Wednesday, October 29, 2008

200+ Miles Per Hour on Biogas!

Audi is quickly becoming a favorite automakers of mine. The silver bullet pictured here is yet another example why. They took a standard 3.0L current gen A4, fitted twin turbos to boost the output, and converted it to run on biogas... in this case, fermented switchgrass!

The results? 585 horsepower, and a top speed of 327.2 km/h, or roughly 202.8 mph.


Monday, October 27, 2008

What Car Buyer's Really Want

According to a Survey done by BMW in Britain... 75% of buyers would not buy a hybrid. Why? Because while 20% of buyers actually do look at CO2 emissions when car shopping, "three quarters of motorists would purchase a lower-emissions car only if it saved them money". Saving money is by no means the same as saving gas.

You can read the full BMW press release HERE.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's All In The Spin!

Earlier this week when I was looking around the website for the facts & figures used in the previous article I came across the "Lexus Hybrid Drive" section of the site with headings on "Benefits", "How It Works", and "Hybrid Myths". Some of it was well presented and honest, but a few "facts" were so rife with spin I got dizzy!

A few examples:
A Powerful Statement
Lexus Hybrid Drive is an advanced gas-electric hybrid system that delivers significant environmental benefits without sacrificing power or performance.

First... I hate anyone that justifies hybrids primarily by declaring them to be a statement!

Secondly, are the environmental benefits truly significant? As I brought out in my last article about Lexus, in the case of the GS450h, it only uses 4.6% less fuel than it's conventionally powered counterpart. That's hardly significant.

I will admit that it does indeed do so without sacrificing power though. After all, you've got 2 powertrains working together to do the work of one, so of course it will end up being more powerful.

But what about performance? Performance can be measured in a multitude of ways. Since we can assume that these 2 cars will be fitted with many (if not all) identical parts outside of the powertrain, that means "performance" in this case can be boiled down to two things: power, and weight (since the extra motor + the batteries to power it weigh a few hundred pounds).

Horsepower: 303@6200
Weight: 3795

Torque: 267@4800
Weight: 4134

The hybrid does have a slightly better power to weight ratio, which means acceleration will be somewhat better. But since it weighs over 300 pounds more, braking and cornering will suffer. A lot!

It would be like having my ex-wife in the backseat all the time!

Lexus Hybrid Drive vehicles are significantly more efficient than their non-hybrid counterparts. While fuel consumption is lower for both city and highway driving, city driving requires less fuel because the electric motors are often used exclusively at low speeds.

Yes I will agree that city driving with a hybrid uses a lot less fuel since you spend more time rolling on electric power, as well as having the benefits of start/stop (which conventional vehicles are soon starting to get).

But yet again... there's the word: significant. 4.6%... significant? Not in my opinion.

In the "Hybrid Myths" section:
Hybrids Cost An Arm And a Leg
There is an initial added cost outlay, but it's not nearly as significant as you might think. You'll also benefit from available government rebates, reduced service costs and fuel savings. The Lexus GS 450h gets almost 25% better fuel-economy than its conventional cousin, the GS 430.

The people at Lexus seem to have a very fluid perception of what "significant" means. A 4.6% savings in fuel consumption is "significant", yet a 38% increase in MSRP is "not nearly as significant as you might think".

How stupid does Lexus think their customers are?

As for benefiting from government rebates... here in Canada (after all, I'm reading there is only one of the three Lexus hybrids that gets that rebate, which is a mere $1000 (on a $55,000 vehicle).

As for the claim that the 450h gets 25% better fuel economy than it's conventional cousin, the 430... it's true, but that's only because they are powered by two entirely different engines! The 430 is powered by a 4.3L V8, while the 450h is powered by a 3.5L V6! Lexus is comparing apples to oranges. There's 2 extra cylinders and nearly 25% difference in displacement between the 2 engines, so of course the bigger one would use more gasoline.

Compare apples to apples Lexus... conventional 3.5L V6 vs hybrid 3.5L V6.

But wait, you don't really want to do that because 4.6% isn't nearly as significant as 25%.

Sorry Lexus.... you've got some very nice looking vehicles, but your hybrids are not nearly as great as you proclaim them to be, and the lack of respect for your customer's intelligence is appalling!

If you want to read more of their nonsense and spin, feel free to visit their hybrid page for yourself.

Friday, October 10, 2008


For the automakers that feel hybrids are here to stay, and not just a transitional technology, I can't help but wonder how their hybrids will be powered when gas is too expensive for anyone to buy, or when it's completely gone all together...

According to Johnson Controls, electric cars will eventually win out!

Those that are more forward-thinking are already hard at work making cool electric powered cars. Tesla is the first to put performance EVs in the hands of consumers, but RUF is hot on their heels with their electric powered Porsche.

-200 horsepower
-418 lb-ft of torque
-0 to 60 is less than 7 seconds
-160 mph top speed
-zero emissions

I want one!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lexus Says "Hybrids Aren't Just a Transition Technology"

"They are here to stay."

