April 6, 2007: International Herald Tribune—Mileage Maniacs Push Limits of Hybrids

Summary: It will come as no surprise to many that Japan, the birthplace of modern hybrids, is also home to some of the world’s most fanatical hypermilers.

Japan's EV Sports Car Club Team

These young electric-vehicle enthusiasts are likely to benefit from the experience of their elders, the nenpimania, when it comes time for them to take to the roads.

"Toya is one of about 100 nenpimania, Japanese for ‘mileage maniacs’ or hybrid owners who compete against each other to squeeze as much as 115 miles per gallon out of their cars. In a country where gasoline costs more than $4 a gallon, at least $1 more than the average U.S. price, enthusiasts tweak their cars and hone driving techniques to cut fuel bills and gain bragging rights.

"Toya said he switched to a hybrid after years of driving sports cars, trading muscle ‘for the fun of maximum mileage.’ Nicknamed ‘The Shogun,’ Toya said he drove 1,000 miles, or 1,600 kilometers, on a single 13-gallon, or 49-liter, tank 17 times last year, an average of 79 mpg. At the advertised efficiency rate, a driver would get 715 miles per tank.

"Toya is not the best, though. A woman from Akita Prefecture, nicknamed ‘Teddy-Girl,’ is cited on mileage maniac Web sites as getting almost 116 mpg. That is enough to drive from New York to Wichita, Kansas – 1,386 miles – without refilling."

Most hybrid drivers are happy if they hit 50, and it’s easy to impress drivers of ICE autos with anything over 40. Not many can claim to have seen an entire tank over 70 mpg.

How about a new motor sport: challenge a bunch of nenpimania to teach American SUV addicts to pulse and glide their way along mountain roads. It would work for reality TV.


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