Zeppelin to Save on Gas?

The Zeppelin is returning to the skies of the United States. Although the video discusses a 12 seater tour application, it is possible that for some routes a rigid airship could provide cheap, fuel efficient transport. Such airships do not need roads and their airfields are simple. They do not need to spend energy to maintain lift, since they use the buoyancy of helium. It might even be possible to cover their ample surface area with solar panels, thus deriving a portion of the energy needed to run their engines, which they use for horizontal thrust.


Quest for Low Drag Coefficient Body Shapes

At highway speeds, the aerodynamic drag becomes a large part of the resistance your vehicle must burn gas to overcome. Thus clean, streamlined body shapes are crucially important for fuel economy. Especially so at higher speeds. In the case of electric vehicles, whose batteries carry limited amounts of energy, low air drag permits use of less energy per mile which in turn boosts their range. Large scale alterations in the body shape are probably not in the cards for most people, but a couple of things you can do to improve your streamlining are to remove any roof rack or overhead cargo box and keep your car clean and waxed. A clean, waxed surface slides through the air with less friction.


Mazda Idle Stop System

Most drivers waste a lot of gas sitting still with the engine idling. This happens in stop and go traffic, when you are at a red light, when you have to wait to make a left turn and when you are waiting at the curb to pick up your kids. It is hard or impractical to always manually switch your engine off and on in all of these circumstances. Engine technology is coming to the rescue, providing engines which automatically stop and restart when the vehicle idles. The tricky part is having the engine come back into action quickly. If you are waiting to make a left turn and your engine shuts off automatically to save on gas, then it has to restart when you stamp on the gas pedal. You want a speedy reaction ... maybe a short window of opportunity for your planned left turn opened up in the traffic flow. The Mazda 3 has a new system which supposedly allows for much faster restarts. That is very good news for saving on gas ... now we can stop burning gas uselessly while sitting still and drive off again quickly. Once again, note how it was not Detroit pioneering in this important fuel economy technology. Detroit's focus on short term profit from large vehicles blinded it to the coming reality of permanently high gas prices, and the result is the growing obsolescence of US automakers' products in the global market.


Super Fast Bicycle

Here is another motor assisted bicycle. It has a motor for propulsion which delivers speeds up to 50 miles per hour. However, the motor is designed to run only when you pedal the bicycle. This is another expression of the idea of a lightweight, fuel efficient neighborhood vehicle. A great deal of short range travel can be done by bicycle. However, some people would like a little help, and that is where motor assisted bicycles come in. The particular model in the video is awfully pricey though: over 40 thousand dollars!


Hirsch Speaking About Peak Oil

Robert Hirsch, the lead author for the report Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management commissioned by the Department of Energy speaks about some of the things the report found.


The Story of the US Inland Waterway System

The development of transportation systems in the United States was strongly interwoven with the Inland Waterway System. Hauling freight by barge or ship can be far more economical per ton of cargo moved. It has the disadvantages of slow speed and limited access. Only destinations on a canal or coast are reachable. Today we depend heavily on the highway system and the trucking industry which uses it. In earlier decades we depended just as heavily on the Inland Waterway System. And in the future, with consistently high gasoline prices, the balance may shift decisively towards high fuel economy per unit of cargo moved. In which case, we may find the good old waterways once again supporting us long after the gas thirsty trucks have come and gone.


Propane Instead of Gas

Normal gasoline burning engines can be modified to allow them to take in propane as fuel. It is possible to run on a mixture of both propane and gasoline. The use of propane gives you extra flexibility; you can use more of whichever is cheaper or more available.


Car Pool : Save Money, Time and Gas

Carpooling is an incredibly simple way to save on money, time and gas. Commuting to work and back again is predictable and thus easily included in a carpool schedule. What are you waiting for! Check into carpooling to your workplace!


