Saturday Quiz: Energy Lost on Electronics Standby   (May 24, 2008)

Q.:What percentage of household electricity in the U.S. is lost to appliances that are turned off?

A. About 5 percent of household electricity in the U.S. is lost to energizing computers, television and other appliances that are turned off, as a result of poorly designed standby circuitry.

According to The U.S. Department of Energy, there are 2,776 electrical generation plants in the U.S. That means 140 power plants do nothing but generate the electricity wasted by DVD players, TVs, answering machines, stereo systems, xBoxes and computers plugged into wall sockets while not in use. One easy solution: put as many of these devices as is practical on power strips which can be turned off with one switch.

Readers responded to Energy Independence Is National Security (May 20, 2008) with eight fascinating comments. Here's two to whet your appetite:

"Please don't tell me it's impossible unless you're an engineer with Honda Motor Company, in which case I would ask you to look at your own company's vehicles from 1972."

.... or 1994, for that matter, when a Honda CR-X HF, with a 1.3l gas engine, easily got 40mpg on the bogus federal measurement standard and was well known to get 50+ when driven sanely.

But okay, you say, that car is too small to be safe...

How about a 2000's (say, a 2003) Volkswagen Passat TDI Wagon? 50mpg is easy in that, one of my co-workers averages 48mpg in the metro Washington DC area with one. It's plenty large enough to carry everything you own and your family.

But you say it's too slow?

Not really. Accelerates to 60mph in about seven seconds. Plenty good. Faster than your average 1970's car with a V-8 in it, anyway.

Hybrids are, frankly, bulls**t. Let's put a thousand pounds of fancy expensive laptop batteries in a car that can't exceed *any* performance metric that similar vehicles have been able to do for decades and charge more for it! Oh, and they're silent in cities, so blind people and bicyclists can't hear them. Oh, and they make the tools and knowledge barrier of entry even higher for your home mechanic.

Now why can't I get a 2.4l 4cyl turbodiesel 4wd pickup truck in the united states anymore? Toyota still makes the same basic truck they've been making since 1980 on the international market, but I can't even import one for *ANY* amount of money, unless it's from 1987. Makes me absolutely insane. Cummins even makes the engine you'd want for it right now.

(As an aside, yes; I'm betting on biodiesel and pure electrics. We're never going to make the trains run in any reasonable time schedule, and we're too dependent on keeping the trucks rolling. When the gasoline shortages and rationing come; truckers will still get diesel, even if you can't fill your car. Home heating oil as well.. we'll be (comparatively) awash in diesel fuel, but "gasoline" is going to be something only rich car enthusiasts buy for their occasional drive in their collector cars.

Out in the rural areas, I'm expecting a mixture of algae and thermaldepolymerization based diesel, probably generated on-site, and in town; pure electrics. and here's how I do it: You litter the city with those little Toshiba micro-nuclear plants {200kW for 40 years for a few million dollars a pop}, and you put a paddle charger like from the old EV-1 at every parking meter. You put an RFID tag in the car, and a reader in the paddle. You park anywhere in town, you plug in, you charge up, and you get a bill at the end of the month. Done.)

Anyway, 40mpg is simple in cars. You're setting the bar too low, unless that's a fleet average, and then, I think it's a little unfair. we need a "large truck and van" fleet with a 35mpg average (yes, this means replacing 8 and 10 cyl gasoline engines with 6 and 8 cyl turbodiesels) , and a "passenger car" fleet average of 50mpg, and we need it 5-8 years ago.

Comedy of the day: overheard two people complaining to each other about gasoline prices at the gas station. One was on a Kawasaki Ninja, and the other was on a Suzuki GSX-R. Sportbikes, both of them. MPG ratings in the high 40s.

Your ideas are correct of course, but...will people voluntarily adopt them? Yes if they are back to the wall with no other options available, and their children are whining about hunger.

When I was in college I had a Fiat 600 (600 cc engine) it was a lot of fun to drive and it used so little gas I never bothered to figure the MPG, at $.32 a gallon even a poor college student could drive.
Keep up your good work!

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