Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Tank - 30 April 2008

Finally refueled again at the Fredericksburg Costco yesterday evening.
Squoze in 11.024 gallons after zipping 434.3 miles, making for a fuel
economy number of 39.40 miles per gallon. This is notable, because
normally, the fuel economy when I refuel at Fredericksburg the tank
after I refueled at Woodbridge, my mileage suffers. This time, it
remained above 39 miles per gallon.

The spreadsheet I use to track these things is unavailable to me at this
time. It's on a "private drive" in a different location at work, and
that connection has been lost for the last couple of weeks. So I
continue to track the data on paper and hope that the connection is
restored soon so I can go back to checking out historical data and
trends.

I have started carpooling with a coworker who lives nearby in
Fredericksburg. On the days she drives, I will get picked up at the
K-Mart parking lot that is about 1.5 miles from my house. On warm clear
days, I believe I should be able to ride my bike there to prevent any
need of even starting up the car (It's not actually my bike, I'm just
holding on to it for a friend who has storage problems).

Quick rough estimates lead me to believe that saving one trip a week of
me driving saves about $7.50 to $8.00 worth of gas for me, and probably
closer to $11.00 or more for my coworker. Doing this once a week for an
entire year will keep me from spending over $350.00 in gas, assuming gas
prices stay at this level. If we share driving 4 days a week, that'd
save my car two trips a week and double that spending reduction.

I hesitate to say I'll be "saving money" by carpooling because most
likely that cash will be frittered away elsewhere. The only way I'd
actually save that money is if I consciously take $8.00 a week and put
it in a piggy bank or hidden location. Most likely I will spend that
unspent money at woot.com for something, or somewhere else.

The unknown variable is how my coworker and I will handle the time where
we're stuck in the car together. Today is day 2, and we're still in the
"isn't this fun?" stage. Time will tell, but I think we'll both agree
that the prevention of spending hundreds of dollars over the course of a
year will be worth it.

Oh, yeah, the lessened environmental impact and "being green" and blah
blah as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Green Minivan Trip Computer of Deception!

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to refuel the green
minivan yesterday, which I really wanted to do because I secretly put in
the two ounces of acetone that allegedly was going to increase the fuel
economy by TEN MILES PER GALLON.

Sadly, it appears there has been little to no effect.

The trip computer indicated fuel evonomy of 17.7 miles per gallon, which
is a shade higher than the 17.6 mpg the computer showed last time.
However, when I took the time to crunch the numbers (259.9 miles on
15.390 gallons), the tank gave us just 16.89 miles per gallon.

All of this was around town mileage, and it took us twelve days to go
that far.

This makes me wonder if those trip computers on Priuses are really
accurate. If my minivan's computer is off by 5%, then conceivably a
Prius that is off by the same amount will not be delivering 41 miles per
gallon, but 39, which is about what I can achieve on my regular old (yet
Mighty) Corolla.

I am curious to know if other car trip computers are wrong by so much.

On another front, I was once again able to use the pumps at Costco.
Although I cancelled my membership, the gas pumps still let me use them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

No Membership, But Costco Gas Anyway!

Refueled this morning at the Woodbridge Costco, which is notable because
I canceled my Costco membership earlier in the week, and my Costco
American Express card still worked.

However, my data tracking spreadsheet is not working, so all I can say
is that my last tank provided me with 418.5 miles. I put in 10.532
gallons, making for a fuel economy of 39.74 miles per gallon.

As you know, I had put in one ounce of acetone this tank. I refueled at
the Woodbridge Costco, which I suspect has the automatic shutoff feature
set at a higher sensitivity setting, so that less fuel is put in the
tank than otherwise ought to go in, which artificially inflates my fuel
economy numbers. I did not bring the acetone bottle with me, so I could
not add two ounces for this new tank.

In short, my higher fuel economy on this last tank may be due to the
fact I refueled at the Woodbridge Costco just as much as it may be due
to the acetone I placed in the last tank.

