It seems like every car you see advertised on TV these days is either a hybrid or an electric. A lot of shows poke fun at vehicles that run on alternative fuels such as biodiesel, but these cars exist and many drivers are very happy with them. So, what happened to gasoline? Are the days of pure gasoline-powered vehicles coming to an end?
Gasoline is an extremely effective fuel for vehicles. I know it sounds strange to hear that in the modern age, but consider the fact that the best consumer all-electric car will only take you about 100 miles before requiring refueling. This is roughly the same distance as the 1909 Baker, an all-electric car that ran off alkaline batteries in the early 1900s. Yes, electric car technology is that old.
Advances made in the Tesla and and with hybrid technology have created new methods of getting more bang for your electric buck. The Tesla Model S boasts a 300-mile range per charge at a constant speed of 55 MPH. That’s very significant, though you’ll need to be around a charging station to make that work. Tesla is only now starting to make these stations available to owners. These vehicles start at about $50,000.
Hybrid cards provide a significant bonus in gas mileage by generating electricity through the motion of the wheels. Acting as turbines, the wheels actually charge a battery that is capable of assisting in powering the car. Under the hood, you’ll see a very small gas engine next to a very large battery. Neither of these technologies is particularly revolutionary, though the combination of the two makes it easier to save money at the pump.
The problem with hybrids today is that they’re slow and underpowered. I own a 2008 Prius, and I had to quickly learn that a lead foot doesn’t exactly equal a speedy takeoff from an intersection. It still surprises me how fast my wife’s Ford Escape is by comparison. Performance is very important to a lot of drivers, and that’s one of the reasons the Prius is commonly made fun of for being a wimpy car. It is a wimpy car, but it works!
Propane is another interesting alternative fuel. The EPA estimates that as many as 350,000 vehicles currently on the road in the US are fueled by propane. Over 5,000 fueling stations can be found around the country, as well. Propane offers a slightly higher combustion ratio than gasoline and a conversion to propane isn’t terribly difficult. The benefits of using propane are largely found in the environmental impact of using it as opposed to the financial implications. It’s a tough sell to someone who doesn’t really have an active interest in saving the environment or cutting emissions.
I believe that as long as the price of performance non-hybrid vehicles remains out of reach for the average consumer, we won’t soon see the death of the gas-powered car. Hybrids are where the future looks to be heading, but we’ll need a much more compelling pull than an underpowered sedan or a slow SUV to make it happen.