How to Get 30 MPG in a 2.5 Ton Hacked Biodiesel Truck

hack truck front panel photoFair Companies/Video screen capture

We already know that you can save on gas by driving like you are riding a bike. but some people take hypermiling—the art of driving for maximum fuel efficiency—to extremes. There's the North Carolinian who achieved 124mpg in a Honda Insight, and there's a whole host of crazy DIYers hacking their vehicles for improved fuel economy.

Take Bakari Kafele, for example, who runs a biodiesel hauling business in Oakland, California using a 1983 full-sized pickup (with 8 cylinder diesel engine) that weighs two-and-a-half tons. What kind of MPGs would you expect in a monster like this? Kafele claims to get as high as 30. And he's running on biodiesel.

hack truck top cover photoFair Companies/Video screen capture

From a DIY undercarriage cover through wheel well shields to a front panel made out of plastic, some of Kafele's mileage improvements can be put down to aerodynamics. But that's just one part of a much larger strategy. He's also gone to the trouble of removing the alternator; running all electronics off of two deep cycle boat batteries that he charges off the mains; and installing an engine kill switch to enable his "pulse-and-glide" driving style.

truck hack wheel covers photoFair Companies/Video screen capture

But as with most hypermilers, many of the techniques and strategies are applicable—even for those of us who don't want to drive around in a vehicle that looks like it could be in a Mad Max movie. He watches for red lights; coasts to a stop; keeps his speed well below the speed limit; and he pushes his truck when he wants to reverse into a parking space. OK, that last one might not have mainstream appeal—but given that Kafele claims to be saving $2000 a year in fuel costs, I'd be willing to bet that most of us could learn a thing or two from the mileage extremists.

truck hack underside photoFair Companies/Video screen capture

Even the simple fact he's paid attention to his regular routes and knows just how much speed he needs to get up a small hill—a technique I once dubbed micro-hypermiling—could offer significant savings if we all did it.

So sure, we are probably not all going to go out and hack our trusted vehicles using plastic and duct tape. But just being a little more aware and connected to what we are driving, and where we are driving it, is not just a wise thing to do for the environment and our pocket books—it's also a fun way to make everyday driving just a little more interesting. But, as Kafele notes, it is always worth remembering that riding a bike is still better.

Check out Kafele's own account of his hypermiling techniques and innovations for more details of how he achieved these results. And once again, be sure to follow @kirstendirksen and @faircompanies on twitter for more videos on the smarter, more thoughtful and creative side of green.

How to Get 30 MPG in a 2.5 Ton Hacked Biodiesel Truck
An Oakland man doubles the fuel economy of his 1983 full-size pickup. We could all learn a thing or two from his techniques.

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