Thursday, December 21, 2006

Edmunds Predicts changes in 2007

With 2006 almost over and 2007 coming quickly (have you finished your shopping, yet?), is looking back at 2006 and forecasts big changes for the new year.

In 2006, subcompacts were up 63% compared to 2005. Also, those sales were happening quickly, with dealers selling them within 12 says of reaching the lots. Dealers average 64 days to 'turn' all vehicles.

Hybrid car sales increased 35% with the introduction of the Saturn Vue Greenline and Toyota Camry Hybrid. Compact cars increased sales 17.4%, while large trucks and SUVs dropped nearly 1 percent.

Press Release follows:

SANTA MONICA, (, the premier resource for automotive information, has compiled lists of the new cars and trucks most researched by the ten million monthly visitors in 2006. The most-researched cars are:
Rank Make Model

1 Honda Civic
2 Honda Accord
3 Toyota Camry
4 BMW 3 Series
5 Mazda Mazda3
6 Acura TL
7 Toyota Corolla
8 Infiniti G35
9 Volkswagen Jetta
10 Toyota Yaris

The most-researched minivans, SUVs and trucks are:
Rank Make Model

1 Toyota RAV4
2 Honda CR-V
3 Honda Pilot
4 Honda Odyssey
5 Toyota Tacoma
6 Toyota Sienna
7 Toyota Highlander
8 Chevrolet Tahoe
9 Toyota FJ Cruiser
10 Toyota 4Runner

Despite many recent new product introductions, most of the vehicles on the lists were also among the most researched in 2005. Newcomers to the 2006 list are the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota RAV4, which were both redesigned for 2007, and the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota Yaris, two new vehicles introduced this year. No longer in the top ten are the Acura MDX, Audi A4, Ford Escape and Ford F-150; however, each fell just a few spots and is in the top fifteen most-researched vehicles of 2006.

2006 Automotive Trends Spotted by

Gas Prices Shift Consumer Demand – Gas prices soared, reaching a national average of $3.03 per gallon for regular self-serve in August 2006, according to the American Automobile Association. As a result, many consumers researched and purchased more fuel-efficient vehicles, including subcompact vehicles, while sales of large trucks and SUVs declined. Specifically:

* Subcompact market sales increased 63% compared to 2005, thanks in part to the introductions of the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. On average, these three new model vehicles sold 12 days after arriving at dealerships. In contrast, the industry average “days to turn” was 64 in 2006.
* Hybrid vehicle market share increased nearly 35% compared to last year, largely due to the new hybrid tax credits and the introductions of the Saturn Vue Greenline and Toyota Camry Hybrid.
* Compact car market share increased from 15.9% in 2005 to 17.4% in 2006.
* Large trucks and SUVs each dropped nearly one percent in market share. The drop likely would have been much larger without the generous incentives automakers offered to buyers of these vehicles.

Domestics Lose Market Share – Chrysler, Ford and General Motors continue to feel the heat of import automakers, particularly Toyota. For example:

* Domestic manufacturers’ market share percentage dropped from 57.0% in 2005 to 54.6% in 2006. Import market share percentage increased from 43.0% in 2005 to 45.4%.
* All three domestic manufacturers experienced a loss of market share in 2006: Chrysler lost 5.1%; Ford declined 5.4%; and General Motors fell 6.0%.
* In 2006, Honda and Toyota achieved market share gains of 5.1% and 15.8%, respectively. Toyota sales now routinely outpace Chrysler, and for two months in 2006 Toyota sold more vehicles (including Lexus and Scion models) than the traditional number two U.S. automaker, Ford Motor Company.

Incentives Plateau – Incentive spending was relatively flat for domestic, Japanese and Korean automakers, while European automakers continued to be aggressive. Specifically:

* Average incentives for 2006 were $3,306 per domestic vehicle sold and $1,242 per Japanese vehicle sold. Average incentives for 2005 were $3,456 per domestic vehicle sold and $1,109 per Japanese vehicle sold
* In 2006, Chrysler led the domestic incentives war with average incentives of $3,750 per vehicle sold, while Ford spent $3,402 and GM spent $2,998. In 2005, GM led the pack with average incentives of $3,623 per vehicle sold, while Ford spent $3,148 and Chrysler spent $3,510.
* In 2006, Honda spent $708 per vehicle sold while Nissan spent an average of $2,386 and Toyota spent $1,046. In 2005, Honda spent $646 per vehicle sold, while Nissan spent an average of $1,769 and Toyota spent $961.
* In 2006, Korean automakers spent $1,818 per vehicle sold, up only 1.2% from $1,797 in 2005.
* In 2006, European brands spent nearly $2,730 per vehicle, up over 31% from $2,078 per vehicle in 2005. Included in that amount is incentive spending on subsidized leases, which rose over 35%.

2007 Automotive Trends Forecasted by expects light vehicle sales to be flat in 2007, with sales near expected 2006 levels of 16.5 million.

“Gas prices will be a leading factor in how consumers choose what vehicles they purchase in the coming year,” said Jesse Toprak, Executive Director of Industry Analysis for “Automakers who are prepared for that trend will enjoy great success in 2007.” also expects that:

* Many new products will attract consumers to domestic showrooms. GM has already made headway with the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, while the Buick Enclave, Chevy Malibu, Chrysler Town & Country and Ford Edge should also help keep domestic dealerships busy. However, U.S. automakers will continue to lose market share to Japanese brands and Hyundai. The Toyota Tundra, voted’s Most Significant Vehicle of 2007, will take a chunk of large truck market share from the domestic automakers. This is a very profitable segment, so any loss in market share will have a disproportionately large impact financially.
* In terms of sales volume, Toyota will overtake Ford as the number two automaker in America by mid-2007.
* Sales of crossover vehicles will continue to improve as midsize and large SUV owners seek better fuel economy. More attention will be directed to this issue as the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy ratings are released for all 2008 model vehicles.
* Hybrid vehicles will continue to gain mainstream interest with the release of new models such as the Chevy Tahoe, Dodge Durango, GMC Yukon, Nissan Altima and Saturn Aura Greenline. The new EPA ratings will hurt hybrid vehicles’ fuel economy figures, but consumers will be drawn to the technology regardless. Price premiums on hybrids will decrease as more models enter the marketplace and help satisfy demand.
* U.S. acceptance of diesel will expand with the introduction of Mercedes-Benz’s new BlueTec diesel technology and the new diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee.
* Leasing will continue to boom, with luxury manufacturers enjoying the largest gain. Thanks to leasing’s recent resurgence, certified pre-owned sales will increase in 2007 as a significant number of off-lease vehicles will enter the marketplace.
* More consumers will understand and reap the benefits of working with auto dealerships’ Internet departments.

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New York to add plug in hybrids (PHEV) to the state fleet

New York will add plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) to the state fleet through conversion. Over 500 vehicles will be switched to plugging in to cut down on emissions and for the higher mileage.

New York is spending 10 million dollars according to Governor Pataki to cut down on foreign energy dependence.

PHEVs are similar to hybrids in they switch from electric to gas to both energy sources to power the car. The battery is recharged through regenerative braking and by the gas engine. But they can also plug in to recharge the battery, usually at night. That way, they can go farther and faster on just battery power, cutting down on fuel costs and emissions.

Source: Capital News 9 | 24 Hour Local News | HEADLINES | Pataki announces hybrid vehicles | Pataki announces hybrid vehicles

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

CNW survey says interest in hybrids is down

According to a recent CNW Marketing Research survey, consumers who are considering a hybrid for their next purchase is down to 12 percent, down from 30 percent a year ago. The premium buyers are willing to pay is also down from $2,500 to $1,152.

The decline in interest is being placed at the stability in gas prices. As the prices have receded, so have sales.

Toyota is expecting to sell nearly 300,000 hybrids next year, while J.D. Powers expects hybrid sales to hit 330,00. Global Insight is predicting 450,000 hybrid vehicle sales next year, with half of those sales going to Toyota.

Around 230,000 hybrid cars have been sold through November this year.

Source: Hybrid interest may need refueling, research firm says | Chicago Tribune

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Kentucky tax credits for hybrids?

Kentucky may be offering a new $500 state tax credit for those who purchase hybrid vehicles. A bill introduced by Charlie Hoffman, Democratic Rep from Georgetown and Jim Wayne, Democratic Rep from District 35 in Jefferson County would cover any model or manufacturing plant.

