Bakari Kafele runs his hauling business out of his truck, but the 1983 full-sized pickup (with 8 cylinder diesel engine) weights 2 and a half tons and has an average fuel economy of 15 miles per gallon.
Bothered by the effects on the air and his wallet, Kafele decided to hack his rig for hypermiling. He pulled out his alternator and power steering and began to replace all of his engine accessories with manual or electric options.
He added a charger and now plugs in at night to charge his electric components. He also added a 15 watt solar panel that he leaves on his dashboard (though has since been moved to the car’s roof) that will fully charge his accessories when parked long enough.
He added chloroplast corrugated plastic panels over the wheels and the hood and under the car to improve aerodynamics.
He also changed how he drives, using some traditional hypermiling techniques like pulse and glide and auto-stop. So he began looking ahead a lot more and killing the engine way ahead of a red lights or when driving downhill.
With these advanced techniques, he had to turn the engine off and on often so he created a kill switch and a quick starter on his stick shift.
“I just didn’t want to use the key every time I wanted to turn it on and off, my hand is on the stickshift all the time anyway, so I bought a couple of momentary switches and I wired one so that it’s normally on and when you press it it turns off. The other is normally off and when you press it it turns on. I found the wires under the dash that control the fuel pump and the starter relay and I tapped into them, wired up the switches and a block of wood. So one of these when I press and hold it will kill the engine. The other one when I press and hold it activates the starter.”
On the road
All of these modifications have paid off. Now he’s roughly doubled his fuel economy from about 15 mpg to 30mpg (depending on how much material he is hauling and how many hills he needs to climb).
In this video, Kafele makes a hauling run in his highly-modified truck. He delivers someone’s household cast-offs (vacuum cleaner, screen door, stereo system) to Berkeley’s (California) salvage store Urban Ore and then stops to pick up fuel at the BioFuel Oasis (an owner-run cooperative that also sells chickens and urban farming supplies) before returning home to Oakland.
Of course, the entire time he is killing his engine to glide as much as possible and predicting red lights in order to avoid hitting the gas, all the while keeping his speed in the very efficient range of 45 and 55 mph (even on highways).
* More videos with Bakari: Scavenging the trash of overconsumption (Biodiesel Hauling), Living small: when home is a 150-square-foot RV, Staying out of eco-debt w/bikes & 60mpg motorcycle