Like the Fonz

I suppose this really is the only way forward with conservation efforts- make it cool:

As summer finally arrives, you might want to think about more than just the sun and the waves when you hit the beach. Think about what the lifeguard is driving.

If you’re in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance that beach lifeguards –the same ones popularized in the long-running Baywatch TV series — will be using one of 45 Ford Escape Hybrids to race to a rescue. The hybrids have been in use for a couple years now, and Ford is ready to share some stats.

For instance, the fleet has now saved more than 20,000 gallons of fuel. Easy to do: Escape Hybrids get 30 miles in city — or beach –driving and 27 mpg on the rare occasions that they are on the highway.

Still seems like low mileage, but I guess it is good for an SUV.

68 replies
  1. 1

    That’s great mileage in an SUV. I would have killed to have my old Ford Explorer get that kind of mileage. Good work by LA beaches.

  2. 2
    PeakVT says:

    For instance, the fleet has now saved more than 20,000 gallons of fuel.

    The US uses 378 million gallons of gasoline each and every day. Cool helps over the status quo, but it won’t get us to where we need to be.

  3. 3
    Brian J says:


    I’m not sure if the numbers would work out, but I’ve suspected that a lot of the legislation over the last year would, in the end, reduce government spending. Take the health care legislation, for instance. Surely state and local governments have been feeling the heat over rising premiums. Would getting health care costs under control mean lower property taxes because school districts wouldn’t be spending as much on health care costs? On the same note, would a large entity like the state government of California save a decent amount of money by cutting back on fuel costs? I’m curious to see if anyone has run the numbers, especially on the former.

  4. 4
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    I read conservation as conservative and thought, yeah, good luck with that.

  5. 5
    Mike in NC says:

    I drove a Ford Escape hybrid on a visit to Philadelphia last month because they ran out of economy cars at Enterprise. Very nice ride and good mileage.

  6. 6
    jon says:

    30mpg is great for an SUV of any size.

    As for the question of whether or not such technology will save us, the answers get muddy. On purely financial matters, buying the hybrid model isn’t often a winner at current gasoline prices. Factor in the extra production costs, materials, lithium, lead, copper, and the rest that goes into hybrids, and they get even less “environmental” and more trendy.

    The way to get less gasoline to be used is to tax it, to wait until it gets more expensive, or to make it less necessary to use so much of the stuff. Taxing is a non-starter in too many ways. Waiting until it gets more expensive isn’t a good way to prepare for the future (there will be massive freak outs that will make the mortgage crisis Teabagger bologna look like a pre-2009 town hall meeting.) And it’s the making it less necessary part that is going to be harder than the first two. America is hard-wired for suburbia templates, schools and shopping and work is as far as possible from homes, and the modern agricultural system is pretty much completely dependent on turning petroleum into food.

    We’re screwed even if we all drive Honda Fits and hybrid Corollas tomorrow. It will prolong the time when we aren’t screwed as much, but that will only allow the deniers to deny a little longer and moan about drill, baby, drill some more.

    Still, it’s important to buy your hybrid or electric car early, because Bolivia only has about a ten year supply of lithium and the rest already goes to cell phones and computers.

  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    Wait….lifeguards need CARS to run into the water and paddle out to save Aunt Betty?

  8. 8
    D. Mason says:

    30 MPG is bullshit. When i was a teen in the 80’s my mother drove a little hatchback that got 42+ MPG on the highway and had as much power from a drivers perspective as modern 4-cyl engines which get in the 20’s. Granted she only got 200k miles out of it before having to get major repairs… My aunt had one of a different make / model that got slightly better gas mileage. Now everyone oohhh’s and ahhhhh’s about hybrids getting kind of close to that level of efficiency. Before I start getting into tinfoil hat territory I’ll just say – can we go back to whatever tech they were using in the goddamn 80’s to get this kind of mileage please.

  9. 9
    MikeJ says:

    @D. Mason: 30mog is not bullshit. Your aunt drove a little hatchback. An SUV that you can fill with lifesaving equipment getting three times the mileage that suvs usually get is impressive.

    Most people don’t need SUVs, and yes, we’d be better off if those people drove little hatchbacks. There are some people who do need them, and many, many more who simply won’t drive anything else. In those cases it’s important to get the best mileage possible.

