Coming back from Spain and being fascinated by the Citroen C4s' ability to squeeze 20 Km per litre out of its diesel fuel, when I pulled my old, (but well broken in! ) Infiniti G20 out of winter storage, I filled up with fresh fuel and noticed that I had done 404 Km on the last fill before winter and it took 49.9 liters to refill the tank.
That means I achieved 8.1 Km per litre, or almost 2.5 times LESS mileage than the diesel. So I decided that on this first tankful and before the air conditioner needed to be used, (even though we used it in Spain from time to time), I would see how far I could go on a tank of gas.
Having competed in several BP economy runs in past years, I knew how this is supposed to be achieved:
1) Coast up to speed bumps and stop signs, roll through them if you dare.
2) Try to time traffic lights so that they turn green as you approach.
3) Roll in neutral whenever possible going downhill.
4) Stay within the speed limit on the highways.
And this last one is scary!!
The section of highway I travel down every day is about 70% of my journey and is two lanes in each direction. Setting the cruise control to the speed limit of 100 Km/h, is a real problem. The left lane is averaging 120 Km/h, or even more, but the right lane isn't far short of that and a sudden slowpoke, even in the right lane, produces a ballet, that seen through the rear view mirror, is a wonder to behold as all the right lane drivers try to change lanes to the left to get around a car that is actually driving at the speed limit.
It gets even worse when an upramp merge happens. This traffic isn't traveling very fast yet, so what does a poor econodriver have to do? Either hit the coast button and slow down to merge, or else the cancel button and get out into the left lane with the fast boys. I could not bring myself to maintain cruise in the left lane, since I consider that to be the single most blatant sin that drivers commit every day.
What was the result of all this effort?
Well first of all, the mental strain of driving as though you have an egg between your right foot and the accelerator pedal is draining. The added inherent danger of trying to maintain an economical speed in the midst of traffic that is traveling at least 20% faster is not something I would want to do on a regular basis or can be recommended for the faint of heart.
What did I achieve?
I ran 550 Km on 50.2 litres of fuel. which means my old Infiniti will give me almost 11 Km from every litre of gas if driven accordingly. This represents a 37% improvement in fuel economy, just from my right foot.
Is it worth it?
I don't think the mental gymnastics and implied danger of driving too slowly in mixed traffic is really worth the effort.
The bottom line is that the Citroen diesel was able to achieve ITS fuel economy without any of these driving gymnastics - and that's the best of both worlds.
My municipality just finished a study that is quite an eye opener for this part of the world.
The speed limit on side roads is 40 km/h. Which is a reasonable number considering the number of cyclists, joggers and kids playing street hockey are out there.
But the previous administration also slapped up as many stop signs as they could and then constructed speed bumps in between stops.
All completely unnecessary, apparently, because this latest survey shows an average speed of 44 km/h when stop signs and speed bumps are present and only 41 km/h when a driver has a steady run.
Why is this so?
Because, apart from the cap on backwards, bumpers scraping the ground, coffee can muffler teenagers, most drivers are reasonable and responsible people with children, or grand children of their own.
But frequent stop signs and speed bumps bring out the frustration and down goes the the right foot.
Most modern cars have plenty of horsepower, so getting back up to speed is no problem at all.
Give drivers a clean run and they will comply much more closely with the law.
Who knew? Well, the Brits did, they abolished stop signs years ago.
Every time I receive visitors from Europe, I get the same reaction from them:
"What's with all the stop signs you fellows have, almost at every corner?"
And they're absolutely right. In the UK of-course there ARE no stop signs.
Everyone is trained to give way to the fellow coming from their right.
(It would be the left if we were to adopt such a system).
But, hell we can't even turn right on a red light in this part of the world, let alone suggest that we might have the
necessary maturity to actually give way to the left at an intersection.
The Brits also turn a lot of their traffic lights to flashing red at 11 pm. Another bright idea,
How many of you have to sat alone at an intersection controlled by traffic lights, at midnight, without another car in sight?
