October 27, 2011
The Volt Reaches New Lows
Are regular readers know, I've been following the misfortunes of the Chevy Volt and similar vehicles for some time. My latest update is at my new site--Stately McDaniel Manor--and discusses GM and the Administration's ridiculous spin about the Volt's sales and future prospects and the reality of producing a grossly overpriced car few are willing to buy. Not a good sign for the future viability of a company partially owned--and arguably mostly controlled--by the Federal government.
September 13, 2011
EV Update for Sept. 14, 2011
It seems that reality is catching up to the electric vehicle scam after all. Oh, it’s not catching up quite quickly enough to prevent the Federal government from wasting untold millions buying thousands of Chevy Volts and all of their related charging paraphernalia, which, post-Obama (if we are very, very lucky, in 2012) will be worth less than the salvage value of their respective parts. At least Mr. Obama will have established yet another first: instead of the government buying cheap, stripped down vehicles, it will be buying expensive vehicles that work poorly, don’t deliver more than a fraction of the mileage promised, cost two arms and two legs to repair, and have the trade-in value of a used hamburger.
The economics of EV ownership continue to be terrible: vehicles like the Volt—which isn’t a true electric car but a very complex pseudo hybrid—and the Nissan Leaf—which is a true electric car—easily cost up to twice as much as comparable conventional vehicles. In fact, one could easily buy the most luxurious conventional analog possible and still have from $10,000 to $20,000 left in their pocket compared to the cost of a Volt or Leaf. As I’ve reported in the recent past (here), because of the huge outlay in initial purchase price, even if a Volt or Leaf owner actually realizes the ridiculously optimistic mileage guesses of the EPA and GM and Nissan, they will never break even on fuel costs alone over a comparable conventionally powered vehicle. All of the promised savings on fuel are, in effect, fairy dust and unicorn horns: wonderful to tell, but never actually seen.
Additional Links For This Article:
(1) Go here for a story about Costco in California removing EV charging stations.
(2) Go here for a Patrick Michaels story in Forbes on the ever-unfortunate economic realities of the Volt and of Mr. Obama's meddling in GM.
(3) Go here for Allah Pundit's update on quickly diminishing public interest in the Volt.
(4) Go here for a Fox News story, which speculates that the Volt is already, so to speak, out of gas.
(5) Go here to PACNW Righty where Rob has a similar take on the never-improving fortunes of the Volt.
No doubt, there are some who still want to buy such vehicles. But once we eliminate people who gaze wistfully at posters of Al Gore, environmentalist basket cases who seek rolling greenie street cred and the wealthy who can buy and discard the latest four wheeled techno-toy the way they change Rolexes, the market outlook for EVs is grim indeed, particularly considering the probability that not only does GM make no money on every Volt it sells, it is likely losing money. In a free-market economy, the Volt would never have been given the production nod. Only the age of Obama has made it possible, but even the awesome power of hopenchange can never make it economically viable.
Ah, but the charging infrastructure necessary to make EVs viable is being installed all over the nation! Not quite. Let’s travel (under gas power) to California where Costco is, to abuse a metaphor, pulling the plug on EVs. Despite having chargers available to the public for many years, even in greenie paradise, economic reality still holds sway and Costco is removing all of their EV chargers.
“Please be advised that this electric charger will be removed on August 15th, 2011. Sorry for the inconvenience," a note at a CA Costco said.
“'We were early supporters of electric cars, going back as far as 15 years. But nobody ever uses them,' said Dennis Hoover, the general manager for Costco in northern California… 'At our Folsom store, the manager said he hadn’t seen anybody using the E.V. charging in a full year. At our store in Vacaville, where we had six chargers, one person plugged in once a week.'”
"Mr. Hoover said that E.V. charging was 'very inefficient and not productive' for the retailer. 'The bottom line is that there are a lot of other ways to be green,' he said. 'We have five million members in the region, and just a handful of people are using these devices.'”
And the bad news just keeps coming. Patrick Michaels at Forbes notes:
"President Obama recently reminded General Motors‘ stockholders, all 311 million of us, that he’s calling the shots at America’s largest automaker, when he told an audience in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, that freedom to market was the price for the bailout: 'If we are going to help you [GM], then you have also got to change your ways'” And then he stated the ways: electric cars, and isn’t it great that jillions of taxpayer dollars are being thrown at battery manufacturers?"
"Never mind that no one has figured out how to produce a comfortable electric car at an affordable (non-subsidized) price that has enough range to be practical for the most of us."
"Carrying a $41,000 base MSRP and a $7,500 tax break, the Volt is either going to be the biggest bust since the Edsel, or a niche car with very modest sales. It is not, repeat, not the wave of the future. It’s just too impractical for a large number of everyday drivers."
Volt and Leaf sales remain at levels that would give rational auto executives heart attacks, and it is becoming apparent that the Volt can't even meet Mr. Obama's new CAFÉ standards. Michaels continues:
"Outside of that electric range, the Volt gets significantly worse gas mileage than a host of cars costing a lot less. Recently, Consumer Reports stated that the average mpg with the internal combustion engine on was a mere 29. Factor in that GM recommends high-test gas, and the effective mileage is down to 27. This will never sell a lot of Volts, especially as MPGs are increasing in conventional vehicles, but that’s the price of lugging around 400 pounds of batteries and multiple electric motors. Put another way, unless it is only used as a short-range commuter, the Volt will never meet the Obama Administration’s fuel economy standard of 54.5mpg in 2025."
"GM’s CEO Dan Akerson has famously stated that the Volt “could be the future of GM”. Those of us with a stake in GM, and that’s all of us, should hope that the operative word is “could” –and that Akerson’s statement was just political dues required for GIC membership, where the Volt is the flagship."
Let's hope indeed, fellow shareholders in GM, that Mr. Obama's vaunted business sense and intellectual brilliance doesn't produce the same results produced with our collective investment in solar panel maker Solyndra. Allah Pundit at Hot Air outlined the badly flagging interest in the Volt:
"[A] new study by CNW marketing raises a red flag, finding that the potential buyers GM is most counting on are rapidly losing interest in the Volt. In March, 21% of so-called Early Adapters said they were “very likely” to consider buying a Volt, while 38.1% said they were 'likely' to do the same. That slipped to 14.6% saying 'very likely' in July, and 31.1% 'likely.' Among EV Enthusiasts, reports the CNW study, the number of those likely or very likely to consider Volt fell from a combined 71% to 51% during the same four-month period."
“'It’s way too early to tell, but the signs aren’t encouraging,' said CNW’s chief analyst Art Spinella. When it comes to mainstream consumers Volt has all but slipped off the radar screen, only about 3% of new car buyers likely to consider the Chevrolet Volt, the analyst added. The big problem is the plug-in’s price, CNW data indicate."
It's good to see that others are finally noticing what I've been writing for a very long time: The Volt makes no economic sense. Fox News is also concerned about the Volt's abysmal sales:
"Only 302 of the plug-in hybrids were delivered to customers [in August], up from 125 in July."
"Of the 2,395 cars that were produced in August, a GM spokesman tells FoxNews.com that a third are in transit and another 700 or so earmarked for dealers for use as demos as new markets for the car are added across the country. So, even with production up to steam, the supply chain isn’t quite at full speed.
