My story - Fuelly Forums
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Old 01-09-2007, 11:28 AM   #1
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My story

I suppose I should've posted here first, but it wouldn't be the first time I've started up an activity out of order.

I was born and raised in Michigan. My father worked as an engineer at the Milford Proving Grounds for GM for 43 years, starting in the Noise and Vibration Lab in `62 and later becoming a development engineer for Chevrolet in `68, starting with Camaros, later moving to Vans and Novas and finally to Corvette in the late 70s. He developed a factory quality audit ride for the Corvette and gradually moved from there to developing factory quality audit rides for many of the GM plants in North America. He was downsized a couple of years ago....GM's prorities apparently being elsewhere.

We bought my first car in `85, a `78 Malibu Classic coupe with a 305 V8. I mainly drove it at WOT back and forth to school a half-mile away and would typically warm it up for 15-30 minutes each day in the winter, so it typically only saw FEs in the single digits. The car otherwise could've been a good gas miser, all things had a 2.29 rear end and only spun about 2000 RPM at 60 MPH.

In `87, I moved to Massachusetts to attend MIT, and have lived here since. My car stayed in Michigan because of the high cost of insurance here, and I developed a penchant for the car-free lifestyle. I brought the car over in `91 but continued to walk, bike and use public transportation to get around locally, using the car only for longer trips.

In `92 I graduated, and in `94 I married my then-girlfriend of 4 years and we moved to the burbs. My commute suddenly jumped from 4 to 18 miles, but I continued to use a bicycle for my main transportation to work, rarely using the car. The longer commute got me in great shape, and I started to participate in endurance rides (brevets) in `95. I went on to ride Paris-Brest-Paris in 1999, a 1200km/750 mile bike ride that must be completed in 90 hours or less, finishing in 78 hours (total, including all stops.)

I changed jobs a few times in 1996 thru `98, but my commute length generally remained around 15-18 miles, and I contined to do it by bike. My first car died of rust in December `99. By then, I was using it so rarely we didn't bother replacing it.

In 2001, we started administering the local brevet series, and in 2002 I rode Boston-Montreal-Boston, another 1200km randonnee. I developed anemia that fall; to this day, nobody has correctly identified the cause. I continued to commute and participate in distance riding, but my capacity to do so gradually diminished. I qualified for, but didn't ride in, Paris-Brest-Paris again in 2003, and completed most of the qualifying rides in 2005. Last year, I rode the shortest of the qualifying rides, 200km/125 miles, and took it easy for the rest of the season.

I hit 100,000 lifetime miles by bike early last year. My lifetime driving miles are perhaps half as much.

By July last year, I'd tried many conventional and alternative therapies for the anemia and had run out of options. My only option left was to try complete rest, but it was the most expensive option, since it required getting a car.

I purchased a `99 Chevy Prizm on July 27, 2006. I picked it because I needed something reliable, with low overall cost of ownership and reasonable crashworthiness; something suitable for solo commuting. Although the gas mileage could be a lot better, I still believe it was a good choice. My parents have owned several with few problems.

I've been off the bike since I bought the car, and will be until at least late January. At that point, I'll play it by ear. Although the anemia isn't completely resolved at this point, it's much better and I feel a lot better as well.

First you make it work, then you make it work better. In my case, cheaper. I started looking around the Internet to find ways to improve my gas mileage, and happened across MetroMPG's site. While conversing with him via email about some ideas, he directed me toward CleanMPG and Gassavers, so here I am. I haven't joined CleanMPG yet.

My current goal is to maintain my current 35 MPG through the winter, which effectively means improving my efficiency to counter deteriorating conditions. If I'm able to do this, my mileage should be much better in the spring, but at that point I may well be back on the bike and not driving as much.

My main goal is reducing cost, so I probably won't be participating in any expensive modifications -- mainly the cheap stuff and altering my driving techniques.

