Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gas prices too high? Don’t complain

European cities pay more than $5 a gallon!

Drivers in Amsterdam pay appx $7 per gallon and France has gas prices staying steady between $5 to $6. The contrast in prices raises the question: Is Europe a glimpse of the future for Americans?

There's little evidence that US drivers are adopting conservation strategies. The average light duty vehicle on US highways gets 21.6 miles per gallon (m.p.g.), according to a study by the Paris based International Energy Agency (IEA), while in Paris, its European counterpart gets 32.1 m.p.g. America has built its entire society around the car, versus European cities that have more compact centers where cars are often not practical.

US consumers want sleek and or pretty muscle cars, manufacturers make what the consumer wants, and the government panders to both spoiled brats It's a vicious cycle.

An Associated Press-AOL poll of 1,000 adults found that 64 percent say gas prices will cause them money problems in the future.

Sales of gas guzzling cars such as SUVs have been dropping steadily. Bio-fuel and hybrid cars have been gaining popularity and eletric cars are raising hopes of cutting down a huge monthly gas bill.

A new two seater all electric car called the Tango is one of the potential hopes.

Two decades ago Tango designer Rick Woodbury was constantly stuck in Los Angeles traffic jams. While sitting in one of the average traffic congestions he looked around at all the other cars and thought up a crazy dream of a narrow car that could double up in lanes or even travel between lanes, like a motorcycle.

Soon after that crazy thought Rick Woodbury and his son Bryan created the Tango. The Tango seats two passengers, one in front of the other and is small enough to park four to a parking space. Top speed is 130 miles per hour and about 80 miles per charge.

It takes three hours to completely recharge in a dryer socket or 10 minutes to recharge 80 percent in a high-current, 200-amp socket. It has jet-pilot seat belts and a racing-regulation roll cage. It doesn’t weigh much more than 3,000 pounds, which is about the same as a Toyota Camry, including 1,100 pounds of Yellow Top batteries under the floorboards as ballast, so it's not tippy on turns.

The storage is small, enough room for a couple briefcases and workout gear or a baby seat, umbrella stroller and diaper bag or 12 sacks of groceries. The cost is currently eighty grand for hand-assembled, leather-lined luxury models with 400-watt Nakamichi sound systems. They’re hoping to bring the price down to approximately $20,000 or less with a mass-produced consumer version.

In 2000 in the Seattle-Everett area, traffic jams on peak commuter roads delayed the average commuter 82 hours. In 2002, 92 million people drove to work alone, according to a transportation study at Texas A&M University of the nation's 75 most congested areas. Specialized cars such as the Tango could ease traffic jams, make better use of roads and save hundreds of dollars every year.

Engineers and executives at GM's Research and Technology Division, were at first ecstatic when they first saw the Tango and tentatively offered parts at cost as well as potential distribution through a GM dealer network. The potential of a $5 million fund was considered to get the project started, pending a solid business plan and market survey. In addition, the Tango business development project could have given GM credits under a California state law requiring 10 percent of cars sold by major automakers to meet zero-emission standards. But they withdraw the earlier this year and decided to sue California over the 10 percent rule.

An SUV is not needed to get groceries, buy hardware, shop at Nordstrom or even just commute to work. These things can be done in a small car and the savings can go towards something more important.

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