When gasoline prices rise in the United States, Americans do many things to save fuel.
We drive less, buy smaller cars and share rides with our friends and neighbors.
In Europe, where gasoline is more than twice as expensive as it is in North America, drivers do all of the above and more.
For example, I saw drivers in Berlin shutting off their engines when they pulled up to a stop light. When I asked about it, Germans told me that some communities encourage drivers to switch off at stoplights by posting the message on roadside signs or by making radio announcements.
That may seem like a good idea, but depending on the vehicle and how long - or short - the wait is, they might be wasting fuel. Not to mention startling the guy in the car next to them, especially if the engine being started happens to be a diesel.
Switching off the engine to save fuel is the same principle used by a gasoline-electric hybrid, which shuts off the engine when it isn't needed, like at a stoplight, and switches to the electric motor.
That too can startle pedestrians and other drivers, but for an entirely different reason. Hybrids usually pull away from a stoplight in the silent electric mode before the gasoline engine kicks in.
But as gasoline prices rise, Americans will grow accustomed to the silence, just as Germans are getting used to the rattle of engine startups at traffic lights.
That mania to save even a few drops of gasoline shows why automakers and suppliers emphasized fuel-saving technology at the Frankfurt auto show.
And the way fuel prices and consumer sentiment is going, it's a safe bet we'll see more of the same at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
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