Latest Reader Qs (6/22/2017)

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Here are the latest reader questions – and my answers:

Tony asks:

Eric, I love listening to you on the Tom Woods show. As a 2016 Outback owner, I’m very excited about the new Subaru Ascent. What do you think about it?

Hi Tony!

I haven’t had a chance to drive the Ascent yet, because it’s a pending 2018 model and not in production/available in the press fleet – but here’s what I can tell you about it based on materials Subaru has released to the car media: It will be a larger-than-Tribeca crossover SUV with three rows and seven passenger seating. Though it is a large vehicle – about the same size as a Mazda CX-9 – it is probable it will be powered by Subaru’s 2.0 liter four cylinder engine, not the larger six. The engine will, however, likely be turbocharged – or at least offer it.

Subaru says it will launch this vehicle in Spring 2018.  Expect a base price around $34k. 

Bert asks:

Given that car chargers are so cheap and so small now, why haven’t car manufacturers inserted them into the engine block so you never have to get a jump-start?  I should think you could create a little chip and attach it to the starter that detects a low battery and automatically does a jump-start.  Or better still, why not build in feature right into the car battery?

Hi Bert,

You’re right that jump starters are available that aren’t much larger than a carton of cigarettes. These could be included as factory equipment, too – just as tire inflator/repair kits are already included as standard equipment in some new cars.

I don’t know about inserting them in engine blocks, though!

One difference – and potential problem – is that a built-in charger would probably need to be hard-wired to the car’s electrical system in order to maintain its charge over a long period of time (conceivably, many years). There would probably need to be a monitoring system of some kind to keep track of its state of charge. Degradation over time would be another issue.

These would add some additional cost/warranty issues – which is probably why it hasn’t been offered yet.

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  1. RVs will often have a battery system to run the appliances and lights in the cabin. Most of them have the ability to backfeed power to the starter in case the SLA battery is dead.

    The car chargers are also somewhat dangerous, especially as the age due to the fact that they use lithium polymer batteries. Search youTube for “lithium battery failure” and watch the fireworks show. These little buggers need to be treated with care, because if you short the anode and cathode in the cell you will cause an uncontrollable thermal runaway event. Heat and vibration increase the likelihood of damage, and eventually due to the lithium growing “tendrils” across the electrolyte and eventually shorting out the cell. This will happen to every LiPo battery eventually and there’s really no way to prevent it. You’re probably OK with leaving a jump pack in the glove box if you live in a moderate climate all the time, but I wouldn’t.

    Much better to stick with the old lead-acid jump pack. Not as compact, but absolutely safer.


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