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New US Fuel Economy Plan: Win, Lose, or Draw?
May 28, 2009 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Car companies were facing a variety of efficiency and emission standards throughout the United States, from the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, On May 19th, and then an even stricter emission standard from California and 13 other states (plus DC). On May 19th, President Obama announced nation-wide new vehicle fuel efficiency standards for new cars and trucks through 2016. The goal is to rapidly increase fuel efficiency,without compromising safety, by an average of 5, culminating in 39 MPG for cars and 30 MPG for light trucks. Currently, no auto makers are meet the final standards, though some are closer than others.

Car enthusiasts say this is the end of "fun cars," and point out air conditioning improvement short-cuts that would achieve the required goals. Environmentalists say this won't change enough. The EPA says the unified standard is welcomed by the auto manufacturers because it provides regulatory certainty and predictability and includes flexibilities that will significantly reduce the cost of compliance (partially due to the fuel efficiency score covering an automaker’s entire fleet). Other people point out though the new standards are better than the old ones, the auto fuel economy goal was reachable a decade ago, and still SUVs are classified as light trucks. Then again, why wait for new standards when you can start hypermiling today? It's not limited to hybrids.
posted by filthy light thief (85 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Extra link: Fuel Efficiency: Comparing the Red States and Blue States in 2006.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:32 PM on May 28, 2009


Unless I've missed something, people can still have "fun cars" if they're willing to pay for restoring/maintaining/fueling that '69 Dodge Charger.

Oh, you mean they were just complaining that their fun will become more expensive?

Then I've got another vehicle for them...
posted by Joe Beese at 1:39 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


How is this a "loophole"?
That level of CO2 emission per mile would equate to about 35.5 MPG in fuel economy parlance. However — here's the big loophole — it's expected by the EPA and NHTSA that most manufacturers would apply air conditioning improvements to reduce GHG emissions. Air conditioning improvements do not enter into the NHTSA's calculation of MPG fuel economy.

Thus, the improvement in MPG that is equivalent to the estimated 250g of CO2/mile will actually fall well short of the 35.5 MPG mark. The gap between what the fleet CAFE will be and the widely reported 35.5, would be made up by air conditioner improvements. So basically, when you buy your supposedly more-fuel-efficient vehicle in 2016, it won't have as high of a fuel economy as it could — thanks to your car's air conditioning.
It sounds to me like they are simply factoring in an existing loophole: that apparently MPG ratings are for cars with their air conditioners turned off (pretty unrealistic) and the fact is that improvements in AC really would both save gas and reduce CO2 emissions, it's just that it won't make misleadingly-high-due-to-existing-loophole go up as much.

So what they're really doing is making the loophole smaller.
posted by delmoi at 1:39 PM on May 28, 2009


They've just killed all the fun cars.

With my special solar-powered Future Glasses, I can look ahead 15 years and see how horrifying it will be to our children that we once burned extra gasoline to increase the "fun" of transportation.
posted by gurple at 1:43 PM on May 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Got in a discussion about this the other day with someone who was a very staunch "get the government out of my business" type of libertarian/republican. The problem, as I see it, isn't the fuel mileage American cars get, but rather how to decrease demand for oil - both to reduce carbon emissions as well as our trade deficit with oil exporting countries (like those evil Canadians).

The G20 needs to get together and set global standards on cap and trade carbon markets, including tariffs and/or fines on those countries that aren't on board. As the price of oil and gasoline ticks upwards, car companies will figure out on their own that there's little demand for inefficient, gas guzzling cars, without having to pass legislation dealing with fuel efficiency standards.
posted by Nquire at 1:44 PM on May 28, 2009


Unless I am mistaken, the 'air conditioning' referred to may not be 'the thing that makes cold air' but 'the amount of air they blow down the exhaust to change the volume percentage of carbon monoxide less by cheating'.

The Aston Martin of a few years ago had an air pump that was linked to an 'acoustic enhancer' flap (ie hole) in the exhaust that just happened to shove a load of fuel down the exhaust pipes during the emissions cycle test zone in terms of revolutions.

Completely coincidentally, of course.

Also:

Currently, no auto makers are meet the final standards, though some are closer than others.

I don't think there has been a point in modern car production where any manufacturer were expected to comply with regulations 9 years from being introduced - especially the day they were announced. I don't think there has been an announcement of new emissions regs (possibly ever) that have been brought in when any of the manufacturers already meet them - that's why you we have to have regulations. There'd be no point setting limits that we already achieved, would there?

