Repent, petroleum, for the end is near!

July 21, 2010 at 11:04 pm (Informative) (, , )

I realise that last post of mine was very doom and gloom. So here I offer you the other side of the coin.

As technology has shown, a definitive alternative is still a far way off. The world has invested so heavily in Petroleum that it is difficult to be weaned off it. This, as with everything that is difficult, cannot be forced and will take concentration, imagination and time.

So if you asked me right now what I thought were the most realistic alternatives are, indulge me a little.

1) The Diesel – this one isn’t new at all. In fact, this is something Australia is very far behind because of some distinct anachronisms. The main being the conception that diesels are exclusively the domain of trucks. But think about this, Trucks are primarily designed to haul cargo from one destination to another, day after day. Why is it that the connection to person cargo is so difficult to make? The days of the clattery, smelly, oily diesels are well and truly gone. Diesels can add sporting ability and emissions cleanliness, to the continuing advancement of their cause. Drive a BMW 123D or 330D and you’ll know what I mean. And then flick to the fuel consumption figures for icing on the cupcake.

2) Auto-stop start technology – No, this is not the “stare at the traffic lights while your engine is off, hoping not to hold up the queue while you start your car again”. This is the specific technology of automatic stop start. Where once the ECU senses that the car has come to a halt, switches off the engine and awaits the next throttle on command. This works because as outlined in previous posts, the most fuel efficient a car can run while it’s sitting in stop start traffic, is when it isn’t. This does not translate to turning your car off at the lights because, for a car that was not designed with this feature in mind, leads to much greater stress, wear, and tear; and this in turn culminates in the car being even less efficient in the long term due to its declining condition. There is no greater sign of the times than the venerable BMW M3 having this feature on the options list. The only thing that comes as more of a shock is when you’re behind the wheel when you first figure this out.

3) Buy a car appropriate for your needs – This is something that everyone needs to figure out themself. Practical experience is the best tell of what is “appropriate”.
For me, this was highlighted in a recent stint that I had in a base model, petrol Mini Cooper. Every so often while driving I would flick to the average fuel consumption read out. If the roads were clearer I flick to the instantaneous consumption read out. It’s at first difficult to figure out what use the instantaneous read out serves, but you quickly learn to read, and by doing so this assists you in adjusting your driving style accordingly.
The greatest realisation was, that for my spirited driving style, and living in the geography that I do, the Mini is unsuitable for me. Firstly, it’s quite hilly around where I live, and climbing hills was not the little Mini’s forte. And this was just with me on board. You can only imagine how much it would struggle with a passenger  (it can’t fit more than 2 adults) and some luggage.
Just how inappropriate the Mini was for me was elucidated when I went back to work the next day. I compared the average readout of my base model Cooper, with that of a Cooper S. Now I know for a fact that the driver of the Cooper S drives cars like they stole it, so it was interesting to compare. Aside from driver difference, there is also the fact that the Cooper S has more power, so naturally, consumes more petrol in doing so. As you can guess by my tone, it turned out that the Cooper S had a lower average readout (only slightly). But rationally you would expect the car that innately consumes more fuel, being driven at least as hard, to consume more. Not so simple.
So aside from this anecdotal advice, here are a few guidelines.
The closer you live to the inner city, the smaller the engine your car should have.
The more highway driving you do, the bigger an engine your car can have – it will be able to run efficiently.
Although society is ever-plowing towards excess, the earth cannot take anymore of it.

4) Drive… Less. The definitive way to consuming less petrol. Cars are not a necessity, they are a convenience. And until we learn to work around this fact, cars can do nothing but keep on polluting the world.

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