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Vehicles of the future

April 19, 2012 - Rob Weaver
A report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council claims drivers will save $68 billion in fuel costs when the Obama administration’s 54.5 miles-per-gallon standard is fully implemented in 2030.

The release states drivers in Ohio would save $1.6 billion. On an individual basis, it states drivers would save $4,400 in fuel costs over the life of that 2030 vehicle.

I’ve looked over the report, but could not discern whether the figures are based on current fuel costs or the projected cost of gasoline 18 years from now. The way costs are rising, the council’s prediction may be an understatement.

In 1994 -- 18 years ago -- the average price of a gallon of gas was $1.11. Today, it’s close to $4. That’s an increase of $2.89 a gallon. So maybe a gallon of go-juice in 2030 will cost $6.89, but I doubt it. We could surpass that by the end of the decade.

Gasoline now costs about 3.5 times more than in 1994. Using that multiple, a gallon of gas would cost about $14 in 2030. Ouch.

But, the council notes motorists today can do something about $4-a-gallon gas prices: buy a new, more fuel-efficient car. 

“Drivers today have twice the fuel-efficient car options than just three years ago. The technology –and fuel savings-- are only going to improve thanks to even stronger efficiency standards,” Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, stated in an email. “As consumers look to trade in older cars over time, they will have the latest in fuel saving technology available to them, putting money back in their pockets.” 

My preferred strategy for finding relief from rising fuel prices involves riding a motorcycle. I own two motorbikes; one gets about 54 mpg, the other about 40. My 1999 Ford Ranger gets 20 mpg in city driving, and up to 28 on the highway. Sometimes, the little truck is the more fuel-efficient choice.

Why?

Each of those three vehicles will haul two adults. But the Ranger also can haul more gear -- and pull a trailer. Plus, my wife’s car can transport four adults plus some luggage .. while getting 28-32 miles per gallon.

My point here is that, because automakers now must work on four-wheeled vehicles that average 34.5 mpg by 2016 and might have to develop choices that get 54.5 mpg by 2030, motorcycle manufacturers are going to have to step up their game if they want to claim a fuel-efficiency edge.

The high-mileage step-through scooters with 12-inch wheels won’t cut it. We need stable motorcycles shod with at least 16-inch wheels that can squeeze at least 60 miles out of every gallon.

Without that improvement, motorcycles of the future will come with electrical cords.

 
 

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