But to get back to the stop sign issue for a minute If the tree huggers and econazis wanted to earn any respect from me and many many other motorists, they would figure out that stop signs are one of the most polluting and energy wasting "ideas" that has ever been invented.
Let's see what stop signs do:
1) They wear out brakes and suspension.
2) They create extra engine load and clutch and transmission wear.
3) They pollute like crazy, because a car uses five times more fuel to accelerate to speed than to maintain a steady speed.
4) They are a major nuisance to to home owners in the immediate area since noise becomes all embracing as cars first
put on their brakes and then accelerate again.
I'm sure every long distance transport driver with a 16 speed manual gearbox, would be delighted if even half of the existing stop signs were to be dismantled.
City "engineers" use stop signs to placate the usual militant citizens who want cars to go back to the days when every car
had to have a man with a red flag walking in front.
You can imagine the conversation:
You say there's cars speeding on your street? Don't worry, we'll erect another stop sign.
That should put paid to the bastards. In fact this has now proven to be untrue.
And then there's the four way stop. Nothing I can imagine is more dangerous to motorists or creates more fender benders than the four way stop sign. It's illogical and insane and yet every municipality in North America does it and every one of them is guilty of rescindant thinking.
So the end result, particularly as gas prices rise, is that more and more otherwise law abiding citizens barrel through these stop signs, almost without slowing down.
For Gods' sake, municipal "engineers" do what we've done and rethink this whole crazy concept (and take out the speed bumps) And while you're at it, note that, as we said, all these devices are very environmentally unfriendly. They damage cars and give drivers a nasty jolt, but now speed bumps have now been found guilty of an even worse crime — they are helping to destroy the planet.
The traffic-calming measures double the carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption by forcing drivers to brake and
accelerate repeatedly. A car that achieves 29 miles per gallon travelling at a steady 30 mph will deliver only 15 mpg
when going over bumps or through stop signs.
In the UK, an independent engineer was engaged by the AA and he used a fuel flow meter to test the consumption of a small and a medium-sized car at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.
The results, calculated by averaging the performances of the two cars, also showed that reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph resulted in 10 per cent higher emissions. This is because car engines are designed to be most efficient at speeds above 30 mph.
A motorist who observed the speed limit on one mile of 20 mph road during a daily journey would produce an extra ton
of CO2 in a year compared with driving at 30 mph on the same stretch.
In an unusual move for a motoring organisation, the AA called for the introduction of cameras that detect average
speeds to replace bumps.
Edmund King, the AA’s president, said: “bumps are a crude, uncomfortable and noisy way of slowing people down
and this research has shown they are also environmentally damaging. We accept that traffic speed needs to be controlled in residential areas where there is a problem with accidents and children are playing. We think motorists are more likely to accept average speed cameras than bumps.”
Previous research by the Transport Research Laboratory found that air pollution rose significantly on roads with bumps.
Carbon monoxide emissions increased by 82 per cent and nitrogen oxide by 37 per cent.
The London Ambulance Service has claimed that the 30,000 bumps on the capital's roads cause up to 500 deaths a
year because its crews suffer delays in reaching victims of cardiac arrest.
Bumps tend to breed more bumps and stop signs more of the same. If one street has bumps and more stop signs
installed, the next street calls for bumps and signs and eventually you find no clear roads for movement of emergency
Transport for London has been helping to test average-speed cameras on residential roads. No tickets are being issued yet, but the mere presence of the cameras has resulted in the proportion of drivers complying with the limit increasing by a third.
The new cameras are not linked but have synchronised clocks and each separately transmits information to a processing centre. This allows several cameras to work together without the need to dig up the road between them to lay cables. In urban areas this can halve the cost of installing the system.
Putting in 50 standard bumps on three or four connecting residential streets costs about $300,000. A set of eight average-speed cameras covering the same area would cost $500,000.
It's not easy being green - Part One.
Green technology is one of those loaded phrases that for many has positive associations. Think butterflies, buttercups and sunshine.
People like Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio are big proponents. In fact, DiCaprio recently said he was looking forward to flying all over the world and promoting green technology… no doubt in a private jet!!!!
