Wheel science

<i>Two Billion Cars</i>. How many is enough?

Two Billion Cars. How many is enough?

It seems Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson isn’t the only local figure with Comedy Central cache. Appearing on The Daily Show With John Stewart last week was none other than UC Davis transportation expert Daniel Sperling, professor of civil engineering and environmental science and policy, and founding director of the university’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Sperling, a prolific author, was hawking his latest book, Two Billion Cars (Oxford University Press, $24.95), co-written with fellow transportation expert Deborah Gordon and Auntie Ruth’s favorite jolly green giant, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The gist of Sperling’s book: There are currently 1 billion automobiles operating on the planet. By 2025, there will be 2 billion automobiles. If we don’t begin transitioning to alternative-fuel vehicles right away, we run the risk of further depleting the world’s dwindling oil supply and exacerbating greenhouse gasses at the same time.

Auntie Ruth hears you caterwauling already. Times are tough. Who can afford to put money down on a Prius, let alone make the monthly payments? Well, lead foot, you’re in luck. From out of the great state of Texas comes the Fuel Efficiency Adviser, a computerized gizmo that permits conventional automobile owners to achieve gasoline mileage heretofore available only to hybrid owners. The device, which retails for $159.95, monitors driving behavior; put the pedal to the metal, and watch your mileage go down before your very eyes. Other variables are also included, and through behavior modification, drivers may realize up to a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption. For more information, go to http://fuelefficiencycenters.com.

On the other hand, if having every gear shift monitored by a little black box isn’t exactly your cup of tea, the future isn’t as far off as it seems. Case in point: Bay Area-based Mission Motor Company is already taking orders on the Mission One, an electric-powered sport motorcycle with a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 150 mph. Bristling with high-tech features and unique, angular bodywork, the Mission One is a giant step forward in motorcycle design. If you want one, you’ll have to pony up a $5,000 down payment and get in line. The first limited-edition run is due off the assembly line later this year. For more info, go to www.ridemission.com.