Monday, January 18, 2016

Are We Blowing Our Chance To Take Advantage of Cheap Fuel?

FINALLY, I have purchased gas for under $2 a gallon!  Ok, I know what you are thinking; Why is that news? I have been paying under $2 a gallon all year!.  Well, I live on the West Coast where cheap gas is an oxymoron, at least normally.  I paid $1.969 for gas two days ago marking a few weeks under a year since the $2 mark was achieved.  (Feb 3, 2015, I got gas for $1.939)

OPEC has pretty much announced that they will openly fight any transportation option that is does not further the World's addiction to oil and that has allowed us to become complacent. I don't have the specifics of what cheap gas has done to our purchasing habits but can only guess that Full size Diesel Trucks are flying off the lots with their $50,000+ price tags.

This truck is "rated" up to 18 MPG on the highway per the dealership  but get it off the dynamometer and a more realistic number is closer to 12 MPG.  A recent post by a Dieseler crows about paying $1.88 a gallon just a few days ago...

Again without looking, Full size SUVs are probably enjoying a renewed popularity with people blinded by the extra cash in their wallets from fuel savings as well.  I would provide real data but the thought of seeing the sales numbers is quite frankly, very depressing.  

As always, we are essentially making knee jerk purchases based on the highly volatile price of gasoline.  Sure its cheap now and unlike previous dips, it has actually been cheap for quite a while. Ignoring a short period this past Summer, gas has not been close to  $3 a gallon here since October 2014 which may not sound like a big deal to most but remember, our pricing scales are inflated here.  Before dropping into the upper 2's during early Winter 2014, We have been over $3 a gallon (including several forays into $4 gas) for years.  It was then that gas was painful. A significant budget consideration that could not be ignored.

But that was less than 1½ years ago.  How quickly we have become conditioned to again being able to ignore the pittance we now pay for fuel.  So, I guess the real question becomes "At what point does the gas bill no longer becomes a major budgetary consideration?"

Well, now we are talking money. Cold hard cash for the most part.  Like lottery tickets, gasoline is pretty much a "cash in hand" expense. I use credit cards for gasoline purchases (mostly for cash back, points or whatever) but always pay off the balance every month to avoid interest costs so its still essentially cash.   So the threshold of pain runs the gamut from "still painful" to "not sure what it was last month, but it wasn't much" response when asked how much we pay for gas.  Notice when gas is over a certain point that we become acutely aware of how much we pay at the pump but when I ask that question now I get "Oh, its not much... maybe about $10-15 to fill up"  verses high priced gas of  "I paid $36.73 just the other day!"

But herein lies the problem. When gas gets too cheap, we gorge. Now not all gorging is bad.  Taking more trips out of town is actually a good thing that I am in favor of.  Sightseeing or simply "roadtripping" helps to stimulate the economy. You are essentially spreading the wealth around the country which tends to help maintain businesses that rely on travel and this is the segment of the economy that has been hurt the most in the recent past. After all, road tripping pretty much requires stopping to eat somewhere new, right?

But gorging also means making poor choices on vehicle purchases. Unlike family vacations or spur of the moment road trips,  vehicle purchases commits you to several years of living with that decision. This creates a situation I have seen time and time again where people buy a vehicle, the price of fuel hiccups and all of a sudden paying both the car loan and the gas bill becomes very challenging.

What is really needed is ways of making sure that gas does not get too cheap and that can easily be done by simply creating a flexible gas tax structure that changes based on the going market price of gas.  Washington State does it with their minimum wage laws. Every year, they base any minimum wage increase. (Thankfully, its a one way street) on the cost of  living.  Cost of living goes up 3%, our State minimum wage goes up 3%. That way we can at least "tread water."   OBTW; Thank you fuel prices for insuring the cost of living actually went DOWN last year meaning no raise for Washingtonians... first time in YEARS!!)

Fuel taxes should be managed the same way but raising fuel taxes is something that is more difficult that we think. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993 while the cost of everything related to transportation has skyrocketed.   Having tire issues with your Nissan LEAF?  Well, before we place all the blame on Nissan for its vendor choices, maybe we should take another look at the deteriorating conditions of  the roads we drive on?

