Friday, February 29, 2008

Consumer Reports Picks Prius as Green Car of 2008

Consumer Reports announced their Top Picks for 2008. The Toyota Prius came out on top in the Green Car category. Nine of the ten category winners were imports.

  • Small sedan: Hyundai Elantra SE
  • Family sedan: Honda Accord
  • Upscale sedan: Infiniti G35
  • Luxury sedan: Lexus LS 460 L
  • Green car: Toyota Prius
  • Fun to drive: Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Small SUV: Toyota RAV4
  • Mid-sized SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Minivan: Toyota Sienna
  • Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab
GM and Hyundai broke Japan's dominance from last year by appearing on the list for the first time since 2005 and for the first time ever, respectively.

Detroit Improves, Asia Shines in Overall Scores
Honda cars and trucks scored an overage of 78 out of a possible 100 points in Consumer Reports' various tests. Toyota came in second with 75 points followed by BMW, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen. (After rounding, Nissan and Volkswagen tied with 71 points.)

Meanwhile GM, Suzuki and Chrysler fell to the bottom. David Champion, Consumers Union's senior director of automotive testing, said Chrysler's lineup " is in the dumps."

Ford came in halfway, with steady improvement in reliability, but was unexciting. GM had some attractive vehicles, but reliability still lags.

"The big question in General Motors is, is the reliability going to be there" to go along with the new models, Champion said.

The overall score for each carmaker is based on the average score of all its vehicles tested by the magazine, and average predicted reliability scores based on the magazine's annual surveys. Honda's score included Accura, and Toyota's score reflected the Lexus line-up. Ford and Mazda were not linked together since Ford does not own Mazda outright.

Consumer Reports also calculated vehicles cost of ownership over five years. Cheaper cars were shown to be more expensive than previously thought, since their resale value was so much lower, and represents 48 percent of the cost of ownership.

Toyota Prius Wins Top Pick Green Car
According to CR, the Prius "hybrid retains its lock on this category for the fifth straight year. Despite a wave of new hybrid models, the Prius’ 44 mpg overall is still the best we’ve measured in any five-passenger car. The interior is roomy and versatile, and the Prius has been very reliable. Price: $24,000."

To be chosen as a Top Pick, each car must be well-rounded in their categories and meet the following requirements:
  • Road tests: Each Top Pick scores at or near the top of its category among more than 260 vehicles we’ve recently tested at our Auto Test Center.
  • Reliability: Each has an average or better predicted-reliability Rating, based on the problems subscribers reported on almost 1.3 million vehicles in our Annual Car Reliability Survey.
  • Safety: Top Picks have performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or the insurance industry. Starting this year, they also must provide a critical safety feature, electronic stability control (ESC), either as standard equipment or as a readily available option.

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It May Not Be Green, But it is Admirable

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has decided to be driven to and from his official duties as Mayor in a brand new 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUV. At a cost of $55,000, it's understandable when taxpayers start to wonder about the choice.

But lucky for them, they will not be paying the bill for Nutter's choice of wheels. Instead, he'll be paying it out of his campaign money. The Mayor has turned down a city car for 15 years as a City Council member and I say good for him!

The mayor feels his choice sends a message about "going green." Since the Tahoe Hybrid only gets about 21/22 mpg, I'm not sure the message is going to get through. Unless his other choice was a more traditional gas powered Tahoe, in which case he will be saving about 50% fuel efficiency in city driving.

The 2008 Tahoe Hybrid did win the 2008 Green Car of the Year award and was nominated for Truck of the Year. And it's quickly becoming the SUV hybrid of choice for some politicians and celebrities.

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Police Reject Hybrid For Being Too Small

Athens, Ohio police, although they were asked to consider buying a hybrid Ford Escape, rejected the hopes and wishes of the council. The Police Capt, after doing his own research, decided the unmarked police vehicle would not be capable of fulfilling the duties required. Specifically, the Escape Hybrid does not have an open bed, limiting its ability to carry large items of evidence.

Police Captain Gosney also believes the SUV hybrid would only travel around 8,000 miles a year, not enough to make up the difference in cost for his choice in vehicles. Gosney believes a better choice would be the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which costs $5,000 less than the Escape Hybrid.

The Councilor who is pushing for the hybrid SUV feels they could break even in just two years if they drive 14,000 miles a year.

Which makes me wonder about the A-BAT concept from Toyota. It may be too small for what the police dept want it for, but it might be a better choice. GM is also coming out with a couple of hybrid trucks that may be the right size.

More options will create more opportunities for hybrids to succeed.

Source: Police find hybrid vehicle plan unacceptable

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Coca-Cola Buys Fleet of Hybrid Trucks

UPS Hybrid TruckCoca-Cola will be purchasing a fleet of 120 new hybrid trucks powered by Eaton hybrid electric drivetrain. In testing the 20 trucks they purchased in 2007, Coca-Cola found that emissions were decreased by 32 percent and fuel consumption dropped 37 percent.

120 vehicles is more than just a green PR move by any company. Which makes me think Coca-Cola could be looking to save money by buying these trucks, both through government incentives and by fuel efficiency.

Eaton has developed and sold hybrid trucks to companies like UPS (see image) and Pepsi. Delivery trucks are said to be almost obvious choices for hybrid technology, with plenty of start-stop and frequent braking (recharging the battery pack).

Eaton employs parallel-type, diesel-electric hybrid architecture with Eaton's Fuller(R) UltraShift(R) automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.

KALAMAZOO, Mich., Feb 27, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- ETN | news | PowerRating | PR Charts -- Diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation (NYSE:ETN) today announced that Coca-Cola Enterprises will purchase 120 new trucks in 2008 powered by Eaton's hybrid electric drivetrain systems.

The Coca-Cola order represents the largest North American commercial order to date for Eaton's hybrid systems and follows the beverage company's purchase of 20 trucks with Eaton hybrid power systems in 2007.

Extensive testing and evaluations conducted by Coca-Cola Enterprises found that Eaton's hybrid-electric drivetrain equipped trucks decreased emissions by roughly 32 percent and fuel consumption by up to 37 percent as compared to conventionally-powered trucks in Coca-Cola's current fleet. Coca-Cola also reported lower maintenance costs on the hybrid-powered trucks.

"We have been working with Coca-Cola Enterprises since 2003 to assess our systems," said Dimitri Kazarinoff, general manager for emerging technologies at Eaton's Truck Group. "Coca-Cola is demonstrating its commitment to reducing pollution and greenhouse gases, and Eaton is pleased to be a part of this effort. We are looking forward to working with them to deploy the systems into their transportation network."

Dave Leasure, corporate director of fleet procurement for Coca-Cola Enterprises, added, "In addition to the environmentally friendly advantages that hybrid vehicles deliver, we are also happy to report that driver acceptance has been highly favorable, especially in high start-and-stop applications. The hybrid drive units have been performing very well in communicating with the electronic engines, always giving us the necessary torque and horsepower when it is needed."

Eaton employs parallel-type, diesel-electric hybrid architecture with Eaton's Fuller(R) UltraShift(R) automated transmission. It incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and input of the transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries. When electric torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only. The system can also be designed to provide energy for use during engine-off worksite operations, further reducing noise, emissions and fuel costs.

Eaton is a leading provider of diesel-electric hybrid and hydraulic hybrid power systems for truck, bus and other commercial applications on three continents. Eaton's hybrid systems are supported by a team of Roadranger service specialists, including hybrid power experts. The Roadranger call center (800-826-HELP) is also staffed with hybrid experts to provide additional support throughout the world.

Eaton Corporation is a diversified industrial manufacturer with 2007 sales of $13.0 billion. Eaton is a global leader in electrical systems and components for power quality, distribution and control; fluid power systems and services for industrial, mobile and aircraft equipment; intelligent truck drivetrain systems for safety and fuel economy; and automotive engine air management systems, powertrain solutions and specialty controls for performance, fuel economy and safety. Eaton has 64,000 employees and sells products to customers in more than 140 countries.

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The First Plug-in Hybrid Bucket Truck

phev bucket truckThe following conversation occurs all the time for me. "Why do hybrids have to look so ugly? You would think they could make them look better?" In other words, if I was in charge of hybrid powertrains, I'd be doing things differently.

It seems that otherwise knowledgeable people think that every hybrid is a Prius and I have to explain that there are over a dozen hybrid cars and SUVs on the road today. In fact, they probably pass by them all the time and don't even realize it.

But then again, some hybrids are ugly because they're designed for utility first. You probably see them all the time on the road, as well, but just don't recognize them for being a hybrid. There are hybrid buses, trucks, and other commercial vehicles on the road today that run on both electric and gas power. And now, there will be plug-in hybrid utility trucks on the road.

