Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Suck, squeeze, bang, blow.
May 20, 2009 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Honda insight 1.3 IMA SE Hybrid: "So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist (180 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
To be fair, Mr. Clarkson also crashed a Toyota Hilux into a tree, and he seemed to like that vehicle just fine.
posted by ryanrs at 3:40 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


That Clarkson, he's so full of... full of... I dunno... full of Zing!
posted by Elmore at 3:45 PM on May 20, 2009


This is idiotic. Why are we giving Clarkson's reviews of hybrids exposure? The guy obviously harbors a lot of hatred towards the environmental movement (and hybrids in general) over some misguided belief that the "soul" of a car is lost or whatever.

And this is coming from a "petrolhead" who enjoys Top Gear. Clarkson should just stick his hyperbole on hypercars, and stay away out of the adult conversations.

We might as well post articles about what Sean Hannity thinks of the Obama administration.
posted by spiderskull at 3:50 PM on May 20, 2009 [27 favorites]


I enjoy watching Top Gear. That said, Jeremy Clarkson is a fuckstick. For example:

I am well aware that there are a great many people in the world who believe that the burning of fossil fuels will one day kill all the Dutch and that something must be done.

Then he goes on later in the article about how he's "not convinced" that global warming is the result of human activity. The most irritating part of the article is how he pretends that he wants to like the car, but he can't because it's so ghastly. We know very well that he had half the "zingers" in that review written before he ever saw the car, much less drove it.

Why couldn't he have had the head injury instead of Hammond?
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:50 PM on May 20, 2009 [14 favorites]


Pleblon, the material for the masses!
posted by Meatbomb at 3:51 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, his environmental commentary is simply horseshit, but it is written in an amusing tone. Doesn't make it less horseshit.
posted by graymouser at 3:51 PM on May 20, 2009


So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy.

This is a new meaning for this word to me.
posted by GuyZero at 3:56 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now if only they'd design a car that ran on bile.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:56 PM on May 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


That was a terrible review. Biblically terrible.
posted by mullingitover at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2009 [13 favorites]


Also, I'd like to point out that he recycles a lot of his hyperbole. I read that article and didn't find any descriptions or literary techniques that he hasn't already used in his show (or his older written pieces for that matter).
posted by spiderskull at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2009


We know very well that he had half the "zingers" in that review written before he ever saw the car, much less drove it.

Actually, he goes to the trouble to contrast it with the Prius, which he says doesn't suck (at least as much), so that's probably not true. He also has a well-taken comment at the end about how any new tech has to compete with 100 years of perfecting internal combustion. I think the review would have been better without the environmental sideswipes (with which I wholly disagree) but I did read a productive "hybrids are going to tend to suck, but there's no reason for this one to suck so much except that they cheaped out on everything, and it shows and the result is really, really horrible."
posted by localroger at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


While I have yet to be convinced that man’s 3% contribution to the planet’s greenhouse gases affects the climate,

*click*
posted by dersins at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2009 [19 favorites]


This is a new meaning for this word to me.

He's used this adjective before (BMW M6 review -- it was "biblically fast", and some other car -- I think the Ascari A10). Again, just aids the hyperbole.
posted by spiderskull at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2009


Now if only they'd design a car that ran on bile.

Or a Clarkson that would cycle a bike.
posted by Elmore at 3:59 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, I posted it because I thought the review was rather funny, mainly. I am an environmentalist, I drive a 50MPG VW diesel. I think hybrids are a waste of limited resources. The energy needed to make all those batteries that go bad, all the heavy metals involved, it just doesn't seem like a valid solution to our problems to build a half gas half electric car.

Mainly I thought it would spur a discussion on the relative merits of hybrids more than I thought his opinions should be adopted by anyone. I'd actually like to believe a new hybrid is better for the environment than using the same money to keep a 90's civic out of the junkyard, so far I haven't been convinced.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 4:00 PM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ack! Mainly I used mainly too many times, mainly.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2009


The only thing more predictable than a Jeremy Clarkson review is the Metafilter response to a Jeremy Clarkson review.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:03 PM on May 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


I like the one that's brain damaged from that jetcar accident. He's like a hobbit version of David Tennant. With brain damage. From a jetcar.
posted by Artw at 4:04 PM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


That is a very written (not well written, but definitely written) bit of snark from Clarkson, with some very funny bits. If it were about an SUV, we'd probably still dislike the bias he shows walking in to this, but it is amusing to read someone who is so obviously ill-equipped to write without bias.

It seems to be his task, though, to troll people. That's what he's paid to do both on the show and in print. He seems to be pretty successful with it, monetarily. He's a professional auto troll. His opposite, politically, would be...sort of...Jamie Kitman at Automobile Magazine, who is often trolling the SUV / high horsepower / anti-eco crowd.

And the opposite of the automotive journalism troll? You'll have a hell of a time finding one. Ezra Dyer, maybe, since he's just trying to be funny.
posted by blixco at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2009


Regarding the engine noise, he writes:
Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.
This is the best car review I've ever read.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2009 [21 favorites]


Which is worse--the car press writing on green issues, or the green press writing on car ones?
posted by box at 4:07 PM on May 20, 2009


Oh, you read his column too!
posted by mattoxic at 4:09 PM on May 20, 2009


In a Prius the electric motor can, though almost never does, power the car on its own. In the Honda the electric motor is designed to “assist” the petrol engine, providing more get-up-and-go when the need arises.

Hmmm... not sure "almost never does" is true - when I've ridden in a Prius it's spent almost all it's time electrical, though admittedly that was in situations that required a lot of stop and go driving. Still, the contrasting Honda approach sounds kind of horrible and pointless.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on May 20, 2009


I'm always skeptical of professional car reviewers. They get to drive some really nice cars, so low end cars are always going to seem pretty shitty. But to me, after driving a 1990 Corolla for 19 years, even the most low end rental car seems like Heaven. (except for the Chevy HHR which I didn't like because the windows are too small.)
posted by vespabelle at 4:10 PM on May 20, 2009


Again, to be fair to Clarkeson, his best stuff seems to be about low end cars (albiet often when he's doing something weird with them).
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on May 20, 2009


vespabelle: Out of all the cars I have driven the HHR is my least favorite. The windows were small, the throttle was touchy, the steering was twitchy, it had no power, it was noisy inside. It is almost like gm decided to make the most annoying car available at any price.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 4:13 PM on May 20, 2009


I am an environmentalist, I drive a 50MPG VW diesel.

Hahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahaaaa!

And not a 'biblical' in sight.
posted by i_cola at 4:14 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I rented a Jeep Compass two years ago for a weekend and it was only about halfway through that I figured out it was CVT. Clarkson's blanket dismissal of CVT is typical; I'd take it over a slushbox if the Jeep is any comparison, and probably over a dual-clutch auto-manual because I don't trust a mechanical component that has 5,000 parts.
posted by toroi at 4:14 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The guy obviously harbors a lot of hatred towards the environmental movement (and hybrids in general) over some misguided belief that the "soul" of a car is lost or whatever.

What Clarkson has said in the past is that the entire idea behind the powerplant of a car really is needs to change. He's a huge advocate of hydrogen fuel cells, and I agree with him, even though I own a hybrid.

Hybrid cars are, ultimately, a losing proposition. They are neither fun to drive, nor are they hugely more efficient than a turbodiesel. Pure-EV cars have potential, although they need a lot of work on the battery side, and there is a massive problem with range. The real solution is a hydrogen fuel cell. You'll still be able to get good lap times around the Nurburgring, and fuel efficiency won't matter much, because there's enough hydrogen in the world to power our cars until the end of time.

Clarkson's very knowledgeable, so he understands that -- especially in the US -- there is going to be a massive chicken vs. egg problem. Does every Shell/Arco/Exxon fuel station add a hydrogen pump? Of course not, since there's very limited supply of FCX cars. Do people go out and buy a massive amount of FCX cars? Of course not, because they can't gas up anywhere outside of Southern California. I'd be interested in hearing what Clarkson's proposal for solving this problem is, as it will be the number one issue that fuel cell-powered cars have.
posted by mark242 at 4:14 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I kinda gave up reading after I hit this:

Why doesn’t he just buy a Range Rover, which is made from local components, just down the road? No, really — weird-beards buy locally produced meat and vegetables for eco-reasons. So why not apply the same logic to cars?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:19 PM on May 20, 2009


Well, I posted it because I thought the review was rather funny, mainly.

You don't need to apologize. It's definitely interesting and obviously inspires discussion.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:19 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


It seems to be his task, though, to troll people. Then he is best ignored.

Instead of tl;dr, I'd like to see more tt;dr (too trollish).
posted by wendell at 4:22 PM on May 20, 2009


I had never heard of this guy, but his Wikipedia article references these delightful anecdotes:

he was reported as saying that the people working on the Hyundai stand had "eaten a dog" and that the designer of the Hyundai XG had probably eaten a spaniel for his lunch

the German government was said to be displeased that Clarkson, while talking about a car design that might be "quintessentially German", made a mock Nazi salute, and made references to the Hitler regime and the German invasion of Poland

While in Australia Clarkson made disparaging remarks aimed at Gordon Brown, in February 2009, calling him a "one-eyed Scottish idiot"

Clarkson readily discusses high speed driving on public roads, and criticizes road safety campaigns involving cameras and speed bumps.

Clarkson picked up on and agreed with an audience member's description of the Daihatsu Copen as being a bit "gay"

The Top Gear: Polar Special was criticised by the BBC Trust for glamorising drink driving in a scene showing Clarkson and James May drinking at the wheel

And apparently he gets the highest ratings on BBC Two. Henceforth, I will tolerate no further British jokes at the expense of the American media.
posted by decagon at 4:23 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


there's enough hydrogen in the world to power our cars until the end of time

There's tons of it, sure, but it's all tightly bound to oxygen and other things. Do you have a secret plan for getting it out? Let's not mistake hydrogen for a fuel source; it's at best a transfer mechanism.
posted by echo target at 4:23 PM on May 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


and fuel efficiency won't matter much

I submit that it will always cost at least ~$2 to move a typical private car ~30 miles in this economy -- powered by bottled butterfly farts or ZPE convertors, it don't matter until the alternative is more than a replacement good for gasoline.
posted by toroi at 4:24 PM on May 20, 2009


This is a fairly typical review of Clarkson's. Hyperbole, hyperbole, hyperbole.

blixco: Clarkson does, at least on Top Gear usually try to steer people away from SUVs and the such so I don't think it's fair to call him part of the SUV-crowd. SUVs are not a particularly well liked among automotive enthusiasts in general. Apart from when you have to go up a hill.

