MAX Update No. 8: Fuels Rush In


We're almost back where we started. This is the last shot of MAX 2.0 before it goes on the road. This Wednesday, we're scheduled for show-and-tell at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Then on Friday, of all things, MAX is going to be in an art show (that's why it looks extra clean right now). We still have to hook up lights and put glass in the windshield frame ... and maybe a couple more wheels, but by golly, we're going to make it.

MAX on blocksOnce MAX is on the road again (hey Willie, I have an idea for a song for you) we'll run a tank of diesel through its system (as mentioned in Update No. 7, we have already introduced one variable — we changed the overall gear ratio — and we don't want to introduce a second one yet) for baseline data. But after that, I'm going to fill 'er up with biodiesel.

As discussed back in Update No. 2, biofuels aren't going to make the energy crisis go away. There are technical and social hurdles to overcome before biofuels qualify as an unqualified success, and even if/when the day comes that biofuels come from 100 percent inedible feedstock grown on 100 percent non-arable land, an ethanol guzzler will still be a fuel guzzler, and an efficient biofuels car will do less harm to the world than an inefficient biofuels car. Energy doesn't come for free.

Anyway, I fell off the biofuels bandwagon because I got sick of TV ads saying you can feel all green and fuzzy by buying twice as big a car as you need, and getting half the mileage that it should, as long as it has “E85” in big letters on the gas cap. I'm also annoyed by the corporate spokesfolks who say biofuels have no influence whatsoever on the price of food. I'll accept that it's only a small part of the food equation, but I won't accept that it's no part at all, and if biofuels are so great, why don't their growers run their tractors on it? Lately there's been a totally over-the-top backlash against biofuels in general, and biodiesel in particular, so I'm going to start frontlashing a bit, in hopes of encouraging development of sustainable, renewable, biofuels.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the backlash is taking the form of protests, picketing and good old fashioned one-on-one customer harassment, in an effort to close down biodiesel stations. Seriously, there are people treating biodiesel outlets like they're meth labs, photographing people who buy biodiesel and getting their license numbers. (For more about the situation, see this article from Seattle Weekly.) There's already the problem that biodiesel is more expensive than petrodiesel, the biodiesel retailers and researchers are having a plenty tough enough time staying in business without big-name greenies trying to scuttle them. The only alternative to biofuels today is petroleum fuel, and hearing these “save the planet” guys with their “just say no to biodiesel” platform is like hearing a Greenpeace member demanding we run our cars on whale oil.

So first chance I get, I'm going to vote with my wallet and buy some biodiesel. Lucky for me that MAX gets great mileage, so I won't have to vote very often.

Gregg E._3
5/28/2010 8:51:38 PM

Some State governments are also tossing rocks into the biofuel boat, especially for the DIY community. How? By levying a tax on homebrew biofuels. Supposedly it's to make up for the loss of revenue from the taxes on the gasoline or diesel you won't be buying. There's been some recent noise in the science circles about home generation of hydrogen using electrolysis, done with new super efficient and low cost catalysts so it won't take near as much electricity. The power need is cut enough to make cracking water with a small PV array practical. Combine that with a private water well with a solar powered pump and you have genuine free fuel. Free hydrogen, to burn in an engine or recombine with air in the latest fuel cells (which have also seen major leaps in durability, efficiency and longevity)... to Government control freaks - That Is Not Good. Will there be big new taxes on home hydrogen generation, higher for those using solar power and drawing water from private wells? Darn tootin' there will be.

Jack McCornack
9/21/2008 1:11:53 PM

Conspiracy? I don't think so. I think the Detroit Three (formerly the Big Three) independently figured out that huge powerful profits were most easily earned by selling huge powerful cars. As recently as a decade ago, that made good short-term business sense -- a Hummer is three times the price (and profit) of a Metro, it's three times as massive and more than three times as powerful, and so what if it uses three times as much fuel? You don't need a conspiracy theory to figure which one was more valuable to manufacture...which is why we haven't been able to buy a new Metro since 2001 and we can still buy all the new Hummers we want. Promoting size and performance isn't a conspiracy, it's an effort to direct the public to their more profitable products, and the market has gone along with that for about a century. When you check in in another decade, we can see if the car market is any different. It's hard to say what (if anything) I'll prove with MAX, but I doubt I'll prove 100 mpg is easy. I think the first 75 mpg will be fairly easy (though MAX hasn't achieved it yet) but that last 25 is going to be tough. As far as MEN's message not changing, well, maybe that's because living wisely is still a good idea.

9/18/2008 3:32:25 PM

Step right up... step right up! Read the article. Just what America needs, another person bellowing the tired conspiracy theory as the reason why automakers won't build and sell fuel-efficient cars to Americans... and a magazine all too willing to print it and stoke the fires to the choir. Meanwhile, HE builds a car to prove it can be so easily done. Of course, he isn't proving a thing. A modern-day medicine man selling his elixir to a willing public. But let's not let the facts get in the way. After all, facts don't sell magazines... and they're boring too. A magazine willing to promote medicine men and conspiracy theorists is a magazine without credibility. A tabloid. The first MENews I've read in a decade, and I see the MENews message hasn't changed since the 1980's. Guess I'll wait another decade and check back with you.

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