Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Asleep at the Wheel

CNN Money Reports: The Obama administration on Tuesday is set to propose stricter fuel economy standards in an effort to cut down vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. The plan will require passenger cars and light trucks to get an overall average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, according to a senior administration official with knowledge of the plan. By that year, cars will be expected to average about 39 mpg and 30 mpg for trucks.

Current fuel economy standards are 27.5 mpg for cars and 23.1 mpg for trucks.

The Obama plan would accelerate by four years new fuel economy standards passed by Congress at the end of 2007.

Fuel economy will be increased gradually beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2016. The administration predicts the changes will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil by 2016. That's roughly what the country goes through in about 86 days, according to numbers from the Energy Information Administration.

Although this is a step in the right direction- the Bush admin was going to wait a full decade before dealing with mpg fuel efficiency, 2016 is 7 YEARS away. Considering how far behind the U.S. already is, seven more years of heavy exhaust seems like not soon enough. The technology is already out there, and has been for a long time. I still see new car write ups in the Saturday paper with vehicles getting 13 miles to the gallon. Brand new cars- sedans! In the 21st century!
As far as I am concerned 7 years is too long. I can only hope consumers vote with their dollars. Just like Chrysler & GM are learning the hard lessons of failing to keep up- by not having any hybrids, and dropping the electric car, the people can step up and not buy these guzzler gas hog vehicles. The government may be OK with waiting another 7 years, but We the People have better choices now.

We can wait 7 years for U.S. automakers to "ugrade" to 35.5 MPG -- or we can buy a 2010 Toyota Prius that offers the following:

• 50 MPG
• Solar Roof

From eco geek: The car is bigger, more spacious, has better acceleration and actually improves mileage number significantly. This new Prius is the most efficient production car in America OF ANY SIZE. If Honda was still making the original Insight, yes, that would beat it, but the 2010 Prius truly will be the most advanced and most efficient car on the road.

New to the car, aside from all of the various innovations that made it's tremendous mileage numbers possible, is a solar sun roof, which will keep the vehicle cool on hot days, eliminating the need for huge bursts of AC, and thus strain on the battery.

In summary, the U.S. is in the slow lane with some kind of Mr. Magoo "vision" for fuel efficiency.
There should not be any confusion about why U.S. automakers are struggling....
as Toyota's 21st Century eco friendly designs pass by in the fast lane, sipping 50 miles to the gallon. 
It will be interesting to see how much better fuel efficiency or all electric vehicles Toyota will be offering in the 7  years the US takes to get to 35.5 MPG. 
Or IF the big three auto makers are still around in 7 years. 


Fran said...

As gas prices creep back up, Toyota's only problem will be trying to keep these vehicles in stock!
They already have a backlog of people placing advance orders.

Utah Savage said...

when I bought my '86 Jetta new, our fuel efficiency standard was 32mpg city, 35mpg highway. My Jetta beat that and is still on the road.

Fran said...

Good for you Utah! Bucking the trends & ahead of the pack.

Guess what? Honda, Toyota, & Volkswagon have already had 35 mpg vehicles on the road for a few years.

I know this is a step in the right direction, but we are so far behind the curve, this plan just sheds light on how out of the loop this country is.

Clearly the big 3 have to see the obvious.... other carmakers are out of bed w big oil (the honeymoon is over!).

Dada said...

Our little '77 Toyota Corolla, bought new, was rated at 45 mph hwy. (Yes, it was a '77, as in 1977 or 32 years ago!)

It'd probably still be on the hiway, like Utah's Jetta, but we gave it to our nephew upon his HS graduation.

He totaled it within two months.

Wait, WAIT, am I off topic here? (Sorry!)

Fran said...

That says a lot, Dada- 45 mpg -32 YEARS ago!

Some folks have really embraced the Hybrids & electric cars, with a true focus on the environment.

But I do think for others it was just the bottom line--
the price of gas soared up over $4 bucks a gallon.
People could not stand the pinch at the pump- and guzzlers like a Hummer would cost in excess of $75 to fill the pump. Notice GM is giving the Hummer line of vehicles the axe?