In other words, he wants everyone else to use less carbon-based energy sources, but when it comes to his own life he believes the rules shouldn't apply to him. So, it goes in the world of the green.
Take the arguments for the electric car. It's supposed to be better for the environment, right?
Electric batteries are better than gas for the environment.
Perhaps they contribute less to global warming? Perhaps not. Consider this from Bjorn Lomborg, and the Copenhagen Consensus Center.
By the time an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already contributed 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. That's because just making the darn thing, especially the battery, requires a lot of energy.
Manufacturing a conventional car creates only 14,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. So, before you even get on the road, the so-called green energy friendly alternative has already produced twice the negative environmental impact of regular cars.
It turns out the zero emissions promise from electric car makers is not that much of a promise.
When you factor in the huge emissions created in the electric cars' manufacturing, the "green" option is still creating more carbon dioxide than a conventional car even after driving 50,000 miles.
If the owner of the car uses a coal-fired electric plant to fire his car, he is producing 15 ounces more per mile of carbon dioxide than a gas-powered car. Don't forget we are subsidizing these purchases. There is a $7,500 tax break for buyers of the cars, and more than $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans that go directly to manufacturers like Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive.
To me, that's a tragedy because right now the electric car is doing virtually nothing to attack global warming. Maybe, years from now it will, or as Robert Bryce likes to say, the electric car is the next great automotive idea and always will be.
So, is green the only way to go? That’s just hypocritical and duplicitous. Green technologies, especially the electric car, are far from proving themselves.
Look, if you were to peel back the left's support for green energy and its desire to reduce carbon emissions, what you find is a group of people who have fundamental problems with the USAs' energy consumption.
They don't like the fact they consume 24% of the world's energy and they say it's a tragedy that the average American consumes twice the energy of a person in Japan, or six times the average Mexican. They also think the U.S. should pare back its size, its influence and its capabilities.
But you don't get to be the world's biggest economy on a snickers bar and a shoe string. It takes energy and lots of it.
They are (still) the most productive people on the face of the eartht and that is a good thing!
My first experience ever, with a diesel powered car was a VW Rabbit I bought back in the 80s. With 55 horsepower it was no pocket rocket, but with a fixed mileage allowance and 55 mpg, it saved me enough money to pay the lease - in effect a free car! We drove that car for 300 thousand kliks, before water got into the injection pump, due to my son not listening to my advice, and since the pump was worth more than the car, it went to the great car heaven in the sky - in other words, it got scrapped.
So I was more than pleased to be told at the Avis counter in Malaga that we would be driving a Citroen C4 diesel. Sure enough, out onto the highway to drive the 450 kliks to alicante and the fuel economy readout started to count off the liters at the rate of five every 100 km, this in spite of us being in a hurry to get to our destination and find the house we had rented. Even though diesel fuel is the equivalent of $2 a liter, it is cheaper than gasoline and it was comforting to be told that, after filling up, our range was 1250 km to empty.
This car was a highway warrior with all that torque available, instead of horsepower and a really comfortable interior, we eat up the miles as though they didn't exist.
The Citroen C4 is a good looking hatch that keeps up the good vibes with some nice gimmicks and new technology. Handles very well through the roundabouts
Comfort is well up on the C4's agenda with excellent damping and a great all round view of your surroundings. The diesels make it an excellent long distance car; quiet at speed and good economy.
8 out of 10
Performance Our diesels was a 110 bhp 1.6. They have lots of torque and after initial start up, almost silent. None of that pre ignition clacking that the rabbit used to display.
8 out of 10
Coolness: Out of the mire that is the modern hatch, the C4 stands out. Cool enough.
7 out of 10
Quality: Citroen doesn't have the greatest reputation for strong interiors but the C4 changes all that. It uses strong, sturdy materials that wouldn't look out of place in a prestige car while the panel gaps throughout the cabin are tight, meaning it shouldn't rattle soon after purchase like Citroens of old used to.
