On the Mark: Squeezing more out of every drop

MARK STRAIN

While the economy may be getting better for some people, the high price of gasoline is definitely having a chilling effect on a swift recovery. Gasoline is a factor in everything; especially when products have farther to travel before reaching consumers.

Eventually the nearly doubling of the price of gas will work its way into escalating prices for every purchase whether it is food, hardware or electronics. On top of paying more for nearly all products, filling up at the pump is much more painful for those of us that need to drive…but we do have a small amount of control over how much gas we use.

While there are several options to reduce the amount of gas we need, not all of them are easily accomplished. Buying one of the hot new hybrids or electric cars is a good idea if you can afford it and the use of such a compact vehicle can meet your needs. Many of us might just have to stay with our existing vehicles a bit longer and that means getting the best we can out of every gallon of gas we purchase.

As I stood at the pumps filling up lately I began reading (finally) those in-your-face placards of mass marketing materials plastered across and on top of the gas pumps. I never paid much attention to them until recently and decided to try and find out if any of the claims actually helped my bottom line...more bang for the buck so to speak.

First off, this is not intended to be a scientifically based analysis, just my own practical observations. Probably something most oil companies have never resorted to. I decided to take a long trip, 2,497 miles to be exact, this past month and try 5 different brands of gasoline over a variety of conditions and then keep good records on how each performed.

My anticipation was that gas is gas, it is all the same and the oil company advertising is just marketing propaganda. I also have no bias for or against one gasoline over any other, nor am I lucky enough to own stock in any of them.

I had taken this same trip before, stopping at the same stations and used records from last year as a bench mark against this new trip so there was some sort of comparison. I expected the statistics from last year to be similar to now.

The engine used was a gas guzzling 8.1 Liter GMC Vortex with an Allison automatic transmission. Road conditions varied from flat lowlands to rolling hills and even mountains. Weather conditions included rain, fog and sunshine. Trip speed averaged 61.5 mph. The vital statistics were taken on the road from a Garmin GPS. All gasoline was what is considered “regular” (a.k.a.: the least expensive).

Five different brands of gasoline were used: Mobil, Shell, BP, Horizon and Sunoco. They were picked only because they were convenient to the various interchanges where I stopped.

Believe it or not, there was a clear distinction between the performances of the gasoline. I ran them each twice under two different conditions through more than 40 hours of driving and I am surprised to say that there was a difference.

BP came out solidly on top. BP gas provided a mileage differential of 16.9 percent over the lowest performer. The lowest performer, getting the worst mileage per gallon was Shell, which also was a surprise with the depth and reputation of such a well-funded company.

Sunoco was also well below the average while Mobil was slightly above average and Horizon even better. But neither was close to the difference in mileage provided by BP gasoline.

I checked BP’s marketing and they seem to focus on the same idea as the others brands with additives doing this and that in an engine to keep it clean and working better, with one exception. BP claims to be using some of the upgraded additives in their regular gas that was once exclusive to their premium brands. They just put more of whatever it is in their premium brand and less into the regular gas.

Maybe that is why this purely practical and unscientific test came out the way it did or maybe it was just a tired lead foot that was sometimes imprecise and affected the outcome. Then again, maybe the reason scientific tests get different results is that they are too mechanical and don’t provide for the human factor enough.

For now, I am going to use BP more often, drive less and make my stops as efficient as possible. With today’s prices, every little bit will help.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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