And also, his viewpoint on hybrids is at least a little bit cogent:
From Jeremy Clarkson's review of the Lexus GS 450h
Or try this for size. Wikipedia says the Toyota Prius looks like and performs like a normal car but delivers 50% better fuel economy. That’s not true. A Prius doesn’t look or perform like a normal car and it will do only 45mpg(54mpg for you US folk) — far, far less than you’d get from a Golf diesel, say. I harbour a belief, founded on an admittedly limited grasp of science, that if you removed the electric motor and the batteries from a Toyota Prius, you’d save so much weight that it would become more economical and therefore even kinder to the environment.
posted by Authorized User at 4:25 PM on May 20, 2009


I liked the article. It made me laugh, more with him than at him to boot.
posted by Vindaloo at 4:26 PM on May 20, 2009


Why would an SUV be better on hills?
posted by Artw at 4:26 PM on May 20, 2009


>I kinda gave up reading after I hit this:

Why doesn’t he just buy a Range Rover, which is made from local components, just down the road? No, really — weird-beards buy locally produced meat and vegetables for eco-reasons. So why not apply the same logic to cars?


Yeah, that's worth mentioning. He's essentially suggesting that a Range Rover is produced from all-British parts. No chance the components are made in Asia and shipped to the West Midlands for assembly.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:27 PM on May 20, 2009


Artw: Yeah my bad. Should have said 4x4. And also I was thinking of one particular stunt of Clarkson's when he drove up a 4x4 up a hill somewhere in Britain, possibly in Wales. He got plenty of fire from that one too, since it turned out he drove over some endangered moss or something. You can only imagine his reaction to being told he drove over moss.
posted by Authorized User at 4:31 PM on May 20, 2009


I'm glad to have finally read the review, which I've heard a bit about over the last day or two. I never read his Prius review, but I thought that since I'd heard he hated the Prius so much, a bad review of the Insight meant it was a pretty good car.

However, I see maybe he has some valid points. All reviews are subjective, of course, and if I wasn't a happy Prius owner I'd at least like to give the Insight a test drive to see if it's as noisy and uncomfortable as Clarkson claims it is.

Mark242, I love my hybrid, but I agree that it's a dead end. It's an interim solution to the problem, and it's the best interim solution we have at the moment. I'd love to wait for the $25,000 all-electric family car with the 300 mile range, but my Taurus was dying and I needed something a little sooner.

Really, Clarkson's a good deal more fun to watch than to read.
posted by lhauser at 4:32 PM on May 20, 2009


I appreciate the opportunity to add "weird beard" to my vocabulary, it is a spot-on description.
posted by maxwelton at 4:35 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


@mark242

he not only advocates hydrogen fuel cells in the past, he advocates them in this very article. Heck he even goes to laud the Honda Clarity - a hydrogen fuel cell car.

In fact it's quite obvious that most of the above commentators didn't even read the entire article and are jumping on the the sensationalist headline given to this post.
posted by C.Batt at 4:38 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see Clarkson's point about not wanting to shell out the extra cash to buy a Prius when buying a used Corolla probably accomplishes the same objectives.
posted by oaf at 4:38 PM on May 20, 2009


Yeah. The British know cars.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:40 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I missed the byline, saw it was Jezzer and figured out the rest of the article as if by psychic powers. The man is pure bloviating magic, but his sheer hatred of economy is something to be bronzed and hung in a lavvy.
posted by NiteMayr at 4:42 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why would an SUV be better on hills?

Engines and transmissions that provide more torque are generally better on hills and for towing. On the other hand, more torque is not good for gas mileage. My Toyota minivan is marvelous around town, and thrifty for its size. Head up into the mountains, and it's like someone turned on a headwind.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:44 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I ran into tree on purpose once!
I went to test drive a very cheap automobile. Some mid-sixties sedan.
The "car dealer" explained the sketchy status of the title: He didn't have one. When I got in the car, I noticed the seat belt had been thoughtfully hacked off from the driver's side.
I took her out onto the undivided four lane highway and struggled to make sense of her old-fashioned "clutching mechanism."
I turned off onto a neighborhood street, thinking I would do better in a lower traffic density. This was in the Ozarks, and the street that I had chosen for its safety became perilous as it climbed in altitude.
Maybe seventy five yards up the hill, the car stalled. I smashed the "brake" to no avail. My backward velocity increasing, I panicked as I watched the cars whooshing to and fro below.
I ended up swerving the car into a big tree, smashing the rear of the machine somewhat.
Man, that was scary. Biblically Frightening.
I read the comments but not the article.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 4:44 PM on May 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah. The British know cars.

Oh, they know cars. Just not the electric parts of cars. There's nothing surprising about the British being skeptical of a car that contains more electrical bits than the usual car.
posted by The World Famous at 4:44 PM on May 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


I loved it. I am all for eco-friendly cars, but approve when someone smartly informs me of of a shitty attempt at a better car.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 4:48 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hydrogen is a dead end in vehicles. It's nothing more than a power storage mechanism, and in that regard it's inferior to a simple battery. There are are too many jumps from power source to destination in the hydrogen chain, each one taking their toll on efficiency. The cars on the road thirty years from now will be battery-powered.
posted by mullingitover at 4:49 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then he goes on later in the article about how he's "not convinced" that global warming is the result of human activity.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, that's not what he writes.

"While I have yet to be convinced that man’s 3% contribution to the planet’s greenhouse gases affects the climate, I do recognise that oil is a finite resource..."

He doesn't dispute that man contributes greenhouses gases. What he is not convinced about it is the extent and degree of man's contribution on climate, and "climate" is composed of a lot more than "warming."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:50 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Last year he joined John Grishman on my list of authors I've read while trapped somewhere that only has one book. And over a book length you get to understand his steez: under lashings of hyperbole and some hit-and-miss (the hits are real hits, though) comedy analogies there's generally a reasonable point (except where climate change is concerned).

The point here seems equally reasonable: regardless of its environmental merits, this car is awful. Regarding its environmental merits, it's even worse. So why bother, especially when Honda is so close with its very good hydrogen technology?

mark242: We're in another era of Big Spending on the part of the US govt. Surely a incentive or subsidy of hydrogen fuelling points could form some part of the cash being spent on the auto industry?
posted by fightorflight at 4:55 PM on May 20, 2009


Biblically terrible.
This is a new meaning for this word to me.
Driving this car smites all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast.
posted by Flunkie at 4:56 PM on May 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


The only thing more predictable than a Jeremy Clarkson review is the Metafilter response to a Jeremy Clarkson review.

We need a new Manhattan Project, a MeFi Project, possibly, that builds a car that will run on snark.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:57 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that's very pedantic.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:59 PM on May 20, 2009


Hybrid cars are, ultimately, a losing proposition. They are neither fun to drive, nor are they hugely more efficient than a turbodiesel.

First of all, I've grown weary of this constant diesel talk. Clean diesel does not exist. The hydrocarbon output of diesel engines is problematic (and those that manage to get it down are slow as hell -- might as well drive a fuel efficient gas engine).

Second of all, you've got the technologies mixed up. Anything based on hydrogen is not going to work. Not now, not ever. There is no way around this. You absolutely cannot and will not go around the laws of physics. Fuel cells are gimmicky at best, and a colossal waste of money and brainpower at worst. They are not the future.

Clarkson's very knowledgeable

Uh, no. Obviously he does not understand how energy systems work or the second law of thermodynamics, since he supports fuel cells.

Clarkson is not a terribly intelligent guy. He's just entertaining and is passionate about what he does (and he's good at translating that into an easy-to-digest angry man character).
posted by spiderskull at 5:00 PM on May 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


We need a new Manhattan Project, a MeFi Project, possibly, that builds a car that will run on snark.

Computer keyboards that use some of the energy from physical keystrokes and convert them to electricity sent back to the grid to charge electric cars. The resistance in the keyboards could probably double and be acceptable to all of the people who type about how much they hate Jeremy Clarkson.

It could be the greatest environmental achievement . . . in the worrrrld.
posted by The World Famous at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are are too many jumps from power source to destination in the hydrogen chain, each one taking their toll on efficiency

Yup. Which is why the global-fuckup previous administration centered their alternative energy policy on hydrogen.
posted by toroi at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2009


Wow, you people are closed-minded assholes. I think this place used to be better than this? I'm not sure anymore.

Get out of your tiny little boxes, assholes.
posted by Super Hans at 5:02 PM on May 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


Also, it seems folks are missing the point of the hybrid.

We need hybrids because they allow us to scale up the battery production model for what will be propelling us in the future: electric cars. We now have an existing infrastructure to handle such huge amounts of NiMH batteries.

Now, they're not environmentally friendly. In fact, the Prius has a fairly big carbon footprint. It does, however, allow Toyota to set up their company so that they now have a reasonable path towards fully electric cars, both in production of raw materials and assembly.
posted by spiderskull at 5:04 PM on May 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, well then. Please enlighten us, Super Hans.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:04 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you have ever driven a car with constantly variable transmission you would agree with Clarkson's review of the Insight.

Although he makes some snide and weird asides (srsly, global warming is fake?) in the article, the review of the car itself is pretty valuable: car is not engineered well; does not drive well; assembled from cheap parts; its total carbon footprint can actually contradict its claim toward being eco-friendly, etc.

Pretty valid and valuable car review, if you ask me.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:06 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Get out of your tiny little boxes, assholes.

You can take the keys to my Geo Metro. Out of my cold, dead hands.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Get out of your tiny little boxes, assholes.

Clarkson reminds me of Cmdr Taco's infamous "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." summary of the iPod.

