Friday, May 23, 2008

Some Travel Tips for Fuel Weary Holiday Travellers

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It's no secret that energy and fuel costs are rising at historic and alarming rates. Recent comments by one of the most well respected oil analysts indicate that $12 per gallon gas in inevitable in the US! One of the not so well known drivers for the recent increases are the effects of China’s economic boom in their ramp-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Most analysts predict that even after the Olympics fuel costs will continue to climb albeit at a slightly less frightening trajectory. Like it or not, the days of cheap energy and easy to find oil are behind us. The combined effects of the rise of China and India’s middle class along with the increased costs of oil extraction (via more unconventional methods such as oil shale extraction, tar sands and horizontal drilling techniques) will continue to have a major impact on the cost and availability of energy.. So what can we do? Many of us are preparing for trips over the Memorial Day weekend and are facing the realities of high fuel costs head on. Here are some tips to lessen the impact this travel season.

Maintain adequate tire pressure! Under-inflated tires can have a significant impact on your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Under inflated tires expose more of the tire to the road. This increases rolling resistance and creates more drag on the engine, lowering your fuel economy.

Reduce your load as much as possible. At lower speeds, the vehicle’s weight has a significant impact on the power required to get it moving. Ditch those unnecessary items in your trunk and wash and wax your car for decreased wind resistance!

Avoid the rush! Planning every trip to avoid having to rush to your destination will help dramatically. Leave in plenty of time to avoid having to speed. Use traffic services to plan the most efficient and least congested route to your destination. Take the road less traveled!

Pay attention to the road and avoid harsh starts and stops! Be vigilant while driving. Anticipate stops and traffic slowdowns and try to avoid having to get in situations where you have to apply your brakes heavily to avoid hitting the car in front of you. Maintain a reasonable distance and let the engine and weight of the car provide the stopping power.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The ICE is not dead, but it's definitely on life support.

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With oil and gas prices reaching record highs with every passing day, with climate change becoming a unavoidable political issue and with global security so perilously connected to the free flow of oil from the most unstable regions of our planet, our oil addiction is staring us squarely in the eye. And we appear to be at a point of no return with high energy prices. The era of the "rebound", the almost automatic cyclical price relief that often results after the summer driving months, is now largely a thing of the past.

By 2010 the hybrid powertrain will be the norm not the exception. The steps toward the complete hybridization of vehicles is well underway. GM is unveiling hybrid versions of its vehicles at a breakneck pace. What's more, in a businessweek article out today, GM admits the future of the franchise rests on it's ability to provide fuel efficient automobiles.

The pure internal combustion engine will eventually be replaced by electrical powertrains. First, in the form of parallel hybrid powertrains (as seen in the popular Prius models). Next, with serial hybrids and range extenders (see GM's Chevy Volt, Nissan and others).

By 2017, when the revised CAFE standards will kick in, it is expected that fully 80% of new vehicles on offer will have an electrical engine of one variety or another. Of the hybrid vehicles offered in the 2017 model year, we expect the numbers to be 60% serial hybrids, 30% parallel hybrids and 10% pure EV.

Friday, May 16, 2008

More News on Increased Scooter Sales Due to High Gas Prices

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Associated Press - May 15, 2008

PIERRE, S.D. - Joan Kohler is not a typical new scooter customer.

But the 51-year-old restaurant owner bought a candy-apple red Honda last week as worries about the price of gas overrode any trepidation about learning to drive it.

With the average price of gas closing in on $4 a gallon, many cash-strapped motorists are turning to fuel-stingy motor scooters and smaller motorcycles. Dealers across the nation report brisk sales this spring, particularly for those that get from 75-120 miles per gallon.

"Ninety-five percent of those who come in... mention high gas prices," said Lonnie Trujillo, sales manager for Vespa of California at Sherman Oaks, Calif. "Even though we're in southern California and have year-round riding weather, April sales were phenomenal," he added.

Sales of name-brand scooters such as Honda, Yamaha, Vespa and Suzuki rose 24 percent in the first quarter of the year, said Mike Mount, spokesman for the Motorcycle Industry Council trade group — noting that it's not exactly a hot sales period because of cool weather in much of the nation.

Many lesser-known scooters from China, Taiwan and South Korea also are sold in the U.S., but Mount said those sales figures are not readily available.

"We believe, anecdotally, that fuel prices are definitely having an effect on scooter sales," he said. "It seems likely that that's playing into scooter sales this quarter, as well."

The lowest-priced scooters such as the Chinese imports cost about $800, while name-brand bikes cost $2,000 to $3,000 and top-of-the-line models can go for $6,000 to $8,000...
(source: msnbc.com)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ride to Work Day: July 8, 2008

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Fresh on the heels of our recent post on the surge of scooter sales in the wake of increasing gasoline prices, comes this: ridetowork.org has organized the 17th annual ride to work day to promote alternative tranportation of the two-wheeled variety.

