Cars News and Reviews How to Save Water (and Work) When Washing Your Car- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

"Laziness", CelloDad is fond of saying, "is the mother of invention". CelloDad is one of the most inventive people I have ever met. I have learned many tricks from him over the years we have been together.

One effective way to get things done is to hold back the urge to do something, but instead to simply wait until the problem goes away. This approach works particularly well for dusty cars. Is your car covered in mud, or liberally dusted in tree pollen? Take heart: if you wait long enough, a good thunderstorm will eventually visit your parking spot, the heavens will open, and torrential rain will wash away all that dirt and dust, and leave your car sparkling.

I have applied this tactic many times, to great effect, and with satisfyingly little effort.

It saves you from releasing nasty chemicals, that might lurk in your car soap or waxing finish, into the environment. And it saves a lot of water. It also saves you a lot of work of the kind that requires you to take an extra shower: more water savings.

Photo Joost J. Bakker

But once in a while you can't wait for the saving rain. Perhaps you need your car for a big date, before the dry season is over. Perhaps you need to get the winter road salt off your wheels before they start to rust (because when you traded in the expensive and dent-prone supersized wheels, your car dealer got you back by delivering steel wheels not aluminium, together with the fat rebate check). Perhaps you finally get too irked by the dust stuck under the overhang that now mars the streamline of too many car posteriors: perfect for trapping dust, and for preventing the rain from washing it off.

In those unfortunate cases, you can't get around it: you have to actively do something to get the car clean. So let us go over the choices, in order of decreasing work on your part.

Option 1: Hand washing, at home

My dad had a neighbour who washed his car every weekend. Unless it was pouring rain, he would be out there with his sponges and his cloths and his various lotions and potions for the car. Since he lived on the 6th floor of an apartment building, and there was no water faucet at street level, he would come downstairs carrying two buckets: one with his soapy solution, and one with water. He would lather one part of his car, rinse it sparingly with a second sponge, rub it dry with a cloth, and move on to the next section. He probably used less than 5 gallons of water for the whole wash.

Those of us who don't live in apartment buildings find it easier to use a garden hose for rinsing the car: it's a lot less work. If you've done a good enough job on the lathering and the rinsing, you can air-dry the car without getting too many streaks, especially if you choose a cloudy day.

But it does take more water than two buckets: 30 gallons if you have a shut-off nozzle on your garden hose, and a whopping 100 gallons if you let the hose run during your carwashing routine. This is the reason that car wash bans are imposed during periods of drought: such a ban can really save a substantial amount of water.

Not only that, the soap, the wax carrier and the dirt coming off your car (which includes soot, particles from your brake pads, oily residues from here and there on the engine and other nasty chemicals from general road dirt) can wash off your driveway and into the storm drain on the street, from where it will go into streams and rivers, and eventually back to you in the form of your drinking water. (That's why they call it the water cycle: what goes around comes around). I am not making this up: pharmaceuticals and other synthetic chemicals that have made their way into the sewer system have been detected in city drinking water.

So if you must wash your car at home, put it on the lawn: there the run-off will be absorbed by the turf and filtered by the soil before reaching the aquifer below. You don't want your grass to drink all that dirt? well, why should the aquatic life? Hmm - Perhaps doing it at home is not the cleanest overall option. Besides, it requires the largest amount of work. Enter the car wash.

Option 2: Self-serve car wash

This is a row of bays fitted with various hoses with nozzles: a water spray for pre-soak, a lather of suds, a foam brush, a rinse and optionally a waxing step. They cost $2-5 per wash, mostly because it's you doing all the work, and all while moving at the pace dictated by the car wash program.

Italian self-serve car wash

But the whole thing uses about 15 gallons of water. This is because the rinse stage uses what's essentially a power washer which pushes the suds off the car rather than rinsing it gently. So you want to be careful about not getting it too close to the nice paint on your car. You also want to wear rain gear while doing this, especially in an enclosed bay. The demos invariably show well-dressed people who manage to preserve their hairdo while doing this, but I have never wielded a power washer without getting soaked.

Between that and the sweat your worked up darting around your car trying to cover it all before you run out of suds or water, you'll be ready for a shower after the car wash: so if you do an honest reckoning, the shower water needs to be added to the 15 gallons of the car wash itself.

