12/05/2008

Embrace your inner Challenger

I drive a hybrid. No, not a gas/electric car, but a hybrid bicycle, which combines some of the speed of a road bike and with some of the ruggedness of a mountain bike. A nice compromise if you travel on both paved and unpaved roads.

My choice of ride comes down to a pretty simple philosophy: When possible, choose a vehicle that weighs less than you, rather than one that weighs 40 times more than you. If that makes me a tree hugger, then so be it.

Still, I grew up in the 60s, an era of gorgeously overpowered muscle cars. Back then, I was flat out in love with anything that had a V8. I spent endless hours reading about cars, drawing pictures of cars, building models of cars, and talking about cars. Juan Fangio was my hero; driving a 400 horsepower GTO, my ultimate fantasy.

Eventually, though, I grew up and discovered girls, guitars, and, somewhere along the way, a concern for the environment. The fantasy of cruising in a gas-guzzler lost its luster.

So do I welcome the next generation of electric cars? Definitely, though they're sure to hit a few speed bumps along the way. According to Lux Research president Matthew Nordan, 42% of the world’s lithium carbonate will be consumed if only 6.4% of the world’s cars use lithium ion batteries. A oddly framed statistic, but one that gives you pause nonetheless.

But, you know, even if electric cars fulfill their environmental promise, I really hope that governments avoid the temptation to regulate gas-powered muscle cars and supercars out of existence. I know this sounds irrational, given my distaste for burning gasoline. But, let's face it, there's nothing rationale about the relationship between humans and cars. Cars aren't simply a form of transportation; they also serve as a vehicle for expressing who are are and what we want people to think of us.

So, as much as I prefer to bike when possible, I still love beautiful, wickedly fast cars. I may not buy a Dodge Challenger for myself, but if my neighbor buys one and offers to take me out for a spin, you can bet I won't turn him down.

Maybe I'm not green enough. Or maybe I simply prefer to live in a world where humans have some latitude to indulge themselves. A world where the lion of fantasy can lie down with the lamb of practicality. A world that still has cool stuff.

4 comments:

Malte said...

Check the car dealer of a European brand. Lots of cool cars to choose from. Once you've a couple of candidates, check the European website of the car maker. You will be surprised that the 'low end V6' the car dealer offered to you as the smallest engine available is by far not the smallest, fuel saving engine you can get. Pick a 1.8 or 2.0 liter engine, 4 cylinders and go back to your car dealer. Fuel consumption usually below 8 liters per km, in some cases often less. And still a lot of power and speed - the time you needed a V8 to go fast are long gone.

Paul N. Leroux said...

Good point, Malte. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that car engines in Europe have a longer history of giving more bang for the buck -- or should I say for the cylinder. I'm thinking of the Chrysler PR Cruiser, for example. From what I remember, the European version has a diesel engine that puts the Cruiser's North American power plants to shame.

- Paul

Malte said...

Yes Paul, here in Europe a Chrysler PT Cruiser with a fuel saving Diesel engine is available - and it moves and drives just like its North American counterpart. But as you noted earlier: It's not only important how much gas your car is consuming - it's how much you drive it. I understand you bike to work if you can... same do I. This way, while I'm on the way to the office, my car consumes 0 liters of gas.

Paul N. Leroux said...

Hey Malte, good to hear you bike to work as well! My only problem is the Canadian winter: it's hard to bike on trails covered by several feet of snow. But someone has come up with a solution; maybe I'll get one of these in time for next winter:

https://www.ktrakcycle.com/index.html