I recently discovered this quote from Alan Kay, from 1982: "Point of view is worth 80 IQ points". Clarkson and other opinionated a-holes are walking / talking examples of this.
posted by toroi at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2009


Pretty valid and valuable car review, if you ask me.

I'll be waiting for a second opinion.
posted by toroi at 5:10 PM on May 20, 2009


Clean diesel does not exist.

But fuel-efficient diesel does exist, which makes it just as good as hybrid in terms of CO2.

Second of all, you've got the technologies mixed up. Anything based on hydrogen is not going to work. Not now, not ever. There is no way around this. You absolutely cannot and will not go around the laws of physics. Fuel cells are gimmicky at best, and a colossal waste of money and brainpower at worst. They are not the future.

Yes. This.

When petrolheads tout the virtues of hydrogen, I suspect it's for one reason alone: They recognize that environmentalists are more swayed by fads than by actually figuring out what is environmentally friendly or feasible, so they are trying to sway the environmentalists to a technology that a) will not actually replace actual petrol cars and b) will make cars fun to drive if implemented.
posted by The World Famous at 5:12 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Get out of your tiny little boxes, assholes.

Meow!
posted by everichon at 5:14 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


My god, Clarkson's starting to sound like AA Gill.
posted by grounded at 5:16 PM on May 20, 2009


Oh my god, hydrogen fuel cells are not the answer. It's a complete dead end.

Where do you get the hydrogen from? Currently, it's pulled from natural gas, which does nothing to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and takes a tremendous amount of energy to drill for and process.

We could possibly get it from water some time in the future, but that technology is far from being economically feasible. Also, considering there's not enough fresh water in many parts of the world for drinking and watering crops, I can't see it being a viable option globally.

Well, how about salt water? Well, salt water electrolysis gives you chlorine...lots of it. Also not terribly environmentally friendly. Where else can we get it? Algae, maybe, but that's decades away. And don't even get me started on the storage and transport issues.
posted by lunalaguna at 5:17 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Zing zing zing, you cat killing assholes!
posted by Artw at 5:18 PM on May 20, 2009


KokoRyu, I was under the impression that my Prius has a constantly variable transmission. I'm pretty happy with it. I get plenty of power when I need it, and like it lots better than my 5-speed Saturn.
posted by lhauser at 5:19 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This place definitely went down the crapper, Super Hans. I remember it well. March 23rd, everything was excellent. And then, somehow, something made it all terrible the very next day.
posted by SpiffyRob at 5:20 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is tangential to the argle-bargle-Clarkson-rargle, but I'm kind of excited for the Chevy Volt. I think it promises what a lot of people are looking for, and is a better interim solution than some hybrid solutions right now. I can get from work to home and back in 30 miles, and the idea of not using any gas, at all, for that trip is very appealing to me.

Clarson also reviewed the Tesla electric car which he calls, ha-ha, "biblically quick". It's a favorable review despite the problems the car had. He points out that electric cars powered by the grid are going to increase coal/ nuclear power demand, which some green car enthusiasts completely forget.

Once the issue of battery performance is solved, I don't think petrol cars are going to be around except as cultural artifacts. It's a huge problem, though, and one that's going to be around for a while. It feels like we're much nearer to the start of the era than the end, but it's still exciting times.

Super Hans, do you have a complaint? Use your words
posted by boo_radley at 5:23 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The guaranteed 100-mile electric car. (of 1908)
posted by Rumple at 5:24 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anything based on hydrogen is not going to work. Not now, not ever. You absolutely cannot and will not go around the laws of physics.

Can you say a bit more, please -- what is it about hydrogen fuel cells that mean they can never be viable? (I take it that's what you mean by "work", because the Honda car seems to be an example of them working in the everyday sense) And if batteries are better at powering cars, are they also better environmentally?

I ask not so much because I care about cars, but because I hear a lot of waffle about how fuel cells are also the future of portable power -- ie laptops etc -- and you seem pretty clear-cut that they're a dead end.
posted by fightorflight at 5:25 PM on May 20, 2009


Super Hans, do you have a complaint? Use your words

this crack is really morish
posted by Artw at 5:29 PM on May 20, 2009


So whatever happened to the revolution that was going to be flywheel batteries?
posted by maxwelton at 5:30 PM on May 20, 2009


I look at the problems of peak oil and global warming this way: Nothing will happen until something happens.

$5 gas spurned one of the local dealers in my home town to sell the humble Zenn electric car, and for SUV sales to plummet (among other things) so I think we won't see a viable alternative to petrol until we run out. Doing so requires an entire change to the transportation infrastructure, which isn't gonna happen until it needs to happen.

Granted, there are some really awesome hybrids out right now, such as the Ford fusion hybrid. Seats 4 comfortably, doesn't look like a grey jelly bean with 4 wheels, and drives like a normal car with 40 MPG on the highway. Driving it isn't going to save the planet, but it's a normal car, with an electric motor doing some of the work.
posted by hellojed at 5:31 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can you say a bit more, please -- what is it about hydrogen fuel cells that mean they can never be viable?

The problem is that hydrogen, unlike oil, is not just hanging around somewhere in the environment, ready to be harvested and put into fuel cells. It takes so much energy to separate hydrogen atoms from the other atoms to which they are bonded that it makes it pointless to use hydrogen as fuel. It makes it so that hydrogen is not really a fuel, but is instead just a sort of medium for storing the energy that it took to get the hydrogen in the first place. And that energy has to come from somewhere, and will have byproducts.

The Honda Clarity runs just fine on hydrogen. But the hydrogen is not free or easy to get. Those who say "hydrogen is all around us!" are incorrect or misleading at best.
posted by The World Famous at 5:32 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


get out of
your tiny little boxes
assholes
get,
out of your
tiny little boxes:
assholes
get snark plugs
get hydrogenated
get moving
get away
get lost
get out
of your boxes, which,
on second thought,
containing, as they must
such huge assholes
I suppose can't really be
so tiny
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:33 PM on May 20, 2009 [15 favorites]


Anything based on hydrogen is not going to work. Not now, not ever. You absolutely cannot and will not go around the laws of physics.

There is one scenario I can think of where hydrogen as a fuel is viable and that is if commercially important power generation through fusion comes about. Electrolysis of water to get the hydrogen+deuterium+tritium out of it would have free hydrogen as a by-product. This is twenty years in the future and it has been twenty years in the future for the last thirty years.

Until then I think the Europeans have it: small diesels. The particulate emission is gradually being dealt with. The cars are fun and not that much more expensive than gas-engined cars. The fuel mileage is amazing: 56 mpg (US) in a Renault Clio for three weeks - but this car is a bit too small for US roads; 47 mpg (US) in an Opel Astra for three weeks. If this car were available in the USA with AWD I would camp out at the Opel dealer to have the first one.

There are very, very few hybrids in either France or Spain and fuel costs there are easily double what they are in the US. From every point of view - size, economy, reliability, car-like virtues - when people have a choice they pick diesel.
posted by jet_silver at 5:35 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK. I've been wavering back and forth between pro and anti over the past couple of years in the hydrogen debate.

Now the thing I realised about hydrogen is that you have to stop thinking about it as a fuel. Hydrogen isn't a fuel. It's a store of energy that can be used with extremely high efficiencies.

The world is running out of fuel. Simple as that. There's not a lot of high density energy waiting to be pulled out of it. We're probably on the backend of oil's production curve and natural gas won't last us out the rest of the century at the rate we're increasing our energy consumption. So it's not a shift in fuel source, it's a complete shift in the paradigm that is energy distribution and usage. The world is simply running out of "free" energy in a hydrocarbon form.

Energy is a tricky thing to store. Electrically we're shit at it. Batteries have MJ/kg that would make even Ethanol go "I can beat that shit in energy density". It also means wherever you go you better hope there's a way to recharge your car. And that you can do it quickly.

Hydrogen has the benefit of being combustible in slightly altered designs of current ICEs with near zero emissions (no matter how much you don't want hydrogen to be evil you still have to lubricate an ICE which means oil is being burnt in the cylinder) or being used chemically in a fuel cell to drive an electric motor. It is also highly compressible and has a large energy density compared to a battery. You can distribute it much like LPG is distributed among filling stations today (partially reusing all that expensive distribution infrastructure) and you can dump a few thousand megajoules of energy into the tank in a minute or so.

Of course it needs to be stored at cryogenic temperatures and has a tendency to not only leak from solid steel containers but embrittle them over time giving them a rather limited lifetime but those are problems that can be solved with time and research. Hell, 100 years from now we might be pumping solid metastable metallic hydrogen balls into our fuel tanks a'la Futurama's dark matter. Who knows?

Now the idea is we'll be able to use hydrogen as a store of energy for solar/wind power to make them able to function as base load power stations (their biggest weakness right now) and also during off-peak hours your nuclear/coal base load power stations can make hydrogen from water and sell it. You could effectively buy some land in the desert, set up some solar panels, set up some windmills and start trucking hydrogen to the city. There's no real limit to how we can obtain hydrogen. We're going to have to shift to capturing energy and storing it anyway as opposed to sucking it out of the ground for free so why not do it in a way that let's us function roughly as we do today so that we can switch over fuel sources very quickly.

In terms of hydrogen vs battery chemistry I think you'll find that hydrogen is already practical (not perfect) rather than battery chemistry which is still 20-30 years away at least from being able to perform at endurance levels similar to petrol driven ICEs with a 20 gallon fuel tanks that we have today. The puzzles that the hydrogen industry are yet to solve are harder compared to the slow but steady linear increase in capability of battery chemistry but we could use hydrogen now without too much disruption to our industry despite its shortfalls. We can even obtain hydrogen through steam reformation of methane in the short term while we shift to large scale non-hydrocarbon energy production that will allows us to start capturing and converting energy.

In general I do think Hydrogen is the future but there's still a way to go yet.
posted by Talez at 5:57 PM on May 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Well, how about salt water? Well, salt water electrolysis gives you chlorine...lots of it.

I would imagine they would just remove the salt first, which would take much less energy then actually splitting the hydrogen and oxygen.
posted by delmoi at 5:58 PM on May 20, 2009


But the hydrogen is not free or easy to get.

