Hybrid Cars: Are They as Good as Some Claim?

Last Wednesday night, NBC evening news featured one segment wherein some consumers voiced their opinions that the manufacturers of hybrid cars were fudging the statistics relative to their mileage claims. One such claim was documented by a clip of a consumer who is taking Honda to court over an alleged promise, by the sales representative, that she could expect to get 50 MPG. This consumer’s battle led them to small claims court where they sued Honda, citing that the mileage claims were deceptive and deceitful. In its defense, Honda countered that its mileage claims specifically included a disclaimer that mileage could vary depending on individual driving conditions. While that subject itself was interesting, what really captivated my thought processes was what we, as consumers, should expect from either hybrid or electric vehicles.

After watching the segment, and as a result of those creative thought processes flowing, I went out surfing to see if it was even feasible to believe that any currently manufactured vehicle could operate efficiently while providing the consumer with 50 MPG of worry-free driving pleasure. My Sherlock Holmes skills (that I have been honing for some time now) led me to take a look at the EPA website. Once there, and using my trusty magnifying glass, I used the same 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid featured in the NBC news segment to determine that the mileage estimates for that vehicle were 40 MPG city and 45 MPG highway. I found it odd that while the woman in the segment presented an EPA sticker showing that the vehicle would deliver the alleged 50 MPG, the combined total on the website only showed a combined total of 42 MPG. Upon further investigation, I found the old EPA ratings, which had been updated with the following disclaimer added:

EPA changed the way it estimates fuel economy starting with the 2008 model year. This “new” way of estimating fuel economy supplements the previous method by incorporating the effects of

  • Faster speeds and acceleration
  • Air conditioner use
  • Colder outside temperatures

Hybrid Cars: Are They as Good as Some Claim?My best detective skills then led me to the conclusion that the EPA had decided to make the new estimates retroactive and changed its estimates to include pre-2008 models. So are the new estimates more accurate than the old, and are hybrids a better option to buy than traditional, gasoline-powered vehicles? Your answers may vary since this all depends on how many miles you drive a day, the type of driving you do (city vs. highway), and how much fuel is currently selling for in your area of the country. Since fuel costs and driving conditions can vary drastically depending on these factors, you would be remiss not to take them into consideration in calculating your savings from driving a gasoline-powered vehicle versus a hybrid.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to fly to both coasts of the US to visit family and friends. During these visits, I couldn’t help but notice how much costlier a gallon of gasoline was in these areas than it was in the Midwest. Believe me, I am not complaining, since some of the coastal area prices were up to a dollar more per gallon than what I can purchase it for at home. In fact, this was again brought home to me as I caught a glimpse of a Chevron station’s sign while watching a news segment about the arsonist who was arrested and incarcerated near Los Angeles. While I wasn’t necessarily surprised, I noticed that they were selling a gallon of unleaded for $4.05 gallon, whereas I had just returned a few hours earlier from purchasing it for $2.87 a gallon. So why does this matter?

When I was getting ready to write this article, Chris Pirillo mentioned that his Toyota Prius has really saved him a bundle. Apparently, his accountant had mentioned something to him about the reduction in his fuel costs over previous years. With no detective tools in Seattle, however, I can only venture a guess that previously Chris may have been driving a standard motor vehicle with a traditional gasoline engine (maybe even equipped with a V-6 or larger). If that was the case, this savings is to be expected, as can be seen through a recent Facebook entry by my son-in-law. His entry was posted after his return trip from a cave-exploring expedition. As you will see, driving home on I-35 in his Dodge RAM 1500 pickup truck (equipped with a Hemi) while pulling a 32 ft. trailer wasn’t for the lightweight or light of cash:

Pulling this travel trailer into this strong headwind is killing me! Was getting 3.8 mpg on I-35. That’s like throwing a dollar bill out the window every mile!

In this particular case, I am sure my son-in-law wished he had bought any kind of a hybrid vehicle so that he could be bragging about his newfound fortune from the amount of money he had saved.

