Gas Prices: Six Options for the American Driver

gas-prices-six-options-for-the-american-driver

gas-prices-six-options-for-the-american-driver

When the price of gas rivals the price of going to an expensive restaurant, something has to be done. This article explains six solutions that are available today.

Today, gasoline costs over four dollars a gallon in the United States (two dollars in California) with diesel at five in many areas. After this writing, the price is likely to increase. These prices are rivaling those in Europe, and truckers, taxi drivers, and everyone else are crumpling under this pressure. Home foreclosures are worsened by gas prices; families are becoming desperate and falling through the financial security blanket they once had. America has an economic problem, and the price of gas is a large contributor to it.

America has been through a depression before. We were taken out of it, just as we will be this time. While this may seem too hopeful in a time when the all-American V8 engine is on the brink of extinction on dealer lots, there is a solution; or, more specifically, a number of solutions available today. All of the below options will ensure you do not end up with another hundred-dollar gas payment to fill up your tank.

Solution 1: Hybrid (gasoline-electric) vehicles: This technology does not require any more attention than gasoline vehicles. You fill up at the same gasoline pumps; you do not have to plug anything into the battery. These vehicles are beneficial to the planet, your wallet, and just about anything else. The only extra investment (monetarily) is when you buy the car. The below information is from USA today and shows the number of years before you start saving money on hybrid vehicles.

Information on hybrid vehicles.

Vehicle (2008 Model Year)

  • Toyota Prius: Midsize car (hatchback). This vehicle attains 48 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 45 mpg in highway driving. It will take approximately 2.6 years for the extra cost of they hybrid battery to be recouped in fuel savings. There are no federal tax incentives. Regional tax incentives differ if there are any. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Toyota Camry: Midsize car (sedan). This car has a 33 mpg rating for city driving and 34 mpg on the highway. It takes about 1.7 years to retain the added investment for they hybrid system through fuel savings. There are no federal tax incentives. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Toyota Highlander: Midsize SUV. Gas mileage for this car is 27 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. This vehicle will recoup the added cost in fuel savings in approximately 12.7 years. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Lexus RX 400h: Midsize SUV. Gas mileage for this vehicle is 27 mpg in the city with 24 mpg for highway driving. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Lexus LS 600h: Large car (sedan). Gas mileage is 20 mpg in the city with 22 mpg on the highway. It takes approximately 102.6 years to recoup the added cost of the hybrid system through savings from lower fuel costs. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Honda Civic: small car (sedan). Gas mileage for this vehicle is 40 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. It will take about 5 years to recoup the cost of the hybrid system. The federal government offers tax deductions of 525 dollars. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Ford Escape: small SUV. Gas mileage is 34 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It takes about 4.4 years to recoup the cost of the added investment through fuel savings. This vehicle is made in America. Federal tax incentives are 3,000 dollars. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Mercury Mariner: small SUV. Gas mileage is 34 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It takes about 4.4 years to recoup the cost of the added investment through fuel savings. This vehicle is made in America. Federal tax incentives are 3,000 dollars. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Mazda Tribute: small SUV. Gas mileage is 34 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. It takes about 4.4 years to recoup the cost of the added investment through fuel savings. This vehicle is made in America. There are no federal tax incentives for this vehicle. Federal tax incentives are 3,000 dollars. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • Nissan Altima: midsize car (sedan). Gas mileage is 35 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. It takes 3.5 years to recoup the added cost of the hybrid battery. Federal tax incentives are 3,250 dollars. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not..
  • Chevrolet Tahoe: Large SUV. This vehicle attains 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. It takes 4.9 years to recoup the added cost of the hybrid system. This vehicle is made in America and recieves 2,200 dollars in tax credits. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
  • GMC Yukon: Large SUV. This vehicle attains 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. It takes 4.9 years to recoup the added cost of the hybrid system. This vehicle is made in America and receives 2,200 dollars in tax credits. Some counties or state governments chose to offer such incentives while others do not.
    • When and where this technology is convenient: Gasoline-electric vehicles are most convenient in the west coast where hybrid sales are strongest (California) because gas prices are highest in these areas. Another reason for the convenience in west-coast areas is also partially due to more choice because automakers are sending a large portion of their hybrid vehicles to these areas. Out of all of the other technologies, this one is the most convenient today because it is available, increased costs are low and decreasing, and it does not require any more investment from people other than an extra cost. The future for this technology is bright with many more new models coming out each year.

Solution 2: Half-hybrid vehicles: These vehicles are for people who want better fuel economy but are not ready to fork out the several thousand dollars extra for it. The downside is that fuel economy gains by the (half) hybrid system is lower.

  • Availability: GM is the sole corporation that produces these vehicles for the American market today.
    • When and where this technology is convenient: This is similar to gasoline-electric hybrids as far as where this is convenient. For the when part, this technology is most convenient for people who do not have the financial means of purchasing a full hybrid vehicle.

Solution 3: Flexible Fuel Vehicles: The term “flexible fuel” means that these vehicles can run on the biofuel E85 Ethanol or gasoline when an ethanol fueling station is not available. The best part about this technology is that it does not increase the cost of the vehicle. There are a few regions flex fuel vehicles have not replaced gasoline vehicles yet.

