Tuesday, January 31, 2006

GM to provide hybrid transport for the Big Game

GM's bid for publicity happens to be of larger interest to me, given my interest in football (see my other blog). The hybrid buses will be providing transportation to all the activities in Detroit for the journalists and VIPs.

Press release follows:

GM to Provide Hybrid Transit for Super Bowl XL

Journalists and VIPs from around the world will experience the benefits offered by GM's hybrid technology

DETROIT - Journalists and VIPs attending NFL-related activities during the week of Super Bowl XL will be shuttled around the Motor City in five buses powered by GM's hybrid propulsion technology.

While transporting the media and NFL guests to and from press conferences, parties and other Super Bowl events Tuesday-Saturday (Jan. 31-Feb. 4); the five GM hybrid-powered buses will save more than 100 gallons (1,135 L) of fuel compared with conventional buses. On an annualized basis, the five GM-hybrid buses conserve more than 7,500 gallons (28,390 L) of fuel.

One of the world's premier sporting events, the Super Bowl is attended by 3,500 credentialed international journalists. The GM hybrid powered buses will be part of the NFL's transportation fleet, which consists of over 30 transit buses and more than 400 vehicles from Cadillac.

"The NFL has provided GM with an outstanding opportunity to showcase the benefits of our advanced hybrid technology to the world," said Beth Lowery, GM vice president of environment and energy. "Transit buses are an excellent application for hybrid propulsion systems, because buses consume significantly more fuel than cars or light trucks and they are often utilized in stop-and-go city traffic."

In addition to achieving significantly better fuel economy, GM hybrid-powered buses produce up to 60 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen emissions and 90 percent fewer particulate, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions compared with conventional diesel buses.

Other benefits include reduced maintenance costs resulting from extended brake, engine oil and transmission oil life; 50 percent faster acceleration than conventional diesel buses and operational sound levels approaching that of passenger cars.

Currently, there are nearly 380 GM hybrid-equipped buses operating in 29 cities in the U.S. and Canada. For 2006, GM starts the year with 216 hybrid-powered buses scheduled for delivery to six U.S. cities.

"The General Motors hybrid system in these buses uses the most efficient parallel hybrid architecture available in the world today, and has served as a starting point for GM's co-development with BMW Group and DaimlerChrysler of a two-mode full hybrid system for applications in trucks, cars and sport utility vehicles," said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain. "GM will launch the two-mode full hybrid in 2007 in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon."

The clean hybrid technology is manufactured by GM's Allison Transmission, maker of transmissions and hybrid propulsion systems for commercial trucks, buses, off-highway equipment and military vehicles, headquartered in Indianapolis. The hybrid buses for the Super Bowl were provided by North American Bus Industries (NABI), the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) and GM Allison.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader for 75 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 327,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. In 2005, 9.17 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. GM operates one of the world's leading finance companies, GMAC Financial Services, which offers automotive, residential and commercial financing and insurance. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at www.gm.com.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hybrid market predicted to increase by KPMG survey

It's like predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow. Of course, all such predictions are based on fuel costs, and that's a very volatile market. But based on past performance (i.e. the 200% growth last year) I'd say the hybrid market is going to continue growing as well.

National Business Review (NBR) - Business, News, Arts, Media, Share Market & More

Auto executives were asked their opinions on a number of categories of vehicles over the next five years and ranked hybrid cars - which combine two power sources, usually as gasoline and electricity - number one, at 88 per cent, and low cost cars second, at 79 per cent.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Hybrid buses to be used in Washington

GM announced it is providing 50 new hybrid vehicles by the end of March for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The new hybrid buses will provide savings in fuel and reduce emissions (as compared to their diesel counterparts).

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's all about reputation

It's interesting how consumer reports rates ford and GM lower than JD Powers does in quality and reliability. But the point is made in that American cars are better today, Americans just don't believe it, yet. It's also a very good point that Ford and GM spent years not caring about quality and so it's going to take years for them to build their reputation back up.

By the way, Consumer Reports has rated "the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV is "better than average," for example, and the
closely-related Mercury Mariner SUV is "much better than average" in

CNN.com - Fact check: Are American cars really that bad? - Jan 25, 2006
Reputation: Toyota has, by now, had a lifetime to cement its reputation among American consumers for nearly fool-proof quality. GM (Research) and Ford (Research) spent nearly as long honing a reputation for not caring much about quality. Things may have improved, but it takes a long time for that to sink in.

Recalls: GM, in particular, has had a problem with headline-making recalls. It's a big company, it sells a lot of vehicles and they share a lot of components. When one of those parts goes wrong, eye-popping numbers of vehicles can be affected. That doesn't mean the vehicles are unreliable. Recalls are a different sort of problem. But it does cause concerns.

