Hypermiling – masochism or fun?

Keith Adams 

Over 80mpg is possible when you're gentle in a VW Golf Bluemotion
Over 80mpg is possible when you're gentle in a VW Golf Bluemotion

Coming back from the Techno-Classica Motor Show at Essen, I decided that, as I was behind the wheel of my long-term Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion, I’d try and get a really good fuel consumption figure out of it. I’d been thinking along these lines on the way down, taking it easy, staying within the 70mph speed limit in the UK, then not doing my usual foot-to-the-floor stuff once over the channel. 

The net result was a consumption figure of 69mpg by the time I reached my first stop-over in Germany. Pleased, I slept for the night, knowing I’d saved shedloads of cash, proving also that the Golf was utterly economical when it wanted to be. 

A couple of days later, having pottered around Germany and with the tank still showing half full, when it came to my time to leave, I decided to really go for it and see what I could get out of the Golf. Now, if this sounds like a boring thing to do, bear with me, because, ordinarily, I’d be stifling a yawn too… 

You see, with the MFD computer fitted, I was able to watch the journey’s average fuel consumption figure and, as the miles rolled on, sitting behind trucks, draughting them whenever possible, it was fun to see that mpg figure rise slowly. By the time I’d reached Liege, it passed 70mpg and, as Brussels rolled past, that figure had jumped to 75mpg. Indeed, as each barrier was passed, I’d start thinking about the next one – could it do 70, 75… maybe even 80mpg? 

The miles rolled on – slowly – and sitting with the trucks remained relaxing. The journey went smoothly – I counted down the miles on the really rather good Navigon Premium 70 satnav, MP3s playing loudly away. I wasn’t in a rush, enjoying the moment, calm and zen descended. The ambition to see that average rise became an obsession, each truck ahead seen as a helpful friend in ekeing out the most from the car. 

Anyway, somewhere between Ostende and Dunkirk, the MFD showed 80mpg and my feeling of elation was illogically high. It reminded me of the time I’d cracked 180mph in an Audi R8 on the autobahn heading for Berlin – only without the adrenaline – and, if that sounds silly, I can understand that. It does to me too. 

Heading for the Eurotunnel, the average topped 82.4mpg, and I was delighted with the result. Remember this average was for a 240-mile journey in the real world. Awesome… All this has got me thinking – if I can stomach the slow progress, I can get to some very cool places for very little money. My trip to – and from – Essen came in at £75 in all –  in today’s terms that’s very little money. 

I would, of course, have preferred to go in my classic Rover 3500 but that would have cost £200-plus and I was officially on business… 

That’s the point, though. Having a car like this and ekeing out the fuel does make the pain of filling up a whole lot more bearable and it also means more money to spend on my Rover when the time comes to get out and enjoy it. I see the benefits of such a plan – I just wish an 80mpg-plus car was within my financial reach. 

Having said that, the car doesn’t go back to VW until May and we do have a long Bank Holiday coming up. Watch this space. 

For once, this was a welcome sight - it meant extra slipstreaming possibilities.
For once, this was a welcome sight - it meant extra slipstreaming possibilities.
Keith Adams


  1. I have tried this hyper-miling in the LPG-powered BMW but really don’t have the temperament with British drivers see-sawing up and down on the pedals. I do the miles to warrant economical driving (70 is 1500rpm) but I just couldn’t discipline myself.

    Remember that your run was out of peak hours in the U.K. and on continental motorways with skilled drivers – could you do it repeatedly in the peak here in the UK?

  2. I recently tried to reduce my mpg by setting my sat nav to buzz every time I reached 70mph on the motorway. It does work – I get about 40 miles extra on a tank but you can’t maintain that speed.

    The problem is you are too slow for the outside lane and get tailgated by people in a hurry while the middle lane is redundant because it’s filled up with lorries overtaking each other – in fact, even where there is a four lane section of motorway, like the M1 near Luton, lorries straddle the carriageway three abreast. Dual carriage ways are just as bad – try the A14 from the Midlands to the East coast.

