Monday, December 29, 2008

Even More Electric Cars?

ZENN Electric CarOn my previous posts of electric vehicles I listed 6 internationally available electric vehicles. Who says there is not enough choice out there? I am still coming across additional manufacturers churning out these zero impact people movers.

The Zenn Motor Company based out of Canada produces the Zenn electric car. It is a full electric model that has a regulated top speed of 25 MPH and claims to have a range of 35 - 50 miles on a single charge. They are sold in North America. I am unable to find a price for this vehicle. I'll have to see if I can contact a dealer to get a base price.

Mini-EMini-E is a product from BMW's Mini Division. The Mini-E is relatively new in the electric car field and looking for 500 buyers to be the "guinea pigs". The car is supposed to have a range of 150 miles and is capable of keeping up with it's gasoline brothers on any street or highway. We'll have to see how far the Mini takes this project. The cost of the Mini is similar to the gasoline versions, about $28,000.
If gas prices stay as low as they are today in the US, these electric options will be a tougher sell. I'm hoping that the Electric Vehicle market really keeps at it for the sake of Carbon reduction. It would be nice to have electric cars be a viable means of transportation, making it more mainstream than side show.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Not Just the Tire Pressure, but Type of Tire Also

Did you know that different types of tires can give you better fuel economy.
Back in the day of the bias ply tire your did not care about fuel efficiency as gas was rather cheap.
Radial tires came on the scene back in the early 70's and gave vehicles better handling. Radial tires also gave you better fuel economy due to a better design and less road resistance.

Of course now, unless you own a classic car that looks better with the original bias ply tire, most vehicles come with a set of radials. And they come in different shapes and sizes. From high profile to low profile. All season to winter tire. And each will affect your fuel economy.

Tires that have the least rolling resistance also get the best mileage. Independent non-profit organization GreenSeal.org rates tires according to it's fuel friendlyness. They performed indendent testing of multiple tires on rolling resistance using a dynamometer. These tires also have better treadwear, which means they last longer. This efficiency does come at a cost: braking distance is longer.

So what tires do I recommend? I would leave that up to you to check out consumer reports
or the Automobile Protection Agency of Canada.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More on Electric Vehicles

This is a follow up on electric vehicles that are currently in production. These are not concept vehicles and are being sold somewhere in the world. Unfortunately not all electric cars made can pass the rigid DOT and IIHS standards here in the U.S.

One electric car that can be found on the nation's highways is the Myers Motors It looks like a fun vehicle that is equipped with Lithium Batteries. With a top speed of 76 MPH and a range of 60 miles it is a strong contender to make a dent in the automotive market. Then the $29,995 price tag stops most people dead in their tracks. This, I believe, is not in the budget for your average driver. They would have to bring the cost down below $20,000 to get me to own one.

Then there is the ZAP company, which sells the ZAP Xebra Sedan. In addition from the same platform they also have a truck model:the ZAP Xebra truck. The sedan and the truck have a top speed of 40MPH with a range of 25 miles. Their cargo truck, the ZAP Truck XL can carry a payload of about 770 lbs. But there are no specs available on their web page.
The ZAP sedan retails for $11,700 making it a viable solution for many local consumer trips. (including this writer) Its truck model sells for $12,500. (Another good candidate) ZAP does have an upper scale model in the concept stage, the ZAP Alias, due out in late 2009. Its MSRP of $35,000 will show them few and far on the road.

Last but not least in this series is the REVA. They are made in India and are sold in India, UK and Malta. REVA is also being test marketed in US, Nepal, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Israel, Japan, Norway and China, according to their web site. The Reva has a top speed of 80KPH and a range of 80 Kilometers. I was not able to find a price for this vehicle.

This is a very promising list. There might just be an electric vehicle in my future. Of course I think the toughest part is selling people on the speed and range. An electric vehicle with a 100 mile range and average highway speeds is not within the budget of your average Joe. I guess I'll have to take a look at the subcompacts for now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bring on the Electric Vehicles

I think it is time to have electric vehicles go mainstream. To save money on gas and reduce CO2 emmissions, there is no reason for you or I not to own an electric car or electric scooter. They are out there.