  10. 10
    RareSanity says:

    I still don’t understand why a vehicle cannot be built that uses the same means of power as current diesel locomotives.

    A small engine used to generate electricity for electric motors. The only battery it would “need” is the one to start the generator. If a car maker were feelin’ froggy, they could use a small bank of batteries to save even more gas.

    From what I understand, the Chevy Volt kinda uses this principle. It runs on a battery for 40 miles, then has a gas engine/generator, that can run it for an additional 300 miles. But, you have to plug it in to charge the battery. Why not just have the generator power the electric motor and charge the battery while running? Then switch to the battery, run for 40 miles, switch the generator on, and start charging again while powering the electric motor. Hell, the generator can run while the car is parked. If you add in the option to plug it in as well, you are really saving gas and implementing virtually unlimited range.

    Or, better yet, get rid of the batteries all together and just let the generator power the electric motor. Batteries are expensive, bulky, heavy and extremely hard to dispose of. Get rid of the batteries, you decrease the overall weight of the car, therefore requiring less current to power the electric motor therefore requiring a smaller generator for electricity, which will use even less fuel. Lower the price of production all around.

    Batteries, with the current technology, are not the answer.

    The Volt is just too expensive. Who wants to line up and pay upwards of $40,000 for what is essentially a Chevrolet Malibu?

  11. 11

    @Brian J:

    Would getting health care costs under control mean lower property taxes because school districts wouldn’t be spending as much on health care costs?

    Or even better, would that mean that the same money could go towards lower class sizes or more resources for the kids in those classes. Sorry, but this is a thing for me–lower taxes is not only a predominantly Republican frame, it’s often bad policy. When it comes to education in particular, we’re not paying too much in taxes. We’re often not paying enough, given what’s at stake.

  12. 12
    tim says:

    Things that make you go “hmmm…”: When I was in high school in the early 70s I drove a cool (well, I thought it was cool) little red VW Beetle. I regularly got 32-36 miles to the gallon in town, more on the highway.

    How is it possible that in nearly 40 years that mileage has not doubled or tripled?

  13. 13
    fucen tarmal says:

    yasmine bleeth back in the day was one hell of an argument for off-shore drilling. of course one could say her rig ran into its own inevitable disaster, but before that….

    the funny thing about energy consumption, people all love to point to the bric countries, and their increases in oil consumption, as a reason why oil has to be so expensive, why conservation won’t work, essentially the status quo all around….of course how much of those increases are in manufacturing things that used to be done here and elsewhere…what is shocking, until you look inside our country a bit, we have ditched a lot of the manufacturing, but haven’t stopped consuming our 1/4 of the world’s use that is our sweet buttery jesus god given right to consume…

    yeah we can conserve, but the problem goes a long way down, we have to stop buying 5 cheap replacable appliances made in china and sold in bigbox, and buy one that lasts the 10-15 years or so…that would save some oil too.

  14. 14
    burnspbesq says:


    My Squareback was cooler than your Beetle. You could fold down the back seat and have sex in the back. You couldn’t even make out comfortably in a Beetle.

  15. 15
    D. Mason says:


    I’ve driven a ford escape, plenty. not a hybrid mind you and maybe the hybrids have A LOT more space than the non-hybrids but unless that’s the case I estimate and escape has about 20% more space than a medium 80’s hatchback. The differences don’t really add up.

    Setting the SUV element aside, a friend drives a fit, a hatchback even if it looks much more sporty than they did in the 80’s. she gets no more than 32 mpg so seriously, wtf were car manufacturers doing right in the 80’s that can’t be replicated today and why can’t it?

  16. 16
    mr. whipple says:


    How is it possible that in nearly 40 years that mileage has not doubled or tripled?

    I’m just guessing, but maybe it has something to do with emission standards?

  17. 17
    Brian J says:


    Apologies in advance for anyone here who drives one, but… if you took away SUVs, the soccer mom-types where I live would be forced to drive minivans instead. I already see enough of them and their accompanying inability to drive like normal people. I don’t need to see any more of them.

    @fucen tarmal:

    Spoken like a true communist. /snark

  18. 18
    Cassidy says:

    wtf were car manufacturers doing right in the 80’s that can’t be replicated today and why can’t it?

