Green(er) Towing... fuel choices? - Page 3 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-03-2007, 01:28 AM   #29
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... unfortunately I can't buy a compact pickup with a turbodiesel in America...
...yet. With the new ultra-low-sulphur diesel fuel specification, it becomes possible to build much cleaner diesels, and easier for engines designed for Europe to be sold in North America. This is the "clean" diesel which Roger mentioned in post #4. Diesel is neither inherently cleaner nor inherently more efficient than any other hydrocarbon fuel (e.g. gasoline), but modern direct-injection turbocharged designs can be quite effective (although expensive), so perhaps there is potential for a small diesel pickup here, and perhaps even one suitable for our trailers. Diesels are inherently ready for biodiesel, should that ever become a worthwhile large-scale alternative.
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Old 01-03-2007, 01:36 AM   #30
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...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...
I never did see any useful purpose for the EV-1, or whatever they finally called it. To me, it proved nothing, and as just another battery/electric car it had no environmental benefit (compared to the now-proven hybrid drivetrains), although it made for a lot of great PR. Most people never wanted such a vehicle except to be trendy, and they still don't. GM produced it because the U.S. government wanted to see electric cars; now that same government wants flex-fuel and hybrids, and GM is obliging... in my opinion, of course.
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Old 01-03-2007, 01:48 AM   #31
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Ethanol as a motor fuel is really a pretty poor choice. There are fewer BTUs per gallon and what they don't tell you is that your fuel economy really goes in the toilet when running E85. There is some debate about it, but I believe that ethanol is a net loss - in other words, it takes more energy to produce it than you get out of it.
I own an E-85 capable 3.0L V-6 Ford Ranger, which gets 20 MPG on standard "Plus" blend gasoline and 19 MPG on E-85 on mostly level highway driving (not hill country, not towing). At $2.50 or so a gallon here in Portland as compared to $2.85 or so for standard gas, I get better cash economy on E-85. (I won't be towing on E-85 anytime soon because I can't find stations that sell the stuff on most travel routes. There is a project to set up gas stations along the I-5 corridor between Mexico and Canada by 2008.)

Before getting a tow vehicle I looked into standard fuels, biodeisel, E-85, and Hybrids. I went with the E-85 vehicle because:
1) It costs less to fuel it.
2) The environmental costs of ethanol are lower. The energy cost per therm produced here in the US is less than standard gasoline and in Brazil (where most of their vehicles run on E-85) their energy efficiency producing ethanol is almost twice that of gasoline. I also like biofuel because it does not contribute as much to global warming; it is carbon-neutral, meaning all the carbondioxide released by burning ethanol is absorbed by the corn (or other crops) grown to make new ethanol.
3) I intently dislike the social, political and economic costs of sending billions of dollars to the middle east for oil.
4) Biodiesel mixtures with more than 20% biofuel gel at freezing temperatures, making biodiesel less practical.
5) Most of the current hybrids do not have enough towing capacity to pull a 5th wheel, and only two can pull even a 16' trailer. The two hybrid pickups that can pull a 5th wheel get worse gas mileage than my Ford Ranger.

My ideal tow vehicle would be something like a Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger Hybrid that can run on E-85. Until then I have my Ford Ranger --- which gets about 127 miles per gallon of gasoline when mixed with 85% ethanol. (A hybrid getting 30 mpg on E-85 would get about 200 miles per gallon of gasoline in an E-85 mixture.)

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Old 01-03-2007, 06:50 AM   #32
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I never did see any useful purpose for the EV-1, or whatever they finally called it. To me, it proved nothing, and as just another battery/electric car it had no environmental benefit (compared to the now-proven hybrid drivetrains), although it made for a lot of great PR. Most people never wanted such a vehicle except to be trendy, and they still don't. GM produced it because the U.S. government wanted to see electric cars; now that same government wants flex-fuel and hybrids, and GM is obliging... in my opinion, of course.
My wife commutes in an '06 Honda Civic gas model. She averages a solid 38 mpg on her 40 mile each-way commute. We looked at the Prius and Civic Hybrid prior to buying the gas Civic. The hybrids are stellar for in-city driving and really do get pretty close to their advertised 50mpg under those conditions. If you drive at 53 mph you will also realize 50 mpg highway with the 1,000 cc gas engines that they have.

53mph isn't realistic on rural highways, and at 65 the mileage drops to 35 mpg. At 70 mph (the speed limit on Iowa interstates) mileage drops to around 30 mpg. Since most of my wife's commute is highway driving, the gas Civic is actually more fuel-efficient than the hybrids in our application.

Electric cars are a superb choice for folks whose needs they meet. If electric cars have NO other benefit, they're QUIET! I've read articles written by folks who had the EV1 who raved about them. They're not for everyone. Merely because they may not meet our specific needs today doesn't mean that they're not a viable option in the marketplace.

There is no single technology, engine, drive train, body style, or whatever that will meet all of the needs of the public. For commerce, 18 wheel trucks are king and will remain so for years to come. For commuters, a variety of options need to exist, and the more diverse the options are, the better off we'll all be.

