Archive for the ‘automobiles’ Category

Late to the party- what a year!

December 23, 2009

Bigger cars- give the people what they want

What a year. I like to take a few moments and reflect on the recent past. And what a year it was! After thinking about all that has happened, I’d like to finally spend a few minutes ranting about the ghost of Christmas past—the lame attempt at bailing out GM and Chrysler. I am sooooo sick of hearing stupid people talk about this (mostly politicians). Listen up! You, the American people, bought bigger and bigger cars and trucks that used lots of fuel- the kind that sucked it, gulped it, and jammed it down their engines and now the price goes up and you want to dump them but no one’s buying? Well boo-hoo.

We had to bail out Wall Street or we’d all be at the soup kitchen right now but when it came to bailing out our auto makers you said let them eat cake- they can go bankrupt. They were stupid. Stupider than the foreign auto makers that were breaking ground for new giant truck, minivan and SUV plants all over the USA to try and keep up with the demand? They ALL produced a supply of a product that was in great demand and made good money while they did it. Wow that sounds dumb (wait a minute –it doesn’t).

Gas guzler Honda Ridgeline

Is this a Chevy Avalanch?

The people have spoken. Idiot savants without the savant part. You are telling me that you are the same people that couldn’t get a big enough SUV, a big enough truck or a big enough car just a few years ago? And then when the oil gamblers (speculators) drove the price per barrel into the sky now you wanted them (the big 3) to magically and instantly build small cars? And now you don’t want to bail them out because they make domestic products right here in the USA and provide jobs?

I thought mind reading was fakery but I guess you all believe it’s true. Somehow you expected the big 3 to read your minds, look into some business crystal ball and see not only the economic crash but also that the oil prices were going to skyrocket because of speculation (read that greed).

GM and Chrysler can't move that fast

Titanic challenges lie ahead for GM and Chrysler

Note to readers: Big things don’t react fast. The Titanic tried to steer around an iceberg once. How did that work for them? Not so good. GM, Ford and Chrysler are HUGE companies. Cars and trucks and yes, your favorite pig (oops- I mean big) SUVs, take years to design, test and manufacture. Surprise spoiler here—it doesn’t happen overnight. Yes the sad fact that is that no one was buying all those little  “green” cars that are now flying off the shelves. Why should the US auto manufacturers have made those puny little deathtraps that provide NO PROFIT????? Not any reasons that I can think of. Oh by the way, the profit margins on the behemoths are HUGE!!! So, we have carmakers providing a product that they can’t make enough of and selling them to buyers that want them bad and they are selling like crazy all at the same time making all their stock holders VERY HAPPY!

Americans want BIG STUFF! We don’t want little puny cars. We will buy them screaming and kicking but we really don’t want to. We want to destroy anything that we hit. By the way, what was that thump sound that I heard? Never mind, kick up the ear-bleeder 10,000 a notch and hit the gas. Yeee-ha! We want to drive our hummers through the worst of storms in all our four wheel drive glory. I wanna drive through a blizzard and smash little cars. I wanna drive through Katrina get my Big Gulp and Big Mac AND supersize those for me while you’re at it! And hurry up- be quick about it. I’m on my way to my new 6000 square-foot home.

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Same old poop, different day…

April 7, 2009

 

 

stinky-coal-and-the-earth

 

If you have been watching any public television at all over the last several months you’d think that the oil companies are single-handedly saving the world.  Exxon, BP, Chevron and probably others, have their own little infomercials at the beginning of many PBS programs.  They claim to the working on all sorts of new alternative energy programs and conservation programs.  They also claim to be concerned about global warming and claim to be doing something about it. 

Today, however, I read in the New York Times that these ads (about solar, wind, etc) are mostly lip service.  All the big oil guys are still spending most of their money on the old stinky fossil fuels that will increase global warming, raise ocean levels and basically destroy the planet.  Thanks guys!  I’m so happy you’re doing your part to insure that we have an interesting future, to say the least.

In addition, the article states that big oil companies are just not ready to invest in these new technologies.  But it did say that the big oil companies will invest much more into these new technologies (probably, maybe) in the next 10 years.  It will be too little too late.  Again, we’re setting a great example for India and China (and we’ll be the first ones to complain about it). 