Save Gas Towing Trailers with a Deflector

Sometimes we have to move a little extra cargo, or maybe your work calls on you to do a lot of hauling. The solution often is a trailer. The extra air resistance the trailer causes will reduce the fuel economy of the towing vehicle. However, installing a slipstream deflector on the roof of the tower can help reduce the additional air drag. And that can mean you save on gas while towing.

The video shows how to install a wind deflector on a truck which will be used as a tower.


Keeping An Eye on the Gas Price

The US Energy Information Administration publishes data on average retail gasoline prices. This lets us keep an eye on the general condition of the country's gasoline economy. As you can see from the chart, gasoline has been gradually getting expensive over the last while. We are now are a national average just above $2.80. That is still far below the spike of summer 2008. However, it is all too easy to fall into the "boiling frog trap" ... the phenomenon where slow changes are ignored until it is too late. The gradual upward trend in the gas price is a sign that we had better prepare for expensive gasoline in the future, even if right now it is not so bad.


Hydraulic Hybrid Ingocar

Here is another concept for vehicle propulsion: hydraulic power. Valentin Technologies is developing the Ingocar which it hopes will achieve a gas mileage of 170 MPG or only 0.590 GPHM (gallons per hundred miles). The vehicle is light and aerodynamically streamlined, but the real secret is in its hydraulic drive system.

The idea is that a normal gasoline burning combustion engine is used not to provide propulsion, but to pressurize a reservoir of hydraulic fluid. Each wheel of the car will then have its own hydraulic drive which will convert that pressure into motive revolution of the wheel. This system can run in reverse during braking. The wheel drive motors act as pumps, converting the kinetic energy of the car back into reservoir pressure.

Whether this technology will prove out or not is unknown, but it is good to see that we have many options under development. We are going to sorely need a way to drastically increase our fuel economy in the decades ahead as the global oil supply becomes ever more expensive. Each idea under development gives us one more arrow in the quiver for the hunt to save on gas.


Battery Swap Overcomes Charging Times for Electric Vehicles

One of the common concerns with electric vehicles (EV) is the limited range provided by the battery. Electric vehicles run completely off of electric energy provided by a battery, unlike hybrid electric vehicles which include a gasoline powered engine and only use the battery and electric motors for assist or to recover energy while braking. Modern and likely future battery technology cannot store as much energy as a gasoline tank can. The result is that EVs have a limited range. Coupled with this limited range is the fact that it takes hours to recharge the battery. Translating these restrictions to a gasoline powered car would be like having a vehicle with a small gas tank that took hours to refill!

One potential solution is to swap out a depleted battery with a fully recharged one. This does not increase the range provided by a fully charged battery per se, but it does reduce the recharging time to the time to swap a battery, which could be about the same time as it takes to fill up your car's gas tank. There would be battery swap stations which would function much like the gas stations of today. The video demonstrates one scheme for how these battery swap stations could work.


Trans Alaska Pipeline Pumping Less

The Trans Alaska Pipeline is a 800 mile long tube carrying crude oil from Prudhoe Bay on the north coast of Alaska to Valdez, a seaport on the southern edge of the state. It was constructed to help satiate the overwhelming thirst for gasoline after the oil embargo of the 1970's. It has given us 30 or so years of service delivering petroleum. But now the Alaskan oil fields are in decline, leaving the pipeline with only a trickle to deliver. The chart above, taken from Wikipedia clearly shows the decline in oil output from Alaska. The youngsters of today, who are just now starting to own and drive cars, are experiencing from the beginning higher gas prices. In a decade or two, when Alaskan oil production drops to levels so low the pipeline can no longer be used, they will see a huge 800 mile long empty, rusting pipe and wonder at the waste of energy, effort and materials that went into it. But for the older folks, that pipeline gave us 30 years more of cheaper gas. This growing gap between the older and younger members of our population highlights the fact that we do not use resources for the long term ... our society thinks about what we can get today. One cost of this orientation towards short term profit will be a painful generational divide in society.