Therefore, having used the best tools available to this detective, I believe that the advantages of hybrid ownership depends on the following individual criteria:

  • Past vehicle ownership. If you are going from a Dodge pickup truck equipped with a Hemi to a Toyota Prius, you should be delighted with your increased gas mileage. For me, I already own a four banger, so my savings would be less.
  • Where you live. The price of gasoline will also dictate how much your savings will be.
  • Driving habits. If you are a leadfoot driver, your mileage may not be as high as you may hope.
  • Distance you drive. How long you drive each day will have an effect.
  • Type of driving. City drivers will see less of a return than highway drivers will.

As far as suing the manufacturers for erroneous mileage claims, this to me seems absurd. I believe that most of us look at the EPA window sticker realizing that it is a best foot forward type of guess as to what the consumer might expect. When I bought my 2009 Nissan Rogue SL AWD vehicle new, the sticker stated that the expected mileage was 21 MPG city and 29 MPG highway. Both mileage estimates proved entirely accurate for me, despite the fact that the EPA guideline changes tell me that I should only expect to see 21 MPG in the city and 26 MPG highway. That means that I am actually getting more miles per gallon than estimated when I drive long distances. That leads me to the conclusion that estimates are exactly what they claim to be: estimates only and not an exact miles per gallon guarantee.

Given these considerations, you can determine how good your hybrid experience will be. So are these hybrid vehicles as good as some people claim?

You decide. Comments welcome.

Chevy Camaro vs Ford Mustang Horsepower Battle Heats Up

When GM stopped producing the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, the Ford Mustang reined as the only low priced muscle car available. Notice the word ‘low price’, so as not to be confused with the pricey Chevy Corvette.

Well that has changed as the Chevy Camaro has been reintroduced as well as the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger both with 5.7L Hemi’s and the retro styled Mustang saddled with a small V-8. Ford dropped their big block back in 1986 but now must revive it in order to compete with the Camaro. Seems that the new Camaro has outsold the Mustang every month since June and Ford is feeling the hit on sales.

The new 2010 Mustang will come with a V-8 that has 412 HP which is still less than the beefy 426 HP that the V-8 Camaro produces. What about gas mileage? Surely you jest. You don’t buy one of these bad boys if gas mileage is a concern. Though Ford states that their new 305 HP Mustang will get 30 mpg on the highway. That mileage is figured going downhill with a tailwind! LOL

But there is one other thing that Ford needs to change to compete with the Camaro. The Camro styling is new and refreshing while the Mustang looks old school. Just my two cents.

Comments welcome.


For those who are not familiar with either car, this is what the models look like:

2010 Chevy Camaro

2010 Ford Mustang

Windows 7 – Watch Out For HomeGroup, Clean Installs From Upgrade Media and Setup A Network Printer

I am going to be quick and to the point. This is from Neowins HomeGroup site:

Remember that HomeGroup works only with Windows 7 machines and it does not support Vista or XP.

If you try to use HomeGroup it will not work with other machines on the network. Unless of course they are W7 boxes.

How to do a clean install using a  Windows 7 upgrade disk:

Here’s how to clean install Windows 7 using Upgrade media and a new or reformatted PC with no installed OS.

First, perform a normal clean install of the OS by booting the PC with the Upgrade Setup disc and stepping through Setup.

After performing the clean install, ensure that there are no Windows Updates pending that would require a system reboot. (You’ll see an orange shield icon next to Shutdown in the Start Menu if this is the case).

Then, open regedit.exe with Start Menu Search and navigate to:


Clean Install Windows 7 with Upgrade Media

Change MediaBootInstall from “1” to “0”.

Open the Start Menu again and type cmd to display a shortcut to the Command Line utility. Right-click this shortcut and choose “Run as administrator.” Handle the UAC prompt.

In the command line window, type: slmgr /rearm

Then tap ENTER, close the command line window and reboot. When Windows 7 reboots, run the Activate Windows utility, type in your product key and activate windows. It should just work.

