Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finally a name!

After several weeks of driving my new to me Toyota Yaris, I have finally come up with his name.  Meet Go-Kart, the Wonder Hatchback. I had repeatedly commented to people how it handles like a go kart and then I was reading a post to my wife, where another driver commented on it's go kart like handling and we both had that "ah-hah!" moment.  We finally had a name for our nimble little sprinter.

 It would be easy and fun not to hypermile the little guy but already, my first three tanks of gas were 43.61, 46.35, and 49.33 MPG respectively.  It has reinvigorated the sense of joy and fun in trying to eke out good fuel economy.  I suspect by summer, I'll easily be able to break past the 50 MPG mark.  My goal is to exceed Sippy The Wonder Saturn's high of 52.999 MPG.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Member Of The Family

It's been a while since I've updated my auto blog.  Most of my time has been on my writing blog lately.

Anyway, after years of scrimping and saving, I purchased a new to me silver 08 Toyota Yaris 3 door hatchback to replace my aging 98 Saturn SL1.  This is the first car I've ever bought that was my choice to get what I wanted.  Ever.  Every other car I have ever owned was either inherited or intended to be shared or for my significant other.

So why did I pick this one and not something else?  I had my eyes set on picking up a natural gas car during the final months of saving.  The fuel costs are much lower and there are fueling stations close to my home and my work.  The engines last a long time due to the cleaner nature of natural gas over gasoline.  I even test drove one and liked it.

But then I found a local listing for a low miles Yaris for slightly less than the CNG models I was looking at.  In running the numbers, yes I could save money within the first 2-3 years with a CNG bi-fuel Cavalier over the Yaris but then I would hit the snag of the CNG tanks expiring and I would be stuck with a 30 mpg gasoline car or have to invest money into a replacement tank, which would eat away at the gained savings.

Over 5 years the Cavalier would be cheaper but not by much (assuming the typical seasonal gas price fluctuations we've been seeing) but an 02 Cavalier would be beginning to get long in years by that point.  Although the engine would be in good shape, other components would begin to have issues steadily, like my Saturn has today.

By being 6 years younger, the Toyota Yaris will have that many more years of being in good shape before things start falling apart left and right.  It will be a car I can own for longer for a lower upfront cost.  The higher fuel cost will match fairly closely to what I already got in the Saturn so I'm accustomed to that expense.  I see it as the price for the extra reliability time.  And extra reliability time reduces maintenance costs, at least for several more years.

I still believe in natural gas and other alternative fuels.  However, for the decision to swing the other way for me, I would have needed more money for an even younger car.  For example, if I were buying new off the lot, the few extra thousand dollars for the CNG system would still pay for itself easily in the first 2 years or so and the CNG tank wouldn't expire for another 15-20 years. That would be many many years of driving with the added savings.

So why didn't I buy new?  Because the only thing I'll go into debt for is a house and would have needed to go into debt to get a new car.  I paid cash for my Yaris and own it outright.  The last three vehicles we've owned, we paid cash for.  There is no feeling greater than that of being debt free.  And cars are never an investment, they're liabilities.  Unless you have Henry Ford's personal Model-T or something, it will go steadily down in value over its lifetime.  The worst of the depreciation is in the first four years or so for most vehicles.  Getting a car that is a few years old avoids much of that initial depreciation.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meet Snowball The Wonder Subie

A couple of weeks ago, we went car shopping for my wife. Her truck is nice but not great for hauling people which is tricky for YW activities at church and we do plan on getting some kids of our own (I wonder if Walmart has any for sale...). So, after a very long afternoon and evening of test drives and searching, we found Snowball The Wonder Subie.

We got Snowball for very very cheep from a guy who replaced him with another Subaru Outback. Snowball has a heart condition and will require an engine transplant eventually. For now, though we keep the RPMs low and save up for the operation. Aside from a loud noise on start up and some engine knocking at high RPMs this little 98 Subaru Outback is a very nice car.