Kentucky is particularly interested in the success of hybrids with the Toyota Camry hybrid being produced at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky and Ford having a Louisville Assembly Plant (which does not produce hybrids).

Source: Georgetown News-Graphic: News

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hybrid Cars in 2007

Hybrid Car sales in 2007 are going to be determined by many factors. These include gas prices, federal and state tax credits, new models arriving, new clean diesel sales (as well as other alternative gas engine fuels), and finally, the continued reliability of the hybrid cars that are out there.

Gas prices and hybrid car sales tend to follow each other closely. Gas prices are expected to stay around what we've seen in the past year. Unless some other natural (or man-made) disaster occurs, what we see now is what we should expect to see with some fluctuation up and down (the EIA is projecting prices to go down slightly). This stabilization should keep a downward pressure on hybrid car sales.

Toyota has broken through the 60,000 units sold barrier for the federal tax credits. And so, since October, federal tax credits were halved on all Toyota hybrids sold. Toyota has publicly blamed the lack of an increase in hybrid sales on that reduction. But on the other half of that coin, Toyota is still selling three of the four most popular hybrid vehicles on the road.

Also, no other car maker is likely to break through that barrier in the next year. Despite a rash of new hybrid vehicles that will be coming out and will be eligible for the federal tax credit, Toyota seems to have taken a huge lead in hybrid image, with the Prius especially becoming synonymous with hybrid. So, I don't expect this to have a huge affect on hybrid car sales in the coming months, even after Toyotas credits get halved again in March.

Various states and cities are considering or are offering other incentives, from car pool lane preferences to tax credits to free parking. As more incentives are offered, more buyers will pull the trigger.

I do expect large increases in sales due to the new models coming out in 2007. Despite being disparaged as not a full hybrid, the Vue hybrid sold 700 units in October. As each new hybrid models get released, I expect corresponding big jumps in hybrid car sales. Especially when the Nissan Hybrid Altima comes out, even in its limited sales areas. Other new hybrids expected to hit the road in 2007 include the Saturn Aura, the Chevrolet Equinox, Malibu, Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Chevy Silverado.

Other issues hybrid car sales will face is competition from other alternatives to the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE). These include new clean diesel engines and bio-fuels. Hybrids will fight back with better gas mileage (the next generation Prius will possible get 90+ mpg, for instance) and by plugging in. Also, you may see more mergers between the alternatives, as diesels become hybrids.

One other issue that may affect hybrid cars in 2007 is their continued reliability and the continued satisfaction hybrid car owners have. Despite being accused of smugness in 2006 (ie. South Park), hybrid car owners have shown very high satisfaction (consumer reports survey) with their choices and rightly so based on the reliability of hybrids so far. It will be hard to maintain such high ratings as new hybrid cars (from automakers with lower reliability ratings) enter the field, but we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

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Lexus Hybrids are popular in Europe

A surprising statement given all I hear from other 'green' sites is how diesel is so popular in Europe, putting hybrids to shame. And certainly in the US, Lexus hybrid sales are not exactly stellar.

But, Toyota stated that hybrid models proved "particularly popular with customers" in Europe. Toyota expects 6,100 sales in Germany and 60,000 in Europe next year for Lexus vehicles.

Source: The Raw Story | Record year for Lexus sales in Europe

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Japan has increased fuel economy requirements

Although, to be fair, requirements is a stronger word than what I should use. Although there are fines to automakers who fail to meet these rules, the fines themselves are quite small. It's the bad publicity for failing to meet the guidelines that Toyota, Honda, et al are more worried about.

Green Car Congress has the story from the Nikkei on the new requirements on average fuel economy for the carmakers in Japan. By 2015, passenger cars need to have an average fuel economy of 39.5 mpg (see the table below).

Proposed Average Fuel Economy
Vehicle class 2004 value 2015 est. value % change
Source: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Passenger cars 13.6 km/liter
7.4 l/100km
32.0 mpg US
16.8 km/liter
6.0 l/100km
39.5 mpg US
Small buses 8.3 km/liter
12.0 l/100km
19.5 mpg US
8.9 km/liter
11.2 l/100km
21.0 mpg US
Light cargo trucks 13.5 km/liter
7.4 l/100km
31.8 mpg US
15.2 km/liter
6.6 l/100km
35.8 mpg US

Compare that to the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. In 2006, the fleet requirement for passenger cars was 27.5 mpg and 20.7 mpg for light trucks. (If you're interested in seeing who's paid fines for not meeting these requirements, as well as how much, the NHTSA has a table of fines.

CAFE standards have been changed to look at a vehicles "footprint" — the product of its wheelbase and track. Some critics point out that this may have the unintended consequence of pushing manufacturers to make ever-larger vehicles to avoid strict economy standards.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bad Journalism?

I just read an article over at msnbc that just ticked me off by how wrong it was in its fact reporting that I ended up writing a response on their discussion board. I've copied it here to give you a chance to go over my response.

There were so many facts wrong in this article (or just plain misleading) that I felt I had to write in.
But sales of hybrid vehicles have fallen sharply since August as the price of gas has declined and Toyota has run up against a federal limit for tax credits that have helped fuel sales of the vehicles. From September to October, sales of Toyota hybrids, including the popular Prius model, tumbled 22.4 percent — a downturn that can be attributed in large part to a quirk in federal law, according to Alex Rosten,’s manger of pricing and market analysis.
All car sales are down from August. You need to compare to last year same month the way car reports are done. If you do so, you will see that hybrid car sales are up. See GreenCarCongress or my hybrid review site for details.

The Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid, for example, is one of several “value” hybrids to be introduced by General Motors over the next few years. It goes on sale next year and will cost just $1,000 more than the regular Saturn Vue.
The Vue Green Line is already on sale.

"Some think a hybrid will get the stated EPA mileage returns of 50 or 60 miles per gallon all the time," Rosten said. "But if you are using the hybrid on the highway you are using the gas engine, and cars like the Prius are much better-suited for around town driving in gridlock — they are not meant to be long-distance driving cars."
Yes, hybrid cars get better mileage in the city vs highway, which is the reverse of what people are used to, but the Prius is still rated at 51 mpg on the highway. How is this not meant for long distance driving?

She concludes that a driver who buys a Honda Accord hybrid, which can cost some $3,000 more than a regular model, will need 10 to 12 years to break even in fuel savings, assuming the price of gas remains within the $2.50 to $3 range.
You picked the Accord Hybrid for comparison? The Accord hybrid was built to improve performance, not fuel economy. When Edmunds (search for their press release or go here) asked the same question, they found it took 2.9 years driving the Ford Escape hybrid 15,000 miles a year to break even (I can cherry pick, too).

Please do some more research before you write another article, or at least try to present a more balanced report.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mazda will introduce the 2008 Tribute Hybrid

The 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid will be introduced at the Detroit Auto Show. It will be Mazdas first hybrid to hit the market. It should be very similar to the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid.

Source: Mazda Ryuga concept and Mazda Tribute Hybrid at Detroit | Auto Shows Blog at Motor Trend
The Tribute, like its Ford Escape sibling, is heavily revised for 2008 and the hybrid version on the Mazda show stand will be the automaker’s first advanced-technology vehicle for sale to the public when it hits dealership showrooms next year.

The Tribute Hybrid features a combined power output of its gasoline engine and electric motor of 155 horsepower and meets strict Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEVII) and Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) standards in California – the strictest emission regulations in the country.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dept of Energy finds 84% of the country could switch to plug-in hybrids

The Department of Energy released a press statement today on how 84% of the country could switch to plug-in hybrids without overwhelming the energy system. "Off-peak" energy consumption (i.e. when you plug the car in at night), could help fuel the next generation of hybrid cars.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) plug-in at night (or when stopped, but I assume you would most likely have a plug at home, not at work or when you are out in general) to recharge the battery. Then the car battery would power the vehicle for xx miles, xx depending on how large the battery is, what type it is, and your particular driving style. Then, the car would switch to being powered by the gas engine and/or electric engine, just as a hybrid (non-plug-in) does.

What this does is switch a majority of the power consumption to the energy grid, which may (or may not) be a good thing. Since environmentalists worry about coal burning power plants, for instance, this may not be a wonderful solution. But, drivers would get better mpg, plus get the lower emissions a hybrid gets. And unlike an electric car, you wouldn't be so limited. For instance, if you forgot to plug in the car (or a plug was not available) you would just have to put in more gas, since the gas engine would be used more.