Roger
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:21 AM   #33
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Brazil has been on all alcohol for years, NASCAR runs on alcohol and the US is finally doing something to help us get weaned from the oil. It is a situation where we either support the effort or just complain that we donít have hydrogen, etc.

It is a Lead, Follow or Get Out Of The Way situation.

I firmly believe that if the US would have payday everyday and no work on payday, the know-it-allís would complain that their currency is not new and previously unused.

I suggest that the US Just get with the program and that could start right here.

Art
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:44 AM   #34
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I'm surprised no one had caught this yet... maybe you're just not reading my posts?
I read it, but my brain must have thought methanol when racing was mentioned. I'll admit that I'm sometimes a little slow on the uptake.
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:47 AM   #35
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NASCAR runs on alcohol...
Not to pick nits, but Nascar uses leaded racing gasoline.

The CART and IRL cars do use methanol, though.
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:58 AM   #36
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My wife commutes in an '06 Honda Civic gas model. She averages a solid 38 mpg on her 40 mile each-way commute. We looked at the Prius and Civic Hybrid prior to buying the gas Civic. The hybrids are stellar for in-city driving and really do get pretty close to their advertised 50mpg under those conditions. If you drive at 53 mph you will also realize 50 mpg highway with the 1,000 cc gas engines that they have.

53mph isn't realistic on rural highways, and at 65 the mileage drops to 35 mpg. At 70 mph (the speed limit on Iowa interstates) mileage drops to around 30 mpg. Since most of my wife's commute is highway driving, the gas Civic is actually more fuel-efficient than the hybrids in our application.
As a point of reference, my 1998 Jetta TDI with around 230,000 miles on it gets 46-47 mpg on my 49 mile (one-way) commute. It's about half 2-lane roads through towns and half interstate, where I usually run a shade under 75. This car also has a performance chip in the ECU that boosts hp from 90 to 115 and torque from 149 to 199 lb/ft. I certainly don't baby it. Mileage is about the same if running 20% biodiesel or straight petrodiesel. Best mileage I got was 54 mpg, but I had to drive pretty slowly to do it and it just wasn't worth it to me.

Europe gets a sweet version of the new Civic with a turbodiesel. I've read very favorable reports about it. Do we get it here? Nope!

The biggest gripe about the hybrids I have is the environmental cost of that hulking battery. I'll dig up a somewhat sensationalist article about the nickel plant in Canada as a factor in that. Economically they make no sense, either - you will never save enough on gas to recoup the cost of regular battery replacement.
Hybrids are OK in the city where they can recapture some of the energy normally lost to braking but on the highway they make no sense, IMO. You're left with an undersized engine dragging that heavy battery pack along for the ride.
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Old 01-03-2007, 12:05 PM   #37
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Here's a link to the story I mentioned above:

Toyota factory turns landscape to arid wilderness

Yes, i realize it's written with a sensationalist slant, and that it is not a Toyota factory, and that the environmental damage was not as a direct result of Prius production, but there is a nugget of truth in there and it does make one consider overall costs, both monetary and environmental. Take it for what it's worth.
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Old 01-03-2007, 02:15 PM   #38
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I agree, of course, that different technologies suit different applications. The electric car is really only of value in stop-and-go urban driving, where it avoids fuel consumption while idling, but a hybrid does the same thing... which is why it mentioned it. Now if you're driving on a golf course, electric is the way to go.

Yes, the EV-1 suited some people, but by "proved nothing" I mean that there already were battery/electric cars, and we already knew that if you were willing to spend enough on a car to buy a house, you could have a very good battery/electric car.

Hybrids have no benefit in constant-power applications, and thus little benefit in highway driving. Since most RV towing is in highway conditions, I don't see hybrids as really promising for that purpose, although a hybrid might be a good choice for dual purposes of towing and non-towing use. For instance, the hybrid Toyota Highlander has the same rated towing capacity as the conventional Highlander, so it might be a good all-purpose family car and tug; perhaps it could be "greener" than similarly-sized alternatives in daily use, and by serving as the tug eliminate the need for an additional vehicle and the resultant manufacturing cost to the environment.
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Old 01-03-2007, 02:25 PM   #39
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I read it, but my brain must have thought methanol when racing was mentioned...
That's exactly the problem I had in the first place... wrong alcohol. Sorry for the understandable confusion.

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Not to pick nits, but Nascar uses leaded racing gasoline.

The CART and IRL cars do use methanol, though.
Methanol is particularly popular in the dirt circle-track area (such as sprint cars), and that common heritage is how it ended up at Indy. The NASCAR guys are "descended" from moonshine runners, for whom alcohol (ethanol) was a product to be sold for drinking, not driving!

More seriously, [b]methanol is another alternative fuel, but while it burns nicely it does not help environmentally by solving the source problem. Sort of like hydrogen...
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Old 01-03-2007, 02:40 PM   #40
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I think a reality check is needed in the hybrid battery area. Those packs are not nearly as large as they were, and I don't know why I would be concerned about "regular replacement" of an item covered by an eight-year warranty.