    The engines were simpler. Compare a Chevy 350 to an LS3, or a 440 big block to the 5.7L+ Hemi’s.

  19. 19
    fucen tarmal says:

    @D. Mason:

    massive subsidies from the japanese government? that and a lot less power, admittedly i was in my first stint as a pittsburgher in the 80’s, and that carries a bit of a bias, but my memory of those gas conscious models was, they didn’t take the hills too well, somewhere there should be a happy medium and the technology should be better…

    boy, between this and the flotilla, jimmy carter, remind me again why he was and is so hated?

  20. 20

    @Incertus (Brian):

    Sorry, but this is a thing for me—lower taxes is not only a predominantly Republican frame, it’s often bad policy. When it comes to education in particular, we’re not paying too much in taxes. We’re often not paying enough, given what’s at stake.

    This is true at a high level of abstraction, but you really have to look at problems at a more micro level. In many places in NJ, property taxes are the highest in any part of the country. Schools have been terrific, and I’m proud to be a byproduct of them. But many NJ residents need property tax relief because the cost is simply too high. There are many solutions to this problem that many Jersey residents want to ignore (consolidation of municipalities or at least municipal services being a primary one), but reducing the administrative cost of running excellent schools means that these people get the tax relief they need.

  21. 21
    burnspbesq says:

    @fucen tarmal:

    Another huge consumption of oil that Americans tend to forget about is the supply chain for food. When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, fruits and vegetables had a season, and when that season ended you didn’t get any more until next year. The farthest away anything came from was citrus from Florida. Now we get grapes from Chile and apples from New Zealand all winter, and chances are that the roses you gave (or got) on Valentine’s Day were grown in Ecuador. None of that stuff swims to the Port of Long Beach and walks to your neighborhood store.

  22. 22
    tkogrumpy says:

    It’s absurd to act as though this is some kind of breakthrough. 90% of all vehicle travel could be accomplished with a 2 passenger car weighing 1500 pounds driven by a 50-60 horsepower engine, and getting 60-100 mpg. Where is this car? It doesn’t exist. Why? Does the name Madison Avenue mean anything to you? As long as we think it’s OK for people to ridicule those like myself who would buy this car, we will never see it. My 1994 Festiva (Kia), got 44 mpg highway w/ a 500# payload. My2004 Kia gets 36 mpg w/ a 500# payload. This is not progress.

  23. 23
    RareSanity says:

    @D. Mason:

    she gets no more than 32 mpg so seriously, wtf were car manufacturers doing right in the 80’s that can’t be replicated today and why can’t it?

    Probably not the only reason, but, a significant one is that cars are heavier now, by a lot. Airbag deployment systems, ABS hydraulic systems, power window and seat motors and steel reinforced passenger cabins add significantly to the weight of a vehicle compared to 20-30 years ago.

  24. 24
    burnspbesq says:

    @Adam Collyer:

    This. Don’t know where in Jersey you grew up, but places like Ridgewood, Tenafly, Summit, and Westfield had outrageously good schools because the residents understood the connection between school quality and property values and dutifully trooped to the polls every spring to vote yes on the school budget. Property taxes were viewed as a maintenance expense, just like fixing the hot water heater if it went on the fritz.

  25. 25
    mr. whipple says:

    A few years ago we were in Italy and buzzed around the countryside in a Ford Fiesta. Nice little car, great on gas.

    When I shopped for a new car 3 years ago, I asked at the Ford dealership why they didn’t offer it here and was told there was no market for small, gas-efficient cars. Guess what Ford is now introducing? I may have bought it 3 years ago.

  26. 26
    tkogrumpy says:

    @tim: Actually for a given size it has, but the VW had 36 hp, while today’s small cars have 90 plus hp.

  27. 27
    jon says:

    @RareSanity: Locomotives don’t stop and start as often as cars do. Those diesel hybrid locomotives are great for steady running, but that kind of generative power isn’t enough for all automobile driving environments. Hybrids often get better mileage in the city than on the highway for this reason, and I’d love to have a diesel hybrid, but a direct comparison between locomotives and cars leads to many more differences than similarities.

