Dinosaur wheezes, unaware of approaching extinction

GM chairman Richard Wagoner told shareholders that, by gum, GM is serious about developing an electric car but sees biofuel as the way to go once the federal gummint stops all that pesky regulation.

Clearly, this is a man Who Does Not Get It. Meanwhile, Japanese car makers dance circles around the crumbling once-great empire that was the Detroit automotive industry. Why? Because the Japanese are already selling the technology and cars that Detroit is just now wheezing about producing someday in the future, once they rouse themselves from their lethargy, that is.

But wait, there’s more, US carmakers tell Congress that fuel efficiency is just too darned expensive. Odd, that this hasn’t appeared to be a problem for Japanese car makers, now has it?


  1. In the long run, one would expect that electric cars would be a less efficient use of energy than fuel-based cars because (1) there has to be a source for the electricity to begin with, which may be fuel based, and (2) the dual conversion, first to electricity and then to mechanical force.

    Ultimately, though, the single-family automobile itself may become the dinosaur. Could there be a less-efficient use of fuel than propelling two tons of steel and plastic in order to transport a single 200-pound human? (Well, yes: it’s called jet aircraft. But that’s another story.)

    In countries where fuel is more expensive compared to wages (like 2 days pay for a gallon) they use motorcycles with small engines (200 cc) and large frames. They transport a family of five on a motorbike, at about 100 mpg. They may not go very fast, but it beats walking!

  2. If EV’s were powerful by electricity from renewable sources, then we’d really have something.

    Both they and hybrids also can recharge themselves at least partly via regenerative braking, which requires to outside energy at all.

    Jim Kuntsler blogs about the coming demise of the single person car and how that will impact living in the burbs or country.


  3. Ultimately, though, the single-family automobile itself may become the dinosaur.

    In “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil,” an excellent film, one of the Cuban scientists makes precisely that point. Like various other technologies through history (say, the manual typewriter or the LP, neither of which have quite disappeared yet but will someday), there is no reason to believe that the automobile won’t prove to be something that appeared at some point in history, lasted for some time, and then disappeared.

  4. Two salient points come from this discussion: 1)we are entering an era in which energy efficiency will be of paramount importance because energy will become increasingly expensive; and 2) the personal automobile, whether powered by biofuels, petrofuels or electricity, is the most energy-inefficient transportation technology we have (yes even less efficient than a commercial jet aircraft, assuming a full passenger load).

    The conclusion I reach is that Detroit is toast. Toyota is probably also toast, but it will stay around longer than the criminally inept American car industry, and probably has the ingenuity to produce highly energy-efficient transport technologies in the future. Like, say, really cool bicycles.

  5. Detroit will get it when the pocketbook requires them to get it. Back in the 70’s when people started buying smaller, more efficient, better built Japanese cars, it took Detroit a big kick in the wallet before they woke up.

    Repeat history with gaz-guzzling SUVs. Now the race is on for energy effenciency, whether hydrogen, electric, hybrid or whatever.

    By the way, in the Northwest where currently hydroelectric dams produce much of the electricity, electric automobiles could be very viable if a consistant way of “charging up” or exchanging battery cels were thought up.

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