Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Forget hybrids for now....

Hybrids have failed to evolve fast enough. Combine that with the fact that the latest batch of "hrbrid" vehicles can barely make that claim. For a more rapid movement away from imported oil (and no matter what the email said about boycotting certain stations, it all gets mixed together) we should jump behind ethanol. This is a complete turnaround for me as I have advocated against the use of ethanol.

However, I am not advocating for 100% ethanol fuel. Instead we should move towards a blend. The big push is already on in FlexFuel vehicles and there are already over 5 million of these vehicles out there. Plus many people have no idea that their vehicle can take something other than Regular Unleaded gasoline. Further research into blends has led me to multiple documents that state and demonstrate that all domestically made autos, manufactured after 1986, can take E10 gasoline. That is a gasoline/ethanol mix. Gasoline is 90% and ethanol is 10% (thus the E10 designation). By comparison FlexFuel vehicles can usually take E85 and E90.

Some states are already mandating a blend use but the laws are waiting for the manufacture of ethanol to catch up. This is something that can be made in every state. Imagine that, municipal gas manufacturing. Hmmm....... Furthermore ethanol can be made even from damaged crops.

Now I did look up my Suzuki (which is a GM Daewoo vehicle) and it cannot take even E10. Well chances are it can without any problems whatsoever, but GM, Daewoo, and Suzuki do not recommend it for their gasoline vehicles. I am further hampered by the fact that the only ethanol pumps (save for state owned ones) are located only in Charlotte, Shelby, and Statesville.

Although most of the issues that plagued ethanol in the past have been fixed, you can expect to change the fuel filter just a little more often and realise that you will get fewer miles per gallon. Now that fewer miles per gallon is NORMALLY set off by the fact that the ethanol blends are usually cheaper. One person stated that the E85 in his area is often 30 cents cheaper per gallon. So you will need to have a watchful eye and decide what to put into your car. If E-whatever is the same price as the gasoline you use, go with the gasoline and not the blend. Let's face it, we are not going to put ourselves into the poor house just to piss off some Saudis, Iranians, etc that we have never met.

The other problem that had plagued ethanol was the energy needed to be expended in order to produce the ethanol. In a modern setup, the amount of energy expended to grow, harvest, manufacture, and deliver the ethanol is roughly half of the energy realised by its use. If the area in which the wood or grain is grown and harvested also use these supplies for other products then that energy used in getting it to us falls just a bit more but no less than 1/3 of the total energy realised.

Have a bunch of ethanol pumps around you but not anything less than a B20 (biodiesel)? You can purchase conversion kits for your engine so that you can run the E85 gas. However, they are pretty pricey. Instead look for a flexfuel vehicle the next time you need to buy an auto and rest easy knowing that you can fuel up anywhere that you go AND have the option of using less gasoline derived from oil.

Related links:
Hybrids, We Never Knew Ya
Hybrid Center
Hybrid Vehicles Wikipedia
Godfather of the Hybrid
Clean Cities Program: Fuel Blends
National Ethanol Vehilce Coalition
NCGA - Ethanol
E85 Wikipedia
E10 Wikipedia
Flexible-Fuel Vehicle Wikipedia
Live Green, Go Yellow: GM's webpage on their Flexfuel vehicles and how golly gee swell their company is (hey! it is a marketing tool!)
GM's portal site for their E85 vehicles
Green Car Congress: Ford Plans New FlexFuel Engine Plant in Philippines
General Motors Promotes Greater E85 Consumer Awareness, Use
A dealership blog: Corn-Fueled Chevy
Car Talk: Small doses of ethanol good for gas
Colorado News: Committee approves ethanol bill
Gasoline Gets a Little Corny

In other, not really that related news, expect the clamor over global warming to increase. Why? Because a new model has now predicted that we are going to be facing some serious solar storms (rise in global temp coincides with the fact that our sun has been really busy lately).

Other space news: Spacecraft to Slam into the Moon

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) SMART-1 spacecraft—now circling the Moon—is headed for a planned early September impact with Earth’s celestial neighbor.

The ESA probe would plow into the lunar surface, giving it a glancing blow as it speeds in at nearly 5,000 miles per hour (2 kilometers per second).

SMART-1 is Europe’s first robotic lunar mission. The name SMART stands for Small Mission for Advanced Research in Technology.

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