Saturday, January 19, 2008

Recycling day

Should have taken a picture of the car full of crap... it was great, we looked homeless, quite humbling.

No, the one picture of all the Heineken bottles is NOT all from us.

We go about once every 2 - 3 months after collecting everything in our storage unit. It really begs the question, is it all worth it? I decided to figure it out.


  • 85 minutes
  • 0.58 gallons of gasoline (19 miles at about 33MPG)
  • $1.89 (058 gallons at $3.29/gallon)

  • $5.32 from glass and plastic (they don't pay for tin... or non-CRV glass)
  • $1.50 from mixed paper
  • John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” (Anna recommends)
  • Richard Preston's "The Hot Zone" (Josh recommends)
  • Will Self's "The Book of Dave

I'll say the loss of 85 minutes on a sunny day with a beautiful girl is definitely negligible. Total monetary gain was $4.93 ($1.74/hr wage for each of us, yikes). The three books were found in the mixed paper pile at the recycle place. No, I/we were not digging through garbage, they were right on top (that's what they all say). It was interesting, actually, there were hundreds of books in this pile. I started rifling through them and it was a really diverse collection... computer books, business books, fiction, textbooks. I would have spent a few hours looking through them (just the ones on top, of course) but then it occurred to me that the place paid someone for the books so I would actually be stealing from them. We took a couple but since the place weighs your car before and after you dump the stuff, we ended up paying for them. Random!

So, really, was it worth it? Personally it is but what about environmentally (which is the point of the whole thing)? Let's find out...

The only environmental cost imposed on the world would be the gasoline used to transport the materials; everything else is too small to be counted.

0.58 gallons of gasoline = 2.42 kg of carbon = 5.34 lbs of carbon(Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

2.42 kg carbon = 201 moles of carbon (basically, a certain number of actual atoms of carbon [12,133,529,620,000,000,000,000,000]) = 201 moles of CO2 and CO combined

* It's hard to get a number/percent of how much of the exhaust is CO. I'm going to go with 10% and feel good about it.

201 moles of CO2 and CO combined = ~181 moles CO2 = 7.97 kg CO2 = 17.6 lbs CO2


0.58 gallons of gasoline = 124,884 BTUs (

I'll see if I can't find some good numbers on how much plastic + paper + glass manufacturing pollutes per bottle. Or, even better, how many bottles, etc. my pollution accounts for... stay tuned.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In a bizarre twist of destiny and fate...

.... I ended up driving this (not this one exactly but same car/color):

Aston Martin v8 Vantage coupe exterior
...a brand new V8 6-speed Aston Martin Vantage last night. Hands-down, one of the sexiest cars I've ever been around and certainly the fastest/nicest care I've ever driven. One of the lest green too but it was only a couple miles ;)

The inside was glorious (again, this is not the exact one I drove):

Aston Martin v8 Vantage coupe interior
If you're reading this, thanks Jose. I'll be your D.D. anytime.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Green Vocab WotD #003: REEV

A quick one

REEV = Range Extended Electric Vehicle.


The idea of a REEV is that an electric motor drives the car 100% of the time. REEVs plug in to your house and charge overnight or while you're at work (4-8 hours depending on batteries), and then the REEV drives purely on the more-efficient (though still not carbon-neutral) grid power for a set number of miles (generally betweem 20 and 60.)

After those 20 - 60 miles of driving, a small onboard generator kicks on to recharge the batteries and "extend the range" of the electric vehicle. This onboard generator can be anything that produces power: gasoline engine, diesel engine, ethanol engine, or even a hydrogen fuel cell. The vehicle remains as efficient as a hybrid even after the grid power is all used up because they still use regenerative breaking.

The engine (meaning that which does some kind of power production: gasoline/diesel combustion, ethanol combustion, fuel cell, etc) does not power the wheels, it charges the batteries. That means that forward motion is only being caused by an electric motor so they are, in all sense, electric vehicles (or EVs).

I think this is an interesting concept but I wonder: is this just another technology to "get us through the now" (such as the Prius - good for now but not forever) or is this our answer for the next century+? Something to think about...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New MPG figure for me

I goofed it up a little bit because I reset my miles prematurely (which is ridiculous because, being the MPG nerd I am, I have been looking forward to this fill-up for weeks) but new estimate is 25.0. It went up because I've been commuting to work.

