Saturday, March 31, 2012

#119 - An Experiment in Driving

When we have the opportunity. we like to take our fifth-wheel trailer out of town and get away from the traffic, the mall, the everyday world. Thanks to the fifth-wheel, we have all of the comforts of home, just with better scenery.

Because we have a fifth-wheel, and because we don't have a three-car garage or the desire to buy, insure, and maintain a third vehicle, our second vehicle is a truck. This isn't your run-of-the-mill, everyday Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram, or Ford F-150. No, our truck is a 2006 Ford F-350 Crew Cab with dual rear wheels.

Needless to say, this beast does not have the fuel-sipping characteristics of your basic compact. However, it can just about pull a house. Or, in our case, a house on wheels.

For the first year or so that we owned it, this truck averaged around 12.5 miles per gallon. The price of diesel being what it is, that translates into a real financial kick in the stomach every time I would fill it up.After the odometer passed 75,000 miles (just getting started for a diesel), the fuel mileage improved to a shade over 13 mpg. Still not all that good.

A few months ago, I heard a story on some public radio program talking about a concept known as hypermiling. There is even a website devoted to the subject and offering tips for successful hypermiling.

Basically, the concept involves taking every opportunity to not press on the gas or brake pedal. Part of that involves anticipating traffic signals and stop signs, taking your foot off the gas, and coasting as far as possible before applying the brake pedal.

Another aspect of hypermiling I recently began to employ involves letting your vehicle begin to move of its own accord before beginning to press on the gas pedal. (Obviously, this only works with automatic transmissions unless you are headed downhill.) The theory is that it takes less fuel to move an object that is already moving.

I also use gravity to boost fuel mileage, coasting down hills whenever I have the opportunity. I have gotten better at anticipating traffic signals, which means less need to use the brake pedals and an added maintenance benefit.

None of these things, nor any others I might come up with, is going to give my truck the fuel efficiency of a Toyota Prius. However, I have seen close to a ten-percent improvement in mileage in each of the last two tanks of fuel. I now average around 14.2 miles per gallon driving around town.

As I get better at employing the ideas and concepts involved in hypermiling, I have hopes of nearly 15 miles per gallon in town, and that's without any after-market. additions or other alterations to the truck itself. If I can get the truck to 15 mpg, I will truly be a happy camper.

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