You know why cars get such crappy gas mileage, virtually no better on average than the 1980s clunkers going into junkyards? Quite simply, like many Americans, they weigh too much.
According to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the average 2007 SUV weighs 500 pounds more than a comparable 1990 model (and those were hardly lightweights). The average compact car gained 374 pounds since 1990.
Overall, vehicles have suffered from a 20 percent weight gain in the last 20 years. A fully loaded Ford Excursion weighs more than 7,000 pounds, enough to get it exempted from federal fuel economy laws. Putting this model down, in 2005, was a mercy killing.
When I interviewed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently he started talking about strong, lightweight carbon fiber as a replacement for steel auto bodies, a good idea he picked up from Amory Lovins of RMI. That's one way for cars to lose weight. Another would be stripping them of some redundant, and heavy, optional extras. Here's my list of what could be taken out of the average luxury sedan:
There are many more examples of today's auto designers making cars more complicated and heavier than they need to be. The window sticker should give the car's weight, which would embarrass automakers into putting them on a diet. But experience has shown that they don't embarrass easily.
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