Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fuel Efficient SavingsTakes the Sting Out of the Gas Pump

Ever wonder just how much you can save with a more fuel efficient vehicle?

The difference between a car that gets 20 miles per gallon and
one that gets 30 amounts to about $550 per year, according to the U.S.
Department of Energy (if you drive 15,000 miles a year and pay $2.20 a
gallon for gas). After four years, your savings rack up to $2,200.

Many people concerned with oil consumption are pointing to hybrids — vehicles with electric motors as well as internal-combustion engines — as a way to reduce fuel use and dependence on imported oil. The first ones to reach the market did that; the two-seat Honda Insight, introduced in December 1999, was rated at 70 miles per gallon, and it was followed by the five-seat Toyota Prius, also built for reduced fuel consumption. Then came the Civic hybrid, designed to perform almost as well as the original, only using a lot less gasoline.

But the pendulum has swung. The 2005 Honda Accord hybrid gets about the same miles per gallon as the four-cylinder model, according to a review by Consumer Reports, and it saves only about 2 mpg compared with the V-6 model on which it is based. Thanks to the hybrid technology, though, it accelerates better.

Hybrid technology, it seems, is being used in much the same way as earlier under-the-hood innovations that increased gasoline efficiency: to satisfy the American appetite for acceleration.

Despite the use of hybrids to achieve better performance with about the same fuel economy, consumers who buy the cars continue to get a tax credit that the Internal Revenue Service allows under a "clean-fuels" program that does not take fuel savings into account.

In a June 15 speech at an energy forum, President Bush proposed a tax credit of up to $4,000 to "encourage people to make right choices in the marketplace that will make us less dependent on foreign sources of oil and to help improve our environment."


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