“Hypermiling” is a word we use for doing everything you can to squeeze the best mileage possible from your car, including hardware modifications which may or may not void your warranty and certain driving techniques which may be both dangerous and illegal. You may have seen some of these tested on Mythbusters, such as driving ten feet behind an 18-wheeler.
It’s fun to read about, but I won’t be doing any of that, myself. However, somewhat buried in a story about “mileage maniacs” in Japan, I found the idea of using only your big toe on the accelerator. This doesn’t seem to add any danger, because I’m still breaking with my other foot which is normally shod. And except for days on which I wear boots, it’s easy enough to slip one shoe off after I get in the driver’s seat.
So I decided to run a little experiment. This first screenshot shows what my normal morning commute looks like, mileage-wise. I take surface streets in the morning, because the traffic is negligible between 6:00 and 7:00 AM, and I don’t go more than 45 mph:
And here’s what it looked like the next day, when I removed my right shoe:
On both days I had the music on like normal, and neither day had more stoplights than the other, at least at first. The last five minutes on day two were kind of a traffic beating, but that’s bound to happen from time to time. What’s more important, I think, is that when I was shoeless, I got up over the 50 mpg hurdle much faster. Why is this happening?
I think that when you’re using just your toe, you’re putting less pressure on the pedal as a matter of course, and your body encourages your brain to think harder about how you should be accelerating. Also, and this may be psychosomatic, the engine noise seems more apparent to me, and I don’t want to hear any crunchy revving noises, so I back off more often.
I’ll keep running my experiments, and I hope you consider performing your own. This looks like a great way to save a few dollars a week without even trying.
Updated September 12, 2011 and originally published June 29, 2010.