A conspiracy theory has floated around the Internet for years. There is a car technology, or, in some cases, a whole car, that has been suppressed in the name of oil profits. Big Oil, working with Big Car, is holding us back from our efficient future. It's wrong, and this is why.
I'm not going to go right out and say all conspiracy theories involving car companies, or oil companies, aren't true, or don't have grains of truth. There might be something to the General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy, and oil companies definitely campaigned against the GM EV1.
But there's a difference between campaigning, and conspiracy.
The conspiracy theory has been around, in various guises, over the years. The most common example, up until recently, was that somebody had developed a magical carburetor that could give you 100 miles to the gallon, nay, 200 MILES TO THE GALLON.
Depended on who you asked, really.
The protagonists have different names in each version. Here's one with a "Tom Ogle." Here's one with "Mike Shetley." Here's one with "Charles N. Pogue," and his miracle vapor carburetor. Here's a super-Opel that supposedly gets 376 miles to the gallon. Forum trolls tout their glories, and lament their mysterious failures.
The magic solutions always meet the same fate. The inventors "disappeared," or even died under spoooOOOOooooky circumstances. Sometimes the inventions themselves are just "suppressed," and whatever that means, we're all just supposed to accept, with knowing nods.
Because Big Oil is a monster.
For the record, those magic carburetors are crap, too. I'll let the always-brilliant Straight Dope explain it:
While I don't want to belittle blue-collar ingenuity, the vapor carb's inventors are trying to solve a nonexistent problem. According to John Heywood, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and an authority on internal-combustion engines, incomplete burning of fuel is insignificant in modern cars. Fuel combustion today typically exceeds 97 percent. While it's true cars aren't very efficient — only 20-35 percent of the fuel energy is converted to useful work — that's mostly due to heat loss (through the engine block, out the exhaust pipe) and unavoidable energy loss during burning itself.
So that's that.
There are variations on the theories, too, like the guy who invented a car that runs on compressed air, or hydraulic pressure. There's never any mention of the energy you use to get that compressed air or hydraulic pressure, they're both more victims on the heap of the Big Oil Conspiracy.
Crap, crap, crap. Lies, lies, lies. None of it true at all.
The latest variant of the theory focuses on a car called the Volkswagen XL1.
It's a fantastic-looking thing, more Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century than, you know, actual 21st century. It's the car famed designer Jony Ive would've created, if he wasn't so busy putting bits of aluminum on phones.
It looks like the future, and it drives like it, too, getting 261 miles per gallon.
Yes, 261 MPG.
We won't get it here in America. Sure, the picture above is of a VW XL1 on the Brooklyn Bridge, but that's when it was here in New York a few months ago. We drove it, in fact.
But it was all just a tease. The entire production run of just 250 cars is destined for Europe, and Europe alone.
It makes sense, if you don't think about it. Europe gets lots of cars that we don't, and that's that. It's not something to be fought, at this point, just accepted. We'll beg and plead but it just won't happen.
But what if you really didn't think about it? What if you threw all cognitive processes to the wind? What if you decided to inject Liquified Stupid straight into your brain?
What if, I mean really what if, it was a CONSPIRACY?
The latest version of this conspiracy theory comes from a website called urbantimes.co, and reposted on The Mind Unleashed, and I promise you, whoever came up with this one has truly unleashed their minds. No leashes here. None. None more leashes. At all.
The TL;DR version of the theory, if you really want it, is that the Volkswagen XL1 is not being sold in America because Big Oil doesn't want it sold in America. Its 261 MPG is too harmful to profits. Boom, done. I put the TL;DR right up top so you don't have to deal with the brain-melting level of fecal detritus spewing forth from the cat-vomit excuse for an "article."
But if you really enjoy fecal detritus and cat vomit, why not get into the real meat of the matter?
It starts right up top with the headline's profound level of certainty:
Well, then. I suppose there's no arguing about that. It is illegal, I guess, for being too efficient.
But it gets better from there. Because the lead paragraph, and what we in "The Biz" of Lamestream Media call the "nut graf," is just gold.
You won't find the 300 MPG Volkswagen XL1 in an American showroom, in fact it has even been denied a tour of America because it is too efficient for the American public to be made widely aware of, and oil profits are too high in America with the status quo in place.
