To highlight how much fuel-economy improvements automotive design engineers are still wringing out of internal combustion engines, just spend some time in the Eco version of Chevy's Cruze compact car.
I had a week with the car, equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, and in nearly 500 miles of Interstate and mountain driving I logged 37 mpg on the car's trip computer—right on the EPA highway mileage number (26 mpg, city). The 6-speed manual transmission version is listed as 28 mpg (city) and 42 mpg (hwy). The engine in both versions is a 1.4-L (138 hp, 148 ft-lb torque) four cylinder.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Automotive Traveler magazine's Richard Truesdell drove the manual version (I assume) from California to New Jersey and achieved 40 mpg for the trip.
Base price for the Eco on the sticker I have is $18,175. Add a $525 connectivity package (cruise control, USB interface, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel and shifter, etc.), automatic transmission ($925), compact spare tire ($100), and destination charge ($720) and the total is $20,445.
Previously, I had driven the luxury LTZ model (nice stitched leather, sport suspension) of the Cruze with the automatic and pulled 30 mpg in limited suburban driving. I was impressed with the handling and pickup for a compact car, with similar performance in the Eco.
As an ex-aero engineer, I was impressed with the aerodynamic and other features the GM engineers have designed into the Eco to improve mileage from the standard Cruze. These include:
Lower front grille air shutters to regulate engine airflow to cut cooling drag
Front fascia air dam
Mid-body aero panels
Low rolling resistance tires, also used on the Chevy Volt range-enhanced electric vehicle
Engine-wise, there is variable valve timing (four valves/cylinder) and the air conditioner is decoupled from the engine for less load when not in use
Here's a video of GM engineers explaining some of these features:
The Eco also had one of the best manually adjusting seats I've seen. It is movable eight ways, including front and rear tilt, and height adjustment. The car is fairly quiet and the body style allows a deep trunk. All in all, the Cruze is a fun, economical, and practical package.
(In case you're not familiar with the Cruze, it's the car that our favorite ex-Cylon, Grace Park'scharacter, Kono, in the new Hawaii Five-0 TV series drives with some aplomb.)
I bought a TOYOTA PRIUS 2004. After 6 years, I reach in a combined city - road drive 56mpg. Now, on summer, performance increase to 60mpg, 590 miles for 10 gallons!!! Really a very good vehicle, I haven't get any trouble on hybrid system.
Leaving aside possible matters of personal taste, and ostentatious demonstations of wretched excess, I'm with you 100 percent on your points.
It would be far preferable to let the price of the commodity reflect its true cost, and convince people that way to do what's right. Rather than having to cram CAFE or other mandates down their throats.
And certainly electric vehicles need not be pigs. I can't wait for truly useful electrics that do NOT have to rely on battery power, or piston engines, or H2 bottles, become available. This is doable. Think of how easy it would be to offer 4WD, for example, when you can dedicate an electric motor to each wheel. Think of the weight savings when you can do the job of a transmission, a transfer case, and two differentials, all electronically.
It's simply a different set of cultural values, and the fact that the *true* costs are hidden, as you point out. An electric vehicle need not be a pig. The Tesla has a very impressive 0-60 time. That's a lot more important than you might think, if you are passing in the mountains. Air breathing engines take a big hit at 10K feet, in ground vehicles.
We need to be careful in a free society about defining "waste". Do you really want govt or society dictating you to follow a certain lifestyle? Putting all the costs in place, absolutely. Dictating what we may have, no. The "reasonableness" doctrine promulgated by some courts is utter nonsense in a free society. I consider pro sports a complete waste of time and money - think about the water and land wasted on golf courses alone. Should my "reasonableness" be used? No.
A lot of these arguments are now falling in the realm of politics and ideology, best determined by one's placement on the Nolan Chart. http://www.nolanchart.com/ For those who are still here, and not screaming at us.
Have a great weekend.
