November 2011 Archives

Low Gas Prices Are Actually High!

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Well, I seem to have been mistaken.

All weekend, I was amazed at how gas prices had fallen despite the holiday weekend. It is a common perception, which I share, that gas prices rise for holidays. But gas prices fell over the Thanksgiving weekend. The lowest price I saw was $3.08.9 for regular unleaded.

Au contraire.

In comments emailed this morning, gas price analyst Patrick DeHaan of said that, indeed, gas prices dropped, but they are high for this time of year.


"The national average in the U.S. is at its lowest since February 25," DeHaan writes, "but remains at record highs for this time of year.

"I see the trend short lived, and believe we may see continued volatility in the days ahead, but even with said volatility I do expect many Americans will see average prices between $3.25-$3.50 for the rest of 2011."


At least he's not calling for $4 a gallon.

The Volt Hits The Street

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Guess what I saw the other day ... a Chevy Volt.

What's the big deal, you ask?

It's the first one I've seen that appears to be owned by a consumer.

I saw one months ago parked outside Autodie that was owned by a company from the east side of the state, something related to the car business. I have driven Volts myself, but they were demos.

This one had a regular license plate on it, just sitting at the light at Michigan Street and Fuller Avenue.

Volt on Michigan.jpg

Police Are Telling Us To Buckle Up For Thanksgiving

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Once again, the Michigan State Police are participating in a multi-state program to encourage use of seat belts over the Thanksgiving weekend, beginning Wednesday evening.

Called the Combined Accident Reduction Effort (CARE) initiative, police in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota will be "stepping up" enforcement of seat belt laws.

A release from MSP said that 10 people died in nine separate fatal crashes over the holiday weekend in 2010.

Of course, troopers will be watching for more than just unused seat belts. They'll be on watch for speeding and drunk driving.

Here is the MSP public service announcement posted last year:

Shock! VW #1?

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Read all about it!

Volkswagen is on the inside track to be the biggest car maker on the planet.



A Reaction To Proposed Mileage Standards Makes Me Wonder

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The Obama administration has proposed setting mileage standards for cars sold in the U.S. to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

I'm bracing myself for the screams from Detroit.

Meanwhile, Adam Lee, Chairman of Lee Auto Malls in Portland, Me., sent out this statement: 

"As a third-generation auto dealer, all I can say is--It's about time!

"In 2008, when gas prices skyrocketed to historic highs, I couldn't GIVE away some of the gas-guzzling vehicles on my lots. Federal fuel economy standards and California emissions standards will drive the production of more efficient vehicles so that my industry won't have to experience that same kind of gut punch again."

I'm surprised an experienced auto man like Mr. Lee says this sort of thing. Not the part supporting better mileage. The part about "my industry won't have to experience that same kind of gut punch again." 

Surely he knows that (a) the car makers were building the gas-guzzlers the public was buying (and they're building them again now that gas is well below $4 a gallon), and (b) the existence of high-mileage hybrids and the Chevy Volt prove that car makers can build high-mileage vehicles but are afraid to produce them in mass quantities to force change upon the consumer who obviously prefers big to fuel-efficient (consumer is king in a free market system).

That means it is almost inevitable that the auto business will take "that same kind of gut punch again" when (surprise!) gas rockets above $4 a gallon again.

Road Construction Season Winds Down

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Have you noticed?

There are fewer orange barrels on the highways.

I mean, really. Not just fewer lane closures. The barrels are along the shoulder are disappearing. 

Crews are spending their time these days loading the barrels back onto trucks and hauling them off to the undisclosed locations where they will hibernate until spring (the barrels, not the crews).

Our online road construction update is pretty bare.

Let Robb Drive The Volt: Day 4

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(Berger Chevrolet let me drive a Chevrolet Volt for a week, no obligations. I am posting here because, judging from the response of people who have seen me with the car, people are curious. Though this post is November 12, Day 4 was actually November 3.)

My first encounter with anything odd with the Volt (aside from its awesome quiet when running on battery power) came within moments of taking the car from the dealer. It was a noise I first thought might be a suspension problem, an unsettling scrape.

It turned out to be exactly that.

The car's air dam scraped the pavement.

It took me until Day 4 to figure it out, and only because I read the thin booklet in the glove compartment. The booklet pointed out one of the aerodynamic features of the Volt, an air dam that drops closer to the pavement than your ordinary car (pictured).

I assume GM designed the car that way do decrease drag, because an electric car needs to have as little resistance built into it as possible.

Every time I encountered a driveway, I scraped the air dam. I didn't inflict any damage, but I did adjust my driving to avoid scraping bottom. I didn't find it inconvenient, but I wondered if I should have been forewarned.


(Read a pre-recession article about GM's efforts to build a greener fleet, including an early reference to the Volt: here.)

FOX 17 small

FOX 17 Home

Let Robb Drive The Volt: Day 3

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(Berger Chevrolet let me drive a Chevrolet Volt for a week, no obligations. I am posting here because, judging from the response of people who have seen me with the car, people are curious. Though this post is November 8, Day 3 was actually November 2.)

Among the cool displays on the Chevy Volt is the Power Flow.

Instead of writing an explanation, I took a video:

FOX 17 small

FOX 17 Home

Let's Overstate The Case

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We in the news business are frequently accused of making too much of small things.

Sometimes, we're guilty.

News coverage of road traffic frequently goes a little overboard. An MLive article posted Monday is a case in point.

It begins by using stereotypes of troublesome traffic:

"A season of happy memories - all the traffic delays, the honked horns, the missed appointments! - is coming to a close, as most of the area's major road projects have wrapped up or are in their final stages."

The article goes on to competently, and without sensationalism, review road construction projects in 2011 and whether they are completed or not.

The implication is that the projects caused "traffic delays, the honked horns, the missed appointments!" From what I can tell, most delays and missed appointments were caused by crashes, not construction --  at least in the morning.

I watch speed data and MDOT cameras, and while some construction projects slow traffic somewhat -- the 36th Street bridge replacement consistently slowed traffic most mornings on northbound US-131 -- the majority of backups I was aware of were caused by crashes.

I'm just sayin'.

Let Robb Drive The Volt, Day 2

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Let Robb Drive The Volt, Day 2

The battery range on the Volt is 40 miles, so the car needed a charge after the first day of driving. (Hey, Brian Isch from Berger Chevrolet had to show me the ropes, then it was running errands and picking up a kid.)

But I couldn't get it completely charged overnight.

Here's why.

The Volt can be charged off your household current on a regular three-prong plug. But it takes seven to nine hours. If I had a charging station, it would shoot current at twice the rate, so the car would be charged in half the time. So, not having a charging station, I plugged it into an outlet in the garage.

The problem was that I got to bed late and I get up really early. The battery could not be fully charged in the time the Volt spent in the garage.

But, have no fear!

When I pushed the Power On button, the Volt's generator easily provided enough charge. I could have gone the entire day without plugging in, but I wanted to see how much charge I could get if I plugged in at work. So, the Volt was tethered to FOX 17 from 6 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The result: a range of 32 miles.

The car made it the entire day on that charge.

And I hit my head only twice.

My wife, by the way, likes this car very much. And she is a person who doesn't much care about cars; just get her where she wants to go comfortably and economically.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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