6 Easy Tips for Maintaining Your Car in Top Shape

Keeping your car humming happily is simple and will save you time and money.

We’re so used to cellphones, TVs, computers, and home appliances that need no regular checks or maintenance, that last until they don’t and then get trashed and replaced, that it’s tempting to think of our vehicles as equally attention-free and reliable. And we’re just so busy every day.

But modern vehicles aren’t electronics. Rather, they’re incredibly complex machines—mechanical devices made of thousands of parts, many of which move up, down, or around. And of course, they roll on inflatable rubber tires. Some of these components need occasional attention to keep them operating properly, and others eventually require replacement.

There are many reasons to take care of your daily wheels. Regular maintenance is quick, easy, and cheap, while major repairs are expensive. It’s also comforting to know that your car, SUV, or truck is in good shape regardless of its age or mileage, with no need to worry about delays or breakdowns on long trips or your commute. Well-maintained vehicles last longer and hold more of their resale and trade-in value than neglected ones. In other words, take care of your car and it will take care of you.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a car enthusiast or even marginally mechanically inclined to keep your car in top shape. And it takes hardly any time. Here’s a list of six easy things to check that have the potential to prevent costly problems and keep your vehicle humming happily for many years. We’ve provided illustrations to help you find the components under the hood that need to be examined. But it’s always a good idea to read your owner’s manual to locate these items on your particular vehicle and to know the manufacturer’s service recommendations for them.

We suggest you start by inspecting everything on this list the first time through to make sure your car is ready to go. Beyond that, it’s all about periodic checks and maintenance—such as oil changes—as dictated by the owner’s manual and common sense.

How’s the Oil Level?

Oil is the lifeblood of your engine. Oil lubricates all the moving parts in your car’s engine, so you never want to let it run low. Almost all of today’s cars have engines that are so well built and thoroughly sealed that they won’t use any significant amount of oil between the recommended oil and filter changes. But you won’t know for sure if your car is an exception to the rule unless you check. Or maybe you drive an older car that does use some oil. Here’s how to check your oil:

  • Make sure the engine is off. Open the hood. The release is usually found under the driver’s-side dash; the safety catch is under the lip of the hood.
  • Find the (usually well-labeled) engine-oil dipstick, and pull it out. (It’s often yellow, for easy spotting.) Wipe the end with a clean cloth, replace the dipstick fully back into its sheath, and pull it out again.
  • Now look at the tip; the markings indicate a range from full to one-quart low. You will see a light coating of oil on the end of the dipstick. If it’s between the minimum and maximum lines, you’re good. If it’s at or below minimum, add a quart of your vehicle’s recommended oil. (You’ll find that listed in the owner’s manual.)
  • You add oil by twisting off the cap marked with the oil-can symbol (which often also has the word “oil” on it) that sits in plain view atop the engine and pouring in a quart of oil.
  • Be sure to wipe any drips off the engine; oil can smoke when it gets hot.

Your engine doesn’t just need enough oil, it needs clean oil. So be sure to get the oil and oil filter changed at the mileage intervals recommended in the owner’s manual.

Make Sure You Have Windshield-Washer Fluid

It’s never fun to run out of washer fluid, but it’s particularly bad in winter, when road muck and salt mess up the windshield and play havoc with visibility. How often you check the windshield-washer reservoir depends on the season and the weather. Here’s how to check it:

  • The windshield-washer reservoir is located under the hood.
  • Washer tanks are often made of translucent plastic, allowing you to check the level visually. But many are also tucked out of sight, so there’s no way to tell how full they are—except when you fill them to the brim.
  • Pop the reservoir cap. It’s marked with the icon of windshield-wiper spray. Fill the reservoir with washer fluid.
  • Do not use pure water; freezing temperatures will cause the water in the reservoir to turn to ice, rendering your wipers useless. Commercial washer fluid has alcohol in it that keeps it from turning solid in all but Alaskan-winter temperatures.

