Friday, January 29, 2010

Ferrari Hybrid Goes Beyond Rumor

Ferrarri has comfirmed that a production model Ferrarri 599 will be at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show in March. The announcement was made by CEO Luca di Montezemolo at the release of the F10.

"It has to be the avant-garde in automobile technology. We're constructing cars with an enormous part of the innovative technology. We'll present a 599 hybrid in Geneva, which will represent a great path towards the future," Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo said in Maranello, Italy, at the presentation of the 2010 Formula One Ferrari.

The two-seat V-12 599 will use a kinetic energy recovery system, employ start-stop technology and improve fuel efficiency by 30%. That should raise the rating up to 14 mpg.

Luca di Montezemolo also said Ferrari is looking at other ways of improving efficiency in its cars.

Sources: CNet and nitrobahn

Rumors have floated around about a hybrid ferrari for some time now.

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Forced Features in Hybrids

There's a report out making the allegation that car makers are 'forcing' customers to accept luxury items in order to buy a hybrid car. The allegations are being made by the Union of Concerned Scientists. To that I say, Ya, so?

Car makers (Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM, Nissan, etc...) invested a lot of money in developing their hybrid cars. They can't sell the public on just the engine, however. Not at the price they need to sell the car at and still hope to make money on it.

So, they have been adding in luxury items to the cars right from the beginning. That allows them to justify the price tag ($20,000 or more... much more for some), and gives people justification for the price they are paying.

"Hybrids don't have to be luxury vehicles," said Don Anair, the senior vehicles analyst with UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. "They should be within the reach of all Americans. Car buyers shouldn't be forced to buy high-end bells and whistles when fuel economy and reducing emissions are their top priority."
The problem with that is hybrid technology just isn't within reach of all Americans. That's just the truth. The second engine (and all the other parts that mate the two together and help them to play nice with each other) costs money to build and create new types of.

Look at the new Honda Insight. There's a car that has the least 'forced features' and as such, is billed as the cheapest hybrid you can buy. According to the advertising, it's the hybrid for all. But all means those who can afford to pay $20K for a new car. And for $20K, you don't get any of the luxury features you would expect in a twenty thousand dollar car.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nissan Borrows $1.4 Billion From the DOE

Nissan closed its $1.4 billion loan with the Dept of Energy, part of the $25 billion made available to car manufacturers to develop advanced vehicles. Nissan is going to use the money to retool the Smyrna, Tennessee factory to build advanced electric automobiles (Nissan Leaf) and build a battery manufacturing facility.

Nissan expects to create 1,300 jobs with the two projects.

"This is an investment in our clean energy future. It will bring the United States closer to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and help lower carbon pollution," said Secretary Chu in a statement. "We are committed to making strides to revitalize the American auto industry and supporting the development of clean energy vehicles."

Nissan is planning on a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles annually at the Smyrna plant, along with 200,000 battery packs.

This is the third loan closed on by auto manufacturers. Ford closed on a $5.9 billion loan back in September. Tesla closed last week on a $465 million loan to help in part to build the plug-in hybrid sedan, Nina.

Fisker is next in line, with a conditional agreement with the DOE.

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GM Putting $246 Million into Baltimore

GM will invest $246 million in a new production facility at the Baltimore Transmission plant. It will be used to manufacture the electric motors used in GM's Two-mode Hybrid system for 2013.

GM expects the investment in the Baltimore plant will create 200 jobs. That will double the number of people employed at the plant.

"By designing and manufacturing electric motors in-house, we can more efficiently use energy from batteries as they evolve, potentially reducing cost and weight," GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens said.

GM is taking advantage of local and state incentives, plus the Recovery Act funding available from the Dept of Energy. GM expects the incentives to help retain or create 1700 jobs. The grant money from the DOE is about $105 million.

"Electric motors are the engines of the future," Stephens said. "By designing and manufacturing electric motors in-house at Baltimore Transmission, we can more efficiently control the design, materials and production processes. It will also enable us to lower costs and improve performance, quality, reliability, and manufacturability of the electric motors we use in our vehicles."

Although GM is considering building electric motors in house for a range of electric vehicles, Stevens said GM will buy some motors from others.

GM said it would consider building motors in-house for a broader range of electric vehicles.

GM is also investing some of the money elsewhere:

  • In Pontiac, Michigan, $2 million for and electromagnetic computational facility and $26 million for development and validation dynamometer facilities;
  • In Indianapolis, $10 million for development and validation dynamometer facilities;
  • In Torrance, California, $6 million for characterization and development dynamometer facilities.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hond Plans for Acura TSX Hybrid in 2011

Honda is getting ready to bring an Acura TSX sedan for 2011. After that, two more hybrid Acura models will follow. (Source: Autonews)

But it's hard to know what kind of hybrid the TSX Hybrid will be like. Honda has tried power enhanced hybrids like the Accord hybrid. But that was not exactly a big success. Maybe with an Acura, Honda can rely on luxury buyers.

Toyota has done well with their Lexus hybrids, so Accura could do well with theirs.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Chevy Volt Will Launch in D.C.

The Chevy Volt, the extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV), will be launching in Washington D.C., California and Michigan later this year.

Like the Nissan Altima Hybrid, the locations GM has chosen to roll out the Volt have immediate and obvious reasons. If anything, Michigan may be the most surprising location, even though the Volt will be made there.

With a limited production GM had to decide where to sell the Volt at first. D.C. has obvious political value, while California has obvious 'green' and PR potential.

Read more about it from the press release by GM.

WASHINGTON – Chevrolet announced that greater Washington D.C. will be an initial launch market for the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range. The nation’s capital and its suburbs join California and Michigan as the initial retail markets where Chevrolet will sell the Volt to consumers.

“The Chevrolet Volt demonstrates our commitment to the electrification of the automobile,” said Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman, Global Product Operations. “So far, we have invested more than $700 million in the U.S. to reinforce our leadership in this new technology.”

Chevrolet also announced a development and demonstration program with D.C.-area utilities Pepco and Dominion to introduce customers to electric vehicles and establish vehicle charging programs.

“Concentrating Volt sales in these three key initial markets allows us to give our first customers a high-quality experience,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet general manager. “In addition to geographical considerations, each market also has progressive local and state government leaders and utility partners who are crucial in bringing electric vehicles to market.”

Chevrolet will deliver more than 100 Volts to several utilities across the U.S. – including Pepco and Dominion, which serve Washington D.C. and its suburbs – as part of an extended demonstration program. The overall program includes 500 charging stations that will be installed for residential, business and public use. They will be used to learn more about the installation process, vehicle charging and to gauge customer feedback.

The program is made possible with a grant of more than $30 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds from the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the U.S. Department of Energy. Chevrolet has announced similar partnerships with several utilities in California and Michigan, as well as the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle with extended-range capability. It is designed to drive up to 40 miles on electricity without using gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions. When the Volt’s lithium-ion battery is depleted, an engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the driving range if there is no access to an electrical outlet to recharge the battery, providing peace of mind by eliminating range anxiety. Volt production begins later this year, and pricing has not been announced.

Testing in real conditions

The Chevrolet Volt has already logged more than a quarter-million test miles on pre-production vehicles, some of which are in service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Accomplishments include:

* Chevrolet is using OnStar technology to refine the development of the current fleet of about 80 pre-production vehicles
* Testing under extreme climates and conditions, including hot-weather testing in Death Valley, cold-weather testing in northern Canada; and mountain testing at Pikes Peak
* The building of more than 300 pre-production battery packs

Technology beyond the battery

Chevrolet is expanding the Volt ownership experience with a smartphone (Droid by Motorola, Apple iPhone and BlackBerry Storm) application by OnStar that gives Volt owners 24/7 connection and control of vehicle function and OnStar features remotely.

Through Volt’s mobile application, drivers can set or check charging, manually set grid-friendly charge modes for off-peak times, pre-condition the interior temperature using electricity and not gasoline, check EV range and more.

