Monday, March 31, 2008

Hybrid cars can continue to park for free in LA

Free Parking for Prius in LAThe LA City Council voted unanimously to extend the free parking for hybrid cars until 2010. The rules have changed, however. In order to take advantage of the program, you must have a state decal allowing you carpool access on freeways.

Since those decals are already sold out, no new cars can qualify for the privilege. Only the Prius, Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight and Ford Escape Hybrid are included in the program.

It's estimated the cost to the city is about $116,560 a year -- 0.56 percent of the total annual meter revenue.

Source: LAist: Hybrid Owners Continue to Park Coin Free and Drive a hybrid ... park for free - Press-Telegram . Flickr photo by Kaustav Bhattacharya

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California Mandates Plug In Car Sales

CARBCalifornia Air Resources Board has decided automakers must sell at least 66,000 plug-in hybrid cars between 2012 and 2014. At the same time, they cut back on the number of electric cars or fuel-cell vehicles to 7,500 (it was 25,000 per year). See the fact sheet and the summary.

Car makers who sell more than 60,000 cars a year in California are being targeted. Which means GM, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and Honda are the ones being targeted. Anyone else is exempt. That includes Mercedes, BMW and VW for example.

Since GM and Toyota hope to have plug-in vehicles (the Chevy Volt and Plug-in Prius, respectively) by 2010, selling 66,000 between 2012 and 2014 means most of their inventory will be located in California. Ford has been testing plug-in Escapes Hybrids, but hasn't shown the least inclination to mass produce them.

Nissan, Honda and Chrysler may have real problems, however. None of them have plug-in cars in as advanced a stage as Toyota or GM (or at least, they haven't told the public about them). So how are they going to start selling them by 2012?

And then there's the question about who's going to buy these cars? Plug-in Hybrid Cars are going to be very expensive to start. The lowest estimate I've seen on the extra cost related to the battery and hybrid system is $10,000. The Volt will supposedly sell somewhere in the upper $30 to $40,000 range.

Will there be that many people willing to pay that much money on a new type of vehicle? GM has said they are planning on building 10,000 units in 2010, so it may be doable.

Source: Suddenly, a market for plug-ins - Automotive News

"That's the key question," GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss said. "Ultimately, the consumer is going to have to bear the cost of these technologies for us to move forward."
This is the fourth time CARB has had to change their rules.

"The new regulations require less than an average of 297 zero-emission vehicles per year per automaker, which is a 70 percent drop from the previous regulations, and results in a loss of at least 18,000 plug-in hybrids in the same period," said Plug In America, a California non-profit lobbying group for plug-in electric vehicles.

Press Release from CARB follows:

SACRAMENTO: The Air Resources Board today voted to triple the amount of zero emissions vehicles that staff had proposed for automakers to produce from 2012 through 2014, while directing staff to look at overhauling the program to account for climate change benefits.

Staff had proposed to require 2,500 pure zero emission vehicles, which the Board increased to 7,500. Automakers can produce fewer ZEVs, 5,357, if they are long-range fuel cell vehicles or they can opt to satisfy the requirement by manufacturing 12,500 battery electric vehicles with a range of 100 miles.

The Board maintained a second component of the vehicle emissions reduction program that allows the automakers flexibility in their alternative fuel programs by requiring an additional 58,000 plug-in hybrids during that same period. If the automakers produce 25,000 ZEVs, there are no remaining plug-in hybrid requirements.

Additionally, ARB Chairman Mary Nichols directed staff to overhaul the ZEV program for 2015 vehicles to synch up with other Board tailpipe emission programs such as the Pavley regulations addressing greenhouse gas emissions and the low emissions vehicle program.

“Today's decision will lead to more green auto choices for consumers now while keeping the pressure on the automotive engineers to continue fine tuning the technologies that will yield an all electric-drive vehicle fleet for California in the near future,” Nichols said. “We must continue to push for all types of technologies -- fuel cells, electric vehicles and hydrogen powered cars -- as we fight our duel battles against smog and global warming.”

Created in 1990, the ZEV program seeks to spur technological advancements in the automobile industry that lead to more clean cars on California’s roadways. The ZEV program is the world’s only enforceable requirement for development and production of zero emissions vehicles.

As a direct result of the ZEV program, over 750,000 Californians are currently driving vehicles with near-zero emissions and an extended emissions warranty of 15 years or 150,000 miles. They are 80 percent cleaner than the average 2002 model year car. Today's action will assure many more near-zero and zero emission vehicles on California's roads in the near future.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Chery Receives Permission to Begin Production of Hybrids

Chery has received permission to produce two hybrid sedans, the Chery SQR 7310 and Chery SQR 7190 from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China.

The 7130 is Chery's first hybrid sedan with a 1.3 litre engine on an A5 chassis.

As China begins to produce hybrid cars, the rest of the world can just wonder if they will start buying them. So far, the Chinese public has not felt the extra cost was worth it.

Press Release follows:

Shanghai, March 28 ( China's carmaker Chery Automobile Co., Ltd. recently said that two Chery hybrid sedans have received the production permit from the country's industry regulator.

Chery SQR 7130 and Chery SQR 7190 are listed in the latest public notice of the "Automobile Manufacturers and Products" issued by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China.

Of the two Chery models, Chery SQR 7130 is the carmaker's first own brand hybrid sedan. It's a low-emission hybrid compact car equipped with a 1.3L engine and an A5 chassis. This model is oriented to users who need the private means of transportation in urban centers.

A Chery executive said that this own-brand model can fill in a gap in the hybrid sedan market and match up to the government's standards of energy saving and emission reducing. The production permit granted by the NDRC also indicates that the technical strengths of Chery Auto were well recognized by the national economic planner.

Chery has won the bid to provide 50 of the 80 vehicles for the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Of the 50 Chery vehicles for Olympic services, 40 are mild hybrid sedans.

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2009 May Be Huge for Hybrid Cars

GCC is quoting a Nikkei report that Toyota will boost Prius production by 60% by 2009.

Toyota manufactured about 280,000 Priuses worldwide in 2007, up 33% on the year. Excluding some Chinese production, the car is assembled mainly at two major plants in Japan. Output capacity will be boosted at these facilities as the Prius gears up for a major redesign as early as next year.

Toyota assembled roughly 1.4 million Corollas and 900,000 Camry sedans in 2007. Had 450,000 units of the Prius been produced that year, the car would have been among the top five Toyota models.
That could mean another huge jump for hybrid car sales here in the US and worldwide. Prius car sales make up half the hybrid car marketplace right now. The Prius also cracked the top 10 list for cars sold in the US last year.

But since production was already to full, there was very little room for growth. Most analysts believe hybrid car sales this year will be capped because Toyota simply couldn't build any more than they already had. But in 2009, it looks like hybrid car sales could see another huge jump.

Yes, 2009 should be a huge year for hybrid cars. Honda will be releasing their global hybrid car, which some sites have Honda employees labeling the Prius killer. Add in the increased production numbers for the Prius and we could see a huge shift in the automotive marketplace.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Israel Hybrid Car Sales Keep Increasing

Flag of IsraelAccording to a news report, the Air Quality Division of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Israel is reporting hybrid car sales have increased over 300% in the past year.

Sales increased from 496 to 1,731 in 2007. In total, 2,870 hybrid cars have been sold in Israel through February 2008.

Part of the appeal is a new tax reduction on the hybrid cars being offered by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Finance. Increasing fuel costs are also driving owners to buy more fuel efficient cars.

