Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hypermiling a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel to 38.1 mpg

ram 1500 hypermile drive

You never quite know what Wayne Gerdes has up his sleeve. The man who coined the term hypermiling is always looking for adventurous ways to prove that anyone - even you... yes, you - can eke out more miles per gallon just by changing the way you drive. Saying that is easy. Proving it by going on outlandish cross-country drives is hard. But for Gerdes and his team of fuel economy fiends over at CleanMPG, hard is half the fun.

Our latest adventure appeared, at first glance, to be nearly impossible.

Which is why we always answer the phone when Gerdes calls. He likes to take journalists along on his drives, not only to try teach us how to hypermile but also to prove that we can be taught. The first time I 'helped' him and his team was when we got over 30 miles per gallon in a 2011 Ford F-150 XLT with the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6. The EPA rated that truck with at just 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. So, we'll count that trip as a success.

Next up was a cross-country drive last fall in a trio of Audi TDI vehicles to prove that you don't need to drive extra slow to beat the EPA numbers. In fact, we made it from Los Angeles to New York City in just over 46 hours, cramped but not cranky. We had once again proven that how you drive is hugely important to your fuel usage.

Our latest adventure appeared, at first glance, to be nearly impossible. The EPA says that the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel we would be driving gets just 22 combined mpg (19 city and 27 highway). Gerdes' idea was to drive it as far north from Houston, TX towards Detroit, MI as we could go on one tank. The day before we left, our itinerary got an extra stop. Instead of taking one of the official Shell Eco-marathon prototype vehicles to Detroit, it was decided to bring the winning diesel-powered prototype from the just-finished event to The Henry Ford Museum, where it had been arranged the car would be displayed. The winning car was built by a small team (just four students) from Sullivan High School in Sullivan, IN, who managed to beat a number of college teams with a score of 1,899.32 mpg. That target would be a bit out of reach for the Ram, but could we get 1,000 miles from the tank? Since the truck has a 26 gallon tank (officially, anyway), that would mean the EPA says we could only go 702 miles, assuming all highway driving. Could we make up 300 miles with careful driving? That spells both challenge and fun.
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