Of Asymptotes and Asininity

prius-in-the-sky Led by Stepin Fetchit Obama, the overclass has just concluded another round of MPG charades. This time, they have reached a “deal” purportedly “requiring” car capitalists’ new-vehicle fleets to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Given Big Money’s de facto ownership of politics in the United States, this is essentially an act of self-policing, so, of course, this “deal” is next to meaningless. As Automotive News reports, there already are two yawning loopholes.


The Detroit 3 won a major exemption for their highly profitable full-sized pickups. The administration’s corporate average fuel economy proposal, details of which still must be worked out, would exempt full-sized pickups from any fuel economy increases from the 2017 model year through the 2019 model year, automotive representatives said.


Even for regular passenger cars, “the plan for 5 percent annual increases could be changed if a midcourse review, planned to begin in 2018, determines that it would adversely affect industry costs and vehicles sales.”

The main point of the whole endeavor, in the opinion of DbC, is actually not any kind of serious public control over miles-per-gallon. MPG is going to increase with or without any such “deals,” given the realities of Peak Oil. The real point of this kabuki is perpetuating a key mis-perception of reality: the notion that the energy efficiency of automobiles is merely a matter of human intentions and political checks-and-balances. Could MPG ever be 100, 200, 300, 500, 1,000? “Sure, if only the conservatives would wake up and smell the coffee, yes.” That’s the intended message for greens and liberals.

Of course, as DbC has always maintained, like everything else in the known universe, automobiles are subject to the laws of physics. As such, 3,000-pound metal boxes carrying humans at highway speeds can only ever get so efficient. Indeed, after a century of intensive corporate R&D and lavish public subsidy, it is DbC‘s position that existing cars are much closer to the asymptote of maximum efficiency than capitalists and liberal greens acknowledge.

If you doubt this claim, take a look at this excellent post by the extremely helpful analyst Tom Murphy. Murphy’s estimate of the actual top limit of highway MPG for cars that are usable under the cars-first conditions that prevail in the USA? 56 MPG.

Do you think the type of basic-physics analysis done by Murphy is unknown to the powers-that-be? That it’s a mere coincidence Murphy’s estmimate is almost exactly the promised ultimate MPG figure?

If so, I can still get you that excellent deal on the Brooklyn Bridge…

CAFE Fraud

In the United States, government devotes great energy to helping the overclass conceal the multiple disasters inherent in cars-first transportation. The agency that tracks the tens of thousands of yearly deaths in car crashes and invariably reports them as good news? That’s the National Highway Traffic Safety (not Danger) Administration.

Hence, how surprised are we here at DbC by this report about the fraudulence of federal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) mpg ratings?:

Under a 62 mpg CAFE rule, real-world fuel economy would be just under 50 mpg.

And if CAFE were 47 mpg, the real-world number would be about 38 mpg.

To know why, you have to understand what the CAFE number is — a sales-weighted average of the mpg ratings for vehicles produced in a given year. Vehicle mpg ratings are based on lab tests using a dynamometer, a sort of treadmill for cars.

Dynamometer testing produces an artificial number, but it does provide controlled conditions. No wind, no rain. And it allows for precise test protocols. For instance, the federal city-driving test cycle lasts 1,874 seconds, with an average speed of 21.1 mph, and has cold- and hot-start segments of 505 seconds each.

That’s where CAFE mpg numbers come from. But — here’s the curveball — those numbers don’t appear on window stickers.

In an effort to get closer to real-world fuel economy, CAFE numbers are reduced by 20 to 25 percent, depending on the type of vehicle. So a car that scores 35 mpg on the laboratory test will have a window-sticker rating of 28 mpg. [Source: Automotive News, May 9, 2011]

The obvious purpose of the continued use of a test known to be unrealistic? To make the “debate” on transportation among politicians sound more serious than it is, and to thereby shift attention farther away from the real issues, which continue to be utterly unmentionable in public fora.