Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Volvo C30 Hybrid in the future?

Volvo is bringing the C30 to the US in 2008, in the hopes of garnering some younger customers. But, despite Ford having hybrid vehicles on the road and their own forays into the heavy vehicle hybrids, Volvo has not built any hybrid cars so far. But that may be changing.

According to Autobild (a german newspaper?), as reported by Autoblog, Volvo is creating a C30 hybrid concept car.

The drive system is reportedly a series hybrid, with the batteries being charged on the go by a diesel powerplant. There's plug-in charging capabilities, as well. The batteries alone can provide motive power for about 45 miles before the generator awakes.
Volvo tends to focus more on diesel engines, given their European focus. But they have invested in their own hybrid technology as well as other companies applicable research.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid at $24,400

Nissan has announced the pricing of the 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid at $24,400. Only available in eight states (those with the higher emissions standards including: California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont), the Altima Hybrid is expected to compete with the Toyota Camry Hybrid ($26,200), the Toyota Prius ($22,175), and the Honda Civic Hybrid ($22,600).

The Altima hybrid has been EPA rated at 42/36 City/Highway mpg. It is rated as an Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV). Those who buy an Altima Hybrid are eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $2,350.

Nissan is reluctant to enter the hybrid marketplace, claiming they will lose money selling hybrid cars and have not yet developed their own hybrid technology. Which is why the new Altima hybrid is built using Toyotas Synergy Drive.

Click here to read more on the 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid.

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Volkswagen Toureg Hybrid

Volkswagen TouregMotor Trend (Car News Blog at Motor Trend) is reporting Volkswagen (VW) is having a change of heart. It seems they feel the Jetta or Golf Hybrid won't sell as well if it has an expensive price tag associated with the hybrid engine. So, they are switching their plans and are now looking to make a hybrid Toureg SUV.

This follows the trend set by Ford who entered the hybrid field with a hybrid SUV. But it doesn't really fly in the face of the sales figures. The top selling hybrids are the Prius and the Camry.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Will you qualify for the federal tax credit on hybrid cars?

According to Edward F. McQuarrie, a professor at Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business, chances are most of the people who bought a hybrid car in the past year will not receive the full credit.

I'm not about to claim I fully understand why or how come (go talk to a professional or buy the tax software!), but here are his major points:

  • Consumers who bought their hybrid from Toyota on or after October 1st are eligible for only half of the tax credit.
  • Unless your regular tax obligation exceeds your Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) by the amount you can claim for the credit (i.e. $3,150 for the Prius if you bought it before October 1st), you won't get the full tax credit.
  • If you paid the AMT last time you filed, you aren't eligible for the tax credit.
  • Families who earn between $150,000 and $500,000 will most likely not qualify for the full tax credit
  • The larger the family, the less likely you are to qualify for the full tax credit
  • Single taxpayers will likely qualify
  • If you earn more than $750,000 a year, you will qualify.
  • If you use Turbo Tax, open Form 6251 to see a side-by-side comparison (lines 33-34) of your regular tax liability and your AMT liability. This gap shows you your limit on your hybrid tax credit.
After reading this article, I'd say Hybrid tax credit bait and switch is a good title.

If you do qualify for the hybrid car tax credit, here are the forms you need to fill out. Also, some states have their own hybrid tax benefits, so make sure to look around for those, too.

Other things you should know:
You can't claim the hybrid car tax credit until February 3rd (Source: GreenHybrid). If you use Turbo Tax, the form (8910) won't be available until February 16th. So you either wait or you file an ammended return.

The hybrid car tax credit (alternative fuel credit) is last in a long line of other tax credits (source:
  • Child and dependent care tax credit
  • Credit for the elderly and disabled
  • Adoption tax credit
  • Child tax credit,
  • Mortgage credit,
  • Hope and Lifetime Learning tax credits,
  • Credit for retirement savings,
  • Foreign tax credit,
  • Nonconventional fuel credit, and
  • Electric vehicle credit.
Any tax liability left over by these reductions will be the maximum dollar limit of your hybrid tax credit. And, there's no carryover.

A few last requirements from the IRS:

Even though a manufacturer has certified a vehicle, a taxpayer must meet the following requirements to qualify for the credit:

  1. The vehicle must be placed in service after 12-31-05 and purchased on or before 12-31-10.
  2. The original use of the vehicle must begin with the taxpayer claiming the credit.
    a. The credit may only be claimed by the original owner of a new, qualifying, hybrid vehicle and does not apply to a used hybrid vehicle.
  3. The vehicle must be acquired for use or lease by the taxpayer claiming the credit.
    a. The credit is only available to the original purchaser of a qualifying hybrid vehicle. If a qualifying vehicle is leased to a consumer, the leasing company may claim the credit.
    b. For qualifying vehicles used by a tax-exempt entity, the person who sold the qualifying vehicle to the person or entity using the vehicle is eligible to claim the credit, but only if the seller clearly discloses in a document to the tax-exempt entity the amount of credit.
  4. The vehicle must be used predominantly within the United States.

Looking for more? Check out this post on the 2007 federal tax credit for hybrid cars.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

2008 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Pricing

2008 Ford EscapeFord is cutting prices on the 2008 Escape and Mercury Mariner, including the hybrid models. The Escape is being priced at $1,100 less, while the Mariner is being sold at $1,300 less than the 2007 models. The 2008 Escape starts at $19,245, while the Escape Hybrid has a base price of $25,740. The 2008 Mercury Mariner and the hybrid version are being priced at $21,395 and $26,430, respectively for its hybrid.

The Mercury Mariner is the luxury version of the Ford Escape SUV. The 36-month residual values are as much as 11 points higher than for the 2007 models.

The 2008 models will go on sale late in the first quarter.
2008 Mercury Mariner
"We have added a host of features and lowered prices at the same time," Ford spokeswoman Lydia Cisaruk said.

The 2008 models come with new airbags, seat belts, steering column and steering wheel. A stability roll control system is standard on nonhybrid models. Side air curtains and side-impact airbags also are standard. There is a 12 percent reduction in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels inside the vehicle.

Both vehicles include Ford's first "top of dash" information system, a standard MP3 audio jack and a new center console that provide enough room to store a laptop. At night, new ice-blue lighting replaces green on the instrument cluster. In addition, Escape introduces sustainable new cloth seating that is the first U.S. automotive application of 100 percent recycled fabric.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Toyota predicts 40 percent increase in worldwide hybrid sales in 2007

Toyota is predicting a 40 percent increase in worldwide hybrid car sales. Considering they had a 33 percent increase in 2006, that may be asking for a lot.

A forty percent increase translates to 430,000 hybrid units sold worldwide in 2007.

How they can do it

  • Build off their reputation
  • Introduce new hybrid cars in new places
  • Get the tax credit extended
  • Focus on hybrids
Toyota has proven that their customers, especially those who are buying hybrid cars, are loyal customers with high satisfaction. They can continue to dominate in the hybrid field as long as they continue to maintain their own high standards.

If they continue to introduce hybrids into new markets, they should increase worldwide sales, even if the US marketplace has its issues.