You create a lot of C02 emissions by converting water or whatever into hydrogen.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:01 PM on May 20, 2009


Given Clarkson got caught out making shit up to make the Tesla look bad, I find his credibility on alternative fuel vehicles questionable, at best.
posted by rodgerd at 6:03 PM on May 20, 2009


Here's a more honest review about what is right -- and wrong -- with the SE...

First, what's right about it, from the perspective of a British car rental agency:
- It is the cheapest hybrid family car available
- CO2 emissions of 101g/km make it an ideal green choice
- A sub-£15,500 price, £2,000 cheaper than its sister car, the Civic IMA Hybrid.
- A practical, spacious five-door hatchback with such a competitive entry-price point opens up the world of greener petrol-electric motoring to a much wider fleet audience.
- Low VED tax of £15 a year and London congestion charge exemption.
- Service, maintenance, and repairs cost of £960 much lower than competitors, due to long life tires and brake pads.
- 64.2mpg, compared to 68.9 in the Mini (which uses more expensive diesel)
- Expected to maintain its resale value very well.

... and what's wrong about it:
- The interior plastics look and feel brittle, lacking the quality expected of Honda.
- Slow to accelerate, but once up to speed settles into a relaxed cruise.
- The continuously variable transmission can be annoying, holding on to high revs for too long and requiring the driver to blend off the accelerator to get it to change up.

In other words, it's exactly the wrong car for a leadfoot like Jeremy bloody Clarkson.
posted by markkraft at 6:04 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


It makes it so that hydrogen is not really a fuel, but is instead just a sort of medium for storing the energy that it took to get the hydrogen in the first place. And that energy has to come from somewhere, and will have byproducts.

Transfer mechanisms like hydrogen are worth considering for transportation for a couple of reasons:

1: even at the worst-case scenario of coal, petroleum or natural gas electrical production, those generating mechanisms benefit from economies of scale and performance that makes them much more efficient than the internal combustion engine, which suffers from having to perform under a highly variable load.

2: Most of the strongest proposals for industrial carbon sequestration are not very portable and would work best for centralized systems.

3: The energy used to crack hydrogen can also come from low-carbon and trickle-sources of power. A big problem in the design of cars is that you need a lot of energy in relatively short periods of time, and short of a radical and painful change in how we consider transportation, that's not going to change.

The bottom line is I don't see how we can solve the transportation problem without some sort of a transfer mechanism that converts slow energy sources (wind, tidal, photovoltaic) or big energy sources (nuclear, geothermal, hydroelectric) into a form that can push a vehicle from 0-60 in under a few seconds. At the moment, the two candidates are hydrogen and better batteries.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:10 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


In general I do think Hydrogen is the future but there's still a way to go yet.

vs.

U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars
posted by toroi at 6:11 PM on May 20, 2009


"So whatever happened to the revolution that was going to be flywheel batteries?"

And the answer is...

Recently, Jaguar was reported to be working on a KERS-based system for the new XJ and a Torotrak-equipped sedan could potentially be the first to hit the road. Greenwood also told us that larger scale versions of the system are being tested on transit buses, where they work very well. The system is claimed to give fuel efficiency improvements of about 40 percent. The flywheel system is very well suited to this application because of the frequent starts and stops and returns over 70 percent of the kinetic energy to the wheels during boost mode. The flywheel can absorb energy much more quickly than nickel metal hydride batteries. Greenwood gave us a rough estimate of the system cost at about £700 or about $1,300, significantly less than any of the full electric hybrid systems.

One of the concerns about flywheel systems is safety in the event of a catastrophic failure. Greenwood explained that the flywheel is constructed with a steel hub and a steel rim where most of the mass is concentrated. The rim is completely wrapped in carbon fiber. If the rim fractures, the pieces are contained within the carbon fiber and, as it rotates, the fiber eventually turns into something akin to a bundle of cotton fibers bringing the whole thing to a controlled stop. The system has been tested repeatedly and failed flywheels have never perforated the housing. If Jaguar adopts the system, it could be on the road within two years.
posted by markkraft at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars

This is why I don't think the U.S. will be a superpower when I die. While the Department of Transportation is looking 5-10 years into the future, other countries are looking 30-50 years into the future.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:24 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is why I don't think the U.S. will be a superpower when I die. While the Department of Transportation is looking 5-10 years into the future, other countries are looking 30-50 years into the future.

Exactly. US policymakers have also had a near fanatical opposition to public transport, high speed rail and public health. Does that mean all of these are doomed over here in the rest of the civilized world?

Seriously. I'm not sure how US policymakers wanting to pursue a different strategy affects the rest of the world. Plus, US policymakers dictating to markets isn't any guarantee of something happening. Look at Cablecard for instance.
posted by Talez at 6:27 PM on May 20, 2009


Oh... and Engaget says the Jag XJ will get about 57 mph, and be somewhat like the Chevy Volt, as far as how it powers itself.

The initial model is supposed to be good for 30 miles of electric operation before the engine kicks in to charge things, but a long-range version is in the works for 2011.
posted by markkraft at 6:36 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


that's the funniest slagging I've ever read
posted by tiamat at 6:39 PM on May 20, 2009


toroi: Clarkson and other opinionated a-holes

This anti-Clarkson sentiment seems pretty widespread...but being an opinionated a-hole is a lot of what a reviewers job is. Just look at any book, food, theatre, movie critic. And political columnists. So I'm having problems distinguishing whether people dislike the article because it is Clarkson, or because it happens to be critical of a hybrid car.

Regardless of whether you like Clarkson's style or not there are some interesting points in the review -
- this car is not enjoyable to drive
- it lacks power and responsiveness
- it does not offer value for money
- the environmental benefits of choosing this car are questionable
In short, if you'd like to make your next car purchase more environmentally-friendly, spend your money on something else e.g. a diesel Golf, or a hybrid Prius.

PS - the dashboard display with 'leaves growing on a tree when you ease off the throttle' would make me want to crash on purpose too.
posted by joz at 6:41 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where does the vitriol about hydrogen come from?
posted by smackfu at 7:09 PM on May 20, 2009


smackfu: 'Where does the vitriol about hydrogen come from?'

I have nothing against hydrogen as an element. It's just not a viable source of energy.
posted by mullingitover at 7:15 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you have ever driven a car with constantly variable transmission you would agree with Clarkson's review of the Insight.

Perhaps the problem is in your expectations, then. I haven't driven the Insight, but my wife's car is a Prius, which also has a CVT. It's perfectly fine as long as you stop expecting the engine sound and velocity to match what a normal transmission would give you. I'm interested to hear what your complaints are exactly, though, since I have been nothing but pleased with the performance of ours so far.
posted by odinsdream at 7:20 PM on May 20, 2009


I have nothing against hydrogen as an element. It's just not a viable source of energy.

For the love of all that is good and holy. Hydrogen is not supposed to be a viable source of energy. It's supposed to be a convenient way to store energy for use in machines that have huge energy demands that make batteries impractical yet cannot maintain a constant connection to the electricity grid (i.e. almost every car ever made).
posted by Talez at 7:37 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, CVTs are kinda supposed to work that way. They are designed such that the engine rpms could be optimized for constant maximum power, maximum economy, or balance between the two. They've been around for a long time, but their use in cars has been limited at least in part because folks react exactly the way Clarkson does.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:51 PM on May 20, 2009


Sounds like he knows cars in a "biblical" sense....
posted by edgeways at 8:01 PM on May 20, 2009


Here's a more honest review about what is right -- and wrong -- with the SE...

That's much better. Thanks for the link.
posted by homunculus at 8:02 PM on May 20, 2009


@lhauser yes the prius has a CVT, and it is a very elegant design. its really a planetary gear set where the electric motors (yes there are two) drive the sun and ring gears and the gasoline engine drives the planet gears.

i think the honda CVTs are cone/belt designs which are comparatively complicated.

i'm glad to see clarkson has moved on from the prius as his "worst car ever". he went so far as to destroy a gen1 prius with a 50cal machine gun on top gear. talk about anti-environment. a perfectly drivable car was destroyed for his vanity.
posted by joeblough at 8:02 PM on May 20, 2009


also yes the sound of an engine coupled to a CVT is more closely tied to the power output requested from the engine than the absolute speed of the car. it does sound like driving a go-kart with a centrifugal clutch but you get used to it.
posted by joeblough at 8:04 PM on May 20, 2009


a perfectly drivable car was destroyed for his vanity.

And paid for by the British public. Yay!
posted by smackfu at 8:05 PM on May 20, 2009


Why is hydrogen necessary for America to succeed? It's just a storage mechanism for energy... and far from the most efficient one.

The question that people should be asking is how efficient of an energy storage mechanism is hydrogen vs. other methods -- currently, batteries are more efficient -- and which stands to improve the most in the future... which, again, is quite likely to be batteries.

Hydrogen is a fine source of energy storage... if you're Iceland, sitting on one of the very, very few big geothermal power sources in the world, with a country that lives primarily in one city, easily serviced by buses. But really, I don't think we want to do the same thing to Yellowstone... and even if we did, it wouldn't scale well to serve a huge nation's energy needs.

The hydrogen alternative to that in the U.S. is to waste a hell of a lot of energy and raw materials on solar panels and wind, with the full knowledge that much of their energy would be wasted by converting it inefficiently into hydrogen, thereby requiring potentially decades more of green technology rollout to generate the same amount of energy.

Granted... hydrogen cars perform wonderfully, while electric cars still require about a decade to reach similar levels of performance. But when hydrogen cars require three times as much energy as electric, why should you, as consumers, be given yet another destructive choice to make?!

If you want to act like global warming might actually be a threat, you're not going to want to require a green solution that requires three times the solar, three times the wind... and probably, nearly three times the amount of time to roll out. You will put up with another era that is vaguely '70s like with somewhat underpowered, difficult cars, because the from that kind of focus will be greatly improved efficiency and reduced global warming emissions within a few years, as well as rapid improvements in the technology which, ultimately, will be best for all of us.

The advantages of focusing on battery technology are potentially much greater than hydrogen, especially for the U.S., which is already a leader in battery research. It's also pretty advanced in flywheel technology, which, with a smart grid, could be used to store and deliver green energy very efficiently, as needed.

