Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Autoweek interviews Ford's new hybrid chief

Nancy Gioia as the new director of Ford Motor Co.'s Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs was interviewed by Autoweek. Among her new responsibilities, Goia will be leading Ford's 300 member engineering team in developing the new hybrid transmission for Ford.

Nancy will be responsible for Bill Ford's goal of hybrid technology available in 50% of Ford's products. As part of that goal, the engineering team is working on Gen II hybrid technology which she expects to see in 2008 products. At the same time, they are already working on Generation III.

Working on Generation III when Gen II isn't available may seem strange, but as she puts it: "When we talk about generations, we are talking about taking advantage of consolidation and micronization - things getting smaller - which is good for hybrids because of better weight and smaller package." She goes on to say, "We already have an idea of what Gen III will look like, and we even have ideas for what comes after that."

Nancy seems to bristle when the interviewer mentions Toyota and Honda large lead when it comes to the area of hybrid technology. She points out Ford brought to market the first hybrid SUV. Also, they are the only SUV out that meets California's Partial Zero Emissions (PZEV).

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New features for the 2006 Toyota Prius

At PriusChat, a list of the new features is available on the 2006 Toyota Prius. A shortened look at what's new:

* New head and taillights.
* A new front spoiler.
* Four new colors available, including 2 silvers, a gray (May 2006) and a red.
* Lower rear seat for more head clearance
* A rear backup camera
* Hands free bluetooth wireless capability
* A Tire Pressure Monitoring System
* Standard driver and front passenger advanced airbags
* Roadside assistance has been discontinued

Base MSRP is being estimated at $21,725, or $450 more than 2005.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Assemblyman John Benoit, R - Palm Desert goes hybrid

Trading in his V-8 sedan for a Toyota Highland Hybrid is Assemblyman John Benoit's attempt to go greener.

"The recent rise in gas prices and release of studies showing the Inland Empire's air quality deteriorating led me to make the change to a more fuel efficient, less polluting vehicle," Benoit said in a statement.

"It is important to me as a government official to set a positive example in the area of fuel conservation and environmental protection."

EPA estimates of mgp is 30, but real world estimates put it in the high 20's. It seats seven for a smooth comfortable ride, although the engine can be noisy. MSRP is $33,030.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

A billboard in El Segundo, CA estimates the fuel savings

Toyota Billboard Marks 100 Million Gallons of Gas Saved by Driving Hybrids -- press release from Toyota

November 28, 2005 - Torrance, CA - While most of America was fueling up with turkey and fixings over the holiday weekend, a Toyota billboard marked a significant milestone in reducing fuel consumption.

The billboard, located beside the 405 Freeway in El Segundo, Calif., is similar to an odometer and clicks forward every four seconds to estimate the number of gallons of gas saved by Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles in the United States since the first Toyota Prius went on sale in 2000. On Friday, November 25, the billboard clicked over to 100,000,000 gallons saved…and is still counting.

"Every hybrid owner who passes a gas station knows they are using less fuel, but to look at that figure in total is truly impressive," said Toyota Vice President of Marketing Jim Farley. "The purpose of the billboard is to visually capture one of the most significant benefits of driving a vehicle with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive."

Other environmental benefits of the more than 250,000 Toyota and Lexus hybrids that have logged more than 5 billion miles include:
• Avoiding nearly 900,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere
• Allowing the savings of 4 million barrels of crude oil
• Avoiding more than 3 million pounds of smog-forming gases

Currently, there are three hybrid offerings from Toyota and Lexus, all of which are at least 80 percent cleaner for smog-forming emissions than the average vehicle. The Prius is the world's best-selling hybrid while the Highlander Hybrid and RX 400h luxury hybrid SUV are the two best-selling hybrid SUVs. Both SUVs offer V8-like performance with fuel mileage comparable to 4-cylinder cars.

Next year, Lexus will introduce the GS 450h hybrid luxury sedan and Toyota will make a hybrid powertrain available in America's most popular sedan, the Camry.

Worldwide, Toyota has sold more than 500,000 hybrids since 1997 and hopes to increase that number to a million hybrids a year by the early 2010s. To achieve that goal, Toyota plans to halve the cost of hybrid powertrains as early as possible.