The cars the big 3 have that are the "sippers", that actually have decent mileage, are the low end of the line up. The kind of cars Consumer Reports describe as "vulnerable". The Ford Focus, has the dubious honor of having the most recalls on a vehicle. It was not just affordable, but *Cheap*
as in not well made ~ problematic.

What happened to good old American innovation? If the competitor made a better vehicle-- you copy the design & compete back!

I was being snarky with the closing comment-- IF the big three US automakers are even around in 7 years.... but it is not that off target a remark. Chrysler is in bankruptcy, GM is teetering on the edge, and if the economy continues to tank, Ford will find itself in trouble too. Jobless people do not qualify for new car loans.

Fran said...

Oh-- cars are a funny thing--- they become a part of the family- we've even given a few of ours names!
So I can see where your kind act of giving a car to a relative... one that was easy on the petrol-- was totaled, must have been a bummer.
Hope the nephew fared better than the car did.

Spadoman said...

I'm still driving our 2000 Ford Focus. We get around 35 mpg highway now, and 32 or thereabouts local city driving. It has a rare manual transmission. But it has over 220,000 miles on it. I'd love to upgrade to e new Prius, but I can't afford it.
That thought is the problem with most people. Why is the better car with better emissions so expensive?
To take that thought one step further, the emissions for Not Owning a Car is much better. No fuel costs, no insurance costs and no payments and interest, no upkeep/maintenance.
So, the possibility exists to buy a new Prius or comparable super energy efficient machine, and only have one car and not have another or multiples, (I also have a full size gas guzzling van to go along with the gas stingy Focus).
Lastly, what good are we doing if we sell the gas guzzlers. They still pollute if we sell them, someone else is paying for the gas to burn. Rid the streets of them and put them in the recycling junk yard, but then again, people think of the money. It is a dilemma for sure.

D.K. Raed said...

Chrysler International is already selling cars that get 35 mpg in EUROPE. They are diesel. They are not allowed to be sold here. Why?

I do recall that Bush did one of his famous switcheroos early in his presidency where he touted passing some kind of auto mileage pkg. Problem is that Clinton era legislation already called for higher mpg by 2010. All Bush's program did was push back the years (they would've pushed them to infinity if they could've). And so here we are today with the same old same old. I give Obama props for setting an achieveable goal. The mfrs that meet/exceed those goals earlier will reap huge benefits in sales, so the incentive is surely there.

My beloved Austin Healey Sprite, in the 60's, got 35 mpg and it was a zippy sports car! My little Datsun in the 80's got 40-50 highway mpg driving (proved on a trip from Spokane to San Diego). I replaced it with a Ford Taurus that avg'd 30 mpg. The late 80's Greed is Good syndrome affected cars just like every other consumer purchase. Then dot.com disease took over all rational thought when it came to energy efficiency. We reap what we sow.

And yeah, Spado is right, what about all those gas hog trade-ins? Just like back in the 70's, there'll be a huge secondary market for them at the right price, so they'll still be out on the roads, sucking gas. I guess we could penalize them by increasing registration fees for the gas hogs and providing better incentives for gas misers, but poorer people will not be swayed by that. If they can get reliable transportation for a bargain price, they will address the gas prices at the pump whenever they have the money to fill up.

Now about that solar sun roof ... Somehow I don't think it would be able to cool a car in the summer here (115 outside = 130 in the car). But it's nice to know someone is at least thinking and trying an alternative!

Fran said...

So I have to ask Spado-- Did the Focus have to go back to the shop for multiple recalls? Or maybe the rare manual transmission spared you the agony?

I know old guzzlers will still be around for a while, and I know I sure as hell can't afford a Tessla all electric vehicle for $100,000 bucks. The Zap vehicles (3 wheeled pseudo car), don;t get more than like 30 miles per charge (a joke).... and can't get up to freeway speed (forget it!). We need an affordable alternative.

It is just that here were are farting around with political banter about a pretty small improvement (I'm sure the Obama administration had to fight to get that number approved), but other manufacturers have already surpassed that-- and as EVERY person who posted here has said... they had a vehicle that got 35 mpg on small cars --YEARS ago. Which is why this whole exercise is so frustrating.

