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with a UK company, Smith Electric Vehicles, to off er an EV “commercial” vehicle later this year. They’ve caught some fl ack for not engineering it from scratch themselves, but if it works as advertised, why mess with a good thing? The vehicle, called the Ford Transit Connect,


is positioned as a light van that may have ap- plication for trade contractors. The company is making it available as a fl eet vehicle at fi rst but plans to off er it for general sale soon.


USED VS. NEW CARS: WHAT’S GREENER?


Manufacturing new cars embodies a lot of fossil fuel, negating a lot of the carbon advantages over used cars. Maybe it’s time to change the equation.


The 2011 Ford Transit Connect all electric van (2010 model shown) will list for about $22,000 and get the equivalent of 23 mpg, with a range of about 385 highway miles and a top speed of 75 mph.


The transition to more effi cient technology is


coming, but it’s anybody’s guess which curve in the road will cause the next massive detour. Much of the equation is outside the direct reach of car makers. It’s geopolitical. Fuel prices, labor costs, raw materials. The good news, as Darovitz says, is that they are off ering many more op- tions to help us keep moving even if energy is far more precious. GB


FEEDBACK LOOP


An increasingly widespread technology called piezoelectric (PZT) sensors has pushed automobile computerization to a much higher level in recent years. These tiny devices act like the car’s nerve endings, feeding back information to a central computer. Increas- ingly, they’re used to boost fuel efficiency, not just comfort and convenience.


Source: Electronic Component News, Mar. 2009


An article in Wired magazine recently compared the environmental costs of buying a new Toyota Prius with buying a second-hand car. Their conclusion: Because a used car has already “paid off” its initial carbon cost, buying an old, energy efficient model is more eco-conscious choice than purchasing a new hybrid. The author notes that making a Prius requires 113 million BTU of energy,


equivalent to about 1,000 gallons of gasoline. So buying a Prius only makes sense if you are replacing a real gas guzzler. Otherwise, you’d be better off buying a fuel efficient used car that’s a few years old. It’s a challenging conundrum for buyers who want to do the right thing. On


the one hand, used cars don’t last forever, so new hybrids will eventually find a home. On the other hand, why not put vehicle durability on the table? Many standard combustion powered vehicles survive for 150,000 miles or more. If hybrids could tweak durability and offer a 300,000 mile vehicle, they


would quickly trump the used car competition. Of course, proper maintenance and driving style have a lot to do with durability, but shouldn’t engineering count for something?—M. Power


30


GreenBuilder July > August 2010


www.greenbuildermag.com


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