gas guzzler



Gas-guzzler commonly refers to a vehicle that makes inefficient use of fuel.

The term came into wide use to describe the "Gas Guzzler Tax" and after that while discussing environmental concerns related to climate change and smog.

Nowadays, gas-guzzlers are often SUVs or other semi-large vehicles that qualify as light trucks, so they do not need to obey the minimum fuel economy regulations of cars; however, gas-guzzler can also refer to classic cars (mostly American ones with large displacement V8 engines) and other cars that have poor fuel economy. For example, a Lamborghini Murcielago, a Plymouth Roadrunner, and a Chevrolet Tahoe might all be classified as gas-guzzlers, though they are very different cars.

Common examples of 'gas-guzzlers' include:

Reasons for bad fuel economy

There are generally three large reasons for bad fuel economy in all of the cars mentioned:

  • Large displacement engines. A large displacement engine requires more fuel to run it than a smaller engine, with the only exception applying to forced induction engines.
  • Small displacement engines. An excessively small engine often requires more fuel to run than a moderately bigger engine which can deliver more power per piston bore than its smaller equivalent. A smaller engine has to work twice as hard to deliver adequate power, thus consuming more fuel than had the engine had a slightly bigger engine capacity. This situation is often found in Ireland where a motor taxation system is used which taxes cars based on engine capacity.
  • 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.

As we can see, most SUVs and pickup trucks share all the qualities needed to be inefficient, whereas, for instance, supercars usually have only a large displacement engine, making the light truck market with their added popularity very criticizable for causing increase in the use of fuel.

Gas-guzzlers in work use

Light trucks such as pickups and SUVs are often used in working environments due to their powerful engines which generate a lot of torque and horsepower required in heavy hauling and towing of trailers. Many people who oppose the use of gas-guzzlers (such as environmentalists) don't mind or even endorse the use of these vehicles in work use, because even a large-engined light-duty vehicle usually is more fuel efficient than a medium-duty more serious work vehicle.

Means to decrease fuel consumption

The increasing trend is to make engines smaller yet more efficient. For example, removing a V8 and replacing it with a supercharged V6 results in much better fuel economy without compromising on power or ability. This trend is mainly caused by the declining popularity of fuel inefficient vehicles due to rising gas prices.

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. For example, some light truck manufacturers are adopting hydrogen fuel technology in order to provide the consumer a vehicle with a much lower running cost. 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. The introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in the U.S. along with rising gas prices might make diesel-powered vehicles popular again in the United States.

Driving habits and vehicle maintenance are easy to change and can have a big impact on fuel efficiency. Driving at 120 km/h (75 mph) can consume 25% more fuel than cruising at 100 km/h (60 mph) since automobiles are optimized to run in the 60-100 km/h (40-60 mph) range. 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 miles per gallon (approx. 10.5 L/100km) 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 no longer obviously valid.

See also


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