Reviews: GM and Ford vehicles haven't always exuded the quality that may have been hiding in there somewhere. Cheap-feeling interior materials, raspy-sounding engines and gap-filled construction didn't give potential buyers the feeling of confidence that even lesser Japanese brands manage to carry off.

Both GM and Ford are making strides in this area, too. Some recent GM and Ford products should go a long way to correcting the image of throwaway construction.

GM and Ford deserve credit for what they've done so far. But American consumers have shown they still need lots more proof.

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Bush tells Ford and GM to build better cars

Makes a lot of sense to me. The reason Ford and GM are suffering right now is they build cars that aren't as good as their competitors. They've also lost a lot of ground in staying ahead of the curve in new technologies, despite the billions in government spending in research in fuel cell and hybrid technology.

But they have been making a lot of noise lately in the hybrid field. It looks like they're getting the message. The question is, are they too late?

Bush plays down bailout for automakers: report - Jan. 26, 2006
According to the newspaper, Bush suggested that one way automakers could make more appealing products was to promote cars using alternative fuels, a topic he plans to mention in his State of the Union address next week.

Bush said in the interview that U.S. automakers could find new market share in the competition to sell vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

"As these automobile manufacturers compete for market share and use technology to try to get consumers to buy their product, they also will be helping America become less dependent on foreign sources of oil," Bush told the newspaper.

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Ford's Hybrid Research Vehicle

On Wednesday, Ford revealed it's ethanol hybrid at hte Washington Auto Show. It's a mixture of hybrid technology with a twist. Instead of running with a hybrid of gas and electric, it's an ethanol mix and electric hybrid. The ethanol mix would be 15% gas and 85% ethanol, a corn based additive. This vehicle is not slated for production as Ford feels that without more ethanol pumps, what would be the point?

Critics of ethanol vehicles point out ethanol may take more energy to produce than it provides. Proponents want to move away from dependence on foreign oil, and ethanol is clean burning.

For more details, read the AP report on Yahoo.

In related news, GM has announced (1/25/06) a campaign to promote the use of ethanol/gasoline blends. They are promising nine "FlexFuel Models", bringing their E85 fleet up to 400,000.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ford plans on investing more in hybrid vehicles as part of it's "Way Forward"

In Ford's plan, called "Way Forward", they are planning on new product investments, including hybrids and crossovers. This would definitely be a step forward in an ever increasing market of conscientious decision making by the American public. After being bombarded as children about the importance of environmental concerns, today's society is now looking for ways to increase their individual ability to make a difference in promoting environmental safety.

So if Ford wants to stay ahead of the curve, this "way forward" plan is a step in the right direction.

Ford Motor Company - Press Release - FORD FIGHTS BACK
# More clarity for the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands – with a sharper focus on the customer and a clear point of view that will appeal to more buyers than today.
# A renewed commitment to design, safety and technology innovation to differentiate Ford Motor Company and its products in the marketplace.
# New product investments – utilizing Ford’s global architectures and scale – to deliver more new products faster, including more crossovers, hybrid vehicles, new small cars, increased spending on Ford’s truck leadership and new “white space” products.
# Material cost reductions of at least $6 billion by 2010.
# Continued straightforward pricing that is clear, credible and simple, which will further improve residual values.
# A lean and flexible manufacturing system combined with capacity matched to demand. Capacity will be reduced by 1.2 million units or 26 percent by 2008, representing the majority of actions within the plan’s 2006-2012 period.
# Plant-related employment is reduced by 25,000-30,000 people in the 2006-2012 time period, in addition to salaried personnel reductions and a reduction in the company’s officer ranks.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Are hybrid vehicles worth it?

CNet had an article on the downside of hybrid technology. Automakers are not seeing a lot of profit from their investment (so far) and feel like the mileage claims being made are inflated. What the writer doesn't bother to tell you is that all mileage claims from the EPA are inflated and that's why they are proposing to change them.

Gosn's quote is quite interesting. I'm happy to see the regulations are making a difference in the automaker's production choices.

"I hate selling cars at a loss," Nissan Motor and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters, saying hybrids were not a profitable proposition.

Nissan will bring out its first hybrid with the Altima sedan later this year, but says it was only because average fleet fuel economy regulations in California require it.

The other really interesting part of this article is in the comments section. Readers are piping in on their fuel mileage results, plus they point out how diesel fuel alternatives are being compared unfavorably to hybrids (Consumer Reports -- subscribers only online). Very interesting stuff.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Accelerated Composites Aptera to get 330 mpg

But would anyone buy it? The Aptera is a three wheeled concept car with an aerodynamic design that makes it look more like a small plane.