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Restrictions on motorists proposed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area

According to an AP report, in an effort to meet tougher 2010 federal ozone standards deadlines, planners in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are proposing some restrictions on drivers. Most of the restrictions are based on making driving more expensive, restricting driving during peak traffic times and encouraging use of fuel-efficient vehicles.

One recommendation made includes the imposition of a one-time fee based on a new car's fuel efficiency. The new fee may be as high as $300 for a new SUV, but none for a hybrid.

Considering the cost of a new SUV, the addition of $300 to the price tag may not derail many purchasers from buying.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Nissan cautious about producing hybrids

Even though Nissan is launching a new hybrid car next year for sale in the United States, CEO Carlos Ghosn remains cautious about the production of hybrid cars.

Speaking to Kyodo News in Tokyo, Carlos stated ''Hybrid is a serious technology and it may be a very competitive technology. But until a consumer decides what he wants, we are cautious.''

''Until it is definitively established which technology is the final answer to the environmental question, we need to systematically pursue all solutions: diesel, ethanol, hydrogen, electric and hybrid,'' he told the news agency.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005 busts eight myths about hybrids

Myth #1: I will save a lot of money by driving a hybrid car
Costs at the pump will not save you the difference in the cost of the car. Add in extra for insurance and tax, and you will still be paying more. Don't forget tax credits and savings for buying a hybrid, but that depends on where you live. Most gas savings will occur for urban driving.

Myth #2: Hybrid cars have remarkable fuel economy
True and false. In urban settings, a lot of the wasted fuel spent idling at stop lights is saved, since the engine turns off. But in hard accelerating situations, such as speeding up to merge on the highway, the gas engine kicks in and your gas savings will be nill. Full hybrids will save on gas by running the electric motor in light running condtions.

Myth #3: Hybrids cause more environmental damage than they are suppose to cure
False. The batteries may be made of heavy metals, but 1) the mining and smelting of such is not necessarily outweighed by the emissions of a normal car and 2) the batteries are designed to last the life of the car at which point the various carmakers have a battery recycling program.

Myth #4: It's more expensive to maintain a hybrid
False. Since all hybrid components are designed to last the lifetime of the car, you shouldn't have to replace the battery unless the car is totaled. The brakes on a hybrid should last longer than on a normal car, as well. The only issue may be in finding someone to service the engine, as all mechanics may not be up to code in training

Myth #5: You need to plug your car in an outlet to recharge the batteries in your hybrid every night
False. Energy is restored to the battery by braking or by the engine. There's never any need to 'plug and play'.

Myth #6: Hybrid cars don't perform as well as their conventional counterparts
True and False. It all depends on the vehicle nowadays. The Honda Civic hybrid, for instance, has less get up and go than it's counterpart. But the Toyota Highlander Hybrid actually has more horsepower than it's SUV mate.

Myth #7: Hybrids are unsafe
False. Hybrid technology has no effect whatsoever on the safety rating of a vehicle.

Myth #8: Hybrids are the wave of the future
Unsure at this point. There are many alternative fuel vehicles coming out on the market these days. Diesel, fuel cell, and hybrids all have a shot at being the technology of tomorrow becoming the commonplace of today. It all depends on the marketplace, and what comes out of the labs of carmakers tomorrow.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Chamber of Congress suggesting a tax on mileage

It seems the federal Highway Trust Fund is runninng out of money and so the Chamber of Congress is suggesting a new federal tax based on miles. They are also suggesting the 18 cents a gallon federal tax be indexed for inflation. Proponents suggest this money is being used on the upkeep of roadways, so people should pay their fair share based on use, rather than mpg.

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Toyota's sales of hybrid vehicles passes the half million mark

Toyota announced on Friday it had surpassed 513,000 hybrid vehicles sold worldwide since it started selling the gasoline-electric hybrid in 1997. That total includes the 194,800 units sold during the January to October period this year , exceeding the 134,700 sold in all of 2004, Toyota said in a statement.

Toyota hopes to sell 1 million units a year starting in 2010.

