What is hypermiling? How to save fuel while driving

BY Ian Lamming

4th Oct 2022 Motoring

What is hypermiling? How to save fuel while driving
Hypermiling is where drivers maximise their car's efficiency to beat rising fuel prices. Learn how to save fuel while driving with these tips
With fuel prices wavering between £7 and £10 a gallon, it is little wonder that the cost of living crisis has spawned a new breed of driver.
Rather than motorists obsessing over the 0-60mph sprint times and the irrelevancy of top speeds they are more likely to focus on economy.
"Eking out the very last mile per gallon will be the focus"
Right from when they choose their vehicle to how they drive it, eking out the very last mile per gallon will be the focus. There’s even a word for it—hypermiling.
With fossil fuels running dry and efficient electronics still some distance away, ballet pumps and a featherlight touch are the order of the day, something that is being shared with a large section of the motoring population.

Which drivers are hypermiling?

Young drivers, who tend to have smaller budgets, are leading the hypermiling trend
According to research by lease company Choose My Car, 89 per cent of drivers are now hypermiling, which is up 17 per cent since April this year.
Young drivers are feeling the pinch the most and 93 per cent of those aged 18-34 are trying to maximise fuel efficiencies when driving, something that is also helped by the fitting of black boxes to monitor driving standards in order to reduce their insurance premiums.
"93 per cent of those aged 18-34 are trying to maximise fuel efficiencies when driving"
Birmingham is the hypermiling capital of the UK, with 95 per cent of drivers trying not to burn fuel.
South west drivers are seemingly less concerned about fuel economy, with the cities of Plymouth at 80 per cent and Bristol at 83 per cent of drivers admitting to hypermiling.
Other regional data sees hypermiling in Manchester at 92 per cent, Liverpool 90 per cent, London 86 per cent, Edinburgh 87 per cent, Cardiff at 94 per cent, Newcastle at 89 per cent, and Southampton at 86 per cent.

What does fuel efficient driving achieve?

So, does hypermiling really make that much of a difference? The new Kia Niro PHEV (that’s plug-in hybrid to you and me) provides the perfect example with stark differences between trying and not trying to boost economy.
Under normal conditions, the 1.8 litre petrol/electric hybrid is a pretty economical car. Hoon about with your clogs on and you will still return an impressive 50+ miles per gallon, a figure once only achievable in a diesel.
"Our annual school run bill would be £3,780 but only £1,680 if you go hypermiling"
Practise the art of hypermiling and that figure soars to an incredible 110mpg. On our ridiculous school run of 62 miles, that would make a difference in costs of between £9 and £4 each way, depending on your driving style.
With our son at school six days a week and 35 weeks a year, the annual school run bill would be £3,780 but only £1,680 if you go hypermiling.
So that’s what it is and the difference it can make, but how do you do it?
A hybrid electric car can increase fuel efficiency by using the petrol engine less

Choose a fuel efficient car

  • Firstly, look at your choice of vehicle. Barn-door styling and heavy gross weights are your enemy as they cause greater inertia, so pick something light and aerodynamic.
  • Diesels are persona non grata in terms of pollution and fuel costs, so opt for petrol.
  • There’s the choice between small capacity motors with a turbo or larger and usually aspirated engines, which tend to rev less and are more relaxed. Whichever you go for, check the fuel figures in the brochures and online.
  • To me, the best compromise are self-charging and plug-in hybrids. You still have a petrol engine but the electric motor makes it perform better and be more economical.
  • Kia’s Niro PHEV is a great example as it switches from petrol to electric whenever it can—while travelling slowly in traffic, coasting downhill or wafting along the motorway—and the results are clear to see.

Maintain your car for fuel efficiency

  • Car chosen, it’s important to keep it clean, as smooth surfaces reduce air drag.
  • Keep it light; there’s no need to carry a shovel, a pair of wellies and a bag of road grit in the summer;
  • Keep the tyres inflated to the correct pressures—underinflation increases the tyre footprint and hence the rolling resistance.

Pick the right driving conditions for better fuel economy

  • Pick your times—if you can avoid heavy traffic do so as the constant stop/starting and sitting at tickover gobbles fuel. Driving at night is harder because you can’t see as far ahead, making it difficult to plan your next move.
  • Pick your weather—extreme cold makes the car work harder and headwinds murder economy.

Which driving techniques save fuel

  • Then it is all down to driving style. Use the eco setting on the car and keep an eye on the “instant” fuel consumption figure, lifting off the throttle as much as possible.
  • Keep your momentum, so try to avoid braking. Instead, look as far up the road as possible, plan your next move and read the conditions.
  • Stick to the speed limits. Most cars will be most fuel efficient at around 56mph and for each five to ten miles per hour you reduce your speed by, you can look to gain seven to 14 per cent on your fuel economy.
  • Get up to speed quickly so the engine doesn’t labour.
  • Avoid heavy use of the throttle and brakes.
  • If you have a hybrid, look for the lit green EV symbol on the dash—it means you aren’t using petrol.
  • Get a feel for the road. As soon as you feel the car going downhill, or even on the flat, get off the throttle and use gravity—it’s free.
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