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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday




A few points to ponder regarding the Prius:

  1. Due to the insane demand, it is just about impossible to get a new Prius without all the options. Expect to spend at least $26-$28k.

  2. I have NEVER, EVER seen a used Prius for sale, despite watching the classifieds like a hawk for the past few years.

  3. The hybrid magic works in stop-and-start traffic (i.e. city driving). The highway performance of the Prius is comparable to the Camry- same engine, same gas mileage. If you do most of your driving at 55+, the Prius is not going to save as much gas as you might think.

  4. Alternatives to the Prius are fast approaching the market. Honda already sells multiple hybrids. Mercedes Benz promises to be 100% gasoline-free by 2015. The Tesla Roadster folks are working on a ~$30k version, and many other technologies are now being put on the fast track due to $4+ gas.

I gave some serious thought to buying a Prius this year. However, after crunching the numbers, it would not save us any money, even if gas hit $10/gal. This is because the bulk of our driving involves my wife's 20+ mile commute which takes place at 55+ mph. At this speed, the electric motor is sitting idle, and you are burning gas just like everyone else.

Compare this to the proposed $30k Tesla roadster- 100% electric, 200 mile range. From where I stand, this is a superior value over the Prius.

After much thought, I have decided the perfect 3-stage plan for removing myself and my family from the clutches of oil:

  1. Solar roofing- preliminary calculations show that I would run a significant daily surplus, thanks to modest energy consumption, and the sunny skies of Florida.

  2. Get the utilities on board- FPL currently sucks, and has no capacity to balance the load from solar producers. I expect it is only a matter of time until FPL follows the California / UK model of buying back my surplus juice and selling it to my neighbors at a modest profit.

  3. Once 1 & 2 are complete, and you have all the electricity you need, pouring down straight from the heavens, plus a modest cash stream from FPL to defray the costs, an electric Tesla makes sense- even at $30-40k.

The only problem with this plan is that I love road trips, which is just about impossible in a 200-mile range Tesla. Furthermore, until you have a renewable source of electricity, electric cars don't solve anything, but rather, push the demand to our coal and nuclear plants.

For more info, check out Tesla: This is a very smart company, backed by Sergey, Page, Jobs, and the other "robber barrons" of Silicon Valley. I expect great things from them in the years to come.

However, the million dollar question (IMO) is this: who will be first to deliver the Tesla specs (200 mi range/0-60 in 3.9 seconds) for under $30k? Toyota? Honda? Tesla? All of the above?

At $30k per unit, with $5/gal gas, it is in your economic best interests to buy an electric car, even if you are stuck buying your kilowatts from a coal plant.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: capitalism can be a powerful foe, but also, a great ally to the environment. The transition to sustainability will not be easy, but with market forces on our side, I have no doubt this transition is now inevitable.

on the hybrid subject: if you're speaking of electricity used during production than obviously you can't just look at the energy required and say less is greener. it is actually a matter of how the electricity is generated that is the determining factor as to weather the car's production is "greener". so it may take twice as much electricity to make a hybrid car but if that electricity is generated by non atmospheric polluting methods(hydro, solar, wind, nuclear) it should be considered greener

Zaphod for President, regarding the Prius:

1) True

2) I have seen 3 used priuses, all in the Baltimore area, all about 3 years about (but I understand demand has gone up since then.

3) Actually, the magic keeps going above 55mph. The reason is because it carries a smaller engine running closer to its capacity; therefore more efficiently (autos don't need anywhere near their 100+hp to keep their car going 65). In practice, my Prius gets 43mpg city and 55mpg highway. Do you know of any non-hybrids that get above 40 on the highway?

4) Sure, alternatives will surely come our way. But the truth is, no available commercial automobile comes anywhere near the Prius for its gas economy, its sale price, or its versatility (I'm, of course, completely unbiased being a Prius owner and all).

The tesla is not currently practical (though I'm excited about 100% electric vehicles in general). The Tesla currently costs $109,000. If they're working on a $30k car, that's great. But right now that's just talk. Additionally, the Tesla is a two seat, sporty electric car rather than a practical, family-friendly car (like the Prius) If you look on the road, most cars are 4+ seaters, many are SUVs. To capture the vast share of the market, an electic car more like the Prius must be made.

