Chuck, those are interesting results. I still think that there is lots more efficiency to be had from the internal combustion engine. In Europe there are lots more diesels. They burn clean and get better mileage. About 10 years ago, when I lived in the UK, gas was at least $4 per gallon. I had a car with a 3L engine and an automatic, and I couldn't sell it. Prices were going up at the time. I ended up giving it to the church. I recently heard that manual transmission cars were selling better here. That is what I ran into in England. People generally bought stick shifts.
Lately, I got my car serviced and they put in new spark plugs and injectors (the car has lots of miles). My in city mileage has gone up by about 5 MPG. We can tune the cars we have to run better. On the other hand there is a disturbing trend I see in the US auto industry. They still don't get it. Over the last five years or so, Detroit has been working on getting more power of the same size engine rather than making smaller engines (with better fuel economy) for the same size car. The engine comparable to the one in my car that is available now gets 50 to 75 HP more. That is 20-25% better. They could have increased fuel effeciency by that amount. I think that gasoline cars with 40 to 50 MPG (for a full size car) is doable in the next few years. Will Detroit get there first?
As for what alternative power train I would be interested in, it would have to be a Volt type power train. I believe that is called serial hybrid. The Volt is also plug in. I often go for a while doing only local driving. Now, a Volt running on natural gas would be the best for cost. If there was a real spike in prices, I could modify my habbits (take more public transport, etc.) to almost eliminate gasoline usage with a plug in. On the other hand, the up front costs are so high that the payback take a while with a hybrid. That, of course, depends on the cost of gasoline. Consumption is going down and new sources are being found, so I wonder if we will see those Europe like prices (which are driven by tax policy).
My husband just got a new car with a diesel engine and he is reporting a huge difference in miles per gallon. Perhaps not as ground-breaking as an alternative power train vehicle, but a start. It was definitely a requirement when considering the next car and my guess is given that he's seeing noteable savings, it will remain a key selling point going forward on any and all new car leases/purchases. Grabbing some mind share in terms of what people consider in terms of requirements is a great start to get some mojo for this new class of vehicles.
Its only in the past 2 years that regulatory changes cleaned up (sulfur removed) our diesel fuel supply enough to make it possible to make a 50 state passenger emission legal machine. (large trucks don't have to meet the same standards). If you couldn't sell a model to the single biggest car market (California) most vendors weren't willing to spend the money to certify. (only VW bothered)
One reason for some of the mileage increase over a gas engine is the fuel. While a diesel is indeed a more efficient engine, the real gain is that diesel fuel has a higher energy content (20%) by volume than gasoline, even higher in places where they get to spike it with 10% ethanol.
Long term, I see hydrogen and oxygen either in a fuel cell hybrid electric, or internal combustion ceramic engine running at more efficient higher temperatures.
Nearer term, perhaps a reacter could drive combustable liquids or gasses from coal, wood, food compost, manure, or even human excrement (put pollution byproducts to good use).
Short term, I would probably be looking at turbo diesel, and hybrid electric vehicles. Maybe biodiesel using peanut oil (indirect solar and a regenerative resource). If need be, As a less preferred choice, I could see using alternate fuels such as alcohol, E85, methane, or LP. Alcohol has shortcomings for starting and cold weather. Methane and LP would probably be somewhat linked to gasoline prices and may not be regenerative (sustainable).
I agree, Louis, diesels burn clean, get better mileage and are a solid choice. One of the truly odd results of this study, however, was the fact that only 15% of respondents considered diesel engines as an alternative, but 18% considered...hydrogen fuel cells. When I first saw that, I did a doubletake. For me, this is an indication that some of the respondents really didn't know anything about alternative powertrains. In a sense, it may tell us something: A lot of people have no idea what they'd do if gas prices hit $8 or $10 per gallon.
First off, Chuck, with those high gas prices, people would probably drive less, which would dampen demand and bring the cost down. The high gas prices would also fuel (so to speak) more exploration and extraction technologies (as we've seen in recent years). All of that would increase supply and bring down gas prices. When it comes down to it, high gas prices cannot be sustained -- as odd as that may sound.
Thanks for the article, Chuck. It dovetails with what I've been seeing. This reminds me of the 70s, with all of the hand wringing over oil shortages. Yet every time the price spikes for an extended time, we start finding new sources -- or new extraction methods. The Saudis have been worried about this -- as well they should be. They were hoping they could keep oil at $80 in hopes of warding off all this exploration, technology development, and efficiency development
That's interesting Chuck. Domestic oil production covers 58% of our oil now, and that is expected to increase. Add the vast amounts of domestic natural gas coming onto the market, and we're actually headed for energy independence. That was unimaginable just five years ago.
Yes, things are changing, Chuck. However things change, there will still be increasing pressure for efficiency and alternative sources of energy. It seems these pressures are spurring a good deal of technological development.
Rob--I certainly agree. I feel that natural gas will be the fuel of the future relative to automobiles. I know there are issues, maybe huge issues, with infrastructure but I think those can be and will be worked out when the buying public realizes that petroleum-based products reach a certain cost level. Natural gas is one of the most abundant resources we have and it's only a matter of time before its sustained application becomes a fact. The changes needed to hardware when using natural gas are minimal compared to the initial cost of EVs and even hybrids. Right now, the cost to replace an EV battery is a small fortune. The buying public knows this and it's one reason their popularity has become stagnant.
Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens with the development a natural gas, Bobjengr. We have a number of busses where I love that are powered by natural gas. I understand it burns cleaner than oil, not sure by how much on a mile-by-mile comparison.
