Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Government Will Buy Over 5,000 Hybrid Cars This Year

The White House will announce today the government will be buying 5,603 more hybrid vehicles to replace the same number of older, less fuel efficient vehicles. The government estimates the new fleet of cars will reduce petroleum consumption by the equivalent of an estimated 7.7 million gallons of gas, or 385,000 barrels of oil.

The new 5,000 hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) will double the federal hybrid car fleet. The purchases are made through the US General Service Administration. The hybrid cars will be bought this year, while the PHEVs will be purchased in 2011.

The general goal is to cut petroleum use by 30 percent by 2020.

“President Obama has called on the Federal Government to lead by example in sustainability and our efforts to build a clean energy economy. By doubling the hybrids in the Federal fleet, agencies are answering that call by reducing petroleum consumption and increasing fuel efficiency,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “These types of clean energy investments will help create new private-sector jobs, drive long-term savings, build market capacity, and foster innovation in clean energy industries.”

“By doubling the hybrid fleet and committing to purchasing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, GSA is leveraging our position as the government’s centralized supplier to invest in emerging clean energy technologies, increase the government fleet’s fuel economy, and decrease the cost of government operations,” said Martha N. Johnson, Administrator of General Services. “GSA is committed to delivering solutions that help agencies deliver on the President’s call to increase sustainability and energy security.”

“The Department of Energy is committed to expanding the use of hybrids even as we reduce our fleet overall, saving gasoline and money for taxpayers,” said Secretary Chu.

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2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
The first hybrid from Lincoln will be at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS).  The 2011 Lincoln MKZ hybrid is the first luxury hybrid from Ford, and may be 'the most fuel efficient luxury sedan in America' when it goes on sale this fall.

Ford is expecting the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to get 41 mpg in the city.  Beats out the HS 250h by 6 mpg in city driving.  The Lincoln hybrid will be powered by the 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle I-4 hybrid engine.

Which is not surprising since the hybrid MKZ is built off the same platform as the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrid.  What you get from the Lincoln model is more luxury features (see the list below).

Ford plans on introducing five new electrified vehicles by 2013, including the Transit Connect Electric in late 2010, the Focus Electric in 2011, a next-generation hybrid electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012, followed by another next-generation hybrid electric vehicle in 2013.

The MKZ Hybrid provides 191 net hp.  It can drive up to 47 mph on all electric power for short distances and the battery is recharged in part through regenerative braking.

Lincoln Hybrid

Standard features on the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid include:

  • SmartGauge with EcoGuide – Ford's highly successful interactive technology provides real-time information to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency, and coaches drivers on how to optimize hybrid performance. Lincoln takes SmartGauge to the next level of engagement by giving drivers enhanced positive feedback on long-term fuel efficiency and driving performance through the "growth" of virtual small flowers on the system's right-most screen. Lincoln's white flowers, inspired by apple blossoms, remain permanently unless long-term fuel economy is reset.
  • Lincoln SYNC® – The Lincoln-exclusive voice-activated communications and entertainment system provides an omnipresent link to contacts and information. In addition to Bluetooth® phone, audible text and MP3 player capabilities, Lincoln customers also can access Vehicle Health Report and 911 Assist™.
  • 10-Way Power Passenger Seat – This seat is designed to accommodate a diverse group of passengers. Memory functions enable passengers to fine-tune and recall their positions.
  • Power Driver Memory Seat Settings – The driver seat memory feature helps ensure personal seating preferences anytime, with the touch of a button.
  • Heated and Cooled Front Seats – This uniquely engineered system delivers exceptional heating and cooling comfort.
  • Genuine Wood Trim – In addition to their exquisite appearance, the Swirl Walnut and Olive Ash wood trims offered in the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid are eco-friendly as well. The veneers come from well-managed forests, as defined by strict environmental, social and economic standards, and from other rigorously controlled sources.
  • Reverse Sensing System – This system senses what drivers might not see behind them and relays an audible alert if objects are near, which increases in frequency the closer a driver gets.
  • Keyless Entry Keypad – This Lincoln-exclusive feature provides secure entry at a driver's fingertips. A personal combination holds a memory for driver preferences. So if an owner is out for a run and doesn't want to take the keys along, the vehicle can be opened with the touch of a few buttons.
  • Easy Fuel® Capless Fuel-Filler – This Lincoln-exclusive feature uses an integrated spring-loaded flapper door to eliminate the need for a fuel tank screw cap. That means no more fumbling to remove and tighten the cap and less fuel odor on a driver's hands at the pump.
  • Personal Safety System™ – A Lincoln-exclusive suite of seven protection technologies works together as a system to help protect vehicle occupants. The system includes dual-stage front air bags and an occupant classification system to sense whether the passenger seat is occupied. It tailors – or suppresses – air bag deployment to help provide an appropriate level of protection. It also features the Ford Belt-Minder® system to remind front-seat occupants to buckle up.
  • MyKey™ – This Lincoln-exclusive feature allows parents to program a key to limit speed and audio volume to encourage teens to drive safer and improve fuel efficiency. It also encourages seat belt usage, provides earlier low-fuel warnings, and can be programmed to sound chimes at 45, 55 and 65 mph.
  • Integrated Spotter Mirrors – The traditional side-view mirrors are designed with a secondary convex spotter mirror in the top outer corner, which provides a view of the driver's blind spot. When traffic enters the driver's blind spot on either side of the vehicle, it is visible in the secondary convex mirror, alerting the driver of obstacles.
  • Acoustic Laminated Windshield – This windshield features a layer of sound-absorbent vinyl sandwiched between two sheets of glass, which enhances interior quietness.

The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid also includes standard Bridge of Weir leather seats. The world-renowned luxury leather from Scotland is unembossed, allowing the natural beauty and character of the grain to shine through. The leather is milled for up to 12 hours to ensure a soft hand, and Bridge of Weir uses a chromium-free tanning process, which makes it easier to recycle.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tax Credits for Ford are Expiring on April 1

Ford Fusion Hybrid Tax Credits Going, Going, Gone...
(Photo from Flickr)
The federal tax credits set for those who buy a Ford (or Mercury) Hybrid are about to expire on April 1. The federal tax credit for hybrid cars was set to help each auto manufacturer launch their hybrids. But since it was clear that Toyota had a big lead on hybrid technology, a 60,000 limit was set for each manufacturer.

There was no limit on the type of vehicle, so the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids were eligible for the tax credit when they launched.

The quarter after the company sold over 60,000 hybrid cars, the step down period would begin. After two quarters, the tax credit would be cut in half. After two more quarters, the credit was cut in half again. And then it would be gone.

Ford, like Toyota and Honda before them, has reached the end of the road. It can be argued that the tax credit for hybrid cars is no longer needed, but it certainly helped kick them off.  Just as it's going to help kick the electric vehicle (and E-REV) market into gear.

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Nissan Leaf Price

Nissan has set the MSRP for the new all electric Leaf at $32,780. That's remarkably low considering it will sell for about $40,000 in Japan. Or you can lease one at $349 a month.  A separate charging station can be installed (if you opt for it) for about $2,200.