    Furthermore, when there is a empty stretch of motorway, you can guarantee there will be someone hogging the middle lane whilst slow lane is vacant and then there are the road works – we all see them, miles after miles of road cones and three blokes leaning on a shovel…

    That’s to say nothing of traffic calming: two doesn’t go into one so why reduce road capacity by calming restrictions? All it does is create traffic jams which means cars burn more fuel because they are on the road longer – it’s simple really.

    I am not laying blame on any one group of drivers – goods have to be delivered etc. but general bad driving and lack of consideration for other road users prevents you maintaining a constant speed so that optimum mpg can be achieved.

    I reckon that it’s time for a radical re-think of transport in the UK. We can’t all run around in electric cars – the National Grid wouldn’t cope – and a bicycle is fine for local trips. I am not sure the proposed high-speed rail link is the answer either – it will affect more people making it than people who will benefit from it. I don’t see how the cost of building it can be justified either and think that the money would be better spent on more local Trams/Trains and lower-priced fares, rather than pampering to an elite group of overpaid people over indulging in self-importance.

    Anyway, back to gas guzzling cars, has any one else seen an Aston Martin DBS in ‘Gulf Racing’ colours being driven hard around the Gaydon area recently – it really does look good in a 1960s Le Mans sort of way!

  3. I have been getting 54-55mpg from my C3 whilst “keeping up with” M40 traffic and getting wound up with dithering middle-lane wanderers, people without signals and so forth without the hypermiling. However, I decided on a run up to Darlington to chill out and just set the cruise control at 70/50 for roadworks – which I do anyway.

    I got to Leeming Bar services with the light just on and the average was 68.8mpg. Admittedly, my momentary elation at that was lost when I saw the 149.9p rip-off price for diesel there – the next one was 139.9p, only a couple of miles or so later. However, it returned when I got into Darlington unstressed AND 10 minutes earlier than planned.

    Cruise control and speed limiters should be mandatory (as in, user-controlled speed limiters like that on the C3, where you set the speed and enable/disable the limiter). Indeed, with distance-sensing cruise, I wouldn’t even get annoyed with the lorries/people who sit in the blind spot whilst not actually overtaking. What really helps with the jams, the ecology and safety is calmer, happier drivers…

  4. I wonder what your average speed was, Keith? I can get 55mpg average from my VW Touran 1.9 diesel, but only if I keep under 65 mph on the motorway and use the cruise control where possible. Once, on holiday in the Pyrenees, I averaged 72mpg – after a 10-mile downhill descent!

  5. Well, spurred on by all this hyper-miling, I gave it a go (a few mornings ago) on my way home from work. Picking a suitable vehicle, I then discarded it for 2 tonne, straight 6 automatic with 175,420 miles on the clock (plus a further missing 10,000+ from when the speedo failed for five months last year…)

    Checking that everything was optimal (Air-con on, cruise control on, radio on), I reset all the on board computer’s settings and ventured out in the rain. This was a problem – have you tried slipstreaming trucks in the wet? It’s akin to being behind a woodchipper full of wet grit and, so giving filthy blindess and stone chips a miss, I upped the ante to a self-imposed 60mph! This coupled, with a 2000 revolution mental rev limiter, made progress slow – so slow, in fact, that I was a mobile road block and was actually buggering the flow of traffic.

    I should add that the M25 at 7am on a Monday morning is probably the worst hyper-miling location. Throw in the fact the “A” road finale of my journey goes through a high street with a railway station bang on 8am and that doesn’t help either.

    There also happened to be a bizarre side effect: by moving slower through the traffic, the traffic was actually increasing the further I travelled and so that getting busier was impeading my smooth progress dramatically – a bit of a paradox really.

    The end result? 35.7mpg. Not quite 81.2mpg, but all using LPG – a waste product fuel, remember – in a car the tenth of the cost of our Keith’s Volkswagen.

    Here’s the photographic evidence

  6. @Andrew Elphick
    Actually, to be fair, whilst I am enjoying the odd little saving the C3 chucks at me, I don’t care about fuel economy particularly as I work from home – so it’s arguable that all driving is optional or should be chargeable as expenses. I know I feel very differently about it when working out commuting costs!

