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


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Old 01-01-2007, 09:39 PM   #1
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...The GM vehicles also have a E85 compatable engine that will take regular gas or E85 which is 85% ethonol. Go Green with a Chevy or GMC...
Well, it's trendy anyway. Green is another matter - if the whole country ran on ethanol produced by growing corn, I believe it would be an environmental disaster. I certainly wouldn't consider compromising a vehicle design to tolerate E85 to be a desirable feature, but if it gave up absolutely nothing (in cost or performance), I suppose it wouldn't hurt.

To go truly green, avoid three-ton tow vehicles... (see the specs from Ford).
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Old 01-02-2007, 12:19 AM   #2
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The GM vehicles also have a E85 compatable engine that will take regular gas or E85 which is 85% ethonol. Go Green with a Chevy or GMC.

Here is my question: Since Ford sells more pickup trucks than anyone else each year, why are there more Chevy trucks on the road. Seams to me that they just might outlast the others.

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.

'Car and Driver' magazine had an excellent writeup on ethanol and E85 a few months back - see here, recommended reading:

Ethanol Promises

Quote:
The one exception is E85, where ethanol makes up 85 percent of the mix. With only 592 stations across the country serving up that concoction, it has been easy to ignore E85 up to now. But GM’s Live Green, Go Yellow ad campaign, which touts the ability of nine GM models to reliably burn that fuel, prompts a serious look at the economics of it.

What GM’s Go Yellow ads don’t tell is that your fuel economy will drop by about 25 percent when you use E85 instead of gasoline. For example, a four-wheel-drive Chevrolet Tahoe 1500 with a 5.3 V-8 and automatic has an EPA rating of 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway on gasoline but only 11 and 15 on E85. This info is not on the window sticker; indeed, we could not find it through any GM sources.

This mileage drop is inescapable and directly proportional to the E85’s reduced energy content.
The best way to "go green" currently is to run a diesel fueled by a percentage of biodiesel. As an added bonus, you get loads of torque, which is where it's at as far as towing goes.
Ford's fleet site lists the following options for engines in the E-series:

Quote:
Engine – 4.6L EFI V8 with 4-speed automatic transmission (E-150 and E-250)
Engine – 5.4L EFI V8 with 4-speed automatic transmission (E-350)
Engine – 6.0L Power Stroke® V8 Turbo Diesel with TorqShift™ 5-speed automatic transmission
Engine – 6.8L EFI V10 with TorqShift 5-speed automatic transmission and tow/haul mode
If you're going to go for the 350, I'd get the Powerstroke.


As to the number of trucks you see on the road - I know at one point, Ford did sell more trucks than Chevrolet but if you combined Chevy and GMC then they far outsold Ford. It's all in how you look at the numbers...
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Old 01-02-2007, 06:17 AM   #3
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I split this into its own thread as I think a good discussion on fuel choice has merit. Please keep the political discussion out of it, and keep it informative on the relative merits of what's currently available, and what we'll be seeing in the future.

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Old 01-02-2007, 06:34 AM   #4
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Well, it's trendy anyway. Green is another matter - if the whole country ran on ethanol produced by growing corn, I believe it would be an environmental disaster. I certainly wouldn't consider compromising a vehicle design to tolerate E85 to be a desirable feature, but if it gave up absolutely nothing (in cost or performance), I suppose it wouldn't hurt.
Brian & Lee, there's no financial advantage of running ethanol over gasoline. The per-mile cost is about the same, even though it takes more ethanol to go that mile. The advantage is emissions reduction.

We've been running 10% ethanol gasohol here in Iowa for years. Brian, a significant number of GM products are already e85 compatible. There are a few internal components that are different; mostly gaskets and fuel lines that don't dissolve in high concentrations of alcohol; but the significant difference is the computer that recognizes a high concentration of alchohol, and allows for a sufficient mixture to reach the combustion chambers. The cost of producing dual-fuel engines is pretty low when implemented fleet-wide.

I don't think that anyone has expectations that ethanol e85 will take over the automotive fuels market, but it has value in reducing tailpipe emissions. Ethanol is a significantly cleaner additive than MTBE, and is a much more environmentally friendly replacement. Ethanol (e85) works well as a fuel in fleet use. Like all fuels, ethanol has it's applications and I can see that those applications will expand until the next generation of something or other designer fuels comes around. I doubt that there will be a wholesale switchover to e85 in the US or Canada, especially since the crop production capability of the entire US isn't sufficient to produce that quantity of ethanol.