The windows work, the locks work, the lights work, everything works! Another plus is that it has a manual transmission which will make hypermiling it easier. And the previous owner gave us a full size spare tire along with the little standard spare, a rear area pull over cover, and an awesome dog grill to keep the critters in the back instead of in the driver's face.

I'll have to hook up the scangauge to it and see if we can eek out 30+ mpg out of this All-Wheel-Drive vehicle. DW has been learning a bit of hypermiling technique just to keep from overworking the poor engine before the transplant. We love our new Snowball.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Few Of My Favorite Things I Don't Have

In my last post, I wrote about a few of my favorite things I have. I've been admiring a few other things on the road too. These are just a few of them.

Honda Insight - These little two seat hybrids are no longer made by Honda but get over 60 mpg without even hypermiling. It is still the best fuel economy hybrid made to date and resale value of these is very high. There aren't very many on the roads but they're very well made. Those batteries that people insisted would need to be replaced at like $7000 a pop after 100,000 miles have proven to go much further than that without failure. Toyota's hybrid batteries have also far outlasted the critics.

Smart Smartfourtwo - These little two passenger cars are fun to drive. If you ever find yourself near the Lindon/Orem Mercedes Benz dealer, I recommend swinging by and test driving one. They look tiny on the outside but are so roomy inside it is amazing. The "automanualmatic" transmission (automated clutchless manual transmission) is quirky and takes some getting used to but you can drive it as either a manual (with no clutch) or an automatic. And the price is competitive with other new economy cars.

Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris Liftback - Both of these cars are the "new" Geo Metros and Ford Aspires on the roads today. Great fuel economy at low prices. The Yaris is very cute but the Fit's five door setup is more practical than the Yaris's three door. I'd be happy with either.

Zero Motorcycles, Zero X - An all electric dirtbike with equivelent power of 250 cc combustion engined motorcycles but with less weight. It gets 60 miles to the charge, can be outfitted with proper lights to be street legal and better performance than gas dirt bikes due to low mass and high torque at all rpms (even 0 rpm). Lean, clean, green, and fun.

Tesla Motors, Tesla Roadster - This is one expensive but nice ride. 100% electric and 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. It uses a BMS (Battery Management System) that can take many small cells and balance their charge and discharge rates to preserve the life each cell. In most battery packs, if one cell goes bad, it can force other cells to pick up the slack causing them to wear out prematurely too. The BMS solves that. This is a production electric car that can outperform many gas sports cars. They're rolling off the factory floor into actual drivers' garages as we speak. The electric car is here.

Subaru Baja - This little gem bucks the trend of my passion for fuel economy but I can't let it be forgotten. At first I called it the Subaru El Camino but over time I grew to like the little micro truck. It has four doors like the Forester or Outback and Subaru's signature all wheel drive. Unlike most SUVs, which I find lacking in sensibility, the Baja has a tiny but actual truck bed. There is enough room for bicycles or a single large appliance like a refrigerator or washing machine. And it's smaller size makes it easier to move around tight parking lots than a gas guzzling Ford F350 would. Like the Honda Insight, this one is out of production so it may be harder to find.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Have I ever mentioned that I love my Scangauge II? Earlier this week, I talked with a fellow hypermiler at work about our scangauges. Mine is newer than his and can use the programmable xgauge functions. His couldn't so now his scangauge is jealous. We even went out to my car to get the manual and double check his for xgauge capability. There was none.

My scangauge II (about $160 at a variety of online stores) came from and has been very nice to have. I have been able to hit more 50+ mpg tanks in my Saturn SL1 with it than I could before I got it. My highest to date is 52.99 mpg. I still think I can beat 55 mpg some day. Right now, anything 53 or more will make me very happy indeed. I recommend a scangauge to any ODBD II compliant car (any car made in or after 1996) that doesn't already have an instantaneous fuel economy gauge.

