Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cost of Diesel Dampens Hopes

While the price of diesel fuel is not directly related to gyroscopically stabilized transportation, it does raise questions about efforts to improve the fuel efficiency of the transportation system and reduce dependence on foreign fuel.

My wife and I own a diesel-powered Jeep Liberty which we like a lot, but the high price of diesel in the U.S. is really making it hard to justify. We regularly see diesel sold for a premium of around 35 cents per gallon over regular unleaded gasoline. In rough terms this means a diesel vehicle has to get 26 miles per gallon versus 22 for a gasoline model, or 35 versus 30. In other words, the economic incentive to use deal just isn't there is diesel is priced significantly higher than regular gasoline.

In thinking about this problem I visited the EPA site which has a cool feature that let's you compare vehicles. I commared a diesel Jeep with a gasoline Jeep, and at first it seemed the diesel was a better deal. But then I noticed the figures that the EPA used for fuel costs. They were not what I am seeing at the pump. Fortunately, and this was a smart move by the site designer, you can input your own numbers. That produced the following:

The diesel is $60 a year cheaper. Hardly enough incentive to overcome the downsides (such as searching for a gas station that carries diesel).

Maybe the new rules on diesel fuel will improve matters and the price will be equalized, but right now there seems to be a pause in diesel production as manufacturers switch over to the new designs (for an explanation, see here and also here).

That means you can't buy 2007 Jeep Liberty diesel right now. But Jeep Grand Cherokee diesels will turn up in showrooms later this year. Sadly, if diesel/gas pricing does not move closer to par, the economic incentive to buy them will not be there when they do.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Where Have All the Segways Gone?

On a couple of recent business trips I saw several groups of Segways, leading me to rethink my notion that this device was something of a flop (and thus not a good omen for other gyroscopically stabilized forms of transportation).

First LA, where the Segway is used on the Universal Studios complex. I stayed a few nights at the large Hilton there and saw staff using the Segway to speed up trips between different parts of the very large property. I also noted that you can rent Segways in Santa Monica.

Then I was in Chicago, again staying at a Hilton, from where I spotted what appeared to be a US Postal Service Segway training class headed down Michigan Avenue. Looked a bit like robotic ducklings following their mother. I tried to capture the scene on my Treo's camera but no luck.