The Truth About Cars » alternative fuel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:18:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » alternative fuel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Electric Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-chevrolet-sprint-electric-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-chevrolet-sprint-electric-sport/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788522 12 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNow that it’s possible to buy electric cars that actually do what cars are supposed to do, we mustn’t forget the very lengthy era— say 1970 to just a few years ago— during which all manner of optimistic-yet-doomed companies converted various econoboxes into lead-acid-battery-based EVs. Every once in a while, I’ll spot the remains of such an EV at a junkyard; we saw a junked EVolve Electrics 1995 Geo Metro EV conversion last year, and now a different Denver yard has given us this ’88 Sprint “Electric Sport.”
06 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sprint aka Cultus wasn’t a bad choice for an electric vehicle, being lightweight and cheap.
01 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinElectric motors are worth money, either as working motors or as sources of valuable scrap copper, so the one in this car is long gone.
18 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe remnants of the battery tray may be seen in the rear cargo area.
17 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomeone grabbed the no-doubt-modified instrument cluster, too.
07 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBonus points to anyone who can track down the company that built the Electric Sport Sprint!

01 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - Electric 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Ok, We Were Wrong: Chevrolet Cruze Diesel Actually Takes 18 Years To Break Even* http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/ok-we-were-wrong-chevrolet-cruze-diesel-actually-takes-18-years-to-break-even/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/ok-we-were-wrong-chevrolet-cruze-diesel-actually-takes-18-years-to-break-even/#comments Thu, 18 Apr 2013 15:25:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485346

Now that Chevrolet has revised their EPA mileage estimate for the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, from 42 mpg to 46 mpg, we need to revise our own estimates.

Initially, we called for a break-even period of 115 years, based on TrueCar’s formula for calculating the break-even period on fuel economy packages. For argument’s sake, we used TrueCar’s formula of driving 15,000 miles per year, though we used Chicago, IL as our sample for gas and diesel prices. The lowest prices found on GasBuddy at the time of the original article was $3.50 for regular and $3.80 for diesel respectively. For consistency’s sake, we’ll stick with that, though obviously the break-even point will change along with fuel price fluctuations.

Since city and combined figures haven’t been announced yet for the Cruze diesel, I decided to only use the highway figures for a similarly equipped gasoline 2LT . As the calculations show, the Cruze diesel does use a smaller quantity of fuel annually, but that’s offset by the price premium one is required to pay for diesel. Using the initial 42 mpg highway rating yielded a mere $22 in annual fuel savings and a $2,550 price gap. At that rate, it would take over a century -roughly 115 years – for a potential owner to “break even” on the Cruze diesel. But with the 46 mpg rating, the fuel savings grows to $142 annually. This shortens the break-even time to about 18 years; still fairly long, but much shorter than it would take compared to opting for a Cruze Eco. The reason for this is because at 42 mpg, fuel economy increases roughly 10 percent, while fuel costs rise by about nine percent. It’s a wash. But at 42 mpg, fuel economy improves by nearly 20 percent so you have a fuel-cost adjusted increase that goes from one percent to 11 percent, thus cutting the payback time by a factor of almost ten.

And now, to pre-empt some of the questions/criticisms from last time: yes, this analysis is incomplete due to only having the highway figure. I am aware of that, but I wanted to show that TTAC is not afraid to revise their predictions accordingly, in an open and transparent fashion. When the final numbers are released, we can do a proper comparison with the Jetta TDI (and maybe the Mazda6 diesel as well). I’m also aware that people buy diesels for the driving experience (low-end torque etc), but I’ll leave that one to Alex Dykes or whoever ends up reviewing the car.

Data below, for anyone interested

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Obama Proposes $2-Billion Fund For Alternative Fuel Vehicles, No Mention Of Hydrogen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/obama-proposes-2-billion-fund-for-alternative-fuel-vehicles-no-mention-of-hydrogen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/obama-proposes-2-billion-fund-for-alternative-fuel-vehicles-no-mention-of-hydrogen/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 22:07:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481408

“The only way to break this cycle of spiking gas prices — the only way to break that cycle for good — is to shift our cars entirely, our cars and trucks, off oil,”

So said President Obama during a speech in Illinois, where he outlined a plan to provide $200 million a year for 10 years to a fund that would promote the development of alternative fuel vehicles. The funds would be provided by royalties from oil drilling on the Out Continental Shelf.

