Archive for January, 2009

Diesel vs. Electric vs. Hybrid Cars

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

If you are excited like I am about President Obama taking office you may begin to wonder what are different choices in gas-related technologies. You may not be concerned about your miles per gallon until prices start going back up but rest assured they will soon. We want to be free of foreign oils, breathe a cleaner air, save the environment, and save dollars at gas stations. There are several fuel options out there but not yet at even a tenth of our gas stations. Here are some options for better fuel economy :

What we have now is an Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle (ICE).  This is the typical engine in most vehicles today, running on either gasoline or diesel. Our cars have a heat engine in which the burning of a fuel occurs in a confined space called a combustion chamber. The ignition of a fuel and air mixture creates gases of high temperature and pressure, which then turn an engine shaft which, coupled to a transmission, provides the motive power of the vehicle. This technology is very 1969, we should have had bio fuel or fuel-cell powered vehicles years ago.

Battery-electric Vehicle – Battery-Electric Vehicles (BEV) are powered by electric motors that run exclusively on batteries that are charged by an external source such as the electric power grid. BEV’s are electric vehicles whose energy storage is in the chemical energy of batteries. BEVs are the most common form of what are defined as a zero emission vehicles, because they produce no emissions while being driven. BEV’s will improve miles per gallon by up to 79% over an ICE vehicle running on gasoline and, depending on the size of the battery, will have a range of 50 – 150 miles per charge. The downside to this option is that you most likely need a garage to really benefit from it or you will have cords running outside your home. The vehicle may only be used for commuting or runs to the store and you need to plug it in every time you go home.

Fuel Cell-powered Vehicle – A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device similar to a battery, but differing in that it is designed for continuous replenishment of the reactants consumed. It produces electricity from an external supply of fuel and air/oxygen. Typical reactants used in a Fuel Cell-Powered Vehicle are hydrogen and the oxygen contained in air. Fuel cell Vehicles also produce zero emissions while being driven. Fuel Cell-Powered Vehicles will improve miles per gallon by up to 71% over a automobile running on gasoline. This seems to produce the best results for fuel economy unless you go electric 100%. I hope automakers look more into this fuel option.

Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection Engine Vehicle – A Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) vehicle utilizes a new technology that usually couples a turbo charger with specially designed & located fuel injectors. The resulting boost in horsepower and efficiency means that a smaller traditional gasoline engine can achieve similar performance of a larger traditional gasoline engine but using much less fuel. These Turbo Gas Injection vehicles will IMPROVE miles per gallon by up to 15% over a car running on gasoline and will have a better range per tank of fuel.

Flex-fuel Vehicle – A Flex-Fuel Vehicle (FFV) has a single fuel tank, fuel system, and engine. The vehicle is designed to run on unleaded gasoline and an alcohol fuel (usually ethanol or E85 – 85% ethanol produced from corn or other soluble product and 15% gasoline) in any mixture. Also, a gallon of ethanol contains considerably less energy than a gallon of gasoline, meaning a vehicle running on E85 will experience approximately a 25% reduction in MPG & driving range compared to gasoline alone. This was one of the ethanol mistakes made by politicians a few years back to make the farmers think they were going to get all this free money thrown their way. Not only have people had complaints that their cars do not run as good but they have experienced engine problems and we found out there are better uses of corn than as a fuel.

Hybrid-electric Vehicle – Hybrid vehicles use multiple propulsion systems to provide motive power. The most common approach, the Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV), uses gasoline to power an internal-combustion engine (ICE), and electric batteries to power electric motors. The electric battery is recharged by either capturing kinetic energy via regenerative braking or using the gasoline engine to generate electricity by spinning a generator to recharge the battery. Unlike Battery-electric only vehicles, these are designed not to require power from the electric power grid; that is, no plug in is required or even available. Hybrid-electric vehicles will improve miles per gallon by up to 43% over a vehicle running on gasoline.

