Message from the Netherlands
Subject: Reducing Size, Weight, Power and Speed of Vehicles most urgent solution to America's oil addiction
In Europe and North America car manufacturers keep themselves and consumers captive in an endless upgrading of every car model in size, power and performance. Through costly add-on technology manufacturers try to improve both fuel efficiency and performance. Nevertheless, growth trends - in all size classes - have offset most technological improvements towards energy efficiency. In Europe today's middle class family cars averaging 140 HP/1400 kg and >200 km/h top speed easily outperform classic sports cars. In three decades (two for diesel) average power levels have doubled! Not consumer demand but supply side marketing priorities ("more = better") made all size classes upgrade at least two grades. Recently, some downsizing of engine size has begun (still rising power) reducing test cycle CO2 emissions, but hardly real time fuel use. Reducing dimensions, weight, engine displacement and - most of all - less power is the most cost-effective way of reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
For America's beefy car fleet there is not substitute for downsizing! All American car and light truck model classes need reductions up to 50 percent, to start with cubic inches (engine displacement), horsepower, body dimensions and weight. Hybridizing is okay, but downsizing is a major step towards sustainability.
Ahead of their time European transport ministers agreed, in ECMT’s 1991 ministerial meeting, on a Resolution nr. 66 “on Power and Speed of Vehicles” [try Google it!], proclaiming the need for less powerful and speedy cars to reduce road casualties, emissions and fuel use. Since the US are now member of ECMT's successor International Transport Forum (ITF), implementing that resolution through regulatory limiting specific HP/kg ratings, top speeds and body size/weight, is what the new US administration can do - better than EU's recent deal on (soft) new car CO2 standards. EU and US governments must act because the car industry will always be captive of competition and upgrading pressures. Returning to European performance levels and vehicle dimensions of the 70s is more cost-effective than add-on technologies in reducing oil addiction, CO2 emissions and road casualties.
Martin Kroon, email@example.com
Formerly member of ECMT's Working Group on Transport and Environment
Leiden, the Netherlands
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