I really think that the next great "fad" in fuels and engines designed especially to use them will be in automotive and light truck diesels with the new "clean" formulation of diesel fuel that was recently announced. It'll undoubtedly take a few years to see the benefits in the US/Canada sale auto manufacturer's fleets, but I think we'll see a big market share switch over in the next few years.

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Old 01-02-2007, 06:52 AM   #5
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We too have run a 10% gasohol here in Oregon for a long time. I think it's mandated Nov/March (or is that Oct/Feb... ) at anyrate, it's done to reduce the air pollution at the same time woodstoves and fireplaces fire up for the winter. Unfortunately the fuel prices don't go down...but my Ford F-150s mpg does....at least a 3mph drop and I can tell the truck doesn't have as much UMPH. It doesn't ping or anything, just gotta mash the acelerator peddle harder to go up the same hills I could cruise up during non-gasohol periods. I don't view it as a problem or even a concern...that's just the way it is. If it helps the environment, even a little bit, I can certainly go along with it.
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Old 01-02-2007, 07:53 AM   #6
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That's the thing, though - I don't think that ethanol is going to help much as far as emissions are concerned. From the C&D article I linked above:

Quote:
[b]Promise: Ethanol will clean up the air.

Burning ethanol has a mixed effect on vehicle emissions. According to the Department of Energy, E85 in place of gasoline reduces carbon monoxide by four percent and NOx by 59 percent, but it raises total hydrocarbon by 43 percent.

Ethanol is free of certain toxic chemicals — benzine and xylene — that are associated with gasoline, but exposures to those substances are so small that no one is worrying about them today. On the other hand, ethanol exhaust emissions do contain acetaldehydes not found in gasoline exhaust.
If producing ethanol is in fact a net energy loss, that means even more energy will be expended to produce it - which means more emissions.

I do agree that ethanol is a far, far better oxygenating additive for gasoline than MTBE. Many wells around here have been contaminated by MBTE from leaking underground tanks.

Another consequence of widespread use of ethanol as a gasoline additive that probably doesn't directly impact too many people here is that light airplanes which are capable of burning unleaded automotive gasoline are prohibited from using gas with ethanol added. Try finding any gas nowadays that is guaranteed to be free of alcohol! As a result, they are forced to use expensive leaded avgas. 100 octane "low-lead" avgas contains about 4x as much tetraethyl lead as regular leaded auto gas used to...
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Old 01-02-2007, 08:38 AM   #7
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The US Government (tax payers) pay the ethanol producers $0.53 for every gallon they produce.

This is to offset the construction of processing plants and to support the price of corn paid to the farmers.

And, yes the use of corn or any other vegetation to produce ethanol is a net loss (with two exceptions, sugar cane and sugar beets) of energy (more to make it than it yields).

The Japanese are the only ones that are on the right track. HYDROGEN. They just announced that they will offer a H2 powered vehicle for sale in 2008. Very, very expensive, but it comes with its own H2 generator (uses natural gas) that also hot water for your home. Has a 4 gallon tank and gets over 140 MPG.
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Old 01-02-2007, 08:53 AM   #8
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There are at least three issues to solve with new fuel technologies.

The first, of course, is environmental. The second is seeing the end of petroleum production at some time in the future as the supplies run out. The third is keeping the world running in the interim and keeping the cost of the new technologies within reach of the average consumer.

GM showed a fuel cell 4WD pickup designed for the military a few weeks ago. It was fascinating and had respectable performance.


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Old 01-02-2007, 09:23 AM   #9
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We can all wait until a better mousetrap comes along or do something now. If we had waited for the perfect solution, we would still be ridding horses on dirt roads hip deep in manure.

The bottom line in the Green debate is: “Does it help or hinder the environment?”

Here are a couple questions for Roger (Because he lives in Iowa): As I was coming up in Iowa the farmers had a soil bank program where the government paid then to not plant crops. Do they still do that?

They also had wheat cards where they were only allowed to grow so much wheat and I think that was another government subsidy. Do they still do that?

The reasons for my questions are: If we still have unplanted land, what would the impact be if every acre of ground was utilized to produce alternative fuel and if we stopped using grain to make beer and hard liquor, how would that impact the alternative fuel and food supply.
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Old 01-02-2007, 09:29 AM   #10
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DyLithimum Crystal is the answer.