I think I went a few more miles than that but this is right in the range of the last one.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Intersting move for Ferrari/Porsche

You know the "Green Movement" has reached new heights when the top sports car manufacturers take note. First up: Ferrari's new 430 Spyder Biofuel concept:

Ferrari 430 biofuel concept
What's the skinny?

Labeled as the 430 Spider Bio Fuel, the roadster runs on the familiar mix of 85% natural ethanol and 15% gasoline, which reports suggest yield a modest 2% increase in power. That’s enough to bring the 4.3-liter V8’s output up to 500 from the standard 490 with torque rising 4% and fuel economy improving by 5%.

Our old friend, ethanol. Blech. Thankfully we're only looking at a concept for the time being. What might change the tides?
...a ferrari official has said that if E85 became widely available in California (where 10% of Ferrari’s worldwide sales are) then this Bio Fuel model would become a viable option.

I do my best to sort through the countless articles I read about this or that concept to bring you what I consider to be either a really good thing or a really bad thing. I leave the middle-of-the-road stuff to anyone that follows this type of news outside of reading my blog. There are plenty of generic green blogs out there, including ones that deal with cars.

Point being... stuff like this usually flies under my radar but, in this case, it is worthy of mention. For one thing, this particular model gets BETTER fuel economy and has MORE power than the gas version. What you find when you read about ethanol is that it contains less energy per gallon than gasoline... from a thermodynamic perspective. That means if you combust them the same way, you have to get either less power or worse MPG. What this means is that Ferrari made the 430 have much better fuel economy IN GENERAL which translates to better MPG for the E85 blend. That means that the regular fuel economy must be a lot better. I'm very interested to hear how they did that...

The other reason that this is worth mentioning is that we're looking at an industry-wide change - in a vary strange industry to be making this change. From here (quote from the official Ferrari press release which can be found on
The development of an engine powered by the biofuel E85 comes as part of a research and development program announced during the Technological Innovation Conference held at Maranello last June as part of our 60th Anniversary Celebrations. On that particular occasion, Ferrari also unveiled projects focused on improving the energy of the whole car which would in turn lower fuel consumption and emissions levels. The ultimate aim being, of course, to cut the latter by 40% by 2012.

It's good to see big names like Ferrari waving the green flag for any number of reasons. It's nice to see them have a conscience, first off. But they might also just see it as another obstacle to overcome. Their heart is in F1 racing and that's why their cars are so amazing. The technology that comes from developing some of the most amazing machines on the planet is mind-boggling. But, for street and occasional track use, how fast do they need to be? How light? How nimble? Cars can only be so fast and so capable before they start to exceed a human's ability to control them. Aside from that, looks are relative between the supercars.

But what would it say about your level of technology if you attained similar power numbers but got 30% better fuel technology? That, to me, says that there might be better, newer, stronger technology in that particular car. And, aside from that, what kind of message does that say FOR your customers? If I'm a greentech mogul and I run a sustainable company that, say, builds fuel systems for a new wave of biodiesel trucks, wouldn't I want to exclaim my green-ness? If I was a big car guy, I would want something really nice but I would also be wary, as a big green guy, of the mixed message I would be broadcasting by driving something that gets single-digit MPG. See what I mean?

In a similar vein, Porsche recently unveiled a hybrid Cayenne SUV idea:
The gas/electric hybrid Cayenne will cut fuel consumption by about 15 percent over the non-hybrid version. It will use a hybrid system being developed in partnership with Volkswagen, the same company Porsche partnered with to create the Cayenne and the Volkswagen Touareg SUVs. The Porsche/VW hybrid system will allow the vehicle's gasoline engine and electric motor to operate independently or together as needed. The Cayenne hybrid should be available by the end of the decade, the company said.

Not the exact car in question but you get the idea.

I see big technology muscle getting involved in fuel efficiency as a very good thing, even if their intention is simply to sell to a broader market. The more players, the bigger the game and as the competition gets hotter and hotter, the sustainable industry can do nothing but reap benefits. If Porsche and VW together design a great new hybrid system for the Cayenne, that means a couple years down the road that we'll probably see it in a Passat.

...and I can finally say I drive a Porsche because they share a bolt or two :)