When I retired, I stopped using my van, and gave it away to a youngster who needed it. I bought an all electric scooter since most of the time I'd be commuting locally. It costs me 11 cents of hydro every two days and is a lot of fun to ride around in. Even in Canadian winters it's usable once the roads are plowed and the savings in the first year were close to $4000 taking into account that there was no insurance, no licence fees of any kind in comparison to the van use...admittedly the van had heavy duty use all over the Province. Nevertheless at the power scale (500 watts) the all electric scooter is an example of just what can be accomplished in small mileage commuting. It doesn't burn rubber at the lights but for 10 milliseconds you can outaccelerate anything on the road!
At 500Watts maximum and with pedals installed and governed to 32 kph the electric scooters are regarded as power assisted bicycles in Ontario, Canada so the only legal requirement is to wear a DOT approved helmet. It gets better. They are allowed on bike trails and since most of these in Ontario are built on disused railway corridors getting from A to B is a straight line with no traffic signals.
I'm located in Port Colborne at the Lake Erie end of the Welland canal. Folks from New York State (mainly Buffalo) come across to ride the trails with scooters they bought in Canada.It's reckoned because the population density is much lower here in Canada the risk factor involved in power assisted bicycling/scootering is lower...less insurance complications. There are a few complaints...such as the scooters are so quiet, pedestrians don't hear them coming up behind them. The horns tend to be raucous and walkers jump if you use them indiscriminately....it's easier to clear your throat and call out "passing on your left"!
A parallel hybrid is a far better choice. First a metal shaft is a whole lot more efficient at power transfer than generator/charge battery/electric motor. (with the overhead of the batteries being the big hit. Typically you only get 70% of what you put in back out. The electric motors do a lot better, usually >95%.)
But the other problem is system weight. You need a generator that is capable of generating the full power output of the engine, and an electric drive motor that has all the horsepower that you need to accellerate. (bigger than the generator by the batteries peak discharge rate) Both of those mean a lot of weight that you rarely use. Sure you could take the tack that you size engine and generator for average power required, making both smaller, but you still need the big drive motor, and a battery pack capable of pure electric's discharge rates.
A parallel hybrid means a much smaller generator, as it only needs to output the batteries charge rate limit. This will be is a lot lower than the discharge limit. (typically 10% of discharge max if you want them to not catch fire). The drive motor(s) only need to produce power up to the limit of your battery discharge rate, need more power, fire the IC engine, its power just adding.
If you are clever about it, the motor(s) are also the generator. In the case of Honda, they built a motor/generator combo into the flywheel. (single motor system, means they can't move without the engine turning). I have heard it reffered to as an "electric turbo", with the bonus of rapid engine restart to allow for stoplight engine shutdown.
In the case of the Toyota system (The Ford system is basically the same layout), they use two electric motors, connected to the IC engine thru a planetary gear. This allows them to move without the engine turning. They also use the electric motors to synthesize the cars CVT "transmission", there is no conventional gearbox, or the variable pulleys of a normal CVT. The IC engine is connected to the sun gear, one motor/gen drives the planet carrier, and the ring gear has a chain drive to the drive axle, which has the second electric motor directly connected (it is always turning when the car is moving). With the car moving and IC engine off, the electric motor connected to the planet carrier just freewheels. With the IC engine turning, the control system picks a rpm and direction for planet's driving motor to give the desired ratio thru to the ring gear.
What people say they will buy is not necessarily what they will buy. Note the return of the Charger, Challenger, Camaro, and Mustang. All are more fuel-efficient than the original, but hardly high-mileage. Many car commercials portray their cars as 'fun to drive'. Mileage may be important, but for many drivers the more important thing is the image that the car is sporty and sexy.
I would still put safety first - but that is the "mom" in me...that said, I just went from a 2005 Sport Trac (which I looked very good driving to the barn I might add) to a 1997 Lumina - not sexy but much more fuel efficient. We just came back from a 1000 mile round trip visit to see family and couldn't be more pleased with the gas mileage, especially after having travelled it in the Sport Trac. We actually took a hit to sell the Sport Trac but felt it well worth it.
I think I would be more prone to evaluating driving habits and see where I could improve rather than going to a different technology, but then I am one that wants to see things thoroughly tested and out there awhile before using it myself. My other suggestion which I personally favor is riding my horse for transportation but if the drought keeps up, the price of hay will be greater than the cost of gasoline!
Well we bought the hybrid 11 years ago, when its finally time to replace it, I expect that we will buy a plug in hybrid, or a pure electric. (our normal useage patterns would still fit with the prius 15 miles pure electric, I expect the gasoline would be in the tank long enough that deteroation might be a real concern).
But for most day to day use, I would make an even larger mode shift to human power. I would add a trailer to handle the volume of a typical grocery run, and it would be the prod I need to finish building a velomobile (a fully enclosed, 3 wheeled biycle) for use during the snow season. (should we still have those in future). I have had the steel cut for the frame for more than a decade, haven't gotten around to finish building the jig to hold it together while I weld it together.
The bigger problem with a hike in fuel prices will be what it does to the cost of food. A lot of fuel goes into that hamburger, and not just shipping it from farm to table.
While it's understandable that consumers would be more likely to consider a hybrid if gas spiked, the cost of oil may not rise as quickly as we once thought. Ironically, the melting artic ice is opening new areas for considerable oil pumping. I wonder whether a series of hot summers might change the reluctance of American consumers to embrace more profound green changes that could boost hybrid sales.
Chuck, I agree that the bottom line is that many consumers have apparently reached a tipping point in terms of vehicle selection and gas prices. Nothing drives technology change like market forces and the movement of $$$.