That isn't news, that's just page filler.
posted by Brockles at 1:48 PM on May 28, 2009


I'm under the impression, probably incorrect, that, for the set of American car manufacturers who produce vehicles for Europe, many of the vehicles made for Europe already feature higher miles per gallon and lower emissions. Am I completely off here?
posted by adipocere at 1:48 PM on May 28, 2009


Shit. "Shove a load of AIR down the exhaust." Obviously.
Damn my sloppy rewriting.
posted by Brockles at 1:50 PM on May 28, 2009



I'm under the impression, probably incorrect, that, for the set of American car manufacturers who produce vehicles for Europe, many of the vehicles made for Europe already feature higher miles per gallon and lower emissions. Am I completely off here?


UK gallons are bigger. This is the source of much of the confusion. However, there are more efficient models available in Europe than are available here. Mainly because the US market just won't buy them (too small, not US looking enough, too foreign etc).
posted by Brockles at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2009


Welp, we either get higher standards or higher gas taxes. Imagine what the red-staters would say if Obama raised gas taxes instead of implementing higher standards.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:52 PM on May 28, 2009


I've never driven, been a passenger in, or heard of an American-made car that was "fun".
posted by Zambrano at 1:59 PM on May 28, 2009


The "fun" car complaint is bunk. Hell, I've got a Toyota Yaris that gets 39-40 mpg easy, and it's fun as hell to drive.

I'm as much of a gear head as the next girl, but there's no reason a small efficient car can't handle well and have a good bit of pick-up.
posted by teleri025 at 2:02 PM on May 28, 2009


Welp, we either get higher standards or higher gas taxes. Imagine what the red-staters would say if Obama raised gas taxes instead of implementing higher standards.

I was in a planning policy class, and the professor said that gas prices are one of the most elastic prices people put up with. There are ways to drive your personal car less to pay for less gas, but Americans still rate cars as a necessity above all else.

Currently, no auto makers are meet the final standards, though some are closer than others.

That isn't news, that's just page filler.


The linked page runs down the car and light truck fleet fuel ratings for 16 car companies, and lists how far from the final numbers the companies have to go. The lead-in is a bit obvious, but the data is interesting.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:08 PM on May 28, 2009


Fox + Friends spent forever talking about the new standards the other day and (surprise) it was all about how much more it would cost everyone and how they wouldn't be able to drive the cars they want. Not a single word in 4 hours of "news" where they discussed the benefits of higher standards. Gretchen Carlson was puzzling over the mpg values like they were just outrageous and the government wants us to all drive some kind of crazy space age super science car. Amusingly I was seeing Fox because I was waiting in the shop while the VW dealer repaired my 2001 TDI New Beetle, which at 8 years old is getting 40+ mpg on a bad day in all city driving.

(insert obligatory "I mean, we can put a man on the moon but ... " sentence)

And yes I know I can't drive my whole family to the beach in it.
posted by freecellwizard at 2:10 PM on May 28, 2009


Why not replace the econo vs. power switch with ac vs. fun, or really ac-econo vs. fun. So the car always complies with emissions standard, but the driver decides if they want the "fun".

You know, pure electrics are lots of fun too, but they just don't run forever. The Tramway de Bordeaux suggests an interesting solution : wire the roads but only activate that segment of wire when the car is touching it. You don't need to wire all roads, just the major interstates, since the cars still have batteries too. It'd give the electrics more range than gas guzzlers.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:11 PM on May 28, 2009


it's amazing the lengths we humans will go to avoid making the tiniest lifestyle changes.
posted by klanawa at 2:21 PM on May 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


freecellwizard: "Fox + Friends spent forever talking about the new standards the other day and (surprise) it was all about how much more it would cost everyone and how they wouldn't be able to drive the cars they want."

Don't forget the deaths. By being forced to drive smaller cars, Americans will die.

You can say this for their playbook... it must be easy to memorize.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:30 PM on May 28, 2009


Dag nabit .. "by an average of 5" shouldn't stop there, but should read "by an average of 5 percent each year between 2012 and 2016."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:34 PM on May 28, 2009


It seems almost criminal that a car I bought in high school, back in 1988, gets better mileage than the much hyped smart cars. Even the noticeably lower-geared Geo Metro Convertible I had in college, did better.

