Edison’s gadget

Here’s one of Thomas Edison’s gadgets. I can’t remember what it does. Any Loyal Readers care to venture a guess? Part of both my Machinery and Workbench series.

Missed the train, drove the Honda. The repairs seem to be great! I can shift into third without grinding! And there’s no new grease on the interior! Amazing.

I listened to a podcast on diesel engines this afternoon. They were interviewing a guy from Bosch, one of the companies that manufactures a lot of diesel components. When they asked him whether it was still worth it to spend the extra money for a diesel vehicle, given the current outrageous price of diesel fuel and the premium prices they charge for the engines, he was vague and talked instead about how great diesel cars are for the earth. Not a good sign.

So I decided to figure it out for myself. I checked out which 2008 cars are available with diesel engines. Turns out there still aren’t too many, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee does have several engines available, including a diesel. They charge a reasonable $1655 for the diesel above their 4.7 liter non-hemi V8 (the diesel’s only available in an upmarket model, which has a standard V8). Their website says the diesel gets 17 MPG in the city, and Yahoo’s auto website told me the V8 version gets 14 city MPG. Assuming gas/diesel fuel remain at $4.50/$5.50 and that you drive 15,000 miles/year, the gas engine will end up costing you $24107 in fuel after 5 years, and the diesel will cost $25919 (including the initial cost of the engine), for a net loss of $1812. It never catches up – at 10 years the difference is $1970 in favor of the gas engine.

Maybe my numbers aren’t reasonable, though. After all, diesel engines are renowned for their great gas mileage, so maybe Jeep’s numbers are just too low. So I created a fictional car with an engine that costs $5000 extra (not out of line for luxury diesel sedans) but gets 22 miles per gallon. After 5 years, the diesel engine saves you $357, given the constraints documented above. At 10 years, the diesel’s advantage is $5714. At the two-year point, though, the diesel owner is $2857 in the hole.

Bottom line: the Jeep diesel is no deal, but if you can find a diesel car that gets substantially better mileage than its gasoline counterpart and you plan to keep the car for an unusually long time (substantially longer than five years), it’s definitely better to spend the extra money on the diesel. For the most part, though, the oil companies are taking all the money. As usual.

Of course, I didn’t look at the differences in resale values, which may or may not give the advantage to the diesel. It depends on the future relative price of fuels, the unpredictable relative reliability of the two engine types (although diesels do have a reputation for durability, 1980’s GM models notwithstanding), and lots of other variables. Feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?

Anyway. Thanks to my Loyal Readers for their insightful comments on the beer commercial controversy. The consensus seems to be that making the commercial was bad for Kirby’s career path. Tsk tsk, Kirb. And do as he says, Loyal Readers, not as he gets paid to pretend to do.

Today’s controversy: want some good advice? Keep your bathrooms clean, men. Why, you ask? Because ladies love clean bathrooms. Controversial question: which song is lamer?

Time to do something else. See you tomorrow.

Leave a Reply