New $900 Honda Gets 165 mpg
By James Grahame
Honda India recently announced the CB Twister. It's manufactured in India and carries an estimated base price of 42,000 Rupees ($900) for the old school kick-start version. Expect to pay about $300 more for an upscale model with electric starter. The Twister is powered by a 109cc air cooled 4-stroke engine that puts out 9 HP (at 9000 rpm) through a 4-speed transmission. You get CDI electronic ignition and halogen headlamps, and the bike weighs a mere 108 kg (238 lbs).
The Twister Microsite claims fuel economy of 70 km/L -- about 165 mpg. Assuming that isn't a typo, one has to wonder why governments in the west are so hung up on promoting expensive hybrid cars as "the future." Surely it would make more sense to get hundreds of thousands of these bikes onto North American and European roads. I'm not suggesting it as a replacement for an Interstate cruiser, but the Twister would make a great urban runabout.
The same "less is more" approach could easily be applied to North American cars, too. Instead of wasting billions designing large and complicated hybrids that sill require fossil fuel, manufacturers could focus on lightweight conventional gasoline or diesel subcompacts that emphasize simplicity, light weight and efficiency over cushy comfort and ridiculously complicated drivetrains.
They could use lightweight aluminum frames, radical body streamlining and small and efficient diesel engines with idle-shutoff to boost efficiency to hybrid levels. Don't think it's possible? Well, back yard experimenters have already squeezed 64 mpg from an old Geo Metro. While we're at it, throw away expensive extras such as power windows, keyless entry, mahogany dash inlays and headrest-mounted entertainment systems. They just add unnecessary weight and complexity.
With a bit of clever thinking, traditional subcompacts could be reborn as surprisingly eco-friendly microcars. Of course, tiny and cheap vehicles don't carry the same profit margin as trendy hybrids, so don't expect GM, Ford or Chrysler to jump on the microcar bandwagon in the USA anytime soon. That's a pity, because Japanese manufacturers are already there.
Meanwhile, Honda hopes to sell as many as 250,000 Twister motorcycles annually. They hit showrooms across India in February, 2010. It sure would be nice to see something similar over here, even at twice the price.