Gas prices no longer seem to be as big of a factor when it comes to consumers purchasing vehicles as automobile manufacturers build more fuel efficient cars. August was a perfect example of this as gas prices rose and automakers reported sales also grew by almost 20%. According to analysts, the wide rang of fuel efficient, hybrid, and electric vehicles have made it easier for consumers to spend their hard earned money as the average car and truck on the road reaches over 10 years old. The biggest gains came from Toyota and Honda who experienced low sales last year in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Detroit automakers also showed substantial gains with the introduction of their high mileage car lineup. General Motors (GM) United States sales grew over 10%, driven by strong sales of the Chevrolet passenger cars like the Sonic subcompact and the Spark minicar. Ford also reported an almost 13% increase with the sales of the Focus compact car and the Escape, one of the smallest sub compact sport utility vehicles (SUV) on the market. According to analysts the strengthening industry has surpassed expectations and has helped automobile manufacturers keep inventories stable and sales incentives relatively low.

Counties in the San Francisco Bay area are considering getting rid of gas taxes and switching to a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system instead. The National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (NSTIFC) recommends the switch because revenue from gas taxes have declined over the years as hybrid, electric, and more fuel efficient vehicles become prevalent on roads. They say that it will “balance the costs and benefits of the surface transportation system to those who are using it”, and could also reduce traffic congestion on the roads. The proposal is one idea in long range planning, updated by the agency every four years. If the idea is accepted, it would likely not be fully imposed until 2020.

Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the regional commission, admits that the idea could be difficult to introduce. Radical changes like this will always be opposed by certain groups, and privacy issues will be questioned as a GPS based systems would be used to log information on when and where drivers are traveling. Transit advocacy groups are encouraging the transition to a VMT system to be tested first in the Bay area where the idea will be more easily accepted and the revenue could be used to support alternative public transportation options.

Automobile manufacturers reported strong vehicle sales in June despite analysts predictions that the automobile economy is likely to slow for the summer. The average increase for dealership sales was 22% with Toyota and Honda showing the strongest gains. Consumer interest in larger vehicles, such as pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) is being attributed to a sudden drop in the price of fuel, and low interest rates and the release of new models is bringing in consumers who have been delaying purchasing a new vehicle because of lack of confidence in the economy.

With fuel prices on the rise, more Americans are turning to electric and hybrid vehicles for the promise of saving money. Today’s consumer is offered a wider selection of vehicles, advertising better fuel economy with super fuel saving technologies. Even the government has jumped on the bandwagon with significant changes to fuel economy window stickers that estimate what a drivers annual fuel costs and savings will be. But, once the consumer starts looking into buying one of these vehicles, the promise of saving money is not always apparent.

According to recent studies, even if gas prices would climb to $5 a gallon, it would take the average hybrid or electric vehicle, six years before the consumer would start to see any savings. Analysts say that the price of these new technologies is a road block that limits the appeal of fuel efficient cars and trucks. The proof in in the numbers, with hybrid and electric car sales accounting for less than three percent of the total market.

So why do consumers pay more for these advanced technologies that promise to save them money? Many are blinded by advertising, but never actually sit down to do the math, or they overestimate the miles per gallon savings compared to actual savings. Some see the better fuel economy as better for resale, and hope to make up the difference when they sell their vehicle. Others just want to do something for the environment. Regardless of what the reason is, every day that gas prices increase, electric or hybrid automobile owners can feel better about the purchase they made.

Last years Los Angeles Auto Show focused on the electric car with the debut of the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf. Throughout the year, other automobile manufacturers continued to release electric hybrid and electric cars, but sales were poor even with government rebates and perks. This years LA Auto show still has its share of electric vehicles, but the 2012 Green Car of the Year shows that there is no single solution to efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.