Check the Tires’ Air Pressure

Newer cars have a tire-pressure warning light to let you know that your tires are low on air, but older cars do not. In any case, it’s best to purchase a tire-pressure gauge at an auto-parts store for a few dollars and check your tire pressures to make sure they’re set correctly. Here’s what you need to know:

  • A sticker on the driver’s door pillar lists the proper inflation pressure for when the tires are cold (meaning that you haven’t yet driven on them that day).
  • If you set the pressures after you’ve been driving for a while (more than a few miles), they should be raised by three pounds per square inch, as tires warm up and pressures rise when they are driven on.
  • Check your tire pressures once a month for a couple of months. If the pressures remain steady, you can check them quarterly, as you know the tires are holding air.

Is the Radiator Full?

The radiator contains coolant that keeps your engine’s temperature under control, and it can be checked visually. Here’s how:

  • Find the coolant reservoir under the hood. It’s made of translucent plastic, marked with “min” and “max” lines, and is, in all likelihood, holding a green fluid.
  • When the engine is cool, the coolant level should reside between the lines.
  • If it’s low, buy some antifreeze and top it off.
  • Never attempt to refill the cooling system through the radiator cap! If the engine is warm, loosening the radiator cap—the black cap located atop the radiator as shown in the illustration above—can cause it to spit back scalding water. Always refill through the reservoir, which is not under pressure.
  • If the coolant is low during your initial check, recheck it monthly. If it keeps disappearing, you have a problem and need to bring the car to a dealer or repair shop.
  • If the coolant level remains in the zone, you’re good to go for a long time. Coolant lasts for years, but not indefinitely. Replacing it is a job for a repair facility. Check your owner’s manual to see how often the manufacturer suggests it be replaced.

Brake-Fluid Check

When you push on the brake pedal, you are pumping brake fluid through the system to the brakes. For most cars, the brake-fluid reservoir is translucent plastic, so you can see if it’s full. And like most other systems, today’s brake systems are well sealed and almost never leak. Almost. Here’s how to check the brake-fluid level:

  • If the brake reservoir is full when you check it, your brake system has integrity.
  • If fluid is low, purchase brake fluid and refill the reservoir.
  • Check it weekly. If the fluid level continues to go down, however slowly, take the car to a repair facility. You have a problem that can make driving dangerous.
  • Like coolant, brake fluid has a working life and must be replaced at regular, long-term intervals. Consult your owner’s manual to see at what mileage point it should be replaced. That should be done by a shop.

The other brake items that wear out are the brake pads. Pads can last for 20,000 miles or more—sometimes much more—depending on your car and driving conditions. But this isn’t something that can be easily checked at home. When a car is under warranty, an inspection of the brake pads is usually part of the routine scheduled maintenance.

If you drive an older car, you’ll need a shop (or a mechanically inclined friend who knows brakes) to establish how much meat there is on the pads. It’s valuable to know the remaining pad life because you want to anticipate when you’ll need to replace them. If you wait too long, the pad linings can wear through to the metal backing plates and do big damage to the car’s brake rotors. So get a handle on remaining brake-pad life.

Need Tires?

Tires are the all-important connection between your car and the road. You don’t want to let them wear until they’re bald. At that point, they act like water skis when the road gets wet and ride on the film of water, making it much easier to lose control. Tread should be visible across the tire. Better still, use a penny to check if the depth of the tread is adequate. Here’s how:

  • Insert the edge of the penny into the tread, making sure Lincoln’s head is upside down (the top of the president’s head should be touching the tread), with the head facing so you can see it.
  • If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread grooves are too shallow (about 2/32 of an inch or less) to drive in wet weather; those grooves channel rainwater away and keep the tire in contact with the road. Replace your tires!
  • If you’re unsure about whether the tires are due for replacement, see a tire dealer. It’s also a good idea to rotate your tires front to rear annually to even out the wear. And if you live in the cold-weather states, it’s smart to invest in a set of winter tires.

That’s the easy stuff, and if all you do is occasionally check these six areas, you’ll be fine a long way down the road—literally and figuratively. Leave the rest to the experts.

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The Jeep Wayout Concept Sleeps Two and Takes Overlanding to a New Level

Who needs a home when you can have a Gladiator with a tent on the roof?

