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This US term for finding ways to reduce your vehicle’s fuel consumption began to be sighted in the UK in 2008, having taken a couple of years to cross the Atlantic.

It became much more popular in the middle of that year as a result of a sudden hike in oil prices, but it can be traced back in print at least as far as an article in the magazine Mother Jones dated January/February 2006 featuring Wayne Gerdes, who is said to have invented the term, and even further to a posting of July 2005 on the GreenHybrid online community board.

Hypermilers urge drivers to stick to speed limits, avoid rush hour traffic, avoid accelerating or braking hard and plan ahead to take advantage of traffic conditions to maintain momentum. They suggest removing unnecessary items from one’s car, pumping up tyres to the manufacturer’s maximum allowable pressure and not using the air conditioning or opening windows.

Some hypermilers’ tricks are regarded as dangerous, such as ridge-riding, driving with your passenger-side wheels at the edge of the road to avoid grooves worn by traffic that sap speed, forced auto stop, coasting along in neutral with the engine off, and even suicidal, such as drafting, tailgating big vehicles to stay in their slipstream.

I did miss a trick, though. Biddle says (and hypermilers agree) that one of the most effective ways to improve your driving is to use a digital fuel-consumption gauge.

Sunday Star-Times, 12 Oct. 2008

As petrol prices soared — from 95p a litre in July 2007, to 125p a litre in July 2008 — so, for obvious reasons, did hypermiling. In the US, it’s a sport, with world championships (held this year in Elkhart, Indiana) and world records (213 miles per gallon from a Honda Insight).

Northern Echo, Darlington, 23 Sep. 2008

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 Jul. 2008
Last updated: 8 Nov. 2008

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-hyp4.htm
Last modified: 8 November 2008.