Compromise Solution

Having converted Joan’s car to its cash value and needing to replace my bone-crushing sports car with a kinder-gentler suspension (as long as we drive on Oklahoma roads), we suddenly found ourselves in the market for two cars.  Writing this column on science, technology and religion/ethics means that I need to walk the talk. 

I wanted a light-colored vehicle for two reasons.  Because I occasionally transport wine for events and dinners, keeping the interior as cool as possible is important.  Secondly, the more white we can put on our roofs, roadways and vehicles, the more of that nasty, earth-heating infrared radiation we will reflect into space.  Dark is not a climate-change-friendly color for a roof or a vehicle unless it’s a solar panel.

What kind of vehicle should we purchase?  I did not want to purchase an all-gas or all-diesel vehicle.  That stuff needs to go away along with the dinosaurs from which it came.  My first choice was an all-electric vehicle.  I wanted (maybe needed) an SUV for hunting and fishing and family vacations.  Outside of the high-end, expensive models, there was only one in my price range.  Reviews were not encouraging.  Then I started thinking about the electric charging infrastructure.  In Oklahoma it is non-existent. 

Vehicle range was another consideration.  When the manufacturer tells you the ranges is X miles, the measurement is determined with the air conditioner OFF.  Turn it on as we do for 4-5 months each year, and the practical range is 50% of X.  Price, reviews, range and lack of infrastructure dictated that I keep looking.  (BTW – When our church completes the green space public garden (Margaret’s Garden) on 6th and Broadway, some of the parking spaces will have vehicle charging capability.)

Being a good Anglican, a compromise was needed in the form of a hybrid gas-electric vehicle.  I would have preferred what is called a “Plug-in Hybrid” (PHEV) but the choice and reviews and prices were not favorable.  The next level down is a hybrid.  Toyota launched the Prius hybrid in 1997.  They have had lots of experience with the technology.  I bought a Highlander hybrid and Joan got a RAV4 hybrid.

My 2006 Mazda sports car weighed about 2,000 pounds.  Fuel efficiency declined over the years from over 30 to below 25 miles per gallon when I sold it.  My even older Ford Explorer got about 14 mpg after 200,000 miles.  When I did the mileage-weighted average, I was around 23 mpg for 12,000 miles a year.  Now, with a single SUV weighing more than twice the old sports car, I am getting 32 mpg.  Do the math and that is a savings of 147 gallons per year or about 1.5 tons of CO2 less than before.  Not perfect, but given all the considerations, it’s the best I can do at this time and place.

The practical things we can all do include: Keep your tires properly inflated.  Drive the vehicle until it falls apart.  Drive less, share rides, plan your trips and plant a tree.  Drive a light-colored vehicle.  Purchase a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle if you can afford it and other considerations are favorable.  Had I purchased an all-electric or plug-in hybrid, I was going to install solar panels to offset the fact that charging from an outlet in Muskogee is burning coal (worse than gasoline).  Solar power is not required for your car but I will do it next year because it is the right thing to do.