No tour has been allowed for this car because the myth that 50 mpg is virtually impossible to obtain from even a stripped down econobox is too profitable to let go of, and when it comes to corporate oil profits, ignorance is bliss.
Yes, the Volkswagen XL1 was denied a trip to America, because it is a threat to profits.
Already this theory is starting strong, and I think it's going well.
The writer then establishes their credentials, as they invented a system of their own that would develop 100 MPG, way back in the 1970s. Why they didn't they license this technology, ca$h out, and then laugh all the way to the bank?
No idea, but IT DOESN'T MATTER, because this train only takes one-way tickets to Crazytown, and oh yeah, it's going express.
Other claims flew with the intensity of a chimpanzee flinging its own excrement. The Volkswagen XL1 could've easily been fitted with an 18 gallon fuel tank, packaging and weight restrictions be damned.
(For reference, a comparatively hulking Ford Explorer has an 18-gallon fuel tank.)
There will be only 2,000 made, the unnamed author goes on. A miraculous claim, seeing as how Volkswagen itself says that only 250 will be made.
And it will only cost $60,000, the author says, despite the fact that it will really cost the equivalent of about $150,000. So they only missed it by about $70,000. Yay.
The author goes on to say that the car is filled with exotic materials, like carbon fiber, and it still comes in at a fat 1,700 pounds:
And irrelevant "lightweight" parts are added to the frame, consisting of carbon fiber and other exotic materials to add to the mystique.
But the materials and production limits are a load of BUNK, the car STILL weighs over 1,700 pounds, if it weighed just 100 pounds more everything exotic could be removed, because "exotic materials" are not doing much anyway, they are just marketing.
But if you weighed every car on the road today, 1,700 pounds is still a great deal lighter. The Lotus Elise, one of the lightest cars sold in the US over the past 20 years, still weighs 1,896 pounds. And that thing is the size of a sardine can.
And when you've got more weight, you need more fuel. So the exotic materials are very necessary.
I can go on and on like this all day, shooting down the claims of this article, but to be honest, it's not worth my time. Plus, it's bringing up flashbacks of arguing supply-side economics with extended family members.
It's unpleasant, it's counterfactual, and it's wrong.
But even if the author got all their basic facts right, it wouldn't matter. Even if the XL1 had an 18 gallon fuel tank, cost only $60,000, and 2,000 were being made, it would still be baseless and stupid. And that's for one reason, and one reason alone.
The amount of money that could be made with a $60,000 261 MPG car is astounding. Ooodles and oodles, buckets and buckets of money. You know that video where Kyrie Irving talks about how he gets buckets?
Yeah, Volkswagen would be like that, except it would be buckets, of money.
Pictured: Volkswagen. I mean, before Volkswagen invented their miracle relatively-inexpensive car that gets 261 MPG. They'd look like this, too, after they did that, but, like, more.
The money Volkswagen, or any car company, would make after introducing such a disruption to the market would be so tantalizing to shareholders that it would have to build it.
And that's why companies exist – for shareholders, and for no one else. Not even Big Oil.
Why has Honda only made half-assed attempts at electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles?
Because they're damn expensive, and it's hard to see a return on that investment. That's why.
Why doesn't Volkswagen sell its Polo Bluemotion over here, with its 73 miles per gallon fuel sipper?
Because Americans won't buy diesels, and they especially won't buy diesels with very little power. They won't make any money.
And why won't VW bring the XL1 to the States?
Because they would have to pay to federalize it under American safety standards. And that costs millions upon millions of dollars upfront, when Volkswagen probably won't make a dime on the XL1 project to begin with.
It's an investment in innovation, but there's no reason to pour money into a pit for no reason at all. You get the same innovation whether or not you just sell it in Europe, or if you pay extra to sell it in America. So it makes no sense.
And if Big Oil was going to shut down anybody, it wouldn't be Volkswagen. It would be this guy:
That's Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla. And Teslas are all-electric, and don't need any oil.
Tesla is now worth $25 billion dollars, and it only seems to be getting bigger. It's going to be selling more models, reducing the global dependence on oil with each car it sells.
And if automakers can get in on that, they will.
Oh, will you look at that, they already have. Both Toyota and Daimler own sizeable stakes in Tesla. Big Oil be damned.
Big Oil is capable of a lot of corrupt, contemptible things. But they're not the reason why you can't buy a very expensive Volkswagen.
Photo credits: Volkswagen, Warner Brothers, Getty Images