Cars – General principles

My favorite car

You'll be surprised! You'll be amazed! It’s not a Ferrari. It’s not a BMW. It’s not even the 1984 Nissan Pulsar (right), though I did quite like that car. It’s not big or fast but it is beautiful in a minimalist way and I haven't seen one for years. I wish I had bought one as soon as I had a driver’s licence when there were still some left. I present, my favorite car.

1984 Nissan Pulsar. Nice!

General comments

I am interested in going from one place to another with minimal impact on the planet. We have nowhere else to go if we ruin this one.

An average person weighs say 75 kg (165 lbs) and even a small car like our Hyundai weighs about 900 kg (2000 lbs). Since most cars normally have just a single occupant, that gives a metal to flesh ratio of 12:1. Even with four people in the car, the ratio is still 3:1. In other words, a lot of metal is required to move around a small payload.

For a "normal" car like a Toyota Camry which weighs around 1400 kg (2998 lbs) the metal to flesh ratio increases to 18.5:1 for a single occupant.

The overkill in the big "sport utility" vehicles and pickup trucks becomes absurd when you look at it this way. For example, the Expedition/Navigator is by far Ford’s most profitable vehicle (300,000 made in 1998 at an average $12,000 profit) and it weighs in at 2180 kg (4805 lbs) so the ratio rises to 29:1 (!) and that’s for the 2WD model - the 4WD is 180 kg (400 lbs) heavier. Just think of it - more than 2 tons of metal to move a person around. In theory it can carry 9, tow huge trailers and go off-road. However, it is clear that most of these big vehicles are used for much the same thing as ordinary cars - going to work, picking up groceries from the supermarket and children from school. Of course the price is high gasoline consumption which, amongst other things, means more greenhouse gas emissions.

I believe we need a better balance between our needs for personal transportation and the means we use to achieve it.

I was impressed how well the traffic moved in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam when we visited in 1991. At that time there were virtually no cars at all with most people getting around by bicycle or small motorbike. Road requirements are so much less and fuel consumption almost nothing. Garages are unnecessary since most families park their bikes on their front verandah/porch. I'll admit that most of the motorbikes have noisy 2-stroke engines that produce excessive smoke but that problem would go away if 4-stroke or fuel injected 2-stroke engines were used, or better still electric motors.

However, I recognize that in Australian and American cities, riding a small motorbike is just too dangerous. Also, you get cold and wet if the weather is unfavorable. I've caught trains or buses to work at some of my jobs including here in Denver, but especially in most American cities, it is not practical to get around that way so it seems we are stuck with the car.

The models shown on the next page indicate where we may be headed. Each has some special features and I'd like one of each. It also needs updating since the world has moved since I originally did this in 1999.

Leyland Mini Moke, the minimal car.
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