Did I ever mention that I love my 98 Saturn SL1? It is surprisingly easy to get great fuel economy in the car. A few weeks ago, I took it paintballing up the mountainside above Centerville UT. We were the only car there. I felt like putting a bumper sticker saying, "Gone Places Hummers Won't Go." Which is true (but not conducive to good fuel economy). I've taken this front wheel drive car on muddy rutted roads in Bauer UT and up 30+ degree rocky inclines in Eagle Mountain UT. I have a small radiator leak to prove it. I should get that fixed soon.

Our Scooter, Fuzzy, continues to get ridden fairly regularly, saving us plenty of gas by getting 80+ mpg. And now I'm fully legal! Whoohoo! A few weeks ago, I passed the state riding exam and now I have my Motorcycle endorsement. I mostly just use it on short trips to the grocery store to pick up small items. My wife will take it on around town trips too. Fuzzy will be staying with us for some time to come.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Price of Gas and Alternatives to Petroleum

Gas climbed to all time high's this summer and now it is dropping. The news is saying things like the oil speculation bubble has burst or with foreign markets slowing, the dollar's strengthening again. Some talk as if the end of high costs are gone for good.

Well, they aren't. I predict that at this time next summer, Gas will cost a little bit more than it did this time around. It might not climb as quickly as it did this year but the general trend year over year is that the price will continue to to rise. Something dramatic would need to change in the market for the price to truly drop and stay down.

And how do we solve the energy problem in America? A lot of people are calling for allowing the oil companies to drill on more of our lands. That will do nothing to the price at the pump in the short term, and after the five years or so it takes to find the oil and build the platforms to drill for it, it will be too little too late for most people. And the only people who will gain from this is the oil industry. I think they're rich enough already.

Petroleum is a finite resource, I think it would be wiser to deplete other country's oil deposits first and then when we are well past the peak oil point (and some think we may be already), we will be one of the few places left with it.

Other people are calling for research in alternative technologies, funded by taxpayer money. I see that money ending up in the hands of oil companies or companies owned by oil companies to fritter tax payer money away in researching technologies that will never get sold or marketed, like hydrogen fuel cells.

What I think would be better would be to provide tax incentives to the consumer to purchase those alternative technologies, some already exist and others would become economically viable with the reduced cost of entry. Let natural market forces dictate which technologies get used. The good ones will survive and the bad ones will fail. Handing a big company a big check for research won't ensure that the technology reaches consumers. Now if that big check went to the consumer, then the companies that deserve it will get the money in the end.

People keep talking about electric cars as if they are still ten years in the future and the battery technology isn't here yet. The technology has been here for at least the last ten to twelve years. The GM EV1, Ford Think, Toyata RAV4 EV, Honda EV Plus, Chevy S10 EV, and Ford Ranger EV, all worked in the late 199os. A handful of Toyota RAV4, S10, and Ranger EVs are still being driven in California, mostly by utility companies and government research groups.

The Tesla Roadster is now in production and rolling out of the factory and into people's homes. The Aptera and Venture One will not be far behind. People all over the country have converted existing gas powered cars to electric. You can see them here. Whoever says that the technology isn't ready for electric cars must still be stuck in the year 1988 instead of 2008. I would have my own electric car already if I had a little more money for such a project.

We can kick the habit of oil today if we really want to. The American southwest has the space and days of sunlight to use solar. Everything else from wind power to geo thermal are also possible alternatives. There are many ways to make electricity and by driving electric, then we broaden the possible energy sources. It doesn't have to be oil and it doesn't have to be ethanol.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Scanguage Has Arrived!

I waited for my birthday and no Scanguage under the birthday tree. I waited for Father's Day and no Scangauge under the Father's Day tree. So I plunked down some cash and ordered one. Less than a week after ordering it, it showed up on my doorstep.

It can tell me a lot of really cool stuff! I'm hoping that my mileage will be getting even better with the additional information it can tell me.

When I pulled it out of the box though, my first thought was, "It looked bigger on the internet". The device is tiny and light. I'll give more updates as I use it and get to know it.