4 animals that can beat your car in a race
Every time you see your car, how do you feel? Do hot flushes of excitement run up your spine as you imagine the roar of the engine firing into life and accelerating from 0 - 60 mph in the blink of an eye? Or do you see a chunk of metal with four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel? You know - just a tool to get you from A to B?
Let's take these thoughts to the next level: your car is fast, but how fast? Is there really an animal that could match its ability to turn the road surface into a scorched, barren wasteland? Likewise, is there any creature on the planet that could slam dunk your trusty runabout in the endurance stakes? The answer is a simple yes - there are plenty of animals that can put your automobile to shame. Here are four of the meanest...
Ask any petrol head and they'll probably agree that one of the fastest stock cars is the Porsche. With a blistering 0 to 60 mph in around 4.1 seconds, they're one of the quick autos off the mark. True, you're going to pay a tidy sum to get your hands on one but it's all about image, right? Well, let me tell you, the cheetah is faster.
Scientific researchers used a couple of cameras, an electronic stopwatch, force plates buried in the ground and a whale-sized steak to encourage a tame cheetah to perform. And perform it did - in an eye watering feat of nature at its finest - the cheetah managed to hit 60 mph from a standing start in under three seconds.
What's the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the BMW badge? Precision, German engineering? Luxury? Or maybe the instantaneous sex appeal that comes with owning an automobile like the 435i Coupe? Picture yourself wrapped in the reassuring support of its heated leather seats, your foot gunning the accelerator at a stop light. The lamp in front of you turns green; you press hard and feel the g-force thrust you back as you accelerate to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. But, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a greyhound leaving you in its dust trail!
Greyhounds come a pretty close second to the cheetah but they're definitely top dog in the world of canine speed demons. This friendly, and much abused, hunting hound is capable of going from a standing start to over 60 mph in just over four seconds - adieu BMW! This breed of dog shares very similar traits with the cheetah: a rotary gallop, long legs and a flexible spine, which it uses to achieve these blistering speeds.
Right, it's time to take a down a notch. Let's take a look at fuel efficiency.
The Prius is one of the most efficient autos on the roads. A clever combination of electric motor and petrol engine, designed by Toyota, has produced a vehicle which is capable of travelling for up to 134mpg. The total range of the car is about 540 miles (according to Toyota's fact sheet). This means you can drive your car for ten hours at an average of 55 mph. Pretty impressive, but not as impressive as the feat of endurance performed by Manuela the tortoise.
Back in 1982, Manuela the red-footed tortoise went missing from her home in Rio de Janeiro. Her owners were, as you'd expect, somewhat distraught at having lost their beloved family pet. Assuming the animal had hitch-hiked off to a life of freedom with the builders who had been working on their house, Manuela's owners gave up on finding her. Thirty years later, the family were cleaning out a room in the house, following the death of their father, and discovered Manuela in a box - still very much alive. It's understood that this species of tortoise can live for up to three years without eating but, even so, vets were amazed at this feat of endurance.
Ok, so you don't have to worry about your Prius being picked and dropped onto rocks by a passing eagle but you have to admit the tortoise has a lot of things going for it (including being near immortal, by human standards).
Another contender for the ultimate in endurance cars is the Chevrolet Volt. Like the Prius, this car uses a hybrid electric/petrol engine to give it an official, combined economy figure of 234mpg. Yeah, 234 miles PER GALLON! If all automobiles had fuel efficiency like that the impending global fuel crisis would quickly become just another storm in a teacup. Again, maintaining a steady 55 mph you'll cover a whopping 379 miles in less than seven hours. But, that's nothing compared to how long a crocodile can go on a single tank of fuel.
Crocs always seem to get a lot of bad press, mainly because they have really big teeth, little remorse and a habit of eating cute zebras (or people on golf courses in Mexico). But, what most people don't realise is their ability to outlast even the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road. You see, once this scaly nightmare had digested Zoe zebra or Gary gnu it doesn't have to eat again for a whole year. Maybe Chevrolet should be doing some research into how to power cars using organic material.
Ok, so I cheated a little on the last two examples but they do give you food for thought. For years, technicians and scientists have been telling us they're constantly finding new ways to make automobiles more efficient. Instead of trying to, quite literally, reinvent the wheel maybe they should be taking a cue from nature?
Now, speaking of speed merchants, make sure you check out our speed calculator page (just in case you want to verify the figures in this article ☺ ).
Written by James Redden
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Last update: 19 November 2013
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