Driving: Gas

As an experiment, I refuelled my car last Saturday. This is not the end of my experimentation, as I have done this before. I also reset my trip computer on my car. This was done to see exactly how much driving I do in the US and how much “gas” I am using. In a week I drove 177.8 miles. This was several trips to work, to restaurants, to a friends to play with his child and watch football, and a few trips to the garage (don’t make me say it out loud) for a technical problem with the other car. Not too out of the ordinary for a week. This used ½ of my tank of gas. This, in the UK, would turn my hair grey. The reason for my strawberry blonde locks surviving is price and measurement.

Current gas prices are $2.50 a gallon in the US. A gallon (US) is approximately 3.8 litres. A dollar is approximately 67p. So, $2.50 = £1.67 for 3.8 litres, or 43p a litre. My references are not important. The UK is a rather high £1.16 a litre or, more comparatively, $6.61 a gallon. At anyrate, this isn’t news to anyone related to the oil industry. What is interesting is the size of my cars tank.

You see, to fill it from empty costs around $45. This means my tank is around a 19-20 gallon tank. (According to the fact sheet it’s actually 18 so we will use that) With some more mathematical acrobatics a 68 litre tank in real money. This means that to fill this tank in the UK it would cost me a stunning £80. Yikes. Luckily I don’t have to. Especially when you realise that my trip computer is telling me that I only managed 177 miles from half of that tank - £40 for 177 miles is insane. With a few more punches of my calculator i can work out that for my $45 input, assuming a 18 gallon tank, i managed an amazing 177 miles on 9 gallons or, 19.7 miles to a gallon. That’s the economy on the Ford Taurus I drive.

In the UK I manage a pretty respectable 38-42 miles to the gallon in my little 1.4L 77bhp frugal Fiat Punto compared to my 3.0L 152bhp Ford Taurus. It’s not surprising that I get half the economy. But that “half” economy is actually (truely) economical - ie better than my Punto – for the same amount of gas in each car, I will get further in the Punto – for ease let’s say 1 gallon in the Punto would take me 40 miles, where as in the Taurus it would take me 20 miles: exactly half. But in the UK that 1 gallon would cost me £4.41. In the US that gallon costs me $2.50, or £1.65. So, for half the distance travelled it’s costing me 37% of the price – in real terms that means that even though my car in the US is giving me half the “economy” of a UK car gallon for gallon, pound for pound it is give me better money results.

So, when I see my tank emptying I need to realise that I am actually paying less than I would in the UK for the same amount of gas – and in fact, I am paying much less for the same distances even when I am filling up more! And you wonder why people drive 5.7L Trucks out here. When you see that the new 2011 Ford Mustang GT is saying that it’s 31mpg is a selling point when in the UK I would baulk at such a rate, it is actually much better for my wallet than i could imagine.

Just don’t mention the environment.

(For the record, i am slowly changing my vernacular to suit the surroundings. I quietly whisper God Save the Queen each time I say “chips”, “lot” or “ride” rather than “crisps, “carpark” or “lift”, but gas other than petrol is the correct term in my eyes – Gas is short for Gasoline, which is the name for the refined petroleum, where we get the name petrol from. So, it’s technically more accurate to use the refined name rather than the unrefined name (in the technical sense of the word, not the refined nature of us) but that’s splitting hairs. Note that other countries use “benzene” and “naphtha” so maybe there’s no point in discussing it.)