At Sport Truck, it doesn't matter to us whether it's lifted or laid out-we love trucks. Unless the only reason you are reading this publication is because you are waiting to have your teeth drilled or eyes examined, the odds are good you do, too.
Welcome to the second installment of Alt-Fuel News & Views, where we present to Sport Truck's valued readers alternative fuel technologies available here and now to improve the quality of their daily lives and the performance of their trucks.
For those of you who missed our E-85 fuel expos in the Apr. '06 issue, we'll start with a recap of what was covered and offer earth-shattering developments that have occurred since we last met (Remember, the internet is only faster than print media if the webmaster remembers to update the page.)
You don't have to be a nuclear proctologist to figure out the mainstream mass media has set its sights on pickups and SUVs with intentions that aren't good. Here are some following facts to combat your brainwashed associates at work when they try to give you flack about owning a truck. (For an in-depth look at E85 see the Apr. issue of Sport Truck.)
E85 Fast Facts Update
With more than 5 million E85-capable flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the United States-most are pickups and SUVs-E85 is at the top of our list as an alternative fuel. Here's our fast-facts catch-up for those of you who missed it.
The ingredients of E85 are 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Most of the E85 on the market today contains ethanol made from corn, but that's just scratching the surface. Ethanol is a renewable fuel and can be made from cheese whey, reclaimed beer waste, agricultural waste (animal poop), forest waste (dead trees), and biomass (which means just about anything). By using E85, FFV owners can reduce gasoline consumption by 85 percent just by filling up. According to General Motors' website statistics on E85, it reduces fossil fuel usage by 40 percent and greenhouse gases by 30 percent, which can be verified through numerous sources.
The Ford Motor Company recently reported across-the-board horsepower increases of 5 percent on Ford FFVs using E85. General Motors states that E85's increased octane (105-octane) over gasoline produces more horsepower, but it will not say how much-L-59 5.3L spec charts do not reflect a horsepower increase. Ford and GM both mention less engine wear with E85, which translates into engines that produce less pollution during their lifespan because they consume-as in burn-less oil.
How to Tell If Your Truck Is an E85 FFV
Federal law dictates that your truck's vehicle identification number (VIN) reveals whether or not it is an FFV. The simplest way to determine if your truck or SUV is E85 capable is to open the gas door and look on the inside for an E85 sticker. The second easiest method is to decode the VIN serial number. On all trucks, except Nissan, the eighth character (Nissan is the fourth character) indicates an FFV.
|* All Chevrolet and GMC fullsize trucks ||Z |
|* All Chevy S-10, GMC S-15, Izusu Hombre ||5 |
|* Dodge Ram, Dodge Durango ||P |
|* Ford F-150, Ford Ranger, Mazda B-3000 ||V |
|* Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer ||K |
|* Nissan Titan ||B |
Nissan Titan FFV... Where?
Nissan offers FFV Titans for 2006, but if you are interested in owning an FFV Titan, you will have to track it down. Nissan is distributing its E85-ready Titans to selected regions. All of the Titans in one of those regions will be FFVs, and all of the ones that aren't in those regions won't be. Did that make sense? It will be interesting to learn the effects, such as horsepower and torque gains, of the 105 octane fuel on Nissan's 5.6L 305hp engine.
By the way, the rumor Nissan moved from California to Tennessee to gain better access to E85 is false-escape from high taxes, maybe, but not to have better access to E85. California and Tennessee only have one publicly accessible E85 station for the entire state. Minnesota leads the nation with much more than 200 E85 stations, and it's still growing. Minnesota might a good place to look for a Titan FFV.
"Hooked On Hydrocarbons"
George W. Bush stated on the January 29, 2006, segment of Face The Nation that America is "hooked on hydrocarbons." The President and Bob Schieffer, the show's host, discussed our nation's need for energy independence. After the show aired, we were tempted to call George Dubya on his cell phone and hip him to E85, but we lost his cell number. On the serious side, if you would like to see E85 available in your state, contact your state representative at www.house.gov/writerep and express yourself-let us know how it goes.
Greenhouse Gas Relief for Flatulent Cows
Thanks to the National Academies, we discovered farm animals, cows in particular, are responsible for about 14 percent of the world's methane, a greenhouse gas. There are more than 1.4 billion cows in the world, each cow producing 600 liters of methane. In a year's time, one cow produces 90 kilograms of methane, equivalent to the energy in 30 gallons of gasoline. In addition to saying that cows are in a constant state of gaseous exuberance, it explains why dairy air smells so bad.
In 2003, New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark proposed a tax on flatulence released by cows. As cows burp and fart, they release methane, hence nitrous oxide is released from their steaming piles. New Zealand's farmers, depending on how many cows they owned, would have to pay from $300 to $10,000 in fart taxes. Things looked pretty bleak for New Zealand's farmers, as everything from bovine afterburners to rectally mounted methane capture devices were up for consideration-even discussions of genetic manipulation were held.
The pressure was due to New Zealand signing the Kyoto Agreement, trying to meet its obligations to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
In early December of 2005, British scientists discovered that by including a food supplement based on fumaric acid, they could reduce the methane output of cows by as much as 70 percent. It wasn't disclosed whether or not the British scientists acquired their bovine expertise dealing with more than 183,000 individual cases of Mad Cow disease. Curious about the effect fumaric acid might have on the flavor of cow meat, we Googled a search and discovered fumaric acid appears in foods ranging from tasty salads to Alpo.
As this goes to press, we were unable to confirm the percentage of fumaric acid currently present in cow meat or how much fumaric acid would be present in cow meat treated to reduce greenhouse gases by 70 percent. We'll keep you posted.
Valero Stations: Dark Cloud With a Silver Lining?
