The Efficiency Paradox: A Review of “Two Billion Cars”
Here’s a taste:
“Efficiency” is a soothing, lovely word that means little on its own: efficient as compared to what? Take the American car (please). As veteran transportation and energy specialists Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon write in Two Billion Cars—their authoritatively prescriptive challenge to the “transportation monoculture” that plagues the United States and Europe and looms in China and India—automakers have been making their cars more fuel efficient on the order of two percent annually. And yet the actual “corporate average fuel economy” of cars has made less commendable gains: “The bottom line is that although technologically the modern U.S. car is more efficient than ever before, gaining more work from a gallon of gasoline, those efficiency gains don’t show up as fuel economy gains.”
What happened? All the efficiency gains were consumed, by size and horsepower (not to mention increased driving). In 1976, the Honda Accord, which captured the wallets, if not the hearts, of Americans reeling in the wake of high fuel prices, weighed 2,000 pounds and got a reported 46 miles per gallon in highway driving. “Ten million Accords later, the car had ballooned,” write Sperling and Gordon. “The 2008 model is 78 percent heavier, equipped with an engine nearly four times as powerful and loaded with power options.” It also gets 17 miles per gallon less on the highway than its predecessor. This example is not atypical: “Today’s granny car would have qualified as a performance car 25 years ago.”
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 at 7:32 pm and is filed under Cars, Etc.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.