One of these days, gasoline may go the way of oats, hay
The issue of gas mileage is really one of dollar mileage. An automobile's miles per gallon become more important as the cost of gasoline increases.
The Washington Post recounts a publicity stunt conducted by the American Automobile Association in 1910 to show that an automobile achieved more miles per dollar than a horse and carriage.
The association staged a six-day event in which a Maxwell Model Q touring car traveled 458 miles and a horse covered 197 miles.
The horse went about 30 miles per 12 quarts of oats and 20 pounds of hay, while the car achieved about 13 miles to the gallon. AAA figured that the horse cost 3.69 cents a mile to operate. Considering gasoline, oil and vehicle depreciation, the car cost 3.15 cents a mile. And the car got you farther in the same number of days.
Thirteen miles per gallon isn't much these days, but back then it was competitive. The story illustrates how the rising cost of one fuel or form of transportation drives motorists, scientists and manufacturers to look for a better way.
That's the silver lining on the cloud of today's rising oil costs: They move us closer to the day when we'll find a more efficient way to move around — one that will make a gasoline-powered vehicle seem like a horse and buggy.