Nevertheless, GM has repeatedly said that it will sell 10,000 Volts by the end of 2011, and reconfirmed that goal for this report. The total stands at approximately 3,772.
With over 7,500 built since production began in late 2010, many of which are tied up as demos, and production currently running at 150 cars a day, GM is certainly on track to build more than 10,000 cars by Christmas break, but are the customers there to buy them?"
Rob at PACNW Righty and I have been writing about this issue for some time, and I don't think there is any doubt that the customers are not and will not be there to buy them. The Volt is a creation of the Obama Administration's irrational policy preferences, preferences that have nothing whatever to do with the reality of the free market, and are, in fact, diametrically opposed to the dynamics of the free market.
Obamites start with what they believe everyone ought to drive and then try to mandate their policy into existence regardless of whether the technology exists or whether a market exists. In the case of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, the technology and the market do not exist. Isn't it ironic that Mr. Obama so browbeats the wealthy, yet they're essentially the only people what can support his EV pipe dreams? Absent breakthroughs in technology on the order of the Manhattan Project, both vehicles will almost certainly remain the four-wheeled techno-playthings of those whose pockets Mr. Obama lives to empty.
August 13, 2011
Lounging in The Federal CAFE
As regular readers know, I am singularly unimpressed with the meddling of government in our automotive affairs. Well, yes, I'm unimpressed with their meddling in any of our affairs, but let's talk cars for a minute. The CAFE average (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) is a lovely governmental invention that greatly increases the cost of new cars while greatly diminishing utility and safety. Until the age of Obama, changes in the CAFE mandate tended to be incremental and at least slightly rational. That has changed, and by 2050, the CAFE number is 54.5 MPG across every manufacturer's fleet. Thank you Mr. Obama!
There are essentially three ways to do that: (1) amazing technological breakthroughs the laws of physics in real world as opposed to Obama world may very well not allow; (2) Greatly reducing vehicle weight; (3) greatly enhancing aerodynamics to the point that we're driving rifle bullets on very few, very skinny, very high inflation tires.
In any case, the good folks at Pajamas Media have published my latest scribbling on CAFE (here). Stop by and be sure to also check out Bob's latest article on Gunwalker--it will not make you a happy camper. Come to think of it, neither will my article. Bummer.
August 11, 2011
A Cadillac Volt? The Horror!
A Cadillac—Volt? The Horror! Apparently it's alive! According to Fox News (here), Cadillac is planning to resurrect a 2009 concept car then known as the Converj, but in 2014. The concept car received great reviews at the Detroit Auto Show in 2009, but those reviews were based on highly polished sheet metal under lights on a reviewing stand.
According to Fox, the new car, which may have a three letter name like other sporty Cadillac (might I be so bold as to suggest the BZZ?) would use the Volt's powertrain "possibly with better acceleration to suit the Cadillac image."
The original was not brought to market for what sound like entirely rational reasons:
"First, GM could not make a profit at the low volumes the Converj had been planned for. Second, product planners were concerned that the greater weight and additional luxury features of a Cadillac would cut its electric range and performance--reducing its appeal, much as the Lexus HS 250h has sold in lower numbers than expected for Toyota's luxury arm."
For a bit of reality about the potential market for EVs, read my recent post EV Follies for August 10, 2011 (here). Rationality is obviously in very short supply at GM these days:
"Apparently, both concerns have been resolved. One reason for resuscitating the Converj, says our source, is that CEO Dan Akerson is 'all about profit.' The 2012 Volt lists at $39,990, and tops out (before dealer markup) at less than $50,000. If some Voltec cars could be sold not for $45,000 but, say, $60,000, that might enable GM to make money on its first generation of Voltec cars. Or, perhaps more realistically, to lose less money on the technology--until a less-costly second generation can be rolled out."
Not only that, there is evidence that GM has been drinking the hopenchange Koolaid:
"Now, with the Volt essentially sold out and GM trying to boost production as fast as possible, perhaps Converj volumes can go higher, meaning each car may cost less."
The article does suggest what's really going on:
"The Converj is not the only example of turbulence in GM's product plans over the last three years. But now that a deal has been reached to raise corporate average fuel-economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, insiders hope that the GM product plan will settle down. To reach those goals, plug-in cars will clearly become a larger portion of GM's portfolio over time."
Fox did correctly identify two of the many major stumbling blocks of the Volt. In electric vehicles, weight and aerodynamics are absolutely vital because the state of battery technology is such that Volts are averaging no better than 25 all-electric miles in realistic daily driving. Add weight or make the car less slippery and range dramatically decreased. Add accessories that allow GM to charge more for the car and you add weight. This is compounded by the second major problem: Chevy is almost certainly losing money on every Volt they sell. I can't say that with absolute confidence, but Chevy has never claimed to make a penny on Volts, and taking into account the considerable criticism of Chevy for building an unprofitable vehicle for political purposes, Chevy would surely be trumpeting a profit--if one existed.
Notice that the article says the problems have been resolved, but completely ignores the issue of weight and range, and suggests only that if enough of the Cadillac sparky cars are sold at $60,000 each, Cadillac might eventually be able to make enough of them to make at least some profit. The other possibility is a miraculous "less-costly second generation." This would be the much-rumored second generation with a warp drive-like advance in battery technology enabling travel to the outer planets of our solar system on a single charge. No quick charging station on Venus? Too bad.
Cadillac has always been an up-market division of GM which offered two essential features at greatly increased cost: Performance and luxury. Performance is no big deal these days. It's easy and relatively inexpensive to slide a Corvette engine into an aerodynamic Cadillac shell. It is likewise easy to make a basic vehicle much more luxurious. But experience teaches us that when one or both of those features are missing, it's just not a Cadillac and won't sell.
A case in point is the Cadillac Cimmaron of 1882-1988. Based on the four door version of the Chevy Cavalier economy car, GM tried to make it a fuel efficient, small Cadillac with predictable results. Using essentially the same engine and powertrain as the Cavalier, a vehicle not noted for inspiring performance, it managed to make even worse mileage than Cavaliers while being even slower. All of the extra weight required by the luxury trappings could not conceal the fact that it was merely a tarted-up Cavalier, and not, by far, the better class of tart. Traditional Cadillac buyers found it an abomination and other drivers recoiled at paying ridiculous prices for a slower, less fuel efficient Cavalier. It died a merciful death and Cadillac has not, to date, repeated that mistake.
And the Volt is "essentially sold out?" Considering that Chevy sold a total of 281 in February, one wonders just what GM's definition of "sold out" is these days. It must be something like Janet Napolitano claiming that things on the southern border are better now than ever, or Dick Durbin claiming that the economy is great. I always thought that volume had something to do with profit in the car business, but hey, when you lead from behind, I suppose things do look different.
Here are the realities that are going to smack GM executives in their collective snouts: Sticking a Volt powertrain under a larger, heavier Cadillac is going to reduce all-electric power to the 15 mile range, while the already weak gasoline engine will seem positively tubercular to Cadillac drivers. It appears that GM is on track to repeat the brilliant engineering and sales success of the Cimmaron all over again.
