Friday, May 30, 2008

Hypermiling

As gas approaches a national average of $4 per gallon, everyone is looking for ways to reduce fuel costs. The most obvious solution is to purchase a more efficient car, possibly a hybrid. But if you have to buy a new car to achieve greater fuel economy, are you really saving any money? Probably not. Hybrids ain't cheap and trading in one car for another is almost always a big money loser (and often counter-productive).

So what to do? How about fixing the way you drive right now and saving just as much gas as you would by switching to a hybrid? You need to try hypermiling. Hypermiling is pretty simple actually. The gist of the concept is that you should change the way you drive to be more efficient. Accelerate more slowly. Use your brakes less. Try to avoid red lights. And most importantly, track your fuel economy so you can see how you're doing! According to CNN, if you follow the basic steps outlined at hypermiling.com, you can increase your gas mileage by 35 percent. If you get really serious, you can be like this guy and get 70 mpg out of your Honda Civic (OK, that requires a bit of body work as well)!

One really cool side benefit of hypermiling, is that some of the techniques can actually reduce traffic congestion, helping everyone on the road, not just you. If that sounds preposterous, check out this paper on reducing "traffic waves" by maintaining a generous gap with the cars in front of you. If you keep at least a two-second gap, you can greatly reduce the number of times you have to quickly brake. Each time you brake in traffic, you force the car behind you to brake as well, and the car behind them, etc. Every time that happens, it compresses traffic at that spot, making a small, compressed "wave" in the flow of cars. If you instead cruise along with a buffer in front of you, you can ignore some of the annoying little stops that you normally encounter in heavy traffic. If you don't have to brake, then neither do the cars behind you - suddenly that "wave" of slowed (or stopped) cars goes away. Just one car can make a huge difference. Read the article to get a clearer picture, because it can be a bit difficult to describe.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

$2.99 Gas for 3 Years

How would you like to pay $3 per gallon for gas for the next three years? Steven Levitt's Freakonomics blog introduces this as new deal for Chrysler customers. Basically, this is just one of a handful of "financing" deals Chrysler customers could choose. So, if they want the deal on gas, they'll have to pass up the normal cash back or lower loan rates they might have otherwise taken.

I agree with Levitt that this appears to be a brilliant marketing ploy by Chrysler. I find it hard to believe that it'll cost Chrysler any more than its other incentives. (In fact, I'd bet it ends up costing them less per customer.) And the price of gas is constantly in the news, perhaps inflating its importance in drivers' eyes. So, maybe this promotion gets some incremental car buyers in Chrysler showrooms.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nissan's Carlos Ghosn Bullish on EVs

TWSJ reported yesterday that Nissan plans to introduce electric vehicles (EVs) to the U.S. and Japanese markets by 2010, and globally by 2012.

The article cites some interesting comments by Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, as well. Specifically, Ghosn is preparing Nissan for what he believes will be a "mass market" for EVs in 2012. His belief stems from expectations for continued high oil prices, increased environmental awareness by consumers, and breakthroughs in battery technologies.

Interestingly, he also sizes the initial EV market around 10 million vehicles, the number of vehicles used for shorter commutes in big cities around the world.