They are hoping (see specs) to market it at less than $20,000, which is remarkable, but a two seater, with no room for kids or large bags is going to be of limited use. At 850 lbs, will people feel safe driving it (there's no mention of impact testing or air bags or any safety measures)?

I like the idea of a 330 mpg car, but a new generation of cars has to be built off of what people expect from their cars today.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hybrid Cars reviews the concept cars from the Detroit Auto Show

Hybrid Cars has put up a preview of the hybrid cars being shown at the Detroit Auto Show. The hybrids include the Mitsubishi Concept-CT, Toyota Camry, Lexus LS460 (hybrid to be shown in April), Saturn VUE Green, and the Ford Reflex.

But, most of the talk from the Auto Show was about the muscle car, not the hybrid. The Toyota Camry and the Saturn VUE will probably have the biggest short term impact on hybrid sales in the coming year. By hybridizing one of the most popular cars in the US, Toyota is bound to keep it's strangle hold on the hybrid market in 2006. They've also come a little bit closer in making the hybrid sales profitable by including the high end options.

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2006 Mercury Mariner Review

The 2006 Mercury Mariner Review by AutoWeek. Not very flattering on noise levels and the way it drives, but does complement the hybrid tech and fuel savings. Building a hybrid from the ground up seems like good advice to give to the automakers, though. If the engine is that much different, you need to make allowances for it.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Want a recap on hybrids?

Then you'll want to read this story on hybrids from SA. It recaps the SUVs that are available today and points out all the versions that are coming out soon.

G. Chambers Williams III also points out where the production of hybrids stands today. Despite high demand, the automakers are not making enough vehicles and the reasons for that shortage are many fold.

First, is the lack of nickel-metal-hydride battery packs available. Production of the batteries is picking up, but is still well short of where the automakers would like it to be.

Second is the issue of profit. The hybrids have been expensive to research and build, and as of now, the automakers are not making much (if any) return on their investment. With the introduction of the luxury SUV from Lexus and by making the hybrid available with the more expensive options (leather seating, high tech navigation), they are looking to increase their profits on consumers who want to make a statement about how they feel about the environment.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

NY to promote the use of hybrid vehicles

In a press release (01.16.2006 NY Press Release) Governor George E. Patakii outlined his plan for promoting hybrid vehicle use. These incentives include a $2000 tax credit to individuals who purchase a new hybrid (add that onto your federal tax credit and you could be talking about some real tax savings!). They also include a discount price on thruway tolls as well as a free pass to use HOV lanes.

He is also proposing a new laboratory to support the development and manufacture of clean and renewable technologies for transportation. This research includes improved fuels, batteries, and pollution control devices. This could have an impact on the development of gas-electric hybrids, hydrogen, and renewable fuel vehicles.

I first saw this news at Green Car Congress.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What you need to know about the tax credit for hybrids

Last night, I saw for the first time an ad by Toyota on the new tax credit available for buyers of hybrid vehicles. There are many things you need to know about qualifying for that big tax credit on your new hybrid vehicle.

1) Purchase your hybrid car in 2006
2) Used hybrids don't count, they have to be new
3) It must be for your own personal or business use. In other words, you can't just turn around and sell it (see 4).
4) There is a 'recapture' for selling your hybrid car early. If you get a tax credit for buying a new hybrid, you can't just turn it around and sell it. You will need to keep the car for a certain time period (although that time period hasn't been established, yet). If you do, some of the credit will need to be 'recaptured' (i.e. a penalty).
5) If you are eligible for other tax credits, keep in mind the hybrid tax credit may be taken after those others. These include Child and dependent care, electric vehicle, mortgage, etc... Talk to a tax expert for further details on this one.
6) The tax credit is allowable the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th hybrid and advanced lean-burn technology motor vehicle. Note that this means Toyota will run out of tax credits quickly. This rule is being seen as an incentive for domestic car makers, as they won't run out of the eligible vehicles as quickly.

Want to know more? The IRS released a notice on the process that manufacturers can use to certify the amount of credit the purchaser of a hybrid or lean burn vehicle can claim. That process document is a 14 page pdf file.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

EPA to change MPG testing

The EPA is planning on changing the way we measure MPG. Or at least the MPG you see on stickers at dealerships. Mind, this will take an Act of Congress to change the rules, so we're a ways away from the actual rules.