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West Burlington, PA looks to cut costs by buying a hybrid

The Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority in West Burlington, PA purchased a hybrid 2006 Honda Civic. The authority's other vehicle is a Ford Taurus, estimated to get only have the mpg of their new vehicle.

In an effort to cut costs, the authority received a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to pay the difference between the hybrid car and an equivalent, regular car.

Read more about the authority's purchase of a hybrid at the

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tax credits and tax deductions

"Buying a hybrid vehicle will not save you money in the long run." And that's because hybrids tend to cost (on average) $3000 more than their counterparts. And the truth is you probably won't save that much on fuel costs over the lifetime of your car. But it's not the long run that could matter most. You could be saving money almost immediately through tax deductions (2005) or tax credits (2006).

You may be eligible for a "clean fuel" deduction of $2,000 if your hybrid vehicle is placed in service by the end of 2005. The following vehicles are eligible (from

Vehicle Make & Model
Model Years
Ford Escape Hybrid
Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda Insight
Lexus RX 400h
Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Toyota Prius
* Vehicles approved by IRS as of Nov. 14, 2005. Other hybrids may be approved at a later date.

After January 1st, 2006, you may be eligible for a tax credit instead. Estimated credits (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; for hybrid vehicles range from $250 to $3150 (the maximum possible under the provision is $3400), with the Toyota Prius projected to receive the highest credit.

So if you put together the savings in what you pay on your taxes and what you pay for filling up, you could be talking about significant savings over the lifetime of your car.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why buy a hybrid?

Patrick Bedard at car and driver lets readers in on a little secret about buying a hybrid. It's not about the money saved, it's about making a statement.

It's amazing to him why when you go out and buy "a shiny Ford F-250 Harley-Davidson Super Duty" no one will ever say, "You know, the mileage is not that great. You'll have to drive it till it's as used as Willie Nelson to save gas enough to get your cost back." But if you buy a hybrid, that will be the first comment you hear from everyone.

But just as with any car purchase that involves anything larger than a GEO Metro, it's all about choice and what you want to have. His most telling point: "If you want to save money on your next car, here's my advice: Skip the onboard nav option. You'll never save enough in maps and 50-cent phone calls to get your initial cost back."

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NYC now has hybrid taxis

In an effort to help clean up the air in NYC (ranked third worst in 2004), hybrid taxis can now be seen on the city streets. As part of the new TLC regulations and the "Clean Air Taxis Act" implemented this past summer, New York ’s cab drivers are now free to choose from seven gas-electric hybrid models.

Hybrid vehicles pollute far less and could achieve twice the city gas mileage of the current standard New York cab. The two-wheel-drive version of the Escape Hybrid achieves 36 miles per gallon in city driving, close to 500 miles per tank of gas, allowing cabbies to go an entire shift without taking time to fill up. - Which is why NY cabbies (or most likely, the cab companies) will slowly begin to mix in hybrids with their older gas-only vehicles.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Minivans and SUVs

Minivans and SUV's
Chevrolet Tahoe Expected 2007
Dodge Durango Expected 2008
Ford Escape Available Now
GMC Yukon Expected 2007
Lexus RX 400h Available Now
Mercury Mariner Available Now
Porsche Cayenne Expected 2008
Saturn VUE
Expected 2007
Toyota Highlander
Available Now
Toyota Sienna Expected 2007

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Honda Civic 2006

Honda will give the Toyota Prius a run for it's money this year with a slick new look to it's Civic hybrid. The EPA estimates of 50/50 mpg is more like a high 40's real world still outclasses most gas only motors.

What you notice first about this car is it's slick windshield. At 21.9 degrees, the nose runs right up to the top of the car. This leads to some wasted space between the windshield and the dashboard, although Honda filled it in with a two-tier instrument panel for the driver. The rest of the interior is about what you would expect in a Honda Civic. There is room for 5, although this is a compact, so you might have to squeeze a little in the back. The trunk space is limited at only 10.4 cu ft (as opposed to the hatchback utility of the Prius at 16.1).

