Living in a Fuel Efficient Future

Fuel-efficient vehicles have become increasingly popular with consumers in recent years as fluctuations in fuel prices and environmental concerns serve only to highlight the necessity for new technologies capable of dealing with these pressing issues. Whilst some of the ideas such as reducing the overall drag and weight of vehicles are more obvious to consumers, it is the combination of such advances with the use of new fuel technologies which is likely to make the most impact. With that in mind, here are the three main technologies which manufacturers are relying on to usher in a new age of fuel efficiency:

Hybrid vehicles

Manufacturers such as Toyota have seen sales of their hybrid vehicles exceeding initial expectations as people respond to the convenience and familiarity of a car which opts to combine the savings of an electric cell with the convenience and reliance of a more traditional internal combustion engine. High profile celebrity purchases have seen the acceptance of cars such as the Toyota Prius growing at a steady rate, with hybrids now making up nearly half of all Toyota’s sales in Japan.

All-electric vehicles

Vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf are starting to offer a more attractive version of all-electric battery powered technology which has previously been criticised for the low mileage achievable between charges. This, coupled with the difficulty of locating appropriate charging stations has meant uptake of electric vehicles has been relatively slow amongst the general population, although sales have improved in recent years.

Fuel Cell Vehicles

Although the technology is still currently in its infancy, the next two to three years will see the introduction of the first truly viable fuel cell vehicles available to the public. Just like the battery-powered electric vehicles that are currently on the market , these are driven by electric motors, but uniquely, they utilise a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to generate their power, thus eliminating the use for any reliance on fossil fuels. Expectations for the technology are high as vehicles running on such cells will dramatically reduce emissions, as well as being exceedingly cheap to operate.

What all this means is that there is an increasingly diverse range of options available for those drivers looking to invest in the future of the planet whilst hopefully driving down the cost of motoring at the same time. Technological advances are often driven by necessity and it is clear that with the increasing visibility of electric, hybrid (and soon fuel cell) vehicles, the requirement to produce cars that can be run cheaply, and without causing damage to the environment is only set to increase.

Switch to a Motorbike for Cheaper Commutes

We’re always looking for ways to save money on transport, and with fuel prices changing every day, one of the best ways to make sure you save cash is simply to use less fuel. While drivers can try to reduce fuel consumption in all sorts of ways, from accelerating more smoothly to ensuring they have the correct tyre pressure, perhaps the most dramatic way to spend less on fuel is to switch to life on two wheels.

Not only does a motorcycle get many, many more miles to the gallon than an equivalent car, but a number of associated costs are considerably lower too. The Get On campaign recently compared the running costs of a Honda CBF 125n against a Vauxhall Corsa 1.0i, finding that £10 worth of petrol will take the biker 258 miles, while the driver just gets just 82 miles for the same amount. Bikers also spend much less on the cost of lessons and taking the test – £170 compared with a massive £1,077 for drivers.

Another area where motorcyclists save money is insurance. Specialist companies like MCE Insurance will offer much lower premiums for motorcycles than it would cost to insure a car, due to bikes generally costing much less to repair or replace in the event of an accident. According to Motorcycle News magazine, insuring a car costs on average three times more than insuring a motorbike.

Finally, road tax is also much lower for bikers, who also enjoy free parking in many major cities. Added together, all these benefits make switching to two wheels an easy choice for those who want to save cash, whether it just be on their daily commute, or on a full-scale adventure such as the ones we found here!

Top Five Tips for Going Green on Your Work Commute

Want to know how you can do your bit to save the planet, save some money and maybe even get fit and trim down? Your commute to work is where you can make a difference. With your travel plans modified car insurance, maintenance costs, petrol, and parking tariffs could be a thing of the past! Read on to discover some handy hints.

Walk to work

Do you live down the road from work, but have got into the bad habit of jumping in the car every day? Make a concerted effort to walk to work instead! While you might think it’ll take a little longer, you might also discover that you actually get there quicker or in the same time as you would if you were driving! With rush hour traffic usually being bumper-to-bumper, you’ll be glad of the chance to breathe in some clean air and clear your head before the day begins. And if you need a little motivation, why not take a look at Living Streets? They organise the ‘Walk to Work Week’, a great opportunity to get and give motivation!

