Monday, November 17, 2008

GM Volt -- Charged with Fraud

Detroit lunacy grows. This pathetically limited vehicle is touted as one that travels more than 100 miles per gallon. The vice-chairman of GM claims it will go 150 miles per gallon. That's nonsense.

In one way, the nonsense favors the Volt. Why? It is an electric vehicle that is recharged by plugging into the nearest electrical outlet. Electricity in the US is made from coal, natural gas, hydropower and nuclear energy. Only 2% of US electricity is made from burning oil. Hence, it is fair to claim the Volt travels an almost unlimited number of miles per gallon of petroleum.

However, the Volt includes a tiny gasoline engine that will recharge the batteries if the car is too far from an electrical outlet. During those gasoline-powered recharging sessions, the car will travel exactly zero miles per gallon. Therefore, the distance it travels on oil will drop rapidly if the driver uses the gasoline engine to recharge it. Furthermore, when it comes to energy, there is no free lunch. Depending on the little gasoline engine to recharge the batteries is like filling a swimming pool with a garden hose. Eventually, you get there, but the amount of energy expended to recharge the batteries is greater than the amount of energy available to move the vehicle.

Or, if the driver runs out of juice in a creepy part of town in the middle of the night, with no headlights, no sound system, and none of the other amenities of modern driving, he or she might call AAA and request a tow truck rather than wait hours for the small engine to recharge the batteries.

In that case, the near infinite mileage per gallon will hold. That's the practical reality from the driver's point of view.

What does GM get from the Volt?

It gets a new gambit to skirt mileage requirements -- and remain in business. CAFE mileage standards apply to passenger cars. But not pick-up trucks. They are not passenger cars, which exempts them from the EPA standards. However, for years they have been selling briskly and profitably. Now, however, truck sales are falling. The cash cow is running out of milk. Hence, Detroit, especially GM, needs a new way around the mileage standards. It looks like the Volt offers the path of least resistance.

If the EPA accepts the claim that the Volt travels 100 or 150 miles per gallon, then for every Volt GM manufactures, it can produce 6, 8 or maybe even 10 vehicles that guzzle gas while still meeting CAFE requirements.

The Big Question for the Volt is the question of pricing. What is its value to GM and the union workforce? What is its optimum price? What is the price that results in enough sales to permit GM to build cars that have some chance of earning a profit for the company?

Cranking the Volt to 100 M.P.G.

WHEN Robert A. Lutz, vice chairman of General Motors, introduced a new wrinkle in hybrid electric cars to the automotive press at the 2007 Detroit auto show, he deftly offered a fuel-economy rating sure to grab headlines: 150 miles to the gallon, or at least its equivalent, based on a mix of driving conditions.

Nearly two years later that car, the Chevrolet Volt — designed to make most trips on battery power alone, but equipped with a gasoline engine to provide electricity when the lithium-ion cells are depleted — has advanced from a design study to a model headed for production. The time is fast approaching when Mr. Lutz’s teaser must be squared with the reality of government-approved ratings.

Around Detroit, the certainty of a Volt mileage rating above 100 m.p.g. is today’s worst-kept secret. The only unknown is how much more than 100 the window sticker will read, because the sticky process of deciding exactly how to rate a new generation of hybrid-powered cars is still being worked out.

Often criticized as the killer of kilowatt cars, G.M. is now the champion of their revival. The Volt, which the company plans to begin selling in November 2010, should easily double the fuel economy rating of today’s mileage hero, the Toyota Prius. The Prius, which carries a 46 m.p.g. rating in combined city and highway driving, is a conventional hybrid that uses modest amounts of electricity to minimize the fuel consumed by its gasoline engine.

The Volt takes the opposite approach, relying mainly on electric power, with its gasoline engine running only when needed to stretch the driving range. The 100 m.p.g. automobile, which once seemed an impossible dream, will become an official E.P.A.-rated reality with the Volt’s arrival.

G.M. calls the car an extended-range electric vehicle, or E-REV. For the first 40 miles after leaving home with a fully charged battery, the Volt will consume no gas at all, according to G.M.; when the gas engine does fire up, it will only drive a generator — the engine is not connected to the wheels. Owners will recharge the battery overnight from a wall socket, which brings the Volt into the category of plug-in hybrids.