You know, pure electrics are lots of fun too, but they just don't run forever. The Tramway de Bordeaux suggests an interesting solution : wire the roads but only activate that segment of wire when the car is touching it.

I often wonder if there isn't some way to link e-cars heading up the mountains out of Seattle, with cars coming downhill, so that the downhill cars could pass on their regenerative braking power to the cars that needed it most. Some sort of inductance system to avoid friction and wear/tear.
posted by nomisxid at 2:37 PM on May 28, 2009


The Aston Martin of a few years ago had an air pump that ... just happened to shove a load of [air] down the exhaust pipes during the emissions cycle test zone in terms of revolutions.

Nice. My first car was a 1968 Chevy with some fucked-up modification required to pass California air quality tests: an "air pump" that pumped exhaust back into the intake (in retrospect I should confirm this with my dad, this seems even too weird for California). I was unable to convince him to help me modifiy the thing to pump fresh clean air instead, to turn it into a supercharger.
posted by exogenous at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2009


They've just killed all the fun cars.

Lots of fun cars in Somalia. Drive whatever you want there.

Love it or leave it America.
posted by GuyZero at 2:40 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


with some fucked-up modification required to pass California air quality tests: an "air pump" that pumped exhaust back into the intake (in retrospect I should confirm this with my dad, this seems even too weird for California).

That's called EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) and is on almost every modern car (although that's the earliest one I have heard of). It's pretty common and an excellent way to reduce emissions as a percentage of exhaust gas volume (but also cripples power that means you have to fit a higher displacement engine to hit the same market requirements that actually probably produces more emissions by weight instead than the old engine did.)

Oh wait. That appears to have been pointless bullshit to make people think their engines are clean! BUT THE PERCENTAGES ARE BETTER!
posted by Brockles at 2:47 PM on May 28, 2009


Well look, this just happens to be my job (writing about cars), and I happen to be a life long car enthusiast.

Honestly, car companies and the auto media have been screaming like stuck pigs about stuff like this for decades. Back in the 70s they, largely Detroit automakers, were using the same arguments they are today (no one will buy them, they're unsafe, the targets are too hard to hit etc.), and it was BS then and it's BS now.

I spend a lot of time at race tracks, and you should see the regulatory crap race teams have to put up with. The regs a street car maker has to hit would fill a Time magazine, the regs a race car maker has to hit would fill the Singapore white pages. Automakers need to stop whining like little girls and start making better cars.

And this whole this is the end of "fun cars," is another load of codswollop from the get go.

What that means is that you won't be able get stuff like Dodge Vipers as easy as you can now.

Don't get me wrong, Vipers are a blast to drive, but so are cars like a Lotus Elise. And an Elise is small, gets great gas mileage and is reasonably safe.

Detroit and redneck car lovers need to suck it up and deal. That's all there is to it.
posted by Relay at 2:48 PM on May 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


"Shove a load of AIR down the exhaust." Obviously.
Damn my sloppy rewriting.


I like your typo better - in conjunction with the spark plug at the end of the exhaust pipe.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:49 PM on May 28, 2009


They've just killed all the fun cars.

I really really think that you could make an Elise or MR2 or Atom get 39 highway and still have it be FUN.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:58 PM on May 28, 2009


> They've just killed all the old fun cars.

Good. I want new ones. The old ones were fat and stupid and boring.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:00 PM on May 28, 2009


it was all about how much more it would cost everyone and how they wouldn't be able to drive the cars they want.

because I'm not very familiar with the debate - is this the gist of the argument against raising emissions standards and reducing fuel dependence? that better cars cost more?
posted by shmegegge at 3:00 PM on May 28, 2009


I often wonder if there isn't some way to link e-cars heading up the mountains out of Seattle, with cars coming downhill, so that the downhill cars could pass on their regenerative braking power to the cars that needed it most. Some sort of inductance system to avoid friction and wear/tear.

We barely have the funding to keep I-90 blasted and open in the winter, let alone re-pave the pass to bury induction lines... but that would be awesome. Cruising downhill after a day of skiing with a little readout on your HUD that highlighted which tractor-trailer you were helping to push up the hill.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 3:00 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mini Coopers are fun as hell and get good gas milage. "Fun," in the article above, is just a code word for "big."
posted by lekvar at 3:08 PM on May 28, 2009


Currently, no auto makers are meet the final standards, though some are closer than others.