Nissan is aiming for 25,000 orders by December.

If you qualify for the tax credits in California, you could be paying somewhere in the low $20K range for your electric Leaf, including the installation of a charger.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf will be available to buy or lease in select markets starting in December, and will go nationwide starting in 2011. If you can't wait, Nissan would be happy to take your order starting April 20 (what a way to spend your tax return!)

The all electric car has a real world range of 100 miles or so, and Nissan expects most people will be able to 'fill up' for less than $3.

If you qualify, you can cut the price down using tax credits. The federal tax credit can save you $7,500, while some states are also offering rebates on electric vehicles. In California, you can get a $5,000 tax rebate, while Georgia is offering $5,000 in tax credits. Oregon is offering a $1,500 tax credit. Other states may let you into the car pool lane, although you will likely need a special license plate or sticker to take advantage.

A fully refundable $99 reservation fee is required if you do sign up early to buy the Leaf. Firm orders will begin in August.

Standard features for the Leaf will include:

  • advanced navigation system
  • Internet/smart phone connectivity, enabling charging control, pre-heat or pre-cool capability
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Intelligent-key with push button start
  • Sirius/XM satellite radio
  • Roadside assistance
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control
  • Traction Control
  • Six airbags

For an extra $940 (SL Trim), you can get:

  • rearview monitor
  • solar panel spoiler
  • fog lights
  • automatic headlights

You can opt to purchase a charging dock, when you buy, at a cost of about $2,200. The 220-volt charger will be built and installed by AeroVironment. A 50 percent federal tax credit up to $2,000 is available on the charging dock and installation.

Power Source

The electric sedan is powered by laminated compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate power output of over 90kW, while its electric motor delivers 80kW/280Nm.

Unlike internal-combustion engine (ICE) equipped vehicles, Nissan LEAF’s power train has no tail pipe, and thus no local emission of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. A combination regenerative braking system and lithium-ion battery packs enables the car to deliver a driving range of more than 160km (100 miles) on one full charge*. (*US LA4 mode)

The Nissan Leaf can be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger. Charging at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours.

Full Press Release Follows:

Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) today announced U.S. pricing for the 2011 Nissan LEAF electric vehicle, which becomes available for purchase or lease at Nissan dealers in select markets in December and nationwide in 2011. Nissan will begin taking consumer reservations for the Nissan LEAF April 20.

Including the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Nissan LEAF will be fully eligible, the consumer’s after-tax net value of the vehicle will be $25,280. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price *(MSRP) for the 2011 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is $32,780, which includes three years of roadside assistance. Additionally, there is an array of state and local incentives that may further defray the costs and increase the benefits of owning and charging a Nissan LEAF – such as a $5,000 statewide tax rebate in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon; and carpool-lane access in some states, including California.

As a result of aggressive pricing and the availability of the $7,500 federal tax credit whose benefit is immediately included, Nissan will be able to offer a monthly lease payment beginning at $349, not including state or local incentives, which could further reduce the net cost of the Nissan LEAF.

“Imagine the possibility of never needing to go to a gas station again. Or of paying less than $3 for 100 miles behind the wheel. Or of creating zero emissions while driving," said Brian Carolin, senior vice president, Sales and Marketing, NNA. “Nissan leads the industry by offering the first affordable, zero-emission vehicle for the mass market. Nissan LEAF truly is in a class by itself.”

The vehicle at the SV trim level is well-equipped with a variety of standard features, including an advanced navigation system and Internet/smart phone connectivity to the vehicle, enabling pre-heat/pre-cool and charging control. Nissan LEAF is equipped with energy-efficient LED headlights and makes extensive use of recycled and recyclable materials, such as seat fabric, instrument panel materials, and front- and rear-bumper fascias. Other standard amenities include Bluetooth connectivity; Intelligent-key with push button start; Sirius/XM satellite radio capabilities and roadside assistance. Safety features include vehicle dynamic control (stability control), traction control and six airbags. The SL trim level, available for an additional $940 (MSRP), adds features including rearview monitor, solar panel spoiler, fog lights, and automatic headlights.

Reservations and Purchase

In order to ensure a one-stop-shop customer experience, Nissan is carefully managing the purchase process from the first step, when consumers sign up on, until the customer takes the Nissan LEAF home and plugs it into a personal charging dock.

Nissan begins accepting reservations on April 20 first from people who have signed up on, and, after a brief introductory period, to all interested consumers.

Consumers will be required to pay a $99 reservation fee, which is fully refundable.

Reserving a Nissan LEAF ensures consumers a place in line when Nissan begins taking firm orders in August, as well as access to special, upcoming Nissan LEAF events.

Rollout to select markets begins in December, with nationwide availability in 2011.

Charging Equipment

In tandem with the purchase process, Nissan will offer personal charging docks, which operate on a 220-volt supply, as well as their installation. Nissan is providing these home-charging stations, which will be built and installed by AeroVironment, as part of a one-stop-shop process that includes a home assessment.

The average cost for the charging dock plus installation will be $2,200.

Charging dock and installation are eligible for a 50 percent federal tax credit up to $2,000.
Using current national electricity averages, Nissan LEAF will cost less than $3 to “fill up.”
Nissan LEAF also will be the sole vehicle available as part of The EV Project, which is led by EV infrastructure provider eTec, a division of ECOtality, and will provide free home-charging stations and installation for up to 4,700 Nissan LEAF owners in those markets.

In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive design, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010, whose key priorities are reducing CO2 emissions, cutting other emissions and increasing recycling. More information on the Nissan LEAF and zero emissions can be found at

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to Premier in New York

Lincoln MKZ Going Hybrid in NY (Flickr photo)
Ford will unveil its first Lincoln Hybrid at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS). The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid will be built on the same platform as the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrid.

It will look the same as the non-hybrid model, but will have new badging to indicate its hybrid nature.

The big question is whether or not people will opt for the more expensive Lincoln model over the Fusion Hybrid. But then, people have to make that decision to buy the MKZ over the non-hybrid Fusion in the first place.

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Mazda Will Have Hybrid Technology From Toyota

Despite the back and forth last week (Toyota will be hybrid components, Toyota won't be supplying hybrid components), Toyota and Mazda did get together and ink a deal.

Expect Mazdas first hybrid sedan to show up in 2013, using hybrid components supplied by Toyota. Mazda will be piggy-backing on Toyota's already extensive research and practical use of hybrid technology, while Toyota will be helping reduce its own costs by the art of economies of scale.

Toyota has also supplied parts to Nissan over the past few years for the Nissan Altima Hybrid.

The Mazda hybrid may only be available in Japan (base on the following quote:

"Hybrids are spreading fast in Japan, and launching a model in the domestic market has become an urgent task," Mazda Executive Vice President Masaharu Yamaki told a joint news conference in Tokyo.

Mazda had to go elsewhere now that Ford is no longer as big a partner.

The press release from Mazda and Toyota:

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) and Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda) have reached an agreement on the supply under license of hybrid technology used in the Toyota Prius.