Toyota has been pressing for an extension of the federal tax credit on hybrids. Specifically, they passed the 60,000 units sold limit last year and, without an extension, the credits will expire in 2007. Toyota has blamed a decrease in sales on that phasing out. If they succeed in pressing for an extension, despite a lack of support from other carmakers, it would make an obvious difference in their sales.

Toyota is planning on introducing new hybrid cars in 2007, while revamping some of the old. That includes new editions of the Highlander Hybrid.

Toyota has focused in on hybrid technology unlike other carmakers. DaimlerChrysler, for instance, is pushing for diesels. Ford has backed off its promises to build 250,000 hybrids by 2010 and has instead looked to alternative fuels. GM is looking into all the possibilites. By focusing in on hybrids, Toyota has dominated the hybrid car marketplace.

In opposition
  • Tax credits are phasing out
  • New EPA rules
Toyota has little success so far in convincing any of their competitors to help out in extending the federal tax credit and, most likely, has little chance of convincing Congress it's the right thing to do. The law was passed this way to protect the domestic market, and that's what it is going to do. It's not going to stop Toyota from continuing to dominate the market, but it will give the others a little bit of breathing room.

The EPA is changing the rules on how it calculates the mpg you see on stickers. And any 2008 models coming out in the next year will have to post the new numbers. And, reportedly, hybrids will suffer the most from the new reductions as the EPA switches to more 'real-life' mpg ratings. First, hybrids have farther to fall, as a 10% reduction applied across the board will bring those with higher mpg down more. And second, most pundits are predicting hybrids will drop more than 10% (some going to say it will drop as much as 25%) as they believe hybrids will suffer more by running the air conditioners or running in cold weather conditions. While that remains to be seen, it may take away some of the 'wow' factor from those high fuel economy numbers.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ford demonstrates E85 Escape Hybrid

Ford has announced it will be testing a version of their Escape Hybrid capable of running on E85. The first one will be presented at the Auto Show in Washington, but 20 altogether will be sent out for testing. Ford presented the E85 Escape Hybrid last year at the Auto Show in Washington.

By sending out 20 test vehicles to six states, Ford hopes to collect enough real-life data on the E85 hybrid to demonstrate its abilities.

The Escape Hybrid E85 produces about 25 percent less carbon dioxide than a gasoline-fueled Escape Hybrid. E85 is made up of two different materials, 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Ethanol is already being used at most gas stations today at up to 10% ethanol (you may remember the switchover from MBTE back in April when there was a gas shortage).

Press Release:


Ford Escape Hybrid E85

* Ford’s Escape Hybrid E85 can operate on renewable ethanol-based E85 fuel.
* If just 5 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet were powered by hybrids operating on E85 ethanol, oil imports could be reduced by about 140 million barrels a year.
* Escape Hybrid E85 produces about 25 percent less carbon dioxide than a gasoline-fueled Escape Hybrid – already the world’s cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUV.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 23, 2007 – Ford Motor Company announced today 20 new hybrid research vehicles will be delivered later this year to demonstrate a dual mission; help reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the 2007 Washington Auto Show, Ford displayed the first Ford Escape Hybrid E85 scheduled for delivery this spring. It is a demonstration vehicle marrying two petroleum-saving technologies – hybrid electric power and flexible-fuel capability. Escape Hybrid E85 is the world’s first hybrid vehicle capable of operating on blends of fuel containing as much as 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel that can be produced from American-grown corn or sugar beets. And ethanol use releases no fossil-based CO2, so its use as a fuel in place of gasoline reduces the release of greenhouse gases.

Ford is producing 20 demonstration Escape Hybrid E85 vehicles for use in fleets in six different states. Deliveries will begin this spring.

“As a leader in both hybrid vehicles and in vehicles capable of operating on ethanol-based fuels, Ford is the ideal company to bring both technologies together for the first time,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford Motor Company Director of Sustainable Mobility Technology Lab and Hybrid Vehicle Programs.

“This innovative research program could lead to breakthroughs to significantly reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil while also helping to address global climate change,” Gioia said. “Both the Escape Hybrid E85 and the ethanol fuel it runs on are made in America.”

Ford already is a leader in both technologies:

* Ford has two full hybrid electric vehicle models on the road today – the Ford Escape Hybrid and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid – and has announced three additional hybrids, the Mazda Tribute, Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan.
* The company produced 250,000 ethanol-capable vehicles last year, including the Ford F-150 pickup truck, as well as the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car large sedans.

Ford Developing New Hybrid Models

The world’s first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape Hybrid, was introduced in 2004. Along with the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, it remains the cleanest and most fuel-efficient small SUV available anywhere. No other American automaker today offers even one full hybrid vehicle.

Ford Motor Company will introduce several new hybrids in the coming years, including a Mazda Tribute Hybrid in 2007 and hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize sedans in 2008.

A Fuel from the Heartland of America

E85 is a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol and only 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol is a completely renewable fuel that, in the U.S., most commonly is made from corn. Gasoline sold in the U.S. frequently contains up to 10 percent ethanol, but an increasing number of vehicles on the road today can operate on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol.

“If all of the nearly six million flexible fuel vehicles now on America’s highways operated on E85, more than 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline could be displaced a year. That would be equivalent to saving a full year of gasoline consumption in a state like Tennessee or Missouri,” said Sue Cischke, Vice President of Environmental and Safety Engineering.

Additionally, ethanol-fueled hybrids could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Ford Escape Hybrid would produce about 25 percent less carbon dioxide if operated exclusively on renewable E85 ethanol fuel instead of carbon-rich gasoline.

Last year, Ford partnered with VeraSun Energy Corporation to create the Midwest Ethanol Corridor, increasing the number of E85 pumps along two major highways to encourage greater availability of E85 fuel at retail filling stations. Today, E85 is most commonly available in parts of the Midwest.

Ford has committed to making half of its vehicle fleet flexible fuel capable by 2012, as part of a national energy strategy to tap the potential of renewable fuels that includes incentives for vehicle production as well as incentives to increase the availability of renewable fuels.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

This isn't a list of the hottest hybrids, just the newest ones and put together a short story on the hottest hybrids for 2007. They probably should have labeled the story as the newest hybrids as it looks like their only criteria was which hybrid cars will be new (or newly redesigned) in 2007.

Their list includes the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid, 2008 Lexus LS 600h L, Saturn Aura Green Line, Saturn Vue Green Line, 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid / GMC Yukon Hybrid (A hybrid version of the Cadillac Escalade).

I wonder how successful any of these hybrids are going to be in 2007?

There is some interesting information in the article.

Hybrid vehicle sales catapulted more than 139 percent from 2004 to 2005 after increasing 81 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to R.L. Polk and Company. But they remain only slightly more than one 1 percent of the new-vehicle market.

