Green(er) Towing... fuel choices? - Page 6 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-12-2007, 07:08 PM   #71
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There's at least two kinds of folks in this discussion-- those who will use conventional vehicles and fuels until the perfect solution is found, and those who will adopt the first alternative that seems like an improvement.
...I'll take biodiesel.
...I believe that as a carbon-neutral fuel...
Although I suspect that I would be lumped in the first category, I'm not. I just want a real improvement, rather than one merely promoted as an improvement.

I have no argument with the idea of biodiesel, and it may well be an improvement; I applaud those who make and informed decision and "put their money where their mouth is, such as John and others here. Since I don't have a diesel, it just isn't a current option for me.

I would urge caution in accepting the idea that biodiesel is "carbon-neutral"... sure, the carbon released when it is used is balanced by the carbon captured by the growing plants which are used to make it, but a great deal of petroleum fuel goes into the production of biodiesel.

I think it would be interesting to see a biodiesel or ethanol production operation in which all of the required energy for the equipment involved (vehicles and processing) is provided by the operation itself, to see just how much net fuel comes out.

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...Google "VW Tiguan" and see what's in store...
I did, and it looks like it may be of interest to many FiberglassRV members. On the other hand, it doesn't look like anything special among the horde of small SUVs, except for likely availability of that turbodiesel, as well as favourite mechanical design of mine - the DSG transmission.
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Old 01-12-2007, 07:51 PM   #72
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Subaru has talked seriously about the introduction of a flat-4 diesel in North America. I would love one of those! In an ideal world, it would keep my compact turbodiesel pickup company in the driveway. Oh, wait, nobody sells one of those here.

I don't think that I'd say a "great deal" of petroleum goes into the production of BD. Well, I will give you that a lot more is used than needs to be - most US production uses soybeans as a feedstock, which is really a pretty poor choice. Why do we use it, then? You can thank the lobbying efforts of the soybean board...

We should mazimize the use of waste vegetable oil, waste animal fats, and phase in better sources of virgin feedstocks, like algae. Most BD is produced using sodium hydroxide and methanol, though ethanol can be used as a substitute for methanol.

Spot-on, though, about those who will wait for the perfect solution to come along vs those that will take incremental steps. If everyone would take small steps in the right direction with technology and processes availabel to us today, we could stretch the supply of fossil fuels by quite a bit and save ourselves quite a bit of pain along the way. By "ourselves", I'm also including out kids and their kids, etc.

Here's another technology that I don't think has been mentioned - thermal depolymerization. Through this process, just about any feedstock can be turned into a petroleum substitute. A pilot plant was set up next to a Butterball turkey plant and used the waste products from there to produce oil. The process sounds like it holds promise to produce oil from garbage, especially waste like plastics which don't biodegrade.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerization
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Old 01-13-2007, 01:22 PM   #73
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Brian B-P wrote about my comments on the upcoming VW Tiguan--
I did, and it looks like it may be of interest to many FiberglassRV members. On the other hand, it doesn't look like anything special among the horde of small SUVs, except for likely availability of that turbodiesel, as well as favourite mechanical design of mine - the DSG transmission.
If it has a turbodiesel and a clutchless but mechanical transmissionn (without the power-wasting torque-converter) plus full-time AWD, that's pretty special, isn't it?

It's a darn shame that VW doesn't offer the TDI in another tow car. The Tourag is too expensive, and Passat TDIs don't come with manual transmissions and AWD, I think.

I can't show you figures that BD is completely carbon-neutral. The indredients have to be trucked around and processed. So does petroleum, to a greater degree. But the basic ingredient contains this year's carbon, not carbon dug up from millions of years ago. That's enough difference for me. It was a nice feeling watching our Golf TDI go over 10,000 miles last year using ZERO petroleum.

Did anyone see the PBS documentary on biofuels? There was a lot about BioWillie. Much publicity, but only a few dozen stations carry it, and only in B20 blends. The station they visited planned to drop it because truckers bought dino diesel by a 2-1 margin.

I thought biodiesel would be less attractive now that most of the sulfur is gone from the regular dino juice. But my bio supplier says there's increased interest in the stuff because of its improved lubricity.
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Old 01-13-2007, 03:44 PM   #74
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If it has a turbodiesel and a clutchless but mechanical transmissionn (without the power-wasting torque-converter) plus full-time AWD, that's pretty special, isn't it?...
Yes, it is a unique combination, and I am impressed by the DSG, but it may not be the ultimate towing transmission. I'm not criticizing the vehicle, just explaining why I'm not excited by it.

The [b]Direct Sequential Gearbox is basically a classic manual/standard gear transmission which shifts in a clever way. It has some interesting characteristics:
  • It does not have a torque converter like a conventional automatic, but the losses of those converters are minimized by lock-up clutches which bypass them anyway; for instance, my Sienna is locked up most of the time on the highway. Also, that means the DSG does not have the torque multiplication of a torque converter available.
  • Perhaps more importantly, it does not have the complex and power-robbing control hydraulics of the typical automatic, although I'm sure those are being refined for less and less power loss.
  • The design is compact and thus allows a decent number of gear ratios in a normal-sized case, but conventional automatics are routinely 5-speeds, with many 6-speeds and one 8-speed (in the Lexus LS 460)
  • The design is not clutchless, but the clutch action is automatic, so it is presumably clutch-pedal-less. In fact, it has two clutches, one for each of two input shafts, and swapping which clutch is engaged is how it shifts "directly" from one gear to the next without a power interruption.
  • Just to make the packaging work, VW/Audi used two output shafts as well, both driving the same ring gear; that's a clever design feature which I admire, but it doesn't matter to efficiency.
Since the DSG does still have a relatively conventional clutch, it should have the same durability issues as any "manual" transmission for heavy-load or towing service, although moderated by the lack of risk due to driver incompetence with a clutch. In the end, I like the design, but do not feel it is especially well suited to towing; that's why to me a small SUV with a diesel and a DSG seems "special" in our context only because of the diesel.

Anyone interested in more detail on the DSG (including its PDK predecessor and the real inventor) might want to look at the excellent description by Audi at Audiworld, or the history at HowStuffWorks.

Any major manufacturer who wants to offer a turbodiesel small SUV can do so immediately; this is not a technical issue for them. The Jeep Liberty was one such option; it was popular, but not enough so for maintaining this combination to be a priority to Daimler Chrysler. In a larger size, you can now get a Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD to burn your biodiesel.

Edited the first bullet point for clarity.
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Old 01-13-2007, 03:45 PM   #75
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You don't have to wait for a VW to get a transmission that disables the torque converter when towing.
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Old 02-01-2007, 01:09 AM   #76
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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.
Don't be too put off by the gelling issue. I say this as a TDI owner who's dealt with it recently, but I can say it's a managable issue. Additives are available to fight gelling. Even if you use no Bio in winter, that leaves the shoulder seasons to use a blended mixture, and all summer to burn the beans. In Denver, I wind up burning about 50/50 dino- vs. bio-fuels over a full year, doubling my effective mileage on the fossil fuel. When towing, most of us prefer snow-free seasons and warm seasons. In two years, I haven't taken a Scamping trip that saw sub-freezing temps for more than a few pre-dawn hours.

It's a moot point, of course, until VW puts the TDI into a small SUV at a popular price. They say that's coming soon, but we'll see. If the diesel Forester comes first, I'll take that instead.
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