The real impetus for this particular automotive white elephant is clearly the 54.5 MPG CAFE mandate required by 2025. So GM will be building ridiculously expensive EVs that make no profit and really don't work worth a damn, but grossly overpaid unions will keep their political power and ability to donate to the corrupt politicians that keep them alive. At the same time, the politicians will be able to maintain the fiction that they are environmentally sensitive while forcing Americans to drive smaller and lighter cars that are far less safe. That's hope and change for you.
See the USA in your Chevrolet, as the Dinah shore commercial used to say, but only if the USA is only about 25 miles wide.
August 10, 2011
EV Follies for August 10, 2011
As regular readers know, I've been following the fortunes—such as they are-of the two electric vehicles—EVs—currently on the market: The Chevy Volt, which is a very expensive pseudo hybrid rather than a pure EV, and the Nissan Leaf, which is a pure EV, running on internal battery power or nothing, and considering the range limitations of these vehicles on battery power, nothing is the rule rather than the exception. If you wish to probe about in the archives to read my scribblings, type "Chevy Volt" into the site search feature on the right hand side of the CY home page.
Presented for your approval: A round up of recent information on these vehicles. Consumer Warning: It will not tend to make you burn with a touchy-feely desire to rush right out and buy a Volt or a Leaf.
#1: Volt Sales Skyrocketing! Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard (here) tells us that Chevy sold 281 Volts in February and thus far, not quite 2700. On the other hand, Chevy is planning to ramp up production to 5000 per month to keep up with—demand? Did they say "demand?" So they did. On the other hand, in the Age of Obama, spending is saving, flushing money down the toilet is stimulus, we've had a "Summer of Recovery" that wasn't, and leadership is done from behind, so I suppose it makes sense to produce 5000 units per month of a car that is only selling 281 per month. I had no idea that's what demand was. Good thing we have people like Mr. Obama, Mr. Geithner and Mr. Bernanke to explain these complex things to us.
#2: A brief story in the Telegraph (here) outlines one of the most powerful reasons not to buy an electric car: battery replacement cost. Apparently only 680 EVs have been purchased in England thus far in 2011 despite a government grant of approximately $8,152 (today's conversion rate) for each EV. The biggest problem, though, is that the Leaf's battery might need to be replaced, according to Nissan, "after a few years," depending on how it's used. Chevy is claiming that Volt batteries will last 10 years and cost anywhere from $8000 to $10,000 to replace, this on top of a MSRP of about $41,000 (not including $7500 government rebate or $2000+ for an optional fast charger), however, 10 year is almost certainly hopenchangey wishful thinking.
Nissan is being far more honest than Chevy, but their numbers are even worse. In the UK, a Leaf sells for $50,545, minus the government grant of $8,152, it's still a hefty $42,393. But the best part is that the Leaf battery, which is comprised of many smaller cells, will cost $31,618 if all the cells have to be simultaneously replaced (a virtual certainty). It's possible I'm making math mistakes here, I am an English teacher after all, but my currency converter tells me that these numbers are accurate, at least today. If that's so, why would anyone want to buy a Leaf, particularly in England? Replacing the batteries is 75% of the MSRP of the car!
#3: Popular Mechanics has recently completed a long term driving test of a Leaf, and in this article, provides a cautionary tale applicable to state of the art EVs. What's up? Starting with an indicated 28 miles of range, the author headed for work, slightly less than 28 miles distant, but quickly discovered that an indicated 28 miles was more like—a whole bunch less in real world driving conditions. The upshot is he was able, by chance, to find a friendly Nissan dealer who allowed him to charge—for two hours (?!)—providing just enough charge to make it to work. Reminder: The commute was lengthened by more than two hours so that the author could just barely make it—in maximum slow, pamper the battery mode—to work. Remind me again why I ever thought of buying a Leaf? Oh, that's right: I never have thought of buying a Leaf! Whew! That was a close one!
#4: Smacked in the face by environmental reality! Our pal Rob at PACNW Righty (here) has a great article on these issues, which includes cost analysis and the eco-realities of building and demolishing EVs and hybrids. Be sure to read the entire article, including the "emotional" section.
Car ownership is a complex matter, and issues of resale value, fuel savings, and reliability often take a back seat to more frivolous matters such as sex appeal, prestige, and in the case of the Volt or Leaf, greenie street cred. This is a good thing for those who plan to buy such vehicles, as they will surely never save money by purchasing a vehicle significantly more expensive than conventionally powered, far more flexible vehicles.
The Continuing Verdict: The technology just isn't sufficiently advanced to make such vehicles commercially viable. Massive government tax credits and grants alone make that clear, but the reality that such vehicles will not save their owners a dime, short or long term, should bring this experiment to a rapid close. I suspect that will be the case should Mr. Obama be retired to the links in 2012.
August 02, 2011
Basic Mileage Math
It's official: the Obama Administration has set a CAFE average of 54.5 MPG by 2025. On one hand, manufacturers are warning that such unrealistic and politically motivated hocus pocus will raise the price of new cars far more than the market can bear and will dramatically reduce safety while destroying thousands of jobs and further damaging our already fragile economy, even if it is possible to engineer vehicles that can, across an entire fleet, reach such fanciful numbers (it's not). But it's not all bad news! The good news is that a good portion of those thrown out of work will die in car accidents because their vehicles will be smaller and lighter and far less capable of absorbing impact energies. This will, of course, lessen unemployment.
On the other hand, the Obama Administration and its allies claim that the wonders of green technology will save fuel, create or save jobs, cure the common cold, make you more attractive, raise the debt ceiling, make you taller and give you erections lasting longer than four hours which do not require medication or a call to a doctor. To be fair, the claims of these people are only slightly less whimsical and fantastic. What is certain is that their numbers—if you take a moment to analyze them by means of the kinds of highly advanced methods taught only in the finest Ivy League schools—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division—are unicorn horns and fairy dust.
On April 26, I posted an article on the Chevy volt titled An Explosive Automotive Debut. In that article (here) I did a bit of math—always dangerous for an English major—and discovered that even if a Chevy Volt managed 200 MPG, it would take 14 years to break even by means of fuel savings on the difference in purchase price over a comparably equipped, high-mileage conventionally powered vehicle.
It would seem to make sense that a green technology wonder car getting 41 MPG, compared to a comparable model getting only 23 MPG would save money on fuel, and so it would if those two numbers were the only parts of the equation. When we consider the fact that hybrid, hybrid/electric and electric cars cost considerably more than their conventionally propelled competitors, all of the promised efficiency and fuel savings vanish. The Obamite sycophants haven't mentioned that? No? Well then. As a public service, let's return to Mrs. McGillicuddy's third grade classroom and practice a little elementary mathematics.
Let us consider two versions of the same vehicle: the 2011 Ford Fusion, a popular mid-sized, four-door sedan. Keep in mind that it's difficult to make such comparisons with a high degree of accuracy because prices vary a great deal from car to car due to difference in options, so for the purposes of this little exercise in elementary school math, we'll compare only the MSRP of the 14SEL with the MSRP of the base line Hybrid. According to the Ford website, both vehicles appear to be outfitted comparably.
