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Discussion Starter #1
Just read the latest ranking of the most environmentally friendly cars in Germany, published annualy by the Wuppertal Institut:

1 VW Lupo 3L TDI
2 Audi A2 1.2 TDI
3 Smart pure
4 Opel Corsa 1.0 12V Eco
5 VW Polo 1.4 FSI
6 Smart Roadster 60 PS (45 kW)
7 Toyota Prius 1.5
8 VW Golf 1.6 FSI
9 Mini Cooper
10 Toyota Yaris 1.0

Note that the Insight is not available in Germany, that's why it is missing from the list.

This ranking takes into account not just emissions and consumption, but also use of renewable resources/materials and recyclability.
 

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Strange how three German cars are the top three.............
 

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The U.S. EPA ranks the VW TDIs with a 1/10 on its "greenness" scale because of all the smog-forming pollution they put out. The same vehicles with standard gasoline get a 6 or 7 out of 10 and put out 5x less pollutants.

http://www.epa.gov/autoemissions/

I know European diesel is supposed to be cleaner, but is it that much cleaner? Anyone have g/mi numbers? Even if it is, I am surprised to see the Prius ranked so low, which gets a 10 out of 10 from the U.S. EPA. (Insight gets 7/10 for the ULEV 5spd and 10/10 for the SULEV CVT).
 

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Tim Maddux said:
The U.S. EPA ranks the VW TDIs with a 1/10 on its "greenness" scale because of all the smog-forming pollution they put out. The same vehicles with standard gasoline get a 6 or 7 out of 10 and put out 5x less pollutants.

http://www.epa.gov/autoemissions/

I know European diesel is supposed to be cleaner, but is it that much cleaner? Anyone have g/mi numbers? Even if it is, I am surprised to see the Prius ranked so low, which gets a 10 out of 10 from the U.S. EPA. (Insight gets 7/10 for the ULEV 5spd and 10/10 for the SULEV CVT).
One thing is though that the top two are small diesel cars. In the USA small cars do not exist (Americans think the new mini is small!) and diesel cars are rare. So small diesels have not chance of making it onto the list.

The top two are "3 litre" cars. In other words they consume 3 litres per hundred km, i.e. similar fuel consumption to the Insight.

Additionally, Europe places more emphasis on CO2 emmissions than in the USA, where CO2 is considered almost irrelevant compared to other tailpipe outputs.

Now Europeans argue that other tailpipe emmissions have been reduced to nearly zero so they are less relevant - while CO2 is produced in high quantities. The USA argues that reducing smog is the most important consideration rather than marginal improvements in economy.

It is true in Europe, there is widespread availability of ultra-low-sulphur-diesel (ULSD), and some cars warn against driving in countries with sub-standard diesel.

So it could be true. While an efficient petrol engined car will always be greener than an equivalently efficient diesel, it is much easier to boost diesel efficiency, as I heard that being a non ignition engine, a diesel can in theory be 70% efficient. Petrol engines could never get close. Additionally the energy cost of refining diesel is much less than for petrol.

So the petrol vs diesel debate rages on. Europe has come down very pro-diesel. Japan is very anti-diesel. and the USA doesn't seem to care :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Tim Maddux said:
I know European diesel is supposed to be cleaner, but is it that much cleaner? Anyone have g/mi numbers? Even if it is, I am surprised to see the Prius ranked so low, which gets a 10 out of 10 from the U.S. EPA. (Insight gets 7/10 for the ULEV 5spd and 10/10 for the SULEV CVT).
It's a lot cleaner. Europe has strict limits on the sulfur content in Diesel. The US doesn't. That alone does not make much of a difference, if burned in the same engine. But the low-sulfur diesel allows constructing different engines with different combustion management and emissions controls. The VW Golf diesel that ranks so low on the EPA list has an old engine that is much dirtier than the new design sold in the same car in Europe. The only problem is that the new engine + emissions controls would fail quickly when run with dirty american diesel.

