Saturday, July 19, 2008

41% Improvement in my Acura's MPGs

With today's gas prices, I've been thinking a bit more about practicing gas saving techniques. I have already been conservative in my driving over the past 2 years and routinely exceed EPA ratings.

Before gas prices exceeded $3/gallon, I was already:
1.) Coasting to red lights
2.) Gently accelerating about 1/2 the time. Rest of time accelerating as schedule required.
3.) Using cruise control religiously
4.) Minimizing use of brakes

Now that gas has gone "thru the roof," I've been keeping an eye out for some additional techniques.

About 2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive from central Louisiana to Washington state. I'm moving my household to the Northwest and had my car loaded down with approximately 800 lbs of household goods and self.

My car is a 1998 Acura 2.3 CL, automatic. The 2.3 stands for 2.3 liter (4 cylinder). The EPA rates it at 19 city / 27 hwy. I regularly get 30-31 mpg hwy using techniques 1-4 above. However, on this trip I took one leg of my trip to test the following techniques:

5.) Observing speed limit. Basically, not exceeding it.
6.) Drafting. To minimize the danger of drafting, I kept about 1 car length distance for every 10 miles of speed. My favorite vehicles to draft were the RVs with the one-piece rock guards that went behind both sets of back tires. RVs were also more apt to maintain steady speeds on hills, as compared to 18 wheelers.
7.) Coasting in neutral down hills. This dropped my rpm from 2500-3000 rpm to about 900 rpm. Warning: This is illegal in some states and could get you hurt. The famous "click and clack" brothers who talk about cars advise against doing so.
8.) Ceased using cruise control when going up some steep hills. In doing this, I would remember my cars RPM while cruising before the hill. Once I reached the hill, I would listen for when my car was trying to apply more fuel and increase rpm. I would then immediately cease cruise control and maintain RPM vice speed. I would maintain RPM until I crested the hill. After cresting the hill, I would decide as to whether or not the downward slope was long enough to coast down or whether or not I would accelerate and reset cruise control.

Over the course of this experiment I averaged 68 mph and 37.98 mpg.

This represents an 11 mpg increase (40.7%) over my rated 27 mpg and with 800lbs of household goods in my car!

... It's about 2 weeks later now and I'm currently on travel and using a rental car. I've have / will experiment with two additional techniques with the rental car (4 cylinder Hyundai Sonata):

9.) Cutting off engine at stop lights. This mimics what hybrids already do.

This is my first time trying #9 and it's also being done in an unfamiliar area where I'm not fully aware of cycle times for red lights. It's probably best to test this on my route to work where I'm most familiar with which lights are long.

10.) Inflating tires to maximum tire pressure. I'm trying this tomorrow in a drive between Norfolk, VA and Washington D.C. I typically keep my tires at 32 psi but will try inflating them a little more after reading the manufacture's max tire pressure. Many "hypermiler" websites recommend increasing to max tire pressure. I'll raise the tire pressure somewhere between 32psi and the max pressure while leaving the pressure a tad below max pressure. Aside: my friend tried this technique with his Jetta TDI and lost one tire from tread separation (thus my reason for not going to max pressure but something close).

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