Ryan (thesolidone) wrote,
Ryan
thesolidone

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So I've gone a bit car crazy I suppose. But seriously I suddenly understand what I've been missing.  My principle vehicle for years was a propane powered 15 seater ex handy dart van. After that I drove a Dodge Caravan around before taking over the VW Jetta.  I finally understand how drivng can actually be fun and what it is like to drive a car where the limitations are the drivers own ability instead of the lack of compression from combusting propane or feeling you are guiding a cruise ship into docking. I am genuinely excited about this which to me is a bit rare.

And I know there are a lot of hybrid Honda Civic owners out there waving their fist at my gas guzzling 6 cylinder. But seriously drive my car and you will understand why. I thought I would never be able to condone this sort of thing but it's like night and day. It doesn't have amazing mileage but I know 4 cylinders that get worse mileage and even some V8's that get about the same (Dodge Charger R/T). Although I suppose the 5.7L V8 Hemi shouldn't really count because it uses a trick called MDS to cut it's cylinder usage down to 4 when you are not giving it. So yes generally larger displacement equals less mileage. But that isn't always true. Those little 300HP turbo charged Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions and Subaru WRX STi's have worse mileage than that while looking like a Honda Civic hit with an ugly stick at the same time. 

So what's the future? I saw this post on my friends page(thanks Xeero) about how our society typically feels it takes more effort to wash a plastic spoon, than the process of refining, molding, manufacturing, transporting and buying a new one. And truthfully it might be. I mean if someone is already taking the trip why not add a few more. I'm not saying that's the right idea. But that is where it's at. I mean people can get ahead making money simply from refining the process of transfering it between hands. We make, make work projects just to give people stuff to do so we can pay them for it to keep the economy moving forward. Before things may have not been as efficient but we did not have the room to fall into laziness.

So for vehicle transportation, as a lot of you are aware there has been a continuous effort to reduce emissions that is being reflected in legislature in the coming years. There are targets and rough expectations that many countries around the world are trying to bring inline with standards. The US has been one of the most resistant to these changes but if you think about it, it isn't surprising. And not because I'm trying to paint Americans into a stereotype but simply they have a lot more work to do and internal politics to deal with in setting these drastic of changes. The previous paragraph's view of the world has come into place largly because of the American way of life's dominance on the world market. In a lot of ways we aren't that different here. How many multi-vehicle families, how many SUV's? We're just dealing with 1/10th of the population. 

Necessity will bring change. This is not all that different from the 70's when there were record high oil prices, and the muscle car era came to an end. I'm sure the new Hemi Challenger will get canned after 4 years of production just like it's 1970 counterpart (although it's mileage is a lot better). Although right now production cars are boasting some of the highest performance numbers ever. The new Corvette ZR1 is putting out 625 HP stock with it's 6.2L Supercharged V8 engine. The new Nissan GTR is boasting 480 HP out of a 6 cylinder stock with performance numbers that would make a Ferrari or Lambourghini envious. Even the very affordable Ford Mustang GT is getting a boost up to 350 HP next year, which is more than it has ever had on a stock GT in the past 50 years.  So I'm sitting here thinking aren't we heading in the wrong direction. I think car companies are just racing to the top the last bit before they get pounced on by regulations. Rumour has it vehicles like the V10 Dodge Viper will be getting cancelled along with the revived Hemi engine.

So as I said necessity will bring change. In the 1970's all it took was the catalytic convertor to reduce emissions and get stuff back on track. Although like before I think the American auto industry is in for some trouble. In the 1980's they got their asses handed to them by foreign companies that made lighter cars to make up for their smaller engines. We're in a similar boat here again. Cars have gotten heavier again for reasons of safety standards, but this time we're already seeing some new technology that will help. First off multi-displacement engines as used in Dodge's based V8 Hemi is finding it's way into smaller engines to reduce displacement for regular city driving. Secondly, Japanese car companies have been really working hard on efficiency of engines. That little Mitsubishi Lancer Evo I was talking about earlier gets 150HP per litre displacement. And who can forget the superlight weight rotary engines used by Mazda in their RX line. Thirdly, alot of european and japanese car makers have been working on transmission efficiency. There is CVT(Continuous Variable Transmission) which keeps the car always in it's most efficient power band, ie no shifting and no drive train loss = better mileage and less wasted energy. So far this only works for lower powered cars (under 200 HP). And most notably Volkswagon's dual clutch system which has now been getting use by other brands (even ferrari and the like are switching to similar systems). It looks like a triptronic paddle shifting automatic but in reality is a double clutch driven manual that can shift in under 1/100th of a second and can support cars up to 480 HP to date (Nissan GTR). 

Then there is the whole electric car thing. I left this one for last as it seems to be the one people are jumping all over without really considering how truly efficient it is. Now electric cars don't have to be slouches. I saw a video on Youtube where I guy takes a electric car and goes 0-60 in under 3 seconds. Now if you think back to that example about the plastic spoon, the electric car is sort of the the same thing. WIth current technology it takes more power or more gas to deliver that power for the car or create the batteries than just to use gasoline in the first place. However, gasoline becoming a rarer and therefore more expensive commodity could tip the scales differently. But either way I think even with the hybrid car there is a bit too much back patting going on and not enough real solution. But that is the nature of the whole energy crysis. I mean there are a lot of partially working ideas, water, ethanol.. but nothing particularly standing out. I realise the whole gas company conspiracy and the evil auto industry but there are a lot of different sides to the story. The first viable production electric car in modern history was made by an american automaker (I'm talking in the 1980's.. not back at the turn of the century). But it was disregarded by the general public. 

When we find a solution to the energy issue I'm sure it will change our life much in the way electricity has in the last 100 or so years. But until then while I believe we don't do enough ourselves due to laziness I don't think those hybrid promoting environmentalists should be patting themselves on the back too hard. I agree the emission standards are a good thing but don't think for a second everyone will get into a smart car cause they are practical. People have kept up even stupider crutches (smoking cigarettes anyone) way after they have gone out of style. And seriously now that I've witnessed it, I know there is no comparison.

The bottom line is for transportation people want to get from point A to point B the best way they can. Whether that means the quickest, the most engaging, or the most stylish. Even in the heaviest traffic if everyone could accelerate faster in theory we could all get where we're going faster. So as I said 70 HP Smart cars are not the future. Think I-Robot. Computer driven super fast turn on a dime. Some of the current each individual wheel traction control antilocking systems like those in the Mitsubishi Evolution X's S-AWD system are already making me think that. The car practically turns itself. This is all assuming we don't come up with some even wilder technology which makes transportation as we know it obsolete.

Oh and in other news I got myself tickets to Iron Maiden in Vancouver. So psyched. Being part of the Iron Maiden fan club I got them early (yesterday morning). But they go on sale this friday. This is the first time they've played here in like 20 years or something. This is going to be fun.
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