Q Those who question whether the state should push for tighter emissions standards for cars should imagine what the world would be like if the pollutants came out of the tailpipe in the form of little pellets that fall to the ground instead of tiny particles that float away. We would expect carmakers to build pellet canisters into their designs, and periodically emptying them would be part of normal maintenance. Low- or no-pellet cars would be popular. Anyone caught leaving trails of pellets would be ticketed and fined.
Mr. Roadshow would become weary of reminding people to call 1-800-NO-PELLET when they saw a scofflaw. What today is mostly invisible and diffuse would be concrete, and nobody would question that if you make the pellet, you clean up the pellet.
A I remember the awful brown haze that clung over the South Bay and East Bay when we first moved here in 1984. Fortunately, most days are largely clear now thanks to tougher smog standards.
And the news last week that fuel standards will have to reach a 54.5 average mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025 should be cheered. Not only will it nearly double the required fuel efficiency of cars and pickups today, but it will cut carbon emissions per vehicle mile traveled nearly in half. In addition, it will reduce U.S. global warming pollution by as much as 570 million metric tons in 2030. That's equivalent to taking a third, or 85 million, of today's cars and trucks off the road for an entire year.
Tailpipe exhaust from the millions of cars on Bay Area roads has been the largest source of smog in the Bay Area.
Q I think a great gas-saving technique would be engines that shut off at red lights. When will this be happening in the U.S.?
A It's starting to happen. The stop-start system shuts off a vehicle's engine when stopped in traffic and restarts it when drivers takes their foot off the brake. Around 40 percent of cars sold in Japan and Europe have this technology, and it's working its way to our shores. Eight million of these vehicles are expected to be on our roads in a decade or so. It can improve fuel economy by 12 percent and save $167 a year for a car that gets 20 mpg and is driven 12,000 miles a year, with gas at $3.75 a gallon.
Q I'd like for you to pass on a suggestion to reader Teri Lockhart who doesn't like the Prius and wants to know what other hybrid cars drivers recommend. Ask her to please consider a Chevrolet Volt. I have had my Volt for a year, and I have nearly 20,000 miles on the car, while I have only used about 52 gallons of gas.
Also, while I don't mean to offend your beloved Prius, it's no comparison to a Volt whatsoever. My experience with the Prius is that it drives like a high-tech Corolla, whereas the Volt drives like a BMW 3-series. A huge difference.
General Motors has a small fleet of Volts that they will loan out to potential buyers for one week so that they can get a feel for what a terrific car the Volt really is. From my experience, you can't truly appreciate driving a Volt by a simple test drive.
A That is an impressive endorsement, but the most popular hybrid in response to Teri's plea is ...
Q I love my Toyota Camry hybrid, but don't tell anyone, as I will never find it in the parking lot if there are more of them! ... My Honda Civic hybrid works well for me. My wife loves her Toyota Camry hybrid. ... I recently bought a Camry hybrid and it's great. On a trip from New Mexico to San Jose, I averaged 40 mpg, even with New Mexico and Arizona freeway speeds of 75.
Konne Ainsworth, John Francis, Margaret Kinney and several more
A There are now nearly 60 hybrid models being sold, so Teri has some shopping to do.
Join Gary Richards for an hourlong chat noon Wednesday at www.mercurynews.com/live-chats. Look for Gary at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5335. The fax number is 408-288-8060.