Press Release follows:

RICHLAND, Wash. – If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. A new study for the Department of Energy finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country's 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

Researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also evaluated the impact of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, on foreign oil imports, the environment, electric utilities and the consumer.

"This is the first review of what the impacts would be of very high market penetrations of PHEVs, said Eric Lightner, of DOE's Office of Electric Delivery and Energy Reliability. "It's important to have this baseline knowledge as consumers are looking for more efficient vehicles, automakers are evaluating the market for PHEVs and battery manufacturers are working to improve battery life and performance."

Current batteries for these cars can easily store the energy for driving the national average commute - about 33 miles round trip a day, so the study presumes that drivers would charge up overnight when demand for electricity is much lower.

Researchers found, in the Midwest and East, there is sufficient off-peak generation, transmission and distribution capacity to provide for all of today's vehicles if they ran on batteries. However, in the West, and specifically the Pacific Northwest, there is limited extra electricity because of the large amount of hydroelectric generation that is already heavily utilized. Since more rain and snow can't be ordered, it's difficult to increase electricity production from the hydroelectric plants.

"We were very conservative in looking at the idle capacity of power generation assets," said PNNL scientist Michael Kintner-Meyer. "The estimates didn't include hydro, renewables or nuclear plants. It also didn't include plants designed to meet peak demand because they don't operate continuously. We still found that across the country 84 percent of the additional electricity demand created by PHEVs could be met by idle generation capacity."

"Since gasoline consumption accounts for 73 percent of imported oil, it is intriguing to think of the trade and national security benefits if our vehicles switched from oil to electrons," added PNNL energy researcher Rob Pratt. "Plus, since the utilities would be selling more electricity without having to build more plants or power lines, electricity prices could go down for everyone."

Lightner noted that "the study suggests the idle capacity of the electric power grid is an underutilized national asset that could be tapped to vastly reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

The study also looked at the impact on the environment of an all-out move to PHEVs. The added electricity would come from a combination of coal-fired and natural gas-fired plants. Even with today's power plants emitting greenhouse gases, the overall levels would be reduced because the entire process of moving a car one mile is more efficient using electricity than producing gasoline and burning it in a car's engine.

Total sulfur dioxide emissions would increase in the near term due to sulfur content in coal. However, urban air quality would actually improve since the pollutants are emitted from power plants that are generally located outside cities. In the long run, according to the report, the steady demand for electricity is likely to result in investments in much cleaner power plants, even if coal remains the dominant fuel for our electricity production.

"With cars charging overnight, the utilities would get a new market for their product. PHEVs would increase residential consumption of electricity by about 30 - 40 percent. The increased generation could lead to replacing aging coal-fired plants sooner with newer, more environmentally friendly versions," said Kintner-Meyer.

"The potential for lowering greenhouse gases further is quite substantial because it is far less expensive to capture emissions at the smokestack than the tailpipe. Vehicles are one of the most intractable problems facing policymakers seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Pratt.

Finally, the study looked at the economic impact on consumers. Since, PHEVs are expected to cost about $6,000 to $10,000 more than existing vehicles - mostly due to the cost of batteries -- researchers evaluated how long it might take owners to break even on fuel costs. Depending on the price of gas and the cost of electricity, estimates range from five to eight years - about the current lifespan of a battery. Pratt notes that utilities could offer a lower price per kilowatt hour on off-peak power, making PHEVs even more attractive to consumers.

Adding "smart grid" communications technology to ensure the vehicles only charge during off-peak periods and to provide immediate, remote disconnect of chargers in event of problems in the power grid would make them attractive to utilities.

PNNL is a DOE Office of Science laboratory that solves complex problems in energy, national security, the environment and life sciences by advancing the understanding of physics, chemistry, biology and computation. PNNL employs 4,200 staff, has a $725 million annual budget, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965.

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New mileage (mpg) ratings

The EPA is coming out with its new rating system for calculating mpg in new cars. Complaints were made about the old rating system given its age and unrealistic numbers (the most quoted complaint being testing was done without air conditioning or cold weather driving).

And so, the EPA has revised its tests to deliver more 'real world' figures. And so, consumers should expect a severe drop in mpg ratings on the window stickers. Hybrid cars are expected to get hit harder, since they have farther to drop.

The new figures are to be found on 2008 models, which may be found on dealers lots as soon as next month. Automakers expect quite a sticker shock from the new system, and have set up a new website to detail more information,

The EPA is also requiring vehicles as large as 10,000 pounds, up from 8,5000 lbs, to have stickers by 2011 for the first time.

Source: Automotive News (reg require)

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Toyota plans on a hybrid diesel

Toyota bought an 5.9 percent stake in Isuzu with plans on expanding their relationship. Toyota has been the leader in hybrid technology, while Isuzu has made itself known for diesels. Now, Toyota wants to bring the two together.

According to a story out of Edmunds: Inside Line: the partners are looking to emphasize each of their strengths. Isuzu will concentrate on diesel engine production and emissions-control technologies, while Toyota wil concentrate on ""environmental technologies, including basic engine and other technologies and other technologies related to alternative fuels."

In other words, they are looking to put hybrids into diesels sometime in the future.

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Nissan Hybrid Plans

Despite Nissan being so cautious in its approach to hybrids, they still want to produce them in the future. In January, they will start selling the Nissan Altima hybrid (at a loss, no less) in limited terms. Only eight states will be offering the only hybrid offering from Nissan. And that is being built off of Toyota technology.

But, by 2010, Nissan is promising a hybrid based off their own technology, followed by a plug-in hybrid (no deadline on when that will come out). The Nissan hybrid technology will be based on lithium-ion batteries powering their electric powertrains.

According to their press release: "At Nissan we believe that in order to develop vehicles that are truly environmentally friendly, we need to make significant advances in internal combustion technology while working on electrical power sources in parallel," said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Executive Vice President, Research and Development, Nissan Motor Company.

In the same paragraph, they are also promising the next generation fuel cell vehicle with its own in-house developed stack and a battery-powered electric vehicle. In other words, they have big plans over there at Nissan. Just don't expect them to be first with anything.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cost per Mileage

Out of curiosity, I decided to see who was paying the least (or most) in initial cost for the sake of fuel economy. Although the results aren't surprising, it becomes easy to see why some cars are so popular with hybrid car buyers.

To start with, I needed the likely cost to buy each hybrid car, followed by it's mileage. I got the purchase price and mileage (city/highway mpg) at Then I calculated the mixed fuel economy (60% highway, 40% city). Then I divided the purchase price by the mixed mileage to get a buyers initial cost per mileage.

Hybrid Vehicle* Car/SUV City Hwy Mixed Purchase Price Cost per Mileage
Honda Insight Car 57 56 56.4 $ 21,530.00 $ 381.74
Toyota Prius Car 60 51 54.6 $ 23,070.00 $ 422.53
Honda Civic Car 49 51 50.2 $ 24,590.00 $ 489.84
Toyota Camry Car 40 38 38.8 $ 26,200.00 $ 675.26
Saturn VUE SUV 27 32 30 $ 23,710.00 $ 790.33
Ford Escape SUV 36 31 33 $ 27,260.00 $ 826.06
Mercury Mariner SUV 33 29 30.6 $ 27,950.00 $ 913.40
Honda Accord Car 28 35 32.2 $ 33,090.00 $ 1,027.64
Toyota Highlander SUV 32 27 29 $ 36,550.00 $ 1,260.34
Lexus RX 400h SUV 33 28 30 $ 42,580.00 $ 1,419.33
Lexus GS 450h Car 25 28 26.8 $ 54,900.00 $ 2,048.51
* All hybrid vehicles are 2007 except for the Insight (which is out of production).

Not surprisingly, better mileage gives you better return. But it also becomes obvious why the Accord has suffered so in sales. When you start looking at how much you're paying for the hybrid, but without the benefit of the fuel economy.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

2008 Ford Fusion Hybrid

leftlanenews has a spy shot of the Ford Fusion Hybrid engine. Due in 2008, the Fusion Hybrid should be quite a site, built off the same (I believe) engine as the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid engine.

