Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Musings about Motoring

There's been lots of media attention recently about the Rudd government's announcements on the Australian motor industry.

Most of the heat generated has been about politics, rather than motoring.

As a petrol-head from way back I have a stake in the issue, and take a view as a driver, rather than a voter, although, of course, I'm both.

Most of my driving is long-distance, generally up and down the Warrego Highway. I try, where possible, to avoid driving in the city and suburbs, because it's not fun, it's frustrating, and I'm highly suspicious of those I share the road with in Toowoomba, especially those who wear hats#.

I also need to drive a vehicle that can tow a reasonably sized trailer.

Consequently, my choice of vehicle is narrowed down to something that covers long distances comfortably and safely, can tow, and is cheap to run and reliable.

The government initiatives will result in smaller (medium-sized) cars, and towing with these vehicles is best avoided. I'd assume that cars of this size will be geared lower than large vehicles (by this I mean that the motor would be ticking over at 2500rpm at a 100kmh cruise, rather than the 1800 that my current (large) car uses. This relatively small difference has major implications for fuel economy when cruising.

In terms of long-distance cruising (remember, most of my driving) the traditional large Australian car is the logical option. My 2005 Falcon gets down to 8.5 l/100km in these conditions (see photo)*. Admittedly, I drive it with a gentle touch, but it has the power necessary to get me out of trouble, even when fully loaded (or towing, for that matter).

Coupled with the fact that it has a Sequential Vapour Injection LPG installation, providing greater efficiency than the Ford factory system in E-Gas versions of the Falcon, I enjoy very cheap long-distance motoring. Given that LPG costs slightly more than half unleaded, the virtual fuel consumption in these conditions approaches 5l/100km which is hybrid territory.

Admittedly, LPG is not much cleaner emissions-wise than unleaded, but there is a slight advantage.

This is a big country. Over the years, the local industry has developed a uniquely Australian genre of large vehicles which are a very good fit to purpose. Generally, they are safe, comfortable, and eat up long distance travel with ease. They also continue to perform well when fully-laden, something lacking in medium or small vehicles.

I'd like to see one of the manufacturers (Ford, perhaps) be provided with the financial support to develop a large car powered by alternative fuels such as CNG or LPG. There would also need to be an injection of funds to support the development of fuel distribution infrastructure for these alternatives. (One of the few disadvantages of LPG is that the price escalates rapidly as you head away from "civilisation").

I'd be surprised if there wasn't a market for this kind of vehicle, and the technology developed would have a wide application.

Wasn't it Mao who said "Let 100 flowers bloom, 100 schools of thought contend"?

I have no idea whether Mao could drive, but I'm sure he would agree with me We need a variety of solutions.

# Commonly known as "Hatties" - a particularly dangerous breed.

*The photo was taken by my passenger – I don't get involved in any activity other than driving when I'm in the seat on the right hand side.


Boy on a bike said...

We are going to be stuck with large cars for some time to come as Junior has already passed the six foot mark at age 12. I don't think he will appreciate being squeezed into an oversized baked bean can until he can get his own wheels. Even then, I don't see him driving a small car - not unless he rips the front seat out and drives from the back seat (ala Police Academy style).

I'm not that tall, but my abiding memory of riding in the back of many small cars is whacking the top of my head on the roof whenever the smallest bump in the road was encountered. I like a car tall enough for me to get in and out whilst wearing a cowboy hat (not that I own a cowboy hat, but you get my drift).

1735099 said...

Yep, that's another issue. Put four junior-sized bods in a small sedan, and you've lost any fuel consumption advantage. That's forgetting about comfort and basic expectations around personal space.

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