Road:Climate Change

21 February 2011
Low-speed rail freight and the threat to it from high-speed passenger trains
Brian Micklethwait

Later today, assuming all goes well, I will be doing an interview with Sam Bowman, who blogs and is the blogmeister for the Adam Smith Institute, among other things.  During my homework for this interview I came across this blog posting by Sam, which featured this graphic:


As Sam says:

This is why we like deregulation.

This piece of graphics began life as one of the illustrations in an Economist report entitled “High-speed railroading”, and, more to my present point, subtitled America’s system of rail freight is the world’s best. High-speed passenger trains could ruin it.

Indeed.  High speed rail achieves little, in terms of speeding up rail travel by regular humans, and even less in terms of making money for any humans.  But if unleashed anywhere, a point I am reading here, there and everywhere is that its most significant impact is upon the one thing that long distance rail does really well, which is transport stuff over long distances at low cost, but rather (sometime very) slowly, for customers who value the cheapness and don’t mind the slowness.

The word “trundle” always comes to my mind whenever I observe some exotic cargo train … well, trundling through a passenger station I happen to be waiting at when this odd circumstance occurs.  But the real pay-off comes when goods trains trundle, not on the urban and suburban lines I travel on, but for hundreds upon hundreds of miles.  They become the sort of land equivalent of supertankers, another notably efficient form of transport that has been doing very well recently.

Superimpose on those same long, long railway lines trains which are very fast, and with the political demand attached that they run on time, bugger the cost and the havoc caused, and there goes your profitable and efficient freight network.  And it all then has to go by road.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with roads, of course, but the kind of people who are most manically in favour of high-speed trains tend also to be manically against roads.  What the hell are they thinking?

Seriously, what is the lefty fascination with high-speed trains?  Is it just that the child in all of us loves fast trains that look and behave like rockets, and lefties are the people who are most inclined not to care about the cost of things?  Is it really that simple?

29 April 2008
Fuel efficiency then and now
Patrick Crozier

Tim Blair has a post up about fuel efficiency.  Seems that it is about the same now as it was forty years ago.  Blair points out that modern cars are quite different, they have all sorts of systems eg air conditioning that use engine power to run them.  They also have far better acceleration.

The funny thing is that I am pretty sure that this phenomenon of efficiency not changing much can be traced back much further.  I seem to remember coming across an article in Autocar from about 1910.  The MPG figures given were remarkably similar to those of today.

Ah, here are some figures for the 1908 Model T and yes, it’s the same.

Of course, the big thing being missed here is engine efficiency as opposed to overall car efficiency.  I suspect engines have made huge gains over the years.

The point is that consumers when given a choice between saving money and greater safety or comfort will choose safety and comfort.


  Actually, it would appear that those Ford figures might be a bit dodgy.  But the article confirms (talking about the Lupo) that for consumers fuel economy is far from the only thing.

07 December 2007
Solving climate change.  Socialism is not the only answer.
Patrick Crozier
For the sake of the planet

Personally I am a climate change agnostic.  I don’t know if it is happening or not.  If it is, I don’t know what is causing it and I don’t know if it is worth doing anything about it.

However, lots of people have been baptised into the anthropogenic warming religion and they seem to be the majority.

OK, well that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, and lots of people think that they can use climate change to push a socialist agenda, hence the proliferation of high-speed railways and bus lanes, but that is no reason why we libertarians can’t play the same game.  So instead of getting all huffy and puffy about it wouldn’t the best thing be to be use this flavour of the month to push a free-market agenda?

Take loss-making out-of-the-way railways.  As I have.  These could go tomorrow.  For the sake of the planet of course.

And what about speed bumps?  They may save the lives of small children but they definitely cause cars to slow down and accelerate, causing more pollution and killing the planet.  What’s more important little children or the survival of life on earth?  Come on now, it’s an easy one.

Or, what about environmentally-friendly 60-ton mega-lorries?

