There has been a lot of hallaballua on the media about hypermiling, and some controversy on whether or not it is a “safe” practice. At this point it is beginning to appear a bit over-the-top.
Is hypermiling safe?
Well, the answer to that really depends on how you apply hypermiling.
Anything, taken to extremes, can become dangerous. It is usually not the subject that makes something dangerous, but how the subject is applied.
There are many ways in which you can perform the most mundane activities in an unsafe way.
Lets take crossing the a street, at a pedestrian crossing. This can be done in a safe way, and can be done in an extreme and unsafe way. Crossing when the light is red and cars are bearing down on one could be considered extreme and unsafe. But, unfortunately, some people still seem to do this, as witnessed by traffic statistics. Does this make the subject of walking across the street unsafe? No, of course not. Well, the same applies to hypermiling.
In fact, correct hypermiling actually promotes safe driving practice. Lets take a look at some of the factors we are talking about here.
Correct hypermiling techniques include that you stay within the speed limits on highways. This is due to the fact that the majority of cars get the best gas mileage at around 55-60 Mph. This is so much a fact, that at the current gas prices ($ 4.00), every additional 5 Mph above this level adds as much as 30 cents per gallon to your gas bill. Staying within posted speed limits is therefore fuel efficient. This is a safe hypermiling practice.
Another safe driving practice which hypermilers advocate, especially around urban areas, is to avoid rapid acceleration and breaking. As these practices waste fuel. We have all experienced riding with people who accelerate and break rapidly around town. At times, they can be a menace to the roads. In fact they make it unsafe for our kids to play near the streets. Rapid acceleration and breaking in our suburbs is not a safe driving technique.
More points could be brought up, but I think the above examples serve to illustrate the point.
Then there are the aspects of hypermiling which involve the maintenance of one’s vehicle.
Lets take tire pressure, for example. Hypermiling advocates that one frequently check the tire pressure to ensure that the tires are at correct air pressure, according to the manufacturer. Not only does one get more miles per gallon with correctly inflated tires, but having one’s tires inflated properly also increases control of the vehicle. Surely, this adds to safety on the road.
Another hypermiling practice is to reduce unnecessary weight from one’s vehicle. Every 100 pounds of reduced weight reduces the gas bill by roughly two percent. In other words, don’t drive around with unnecessary stuff in your car. The reduced weight increases the braking capacity of your vehicle. So I am hard-put to figure out how this could be considered an “unsafe practice”.
Another important part of hypermiling is keeping ones vehicle in good working-order. That means changing the filters when needed, getting the regular check-ups done, and a host of other specific actions which are all geared toward keeping one’s vehicle in optimum condition, in order to get the maximum mileage per gallon. Anyone can tell you that a badly-running vehicle is a danger on the road.
To sum things up, hypermiling itself is a common-sense and absolutely safe activity.
It is only extremes that are unsafe. But I guess it’s the job of critics to look for extremes. After all, some critics will even claim that drinking water is unsafe (I have actually seen articles on this). And I am sure that if you drank five gallons of water in one shot you would not feel too well. But that doesn’t mean we all stop drinking water.