Oh yeah. I learned this also this weekend. If you want to contact a printer through a print server via a wireless connection try this. Set the printer up as a local printer first. Next set it up as a network printer. Delete the local printer and viola. It worked for me.

Comments welcome.

Neowin site

Supersite for Windows

Is A Buick SUV Crossover Hybrid Plug In On The Way?

GM may be in the process of gearing up for production of a Buick SUV crossover that will be a hybrid. The new vehicle is said to have either a 4 or 6 cylinder engine with an electric motor powered by a lithium battery pack, similar to the GM Volt.

Over at GM Volt they describe the new Buick as being:

Today GM has confirmed this and released a teaser image of the upcoming vehicle.

“Buick has always been at the forefront of new technology, so it is only fitting that the brand should debut our new plug-in hybrid technology in a beautiful new crossover,” said GM vice chairman Tom Stephens. “This will firmly put Buick, and GM, front and center in the advanced technology game.”

The plug-in hybrid version will follow in 2011 and is expected to be the first commercially available plug-in hybrid SUV produced by a major automaker.

The hybrid will have an 8 kwh lithium-ion battery pack, using the same lithium manganese spinel cells as the Volt, supplied by LG Chem, who will be building a lithium-ion battery factory in Michigan set to open in 2012.

“LG Chem – the supplier of our battery cells for the Volt – has also been selected to supply the lithium-ion cells for the new Buick plug-in hybrid, and its Troy, Mich.-based subsidiary Compact Power will supply the pack,” said Stephens.

The plugin hybrid can operate on either gas, electricity or both depending on the driving conditions. It differs from the Volt in that the gas engine can be in operation at any time, not just after 40 miles. Using this technology the vehicle is expected to achieve at least double the efficiency of a gas version of that car. This could amount to more than 70 MPG.

The engine for the plug hybrid will be a 3.6L V-6 flex-fuel, and the car will also contain two powerful electric motors and sophisticated electronic controls.

Here is a sneak peak:

It should interesting to see if Buick and GM can pull this off. It will also be interesting to see how much these electric hybrids will cost us.

Comments welcome.


Nitrogen In Your Tires

In last Sunday’s newspaper I noticed an advertisement from one of our local Chevy dealers that was offering a half-price sale on nitrogen for your car tires. So I went out to see what I could find out about the benefits of running your tires filled with nitrogen instead of plain old air.

The Get Nitrogen Institute states the benefits as:

Proper tire pressure is a big deal.
Maintain it with nitrogen, and you’ll see
these three primary benefits:

  • Increased Fuel Efficiency – Correct tire pressure keeps the manufacturer’s recommended “contact patch” on the road. This lessens the rolling resistance and maximizes fuel efficiency. Read On
  • Longer Tire Life – When it comes in contact with other materials, oxygen causes oxidation. Oxidation can make rubber brittle and cause it to lose tensile strength. In addition, at high temperatures and pressures, oxygen reacts and damages inner tire liners and belt packages; nitrogen does not. Read On
  • Increased Safety – Under-inflated tires cause 90% of blowouts. Nitrogen provides more reliable pressure for reduced blowout potential. Read On

The local dealer’s half-price sale was $19.95 to fill your tires with nitrogen. I have not personally used nitrogen in my tires, so I haven’t a clue whether the savings are for real. If anyone has tried this, please share your thoughts.

Comments welcome.


PS When I mentioned this to my wife she said ‘now we have to pay to have our tires filled with gas?” :-)

The Air Car – Is It For Real?

The ‘air car’ is still making headlines since just the thought of a car that runs on compressed air excites the imagination. But some skeptics are wondering if such a vehicle is even possible. Some in the scientific community believe that the volume of air needed to propel a vehicle would require a very large compressor that would need to be gasoline driven. Though the inventors claim a 100+ MPG range, some are not so sure this is even possible.

