Cross-Country On 2 Gallons Of Gas? Sorta, But Not Really

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2009 Toyota Prius

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If we told you someone had driven across the U.S. on only two gallons of gas, you'd probably be quite impressed.

Cliff Ricketts did just this. After around 2,582 miles and with a support team, he used only 2.15 gallons of gasoline.

That doesn't tell the whole story though, because Cliff used other fuel sources too, including solar, electric, ethanol and hydrogen, to complete the journey.

Don't be too disheartened--the point of Tennessee State University professor Cliff's journey was to show that long journeys are possible without relying exclusively on gasoline, and that there are other suitable ways to power your vehicle.

That means, in his convoy, all Toyotas, were a hydrogen-powered 1994 Tercel and 2005 Prius--burning in a combustion engine, rather than powering a fuel cell--and a plug-in Prius conversion using E95 (5 percent gasoline) with 20 kWh of battery backup. With all those power sources, only 2.15 gallons of pump gas were required for the journey.

Still, not many people would be able to replicate Cliff's feat. After all, not many people would have trucks following them to carry hydrogen for them--a sign of how rare the fuel still is. Cliff also wanted to use--but couldn't find--cellulosic ethanol.

His motivation? Speaking to ABC News, he said “In case there was a national emergency now, it wouldn’t be unrealistic for gas to go to $10 or $15 a gallon in the U.S. If that happens, people will go, ‘What do we do?’ Well, we’ve got a backup plan.”

We congratulate Cliff on his journey, but can't help feeling that, while laudable, his drive also serves to remind us that the network of hydrogen and ethanol in this country isn't yet suitable for others to easily repeat his 2.15-gallon feat.

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