Spied: Ford Fusion Hybrid | Leftlane News - Car News For Enthusiasts

Ford has begun testing prototypes for its Fusion Hybrid, as evidenced by this prototype caught with its hood up. Spies noticed that the parking lot of a facility known to be the primary development site for Ford's Escape Hybrid was suddenly awash in Fusion test cars.

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Lexus Hybrids in Test Drive Unlimited for the Xbox 360

It seems Lexus is looking to widen their marketing to younger drivers. So, they've agreed to put the IS350, LS 460, GS450h, SC430 roadster, and the LS600h L (available in 2008) into Atari's Test Drive Unlimited for the Xbox 360.

Gamers will be able to test drive any of the models after 'purchasing' them from a virtual dealership. The showroom will look like a real Lexus showroom. Players will also be allowed to personalize their new ride from a virtual catalogue.

Source: Lexus Drives Into Gaming World - The Car Connection

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Volvo invests in next generation battery development

According to a news story from, Volvo has invested £150,000 in TranSiC AB. Transic AB is developing a conductor based on silicon carbide.

Silicon carbide is used to conduct current in electric motors. Silicon Carbide has a higher resistance to heat, and can be made smaller and more compact. If the promise is fulfilled, hybrid cars can be made lighter and cheaper.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Hybrid Sales, November 2006

Hybrid car sales rose once again to 18,283 units sold in the month of November, an increase of 13.5% over last year. Increases were mainly due to the introduction of the Toyota Camry Hybrid in April. Toyota and Ford hybrid sales were both up by 19.3% and 28.0%, respectively. Honda continues to suffer in comparison to last year, however, with Accord hybrid sales way down.

Honda continues to suffer from the strong start of the Accord Hybrid. The Honda Accord Hybrid was built with performance, not fuel economy, in mind. With only 311 units sold, sales were down 62.8%. Honda Civic Hybrid sales increased 6% to 2,208 units sold. While the out of production Insight sold 2 units.

Toyota had mixed numbers. While the Prius was up 1.5% to 8,008 units sold, the Highland Hybrid SUV was down 29.2% to 1,667 units sold. The Lexus RX 400h was also down 22.9% to 1,327 units sold. But the Toyota Camry Hybrid is still the second most popular hybrid car sold today, with 3,100 units sold (introduced in April, 2006). 176 units of the Lexus GS 450h (introduced in April, 2006) were sold.

Ford increased sales of its Ford Escape Hybrid and its luxury sister, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid by 28.0% to 1,484 units. (Note: I'm not entirely sure about that number. I'm thinking there's an issue with the number from my source. I'll check it and return if it needs fixing.)

Once again, Toyota sales would have dropped if not for the introduction of the Camry. The likely source of their problems is the phase out of the federal tax credit on hybrids built by Toyota. Toyota is currently petitioning Congress to extend the tax credits on hybrids in an effort to boost their sales (they are the only car company affected by the phase out, or for that matter, the only car company likely to be affected at all!).

At the same time, Toyota is still dominating the hybrid marketplace. They sold 78.1% of the hybrids in November (excluding the Vue Greenline, more about that below), with 43.8% of hybrid car sales coming from the Prius, by itself. Honda sold 13.8%, while Ford sold the remaining 8.1%.

The top selling hybrid cars in November were the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Hybrid SUV sales were down 24.4%, while hybrid car sales were up 12.1%.

GM did not break out the Saturn Vue hybrids sale. I'm not sure how I'm going to go about reporting their sales or including their numbers. Again, you'll have to stay tuned. When I hear about it you will. I did see, according to autobytel, about 700 Vue Hybrids were sold in October.

October Hybrid Sales, 2006.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Toyota hopes federal tax credit on hybrid cars get extended

It seems Jim Press, North American President for Toyota, wants the tax credits extended. He's attributing a drop in sales for Toyota hybrids to the halving of tax credits back on September 30th.

When any automaker surpasses a 60,000 vehicle limit sold, the federal tax credit on hybrid cars goes into a phase out period. Every two quarters following that point will halve the credit. For instance, the Prius had its tax credit go from $3,150 to $1,575 on October 1st.

Toyota is the only company to surpass that limit (and is probably the only company in danger of passing that limit before the tax credit ends in 2010).

The limit was originally intended as a domestic incentive. Once the limitation was surpassed, consumers were assumed to be more likely to buy from another car maker (say Ford or GM) since they have not passed that mark and can still offer the full credit.

And it looks like Toyota is feeling the pressure from that loss. Press is trying to encourage Congress to extend the federal tax credit on hybrid cars and he has backing from the President. Some environmentalists also would like to see the tax credit extended.

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2008 Ford Escape Hybrid

The 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid was first shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show and now Ford has released some details on the changes you can expect to see.

The biggest changes are in the hybrid system itself. Software 'tweeks' and changes to the hybrid engine allow a smoother transition from electric to gas power. Also, when the car is economy mode, the air conditioner will shut off when the car comes to a stop, allowing the gas engine to turn off. The new display will also show instant mileage readings (source: autobloggreen)

Ford has also made an effort to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels inside the vehicle.

Press Release from Ford follows:

The Ford Escape, America’s best-selling compact utility vehicle, has a completely new look inside and out for 2008. Escape now makes a powerful statement with a bolder, rugged exterior design that bears a stronger family resemblance to the Ford Explorer and Ford Expedition. The all-new interior resets the bar for small utility vehicles, with more upscale appointments, new innovative storage options, and improved comfort and quietness. In addition, chassis refinements deliver impressive fuel economy and agile driving dynamics that belie the Escape’s rugged exterior.

“The 2008 Escape offers the capability and styling of a traditional SUV with the benefits of crossover construction – building on the successful formula that has made the Escape America’s favorite small utility vehicle for six years,” says Cisco Codina, group vice president, North America Marketing, Sales and Service. “The new Escape offers a more refined ride, go-anywhere capability, impressive fuel economy, up to 3,500 pounds of towing, and a more comfortable interior that is quieter and more versatile.”

The combination of traditional SUV capability and crossover construction made the original Escape an instant success. More than one million Escapes have been sold since its introduction as a 2001 model – more than any other small utility vehicle or crossover of any size. Six years later, Escape remains the sales leader of the small-utility segment, a remarkable feat considering the segment has almost doubled, from 800,000 sales in 2000 to a projected 1.5 million in 2006.

Bolder, Tougher Exterior Design

“The goal from the beginning was to make Escape look even stronger and tougher than the original,” says Doyle Letson, chief designer for the 2008 Escape. “We raised the beltline to give the profile a strong, modern proportion of sheetmetal to glass. Then, we sculpted the surfaces for a more Ford Tough Truck appearance, that now matches Escape’s capabilities.”

The high beltline is further emphasized by the new blacked-out B-pillars, integrated running boards, available 17-inch wheels, and the deletion of the original Escape’s molded-in color fascias and lower bodyside molding.

To integrate the higher beltline, the hood has also been raised and now features a unique “reverse crease” design that draws the eye to the detailed surface. The new front fascia has headlamps that sweep up toward the front corners of the vehicle to short side marker lamps. The new headlights bracket the dramatic new grille.

Refined and Recycled Interior

The 2008 Escape is believed to be the first U.S. automotive application of seating surfaces made from 100 percent post-industrial materials, supplied by InterfaceFABRIC, Inc. InterfaceFABRIC estimates that Ford’s use of post-industrial materials, rather than virgin fibers, could conserve an estimated 600,000 gallons of water, an estimated 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, and the equivalent of more than 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Escape also showcases Ford’s first use of a “top of dash” display positioned at eye level on the dashboard, which shows ambient temperature, radio functions and climate-control readouts. This simple, efficient design puts much of the vehicle’s information in one place at the top of the dashboard, making it easier to reference when driving.

Also improving ease-of-use is the clean, uncluttered center console. Rather than the traditional “brick” design for the radio and temperature controls, Escape features dials and buttons that “poke-through” the center console. The instrument panel houses audio and climate controls, a standard MP3/iPod audio jack, and controls for the available heated seats and in-dash navigation system.

Escape’s interior also features the first use of Ford’s new, signature Ice Blue interior lighting. The cool blue lighting replaces the traditional green on the instrument cluster, the center console, the redundant controls on the steering wheel, and the door lock and window switches. Ice Blue presents a cool, crisp, easy-on-the-eyes light for night driving and enhances the overall feel of the interior.