There are some nice innovations from the engineers for the 1.3 liter engine, including a "full-hybrid" engine with a combined (gas/electric) horsepower of 110/2500 rpms. Like the Toyota Prius, it has a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with overdrive. The 2-stage IVTEC engine employs Honda’s variable valve system. You'll get more output from the high-density windings and high-performance magnets while maintaining the same size. The overall powertrain is also smaller. A/C is fully electric, saving on gas (although the A/C won't cool quickly).

Safety features include compatibility minded body structures and energy absorbing hood for collisions with larger vehicles and pedestrians respectively. Comes standard with ABS, alarm, side air bags, and side impact door beams.

Occasionaly drivers have noticed the start and stop of the gas engine, but it's not intrusive. The new full-hybrid engine allows electric only at low speeds. With a fuel tank of 13.2 gallons, you can get pretty far at a real-world estimate in the high 40's for mpg.

Overall, a step up by Honda in the field of hybrids. It's sleek look and low emissions (awarded PZEV - Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) should make the 2006 very popular this year.

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Ford Hybrid Patrol

It seems driving a hybrid in south today (Nov 22, 2005) San Francisco could pay off with a ticket, only this time it's not going to hurt your insurance rates. The South San Francisco Police Department is teaming up with the "Ford Hybrid Patrol" to pull over fuel-efficient drivers at random in a customized Mercury Mariner Hybrid patrol SUV (complete with flashers and bullhorn). Drivers will be rewarded free gas cards.

David Cue, Escape/Mariner HEV Chief Engineer, will also being giving fuel efficiency tips to both the lucky drivers and the police officers. It's all part of an effort to increase fuel efficiency in the police dept as well as raise awareness of hybrid vehicles. This story was found at the auto channel.

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Hybrid Rentals in Las Vegas

After noticing how bad the smog was in LA, Jeff Pink decided "We've got to do something about this (air pollution) or we're going to kill ourselves". As chief executive of EV Rental Cars, he now has an exclusive agreement with US Rent A Car in Las Vegas.

Last week, 20 cars rolled onto the lot, with another 80 being due by the end of the month. They're hoping to have 500 total, but with demand so high, it's going to take time to deliver. The hybrid vehicles at US Rent A Car would include the Toyota Prius and the new Honda Civic which seat 5 passengers each.

The hybrid vehicles will rent at about 20 percent higher than standard vehicles because of the higher demand. Read more about renting hybrid in Las Vegas at Las Vegas SUN.

EV Rental Cars, working with Fox Rent A Car, offers hybrids in six California locations and Phoenix. That includes San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Driving a hybrid has it's perks

According to the MercuryNews, driving a hybrid in california can have it's perks.

75,000 permits are being issued (27,000 have been issued so far) to drivers of the Prius, Civic and Insight) for HOV-lane access in the Bay Area. In order to apply, your car must get a minimum of 45 mgp and you must apply for a Fastrak transponder.

The San Jose Fairmont is offering free overnight parking to guest who drive a hybrid. The city of San Jose is offering free parking to those who buy and park in San Jose. You must apply for a special permit.

Weppronews is reporting an incentive program from Google, Hyperion and Timberland for their employees who purchase or lease a hybrid. Incentives range from $2500 to $5000. The article goes on to mention the new tax incentives starting in 2006. Tax credits are being estimated at $250 to $3150 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

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Keep it simple blog is letting you know about Ford's "keep it simple" program. The Ford Escape hybrid and the Mercury Mariner hybrid are being offered at a discount.

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Interest in hybrids is growing

"Fuel economy is the biggest issue that drives people to hybrids," said Mike Chung, an analyst with consumer automotive Web site "Three dollars has been the magic price point."

157,813 hybrids were sold through October compared with 64,014 hybrids during the same period last year. But Hybrids claim only 1.7 percent of the market although they are projected to grow to 3 or 4 percent in the next few years. In contrast, SUV's claim 22 percent of the market.

Jan. 1 will bring a perk: Buyers of new hybrids can claim federal tax credits. The credits are worth up to $3,400 per vehicle, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.

Read more at MENAFN.

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2005 Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius delivers on it's promise of cleaner with more power in it's second generation. With eye-popping mileage, it has a smooth hybrid power source that's more powerful than the first generation. The four door sedan fits four tall passengers comfortably along with hatchback utility leaving plenty of room in the trunk.

