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Posted: 9:52 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012

New car technology will make gas less of a burden on your wallet

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By Clark Howard


What percent of your income is spent on gas? That depends largely on where you live in the country.

In Mississippi, residents spend almost a dime of every dollarthey make  -- the highest in America. By contrast, look at the state of Connecticut, where gas is typically more expensive than a gallon in Mississippi. Yet in Connecticut, it's only roughly 3 cents of every dollar somebody makes that goes to gasoline.

When I talk about raising the gas tax, I come across as out of touch. People react negatively. For those who have long commutes, the cost of filling your tank several times a week is a brutal personal expense.

But yet one consideration in dealing with fiscal cliff is raising the gas tax to encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The nation's automakers are overwhelmingly in favor, almost without exception, of having much higher standards for fuel economy. They already have to do it for the rest of the world, so it's cheaper for them if they if they don't have to build gas guzzlers for the U.S. and gas sippers everywhere else.

Ford has announced a 3-cylinder engine with a lot of pickup that uses a technology they're calling EcoBoost. It is a turbo-charged 3-cylinder that will average more than 40 miles per gallon (gas engine version).

We are on the cusp of more and more innovations in the car market. The question is, do we want to buy them?

If you buy something twice as efficient as what you have right now, you cut your effective cost of gas in half.

I think about my Nissan Leaf. It's fast, efficient, and costs about nothing to run. But I can't go very far because of the short range. Thankfully, the next version of the Leaf is cheaper and has much better range than mine and charges quicker.

That's how it goes when you're a pioneer on the technology curve. You pay a price for it.

More and more, you can choose to buy something much more fuel efficient. Ford has come out with an array of midsized hybrid vehicles that averages 45 mpgs. That's impressive stuff. And the price between a regular gas engine and a hybrid is getting smaller and smaller over time.

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