  • This modified Jeep Gladiator concept, called the Wayout, is an overlanding vehicle taken to the extreme, with a rooftop tent and off-road accessories.
  • Don’t expect Jeep to mass-produce anything like this, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see third-party outfitters create similar vehicles out of the new Gladiator pickup.
  • This is one of six concepts specially made for Jeep’s annual Easter Safari in Moab, Utah.

Screw living in a van down by the river: we want to live in this Jeep, down by the Grand Canyon or some other exotic, outdoorsy locale. “Overlanding” is defined as an adventurous way of traveling to remote locations, and this modified Jeep Gladiator, appropriately called the Wayout concept, seems to be an ideal vehicle for it. It’ll be part of Jeep’s convoy for this year’s Easter Safari off-roading excursion in Moab, Utah, and we’re confident that the group will get some good use out of it.

The Wayout is essentially a Gladiator pickup with some key off-road upgrades and an intense roof rack that supports a built-in two-person tent and canopy. The pop-top tent rests on a special rack atop the bed, with a ladder that allows for easier access. For those who plan to go, er, way out, there are two extra fuel tanks in the bedsides, an onboard air-supply line, and drawers in the bed, plus a custom roof rack over the cab for extra storage. As is typical for extreme off-roaders, a winch and a snorkel are on hand for when the going gets tough.

A two-inch lift kit from Jeep Performance Parts, 17-inch steel wheels, and 37-inch mud tires team with Gator Green paint—available on the production Gladiator—to complete the exterior look. Inside, the seats are brown leather and feature stitched topographical maps. On a more functional note, there’s also extra LED lighting that Jeep says is to facilitate setting up camp at night.

The Wayout doesn’t feature any powertrain changes, using the same 3.6-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission as the production Gladiator.

Top Four Trends in Commercial Van Upfitting and How to Capitalize on Them

If you’re a commercial van upfitter, you’ve likely seen a growing number of customers who’ve traditionally selected a pickup or service body truck for a mobile service application, who are now taking a second look at using a van for that job.

That’s because not long ago, in 2008, there were few commercial van options available in the North American market — three full-size vans (Ford E-Series, Mercedes Sprinter, and Chevrolet Express/ GMC Savana) and one compact van (Chevrolet Uplander cargo). Today, that number has more than doubled to 10 van models, offering a much wider range of roof heights, wheelbases, payload capacities, and engines for fleet managers to choose from.

“We’ve definitely noticed an uptick of some customers switching from pickup trucks to vans because there is more choice now, especially with the new small vans and euro-style full-size vans that have entered the market the past few years,” said Jay Cowie, product manager at Ranger Design, a commercial van upfit manufacturer based in Ontario, New York.

With the influx of new van models, how can you seize this opportunity to sell more commercial van products and services? Tailor your offerings to capitalize on these four trends in commercial van upfits.

Trend #1: Rightsizing the Van to the Job

“Fleets are taking a more strategic approach to their business, focused on selecting the right-size van because now there’s more choice,” said Cowie. “Customers aren’t stuck with a one-size-fits-all van, which may be inefficient for certain applications. With greater choice, they can more effectively tailor vehicle selection to increase efficiencies and lower operational costs.”

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Expand upfit offerings to fit each available van model
  • Offer modular or adjustable cargo management systems so that technicians can personalize (or right-size) the upfit to their unique needs and workflows in the field.
  • Reimagine how the increased cargo area inside high-roof vans can be optimized — to create new upfit designs that boost worker efficiency and productivity.

Trend #2: Taking Weight Out of Upfits

“Because some of the new vans are bigger and taller with more cargo area, you can fit a lot more gear in it,” said Cowie. “And the more stuff in the van, comes more weight, which increases the risk of overloading the van. So, we’re seeing a shift toward using lighter-weight materials in upfits to increase legal payload capacity.”

Cowie said that Ranger Designs incorporates aluminum and composite materials to reduce overall upfit weight, depending on what mix of materials is best for the customer’s functionality, durability and budget requirements.

