Cars

Are Chevy Volts Really Cheaper and Cleaner?

Are Chevy Volts Really Cheaper and Cleaner?

Their rate has changed a little bit in the time that they have had the Volt, but on the more expensive plan, they paid $0.0885 for each additional kWh. Using that price, we get $215.67 spent on electricity. That brings us to a grand total of $301.62 for the 10,102 miles they drove, or three cents per mile. For comparison, with an estimate of $3.50/gallon gas, a 2012 Prius that gets 50 miles per gallon costs seven cents per mile, and my 2004 Saturn station wagon costs 14 cents per mile on a good day.

Three cents per gallon makes my prius look like a gas guzzler.

Ferdinand A. Porsche, who designed the original Porsche 911, the snazzy, powerful sports car that became the lasting signature of the German automobile company founded by his grandfather and later run by his father, died on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria. He was 76. (via Ferdinand A. Porsche, 76, Dies - Designed Celebrated 911 - NYTimes.com) Totally missed this first time around. Wow. The Nein-Ulf is a classic. A design that still looks current.

GM Teases Us With Sneak Peeks of the Volt

For all the hype surrounding the Chevrolet Volt and General Motors’ willingness to share every detail of its development no matter how minute, we still don’t know what the car will look like. We’ve caught glimpses of early prototypes and everyone’s seen that wind tunnel shot, but photos of a production model have been as elusive as Thomas Pynchon.
From GM Teases Us With Sneak Peeks of the Volt | Autopia from Wired.com

Right now most of the Hybrids I see are Toyota Priuses (Priui?) . In the next 18 months Honda, Toyota, Volkwagon and GM will all be shipping Hybrid vehicles with costs in the $20k to $35k range. 2010 may be the year the Hybrid goes from niche to mainstream. And the Prius becomes less snoby.

NYPD Dodge Charger

police car

The NYC traffic cops have chargers. They don’t have radios that communicate with the NYFD and EMS, but they do have nice cars.

The Route Coast to Coast

On October 7, 2006, Alex Roy set out from the Classic Car Club on Hudson Street in New York City. His self-assigned mission: Beat the record for a cross-country drive to Los Angeles. That record, set in 1983, is 32 hours and 7 minutes. To achieve his goal, Roy and his copilot, Dave Maher, would need to average at least 90 miles per hour.
From The Route Coast to Coast

I’m sorry, but if you aren’t riding with Dom Deluise while trying to out run Jamie Farr and a host of paper thin ethnic and social stereotypes; what’s the point?

Electric Meets Diesel in Opel E-Flex

the Opel E-Flex is a European concept of the Chevy Volt unleaded/electric hybrid. Other than its propensity to drink more wine and go “on holiday,” the Opel will use a 1.3lt turbo diesel engine to recharge the car’s lithium ion batteries when they run out.
From Chevy: LEAKED, Electric Meets Diesel in Opel E-Flex - Gizmodo

Diesel/Electric hybrid. It’s what can get us off oil. It’s what can kill OPEC.

The Dark Horse in the Race to Power Hybrid Cars

Many motorists chuckle smugly after giving their cars a little extra gas to leave a Toyota Prius or some other eco-friendly automobile in the dust. But Toyota and its Earth-loving ilk may yet have the last laugh as they cultivate encouraging new advances in ultracapacitor technology that promise to one day put hybrids in the driver’s seat.
From Scientific American: The Dark Horse in the Race to Power Hybrid Cars

Back in my EE lab days we would joke about light emitting capacitors. That’s a normal capacitors in a circuit where you got your math wrong. Farads shmarads. I hope Toyota’s electical engineers are better at that CT = 1 / (1 / C1) … n formula than I was. The most interesting aspect is that ultracapacitors are potentially less toxic than the batteries they might replace.

Fungi Make Biodiesel Efficiently at Room Temperature

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found a much better way to make biodiesel. Their new method could lower the cost and increase the energy efficiency of fuel production.
Instead of mixing the ingredients and heating them for hours, the chemical engineers pass sunflower oil and methanol through a bed of pellets made from fungal spores. An enzyme produced by the fungus does the work — making biodiesel with impressive efficiency.
From Wired

Turning waste into fuel. I’m reminded of the Mr. Fusion gizmo from the Back to the Future time traveling Delorean.

Italian Pride Is Revived in a Tiny Fiat

When Luca De Meo, 40, became chief executive of the Italian carmaker Fiat Automobiles five years ago, one of his relatives he forgets whether it was his aunt or his mother told him, “ Luca, you’ ve got to bring back the 500,” or the Cinquecento, the chubby little car that symbolized Italy’ s postwar economic miracle.
From Italian Pride Is Revived in a Tiny Fiat - New York Times

If the Bug and the Mini Cooper can make comebacks, why not the 500? But I don’t think it can count as a 500 unless it is small and light enough for two people to carry into a church. Something my father and uncle may have done many years ago.

Toyota to Test Plug-In Hybrid, Rivaling G.M.

Toyota's announcement is its first formal confirmation that it is ready to test plug-in hybrid vehicles, which environmentalists say may prove to be cleaner and more fuel-efficient than current hybrids.
From Toyota to Test Plug-In Hybrid, Rivaling G.M. - New York Times

I think everyone knew this would eventually happen. I predict that some early adopters will be charging their hybrids via solar for added smugness and/or energy efficiency. The plug-in is the perfect suburban car, designed for frequent short drives and the assumption that it will be parked in a garage.

Brits Go Green with Eco-M 100 MPG Sports Car

Eco-M, a bare-bones sporty car with a 1.4-liter gasoline engine. The car will be able to sip fuel and still go fast, capable of far greater than 100 miles per gallon because of its lightweight carbon fiber construction.

I wonder if cars like this will lead to rally-races where the winner is the team that can drive above a certain speed for the most number of laps on a fixed amount of fuel. That would be an amazing engineering challenge with a lot of real world value.

Fuel-Efficient Cars Help Toyota to Strong Profits

TOKYO, Aug. 4 - Toyota Motor Company said its income jumped 39.2 percent to $3.2 billion during the second quarter, boosted by strong sales of fuel-efficient vehicles in the United States, where it passed Ford Motor Company in July sales to rank as the second-biggest automaker behind General Motors.
From New York Times

While the knee-jerk reaction might be a snide remark about Detroit only being profitiable when gas is cheep and the demand for giant cars is high, but I see another set of problems here.

First, the fact that Honda and Toyota can make cars in the US better than GM or Ford shows that there is a problem with management and not with the workers. Second, part of this problem is that Honda and Toyota have a much lower legacy cost. A large part of the GM sticker price is the cost of paying pensions and health care benefits for retired workers. By making health care and pensions backed by companies rather than the state, brand new US subsidiaries of foreign companies have an advantage over US firms. Lastly, the lack of a national energy policy that would put pressure on Detroit has lead to complacency. You would think that they might have learned a thing or two from the 1970s and wouldn’t be caught by surprise by the same geo-political surprise again. And you would be wrong.

So what can be done about this? First, a new energy policy targeting an overall improvement in fuel economy. Second, a national health care and pension plan overhaul to eliminate; or at least mitigate, the disadvantages of legacy costs. Lastly, there needs to be a policy of promoting long term planning so managers will be less likely to sabotage a firms future for a few good quarters.