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September 18, 2005

Updated info on the WRAD website/ Gas Vs. Diesel vs Hybrid Power- Which saves more gas?

From: Dhhreport (WRAD) - Sep 18, 2005

1. The WRAD Website- Updates
2. Gas Vs. Diesel vs Hybrid Power


The WRAD Website
Feel free to visit our WRAD website at and you will find some interesting links to upcoming events and activities in the deaf and hard of hearing community including the skiing event in Colorado in March 2006, as well as the Deaf Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2007, and others like the AGBELL Convention in Pittsburgh, PA in June 2006, and the World Federation of the Deaf Congress in July 2007 in Madrid, Spain. You will also look at our WRAD upcoming events that are listed in the website like the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Professionals Gathering on Friday October 14, 2005 at Barney's Beanery Pub in West Hollywood, California.

Don't Be Fueled:
Gas vs. Diesel vs. Hybrid Power
The six-cylinder-powered Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI sips diesel fuel so judiciously this luxury sedan can travel more than 625 miles on a single tank.

by Ann Job
Car shopping? Thinking hybrid, or diesel perhaps? See how today's vehicle choices can affect your desire to be less fuelish.
From the outside, this Honda Civic Hybrid looks virtually identical to a Civic sedan that's powered only by a gasoline engine. But fuel economy and emissions are better in the Hybrid.

The Toyota Prius became the first midsize gas-electric hybrid car in the U.S. in the 2004 model year. Demand was so strong Toyota officials worked to increase production of the car.

Consumers looking to maximize fuel economy in gasoline-powered models can consider small, lightweight cars such as the MINI Cooper.

Maybe gasoline prices are crimping your household budget. Maybe you'd like to reduce the U.S. dollars that flow to the Middle East for oil. Perhaps you're motivated by concern for the environment, or the nagging reality that oil is a depleting resource that shouldn't be wasted.

Whatever the reason, many Americans—including you, perhaps—are looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

So what should a consumer know when deciding among low-mileage gasoline cars, diesel-powered vehicles and gasoline-electric hybrids?

Fuel Economy Reality

Put into perspective the fuel economy numbers posted on a new vehicle's window sticker. Studies show the average driver only gets 75 percent or so of the mileage figures that are on the sticker.

You see, the numbers aren't derived from real-world driving but from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission testing procedures on brand new vehicles. The laboratory procedure is not reflective of on-road driving for a number of reasons. For one thing, the cars don't use gasoline in the testing. For another, the test procedure still assumes highway speed limits are 55 miles an hour.

Additionally, many variables—including weather, terrain, driving habits and condition of the vehicle—affect the kind of mileage that regular drivers get.

This is not to say the reported numbers can't be used for comparison purposes between vehicles, especially those in the same class.

But some owners of gas-electric hybrids, in particular, have voiced disappointment in the disparity between their mileage and that posted on their vehicle window stickers. These owners of Honda and Toyota hybrids have ready access to their real-world mileage via graphical displays on the dashboard, which tend to draw driver attention to fuel use and mileage statistics more so than in conventional vehicles.

Consumer Reports magazine, which calculates its own fuel economy stats, noted that its Toyota Prius hybrid test car got 44 miles a gallon in real world driving, not the city/highway rating of 55 mpg that the government reports.

So, yes, while hybrid vehicles generally provide better mileage than like-sized vehicles in their class, drivers should be aware it will take more than just a gasoline-electric powertrain to get the fuel economy they think they've been promised.

For more information about driving habits that can maximize fuel mileage in any vehicle, read our article on fuel-saving tips.

Hybrid Pricing
Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles typically are priced higher than non-hybrid counterparts—anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to several thousand dollars.

For example, Honda's Civic Hybrid has a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of just under $20,000 for a manual transmission version in the 2005 model year. A 2005 Civic LX gasoline sedan with manual transmission and many comparable features carries a starting MSRP that is some $4,000 less.

True, the manual-transmission Civic Hybrid is rated at 45 mpg in city driving and 51 mpg on the highway, for a combined 48 mpg. This is 37 percent better than the combined rating of 35 mpg for the gas-powered LX model.

But even if drivers maximize their fuel savings and get the full 13-mpg benefit in the Hybrid, they'd need about 16 years of 15,000-mile annual travel before the gasoline savings—estimated at $2.25 a gallon—would recoup the $4,300 extra they paid for the Hybrid over the Civic LX.

On-road testing by Popular Mechanics magazine—comparing a Civic Hybrid with a higher-priced, uplevel Civic EX—showed a similar result. Magazine officials took the cars on a cross-country run and concluded the Hybrid saved about a penny a gallon in fuel costs.

Thus, buyers of the Hybrid would need to travel 144,000 miles—about 9.5 years at the 15,000-mile-a-year national average rate—to recoup the approximately $2,000 price difference in these cars, Popular Mechanics said.