Cycle to work (cycle to work scheme)

Especially quick if you live only a couple of miles from work, cycling is one of the speediest forms of transport available to you, and if you can squeeze in just 30 minutes of cycling per day (that’s a mere 15 minutes each way!), you’ll achieve a fitness level equivalent to that of someone 10 years your junior! And if you’re worried about the dangers you’ll face on the roads as a cyclist, here’s a cool factoid that’ll put your fear into perspective: there’s only one cyclist death for every 33-million kilometres cycled, which would take the average cyclist 21,000 years to get that far. And if you need a little help with buying a new bike, you could either buy a secondhand one to begin with or ask your boss to sign up to the Bike 2 Work scheme. It’s completely free to set up and it means that you and your colleagues can buy bikes and equipment at up to 52 per cent discount and spread the cost over 12 months, with monthly instalments being taken straight from your salary.

Car sharing

If you and your colleagues all live on roughly the same route to work but all drive in separately, why don’t you club together and agree to car share? You can each take turns driving in, and if there’s anyone who can’t drive, let them contribute towards petrol! It’ll save everyone money on car insurance, maintenance costs, petrol, and parking tariffs, and in terms of the environment, one car is better than five.

Public transport

Have you found out about what busses, trams or trains run in your area? While you might think it’s cheaper to drive to work than using public transport, it might be well worth your time to find out and then calculate how much you’re spending on car insurance, maintenance costs, petrol, and parking tariffs – you could be in for a big surprise!

Get yourself a lean, green smog-fighting machine

With a starting price of £23,990 and lithium-ion battery power, the Nissan LEAF Electric is the world’s very first five-seat, medium-sized hatchback with zero-emissions that will run for an incredibly worthy 80-100 miles per charge. Released in March this year, the Leaf was swiftly awarded 2011 European Car of the Year – a telling achievement. The electric motor delivers over 80kW drive to the wheels and takes just 30 minutes to charge to 80 per cent capacity (or eight hours to reach 100 per cent), making it eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant. And there are plenty of other models out at the moment, with many eligible for various grants and exemptions.

How the New Fuel Economy Standards Could Kill The Economy

I’ll be upfront with this, I don’t believe that the White House’s soon to be proposed higher fuel economy standards are going to kill the economy. I just don’t think it’s realistic. In fact, I tend to be on the other side of the argument and believe the new standards would create jobs, largely due to more people around the world 1) owning cars and 2) wanting more fuel efficient vehicles.

Just think, if America led the way in fuel efficient vehicle production, how in the world could that be a job killer?

In an article entitled “Obama’s Fuel Economy Standards Threaten the Economy,” Peter Roff of U.S. News states the proposed fuel economy standards would kill jobs and hurt the economy:

Thanks to Obama, the U.S. government now has three agencies–the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Air Resources Board–involved in the effort to improve through mandates the fuel economy of U.S. passenger vehicles.

Before 2009, when the current administration added EPA and CARB to the mix, the issue was more or less the sole province of NHTSA.

Why the change? Under the old rules Congress required NHTSA to consider what an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE standard would do to jobs and to the affordability and safety of vehicles in the U.S. passenger fleet. EPA and CARB are bound by no such rules; indeed CARB, as a state agency, is largely outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress–which is probably why EPA and CARB are the ones drafting the next round of fuel economy regulations.

Federal regulators at the EPA, working with their counterparts in Sacramento at CARB, are trying to get around Congress in an effort to mandate that the CAFE standard be bumped all the way up to 56 miles per gallon for model years 2017 to 2025, a move that is certain to batter the already teetering U.S. auto industry even further while making cars less safe and more expensive.

(If you’ll look at Roff’s bio, you’ll see he’s a contributor to Fox News, which may explain his slant on things.)

I don’t think Obama included the EPA and the CARB as a means of thwarting the EPA’s authority regarding fuel economy. If you look at Obama as a person, he’s much more of a collaborator, so it makes sense that he would bring these three like-minded agencies together in order to solve this problem.

Also, I would like proof that raising fuel economy standards over the next 15 years is going to “batter the already teetering U.S. auto industry.” As I stated before, I tend to think the improved fuel economy standards would do the opposite. Then again, what do I know, I’m just a blogger.

What do you think? Would the new fuel economy standards kill the economy and auto industry? Leave your thoughts below and, as always, please share this post using the social bookmarking buttons below – especially Facebook and Twitter!

Fuel Economy Standards – It’s Time to Crap or Get off the Pot

Remember when I said the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers had cancelled their radio ad campaign against the proposed increase in fuel economy standards? Yeah, turns out that’s back on – in addiction to a competing ad trumpeting the benefits of pushing fuel economy standards to 60 mpg!

