Car Improvements

People tend to think in terms of engine power/efficiency or connectivity when they discuss car improvement with time. They tend to forget immense strides in brakes, suspension, and reliability.

We also get solutions in search of a problem, like back-up cameras on cars with decent rear visibility, but also problems with immediate solutions, like better headlights.

Fuel efficiency is a red herring. While direct mpg efficiency improves, we don’t know the increased energy cost of assembling the ostensibly more efficient car. How much CO2 is released shipping exhaust components around the world? Battery components have huge energy costs, both in assembly and use. By example, my local power utility is Xcel Energy, which is almost entirely coal powered. What’s the CO2 cost per mile for coal-powered electricity vs gasoline? All things being equal, better fuel efficiency is good, but all things aren’t equal. It’s more complicated than it sounds.

It is useful to shift more of the costs onto centralized users like manufacturers or utilities. The upside of economies of scale is such that those users would have the most ability and motivation to seek out increased efficiencies. Xcel is in a better situation to reduce their CO2 footprint than I am, and they’re in a much better situation than a thousand people like me.

Electric cars, as the technology currently stands, are a non-issue for me. I live in an apartment and park in a parking lot. The building is sixty years old, and car charging in the parking lot isn’t going to happen. It isn’t in the cards. But I’m not going to take a vehicle to a charge station and leave it there for four to eight hours a week.

There are a lot of Marie Antoinette environmentalists who think I should just take my $50,000 new electric car and plug it in to the charging station in my $600,000 house with the enclosed garage. These environmentalists are the ones who use the term ‘range anxiety.’

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