14 SEL Fusion: MSRP $25,300, 23 City/33 highway
Fusion Hybrid: MSRP $28,600, 41 City/36 highway
Initial Cost Difference: $3300.00
Notice that the real mileage advantage of the hybrid is in city driving not highway driving, which is an interesting quirk of hybrid technology. Keep in mind too that for most owners, the initial cost difference is likely to be much greater as there really is no such thing as a basic hybrid (manufacturers assume that people willing to shell out extra thousands for a hybrid are also going to want a much higher level of accessorizing). Depending on the make and model, it's not unusual for hybrids to cost as much as $6000 more (I'm being conservative) than a comparable conventionally powered vehicle. This reality no doubt accounts for the fact that hybrid sales are, in 2011, less than 3% of the automotive market.
If you are in the market for a mid size car and the Fusion looks good to you, the primary reason to buy a hybrid—if we assume that you're not mostly looking for environmental street cred—is because it promises savings over the long run in fuel costs. However, those savings won't be realized until you break even on the difference in MSRP. Let's see how that works out, first analyzing only city fuel economy.
For no reason other than the ease of dealing with the numbers, let's assume that you'll drive 10,000 miles per year and that fuel will remain at $3.65 per gallon. Raise or lower the miles or cost per gallon as you please, but the proportions will remain roughly the same.
14SEL: 10,000 divided by 23 = 435 gallons X $3.65 = $1587.75 per year
Hybrid: 10,000 divided by 41 = 244 gallons X $3.65 = $890.60 per year
Difference: $1587.75 - $890.60 = $697.15 in fuel savings per year
Break Even In: $3300 divided by $697.15 = 4.7 years
Simple math reveals that the proud hybrid owner would not began to save a penny in actual fact until after 4.7 years. You might be tempted to think that's not bad until you realize that, according to RL Polk and Associates, in 2008 (the most recent year I could find for hard figures rather than estimates) the average new car buyer kept their new car for only (you saw this coming, didn't you?): 4.7 years. Therefore, the average hybrid owner, if he kept his hybrid at least 4.7 years, could expect to save exactly zero in fuel costs. Keep it less than 4.7 years and he would lose money.
Current trends suggest that consumers might be holding onto their cars longer than ever, which seems reasonable considering our current economic woes, but we're talking a matter of months, not years, so the figures don't fundamentally change.
Now let's examine the difference using the highway mileage figures. This is where things get really interesting.
14SEL: 10,000 divided by 33 = 303 gallons X $3.65 = $1105.95 per year
Hybrid: 10,000 divided by 36 = 278 gallons X $3.65 = $1014.70 per year
Difference: $1105.95 - $1014.70 = $91.25 in fuel savings per year
Break Even In: $3300 divided by $91.25 = 36 years
Let's make it simple: The proud new hybrid owner would have to keep his hybrid 7.7 times longer than the average new car buyer just to break even, racking up 360,000 miles in the process.
Obviously, the more time the new hybrid driver spends in city driving, the better his numbers and the sooner he'll break even and actually begin saving money on fuel, but the best time frame remains a stubborn 4.7 years. If we make the reasonable assumption that the actual numbers would be somewhere between these extremes, things don't get any better. The midpoint is about 15.7 years, and even if we assume numbers so in favor of the hybrid that they make no sense, say eight years, the hybrid owner would still have to keep the hybrid nearly twice as long as the average new car owner just to break even.
The numbers don't get better for other makes and models. In fact, when we start to consider crossover and SUV hybrids, the MSRP divide becomes greater and greater and the mileage savings smaller, again, placing the reality of savings in the same category as shovel-ready jobs or the recovery summer: non-existent.
There is no doubt that saving money on fuel is often not a new car buyer's primary consideration, but since the Obama Administration is obviously trying to force drivers into a limited number of "green" choices, it's only fair to examine the reality of their calculations. Elementary math makes plain that saving the American taxpayer money isn't part of their equation.
July 26, 2011
Quick Charge To The Rescue!
Several of the biggest obstacles to the wide-spread proliferation of all-electric vehicles—which circa July, 2011 means the Nissan Leaf--are these simple facts:
(1) Battery technology limits range to a maximum of about 50 miles which virtually requires drivers to adopt unrealistic techniques, such as carrying only a driver, little or no cargo, using no accessories—such as air conditioning, radio, turn signals, headlights—that drain electrical power, and accelerating and driving very slowly. Absent such methods, less range is a certainty.
(2) Charging times are excessive. A full charge takes as long as 12 hours, and virtually never less than eight with a fast charger which costs $2000.00, not including installation. And charging times are variable. It's not always exactly eight hours, but virtually never less.
(3) Cold weather reduces battery range to a fraction of its already small capacity. Adding such things as battery heaters may help overnight in the owner's garage, but such heaters require even more electricity, and unless the driver can plug in the heater wherever he parks the vehicle, it is of little use.
(4) There is currently almost no public charging infrastructure and no commonly accepted means of paying for (or generating) the power that will be used.
(6) EVs cost significantly more than conventional vehicles in their size class and are far less flexible.
(7) The resale value of EVs on the used car market is unknown, but unlikely to be good. Even new EVs are attractive only to a very small niche market.
(8) Even if a significant nation-wide charging infrastructure sprung up overnight, all of the other issues would still exist. If you run out of power, you have a very large and expensive wheeled paperweight on your hands for at least eight hours—if a quick charging station is handy. Oh sure, you could take a faster, partial charge—say four hours--and end up out of power somewhere less convenient…
But now comes AAA to the rescue with quick charge trucks! According to Chuck Squatriglia at Autopia (here):
"AAA is rolling out North America’s first fleet of quick-charge trucks that will rescue dead electric vehicles and get them back on the road."
One Paul Scott, who is a founder of "Plug-In America" which (surprise!) is an EV advocacy group, is enthusiastic:
“As an EV advocate-turned EV salesman, I applaud the AAA for taking the lead offering this service to EV drivers. Many people have asked me what would happen if they were to run out of juice on the freeway and now I have a very good answer: They get juiced up by AAA.”
Mirable dictu (wonderful to tell)! So AAA shows up, ultra-fast charges the depleted batteries of a distraught EV driver, and everyone leaves with smiles! Not quite:
"The service will be available to AAA members and provide Level 2 (220 volt) and Level 3 (440 volt direct current) quick-charging service, depending upon the vehicle. Although Level 3 charging can “fill” a depleted battery in as little as 30 minutes, not all EVs have the capacity for it. There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which is there is not yet a global standard for the plug."
Can I call AAA for this service in Buffalo Tongue, Nebraska? Not quite:
"AAA says it will deploy one truck in each of six metro areas later this summer: Portland, Oregon; Seattle; the San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Tampa, Florida."
So, if you happen to live in one of those six cities, AAA will be there to have you on the road "in as little as 30 minutes!" Not quite:
"Don’t expect a full charge if you get yourself stranded. You’ll get 15 minutes with the truck. That’s not much, especially if you’re using Level 2, but AAA says it’s enough to send you three to 15 miles up the road to your garage or a public charging station."