So claims Andy Pfeiffenberger, the head of Lexus Europe. Perhaps in the future things will be different, but in their current state, hybrids are nothing more than a band-aid. And if what they have now is all they have to offer, Toyota/Lexus is in a very sad state.

For starters, hybrids as we know them now do very little to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. The fact is, they still need gasoline to run. Sure they may use a bit less, but like I said... they're just a band-aid. Hybrids on our roads today are doing little to wean us off gasoline, and nothing to promote alternative energy solutions.

Just look at the hybrid offerings from Lexus themselves:

The GS450h is the hybrid version of the GS350. The 350 is powered by a 3.5L V6 and gets a combined EPA rating of 10.7L/100kms (22mpg). The GS450h is powered by the same 3.5L V6 (I wonder where they got the 450 nomenclature from?) but with the addition of the electric motor puts out a few more horsepower, while consuming 10.2L/100kms (23mpg).*

That's a grand total of 4.6% improvement in fuel efficiency! (And don't forget that they both need Premium pump gas too...)


That figure is even more amazing when you factor in the price. What does the privilege of 4.6% improvement in fuel economy cost you? Try $11,250 in the United States, or $18,200 in Canada!**

Let's do the math on that:

In the USA it will cost you about 25% more to save 4.6% on gas.

In Canada it will cost you over 34% more to save 4.6% on gas.

Andy Pfeiffenberger had better hope Toyota/Lexus can come up with something much better than that if they truly believe that hybrids aren't just a transition technology and really are here to stay.

*Fuel economy figures taken from
**Price differentials based on MSRP, taken from and respectively.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Speed matters!

For the sake of science, I've been making a nuisance of myself over the past month and a half. How so? By sometimes driving exactly speed limit... aside from the occasional Prius, I felt like I was about to be run into more often than not. Why was I doing this? Read on.

Common sense dictates that driving slower uses less gas! It's simple logic... if your engine turns less RPMs, then you are therefore pumping less fuel through it and creating less power.

But, exactly how much does slowing down save? (Or conversely, how much does speeding up cost?)

Over the last little while I've been keeping track of how my speed affects my fuel economy. Using a Scan Gauge (an essential tool for all hyper-milers and anyone concerned with saving gas) I've been able to verify just how much (or how little) fuel I use during my daily commute. Unfortunately, there's far too many variables involved in my entire commute to give anything close to accurate numbers for comparison.

However, there's one stretch of exactly 16.0 kms which is generally congestion free. Many mornings I can turn on the cruise control and not have to touch a pedal for the duration. This doesn't always work though, and from time to time my test was binned because I had to either slow down or speed up to avoid getting into, or causing, accidents.

This stretch includes a few curves in the highway, 3 underpasses, 2 overpasses, one long uphill, and another downhill section.

I ran many tests at varying speeds, alternating randomly between 100kph (the posted speed limit), 105kph, 110kph, and 115kph. The speed driven on any particular day was chosen randomly. The randomness was to prevent any one factor from unduly influencing the results. Things like aerodynamic drag (tried not to spend too much time behind any other cars on the highway), temperature (it was marginally warmer when I started running these tests), the amount of gas in the tank (full vs. empty, different weight), etc. were hopefully negated by averaging out multiple tests over nearly two months of trials. Results that were inexplicably high or low (severe headwind/tailwind perhaps) were thrown out.

Below are the results of 5 different trips at each speed, taken on entirely random days over the last 6+ weeks.

100 kph:
6.8L/100km - 6.5L/100km - 6.4L/100km -6.4L/100km - 6.5L/100km.
Average: 6.52L/100km

105 kph:
6.8L/100km - 6.7L/100km - 7.2L/100km - 7.0L/100km - 6.8L/100km
Average: 6.9L/100km

110 kph:
7.3L/100km - 7.2L/100km - 7.6L/100km - 7.2L/100km - 7.4L/100km
Average: 7.34L/100km

115 kph:
7.8L/100km - 7.7L/100km - 8.1L/100km - 7.9L/100km - 7.7L/100km
Average: 7.84L/100km

So what does speed cost?

Driving 5% faster than the speed limit costs 5.9% more in fuel.

Driving 10% faster than the speed limit costs 12.6% more in fuel.

And finally, driving 15% faster than the speed limit costs you 20.25% more in fuel!

I'd like to try higher speeds to see exactly how much fuel consumption increases with every 5kph, but there are consistantly police along this particular stretch of highway as well, in at least four different spots, so going any faster for the sake of this blog just isn't worth it.

The increase is definitely steep though. Aerodynamic drag increases exponentially with speed, and therefore increases fuel consumption sharply. Looking at my numbers above you can do the math and see that 20% faster than the 100kph speed limit will cost roughly 28-29% more in fuel.

So, is driving fast worth it to you? I suppose it depends how late you are.

Or how much money you want to burn.