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The March Car Update

By Steve Jones,

My son, Delaney, is already lobbying for the Low Resistance Mobile vehicle. He is thinking that's the car he wants when he turns 16 in about 6 years. He even got my wife talking about one and I told him there's a chance he could get one.

If you haven't seen it, the Loremo is a diesel that goes back to the basics. Low weight, drag, and careful design, albeit lacking some acceleration. And it's not a concept as this car is slated for production in Europe in 2009 and the US in 2010. At around $30,000, it might be a bit much for a 2+2, but it's still not a bad way for many people that drive a lot to think about getting around. One of the most unique things, and the "cool" factor with my son, is the front opening shown above.

This is an X-prize entry and I'm not sure if I like this more than the Aptera, but both I think show some promise and thought into building more efficient vehicles, and not necessarily playing tricks with things like Flex-fuel. If you want to see the current state of X-Prize entries, here's a photo list at C|Net.

It's also good to see other automakers starting to think about how to build more efficient vehicles. At the various auto shows around the US, GM is talking about a plug-in hybrid from Saturn, which is a great idea. I'd love to be able to plug in my Prius, charge up the batteries, and get perhaps 20-40 miles of electric only transport. I know this moves the pollution problem to the power grid, but that's a problem that's being worked on as well. Plus, there may be people like me that can charge their car with renewable sources. GM is also working on fuel cell cars powered by hydrogen, though the hydrogen supply chain is still a problem.

Electric Cars at the New York auto show. Most of these are non-US cars, but the thing that these are cars that coudl sell in the US, with top speeds getting to 65-75, making them highway capable, or at least capable of running on all other roads. And with 100 mile ranges, this means even someone like me could use this to run around town. Some of the electrics I've looked at perviously were in the 40-50 mile range, which scares me when it's 20-30 miles for me to get milk!

To me there are plenty of places in the US (CA, AZ, NV, FL, TX, etc.) where there is a lot of sun and lots of people parking their cars in central locations. How hard would it be to set up some charging stations for commutters? Maybe even at Park and Ride type places? Wouldn't that be an interesting perk? Maybe an employer would even help subsidize the cost of the car as part of your job? A 2 year committment? Should cities think about subsidies as a way to attract businesses and workers to their areas?

A Cautionary Update

I've written about Zap! for a few years now and even went and drove a Zebra with a friend. I liked the idea of the Zebra, but with the short range (and even shorter in real life), it didn't make sense. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks so.

Wired has a piece that questions Zap as a company and possible fraud going on there. What's interesting is that Wired has been following Zap closely, talking about their (supposed) new vehicles, so this a little disturbing. I'd be careful about dealing with Zap!

The Prius Update

The gas mileage is going up day by day. As the weather gets warmer and the heater isn't running, the engine cuts off more and more while sitting still, at red lights, or coasting and as of the last week of March, we were up to 48.3MPG on the last tankful. That's a nice rise from the 44 we were getting in the dead of winter and I'm expecting it to top 50 here soon.

As of March 31, today, we've owned this car for one year. We bought it last March 31, the last day for the tax credit, which was a big part of our decision to get this car. We have really seen some benefits here and we're nearing 21,000 miles in one year, on top of 5,000-6,000 miles on other cars.

I've been comparing my mileage to that of a minivan, and a number of people have said that's not a valid comparison. But to me it is since that's the car we would have bought. A Camry/Accord/Altima, etc. wasn't a choice we would have made, so that's how we see it. I realize those are closer comparisons, but without the 50+mpg, I'm not sure we'd have done without the space. As it is, we are sometimes cramped in the car.

And for those of you that worry about the Prius, a few links: debunking the Prius v Hummer and Hybrid Batteries. True or not, Toyota claims no replacements due to wear and tear since 2001. Toyota warranties the batteries for 150,000 miles, so I've got a ways to go! I did see one post about a 2001 battery dying at 245,000 miles!

Steve Jones

Prius Stats

Months owned Mileage Avg MPG (current month) Conservative savings (Prius 48, van 20, gas US$3) Realistic savings (Prius 50, van 18, gas US$3.10)
10 20,500 48.3 (warming up!) $1,793 $2,125

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