Pondering the Ponderous

Why is so much rhetoric, effort – and expense – put toward making vehicles “fuel efficient” when it would so easy (and inexpensive) to just make them lighter?

Or – for that matter – less uselessly powerful?

There is something both ridiculous and sad about all these 300-plus horsepower “luxury sport” vehicles puttering around at speeds that need half that power to putter around as they do – while burning probably twice as much fuel as they do. A 1981 Aries K Car (for those who remember) was the farthest thing from speedy but it was very light – and very fuel efficient. It was capable of averaging more than 40 MPG – better mileage than any new car that’s not a hybrid car today – and that was 40 years ago.

Put another way, hybrid technology isn’t necessary to get a car to average 40 MPG or higher. It is wasteful – and expensive. Also, hilarious – in that you add the weight (and expense) of an electric motor and battery pack to offset the fuel efficiency penalty of the weight of the car, before it was hybridized.

The current Toyota Prius – arguably, the definitive hybrid – weighs an alarming 3,010 pounds. Well, it’s alarming – if you care about efficiency. A 1981 Aries K car weighed 2,300 lbs. or almost 1,000 pounds less. And that’s why it approached the fuel economy of a modern hybrid – without needing to be a hybrid.

A 1985 Honda CRX weighed just over 1,800 pounds – which is why it was capable of matching the fuel economy of a modern hybrid, without needing to be one.

Such cars weren’t ludicrously speedy, of course. But they didn’t need to be – because what would have been the point when the maximum speed limit at the time was 55 MPH? They got you where you needed to go, efficiently and inexpensively. And now, they’re all gone – notwithstanding this almost-religious mania about “efficiency” that’s as silly as the one about “vaccines” that don’t prevent people from catching colds – and spreading them to others.

Silly – as regards “efficiency” – because it’s plain that few give a damn about that, much as many of them posture about that.

But the speed limit’s not 55 anymore! True. It is as high as 75 – on a few highways. And on many of them, faster than 80 can get you arrested on the spot and will result in massive fines and serial insurance mafia mulcting, upon conviction. Which probably explains why so many drivers of modern “luxury sport” vehicles are hesitant to drive them that fast.

Besides which, an ’81 Aries K was quite capable of attaining and maintaining 75 MPH. It may have taken longer to reach that speed but then the same is true today – though not on account of any lack of power to do so.

So many people drive their powerful modern cars – and trucks – as if they were driving an ’81 Aries K car with (literally) half or less the horsepower. In fact, it is almost a mathematical axiom – a thing that can be depended upon – that if you roll up behind a “luxury sport” sedan or massive truck with more than twice the power under the hood than was under the hood of an ’81 Aries K car, its driver will be driving it as if it had the power of an ’81 Aries K car.

The light goes green and – after a moment or two of reflection by the driver – the “luxury sport” sedan or massive truck will begin to creep forward, as if there were a newborn baby’s fontanel under the pedal.

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