Green(er) Towing... fuel choices? - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-02-2007, 11:09 AM   #15
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Wow, Lee! That's something I wasn't aware of. That's why I wanted to start this thread. Algae biodiesel... and as a byproduct of exhaust scrubbing... now THAT's cool! Hopefully there's somebody out there looking at this as a serious alternative!

Darwin, I believe that there is a DiLithium crystal disposal problem... you can't just pitch 'em out y'know... toxic and radioactive waste and all that... you know DiLithium may be worse than Polonium 210 if ingested....

On the Soil Bank program... I think that was a farm subsidy program from the late '70s/early '80s. To my knowledge, all of the available acreage that's till-able in Iowa is being planted now. The farm commodity prices are pretty good, and the farm economy is pretty strong right now. Farm land in Cedar County (where I live) just went over $4k/acre for the first time ever buoyed by strong crop prices and corn demand fueled by ethanol. There was an article in the local paper about farm land prices and historical levels. Interesting stuff.

Don, IMHO, trailering and running "green" aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Travelling in a moho may be; especially a stickie moho. When I first joined (and pre-hack) I made a lengthy post about the actual energy costs of trailering (I'll save you the majority of that diatribe) but the gist is that the majority of the energy costs in trailering are spent in the manufacture of the trailer and tow vehicle (or moho). The fuel expended on the highway pales in comparison to the energy expended in manufacturing (except perhaps in the moho side). If you pass up the motorhomes, and buy a trailer/tow vehicle rig that is capable of lasting 30+ years, then you can amortize the energy costs of both over that period, which is actually quite reasonable. Further, if the tow vehicle is 85% recyclable, is reasonably fuel-efficient on it's own, and you can use it as a multi-purpose vehicle, you're even better off when amortizing it's energy costs. OTOH, if you buy a trailer/tow vehicle combo that will only last ten years, but has the same energy investment, it's a pretty expensive rig.

Our decisions and the information provided here may help our members in planning to reduce the costs and attendant pollution issues inherent in our hobby/lifestyles over the course of the next few years.

Roger
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Old 01-02-2007, 12:55 PM   #16
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Thanks for splitting this off, Roger... I was thinking after I had posted that would be a better plan.

I have no problem with the idea of ethanol as a better oxygenate additive than MBTE; I just do not believe that it is suitable as a fuel in broad use, for environmental reasons. E85 is just ethanol for use as a fuel with 15% gasoline for little reason other than to make it unpalatable and thus avoid issues with human consumption. Straight ethanol is a well-proven fuel with various advantages and disadvantages - that's what some forms of racing have run on for many years.
On Edit: Oh no! Wrong alcohol! See correction in later post...

The idea that farm land is "unused" and thus would be better used to grow corn for fuel is based on the notion that anything which is not being exploited for an economic benefit is bad. Environmentally, this is far from the truth; I think that we would be better off returning land to more benign uses or spreading crop production among existing land at a lower production rate, using less destructive agricultural practices. There is no chance that corn grown for ethanol will meet "organic" agriculture standards; in contrast, with no consumer willing to pay boutique food prices, I expect that corn production for this purpose will use every technical trick invented to minimize production cost, such as chemical fertilizers and weed killers.

The same reasoning applies to growing canola to make biodiesel; using up leftover french-fry oil to make biodiesel is great, but growing crops for it is a losing proposition. That's why there is so much interest in using cellulose sources (or even algae) rather than food grains; I see some good potential there.

Flexible fuel vehicles might be a good way to provide the fuel consumer with options; however, if they are used to encourage the consumption of ethanol they're bad.