Option 3: Full-serve car wash

These come in two types: one is in-bay, very much like the self-serve car wash except that you're paying someone else to do the work. The other is a conveyor-type car wash where your car gets pulled past the various stations, mostly automated except for a manual washing of the wheels and wheel wells before, and a cloth finish after the tunnel. The cost starts at around $10 for a basic wash, and can run a whole lot higher than that, depending on the options you want to tack on.

Photo by Sulfur

But even an in-bay wash can use 35 gallons of water, and the water use can go as high as 100 gallons: same as letting your garden hose run during a home car wash. However, the good news on this is that many car wash places recycle their water after filtering it. And the waste water goes into the sewer system where it is treated (before release into streams; you just hope that that treatment is good enough). Ask your local car wash if they recycle their water.

My conclusion: the full-serve car wash that recycles water does a really good job of getting your car clean, with rather minimal water use. Without any work on your part. Even a good thunderstorm can't beat that.

Of course, a thunderstorm is free.


Inspired by Change The World Wednesday. Shared at Small Footprint Friday and Simply Natural Saturdays



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Cars News and Reviews Review: 2013 Audi Q5- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

Audi, a relative latecomer to the SUV scene, launched the Q5 in 2008, in the depths of the financial crisis. Despite the unfortunate timing of the introduction, I regularly see Q5's on the road.

Here in the US, the Q5 is classified as a "compact SUV": poor naming. In Germany (and in France also) it is known simply as "SUV". In the Netherlands it is called a "Mid-size SUV". The Dutch logic is impeccable: after all, the Q5 is the middle of Audi's SUV range, between the Q3 and the Q7. The German splash page for the Q3 is obviously directed to younger drivers: "Developed from new demands", while the splash for the seven-seat Q7 is more sedate; "From the inventor of the quattro".

From the splash pages for the Q5, I get this uncomfortable feeling that this car is directed at women in my age group (who can afford it, that is). The US opening page talks about a "Sports sedan with a backpack". I wonder what that's supposed to mean (it doesn't look hunchbacked to me): Upscale soccer mom? -- Of course: upscale cello mom.

Slogans from the German Q5 splash page: "Discover the state of the art in driver assistance systems"; then the carbon emissions per kilometer and "Never again alone on the road". What this means, beside cruise control and adaptive headlights, is features like active lane assist (keeps you inside your lane) and side assist (warns you of cars approaching at high speed on the next lane - could be handy on the German Autobahn); also park assist (rearview camera coupled to a digital parking assistant). Add tea-making capability and perhaps a nice massage at the end of the trip, right in the comfort of the leather driver's seat, and you might be tempted to trade in your husband for this car.

Just kidding. I wouldn't trade CelloDad in for any car. Certainly not when it does at best 23 mpg, the way you can buy it in the US; that would be with the 2.0L TFSI engine. Quattro, of course. Automatic transmission, of course, or what Audi calls "tiptronic" transmission (auto with paddle shifters).

The hybrid version does a little better, 26 mpg according to the EPA, a disappointing gain over the gasoline engine. But the US price is $15,000 higher than that of the 2.0L TFSI. These, and the 3.0L TFSI are the only options available in the US: in the table below, I've marked in yellow the box Americans get stuck in. That's three of the guzzliest (and most expensive) Audi has to offer in the Q5. Even the Russians and the Chinese get more choice.

Germans can choose from ten options on the Q5. The diesel options are all more fuel-frugal than the hybrid. Every one of them. They are also less expensive - by up to € 18,750 (a little over $24,000) for the 2.0L TDI with 6-speed manual transmission..

Tell me: why should I buy a hybrid rated at 34 mpg (classed "B" for carbon emissions), if I can get a diesel that's rated 44 mpg (class "A"), puts out very respectable torque, and saves € 18,750 in the purchase? (NOTE: these fuel efficiency quotes are overestimates, as are all European MPG numbers; the 26 mpg US EPA rating for the hybrid is realistic).


