Monday, December 10, 2012

Bad Gas


Last year, when the EPA announced its new fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, I penned this little analysis. I thought I'd post it now, seeing as how Canada, courtesy the irrepressible bureaucrats at Environment Canada, has decided to follow Obama down the rabbit hole.



Just a short note today to signal Wednesday's announcement by the White House of new EPA regulations that will require automobiles, by 2025, to achieve a fuel efficiency standard of 54.5 miles per gallon (Note A).

…yeah, okay then.  For the record, the auto industry, and the internal combustion engine that is it's principal component, is over 100 years old.  Automakers have been attempting to improve fuel efficiency for pretty much the whole of that period.  How far, you ask, have they gotten?  Well, according to Ford, the top fuel efficiency of the Model-T - the Flivver, the infamous Tin Lizzie, mass production of which began in September of 1908, a little over 104 years ago - was 25 MPG.  The highway fuel efficiency rating of a 2012 4WD Ford Fusion is…25 MPG.  The latter is naturally a little more comfortable, what with air conditioning, a CD player, and cushioned as opposed to wooden seats, but the fuel efficiency is pretty much the same.

Think I'm joking?  Let's go to the data.  In 1978, a 6-cylinder Jeep CJ got 18.1 MPG on the highway.  In 2011, a Jeep Patriot 2WD, after 33 years of gas crunches, climbing gas prices, and EPA efficiency targets, got 29 MPG on the highway.  Not interested in SUVs?  In 1978, the top fuel efficiency for a production car was 35.1 MPG by the Chevy Chevette (it beat the famously fulminatory Pinto by half-a-MPG) with 35.1 MPG on the highway.  The Chevette, for those of you who never got to see Star Wars in a theatre, was a two-door hatchback weighing in at less than a ton.  A comparable vehicle today?  How about a Honda Civic?  It gets 36 MPG.

I expect you see the pattern.  Let's make it graphical.  Here's US Government data on the MPG characteristics of the current suite of 2012 production vehicles on offer.  Along the Y-axis we have highway fuel efficiency in MPG; along the bottom, vehicular class, as follows: 1=2-seaters, 2=minicompact, 3=subcompact, 4=compact, 5=midsize cars, 6=large cars, 7=small station wagons, 8=midsize station wagons, 9=large station wagons, 10=small 2WD pickups, 11=small 4WD pickups, 12=standard 2WD pickups, 13=standard 4WD pickups, 14=cargo vans, 15=passenger vans, 17=2WD special purpose vehicles, 20=2WD minivans, 21=4WD minivans, 22=2WD SUVs, and 23=4WD SUVs.

2015 is three years away.  Which cars meet the EPA's mandated fuel efficiency targets for that year?  Well, using composite city-highway milage, there are 8 that do (they don't all show up because of overlap on the graph).  Here they are:  The Toyota Prius, the Prius wagon, the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Toyota CT200H, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Ford Lincoln MKZ hybrid, the Chevy Volt, and the Toyota Scion iQ.

Guess what they all have in common?  That's right.  They're all hybrids.  Notice something else?  They're all small.  Even the one that nominally rates as a wagon - the Prius v - isn't exactly a battleship.  In other words, it's impossible for today's automakers to make a car that meets the EPA's 2015 fuel efficiency standard without making it both small and a hybrid.

What if we look just UNDER the EPA standard?  Well, the Volkswagon Passat gets 35 MPG combined (it gets 43 MPG on the highway, which is better than every hybrid vehicle except the Prius and the Civic hybrid).  Moreover, it's the same size as the Prius (bigger than the Volt or the Civic).  So what's the difference?  It's in the MSRP, amigos.


2012 Volkswagen Passat Sedan - base price $19,995

2012 Chevy Volt - base price $41,545


With that kind of price differential, who'd buy a Volt?  Well, would it change your mind if you knew that Dalton McGuinty would give you back $10,000 if you did? (Note B)  That still leaves you paying a $12,000 premium for a smaller vehicle.  At a difference in fuel efficiency of only 5.4% (combined; the Passat is actually 7% more fuel-efficient than the smaller Volt in highway driving), it's going to take a long time to make up $12K.

Now, bearing in mind that the fuel efficiency of the Model-T 100 years ago was 25 MPG, take a look at how many production vehicles currently meet the EPA fuel efficiency target for 2025.  The answer is "none".  The only one that even comes close is the Prius, and it's still 10% shy of the gold standard.  In fact, the only vehicles that presently meet that target are the all-electric Volt and the Tesla - all-electric vehicles that don't burn any fuel at all.

NOW do you get the picture?  The purpose of the EPA's 2025 target is to eliminate the internal combustion engine.

Here's my question: just how likely do you think that is?

A) []
B) []


Just to drive the point home (so to speak), the average increase in fuel efficiency for cars over the past century has been zero. The Ford Fusion gets the same MPG as a Model T. But Obama's EPA - and now Environment Canada - expect auto manufacturers to achieve a 100% increase in fuel efficiency by 2025. That's thirteen years away. The laws of physics haven't changed. The only possible conclusion - the ONLY conclusion - is that this is an ideologically-driven attempt to regulate the internal combustion engine out of existence.

And why? As an auto-da-fe; an act of faith to propitiate the Gods of Carbon Dioxide.  As a little reminder, there has been no statistically significant warming for 16 years despite a 10% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. There is no justification in science or reason for the anthropogenic global warming thesis - and thus no justification in science or reason for costly, pointless government regulations aimed at outlawing one of the fundamental technologies that drive the western world.

A few more words on the Canadian take on this little endeavour. Here's how the government plans to sell the standards change to Canadians.

"These new regulations improve fuel efficiency so that by 2025 new cars will consume 50% less fuel and emit 50% less GHGs than a similar 2008 model, leading to significant savings at the pump," said Environment Minister Peter Kent. "At today's gas prices, a Canadian driving a model year 2025 vehicle would pay, on average, around $900 less per year compared to driving today's new vehicles."
Awesome. So at a savings of $900 per annum, it'll only take the average Canadian family thirteen and a half years to pay off the extra $12,000 that their Volt will cost them. Assuming, of course, that they didn't finance the difference, and assuming that the Ontario government can afford to continue subsidizing every Volt that's sold to the tune of $10,000 a pop.

Ontarians buy 45,000-50,000 new passenger cars per month. That's 540,000 - 600,000 new cars per year. If everyone buys Volts - and once these new regulations are in force, that's all that anyone in Ontario will be allowed to buy - then the Ontario government is going to be on the hook for $10,000 x 550,000 = $5,500,000,000 in hybrid car subsidies every year.

Ontario's budget deficit in 2012 was already $15.2 billion. These subsidies would bump that up by a third.  All to support sales of a car that can go at most 80 km on a 10-hour charge, provided it's not too cold.

Can't politicians do arithmetic?