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What’s Worse: Production or Use?

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Photo by Stephane Foulon. From Road and Track.

This week’s addition of BusinessWeek includes an article about Gordon Murray, a celebrated race car designer, who is switching gear and working to create “a compact, fuel-efficient urban vehicle for the masses,” priced around $10,000. One of the perks of Murrays new car, the designer claims, is that its designed to limit carbon emissions during the production process. Our very own Lee Shipper is quoted in the article, challenging the benefits of Murray’s new design, pointing out that much more carbon is emitted during the car’s lifetime on the road than it is during the production process. In short, Lee suggests that Murray’s new business venture is misguided if he is in fact trying to fight global warming.

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  • Well said Catalina! I think its pretty clear at this point that anyone seriously looking at reducing greenhouse gases will not just look at technologies in personal cars but will look at the system as a whole. That is, how can we minimize our amount of CO2 while maximizing everyone’s mobility? The answer is obvious: mass transit and better urban design to discourage driving in the first place.

  • Catalina Ochoa

    Yes Chris, good post, in fact funny.

    All I wanted to say was that generally
    CHEAP CARS = BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
    I agree with Lee that if you want to focus on something, do it in fuel consumption (which depending on the number of kilometers you drive and your car efficiency) accounts for more than 70% of the emission in gasoline vehicles (being 70% very conservative).

    Perhaps this is why Japanese and European cars are on average more efficient than German and American vehicles, because they focus in what really matters in terms of global warming, the driving phase!

    However, I do know that all things being equal lightweight cars do consume less gasoline than heavy cars. Which in a way is what Mr. Murray is promising to do in the Business Week article, he says that “the three-passenger car, the Type 25, will utilize lightweight materials and its tiny size to shrink operating costs to a third those of an average car”.

    I would have to ask to Mr. Murray if he has thought about the idea that making cheaper to own and drive a car will result in higher motorization rates and higher mileage per vehicle, which will completely undermine the fuel consumption improvements of his “compact, fuel-efficient urban vehicle for the masses” at a global scale. Plus… how light on materials can you actually go with $10,000?

  • nice post