Leveraging this agreement, Mazda plans to combine the hybrid system with its next-generation SKY* engine that is currently under development, and develop and manufacture a hybrid vehicle in Japan. Mazda is aiming to commence sales of a hybrid vehicle starting in Japan by 2013.

Positioning response to environmental issues as a management priority, TMC began sales of the Prius, the world's first mass-production hybrid vehicle, in 1997. Since then, over 2.3 million TMC-produced hybrid vehicles have been delivered to customers in over 70 countries and regions.

TMC recognizes the importance of benefiting the environment by encouraging the popularization of its eco-friendly technologies, which are represented by its hybrid systems. Accordingly, TMC has announced that it will consider requests from other companies to supply hybrid technology.

Based on its long-term vision for technology development, Sustainable Zoom-Zoom, Mazda aims to increase the average fuel economy of Mazda vehicles sold globally 30 percent by 2015, compared to its 2008 level. In order to offer all of its customers driving pleasure as well as outstanding eco-friendly and safety performance, Mazda is implementing a Building Block Strategy. Under this strategy, Mazda will enhance the core aspects of its vehicles - including engines, transmissions and weight reduction - and then progressively add electric devices such as idling stop, regenerative braking and hybrid systems.

Through this partnership, each company intends to offer technologies and products with outstanding environmental benefits to as many people as possible.

*Concept name for engines and transmissions that are intended for launch from 2011 onward.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Hyundai will unveil their first hybrid sedan a the New York Auto Show. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has been modified, front and back, to distinguish it from the gas only Sonata.

Hyundai Hybrid Sonata
The modifications should help the hybrid stand out from the crowd.

The Sonata Hybrid will be revealed live on the web.

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Toyota May Not be Supplying Mazda

Toyota is now saying "Nothing has been decided" in a reply about the possible deal with Mazda.

Yesterday, a Nikkei report said a deal had been struck. Toyota would supply the hybrid components. Mazda would build a hybrid sedan by 2013.

But it seems that the deal is not finalized.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mazda Hybrid by 2013 via Toyota

A Nikkei report (via Reuters) says Toyota will be supplying Mazda with some key hybrid components. That will give Mazda the ability to put a hybrid vehicle on the road by 2013.

Mazda will introduce a midsize hybrid vehicle by 2013, putting them years behind the major players (Toyota, Honda, GM, and Ford).

Toyota will be selling their Toyota Hybrid System II (THS II) to Mazda, which includes the battery, electric motor, a generator and a power control unit.

Nissan has used hybrid components from Toyota to build their Nissan Altima Hybrid. By selling their components to other auto makers, Toyota helps defray their cost to develop the Hybrid Synergy Drive by building up their economies of scale.

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Toyota Limited in Fight Against Paice LLC Lawsuit

Toyota is facing a patent lawsuit from Paice LLC. It's a case they've already lost, but one in which the number of cars was expanded upon. Word has just been released that Toyota will be limited in their ability to defend themselves further against Paice.

Toyota won’t be able to challenge the validity or infringement of patents owned by Paice LLC during an April hearing on the dispute, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Theodore Essex said in an order dated March 3 and made public today.
In other words, since the courts already decided the patent has been infringed upon, Toyota can't use this trial to once again fight against it.  Toyota can make the argument that Paice cannot keep them from importing their hybrid vehicles.

That's kind of a big deal, since that's the big stick Paice is using to force the issue.  Just take a moment and think about what it would mean if a judge decided to order Toyota to stop importing any of their hybrids.

The case been around for years now. For more information, you can follow the links below:
Toyota Loses in Appeal
Toyota loses to Paice
Toyota Sued Again by Paice
Paice vs Toyota summary

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid at the NYIAS

Porsche Cayenne
Porsche is bringing their new Cayenne Hybrid to the New York International Automobile Show.  The Cayenne S Hybrid will go on sale in the fall.

The parallel system works to maximize each of the engines strengths.  At low speeds, the high torque produced by the electric motor does the heavy lifting, while the gas engine can kick in, with an assist from the electric motor to give it an extra 'boost.'  Combined, the V-6 mated to the The 47-horsepower (34 kW) electric motor produces 380 hp.  Together, they produce the power output expected of a V-8.

The two motors are connected via a decoupling clutch which allows either engine to work. The hybrid controller coordinates the interaction, allowing the electric motor to run for short distances by itself up to 40 mph.

Read more about the new Cayenne and the new Cayenne S Hybrid at the NYIAS.

Porsche will introduce the next-generation Cayenne sport utility vehicle, including a hybrid gas-electric version, to the North American market on March 31 during a press conference at the New York International Automobile Show.

Led by a highly advanced hybrid model, the new Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle delivers improved performance while using less fuel and producing fewer emissions throughout the entire model lineup.

The North American Cayenne model range will include four models: the 2011 Cayenne, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo and the Cayenne S Hybrid. The S and Turbo models go on sale in July, with the Cayenne and Cayenne S Hybrid in dealer showrooms this fall.

All the new Cayenne models embody the Porsche Intelligent Performance philosophy, the evolution of vehicles sportier than their predecessors, yet more fuel and emissions efficient.

"Porsche Intelligent Performance philosophy is more than a slogan. It is nothing less than Porsche keeping pace with the modern automotive landscape by dramatically lowering emissions, becoming greener and saving fuel," explained Detlev von Platen, Porsche Cars North America President and CEO. "We will we accomplish this through technology and innovative ideas, just as we have throughout our history, and show that Porsche's high performance and efficiency are not contradictory terms."

Cayenne's dynamic new design offers less weight and more room

The Cayenne's new exterior leaves no doubt it is part of the Porsche family. Its sporting character is evident from all angles, and its Porsche shape and highlights are more distinct than before. From a dimensions standpoint, it is 1.9 inches longer than its predecessor, and its wheelbase adds 1.6 inches, ensuring extra interior space and greater versatility. Still, despite its larger exterior, this next-generation Cayenne looks even more compact and dynamic.

Thanks to a special combination of materials as well as changes in the overall vehicle concept, such as a new all-wheel drive system, weight has been reduced on all models. Despite a higher standard of safety features, the Cayenne S, for example, is almost 400 lbs lighter, which not only improves fuel consumption and lowers emissions, but also boosts performance, agility, and handling.

Inside, the luxurious interior features a high center console that, like the Panamera, rises up at an incline to meet the dashboard center stack and a touch-screen infotainment interface. Porsche's traditional set of five round instruments in the driver's gauge cluster includes a high-resolution circular TFT screen to the right of the tachometer. It can be used to change radio stations, vehicle settings, access the navigation system or view the map. Rear-seat comfort is improved, as well. The bench slides fore-and-aft by 6.3 inches, while the backrest can be adjusted.

The advanced Cayenne S Hybrid

The high-tech Cayenne S Hybrid that is debuting at the New York show next week features a highly sophisticated parallel full hybrid system. With a combined power output of 380 horsepower from the supercharged V6 combustion engine and an electric motor, the Cayenne S Hybrid combines the performance of a V8 with the economy of a V6.