Escape’s center console is large enough to hold a laptop computer, and there are three levels of storage space. In addition, the center console features two removable bins with innovative dovetail mounting points, which allows the bins to be hung from the front passenger side and rear of the console for additional storage.

Engineers made a host of changes to the 2008 Escape to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels inside the vehicle.

The 2008 Escape is one of the first Ford Motor Company vehicles to use speed-sensitive Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS), a sophisticated system that helps correct for road irregularities and improves overall steering feel.

Conventional power steering systems use an engine-driven hydraulic gear, which saps power and efficiency from the engine. The 2008 Escape’s new EPAS system uses an electric motor, rather than the engine’s accessory drive. This new system helps improve fuel economy and eliminates the hydraulic noises typical of conventional hydraulic power-assisted steering systems.

In addition, new recessed channels in the vehicle’s roof panel are designed to improve airflow over the top of the vehicle, while horizontal ribs in the roof also strengthen the body structure and help reduce boom noise in the cabin. A new acoustic laminate sandwiched between two glass panels in the windshield and an acoustic headliner also help decrease wind noise. New interior carpeting, which is up to 50 percent thicker, further improves the isolation from road and wind noise.

Compared with the previous model, the 2008 Escape is 12 percent quieter on the highway (30.8 sones to 27 sones at 80 mph in the wind tunnel) and 20 percent quieter in high velocity crosswinds.

Standard Safety Equipment and Fuel-efficient Powertrains

Under its skin, the 2008 Escape has one of the most advanced safety packages in the small SUV segment. Escape comes standard with Safety Canopy™ side air curtains, which provide head and neck protection for the first- and second-row passengers, as well as standard side-impact air bags that deploy out of the upper portion of the front seats to protect the upper and lower torso of the driver and passenger. In addition, I-4 and V-6 Escape models come standard with Ford’s exclusive AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control).

The 2008 Escape’s standard 2.3-liter, 16-valve Duratec 23 I-4 produces 153 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 152 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm, paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The available 3.0-liter, 24-valve V-6 Duratec 30 engine makes 200 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 193 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,850 rpm. With a four-speed automatic, the V-6 powered Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Ford Escape Hybrid continues to be a “full” hybrid. This means that, unlike other “mild” hybrid vehicles, Escape Hybrid can run on 100 percent electric power up to about 25 mph, maximizing in-city fuel economy.

At low speeds, power is delivered by a permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor, producing 70 kw @ 5,000 rpm and 330V maximum voltage. When additional power is required, the Escape Hybrid’s 2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine seamlessly engages, contributing 133 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 124 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm. The net result is 155 horsepower with 0-60 times comparable to a 200 horsepower V-6 engine and a boost in city-driving fuel economy of nearly 75 percent. Escape Hybrids are equipped with a smooth-shifting, electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

For 2008, Escape Hybrid engineers made revisions to software in the control system to improve transparency, or the transition between gasoline and electric operation. The transition from all-electric to gasoline power to a combination of the two is now even more seamless and virtually imperceptible to the driver.

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures and distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With about 300,000 employees and more than 100 plants worldwide, the company’s core and affiliated automotive brands include Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. Its automotive-related services include Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit

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Ford Escape Hybrid, 2nd Generation

According to Dailytech, Ford announced details on the next generation Ford Escape Hybrid.

The latest Ford Escape will ride on the same platform (103" wheelbase), changed the interior, and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. They also updated the electric power assisted steering. But there won't be any major changes to the powertrain or the hybrid system. The biggest change there involves software 'tweeks' in order to make the transition from all electric to gasoline more transparent.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Saturn Vue hybrid goes dual mode in 2008

GM announced the Saturn Vue will become a 2-mode hybrid in 2008.

The current Saturn Vue hybrid uses a belt-alternator system to recharge the battery used in the relatively small electric engine. This allows the electric engine to assist the gas engine in acceleration and allows the gas engine to shut off when the SUV stops. That and other improvements gave the new hybrid Vue about 5 mpg increase over the conventional Vue.

With the new front wheel drive, 2-mode hybrid system (the dual mode system will debut in 2007 with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size hybrid SUVs) should increase fuel economy by 45 percent over the conventional Vue.

The electric engine will be coupled with GM's 3.6L V-6 gas engine, with direct injection and variable valve timing. The battery pack will be nickel-metal hydride powering two active cooled permanent magnet motors.

From the press release:

The front-wheel-drive, 2-mode hybrid system optimizes city and highway fuel efficiency by integrating two electric continuously variable modes with four fixed mechanical gear ratios.

This design is similar to the 2-mode hybrid system for rear-wheel-drive applications, which will debut next year in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs.

The 2-mode hybrid system improves fuel economy by the following operations:

* Engine off at idle
* Low speed electric-only propulsion
* Electric boosting during brisk acceleration, climbing steep grades or towing
* Cutting off fuel to the engine during vehicle deceleration
* Regenerative braking
* Engine speed and load control

“The 2-mode hybrid system has the flexibility to improve fuel efficiency across a range of vehicles,” Stephens said. “For example, in 2003, we introduced the 2-mode hybrid system for transit buses. In 2007, the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon 2-mode full-size SUVs will debut, followed by the Vue Green Line 2-mode in 2008.”

By using two electric modes and four fixed gear ratios, the 2-mode hybrid system’s electric motors are smaller, compared with traditional “one-mode” hybrid systems, and impose no significant limitation on the size of the engine.

Consequently, the 2-mode hybrid system fits into the same space as a conventional automatic transmission, minimizing packaging, cost and weight issues. The result is exciting performance and outstanding fuel economy.

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Saturn Vue Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)

GM released some more information on what the plug-in Saturn Vue Hybrid would be like.

It will (if made) use the 2-mode hybrid system, developed co-jointly with BMW and DaimlerChrysler. The dual mode system will debut in 2007 with the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size hybrid SUVs.

It will also utilize lithium-ion batteries, when ready. As Wagoner (Chief Executive of GM) puts it, "The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable. I can’t give you a production date for our plug-in hybrid today. But I can tell you that this is a top priority program for GM, given the huge potential it offers for fuel-economy improvement."

Plug-in hybrids allow cars to extend their electric-only periods. Hybrid car batteries are recharged by the gas engine and regenerative braking. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) get recharged overnight from the electric grid. Some critics claim that plugging in to the grid just switches the pollution from the gas exhaust to the power stations (some of which run on coal).

The Saturn Vue plug-in would be expected to run for more than 10 miles on electric-only. At higher speeds, higher acceleration or longer distances, the hybrid engine (i.e. gas and electric combined) would power the SUV.

The powertrain will feature Lithium-ion batteries hooked into a two interior permanent magnet motors along with a 3.6L V-6 gas engine with direct injection.

The 2-mode hybrid system will be altered for use with plug-in technology. It maintains two driving modes – one for city driving, the other for highway driving – and four fixed mechanical gears to maximize efficiency while maintaining performance. In addition, special controls will be utilized to enable higher speeds during electric-only propulsion and maintain electric-only propulsion for longer periods of time.

The future of GMs hybrid vehicles follows (direct from the press release):

  • This year, the GM Hybrid system, an affordable belt-alternator starter hybrid technology, debuted in the Vue Green Line front-wheel-drive SUV.
  • In 2007, the GM Hybrid system will expand to the Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevrolet Malibu front-wheel-drive midsize sedans.
  • In 2007, the 2-mode hybrid system will debut in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs. Rear-wheel and four-wheel drive will be offered.
  • In 2008, the 2-mode hybrid system will expand to the Cadillac Escalade full-size SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra crew cab full-size pickups. The Escalade will offer all-wheel drive, while the Silverado and Sierra will offer rear-wheel and four-wheel drive.
  • In 2008, the first front-wheel-drive application of the 2-mode hybrid system, will debut – without plug-in technology – in the Vue Green Line. The Vue Green Line will offer customers a choice of the GM Hybrid system or the 2-mode hybrid system.
  • In 2009, an electric all-wheel-drive, 2-mode hybrid system will be introduced in the Vue Green Line.