Audi Q5, availability in selected countries

Engine Fuel Efficiency Germany RU CN US
2.0 TDI

6-spd Man

150PS, 320Nm
"A" 5.3L/100km (44mpg),

139 g/km
€ 35,500      
2.0 TDI quattro

6-spd Man

150PS, 320Nm
"B" 5.9L/100km (40mpg),

154 g/km
€ 37,850      
2.0 TDI quattro

6-spd Man

177PS, 380Nm
"B" 5.9L/100km (40mpg),

154 g/km
€ 42,200      
2.0 TDI quattro


177PS, 380Nm
"B" 6.1L/100km (39mpg),

159 g/km
€ 42,400 X    
3.0 TDI quattro


245PS, 580Nm
"B" 6.4L/100km (37mpg),

169 g/km
€ 49,850 X    
2.0 TFSI quattro

6-spd Man

180PS, 320Nm
"C" 7.5L/100km (31mpg),

174 g/km
€ 37,900 X X  
2.0 TFSI quattro

6-spd Man

225PS, 350Nm
"C" 7.5L/100km (31mpg),

174 g/km
€ 42,200 X X  
2.0 TFSI quattro


225PS, 350Nm
"D" 7.9L/100km (30mpg), 184 g/km

23 mpg EPA
€ 44,450 X X X
3.0 TFSI quattro


200PS, 400Nm
"D" 8.5L/100km (28mpg),199 g/km

21 mpg EPA
€ 48,750 X X X
2.0 FSI

211PS, 350Nm
"B" 6.9L/100km (34mpg), 159 g/km

26 mpg EPA
€ 54,250 X X X


Since we seem to be more sensitive to trim names than to carbon emissions, let us look at the naming of this SUV. In the US, the usual name inflation: "Premium", "Premium Plus" or "Prestige" - the hybrid only comes in "Prestige" trim; but the Q5 is much too large to be called an "ecotrinket" like the Smart EV.

There are no trim specs in Germany: you buy the Q5 with the engine you want, and a few features come standard with that; for the rest, you get to specify what you want in the car, down to the lighbulbs in the headlights and the accents on the console (brushed aluminium / oak / ash / walnut...) - see the price list. This is choice. Basically, the assembly instructions have your name on it (well, a number that is associated with your individual order).

Note how the Chinese website suggests that in a Q5 you can leave the traffic congestion far behind: every urban Chinese person's dream! I had the most fun with the Chinese trim names - not that I read Chinese, but you feed what's on the price list page to Google's translator, and you're set. To start with, the Q5 35 (2.0L TFSI) comes in "Standard" (???) trim, presumably because of the standard transmission.

The Q5 35 (2.0L TFSI quattro) is available in "Aggressive", "Technology-based", "Charming", "Dynamic" and "Luxury". I take that to be in order of advancing age group. I don't have the Chinese wherewithal to figure out what exactly is in that "Aggressive" (???), and why it should be so attractive.

The Q5 45 (3.0L TFSI quattro) comes in either "Athletic" or "Off-Road". That last bit is telling: it says the Chinese understand very well that this SUV is a status symbol, not a workhorse off-road vehicle: you wouldn't name a Jeep or a Ram truck "Off-road".

Note that even for the 2.0L TDI, the top speed is 119 mph. So for the US market,the 2.0 TDI still has too much power, and the Q5 could easily be outfitted with the 1.6L TDI in Audi's arsenal and still allow the collection of lots of speeding tickets on highways where the speed limit is 65 - 70 mph.


Audi Q5 Hybrid / 2.0L TDI diesel

Q5 hybrid quattro Q5 2.0 TDI
Type Prestige (in US)  
Year 2013 2013
Emissions rating EURO5 "B" EURO5 "A"
MSRP € 54,250 € 35,500
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 24 / 30 mpg 6.0 / 4.9 L/100km
Avg. quoted 26 mpg (EPA) 5.3 L/100km (44mpg)
Avg. actual 26 mpg 33 mpg est.
Carbon emissions, quoted 159 g/km 139 g/km
Engine 2.0L TFSI +

3-phase AC motor
2.0L TDI
Power 245HP combined 148HP
Torque 354 lb-ft combined 320 Nm (236 lb-ft)
Transmission Auto 6-spd Manual
Fuel Premium unleaded ULSD Diesel
Length, mm(in) 182.6 in 4639 mm
Width, mm(in) 82.2 in 2089 mm
Height, mm(in) 65.0 in 1652 mm
Weight, kg(lbs) 4431 lbs (2010 kg) 1755 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 29.1 / 57.3 cuft 540 L
Turning radius, m(ft) 38.1 ft 11.6 m
Top speed, kph(mph) 130 mph 192 kph (119 mph)



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Cars News and Reviews This is What I Call a Parking Garage- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

Here is a bicycles-only parking garage.

(And why should it not be wider than a hotel? It's full as it is.)