The Environmental Protection Minister has asked and received word that the car companies will be increasing imports of hybrid cars into the country. The Minister is also calling on the Taxi Drivers Association to begin switching to hybrid cars, as well.

It is estimated that the use of hybrid cars already purchased in Israel reduces some 3800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, some 1500 kilograms of nitrogen oxides, some 1400 kg of hydrocarbons and some 6,200 kg of carbon monoxides compared to a similar number of gasoline vehicles.

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RechargeIT Plug-in Hybrid Cars

Plug-in Prius from RechargeIT projectCNET has checked in with the RechargeIT project, part of a initiative to study plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV). So far, the numbers are disappointing, but there is some explanation for it.

Google has created a small demonstration fleet of plug-in hybrids and eventually plans to include over 100 plug-in hybrids in its corporate fleet as demand grows and cars become commercially available. has contracted with Hymotion to retrofit 4 Toyota Priuses and 2 Ford Escapes.

They are also demonstrating V2G capability (Vehicle to Grid), sometimes known as a smart grid. By plugging the PHEV into a special charger during the day, the vehicle can pass back some of the energy it collected during the night, during low peak usage. By pulling energy out at night when the costs go down and passing it back during the day when electricity is more expensive, the owner can make money 'selling' the electricity back.

Low MPG Numbers for PHEV Fleet
So far, the converted plug-in vehicles are only showing a 20 mpg improvement over their hybrid (non-plug-in) counterparts. The PHEV average so far is 66.2, while the hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) has an average mpg of 44.6. Keep in mind that the US fleet average is 19.8 mpg, so 66.2 mpg shouldn't be a complete disappointment.

But the PHEV is only saving 88 gallons a year in comparison to the HEV.

So, what gives?

According to Alec Proudfoot, an engineering product manager at Google working on RechargeIT, the problem is the short distances being traveled by the testers. In the first five minutes of any trip, the gas engine comes on to power some internal systems.

If the car goes 40-50 miles, the mpg goes up to 70-100 mpg, which is what I would expect to see for an average. Proudfoot notes that he regularly sees 80-85 mpg when he goes out for longer trips.

But, not that even if they could up their average mpg for the PHEV fleet to 80 mpg, they would save an additional 30 gallons a year (about 120 gallons more than the HEV). At a 100 mpg, you would save a total of 150 gallons a year in comparison to the HEV.

That's just the way it works as the mpg numbers go up.

CO2 Numbers are Exciting
According to Google, they are very excited to see the CO2 comparisons. The PHEV have an average of 4,623 pounds of carbon dioxide for 12,000 miles of driving, compared to the standard Priuses, which might emit 6,924 pounds of carbon dioxide, according to the organization.

You can check in with the rechargeIT project through their blog.

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DC Tax Break for Hybrid Cars May Be Changed

Washington DC city mapThe District of Columbia is considering removing the tax break they offer on hybrid cars, but only for the hybrid vehicles on the low end of the efficiency scale. This sort of thinking could be bad news for GM, which carries the hybrid Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrid. These SUV hybrids may raise their city fuel economy by 50% using hybrid technology, but that means they are still getting just over 20 mpg.

Currently, DC offersa the six percent break excise tax for anyone who buys a hybrid vehicle, regardless of their size. But they are considering making the benefit available only to any new vehicles getting 40 mpg or better in city driving. Currently, that means the rule would only apply to the Honda Civic hybrid, Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Jetta TD.

It would eliminate the benefit for the already mention GM vehicle, plus any hybrid from Lexus, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid and the other hybrid cars that just aren't as efficient.

But really, the considered change reflects DC officials thoughts on 1) the strength of the hybrid car marketplace and 2) the 'dilution' by these larger hybrids.

While I understand why they would consider this ruling, I'm not sure I support the incentive for it. Hybrid technology can make a big difference in the SUV market. And while I would encourage anyone to buy the smallest/most fuel efficient car they need, sometimes people do need larger vehicles. And by improving your fuel efficiency at the lower end of the spectrum, you may be doing more than someone who improves their fuel efficiency at the higher end.

For instance, by going from 15 mpg to 20 mpg, and you travel 12,000 miles a year, you will save 200 gallons a year. By going from 35 to 40 mpg, you only save 43 gallons.

Perhaps they should consider the average fuel efficiency via car size, then apply the rule. That way, you may eliminate the mild hybrids from the mix, while still keeping the incentive for better fuel efficiency.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

eTec Will Test the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid

2008 Chevy Tahoe HybridElectric Transportation Engineering Corporation (eTec) will test two 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid for the Department of Energy as part of the Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity (AVTA).

They will perform baseline testing after a break-in period. They will then conduct testing at 160,000 miles in order to test for any changes in fuel consumption, acceleration, gradeability, road load coefficients (to support dynamometer testing), and vehicle durability.

eTec has already completed testing on 12 HEV models and is currently testing a number of plug-in HEVs, including conversions of both the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid vehicle platforms. eTec will prepare a final report detailing the life cycle costs of the Tahoe Hybrid vehicles that includes fuel costs, operations and maintenance costs and resale values that will be posted on the DOE’s AVTA website,

AVTA is part of the Department of Energy’s FreedomCAR & Vehicle Technologies Program and is conducted by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Baseline performance testing will utilize specifications developed by eTec in conjunction with vehicle manufacturers and industry stakeholders (such as fleet managers), with the objective of measuring real-world vehicle performance. This project is part of a five-year contract with the Department of Energy that started in October 2005 and is valued at $10.5 million.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Hyundai Hybrid Avante

Hyundai is still on track to bring the Avante Hybrid to mass production in 2009. Despite having hybrids for years, they have only been available to government agencies in South Korea.

The first hybrid from Hyundai to be available will be the compact sedan Avante. The Avante will be the new version of the Elantra. Hyundai will follow this first hybrid compact model up with a midsize model in 2010, and a fuel cell in 2012.

One caveat, the Avante will be a hybrid LPG-electric, not a gas-electric hybrid.

Press Release Follows:

# Hyundai´s First Hybrid Car for Mass Production Will be Avante (Elantra) LPI
# Hyundai to Produce Small Fleet of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles by 2012
# Greatly Improve Fuel Efficiency, Cut CO2 Emissions:
Opening a New Era for Environmentally-Friendly Cars

(Seoul, Korea) Hyundai Motor Company plans to mass produce Hybrid Electric Vehicles starting next year, opening a new era for environmentally-friendly cars.

While accompanying South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on a Kia Motors´ plant tour on March 21, Hyundai-Kia Chairman Chung Mong Koo said the automobile company will mass produce environmentally-friendly cars from 2009 to create new jobs and develop the industry into a next-generation value-adding growth engine.

"The importance of developing futuristic, environmentally-friendly cars is increasing for sustainable growth," Chairman Chung said. "Therefore, technology for advanced cars, like the hybrid, is imperative. We also plan to produce a small fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles from 2012."

To meet its 2009 mass production target, Hyundai´s step-by-step plan is to

– Develop Technology

– Create a mass production system

– Expand model line-up

In accordance with this plan, Hyundai will begin its first mass production with the compact-sized LPG model, the Avante (Elantra) LPI (Liqufied Petroleum Injection) hybrid, a car that uses both Liquefied Petroleum Gas and electricity. In 2010, Hyundai plans to introduce mid-sized hybrids that use gasoline and LPG.

Currently, Hyundai provides Verna (Accent) hybrid models to government agencies as pilot projects. The plan is to expand the line-up to mid-sized sedans and beyond for mass production, starting from 2009.

