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    by: Rex Roy | AOL Autos
     

    We first met Gil Portalatin -- a 25 year veteran at Ford -- in Los Angeles when testing the 2010 Fusion Hybrid. In a fuel-economy competition against the media, Gil (an engineer by trade) effortlessly triumphed by racking up economy numbers that significantly bested the journalists and EPA estimates. On some runs, Gil's Fusion returned nearly 47 mpg. We immediately wanted to know Gil's fuel economy secrets so we could tell them to you. While 100 MPG might sound like an incredible number, it's not impossible. And even if you use a portion of Gil's advice, you'll immediately improve your mileage and save money. Most cars could see mileage well above 50 MPG and even up to 100 MPG with the right driver.

    To learn Gil's special driving techniques, we visited his group's modest offices in Dearborn, Michigan, the city Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company) put on the map. After a brief interview that covered technical aspects of Ford's new hybrid technologies as well as touching on a running dispute with Toyota, we went for an instructional drive.

    The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

    In case you missed our coverage from the 2008 Los Angeles and 2009 Detroit Auto Show, teams of skilled engineers in and around Detroit are creating great products. Yes, really. Some would have you believe that Detroit is incapable of engineering a tissue box let alone a competitive modern car, but those people are wrong.

    Proof comes in the form of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, a car that demonstrates active minds are working on great cars in Detroit. The crisply styled sedan is rated at 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway. For the record, the Fusion bests the Toyota Camry Hybrid by 8 mpg around town and 2 mpg on the highway. While hundreds of individuals contributed to the new Fusion Hybrid, Portalatin is the point man for Ford's hybrid vehicles.

    According to Gil, whose official title is Hybrid Propulsion System Applications Manager, getting good mileage out of any vehicle goes well beyond maintenance basics like making sure your tires are aired up. Gil believes that the driver is the key to great mileage. (Drivers control the car, not the other way around.) Following Gil's advice will help improve the mileage in any car, not just in hybrids. However, Gil also has special tips just for them.

    Tip 1: Easy on the throttle, then glide.

    Gil says, "Most people accelerate way too hard from a stop. This wastes huge amounts of energy. You'll get much better mileage accelerating gently up to the speed limit. Once you're at the limit, then you need to glide." By this, Gil means releasing most of the pressure on the accelerator so you're using the bare minimum amount of power to maintain your speed. In most cars, this will enable the automatic transmission to shift into its highest, most efficient gear.

    Tip 2: Anticipate traffic.

    "I watch people drive and waste gas every day," Gil observed. "Most drivers don't pay attention to the flow of traffic. If you're in traffic, you know you're going to stop again, so anticipate that stop by easing off the accelerator pedal early and coasting as much as you can. Looking way down the road helps you anticipate traffic flow because you can see when traffic lights are going to change and how other cars are behaving." Gil knows that this driving technique won't put you in the pole position at every traffic light, but your mileage will go up, as will the life of your vehicle's braking system components.

    Tip 3: Slow down on the highway.

    "I drive 50 miles each way to work," Gil explained, "so I've had plenty of time to study and test techniques for getting the best highway fuel economy." The advice is not complex. "People just have to slow down," Gil noted. "Unless you work in an aerodynamic lab, you don't understand how much more energy it takes to push a car through the air at 75 mph than at 65 mph, but it's huge." During our drive, Gil went on to note that most cars have a "sweet spot" of efficiency between 65-70 mph, so you don't have to drive at snail-like speeds to improve your mileage, although driving between 55-65 mph will improve mileage even further.

    Tip 4: Drive with the terrain, and drive smoothly.

    "It takes more energy to climb a hill than roll down the other side," Gil said, pointing out the obvious. "So when you're on the highway, it's OK to lose a few miles per hour when you're driving up an incline. You can regain the lost speed when you head down the other side." While this tip may seem easy, it requires constant attention. "Some drivers will be better off just driving with their cruise control," he said. "This helps those drivers who are constantly on and off the accelerator. That kind of throttle control kills mileage. A smooth, steady accelerator pressure is much greener, regardless of the speeds you travel."