The first utility to own and operate a plug in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) bucket truck has announced their acquisition. Adams Electric Cooperative in Gettysburg, PA will be getting the plug-in from DUECO and ODYNE.

The new plug-in hybrid electric diesel vehicle was introduced and displayed at the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE) on October 16-18 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Toyota and GM are racing to get plug-in hybrids into production within a couple of years. These types of trucks are just the forefront of what may be the next major advancement in cars. But there are some major questions to be resolved, not the least of which is who's going to buy them and are the batteries going to last?

Press Release Follows:

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - (Business Wire) Adams Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, will be the first utility in the United States to own and operate a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) bucket truck.

“To our knowledge,” says Steve Rasmussen, Adams Electric’s CEO/general manager, “no other utility has such a material-handling vehicle. That makes Adams Electric a national leader in efficiency and environmental investment. Because final assembly was done in York, Pennsylvania, it also lays the groundwork for a Pennsylvania-based service center for this technology.”

DUECO, Incorporated, in conjunction with ODYNE Corporation (OTCBB:ODYC), the leading developer of advanced Plug-In hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology has developed the PHEV propulsion system for the vehicle that minimizes fuel use and emissions found in a typical aerial lift truck. When at a job site, batteries can power all boom hydraulic functions and the climate control system for a full work day, without the use of the diesel engine. This means reduced noise from engine idle and elimination of any emissions while in battery mode. The hybrid bucket truck has a stock diesel engine and stock transmission.

The batteries require an eight-hour charge time. When the truck returns to the garage at the end of a work day, it is plugged into a three-phase, 240-volt outlet. The batteries recharge during off-peak hours using lower-cost electricity. The system can also be recharged at any point with the conventional diesel engine. The system provides the fuel efficiency and emission enhancements typical of a hybrid vehicle, while the truck is traveling to and from the work site.

Fuel cost estimates for the new hybrid bucket truck are half those of a non-hybrid truck. The ability to recharge the batteries at off-peak times offers significant savings.

In addition to the hybrid features of the PHEV bucket truck, the bucket can be lifted two extra feet after the boom is in place; it has a 55-foot vertical bucket reach, a 36-foot horizontal bucket reach and a 12-foot telescopic extension on the upper boom; the bucket can rotate around the boom 90 degrees; and the jib can lift 1,000 pounds. The total payload of the vehicle is 7,500 pounds.

Since its early days, the cooperative’s rural roots meant promotion of energy conservation and environmental stewardship. Now the co-op has a visible method of spreading the word, with a unique hybrid color scheme and signage. The new bucket truck, a rolling billboard with an essential job function, will be a daily reminder of efficiency and conservation in the communities it serves.

Adams Electric Cooperative is a non-profit, member-owned electric utility serving over 30,000 homes, farms and businesses in the counties of Adams, Cumberland, Franklin and York in Pennsylvania.

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Volkswagen Golf May Get 69 mpg

VW Golf TDI HybridWord is out that Volkswagen will be presenting a hybrid version of the Golf at the Geneva Auto Show. ABG is reporting the Diesel Hybrid TDI Golf will get 69 mpg, while autoexpress is reporting an astonishing 83 mpg (89 g/km of CO2).

The compact diesel hybrid is expected to have a 2.0-litre diesel engine combined with an electric motor. The electric motor may be able to power the vehicle at low speeds (earlier reports on the Hybrid Golf said it would be a mild hybrid).

VW Golf TDI Hybrid Fuel GaugeThe VW Golf Hybrid will likely get the 7-speed DSG double-clutch transmission, a start-stop system, regenerative braking, and aero-dynamic molding. But at this point, the details are not in.

And although the new compact diesel hybrid may be very exciting, don't expect it to be in the US anytime soon. Earlier reports said it may be five years before it makes its way across the Atlantic.

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Hybrid Limos in New York

NYC Black Town CarMayor Bloomberg, as part of an overall effort to curb emissions in New York City, has proposed new fuel efficiency rules for limos in New York. The end result? Limos will need to go hybrid within the next five years to qualify. They will also need to be replaced every six years.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's is attempting to decrease the city's carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Black town cars in New York currently get 12 to 15 mpg. Bloomberg is mandating they raise that to 25 mpg by 2009 and 30 mpg by 2010. There's an obvious savings in fuel by doubling the fuel efficiency, but there are critics. Buying hybrid limos will be more expensive than buying a more traditional gas powered vehicle.

To help with the cost, the Mayor has recruited Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers to work with the limo supply companies to provide low interest loans for the more expensive hybrid vehicles.

The new rules will need to be voted on by the Taxi and Limousine Commission in April. The rules for taxis have already been changed. 825 taxis in New York are already hybrids. By October, there should be 1,000. And by 2012, all 13,000 are supposed to be hybrid vehicles.

"Between yellow taxis and black cars, more than 23,000 Taxi and Limousine Commission regulated cars will be required to be more efficient," Bloomberg said in a statement Wednesday.

"This will allow us to achieve substantial emissions reductions for our city and keep us moving towards our long term goal of creating a truly sustainable city," he added.

Bloomberg noted that the black town cars are responsible for two percent of the city's emissions. By doubling the fuel efficiency, they can cut in half the emissions.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Are Plug In Hybrids Good For the Environment?

USA Today put together an interesting article on whether plug-in hybrids would be good for the environment. By putting the power supply onto the electric grid, you are taking the emissions problem away from the tailpipe and putting it into the coal plants that produce the electricity.

Plug-in cars could actually increase air pollution - USATODAY.com

By James R. Healey, USA TODAY
The expected introduction of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could cut U.S. gasoline use but could increase deadly air pollution in some areas, two reports say.

That's because a plug-in's lower tailpipe emissions may be offset by smokestack emissions from the utility generating plants supplying electricity to recharge the big batteries that allow plug-ins to run up to 40 miles without kicking on their gasoline engines. Plug-ins, called PHEVs, are partly powered, in effect, by the fuel used to generate the electricity.

About 49% of U.S. electricity is generated using coal, so in some regions a plug-in running on its batteries is nearly the equivalent of a coal-burning vehicle. The trade-off is one that even plug-in backers acknowledge. It could undercut the appeal of vehicles that appear capable of using no gasoline in town and hitting 50 to 100 mpg overall fuel economy.

If large numbers of plug-in hybrids were being recharged with power from the least-sophisticated coal plants, "There is a possibility for significant increases of soot and mercury," says a report by environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council. Soot particles can make it hard to breathe, especially for asthmatics. Mercury is toxic.
Some proponents of plug-in hybrids feel that electric power plants can be regulated more easily.

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Top Green Car of the Year

World Car of the Year AwardsThe non-profit organization, World Car of the Year, under the guidance of a Steering Committee of pre-eminent automotive journalists from Asia, Europe, and North America have selected the Top Green Car of the Year Finalists for 2008. The winner will be announced at the 2008 World Car awards winners’ press conference at the New York International Auto Show on Thursday, March 20, 2008.

The Top 3 Green Cars are, in alphabetical order:

  • BMW 118d with Efficient Dynamics
  • SmartForTwo cdi
  • Volkswagen Passat 1.9 TDI
To be eligible for the 2008 World Green Car award, a vehicle had to available in at least one major market during 2007. The vehicle or the green technology could be in production or an experimental prototype with potential near-future application, provided that it was released for individual or press fleet evaluations in quantities of ten or more during 2007. Tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and use of a major advanced power plant technology (beyond engine componentry), aimed specifically at increasing the vehicle's environmental responsibility, were all taken into consideration.

Their are forty-seven (47) top-level automotive journalists from twenty-four (24) countries around the world on the panel that selects the Car of the Year. Each juror was appointed by the World Car Steering Committee on the basis of his or her expertise, experience, credibility, and influence. Each juror typically drives and evaluates new vehicles on a regular basis as part of their professional work.

The 2008 World Car of the Year list was also paired down to the top 3, in alphabetical order:
  • Ford Mondeo
  • Mazda2 / Mazda Demio
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
And the 2008 World Performance Car award, presented by Mobil 1, are, in alphabetical order:
  • Audi R8
  • Audi S5 CoupĂ©
  • BMW M3
Press Release Follows:

February 20, 2008 - The countdown continues in preparation for the 2008 World Car awards winners’ press conference at the New York International Auto Show on Thursday, March 20, 2008. Announcing the annual World Car of the Year awards at the New York show is a fitting finale to the international auto show season that begins each fall with either the Paris or Frankfurt motor shows.

From an initial entry list of thirty-nine (39) new vehicles from all over the world, then a short list of ten finalists, the top three contenders for the overall 2008 World Car of the Year title were announced today by the international accounting firm KPMG. They are, in alphabetical order:

Ford Mondeo
Mazda2 / Mazda Demio
Mercedes-Benz C-Class

To be eligible for a World Car award, the contender had to be in production, and sold, on at least two continents during 2008.

