Speed, MPG, and Nonsense.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to start off saying, Hello. Secondly I have to admit, something for which I feel strangely guilty. I am a liberal. Yes, I am in fact the son of two hippies, I do enjoy Starbucks, and I do not like President Bush. You’d think then I have a hatred for anything that has a tailpipe, spend my money on hemp everything, and use mass transit. You’d be wrong. I hate, absolutely loathe mass transportation. I don’t want to wear clothes made of grass, and I love the automobile in its many forms (well most). I love driving cars hard and making a carbon footprint the size of Tyrannosaur’s.

me = fast!

Obviously I love speeding. My Corolla is a XRS model with valve lift above six thousand rpm and I just love to get the engine screaming. The Saab has a turbo and though not as invigorating as the Corolla, it gets up to speed in decent time. I also like the feeling of passing on the highway. I do not like to sit and just cruise along. People here often do not check their blind spots and like to hang in yours. It could said that mindset is dangerous and meant for the track. It would be correct. Recently my addiction has caught up to me. While passing a tractor-trailer on I-95, I managed to be caught doing 86 mph (and this is in a 55 zone). Yesterday I plead guilty to reckless driving. I was quite close to license suspension but because I had taken a driver improvement class, had a good letter from my employer, and my record was clean (imagine that!), I was given another chance. Needless to say, I’m driving more slowly now. Can you blame me or anyone else for speeding though?

See. For some time, car companies have been adding power to cars to make them faster (or seemingly). As far as horsepower goes, five hundred is the new three hundred, eight hundred the new five hundred. Companies have also tried to make their cars handle better. Most still tend to under-steer. It could be said that cars have gained weight which is true in most cases. People pay attention to specs and their butt dyno though so they think it is faster. Anyhow that rambling is beside the point. The point is that it seems as if the companies know that speed sells and they encourage the consumer to do it. If you have been anywhere near a television, you’d know the Cadillac ad where the beautiful woman speaks in a sexy tone about being satisfied and then floors it. It encourages people to go out, buy fast, and drive fast. Maybe my car will arouse me on the way to the grocery store if I flog it a little. If I go around this off-ramp fast enough my lebedo will double. All this is well and good for selling but have you noticed that the “driven speed limit” has risen over the years? To keep up with the others on the highway, its not abnormal to be going nearly eighty miles per hour. Ten years ago, it was sixty five. What could possibly slow us down (besides VA’s best)?

Now, with gas prices the way they are and the real estate issues, driving has become what many now call an expense. More cars now days require the use of premium, less cars get as good miles per gallon in real world driving than they used to. There is now an additional marketing strategy where auto makers now tout MPG or hybrid drivetrains. It is nonsense.

Here is a scenario for you. You have a paid off somewhat late model Honda Accord. You decide that you would like a car that gets better mileage or less environmental impact. You take your Accord to the Toyota dealer and trade it in for a new Prius. New with options they can run around 25,000. Trading in the Accord brings it to 19,500. Okay, with Toyotas best percentage rate, your car payment is roughly $360 a month for 5 years. That said say the Accord was a 4 cylinder model. The Prius realistically gets 40 mpg and the Accord in the neighborhood of 25. the Prius has a 12 gallon tank with a range of 480 miles and the Accord a 17 gallon tank with a range of 425 miles. Considering using regular unleaded and driving only a moderate amount a month, after the math, you’re paying $360 to save $60 monthly. Cancelled out, the Prius is costing you $300 a month more to operate (and more because cars with a lean require comprehensive insurance). Will that feeling of doing good for the environment validate that expense? Not in my opinion. Besides, for every gas sipper on the road, there are dirty planes, factories, old cars, chemicals, fumes, people, and cow farts. Don’t forget the exploding economies in Asia. They’re now the ones clubbing seals, sun burning penguins, and drowning polar bears. Hah! What Kyoto treaty!?

Uh.... No

Anyhow, what you can do is just drive. Speed if you want to (though I do recommend slowing down, a little). Don’t buy cars on a premise that doing so will make you a Planeteer. The economy and gas prices will always do their own thing for the most part. Did I learn my lesson about speeding? Not really. I still do a little, but who doesn’t. Everyone does. Yes, I would jump off a bridge if everyone else did unless it was in a Prius.

-Sean