Hyundai entered the environmentally-friendly auto market in October 2004, when it supplied the government with 50 Click (Getz) hybrid cars. Since then, Hyundai and Kia have supplied the government with 350 hybrid cars in 2005, including the Verna model. This number increased to 730 cars in 2006 and 1,682 cars in 2007, totalling about 2,800 cars so far.

Based on the technology accumulated from producing these cars, Hyundai will from 2009 mass produce hybrid cars that use LPG, which creates less pollution than conventional cars. Hyundai is also kicking its development plans into full gear with the aim to mass produce Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) beginning 2012.

Hyundai plans to expand a demo fleet of FCEV´s to 500 units by 2010, including mid-to-large size SUV´s, then establish a small production system to begin mass production from 2012.

The mass production of hybrid cars in 2009 will be a turning point for Hyundai, which will increase its competitiveness in the environmentally-friendly car sector, an area automakers worldwide are counting on for their strategic survival in the next-generation business sector.

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Audi Kills Q7 Hybrid for the US

Audi developed their hybrid system with Porsche and Volkswagen, and had originally hoped to bring the Q7 Hybrid in 2008. They have never been excited about the Q7 Hybrid. Instead, they are banking on diesel models. They delayed the launch till 2009, and now they are killing it. Audi has decided they won't import the Q7 Hybrid to the US because of the weak dollar.

"If you look at the way the economics are going, it was a very hard car to make the numbers work," de Nysschen said.

Although, De Nysschen was quick to point out a few will be available for 'commercial' market use.

The Q5, a smaller crossover, is still likely as a hybrid model.

"That hybrid has always been in planning. The question is, again, volume potential," de Nysschen said. "We in the U.S. are more enthusiastic about diesels. Hybrids have a niche in this market. We are a small company and ask ourselves if we need to be in every niche."

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Honda Hoping Nickel is Still Best

Honda CEO Takeo FukuiHonda President Takeo Fukui believes Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries just aren't ready, yet. So, the new 'global hybrid' economy car will debut with nickel metal hydride battery packs.

GM and Toyota have been working hard to get Li-Ion batteries on the road in their next generation of hybrid cars, especially in their plug-in cars. Since they weigh less and provide more, Li-Ion batteries will most likely take over for nickel, but there are still issues.

Despite mass production having started, it just goes to show not everyone is ready to move on.

Source: Fukui: Nickel battery is best bet for hybrid - Automotive News

"Lithium ion batteries are still not usable from our perspective," Fukui told Automotive News in an interview at Honda's Tokyo headquarters on Wednesday, March 19.

"In terms of reliability and durability, I must say there still remain some concerns," he said. "I don't think they are necessarily best suited for mass-produced vehicles."

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Maryland is Worried About Hybrid Cars and Blind Pedestrians Mixing

The Maryland Legislature has decided to look into the concerns about hybrid cars from blind citizens. Because hybrid cars are so quiet when they run on electric power alone, blind pedestrians worry they won't be able to hear the car approaching.

The Maryland Senate voted to call for a study by the transportation dept. If the House passes it, a the officials would look into requiring a minimum noise level for cars.

Source: Senate backs study of risk of hybrid cars to blind pedestrians --

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Wish You Could Be at the NY Auto Show?

Take a look at the alternative vehicles at the NY Auto Show, courtesy of ExpoTV.

While there's nothing really new and exciting about what they show you, it does give you a feel for what it's like to get around and see what's happening on the floor.

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New Jersey to Buy Hybrids Instead of Alternatives

New Jersey DrivingNew Jersey must buy alternative-fuel vehicles for 75 percent of their vehicle purchases by federal mandate. And, to date, they have purchased 2200 alternative fuel vehicles.

Too bad they have limited access to any alternative fuels, making it fairly fruitless to make the purchases.

But now, because of a waiver by the U.S. Department of Energy, New Jersey is free to purchase hybrid vehicles instead. The obvious advantage being hybrids only need gasoline to run.

By replacing retired vehicles with hybrids, officials estimate a growth in fuel efficiency and a decrease in emissions by more than 50 percent. Overall, the Treasury says they should expect $7,500 in fuel cost savings over the life of the vehicle.

Source: State to Buy Hybrid Vehicles

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Slate Debunks the Prius vs Hummer Myth

Finally, a source I can point to that others won't automatically feel is biased towards hybrid cars. Slate takes on the CNW Marketing study labeled Dust to Dust (if only it were dust).

Ripping the report is easy, since "it's impossible to tell where that data (as well as virtually everything else in the report) come from."

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GM Ready to Lose Money on the Volt, Admits Mistake

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz had some very interesting things to say at the New York Auto Show this week.

"We had the technology to come out with a hybrid at the same time as Toyota," Lutz said Tuesday. "In hindsight, it was a mistake. ... We made the mistake and we won't make it again."

"I think the whole company has learned when you step out and do bold things, you win and when you're cautious and let other people do the bold things, you lose," he continued.

Lutz said GM was hesitant to go to market with hybrids a decade ago because the company was likely to lose $250 million a year selling such vehicles. He said that being late to the market with hybrids has cost GM billions in sales because it lost its image of having superior technology.

Lutz was also quoted on the new Chevy Volt, "We won't make a dime on this car for years, and the board is OK with that."

"Ultimately by 2020 we figure that 80% of vehicles will require some sort of hybridization," Lutz said after introducing three new Pontiac sports cars at the New York Auto Show. "We cannot get to 35 miles per gallon with anything resembling the current product portfolio with anything resembling current technology."

He estimated that about 15% of GM's lineup would include hybrids by 2015, with the rate ramping up as the rules phase in before 2020.

Good news for hybrid car fans, for sure. Bad news for GM. But, as Lutz points out, GM has to go through this phase, just as Toyota has. Toyota didn't make money on their hybrid cars for years. Ford will start making a profit this year on their hybrid vehicles. GM will just have to start making it's way through.

Sources: GM's Lutz: 80% of vehicles must be hybrid by 2020 to reach goal | | Detroit Free Press, ABC News: GM: Not Making Hybrid Was a 'Mistake',
GM prepared to lose money 'for years' on hybrid Chevrolet Volt - MarketWatch

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Challenge in Finding a Suitable Domestic Vehicle

UK ministers are running into a serious problem. With the onset of government mandates on emissions, government employees are having a hard time figuring out what to drive.

The Sustainable Development Commission issued a critical report, finding that 2/3 of the the government departments were not on track to reducing the mandated 12.5 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2010/2011. Emissions from vehicles were 'an area of serious concern.'

In a meeting over how to deal with these sorts of issues, things apparently got heated. In order to meet the mandate, some feel they will all end up in Japanese cars (the Prius), and won't be able to drive traditional British vehicles. This would send a 'bad signal' to domestic manufacturers.

A similar issue occurred in the US, when House Speaker Pelosi had the Energy Bill, which would set the new CAFE standards of 35 mpg) sent over to the White House in a Toyota Prius. Some felt this was an insult to the domestic car companies.

The problem, of course, is no 'domestic' cars in the US are currently rated over 35 mpg.

The UK will move ahead to replace the cars used by ministers and senior civil servants with vehicles getting below 130g/km. Ministers requiring specially adapted vehicles for security and Lord Jones will be excepted from the new rules. Since Lord Jones is the trade promotion minister, he'll continue to drive his Jaguar.

As I said when I discussed the hubbub surround the Prius delivery of the Energy Bill, 'domestic' (in this case, UK) auto makers can either feel this type of flap is some sort of insult, or they can feel it is a challenge they need to face.