Through continuous interaction between the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and electric motor, the Cayenne S Hybrid focuses on maximum efficiency. Depending on driving conditions, either drive unit can operate independently or together. The 47-horsepower (34 kW) electric motor is the ideal partner for the 333-horsepower engine, which produces high torque at low engine speeds. With peak torque at 428 lb-ft at just 1,000 rpm, the Cayenne S Hybrid's performance is on par with a V8-powered Cayenne S.

The Cayenne S Hybrid's two drive units are connected by a decoupling clutch. A hybrid controller constantly coordinates their complex interaction, and intelligent management of the clutch makes the transition among various driving modes seamless. Like many hybrids, the Cayenne S Hybrid can cover short distances on electric power alone, free of emissions and noise up to 60 km/h or almost 40 mph. For aggressive acceleration, the motor provides an extra 'boost' to the gasoline engine.

Like many hybrids, the Cayenne S Hybrid can cover short distances on electric power alone, free of emissions and noise up to 60 km/h or almost 40 mph. For aggressive acceleration, the motor provides an extra 'boost' to the gasoline engine.

A new standard for Sport Utility Vehicles

All new-generation Cayenne SUVs set high standards for efficiency and performance. Compared with the former models, fuel consumption is down by up to 23 percent in the New European Driving Cycle and CO2 emissions are reduced. Actual EPA-certified fuel economy figures will be available when the cars go on sale in North America in July.

A new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission with a wide range of gear ratios and the Automatic Start Stop function (first introduced on the Panamera) contribute to these improvements. So does efficient thermal management of the engine and transmission cooling circuits, on-board electrical network recuperation, variable deceleration fuel cut-off and the Cayenne's intelligent lightweight construction.

The entry-level Cayenne with its 300-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine and mated to the new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission consumes 20 percent less fuel than its predecessor.
Fuel consumption is also down significantly on the high-torque Cayenne S. Its 4.8-liter V8 produces 400 horsepower, 15 more than the previous model.

The Cayenne Turbo, with its 500-horsepower, 4.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 also consumes less fuel than its predecessor despite its improved performance and acceleration.

Three other new Porsche models are making their New York debuts next week. Most prominent is the agile, light and dynamic 2011 Boxster Spyder roadster, a purer Porsche roadster weighing in at just 2,811 lbs. This sleek version of Porsche's popular mid-engine sports car is the lightest Porsche available is on sale now with an MSRP of $61,200. Also on display will be the 2011 911 Turbo Cabriolet featuring a 500-horsepower 3.8-liter engine, the first entirely new engine in 911 Turbo's storied 35-year- history. Finally, the new Porsche Panamera, the company's first four-door Gran Turismo, will grace the Porsche display in New York.

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Cadillac XTS Moving Coming in 2011

The Cadillac XTS, the luxury plug-in hybrid sedan, will be coming next year as a 2012 model. And according to some reports, will replace the Cadillac Converj as the new upcoming plug-in Cadillac.

The Cadillac XTS  Platinum, a Plug-in Hybrid
The XTS is set to replace the DTS and STS. It should look something like the XTS Platinum concept according to MotorTrend.

Cadillac (GM) rejected the idea of developing the Converj concept, a plug-in E-REV built on the Volt architecture, because they believe the demand will not be there. So, it's a bit surprising to hear they are now going to build a different plug-in Cadillac.

They are going to use the plug-in system developed for the Vue, meaning the all electric range will be a lot less. That means they don't have to worry as much about the battery size, which is a major reason the Volt price tag is going to come in at $40,000.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Toyota Will Replace the Pedal... if Asked

The New York Times has gotten its hands on a memo from Toyota telling dealers to replace accelerator pedals for free under the braking recall.

If customers are dissatisfied with the repairs made, unhappy about how they feel, then Toyota is telling the dealers to provide a replacement pedal at no cost.

An AP analysis shows over 100 customers have complained to the NHTSA after Toyota fixed their vehicles.

The dealers will only do it after the repairs have been made and only if the customers ask for it. The memo the NY Times received was dated from March, but recently updated with the procedures and parts number.

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No Longer Has a Hemi-Hybrid

Chrysler has ended the Ram Hybrid, before it even really started. Chrysler announced they would be expanding on a plug-in hybrid test for their Ram pickup, but would end the program to create a hybrid Ram.

Given their track record, I won't be holding my breath on the plug-in Ram.

Chrysler sold their Hybrid Aspen and Durango for a two months before abandoning their program. The plan was for the two-mode hybrid system, co-developed with BMW and GM, to go into the Dodge Ram later this year. But Chrysler just doesn't see a market for it.

Chrysler also killed off their ENVI division shortly after announcing they would create it and put an all electric vehicle on the road sometime soon.

The Plug-in Electric Hybrid (PHEV) system will be placed into 140 units with a lithium-ion battery pack capable of all electric movement for up to 20 miles. The truck will then turn into a hybrid car, with the gas engine providing most of the power from that point on. The electric motor will assist the gas engine.

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Toyota Should Talk to Apple About the Cruise Control

Back in February, Apple co-found Wozniak weighed in on the safety of Prius, noting he could create an 'unintended acceleration' in his Prius repeatedly. This made news, of course, but it turns out he just didn't understand his cruise control.

But then, he doesn't seem to be alone. According to Ward's auto, Toyota has been looking into the complaints being made about the cruise control. It seems a lot of people are complaining. 11% of the complaints about the 2010 Prius made with the NHTSA) cite difficulty getting cruise control to turn off.

According to Toyota, the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) which is optional on the Prius V is causing some confusion with drivers. If you hold the stalk up for one second, the Prius will accelerate five mph. Hold it up for four seconds and you will accelerate 20 mph.

This sounds just like the situation Wozniak described at the Discovery Forum.

Also, the adaptive cruise control will speed up or slow down the car based on the speed of the car in front of you. On curves, the DRCC will have trouble detecting cars in front of you. There are two complaints at the NHTSA citing a crash with stationary objects when the cruise control was enabled.

Toyota is continuing to investigate this problem.  They should also send a note to Wozniak about this before he complains in a public forum once again about his Prius.

As an aside, Toyota notes that the Prius V makes up 8% of sales so far. The Prius V is the top end of the Prius spectrum with all the bells and whistles.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Prius Reliability

Once again, the Toyota Prius ranked highly for dependability on the J.D. Power and Associates study. The 2007 model Prius won a segment award, with just 103 PP100.

“This is great news and timely for both our customers and our dealers, as it provides reassurance our vehicles continue to be an industry benchmark for quality,” Jim Lentz said in a statement.

The study, which measures problems experienced by original owners of three-year-old (2007 model year) vehicles, includes 198 different problem symptoms across all areas of the vehicle. Overall dependability is determined by the level of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

The 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study is based on responses from more than 52,000 original owners of 2007 model-year vehicles. The study was fielded between October and December 2009.

Hybrids, not withstanding the recent press, have been very reliable over the years. It's not surprising to see the Prius at the top of its segment once again.

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Virginia Extends HOV Exemption Again

Virginia has once again passed an exemption to the carpool lane laws, allowing some hybrids access even if the driver is all alone. The extension goes through June 30, 2011.

