Commuting Commutations

So I have used this forum as a sounding board on many occasions, and will continue to do so since the advice and comments are typically of a pretty high caliber. What we are continuing to struggle with is our transportation conundrum. We had spoken of earlier of the need for another 4 door vehicle. We live in semi rural Wisconsin – which is incredibly pedestrian -UNfriendly. We have a 7 mile drive to the nearest grocery store for example. There is essentially no mass transit Our children are starting extra curricular activites and only having one 4 seat vehicle is starting to be more than just an inconvenience.

We have looked at the new generation hybrids -Civic and Prius, but moving from a 65mpg Insight to a 48mpg Prius is frustrating, especially when the ticket to ride costs well north of $20k for a used one. I am also REALLY interested in plug in technology and we had an earlier post to that effect -but with the economy going to crap my funding scheme (the conversion adds another $10k) is faltering -we still have 15 of our 80 barrels left and it would have been much worse without a Gaia-Sent order of 50 from a Municipality. We need to sell 160 to fund the conversion. Plugins are essentially out. Selling the Insight is no problem -they have actually gone UP in value despite my adding 30k miles to it.

So now what? Still frustrated by the cost of the new hybrids -though that is driven by the fact that I am getting 65mpg now -rationally I think they are worth it. But with the economy crapping out and energy bills for home doubling, adding $13k in debt is not appealing. So I am coming back to diesel. TDI’s are getting cheap as the price of dino diesel goes up. I have some alerts set up on Autotrader and TDI Jettas and Golfs with under 100k miles are availible for less than I can sell my Insight for. New Beetles are to be had for under $8k. We would want a wagon, but both the Jetta and Passats came in wagon models. A 4 Door Golf might also work. I have always LOVED the Passat Wagons -which are an A4 Audi wagon with some very slight body mods, and even more so when I learned that they have a stronger TDI engine (60lbs more torque than our Forester and better brakes!) that would tow barrels just fine. But the Passats are holding their value VERY well and cost as much as a used Hybrid, though they are more useful.

The reason I am willing to get 44mpg on a TDI vs 48 in a Hybrid is that I can make my own fuel. I am firing up my research again on the decades old debate of home Bio-Diesel still vs a WVO conversion in the trunk. Price is similar if you build your own still and we have a Coop in Madison that does installs on the WVO kits and use a very high quality German system. WVO is cheaper and to some extent easier, but I see WVO becoming a commodity in less than 2 years, so either way I would want to get a 4-5 yr “right of first refusal” contract with a local restaurant before I dropped several bills on a kit. BioD takes some time to make, and you have things like lye and methanol in the garage. Both are alot less noxious than they first appear, but still something to think about. There is also the energy consumed in heating the still (though it could mate with a gasifier just fine if I could get one in the garage!) which needs to be considered. That said, making bio-fuel is a skill I want to learn, I would like to be able to grow my own fuel someday. Either way we could have a eco-fueled TDI for about $15k -or $17k less than a Plug In Prius, and $7k less than a plain jane Prius. I want air-bags so the old Mercs, etc are out. But for a farm truck, I have found a BEAUTIFUL old Land Rover pickup out east that was imported from Europe and is titled. Those things are bullet proof! But that is a few years out.

I would love to hear about personal experiences with home Bio Diesel manufacturing and WVO conversions to help me out.

-Rob

Co-Gen Hybrids

I drive a 2001 Honda Insight.  Its blue, and I love it.  I love how small it is.  I love how useful it is (built in cooler!).   And of course I love its 70+mpg in the summer and 55+ in the winter.  And this year with the addition of dedicated snow tires it has handled as much as 8″ of snow with aplomb –even with only 4″ of ground clearance.  It is one sweet ride.

One weakness of hybrids is that in steady state driving (freeway) you are not recharging the batteries which ultimately hurts your mileage, this is why most hybrids get better mileage in the city.  But now Honda is working on a new generation hybrid that adds a third technology -electrical co generation using the waste heat from the gas engine.   the technology is still a ways out, but I would love to see the waste heat that I am paying  $3.30 a gallon for (and my country is paying $1 trillion a year for) doing something other than running out the tail pipe.  Their prototype is seeing 3x the energy storage than from regenerative braking alone in a typical US freeway circuit.  Sweet!

Brief, but informative, write up here 

-Rob

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