    However, this attitude means I’ve taken a very lazy attitude towards MPG and have watched what I got in real terms from “miserly” cars and “gas guzzlers”.


    1.6 Renault Clio – primarily used in Birmingham City traffic, where it gave 24mpg, 33mpg at 70ish and 45ish when driven on A-roads with a bit of economy in mind (i.e. not my usual, aggressive style borne of living in a rural area with 20 miles between everything).

    C3 Airdream – claims 80mpg+, but actually gives more like 50mpg when not driven for economy. Haven’t checked the traffic-jam economy yet.

    Xantia 1.8 16v – miserly for being a £500 car. Fairly consistently gave 33mpg no matter what I did with it.

    Golf Mk 2 GTi 8v – absolutely infallible 44mpg, except when I got annoyed with it being so economical and caned it up the A7 to Edinburgh, where it gave 47.1mpg instead. Oh, and when I sold it and delivered it to the dealer on fumes – when I got 52mpg from it.

    New Beetle Cabriolet 1.6 – not a “miserly” car, but modern tech + old 8v Golf engine? Aha, with a cat. and with nearly 1400Kg to haul around… Yep, 30-33mpg.

    Gas guzzlers:

    Jeep Cherokee 1998 – in town, 14mpg. A-roads, 28mpg. Motorways, 2WD, a/c off, 32mpg. Real MPG, not the USA nonsense the computer reported. Oh, and foot to the floor? 4mpg.

    Mercedes 500SL-32V (M119 engine) – urban traffic jams, 18mpg (13mpg if I was going through tunnels with the roof down in first gear to hear it wailing – amazing sound, but 40mph limits meant I didn’t hear it enough. Motorway – 34mpg.

    Mazda RX8 – a notorious beast for fuel, actually gave me a fairly consistent 23-28mpg except when being legal and good on the motorway, where I got 33mpg. No worse than the Beetle it replaced, in other words, despite being comfortably twice as powerful.

    Citroen C6 – 2.7 HDi – 35mpg, best of 44mpg on the motorway, but as bad as 18mpg with heavy town traffic and short journeys. Plus it made me very miserable in traffic.

    Scorpio 2.9V6 Estate auto – 33mpg but I drove it at 50mph everywhere. It was automotive Mogadon.

    I didn’t baby the 500SL to get 34mpg – I just accelerated smoothly to 75mph, hit cruise – mentally or physically depending on the traffic – and was gentle with it. In town, it ambled along without touching the throttle, just ticking over. Reminded me of the economy gauge in my old Carlton GSi 3000 (don’t remember the Senny having one) that would switch to gallons or litres per hour (can’t remember which) when stationary…

    My conclusions were that driving a smallish car on the motorway made me miserable and was hard work for little reward while driving anything in traffic is such a futile exercise that I might as well have the big car I enjoyed driving.

    However, the C3’s relatively powerful HDi engine, tall gearing, and small, light (for a modern) body has challenged those assumptions very well – that makes me suspect there’s hope for the car industry yet.

  7. @Andrew Elphick
    That seems perfectly reasonable to me – I was lucky to get 24mpg in my 3.0i Supra Auto (non-turbo). How much more stressful was the drive to get it up to 35mpg, though? You’re getting 35.7mpg on LPG? Does that mean the “equivalent economy” (I hate that phrase, but I suppose it serves the purpose) you are achieving is nearer 50mpg?

  8. Well, using a careful driving style I once managed to get a quite impressive 41.5mpg out of my Austin Maxi 1750 – but it was a motorway drive on a day with light traffic and I never exceeded 100kph (62mph).

    However, in comparison, our Honda-engined Rover 216GSi seemed a bit like a gas-guzzler – it never got better than 39mpg on comparable runs…

    The worst car in my fleet? The 3-Litre on short journeys or very small roads around Kent: right down to 12mpg. The best I got from the 3-Litre was just over 22mpg doing a constant 62mph on a run – and I even bettered the old-fashioned, constant-speed figures handed out back in the old days with this car due to careful fettling of the carbs.

    I wish all my cars had a trip computer showing instant and average fuel consumption…

  9. @Richard Kilpatrick
    A lot more stressful – mainly because I believed I was holding other traffic up (and I was!). LPG is 74.9p v 139.9p for diesel around here so that’s technically quite a saving.

