Oil Conservation News and Tips
from Please Conserve

How many miles per gallon was that?

“I want to create engineers who can do hands-on engineering work, not another computer geek sitting at a terminal all day,” said Promod Vohra, the dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.

Vohra is proud to say that he certainly achieved that goal with a group of NIU students who made up the Society of Automotive Engineers Supermileage team in a competition to create a vehicle that would prove to be highly efficient with its gas mileage.

How efficient? How does 1,265 miles per gallon sound?

That’s what the NIU team’s vehicle tested out at on the competition track in Marshall, Mich., on June 10-11, 2010, and it was good enough to rank No. 1 amongst competing teams from the United States.

It was the first time that NIU had fielded a team from its College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, and it left with something to shoot for – because it placed third in the global competition, which drew 30 teams from across North America and as far away as India and the United Arab Emirates.

Defending champion Universite’ Laval from Quebec, Canada, placed first in the global competition by creating an aerodynamic vehicle that posted a mileage of 2,340 per gallon on its last run on the track.

“We were going up against teams that had been around for awhile, so the odds were completely against us,” said NIU team member Charles Ruetsche of Palatine, IL.

In creating the vehicle “from the ground up,” team members found the most time-consuming challenge to be creating the carbon-fiber shell of the vehicle. Because the project was a senior design project for the students, it had to entail tools, formulas and software they had used in four years of study. But making the vehicle body mold, made of Styrofoam, was something they had not encountered in classroom studies.

The NIU team of five individuals built the vehicle on a budget of $7,000, compared to some other entrants that had teams of as many as 20 members and vehicles constructed on budgets up to $30,000.

The NIU team went with a Briggs and Stratton motor more common in a weed whacker than in an aerodynamic car.

Though it may not be practical to think that major car manufacturers and oil companies are going to embrace these types of vehicles in the immediate future, Vohra made it clear that the project has ramifications far beyond the fact that it has been proven that a small, one-man, aerodynamic vehicle could greatly reduce the country’s need for oil-based fossil fuels.

“We are teaching that engineering in the future means creating products that have appeal in a global market,” Vohra said. “While there are things in today’s economics that take jobs away from America, we see a future in which things are made in America that are sold and used worldwide.”

As for the potential for vehicles in the future that need very little fuel, Vohra said he did not think it would be a big issue with companies producing oil in the United States, but the Middle East may not like it if Americans were less dependent on their oil.

How green can you go with your lawn mowing?

Many parts of the country absorbed plenty of rain this summer, which can present a series of problems for homeowners – unless they really like seeing their trees, shrubs, plants and, especially, their lawns thrive under such conditions.

It means there was a lot of lawn mowing going on in certain parts of the country. And more of that mowing these days is being done with “greener” mowers.

It is true that the mowing season will be coming to a close in those places in which winter will soon cast its long, cold shadow. Yet, this is generally a good time to buy a mower for next year in season-ending sales.

Many who have contemplated a new mower, either prior to summer, or now as the season winds down, are taking a closer look at those “greener” mowers – those that cut fuel costs and air pollution while you cut your lawn.

Many mowers are being manufactured with strict exhaust emissions standards in mind, such as those in California. Regardless of state standards, it is good practice to consider mowers that are kinder to your pocketbook and the air you breath.

While the green trend has recently picked up in lawn care and maintenance, electric mowers have been around for years. However, improvements are being seen in cordless, electric mowers that make them more practical and appealing. Most rechargeable cordless mowers are now designed to have enough electric charge in them to cut a typical one-third acre lot – as long as the grass is not too long, and is cut on a weekly basis.

A commitment to conservation has to be made to use electric mowers, because they tend to be heavier than gasoline models and generally are not self-propelled – another reason you wouldn’t want your grass to get too long between mowings if using a cordless electric unit.

Older model gasoline mowers produce huge amounts of air pollution, in addition to being noisy in the neighborhood. Plus, you have to deal with disposing of old oil each year. Newer over-head valve engines cut down on some of that pollution, but they are still not as desirable as the zero pollution coming from electric mowers.

When comparing costs, one has to take into account that a 24-volt battery model handles most normal grass-cutting jobs. Those chargers consume between 45 to 90 watts of electricity during a full-charge overnight. At an electric rate of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs only about five to 10 cents for each cutting.

Considering the cost of oil, gasoline, spark plugs and filters for use of a mower during a summer season, the five cents per mowing is a mere fraction of the cost.