Vehicles are selected and voted on by an international jury panel comprised of forty-seven (47) top-level automotive journalists from twenty-four (24) countries around the world. Each juror was appointed by the World Car Steering Committee on the basis of his or her expertise, experience, credibility, and influence. Each juror typically drives and evaluates new vehicles on a regular basis as part of their professional work.

Three additional winners for the World Performance Car, World Green Car award, and the World Car Design of the Year will also be announced at the New York International Auto Show on Thursday, March 20, 2008.

In preparation, KPMG announced today that the Top Three finalists for the 2008 World Performance Car award, presented by Mobil 1, are, in alphabetical order:

Audi R8
Audi S5 Coupé
BMW M3

While the winner of the overall World Car of the Year Award must excel in a broad range of attributes, the World Performance Car award must demonstrate a specific and overt sports/performance orientation while satisfying the same availability criteria as for the overall World Car of the Year award.

Entrants may be chosen from that list of eligible vehicles, or they may be newly introduced variants that satisfy the same criteria, but are derived from existing rather than brand-new models. In all cases, they must have a minimum annual production rate of five-hundred (500) vehicles.

" It is a great honor to stand with the top three contenders vying for the prestigious World Performance Car Award ," said Nancy Carlson, strategic global alliances - sales director, ExxonMobil Lubricants & Specialties. " For more than 30 years, Mobil 1's leading technology has influenced the world's top engineers and performance car enthusiasts with its outstanding engine protection and superior performance capabilities. We wish the three finalists the best of luck in their quest to become the 2008 World Performance Car ."

To be eligible for the 2008 World Green Car award, a vehicle had to available in at least one major market during 2007. The vehicle or the green technology could be in production or an experimental prototype with potential near-future application, provided that it was released for individual or press fleet evaluations in quantities of ten or more during 2007. Tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and use of a major advanced power plant technology (beyond engine componentry), aimed specifically at increasing the vehicle's environmental responsibility, were all taken into consideration.

The forty-seven (47) member jury chose the following top three finalists for the 2008 World Green Car award:

BMW 118d with Efficient Dynamics
SmartForTwo cdi
Volkswagen Passat 1.9 TDI

Cars eligible for the 2008 World Car Design of the Year award are taken from the list of World Car candidates.

A design panel consisting of four highly respected world design experts was asked to first review each candidate, and then establish a short-list of recommendations for the jurors. The design experts were:

Silvia Baruffaldi: Managing Editor, Auto & Design magazine
Robert Cumberford: design critic, Automobile and Auto & Design magazines
Akira Fujimot Editor-in-Chief, Car Styling magazine.
Tom Matan Executive Director, School of Industrial Design, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, USA

Jurors then voted on the expert’s recommendations. The top three design finalists are, in alphabetical order:

Audi R8
Mazda2 / Mazda Demio
Volvo C30

Now in their fifth year, the annual World Car awards have become one of the most prestigious and credible programs of their type in the world.

The awards were inaugurated in 2003, and officially launched in January 2004, to reflect the reality of the global marketplace, as well as to recognize and reward automotive excellence on a global scale. The awards are intended to complement, not compete, with existing national and regional Car of the Year programs.

The awards are administered by a non-profit association, under the guidance of a Steering Committee of pre-eminent automotive journalists from Asia, Europe, and North America. There is no affiliation with, nor are the awards in any way influenced by any publication, auto show, automaker, or other commercial enterprise.

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The First Hybrid Beverage Truck

Diesel Hybrid M2e Drop-Frame Beverage TruckHybrids are coming out of the wood work lately. Freightliner has built the first Business Class M2e drop-frame beverage trucks with diesel electric hybrid powertrains. M2e hybrid utility bucket trucks are also available.

The diesel hybrid gets 30%-50% better fuel economy, but still gets 300 hp and 620 lb ft of torque from the diesel engine. The electric motor helps out with another 60 hp and 300 lb ft torque.

"The vehicle you see here is the first drop-frame hybrid beverage truck every built," Melissa Kellogg, director of product marketing for Freightliner announced during a press conference this afternoon. "The beverage industry benefits a great deal from hybrids, as does any industry that has their trucks make frequent stops, such as any pickup and delivery operation."

The electric motor is powered by lithium-ion batteries (all 200 pounds of them) and are expected to last up to seven years. The batteries are located up front just under the roof.

Oh, and they are for sale. At $40,000 more than a traditional vehicle, the premium may be hard to swallow. But government incentives in the US can offset up to 80% of the charge. In Canada, fuel savings may realistically make up the difference according to Freightliner officials.

Sources: Today's Trucking: The Online Business Resource for Canada's Trucking Industry and trucknews.com - Truck News - 2/27/2008

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Lotus Starts Their Own Hybrid and Electric Research and Development

Lotus has started their own hybrid and electric vehicle R&D Group. With the importance of hybrid and electric vehicles becoming more apparent and with the increasing amount of consultancy project work in this area, a separate R&D group has become necessary.

Hybrid and electric cars are nothing new to Lotus. Last year, they brought their prototype hybrid Proton Gen. 2 they called EVE (short for Efficient, Viable and Envrionmental) to the Geneva Auto Show. They also provide the platform for the electric Tesla Roadster.

"We have an intensely proactive growth plan over the next five years," said Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer for Group Lotus. “Indeed, Lotus will reinforce its position as a world leader in green transport engineering."

Phil Barker was appointed as Chief Engineer of Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Technologies. He will report to Castleton-White in Powertrain. The former design and engineering consultant will have full responsibility over research and development at the newly formed center.

"We already have an incredibly strong team of engineers working in this area," said Barker. "The formalization of this group further enhances our ability to provide both low CO2 and zero emissions vehicle solutions to our clients."

"We are committed to driving forward with green technology for both Lotus Cars and our Engineering clients," said Castleton-White in a statement. "We have made significant developments over 20 years in hybrid and electric vehicle technologies with recent examples being the Lotus EVE (Efficient, Viable, Environmental) hybrid technology demonstrator and the Low CO2 project undertaken in collaboration with Continental Division Powertrain."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BMW Hybrid X5 They Call Vision

BMW Hybrid X5BMW is introducing the concept of a mild active hybrid in the X5 Hybrid they call Vision at the Geneva Auto Show. This diesel hybrid electric comes with a 2.0-liter diesel engine with twin variable-geometry turbochargers and direct injection for plenty of power (204 hp) and torque (295 lb-ft). But coupled with a electric motor-generator powered by a lithium-ion battery pack which gives you and extra 20 hp and 155 lb-ft, the engine can deliver 36 mpg combined city/highway with emissions of only 172 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.

The concept vehicle also comes with 10.8 square feet of solar cells on the top roof, capable of powering audio devices or mobile phones. It is also used to power pre-heaters for the transmission fluid and diesel fuel, which helps out when the car is started, boosting efficiency the way a block heater would.

The lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery pack can be recharged by the diesel engine or through regenerative breaks. The X5 Vision Hybrid comes with all wheel drive and is an eight-speed automatic transmission. The mild hybrid comes in using start/stop technology. And it seats seven comfortably.

The 120 volt system has been set to support moving electricity from the two lithium-ion battery packs into the various components including the electronic damper control (EDC) system. The electric system also powers the air conditioning and other systems when the engine is turned off.

The hybrid powertrain is a result of the work with GM and Daimler, which GM and Daimler are using to produce their two-mode hybrid SUVs and trucks.

BMW X5 Hybrid Under the HoodOne other fine feature is the 19 inch wheels that have been designed to lower wind resistance. According to BMW, the wheels are capable of reducing the load on the engine by 1 hp when the car is traveling at 100 mph. The wheels themselves are low-rolling resistance tires from Firestone.

"This is no pie-in-the-sky project," says Klaus Draeger, head of development at BMW. "All of the features are production-feasible. We could easily and without too much delay apply the various technology featured on our latest concept to existing showroom models."

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The Toyota Hybrid A-BAT May Become a Reality

Toyota Hybrid A-BATThe concept vehicle A-BAT (Advanced-Breakthrough Aerodynamic Truck) shown last month at the Detroit Auto Show may become a reality now that automakers are starting to feel pinched by the new CAFE regulations.

"As we look to 2020, when we have to get 35 miles per gallon (fleetwide), that's a big challenge," Lentz said in an interview.
The A-BAT could fit on the shortened Camry/Highlander platform, making it easier for production to begin. It could end up in either the Scion or Toyota lineup.

And Toyota wants you to let them know if it's a good idea. The Toyota Open Road Blog is looking for input on what you liked or didn't like about the concept. So head on over and have your say in what could be the first compact hybrid truck on the road in the US.