It remains to be seen how this will impact hybrids in the US. Although, the hybrids have been criticized for having unrealistic numbers, what is not normally discussed is how all MPG numbers are wrong based on real world driving. Even with new testing regulations, the EPA's numbers won't be your numbers, no matter what car you buy. Instead, these MPG numbers should be used for comparison purposes when you go to buy a car.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Friday, January 13, 2006

All-New Natural Gas Powered 2006 Civic GX to Make Public Debut During 2006 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show

American Honda Motor Co., Inc., today announced that it will debut its all-new compressed natural gas (CNG) powered Civic GX to the public when the 2006 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show opens its doors. Scheduled to go on sale at select Honda dealers throughout California in May, the Civic GX proposes a pathway to energy independence, produces near zero emissions, and delivers benefits to owners in the form of tax breaks and single passenger carpool lane access.

The Civic GX will offer customers comfort and convenience features comparable to a Civic LX - the most popular trim level in the Civic lineup. The new 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine found in the Civic GX delivers an increase of more than 10 percent in horsepower and torque versus previous models.

Natural gas-powered vehicles are part of Honda's energy strategy to offer the best available technology for the reduction of air pollution and petroleum dependence. The Civic GX will be manufactured in East Liberty, Ohio.

Based on the all-new award-winning 2006 Civic introduced in the fall of 2005, the GX will feature the same standard safety features that have earned Civic the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's "Top Safety Pick - Gold Award."

For more information or downloadable high-resolution images of the Civic GX and other Honda vehicles, please visit www.hondanews.com. Consumer information is available at www.honda.com.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Traveler's Insurance to offer 10% discount to hybrid owners

If you own or are planning on buying a hybrid vehicle, the numbers are really beginning to add up. If you buy a hybrid in the next year, you may be eligible for up to $3,000 in tax break, and now Traveler's insurance is offering a 10% discount to hybrid owners as well.

Travelers preliminary research into hybrid owners have noted they tend to fall into the preferred drivers category anyways. They've also noted how hybrid sales have double every year since their inception.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

TRW Automotive Unveils Portfolio of Technologies For Hybrid Electric Vehicles

TRW is working on it's ability to support hybrid technology and growth. They're working on creating lighter components and better braking technology, allowing for better mileage and better power in the future.

News Release
TRW Automotive Unveils Portfolio of Technologies For Hybrid Electric Vehicles

LIVONIA, Mich., Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- TRW Automotive Holdings
Corp. (NYSE: TRW) today unveiled a suite of technologies designed to support
the growth of hybrid electric vehicles. The products and systems range from
simple lighter weight components to advanced braking technologies such as
TRW's Slip Control Boost, a fully integrated slip control system, as well as
electrically powered hydraulic steering systems.
Peter Lake, executive vice president sales and business development, TRW
Automotive, said: "We have developed a range of technology solutions to
support our vehicle manufacturer customers as they develop hybrid electric
vehicles (HEVs). The supplier requirements for HEVs differ from those for
conventional vehicles. Fuel efficiency, packaging flexibility and weight
reduction are key factors, and with smaller volumes, vehicle manufacturers
want to reduce development costs for individual systems and components."
TRW Automotive has developed two brake control systems options: TRW Slip
Control Boost, a fully integrated electronic stability control and brake
actuation system, and the TRW Active Hydraulic Braking system, which is
compatible with any electronic stability control system and replaces the brake
actuation system with an electro hydraulic control unit (EHCU), pedal
simulator and master cylinder solution. These systems enable regenerative
braking, involving energy being captured during the braking process, which is
used to recharge the vehicle's energy storage devices.
For steering, TRW has tailored its electrically powered hydraulic steering
system (EPHS) to offer an off-the-shelf product for HEVs. By optimizing an
existing technology, development costs and time to market are significantly
reduced. With flexible packaging and mounting options, the technology offers
much of the functionality of a full electric system including fuel efficiency
and CO2 emissions reduction. EPHS can convert a standard hydraulic system for
an HEV application.
Phil Cunningham, product planning director, chassis systems, added: "For
higher volume HEV platforms designed from a clean sheet of paper, TRW can work
with customers to develop a unique fully electric steering system. We offer a
range of column and belt drive electrically powered steering (EPS) systems
which offer enhanced functionality and further fuel efficiency and CO2
emission reductions compared even with EPHS systems. These options can be
cost effective solutions when employed to a higher volume conventional
platform which includes a hybrid version."
TRW has also developed an array of weight optimized products within
braking, linkage and suspension and occupant safety systems. TRW offers
lighter weight braking components including front and rear calipers, aluminum
caliper housings and drum brakes and a thin-wide bridge caliper which allows
for the use of a larger rotor for the same wheel size. The use of new
materials has been pioneered across the TRW suspension range including
aluminum control arms and knuckles and precision forged steel control arms
with integrated or detachable ball joints. In occupant safety, engineers have
sought innovative ways to decrease the number of components, reducing both
weight and cost and providing optimized packaging options. Examples include
driver and passenger airbag options.
Lake added: "The support we offer customers in this area is not limited to
components and systems: we also offer systems integration support. The
changes in weight, center of gravity, vehicle dynamic behavior and crash pulse
require tuning to the various control algorithms such as crash sensing and
electronic stability control. We have met with a number of customers and are
exploring numerous ways where TRW's expertise can support the growing HEV

