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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Cars and causes
January 12, 2012 - 8:05pm

This morning, as I prepared to walk from my car to my office, I noticed that I'd parked beside a Honda Civic with a label on its left rear side window.  The label bore the word "econ" and a greenish symbol that reminded me of the EPA's official seal.  When I looked at it closer, though, there was no explicit EPA tie-in, just the suggestion of one.

Turns out "econ" is a relatively new Honda feature, or technology, or some such.  As explained here, what it does when engaged is throttle down the air conditioner and lower some of the transmission shift points.  For performance reasons, it works only when the accelerator is between 10% and 90% -- not at very low or at very high engine speeds.  When in econ mode, the Civic claims to deliver 40 highway mpg.  The button you press to turn it on and the icon that appears on the dashboard to let you know it's working are both green.

At first, my inner wonk came out with a protest that sustainability (the tie-in implied by the flower-like symbol and the green color scheme) can't be achieved by economy-oriented marginal enhancements of existing technology.  But that protest was quickly squelched as my more practical side recognized that associating environmental sustainability with cost savings is far more productive than allowing it to be associated with increased energy prices and inconvenience.

At about the same time, Dodge is reviving (at least in nameplate) the venerable Dart model line.  "Reviving" probably isn't the right word.  More like "reintroducing".  And there's a lot to like about the new Dart.  Horsepower, handling, economy, comfort.  Of course, it's not entirely brand-new.  It's based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, an established model line owned by Fiat (which now also owns Chrysler, and so Dodge).  Apparently, Fiat is planning to bring the Giulietta itself over here in a few years, but for now the Dart is the closest we'll have.

And maybe the Dart is all we'll ever want.  After all, it's being priced at roughly half the price of its litter-mate.  Maybe Honda isn't the only one who's got that "econ" thing figured out.


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