Some of the features won't be likely to make it out of the concept design, but others will.

ABAT InteriorThe cargo bed is just 4 feet long, but can be extended by dropping the midgate, while a roof panel can be slid open for more upwards room. More features for the bed include: tailgate lighting, sliding tie-downs, and an AC power outlet. There are lockable drawers in the bed walls and a sliding drawer is located underneath the bed.

There is a solar panel which can be used to charge the NAV unit, while a portable power pack can provide AC and DC power for just about anything else you need.

And, if Toyota does go ahead with production of the A-BAT, it may force GM to compete with their concept hybrid compact truck, the Denali XT Hybrid.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Fuel Efficiency is Top Unmet Need for New Car Buyers

New buyers are most concerned with improved fuel efficiency according to a study by the RDA Group.

The RDA Group surveyed almost 8,200 new vehicle owners and asked them to rank 500 features they felt were unmet needs in different areas including safety, performance, visibility, comfort, convenience, security, storage, telecommunications and service/maintenance.

"To have optimal market impact and meet more of the most important needs vehicle consumers have, automotive manufacturers must carefully prioritize their research and development resources," said Jim Thomas, senior vice president for the RDA Group. "The Auto-Ideation III study not only identifies the top needs among owners in each of 12 car and truck vehicle categories, but also by such key demographic groups as younger versus older vehicle drivers and male versus female drivers."

Other needs of top concern to new drivers include safety and performance issues:

  • Violent-collision protection
  • Vehicle entrapment
  • Increased range on a tank of gasoline
  • Vehicle seats that provide optimal comfort
  • Working brakes in deep-water situations
  • Easy window defrost
  • Hydroplane control
  • Preventing unauthorized entry
  • Traction in icy conditions
I have to admit, after reading the press release, that aside from fuel economy issues (no surprise there), I would really like to see service alerts in plain english.

Press Release Follows:

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Results of RDA Group's recent Auto-Ideation(TM) III study - that asked new vehicle owners to rank the importance of over 500 unmet needs - puts "significant improvement" in fuel economy at the top of the list. Other issues relating to violent collision protection, vehicle entrapment, child back-over avoidance, lane changing assistance, glare elimination and 360 degree visibility follow as the next most important needs today's vehicle owners want manufacturers to address when developing future vehicles.

"To have optimal market impact and meet more of the most important needs vehicle consumers have, automotive manufacturers must carefully prioritize their research and development resources," said Jim Thomas, senior vice president for the RDA Group. "The Auto-Ideation III study not only identifies the top needs among owners in each of 12 car and truck vehicle categories, but also by such key demographic groups as younger versus older vehicle drivers and male versus female drivers."

The study also found that:

-- Compared to car owners, truck owners have more needs relative to their vehicle's larger size and its impact on visibility - particularly "child back-over prevention" and "360 degree visibility from the driver's seat."

-- Compared to their younger counterparts, older drivers are particularly concerned about their weakening vision as they age. They want "blind spot alerts when changing lanes," "glare elimination" and "vision assistance when driving in heavy rain or low light conditions."

-- Compared to their male counterparts, women drivers also place more importance on visibility needs, as well as needs related to vehicle service/maintenance including "having in-vehicle service alerts in plain English."

The Auto-Ideation III study provides automotive manufacturers and their suppliers the insight needed to prioritize their own new product development resources for greater product success. Almost 8,200 new vehicle owners ranked the importance of unmet needs in areas such as safety, performance, visibility, comfort, convenience, security, storage, telecommunications and service/maintenance.

This Syndicated Auto-Ideation III study targeted 2006/2007 model new car and truck owners who were interviewed in an online survey conducted during November and December 2007.

All three of the Auto-Ideation studies conducted from 2003 to 2007 have identified thousands of unmet needs in vehicles. For the first time, Auto-Ideation III is able to provide study subscribers with importance validation of hundreds of these thought-provoking needs that new vehicles owners have identified. To purchase a copy of the study, interested parties can call (248) 332-5000.

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

Hybrid Battery Production Increase For Toyota

If battery production is any measure of what kind of plans Toyota has for next year, it's going to be a good year for hybrids. Panasonic EV Energy Co. is planning on building 800,000 hybrid batteries, about 95% of which will end up in Toyota cars in 2009.

That would be a huge increase in numbers, given Toyota sold 429,000 hybrids in 2007.

There may be a limit to the number of Prius being bought and sold in the US at this point, but I guess that sort of limit doesn't apply worldwide or to other hybrid cars.

Source: Toyota hybrid battery partner boosts output - Automotive News

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San Francisco Mayor Wants You to Plug-in Your Car

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is pushing for plug-in hybrid cars in a big way. Standing in front of a garage that converts hybrids into plug-in hybrids, Newsom said "This is an open purchase order where we will commit to purchasing these low-emission cars and we will use them to replace the vehicles in our existing fleet. We want to create our own market for these cars."

Newsom is planning on encouraging other mayors in the Bay Area to join him in the effort. He is also going to encourage others at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June.

Pat's Garage converted three hybrids for the city into plug-ins. The Garage says it costs about $20,000 to convert a Prius into a Plug-in.

Although the article doesn't mention them (Source: Newsom urges push for hybrid plug-in cars), it sounds like Newsom has signed on as part of Plug-in Partners (previous post). Plug-in Partners is hoping to encourage plug-in vehicles by creating a market for them before they are in mass production.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oprah Gives Away Six Hybrid Escalades

GM continues to push their new hybrid SUVs by presenting six new Hybrid Escalades to six different women on Oprah. After seeing the 2008 Escalade Hybrid being advertised at the Superbowl, Oprah producers wanted to see if GM would be willing to help them give six women a complete makeover.

I can imagine how excited they were to receive these brand new SUVs.

But it makes me wonder who GM is advertising to on the Oprah Show? Most people will not be able to afford this vehicle. At $60K to $70K, these are not budget vehicles. I suppose putting it on Oprah will certainly help develop a buzz about GM and hybrid vehicles.

And perhaps that's all it is? An attempt to change GM's image to being more green?

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

Friday, February 22, 2008

PEGOS From US Hybrid and SwRI

US HybridUS Hybrid has licensed a parallel hybrid drive system for use in commercial delivery vehicles, ports, off-road and GSE vehicles. In house testing on a mid-size sedan showed a 40-50% improvement in fuel economy (city).

The system was developed at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

What this means to you: hybrid systems are going to really start taking off in more places, not just buses and passenger vehicles.

Press Release Follows:

NEW YORK - (Business Wire) US Hybrid Corporation announced today that it has received a license to use and commercialize the Southwest Research Institute’s (SwRI) patented PECOS (Parallel Hybrid Electric Combination of Speeds) parallel hybrid drive system. The PECOS system offers a unique parallel/series hybrid solution utilizing a planetary system and is capable to operate in a parallel, series or pure EV mode.

US Hybrid is commercializing the patented hybrid system technology for use in commercial delivery vehicles, ports, off-road and GSE vehicles. “The PECOS system offers cost-effective hybrid solutions with substantial fuel economy improvement and emission reduction. The initial product development focus is for port operation support vehicles and off-road commercial vehicles,” said Dr. Abas Goodarzi, President and CEO of US Hybrid.

The PECOS system was developed and tested at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in an internally funded project. Chassis testing of the powertrain on a mid-sized vehicle produced fuel economy benefits in the range of 40 percent to 50 percent for city driving.

US Hybrid will provide an integrated hybrid solution for commercial and off-road vehicles to enhance fuel economy and reduce emissions. The PECOS system does not need a clutch or torque converter to launch the vehicle and has only one electric machine for both parallel and series hybrid operation. The use of off-road vehicles is regulated near some populated areas such as ports and construction sites. The PECOS hybrid system provides a commercially viable hybrid solution to meet the 2010 emission requirements.

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Hybrid Systems Are Just Another Luxury Item

Toyota is looking to make hybrids into a luxury option. By setting up hybrids, like the new Crown Hybrid in Japan, as top of the line, Toyota is hoping to create hybrids as luxury models.

This may be in response to who the typical hybrid car buyers are: older, upper middle class, etc... Of course, that may be because that's who can afford the hybrid technology in the first place, so it may be a matter of who came first, the chicken or the egg.

But despite the premise of this story from autonews, selling hybrids as luxury vehicles is nothing new. Most hybrids come with some of the latest options, like fobs that allow you to open and start the car without using a key, nav systems, etc...

Also, note all the hybrid models from Lexus, and how Ford came out with a Mercury Mariner Hybrid. And Nissan has said their first homegrown hybrid will most likely be an Infiniti model. GM's new hybrid models with the dual mode hybrid system will all be oversized, luxury SUV hybrids.

