Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tell The EPA What You Think!

The EPA has posted some prototype fuel economy labels on their web site, and is asking for the public to comment. You can see them in their full detail here.

There are two proposed
designs. The first shows a large letter grade (also color coded), Green A, Yellow B, Orange C, and Red D. Apparently, everyone passes--F's are not allowed to go on sale?

The second shows some Star Trek style sliding indicators, and leaves out the letter grades, but keeps the color coding.

The EPA is inviting public comment as part of its rulemaking, and you can fill out the form at the bottom of the page and hit "send" to give them a piece of your mind.

I have already voted for Form 2 (the simpler one on the right). I think the letter grade Form 1 is too cluttered, and I don't agree with the way they are assigning letter grades. As much as I hate to sound like a whiny pre-med, the grades need to be on a curve--you can't really compare Silverados with Subarus, can you? The grades should really be assigned among like vehicles.

I also think that the fuel/energy efficiency report should be as simple as possible. Ideally, the form should present one universal metric--MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), which recalculates all energy consumption into units we are used to, miles per gallon of EPA standard test gasoline. The MPGe also is closely related to CO2 production, so I would leave the CO2 data off of the label completely. MPGe tells you everything most people really care to know.

The fuel const estimate is neat, but how often will they update the number? What if the label is based on $2.70 gasoline and $0.12 electricity, but in fact gas is $3.50 and electricity is now $0.20/kWHr? Will we be constantly reminded now that not only our mileage may vary, but our fuel cost may vary as well?

So that's my advice to the EPA, and my comment as well. Keep it simple, leave the grades off, and be careful about the energy cost assumptions.

Help Name Ford's Iguana

Ford Motor is doing a Facebook poll to pick a name for their stow-away iguana.  I like "Henry" myself, for political reasons.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Illegal Immigrant Hides In Parts Shipment

I thought this was cute--an iguana managed to make it from southern Mexico to Ford's transmission plant in Sterling Heights, MI, hiding in a parts shipment. He's at the Detroit Zoo now.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Review: Lemur EconoDriver

I was recently sent a Lemur EconoDriver gadget to review. It looked neat, so I agreed.

The EconoDriver is a two-part device which attaches to your car's OBD-II port. The transmitter is not much larger than the OBD plug itself, and transmits data wirelessly, over a proprietary 433MHz protocol to a large key-fob which has a reflective LCD display.

The Econodriver grabs and decodes some signals from your vehicle data bus (CAN on modern cars) such as vehicle speed and engine load, to calculate some interesting stats on your fuel usage. It can calculate trip average MPG, cost of fuel used (if the correct fuel price is input), cost of fuel wasted due to idling, average cost per mile of fuel used, and will display little leaves which is, I suppose, a way to encourage better driving.

For example, from my commute home from work the other day, the EconoDriver told me that after 19 miles, I had used $1.81 in fuel, $0.07 of which was wasted due to idling. My cost per mile was $0.09, and average fuel economy was 30.0 mpg. I was awarded 41/2 out of 5 leaves for driving style.

Overall it was, as advertised, easy to install and use. The accuracy seemed decent, the monitor's 30mpg was a little bit higher than my car's on-board calculation of 29.2 mpg. My trip was only 20 miles, so over time that difference may become much smaller.

Update: After 200 miles, the difference between my car's on-board measurement (27.1mpg) and the EconoDriver's measurement (27.4) was reduced to a mere 0.3mpg, so I attribute the difference between the two on a different averaging rate.

I did have a few minor problems. First, in my car the OBD-II port has an access door, so installing the transmitter dongle required driving with the door flopping around. I had to tape the door partly shut to keep it out of the way--not elegant.

I also discovered that if you have an OBD DTC, the EconoDriver does not seem to warn you that its accuracy may be compromised. When I pulled my intake air meter sensor connector, I got the "Check Engine" light and a DTC for the air meter, but the EconoDriver did not seem to react in any obvious way. When I asked Lemur about this I was told that the EconoDriver will reduce your green rating (leaves) if you have a DTC, but this isn't very obvious. I think a good improvement would be to flash a warning if a DTC is present.

The update rate is limited to 30s, I was told for technical reasons. This means that you can't really use this device as a driving style trainer, more of a trip monitor. I would have preferred a faster update rate so I could see what kinds of driving are better.