Plug-in Hybrid / Electrical Grid-Connected Vehicle – Like the HEV described above, this vehicle uses both electricity from a battery pack and gasoline as the energy sources, but the plug in has a larger battery pack. This larger battery is charged using a standard household outlet (110V, 15-amp). Depending on the size of the battery, charging will take from 3-10 hours. Compared to an hybrid/electric, the larger battery in a plug-in hybrid allows you to drive more using only the electric motor – up to 15-20 miles, and at higher speeds (around 50mph). The vehicle will run as a normal hybrid if it has not been plugged in, but the benefit of driving for a certain distance on electricity only will not be received. Plug-In Hybrids will improve miles per gallon by up to 70% over an ICE vehicle running on gasoline. Looking over all these ways to save fuel, lessen our dependency on foreign barrels of oil, and live longer this is the absolute best way to do it for now.

Direct-injection Diesel Vehicle – Direct-Injection Diesel (DID) vehicles have the engine’s fuel injection nozzle placed inside the combustion chamber. Direct injection diesel engines are generally more efficient, quieter, and cleaner than common indirect injection diesel engines. DIDs typically run on low sulfur fuel, typically called Clean Diesel. These cleaner diesel autos will improve miles per gallon by up to 25% over a vehicle running on gasoline and will have a range of 515 miles per tank of fuel.

Should the government on the state and local and federal level help us out on these?  Why not raise the gas taxes a penny or two to help lessen the fuel demand and increase a fund for these technologies!  We need them now and Yes we can!

Meal Planning to Save Money

Friday, January 9th, 2009

With today’s high bills and struggling economy, many of us are trying to tighten our belts a bit. One of the most variable items in many budgets is the food bill. While no one wants to just eat rice and beans, planning out your meals can cut your food costs and provide you and your family with more nutritious food. You can also save time by cooking smarter, using tools you probably already own, and shopping less.

Making your own menus will save you more than money. How many times have you found yourself back at the grocery store because you didn’t have the ricotta for a lasagna or were missing the lemon juice you needed? Maybe you dial that pizza delivery more than you would like. Regardless, a meal plan will allow you to shop efficiently, avoiding extra trips to the store. It will also allow you to take advantage of sales and specials and use your time wisely. Perhaps you can make two of a casserole or dish and freeze one, or do some extra prep on the weekend for busy weekday meals.

You only need a few tools to plan meals and menus. First, make a list of favorite recipes. Add a few that you are interested in or want to try as well. Choose a variety of types of meals, and meals with a wide range of preparation requirements when you make this list. You may want to include take out, dinners out, or quick, convenience foods in your list for nights when time is just too tight to cook. You also need a planner, calendar or printable on-line menu, whichever suits your needs. Finally, your local grocery ads are the last thing you need if you want to save.

Look at what is on sale in your area and any coupons you might have. Keep in mind that you can use coupons on sale products and that some stores will match competitors’ prices, helping you to save valuable shopping time. There is even a service that for a small fee will tell you what to buy when in your area to make the most of your savings, at grocerygame.com.

Another way meal planning can help you save is by allowing you to use foods that are inexpensive, but may be too time consuming without some forethought. Often, tougher cuts of meat work very well for slow cooking, using a slow cooker or a slow simmer on the stove. You might also plan to bake cookies for the kids’ lunches instead of buying treats or take the time to cook dry beans instead of buying canned.

Planning for leftovers is ideal. If you bake a ham or roast a chicken on Monday, reuse the meat in other forms on Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday’s chicken and mashed potatoes can become Tuesday’s chicken pot pie and Thursday’s chicken noodle soup. This will allow you to stretch your food dollars as much as possible thanks to smart planning.

If you often find yourself asking what’s for dinner at 5:30 on Wednesday night, a meal plan can save you time, trouble and keep more money in your pocket. You can even reuse your family menu from month to month to save time, or change it seasonally if you prefer. Taking the time to figure out family dinners before that night will make everyone’s life easier and make healthy meals a joy instead of a chore.