Gas Mileage Anxiety: Do YOU Get It?

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2011 Chevrolet Volt EPA sticker

2011 Chevrolet Volt EPA sticker

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Never mind range anxiety - that's old news these days. Most electric car owners say it lasts about a week after buying the car, and then you learn what you can and can't do.

Much more concerning is gas mileage anxiety, we think. What is gas mileage anxiety? Let us explain...

Back in the day, you'd buy a car, fill it with gas now and then, and be on your merry way. Simple!

Nowadays, you scour the price lists and fueleconomy.gov for a car with good gas mileage, because gas is getting expensive these days.

Then, you drive it out of the lot, and rather than looking where you're going, you spend the journey home with your eyes welded to the instant or average mpg displays, hoping grimly that you'll match the official EPA figures.

If you don't match them, then you sue the company responsible, even if the testing procedure is out of their hands.

If you do match them, then you allow yourself a small smile, a hint of relief and promise never to let the display dip below the figure on the window sticker. EVER.

That is gas mileage anxiety.

It's the pressure of matching the EPA figures, which may simply be out of reach. It's what makes you 'hypermile' to make the most of every single long-chain carbon molecule, and it's what makes mpg far more important than mph these days--because you need to get your money's worth from each four-dollar gallon.

Or five dollar gallon, if you're unlucky today. Or reading this tomorrow. Possibly.

And all the while, the insta-mpg display leers at you from the instrument cluster, smugly showing depressingly low numbers as the speedometer beside it goads you into an extra mile per hour or two.

Of course, if you've already made the switch to an electric car, then none of this will concern you. You'll have already got over your initial range anxiety--if you had any to start with--and as long as you make it to work and back, life is good.

But just spare a thought for those of us with gas-mileage anxiety. We're doing all we can...

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Comments (15)
  1. I still prefer the Voelcker, "bladder range anxiety" question. How long can you drive before you will need to take a bathroom break. That is the real question concerning many drivers.

  2. I agree. On longer trips I tend to match fuel stops with calls of nature, rather than the other way around.

  3. With my 2010 Golf TDI I always beat the EPA estimates pretty soundly, about 43mpg combined. Diesel cars have a pretty hard life in the US. For someone who does a lot of driving the TDI's are much nicer on the open road than a Prius. And yes, I have a Prius, too.

  4. Jim as a diesel driver I often wonder if you or other diesel users are aware of the trail of pollution sometimes left behind.I have followed many diesels here in the UK and regularly experience their dirty visual exhaust especially upon acceleration.I am constantly closing and opening the recirc vent to avoid inhaling this crap.Neither your Prius nor mine behaves in this manner.

  5. Wonder if that still happens with the modern diesels.

  6. Yes John here in the UK it seems every other car is a diesel,the year can be identified by the number plate and it's some of the latest one's spewing out this filth. Driving conditions are totally different from the USA with lots of erratic changes of speed and full acceleration situations. Engines get more abuse in this competitive driving environment which may be a factor.The bottom line it's happening and will get worse as these cars age or are denied proper service.

  7. It's nasty stuff, though marginally less nasty than particulates. Rather than the soot of old diesels, the stuff you see coming out the back of (usually VAG, I've found) diesels in the UK is ash - the results of the particulate soot being burned off in the filter.

    It's marginally less harmful, but still not particularly nice.

  8. Boy, there sounds like there is in interesting story in there. I have really bought the argument that clean diesels were clean, and now you make me doubt that. It would be nice if the ash could be collected.

  9. Don,

    The newer common rail diesels don't have the emissions of the earlier diesels. California went medieval on diesel emissions and so the new clean diesels are super clean. I can idle the Golf in the garage and not smell anything at all unlike the older VW TDI that will smoke you out. On acceleration, there is no smoke when viewed from a car behind.

  10. Great article. What many people fail to realize with an ICE is the amount of waste. Fully 3/4 of the fuel is spent on heat production, so if you are getting less than 20MPG it really doesn't help too much to hypermile - more than half your fuel is being used for heat, not propulsion.

  11. I have suffered from 'gas-mileage anxiety' ever since Bush's second term in office and gas prices went from $1.38 to $4.15. Let me see, do I have at least $50.00 to get a couple gallons of gas to get me home if I decide to take that hilly route and will there be gas stations through there??? ...maybe I can coast down hill and save a few ounces of gas. Oh, hell no! I'm going to run out of gas and get stranded out in the woods somewhere.

  12. It seems lithium batteries are going to be going by the wayside real soon; read this: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/04/xtreme-power-guns-for-electric-car-neighborhood-energy-storage-markets?cmpid=rss

  13. Not necessarily James it depends on the characteristics of this battery since stationary storage requirements from solar etc are different from traction batteries. Will wait and see before condeming lithium.

  14. Another aspect of Gas Mileage Anxiety is looking for the cheapest fill where against all logic people will drive out of their way to find it. Also if there is a natural or man made catastrophe or even the threat of, people panic buy just to keep their mobility in both cases this causes anxiety.With the rise of fuel cost there's probably more anxiety reasons to be found driving a ICE car than an EV.

  15. Excellent commentary on EVWorld titled - What's the TRUE Cost of Your ICE Age Automobile? Check it out.

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