Over at CNN an article states:

Plenty of skepticism exists, but with many Americans trying to escape sticker shock at the gas pump, the concept is generating buzz.

The technology has been the focus of MDI, a European company founded in 1991 by a French inventor and former race car engineer.

New York-based Zero Pollution Motors is the first firm to obtain a license from MDI to produce the cars in the United States, pledging to deliver the first models in 2010 at a price tag of less than $18,000.

The concept is similar to how a locomotive works, except that compressed air — not steam — moves the engine’s pistons, said Shiva Vencat, vice president of MDI and CEO of Zero Pollution Motors.

Experts aren’t sure Americans will be zipping around in air cars and getting 106 mpg, or more than twice the fuel economy of hybrid-electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius.

It is possible to power a car with compressed air, but the mileage claim is “at the edge of possibility,” said John Callister, director of the Harvey Kinzelberg Entrepreneurship in Engineering program at Cornell University’s College of Engineering.

He noted such dramatic fuel efficiency is associated with tiny experimental cars, not bigger mainstream

Interesting concept if in fact it works. Hopefully we will find out sometime next year when it is thought that this vehicle could show up at the Automotive X Prize for vehicles claiming 100 MPG or more.

What do you think? Is this for real or just in someones imagination?

Comments welcome.


PG&E To Test An Electric Car

Over at the San Jose Mercury News they have an article about how PG&E and Southern California Edison will be testing an electric vehicle. The car is from Mitsubishi car company of Japan and is called a ‘i MiEV’ and is totally electric. The vehicle also boasts several different types of charging from standard 110v householf current to a 220v charging system as well. According to the article it states:

The four-passenger vehicle is smaller than a Toyota Scion xD or Honda Fit, but larger than Mercedes’ Smart car. The i MiEV – which stands for Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle – uses a 330-volt lithium-ion battery with several charging options. A 110-volt household plug would give it a full charge in 10 to 16 hours. A 220-volt outlet would reduce the charging time to six or seven hours, and a fast-charging system that the utilities will test could reduce that to 30 minutes.

Patterson said the vehicle can go about 75 miles on a charge. Mitsubishi wants to find out how well a car this small with a battery set-up designed for Japan will do on the roads of America. “We need to assess if our battery technology is ready for the United States,” Patterson said.

The vehicle goes on sale in Japan next summer, at around $25,000 to $30,000. Mitsubishi has not said whether it will sell the car in the United States, but if it does, it’s expected to cost more.

High gas prices and concerns about global warming have piqued interest in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Patterson said automakers and utilities must work together to make those vehicles a success.

But what caught my eye was this statement:

Who better to test an electric car than an electric utility?

Well lets take a look at that statement. I am sure the electric companies are going to be totally fair in their evaluations. Just because the more electricity that is sold, the higher their profits would not influence their unbiased opinion. Why not give a few new Challengers with the big Hemi’s to see what the oil executives think?

Just my two cents. What is your opinion?

Comments welcome.


Do We Need To Go Back To 55 M.P.H.?

I was over at the San Jose Mercury News when I stumbled upon an article concerning a gas mileage challenge. It seems that one the SJMN reporters owns a Toyota Prius, that he admits he drives over the speed limit most of the time, heading up Hwy #101 towards Brisbane daily. So the challenge was, that if he could increase his gas mileage by 20%, his cohort would buy him a tank of gas.

In the article it states:

I got 59.9 miles a gallon going 60 or under in our Prius, compared to 42 mpg at speeds that would have made me prime bait for the Fab Five, the Highway Patrol’s elite anti-speeding team that has written around 15,000 tickets in less than two years in the South Bay.

Geez, 59.9 mpg – a 30 percent improvement. I drove an extra 117 miles on a tank of gas by merely slowing. That’s like lowering the price at the pump by 20 to 30 cents a gallon – and about 10 mpg better than Prius EPA estimates. 