Saturn Vue Plug In HybridUpdate: With the release of the plug-in Saturn Vue at the auto show in Detroit, I thought I should come back and give an update. Follow the links for more information on the Saturn Vue Green Line 2, the next dual mode hybrid from GM. Although Saturn was hoping to get the plug-in Vue out in 2009, the latest word is it won't be available until 2010. GM is hoping the Volt will go 40 miles on electric power alone, but the Vue will get 10 miles. Instead, the trade off will benefit the Vue's towing power, allowing it to still tow 3,500 lbs. GM currently thinks the Vue may get to the starting line before the Volt does.

The competition isn't sitting still, either. The latest plug-in hybrid news comes from Fisker and Toyota. Both are hoping to beat GM to the line. Fisker is hoping to get the Karma, a four door sedan out before anyone else. But Toyota already has a test version of a plug-in Prius (the HV) on the road in Japan.

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GMs big announcement today at the Los Angeles Auto Show involved plug-in hybrid technology and, surprisingly, the Saturn Vue. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner announced GM will develop a plug-in version of the Vue when the battery technology is there.

"The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they also are surmountable," Wagoner said.

Predictions set the plug-in front-drive, V-8 two-mode hybrid Vue would get 70 mpg. Considering the Saturn Vue Hybrid (Greenline) gets 32 mpg highway, 27 mpg in the city, that would be quite an improvement.

Source: MSN Money Central

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Volkswagen hybrids

Volkswagen is looking to make a splash in the hybrid car marketplace by designing their own hybrid system. According to the German trade magazine AUTOMOBIL-PRODUKTION, VW wants to place a hybrid engine into the VW Golf.

First tests show a twenty five percent savings in fuel economy. The VW "Mega" hybrid weighs 65 kilogrammes, some 35 kilogrammes lighter than the system used in the Toyota Prius.

They are replacing the tooth wheel system or gearshift enplaced in current hybrids with an electric transmission and a variable gearbox system. The entire VW hybrid is no bigger than a four-gear transmission and can be switched into different modes from micro-hybrid with start-stop functions, mild-hybrid that converts braking energy and full hybrid allowing drive with electric energy. By reducing the weight, VW is looking to increase fuel savings on the highways, rather than just in stop and go traffic.

Source: VW Developing New Hybrid System - Biz News - - Business & World

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2007 Honda Hybrid Tax Credits

Honda had the IRS confirm their tax credits for their 2007 hybrid vehicles, including the Honda Accord Hybrid and the Honda Civic Hybrid. The 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid will net you a $2100 tax credit (if you're eligible), while the 2007 Honda Accord Hybrid allows a $1300 tax credit. Buyers of the 2007 Civic GX (Natural Gas Vehicle) will be eligible for a tax credit of $4000.

After any carmakers sells 60,000 hybrid cars, the tax credits start phasing out for consumers. Honda, unlike Toyota, is unlikely to hit the barrier which halves the tax credit any time soon.

Press Release from Honda follows:

IRS Confirms Tax Credit Eligibility for 2007 Honda Hybrid and Natural Gas Vehicles

Customers who purchase a new 2007 Honda hybrid or natural gas vehicle may be eligible for federal tax credits ranging from $1,300 to $4,000 when they file their tax returns for the year in which it was purchased, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today. The announcement is the result of a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which calculated the tax credits based on the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed by Congress last year. Honda's 2007 Civic Hybrid, Civic GX and Accord Hybrid are all eligible for the federal government's tax credits.

The federal tax credits are as follows:
Model Federal Tax Credit
2007 Civic Hybrid -- $ 2,100
2007 Accord Hybrid -- $ 1,300
2007 Civic GX -- $ 4,000

Additionally, buyers of the natural gas vehicle home refueling appliance named "Phill" are also eligible for up to a $1,000 tax credit. Phill allows consumers to refuel their natural gas Civic GX from home at a much lower fuel cost than gasoline.

Various limitations to the credit may apply, depending on the specific circumstances of the customer, and Honda is encouraging customers to contact the IRS or a tax advisor to determine if and how the tax credit will apply to their vehicle acquisition. Customers are also encouraged to contact the IRS at for information on hybrid and natural gas tax credit amounts applicable to Honda's new 2005 and 2006 model year hybrids and natural gas vehicles purchased during 2006.

"The federal tax incentives reward consumers who seek the highest levels of environmental performance from their vehicles," said John Mendel, senior vice president of American Honda. "Honda continues to be a leader in producing vehicles that set the standard for fuel economy and low emissions."

Honda was the first automaker to sell a hybrid vehicle in the U.S. with the Insight in December 1999. It launched its second hybrid vehicle, the Civic Hybrid, in March 2002, followed by the first-ever V6-powered hybrid, the Accord Hybrid, in December 2004. Additionally, Honda announced that in 2009 it will introduce another hybrid model priced below the Civic Hybrid.

Honda is currently the only manufacturer to market a natural gas passenger car nationally to fleet operators and to consumers in the states of California and New York. The home refueling appliance, "Phill" can also be purchased in conjunction with the natural gas powered Civic GX at certain California and New York Honda dealers.

For more information or downloadable high-resolution images of the hybrid, natural gas models and other Honda vehicles, please visit Consumer information is available at

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nissan may sell all electic cars in three years

Nissan is looking to break into the electric world in the coming months using Toyotas hybrid technology to power the Nissan Altima Hybrid. But, by 2010, they are planning on building and selling hybrids based on their own technology. And now, it seems they are looking to build an all electric car by 2010.

The all electric cars will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, rather than nickel hydrides.

Source: Nissan plans to sell electric cars in 3 years - Automotive News (reg required).

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Autobytel survey of hybrid car buyers

Autobytel conducted a survey of those consumers of hybrid cars. It turns out that:

  • 16% live on the West Coast
  • 21% live in the MidWest
  • 31% live in the Northeast

  • 43% are under 45
  • 24.5% have a college degree
  • Majority have a household income under $60,000
    • 35% make less than $40,000
  • Male to Female ratio is about even
  • 42% are minorities

    • 12% African American

    • 11% Hispanic

    • 10% Asian Americans
  • 40% are Republicans
  • 36% are Democarats.
Did you expect something different? I take no responsibility for how the poll was run, and whether this a good sample of all hybrid car buyers.

Source: Hybrid buyers veer away from expectations | Chicago Tribune

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hybrid Car Sales Through October, 2004 to 2006

I recently read an article over at Autoweek, talking about which hybrid cars were hot and which were not. It peaked my interest on how hybrid sales were doing this year, compared to last, so I decided to look back into it and see how the various cars were doing.
As you can see in the image, different hybrids mean different types of sales. The Prius is the most popular hybrid on the road today. From 2004 to 2005, Toyota doubled sales, but in 2006, sales have remained the same. The lack of increase is being blamed on a production bottleneck, and I believe it. Given the quick turnaround in selling a Prius, Toyota just can't make them fast enough.

It should be noted they are making more now that the Camry Hybrid is being built in the US, and no longer taking away from the Prius production. It remains to be seen how the cut in tax credits for Toyota will affect the remaining 2006 car sales.

Honda Civic Hybrid sales remained stable in 2004 to 2005, and have increased in 2006. But Honda Accord sales have decreased dramatically. The Accord hybrid was created with performance, not fuel economy, in mind. Given the high cost of gas, sales have plunged as buyers aren't willing to pay the hybrid premium for a very little upgrade in performance.

What you can't really tell from the graph is Insight sales were actually up this year. But given the Honda Insight is no longer in production, it's really a moot point. The two-seater was just too niche to make a large impact.

Ford has seen a good increase in sales from 2005 to 2006 for its Escape Hybrid (the Mercury Mariner Hybrid is grouped in with the Escape Hybrid, given they are sister models with the Mariner being the luxury model). From about 13 thousand sales in 2005 (through October) to about 19 thousand sales in 2006, Ford is making a small dent in the hybrid marketplace.

One interesting note from the Autoweek article. GM sold about 700 Vue Hybrids last month. That's not a bad start, but not a great one, either. To put that number in perspective, Ford sold 1602 Escape/Mariner Hybrids and Toyota sold 1643 Highlander Hybrids and 1239 Lexus RX 400h hybrids in October. That puts GM squarely in fourth place (out of four) when it comes to the hybrid SUV market.

The remaining hybrids out today were introduced in 2005 or 2006, so I did not include them in my analysis.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Democrats looking to own expansion of tax breaks for hybrids

Bush has been looking to expand the tax break on hybrid cars for a while, now. Or, at least, he's been talking about it. Now that the Democrats are looking to repeal oil company tax breaks (but not too all of them, read the story), Democrats feel like they need to get into action.

