Slate Slates the Slushbox

slate slates the slushbox

In another case of under-informed greenery, Slate.com attempts to answer the question vexing America's automotive environmentalists: should American drivers switch to manual transmissions to save the planet? Answer: yes. Author shave 15 percent off their annual gas consumption. "The Department of Energy estimates that the average American driver uses 500 gallons of gas per year, so we're talking about a reduction of 75 gallons. Since a gallon of gas emits 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide… you'd be reducing your annual CO2 output by approximately two-thirds of a metric ton." But then again no; American drivers lack the right technique/attitude to harvest the savings. "If you're lazy about shifting and allow your RPMs to soar unnoticed, then you might actually guzzle more gas than if your car were equipped with a well-engineered slushbox." Koerner seems blissfully unaware of the wide variety of cog-swappers on the market: slushbox, CVT, DSG, automatic clutch. But he's convinced that manual transmissions are a better bet, if only because "The brake pads on stick-shift cars… tend to wear out less rapidly than those on automatics. And manual transmissions are relatively cheap to fix and replace, so you can wait longer to buy a new vehicle." Who knew?

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  • Macca Macca on Oct 31, 2007

    Like others have already mentioned, many automatics are more efficient than their manual-shift brethren. DBW is one reason, as is of course the gearing of the standard transmissions. I spent my first seven years of driving with a stick-shift. It was a blast, and I recall saying things like "I won't own an automatic until I need my hip replaced..." when I was in high school. Once I grew up and got a job, complete with a hectic commute, things changed. Suddenly the fun of flicking through the gears had changed into unbelievably long periods of time spent in rush-hour, never-go-faster-than-15MPH traffic. It was at this point that I decided that I needed my commuter to be an automatic. Although at the time I used to think that an automatic transmission sucked all the fun out of driving, I've now learned that I enjoy different aspects of driving just as much. When I hit my mid-life crisis and need a little Miata or S2000 to cheer myself up, however, I'll definitely enjoy shifting my own gears on a weekend drive through some twisty blacktop. But yes, as someone else already mentioned, this author should have campaigned against the urban-SUV instead of the automatic transmission. It's hardly the efficiency killer that it used to be, and is exactly the opposite in many newer models.

  • Nemphre Nemphre on Nov 01, 2007

    I've never met EPA highway with an autobox. How could I when every time I drive an auto it starts running past 2200 rpms and I'm yelling at it to "Shift damn it! Shift!!" Then there's the whole not being able drop into neutral and just coast. That drives me absolutely insane. Does DSG just engine brake if you let off the throttle? I've broken EPA highway on all my MT cars. You can bet that I wasn't even close though during my first month of driving an MT car. I was actually considering going back to auto for a while. Now, I'll never go back. So you need to hone your skills if you want to be a smooth and efficient operator of the manual transmission. Once you do, it's as good as masturbation. Well, almost. Here's a fuel saving tip for people who drive MT. Use full throttle when you can; it's more efficient when you're not choking it for air. Some ECUs may richen it up though at 100%, so it may be more efficient at 90% or so.

  • Lewissalem Lewissalem on Nov 01, 2007

    So what Brandon. Not gonna happen. See the nanny State can not force me to drive a certain way to optimize efficiency for "the planet" with my stick. If Brandon had his way, not recycling would be a $1000 fine and possible jail time.

  • Macca Macca on Nov 01, 2007
    "I’ve never met EPA highway with an autobox." Hmmm. That's too bad, but I can say that I've exceeded EPA ratings with my autos and manuals. My previous car (an automatic) averaged 27 MPG in town and about 31 on the highway. EPA ratings when new for were like 23/29 or something like that. And I didn't baby it. Your recommendation for manual transmissions actually applies to automatics too - if you drive too much like granny, you won't necessarily improve your mileage. There's a fine balance between driving (and accelerating) too slow and too fast.

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