I will certainly stay home more, shop less, buy less, and watch the spiral down to oblivion as prices continue to rise. I already make more careful choices when I drive as the expense is painful. That can't be good for the economy, especially since there is gobs of energy left untapped. And electric is no good, as electricity is so expensive, as well.
I think Fred Flintstone had it right 100,000 years ago!
Good thinking, Warren. I would probably ride a bike to local stores and to visit family nearby. We would limit car trips--we share one vehicle--to one or two a week and spend the day buying groceries, running errands, etc. I'd get haircuts at home and we'd start to grow some of our own food. Lots of ways to overcome high gas prices and higher prices overall.
I grew up in Chicago and never owned a car until I moved out of town, when I was in my mid-20s. There was no need; I could take public transportation anywhere I wanted to go. I never had to make a car payment or an insurance payment, pay for parking, or buy gas. I could also read, study, or do homework during my commute. talk on my cell phone without having to worry about getting a ticket, and sleep without having to worry about getting in an accident (although I did have to worry about missing my stop).
The total cost was about $1000 a year in passes, plus occasionally having to stand outside in the snow waiting for the bus. I consider it one of the best deals I've ever had.
Show me a hybrid with that kind of ROI and I'll buy it!
You bring up a good point, Dave. Public transportation is a viable alternative to owning a car. I, too, grew up in Chicago and took the "el" to college. I didn't buy my first new car until age 33 (although I did own a few old beaters before then). Urban infrastructure often makes it easy to function without a car, and sometimes even makes it difficult to keep one.
In this part of Michigan public transportation is NOT a viable alternative for getting to any of the jobs that I have worked at in the past 30 years. UNless you consider that walking a mile or more and spending over an hour on bisses to go 15 or 20 miles is fine. If you have nothing better to do with your life than wait on busses, then busses would be fine. But especially at the end of a long day, an hour and a half spent with busses is a lot worse than a half hour drive home.
Public tranportation makes a lot of sense in some large urban areas, William K, but certainly not all. And probably not in a lot of suburban and rural areas. There's nothing worse than standing on a corner in January, waiting for a bus to show up. As in your case, it doesn't work for everyone.
This would be my general way of dealing with high gas prices. There would be less 500 mile trips for vacation by car. Hopefully, if gas prices go up it will be enough of an ROI that train lines will start with increased focus on passenger travel.
Tim, obviously public transportation systems or pooled vehicles are more economical in the current situation. I strongly believe that state/federal governments have to focus much on these directions to strengthen the public transportation system. This can reduce the traffic and related environmental issues.
We already have a cost effective, fuel efficient car (paid for, 30+MPG). Given the tax issues people have had with biodiesel and woodgas conversions I think we'll stay away from alternative fuels for now.
If gas prices continue to rise I would prefer to continue with a used, cost effective car (not bleeding edge fuel economy and a lot less expensive) and focus on my other fuel bills (home heating, electricity) instead. I can make those changes without running foul of the IRS and the ROI is a lot quicker than a Prius or Volt.
Outside of the US, gas prices are already the equivalent of $5, $6, or even $7 a gallon.
If it happens here, we'll adapt, as humans do. In places where gas prices are higher, I've noticed that people live differently. They'll walk 6 blocks to go to lunch. In the US, co-workers will jump in someone's car to go 3 blocks. Trips are planned more economically and cars are a luxury.
Most of those countries are smaller than the US, some even smaller than Califirnia. Because of that, they have a more established public transit system.
Personally, I'd ride my motorcycle or bicycle more often and save the car for trips that require it.
@NadineJ: I agree with you whole heartedly about humans' capacity to adapt. Surburban and city dwellers should be relying a whole lot more on mass transit or their own feet. Bikes are a great option as well. Where I live out in the country, it gets a bit more complicated because nothing is close. But I'm trying to encourage my kids to do more travel without cars--bike riding, long boarding, whatever. In business terms, I think it's less about the technology advancements and really boils down to a cultural/change management challenge, which in the end, is much harder nut to crack.
Charles, buying a vehicle is somewhat easy because it's a onetime investment, but now a day's maintenance is a big concern due to the rising fuel cost and related issues. So some measures have to be taken care by the state/federal governments to control the fuel pricing or by automobile industry for a better yield vehicle. I know due to the increasing maintenance cost, some of my friends are keeping there vehicles in garage and depending more on public transpiration systems.
My answer: Already have a Prius, and I would buy a Leaf, keeping the Prius for when I need to make long trips.
I recently read some numbers in "a leading consumer magazine" (take a guess!). At current US national-average pricing for gasoline and home electicity, here are some very-approximate numbers, based upon typical city vs. highway driving.
Typical small pure-gasoline car = 11 cents/mile.
Prius = 6.8 cents/mile.
Volt = 5 cents/mile on electric. I don't remember their estimate on gasoline, but I think it was around 12 cents/mile.
Leaf = 3.5 cents/mile, ~75 mile range.
To be more precise, that was based upon national-average prices at the time the article was published, at which time gasoline was a tad higher than now, but not much.
Good numbers! So the best rate, at 15000 miles/year saves me $1125 a year. I'm atypical, I keep a car about 10 years (and hope the batteries aren't dead by then), that's $11,250. MSRP on the Leaf : 35,200. MSRP on a decked out Titanium 4-door Ford Focus, 23,495. So I wouldn't make my money back unless I get government subsidies. No matter how much DN tries to push them, electric vehicles don't make economic sense in 2012.
It really points out in an easy to understand method the saving behind buying based on MPG $. It shows that as long as you have a 20/30 car there isn't much savings at all to go much higher as savings follows a curve not a linear path. While the tech might be cool, it won't save you much money. "Saving the world" is different than saving money.
