08 March 2009

word of the year - 2008

Ok, so I'm a little late in posting a blog about word of the year, 2008. It was included in the New Oxford American Dictionary last year. It is believed to be coined by Wayne Gerdes in 2004 and it's based on the concept of getting the best mileage on your car. The word is: hypermiling.

'Hypermiling' or 'to hypermile' is to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques. Rather than aiming for good mileage or even great mileage, hypermilers seek to push their gas tanks to the limit and achieve hypermileage, exceeding EPA ratings for miles per gallon. Wayne talks about it on his
site and posts regular updates on the concept and how to hypermile.

While common techniques can be carried out by average motorists making minor changes in their driving habits, some expert hypermilers use more advanced techniques. Drivers can increase a vehicle's kilometers per liter simply by remaining focused while driving and anticipating the need to brake or accelerate. Hypermilers seek to minimize both braking and rapid acceleration. Another way to improve fuel economy is by planning routes in advance to determine the shortest distance and fewest stops. Fuel can be saved by shutting the engine off, rather than allowing it to idle while stopped or parked. Also, drivers should be conscious of other behaviors that may potentially sap a vehicle's fuel such as running the air conditioning or driving with the windows open.

Essential maintenance is needed to get maximum performance out of your vehicle. Additionally properly inflating tires and maintaining correct air pressure reduces fuel consumption upto 30%. President Obama observed during his campaign that Americans could save as much oil as would be produced by proposed off-shore drilling if only they kept their tire pressures at recommended levels and took their cars in for regular tune-ups. Reducing weight load by removing unnecessary objects from the vehicle like luggage racks adds to fuel efficiency. Every extra kilo adds 10% to total fuel consumed.

The primary principles of hypermiling revolve around the concepts of changing driving habits and to sum up, they are:
  • Pumping up your tires to the maximum rating on their sidewalls, which may be higher than levels recommended in car manuals. This reduces rolling resistance
  • Use engine oil of a low viscosity
  • Keep speeds down - the amount of drag your vehicle generates increases exponentially with each increase in speed; that is, driving a little faster generates a lot more drag, which requires more gas to overcome
  • Accelerate gently
  • Avoid excessive idling
  • Remove cargo racks to also cut down on aerodynamic drag
  • Avoid unnecessary braking; coast to slow down
Whilst the concept of hypermiling was developed to work on different road and driving conditions, certain tips can be adapted to suit Indian roads. Driving with fuel efficiency in mind not only makes it economically feasible but also make the roads a safer place.

These concepts can be put to use on Indian roads by not over-taking within city limits, over-accelerating to reach stop-lights before it changes and braking suddenly when you’ve missed it. According to studies this consumes an extra 0.5L of fuel and saves you 4seconds on a 30min journey not to mention added frustration – is it really worth it? Managing speed through changing gears and gradually decelerating to a stop requires practice and anticipation of the road ahead.

The most important concept is maintaining a steady speed which in itself is a fuel-saving method. Every time you hit the brakes, forward-movement energy is converted to heat by the brake pads and lost. Every time you accelerate, your engine must fight against friction
and inertia, and must work much harder than just to cruise at a constant speed. It is the combination of these two things - energy lost as heat when braking and extra energy necessary to increase speed - that makes changing speed unnecessarily a wasteful way to drive.

Think about this the next time you take your car out for a spin. No matter how good or bad your road conditions are, all it takes it a little bit of practice and anticipation. I've already been able to increase my mileage using these concepts
, on Indian roads - I challenge you to try!

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