Among other options, I've considered the possibility of a block heater to increase gas mileage in the winter, but it appears that the cost of electricity wouldn't be justified by the cost of the gas saved. In my case, if running a 60W dipstick heater overnight could reduce my fast-idle time to zero (an impossibly optimistic scenario), the electricity costs would be (13h)(60W)($.30/kWh)(1kW/1000W)=$.234, whereas the idle speed would be reduced by .4 GPH for 5 minutes at most, and even then only when gliding. That's (.4G/h)(5 min)(1h/60 min)($2.30/gal)=$.07, and that's neglecting the cost of the heater. Also, I wouldn't be able to use it in the evening, since there's no place to plug in at work.

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Old 01-09-2007, 11:36 AM   #2
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I forgot to mention...I spent summer 1990 working for Corvette Engineering as well. Nothing glamorous -- weatherseals (the interns always get things like weatherseals and glove compartments.)

In spite of all the time around cars, I've never disassembled an ICE.

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Old 01-09-2007, 01:17 PM   #3
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Welcome to GasSaver's! Very interesting bio. Sorry to hear about the anemia, particularly the difficulty with getting any diagnosis or idea of what in the world is really happening, their. Good luck with your overall mileage objectives.
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Old 01-09-2007, 01:30 PM   #4
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Quite a story, Bruce.

I wonder if we'll see an electric bicycle in your future as an "intermediate" vehicle on the path back to a car-free lifestyle.
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Old 01-09-2007, 08:26 PM   #5
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Hello Bruce.

Cheap mod would be a Warm Air Intake. Installed right it might help some with your cold winter starts and driving. I saw your math for the oil warmer/ block heater. Man I'm glad I don't have that fetish. All most made me want to pull the plug's on my fish tank heaters. Nawww,,,

Have Fun

09 HCHII, w/Navi
07 Mazda3 S Touring, 5MT
Mild Hypermiler or Mad Man?
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Old 01-09-2007, 11:39 PM   #6
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Probably not on the electric'd cost money, and I have more important spending priorities these days, like auto insurance.

There are some pretty neat items on the market these days for E-bikes; for one, SRAM makes an in-hub electric motor. I saw quite a few E-bikes in department stores in France, but not much stateside.

I can build back up to commuting; I've done it several times following injuries in the past. Winter's coming (maybe...Oklahoma's had more snow than Boston this season), at which point I'll be getting workouts by shoveling snow. Right now, I'm just walking 1/2 hour per day. I'll probably haul down the rollers at some point and start spinning on them once I'm inclined.

Once I'm back on the bike, I'll probably see some reduction in mileage from getting out of practice with techniques in the car...little things like coming in too hot off a glide and needing to use the brakes, wrong gas for the season, etc.

I'll also be supporting our distance rides (brevets) this summer, at which point I'll be throwing some gas at carrying heavy loads and a 5-bike roof rack on weekends, sometimes with bikes.

I've looked at a WAI, but the intake is in front of the battery, pointed toward the fender. There's no space to attach a hose to it, although I haven't looked into taking the intake hose completely off yet. I need to find an old vacuum cleaner hose first.

My cheap alternative to a block heater has been to clean out the garage and park it energy cost there, and it makes maintenance a lot nicer. The car warms up the garage when I pull it in, and the garage keeps it warmer than it would be overnight...a win-win.

I've been thinking about throwing some insulation on the hood after parking it for the evening to see if I could retain some heat until morning, but I haven't found a big enough blanket yet.
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Old 01-10-2007, 10:41 AM   #7
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if you want to insulate the hood, try something like aluminum foil glued to the inside of the hood, as most of the heat that will be coming off of it can be reflected back, this can be left on all the time to keep your engine warmer.
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Old 01-10-2007, 12:04 PM   #8
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I have a 3kw block heater, which warms my engine up 70-80%, and takes
only 20 minutes, costing me $0.16 - and saves me $1.90 petrol each time.

Here in the UK petrol is expensive however!


Team GasMisers5 - #1 for first three rounds of the original GS Fuel Economy Challenge
Miles displaced by e-bike since 1 Jan 2008: 62.6 (0 kWh used)
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