Hypermiling in the Triangle

July 10, 2008 7:06:09 PM PDT
Soaring gas prices have all of us adjusting our lives one way or another, but the pain at the pump has some people acting "hyper". No, not overly excited. We're talking about "hypermiling" -- it's a growing trend some people use to get the most of out every single gallon.

Jason Barile, who lives in Chapel Hill and works in RTP, recommends a Web site -- ecomodder.com -- with lots of helpful "hypermiling" tips. We spent the morning with him, trying to learn his way of commuting.

Jason Barile leaves the house and heads to his driveway every morning like anybody else, but once he gets in his silver Honda Civic hybrid, this mild-mannered Chapel Hill resident becomes something different: a hypermiler.

"A hypermiler is somebody who is dedicated to getting the maximum mileage they can from their car," Barile says.

And dedicated he is. In ways both extremely logical and flat-out extreme, Jason does his best to achieve the goal he sets for himself with a bumper sticker in plain view for all to see on his hybrid: 55 mpg or 55 miles per gallon.

We'll start with what's simple.

"I drive the speed limit," Barile says. "I'd say that's probably the biggest thing that anybody could do to get better mileage."

Or -- he goes a little slower. Jason says he counts 70 to 80 cars that pass him everyday on his commute into RTP.

But keeping a slower speed pays off.

"If you typically drive 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit, and you just lower your speed back a few miles an hour, you can save 10% to 20% on your gas mileage," he says.

Jason is also a "coaster" -- he avoids accelerating quickly and braking rapidly and tries to roll up to red lights.

And he lets down hill roads help him; when he's on a decline, he doesn't hit the gas at all.

Barile also plans his routes in advance, trying to avoid stop signs and lights -- and adjusts his commute when needed.

When he hit a back-up on I-40, he wasted no time getting off the interstate.

"I'm gonna try to find a road that's flowing a little better to try and maintain a constant speed," Barile told us as he exited off the highway.

Jason goes the -- pardon the pun -- extra mile as well. He doesn't use the air conditioning in his car. "I'll be pretty sweaty by the time i get home sometimes," he says.

But he says it's worth it -- keeping the AC off improves fuel efficiency another 10% or so.

He'll also drive with his shoe off sometimes to improve the feel on the gas pedal, and sometimes only fills his tank half-way to keep the car's weight down.

Clearly, hypermiling works.

But some methods are unsafe -- and those techniques do have their critics. Among the dangerous methods, "drafting" behind trucks.

"They get very close to the bumpers and hope the car in front will pull them just a little faster and save gas," says Anita Flippin, general manager of AAA Carolinas in Durham. "Great in nascar -- that's what they do as a profession. In real life, it's very dangerous, especially if you're getting behind a semi truck."

Jason barile stays away from that kind of hypermiling. The kind he does -- he says, you can do too. "If a typical driver gets 16 to 18 miles per gallon they drive 12,000 miles a year, saving 20% they could save easily $500 a year," he says.

And with gas prices as high as they are, every dollar -- every extra mile -- helps.


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