Other driver-friendly technologies include touch-sensitive controls on the center stack and screen; a fully digital interface that allows two-way interaction, personalization and access to information; and real-time feedback that provides guidance on how to drive more efficiently.

Chevrolet grows its family of small and compact cars

Chevrolet presents its family of fuel-efficient small cars at the auto show – including the Spark five-door mini car, Aveo RS show car and Cruze compact sedan. Revealed earlier this month in Detroit, the Aveo RS show car features a European-inspired hot hatch design that strongly hints at the upcoming Aveo production car.

Here’s a deeper look at the cars:

Chevrolet Spark : The five-door Chevrolet Spark, the smallest member of Chevrolet’s family of cars, brings style, roominess and versatility to a segment of extremely fuel-efficient small cars. Spark will provide great fuel economy, and its trim size makes it very agile in all kinds of driving conditions while still feeling substantial on the open road. The U.S. production version of the Spark will go on sale in early 2012.

“This small vehicle makes a big statement,” said Margaret Brooks, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars. “With its fresh, youthful approach, we believe Spark will appeal to customers who want excellent fuel economy, functionality and style at an affordable price.”

More details on the U.S. version of the Spark will be announced at a later date.

Chevrolet Aveo RS show car : The Aveo RS show car provides a glimpse of what designers have in mind for the future production car. Its electric Boracay Blue finish, motorcycle-inspired exposed headlamps and taillamps, low roofline, fender flares, large wheels and tires, and dual-cockpit interior hint at the next-generation Aveo.

“The current Aveo is a major player in Chevrolet's global small-car portfolio,” said Campbell. “Our intent with the Aveo RS show car is to demonstrate Chevrolet's vision and design potential for a small car we think customers will love.”

Focusing on Aveo’s target audience of young buyers, Chevrolet gave the show car a sporty appearance inside and out. An aggressive front fascia; clean, uninterrupted body side lines; an integrated rear roof spoiler; wide stance; and large, 19-inch, five-spoke wheels with a gun metal metallic Chevrolet logo and Boracay Blue brake calipers suggest upscale style and dynamic handling.

The Boracay Blue continues inside, with accent stitching in the instrument panel dual cockpit, front and rear door panels, gear shift boot, parking brake and seat bolster.

The Aveo RS show car features the same small-displacement 1.4L Ecotec turbocharged engine that will be available in the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Delivering 138 horsepower (103 kW), it performs like two powerplants in one, with the fuel economy of a small engine and the performance of a larger one. In the Aveo RS show car, the 1.4L turbo is mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Chevrolet has previously announced the new Aveo will be built at Orion Assembly in Orion Township, Mich., in 2011, a move that will restore 1,200 jobs to Southeast Michigan. Plant retooling is scheduled to begin later this year.

Chevrolet Cruze : The North American production version of the 2011 Cruze compact sedan makes its first visit to Washington show-goers. Already on sale in Asia and Europe with strong market acceptance, the Cruze has been refined for America, bringing a midsize car presence to the compact sedan segment.

Cruze will deliver many segment-leading features, more interior room and more cargo capacity than the competition, as well as upscale amenities such as Bluetooth, USB and navigation. It offers midsize roominess, safety and amenities with the fuel economy and expected price of a compact car. Cruze features 10 standard air bags and has achieved five-star safety ratings in every market where it is sold.

Cruze is expected to deliver segment-leading fuel economy with a new Ecotec 1.4L I-4 turbo with variable valve timing – including up to 40 mpg on the highway with a high-efficiency model. The all-new Cruze will be built in Lordstown, Ohio beginning in the third quarter.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Toyota Recall for Uncontrolled Acceleration

Toyota announced a huge recall on 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models.

The vehicles being recalled include:

  • 2009-2010 RAV4
  • 2009-2010 Corolla
  • 2009-2010 Matrix
  • 2005-2010 Avalon
  • 2007-2010 Camry
  • 2010 Highlander
  • 2007-2010 Tundra
  • 2008-2010 Sequoia

Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser and select Camry models, including all Camry hybrids are NOT affected.

According to Toyota, there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.

The mechanism may become worn and, in certain conditions, the accelerator pedal may become harder to depress, slower to return or, in the worst case, stuck in a partially depressed position.

ABC News reported last night as part of TONIGHT on “World News with Diane Sawyer” and on “Nightline” that there may be more to the story.  ABC News says a driver in New Jersey was able to make to a local dealership, even as the brakes were smoking and the engine continued to race.

The driver, Kevin Haggerty, was driving a 2007 Toyota Avalon.  He reported that in mid-2009, he had intermittent issues where the engine would rev and pick up speed, and he would have to 'stand on the brake' to slow it down.

But several days after Christmas, while on the highway, Kevin experienced the problem again.  The car accelerated to 90 mph.  He was able to shift the car into neutral, after realizing the brakes were not slowing the car down.  At that point, he drove his car to the dealership, shifting into neutral to slow down, then back into drive to speed up.

After getting a manager to look at the car, the driver says the local dealer replaced the sensors and assembly on Haggerty's accelerator and throttle.

ABC News also reported on the day after Christmas, four people died in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, when a 2008 Toyota sped off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond. The car's floor mats were found in the trunk of the car, where owners had been advised to put them as part of the recall.

Update: If you want to know why some cars and not others, or are interested in looking at the parts affected, follow the links.

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Tesla Receives $465 Million Loan From DOE

The Department of Energy has gone ahead with the loan of $465 million to Tesla Motors, as part of the DOE loan program to advance vehicle technology. The loan agreement was conditional based on Tesla raising some funds on their own. They came through last week, raising $115.3 million in private equity. 

The funds are expected to be used in the Fisker Karma production and on the Nina, a new plug-in hybrid sedan to be built in Delaware.

This is the second loan agreement executed by the DOE. The first was for $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Company back in September, 2009. Other companies, including Nissan, Fisker, and Tenneco are also in line for their loans, but haven't closed.

For more details, read the press release below:

Washington, DC – Today, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the Department of Energy has closed its $465 million loan with Tesla Motors, Inc. for construction of a manufacturing facility in southern California on the Model S electric sedan and a power-train manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California. The Palo Alto facility will assemble electric vehicle battery packs, electric motors, and related electric vehicle control equipment, both for Tesla’s own electric vehicles and for sale to other automobile manufacturers.

The agreement was negotiated and signed by the Department’s Loan Programs Office, which supports the development of innovative, advanced vehicle technologies to create thousands of clean energy jobs while helping reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

“This is an investment in our clean energy future that will create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Secretary Chu. “It will help build a customer base and begin laying the foundation for American leadership in the growing electric vehicles industry. This is part of a sustained effort to develop and commercialize technologies that will be broadly deployed throughout the American auto industry.”

Tesla’s planned Model S will consume no gasoline and will not produce any tailpipe emissions. It is being designed to offer a variety of range options depending on the battery pack used, from 160 to 300 miles on a single charge. Volume production of the Model S is planned to begin in 2012 with a target production capacity of 20,000 vehicles per year by the end of 2013. According to Tesla, the Model S project and power-train manufacturing facility are expected to create over 1,600 jobs.

Today’s announcement marks the second loan arrangement agreement signed by DOE with an advanced technology vehicle manufacturer. In September 2009, DOE signed its first loan agreement for $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Company. The Department has also signed conditional commitments with Nissan North America, Inc. and Fisker Automotive. Tenneco Inc. became the first advanced technology component manufacturer to obtain a conditional commitment from DOE in October of last year. Nissan plans to build electric cars and battery packs at the company’s Smyrna, Tennessee manufacturing complex, while Fisker recently announced plans to build plug-in hybrid electric vehicles by reopening a shuttered GM plant in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Department of Energy was appropriated $7.5 billion by Congress to support up to $25 billion in loans to companies making cars and components in US factories that increase fuel economy at least 25 percent above 2005 fuel economy levels. The Department plans to make additional loans over the next several months to large and small auto manufacturers and parts suppliers up and down the production chain. The intense technical and financial review process is focused not on choosing a single technology over others, but is aimed at promoting multiple approaches for achieving a fuel efficient economy.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kia Ray

Kia has released a teaser photo on the new Ray concept. The concept car is supposed to show where Kia will be heading with their future in plug-in hybrid cars.

