How Fat is Too Fat? The EPA Makes it a Tough Call.

Since 1980, Honda’s Accord sedan has grown 4 feet in length, and has packed on over 2000 lbs. in additional weight – tipping the scales in 2010 at more than twice the 2,050 lb 1980 Accord.  How did this happen!?

Jalopnik‘s Mike Spinelli points out that, over the last thirty years, “Tightening safety regulations, feature bloat and heightened demand for cars that consumers perceive to be safer (i.e., larger ones) have led to the enfattening of automobiles … larger, heavier cars have amassed tremendous technical complexity, much of which has gone toward managing the physical stresses of size.”

He’s right, of course … but there’s more to this equation than simple safety regulation, crash standards, and “we’re a lot fatter than we were 30 years ago.”  For his part, Spinelli does a good job of pinning some of the blame on the EPA.

The EPA?

The Environmental Protection Agency, yes.  See, when you and I (laypersons) decide to go shop for a car, we think of things like “size”.  Do I want a “small” car, or a “large” car.  To us, this seems to be a relatively simple concept, and we base our understanding of size on things like a car’s length, width, and height … according to the EPA, however, that’s all wrong.  Were we to see things “clearly” (like the EPA) we’d determine a vehicle’s size by calculating its interior volume, and the notion that a Rolls-Royce and a Honda Civic are “about the same size” would make perfect sense …

… maybe.

Something needs to change at the EPA, which – to be fair – is at least trying to come up with new ideas.

In the meantime, Spinelli predicts that “the safety curve will eventually level out, leaving less finagling for regulators to do. Plus, as lighter, stronger materials become cheaper to produce (with some help from supercar buyers, and the defense and aerospace industries), we’ll finally see some dramatic weight reduction, which will affect the development of all the rest of cars’ systems.”

I hope he’s right, but I don’t think the change will from mainstream companies like Honda, whose smallest offering in 2010 (the CRZ) weighs almost 600 lbs. more than it’s largest offering in 1980.  Here’s hoping, then, that some of the independents like Aptera put their government grant money to good use!

Source:  Jalopnik.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.