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Gas prices, road rage, and hypermiling

June 11, 2008

I get geekier and geekier every day I think. Usually it’s Internet related geeky, but today, it’s about science and economics!

I, like many other people these days, am horribly upset by the continuously rising gas prices. I heard a radio personality say today that Missouri has the cheapest gas in America, with a low price of $3.82, and that one station in Western Kansas was up to $4.19. I then recalled a trip I took to Colorado in 2004, when I was worried about the $2.07 per gallon that I had to pay out in the plains of Western Kansas. Oh, but now, wouldn’t that be a dream?

In my commutes to and from work, I’ve been getting overly concerned with what vehicles the people around me are driving. Is it really necessary for that single, twenty-something, young professional woman to be driving a Hummer? Does that “tough guy” really need an F-250 when he doesn’t ever haul anything but a$$? Meanwhile, I’m driving my sensible 4-door family sedan that gets very reasonable gas mileage, and gas prices continue to increase because demand is increasing, and I’m wondering – what gives, people?!?!

But after reading some information about something so simple yet ingenious called hypermiling, I realized that as is usually the case, change could be found within me. The main aspect of hypermiling that I’ve started putting into play is learning to shift to neutral and coast more, brake less, thus making the most of the gas you’ve already burned.

The website linked above explains it much better, but it’s really just simple physics. It’s about using the energy you’ve already spent to get you as far as possible; not cancelling it out by burning it up with your brakes, and taking advantage of momentum in the right places, but not wasting it in the wrong ones. So, hit the gas on your way up a hill, but shift to neutral and let it ride as you coast down the hill and on up the next one. I discovered a hilly road on my way to my parent’s house that is probably around two miles long, and I only I had to hit the gas pedal once on the first incline, and the rest was smooth saling in neutral gear, and I never fell below the speed limit. Another thing is if you see a red or yellow light ahead, there is most likely no need to use any more gas to get there (unless it’s uphill and you can’t make it without gas). Any gas you use to get to the stoplight faster goes to complete waste, because then you sit and use gas while going nowhere!

Gosh, it all seems like common sense, and I don’t understand why I haven’t driven like this before. Why don’t they teach this stuff in driver’s ed?

I filled my tank yesterday morning and then I started using some of these driving techniques, so I’m going to continue to use them as much as possible through this whole tank. I’m really hoping to see that I got a lot more miles out of the tank than usual. I’ll be sure to report back here with the results when my experiment is finished!

In the meantime, I hope other people will try this. It’s simple, costs nothing – and may even make you money if you can make your gas take you farther. And it’s just something every individual can do to help decrease the demand for gasoline!

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