Stuff with a Motor

The Psychology of Large Fuel Tanks

With the price of premium fuel nearing oxygen-depriving altitudes of $3.50/gallon in some places, every trip to the fuel store results in some cringing and a variety of facial-contortions.  For a laugh, look up from the stone-face producing, Medusa-like displays on the pump at the expressions on the faces of people around you – they will, at the very least, provide a bit of comic relief during your painful stay at the gas station.

I have two cars that individually only travel about 14 wallet-draining miles around town for each gallon of liquid energy they consume.  I avoid refueling these cars until the last possible minute just in case 1) a miracle of the order of Hanukkah happens in which the gas in my car, like the olive oil of the eternal flame in the Temple, burns for 8 times longer than it was supposed to, 2) rich deposits of fossil fuel, dwarfing those in Saudi Arabia, are discovered in New Hampshire, or 3) in a move rivaling the charity of Mother Teresa, my local Citgo station decides to give away free gas.

Until one of these things happens, though, I repeatedly (and frequently) end up swiping my credit card at a gas pump.  I reached a new low this week when the pump stopped itself after dispensing a “mere” $75.00 worth of fuel.  While my car was, absurdly, not yet full of its needed power elixir, I had reached my credit limit and was cut off.  I’m sure the credit limit had always existed – it’s the thought of reaching it prior to filling my tank that was a shock to me.

My inability to finance the complete fill-up of my gas tank made me consider the psychology of large fuel tanks.  The way my mind rationalizes life, it becomes much more palatable to take a second mortgage on my home to gas-up a vehicle with a huge gas tank once in a while than it is to pay smaller, incremental fees for more frequent fill-ups of a small tank. 

As usual, real life experience has led me to this conclusion.  One of the gas-guzzling vehicles I mentioned earlier has a 20 gallon fuel tank.  While driving this beast, I can see the needle of the fuel gauge move – very depressing.  This negative feedback makes me count the driving hours until I need to refuel and makes the whole experience that much worse – sorta like the ancient Chinese torture of death by a thousand cuts.  The second hog of a vehicle has a much larger, 35 gallon fuel tank.  Even while it consumes gas at a rate similar to the first, I can drive seemingly forever on a tank of gas.  The fuel gauge shows no apparent movement and by the time I have to refuel the monster, I can barely remember the last time I drained an underground reservoir of rotted dinosaurs in order to do so.

In one case, the pain is extreme, but short-lived.  In the other, the pain isn’t quite as bad, but is virtually continuous.  Which one would you rather have?  For me, I think my next vehicle purchase will be a fuel tanker truck with a line running from the tank on the trailer directly into the engine.  While the cost of the first fill-up will be mind-blowing, it may very well be the last one I’ll ever need.

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