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The November Car Update

By Steve Jones,

Once again it's time for a look at the wonderful world of auto transportation. I'm a car guy who loves driving and has had a lot of cars in my 24 years of driving. How many? Watch the video for a short clip.

We have a new driver out here at the ranch. My oldest son got his permit last month and promptly backed into another car on day one. Luckily no one was hurt except the Prius, and it wasn't completely his fault as we weren't ensuring he checked all his mirrors carefully. Hopefully it was a good lesson for the future. However it got me thinking about how we learn things in today's world. No matter how quickly we learn and how much we know, there's something to be said for experience. You just have to go through some things to learn about them.

Fortunately the Prius got fixed and is fine. We've had good weather, so I'm still averaging 50-51mpg over a tankful of gas and the current stats are at the bottom.

I'm pretty happy with my current cars, though the 914 is going up for sale. Anyone interested? It's a good driver and despite sitting for 2 months without running, I was able to get it started in one afternoon with a little cranking and a couple pushes :).

I stumbled on this interesting new electric/hybrid car that you can pre-order for $500. Supposedly it's going to be mass produced and available to legally drive on US roads. It's unique and while I slightly worry about the crash worthiness, I think it's an interesting step forward in car design and ideas. I still think you have to get to a 3 person car to sell well in the US, but that's my opinion. I'd be curious to know what you think.

There were two car shows recently, the Serious Car Geek Show, where the geeks really go wild on cars, and the the LA Auto Show with all kinds of new and concept cars being shown off. Lots of hybrids but surprisingly I didn't see, and haven't seen, a hybrid minivan. That's one that I'm waiting for. There was also a look forward at cars that might be coming in the future, with some cool designs at the design challenge.

Since the last update, there was also a car race that I thought was interesting. I'm not a big racing fan, but this race used robot cars and was the Urban Challenge. I like driving, and for the most part I prefer to be in control, but I read a book this year (Red Thunder) in which the highways had automated lanes. You drove onto the highway, it took control of your car, and then ran all cars at the same speed. When you wanted to leave, you signaled, it moved you into a manual lane and released control to you. Kind of an interesting idea. With the traffic in and out of the mountains here in Colorado, I wouldn't mind something like that available for my trips up there. This race brings something like that closer to reality. (more coverage)

High tech is coming to cars with a few articles here: Tokyo Auto Show with it's Nissan Pivo 2 that has a "virtual companion. Also the new Ford Focus with Microsoft Sync is being advertised here in the US. The Pivo is interesting with its monitoring of the driver and virtual companionship.

As many of you know, I'm an alternative energy guy. We're making some small improvements here at the ranch to be more energy efficient. I would love to see cars take a step beyond hybrids and really seek to reduce our dependence on oil. One of the ways that has been talked about before is using hydrogen in fuel cells to power cars. However the problem becomes one of both hydrogen production and distribution.

I caught an interesting article here about fuel cell improvements for cars using available fuels instead of hydrogen. This doesn't necessarily reduce our dependence on oil, but since it works with multiple fuels, it might be a nice transition until we can find a way to easily produce hydrogen or some other fuel and make it readily available for your daily drive.

Lastly, I'll leave you with the image of a solar powered car to the right. That probably works great in the Middle East, thought I'm not sure I'll ever get a 911 powered by solar, but I wouldn't mind an electric one if they could get me a 200 mile range.

Steve Jones

Prius Stats

Months owned Mileage Avg MPG (current month) Conservative savings (Prius 50, van 20, gas US$3) Realistic savings (Prius 52, van 18, gas US$3.10)
8 13,600 51 $1,224 $1,547

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Apologies for the wind noise. I really wanted this one outside, but the weather didn't cooperate.

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