What Drives Us episode

#336 Hydrogen Double Take

5 Oct , 2019   Video

  1. Florida Power & Light committed to 1,000 new EV chargershttps://insideevs.com/news/373803/florida-1000-charging-points/
  2. From Yahoo! Finance: Solar and Wind are now Cheaper than Coal in Most of the World:https://finance.yahoo.com/news/solar-wind-now-cheaper-coal-210000650.html
  3. Truly a new take or just flogging an old trope one more time?https://www.thedrive.com/tech/26050/exclusive-toyota-hydrogen-boss-explains-how-fuel-cells-can-achieve-corolla-costs
  4. This is going to be fun: The 2nd Gen Mirai will be out in 2020.  They’re actually making a 2nd Gen:https://www.autoblog.com/2019/09/26/toyota-mirai-hydrogen-fuel-cell-car-second-generation/
  5. And speaking of Hydrogen:Engineers in Alberta think the’ve found a way for the oilseeds to produce clean fuel:https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/alberta-hydrogen-innovation-1.5290297
  6. Lane tape might be a cheap fix to help AV developmenthttps://www.on-sitemag.com/roads/marking-the-way-to-driverless-cars-ontarios-407-etr-3m-team-up-to-test-novel-road-tape/1003965295/
  7. Between 1990-2016, despite a sizable 35% increase in the overall fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet, national emissions rose by 21%. Why? Because those improvements were accompanied by a 50% increase in driving.
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Open-Forum-Electric-cars-won-t-save-us-but-a-14462534.php
  8. Some people love car dealers (service)
    https://www.autonews.com/fixed-ops-journal/survey-3-out-4-vehicle-owners-prefer-dealership-service

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Article,EPA,Hypermiling

Planning Trips

5 Sep , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

In another post, we discussed how to best handle your day-to-day commute by finding a mileage-friendly route, memorizing it, and documenting how well you do. This article will address how to handle those unexpected and irregular trips. For example, running errands on the weekends.

Combine Trips

This should be obvious but I’m just throwing it out there.

Quite possibly, the silliest thing you could do is to make a bunch of little errand runs throughout the day. As long as you’re out running errands, hit all your stops in one go. Seriously, there’s not much more to write about this except to make note that the order in which you combine all your trips is important. So with that…

Go to the Farthest Destination First

It seems like the easiest and best thing: go to the closest destination and progress out until you’re at the farthest destination and then head home. However, in terms of mileage, this is the worst possible way to approach the situation. Here is the underlying reason: cars get better mileage once they are warmed up. If you string together a bunch of short drives, the engine will never have an adequate chance to properly warm up. It will always be running in an inefficient warm-up mode.

By starting with the farthest destination, the engine will have that initial chance to get completely up to temperature and start running efficiently. Then, when you head to the second stop, the engine is starting from a warm condition and is more likely to return to optimal temperature before stopping again. The same goes for all subsequent stops. The point here is that you want to give your car at least one long drive to reach optimal temperature.

As with all things, there are exceptions. The above advice works great for non-perishable errands (crafts store, hardware store, library, etc.) However, if the farthest destination is the grocery store with frozen food, you might want to plan the route so you get there last before heading home. If the farthest destination is a restaurant of the theater, you’re going to want to end there.

Consider Taking a Roundabout Route

If you are out running errands, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the area within about 5 miles of your house. With this in mind, you should have a pretty good understanding of traffic fluctuations in relation to a place, time, and day of the week.

When provided the opportunity, take a more roundabout route if it means dodging traffic situations and stoplights. Keeping clear of traffic situations could mean better constant-speed driving as will dodging the stoplights and stop signs.

Did you know that UPS drivers are routed in such a way as to minimize their number of left turns?

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. From 2004 to 2012, the right turn rule combined with other improvements saved around 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.

Think about that. Not only does turning right mean that you spend less time waiting for traffic to clear, it means that you do not cross lanes of traffic as much. Turning right is much safer than turning left.

One consideration that might be a bit of a stretch is that the less-than-direct route might have better roads. In other words, find a path that avoids crappy roads. No doubt you have noticed that your car rolls better and gets better overall mileage on freshly paved, smooth roads. If provided the opportunity, define your route based on traveling on the smoothest roads. Besides, driving on rough roads just plain stinks.

All these things, when put together, might provide a more fuel-efficient route than heading directly to the destinations without any forethought.

Run your Errands when it’s Warm Outside

This concept works in combination with driving to the farthest destination first. Driving when it’s warmer outside will help your engine warm because the air rushing past the engine will be warmer. In some geologies, the morning-to-afternoon temperature swing can be several degrees. You need a sweater in the morning but have stripped down to a T-shirt by mid-afternoon.

