The Cheapest Way to Power Your Car

If you had the right ride, hydropower could lop 2/3 off your gas bills.

Dec 18, 2007 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:13 AM


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With the price per barrel of crude oil at a formerly panic-inducing $90, and at the pump, the price in many areas is no longer just flirting with $3 a gallon. Imagine a world without gas-­guzzling combustion engines (it’s easy if you try), where much of our technology isn’t dependent on oil. We could then look objectively at how much each unit of energy—usually measured in Btu—costs and judge which energy sources make the most economic sense. Granted, a nuclear-powered car is not a likely alternative, but if it were possible to get other energy sources at the current taxed or subsidized cost into the gas tank, here’s how the costs would compare.

Information based on national averages from the Energy Information Administration, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, all offshoots of the Department of Energy. Power plants measure energy in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and one kWh is equivalent to 3,413 Btu, or about 3 percent of the energy in one gallon of gasoline.

*Based on California’s high average price per kilowatt-hour, according to the California Energy Commission.

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