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cars. Toyota now has eight models that achieve more than 30 mpg. In fairness, U.S. companies have been operat- ing in an environment where fuel has been presented to consumers as free flowing and in- expensive. Why not drive a big, powerful vehicle, if gasoline costs less than bottled water? Of course, these low fuel costs have con-

cealed heavy subsidies and “externalities.” It could be argued that they have also hurt U.S. auto competitiveness over the long haul. In fact, according to a 2003 report by the In-

ternational Center for Technology Assessment, so many costs are hidden in U.S. gasoline that consumers really pay between $5.60 and $15.14 for health, social, and environmental impacts— not to mention overseas military activity. Many “true cost” reformers have come to the same conclusion: U.S. car owners have no incentive to change their driving behavior or vehicles, because they have no idea what gas really costs them. Also, a huge amount of real money that could be used to help subsidize alternative ve- hicle R&D and public transit is left on the table.

The Alternative Future “A lot of our research is about getting electrical systems more efficient, and working to keep them affordable,” notes Sharif Marakby, director


One reason large vehicles (and large homes) have remained so popular in the United States has been the

fact that our fuel is subsidized by government policy.



2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

10. 108. Norway

United Kingdom Netherlands Monaco Iceland Belgium France

Germany Portugal

United States

PRICE/GAL $9.58 $8.73 $8.38 $8.37 $8.31 $8.28 $8.22 $8.07 $7.86 $7.84 $3.45

Since 1980, this CNN report found, fuel use in the UK has remained flat. In France it has declined by 17%. In the U.S. fuel use has risen by 21% over the same period.

Source: CNN

An article in the UK’s Daily Mail describes a “self-driving” car that is on display at the Science Museum in London. The car’s GPS system is “linked to satellite naviga- tion software and maps out a picture of the car’s surroundings in a 200 yard radius—including road conditions, buildings, other vehicles, and pedestrians.

Image: Daily Mail

of Ford’s electrification programs and engineer- ing division. He notes that big areas of focus now include lithium ion batteries—which will make their first appearance in automobiles in 2011 models—but also climate control. “There’s one big area of improving efficiency,

and that’s the climate control in the car,” he says. “You could lose

(continues on page 28) DRIVING: A HANDS FREE FUTURE Some auto industry experts see future autos as electric, efficient, and self-steering.

A 2008 article in Autoweek, a Detroit car industry magazine, went out on a limb— and put its bets on where the auto industry will be in 50 years—I’ve reprinted an excerpt here: “Today, in 2058, almost all vehicles are ultragreen and electric. No internal-

combustion engines have been built anywhere on the planet for a couple of decades. Cars that already had them now require a box retrofitted to the exhaust that keeps pollution from fouling the air. Cars use many different energy sources to run their electric powertrains; hybrid electrics that plug into the energy grid let Americans get the equivalent of hundreds of miles to the gallon of gasoline, but most of them aren’t burning gasoline. “All vehicles built today use drive-bywire technology,” the writer continues.

“In fact, federal and state officials passed regulations that make it against the law to drive, except in emergencies. For this reason, and thanks to intelligent highway systems, motor-vehicle accidents are extremely rare. Computers monitor navigation, engine controls, HVAC and steering, and the task of motoring is more

carefree than ever.” Source: Sheila Ronis. Autoweek. Detroit: Jul 16, 2008. Vol. 58

July > August 2010 GreenBuilder


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