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Comment Re:Electric delivery trucks have a great future (Score 1) 223

I think range is still a limit for most. I live in the Washington, DC metro area. WMATA (the regional transit provider) runs mostly hybrid diesel and CNG buses. They have found that while CNG is cheaper on a per mile basis just concerning fuel cost, most of the CNG buses can't handle a double shift on one fill of CNG so they end up having a lower percent utilization than a diesel since they have to head back to the garage for a long refill after each driver's shift. Their CNG buses typically fill overnight as they take several hours to fill. A diesel takes minutes to fill, so even with the same range per fill, a diesel can run nearly continuously. Not all the WMATA garages support CNG and plans to build CNG infrastructure at more of their garages have gone slower than originally planned and my understanding is the primary reason is the operational constraints of CNG fueling.

Electric vehicles currently have the same kind of limitations as CNG. Without expensive infrastructure for doing things like en route charging, a bus needs to be able to comfortably run two shifts back to back before a transit authority can use them on a wide scale - probably roughly a 300 mile city range. The charging infrastructure even in a garage is expensive. Swapping enough batteries for a 300 mile bus range is also labor intensive. I agree that electric makes sense here, but the infrastructure just isn't there yet.

Van based trucks (think UPS) are light enough that they're not that hard to electrify from today's standards. However a medium duty truck like a box truck gets roughly the same kind of fuel economy as a transit bus and so the amount of energy you have to carry to make them work well today is still expensive and hard to do.

Comment Re:I love beating the dealers to pieces (Score 1) 439

And many people beat the crap out of rental cars. I've rented cars numerous times that I start up and they say "Next oil change due: Immediately", which I then proceed to drive for a week and put 3000 miles on it. I've never had a rental car break down on me, but the evidence has generally been that they're not well maintained and they get away with it because the cars are relatively new. Many people also drive rental cars like they're stolen. Buying one seems like a bad deal to me.

Comment Re:It works differently in (most of) EU (Score 2) 439

You can custom order a car in the US. I've done it, and based on my experience, will do it again next time I want a new car. I got exactly the options I wanted without getting stuck paying for stuff I don't want or would never use. In my case, I ordered before the production began, so I waited 3 months for my car, but for most models already in production, the turnaround is usually 4-6 weeks.

Granted, you can get some good deals on cars that are just sitting and therefore have been marked down (you have more negotiating power there), but in my case, getting exactly what I wanted was more important - and I bought through Costco (still uses a dealership but the pricing is prenegotiated). Since I was buying a brand new model, the Costco pricing killed whatever I could have negotiated on my own, but YMMV on models that have been out for a while.

Comment Re:Shit. (Score 4, Interesting) 411

It's probably how VW got a Euro spec engine to meet US regulations. Euro specs measure pollution per distance - the way to win is to burn fuel really efficiently. US specs measure pollution per unit of fuel consumption - the way to win is to burn fuel really cleanly. That difference is a big reason why they have much more fuel efficient vehicles in Europe. It's much easier to get a larger engine to burn cleaner. Most manufacturers that sell the same engine in both continents use different tunings in each, where the EU one gets better fuel economy and the US one burns cleaner.

Manufacturers have been trying to bring the incredible economy that small diesels in Europe get to the US for years but it turns out making a diesel that is significantly more efficient than a comparable gas engine and also meets EPA regulations is really hard. For example, Mazda has been promising Skyactiv-D (diesel) engines in the US for years now, but they keep getting delayed because they're not satisfied with their performance.

Comment Re:MOOCs: my worst education experiences ever. (Score 3, Interesting) 46

I don't have experience with Corsera courses, but I am currently an OMSCS student at Georgia Tech (http://www.omscs.gatech.edu/). So far, the lessons (YouTube videos through Udacity) have been well done. However, the course discussions on the forums (Piazza) in some cases have been more valuable than the courses themselves. In particular, we've had a great thread going on about real world agile vs. non-agile development models as we've seen them in the professional world.

