Something Weighing On My Mind

2019 has been a weird year. Personally. And globally. If “Hope” was the watchword for one presidency, “Despair” seems to be the one for the current.

It’s not been all bad, though. Ironically, some of the good has appeared because of the bad. Activism for human and earthly fairness, equality and health concerns has more voices than I’ve ever heard. Silent in peace, together in war, I suppose.

That being said, I suppose I’m joining the activists.

One of my greatest frustrations in life is when problems have easy solutions that are ignored. In this case, I’m talking about the impact automobiles have on our planet. They do far more damage beyond spewing tailpipe emissions.

Automobiles have environmental costs through an entire global supply chain. From material logistics/sourcing/shipping/construction/waste-disposal, end-product shipping/distribution/operation demands/repairs/waste-disposal, as well as infrastructure construction/maintenance. Don’t forget to consider you are not just pillaging the earth for extra material, you’re also consuming and emitting fossil fuels to do so. Those are just the hard costs, but I could go on in more granular fashion and add soft costs like less traffic, less road noise, more parking spaces, and better city planning as well.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to the weight of the vehicles. There is absolutely zero justification for any standard-use car to weigh more than 3,200 pounds, and that’s for a SUV.

More weight affects EVERYTHING.

And guess what, it’s not only easy to fix, but you can also buy reasonable vehicles right now.

I drive a very loaded gasoline powered 2017 Fiesta hatchback, one of the lightest normal cars on the market. It’s got cruise control, a great entertainment system with Apple car play, automatic lights, and even stupid neon accent lighting I didn’t want. It weighs only 2,600 pounds and even though it isn’t fast, I don’t have any issues getting up to speed. My mileage is consistently 29 in horrendous stop-and-barely-go LA traffic and 34 driving fast on long highway trips. It has the same 4 doors and 5 seats as a Toyota Camry, but weighs at minimum 700 pounds less and is nearly 3 feet (32 inches!!) shorter so I can park it basically anywhere. Because it weighs so little, tires last forever. It costs me less than $20,000 brand new. My point is that a freaking heavy and large 3,400lb sedan, or 4,500lb SUV is 100% supremely unnecessary to carry 3 or 4 people and a cooler of beer, let alone 1 and some groceries.

In 2019, roughly 5% of the people in the United States bought a new car, or approximately 17,000,000 people. Multiply hundreds or thousands of weight savings per-car over those millions of new cars and you would have insanely positive and tangential effects. Because numbers are helpful, assume every car went on a diet and lost even just two hundred pounds… That would mean 3.4 BILLION pounds of material was saved. To maybe give a little more perspective, that is roughly the equivalent of almost 5 Empire State buildings. And that’s just for the United States. In one year. Now, imagine the materials saved, fossil fuels unconsumed and not-emitted over the ENTIRE world, over multiple years. Billions of pounds of raw material saved and billions of gallons of fuel not turned spewed into the air we breath.

Eventually additional gains would reach the economy and infrastructure too.

Now that you’re a little more educated around the topic, I’ll share what I’m doing about. Well, for starters, this – pleading with you to factor in the weight of a car when you buy it. Secondly, I’m hoping I can force you and automakers to consider it.

I’ve begun drafting a bill that will put forth a serious tax for vehicles over a certain weight. My goal is to find and share it with advocates in the government who can support this and hopefully make it a law by mid to late 2020’s. We’ll see how the political climate is after the next election and I’ll decide the best strategy and timeline to proceed.

In the meanwhile, please please please consider the weight of a vehicle when you buy one – new or used. It helps the world way more than you can ever see or feel.