Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2011 Honda Jazz Hybrid

Honda Jazz Hybrid
The 2011 Honda Jazz Hybrid is set to debut at the Paris Auto Show in in September and should arrive in dealers lots early 2011.  The Jazz Hybrid (known as the Honda Fit in Japan and the US) is undergoing a 2011 update and is set to receive the hybrid engine just as the Fit did in Japan.

It's expected to get similar gas mileage as the Insight, since it has the same underpinning as the Insight.  The IMA Hybrid system is the same as the Honda Civic Hybrid and Insight, which means the micro-car can travel for short distances on all electric power, while the electric motor assists the gas engine in other situations.  A start-stop system will turn the gas engine off when you are coming to a stop.

The 1.3 liter four-cylinder gas engine is mated to a CVT gearbox with the electric motor matched on.  The 2011 Hybrid Jazz will have a few distinctive features, including a new grill, blue tinted headlights, a 'tweaked' bumper and clear taillight lenses.  The Honda Fit is the cheapest hybrid available, and the Jazz is expected to follow suit when it goes on sale in Europe.

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Toyota Wants to Double Hybrid Sales

Toyota, by far the top seller of hybrid cars, wants to reach 5 million hybrid sales by 2015. That is twice what they've sold so far since 1997.

Toyota released a five year 'environment impact plan' stating they wish to improve their carbon emissions by 25 percent and see a 25% gain in fuel efficiency over their 2005 levels.

To top it off, they want to release a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle by fiscal 2015.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toyota Test Plug-in Prius at Logan Airport

Toyota has been testing their plug-in Prius (due out in 2012 or so) in various sites and with different customers throughout the world. And now it's Logan Airport in Boston who gets to try one out.

It will only be for two months as Toyota gathers feedback and testing information. Massport officials, who run Logan, will use the "car to drive to meetings, visit construction sites and terminals, and to help with other errands."

That's most likely going to result in really good test results, as the miles driven at any time will most likely be very low, which means less reliance on gasoline and more on the battery pack. Unlike the Chevy Volt, the plug-in Prius is more like a souped up hybrid. It will drive at higher speeds on all battery power for longer time periods, but doesn't rely on just the one power source. The Volt goes for 40 miles (your miles will vary) before the gas engine kicks in. The Prius plug-in may start using the gas engine immediately (or not) depending on your use.

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Having Problems With Honda Civic Hybrid Battery Fix

According to visitors to, the fix being applied to the software in the hybrid Civic is a little bit disappointing:

Apparently, the software change does not directly address the battery problem—but instead reduces the vehicle’s reliance on the batteries and electric motor. Essentially, the “fix” extends the life of the battery, but turns a Civic Hybrid into a standard hybrid in the process. As a result, fuel economy is reduced from low- to mid-40 mpg, to the level of a standard hybrid in the mid-30s. The change also deprives the Honda hybrid system, known as Integrated Motor Assist, of its ability to “assist” by receiving a power boost from the electric motor during acceleration.
That's bad news for anyone interested in getting the best mileage out of their hybrid. By using the battery less, Honda can guarantee the battery will last longer. But there should have been a better method. Also, given how this affects mileage, I wonder if Honda shouldn't have to re do their mpg rating with the EPA?

I'm not the only one wondering, either. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is asking some pointed questions about whether the 'fix' is increasing emissions.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honda Civic Hybrid Owners Get Software Fix for Battery Pack

Honda Civic Hybrid owners are starting to be notified that their hybrid battery pack could fail sooner than warranted by Honda. Model years 2006, 2007 and 2008 are affected by a software flaw that causes the battery to drain sooner than it should.

Honda did not issue a recall since the flaw does not cause any danger to people's safety, but instead issued a technical service bulletin.

But I'm betting owners aren't too happy to hear they've been driving around with something like this for a while. I would wonder if the software glitch had shortened battery life, even after it's fixed. And will it affect resale values? People are wary enough over how long the battery pack will last when buying a used hybrid.

16,000 units were being fixed in Japan, while around 90,000 units are affected in the US. 2009-2010 hybrid civic models are not affected.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Detroit Edison Offers New Electric Car Buyers Special Rate

Detroit Edison is offering first buyers a lower price on electricity. For those who buy an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid vehicle, Edison is offering to the first 2,500 residential customers either a lower rate for charging during off-peak hours (11 pm - 9 am) or a monthly flat rate of $40 per vehicle.

