Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rapper +sleeping pills = Jay-Zzzzzzzzz?

I'm almost certain I know who you are. I hope you have better luck at keeping your blog updated than I have had of late.

You know, it's funny that they find it necessary to have a literacy test in Grade 10, but no kind of sexuality test. I'm not saying it should be the school board's job, but wouldn't it be helpful to a great many people to learn something about THEMSELVES for once? All I learned from the EQAO was that the lowest common denominator is pretty fucking LOW (actually, I may have learned that from Ed the sock first). I think this may evolve into a full-blown topic later on, as school boards everywhere have a lot to answer for these days.

Hybrid Theory

Recently, my mother and father completed their quest to find a replacement for their now 8-year-old '99 Mazda Protégé (thus earning a reward of 30 Gold and 1200 EXP :p ). They had agreed to look for something more environmentally friendly – a hybrid car...

After some research on the EnerCan website, my father decided that there were only 2 real options: The Toyota Prius, or the Honda Civic Hybrid (1st and 2nd on the emissions list, arranged lowest – to – highest). I'm a little distressed that there isn't more competition for the top spot, but on the bright side it greatly simplified the decision-making process. The Prius was his first choice, and so off to the dealership my parents went. On one occasion, I accompanied my dad to test-drive the car (my lowly G1 allows me to do this, which is pretty cool). The car was loaded with tech, and the all-electric drive at low speeds was a neat (also quiet) feature. There was the minor issue of a sound input jack being part of a $4000 upgrade package, but all 3 current drivers in the family were sold on the car itself. The price? Not so much; although my parents tried their best to negotiate.

This left the Civic Hybrid as the remaining option. Although unable to power itself solely on electric power, it features all the other energy-saving features of a hybrid, the most important of which is that the electric motor is powerful enough to spin up the motor, which can be turned off when the car is stopped. I found the steering far more satisfying on the Honda, and an audio input jack came standard. The price was right, and so my parents hashed out a deal and committed to buy one. As I write this, we are still waiting for one to arrive. Depending on which colour we decide to take, we could have one as soon as next month. I'm rather excited...although my left foot mourns the loss of a cutch pedal. I'm a manual kinda guy, but I gotta hand it to the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission): it's the more efficient system.

I'm happy to say that I've begun to see more and more Priuses, Smart cars, and the like on our streets here, but I wonder if there isn't more automakers could be doing to push energy-efficient vehicles. The current attitude seems to be that these cars are a niche interest (which indeed they are), as evidenced by the Civic Hybrid, which is available in only 4 “colours” (silver, blue-silver, white, metallic gray. Exciting!). The solution - in my opinion - is to make hybrids good for everyone: make every car a hybrid by a certain year. It sounds like a difficult undertaking, but the reality is that Honda could make any car it sells a hybrid with ease. The electric motor is jammed in between the engine and the drive shaft, which – according to the salesman we talked to – could be employed without any redesign. This being done, the next step is to NOT MARKET most of the new hybrids as such. Sure, you can have “IMA” (Integrated Motor Assist, what Honda calls its hybrid motor setup) on the features list, but all you have to say is “it improves acceleration, and also braking”. People would probably figure it out in time, but the point is not to draw attention to the feature, so the dumbasses who think that hybrids are “for pussies” will one day find themselves driving one. Anyone interested in the planet will either not own a car, or own a hybrid, or an electric car of some sort if driving is unavoidable. The rest won't care, one way or the other, unless they are the aforementioned haters, in which case what they don't know can be the cause for much laughter among more educated populations.

The biggest challenge that I can see in the above strategy is creating an entry-level hybrid car. The batteries, alternators, and control hardware for the electric motor are costly, and there isn't any real way around it...or is there? I have heard of a near-hybrid design, which uses an overpowered starter motor, rather than a separate entity. The real fuel-saving in a hybrid probably comes from the motor being turned off when the car is immobile or coasting. An overpowered starter could have the power to spin up the main engine fast enough to permit this. I wonder if either the starter or the alternator could be used for regenerative braking in a pinch? One can dream, I suppose. Add a CVT, and in a small car, you'll probably save more than enough fuel to make it worth buying. It won't be a proper hybrid, but it's the fuel savings which are important, not the precise methods by which they are achieved.

And then there's this. Granted, the base price tag of $92 000 USD isn't going to attract mainstream buyers, I imagine that you could build a small, efficient exclusively in-city electric car which would be quite affordable. It might not “glorify driving” to the extent that the electric roadster does, but it could easily do more than glorify a golf cart. In a similar category, I'd love to see a hybrid smart car. Sure, the batteries would add weight, but if a “watermelon sized” engine weighing less than 35 Kg can accelerate the roadster 0-100Km/h in ~4 seconds, I doubt it would be a problem finding a suitable electric motor for the job. The Smart's turbo-diesel is something like 799cc. Either the electric motor could be used to increase performance and mileage on the existing car, or an even smaller gas or diesel motor could be employed.

So instead of pissing and moaning, GM and the rest of you bastards complaining about the Government's new tax on polluting vehicles / credit for low-emissions vehicles can shut the FUCK up and go make some cleaner cars. If you're not going to play ball, then we should find someone to set up auto plants here who will...

I'd like to know if you, dear readers, would buy a hybrid car, electric car, or other alternative-energy vehicle (besides the obvious bicycle, which everyone should own) were you in the market for one.

More tomorrow, I'm signing off for now

Shout-Outs be to all my Gloucester peeps in Japan!


Xamed said...

"silver, blue-silver, white, metallic gray"

I laugh.

But really, your parents bought one? Rebs talked about it.. but honestly, that's so cool.

I applaud.

Scarlet Gypsy said...

My Grandparents have a hybrid car; I believe they went for the Honda Civic Hybrid. It's definitely a smooth handling car.
And congradumalations on (probably) figuring out who I am! You win a cookie!

Daydream Believer said...

Erm... Ford Escape Hybrid... Also known as "The truck" to those of us who don't like to drive the soccer-mom-mobile...

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