US Government blocks sales of fuel-efficient cars

Jun 15, 2012 12:00 AM

by J.D. Heyes

The development of affordable "green" cars and trucks -- electric vehicles or hybrids designed to dramatically curb the nation's reliance on fossil fuels -- is supposed to be a primary goal for the Obama administration and a number of government and industry leaders.
But what about diesel-burning vehicles that already get more than 70 miles a gallon?

Yes, you read that right. There are already vehicles on the road -- nice vehicles, not bread boxes with weed-eater motors on wheels -- that get better than 70 miles to a gallon of diesel fuel. Only, you can't buy one here in the United States.
More on that later.

Have you ever heard of a little German car company called Volkswagen (VW)? Well, what you probably didn't know is that VW makes a car called the Passat Bluemotion 1.6 TDI, and -- according to published specs and eyewitness accounts -- the vehicle is capable of getting 72-78 miles per gallon under normal load and driving conditions.
While the car's engine lacks significant punch, says a review in Autocar magazine, it is certainly economical.

But you can't get one in the US. You can, however, get one in Europe.
"How about a projected 915-mile range after a fill up? Or a claimed 71.8 mpg at the end of a 36-mile motorway and urban commute? Most impressively, a genuine 58 mpg on a drive from southwest London to Sheffield without even trying, with the gauge still reading well over half full with 440 miles' worth of diesel left in the tank at the end of the 406-mile round trip," says the review. "And our car only had 2,000 miles showing on its odometer. There are without doubt even more impressive figures to come once the engine has more miles under its belt."

High-mileage cars you can't get in the US
In an online video (see http://video.staged.com/localshops/vw_passat_785_mpg_in_the_uk), an unidentified American male who labelled himself as "Brian" says he recently returned from a trip to the UK and drove a Passat Bluemotion, confirming the amazing mileage statistics.
Worse, Brian says he called a local VW dealer to inquire about the car and its incredible mileage. He says he was told by the dealer that indeed, the car does get that kind of mileage and that, amazingly, it is even built here at a plant in the US, but the government won't let it be sold in the US Those vehicles, Brian says he was told, are shipped to South America and other places -- despite the current administration's push for more fuel efficiency for American cars and cars that are allowed to be sold in the country.

One reason the hyper-mileage Passat and other similar fuel-sipping models made by other automobile manufacturers, including Ford, Brian said, is because the emissions standards on those vehicles are not as high as is required for cars sold in the US. He says he was told by the VW dealer that high-fuel efficiency motors emit 10 % more pollutants per gallon of fuel than do US-based cars.
"When you work it out, though, it gets twice as good fuel efficiency, so you actually get less pollutants in the air," even though emissions are 10 % worse, the man said.

The root of all evil?
So what's the catch? Why are cars in the US less fuel efficient than cars in Europe and South America?
You guessed it -- money.

American roads are maintained by, in large part, a federal gasoline tax. That tax is levied per gallons. More fuel efficient cars means less money in federal highway funds, so there would be less money for highway repairs. The technology is there, Brian says he was told, to build 100-% electric vehicles that are reliable, but they aren't allowed on US streets because the current highway funding measures all depend on taxing each gallon of gas and diesel fuel sold.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to wail about "greener" cars, less reliance on fossil fuels, and better fuel efficiency, all the while refusing -- as have past administrations -- to allow car makers to offer a genuine solution.

Sound about right?

Sources for this article include:

  • http://www.autocar.co.uk
  • http://video.staged.com/localshops/vw_passat_785_mpg_in_the_uk
  • http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/fuel-economy/4276559

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