Finally, dancing close to that political issue: I do not believe that auto manufacturers are producing flexible-fuel trucks to save the environment any more than they are producing hybrid SUVs to save fuel; they do it so that buyers can consume excessively (because they are driving an excessive vehicle) but yet have a warm fuzzy feeling that they are being "green". The truly "green" thing to do is to consume less, not to convert fossil fuels to ethanol (which is what the corn farming and ethanol plant system does) or to hydrogen before burning excessive amounts of it. I drive a small car to work, which is "greener" than driving a flex-fuel hybrid monster SUV, simply because it needs less energy to drive it.
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:01 PM   #17
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The idea that farm land is "unused" and thus would be better used to grow corn for fuel is based on the notion that anything which is not being exploited for an economic benefit is bad.
Brian, if you were referring to the "Land Bank" program here, it was a "welfare" type program that allowed farmers to be paid for not using already farmed ground. Grain and corn reserves were high at the time and commodity prices were low. It wasn't about using land that wasn't being used for anything else or turning "virgin" ground for farming.

If you were referring to something I missed, please disregard.

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Old 01-02-2007, 01:05 PM   #18
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The truly "green" thing to do is to consume less, not to convert fossil fuels to ethanol (which is what the corn farming and ethanol plant system does) or to hydrogen before burning excessive amounts of it. I drive a small car to work, which is "greener" than driving a flex-fuel hybrid monster SUV, simply because it needs less energy to drive it.
I think that's a given, Brian. I think we all recognize that energy efficiency is the Holy Grail in being "green", and that using less is the real goal. The question remains though, how best to use technology and what new technologies will carry us best into the future in our quest to deal with all of the issues I listed in post #8.

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Old 01-02-2007, 01:06 PM   #19
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Finally, dancing close to that political issue: I do not believe that auto manufacturers are producing flexible-fuel trucks to save the environment any more than they are producing hybrid SUVs to save fuel; they do it so that buyers can consume excessively (because they are driving an excessive vehicle) but yet have a warm fuzzy feeling that they are being "green". [b]The truly "green" thing to do is to consume less, not to convert fossil fuels to ethanol (which is what the corn farming and ethanol plant system does) or to hydrogen before burning excessive amounts of it.

It's that; but even more, it's a way to skirt the CAFE requirements, at least in the US. Not sure about Canada's rules as far as that goes. Again, quoting from the C&D article:

Quote:
Flex Fuel’s Big Pay-off

With fewer than 600 stations selling E85 fuel in 37 states, why have GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler been cranking out these flex-fuel vehicles by the millions?

The answer is the mandatory Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Federal law requires that the cars an automaker offers for sale average 27.5 mpg; light trucks must achieve 22.2 mpg. Failure to do so can result in substantial fines. However, relief is available to manufacturers that build E85 vehicles to encourage their production.

[b]The irony here is that although E85 in fact gets poorer fuel economy than gasoline, for CAFE purposes, the government counts only the 15-percent gasoline content of E85. Not counting the ethanol, which is the other 85 percent, produces a seven-fold increase in E85 mpg. The official CAFE number for an E85 vehicle results from averaging the gas and the inflated E85 fuel-economy stats.

Calculating backward from our test Tahoe’s window-sticker figures (which are lower than but derived from the unpublished CAFE numbers), we figure the E85 Tahoe’s CAFE rating jumped from 20.1 mpg to 33.3 mpg, blowing through the 22.2-mpg mandate and raising GM’s average. What’s that worth? Well, spread over the roughly 4.5-million vehicles GM sold in 2005, the maximum 0.9-mpg benefit allowed by the E85 loophole could have saved GM more than $200 million in fines. That’s not chump change, even for the auto giant.
As always, follow the almighty buck. I can't blame GM - they are just exploiting a loophole. Blame the regulations that allow that loophole to exist and those who wrote the regulations.
Joe consumer is to blame, as well - if he did not demand all the toys and the bigger is better mindset, the automakers wouldn't sell such large beasts.
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:07 PM   #20
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I think Roger makes an excellent point about the true environmental cost of the various types of RV. For the same living space and technology, a motorhome will likely have less air drag, less mass, and as a result less fuel consumption than a tug and trailer. There are two factors to balance this:
  • the substantial energy and resource costs of producing an extra vehicle, or at least an extra drivetrain
  • the multi-purpose tow vehicle is relatively new, taking advantage of recent technology, while the motorhome lives on for decades, resulting in obsolete (dirty, inefficient) drivetrain operation.
One bad combination to watch for: if we keep old pickup trucks in service to tow our trailers, we can end up with exactly the same components as we would have if we had an old motorhome, but with less efficient operation due to the two-unit configuration. For instance, a 1979 pickup towing my 1979 Boler would be even worse than a 1979 motorhome.

