Besides payments or insurance premiums, it’s the largest determining factor in the total cost of owning an automobile. It’s often one of the key influencers as to which vehicle people ultimately buy. A consumer in the market for a vehicle today will definitely want to know what fuel economy is, and why it’s so important.
Fuel economy, better known by most people as gas mileage, is the ratio between the distance a vehicle travels and the amount of gas it uses. Gas mileage is typically expressed in miles per gallon. In addition, gas mileage is often broken out further into two separate numbers; a smaller number representing typical performance in the city, and a larger number for the highway. As an example, a brand new base model Honda Civic currently averages 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the highway. These numbers differ because slowing down or stopping a vehicle, as is frequently done in city traffic, reduces the total distance it can travel using a gallon of gas.
What makes gas mileage so important? The biggest reason for many drivers is rising costs at the gas pump. Compared to 20 years ago, gas prices have more than doubled in most countries. In the US, for example, the average gas price has risen from $1.17 per gallon in 1999 to $2.63 per gallon today. Even worse, gas prices are projected to continue to rise and outpace most other consumer goods, so gas mileage will inevitably factor into car-buying decisions in the years to come.
In addition to the monetary costs, gas mileage has a significant impact on the environment as well. On average, each gallon of gasoline or diesel burned by a vehicle exhausts 19 to 24 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. Climate scientists believe that the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing the Earth’s climate to change at an ever-increasing rate, resulting in far-reaching environmental impacts. Vehicles create over 15% of all carbon emissions globally, so as a result, some countries have passed carbon taxes on vehicles to help control carbon emissions. Such taxes are expected to be implemented in more countries in the future as environmental effects increase.
Due to these factors, many drivers are looking into hybrid or electric vehicles for their next purchase. Electric cars use a battery instead of gas to power an electric motor, while hybrid vehicles use a combination of a gasoline engine and electric motor to increase gas mileage. Critics of these technologies point out that the production and disposal of batteries, as well as the emissions created by power plants, mostly offset any reduction in costs or environmental impacts.
In conclusion, gas mileage will continue to be a huge consideration for car buyers. Informed buyers should factor in the cost of gas as well as any carbon taxes that they may have to pay in the future, and carefully consider whether the luxury of owning a larger vehicle is worth the price tag.