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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Electric Boogaloo

In 1899, an electric car held the top speed record for an automobile. It clocked out at 65.79 mph. Fast forward 110 years and electric cars can easily double that pace but can't dream about matching the performance of cars powered by internal combustion engines. Some say that the automobile is about to come full circle - that we'll all be driving electrics soon enough. To this, I say, "Clown Shoes!"

La Jamais: 1899 Top Speed Record Holder

Yes, electric cars have their place in this world. Dare I say that we need them? That's right! Electric cars are a necessity in political terms. Ever since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations were enacted in 1975, car companies must be able to meet specific fuel efficiency numbers set by the government which are getting more strict over time. Each manufacturer receives a different number depending on the types of vehicles in its entire fleet. For us, as enthusiasts, to be able to buy high horsepower, fire-breathing rocket small displacement high-revving sports cars, there has to be a high volume seller for the parent company that can cover a ludicrous amount of miles with a thimble of fuel, whether it be gas or otherwise.

With all that being said, today is a zenith for the car buying public. Some argue that it doesn't make sense that the Honda Civic is getting about the same gas mileage as it did 30 years ago. These same people also fail to realize that they'd walk away from a crash today as opposed to getting impaled by the steering column 30 years ago. This is to say that cars are much safer -heavier too. Add to this, the emissions are much cleaner; interiors are more comfortable; engineering is more reliable. Oh yeah! There's one more thing. The motors are a lot more powerful. The new Mustang is a prime example of this.

2011 Mustang GT: 5.0L V8 412hp 17/25mpg

The following graph shows the relationship between horsepower and fuel mileage over time. Simplified, it demonstrates that engine design has favored horsepower over fuel efficiency which has stagnated. However, that extra horsepower is a necessity due to the extra weight needed for safety systems. You can't put a statistic on being able to make it home to your loved ones safely.

Photos courtesy of Wiki and
Graph courtesy of

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