The January Car Update

  • In the US ethanol is really not a valid alternative fuel. Sugar cane is far better, the closest we can come is switchgrass which will take a lot of landscape and with our current sprawl issues i don't know that our food banks can handle it.

    As for electrics... I am still not sold. The environmental impact of disposal is definitely a long term issue which I think is being hugely avoided.

    I drive a vw diesel. Of course my mileage was ugly this week but when the car can't get up to it's happy 190 F running temp (only could get up to 125) due to the ambient air temp being -20 degrees for two mornings and -10 the other two so far. I still getting in the high 30's on a 20 minute trip. 45 minute drives i am still getting mid 40's. The US is avidly pushing diesel cars out of the market with their high standards with emissions. The issue i have with that is they could care less about the gasoline, coal and other fossil fuel industries.

    THe new diesel for VW looks promissing. THey have been waiting to come to market to get it all worked out. The 2007/8 diesel cars from Audi, BMW etc have a chemical catalyst which is several grand to recharge every few years. Most car owners will flip when they get those bills. VW focused on a non chemical catalyst concept so that they could keep the total cost down and still raise the bar on efficiency.

    I love the ad about the train doing 400+ miles on a gallon. WHat they forget to tell you is they are on very smooth track with very little friction and they have how much weight pushing them once they are moving. Overall trip end to end with getting that beast moving is another question. THey don't have thousands of gallons of fuel onboard for reasons of fuel economy do they.

    One last thought. What ever happened to the Wankel Rotary ENgine.

  • Well Mazda still make a few of them Wankel engines for their RX-8 sports car.

  • In London, where congestion reigns supreme, some companies have found a great solution.

    Don't own a car all of the time: share it through what they call a car club,,2-2174890,00.html

    There main reason seems to be cost of fuel, insurance, and the conjestion charges they get.

    I would definetly join a car club if they had them here in south africa.

    The big bonus for me would be being able to change what car i drive regularly 🙂

    if you don't have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over ?

  • Each morning on CNN at 6:30 or so EST, I hear about how there are 1700+ aircraft in the air over the US and Canada. How many are flying elsewhere is anybody's guess, but the point about making aircraft more fuel efficient seems to qualify as low-hanging fruit. Boeing is also testing biofuel.

    But lets also consider the unintended consequences here. Granted, it is unlikely that passenger aircraft will ever use ethanol, but whatever substance is used to make biofuel will have the same result as using corn (definitely not the best choice) to make ethanol: Corn prices escalate. So does the price of corn flakes, corn chips, milk, beef, pork... And as farmers find that corn is more valuable, they plant more and less of things like wheat, soy beans, etc, driving THOSE prices up as well. Sure, we may save money at the gas pump but we are going to need those savings to be able to eat. And we can be sure that the savings on the one hand will not equal the price escalation on the other.

    Buy the ticket, take the ride. -- Hunter S. Thompson

  • On top of that the price of ethanol (in the us) is extremely subsidized. If you had to pay full price for lower fuel economy for a fuel which requires more fossil fuel input than it replaces for output would you really continue using it. Oh wait... we ARE using it we just aren't paying the monetary fee.

  • Can we stop linking an electric car with saving energy? Think carefully about where the energy to generate the electricity comes from. Yes, there are more options of how to generate electricity, but in reality the vast majority comes from coal and oil. Furthermore, if you look carefully at the energy savings from biofuels, when you take all factors into account (and ignore the fact that we might actually need the land to grow food), you quickly realise that it amounts to pitiful savings (somewhere between 10 and 30%). And using these fuels to then generate electricity is just crazy - you loose somewhere around 40% of the potential energy in the conversion process.

    The main advantage an electric car has is to remove curbside pollution (and shift it to the power station which generates the electricity). The same with hydrogen cars (energy is required to split water, etc, etc).

    A personal car is a very, very inefficient way of moving a person around. Always will be. But it has a convenience that other forms of transport just cannot match. It is a luxury, which for the last 100 years we have been able to afford. But with finite oil and gas resources, this luxury will not be around for ever. In the first instance prices will rise (erm....), perhaps to the point where it becomes an inaffordable luxury for most people to use a personal car.