I'd just cut my driving to the bone and pay the price. Arden has it correct and it should be a bit self evident to technician/engineer types unless you're driving outrageous distances per year. There is such a thing as "destructive demand". Every time gas spikes up, it destroys a certain amount of demand that will not come back.
independent industrial studies have shown, gasoline distilled from liquifed coal becomes cheaper than gas from petroleum, when oil reaches 34$ a barrel. obama who forsees america powered by electricy from solar and wind, which currently supply around 2% of our power, as neither energy source instrumentation has operated as planned, his second choice is electric cars, whereby electricy is currently supplied by coalfired power plants he plans to close. while it seems he has not thought the plan through unless we reduce our consumption by 87 %. Its like the EV plan he supports with taxpayer money, jobs created offshore, mostly, just has not been able to happen, if you read plugincars.com. the logical approach gasoline from coal is prevented from fruition, by the petroleum lobbie, capable of bribing the EPA in not allow coal-gas---the logical thing to do is fire obama and his 300 czars, and make the epa more ethical, not being influenced by the petroleum lobbie, but since obama came inti power through the 2008 ACOrn Election Fraud, whereby he put the acorn splinter groups in charge of census, which includes voter protocol---now the idependent consortium have classed usa's democracy as th 6th most corrupt democrcy in the world--- dictatorships hold elections similar to obamas plan to continue his destruction of our nation, nothing short of; civil war, or martial law, will see a responsible government in our nation.
I am sorry, but I do not have any enthusiasm whatsoever for hybrid cars. I tend to keep my cars long term(I have one I bought new 23 years ago) and from my viewpoint hybrids are expensive disposable vehicles. I also do a lot of my own work on my cars and hybrids are off limits for the average backyard mechanic. In addition hybrids are a very poor investment as the cost to replace the battery pack will exceed the value of the car down the road. Many owners of these novelty cars will end up scrapping them when it is time for new batteries. If you trade vehicles every few years and are the type that has to have the latest gadget and have money to burn, by all means knock yourself out and go buy one. For those that think long term, this may not be for you.
I would use my bicycle for every trip I could. I already have a small, inexpensive economy car for commuting to work. If gas reached $10/gal, that car would likely become the family car, and my commuter would become a bicycle or small motorcycle.
Any newfangled technology still has to obey the law of physics, which dictates that it requires a certain amount of energy to propel 4000lbs to 60mph. Technology can't change that. There are still a few technological improvements available for mileage improvements, but if the American consumer insists on using these improvements to propel 4000-5000lbs vehicles (mostly empty) to conduct 1 mile trips, we'll have wasted most of those improvements. I had an 83 Honda CRX that got >50mpg hwy and 35 city. How, in '83, could it do that? It weighed 1800lbs.
A couple of years ago, I was in the market for a new car, and I made a spreadsheet (just like an engineer) of all the cars I was interested in, and several I wasn't, just for comparison. I computed the estimated costs of ownership (time based) and operation (mileage based) for each car. The cheapest vehicles to own & operate were not hybrids. At $5/gal, Toyota's own Corolla was still cheaper than a Prius. Hybrids didn't become the cheapest until the cost of fuel went up to something like $10/gal.
We already have a hybrid but I am also open to highly-efficient gasolene cars as well. Most, if not all new and upcoming vehicles are lighter via the use of more high-strength steel, plastics, composites, and aluminum. That's a refreshing change compared to the steady increase in vehicle size and weight that we've seen throughout the years.
Diesel fuel is still too expensive, at least on the west coast. Many hybrids run on regular gas, whereas diesel cars must use fuel that is often higher in cost than premium.
@Dave - You raise an interesting question. Why is Diesel fuel so expensive? It is a less refined product compared to gasoline meaning that you can yeild more of it from a barrel of crude. Yet, here in Kaleefornya, it is always a few points higher than premium gasoline. Back when I purchaed my old '84 300D 12 years ago, diesel was 20-30% less than the cheapest gasoline. Now, California is further penalizing diesel owners by requiring them to pay (~$80) for a so-called smog check. They don't even measure emmissions, they just check to make sure you have not made any changes to vehicle's intake or exhaust system. Takes about 5 minutes.
Your are correct. The funny thing is that few diesel vehicle reveiws include a comparison of fuel costs. To say that a VW Golf diesel' fuel mileage is about the same as that of a Prius is deceptive, since the Prius uses fuel that can cost 20-30 cents less per gallon. There have been times when I've seen a disparity of more than 50 cents per gallon. That can be significant.
By the way, I have heard that hybrids may be subject to smog inspections (California) in the near future. They are currently exempt.
My wife and I have started to evaluate alternatives, although they are established technologies: We have considered buying motorcycles to supplement our cars for daily commuting. I have never been much for on-road motorcycles, but the economics work (low cost, 50+ mpg).
Diesel is also a good alternative. You get power and efficiency boosts. We are considering buying a dually to replace our ½ ton pickup. Better power which means better towing, and better mileage. The fuel costs more, but that is mainly artificial and varies state by state.
The drawbacks of EVs and Hybrids will still be present regardless of the fuel price manipulation. Plug-ins will be affected as the price of electricity "necessarily skyrocket(s)"-B. Obama. Hybrids are only a marginal solution and primarily marketing hype until we see some technological breakthrough.
The unintended consequences are going to be much more widespread than simple transportation. Food prices are already climbing. Major changes to the living standards and population distributions are likely to result. Suburban dwellers will start to look at moving closer to work or pushing to work remotely. We will adapt, as a society; or fracture and make the necessary corrections to the source of the problem.