Just the other day, PSA announced they will be developing their own hybrid diesel cars into the more expensive vehicles. This was in response to a block of a project in public funding to develop a hybrid vehicle system along with Continental, Bosch, Valeo and Thyssen-Krupp. PSA had hoped the hybrid diesel platform would be in use for the Peugeot 308 in 2010. Now they've been delayed until 2011.

It's because of the high cost of developing hybrid technology that production has been limited, despite the ever rising popularity of hybrid cars. Ford claims it will only be this year they will make a profit on their hybrid lineup. Nissan CEO Ghosn has claimed he hates building hybrid cars because he hates selling any car for a loss.

By passing hybrids off as a luxury model, automakers are looking to pass off the extra cost of a hybrid system to the buyer, rather than having to eat the costs themselves.

One other side note from autonews about Toyota. Toyota is still hoping to integrate hybrid technology into more of their line-up. To do so, they need the platforms themselves to capable of handling the hybrid system:

Another element of Toyota's hybrid push will be phasing in versatile platforms that can accommodate both a conventional drivetrain and a hybrid one.

All newly introduced platforms will be dual-use, said Shinichi Matsumoto, Toyota's general manager for hybrid vehicle engineering. Only four of Toyota's 11 passenger-car platforms can now swap conventional and hybrid powertrains.

Having dual-use platforms will allow Toyota to add hybrid versions in the midlife of a model series without waiting for a complete redesign, Matsumoto said.

" We are going to be introducing new hybrid models and expanding sales of current hybrids into new countries," he said. " Our production of hybrids is increasing very sharply, and this tendency will continue next year."

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hybrid Knight Rider Scores Big in the Nielsens

KITT and Michael from Knight RiderThe Nielsen Media Research estimated 12.7 million viewers watched the newly renovated hybrid Ford Mustang that plays the starring role in the Knight Rider movie on Sunday (via edmunds). It was very popular in the 18-49 year old and did very well in men 18-49 and 25-54.

Which all adds up to a Knight Rider Series coming.

In the movie, it was revealed KITT, which (who?) is based on Ford's Mustang Shelby Cobra, was capable of getting 167 mpg. According to KITT: "My system is largely solar-powered. It recycles ninety-one percent of its expended energy, allowing a ratio of 167 miles traveled for every gallon of fuel burned."

In case you were wondering (for some reason, it wasn't on the NBC web site), the voice of KITT was done by Val Kilmer, who replaced Will Arnett. Arnett was removed after the lawyers got involved since he is used in several GM ads.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prius Wins Green Car of the Year in Finland

Motiva has designated the Toyota Prius as Green Car of the Year. Motiva is a Finnish state-owned outfit that promotes efficient energy use and renewables.

This is the first time a hybrid has won the award from Motiva. Seven gas-only and five diesel vehicles have won the award in the past.

Source: NewsRoom Finland

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Greenest Car of the Year

Of the top 10 greenest cars, 4 of them are hybrids according to the the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Greenercars.org calculates their top 10 greenest vehicles based on their 'green score,' a measure of their emissions, fuel consumption and the emission of gases that cause global warming.

The ACEEE also lists out the top green cars for vehicle type. The Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and Chevy Tahoe Hybrid received top scorese in their respective classes, while the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid round out the top 10 greenest cars.

To see the list for 2007 greenest and meanest cars, follow the link.

Greener Choices 2008

A Selection of Gasoline Vehicles that Score Well

Make and Model Specifications Emission Standarda MPG:
City
MPG: Hwy Green
Score
TOYOTA PRIUS 1.5L 4, auto CVT Tier 2 bin 3 / PZEV 48 45 53
HONDA CIVIC HYBRID 1.3L 4, auto CVT Tier 2 bin 2 / PZEV 40 45 51
SMART FORTWO
CONVERTIBLE/COUPE
1.0L 3, auto stk [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 33 41 49
HONDA FIT 1.5L 4, auto Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 27 34 43
FORD ESCAPE HYBRID 2.3L 4, auto CVT Tier 2 bin 3 / PZEV 34 30 42
HYUNDAI SONATA 2.4L 4, auto Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 21 30 39

SUBARU OUTBACK WAGON

2.5L 4, auto stk 4wd Tier 2 bin 5 / PZEV 20 26 37
NISSAN ROGUE 2.5L 4, auto Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 22 27 37
TOYOTA TACOMA 2.7L 4, auto Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 19 25 34
TOYOTA SIENNA 3.5L 6, auto Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 17 23 33

CHEVROLET TAHOE

HYBRID C1500

6.0L 8, auto Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 21 22 28
NISSAN FRONTIER 4.0L 6, auto 4wd Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 14 19 27

[P] denotes premium gasoline.
"auto CVT" denotes continuously variable automatic transmission.
"auto stk" denotes manually adjustable automatic transmission.
a A listing with two emission standards (e.g., Tier 2 bin 3 / PZEV) denotes a single vehicle carrying both a federal and California emission certification. Green Scores for such listings reflect the cleaner of the two certifications.


Greenest Vehicles of 2008

Make and Model Specifications a Emission Standardb MPG: City MPG: Hwy Green Score
HONDA CIVIC GX 1.8L 4, auto [CNG] c Tier 2 bin 2 / PZEV 24 36 57
TOYOTA PRIUS 1.5L 4, auto CVT Tier 2 bin 3 / PZEV 48 45 53
HONDA CIVIC HYBRID 1.3L 4, auto CVT Tier 2 bin 2 / PZEV 40 45 51
SMART FORTWO
CONVERTIBLE / COUPE
1.0L 3, auto stk [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 33 41 49
TOYOTA YARIS 1.5L 4, manual Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 29 36 46
NISSAN ALTIMA HYBRID 2.5L 4, auto CVT PZEV 35 33 46
TOYOTA COROLLA 1.8L 4, manual Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 28 37 45
MINI COOPER / CLUBMAN 1.6L 4, manual [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 28 37 44
FORD FOCUS 2.0L 4, manual Tier 2 bin 3 / PZEV 24 35 44
TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID 2.4L 4, auto CVT Tier 2 bin 3 / PZEV 33 34 44
HONDA CIVIC 1.8L 4, manual Tier 2 bin 5 / ULEV II 26 34 44
HONDA FIT 1.5L 4, manual Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 28 34 44

[CNG] denotes compressed natural gas fuel.
[P] denotes premium gasoline
"auto stk" denotes manually adjustable automatic transmission
"auto CVT" denotes continuously variable automatic transmission.
a
Certain other configurations of these models (with different transmissions or meeting different emission standards) score nearly as well.
b A listing with two emission standards (e.g., Tier 2 bin 2/ PZEV) denotes a single vehicle carrying both a Federal and a California emission certification. Green Scores for such listings reflect the cleaner of the two certifications.
c Compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle fuel economy given in gasoline-equivalent miles per gallon.



Meanest Vehicles for the Environment in 2008

Make and Model Specifications Emission Standard a MPG:
City
MPG:
Hwy
Green
Score
VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG 5.0L 10, auto stk 4wd [D] Tier 2 bin 10 15 20 14
BUGATTI VEYRON 8.0L 16, auto stk 4wd [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 8 13 17
MERCEDES-BENZ
GL320 CDI
3.0L 6, auto 4wd [D] Tier 2 bin 10 18 24 17
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE 3.0L 6, auto 4wd [D] b Tier 2 bin 10 17 22 17
MERCEDES-BENZ
R320 CDI
3.0L 6, auto 4wd [D] Tier 2 bin 10 18 24 17
LAMBORGHINI
MURCIELAGO /
MURCIELAGO ROADSTER
6.5L 12, manual 4wd [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 8 13 18
MERCEDES-BENZ
ML320 CDI
3.0L 6, auto 4wd [D] Tier 2 bin 10 18 24 18
MERCEDES-BENZ
G55 AMG
5.4L 8, auto 4wd [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 11 13 18
HUMMER H2 c 6.0L 8, auto 4wd Tier 2 bin 8 12 16 18
GMC YUKON 2500 c 6.0L 8, auto 4wd Tier 2 bin 8 12 16 18
BENTLEY AZURE 6.7L 8, auto stk [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 9 15 18
BENTLEY ARNAGE d 6.7L 8, auto stk [P] Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II 9 15 18
[D] denotes diesel fuel.
[P] denotes premium gasoline.
"auto stk" denotes manually adjustable automatic transmission.
a A listing with two emission standards (e.g., Tier 2 bin 5 / LEV II) denotes a single vehicle carrying both a federal and a California emission certification. Green Scores for such listings reflect the cleaner of the two certifications.
b
The 2wd configuration of this model receives a Green Score of 18.
c
These vehicles, classified as heavy duty trucks, are exempt from fuel economy regulations.
d
The Bentley Arnage (non-RL) also receives a Green Score of 18.