My current compromise is to tow with a current-technology minivan, which also provides general transportation (not to work). That's a dedicated vehicle for commuting, and a compromise for the other functions.
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:17 PM   #21
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As always, follow the almighty buck. I can't blame GM - they are just exploiting a loophole. Blame the regulations that allow that loophole to exist and those who wrote the regulations.
Joe consumer is to blame, as well - if he did not demand all the toys and the bigger is better mindset, the automakers wouldn't sell such large beasts.
Lee, while there is some truth in that, there is also a lot of presumption. Going back to the premise that a significant portion of the energy costs of vehicles are put into their manufacture, and later their disposal I think there is a lot that could be done in those arenas as well to lessen the energy needed per unit for their production and eventual recycling as well as reduce their energy needs for locomotion.

One of the best examples is the Ford Excursion. While it's a beast, no doubt about it, it is also 85% recyclable at the end of its useful life compared to 40% for most autos. That's significant. Further, it's gas mileage per pound and per towing capacity is actually pretty amazing, and towing I get as good as if not better mileage than I get with my Tundra. Since it sits in my garage most of the time, and only sees the light of day towing or with a large cargo, it's a pretty efficient vehicle for me.

I think the automakers could do a lot more to conserve energy in the production run.

Roger
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:19 PM   #22
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Roger, the land-use issue was a reference to both Darwin's question about unplanted land, and the frequent references in the popular press to the ability of current corn production to meet ethanol demand. Whether the current situation includes land which has been used for agriculture - but is currently idle - or not, the problem still exists: if corn is grown for fuel, it is not used for food, so all of the environmental consequences of the crop production must be recognized as part of the cost of the fuel.

Government schemes to manipulate the market for agricultural products are well known in both Canada and the U.S., and they certainly do obscure the reality of the physical situation. I'm just waiting for someone to brew a scheme to make fuel (maybe biodiesel?) from eggs or milk, because we've all heard the stories about "excess" production being dumped, or farmers being paid not to produce them!

I recently saw a TV interview with some goverment expert about recent expansion in the ethanol production (from corn) industry, and all he could talk about was the effect on the market price of corn. This reinforces the idea that the ethanol industry and its backers are not interested in providing a source of energy at all; this is too bad, because we truly do need some new source.
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:23 PM   #23
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I think Roger makes an excellent point about the true environmental cost of the various types of RV. For the same living space and technology, a motorhome will likely have less air drag, less mass, and as a result less fuel consumption than a tug and trailer.

Actually Brian, my point was just the opposite, and was irrelevant of fuel consumption while on the road. Comparing the amortized costs of production, a stickie motorhome with a ten-year or less lifespan is a VERY expensive gizmo when compared to a fiberglass travel trailer with a 30+ year lifespan and a reasonably new tow vehicle with a reasonable life span. Again, this is just in energy costs to produce and recycle. Assuming a 30 year period and a 10 year lifespan for a stickie moho, it takes enough energy to produce and recycle three mohos compared to the energy to produce and recycle one FG trailer.

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Old 01-02-2007, 01:26 PM   #24
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I recently saw a TV interview with some goverment expert about recent expansion in the ethanol production (from corn) industry, and all he could talk about was the effect on the market price of corn.

Unfortunately, Lee is right... follow the dollar. What we as consumers need to do is educate ourselves through venues such as this and vote for new technologies with our dollars (Canadian or US) when we buy. THAT's what gets things like we're discussing manufactured. Unfortunately, frequently there isn't a financial incentive that's big enough to keep them going, the electric car from Chevy as a case in point.

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Old 01-02-2007, 01:31 PM   #25
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...I think the automakers could do a lot more to conserve energy in the production run...
The great thing about free enterprise is that it drives economic efficiency. If energy is expensive, then it also drives energy efficiency. If auto manufacturers could use less energy in production, and it saved them money, they would be doing it; if it cost them money, would we be willing to pay the difference? I think consumers have a strong record of not paying extra to get nothing of benefit to them.

