Saturday, May 17, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: You know Audi but do you know Fisker?

First up, great news from Audi via Rueters:

Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, will make cars with no exhaust emissions within ten years, its top executive has told a German weekly. Rupert Stadler told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday that he saw great opportunities in electric cars and expected diesel and battery technology to dominate in the coming five to ten years.

Wait, what? Ten years? Is this the same company that built the adorable and well-equipped hydrogen powered A1?

Hydrogen powered Audi A1 at the 2005 National Hydrogen Association conference in Santa Monica, CA
You really have to wonder why Audi would wait that long... and announce so early. An announcement like this can't do anything to affect current sales (which don't need help anyways). Why even comment?

Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen (am I saying that right?), is the upscale arm of that corporate juggernaut. Product offerings at both companies take into account the existence of the other. As such, it's unlikely you'll see Audi competing for the sub-$20K market, especially here in America; that's what VW is for. So this announcement begs the question: is Volkswagen planning a real push into the hybrid or electric market?

Volkswagen holds a funny place in the alternative fuel world. They have the cult (but very real) following of the TDI, their turbo diesel engine. This champion of compression and combustion has been reported to get around 50 MPG and run on biodiesel without a hitch. There's also the new TDI, reported to be a big improvement on the original in terms of emissions.

Then again, they have no hybrid offering on the market and just killed the concept that might have changed that. Current MPG figures have a broad range but average out at 25 or so, which is exactly what I got in my GTI (past tense :) guess what I bought?) that is almost 9 years old. 25 isn't bad (just as long as it's not under 15) but it could definitely use some improvement - especially these days.

I think it's going to be very interesting to see what comes out of VAG in the near future (that's Volkswagen Auto Group in case you sounded it out and become confused).


This one is via Inhabitat:
Created by noted car designer Henrik Fisker, the ultra cool Karma is a sleek, power packed eco-luxury ride. The Karma’s performance specs rev out at 0-60 mph in 6 seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph. At $80,000 USD, The car is a plug-in hybrid based on technology of Quantum Technologies. The Q DRIVE consists of a small gasoline engine which in turn charges the lithium battery packs in the car. According to Fisker, if charged properly, the hybrid would need to use no more than a fuel tank per year, quite a claim!

From the side, this thing is HOT!

Fisker Karma hybrid electric sports car, via
The front? I'm not a huge fan...

Fisker Karma hybrid electric sports car, via
Pictures are from Inhabitat, FYI.

As I've said before, I LOVE bold moves like this from the alternative fuel sector. I think the attention it grabs, the limits it pushes, and the contrarians it puts to rest are vital to making fuel economy less of a fringe issue and more of a standard.

One more picture... looks way better here (from The Car Lounge):

Fisker Karma from the 2008 Top Marques Monaco

Friday, May 16, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: UPS Adds 200 Hybrid Trucks

One of my only regular commenters (in fact, my only one recently) sent me a note the other day...

yo update your blog.. wtf man.. how can i learn anything without you??

It occurred to me that it has been over a week since my last update. Not only that, the other blog has gone just as long without crisp, fresh content. I'd make excuses but that wouldn't do anything to mitigate the lack of JoshIsJosh content so I'll just go ahead and make some content. And I'm going to do it every day for 7 days. And it won't even be just 7 links posted.

Here's to you, Bridget ;)


UPS: lesser of several evils

I spend some of my browsing time on (not nearly as much as I used to, thankfully) and have noticed a marked increase in well-spoken car nuts who also happen to think what we do to the environment is deplorable. One of these nuts said something very interesting a while ago (I'm paraphrasing):
Want to do something about the environment and the energy crisis? Don't worry about the difference between 30 and 35 MPG on your compact sedan, stop buying things that need to be shipped. You're out-of-season fruit and trendy clothing made in Europe does more damage than you could ever do with your own car.

That quote stuck with me and is one of the reasons I choose local produce when I can (plus it tends to be cheaper). This quote, however, doesn't seem to occur to me when I buy electronics from Newegg or books from Amazon. If it needs electricity, stores data, and/or incorporates wires in any way, it is shipped to my door from Whittier, CA, pretty much no exception.

Like I mentioned in a previous post about career choice and green-ness, caring about the planet and where your next drop of water or electron is coming from is tied into more things than your MPG and how many CFLs your house has in it. Probably the biggest problem we're going to have with this massive social change is getting people to give up important things that don't seem to be contributing greatly to the problem - like imported goods, mail-order, and unsustainable materials.

This is going to lead to an ENORMOUS rant if I don't go ahead and jump straight to the point... which is that some companies (driven probably by monetary concerns) are doing the sustainable thing, lessening the impact that our consumer culture is having on the planet. One of these companies is Brown, aka UPS.
UPS (NYSE: UPS) today announced it has ordered 200 hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) - the largest commercial order of such trucks by any company - in addition to another 300 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles for its U.S. delivery fleet.

Awesome, right?

UPS hybrid electric delivery truck... this is what the Brown does for you
But this goes beyond the drop-in-the-bucket of diesel fuel saved by a few hundred trucks running around the clock. This is MASSIVE and PRICELESS data about how hybrids hold up, what kind of technology can make them better, and how to optimize them for start-stop city driving (of the worst kind). This goes way beyond the typical Prius for the sheer fact that delivery trucks, next to city buses and taxicabs, are probably the most abused vehicles on the planet. On top of that, they're big, they have to be maneuverable (not only turning radius but acceleration), and they shouldn't be breaking down in the middle of a delivery route.

Hybrids are somewhat unproven in the public eye. People are still afraid of the technical complexity, the longevity of the battery, and the amount of computer control that is going on in a hybrid. I think this will go a LONG way towards correcting that bias.

On the subject of UPS and the environment... check out their press section detailing the sustainable work they've done. I'm very impressed!

UPS Expands "Green Fleet" with 306 Alternative Fuel Vehicles
UPS (NYSE:UPS) today announced it was adding 306 alternative fuel vehicles to its "green fleet" by placing an order for 167 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) delivery trucks while taking delivery of 139 new propane delivery trucks in North America. Additionally, the company has launched an initiative to use biodiesel fuel in its ground support vehicles at the UPS Worldport® air hub in Louisville.

Energy Lab to Evaluate Performance of UPS Hybrid-Electric Vans

New delivery trucks expected to save fuel, reduce harmful emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collecting and analyzing maintenance, fuel economy and other vehicle performance data from 50 UPS hybrid diesel step delivery vans powered by an Eaton Corp. electric hybrid propulsion system.

EPA Unveils Unique Hydraulic Hybrid Diesel Delivery Truck with UPS, International Truck and Engine, Eaton and U.S. Army

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today unveiled the first-ever series hydraulic hybrid diesel urban delivery vehicle, which will provide dramatic improvements in fuel economy and in emission reductions. The development of the hydraulic hybrid is the result of a partnership between the EPA, U.S. Army, UPS, International Truck and Engine Corporation and Eaton Corporation.

Go Brown!