|2015 Honda PCX : 100MPG Freeway Capable 2up Scooter|
Smog forming emissions, foreign oil, climate change, asthma, COPD, lung cancer, brain damage, acid rain, water pollution, infrastructure rusting, trade deficits, mineral resource depletion, peak oil ; there are litany of important issues related to vehicle fuel economy.
The 40MPG Club
Many vehicle manufacturers are churning out affordable gas powered cars that have claimed fuel economies of 40MPG highway. The reality is that most people driving these vehicles in mixed city highway use cases, traffic congestion, winter weather, summer heat, the real world, etc, will never see anywhere close to 40MPG. Some manufacturers have recently been punished by class action lawsuits because of they made claims about vehicle fuel economy that were not even close to the real world numbers that customers were experiencing.
The Energy Information Administration of the United States recently released a report downplaying the importance of fuel economy by concentrating only on the fuel operating costs per year while ignoring all of the other issues related to transportation energy efficiency and fuel economy. Even if we just focus on fuel operating costs and think in a 10 year time frame, we can see the following realities.
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Looking 10 Years Ahead
With gas at $4/gal driving 12,000mi per year for 10 years will have different costs depending on your vehicles fuel economy.
At 5mpg : 24000 gallons : $96,000 Bus / Long Haul Truck Full
At 10mpg : 12000 gallons : $48,000 Huge Truck/ Supercar
At 15mpg : 8000 gallons : $32,000 V8 SUV
At 25mpg : 4800 gallons : $19,200 Average New Vehicle
At 40mpg : 3000 gallons : $12,000 Fuel Efficient Cars
At 60mpg : 2000 gallons : $8,000 Plug-in Hybrid
At 100mpg : 1200 gallons : $4,800 Honda PCX150 1 Passenger
More than Fuel Economy
Air Quality : Every gallon you save by driving a fuel efficient vehicle will translate into fewer smog forming emissions. Newer fuel efficient vehicles also tend to have very effective emissions controls so that for each unit of fuel burned the emissions are minimized with catalytic conversion and EGR and other techniques used in emission control technologies on modern vehicles. The emissions controls on a vehicle also tend to work better when the vehicle is new.
Stinky Old Vehicles
You know when you driving behind a dirty burning vehicle because you can smell it. The things that smell in exhaust are poisonous. Ideal reactions between hydrocarbons and oxygen would only produce CO2 and Water Vapor : unfortunately combustion in an engine occurs between air (a mixture of gases) and fuels that are blended mixes of things like n-heptane, benzene, toluene, iso-octane and other petroleum distillate products, and smog forming emissions are released even by vehicles with advanced emissions controls.
The metal engines of today are only 25 to 40% efficient. Much of the chemical energy in the fuel is converted into waste heat and smog forming reaction byproducts. The emissions control technology in a modern vehicle is designed to convert the smog forming parts of the exhaust into non-toxic emissions. Not even the greatest emissions controls can remove all of the pollutants formed when liquid dinosaur goo is burned with air in a metal piston engine. Knowing that vehicle engine technology is imperfect, the focus on burning less fuel will make all the difference. Less fuel burned translates into better air quality.
Who wants to breath Smog ?
I am reminded of bicycling up cougar mountain when a dirty blue smoke emitting vehicle passed me, after which I was huffing and puffing in a mixture of air contaminated with toxic foul smelling oil smoke and poisonous stinky hydrocarbon vapors. For the ethical question: does the driver of that smog belching vehicle care that I was forced to inhale the toxic emissions of their poorly maintained vehicle? Sadly all conventional vehicles have a tail pipe that emits smog forming emissions that other people have to breath.
Ownership of the Air
Sooner or later I image that California will invent a way to tax air since they have already managed to figure out a way to tax practically everything else. I find it astounding that with all of those taxes in California they cannot achieve a balanced state budget. I mention California because of CARB, the California air resource board. You often see on vehicles sales listings that California compliant models might differ from those models sold in other states. Stickers indicating that this or that products is known to the State of California to cause cancer also speak to the states strange legal practices. California has the most stringent air quality and emissions controls standards while simultaneously enjoying the worst smog laden air in America. This proves that even clean burning vehicles with the best available emissions controls still emit smog forming emissions that poison and foul the air we all breath.
What about the Children ?
Do you want your children breathing in things that cause asthma, obstructive pulmonary disorders, lung cancer, brain damage and heart disease? The inhalation of smog forming emissions is not only linked to these diseases, there evidence that everything from immune system disorders to genetic damages is related to the long term exposure to smog.
Leaded gas was once a popular fuel, but over time people became aware that breathing in the Lead emissions from vehicles fueled by this mixture was having a serious statistically significant effect on reducing the cognitive performance of everyone : Leaded fuel use was literally making our nation less intelligent. Leaded gas was phased out and modern fuel using MTBE and ethanol and other "oxygenates" were phased in. Petroleum refiners became more adept are cost efficient organic chemical manipulation of the crude oil, and we now enjoy super clean burning ultra low sulfer, low olefin goo, longer shelf stable gasoline mixes enhanced with engine cleaning detergent chemicals scrub away carbon deposits from our engines.
The US Economy
We have to import foreign oil to fuel our relatively inefficient fleet of vehicles. In terms of personal finances, it makes sense to keep a vehicle in good clean operating condition for its 20 year functional design life. A vehicle that is well maintained will also release fewer smog forming emissions.
Practical Vehicle Use
Combining errands for example is one way that everyone can enjoy better fuel economy in their current vehicles. Engines take a few a minutes to warm up, and once they are fully warmed, the emissions controls work properly. By combining errands, the emissions controls and engine stay hot and function effectively, and thus you not only save time and fuel and money, you also release fewer smog forming emissions for every gallon that you do burn on your combined trip.
If everyone was being intelligent with fuel conservation, we would import far less oil to America. Over time as new more fuel efficient vehicles replace old stinky ones that are recycled, the net demand and need for foreign oil will decrease. This situation is already taking place to such an extent that the federal governments national gas tax is not producing enough revenue to pay for our road infrastructure. People today are buying less gas because they are driving more fuel efficient vehicles or abstaining from driving old inefficient vehicles except when absolutely necessary. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles are becoming more popular every year.
The $4/gal price of fuel has a budget effect on drivers as most people feel the pain at the pump since the middle class is shrinking, and everything from food, to housing and electricity and natural gas is becoming more expensive; while wages are mostly static and the value and buying power of the dollar decreases.
Meg and I care about local air quality, fuel economy budget savings, living close to where we work, and driving practical vehicles for our 2 person 1 cat family. The Prius is practically a truck in terms of utility with the rear seats folded down, while the Leaf is ample big for our city use cases. The PCX scooter is our fun leisure alt vehicle for fair weather. All of these vehicles we use are super clean in terms of their emissions, but this was not always the case. I purchased the Prius new, leased the Leaf new, and purchased the PCX new, as doing do was a direct investment into the future. Even when we sell these vehicles to someone else, they will continue operating as clean energy efficient transportation machines. When you make an energy efficient primary consumer choice when buying a new vehicle, you are literally voting in the free market for clean energy technology. This is how progressive changes occur in a currency based marketplace. Every dollar spent is a vote for something.
Our previous vehicle fleet
1995 Toyota Celica, 1992 Ford Explorer, 2004 Suzuki GSXR600
28mpg, 14mpg, and 36mpg respectively
Our current vehicle fleet
2005 Toyota Prius, 2013 Nissan Leaf S, 2013 Honda PCX150
46.4mpg, 115mpg-e, and 95mpg respectively