The leaves are supposed to coach you to drive more efficiently, but my leaf score was consistently 4 1/2 to 5 out of 5, except when I sat and idled for a few minutes. Then the score was slowly reduced. I'm not sure if the leaves are useful or not.

There is no backlight on the display fob. This is consistent with the recommendation that the monitor should not be used while the vehicle is moving--but I do, and I would like a light.

Overall, would say this is a good gadget for someone who really wants to know how much money they are spending on fuel without doing hand calculations. Perhaps someone who drives for a living and wants to track fuel costs carefully for business purposes. If I didn't have a fuel economy calculation built into my car's IP already, I would consider buying one.

  • Easy to install and use
  • Calculates fuel costs and fuel economy for you
  • Relatively inexpensive, ~$80

  • 30s update rate
  • No warning if DTC present
  • OBD port dongle may interfere with OBD port door on some vehicles
  • No method included to mount display to vehicle
  • Meaning of leaves is not clear to me
Who should consider:
  • Travelling salesman or fleet user who wants to track fuel costs carefully
  • Anyone interested in tracking their fuel economy who doesn't have an on-board fuel economy monitor
  • Scangauge II auto computer, $150 (link)

*I received no compensation for this review other than the gadget itself.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pre-Cruise Friday Part 5: Best In Show

This, in my opinion, is the most beautiful vehicle at the Dream Cruise. Not because it has been restored to such great shape--though it has--but because of what it represents. This truck was restored to serve as a hearse for fallen firefighters who are being escorted to their last call. It was a work of love, funded by charity.

The place of the hero.

Click on the photo to read the whole story

Pre-Cruise Friday Part 5: Emergency Vehicle Alley

The police and fire departments had a really neat display of emergency vehicles, right down the street from all the Mustangs. This was my favorite area of the Cruise so far.

Old school vehicles.

The "meat wagon", a Vietnam era ambulance.
Inside the meat wagon

This Troy Police car was built with funds siezed in drug raids.

Watering the kids.

Paddy wagons, old and new.

Pre-Cruise Friday Part 4: Ferndale Stryker

The U.S. Army's TACOM set up this Stryker vehicle on the median in Ferndale. Several TACOM employees were there to answer questions. I asked about IED survivability, and they explained that while the Stryker was designed before the Iraq and Afghan wars, and was not equipped to handle roadside bombs, they are retrofitting them with a thick aluminum underhull, offset from the main hull, which can help absorb the blast energy. The next generation will be designed with a "double V" hull.
A large vehicle, it was designed to fit inside of military transport planes.

It looks light and airy, but actually there isn't a ton of room inside. The gunner sits below the gun (to the right and behind of the driver) and can control it remotely while looking through periscope prisms and a camera screen. The driver space looked tight.

Pre-Cruise Friday Part 3: Ford in Ferndale

Next I headed south to Ferndale, where Ford has set up "Mustang Alley".

This Dewalt Superduty concept was pretty neat, and it was the only vehicle I saw at the Cruise that could probably cut itself up into little pieces.

Police Mustang (the strobes are flashing, but it is hard to see)

CSI Transit, lots of room for "samples"

Mustang Alley

A mockup of the Taurus Police car. I don't think it is the real thing, because it didn't have any kit inside of it, and had a console shifter.

Not content to let Chrysler show off too much, Ford also brought a monster truck, but no crushed import under this one.

The new Boss 302

More views of The Boss

The new Ford Explorer was there. I though it looked good, if a bit like the GMC Acadia. The rear glass does not appear to open, and neither do the rear quarter windows, a departure from the 2010 Explorer.

Moving on...

Pre-Cruise Friday Part 2: On The Corner

Awesome color for a Mercedes -- Construction Orange

Barn Fresh GMC

Eastern European troop transport?

Smooth wagon

Unsure, looks British

The Valentine Vodka barrel truck (I'm not sure Vodka comes in oak barrels, though)

Beat up DeLorean

Very high center of gravity on this one... probably won't do well at the track. Or offroad.

Way chopped truck

Grand Torino (no Hmong though)

This Mustang came all the way from New Jersey

Ford GT

Junky goodness

Replica (?) GT40

California 'Vette