I am totally excited that my I was still able to get Costco gasoline, as
it was three cents per gallon cheaper than a nearby gas station. But I
will still start looking for gas stations that serve 100% gas rather
than the gas/ethanol blend that Costco delivers (10% ethanol per the
pump sticker this morning).

A few days worth of in-town driving were done on this tank, so the
increased fuel economy was a moderate surprise. If my next tank shows a
big dip in mileage, say down to 36 mpg, then my idea that the Woodbridge
Costco gas pumps are more sensitive will stand. If it's higher, like
37.5 ot 38, then perhaps the acetone theory has some merit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No More Costco Gas... Probably

Well, Yesterday I cancelled our family membership to our local Costco,
almost entirely because of their new milk jugs. The new rectangular
jugs are quite unfriendly to the casual user, and although they save
Costco ten cents per gallon, they cause about a dollar worth of
aggravation. One should not have to live with drippy, hard to pour milk
containers.

So I got $100 cash back from Costco as my membership refund, promised
I'd come back when they go back to the better milk jugs, and took that
cash across the street to BJ's Wholesale club.

BJ's does not sell gasoline, but the membership was $20 less for the
otherwise same benefits. Costco gas is about 5 cents less than the
Fas-Mart nearby, so it will take about 400 gallons of gas to cost me
that extra $20 it costs to be a member of Costco. That is about a
year's worth of gas for the Mighty Corolla.

But the happiness of not buying those awful square milk jugs is totally
worth more.

Also, BJ's will reimburse me 2% of the amount I charge there on my
credit card (Costco did this as well). In addition, I can use my Disney
Visa card, which gives me 1% of all purchases towards Disney-related
stuff. So in a way, this BJ's membership will help me out more than
Costco did.

I will now likely be buying gas from a variety of different sources. I
hope to find a regular gas station that does not have a 15%-ethanol
mixture, to see if my mileage increases like everyone says it should.

I am getting near the end of my final Costco gas tank, that also has one
ounce of Acetone in it, so the next several tanks ought to be
interesting.

The green minivan also is working through its tank that has two ounces
of acetone in it, and so far, the trip computer indicates no real change
in fuel economy. But to its defense, I think the prior tank had one
highway trip on it that bumped the fuel economy higher than it
ordinarily would have been.

One loose end that I will test soon is that my friendly coworker has had
a lapsed Costco membership for a long time, but she reports still being
able to buy gas from Costco. I'll probably test that at some point.
That would be kind of nice, since Costco gas is still less than most
other places. But if there's a competitor that does not have the 15%
ethanol mix that Costco has, and my fuel economy is better on a 100% gas
tank, then a competitor would still be better.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Down In Flames Together

So yesterday evening I had the opportunity to be driving the green
minivan as I took three kids to baseball practice. The gas tank was
getting low, and I decided to refuel on the way home. The trip computer
indicated an average fuel economy of 18.9 miles per gallon for the tank
of gas. This includes a trip to Washington, DC, to see the cherry
blossoms, so about 100 of the 320 miles of the tank were highway miles.
This is sort of unusual. Most of the time, the trip computer shows
about 17.6 miles per gallon over the life of a tank, as we generally use
the green minivan to make short trips around town.

I recall reading that the acetone trick sees greater results in bigger
engines that drive around town. Since the Mighty Corolla had not shown
any ill-effects from the one ounce of acetone added to its last tank, I
jumped on this unexpected opportunity to perform a blind test with the
minivan,

"This is my chance!" I thought. Upon arriving home, after putting in
over 16 gallons of gas into the minivan's tank at Costco, I poured a
little more than 2 ounces of acetone into the tank, and followed it up
with a little trickle of gas from our lawnmower gas can to wash it down.

My wife does not know of this experiment, so it will be quite
interesting to see if the new tank of gas provides any difference in
fuel economy. This tank might give me my own proof that this either
works or does not work to increase fuel economy. I have read stories
that it does work, and stories that it does not work. Some time this
month, I expect to have some news to report that will add to one side of
these arguments.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tank 153 - 8 April 2008

This morning I did something as I refueled my gas tank. Before I put in
the nozzle, I poured two tablespoons of Acetone into my gas tank, then
filled it up with 10.553 gallons of unleaded gas at the Fredericksburg
Costco. I had gone 398.1 miles on the tank, making for an average fuel
economy of 37.72 miles per gallon, which is about average. Nothing
spectacular. Gas cost $3.189 per gallon.