Only hybrid vehicles with clean fuel plates issued before July 1, 2006 can use the I-95/395 HOV lanes during rush hours. All hybrid vehicles with clean fuel plates can use all other HOV lanes in Virginia during HOV hours, including I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road in Northern Virginia.

Qualifying hybrids include (Source: Virginia):

2003 and Earlier  Honda Civic, Honda Insight, Toyota Prius
2004 Honda Civic, Honda Insight, Toyota Prius
2005 Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Honda Insight, Toyota Prius
2006 Ford Escape, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Honda Insight, Lexus RX400, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Prius
2007 Ford Escape, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Lexus GS450h, Lexus RX400h, Mercury Mariner, Nissan Altima 2.5, Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Prius
2008 Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Lexus GS450h, Lexus RX400h, Lexus LS600h, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, Nissan Altima 2.5, Tesla Roadster, Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Prius, 
2009 Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Lexus GS450h, Lexus LS600h, Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, Nissan Altima, Tesla Roadster, Toyota Camry, Toyota Camry Hybrid 2.4 L., Toyota Highlander, Toyota Prius
2010 Ford Escape 2.5L, Ford Fusion 2.5L, Honda Civic 1.3L, Honda Insight 1.3L, Lexus GS450h 3.5L, Lexus HS250h 2.4L, Lexus RX450h 3.5L, Mazda Tribute 2.5L, Mercury Mariner 2.5L, Mercury Milan 2.5L, Nissan Altima 2.5, Tesla Roadster, Toyota Camry 2.4L, Toyota Highlander 3.3L, Toyota Prius 1.8L 

I'm not sure the Tesla Roadster was in the legislatures minds when they wrote the original bill, and I'm not sure the exemption would continue to pass if new vehicles were being allowed in.

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Honda Moving to Lithium-Ion Batteries in the Next Few Years

Honda says they will be moving to lithium-ion battery packs in the next two to three years, as they fight to compete with Toyota hybrids. Source: Honda Plans Lithium-Ion Civic to Narrow Toyota’s Lead (Update1) -

Honda will be supplied with battery packs by their joint venture with GS Yasa Corp (which is 49 percent owned by Honda).

This is very interesting for those who follow hybrids and have been looking for lithium batteries for a while now. There have been several instances where Honda and Toyota have looked at lithium-ion battery packs for their hybrid cars, but have chosen not to go that route. The cost and safety just haven't been there.

But now car makers are hoping the promised cost reductions will start happening as more and more jump on board. Other car companies are just about to start offering cars with lithium-ion battery packs, and analysts are predicting a glut will occur very quickly, which will force prices down.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ford, We Make Hybrids Too

I'm not a huge fan of SNL, but I found this to be hilarious. The setup was a little long, but the punch line was great.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Toyota Findings on Runaway Prius in San Diego

You can read all about Toyota's findings below in the press release, but basically, nothing they found was consistent with the story that the driver gave about the runaway car.

My opinion isn't too far off from what others have already said, both in the media and outside the media. But at the end of the day, a 'runaway' car has to be treated seriously.

It seems that Toyota is trying very hard to get on top of this as quickly as possible. They investigated quickly and openly and not surprisingly, found nothing.

Syke's lawyers response was ridiculous on the face of it. (In case you didn't see it, it was something along the lines of 'of course they didn't find anything. They never do.'

That same lawyer represents the police officers family who died in another runaway incident. If that's what he's going to present to the jury or judge, I feel bad for the family.

SAN DIEGO, Calif., March 15, 2010---At a press conference today, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. offered key preliminary findings of technical field examination and testing that were performed on March 10 and 11 regarding an alleged “runaway Prius” event dramatically covered by national news media.

Toyota engineers completed an investigation of the 2008 Prius driven by Mr. James Sikes that was the subject of a 911 emergency call on Monday, March 8. The driver reported that the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, the accelerator pedal was stuck, and that the vehicle was out of control and could not be stopped. The emergency operator repeatedly instructed the driver to shift the car into neutral and turn off the power button.

A California Highway Patrol officer intercepted the vehicle and instructed the driver to press firmly on the brakes, apply the emergency brake and turn off the car, at which time the Prius came to a safe stop.

While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver's account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis.

Toyota engineers employed data download/analysis, static and dynamic testing as well as thorough inspections of all relative components. In addition, they retraced the reported driving route taking into account driving time and accounts from the 911 recording.

The investigation revealed the following initial findings:

• The accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally with no mechanical binding or friction. It should be noted that the Prius is not subject to a recall for sticking accelerator pedals and the Prius component is made by a different supplier than the one recalled.

• The front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating. The rear brakes and parking brake were in good condition and functional.

• A Toyota carpeted floor mat of the correct type for the vehicle was installed but not secured to the retention hooks. It was not found to be interfering or even touching the accelerator pedal.

• The pushbutton power switch worked normally and shut the vehicle off when depressed for 3 seconds as the 911 operator advised Mr. Sikes to do.

• The shift lever also worked normally and neutral could be selected. The neutral position is clearly marked and can be easily engaged by moving the lever left to the “N” marking.

• There were no diagnostic trouble codes found in the power management computer, nor was the dashboard malfunction indicator light activated. The hybrid self-diagnostic system did show evidence of numerous, rapidly repeated on-and- off applications of both the accelerator and the brake pedals.

• After examination of individual components, the front brakes were replaced and the vehicle was test driven, during which the vehicle was observed to be functioning normally.

• During testing, the brakes were purposely abused by continuous light application in order to overheat them. The vehicle could be safely stopped by means of the brake pedal, even when overheated.

The Prius braking system uses both conventional hydraulic friction brakes and a regenerative braking system which switches the electric drive motors into brakes to generate electricity.

The system features a sophisticated self- protection function which cuts engine power if moderate brake pedal pressure is applied and the accelerator pedal is depressed more than approximately 50 percent, in effect providing a form of “brake override.”

This function, which is intended to protect the system from overload and possible damage, was found to be functioning normally during the preliminary field examination.

Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations.

These findings suggest that there should be further examination of Mr. Sikes account of the events of March 8.

NHTSA investigators were present during Toyota’s examination, and are conducting their own investigation of the vehicle and its performance. Toyota’s examination was also observed by a congressional staff member.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Toyota Considering Cutting Production of the Prius

The Times is reporting Toyota is considering cutting back on production of the Prius by 10%. The Japanese production is looking at worldwide demand and trying to decide how the current climate is going to affect their sales.

A spokesman for Toyota said: “The outlook for Prius demand is uncertain."

This is despite the sky high demand in Japan, where the Prius is still the number one seller and probably will be for months. The waiting list is months long there, with the incentives on hybrids helping to push sales there.

There has also been a recent report indicating Tennessee is pushing to open the plant there to build the Prius in the US. If that happens, production in Japan would be used to focus on the demand in Japan.

If production was cut by 10% in Japan, Toyota would go from producing 50,000 Prius a month to 45,000. Toyota had increased production of the Prius to its current levels based on the pre-orders they received before the third generation Prius was released.