Press Release Follows:

Washington, D.C. (February 6, 2007): Amid numerous industry claims of eco-friendly vehicles and rising public concern about U.S. oil dependence, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) today named the year's "greenest" and "meanest" vehicles, along with environmental scorings of all model year 2007 cars and passenger trucks. This announcement marks the tenth year ACEEE has published its widely respected rankings. The vehicle scores are part of ACEEE's Green Book® Online, ACEEE's environmental guide to cars and trucks, available at GreenerCars.com.

Claiming the prize as the greenest model year 2007 vehicle is Honda's natural gas-powered Civic GX. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid, stalwarts on the annual "Greenest Vehicles" list, claim spots two and three, while the Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Yaris, market newcomers for model year 2007, round out the top five. Others in the list include conventional and hybrid-electric vehicles from Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and Toyota. Domestic automakers were shut out of the top-twelve list.

"We've seen a lot of advertising this past year about efficient and eco-friendly vehicles being offered by domestic manufacturers. But when you look at the specs that matter, it's fair to say the imports have Detroit's number," said author and principal vehicle analyst James Kliesch, a Research Associate at ACEEE. Kliesch blames the domestics' absence from the list on their wavering approach to fuel-efficient technologies. "Certain companies committed years ago to fuel-efficient technologies—and held firm to those commitments. Today, those automakers have a clear competitive advantage in the world of green vehicles."

Widely regarded as the pre-eminent buyer's guide to environment-friendly passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs, GreenerCars.com provides the facts necessary to examine the eco-performance of any 2007 model. Vehicles are analyzed on the basis of a "Green Score," a singular measure that incorporates unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and the emissions of gases that cause global warming.

This year's "Meanest Vehicles for the Environment," a list traditionally dominated by large domestic pickups and SUVs, contains only four models from Detroit. European imports make up the remainder of the list. Much of the reason for that shift is the arrival of a number of new diesel models that meet some of the dirtiest tailpipe emissions standards allowable in the United States. Five diesels populate the year's twelve-worst list, including the year's most environmentally unfriendly model, the diesel-powered Volkswagen Touareg. Rounding out the "bottom five" are the Mercedes-Benz GL320 CDI, Lamborghini Murcielago, diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Bentley Arnage RL. Prominent gasoline models on the list include the Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab pickup, Ford F-250 pickup, and Lincoln Navigator SUV.

"Given the arrival this year of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, having five diesels show up on the Meanest Vehicles list is a letdown," noted Therese Langer, ACEEE's Transportation Program Director. "Fortunately, these same manufacturers have already announced plans to bring much cleaner diesels to the United States in 2008, using an entirely different emissions control strategy." While diesels are more efficient than gasoline-powered vehicles with similar performance, they produce higher levels of environmentally damaging nitrogen oxides and particulate matter and consequently require more sophisticated emissions control.

The GreenerCars.com Web site also identifies a selection of top widely available models in each vehicle class. This "Greener Choices" list includes larger vehicles, such as the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV, GMC Sierra Classic C1500 pickup, and Toyota Sienna minivan. Passenger cars such as the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Focus Wagon also top their respective classes. As the list demonstrates, consumers can make "greener choices," whether they need a sedan, minivan, pickup truck, or SUV.

"To answer the President's energy security call to cut oil consumption, we need an American fuel that emits nothing from the tailpipe. That fuel is energy efficiency—the first fuel in the race for energy security," commented Bill Prindle, ACEEE's Acting Executive Director. "We must boost fuel economy if we hope to replace oil with biofuels or any other energy source. The good news is that we can boost fuel economy with the technologies on our Greenest Vehicles list, easing our pain at the pump while revitalizing our auto industry and slowing global warming."

In addition to highlighting the year's "Greenest," "Meanest," "Greener Choices," and best-in-class lists, the GreenerCars.com Web site contains informational write-ups on model year 2007 highlights, a consumer primer on vehicles and the environment, and advice on how to buy green when shopping for a new car or truck.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oil goes over 100 dollars again

Oil went over $100 again, but this time there was no overriding reason for it. Which means investors just feel that prices are going to continue to climb, despite lowered expectations on growth.

Which means we'll be paying more for gas sometime soon.

Source: Oil jumps above $100 on refinery outage - Yahoo! News

NEW YORK - Oil futures shot higher Tuesday, closing above $100 for the first time as investors bet that crude prices will keep climbing despite evidence of plentiful supplies and falling demand. At the pump, gas prices rose further above $3 a gallon.

There was no single driver behind oil's sharp price jump; investors seized on an explosion at a 67,000 barrel per day refinery in Texas, the falling dollar, the possibility that OPEC may cut production next month, the threat of new violence in Nigeria and continuing tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela.

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

Chery Wins Bid to Use Hybrid Cars in 2008 Olympic Games

Chery HybridAs part of the 2008 Olympic celebration in China, 50 of the 80 vehicles to be used for Olympic traffic service will come from Chery. Of the 50, 40 Chery BSG Hybrids and 10 Chery ISG Hybrids will be used to ferry traffic around the 2008 Olympic Games.

Chery will be the first Chinese company to provide this type of service at an Olympic Games.


Press Release Follows:

Chery ISG HybridFeb. 18, 2008 -- The other day, a piece of good news came from Chinese Olympic Committee that among the 80 vehicles for Olympic traffic service, Chery won a share of 50 through competing with the participating foreign brands, thus becoming the first Chinese brand to appear in the Olympic Games. By then, a green motorcade composed of Chery cars will serve the Olympic Games. This motorcade consists of 40 Chery BSG hybrids and 10 Chery ISG hybrids, which are both based on the Chery A5 model.

Relevant data shows that the first electric car was applied in the Munich 1972 Olympic Games. Since then, all the Olympic Games and those for the disabled apply the most advanced environment-protection vehicles at that time, so as to respond to the two Olympic themes of Science and Green. The world top automakers, including BMW and GM, etc have successively provided the relevant technology. However, Chery is the first Chinese brand to serve the Olympic Games. This indicates the leading position of Chery in the fields of environment protection. On city roads, compared to the vehicles of the same displacement, the fuel economy of the BSG A5 is improved by about 10%-15%, while its carbon dioxide emission is reduced by 12% or so; the fuel economy of the ISG A5 is improved by about 25%-30%, while its carbon dioxide emission is reduced by approximately 12%.

The pollution caused by car exhaust keeps troubling the whole world. Inevitably, the solution toward this problem is to research and develop new energy vehicles. With the long-term development of fuel-saving and environment-protection vehicles as its orientation, Chery will contribute itself to the healthy and sustainable development of the Chinese auto industry.

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Congestion Charge Becomes Emissions Charge in London

Big Ben in LondonLondon mayor has modified the congestion rules once again, tripling the charge to those who drive cars and trucks that emit more than 225 grams of CO2/kilometer. They will charged £25 (around $49) just to drive downtown for the day.

Those driving low-emission vehicles like the Toyota Prius or Ford Focus can have the fee waived completely. But their exemption will be coming to an end. New registrations will close in October, and exemptions will cease in 2010. Toyota Prius sales have skyrocketed in London, partly in result to being exempt to the waiver.

Mayor Livingstone plans on implementing the changes on Oct 27. Livingstone estimates 81 percent of drivers will will continue to pay the current fee of £8, while 17 percent will face the higher charge. Around 2 percent will go free.

"Nobody needs to damage the environment by driving a gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor in central London," Mr Livingstone said.

Before congestion charging began on 17 February, 2003, 334,000 vehicles entered the zone each day. Transport for London says traffic entering the zone is down by 21 per cent, with 70,000 fewer vehicles a day entering central London.

In the western extension of the zone, which has covered the boroughs of Kensington and much of Westminster since last February, traffic decreased by up to 15 per cent in a year.

The new changes are being attacked by Federation of Master Builders (FMB), which criticizes Transport for London for failing to consider the needs of consumers and builders who need to enter London’s congestion zone to carry out essential repairs.

The FMB fears the new charge could be detrimental to the industry's ability to maintain the fabric of London’s built environment.

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Peterbilt Medium Duty Hybrids are Eligible for Tax Credits

Model 335 Hybrid Electric VehicleI sometimes forget about these larger hybrids, since I am so focused on the passenger vehicle market, but seeing a $12,000 tax credit is available certainly catches the eye.

The Class 7 hybrid for the Model 335 Hybrid Electric is available as both utility-boom and pickup and delivery applications. It comes with a PACCAR PX-6 engine and an Eaton hybrid system. Buyers are eligible for a $12,000 tax credit.

The Model 330 Class 6 Hybrid Electric in utility-boom and pickup-and-delivery applications is equipped with a PACCAR PX-6 engine and an Eaton hybrid system. Buyers are eligible for $6,000 in tax credits.

