Friday, December 23, 2011

A year of commutes part one

Ok, actually around a year and a half. I drive a Honda Insight Hybrid for my commute, which for part of this time was 40.6 miles round trip, and 38.6 miles for the rest of that time. The Honda insight has great mileage, and the instrumentation makes it very easy to record both daily mileage as well as overall lifetime mileage. Once I learned how easy it was to reset the mileage calculation daily ( or hourly if you really wanted to) I thought it would be interesting to learn what cycles or patterns might show up to cause the overall average to be what it was.

I did not turn in to a hypermilage practitioner, but I did learn some things about the car and my driving patterns. Overall, I think it improved my mileage, since I did alter my habits a bit.
first entry
June 29- 2010: 43 miles, and 59.4 MPG
last entry
Dec. 22-2011: 46.5 miles, 50 MPG

These two entries point out one of the most significant findings. I thought I had noticed a seasonal swing in mileage before, but now it was quite evident, and I looked in to it and found three main contributors to this pattern. First, the engine does not reach full efficiency till it is warmed up above a certain temperature. I'm not an expert in ICEs, or even a car nut, but posts on Hybrid owner forums corroborated this. Second, the computer in the car had been programmed to keep the engine running at stops if the defrost was turned on. I presume this was a design decision that said visibility and safety trump mileage. Third, I live in an EPA ozone nonatainment area, meaning gasoline formulation changes between winter and summer. I have no idea how the Toyota engineers dealt with this, but it would be interesting to compare notes with a Prius owner. Anyway, just knowing these things changed my habits a bit. After my windows were clear, I was much more attentive to turn off the defrost until needed. One of the huge ways hybrids save gas is by shutting off the engine at stops, and if you take away that trick, mileage plummets. If all cars had instantaneous mileage gauges, and could easily track this, commuters would be up in arms demanding hybrids and better stop light algorithms.

I've never counted, but I would estimate my commute has around 30stop lights, and let's just say if I was an Xmen mutant, my special mutation was causing lights to turn red. Anyway, I'll cover other things I learned in future posts.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


WE decided to get the chipper attachment for our BCS. We're getting the small one, as I think it will work better for shredding mulch for the garden, and we'll probably burn anything too big for it. With all the sumac and other brush which sprouts continuously, it will get plenty of use. I still think that as long as we make up for the nitrogen, putting wood chips in the garden will speed up improvement of tilth and organic content. Most people say not to do it, but I have read the occasional counterpoint.

Got a batch of rough cut black locust to finish the compost bins, and also got a good lead from the neighbor for buying large quantities of compost. In order to get our terrace garden soil up to speed quicker, we might do that.

Trading with another neighbor this fall, we got some yogurt they made, and 55 lbs of pork from the pigs they raised this summer. They got bales of straw from us for bedding for their two milk cows. We still need to figure out how to evaluate our trades, to make sure we all feel things are fair. I just don't know the going cost for some of the items and help we have been swapping.