I wish you all the best for 2011!  Not quite sure where 2010, or the whole 1st decade of the 2000’s went, but it wasn’t a bad year.

Late in the year the great state of NJ came through with their energy incentive programs for 2011.  Smart home owners (like you) will be encouraged to invest in energy saving work.  The federal tax credit went down, so that will make life a little more difficult for sellers of replacement windows and the like.

We had a nice little snow-storm, which really tested our replacement windows.  The result: double-hung widows simply are not air-tight when hit with a 40-50 mile/hour wind.  Casement windows, which fit tight against a seal (or multiple seals), are much better for air tightness.  But they are not as well accepted as sliders.  Casements also have some other drawbacks; they can’t tilt in for cleaning, and mounting a window AC is a real pain.  The typical crank mechanism for opening and closing is prone to failure.  So you weigh the pros and cons.

The snow also made me reconsider our choice for a “new” car.  Our pick-up truck had a small accident just before Christmas and is now rumpled front and back.  With close to 275,000 miles on the clock it will give up the ghost sometime, or at least be relegated to the odd job hauling mulch, trash and building materials.  The Focus is doing well but creeping (actually racing quickly) up to 175,000 miles as well.  My energy auditing gear fills up the entire rear space, with the rear seats folded.

My ideal is an AWD diesel, medium SUV or station wagon.  It has to have great seats to cater to my poor back.  I really like the VW Jetta at 42mpg on the highway, but it has low ground clearance and no AWD…, the Mercedes ML diesel is nice but pricey, and so on down the list.  The selection of diesel cars in the US is sadly limited.  Apart from the diesel pick-ups and commercial vans – which are great if you really need to haul, or tow, a lot of stuff – only 4 German companies offer diesel cars in the US:  Audi, BMW, Mercedes and VW.  None of those are in the lower price range.

By comparison I was just looking at the new SUVs coming out in Australia this year.  The list covers BMW, 2 Chinese makes: Chery and Great Wall, Land Rover and Range Rover (diesels!), the Mercedes G wagon (if you really want to go off-road in a $150,000+ diesel), Peugeot and Saab.

Chinese "Great Wall X240"

The Chinese are interesting because they are an indicator of what will happen in the rest of the world.  Asian manufacturers, first Japan, then Korea and now China use Australia as a test bed before introducing their cars to the US.  I guess Australia offers a small, English speaking test market, where, if things go wrong, it does not lead to a long-term impact.  Then when the initial glitches are worked out, and the manuals translated to readable form, these models are ready to tackle the bigger markets.

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 4

The Peugeot 3008 Hybrid 4 sounds like real fun.  It has a diesel engine driving the front wheels with an electric motor that cuts in to drive the rear for 4WD mode.  Not a “real” hybrid, but sounds like a good application of the principle.  Claimed fuel consumption is 4.0 liters/100 kilometers – or 58.8 miles per US gallon.

If you look at the article here you will be shocked by the prices.  Australian prices have always been high compared to the US, driven by taxes, transport and relatively small volumes.

Over on this side of the world the truck and the Focus may just have to battle on a little longer.

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