Some of this years contenders included the Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i, Toyota Prius V and Volkswagen Passat TDI, but the six judge panel decided to award the Honda Civic Natural Gas version the 2012 green car of the year award. According to Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of the Green Car Journal, “The new generation Civic Natural Gas features greater fuel efficiency, a more attractive and roomier design with tailpipe emissions lower than any other internal combustion produced vehicle. There is no other vehicle like the Civic Natural Gas on American highways, and this recognition has been a long time coming for Honda.”

The Civic Natural Gas is the only natural gas passenger vehicle to be mass produced. It was first introduced as a fleet vehicle in 1998, and is in its fifth generation. It offers 110 horsepower and has a range of about 240 miles on a full tank. It is reasonably priced at just over $26,000, and is available at 200 Honda dealers in 36 states.

It seems inevitable that the electric car will be a part of our future. With fuel efficiency standards becoming tighter, automobile manufacturers will include electric vehicles (EV) in their line ups in order to meet them. Even though this technology has come a long way in the last decade, auto manufacturers are still looking for additional ways to help the consumer get the most out of their EV’s.

One of the biggest drawbacks of an electric vehicle is the need to charge the battery. Having a charging station at home and at work makes electric car commutes trouble free, but long trips can make drivers uneasy. A new smart phone app hopes to relieve this anxiety by allowing hybrid and electric car drivers to find charging stations wherever they go. The app will let drivers know where the stations are, if they are available and whether the station offers free or paid charging. Some of the apps will even allow you to reserve the charging station, leave comments about the stations, as well as give you a street views through Google Street View. Some of the newest applications being launched include ChargePoint, ECOtality, Recargo, and PlugShare.

The 2006 documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, deals with the history of the electric car, specifically the General Motors EV1, and its development in the mid 1990’s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, the Californian government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology. Today’s environmental concerns, volatile gas prices, and advancements in electric car technology, have lead to auto manufacturers and the government into taking a second look at the electric vehicle.

Everyone is familiar with the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf because they were one of the first electric hybrid and electric vehicles sold to the general public, but today, almost every car manufacturer is developing an electric vehicle. Tesla is a car company devoted to building only electric cars, and BMW has recently started it’s own brand of electric vehicles, the i brand, to name a couple.

If you are thinking of making the move to an electric vehicle, here are a few things to consider before making the purchase:

  • Even though electric vehicles are advertised as “saving you money at the pumps”, the original purchase price will be more expensive than a conventional vehicle. There are government tax credits for purchasing an electric vehicle, but you will still end up paying a bit more.
  • Drivers are limited to the distance they can commute. Battery technology has improved, allowing drivers to travel further distances than ever before, and hybrids add the extra security of an engine back up, but driving an electric vehicle long distances relies on finding charging stations along the way.
  • Unless your neighborhood or work place is adequately supplied with charging stations, you will probably want a charging station at your home. This is an added expense to install, and will result in electrical bills being a bit higher.
  • Finally, as with all advanced technology products, the longer you wait to buy, the better and cheaper the technology gets. As more auto manufacturers release their versions of the electric car, more data will be available to the consumer to help make the decision of what electric vehicle to buy.

Some other electric vehicles you can expect to see on car lots and roads soon, includes: the Fisker Karma, Ford C-Max Energi, Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi I, Tesla Model S, Rav 4 EV, and the Fiat 500 electric.

Historically, imported vehicles have dominated the market in California, but a recent trend is seeing more and more consumers turn to domestic auto makers when replacing their old vehicles. Companies like Ford, Chrysler and GM have improved their sales in the state last year with the introduction of new models of small cars and compact SUV’s. The improved reliability, fuel economy, advanced electronics and added luxury options are starting to give domestic brands an advantage over once popular rivals like Honda and Toyota. Some of the more popular vehicles being sold in California are GM’s Chevrolet Volt , Cruze and Camaro, and Ford’s Fiesta, Focus and Fusion. The growth in California is important to local car dealers who have experienced sluggish auto sales for almost three years now. Some analysts, however, question whether traditional buyers of Japanese cars are switching to domestic brands, or just waiting for depleted inventories to be replenished.