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Offer lighter-weight upfit options where the customer’s application allows.
  • Help customers assess the cost-benefit of “lightweighting” in terms of productivity gains from increased payload capacity or the potential to “downsize” the vehicle and reduce acquisition costs.

Trend #3: Higher Demand for Ergonomic Upfits

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) — typically caused by awkward movements, heavy lifting, and repetitive motion — account for 34 percent of all lost workdays, which can get very expensive for employers.

So, a growing number of fleet managers are looking to equip their vehicles with upfits that improve ergonomics to protect their technicians’ health — and their organization’s bottom line.

“[At Adrian Steel], we start by observing how the [technicians] do their work, so we can create a process flow of the types of equipment they need to access most often and what they need less often,” said Jeff Langley, fleet account executive at Adrian Steel, a manufacturer of commercial van accessories and truck equipment, headquartered in Adrian, Michigan. “We’ll then design an upfit system that positions those high-use items where they can be accessed quickly and easily, so workers can be more safe and productive when performing their job.”

Also, the upfit products themselves can be designed with ergonomics in mind. Take, for example, a bulkhead (between the cabin and cargo areas) that’s contoured to allow the driver seat to recline a few degrees further than a standard bulkhead, improving driver comfort and reducing risk of lower back fatigue. Another example is a drop-down ladder rack, which is especially helpful with the taller Euro-style vans because it enables workers to load and unload ladders from the side of the van, while standing safely at ground level, instead of having to strain and lift awkwardly to load a heavy ladder onto a standard roof rack.

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Educate customers on more ergonomic options to standard upfits, such as drop-down ladder racks, contoured bulkheads, grab handles, etc.
  • Study how the vehicle is intended to be used in the field to uncover new ideas for designing upfits that help improve workflow and ergonomics.

Trend #4: Increased Demand for Mobile Power

“We’re seeing a trend toward fleets wanting van interiors that offer a more productive mobile workplace, with increased demand for power ports to run laptops, charge mobile devices, and operate electric tools,” said Langley with Adrian Steel.

At VMAC, we’re seeing similar growth in demand for air power in vans – for fleets that traditionally use pickups or service body trucks to run high-powered air tools, such as impact guns for breaking off heavy-duty lug nuts in a mobile tire service application.

The challenge has been that conventional air compressor systems available for vans — electric drive and gas/diesel drive compressors — are either too underpowered or take up too much cargo space (and weight) to be useful for most mobile service applications. So, the VMAC engineering team has developed the UNDERHOOD 40 CFM air compressor (40 cfm/ 100-150 psi), designed specifically for the commercial van market, with a compact rotary screw compressor. This system is powered by the vehicle’s engine to generate sufficient air power for a wide range of heavy-duty air tools, while minimizing the system’s footprint and weight inside the van’s cargo area.

How can upfitters capitalize on this trend?

  • Expand your product offerings and expertise to account for your customers’ mobile power needs for commercial vans, in terms of electrification and air power.
  • Help customers strike the right balance between maximizing onboard power, while minimizing the system’s weight and impact on cargo capacity.

The Bottom Line

With today’s commercial van landscape, opportunities abound for upfitters that serve the mobile service market. So, as you evaluate your product portfolio, look for any gaps that, if you were to fill them, could open up exciting new revenue streams — and make your company more valuable to customers.

Issues caused by over-weight commercial vans

What’s wrong with extra weight on commercial vans?

Commercial van gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) and payloads can differ from vehicle to vehicle.  It is important to know what you’re working with when specifying or upfitting a specific commercial van.

GVWR should not to be confused with payload capacity.  GVWR includes the vehicle’s unloaded curb weight, passengers’ weight and cargo weight. Payload capacity is the difference between GVWR and vehicle weight.  For example: If a vehicle’s GVWR is listed at 10,000 lbs and the vehicle’s weight is 6,000 lbs (empty), then its payload capacity is 4,000 lbs.