California accounts for more than 26 percent of new hybrid registrations, with the L.A. area alone having 11.5 percent of 2005 registrations, according to R.L. Polk. It’s not just a West Coast trend, though: New York, Boston and Washington D.C. are also hybrid hot spots.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Toyota presents the 2008 Highlander Hybrid at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show

Toyota announced it will be premiering the 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid at the Chicago Auto Show on February 7.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid was the second hottest hybrid sold in 2006. But future sales have several hardships to overcome. First, there will be more competition for hybrid car (or SUV) buyers in the coming year. Second, Toyota is slowly losing the federal tax credit on all of its hybrids. And third, the EPA is changing the way it calculates mpg for vehicles in 2008. All vehicles with a 2008 sticker will have these revamped numbers, which will be lower than they were in the past as the EPA has corrected for 'real world' driving conditions.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

The best way to drive a Ford Escape Hybrid

Are you worried about when to coast, when to shift to 'L' or 'D'? What about how quickly should you accelerate from stop lights/signs? There's a great discussion over at GreenHybrid on how to drive your Ford Escape Hybrid and get over 30 mpg.

For example:

-Don't snail from traffic lights. It takes more gas to recharge the battery than to accelerate normally from a light.

- Don't use L unless you really need to control your speed on a hill, or want to "encourage" the FEH to go to EV mode (when under 40mph). I prefer to "double tap" the brakes to encourage EV mode and then coast or very gently assist my speed with the battery in EV mode.

- Avoid using the A/C or defroster. It cuts the mileage by about 3mpg

- Drive with the load. Slow a bit as you crest a hill. Gain a little extra speed going down hills.

- Try to keep the engine under 2400rpm when possible. Obviously when climbing a hill or merging this is not possible.

- Anticipate traffic. Look ahead, way ahead. The goal is to maintain your momentum as much as safely possible. Anticipating traffic, stale green lights, stop signs, etc., helps you to avoid braking (and is safer than following right behind the car in front of you)

To read more, head on over to the discussion on how best to drive the Ford Escape Hybrid.

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Chevy Volt in Washington

If you were impressed by the concept car GM presented at the Detroit Auto Show, but you weren't able to go, GM announced they will be exhibiting it at the Washington Auto Show starting January 24th.

The Chevy Volt demonstrates GM's new E-Flex system, capable of connecting two different powertrains to drive the car in a series system. In the Volts case, a small internal combustion engine (ICE) is connected in series to an electric motor which powers the engine. If you fully charge the batteries overnight, the electric motor is capable of powering your vehicle for up to 40 miles. After that the gas engine starts up and recharges the battery.

Press Release Follows:

Chevy Volt Electric Car, 2008 Malibu at Washington Auto Show

General Motors Also Showcases Dana Buchman Cadillac, Performance Pontiacs, Camaro, New Pickups, Roomy New Crossovers and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- From a sleek, electrically powered concept vehicle that makes trips to the gas station a rarity to one of America’s favorite muscle cars, design and technology dominate the General Motors exhibit at the 2007 Washington Auto Show, which opens to the public January 24.

Two Chevrolets make their East Coast debut: the Volt concept and 2008 Malibu. Cadillac features a concept SRX by fashion designer Dana Buchman, and Chevrolet highlights the Camaro coupe concept that foreshadows a production model. Also on the Chevy stand is the hydrogen fuel-cell Equinox SUV that soon will become part of a test fleet in Washington D.C., New York and California.

Also featured on the GM stand are new crossover 8-passenger wagons from Buick, GMC and Saturn; flexible-fuel E85 vehicles, upcoming hybrid versions of the brand-new full-size pickup trucks from GMC and Chevrolet and Pontiac’s new line of performance models.

GM’s most electrifying advanced technology vehicle introduction, literally, is the Chevrolet Volt concept, a battery-powered, extended-range electric passenger vehicle that uses a gas engine to create additional electricity, making pit stops practically passé. The technology behind the Volt concept, GM’s E-flex System, allows electricity to be produced from gasoline, ethanol, bio-diesel or hydrogen, helping to provide a global solution to diversifying transportation energy sources.

The all-new 2008 Chevrolet Malibu delivers great performance, fuel economy and refinement, wrapped in a clean, tailored design that carries the new face of Chevrolet. The new Malibu arrives at Chevrolet dealerships later this year, where it will take on the strong competition in the midsize-car segment.

Combining dramatic design and exciting performance, the Chevrolet Camaro Concept recaptures the spirit of one of the most popular sport coupes of all time and redefines the Camaro for new generations of fans. The all-new Camaro will begin with early production versions at the end of 2008 and will go on sale in the first quarter of 2009. The new Camaro will be almost identical to the concept, a thoroughly modern interpretation of the 1969 model, considered by many to be the best design of the car’s first generation. The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sport coupe will feature an independent rear suspension, and will be offered in a variety of models with the choice of manual and automatic transmissions and V-6 and V-8 engines.

General Motors will also display the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell crossover vehicle. It will comprise the world’s largest fuel cell vehicle test fleet: more than 100 will be placed with customers in Washington D.C., New York and California beginning this fall. The comprehensive deployment plan, dubbed “Project Driveway," constitutes the first meaningful market test of fuel cell vehicles anywhere. Enabled by GM’s fourth-generation fuel cell propulsion system, the Equinox Fuel Cell is a fully-functional crossover vehicle, engineered for 50,000 miles of life. Importantly, the Equinox Fuel Cell is able to start and operate in sub-freezing temperatures during its 50,000-mile life. It is expected to meet all applicable 2007 U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and is equipped with a long list of standard safety.

Chevrolet will also showcase six of its eight vehicles that can be fueled by any combination of gasoline and renewable ethanol up to a 15/85 percent blend, called E85. On the show floor will be the Monte Carlo and Impala automobiles, Avalanche and Suburban SUVs, Uplander minivan and the all-new Silverado pickup truck. Both Silverado – winner of Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year and the North American Truck of the Year -- and the GMC Sierra pickup will also be shown with the acclaimed 2-Mode Hybrid technology that will go into production in 2008 and improve fuel economy approximately 25 percent.

The new 2008 Chevrolet Equinox Sport, a performance-oriented variant of the popular compact SUV, has an aggressive stance and a sporting nature. Features include a lowered suspension, bold 18-inch wheels, a powerful, 263-horsepower DOHC engine – backed up with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual tap up/tap down control – a tuned exhaust and unique exterior appointments. Details such as body color fascias and the elimination of the roof rack contribute to the sleek design.

The Cadillac SRX Sport by Dana Buchman is the work of the vaunted New York fashion designer. Personally supervised by Buchman, this special vehicle adds many stylish, fun and functional details to the luxury crossover SRX, extending the colors and details found in her collection. The SRX interior uses rich aniline Brownstone leather with quilted inserts. Light cashmere leather and faux suede cover the console, doors and headliner. The carpets are Hokanson woven silk that is beautiful both to the eye and to the touch. A striking snakeskin print fabric is used inside storage compartments. The cabin is wi-fi enabled via a KVH wireless broadband system. Car customization is not a boy’s club anymore.