So what's up with the Acetone? Well, I read an article and saw a news
report that adding two tablespoons of acetone to each tank of gas could
drastically improve your fuel economy. Apparently, acetone is the
primary ingredient in nail polish remover. But lots of nail polish
removers have other things in them, so you can't use them. I found a
store brand nail polish remover that was labeled "100% acetone," and
although there were two ingredients listed on the label, I bought it
anyway and am hoping for the best.

I think this bottle of acetone was $3.50. I really ought to have
figured out now many ounces were in the bottle. Two tablespoons turns
out to be one ounce, to the effect is one ounce of acetone per tank of
gas. Say it's a 12 ounce bottle, and we're adding about 29 cents worth
of acetone to every $33.00 tank of gas.

And one ounce is I believe 1/128th of a gallon. Over a 10.5 gallon
tank, that means I am adding less than one one-thousandth of this
acetone contaminant to my tank. So if maybe one or two percent of the
store brand acetone is something terrible, like perfume or sand, it
seems to me that the overall amount in the entire volume of gasoline is
negligible.

After noodling all this out here, I am skeptical that the addition of
something to my gas tank that represents less than one tenth of one
percent of the tank's volume can have any affect on my fuel economy.
But the news reported said his mileage went from 24 to 34, or something
crazy like that, so we will learn this together within the upcoming
days.

However, acetone is allegedly pretty bad for lots of things, like the
paint on your car (it is nail polish remover, after all), and also
rubber things like supply lines (and apparently some cars have rubber
tubes connecting some things that gas passes through), and O-rings.
Again, in this small proportion, I am not *too* worried about corrosion
over the course of this one test tank. I put the acetone in first and
then pumped the gas, so the additive was washed down into and mixed with
the tank contents pretty good right from the start.

This is the first time I have done something like this to my car. I
wonder if it will work!

Monday, April 7, 2008

THUNDERSTRUCK!

Somebody in my office has the AC/DC song "Thunderstruck" as the ringtone
for his or her cell phone. Periodically during the week I am sitting in
my cube, minding my own business, and suddenly the flying guitar intro
to THUNDERSTRUCK comes soaring through the voluminous cavern that is my
office space.

And then I start humming the tune for most of the remainder of the day.
Also I vocalize the "ahh-ahh-ahh-ahhhhhh-ahhuhhhahhhhhh-ahhahhahh" part
as I walk around.

I wonder if my friendly coworkers can here my grunting like this.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Brake Pedal - I Don't Think It Is Your Friend

Yesterday night I drove my daughter and her friend to play practice. It
was rainy and wet with lots of twisty turns in the road on the back way
I took to the school. I did a lot of short accelerations and short
brakings as the turns came and hills went in order to maintain an
adequate flow of traffic.

As I was doing this, I was cringing in terror at how I was totally
torpedoing my fuel economy for this tank. Luckily, I had been able to
"hitch rides" three trips this week by drafting (but not too closely!)
behind tractor trailers and one day a tour bus.

When you drive, you press the gas pedal and make that engine work hard
to get your two-ton vehicle up to the speed you want it to be going.
That's a lot of inertia and kinetic energy that gets created there.
Once you're up to speed, it takes relatively little fuel to maintain
that speed. This is why it's so important to maintain speed. Every
time you slow down, you must use your engine to work hard to regain that
lost momentum. Going down hills is good for gaining speed, going up
hills is the opposite.

I like being stuck in heavy traffic going down hills. I can turn off
the motor and coast for a long time. Once I coasted for five minutes
with the motor off, but I digress.

When you're driving in traffic, consider what the cars ahead of you are
doing. If they are clearly going slower than you, make every effort to
ease up on the gas and let your speed decrease gradually so that you
match their speed before you reach their rear bumpers.

