Watched a very interesting documentary on SBS the other night: Car of the Future, where two charismatic brothers – one a host of a radio car show, explore future trends in car design in a lighthearted, but well informed way. It was certainly entertaining, but I want to share the two big points that came out of it.
1. Around 1% of the fuel we put in our car is actually used in moving the driver. What? 1%?? are you kidding? So while we’re howling about paying $1.75 per litre for petrol, the way we use it means that we are essentially burning $1.73 of it for nothing? Well, not quite – the waste is in moving the car – friction, heat, and of course, the engine itself cannot perfectly convert petrol to motion. All the same, it’s an incredibly sobering to realise just how far we’ve got to go with fuel efficiency in motoring.
2. We blew our last big chance to build more efficient cars. Yes, back in 1975 the world experienced its first major oil crisis. Legislation was introduced in the US to mandate minimum mileage efficiencies and between 1975 and 1982 the average mileage increased from 13mpg to 22mpg. During this period, the price of oil actually fell!
Unfortunately, instead of continuing with these gains, having achieved the required standards, future efficiency gains were used to increase speed and vehicle size. The average mileage has not increased since 1982, in fact, it’s gone slightly south, to about 20.8mpg, while fuel prices have steadily risen.
So there it was, as clear as day, the correlation between demand and price, and yet we still have brainless, populist fools like the RACV, and the opposition (my favourite targets), as well as many others, who think that cutting fuel taxes to provide a few weeks price relief is a good thing. How stupid and short-sighted can you get?
The lesson to be learned is clear, the only thing that is going to make drivers and manufacturers change their ways is to allow market forces to take their toll. Market forces that include the true cost of fossil fuels, and include a carbon tax. It’s going to hurt, but it must be done.