According to AboutAutos.com, gross vehicle weight rating is the vehicle’s maximum safe weight that should not be exceeded.  Weight calculations include curb weight, additional equipment that’s been added, the weight of cargo and the weight of passengers.  A vehicle’s GVWR never changes.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), all commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 lbs are required to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner’s (ME) Certificate.  It is important to note that though most commercial vans have a GVWR of less than 10,000 lbs, the Ford Transit does have a GVWR of over 10,000 lbs.  If commercial vans are over-loaded, or at capacity in the case of Ford Transit, a ME Certificate may be required.

According to Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, fines for on-the-road weight violations range from $100 to $10,000 for first offence.  Fines double on subsequent violations within a year.  Fines and other punishments vary in severity from state-to-state, and can even include prison time.

According to Connecticut General Assembly, criminal charges may be brought against the owner or operator of an overweight vehicle if the weight of the vehicle is the proximate cause of a motor vehicle accident that results in death.

To recap the issues surrounding GVWR:

  • GVWR never changes.
  • Driver license requirements may be at risk.
  • Monetary fines may be imposed.
  • Business operations may be affected.
  • Prison time and criminal charges are not out of the question.

With these important issues in mind, it makes sense to reduce the weight of vehicles by incorporating the lightest components possible.

An example of how you can reduce vehicle weight on Service Vans is with the use of VMAC UNDERHOOD air compressors.  Traditional air compressors mounted in the cargo area can weigh as much as 375 lbs.  The VMAC UNDERHOOD 30 CFM rotary screw air compressor weighs only 85 lbs. VMAC reduces vehicle GVW by up to 290 lbs.

What Is A PTO Driven Air Compressor?

A PTO driven air compressor is an air compressor that’s driven by the power take-off (PTO) of a vehicle. These innovative air compressors are mounted under the deck of the vehicle, resulting in an elegant solution that’s out of sight and out of mind (until you need it!)

Advantages of PTO Driven Air Compressors

PTO air compressors have numerous advantages compared to traditional above-deck air compressors. The advantages of PTO driven air compressors for work trucks include:

  • Mounted under the deck to free up cargo space
  • Reduce truck GVW
  • Rotary screw air end
  • Provide 50-200 CFM of air
  • No separate engine to maintain
  • Fewer moving parts
  • Can be combined with hydraulic systems

PTO driven air compressors also tend to be fairly simple to install, which can save upfitters dozens of labour hours and reduce the purchase cost for operators or fleet managers. With so many advantages, it’s little surprise that PTO air compressors are becoming an industry favorite.

Vehicles Compatible With PTO Driven Air Compressors

PTO driven air compressors are somewhat sophisticated systems because they are designed to integrate with specific vehicles and applications. As a result, not all vehicles are compatible with a PTO system. Air compressor manufacturers have focused on two of the most common diesel work trucks:

  • Ford F-250 to F-750 Diesel
  • RAM 3500 to 5500 Diesel

PTO air compressors have also been built for industrial OEM applications, such as drilling rigs. These PTO air compressors are much larger machines that are typically skid-mounted and can provide over 1000 CFM.

Direct-Mounted vs. Remote (Shaft) Mounted

The PTOs used in the air compressor industry are typically side-mounted PTOs. Like the name implies, side-mounted PTOs are mounted directly onto the side of a transmission. An air end is then attached directly to the PTO or remotely, via a shaft.

Remote-Mounted/Drive Shaft Air Ends

Space around a transmission can be limited, which means it isn’t always possible to directly connect an air end to a PTO. When that’s the case, air ends (and other accessories) can be remote-mounted using a drive shaft. The shaft essentially acts as a connector, linking the PTO port to an air end that’s mounted elsewhere on the vehicle.

Disadvantages of Shaft Air Compressors

  • Rotating components are exposed
  • Increased fabrication costs passed onto buyer
  • May cause alignment issues
    • Excessive stress & wear on shaft
    • Premature shaft breakdown
  • Can be bulky and heavy

Direct-Mounted Air Ends

Direct-mounted PTO air compressors are a more innovative solution that was developed by VMAC and has become a popular compressed air solution. With this solution, the PTO and the air end are directly mounted to the transmission, eliminating the need for a shaft.