To read the entire New York Times article see:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/business/energy-environment/08greenoil.html?hp

 

 

JCE

90,000 riders help launch Metro light rail in Phoenix

December 29, 2008

august2008-metro-light-rail-phoenixAccording to Bizjournals.com and the AP, this weekend began with about 90,000 riders to help launch Phoenix‘s Metro light rail. This new 20 mile loop is well on its way to the expected 200,000 riders on the rail line’s first weekend.

This is a great alternative to the car-crazy mentality that has snarled and polluted the once beautiful city.

Thousands of people were seen packing into train cars Saturday as Phoenix launched its new light rail system. Applauded by many, critics maintain that ridership would be limited by urban sprawl and the area’s grueling summer heat.  On the Net See: Metro light-rail:

http://www.valleymetro.org/metro_light_rail/

In Wisconsin, we are looking forward to a similar system that would tie together Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine (KRM) and Chicago into a single huge metro rail system. Eventually we would like to see Madison and Minneapolis tied into the system.

JCE

Should we all drive diesels?

December 4, 2008

bmw-335d

I think so. Modern turbodiesels are 40% more efficient than an equivalent gasoline powered automobiles and they kick serious butt.  This simple change would go a long way toward our goal of getting rid of imported oil.  And I’m speaking from personal experience.  I have been driving my 1999 Volkswagen TDI for 10 years.  Currently, I have over 150,000 miles on it and I routinely get over 55 MPG when I drive a combination of 25% city and 75% highway.  I have had no major problems with the car and I’ve only had to do routine maintenance and replace the tires.

 

Diesel engines are available in two stroke or four stroke versions and can be used in anything from a lawn mower to a cruise ship. One of their original uses was as a more efficient replacement for steam engines. Since the early 1900s they have been used in submarines and ships. They are now widely used in locomotives, large trucks and electric generating plants. They have been used in automobiles since the 1930s. Currently in the USA (since the 1970s), diesel engines are mostly used in larger on-road and off-road vehicles. As of 2007, over half of all new car sales in Europe are diesel.

 

 DB2008AU00195

The Future of the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

And what about the new Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles?  It looks to me like most of them for sale in the United States are going to be gasoline powered.  The Toyota Prius is currently rated at 45 highway and 48 city (see: http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4284188.html?series=19). This is why I would never consider the Toyota Prius.  What is even more disturbing is that the new Plug-in version of the Toyota Prius is also going to be gas powered. Although the fact that Volkswagen’s new concept is a diesel PHEV is quite encouraging.  See: http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/03/geneva-volkswagens-69-mpg-golf-diesel.html

 Available NOW

This new breed of clean diesels is clean, quiet, more efficient, more reliable, and has better performance than anything that runs on gas.  Since all our jets, trains, trucks, ships, buses, and many electric generators essentially run on diesel, why do we have gasoline engines at all? And I’m not even counting all the military equipment that runs on diesel.  We even heat many houses with a fuel that is so close to diesel fuel that they have to dye it red so truckers and diesel car drivers don’t cheat to avoid paying road taxes.

 Prices?

The only other issue is price.  It costs more to order a diesel engine than it does to order a gas engine and diesel fuel has been more expensive for some reason after 2004. I paid about $650 more for the diesel version of my 1999 VW New Beetle simply because there are fewer diesels made in the United States.  Obviously this would not be a problem if all automobiles were powered by diesel engines.  That $650 was returned to me in less than a few years because diesel cost less per gallon (at one time over $1.00 per gallon less) and due to the great fuel economy.  Since diesel now costs more than gasoline your return on investment would take longer to recover. 

The price of diesel has increased because than number of refineries have been reduced and the remaining refineries have been optimized for gasoline production (even though diesel is generally simpler to refine from petroleum than gasoline).  So think about it; if there were no gasoline used in the United States, all refineries would be optimized for diesel and diesel would be cheap.

 Here’s a partial list of the advantages that diesel engines have over other internal combustion engines.

·         They burn less fuel than a gasoline engine performing the same work, due to the engine’s high efficiency and diesel fuel’s higher energy density than gasoline.

