Are we prepared to pay the price for more fuel-efficient cars?

Dollar bill shaped like a car with quarters for wheels

As Americans, we are schizophrenic about our cars and their impact on the environment.

We want them to burn a small amount of fuel while spewing as little pollution into the air as possible, yet we demand that they be safe, comfortable and at least somewhat fun to drive.

We don't want them to cost too much, but every new or redesigned model must raise the safety and technology bars.

Reflecting our schizophrenia, our government jumped into the fray with different regulatory departments demanding ever-increasing standards of fuel economy, safety and emissions.

That many of these regulatory standards are clearly at odds with one another seems lost, if not on us, at least on our lawmakers. Believe me, it's not lost on carmakers.

Meeting crash-test requirements and adding government-mandated safety equipment like airbags and stability control means adding weight. It doesn't take a master's degree in physics to recognize that more weight requires the engine to work harder, thereby burning more fuel.

Here's a little experiment you can try: After your next fill-up, keep track of your m.p.g. Fill up again, keeping track of your fuel efficiency, only do it with 10 concrete blocks in your trunk. Compare the numbers.

You don't need to report back to me; I already know the outcome.

Along with demanding that carmakers add more safety systems and equipment to cars, the government continues to require more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

By 2025, all of the cars and light trucks each company manufactures must average 54.5 miles per gallon.

That's nearly double today's mandated average of just over 27 m.p.g.

Should automakers always strive to improve safety and fuel economy?

You bet.

But every goal -- noble though it might be -- isn't achievable.

Sir Isaac Newton had to get bonked on the melon with an apple to arrive at the theory of gravity -- a theory so unshakable and obvious to us centuries later that today we call it a law.

In the automotive world, "more weight equals less fuel economy" is unshakable. It will be as true in 2025 as it is today.

Is achieving the 2025 average fuel economy mandate impossible?

Nope, but the estimated average added cost to the purchase price of each car runs between the government guesstimate of $2,000 and industry projections of $3,000.

And I can almost guarantee that those 2025 cars won't be as much fun to drive.

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