    Hybrid Tip 1: Don't accelerate too slowly.

    "This is something that trips up hybrid drivers; in their excitement to use only battery power, they accelerate too slowly from a stop. While super-gentle acceleration keeps the vehicle in electric-only mode, it also drains the batteries quickly, often causing the gasoline engine to come on just to recharge the battery pack." Instead of accelerating so slowly, accelerate with a bit more vigor, and then lift off the throttle. Once at speed (up to nearly 50 mph in the Fusion Hybrid), the gasoline engine will often shut completely off, leaving propulsion to the battery powered motor to maintain cruising speed. This technique yields maximum mileage.

    Hybrid Tip 2: Keep the batteries charged.

    All hybrids have two fuel tanks; one holds gasoline and the other electrons (the hybrid battery pack). Both "tanks" need to be kept full to go the farthest distance, but the process for filling up on electrons is a bit different than stopping at the gas station. "Coasting and gentle braking are the fastest and most efficient way to recharge your hybrid's batteries," Gil said. "On our Fusion, you can see by the gauges that when you coast or apply the brakes that the hybrid system is using the car's kinetic energy to recharge the batteries. The longer you can coast or gently slow down, the more energy you can store. Keeping the batteries above 50-percent full extends the distance you can run on battery power, saving fuel."

    Ford versus Toyota -- The Hybrid Technology War of Words

    There's a rumor going around that Ford is using Toyota-patented technology in their hybrid vehicles. The insinuation is that Ford is incapable of engineering their own competitive hybrid, so they are using Toyota's. According to Gil -- and this represents the official Ford Motor Company stance -- the rumor is completely untrue.

    "When we started developing our hybrid system, it was the normal course of business to do a patent search," Gil explained. "We realized that some of our ideas might infringe on Toyota's hybrid patents. We contacted them. It just so happened that Toyota was developing some diesel engine technology that might infringe on existing patents owned by Ford. The companies decided to allow the patent infringement as kind of a trade."

    More on Hypermiling:

    - The Pursuit of Hypermileage
    - How to Drive for 100 MPG
    - 100+ MPG Cars: Six Cars You'll Drive In The Future

     

