Sunday 27 May 2018

Low US gas prices curbing green drive

Gas station
Gas station
Hy praise: Eddie in Hyundai Kona
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Right across the street from my Westin Hotel base in Pasadena, Los Angeles, a gallon of petrol costs $3.07c (€2.58c). That's nearly as cheap as it gets around here.

As you know, the US gallon converts to 3.785 litres, while our imperial gallon is 4.55 litres. But even allowing for that, petrol prices here are ridiculously low compared with ours.

I've spoken to drivers who are happy to get 16mpg to 18mpg. One of them drives a huge GMC with a 6.2-litre petrol engine - he wanted the security of power, he told me. He gets 14mpg around town.

I'm here testing out vehicles before my preliminary voting for the World Car of the Year Awards, and one thing has become immediately clear: a different mindset to ours prevails among ordinary drivers, even in California.

Manufacturers globally are striving to make cleaner, greener cars: electric, hybrid, plug-ins etc. Mass-market Europe as well as China are pushing hard on that front (California too, to be fair).

But somehow, I get the feeling here that while gas prices stay this low in this mega consumer market, the whole effort has the sense of a hand being partially tied behind the back.

Anecdotal evidence from industry sources I've spoken to here suggests the US love affair with the gas guzzler is strong and growing stronger, with greener cars not selling to the extent of previous years or as well as anticipated in 2017.

Incidentally, the cars on the list for World Green Car this year are the BMW 530e iPerformance, Chevrolet Cruze diesel, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Hyundai FE and the Nissan LEAF.

I expect the range and extent of future contenders to be much wider with the advent of more electrified models.

But I just wonder how much quicker that would manifest itself if things were different at US pumps.

Not that I wish higher fuel prices on anyone. And ours are high enough. But they are key reasons we're so constantly vigilant on what it costs to fuel our cars.

I know there are several major factors behind the greening of motoring, but ultimately how it affects our pockets determines our choice. As so many Americans are proving with their new gas guzzlers.

Indo Motoring

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