The simple fact is, there is currently no infrastructure in this country capable of providing hydrogen for the majority of drivers, much less clean hydrogen... and there still wouldn't be, even if you dedicated the next decade to that premise. But you could all be plugging in your car -- and helping solve global warming, as soon as you're ready to make the choice.

Given the new efficiency standards coming out of the Obama administration, for many, that will be sometime around 2012.

If you think you won't like the acceleration on the 2012 economy choices, though, I'd strongly recommend you -- and Jeremy Clarkson -- starting saving up for the Jag.
posted by markkraft at 8:13 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Clarkson is an asshole. For proof read Dan Neil, Pulitzer prize auto journalists take. I'd take what DN says over JC any day. Although to be fair, the dog on a ham slicer line is pretty damn good. Almost Dan Neil worthy.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:26 PM on May 20, 2009


I've read the article and haven't read the comments. I just wanted to say, independently of whatever has flamed up in this thread, that while he starts out entertaining enough, once he outs himself as a climate change doubter he's pretty much lost credibility, and then once he actually promotes hydrogen / fuel cells we know that he's completely bonkers. Anyone who looks seriously at the FC solution quickly sees that it's simply a desperate ruse by the petrochemical industry to try to find some use for their massive fuel delivery infrastructure (pipelines, gas stations, etc.). Anyone still promoting FC for the near or medium term either has a conflict of interest or is lacking in actual scientific acumen and parroting press releases.

Fortunately, Steven Chu knows all this and the Obama administration have been doing precisely the right things since Day One. It's remarkable, really, after 8 years (28 if you go by Dingel's term) of utterly criminal policy choices, to see the government pivot so quickly and perfectly.

Anyway, all this handwringing is going to be forgotten by 2012 when the flood of new electric (or series hybrid) car models overwhelms the market and gives us, finally, the first real revolution in automotive technology since the independent suspension. Think Tesla performance at affordable prices, EV ranges cracking 300 miles, fast battery charging and a nascent public recharge station infrastructure. But by then the wingnuts will be distracting you with some other argument, while continuing to pick yer pocket.

Oh, and clean coal (and CO2 sequestration) is a total fraud too, but that's a rant for another day.
posted by intermod at 8:29 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


For what reason exactly could this theoretical hydrogen not be storing some of the energy produced by solar panels, tidal barriers and windmills?

Seriously, I'm asking. Lots of loudly-voiced NO IT'S STUPID LOL upthread and not a shred of supporting linkage.
posted by genghis at 8:30 PM on May 20, 2009


And Citroen must be pissed off that Honda's ripped off the design of their gorgeous C4 (the creases on the hood/bonnet don't distinguish it, they just make it kind of lame).

I just finished watching an episode of 30 Rock on Hulu, and Honda are advertising the Insight there. The ad was nothing to get excited about ("the hybrid for all of us"), but obviously this car is about to be released in the US too.
posted by Flashman at 8:34 PM on May 20, 2009


I love red meat, fatty foods, and simple carbs processed into snack foods... but I see them for what they are. Pretty damn lethal, even in "moderate" doses.

Same goes with Jeremy Clarkson / Top Gear, really.

I'm not saying don't watch the show... I do. The thing is, you should view it as humor... unless you like being told that you're a mindless prole because you choose to drive a car that is both affordable and economical.

Clarkson is kind of like the old, rusty Lincoln Continental that put us on the edge of the precipice. Except, of course, that at 20 mpg, the Lincoln Continental is more fuel efficient -- and has better exhaust control -- than Jeremy Clarkson.
posted by markkraft at 8:40 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


small diesels. The particulate emission is gradually being dealt with. The cars are fun and not that much more expensive than gas-engined cars. The fuel mileage is amazing: 56 mpg (US) in a Renault Clio for three weeks - but this car is a bit too small for US roads; 47 mpg (US) in an Opel Astra for three weeks. If this car were available in the USA with AWD I would camp out at the Opel dealer to have the first one.

Diesel, compared to gasoline, has a higher energy density and it puts out more carbon, so you can't just look at the mpg to understand the implications. In particular, the carbon footprint of a 56mpg diesel car is the same as that of a 48mpg gasoline car (and 47mpg using diesel is the carbon equivalent of 40mpg using gasoline). 40 mpg is still pretty good, of course..
posted by Chuckles at 8:44 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


"For what reason exactly could this theoretical hydrogen not be storing some of the energy produced by solar panels, tidal barriers and windmills?"

It certainly could store some of the energy... but we're not talking about *some* energy. We're talking about enough to power America's 140 million cars, not to mention the millions of trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc.

So, why not hydrogen? Because... it requres three times more energy to power a single vehicle with it. If you want that energy to be green... well, it can be. All you have to do is take green energy off the grid, at the expense of coal-fired global warming.

(Of course, there's probably not enough green energy in the entire country to create enough hydrogen to do this... and you'd be paying considerably more to power your vehicle, because it's so damn energy inefficient.)

On basic levels, it's a bit like taking Obama's new automotive efficiency standards... and rolling them back to around 15 mpg, until we have so much damn green energy being produced in this country that all those coal plants you're currently getting your power with are taken offline.

Hydrogen is stupid technology, unless you're sitting on top of a huge surplus of green power -- like Iceland -- and have a compact infrastructure that makes an otherwise inefficient means of storing that energy more efficient than it otherwise would be, thanks to buses, trains, and the like.

And how quickly can you roll it out? Well, Iceland is a small country with a compact infrastructure, making a huge push... but even they don't plan to get rid of overseas fossil fuels until after 2050.

If you really want it in the U.S., well... add another fifty years of sky-high CO2 emissions to your plans.
posted by markkraft at 9:06 PM on May 20, 2009


For what reason exactly could this theoretical hydrogen not be storing some of the energy produced by solar panels, tidal barriers and windmills?

Takes a lot of infrastructure and energy to move this around. Can't pipe it around like NG due to leakage issues of molecular hydrogen.

FWIW, the Obama admin has kept the research in fixed-site hydrogen production; just the vehicular-mounted engine direction is being cut off.
posted by toroi at 9:08 PM on May 20, 2009


[Hydrogen is] nothing more than a power storage mechanism, and in that regard it's inferior to a simple battery.

Why not just embed roads with evanescent electro-magnetic field generators to power electric cars?

Of course you'd only embed the generators on major roads. The cars would have moderate sized batteries to handle getting into and out of residential neighborhoods. This would mean the cars would only really be useful for commuting in built up areas, but coverage would roll out over time. You'd have highway signs pointing out that evanescent field generators are only in place on the right lane for the next 100km, and warning drivers that they are headed out of a coverage area...

I wasn't that thrilled with the idea of evanescent fields charging gadgets, but there are some interesting differences when it comes to powering cars. You don't have to worry as much about human absorption, because unprotected biological entities can't really coexist in the same space as vehicles moving at 100km/h. That means you can reach 66% coupling efficiency. In addition, while the benefit of 1m of wirelessness isn't too thrilling for gadgets, it is ginormous for powering vehicles.
posted by Chuckles at 9:09 PM on May 20, 2009


Reeves and Moritmer riffing on Clarkson:
"If this car was a horse, it would be a jam donut with an egg in the middle"
posted by JustAsItSounds at 9:12 PM on May 20, 2009


Where does the vitriol about hydrogen come from?

Internal combution engines, even with Clarkson's vaunted 80 years of industrial R&D, aren't that energy efficient, 25% or so, tops.

Electrical power offers the ability to easily borrow much of the momentum lost from braking and reapply it to getting back up to speed.

Pound for pound, electric motors rock and are torque monsters from 0 RPM, unlike rotary engines.

Hydrogen doesn't make as much sense as natural gas, actually. Heck, maybe creating natural gas from C02 and H20 would be the way to go.

Plus the Bush-era subsidized research direction with the Freedom Car was a giveaway to established administration interests among the fossil fuel industry.
posted by toroi at 9:21 PM on May 20, 2009


"Diesel . . . has a higher energy density and it puts out more carbon. . . the carbon footprint of a 56mpg diesel car is the same as that of a 48mpg gasoline car"

This also explains why, at 101g emissions per km, a Honda Insight SE owner pays a £25 a month emission tax, while an owner of a diesel-powered Mini Clubman has 109g/km and pays £34 a month... even though the Mini Clubman gets 4.7mpg more -- with diesel -- than the Insight owner gets with gasoline.

Oh, and the maintenance cost for operating the hybrid Insight is about half as much as the diesel... which might mean something for those who want a car that saves them £240 on the sticker cost, £9 a month on emissions taxes, and an average of £800 for service, maintenance, and repairs.
posted by markkraft at 9:26 PM on May 20, 2009


Based on previous reviews, it seems he's just a biblical kind of guy.

Honda Insight: biblically terrible
Perodua Kelisa biblically bad
Ferrari Fiorano: biblically, stratospherically, crushingly brilliant
Pagani Zonda: biblically good

And most obscurely of all, Volkswagon Golf: Biblically, as well as musically, the Golf GTI is Genesis [the band].
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:32 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hydrogen is tricky stuff to use as your energy storage medium. It leaks through pretty much everything and the weight of your pressure vessel and/or cryonics really trashes the effective energy density. Also who wants to be in a crash where each vehicle has it's own supply of highly flammable gas stored in high pressure vessels?

Compressed air isn't as bad - at least it's not flammable and won't leak as much and all you need is an energy source at the filling station, but again the energy density is borked by the heavy pressure vessel and catastrophic failure is worse than for an H2 powered vehicle beacause all the energy for propulsion is stored as pressure and not chemical potential and therefor requires even higher pressures.

Flywheels can't achieve a suitable energy density and the gyroscopic effects make them impractical for transportation - also there's the whole catastrophic failure problem again, where a crash might see heavy kevlar flywheels exiting a vehicle at several thousand rpm in any random direction at extremely high velocities.

Petrol/diesel is pretty much ideal, if only for the fact that we have 80+ years of technological development behind it for fuel delivery and transport infrastructure.

Your best bet is to synthesize a hydrocarbon liquid fuel at the point of energy capture using H2O and CO2 - or even at the filling station if you minimise transmission losses.

