Monthly Archives: January 2013

‘Greenest’ Car of 2013

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy the ‘greenest’ car of 2013 is the downsized Toyota Prius C. To be fair, the Honda Fit EV scored a very close second.

Both cars were rated based on their environmental impact (or lack thereof) using fuel economy and emissions data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency. The council makes this list every year, and every year a different set of cars get the tag of having the “Right Stuff” or the “Green Stuff”.

Only cars which are being mass produced are considered for the list. This is so consumers can actually use the list to make their next new car purchase, if they so desire it. The idea is to rank the vehicles so it shows not just how environmentally sound they are but also how effective they are as a mode of transportation.

Consumers have expressed a very real desire for alternative fuel powered vehicles, but they are also showing that they are confused about just how ‘green’ these vehicles are and how they compare. They also have concerns about how reliable these vehicles are and whether or not, if they buy one, they will be able to find service for it if/when they need it.

As time goes by and vehicles such as the Toyota Prius return year after year and continue to boast improvements with each new model, consumers are slowly beginning to realize that these vehicles are here to stay and getting better all the time. If these vehicles continue to improve, and continue to build on their reputations as being reliable, better, alternatives to fossil fueled vehicles then it seems likely they will eventually win over more and more of the consumer automobile buying public.

Mazda Racing On Chicken Guts

The 2013 Rolex 24-Hour race in Daytona Beach might become famous for its fried chicken–no wait, we read that wrong. Actually, what just might make the Rolex 24-Hour Race famous is the fuel which will be powering the new Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D clean diesel race car: chicken fat.

The fuel is actually waste material from Tyson chicken plants, stuff that would have ended up in a landfill if not bought and used by Mazda in their race car. This is hardly the first time Mazda has sought to turn the spotlight on alternative fuel vehicles. They have a reputation for doing extreme engineering when it comes to alternative fuel powered race cars. Mazda was among the first to put a diesel powered race car on the track, and now they will become the first to put one on the track that runs on leftover chicken.

The idea is sound, and since we have an industrial food complex producing an abundance of waste, it’s renewable. Will we all one day be driving cars powered by chicken fat? Probably not. We don’t foresee the day when we pull into the local Kentucky Fried Chicken to fill our fuel tanks, but are big fans of alternative fuel for our vehicles. Assuming of course we can maintain the performance and reliability we have come to expect from our automobile.

The Rolex 24-Hour race is a grueling, punishing, event which pushes the drivers, engineers and vehicles to their extreme limit. It’s not enough to “go fast and turn left” when you are racing for 24-hours. Your car has to be able to endure maximum speed, hour after hour, for an entire day. During the day temperatures get hot, the track gets hot and the engines get hotter than Hades. At night the temperature drops significantly, and the chill can cause problems all its own.

If Mazda is able to pull off a win, or even just make it to the end of the race, it will not only be a win for their company, but also a win for alternative fueled vehicles.

‘Gen 6’ NASCAR Prototype Unstable

The next generation of NASCAR automobile is proving to be troublesome for drivers, after more than a third of the vehicles testing them in Daytona last week wrecked. That’s 12 of 35 cars on the track, smashed, bashed and crashed, sending all but one team back home to rebuild.

Some in the racing industry are already saying the new generation of NASCAR racer is more unstable than any previous version and not worth the effort teams are having to put in to get them ready to race. But not everybody is taking their toys and going home unhappy. Two dozen teams remain unscathed and continue to test in Daytona, learning to handle the new model race car; understanding its wants and needs when it comes to handling and performance.

Despite the wreck in Daytona and the grumbles from some team owners NASCAR has shown no interest in backing away from the Gen 6 vehicle. They say the new cars are safer, higher performing and will provide better racing action for the fans. After all, NASCAR is all about pleasing the fans, not the team owners or the drivers. If the fans don’t show up it doesn’t matter how great the cars are or whether or not they perform as promised.

When it comes to the next generation NASCAR racing vehicle ultimately it will be the fans who decide if it was a good move or not. If the fans liked the days when the drivers had more control of how well (or not) their cars performed on the track, then it seems likely they will be pleased. If the new cars suffer from too much trick and not enough track time for their favorite teams and drivers NASCAR might just have a problem on its hands–and Gen 7 cars will be right around the corner.

Electric Cars Here To Stay Or Passing Fad?

According to a new study by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, American new car buyers simply aren’t interested in electric cars, whether hybrid or plug-in. The new study does seem indicate that new car buyers in certain cities are embracing electric cars. Places like Chicago, Boston and San Francisco are showing strong growth in electric car purchases, but this is not enough to sustain the entire industry, the study says.

Given that electric automobile sales across the board have been steadily growing does not seem to influence the authors of this new study. They say that President Barack Obama’s plan to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 is misguided at best.

However, it is important to note that the data for the just released study was collected in autumn of 2011, long before the most current fleet of hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles, with increased reliability and extended range hit the market. It was also before the new hybrid-electric Chevy Volt, with a range of nearly 400 miles hit the market.

Their study was also conducted long before the current crop of more than 11,000 electric charging stations were installed around the country. Cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Indianapolis have embraced electric vehicle technology and have begun installing hundreds of new electric charging stations around their downtown areas. Tesla Automotive has already begun installing a massive nationwide network which allow owners of their plug-in electric Tesla Model S vehicles to criss-cross the country without the need to rush home and recharge.

The Indiana University report data was also collected before Consumer Reports determined that electric vehicles have nearly the same depreciation rate as their fossil-fuel only cousins and began rating electric as higher value vehicles both for their reliability and quality craftsmanship.

Based on all the recent reports showing electric vehicle technology has so far surpassed gasoline technology and expectations, it seems way too early, and indeed shortsighted, to base a study on data collected before a new technology had hardly had a chance to begin.