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Toyota unveils Camry Hybrid at Detroit Auto Show

Toyota showed off the new Camry hybrid yesterday at the Auto Show in Detroit. With an estimated fuel economy of 43 mpg city/37 mpg highway, the Camry is a welcome addition to the short list of hybrid vehicles on the road today.

Toyota captured over 50% of the hybrid market last year with the Toyota Prius and sold 73.5% of the hybrids in the US. Making a hybrid option for one of the most popular sedans should help them increase their market share.

An excerpt from their press release:

Camry Hybrid
Toyota extends its hybrid leadership by making its exclusive Hybrid Synergy Drive available in the 2007 Camry. Hybrid Synergy Drive consists of dual gas and electric power sources that are complementary and produce a combined 192 horsepower. This system varies power between gas and electric, or both, as needed.

The first half of this system consists of the 2.4L four-cylinder 2AZ-FXE Atkinson-cycle engine, which generates 147 hp and is coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The second half of the Hybrid Synergy Drive equation consists of a small, specially developed electric drive motor that produces 45 horsepower, an ultra-small inverter with a specially designed compact battery and a transaxle to provide the economy and seamless performance hybrid drivers seek.

In addition to its groundbreaking Hybrid Synergy Drive, Camry Hybrid comes with a long list of standard features. These include a tire-pressure monitoring system, halogen headlamps with automatic on/off, a premium JBL audio system with an auxiliary audio jack and Bluetooth® technology, cruise control, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control heating and air conditioning, an eight-way-adjustable power driver's seat, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, 16-inch aluminum wheels, heated outside rear-view mirrors and much more.

Additionally, the Camry Hybrid is equipped with an "ECO" button that limits energy consumption by the HVAC system and under certain conditions can help improve fuel economy.

Because there are situations in daily driving in which the gas engine in a Toyota hybrid is completely shut down, air-conditioning and power-steering systems are driven electrically, rather than by the engine. This ensures these features will continue to operate, whatever the status of the Camry Hybrid's drive system.

Finally, special attention was paid to the vehicle underbody with the use of wheel spats and underbelly pans resulting in a low coefficient of aerodynamic drag (Cd) of 0.27, which helps increase fuel economy.

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Car makers spent millions in fines for not reaching mileage goals

According to Forbes, carmakers such as BMW and DaimlerChrysler paid nearly $32 million in fines for not reaching the goal in mpg. For 2006, the required mpg for cars is 27.5 mpg and for light trucks it's 21.6 mpg. Neither requirement is all that strenuous, and it's surprising that automakers can't hit the mark.

It's also surprising the fines are so low. Automakers can afford to ignore these requirements by budgeting for the fines.

Read the full Forbes article on BMW, Others Pay Fuel Economy Fines.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Latest in hybrid technology expoed at the Detroit Auto Show

See the latest photos of the expos of the latest hybrids: Green Saturn Vue and the Chevy Tahoe at autoblog.com.

The Saturn Vue is slated to be out this coming summer, while the Tahoe is scheduled to be released next year. With the hybrid patches, and the streamlined refinements to the exterior, these two hybrids will stand out from their counterparts.

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Fuel cell technology in 3 to 4 years from Honda

Honda is promising the production of the FCX Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle in Japan in another three to four years. This is more bad news for Detroit, given how they've touted fuel cell technology and research for years. If this progresses in the same way hybrid technology has, Detroit carmakers will fall behind quickly.

Honda to Begin Producing Next Generation FCX Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle
Production Car Will Closely Resemble the FCX Concept Vehicle making its North American Debut at the North American International Auto Show
Signaling a rapid advancement in its fuel cell vehicle technology, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., today announced that it will begin production in Japan of its next generation FCX hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicle (FCV) in three to four years. The FCX Concept vehicle, unveiled just four months ago and now on display at the North American International Auto Show, boasts a fuel cell system that delivers more power in less space, in a unique, low-floor fuel cell platform. The premium fuel cell sedan offers the ultimate in clean-running performance, and represents Honda's vision of future mobility in which vehicles are less dependent on fossil fuels and produce no significant emissions.