If they're already close, then the standards aren't high enough. Why have multiple tiers? Why not have "consumer" and "industrial"? And what's being done to increase fuel efficiency on industrial vehicles?
posted by blue_beetle at 3:14 PM on May 28, 2009


(but also cripples power that means you have to fit a higher displacement engine to hit the same market requirements that actually probably produces more emissions by weight instead than the old engine did.)

What? EGRs are variable. When you stomp the accelerator, the EGR valve closes to allow more fresh air in. In fact, EGR increases performance by allowing for advanced timing due to lower temperatures.

Bigger engines are here because people are willing to buy them. People want more power and they get it.
posted by ssg at 3:16 PM on May 28, 2009


That's called EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) and is on almost every modern car (although that's the earliest one I have heard of).

Ah, thanks. It was definitely added after the car left the factory, but I can't say when (maybe sometime in the 1970s or 1980s). The car would barely make it to the emission test station while the device was hooked up.
posted by exogenous at 3:16 PM on May 28, 2009


The irony of all this to me is that we Americans think this is some libertarian freedom of choice issue, when really it's about us not being able to let go of the mold we've been shoved into by 100 years of marketing. Don't get me wrong, I love muscle cars (hell, my state's official tree might as well be a Camaro wrapped around a telephone pole) but as a lot of people have said the issue of "fun" is total bullshit. It amazes me that people will complain about personal freedom after a lifetime of being backed into a corner and raped by the auto and oil industries.
posted by Roman Graves at 3:20 PM on May 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


An EGR valve reduces NOx formation by lowering the peak combustion temperature in the cylinder. It does this by injecting inert gas into the intake, thereby reducing and diluting the normal fuel/air mix. The injected gas must be inert otherwise you goof up the rather precise fuel/air ratio and reduce the effectiveness of the catalytic converter. Fresh air would be especially bad because lean mixes burn even hotter and the surplus oxygen promotes NOx formation. The most convenient source of inert gas is the engine exhaust (although not completely inert in a traditional chem sense, it is pretty inert with regard to further combustion).
posted by ryanrs at 3:34 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really really think that you could make an Elise or MR2 or Atom get 39 highway and still have it be FUN.

My old Elise got 35-40mpg highway with the roof on and my wife driving... It was a ton of fun to drive.
posted by foodgeek at 3:39 PM on May 28, 2009


>it's amazing the lengths we humans will go to avoid making the tiniest lifestyle changes.

"The American way of life is non-negotiable."
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:54 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If they're already close [to 2016 standards], then the standards aren't high enough.

Agreed. There should be bonuses to companies that exceed these limits, maybe like the right to brag. That would prohibit non-achievers from boasting their "fantastic 25 MPG on the highway," like so many companies do now. With so many cars of the past and present getting 30+ MPG, why should it be a big deal that "muscly" cars of today are almost where these smaller cars of yesteryear were?

In short: truth in promoting would be fantastic.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:54 PM on May 28, 2009


Is loosing by more that 0.5 sec on the quarter mile really that much fun?

I really need to get off my ass and convert my old Ford Aspire.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:57 PM on May 28, 2009


Oversized cars with performance-tuned gasoline engines will inevitably dwindle to a niche market as gas prices rise, regardless of action or inaction by Congress. People will simply find other ways to have fun; we're good at that.

The 25-year-old motorcycle I bought last year for $2000 gets 40+ mpg and costs ten bucks a fillup. It accelerates faster, handles better, and puts a grin on my face more often than any car I've ever driven.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:04 PM on May 28, 2009


What will this actually do to Ferraris, Bentleys etc.? Will those "supercars" simply become illegal to buy (because the manufacturer's model range is not likely to include any high-MPG cars to offset the supercars' lower MPG)? Or is there a provision for these smaller manufacturers?
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:11 PM on May 28, 2009


What Mars Saxman said,

Only my bike is 1 year old, fuel injected, gets close to 50 mpg, and has a catylitic converter on it. A friend at work as an Elise and loves it to death, yet he couldn't give a crap about the enviromental benifits.

Smaller cars are like go-karts, you're more connected to the road and the driving sensations are much more intense. My cousin had a Geo Storm, and that thing was more fun to drive than my mustang.