So, if I happen to live in one of those cities—if I don't, too bad, so sad--and my battery runs out of juice I can call AAA, which will send out its single truck (which is, by the way, gasoline powered—the horror! I think that's called "irony.") which process would take--from my call to their arrival--oh, let's say 45 minutes just for fun, and if my car will accept a super fast charge to fully recharge my battery (which, by the way, does not exist—more on this in a moment), I'll be on my way within an hour! Except that AAA will only give me enough charge to limp another mile or three—if I'm lucky, except if it's cold, in which case it will be less. How much less? Who knows? Call me cynical, but this doesn't exactly sound like a great advance in service and EV practicality after all. But then again, I'm probably just some green technology-hating fuddy-duddy incapable of understanding how to win the future.
Please, gentle readers, if I'm wrong, provide the necessary links to illuminate me, but the current state of EV battery technology does not allow complete fast charging in 30 minutes or anything close. As I noted earlier, "fast" charging is a matter of four to six hours at best, not 30 minutes, and that's only with expensive fast charging equipment.
While advocates of EVs will no doubt see this as a great advance, it's rather like calling AAA when you run out of gas and finding them willing to provide only four ounces of fuel, and only in six cities. Very few people would consider that to be a real service, particularly considering the likely cost, and the fact that the people providing the service will need to burn fossil fuels to deliver next to no range.
I guess I'm just getting cantankerous in my old age, but I can't quite find the kind of enthusiasm some folks have for what the evidence indicates is a not-ready-for-prime-time technology. AAA's service is interesting, but even for EV owners, it will be of minimal utility, and no doubt AAA is hedging its bets that many years from now EVs will not dominate the market. In fact, they'll probably never be—at best—more than a tiny portion of it. I suspect that's a smart bet indeed.
June 07, 2011
Chevy Volt Update for June 8, 2011
As regular readers know, I’ve been following the convoluted path of the Chevy Volt since before the first car rolled off a diesel-powered transporter (there’s irony for you) onto a dealer display floor. My original intention was merely to point out the less-than-stunning reality of the Volt’s “revolutionary” technology compared to the ever-changing claims of GM and the Volt’s many fans. As time has passed, all of the usual elements of governmental corruption and cronyism have attached to the story, and it has taken on something of a zombie-like life of its own.
Even though real world experience with the Volt has confirmed the limitations and potential problems many have identified, the Volt continues to be sold, albeit in limited numbers. It is not at all unusual for a major American manufacturer to produce a car that sells poorly, but never before has such a car come with such obvious limitations and at such a high MSRP ($41,000). In the usual workings of the marketplace, automotive turkeys die a quick and merciful death, but what is the lifespan of a vehicle born of environmentalist fantasies and political pandering? That remains to be seen.
For those curious about my past posts, merely type in “Chevy Volt” in the site search feature of the site and you’ll find what you seek. You might also want to visit:
(1) My recent Pajamas Media article on the Volt and its political entanglements (here).
(2) An article by Ed Morrissey (here) that touches on many of the issues I’ve already raised, but adds some new facts.
(3) An article on the Green Auto Blog (here) with generally bad—but perfectly predictable—news about electric vehicles in general.
A growing number of GM dealers are selling Volts with only 100 or fewer miles on the odometer as “used” cars. In some cases, they’re reducing the purchase price a few thousand dollars, but reliable reports indicate that the “used” Volts still have that distinctive new car smell. What’s going on?
Simple. Remember the $7500 government rebate available to the proud owners of electric cars, the rebate that reduces the purchase price of a Volt to a mere $33,500? It appears that some dealers, stuck with a car that is not fast moving in any sense of the term, are claiming the rebate for themselves, thus making far more profit on Volts than would be normally possible.
It’s likely that the green cache’ has worn off the Volt and virtually no one is willing to buy one for the premium prices—reportedly up to $65,000!—that some canny dealers charged when the cars first began appearing in even more limited numbers on showroom floors. Apparently environmental virtue and bragging rights have limitations. Regardless of the unicorn horn and fairy dust assumptions of DC politicians and their GM allies, auto dealerships have to pay strict attention to the financial bottom line, and with windfall profits no longer possible, are taking advantage of a car that is never going to be a significant money maker for them while the taking is good.
So how are those sales going? In January, GM sold 321 Volts. That’s 321 in the entire nation. If they were sold in every state—they aren’t—that would be six vehicles per state (Bonus Fact: In Mr. Obama’s America of at least 57 states, that’s 5.6). In February, GM sold 281. In January, Nissan sold 87 of its all-electric Leaf, a number that plummeted, so to speak, to only 67 in February. GM has apparently not published more recent sales numbers. It is unlikely that such reluctance is due to booming sales. If you’ve never actually seen a Volt or Leaf in the wild, now you know why.
I’ve written on the difficulties inherent in the Volt’s lithium-ion battery, but for a quick review, here are most of the salient issues:
(1) Average battery life is currently unknown, but likely will be shorter than the 8-10 years claimed by GM. Paradoxically, the more frequently rechargeable batteries are charged, the shorter the life span. They cannot be perpetually recharged. GM is currently quoting battery replacement costs of some $8000 and is promising a full replacement warranty for about the same period to the original owner. Therein lies the next, likely insurmountable, problem.
(2) What happens when Volts begin to appear on the used car market? I mean the real used car market. Who is going to knowingly buy a car that might need a more or less immediate battery replacement that is more expensive than the car is worth? Can used car dealers possibly lower their prices enough to overcome this problem? The alternative is to charge far more for a used Volt than for comparable cars in its class, which also makes it unlikely that anyone will buy such a high-priced used vehicle only to have to throw $8000 to $10,000 more into a battery.
(3) Volt batteries produce sufficient current to seriously injure or kill inexperienced or unwary mechanics or first responders who lack the knowledge or specialized tools to deal with them.
(4) Lithium-ion batteries contain substances that must be kept apart. If allowed to combine though as much as a pinhole, they have the immediate and unfortunate tendency to burst into flame or even explode. Such explosions are apparently a low-order affair as explosions go, but would certainly rival the worst bad hair day in sheer bummer factor.
(5) The batteries pose unique mining, manufacturing, disposal and recycling problems.
(6) Most of the world’s Lithium supplies (some 85%) are in China, Bolivia and Chile. Large flake graphite is also a necessary component, and China is in control of some 80% of that market. China is not exactly our pal, and Mr. Obama is allowing and even embracing Islamist and Marxist incursions in our hemisphere. If that’s not bad enough, the Argonne National Laboratory thinks that there may not be enough Lithium in the world for manufacturing car batteries by 2050, and substantial shortages much sooner. So much for the brave, green Lithium-ion powered automotive future and all of the green jobs it will save or create.
(7) Real-world all-battery range under real-world driving conditions is turning out to be about 25 miles, substantially reduced from GM’s original 50 mile, then 40 mile, hype.
The news does not get better. According to a USA Today-Gallup poll, 57% of Americans will not buy an electric car under any circumstance. Though 12% might consider it if gas rises above $5 per gallon and 9% if gas rises above $8 per gallon as Mr. Chu and Mr. Obama have so fervently hoped.