Now when gas when I paid $3.419 for gas on September 28, 2014 it was pretty easy to understand how gas a gas tax increase would have been a monumental achievement, but now that gas is approaching half that coupled with the failing road system coupled with the reduced gas tax revenue??  I mean how obvious does it have to get?

But our legislative body does not work like that. It would be great but it does not. Congress does do "right" or "reasonable" or "smart".   For them its "perfect" or "covers all bases" and if they can't do that, then its do nothing which is what we currently... no, not currently but have been putting up with for decades.  Constantly we get a bill that most can get behind but a single voice of concern can completely stop it in its tracks which means a lot of time and money spent to get nowhere or at best a half step towards a solution that barely visible on the horizon.

So maintaining the price of gas to at least a reasonable level means stabilizing our budget which means that spur of the moment splurges are tempered by the fact that that 450 Horsepower Mustang will always cost at least $100 a month in gas and also aids us when making the family vehicle purchase since we no longer have to worry as much about what we will pay for gas will be 3 years from now.  Now we do need to realize a variable gas tax rate only prevents gas from getting too low and there will always be the specter of  $5 gas that we may not be able to avoid.

So chime in folks!  What is your balance point?  At what point does the price of gas start to affect your life?  Is it $3? 4?  or is it still causing you to go without even now when its just a notch over chump change?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Why Electric Vehicles are a bad idea

There is no such thing as a perfect vehicle for everyone and that is ok. With millions of vehicles sold in the US annually that leaves more than enough room for some pretty healthy niches. But poor choices are out there for the uninformed and this posting will hopefully warn an unsuspecting buyer before its too late.

On paper, electric vehicles seem like a good idea. Great for the environment, uses the most prolific power source built by Man, 2nd only in accessibility to the Sun, and its economical.  But the drawbacks are many and severe and worse of all; unadvertised!!  I will expose the secrets the electric car manufacturers do not want you to know!  But the key thing is that you need to read this ASAP!  The industry is powerful and as soon as they see this, this post will likely disappear from the Earth forever! So don't blow your opportunity to find out what the World doesn't even realize it needs to know!!

Electric Vehicles are quiet and that is true but I cannot believe the industry has the World believing that quiet is a good thing!!  After all, would you prefer to hear nothing?? Be deaf?? I think not!

** Quiet means leaving home at the crack of dawn without waking up the family. Hard for them to appreciate how hard you work for them if they don't even know you left the house!

** Quiet means the inability to strike fear into the heart of your drag racing opponent. What good is all that torque if you cannot psyche your opponent by increasing his stress level and maybe causing him to choke?  For the effects of stress; google "Minnesota field goal attempts."

Electric vehicles require nearly no maintenance and again, that is supposed to be a good thing?? WOW!! Unreal!!

** No maintenance means no more free car wash coupons when you get your oil changed. Right now my LEAF is so dirty I sometimes have trouble remembering what color it is!

** No maintenance means drifting apart from your local dealer's service advisor.  Think of all the time and money you spent in the past to build that relationship and gain that valued friend. But no more! All gone!!

Electric Vehicles recharge with electricity and the most common source is the home tap. Sounds good, right? Well...depends on how you look at it.

** Charging up at home means not having to go out to get fuel.  A "shut in's" delight! We don't even want to go into how bad that is for them to have another excuse to not venture from their home.

** Charging up at home means not supporting the local economy. Gas stations maybe corporate franchisees but still employ locally. By gassing up, you are helping to reduce unemployment.  Electric companies are public utilities and your charging will not hire a single person.   For example; I have both a gasser and an EV. My Nissan LEAF went nearly 14,000 miles for under $300 while the gasser when just over 6500 miles for over $400.  As you can see; the EV contributes little to economy while the gasser can potentially pour hundreds of dollars into the local economy every month!