What prevents most people from buying an electric vehicle?

Cost? OK some can be expensive.

Range? On average, people work within 10 to 15 miles from their place of work. Most EVs have a range of 30 to 40 miles before needing a re-charge.

Well here is the low down on the what and how much. A list of who makes and sells electric vehicles. I'll also include prices and where they are available. Some may not be available yet in the US.
Vectrix
Vectrix makes high performance electric scooters that are designed to go on the freeway according to the manufacturer. The range is about 55 miles. I was unable to find the cost of their electric scooters. They are in production and selling world wide.











GEMGEM aka Global Electric Motorcar is a subsidiary of Chrysler Corporation. They sell 6 different models of their GEM line each with different available options. Their top speed is 25 MPH with a range of 30 miles. Prices range from $7,395 up to $14,180 for their 6-passenger GEM e6 model. The GEM is available in the US, Canada, most European countries and Southeast Asia.





Gizmo is made by Nevco. It is a single passenger vehicle designedGizmo for commuters traveling under 45 miles per trip. Its top speed is 45 MPH. The base price for the Gizmo is $12,000. The Gizmo has been in production since 2000 and sells in the US only, as far as I can find on their web site.







These look like they would be fun vehicles to drive. Pricing meets many a budget and make for a very viable product. I wonder how well these models would do in the cold of Upstate NY.

Stay tuned for another installement of Buying Electric Vehicles.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Average Gas Prices Broke $2

According to AAA, average gas prices across the US has broken the $2.oo barrier. Wow! If the price stay this way through next week the cost of our visit for our turkey dinner will be cheaper. Not a bad thing.

Just remember to keep up on the other car maintenance chores. Fuel efficiency should not take a back seat just because it is cheaper to gas up. If at all, taking the money you save and putting it toward that oil change you have been delaying would make great sense. How about a new air filter? Maybe some new tires? OK OK I think you get the drift.

I can't help but wonder how long these lower gas prices will last. It would be nice if it could last longer to affect our other living costs also. But I won't bank on that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Good or Pure is the Gas You Buy?

You always hear from some people that they are sold on their brand of gasoline. And that is all they will get for their vehicle. Some people just want to get the cheapest gas. Is there really a difference in gasoline quality from brand to brand. Aren't they all created equal?

I was just at my dealer for service and mentioned that I filled up on really cheap gas at BJs Whole Sale Club. Where upon I got an ear full on how watered down BJs gasoline is and the reason why it is so cheap.

I have a hunch that they may be correct on their assessment as I filled up my motorcycle with BJs gas. Ever since then I have been having trouble with cold starts. Coincidence? I was not getting the same results with the van. On average I was getting good mileage with BJs gas.

Now this car dealer claims to perform it's own independent testing of gasoline from different service stations in the area. They had these tests performed so that when a customer comes in with a fuel issue they can almost pinpoint it to where they last filled up their tank.

Of course, I was curious myself and asked about the other gas stations in the area. The other one that is not recommended is Delta Sonic due to its similar high water content. Mobil was not suggested as it contained a bunch of additives (cleaners). They did recommend getting gas at Citgo, Kwikfill or Sunoco. I forgot to ask about Hess as they are another big player in our area.

Now a good friend of mine swears by Shell gasoline. He claims to get the best mileage with it. Unfortunately Shell does not have any service stations in NY. My friend fills on shell before he crosses the NY border from Pennsylvania. He even fills up his portable gas tanks.

Now I'm not recommending any particular brand of gas, but when you are trying to figure out why your car is running rough or not getting the mileage you should, try a different brand of gas and see if you get better results.

If you have some independent results you want to share please comment. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote for Change, Vote for Saving Gas

This is just my reminder to cast your vote in these important elections.

A change of the guard. It could be a change for the environmental landscape.
  • More tax incentives for alternative fuel vehicles?
  • More Off-Shore drilling?
  • How about legislation to force automakers to increase the minimum fuel economy of all new cars?
  • Anything to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Any of the above must be strongly considered by either candidate.
May the best one win.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet Halfway and You Both Save Gas.