According to an article published by the Detroit Free Press entitled “Fuel Economy Standards Battle Heats Up on Airwaves,”  Aaron Kessler writes that things are getting pretty contentuous between the two opposing sides:

ads against fuel economy standards, alliance for automobile manufacturers ad, fuel economy and politics, go60mpg fuel economy ads, white house fuel economy standards

Let's be honest, if we leave it up to Washington, this stuff is never going to get figured out.

The ad war over fuel economy standards ratcheted up again today, as both sides of the debate are increasingly turning to the airwaves to make their case and put pressure on Washington decision-makers.

Go60MPG, a coalition of environmental groups supporting a fleet average of 60 miles per gallon by 2025, is launching radio ads today on Washington-area stations touting the benefits of a high fuel economy standard.

The consumer-targeted ad will feature a voice saying: “What if there was a way to create tens of thousands of new jobs, keep billions of dollars in the U.S. economy that now go overseas, and also make it possible for you to pay less at the gas pump?”

It goes on to state that “experts say 60 m.p.g. would mean 700,000 new jobs in the USA,” and that “best of all for consumers, 60 m.p.g. would mean $650 billion in savings at the gas pump.”

He goes on to say:

The automakers’ ad campaign through the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers was nearly canceled after opposition from General Motors, Chrysler and Toyota. But a second vote Thursday among all of the Alliance members meant the ads would continue through this week, and possibly longer. They claim a 56 m.p.g. target would cost jobs and limit consumer choices.

(CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE)

Personally, I think this whole thing is stupid and just goes to show how much corporations and their deep pockets influence our political system. That being said, this isn’t the Huffington Post, so I’ll just talk about fuel economy.

As I’ve stated before, I think the government needs to attack our fuel consumption from two sides:

  1. Increase fuel economy standards: we’re technologically advanced enough to get better fuel economy out of most vehicles. Just get it done.
  2. Increase the fuel tax: I truly believe this is the only way they will ever be able to get people to substantially alter their driving habits

Increasing the fuel economy standards helps to offset the pain at the pump brought about by the higher fuel costs, although probably not enough to make it a net gain/loss $0.

That being said, it’s time to crap or get off the pot. JUST DO SOMETHING!

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below and, as always, please share this post using the social bookmarking buttons below – especially Facebook and Twitter!

Michigan Lawmakers Prepare to Fight Possible Proposed Fuel Economy Standards

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Why can't we seem to figure out this gas mileage stuff?

Despite having a large portion of their state’s economy saved by the Federal Government’s auto bailouts, lawmakers in Michigan are preparing to express concerns and discontent over the White House’s rumored new fuel economy standards.  In case you’re not already aware, it is believed the White House will push CAFE standards to 56.2 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025, nearly doubling today’s standards.

In an article entitled “Michigan Lawmakers Prepare Letter on Fuel Economy Rules”, published in the Detroit Free Press, Aaron M. Kessler writes:

It currently remains unclear whether the letter will specifically take on the 56 m.p.g. target by 2025 that the White House wants, or raise more generalized concerns.

As the Free Press reported Tuesday, Michigan’s congressional delegation gathered this morning to decide whether to publicly join the fuel economy debate. Michigan’s members of Congress had mostly remained silent in public as the negotiations have continued in recent weeks.

While this article seems to be rather ambiguous, if you read between the lines it’s obvious to see that the Michigan lawmakers will oppose the large raise in fuel economy standards, mostly because they will be inconvenient to some of the largest businesses in Michigan.

You see, state and local governments are not immune to being “persuaded” (read: in bed with) corporations, and will do whatever is in the company’s best interest.

Despite the fact I believe simply raising the fuel tax would achieve a greater reduction in fuel consumption, I’m still all for raising fuel economy standards.  Unfortunately, it appears that Michigan lawmakers will take the stance of going with neither.

What are your thoughts?  Should Michigan lawmakers oppose?  Are you tired of our governments putting the best interests of corporations first?  Leave your comments below or share this post via the social sharing buttons – especially Facebook and Twitter.

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Fuel Economy vs. Fuel Taxes – Which Will Do More?

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Which is better, higher fuel economy or higher fuel taxes? Image via Wikipedia

Here’s an interesting question: which is more likely to make you use less fuel, forcing you to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle or forcing you to pay a much, much higher fuel tax?