The Ray was designed by the Kia Design Centre America and will contribute to Kia's ongoing development of alternate-fuel vehicles.

Of course, it's not surprising the concept was designed to show that hybrid cars can be good looking and sporty. It's quite likely that if Kia ever did go ahead with a real product plug-in hybrid, the style would go away and you'd end up with a more standard fare.

The Ray is supposed to debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

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Honda Struggling With Insight

Struggling is a good way to put it (Source: Honda Says ‘Too Small’ Insight Hybrid May Miss Sales Target - Honda is just struggling with the Insight. Not just because it's too small (read the article) but because it can't compete against the Prius in a lot of ways.

There are a lot of factors as to why Honda is having a tough time with their hybrid car.  The biggest reasons include the smaller size (including less room in the back) despite being less fuel efficient, it looks very similar to the Prius, and an initial slate of poor reviews by American journalists.  Put it all together and you end up with a very lopsided loss (sales at 7:1) against an already entrenched opponent.

There's just nothing but the price tag to differentiate the Honda Insight as being better than the Prius. But, the Insight only comes in at best $3K less than the Prius. At that price range ($20,000 +), people who are looking to buy aren't looking for bargain vehicles.

Selling 200,000 Insights worldwide in the first year “looks tough,” Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo said in an interview on Jan. 19 in Tokyo, where Honda is based. “I think we compromised too much on size in pursuing fuel efficiency” for the U.S. market, he said.


“There are plenty of people who think that the current Fit meets their needs already” with its fuel efficiency, he said. “A hybrid version might seem expensive. Our engineers are really struggling.”

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Greenest Cars of 2010

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their thirteenth annual rankings ( for model year 2010 vehicles. Among the top cars, hybrids took most of them.

Not surprisingly, given the high fuel efficiency ratings, hybrids from Toyota Ford and Honda held onto five of the top 10, and 3 out of the top 5.  The top spot went to the Honda Civic GX, which runs on compressed natural gas.

Make and Model
Specifications a
Emission Standardb
MPG: City
MPG: Hwy
Green Score
1.8L 4, auto [CNG]
Tier 2 bin 2 /
1.8L 4, auto CVT
Tier 2 bin 3 /
1.3L 4, auto CVT
Tier 2 bin 2 /
1.0L 3, manual
Tier 2 bin 5 /
1.3L 4, auto CVT
Tier 2 bin 3
2.4L 4, auto CVT
Tier 2 bin 3 /
1.5L 4, manual
Tier 2 bin 5 /
2.5L 4, auto CVT
1.6L 4, manual [P]
Tier 2 bin 5 /
2.2L 4, manual
Tier 2 bin 5 /
1.6L 4, manual
Tier 2 bin 5 /
1.5L 4, auto
Tier 2 bin 5 /
[CNG] denotes compressed natural gas fuel.
[P] denotes premium gasoline
"auto CVT" denotes continuously variable automatic transmission.
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.

Overall, there's been some changes to the rankings from last year with the Honda Insight and Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan Hybrids entering the list.

"With the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf both scheduled to make appearances in the latter half of 2010, manufacturer interest in advanced technologies is even more intense, with a particular emphasis on electric vehicles," said ACEEE vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan. "But the eco-stars this year are once again hybrids and smaller, conventional vehicles. Gasoline vehicles are evolving fast, but manufacturers continue to devote much new efficiency technology to boosting power."

Diesels like the Volkswagen Jetta and Jetta Sportwagen missed out on the list.

"While clean diesels once again perform well on our annual ranking, high prices both for the vehicles and for diesel fuel have kept them from really catching on thus far. They’re not having the impact in the U.S. that they have had in Europe, and as a result, manufacturers are scaling back production and promotion of diesels," said Vaidyanathan.

The meanest list (the bottom of the rankings remains largely unchanged from 2009. Large SUVs, heavy-duty trucks and luxury European vehicles weigh down the list.  The best of the worst goes to the Lamborghini Murcielago/ Murcielago Roadster.  Also on the list was the Bentley Azure, Dodge Ram, Ford F-250, Bentley Continental GTC, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG, Chevy Suburban K2500, GMC Yukon K2500,  and Mercedes-Benz G550.

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Honda CEO Pushing for Hybrid Development

Honda CEO Takonobu has admitted their Honda hybrids just aren't good enough to beat out the Toyota Prius (Source: Autonews). And with that, he's pushing his Research and Development to develop and expand their hybrids.

And with it, Honda will get a new hybrid, something that's ready for their large vehicle platforms, not just the smaller (Insight and Civic) platforms.

The Toyota Prius outsold the Insight by almost a 7:1 margin. Honda had targeted 90,000 sales for their Insight, but later brought it down to 60,000. The lower cost Insight was supposed to compete with the Prius. But at just under at most $2 thousand savings, the Insight has not competed with the Prius. Instead, it seems to be drawing sales away from the Honda Civic Hybrid instead.

"Are we happy with how sales are going? No, we're not happy," said John Mendel, American Honda's executive vice president, in an interview last month.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hybrid HOV Access Up Again in Virginia

It's that time of year again. Virginia legislators are once again looking to extend HOV access to solo hybrid car owners. Several bills have been submitted (via Fredericksburg) to grant exemption.

Hybrid proponents point out HOV access encourages people to buy hybrid cars, which lowers fuel (and oil) consumption here in the US. Detractors say a gas-guzzling SUV with 2 or 3 people in it saves more in gas on the drive in the carpool lane than a solo driver in the most fuel efficient hybrid.

Proposed legislation would extend access on I-95/395 through July 1, 2011. The current extension runs out on July 1, 2010.

Some complain that HOV lanes can get congested, and why should solo drivers get access. Hybrid drivers point out cheaters make more of an impact than hybrid car owners.

One version of the proposed bill will give all clean special fuel vehicle owners another year to use HOV lanes at rush hour with one occupant on the Dulles Toll Road and Interstate 66.

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Toyota Aims for 1 Million Hybrids a Year by 2011

According to the Nikkei ( via Reuters), Toyota is aiming to build 1 million hybrids globally by 2011, reaching a goal they set to sell a million hybrids a year sometime in this next decade.  Reaching that point so quickly would be remarkable.

In May of 2007, Toyota sold its millionth hybrid car, globally. Hybrid car sales passed the million car mark in the US back at the end of 2007. This year, Toyota built around 500,000 hybrid cars, or about 8 percent of their total production.

"For the foreseeable future, the focus of Toyota's (low-emission car) strategy will be on hybrids, not electric or fuel-cell cars," said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities, adding the production volume reported by the Nikkei was in line with his expectations.

"Except for Honda, Toyota is facing little competition in hybrids and is set to put distance between itself and other automakers."

In order to reach 1 million, Toyota would have to expand their production in new ways, from new cars to new production plants. 

According to the Nikkei report, Toyota will be adding 10 new hybrid models over the next few years.  This after just introducing the new Sai hybrid in Japan.

They are also looking at finishing a production plant in Mississippi to build the Prius in the US.  They also recently opened a plant in Australia to build the Camry Hybrid.

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Fisker Raises 100 Million in Order to Get 500 More

Fisker, as part of the plan to access the $528.7 million in government loans, said it has acquired $115.3 million in private equity funding to develop plug-in hybrid and hybrid electric cars.

Fisker raised the money from, among others, A123 Systems, Ace Investments and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Fisker Automotive earlier this week signed a multi-year supply agreement with A123 Systems for the lithium-ion batteries that will power the Karma.

"Fisker Automotive selected A123 because of the company's ability to meet our performance needs and rapidly scale to our production volume," said Fisker. "We are committed to developing environmentally friendly cars that don't sacrifice style or performance. A123's technology will ensure the Karma delivers."

Fisker had earlier applied for a $528.7 million U.S. Department of Energy conditional loan. Fisker is anticipating they will be able to move forward with that loan, now that they have raised the $115 million from private investors.