From the ridetowork website:

We are a 501 c4 non-profit organization, advocating and supporting the use of motorcycles and scooters for transportation, and we provide information about everyday utility riding to the public.
We here at petrozero support every practical effort to curb our addiction to oil. As we reported yesterday, more and more frustrated commuters are parking their gas guzzlers and purchasing scooters to handle the daily commute. After all, it doesn't make much sense to see a single person driving to work in a 3000 pound SUV. Sadly though, if you take notice, you'll find that most rush hour traffic works out to be about one person per vehicle. And in the wake of the massive urban sprawl that has marked most of the latter part of the past century, alot of those vehicles are very large and very inefficient. Particularly when compared to a scooter that gets close to 100 mpg.

More power to you scooter commuters!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Scooter Commuter? Drivers starting to park their gas guzzling SUVs

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(Image: modernbuddy.com)

Yes it's true, with oil at record prices and gasoline too, commuters are starting to actively seek alternatives. With Detroit way behind the curve in offering affordable and practical fuel efficient vehicles (at least until plugin hybrids begin to hit production lines in late 2010, ala Chevy Volt), consumers are beginning to wake up to an almost forgotten source of urban transportation, the venerable scooter.

Not long ago, riding a scooter might be considered passe but in the midst of $3-4 gas, not so much. With the influx of incredibly affordable (but questionable quality in lots of cases) Chinese scooters flooding the Internet, all scooters are becoming more and more affordable. A model that supports speeds in excess of 60mph and gets upwards of 70-80mpg can be had for as little as $2000 these days.

For those who might be considering parking the SUV and looking for a scooter, here are some tips on what to look for.

  • You will probably want at least a 125cc engine. Scooters with 50cc or less don't require a motorcycle license, but are limited to 30mph by law. For speeds in excess of 55-60mph you will want at least a 150cc engine.

  • Buy locally if at all possible. Scooters are for the most part reliable, but they do break and you will benefit from having a local service shop that knows how to repair and service your scooter.

  • If it looks to good to be true, it probably is. There are 150cc Chinese made scooters going for $800-$1500 online. Beware, lots of these are junk. There are some quality Chinese brands however and you should definitely stick with these if you are buying Chinese (Q-Link is perhaps one of the best of the Chinese scooter manufacturers and their Pegasus 150 is one of the best values on the market)

Here are a few articles to support the rapid growth of scooter sales of late:

  • Gas Prices Spur Motor Scooter Sales - WCAX News, Burlington, VT

  • Scooters Help Relieve Pain at the Pump - CBS4 Denver, CO

  • High Gas Prices Driving Up Scooter Sales In Texas - CBS11TV, Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

  • Fighting high fuel prices on two wheels - Lethbridge Herald, Alberta, Canada

  • Gas prices fuel motorcycle resurgence - The Daily Journal, Cumberland County, NJ

  • Charlotte scooter sales skyrocket with rising gas prices - WCNC, Charlotte, NC

  • Scooter Sale Skyrocketing with Gas Prices - NBC Augusta, GA

  • Gas prices drive scooter sales - Citizen-Times, Asheville, NC

  • Scooter Sales Up Dramatically - WLBT, Jackson, MS

  • Gas Prices Forcing People to Get Rid of SUVs - WCTV, Tallahassee, FL

  • Scooter Sales Soar Along with Gas Prices - WGHP Fox, Greensboro, NC

  • As gas prices soar, so do scooter sales - News 14, Greensboro, NC

  • Fuel prices drive scooter sales, The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC

  • Gas prices boost scooter sales, KARE 11, Minneapolis, MN


Friday, May 2, 2008

Anwar oil: To consume or to export?

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Now that gas prices (and energy consumption in general) are once again taking center stage in America, the calls for opening up Anwar's oil reserves are reaching a crescendo. Assuming a miracle turnaround occurs on the issue, and congress changes courses on Anwar, most folks would welcome the influx of the estimated 2 million barrels per day increase to the US oil market. However, rather than use the oil ourselves, we should do as Brazil and Norway are doing and EXPORT IT! Using the influx of cash to provide real relief for our energy woes by investing in our alternative energy industry.

By exporting the oil they produce, rather than consume it (as most pro-Anwar drilling proponents are calling for) Norway and Brazil have both demonstrated that they do in fact have a clue that we must invest in a future of clean energy.

How are they using the proceeds of their lucrative oil exports? Both Brazil and Norway are financing their already thriving alternative energy sectors. It's the equivalent of investing in an "alternative energy IRA" which they can use to make annual "clean energy" withdrawals; gaining huge dividends now and into the future. In Brazil's case, they are the world's leading consumer and exporter of cane based ethanol which they've nearly perfected through years of domestic production and a steadfast commitment to become energy independent.

Will America adopt such a well thought out and domestically beneficial long term strategy? I wouldn't bet a cup of Caribou coffee on it!

$20k Chevy Volt?

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During a keynote address yesterday at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco entitled "Can GM really be Green Motors", GM's president Rick Wagoner indicated that the Chevy Volt (extended range electric vehicle) would potentially be delivered at a truly remarkable $20k price point. It GM is able to hit that mark (and it completely hangs on the promise that one of it's competing battery manufacturers can bring down cost of the lithium battery packs that make up the heart of the Volt's "E-Flex" propulsion system) then they will truly have a game changer on their hands.

Can GM transform itself into "Green Motors" come October 2010? We will have to wait and see, but all signs are pointing them in that direction...