Direct-mounted air compressors have several advantages over shaft driven air compressors. Because direct-mounted systems have fewer moving parts, they tend to have a longer lifespan, produce less noise, and are more efficient.

Fully Engineered Systems vs. Installation Kits

PTO air compressor kits can be purchased in one of two setups:

  • Fully Engineered Kits
  • General Installation Kits

Fully engineered options are designed to work with specific vehicles and have detailed manuals on installation. They are designed by professional engineers who spend thousands of hours designing the ideal system for each individual vehicle. Upfitters are told exactly where each component should go, right down to the individual bolts.

By contrast, general installation kits are available for a variety of vehicles and provide more of an installation guideline than specific instructions. It’s up to the upfitter to take the guidelines and apply them to specific vehicles, determining each component’s exact positioning and what accessories are required. PTO air compressor kits rely on upfitters’ expertise and creativity, so it’s critical to work with a reputable and experienced PTO air compressor upfitter.

Engineered systems come in direct-mounted or remote-mounted options, while general installation kits are only available in remote-mounted options.

How To Find Fully Engineered PTO Air Compressors

Air compressor manufacturers don’t clearly mark engineered and non-engineered solutions, but they are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. Engineered solutions will be marketed towards specific vehicle models, such as the RAM 3500 or Ford F-350, and will be presented as complete solutions.

By contrast, general PTO air compressor kits won’t be geared towards a specific vehicle, are marketed towards several different makes at a time, and are displayed as a collection of individual parts. Upfitters are then required to take these parts and engineer them into a working PTO air compressor system for the buyer’s specific vehicle.

4 More Things To Know When Buying A PTO Driven Air Compressor

Comparing PTO air compressor models can be overwhelming. Many of the benefits of these systems are common across all models, such as reducing deck space, minimizing engine wear, and the use of rotary screw air end technology. But various PTO air compressors are far from equal and there are a few major differentiators buyers should keep in mind when comparing models…

Transfer Case Design

Some PTO air compressor manufacturers redesign or heavily modify the vehicles’ transfer case to create the space needed to fit the PTO and its tertiary components. Unfortunately, this may void the OEM warranty on the transfer case and other parts of the vehicle as well.

Manufacturers who recognize the significance of this shortcoming have designed PTO air compressors that work with the existing transfer cases, no modifications required. While this solution requires more sophisticated engineering, with mounting kits designed for specific makes and models, it prevents warranty and maintenance issues for the end user.

Weight

PTO air compressors for work vehicles vary in weight, which can increase GVW and fuel consumption. The chart below demonstrates just how significant these variations can be:

ManufacturerCFM OutputWeight
VMAC 70 CFM150 lbs (wet)
Competitor 1125 CFM407 lbs (dry)
Competitor 260 CFM285 lbs (dry)

More weight doesn’t mean a better PTO air compressor—it just means the parts are heavier. Operators looking for a PTO driven air compressor should find the lightest, high quality system that will meet their air needs.

Ground Clearance

The first iterations of PTO air compressors had poor ground clearance and not all manufacturers have updated their designs. The last thing an air compressor should do is limit a vehicle’s ability to get around, so operators shouldn’t settle for any system that notably reduces vehicle clearance.

Installation Times

All vehicle-integrated air compressors have two upfront costs: the system itself, and the time it takes to install it. Truck upfitters will factor in the install time when quoting customers, passing the cost onto the buyer. Savvy fleet managers will find out how much of their money is going towards installation versus labor, and may be able to cut costs by choosing a high-quality engineered PTO driven air compressor with reduced installation time.

5 Myths of Going Electric

I’ve always been curious about alternative fuels and their value proposition. The possibility to eventually substitute oil, even partly, has been a subject of high tech and innovation – so naturally, as an engineer and an enthused problem solver, I quickly became attracted to this whole theme.

It wasn’t until the legendary oil embargo, in ‘73, that the world took the call to action to explore ways to overcome oil dependency. Electric vehicles (EVs), which, by the way, were introduced more than 100 years ago, have posed hope to resist our thirst for gas. But it has taken us the same 100 years to begin believing, and perhaps accepting, its utility.