There is a saying about motorcycle riders that is very true: It is not "if" you will get into an accident; it is "when". I rode a motorcycle to work for years until a motorist didn't see me (despite an always-on headlight) and crossed in front of me. I was on crutches for weeks and have permanent scarring and nerve damage. Each of my friends and coworkers who rode motorcycles have been in accidents, some hadn't survived.
My advice, don't be tempted to use a motorcycle to same money; your life is more valuable than any savings you may realize.
walking and city busses are becomin more and more popular as homelessness is increasing exponentially, as unemployment eventually ends, making the unemployment look better, but does not help those without a job, while barrys stimulus mostly goes to sources who continue to export our jobs to slave nations, like china where the worker makes 3.8 cents that an american worker makes---since 2001 when we began free trade with chine 42,000 of our factories have gone there, or 2/3rds of our factories, and the slave goods super stores have shuttered most small family businesses, as witnessed by the way things are. Its never ever discussed in the newsmedia but restoring import taxation while restoring american workplace would appear to be the ultimate answer, but the lobbies, do not writeup the laws like that, their clients won't allow it
I live in California where fuel prices are generally the highest in the country. I have a long commute (70 miles each way), so I recently loked at all of the alternatives and choice a VW diesel wagon. It serves to fill two key needs I had...room to haul stuff and fuel efficient. I am approaching 20K miles in 9 months, and my combined MPG is around 43-44 mpg. Today on my way into work I got 53.9 mpg. I generally get about 600 miles/tank easily. Why today's clean diesel cars are in such low demand in the US is a mystery to me. By the way rjnerd, diesel is never combined with ethanol, but it is often combined with biodiesel. Speaking of Ethanol, the recent corn crop crisis will shoot corn-based ethanol prices thru the roof. Ethanol should never have been based on a food stock such as corn, but rather another other agricultural plants. Flex fuel vehicles are a shell game done by the auto makers to artifically raise their CAFE levels, because realistically, almost no one that owns one fuels with anything other than straight gasoline. Even regular gas vehicles can tolerate the usual blends of gas/ethanol that are more commonly available, so what is the point of "flex-fuel" designations?
1. What is the real impact of adding ethanol to the gasoline we use now? Increasing ethanol content does decrease gas mileage.
2. How will the government tax the electricity that is used to charge the batteries in the electric cars? Electric cars should have to pay their share of street, highway bridge and tunnel wear and tear.
Sounds like we are approaching the law of unintended consequences.
considering all actions, and executive orders sinca barry got into his position, future america doesnot look too good, if you are in the common american group currently occupying 80 % of domestic jobs which pay near or below minimum wage, and it looks like the census bureau, appointed by barry from the ranks of acorn whoes 2008 election fraud put him into office, will insure his continued dictatorship
I moved within 5 miles of my job, so I didn't care what my fuel economy was (didn't matter anyway, since the car didn't have time to exit open loop mode, so bad mileage no matter what car I had). Then my job moved 35 miles away. Now I commute 60 miles each day and bought a FFH (gas-electric hybrid) to compensate (it also offsets the carbon footprint of my Mustang ;)
Take care in assuming the people in the survey represent consumers in general. They are members of Consumer reports (as am I), and tend to be of a more liberal bent (as I am not). It's not accurate to extrapolate to the american pool of consumers from this survey.
As soon as I saw that diesels were so far down the list I chuckled (it implied that the respondents were more being politically correct and "Green" than frugal).
Yes, Carter was an engineer. And while Carter had his troubles, he was the first and only president who had an energy policy. That was engineering thinking, and it was smart. Unfortunately, he didn't have the political skills to sell it.
Hey Dave, I thought Hoover came from the business world. Maybe he was an engineer before he went into business. I think the office of president is a leadership and political position that requires communication abilities over analytical abilities.
Yes, Watashi, it was the oil embargo. These days that couldn't happen. The sources for energy are much more diverse than in the lates 70s. We're only getting about 16% of our oil from the Persian Gulf now. We get more from Canada.
Everyone has their own decisions to make for coping with gas prices. The comments to date here have been relevant, and dealt with all the variables feeding universal as well as personal factors to list in the decision matrix: cost, financing costs, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, fees & taxes, repairs, milage driven per year, mpg of their current vehicle vs. newer one, personal options to minimize their costs, etc. I drive a 10 year old Suzuki Aerio SX which I bought in 2004 when it was 2 years old. While depreciation has been low, repairs were high, as several major components were replaced. I have been considering replacing the Suzuki with a 2 or 3 year old car, and was quite surprised when doing an 8 year "cost of ownership" calculation that fuel amounted to 26% for 8k m/yr and 40% for 15k m/yr. My point? Before you make any changes to trade in your gas engined car for a hybrid or a diesel, do an honest cost of wnership calculation. You may be surprised at the relative costs of fuel to other expenses, especially depreciation. When I was working I often traveled to Europe where they have had high fuel prices for many decades. Many folks there drove tiny, uncomfortable vehicles (1500cc stick shifts) to deal with the costs. Today, fuel prices are still high, but diesels are have become very popular. Do your cost of ownership calculation. An honest one. You may be surprised as I was.
Electric vehicles seem to be the Holy Grail of vehicles - "They don't pollute", well, at least not to locally. Hybrid - How can a vehicle that turns chemical energy, into mecahical energy, into electrical energy be more efficient?
There have been readily avaiable options out there for cheaper operation, but most people don't like them. The various VW diesels, I had a Dodge Neon that got 40MPG at 70MPH - stock. Motorcycles 40 - 80 MPG.
