By Bill Moore
Posted: 27 Oct 2010
"Honey, will you fill up the car?" my wife shouted to me from the upstairs bathroom yesterday. She was getting ready for work and knew she wouldn't have time. The gas gauge on the Prius showed one bar remaining, about 15% of tank. I had a conference call in 15 minutes, but a station is just a half mile from the house.
"I've got a call in 15 minutes," I responded. "You should have enough to get to work."
"But we have that party tonight," she reminded me. "I won't have time to do it after work."
"Okay," I relented. I grabbed the wireless key fob, shoved my wallet in my back pocket, and headed into the garage.
Now this routine is probably repeated a zillion times a day around the planet, but I think I can rightly claim this particular trip is unique, at least for Omaha. You see, the last time we filled the car's gasoline tank (E10 actually) was over two months ago. In that time, we'd driven 961 miles. When the pump automatically shut off, the meter showed it had taken just 8.69 gallons (32.9L) to fill it up.
Do the math. That's equivalent to 110.5 miles per gallon!
Of course, you have to figure in the electric power we consumed, since our Prius is also a plug-in, the only one of three in the state to my knowledge. The other two belong to Omaha Public Power District. My wife's 11-mile commute consumers around 4.3kWh a day, according our Kill-a-watt meter. At our current electric power rate, that's about 30¢ a day. I estimate that over that 9 week period, we used 193kWh of electricity, costing us $13.15 to run the car, plus the $23.03 it cost to fill it with E10, or a total of $36.18. That works out to be 3.76¢ per mile.
Now, admittedly, we here in Nebraska are pretty fortunate for having some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation, largely because of cheap coal from neighboring Wyoming. In a conversation I had with Terry Johnston at the EDTA this morning, I learned that the average consumer electricity rate in Connecticut is 20¢/kwh. At that point it starts to make a lot of sense to install solar to charge the car, which frankly is the direction we all need to go.
But I have to tell you, regardless of where the electric power comes from, it really feels good driving on locally-produced energy. Last night, we attended a fund-raising birthday party for Tom White, a local Democratic candidate for Congress. As a last minute thought, I gave him a copy of my book, Electrifying Ride: The Lost Decade, and mentioned that on the drive over to the Field Club, where the gathering was held, we got 83 mpg. When it came time for Tom to address the group of 40-50 supporters, it was one of the first things he mentioned in his brief remarks.
As Terry Johnston pointed out, however, this is a very bipartisan issue. I am sure the incumbent, Lee Terry, would be just as supportive. We all, regardless of political leanings, understand the economic, environmental, and strategic imperative for the need to reduce our dependence on petroleum. Our Plug In Conversions Corporation-upgraded Prius demonstrates one promising pathway towards doing exactly that.
But even without going to the considerable expense of installing a conversion kit or buying a new hybrid, we can and are reducing our dependence on oil in America. Tom Whipple, the editor of Peak Oil Review, brought to my attention this morning a Bloomberg News article that notes U.S. gasoline demand fell 1.7% last week, "the largest week-to-week" decline since September 10th. Consumption has fallen 2.7% from a year earlier. Now, of course, much of this can be attributed to the still-struggling economy, but given the increasing number of Priuses and Insights I see running around Omaha, usually one of the last places in America to adapt new technology, I'll bet some of that drop can also be attributed to more efficient cars on the road, though none nearly as good at NOT burning gasoline, as LIVN GRN, our 2009 plug-in Prius.
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