The sign says, "Amsterdam Loves Bikes". From the looks of it, bikes love Amsterdam, too. This is the parking garage at the central railway station with its connections to trains, buses and water transport. Bicycle parking fee: � 1.20 ($1.50) per day. Pretty steep, but hey, this is Amsterdam.

There are a few handicap-access car parking spots close to the Ibis hotel. And the general parking garage for cars is on the other side of the water from the station; rates are �55 ($70) per day. The word "punitive" comes to mind.



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Cars News and Reviews We Need a Change in Climate News- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

The past two weeks has seen climate change in the news, or rather, a tiny bit more than the usually pathetic coverage it gets from mainstream news outlets, considering we're talking about the future of our species.

The first noteworthy piece of climate news is that the world has reached a new and ominous milestone: the concentration of carbon dioxide has reached 400 ppm. Lisa Welp and Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institute write about this in the way scientists write: with an even, almost detached tone.

Contrast that to the tenor in a piece which appeared in the Rolling Stone last summer, written by Bill McKibben who spells out the simple math: in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees C, we must keep total carbon dioxide emissions below 565 gigatons. That's our total carbon budget going forward. Burning all the known fossil fuels still in the ground would release five times that, or 2,795 gigatons. Even the scientists say that the consequences would be "unimaginable".


The second bit of news is that Skeptical Science did a survey of more than 12,000 peer-reviewed papers on climate change that contain a statement on whether or not global warming is caused by humans. They find that among those papers, 97% state that we humans are responsible.

That might make you think of Galileo, who got excommunicated for 400 years - he was eventually re-instated posthumously - for being the lone dissenter to say that the earth goes around the sun. But a piece in Scientific American points out that Galileo had the evidence on his side. In his case, Occam's razor was very sharp indeed. In contrast, in the case of climate change, the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of the 97%.

So it is surprising - some might say unconscionable - that mainstream TV news (ABC, NBC, CBS) has been woefully silent on what is arguably the largest problem of our times. The Guardian is one of those few news outlets that consistently cover climate change news, including issues affecting the United States. Inside the US, the Huffington Post offers decent coverage, but it's not exactly mainstream and ubiquitous like USA Today or CNN.

If you are interested in getting a glimpse of the science of climate change and what the controversy is about, I highly recommend "Earth: the climate wars", a BBC documentary hosted by Iain Stewart, a geologist and a professor at the University of Southampton, with a knack for explaining the sometimes intricate science in a clear and engaging way.

Episode 1 covers the scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and contains (around minute 22) the best visual demonstration I have ever seen of how well CO2 traps heat. Episode 2 discusses the controversy around climate change, neatly punching holes through some familiar arguments disseminated by climate deniers. Episode 3 talks about how to build the future we need.


Earth The Climate Wars - Episode 1 of 3.


I've said it before: it's not the planet we need to "save"; the planet has seen drastic climate change many times before, and it's been fine. Mass species extinctions have occurred before, and new species have emerged in their wake. But we, homo sapiens, have never had to cope with global temperatures more than one degree C away from the mean, for the duration of human civilization. The next species extinction event is likely to include us.

Some statements made by climate scientists are measured and factual. Some are more emotional. All, if you read between the lines, are pervaded with a deep sense of dread. These scientists, the ones who know the real scoop, are scared.

So it's time for the media to overcome their own fears and put this issue squarely on the national and global table for discussion. It's time for all of us to get our courage up and face the facts. After all, doing that sort of thing is exactly what makes us who we are: sapiens.


Shared at Simply Natural Saturdays



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Cars News and Reviews Review: is smart a smart choice?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

Small is beautiful, but pehaps small is not always smart: Smart is certainly small, but is Smart actually also smart?

In case all this makes your brain itch: we're talking about the Smart citycar, or, as their website would have it, the "smart uncar" (note the uncapitalised name). At 106.1 inches (2695mm) length it's shorter by a third than the diminuitive Ford Ka. The Smart ForTwo is basically a sedan cut in half - giving a whole different slant on the word "coupé". (The Smart ForFour was longer, but is no longer in production).

It's hard to get a handle on the Smart: it's half a car, but with all four wheels. But it's still significantly larger than half a car: its 8ft 10in length would fit sideways (just) in an oversized parking spot at a mega-mall, but in most cities you still need a full parking space for it. The only places where it would have an advantage are very cramped cities like ancient Asian and European towns that were built for pedestrians.

