Now that we have gone through New York City, Washington DC, Virginia, North & South Carolina and Charleston, it’s time to travel further South along the East Coast of the United States and the Interstate 95 to Savannah, Georgia – the birthplace State of Martin Luther King Jr and Ray Charles. But first, I’ll give you my first impressions on running a full-size pick-up on diesel in the US. By now I have had the opportunity to fill up Albert – my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel for the trip – a couple of times and test his range: approximately 660 miles (1060 km), more than I expected. I also ended up spending less money than I thought (US$77) to rejuvenate Albert with 20 gallons of diesel so he could continue to faithfully lead me along in this Coast to Coast trip.
A few quirks about running on diesel in the US: as opposed to France for example where up to 80% of new cars sold in the country run on diesel and therefore not offering diesel means you can pack up your service station and change jobs, in this part of the country not all servos offer diesel, especially when you step away from the main highways. An interesting find when you start to run low and the next 3 stations you pass only have unleaded… On highway exits, I would say on average 50% to 75% of stations have offered diesel so far.
The other big surprise is the price. In Europe, one of the main reasons for choosing a diesel vehicle – on top of the fact that it is more fuel efficient – is its priced, significantly lower than unleaded although that price difference has thawed over the past few years. In the US, diesel is always more expensive, by at least 50 cents a gallon – a very significant margin. Starting off in New York where gas prices are from another planet ($4.50+ a gallon), I have noticed prices going down steadily as I was driving South to reach about $3.15 a gallon (unleaded) and $3.65 (diesel).
Third surprise: for diesel, prices differ depending on your method of payment, with credit a full 6 cents per gallon more expensive than cash… I had never encountered that type of distinction before, and this does not apply to unleaded (for now). Most Americans don’t actually need to walk inside the station’s building if they’re paying with card as all pumps are equipped with swipe machines. Having a non-American credit card, I had to pay in advance each time and I had estimated (and paid) my first fill-up to be $100 but the pump put on full stops at ‘only’ $77. Not a worry, a 2nd trip to the servo gets me reimbursed in no time.
Lastly, an update on Albert’s fuel economy, now standing at an excellent 27.1 mpg after a little bit more than 1,000 miles travelled (1,600 km). This Ram 1500 ecoDiesel 4×4’s advertised fuel economy being 27 mpg highway, we are now right on target, even though my trip hasn’t been all highway. So Albert doing very well so far.
Onto the Savannah vehicle landscape, and although we are only 107 miles away from Charleston, this is a different state and a different landscape altogether. Georgia is another Ford F-Series State but for the first time during this trip, the Chevrolet Silverado is genuinely threatening it for the title of most frequent vehicle spotted in the streets of Savannah, making the Silverado Work Truck (with black plastic grille and bumpers like Albert) the Hero in Town.
While in Charleston the Ford F250 was surprisingly more popular that its little brother the F150, in Savannah the ‘logical’ order is back with the F150 seemingly more successful. However even when adding up F150, F250 and F350, we still only come level with the new generation Silverado. But wait there are more surprises in the Savannah vehicle landscape…
Based on my observations uptown, downtown, in Garden City, Port Wentworth, Vernon River and the Isle of Hope, along with the Silverado/F-Series tandem, other very successful models here include the GMC Sierra, surprisingly frequent, the Toyota Corolla – seemingly the most popular new passenger car in town, the Toyota Tundra back to levels last seen in Northern Virginia, the Ram pick-up, Honda Accord and Toyota Tacoma, also way above its national level here in Savannah. That’s it for the Southern belle, next we are crossing Georgia on our way to Nashville, Tennessee…