All three of the stylish new midsize crossover vehicles will be displayed: the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, which are just arriving at dealerships, and the Buick Enclave, which will go on sale later this year. They seat up to eight adults and combine the capability of an SUV with a smooth, responsive and car-like driving experience. The all-new vehicles feature a body-frame integral design that enables a lower step-in height, the generous interior space of larger SUVs, significant towing capability and fuel economy that is superior to same-size SUVs. Each of the beautifully designed new crossovers are uniquely styled to fit the character of its brand.

For the first time on the East Coast, Pontiac will reveal the 2008 Torrent GXP and 2008 G6 GXP coupe. These high-performance variants join the popular Grand Prix GXP and Solstice GXP, affirming Pontiac 's commitment to progressive design and balanced performance.

The G6 GXP broadens the G6 lineup with performance and style not typically found in the midsize segment. G6 GXP models receive a sophisticated, 3.6L DOHC V-6 with variable valve timing that produces approximately 252 horsepower. The engine is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission, performance-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels and specific exterior and interior appointments.

The Torrent GXP delivers an exciting, sporting competitor to the SUV market, with a lowered suspension, 18-inch wheels, unique exterior appointments, a potent 263-horsepower 3.6L DOHC V-6 engine with variable valve timing and a six-speed automatic powertrain. The combination propels the vehicle from 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds.

The all-new 2007 Saturn Aura midsize sedan recently won the North American Car of the Year honors. The Aura blends Saturn’s new design language and high levels of refinement with the brand’s customer-focused purchase and ownership experience.

The Aura’s driving character matches its refined design, with a host of technologically sophisticated powertrains and a premium sport-sedan setup. Uplevel models feature GM’s first application of a new six-speed automatic transmission mated with the 3.6L DOHC V-6, creating a powerful yet fuel-efficient package. Later in the 2007 model year, Saturn will offer the Aura Green Line, a 2.4L Ecotec-based hybrid that will use a powertrain system similar to the Vue Green Line. It will be GM’s first hybrid passenger car.

GMC also displays its midsize pickup truck, the GMC Canyon, upgraded for 2007. Canyon is offered with larger-displacement engines that deliver more power. A new 2.9L DOHC four-cylinder with variable valve timing (VVT) delivers 185 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque. A new, 3.7L DOHC five-cylinder with VVT is rated at 242 horsepower and 242 lb.-ft. of torque. Among the many exterior and interior updates is GM’s tire pressure monitoring system, which is standard on all models.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world’s largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader for 76 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 284,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. In 2006, 9.1 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’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Toyota Prius Owners are Loyal Owners

GM may have won the loyalty to Manufacturer (i.e. across all of their makes) with 61.4% coming back to GM, but Toyota won the Make Loyalty with 57.7% of repeat buyers according to R. L. Polk & Co.

R.L. Polk presented their 11th Annual Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards at the 2007 Automotive News World Congress.

Toyota took home the Midsize Car award with the Prius getting 35.0% customer loyalty. This was the first time a hybrid vehicle won an award.

"While hybrids continue to make up just a small percentage of the
overall market, hybrid owners have been known to be very enthusiastic about
their vehicles," said Polk. "We expect this trend to continue as an
increased number of manufacturers are working on adding more fuel-efficient
vehicles to their offerings."

This is not the first time the Prius has been honored, however. It has won for ideal image, best overall value, and their owners have been noted for loyalty, too..

What's not clear from the press release is whether the other hybrid cars were really counted. Since the Honda Insight was discontinued a few months ago, the Prius is the only car on the road which has only one option, that of the hybrid engine. All other makes come with hybrid engines or in more conventional gas only engines. So, since the Saturn Vue comes in a hybrid and a gas-only versions, does the Vue winning the compact SUV award count towards the hybrid version, as well? Granted, that may not be the best example since the Vue Green Line has only been available for a short time, but I imagine some of the new owners were repeat buyers of the gas only version.

           Polk Automotive Loyalty Award winners - 2006 Model year

Category Winner Loyalty Loyalty %
% for
Overall Awards:
Manufacturer Loyalty General Motors* 61.4 53.2
Make Loyalty Toyota* 57.7 44.4

Vehicle Segment
Small Car Saturn ION* 27.8 14.6
Midsize Car Toyota Prius 35.0 17.0
Large Car Chevrolet Impala 32.4 20.9
Luxury Car Lincoln Town Car* 34.9 18.1
Prestige Luxury Car Mercedes-Benz S-Class 31.4 24.5
Sports Car Ford Mustang* 19.9 11.7
Prestige Sports Car Chevrolet Corvette 27.0 19.8
Minivan Chrysler Town & Country* 27.4 15.2
Compact Pickup Truck Toyota Tacoma* 18.7 12.2
Full-Size Pickup Truck Ford F-Series* 36.8 32.0
Compact SUV Saturn VUE 29.6 16.7
Midsize SUV Lexus RX 300/330/400h* 31.1 17.2
Full-Size SUV Chevrolet Tahoe 22.3 16.6
Prestige SUV Land Rover Range Rover* 35.5 19.5

* 2005 Model Year Polk Automotive Loyalty Award Winner

Press Release Source: PR Newswire

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Ford Plug-In Hybrid?

Ford is trying to get in on the hype left over from GM revealing the Volt Plug-in hybrid at the Detroit show by putting it out there they are "considering plug-in products." Of course, they immediately go on to say the biggest challenge is the battery technology, getting themselves off the hook.

Source: Ford mulling plug-in hybrid vehicle - Automotive News

The story quotes Nancy Gioia, the director of Ford's hybrid program. She points out that plug-ins will be more expensive (larger batteries means more expense) and without federal tax breaks, she doesn't believe a large market exists.

Ford backed off its promise to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles by 2010 and has since focused more on alternative fuels. But at the same time, they are still building the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and will be releasing the Mazda Tribute Hybrid.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Misleading Headlines

After reading the following headline "Easton police pass on hybrid cars", you would think that all hybrid cars were rejected by the Easton Police force. After reading the article, you would think all hybrid cars are small and cramped with little to offer.

EASTON — Fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, powered by both gasoline and electricity, are not suitable for use by the Police Department, primarily because they are too small to transport prisoners, police officials have concluded.

It's only when you carefully read the whole article you get the sense the police department looked at the Honda Civic Hybrid, and that hybrid only. So, of course they rejected the Civic as being too small for normal police work. Especially when they are comparing it to the Ford Crown Victoria.

If they had looked at any of the other hybrid cars available today, from the Toyota Prius, a midsize car, up to any of hybrid SUVs available, or even the Chevy Silverado Hybrid truck, they may have changed their minds.

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Federal Tax Credits on Toyota Vehicles Continue to Decrease

As a domestic auto incentive, Congress built a 60,000 vehicle limit on qualifying hybrid (and other alternative cars) being sold by each auto maker. Toyota bypassed that limit in 2006 and since then, the tax credits have been halved, and in April, those credits will be halved again.