** In extreme cases, people install Solar panels to generate their own electricity. This means no money at all put into the local economy and a huge reduction in surplus Solar energy! Sure it seems like we have a lot of leftover Sun now but what would happen if there were tens of millions of people charging their EVs with Solar??

Now there are more hidden pitfalls to driving an electric vehicle and I would love to spend the time to tell you about it but time is of the essence!  Remember as soon as the EV auto manufacturers see this, it will most certainly disappear to don't delay!  Share this with as many people as you can before its too late!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

December 2015 Drive Report; Happy New Year!

End of the month, end of the year and the new year starts out by being 17ยบ this morning! brrrr. Ended with paying an extra 11 cents a gallon for gas as well. Won't miss 2015 let me tell ya!  Yeah, definitely have had better years (like most of them) but it was at least partially memorable.  Going back to Michigan to see relatives I have not seen in decades was great!

As far as the LEAF goes?  Well I can claim my batteries have not aged a bit! and whats even better is that I have proof!

Not too bad for a old car now is it!

Now as much as I like to brag, I have to admit reality comes crashing down hard sometimes.  I took this reading before the charge cycle was complete. The lights were still blinking and all that and with these numbers, the car was obviously in the balancing stage.  I found that occasionally taking readings too soon after the end of the charge caused higher than normal readings.

This was pretty much verified when I went out a few hours later, drove 6 miles with dash reading of 4.0 miles/kwh and was left with  19.9 kwh and 257 GIDs left.  So why wasn't I at 20.5 kwh?  would make sense. I only had seat and steering wheel heaters on and total drive duration of probably less than 20 minutes for trip to store and back.

Actually I have to think my more realistic battery stats should be giving me just over 21 kwh available which is still pretty fabulous.  I did do a blast at the Oly Nissan Dealership a few days ago mostly to test my Chargepoint FOB (remember my other one failed to work at Puyallup and Oly Nissan so it was retired) I am glad they overdid it by sending me 3 of them.  Down to two so not sure why the first one stopped working although it being on my keychain means it goes thru a lot of abuse. Despite never taking my keys out of my pocket for the LEAF, I take them out a lot for other things like flashlights, box openers (ya, using keys not a good idea but at least I can't accidentally cut myself with them!) But the new tier of numbers basically happened after that fast charge. Before the charge, my ahr had been bouncing around the mid 65's. But after a 20 minute charge gaining 9.3 kwh I left and checked LEAF Spy and it was slightly higher but continued to rise pushing my Hx over 100% for first time in a long time.  That was on Wednesday. We shall see how long these numbers last.

Another thing I was checking on is charging speed. I had planned to hold on until the charge rate dropped to 6 kwh but lost patience with sitting there. This time no one came to charge so there was no pressure to leave early but

I don't have any idea what the max power output is at Oly but suspect its not near 48 kwh. The rate did start around 40-42 KW but dropped rapidly. As you can see it was approaching 30 KW before it was even ¼ charged.  Either way, glad newer 30 kwh packs charge at the fuller rate much deeper into the SOC curve.  Bodes well for us, not so well for station host especially this one which bills at the rate of 25 cents per minute. (my charge here is free)

Anyway for the month I did not do too well on transferring miles to the Corolla because I did not work very much. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is traditionally slow and I took the time to catch up on lying around... As the Corolla was purchased for those trips that simply could not be made with the time constraints of work, it is pretty much never driven for any other purpose and this was the case in December as the LEAF went 1277.3 miles for a cost of $30.77 or 2.4 cents per mile. The cost does include a few stops at Puyallup Nissan (16.67 cents a minute and yes, I do have to pay there) and random Blinks but mostly due to 3 trips running over 100 miles.  For the year, LEAF went 13,535.9 miles (down from over 17,000 miles last year) costing $279.82 or just under 2.1 cents per mile.

The Corolla traveled 464.7 miles costing $32.97 or 7.1 cents per mile. For the year it traveled 6723 miles costing $409.34 or 6.1 cents per mile.  Nearly all its miles happen during Winter which makes sense since it has heat to burn literally. During 2015, the Corolla failed to gas up in two months while 4 other months had fuel costs under $20.