7 out of 10
Handling: The C4 gives a nice, damped ride and body roll is excellent through fast corners. The steering is sharp, but its too light with its electric assist and doesn't have enough feel.
7 out of 10
Practicality Rear seat passengers are well taken care of in terms of leg room Just beware that you might not fit a four large suitcases in the back because the tail tapers quite strongly. The fact it's not a box makes it look nice, but isn't as practical.
6 out of 10
Running costs Cheap insurance on most models is a boon The larger diesel gets 56.5mpg and is the best engine by far.
Once more diesels start to arrive in Canada, I'm going to renew my acquaintance, but asking price, the fact that diesel is priced above gasoline and the number of kliks per year we expect to drive, might not workout as well as it does in Europe, however, I would certainly do the math and if it was a C4, I would buy one anyway!!
Touring by car in Spain - some impressions.
The car you see in the picture is a Citroen C4 Diesel which I would buy in heartbeat if it was available in North America -but more on that topic next week.
Here are some of the things that come to mind as I look back on our 3000 Km of touring around the Costa Blanca:
1) The highways.
Spain spent a fortune in borrowed euros on windmills, solar panels and apparently, the highways. Because almost all the roads in Spain are in beautiful and smooth condition. Although the superhighways (Autopistas) are only two lanes in each direction, the traffic volume is quite low outside of the cities. Speed limit is 120 Km/h, and most drivers keep very close to this number, although a short sprint to 150 can be used from time to time. I'm sure the word "pothole" doesn't even exist in Spain.
The government is obsessed with traffic circles. They are everywhere. Even on little side roads that should really only merit a stop sign. Seems as though all drivers in Spain must have thought that their name was Alonso, so this system of roundabouts was created. Only problem is the Spaniards haven't yet quite learned how to use them. Sure they love to corner as fast as possible, but they don't signal their intentions when leaving the circle and in consequence leave you sitting there, or slowing down fast, only to find they weren't coming your way, anyway. Also, if they misjudge an exit they'll cut right across your bow rather than go round again, as is intended. In general Spanish drivers have very good lane discipline and good driving habits. Although, being tourist country, the driver may be from anywhere in Europe, driving a rented car.
3) Speed bumps.
In addition to the roundabouts, Spanish authorities just love speed bumps, they are everywhere too and thoroughly annoying to boot. If a car in Spain needs suspension repairs, it can't be the roads, but it most likely will be the bumps!
If a pedestrian even places one foot onto a marked crosswalk, all traffic screams to a halt. Many walkers don't even bother to even estimate the speed of approaching traffic, they just step out and hope. Maybe it's being a Catholic country that gives then that sort of faith. One exception on major boulevards is a small pedestrian traffic light. If this light is green you don't have to stop. But tourists are so psyched out by the usual situation, they stop anyway, catching local drivers by surprise and instigating the only furious horn blowing that we heard.
5) The cars.
The five door hatch back is king. Maybe 90% of the cars on the road are hatches. Even Alfa Romeos are five door hatches. We saw very few exotic cars, but caught up with a couple of MGs and a Jaguar XK140 at a vintage car rally. No Lambos, Ferraris or even high end Mercedes. Diesel engines are also king of the hill. Not surprising when we look at the fabulous fuel economy we got from our Citroen.
6) Closing hours.
The Spanish have more statutory holidays than any other country in Europe. They also close on Sundays and Mondays and between 2 and 4 pm every other day for siesta time. In touring therefore, you need to time your arrival in any town you may be visiting before noon, to eat lunch and see something of the place. because by 2pm you'll have no one to talk to, the tourist office will be closed and good luck finding a gas station open. In the big cities, the modern malls and gas stations do stay open, even on Sundays but are not that common. Get out onto the byways and you may run into supply problems unless you are prepared.
7) Speed traps.
Traffic cops are not very common, but the ones we did see were adopting the same sneaky tactics as their North American cousins. Hiding up a side street with one man standing at the corner with a hand held radar gun. It's possible that all the islands and speed bumps have calmed traffic to the point where such radar traps don't produce much revenue. Who knows?