If you really like driving, you will drive anything.
posted by The Power Nap at 4:20 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The auto industry is pretty incestuous so I don't know how the fleet averages work out. But Ferrari is owned by Fiat, Bentley is owned by VW which is owned by Porsche, etc.
posted by ryanrs at 4:27 PM on May 28, 2009



Nice. My first car was a 1968 Chevy with some fucked-up modification required to pass California air quality tests: an "air pump" that pumped exhaust back into the intake (in retrospect I should confirm this with my dad, this seems even too weird for California). I was unable to convince him to help me modifiy the thing to pump fresh clean air instead, to turn it into a supercharger.


That's called EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) and is on almost every modern car (although that's the earliest one I have heard of). It's pretty common and an excellent way to reduce emissions as a percentage of exhaust gas volume (but also cripples power that means you have to fit a higher displacement engine to hit the same market requirements that actually probably produces more emissions by weight instead than the old engine did.)


Debatable, but EGR's primary function is reducing oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions and lowering combustion temps, as I've seen someone else mention here.

Even considering my dubious status as a "redneck from Tennessee", I'm all for the new standards. My SE-R was a HOOT to drive and got 36mpg highway w/ the a/c on. If I want to have another kind of fun, I break out my dad's old car, pop clutches, smoke tires, and piss off the neighbors. Hell, in 26 years of ownership, it's only been driven 10k miles. I should also mention that I've converted it over to a Megasquirt multi-point fuel injection setup. It gets a solid 21mpg highway w/ the a/c on. Not bad for a 44 year old behemoth.
posted by rhythim at 4:28 PM on May 28, 2009


They've just killed all the fun cars.

Yeah, thanks to this commie legislation I won't be able to get a new Pontiac muscle car in 2012!

Oh, wait...
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:29 PM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


A true car enthusiast enjoys handling, more than power. I drive an Acura RSX, added 17 inch wheels and low profile tires to it, and it's a hoot to drive. Zero to 60 times aren't great, but driving a twisty road is pure bliss.

'bout time we got out of the SUVs.
posted by prodigalsun at 4:31 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never driven, been a passenger in, or heard of an American-made car that was "fun".

Once upon a time, Jeremy Clarkson shared that view, but times change. And he would know.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:38 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


is this a real 39mpg or a 39mpg on the combined urban cycle, which means the fuel efficiency you get from a car when you drop it out of on aeroplane? I have a running battle with the mpg computer on my car (its the most exciting thing you can do now speeding is so illegal) and I don't think I've ever managed to get it to its specified mpg.
posted by fistynuts at 4:49 PM on May 28, 2009


Fun cars. My god.
posted by DU at 4:49 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


fistynuts - the EPA re-adjusted it's numbers in 2007. The Prius dropped from 60 city / 51 highway to 48/45. The average car is estimated to get 22 miles per gallon.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:59 PM on May 28, 2009


The CAFE MPG numbers are from a different cycle than the current EPA numbers. So the window sticker MPG rating on a car is not the number used for the CAFE rating. The CAFE rating for a given car is about 10% higher for city and 40% higher for highway.
This NPR story has a little bit of background in the sidebar article. The other trick is that a PT Cruiser and minivans are 'light trucks' and offsets the really bad pickups.
posted by TheJoven at 5:07 PM on May 28, 2009


> Fun cars. My god.

You know, I used to think a car was just a way of getting from point A to point B...and on weekends, point C. But that was the old me. That man died the moment I laid eyes on the 1979 Honda Accord!
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:09 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"What will this actually do to Ferraris, Bentleys etc.? Will those "supercars" simply become illegal to buy (because the manufacturer's model range is not likely to include any high-MPG cars to offset the supercars' lower MPG)? Or is there a provision for these smaller manufacturers?"

Unless these new standards are different, there's still a gas guzzler tax provision Spacelegoman.

Lamborghini, for instance, has never met mandated MPG numbers.

Also, worrying about the mileage that cars like Ferraris and Bentleys and Lambos get is kind of academic. All told, the yearly production figures for all of those cars combined is probably less than then number of Camrys Toyota churns out in a month.

On top of that, people don't drive things like Ferraris et al very much, putting tens of hunders of miles on them in a year (if that), versus the tens of thousands of miles a year someone puts on your average commuter car.