The difference may be that while not all students are US based, all students have to apply for admission to the program, with minimum credentials being a BS degree (generally in a STEM field) with a 3.0 and TOEFL scores for non-native speakers. Students are expecting rigorous courses and are generally graded at least a little bit on forum participation, so students have incentives to participate and the faculty and other students don't put up with "give me the answers" type posts (those would be an honor code violation and could easily get you kicked out). Maybe having to be admitted to a real school makes all the difference?

Comment Re:Police unions will kill it (Score 3, Insightful) 151

I have worked with automated vehicle locator data throughout the US as a source of data integrated into my company's products. Getting a fire department's AVL data is easy. Never had any objections if they have the hardware installed. Getting police AVL data is next to impossible in most places thanks to the union agreements. I am unaware of a single US police department that has AVL on by default for their vehicles. Those that have AVL systems installed have it configured so the officer can turn it on and off, usually at the flip of a switch on the dashboard.

It's such an issue with the unions that we've had trouble with getting some departments to have AVL enabled in the police cruisers leading and following a parade just for the duration of the parade. It makes the command center's job much easier if they know the exact extents of where the parade is in real time, but you can figure out the information in other ways so it would seem like something that wouldn't get a lot of push back. I can't even imagine trying to get an always on system installed in a department, regardless of who you pitch it to.
Technology (Apple)

Submission + - Nokia's iPhone

traveller604 writes: "Nokia announced 4 the new phones (N95 8GB, N81, 5610, 5310) earlier today at the Nokia GoPlay event in London. However by far the most interesting and controversial thing that was shown at the event was the Nokia's iPhone lookalike demo video. When pressed during the Q&A about the striking similarity to the little Cupertino device, Anssi Vanajoki — Nokia's Executive VP & General Manager of Multimedia — said, "If there is something good in the world then we copy with pride." Apple fanboys, before you start crying out your anger watch this."
Power

Submission + - Ice Block Air Conditioning (yahoo.com)

JumperCable writes: The AP has an interesting article on the use of ice blocks as air conditioning in New York high rises. The concept is pretty basic. Overnight during off peak energy pricing hours & during the coolest part of the 24 hour day, the system freezes water in storage tanks into giant blocks of ice. These storage tanks are located in the basement (coolest location). They are frozen with ethylene glycol.

Given that most of the brown outs occur during the summer months due to high electric demand for air conditioning, I wonder how much of an effect this system would have in reducing brownouts if it's use was more wide spread. The article mentions it is only cost efficient for large companies. But how much of this is profit padding? Couldn't a smaller system be worked out for home use? CALMAC is one of the producers of these systems.

Media (Apple)

Submission + - iPhone gets a better battery life and more

morpheus83 writes: Talk about last minute upgrades: In a press release today, Apple has revealed a number of significant upgrades to both the iPhone's battery life and touch screen. Instead of around 5 hours of video/talk and 16 hours of audio playback, Apple has updated the iPhone's battery life rating to the following numbers: up to 8 hours talk time, a whopping 250 hours of standby (over 10 days), 6 hours of internet use, 7 hours of video playback and 24 hours of audio playback. The original 3.5" plastic surface of the iPhone has been changed to "optical-quality" glass, which should bring some smiles to those who were concerned about the durability of the phone's primary feature and user interface.
Businesses

Submission + - Best Places to Work in IT (computerworld.com)

jcatcw writes: "Computerworld's annual summary of the best places to work in IT lists companies that excel in five areas of employment: career development, retention, benefits, diversity, and training. According to the scorecard, the top 5 retention methods are: competitive benefits; competitive salaries; work/life balance; flexible work hours; and tuition reimbursement. Sixty-four percent of these companies expect the number of U.S.-based IT staffers to increase in 2007, on average by 7%. The whole list contains the top 100. The top three are: No. 1: Quicken Loans; No. 2: University of Miami; No. 3: Sharp HealthCare. "

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