Either that or huge clockwork springs made out of unobtanium.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 9:39 PM on May 20, 2009


You know, I drove a Toyota Yaris sedan (rental car) for a few days this week, and got around 29 mpg from its 1.6 liter engine and 4-speed conventional automatic. It was speedy for what it was (at least as good as my 1.8 liter 6-speed Versa back home) and comfortable, even if the interior was boring. Good enough that my wife's thinking of ditching her minivan for one. And in my aforementioned Versa I get 25-27 during my daily commute, which is short and on surface streets (stop-and-go.) Neither one is particularly speedy off the line, but they're both very comfortable and still faster than they need to be once you get the revs up. Both seat four comfortably and five in a pinch, have excellent safety ratings, and lots of luggage space. It's also worth noting that my Versa has bluetooth, iPod suport, a sunroof, nice seats, A/C, and dual weatherstripping on the doors/foam in the floorpan so it's surprisingly quiet.

It's a shame more people can't simply adjust their expectations downward to cars that are roomy, comfortable, cheap, safe, but slower and smaller -- they'd save money in the short term (my almost fully loaded stickshift Versa was out the door under $17,000, and you can get a Yaris or Versa well-equipped for around $14,000) and in the long term on gas and insurance, have a nice car, and (in aggregate) still have us doing a fuckload better than we do driving around in cars that get 21 mpg city (Mazda5 and other "small" cars, I'm looking at you.)

Heck, after you get used to a 1.6-liter or an economy-tuned 1.8-liter, you open the door to 1.4 liter engines with little turbochargers, and then we can start having fun again, too...
posted by davejay at 9:44 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why are there mini-commercials for diesel VWs in recent Mythbusters episodes?

suggests mass Exodus from thread
posted by lukemeister at 9:49 PM on May 20, 2009


you can't just look at the mpg to understand the implications..

True dat. You don't have so much in the way of pumping losses in a diesel either. The Otto cycle and the Diesel cycle are different. However, you -can- "just look at the MPG" to see why, in the aggregate, consumers favor diesels. There is an element of artifice in it, too - diesel costs less than gasoline in France - so if someone's going to bring taxes in then it's fair to bring this point up as well. I'd love to see the a hybrid's battery pack replacement cost figured into the "maintenance" argument markkraft brings to the table - and suspect it will change things somewhat.
posted by jet_silver at 10:09 PM on May 20, 2009


Also who wants to be in a crash where each vehicle has it's own supply of highly flammable gas stored in high pressure vessels?

who wants to be in crash with a tank of 20 gallons of napalm constituents 2 feet from their children?

IIRC hydrogen is only actually explosive at particular oxygen mixes, and disperses rapidly --upwards into the sky, not pooling under you as you are pinned in the wreck -- in release.
posted by toroi at 10:27 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Petrol/diesel is pretty much ideal, if only for the fact that we have 80+ years of technological development behind it for fuel delivery and transport infrastructure.

80 years of pumping it out of the ground for pennies a barrel. The energy cycle of IC isn't that hot, and once we exhaust the cheap stuff we're going to have to do really whacky stuff like build nuclear-powered cracking plants up in Canada, but even that will only give us a decade or two of supply.

This century will see us move beyond fossil fuels. We can either sit in denial with our collective thumbs up our asses or be proactve about it.
posted by toroi at 10:31 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


As perhaps one of the only people in this thread who regularly drive a Prius and a large-engined gas car, I'd like to say one thing:

The Prius, and its CVT (transmission), are amazingly cool

I mean, Toyota put together god knows how many relatively new technologies in a consumer vehicle, including a transmission that takes input from an engine, a motor, or both(!), and managed to make it reliable and, honestly, a fine daily driver.

Clarkson is not railing against CVTs or Prius, here, he is railing against what he sees as Honda's half-assed attempt at a hybrid with a shitty transmission.
posted by zippy at 10:37 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


^ actually, he is:

"Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid."

I know this is BS given my experience driving a Jeep Compass. The whole point of CVT is to put the RPMs at the peak HP point at alter the transmission to drive the wheels.

This is just his typical anti-technology ranting. He's a one-note joke.
posted by toroi at 10:44 PM on May 20, 2009


I'm still rooting for the dues ex machina that is a perpetual energy machine.

Let's go, crazy, unbelievable, vaporware!!
posted by carpyful at 11:04 PM on May 20, 2009


For electrics, I think the momentum recapture is huge. Huge.

I ride an electric scooter. I live in a tightly packed urban area, so this is pretty feasible for me. I went on a trip out to the burbs last night, thinking my battery was up to the return trip, since I have a "long-range" model...it wasn't. I should have charged up while I was there, but I didn't, and I was stupid, and didn't buy one with pedals. For the first time since I've purchased it, I had to push.

I ran out of power with about 3 miles to go. I got off, shoved it down the road for awhile, and then noticed the battery meter ticked up. I got back on and rode for about the same distance I pushed. Repeated a few more times to get home.

The biggest power loss in electrics is acceleration, not maintaining speed. Once an electric vehicle is up to speed, all the motor has to do is shove now and again. It was late, I had very little braking to do, the city here is pretty flat, and I pretty much just coasted half the way home. I'd crank the accelerator until it couldn't maintain speed anymore, then get off and push again. Walk, cruise, walk, cruise.

Can hydrogen do that?

This is one of the reasons electric bikes are so awesome. You can just pedal in low-speed environments and charge your battery as you go. But even more than that, you gas up by just moving. I can imagine a kind of workout bike charger system for cars in the future. You'll be cruising down the highway and you'll see a dude doing aerobic biking on the shoulder of the road (hell, I could see entire workouts based on that). Maybe a little wind turbine on top of the car. Solar cells in the windowframes. That's huge. Range problems in electric cars can be supplemented with all kinds of ambient motion/energy capture. I'm not the most imaginative guy, but if my bike was doing 100% returns with a push under the right conditions, I can only imagine what someone with a little more high-tech infrastructure and imagination could pull off. And it's one of the reasons I'm not sure hydrogen as a storage medium is even really necessary. There's energy everywhere, and it seems completely plausible to me that we can invent technologies to recapture it.

Now my imagination's really going crazy. The clockwork behind kinesthetically powered watches, or those shoes I read about somewhere that capture energy as you walk...imagine a future where everything is wired up like that. Every moving part contributes to the grid. We switch to windup clocks at home. Gas-powered cars are mandated to be equipped with generators and batteries. The keyboards mentioned upthread...pisoelectric generators in curtains flapping in the wind...THE STORY WRITES ITSELF. (I imagine such a world would involve a lot of maintenance. I'd better stop before I waste the whole afternoon like this).
posted by saysthis at 11:32 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, I will say this:

My scooter battery has gotta be at least 60 pounds. And I live on the 8th floor. Electrics will NEVER take off until motherfuckers learn that we need outlets in parking garages.

My back hurts.
posted by saysthis at 11:35 PM on May 20, 2009


Granted... hydrogen cars perform wonderfully, while electric cars still require about a decade to reach similar levels of performance. But when hydrogen cars require three times as much energy as electric, why should you, as consumers, be given yet another destructive choice to make?!

Well, with a carbon tax, (or cap 'n' trade) the cost of energy should be consummate with the damage it actually does to the environment. We'll be able to make whatever choices we want without actually hurting the environment, because we'll have to pay more for that energy.

Our goal should never be "every single person should hold the earth in their heart in everything they do", because that will never happen. It should be that any global warming externality will be priced in to whatever they do.

Hydrogen is tricky stuff to use as your energy storage medium. It leaks through pretty much everything and the weight of your pressure vessel and/or cryonics really trashes the effective energy density. Also who wants to be in a crash where each vehicle has it's own supply of highly flammable gas stored in high pressure vessels

Hydrogen is only flammable when it's mixed perfectly with oxygen. It's not explosive
posted by delmoi at 11:50 PM on May 20, 2009


Why is no one mentioning nuclear power as a source for cracking water into Hydrogen? It's an energy source ready to generate massive amounts of power with the most managable waste. It will hold us over till renewable energy becomes viable because we need to get off coal like yesterday.
posted by PenDevil at 11:50 PM on May 20, 2009


A bit late to the conversation here, but I'm guessing "biblically terrible" means you get in and turn the key and before you've even backed all the way out of the driveway the windshield's a clouded smear of locusts and then hail's cracking the glass all to shit as you skid out on a big oil-slicky mess of toad guts and the seat's giving you boils and then the door just pops spontaneously open as you hit the freeway and there goes your firstborn into a wrath-of-god vortex.

In which case, dude's right. I don't give a shit how efficient it is, I'm prob'ly not buying one. I am now however very curious to learn more of his scientistic thoughts on climate science. He's got a, like, biblical understanding of it.
posted by gompa at 11:51 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is no one mentioning nuclear power as a source for cracking water into Hydrogen?

Uranium Supply Decline Clouds Nuclear Power's Future

How long will the world's uranium supplies last?

~200 years for the present output. But using nukes to create hydrogen still leaves you with an IC engine that is ~25% efficient (or a fuel cell I guess).

I can imagine a kind of workout bike charger system for cars in the future.

That's my idea, put pedals in cars so we pilot them Flinstone style. Kinda dumb to have to sit in a car for 30 minutes driving to work when we could combine that with a nice uninterrupted cycling exercise. Humans can't output the kwh to accelerate the car of course but we prolly could maintain cruising speed on a level road.
posted by toroi at 12:17 AM on May 21, 2009


The flywheel system is very well suited to this application because of the frequent starts and stops and returns over 70 percent of the kinetic energy to the wheels during boost mode.

In a vehicle with one of these massive flywheels, what happens when you go around a corner?
posted by woodblock100 at 12:20 AM on May 21, 2009


I thought Clarkson's rant about CVT to be specific to the Honda, but toroi correctly points out that Clarkson is talking about CVT in general, and his somewhat lame point is that engine revs on a CVT car don't directly translate into immediate acceleration.

I would be happy to outfit Clarkson's next test vehicle with a sound system that plays VROOM VROOM noises when the car is at max torque at 0+epsilon RPM so that he can have his audio experience properly synced up with the acceleration.
posted by zippy at 12:24 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


In a vehicle with one of these massive flywheels, what happens when you go around a corner?

