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The term originally came into use in the US when congress established Gas Guzzler Tax provisions in the Energy Tax Act of 1978 to discourage the production and purchase of fuel-inefficient vehicles. The gas guzzler tax had applied only to cars (not trucks) and was collected by the IRS.
The term extends to all fuel-inefficient vehicles, from antiquated V8 American classics to Italian-bred sports cars. A Lamborghini Murciélago, a Plymouth Roadrunner, and a Hummer H1 might all be classified as gas-guzzlers, though they are very different cars.
Reasons for bad fuel economy
There are several reasons for bad fuel economy in cars, vans and trucks:
- Heavy weight: A heavy vehicle requires more work to accelerate than a lighter vehicle, requiring more powerful (larger displacement) engine with higher fuel consumption to achieve a similar power-to-weight ratio.
- Large drag coefficient: A less aerodynamic vehicle must deflect a greater volume of air when moving at the same speed than a more aerodynamic one. To overcome this drag, a more powerful engine with higher fuel consumption is needed.
- Higher Power: A car with a bigger, more powerful engine will have a bigger displacement and use more fuel in the process.
- Non-Daily use specialty vehicles: Some cars are not designed primarily for daily, mainstream use such as commuting but for other purposes in which impact of fuel economy is negligible. For example, a sports car designed for a limited amount of recreational use would have handling and driver satisfaction as a main focus instead of fuel economy.
Means to decrease fuel consumption
Then there is the reduction of vehicle weight, with a switch to monocoque construction instead of body on frame construction and an increased use of lightweight materials, aluminium, plastics and high strength HSLA steels instead of ordinary mild carbon steel.
Gas-guzzlers are not only seeing a scale back in engine size and weight but also in the type of fuel used to power it to prevent environmental damage caused by the use of fossil fuels. The problem with these alternative fuel technologies is that they are either too expensive for widespread use and/or they are scarcely available especially in smaller countries.
Diesel technology is widespread in light trucks, especially in Japan and Europe. The bad reputation of diesel fuel and the previously bad quality of the fuel, however, have led to the rarity of such vehicles in the U.S market. The excessive particle emissions of diesel engines have also been cut back with particulate filters, which are offered for most modern diesel engines.
Driving habits and vehicle maintenance are easy to change and can have a big impact on fuel efficiency. Sudden acceleration, poorly maintained vehicles (frequency of oil changes and brand) and gasoline brands can also impact overall fuel efficiency by over 20%.
Gas guzzler tax
The U.S government introduced the Gas Guzzler Tax as a part of the Energy Tax Act. The tax was introduced to tax the purchase of inefficient vehicles at the same time that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were introduced. The Gas Guzzler Tax applies only to vehicles classified as cars, as opposed to light trucks. Since 1991, cars with a combined fuel economy rating under 22.5 mpg-US (10.5 L/100 km; 27.0 mpg-imp) miles per gallon have been subject to the tax. Light trucks, which includes virtually all sport-utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans, are not subject to the tax.
The primary criticism of the tax is that it does not apply to light trucks. As a result, relatively few vehicles are subject to the tax. When the tax was first introduced, light trucks were viewed as primarily work related vehicles. With the shift towards consumer uses for SUVs and pickups, the original rationale for exempting trucks is considered invalid by critics of the current tax law.
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