Yes, I think Ralph has certainly hit on one of the important aspects of this. Hence the term, the ugly American. Almost sounds like defending rape, because you know, we enjoy it.
It shouldn't take federal mandates like CAFE to make people behave responsibly, but it does. Who needs a hybrid? The car companies do, if they are hoping to meet the upcoming CAFE requirements. In part, to make up for the low figures of the behemoths we lust after.
It might help if all of the costs of being this wasteful, including the billions we are spending EACH WEEK in certain middle east wars, were put in the price of gasoline where they belong. Maybe then we wouldn't need so much prodding from the nannies in government to behave responsibly.
Bert: UHaul is a pretty mediocre solution. Their equipment has been known to leak. Translation: on two dozen uses over 20 years, I've had three leaks, and there's nothing you can do except have your belongings wetted. UHaul is ok for some things, not all. And someone is going to justify using his RV for a commute maybe sooner than you think. Right now. Me. Why? It's all I have. You see, I totalled my Corolla on my snow covered hillside driveway, and I don't have my small car anymore, and I can't afford to run out and buy another. But basically, although we agree on some points, there's one looming that I suspect can't be resolved. And that is: if someone wants to drive a cement truck to and from work, that's his privilege. That other people regard this as waste (which it may very well be) or anti-social (it will reduce those Cadillac Escalades to Coke cans) or merely ugly: that doesn't matter. This is still, to a great extent a capitalistic society, and if you can afford something, folly or not, and it's legal, you can have it. All this, and I agree with you on esthetics, waste and a few other points. But basically, the fellow whose wife wants a lot of steel around her can have it.
My daughter has an AWD Honda CRV which I would call a minivan. It's OK in light snow but lacks the ground clearance for heavier snowfalls. Say anything over eight inches.
That's why I have a Silverado - you need the FWD and the ground clearance. My relatives in the UK were very critical until they came here and experienced the snow for themselves. We have told them many times, but they don't seem to understand what it means since they rarely get any snow accumulation there.
There's also an entirely cultural issue, beyond the engineering arguments. Americans like bigger is better. We are not a European or Asian culture. We are not going to change that over night, and most of us would refuse to do so anyway.
It's a huge part of the urban/suburban cultural clash. Recycling is mandatory in some places - here, one has to pay to recycle, quite often. And there's no return on the time and effort of recycling. Yeah, it takes X minutes a day - but it's *our* X, and then it's just another tax. That's the mindset here. We have even made it part of our state constitution that that any govt entity in the state can't raise taxes without voter approval. We *really* like that - the politicians and progressives, not at all.
This is a digression from engineering, but it's part of the problem statement and solution parameters.
OK, I think we are coming together on this one. I do own a Subaru, just for the reasons you state. It's all I need for my commute. Since my wife is a FT mom, the truck is perfect for her - she's got what she needs for short trips, has the biggest honking trunk around, and they walk to school, whether permitting. We do use it for the big things, which is far more than occasional for us.
As far as everyone else's choices - we cannot dictate that people can't have them. Well, you can, but you won't be in office very long, or have a govt agency for long. No, 90% of the SUVs even out here never see dirt, but they do see snow. Hauling kids needs a minivan, which is horrid in snow. Only Toyota makes an AWD minivan, that I know of.
I am afraid I'm going to disagree on the liquid fuel. I do not think there is any way to grow our way to that in any scale. I still think electric is the way to go, and the new Cambridge battery may get us there.
Going back to SUVs, people make the same arguments against sports cars - but it's a free country. Kinda. We can still own Porsche's, Maserati, MB, BMW and even a Corvette. Are those still legal in California ;-)
Oh, I forgot to add, if you do occasionally require a much bigger vehicle, maybe for a move, or to take your kid to college, there's always UHaul. I've done this more than once. You don't need to haul around all that useless mass in your daily commute, for a task you might do once every few years. Or even months. Next thing you know, someone will try to justify why he should use an RV in his daily commute.