Monday, June 1, 2009
Transportation, or Toys?
Pretty obvious that the automobile transportation industry is only fractionally involved in transporting people from "A" to "B". This pictured truck probably has seldom if ever gotten off a paved road, but undoubtedly has in excess of $5,000 in modifications that are completely unnecessary for moving people to school or work, or to go shopping. We all like our toys, and everyone likes something about their personal vehicle. But in this country, vehicles are more toys than transportation.
But the world cannot take it no mo'. The realistic, mature fact is, there are simply too many people on the planet, and putting money into non-functional but expensive add-ons is simply unsustainable. The huge losses all across the automobile industry, worldwide, leaves no doubt that this is true. We cannot have a nation where one person in fifty grows food, and ten in fifty sell chrome-plated-this and super-shock-absorber-thats.
I get SAE's monthly magazine, and I see even in 2009 the auto industry still swooning, still pouring enormous amounts of research and money into seven-speed transmissions, muting noise at eighty miles per hour, more elaborate fuel delivery systems for V8, V10 engines, for more horsepower per cubic inch displacement. These don't add value to transportation on the highway, because these incremental "advances" are only functional above 70 mph!.
Advertising that a car has an "electronically limited top speed of 155 mile-per-hour" is desperation...desperation grown of shrinking sales. Acceleration and an unusable "top speed" may help -sell- a particular type of car, but simply focusing on tactics to increase sales by offering "better high-speed performance" leads to a nationwide fleet of cars that cost too much in total operating cost (fuel, insurance, depreciation) for the value they provide in getting from "A" to "B" efficiently.
If the maximum speed a vehicle could travel was physically constrained to 34 mph (55kmph), engines could be very small (two cylinder most likely) and mileage would quickly surpass 200 miles-per-gallon in new, clean-sheet designs. Once you have a lighter, inexpensive vehicle, and no excessive oil importation, then you can begin adding spinning hubcabs and jacked-up suspensions... fuel efficient cars DO NOT have to be tiny Prius econo-boxes, IF they don't have to go 70 mph!
In addition, let's enjoy the reduced carbon output as we simultaneously return sanity to transportation.