Ten Ways to Cut Fuel Costs

Guest Contributor: Mr. Jack Lee

Any company can improve their fuel efficiencies.  It takes work and commitment from the head office to your people on the road and at the job sites.  More and more companies are making changes in their operating practices to cut costs now and to be prepared for even higher costs in the future.

To help you adjust, here are Ten Ways to Cut Fuel Costs:

1. Train and educate your drivers: It starts with the people who have their foot on the gas pedal. Your drivers can control fuel consumption each time they fire up their engines, and proper training can improve fuel efficiency, economy and emissions.  Hard acceleration, speeding and idling are the biggest causes of fuel waste.  Initiate a training course for drivers and reward participation.

2. Decrease Idling: Be aware of the time engines idle.  No longer can we leave machinery and equipment running all day long. Stop your engines! Excessive idling adds to your fuel costs by as much as 50% and can shorten the life of engine oil by 75%, adding more costs. Initiate a campaign to reduce idling time and reward participants. Allowing an engine to idle more than 3 minutes causes expensive damage which harms efficiency, shortens engine life and increases maintenance costs. It all adds up.

3. Start off slower: This is another lesson your drivers must be taught. Jackrabbit starts waste fuel and save less than 3 minutes per hour driving, but can result in using 40% more fuel and increase toxic emissions by 400%! What’s the rush? Ease up on the gas pedal and your efficiencies will improve.

4. Slow down: Speeding is dangerous, it wastes fuel and creates higher levels of toxic emissions.  Speeds over 100 km/hour drastically impact fuel efficiencies – cars traveling at 120 km/hour use 20% more fuel.  Trucks traveling at 120 km/hour use 50% more fuel and they also emit 100% more carbon monoxide, 50% more hydrocarbons and 31% more nitrogen oxides.

5. Lose Weight: Excess weight places unnecessary strain on your vehicle’s engine and greatly affects its fuel efficiency.  By removing as little as 100 pounds you can significantly improve your gas mileage. Check each vehicle and pitch out that unnecessary weight!

6. Use a Fuel Management System: This is the most powerful way to lower fuel costs and increase productivity.  Available systems range from basic onsite refueling (which saves up to 20 minutes in wasted time and fuel each day, per vehicle) to automated fuel tracking (which details every litre pumped into every vehicle by date, time, quantity and fuel type) to telematics (which measures overall fuel efficiency,  vehicle performance, tracks fuel waste due to idling, speeding, etc. and identifies critical areas to improve efficiency and reduce fuel costs and emissions.)  The technology exists so you can become a Fuel Manager and stay on top of your fuel consumption, one vehicle at a time.  It can work for you.

7. Upgrade your Fleet: Whenever possible, invest in modern, fuel-efficient vehicles.  Modern diesel engines are far more fuel-efficient and perform better with modern diesel fuels such as ultra low sulphur diesel and biodiesel.  Though it may seem expensive, new diesel vehicles can save thousands of dollars in maintenance, fuel and productivity per vehicle. Measure each piece of equipment for fuel efficiency and get rid of the bad ones! Replace and upgrade your equipment regularly.  It may hurt now but it will pay you back.

8. Tune-up vehicles regularly: Do you have a stringent, well-managed maintenance policy? Many companies “fix it when it breaks.”  This attitude costs too much in wasted fuel. A well maintained vehicle performs better, improves fuel efficiency, reduces toxic emissions and, in the long run, will cost less to maintain.

9. Pump it up: Proper tire inflation improves gas mileage.  At 4Refuel our statistics show improperly inflated tires can cost up to 2 weeks worth of fuel per year! How big is your fleet?  Two weeks per year per vehicle adds up to thousands of dollars in lost profits! In addition proper inflation results in improved vehicle and braking performance, and increases tire life.

10. Implement Advanced Mobile Asset Management Technology: You can measure and manage your fleet better when you have the right information.  Tracking  miles traveled, average speed and engine efficiency is critical to cutting fuel costs.  This information will help your drivers and managers optimize routes with better planning.  Mapping software and GPS will eliminate thousands of unnecessary miles per week.  Less time on the road means less fuel consumed, less wear on vehicles, decreased expenditures and overall increased productivity, plus lower toxic emissions!

Jack Lee is the President and CEO of 4Refuel Canada Inc.

For conservation, go with LRR tires

Not many Americans can claim to be automobile experts when it comes to maintenance, but most can tell when the tires on their automobiles are losing tread or getting low on air. Mostly, we can all tell when a tire on our car has gone flat. How does the general “health” of our tires affect our environment – and our pocketbook?

