Friday, May 29, 2009

The 100-mpg Hummer H3

Of all mankind's inventions, only a few stand out as enduring monuments of progress. Crazy straws. Edison's electric pen. The self-twirling spaghetti fork. Allow me to remove my tongue from the side of my cheek.Link
The point is, these inventions were practically obsolete from the get-go because there was a common-sense alternative already available. That's a good way to explain how I feel about the Hummer, which has been an environmental nuisance ever since AM General rolled them off the line in 1992 (GM would buy Hummer in '98. And you’ve probably heard the latest: they’re trying to unload the brand to regain some of their financial footing).

That's why I was so interested to hear about Raser Technologies' efforts to re-design the Hummer H3 as an electric plug-in hybrid capable of squeezing 100 miles out of every gallon of unleaded. Welcome news when you consider it'd cost you about $82 to fill the H2's 32-gallon tank (at the current, local average price of $2.59/gal). Could it be these vehicular behemoths were finally going green?

Not really, if you ask me. Granted, my B.S. detector is especially sensitive when it comes to fuel-efficient vehicles, especially those that make claims without government data backing them up. But this still feels like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound; an inadequate last-ditch effort to resuscitate a dying brand. And it's hardly a coincidence that this announcement comes at the same time President Obama is tightening the nation's fuel efficiency standards. What better way to nab some easy, pro-Hummer P.R.?

As the article points out, this 100mpg rating is a bit convoluted, relying on some sketchy math to get there (and probably also some hypermiling, but minimizing braking and rapid acceleration are driving habits most buyers will likely ignore). And, while the proposed figure of 33mpg is definitely an improvement on the accepted average of 14-17mpg for the H2 (actual figures aren’t published by the EPA), who in their right mind would fork over $55,000 (20%-30% more than the all-gas H3) when there are alternatives that do the job far better for less? That’s crazy straws!

What's more, you can load a 600-lb. lithium-ion battery into the chassis of any vehicle and improve its gas mileage, but you should at the same time consider the energy it takes to charge such a battery. Unless you’re hooking it up to a wind turbine, that voltage is likely supplied by a coal-fired power plant. That’s like trying to minimize your carbon footprint by walking around on your tip-toes; same shoes, same weight, different distribution. And, at an average curb weight of 5,000-6,000 lbs., Hummers make some deep footprints. Who said bigger was better?

I know it’s easy to attack Hummers as a symbol of irresponsibility, but it also gives me a chance to present The Golden Horse Ranch Square Dance Band and their tune, “Hummer.” Good question—what would Jesus drive?

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