Thursday, 14 February 2008
Low emission transportation
Written by Gavin Webber
I had been looking for a replacement car for my petrol guzzling 1997 Toyota Camry for about 6 months before my epiphany. I hadn't talked much about it to my wife Kim, but I now begun to think about the possibilities of low emission vehicles.
I had only just watched "An Inconvenient Truth" a few days before hand and noticed that at the end of the movie it mentioned something about hybrid cars. No knowing much about this type of technology, I did what all good technologists do and "Googled" the word hybrid car for Australia only. I was disappointed to find that only two car companies distributed Hybrids in Australia and none of them manufactured in Australia. At the time, only the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid were available on the market. You would think that Australia would be at the forefront of this technology, but I soon realised that we are just puppets of the U.S. vehicle giants GM and Ford.
After studying both models specifications and the price tags for both, I was swayed towards the Honda Civic Hybrid because of both looks, low emissions, and price. Now I had to sell the idea to Kim! We had an evening of deep discussion, and her main concern was the vehicles performance compared to other cars on the road. We hit the net, and looked for car reviews about the Civic and found a range of extremes, with a few good and one bad review. I believe that she was a bit taken aback by my sudden urge to buy this car, but then she hadn't seen the movie, and didn't know what I knew. I don't blame her, and I must have looked like a real nut case at the time.
We came to an agreement that we did need a new car and that the Civic was a good as any, but that we had to take a test drive first and then both agree that it was OK. I booked it for the very next weekend at the Werribee Honda dealership. The next few days wait was painful, but the weekend arrived and off we headed to Werribee for our exciting day.
When we arrived we were shown the vehicle, and it was an appealing style and exactly the same as the normal Civic (Kim liked it straight away). Only the drive train was different. The dealer was more than happy to point out all of the aesthetic features of the car, however, when I asked him how the engine worked to reduce emissions, I could tell he did not know, and he tried to fumble his way through an explanation. Click here to get a real explanation of how the car really works! It just goes to show that the technology was new to him, however that does not excuse Honda for a lack of dealership training, especially if their role is to sell their cars!
Anyway, the test drive as wonderful and the car performed above my expectations. I noticed the Auto Sop feature whereby the engine automatically turns off when you are in Drive and come to a stop. A bit daunting at first, but you get used to it quickly. I began to smile as I realised that I was not creating any Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) when stopped at the lights! You also soon learn about the electric motor assist when driving. The 1.3 litre internal combustion engine really feels like a 2 litre when accelerating as the electric motor helps when necessary. The batteries are Nickel Metal Hydrate, and are charged by using the wasted power of braking or deceleration. The other eco feature is that the car is entirely driven by the electric motor whilst cruising steadily between 30-50 kph. All with the fuel economy of 4.6 litres per 100 km.
After returning from the relatively short test drive, both Kim and I knew it was the car for us, so the very next morning I ordered a nice alabaster silver model through my employers novated leasing company. The leasing company called me late the same afternoon, and informed me that I could take delivery in three weeks! Fantastic, much better than the 6 month wait the dealer had hinted at. What a slow 3 weeks that was!
I took delivery of our new car on the 24th of October 2006, and it has run very well to date. Our average fuel consumption is 5.6 litres per 100 km, which is a little above the 4.6 as advertised in the Honda media. Still it is far better than most other petrol guzzling cars around me. Honda also has a great programme whereby they purchase offsets on your behalf to neutralize the vehicles remaining emissions for the first 3 years of the cars life. This is via Greenfleet. I hope it is not green wash and that they really do it.
On looking back 17 months later, I see that a car for me is a necessary evil, as I live 50 km from my workplace. Public transport is unreliable out here in Melton.
I wish I could ride my bike to work and instead of low emission, I could be NO emission except for the sweat of my brow!