The same thing as what happens when you go around the corner with an engine and transmission rotating at 7000RPM?
posted by zippy at 12:27 AM on May 21, 2009


But at least with the Toyota there is no indication that you’re driving a car with two motors.

I was going to say that this is wrong - our Prius has a screen that shows either fuel use or a diagram showing whether it's drawing power from the fuel or the battery, or regenerating the battery. But on a second read I'm guessing he means that you can't feel the change, which is true. He's wrong about it hardly using the electric power - it draws on it quite a lot of the time.

But I cannot see how making a car with two motors costs the same in terms of resources as making a car with one.

Oh, well, if Clarkson can't figure it out during a test-drive then clearly it can't be done. That's it everyone, pack up your research and efforts to improve cars.

Did he try actually researching the footprints of this car or any other car? Or did he just make shit up?

An entertaining review is one thing, but for it to be a good review, it should be actually truthful and filled with useful information. Clarkson does make me laugh sometimes, and he's got a way with words. But more often it's laughing at him, not with him.
posted by harriet vane at 12:42 AM on May 21, 2009


The same thing as what happens when you go around the corner with an engine and transmission rotating at 7000RPM?

Except your typical engine flywheel weighs about 8-10kg and wouldn't typically be running at 7000rpm coming into/out of a corner. At 200kJ/kg for these new super efficient carbon fibre flywheels with fancy magnetic bearings you would have to use a 100 pound flywheel to hold the same amount of mechanical energy (~8.5MJ) as a single liter of gasoline.

Yeah. That'll be practical. And safe running at 20,000rpm.
posted by Talez at 1:01 AM on May 21, 2009


~200 years for the present output. But using nukes to create hydrogen still leaves you with an IC engine that is ~25% efficient (or a fuel cell I guess).
Breeder reactors could lengthen that considerably. Not to mention there's 4.5 billion tonnes (60 000 years worth) of Uranium in the world's oceans.
posted by PenDevil at 1:18 AM on May 21, 2009


JustAsItSounds: "Your best bet is to synthesize a hydrocarbon liquid fuel at the point of energy capture using H2O and CO2 - or even at the filling station if you minimise transmission losses."

This, I think, is the long term solution. Some kind of carbon neutral petrol that has a fairly high energy density. As others in this thread have said already, the energy will ultimately come from renewable sources, so why go to some much trouble just to create a new transfer medium? Hydrogen requires rebuilding all those enormous pipeline networks and storage systems, on top of the continual repair bills. Electric batteries use a lot of rare earths and metals that will only get more expensive as time goes on. A synthetic hydrocarbon produced right beside the solar plant or wind farm would be carbon neutral and require the smallest amount of change to our existing infrastructure.

The only problem is it hasn't been invented yet...
posted by Kevin Street at 1:46 AM on May 21, 2009


I do like the dog on a ham slicer line.

But this is still the benchmark for snarky car reviews.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:30 AM on May 21, 2009


I am well aware that there are a great many people in the world who believe that the burning of fossil fuels will one day kill all the Dutch and that something must be done.

He clearly knows nothing of the Dutch, who all have RVs and who would simply migrate to Germany in extremis. One must only drive on the Autobahn in the summer to understand this.
posted by moonbiter at 3:16 AM on May 21, 2009


I drive a Honda Civic Hybrid, about which I assume all these complaints could be leveled. I find it a very fun car to drive, with very good roadfeel, the hybrid system works quite well (I get 42-48 mpg regularly), and I even like the sounds it makes (and the dead silence at stoplights). I didn't get a Prius in 2005 because they were not readily available at any dealerships in my state. I was curious about the new Insight (remember the old one?) and based on this review it's probably a car I would love.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:46 AM on May 21, 2009


Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.

At which point, I discovered the pleasure of cappuccino jetting from my nostrils.
Whatever one may think of Clarkson's grumpiness (and I, for one, appreciate it), the man is a high-caliber wordsmith, god bless him.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:29 AM on May 21, 2009


Wow, you people are closed-minded assholes. I think this place used to be better than this? I'm not sure anymore.

Get out of your tiny little boxes, assholes.


Great point, and wonderfully put. I'm sold.

*climbs out of tiny little box, climbs into Ford Excursion*
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:40 AM on May 21, 2009


He should go back to Clarkson Island.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 4:47 AM on May 21, 2009


Humans can't output the kwh to accelerate the car of course but we prolly could maintain cruising speed on a level road.

Not even close, I'm afraid. A human can just about maintain a cruising speed of, let's say, 25 mph on a level road on a 20 lb road bike. A car that's 100 times heavier and needs to be going three times as fast (remember the power required to overcome air resistance varies with the cube of the speed) would be a tall order even for a nation of Lance Armstrongs.

(I know, cars are more aerodynamic than bikes, and weight != friction, but still.)
posted by primer_dimer at 4:59 AM on May 21, 2009


For those who are interested in powering vehicles with flywheels: it's been tried before, with mixed success. And yes, the enormous inertia of the flywheel does make turning pretty complicated -- have you ever played with a gyroscope?
posted by miyabo at 5:36 AM on May 21, 2009


I'm with you guys - I know that anyone who says automatics are good is talking bullshit because I once drove a 1970s automatic Lada and it was shite. </sarcasm>

Dear god - he's talking about the car being a badly nailed together lump of plastic and you guys are assuming the CVT is going to be exactly the same as the one in the car you know about? My car has a plastic dashboard, so I know what the dashboard is like in the Honda. My Toyota's got four wheels too, and that handles just fine. JC must be talking out of his arse.

Clarkson isn't a driver in the way a lot of us are. He drives for a living. He drives cars fast and hard. A car that feels like it has clutch slip is rightly going to piss the man off...
posted by twine42 at 6:09 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


One thing that hasn't come up is biofuels. What of ethanol or biodiesel? Since the growing of plants takes CO2 out of the air, they somewhat offset their own carbon footprint.

Brazil has a huge ethanol program for a long time, that has met with mixed reviews. If nothing else, the byproducts of ethanol combustion are highly corrosive and most assuredly shorten the life of the vehicle.

Biodiesel is a viable fuel, drops right in to current diesel vehicles. Problem is it takes a lot of energy to create, but more importantly it just is not possible to meet our needs with this fuel, there isn't enough farmland to even meet a few percent of our current need.

I think the problems with biofuels, such as the energy needed to create them possibly being greater than the energy they produce, probably excludes them as a viable solution. Still, they probably are worth discussing.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 6:30 AM on May 21, 2009


Biofuels based on food crops are never going to be a good idea. Biofuels based on hemp or some other prolific weed* requiring little or no cultivation and which can be grown on marginal land, using both the seed oils and the biomass are a better proposition. Oil algaes grown in places like the Salton Sea and other not particularly useful or vital bodies of water has some real potential as well.

* Yes, heh, I said "weed" and hemp in the same sentence.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:50 AM on May 21, 2009


Twine, his statement specifically made it sound like he thought the RPMs should match with the vehicle speed. The entire point of a CVT is that this is not the case. It makes him sound like an idiot exactly because he claims to be a car expert. If he had said "this is a particularly bad CVT. Honda got so-and-so wrong" it would not have come across as so obtuse.
posted by odinsdream at 6:51 AM on May 21, 2009


Am I the only person who's anticipating a huge backlash when people discover the potential expense of maintentance and repair of high-mileage hybrids?

Recently, I worked on a Civic Hybrid that had a mere fifty thousand miles on it. In typical hybrid fashion, the electric motor was sandwiched in between the engine and transmission. This Honda had developed a rear-main seal leak which resulted in engine oil contaminating the electric motor. I can't even begin to imagine what that would cost, out of warranty.
Addionally, although this vehicle didn't spend its life in an environment that would accelerate corrosion (snow, beach, etc) the amount of corrosion present was absolutely out of control. A car will use the body as the ground for the electrical system and it seemed as though running 144v instead of the usual 12v caused some excessive corrosion. I haven't seen that kind of bimetallic corrosion or aluminum oxidation on vehicles with three times that mileage. Every aluminum surface left a dense white powder on my hands when I touched it and every steel or iron fastener was corroded well beyond what I expected for the age of that vehicle. That kind of corrosion adds a significant amount of time and risk to any potential routine repair and increases labor costs.

Of course, I'm sure many mefites have hybrids and are having perfectly fine ownership experiences. I'd just advise trading it in on a new one before your warranty expires.
posted by Jon-o at 6:54 AM on May 21, 2009


Jon-o, it sounds like it shouldn't be using the body for the ground return. My motorcycle has an aluminum frame with a mix of steel and aluminum parts, and for this reason all the ground wires return to the battery. In something as large and complex as a car, that makes the wiring harness more elaborate and means you can't use current off-the shelf electrical components -- the former raises the absolute price somewhat, the latter raises the initial development and early manufacturing costs but eventually would settle down to about the same price.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:00 AM on May 21, 2009


I kinda gave up reading after I hit this: Why doesn’t he just buy a Range Rover...

Facetious yes, but he's sort of onto something... The carbon footprint of moving all these expensive-to-begin-with materials around, to build a car that is not cheap to make seems like a huge waste. He's not wrong when he talks about how hybrids are more expensive to make, and worse for the environment long term - not only are you wasting most of your low emission power by hauling around that weight in batteries, but the batteries themselves are hideously bad for the environment, and costly to dispose of in a safe and reasonable manner.

I'm all for hydrogen fuel-cell technology, and I'm all for replacing fossil fuels with something that isn't helping to fuck our planet over. My biggest gripe with Clarkson, seeing as he understands a hell of a lot about the motor industry, is that he is so stubbornly sceptical about climate change. Otherwise he's been right about the Prius from the start - needless expense, and no better than a reasonable diesel motor (and worse to drive by a long shot).
posted by opsin at 7:07 AM on May 21, 2009


The carbon footprint of moving all these expensive-to-begin-with materials around,

No kidding. For an extreme example of just how point-missing this can get, see Paul McCartney's hybrid delivered by cargo plane from Japan.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:22 AM on May 21, 2009


Side by side comparison of the fuel economy of the most recent model years of the Toyota Prius and the VW Jetta TDi. And, as noted upthread, diesel has about 10% more energy by volume than gasoline.