All of this is, of course, inevitable. Building a car with no clear buyer demographic, with no real advantage over vehicles costing half its price, a vehicle that will depend on a non-existent charging infrastructure (Quickly: name a single EV charging station near you) is not exactly a recipe for economic success. But then again, considering the totality of Mr. Obama’s economic acumen and execution, it is amazing GM has sold any. Apparently hope and change are still not a replacement for an understanding of market forces obtainable in any non-Marxist college economics 101 survey class. There may be hope for change after all.
May 10, 2011
Microsoft to Buy Skype
March 01, 2011
And Just Like That, The World Stopped
December 21, 2010
The Tyranny of Technology
The Federal Communication is expected to declare themselves Lords of the Internet, disappointing leftists that wanted the tyranny to be more strict—perhaps more punitively Chinese—and infuriating everyone else.
It is just the latest example of the Obama Administration's creeping tyranny, delegating authority to itself that is not provided in the law or the Constitution. Like all leftists, Barack Obama's classmate Julius Genachowski craves power and control. The wide-open, unregulated and free-wheeling, market-driven success of the Internet was far too much for him to bear.
Like Obamacare, this is yet another usurpation by petty would-be elites that will have to be overturned by the next Congress, siphoning away time and resources better spent restoring an economy leftists have likewise laid to waste.
December 14, 2010
Hey, Big Brother
Citizen Concepts announces the launch of PatriotAppTM, the world's first iPhone application that empowers citizens to assist government agencies in creating safer, cleaner, and more efficient communities via social networking and mobile technology. This app was founded on the belief that citizens can provide the most sophisticated and broad network of eyes and ears necessary to prevent terrorism, crime, environmental negligence, or other malicious behavior.
Simply download, report (including pictures) and submit information to relevant government agencies, employers, or publish incident data to social network tools.
November 29, 2010
Good News! TSA Scanners Damage DNA, Increase Cancer Risk to Everyone, But Will Kill Small Children and TSA Agents First
These questions have not been answered to any satisfaction and the UCSF scientists, all esteemed in their fields and members of the National Academy of Sciences have been dismissed based on a couple of reports seemingly hastily put together by mid-level government technicians or engineers. The documents that I have reviewed thus far either have NO AUTHOR CREDITS or are NOT authored by anyone with either a Ph.D. or a M.D., raising serious concerns of the extent of the expertise of the individuals and organizations evaluating these machines with respect to biological safety. Yet, the FDA and TSA continue to dismiss some of the most talented scientists in the country...
With respect to errors in the safety reports and/or misleading information about them, the statement that one scan is equivalent to 2-3 minutes of your flight is VERY misleading. Most cosmic radiation is composed of high energy particles that passes right through our body and the plane itself without being absorbed. The spectrum that is dangerous is known as ionizing radiation and most of that is absorbed by the hull of the airplane. So relating non-absorbing cosmic radiation to tissue absorbing man-made radiation is simply misleading and wrong. Of course these are related and there is over-lap, but we have to compare apples to apples.
Furthermore, when making this comparison, the TSA and FDA are calculating that the dose is absorbed throughout the body. According the simulations performed by NIST, the relative absorption of the radiation is ~20-35-fold higher in the skin, breast, testes and thymus than the brain, or 7-12-fold higher than bone marrow. So a total body dose is misleading, because there is differential absorption in some tissues. Of particular concern is radiation exposure to the testes, which could result in infertility or birth defects, and breasts for women who might carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Even more alarming is that because the radiation energy is the same for all adults, children or infants, the relative absorbed dose is twice as high for small children and infants because they have a smaller body mass (both total and tissue specific) to distribute the dose. Alarmingly, the radiation dose to an infant's testes and skeleton is 60-fold higher than the absorbed dose to an adult brain!
Janet Napolitano's new toys (paid for with stimulus dollars, after lobbyists and politicians from both parties came to "agreements") seem to be quite dangerous at worst, and far from competently tested at best. I'd joked on Twitter about wearing a kilt if forced to fly and opting out, but I was merely making half-assed snark in a toothless protest of the tyrannical intrusion into personal liberties that the TSA represents for virtually no gain in safety from real airborne threats.
I'm now of the mind that until far more information is known about the effects of TSA scanners, that the only logical option for air travelers is to opt-out of these devices. This is even more vital for passengers with children and for those individuals that have a history of cancer in their families.
The scanners are no picnic for the TSA, either; they will absorb the amount of radiation that a human can "safely" absorb in a year in just 20 working days.
The TSA's scanners are a political safety device, not an air safety device. They do not address the most realistic threats to air travel, which are bombs or chemical incendiaries smuggled into cargo or luggage, or the threat of individual bombers hiding explosives in their body cavities. The purpose of the scanners is to make money for lobbyists and the companies they represent and to provide politicians and bureaucrats the political illusion that they are "doing something" to protect air travelers from terrorism. They persist in keeping up this illusion to avoid dealing with the abject fact that profiling, and profiling alone, is the most effective measure to prevent terrorist attacks on airliners.
The Obama Administration, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security and the TSA are bending over backwards to treat all Americans like potential terrorists in order to avoid the uncomfortable truth that Muslim air travelers are by far the greatest, if not only threat to air security. They are more afraid of the ACLU and CAIR than al Qaeda, Hezbolla, or Hamas... and far more afraid to admit that political correctness is a not just a failure, but a weakness that devours resources in a time of scarcity.
Opt out now. Deal with the TSA's molesters, and pity the fact that their equipment is killing them for simply showing up. Fly no more than you have to.
Finally, throw the bums out in 2012 in favor of candidates from either party that are will to address the real threats we face from Muslim terrorism, and investigate the backroom deals that put these death machines in operation in the first place.
We will not surrender our liberties or our health to political correctness run amok.
September 29, 2010
What if Stuxnet is Just the Start?
I read a fascinating article early this morning about about the Stuxnet worm, which most computer security experts seem to believe is the first targeted, militarized computer weapon. While capable of invading other systems, it seems purpose-designed to exploit the specific weaknesses of Iran's industrial and military computer infrastructure. Even more amazing? Like organic organisms, it apparently turns violent when attacked.
The impression debkafile sources gained Wednesday, Sept. 29 from talking to European computer experts approached for aid was that the Iranians are getting desperate. Not only have their own attempts to defeat the invading worm failed, but they made matters worse: The malworm became more aggressive and returned to the attack on parts of the systems damaged in the initial attack.
One expert said: "The Iranians have been forced to realize that they would be better off not 'irritating' the invader because it hits back with a bigger punch."
As Stuxnet continues to sink its hooks into Iran's infrastructure, it is apparently sending data back to its creators...whoever that may be. That brings about what I feel is the next logical question: What is Stuxnet isn't itself the weapon, but the scout?
The oldest and best military advice is to scout your enemy extensively, learn the disposition of their forces, and then hit them with overwhelming force where least expected.
What if stuxnet is just the scout, designed to probe Iran's network, raise their alarms, and provide feedback on their response so that a real and even more powerful weaponized virus can knock Iran catastrophically with the press of a button?
That, my friends, is the ultimate power and leverage. If stuxnet is merely the messenger—what comes next is nothing less than the binary version of Death itself.
May 12, 2010
Apple Loses Another iPhone
I pretty much ignored the drama the first time around, but now it has happened again, I've got to start wondering if it is really a mistake:
Yes, Apple's done it again. Pictures have surfaced on the Vietnamese website Taoviet of another fourth-generation iPhone prototype.
