02 May 2012

Jacob Aziza / Bakari Kafele; Ecomodder / Hypermiler

Jacob Aziza / Bakari Kafele; Ecomodder / Hypermiler

by Bakari Kafele on May 2, 2012
Good morning fellow ecomodders, hypermilers, and efficiency enthusiasts of all kinds.
The EcoModder blog has been inactive for over a year (save Tim’s two most recent updates), and I have been asked to help pick it up again.
So, since I also have not been active on this site for nearly a year, to start I thought I would re-introduce my self:
My name is Bakari Kafele.  My internet screen name (or at least one of them) is Jacob Aziza.
You may remember me from such internet sites as the EcoModder Forum and Instructables.com
I have an old (1983) full-size truck with a 6.9L diesel V8 that I use for deliveries and hauling and occasionally towing.  It would be a monstrosity for a commuter vehicle, but it’s about the smallest thing that could serve my work needs – most people hauling large or heavy loads (see below) would use a box truck, a flat bed, or maybe even a dump truck.

At the very least an F-350 or equivalent1-ton pick-up.
So, depending on how you look at it, getting 15 miles per gallon, (as I was five years ago), could be considered decent, given the type of work being asked of this old truck – 15 mpg being what I measured I was getting, which coincided more or less with what most people report getting in the same make model and year truck.
Then, in 2008, I read an article about Wayne Gerdes…

I found it to be revolutionary and inspirational.  It was one of those moments where it seemed like the idea should have been glaringly obvious all along, and yet somehow never occurred to me.  Slow down, accelerate with moderation, coast early instead of braking last minute.  Obvious stuff, right?
While I had always been environmentally conscious (I was running the truck on biodiesel most of the time,  and my personal transportation was – and is – mostly done by bicycle), I had also been a speed enthusiast in my youth.  The only reason I gave up on casual street racing, drifting, and other performance and trick driving in my Honda Civic was that I totaled it when I attempted to take a tight turn (the sign recommended 20MPH) at 55MPH.
I never put two and two together; never recognized the direct correlation between driving habits and resource consumption.
After reading the article, my driving habits underwent a 180 degree turn.
Despite having once received a letter from the DMV warning me that I was one point away from a suspended license, I now started driving below the speed limit, anticipating stops, and even coasting.
And after a few months, I was pulled over by the CA Highway Patrol once again.
Not that driving 50MPH on a 65MPH highway is actually illegal in CA; but because EVERYONE speeds here, all the time, the officer assumed I must be intoxicated to actually drive below the speed limit.  When I passed the breathalyzer, I was free to go.
I found that to be a (tragically) funny thing – I am surrounded by people breaking the law.  I am the one person NOT breaking the law.  And I am the one who gets stopped by law enforcement, because it is suspicious that I am not breaking the law like everyone else.  I thought that would be an interesting story to share, especially with people who were also trying to get the best possible fuel mileage from their own vehicles.
So I went online, and tried to find out if there were any discussion boards specifically dedicated to this “hypermiling” thing.
And that’s how I discovered:  EcoModder.com
Wow.  A whole new level.  Not only were there dozens of more in-depth secrets to driving technique, but people were actually modding their cars – not to make them faster or look cooler – but to actually make them more efficient.  Revolutionary, mind-blowing, and in the end as it turned out, life changing.
I won’t chronicle the entire process here, because I already did in the forums, as it was happening.
During this process a friend of mine (and fellow mechanic at the bikeshop I work at) convinced me to write about my truck mods for Instructables.com.
They happened to be doing an energy efficiency contest at the time, which I entered and took second place in, winning a T-shirt!
But even better, the founder and CEO of the company noticed my contest entry, and personally hired me to do a little work at his home.  How cool is that?
Throughout this time period, I had also been writing my own personal blog, and one of the founders of faircompanies.com, Kirsten Dirksen, happened to run across my article on anthropogenic global warming, in which I argue that the evidence is still inconclusive, but we should be acting as though it is true regardless of what science eventually finds.  She asked if I would post some of my content on their website, which I began doing.
About a year or so later she emailed me saying they were taking a trip to the US (from Spain) and asking if I would be willing to be interviewed on camera.
I was still new to hypermiling and hadn’t started ecomodding when the video was taken, so while I did mention driving the smallest vehicle that meets ones needs, fuel efficiency, and bicycles, the portion on my small home got most of the attention.
As my ecomodding habit began, since I was already posting eco related content to the Faircompanies website, Kirsten followed the development of the truck, and its transition from 15mpg to up to 30mpg. The next time she came to the US, several years later, she requested a follow up interview – and the new video which came out recently is all about hypermiling and ecomodding.

That brings us to today.
I recently looked into replacing the rear differential, as was suggested to me in the forums, but it turns out the 2.73  and 3.08 were never made for the stronger 8 lug / F-250+ wheels.  So I’m back to wanting to replace the transmission with one that has overdrive to lower my highway RPMs, but I haven’t found a diesel ZF with the granny gear yet.
I’ve been getting slightly lower mileage than my peak, just over 25 miles per gallon over the past 6 months, VS 29MPG average over the 6 months before that – but still a whole lot better than the 15MPG I started out at.
Inline image 1
I suspect this is mostly due to having re-installed the alternator after my onboard 120v charger died, and being lazy about pulse and glide (as in, not doing it at all).
Between the video coming out and writing here, I’ve been more motivated to get my mpgs back up.
I’ll let you know how that goes.
UPDATE – I recently replaced all four tires with the General Grabber HTS, which is one of only two brands that is supposedly low rolling resistance in a tire with a 120 load rating.  I have only had them on about a week, so its too soon to say if/how much they will help (they are replacing on/off road tires in back, and dangerously worn road tires in front) – but what I can say is that the first time I drove with them fully inflated (the shop of course only inflated to 50 – even though I specifically asked them to go to the sidewall max of 80PSI) it was so easy to turn the (manual) steering wheel that for a split second I actually thought there might be something wrong.  I had gotten used to the old tires, and these ones turn with so little resistance that it feels like power assist by comparison.  That feels like a good sign to me.
I also just received my new battery charger (yesterday!) so I can take the alternator belt back off.  Between the two, I’m hoping to hit my 5th 30+mpg tank average – and then keep it there.  We’ll see…


  1. Have you considered adding vortex generators at the rear of the cab and/or around the tailgate? This forum post has some good advice and pointers to NASA research about their effects: http://www.gassavers.org/f15/diy-vortex-generators-1482.html

    1. I've been looking at the link. It seems like its possibly effective, the theory holds up for golfballs.
      But without a wind tunnel, or at least a very good simulator, it would be totally guess work and trial and error.

      Before I get into that, I may get an electric water pump and lower the suspension a few inches.

  2. P.S. the Mitsubishi research paper is still available here: http://web.archive.org/web/20130315050912/http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com/corporate/about_us/technology/review/e/pdf/2004/16E_03.pdf
    AirTab.com sells pre-made vortex generators ($$$) and their web site explains how they work with white papers as well as design patent D432,073.


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