I downloaded Garmin maps for Spain and Portugal and they were accurate and useful when trying to find the house you rented for the first time and for roaming around in country villages and finding your way there. The problem arises in cities where the roads are so narrow and so close together that the satellites get confused and spend all their time "Recalculating". Verbal directions from the navigator don't work well to the untuned ear because they are very often 50 letters in length. Worst of all, Spaniards see no reason to put up street names and this can be a disaster even with a tourist office local map in hand. If you don't have a well tuned sense of direction finding your way around in Spanish Cities can be quite a challenge.
You may have seen the Top Gear episode where they got a Ferrari into a Parisian garage but couldn't get it our again because of clearance below the front spoiler? Well this is not unusual in the cities and whoever painted the dividing lines, for the spaces thinks the whole world drives a Smart! Sure you can get into the parking space, but then try to open the doors! Fat people need not apply and a sun roof must be a major asset.
Next week: driving a modern diesel and loving every minute of it.
My basement now contains, among many, many other items two VCR/DVD players and a large colour
TV of the non flat screen variety.
These aren’t the old things we used to fix after a trip to the local Radio Shack to test and replace the vacuum
tubes. Instead, the backs are labeled to warn against any attempt to open the box:
“Danger! Do Not Open! No consumer-repairable parts inside, service only by trained technicians.”
How long until the hood of your new car is going to be similarly labeled?
Lately, our garage has contained a number of fugitives.
It’s the depths of winter, when stressed-out cars are prone to failure.
This not only complicates life for the owners, but leaves other commuters fuming as we try to find our ways
around the minivan that gave up the ghost in the middle of an intersection for no apparent reason.
Amid such reminders of automotive vulnerability, I’ve been test driving hybrids and wondering
“Who, exactly, is going to fix these things when something goes wrong?”
There are “high voltage” warnings under the hoods and access panels already — sealing is the next step.
And why not?
If it’s more than a deflated tire or frozen door lock, what could you do?
Calling the autoclub is not only your final solution, but your only solution.
The self-reliant motorist prefers to think his toolbox contains something more useful than a cellphone.
Most of us have a favorite story about making temporary repairs in some desolate setting—a Beetle fan belt
replaced with pantyhose, a leaking Datsun carburetor sealed with chewing gum, a bit of wire in the right place to make
an MG TD driveable despite the broken mechanical advance in its distributor.
If you so much as duct-taped the radiator hose on a Prius or a VOLT, who would be surprised to learn the computer had
detected insufficient coolant pressure or high temps and shut you down?
It needn’t be that obscure, either. Detect knocking noises in almost any engine these days, and the best advice I
can offer is to donate it for a tax credit. Just the cost of opening the engine for proper diagnosis exceeds the cars
value after repair, especially since the transmission is probably on its last legs anyway.
This disposable-car situation co-exists with an explosion of interest in the car hobby, as rising numbers of people
seek to get elbow-deep and turn wrenches under the hoods of 1947 Packards and twin-cam Porsches.
Even these mechanically savvy folks can’t keep their modern daily driver going without help from automotive technicians.
Perhaps you see the connection, but let me be more definitive:
Some hobbyists collect TVs from the ’50s and ’60s, but todays' televisions attract no collector interest whatsoever.
Some hi-fi ethusiasts have gone back to vacuum tube amplifiers and turntables for vinyl records.
Apparently in search of a more natural sound, but even those have electronic speed controls and are not really DIY servicable.
No one cares about the pioneering LCD or LED channel displays, or the push-button selectors.
That’s just more stuff you can’t fix.
In the ’90s car guys began to mutter about “Who’s going to care about these cars when they’re older—the Lumina is never going to get anyone as juiced up as a ’57 Bel Air, no one will ever lust for an Intrepid the way we salivate over a ’64 Cadillac."
But for every Barracuda worthy of restoration, dozens of slant-six Darts have gone to salvage yards without a tear in anyones eye.
But there’s a difference between “not much interest” and “nothing can be done.”
And we’ve crossed that line. At least it’s easier to get a car recycled than it is a computer monitor.
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