Buyers of Toyota hybrids have already had their tax break halved. Honda, Ford and GM hybrid buyers probably won't run into this problem before 2010 when the tax break expires. So, lawmakers must be talking about extending the 60,000 unit mark to extend the full tax credits.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chevrolet Silverado Hybrids and GMC Sierra

According to an AP report, the plant in Fort Wayne has completed renovations 13 weeks early. GM spent over $200 million on the renovations and the plant will begin producing the regular and extended cab versions of the Silverado and Sierra, and a full size hybrid pickup. The redesigned trucks will be built in Fort Wayne, Flint, Mich., and Silao, Mexico beginning next year.

The Silverado and Sierra trucks are two of GM's best selling vehicles.

GM developed the dual mode hybrid system in conjunction with BMW and DaimlerChrysler at a cost of $1 billion and expects to use the new system in the the 2007 Yukon and Tahoe.

Source: Latest News | News | Hemscott

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Better mileage in a hybrid car

Tips on how to get even better at fuel economy in a hybrid courtesy of a story in the MercuryNews and a seminar hosted by AAA.

Basics tips to get better mileage:
  1. Don't race at 80 mph.
  2. Windows up.
  3. Air conditioning off.
  4. Use your cruise control (if you can). Driving at a steady speed can really make a difference.

Hybrid* Tips to getting better mileage:
  1. When starting from a dead stop, do it with zip.
  2. When accelerating while in motion, lightly apply your foot to the pedal and then take it off to put the car in gliding mode.
  3. Remove your shoes.
  4. Stay out of the stop-and-go slow lane
  5. Check those tires every couple of weeks. Improperly inflated tires can really hurt the mileage. (Most hypermilers overinflate their tires)
  6. Learn not to coast to a stop. Gently apply the brakes in order to regenerate the battery.
* The Hybrid Tips come from a common misperception most drivers have when it comes to driving a hybrid. The trick is, driving on just the battery alone can be harmful to your overall fuel economy. Yes, really. Read that again if you have to. Running on the battery alone can be harmful in the long run. If you sap all the energy out of your battery (and absent regenerative braking) the engine has to replace that energy, while at the same time powering your drive.

Other Basic Tips on how to save money on gas.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hybrid car batteries are becoming more expensive

Lithium-Ion vs Nickel Hydride Batteries
Most hybrid cars on the road today use nickel-hydride batteries to power their electric engines. But, according to this story (Prices surging for hybrid batteries), nickel is highly prized right now with stainless steel products becoming more and more popular. And so, despite dropping prices in other areas of production and parts, automakers haven't been able to significantly drop the overall price of building hybrid cars. This makes some automakers (Nissan is nervous when it comes to hybrids) reluctant to build hybrid cars.

The answer, according to the article, is to switch to another method for building batteries, specifically lithium ion batteries. Lithium is used in smaller batteries, but have not been successfully converted into batteries useful for car engines. Lithium costs more, for one thing. Higher production volumes should drive the price down, unless we end back up where nickel batteries are now. With limited supplies, the price will go back up.

Lithium batteries can store more energy than nickel batteries, which could lead to higher capacity batteries, which could lead into plug-in hybrids becoming a reality, and not just a specialty package done by outside manufacturers.

Lithium batteries are predicted to be in hybrid cars within three years.

Drawbacks to Litihium ion batteries
According to wikipedia, lithium ion batteries are currently one of the most popular types of battery (in smaller applications), with one of the best energy-to-weight ratios, no memory effect and a slow loss of charge when not in use. They can be dangerous if mistreated, however, and unless care is taken they may have a shorter lifespan compared to other battery types. Its life span is dependent upon aging from time of manufacturing (shelf life) regardless of whether it was charged, and not just on the number of charge/discharge cycles. Rather than showing a gradual shortening of the running time of the equipment, Li-Ion batteries may often just abruptly fail.

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Hybrid trash collectors

Oshkosh Truck is bringing its ProPulse Hybrid drive technology to garbage trucks today. By improving fuel economy 20 to 50 percent, they can make a huge difference to a yearly town budget. Of course, the big question is: what's the sticker price? or how much more are you going to pay for this technology over a conventional garbage truck?

Press Release Follows:

Oshkosh Truck Corporation [NYSE:OSK] announced today that the company is presenting its proprietary ProPulse® hybrid drive technology in a refuse vehicle application at the 2006 Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) during the 6th National HTUF meeting being held in San Diego, California November 14-16, 2006.

The ProPulse hybrid drive system helps the engine to operate at the optimum operating point for required energy demand, providing increased fuel economy, reduced emissions, lower life cycle costs and lower interior and exterior noise profiles.

“We are extremely excited to introduce this remarkable technology to the refuse market” said Don Verhoff, Oshkosh’s executive vice president, engineering technology. “Our ProPulse hybrid drive system could significant reduce fuel costs. During extensive customer field tests, it has shown improved fuel efficiency of 20 to 50 percent over the typical refuse trucks.”

The ProPulse hybrid electric drive technology was developed for the refuse vehicle application as part of the Advanced Heavy Hybrid Propulsion System Project sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Key partners in this four-year development effort were Rockwell Automation, The Ohio State University and John Miller Enterprises.

Oshkosh Truck is the leading refuse collection body manufacturer in the world through McNeilus Companies Inc. and the Geesink Norba Group, both Oshkosh Truck Corporation companies. In addition to the refuse vehicle application, Oshkosh has developed an 8 x 8 heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT-A3) that uses the ProPulse hybrid electric drives technology for military applications.

About Oshkosh Truck Corporation

Oshkosh Truck Corporation is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of a broad range of specialty commercial, fire and emergency and military trucks and truck bodies. Oshkosh’s products are valued worldwide by fire and emergency units, defense forces, municipal and airport support services, and concrete placement and refuse businesses where high quality, superior performance, rugged reliability and long-term value are paramount.

For more information about Oshkosh Truck Corporation, log onto the company web site at

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Bush meets with the Big 3

President Bush is meeing with the Big 3 today and at the top of his agenda items will be hybrids and other alternative energy cars. Spokesman Tony Snow said Bush wants these companies to grow, but isn't willing to bail them out. Also:

Snow signaled that Bush would raise energy issues at the meeting and support Detroit's efforts to explore alternatives to gasoline, which Snow said "gives us a little better ability to try to wean ourselves from an addiction to oil, especially foreign oil."

The Big 3 (Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler) execs have been trying to meet with George Bush for what seems like a year now (It's interesting that he's willing to do so recently after his Republican party lost its majority in Congress). They want to discuss with him possible incentives to retool factories that help lower their costs. At the same time, they are not asking for a bailout, like the airline industry has gone through.

Ford has recently backed away from going all out on hybrids, and has instead switched to looking into other alternative fuel sources. This is a cheaper (for Ford) plan to 'go green' than by redesigning their cars to go hybrid.

GM recently announced it would be looking into a plug-in hybrid, while releasing the Saturn Vue Hybrid. They also have plans to release the Saturn Aura hybrid as well as the Chevy Silverado hybrid and GMC Sierra hybrid. The Vue and Aura are built on a mild hybrid system, but the Silverado and Sierra hybrids will be built on the dual mode hybrid system developed jointly by BMW, DaimlerChrysler and GM.

DaimlerChrysler is supposed to use the dual mode hybrid in 2008 with the Durango.

Source: Reuters Report

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Monday, November 13, 2006

AAA tips on driving a hybrid

It's all good advice coming from a source you trust when it comes to driving. What it comes down to is simple. Regenerative braking powers the battery. So coasting to a stop isn't a good idea when you're driving a hybrid.

Vallejo Times Herald - AAA gives hybrid how-to for going that extra mile

AAA gives hybrid how-to for going that extra mile
Times-Herald Staff report
Article Launched:11/11/2006 07:24:32 AM PST

November is Hybrid Awareness Month in California, and in recognition, AAA of Northern California offers some information about the fuel-saving vehicles.

State officials named November Hybrid Awareness Month at AAA's urging because some hybrid owners aren't getting the best fuel efficiency possible, and AAA wants to share helpful techniques, said AAA's Jenny Mack.

"As a rule, hybrid cars offer vastly superior mileage compared to their gasoline-only counterparts, but drivers don't always achieve the fuel efficiency they anticipated," Mack said.