    As for the 80s cars getting better mileage, they also polluted a lot more and were less safe. Hypermilers are a good source for ways to get the most out of your fuel, so it might be how you drive as much as what that makes the difference. Americans suck at driving, but American cities tend to be sucky places to drive.

  28. 28
    Cassidy says:

    2 passenger car

    Some of us have families and this is impractical to the point of fiction. If you want to ride around in a little 2 seater that makes you feel good about yourself, that is your prerogative, but some of us have higher transportation needs.

  29. 29
    mr. whipple says:


    Good point. I had a HS friend with a Bug, and when it hit a telephone pole it crumbled like tin foil, killing 3 people inside.

  30. 30
    burnspbesq says:


    Americans suck at driving

    Only someone who’s never tried to drive in Paris could make that assertion with a straight face. ;-)

  31. 31
    WereBear says:

    I’ll confess; I hate to drive. It’s just that the alternative is worse.

    I would carpool even more often than I do, except the co-worker who lives right near me has the same problem that’s endemic: she’s fine with giving me a ride when my car’s in the shop or we’re going to a meeting or function together, but to do it to save gas? When either of us has errands to run? When she might forget her turn?

    Nada. She doesn’t get it.

    I’m grateful we have a bus at all, but we are in a very rural area. Still, I’d take the bus most of the time, but I’m supposed to help other people with their stuff as part of my job. When I would timeshift to arrive and leave two hours earlier than anyone else to use the bus, I wouldn’t be able to do my job.

    These kinds of adjustments are really really easy to do; if we had a sense of urgency about it, we’d do it. But I don’t see that happening yet, and there are loud and screechy voices being paid to perpetuate that state of affairs.

  32. 32
    Maxwel says:

    The Escape and the Tribute are intermediate SUVs and shouldn’t be compared to the monster SUVs. It’s common to find my Tribute parked between SUVs which are seemingly a foot higher.

  33. 33

    @tkogrumpy: Yep. I drove from Texas to Washington state in 1969 in a beetle, and I can testify that mountain driving was a real challenge in the low power small cars at the time. (Gotta always be on the lookout for a pull out in case a logging truck or somesuch looms in the rearview. Even they, chugging up the hills, were faster than we were and it was cruel to make them slow down even more for our little VW struggling along.)

    My Prius is peppy as hell and that’s one reason I find it fun to drive, but if it only had the power of that ’68 beetle, I’d probably be getting 100mpg instead of 45-50. We just have higher expectations of what “enough power” is today. And y’know, when I’m merging onto a freeway, I really appreciate that acceleration.

    More and better alternatives to cars is what we really need.

  34. 34
    Brian J says:

    @Adam Collyer:

    I’m all for looking at ways to chop money from state and local governments. It’s not necessarily at odds with wanting to have a robust government, or so I think. In fact, one of the great tragedies of the downfall of Eliot Spitzer was that he was supposedly in favor/on the verge of releasing a plan to consolidate a lot of the overlapping parts of local government around the state.

    I also suspect part of the problem is that a lot of Republicans in the Northeast actually follow the “spend like Democrats, tax like Republicans” stereotype, no matter what the state of the national economy is. If it’s easy to kick the can down the road, which it seemed to be for a long time, it’s not hard to inhabit both worlds. Where I live, Long Island, the Nassau County Republicans spent like drunken sailors for a long, long time, but failed raise property taxes accordingly. People get addicted to the spending, but fail to get used to the taxes, and when the taxes have to rise, it’s massive shock. The former Nassau County Executive Tom Souzzi raised property taxes by 20 percent, when they were already some of the highest in the country. It came as a shock to a lot of people, but it shouldn’t have.

  35. 35

    @Cassidy: A 2-seater won’t meet all of a family’s needs, but there are a lot of families who have two cars and one of them doesn’t necessarily have to carry the whole family. Like if one person uses the second car mainly to commute to work, alone, every day. A two-seater plus a minivan would work for them. Use the 2-seater when one or two people are going to work or running an errand, use the minivan when the whole family is going somewhere together, multiple kids have to be taken to school, to soccer practice or whatever.

    If it wouldn’t work for you, fine, but it would sure be nice to have the option for those who would like that.

