is the “Not a Bus” concept in “#147 – Public Transportation That Is Not a Bus.” Christian Lander developed my basic point nicely:
… White people all support the idea of public transportation and will be happy to tell you about how the subways and streetcars/trams have helped to energize cities like Chicago and Portland. They will tell you all about the energy and cost savigns of having people abandon their cars for public transportation and how they hope that one day they can live in a city where they will be car-free.
At this point, you are probably thinking about the massive number of buses that serve your city and how you have never seen a white person riding them. To a white person a bus is essentially a giant minivan that continually stops to pick up progressively smellier people. You should never, ever point this out to a white person. It will make them recognize that they might not love public transportation as much as they though, and then they will feel sad.
The book is on Amazon for $11.80. I was going to mention that it’s very easy to give books as gifts via Amazon (just fill in the address of the recipient), but then I noticed “#138 Books:”
So now that you know that white people like books, you might assume that a book is the perfect gift. Not so fast. There are a few possible outcomes from giving books, and few of them end well. If you get a white person a book that they already have, the situation will be uncomfortable. If you get them a book that they do want, you will be forever viewed as someone with poor taste in literature. In the event that you get them a book that they want and do not have, they are forced to recognize that they have not read it, which instantly paints you as a threat. There is no way to win when you give a book to a white person.
The Honda Civic GX runs on compressed natural gas, which supposedly only costs about the equivalent of $1.25 per gallon of gasoline. Downsides include the tank only holds the equivalent of eight gallons of gasoline, so range is half of the gasoline version. And if you run out between the rare CNG filling stations, you’ll need to be towed to one. Plus, you only get 113 horsepower, instead of the 140 in the basic gasoline Civic. And the MSRP is a hefty $24,590, a couple of thousand more than the 110 horsepower Civic Hybrid.
My question is whether this is one of those rare cases where it pays more to get in early on a new technology. If 15 years from now, half of America is driving around in a compress natural gas vehicle, will the current large price gap between CNG and gasoline narrow considerably due to more demand for CNG?
The funny thing about the fashionable Toyota Prius is that it would get good gas mileage even it weren’t a hybrid. It has a very aerodynamic shape that provides a reasonable amount of interior room. Take out the weight added by the battery and electric motor, but keep things like the modest 0-60 acceleration, the use of aluminum rather than steel in places, and the real time miles per gallon gauge and you’d still have an efficient economy car. (And since the Prius has been built in Japan rather than America, you’d get Lexus-quality factory workmanship.)
But nobody would buy it. After all, the Prius is very similar in shape (just smaller) to perhaps the most unfashionable car of the decade, the Pontiac Aztek (introduced in 2001, now discontinued). The picture above is of an Aztek, not a Prius.
Conversely, nobody gets very excited over the Honda Civic Hybrid, because it doesn’t look like you’re saving the world by driving it. It just looks like you’re some loser who can only afford a Civic. In contrast, when you are driving a Prius, everybody can instantly recognize it’s a hybrid.
Basically, people choose cars to advertise themselves on the mating market. That’s fine, I’ve got no problem with that … except for the tens of millions of car-buyers who aren’t supposed to be on the mating market because they’re already married. Consider all the soccer moms who refused to buy aerodynamic minivans because they’re too mom-shaped. Instead, they bought squared-off SUVs, which get much worse mileage than minivans of similar capacity, because they felt they made them look sexier.
So, you have to give Toyota a lot of credit for figuring out how to trick us knuckleheaded Americans into wanting to eat our vegetables.
Cars these days come in boring colors, which would suggest that much of the public shares my indifference to choosing a car color based on aesthetics or self-expression. And yet, I’m having a hard time finding hard data that would let me make a functional decision on color.
In 1998, I bought an Accord in black because I thought it looked cool. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be hot anytime the sun shone. Now the paint is coming off the roof from baking for ten years, so it’s time to get the Accord repainted so I can limp it along a few more years.
From a non-aesthetic standpoint, what’s the best color for a car?
I see four goals:
1. Heats up the least in the sun.
2. Most visible for safety.
3. Shows dirt the least.
4. Not gaudy (i.e., not pink or purple or anything else that, as Oscar Wilde would say, might expose me to comment at the stoplight).
The EPA finally improved their Miles Per Gallon ratings about a year ago. Ever since the 1970s, they had been based on a maximum speed of 55 mph, so they were absurdly optimistic. Because car color affects gas mileage (hotter cars lead to the air conditioner being run more), perhaps the government should publish heat absorption figures for every color. (Of course, it would probably take the EPA decades to get it right.)