Honda's FCX Concept defines a new stage in the evolution of fuel cell vehicle technology. The FCX Concept is designed with a low center of gravity and a full-sized cabin, offering the kind of driving pleasure and roomy interior previously unimaginable in a fuel cell vehicle. The FCX Concept is designed with a short front end to make the most of its unique low-floor platform, creating a comfortably large cabin. A tapered cabin profile and accentuated fender flare create an attractively dynamic look. The FCX Concept is an FCX that delivers style and excitement.

Using an innovative approach, the new, high-efficiency, compact V Flow fuel cell platform makes possible the lowest-floor platform in an FCV ever. Oxygen and hydrogen flow from the top to the bottom of the fuel cell stack (vertical gas flow) and the fuel cells are arranged vertically in the center tunnel (vertebral layout) for new, high-efficiency fuel cell packaging (volume efficiency).

Compact enough to fit neatly into the center tunnel but robust enough to put out 100kW of power, Honda's V Flow fuel cell stack offers space efficiency and high-energy output. The key to fuel cell performance is water management; Honda's new system takes full advantage of gravity to efficiently discharge water formed during electricity generation. This improves performance in sub-zero temperatures, further solving the problem of cold-weather startup that has been a key obstacle to the commercialization of FCV's. Now, with the V Flow fuel cell stack Honda has achieved ultra-low-temperature start-up performance on par with that of a gasoline engine. The FCX Concept drive train features three energy-efficient motors- one 80kW in the front and a 25kW space-efficient motor in each rear wheel, leaving ample room for a spacious cabin.

One barrier to FCV commercialization has been the need for high-capacity yet lightweight and compact hydrogen storage. Honda has now developed a new approach to expanding storage capacity, a newly developed hydrogen absorption material in the tank doubles capacity to 5 kg of hydrogen at 5000 PSI, extending cruising range to 350 miles, equivalent to that of a gasoline-engine car.

Approaching the vehicle, the driver is recognized by vehicle sensors and intelligent cameras unlocking the doors. The driving unit also automatically sets the steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and instrument panel to the optimal position for the driver. The instrument panel tilts up and down 45 degrees in response to vehicle speed to give either a sense of security or a relaxed feel. A system installed in the instrument panel senses the driver's line of sight shifting toward menu icons, and operates switches accordingly, allowing the driver hands-free operation of audio, AC and other systems.

As part of its effort to ensure the viability of a hydrogen-based society, Honda is developing the Home Energy Station (HES), a comprehensive system designed to meet residential energy needs by supplying electricity and heat in addition to hydrogen fuel for vehicles. Generating hydrogen from natural gas supplied for residential use, the HES system also offers consumers the convenience of refueling hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles at home. The system is equipped with fuel cells that generate and supply electricity to the home, and is configured to recover the heat produced during power generation for domestic water heating. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40 percent, the HES system is expected to lower the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel by 50 percent.

# # #

For more information or downloadable high-resolution images of Home Energy Station III, the Honda FCX and other Honda vehicles, please visit www.hondanews.com. Consumer information is available at world.honda.com.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Automakers are rolling out new hybrids at the North American International Auto Show

With hybrid sales booming, automakers are making a bigger push on hybrids at this years North American International Auto Show in Detroit. GMC, Toyota, Ford and Subaru are all expected to show up with new models. Toyota has it's new Camry to show off, while Ford has a new diesel-electric hybrid. The Auto Show opens to the public on January 14th.

GM is showcasing teh Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid as well as the Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, although the Tahoe will not be available until 2007. The Vue is not a full hybrid, so will not run on electric power at low speeds. Toyota will be showing off it's latest Camry hybrid.

Demand for hybrid vehicles is still higher than supply, so keep expecting this market to grow. Although some buyers have been disappointed with the EPA's estimates of savings, others have been recently motivated to buy with the new tax breaks available this year. New buyers should be aware that the tax break will be phased out after the automaker sells 60,000 hybrids, so buyers at the end of the year may be left out.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Record number of hybrids sold in the US in 2005

The number of hybrid vehicles sold in the US increased from 83,924 to 205,748 units from 2004 to 2005. That's an increase of 245%.

Toyota/Lexus captured 71.2% of the hybrid market in 2005 increasing it's share in 2004 by 7.2%. Driven mainly by the Accord and Civic sales, Honda took 21.1%, a decrease from the 32.5% share it had in 2004. Relative newcomer Ford, minimally aided by the recent production of the Mercury Mariner took 7.7% of all sales in the US of all hybrid vehicles.