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How Long Does it Take to Make Up the Difference

When I first started looking at hybrid cars, I did a quick calculation on fuel savings. I quickly realized that the difference in gas savings was not enough to pay back the premium on the hybrid technology. It's a very simple analysis, and one I bet every person who has considered buying a hybrid has done. Too bad it's not the right thing to do.

It's just naive.

And yet, I just saw the same analysis done by PIN Insights (pdf), published by Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates. I would have thought such a well regarded source of car information would know better.

In their analysis, they point out it would take anywhere from 8 to 301 years to offset the premium price for the hybrid technology depending on the price of gas (they used $3.23 or $4.00) and the car itself.

What foolishness.

Did they bother to factor in the lower cost of maintenance (fewer oil changes and brake work)? What about insurance breaks (some insurance companies offer discounts to anyone with a hybrid. Although, to be fair, in a lot of cases, you would pay more for insurance since the vehicle costs more to purchase. The same goes for any taxes you would have to pay).

What about tax breaks (federal, state or local)? What about free parking or access to the HOV lane?

And what about the single most important factor when it comes to the cost of ownership, i.e. the price you get when you sell your used car? I'm sure they're aware that a most hybrids hold up extremely well when it comes to the used car market. Even if you left the rest out out of uncertainty about which ones would apply to who, why not at least factor that in?

When intellichoice did a more robust analysis of the cost they found that buying a hybrid would save you money in the long run. Even a mild hybrid would save you money in as little as five years time.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Oil Prices Jump to All Time High Again

U.S. crude oil prices jumped to $111.80, then quickly dropped back down to $105.65.

If oil prices keep rising, gas prices will follow suit, of course.

Which means hybrid car sales should increase in the coming months, but only if more are being made. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that's not going to happen. Production is at a peak for most hybrid cars right now. The only likely place for sales to increase is in the hybrid SUVs from GM since they are brand new.

Will these large SUV hybrids benefit from high gas prices?

According to the oil execs, the price of oil is higher than it should be since the supply and demand of oil has remained steady and because there haven't been any recent crises. Instead, the weakness of the U.S. dollar is at fault for the jump upwards, added to speculation by investors.

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Even Car Companies Hate Paying That Fuel Bill

Even the car companies get hit hard when the local gas station raises it's prices. According to GM purchasing chief Bo Anderssson, every time gas goes up $1, GM has to shell out $6 million more every year.

While that's not a huge amount of their operating budget, you can't tell me that type of fuel bill doesn't play havoc with their budget.

I assume a lot of that bill comes from delivery costs. No wonder GM is more interested in cutting costs for larger vehicles! <- Note: this is just a little joke.

Andersson was also quoted as saying $3.30 a gallon seems to be the tipping point for car sales. Once the fuel bill goes up over that number, car sales and other big purchases get 'reassessed.' He included small cars, not just large ones in that statement.

Source: Expensive gas worries GM purchasing chief - Automotive News

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Prius Sales Will Be Capped in 2008

2008 Toyota PriusJon F. Thompson, Toyota Corporate Communications, made a clarification at the official Toyota blog on a much quoted headline saying they would not sell more Prius this year than they did last year. Thompson wants us to know that is not correct. They can and will build (and hopefully sell) more Prius this year than they did last year. It's the percentage of growth they can't sustain.

Specifically, in 2007, the built and sold 67% more Prius than they did in 2006. That type of growth will not occur again. Although they expect some growth, it just won't be anywhere as large.

"Our volume on Prius was up 67% last year. That was a supply-restricted 67% increase. That's 181,000 cars. We can't repeat that, no way, even though the demand may be there. We just can't keep up. So you will see much more moderate growth because of the supply."
What happened was simple. Toyota separated their Camry Hybrid production from the Prius production, allowing them to max out their production of the Prius. That occurred early on in 2007. But since then, both production and sales have stayed practically maxed out. The Toyota Prius just doesn't sit on the lot for very long.

So, for most of 2008, they won't be able to build many more Prius than they did in 2007. Which means their growth has been capped.

So, we'll see more than 181,000 Prius built and sold this year. At the end of February, sales were up 8.5% for the year. In my opinion, that's more than twice as high than total cumulative sales growth will end at.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sometimes Buying a Hybrid Car Does Not Make Sense

The Scott County Board (Iowa) recently decided not to buy a hybrid car for all the right reasons. You see, they were weighing all their options and picking a hybrid just wasn't the right choice for them.

Instead they bought a subcompact, a Ford Focus. Now that makes a lot of sense to me.

When trying to decide on what type of car you should buy, you should consider how big it really needs to be. If you can buy a subcompact car, then you shouldn't consider a Prius or Civic Hybrid. The cost equation just won't add up.

But if you decide you want a midsize vehicle, then the Prius or Civic Hybrid (or Altima or Camry Hybrid) might be a great choice for you.

It all depends on your situation.

The Scott County Board made the right choice. At $12,215.97 for the Focus, the gas savings from buying a hybrid car (plus other incentives from the state and federal programs) will not make up the difference. Even when you add in the lower maintenance costs, the Board found the difference would still add up to $5,000. That's all the reason they needed to decide not to buy a hybrid car.

"My initial thought was that we should purchase one and see how it performs — vis-a-vis the rest of the car fleet — so we would have a true track record on maintenance and all the other things," Supervisor Larry Minard said. "It may not be that a hybrid is right for everything, but I think their real advantage is in-town driving."

Buying a hybrid, just to buy a hybrid, makes absolutely no sense. That's why I expect the new SUV hybrids from GM won't do very well in the long run. Yes, they increase the in-town mpg dramatically. But in the end, you'll still only be getting 20 mpg. Will the extra expense to purchase the hybrid model make sense for many people? I doubt it.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Honda Civic Hybrid Sales Double in the UK

Honda Civic HybridHonda Civic Hybrid sales continue to grow in the UK at a rapid pace. Sales through February are up 206 percent.

"The performance of Civic Hybrid over the past 12 months is pleasing, but not surprising," says John Kingston, Environment Manager, Honda (UK). "In 2007, the Alternative Fuel segment was 76 per cent up – further evidence that car buyers in the UK are looking at emissions and other environmental credentials before purchasing."

The Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid continue to profit from the London congestion zone and the new proposals on limiting emissions in Europe.

What that means to those of us in the US: More growth overseas means more companies will be coming out with and developing hybrid technology. That will bring costs down as numbers begin to ramp up.

So far, however GM and Ford feel that hybrid growth will be limited in Europe.

Press Release Follows:

Honda's low-emission Civic Hybrid has recorded rapid growth during the first months of 2008, with sales up by 206 per cent.

CO2 emissions of just 109g/km make the Civic Hybrid one of the cleanest saloons on the market - but it's also one of the fastest growing cars in the UK.

"The performance of Civic Hybrid over the past 12 months is pleasing, but not surprising," says John Kingston, Environment Manager, Honda (UK). "In 2007, the Alternative Fuel segment was 76 per cent up - further evidence that car buyers in the UK are looking at emissions and other environmental credentials before purchasing."

Honda expects the proposed changes to the VED system announced by the Chancellor in his Budget earlier today, to continue to drive customers towards cleaner cars.

"The growth of lower-emission cars, like Civic Hybrid, will form a solid platform for Honda to launch our Global Hybrid car in early 2009 - which will be smaller and more affordable," adds John.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Toyota May Start Building Camry Hybrid in Thailand

Toyota may begin assembling the Toyota Camry Hybrid in Thailand at Toyota's Gateway plant in Chachoengsao province. A move like that would end up making Thailand a major source of hybrid cars in Asia. At the moment, the Camry Hybrid is only available in the U.S.

