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hypermiler, rat runner, shunpiker

I read a story yesterday about the "King of the Hypermilers", a guy by the name of Wayne Gerdes who did the seemingly impossible: Achieved 180 miles per gallon from from a Honda Insight. And yes he did do it. Was it easy? Not in the slightest - but it was done. You can read that story if you like (it's really long but a good read).

Thru that story and other research I found out about hypermiling, rat running and shunpiking.

What is hypermiling? It's when you purposely do things when you drive to save gas. You are a successful hypermiler if you beat your vehicle's EPA MPG estimate. For example, my 2005 GMC Canyon has an estimate of 15 city/21 highway. I have easily beat this estimate many times. If I go into true hypermiling "mode" when I drive, I can eke out 30mpg on the highway - all stock with no modifications.

What is rat running? It's when you purposely avoid main roads and take side streets to get wherever it is you're going. I've been doing this ever since I started driving. If there is a way to get somewhere that does not use any major roadways and is roughly the same amount of distance, I will do it.

What is shunpiking? This is similar to rat running but slightly different. When you shunpike, you never use highways or interstates based on your own personal principle. You don't do it for speed or efficiency (that's rat running) but rather just because you either hate paying tolls and/or just hate the highway in general. I do shunpike periodically because the drive is better overall. Everything looks nicer and you don't have to drive as fast.

How I hypermile

Feather-pedal. I don't stomp the gas pedal but feather it lightly.

Coast. An example of this is that if you're approaching a red light, take your foot off the gas and coast to it. There's absolutely no reason to accelerate up to a red. Why so many people speed up to a red I have no idea (and people do it often).

Brake as little as possible. Example: When you take an exit ramp off the highway, don't brake unless you have to and coast it out until you have to stop.

Idle as little as possible. When you idle you're getting 0 miles per gallon. If the engine is running, keep moving. For example, I used to put the seat belt on after I started the engine. Now I do it before I turn the key so I can get moving sooner.

The "Under 2000" Club. When you accelerate I can guarantee you routinely go over 3000rpm. Keeping it under 3000 is relatively easy on most cars, but keeping under 2000 requires more effort. However when you do you'll be shocked at how much less fuel your car or truck uses. To note, the "sweet spot" for staying under 2000rpm is usually cruising at 45mph.

How I do rat runs

There are three things I do to use side streets instead of major roadways.

1. Find alternative roads just by driving around and remembering them.

Rat running is usually only for those that truly know the area where they live. It does take study and learning - but once you do it's great because you know ways other people don't.

2. Use GPS.

Stupidly easy. Instruct your GPS to avoid highways when going places. From this you learn the roads and figure out alternative routes.

3. Use Google Earth with Street Views to study the roads.

Almost all of where I live is shown easily as a photographed Street View in Google Maps or Google Earth.

For example, recently I found an alternative way to get to my local Dunkin' Donuts using roads that specifically do not have speed tables (those large humps used in some residential roads, i.e. a "long" speed bump). I mapped it out, found the roads I like better, plotted it in my GPS and now I know how to get there avoiding the tables, most stop signs and only have to deal with a single traffic light.

How I shunpike

The easiest way to shunpike is to follow step 2 from rat running above, use GPS. Instruct it to avoid all highways and it always will.

Alternatively you can have it just avoid tolls but still use other highways.

Garmin GPSes are awesome like that. 🙂

~ ~ ~

It turns out that I'm a mix of all three. I do hypermile every so often, I've always done rat runs and also shunpike when I don't feel like using highways.

Why do I do it?

Because it makes driving a lot more fun. Each can be used as a game of sorts to figure out how cheap you can go with gas, find ways to get places off the beaten path and enjoy the scenery.


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