Newsletter No 38
OIL, THAT IS,
at last, our cars are going to be “green”, energy efficient, and
pollution-free! So said our president during his last State of
the Union address, referring to the hydrogen car.
With over one
billion dollars of federal money set aside for research and
development, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we are at last on
the high road to clean cars and a better environment. According
to the president, the new cars will use “a simple chemical reaction
between hydrogen and oxygen (and emit from the exhaust pipe) only
water, not exhaust fumes”. And all of this to happen in (maybe) ten
years! I don’t know about you, but that certainly gets my red,
white and blue blood pumping.
The hydrogen-based energy and transportation system seems inevitable.
there is one teensy little problem: politics. And one
teensy little question: what will be the source of our
hydrogen? The energy and automobile interests like the way things
are right now. Somehow, I can’t imagine the oil companies just
saying “oh well, we knew the Oil Age was going to end sometime” and
going gently into that moneyless night. How can the oil companies
turn the end of the Oil Age into a new profit center? Easy – make
us get the hydrogen from oil!
One of my favorite statements (if
you know who first said it, let me know) is this: “The Stone Age
did not end due to a lack of stones”. I believe the evidence is
clear that the Oil Age will not end for lack of oil. All we need
is a constant price per barrel (similar to what we have seen during
this current war) and the tar sands continue to be economically
viable. And there is said to be enough of that to last thousands
of years. My personal conviction is that humanity will not
withstand the political and environment costs of using fossil fuels for
another thousand years.
Unfortunately, our president is so
“embedded” with the oil interests that he doesn’t seem able to consider
the alternatives to fossil fuels.
This is an excellent
opportunity for renewables to be developed, most notably wind.
Wind can be used to generate the electricity to feed our existing
grids, and during off-peak times the surplus energy can be used to
create the hydrogen from plain water. This technology is already proven
viable and is far more environmentally friendly than the oil
economy. Besides, we wouldn’t have to manipulate foreign
countries into giving us deals on oil. We have the opportunity to
make our country energy independent if only we could move on it.
THE VILLAGE GREEN
I’ve had quite a few inquiries about the hybrid (gas/electric) cars, so let me share what I know about them.
a hybrid car is one of the few things you can currently do as a car
driver to make a political statement, because hybrid sales and customer
satisfaction levels are being carefully watched. This doesn’t
mean that if sales soar and people love them they will be further
developed (think of electric cars), but it can’t hurt!
future is great for hybrids for several reasons. Hybrids are the
only technology that offers a real possibility for a quantum leap in
fuel economy. The current hybrids don’t offer a huge improvement
in fuel economy, but that may be as easy as tweaking the on-board
The individual technologies of the hybrids are
already well proven. And, most importantly, the Japanese
government is solidly behind them. When a country with a planned
economy decides a technology is in their national interest, it’s safe
to say it isn’t going away.
From a “hands-on”
standpoint, I don’t know much about the hybrids yet. They’re
still under manufacturer warranty, and we won’t see too many of them
for a while. I would very much like to, though.
manufacturers (as usual) are trying to set things up so the
independents are out of the loop on repairs and information. This
is to be expected with any new technology. We are a resourceful
lot, and I will be briefed on the pattern failures and foibles long
before I ever work on one! This is true for all the cars we work
on. Besides, having built an electric car from scratch, I’m
really looking forward to comparing
If you are looking for
a new or slightly used car and one of the hybrids fits your needs, go
for it! Take a test drive. Get on the web and look at the
owners’ web pages, and read the clubs’ web pages, but take it
with a grain of salt.
The majority of things that will break and
wear out on a hybrid are the same things that are breaking and wearing
out on regular cars. The battery packs are the only unusual
items. It is unknown how long they will last. The
expectation is that they will last at least seven to ten years, and the
warranty coverage reflects this. After the warranty expires, you
may be on your own to replace the battery pack. Its current price
is about $3,000, but the expectation is that this price will come down
as production ramps up and the technologies are refined. This is
a reasonable expectation, but you never know. The answer may
depend on how many are sold.
So, it is a decision that has some risk.
don’t worry about your gasoline car or hybrid car or diesel car
becoming obsolete due to the hydrogen car. Changes will happen in
our energy distribution system, but they will happen
slowly. Even if pure hydrogen is dispensed at the pump directly
into your car, there will likely be a pump for diesel and a pump for
gas, too. Hydrogen can’t easily replace gas and diesel in some
applications yet, either.
YOU’LL HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE
Feeling a little green right now? Read on.
MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) is holding their annual
Energy Fair in Custer, WI (near Steven’s Point and Amherst) from June
20 – 22, 2003. If you’re interested, their web site is
www.the-mrea.org. Details on the Fair will be posted in May.
have displays, demonstrations, vendors, and workshops on things such as
wind energy, hydropower, alternative fuel cars (including electric,
hybrids, and used vegetable oil -- if you really love the smell
of French fries), photovoltaics, solar heating, sustainable
landscaping, green building techniques, kids’ programs, and home
tours. Whew! I highly recommend it.
Go on and
treat yourself to a green day... I know you’ll have the time of your
life. And the diesels that run on used vegetable oil really do smell
like French fries! Hey, it’s a lot better thanGo on and treat
yourself to a green day... I know you’ll have the time of your life.
And the diesels that run on used vegetable oil really do smell like
French fries! Hey, it’s a lot better than diesel fumes.
NOW THEY’RE TOWING MY CAR, THERE’S A HOLE IN THE ROOF...
We’ve seen many more cars towed in this past winter.
And we’ve noticed over the past year that we’re doing less maintenance and more repairs.
older cars can and do have sudden failures, but the main reason we’re
seeing more tow-ins is because maintenance is being deferred.
That’s understandable in these trying economic times, but unfortunately
it can make the car more prone to an avoidable failure (example:
an $80 tow because the car had gunked-up battery cables and
wouldn’t start on a cold morning).
I am certainly looking
forward to better times, when economic uncertainties ease up. I
for one would rather do scheduled maintenance than try to cope with
unplanned emergency repairs.
AUTOMATICS FOR THE PEOPLE
(our two-door red Saab) has now joined the flock of retired Saab
900’s grazing in our Swedish pasture. Mechanical problems forced
her retirement – it’s just another Saab story.
acquired another loaner car – a blue Volvo 740 named Miles. He’s
not quite driveable yet, so we appreciate your continued patience
during this time of restricted loaner car availability.
loaner cars are now all 4 door Volvo 740’s or 760’s with automatic
transmissions. Easy to drive, room for the kids, and highly
We’ve had some misunderstandings this winter involving
the loaner cars, so I’d like to take the time to clarify our policy and
our expectations of you, our loaner car driver.
If you have a
loaner car reserved and you can’t make your scheduled appointment,
please let us know in advance. On more than a few occasions, we
have paid for a car rental for a customer we promised a loaner car
to. Meanwhile, the other loaner car ends up sitting here all day
because of a customer no-show.
Also, if you do have a loaner
car, we expect you to be in communication with us when your car is
here. If your car is ready, we need the loaner car back no later
than 8 a.m. the following morning unless other arrangements have been
made in advance. On a few occasions, we have had to
pay for more car rentals because of customers we could not reach.
we are going to have loaner cars for your convenience, the next person
in line should be able to expect the same level of convenience and
Hope to see you soon!
Stop in to visit us, or if you have any questions about your cars, call us at 651-635-0395.