  • Cons:
    • Fueling infrastructure: over 1,500 fuel stations that sell E85 ethanol fuel. This is little considering that there are over 170,000 gasoline stations in the United States.
      • Very inefficient; lower fuel economy with ethanol fuel as well as low efficiency in production of corn-based ethanol
      • 15% of this fuel is still gasoline
      • Reports indicate that it might be leading to an increase in the cost of world food prices as well as world food shortages because more corn is being allocated to become ethanol fuel
  • Pros:
    • Over 7 million flexible fuel vehicles in United States today
    • Cellulosic ethanol is a new way that ethanol is being produced (in early stages). This production method is more efficient and does not use a food source. It can make ethanol from wood chips, switch grass, or many other waste products.
    • Heavy investment in technology, especially by government and automakers

When and Where this technology is convenient: While the automakers are producing millions of these vehicles and you might want one because you think that in the future, an ethanol selling station will be in your area, it will give no short-term aid to the gas bill. First of all, make sure an ethanol station is nearby. The technology is most convenient for people in Midwestern (corn-producing) states such as Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and other surrounding states.

Availability: There are 30 vehicles on the market for MY 2008 that range from cars to trucks to SUVs to even cargo vans.

Solution 4: Natural Gas: Natural gas used to power automobiles is nothing new. This technology began in the 1970s and became most popular in consumer vehicles by 2000. Natural gas vehicles are still produced today, along with conversions, but most automakers decided that the American public would rather buy hybrid vehicles because there were very few natural gas fuel stations. Sales were mostly to government and corporate fleets, so rather that 15 natural gas vehicle models available in 2000, today, there is only one. This does not include heavy-duty trucks however. Today, people who want a natural gas vehicle must either buy a vehicle converted to natural gas (by companies such as BAF Technologies), or buy a used vehicle. The reason people are still buying these vehicles can be seen in Utah, where natural gas fuel costs only 69 cents a gallon. The rest of the nation has higher natural gas prices, but even those are significantly lower (at least a dollar less per gallon). Super shuttle, taxis, and busses often-natural gas powered, so chances are you have been in such a vehicle. There is no greater danger in a natural gas vehicle than when you are in your Chevy Tahoe. There is an option for those who want a natural gas vehicle and have a fueling station nearby or are willing to purchase a home refueling option called Phil but do not feel comfortable because they don’t want to chance running out of fuel (or want to go on vacation but don’t want to buy a separate car for that). It is called a bifuel vehicle. This means it can run on natural gas fuel or gasoline fuel. Many of the older vehicles produced by the Detroit automakers are bifuel and several conversion companies offer a bifuel option, so attaining such a vehicle is feasible.

  • When and Where this technology is convenient: Natural gas fueled vehicles are most convenient in California, Utah, and New York. There are other states as well, so research is required if you are considering a natural gas vehicle. The top states are California, New York, and Utah because California and New York are leaders and Utah has the cheapest price for the fuel (69 cents per gasoline gallon equivalent).
    • Availability: Honda is the sole company that builds natural gas vehicles in their factory. Other companies’ vehicles can be converted to run on this fuel. .
    • This is a proven technology with many options and can save a lot of money for certain consumers. If considering it, research it and make sure it is right for you and your situation before making your decision.

Solution 5: Propane: Yes, it is the same gaseous fuel that you use to power the grill on Super bowl night. What most people do not know is that it powers cars too. Like natural gas, it is not a new technology and has not caught on until recently because gas prices versus the price of propane did not warrent such a technology. Today though, propane is at least a dollar cheaper per gallon.

  • When and Where this technology is convenient: Propane fuel for vehicles is most convenient in California, northern Washington, Texas, and select areas in the Midwest, South, and northeastern states.
    • Light-duty trucks or public transit vehicles are the most successful and make up a majority of sales
    • Other vehicles are available for conversion, but these companies are less reputable
    • Propane costs between 1 dollar to 3 dollars per gasoline-gallon equivalent (GGE). Since gasoline and diesel are approaching five dollars a gallon, this option is not such a bad idea.

Solution 6: Neighborhood Electrical Vehicles (NEVs): These cannot fully replace your car, but may be able to substantially reduce the amount of time you need to spend driving your car. These vehicles are essentially golf carts, but better. Some can reach 35 mile per hour, so if you live in a city, this technology might become very useful and cost saving. Many of these vehicles cost 7,000 dollars or less and just need to be plugged in. Not only will this decrease fuel costs; it also reduces wear and tear on your car, making trips to the local mechanic less frequent.

  • When and Where this technology is convenient: These vehicles are convenient everywhere. There are electric vehicle charging stations mostly in California and New York, but you do not need a charging station for the most part because while it would help (for example, if you are at the neighborhood grocery store, you could charge your vehicle while shopping), all you need is a house. These vehicles require little effort to fuel (charge) because they can be plugged in at night with a fully charged battery for the coming day. When vacation or destinations that these vehicles cannot go (i.e. neighborhood locations), just drive your regular vehicle. Despite what many people think, there are many vehicles available on the market today. The offerings go from electric golf carts that can drive in many metropolitan areas to everyday electric cars. Other niche categories such as the sports car market or the fleet market are being quickly filled as well.

The above solutions are not complete solutions. The future holds more technologies like plug-in hybrid vehicles that achieve 100mpg and hydrogen vehicles that emit only water. For now though, there are three choices everyone has: take public transit, use an alternative fuel (or hybrid) vehicle, or a more fuel-efficient one, or buy a regular vehicle and suck it up.

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