And then there’s crumple zones on trains.  Sure, they make it slightly less likely that’ll you’ll die in an accident but they weigh a lot and require more energy etc, etc… but it is you versus the planet and you wouldn’t want anything untoward happening to the planet now would you?

I wonder if there’s even an argument to be made in the world of Trans-Atlantic air travel.  As I understand it there’s some amazingly convoluted system which restricts the number of slots and hence promotes inefficient gas-guzzling airlines.  I reckon they could go too.  The regulations I mean.

Anyway, these are just a few suggestions.  I’m sure readers can come up with a few of their own.

Climate change: enjoy it while it lasts1.

1. Which may not be that long as Brian points out.

24 September 2007
Souped up Prius
Mark Holland

This is interesting.

Like how the iPod created an industry of add-ons, the Prius is doing the same.

Unlike most after market products for cars, which are about sporting up the performance or look, the Hybrid aftermarket is in superior batteries and charging. The improvements are impressive.

“We can improve the energy density, accelerate more quickly, and all without taking up too much space.” Translation: A 45 mpg hybrid can now get up to 125 mpg. Today, about three dozen vehicles equipped with A123Systems cells are prowling the cul-de-sacs of chichi suburbs.

As ever the early adopters are carrying the burden in order to be first.

Naturally, cost is an issue. It takes 64 years of gas savings to pay off the extra investment a Hybrids Plus conversion entails.

Thanks to their taking one for the team, when mass production reduces the price the possible benefits could be amazing.

In August, A123Systems signed a deal with GM to help develop a fuel cell for the Chevy Volt. GM believes a plug-in hybrid like the Volt, which could be in showrooms by 2009, could render the average daily commute—about 40 miles—gas-free. Such efforts could ultimately lead American firms to create what would have been unthinkable a few years ago—a car not powered with fossil fuels. As we speak, at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley—where a massive solar-generating installation went live in June—four Priuses converted to plug-ins are being recharged by the sun.

I’d still want a Tesla Roadster, but meanwhile this is still very cool technology and another positive step in weaning us off of the black stuff.


24 August 2007
Fight global warming: raise the speed limit
Patrick Crozier
Saving the planet

Well, as Donald Sensing points out, how else are we going to get people out of dirty, polluting aircraft and into nice, clean, environmentally-friendly SUVs?

Personally, I think this is a bit of a cheat - far better to concentrate on the high order stuff: is it happening? is it a bad thing? how best to tackle it - but it’s a lot of fun.  And certainly not something I am above

(Hat-tip Pajamas Media).

10 August 2007
Greener by car
Patrick Crozier

Longrider points to a government report (not that that is anything to go by) that suggests that the car (assuming you buy into the whole global warming argument) is frequently a greener option than rail.

This is an idea we are not entirely unfamiliar with here at Transport Blog.

I commented that the report did not seem to mention occupancy rates.  As I have mentioned before these have a big impact on a train’s overall score.

Hey, hey TGV; was it you who caused the rising sea?
04 August 2007
Together in electric dreams
Mark Holland

The Daily Telegraph, and therefore the rest of the mainstream media, has finally caught up with Transport Blog.

We checked out these new super funky electric sports cars, like, months ago when they and the fashionably green were still droning on about hybrids. Hybrids are surely the worst of both worlds. An inevitable stop gap maybe, but even so. Carrying two engines around simply doubles the wieght and complexity of the entire machine whilst the driver’s smugness level rises, undeservedly, exponentially.

Proper electric cars can be entirely re-engineered. They don’t need the bulky engine, gearbox and drivertrain and can instead use compact motors right down at the wheels. These motors are then only connected to the centre for power and control by cables. Cables! Especially clever is the way the motors can double up as generators when the vehicle is slowing down and pump energy back into the battery which extends the range of the car between charges.