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    1 - 20 of 174 Comments
    eliodel May 13, 2010 5:03 PM
    He's right! I used work on old cars,when I was in college(as an elective I learned how to take an engine apart & put it back together) I experimented with what the article stated. Knowledge is very powerfull
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    bullfrog3070 Apr 24, 2010 4:14 AM
    we dont have a oil shortage coming up in 2015 on the news a few years ago they had a shell gas station spokesman on he said we have more than enough oil for 100 years or more. I remember a story about a man in the 80's invented a carburator that got 100 mpg and over the years that got hushed up. Along with a man inventing a tire never to wear out also got hushed up, probably by the big three and oil companies. I remember when fuel injection first came out the big three said so much better on gas than carberated engines. No just more electronics to keep your wallet thin, mileage isnt any better. It would be nice to see gas back down to .50 a gallon but the thing that is killing america will not allow ********* called corperate greed!
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    csainte Apr 14, 2010 4:17 AM
    On the freeway between San Bernardino and San Diego I routinely get 20 miles per gallon in a 1991 Dodge Ram truck doing 65 to 70 miles per hour. On cruise control. I keep about 36 psi in my tires, And make sure my air cleaner is replaced frequently ,keep the old beast tuned up and stay in the slow lane. And I suppose I get to my destination 5 or 10 minutes later than others do. I don't really care. I enjoy the drive.
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    bettermpgjen Nov 12, 2009 4:59 PM
    I have to say, I'm surprised at some of these comments and the negativity behind them. They aren't trying to sell you these tips, folks. They're just trying to inform you. If you don't want to change your driving habits to increase gas mileage in your car, then stop complaining that you get horrible MPG and the gas prices are so high. Stop waiting for someone else to lower the prices or make a more fuel efficient car and do something for yourself. I thought that all of these tips were fantastic. I've laid out all of them on my own site, http://www.improve-gas-mileage-guide.com/ways-to-increase-gas-mileage.html. I wouldn't go as far as to say you could get 100 MPG, but you'll definitely see an improvement. http://www.improve-gas-mileage-guide.com
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    greyseeker6 Nov 01, 2009 11:18 AM
    What a pile of s****! If that were the case, you would think the manufacturers would be using these techniques to get higher EPA ratings to put on their labels. Sounds like another one of those, "We are so [not] sorry we charge you so much for gasoline, but here is how you can get more bang for your buck!"
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    spicemonkey259 Nov 01, 2009 10:08 AM
    feh, 100mpg, what a pantload. I want to see the author's records as proof, or dump this friggin' article. And for murcielago06gt, about all I can say is, I feel really sorry for anyone driving with or behind you. Give some thought to just taking the bus, it's less work and you'll get there faster.
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    latesleeper35 Nov 01, 2009 9:12 AM
    The only practical way to save gas is to SLOW DOWN. This is an engineering FACT. Think about it - how much TIME do you actually save in a 20-30 mile trip with bursts of speed over 60mph? Is it really worth all that weaving in and out and that 10-30 second surge only to come to an abrupt slowdown or stop at the next traffic jam or stop light. Look around you - there they are - all the cars you passed five minutes ago. And just think - you probably will not kill or maim anyone at 60; however, at 80mph - YOU CANNOT STOP IN TIME to avoid a serious collision - whether you caused it or not.
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    irkeith Nov 01, 2009 8:46 AM
    I get 100+ MPG routinely in my 1995 Lincoln Continental and it isn't even a hybrid. I only drive to destinations that are downhill from here and it works like a charm. . . . .
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    dcholzman Nov 01, 2009 8:46 AM
    The how to get 100mpg is baloney. You're not going to get anywhere near 100mpg driving like that, whether you're driving a Prius, a Honda Fit, or a Ford Fusion hybrid, although if you follow the guy's instructions you will improve your mileage. The internal combustion engine is most efficient under heavy load--that is, with throttle near wide open. The problem is, with a wide open throttle on a typical highway, you'd be driving in excess of 100mpg, at which point most of the energy is going to push air out of the way. The compromise known as hypermiling involves accelerating (for efficiency) and then coasting (for high mileage). And accelerating fast gives you more time to coast. Accelerating 60-70, then coasting back to 60, then accelerating again enabled me to get about 40 mpg in my 99 Honda Accord 5 speed, which normally would get around 33mpg at an average 65mpg. The same technique will greatly raise city mileage. (If you have automatic trans, you'd probably want to pop it into neutral for the coasting.) Nonetheless, you certainly can't drive this way in crowded situations without screwing up traffic.
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    murcielago06gt Nov 01, 2009 7:48 AM
    I drive a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle, completely stock. I usually get around 30/32 when driving normally, but when I drive like this artical implys, I get in the 50s often. People forget that you don't need 200+ horsepower to get from A to B. I have 46 horsepower and I never have push the gas more than half way to keep up with traffic. I always drive roughly 55 on the highway because it's the most efficient. I found that driving 55 normally got me about 34mpg, driving 65 got me 30, 70 about 28, 75 about 26, and 80 about 23. I do have to keep the pedal down a little to maintain speed simply because of its super lightweight (2100lbs with me and a full tank of gas). Where I save the gas is around town. I get up to speed slowly. Sure, I can give it a lot of gas, get right up there on a dime, even give it a good chirp in 2nd, but it wastes fuel terribly.
