• Oct 26th 2006 at 9:20AM
  • 6
Many of us green-minded car nuts have at one point or another suffered from the worst of all diametrical battles within - high performance v. high mileage. I'll be the first to admit that some years ago I owned a '69 Alfa Romeo GTV. The engine displaced just under 1.8 liters, but with high-performance camshafts and a stripped-out fuel injection system replaced by two 45mm Weber side-draft carburetors, mileage wasn't exactly an underlying (or even peripheral) theme. Now that I'm older and wiser, the car is gone and I've actually been able to manage a relatively small carbon footprint, but it's always interesting to hear the stories of others and their respective transitions from guzzler to green.

Alex Williams has a particularly interesting story which was printed in Wednesday's New York Times. He describes himself as a "pale green" environmentalist who's concerned about global warming, air pollution and oil dependency, though, he still loves muscle cars. In an effort to start his self re-education, he took a Prius out for a test drive. I won't synopsize the whole story as you should read it yourself, but there's one humorous bit I'll give up before you click the link.

He describes a recent hybrid convert from California who owns both a Prius and a 7.0-liter Corvette Z06. The gentleman says that driving the Prius is like a competition, although one in which you try to achieve the best possible gas mileage. "You're trying to stay above the 50 mile-per-gallon level, and it's usually just out of reach - Okay, the light is turning yellow up there, turn, better ease off the gas and let the brakes regenerate... It's so fun to watch it, and see if you can maximize."

If you feel those pangs of remorse when polishing your 'Stang or the pangs of desire when you see someone else's, take a look at the article and sympathize with Alex.

[Source: New York Times]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Huh, stepping from mustang or any pony car into a Tesla Roadster would be very impressive upgrade in performance, and about as green as you can reasonably get.
      Nevermind the Prius, where are electric Supras and Celicas ? TBH, i wouldnt care if it had a range of "only" 50 miles total. I'd drive it to work and around the town every day.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #1, I'm a thirty something and when I see a male driving a prius I wonder which box are your b***s locked up in.
      • 8 Years Ago
      too bad the prius is so butt ugly (also i find its technology reprehensible, but maybe that's just me). a tesla is a much sexier beast ...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Alternative fuels for an automobile are certainly becoming increasingly important as time goes on. Eventually, we are bound to run out of fossil fuel on this planet, as there is a finite amount to pump from underground. Additionally, the rate at which we use it up will be increasing, especially since China is just beginning its rapid expansion in the use of cars. Also, the way things have been going in recent years, the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuel, fuel that has been buried for millions of years underground, is causing “the greenhouse effect” to be of major concern because of the global warming it causes. Clearly, the polar ice caps are melting at an increasingly alarming rate, and not as much of the water is re-freezing in the “winter months” (depending on the pole). If we don’t do something about it soon, like within about 20 years, we will find our cities on the coasts buried under water. Also, as I understand it, the warming of the oceans will cause quite dramatic shifts in weather patterns, meaning more hurricanes and stormy weather. I’m not writing this for the purpose of extolling gloom and doom, but rather to point out that we human beings in the near future need to be altering our ways of burning such large amounts of fossil fuel. We need to ramp-up the development of new technology and methods to power our cars and to be less reliant on cars in general. Of course public transportation helps, but we need to develop the technology and efficiency of using alternative sources of energy soon. In my opinion, ethanol is an important component of the bridge needed to get us to the use of hydrogen cells, and beyond, to power our vehicles. The beauty of burning ethanol, being that it comes from the fermentation of vegetative sources such as corn, wood pulp, and many other plant sources, in effect recycles the carbon dioxide present in our atmosphere. Plants use it to grow in the process of photosynthesis. Brazil uses almost exclusively ethanol that is derived from sugarcane grown there.

      Here in the U.S. and elsewhere, the auto makers are producing more and more cars that will run on “E85” fuel, composed of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Gasohol (10% ethanol) has been a good start, but E85 is even better in my opinion. Vehicles that will run on either gasoline or E85 are called “flex-fuel vehicles” (FFVs). In the latest issue of the leading consumer magazine is a front-page article about what they deem, “the ethanol myth”. They came to the conclusion that it is disadvantageous to run a FFV vehicle on E85 fuel instead of gasoline. Both the fuel economy and acceleration of the 2007 SUV tested dropped when running on E85 compared with gasoline.

      From this, it seems apparent to me that the U.S. needs to catch up to Sweden, General Motor's Saab in particular. Running on E85, the Saab 9-5 "BioPower" Turbo model delivers a significant 20 percent increase in maximum power and 16 percent more torque while emitting 80% less CO2 into the environment compared to running it on gasoline. Running E85 compared to gasoline takes about a second off the 0-60 mph time, and there is a 15 percent gain in fuel economy on the open road where fuel-enrichment for engine cooling is no longer necessary when a vehicle is run on ethanol. The 9-5 BioPower has taken the Swedish market by storm this year, outselling its full-year 2006 sales target in just four months. Sweden has a long cultural and political tradition of respect for the environment, and this is reflected in Saab's achievements of the pioneering of asbestos-free brake linings and the removal of CFCs from air conditioning systems, and now Saab’s Trionic 7 BioPower engines. I remember back in 1973, when the oil embargo hit and additional "smog control" devices (i.e., the EGR valve and air pump) were required on new cars, their performance declined significantly. Many people at the time, including mechanics and engineers, thought the performance and efficiency of cars had been dealt a lethal blow. This is when I bought my first Saab, a 99 EMS. Saab, with the development of the "lambda sond" oxygen sensor (keeps the correct stoichiometric ratio of 14.5 to 1 in the air-fuel mixture) in 1976 along with electronic fuel injection, required no such smog control devices. It was the beginning of electronics-to-the-rescue for car performance. This technology, along with concern for safety and functionality, enamored me with the cars. I was impressed that they did this because they wanted to, as opposed to doing it because they had to. Seemingly at odds with one another, performance and fuel economy were blended together in a practical and distinctive car.

      So here we a
      • 8 Years Ago
      I can't tell you how many late teen, 20-something and 30-something females look at me in the Prius adoringly (or perhaps at the car), how many such females at work are doe-eyed and ask me about the car who wouldn't stop to visit me otherwise....

      Here I am nearly 50 AND happily married. If only Toyota had invented Prius in 1975....
      • 8 Years Ago
      Roger #2 (heh): Pious.
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