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The July Car Update (2008)

By Steve Jones,

It seems that we've done a lot less driving over the last couple months, and that the price of gas as risen quite a bit here in the US. I'm not sure how gas has changed in the rest of the world, but here in the Denver area we're paying about $4 a gallon for unleaded gas and $4.70-$4.80 a gallon for diesel. We love our Prius, and with $30-34 fill ups with an empty tank after 450-500 miles since the last gas stop, we appreciate the Prius more and more. However apparently the bears in Alaska don't feel the same way (Thanks to Bob H. :) )

Gas is expensive for us, but I wasn't sure how much of a dent this is really making in people's budgets. After all, we drive a lot, having gone around 34k miles last year in the vehicles around here, ignoring the tractor and ATV. That's been at the cost of around $4k, or about $333 a month for gas. I talked to a few friends and it seems their spending is all over the board from $250 to over $500 regularly. We have one friend who works from home as well, and his wife doesn't work, but they manage to spend nearly $700 a month moving the family of 5 around.

At the local gas station I was amazed by the night clerk. We were chatting about the gas since they've recently installed "Red" or off-road diesel and E85 in addition to the regular gas and diesel products. We've chatted a bit over the months, he has a tricked out Civic and likes my 911, so we've had a few things to talk about. I found out recently that he lives about 20 miles away and commutes quite a few days a week. 40 miles a day, a gallon or so of gas, doesn't seem to make much economic sense. However the price of gas hasn't seemed to both him. I'd be curious to know what other people think.

Ethanol is an interesting product to me and while I'm not sure we know enough about the long term environmental impacts of producing it, I was amazed that it was $2.79 a gallon, well over a dollar cheaper than regular gas, about 30% less. A little research shows that it has a higher octane, but our engines don't use it as efficiently, so we use more of it. I'm not sure of the final numbers, but if anyone has a flex fuel vehicle, would you track your mileage and use of E85 v regular gas over a couple tanks and send me a note?

It seems that lots of people are thinking about more efficient vehicles from this survey. The 10 most popular cars on MSN, according to page views of people researching the cars, all get over 30mpg. I don't know who's selling the most this summer, but I know less cars are being sold. What's most amazing to me is that none of the top 10 cars are US made. That shows just how out of touch the big three US car companies are and how much they've tried to hold on to the status quo. That alone makes me glad the price of gas is high as it will force them to change. I did hear the Ford is getting the message and moving to produce more cars and less trucks.

Or some of them. GM is working hard on it's Volt car, designed to be a plug in electric hybrid. I'm not sure if that's the best solution, and I can only hope that they, and both Ford and Chrysler, are keeping an eye on the entries in the Automotive X-Prize for ideas on how to build better, more efficient, transportation. This was an interesting note on getting electricity from heat, which might make its way into cars.

I love my cars, and I have fond memories of pretty much all the cars I've owned, all 24 of them. I enjoy driving and I hope that I'll get to do it for a long time into the future. However I also recognize that there are fundamental problems with the economics of current vehicles and I'd like to see things change as we move forward. I think we have to build more efficient cars as well as find ways to economically move people to better transportation without bankrupting them. I've seen interesting ideas for shorter work weeks, more telecommuting, along with employers providing more transportation.

Personal transportation is something that will be with us for a long time, but I'm sure it will evolve into something more efficient, and with a wider variety of choices over the next decade. Already I see lots of companies offering conversion kids from GreaseCars (vegetable oil) to Electro Automotive (electric conversions) to Hybrids-Plus (convert to a plug-in hybrid). Ford is even using hydraulic regenerative braking to reduce fuel and improve acceleration in trucks. My vote is that we move to all electric motors to drive the wheels and then use any type of source to generate the electricity.

The Prius Update

We've done a lot of driving since late May, including trips into the mountains a few times and across the state of Colorado. We're at 28000 miles on the car, purchased with about 10 miles on it on Mar 31, 2007.

Mileage appears to be the same as I expect, getting 52-54 in the summer, about 44-47 in the winter. Winters are relatively short here in Denver, so I'd guess over the year we're doing about 50mpg year round. I don't have numbers from early on, but

Steve Jones

Prius Stats

Months owned Mileage Avg MPG (current month) Conservative savings (Prius 48, van 20, gas US$3.90) Realistic savings (Prius 50, van 18, gas US$3.90)
16 28,000 53 (for July) $2,992 $2,528

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