If you press that brake pedal, you lose all that kinetic energy and
momentum your engine worked so hard to create. Unless you're driving
one of those hybrids, of course, but for the sake of argument you're
losing that energy.

In order to get that speed back, you will press that gas pedal again,
using more gas to regain the speed you wanted to be going at before you
had to put on the brake. It's sort of like losing money with each tap
of the brakes.

Think of such things next time you're out there in traffic.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tank 152 - 1 April 2008, No Foolin'

Refueled at the Fredericksburg Costco yesterday on my way home instead
of waiting until this morning to do it, as the Mighty Corolla was
scheduled to carry two little ones to play practice and I didn't want
the low fuel light to add any concern to the trip.

Ended up going 423.3 miles on 10.874 gallons of gas, for a mileage
number of 38.93 mpg. This looks good on the surface, but last tank gave
me 36.20 mpg, so it sort of evens out.

Over my first twelve tanks of 2008 I have spent $370.75, comapred with
$264.12 over the first twelve tanks of gas in 2007. This is about 40%
more in gasoline cost.

My fuel economy for the first twelve tanks is up as well, but not nearly
40%, only about 3.98%. So more money comes out of pocket on gas.

Everyone who drives is probably facing a similar increase in gas prices.


Let's say I am averaging 37 miles per gallon (which I am not, I am
averaging better mileage of 37.83, but that's harder to use for
calculation purposes), and those folks who drive pickup trucks, SUVs or
minivans average half that, or 18.5 miles per gallon (which I think is
reasonable given the way I see some of these drivers move on the
highway). That would mean they are spending roughly twice as much on
gasoline as I am.

That's over $700 on gas alone for basically the first three months of
the year. Close to $3,000 for the year if prices remain about the same
for the rest of the year.

If regular people made sure they had their tires pumped up properly, and
looked ahead and coasted a little more instead of accellerated to the
pile of stopped cars a quarter mile ahead, I am sure they could squeeze
out an extra 2 or 3 miles per gallon out of those SUVs, which would save
roughly 80 gallons over the course of a year, or about $240!

Would you make a small lifestyle change in order to not have to spend
$240?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Customer is Always Right?

This past Friday we (the family) went to Washington DC to check out the
cherry blossoms and see some of the sights in the Smithsonian museums.
The blossoms were pretty and we took lots of pictures. One of the
highlights was walking through the one ten-billionth scale model of our
solar system. It's always neat to see the Sun scaled down to the size
of a baseball and then the planets similarly scaled down to the size of
grains of sand in some cases, relatively spaced away from the sun. The
exhibit is outside and merhaps a half mile long.

Anyway, we stopped at one point for ice creams from one of the street
vendors. The nice lady used a calculator to add up the cost, and the
total came out to be $11.85. I handed her a $20 bill and waited for my
change. After a few seconds of working the calculator, she announced my
change would be $9.85.

This did not sound right to me, as I expected $8.15 back ($20.00 minus
$11.85 equals $8.15 in change for me). So I told her she was giving me
too much change back. The vendor looked confused and ran it through her
calculator a second time. She got a total ice cream cost of $11.85, and
told me I paid with a $20 bill, pressed some buttons and her calculator
again said my change was supposed to be $9.85.

I told her this was impossible and that I really needed just $8.15 back.

The vendor insisted she should give me $9.85 back. I told her that I'd
be happy to take it, but she'd be giving me too much change. She looked
even more confused.

By now, the small line behind me was getting anxious. The woman right
behind me sarcastically said "okay, Honest Abe..." But I knew I would
be getting too much change back and told her that my ice cream cost
close to twelve dollars, and since I paid with twenty dollars I should
get about eight dollars back, not $9.85, which is closer to ten dollars.

So the vendor gave me what I wanted, which was $8.15.

We walked away and the kids started unwrapping their ice creams. When
we got about 30 feet away, the vendor shouted out that she figured out
her mistake and that I was right with my change calculation.

Even though the woman behind me thought I was nuts to turn down
erroneous change in my favor, it was the right thing to do. I know I
wouldn't have just walked away if I was accidentally given too little
change.