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gas-sipper also gas sipper

noun [countable] informal

a vehicle which is cheap to drive because it does not use a lot of fuel



'Should you dump the SUV for a gas-sipper? That's the question everyone is asking these days …'

Business Wire 30th June 2008

'Scooter sales appear to be climbing faster than the price of gasoline … Smith said his business has grown 200 percent in the last few months. It's been so good that he's now collecting deposits on the gas-sippers until he can catch up with the backlog.'

Houston Chronicle 3rd July 2008

'Meanwhile, the Japanese manufacturers are continuing to crank out gas-sipping hybrids (Toyota's Prius is selling like hotcakes) and companies you never heard of are beginning to market a wide range of hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles for neighborhood or short distance use.'

Western Farm Press 16th July 2008

Price, recorded mileage, colour … cup-holder? The factors influencing which car to purchase are as diverse as the motorists themselves. If, however, your main priority is fuel consumption – whether that's for financial or strictly eco-friendly reasons – then what you should be looking to buy is a gas-sipper.

we've now realized that there's something to be said for economy, whether wanting to save cash, or the planet

With the cost of fuel reaching record highs on both sides of the Atlantic, suddenly it seems more important than ever to consider those 'miles to the gallon' (or 'litres per 100 kilometres' in metric terminology). The question is just how far can our beloved four-wheeled friend travel on a full tank of juice? Whereas in recent years we were preoccupied with vehicle size, both for practical and aspirational reasons, we've now realized that there's something to be said for economy, whether wanting to save cash, or the planet. And the English language has responded. The nineties gave us the gas guzzler, and the noughties has correspondingly seen the emergence of the gas sipper.

Following the pattern of gas guzzler and related adjective gas-guzzling, vehicles which are economical on fuel can be described as gas-sipping. As well as conventional cars with low running costs, the term gas-sipper can apply to alternative forms of transport which are cheap to run, such as motor scooters and electric or so-called hybrid cars (cars with more than one power source, such as batteries or an electric motor as well as a conventional engine).

The current period of escalating fuel prices, coupled for many consumers with a growing environmental conscience, has created an unprecedented demand for gas sippers. Scooter manufacturers are reporting record sales. In the car industry, technological innovation becomes increasingly significant, as manufacturers struggle to meet the demand for more energy efficient, gas-sipping models. This is particularly the case in countries whose governments have imposed a gas-guzzler tax, which is a levy on large, energy-inefficient domestic vehicles.

Background – gas-sipper

The expression gas-sipper is new for 2008, and is of course an extension of the 'drinking' metaphor used in gas guzzler (according to the Macmillan Dictionary, to guzzle is 'to eat or drink a lot quickly …' whereas to sip is 'to drink in small amounts'). Gas is short for gasoline, a word used in American English whose British equivalent is petrol. Though gas is US only, gas guzzler is used in both varieties, with far less evidence for lexicalization of expressions such as petrol guzzler.

Related neologisms in this domain are the expressions ecodriving and hyperdriving, (also ecomiling and hypermiling) which refer to the practice of adapting your driving style in order to reduce fuel consumption. Typical measures include better anticipation of traffic flow (therefore reducing the amount of braking and accelerating, which wastes fuel), driving in higher gears, and maintaining a steady (and preferably slower) speed. Drivers who adopt these measures are correspondingly referred to as ecodrivers/ecomilers or hyperdrivers/hypermilers.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 28th July 2008.

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