MAX Update No. 83: Misers at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Reader Contribution by Staff
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MAX had a playdate at Seven Springs. George Voll and Bill Buchholz brought their high mileage cars to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR too, and we set up our headquarters (imagine a Calvin and Hobbs clubhouse with a “No Guzzlers Allowed” sign on the front) about a mile south of the festivities. We drove in to the FAIR every morning and lined up where folks could talk with us, and man, we talked a lot.

Something our cars have in common, and I think it’s pretty rare among the ex-X Prize troupe, is we ended up getting daily drivers out of the deal. All three of ours are useful transportation, and they’re such frugal fuel consumers that lately we drive them because, among other things, we’re tightwads.

We’ve had them for years now and much of the novelty has worn off for us, but gosh, it’s pretty handy having a car that’ll drive for 4 cents a mile on non-petroleum fuel (biodiesel, and in MAX’s case, straight vegetable oil is an option). We’re all past the point where every drive is a science experiment, now they’re our first choice vehicles because they’re the cheapest wheels in the garage.

We’re greenies too, and have the usual greenie motives to reduce fossil fuel use (environmental, political, and so there’s some petroleum left over for future generations), and I doubt any of us would have gone to this much trouble just to spare ourselves sticker shock at the fuel pump, but now that we have them, we’re using them. Now that we’ve made our point, we get to enjoy the benefits, particularly the benefits in the wallet.

Our point, in case this is your first MAX Update, is that regular people can build extremely* fuel efficient cars. And what’s the point of our point? Well, if we can do it, then the car factories can do it too. But they don’t (and they won’t until the market demands it of them, hint hint) so right now, if you want an extremely fuel efficient car, you’ll have to build your own…like George and Bill and Out among the muggles, I get the occasional lecture about how MAX doesn’t matter because I don’t have a car factory, and that even if there were only a finite supply of petroleum and even if I warming were for real, one car doesn’t count.

I’m reminded of the Loren Eiseley story, The Star Thrower. This story has been misquoted and misused thousands of times in the last forty years and I might as well join the club–this wasn’t Eiseley’s point at all but I’m using his story anyway.

Here’s the short form: A man at the seashore watched a boy throwing beached starfish back into the ocean, and asked him why he did it. The boy said, “Because the tide is going out, and they’ll die if I don’t.” The man told him there were miles of beach, and millions of starfish, and the boy’s efforts wouldn’t make any difference. The boy threw another starfish into the sea and said, “I made a difference to that one.”

So when naysayers scoff at MAX and tell me it can’t make a difference, I tell them “It makes a difference to me,” and though it’s an easy argument to prove when I fill ‘er up after a 200 mile drive and get change back for my eight bucks, I do tire of proving it. With MAX parked between George’s Vincitore (the dieselized and streamlined Metro sedan, at the left of the above photo) and Bill’s Dirigo (the wood bodied diesel three wheeler at the right) I didn’t have to prove anything. Nobody would build a car like this? Nobody even wants a car like this? Hey, don’t tell me, tell these guys…and while you’re at it, ask them what it cost to drive here.

*What does “extremely fuel efficient” mean? Let’s define it as double the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for passenger cars. MAX gets about triple the CAFE standard, so I don’t think I’m setting the bar too high.

Photo by Jack McCornack

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