It’s been preached often by environmental experts that tires low on air are not only unsafe, but they demand more fuel use. The debate about tires and their effect on gasoline and oil consumption has entered the current green era, and it has resulted in nearly every hybrid vehicle being equipped with low rolling resistance (LRR) tires. LRR tires are designed to minimize the energy wasted as heat while the tire rolls down the road. And it’s not just for the hybrid vehicles. Manufacturers are also developing LRR tires for gas-powered cars and trucks.

The end game for all of this is better fuel efficiency. The Yokohama Tire Corp. reported studies that have shown that a vehicle averaging 15,000 miles a year could enjoy a savings of $100 a year on gasoline (at $3 a gallon) with the generally thinner LRR tires. Proponents of LRR tires use the example of riding a bike with low air in the tires. Because more rubber is on the road, it is harder to pedal the bike. The same theory would hold true with automobiles, as much energy is used to overcome rolling resistance – meaning gas mileage suffers and more carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.

Properly inflated LRR tires, they reason, provide the least amount of resistance against the road; yet adhere to the same federal guidelines used to control traction, treadwear and temperature resistance as with standard tires.

Those who are conscious about protecting the environment and conserving energy look to LRR tires as a popular upgrade. Aside from the switch to LRR, it is always a good idea to have your standard automobile tires checked when they are cold (at least three hours after being driven) for proper inflation with a reliable tire gauge.

While this may sound like it goes without saying, you may be amazed to find that some of your tire valve stems don’t have caps that seal against leakage. Take a look at those on occasion to make sure they are still on your tires.

Green Fuels Depot Gives Peek Into Future Energy Independence

It has a long name – the Green Fuels Depot demonstration project. And it could go a long way toward a new phase of green technology that may one day become as common as a community’s water treatment plant.

The first Green Fuels Depot in Illinois was introduced recently in Naperville as part of a federally funded project that has the backing of Argonne National Laboratory. Scientists, community leaders and politicians who support the concept showcased a full-scale prototype gasifier/reactor designed to convert lawn and farm waste into electricity, ethanol and hydrogen.

Packer Engineering, which intends to equip farms and sawmills across the country with this technology, showed off the first depot. But the City of Naperville was able to get in on this green energy prototype through federal funds and the support of local Congresswoman Judy Biggert, who has pushed for solutions to the country’s dependency on foreign energy sources.

The gasifier/reactor in Naperville is located at a city water reclamation site. Any expenses the city incurs are reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Energy. Communities that are able to utilize this technology in the future would most likely locate it in similar surroundings already associated with energy or water treatment.

When the gasifier is integrated with other technologies being developed at Argonne, it will give the reactor the potential to produce automobile-grade ethanol. Those on hand at the unveiling of the reactor saw the full operation of the 12-foot device and heard presentations on local developments in hydrogen storage and space-based solar energy. The gasifier produces electricity and heat from agricultural residue like corn husks or switch grass, while leaving behind minimal waste such as sand and ash. Once integrated with related technologies under development in Argonne’s labs, it also will power hydrogen fuel cells and produce automobile-grade ethanol.

Because it is only a pilot program, the depot will not be converting all of the city’s waste materials. In fact, it will use only 3 percent of the annual landscape waste collected by Naperville. In looking ahead to the future, officials speculated that if all 48,000 cubic yards of the city’s landscape waste were used in a full-scale green fuels depot, the amount would be enough to fuel all 300 vehicles in the city fleet.

Those types of numbers are fueling the hope that green-energy research will continue to emerge in some form from laboratory think-tanks and area colleges, while communities across the country slowly become more involved in the technologies that will pave the way for extensive conservation and money-saving practices.

Future Steel Vehicle Program Works to Win “Green” Race

Not only in the United States but internationally, automakers are being required to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions of their vehicles while also increasing their fuel efficiency. With more automakers turning to advanced power train technologies such as hybrids and electric-powered vehicles, the steel industry is scrambling to maintain its market share as car designers look for lighter-weight materials to help them compensate for the heavy batteries and fuel cells.

A global coalition of steel companies is now cooperating on the Future Steel Vehicle (FSV) research program to develop a safe, lightweight steel body for future cars and trucks that reduces emissions over the entire life cycle of the vehicle. An earlier initiative, the Ultralight Steel Auto Body Advanced Vehicle Concept (ULSAB-AVC) program, achieved a 25 percent mass savings vs. conventional auto body construction using advanced high-strength steels (AHSS). The FSV’s new goal is to achieve an additional 10 percent mass saving.