One notable omission from his remarks was the absence of any mention of hydrogen vehicles. Using his noted flair for rhetoric, Obama laid out his vision petroleum-free future while ignoring the fact that multiple OEMs are gearing up for a big push into fuel-cell technology

We can support scientists who are designing new engines that are more energy efficient; support scientists that are developing cheaper batteries that can go farther on a single charge; support scientists and engineers that are devising new ways to fuel our cars and trucks with new sources of clean energy — like advanced biofuels and natural gas — so drivers can one day go coast to coast without using a drop of oil.

One insider suggested that the lack of love for hydrogen has been a result of “not invented here syndrome” that is a hold over of the Bush 43 administration. While Dubya was fond of hydrogen as an alternative fuel, Obama and former Energy Secretary Steven Chu are said to be unfriendly, bordering on hostile, to the idea of hydrogen fuel cells. Unfortunately, many feel that a government partnership with the private sector will be the key to a hydrogen infrastructure breakthrough – but those parties feel that this is more likely than a cost effective, right-sized battery pack capable for a 500 mile range.

 

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Junkyard Find: Electric 1995 Geo Metro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/junkyard-find-electric-1995-geo-metro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/junkyard-find-electric-1995-geo-metro/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479114 Normally, I wouldn’t consider an 18-year-old Suzuki Cultus badged by a now-defunct GM marque to be worthy of inclusion in this series, but this particular example— which I found at my favorite Denver self-service wrecking yard— has been converted to electric power and is thus sort of interesting.
The valuable stuff that electric-car geeks like to keep (i.e., the electric motor, control circuitry, and batteries) is all gone, but you can see that this setup used the Suzuki front-drive transaxle more or less intact.
It looks like there was some sort of electrical fire or maybe a big acid spill in the rear of the car at some point, judging from the pried-open-in-a-hurry hatch and melted insulation.
You don’t see many 400-amp ammeters and 180-volt voltmeters in junked econoboxes!
Now that you can buy genuine factory-made electric cars, these homemade jobs don’t quite make the statement they once did. Still, the guy who built this car is probably driving a different electric machine. Let’s hope it’s an electron-driven Triumph Stag.
02 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1995 Electric Geo Metro Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Ask An Engineer: Natural Gas For Dummies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/ask-an-engineer-natural-gas-for-dummies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/ask-an-engineer-natural-gas-for-dummies/#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2012 15:49:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450553

Westport Innovations has just signed a second deal with General Motors to produce light duty natural gas engines, and it’s probably not the last time we’ll be seeing these kind of partnerships forming. Natural gas vehicles have been explored previously on TTAC, but the technology hasn’t been fully explored in-depth, aside from some well-informed comments in various articles.

As a fuel for vehicles (light duty as well as commercial vehicles), natural gas has a number of attributes which fit well with our current political narratives and economic realities

  1. Natural gas is 30-50% cheaper than diesel per unit of energy
  2. Abundant domestic supply
  3. Environmental benefits (lower GHG and tailpipe emissions)
  4. Significant reduction in CO2, CO, UHC, NOx, SOx and PM emissions versus conventional gasoline and diesel engines.

Natural gas can be used across the full spectrum of spark ignition (gasoline type) and compression ignition (diesel type) engines with the appropriate enabling technologies. While spark ignition natural gas engines have been available for quite some time (such as the NG powered Honda Civic), compression ignition natural gas engines have required further development. The difficulty is that while natural gas burns cleanly, it is less likely to auto-ignite (octane rating of 120-130), unlike diesel, which has a lower octane number. This quality of natural gas is advantageous for a spark ignition engine as it prevents detonation and allows for higher compression ratios, but makes it detrimental for a compression ignition engine.

Westport has devised a dual-fuel direct injection system to enable natural gas substitution in a compression ignition engine. The fuel injector at the heart of this system is able to inject both liquid diesel and gaseous natural gas in precisely metered quantities directly into the cylinder. In this system, the diesel fuel ignites as a result of compression as it would in a regular diesel engine. The combusting diesel fuel initiates the natural gas combustion. 93-95% diesel substitution is achievable according to public documentation. This innovation is directed at the heavy-duty diesel market which includes everything from transport trucks to locomotives.