Thank you, federal government. Back in March 2006, I blogged:
It’s time to revise the federal gas mileage rating methodology. Have you noticed how the official gas mileage ratings on cars are absurdly optimistic? … This outdated test means that vehicle buyers don’t realize how expensive unaerodynamic and heavy SUVs will turn out to be. … Considering as well the non-monetary costs of oil consumption for the environment and foreign policy, is it too much to ask that the government tell us the straight story on mpg ratings?
And it turns out that the EPA now has a new, less nutty methodology. For example, the 2007 V6 Toyota Camry (with the 6 speed automatic) used to be rated at 22 city, 31 highway, but is now rated by the EPA at 19 and 28. That’s better, but it still sounds like what the more careful than average driver gets, not what the typical lead-footed American achieves.
A reader writes:
1) Look at safety first. The safercars.gov and iihs.org sites are where to start. The US DOT tests more car-car crashes. The IIHS tests more of how a car will do it hit by an SUV. So they don’t always agree on top ratings. Note that Ford, Audi, and Subaru do really well on the top picks list of IIHS. Note as well that a top small car pick is NOT as safe as a top big car pick.
2) You can look at fuel efficiency on fueleconomy.gov. Note that the EPA just tightened their way to test fuel efficiency. Some cars (especially bigger ones) suffered only small losses under the new testing regime. But the Prius’s mileage dropped 25%. On that site you can look at each car with both the old and new ratings systems.
3) The main fuel economy value of hybrids comes from capturing energy with regenerative braking. Watch how much you hit the brakes on commutes.
4) Ford and GM have come a long way on quality. Granted, Toyota still has a lead. But their lead isn’t so big as it used to be.
5) I believe oil prices will keep going up because, near as I can tell, we really are using up all the oil. But ask yourself how many miles you’ll drive per year and what gas will cost you per year at various prices per gallon and mpg. My commute will be so short that I’m insensitive to $5/gallon gas or even $6/gallon gas. I drive a big Cadillac for safety and want to move up to a newer Town Car for even better crash ratings.
6) I find the autotrader.com site the best for looking for used cars. But there are cars that only show up on one of the other sites.
7) The Germans are bringing back diesels. Even Honda says they will come out with a diesel but not this year or probably not next either. The lowering of allowable sulfur in diesel fuel has allowed fancier filtering systems and therefore 50 state diesel is making a come back. There’s a diesel VW Jetta coming out this fall that’ll cost maybe $24k. Probably last a long time and beat a lot of hybrids on the highway.
8) Fords are nice and underpowered. Yes, the overpowering is ridiculous. Reviewers complain the Town Car has only 239 hp whereas a 1990 Town Car had like 199 hp. The Cad DTS has 300 hp and for what exactly? My mom’s supposedly underpowered 2000 Grand Marquis seems to accelerate fast to me. Yet the car mags complain about Fords not being as peppy as Lexuses and Beemers. What the hell?
Car companies competing on horsepower as if your normal commute is across the Bonneville Salt Flats at 140 mph everyday reminds me of house shopping. You go to an open house where the sales lady says that the seller knocked out lots of interior walls converting an eight room house into a five room house with one vast central room, and everybody oohs and aahs about how great it would be for parties. And I’m oohing and aahing too, but in the back of my mind, a little voice is yapping, “Hey, you don’t hold parties, and what you really want is your own little room where you can shut the door and think without hearing the damn TV.” Similarly, the last time I drove over 80 mph was on a deserted flat, straight back road to Monterey that Jerry Pournelle assured me was never visited by the cops. I got a $400 speeding ticket for going 86.
After years of having the shortest commutes in LA history, we now have to do some serious driving, so I’ve been thinking about gas mileage, but I’m making no progress with my thinking.
Hopefully, my 10 year old sedan won’t collapse anytime soon, but it’s making weird shimmying motions, so I’ve started to look at car ads again, and, what the heck happened with horsepower in this decade? The Toyota Camry V6, the most generic middle of the road car of them all, is rated at 268 hp. My old sedan has 200 hp and goes 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, and that seems like plenty.
So, does all this extra modern horsepower consume more gas, all else being equal? I could look at the federal mileage ratings, but I’ve never come close to the numbers they claim. The federal test track must start on the top of Pike’s Peak.
Is this purely a physics problem of how much the car weighs, how fast you accelerate it, and what your wind and road resistance is at top speed, so that horsepower doesn’t matter? I should just accelerate like I have 168 hp instead of 268? Is that it?
Even if that were so, it doesn’t sound very realistic for a mediocre driver like me. I mean, you could probably drive some state-of-the-art bat-out-of-hellmobile in a sensible fashion, merging into traffic off the onramp at a moderate pace, but I’d likely continue to stomp it for all it was worth even if I had a Bugatti Veyron.
Or was this just an error by the car companies? Did they forecast that gas would $1.50 per gallon in the wake of a successful Iraq War and wind up with a line of gas-guzzlers?