Emission savings will be based on a total lifecycle assessment of the vehicle, which involves more than just tailpipe emissions. It also will take into account the total carbon footprint of the complete fuel cycle, the complete vehicle manufacturing cycle and end-of-life recycling.
Producers of lightweight alloys such as aluminum and titanium have taken some automotive market share from steel, but at a significantly higher cost per vehicle. The steel industry has slowed those losses by developing lighter and stronger AHSS grades.

High-strength steels being considered for the Future Steel Vehicle program are more advanced than those used in ULSAB-AVC. About 90 percent of the body structure in the ULSAB-AVC program was composed of AHSS, with strengths as high as 800 to 1,000 megapascals (MPa). The FSV program will use steels up to 1,500 MPa. A decade ago the highest strength steels measured only 270 MPa.

Aluminum’s a Winner in Race to Improve Fuel Efficiency

Aluminum is the big winner in this year’s ranking of the “10 Best Engines” by Ward’s Automotive Group. Eight of the 10 engines recognized by Ward’s are made of aluminum. Aluminum’s lightweight, high-strength and corrosion resistant properties make it attractive for a variety of automotive applications, including engine manufacturing, as automakers look to improve fuel economy while maintaining safety and performance.

“It’s no surprise that nearly all of the engines on Ward’s list are all-aluminum. The auto industry relies more every year on aluminum to improve fuel economy without sacrificing the performance and safety that customers expect,” said Randall Scheps, chairman of The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group and director of ground transportation for Alcoa. “Time and time again, aluminum’s value proposition for engines, components and body panels is recognized by leading automakers, contributing to aluminum’s nearly 40 years of uninterrupted growth in North America.”

Automakers continue to see the benefits of lightweighting with aluminum, as evidenced by Ford’s recent announcement to include a 5.4-liter all-aluminum engine in the 2011 Shelby GT500. The new engine is 102 pounds lighter than its predecessor’s cast-iron engine, delivering a better power-to-weight ratio, improved fuel economy, acceleration, handling and steering precision.

In fact, the use of aluminum in vehicle engines has grown over the past three years. A study commissioned by The Aluminum Association, Inc., last year, and released by Ducker Worldwide, showed that, on a component basis, aluminum use for engine blocks has had the largest increase with penetration reaching nearly 70 percent.

In the same study, worldwide aluminum content in vehicles was projected to grow by 28 to 30 billion pounds per year, from the current 16 to 17 billion pounds, through 2020.

Ranking as the world leader in aluminum penetration in vehicles, North America produces more than 50 vehicles that contain more than 10 percent aluminum content.

Plug-In Vehicles Could Capture 20 Percent of the Market by 2030

Electric vehicles–plug-in hybrids and battery powered–will comprise nearly 20 percent of the global market for light vehicles in 2030, according to findings in a study on the business case for Plugged-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) by automotive industry analysts at IHS Global Insight.

The IHS Global Insight white paper, “Battery Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles: The Definitive Assessment of the Business Case,” forecasts an 8.6 percent market share for plug-in hybrids and a 9.9 percent share for battery-electrics.

“The advantages of electric vehicles are numerous–the multiplicity of energy sources, reduced emissions, reduced noise, the possibility of reduced operating costs–but so too are the challenges,” said Philip Gott, director of Automotive Science and Technology in IHS Global Insight’s Automotive Services Group.

The development of powerful, long-lasting batteries and ready access to a reliable power grid for recharging remain the critical issues for the success of the battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle of the future, according to the white paper. In addition to technology limitations, high costs and expectations of consumers’ accustomed to internal combustion engine vehicles must also be overcome before the plugged-in vehicles achieve significant acceptance.

Gott said the major challenges to be overcome if the vehicles are to be successful in the marketplace are consumers’ preference for long range, versatile vehicles; cost and uncertainty about battery life; perceptions of safety hazard; and adequacy of the power grid.

There are two kinds of PEVs: pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) powered only by an on-board battery recharged from the electric power grid, and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that combine an internal combustion engine with a battery that can also be charged from the grid and run for as long as 100 miles before needing the internal combustion engine.