Placing a meaningful mileage rating on a car capable of running through the government’s test cycles without using any gas at all is no simple matter. Still, the Volt will consume gas on trips longer than its 40-mile battery-powered range, so it must carry some guide to consumption on its window sticker.

Mileage ratings are one of the E.P.A.’s reasons for being. In 1975, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act heaped a thankless task on this agency’s plate: directing carmakers to attach labels to the vehicles they sell showing fuel economy, estimated annual fuel costs and the range of fuel economy achieved by comparable vehicles.

It is also the E.P.A.’s responsibility to help automakers determine the figures that go on those labels, a job only slightly less daunting than weather forecasting. The specific test procedures used to generate mileage figures can be revised only by an act of Congress, but the E.P.A. has made regular adjustments in the mileage reported to consumers in response to changes in driving habits, traffic conditions and vehicle design. Trimming the 2008 model-year mileage figures by about 20 percent from previous years’ results yielded the best correlation yet between what automakers post on window stickers and what consumers experience on the road, especially for hybrid vehicles.

The latest hybrids and electrics are not the first deviations from ordinary gasoline-fueled automobiles the E.P.A. has faced. Vehicles that run on pure electricity, mixtures of gasoline and E85 ethanol, compressed natural gas and hydrogen (fuel-cell vehicles now in the demonstration stage) all required adjustments — in layman’s terms, fudge factors — to the way energy consumption is reported. It is no longer a strictly scientific measurement, but takes into account compensating factors.

The Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sports car that is now being delivered to early customers, is an interesting example of this process. Because the Tesla never consumes petroleum while driving, the E.P.A.-required window sticker lists the energy consumed in kilowatt-hours of electricity. Translating the Roadster’s numbers — 32 kilowatt hours per 100 miles in town and 33 on the highway — to more familiar units using a textbook conversion factor yields impressive ratings of 105 m.p.g. in the city and 102 on the highway. But applying the adjustment factor devised by the Energy Department, which takes into account not only energy content but also such considerations as scarcity of the fuel and production and distribution efficiency, yields far more impressive mileage figures: 256 m.p.g. in the city and 249 on the highway.

In the electric-car realm, the prevailing attitude seems to be the more the merrier, in part because of provisions in the government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules, which let automakers earn credits for exceeding the minimum requirements. While mileage credits cannot yet be swapped company to company, Tesla Motors hopes that will change, eventually permitting it to sell mileage credits to brands burdened with gas-guzzling models.

But the vehicle technologies already addressed by the E.P.A. do not provide a procedure suitable for measuring the mileage of a plug-in vehicle like the Chevy Volt. According to Jon Lauckner, vice president for global program management at G.M., the Volt can complete six of the 11-mile-long city cycles or the same number of 10.3-mile highway cycles on one battery charge.

The E.P.A. turned to the Argonne National Laboratory, one of 21 Energy Department research centers and a regular ally in mileage matters, to formulate a way to assess the new hyper-efficient vehicles using existing test procedures.

Michael Duoba, an engineer with the Center for Transportation Research at Argonne, about 25 miles from Chicago, explained the thinking behind the new methods his group is developing. “Our priority is instituting m.p.g. figures that are rational and reasonable,” he said. “The new results must be comparable to the mileage achieved by conventional vehicles of the past and present. Also, all of the new advanced technologies must be fairly represented.”

What makes this difficult is the way plug-in vehicles operate. Unlike gasoline, diesel, hybrid, flex-fuel and even fuel-cell vehicles, plug-in vehicles have two distinct operating routines.

“During the first 40 or so miles of driving, the Chevy Volt runs on energy from its battery in what we call a charge-depleting mode,” Mr. Duoba said. “Then, after the battery reaches the minimum acceptable state of charge, the Volt’s gasoline engine starts and this car continues in what we call its charge-sustaining mode.”

Mr. Duoba’s game plan is to repeatedly use the E.P.A.’s driving cycles to measure the Volt’s consumption in both of its operating modes. (In addition to the familiar city and highway tests, cycles for high speed, air-conditioning and cold temperature conditions were added to help bring the final label closer to real-world driving experience.)

First, the Volt is driven repeatedly on each E.P.A. test cycle until its battery is depleted to determine the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed and the number of miles accumulated. Using an Energy Department Petroleum Equivalency Factor established for electrics and hybrids in 2000, the electric consumption is then converted to gallons of gasoline.

