Tuesday, July 19, 2011 08:00
A few weeks back, I was out to dinner with some family friends and they were telling us about the swanky new down town loft they had purchased after selling their home in the suburbs. The woman, let’s call her Alice, was telling me how she loved that she can now walk to work, but wished she had a small car for running around town in.
Alice explained that, since their children were grown, they had no need for two fancy sedans and that she was looking for a better alternative. I mentioned to her that the two best choices for a small fun city car for any budding hipster would be either the Mini or the Fiat 500. “Oh my God!” Alice exclaimed, “I saw an ad for the Fiat on TV and I thought it was amazing!” Then turning to her husband, “Hey, Jim (fake name)! Didn’t I tell you how cool I thought it was?” Jim simply smiled and nodded in confirmation. No doubt mentally preparing himself for a day at a Fiat showroom, excuse me, studio, sometime in the near future.
The reason I bring this up is that the Fiat 500 manages to fill a few very unique market segments. The first segment is obviously the youth market due to its retro styling, low price, and cheap cost of ownership. The second group is made up of those who need a small vehicle that gets good mileage, but isn’t as dull as a ‘90s-era Civic. The final market niche consists of the 50+ crowd whose vehicles seem to be either flashy I-swear-I’m-not-old cars or the dull, my-kids-have-moved-out-and-the-retirement-home-awaits-me mobile. Fiat, however, has managed to come up with the perfect compromise. The 500 is not an over the top supercar that costs four years’ wages, but it’s not a lame slush-mobile either. “It is a fun, smart, peppy city car.” I said to Alice, “But wait for the 500 Cabrio, that’s the car you’ll want.” More...
Monday, June 27, 2011 08:00
In Hypermiling: Getting Started, I offered the idea of covering the most distance in the same amount of time while using the least amount of fuel as possible. As mentioned, I increased my average city mileage from 21 mpg to 26 mpg (and sometimes higher) by following these steps, the first two of which are easy to do:
1. Accelerate Slowly
Nothing kills gas mileage faster than rapid acceleration. Think of it like riding a bike. It’s a lot easier to start slow and gradually pick up speed then to rocket off the line in the first few feet.
2. Constant Speed
Engines love working at a consistent rate. Pick a speed and stick to it, and only deviate if conditions require you to. This both maximizes fuel economy and decreases wear on engine parts.
3. Reduced Braking
Braking is the necessary evil that keeps us from rolling/smashing into things. The key is to not eliminate stopping altogether, but rather to decrease the number of times you touch the brakes. Here are some tricks you can use to reduce the number of times you use the brakes. More...
Friday, June 24, 2011 08:00
“You have got to be kidding me, four dollars and twelve cents a gallon for regular gas,” I exclaimed as I passed the local gas station on my way to work last week. For a brief second, I regretted having purchased a car that only gets about 22 mpg in town, instead wishing I had bought a used 2000-2006 model Honda Insight, which gets a Prius pulverizing average of 66 mpg. I then remembered that while I have infinite respect for anyone who drives the original Insight, I would have to give up what I love about my car—It’s fun. This is a situation that many people have found themselves in over the last few years: Driving big thirsty cars, with fill-up costs that are slowly burning a hole in their owners’ wallets. So what do you do?
Let’s rewind a bit back to when I bought my car. The year is 2008, it’s summertime in California, gas prices are nearing the $5.00-per-gallon mark, and I am a first-time car buyer. Like any young Californian male, I’m looking for something that’s fast and fun, but can still carry a couple of surf/snowboards. While I still enjoy being a not-insignificant drain on my parents’ income, I do make a conscious effort to look at vehicles that don’t go through fuel faster than a burning Iraqi oil field. After all, I will soon have to start paying for gas out of my own income. In the end, I settled on a brand new ’09 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS (manual) with 168-hp engine and a mpg rating of 21/29—all for a great price.
Okay, we can now fast forward to today or, rather, last week. Now what do you do if you have a car that the government says should get 21 mpg city but you want better gas mileage? Most people assume there really isn’t much they can do, so they waste their money by selling their old car and buying a new, more efficient one. Trouble is, we are still in a recession and most people don’t have that kind of liquidity at the moment. The solution is very easy: Hypermile. More...
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 08:00
Many people inaccurately view auto racing as a sport for fat, out-of-shape people. Their logic being: “I can drive a car, they just go a bit faster.” However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Driving cars hard on a track is incredibly taxing. Driving requires not only physical strength to withstand multiple lateral Gs, but also the mental focus and flexibility to keep the car operating on the ragged edge of what the laws of physics will allow. While very few would deny that racing at 200 mph for 24 hours straight is not a feat for the faint of heart, not many realize that even driving relatively low powered go-karts can be strenuous, especially when done in a highly-competitive environment.
During the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi released the following advertisement highlighting the extraordinary effort that their drivers have to put out in order to overcome the difficulties of what is considered to be one of three greatest races on the planet (the others being the Grand Prix at Monaco and the Indy 500). The video features two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Alan McNish, who explains, via live demonstration, superb video animation and narration, the struggles and challenges that face him every second on-track. More...
Monday, May 9, 2011 06:00
For many years now, the closest a customer could get to customizing a production car from the factory was to choose the car’s paint color. Even exotic car owners, who could have their cars tailored to their exact specifications and loaded with all manner of expensive goodies, were still unable to see anything more than snippets of what the finished product would look like. But now, thanks to the magic of technology and graphic design, anyone, regardless of the number of banks, oil fields, and Super Bowl rings they may own, can now create and customize a life like version of their dream car online.
Mini has, for a long time, had one of the best company websites when it came to being able to build and create a custom vehicle right on your home computer. Their car configurator not only allowed the user to choose options such as color, trim levels, body kits, and wheels, but actually updated the car’s image with the chosen selections. This, aside from being immensely fun and entertaining, helps give the user and potential customer the ability to make their dream Mini come to life right before their eyes. More...