A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen argues that it’s both impractical and illogical to trade in gas guzzlers for the money saved on fuel. Depreciation and financing costs of a large SUV vs. a less expensive, more fuel efficient vehicle represent the lion’s share of the operating costs, argues the Citizen.
From the Ottawa Citizen, comparing the Chevy Cobalt to a Chrysler minivan:
There is a $531 differential in annual fuel costs between the two vehicles. If gasoline went up 10 cents a litre, it would cost the person with the minivan about $50 more a year than the same increase would cost the thrifty Cobalt driver.
So, the logical person wouldn’t trade in a large car for a small one, just because of gasoline prices. If you want cheaper transportation, buy a less expensive car. Improving fuel efficiency will save you very little. Driving less doesn’t matter that much either, because of the high fixed costs of owning a car. By cutting back to a mere 12,000 kilometres of driving, the minivan owner would shave only $700 off his annual driving bill.
At 22 / 31 mpg, the Cobalt isn’t exactly a shining example of fuel efficiency. Part of the problem, certainly, is that auto manufacturers haven’t done much to increase efficiency in decades. Look to more rural settings – where the $20,000+ new vehicle may not be the norm, and the dramatic impact of increased fuel costs becomes apparent.
The article also cites Ottawa’s average commute distance of 8.1 kilometers (about 5 miles). Perhaps the picture is a whole lot rosier in Ottawa – a 2005 U.S. poll conducted by ABC puts the national average at 26 minutes to cover 15 miles each way. All told, adult Americans averaged an hour and a half in their cars per day.
The Ottawa Citizen reporter, Randall Denley, goes on to argue against supporting mass transit as an alternative since the costs will come from taxpayers, for many of whom it “will be an added cost for a service they still won’t use.”
How about we take a look at the true costs associated with car driving as usual? There are the hidden subsidies for roads, way underpriced parking, and fuel. Look a little deeper and we have a warming planet, obesity, and polluted air and the related health effects.
Denley goes on to support endless pavement and sprawl: “The end-of-the-suburbs doomsdayers tend to forget that other popular destinations, such as the grocery store and the hockey rink, are actually quite close to suburban homes.”
I’m not sure which suburbs Denley frequents but the modern model of development I’ve seen has been endless spread-out lots of McMansions on the ubiquitous cul-de-sacs, linked by multi-lane roads extending to the horizon in all directions. Twenty minutes by air-conditioned SUV takes you to the huge boxstores clustered around the perimeter selling artificially cheap crap. Sounds like paradise!
Photo via flickr by Mikey G Ottawa.
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