Monday, June 02, 2008

Saw this small car parked one day

Don't know much about it. Electric? Gasoline? Must get real good mileage. Great for one or two person commute without having to carry a lot of stuff.

Some folks wonder why Detroit can't make high mileage cars? Well, Americans tend to want to "have their cake and eat it too."

There's usually a trade off between safety and fuel efficiency.

Simple physics provides limitations. Of course one can strive to do better, but there are limits.

I have perpetually heard about the perpetual motion machine. The machine that government and corporations hide so it doesn't cut into oil sales.

Perpetual motion. Now that would be great mileage.

It's all Dick Cheney's fault. I voted for Gore in 2000 anyway.

In truth, one way to increase mileage is to reduce weight. Lighter vehicles do better.

I ride a bicycle.

Lighter cars get good mileage, but there are trade offs. If Americans want their cake and eat it too, they don't do trade offs well.

A smaller vehicle has less protection. I don't blame people for not wanting to be on the road around semi trucks and large SUVs in little cars.

It's the meat in the sandwich thing.

Motorcycles are said to be about the most unsafe form of transportation, but they can be fuel efficient.

My bicycle seems a lot safer, but I seldom go over 15 MPH and I am usually out of the traffic pattern. Thank God for shoulders and bike trails.

So I don't blame people for wanting the safety of larger vehicles. It protects the family.

Safety trumps fuel efficiency, especially if gas isn't that expensive.

How expensive is your life? Hospital bills can be real high compared to gas.

Detroit started making smaller cars in the late 1970s, but it takes time to retool the production lines. About the time they were retooled, gas came down in price compared to other things in the economy. Other things such as hospital bills.

When gas seemed high at around $1 per gallon, in the late 70s, one could still buy a house in Seattle for under $20,000. By 1998, gas was not much more, but try buying a Seattle home for under $300,000 then.

Late 1990s saw about the cheapest gas prices in human history. Cheapest, relative to other things in the economy. Cheaper than the 1950s in relative terms.

That wasn't a good time for selling small cars, in USA at least.

Clinton was in the White House, the tech boom was in full swing and Asian stock markets were tumbling.

Remember the late 1990s Asian stock market tumble? It was pretty much confined to Asian markets, but had the effect of slowing oil demand in that part of the world. That contributed to an oil glut on world markets. Cheap oil, at least for a while.

Bad time for Detroit to be selling smaller cars. That's when the SUVs were coming into popularity. You had the soccer moms, the security moms (or maybe they came after 911). Small car makers got burned.

Now we are in a different price environment. Gas is going up and small cars are coming back into demand.

Detroit can't tool up to make small cars in a day. It takes time to reinvent the production lines.

Going back to a 55 MPH speed limit might help demand for smaller vehicles. Collisions at slower speeds are less deadly.

Sure they can improve safety all the time. Airbags, real strong composite fibers in the frame. Still, there are always limitations to physics. Slower speed limits can help the safety of lighter vehicle users.

We just can't have it all. Maybe we can try, but there are limits.

For true safety and fuel efficiency, there is always public transit.

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