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Hypermiling a Dangerous Technique, and the New Menace on the Road? Hypermiling and Safety
At the height of soaring gasoline prices, more motorists are slowly being forced to devise more fuel-efficient driving practices. While some are beginning to choose to commute or drastically resort to pedestrians; there are those who continue to ride, changing their driving techniques to get the most out of every gallon of gas. Proponents of the latter option are called “hypermilers” and their practice, which is gaining considerable momentum, is accordingly called “hypermiling”.
If at some point you’ve experienced driving behind an excruciatingly slow car (given the driver wasn’t busy with their cell phone), chances are you’re probably following a hypermiler. Hypermilers are drivers who go to extraordinary, and often unusual, lengths to get the most mileage. Hypermiling dates back to World War II, when gas rationing was implemented. Even before the term was coined, Reader’s Digest, at the start of the fuel crisis of the 70s, had already published an article which presented many of the methods involved in today’s hypermiling techniques. By now, avid hypermilers have grown their craft and are serious about achieving optimum fuel economy.
But there are growing concerns about the safety of hypermilers. Some critics of hypermiling point out that certain hypermiling tactics put its practitioners at high risk down the road. But some argue that all the risk is worth it when compared to the monetary bonus gained from the method. This article will present a comprehensive overview of hypermiling, including its effectiveness and safety concerns for those who want to practice it.
Ordinary tires subject to road resistance. And a vehicle having to slide through a lot of resistance forces it to use more fuel on the move. To combat this, hypermilers inflate their tires. According to them, less rubber on the road decreases resistance, thus allowing hypermilers to reduce their fuel consumption. But in the eyes of other motorists, tire inflation can lead to uneven tire wear or loss of vehicle control.
Some hypermilers think a cold engine equals low fuel mileage. So, in turn, hypermilers “heat up” their engines much faster by covering their car engines with cardboard. The cardboard is there to block the wind. This way, more engine heat is retained throughout the ride. However, this practice presents a risk of overheating the motor. To counter this, hypermilers take out the boxes when they go on long journeys.
A running engine in a stationary car (like, for example, a car at a stop sign) continues to consume fuel without gaining mileage for it. To hypermilers, stopping at red lights or stop signs wastes a considerable amount of gas. Thus, most hypermilers avoid areas with red lights or signs. Some even go so far as to turn off their engines when stopped at traffic lights. This latter practice is frowned upon by some experts. Because if there is no fuel consumption with the engine off, the motorist may be forced to start the car hastily and accelerate when the light turns green. This will result in more fuel, as the ignition also consumes fuel, which defeats the purpose of fuel efficiency.
Some hypermilers refuse to use their brakes as much as possible. When they don’t see any other car at some point, they just drive forward despite the red light. They “slide” through stop signs. Some drive downhill, at high speed, without running the engine. Some take corners at high speed, hoping to “never” hit the brakes. This, however, is a very dangerous practice as it negatively affects the steering and emergency braking capabilities of the car. Hypermilers defend this tactic as “fuel efficient”, while some simply call it “irresponsible”.
There is also a hypermiling technique called “pulse and glide”. This is done by accelerating the vehicle to 40 mph (the “pulse”) and then releasing the throttle until no energy arrow appears on the energy meter (the “slip”). The latter would indicate that the vehicle is not relying on the engine or charging the battery. When the vehicle begins to slow down to 30 mph, the whole process is repeated again. The “pulse and glide” method is said to improve fuel economy by reducing the use of the internal combustion engine. But due to the method’s risk factors, “pulsing and sliding” is banned in several states. It is never safe to turn off your engine while driving. This inevitably causes the power brakes and steering to fail.
A more common tactic in hypermiling is called “drafting”. This is the same method used by NASCAR drivers on the circuit. It is a question of following very closely semi-trailers or very heavy vehicles. Hypermilers do this with the belief that wind resistance allows the car to use more gas. Now the hypermilers say that if you were to drive with a big truck in front of you, you are assured that the wind resistance of the vehicle in front decreases the wind resistance for you significantly. Although this may seem useful, the security risk in this practice is of considerable size. The hypermiler must travel dangerously close to a 16 or 18 wheeler to get the full effect of this technique.
While it’s great to see that more and more motorists have realized the importance of fuel economy and are proactively finding ways to do so, hypermiling, with all the risks it brings , is not for everyone. This method is more suitable for experienced drivers and connoisseurs of the road. On the other hand, critics of hypermiling always argue that, experts or not, safety against high risk of road accidents far outweighs fuel savings.
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