  36. 36
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Cassidy: Of course you do, as did I ,when there were 10 people in my family. This does not in any way address that there are literally millions of Americans right now today who are driving alone to work every day in a six passenger sedan getting less than 30 mpg while leaving an equally large gas guzzler at home. Did I ever suggest that families who can only afford one vehicle buy one inadequate to their needs? And thanks for proving my point about ridecule. My point is that I want a vehicle which is just adequate to meet my needs and no more. all of my driving (5K miles /year) is done alone or with my wife. If you need (as apposed to desire) a larger vehicle, then by all means go for it. Would you be happier if I felt bad about driving a car smaller than yours?

  37. 37
    PeakVT says:

    @mr. whipple: Emission standards have nothing to do with it. Engines have been getting more efficient since the 1980s, but that improvement hasn’t translated to savings at the pump because cars have gotten heavier and more powerful. The base engine in the 2009 Accord makes 177hp; back in the 80s midsize cars rarely had an optional engine that made that much power.

  38. 38
    RareSanity says:


    Locomotives don’t stop and start as often as cars do. Those diesel hybrid locomotives are great for steady running, but that kind of generative power isn’t enough for all automobile driving environments.

    I not sure if I understand your point here…

    Which “generative power” are you referring to? Electricity to the motor or horsepower from the motor?

    Hybrids often get better mileage in the city than on the highway for this reason

    Doesn’t this happen because the electric motor is only used when the car is travelling at 35 mph or less then it switches to the gas engine?

  39. 39
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Janet Strange: I see you “get it”. And you are generally correct about expectations. In 1965 I drove a Pontiac GTO. My expectations have greatly diminished since than.

  40. 40
    Hiram Taine says:

    At last there is a subject I know something about here on BJ..

    How you drive has at least as much effect as what you drive.. Back when gas was $4.50 a gallon I was stuck driving my daughter’s Expedition with a 5.4 ,the towing package and a real time MPG read out. My daughter rarely gets the car into the 12’s MPG wise, I could routinely get it into the 18’s just by paying attention to the real time MPG meter and adjusting my driving accordingly (she never looks at the meter). I did a 140 mile plus round trip a few days ago with it and got over 22 MPG for the trip. I also got 20 MPG towing a 5×10 foot flatbed trailer with a 500 lb motorcycle on it for nearly 200 miles recently. I’ve broken fifteen MPG with a 6×12 foot dual axle flatbed stacked with a couple of cords of firewood behind the truck, the wood probably weighed at least as much as the entire truck/trailer combo.

    There quite a few tricks but the two main ones are conserving momentum and keeping the engine rpm as low as possible. Moderate acceleration is actually more efficient than really babying the truck but with the automatic you have to back off to allow it to change up to the next gear,then get back into the throtttle. The truck actually gets better MPG at 50 mph than at 30 because it won’t go into overdrive under 45..

  41. 41
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Janet Strange: I should have just waited and let you do the talking for me. You said much more, with fewer words.

  42. 42
    feebog says:

    I am shopping for a new car right now and the Escape was the first car I looked at. I currently have a 12 year old Explorer. We must have a SUV because my wife does craft shows and we haul a shitload of equipment. Bottom line was that the Escape was just a little too small. Additionally, the hybrid runs about 6K more than the regular model, for abut 6 to 7 more mpg. If you are not driving a lot (and I don’t) it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra money for the hybrid.

    We are going today to look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Not great mileage, but it has the cubic foot capacity that we need. We have also looked at the Suburu Outback (up to 29mpg in the four clyinder model) and the Ford Edge (about 24mpg), The Suburu is a little cheaper, but they are offering 3.9% financing, while the Edge is 0% right now.

    I love my old Explorer, but the 18mpg I used to get is now more like 16 and there is an ominous squeak in the suspension that I don’t even want to think about. If anyone has any other suggestions, I’m open and more than willing to take them.

  43. 43
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Hiram Taine: Superlative post!

  44. 44
    mr. whipple says:

    If you are not driving a lot (and I don’t) it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra money for the hybrid.

    One reason I eliminated the Prius from consideration when I was looking.

  45. 45

    How many of us have caught ourselves saying, “Happy Memorial Day” or “Have a nice holiday” on Memorial Day? If you’re a liberal and especially a veteran like me, Memorial Day is never a “happy holiday” nor should it ever be.

