By on January 27, 2009

My hypermiling techniques failed; my overall average dipped to 43mpg over the leg from Gallup, New Mexico into Las Vegas, Nevada. However, despite my overall drop in economy, fate conspired against me (I’m a victim of coicomstance! Nyaaaaaaaaa). Strong head winds, snow, traffic, fast food, blown tires and deer; they all conspired against my pursuit of incredible fuel economy. Despite today’s trials, the dirty Jetta TDI Eco-Racer caused quite a stir as it limped into the valet lane at the Bellagio Hotel, more likely due to the strangeness of a magnet laden Volkswagen rather than outright coolness.

As I pulled out of Gallup, New Mexico onto Interstate 40, I merged into traffic smoothly, set my cruise control at the speed limit of 75mph (fuel mileage in the TDI between 70 and 75 makes no difference that I can tell) and let it ride. My tires were over inflated to about 42psi in front, and 44psi in the rear, a recommendation on several hypermiling sites. It seems overinflated tires create less of a contact path on the road, and therefore less rolling resistance, something my Bridgestone Insignia H-rated tires desperately needed.

However, this tactic proved to have no effect whatsoever, as I ran into one of the strongest headwinds I have experienced in quite awhile… and I live in Oklahoma. The 35-45mph headwind pushed my overall speed down to 65mph,. The Jetta struggled to maintain its momentum despite the healthy 177ft-lbs of torque the little 1.8L Direct Inject Turbo Diesel knocked out. In addition to the winds, another problem loomed ahead: snow, and lots of it.

The overinflated tires proved my downfall as the car struggled to maintain a stable direction. Stopping at the Meteor Crater by Winslow, Arizona, I deflated the tires to the manufacturer’s recommended 32psi, and marveled at the straightline stability the resulted. As the snow continued to fall, the highway speed fell to 60mph, then 50mph as forward visibility fell drastically. So drastically I failed to see the small grouping of deer crossing the road. Although the little deer seemed to be fine, bounding over the fence and into the blizzard, my fender now sports a ripply momento of the machine-animal meeting.

A short stopover at Sedona, Arizona to pick up some energy channeling crystals, I reached Kingman by dark. As I climbed over the pass, the Jetta’s back-end swung out unexpectedly in a frightening fashion. A LOT of opposite lock steering and some rumbling from my stability control guided the car to the side of the road, where to my delight in the falling snow, I discovered my rear tire had been neatly slashed by who knows what. Another victim to FOD (Foreign Object and Debris) on the highway.

At least the final push over Hoover Dam into Las Vegas proved uneventful.

Totals:

1408 miles total

32 gallons diesel used

43mpg average

1 ruined Bridgestone Insignia Tire

1 Dented Fender

$5.00 wasted on stupid energy channeling crystals designed to “streamline fuel flow”

7 Starbucks Soy Mocha Lattes drank

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20 Comments on “TTAC Desert-to-Burning-Desert Eco-Challenge. Day 2, Failure...”


  • avatar
    menno

    I’m planning a trip to Lost Wages (meeting sis-in-law, bro-in-law and bro-in-law’s bro from the UK) in September, and we’re driving to Hoover Dam, Rt 66, then Grand Canyon, on up to 4 corners, all through Colorado, then Utah and back to fly away home from Lost Wages. Since bro-in-law’s bro is in a wheelchair, we’re going to have to rent a minivan (any bets it’ll be a Chrysler/Dodge?) and I anticipate the ancient 3.8 OHV lump to get oh, about 12 miles per gallon in the Colorado Rockies.

    Quite a difference from your 43 mpg, partner!

    Now, if Chrysler would only sell a clean diesel minivan in the US? With turbo-intercooler, and 6 speed automatic? And about 300 Ft Lbs of torque?

    They might even be around as a company by the time I actually will be renting one of their “finest” efforts in September.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Menno:

    Nab a Sienna or Odyssey if you can. We (Hertz) rent them quite frequently. Every Chrysler box I’ve seen has the fantastically terrible 3.3L V6. Not only does it get less than 20 mpg on the highway, but flooring it literally will not increase your rate of speed. It might be the most underpowered vehicle I’ve ever driven (and given that I’ve been in a million Aveos, Rios, and Accents, that’s saying something). The vans have always been empty, as well, so with people and cargo on board it would be even worse.

    They literally cannot get out of their own way. I always thought that was just an expression until the ’08 Chrysler minivans came out.

  • avatar

    Mike! You neglected to mention one of the Jetta’s prime features: FULL SIZE SPARE.

    –chuck

  • avatar

    @ Chuck,

    I LOVE my full size spare. It truly is the best feature… as of last night anyways, before that it was the heated seats and VW pleather.

  • avatar

    Indeed, name another car you can buy today that you can swap a wheel roadside and continue at full speed? You can’t!