Yasuyuki Kawamoto, chief engineer of the Corolla Altis in Thailand was quoted as the source. He said it would happen "within the lifetime of the current Camry model," which ends sometime in 2011.

It does make me wonder, however, how the assembly would be done. Toyota assembles hybrid cars in China, but imports key components.

Source: Bangkok's Independent Newspaper

"We are still in the study phase for this project and that's why we brought in a fleet of Prius hybrid cars to test the market last year," said company spokesman Kij Mahajuntakarn.

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Obama Wants Hybrid HUMVEES

Barack ObamaPresidential hopeful Obama released his list of 'earmarks', in an attempt to show transparency to the voters. In 2006, Obama reqested $2 million for HUMVEE hybrid conversion project, and was able to secure $1 million in funds. (See previous post on Hybrid HUMVEE.)

In case you aren't aware, earmarks are funds set aside for specific projects or a particular organization. Congressmen and women typically earmark funds for projects within their own state.

The funds were set aside for the Illinois Institute of Technology. They wanted to retrofit HUMVEES with electric hybrid systems in order to produce gains in acceleration and fuel efficiency. Prototypes indicated a 50% gain.

A quick search found the following abstract of the paper published in Vehicular Technology, IEEE Transactions on. One of the authors, Amadi (follow link for list of publications), seems to be well up on the subject of hybrid technology.

Modeling and Simulation of Various Hybrid-Electric Configurations of the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV)

Although hybrid-electric vehicles have been studied mainly with the aim of increasing fuel economy, little has been done in order to improve both fuel economy and performance. However, vehicular-dynamic-performance characteristics such as acceleration and climbing ability are of prime importance in military vehicles such as the high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV). This paper concentrates on the models that describe hybridized HMMWV vehicles and the simulation results of those models. Parallel and series configurations have been modeled using the advanced-vehicle-simulator software developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Both a retrofit approach and a constant-power approach have been tested, and the results are compared to the conventional model results. In addition, the effects of using smaller engines than the existing ones in hybrid HMMWV drive trains have been studied, and the results are compared to the data collected from an actual implementation of such a vehicle. Moreover, the integrated-starter/alternator (ISA) configuration has been considered, and the results were encouraging

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The Top Ten Hybrid According to ...

While most top ten lists of hybrids focus in on the fuel efficiency factor, the list from tries to provide a more even-handed approach. They want to consider the price differential, i.e. the hybrid technology premium, and how much you will save from the fuel economy difference.

But really, the Vue coming in at number 2 is a real stretch. Same thing goes for the Aura Green Line coming in to the top 10. All you have to do is examine the sales figures to realize you are out of touch if you really think either Saturn belongs on the list. Mind you, that could change once the Vue switches over to the 2-Mode Hybrid System from GM.

I looked over the hybrid vehicles back in May 2007 and came out with my top five hybrids. Despite the recent additions, I haven't changed my mind about the ordering.

Press Release Follows:

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With the release of its 2008 Hybrid Buying Guide, has announced its picks for the top 10 hybrid vehicles on the market. With more hybrid models today than there were just a few years ago, the Buying Guide was designed to help consumers sort through a wide range of options in numerous body styles, from sedans to SUVs. Additionally,’s picks for the top hybrid vehicles help consumers get a clear understanding of these vehicles’ fuel-efficiency and price differences compared to their non-hybrid counterparts.

“Hybrid rankings have often been simplistic,” senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder said. “Most are little more than lists of the highest-mileage models on the market. Here, we ranked hybrids based on how much fuel savings they get when compared to their non-hybrid version, as well as how much all that saved gas is going to cost you, since hybrid models always command a premium price.” developed its rankings on the premise that most hybrid shoppers are looking for efficiency first, followed closely by price. All hybrids were compared to the lowest-priced, most-efficient gas-only trim level in their model line. The rankings then took into account the hybrid's mileage and price premium, in percent, as well as its suggested retail price.

“Examinations that compare hybrids to ‘comparably equipped’ versions miss an important point. Hybrids are almost always among the most expensive trim levels, if not the most costly,” Wiesenfelder said. “We know that not all buyers are willing to pay the premium for the sake of driving a hybrid. There needs to be a payoff, so our ranking highlights those hybrids that give buyers the greatest return for their investment.”

Top 10 2008 Hybrids:

1. Toyota Prius

MSRP: $21,100

EPA-estimated mileage (city/highway, mpg): 48/45

After seven years on the market, the Prius is still the best hybrid for people who just plain want to burn less gas. It's arguably also the best for people who hope to save money in the long run. Built from scratch as a hybrid, it maximizes interior space and offers a roomy cargo hatch, whereas hybrid sedans tend to diminish trunk space and/or eliminate folding backseats. There is no gas-only version, but there doesn't have to be. It's both the most efficient and most affordable hybrid out there.

2. Saturn Vue Green Line

MSRP: $24,170

EPA-estimated mileage: 25/32

Dramatic mileage boosts get all the attention, but Saturn is onto something with this mild hybrid approach. The current Vue Green Line's premium over the lowest-priced gas-only version is modest — only 14 percent. All the same, its city and highway mileage increases are 32 and 23 percent, respectively. What's more, it's priced below the V-6 version, whose mileage it roughly doubles. The only drawback: The Vue is the only hybrid SUV not to offer all-wheel drive. (Note: A second Green Line with 2 Mode technology is coming late in 2008 as a 2009 model.)

3. Honda Civic Hybrid

MSRP: $22,600

EPA-estimated mileage: 40/45

Even though its cost premium over the base Civic is 51 percent, its city and highway mileage are 54 percent and 32 percent higher, respectively, than that already-efficient model, making the payoff quite high. It happens to be an excellent car, too.

4. Toyota Camry Hybrid

MSRP $25,200

EPA-estimated mileage: 33/34

Not everyone wants a small, less-refined car like the Prius, which makes the Camry Hybrid the one for the masses. Priced 36 percent higher than the base four-cylinder model, it gets 57 and 10 percent better gas mileage (city and highway), and even more dramatic improvements over the V-6 versions whose prices it rivals.

5. Lexus RX 400h

MSRP: $41,280

EPA-estimated mileage: 27/24

Though it's a luxury model, the RX 400h's price premium is a mere 10 percent over the gas-only RX 350. Combined with a 50 percent city mileage improvement and 4 percent highway bump, it's a compelling package overall. The RX is similar to the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which has a lower overall price and 1 mpg higher highway mileage, but that model's higher price premium gives it a lower rank. With optional AWD, the RX 400h (26/24 mpg) is an even better deal, with mileage improvements of 53 percent and 9 percent compared to the all-wheel-drive RX 350.

6. Toyota Highlander Hybrid

MSRP: $33,700

EPA-estimated mileage: 27/25

The Highlander Hybrid comes only with AWD. The most efficient gas Highlander has FWD. In comparison, the hybrid costs 23 percent more and delivers 50 percent better city mileage but only a 4 percent highway improvement. If you want AWD, however, the hybrid costs only 17 percent more than the gas-only model and boasts 59 and 9 percent higher mileage in city and highway driving, respectively.

7. Ford Escape Hybrid

MSRP: $26,505

EPA-estimated mileage: 34/30

The Escape Hybrid's rank is a little surprising, given its impressive mileage, but it's hard to overcome the fact that it costs 40 percent more than the base, four-cylinder Escape. Because of this, its 55 percent city and 7 percent highway mileage improvement can't compensate. If you compare it to the thirstier V-6, however, this hybrid would be higher on the list.

