MPD: telling consumers the real cost of driving

Ford’s new aluminum bodied F-150 is more fuel efficient than its steel predecessors. Other “fuel efficient” vehicles also tout the stinginess of their engines. However, it is time to shift the emphasis of fuel economy away from miles per gallon (MPG) to miles per dollar or MPD. MPG, while a marginally helpful tool, actually distracts consumers from the real issue . . . the impact of high fuel costs. This is why the real discussion must focus on MPD (miles per dollar) instead.

Back in 1965, my dad bought a new Chrysler Newport. This huge vehicle (by today’s standards) had big V-8 engine and was a symbol of the golden age of automobiles. MPG was nothing more than a fun fact to know and tell at that time, because the price of gasoline was around $ .25 per gallon unless the “gas wars” of the time caused the price to drop lower. For all its lack of technology in fuel efficiency, that Chrysler actually had a better MPD efficiency than Toyota’s Prius of today. And by a large margin, too.

The case for MPD

The miles per dollar rating on my dad’s Chrysler was 59.7 MPD. This compares to the Prius’ 14.8 MPD.

Now, you may argue that the difference is the price of fuel and you would be right. However, that is exactly the point.

The real conversation is (or should be) on fuel cost. MPG deceives people into believing they are making gains in the battle against high fuel prices. Using this line of thought, these same people believe they can “cheat” a little by driving further without impact upon the amount they pay at the pump. Our leaders deceive by telling us we need still better mile per gallon requirements because that will save oil by millions of barrels, which should in turn will drive down prices. So how’s that working? While down compared to a few years ago, the cost still fluctuates wildly. In spite of tremendous improvements in the CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) standards, fuel costs continue to soar, in part due to global tension, natural disaster and practices of big oil.

The miles per dollar rating on my dad’s 1965 Chrysler was 59.7 MPD. This compares to the Prius’ 14.8 MPD.

Miles per dollar exposes this fallacy. If the price of fuel is high, the real cost to drive also is high. “Improvements” in fuel economy by automakers almost negate any savings because of the cost involved to achieve those gains in mileage.

So, how does this change? Place the emphasis where it belongs . . . on the price of fuel. Gasoline and diesel offer little to no opportunity for improved MPD. In spite of domestic gains from shale oil discoveries, the price of oil-based fuel remains well above the $3/gallon mark in most parts of the country. And while proponents of this fuel source promise lower prices, it remains just that—a promise. The reality is between exploration, drilling, environmental, shipping, refining, distribution and tax costs, oil-based fuel prices can only go so low before it becomes unprofitable. Furthermore, a domestic source of oil, while desirable, still is subject to actions not related to the oil industry.


Fortunately, fuel options are available now. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is one that:

  • Is domestically produced
  • Is better for the environment
  • Has a larger infrastructure than people understand
  • Is proven more resistant to price fluctuation
  • Requires less routine maintenance like oil changes
  • COSTS LESS by 30% to 50% than gasoline and diesel

Consider the following. I recently drove a Honda Civic GX, Honda’s American-made natural gas vehicle, for 30 days. This vehicle runs exclusively on CNG. My average miles per dollar rating was 22.2. Remember the MPD for the Prius (a vehicle with a much “better” MPG)? It was 14.8 miles per dollar of gasoline.

I paid the equivalent of $1.99 GGE (gallon of gasoline equivalent) with the Civic compared to gasoline costs at the time between $3.59 and $3.54 per gallon. Over the course of a month, my fuel savings amounted to $103.88 or annualized savings of $1,249.56. Imagine the impact on U.S. households if each one could save more than $1,000 on fuel. Think that would help the economy?

CNG is not right for everyone. But then again, we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all society. There are other fuel alternatives to gasoline and diesel. However, demand for these options won’t take off until we stop thinking in terms of miles per gallon.

Now is the time to get serious about miles per dollar.


Paul Schroeder is a content marketing specialist for the material handling, metal fabrication and compressed natural gas industries. His search for alternatives to gasoline at the height of the last recession, led him to investigate and ultimately become a proponent of compressed natural gas for both commercial and consumer vehicles. You can contact Paul via LinkedIn or email:


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