·         They have no high-tension electrical ignition system to attend to, resulting in high reliability and easy adaptation to damp environments.

·         They can deliver much more of their rated power on a continuous basis than a gasoline engine.

·         The life of a diesel engine is generally about twice as long as that of a gasoline engine due to the increased strength of parts used, also diesel fuel has better lubrication properties than gasoline.

·         Diesel fuel is considered safer than gasoline in many applications. Although diesel fuel will burn in open air using a wick, it will not explode and does not release a large amount of flammable vapor.

·         For any given partial load, the fuel efficiency (Kilograms burned per KWh produced) of a diesel engine remains nearly constant, as opposed to gasoline and turbine engines which vary depending on throttle position.

 

How about the fun factor?

Take a look at the new 2009 BMW 335D:

http://www.zinio.com/pages/RoadTrack/Jan-09/322529683/pg-34

 

Popular mechanics likes it too. Take a look at the incredible things they say in their review of the 2009 BMW 335D

 (http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/automotive_news/4283090.html):

 “Diesel and high performance don’t normally sit in the same sentence, but take a look at the following figures: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds and 428 lb.-ft. of torque. Compare those numbers with these: 155 mph, 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Okay, so which one is the performance car? The first set of figures apply to the 335d, the second to its gasoline alternative. Away from the test track the turbodiesel’s midrange torque and flexibility would absolutely smoke (but not really, this is a “clean diesel”) its gasoline counterpart. And the 335d is not only the faster point-to-point car; it also gives you a 10 mpg (U.S.) boost over the gas one. The 335d returns an NEDC combined economy of 35.1 mpg against the 335i’s 25.6 mpg. In practice, the big diesel gives around 33 mpg in our mixed running, partly because the performance is just so intoxicating and almost impossible to resist.

 

Make no mistake, this is no pure economy car—it’s real-world fast. The mandatory six-speed automatic gearbox means you can’t be quite the hooligan you imagined, but it is perfectly possible to get the rear wheels of this nearly 2-ton car to break traction. And the iron block mill provides serious grunt all the way to the 5000 rpm redline, which makes passing slower vehicles contemptuously easy. This is an oil-burning hot rod.”

 

Alternative fuels

Current diesel engines can run on standard diesel, biodiesel (produced from vegetable oils) and synthetic diesel (produced from wood, hemp, straw, corn, garbage, food scraps, and sewage-sludge) or any combination of these fuels. Synthetic diesel can also be produced from natural gas or coal. Even when produced from natural gas or coal, synthetic diesel has 30% less particulate emissions than conventional diesel.

 

Energy independence

Therefore, if all vehicles were required to have diesel engines this would simplify refining, transportation and distribution processes and result in less oil usage in United States.  The gains in efficiency combined with the production of biodiesel and synthetic diesel could potentially eliminate the need for imported oil altogether. When this strategy is used with the many other great alternative energy sources, this would be a great way to transition the United States to a cleaner and more independent future.

 

What do you think?

Bush Signs Amtrak Funding and Rail Safety Bill

October 27, 2008

Last week Bush finally signed the Amtrak funding and rail safety bill after the tragic September 12, 2008 collision that killed 25 people in Los Angeles.  Bush had opposed the bill because it gave funding to Amtrak. But this time around he signed the bill without question.  This provides Federal funding for many projects including high speed rail in the Midwest.  If we finally get our butts in gear we can get this project done.  Our politicians have been talking about it, arguing and dragging their feet for years and haven’t done a thing.  High speed rail from Chicago to Milwaukee to Madison and onto Minneapolis would give people the option they deserve.  The last time I tried to catch the train from Milwaukee to Chicago I couldn’t even get a ticket.  I had to drive down through all the construction and it was horrible.  I was scared to death half the time and I got lost on the way back.  When I can get a ticket on the train it’s wonderful.  I sit back and read and study and it worked done.  When I get off I feel refreshed.  We need a safer alternative to driving our cars everywhere.  This not only saves fuel but also wear and tear on our vehicles.

We need to get on our politicians and ride them until they get this thing done.