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    robg77 Nov 01, 2009 7:28 AM
    Far-fetched to the extreme. You'll save gas, but it will be a lot less than is implied here.
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    bbeh613 Oct 29, 2009 2:03 AM
    Have to agree with Markfill, I drive the same way and I am amazed at how drivers will floor it at the green light and the next light is still red. They then slam on the brakes!!! I'll turtle along and pass them without braking, ect!! Yes, I do drive in the snow bird lane (FL).
    Report This
    gpsvo Oct 28, 2009 10:27 PM
    100 mpg? I don't think so. I also don't think the story really said that, just that you can boost your milage with some common sense tactics. Another misleading headline.
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    markfill Oct 28, 2009 8:45 PM
    I used to drive 70-75 around my city for years.Then,I read about hypermiling,and decided to try a few of these habits.If you want to save gas,they work.I went from 19 to 22.5 mpg just observing posted speed limits,timing lights,and driving easily.For those of you who say you'll get run over,cause traffic problems,or never get to where you are going...nonsense.Just get in the right lane,which is for slowpokes,and drive along.It is amazing how much calmer you feel at your destination.You need to get rid of your competitive nature on the road,and just go with the flow...your flow.
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    judianddon Oct 28, 2009 3:00 PM
    While these tips will undoubtedly improve your fuel efficiency a bit, it will also serve to disrupt traffic patterns and make it more difficult to pull into and out of traffic. The additional time you spend on the road once everyone starts driving like this will drive your fuel effeciency right back in to the toilet. Personally, I'd rather spend a little more on gas and be able to get home from work before bedtime.
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    spicolie21 Oct 28, 2009 2:25 PM
    100 mph? Bull Sh*t. Maybe in fantasy land. An old 2-door insight had about as lean an engine as you can get and was shaped in a wind tunnel. Steady state highway cruising is as efficient as you can get. It my friend who had one regularly took trips on the highway at 55mph MAX. Best mpg? 76. 100 is a fantasy with today's engine technology, period, and anyone else who suggests otherwise is feeding you a line of crap.
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    garyrjas Oct 28, 2009 2:04 PM
    Fourlivelys, I have to disagree with some of your comments. Cruise control does save gas, and on inclines, cruise does shift to a lower gear but then shifts back to a higher one when you are off the incline. Cruise control also insures you don't hit the gas next to an unmarked state trooper car. The real sweet spot for fuel efficiency is 47 mph. The problem is most idiots don't go 65-70 on the interstates, they want to drive around 85. Thats why THEY pay more in gas, not me. I keep it at 5 mph over the posted speed ********** generally plenty fast, saves gas, and saves you from ever getting a traffic ticket. I haven't had a ticket in 32 years and I still drive around 75-77 on the interstates. So you go ahead and drive 85, and get that 10 mph advantage. In a typical drive to work you might save 5 minutes, and for 15 over the limit in this state, you'll pay around $200.
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    drumser Oct 28, 2009 1:55 PM
    Sounds good on paper, but try that in the NYC area, and you will get plowed down. What's more frustrating, everyone tailigating you or paying for more gas? I would think on more rural roads and less populated highways you can apply these technics a little easier. This requires pretty good amount of discipline.
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    fourlivelys Oct 28, 2009 1:50 PM
    Well, gotta say, most of these only apply IF you SPEND the big bucks on a NEW or HYBRID vehicle. For the rest of us, NO...going 55-65 doesn't increase your mileage enough to warrant the road rage that ensues when people are behind you...and NO, using cruise control (especially on hills or varied terrain) does NOT help with your gas mileage. Cruise control is the glut for people who a) don't want to pay attention to the speedometer and b)ENJOY paying more at the pump In reality, the highest gear in your automatic transmission is not "the most fuel-efficient". That is only true on straight, flat HIGHWAY-type roads, or ones with a downhill incline. Any speeds under 45 will show better gas mileage if you're in 3rd gear (not overdrive). Especially in town, with the stop-go traffic.
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    geoeorg Oct 28, 2009 1:43 PM
    Someone mentioned that we at one time had lots of light rail in this country and we should go back to it. They are right. The reason the light rail systems in this country disappeared is because of General Motors Corporation and Standard Oil. In the teens through the 30's, they made great deals for the Cities to get rid of their light rail systems. Evenually just about every large city switched, and our dependence on oil for our mass transit started and continues to this day. Some cities, like Sacramento, CA.and San Francisco, CA. , have reverted back to, or still had their systems. It seems to me that the system that pleases me the most is the Cable Car system in San Franscsco. All the overhead wires of their M.U.N.I. sustem are ugly as hell. With the centrally driven system of Cable Cars, it can be driven by many forms, electrical, natural gas, hydrogen. It seems to me the only way to go and keep your city beautiful, wherever you live.
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