  46. 46
    fucen tarmal says:


    i remember the 90s. what a great time to be alive, when people actually thought we might make use of all 24 hours in a day…when it wasn’t inconcievable to have a corporate job that started as late as 11a 12p, and lasted into the worthless part of the evening(for those of us without kids). heck even schools talked about starting the day later, to appeal to the body clock of the normal teen…

    then suddenly as the oasis appeared, the idea that not everyone is as productive at 8 am as they can be later in the day….it was gone…the whole world(or at least the american corporate world that thinks of itself as the whole world) went back to 8ish to 6ish, m-f as if no one dreamed that any other way could ever happen…

    seriously, whatever happened to the 24hr country, to save money, gas, aggravation etc?

  47. 47
    WereBear says:

    @fucen tarmal: Oh, I know. When gridlock wears away one’s spirit as surely as it grinds away at one’s car?

    And I remember dragging myself out of bed, and skipping a lot of school when I couldn’t, when I had to get up early enough to get to high school by 7:00. Now brain research shows it is a biological function of the adolescent brain… and no one listens.

    We have a perfectly sensible distribution of human peak times, and probably have been as long as there are humans. I’m always telling people, “After all, somebody had to stay up and keep the fire going, back where.”

  48. 48


    I grew up in Bridgewater. My parents still live in the area. A few weeks ago, 15 out of 17 school budgets were defeated in county. There’s only so much that people can afford to give, even upper middle-class people with white collar jobs.

  49. 49

    @Brian J:

    Spitzer would’ve been an excellent governor, and far better than our current office holder. My hope is to see Cuomo is of a similar mold. He may be a political legacy, but he’s built his own reputation.

    I also suspect part of the problem is that a lot of Republicans in the Northeast actually follow the “spend like Democrats, tax like Republicans” stereotype, no matter what the state of the national economy is.

    You’ve literally described former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman perfectly. When McGreevey ran in 2001, he inherited that problem specifically. Then, as he was attempting to tackle it, he got caught up in personal issues and we ended up kicking the can even further down the road. When Corzine attempted to fix the budget shortfalls, he got lambasted. Very similar to Florio’s loss to Whitman in 1993. It’s a vicious cycle that left the state with Chris Christie. Great work.

    Long Island and Central/Northern Jersey are very similar places politically. That they’ve had essentially the same problem is, as you said, unsurprising.

  50. 50
    burnspbesq says:

    @Adam Collyer:

    Your girls lax team gave ours (I went to Ridgewood) a big scare in the sectional final. But we prevailed, and went on to win our first girls’ state championship (our boys have won about eight of them).

  51. 51
    Brachiator says:

    If you’re in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance that beach lifeguards—the same ones popularized in the long-running Baywatch TV series—will be using one of 45 Ford Escape Hybrids to race to a rescue.

    Problem is, at some of the Los Angeles areas busiest beaches, you might not be able to find a lifeguard at all (LA Times, May 13).

    Due to budget cuts, Huntington Beach is planning to reduce the number of lifeguards patrolling its popular beaches. Beachgoers will have to watch where they swim now that lifeguards will no longer be stationed at two towers between Goldenwest Street and Seapoint Avenue. The lifeguards will be replaced by signs warning visitors of the dangers of swimming in the ocean.

    I hope that the Ford Escapes are providing good value, when compared with other, less expensive, high mileage vehicles.


    It’s absurd to act as though this is some kind of breakthrough. 90% of all vehicle travel could be accomplished with a 2 passenger car weighing 1500 pounds driven by a 50-60 horsepower engine, and getting 60-100 mpg. Where is this car? It doesn’t exist.

    Sure it does. It’s called the Tata Nano

    Tata Nano is a rear-engined, four-passenger city car built by Tata Motors, aimed primarily at the Indian market. The car has a fuel efficiency of around 26 kilometres per litre (61 mpg) on the highway and around 22 kilometres per litre (52 mpg) in the city. It debuted at the 9th annual Auto Expo on January 10, 2008, at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, India…. The cars started to be delivered to customers after July 17, 2009, with a starting price of Rs 100,000, which is approximately equal to US$2,160 as of December 2009…. Tata had sought to produce the least expensive production car in the world — aiming for a starting price of Rs 100,000 (approximately US$2,000 as of June 2009).

