Thursday, March 30, 2006

Americans and their powerful cars

Do you wonder why, given 25 years advancement in technology, the average mileage of automobiles in America has remained essentially the same?

The average vehicle, which 25 years ago accelerated to 60 miles an hour in 14.4 seconds, now does it in 9.9 seconds, a pace once typical only of sporty or luxury cars like Camaros and Jaguars. And vehicle weight now averages about 4,100 pounds, up from about 3,200 in the early 1980's, as many buyers switched to larger, roomier cars or to sport utility vehicles and minivans


If 2005 model vehicles, with their better technology, had the performance and size of those in 1987, they would use only 80 percent of the gasoline they do today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That alone would get the country nearly halfway to the goal President Bush set in his State of the Union address: to cut American oil consumption enough to nearly eliminate the need to import from the Middle East.

But because Americans have not insisted on better fuel economy, "we can take the technology in the cars and turn the knob toward performance," said Karl H. Hellman, an automotive development expert who retired from the E.P.A. two years ago.

Improving mileage now would be easy if drivers sacrificed some zip in new cars, he said, "but in this country, we don't sacrifice for anything." (NY Times)

Oh, but we do sacrifice. It's just a matter of where. Do you want more terrorism, more funding of Islamist schools, more entanglements in Middle East politics, more animosity abroad? Keep using and demanding all the oil you can! You won't sacrifice how quickly you can get your enormous automobile off the line, but you'll sacrifice blood, money and safety.

The 2005 Toyota Camry, one of the most popular sedans, accelerates more quickly than some 1975 Pontiac Firebirds. The Chevrolet TrailBlazer, an S.U.V., can reach 60 miles an hour in 8.2 seconds -- about half the time of its 1985 ancestor. The 2006 Cadillac STS-V, which can reach 60 m.p.h. in less than five seconds, is one of many cars that now have more than enough horsepower to pull an 18-wheeler.

An image of oldsters in their Cadillacs compensating for some other perceived deficiency comes to mind. Would it be too much to ask that, while they're zooming around in their state-of-the-art hot rods, they give half a thought to the young people abroad giving up their lives trying to keep the Middle East (and oil prices) stable?

No comments: