The World's Most Fuel-Efficient Couple: Or, Beat Humboldt Gas Prices By Being Smooth

Mike Dronkers / Tuesday, July 10, 2012 @ 2:52 p.m. / Op-Ed

84 mpg in a standard VW Passat TDI.

It can be done, as John and Helen Taylor have recently proven. And you can do it, too. More on that in a moment.

Humboldt's gas prices are high, but last week's North Coast Journal cover story doesn't suggest relief anytime soon, if ever. And a quick scan of used cars on Humboldt Craigslist shows that people are holding on to their high-mpg cars. So it's on us to figure this out.

Back to that Passat. New York Times:

"To simulate real-world driving conditions, the Taylors brought along 120 pounds of luggage and limited their driving to daylight hours. “We wanted the drive to be realistic...inspiring Americans to save on their upcoming summer driving holidays,” Mr. Taylor said."

How did they do it? 

Hypermiling is the habit of driving as efficiently as possible. Some people are able to push a Prius up to over 100 mpg, but it'll work on any old car. Older cars can get hybrid-milage, even.

I've tried some basic hypermiling techniques over the last two tankfuls. And it totally worked.

I took my automatic-transmission Honda from 21 mpg to 25.7 mpg basically by driving more smoothly. That's a 22 percent efficiency increase for free. That's the gas equivalent of one less commute per week. So I'm hooked on hypermiling and shooting for 26 mpg. 

Here are the big hypermiling tricks:

That's basically what I did on my Eureka-Ferndale commute. If you drive stick -- or better yet, have a diesel vehicle -- the sky's the limit.

The couple above, John and Helen Taylor, have an extensive list of tips.

Taking off the roof rack, getting junk out of the car, keeping your tires inflated properly ... a lot of this stuff is common sense. Even more isn't: removing mudflaps and wipers, buying groceries at uphill locations, modifying intakes. Check it out. Saftey comes first, so hypermile responsibly.

With nothing to lose and money to save, give it a shot and tell us about your experiments with efficiency. 

Further reading:

50+mpg in non-hybrid 80's cars

Popular Mechanic's MPG picks

John & Helen Taylor's Fuel Academy

New York Times' Hypermiling Tips

EcoModder: hardcore efficiency gearheads