Mine it yourself, no pollution, go fast then faster then warp speed then listen to your own personal Scotty scream “Roger, the engines can’t take it any more.”
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Old 01-02-2007, 10:28 AM   #11
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Running green and pulling a travel trailer is a conflict of terms. There are gasolines out there some of which are better than others. Example, I prefer to use only fuels which are rated as top tier, Chevron being one of them. Using this gas we average 15 to 18 miles per gallon with Casita in tow. By comparison, when we tried an Arco station in Needles, Calif, the mileage dropped to a dismal 10.

Our Honda Odyssey is rated at 25 mpg by EPA. In an effort to increase that figure, I installed a K and N air filter, and noticed about a 3 mpg increase. Further breaking in the new car also added to better mileage. Another positive change came about when I switched from regular oil to a fine grade of synthetic. Not towing the trailer, the best mpg recorded to date, highway, 65 mph, has been 32.3. With trailer in tow, using the same fuel, there seemed to be no measurable difference in consumption.
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Old 01-02-2007, 10:46 AM   #12
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I wish I could remember where it was, but I recently read an article about the use of an aglae to make an ethenol type of fuel. The amount required and cost to produce was far less than using corn or soy. The initial investment would be quite large, but after that the cost would be quite small.

Emissions are one reason for fuel technology research, but the main reason is to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel. Just think if we could produce enough fuel to run all the vehicles without the dependency on forgien oil what the world might be like.
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Old 01-02-2007, 10:52 AM   #13
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The Japanese are the only ones that are on the right track. HYDROGEN. They just announced that they will offer a H2 powered vehicle for sale in 2008. Very, very expensive, but it comes with its own H2 generator (uses natural gas) that also hot water for your home. Has a 4 gallon tank and gets over 140 MPG.

Hydrogen is all well and good, but where does the hydrogen come from?

If you use natural gas, that's STILL a fossil fuel. Getting hydrogen out of it is less than 100% efficient, so you'd be better off burning it directly. The only thing you'd gain would be to transfer the polution elsewhere, like running a plug-in electric car.

If you get it from hydrolysis, the considerable amount of electrical power required (less than you're going to get back) to split the H from the O has to come from somewhere, too. Unless it's hydro, solar, wind, or wave, it's more than likely going to be from a bituminous coal-fired plant located... somewhere. Nuke power would be a better choice, but we haven't built one of those in years and they come with their own list of difficulties.

There is no magic bullet, unfortunately. Right now, we can only do the best we can with the technologies available to us today. It would be a huge step in the right direction if we would adopt a greater percentage of diesel-powered vehicles, and ruun them on as much biodesel as we could.

The U.S. government funded a study on aquatic species where they paired up a coal-fired power plant and a shallow, racetrack-shaped pond in which they grew and harvested green algae. The gaseous carbon emissions from the power plant were piped into the pond to feed the algae. There was a paddlewheel which created a very small current in the pond, so that when the algae came around to the end they were fully grown. The algae was harvested and oil was extracted for biodiesel. The leftover husks of the algae could be used for animal feed, as they are high in protein. The cycle started over where the algae was harvested, so there was a continuous supply. It worked very well, but the govenment pulled the funding on it, unfortunately. There is a .pdf floating around on the internet I can find if anyone is interested in learning more about it.

Algae has the highest yield of oil-per-acre of any crop. It can be grown in areas that are not very valuable or productive for conventional crops, and it does not take away from crops grown for human consumption. It's something that can be done right now, with existing technology. Money we spend to produce biodiesel stays here in the United States, and does not go overseas - and that's all I'm going to say about that. Will biodiesel solve all of our energy problems? Of course not, but it is a big step in the right direction, along with solar power, hydro, wind, and wave.

I've done a lot of looking into the various ideas for alternative energy floating around, and I think this one makes the most sense all the way around.

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Old 01-02-2007, 10:56 AM   #14
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Here's a link to the report in .pdf form:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/b..._from_algae.pdf

..and here's the Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquatic_Species_Program

Please note this quotation from that page:

Quote:
The July 1998 close out report from the program concluded that even with the most optimistic lipid yields the production of bio-diesel from algae would only become cost effective if petro-diesel prices rose to twice the 1998 levels. ([b]October 2006 oil prices are three times higher than the average 1998 price in constant dollars.])
(edited to fix URL)
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