It looks more or less exactly like the one Gizmodo got hold of that caused so much trouble.
A couple of screws appear to have been eliminated, and there's a neat little '16GB' printed on the back where the most-famous-phone-in-the-world had only a series of Xs.
Presumably, Apple will call INTERPOL to retrieve this phone, since they can't send their pet SWAT team overseas.
April 20, 2010
Amazon Sues North Carolina to Protect Customer Data
Amazon.com is suing to stop the NC Department of Revenue to block the state from collecting individual customer data:
Amazon contends in the suit that it routinely provides the Revenue Department with "voluminous information" about its sales to North Carolina as part of routine audits of the company's compliance with sales and use tax laws. The information includes the date and total price of each transaction, the city, county and ZIP code to which each item was shipped and Amazon's standard product code for each item, which allows officials to see the description of every product purchased.
In March, however, the Revenue Department threatened to hold a civil contempt hearing for Amazon if the company doesn't also turn over the names and addresses of anybody in North Carolina who has purchased goods off its website since August 2003, according to the suit. The company said that amounts to nearly 50 million purchases.
"If Amazon is forced to comply with this demand, the disclosure will invade the privacy and violate the First Amendment rights of Amazon and its customers on a massive scale," the suit states. "The (Revenue Department) does not need personally identifiable information
about Amazon's customers in order to audit Amazon's compliance with state tax laws. All it needs to know is what items Amazon sold to North Carolina customers and what they paid, and Amazon has already provided that information."
This would seem to be a significant invasion of privacy by the Department of Revenue, and I will be very interested to see if they can find a reasonable way to justify this intrusion.
February 15, 2010
Confederate Yankee Now On Kindle
I have to confess that I don't yet have a Kindle, but it is on my tech toy list along with a netbook for my wife and an external hard drive.
January 29, 2010
Russian Stealth Fighter Takes to The Skies
The Russians are testing their first fifth generation fighter, the Sukhoi F-50/PAK FA, a video of which is below.
The Sukhoi has been given the NATO designation Firefox, ramping up expectations that Mitchell Gant will soon steal it.
January 27, 2010
But Does The iPad Have Wings?
Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica got some hands-on time with the new Apple iPad and got several pictures of the device.
Everybody and his brother are commenting on it, but I'm stuck with one pervasive thought: "So, what does it do well?"
Don't get me wrong, as I'm certain I would have fun with this new device, but I can't carry it around as easily as a smart phone, it lacks the tactile keyboard response of a real laptop, and the sub-ten-inch screen is pathetically small when compared against the 22"-24" monitors I spend the bulk of my time on at home or at work.
Despite the relatively modest price (for Apple), I can't think of a compelling reason to rush out and buy one when they become available.
December 08, 2009
Stay Classy, Google
I was mildly irked that Google let December 7 pass by without any reference to the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged us into World War II, but in and of itself, it wasn't a huge deal. Many Web sites chose not to cover the anniversary (including this one), and that is simply a matter of choice.
But when you skip Pearl Harbor, and the very next day celebrate the birth of E. C. Segar—the creator of Popeye—it comes across as something of a slap in the face to those who fought and died in our first battle of the Second World War.
Corporate marketing departments dole millions in payroll every year to protect their brands. I can only wonder what kind of message Google thought they were delivering here.
October 24, 2009
Windows 7 Installation Stories?
When we finally replaced our ancient Dell desktop in August we bought a box that came installed with Vista Home Premium and the promise of a free copy of Windows 7 OS when it came out in October.
Last night I ordered the version compatible with my system, and I'm expecting Windows 7 in the mail sometime next week. Online reviews I've read have mostly been encouraging, but I was wondering if any of you have installed Windows 7 over Vista and what your experiences were.
If you've made the upgrade tell us what you thought of it in the comments.
October 13, 2009
Failure to Launch
The only thing that can be said about this level of ineptitude is that it takes a committee to screw things up to this level, so there should be plenty of blame to pass around.
June 17, 2009
North Carolina Legislature Poised to Kill Amazon Associates Program
This was in my inbox this morning. If you are part of the Amazon Associates program in North Carolina, you won't be for long, thanks to the insatiable greed of tax-and-spend Democrats.
We regret to inform you that the North Carolina state legislature (the General Assembly) appears ready to enact an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with North Carolina-based Associates. You are receiving this e-mail because our records indicate that you are an Amazon Associate and resident of North Carolina.
Please note that this is not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Associates Program. All referral fees earned on qualified traffic will continue to be paid as planned.
But because the new law is drafted to go into effect once enacted – which could happen in the next two weeks – we will have to terminate the participation of all North Carolina residents in the Amazon Associates program on or before that same day. After the termination day, we will no longer pay any referral fees for customers referred to Amazon.com or Endless.com nor will we accept new applications for the Associates program from North Carolina residents.
The unfortunate consequences of this legislation on North Carolina residents like you were explained in detail to key senators and representatives in Raleigh, including the leadership of the Senate, House, and both chambers’ finance committees. Other states, including Maryland, Minnesota, and Tennessee, considered nearly identical schemes, but rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states’ residents.
The North Carolina General Assembly’s website is http://www.ncleg.net/, and additional information may be obtained from the Performance Marketing Alliance at http://www.performancemarketingalliance.com/.
We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates program, and we will apprise you of the General Assembly’s action on this matter.
June 17, 2008
Chinese Company Develops "UFO"
Interesting, of course, but abductees say they feel like being probed again a half hour later.
October 29, 2007
Project Valor-IT Under Way!
Today marks the start of Project Valor- IT, a yearly effort to raise funds to buy Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops (VALOUR- IT).
And if you're ready to donate... we've got that covered here, as well. Click the widget, and chip in!
August 24, 2007
I Think We'll Call It a "Rosie Brain"
May 02, 2007
Does Digg Founder Kevin Rose Weigh the Same as a Duck?
At social networking news aggregator Digg, someone posted the code to hack encrypted HD-DVDs.
Digg removed the links to the original hack, only to see hundreds of other Diggers repost the hack. Negative reaction by the Digg community eventually crashed the site.
Bryan Preston expressed sympathy for Rose's delimma at Hot Air:
My sympathies lie with Kevin on this. He’s being accused of censorship, a charge that really only ought to be leveled at the government and only when censorship is actually occurring, when all he’s doing is abiding by intellectual property law. The HD-DVD encryption code is a piece of property. Rose couldn’t let Digg become the place where the HD-DVD code got out. Doing so might destroy him and the site he founded and thereby the community that’s rioting against him now.
Later in the day, bowing to community pressure, Digg founder Kevin Rose gave in:
...now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.
If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.
I feel a certain degree of sympathy for Rose as well, but find his decision to allow his company to be run by the will of an angry mob to be more than little disconcerting.
Kevin Rose may have just set himself up to be burned.
(For those that missed the duck reference in the title, click here and scroll)
December 26, 2006
My wife got a Sandisk M240 MP3 player for Christmas. Though a blogger I be, a technophile I am decidedly not. We're trying to decide between different music subscription services, and CNET offered reviews of MTV's Urge, Rhapsody To Go, Yahoo! Music Unlimited and Napster To Go.
