nine months of fuel records

ted | driving | Monday, November 6th, 2006

fuel consumption

I should have stopped, pointed, laughed

ted | driving | Thursday, August 31st, 2006

…but I kept on driving. Mostly because I could tell the Celica was unharmed, partially because I knew the hate shakes hadn’t arrived yet but they were in the mail.

Alls I’m saying is that the big portable LED sign said “IL-394 USE LEFT LANE” and since I was traveling onward to IL-394, I got in the left lane. The other signs says “WORK ZONE – 45 MPH SPEED LIMIT – $375 MINIMUM FINE”, so I had the cruise control set at 50.

Allegedly the automatic photo ticketing vans only nab you if you’re going 15+ mph over the posted limit and I know my speedometer is a bit optimistic, so 50 indicated would be more like 47 – 48 mph, far below the ticket threshold but slightly above the posted limit.

Sorry, black Celica driver, I am unwilling to move out of the left lane (where the big LED sign told me to be) or speed up. I don’t play that game anymore. I know driving fast is fun and on any normal interstate highway, I would have been in the wrong for driving in the leftmost lane and gladly would have moved out of it. But you should know that if you continue to flash your brights at me in an effort to make me speed up, I will flash my brake lights at you, which is exactly what I did.

As this black Celica jerked into the lane to my right and started to pass me, I could see the hate in the driver’s eyes and the epithets issuing from his lips – easier than lip-reading Ozzie Guillen’s invective-filled discussions with the home plate umpire. I could also tell this guy had more planned for me, so I started to slow down just as he got ahead of me.

Turns out that was a good instinct.

I think his plan was to jerk his car back in front of mine and abruptly brake, but it didn’t exactly work out that way. Instead, he lost control of his car, narrowly avoided smashing into the guard rail, slid across all three lanes sideways, did a 270 degree spin and came to a stop half in the rightmost lane, facing the oncoming traffic.

So no, I did not stop. I resumed my indicated 50 mph speed and watched in my rearview mirror as he moved his car onto the shoulder of the road, apparently unharmed and under its own power.

The rest of my trip was uneventful, even with the Illinois State Patrolman sitting under a bridge, waiting for speeders. Must be near the end of the month or something. I like not having to worry about speeding tickets or even caring if oncoming folks let me know about a speed trap ahead.

Dear Mr. in the black Camry

ted | driving | Friday, August 4th, 2006

Sir –

I realize 50 mph may not be fast enough for you and there may be a million reasons why – perhaps you’re late as hell to a meeting, maybe you’ve been on a long trip and want to get home, perhaps a loved one is in the hospital – but you must realize that it was in fact a work zone with 45 mph posted speed limits and $375 minimum fines. The IDOT handed out over 1900 work zone speeding tickets in June alone. I’ve already had a roadside conversation with some bored suburban RADAR-gun jockeys this year and cannot afford another good driving award. Plus it’s a proven fact that vehicles get better fuel efficiency around 55 mph than at higher speeds – my car can get 60+ mpg at that speed in sustained non-AC use driving on summer fuel.

I know I was in the left lane. Under normal circumstances, I would have done the same thing you did. Folks need to learn that the left lane is not the fast lane – it is the passing lane. If you ain’t passing somebody, you ain’t belong in the left lane. However this was not normal circumstances – it was a work zone, reduced from 3 lanes to two lanes. The IL-394 exit was temporarily on the left, which is where I was heading and why I was in that lane – I anticipated my exit as I normally do. If everybody did that, there wouldn’t be any bottlenecks at exits. But yes, I was in the left lane. In a work zone. With cruise control set 5 over the posted speed limit. With Illinois State Troopers regularly patrolling the area. I feel completely justified in my road positioning – it was completely within my defensive driving limits given the situation.