Problem with electric vehicles is range - 40 miles? Would leave me 2 miles from home on an average workday. Forget about checking in on the transmitter site or the sales office 60 miles away. An how many folks wouldn't get to work, forget about getting home , beacuse the mileage from the batteries is just no practical? And to increase the range you have to add weight, and that in turn hurts the range. And what about enough electricity to charge them if everyone went to electric, and the old economic rule of supply and demand - more demand for electricity is going to drive prices up. And with coal being made the boogy man, electricity is going to get more expensive in order to build new or rebuild old generatin facilities. So it just got more expensive to heat/cool/ventilate my house and cook my food and heat my water... It okay because it is for what someone has deemed "a good cause"? How many of these "good causes" of thiers can you support?
The VW diesels sound nice, but is it true te cost of the special oil you have to run in the engine. Definately something that must be considerred as the cost of ownership.
Motorcycles are a great method of transportation. Most places they can't be the only means - up north it gets too cold and icy for a portion of the year, and in the south it gets too hot. (I have lived in western New York and now live in south Texas) so there are a few months when one might be less than desirable, but they are an option, if purchased with a thought to gas consumption rather than image (huge cruisers get no better mileage than a small car) Many if driven with some attention to speed and acceleration exceed 40MPG.
As an interresting anecdote - about 6 years ago I had a Dodge Neon. 4 Cyl. Back and forth to work I got 30 - 32 MPG. I took a trip for work from northern Indiana to southern Tennessee. I averaged 40MPG at 70 MPH. When I got back there was a discussion on a web forum about mileage and efficiency. One individual there argued that his hybrid, which he got 35MPG was more efficient that my Neon that had just gotten 40MPGF. His reason - His was a hybrid so it had to be more efficient.
The other side of the equation is those who, for status or ignorance, have to have the biggest vehicle they can find to prove something. And you see them everyday with only 1 person on board. 40K for a status 4WD behemoth, or 40K for a puny hybrid...
Another though is the complexity of the hybrid vehicle. My vehicles can, for the most part be maintained at home. Oil changes and grease jobs, spark plugs and cables, brakes. None need any special technology and most can do it without much difficulty. What happens if something electrical or electronic has a problem (and sooner or later it will) Can I fix it, or do I have to pay someone $60 per hour to fix it? How much does that add to the cost of ownership? And how long will those batteries last, and how much to replace them? And how will those batteries do when it gets cold out, and they lose 30% of their capacity because of the cold? Can't just put them in my pocket like I do for my RC planes.
Diesel - for some reason they are not popular in the USA. Why? the fuel smells funny? They are different? It would also seem that government regulations seem to be against them. Diesel Smart Car in Canada at 50MPG, gas in US at 30MPG? Europe likes them, but they have never caught on here, except with a few that jsut love them. Complexity also is a factor. You have the engine, and a fuel injector pump/system that costs almost as much as the engine. (past experience as a Mercedes diesel owner) If you don't treat your fule it can be very expensive to have an injector or pump repaired/replaced.
One of the things that I don't see in most of these discussions, is if gasoline is $7 a gallon will electrical energy be any cheaper? I also don't think the west coast power grid could handle the increase in draw if the percentage of electrics increased 10%. I would convert to hydrogen myself. I have investigated using fuel cell technology to split water using a photovoltaic array. a properly designed fuel cell can produce hydrogen at up to 3000 psi if designed to contain it. Your tank can become a super efficient battery. Cars can run it directly using technology that is available now. Range suffers a bit but it is still much better than EVs. There was a lot of fuel cell technology available 5-8 years ago but I believe many of the manufacturers have been bought up by automakers who want to "black box" the technology. I am no conspiracy type, rather I think they want to position themselves for best profit. The fact is that we could also produce our own fuel, without road use taxes probably doesn't thrill the government who gets the lions share the cost of most gas taxes. If many converted to H2 there would likely be a bill to monitor your mileage to tax you enough! I am also a motorcycle rider to help on the cost of fuel front.
As a Leaf owner (and a previous hybrid owner), the cost/mile has been going down dramatically. The issue is range for the EV. If you can afford 2 cars, the commute vehicle for 95% of people could be an EV with its 60-100 mile range. The theoretical gasoline engine is about 35% efficient (from a Carnot cycle conversion point of view). Realistically speaking it is less than 20%. The EV converts 95% of its battery power to traction. If you compare the energy efficiency of an EV to a 30mpg car it is about 6 times more efficient. Interestingly, the cost of electricity is about the same as gasoline for the energy content. With time of use metering, it costs me about 1.5c/mile to drive the EV. No gasoline powered car will come close to this number. With solar panels, this number will approach 0c/mile operating cost. Yes, there are fixed initial costs, but cost of energy will never go down in the long term and so you will be ahead long term. It is also great that one never has to enter a gas station again except for the few times you need to drive long distance.
The comment I made, perhaps too off-handedly, was if gasoline goes to $7 a gallon in the US what would the electricity costs be? It still stands. You may get a reasonable return on your EV currently, but if we are pushed into a situation where the price of gas goes to $7 a gallon fuel for powerplants will likely increase as well. At the least it is going to go up. The other hidden cost is do we need to make infrastructure improvements if many more people turn to electrics? That cost is controlled by the government now, and if they decide that there is a need for road use taxes on electrics all cost savings will go right out the window.
