More text

Nothing says "I Love You, Dear" like screaming lower back pain!

Sometimes Wrong but rarely in doubt!

21 May 2009

New Efficiency Guidlines Not So Efficient

I read this article and noted that one of the first comments was that a mini-van was more efficient than a Smartcar and thought that's wrong.  And I was right, and I was wrong. 

Mrs. Bugbear and I own a light SUV specifically a Ford Freestyle which has been rebranded the Taurus X.  For camping and transporting kids and some of the various other activities we engage in the Freestyle is a practical vehicle.  We also own a Mazda 3 which I commute to work in since I drive farther and it is more fuel efficient.  Let's compare my SUV with the aforementioned SmartCar.  For the sake of mathematical simplicity lets assume that the SmartCar gets 50mpg and the SUV gets 25mpg, which are close to the actual values.

Scenario One:  Soccer Practice

I'm taking 5 children to soccer practice 5 miles away.  To travel 5 miles takes 0.2 gallons of gas in the SUV and .1 miles in the SmartCar.  SmartCar is more efficient, except to transport 5 children requires 5 Smartcars and takes 5 adults away from what might be other productive activities.  Total gas consumed .2g using the SUV and .5 gallons for the SmartCar.  Conclusion, buy SUV.

Scenario Two:  Commuting to Work

I travel ten miles to work the SUV takes .4 gallons and the SmartCar takes .2 gallons. Conclusion, buy SmartCar.

Now being an engineer I have writ deep in my soul a phrase from Heilein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:  "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" or "TANSTAAFL".  The obvious choice to me is that you need both, which is why my next car will likely be a Honda Fit or other small fuel efficient car.  

North American's buy bigger cars because our countries are bigger than the postage stamped sized prinicpalites of Europe and much more sparsely populated.  I had the delightful experience of meeting a girl from Sweden while I was in university.  She once asked me how far I from home I was and I told her that I had driven 19 hours to get to school and that I hadn't left my home province.  IIRC she told me that if she'd driven that long she'd have crossed three countries on her way from Stockholm to Paris.

I've also read an article about the cost in lives of small cars and I think there are some holes in that argument and I'll try to poke some holes in that in a future post.


  1. The small car is efficient only if a) you need two cars but you don't need them both to be multi-passenger sized, or b) You could get by with one car but using a minicar as a second vehicle generates sufficient gas savings to pay for that car including interest, property tax, maintenance, etc etc.

  2. I agree with your comments, I was mostly trying to address discrepancy I saw between the published fuel efficiencies and the comment I'd read after the article.

    As a friend of mine once said, when the whole family is going someplace the mini-van is great but his wife commutes with it and 50% of the time it empty.

    Lux Mentis and I have discussed hybrids repeatedly they aren't economic until gas is about $1.70/litre assuming you drive 20km per year and a 50/50 split between highway and city. The difference in car prices would mean that the price point might be different where you are.


Polite and erudite comments by