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Fuel economy and average vehicle cost

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), vehicle price and fueling costs are important factors consumers take into account when deciding to purchase a new light duty vehicle (LDV). While vehicle purchase is influenced by cost and fuel economy, other important factors such as environmental concerns, performance, and style also play an important part.

Comparison of fuel savings and incremental vehicle cost among various vehicle fuel types sheds light on how at least some consumers may perceive the value of purchasing a given vehicle fuel type relative to another.

Standard gasoline vehicles

The compliance fuel economy of midsize passenger cars using gasoline is projected to increase from approximately 35 miles/gal. to more than 53 miles/gal. in 2025 by adding fuel efficiency technology, including micro and mild hybridization. These additions raise the average vehicle price from approximately US$ 25 000 (2012) to more than US$ 27 000.

For a vehicle driven 12 000 miles/y, 116 gal. of fuel will be saved automatically compared to a midsize car today, or US$ 408/y if gasoline is US$ 3.50/gal. Because of diminishing returns from improved fuel economy, future highly efficient standard gasoline vehicles are a strong competitor compared with other vehicles fueled exclusively by motor gasoline, as well as with alternatively fueled vehicles.

TDI diesel vehicles

Compliance fuel economy for midsize turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel passenger cars increases from 45 miles/gal. in 2010 to 55 miles/gal. in 2025, while vehicle price remains approximately US$ 28 000. Although a midsize diesel vehicle achieves slightly higher fuel economy than a standard gasoline counterpart, this difference amounts to only about a 10 gal. reduction in annual fuel use for 12 000 miles of travel. Because diesel is more expensive than gasoline, the annual fuel cost is approximately US$ 25/y more if diesel is US$ 3.75/gal.

Hybrid electric vehicles

For fully hybrid vehicles (HEV), projected compliance fuel economy increases from 50 miles/gal. in 2010 to 71 miles/gal. in 2025. The vehicle cost remains just over US$ 30 000, as the addition of more fuel efficient technology is offset by the reduction in cost of the battery electric system. Because of diminishing returns to improved fuel economy, the 20 miles/gal. improvement of an HEV over a conventional gasoline counterpart represents only a 57 gal. annual reduction in gasoline consumption, approximately US$ 200/y in fuel savings.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

According to the EIA, these vehicles offer fuel savings because they use electricity instead of liquid fuel for some share of travel and then operate similarly to an HEV when usable battery charge is depleted.

For a plug-in hybrid electric with a 10 mile range (PHEV10) , approximately 21% of average daily travel is within all-electric range. In contrast, a plug-in hybrid electric with 40 mile range (PHEV40) accounts for an average of 58% of daily travel.

PHEV’s achieve relatively high fuel efficiency and take advantage of using electricity at 12 cents/kwh. PHEV incremental costs compared to a standard gasoline counterpart are US$ 8000 or more before tax credits, even considering projected battery systems cost reductions. Compared to a conventional gasoline counterpart, annual liquid fuel consumption is projected to be reduced by approximately 100 and 155 gal. for a PHEV10 and PHEV40 respectively, amounting to annual fuel savings of approximately US$ 207.

Plug-in electric vehicles (EVs)

EVs operate exclusively on battery power and achieve relatively high efficiency. An EV with a 100 mile range is projected to save approximately US$ 385 annual in 2025 compared to a standard gasoline vehicle. These fuel savings come at an incremental vehicle price before tax credits of approximately US$ 10 000.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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