You add those two things together (low overall numbers + low usage rates) and worrying about supercar emissions is sort of like worrying about that skinned knuckle on one hand while your other hand was just severed.
posted by Relay at 5:22 PM on May 28, 2009


I see all those fun cars. There they are parked on the freeway in gridlock for a couple hours a day. Awesome fun.
posted by tkchrist at 5:36 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


like those evil Canadians

That's a fair cop, given what we're doing in the oil sands. World's dirtiest oil in every respect.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:25 PM on May 28, 2009


There are no fun cars, only fun motorcycles. There is nothing in driving that can compare to sweeping through corners, leaned over and accelerating.

Even a little 250cc motorcycle can haul ass off the line. In-town it is going to leave the muscleheads in the dust. And brake much faster. And squeeze through spaces. And whip around corners faster. Out on the highway, you're going to get way more fresh air, feel the air, smell the air. When you get into the twisties, you'll be leaned over and accelerating, an order of magnitude more fun than being in a car. If you have the taste for off-road, it's motorcycles that are going to get you further, motorcycles that will be taking the jumps, motorcycles scrambling down a tight path.

And it only gets better as the bike gets bigger. The one and only downside is winter. (With good riding gear rain is not a downside.)

As for fuel efficiency, I am quite certain cars in the 1980s were getting fuel efficiency competitive with these new standards. And some of them were even "fun." So my opinion is basically "WTF Obama, grow a pair. Challenge the American industry to finally outperform."

Oh, and as for "fun" cars: 100% torque at the wheels on big honkin' motors sounds like a gigantic hardon for massive continuous acceleration toward the sound barrier. The ability to place batteries for perfect balance sounds like it'll translate to a cornering like it's on a rail. There are some technology limits to power storage right now, but we're gonna break through soon, and when we do, we're gonna have cars that make gasoline fun seem like a dinosaur.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on May 28, 2009


If you're going around corners faster on a bike than in a car, then you're driving the wrong sort of cars...
posted by Brockles at 7:01 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The one and only downside is winter.

yes lets just ignore safety and convenience shall we?
posted by wilful at 7:10 PM on May 28, 2009


There are no fun cars, only fun motorcycles.


It's pretty hard to fall over in a car five fresh fish.
posted by Relay at 7:16 PM on May 28, 2009


And yes I know I can't drive my whole family to the beach in it.

Why drive to the beach? Just wait for the beach to come to you.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:21 PM on May 28, 2009


I'm under the impression, probably incorrect, that, for the set of American car manufacturers who produce vehicles for Europe, many of the vehicles made for Europe already feature higher miles per gallon and lower emissions. Am I completely off here?

The US market Ford Focus sedan gets an advertised 24/35hwy.
Head on over to ford.co.uk and you can get a 1.6 diesel Focus that gets a 65mpg combined average.

The US Chevy Aveo gets an advertised 34 mpg. That's pretty crappy for a car that small and lightweight.
Vauxhall, a GM subsidiary, makes a car called the Corsa which is comparable to the Aveo. The Corsa gets five stars in the European safety testing and can get up to 70mpg.


Now, I don't think that the European diesels meet the emissions standards of all fifty states. Only recently have the more expensive Euro brands (Mercedes, Audi) been reintroducing diesel into the US market in all 50 states. Both companies are using variations on an expensive and complex urea injection exhaust treatment to de-NOx the exhaust and also integrate some advanced particulate matter traps.
If the Fed could relax emissions standards on these diesels, we probably could have them in the US market in a couple years. I honestly don't know, but are European emissions standards vastly more lax than ours? I can't imagine that Europeans are driving unsafe, dirty cars.

Bad news: We've still gotta drill for diesel and then burn it to make power. That's a big downside.
Good news: Diesel is flexible, powerful, fun to drive, and can easily evolve into future bio-fuels that don't require drilling. Diesel is also proven and reliable technology. You can fill the tank up in two minutes, as opposed to plugging in and charging for hours.
posted by Jon-o at 7:43 PM on May 28, 2009


Now, I don't think that the European diesels meet the emissions standards of all fifty states.

For a very long time, that was a direct result of the poor quality of diesel in the US. Better quality diesel has only recently become available, but I'm not sure if it is on a par even now. Diesel technology in general in the US is pretty backward - it's still mostly considered 'something that Semi's use' from what I can tell, and the fuel economy on those is appalling and there seems to be very little impetus to improve that.
posted by Brockles at 7:47 PM on May 28, 2009


Mind, automobile/truck emissions are pretty much moot when we're running massively polluting cargo ships across the ocean to bring us dollar-store crap from China.