8. Chevrolet Tahoe 2 Mode Hybrid

MSRP: $49,590

EPA-estimated mileage: 21/22

To people who say a full-size truck defeats the purpose of a hybrid, we say "nonsense." People who want or need a large SUV may have even better reason for cutting back on gas than the owner of an already-efficient car does. The Tahoe Hybrid gives up practically none of the original's capability, including towing, and gets a stunning 50 percent increase in city mileage and 16 percent bump on the highway. It comes in eighth not because of its size, but because of its added cost: 43 percent more than the lowest-priced gas-only Tahoe. In a rare twist, the cheapest Tahoe isn't the most efficient. The LT trim level gets higher mileage (it's an engine thing) but also a higher price. Here the price premium is less, at 35 percent, but the hybrid's highway mileage is only 10 percent better than this version, rather than 16 percent.

9. Saturn Aura Green Line

MSRP: $22,140

EPA-estimated mileage: 24/32

Known as a mild hybrid, the Aura Green Line delivers modest mileage improvements over the four-cylinder Aura — 9 percent in the city and 7 percent on the highway — but its price premium is a mere 12 percent. (Note: Chevrolet will soon also market a mild hybrid version of its Malibu. Later on, 2 Mode hybrid versions of each are expected to join or replace them, adding efficiency and cost.)

10. Lexus GS 450h

MSRP: $54,900

EPA-estimated mileage: 22/25

Lexus' GS 450h sedan comes in last because its cost increase outweighs the gains it gets in mileage. The base GS is the GS 350, a relatively efficient and low-priced V-6 model. There's a 24 percent premium between it and the GS 450h, and what you get for it is a 16 percent city mileage improvement and a 7 percent decrease in highway driving. One could argue that the 450h is being shafted because Lexus offers such a high-mileage gas-only version. (When compared to the V-8-powered GS 460, the hybrid isn't very expensive and gets better mileage.) But our assumption is that you want a GS and don't want to pay a lot for efficiency. In this ranking, the GS hybrid looks like a lot of money for little gain.

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Volt Behind in Battery Testing

The latest Reuters interview with Lutz, Chief Executive at GM, has Lutz pushing the timeline backwards on some very important tests. The road test of the lithium-ion battery pack won't being until July and the battery supplier won't be named until the second half of the year. And this is just a day after Burns, GM President R&D and Planning, was quoted as saying the 2010 deadline was 'challenging.'

The move to lithium-ion battery packs is always quoted as the biggest concern for automakers as they start making plug-in vehicles, so it's not surprising to see the dates being pushed back even under all the pressure GM is putting on itself to get the Volt out in 2010. Still, I'm left wondering how this will affect the overall timeline.

Will we still see the Volt in 2010? Will GM be able to stand toe-to-toe when Toyota produces the plug-in Prius?

Source: GM to road test Volt battery packs in July | Industries | Consumer Goods & Retail | Reuters

"We were hoping to do that in the first half," he said when asked when GM would name a battery supplier. "That may also be a little bit longer now, as we need a better handle on who has the technological capability we need and who is going to have the production capability."

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Seattle Taxis May Go Hybrid

Seattle TaxiSeattle mayor Greg Nickels wants taxis in his town to switch to hybrid technology. As with most taxi cab owners (i.e. the ones who purchase the cars), the idea isn't very popular.

Despite some incentives to do so, Boston taxi cabs aren't running to make the switch. New York taxi cab owners are being told to do so, and several other cities are seeing a slow switchover.

Seattle is going to have to face the same situation. When it costs anywhere from $20 to $30K to buy and outfit a hybrid car for taxi service, but it only costs $10K to buy and outfit a Crown Victoria, you need to give the owners a reason to do it.

The drivers, on the other hand, love hybrid taxicabs. They pay a lot less on gas and maintenance. Their riders enjoy the ride more. The cars themselves are proving to be very stable.

Mayor Nickels thinks that owners could save $10,000 in gas over the life of the cab. "We're not saying that it has to be a Prius," he said. "We're are saying that it has to have at least 30 miles per gallon to reduce the impact on greenhouse gas emissions."

He is not offering any other incentives to help the owners make the switch. The City Council will need to rule on the mayor's proposal.

Source: Nickels calls for switch to hybrid cabs | KOMO-TV - Seattle, Washington | News

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chevy Volt Will Be Limited

Chevy VoltLeft Lane News had some questions for Larry Burns, Vice President of GM's R&D and Planning, on the Chevy Volt Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle (excuse me, Extended Range Electric Vehicle according to GM) timetable.

According to Burns, the Chevy Volt will be released in 2010, even though it's a 'challenge.' But Burns expects only 10,000 Volts to be available that first year. Also, only five cities will sell the new Volt (let me guess, three of those five will be in California?).

According to Burns, the five cities will have trained technicians and parts who can service the vehicle.

In Europe, don't expect to see the Opel Flextreme, i.e. the Opel variant of the Volt, until 2013. GM is only rushing to get it done in the U.S.

Burns feels the development of the Volt hinges on the lithium ion batteries. He's hopeful, however, the Volt will start the process as the first generation. But later generations will be much more capable.

Either way, the cost will still be upwards of $35,000.

So there you go. Any little info about the Volt will be talked about.

Photo from Flickr.

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Plug-in Hybrid Technology Promoted by Coca-Cola and Duke Power

Coca-Cola BottleWhen companies like Google promote Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), they aren't doing it to promote their own ability. But when Coke co-sponsors a research intiative into PHEV technology, they're hoping for a long term gain.

Coca-Cola recently bought a fleet of hybrid trucks, which to me indicates they can see how hybrid technology can save them money.

Duke Energy in Charlotte will work with Coca-Cola to convert three of their hybrid vehicles (Prius) in their fleet to plug-in hybrids using aftermarket kits.

Sponsoring a PHEV study is a long-term investment. Companies like UPS work with the government on hydraulic hybrid technology because they can see some obvious benefits in the long run. I have no doubt that's why Coke is doing the same here.

Press Release Follows:

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) and Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated have launched a joint research initiative to promote plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) technology.

"Through this collaboration, we hope to increase the awareness of plug-in hybrids, demonstrate the viability of the technology, and evaluate performance parameters," said Mike Rowand, director of advanced customer technology for Duke Energy.

As part of this initiative, both companies will convert some of the hybrid vehicles in their transportation fleets to plug-in hybrids by using aftermarket kits.

A PHEV kit extends the efficiency of a standard hybrid vehicle by increasing the size of its battery, which can be charged through a normal 120- volt electric outlet. PHEV technology has enabled vehicles to travel 100 miles or more on a gallon of gas.

"We believe plug-in hybrid technology could play an important role in further reducing our fleet costs while addressing environmental concerns," said Lauren C.

Steele, vice president of corporate affairs for Coca-Cola Consolidated. "We are excited about participating in this pilot program."

Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Consolidated currently operates more than 400 hybrid vehicles, one of the nation's largest corporate hybrid fleets, and plans to convert three Toyota Prius hybrids into PHEVs.

"Plug-in hybrid technology offers real advantages in a number of areas," Rowand said. "In addition to higher mileage in the face of rising gasoline prices, plug-in hybrids produce much lower emissions and can help our nation achieve greater energy security while providing the overall performance drivers expect.