    The other day I watched a great documentary about the history of the Jeep, which had a 60 hp engine, and which proved successful in American auto markets after WW II. But after a while, drivers wanted more power and comfort as opposed to a more utilitarian vehicle.

    A two vehicle car is impractical for most people. And the sad thing is that given the present state of the economy, some people might need a vehilce that they could live in if push came to shove.

  52. 52
    jon says:

    Something’s eating up comments, but here’s something:

  53. 53
    mclaren says:

    Still seems like low mileage, but I guess it is good for an SUV.

    Sums up everything that’s wrong about America’s way of life.

    Yep, that’s our deluded concept of “energy efficiency” — a high-mileage SUV.

    How about banning all SUV’s by law?

    How about putting the lifeguards on mopeds?

    Nahhh, couldn’t have that, that would actually save some gasoline.

    Meanwhile, the portrait of America as a study in insane unsustainability gets more and more bizarre with every passing year.

    And now, cue the kooks and cranks and crackpots who will scream that lifeguards need SUVs because they need to haul around 10 tons of allegedly “crucial” lifesaving equipment including hyperbaric chambers, portable surgical suites, heart-lung transfusion machines, and diathermy apparatus… An obvious and foolishly false lie, since lifeguards prior to the 1970s didn’t have to haul around anything — they had a pair of swim trunks and that was it. So how did lifeguards manage to save so many people prior to the 1970s armed with nothing but a life jacket, geniuses? Maybe this idea of a lifeguard hauling around bizarre amounts of equipment just in case it’s needed is a typically ridiculous example of bureaucratic mission creep whereby lifeguards can’t just do their job but have to be paramedics too.

    Give the lifeguards mopeds, get rid of all the revival gear, return the job of lifeguard to what it used to be — dragging people out of the water if they’re drowning.

  54. 54
    tim says:

    @mr. whipple:

    How is it possible that in 40 years that mileage has not doubled or tripled even WITH emissions standards?

    Frankly, I don’t believe anything coming out of the automotive/fossil fuel industrial complex PR machines: mistrust AND verify.

  55. 55
    tim says:


    Bravo and Amen

  56. 56
    jon says:


    Lifeguards aren’t just lifeguards anymore. Calling them lifeguards is like calling paramedics “ambulance drivers”. Yes, it’s what they do, but they also have a stretcher, a neck brace for those who hit their heads, diagnostic equipment of various sorts, a need to be able to get injured persons to hospitals quickly, fewer staff so they need to cover larger areas, and supplies for those suffering from heatstroke or other injuries. Not exactly a backpack’s worth of stuff, so maybe an SUV is justified. Most of them have some binoculars, one of those floatie things, a whistle, and a two-way radio, but some have a lot more. And if you get stung by jellyfish or step on a bottle or worse, that lot more is pretty handy.

    Yeah, lifeguards didn’t have all that stuff forty years ago, but they didn’t help as many people as well back then either.

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:


    Don’t bother — mclaren thinks that firefighters are just guys who point a hose, so she’s really not going to understand the whole lifeguards-as-first-responders thing. They’re just guys who yell at you to get out of the water as far as she’s concerned.

  58. 58
    Honus says:

    @D. Mason: speaking of the 80s, I got one of my old Rolling Stones out the other day there was an ad for the 1982 63mpg Escort diesel. There was a picture of a motorcycle beside it, which got worse mileage.
    That said, 30 mpg CITY us really good for an SUV. If these things aren’t on the highway, but driving around the streets, that’s good savings. That’s the thing about hybrids, unlike most cars, they do better in city driving than highway. Hell, police cars probably all ought to be hybrids, but good luck with that.

  59. 59
    Honus says:

    @Cassidy:Engines are far more efficient today. Fuel injection and engine management were very primitive, if not unknown in 80s cars.
    Today’s engines are, or at least can be, much more efficient, and there’s the rub. Those 50-60-70 mpg cars exist and are sold in the rest of the world. American cars are tuned for power, supposedly to satisfy our market. For example, in Europe, Range Rover, BMW, and Subaru sell full size 4WD vehicles with small, powerful, turbodiesels that get great (at least by comparison) mileage. None of them are sold here.
    You can buy a nice diesel VW Passat wagon here with plenty of room and comforts that gets 50 mpg. I saw one at the local dealer the other day and it was well under $30k
    It’s not an engineering problem, it’s a political problem. Some people are making a lot more money with our cars getting 15mpg instead of 40.