This is sort of a relevant question because there is news that the Obama administration is considering raising fuel economy standards for all cars and trucks sold in the U.S. to 56.2 miles per gallon by the year 2025:

The Obama administration is considering a fleetwide average of 56.2 miles per gallon for all new cars and trucks sold in the US by 2025, The Wall Street Journal reported late Saturday citing two people briefed on the matter said.

The proposal would roughly double current fuel-economy targets, and would likely raise the price of some cars by several thousand dollars.

Read more of this Fox News article by clicking here.

2025 is certainly a long way off, these new standards are certainly worth debating in the meantime.

While I think most of us would be willing to argue that reducing fuel consumption is certainly something we need to do, there are arguments that simply raising fuel economy standards isn’t the best way to go about it.

In an interesting article entitled Fuel Taxes vs Fuel Economy: Are Stricter Fuel Economy Standards a Good Idea? by Ed Dolan (published on OilPrice.com), it is argued that raising fuel economy standards tackles only a small portion of the problem:

The problem with higher CAFE standards is that they encourage fuel saving only with regard to the choice of what car to buy. Once a consumer buys a low-mileage vehicle, the cost of driving and extra mile goes down, thereby reducing the incentive for fuel-saving measures like moving closer to work, working at home, riding the bus to work, or consolidating errands.

The very fuel-saving strategies that CAFE standards discourage, like moving closer to work or consolidating errands, are often the ones that have the lowest costs. That is why the total cost of reaching a given national fuel-saving target will be greater when achieved through CAFE standards than when induced by an increase in fuel taxes.

If you’re a fan of economics, studies in spending habits, or just interested in the topic, I highly recommend you read the article in its entirety.

Anyway, in looking at this side of the argument, I think I would have to agree with Dolan.  Think about it, in order to get the biggest environmental bang for the buck you need to fundamentally change people’s driving habits.  You’re not going to do that by increasing fuel economy standards.  That’s painless.

The only way you’re really going to invoke substantial change is to cause pain, particularly pain in the wallet.  That’s why a dramatic increase in the fuel tax would mass a larger reduction in fuel usage and pollution than simply raising fuel economy standards.

Yes, I realize this is a so-called “regressive tax” meaning it affects the poor far more than the wealthy, but, as heartless as it sounds, I don’t think that should stop politicians from moving forward with a fuel tax increase.

What do you think?  Which is more apt to bring bigger changes?  Leave a comment below and be sure to spread the word using the social buttons below.

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The Top Eco Car of 2011

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These fuel economy figures are lame! Image via Wikipedia

After gasoline prices tanked in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the pain at the pump eased, there wasn’t as much of a monetary incentive for people to get rid of their gas guzzling sports cars, trucks, and SUVs and trade them in for more practical, fuel economy friendly vehicles.

Now that gasoline prices are back to pushing all-time highs, it seems as if buying a fuel efficient vehicle is back in style.

Today, CNET published a great article by Wayne Cunningham entitled By The Numbers: The Top Eco Car, which, as you probably guessed, talks about the most environmentally friendly and fuel efficient vehicles on the market today, and compares all of them based on the following criteria:

  • Cost
  • Range
  • Annual fuel cost
  • Seating
  • Cargo capacity

Looking through the EPA listings for 2011 model year cars, we picked out the most fuel efficient and compared them by a few different data points. Topping the EPA list is the 2011 Nissan Leaf, with its massive 99 mpg equivalent fuel economy. This number represents the combined city and highway mileage.

The 2011 Chevy Volt is more difficult to place, as the EPA lists two fuel economy figures, 93 mpg equivalent for electric operation and 37 mpg for gasoline operation. A simple average shows 65 mpg, which isn’t particularly accurate but will do for this comparison.

That hybrid stalwart, the 2011 Toyota Prius, rings in at 50 mpg, and is the top fuel economy performer that can’t be plugged in. We also decided to throw in a diesel, the 2011 VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen, which gets 34 mpg. We chose the Sportwagen because it gets the same fuel economy as the sedan, yet has more cargo area.

So, which car drove away with the award?  If you guessed the old favorite, the Toyota Prius, you’d be right, although, there were some caveats:

Given these categories, the 2011 Toyota Prius comes out the winner. Its base price is the lowest and it offers the most range, while at the same time having the largest passenger compartment.

That fact, however, does not mean the Prius is the best choice for everyone who wants an ecologically sound car. If the majority of your drives come under 35 miles, than the Leaf or Volt might make a better choice. If you don’t have easy access to the charging stations or need to maximize cargo volume, the Jetta TDI Sportwagen would serve well.

