Science, Tech & Environment

How to get 100 miles per gallon

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(Image by Val Wang/Here & Now)

This story was originally covered by PRI's Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.

Chang Ho Kim's 1989 Honda CRX may not look like much. It's got tape stuck to the sides, no passenger-side mirror and a translucent structure hanging off the back of it. For eco-enthusiasts known as "hypermilers," however, Kim's car is a thing of beauty.

Hypermilers are a "band of brothers who push the limits of fuel efficiency," according to a 2007 article by Mother Jones. Kim recently distinguished himself among hypermilers by winning a fuel economy competition at the Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club. His winning car clocked in at about 118 miles per gallon.

To get there, Kim told PRI's Here and Now that he used a racing suspension, and got the car lower to the ground for aerodynamics. He took out the passenger-side seat and mirror, to cut down on weight. He also put acrylic over the wheel bases, and created the wind shield off the back.

Kim also employed some aggressive driving techniques to push up his fuel efficiency. In a technique he calls "pulse and glide," Kim gets the car up to the desired speed and then glides without using the gas pedal. During competitions, he even turns the engine off while gliding.

At the same time, he tries to never use the brakes, and never come to a complete stop. He told Here and Now, "It's certainly a lot harder in the city than out in the suburbs or the country."

In order to master the art of hypermileing, Kim told Here and Now that he did quite a bit of research. He cites Ecomodder.com and Aerocivic.com as good resources for people wanting to learn how to get the most out of their cars.

And for people not willing to shut off the car in the middle of driving, Ecomodder has 106 tips for making commutes more fuel efficient. At a minimum, the website suggests that drivers check their tire pressure regularly and be sure to clear out all excess weight from the car.

Of course, the best way to conserve gas mileage, the website points out, is to drive less.

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