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Electrifying Realities - Resonator

Les Bidrawn
Aug 20, 2011

It’s Friday and nearly 1 a.m. I’m staring out the front window waiting for those damn hooligans to show. The kids ask if I’m waiting for my imaginary friends… again. They leave giggling, doing whatever 20-year-olds do at night.

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I’m standing here because I am convinced someone is filling the tank on our new Jetta TDI test car, perhaps diesel elves. It seems no matter how far I go, the needle stays stuck to the far right. Either this car doesn’t use fuel or someone (or something) is refilling its tank in secret.

Having transitioned into this from a powerful twin-turbo BMW 550 GT, the difference in fuel economy is staggering. Granted, the 550 was a study in automotive hedonism and a lot more car, but the Jetta is nonetheless a genuine European-bred sport sedan. And while the BMW had a prodigious thirst, the VW doesn’t seem to drink at all. Someone is playing a prank. Probably those clever bastards at Volkswagen.

I give up around 2:15 and tell the kids to listen for any strange noises. They assure me that they will. I leave to peals of laughter.

I seem to recall a movie where the protagonists secretly fill their neighbor’s gas tank, fooling him into believing his station wagon is getting 100 mpg. If I remember correctly, it was in the late ’70s, about the same time as the first gas crisis hit and people suddenly became interested in fuel economy.

Funny how history repeats itself.

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Although we haven’t had a strictly OPEC-addled situation since, we’ve been at the mercy of a multitude of factors, everything from political turmoil to tropical storms. A honey badger chews through an oil hose in Nigeria and the next day pump prices jump 20 percent. It’s freakin ridiculous.

Historically, as a civilization advances so do its energy requirements. It either advances and becomes more efficient or it stagnates and withers.

We are at a point where efficiency has become a primary concern. We need to use our resources wisely until advancing technology can offer a viable alternative. Being a car magazine and all, we are especially interested in how this will affect our transportation. And no, electric cars are not the entire answer.

We got a boatload of hate-mail regarding Kevin Clemens well-written and researched piece on electric vehicles (“Electric Cars,” July ’11), everything from oil company conspiracy theorists to political, tea-bagging right wingers. A few even claim that the United States itself is sitting on oil and natural gas deposits that will last for 2,000 years. Occasionally I will get a hyper-chained email claiming such wonders exist and as much as I’d like to believe it, I simply don’t.

In the first few sentences, Clemens states the topic of electrically powered vehicles is a great way to induce fighting among car enthusiasts. I guess he was right.

Electric-powered vehicles have been around for about 100 years, during which time they have served a limited role in our economic machine. Presently, even the best lithium-based power cell technology pales in comparison to the power produced by petro-based sources. Until researchers can figure out how to wring an additional 50-70 times more energy from the equivalent mass of batteries, they will continue to serve in that limited fashion.

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Clemens claims we have created a monster through our reliance on fossil fuels. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that. We used the most available resource we had to produce an extremely powerful tool. Most societies would have followed that course. Perhaps our biggest misstep has been our over-consumption of that resource.

Cars like the Jetta TDI are a step in the right direction. We could take it even further with more like it, and not just diesel-powered cars. There are several Europe-only models that push upwards of 45 mpg.

I never did find any evidence of “diesel elves” futzing with our Jetta. I did however, find the car was making each gallon of fuel last some 42 miles. You kids can stop watching the driveway now. Daddy figured it out.

Les Bidrawn

By Les Bidrawn
242 Articles



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