Which would you have picked?  Leave a comment below!

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In Europe, Ford Needs to Highlight Fuel Economy and Technology

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Henry Ford was one of the greatest businessmen of all time. How would he grow his company? Image via Wikipedia

Despite being an American icon,  in order to succeed and continue to grow, Ford needs to expand its reach in two key areas: China and Europe.  (After all, the world is flat.)  While Ford has been growing its Asian presence relatively quickly, they have been unable to expand at the same pace in Europe.

My guess is this is mostly because Europeans have the same misconceptions about Ford that Americans used to have: they produce low quality, gas guzzling, road-hoarding vehicles.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m an American car kind of guy – specifically Ford and Dodge – so I’m a bit biased.  That being said, I think Ford can legitimately succeed in Europe.

In a great article in Motor Trend by Jake Holmes entitled To Win Over European Customers, Ford Will Highlight Vehicle Fuel Economy and Technology, Ford’s path to success is outlined

Ford currently holds just 7.5 percent of the German automotive market, whereas Volkswagen has cornered 20.8 percent of the market. To help woo European buyers into Ford showrooms, the Blue Oval will highlight the impressive fuel economy of its newest models. Sales people will be given Apple iPads filled with information on fuel-saving features of new Ford cars. In addition, the company plans to tout the fact that it builds vehicles and engines in Germany, employing about 29,000 German workers.

On top of those tenets, Ford will use technological prowess to win over drivers. Ford’s Sync connectivity system will launch in Germany in 2012, with electric and hybrid cars arriving in Europe the year after. Such systems are reportedly very important to European buyers, which partially explains why they may gravitate to Volkswagens with more tech features.

If Ford can improve its image among European customers, the company stands to improve sales as well as vehicle purchase prices. That would mean increased profits throughout the European market, assuming that buyers will be influenced by promises of fuel economy.

Seems like a pretty good plan to me!

What are your thoughts?  Think Ford will ever be able to succeed in Europe?  Leave a comment below and share this post using the buttons below!

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Government to Allow Automakers Fuel Economy Loophole on Trucks and SUVs

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The White House is thinking of letting trucks and SUVs meet their own fuel economy standardsImage via Wikipedia

Remember way back when the Federal Government was pushing extremely hard and aggressive fuel efficiency standards on automakers? Environmentalists and consumers alike generally liked the new standards, and saw them as a big step forward.

Unfortunately, as is standard in Washington, there has been some reneging.

According to an article by Josh Mitchell and Sharon Terlep in the Wall Street Journal, White House officials are allowing auto makers to somewhat circumvent the fuel economy standards:

The White House is ready to let auto makers improve the future fuel efficiency of pickups and sport utility vehicles at a slower pace than passenger cars, say people familiar with the matter, a move that would benefit Detroit manufacturers.

Officials are scrambling to reach by early next week a broad agreement on a mileage target by 2025 of 56 miles a gallon, roughly double the current level. The concession is an effort by the White House to overcome broad opposition to the mileage figure by auto makers, including General Motors Co., which is still partially owned by the U.S.

While it may appear that the U.S. Government is doing automakers a favor, Roland Hwang, in an article entitled Light Truck Loophole Bad for Pickup Drivers, Oil Dependency and Pollution, says it may actually do automakers more harm than good:

While the U.S. automakers may complain that equal treatment for light trucks is bad for their profits, the opposite is true. By allowing big pickups and other light trucks to lag behind, the Detroit 3 run the risk of falling back into the bad habit that lead them to their downfall — becoming too dependent on fuel-inefficient vehicles.

Ford’s F-150 Ecoboost engine demonstrates that even big pickups can be more fuel efficient. The 40 percent purchase rate for the F-150 Ecoboost demonstrates that pickup buyers are willing to pay more to cut their gas bills. In fact, since light trucks generally lag behind the technology of their gasoline counterparts, these vehicles can improve at an even faster rate.

Equal treatment for light trucks makes sense. It will save truck driver thousands of dollars over the life of their trucks, cut our dependency on oil, and ensure the U.S. automakers don’t fall back into their bad habits.

I can definitely see both sides of the issue, however, I have to side with Hwang. I think it is best to hold automakers’ entire fleet accountable to the new fuel economy standards, not just vehicles that are more apt to meet the standards. Oil and gasoline are only going to get more expensive, so the less we can use the better, both in terms of the environment and our bank accounts.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

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