If modern cars had the same size gas tanks as cars once had, the range disparity between them an electric cars would be even more startling than it is – and electric cars would look even more ridiculous than they do, to minds capable of appreciating the humor of it.
Most any new or late-model non-electric car can go about 350-400 miles on the highway, on a full tank of gas. This is still significantly farther than most electric cars can travel on a full charge – and the gas-powered car can be ready for another 350-400 miles in just a few minutes, while the electric car will be moored to a “fast” charger for at least 30 minutes – assuming you get there first and don’t have to wait at least 30 minutes for the car ahead of you to “fast” charge.”
And hope it’s not a fiery charge.
But if today’s cars carried more gas, they’d be able to go much farther – and without the bother (or the burn).
Most only carry 12-16 gallons, even V8-powered performance cars like the current Ford Mustang GT. Its 16 gallon tank – which would appropriate for an economy car – serves to reduce its highway range to 449.5 miles. That still gets you much farther down the road than you could travel in even the “longest range” electric cars, like a Tesla equipped with its optional (and costs-you-several-thousand-dollars-more) higher-capacity battery pack, which increase the car’s maximum range to 353 miles (but does nothing to reduce the wait – or the risk of a fire).
Most “gas hogs” can go farther – more cheaply and easily – than any energy hog electric car. They could go a lot farther, too – because unlike electric cars, it would be easy and cheap to increase their range – by the simple expedient of increasing the size of their tanks.
If the current Mustang GT had an appropriate-sized tank, which would be around 20-21 gallons – as was once typical for a car of this type (like this writer’s generally similar 1976 Pontiac Trans-Am) it would have a highway range in excess of 500 miles, without significantly adding to the cost of the car – which could still also be refueled in minutes without any increased risk of fire, unless you did something really stupid such as light a match.
Most current economy cars would feel a lot more economical, too, if they carried 15-18 gallons rather than the now-usual 12. A car that got say 40 miles-per-gallon could travel more than 700 miles on a full tank. And if the car were diesel-powered and averaged 50 miles-per-gallon and had an 18 gallon tank, you’d be good to go for 900-plus miles.
So why do most modern cars carry so little gas?
The ironical answer is – once again – because of government working so very hard to “save you money” . . . on gas. I wrote earlier (here) about the effect of government fuel efficiency regulations – which is a nice way of saying, federal decrees ordering new car manufacturers to squeeze some arbitrary and ever-increasing number of miles-per-gallon out of every car they make.
“Compliance” – as it is styled – can be achieved expensively and so overtly via technology, as via such technologies as direct injection (rather than less complex and less expensive port fuel injection) and ten and nine speed transmissions with several rather than just one overdrive gear. These technologies have added hundreds and even thousands to the cost of a new car, which would otherwise cost less rather than more due to increases in manufacturing efficiencies, economies of scale and so on.
Government also costs you via obvious annoyances, such as ASS – the automatic stop/start “technology” afflicting almost all new cars that automatically turns off the engine at every red light, then spins it back on – after a noticeable pause and a noticeable sensation and sound – when the driver pushes on the accelerator pedal.
But the subtler way government duns you – indirectly – is by pressuring the car manufacturers to shave weight wherever possible, which costs you in ways you don’t see as easily – as I got into in my previous article on this topic. As via extremely thin body panels that cost you in the form of being much more susceptible to damage (and thus, impart higher insurance premiums). As via lightweight parts – like thin steel brake rotors and aluminum engine blocks – that must be replaced rather than machined when they wear out.
And via a gas gauge needle that goes toward empty, sooner – and a car that makes you stop for gas, more often.
Gas being heavy, you see.
12-16 gallons (in a plastic tank) weighs considerably less than 21.5 gallons (in steel). One gallon of gas weighs about 6 pounds, so the difference between 16 gallons and 21 gallons amounts to about 30 pounds – and while that may not sound like a lot of weight to you, it is the equivalent difference of going from a cast iron to an aluminum cylinder head, which is another thing practically every new car features. And because they do feature them – as well as paper-thin body panels and in many cases, aluminum bodies, the car companies are running out of weight-saving ideas.
Cars – sedans, especially – have also gotten smaller and so there’s simply less room underneath for a larger tank. And the tanks must be designed around the various “safety” regulations, which constrain shape and location to a degree that they didn’t, when most cars carried around 20 gallons of gasoline.
The irony here is that while Herculean efforts are exerted toward overcoming the electric car’s inherently gimped range via very expensive – and inherently dangerous – “fast” recharging systems, increasing the range of non-electric cars could be achieved at almost no cost and without the slightest increase in danger.
Of course, that begs the question about why so much effort is being exerted to push electric cars onto the market, when more efficient, practical and affordable alternatives already exist and could be made much more so.
*Thanks to reader Brian M for inspiring this article!
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