The Toyota Prius is still selling the majority of hybrids, capturing 52.4% of they hybrid market. While it's share is down from 64%, it's overall units sold have doubled from last year (53,721 units in 2004 to 107,897 units in 2005). In a distant second place comes the Honda Accord with 25,864 units (12.6% of the total hybrid market) sold in 2005.

Altogether, Toyota sold 146,512 units between the Prius (107,897), Highlander (17,954), and Lexus Rx400h (20,661). Honda sold 43,356 hybrid Accord (16,826), Civic (25,864) and Insight (666) units over the 2005 period. Ford sold 15,880 units with it's Ford Escape (15,571) and the recently introduced Mercury Mariner (309).

Month-Year Honda Accord Honda Civic Honda Insight Toyota Prius Toyota Highlander Lexus RX 400h Ford Escape Mercury Mariner
Jan-04 1282 45 2925
1975 59 3215

2725 83 3778

3041 107 3684

3183 130 3962

1802 61 4219

1963 34 5230

1816 23 4393

1535 12 4039

2266 11 6123

1867 35 5866

Dec-04 1061 2116 8 6287

Jan-05 805 1169 7 5566 908
Feb-05 855 1353 22 7078

Mar-05 1862 2896 56 10236

Apr-05 2023 3466 90 11345
2345 1705
May-05 1314 1895 52 9461
2931 1234
Jun-05 1080 1852 69 9622 2869 2605 1126
Jul-05 1376 2329 68 9691 2564 2262 1138
Aug-05 2336 4146 80 9850 2925 2607 1363
Sep-05 2352 1916 83 8193 2715 2113 1808
Oct-05 1266 231 37 9939 2330 1904 1227
Nov-05 837 2083 60 7889 2353 1722 998 161
Dec-05 720 2528 42 9027 2198 2172 1403 148

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Toyota reports best ever sales on hybrids in 2005

With the Prius sales up 100.5% over 2004 sales, Toyota posted record sales on hybrid vehicles in 2005. Toyota claimed 107,897 hybrid Prius were sold in the US in 2005. The 2006 Highlander Hybrid, a mid-size SUV sold 17,989 units and the 2006 RX 400h luxury hybrid SUV had year-end sales of 20,674 units. Overall, a good year for hybrids.

Press Release follows:
Toyota Reports 2005 and December Sales

January 4, 2006 - Torrance, CA - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today reported total year-end sales of 2,260,296 vehicles, up 10.1 percent over 2004. With ten consecutive years of record-breaking sales, this marks the second time in TMS' 48-year history it has reached sales of over two million vehicles.

"Finally shaking off its Autumn chill, the industry enjoyed a bit of holiday cheer as buyers returned to showrooms," said Jim Press, TMS President and COO. "Solid calendar-year results vouch for the industry's fundamental health and bode well for the coming year."

Camry became the best-selling car in America for the fourth year in a row and eighth time in the past nine years. Lexus retained its crown as the best-selling luxury brand in America for the sixth consecutive year, selling a total of 302,895 units in 2005. With overall sales of 156,485 units, Scion was a significant contributor to the record sales year.

Total TMS sales for December were a best-ever of 203,279, an increase of 8.2 percent over the same period last year.

Toyota Division

The Toyota Division recorded best-ever year-end total sales of 1,957,401 vehicles, up 10.8 percent.
The Toyota Division recorded best-ever year-end passenger car sales of 1,138,130 units, an increase of 18.3 percent, and December sales of 88,887, up 8.1 percent. Camry posted year-end sales of 431,703, an increase of 1.4 percent. Corolla posted year-end sales of 341,290 units, an increase of 2.8 percent.
The Prius gas-electric hybrid posted best-ever December sales of 9,027 units, an increase of 43.6 percent over the same period last year. Year-end Prius sales reached 107,897 units, up 100.5 percent over 2004.

Scion reported best-ever December sales with 12,457 units sold. The Scion xB urban utility vehicle recorded a best-ever December with 4,341 units, up 13.4 percent, with year-end sales totaling 54,037, an increase of 15.3 percent over 2004. The tC sports coupe had a best-ever December of 5,724 units sold, with year-end sales reaching 74,415 units, an increase of 166.0 percent over 2004. The xA subcompact posted a best-ever December with 2,392 units sold, an increase of 19.6 percent; xA year-end sales reached 28,033 units, up 16.3 percent from last year.

The Toyota Division recorded all-time best-ever year-end light-truck sales with 819,271 units, an increase of 1.8 percent. Toyota Division light trucks also posted all-time best-ever December sales of 79,206, up 8.1 percent over the same period last year. The Highlander Hybrid gas-electric mid-size SUV, which launched in early June, reported sales of 2,198 units in December and year-end sales of 17,989 units. The Highlander and Highlander Hybrid posted combined December sales of 11,309 units.

