Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year: 'hypermiling'
For the third year running, the Oxford English Dictionary has selected a green-themed term as its word of the year.
For the third year running, the Oxford English Dictionary has selected a green-themed term as its word of the year. This year the word is "hypermiling."Skip to next paragraph
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According to the Oxford University Press blog, the term was coined in 2004 by Wayne Gerdes, who runs CleanMPG, a web community for those trying to squeeze the maximum number of miles from every gallon of gas they put in their tanks. Oxford defines "hypermiling" as attempting "to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques."
Some of these adjustments are pretty straightforward – removing all the heavy stuff sitting in the trunk, turning off the A/C, avoiding sudden braking and jackrabbit starts, coasting to stops, anticipating traffic up ahead, and generally driving smoothly.
But other techniques are more extreme. Some hypermilers over-inflate their tires to reduce rolling resistance. Or they roll through red lights and stop signs. Or they coast with their engines off. Or they draft behind semis.
As we take off – or, more accurately, as the vehicle rolls forward really slowly – I notice that all four windows are closed and the AC is off. I'm sitting in one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world, and it feels like I'm trapped in a fanless tollbooth in Biloxi, Mississippi, in August. We take the interstate to Wayne's house. The speed limit is 55, and most of the traffic is zipping past at 75 or so, but Wayne hovers around 50 mph. He's riding the white line on the right side of the right-hand lane.
"Why are you doing that?" I ask from the backseat. "It's called ridge-riding," he explains, using another term he's invented. He ridge-rides to let people behind him know that he is moving slowly. I imagine it's also a way to avoid dying plastered to the grill of a semi. Ridge-riding, Wayne explains, saves gas in the rain, as it gets the wheels out of the puddly grooves in the road created by more, let's say, traditional drivers. "People are burning fuel to throw water in the air," he says, adding that you can hear if you're driving in the road's grooves or out of them. That's interesting, but I'm having a hard time concentrating, because my back and butt are beginning to stick to the seat. "Is anybody a little warm in here?" I ask.