STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EARTH SCIENCES - EARTH SYSTEMS PROGRAM

Sustainable Choices

Drive a Fuel-efficient Car, Such As a Hybrid

Simplicity:
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Carbon Impact:
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Money Savings:
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Health Helper:
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Overview
Even with a short commute, it’s easy to go through barrels of gasoline every year by the time you add up all those little trips. As discussed elsewhere on this Web site, simple changes in the way you drive and maintain your vehicle can make large strides towards fuel efficiency. A more direct and dramatic way to reduce your gas intake is to drive a more fuel-efficient car. This could be a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle or a smaller, lighter car than your existing model.

Tips & Tricks
Consider a more efficient car when you are ready to retire your current one. Remember that it takes a hefty amount of energy just to produce one car, so you needn’t junk a perfectly good vehicle just to buy a hybrid. Rather, upgrade when you’re current ride is at the end of its road, or sell your current car to an eager buyer.

Compare fuel economies online. Using the link below, you can go online to compare fuel efficiencies of prospective cars. Choose a vehicle with high miles per gallon (mpg) that also fits with your other desired features.

Web & Print Resources
Compare cars’ fuel economy:
www.fueleconomy.gov

Carbon dioxide emissions from auto fuel:
www.epa.gov

Personal Story
This material originally appeared in the New York Times article “Driving; My life, My Prius” by Marsha Niles (August 29, 2003).

Two years ago I had a car with a stick shift that used a lot of gas and was always in the shop for repairs. It was a pain in the neck. Everyone kept telling me: ''Get a Prius. It never breaks down, and it gets at least 45 miles to the gallon.'' So in October 2001 I went to Toyota's Web site and ordered one for myself in a beautiful midnight blue. Three months later the dealership gave me a jingle and said, ''Your car is here.'' Now I fill up the tank so rarely that sometimes I have to ask myself, ''O.K., now which side is my gas tank on again?

Driving a Prius is a great way to meet people. Everywhere I go people want to know about the car. They ask me, ''How long does it have to be plugged in for?'' I tell them, ''You never plug it in.'' The engine is unlike anything you've ever seen. You open a little hood on the front and there's this giant flat silver battery. I drive the car to a lot of meetings for my job, and I'm usually dealing with guys. The best part is showing them the engine. They are just amazed by it.

To learn more, see query.nytimes.com

Fun Facts

In 2005, the average American spent 4.3% of household income on gasoline.

The 2007 Toyota Prius is rated 46 mpg and the Honda Civic hybrid 42 mpg.

The 2007 Ford Expedition is rated 15 mpg, while the Ford Escape Hybrid is rated 30 mpg.

Some hybrid vehicles recapture energy while the car is braking and use it to charge the battery.

Only about 15% of the energy from the fuel you put in your tank gets used to move your car down the road or run useful accessories, such as air conditioning. The rest of the energy is lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies and idling.