Saturday, October 06, 2007

Honda mileage target

The Japanese automaker said it opposes moves in Congress to set efficiency targets for vehicles.

In its annual North American Environmental Report, Honda emphasized that it favored tougher federal fuel-economy regulations and touted its status as the most efficient full-line automaker. But its fuel-economy pledge falls far short of the 4% annual increases and hard targets that environmental groups maintain the auto industry should be forced to meet.

To me it makes a lot of sense that Honda doesn't want to sign up for the 4% per year. If you are a person that is already thin it is harder for you to loose 10 pounds than for someone who is overweight. Their cars are very fuel efficient already.

Honda has not taken sides in this year's congressional debate over fuel economy and tends to cut its own political trail in Washington. It has joined with Detroit automakers and its Japanese competitors in opposing California's efforts to set state controls on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. Thanks to its long-held decision against building engines with more than six cylinders, Honda had the highest fuel-economy average among the six largest manufacturers in 2006 at 29.1 miles per gallon.

Isn't it amazing how Honda doesn't need a V8? They do just fine in the North American market without it. That's because they make and excellent 4 cylinder engine that you is really nice to drive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bush fuel economy plan has rough debut in Congress

Automotive News had an interesting article on Bush's proposal to increase our nations fuel economy. Here's the article along with my comments.

The Bush administration estimates that its plan to improve fuel economy would raise the price of the average General Motors car $1,800 by 2017. In contrast, the price of the average Honda would increase less than $600. President Bush wants to raise fuel economy standards by as much as 4 percent a year, to meet his goal of cutting U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years. You know unfortunately I think it has to be done. We have to challenge the our automotive industry improve the overall fuel ecomony. I think that this is a real opportunity for our "D3" automakers to work together and find solutions that will help them get to the goal faster and cheaper. The bottom line is the Japanese have been working on perfecting their engines and improving fuel economy for years.

Data on the plan's possible disparate impact on automakers emerged last week during a House hearing. Administration officials appeared before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to defend the plan. They conceded it is a work in progress, especially the 4 percent-a-year provision."It's a target," said Nicole Nason, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "I don't know that we'll get there." NHTSA has set higher fuel standards for light trucks through the 2011 model year, although nowhere near 4 percent a year. The administration wants Congress to authorize NHTSA to set separate fuel standards for different sizes of cars. The fleet car standard has been at 27.5 mpg since 1990. Amazing, the same since 1990. We had 16 years to work on improving the fleet fuel economy and we didn't improve it. So with flirting with $3 gas again, we need to get on with it.

Lawmakers of both parties challenged details of the plan. The debate over vehicle fuel economy is further complicated by the growing interest in Congress to enact a broader law that would limit greenhouse-gas emissions from all sources. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the full committee, historically has allied himself with automakers opposed to higher standards. But he said last week, "The old debate is no longer sufficient."

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Locking In Gas Prices When They're Low

I saw an interesting article at NPR on locking in low gas prices. Here is what they said along with my comments.

There you are, steamed at paying $3 for a gallon of gasoline. So how does it feel to learn that some people are paying $2 dollars, or even a buck a gallon? That's because they bought it from a small chain of gas stations in central Minnesota that allows customers to pre-pay for gasoline, and stockpile it for when prices jump. Remember the summer of 2006? I paid as high as $3.40 per gallon. I would love to be able to lock in low gas prices now and use it up in the summer. Like most people our summer hobbies end up consuming a lot of gas and the gas companies tend to like to raise the prices during the summer.

First Fuel Banks has six gas stations in the St. Cloud, Minn., area, where customers can buy as much gasoline as they like, whenever the price seems right. First Fuel then stores the gasoline in its oversized tanks, or buys futures contracts for really long-term purchases. Pre-paying for gasoline requires that customers tie up their money for a while. Think about it, if you buy 400 gallons of gas today at roughly $2.50 per gallon that is $1000 dollars. If gas goes up to $3.50 this summer you end up saving $400. That is a 40% return on you hedge. Take a look at the 3 year chart below compliments of Gas Buddy. Gas prices over the last 2 out of 3 years peaked in August. Even if gas didn't peak they sure didn't go down in the summer.

But otherwise, there's no charge for the program, aside from a one-dollar membership fee. And it can yield huge savings. Thousands of First Fuel customers are able to fill their tanks for less than $2 a gallon. CEO Jim Feneis says that a few hundred of his customers actually locked their prices in at less than $1 a gallon. The advance-purchase option was once only available in Minnesota. But soon it will get a tryout in 11 northeastern states. Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski plans to introduce the advance-purchase option later this year at about 1800 Gulf stations from Delaware to Maine. Bring it on. I hope more gas companies will do this. When you think about it how often do you go to the same gas station. Chances are you buy from a lot of different locations. If you pre-bought your gas, guess where you would buy it from? The same station. In principle gas station owners told the general public that they did not make anymore money when gas was $3.00 vs. $2.00 per gallon. So if that is true the gas companies can sell it to you when it is low price and then you can consume it when it is higher. Sounds like a great idea to me.
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Sunday, March 11, 2007

New EPA Ratings Hit Fuel Sippers Hardest

Scott Anderson at had and interesting article called New EPA Ratings Hit Fuel Sippers the Hardest. Here is what they said along with my comments.