The money will be used to build the Fisker Karma, and on the Nina project. The Nina will be a plug-in hybrid sedan built in Delaware. Fisker is purchasing a former GM plant and will be outfitting it to build the Nina. Reports have pricetag for the Nina somewhere in the $45-50 thousand range.

Fisker will need to raise an additional $27 million in equity to jump the next government hurdle.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Toyota Looks to Build Prius in Mississippi

Toyota is once again looking at opening the plant in Mississippi to build the Prius here in the US.  That would free up the production in Japan to focus on supplying the Japanese market.

But, Toyota is waiting for 'US economic recovery hits full stride.'  That makes it unclear when they will go ahead and finish the plant they idled back at then end of 2008.

Toyota is predicting a 10% rise in sales in the US this year.  It's boosting production in anticipation here in the US because of the relative weakness of the dollar.

Sources: freepreuters.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hybrid Car Buyers are Loyal Buyers

Once again, Prius buyers have shown themselves to be loyal buyers.  Toyota beat out GM for the first time, winning the award for Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer, propelled by some of their more popular and loyal buyers.  Toyota took first place in the Mid/Full-Size Car and Mid/Full- Size SUV categories for the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX, respectively.

Prius buyers (and other hybrid car owners) have been shown time and time again to be loyal customers, coming back and buying another Prius (or hybrid).  But you have to wonder if that's because of the make, or because of the lack of choices.

If there was a car from Ford or GM that was priced similarly to the Prius, and got similar fuel efficiency numbers, would car buyers switch?  Ford has said that many of those who are buying the Fusion Hybrid are trading in Toyota or Honda vehicles.  That seems to show that at least part of the loyalty, so far, has been to the fuel efficient hybrid technology.

Loyalty %
Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer
Overall Loyalty to Make
Most Improved Loyalty to Make
+ 4.9 percentage points
Hispanic Market Loyalty to Make
Asian Market Loyalty to Make
African American Market Loyalty to Make
Vehicle Segment Awards
Compact Car
Mini Cooper
Mid/Full-Size Car
Toyota Prius
Luxury Car
BMW 3 Series
Sports Car
Ford Mustang
Luxury Sports Car
Porsche 911
Chrysler Town & Country
Mid/Full-Size Pickup
Ford F-Series
Compact SUV
Subaru Forester
Mid/Full-Size SUV
Lexus RX
Luxury SUV
Land Rover Range Rover

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Audi A8 Hybrid on the Way to Geneva

Audi, who will not, I repeat, not build mild hybrids, is going to reveal a full hybrid A8 at the Geneva Auto Show in March. This according to board chairman Rupert Stadler who was speaking to reporters at the Detroit Auto Show.

Stadler revealed the A8 Hybrid will be powered by a lithium-ion battery pack developed by Sanyo. He expects the fuel efficiency to increase by 15 percent over the current A8.

Audi does not want to focus on hybrids, but is instead hoping to use them as stepping stones to building electric vehicles. That's why the emphasis on skipping over mild hybrid technology and going right for full hybrids.

Full hybrids can be propelled by either the electric motor or the gas engine. Mild hybrids use the electric motor to 'assist' the gas engine which is responsible for actually moving the car.

Audi will have a Hybrid Q5 Crossover late this year or early next year, with the A8 Hybrid (now that it's out there) expected sometime after.

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Top Gear is Back for Season 13

Top Gear is back for Season 13 on January 25 and to celebrate, they are hosting a week long DVD giveaway at If you want to catch up on Season 12 for free, this may be your best chance. Otherwise, you can look to buy starting Season 12 (or prior seasons) starting today at the BBC store.

For full disclosure: as part of the new season launch, I was asked if I would talk about the new season, plus the Season 12 sale. I agreed (because I like the show even though they really don't talk all that much about hybrid cars) and may be receiving a screener of Season 13.

If you're interested in where Season 13 is kicking off, here's the synopsis.

The world's biggest car show is back for a 13th series. Hot on the heels of their epic challenge in Vietnam, which saw Jeremy, Richard and James travel the entire length of the country in just eight days, the boys are no less ambitious.. Richard goes to Abu Dhabi to test the new Lambo Murcielago LP640-4 SV; the boys buy three £1,500 rear-drive sports cars and somehow find themselves entered in a terrifying French ice race; film star Sienna Miller, King of Twitter Stephen Fry and chat show host Jay Leno are among the stars taking part in 'Star in a Reasonably Priced Car' and in a television-first, the mysterious Stig takes off his helmet to reveal just who he really is...
If you're a big fan, and miss any of the episodes, full episodes will be posted to iTunes every Tuesday.

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Toyota Will Install a Brake Override System on ALL Vehicles

Toyota has announced they will go ahead and install a brake override system on all Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles to help stop unintended acceleration in their vehicles.

If the system detects the driver is attempting to apply the brakes without success, the override software system will shift the engine into idle.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Perhaps all vehicles should come standard with this sort of system?

Toyota is acting in response to several reports of cars accelerating. The NHTSA has investigated and Toyota has said the problem lies with the accelerator getting stuck in the floor mates. Toyota has had several massive recalls recently, including an effort to shorten the gas pedal. The NHTSA has said the floor mats were not necessarily the only cause. And recent newspaper reports have highlighted the safety concerns.

Toyota expects to roll out the override software on all vehicles, but will start with the Camry and Lexus ES 350. But expect it to be standard by the end of the year.

Source: Toyota will install brake override systems to prevent runaway vehicles: AutoNews

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Ford Plans to Electrify Michigan

Ford will be building hybrid and electric vehicles in Michigan according to Bill Ford Jr., Ford's executive chairma. In a follow-up to yesterday's teaser, Bill Ford Jr, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, announced Ford will be investing $450 million in the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

"This investment underscores how serious we are about delivering a range of electrified vehicles to customers -- including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles," said Bill Ford Jr., Ford's executive chairman. "Our industry is at the intersection of three critical global issues -- the economy, energy and the environment. The winning companies will be those that address these issues with vehicles that are also exciting and fun to drive, without compromises."

Michigan granted Ford $188 million in tax incentives to insure Ford's investment in the state. the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board approved Phase II incremental job retention credits valued at $110 million and battery pack tax credits valued at $78 million, for a total incentive package valued at $188 million, to help win Ford’s investment over competing states, China, Europe and Mexico.

“Ford continues to demonstrate its commitment to Michigan by bringing together world-class products, advanced technology applications and our talented workforce to build the next generation of vehicles that will help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil,” Granholm said.

Ford expects production to begin in 2012, and the hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles will be built on the global C-car platform (same as the Ford Focus).

Ford is also planning on moving battery pack production and development to Michigan, and out of Mexico. The pack manufacturing will include design and in-house assembly, which is currently done in Mexico. The investment will impact several Michigan Ford facilities, including Michigan Assembly, Wayne Stamping, Van Dyke Transmission in Sterling Heights and the Product Development Center in Dearborn, among others.

Sources: govmonitor, reuters, and Detroit free press.

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Cadillac XTS Platinum Plug-in Hybrid Concept

GM showed what they could do (if they wanted to) with the plug-in hybrid Cadillac XTS concept at the Detroit Auto Show. The luxury sedan mates a 3.6L V-6 Direct Injection gas engine with an electric motor powered in part through a plug.

The concept vehicle takes the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid to the next level. By using a larger battery and adding a plug (of course, it's not that simple, but ...) GM can extend the all electric range. Like the Cadillac Converj (due in 2013) and Chevy Volt (due this year), the car can be plugged in (overnight) and recharge the battery pack. That gives the driver an all electric driving range, followed by hybrid efficiency once the gas engine is needed to extend your driving range.

GM estimates the overall system delivers 350 hp (260 kW) and 295 lb.-ft. of torque (400 Nm), indicating they are not giving up a thing in terms of power.  Nor are they making any exceptions for luxury (if you read the press release).

Press Release follows:

DETROIT – Cadillac unveiled the XTS Platinum Concept at the 2010 North American International Auto Show, suggesting a new paradigm for the luxury sedan of the future. The concept showcases Cadillac’s emerging top-of-the-line Platinum series of models, emphasizing new expressions of luxury and technological features, including a plug-in hybrid propulsion system.

The XTS Platinum Concept was designed from the inside out, re-imagining the luxury sedan as a personal headquarters, built for efficiency, luxury and connectivity. The concept introduces a new approach to in-car electronics that improves the form and function of the car’s entertainment, navigation and information systems.

“The XTS Platinum concept is the next expression of Cadillac’s Art and Science execution philosophy, reflecting our drive to deliver the latest innovations in the most artful manner,” said Bryan Nesbitt, Cadillac general manager. “We envisioned this concept as an automotive personal headquarters, using advanced technology to enable new levels of connectivity and luxury.”

The XTS Platinum Concept uses Cadillac’s 3.6L V-6 Direct Injection gas engine, paired with a plug-in hybrid system. The plug-in technology enables the battery to fully charge from a standard electrical outlet, enabling pure electric propulsion in many driving situations, especially urban commutes in which fuel efficiency may double that of a conventional hybrid.

Traditional luxury sedans were defined by elegant interiors and Cadillac’s XTS Platinum Concept propels that formula into the future. It delivers new approaches to luxury within a design that combines fine craftsmanship with customer-driven innovation. Like the current Platinum Edition products, such as Escalade Platinum and the STS and DTS Platinum sedans, the interior is based on hand cut-and-sewn materials. The XTS Platinum Concept injects more contemporary forms and themes into the interior design, including the use of Organic Light-Emitting Diode (O-LED) displays in place of traditional gauges and screens.

The concept previews a new integration philosophy guiding the development of future models with respect to in-car electronics. The intent is to progress Cadillac’s intuitive in-car electronics systems, typified by the deployable touch-screen navigation system that has been highly acclaimed in the brand’s CTS and SRX product lines. The XTS Platinum Concept previews this strategy via the minimization of traditional buttons and switches. Designers blended the display screens into a flowing instrument panel. They call it a “dead front” design, because the panels appear black until the car is turned on and the screens illuminate. The instrument panel itself reflects the XTS Platinum’s other focus – uncompromising luxury and attention to detail on the interior.

“The Platinum distinction in Cadillac means the fullest extent of luxury and technology and we’ve tried to reach even further with this concept,” said Clay Dean, Cadillac design director. “Just as the technology pushes the boundaries of what a Cadillac can offer, so do the details that make the XTS Platinum Concept an uncompromising experience.”

The interior takes inspiration from nature, specifically the intricate layers of petals that combine to form an orchid. Cadillac designers translated that into a layered and detailed interior. Light cream is the cabin’s primary color and is contrasted with darker elements, such as the steering wheel and an overhead console motif that runs the length of interior’s roof. The console is made of a richly finished wood and houses lighting features.

Premium leather seats include a new style of automotive suede, with a laser-etched pattern. The patterned material adorns the center sections of the seats and accents the door trim. Thoughtfully detailed stitching is used throughout the interior, including the seats, instrument panel and door panels. Passengers in the spacious rear compartment of the XTS Platinum Concept also have access to the car’s connectivity feature, along with a range of infotainment choices.

“We never lost sight of the fact that a large luxury sedan needs to be spacious and accommodating,” said Dean. “Passengers will find generous headroom, legroom and knee space, along with the technology elements that make the drive more productive.”

A new proportion

The XTS Platinum Concept has a distinctive proportion that transcends the traditional aesthetic of luxury sedans and carries the brand’s Art and Science design in a more progressive manner. The unique proportion supports the “inside out” design priority, while creating a sleek profile that complements the car’s advanced technology elements and necessary aerodynamics.

“The XTS Platinum Concept design artfully conveys its focus on functionality through technology,” said Dean. “It is the antithesis of the conventional three-box sedan, suggesting the active evolution of Cadillac’s design language.”

A sweeping profile culminates in a short, high deck lid that meets the XTS Platinum Concept’s aerodynamic needs – including a rear spoiler mounted on the deck lid, incorporating the center high-mounted stop lamp. A high, sloping beltline gestures the vehicle forward, suggesting motion, while the fenders flare outward wrapping tightly around 20-inch wheels and tires. The wheel-to-body proportion was carefully tailored to visually communicate the car’s all-wheel-drive chassis.

Like the interior, the exterior elements are precisely tailored and elegantly detailed. Brushed billet aluminum trim is used selectively and the 20-inch, 11-spoke wheels feature a brushed aluminum face accented with bright inserts within the spokes. The wheels are wrapped with special Bridgestone tires that were created specifically for the XTS Platinum Concept.

Signature elements essential to Cadillac’s Art and Science design language include vertical headlamp and taillamps, with integrated light pipes and richly detailed lighting components. The headlamps feature light-emitting diode technology for bright illumination that requires less energy, as well as Cadillac’s Adaptive Forward Lighting technology, which turns the headlamps with the direction of the front wheels for greater visibility in turns.

Purposeful and efficient performance

The XTS Platinum concept’s plug-in hybrid electric propulsion system (PHEV) builds on the experience Cadillac has gained with the Escalade Hybrid and Escalade Platinum Hybrid flagship models. The plug-in capability boosts the car’s electric-only driving capability, offering additional battery energy capacity and enabling it to recharge from a standard external electrical outlet. The key benefit of external plug-in recharging is that in many situations – such as overnight parking – the battery can fully recharge in roughly five hours while the car is not in use. The plug-in system operates at maximum efficiency when operating on power the battery has drawn from the electric grid. In some conditions, such as urban commutes, drivers can experience efficiency that doubles that of conventional hybrids.

At higher speeds or when conditions demand it, such as brisk acceleration, a combination of engine power and electric power or engine power only, propels the vehicle. The combination of the Direct Injection V-6 engine and the PHEV system featuring fully electric variable drive provides a spirited driving experience. The system provides an estimated 350 horsepower (260 kW) and 295 lb.-ft. of torque (400 Nm).

Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) enables the XTS Platinum Concept to deliver superior road-holding performance while maintaining luxury car composure in “regular” driving conditions. It uses shocks controlled by advanced magneto-rheological technology, rather than mechanical valves, to greatly accelerate response time and precision.

MRC uses electronic sensors at all four wheels to literally “read the road” every millisecond, making constant adjustments to damping to create virtually instantaneous and extremely precise control of body motions.

An advanced, specially calibrated all-wheel-drive system ensures optimal traction in wet and slippery conditions, and helps deliver maximum traction while cornering. Four-wheel disc brakes, with four-channel ABS, StabiliTrak stability control and full-function traction control complete the drivetrain details.

“The XTS Platinum Concept was designed to deliver an engaging driving experience without compromising the functional features, space and comfort customers seek in a luxury car,” said Nesbitt. “It is a new vision of luxury that uses advanced technology to deliver functionality efficiently and rewardingly.”

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Ford Fusion Hybrid Wins North American Car of the Year

The Ford Fusion Hybrid has won another award to place on its mantle. From the moment it was debuted to now, the Fusion has been impressing judges across the globe. The latest award caps off what has to be one of the best years Ford has seen for award shows.

Other awards for the Fusion Hybrid over the past year include:

  • MOTOR TREND Car of the Year Award
  • One of CAR and DRIVER Magazine's "10Best" Cars for 2010
  • One of AUTOMOBILE Magazine's 2010 All-Stars
  • 2009 "Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
  • 2009 Ward's Interior of the Year Special Achievement Award for Best Graphic Display for SmartGauge with EcoGuide digital instrument cluster
  • Great Car for the Long-haul Salesman by Kelley Blue Book
  • One of America's Top 40 New Cars by MOTOR TREND magazine
  • Rated the No. 1 Hybrid Family Sedan by CAR and DRIVER in a recent comparison test by the magazine
  • 2009 and 2010 Editors Choice for Fuel Sipper by CAR and DRIVER Magazine
  • Best Hybrid for the Money in the Midsize Car segment by
  • One of 2009 Top 10 Green Cars by Kelley Blue Book
  • The Detroit News Readers' Choice Award for "Best Value"
  • 2010 Consumers Digest Best Buy
  • Detroit Free Press 2010 Car of the Year
  • 2010 Most Environmentally Progressive Car of the Year by Earth, Wind & Power
  • 10 Best Engine by Ward's Auto World
According to Ford, the Fusion Hybrid distinguishes itself (2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Owner Manual - Amazon) in many different ways.