"This is really just the start for what we hope will be the broader use of plug-in hybrids," he added. "Through this collaboration with Coca-Cola and other Duke Energy initiatives, there will be more than a dozen plug-in hybrids operating in the Charlotte region in early 2008.

"As more people begin to see the advantages of plug-in hybrids, we believe market demand will increase, which will encourage automakers to move forward with their plans to produce plug-in hybrids commercially," added Rowand.

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Ipod Nano Battery Investigation in Japan

car fireIn case you were wondering why it's taking so long for automakers to make the switch from nickel metal hydride (NiMH)battery packs to Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batter packs, all you have to do is take a look at the latest story about what happens when things go wrong with Li-Ion batteries:

Japan investigates possible iPod defect - Yahoo! News

TOKYO - Japan is investigating a possible defect in Apple Inc.'s iPod after one of the popular digital music players reportedly shot out sparks while recharging, a government official said Wednesday.

An official at the trade and economy ministry, which oversees product problems, said a defect is suspected in the lithium-ion battery in the iPod Nano, model number MA099J/A. He spoke on customary condition of anonymity, saying he is reiterating a ministry position.
Now imagine that sort of thing happening with a hybrid car sized battery pack.

Not pretty, is it.

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New Power Plants Needed to Cover Plug-in Demand

A few months ago, NREL came out with a study saying if 84% of the country adopted plug-in electric vehicles, the electric grid could handle the extra load. Now there is a new study from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory saying it will depend on how smart people (or the equipment they use) are about when plugging their cars in.

If most people plug in their cars at 5 PM, it could overwhelm the system. After 10 PM would be much better, since the load on the electric grid is much lower by then.

Makes sense to me. But I'm with Stan Hadley of ORNL's Cooling, Heating and Power Technologies Program, who led the study.

"Consumers' inclination will be to plug in when convenient, rather than when utilities would prefer. Utilities will need to create incentives to encourage people to wait. There are also technologies such as 'smart' chargers that know the price of power, the demands on the system and the time when the car will be needed next to optimize charging for both the owner and the utility that can help too."

Perhaps a "smart charger" will become standard equipment when you buy the plug-in car? You would need to take into account that some people might come home from work, want to plug in for an hour or two, then head out for the evening. But a lot of people would want the charger to start charging later at night when the rates go down.

Worst case scenario says we would need 160 new power plants. Best case, according to the study, says only eight new power plants would be needed. Of course, this depends on consumers rapidly adopting plug-in technology. I mean, are plug-ins worth the money?

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is operated by UT-Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Source: Hybrid Cars May Require Hundreds Of New Power Plants To Be Built, If Owners Charge Up During Peak Hours

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Michigan Will Begin Testing How Plug-in Hybrid Cars Will Effect Them

Michigan MapMichigan is making plans to test plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) because they are worried about the strain they may place on the electrical grid if they were adopted in mass numbers. Although they aren't the first to study how plug-ins could affect the electric grid (See Google's efforts and the Dept of Energy Study on how massive adoption of PHEVs would be OK), the state of Michigan has an obvious need to study any new developments in vehicle technology and how it will alter the state infrastructure.

"This could radically alter what's happening with the electric grid, so it's important to take a look at this," spokeswoman Judy Palnau said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is starting a pilot program and is asking for others to join in the study. They are looking for electric companies, automakers, customer advocacy groups and the public to help them in their study.

They want to look into how the cars take power off the grid, but also want to investigate how plug-in cars could be used as storage in a 'smart grid.' By plugging in overnight to charge, the cars take electricity during low usage hours. The driver would then take their car in to work (or a public parking spot?) and then plug it back in to a special vehicle-to-grid (V2G) plug designed to draw power out of the car battery during peak hours.

Not only would that reduce the strain on the electric companies, it could end up putting money into the driver's pocket. By buying the electricity during low peak hours and selling it back during high peak hours, the exchange rate should be favorable towards the driver.

The first report will be due at the end of June, 2009.

The MPSC Press Release Follows:

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) today initiated a pilot program designed to integrate plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) into Michigan's electric grid, positioning the state to become a leader in this technology. The pilot program will be part of the MPSC's ongoing smart grid collaborative.

"As the automotive leader of the world, Michigan is uniquely equipped to lead the effort to integrate plug-in hybrid vehicles into its electric grid," said MPSC Chairman Orjiakor Isiogu, a member of the Smart Grid Collaborative effort between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). "The widespread adoption of PHEVs has the potential to significantly reduce gasoline consumption, while reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions produced in the state.

"The success of plug-in hybrid vehicles is dependent on the deployment of intelligent grid technology. So, this represents a unique opportunity for Michigan's electric utilities to expand sales, without contributing to system peak, while simultaneously reducing the overall level of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and utility sectors.

"In addition, PHEV technology can help expand Michigan's role as the world's center of automotive production and design and engineering excellence, resulting in more high-paying jobs and economic growth."

PHEV technology also has the potential to provide peak load power during high demand periods, if a utility's electric distribution system provides vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capability through smart grid technologies.

The Commission notes that achieving a high penetration of PHEVs that retains the stability of the electric grid is dependent on smart grid infrastructure research and development. Therefore, the MPSC in today's order is requiring all regulated electric distribution companies to participate in the smart grid collaborative, expanded by today's order to include PHEV pilot projects. The MPSC encourages other interested parties to participate as well.

In particular, the PHEV aspect of the smart grid collaborative will include:

* Using actual vehicles, some of which incorporate V2G systems, if and when available
* Analyzing the environmental effects in Michigan of PHEVs at low, medium and high levels of adoption, with and without V2G capability
* Analyzing the effect of PHEVs on Michigan utility and regional electric system load duration curves and the effect of PHEV market penetration on generation mix and capacity requirements
* Analyzing the technical issues related to the participation of V2G in the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operators' ancillary services market.
* Analyzing meter and time-based pricing policies for electricity used to charge electric vehicles

Today's order directs the MPSC staff to submit annual reports on the status of the PHEV collaborative, with the first report due by June 30, 2009. Interim reports may be filed, as appropriate.

The Commission encourages transmission providers, customers and customer groups, Michigan universities and colleges, automotive manufacturers and suppliers, and other electric industry stakeholders to participate in the collaborative.

Written comments may also be filed with the Commission. Comments may be e-mailed to Written comments should be mailed to the Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909.

The MPSC is an agency within the Department of Labor & Economic Growth

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wagoner Thinks Candidates Lie to Get Into Office

Liar or is it a FaceGM CEO Rick Wagoner doesn't believe the new president, whoever it may be, will favor states rights once they are in office. This is despite all three remaining candidates coming out in favor of California in their fight against the EPA.

"A lot goes on when you are campaigning," Wagoner said today at a breakfast with Washington reporters. " I'm not resigned" to states getting to impose their own rules, he said.

Wagoner believes each will ultimately side with economic growth and he believes the auto industry is a major factor in that growth.

Wagoner skeptical of candidates on climate rules - Automotive News

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Is a Plug-in Hybrid Worth the Money

PlugZap and Hybrid Plus Inc are partnering together to sell plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) conversion kit. For $24,000 to $36,000, you will be able to upgrade your hybrid Prius or Ford Escape Hybrid into a plug-in hybrid.

The conversion will turn your mid 30's to upper 40 mpg vehicle into a 120 mpg vehicle. That's quite a jump. The conversion replaces the nickel metal hydride battery pack with a lithium-ion battery pack, and then allows you to plug it in to a household plug. It takes about four weeks for the delivery to come through.

