Gas prices are falling. As of this writing, the average price of gas in the United States is below $3 per gallon. That’s likely good news for most people’s bank accounts. But, what might it mean for the environment? After all, when fuel price goes down, SUV, pickup truck, and minivan sales go up.
Consider some of the sales gains for several large vehicles in October:
- Lincoln Navigator sales were up by 38%
- GMC Sierra sales jumped 12.5%
- Ram pickup sales were up 33%.
Meanwhile, the Ford C-Max Hybrid saw sales fall by 22.5%, while the Toyota Prius fell by 13.5% in October. Clearly, these are stats that should be troubling to the clean vehicle movement.
But one American entrepreneur has devised a vehicle that is affordable enough to allow people to keep their large vehicles for utility and recreational purposes but still maintain their environmental consciousness via much more efficient commuting. Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors*, is launching a vehicle for $6,800 that will get up to 84 MPG. He calls it an “And” vehicle.
“We think people can keep their SUV, minivan or pickup truck, AND buy an Elio for solo commuting,” Elio said. “Large vehicles have a place – taking the family up to the lake on the weekend, driving the kids to hockey practice, or picking up supplies for home improvement projects on the weekend are all valid reasons. But, what happens during the week when you drive twenty miles to work. It makes no sense to do that in a gas-guzzling vehicle with six or seven empty seats.”
Elio is right. When it comes to commuting to work, the US Census Bureau says that 76.3% of people travel alone. Why not do so in a vehicle designed for solo commutes?
The American-made, three-wheeled Elio, which is slated to hit the market in 2015, is half the width of a traditional passenger vehicle and features unique front-to-back, two-person seating. The interior has a cockpit-like feel, almost like travelling in a small airplane. The benefits of the design are pretty simple. Half the mass moves half the air. It’s wind-drag that causes the biggest loss of fuel efficiency. By cutting down wind-drag, Elio Motors is making big strides in improving fuel efficiency.
The potential savings are pretty impressive. Consider a suburban commuter who lives 20 miles from their office. That’s 40 miles a day, round trip, 200 miles per week, and 10,000 miles per year. At $3 per gallon, commuting in an Elio would cost $537 annually. Commuting in a vehicle that gets 25 MPG would cost $1,200 annually. At $4 annually, those costs go to $716 for the Elio and $1,600 for the average vehicle… not to mention a vehicle with lower-than-average fuel economy.
The environmental benefits are there, too. Consider that one Elio will be more environmentally friendly than a cow. Here’s the math:
One cow produces about 110 kg or 242 pounds of methane a year through burps and flatulence. Methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2 over a 100-year period. The cow’s 242 pounds of methane, multiplied by 20, equals 4,840 pounds of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases. An Elio driven 20,000 miles will only produce 4,500 pounds of CO2… making an Elio more environmentally friendly than a cow.
The vehicle also has the potential to reduce dependence on foreign oil. When Elio Motors hits its sales targets, it is expected to reduce total oil consumption in the United States by 0.35%.
Paul Elio remains a big fan of efforts to build mass market hybrid and electric vehicles. But he’s also a realist and knows one size or one product does not fit all. He sees the Elio vehicle as a good supplement that many consumers will prefer.
Considering that the Elio is one-fifth the price of the leading hybrid, the company seems to be on the right path. Apparently, consumers agree. More than 37,000 people have reserved a spot in line to purchase an Elio when they roll off the assembly line.
*This article was sponsored by Elio Motors.