Further, although the fuel efficiencies during highway driving are comparable (neglecting the energy density issue), during city driving the Prius gets about 50% better gas mileage than the diesel Jetta.
posted by electroboy at 7:27 AM on May 21, 2009


worse for the environment long term...

Than what? A similar sized non-hybrid? Diesel? All-electric car?

Because in my own situation, all I had to choose between was a hybrid and a standard combustion engine, neither of which is built in my country (only cars built here are giant bastards that I don't need, with terrible mileage). All of this biofuels/hydrogen/etc is pie in the sky at present, and I don't want to keep polluting with a standard car until it's all sorted out. The hybrid uses half the fuel (we've been tracking it) and creates half the pollution - I find it hard to believe that the addition of a battery that lasts 10 years undoes all the benefits.
posted by harriet vane at 7:30 AM on May 21, 2009


I am well aware that there are a great many people in the world who believe that the burning of fossil fuels will one day kill all the Dutch and that something must be done.

No, I think the Dutch will be just fine - they already have the best flood protection in the world, and are really innovative.

It's the English I'm worried about - half of London, Essex, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Somerset...
posted by jb at 7:32 AM on May 21, 2009


Wow, you people are closed-minded assholes. I think this place used to be better than this?

Best review I ever read.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 7:40 AM on May 21, 2009


Geez there is some prejudice and misinformation in this thread...

Diesels=dirty...
Only if you use high sulphur fuel in engines without catalysts and particulate filters... These are effectively obligatory to meet 2009's Euro5 emission standards which make diesel as 'clean' (wrt CO, and particulates emissions) as petrol).

Diesel engines also produces less CO2/km than petrol engines on the same car... (go to any european manufacturers website to make the comparisons, eg the ford focus)


Hydrogen = dangerous, difficult to generate, inefficient, impossible to transport etc
True, at the moment, so lets abandon all research into ways of improving the above :)
Hydrogen is just another energy storage solution and in terms of energy density, it has the potential to be one of the best energy storage media that we know of provided we get a reasonable means to store it... (Liquid H2 = 140MJ/Kg; Petrol=43MJ/Kg, Ethanol = 30Mj/Kg, LiIon=0.35Mj/Kgl NiMH=0.25MJ/Kg).


Batteries=clean and the future of all cars
Only if the electricity generating it is clean, and the materials used to manufacture the battery is clean, and you can cope with a short range vehicle. As mentioned above, the energy density of batteries is very poor which means that to have a reasonable range, the car gets heavier, and then has to spend more energy just moving its batteries about.

Secondary problems come with the time taken to recharge, and should all vehicles become electrified, the demand on the electrical grid will be huge.

A possible future problems is the production and availability of battery raw materials -- in a few years time, we may be starting to talk about 'peak nickel' instead of peak oil!


Flywheels = dangerous, impractical, impossible to turn corners.
Flywheel regenerative breaking has been approved for use on Formula 1 racing cars this season, and is being used by some teams. The huge budgets of F1 teams often leads to technical improvements for the real world (eg ABS, and aerodynamics), and I guess turning corners is not too much of a problem for them...
What surprised me was finding out that flywheels actually have a better energy density than NiMH batteries at 0.5MJ/kg, and that there is an LPG/flywheel hybrid powered tram/railcar currently in operation in the UK...


Hybrids = the saviour of the world.
Hybrids do get much better fuel economy than petrol, especially in city driving, but as with electrical vehicles, there is the problem of battery weight and future battery cost/availabilty compounded by the space required by them in addition to a normal engine (the civic hybrid weighs more than a standard civic, and has less boot/trunk space).

In terms of overall CO2/km, Hybrids do not have that much of an advantage over low-power diesels engines.. (eg comparing a Civic hybrid to a Ford Focus 1.6 diesel, the civic has 109g/km CO2, which is a minor improvement over the Focus' 114g/km..)


Clarkson = ass
yep, but he can be amusing. You just have to filter out the crap! There are people that will worship him, but the same can be said for any public figure, no matter how much of an ass they are... At least he accepts the need for an alternative to petrol (the 'peak oil' deniers still exist).
Apart from the climate change issue, I detest his negative attitude to all types of speed (enforcement) cameras, as well as his anti-environmentalist stance, but I still watch top gear...

And finally: the uses of Biblical in this context is a shortened form of 'of biblical proportions'
posted by nielm at 8:01 AM on May 21, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well... all this very impressive chatter notwithstanding, I still value Clarkson's opinion over any displayed here.

And I think his description of a CVT in operation fits with my experiences with them. It's like driving a John Deere Gator.
posted by bz at 8:09 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


This graphic pretty much sums up what's wrong with hydrogen. It'd require a massive retooling of our infrastructure for a relatively small increase in fuel economy.
posted by electroboy at 8:20 AM on May 21, 2009


Get out of your tiny little boxes, assholes.

I did, a long time ago. I commute by bike. How about you?
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:23 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Anyway, all this handwringing is going to be forgotten by 2012 when the flood of new electric (or series hybrid) car models overwhelms the market and gives us, finally, the first real revolution in automotive technology since the independent suspension.

Citation needed. (Please! I'd like to know!)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:25 AM on May 21, 2009


I find that the thing about Clarkson is that his sense of humor doesn't translate as well to the written page. When you see him on Top Gear and his other projects, his self deprecating style helps to temper and offset some of the more biting stuff he says.

That said, I really do appreciate a reviewer who is willing to absolutely slam something he doesn't like. He tends to do it a lot with cheaper cars which can get a little old, but watching him tear the hell out of some $250,000 car from a big name is pretty refreshing. I'm used to reviewers who will point out the things they didn't like, but phrase it in a way to not piss off potential advertisers, whereas with Top Gear I've seen them outright mock something they thought was poorly designed, and had the manufacturer fix the problem and ask them to try it again to see if they thought it was better! That shit just amazed me.

Basically, I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but I often find myself loving the way he says it.
posted by quin at 9:26 AM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Richard Hammond getting brain damage in a jet car and Clarkeson and co having a good old laugh about it
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2009


Oh, they know cars. Just not the electric parts of cars.

Fun Fact: Ozzy Osbourne's first job was for Lucas Electrical, the biblically, or perhaps in this case Satanically, terrible manufacturer of those legendarily awful electric parts of cars. He claims he only tuned the car horns, but put the pieces together. Ozzy + manufacturing = nothing wholesome.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:56 AM on May 21, 2009


Richard Hammond getting brain damage in a jet car and Clarkeson and co having a good old laugh about it

If you don't understand what's going on in that clip, you need to watch more Top Gear.
posted by smackfu at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2009


Electric funeral!
posted by Artw at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2009


Hey, I come not to condemn the Richard Hammond getting brain damage in a jet car and Clarkeson and co having a good old laugh about it, but to praise it!
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2009


If I recall correctly, the BBC wanted to pull all the video of the Hammond's crash and bury it, but he pushed back and got them to let him show it on Top Gear. So all the joking at his expense was almost certainly mostly his own idea.

The entire dynamic of the show is predicated on them being awful to one another, but it's pretty clear that off set, they all get along really well. I know that right after the crash I was reading about how Clarkson and James May were besides themselves with worry about his health.

Of course, I'm on the wrong side of the pond, so all my information is typically third or fourth hand.
posted by quin at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2009


>>We need a new Manhattan Project, a MeFi Project, possibly, that builds a car that will run on snark.

>Computer keyboards that use some of the energy from physical keystrokes and convert them to electricity sent back to the grid to charge electric cars. The resistance in the keyboards could probably double


Even better you could have variable resistance keyboards so the more overexcited people get in typing their replies, the more energy generated.

Then those guys in charge of regulating the power grid, instead of turning on & off huge hydroelectric power plants and the like, would spend their time regulating the relative trollishness of their comments to MeFi.

"Egads, the east-coast grid is about to go down. Need more chatfilter STAT!"
posted by flug at 11:35 AM on May 21, 2009


He is noticably slower since then, mind.
posted by Artw at 11:36 AM on May 21, 2009


Hey, Lucas stuff is actually pretty decent usually, bullet connectors aside. I've driven cars with Lucas electrics for 25 years and haven't had any more failures than the Delco stuff. Now Bosch, don't get me started on Bosch.
posted by maxwelton at 12:18 PM on May 21, 2009


People still drive cars?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:24 PM on May 21, 2009


I actually think the right thing to do is this:

#1: gather up all the reasonably safe and fuel efficient recent-vintage USED cars that still exist and run reasonably well;
#2: fix 'em up so that they run well with as low emissions as they did when new;
#3: drive 'em into the ground before we manufacture and release more new cars into the world.

I think that's probably a bit more carbon-neutral, but of course it'd be hell on the economy.
posted by davejay at 6:59 PM on May 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


davejay - agreed entirely. I wrote the following for my own site a while back...
Well, lets assume you drive a ten year old Jeep Cherokee 3.7l Automatic - you know, a good low emissions car. That chugs through 333g of carbon/km. Replacing it with a new car will generate 10-20000lb of carbon. I’ll do the maths for you… you could do 17,000miles on the carbon generated just by the production of your new car.

Assume you replaced your Jeep with a Prius. That Prius is still generating 103g/km… So with the fuel your Prius has burnt on those 17,000 miles, you could do another 6,000 miles in the Jeep.

You’re looking at over 25,000 miles before the Prius’ even coming close…
Don't ask where the figure for 10-20000lb of carbon comes from, because I have no idea now...
posted by twine42 at 1:05 AM on May 22, 2009


Clarkson isn't a driver in the way a lot of us are. He drives for a living. He drives cars fast and hard.

Pft. Part of the reason Clarkson managed to wangle a complete change of cast from the original Top Gear to the modern one is because he couldn't work with Vick Butler-Henderson and Tiff Needle, both of whom are infinitely better drivers than he is. Clarkson is a hoon. Needle is an ex-F1 driver.

Which is not to say my inner hoon does not envy all his wonderful toys. But really, some perspective, please.
posted by rodgerd at 3:32 AM on May 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older When does making fun of yourself make you more att...  |  Lost At E Minor... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments