Wednesday, May 21, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: Vehicles to know about

Green vehicles to know about

I've seen quite a few vehicle announcements that have caught my attention lately. One of them was the Fisker I talked about a few days ago. I thought I might spread the word on a few of these and set your expectations appropriately.

It's tiny

A few of these are in the super-sub-compact range of size. As such, tehy get FANTASTIC mileage but probably won't fit the lives of most consumers.

Via Inhabitat:

TRIAC covered electric trike
Three wheels means it's not a car so it's not held to the same safety standards (same like the Xebra). The numbers:
The 20kw electric motor can achieve a very reasonable 80mph, and will take you on travels up to 100 miles on any given charge. It takes about 6 hours for its lithium-ion battery to recharge fully and, as with most electric vehicles, it comes with a regenerative braking system. The package for all of this three-wheeled fun runs about $20,000 dollars.

I'll be the first to say it: $20K is a LOT for this little vehicle. My Element just cost $20K.

On the other hand, 100 miles is really good for something of this size and 80mph is excellent. This is about as good as electric vehicles get right now (save for the Tesla) so it makes sense that the price is so high.

The problem, if their desire is to sell a lot of these, is that they fell into a difficult price bracket with a difficult car to sell. The vast majority of people who might want to buy this will probably, because of size and range constraints, need to make it a second (or a third) car. This is obviously no good for a family and, even for a couple, there is not a lot of room to put anything and it definitely can;t be used for long trips.

I would assume that some people would buy this as their commuter car (drive an E Class on the weekends, take the TRIAC to work through the week). That's a great idea but there aren't going to be a lot of people who want to pay $20K for a commuter car. You can buy an older Civic that gets great gas mileage, holds more, and is much safer for under $2,000.

Next up, the brand I just left... this one is via Ecogeek/Motor Authority:
VW has been talking for a long time about their L1 concept, so called because it uses a measly 1 liter of gasoline to go 100 km. For us Americans, that translates to about 230 miles per gallon. Of course, the amazing mileage comes at a price. The car is tiny, more of a tobaggon than a car. The single passenger actually sits behind the driver, like in a small airplane.

200 MPG Volkswagen 1L concept

200 MPG Volkswagen 1L concept
Very interesting, this one is. First off, I HATE the idea of a toboggan and would be really irritated trying to have a conversation with the back of someone's head/my windshield. Additionally, Volkswagen likes to tease us with concepts so getting your hopes up about this thing is probably going to lead to disappointment.

Still, I have to admire the one-off-ed-ness of this strange little diesel missile. Some interesting facts can be had from Wikipedia:
There are no rear view mirrors and it instead uses cameras and electronic displays. The rear wheels are close together to allow a streamlined body. The drag coefficient (Cd) is 0.159, compared to 0.30 for typical cars.

For light weight, the car uses an unpainted carbon fibre skin over a magnesium subframe. Individual components have been designed for low weight, including engine, transmission, suspension, wheels (carbon fibre), brakes (aluminium), hubs (titanium), bearings (ceramic), interior, and so on. Empty vehicle weight is 290 kg (639 lb).

The body and frame are designed with crush zones and roll-over protection, and the tandem seating means large side crush zones, and Volkswagen claims protection comparable to a GT racing car.

The plan is 2010 for production. I'll believe it when I see it.

Last but not least, M-Benz, at it again. This one from AutoblogGreen:
This fall, Mercedes-Benz will offer a new A-Class coupe - the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY - that gets 52mpg (U.S.). In the NEDC consumption calculation, the car comes in at 4.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and emits just 119 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Those are the best ratings in the A-Class range, and the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY will still deliver 60 kW/82 hp.

Great looking vehicle, too.

Mercedes-Benz will offer a new A-Class coupe - the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY

Mercedes-Benz will offer a new A-Class coupe - the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
This one I have high hopes for - more than the other two at least. It looks great, it's a Mercedes, and the BlueTEC technology is a fantastic innovation. Not likely that we'll see it over here though.

And now, your moment of zen...

Monday, May 19, 2008

7 Days of Blog Retribution: My New Car

Wow, it only took two days for me to completely miss a day. I'm just not cut out for the heavy blogging.

So, today, I'm putting myself on trial. I bought a new car on Saturday and, if you know me well enough (or have paid attention to key posts) then you know the new ride isn't a Corolla, it isn't a Civic, and it probably isn't a Prius.

I bought a Honda Element.

2007 gray Honda Element SC

2007 gray Honda Element SC

2007 gray Honda Element SC
First, the conversational stuff...

Yes, I love it.
This is a vehicle I've been pining over for a good 5 years or so. For all of you out there who hate them, I hated them too... HATED them. But I rode in one and the owner, a good friend, loved it to death. And then, something in my brain changed and I knew I had to have one. It's everything I want and need in a vehicle in a very unique package.

The GTI had to go.
Poor Gretchen (yes, she has a name) was running a bit rough and had me a bit scared I might be stranded on the side of the road (again). A check engine light and a funny clunk in the front (along with a few other things) made it seem likely that a few thousand in repairs were coming up soon. I drove that picky German b*tch for 9 years and almost 112,000 miles and had very few problems up until about a year ago (maybe a bit before that).

The price was right, the car was right.
This is exactly how I would spec one of these new and there happened to be one on the lot, waiting for me (got there 4 days before I did). Fate?

I guess the big question is why would a green-guy like myself trade UP in vehicle size when I could afford something much smaller and more economical (like a smart [which I briefly considered]). I'll tell you why...

This gets the same MPG.
Yup, that's right, this little guy is rated at the same MPG as my GTI (actually, one less, 23 vs. 24). It's bigger, taller, clearly less aerodynamic, and it's getting about the same. Volkswagens are typically heavier cars and not very fuel efficient (unless they try).

It's an automatic.
Automatics are notoriously better for fuel efficiency because they switch to a high gear when you're not pushing on it. Driving my mom's big SUV around town back home, I found I could squeeze about 25 MPG out of a heavy V6 just because it was automatic (and had a MPG gauge). I find I'm much less aggressive in this car and tend to be about 5mph slower on the freeway; it's just easier to drive at a slower pace.

It can actually fit 4 people.
No more taking two cars because it's too cramped. The 3 other cars I ride around in besides my own are all 2-door and, if they have 4 seatbelts, it doesn't mean 4 adults should be in there.

It takes 87 octane.
And I'm dead sick of spending the money on premium.

So that's the deal.

To be perfectly honest, it was a big issue to buy a new-to-me car that didn't get much better miles-per-gallon. The gas prices are atrocious but my concern is and will continue to be actual consumption, not finances. I know, however, that the difference in overall consumption between 25 mpg and 30 mpg simply isn't enough to justify big sacrifices in my own life.

From spending my own time recycling to this blog to teaching others around me and volunteering for events, I do a lot to affect as many people as possible and, hopefully, convince a few more to make responsible choices. I replaced my bulbs, I control my speed on the freeway, I reuse plastic like a madman, I take cotton bags to the grocery store (when I remember), and I just recently started carpooling with a co-worker. Environmental choices are about more than just a car.

Trust me, I thought this one through. And I'll be the first one with an aftermarket hybrid kit when a solid, tested kit comes out... that or a low-emissions diesel engine from Honda!