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Orange County DA Sues Toyota

The Orange County DA has jumped into the Toyota fray, filing a suit against what they say are "continued unlawful, unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices as it pertains to both consumers and competitors." (Via GCC)

They are looking for $2,500 per violation under the Unfair Business Practices Act.

I'm surprised and not surprised by this action.  It seems that everyone wants to sue Toyota right now (and you wonder why companies are reluctant to say things are wrong in public and apologize).  But, given the issue, wouldn't this be considered a federal issue?  Not that that matters, since I'm sure other states will jump in on the chance to get money out of an international company.

Toyota has its principal headquarters in Torrance, so the Orange County DA says it has the right to bring this consumer protection on behalf of the people of Orange County.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Honda CR-Z in High Demand

Honda CR-Z Hybrid
According to a Nikkei report (via MarketWatch), the Honda CR-Z Hybrid already has 7,000 orders.  They had 4,500 pre-sales as of a few weeks ago when they set the price on the two-seater hybrid at just over $25,000.

That's 60% of the annual target of 12,000 units Honda set.  The pent up demand for a hybrid sports car seems to be higher than I would have thought, although the tax breaks and incentives put in place in Japan for hybrids may be a deciding factor for many.

With 7,000 pre-orders, the CR-Z now has a seven month waiting list (Honda set production at around 1,000 a month).

Update: Honda is now up to 10,000 orders on their sporty new hybrid.  Which means they have an effective waiting list of about 10 months.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

S-Class Getting 81 MPG

Mercedes-Benz Plans on Building S-Class E-REV
Mercedes-Benz is looking to build an S-class plug-in hybrid (actually, from the description, it's an E-REV (Extended-Range Electric Vehicle)) that will achieve 81 mpg. More details are coming out according to CarandDriver.  Mercedes-Benz launched a hybrid S-Class in Japan last September.
The new S-class will mate a 3.0-liter V-6 gasoline engine-dirct injection and peizo injectors witha 60 hp electric motor. The electric range will be about 20 miles.

Mercedes-Benz Thomas Weber feels that the biggest issue with electric cars is the battery. From the expense, charging time, possible overheating, to just the extra weight. Thus, they are looking at the variants which will allow them to use smaller batter packs, but still keep the range and reduce the cost of the vehicle.

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Porsche 918 Spyder into Production?

Porsche is seriously considering taking the 918 Spyder, a plug-in hybrid that is more powerful than the Carrera GT. The electric motor helps the 500 hp V8 go from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds with a top speed of 198 mph, all while 78 mpg. 

It took them five months (started last August, finished the day before it was revealed).  But now it looks like Porsche is looking to move the Spyder into production.

Porsche 'will build 918' -

Porsche has yet to commit to producing the car - but speaking to Autocar, Macht admitted that the positive reaction to the 918 had already swayed opinion within the firm.

"There is no one inside Porsche who doesn't want to build the 918," he said. "The response has been marvellous; we will ask buyers to sign letters of intent.

"The 918 Spyder provides the answer to whether there can be high-performance cars in the future," he added. "Many have said they are finished. This car shows they are not."

According to the NYTimes blog Porsche has never built a show car they didn't move into production.
Porsche’s Stealth Debut - Wheels Blog -
Believe it or not, the 918 Spyder is Porsche’s first concept car since the Boxster, which was initially shown in Detroit in 1993 and went into production as a 1997 model. Porsche has never built a show car it didn’t eventually put on the market, and the 918 is a possibility down the road.
Porsche 918 Spyder

But don't start holding your breath. It could take five years, even if they do decide to go ahead with it.

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Mass Hysteria, Maybe...

This is something I have been thinking about the past couple of days, but I can't say I am an unbiased observer when it comes to the Prius.

Spike in Prius complaints may not be all it seems - Yahoo! News

But as long as reports of Prius profile keep rolling in — just look at the extensive coverage given to a single crash in that New York suburb, something that would have gone utterly unnoticed a year ago — expect complaints to keep rising.

"We are basically anticipating them happening, and we may be prone to jump to conclusions," said L.J. Shrum, a marketing professor who specializes in consumer psychology at University of Texas at San Antonio
The story focuses on how the number of complaints has skyrocketed, not surprisingly, in conjunction with the media attention.  And the second high profile story of a Prius crash yesterday would have gone completely unnoticed by most.

It's hard to know what's true or not at this point.  People are reporting things they never reported before.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Scary Ride in a Prius

A Prius driver went on a wild ride in San Diego.

A driver accelerated on Interstate 8 in La Posta to pass another car; however, the driver could not keep the car from moving at 94 mph afterward. He called 911 and the officers who were dispatched spoke to the driver over loudspeakers, advising him to push the brake pedal and apply the emergency brake.

Along with the car heading up a steep upgrade and their instructions, the car decelerated to about 50 mph and the driver turned off the engine and coasted to a stop with officers surrounding him with their patrol units. The ordeal ended with no incident or injury in this case.
This is scary stuff for Toyota, Toyota owners and the public in general. The debate continues on how this is happening.

Update1: Insideline questions the story  given by the driver of the Prius in California.
Driving for 20 minutes at 90+ mph anywhere in the US, never mind a busy highway?  A Prius 'jumping forward' is just about impossible.  And they show how easy it is to shift the Prius into neutral while driving it.  InsideLine is calling 'BS' and I'm inclined to wonder myself.

Update: Another reported Toyota Prius run away: Yahoo! News
The woman, who was not identified, was driving on a long, curving driveway when the Prius accelerated beyond her control, Marraccini said, adding that the two-lane road she sped across is a "fairly busy" street.

She traveled 150 to 200 feet, he said, before the Prius' front end struck the rock wall -- built with boulders weighing some 500 to 1,000 pounds -- with such force that it "hurled those boulders 10 or 15 feet away."

"The floor mat is not a contributing factor," Marraccini said, adding that it was firmly secured.

He said the car had previously been taken to a nearby Toyota dealership by the owner after the model was recalled.

Toyota recalled 2004-2009 Prius models last November as part of a wide-ranging safety recall to fix loose floor mats that can trap the accelerator and cause unintended acceleration.

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Prius Plant in Mississippi May Be Back on Again

Toyota, despite all the bad press lately, is going to open up the plant in Mississippi according to recent reports. At the same time, they could be delaying the launch of new cars in Europe.

The 2010 Rav4, Auris, and Auris Hybrid could all be halted if Toyota is not satisfied with the solutions to their acceleration problems.

In the meantime, the plant in Mississippi has been on again, off again for a while now, so we'll have to take a wait and see attitude. If it does ever get up and running, it will be good news for Prius buyers, who won't have to worry about the production in Japan being syphoned off.

But the state of Mississippi is pushing Toyota to go ahead with the plant in an effort to combat the state employment rate of 10.6 percent.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Maserati to Move Into Hybrids - Rumors Abound

There are reports (IL) that Maserati will develop a hybrid powertrain based on the Ferrari model in their next generation of cars. The stricter fuel economy (emissions) laws in Europe are forcing car makers to move to less weightier options, plus other fuel efficient engines to compensate.

