Public Citizen Not Impressed With GM's "New" Powertrains

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Last week, GM told the world its '08 models would hit the streets with 14 new or "significantly revised powertrains" with a "focus on saving fuel and improving performance." Public Citizen ("We fight for clean, safe and sustainable energy sources") has accused the automaker of mistaking "old" for "new." The consumer advocacy group claims that "most of the good ideas in the new powertrain lineup… are old news technologies that were listed five years ago." The sole exception? GM's two-mode hybrid. Even then Public Citizen slates the automaker's hybrid efforts for "putting it in some of the largest models, undermining efforts to build more efficient functional family vehicles." What's more, Public Citizen has an answer to SUV and pickup truck economy and safety: unibody construction! "Building the body and frame as a single piece, instead of the Frankenstein monster of a car body stuck to a truck frame, could help protect occupants of a vehicle struck by an SUV." And reduce their ability to tow or haul. At least Public Citizen questions the wisdom of biofuels. Looks like that initiative may be losing momentum amongst the chattering classes.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Luther Luther on Aug 29, 2007

    What do a bunch of trust-fund elitist Ivy-league humanities-grad brats know about powertrains? Seriously! Maybe they could make themselves useful to their fellow man by producing efficient powertrains...Perhaps crack open a "Physics for Dummies" book somewhere along the way.

  • Dean Dean on Aug 29, 2007

    They must be unfamiliar with all the crossovers coming onto the market. They are exactly what they're calling for - unibody SUVs. Look, high gas prices are doing the trick. Sales of full-size SUVs and trucks are down, meaning it is generally people that need them that are buying them. Most people are taking a harder look at their needs when they buy a vehicle and making more rational choices. We don't need "push"-style regulation in the market. What we need is for gasoline prices to internalize more of the externalized costs.

  • Jthorner Jthorner on Aug 29, 2007

    GM's claim of 14 "new and/or improved" powertrains just begs to be shot down. Setting aside the question of how many people really need 10-12 mpg trucks, for those who do have a real need for them (I doubt your plumber is going to arrive in a Ford Focus) an improvement like that is much more meaningful than one might realize. recently featured an excellent column by Karl Ludvigsen where he outlined some rational ideas for reduced oil use. His top items were a $1.50/gallon fuel tax, massive conversion to diesel vehicles and adoption of a fuel consumption figure of merit rather than mpg, instead stating gallons used per 1000 miles. A "10 mpg" vehicle would thus be a 100 gallons per 1000 miles vehicle while a 12 mpg vehicle uses 83.3 gallons per 1000 miles. Such an improvement reduces consumption by 16.7 gallons per 1000 miles. Improving a 25 mpg vehicle to 30 mpg is the same as saying you go from 40 gallons per 1000 miles to 28.5 gallons, a savings of 11.5 gallons per mile. Thus more fuel is actually saved by getting 2 more mpg out of a 10 mpg vehicle than is saved by getting 5 more mpg out of a 25 mpg vehicle. As a side note, it was great to see a well thought out article on fuel economy in a clearly enthusiast oriented magazine. I have grown tired of the knee-jerk negative response of much of the enthusiast community to issues of economy, safety and responsibility.

  • Johnster Johnster on Aug 29, 2007
    jthorner: I doubt your plumber is going to arrive in a Ford Focus. My plumber arrived in a Toyota Tacoma. I asked him about it and he said it had a four-cylinder engine and that he got mpg in the low 20s in mostly town driving.