The all-new Fusion Hybrid arrived in dealers in March, complete with a powertrain system that combines the best attributes of the gasoline engine and electric battery-driven motors to deliver the optimal experience for the customer in terms of driving performance and fuel economy. The Fusion Hybrid also offers drivers a way to be more connected to the hybrid driving experience thanks to Ford's SmartGauge(TM) with EcoGuide, a unique instrument cluster execution that helps coach them on how to optimize the performance of their hybrid.

Other class-exclusive technologies and features that set the Fusion Hybrid apart from the competition include Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®), Ford SYNC®, SIRIUS Travel Link(TM) and more total passenger and luggage capacity than the Toyota Camry.

Despite the slump in overall industry sales, 2009 was a record-breaking year for the Ford Fusion. Sales are at an all-time high, with the Fusion Hybrid accounting for almost 20 percent of total Fusion retail sales. Perhaps even more significant, more than 60 percent of Fusion Hybrid sales have been to customers coming from import brands - mostly Toyota and Honda.

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Honda CR-Z Makes Its Debut

The 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Honda is hoping to capture a new hybrid car segment, those sport car enthusiasts that are looking for higher fuel efficiency.

The CR-Z is set for a launch date in late summer in the US, but will be sold in Japan starting in February, 2010.

The CR-Z is powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine with Honda's compact and lightweight Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid-electric system. The two-passenger CR-Z introduces a new three-mode drive system that allows the driver to select between Sport, Econ (Economy) and Normal driving modes.

Honda is estimating the CR-Z will get 36 city/ 38 highway mpg, while manual transmissions will achieve 31 city/ 37 highway. The fuel efficient set-up will also get a combined peak output of 122 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 128 ft-lb. of torque at 1,000 to 1,500 rpm (123 ft-lb. on CVT-equipped models).

The CR-Z is rated as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) in states that adhere to California Air Resource Board (CARB) ZEV standards (EPA Tier 2, Bin 2 in all states).

Press Release Follows:

DETROIT, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The all-new 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe, making its U.S. production debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, introduces sleek styling and sporty handling to the hybrid segment, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today.


"The CR-Z is a personal sport hybrid coupe for people with a spirit of adventure and an elevated sense of responsibility toward the environment," said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for American Honda. "It's the first hybrid designed to maximize style and fun, in addition to efficiency and economy."

Set to go on sale late summer in the U.S., the CR-Z is powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine with Honda's compact and lightweight Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid-electric system. The two-passenger CR-Z introduces a new three-mode drive system that allows the driver to select between Sport, Econ (Economy) and Normal driving modes.

The exterior's distinctive "one-motion" wedge form originates from its low-slung hood to form a broad forward stance. A side profile with a deeply inset beltline conveys a dynamic tension, while the short wheelbase and large, wide front grille accents the vehicle's athletic presence.

The futuristically styled interior offers a high-tech appearance and ergonomically intuitive controls. Instrument panel meters illuminate with a three-dimensional, vibrant blue color theme resulting in a multi-layered appearance. Set against a motif of textured black materials and aluminum-style trim accents, the upper portion of the dashboard extends toward the driver to provide a wrap-around cockpit environment. The passenger zone offers an open, comfortable space. Premium sport-oriented cloth seats are designed to provide excellent lateral support along with everyday driving comfort. A mid-ship console behind the front seats optimizes cargo space. A hard-shell separator can be closed to create additional hidden storage.

The two trim levels include the well-equipped CR-Z and the feature-rich CR-Z EX. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is available. Standard features on the CR-Z include Vehicle Stability Assist, an AM/FM/CD/USB audio system with six speakers, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, remote entry, cruise control, and more. The CR-Z EX adds, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights with Auto-On/Off, fog lights, a 360-Watt AM/FM/CD premium audio system with seven speakers including subwoofer, Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and more. The CR-Z EX is available with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System(1) with voice recognition.

The CR-Z represents the sixth unique version of Honda's original IMA technology since the launch of the 2000 Insight, the first hybrid vehicle available in North America in December 1999. The foundation of the CR-Z's hybrid powertrain is a 4-cylinder, 16-valve, single overhead cam engine with "intelligent" Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (i-VTEC) that receives additional power from the IMA system's DC brushless electric motor. The i-VTEC system controls the opening and closing of one intake valve per cylinder to enhance combustion at low RPMs. The 10-kilowatt electric motor assists in acceleration and also acts as a generator during braking or coasting to capture kinetic energy that recharges the 100-volt IMA nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The gasoline engine can automatically turn off during vehicle stops to improve efficiency.

The system delivers a combined peak output of 122 horsepower(2) at 6,000 rpm and 128 ft-lb. of torque(2) at 1,000 to 1,500 rpm (123 ft-lb. on CVT-equipped models). Preliminary fuel economy estimates are anticipated to result in a rating of 36 city/38 highway miles per gallon(3) on CVT-equipped models. Manual transmission models are anticipated to achieve an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 31 city/37 highway miles per gallon(3). The CR-Z is rated as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) in states that adhere to California Air Resource Board (CARB) ZEV standards (EPA Tier 2, Bin 2 in all states).

The standard six-speed manual transmission is engineered for optimal acceleration performance in gears one through five and for optimal fuel economy in sixth gear. When starting on steep inclines from a stop, hill start assist temporarily prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards during the moment between releasing the brake, depressing the throttle and releasing the clutch (for a duration of approximately 1.5 seconds). The available CVT provides the convenience of an automatic transmission with a seamless transition between minimum and maximum ratios, while also keeping the engine within an optimal RPM range for overall efficiency. To increase the performance potential of the CVT, paddle shifters located on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually simulate the stepped holding pattern. In Sport mode, the paddle shifters will hold and maintain a selected ratio.

The CR-Z's three-mode drive system allows the driver to select between individual modes of performance for Sport, Normal and Economy driving styles. The system is activated via three backlit buttons to the left of the steering wheel.

The Sport mode enhances multiple vehicle systems for performance including the engine throttle responsiveness, electric power steering effort and the electric motor power assist. The inner ring of the tachometer illuminates red when the vehicle is in Sport mode.

During Econ mode operation, the engine's responsiveness is tuned for optimal economy, the electric motor assist gives priority to fuel efficiency and the air conditioning system can reduce its overall load on the engine. The inner ring of the tachometer transitions between blue and green when the vehicle is in Econ mode, with the green representing more ecological driving.

Normal mode provides standard settings for steering, engine response, motor assist and air conditioning. Similar to Econ mode, the tachometer ring transitions between blue and green when the vehicle is in normal mode, with the green representing more ecological driving. Like the Honda Insight, the CR-Z offers an Eco Guide and Eco scoring feature to help drivers track progress of efficient driving styles.

The front MacPherson strut suspension and rear H-shaped torsion beam suspension settings are tuned to provide a sporty, solid and dynamic driving experience. All models are equipped with 16x6-inch aluminum wheels with 195/55 R16 86V tires. Accessory 17x7 alloy wheels with 205/45R17 84V tires with are available. The standard anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) uses ventilated front discs and solid rear discs. The low vehicle height and placement of the battery and other hybrid components beneath the rear cargo area further contribute to a low center of gravity, which is key to the new CR-Z's responsive, sporty handling. Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering enhances steering performance and improves efficiency.

In addition to being environmentally responsible, the CR-Z demonstrates a commitment to safety in its design and construction. The Advanced Compatibility Engineering(TM) (ACE(TM)) body structure helps protect vehicle occupants in a frontal collision. Additional safety technologies include standard dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; standard front-side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS); side-curtain airbags, active head restraints; an anti-lock braking system; a tire pressure monitoring system; and a pedestrian injury mitigation design in the front of the vehicle.

