Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Getting Better Milage

Now short of running out to buy the last remaining Honda Civic Hybrids on the lot you might be wondering what you can do to save gas in a shortage. Here are a few ideas at Edmunds that can help. A few other ideas:

  • Don't start the engine until you are ready to move. Letting the engine run while you are fiddling with things just wastes fuel.
  • Do the same at the end of your trip. As soon as you park cut off the engine before reaching for items you want to take out of the car.
  • Cut off your engine when waiting at Rail Road crossings or other places where you will be idle for more than a minute.

Turns out the damage done by Katrina may be worse than I thought. Gas is already at $3.00 or higher a gallon; much higher in some places. Tonight I learned that 90% of the gasoline supply to my state has been temporarily disrupted by Katrina.

Even though the most extreme disruptions are likely to last only for a week or so, there are still going to be supply problems that will likely keep prices over $3 for a while. Perhaps this brush with European gas prices will lead to the commercialization of autos like the one inspired by the boxfish. Or the introduction in the US of cars like the Citroen in yesterday's posting.

In the early 1990's I had a friend with a 4 door Ford that got over 40 MPG. Have you tried finding a car today that can get 40 MPG in the US market? Its not an option unless you go with a hybrid or VW diesel. But it shouldn't have to be that way, I should be able to get a car that breaks 40 MPG without being as exotic as a hybrid.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I intended my first posting to be on a different subject. However the recent run up in fuel prices makes it a good time to address an issue I have been thinking about for a while.

Damage to the oil industry of the southern US will push pump prices to highs many thought they would never see just a few months ago. This brings to mind the problems with the American automotive market. All companies selling cars in the US are in the middle of a horsepower war.

Don't believe me, consider this; a new stock Honda Accord V6 (boring right?) can out accelerate most stock muscle cars from the muscle car era. This is due to a decrease in car weight, better transmissions, and more advanced engines. You have to wonder why a "boring, practical" car needs to be able to out accelerate some of the fastest cars made.

If you look at most of the cars in the US, it is really hard to find one that doesn't get 20 MPG city and 30 MPG highway, plus or minus 4 MPG. Doesn't matter if it is a $12,000 130 HP economy car or 300 HP Cadilac DeVille.

Hybrids are changing that, but consider the Citroen C1. Companies have learned to make engines more efficient, but in the US that efficiency has been used to make more powerful cars get the same MPG instead of making cars with the same power get better MPG. In the very near future I think the buying public will be asking for better millage, $3 a gallon gas prices will do it for many people. And while prices will probably recede somewhat in the winter, the rise of a car economy in China will ensure that gas will never be cheap again.
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