Tax credits peter out for Toyota
The tax credits for Toyota hybrids are being cut because the automaker has sold 60,000 hybrids. Credit amount according to purchase dates:
Vehicle Full credit by 9/30/06 Half credit 10/1/06 to 3/31/07 Qtr. credit 4/1/07 to 9/30/07 No credit after 10/1/07
'05, '06, '07 Toyota Prius $3,150 $1,575 $787.50 $0
'06, '07 Toyota Highlander 2WD, 4WD $2,600 $1,300 $650 $0
'07 Toyota Camry $2,600 $1,300 $650 $0
'06, '07Lexus RX 400h 2WD, 4WD $2,200 $1,100 $550 $0
'07 Lexus GS450h $1,550 $775 $387.50 $0
Source: IRS

So, depending on when you purchase and receive your Toyota hybrid car can really make a difference in your bottom line when it comes to tax time. As it is, Toyota is pressing for an extension on the tax credit time line, but they are getting little support from other carmakers for obvious reasons.

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Nissan Altima Hybrid Federal Tax Credits

The 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid was certified by the IRS as a qualified hybrid motor vehicle and is eligible for the federal tax credit to those who buy it in the coming year. The credit is set at $2,350 for those who are eligible.

The full credit is available until the car maker (in this case, Nissan) sells 60,000 eligible vehicles. In the case of Nissan, that won't likely occur for a long time, given that the Altima hybrid is the first vehicle to qualify.

The likelihood of the Altima HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle) not qualifying was low, given that it is built using Toyotas Hybrid Synergy Drive.

Nissan is being 'cautious' in its approach to hybrids. The Altima HEV will only be available for sale in eight states (those with the strictest emissions requirements).

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Audi Q7 SUV Hybrid in 2008

Audi is getting into the hybrid market, even though they admit they are not 'ecstatic' about it. Despite their reservations, in 2008 a hybrid and diesel version of the Q7 SUV will be available.

"It is no secret by now that we are not that ecstatic about hybrids, it is just one of those things we have to do," says Johan de Nysschen, executive vice president in charge of Audi.

Audi is more excited about the diesel version, which will come with a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI powerplant. A more powerful version was presented in Detroit last week, but will not be available in the US due to stricter US emissions requirements. The premium on this new diesel engine will be about $3,000 to $4,000 more than the conventional gas engine.

Source: Autonews: Audi plans diesel, hybrid versions of Q7 SUV

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Plug-in GM Hybrid from 1969

GM revealed the Chevy Volt this past week at the Detroit auto show, a plug-in hybrid using lithium-ion batteries. But execs point out that in order to produce the Volt, they need some advancements in battery technology.

Today, I saw an article over at Jalopnik which pointed to a page on finkbuilt about a hybrid car built by GM back in 1969. After looking at the article itself (from Popular Science), I noted a few things.

First, it's a plug-in!

"In case your batteries run down, the car is equipped with an on-board charger that can be connected to an external 115-Volt AC source."
Second, it's a full hybrid, capable of running on electric power alone, if only to 10 mph (something GM seems to have forgotten how to do with their mild hybrids). Also, the battery pack uses six 12-volt batteries, which helped this "Pinto-Vega-looking XP-883 hybrid-drive commuter car" go from 0-40 in 12 seconds.

Unfortunately, the XP-883 had a top speed of only 60 mph.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Rent a hybrid Vue from Enterprise

It looks like Enterprise is increasing their alternative car line up by adding the Saturn Vue Hybrid to its fleet of cars in 2007. For those people who want to go green even while renting a car, this is good news, although there are other options.

If you're looking to rent a hybrid, you'll need to do some research and ask for them. There are some companies that rent hybrids exclusively (EV Rental Cars, for instance), but the major rental companies have them in at limited locations.

Source on the Vue Hybrid Rental: Green Car Congress: Enterprise Rent-A-Car Adds VUE Green Line Hybrid to California Fleet

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Chevy Volt Hybrid Video

A video courtesy of GM showing you the Chevy Volt hybrid being built up from the ground. Fun stuff to watch.

I saw this first over at autoblogreen.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Toyota thinks diesels aren't cost effective

Sounding like Nissan's Carlos Ghosn when talking about hybrids, Toyota Execs believe diesel engines are too expensive to build and sell.

"I won’t deny that we won’t be offering a diesel in the US sometime in the future," said Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who oversees Toyota’s research and development. "But right now we think hybrids are much more cost competitive," he told reporters on the sidelines at the Detroit Auto Show.

Nissan has been saying the same thing about hybrids and for probably the same reasons. Without paying for the research and development and attempting to bring the costs down, diesel engines would not likely be profitable for Toyota.

Source: AutoSpies

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2008 Chevy Malibu Hybrid

Chevy announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit it is pushing ahead with its 2008 Chevy Malibu, which will include a hybrid option. Just don't expect too much from this mild hybrid at first.

The Malibu hybrid will have a belt-alternater-starter, in other words, it's going to shut off the engine when stopped, similar to what comes in the Saturn Vue Hybrid and what will appear in the Saturn Aura hybrid.

In more technical terms, the electric motor is coupled with a 2.4L Ecotec VVT four-cylinder engine, with a four-speed transmission with a nickel metal hydride battery pack as a power source. This electric motor will not be powering the engine by itself, as a full hybrid would be capable of (see the Toyota Prius), just assisting the gas engine.

To see some other reviews of the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, you can look over at Green Car Congress, Autoblog, or Autobloggreen.



DETROIT – The redesigned Chevrolet Malibu is based on GM's global midsize platform, which serves as the foundation for a strong body structure, precise build quality and refined driving dynamics. It is more than three inches (76 mm) longer than the current model, with a six-inch-longer (162 mm) wheelbase. These proportions create a wheels-at-the-corners stance that enables a smoother, more direct driving experience.

Performance comes from a family of powerful dual-overhead cam four- and six-cylinder engines, including a 2.4L Ecotec DOHC four-cylinder engine and a 3.6L DOHC V-6 with variable valve timing. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the V-6 and is offered with the 2.4L four-cylinder – a segment first.

Here's a look at Malibu's features in detail:

Driving experience

Malibu's long, 112.3-inch (2,852 mm) wheelbase and wheels-at-the corner stance enable sharp, responsive ride and handling characteristics that bring a trait that's rare to the segment: driving satisfaction. The balanced, four-wheel independent suspension system features a MacPherson strut front suspension design and multilink rear suspension. The front suspension uses aluminum control arms, which reduce unsprung mass impacts over bumps for a smoother ride. A direct-acting stabilizer bar provides a more immediate feel to steering inputs.

The rear suspension also features a direct-acting stabilizer bar, as well as monotube or twin-tube shock absorbers, depending on the model. The front and rear suspension systems are tuned for each powertrain combination, delivering tailored driving characteristics for all models. Hydraulic ride bushings and body control damping measures enhance the connected-to-the-road driving feel while supporting a comfortable ride.

GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system is standard on LT and LTZ models. It uses sophisticated vehicle sensors tied to the anti-lock braking system to help the driver maintain control during certain maneuvers. The new panic brake assistance feature provides full braking power when a panic-braking event is detected. This can reduce the braking distance, providing more control in helping to avoid a crash.

Steering response is precise and immediate, thanks to tuned steering systems designed for each model. Malibu models equipped with the 2.4L engine use a variable electric power-assist steering system, while V-6 models employ a hydraulic-assisted steering system.