The three-pointed Trident brand will borrow similar emission and drivetrain logics from Ferrari and combine them with its already existing impressive performance to bring out the most efficient hybrid powertrain at affordable prices - nitrobahn

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Lexus CT 200h - More Details Ahead of the New York Auto Show

The Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid will be at the New York Auto Show March 31 through April 11.  The fivie door will be Lexus second dedicated hybrid model.

CT 200h Revealed at Geneva Auto Show

The LF-Ch, unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2009 served as the basis for the CT 200h.  The compact hybrid is meant to fill the luxury compact division, for those who are interested in luxury and fuel efficiency.

The CT 200h features a 1.8-liter gas engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), a high performance battery, power control unit, transmission with an electric motor generator, a power split device to re-allocate power from the engine and electric motor generator according to operational requirements.

The CT 200h comes with four drive modes.  Each mode will change the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle.  EV mode allows you to drive on all electric power for as long as you can.  Eco-mode reduces the throttle response, while also adjusting the air conditioning settings to emphasize fuel economy.  Sport mode will provide a more responsive throttle, while modifying the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) settings to give a faster response to driver input. 

Normal mode allows you to balance between Eco and Sport.
In the interest of maximum fuel efficiency, particular attention has been paid to the aerodynamic efficiency of every aspect of the CT 200h’s design. The front and rear corners have been pulled in tight to improve the flow of air down the sides of the vehicle and minimize wind turbulence within the wheel arches. The sides of the cabin have been tapered, the rear edge of the roof lowered and even the lower body painstakingly detailed to optimize airflow. Completing the look are unique 17-inch alloy wheels and blue badging specific to Lexus hybrid vehicles.

CT 200h is Compact Luxury
The interior is 'efficient and elegant.'  Lexus made extensive use of metallic finishes and dark, soft touch materials reinforces the luxury experience.

The CT 200h 102-inch wheelbase allows front and rear seat passenger accomodations 'that is amongst the most spacious in the compact segment.'

Lexus has high hopes for the CT 200h in Europe, but it won't be released in the US until next year.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Hybrid Car Sales, February 2010

Hybrid car sales were up 5.4% for the month of February, which would seem to indicate a good month and is also indicative of an overall recovery in the car market.  But individual model sales are more of a mixed bag.  Some were up, some were down, and the overall increase does not seem to reflect a lot of what might be expected.

Also, keep in mind that hybrid car sales were down by 30% in February, 2009 compared to February 2008.  The recession was in full force and overall light duty car sales were down by 40% (which means hybrids were a bright spot even if they were down 30%).  So, a 5 percent gain this month is nice, but not exactly the best they could be.

Monthly Sales February 2009 February 2010 % Change
Make Model N % N %
Ford Escape/Mariner 1,294 8.3 782 4.8 -39.6
Ford Fusion/Milan 0 0.0 1,317 8.0 0.0
GM Escalade 0 0.0 146 0.9 0.0
GM Silverado/Sierra 47 0.3 106 0.6 125.5
GM Tahoe/Yukon 632 4.0 169 1.0 -73.3
Honda Accord 0 0.0 0 0.0 0.0
Honda Civic 1,362 8.7 346 2.1 -74.6
Honda Insight 0 0.0 2,014 12.2 0.0
Nissan Altima 463 3.0 619 3.8 33.7
Toyota Camry 2,080 13.3 1,011 6.1 -51.4
Toyota GS 450h 22 0.1 22 0.1 0.0
Toyota HS 250h 0 0.0 712 4.3 0.0
Toyota Highlander 956 6.1 339 2.1 -64.5
Toyota LS600hL 22 0.1 15 0.1 -31.8
Toyota Prius 7,232 46.3 7,968 48.4 10.2
Toyota RX 400h 1,502 9.6 890 5.4 -40.7

Cumulative Sales Cumulative 2009 Cumulative 2010 % Change
Make Model N % N %
Ford Escape/Mariner 2,174 7.1 1,497 4.5 -31.1
Ford Fusion/Milan 0 0.0 2,469 7.4 0.0
GM Escalade 132 0.4 198 0.6 50.0
GM Silverado/Sierra 54 0.2 203 0.6 275.9
GM Tahoe/Yukon 1,099 3.6 395 1.2 -64.1
Honda Accord 1 0.0 0 0.0 -100.0
Honda Civic 2,438 7.9 599 1.8 -75.4
Honda Insight 0 0.0 3,321 9.9 0.0
Nissan Altima 1,107 3.6 1,678 5.0 51.6
Toyota Camry 3,221 10.5 1,878 5.6 -41.7
Toyota GS 450h 63 0.2 63 0.2 0.0
Toyota HS 250h 0 0.0 1,959 5.8 0.0
Toyota Highlander 1,940 6.3 865 2.6 -55.4
Toyota LS600hL 55 0.2 24 0.1 -56.4
Toyota Prius 15,353 50.0 16,452 49.1 7.2
Toyota RX 400h 3,058 10.0 1,906 5.7 -37.7

Some assumptions you might make about hybrid sales this month just don't seem to be panning out.  For instance, the Toyota recalls should be affecting sales, especially with the Prius which is one of the models involved.  Although overall Toyota/Lexus hybrid car sales were down by 7.3% as Toyota overall light duty sales were way down this month, the Prius remains unaffected, however.  Prius sales were up by 10%, as heavy incentives, plus a waiting list on the Prius and an artificial limit on the numbers being imported right now have kept the pressure up. 

Japanese Prius sales are still sky high, with a six month waiting list on the Prius.  That means Toyota is not shipping as many Prius to the US.  That means there are still people who are having to wait for the Prius they ordered.  It's unclear if Toyota can keep that up in the coming months, but they are continuing to offer incentives on hybrids in February.

Also keep in mind that four new models are keeping things up, since they weren't being sold last February.  The Honda Insight, Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids launched in March, so we'll have a better idea next month of how well they are doing.

Overall, Ford, Honda and Nissan were up from last year, which may indicate they were able to take advantage of the bad news surrounding Toyota.  Also, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid was up 125% with big rebates being offered. 

Hybrid Car Sales, February 2009
Hybrid Car Sales, January 2010

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Rumors of a Plug-in Chevy

When the plug-in Saturn Vue was cancelled (since Saturn was ending), there were rumors flying about the Vue plug-in would morph into a Chevy Eqinox plug-in, but those rumors were later squashed by GM exectutives.

But now the rumors are back, but with pictures.  Straightline has photos of a plug-in hybrid with Saturn and hybrid badging, taped over plug-in port, and Buick wheels.  Straightline thinks this indicates the Chevrolet Equinox plug-in may be back on, but I'm wondering if it might be something else.

GM promised a Buick crossover plug-in hybrid for testing by the Energy Department in 2010, with a production model to follow in 2011.  The idea of the crossover moving into production was killed off fairly quickly, however.

Now, whether or not those time lines still apply in the current economic climate is another thing, but if they promised a vehicle to the Energy Department, what Straightline saw may be an early iteration/holdover from Saturn to be sent for testing.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid

BMW 5 Series Hybrid
BMW revealed the 5 Series Hybrid at the Geneva Auto Show. The turbocharged 3.0 liter inline-6 motor is mated to a 50 kW electric motor as a two-mode full hybrid sedan. By that, BMW means the 5 Series ActiveHybrid can operate on electric power, gasoline power or a combination of both.

