Wayne Gerdes is at it again.
The champion of hypermiling, a bucolic driving style aimed at maximizing fuel efficiency, rolled into New York City Monday morning after a 48-hour cross-country trip from Los Angeles in a three-vehicle convoy of Audi’s newest clean diesel offerings.
For Audi, the Ingolstadt, Germany-based carmaker owned by Volkswagen AG (FRA:VOW3), and second-largest luxury automotive brand, the trip offers publicity for its 2014 Q5 crossover, 2014 A7 four-door hatchback and 2014 A6 four-door sedan. The Audis utilize Volkswagen’s turbocharged direct injection (TDI) clean diesel technology, which gives the engines hybrid-like mileage without the sooty exhaust associated with old diesel-engine technology.
In 2011, Gerdes broke the world record for getting the most out of a hybrid car driving through all 48 contiguous U.S. states (64.55 mpg from a 2011 Kia Optima rated for 40 mpg). He also famously teased out an astounding 81.5 mpg out of Ford Fusion Hybrid in 2009, about twice the EPA highway rating of 41 mpg.
The trip offers yet another chance for the godfather of “hypermiling” to preach his gospel of efficient driving techniques aimed at beating the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy estimates for vehicles. In 2011, the suburban Chicago-based founder of CleanMPG.com, which advocates for scrupulously efficient driving techniques, broke the world record for getting the most out of a hybrid car driving through all 48 contiguous U.S. states: 64.55 mpg from a 2011 Kia Optima rated for 40 mpg.
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Gerdes set off from L.A. on Saturday with a team of journalists to show that it was possible to drive more than 2,800 miles in these Audis in no more than 48 hours using no more than three tanks of fuel. Accompanying him were four auto journalists -- the so-called “Truth in 48” team -- there to chronicle the journey. The team planned to average less than 63 miles per hour -- one of the hypermiling techniques is to drive steadily and, much to the chagrin of lead-footed American drivers, just below most highway speed limits.
So how well did he do? The Q5 gets 24 city/31 highway/27 combined. With the trip almost completed Monday morning, Gerdes claims he’s getting 40 mpg out of the crossover. The A6 and A7 are rated for 38 miles per gallon on the highway; the team pulled four extra miles per gallon from both.
Hypermiling isn’t for speed freaks, and less scrupulous drivers could find themselves throwing up the middle finger at the hypermiling [insert pejorative here] dawdling along the interstate doing less than the speed limit. But, then, those drivers should probably also not complain about gas prices.
For drivers interested in maximizing their per-tank vehicle ranges, here are the main driving techniques lauded by the hypermiling converts:
- Gradually accelerate and decelerate. Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s optimally efficient speed and try to stay as close to that as possible. Generally this is lower than highway minimum speed limits, but helps in city driving.
- Avoid braking by coasting to stops.
- Avoid poor roads with lots of momentum-impeding potholes and bumps.
- Avoid using climate control.
- Stay safely away from other vehicles in order to anticipate lane changes rather than braking.
- Keep windows rolled up at high speeds to avoid drag.
- Accelerate to a higher speed, then coast to a lower one; repeat. This process is known as “pulse and glide.” Coast down hills. Coast in neutral when possible.
- Familiarize yourself with your engine’s optimized efficiency point and keep it at the ideal rpm (revolutions per minute). The higher the rpm, the more gas is being used.
- Keep your vehicle’s engine well maintains and lubed. Maintain optimal tire pressure.