Additional Honda media information is available at Consumer information is available at

(1) The Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System(TM) is available on the CR-Z EX in the United States, except Alaska. Please see your Honda dealer for details.

(2) Preliminary estimate provided by Honda. Final specification is subject to change.

(3) Preliminary EPA mileage estimates determined by Honda. Final EPA mileage estimates not available at the time of printing. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.

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FT-CH, Toyota Compact Hybrid Concept at the NAIAs

Toyota introduced the dedicated hybrid concept FT-CH at the Detroit Auto Show, while making dire predictions and promising a Prius Family of cars in North America to combat the future oil crisis.

“Within the next 10 to 20 years, we will not only reach peak oil we will enter a period where demand for all liquid fuels will exceed supply,” said Jim Lentz, TMS president. “A century after the invention of the automobile, we must re-invent it with powertrains that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of conventional petroleum fuels. One of many alternatives is through what is commonly called the electrification of the automobile. By far, the single most successful example of this has been the gas-electric hybrid.”

Lentz also confirmed Toyota is working towards creating a Prius 'family' marketing strategy.  Which means, of course, they need other Prius variants to work with.

“The strategy is still taking shape and obviously it will require additional models to qualify as a family,” said Lentz.  “Among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are considering.”
As for the concept vehicle itself, the FT-CH (Compact Hybrid) is 22 inches shorter than the Prius and would 'thrive  in the inner city environment."  Hopefully, it's the precursor for the Toyota iQ hybrid we just heard about.

Toyota (and others) need to build a compact, inexpensive full hybrid vehicle.  Luxury and Plug-in Hybrids are great and serve the purpose (for the majority of the population) to bring costs down because more of the expensive parts (read batteries) are being built and sold.  Hopefully, Toyota will be able to move into the less expensive field and really make hybrids available to all.

Read the rest from the Press Release

DETROIT, January 11, 2010---Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A, Inc., today unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The FT-CH is a concept that would address Toyota’s stated strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets.

“Within the next 10 to 20 years, we will not only reach peak oil we will enter a period where demand for all liquid fuels will exceed supply,” said Jim Lentz, TMS president. “A century after the invention of the automobile, we must re-invent it with powertrains that significantly reduce or eliminate the use of conventional petroleum fuels. One of many alternatives is through what is commonly called the electrification of the automobile. By far, the single most successful example of this has been the gas-electric hybrid.”

The CH stands for compact hybrid as in compact class and it’s a concept that can best be defined by comparing it with the mid-size class Prius. The FT-CH captures the spirit and functionality of a car that thrives in the inner-city environment; sized right to be nimble, responsive and maneuverable.

“It’s a package Toyota dealers and customers have been asking for,” added Lentz.

The FT-CH was styled at Toyota’s European Design and Development (ED²) center in Nice, France. Compared to Prius, it is 22 inches shorter in overall length, yet loses less than an inch in overall width. In spite of its compact external dimensions, FT-CH was designed for maximum passenger comfort and interior roominess, with an imaginative sense of style.

ED² designers looked to capture the vivid, high-energy appeal of what has come to be called the 8-bit generation. Popularized in the early 80’s, 8-bit microprocessor technology dominated the budding home video game industry. Today, 8-bit is considered a specific retro-style that is embraced by such things as 8-bit genre music and 8-bit inspired art.

The direct reference to the 8-bit generation is meant to be fun and innovative, colorful and stylish, with strong appeal to young buyers. Lighter in weight and even more fuel efficient than Prius, the concept specifically targets a lower price point than Prius, thus appealing to a younger, less-affluent buyer demographic.

Pointing to how Prius has become a universal icon for hybrid technology, Lentz confirmed that TMS is developing a Prius family “marketing strategy” for North America that will take full advantage of the Prius brand equity.

“The strategy is still taking shape and obviously it will require additional models to qualify as a family,” said Lentz. “Among others, the FT-CH is a concept that we are considering.”

In the early 2010s, Toyota plans to sell a million hybrids per year globally, a majority of those in North America. To accomplish this, Toyota will launch eight all new hybrid models over the next few years. These will not include next generation versions of current hybrids; instead, they will be all new dedicated hybrid vehicles, or all new hybrid versions of existing gas engine models.

The heart of hybrid technology is its battery. Since the early 90’s, during the early stages of first-generation Prius development, Toyota has been committed to in-house R&D of advanced nickel-metal hydride batteries. Through three generations
of Prius and a total of seven full-hybrid models, it has systematically reduced size, weight and cost while improving energy density, quality and reliability.

Toyota’s joint venture partnership with Panasonic has been a key element of its success in the advancement of hybrid technology. Later this year, Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE) will have three separate, fully operational production facilities with a combined capacity of more than one million units per year.

Moving the promise of electrification one step further, Toyota recently kicked off its global demonstration program involving approximately 600 Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Beginning early this year, 150 PHVs will begin to arrive in the U.S. where they will be placed in regional clusters with select partners for market/consumer analysis and technical demonstration.

The Prius PHV introduces Toyota's first generation lithium-ion drive battery. When fully charged, the vehicle is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of about 13 miles and capable of achieving highway speeds of more than 60 mph in electric-only mode. For longer distances, the Prius PHV reverts to “hybrid mode” and operates like a regular Prius. This ability to utilize all-electric power for short trips or hybrid power for longer drives alleviates the issue of limited cruising range encountered with pure-electric vehicles.

All program vehicles will be equipped with data retrieval/communication devices which will monitor activities such as: how often the vehicle is charged and when, whether the batteries are depleted or being topped-off during charging, trip duration and all-electric driving range, combined mpg and so on.

As it becomes available, data from the program vehicles will be posted to a dedicated Web site. This in use, readily available data will help consumers understand how the vehicles are being used and how they're performing.

Toyota believes this demonstration program is a necessary next step in societal preparation in that it allows Toyota the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the electrification of the automobile in general and the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology.

Toyota is moving quickly with the development of PHV technology well beyond this demonstration program. Advanced battery R&D programs with nickel-metal, lithium-ion and “beyond lithium” are underway for a wide variety of applications in conventional hybrids, PHVs, BEVs and FCHVs.

In the early 1990s, Toyota began R&D on building a practical and affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. FCHV technical advancements have moved at a rapid pace. Engineers have made great strides in cost reduction targets in both materials and manufacturing and Toyota is committed to bringing hydrogen fuel cells to global markets in 2015.

Toyota’s latest model, the Toyota FCHV-advanced began its own national demonstration program late last year. Over the course of the three year program, more than 100 vehicles will be placed in an effort to demonstrate the technology’s performance, reliability and practicality in everyday use.

Recently field tested in southern California by two national laboratories at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy, the FCHV-advanced confirmed an estimated single-tank fuel range of 431 miles. In combined city and highway driving from Santa Monica to San Diego the FCHV-adv logged an estimated 68 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, the rough equivalent of 68 miles per gallon. That range is equivalent to a Highlander hybrid at more than double the MPG with zero emissions other than water vapor.

In 1997, Toyota introduced the RAV4 EV battery electric vehicle in California. 1,484 of these 100 mile range large-battery electric vehicles were either sold or leased over the course of the program. Nearly half are still on the road.

Shortly thereafter, Toyota started a modest demonstration program with a small- battery electric urban commuter vehicle, called the e-com. This concept addressed the idea of the “on-demand” city station car similar to the Zip-car business model that is becoming popular in large urban areas. Although shorter in range, the e-com program addressed a specific mobility niche at a much more affordable price than the RAV4 EV.

The RAV4 EV and e-com programs were short lived due to lack of commitment from the market; the consumer and the consumer’s environmental mind set were not ready to commit to battery electric vehicles at that time. Recent increased awareness of environmental issues and the benefits of advanced technology vehicles have reinvigorated an interest in the electric vehicle market. As a result, Toyota will bring a small, urban commuter lithium-ion BEV to market in model year 2012.