Do you guys have any recommendations?
September 20, 2006
Amazon's Tool Time
I was looking through Amazon.com last night and ran across of interesting tools they've developed to help sell merchandise through associated web sites and blogs that seem interesting.
One is the concept of a easily configurable, associate-built e-store that Amazon, being Amazon, had to call an aStore. I put together a quick but functioning aStore; test it out, and let me know what you think about the functionality. As a techie with web usability experience, I find this stuff interesting.
The other concoction is a new "smart" ad-serving software program called Omakase, which is Japanese for "leave it up to us."
I'm not about to start dumping ads in my content, but thought it might be interesting to see what kind of ads that Omakase might dig up for Confederate Yankee.
July 13, 2006
So do we call it, "Phone by Phone?"
It's the perfect way to spend your time until the cops arrive.
Well that, or hiding the bodies.
February 21, 2006
NATO Terror... It's Yugo-rrific!
While cruising alGore's internet this past weekend to find an analogy for something as finely tuned as President Bush's various border policies, I just happened to come across the Wikipedia entry for the Yugo.
For those of you who might have forgotten (and those of you still trying to forget), the Yugo is to compact automobiles what the English are to fine dining, the French are to bathing, and radical Muslims are to satire whether the understand the word, or not.
Currently the Wikipedia entry for the Yugo is a bit sparse:
To meet Wikipedia's quality standards and appeal to a wider international audience, this article may require cleanup.
The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view.
Luckily, I managed to obtain a screen capture before the offending content was brought down, so you don't have to guess what "may not represent a worldwide view."
A larger, more legible (but no more coherent) capture is here.
Apparently, the writer is miffed that U.S. precision bombing isn't as accurate as he thinks it should be, as a U.S. air strike hit the automobile assembly line and not the weapons production lines on the underground floors below the automobile assembly line, or becauseâ€”drumroll pleaseâ€”the United States was targeting the car assembly line on purpose all along.
Of course we were.
Fear the country that fears your Yugo.
February 10, 2006
Playstation Goes to War?
"Yeah, tech support? Medal of Honor: Rising Sun keeps crashing my HMMWV..."
Somehow, I don't think that is what they have in mind:
IBM, the world's largest maker of business computers, on Wednesday introduced new computing systems that it said extend the processing power of video-game microchips to corporate data centers.
The systems will open up new capabilities for businesses in the medical and military sectors, for example, as companies seek ways to use increasingly demanding and graphics-intensive computer applications, IBM said.
Driving the systems is the so-called Cell processor, developed by IBM, Toshiba Corp. and Sony Corp. for gaming consoles including Sony's PlayStation 3, scheduled for release later this year. IBM is now installing the Cell in its "BladeCenter" computer servers, a compact way of building large data centers that run corporate networks.
"We see a commercial application for that Cell processor" in corporate data centers, Balog told Reuters. "Several customers approached us to take advantage of this highly graphics-intensive engine, which can render whole cities and landscapes on the fly."
The Cell chip already has found some uses beyond gaming, but the technology being introduced on Wednesday is meant to broaden the potential applications and customers, Balog said. IBM in June agreed to license the Cell processor to military equipment maker Mercury Computer Systems Inc.
With some military companies either currently able or close to being able to monitor real-time battles conditions via layers of GPS, airborne, ground-based and satellite video feeds, layered thermal, chemical scans, and constantly updating individual GPS data currently being tested, a live action, video-game surveillance view for commanders may be exactly what is around the corner in future battle management.
Now if they can just figure out how to add bonus lives...
November 23, 2005
Gaming the EcoSystem
My first "web" job back in '96 or '97 as a "search engine marketing specialist" was for a group of small businessmen that realized that they couldn't find their own companies on a simple web search. In the early days of "search engine optimization services" (SEOs) my job was to determine how search engines ranked pages, and "tweak" web page code accordingly so that my clients would show up accurately in search results for their products.
For example, one South Carolina-based client manufactured and repaired machine tools. I optimized their site to score well for the services they offered. As a result, their services were easily found, and in some cases, they appeared to clients searching online to be only machine tool company capable of doing certain kinds of work, because their real-world competitors were lost in the search results "clutter" several pages back. This is how search engine optimization was supposed to work and indeed, is how it was often marketed.
But this optimization knowledge wasn't always used for accuracy. It was, in fact, often used to purposefully distort search engine results in favor of clients.
This led to a cat-and-mouse game between the search engines of the day and SEO companies. The search engines had to produce and maintain relevant results to survive. Most search engines were unable to keep ahead of SEO companies, and their increasingly irrelevant results led to their downfall. They couldn't keep out the trash, became less relevant, and were abandoned by users.
There is a reason why "to search" on the web today is "to Google." Google was able to filter out the trash.
Today, blog trackback parties are a continuation of the same kind of gaming the system that occurred during the heyday of the abuse of search engine optimization, adapted to work off of the idiosyncrasies of the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem instead of search engines.
Trackback parties "game" the system, and have been used to artificially adjust individual Ecosystem rankings. That N.Z. Bear noticed and corrected an abuse of a system he created is morally defensible. He has to, or otherwise it becomes meaningless, and the Ecosystem becomes meaningless and dies. It's survival of the fittest, and N.Z. Bear is well within his rights to assert his dominance in the food chain to assure his own survival.
Those who intended to game the Ecosystem will be among the loudest critics of this move, and those who are sincere about providing links to create true communities won't care. I guess we'll see which is which soon enough.
July 06, 2005
"You sure got a purty mouth, boyâ€¦"
( h/t Michelle Malkin)
Okay, so he isn't pretty by the standards of those of us who reside on this side of the triple barbed-wire fences, but the slightly-built, pouty-lipped Jeremy Hammond will probably be quite popular inside the cell block after lights-out.
I hope he doesn't bruise easy.
If convicted for his role in masterminding the break-in and theft of 5,000 credit card numbers from the server of ProtestWarrior.com, Hammond could potentially face up to 30 years in prison according to the FreeJeremy.com web site.
Interestingly enough, Hammond's supporters seem to wrap their defense around the fact that Hammond was arrested before he was able to commit millions of dollars in credit card fraud. Their claim seems to be that if the cards weren't yet used, then there wasn't a crime. According to their logic, someone could break into their homes and steal their television, but a crime would not actually occur until the thief started actually watching television. I can only hope that Hammond's lawyers are more competent in the basics of criminal law than his supporters.
FreeJeremy.com has a petition section where you can contribute your thoughts on the case. Please feel free to express your thoughts on what you feel might be an appropriate punishment for someone who would steal your identity and abuse your credit because he doesn't like your politics or respect your freedom to voice your beliefs.
In addtion, FreeJeremy.com has a support page that I encourage people to visit. It has a Paypal donations button, but considering Jeremy's apparent penchant for personal identity theft, I'd advise skipping it for now.
But I would suggest a donation of either Soap on a Rope or Preparation H to the address listed for their super secret safe house at:
1271 Pleasant Avenue Apt #D
Glendale Heights, IL 60139
I have a feeling he'll be needing copious amounts of both.