"Peterbilt’s product breadth in hybrid vehicles is pacing the industry with research and development in four applications for Class 6 through Class 8 trucking segments," says Larry Reding, assistant general manager of sales and marketing, Peterbilt Motors Company. "The federal tax credit combined with the over 30 percent fuel efficiency gains makes these products very attractive for our environmentally conscious customers."

Peterbilt Model 330 hybridThe Model 335 Hybrid Electric utilizes components that provide up to a 30 to 40 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, when configured for a utility application. These fuel savings are realized through both an on-road fuel economy gain, and an 80 percent reduction in engine idling, through electric operation of the Power Take-Off (PTO) using the on-board lithium-ion batteries.

The Model 330 is powered by the PACCAR PX-6 engine rated at 240 horsepower and 560 ft-lbs of torque. With the hybrid system engaged, horsepower increases to 300 and torque to 860 ft-lbs. This configuration is ideal for stop-and-go use, such as urban pick-up and delivery, with the hybrid system resulting in 30 to 40 percent greater fuel savings by using electric power to accelerate the vehicle from a stop.

According to Peterbilt Chief Engineer Landon Sproull, the truck uses a parallel hybrid system that was developed with Eaton Corporation. A parallel hybrid system has an electric motor that assists the mechanical diesel engine with supplemental torque for improved fuel economy. The system stores energy during stopping through a process called regenerative braking, and then reuses it for acceleration. The system also stores energy during idling and uses it to power the vehicle’s PTO.

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

Monday, February 18, 2008

Orange Waives Tax on Fuel Efficient Cars in Connecticutt

Orange CT Congregational ChurchThe Connecticutt town of Orange will become the first to waive the tax on those who own cars getting 40 mpg or better in city driving.

"It's a good first step," Orange First Selectman James Zeoli said.

"We want to promote and encourage energy conservation," Orange Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt said. "This will help keep our air cleaner."
Like other CT towns, Orange selectman were worried that by abating the tax on those citizens means the other citizens are being forced to make up for the difference. Vernon, CT, for instance, has tried twice to pass a similar measure, but both efforts have failed to be passed by the selectman.

Selectman worry that these types of measures are passing the tax burden from the rich onto the poor because of the expense of hybrid cars. But, others feel that the benefits outweigh the cost.

Source: Orange becomes state's first town to forgive tax on 'green' cars -- Newsday.com

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Crown Hybrid in Japan

Crown HybridToyota unveiled a hybrid version of its Crown sedan, its flagship luxury series in Japan. The Lexus brand is Toyota's luxury "universal brand", but the Crown series is more popular in Japan.

The Crown Hybrid will be available in Japan in May. They will be priced between 5.95 million yen and 6.19 million yen. Toyota is looking to sell around 800 a month.

"The new Crown maintains the traditional quality of trust and safety while being equipped with state-of-the-art technologies," Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters.

"We have customers who strongly support the Crown brand over the Lexus." The Crown line was first launched in 1955 as Toyota's flagship luxury sedan and is particularly popular in the Japanese market.

The Crown Hybrid adopts a TFT (thin film transistor) LCD Finegraphic Meter, which features excellent visibility and provides clear information to the driver. In addition to digital and analog speedometers, a hybrid system status indicator shows output and energy recovery. A color silhouette of the vehicle appears on the display when the driver enters the cabin followed by the Crown logo the moment the engine is started.

The Night View system, available in the Crown Hybrid, features the world's first1 pedestrian detection function based on a near-infrared camera, thereby improving a driver's visibility at night.

Other Features of the Crown Hybrid

The rear-wheel drive THS II (Toyota Hybrid System II) with a two-stage motor speed reduction device provides the driving performance of a 4.5-liter vehicle with the low fuel consumption of a 2.0-liter vehicle to deliver powerful and smooth acceleration and exceptional environmental performance.

The combination of a high output 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and a high-performance electric motor achieves excellent driving performance, a quiet ride, high fuel efficiency and clean emissions.

The electric vehicle (EV) driving mode permits the driver, simply by pressing a button, to operate the vehicle using the electric motor only, for quiet operation early in the morning or late at night and lower emissions.

The Active Noise Control function uses the speakers to cancel out engine booming noise (low-frequency engine noise) and provide an even quieter ride.

The rear-wheel drive THS II (Toyota Hybrid System II) with a two-stage motor speed reduction device provides the driving performance of a 4.5-liter vehicle with the low fuel consumption of a 2.0-liter vehicle to deliver powerful and smooth acceleration and exceptional environmental performance.

The combination of a high output 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and a high-performance electric motor achieves excellent driving performance, a quiet ride, high fuel efficiency and clean emissions.

The electric vehicle (EV) driving mode permits the driver, simply by pressing a button, to operate the vehicle using the electric motor only, for quiet operation early in the morning or late at night and lower emissions.

The Active Noise Control function uses the speakers to cancel out engine booming noise (low-frequency engine noise) and provide an even quieter ride.

The Crown Hybrid achieves a fuel efficiency of 14.0 km/l according to the newly introduced JC08 test cycle outlined by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) and it is one of the first vehicles to meet the new 2015 Japanese fuel efficiency standards1. The vehicle also achieves the equivalent of 166g/km of CO2 emissions. (Under the traditional 10-15 test cycle, the fuel efficiency is 15.8km/l, surpassing the existing 2010 fuel efficiency standards by 20%, with CO2 emissions just 147g/km.)

Press Release Follows:

Tokyo - TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announced today it has completely redesigned the "Crown Royal Saloon" and "Crown Athlete" series and added a hybrid model to the product lineup. The Royal Saloon and Athlete series go on sale in Japan today and the "Crown Hybrid" will be launched in Japan on May 6.

The 13th-generation Crown unveiled today retains the sense of poise and reliability that characterizes the Crown series, which has earned a reputation as the leader among luxury vehicles in Japan over the more than half a century since its debut in 1955. At the same time, the new Crown adopts advanced technologies to create luxury sedans that provide performance at the world's highest levels.

While the hybrid version delivers outstanding cruising and environmental performance, all three series benefit from the excellent vehicle stability and preventive safety performance offered by VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management).

Other advanced features include a Pre-crash Safety System that can determine - as a world's first* - whether the driver's eyes are properly open. Such features, together with an integrated navigation system, result in one of the world's highest levels of driver support.

* As of January 2008, as surveyed by TMC


Monthly Sales Targets in Japan: 5,500 units (including 800 units of the hybrid model)


Assembly Plant:
Motomachi Plant, Toyota Motor Corporation


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (Prices in Hokkaido and Okinawa differ; unit: yen)
Crown Royal Saloon / Crown Athlete
Grade Engine Transmission Powertrain Price1(including
consumption tax)
Royal Saloon 4GR-FSE
(2.5-liter V6)
6 Super ECT2 Front-engine,
rear-wheel drive
3,680,000
"Navigation Package" 4,260,000
Royal Saloon i-Four Four-wheel drive 4,100,000
"Navigation Package" 4,620,000
Royal Saloon 3GR-FSE
(3.0-liter V6)
Front-engine,
rear-wheel drive
4,580,000
Royal Saloon G 5,280,000
"Leg-rest Package" 5,350,000
Royal Saloon i-Four Four-wheel drive 4,948,000
"U Package" 5,648,000
Athlete 4GR-FSE
(2.5-liter V6)
Front-engine,
rear-wheel drive
3,740,000
"Navigation Package" 4,320,000
Athlete i-Four Four-wheel drive 4,110,000
"Navigation Package" 4,640,000
Athlete 2GR-FSE
(3.5-liter V6)
Front-engine,
rear-wheel drive
4,870,000
"G Package" 5,670,000

Crown Hybrid
Grade Hybrid System Powertrain Price1(including
consumption tax)
Hybrid
THS II with two-stage motor
speed reduction device
(3.5-liter V6 engine + motor)
Front-engine,
rear-wheel drive
6,190,000
"Standard Package" 5,950,000
1. Prices listed do not include recycling fees.
2. Super Intelligent, Electronically-controlled, Six-speed Automatic Transmission


