Are We Toast?

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Automobiles I - Past

Introduced in 1908, the Model T Fords were produced until 1927. The Model T's were powered by a small (about 20 hp) engine that burned either gasoline or ethanol. Depending upon fuel, driving conditions, and body style (at least 9 body styles, ranging from small roadsters to one-ton trucks were produced) mileage varied from about 13 to 21 mpg. More than 15 million Model T's were produced before production was stopped in 1927. At that time, 9 out of 10 automobiles world-wide, was a Model T.

Mass production of the Ford Model A started in 1928 and continued until 1932 with a total production of almost 5 million cars. The Model A had many new features including a 40 hp engine, greater weight and a top speed of 65 mph (104km/hr) About 32 body styles/models of the model A cars and light trucks (excluding the heavy Model AA trucks) were manufactured, with typical mileage ranging from 25 to 30mpg (8 - 12km/l) Model A's were manufactured in other countries until early 1940's, and together with the Model T were the predominant global automobile for many years.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for measuring and reporting vehicle mileage. The latest EPA report (EPA420-R-06-011) released July 2006 covers automobiles and light trucks (pickups, SUVs) and reports that the Model Year: "2006 light-duty vehicles are estimated to average 21.0 miles per gallon (mpg). This average is the same as last year and in the middle of the 20.6 to 21.4 mpg range that has occurred for the past fifteen years, and five percent below the 1987 to 1988 peak of 22.1 mpg."

As difficult as it might be to believe, the:

  • Average U.S. vehicle mileage has declined since 1988, primarily reflecting an increased proportion of SUV's,
  • Average U.S. vehicle mileage is now roughly the same as for the mix of automobile, light and heavy Model T trucks produced 80 years ago, and
  • Average 2006 U.S. vehicle mileage is considerably less than the mix of automobiles and light Model A trucks that were manufactured in 1930.

Additionally, we have far more automobiles in the world than we did in 1930, and these vehicles are traveling many more miles that was common in 1930, resulting if far greater gasoline consumption and emission of greenhouse gases.

None-the-less, it appears that there is something fundamentally amiss with a society that manufactures, and purchases, vehicles that achieve a significantly lower mileage than the vehicles that were driven by our great-grandparents.

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