As we see the numbers roll up on the gas pump and our pockets drain out, we are experiencing daily cardiac arrest. We want to blame the Senate for not passing oil price freezes or the big oil companies who are sucking up the highest profits in decades. We criticize the President of the United States and vow to buy a bicyle to get to and from work, school, the mall and church.

Then we start asking questions:

  1.  Why are gasoline prices so high?
  2.  When will they come down?
  3.  How can I pay for a tank of gas this week?

But questions like these do not have definitive answers. There may not be answers to these questions but there are solutions to fuel efficiency while the powers that be are battling with rising gas prices.

Around 15% of the energy from fuel that we put into our vehicles is used to drive down the road and to run accessories such as air conditioning. That leaves 85% of the energy lost, yes, LOST to engine inefficiencies, driveline timing inaccuracies and improper idling of engines. Today, there are technologies which can increase engine efficiency 5% to 13% then ultimately, promote fuel conservation.

Cylinder Deactivation increases efficiency around 7%. Cylinder Deactivation is simply deactivating cylinders when they are not needed to run the car. So a 8 or 6 cylinder engine temporarily will convert to a 4 or 3 cylinder. Direct Fuel Injection increases efficiency by 12% and creates a $3,200 saving over the life of a vehicle. These technologies are basically for the manufacturers to develop and implement in the vehicles we will drive one day. In the meantime, we need to know the “hottie” cars with the best fuel efficiency.

Toyota has six models that are listed in the top 10 fuel efficiency vehicles. The Toyota models range from 29 miles per gallon (MPG) – Toyota Celica to 60 MPG for the Toyota Prius. The Toyota Echo comes in 2nd at 35 MPG for city driving, right along with the Scion XA and Corolla at 32 MPG. The Scion XB finishes the list of Toyota fuel efficient cars, at 31 MPG. The highway miles per gallon for each of the Toyota vehicles is 6 MPG more, except for the Toyota Prius.

The Toyota Prius actually drops to 51 MPG on highway driving. This particular vehicle has a variable automatic transmission (CVT). The CVT does not have the traditional fixed set of gear cominations but rather allows an almost limitless number of engine speeds to vehicle speed ratios. Complicated? Well, maybe it is, but what we want to know is that CVT improves fuel efficiency because there is a seamless acceleration from a complete stop up to highway cruising speed.

The last 3 “hottie” fuel efficiency vehicles are the Honda Insight checking in at 60 MPG and the Honda Hybrid with 48 MPG in the city and 47 MPG for highway miles. Last, but not least, is the vehicle we fondly refer to as the “Beetle” or the “Bug”. Volkswagen checks in at 38 MPG for city miles and 46 for highway miles.

Hybrids are the all time “hottie” fuel efficient cars that are filling the car lots and driving right into our garages. Hybrid cars combine a gasoline engine and a battery powered electric motor to suck up less gas and release less polution.

In days gone by, we purchased vehicles according to their eye appeal. Today, the sleek bodies and “wow” colors may still be on the list but the real “hottie” vehicles are those that consume the least amount of $3 per gallon gas. Fuel efficiency is in the new equation when we set out car shopping.