Bill, a couple of points regarding rising energy costs - electricity can be generated by many means - coal, nuclear, solar, wind, hyrdo etc. Gasoline is imported from the Middle east or Canada and a few other countries. No other way out. So I don't see a strong relationship between gasoline prices and electricity prices. I don't think our electricity rates doubled or tripled like the gas prices did in the last 10 years. The other great thing about electricity is distributed generation vis-a-vis solar energy and grid infrastructure improvements can be managed. Nuclear power is the final way out (the environment WILL come second when we are starving for power!) for electricity generation and it will not be affected by the vagaries of the political situation in the Middle east. The road use issue is a separate topic of discussion. Again, it can be managed by reasonable compromise. Distance travelled with some accomodation for fuel efficiency. If you are an SUV driver with 10mpg fuel economy you will pay more. If you are an EV with 100-200mpg "fuel efficiency" you will pay appropriately.
Government interference, as in beware the. Gasoline from crude can be produced within the US, but the government restrictions prevent it from being profitable in many cases. As to the 100 miles per gallon equivelent for EVs there are many arguements against that. Solar and wind power provide about 2% of the power requirements now, and better than 10% is unlikely. I don't have a problem with other means of energy production, even Nuke, but if you think when they start building new power plants to supply EV demand that the price won't go up I would say you have been misinformed. I have nothing againt EVs either, other than the fact that I must commute beyond the range of the typical one. I would also like to see an EV stand alone on price without subsidies. As was mentioned before by someone my motorcycle gets 50 mpg on a bad day, and requires far fewer resources to build, where is my $7K subsidy?
I have an economy vehicle (motorcycle) that was $6K new, gets 50+mpg, costs about $100/year to insure, and does 0-to-60 under 4 seconds. The question was how would I cope. I am not advocating that you do the same, like many policy-loving hybrid advocates.
Mr. Spiegel, Thank you for your observation. I am quite aware of the slow growth of the American PV industry. As a country, we have not supported it the way the civilized world has. And even that support has come and gone depending on the politics of the moment. Some of my PV consulting clients have gone bust (and I took a beating). The cheap price of fossil fuels like natural gas ignores what economists call the Externalities--the environmental and social costs. The reductio ad absurdum of such reasoning would lead one to conclude that the cheapest way to obtain, say, a wristwatch is to mug soneone and steal it.
Until we realize that there is a public value in renewable energy along with conservation, and invest public resources to develop and deploy it (as we did railroads, aviation, highways, and conventional electric generation) we will continue to fall behind the rest of the world and do ourselves great harm in the long run.
Further to my earlier reply, I also would look into a conversion to compressed natural gas, which we have in abundance. The limitations include availability of CNG (we have 23 stations in Utah), cost/benefit ratio, and the capability to refuel at home.
If you want a car that gets 55 mpg then find one but to have the government mandate that car manufacturers have to sell cars that have a combined average of 55 mpg is insane. They can't do it with any technology we now have unless we ride mopeds. Plus that will mean if they sell a 20 mpg pickup they will have to sell either one 90mpg car or a whole bunch of 60 mpg cars to compensate. Its impossible and pickup trucks will be outlawed. 55 mpg requirements would cause car manufacturers to go out of business or the price of cars doubling or tripling. In the 70's we had cars that got 40 mpg but they weighed a lot less than the current crop of cars which get heavier and have more horsepower added all the time. Opinion polls only indicate what people think is a "good idea" not what is reality.
To create electrical energy with a generator, store it in a battery, and then use that energy to drive electric motors is inherently stupid. You just add efficiency losses at each conversion step. The only thing that a hybrid car does to increase the "mileage" of a car is recapture some of the energy that is usually wasted in braking.
Well first, the 2007 Escape Hybrid did save quite a bit of money and its fun to drive. When I saw the prices going up past $4/gal the first time, I bought a Chevy Silverado Hybrid pretty cheap in 2008 because the market was soft for trucks. It took a year to convince ICOM in New Hudson, MI to convert just one truck to LPG (http://www.icomnorthamerica.com/jtg-ii-bi-fuel-3), but now that it's done I'm ready for high gas prices. The inflection price point is about $3.75 per gallon of gasoline, cheaper than that then I run gasoline, at $4/gal of gas it's a no brainer and LPG is cheaper to run. Hopefully the price of LPG will go down a bit as is the price of natural gas.
A word about the natural gas buzz; it is just not economical or practical for most personnel transportation vehicles. It is the fuel to weight ratio that is a problem. Even if you get a Honda NGV, it only has about 8 GGE and has less than a 200 mile range, and then you pay an $8000 premium. They have them at your local Honda dealer, lots of them are available. Wonder why... When you study Nat gas, you find that it is really only feasible for commercial trucks and busses. It's the energy to weight ratio that doesn't work. Most talking heads nowadays seem to think physics and chemistry is magic. Anyway, it's the LNG that is truly the commercial vehicle fuel of our times, but the infrastructure is very expensive and not yet built out.
On the other hand, LPG has a decent energy capacity and a fuel to weight ratio that is doable for light trucks. Add to that the near universal availability of LPG you have a good start. But still, there are more considerations. Look at the engine dyno tests from GM, for example, and you find that autogas (LPG auto fuel's real name) has a power curve very nearly identical to a gasoline fuel. If you do choose to convert to a gaseous fuel, you will need to consider a trade-off for the space that the tank will take in your vehicle.
I have an NGV (I bought it used quite cheap) and it used to be my commute car until I got an EV. It got me around 220 miles on a tank. The issue with NGVs is an infrastructure issue. The high-pressure tanks can usually fill one vehicle at a time even at the commercial places where trucks use them. If you go during business hours, you might end up waiting 1/2hr to get your turn to fill. The fill itself takes only a few minutes. Imagine hundreds of NGV cars trying to do the same. It just doesn't scale. Nobody is willing to pay for the massive infrastructure upgrade- it is a precursor to the hydrogen fuel issues which need 10,000 psi filling stations. One can got home filling stations like Phill which can do the same, but you need to pay $2,000 or more to get it installed (assuming you have natural gas and you own your home).