If you like to get up and out as early as possible, that’s fine; just as long as you know that you might be taking a hit to your mileage. If you can wait a few hours, when the outside temperature is higher, you will be rewarded with better mileage. In the meantime, find other things you can do perhaps around the house or whatever.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

This is a tried-and-true mainstay of hypermiling. When we feel rushed, we tend to make bad decisions, press a little harder on the pedal, and generally compromise the hard work we’ve done so far.

So here’s what you do: as long as you’re waiting for the temperature to go up, plan your trip so that you hit the farthest destination first. Once you’re done with that, figure out how long your entire trip will take and leave on time. So you see, a bunch of these concepts fit hand-in-hand.

Conclusion

Sometimes we have to make that one-off trip to the grocery store or hardware store or whatever. But when a series of errands require that you top at multiple destinations, taking a little time to plan it all out could reward you with improved overall mileage.

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What Drives Us episode

Drive Less

23 Apr , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


-Tony Schaefer

Yesterday was Earth Day: a perfect time to talk about hypermiling and reduced emissions. But I’m not going to. You see, if we really try, we can do even better than hypermiling. In fact, focusing exclusively on driving more efficiently is not always the best approach. After all, it assumes that you will always be driving. Also, there are stories about people literally driving farther than necessary just to make sure their engines warm up so they can register better mile-per-gallon averages.

Today we’re going to shift our focus from driving more efficiently and focus on driving less. There are several approaches to reducing our dependence on our vehicles. This article might not get to them all but hopefully it will serve as a good start and get you thinking.

Walk

The most obvious alternative to driving is walking. OK, I know what you’re thinking: “I live too far from work” or “I have to haul things” or whatever. Yeah, I get that. I have those things too. Walking is not an all-or-nothing alternative. The point here is not to walk everywhere all the time. The point is to know your walking speed and acceptable distance. Then, when you have to get yourself from one place to another, ask yourself whether it is within your acceptable distance. If it is, seriously consider walking.

On a more personal note, we have become a sedentary society. We sit in our car, at our desk, and in front of the television. No matter who you are or what your current state of health might be, we can all benefit from taking more steps every day.

Bicycle

Stepping up from walking is riding a bicycle. The same concept applies: know your acceptable distance and situations. If the current need fits your parameters, ride your bike. From time to time, someone at the local fitness center will wonder why there are so many parking spots and so few bike racks. This is a perfect example of when to ride your bike.

Not only does bicycling extend the distance and shorten the time compared to walking, mountable carriers allow for light grocery shopping. If you need to run to the local store for a few things in order to complete the recipe, don’t bother firing up the vehicle; hop on your bike.

Carpool

Some of us are lucky in that we have coworkers who live within a mile or two of our homes. This makes carpooling pretty convenient. Some companies have bulletin boards where people can post interest in ride sharing opportunities. Some are actual bulletin boards in a common area such as the cafeteria whereas tech savvy companies might have information on their intranet.

When it comes to driving less, any improvement is an improvement. Let’s say you have a coworker who lives halfway between you and work. Even if you drive to their house and park your car, you are not driving the entire trip. Even if the coworker lives a few miles out of your way, the fact that you are not driving every day means that you are driving less.

Of course, carpooling means taking turns. Don’t be a carpool leech! The only acceptable exception is that you do not have a car at all.

Mass Transportation

Some people have mass transportation options and don’t even realize it. Make sure to check your community’s internet site or other information to see what mass transportation options exist.

Some people place a stigma on riding the bus or train. Their belief is that not rolling up in your own set of wheels somehow makes you less of a person or they see mass transportation as a lower form then car ownership. But these people are spending money on gasoline and potentially on parking fees. They log more miles on their car, which will result in faster wear-n-tear maintenance. They aren’t aware the amount of money they are spending just because of their personal belief.

Those who ride the train and/or bus to and from work do not have to drive in the rain or snow. They save money on gasoline and potentially parking fees. Ridding as a passenger is much less stressful than driving and provides ample opportunity to get a little more work done, sit quietly, or catch up on that podcast.

Plan your routes

Have you ever been our in your car running a few errands and realize that you’ve crossed town twice already and will need to do it again? Hopefully, it occurred to you that had you planned your errands a little better, you wouldn’t have to do so much driving around.

Not only does better planning reduce the miles you log in your car, it saves you time and money. You save time because, of course, you spend less time in your car. You save money because gasoline is not cheap.

Next weekend – or whenever – when you are about to run a series of errands, consider writing them down and then numbering them based on a preferred route. You would be surprised how much time you end up saving this way and how much better you feel for having gotten through them faster.

