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The LA Auto Show: Hybrid Battery Replacement and Winterizing

Posted on December 21, 2010
Filed Under Car Show | Leave a Comment

The thirtieth meeting of the Milwaukee Hybrid Group (MiHG) on Saturday December 18 featured Wayne Gerdes’s eagerly anticipated report on the Los Angeles Auto Show, lively discussion of new projects for the five year old organization, and comparison of mileage and winterizing methods among the members.

Gerdes, organizer of CleanMPG.com, advocates ending American dependence on imported oil entirely. He supervised a staff that test drove and examined cars at the LA show, which featured 20 world debuts of new car models, and 30 American debuts. While reporting on the features of the new Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, Gerdes played up mid-size high-mileage gasoline cars, and mid-size or luxury electric and hybrid models, such as the Volvo C30 electric, Lexus CT 200h, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and Honda Fit EV. He expects these cars to attract many drivers who are not interested in the Prius or the Chevy Volt.

“Range anxiety” is a new term discussed at the meeting, a concern to those who will be driving cars powered solely by an electric battery. Randy Mays, a member of the MiHG planning committee, observed that Milwaukee commuters do not have to drive the distances of Chicago or LA drivers, and that he rarely drives more than fifty miles in a day. The Nissan Leaf has an EPA estimated range of 73 miles without needing to be recharged.

Gerdes related that Nissan is experimenting with direct current (DC) Level 3 charging equipment at Cracker Barrel parking lots near the Nissan plant in Tennessee that will be producing the Leaf, which can bring a battery to eithy percent of capacity in half an hour – less than the time it takes to eat lunch. This equipment is not likely to be available for individual home use for several years.

Owners of current hybrid models were glad to hear about a company called ReVolt, based in North Carolina, that provides replacement batteries. A member who arranged a battery swap at the Green Drive Expo in Madison last summer reported paying $1700, about half the price a dealer would charge. Gerdes observed that the company has a good reputation, and offers Gen II cells in replacement batteries, an upgrade from the Gen I cells in older Prius models.

More immediate practical discussion for the winter included use of standard foam pipe insulator material, available at most hardward stores, to block the flow of cold air through the grill. Cutting tubes of insulation in half, then fitting strips into the grill, can save a few miles per gallon.

Debbie Anders’s Ford Escape Hybrid continues to amaze with an average of 40 miles per gallon, and a couple from Fond du Lac reported their Toyota Highlander gets 29 mpg if they keep the speed under 55 miles per hour. Anders and Gerdes trained drivers for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sanitation District in the MiHG Drive $mart program, resulting in a sixteen percent mileage improvement. MiHG Bradlee Fons continues to hold one of the top records, with 88.8 average mpg in his Honda Insight.

SOURCE: Examiner.com

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