As for the article about the nickel mine at Subury...
Perhaps Andrew can enlighten us, but based on this article I wouldn't pay a nickel for a copy of the Daily Mail, and would not believe anything printed in it - it looks like a junk rag. The environmental problems at Sudbury are well known to millions of people, and have essentially nothing to do with Toyota or the Prius. It's like taking any area destroyed by the obsolete coal mining practices of generations ago, combining that with any random product which happens to use electricity (generated by burning coal), and declaring that product responsible for destruction of the environment. The only question is whether the Daily Mail people are irresponsible, too lazy to do any research, or just plain stupid.

Yes, as Roger has been explaining, there is a substantial environmental cost to producing a product such as a vehicle, and that should be considered - in a balanced and rational way - in the pursuit of being "green".
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Old 01-03-2007, 06:29 PM   #41
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The Mail isn't a junk rag, but it's certainly not a heavyweight (the usual quote is that it's for people who want to think it's a heavyweight!). For all journalists, there is only a story if you take one side - a balanced view doesn't sell papers.

I would love to find a reliable source of information on whole-life costs and pollution, but I don't think they exist - even the Greenpeaces of this world seem only interested in dramatic current issues. Do I believe the batteries in a hybrid are a good thing for the planet? Doubtful. Will the hybrid ever get its first set of batteries replaced? Given the lump sum cost, it's doubtful, in which case making a whole hybrid for just 8-10 years' use isn't very green.

It's interesting that in Europe, hybrids don't seem to show anything like the benefit that they seem to in North America - possibly because we drive more aggressively, as in braking and accelerating more, and cruising less. In general a diesel Golf seems to get better mileage than a Prius, if driven Euro-normally. Pussy-footing, I got 58mpg(US) out of a diesel Golf recently!

As a recent returnee to (pedal) cycling, one nice green question is are bicycles better for the environment than cars? It's actually not a foregone conclusion as the average bicycle uses quite a bit of energy to make, but then spends all its life in a garage. One estimate I've seen is that the average bike does less than 50 miles in its life and, if so, not buying a bike and using an existing car would be better. It shows there are no simple straightforward answers on this subject!

Anyway, aren't fiberglass trailers about the greenest thing around? Low aerodynamic drag and low weight mean less energy is used to tow them than anything other than a pop-up, and a thirty year lifespan that eliminates the energy needed to build a replacement is even more important. The only thing greener would be to stay at home.

Andrew
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Old 01-04-2007, 12:17 AM   #42
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Europe gets a sweet version of the new Civic with a turbodiesel. I've read very favorable reports about it. Do we get it here? Nope!

The biggest gripe about the hybrids I have is the environmental cost of that hulking battery. I'll dig up a somewhat sensationalist article about the nickel plant in Canada as a factor in that. Economically they make no sense, either - you will never save enough on gas to recoup the cost of regular battery replacement.
Hybrids are OK in the city where they can recapture some of the energy normally lost to braking but on the highway they make no sense, IMO. You're left with an undersized engine dragging that heavy battery pack along for the ride.
I love the Jetta and Beetle turbo diesels! But I like E-85 solutions even better. Biodiesel mixtures over B-20 gel at freezing temperatures, and I'd really rather get the lion's share of my fuel from non-fossil-fuel, non-import sources.

As for the disadvantages of a heavy battery pack in a hybrid, that's not as much of an issue as you might think. Once you're on a level road at freeway speeds the majority of the energy you expend goes into overcoming wind resistance, not hauling the weight of your vehicle around. It's one of Newton's basic law of physics: a body in motion will remain in motion at a constant speed and direction until some opposite force is applied (paraphrased). That opposite force is wind resistance (and, to a lesser degree, the rolling resistance of your tires), which increases at the square of your speed, meaning it takes four times as much energy overcome wind resistance at 60MPH than it does at 30MPH regardless of your vehicle's weight.

The main cost of the battery's weight is in accelerating that weight up to your desired speed, and some of that energy is recaptured by the regenerative brakes, which charge the batteries by converting mechanical energy (speed) into electrical power and storing it in the batteries.

As for the undersized engine, you're absolutely correct. If you spend most of your time cruising at freeway speeds on level roads, a hybrid does you little good. If, on the other hand, you drive in cities or in hill country, the regenerative brakes and batteries add considerable efficiency into the system by allowing you to draw energy from the batteries while accelerating or hill-climbing instead of having to have a larger engine that consumes more fuel in all driving conditions just so you have more power to accelerate from stop signs, pass cars, or climb hills.

I've read about the problems with Canada's nickle mines, too. All the mining industries have problems, whether we're mining oil, coal, metals, or gemstones. As for nickle, it's the second most common element on earth and it's easier to process than iron, too (iron is more highly reactive); the only reason nickle (and many other) mining operations are so dirty is they haven't been forced to clean up their act. The sulpher dioxide emissions, for example, are due to burning cheaper high-sulpher coal in their smelters; they could dramatically reduce their emissions by burning low-sulpher coal.

--Peter
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