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January 21, 2010

'I'm in love with my car' must end

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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There are two PCs. One is really good, the personal computer; the other is really bad, the personal car.

A means of transportation, the personal car is the least efficient. Only 10% of the energy generated is used to transport the person; the rest is wasted in the form of heat, and transportation of the car itself—the body, engine and the wheels. Then there’s the financial waste in insurance, road taxes and upkeep when the car is not in use, which is more than half the time.

The personal car dates from 1860 when several attempts to build steam cars were made in Britain. Henry Ford, though, in 1914 is credited with the mass production of cars powered by the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine.

What the car industry has done successfully is promote a car culture.

Every teenager in the world, especially in the West, dreams of the day he or she get a driver’s licence and a car, any car. It’s a sign of independence and true manhood or womanhood. Once he or she gets a job, the big day is the day he buys his own car.

The car industry made sure that “I’m in love with my car” was not only a popular song by the rock and roll group Queen, but also a reality.

This bad PC became a status symbol. “Fully loaded” PCs have all the comfort and entertainment tools you can imagine.

Beautiful women try to sell beautiful cars to real men who could afford them and those who could not.

Car rally is made into a sport.

Some men spend more time with their cars than with their wives.

Gallons of water are used to wash cars so they can look beautiful, and high school kids raise money on street corners for school car washes.

It has been a long time since we heard this: “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad,” which the president of the Michigan Savings Bank said in 1903 as he advised Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company.

There are approximately 600 million personal cars worldwide (roughly one per 11 people) annually burning more than 260 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel.

In the U.S., the number one country, there is about one car for every two people. Countries like China (107th) and India (ranked 102nd) are trying to catch up for their own populations.

If they do, it will be the end of breathable air in big cities anywhere on the plant. Transportation, including the use of personal cars, is a major contributor to air pollution. In the United States the personal car emits five tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The production of lighter, smaller and more fuel-efficient cars will help, but not fast enough.

Our car culture must be stopped.

In Europe, many people do not have a car, although they can afford it. Public transportation is better there than in North America. A teen European boy tries to impress his girl with his personality or talents, not his or his family’s car.

What this plant needs is “I’m in love with my car no more.”

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