Next, the Volt is driven repeatedly on the same test cycle in its charge-sustaining mode, with the gasoline-powered generator, rather than the batteries, providing electricity. That yields a second set of gallons-consumed and miles-accumulated figures.

Now for the tough part: blending the total gallons consumed and miles driven together in some credible way to obtain final city and highway mileage figures suitable for posting on the Volt’s window sticker. Argonne’s intention is to use what it calls a utility factor, in essence a driving trip that consists of some charge-depleting miles and some charge-sustaining miles.

Plug-in hybrids with a long charge-depleting range like the Volt should not have any difficulty clearing the 100-m.p.g. hurdle, Mr. Duoba said. Preliminary tests of the plug-in Prius that Toyota plans to introduce in 2010 indicates that it will achieve 70 to 90 m.p.g.

Of course, the final results will depend on the utility factor. Mr. Duoba said that the Transportation Department’s National Highway Transportation Survey, current research studying consumer driving habits and input from carmakers would all factor into Argonne’s utility factor. Once there is consensus, the Society of Automotive Engineers will publish the Argonne-designed test procedure as its Standard J1711: Recommended Practice for Measuring Exhaust Emissions and Fuel Economy of Hybrid Electric Vehicles.

That leaves one last issue open for discussion. To separate the Volt from ordinary hybrids like the Prius, and to earn zero-emissions-vehicle credits in California, G.M. hopes to define its mileage hero as something truly different.

Because the Volt is always powered by electricity, G.M. says it should not be lumped into the same category as hybrids that use both gasoline and electric propulsion, preferring to call the Volt — and other products that will share its technology — extended-range electric vehicles.

Adding another category to the vehicular mix poses a knotty question: if the Volt is not a hybrid, as G.M. contends, how can the S.A.E.’s hybrid electric vehicle test procedure be used to tell the world that the Chevy is a genuine 100 m.p.g. automobile?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama -- Weapon of Mass Economic Destruction

Addition. That's the word Obama uses to describe our use of the gift from the Earth that has catapulted the US from its founding over two centuries ago to history's most phenomenal nation. Oil has been our vitamin, the stuff that has given us the strength to build the most extraordinary economy the world has ever known. Our achievement would not have been possible if Oil were a recreational drug. Oil has given this country health and vitality. Its use has led to monumental prosperity.

But Obama believes the country is addicted to oil. In other words, he thinks our prosperity is an illusion stemming from the foolish consumption of mind-altering energy drink.

Energy Plan

On energy, Obama said that, with oil prices dropping in recent weeks, ``it may be a little harder politically'' to enact measures to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign energy. ``But it's more important,'' he said, noting that the country has gone through earlier cycles of energy shocks only to return to its heavy reliance on foreign oil.

As a result of such behavior, he said, ``we never make any progress. It's part of the addiction, all right. That has to be broken. Now is the time to break it.''

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful...

As if taking those first steps of converting General Motors into Socialist Motors were not bad enough, we now have to worry that President Hussein will start shooting money into the sky as a strategy to arrest those awful awful carbon-linked gases. We're in for it now!

Obama to Act Quickly on Global Warming in 2009, Adviser Says

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama will act quickly on climate change upon taking office in January, his environment adviser said, and may also continue with some of the policies initiated by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama can borrow from policies and programs in place in Europe and some U.S. states that aim to control heat-trapping emissions blamed for global warming, Jason Grumet said today in Washington. Obama also may work further on a Bush initiative that brought major carbon-dioxide emitters such as China and India into talks on a global climate-change accord.

The worst banking crisis in almost a century has raised speculation Obama will delay environmental measures that increase energy costs until the economy improves. Grumet offered no such qualifications in his remarks at a climate change conference.

``We will have the opportunity to move quickly because there has been a profound amount of knowledge generated,'' Grumet said. ``My suggestion to all of you is to enjoy the holiday season, spend some time with your family and friends and rest up because I think it's going to be a very, very busy 2009.''

Delegates from more than 190 nations will meet for UN- sponsored talks in Poznan, Poland, next month to continue negotiations on a global climate-protection deal. The U.S. is the only industrialized country that refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate accord that expires in 2012.

