Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our mileage does vary ...

I am a big fan of the Television Show “Top Gear” on BBC America. If you are not familiar with the show, it is three guys presenting (as they say in the UK) a program about cars. They review horribly expensive performance cars that no one will ever be able to afford, they put a celebrity guest in a Daewoo Nubria (actually the English Chevrolet model of the Daewoo) and have them race around their track and the have humorous challenges for the three presenters. It might be to spend 1000 pounds on a used car and turn it into a police car (complete with secret weapons), and then test out how well they did, or to have one them race a parachutist with a flying squirrel suit who has jumped from a helicopter, or to put to various challenges two luxury cars from the seventies (a Rolls and A Mercedes) that would have been the type to have been used by Elton John or Idi Amin. I hope you get the idea.

Anyway, the other night the challenge on the program was a race (not surprisingly). There is a resort town in England called Blackpool (the subject of a different series) where apparently they have a light turning on event every year (maybe this episode was near Christmas, I have no idea). They invite a celebrity to flip the switch, this year it was the Top Gear presenter’s turn. But the producers of top Gear decided to turn it into a race, where the three would start from a point in Switzerland and drive to Blackpool, 750 miles away. They could choose their own type of car. Whoever got there first would flick the switch. But the twist was they could only use one tank of gas.

So one fellow chose a Suburu diesel economy model that has a pretty big gas tank, one chose a Volkswagen mini type diesel car with a smaller gas tank, and one chose a Jaguar diesel touring sedan, because he reckoned the challenge was impossible and he wanted to run out of gas near his home (which is near London, a couple of hundred miles from Blackpool).

The segment was fun to watch and interesting, but what struck me was the gas mileage they reported as they were going along. They, of course, have cars that report real time gas mileage (I think many American cars also now do this, but probably not as many models as European car companies have that do). So the Volkswagen was getting 75 miles per gallon, the Suburu was getting 70 and even the Jag was getting 50 some miles per gallon.

This really pisses me off. All the Americans who say we need to drill off the coasts and in Alaska, so we can put fuel in the SUV’s that make under twenty MPG on the highway. Engine technology got better over the last thirty years, and the Europeans used that technology to make their cars more efficient and we used it to make our cars more powerful. We made heavier and less stable SUV’s that have the speed of a muscle car and the handling of a panel van. At under twenty miles per gallon.

I hope Obama gets serious and arranges to get some efficient cars imported over here, or even better sets up a plant in Pittsburgh to make them here. 75 MPG. Although your mileage may vary.


Michael said...

Are you sure they were MPG and not KPG? 75km is about 46 miles. That's still much much better than we do, but not as outrageous.

EdHeath said...

If you have Comcast On Demand and the right level of cable you can check for yourself. Or you can go to the Top Gear website (I think I should have put on my post as a web address). I am pretty sure they were talking about miles per gallon, although I had noticed (the one time I was in England) that the English sell gas in litres. The top gear guys regularly talk in miles per hour, although sometimes they switch between KPH and MPH

jtogyer said...

Love "Top Gear." For a while, bootlegged episodes were showing up on YouTube, but Auntie Beeb made 'em take them down.

Diesel automobiles in EU countries are way ahead of ones available in the U.S., I think because "petrol" is so heavily taxed there.

I've been told that U.S. particulate (soot) regulations won't permit many of the diesel engines sold in Europe from being imported, but I'd be shocked if we really have tougher emissions laws that, say, Germany.

Diesel car engines do have a very bad stigma in the U.S., mostly because of the noisy, smelly, unreliable ones that GM and VW sold here in the early 1980s.

EdHeath said...

Yeah, gotta love Top Gear. I will probably post tomorrow about how the TG people were probably talking imperial gallons. Our gallons (representative democracy gallons?) are only about 83% of the imperial gallon, so suddenly their mileage in "American" is only about 62 MPG for the VW and 42 for the Jag. Still quite good, but not super human.

If you read the CleanMPG website, you will see opinion pieces on how American and even foreign car makers think we just don't like diesels here (the stigma you mention_. Ford is building a small diesel which will get 60 some MPG, but they are only going to sell it in Europe. I think the fact that diesels have the reputation for slow acceleration is offset by that highly taxed "petrol" there that you mention (a lot of diesels now come in turbo for that reason). It's actually quite a shame. I think bio-diesel made from switchgrass or the parts of corn not used for food plus a bunch of fuel efficient diesels only being sold in Europe right now would be the equation to drastically reduce our fuel usage and make the people in the Middle East fix their own damn problems.


Just my opinion.

Improvedliving said...

I think this is much better. Every single mile counts.

gas mileage

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