But that's alot of money to spend. The obvious question is how much you save if you go from 48 mpg to 120 mpg.

MPG Miles per Year Gallons of Fuel Cost per Year
48 12,000 250 $ 750
120 12,000 100 $ 300

At $3 a gallon and 12,000 miles a year, you can save $450 a year. So it will only take 80 years to make up the difference of $36K. Of course, if you go for the $24K, it will only take 53 years.

But, of course, it's not really about the money. It's all about taking the country off of oil dependence. And saving the planet. Oh, and don't forget the bragging rights.

Press Release Follows:

Electric car pioneer ZAP is now offering plug-in hybrid conversion systems for the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape Hybrid through a collaboration agreement with Hybrids Plus.

Hybrid vehicles retrofitted with systems from Hybrids Plus of Boulder, Colorado can achieve a significantly greater fuel economy. In tests these systems increased hybrid fuel economy up to 120 miles per gallon in the city and up to 90 mpg on the highway. The cost for the conversion ranges from $24,000 to $36,000 depending on the vehicle and size of battery pack.

All gasoline electric hybrids currently produced by major automakers today are essentially gasoline-powered vehicles. They reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency compared to conventional cars, however they are fueled exclusively by gasoline. The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) will allow the owner to charge their vehicle from a normal household wall outlet. By integrating a larger battery pack and a plug-in charging system, it becomes a new vehicle drawing energy from two fuel sources.

Hybrids Plus has sold PHEV systems to private individuals, fleets, power companies, and governmental entities. Deliveries can be provided in approximately four weeks from the initial order.

"This is a natural extension of our growth plans," said Hybrids Plus CEO Carl Lawrence. "ZAP has sold more city speed electric vehicles than any other company and has an established, growing dealer network that can provide sales and service for our vehicles."

"This collaboration allows more hybrid owners to have the most efficient vehicles on the road today," said ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. "ZAP dealers are preparing to offer a new level of service in the coming years involving mass-market hybrid and electric cars from Detroit Electric, so experience with plug-in hybrids can accelerate this process."

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pranksters Force Hybrid Buses Off the Road

Hybrid Buses in SFIn San Francisco, they added diesel hybrid buses to their public bus fleets a while ago. But, some pranksters have forced SF Municipa Railway workers to rethink where those hybrid buses can go.

The problem is a switch in an unlocked access panel on the outside. Someone has been reaching in and turning off the switch, causing the lights to go out, and keeping the bus from accelerating. It also turns off the radio.

While this could be thought of a nuisance, I would think it could also be a dangerous issue. Depending on where the bus is when it gets 'shut off,' the driver could be in danger exiting the bus to turn it back on. I would also wonder about the neighborhood safety issue.

Officials have decided to move the diesel hybrid buses off that route until they can figure out how to stop it from happening again.

Source: Pranksters target power switches on hybrid Muni buses - San Jose Mercury News

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Hybrid Taxi Cabs in Boston Off to Slow Start

Despite the incentives given to hybrid taxi drivers in Boston, only 32 of the 1,825 cabs on the road are hybrids. In New York they decided to force cabbies and black cars to go hybrid. In Boston, they are trying to entice the drivers/owners.

The incentives are few, but quite enticing. Boston is offering $1,000 to those who buy a hybrid tax cab. Hybrid taxi drivers get to skip the line at Logan twice per shift. That means saving an hour, or a few $30 fares a day. You also get the gas savings. When the other choice is a Crown Victoria (around 13 mpg), that can lead to significant savings every day. Owners will like the lower maintenance costs.

The problem is the inital cost. When it costs $30,000 to hit the road with a hybrid cab, but only $10,000 to do so with a Crown Victoria outfitted as a cab, you can understand the reluctance.

The story from the Boston Globe has one glaring error in it. It actually states the hybrid batteries will need to be replaced after 100,000 miles and that is blatantly untrue. The warranty may run out (depends on the make and which state you're in), but some taxis in NY and SF have gone over twice as far without having any major issues relating to the engine or the battery.

"It's the new technology," said Gerakis. "Once you're in it, you realize the Crown Victoria is sort of a dinosaur."

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Kansas City Working on Hybrid Car Tax Credit

Kansas CityDelegates in Kansas City, Missouri are working on a state tax credit for hybrid cars, but with a catch. Only hybrid cars manufactured in the US will be eligible for the credit.

Which means mild hybrids like the Malibu would be eligible, but not the Toyota Prius. The Toyota Camry would be eligible, as would the Ford Escape Hybrid, but not the Civic Hybrid.

The credit is being set at 10 percent of the value of the car, up to $2,000. The tax credit is being set for the next six years.

The stimulation package seems a little hypocritical if it's going to exclude the top selling and top mpg Prius.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Arlington Debates Tax Rebate For Hybrid Cars

Arlington County is debating the special rebate set up for clean fuel vehicles, which includes hybrid cars. Under the rebate, up to $20,000 in the assessed value of their personal property tax is eligible for a 100 percent rebate. That's around $500 in tax savings for those who buy hybrid cars.

Source: Fuming Over Tax Break for Hybrids -

Partly because of the popularity of the tax incentive, the number of hybrids on the road in Arlington has increased dramatically. There are now 2,100 hybrids registered in the county, up from about half that number two years ago.
That's a significant amount of growth in just two years.

But some people are complaining about the tax incentive. Because hybrid cars are more expensive, some feel that only people who are above average in wealth are buying them (and that is actually born out when hybrid car buyers are surveyed). Which means the tax incentive is going to those who can afford the property tax.

But since the county still has to pay the bills, the tax rebate is being 'made up' by those who don't drive hybrid cars.

As one driver put it, "Everybody else's car tax bill is going up. That big a credit for hybrids seems silly to me."

County officials have decided to keep the rebate, because they want to encourage the adoption of more fuel efficient vehicles. And based on the registration numbers, that is certainly what they are getting.

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Diesel Hybrid, Better MPG But at What Cost

Dollar SignThe new VW Diesel Hybrid, the Golf TDI Hybrid may end up getting 69 mpg (using the European scale). That's really good, considering the current mpg leader, the Toyota Prius, gets 54 on the same test. Diesel engines are more efficient than gas engines, resulting in better fuel efficiency. And so tying diesel together with an electric engine is a no-brainer, right?

Well, not if you throw in any sort of economic sense, it isn't.

It's the same thing you always see, when people start talking about hybrids and diesels. Diesel engines are more expensive than gas engines. Gas Electric Hybrid engines are more expensive than gas engines. Put the two together and you get twice the expense.

Source:VW gets great mileage from diesel hybrid, cost is a hurdle - Mar. 7, 2008

Diesel engines burn fuel using high pressure and heat instead of a spark. The engines have to be more rugged to withstand the strain, so they're more expensive to build.

The other issue is diesel fumes. The new strict guidelines forced diesels out of the US marketplace. But new, cleaner diesel fuel along with restructured diesel engines are going to allow them back in, probably in the coming year. But that new design structure is going to cost you more.

BTW, in case you're wondering about the European marketplace (i.e. Aren't diesels more popular in Europe? How come?) It's because diesel fuel is less expensive than gasoline. The Europeans have increased gas prices steadily to the point where diesel is more cost effective than gas. It's also forced the market into smaller cars.

So, next time you see a diesel to hybrid, keep these points in mind.

About the TDI Golf Hybrid: It may be sold in Europe for years before it would cross the pond to the US. Unless gas prices change to the point where it's similar to what we see in Europe, or diesel engine costs come down, it's just not going to make sense for VW to bring it here.

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