Pumping Your Wallet Dry: Are Pickup Owners Paying Too Much at the Gasoline Pump?
By: Michael Levine Posted: 09-07-02 12:00
2002 © PickupTruck.com

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Late last month the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit
organization of scientists and citizens dedicated to improving the
environment, released the results of a study that revealed pickup truck owners pay more at the gasoline pump to keep their trucks moving than any other segment of vehicle owner.

Analyzing the 50 most popular cars and trucks sold in the United States in 2001, pickups took 6 of the top 10 spots as the most expensive vehicles to fill up, even though pickups make up only 20% of total vehicle sales.

Topping the list, at $1468, was the Dodge Ram 1500. Ram owners, according to the study, can expect to pay over $250 more per year on gas than the average light truck owner (pickups, minivans and SUVs), and nearly $13,000 for gas over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Also released in tandem with the report were the results of a national survey of 600 pickup truck owners from 38 states.

When asked if they favor or oppose government mandated increases in the average fuel economy of pickup trucks, a 76% majority of owners voiced their opinion in favor of higher fuel efficiency standards. Support dropped slightly after hearing opposing arguments representing the views of auto manufacturers, but 3/4 of the 76% still continued to support federal requirements stipulating increased fuel economy in pickups.

Would pickup truck owners be willing to pay extra for higher mileage trucks? 87% of pickup trucks owners surveyed said they would pay an additional $500 if they could expect to save $2000 at the pump over the lifetime of their truck.

Clearly those pickup truck owners who participated in the survey favor some type of increase in their truck's fuel economy.

The 10 Most Expensive Light Trucks and Cars to Fuel
Rank Light Trucks Cost of Fuel in 2002 Lifetime Fuel Cost
1 Dodge Ram 1500 $ 1,468 $ 12,721
2 Dodge Durango 1500 $ 1,433 $ 12,422
3 Ford Expedition $ 1,423 $ 12,337
4 Chevrolet Suburban $ 1,401 $ 12,145
5 Chevrolet Tahoe $ 1,368 $ 11,860
6 Toyota Tundra $ 1,340 $ 11,612
7 Ford F150 $ 1,316 $ 11,406
8 Dodge Dakota $ 1,301 $ 11,276
9 GMC Sierra $ 1,282 $ 11,107
10 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $ 1,266 $ 10,973
Average Light Truck $ 1,214 $ 10,502

But perhaps leveraging criticism prematurely, the report's author, David Friedman, stated "Automakers have fallen asleep at the wheel on fuel economy. It's time for manufacturers to give pickup drivers the gas mileage performance they want and deserve."

Following this view, the UCS report fails to make mention of current and upcoming research and action on the part of pickup truck manufacturers to increase fuel economy.

General Motors seems to be most active when it comes to improving engine efficiency. By 2004 GM plans to begin offering "Displacement-on-Demand" engines in V8 equipped pickups. Displacement on demand saves fuel by using only half of the engine's cylinders during most normal driving conditions. The system automatically and seamlessly reactivates the other cylinders when the driver needs the engine's full capabilities for brisk acceleration or load carrying.

GM claims a mileage boost of between 8 to 25 percent in miles per gallon while adding very little to the cost of the truck because DoD is almost totally controlled by the engine's computer control module.

And luckily for 2003 Ram owners' wallets, Dodge's all new 5.7-liter HEMI will soon replace the ancient 5.9-liter V8 across its entire line of pickups. The 5.9-liter Magnum engine is notorious for poor fuel economy while the HEMI promises at least an 8-10 percent bump in fuel economy, using technologies like dual ignition for improved combustion and aluminum components to reduce weight.

Dodge is also rumored to be hard at work on a cylinder deactivation system similar to GM's displacement on demand. It may be available as soon as 2004.

Ford isn't waiting around for government regulation either. It hopes to offer Hydraulic Launch Assist on its future pickups to improve fuel economy. Hydraulic Launch Assist recovers some of the energy lost during braking and converts and stores it as hydraulic pressure. During acceleration this stored energy is released and its torque applied to the driveshaft through the clutch. For 10-15 seconds all acceleration comes from the HLA system while the engine idles. This system may be ready as soon as 2006.

For more information, read the UCS report "Paying at the Pump" in Adobe Acrobat Format.

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