Extreme high gas prices would probably mean all energy would be expensive so I'd relocate from Oregon to some warmer Southern "red" state. Also, Republican controlled states also have a better chance of surviving the economic conditions that would follow since it would be adaptable to the changes. The blue states like Oregon would just go bust. I'd use a motorcycle for transportation and my pickup for hauliing.
I put about 4,000 miles per year on my 27 year old Toyota truck (which on the highway still gets 30 mpg), mainly using it to drive to my commuter van stop and on errands around our small town of population 30,000. Right now, the monthly fee for riding the van is $94. If gas rose to $6.00/gal, the monthly fee would probably increase to ~$130. $130 per month isn't bad for a 60 mile round trip commute. Plus, the fee for the commuter van is deducted from my paycheck in pre-tax funds.
My other vehicle is a newer Toyota sedan and gets slightly lower gas mileage. We rack up 8,000-10,000 miles per year on this vehicle and it's 14 years old. I'd consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle to replace it the next time costly maintenance is on the horizon.
During the period when I'm deciding on a replacement vehicle(s), I'd consolidate trips, cut down on leisure travel, etc.
It is NOT surprising that the market reality is different that the CS survey. The survey was requesting info from drivers relative to potential future purchases.
When faced with a choice between wants and a covey of unacceptable vehicles, of course reality will be different.
I work somewhere between 6 and 30 miles from work, depending on the facility I need to visit today. Scratch electric. I am NOT going to pay $60k plus for an all-electric that will take me on a worse-case trip and back home again.
My experience with hybrids (neighbors and co-workers) is that they are NOT reliable during Deep South summers. They experience overheating controllers during stop and go traffic.
Both my hybrid owning neighbors have had their 'drive systems' replaced due to this. 'Drive system' consists of the electric/gas powerplant, charging system and battery pack. Both, thankfully, were accomplished under warranty.
Alternative propulsion vehicles are coming, the promise is real and eventually they will become acceptable from a reliability and cost standpoint.
Mandating sales quotas, even with with government 'rebates', and artificially inflating gasoline prices with taxes is theft, short and sweet.
The petroleum market is NOT a free market. Crude prices and volume are fixed by the producers (including us). Gasoline prices are based less on fluctuating demand and more on the total take that the refiners and sellers want to realize for the quarter.
Good thoughts. For those of us that typically travel less than 25 miles a day to and from work - a bicycle or a motorcycle would be a first response to high gas prices. Heck I might even carpool which automatically halves the passenger mile per gallon cost. Save the gas guzzler for long weekend trips.
I do one thing already, which is to ride my bicycle a whole lot, instead of driving. It can't do everything, but for a lot of what I do it works quite well. 8 miles to one employer, 4 miles to the other, neither one is that bad most of the time. That is part one of my solution.
Part 2 is the engine-off and coast driving method. An automatic that could disengage from the engine and re-engage smoothly would be half the solution, and a direct drive starter would be the balance of it. NO COMPUTER CONTROL would be the best mode, just a simple switch, or two switches, (off-on-start), and (drive/coast) are all that would need to be added. Of course there would need to be some wiring changes so that the gages and indicators would work with the engine off, and the turn signals would need to be active in the coast mode as well. In this part of Michigan, just using the switch-off-and-coast method of driving can save 50% on fuel consumption. Not bad for a zero modification approach. But with the addition of the direct drive starter and a better coasting disconnect the system could be a lot less work to use. And the very best part is that no new breakthroughs would be needed, although there wwould need to be an addition to the shift lever for the switches. Best of all, the benefits obtained would be in proportion to the drivers attentiveness and skill, which would probably make our roadways a lot safer. So why won't any auto company offer such a package? If they leave out the computer there is no chance of getting the controls program wrong and having "unintended acceellerations". I think that Buick already has the alternator that canndouble as a starter motor, although currently it is used for extra power. But it would start a warmed engine very well, I think.
"Of course there would need to be some wiring changes so that the gages and indicators would work with the engine off, and the turn signals would need to be active in the coast mode as well."
One problem would be loss of power steering and, more important, power brakes. When you need to stop quickly, you don't have time to restart the engine, especially if you're in panic mode and/or have the phone stuck to your ear. Even if you're just cruising down the interstate with little traffic, there's always that chance of something happening. But, just disengaging the engine from driveline (such as with a clutch) would save some fuel, as there would be little load on the engine other than the alternator, ps pump, water pump etc.
"Best of all, the benefits obtained would be in proportion to the drivers attentiveness and skill..."
You have far more faith in peoples' attention span and skill than I ever could!!!
Natural gas is a very good choice, since not only is the technology fairly mature and the hardware quite available, but also because there is a lot of natural gas available. We export natural gas, in fact.
The logistics of refueling would be a bit more complex, since those folks who can't work a gas pump properly would never be able to figure out the CNG connection, but gas fueled cars would be a good way to go. Couple them with a good start-stop engine control system and fuel consumption would drop a lot. Plus, the emissions would be reduced.
Of course, pumping up your tank at home could also be possible, with the right compressor, but those do cost a bit. Some folks might get upset about having a tank of pressurized gas in the car, but it should not be much of a hazard. It would probably be safer than the gasoline tanks because they would b smaller and much stronger. The challenge would be collecting our huge road taxes on gas pumped at home, since it is also used for heating.
Looks like Nissan Leaf owners don't like the range they're getting from these expensive battery-powered cars. Not only does this make no economic sense, little environmental sense (given the trade-offs), but it's becoming clearer that it makes no practical sense to drive an electric car.
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