I am always on the search for gas saving tools you can use. My goal is to reduce on the miles you drive and ultimately save on your gas expense.

Want to have extra money for that glass of wine or appetizer the next time you meet your friends for lunch or dinner. How about finding a vacation destination between long distance friends. Save gas and meet halfway between both of your locations. This way you each are only going half the distance.

So how would you find this half way point? Well, you can look on a map or Google the directions and estimate a half waypoint. This would take some time and estimation on your part. Then you need to find the restaurant or hotels within that location.

There are websites that can help make this process a little easier:

One site is: http://www.happymedian.com/ It is an established site since 2005 and allows a user to enter two to four towns representing each person wishing to meet, via zip code or a city and state combination. This information allows HappyMedian to find a location halfway between both places. They then provide the user with a list of various types of places to meet, from restaurants and bars to coffee shops and lodging.

http://www.meetways.com/ looks to help people easily find a halfway point between two locations. It allows you to search for restaurants, coffee shops, movie theatres, parks, hotels, virtually anything that you may be interested in the halfway location. That way you did not need to spend extra time and money driving out of your way for your next meeting. Meetways is available for multiple countries.

One other web site is: http://www.meethalfway.com/ Aside from local connections, this one also looks to attract vacation goers who would like to meet half way for a vacation destination. One problem with this site is that it is geared for the UK only. The site for the US is still under construction.

No matter which site you use, you are helping yourself save money by driving less. Good for you and good for the environment.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Basic Engine Maintenance: The Oil Change Part 2.

What is the real cost of an OIL change?

As you can see be my previous post you can spend anywhere from $19.99 to $63.00 on a full service oil change. The advantage here is that you do not get dirty and the oil is disposed of for you. When you do it yourself you still have to collect the oil and drop it off at any garage.

Of course doing the job yourself still saves you money. Especially if follow the recommended every 3000 miles rule.

I went out to a discount store and priced out the cost of doing the oil change yourself. Here is what I came up with:
5 individual quarts of the cheap oil @ $2.77 per Qt totals $13.85.
Or you can buy a 5 quart container of the cheap stuff for $10.50.
Then the cheapest filter I found is $3.48. Now the oil filter is a FRAM ExtraGuard. This, in my opinion, is not a bottom of the barrel filter. I could not find any generic filters at that store.
This brings the grand total to $13.98 to do the oil change yourself. Not bad at all. If done every 3000 miles or every 3 months it would cost you only $55.92 (before tax) per year to change the oil in your vehicle by doing it yourself.

When I change my oil I usually get the Castrol brand. This can cost you $3.67 per quart or $16.00 for a 5 qt. container of the plain Castrol oil. I actually use their Syntec blend version at $4.27 per qt. This oil change would cost me a total of $24.83 before tax.

Now if you were to use a full synthetic brand, such as Mobil 1. You would end up paying $6.27 per qt. or $26.00 for the Mobil1 5 qt. container (if available). Your lowest total cost for the Mobil 1 oil change would be $29.48. ($34.83 if you purchased individual quarts)

Do keep in mind that these prices do vary by location and I do not recommend any particular brand. I'm sure we could get into a discussion on which brands are best, but that is better left for the comments.

Robert

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gas Prices Are Falling! Gas Prices Are Falling!

Well don't get too excited!

Last time we did that gas prices went way up beyond $4 per gallon.

This would not be the time to pull out the gas guzzler and gulp gas to your heart's content. Au contraire my friends.

Keep doing what you are doing. Save your pennies for a rainy day. What comes down will go back up. The downturn in gas prices is merely a product of the financial troubles in the world markets. This too shall pass.

Remember, you are also starting to reduce your CO2 emissions. This is good. This should be continued. Keep riding that bus. Keep riding that bicycle. Don't stop walking. If you were about to buy a hybrid or an electric vehicle, go ahead with the transaction.

Reducing our dependence on foreign oil should be our ongoing goal not a "just because it hurts my pocket book" thing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tire Pressure: Can Kill Your MPG.

So you are doing everything right in the way you drive to optimize fuel economy. You're watching your starts and stops. Keeping your speed down. The engine runs great.