BMW estimates the fuel efficiency will increase by 10 percent over the standard model and that it will be slightly more expensive than the conventionally powered sedan. It will also likely have a power advantage over the standard 535i, with the additional electric motor providing aid in the acceleration.

The luxury sedan will come with eight speed transmission and auxillary climate control function. The battery pack is located in the trunk. There is regenerative braking along with an auto start-stop for increased fuel economy. But the two-mode system allows it save fuel while on the highway, too.

Interestingly, the powertrain will interact with the navigation system. That allows it to provide fuel economy feedback according to the planned route.

The 5 Series is scheduled to enter production next year.

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Infiniti M35 Hybrid

M35 Hybrid Debuts at Geneva Auto Show
The new M35 Hybrid from Infiniti was debuted at the Geneva Auto Show. The front-engine, rear drive only hybrid is the first hybrid to use hybrid technology developed by Nissan. The Nissan Altima uses the Hybrid Synergy Drive from Toyota, but Nissan wanted to develop their own, while still allowing them to make a profit.

So they decided their first hybrid will be from Infiniti, allowing them to bump the price up in order to help recoup the development cost.

The M35 Hybrid mates a 3.5 liter V6 to an electric motor powered by a lithium ion battery pack. The seven speed transmission is the standard Infiniti model, minus the torque converter.

There is a two clutch system to allow for more efficient driving. The first clutch allows the gas engine to be disconnected from the electric motor, while the second clutch can disconnect the engine from the transmission allowing the sedan to coast more efficiently.

Infiniti says the M35 Hybrid is "electrically powered for more of the time, and at higher speeds, than conventional hybrids.... in a rigorous test program in the US based on day-in, day-out driving over a three-month period on a route that took in not just busy city streets but also suburbs, freeways and even mountain roads. The results showed that the M35 HYBRID was able to drive in electric-only mode, with zero tailpipe emissions, for as much as 50 per cent of the time."

Infiniti says the lithium-ion battery pack will last at least 136,000 miles. It, plus the other hybrid components, make the hybrid M35 heavier than the standard M by 330 pounds.

The M35 is due in spring of 2011 in Europe, while there is no release date in North America. Price and fuel economy are not available.

Press Release Continues Below
ROLLE, Switzerland (March 2, 2010) – Innovative electric technology and an undiluted driving experience come together in Infiniti’s first hybrid, making its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show today. The low CO2 champion of the all-new M Line sedan range, the Infiniti M35 HYBRID steers the hybrid advantage from the city to the open road – and into the arms of all those who love their driving.

A decoupling V6 engine, 50 kW (68 PS) electric motor built in to the 7-speed automatic transmission and exceptionally fast charge/discharge response from the lithium-ion battery pack all add up to a hybrid that’s electrically powered for more of the time, and at higher speeds, than conventional hybrids.

The M35 HYBRID’S high degree of electric intervention results in the fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions of a smaller, less powerful car while offering the linear acceleration and unsullied rear-drive handling of a true Infiniti complete with all the charisma and potency of one of the great V6 petrol engines.

The technology, which previewed in the Essence concept coupĂ© at the Geneva Motor Show in 2009, has been given the name INFINITI DIRECT RESPONSE HYBRID. Toru Saito, Corporate Vice President Infiniti, said: “INFINITI DIRECT RESPONSE HYBRID is the core of the future Infiniti performance.”

Sharing the seductive looks, alluring cabin and world-first features of the all-new M Line flagship saloon – the first ever M to go on sale in Europe, also making its show debut in Geneva – the M35 HYBRID uses a front-engine, rear-drive-only layout based around an innovative drivetrain featuring a one motor/two clutch system.

Innovatively, the first clutch is installed between the naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6 and the electric motor. This clutch allows the full decoupling of the V6 when in both electric and power regeneration modes – in order to reduce mechanical drag and boost the efficiency of the electric motor.

Just how efficient the M35 HYBRID’s electric side is was shown in a rigorous test program in the US based on day-in, day-out driving over a three-month period on a route that took in not just busy city streets but also suburbs, freeways and even mountain roads. The results showed that the M35 HYBRID was able to drive in electric-only mode, with zero tailpipe emissions, for as much as 50 per cent of the time.

Two new technologies are fundamental to the M35 HYBRID’s broad-ranging abilities. One is the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack – quick to alternate between charging/discharging and, size for size, twice as powerful as conventional batteries. The second is the direct manner in which the petrol or electric power is delivered to the rear wheels. This “directness” is central to the M35 HYBRID’s overall efficiency as well as offering a consistent driving feel under all conditions.

The M35 HYBRID’s transmission is an even more sophisticated version of Infiniti’s 7-speed Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) automatic transmission. One difference over the ASC transmission used in other Infiniti models is that there is no torque converter, and therefore none of the losses that torque converters cause.

The lack of a torque converter also enhances responsiveness for a sportier-feeling drive. The throttle can be “blipped” just as in a manual transmission car, while acceleration is seamless thanks to motor-assisted gear-shifting that ensures ratio changes aren’t just eye-blink fast but also completely smooth.

The electric motor is rated at 50 kW (68 PS) with 270 Nm of torque and is embedded within the transmission. The motor acts as both propulsion unit, either by itself or to boost the V6 in “power assist” mode when maximum acceleration is required, and also as a generator. As well as charging the battery in the normal way, the motor recovers energy otherwise lost during deceleration and braking.

Apart from its fast charge/discharge response and 1.3kWh capacity, the Li-on battery pack is laminated to enhance the cooling performance. Temperature stability is further improved by the use of manganese positive electrodes. An end result of this is exceptional battery reliability.

Light weight is another key advantage of the M35 HYBRID, with the compact battery pack, allied to the single electric motor, resulting in a 30kg weight saving.

Power outputs and performance data will be confirmed at later date.

The new M Line has all the qualifications needed to be the flagship saloon for Infiniti and provide a distinctive and finely crafted alternative to timeworn German rivals. Classic sports saloon proportions and an elegantly flowing body go hand in hand with a spacious five-seat interior that sets a benchmark for quality and luxury even by Infiniti’s high standards.

The M35 HYBRID, like all the new M Line models, has been engineered for European drivers and roads. Super strong, highly aerodynamic and based on the FM (Front-Midship) platform, the M35 delivers incisive handling matched by exceptional ride comfort thanks in part to the world-first use of double-piston dampers. The M35 in Geneva is shown in luxury GT form complete with semi-aniline leather and White Ash wood trim with silver-powder finish.

Other M Line world firsts include Blind Spot Intervention (BSI) – a system that doesn’t just warn of vehicles in adjacent lanes but actively prevents the car being steered into their path – and a state-of-the-art “Forest Air” climate control system. An Active Noise Control system is also available.

M Line sales in Western Europe begin in September, with the M35 HYBRID due to arrive from spring 2011, depending on market.

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