Makers of the thriftiest cars and trucks on the road have less to brag about under new vehicle fuel-economy ratings the government says better reflect Americans’ real-world driving.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released new vehicle fuel-economy estimates that, for the first time, account for current interstate highway speeds, heavier use of air conditioning and other modern-day driving habits. In some ways it is hard for me to believe that it has taken this long for the EPA to get around to this? When did we change the speed limit from 55 MPH to 70 MPH/ That is pretty much the day when people started driving 80 MPH. When did you no longer need a radar detector? Remember back in the days of 55 MPH on the freeway, everyone had a radar detector. I think over that time period I bought 3 different types because the technology kept changing so fast. Another thing that doesn't make sense to me is when they say "air conditioning use". In most cars the auto setting or default setting is air conditioning on? I am constantly turning my A/C button off in my car. During the winter months the only time I need to run the A/C is when I have 3 people in the car with me and the windows get all fogged up. Otherwise you don't need it.

Under the EPA’s new ratings system, city mileage for all ’07 U.S. light vehicles, on average, falls 12%, while average highway estimates drop 8%. Combined fuel economy for the current fleet is about 10% lower. I am sure the automakers will whine about this and complain or already have but come on fellas the Corporate Average Fuel Economy hasn't changed since 1988. What was up with continuous improvement during this time frame, I know there wasn't any. I would love to drive a Ford Expedition that gets 30 MPG but it is not available. No one cared, fuel was cheap.

For some vehicles, particularly fuel-sipping power trains, the new ratings system can mean as much as a 30% reduction in city fuel economy and a 25% cut in highway driving averages.
“The most efficient vehicles on the market are gas-electric hybrids,” an EPA spokesman says. “They’re more affected downward as a percentage than other vehicles. Smaller engines pay a higher penalty for accessory usage, such as air conditioning.” This makes sense, when you consider the amount of power required to run an A/C compressor or to fire up 2 heated electric seats. That little 2.0L engine is going to pay a lot higher price than my 5.4L V8. It is all in the percentages. It is sort of like comparing a Clydesdale horse to a pony pulling a wagon. Put another 4 people on the wagon and the Clydesdale doesn't even know they are there. The pony on the other hand will just stop and eat grass.

Toyota Prius fuel economy dips 16% as result of new ratings.
For example, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid-electric vehicle saw its combined city/highway numbers fall from 55 mpg (4.2 L/100 km) to 46 mpg (5.1 L/100 km), or a 16% drop, according to the new measurements. The impact is far less on trucks and SUVs. The ’07 Chevrolet Tahoe, for instance, when equipped with a V-8 5.3L engine, slipped from a combined rating of 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) to 16 mpg (14.7 L/100). So the Prius goes from sort of amazing gas mileage to just great gas mileage. The Tahoe goes from crappy mileage to really crappy. The point here is that when you buy a car and the sticker says here is the mileage that you should get you really should get that mileage. Don't you think? It is sort of truth in advertising. I don't really care what mileage the car will get sitting on the test dyno in the back of a lab, I want to know what I will get when I a barrelling down the road at 80 MPH with the heated seats on, the A/C blarring (because I forgot to shut it off), my arc source head lamps and fog lights on, navigation system's LCD telling me which way to turn, charging my Treo and the Bose stero system thumping out the new Daughtry CD.

The new mileage ratings do not affect auto makers’ corporate average fuel economy totals. It is funny how the article ends with this. This is the root of the problem. When the SUV craze hit the U.S. market and we had low fuel prices there was no incentive to improve. And it looks like here we are in the year 2007 flirting with $3 gas prices again and we still don't have an incentive to improve. American's want to drive large cars, we will always want this, if the CAFE targets don't change then we will never improve. The auto industry has not self regulated it self over the last 20 years so what makes us think they will do it now. It was a missed opportunity to not improve the CAFE over the last 20 years it is a missed opportunity now. The Japanese car manufactures on the other hand have quietly develop powerful gas engines and hybrid electric vehicles. The Europeans manufactures have developed small displacement diesel engines to cope with $6.50 per gallon gas prices. The "D3" automakers have not.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