Another baffling feature is its "Automated Manual" transmission, which lacks the fun and satisfaction of manual transmission, without offering the ease of auto transmission. One of those oxymorons, sort of like a constitutional monarchy, which has a king or queen as well as a fully functional democratically elected parliament.

The price is also quite a bit more than half the price of a sedan that can carry five people. But what I find most disappointing in this "uncar" is the fuel efficiency: the 36 mpg delivered by the 70 HP gasoline engine (see table below) earns only a "C" on Europe's fuel efficiency label.

To put this in perspective: a Honda Fit will carry five people (plus a cello) for just about the same fuel economy (35 mpg), and the 2013 Fit starts at $15,425, or only $1,095 more than the Smart. So, is it smart to buy a Smart?


Smart Coupé, gasoline and electric

Smart Smart
Type Pure Coupe Electric Drive Coupe
Year 2013 2013
Emissions rating BIN5 / ULEV  
MSRP $ 14,330 $ 25,000
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 34 / 38 mpg 122 / 93 MPGe
Avg. quoted 36 mpg

107 MPGe

Range 70 mi
Avg. actual 44 mpg  
Carbon emissions, quoted    
Engine 1.0L, 3-cyl, 12-vlv  
Power 70 HP @ 5800 rpm 74 HP (55kW)
Torque 68 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm 96 lb-ft
Transmission Smartshift 5-spd

"Automated Manual"

(rear wheel)
Fuel Premium Unleaded 120V / 240V
Length, mm(in) 106.1 in  
Width, mm(in) 61.4 in  
Height, mm(in) 60.7 in  
Weight, kg(lbs) 1080 lbs 1984 lbs
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 12 cuft (to roof)  
Turning radius, m(ft) 28.7 c-c  
Top speed, kph(mph)   78 mph


Certainly, its looks are very smart. It's highly customizable inside and out, even for the "pure" and "passion" trims available in the US (again, note the lower-case designations). On the "BRABUS Xclusive" trim (see the German website) you can probably specify everything down to the colour of the stitching on the leather upholstery, and you get a surfeit of capital letters in the trim name. Of course, the price is also nearly twice that of the basic "pure" trim.

Recently introduced to the US is the Smart the way it was originally intended to be: the coupe with Electric Drive, whose price tag exceeds that of the basic coupe by $10,670. Perhaps it is appropriate that the Electric Drive version has been called an "eco-trinket": small and expensive, its electrical efficiency is comparable to that of a Nissan Leaf.

But it will still only carry two. Even though the two can be as tall as Kobe Bryant, who features in a series of Asian commercials for Smart, e.g. the "Big, in the city" Chinese ad. And much has been made of the luggage capacity of the Smart coupé, with people demonstrating the packing of a Smart for a camping trip, or the transport of fairly large objects (resting on the open rear flap). It's not how I would move a cello.

Photo Hans Linnet

So what do you do with a vehicle that can carry two and not much else, and that you would hesitate to take out on the interstate where a truck driver might mistake it for a brightly coloured pebble skipping over the asphalt? Why, you can take it out of its comfort zone and pump it up so it can pretend to be a monster truck. This is not an eco-trinket.

(Thanks to the "These DAMN Gas Prices Are Killing Me" page for the image and the link).

Personally, I would call that unsmart.

But now the folks at Daimler-Benz have come up with a really smart idea: They started messing with the pedals. That's right, the pedals: while the gasoline ForTwo has a boring gas pedal, the electric ForTwo, which doesn't have gas to pedal, is said to have a "fun pedal". Since more is better, they have now introduced a version of the smart that has two pedals. Electric, of course. Now that's what I call an "uncar". And it's smart.

(Click on the image to go to the German smart splash page).



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Cars News and Reviews CelloMom Voted one of Top 25 Eco-Friendly Mom Blogs- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Friday

I'm excited to share that CelloMom on Cars has been voted one of the Top 25 Eco-Friendly Mom blogs! Thank you so much for your support and your vote(s): CelloMom came in tied at 25th place, so your every vote made it possible!

I am in Circle of Moms Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms - 2013!

The list, compiled by Circle of Moms, has many great blogs by moms who write about their journeys to a more healthy and sustainable life. These blogs have lots of tips and advice, and lots of humour; some bloggers host giveaways. In short, it's well worth browsing through the list.

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