Each ship pollutes about as much as 50 million cars. A fleet of, what, a dozen or two is equal to the pollution output of every car on earth.

These ships run on bunker fuel. It is orders of magnitude more polluted than the nasiest diesel you've ever seen pumped. They burn some 67 tons per day of that shit.

Truly, humans are dumber than dirt.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:08 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


An EGR valve [injects] inert gas into the intake, thereby reducing and diluting the normal fuel/air mix. The injected gas must be inert otherwise you goof up the rather precise fuel/air ratio and reduce the effectiveness of the catalytic converter. Fresh air would be especially bad because lean mixes burn even hotter and the surplus oxygen promotes NOx formation.

Ah, so my dad did have a good reason for not letting me hook the EGR pump in my 1968 Chevy up to fresh air - the car had no catalytic converter but I reckon the overly lean mixture wouldn't be doing any good.

Interestingly enough, the trend with small airplanes these days is to run them lean of peak exhaust gas temperature (that is, with greater than stochiometric air). You get less power but much better fuel economy and reliability.
posted by exogenous at 8:35 PM on May 28, 2009


gurple: "With my special solar-powered Future Glasses, I can look ahead 15 years and see how horrifying it will be to our children that we once burned extra gasoline to increase the "fun" of transportation."

"Boy, this AC is incredible! I'd better turn on the heater too."

"Boy, this heater is incredible! I'd better turn up the AC some more."

"Hey, how about some icy margaritas?"

"Yeah!"

"Hey, we're slowing down!"

"Don't worry -- I'll hit the Fuel Guzzler!"

[*SHOOM*]

"Who wants Pop-Tarts?"
posted by Rhaomi at 9:18 PM on May 28, 2009


"I've never driven, been a passenger in, or heard of an American-made car that was 'fun'."

Obviously YMMV, some people think golf is fun after all, but I've had plenty of fun in cars from 5 continents including North America, both driving and not.

"A true car enthusiast enjoys handling, more than power. I drive an Acura RSX, added 17 inch wheels and low profile tires to it, and it's a hoot to drive. Zero to 60 times aren't great, but driving a twisty road is pure bliss."

Power and handling aren't mutually exclusive.

"The one and only downside is winter."

Good thing that only lasts two weeks, a month tops in your neighbourhood eh?
posted by Mitheral at 9:28 PM on May 28, 2009


"the car had no catalytic converter but I reckon the overly lean mixture wouldn't be doing any good."

EGR specifically doesn't lean out the mixture. That would actually make the problem it addresses worse.
posted by Mitheral at 9:30 PM on May 28, 2009


I know, but I was talking about hooking up the engine-driven pump to add fresh air to the intake instead of exhaust. It made sense to my teenage brain.
posted by exogenous at 9:39 PM on May 28, 2009


Ah, I see. Ya, that would be bad.
posted by Mitheral at 9:45 PM on May 28, 2009


Good thing that only lasts two weeks, a month tops in your neighbourhood eh?

Maximizing "fun" was the point. Winter driving is not "fun," certainly not where I live. It is often treacherous and always aggravating. So winter is pretty much irrelevant to any discussion of "fun" to drive.

Motorcycles are also notoriously useless during hurricanes and tornados.

Nonetheless, they remain several orders of magnitude more "fun" in more situations than any car. Except for some of those hydraulic-bouncing-latino-stereotype exhibition cars. Those might be fun. Especially during a street party. But then probably both the owner of the hopped-up car and the motorcycle dude are gonna get laid, so we should probably call it even.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:53 PM on May 28, 2009


the trend with small airplanes these days is to run them lean of peak exhaust gas temperature

After all, who cares about NOx when you're burning leaded fuel. Dirty little fuckers.
posted by ryanrs at 11:51 PM on May 28, 2009


Each ship pollutes about as much as 50 million cars. A fleet of, what, a dozen or two is equal to the pollution output of every car on earth.

I remember reading something like, a container ship idling in the harbor makes more pollution than all the cars in that day's rush-hour.