Contributing to the light-truck sales record was the Tundra full-size pickup truck with all-time best-ever December sales of 15,632 units, up 33.4 percent. Year-end Tundra sales were 126,529 units, up 12.9 percent over last year.

Lexus Division

With record-breaking 2005 annual sales, Lexus retains its title as America's top-selling luxury brand for the sixth consecutive year. The automaker today reported total year-end sales of 302,895 units, up 5.5 percent over last year's record-breaking sales. Lexus also scored an all-time, best-ever month with 35,186 units sold.
Lexus luxury utility vehicles enjoyed a strong sales year, at 151,669 units. The 2006 RX 400h luxury hybrid SUV reported December sales of 2,172 units and year-end sales of 20,674 units. The RX 330 and RX 400h posted combined year-end sales of 108,775 units. The GX 470 mid-size luxury utility vehicle recorded an all-time best-ever sales month of 4,599 units, a 4.4-percent increase over last year.

Sales of Lexus passenger cars also achieved year-end all-time record breaking results with 151,226 units, an increase of 11.5 percent. The best-ever year-end combined sales of the GS 300 and GS 430, mid-luxury sports sedans, totaled 33,457 units sold.

December passenger car sales also achieved best-ever results of 17,866 units, an increase of 25 percent over the same period last year. For the month, the GS 300 sedan led the way with 2,973 units, an all-time, best-ever sales month, and a 305-percent increase over the same period last year. The GS 430 reported sales of 458 units, a 349-percent increase over last December and the IS 300/IS 350 reported combined all-time best-ever December sales of 4,518 units, a 573.3-percent increase over last year's December. The IS 250 reported sales of 2,877, and the IS 350 had sales of 1,631 units.

Total TMS sales of North American-built vehicles totaled 1,393,100 units, representing 61.6 percent of the total vehicles sold in 2005. There were 307 selling days in 2005, as compared to 308 in 2004.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hybrid futures

The auto executives are starting to see the light in regards to the bright future of hybrids. But hybrids are only about 1% of the market, so it's not surprising that they would expect that market share to increase, especially with the plans of American car makers to produce hybrids in the next year, as opposed to just the foreign markets.

With the continuing high costs related to driving luxury vehicles, the SUV market is expected to decrease or stay the same in the coming year.

deseretnews.com | Auto execs see hybrids' bright future
Eighty-eight percent of the executives said they expect gas-electric hybrids to gain market share, up from 74 percent in 2004. Seventy-nine percent said they expect low-cost cars to gain share. Just 35 percent expect the luxury market to grow — compared to 48 percent two years ago — while 36 percent expect SUVs will gain market share.
There were some differences by region. More than half of the Asian and European executives surveyed predicted growth for SUVs, compared to just 6 percent of North American executives. North American executives were the least optimistic about luxury growth, while Asians were the only executives to predict much growth in the pickup segment.
The survey, by the auditing and consulting firm KPMG LLP, collected responses from 140 senior executives at 35 vehicle manufacturers and 105 suppliers. The sixth annual survey was distributed to 50 executives in North America, 50 in Europe and 40 in Asia in the fall of 2005.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Toyota to increase the number of hybrid trained technicians

If they reach their goal of 5,000, they will cover about 1/3 of their techs in the US. There are 1,200 US dealerships in the US. With that many techs, they should have a hybrid trained technician at each dealership. Most of the differences in the hybrid training involve the batteries, cables and motor generators. Also, the tech needs to learn how to turn off the car so it will not restart spontaneously.

Of note: Bergen expects that hybrid trained techs will be better prepared to work on fuel cell vehicles as well.

Toyota juices ranks of hybrid-trained 'techs' -- Newsday.com
At the end of 2004, the automaker had 3,480 technicians trained to work on Toyota hybrids. Bill Bergen, the University of Toyota's national dealer education manager for operations and technical training, says he expects that number to rise to 5,000 in 2005

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GM, Daimler, BMW to unveil hybrid plans

This will be a nice change for GM. If they can put together a joint plan with DaimlerChrysler and BMW, they may be able to catch up with Toyota and Honda. GM does have a lot of experience with hybrid technology. If they are able to combine that with BMW quality, they may have something.

GM, Daimler, BMW to unveil hybrid plans: Business : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)
General Motors Corp. of the United States and German automakers DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG will unveil their respective gasoline-electric hybrid car strategies during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that begins Sunday, according to industry sources.

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