Vehicle Outline

Advanced Equipment and Stylish Designs
  • The redesigned Crown features enhanced visibility, as well a sense of presence and expressiveness, based on the Toyota design philosophy of "Vibrant Clarity".
Exterior
  • The expanded length, width and track combine with a body that integrates the bumper, hood and fender into an organic form. The dynamic front view and flowing door styling achieve an aura of elegance.
  • The front pillars have been extended forward to give the cabin an expanded look, and the door mirrors have been placed on the door panels to increase forward visibility.
Interior
  • The wide instrument panel and overall feeling of openness heightens driving pleasure and contrasts with the vertical nature of the center console. The lower portion of the instrument panel, which is finished with high-quality double stitching, gently curves away from the center console.
  • The Crown Hybrid adopts a TFT (thin film transistor) LCD Finegraphic Meter - the first of its kind*, which features excellent visibility and provides clear information to the driver. In addition to digital and analog speedometers, a hybrid system status indicator shows output and energy recovery. A color silhouette of the vehicle appears on the display when the driver enters the cabin followed by the Crown logo the moment the engine is started.
  • The seat covers have been treated with an agent that envelops mite allergens - known to be a cause of allergy-related disorders - helping to prevent them from becoming active in the cabin.
  • Navigational functions are enhanced by Map on Demand, which provides latest-information automatic map updates, and a multi-media-function HDD navigation system (compatible with the G-BOOK mX Pro telematics service), as well as a new "one-touch" operator-call service.
  • The Toyota Premium Sound System, with a 19-channel amplifier and 18 speakers, offers acoustics that rival a live concert.
*As of January 2008, as surveyed by TMC

Cutting-Edge Technologies Enhance Safety Performance and Vehicle Stability
  • The Pre-crash Safety System (millimeter-wave radar type) employs an eye monitor - the first of its kind in the world - to detect whether a driver's eyes are properly open. This function, combined with the system's current ability to determine the direction of the driver's face, enhances the ability to reduce collision-related damage.
  • All models are equipped with VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) to ensure excellent vehicle stability and preventive safety performance on slippery surfaces.
  • The Night View system, available in the Crown Hybrid, features the world's first1 pedestrian detection function based on a near-infrared camera, thereby improving a driver's visibility at night.
  • The advanced car navigation system facilitates the entering and exiting of highways. Using its road map data, the system provides smooth acceleration when merging into highway traffic from an on-ramp or a service area by controlling the timing of up-shifting, as well as increasing engine braking for smooth deceleration when exiting the highway or coming to a tollbooth.
  • The system also uses the map data to inform the driver of upcoming stop signs and issue a warning if the driver is late in decelerating. The world's first1 navigation system-linked brake assist function assists the driver in the event of emergency braking, helping reduce vehicle speed.
  • The Intelligent Parking Assist system helps the driver during parallel parking or backing into a parking space, using ultrasonic sensors installed on the front of the vehicle to detect the parking parameters. The system has a function that tells the driver when to turn the steering wheel and where to start backing up.
  • The Emergency Braking Signal system, standard on all models, warns vehicles behind when the brakes are suddenly depressed by flashing all of the brake lights.
  • Ten SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) airbags are standard on all models. Rear left and right side air bags also alleviate the impact in the event of a side-on collision.
  • The front-seat structures are based on the WIL (Whiplash Injury Lessening) concept. Both the driver and front passenger seats incorporate an Active Headrest2 that shifts to an appropriate position to lessen stress on the neck and reduce the risk of whiplash injuries sustained during a rear-end collision.
  • The GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) construction has been further evolved to create an advanced collision-safety body structure.
  • Improvements in the body structure also reduce the likelihood of pedestrian head injuries to achieve one of the highest levels of injury prevention in the vehicle's class.
1. As of January 2008, as surveyed by TMC
2. Available on the driver's side only for the "Legrest Package" model; on both sides on other models


Superior Driving Performance and Comfort
  • The electronic platform, which is the basis of the electronic control system that brings out the best in the vehicle's basic performance, has been completely revamped to enhance processing power and the ability to handle the vast amounts of data coming from the engine, transmission, brakes and elsewhere.
  • Switches allow drivers to select a control mode that suits their own preferences and road conditions, such as the fun-to-drive Sport Mode that, among other things, increases acceleration and deceleration responsiveness, Eco-drive Mode that supports fuel efficiency and Snow Mode when a driver requires smoother acceleration on slippery roads.
  • A NAVI/AI-AVS System* enhances maneuverability, cruising stability and driving comfort by optimally controlling the dampening force of the shock absorbers based on road information from the navigation system and accumulated road surface grade difference information.
*Navigation/Artificial Intelligence-Adaptive Variable Suspension System

Crown Hybrid
  • The rear-wheel drive THS II (Toyota Hybrid System II) with a two-stage motor speed reduction device provides the driving performance of a 4.5-liter vehicle with the low fuel consumption of a 2.0-liter vehicle to deliver powerful and smooth acceleration and exceptional environmental performance.
  • The combination of a high output 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and a high-performance electric motor achieves excellent driving performance, a quiet ride, high fuel efficiency and clean emissions.
  • The electric vehicle (EV) driving mode permits the driver, simply by pressing a button, to operate the vehicle using the electric motor only, for quiet operation early in the morning or late at night and lower emissions.
  • The Active Noise Control function uses the speakers to cancel out engine booming noise (low-frequency engine noise) and provide an even quieter ride.
Crown Royal Saloon & Crown Athlete
  • The Crown Royal Saloon series features a V6 3.0-liter and a V6 2.5-liter engine, while the Crown Athlete series offers a V6 3.5-liter and a V6 2.5-liter engine. All engines are combined with 6 Super ECT (Super Intelligent Electronically-controlled, Six-speed Automatic Transmission) and DRAMS (Driving Response and Acceleration Management System) for smooth and powerful driving.
  • The 3.5-liter engine is a D-4S (direct injection four-stroke gasoline engine, superior version), while the 3.0-liter and 2.5-liter engines are stoichiometric D-4 engines. All engines employ Dual VVT-i (Dual Variable Valve Timing-intelligent) to optimize intake and exhaust valve timing according to driving conditions.
Outstanding Environmental Performance
  • Efforts were made to improve fuel efficiency to reduce CO2 emissions. The Crown Hybrid achieves a fuel efficiency of 14.0 km/l according to the newly introduced JC08 test cycle outlined by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) and it is one of the first vehicles to meet the new 2015 Japanese fuel efficiency standards1. The vehicle also achieves the equivalent of 166g/km of CO2 emissions. (Under the traditional 10-15 test cycle, the fuel efficiency is 15.8km/l, surpassing the existing 2010 fuel efficiency standards by 20%, with CO2 emissions just 147g/km.)
  • The Crown Royal Saloon and the Crown Athlete both achieve fuel efficiency of 12.0km/l according to the 10-15 test cycle2, with CO2 emissions of 193g/km, which surpasses the level called for by the 2010 standards by 10%.
  • Both NOx (nitrogen oxides) and NMHC (non-methane hydrocarbons) have been reduced so that all vehicles now have emissions levels 75% below the 2005 standards under MLIT's Approval System for Low-emission Vehicles.
  • Toyota employed Eco-VAS (Eco-Vehicle Assessment System), its original comprehensive environmental impact assessment system, to efficiently reduce overall environmental impact throughout the vehicle's lifecycle, from production and use to disposal. Environmental targets were set in the initial vehicle development stage and a life cycle assessment carried out to help the vehicles achieve a reduction of CO2 and air contaminants.
  • The newly adopted Eco Zone Indicator displays the degree to which the accelerator is opened and the range for fuel-efficient driving. Together with the Eco Driving Indicator that lights up to indicate fuel-efficient operation, it helps raise the driver's awareness of environmentally considerate driving.
1. Specified by the Japanese Law Concerning the Rational Use of Energy
2. Figure for rear-wheel drive models paired with a 2.5-liter engine


Welcabs: Specially equipped vehicles with factory-installed features for disabled people
  • The Welcab Automatic Rotating and Sliding Passenger Seat models (Type A and Type B) have a front passenger seat that rotates electronically and slides outside the vehicle to facilitate boarding and exiting.
  • Type B has a motorized wheelchair storage device that makes it easy to load and unload a wheelchair into and out of the trunk.


Welcab Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (Prices in Hokkaido and Okinawa differ; unit: yen)
Model Type Grade Engine Transmission Powertrain Price1(including
consumption tax)
Welcab Automatic
Rotating and
Sliding Passenger
Seat model
(Type A)
Royal Saloon
"Navigation Package"
4GR-FSE
(2.5-liter V6)
6 Super ECT Front-engine,
rear-wheel
drive
4,501,000
Royal Saloon 3GR-FSE
(3.0-liter V6)
4,821,000
Royal Saloon i-Four Four-wheel
drive
5,189,000
Welcab Automatic
Rotating and
Sliding Passenger
Seat model
(Type B)2
Royal Saloon
"Navigation Package"
4GR-FSE
(2.5-liter V6)
Front-engine,
rear-wheel
drive
4,357,000
Royal Saloon 3GR-FSE
(3.0-liter V6)
4,661,000
Royal Saloon i-Four Four-wheel
drive
5,012,000
1. Prices listed do not include recycling fees.
2. Not subject to consumption tax.

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