* Yeah, yeah, I messed up the math on the first go. It's fixed. Thanks Mark.
While I'm not as much of a miser as Henry Ford, who often promoted idyllic working towns that often had a symbiotic relationship with the land they were built on, I can't stand to see waste.
And there's a lot of it around.
For instance, the new crop of pickup trucks that are—just spitballing, here—50 per cent more efficient than their counterparts from the '50s…with what, a few million more of them on the roads? To illustrate my point, I'll use some cherry-picked math: a group of 10 trucks at 10 miles per gallon (23L/100 km) would use 230 litres (60 U.S. gallons) to travel 100 km (62 miles). A group of 100 trucks at 100 miles per gallon (2.3L/100 km) would use 230 litres (60 U.S. gallons) to travel the same distance. But it's not so simple.
I actually verified the numbers, because that's the sort of guy I am, and it turns out that I'm actually very much an optimist. In 1951, just over a million trucks were sold in the U.S. In 2014, 9 million were sold. In 1951, trucks did, on average, a charitable 8 mpg (29.4 L/100km). In 2014, an again charitable 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km). Don't forget, this is lab testing, and doesn't include your friendly neighbourhood Joe Dirt and his merry gang of outlaws. For the trucks sold in 1951, it'd take 29.4 million litres (7.7 million U.S. gallons) to drive 100 km (62 miles). Now, to do the same distance, all the trucks on the road sold in 2014 would use something like 88.2 million litres (23.2 million U.S. gallons) of fuel.
That's sold, by the way—with vehicles lasting longer than ever, there are many more than that number on our roads, of course.
And then you start to add up all of the truck accessories and niceties that have been added over the years; in 1950, a truck was an engine and a bed. Now, you can use it as an internet hotspot—don't stay up at night thinking about how many people it took to develop that system, what they drove to work, how long they idled in traffic every day… Or the people who did the backup camera, or the stripe kit, or the tailgate step. Bigger trucks need larger parts, right—both in size and capability. Then the large transport trucks needed to ship those parts around and, hell, all of the extra wear and tear on our roads. How much do we spend on road construction every year? For this one, there are two correct answers: both "a lot" and "not enough".
Given the pace of economic growth, you may be able to convince me that, well, lots of people actually need trucks to work and contribute to our economy. We have small business owners and people who live and work in remote areas who need trucks. Absolutely. But you, in the city, hauling air and ordering heavy-duty shocks even though your street has been paved since Paul Revere was kicking around? Oh, you also attend tailgate parties and own all of the accoutrements that go along with it? There's a special kind of hell for you, right next to the jerk who stole my Transformers in grade 4.
Let's be honest, most here: people buy trucks based on intent, same as the home cook who coos over a dijon yellow KitchenAid stand mixer—only the mixer will at least help make a cake every six months.
It may seem like I'm picking on pickup trucks—because I am—but there's a good, selfish reason for it. The only argument a small car enthusiast such as myself can never win is one of physics: in the battle of big versus small, small will lose every time. I like to envision my little 500 Abarth bouncing off the front of a Mack Truck, like a cue ball being battered by a pool cue. The reality is, sadly, more gruesome than a pool cue battering an egg. I'd rather not end up scrambled.
Now, even if you have Macho Man tastes, I think you'd agree today's car would be fun to drive. I think you'd also agree it would cost far less than your current vehicle to drive around in, assuming you are somewhat normal and don't spend your free time putting out oil well fires in Kuwait.
It has a 1-litre engine. It makes 70 horsepower, a figure far more than it really needs (hey, I like to go fast). It will do 180 km/h (112 mph), which is quite a lot more than most nations' speed limits will allow for. To get to these figures, the car weighs just 635 kg (1400 lbs)—400 kg and ~880 lbs less than the 2016 Lightweight World Champion Enthusiast Choice Award-Winning Mazda Miata.
Anyway, reality: in a frontal crash against a brand-new pickup truck, the driver of the 1000 GT Spider would instantly transform into a Jackson Pollak painting. The truck's driver, however, would only be jolted enough to screw up while playing Flappy Bird, or whatever other iOS game housewives are playing these days.
But if trucks weighed a little bit less, were a bit smaller, and people bought fewer of them, my assumption is that more cars would be sold. There may be, as a result, fewer transport trucks on our roads. There'd definitely be less fuel used.
As vehicle sizes shrink, smaller cars become more attractive to people who previously ignored them, it's a strength in numbers sort of thing—studies have shown that the more bicycles are in a city, the more people start to adopt them. Why can't that have happened with trucks? 'MURICA.
Like I said, I can't stand waste. Even though I spend too much time building my ideal 2015 Ford F-150, in dark green with a short cab and short box (yes, of course with the 5.0-litre V8), I will welcome you with open arms once you decide to downsize into something smaller and more efficient.
In a few decades, once we've sorted out police brutality (who seem to prefer SUVs these days, natch), secret surveillance, corporate greed, poverty, disease, and the looming environmental meltdown, if I don't make it to the planning meetings for our new utopian society please raise your hand for me and suggest that we try and adopt smaller vehicles.
Hold up a photo of the Abarth 1000 GT Spider by Pininfarina, say, "Doesn't that look like fun?" and remind the crowd that all of the supplies we need are already delivered by drones and that the remaining trucks are a needless drain on our resources.
"It all adds up," you'll say. It did, didn't it?