I'm placing my bets on the Chevy Volt. At least it has four seats, should sell around 30-40k (yeah, that's probably just talk, too), and has the option to use gas for those long road trips you love.

Might I recommend as an alternative to auto road trips to trying the train? My wife and I recently discovered what a great time it is to take cross-country trips via Amtrak in our own first-class Roomette. We've done 4 trips in the past 2 years, and it is the most leisurely way to travel, IMO.

I am ecstatic about the demand for fuel efficient cars right now. I'm also ecstatic about all the attempts to make electric vehicles. If someone is looking to get a car soon, I wouldn't hold out for an electric one. I'd be sure to get a hybrid or other fuel efficient car for the environment's sake, and to keep the demand up :)

Zaphod for President -

Aaron S. is right. No other car matches the prius for many reasons. It has been specially designed from the ground up to enable the driver to get great mileage in city or highway. If you drive carefully (which the prius helps you to do with its energy source display) you will beat every other car on the road substantially in fuel efficiency. The last tank on our 2007 prius averaged 49.2 miles per gallon. That included a couple of hundred miles of 75 mile per hour highway travel.

I hope we get even more fuel efficient cars soon, but right now the prius is substantially better than the alternatives.


I must point out the Steve Fuller who wrote the article "Who needs the humanities" is the same Steve Fuller who testified in the Dover trial arguing for teaching intelligent design. Of course the humanities need to remain in universities, but they don't need postmodernist scholars who support creation myths.

re:"i create gods all the time"- mr. pratchett mentions contracting alzheimer's in the article. since he is essentially a humorist, i wasn't sure if he was serious, but he does sound a bit...addled. i'll just pick one for the pedants, from my particular area of expertise:

The New Testament, now, I quite liked. Jesus had a lot of good things to say and as for his father, he must have been highly thought of by the community to work with wood - a material that couldn't have been widely available in Palestine.

this is surely some kind of non sequitur, again, possibly intentional. but why he would assume wood wasn't widely available in palestine at the time of jesus is beyond me. true, those hills that havent been reforested by the jnf (an astounding achievement in itself, even if they did use non-native pine) are bare today, having been famously denuded by the ottoman turks in their quest for railroad ties. but in the time of jesus the land was richly forested, and among the most fertile areas in the world. so there.

omg. am i really this bored? please, somebody, say something innapropriatly familiar about barack obama before i fall asleep. btw, did you know "barak" means "lightning" in hebrew and i think arabic too and is in fact a common name in israel? :)

Wasn't he a military commander under Deborah?

yep. and also under olmert.(general ehud barak, defense minister and former prime minister)

Re Terry Pratchett. No comment about wood in Palestine, but yes, Pratchett does have Alzheimer's :

and he has donated $1 million to research :

Re Terry Pratchett. No comment about wood in Palestine, but yes, Pratchett does have Alzheimer's :

and he has donated $1 million to research :

thanks for the links, pedantsareus. kudos to mr. pratchett for his generosity and general cuteness in the face of what must be horrifying news.

yes, i made the attempt to find entertainment and enlightenment in his books, as so very many people, including many of my friends have. sadly, that particular humor receptor in me is somehow stunted or dysfunctional. it tends to shut down automatically after the first 3 or so quirky and charmingly naive yet socially incisive jokes.

oh well, i'm glad he provides harmless enjoyment to so many people. my terry pratchett friends say the same to me about kurt vonnegut.


Jonathan - meet a Terry Pratchett AND a Kurt Vonnegut Fan - I'm even a fan of Kilgore Trout!

well, mighty pleased ta meetcha. i'm also a fan of pedantism.basically i'm a fan of anything that combines education with amusement. which is why i like jon stewart, and norm's site here so much. :)

Jonathan - your comment "basically i'm a fan of anything that combines education with amusement." just about sums up my entire professional, academic life. I spent over 25 years trying to combine education with amusement - ask any of my ex-students.

Jonathan - your comment "basically i'm a fan of anything that combines education with amusement." just about sums up my entire professional, academic life. I spent over 25 years trying to combine education with amusement - ask any of my ex-students.

here's some educational amusement- same topic (as original post, i mean re:the article) but from what i imagine is closer to, say, syngas's perspective.

hey, it could be fun.


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