By decreasing emissions by 30 percent, the Prius hybrid drivetrain is cleaner than the first generation. It earned both the SULEV (Super Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle) and the PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle).

As you've already imagined, the hybrid engine is not going to win any drag races any time soon, but it has enough power to get you through normal traffic situations. The base 4 cylinder, 1.5 liter engine can go 0-60 in 10.37 seconds. Combining the electric and gas engines gives you 110 horsepower, with a torque of 82 ft-lbs. The FWD with continuous variable transmission (CVT) can take some getting used to. CVT means there's no gears, which means no shifting. Some drivers have noted a small shudder at start-up as the engine switches from electric to gas, but it's barely noticeable.

The EPA rated the Prius at 60/51 mpg city/highway, although real world testing has indicated it's closer to the low 40's. Still, with an 11.9 gallon fuel tank, you can get pretty far.

With 16.1 cubic feet in the trunk, it's outdistanced the Honda Civic (10) and come close to the Camry (16.9). The rear seats can fit two tall passengers comfortably. The center console display is clear and easy to read. The interior upholstery is as comfortable as it gets. The innovative automatic control system runs on electricity. With a humidity sensor, the A/C compressor shuts off when not needed. Cabin noise has been rated at minimal.

In government crash testing, the Prius received four out of five stars except in the driver side frontal test, in which it received 5. Anti-lock brakes with BrakeAssist are part of the base package.

Optional equipment includes side-impact/side curtains and electronic stability control. A voice activated navigation system, xenon headlamps and a keyless entry/starting system with carry-along transmitter are also available.

Toyota has a warranty coverage on the Prius consisting of 3-years/36,000-mi bumper-to-bumper coverage with 5/60,000 powertrain and 8/100,000 for the motor, battery pack, and other hybrid-related components.

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Formula One to go hybrid?

BAR Honda boss Nick Fry said energy efficiency was now a more important goal in design than the push for pure power and predicted the huge investment in research made by Formula One teams would have a knock-on effect in the car industry.

“Formula One is all about efficiency, about getting the maximum from what you can do within the rules.

“Fuel consumption is very important. If you can go that one extra lap, if you can use less fuel so you have a lighter car, then you will have a significant advantage."


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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Compacts and Sedans

Compacts & Sedans
Chevrolet Malibu Expected 2007
Honda Accord Available Now
Honda Civic Available Now
Honda Insight Available Now
Nissan Altima Expected 2006
Toyota Camry Expected 2007
Toyota Prius Available Now
Lexus GS Expected 2006

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$1.2 million grant to add hybrid transit buses

Lake Erie Transits (Michigan) gets a $1.2 million dollar federal grant to add hybrid transit buses to its fleet. The bus transport agency will apply $700,000 to the hybrids, while the other $500K will be appllied to the garage and maintenance bay.

"The money is part of $28.55 million earmarked for 10 transportation-related projects in Michigans 15th Congressional District as part of a federal appropriations bill." -

Ann Arbor and Detroit also received funds.

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Is buying a hybrid worth it?

Brand Hansen reviews the purchasing of a new hybrid vehicle (2006 Prius). He wants to compare the gas savings he would get (assuming a 2.50/gallon price tage) against the auto loan payments.

Not surprisingly, he comes down on the (economic) side of purchasing a 'classic' vehicle as opposed to buying a hybrid. This is unsurprising in the least as gas savings are not going to compare to auto loan payments even if the gase mileage was twice what the Prius is capable of. Note that he failed to factor in the tax savings, although he did note them near the end.

Read it over at OmniNerd.

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Toyota looks to decrease the size of hybrid vehicles

Toyota looks to roll out a cheaper and smaller hybrid system by 2008. They hope to double production to 600,000 vehicles a year at that point. By making the hybrid system smaller, they hope to cut costs on new cars. Toyota currently has 8 vehicles with hybrid systems available. They hope to increase that to the whole line.

Toyota currently makes 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year. They plan on increasing output to 350-400K a year next year by addition of the Camry being built in Kentucky and the Prius being built in China.


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