DK ~ See what I mean?? Another case in point this technology existed 30 years ago.... I know it will be a while for the guzzlers to fade away. But the sooner we step up, the sooner the waves of cars will be replaced.

I am not sure how the solar roof design works, but
I am thrilled to see a major mfr using it.

In other Car Talk news... the see the fed just coughed up another $7.5 billion to GM today.
They are to be lenders for chrysler loans as well???

Looks like they could still wind up in bankruptcy in a few weeks anyway.

Want to bet on **if** they will write off that $ in the bankruptcy filing???

Dada said...

While I thought the solar roof a nice idea, I have my doubts (like D.K.) how it would perform in real desert country vis-à-vis a Monterey, CA.

As for the '77 Toyota Corolla we gave our nephew: we had gotten 12 good years out of it, so our nephew was only slightly older than the car we gave him (18). Fortunately, he came out relatively unscathed, but a 12 year old high mileage Corolla was damaged beyond it's book value.

And why was it that back in 77 the cheapest model, like that Corolla, got the best mileage? Because no one wanted a 45 mpg chug-a-long?

Fran said...

I have not read how the solar roof is designed to work? Of course in extreme conditions, things might be tested beyond their limits.... but if it did not perform as well, one could always drive to a cooler place & have enough fuel to get there & back!

Glad the nephew fared well in the accident.

How ironic that the cheapest model had the best MPG.... that is a hot commodity now!
So much so-- carmakers say it will cost $1300 more per car. Go figure.

Fran said...

I have not read how the solar roof is designed to work? Of course in extreme conditions, things might be tested beyond their limits.... but if it did not perform as well, one could always drive to a cooler place & have enough fuel to get there & back!

Glad the nephew fared well in the accident.

How ironic that the cheapest model had the best MPG.... that is a hot commodity now!
So much so-- carmakers say it will cost $1300 more per car. Go figure.

Fran said...

I have not read how the solar roof is designed to work? Of course in extreme conditions, things might be tested beyond their limits.... but if it did not perform as well, one could always drive to a cooler place & have enough fuel to get there & back!

Glad the nephew fared well in the accident.

How ironic that the cheapest model had the best MPG.... that is a hot commodity now!
So much so-- carmakers say it will cost $1300 more per car. Go figure.

D.K. Raed said...

I remember those 70's Corollas Dada speaks of very well. A 1972 Corolla was the first brand-new car I ever bought and it was definitely the cheapest model (something like $1700 with A/C?). Sounded like it had a sewing machine for an engine but it got you where you wanted to go. Mine was "totalled" in a 10-mph rolling collision (the cadillac-tank in front of me came to a sudden stop). I kid you not. It was so light weight that barely hitting another car totalled it ... or at least the repairs would've cost more than the value of the vehicle so the ins paid me the vehicle value. It was only 2-yrs old. Of course, its extreme light weight combined with that sewing machine engine were why it got such good mpg. But I was so scarred by the experience I swore off Toyotas for next 30-yrs!

All I can say about car solar roof panels is that we already have some on our RV and they are next to worthless. Even in the direct sun, the roof panels simply aren't big enough to hold enough of a charge for any practical purpose. Unless there's been some drastic improvement, I'm thinking a small car's solar panel might charge the cigarette ligher! But A/C which is a major power draw? Probably be better to 1) only drive at night, or 2) move to a cooler clime!

Mauigirl said...

I'm even tempted to get the new Prius - even though it's not a stick shift! (I'm a convert to stick shifts and hate driving an automatic now).

Our old Saab 900 (1985 with 250k miles on it) still gets 32 mpg hwy.

Remember the 35 is an average - so that would mean a lot of smaller, more highly fuel efficient cars balanced by some bigger and less fuel efficient ones. So I would hope they would be developing some very high mileage small cars in the near future to try to get to that average.

When we were in Italy in 2001 we rented a GM car that was a turbo diesel that got 50 mpg on the highway. One problem in the US is the lack of acceptance for diesel cars which could provide much higher fuel economy right away. But diesel fuel is actually more expensive here because it is used in Europe so extensively that it is harder to come by here. This is what I've heard anyway. It's all so complicated.