The Story of the Alaska Pipeline

The United States built an 800 mile long pipeline to help deliver the oil from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and North Slope to the Continental 48. Here is the story of how that came to be. Particularly interesting is the segment around the 2:30 mark discussing the attempt to use an icebreaking tanker for carrying oil through the icy Arctic waters. That plan did not work out: the tanker could not manage the ice. Today, with global climate change bringing warming to the Arctic it might soon be possible to navigate tankers through the newly ice free Arctic waters. Ironically, now that it may be possible, there is very little oil to deliver! The Alaskan oil fields are all in decline, having already produced the majority of their petroleum. That petroleum is now in part contributing to the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, helping to ensure even higher future temperatures.


Pipelines : Fragile Oil Movers

Our gasoline economy is dependent on pipelines which move crude oil between various storage and processing facilities. Despite their importance, pipelines are often exposed and somewhat fragile. This video shows what can happen when one of them is damaged.


How Your Gas Gets to You : Oil Tanker In Action

The United States imports around 12 million barrels of oil a day and except for what arrives via pipelines from Canada and Mexico, it all goes by sea. Oil tankers are a necessary but invisible part of the supply chain leading up to your gas tank. Let us salute these tireless giants of the seas by watching one in action!


World's Smallest Car

The world's smallest car. It may be small, but for local intracity travel, it is really all you need. It is something like a covered motorcycle so you will not get wet in the rain. And it gets 100 miles to the gallon, or expressed in gallons per hundred miles, it only uses 1.00 GPHM. Just right for getting about the neighborhood without spending a fortune on gas. This particular vehicle was manufactured in the 1960's on the island of Peel, so they are not for sale now. But the concept of a small, very lightweight vehicle for local travel is something the modern world is going to become very familiar with as we look for ways to stay mobile in a world of expensive gasoline.


Hypermiling for Dollars and Gas

Hypermiling is the art of driving in such a way as to maximize fuel economy of the vehicle. The Golden Rule of Hypermiling is probably "Maintain Momentum". Think of your gas mileage when you are braking or idling: you are getting ZERO miles per gallon!


Ships Using Kites to Save on Gas

Here is a video of a Sky Sail as seen in action. Sky Sails are kites which function like sails on ships of old, harnessing the power of the wind to cut fuel consumption of the vessel.


A Mileage Log Might Let You Save On Taxes

Gas burned is gas gone forever. But you may be able to recover some of the money you spent to buy that gas. Keeping a mileage log can let you deduct that money from your taxes. The video explains.


Run Your Diesel Truck on Grease

Diesel engines are quite capable of running on used cooking oil, grease and fat. This video documents extracting some used cooking grease from a standard grease trap behind a restaurant and pumping it directly into a diesel truck. Many people don't realize just how fuel versatile diesel engines can be. This video will sure open a few minds!


Moonbeam a Micro Car

One way to get better gas mileage is to choose the right vehicle for the job. And to save on gas, the right vehicle is the smallest, lightest, lowest horsepower and most streamlined one that can possibly work. Most local trips within a neighborhood don't need much more than a motorcycle. A Micro Car is essentially a motorcycle fitted out with a body. The resulting low weight allows for amazing gas mileage. For example, the Moonbeam introduced in the video gets 200 miles on a 2 gallon tank of gas. It uses only about 1 gallon per hundred miles! And if you only want to go ten blocks to visit a friend, it is absolutely perfect.


Extreme Record Setting Gas Sipper in Action

This little gas sipper goes through fuel slower than paint dries. The secret is low weight and very good aerodynamics. Of course it is barely big enough for one person and can't carry any luggage, but I am glad to see contests organized around fuel efficiency. The best part of the interview comes at the end, where the speaker says that his laboratory is also working on fuel economizing technologies for real scale cars.


