Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mercedes announces new 42mpg 170hp Bluetec. But where is the Bluetec Hybrid?

According to the Wired autopia blog, Mercedes has just announced a Vision C 220 Bluetec. "Mercedes says its 125 kW / 170 hp engine manages to get a hundred km (not miles, so don't get too excited) out of 5.5 litres of diesel. "

To answer the question that every American reader will have about this announcement, here's the answer:

According to the figures above, the Vision C 220 Bluetec will get 18.2 kilometers per liter, which is about 42.8 miles per gallon, out of its 170hp 4-cylinder diesel engine.

That's great. So, why not make it a plug-in hybrid? The thing would f*cking smoke if it had a decent electric engine running in parallel with that diesel!! We're talking... probably around 80 mpg, perhaps, just by going to hybrid, maybe more like 120 if there's a lot of city driving using plugged-in battery power?

So, riddle me this, Dr. Z: Why hasn't MBZ created a hybrid vehicle, much less a plug-in hybrid vehicle?

When might we expect the first plug-in Bluetec hybrid?

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I have been advocating for a plug-in diesel hybrid for some time. Perhaps Mercedes will be able to use this Bluetec technology to ultimately build such a vehicle?

Or, maybe it will be Toyota that finally produces the first such vehicle? They have reportedly already produced a diesel-hybrid truck, but it cost $10,000 more than its non-hybrid counterpart.

But for good ole' MBZ, where a car costs $41,000 anyways, what's another $10k between friends? If a diesel-hybrid vehicle could be produced that came with a 10-year, 500,000-mile warranty to justify the extra expense, and a financing plan to boot, I bet people would buy it.

After all, according to the above article,
"A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment found that even with aggressive research, fuel-cell cars won't beat diesel hybrids on total energy use or greenhouse gas emissions by 2020."
So, somebody will make a diesel-electric hybrid. Maybe a lot of somebodies. Volkswagen is also working on it:

Volkswagen will enter an experimental diesel hybrid car at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai next month, a contest for alternative powertrain vehicles.

"The technology is there and has been well known for years. The problem with hybrid is the battery technology," a VW spokesman said, noting no one yet has come up with a hybrid battery that lasts as long as the car it powers.
So, if battery technology really is the sticking point right now, then perhaps we will see progress soon. Toyota has already announced plans to switch to Lithion-Ion batteries for its third-generation hybrid vehicles, due out in 2008 or 2009, a move that they expect will bring the cost of hybrid vehicles down to the level of other vehicles, while extending battery life and increasing efficiency.

The potential of diesel-hybrid technology is huge. University of San Diego engineering professor Jim Burns has reportedly developed a $60,000 diesel-hybrid sports car that gets 80 mpg and does 0-60mph in 4.3 neck-jerking seconds. He says that if he gets 10,000 orders, he'll mass-produce the vehicle.

Finally, according to the WSJ, a French consortium, using batteries from Wisconsin, will be producing an electric van for the French postal fleet, and hope to have a plug-in diesel hybrid version of the van for sale to the public by 2010.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

For Bicycles: Stop Signs = Yield, and Traffic Lights = Stop Signs!!

Let's expand Idaho's bicycle code nationwide! Or at least to Oregon. And then California. And see what happens next.

The law intends to ease passage of bicyclists through controlled intersections (those with lights or stop signs) when cross traffic is not an issue.

Here's what it says:


49-720. STOPPING -- TURN AND STOP SIGNALS. (1) A person operating a
bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and,
if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing
to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to
any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely
as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving
across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a
person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if
required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection
without stopping.
(2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a
steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection
and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may
proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a
person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if
required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a
one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to
other traffic.

Basically, it says that bicyclists can roll through stop signs, and proceed through red lights after coming to a full stop, if doing so is safe and doesn't cause a conflict with vehicles who already have established a legal ROW path through the intersection.

Why not? Just codifies into law what is already standard practice for many cyclists in major cities anyway. If connected with a simple public safety outreach campaign to publicize the new law, it could be revolutionary for bicyclists. I would also suggest that the following sign be gradually phased in at intersections, especially in conjunction with already-existing stop signs. It would ideally be posted below the stop sign, and would be smaller. It would mean two things:

1) Stop signs equal yield signs for bicycles.
2) Vehicles should yield to bicycles.

This should help to clarify the situation to everybody involved:

Update (Feb. 15th, 2007):

There's a lively discussion concerning this very topic on bikeportland, featuring both pro and con arguments related to changing the law so that bicyclists could treat stop signs as yields signs and traffic lights as stop signs (if, at the discretion of the bicyclist, this was a safe thing to do given conditions). It's interesting to point out that the con argument winds up supporting the law change, but wanting it to be accompanied by increased penalties for failing to yield and for outright blowing a light -- while the pro article just wants the law changed. You'll have to read the articles to see what I mean.

Also, a research paper from UC Berkeley makes a very compelling case, based on physics, for changing the way that bicycles relate to stop signs (either removing some stop signs along bike routes, or allowing bicycles to treat them as yield signs).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Victory in Anbar Province? Vision for Iraq?

Check out this powerpoint presentation. And pass it on:

This post gives some detail and background on the soldier who created the presentation:

It's simple genius at its best. And it's too bad that he got killed by a roadside bomb, though that event may have provided the publicity that has made this thing available for us to view.



Monday, February 12, 2007

Open letter to Speaker Pelosi, encouraging immediate impeachment of President Bush

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

I believe that the impeachment process needs to regain the credibility that it lost under Republican rule, and that President Bush is the ideal poster child for this effort. His initiatives, policies, proposals and history are not only in every way at odds with what I consider to be accepted morality, but they do a dis-service to America and at worst expose him as a traitor to his own country. His criminality needs to be punished.

He and his administrative team, including the vice-president, must be removed from office in an orderly, timely and responsible manner that restores the confidence of this country in the constitutional rule of law and specifically the process of impeachment.

This message must be responsibly sent as soon as possible to restore the respect of the rest of the world for the rule of democracy in this country.

Yours truly,
Mr. Garlynn G. Woodsong, Esq.