You drive into the gas station in your Corvette feeling great; you are in the best-looking car at the pumps. it's more fun to drive than anything else on the road running on four wheels; it's an American icon; and if it's less than twenty years old, it will be giving you gas mileage of 21 mpg or better.
Another driver arrives and stops at the pump beside you to fill up their tank. They have a new Toyota, so weirdly styled that you need to check they did not arrive at the pump in reverse because the front looks like the back. You are ready for the comments: "My brother had a Vette" or "I almost bought a Vette once but...." or "Wow, that car is so beautiful, what is it?" And you are ready to make one of those nice, brief chance conversations with a stranger that makes life on Earth just that little bit better for both parties.
But no, the owner of this Prius-for that is what it is-looks at you with scorn; says nothing, but the expression on their face self-righteously gives you the silent message: "You are a greedy, thoughtless polluter, wasting our precious fossil fuel and spoiling our environment with your gross gas-guzzler. I hate your attitude, your stupid smile, and your obvious enjoyment of your dangerous toy. My new Prius hybrid gets me from A to B efficiently and using half the fuel your car would use for the same journey, and you would probably go via C just for the hell of it. It's time your type was legislated off the road!"
Silent or even spoken encounters such as these are happening more and more, and the enviromafia are gaining the upper hand. Ever tried arguing with a smug environmentalist? You always lose. Until now that is. A magazine called Professional Engineering, the journal of the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers, broke a story from Oregon about a report from CNW Marketing Research. This company had undertaken an intelligent look at the true cost to the environment of running a road vehicle, analyzing the environmental cost over the entire life of the car, which they called a Dust-to-Dust assessment. According to CNW's chief analyst, Art Spinella, this two-year study evaluated the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive, and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage. This includes such minutiae as plant-to-dealership transportation, fuel costs, manufacturer and supplier employee driving distances, electricity usage per pound of material used in each vehicle, and literally hundreds of other variables.
To make the data easy to understand, a dollars-per-lifetime mile figure has been published: effectively, the energy cost per mile driven. The most expensive vehicle in the study is the German Maybach at $11.58, and the cheapest is the Scion xB at $0.48 dollars per mile, while the Corvette's figure is $3.158.
The results make great reading for Corvette owners and the many of us whose other car is something big and maybe old, and shocking reading for the virtuous enviromafia with their clever hybrids, their signature HEV, the gasoline/electric Toyota Prius, scoring worse than our beloved fiberglass two-seater at $3.249 per mile. Presumably reflecting their tough construction and therefore long life expectancy, the Suburban and Yukon XL are rated slightly better than the Corvette at $3.134 and $3.132 per mile, but the big surprise is the Hummer H3, which rates just $1.949 per lifetime mile.
I have nothing against environmentally friendly cars, and the Honda Insight, a two-seater with a pack of batteries where the rear seats might be, is a truly beautiful car. On the cross-channel ferry last week, I was parked next to an Insight owner who had achieved 62.5-mpg U.S. equivalent over two years ownership of his ultra-low drag car, and had achieved a 100-mile trip on one U.K. gallon (83.4-mpg U.S. equivalent) with extreme care. No eco warrior, he loved my Corvette, and we ended up discussing how to reduce the aerodynamic drag on his door mirrors.
U.K. environmentalists have been campaigning against four-wheel-drive vehicles in towns and cities, the so-called Chelsea Tractors, and they are being listened to. Some hybrid cars, such as the Prius and the new Lexus hybrid, qualify for free access to the London Congestion Charging Zone, where all other vehicles pay $15 to access the city center during business hours. France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy have had annual car-tax systems in place for many years that make owning cars with engines over three liters very expensive. The U.K. has avoided such capacity taxes since the '20s when vehicles were taxed on their engine bore; this led to the development of ultra-long-stroke engines to achieve capacity without extra tax, setting our automotive industry back by years as our competitors built and sold high-revving short-stroke engines to the rest of the world.
My own '64 Sting Ray has provided excellent transport for at least nine owners on two continents for more than forty years, and its cost of manufacture was amortized sometime in the '70s. I rebuilt the original motor in 2004, and it can still take another rebore and oversize pistons after another 150,000 miles in ten to twenty years. Old Corvettes don't get scrapped; they are too desirable and too beautiful. Let's get the dollar-per-lifetime mile figure incorporated on every new-car window sticker, next to the EPA city and highway gas mileage.
To check out your "other" car's lifetime cost per mile, go to www.cnwmr.com.