A final note: Hybrids qualify for a one-time federal tax deduction of $1,500. But the impact on a person's bottom line tax bill is typically in the three-digit range, according to tax experts.

Other Hybrid Issues
Auto industry officials project hybrid vehicle prices will come down as the vehicles become more plentiful and there are greater economies of scale.

Some states are studying whether drivers of hybrid vehicles can use carpool lanes when they travel solo. Virginia became the first state to allow this.

Hybrids are relatively new. The technology mates an electric motor to a gasoline engine so the electric motor supplements the engine at times. This reduces greenhouse gases as well as optimizes the use of gasoline.

Today's hybrids wouldn't be possible without electronic engine controls that modulate the smooth working of these two systems together and manage power delivery to maximize fuel efficiency. But the sophisticated mixing and matching of the power is not always easy to accomplish, and buyers might find it best to take their hybrids to the local dealer for service, where technicians have received specialized training, rather than a neighborhood garage.

Hybrids store electric energy on board in large battery packs. The packs are warranted for eight to ten years, depending on the manufacturer, but it's uncertain what the cost will be for replacing old battery packs down the road. Current prices are about $3,000. If this price holds in the future, it could make hybrids less attractive as used cars and thus reduce resale values of these vehicles.

But several auto analysts figure that the popularity of hybrids will prompt greater production of battery packs and thus, lower their prices. Time will tell.

Some emergency workers have been concerned that they could face a danger of electric shock when working on a disabled or crashed gas-electric hybrid vehicle. Auto manufacturers assure them that safeguards are in place and that computers on board the vehicles have a series of safety checks that are designed to avert problems. Still, some first responders are undergoing special training to become comfortable in handling hybrid cars.

Some groups have complained that hybrid battery packs are toxic and likely to become troublesome to dispose of. But automakers say current nickel-metal hydride batteries are recyclable.

Diesel Efficiency
Diesel-powered passenger vehicles are another fuel-efficient option.

Popular in Europe, diesel models are limited in their availability in the U.S. because five states—California, New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont—prohibit their sale due to emission restrictions. Note that in contrast, gas-electric hybrid vehicles are sold in all states. Indeed, hybrids are far cleaner in many emission properties than even conventional gasoline vehicles.

Still, diesels are known for getting extra mileage out of every gallon of fuel. They offer better torque than many gasoline engines. And their price differential over gasoline models generally is much smaller than that for hybrids.

For example, Volkswagen's midsize 2005 Passat diesel sedan has a starting MSRP of $23,360. This compares with $22,070 for a comparable gasoline Passat model.

Yet the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the Passat TDI, as the diesel versions are called, puts out an amazing 247 lb-ft of torque at a low 1900 rpm vs. the 166 lb-ft of torque at 1950 rpm in the 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine in the base Passat sedan.

The diesel Passat's fuel economy rating is 27/38 mpg, for a combined 32.5 mpg, and compares with 21/30, for a combined 25.5 mpg, in the gasoline four-cylinder Passat with automatic transmission.

Thus, if drivers maximized the diesel's fuel economy and got the 7 extra miles per gallon, it would take about four years to recoup the approximately $1,200 extra cost for the Passat's diesel engine.

Other Diesel Matters
Some consumers, however, will object to having a diesel because these cars typically—though not always—are noisier than gasoline-powered vehicles. Some buyers also might object to the telltale odor that is associated with diesel vehicles.

And, not every urban filling station has a diesel pump. In some cases, drivers might need to venture farther from suburban neighborhoods to locate a place to fill up.

Nonetheless, diesel engines have been with us for a long time—the first diesel-powered passenger car was a 1936 Mercedes—and diesel engines are known for their durability. Hence, they're standard fare under the hoods of big semi-trucks.

Mercedes, which stopped selling diesels in the U.S. in 1999 and resumed sales in calendar 2004 with the introduction of the E320 CDI sedan, says some 200,000 diesel-powered Mercedes cars are still operating on U.S. roads.

Gasoline Models Can Shine
Consumers don't need to venture from conventional gasoline models to find fuel-thrifty vehicles. However, they need to focus on small, lightweight vehicles in order to maximize the gas they use.

For example, the MINI Cooper with naturally aspirated, 1.6-liter four cylinder has a combined fuel economy rating of 32.5 mpg, which is the same as the rating for the 2005 Passat diesel. Note, however, the MINI is a four-person minicompact hatchback that weighs 2,524 pounds, while the Passat is a five-passenger midsize family sedan that weighs 3,322 pounds with the automatic transmission.

Gasoline models with the best fuel economy all have four-cylinder engines, rather than V6s or V8s.

Ann Job is a writer for T&A Ink.