I love to smoke. That’s not a cool thing to admit; in fact it’s socially irresponsible. But there is something very satisfying about lighting up, and the sensation of that first drag. For me it’s not about nicotine. No I enjoy the act of smoking. Fortunately I also love to run and the two habits are rarely complementary. Save the occasional relapse, I quit some 16 years ago. But if smokes were only as bad for me as coffee, I would still light up, social pressures be dammed.
Is the American love affair with the automobile over? Total miles driven in the United States peaked in August of 2007, then dropped during the recession and has leveled off since then, though the economy is growing slightly and the population is increasing. The Federal Highway Administration just reported that miles traveled during the first six months of 2013 continued the trend, being down slightly from 2012.
Individual miles traveled actually peaked in 2004, at about 900 miles per driver per month. By mid 2012, that had dropped to 820 miles per month. Per capita automobile use is now about where it was in the late 1990s. Until then, driving mileage generally tracked economic growth, according to U.S. Transportation Department economists Don Pickrell and David Pace (PDF presentation here). Since the late 1990s, though, the when the economy has grown, it has grown more rapidly than car use.
I own a Jaguar (Ford Era) that gets driven only about once a week, with jaunts of a few miles to several hundred. I keep syn oil in the engine. I have owned this car for several years and the only problem to date is the flat spotting of the tires. What should I do to keep this vehicle in good running condition? Is weekly driving enough? (Read More…)
With the release of the SciBaru FRZ just weeks away, everyone’s been caught up in the sticker price, available options and aftermarket support for the car, but nobody has asked a crucial question; what about insurance?
Though the idea that there is a “war on cars” appeals to certain segments of society, there’s little evidence for any such effort. On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that there’s a “war on drivers” on, and it’s being led by the automotive industry. On the one hand, cars are being ever-more laden with distracting gizmos and toys, while simultaneously, companies are testing systems that minimize the need for drivers at all. Though Google’s autonomous cars get a lot of media play in this country, another system is moving Europe towards a similar endgame. Known as “Car-To-X,” the system allows cars to swap information like speed and direction, not just with each other but with traffic lights and traffic data collectors. The idea is to avoid traffic and crashes, by warning drivers of oncoming traffic in a left-hand turn scenario, for example. Because who wants to use their eyes to make sure they’re safe when technology can do it for you?
According to Autobild, the first public German test of the system will begin next spring, with 120 vehicles taking part. GM is currently testing a similar system. If all goes according to plan, systems like this and Google’s autonomous technology will fulfill GM’s prediction that autonomous vehicles will be a reality by 2020, and the war on driving will be won. Or lost, depending on your perspective.
A University of Michigan study [PDF] shows that, in the 85 years between 1923 and 2008, average on-road fuel economy in the US has improved a mere 3.5 MPG. In fact, the study shows that driving a car is even more energy-intensive (per occupant-mile) than flying on an airplane (3,501 BTU per mile versus 2,931 BTU per mile). Some will blame weak government regulations for this unimpressive result, but the study found that the convenient government scapegoat is not completely to blame.
This report presents information about the effects of decisions that a driver can make to influence on-road fuel economy of light-duty vehicles. These include strategic decisions (vehicle selection and maintenance), tactical decisions (route selection and vehicle load), and operational decisions (driver behavior).
The results indicate that vehicle selection has by far the most dominant effect: The best vehicle currently available for sale in the U.S. is nine times more fuel efficient than the worst vehicle. Nevertheless, the remaining factors that a driver has control over can contribute, in total, to about a 45% reduction in the on-road fuel economy per driver—a magnitude well worth emphasizing. Furthermore, increased efforts should also be directed at increasing vehicle occupancy, which has dropped by 30% from 1960. That drop, by itself, increased the energy intensity of driving per occupant by about 30%