Darin Cosgrove's modified 1998 Pontiac gets insane gas mileage, yet still looks pretty normal.
When you first start hypermiling, I find, you really wish you had someone to ride along with you to show you the ropes. Sadly, that's not yet an option for most people. Until then, we can learn from some of the best.
Darin Cosgrove has been "hypermiling" since before the term was made up, and has taught me more about it than any other person. He runs a variety of websites details his projects, experiments, and thoughts, including MetroMPG.com and ForkenSwift.com. Darin is also the (other) founder of EcoModder.com.
In my mind, he's the best, so I invited him to answer a few short questions about himself and hypermiling.
Hypermiling has received a lot of attention recently, yet you have been doing it long before it became cool. So when did you first start hypermiling?
I was an efficiency nerd 15 years before there was a sexy name for it. My interest in the topic grew out of a part-time job I had teaching defensive driving when I was at university in the early 90s -- the company I worked for had "economy driving" in its curriculum. As an instructor trainee, I researched and gave a seminar on the subject to my fellow trainees, and I haven't looked back since.
What kind of car do you drive? It is at all optimized for hypermiling or gas mileage? Could you give us a few details on that?
I have two cars: a 3-cylinder 1998 Pontiac Firefly, which is a Canadian market Geo Metro clone. It's optimized with aerodynamic mods like smooth wheel covers, a partial grille block and wheel skirts, plus drivetrain mods like a transmission with taller than normal gearing and a special efficiency camshaft. Oh, and the interior is fairly stripped out -- the seats are pretty light and easy to reinstall when I need to take passengers.
My other car is electric: a 1992 Geo Metro I converted into a battery-powered runabout with a friend.
I know you also do something called ecomodding. What's that about and how does it compliment hypermiling?
You know those guys (they're mostly guys) who modify their cars for speed and power? Ecomodders are sort of like them, except our goal is better mpg, not mph. Most of the "green gearheads" who mod their cars for better mileage also use hypermiling driving techniques, but not always. The advantage of an ecomodded vehicle is it's more efficient regardless of how it's driven or who drives it.
Are high gas prices, ultimately, a good or bad thing?
High gas prices are causing a lot of people to pay attention to fuel efficiency in the cars they choose and the way they drive, and that's a good thing. Consumers are forcing innovation from the automakers, and they've already started to respond.
What's your personal best? What kind of techniques do you have to employ to get that kind of mileage?
Best round trip was 133 mpg (U.S.). Best tank was 104 mpg. My average these days (warm weather) is around the mid 70s. To get those silly high numbers, the secret was exclusively using the pulse and glide technique. I happen to live in an area where a good portion of my driving can be done on lightly traveled rural highways. You need light traffic to get away with widely varying speeds (and a low average speed).
So, what can one learn from Darin? I think the most important thing is that hypermiling isn't about being some nutball or learning some mystical trick. If you really want good mileage, find yourself a car that's pretty good to begin with and start to optimize your driving. Soon enough, people will be coming to you asking for interviews!
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