In the early 1900s, when cities dealt with unusual issues, like malodorous environmental challenges from animal dung, London had an estimated 300,000 horses around the city center leaving behind rivers of muck and high exposure to diseases. An article from The Economist called, “Breaking the habit – the future of oil,” describes the first international urban-planning conference, held in New York in 1898, where manure was at the top of their agenda. No remedies could be found, and the disappointed delegates returned home a week early.

Nevertheless, it took less than 15 years to get rid of such stinking intricacy. Per the article, by 1912, cars in New York outnumbered horses, and in 1917 the last horse-drawn streetcar was retired in Manhattan. That moment of progress, however, marked the inception of our global dependence on oil. We needed gasoline badly.

The EV value proposition has enjoyed an obstinate trend for the past few years. The convergence of environmental awareness, tech innovation, consumer assent, regulatory-conscious states and unions, investments by auto manufacturers, and financial viability are all together paving the road for EVs.

Even still, EVs are beset with challenges lacking commonly accepted range values, and battery sets still somewhat costly. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated that the cost of an EV battery has reduced by at least a third in the last six years ($273/kWh in 2016, compared to $1,000/kWh in 2010). The same report implies that $100/kWh is the price point at which EVs will reach true cost parity with ICEs (internal combustion engine vehicles). That should happen in the next year or two.

There are many considerations for fleet managers in giving shape to their fleets. With technology advancements, consumer appetite and the regulatory forces in play, practical choices are emerging for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). Some countries and cities have placed restrictions on future sales of ICEs.

Here are some of the myths I’ve heard, and the truths behind them:

Myth #1: There aren’t enough EVs to choose from.
While it’s true that there are many more choices for gas or diesel engines, the collection of EVs is increasing every year. For the 2018 model year, there were 58 EV and PHEVs available, and another 49 for 2019. And that number continues to grow. In fact, global EV stock is projected to be 13 million vehicles by 2020, presenting buyers with additional options.

The adoption of EVs is still largely driven by the policy environment. Effective policy measures have proven instrumental in making EVs more appealing to private individuals and businesses, which has encouraged manufacturers to scale up production.

Myth #2: EVs are too expensive.
It’s too early to tell the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a fleet EV in the United States, due to a lack of data. But LeasePlan Consultancy Services has shown that there are affordable electric options available today. And some of those options are offered in the United States.

Additionally, a 2018 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that EVs cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars. The average cost to operate an EV in the United States is $485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered vehicle is $1,117.

Myth #3: The range isn’t high enough, which gives me anxiety.
The average all-electric battery range of current EVs (minus Tesla) is about 140 miles, while a few luxury models have ranges up to 335 miles. However, it obviously varies greatly. But, the good news is, as technology advances, the battery range follows suit. Since 2013, the estimated range for many EVs has increased significantly. For example, base models of the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S grew from 75 and 208 miles per charge in 2013 to about 107 and up to 249 miles in 2017, respectively.

There’s a mindset change that’s necessary when driving an EV. It requires you to plan ahead and ask yourself some questions before you leave the house. How far am I driving today? Will there be a charging station near my destination? Can I charge it at home? There are even apps that can help drivers find the nearest charging station, so that should help ease range anxiety as well.

Myth #4: There aren’t enough charging stations.
It might surprise you, but most EV charging takes place at home. At a Level 1 that can be plugged into a standard 110v electrical outlet this is the easiest, albeit slowest, way to charge your vehicle. But if you’re impatient like me, you can install a Level 2 charger at your home to charge up much faster. If you’re out and about, there are more than 20,000 charging stations in the United States. As demand, policy changes and incentives for the infrastructure increases, the number of charging stations will only continue to grow.

Myth #5: I don’t know anything about electric vehicles.
Well, you’re in luck! Use our eBook to learn all about EVs. From the definition of an EV, to current and future supply, to “fuel efficiency” and zero emissions, to charging types and infrastructure, this eBook has it all. Start learning about EVs now by downloading the eBook, It’s electric! The future of EVs in America.