A family of 16-, 17- and 18-inch wheels is offered with Malibu, all tailored with a tight wheel-to-body relationship. LS models come with 16-inch painted trim wheels; LT models come with 17-inch chrome trim wheels and LTZ models are fitted with 18-inch aluminum ultra-bright-finish wheels.

The suspension systems are mounted to a robust chassis and integrated body structure that features a safety cage design and strategic placement of high-strength steel for outstanding structural integrity. The strong chassis and body structure enable more precise mounting of the suspension systems, a design trait that enabled engineers to focus on finer degrees of suspension tuning. A safety cage construction built into the Malibu's body structure is complemented with reinforced rocker sections, as well as a reinforced front body hinge pillar and roof pillars that were designed to improve impact protection. A magnesium cross-car beam unites the lower sections of the A-pillars. This not only helps protect passengers in side-impact crashes, but also serves as a solid foundation for the instrument panel. High-strength steel is used in strategic areas to augment overall structural integrity.


The 2.4L Ecotec DOHC four-cylinder engine is rated at 164 horsepower (122 kW)* and delivers an estimated 31 mpg in highway driving, which is projected to be as good as or better than the segment's current sales leader. It also is good enough to join the exclusive ranks of vehicles rated at 30 mpg or more – a club that will be tougher to join in 2008 because of revised EPA mileage test standards. GM has more "members" in the 30-mpg club than any other manufacturer.

The 2.4L Ecotec DOHC will be offered with all trim levels. LS and LT models are backed by a Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission. Malibu LTZ models with the 2.4L engine are equipped with a new Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic – the only four-cylinder/six-speed automatic combination in the segment.

The available 3.6L V-6 VVT is a sophisticated, all-aluminum DOHC engine that uses variable valve technology to produce 252 horsepower (188 kW)** while delivering an estimated 26 mpg in highway driving. It is mated with a Hydra-Matic 6T70 six-speed automatic transmission.

The Malibu's six-speed transmissions enable a strong balance between performance and fuel efficiency, with the six forward gears offering optimized performance at all rpm levels, as well as reduced rpm at highway cruising speeds. Lower rpm can enhance fuel economy and reduce cabin noise. The six-speed transmissions also feature Driver Shift Control (DSC), which enables the driver to shift manually with steering wheel-mounted controls.

All Malibu powertrain combinations are supported with GM's five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Quiet, thoughtful environment

Malibu's strong structure serves as the foundation for an exceptionally quiet environment. Along with the robust chassis, which minimizes vibration and noise, the body structure uses noise-reducing materials, such as liquid spray-on sound deadener, laminated steel and composite wheel liners, to deliver one the segment's quietest, most refined driving experiences. Laminated "quiet glass" also contributes to a quiet environment.

The interior's attention to detail complements the quieting features, with an ergonomic design using materials that convey quality and value, including a cast skin material on the instrument panel. For the first time, the Malibu is offered with two-tone trim combinations, including Ebony and Brick, Cocoa and Cashmere and Titanium and Cashmere. There is also an all-Ebony combination, accented with a distinctive wood grain element that offers a unique, upscale appearance. LTZ models receive distinctive, black-chrome accents, a specific instrument layout and unique, two-tone leather seating surfaces.

Ambient lighting in areas such as the overhead console and door-pull pockets enhances the Malibu's inviting feel. The overhead console-mounted LED floodlights provide subdued lighting to the center console area between the front seats. A feeling of openness is enhanced with Malibu's available, panoramic sunroof, featuring four sliding panels that provide an opening that extends between the front and rear seats. The retractable glass panels tilt upward, so there is no loss of headroom inside the car.


All 2008 Malibu models come with OnStar Gen 7, which features standard automatic crash notification service and OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation. It is the first factory-installed, fully integrated GPS navigation system from OnStar. Turn-by-Turn allows consumers to talk to a live adviser, who in turn sends complete step-by-step directions to customers' vehicles through their OnStar system. These audio directions automatically play through the vehicle's stereo as needed, triggered by the OnStar system's GPS capabilities. This enables drivers to be guided to their destination while keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

*Pending SAE certification.

**SAE certified. A new voluntary power and torque certification procedure developed by the SAE Engine Test Code committee was approved March 31, 2005. This procedure (J2723) ensures fair, accurate ratings for horsepower and torque by allowing manufacturers to certify their engines through third-party witness testing. GM was the first auto manufacturer to begin using the procedure and expects to use it for all newly rated engines in the future.

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Hybrid HOV stickers still available in California

According to the MercuryNews, hybrid car owners can still get their hands on some of those carpool stickers for solo access to the HOV lanes.

10,000 additional stickers were added started January 1st. Since then just under 6,000 stickers have been sent out and close to 2,000 stickers are being processed. About 2,100 stickers are still available for anyone driving a Honda Civic Hybrid or Insight or a Toyota Prius.

California restricted access to those hybrid cars that get 45 mpg or better on the highway (EPA standards). Only these three hybrid cars available made the cut, which is why Ford and GM are suing to gain access.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Intellichoice says Hybrids save you money

According to intellichoice hybrid cars, despite their higher initial purchase price, save you money in the long run.

The basis of their argument goes like this:

  • Hybrid cars cost significantly more to purchase than their 'non-hybrid' counterparts.
  • They have about the same maintenance and repair costs for the first five years or 70,000 miles as compared to gas versions of the same model.
  • Hybrids hold their value better over five years compared to gas powered versions of the same model.
  • Average insurance costs are somewhat to significantly higher on hybrids.
  • As expected, fuel costs are dramatically lower on these models.
  • Hybrids are in demand.
In other words, given the higher demand for hybrids, the costs are less because they hold their value longer. Also, since the maintenance and repair costs are about the same, the fuel savings make up for the higher purchase price and insurance rates*.

According to their study, Prius owners will save $13,408 over a similar-size sedan that is not a hybrid in the first five years. After the Prius, the next biggest savers were the Honda Civic sedan hybrid, the Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle hybrid and the Ford Escape SUV hybrid.

Even GM's mild hybrid trucks would save their owners money, with five-year savings ranging from $2,940 to $3,463.

The Intellichoice study is to be released today during a media preview of the North American International Auto Show. In 2006, all hybrids were IntelliChoice Excellent Values in their respective classes.

* Insurance rates would be higher because of the higher purchase price. There are some insurance companies overing discounts to hybrid car owners, but that depends on which state you're in.

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Plug-In Hybrid Chevy Volt

GM will be revealing the new concept vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) capable of a starting fuel economy of 50 mpg. If you plug in the car overnight (six hours to fully charge the lithium-ion batteries), your fuel economy is only going to improve.

The Volt was designed as a series plug-in hybrid, in which the electric motor powers the wheels. If fully charged, the electric motor is capable of 40 miles of gas-free driving. After that, a small 1.0-liter three cylinder gas engine kicks in to recharge the batteries.

