I read an interesting article here and a fuller article here about the practice of hypermiling (adjusting one’s driving habits to achieve optimal fuel efficiency). While hypermiling can certainly save lots of money and gas, I have some serious reservations about the methods used. While the article did bring up some safety issues in regards to using your cruise control instead of your gas and break, turning off the engine at various times during your drive, and taking turns at high speed instead of using your break to keep momentum, the overriding message of hypermilers was “save money at any cost.”
On my way into school this morning, I was thinking about the article and my driving habits. I’m not one to speed or practice jack rabbit starts, but as I was driving, I wondered about the effect on other drivers if I put into practice some of the tricks of the trade of hypermilers. One, which doesn’t appear to be a safety issue is coasting for as long as possible, especially when you see a red light in the distance. Certainly, if this were practiced with consistency, mpg’s would rise. However, another issue came immediately to mind. I was a good distance from a light and wondered what it would be like to coast to it instead of having my foot on the gas the whole way and then applying the break at the last minute. A car was sitting in the left turn lane facing the opposite direction waiting for me to pass. Had I taken my foot off the gas, the cars behind me would have caught up to me enough to prevent this person from turning left after I passed.
I would have saved a little dough, but I would have inconvenienced another. That is not driving in love. The attitude of the hypermiler who was interviewed seemed to be that his saving money and gas and thus the environment was more important than someone else being inconvenienced. He commented on how he sees how long he can coast (at a slower and slower speed) as he approaches his house on the way home despite the line of cars behind him.
Nor was he concerned about taking the off ramp at 50 mph to allow him to coast a greater distance even though the speed limit was 25. Boosting mpg’s trumps traffic laws I suppose. While I would certainly be in favor of adopting some of the recommendations in the article, being a good driver does not mean I am only concerned about my mpg’s. It also means I am concerned about those around me. Just because someone doesn’t see the need to conserve energy, doesn’t mean I can be unconcerned about them as I drive.
If they hypermilers are so obsessed with increasing mpg’s, can I suggest a bicycle?