They are also willing to pay up to $2,500 for a residential charging station, although they expect a typical 220-volt station to retail at $600.

"We view -- as do a lot of people -- electric vehicles as something of the future," said Edward Falletich, manager for pricing at Detroit Edison. "What this does is let us be privy to how much power is used to charge a vehicle."

By offering the special rate, they encourage new buyers, plus they get to guage how electric vehicles will affect the grid. They also get to see when owners will plug in, plus how much they use.

The $40 a month equates to 13 cents per kilowatt hour. 84% of respondents to an Electric Power Research Institute expect to charge their electric vehicles at night.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

One Million Prius Sold in Japan and Counting

Although Toyota started selling the Prius in 1997, it wasn't until 2007 the 1 million milestone was passed. After that, it only took until 2009 to pass the 2 million mark. Now, with the incentives still in full swing and a backlog of orders, hybrid sales in Japan alone have passed the million marker. The Prius has been the top selling car in Japan for 15 months straight.

Worldwide sales have topped 2.68 million.

Toyota estimates that the hybrid vehicles they have sold since 1997 have led to approximately 4 million fewer tons3 of CO2 emissions—considered to be a cause of global warming—in Japan, and approximately 15 million fewer tons globally, than would have been emitted by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance.

TMC Hybrid Vehicle Chronology
Year Month Milestone
1997 Mar. Toyota Hybrid System unveiled
1997 Aug. Coaster Hybrid EV launched (Japan only)
1997 Dec. Prius launched
2000 Nov. Cumulative Prius sales top 50,000 vehicles
2001 Jun. Estima Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2001 Aug. Crown Mild Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2002 Mar. Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 100,000 mark
2002 Aug. Cumulative Prius sales top 100,000 vehicles
2003 Apr. Toyota Hybrid System II unveiled
2003 Jul. Alphard Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2003 Sep. Second-generation Prius launched
2003 Nov. Dyna Hybrid and Toyoace Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2005 Mar. Harrier Hybrid (RX400h outside Japan) and Kluger Hybrid (Highlander Hybrid) launched
2005 Oct. Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 500,000 mark
2005 Dec. Prius production commenced at SFTM's Changchun Plant, China
2006 Mar. GS450h launched in Japan
2006 Apr. Cumulative Prius sales top 500,000 vehicles
2006 May Camry Hybrid launched (for sale outside Japan)
2006 Jun. Redesigned Estima Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2006 Oct. Camry Hybrid production commenced at TMMK's plant in the U.S.; Quick Delivery
2007 May Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 1-million mark; LS600h/LS600hL launched
2008 Feb. Crown Hybrid unveiled (launched in April; Japan only)
2008 May Cumulative Prius sales top 1 million vehicles
2009 Jan. RX450h unveiled (launched in April)
2009 May Third-generation Prius launched
2009 Jul. Camry Hybrid production commenced at the Gateway Plant, Thailand; HS250h launched
2009 Aug. Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 2-million mark
2009 Oct. Sai unveiled (launched in December, Japan only)
2009 Dec. Camry Hybrid production commenced at the TMCA's Altona Plant, Australia
2010 Apr. Camry Hybrid production commenced at the GTMC's plant in China
2010 Jun. Auris Hybrid production commenced at the TMUK's Burnaston Plant, UK; Auris Hybrid launched (for sale outside Japan)
2010 Jul. Cumulative sales in Japan of TMC hybrids top 1 million units

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Mild Hybrids Make a Come Back in 2011

GM is working on a second generation of mild hybrids to be available in the third quarter of 2011. They have a mid-sized sedan (they won't say which) for the US and another in China. The source (via Autonews) was Larry Nitz, GM executive director of hybrid and electric powertrain engineering.

That's great news and important if GM wants to meet the upcoming guidelines on fuel efficiency for their fleet of cars in the US. Not every car can be a hybrid or a plug in the coming years. Mild hybrids give a much smaller boost in fuel efficiency, but the cost to implement it is also a lot lower. A start-stop (gas engine turns off at stop lights) system paired with regenerative braking and a much smaller battery pack and you can boost acceleration using electric power rather than more gasoline.

More than likely, the more powerful part will come from a new generation of battery pack (maybe lithium-ion?). Nitz said the benefit would be about 20% in fuel economy.

GM lost most of they mild hybrid line-up when they dropped Saturn.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Can Hyundai Get to 50 MPG?