But it was this one statement that caught my eye:

But multiply a few gallons saved a week by every driver, and maybe there’s no need to drill in the Pacific Ocean.

I read an article some where which stated that the car companies [the Big 3 in the U.S.], had fought congress for years when the politicians wanted to increase the mileage that cars got.  The auto makers claimed that is not what the American public wanted. They wanted big SUV’s and big trucks. Because of this , our thirst for oil continued to increase.

But how about if we went back to the old 55 mph speed limit on our highways? Doesn’t this make sense? If we just reduced our consumption by as little as 5%, wouldn’t this help to lower prices?

What do you think? Should we keep out current speeds, dig for more oil, and keep our fingers crossed? Or is it time to get serious about our driving habits?


Variable Cylinder Management – Is This The Answer To Better Fuel Economy?

On the TV this morning was an advertisement for the new 2008 Honda Pilot that now comes with what they call is ‘Variable Cylinder Management’  which they state on the Honda website is:

Honda’s innovative Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM®) helps to increase mileage* and lower emissions by automatically deactivating and reactivating multiple cylinders, depending on the driver’s needs.


Innovative ? Didn’t GM try this back in the 80’s employing this on their Caddies? Back than it was a V-8 that dropped down to either 6 or 4 cylinders depending on the load? Is this really innovative or just a gimmick?

Honda also states:

Powered by the intelligence of i-VTEC® technology, VCM works on the principal that a vehicle only requires a fraction of its power output at cruising speeds. The system electronically deactivates cylinders to reduce fuel consumption. The new VCM engine is able to run on 3, 4 or 6 cylinders based on the power requirement. So you get the best of both worlds: V-6 power when accelerating or climbing, as well as the efficiency of a smaller engine when cruising.

What do you think? Comments welcome.

Honda site is here.

Firefox Ultimate Optimizer – Use At Your Own Risk

As a Firefox user, I am looking forward to the final release of Firefox 3. As most of you know, the current Firefox has a tendency to eat up memory like a kid eating cereal. So I was interested when a reader sent me a link to a software product called Firefox Ultimate Optimizer. The name sounds impressive but does it work?

Being an adventurous soul I though I would give it a try to see i it made a difference or not, or was just all hype. So I went to the link listed below and downloaded and installed a copy. During the install I was rerouted to a web site that also wanted me to install something called Web Go Radio, to which I stated no-no. Don’t want it, don’t need it and it wasn’t installed.

So does it work? I’m not sure yet since I’ve only been using the software for about 12 hours. But I’ll be doing a review later this week with a yea or ney opinion. But in the mean time, I’d state that this software should be used at your own risk.

I personally believe you would be better off waiting until Firefox 3 is released than to try an unknown. Plus I am always cautious of any software that wants to install some other junk behind my back. Just my 2 cents. Your mileage may vary.

Has anyone else tried this software? Let us know and what your opinion is.

Comments welcome.


Firefox Ultimate Optimizer download site is here

[tags]firefox, optimizer, risk, cautious, opinion, mileage, versions, downloads, [/tags]

Prius Upgrade Gets 100 MPG Says Startup OEMtek

If you own a Toyota Prius and want to get better mileage in your ride, OEMtek has a upgrade worth considering. Or is it? Priced at $12,500 the upgrade is said to increase the mileage of the Prius to 100 MPG. That’s an expensive alternative for something that is untested. But according to OEMtek in a San Jose News article:

“There are people who want this right now, no matter what,” said Cindi Choi, vice president of business development and the de facto chief executive of the six-employee company.

OEMtek will be ready to convert about 30 Priuses as soon as March, Choi said. It has battery packs on hand and continues to do durability testing and other late-stage engineering work. Its Web site has a “buy” link where customers can pre-order the vehicle.

Choi’s “no matter what” references some questions potential buyers are likely to have.

It is interesting to read about some of the alternatives that some new companies are introducing. But the problem remains. What is the best option to eventually replace the standard gas engine?

Comments welcome.

Full article is here.