Battery technology has progressed significantly in the time since the RAV4 EV and e-com programs. But major challenges still remain. The cost of lithium-ion batteries needs to be reduced significantly, or a more affordable alternative developed.

Like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, battery electrics will require the creation of infrastructure for recharging on the go. This issue of range is also a challenge to overcome. Even at 100 miles, BEVs as a primary mode of transportation do not yet offer what most consumers see as true mobility.

Toyota believes these are hurdles that will be cleared. For the last decade its focus has been to concentrate on a comprehensive advanced technology strategy including BEVs, PHVs, and FCHVs. Common to all three is the move to electrification, the full commitment to advanced battery technology and how lessons learned from conventional hybrid R&D have given Toyota a leg-up on all three.

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Volkswagen Compact Coupe Hybrid

Volkswagen brought the Compact Coupe Hybrid to the Detroit Auto Show. Volkswagen is projecting the coupe, which would compete against the likes of the Fusion, Altima and Civic Hybrid in the US, would get 45 mpg (4.2 l/200 km) and a low CO2 emissions of 98 g/km. It can also go from 0-60 in 8.1 seconds.

The hybrid engine is made up of a TSI engine (110 kw/ 150 PS) mated to an electric motor (20 kW/ 27 PS) and a 7-speed Direct Shift Gearbox.

In the end, the New Compact Coupe (NCC) is a prototype for what VW says " envisions a front-wheel drive hybrid for the compact class that would be implemented when the time is right."

Other details from the press release below:

Hybrid Drive - TSI and E-Motor plus DSG

Downsizing at its best: The concept car is driven by an extremely innovative high-tech alliance that closely approximates potential production versions. Volkswagen is using a four-cylinder version of the TSI gasoline engine range here. Direct injection, turbocharging and intercooler generate a power of 110 kW / 150 PS from just 1.4 liter of engine displacement - downsizing at its best. TSI technology has impressively demonstrated its extreme durability in many car racing events; including on the legendary Nordschleife of the German Nürburgring - the most demanding race course in the world. Since the first TSI engine was introduced just over five years ago, 3,5 million units of these boosted and torque-strong four and six cylinder engines have already been installed in vehicles. The TSI of the NCC - which of course is also equipped with ESP - transfers a hefty 220 Newton-meter (177 ft-lb) of torque to the front wheels at low engine speeds.

Emissions-free by E-motor: And there is even more power: An electric motor is integrated between the TSI and the efficient 7-speed automatic (DSG = Direct Shift Gearbox); it can be used for pure electric emissions-free driving, or it can support the TSI with aggressive torque. The electric motor develops a power of 20 kW / 27 PS. The power and torque of the two drive units supplement one another during what is known as boosting - when accelerating to pass, for example. Since the NCC can also be driven in a pure electric mode, the drive system is classified as a Full Hybrid. A lithium-ion battery (1.1 kWh) at the rear of the vehicle supplies the electric motor with energy. By the way, in electric mode the TSI is not only shut off; it is also disengaged by a clutch to avoid drag losses.

Frequently coasting: As soon as the driver releases the gas pedal, the TSI is disengaged from the transmission. This so-called "coast-down" is even possible at higher speeds, as in freeway driving. Since drag losses are eliminated here too, the NCC coasts for a very long time. And this promotes an anticipatory style of driving that leads directly to reduced fuel consumption.

Recovering kinetic energy: In braking, the electric motor - now operating as a generator - recovers kinetic energy which is then stored in the lithium-ion battery. Of course, just like the new BlueMotion models from Volkswagen, the New Compact Coupe also has a Stop-Start system on board. This reduces fuel consumption, especially in urban areas and in stop-and-go traffic.

Exterior - Design and Dimensions

The unique interplay of efficiency and dynamics is reflected 1:1 in the styling of the coupe that is painted in "Tungsten Silver Metallic". Klaus Bischoff, Chief Designer for the Volkswagen Brand, comments: "Styling of a coupe is considered the ultimate in automotive design. Our team has achieved a symbiosis of efficient technologies and elegance in the New Compact Coupe that is unique in its expression. Just a few precisely placed lines and powerfully sculpted surfaces have created a timeless dynamic and purist elegance that is typical of Volkswagen."

Front end - Showing a strong face: The front of the New Compact Coupe shows an extremely confident and focused expression. Moreover, the car's width is emphasized by the horizontal line styling with integrated Bi-Xenon headlights - including LED daytime running and turn signal lights. The technically complex headlights contribute to unmistakable visual recognition of the concept car - both day and night.

Side view - A sharp profile: In the car's side profile, styling properties characteristic of all new Volkswagens of the past year have been merged with elegant and yet sporty coupe features, resulting in a new interpretation of the design DNA. The best examples of this are the characteristic tornado line and the powerfully emphasized curves of the wheel arches. They intersect the main volume of the large, homogeneous surfaces, conveying a powerful dynamic. The image of the side windows rounds out this impression with a concise signature. Forging a stylistic bridge to current models are the 19-inch "Lugano" type alloy wheels.

Rear - A strong concluding statement: The cargo area of the New Compact Coupe is decidedly powerful in design. Clean surfaces and a muscular shoulder section dominate the image here too. Bright: the LED taillights. A spoiler lip that reduces air turbulence was styled into the top of the trunk lid; it further improves the car's remarkable aerodynamics. At the bottom there is a stylized diffuser; the tailpipe of the exhaust system is embedded here for a positive aerodynamic effect.

Dimensions - Millimeters at work for styling: The New Compact Coupe is 4.54 meters (178.5 inches) long and 1.78 meters (70.1 inches) wide. Its low body height of 1.41 meter (55.6 inches) adds styling energy to the interplay of its dimensions; the ratio of broad width to low body height intensifies the Volkswagen's dynamic image. Also large are the track widths (front 1.53 meter / 61.2 inches; rear 1.54 meter / 61.4 inches) and wheelbase (2.65 meters / 104.4 inches).

Interior - Ergonomics and Comfort

Showing its true colors: The NCC is a four-seater with exceptional long touring comfort and generous occupant space on sport seats that are upholstered in a light-colored ("Berry White") leather. Also designed in this color are the lower cockpit area, parts of the center console and the door trim panels. By contrast, all other surfaces (except accents and controls), including the leather-trimmed steering wheel, are styled in the darker "Grigio Quartz" color.

In its interior, the Volkswagen offers the best feeling of spaciousness in its class. This means that despite the sporty low body height, the car offers ample head room (front and rear) as well as leg room in the rear. The coupe's 380 liter trunk can handle luggage for four persons without any problem.

Climb in, buckle up, drive away: As soon as the doors of the concept car are opened, a reason for the Volkswagen brand's tremendous success is revealed: unparalleled perfection in details and intuitive operation. The instruments are laid out ideally. The new multifunction sport steering wheel is the key interface between human and machine. The right hand rests naturally on the gearshift lever of the 7-speed DSG‚ and in front of it the control panel sports newly designed controls for the automatic climate control system (Climatronic), the 8-inch touchscreen for the radio-navigation system - also a new design - and at the top of the panel the hazard flasher switch and center air vents. The center console's control panel is angled slightly toward the driver to perfectly align the cockpit to the driver's needs. Also optimally laid out for viewing are the round instruments with their chrome bezels; the multifunction display (trip computer and additional navigation display) is placed between them.

Upgraded with metal surrounds are all air vents, multifunction keys on the steering wheel, radio-navigation system, climate control, DSG gearshift unit, white accents of the door trim and instruments and switch panels (window lift and mirror adjustment) in the doors.

Individual seats in the rear: 
Designers have shaped the rear seating area in the style of large Gran Turismo cars. Passengers sit on two comfortable sport seats here. Between them is the continuation of the center console that passes through the entire interior. In the rear, the center console is equipped with additional storage space as well as climate controls and a fold-out center armrest. The finish and quality of materials in the interior make viewers forget completely that the New Compact Coupe is still a concept car. And that too is typical Volkswagen - no compromises.

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