AAA's experts found, for instance, that a periodic glance at the car's energy monitor can help maximize efficiency by noting the state of battery charge and calculating miles-per-gallon, she said.

Also, identifying braking techniques unique to particular hybrids can help recharge its battery and improve fuel efficiency, Mack said.

The following are AAA tips for some of the most popular hybrid models:

• Toyota Prius - When anticipating a stop, take advantage of the regenerative braking by lightly applying pressure to the brake pedal. This will help control speed and send more energy to the batteries than coasting to a stop.

• Honda Civic Hybrid - This car's latest version uses an auto-stop feature to control gas engine use at stop lights and signs. To manage this feature and maximize efficiency, don't allow your vehicle to creep once you come to a stop. The engine will re-engage and may not activate auto-stop until the next long stop.

• Ford Escape Hybrid - When exceeding 30 miles per hour, this car's gas engine automatically kicks in. Max A/C will also automatically engage the gas engine. The most efficient mode for the Escape is long, smooth and steady braking that recharges the battery.

AAA offers free alternative fuel information and hybrid driving tips at its local offices all month.

For more information, visit

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Low Gas prices = Low interest in Hybrids?

Hybrids and subcompact cars are experiencing a significant drop in 'searches' over at from last month for the second month in a row, while searches for SUVs and other large vehicles are rising.

While gas prices remain relatively low, it's likely that interest in larger vehicles will continue to increase, while more efficient (hybrids) and smaller vehicles get less interest. When took a look at the past months searches the number of people interested in the Honda CR-V, for instance, had increased 72%.

What I'd like to see is a comparison to last years numbers, not just last months. As with car sales, the change in interest could be seasonal, so looking month to month, while interesting, doesn't tell the same story. Perhaps (and I'm just making this up), consumers are more interested in larger cars as we head into the winter months?

I spotted this story over at autobloggreen.

Source for press release: -- PR Newswire Press Releases

Searches for Large SUVs on Continue to Rebound as Gas Prices Decline

CHICAGO, Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Large, truck-based SUVs continue to see
an increase in search activity on as gasoline prices fall to their
lowest level in nearly a year. According to the most recent
Consumer Search Index, cars like the Nissan Armada, Jeep Commander and
Infiniti QX56 topped the list of vehicles experiencing the largest increase
in searches last month.
For the second month in a row, subcompact cars and hybrid vehicles --
which were some of the most popular cars a few months ago -- top the list
of cars experiencing the largest decline in searches.
"At this point, it seems like some of those searches are translating
into sales, as most automakers reported upticks in truck and SUV sales,"
said Patrick Olsen,'s managing editor. "It will be interesting to
see if SUV sales keep their momentum as we head into 2007."
Vehicle Searches (October)
Models with the most searches performed on

Top New-Car Searches Top Used-Car Searches
1 Honda Civic 1 Honda Civic
2 Toyota Camry 2 Honda Accord
3 Honda Accord 3 Ford Mustang
4 Acura MDX 4 BMW 325
5 Honda CR-V 5 Toyota Camry
6 BMW 325 6 Ford F-150
7 Toyota Corolla 7 Toyota Tacoma
8 Toyota RAV4 8 Toyota Corolla
9 Chevrolet Silverado 9 Chevrolet Corvette
10 Ford Mustang 10 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Search Increases (September - October)
Models with the largest increase in the number of searches performed on

Top New-Car Search Increases Top Used-Car Search Increases
1 Honda CR-V 72% 1 GMC 2500 25%
2 Jeep Wrangler 22% 2 Nissan Armada 24%
3 Chevrolet Silverado 15% 3 Jeep Commander 20%
4 Acura MDX 15% 4 Lincoln Aviator 18%
5 Acura TL 9% 5 Chrysler 300C 18%
6 Dodge Charger 8% 6 Infiniti QX56 18%
7 Jeep Grand Cherokee 7% 7 Acura MDX 17%
8 Infiniti G35 5% 8 Chevrolet 3500 17%
9 Dodge Ram 3% 9 Cadillac DTS 16%
10 Nissan 350Z 2% 10 Volkswagen Touareg 16%

Search Decreases (September - October)
Models with the largest decrease in the number of searches performed on

Top New-Car Search Decreases Top Used-Car Search Decreases
1 Nissan Versa 28% 1 Honda Insight 26%
2 Toyota Yaris 24% 2 Toyota Echo 25%
3 Toyota Prius 22% 3 Toyota Yaris 19%
4 Honda Civic 16% 4 Geo Metro 18%
5 Volkswagen Jetta 16% 5 Nissan Versa 17%
6 Toyota Camry 16% 6 Volkswagen Cabrio 17%
7 Toyota Corolla 16% 7 Toyota Prius 16%
8 Chevrolet Cobalt 12% 8 Toyota Camry Solara 15%
9 Hyundai Sonata 11% 9 Jeep CJ-7 15%
10 Scion tC 11% 10 Cadillac Catera 14%

Top Dealer Email Inquiries (October)

New Cars Yielding the Used Cars Yielding the Most Dealer
Most Dealer Inquiries Inquiries
1 Honda Civic (2006) 1 Honda Accord (2003)
2 Toyota Camry (2006) 2 Honda Civic (2000)
3 Toyota RAV4 (2006) 3 Infiniti G35 (2003)
4 Honda Accord (2006) 4 Ford F-150 (2004)
5 Toyota Sienna (2006) 5 Honda Accord (2002)
6 Honda Odyssey (2006) 6 Ford Mustang (2003)
7 Toyota Corolla (2006) 7 Honda Civic (1999)
8 Honda CR-V (2006) 8 Ford Mustang (2004)
9 Toyota Tacoma (2006) 9 Honda Civic (2002)
10 Honda Pilot (2006) 10 Volkswagen Jetta (2003)

Top Cars Listed for Sale by Owner (October)

1 Honda Accord
2 Ford Mustang
3 Chevrolet Corvette
4 Ford F-150
5 Ford Explorer
6 Honda Civic
7 Jeep Grand Cherokee
8 Dodge Ram
9 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
10 Porsche 911

About the Consumer Search Index
The Consumer Search Index offers a comprehensive look at the
internet search behavior of visitors. The statistical information
is compiled by tracking the more than 8.3 million unique visitors that log
on to each month and the vehicles that are most popular. The lists
are based off a minimum of 10,000 searches for new cars and 15,000 searches
for used cars. Dealer inquiries measure the volume of emails consumers send
to dealers seeking information about a particular vehicle. The information
is supported by expert analysis from the editorial staff.
More statistical information to support automotive-related stories is
available upon request. Please contact Steve Nolan directly at
Partnered with more than 200 leading metro newspapers, television
stations and their websites, is the most comprehensive destination
for those looking to buy or sell a new or used car. The site lists more
than 1.8 million vehicles from 12,000 dealer customers, classified
advertisers and private parties to offer consumers the best selection of
new and used cars online, as well as the content, tools and advice to
support their shopping experience. Recently selected by as a
Best of the Web site for car shopping, combines powerful inventory
search tools and new-car configuration with pricing information, photo
galleries, buying guides, side-by-side comparison tools, original editorial
content and reviews to help millions of car shoppers connect with sellers
each month.
Launched in June 1998, is a division of Classified Ventures,
LLC, ( ), which is owned by leading media
companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The
McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) and The
Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hybrid Reliability and Satisfaction, as reported by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports came out with its 2007 annual car review. This review includes their annual reliability and satisfaction survey on all vehicles and hybrids lead in several categories.

According to Consumer Reports, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is one of the most reliable midsize SUVS, along with the Lexus RX400h (hybrid). The Honda Civic Hybrid (small cars), Honda Accord Hybrid (Family car) and Toyota Prius also ranked at or near the top in their respective categories for reliability.

Consumer Reports gets responses from 1.3 million vehicle owners.

In its ranking of customer satisfaction, based on more than 400,000 responses, 26 of the 45 top-rated vehicles were Japanese.

Toyota's Prius hybrid was the most satisfying vehicle for the third year, with 92 percent of owners saying they would buy or lease one again. In last years survey, 95 percent of owners said they would buy or lease a Prius again.

Ford and GM rank better this year, closing the gap once again in reliability, although their reputation is still lagging. But of the 47 top-ranked vehicles for reliability, only six were domestic brands.

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