And if it piques your interest and you want even more information, please contact us. We’ve got the right instruments and toolset to evaluate if it’s the right time for you to switch to EVs for your fleet, even partly. In reality, it’s not for everyone right now. We can help you determine the right vehicle for your fleet’s needs, aid in lowering your fleet’s CO2 emissions, and support your drivers in the transition to EVs. It’s all here.

At LeasePlan, we’re going to be early adopters of EVs. LeasePlan’s own employee fleet is currently going electric, making us the first major leasing company to make the switch, by 2021. That way, we can implement EVs, and while learning from it, help you do the same for your fleet. I, for one, am thrilled about driving an EV!

Getting the Best Gas Mileage Out Of Your Conversion Van

Conversion vans do not boast best-in-class fuel mileage numbers like they boast the number of fun adventures had, but they can offer fuel economy if maintained regularly. The typical conversion van will get approximately 12-16 miles per gallon (mpg), depending on the model. Let’s explore factors that effect fuel economy and how to get the best gas mileage out of your van.

Conversion Vans and Fuel Efficiency

Weight is a primary foe of fuel efficiency. Most safety technologies have added weight. Hauling around more weight means engines need to produce more power.

Mark owns a 2002 Chevy Express high-top conversion van. He drives the van roughly 70% on the highway with cruise control on, and the rest city driving. His van is equipped with a wheelchair lift, which adds weight. “My gas mileage is 10 mpg.”

Susan owns a 2001 Chevy Express 15-passenger van on a 1 ton chassis. “I purchased it used with nearly 40,000 miles. About four years later, I got a tune-up at 91,000 miles. My van still averages 10-11 mpg.” Her van’s 30-gallon fuel tank allows for a total trip of 390-320 miles before she needs to stop for fuel.

According to The U.S. Department of Energy, Mark’s and Susan’s Chevy Express vans should be getting 14 mpg, combined city and highway.

If you ask different owners of the same conversion van models, they are getting 15 to 18 mpg. What is their secret?

Weather conditions (wind), van maintenance, road conditions (hills, traffic congestion, etc.) and driving city or highway are among the factors affecting your van’s gas mileage. City driving brings the average down real fast. The only mileage that you can reliably compare between vans is highway mileage (with no city) at the same speed.

8 Helpful Tips for Conversion Van Gas Mileage

Gas mileage for any vehicle is affected by driving style (if you are an aggressive driver, for example), speed, driving conditions and vehicle maintenance.

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas and can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is safer for you, pedestrians and other drivers, so you may save more than just gas money.

While each van reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds); gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.

Each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.25 per gallon for gas.

Here are tips for ensuring you get the best fuel economy:

  1. Make sure your tires are inflated properly.
  2. Verify that the engine air filter is clean.
  3. Spark plugs. Do you have the right ones? Is the gap right? Check the three in the front; they are easiest to access.
  4. Does the torque converter lock? When you’re driving at a constant speed of about 40-45 mph the converter should lock, so the rpm’s drop by about 500.
  5. Check the engine oil and transmission fluid levels. Have oil changes been done regularly, or is the engine clogging up?
  6. Avoid excessive idling. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner (AC) use. Turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle.
  7. Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.
  8. Remove excessive weight. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your mpg by up to 2 percent.

How to Calculate Your Conversion Van Gas Mileage

The best way to calculate your conversion van’s gas mileage is to divide the miles driven (as registered on your odometer) by the gallons of fuel used. You can also use the trip computer miles-per-gallon calculation, if your van model is equipped with one.

Your conversion van trip computer may display the distant to empty (DTE). DTE is an estimate of how many more miles you can drive based on the amount of gas in the tank and your recent fuel economy. It will reset automatically when you fill the tank and will depend on your driving style, speed and fuel economy. The DTE can reflect whether you use a heavy throttle foot.

The DTE will get more accurate as you use up gasoline since it tells you what remains. It does not subtract from the initial number; for example, the DTE reads 300 miles, but you drive 150 miles and now the DTE reads 200 miles.

The U.S. Department of Energy has a handy annual fuel cost calculator to help you estimate what your yearly and lifetime fuel costs may be.