference between wasting money spent on gasoline and wasting money spent on other things.  People just need to see it. provides a simple calculator. You can enter your current average MPG as “Car 1” and speculate a 5% MPG improvement as “Car 2”. This puts hard numbers right in front of you.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, burning one gallon of pure gasoline produces 19.64 pounds of Carbon Dioxide emissions. Burning one gallon of pure diesel produces 22.38 pounds.

I have to admit that I see “pounds of CO2” and have no idea what that means. Thank you, Google! The Natural Resources Defense Council does the best job, in my opinion, of making this rather abstract concept tangible. In short, filling a balloon with one pound of CO2 would swell the balloon to about two and a half feet across. That’s about 8.2 cubic feet. Compare that to a basketball, which is 9.5 inches with a volume of 0.26 cubic feet. This means burning one gallon of pure gasoline releases the equivalent of 31 basketballs of pure Carbon Dioxide.

This is why running your gasoline car in a closed garage will kill you. And quick. Here’s the rub: we all live in one giant garage. So far, its enormous size has been working in our favor. But everything (yes, everything) has its limit. Every day the average American fills up about 57 of those Carbon Dioxide balloons, emitting 467 cubic feet of CO2. You know those 10-foot moving trucks? That’s about four and a half of those. And that’s just you on just one day.

Considering all the gasoline burned in cars in the US and all over the world would create a staggeringly large number, no doubt. So let’s add to it. Large amounts of oil distilled to produce gasoline are shipped across the oceans in large tankers running huge diesel engines, they add to the total. Then there are the gasoline trucks that make deliveries to the gas stations; they add to the total.

What does all this Carbon Dioxide have to do with greenhouse gas? In case you haven’t heard, CO2 is a heat-trapping gas. When it’s in the atmosphere, it becomes the glass ceiling of a greenhouse, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Everyone knows what it feels like to walk into a greenhouse and that’s essentially what we’re doing as we pump increasing amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the air. As though that’s not bad enough, CO2 is the longest-lasting greenhouse gas, which means your great-grandkids will be affected by your tailpipe emissions.

So it’s not enough to just consider your driving habits and calculate your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. You have to consider everyone else and all the shipping and transporting that goes into making and moving your gasoline. But if we can find a way to consume less gasoline, fewer tankers would need to traverse the oceans and fewer trucks would be needed for deliveries. In the end, fewer emissions would be emitted all around.

Less Consumption and Fewer Imports (excuse my rant)

No matter who you talk to, they will all agree that it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of foreign oil we import.  The United States imports a lot of oil from countries run by regimes who use our money to fund the fighters who kill American service men and women.  The regimes themselves engage in atrocities we would never condone within our own borders.  Even though we don’t like them, considering we disagree with much of what they do, and ignoring that they fund the people who are willing to die in their quest to kill us, we continue to willingly send them more and more of our hard-earned money.

If we cannot convince Americans how to connect the dots between our gasoline addiction and our dying soldiers, then we are doomed as a country.  As long as we continue to fund both sides of the war, it will never end.

In this election year, there has been a lot of rhetoric about the need to secure our borders. A need to be more self-reliant and beholden to no one.  These people stand around pounding their chests, declaring their undying love for the United States, waving Chinese-manufactured American flags as they pledge allegiance to this once-great republic.  When they have finished their empty promises to protect the U.S. with their last dying breath, they climb into their unnecessary gas guzzling megatruck because a commercial was all it took to convince them that they aren’t manly unless they have best-in-class towing wrapped in military-grade construction, whatever that means.

So let’s set the record straight and expose the truth:

Like any drug dealer, many of the OPEC countries supplying so much of our oil have exactly one viable commodity.  Their entire livelihood relies on others continuously purchasing it.  Without the addicts purchasing their product, they would quickly go broke.  If Americans truly cared about gaining independence, if they actually wanted to undermine those who wish to cause us harm, they would realize that their addiction funds their own destruction.

Here is a page at discussing Energy and National Security:

If these chest-thumping Americans were truly serious about securing our borders, they would prove their commitment by being more concerned with how wasteful they are than how manly they appear.  If they truly wanted to undermine those who wish to destroy us, they would realize that by saving fuel, we could starve our enemies into submission.  Unfortunately, they are too brainwashed to see it and too addicted to care.

Less wear and tear on your vehicle

A huge majority of the hypermiling techniques hinge around driving in such a way that is easy on your vehicle.  For example, rather than accelerating as hard as possible, hypermiling teaches an acceleration method that doesn’t overwork the engine.  Once you have reached an acceptable cruising speed, you should let off on the accelerator to allow the engine to find its own sweet spot.  These two methods will extend the life of your engine.

Rather than racing to a stoplight, hypermiling teaches to allow coasting to naturally slow you down, or to use regenerative braking to decelerate.  People who use these techniques can see their brake pads last for many years.

Anecdotally, driving more efficiently will extend the life of your car and all its parts. This is evidenced by Prius owners who replace their brake pads after more than 100,000 miles. It’s hard – if not completely impossible – to find hard-fast evidence that efficient driving will absolutely extend the life of your car. There are simply way too many variables at play. However, there are too many people telling too many stories to disregard it.

Cleaner Air

No one with any grasp of reality would expect to be able to burn something without releasing gaseous emissions. I’ve already addressed greenhouse gas emissions, but there are other gases released. These typically stay lower in the atmosphere and form a brownish haze called smog (Smoke fog). To be clear, this has nothing to do with a gold-loving dragon in Middle Earth, but that would be awesome.

Some of the primary contributors to smog are nitrogen oxide, non-methane organic gases, carbon monoxide, various particulate matter, and formaldehyde. These are things you would never ever intentionally breathe if you had a choice. And yet, we drive vehicles that put them in our air, where we breathe them. So, I suppose, since we are the ones polluting the air we breathe, we are intentionally breathing them. It all works out.

Visually, smog makes clean air dirty. It looks bad to have a brown – or gray – haze lingering around your city. Health-wise, smog can make it difficult to breath. People who already have difficulties breathing can die from smog. Even those who are healthy should avoid smog because the gases in the air get into lungs and can coat the tiny air sacks. And just like that, people who were healthy before now fall into the “difficulty breathing” category.

Improvements in vehicle efficiencies have made great strides in reducing the emissions of smog-forming chemicals. But every little bit helps. If everyone did a little something, then together we could make a huge impact. In addition to driving more efficiently, start looking for the “Smog Rating” that is now required on all new car stickers.


Though many people tend to focus on a singular reason to drive more efficiently, there are many reasons. Regardless of anyone’s personal interest, it is in their interest to drive more efficient vehicles more efficiently.

If you find yourself trying to defend fuel-efficient driving to different people, you might want to re-read this article several times. It will give you a good starting point from which you can bring a person into the discussion and potentially help them see why fuel efficiency matters.

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