But you are still finding that something is robbing you of the fuel economy your should be showing... Tires!
If your car does not roll smoothly on properly inflated tires you will lose mileage.

I found that out the hard way:
Last spring I drove all the way from Upstate New York down to Florida on tires that were under inflated by about 7 lbs. I was getting lousy mileage. And I was even using a fuel additive.

I wasn't paying attention to the tires until one of the vacation days I noticed the front tires were showing unusual wear on the outsides. I did not carry a tire gauge, so I could not check to see what the tire pressure was at that time.

I noticed that there is a Honda dealership near the condo we were staying at. I dropped in at the chance that someone would be able to look at my tires.

The service coordinator had some time and was able to check the tire pressure for me. He found them to be at 29-30 lbs. He told me the pressure in the tire should be at 35 lbs.

Man, the tires were grossly under inflated. Thank God he was able to add air up to the proper pressure at no cost. Of course the damage had already been done to the outside of my tires. He even recommended replacing them. I was not ready to do that being away on vacation. I ended up rotating the tires front to back and drove home without incident.

We actually drove home with properly inflated tires and got the mileage we were accustomed to when cruising on the highways.

I now regularly check the tire pressure in both our vehicles, so I know they will not be the "bad mileage" culprits.

To see how much air to put in your car's tires you can check inside the door jam or your vehicle's Car Manual. This will give you the factory recommended tire pressure for your vehicle.


Door Jam Sticker


To check the pressure, I use a digital tire gauge, as I had misplaced my old pressure gauge. Both versions work fine. I did manage to find the analog gauge for this picture.


Tire Pressure Gauges

To inflate the tires I use a little portable air compressor. This way I don't have to pay 75 cents for something that should be free. I also do not have to look for an air station as not all gas stations have one.


Electric Pump

This shows you that you can't exclude tire pressure from regular maintenance checks.
I won't make that same mistake again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Idling Your Car or Truck Wastes Gas and Pollutes.

So how long were you waiting in line at the bank drive-thru?
How many cars were waiting in front of you? How long were you actually waiting before it was your turn? Was your car running continuously while you were waiting there?

Did you leave your car idling, while quickly running in to get your dry-cleaning?
How about that railroad crossing that you had to stop for because a mile long freight train was going by.

Believe it or not while your car is idling (and not going anywhere) you were still using gas. Unless you drive a hybrid that is in electric mode at that time, you get zero miles per gallon when idling. Depending what you drive your can use anywhere from half a gallon to a full gallon of gas per hour of just idling. In addition you are still sending CO2 and othere noxious emissions in the atmosphere.

Ok so let's see how idling affects your car's engine: While you are idle (not driving, but engine is on): You put unusual wear on the engine as the car does not cool well. At higher temps engine oil breaks down faster. This in turn requires more maintenance intervals. With the oil running at higher temps you are also putting additional wear on the engine components.

As you can see long term idling may be convenient for you, but harmful to your wallet and the environment.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What is your current fuel cost?

What is your current MPG?

To start saving gas you need to know how much you are spending today. What is your daily regular cost of driving back and forth to work? What would your current costs be driving on the highway as opposed to city driving? Do you know what this cost is over an extended period of time? Say a month. Can you get an accurate average cost/MPG?

Once you have this baseline, you can see if any measures you take will indeed reduce your gas/diesel consumption.

Some businesses already record this information as they not only have to record fuel consumption, but also full maintenance of their vehicle(s). But this is a whole other subject.

OK, so how do you figure that out?

Well some of you may have a tool built in your vehicle that can figure this out for you.
This is a trip computer. It calculates the range of a full tank and the average MPG you are getting at the moment. You may need to read your car's owner's manual to set it up correctly. This way you know how to reset the system or zero it out. You can then record this information on your note pad or receipt.

Most cars have a trip odometer, which is the second mileage dial on the dash of your car. Some are digital like mine on the Honda. Some are analog and require you to either dial or push to reset to zero.

You need to be able to record how much gas you get everytime you fill up.

When you get gas you should fill it up all the way until the pump clicks and stop filling. If you do this every time you get gas, the amount to fill will be consistent. This in turn will give you more accurate MPG calculations.