“If you lived within 30 miles from work (60 miles round trip) and charged your vehicle every night when you came home or during the day at work, you would get 150 miles per gallon,” Lutz said. “More than half of all Americans live within 20 miles of where they work (40 miles round trip). In that case, you might never burn a drop of gas during the life of the car.”

If you didn't plug the car in, the Chevy Volt would get 50 mpg. The Volt (as is) is also capable of running off of E85. But GM is also touting their new E-flex System. This system allows them to switch the 'other' power source from gas to hydrogen-powered fuel cell or even ethanol.

The Chevy Volt PHEV is built on the next-generation Delta platform on which the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 are built. It also has a chief engineer and a vehicle line director. And in a recent press conference, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said the Volt is being developed as a "production intent" vehicle.

In other words, GM seems intent on bringing the Chevy Volt (or something very much like it) to market. But it all depends on the battery.

Lithium-ion batteries are not ready for the mass market in cars. Promises are being made by battery makers that they will be ready by 2010 or 2012. GM recently awarded to two different suppliers** to develop and produce these batteries for the Saturn Vue plug-in. But, they also made it clear that this in no way would bind them to those two suppliers in the future.

* For comparison, the Toyota Prius is a parallel hybrid, in which either the gas powered motor or the electric motor are capable of driving the wheels.

** GM awarded the contract to two different suppliers.

  1. A joint venture formed by Johnson Controls Inc. and French battery maker Saft and
  2. Cobasys, a joint venture formed by Energy Conversion Devices and Chevron Technology Ventures LLC in Texas.

Sources: GM Press Release

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Plug in Hybrid Ford Airstream

Ford is set to show off the concept Airstream, a plug-in hybrid run on all electric power coupled with a fuel cell power source. It would be (if it ever made it to production) a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) made to run even in low temperatures, a problem most fuel cell vehicles seem to struggle with.

Airstream and Ford have come together to build the futuristic looking (as they put it, fuselage inspired form) with reflective paint and rivets. (From the press release:)
The interior features a floating instrument panel with flush-mounted, touch-sensitive controls and a multi-function single gauge display provides the driver all primary information.

A Sharp® dual-view screen centrally mounted on the instrument panel provides a camera view and secondary driver-oriented information, while allowing the front-seat passenger to view DVDs and post mobile blogs. The driver and front-seat passenger will navigate in style in modern, pod-shaped swiveling captain’s chairs that also rotate so they can easily socialize.

In the rear, lounge-like seating is sculptural, creating a continuous cocoon-like environment wrapped in bold red B Italia fabric. The focal point of the rear seating area is a 360-degree screen for entertainment and games. The unique screen also creates ambient mood settings, including a modern lava lamp and virtual fire, as well as a live camera feed.

The hybrid system has been labeled HySeries, indicating this is a series hybrid. Instead of matching with a gas engine, however, Ford has connected the electric motor with a fuel cell power source, that can also plug-in. Everything feeds power into the lithium-ion batteries, which power the electric motor. The fuel cell recharges the battery after 25 miles, giving the car a range of 305 miles before refueling is necessary.

Ford Airstream Concept Specifications


Ford’s HySeries Drive plug-in hydrogen hybrid fuel cell

Chassis lengths

Overall length: .......................185.0 in.

Wheelbase: .............................125.9 in.

Overall width: ..........................78.9 in.

Overall height at curb: ..............70.6 in.

Track width

Front: .......................................67.6 in.

Rear: ........................................69.2 in.


Front: ................. Double wishbone-independent suspension

Rear: ..................Multi-link independent


Front: .......................................37.5 in.

Second Row: ............................36.2 in.


Front: .......................................39.6 in.

Second Row: ............................33.1 in.

Ford Press Release served as the source for most of the details.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hybrid Car Sales in 2006

Hybrid Car Sales in 2006 increased 26.6% from 2005 to a total of 466,875 units sold in 2006. This is down from the incredible 161.2% jump from 2004 to 2005, but there's more to the story. (All numbers and comparisons exclude the Saturn Vue Greenline as the sales numbers are not available).

At the beginning of 2004, there were only three hybrid cars being sold, the Honda Civic Hybrid, the low production Insight and the Toyota Prius. By the end of 2004, with the late addition of the Ford Escape (and its twin the Mercury Mariner) hybrid and the Honda Accord Hybrid, there were 6 models available. And by the end of 2005, there were eight hybrids on the road. So, by increasing the number of models being sold, hybrids sales increased at a rapid rate. In 2006, only two more models were converted to hybrids (the Camry and Lexus GS 450h), and so we see a much smaller increase in sales.

Toyota and the Prius have dominated
The Prius has overshadowed every other hybrid car, selling 106,871 units (42.5% of the hybrid car market) in 2006. This has helped Toyota completely overshadow their competitors. In 2006, 76.1% of all hybrids (191,742 units) were sold by Toyota or Lexus. In comparison, Honda sold 37,573 units, while Ford sold 22,549 units.

Actually, Toyota has the top three spots for hybrids sold. The Prius was number one by a long shot, but the Toyota Highlander Hybrid came in second. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, which only came out in April of 2006, came in a close third. The fourth place spot fell to the Honda Civic Hybrid, while Ford came in fifth place with 22,549 units with the Ford Escape / Mercury Mariner Hybrid (See the table below for the units sold).

Hybrid Vehicles 2006 Sales
Toyota Prius 106,971
Toyota Highlander 31,485
Toyota Camry 31,341
Honda Civic 31,253
Ford Escape and Mariner 22,549
Lexus RX 400h 20,161
Honda Accord 5,598
Lexus GS 450h 1,784
Honda Insight 722

Honda Hybrid Cars in 2007
Honda hybrid sales have dropped like a stone in the past few months. They tested the market with the Accord hybrid, designing it to take advantage of the performance enhancements, rather than the fuel efficiency a hybrid vehicle can deliver. This misstep led to falling sales and has cost them after they helped lead the way with the introduction of the Insight and the Civic Hybrid.

But Honda is looking to come back in the next year. By cutting production of the Insight (a low production two-seater with little chances of being used by the main stream) and looking to the success of the Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda should be able to overcome this initial mistake. It won't show up in the early numbers, as they have given Toyota too big a lead, but I believe Honda will rally in 2008, if they don't switch almost entirely to diesels.

Ford Backs Off
Ford has backed off its promise to build more hybrids and has decided to go a different direction. By not focusing in on its early success with the Escape, Ford has decided to cede to their competition and focus its attention on other alternative fueled engines (I'm overstating a bit. They are promising a redesigned 2008 Escape Hybrid as well as other hybrid vehicles, they just want a cheaper alternative they have a chance of looking better in). Volvo has made a few splashes in the hybrid news area by opening research facilities or funding hybrid or battery technology, but being European, Volvo tends to think of diesels first.

The Others in 2007
And then there are the others. Nissan and GM are next two big players to enter the hybrid car game. Although DaimlerChrysler and BMW will be coming on as well, I don't expect them to make a big difference.