    However, without being blasé, I just stick the pump in and pay (about £300 on LPG, plus some unleaded to slosh round on). The only problem will LPG is getting it…

  10. The prospect of fuel once again costing less than 10 pence a mile is all rather nice, but I’m unconvinced. This is all well and good on a new diesel but, if you drive it in this manner for thousands upon thousands of miles, will it not end up becoming sooted up, smokey and unreliable, like most 5 year old diesels?

    Anyway, say what you like, but I’m yet to find a diesel, new or old, that’s remotely pleasant to drive.

  11. @Tim
    Eh, I find the light C3 with relatively powerful 1.6HDi quite fun – the shortfalls are from the chassis/driving position, not the engine, and I imagine that engine in a mid-engined layout would be hilarious in real-world driving. Bear in mind this is a modern five-door small family car, which will not only hit three figures five-up on a motorway, but also do it whilst still giving over 40mpg. Not that I’ve tested this here *cough* and turning over under 3000rpm.

    I like V8s, and I like RX8s, and I like all sorts of different things whilst always hating diesels.

    Oh, and as for the sooted up stuff – yeah, probably, but I only do that on the motorway. It still gets warmed up and then abused on windy A and B-roads – I can’t help it.

    FWIW, I tried the AC-off and slipstreaming trucks approach yesterday. My girlfriend remarked on how much nicer it was driving at that pace (except when I got really irritated with the Middle Lane Owners’ Club) and, despite sticking to 70mph when there was nothing to be gained, I got 72.8mpg.

  12. I have only really begun to keep an eye on fuel consumption in my last six cars. My Citroen XM 2.1TD Exclusive auto would average between 52-55 mpg. That was replaced with an Audi B3 20v Quattro Coupé which failed to return anything over 29mpg.

    The Audi was followed by a Rover 218 VVC coupé which failed to return an average of under 40mpg no matter how hard I tried. My subsequent Vitesse Sport Coupé seemed to manage 35mpg and now my XM 2.0 TCT Exclusive seems to return an average of 34mpg.

  13. @Stewart
    I never had a diesel XM, but the one which surprised me was my first – a 2.0 carb model. Not particularly common then, and I doubt any have survived but, by comparison, the peak torque was lower down the rev range, and, if memory serves, it was a little less powerful on paper. In real terms, because I liked to change up early and was a pretty “considered” driver then, I got fantastic economy out of it – 45mpg on a typical motorway run from Scotland to London. That wasn’t foot-to-the-floor, but I wasn’t slow – back then the M6 down to Forton was a pretty safe place to sit wherever the car wanted to sit.

    It would be careless of me to say how fast that stretch would be covered at, suffice to say that mine wasn’t the only car which you’d find at that speed there and it was WELL into licence-losing territory.

    The great thing about the XM was the window design. You could creep into three figures where legally allowed to do so, with the driver’s window open, and still get no buffeting. Between that, and the third sunvisor above the mirror, it felt like not just the seats and so forth were designed for driving, but the whole car had been considered for maximum comfort.

    Mercedes W124s also have the little sunvisor – it’s something I wish would come back as a feature almost as much as I want top-tint windscreens.

  14. Keith Adams :
    I want a Citroen XM.

    There’s been a lovely white one on Retro Rides for ages now. Looks like a really sane, not overly complex and very tidy one, in white (which I like on XMs, makes them look like a V spaceship).

  15. For a fair-sounding reason – I’ll mention it if the car pops back up, though. Unfortunately, the strut-top failure can be a disaster but it’s odd that it’d be a concern during that period and not something noticed beforehand. Maybe someone went to see the car and pointed out the condition or, more likely, there’s been very little interest – most people are scared of the auto box in the XM and want a diesel!

  16. I’ve been “Hypermiling” for years and its only now that its got a fancy new name thats in the dictionary.

    I get about 20% more than what Ford say I should be getting out of my Diesel Mondy. It just takes a light foot and some “safe” drafting of lorries or coaches.

    Also try http://www.hypermiler.co.uk for a list of techniques and tips.



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