How would you encourage people to buy the least polluting and most cost effective vehicle?



Have you, or someone you know, bought a car recently? What factors were taken into consideration in choosing the car? Make and model, safety, reliability, how ‘cool’ it looks? For most people, the cost of the vehicle is a major factor that comes into play, and increasingly, people are also thinking about fuel economy. Fuel economy measures how far a car can travel on a gallon of gas – usually expressed as “miles per gallon” (MPG). The more miles per gallon a car can travel, the more efficient it is – which has both economic and environmental benefits. Going further on less fuel saves money. Plus a vehicle with high fuel economy does more to help protect the planet. Every gallon of gasoline burned releases roughly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So, the less gasoline a vehicle needs to travel a certain distance, the less carbon dioxide it will release during that journey.

Different makes and models of cars vary significantly in the miles they get per gallon – and the dollar amounts on their price tags! Does considering fuel economy in buying a car make sense (and cents)?

In this activity, you will go to a local new car dealership and find the least and most efficient vehicles for sale on their lot. Then you will determine if buying a vehicle that gets high gas mileage makes “cents” by comparing its cost, fuel economy, and environmental impact to the vehicles available.


1. Familiarize yourself with the Fuel Economy Label used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rate the fuel economy of new cars for both in-city and highway driving. These ratings are given in miles per gallon (mpg) and are posted on the windows of each car. Take a look at the sample label provided at the back of the worksheet and make sure you understand how to interpret the information it contains.

2. Go to a new car dealership and find the least fuel efficient vehicle, the least fuel efficient gas vehicle, and the most fuel efficient hybrid (if they have one). Make sure they are this year’s model

3. Take 2 photos with each of the vehicles one showing the EPA Fuel Economy sticker and one showing you and the vehicle. This is your proof you completed the assignment as tasked. Attache the photos to the worksheet before you upload it to the web site. If you cannot physically visit a dealership you must contact me ASAP.

4. Fill in the information about the vehicles in Rows 1-3 in Table 1.

5. Complete the calculations in Rows 4-5 to estimate the how much fuel each vehicle would use each year, and the related CO2 emissions. Assume the vehicles would travel 15,000 miles per year, in combined driving conditions. Make sure you show all your calculations and math work.

6. In Row 6, enter the current price for a gallon of unleaded gas.

7. Determine how much it would cost to fuel each vehicle for one year.

8. Assume the vehicle would be owned for ten years and driven in the same conditions for 15,000 miles each year.

9. Calculate the 10-year cost of the vehicle (fuel costs for ten years plus the original purchase price).

TABLE 1: VEHICLES LIFE CYCLE COST Show all calulations

Least Fuel Efficient Vehicle Most Fuel Efficient Gas Vehicle Most Fuel Efficient Electric/Hybrid Vehicle
1 Year, make and model
2 Purchase price
3 Record the Combined Fuel Economy – read this off of the EPA sticker. This is the MPG
4 Calculate the gallons used per year (based on driving 15,000 miles per year and the MPG above)
5 Calculate the pounds of CO2 produced per year (One gallon of gas burned produces 20lbs of CO2.)
6 Price per gallon of regular unleaded gas $________________ PERGALLON
7 Calculate the amount spent on gas in one year of driving (in $) (price x gallons/year based on 15,000 miles per year)
8 Calculate how much you would spend on gasoline over 10 years of driving the vehicle.
9 Calculate the life cycle cost. The purchase price of the vehicle plus the cost of the gas it uses while being driven for 10 years equals its life cycle cost.

Post your answers to rows 5 and 9 to the Q&A forum on the class web site. Include the year, make and model of all 3 of the vehicles you found.



1. What is life cycle cost?

2. Would it be more economical, over the life of the vehicle to buy a vehicle that gets high or low MPG. Explain your answer.

3. By to talking to other members of the class which vehicles are the most cost efficient over their life cycle? (list both gas and hybrid)

4. By talking to the other members of the class is it more cost efficient to by a hybrid vehicle or a high gas mileage vehicle? (Remember we are looking at life cycle cost) Explain why this is so.

5. How many pounds of CO2 would you save over ten years by buying the more efficient vehicle?

6. Having compared several vehicles through this activity, what are the main factors that would influence your choice of vehicle?

7. How would you encourage people to buy the least polluting and most cost effective vehicle?

New Fuel Economy Label

This is the number you need to record

Remember that the actual mileage a vehicle gets will vary: The label includes a reminder that there are many reasons why your actual fuel economy may vary from the estimates. See for fuel-saving tips.

For more information: The label provides a Web address where you can find out more information. See the FREE Fuel Economy Guide at dealers or online at

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