Think about this, the next time you fill up:
If the pump nozzle spills a couple drops of gas on the ground, that is more hydrocarbon emissions than your car is going to output for the rest of the year.
posted by Jon-o at 5:35 AM on May 29, 2009


running massively polluting cargo ships across the ocean to .... Each ship pollutes about as much as 50 million cars. ...These ships run on bunker fuel.

Would you prefer the ships be fission powered?

Or go back to the pre-container days? (to cut weight but would empower the old problem of dockside shrinkage)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:29 AM on May 29, 2009


If the pump nozzle spills a couple drops of gas on the ground, that is more hydrocarbon emissions than your car is going to output for the rest of the year.

Cite please? You're saying that there are more hydrocarbons in a few grammes of petrol than in the exhaust gases of a car driving for 12,000 miles or more (and burning something like 1450kg of fuel in the process).

That cannot possibly be true.
posted by Brockles at 6:40 AM on May 29, 2009


"Would you prefer the ships be fission powered?"

Clearly, the situation is not ideal. Just because someone points out a problem doesn't mean they're also asking for an unrealistic solution. A shipping arrangement which allows the worst possible fuel which causes the most damage and external costs is probably not sustainable. Sure, the merchandise may be cheaper for it, but we all pay for the damage in the long run anyway. So it's not actually cheaper, it's just that the companies involved which are making a profit are not asked to pay for their external costs, therefore the rest of us do.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:34 AM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


May I be the first in this thread to say that bicycling is more fun than driving a car.

Oh yeah, I went there.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:12 AM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah I'm going to have to go ahead and dispute the cargo ship thing too. Sounds like BS.
posted by no_moniker at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2009


As for what we can do with cargo ships, here's an idea.

But even today we can start saving fuel right away with very simple, cheap and straightforward technology.

So, no, we don't need to wait for fission power to start dealing with the problem of cargo ships using inefficient bunker C fuel oil.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:08 AM on May 29, 2009


"Would you prefer the ships be fission powered?"

I think post Peak-Oil that sail is going to come back big. Not necessarily 100% but even a 20-30% contribution would be significant when you are burning $5000 of fuel an hour. You can hire a lot of sailors for that.

Guardian article on the 50 million number. More worrisome to me is that ships account for wildly disproportionate percentages of NOx and SO2 emissions; as much as 20x. Also from the Guardian: "Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars."

I think in this case they are talking about pollution rather than carbon emissions.

Some information on one of the monster engines that is burning all this fuel. "Even at its most efficient power setting, the big 14 consumes 1,660 gallons of heavy fuel oil per hour".

"Winter driving is not 'fun,' certainly not where I live."

We'll have to agree to disagree.

Also interesting is this cargo ship parking lot outside Singapore. I wonder if anyone is studying changing pollution levels due to the down turn.
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 AM on May 29, 2009


An AIR (Air Injection Reaction) pump is not the same thing as an EGR valve. That is all.
posted by rfs at 3:21 PM on May 29, 2009


An AIR (Air Injection Reaction) pump is not the same thing as an EGR valve.

Thank you! I called my dad and clarified, that is indeed what we had on the '68 Chevy: an engine driven pump that would pump fresh air into the exhaust. My mistake before.
posted by exogenous at 5:18 PM on May 29, 2009


agree to disagree

Yes, because winter rally racing is just so representative of the in-city and inter-city that was being discussed. Sheejus christ on a kebab.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2009


Well you can drive like that at anytime in the winter, not just at sanctioned events. I love driving in snow.
posted by Mitheral at 11:08 PM on May 29, 2009


Paul Krugman Dispatches 3 Wingnut Talking Points on Auto Industry in 2 Minutes
posted by homunculus at 4:56 PM on May 31, 2009


I'm a "car enthusiast" and I am not particularly worried about the end of "fun cars". I can count the number of affordable "fun cars" on the digits of a single hand. It's why I switched to motorcycling as my primary mode of transportation.

Of course, none of this would be necessary if we'd take the licenses of anyone who doesn't keep right except to pass, or anyone who talks on a cell phone (hands-free included) while driving, or hell, anyone who does anything other than, y'know, driving while driving. Which is why I'm also in favor of mandatory minimum speed limits. It's hard to apply makeup or fuck with the radio while you're making a 90° turn at 55mph.
posted by Eideteker at 6:28 PM on June 5, 2009


A Chinese firm's bid to buy the gas-guzzling Hummer car brand will be blocked on environmental grounds, according to Chinese state radio.
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on June 26, 2009


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