Professors Explain GPHM

Measuring fuel economy in miles per gallon can be deceptive when the miles you drive are fixed and not the amount of gallons you spend. In the case of a fixed driving distance, it is GPHM (Gallons Per Hundred Miles) which is directly related to fuel economy. In the video a pair of professors explain why.


Four Wheel Drive Guzzles Extra Gas

One of the main enemies of fuel economy is vehicle weight. The heavier a vehicle is, the harder the engine will have to work to manage the same acceleration. That in turn means the engine will burn through more gas. This means that four wheel drive vehicles will be less fuel efficient than their two wheel drive models. The extra drivetrain assembly needed for four wheel drive adds weight. That weight is always there, whether or not the vehicle is actually using four wheel drive. For this reason the two wheel drive will always use fewer gallons per hundred miles driven.

Additionally to this permanent weight penalty that applies whether or not four wheel drive is engaged, actually engaging all four wheels adds yet another fuel penalty. The engine will have to work harder to overcome the extra friction and resistance in the drivetrain introduced by the engagement. Additionally, the extra load on the engine will induce larger losses internal to the engine, such as crankcase losses.

If you need four wheel drive in your working vehicle, go right ahead and get it. If you need it, you need it. If you are looking for a recreational vehicle that you will use for playing off road, go right ahead. But if you are thinking about buying a four wheel drive vehicle without really knowing when you would use it just because it sounds like it would be "nice to have", remember that you will be paying extra at the pump for the rest of your ownership. It may be "nice to have", but so would be the gas and money you could have saved.


History of Gas Prices

Young people who are just now driving a car for the first time will not actually remember a time when gas was cheap. We have now seen about 5 years of higher gas prices. That means we are starting to grow a generation in the US which thinks of gasoline as a thing to be used with consideration and not taken for granted as though it were air. I believe that it will take this still nascent generation to make a real change in energy policy in our country. Everyone older has been so used to cheap fuel that they cannot easily realign their habits. But the people in their young 20's today have been driving their whole lives with gradually rising gas prices. That will condition them to think towards efficient use of gasoline.


End of the Hummer

So it looks like GM (Government Motors as they say) has decided to end the Hummer. In the newly dawning world of expensive gas there is no place for such a gas guzzler. As people began to realize this fact coupled with the current Greater Depression they simply stopped buying Hummers. They also stopped buying the other overly heavy fuel inefficient models offered by Detroit. Detroit's long term plan was based on profits from exactly these gas guzzlers, so they made and marketed many such models. The Hummer was iconic as representing this strategy taken to an extreme.

GM tried to trick the Chinese into buying the Hummer, but in the end China was too smart for that. In fact, when it comes to gas mileage and efficient fuel use, the US is among the dumbest countries around. China has shown a much better record recently and their refusal to buy the Hummer is a confirmation of that.

Good riddance to the gas guzzling Hummer. The US simply cannot afford to waste fuel like that in the expensive oil years ahead.


More Prognosticated Gas Price Rises

Here is another media outlet predicting a near term rise in the price of gasoline by 20 cents or thereabouts.


Gas Prices Set to Go Up

It looks like gas prices are set to go up to three dollars soon. We have been seeing a zig zag pattern over the last half decade with gas prices rising and then falling back only to rise again. The long term direction is clear: gas is gradually getting more expensive. Time to start to save on gas!


Learn How Truckers Save on Gas

The trucking industry needs to operate efficiently to keep profits rolling in. So as a result, they are very interested in saving on gas. Every gallon of diesel not spent is more money in the owner's pocket. Thus truckers are a great source of tips on how to get better fuel economy. The video is a mine of handy gas saving tips. Of course, they are from the point of view of the trucking industry and talk about long haul diesel tractor trailers. But the principles are often the same and can be applied to your everyday driving habits with good results.


Motor Powered Bicycle

Here is another option for a low fuel consumption neighborhood vehicle. If you are not ready to pump the pedals on a bicycle and a motorcycle seems to expensive or foreign to you, try adding a small motor to your bicycle!