Toyota Prius Fuel Economy and other thoughts by Rick Butler
With 9336 kilometres behind us, Emili (out Toyota Prius) has snacked on 446 litres of gas for an average of 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres ( app. 60 mile per gallon ) at a cost of $384.00 ( average of 84 cents per litre ). Her best performance to date is Winnipeg to Crookston, Minnesota with an average of 4.1 litres per 100 km, a very flat smooth highway on an extremely still day. Her worst mileage was Swift Current to Regina, an average of 5.4 litres per 100 km into a strong head wind. Most surprising was the trip from Winnipeg to Thompson and back, Emili drank at a rate of 4.8 litres per 100 km. I thought the mileage would have been better considering the route is generally level and we did not seem to have much head wind. Emili is not getting near the Toyota stated fuel economy of 4.0 city and 4.2 highway. She is improving however; the last 3 fill-ups her average was 4.3, probably due in no small part to the 55 mile per hour speed limit, and sticking to the back highways, we continually must slow to 30 or 35 miles per hour in the never ending stream of very small towns. Although this is not a conclusive trend I am encouraged and will continue to improve my own driving habits in an attempt to reach the stated fuel economy. Being pushed by traffic up hills exacerbates her economy. If climbing a hill with no one behind, we can let Emili slow down to keep her revs low, and with the assistance of the electric engine her rate of imbibing is far less than it is when traffic is on her “hiney” chasing her up hill at highway speed.
At 84 cents per litre for gas North Americans enjoy the cheapest fuel prices in the world. Thus far in the States we have seen gas prices from 62 cents per litre ($1.79 U.S. per gal) to 70 cents per litre ($2.03 U.S. per gal.). No wonder we have become so dependant on the stuff and squander it so. The most popular vehicles sold in North America are S. U. V.s that get about 18 miles to the gallon, not to mention the pollutants being added to the air we breathe from their very large exhaust pipes. The consumer class in China and India are growing by leaps and bounds and they want what we in North America have had for decades, which will increase the demand exponentially on our already limited caches of oil. Vehicle sales grew by 70 per cent in China last year and India is close behind. Vehicles consume about half of the total oil produced. Oil is gulped up in the production of many disposable products that our consuming nation has become accustomed to, such as: polyesters, plastics, furniture, paints, clothing, computers, and printer cartridges (about 3 quarts is needed for 1 cartridge); the list is in the thousands. Changing our buying habits and opting for products that are not oil based would have a tremendous impact on reducing the drain of oil reserves.
Oil production peaked (growth in demand surpassed the falling rate of supply) in the U. S. in 1970 and in North America as a whole in 1984. Many recent studies by a critical mass of scientists conclude that global oil output will peak in 2010. The International Energy Agency predicts that there will be a 20 per cent shortfall of production to meet the demands for oil by as early as 2020. Global discovery has been declining for decades.
The real issue is not “when” our demand will outstrip supply, but rather the fact that we are squandering more than mother earth can provide, so it is “inevitable” that the supply of oil will diminish. We are finding about 1 barrel of new oil for every 6 barrels consumed. It took millions of years and dead dinosaurs to produce our liquid gold; is that going to occur again in our life time or that of our children or grand children?
I believe mankind will find ways to move from our oil based economy; however, this won’t happen until we are forced to pay higher prices for fossil fuels so that alternatives become competitive. Governments need to stop granting oil subsidies and invest those dollars in other types of energy production. Higher fuel costs will induce conservation of what we have left. Higher fuel prices will cause us to invest in the technologies necessary to move us away from oil and into our next evolution of energy.
Car manufacturers moving toward hybrid vehicle technology is a positive step in the right direction. Something we can all do when considering our next vehicle purchase is to think of a smaller more fuel efficient engine or a hybrid to both reduce our fuel costs and dependency on fossil fuels.