By the end of 2005, the ethanol industry produced more than 4 billion gallons of the sulphur (Atomic Number 16) neutral automotive grade fuel. This figure doesn't include the millions of gallons of beer waste that breweries dumped into sewers, instead of being reclaimed into automotive grade ethanol. Without prior knowledge of Valero Energy Corporation's Diamond Shamrock stations in Colorado dispensing E85 made with reclaimed Coors beer, the following news could be considered bad.
At a rate much faster than Valero station locations are posted on Valero's website station locator, Valero gas stations are popping up everywhere in Southern California. As North America's largest oil refiner, it would be great to see Valero get involved in California's E85 effort.
We left an inquiry with Valero Energy Corporation to see if it has any plans of introducing E85 to its California locations. With California ethanol producer Golden Cheese, and potentially Miller Brewing, and Anheiser-Busch (Budweiser) reclaiming beer waste at their California breweries, the idea doesn't sound all that impossible.
Maybe California could divert a few bucks from its Hydrogen Highway's 6.5 million dollar 2006 budget to contribute to the Barley & Hopps Highway.
Late-Breaking Leg-Wetting E85 News-Sort Of
As this goes to press, we haven't heard back from Valero, but here's some interesting news from General Motors:
"General Motors will help lead a joint demonstration project along with the state of California, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Pacific Ethanol to learn more about consumer awareness and acceptance of E85 as a motor vehicle fuel by demonstrating its use in GM's flexible-fuel vehicles. The announcement was made as a result of a non-binding understanding made public at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
GM intends to offer between 50 to 100 of its E85-capable Chevrolet Impala passenger cars and Silverado pickup trucks for consideration in the state's annual competitive bid process. Flexible-fuel vehicles will be used by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) at various operations in Northern California and the state's Central Valley. Chevron Technology Ventures intends to work with CalTrans to provide E85 fuel and install the necessary refueling pumps in these locations. Pacific Ethanol, a California-based ethanol production and marketing company, intends to provide the ethanol to Chevron Technology Ventures for the project."
Electric-Vehicle Idiocy in L.A.
It's true California's year-round sun is great, and the state has the world's largest population of interesting vehicles, but for automotive enthusiasts living in the state, it is kind of like being a permanent member in the cast of a poorly written episode of the X-Files.
At the turn of the 21st Century, the big push in California was for total-loss electric cars. It seemed like night after night on every TV channel there were smile-faced newscasters telling the good folks of the Golden State all about the dawning age of zero-polluting electric cars. To relieve potential electric car owners' concerns about where they might recharge the zero-emitting vehicles, on the spot coverage provided answers. On location from one of California's recharge stations, TV viewers got to learn firsthand how to plug in a battery charger at a conveniently located free recharge station coming to their local neighborhood.
Admittedly, as a rule, gearheads aren't the most intellectual group of people, but nevertheless, the concept of plugging a car into the nation's grid didn't add up to being pollution free. There was a standard joke making the rounds about some guy in L.A. driving around in his electric car while people upstream in Utah were breathing the pollution generated by his electric car. None of us knew at the time, but there was a dark reality attached to such humor. Later, we discovered the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) was listed as a major investor of the Intermountain powerplant in Delta, Utah. This financial arrangement guarantees 75 percent of the coal-fired plant's electricity makes its way into California.
While mainstream mass media was enamored at the time with total loss EVs, the automotive enthusiast press was anxiously awaiting the appearance of self-sufficient hybrids. The general consensus was hybrids would make their debut in pickup trucks with more battery storage capacity, and then work their way into automobiles as battery technology improved. In 2006, with seemingly more EV recharge stations in California than EVs, it looks like hybrids have taken over.
We hope with the evolution of improved solar cells, regenerative charging systems, along with other technological advancements, EVs can re-enter the picture. Perhaps the feasibility of the next generation EVs will be good enough for automobile manufacturers to sell them to the public instead of offering leases.
In 2006, the beauty of hybrids is they can be privately owned, which we think this is a good indication manufacturers are confident in their projected reliability and future.
Mercury Mariner Hybrid: Untold Health Benefits Could Save Lives
The non-automotive media has listed various reasons for people wanting to own a hybrid, including everything from saving at the gas pump to making a social statement. Recently, we tested the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and discovered some reasons we have never heard mentioned before.
We based the first leg of our fuel-mileage loop on the hybrid's uncanny ability to flip anything anyone ever knew about stop-and-go fuel mileage ratings upside down. The Mercury Mariner Hybrid's fuel economy is estimated at 33 city/29 highway mpg. We got as much as 38 mpg in heavy traffic by nursing it, and as low as 25 mpg on the highway, romping on it as hard as possible.
Loaded with a large bag of fiery red Cheetos and a full tank of gas, we headed out onto the highway. In Southern California, that means the local freeway onramp and a ton of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Our Mariner was equipped with the optional GPS system that includes a fuel mileage indicator. The slower we crept in traffic, the higher the numbers jumped on the indicator. After 2 hours on the San Diego Freeway and not all that many miles traveled, we noticed our stress levels were way down.
Wow, what a selling point. In addition to all of the obvious benefits of owning a Mercury Mariner Hybrid, the little SUV could probably prevent its owner from having a heart attack. Even if all owning a hybrid did was lower your blood pressure because of money saved, it would still be worth the suggested retail price (MSRP) of $29,840.
If you think we're kidding, just call your doctor on your cell phone and tell him, "Yeah, I'm sitting in rush hour traffic, and I got real uptight about all the gas I'm burning, when all of a sudden my heart blew out of my chest and splattered all over the windshield. Uh, I was wondering how much you would charge to sew it back in?" We'll bet it's going to be more than $29,840.