Bush rejected Kyoto because it didn't require developing nations such as China and India to take on mandatory emissions cuts from their coal-fired plants. An Obama administration raises ``a good possibility'' that large pollutors such as the U.S. and China can come to terms, said Janos Pasztor, director of UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon's Climate Change Support Team.

Per Capita Emissions

``While it is also true of the new Obama administration that they will want some kind of concrete action by the key developing countries, there may be a possibility to find a formulation of these commitments or actions to be taken by developing countries that will satisfy both sides,'' Pasztor said in an interview. ``Their per capita emissions are way, way below those of this country in particular and also of the world average so it has to be understood that way.''

In an October interview, Grumet said the Kyoto process was flawed because it didn't require binding commitments from countries such as China. It's ``not very likely'' that Obama would push the U.S. Congress to ratify the agreement, Pasztor said.

Instead, Obama ``has expressed an interest'' in parallel negotiations initiated by Bush that target binding commitments from all large emitters, Grumet said in October. The process targets different levels of emission cuts from different countries.

`Engage' China, India

``He strongly believes that China, India and Brazil are going to have to be engaged in the next round of global reductions and make mandatory commitments on their own, albeit differentiated from what we expect the developed world to make,'' Grumet said. ``The major emitters process is helpful there.''

The first international forum where Obama can offer ``a different kind of leadership in global negotiations'' is a July meeting of the G-8 group of nations, the adviser said.

``Obama has said that he believes that the United States has to lead but believes that China and India can't be far behind,'' Grumet said. ``What we have supported to date is language that would have the United States take a step but that will basically provide incentives for developing countries to move forward.''

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I am glad I'm not forced to stay.

If you look at the counter at the bottom of the page, you will see that a little more than 1,000 people have visited this blog. For a blog that is 57 weeks old, this is a sign of miserable failure. When my blog was in its 57th week, I was just shy of 60,000 visitors.

Why is no_slappz so bad at this? Why is his blog such a pathetic backwater on the World Wide Web? It is certainly not the conservative agenda. There are many successful conservative bloggers. No, the two major reasons for no_slappz' miserable failure to find an audience are simple and ones even a conservative would agree are recipes for failure.

No_slappz is lazy and intellectually inferior.

Lemme 'splain.

Sign of laziness #1: 132 posts in 57 weeks. A blog doesn't have to be updated daily, or even every weekday, but averaging way less than three posts a week is not going to build readership. I was in my fourth month of blogging when I put up my 132nd post. About 6,000 people had visited Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do by then.

Sign of laziness #2: Little to no added value. No_slappz' main problem as a writer is that he isn't a writer. Way too much of this blog is cutting and pasting from other sources, with half hearted and half witted comments thrown in sporadically. Clearly, he is a commenter out of his league as an actual blogger.

Intellectual inferiority: No_slappz isn't monumentally ignorant or a poor user of the English language. Had he been thrust upon the world stage at random like Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber, I have no doubt he would have made a much better show of it than they did.

His problem is what he reaches for, which is critical thinking. It is like a baritone pining to be a tenor. When he sings La Donna e Mobile or Nessun Dorma, all the good work, all the fine tone and diction that has gone before will be forgotten in an instant by the audience when the train wreck of the missed high notes arrives.

His failure as a critical thinker is easily summed up in a single sentence. "It is true because I want it to be true." All evidence to the contrary is to be ignored when no_slappz has already made up his mind. There is no man made component to climate change because no_slappz does not want there to be a man made component. Deregulation is always good because no_slappz' world would be meaningless if this religious tenet was taken away. Never mind that the high priest of deregulation, Alan Greenspan, has had to admit this cult's abysmal failure in public. No_slappz is like some poor sap of a Japanese soldier, still stuck on some tiny island in 1950, unaware that the war is over and his side has surrendered.

Leon Festinger explained this in his seminal work The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. It might be a good read for slappy. It would probably feel like being a guest on the old This Is Your Life TV show.

My reward for winning our wager is to post here for a week. But having kicked around backstage for a while, I see that being here is like the old joke about the grand prize of a sweepstakes being a week's stay in New Jersey, and second prize is two weeks in New Jersey.

Making even this much effort for so tiny an audience is hardly worth my while. I'll probably put a link to my posts here on my blog, just so I can be sure that somebody reads it.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night...

Have we reached that point in the American Parade when the Postman and many of his fellow Postal Workers are no longer needed? Has e-mail, UPS, Fed-Ex and other services cut too far into things for the Post Office to depend on further rate increases to cover the bills?