Hyundai announced their plans to reach 50 mpg fleetwide by 2025. That's for all of its passenger cars and light duty trucks. That's a really impressive goal, considering the most fuel efficient car they have in the US right now gets 30 mpg combined.

But this is by CAFE rules, where Hyundai is the leader at 30.9 mpg fleetwide. By 2016, the NHTSA is requiring automakers to get to 35.5 mpg. So, even the most fuel efficient automakers still have some ground to make up.

"We're committed to setting the pace in this industry on fuel economy, and we're inspired by the possibilities that our advanced Blue Drive technologies afford," said John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president and CEO. "Getting to 50 mpg and beyond seems like a huge leap, but by making this commitment and aligning our R&D initiatives now, we know we can get there."

This is a stretch goal, so maybe it's not achievable. But, with the vehicles Hyundai has in its pipleine, the 50 mpg goal is possible. That is, if people are willing to buy them.

Hyundai is working on improvements and innovation in powertrains including gasoline direct injection, turbocharging, electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, light-weight materials and design, and more. These are all part of their Blue Drive strategy.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

GM Invests in Bright IDEA

GM is investing in Bright Automotive. GM will become a minority owner in the company, while Bright will gain access to GM technologies, and advanced engine and transmission systems, for its vehicle. Bright is working on building a plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle.

I'd say this was significant on a few fronts. A promising company built on creating a plug-in hybrid for commercial purposes is exciting on its own. Commercial vehicles can be perfect fits for electrification. With frequent stops, hybrid commercial vehicles can double or triple their gas savings. The IDEA saves 1,500 gallons of fuel per year vs its competitors while driving 40 miles on all electric and getting 40 mpg in standard hybrid mode.

But it also allows GM to expand on its use of its hybrid technology and parts. By expanding the user base, they can start cutting the costs (increasing scale and all that). Maybe that means they'll be able to cut the MSRP on vehicles like the Volt sooner rather than later.

And, it's a good sign for GM to be investing in others, not just itself. Looks like they are recovering. Either that or they are expanding too fast...

Press release follows:

Detroit, MI and Anderson, IN (August 3, 2010) — Bright Automotive and General Motors today announced they have agreed to pursue a strategic relationship and that GM has provided funding to the Indiana automaker. This is the first funding action by the newly-formed General Motors Ventures, LLC, and it will help accelerate Bright’s production of the IDEA, a revolutionary plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle.

“This relationship is an important step forward for Bright, and a strong endorsement of our highly experienced automotive team and our incredible vehicle,” said Reuben Munger, Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO. “With this deal, Bright gets financial support that puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the IDEA. And perhaps just as importantly, we gain a strategic partner that is a world leader in electrification.”

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding in July. General Motors Ventures LLC provided funding to Bright this week, and the two companies intend to complete the formal agreements later this year. Upon completion of the agreements and other terms, General Motors Ventures would have a minority stake in Bright Automotive ( and Bright would have access to GM technologies, and advanced engine and transmission systems, for its vehicle.

"Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business at GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage," said Jon Lauckner, President of GM Ventures. "In this case, our funding of Bright Automotive will accelerate the introduction of advanced propulsion and light-weight technologies in the commercial vehicle market."

“We talked with several leading automakers, but GM clearly had the right vision, the most capable technology, and the closest alignment with our business approach,” said Michael Brylawski, Bright Automotive Executive Vice President. “We are thrilled to work with GM to create American jobs, stimulate technology development, and build an innovative American vehicle that will help reduce oil dependence and cut costs for businesses.”

In developing the IDEA, Bright started with a clean sheet of paper, listened to customers, and took a novel approach to product development that focused on light-weighting, aerodynamics and a highly efficient drivetrain. The result is a multipurpose vehicle for business fleets — the first designed to be highly efficient and provide a clear economic benefit.

The IDEA delivers a positive total cost of ownership to fleet customers by providing significantly greater fuel efficiency than current fleet vehicles in its class. The IDEA operates in electric mode for 40 miles before switching to an estimated 36-mpg hybrid mode for 100+ mpg potential based on daily driving behavior. Bright Automotive provides details on the IDEA at

Funding through GM Ventures will allow Bright to begin ramping-up the development of the production program for the IDEA in the third quarter of 2010. Bright continues to seek a low interest loan through the Department of Energy’s ATVM program. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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