No, that’s not my sister’s Escalade in the photo. That’s a Mercedes Smart car done up American style. The modification is called a Monster truck conversion, in which the vehicle is rendered capable of driving right over the roofs of other cars. So handy in gridlock when the kids are late for soccer practice. 🙂
My sister’s Escalade is a lovely SUV from Cadillac, provided by her car-dealer husband at an attractive price well below retail. She gets a combined 12 miles per gallon, commutes app. 15 minutes in traffic to work, does amazing things in the field of communication marketing, gets out early and does the soccer mom thing with her kids, ferrying them to dance, swimming, karate and counter-terrorism classes like a good mother should. The Escalade travels app. 10,000 miles a year, consuming about 830 gallons of fuel.
My wife’s Volkswagen Passat wagon, bought by her through Ebay three years ago, gets a combined 22 miles per gallon. She drives all around the county in the course of her work as a realty broker, only leaving the car briefly to sleep and change clothes . She drives app. 35,000 miles a year, consuming about 1600 gallons of fuel. The four wheel drive affects her mileage, but she considers it indispensable for safety and reliability in her every-day-without-fail business routine.
My 2009 Sprinter van is the primary vehicle used in my contracting business. I drive it every workday, averaging 18 miles per gallon, travelling app. 20,000 miles per year, consuming about 1100 gallons of fuel per year.
So how come the most fuel-efficient vehicle in our sample cost the most to run? And how could we alter this picture in cost-effective ways to save some fuel? Will Detroit (or Toyota, or Mercedes, or Nissan, or Hyundai) provide the solution to the problem?
My van hauls a payload of nearly 1000 lb. every day. hard to get by on less, when you’re using pipe, fittings, duct, copper wire, tools and ladders. The Chevy Silverado hybrid pickup operates at a combined (city and highway miles) 22 miles per gallon. After I’ve loaded it down with my inventory and equipment, what do you think the numbers would be? Not much improvement there, I’m afraid.
My wife’s Passat hauls signs, clients, office supplies, lockboxes and fast food wrappers, requiring interior space commensurate with a full-size wagon or SUV. The Volkswagen Touareg SUV might be an alternative for her; it’s roomy enough and has all-wheel drive, but it gets a combined 20 miles per gallon. The Chevy Tahoe SUV hybrid gets 21 miles per gallon.
My sister hauls two kids and their friends, two dogs (but probably not their friends), her husband when he’s home, furniture, grass seed, stuff for the church picnic and her own tiny self. She wouldn’t be eager to move into a smaller vehicle. And if you improved her gas mileage by 25%, at a fuel savings amounting to $500 per year, she would say, “forget it– i’d pay that much again in extra trips, or have to borrow my husband’s pickup.”
We’re not getting anywhere here, are we? The needs of American drivers, especially businesspersons, don’t lend themselves to reform easily. My wife can’t get by on less than 35,000 miles per year, nor can she easily manage her business without a spacious vehicle. My 20,000 miles per year are pretty predictable, and I’m driving one of the most fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly diesel vehicles in the world. There’s no other van that gives me a big improvement in economy. My sister doesn’t want to be shamed out of her busy, happy suburban lifestyle into a hybrid sedan that won’t let her pile the whole neighborhood in and take them down to the pool.
What’s going to give here? For our three typical American drivers, no sweeping changes are likely. As my operating expenses rise with the cost of diesel fuel, my profits decrease. I grin and bear it. As my wife’s fuel costs rise and fall at the whims of global oil speculators, she also grins and bears it. We have to run our businesses. My sister loves her lifestyle, if not her Escalade, and she would pay more than she’s paying now to keep it. The Smart Car in the photo is not an option for any of us. A Prius with a big trailer wouldn’t really serve for a contractor, and it would bog the fuel mileage down by quite a bit. You can’t sell real estate from a scooter, and you can’t haul kids, dog and fertilizer in a Smart Car. Our fuel costs and our carbon emissions, for now, appear to be just the necessary cost of doing business in America.