Is it time for the Post Office to privatize? Become an independent entity? Go public?

Postal Service Looks To Cut 40,000 Jobs In First Layoff In History

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - "We lost 2 billion dollars and like any other business we have to stay afloat." And to keep from sinking, the United States Postal Service is considering cutting thousands of jobs nationwide. Lavelle Pepper with the post office in Shreveport says they too are feeling the affects of the same disease hitting the country... a struggling economy. "We employ about 685,000 people. If we do layoffs it would include clerks, carriers, mail handlers across all crafts."

Pepper says the postal service is looking to eliminate 40,000 jobs nationwide. There's not an exact number on how many of those could be from the Ark-La-Tex. Pepper says workers who are not part of union with six or less years of service would likely be the first on the chopping block. "We've identified 16 thousand people that are not covered under contract. We'll see what those numbers add up to."

The postal service is also offering early retirement packages to workers over the age of 50 who have more than 20 years on the job. But according to pepper it may not be enough. "The preliminary numbers look like it's not going to be enough and we may have to do something else." But despite what may happen, Pepper says customers will not feel the pain they're going through. "The general public when it takes place won't se any decrease in service.. They largely won't know about it."

Why I am here.

My name is Matthew Hubbard. I blog under the name Matty Boy, at Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do, a blog devoted to anything I want to write about and Unified Football Theory, based on my proprietary system for analyzing professional football teams.

In mid June, I announced that I would use a mathematical system of my own devising called the Confidence of Victory method to track the electoral college count at my blog once both conventions were done. No_slappz, who is an occasional troll at my website, proposed that we have a bet of a dollar, because without data, he was confident of McCain's victory, even that far away from the election. While I had made no prediction, I was willing to take a bet, but did not trust no_slappz to pay, so I made a counter offer of the stakes. If McCain won, no-slappz could guest blog on Lotsa 'Splainin' for a day. If Obama won, I could guest blog on this blog for a week. I offered this unequal payoff out of generosity. My readership is actually about 100 times greater than this blog's, which is the main reason no_slappz bothers to write his contrarian opinions in my comments at my place.

He desperately wants someone to read what he writes.

My lack of faith in no_slappz' honor was justified by the fact that he did not readily concede his loss, but only allowed me access to guest blog after being reminded twice, once here and once at McCain, not Hussein. A man who loses a bet knows the duty to pay falls directly on him, and should not have to be reminded, like one reminds a child to clean his room or eat his broccoli.

I made no prediction of the outcome in June, because I considered the early polls to be unreliable, as did no_slappz. The difference is that I wasn't certain what would happen without more data, and waited before I made anything like a prediction, while no_slappz was certain, a character flaw of his I will discuss in greater detail tomorrow.

As a gambler, I know not to celebrate early. Even when my system showed the odds of McCain winning had dwindled so badly that he was worse than a 1,000 to 1 underdog, I told my readers about big upset wins and that they should work until the result was final.

My system of prediction worked remarkably well. The last numbers I published on the Sunday before the election gave Obama 353 electors, McCain 174 and 11 electors in Indiana were a 50%-50% tossup. In the final count, Obama won Indiana and one of the three separate electors in Nebraska for an electoral landslide of 364 to 173, a margin greater than 2 to 1.

I work hard with my numerical systems, and I am gratified when they are successful. I've used my football data to make predictions this week and last, now that there is enough data to judge teams this season. Last week I went 6-3 in nine picks and this week I went 7-3 in the first ten games in which I made predictions, with one pick left.

My system likes the odds of the 49ers and Cardinals scoring more than 46 points total this evening. Do with this information what you will.

I will check in tomorrow with another post.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Matty Boy may have a few words to say...

As a result of an election bet, Matty Boy has earned the right to post on my site for a while.

Now that Obama has won the presidency, it will become the job of his obsessed supporters to explain away the inevitable disappointments of a candidate who promised revolutionary changes in the country but is more likely to deliver little more than rhetoric and hot air.

Wall Street and the financial world greeted Obama by dropping 8% after the election. Yesterday Obama said he was sticking to his plan of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire in 2010 and he wants to raise corporate taxes by various back-door means. Almost every aspect of his economic plan will do its part to retard a recovery in the economy.