Friday, July 3, 2009
Cars need energy-saving sleep modes
I was sitting motionless in traffic for so long I began wondering if I could sneak in a refreshing nap. Studies show that a few quick winks can do wonders for increasing our productivity and longevity.
Yet, as I sat there and thought of ways to momentarily shut down for my own benefit, the tank in which I was being cushioned in air-conditioned splendor soldiered on and on, bless its mechanical heart.
The engine of my 2007 Saturn Vue was operating with nearly the same crisp efficiency as if it were powering the vehicle to 65 mph.
Our society is bedeviled by unnecessary motion. We fidget. We’re always on the go. We’re rarely idle.
But our running vehicles often are. It’s an hour drive from my home in Latrobe to downtown Pittsburgh where we go once a week for grannies and giggles. During that time, my trusty Saturn can be completely motionless for up to 25 minutes.
It’s like watching TV in the pre-DVR days when we were all held hostage to all those awful Geico commercials.
I let my mind graze on magazines, books, or newspapers I keep handy for long red lights and the portions of the trip when congestion brings all traffic to a complete halt. But for nearly half the trip, my car continues to consume fossil fuels and pollute the atmosphere when its sole duty is to keep me sheltered from storms or sun and play the groovy tunes that keep my soul sweet.
And I’m not alone. To my left and to my right, from the front to the back for as far as the eye can see are other cars are doing the same nasty and unnecessary business. It’s like being in a mall parking lot at Christmas where all the cars are left running while everyone goes inside and shops.
Why can’t our cars have a sleep mode? Imagine how many fewer barrels of oil we’d need to import if smart cars could power down when the owner instinctively recognized advancing was momentarily futile.
Detroit engineers who right now are feverishly working to find ways to make cars more efficient when they go from zero to 60 need to consider ways to make them vastly more efficient when they aren’t going anywhere.
Concerned motorists everywhere should band together to insist that smart changes are applied to every new car.
It’s a movement I’d lead myself, but I can’t generate that kind of energy.
I never did get that nap.