From today’s paper:

In a low-key industrial estate in San Carlos, south of San Francisco, a quiet revolution is under way. After four years’ work, Tesla Motors is now weeks away from the launch of the Roadster - the world’s first production electric sports car; a vehicle the company fully expects to transform the industry. The man masterminding the launch is Elon Musk, the chairman of Tesla Motors, the first new American car company in decades, and one that will put a fleet of zero-emissions electric sports vehicles on the road this summer. Tesla’s Roadster is a high-performance two-seater, faster than a Ferrari yet twice as green as a Prius, Toyota’s petrol-electric hybrid. It runs on 6,831 lithium-iron batteries, identical to those in a laptop computer.

‘So you can look over at the Prius and go, “What are you doing in that gas-guzzling hog?”

Note also that we were ahead here:

Yet the Roadster is also designed to beat any fuel-based sports car, including a Ferrari or a Porsche, in a car-to-car showdown. With a top speed of 135mph, it accelerates from 0 to 60 in a fraction under four seconds. Its zero-emissions policy also extends to noise: as Vespremi turns the ignition and eases the red Roadster off the forecourt and out into the Californian sun, there is nothing but a low electrical hum. ‘A sort of Blade Runner soundtrack,’ Vespremi says. There is no engine noise - because there is no engine. (People have found this so eerie that one engineer suggested programming in various boy-racer sound effects, like mobile ringtones.)

When I’m an internet thousandaire a la Elon Musk - killer apps sought, we’ll name our first rocket after you! - I’ll buy one.

31 July 2007
The ethics (or lack thereof) of vandalising 4x4s
Patrick Crozier

It happens in Germany:

Greens employing guerrilla tactics have begun targeting the prized assets of car-loving Germans.

The tyres of dozens of 4x4 vehicles were slashed last week in Berlin, with each attack accompanied by a note detailing the dangers of carbon emissions tucked under the windscreen wiper.

Which,  at first, made me wonder why they don’t vandalise themselves (after all, I presume these people, at very least, breathe).  Then I realised it’s the “greed” that motivates them - the idea that there are people out there who consume more than they do - far more than the idea of actually saving the planet.

15 June 2007
The fastest milk carts in the west
Mark Holland

Further to the silent but deadly electric cars below, check out these funky electric and/or fuel efficient cars in Wired! here as an accompaniment to this article. They’re not your average milk float. Some of them do nought to sixty in about 4 seconds!

I’m well impressed by this/these:

PML Flightlink’s electric wheel motor, which the company calls the Quad Electric Drive, or QED, replaces a car’s brakes as well as its gasoline engine. All braking is done by the motors, which act as electrical generators while slowing the car, returning energy back to the battery. Another plus: Each motor delivers precisely controlled torque to keep its wheel in contact with the pavement, providing skid control during hard acceleration and automatic antilock braking.

What’s Two-Ton Ted going to say about this?


13 June 2007
G-Wiz G-Wiz
Brian Micklethwait

Spotted by David Tebbutt on June 5th, blogged by David Tebbutt June 6th, spotted by me there yesterday, and blogged here today.  Two cars in one parking space:


This car really is called G-WizBoris has more on the subject.

11 June 2007
George Monbiot buys a car - you'd need a heart of stone, etc, etc  …link
Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)Road:Climate Change
09 May 2007
Celebrity green car is declared unsafe - it's official: the G-Wizz is a deathtrap. Oi you, stop sniggering  …link
Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (2)Road:Climate ChangeRoad Safety
22 March 2007
Save the planet: buy Hummers, scrap Priuses
Patrick Crozier

Samizdata’s Robert Clayton Dean points to the article here which points out that:

  1. Priuses aren’t as economical as you might think, and
  2. when you add in the energy involved in making them in the first place, each one - over the course of a lifetime - will use up more energy than a Humvee.

So if you accept the alleged energy = pollution = global warming = bad, equation then you really ought to swap.  But, what happens if you subscribe to the energy = pollution = global warming = good, equation?  Does that mean you have to trade-in the Humvee?

Tell us, Arnie, tell us.