The other skew in the EPA rating is their total blindness to CO2, as olikea points out. The US didn't recognize the greenhouse effect as a serious problem, yet. There is also significant pressure from the SUV lobby to prevent CO2 emissions standards. They would finally sigle-out SUVs for what they are.

Also, the rating I quoted included manufacture and disposal of the car itself, not just running it. The new Prius will likely score much higher since it has higher recycled content.
 

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Honda Smart Look-Alike

I don't know if they even make it anymore, but in the early 1990's Honda offered a car in Japan that looked a lot like the Smart car. The US considered it too small to be safe (this delayed the sale of the Mini Cooper for the same reasons). I think it got around 80 mpg on the highway. Anyone recall this?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
big is safe myth

Delta Flyer said:
The US considered it too small to be safe...
I don't recall the Honda you are referring to or know specifics about the new mini. But I did try to import a Smart and found out there is a "safety" requirement that says the front bumper needs to be so many inches away from the steering wheel. It doesn't say the car needs to pass this crash test or that, it says it needs to be at least so big.

To me, it looks more like a size requirement than a safety requirement. Or an anticompetitive measure to lock-out small cars. But that's what kept me from buying the Smart and going with the Insight. So it worked: it gave the business I would have taken to Germany to a Japanese manufacturer...
 

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There are also, if I'm not mistaken, what you might call sheet-metal protection standards that have nothing to do with occupant safety. Basically say that you have to have big, heavy, shock-absorbing bumpers so as to avoid body work after minor fender-benders. Those are probably the standards that this Smart car isn't trying to pass - and I don't really blame them.
 

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james said:
There are also, if I'm not mistaken, what you might call sheet-metal protection standards that have nothing to do with occupant safety. Basically say that you have to have big, heavy, shock-absorbing bumpers so as to avoid body work after minor fender-benders. Those are probably the standards that this Smart car isn't trying to pass - and I don't really blame them.
Yes, the American automobile safety regulations really get on my nerves. They really micro-manage far too much.

In Europe cars have to be checked inside to make sure there are no pointy edges, and then crashed into a concrete barrier at 30mph, and now the Euro-NCAP rating provided by crashing into an offset deformable trolley at 40mph.

This is much better than "x has to be so many inches from y". The Smart Car actually fares better in the crash tests than the new KIA Carnival/Sedona!

And another thing that annoys me about US safety policy is the encouragement of people to drive heavy cars on their "safety" basis. The problem is, that it only works if your car is heavier than the car you crash into. If everyone drove SUVs it would be no safer. In fact it would be more dangerous as SUVs are less manourverable, have longer stopping distances, and are more likely to roll than conventional cars!
 

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Mine too - I would much prefer everyone to adopt my approach, which is simply to drive in such a way that you don't run into things :)

I don't think anyone in the NTSB is actually saying SUVs are safer, or encouraging people to drive them. That's more of a popular myth. I'm not really into statistics, but I think overall SUVs are actually less safe. They're better off in e.g. head on collisions with poor little Insights, but are subject to things like rollovers, and "tripping" over guardrails. Remember the thing with the Ford SUV getting into rollovers because of blown tires? Doubt very much of that would happen with an Insight, or anything with a reasonably low center of gravity.
 

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One safety issue that I haven't seen mentioned (and I never thought about until my first Insight was wrecked) is that the rigidity of the frame vs. the mass of the frame is a bit of a factor.

In other words, a light, rigid Insight will tend to hold itself together and get slapped away from an impact, where an SUV would tend to have a lot of momentum (or inertia, depending on your preferred terminology), but less rigidity, so it will tend to sit there and fold into itself, absorbing the whole impact without offering to move in some new direction.

This is not always an advantage, depending on the physics of the collision, but in other than a square-on impact, I'd definitely prefer to have at least one of the vehicles light enough to be smacked away, than to be in one of two behemoths, folding into one massive heap of steel, glass and highly explosive fuel.
 
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