  60. 60
    frosty says:

    @RareSanity: Running the generator to power a motor doesn’t save fuel. You can consider a diesel-electric locomotive the same as a diesel truck except that you’ve switched a mechanical transmission for an electrical one.

    The savings in the Volt is in the first 40 miles of pure electric. The thing that makes it better is that it’s an EV with an auxiliary power source to get you home when the batteries die.

    The Prius and other hybrids so far are gas vehicles with auxiliary electric, and not enough battery to get you anywhere. They’ve got the complications of two drivelines without the benefits of getting off gas entirely for at least a little bit of miles.

    I like the series gas-electric approach of the Volt. The price is ridiculously high, though, and probably an insurmountable problem.

  61. 61
    frosty says:

    @tim: How is it possible? The Free Market decided that instead of taking the improved efficiency of computer control and fuel injection, and using it with lighter weight cars to improve mileage, we’d build heavier truck-based vehicles and jack up the horsepower and keep the same crappy mileage.

    Honda’s Civic CX in the 90s got 46mpg, EPA rated, with a 2,000 lb vehicle and a 70 hp engine. Have you seen anything else with less than 120 hp lately?

  62. 62
    frosty says:

    @burnspbesq: My Bugeye Sprite (49 hp?) was cooler than your squareback. You could … well you couldn’t do much of anything in it, but you could impress your date doing 4-wheel power slides with the top down at 25 mph when the skinny bald tires all lost their grip.

  63. 63
    frosty says:

    @D. Mason: My guess is that all the airbags, power steering, power brakes, ABS brakes, electric locks, side impact absorbers, etc etc added so damn much weight that you can’t build a car as light as they did in the 80s, which puts you in a hole just to start with in cutting gas mileage.

  64. 64
    frosty says:

    @Cassidy: I’ve been commuting in a Miata for 20 years. Before that it was a TR-3, before that, a Bugeye Sprite. A 2-seater won’t work as your only car, but it’s fine for 80% of my driving.

  65. 65
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Brachiator: I am most certainly aware of the existence of smaller cars in other countries, but alas I live in the U.S. where these vehicles are not available, so for all practicle purposes they do not exist.

  66. 66
    Older says:

    “Escape Hybrids get 30 miles in city—or beach—driving and 27 mpg on the rare occasions that they are on the highway.”

    Ha ha, very funny. I see these things on the highway all the time. Where I live they don’t contain lifeguards, but then that sentence suggested that the lifeguards weren’t essential to the gas mileage figures.

    Maybe there is a place for SUV’s, but I think we could do with a lot fewer of them. The people who are driving them for “safety” reasons should just learn to drive. That way, they won’t need tough cars for when they run into things. (Not entirely OT, the car I was driving a few years back was totaled, and I do mean totaled in the old sense, not just “needed a lot of bodywork”, by a soccer mom driving an SUV.)

  67. 67
    Dr. Psycho says:

    @tkogrumpy: Grumpy, I have spent most of my adult life driving “small” cars (VW Beetles, Mazdas, &c.), and what I have been noticing lately is how many really, really small cars there are on the road.

    I love the Smart Car, the Zenn, the Cooper Mini — they make me feel like I’m living in a science fiction story — and a nicer one than that “Deepwater Horizon” bummer.

  68. 68
    Older says:

    In my neighborhood, there are many of these tiny cars. They look a lot like the Tata Nano mentioned by brachiator (although I’m sure they cost more). Some run entirely on electricity, some use (a small amount of) gasoline, but the important way they differ from the cars I have driven is that they could be parked in my bathroom (if one could figure out how to get them up the stairs). So let’s not hear that there are “no small cars” available in the US.

    I’d like to have one, but I can’t afford a new car. (If I could get one for a couple thousand dollars, like the Tata Nano, things would be different around here.) I would love to join all the other drivers of those jaunty, brightly colored capsules of The Future.

    Meanwhile, I get good mileage though better driving skills.

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