Aren't We Big Enough?
America's love affair with huge and hungry automobiles is slowly killing us. Let's stop the madness.
Everyone understands that the planet earth has a finite amount of oil to bear. Most people also admit that our ever-increasing use of fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on the environment. And while we're doing a few things to curb the use of these noxious liquids and reduce their debilitating effects - checking out alternatives such as electric and biodiesel, mandating stricter efficiency standards, enacting cleaner emissions laws, encouraging people to carpool, driving less, etc. - we have failed to address the fact that we like to "Go Big or Go Home."
It's a simple matter of physics. While advanced technology and high-tech fuels are great, the fuel demands of any vehicle increase in proportion to its size and weight. Thus, it's harder to create efficiency in big, heavy automobiles than it is in small, light ones.
Let's take Honda, for argument's sake, a company that through history has been a leader in both efficiency and environmental awareness. Even when we never cared, Honda did. But the smallest Honda you can buy today is the Fit, and that's half an inch longer than a Civic was in 1991. Speaking of the Civic - it's only two inches shorter than a 1987 Accord LXi, and more than two inches wider. And while we're talking Accords, that car is now the size of a small UPS truck. Why?
Are people really consistently dissatisfied with the size of their cars? Is the buyer really thinking "This car is great, but it would really be a gem if it were a bit bigger and a few pounds heavier?" In the case of a company like Honda, both emissions and gas mileage somehow still improve - credit the company's engineering genius there. And that's great. However, imagine what that new tech could do installed in a smaller and lighter chassis?
As the argument goes, people buy big cars because they believe them to be safer than small cars. That's simple physics, too, and it ain't pretty if you're the person in the small car. When a larger object plows into a smaller one at the same speed, the smaller object will lose every time. But that's just collisions - bigger cars have their own safety concerns, like roll-overs and braking distance - and the long-term answer is to reduce the number of larger cars, trucks, and SUVs on the road, not increase them.
It's the big picture that should be of some concern. When will cars stop growing? How big is big enough? Stop the madness now, or we will all pay for it later. There ends the sermon.
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