Conclusion

Reducing the miles driven in your car by any amount is an improvement. Even if carpooling and mass transportation are not available in your area, you can still find other ways to drive less by biking and walking from time to time.

Here is my biggest rub. I pulled these tips from international sources. These things are tightly integrated into the very fiber of most Europeans. Trains and buses are used to capacity and many companies have as many bike racks as parking spots. Some European companies charge their own employees for parking in their garage as a way to encourage carpooling and mass transportation. Sadly, these things are usually either ignored or rebuffed by most American citizens. I shutter to think how bad things would have to get before more people here started acting more like the people over there.

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ration-bored

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Article,EPA,Hypermiling

Why we Hypermile

2 Apr , 2016  

I’m in the process of recording these articles in a series of videos.  Click the image to the left to watch them.  While there, be sure to subscribe to the channel.


Introduction

There are many reasons to hypermile.  A while back,  some friends and I came up with about five different and distinct reasons. I’ll try to recap them (assuming I can remember them). The point is not that there is one specific reason to hypermile. Nor is it to argue that any one reason is better than the others. The point is this: any reason to improve your car’s mileage is a good reason.

Save Money

This one is pretty easy.  The less gasoline you consume, the more money you save.  The problem is perception and association.  When people go to the gas station, they complain about the cost of gasoline.  But when they are driving, they act as though gasoline is free.  The problem is that people only feel the pain of purchasing gasoline when they are actually at the station.  After that point, they quickly forget. They fail to associate the pain of buying gas with the way they drive.

Perhaps it would help if we replace gasoline with something else.  If gasoline is $2.00 per gallon and you have a 15 gallon tank, that’s $30 for a fill-up.  If you took that same $30 and purchased several gallons of milk, you might think of it a little differently.  Let’s say your child poured a large glass of milk and only drank half of it before pouring the rest down the sink. There’s a very high probability you’d get upset.  Why?  Are you concerned that the world is running out of milk cows?  Nope.  Are you worried that milk might clog the pipes?  Probably not.  What really gets you riled up is the realization that you paid real money for that milk and your kid is wasting it.

Replace “milk” with gasoline and “kid” with you. Then you will realize it is no different than when you buy a full tank of gasoline and drive in such a way as to waste much of it.  Why is wasting gasoline perfectly justifiable when wasting milk pisses you off?  There is no difference between wasting money spent on gasoline and wasting money spent on other things.  People just need to see it.

FuelEconomy.gov provides a simple calculator. You can enter your current average MPG as “Car 1” and speculate a 5% MPG improvement as “Car 2”. This puts hard numbers right in front of you. https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/savemoney.shtml

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, burning one gallon of pure gasoline produces 19.64 pounds of Carbon Dioxide emissions. Burning one gallon of pure diesel produces 22.38 pounds.

I have to admit that I see “pounds of CO2” and have no idea what that means. Thank you, Google! The Natural Resources Defense Council does the best job, in my opinion, of making this rather abstract concept tangible. In short, filling a balloon with one pound of CO2 would swell the balloon to about two and a half feet across. That’s about 8.2 cubic feet. Compare that to a basketball, which is 9.5 inches with a volume of 0.26 cubic feet. This means burning one gallon of pure gasoline releases the equivalent of 31 basketballs of pure Carbon Dioxide.

This is why running your gasoline car in a closed garage will kill you. And quick. Here’s the rub: we all live in one giant garage. So far, its enormous size has been working in our favor. But everything (yes, everything) has its limit. Every day the average American fills up about 57 of those Carbon Dioxide balloons, emitting 467 cubic feet of CO2. You know those 10-foot moving trucks? That’s about four and a half of those. And that’s just you on just one day.

Considering all the gasoline burned in cars in the US and all over the world would create a staggeringly large number, no doubt. So let’s add to it. Large amounts of oil distilled to produce gasoline are shipped across the oceans in large tankers running huge diesel engines, they add to the total. Then there are the gasoline trucks that make deliveries to the gas stations; they add to the total.

What does all this Carbon Dioxide have to do with greenhouse gas? In case you haven’t heard, CO2 is a heat-trapping gas. When it’s in the atmosphere, it becomes the glass ceiling of a greenhouse, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Everyone knows what it feels like to walk into a greenhouse and that’s essentially what we’re doing as we pump increasing amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the air. As though that’s not bad enough, CO2 is the longest-lasting greenhouse gas, which means your great-grandkids will be affected by your tailpipe emissions.

So it’s not enough to just consider your driving habits and calculate your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. You have to consider everyone else and all the shipping and transporting that goes into making and moving your gasoline. But if we can find a way to consume less gasoline, fewer tankers would need to traverse the oceans and fewer trucks would be needed for deliveries. In the end, fewer emissions would be emitted all around.