One of the main criticisms is the lack of infrastructure surrounding natural gas. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is easier to store and transport than liquefied natural gas (LNG) so it is the optimal choice for light duty applications. LNG has a greater volumetric energy density but is more expensive to store, transport and ultimately use in a vehicle as it must be kept cold and pressurized to remain a liquid.

Vehicles like the Civic Natural Gas have a reduced range relative to a gasoline Civic, but commercial vehicles, like transport trucks, are emerging as one of the prime candidates for natural gas engines. Large transport trucks are a significant contributor to green house gas emissions and are on the road enough to make the conversion cost effective – though LNG, rather than CNG, would be the fuel of choice. A relatively small number of LNG filling stations placed along major transport corridors could meet their fueling needs and present a great way to thoroughly evaluate the technology. Less complex CNG stations could be added if the decision was made to target light duty vehicles.

Going “all in” on CNG/LNG is a little premature at this point, but the adoption of natural gas as a transport fuel is a good first step in reducing our emissions while other alternative technologies reach maturity. More in-depth discussion is always welcome in the comments.

“Ask an Engineer” is hosted by Andrew Bell, a mechanical engineer and car enthusiast. Andrew has his MASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto, and has worked on Formula SAE teams, as well as alternative fuel technologies in Denmark and Canada. Andrew’s column will explore engineering topics in the most accessible manner possible.

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GM’s Pickup Truck CNG Conversion Costs $11,000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/gms-pickup-truck-cng-conversion-costs-11000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/gms-pickup-truck-cng-conversion-costs-11000/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2012 19:50:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440643

Compressed natural gas may cost the equivalent of $1.89 per gallon of gasoline, but retrofitting your GMC Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado will cost you $11,000 – and GM still think it will save you money.

According to GM, “…Customers could save $5,000 to $10,000 over a three-year period, depending on their driving habits.” How GM came to this number is a bit of a mystery, and we’re doing some digging to try and figure it out – because it’s a conversion, there is no EPA rating on it and data is difficult to find.

What we did notice was this little tidbit

Businesses are looking for ways to control their costs while reducing vehicle emissions and becoming less dependent on fluctuating gas prices. The low cost of ownership makes these vehicles a realistic solution,” 

$11,000 is a lot of cash for a business to tie up in one truck. In the absence of any data on how many miles it would take to break even (as well as the gas price number used to come up with it), it appears that GM is hoping to sway buyers with the prospect of unstable or rising fuel prices in the future. Emissions are almost certainly a secondary concern. It’s a wonder that GM didn’t promote the fact that CNG can legitimately claim to be a domestically sourced form of clean energy, seeing as they (barely) did back in March.

We contacted GM to try and get more information on the CNG conversion, and more specifically, how they came to their savings figures. Please leave all accusations of anti-GM bias, skulduggery and wrongdoing in the comments section.

EDIT: General Motors says that they calculated the savings based on a truck driving 24,000 miles a year, with gas prices at $4 per gallon and a CNG gallon equivalent of $2. GM’s Mike Jones, Product Manager for Fleet and Commercial Operations, thinks that there will continue to be “…a pretty significant price separation…” between gasoline and CNG.

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Low Natural Gas Prices Aren’t Spurring Demand For NGVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/low-natural-gas-prices-arent-spurring-demand-for-ngvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/low-natural-gas-prices-arent-spurring-demand-for-ngvs/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2012 16:42:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437701

Even with gasoline prices reaching higher and higher, and natural gas prices at decade lows, consumers are doing as little as possible to adopt natural gas vehicles. As investment blog Seeking Alpha found out, the answer isn’t so complex.

The issue is of course, a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Looking at fleet customers as an example, a firm called PLS Logistics published a white paper on natural gas vehicles (specifically, LNG, or liquefied natural gas, commonly used in commercial applications like trucking). The biggest stumbling block by far was the lack of infrastructure available for fueling NGVs. Even in the face of substantial awareness about NGVs, as well as optimism that they will be adopted in the future in some capacity, literally no one is planning on purchasing NGVs in the next 12 months.

One interesting takeaway is that a quarter of respondents thought that there was zero price difference between diesel and natural gas. Natural gas is about $1.50 per diesel equivalent gallon (the unit used by PLS to measure an equivalent quantity of natural gas). Good news for NGVs comes in the form of a GE-backed project to build 250 filling stations for both CNG and LNG fuels - though as Seeking Alpha notes, demand for NGVs may be affected as much by low natural gas prices as high gasoline prices.

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