How to meet a higher CAFE

BUSH ENERGY PLANBush's shocker: How to meet a higher CAFE

Richard Truett Automotive News 1:00 am, January 29, 2007
First the good news: In theory, automakers can meet President Bush's call to improve fuel economy simply by commercializing off-the-shelf technologies. But it's going to cost plenty. If light-vehicle CAFE standards rise by a third by 2017, to 34 mpg, as President Bush proposed last week, we'll see a more small cars, diesels and hybrids.Here are the technologies that could deliver big gains in fuel economy, along with ratings for practicality and cost. A score of 5 five means the technology could be on your driveway soon. A rating of 1 means the technology is the modern equivalent of the 100-mpg carburetor.We grade these technologies on the curve. No "pass-fails" here!
TURBOCHARGERS: In Europe, automakers improve mileage by shrinking the engine, then adding a turbocharger or supercharger.
Volkswagen uses both devices on the 1.4-liter gasoline engine in the European version of the Golf GT. The results: A 0-to-60 mph time of about 7.6 seconds, and close to 50 mpg on the highway. GM has installed a smaller but more powerful engine in its Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets better fuel economy than the base 2.4-liter engine. Practicality: 4. These technologies are proven and easy to install.Cost: 3. Turbochargers and superchargers can add $1,000 or so to a vehicle's price.
Best betsHow various fuel-saving technologies are likely to fare.Winners: Turbochargers, diesels, starter generators, efficient transmissionsThe jury is out: Lightweight materials, plug-in hybridsNot in this lifetime: Fuel cells
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DIESEL ENGINES: Diesels can improve fuel economy by about 30 percent, and German automakers are vigorous in promoting their use in cars and SUVs. In the past, diesels were the province of heavy-duty pickups. Now that low-sulfur diesel fuel is available, diesels are poised for a comeback.
Practicality: 5. Many vehicles sold in the United States today are available elsewhere in the world with a diesel.Cost: 2. The big challenge is reducing the cost of the emissions system so diesels can be sold profitably in small cars.
LIGHTWEIGHT MATERIALS: Ford engineers once calculated that they could improve fuel economy by 1 mpg for every 150 pounds shaved off the Explorer. But Ford never actually cut the weight.
Maybe it's time to give lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum another look. On the Audi A8 and Jaguar XK, the aluminum unibody has saved hundreds of pounds. The A8's body weighs 475 pounds, about half as much as it would if it were made of steel. Automakers commonly use aluminum for hoods and trunks. Lightweight carbon fiber also is appearing on a growing number of vehicles.Practicality: 3. Plastics, magnesium, aluminum and other lightweight materials are becoming more popular.Cost: 3. Aluminum remains expensive, while carbon fiber and magnesium are reserved for pricey exotic cars.
STARTER GENERATORS: Engineers are finding ways to reduce the engine's workload.
Last fall, GM launched the Saturn Vue hybrid with an alternator that doubles as a starter and returns energy to the battery when the driver brakes. It improves fuel economy on the Vue Greenline by 20 percent over the standard model. The Vue Greenline costs $1,995 more than the regular model. Other energy-saving devices include electric power steering, which uses less energy, and reduces weight by eliminating the hydraulic pump and lines. Other ways to save energy include regenerative brakes, which recharge the battery when the vehicle is slowing down. BMW is pioneering these technologies, which can boost fuel economy by 8 percent. Practicality: 5. The race is on to make components more efficient.Cost: 3. Items such as regenerative brakes require costly redesigns.
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EFFICIENT TRANSMISSIONS: In most vehicles, six-speed automatics and continuously variable transmissions boost fuel economy about 6 percent. But they add $750 to $1,500 to the price of a vehicle with a standard five-speed manual.
Practicality: 5. A record number of CVTs and six-speed transmissions are available in vehicles today.Cost: 3. Premium vehicles will get highly efficient transmissions first. When economies of scale drive down costs, the technology will migrate into less expensive vehicles.
PLUG-IN HYBRIDS: A production version of the Chevrolet Volt could get the equivalent of 150 mpg if the owner recharges its batteries at night with relatively low-priced household current.
Other hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape, could also see dramatic gains in fuel economy if they are retrofitted with plug-ins to allow recharging.Practicality: 2. The engine technology is achievable, but battery makers have yet to develop reliable lithium ion batteries.Cost: 2. Like any hybrid, plug-ins need two power sources -- the battery and the gasoline engine -- to provide acceptable performance. A conventional hybrid typically carries a $3,000 premium. A car like the Volt, which would require pricey lithium ion batteries and plug-in technology, would cost even more.
FUEL CELLS: Practicality: 2. Engineers have solved many technical hurdles, and test vehicles are on the road. But automakers must improve their durability, and gas stations would have to be retrofitted to supply hydrogen for the fuel cells.Equally critical, the production of hydrogen will require massive amounts of electrical power, much of it probably from nuclear power plants that aren't even on the drawing boards yet.Cost: 1. Each fuel-cell test vehicle costs $1 million or more. They are at least a decade away from being cost effective.Now that we've rated these technologies, we will offer a caveat on our grades. If Congress approves a steep increase in fuel economy, automakers inevitably will speed up introduction of these technologies.One way to improve CAFE would be to manipulate the marketplace: Raise the price of big trucks and other gas hogs, then lower the price of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. In the world of CAFE, this is a time-honored technique.So maybe we'll have to switch to pass-fail grades after all.You may e-mail Richard Truett at

The Audi A8's aluminum body weighs 475 pounds, about half as much as a steel body. A 2007 model is shown.
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