    Regarding batteries - as long as they are lead/acid batteries, then they can be recycled quite efficiently.

    I like this: "very little friction and they have how much weight pushing them once they are moving". Interesting re-interpretation of the laws of physics :w00t:

  • You liked my way of stating newtons first law? "objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by another force"

    Good I am glad. Let's just say it was too early to think to thoroughly.

    And I am also a huge advocate of public transit. Unfortunately the US is not well layed out for that unless we give up some of our niceties. We can't all have our 2.5 acre lot and live in 'the country'. I have never understood the concept of mowing 2.5 acres of grass, nor buying a farmfield to live in the country. If anything buy a wooded lot, cut down just enough for space for your house, heat your house using sustainable forestry techniques and all is well. Unfortunately this also does not work for everyone. Truly we will need to go back to a sub communal housing with a centralized city structure where we can all walk, bike and ride bus\trains to work. Minneapolis MN has a good transit system. It is cheaper (and faster) to come into town from 40 miles out for work on the bus than it is to park. THey are also working on a heavy rail system which will be up in the near future.

    Even carpooling would be wise. But back to the luxury... we like to go where we want when we want. When the wallets can't do it anymore then we will have to think differently.

  • Yes!

    Private cars are inefficient, and public transportation is not widespread enough to be handy. If you combine the best of both, you come up with ridesharing, aka carpooling.

    Consider... wherever you want to go or when, somebody out there is probably driving a similar trip with empty seats in the car. If only you could find each other... but wait! we have this thing called the web...see

  • Completely agree. Let's just hope that it is not "too late" by the time it becomes too expensive to drive a personal car. I do think future generations will look back at the 20th Century with wonder at how we managed to squander quite so much fossil fuel.

    Newton - what a great chap. And he never even owned a car.

    [Sorry, should have said 20th Century, not 19th.]

  • Hmm. Need I remind you all that in the 19th century..(1800-1899), they had personal transportation. It was called a horse and it made a mess everywhere. They used to have street cleaners that would clean up horse poop. Cars were considered "cleaner" because they didn't leave behind poop. Hence, the problem is the same now as in 1900 when cars became available. Cars were "expensive" and horses were cheap. However, we all know the outcome of that transportation change.

  • How may barrels of oil were used to produce the Prius from raw materials? If you still own the van then you are double-consuming. You are better off buying an older honda civic or similar if you really care about decreasing your C02 footprint. Don't let the marketing guys trick you into thinking you are saving the world by buying something brand new.

  • Van is gone, so I'm not doubling up.

    We have personal choice and I certainly wouldn't want to be told I couldn't buy something new, or newer. I'm sure you wouldn't either.

    It's a balance. In some ways a hybrid saves oil/power because it regenerates from braking. In others it doesn't because it had to be produced, there's waste/disposal to consider, etc. Modern coal plants are much better, but they spew out a lot of radioactivity along with pollution. Is that better (on balance) than lots of individual cars? Maybe, maybe not.

    But we could go with cleaner plants, I'd argue nuclear, and that would potentially make a difference. Ride sharing can work, but these days we have people often leaving work at different times, going different ways. In many places I've been, I've lived nowhere near the people that were on my schedule. In others we've carpooled.

    There are definitely more efficient ways to do things, but I would be careful about mandating where someone lives or what car they drive. That has happened in some countries and I don't think the outcome was desirable.

  • Steve said "Ride sharing can work, but these days we have people often leaving work at different times, going different ways."

    Someday when the database of carpoolers gets big, and your work day gets extended by a late meeting, you should be able to hook up on the fly with somebody else in the same situation. Maybe by using your cell phone browser.

  • Ah, but how many of those people do you want to ride with? That's the rub in the US, at least it's my guess.

    Trapped in a car with 3 people you don't like or trust is different than being in a subway or bus.

  • My situation is a perfect example. There are atleast a dozen of us that all live within 10 minutes of each other over 30 minutes from work. Do ANY of us ride together... NO. we don't want to get stuck at work waiting 15 minutes extra... we all get a long great but still want it and want it now.

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