I think that I know a significant amount about the processes involved in automotive production, but I don't pretend to have the slightest idea of whether or not the process could or should be more energy-efficient.
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:39 PM   #26
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Actually Brian, my point was just the opposite, and was irrelevant of fuel consumption while on the road...
Umm, that's what I was saying, Roger. The rest of my post was about the factors which offset the on-the-road fuel consumption reality. We're on the same track here.

Quote:
...Comparing the amortized costs of production, a stickie motorhome with a ten-year or less lifespan is a VERY expensive gizmo when compared to a fiberglass travel trailer with a 30+ year lifespan and a reasonably new tow vehicle with a reasonable life span. Again, this is just in energy costs to produce and recycle. Assuming a 30 year period and a 10 year lifespan for a stickie moho, it takes enough energy to produce and recycle three mohos compared to the energy to produce and recycle one FG trailer.
While people do trade up to new motorhomes quite rapidly, those old motorhomes don't necessarily go away. They're still out there, in significant numbers, gulping fuel and belching exhaust. Only two of my close acquaintances have motorhomes, and both are over a quarter-century old (the RV's.. the people are older).

It would be interesting to know just how long, and for just how much distance, RVs are used. The distance thing would be really difficult to determine for trailers; I have no idea how far my Boler has travelled.

Overall, the trailer advantage (in reducing use of resources) comes in two forms:
  • the multiple uses of the tow vehicle... if the tug and trailer and purchased together, and used only as a set, the advantage is reduced compared to the tug which also serves other purposes; and,
  • the continuing use of the "coach" part of the tug/trailer rig (the trailer), while the "coach" part of the self-propelled RV (motorhome) is replaced each time along with the chassis.
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Old 01-02-2007, 11:10 PM   #27
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One of the best examples is the Ford Excursion. While it's a beast, no doubt about it, it is also 85% recyclable at the end of its useful life compared to 40% for most autos. That's significant. Further, it's gas mileage per pound and per towing capacity is actually pretty amazing, and towing I get as good as if not better mileage than I get with my Tundra. Since it sits in my garage most of the time, and only sees the light of day towing or with a large cargo, it's a pretty efficient vehicle for me.

I'm curious as to how you got those recyclability numbers.

I remember reading that in Europe recycling of newer autos is a very big consideration when they are being designed. I believe it is a mandate that a certain percentage be easily recycled, but I'd have to go looking for the details. I recall that the type of plastics various components were produced from be embossed into the parts to make them easy to identify, for example.

The way you are using the Excursion is just the way it should be, and it is no doubt more efficient than a smaller, overloaded vehicle would be for the same cargo & towing capacity. What gets me is the people that commute in something that sixe, all by themselves. I guess if they have the money to burn who am I to complain, more power to them, but still...
That thing wouldn't happen to have the Powerstroke under the hood, would it?

I used to have a 3/4 ton 4wd truck with a 350 V8 and a 4bbl carb. It would haul weight that amazed me as well as tow very large trailers with ease, but boy did it like to drink gas - seemed like it got about 10 mpg whether it was loaded to the gills or running empty. I used to drive it back and forth to work since I only lived 10 miles from home, but as my commute changed and got longer, it ended up sitting more and more. I ran my Jetta TDI for several years, but I always seemed to be lacking for space to put "stuff" in - now I drive a shortbed 2wd S-10 with the small 2.8 V-6. Compared to the Jetta it's a gas-sucking pig, but unfortunately I can't buy a compact pickup with a turbodiesel in America.
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Old 01-03-2007, 01:15 AM   #28
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I realized, after I left the place where I had internet access, that I had an error in post #16 regarding the precedent for the use of alcohol as a motor fuel. I mentioned racing, where methanol is well established; however, the best-known precedent for ethanol is in Brazil, where it has been a common fuel for many years. Different alcohol, similar issues.

I'm surprised no one had caught this yet... maybe you're just not reading my posts?
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