Regardless, it was not very nice of you to get behind me and start flashing your bright lights after weaving in and out of traffic. That’s why I ignored you at first. When you continued to do so, I lightly tapped my brake pedal to let you know I saw you and was unwilling to speed up to let you by for reasons outlined above. I assume the semi truck in the right lane was equally unmoved by your lightning bug tactics. You must’ve been in a terrific hurry, because you insisted on still flashing your brights at me, while holding very close to my rear bumper. The thought briefly flashed through my mind that I should move over to let you pass since you were obviously in some manner of emergency, yet your emergency flashers (called four-way blinkers in some locales) were not lit, so I banished this from my mind. That’s about the point where I stomped on the brake pedal because I was thoroughly sick of your douchebaggery.

I can only imagine the invective what spewed forth from your lips at that point as you came quite close to my car and we both know that there is no disputing that you would definitely be to blame for such an accident. For all I know you may have been marveling at the incredible braking power engineered into my car. Now having slowed down quite a bit, you were able to swing over into the right hand lane, pass me on the right, jerk back into the left lane and try the same tactic on me. Hah hah, jackass, I know how to leave a sufficient space cushion between me and a vehicle in front of me. You may have also noticed I had my sunroof open that morning as it was glorious out, and at first I gave you a hearty middle finger. As soon as you started to pass me and get in front of me, it changed to a hearty wave to match my smile.

I can only assume that in your hurried morning, you spilled your mocha half caf double shot skim soy iced venti wheatgrass infused beverage causing you great embarrassment all day, or a blood vessel in your temple burst or you lost control of your car and plowed into a school bus. If you lived through this morning, you really need to slow the fuck down. Be glad I didn’t toss my four D-cell Maglite out the sunroof. Had it hit your car it would have done a great deal of damage.

I’ve calmed down dramatically in the way I drive and it’s a much much more relaxed time on the road for me, not to mention saving wear and tear on my car, better fuel economy and makes the road a far nicer place to be. I really hope you come to the same conclusion some day, you fucking douchebag. Otherwise, I hope your kids enjoy the fatal heart attack you have at age 38.

– ted

PS – next time I’m tossing out the Maglite. You’ve been warned.

Vehicle fuel is non-potable? What a country!

ted | driving | Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

This is one of the hidden dangers of ethanol they don’t bother to tell you about.

My latest biodiesel invoice

ted | driving | Thursday, June 15th, 2006

I have a chipkey from the Al Warren Oil Company so after I use it to put biodiesel in my car, they send me a bill. Fortunately it has a breakdown of all the fuel taxes, which I find interesting.

Biodiesel and ethanol from smokestack scrubbers

ted | driving | Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Awesome. I truly hope this idea works out.

It works like this – you pipe the exhaust from fossil-fueled power plants into algae farms. Algae gobbles up the CO2, grows fat and happy. Every day, the algae is harvested, squeezed to release the oil it contains and is dried. The oil undergoes transesterification to convert it into biodiesel, the dried algae is then used to make ethanol and the exhaust from the power plant now has 40% less CO2 and 86% less N20.

This not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fueled power plants, it provides a dirt cheap basestock from which to produce biodiesel and ethanol and produces more oil per acre than soybeans – 15,000 vs. 60. The only downside is it would take a 2,000 acre farm to produce 40 million gallons of biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol per year. There’s only, say, a thousand power plants in the US with that kind of surrounding space. Assuming yields and everything are correct, we’re talking about producing on the order of 40 billion gallons of biodiesel yearly from the exhaust of existing power plants.

When that biodiesel is burned, it would released the CO2 gobbled up by the algae back into the atmosphere, but more algae farms could gobble that right back up. We’re not closing the carbon loop, as is the case with soy or canola biodiesel, but we’re getting a free ride off it at least once, possibly multiple times.

Less greenhouse gasses and N2O-caused acid rain, cheaper, easier, faster biodiesel basestock production, starter material for ethanol as a waste product and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. I think this is something everybody but OPEC can get behind.

Rental cars I have driven

ted | driving | Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

With almost all of the domestic travel I’ve done for work and a little for personal trips, I’ve had quite a few rental cars. The nice thing is I get to go on extended test drives and see what these cars are all about. Unfortunately, I have to drive these cars for a day or more. Thinking about getting a rental or actually buying one of these cars? Here are my incredibly biased views.

