Hypermiling: Darwinism Gone Wild

I haven’t done a topical post in a while, but I couldn’t get this thought out of my head while driving to the store the other day.

Hypermiling is a really, really, really bad idea.

In case you’re unfamiliar, “hypermiling” is the practice of using as little gas as possible, storing up your kinetic energy by laying off the brakes and taking advantage of aerodynamics to increase your fuel economy.

It’s been all over the front page of Digg, lately. You can see so for yourself here:

http://digg.com/search?section=all&s=hypermiling.

It seems like everybody (on Digg, anyway) is ready to embrace this as a common sense way to save money and the environment. I mean, you can get 100 mpg from a regular car! That sounds like a good idea, right?

Here’s the problem: have you ever driven on a road or a street that had at least one other car on it? Ever? Even once?

Because, apparently these people haven’t.

You really want people driving around on the same roads as you, trying to not use their brakes? You want them running stop signs to keep their speed up? You want them tailing a tractor trailer (drafting) so that they can turn off their engine and let the truck do all the work?

Really?

This doesn’t sound like a horrible idea to anybody?

Really??

You don’t think people drive badly enough already?

Granted, I live in Los Angeles, but at least once a day, someone will just randomly pull into my lane without warning, probably while talking on their cell phone. I will slam on my brakes (which thankfully have full pressure, since my engine is running) and I will think, “Wow, I almost died!”

Proponents of hypermiling might make the argument that people will actually be safer because they’ll be paying much more attention, sweating bullets just inches off the bumper of a 90,000 pound mini freight train. I’m not sure there’s anything true about that statement, but even if it is for the hypermiling faithful, I think as this comes into the mainstream, you’re going to attract more people just looking to save a buck, without fully thinking this through.

Finally, there seems to be some sort of backlash against this, though I had to do some digging (pardon the expression) of my own to find it:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/06/30/earlyshow/main4218439.shtml?source=RSSattr=HOME_4218439.

It should be noted that this story is nowhere near as popular as pro-hypermiling ones referenced above.

So as gas prices go up and the impressionable masses who brought you “the last 20 stupid web videos someone sent your instant messenger while you were at work” begin to try this out for themselves, I predict a spike in accidents involving wealthy dowagers getting run over by nearly silent Ford Tauruses with their engines killed, barreling around corners and through stop signs.

So, next time you’re sitting in bumper to bumper on the freeway, because they have to stop traffic to powerscrub some douchebag’s brains off the back of the big rig he just plowed into, you’ll have the hypermilers of the world to thank.

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4 comments

  1. I prefer “Party Crashing.” That way I don’t save gas, and I get to smash into people. Win-win!

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rant_(novel)

    Also, Eric, I really loved your Yahoo Serious impression in the comment above!

  2. Hmmm. So, that’s what they call it, eh! Of course, you could buy a Prius instead. So you get a little EMF exposure… We don’t get 100 mpg, but do get an average of 51 mpg. No hypermiling or drafting for me! (Still waiting to see your commercial, E.)

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