    No wimpy donut, or gawd-forbid… “run flat” (aka “wallet eater” NON-spare) spares here! An honest to goodness actual spare. With a boot you can stuff two dead bodies into no less!

    That’s NSFWing ENGINEERING.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Theodore

    Has VW done anything about the back-breakingly stiff ride I encountered in a fourth-generation Jetta? An old girlfriend of mine had one, and the streets of Baltimore were just miserable in that thing. Warp speed on I-95, though.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    7 Starbucks Soy Mocha Lattes drank

    Sounds like my normal workday.

  • avatar

    As someone with a 2003 TDI Jetta and a ScanGauge II telling me cumulative and instantaneous fuel mileage, I’d make two points
    1) If you’re after real mileage, lose the cruise control; when the speed drops, it really hits the throttle to maintain speed…and drops your instantaneous mileage by as much as 50%. Driving with your right foot as if there was an egg between it and the pedal will make a big difference.
    2) If you’re driving over 50MPH, your MPG will be low and lower, no matter what you do, thanks to Mr. Wind Resistance. If you were driving at 70 MPH ground speed with a 35MPH head wind, you were actually driving at 105MPH…no wonder your engine was short on push!
    If I drive at 50, I can get 45-55MPG. On secondary road, I mooch around at idle and get 65-75+MPG (towards the lower end in the winter with snow tires and thinner diesel and crap to plow through) driving at 35-45MPH. I’ve gotten 83MPG in the summer driving the 7 miles home from work which is pretty much on the flat (with the exception of the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge, which is a hill of sorts).

  • avatar
    menno

    Hi KalapanaBlack

    Trust me; I’d much rather have an Odyssey, a Sienna or even a Hyundai Entourage or Kia minivan than a Chrysler minivan. A sufficiently modern engine of any description should net us 18-20 mpg in a fully loaded minivan even in the mountains, I would hope. Do you suppose I’m right in that the Chrysler/Dodge lump would only manage 12 mpg? ‘coz I’d just leave the fracking go-pedal (that being a relative term, of course) on the floorboards a la 2CV driving, if I have to and the gas be damned. We’re on a tight budget AND a tight schedule for this trip. That being said, we also kind of have to be able to get over the 10,000 foot passes in Colorado at highway speeds with 5 adults, a wheelchair and a lot of luggage, plus one Garmin Street Pilot (I’m bringing from home).

    I’ve secured a good price from Alamo, but if Hertz can guarantee me a competent and sufficiently powerful and economical Odyssey or Sienna, I’d spend the extra money.

    I should check with my employer to see if they can wrangle me a discount at Hertz. Alternately, I do (ahem) have an AARP card.

    Perhaps I’ll get lucky and Chrysler will totally collapse and stop infesting rental car fleets with their drek by September…

    Dang, Stewart Dean. Your Jetta Dieseling beats the snot out of my Prius. Best I’ve ever seen on a several hundred mile trip was about 58 miles per gallon, in the spring time, no snow tires, no a/c needed yet, mostly 55 mph roads, small towns and villages, multiple stops but gentle (not arthritic, though) driving – with 3 adults, several hundred pounds of food and luggage.

    But then again, gas is still about 20% cheaper than diesel fuel, so your equivalent dollar per mile mpg on gasoline would have to be 66. So, you still beat me, though.

    Wow, good job of hypermiling, man!

  • avatar

    My best MPG ever on a tank in the TDI was 69.7, which actually included one ~2ish mile sprint @ 100 MPH on a wonderful summer evening on an empty freeway. had I restrained myself I probably would have topped 70 MPG.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Martin B

    In my younger days I used to drive with my tires over-inflated. I worked in the country and drove three hours home every weekend, and three hours back to work Monday mornings, over a road undergoing a lot of roadworks.

    It was an unpleasant journey because of the noise, the harsh springing, and the car (Ford Escort 1.3L RWD 1977 model) wandering all over the road.

    Then one day I did the trip with the tires at the recommended pressure. What a difference! The car was quiet, stable, and stuck to the road like glue.

    I learned my lesson. I don’t mess with tire pressures; the one or two mpg extra isn’t worth it.

    I am economical driver, but I rely on a gentle right foot and anticipation of traffic conditions, not gadgets and gimmicks.

  • avatar

    I’d lay off those soy mocha lattes.

    Soy contains phytoestrogens.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “Hypermiling” and “75 mph” are not compatible.

  • avatar
    austinseven

    My mid-80s 55 hp Diesel Rabbit would lose 20 mph in a headwind. Get up behind an 18 wheeler, however and it was great! No wind noise and the gas pedal came up off the floor by about an inch. The truckers didn’t like that too much! If they spotted you, they would put two wheels on the soft shoulder and get you to back away. Fun with low powered diesels!