Remember, this is about the specific cars I drove. I know you love your whatever that I shortly will trash talk, but I don’t really give a shit. Car reviews are supposed to be subjective.

pain at the pump

ted | driving | Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Overheard on the news tonight:

“High gasoline prices are causing people to re-evaluate their driving habits.”


Hell, that’s what we did. Traded in my `95 volvo for a shiny new VW Golf with their awesome TDI engine. Going from 26 mpg to 45 mpg (and climbing) sure is nice. Yeah, we had to readjust our monthly budget, but what if fuel hits $4/gallon? $6/gallon?

I should be around 50 mpg this summer.

We’re also working on shedding a car. Anybody what wants to buy a 2005 Scion xB in excellent shape with a manual transmission, transferrable warranty and only 16k miles, let us know: blue scion xb at that google mail site, y’know, gmail no spam dot no spam dot com.

Ethanol Madness, an update

ted | driving | Monday, March 6th, 2006

It’s no suprise I traded in my 1995 Volvo 850 for my shiny new 2006 VW Golf TDI (this is for me – engine: BEW; transmission: 02J), but i neglected to post the finale to my ethanol madness.

Turns out it wasn’t the fuel filter. Nor do i think it was solely the ethanol. It was the air intake hose between the mass air flow sensor (MAF) and the throttle body. Specifically, it was the 20 or so small holes and the 5 or so big ones in that ducting.

See, ethanol has a higher oxygen content than unleaded gasoline (which is one of the reasons it has better emissions than RUG). My hypothesis was that since my car was naturally aspirated, the air being sucked into the engine was being split perhaps 10% through the holes in the duct and 90% through the MAF. The MAF corroborates data with the oxygen sensors and the engine computer ciphers up how much fuel to use. Since i had extra oxygen coming in from two sources – 1. E85; 2. holes in the air duct – the oxygen sensors detected more oxygen in the exhaust than what would be possible with the amount of air the MAF said was flowing through. So this was actually a problem for several years, but using a higher ethanol concentration pushed the problem to the point where it would trigger a CEL.

So at lunch one day, i drove to my local hardware store and bought a roll of black duct tape. I wanted the shiny aluminized duct tape that’s actually used for sealing ductwork (unlike the cloth duct tape, which is shit) but ended up buying a roll of black Gorilla Tape brand, mainly because it was less expensive than the other duct sealing tape they had in stock.

One razor blade and 20 minutes later, the ductwork was fixed.

cold air duct fix

Drove it home that night and no CEL. Fixed.

So if there’s an E85 pump nearby, try a lil extra alcohol in your gas. My car ran smooth, strong and cooler on it.

Then again, the thermostat was stuck open so the lower amount of wasted heat was a curse. The temperature gauge would often be pegged out at the low end of the gauge while driving home on the interstate.

Chicago area biodiesel

ted | driving | Sunday, March 5th, 2006

I have filled up my car exactly twice and topped off once since I bought it almost 2 weeks ago. Once with straight D2 at some random Citgo the night I bought it. The second time with B11 biodiesel at the JR Fuels, 1100 N Ellis St, Bensenville IL – near O’Hare. They only have biodiesel at pump #11. It’s an out of the way station, the pump is dirty, mislabedel (has a “Premium Diesel” sticker on it) and generally not a great experience. The pump must’ve clicked off early, as I calculated 52 mpg from the first tank. I then went ahead and using the venting instructions i read at the TDIclub forums put in another couple gallons. If i used the average 1.5 gallons extra space when venting, i should’ve been able to fit 8.5 gallons in before the pump normally shut off, yielding 43.5 mpg. Nice.

Topped up at the Al Warren Oil Co‘s pump at 7625 W 59th St in Summit, IL. This one was properly labeled, clean, and despite a confusing credit card swipe machine, worked great. Topping up here with B11 a day after filling up in Bensenville yielded a more believeable 43.4 mpg, far closer to what the first fill up should’ve been. Nice.

Man, this is a sweet car.

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