Take a tour into the wonderfully wicked world of hypermiling and ecodriving.
By Omar C.
It’s Friday night, you’re heading home after a day of hard work, driving your daily commute, when out of nowhere, a Honda Civic with what appears to be pizza pans glued it its wheels overtakes you. Suddenly, you look at the back of the Civic, and realize, a corner is coming up, and the brake lights don’t even show a hint of glow. The strange car traces an oddly wide line through the corner, and disappears into the darkness ahead.
Puzzled by this, you arrive home and gather your thoughts, and at the first chance you get, you fire up your phone browser, and look up “pizza pan wheels on a Civic”. The search engine delivers a myriad of results, but one page stands out: ecomodder.com
Six hours go by and when you snap out of your trance, you find yourself immersed into the wonderfully wicked weird world of hypermiling and ecodriving.
Such a world is truly fascinating, so let’s take a tour. There are three main archetypes of hypermilers, each with their own motivation to drive efficiently.
First are the ones we like to call Children of Gaia; these are the folks focusing on driving with the least harm to the environment, they carpool, use public transport, and even make use of recumbent bicycles. Their usual car build begins as a front wheel drive economy car, and uses eco-friendly materials, recycled parts, and alternative power sources. Common modifications include downsizing the engine, removing weight, adding an “air dam”, and so on.
Secondly, the Coin Keepers; coincidentally a name coined by us. They represent the economic and money saving side of efficient driving, hypermiling to avoid hefty fuel expenses. They also reduce their vehicle’s weight, carpool, share cars, and generally aim to reduce vehicular costs in general. Their preferred vehicles tend to be family oriented econoboxes and sedans, anything practical, but without specialized mods.
Thirdly, we have what we call the Logicians. They are not overly interested in saving money, nor do they expect their endeavor to save mother earth from the jaws of humanity. The Logicians seek maximum efficiency from a technical standpoint. Their vehicles often are equipped with high technology monitoring and engine management systems. Logicians live and drive for the engineering challenge of chasing fuel efficiency and reducing waste to the absolute minimum.
Not only do these three groups extensively modify their vehicles, they also alter something far more important: their driving style.
If there is anything all Hypermilers agree on, is the fact that efficient driving derives from conserving momentum, and not wasting energy accelerating or braking too hard. Their driving also involves maintaining a stable cruise speed, taking advantage of the road to spend as little energy as possible.
The amount of work and theory behind their hypermiling vehicles and modifications to them rivals their driving ability, in terms of complexity and scientific fundamentals. While some changes to a vehicle are blatantly improving its Mileage, the array of subtle modifications that a Hypermiler does to a car also has great impact on the overall fuel economy. Those small modifications are examples of the attention to detail and high level of craftsmanship that these circles require.
Aerodynamics is the name of the game for many members of this community, and they are always eager to reduce their car’s coefficient of drag. Aerodynamic drag is also known as air or wind resistance, and it comes from the frontal or “impact” area that first comes in contact with a stream of air. Having a round or curved side profile will greatly reduce the frontal area of the vehicle.
Another big aerodynamic concern is achieving a half teardrop side profile, and this is the reason why cars like the Toyota Prius have a sloping rear window that just ends in a small spoiler. This is known as a Kammback, and it’s a shortened and lighter version of a full “Boat Tail”. A kammback reduces the rear cross-sectional area, resulting in less drag and less lift. The Honda Insight is a notable example of this design feature.
Remember our pizza pan wheels covers on that imaginary Civic, we were serious, this is an actual modification Hypermilers do to reduce drag generate from wheel-wells, they also use rear wheel-well covers like old cars used to have. And pizza pans are only one of the many crazy materials that these people reuse and recycle into something that improves their car.
Their passion for efficiency is illustrated in the following quote from an Ecomodder.com forum member.
You’re not in front of me…
I’m 25,000 miles in front of you.
Perhaps most importantly is that they all share and track their progress, with the help of electronic wizardry like the Scangauge, an almost mythical device that reads fuel consumption and other statistical variables Hypermilers like to keep an eye on.
Which begs the question: Are Hypermilers considered Gearheads?
Well, they are interested in cars, and are exceedingly good at their own driving specialty, they also build modify, help and share their journey with like minded people, much like a Track day enthusiast or a Drag racer would. Even the ones doing it to save a few bucks are getting some fun out of it, because it’s not just a challenge, it’s a daily commitment to improving yourself.
In short, Hypermilers are also Gearheads, even if they don’t seem to notice it.