MPG for dummies

With gas prices so high, it’s amazing so many people drive gas guzzling vehicles. Inefficient vehicles are everywhere, in all shapes and sizes, which begs the question—why are people doing this to themselves?

When a car is purchased, the fuel economy numbers are posted on the window, courtesy of the EPA, so there shouldn’t be any confusion, right? Wrong, actually. Fuel economy numbers are confusing to all but gearheads and engineering-nerd types. First off, what’s the point of giving us two fuel economy numbers? Nobody will ever achieve the “Highway” number (the higher of the two) because very few people will drive exclusively on the highway at 60 mph at all times. Throw a few stoplights in there, and some traffic, and BAM you’re getting “City” fuel economy numbers. Why? Because automobile engines use more fuel to accelerate than to cruise. When a car navigates traffic and stoplights, there’s a lot of accelerating going on, which requires more power, which in turn requires more fuel. It’s just like riding bicycle. What’s easier, cruising at a reasonable speed, or accelerating up to speed briskly? That’s why people should always look at the smaller number on the window at a car dealership when evaluating fuel economy, but people don’t understand this, and they shouldn’t have to because the whole concept of miles per gallon (MPG’s) is somewhat abstract to the average person because it involves math. Most people have erased mathematics from their memories. Fuel economy needs to be explained in simpler terms for the simple people that we are.

California has answered the call with a new policy requiring all new vehicles sold in the state to have, in addition to MPG numbers, scores for fuel economy and emissions. The scores will be easy to understand—cars will be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being best). People will still have the freedom to be stupid and buy wasteful vehicles, but they won’t have ignorance as an excuse any longer. It’s amazing it took so long for this to be figured out. It seems, as if, Americans were intentionally misled about fuel economy for a long time. The EPA and the auto industry in fact, misled us intentionally—just a couple years ago, MPG numbers on the windows of cars were blatantly false.

How many people do you know are currently driving cars they thought were economical when they bought them, only to find out later they were gas guzzlers?

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