One night a few weeks ago, while on a Honda junket in Santa Barbara, I had dinner with a couple of Japanese green-car technology engineers. I realize that, in terms of cool cred, that statement ranks far below “I just got back from Burning Man” or “have you seen my TED talk?,” but I was still excited. I guess I’m a green-car nerd now.
After a weird moment where one of the engineers compared my beard to a bonsai tree, we began to discuss shop. I’ll admit that I didn’t understand everything they said to me, but here's the gist: Honda puts its best engineers at work on developing alternative-fuel cars. And they're not the only ones.
In the past year, as part of my strange new career as a car writer, I’ve driven everything from the most exalted Rolls-Royce to the lowly ScionIQ, and what pisses me off most about the cars I drive is their gas mileage. Why does that Infiniti only get 19 mpg, or that Mustang convertible 17 mpg? What’s with all these big, stupid crossover vehicles that cost 80 bucks a week to fill? Frankly, it’s pathetic.
I’m hoping that manufacturers might also be feeling the shame, and also pressure from their governments. Eventually, your average consumers might even start thinking alternative-fuel cars are cool, too. Look at the hoopla surrounding Tesla Motors’ recently released Model S “supercar.” It goes 3,000 miles per hour, approximately, and a recent Motor Trend test-drive in the desert showed it has an electric range of more than 250 miles. A change is coming. You should see these electric cars that BMW is putting out next year, the i3 and i8. They look like superhero cars from the future. I want one so bad.
While it would be wonderful if the entire world would just travel around on magnetized super-trains, the fact is, many people have to drive every day. Some of them have to drive quite far. So the way the car companies behave in the next 20 years will help determine the fate of our planet. I’m beginning to see encouraging signs.