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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Fuel Economy Part 1

You may be in the market for a new car or possibly in the near future. So I thought I would talk about some of the things to consider when looking at a new car. There are so many features from which to choose that sometimes it is a little confusing. Since this is an environmental and energy blog, there are a few things that I would like to clarify. So let's start with the fuel choice. There are so many choices in fuel, but all can be narrowed down to four; gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and electric. I know that there are other fuel choices out there, but for the most part, these are not available on the market. I am not going to muddy the water with these. In general there are several options from which to choose in any of the fuel types. Hybrids are available in almost all fuel types that are widely available on the market. I am going to talk about Gas (including Flex Fuel), Diesel, Natural Gas, Electric, and Hybrids.

Gasoline- Gas is the most common fuel type in the US. As a result, it is the least expensive, both when you purchase a vehicle and at the pump. However, gas is the least efficient of the fuel types. Gas engines in the US can be found in two major types: standard gas and Flex Fuel. So there are a couple of differences between the two, but they are minor. Flex Fuel vehicles can use fuel that contains up to 85% ethanol. These vehicles are designed to use regular unleaded gas and E-85. E-85 has one major disadvantage. It is 15% to 20% less efficient than regular gas. On the other hand, it has one major advantage in that it is less expensive than regular gas. This means that when the price is 15% to 20% cheaper than regular gas, E-85 is a good option for these vehicles. More and more gas stations are selling what are known as "mid-grade" blends. These blends range from 15% up to 50% ethanol in the fuel. By using these mid-grade blends, a driver can reduce the efficiency reduction to 1-3% and these mid-grade blends are cheaper than regular gas.

Check back next week for info on diesel engines.

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