I also recommend getting a receipt every time you fill up. Write the odometer mileage on the receipt. This will allow you to record the information on your pad, spreadsheet or computer at a later time. This also saves you time at the pump.

Now you are recording your mileage everytime you fill up. What do you do with it?

Well we need to calculate and record your mileage/MPG. This is done by taking the number of miles driven and divide this by the number of gallons filled. For some just doing this in your head is great. I need my handy calculator or computer to do this for me. This way I know it's done correctly and accurately. I created a spreadsheet on the computer that does the calculations for me.

For the rest of you a pen, a pad of paper, and a calculator (I tend to be more accurate with one) will do fine.

Now you are recording the mileage information every time you fill up. You can start to see what your average MPG is over a specific time frame. If you record how much you spend you can also start to see how much you pay for gas over time.

In a future post I'll tell you how I automate this process and show you the tools I use.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

How real is hypermiling?

If you are anything like me, I am sure you have read or heard about "Hypermiling". Per Wikipedia "Hypermiling" is a term used in North America that refers to a set of techniques used to maximize fuel economy. Those who practice the techniques are referred to as "hypermilers."

Some of the primary techniques they use are:Reducing lead foot start and stops by keeping speed as constant as possible.Use your cruise control as much as possible. Turning off the engine when coasting and when stopped for long periods.

There are even some dangerous moves they do in the name of better MPG such as drafting behind semis and driving way below the speed limit on highways.

OK so this may be a bit extreme, but dialed down a bit these methods can and will reduce your fuel consumption:

Every time you hit that gas or break pedal too hard you have used too much gas to get into that situation. So try easing on the gas. This in turn will ease your breaking. Overall you gain fuel economy and your brakes last longer.

You know, you do not have to use your cruise control on the highway only. I've actually used it at 30 MPH on a long stretch of residential road. It is easier than having to maintain the 30 MPH pace. Also a guarantee not to get a ticket by that cop sitting in that one side street.

Turning off your car's engine while driving 50 MPH down an incline can be dangerous and not my suggestion. But shutting the engine down while you wait at the drive through teller,or while you're waiting for that long train to go by. That makes more sense to me.

Driving to reduce your fuel consumption takes a little thought and can be done with positive results. Hypermiling has good intentions as long as it is done safely.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Basic engine maintenance the oil change part 1.

OK! OK! This probably is not the first time you've heard this.
It's fall, kids are back to school. Time to do the basic of all car maintenance.

The Oil change!

Have you tried any of those quick service oil change places.
Are they worth it? These are the major players in our area in Upstate NY.

Valvoline Instant Oil Change
Their service includes up to 5 quarts of Valvoline® conventional Oil, a new Valvoline oil filter, and vehicle lubrication of chassis components according to manufacturer's specifications. Their cost $34.99. For their Durablend service the cost is $49.99. With Valvoline's Maxlife, for vehicles with more than 75,000 miles, the charge is the same as the Durablend Service. For full synthetic service you pay $62.99.

Delta Sonic's Oil Change.
Aside from washing your car they have their own full range oil change menu. For the conventional oil service they charge $25.99. If you get a wash first, the cost of the basic oil change is $19.99. That is a good deal! Then they have a Deluxe and Super package, which uses a synthetic blend and charges $29.99 and $32.99 respectively. They added a fuel injector cleaner to make it "Super". Their full synthetic service includes Mobil 1 and costs $59.99.

Both Valvoline Instant and Delta-Sonic top off all fluids, lube chassis where needed, check air filter, wiper blades, tires, lights, belts, and pcv valve.

Come back for more info on other "instant oil change shops".
Also what would it cost to do it yourself?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What can we do to save on our oil consumption?

What will it take to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?
Reduce our consumption.
More fuel efficient vehicles.
Alternative fuels such as biodiesel.
Electric vehicles.
More bicycles or bicycling.
Public transportation.

We'll have to explore these alternatives a little more.

But how about the vehicles we currently have?
Are they running in top form? Are they as efficient as they can be?
And then let's not forget our driving habits.

There is plenty to checkout, review and use.