While gas prices have declined somewhat since the release of national reserves, most Americans still face costs of almost $1 more per gallon than they did one year ago. Some analysts expect that within the next few years Saudi Arabia could fail to meet the constantly growing global demand as well, threatening to send prices skyrocketing again. In this environment, a growing number of Americans are considering investing in more fuel efficient vehicle options, but many still know little enough about the issue.
Opinion Research Corporation performed a survey of more than 1,000 Americans for technology company Johnson Controls. Chief among its findings, ORC noted that a substantial proportion – 39 percent – of Americans actually do not understand the differences between different fuel-efficiency technologies, though 45 percent still decry the lack of options.
Within gasoline-based engines, improving technology is making conventional internal combustion engines increasingly reasonable as a fuel-efficient option. One of the most popular developments that has improved fuel efficiency in Europe is the Start-Stop engine, which shuts down at extended pauses like traffic lights and reignites quickly, improving fuel efficiency as much as 5 to 12 percent. The more popular option in the U.S. has been the hybrid-electric vehicle, which relies on a secondary electric engine to provide a portion of the car's power, saving between 15 and 50 percent more fuel depending on how the battery is powered. These two options drew interest from 28 percent and 40 percent of respondents, respectively.
The least popular option, at 20 percent of respondents, electric vehicles can actually entirely negate the need for fuel. A recent study by Northeast Group found that the total fueling costs for electric vehicles can actually reach as little as one-tenth of the costs of a traditional internal combustion engine. The study looked at a range of potential scenarios and found at least some savings in each, though those rated most likely saw costs of one-tenth to one-half.
Despite the potential savings from these various options, automotive information site Edmunds.com explains that buying a more fuel-efficient, or energy-efficient, vehicle is not necessarily the correct financial move. Hybrid vehicles and, especially, electric vehicles remain expensive and, while they rely less on the cost of fuel to drive, the savings accrued directly relate to the unstable commodity. As it stands, saving the cost difference between hybrid and regular versions of the Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima in fuel should take around 6 and 10 years, respectively.