BEVs, the study concludes, will find a natural home in urban environments, like those found in the global mega cities, while PHEVs will play a transitional role in suburban environments where range anxiety is a real concern. At issue is whether consumers will continue to use personal motor vehicles for work and play as they do today, or whether there will be strong moves away from the extensive use of privately owned cars in urban areas, accompanied by significant third-party influence changing consumer attitudes towards cars and how they are used.

The pathway for commercialization for these new generation vehicles highlights the needed role of government and the utility sector. Consumers are expected early on to be more attracted to PHEVs because of their range and convenience, the study said, but as the infrastructure evolves, many early urban PHEV owners will realize they are running predominantly in full electric mode and a large-scale switch to BEVs could begin.

Watermelons Are Green

It’s the fruit of the summer. Sweet, red, and juicy. And whether you prefer it seedless or not, it may soon be fueling your vehicle. Watermelon: the future of fuel? According to an American Institute of Physics article from July 2, 2009, this succulent fruit is being evaluated by researchers at the Agricultural Research Center as a potential alternative fuel. But just how will this tasty treat run the cars of America?

The magic ‘e’ word: ethanol. Two substances, lycopene and citrulline, can be extracted from watermelons and later fermented into ethanol, which can be converted into bio-fuel. Experts at the center estimate that a 20 pound melon can yield seven tenths of a pound of ethanol. Sounds like a pretty small amount. I’m getting anxious here. Will these summer delights be swept off store shelves and dumped into my gas tank? Will I be forced to resort to another melon?

Probably not. The center provides an interesting fact: 800 million pounds of melon that are harvested each year never make it to your tummy because they are blemished or not fit otherwise for sale. Whew! That’s a relief. But is it worth the time, effort, and money to ferment watermelon juice into fuel?

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this melon abuse. On the one hand, I’d rather have 800 million pounds of watermelon be put to use instead of decaying on the fields. It’s good to know that in an effort to ease our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil, research is being conducted on alternative methods. But we have not attacked the problem. We need to ease our use of fossil fuels and oil, as well as our dependence. While attempting to find alternative fuels is well worth the effort, more emphasis needs to be placed on actually telling people to use less fuel. The solution is pretty simple: Buying more fuel efficient cars, using public transportation, walking or biking to get around. In order to decrease our dependence, we need to decrease our use. Not only will this save our wallets (because we will be using less), it will cut Mother Nature some slack in terms of emissions.

So, although watermelon fuel sounds like it might be filling my gas tank, I’d prefer to walk to store and have it fill my belly. Unless, of course, it is rotten. Then off to the Buick it goes.

Relieving the Rush Through Public Transportation

In most big cities, “rush hour” is a misnomer- there is hardly any rush during any hour. Driving bumper to bumper has become a standard procedure during any time of the day: morning, afternoon, evening, lunch time, tea time…chances are your commute mph will be turtle paced. And who is to blame? Is it the fact that with over 250 million cars registered in the US, there is almost one car per every American? Is our imprudent purchasing power actually perpetuating our own problems? Maybe, but there is more to the congestion conundrum than American consumerism.

A July 15, 2009, article from the Wall Street Journal¸ details how traffic jams are also fueled by poor construction decisions that create back-ups in residential areas. Lack of government spending in cities that suffer brutal congestion such as Los Angeles and Washington D.C. has also been an issue. The article mentions that Congress allocates transportation throughout a variety of districts, instead of focusing on a few ‘bad’ areas.

So far, the possible solutions lead to no where. If the government spends more money expanding roads, they are only encouraging driving, and in essence re-creating congestion. But if nothing gets done, the jams continue and so do the headaches.

Although expansion seems like the most viable solution, there is another one: changing attitudes. If Americans weren’t as attached to their cars as 4 year-olds were their ‘blankies’, a good portion of the problem would be solved. It seems like we believe we would literally be stranded without our vehicles, incapable of even making it to the neighbor’s house around the block.Lo and behold, there are alternative methods of transportation. Consider: the bus, train, or a bike. Even carpooling reduces the number of vehicles and emissions on the roads.

And there is some promising news out there. It seems like slowly, more Americans are catching on to this ‘alternative’ phenomenon: According to a report by the American Public Transportation Association, between 1995 and 2008, ridership with public transportation increased by 38%.

This increased participation not only reduces fuel emissions, the savings in gasoline, car maintenance, insurances, and other expenses really add up: you can save about $9,000 annually just by taking public transportation. That coupled with the money saved on headache medication, calls for some major savings. These savings can be applied to repair the stress damage caused by past traffic jams. Margaritas, anyone?


Recent Comments