Nissan Altima
Nissan is cautiously entering the hybrid field, releasing the Altima Hybrid in only eight states (those with higher standards). The first Nissan hybrid is being built on top of Toyota's Synergy Drive. Nissan is hoping to have their own hybrid technology, but that won't be for a few years. As of now, Nissan clearly doesn't want to play claiming that hybrids lose money, but apparently they don't want to be left out entirely, either. Still, the Altima is a very popular car, and the Altima Hybrid could compete with the Camry Hybrid.

GM Has Been Mild
GM, on the other hand, really wants to get into the act. But they seem to be coming in too late with too little. As of now, they are concentrating their hybrid technology in the Saturn line, having already released the Saturn Vue hybrid (Greenline), which can claim to get the best highway mileage (based on EPA testing) of all hybrid SUVs. Unfortunately, their mild hybrid technology just doesn't compare well with what Toyota has done. (BTW, you should expect to get a lower overall fuel economy when driving the Vue hybrid.)

But Gm is looking to change that with new technology, jointly developed with BMW and DaimlerChrysler. The new dual-mode hybrid engine may make a big difference in the coming year or two. But expect GM to focus in on their trucks and SUVs (or CUVs) with this new technology.

Toyota Will Contine to Win Handily
And so, in 2007, I expect Toyota to continue to dominate the hybrid car market in the US. Despite losing half of its federal tax break, Toyota has beat down all others in the hybrid car industry in sales. Perhaps sales aren't growing as fast as Toyota would like, but with more hybrid models on sale than anyone else, they can continue to reap the benefits of being seen as the 'greenest' car company.

That may change when their tax benefits are cut in half again in March, but I doubt it. The Prius has become synonymous with hybrid and that's not going to change overnight.

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Hybrid Car Sales, December 2006

Hybrid car sales were up 24.1%, for a total of 22,625 units sold from last December, despite sluggish hybrid sales from Honda. Toyota hybrid car sales were up 33.5%, Ford gained 26.9%, while Honda fell 15.7% from December 2005. I still can't find a reference for the Saturn Vue Greenline, so all comparisons here exclude GM hybrids out of necessity.

The Toyota Prius led the way, selling 9,291 units, an increase of 2.9% from last December. Coming in second was the Toyota Camry Hybrid, with 4,005 units sold (no comparison can be made for the Camry hybrid since it went on sale in April, 2006). Toyota also had the fourth most popular hybrid, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which sold 2,354 units, an increase of 7.1%.

Lexus had the fifth most popular hybrid, selling 1,981 units of its RX 400h, a decrease of 8.8% from last December. The Lexus GS 450h sold 252 units (sales beginning in April, so no comparison can be made).

All together, Toyota sold 17,883 units, or 79% of all hybrids sold in the US in December 2006 carried the Toyota or Lexus brand. The Prius accounted for 41.1% of all hybrids sold. It's no wonder then that Honda is looking to come out with a new hybrid-only vehicle (all other hybrids being sold have conventional gas only engines counterparts, i.e. the Toyota Camry and the Toyota Camry Hybrid) and why Toyota is looking to repeat its success with another hybrid-only car.

Honda hybrid sales suffered in December, dropping to 2,774 units sold for a decrease of 15.7%. The Honda Accord hybrid, built for performance rather than fuel economy, has suffered the most, dropping 49.6% to 363 units sold. The Honda Civic Hybrid had strong sales of 2,408 units, making it the third most popular hybrid in December. But that was still a 4.7% decrease from last December. The Insight has been discontinued and sold only 3 units, for a decrease of 92.9%.

Honda sold 12.3% of the hybrids in the US for the month of December.

Ford sold 1,968 units of its Ford Escape Hybrid and its luxury twin, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid for an increase of 26.9% from last December. This was 8.7% of the hybrids sold in the US.

Hybrid SUV sales (Toyota Highlander, Ford Escape and the Lexus RX 400h) increased 6.5%, while Hybrid car sales increased 32.5%. The biggest difference in cars is the addition of the Toyota Camry Hybrid to the mix.

One note: December 2005 had 27 selling days, while December of 2006 had 26 selling days. I did not make any corrections for this difference, but you should keep it in mind.

November 2006 Hybrid Car Sales

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Toyota's new hybrid synergy website

Toyota is attempting to create a community for hybrid car buyers, but may be too late to make a big splash. Although it might be fun to use the imagery and sounds to demonstrate why you went hybrid, I can't imagine this would bring a lot of long term enjoyment to most people.

Also, I might suggest some other sites to join up with who cater to hybrids at large, rather than just Toyota hybrids. While niche is fine, restricting yourself to one perspective just limits you.

Press Release Follows:

NEW YORK, Jan. 2 -- Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc., a leading manufacturer of energy efficient vehicles, today announced the re-launch of its Web site for Toyota hybrid owners, a community that has grown exponentially in recent years.

Designed by Saatchi & Saatchi LA and Enjoy User Experience and developed/produced by Firstborn ( along with Vital Stream, the site explores the amazing diversity of Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) owners by inviting them to create profiles of their reasons for owning a hybrid vehicle.

"Toyota's more than 600,000 hybrid owners are very passionate about their vehicles and the reasons they drive them," said Gregg Benkendorfer, National Manager of Media Strategy and Digital Marketing for Toyota. "The new community site taps into that excitement by letting users visually represent themselves through graphic art and video. Members will help promote the HSD brand as they evangelize about their own personal experiences."

The Toyota site allows users to view owners by a host of attributes, from age group to vehicle color. Most importantly, it offers hybrid owners the opportunity to share their reasons for driving a hybrid and to provide some statistics about themselves and their vehicles. Each and every community member is visually represented, with their profile searchable and viewable in a variety of ways, making the forum a great way to see the diversity of community members.

The site also includes fun features such as an interactive distance map, which charts how much further Toyota hybrid vehicles travel than ordinary cars, and a gas savings calculator.

"The HSD site is based on the theme that everyone has their own reasons for owning a Toyota hybrid," said Peter Kang, interactive creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi LA. "Whether it's the fuel economy, the technology or the environment, we're fueling the movement toward HSD vehicles at a grassroots level by bringing to light the many tangible benefits."

Saatchi & Saatchi LA joined forces with Firstborn to bring the site to life with dynamic visualization of member data and their reasons for owning a hybrid. The site provides a palette of concepts, statements, imagery and sounds for users to choose from to help them illustrate their reasons. Users also can personalize their reasons with their own images and video clips.

"We are thrilled to be part of developing a site that celebrates and encourages environmental awareness," said Michael Ferdman, president, Firstborn. "The blueprint for the site is simple: let everyone see all of the reasons why people choose Toyota hybrid vehicles, in a visually cool and compelling way. We wanted to develop a site where people could have a lot of fun exploring and being part of this unique 'green' community."

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Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Car

Toyota is set to unveil the Toyota FT-HS Hybrid Sports Car (Concept) at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show according to Jalopnik.

The new hybrid sports car from Toyota is a 3.5 liter V6 that gets 400hp and goes from 0-60 in 4 seconds. All of this is mated to the hybrid synergy drive. Seating for four, this car is 170.3 inches long with a "rail-sliding vista-type carbon-fiber or glass roof to open up".

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