Kevin Booker fell into hypermiling. Or maybe it went downhill gently, with hypermiling being the art of driving in a way that maximizes fuel efficiency. Either way, it’s an accidental hypermiler; it started as something to relieve the boredom of the daily 70-mile commute from Swansea to Brecon, where he works for the National Parks. “It was almost a way to gamify it, to get the fuel that I used to go further,” the 44-year-old tells me. “I was learning the techniques to get the most out of that gallon.” We will come to the techniques.
It was a useful game. “The bonus was that I was saving money. Over a month I was able to save up to £50 without really increasing my journey time. This was in 2003 when a liter of petrol or diesel (Booker drove a diesel Vauxhall Corsa at the time) cost less than a pound.
You know what happened to fuel prices since, and recently they put their right foot on the ground to climb the steepest slopes. Even with Rishi Sunak’s 5p duty cut last week, you’re still looking at around £1.60 for unleaded and over £1.70 for diesel. Got my first £80 forecourt shock the other day. Used Skoda Fabia, since you ask – I know, nice wheels, right?
But back to Booker’s own hypermiling journey: After discovering he was good at it, Booker came across an advertisement in an automotive magazine for an event called the MPG Marathon, a test of fuel economy under road conditions. . With the encouragement of his wife Terri, he entered. “It was in the Essex countryside, they give you a time to complete the course so you don’t go too slow and cause obstructions. They don’t want you going down the freeway at 25 mph.
Driving a Honda Civic diesel (“In those days you could do 100 mpg on a carefully driven diesel”), he came in second, but then teamed up with the man (hypermilers tend to be of men) who beat him and they were going to break records together.
Booker got the bug, big time. He became a regular at the MPG marathon, and through that, another event called the Layer Marney Cup, also in Essex. “These things seem to be happening in Essex, I don’t know about the county.” Not too many hills maybe. He won the Layer Marney Cup two to three times.
Has it become some sort of obsession? “Most cars now have a range meter, telling you how many miles you have left. You find yourself trying to go further than the car thinks it can go on the fuel you I recognize that, I do, I try to beat the range finder Where once it might have tried to get there before the satnav said you go, now it’s about Use Less Fuel In the competitive – and again, almost certainly male – numbers game, range is the new speed.
Anyway, with costs soaring, what was fairly niche – a few range enthusiasts such as Booker driving slowly and smoothly in Essex – has become mainstream. And it’s not only better for the pocket but also for the planet; maybe not quite a win-win, but at least less of a loser. Everyone should be a hypermiler by now. So come on Booker, let’s take your advice.
It’s his big one. “Read the road ahead for traffic lights and roundabouts, so you always keep moving forward. If there’s a green light a good distance away, chances are it’ll be red by the time you get there. It’s all about the pace, so you get there when it’s green. With roundabouts, feed into them rather than stopping. Booker doesn’t like to stop.
No hard acceleration or braking. “In a conventional fuel car, every time you use the brakes, you waste that energy. Hybrids and electric vehicles have regenerative braking – 70% of the energy goes back into the battery, so it’s not really Otherwise, the techniques for hypermiling in an EV are the same, keep everything smooth and flowing.
To slow down
It won’t make much of a difference to your commute time, but driving as slowly as possible, and in the highest possible gear without revving your engine, will be cheaper. And change earlier: “Don’t hold the gears at high revs, it’s about feeling the right time to change. On the freeway, stay in the direction of traffic. Don’t indulge that inner runner. Booker says he is a calm driver. “I’m not one of those people who get mad and go overboard like crazy. I’m not a driving hater.
The car that is, with regular maintenance. Booker could tell when they once put the wrong quality oil in his Toyota Aygo, “just by the touch”. I think it’s pretty advanced hypermiling, but you can check your tire pressure and make sure they’re in good shape. Cheap tires can be a false economy.
“You find people driving around with a trunk full of junk. Reduce the weight of your car by getting rid of things you don’t need. Booker did not include children in this. Also reduce drag – lose the roof box when not in use. At highway speeds, open windows create drag, so it’s best to have the windows closed and the air conditioning on.
SUVs don’t make good hypermilers. “Manufacturers are guilty of pushing people into big SUVs. Do you really need it? A sedan or station wagon is more efficient because its shape is more aerodynamic.
Plug in, turn on, good luck
Go electric, in other words. Terri did, switching to a Renault Zoe, in 2015. Booker followed, in her wake (not too close, it’s dangerous). He now drives a Hyundai Ioniq. Of course, electricity prices are also skyrocketing, but in addition to being cleaner and greener, electric vehicles are always cheaper to run. You’ll notice that EV drivers look particularly smug right now. Booker calculated electricity for his return trip to work now costs 97p.
And if you’re worried about EV range, get this: Last year, Booker, along with some hypermiler friends, drove an electric car from John o’Groats to Land’s End with just one charging stop. It is in the Guinness World Records for that. This is truly impressive, an elite hypermiler at the top of its game; the average driver won’t understand that.
We wanted to have an electric car but they were too expensive and we don’t have off street parking to charge it. Hence the Fabia. But from now on, with Kevin’s guidance, it’s just going to be hypermiling. It’s either that or the Megabus.