Tech Tips: May 2015

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A Must-Do When Purchasing a Vehicle

I was helping a friend of mine look for a new truck — a Ford F-150. On the lot, we found several 2014 units. Of course, the prices had been reduced. What interested me was there were a couple of 2014 trucks that were used. One had 300 miles, another had 460 miles, but there was one with only 43 miles on it. I thought, who would purchase a vehicle and only put 43 miles on it? I know the owner of the dealership, so I asked him. When vehicles come into the dealership and they are offloaded, they are inspected and any damaged must be reported back to the OEM. This damage is repaired for the unit to be considered in new condition. Then, if the dealership is honest, it must be sold as a used vehicle — that’s the 43 mile truck. The dealership gets a price break (also they make a few bucks off the repair). Now the question is, does the salesman tell you the vehicle arrived damaged?

So, what should be done if you or your customers are looking to purchase a vehicle? They must ask: Has this vehicle been damaged or repaired?

Hydrogen Vehicle

The fast lube market can speed up the debate of the hydrogen vehicle. I’ll explain. On the West Coast, California has set aside $200 million to build 100 hydrogen stations by 2020.

Fast lubes should start thinking about installing a chain of hydrogen filling stations down the East Coast. There are several ways this could be done. The cheapest way would be tank or bottled. The other is a unit that can manufacture hydrogen.

There are three OEMs that manufacture hydrogen vehicles — Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. And if/when there are more hydrogen stations, all the other OEMs will start producing these vehicles.

What does adding a hydrogen fueling station to your quick lube center do for the business? Fueling a hydrogen vehicle takes about three minutes, versus several hours for electric vehicles to recharge. Hydrogen vehicles still need wiper blades, tire services — such as TPMS and new tires — and light bulb replacement. Most likely if a family has a hydrogen vehicle, they will also have gasoline or diesel vehicles as well. These traditional vehicles will need service, too.

So, just what is a hydrogen vehicle and how does it work?

To make it simple, a hydrogen vehicle is nothing more than an electric vehicle — at least that’s what it is made of. To store the onboard fuel, there are two carbon fiber storage tanks holding 11 pounds of hydrogen fuel under 10,000 psi. In emergencies, sensors shut off all valves, stopping any leaks.

What produces the electricity is called a fuel cell. They string several hundreds of these fuel cells together — as many as 400 cells per vehicle. I’m not going to go into how the fuel cell works, but this unit needs oxygen to produce power. This is a power control unit that directs the electricity to the motors. These vehicles have batteries, but they only store excess energy. For instance, during a fast acceleration, the motor will draw energy from the battery. When braking or coasting, the motor charges the battery. And the only emissions a hydrogen vehicle releases is simply water!

At present, 11 pounds of fuel will let you travel about 300 miles. They are working to bring this up to more than 400 miles. Plus, did you know that OEMs can program your lube center into their GPS so they can find you? That’s a big plus!

Technical Tips is written by Scotti Lee, Ph.D., former operator of Oil Change Express in New Castle, Delaware, and current principal in the California-based Oil Changers chain of lube shops. Lee may be reached at 302.764.7329.

Technical Tips is a forum for fast lube operators and suppliers to share practical solutions to problems common throughout the industry. National Oil and Lube News is not responsible for the accuracy and reliability of submitted tips, and NOLN does not assume liability resulting from their use. Email tips to:

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