A fuel economy rant

This all started with a video sent to me by someone else. Here’s the rub.

Watch this video:

I love how this guy starts the video by saying “I got something here to tick you off!” It worked…

Now I know that the numbers are a little fuzzy and they don’t convert directly, but here is my thought process. Follow me here:

I wanted to make sure this comparison was as close an “Apples to Apples” comparison as possible so I selected the Jetta since it was available in very much the same configurations in the US and UK. Both were 6 speed manual transmission 2.0 TDI powertrains, in the same model car.

HERE is the link to the US version and HERE is a link to the UK version. Following me so far? Good.

Now to complicate the comparison slightly is the fact that the MPG rating of the two vehicles are measured differently. The UK rating is based upon the imperial gallon which, of course is about 20% larger than a US gallon (1 Imperial Gallon = 1.2009504234173434 Gallons US). Also, European cars are frequently rated in liters of fuel used to travel 100km. So you have to make the conversion to be able to compare the hard numbers. Luckily, once again the internet is your friend and saves you from having to strain your brain to recall all of those long forgotten algebra lessons. HERE is a link to a handy conversion site that I like to frequent for matters such as these.

So… you punch in the numbers and this is what you find out: The UK version of the same car gets the equivalent of 38.559 MPG (US) city and 57.369 MPG (US) highway. You can calculate this by either converting MPG Imperial to MPG US or by converting the L/100km figures to MPG US.  They agree either way.

One of two things must be going on here. One possible explanation is that the fuel in the UK is more efficient than what we have here and that could make some sense, but more likely in my mind is the fact that the US models are saddled with more emissions controls than the UK versions and that decreases their mechanical efficiency. Either way this is pretty frustrating. In addition, the 1.6 liter Blue Motion TDI engine that is mentioned in the video (which gets 45.2 MPG (US) city and a stunning 65.4 MPG (US) highway) isn’t even offered in the US. I can’t speculate on the reasoning for the exclusion of this option from the US market, but I don’t have any reason to doubt the explanation offered in the video.

All this begs the question “what is the goal here?”. Are we really striving to make the most fuel efficient vehicles possible or are we trying to shape the market to fit our preconceived goal or reshaping the way that America moves and works? Is it just a power grab? Why the obsession with gas/electric hybrids when these TDI’s get as good or better fuel economy? Why the big push to the all electric vehicle when it clearly isn’t what the majority of Americans want? I guess it is just another case of “Big brother knows best”. Maybe we peons aren’t smart enough o know what is best for us. It’s a good thing we don’t have to fend for ourselves out there in the big, scary world like all those folks in the UK who get to choose their cars from all the options available.

One think is for sure, It does tick you off to think about it (at least it does for me).

A “Throwback” — What is so good about “old fashioned”?

A year or two ago, Pepsico introduced a series of “throwback” sodas. Throwback Mountain Dew was one of my favorites and is actually one of the best sodas (we call it “pop” here in the midwest) I have ever had. The idea, or at least the marketing ploy, was that these were made with the old formula and used all natural sugar instead of all the high fructose corn syrup that is typically used in the recipe for the cola. I haven’t seen that stuff in a while now, so I am assuming its limited run has expired and we’re back to the “new” stuff now. The Throwback however just had that old fashioned taste that I remember tasting at my grandpa’s little general store when I was little. He had a big chest style soda cooler full of different kinds of soda in glass bottles. As a kid he would let me pick one out, I would open the bottle cap on the bottle opener on the side of the cooler and then sit there and sip the sweet nectar with Papaw. It had a distinctly “old fashioned” feel to it. The fact that I feel the need to link to a Wikipedia article on what a bottle cap or a bottle opener is amuses me and serves to reinforce my point here.

Now maybe I am just reminiscing about childhood memories and that association has clouded my judgement, but it seems to me that there is something special about how things used to be. Maybe I am just longing for the simpler days of my youth when I had no responsibilities, but is it possible that there is something to be said for the “old fashioned” approach? I had a conversation with a friend this week about this subject and I have been thinking about it a lot since then.I had this conversation with a friend and fellow blogger who writes the blog Heritage Breed Farms. We were discussing his series on homesteading and watching his cows graze and felt that a philosophical discussion was appropriate. I was retelling that I had heard a story recently that Americans spend less of their time and resources on food and shelter at this point in time than they ever have. Reportedly, it takes us fewer hours per week of working our jobs to put a roof overhead and food on the table than has ever been the case in the past. With that in mind, it would appear as though in many ways these are the “good old days”, but are they really? Why the fascination with the old fashioned? Are we really happier and better off now than we were? Is all that leisure time doing us good or harm?

We live just minutes away from one of the largest non-electric goods retailers in the country. Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron Ohio sells tons of non electric and old fashioned tools, home items and appliances. This place is an old-fashioned homesteader’s dream! All kinds of old fashioned, quality built tools, toys and supplies can be found under one roof there at Lehman’s. And it is BIG business. Go there on a Saturday in the summer time and you will see what I mean. The place is packed and they do volumes more mail order business on top of their retail business. Apparently the “old fashioned” approach is in vogue. Why is that, I wonder? Well let me take a stab at an explanation if I can.

I once heard a radio commentators talking about this very subject and his thoughts on the matter resonated with me. His point was this. Things that are good are often hard to do, and often things that are hard to do are good.  This seems at first to be a simplistic approach to the subject, but I that his statement is more profound when you think about it a while. Good things in life often come at the price of hard work. And I would propose that to some degree hard work is in and of itself a good thing. The satisfaction of having worked hard to accomplish something gives a deep sense of gratification that few other things can compare to. Another benefit of working hard is the sense of delayed gratification that comes from working long and hard and waiting for the fruits of your labor. At our house home made ice cream is a good example. Sure I could go and buy a pail of ice cream at the store and just scoop and eat. Sure it would be easier. It would probably be cheaper too. The difference is in the gratification of making it yourself the old fashioned way. The “elbow grease” that it takes to crank that ice cream freezer just makes the end result so much sweeter.

So here is to springtime, gardening, hard work, slow progress, and the “old fashioned” approach. May you sweat for and earn your satisfaction this spring. Some things are just better done the old fashioned way.