Less Consumption and Fewer Imports (excuse my rant)

No matter who you talk to, they will all agree that it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of foreign oil we import.  The United States imports a lot of oil from countries run by regimes who use our money to fund the fighters who kill American service men and women.  The regimes themselves engage in atrocities we would never condone within our own borders.  Even though we don’t like them, considering we disagree with much of what they do, and ignoring that they fund the people who are willing to die in their quest to kill us, we continue to willingly send them more and more of our hard-earned money.

If we cannot convince Americans how to connect the dots between our gasoline addiction and our dying soldiers, then we are doomed as a country.  As long as we continue to fund both sides of the war, it will never end.

In this election year, there has been a lot of rhetoric about the need to secure our borders. A need to be more self-reliant and beholden to no one.  These people stand around pounding their chests, declaring their undying love for the United States, waving Chinese-manufactured American flags as they pledge allegiance to this once-great republic.  When they have finished their empty promises to protect the U.S. with their last dying breath, they climb into their unnecessary gas guzzling megatruck because a commercial was all it took to convince them that they aren’t manly unless they have best-in-class towing wrapped in military-grade construction, whatever that means.

So let’s set the record straight and expose the truth:

Like any drug dealer, many of the OPEC countries supplying so much of our oil have exactly one viable commodity.  Their entire livelihood relies on others continuously purchasing it.  Without the addicts purchasing their product, they would quickly go broke.  If Americans truly cared about gaining independence, if they actually wanted to undermine those who wish to cause us harm, they would realize that their addiction funds their own destruction.

Here is a page at Energy.gov discussing Energy and National Security: http://energy.gov/public-services/national-security-safety

If these chest-thumping Americans were truly serious about securing our borders, they would prove their commitment by being more concerned with how wasteful they are than how manly they appear.  If they truly wanted to undermine those who wish to destroy us, they would realize that by saving fuel, we could starve our enemies into submission.  Unfortunately, they are too brainwashed to see it and too addicted to care.

Less wear and tear on your vehicle

A huge majority of the hypermiling techniques hinge around driving in such a way that is easy on your vehicle.  For example, rather than accelerating as hard as possible, hypermiling teaches an acceleration method that doesn’t overwork the engine.  Once you have reached an acceptable cruising speed, you should let off on the accelerator to allow the engine to find its own sweet spot.  These two methods will extend the life of your engine.

Rather than racing to a stoplight, hypermiling teaches to allow coasting to naturally slow you down, or to use regenerative braking to decelerate.  People who use these techniques can see their brake pads last for many years.

Anecdotally, driving more efficiently will extend the life of your car and all its parts. This is evidenced by Prius owners who replace their brake pads after more than 100,000 miles. It’s hard – if not completely impossible – to find hard-fast evidence that efficient driving will absolutely extend the life of your car. There are simply way too many variables at play. However, there are too many people telling too many stories to disregard it.

Cleaner Air

No one with any grasp of reality would expect to be able to burn something without releasing gaseous emissions. I’ve already addressed greenhouse gas emissions, but there are other gases released. These typically stay lower in the atmosphere and form a brownish haze called smog (Smoke fog). To be clear, this has nothing to do with a gold-loving dragon in Middle Earth, but that would be awesome.

Some of the primary contributors to smog are nitrogen oxide, non-methane organic gases, carbon monoxide, various particulate matter, and formaldehyde. These are things you would never ever intentionally breathe if you had a choice. And yet, we drive vehicles that put them in our air, where we breathe them. So, I suppose, since we are the ones polluting the air we breathe, we are intentionally breathing them. It all works out.

Visually, smog makes clean air dirty. It looks bad to have a brown – or gray – haze lingering around your city. Health-wise, smog can make it difficult to breath. People who already have difficulties breathing can die from smog. Even those who are healthy should avoid smog because the gases in the air get into lungs and can coat the tiny air sacks. And just like that, people who were healthy before now fall into the “difficulty breathing” category.

Improvements in vehicle efficiencies have made great strides in reducing the emissions of smog-forming chemicals. But every little bit helps. If everyone did a little something, then together we could make a huge impact. In addition to driving more efficiently, start looking for the “Smog Rating” that is now required on all new car stickers.

Conclusion

Though many people tend to focus on a singular reason to drive more efficiently, there are many reasons. Regardless of anyone’s personal interest, it is in their interest to drive more efficient vehicles more efficiently.

If you find yourself trying to defend fuel-efficient driving to different people, you might want to re-read this article several times. It will give you a good starting point from which you can bring a person into the discussion and potentially help them see why fuel efficiency matters.

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