  • avatar

    austinseven, I had a 1980 Diesel Rabbit and did many a mile drafting off of semis. I always was able to signal my intentions to them, and 80% of the time they were OK with it. I even was able to arrange a couple of long drafting runs face to face while filling up at the Diesel pump at a truck stop. I was a college student back then and the 65 cents a gallon it cost to buy fuel back then was a stretch on my budget. Drafting allowed me to drive all day long through the western US on ten bucks. ;)

    –chuck

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Hey Chuck,
    It gets far, far worse than mini spares these days. Have you ever opened the trunk of a rental car to find a little 12V pump and a can of fix-a-flat in place of a spare tire? Yeah, that’s gonna fix the sidewall.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    chuckgoolsbee :
    January 27th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Indeed, name another car you can buy today that you can swap a wheel roadside and continue at full speed? You can’t!

    No wimpy donut, or gawd-forbid… “run flat” (aka “wallet eater” NON-spare) spares here! An honest to goodness actual spare. With a boot you can stuff two dead bodies into no less!

    That’s NSFWing ENGINEERING.

    –chuck

    It’s optional on many Infinitis. I remember in my third-gen Q45 obsession days noting that if you got the Sport model, you got a full size 18″ wheel (why they couldn’t fit the non-sport full size 17″ alloy in the same hole is beyond me. Those had a space-saver).

    I take great pride in telling you that my $3200 2002 Mitsubishi Diamante came with a full size spare. Sure it isn’t on a fancy-schmancy alloy wheel, but a black steelie. Still, 215/60-16 Yokohama right in there, pristine before I put 3 miles on it getting to a tire shop when one of my long-suffering Goodyear Eagles developed a sidewall bubble. Ended up getting a great deal on Bridgestone Potenzas that day…

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    menno :
    January 27th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Hi KalapanaBlack

    Trust me; I’d much rather have an Odyssey, a Sienna or even a Hyundai Entourage or Kia minivan than a Chrysler minivan. A sufficiently modern engine of any description should net us 18-20 mpg in a fully loaded minivan even in the mountains, I would hope. Do you suppose I’m right in that the Chrysler/Dodge lump would only manage 12 mpg? ‘coz I’d just leave the fracking go-pedal (that being a relative term, of course) on the floorboards a la 2CV driving, if I have to and the gas be damned. We’re on a tight budget AND a tight schedule for this trip. That being said, we also kind of have to be able to get over the 10,000 foot passes in Colorado at highway speeds with 5 adults, a wheelchair and a lot of luggage, plus one Garmin Street Pilot (I’m bringing from home).

    I’ve secured a good price from Alamo, but if Hertz can guarantee me a competent and sufficiently powerful and economical Odyssey or Sienna, I’d spend the extra money.

    I should check with my employer to see if they can wrangle me a discount at Hertz. Alternately, I do (ahem) have an AARP card.

    Perhaps I’ll get lucky and Chrysler will totally collapse and stop infesting rental car fleets with their drek by September…

    Hertz has stayed away from Chrysler for some time. Siennas, Sedonas, and Entourages are the most common, with quite a few Odysseys. I’ve never seen a Hertz GM van, and the Chryslers are quite rare actually. They’re just by far the worst so the five or so I’ve been in (one of which I was forced to put 200+ miles on) really stick out in my mind.

    Shouldn’t be hard to net one of those. Nobody actually buys minivans these days, and the need for sales numbers dictate a huge amount dumped into rental fleets. This isn’t travel season, overall rentals are way down, and people are still wary of taking big cars even though gas is still relatively down (for now…), so as long as you go to a larger operation (shoot for an int’l airport, don’t go smaller than a regional airport, steer clear of the HLE off-airport locations that never have more than a handful of cars) you should be able to grab one easily. Barter with them, see if they will give you one for free or for a premium upgrade price (one class instead of 5). We often give them as full-size cars to customers we don’t like, haha.

  • avatar
    Gforce

    chuckgoolsbee :
    January 27th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Indeed, name another car you can buy today that you can swap a wheel roadside and continue at full speed? You can’t!

    No wimpy donut, or gawd-forbid… “run flat” (aka “wallet eater” NON-spare) spares here! An honest to goodness actual spare. With a boot you can stuff two dead bodies into no less!

    That’s NSFWing ENGINEERING

    Chuck, have you checked the Subaru Legacy? it also has a full-size spare wheel of the same design as the 4. I think Audis do as well.

  • avatar
    Rusty Brinkley

    Solo…I would by no means call the second installment of your journey a failure! As if you could control what you were going to encounter. You get to stay in the Bellagio, too!

    As for the fuel economy talk, my `02 Protege does pretty well. I get in the high-20s with my 2.0L petrol powerplant and the 5-speed. Then again, most of my driving consists of driving 1.6 miles from my on-base home to the office, one-way.

    One day I would like to own a diesel. But, since I’m hoping to move to points very far east, I don’t know if our allies in the Far East are fond of the diesel stuff.


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