Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where Is My Flying Car?

The auto industry has let me down.

The biggest disappointment is, of course, not delivering the flying car I was promised. I feel this disappointment even more acutely because the advertising mascot for the flying car was George Jetson. In my young mind, I was quite convinced that if an idiot like George Jetson could get a flying car, then I most certainly would get one eventually too.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was made in some crazy scientist's garage and loopy Doc Brown made a stainless steel DeLorean catch air. In the 80s I was constantly being told that I was part of that bright hope for the future, so, for me it was only a matter of time until I was flying.

But somewhere in the middle of the 80s it seems that we collectively gave up on the idea of improving cars at all. Not only did we stop dreaming about flying cars, we stopped dreaming about cleaner cars, or more efficient cars, or really much better cars at all. I have my suspicions about what happened, but who knows what the real answer is.

When I was in high school by best friend's sister got a little Honda CRX. It was fast and cool and sporty. And, it was famously whispered around town that the little blue car got an astonishing 50 miles to the gallon. It quickly became the benchmark for us. We all wanted cars that looked just as cool and went at least as far on a gallon of gas. In fact, we younger kids were fully convinced that our cars would soon be getting 100 miles to the gallon. If not more.

It's rare today to hear about a car--any car--that gets 50 miles to the gallon. I'm sure the reasons for this are complicated, and this is not a complicated blog. But I do feel ripped off.

From what I can tell, the average fuel economy today is around 21 miles per gallon. That's exactly the same as the fuel economy rating in 1982. Seriously? No improvement in more than a quarter century? According to an EPA study, fuel economy of cars and trucks jumped from 13.1 miles per gallon in 1975 to 21.1 miles per gallon in 1982. That's more than a 60 percent increase in just 7 years. And those 7 years were formative years for me. Those 7 years created my expectation for the future.

I'm absolutely terrible at math, but it seems to me that if we could mirror that increase today, by 2017 our average would be around 34 miles per gallon. Still not great. Really not good enough. Maybe our energy should be focused on something else that would have even more impact. If I'm not going to get my fuel efficient flying car, then at least I should get a car that does something exceptional.

Maybe go on land AND on water. (I was convinced as a child that my uncle had two cars that could drive on water. But that's a story for another time.)

Or maybe we could just give up on gasoline powered cars all together. I want my car to run on water. Or potato peels. Or cow manure. And, while we are at it, I still want it to fly.


Bebe said...

I agree with it all. And I want my flying car, too. But at least we got rid of those Yugos from the 80s. Remember those tin cans on wheels?! Scary! At least we have airbags when the front end crumples! And BTW--glad you're back! :)

Olivia said...

Very true Bebe. The Yugos were awful, and dangerous. And I realize that some of the lag with fuel efficiency has been a consequence of making our modern cars safer and therefore heavier. Some of that bulk also comes from our expectations for comfort and gadgetry. The stripped-down stats on fuel efficiency don't tell the whole story. I'm just disappointed that we stopped trying. The conservation goal has been off the table for way too long in my opinion.