Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What makes the Saturn Vue Hybrid different

Autoweek has a review of the Saturn Vue Hybrid (the Vue Green Line) that differentiates the difference between the Saturn Vue Hybrid from other hybrids and from the conventional (gas-only) Saturn Vue.

For the most part, what makes the Saturn Vue a hybrid is different from other car makers. Its a step up from GMs previous 'hybrid', which basically used a start stop motor (see GMs pickup hybrids). GM was roundly criticized for calling those pickups hybrids, but the Saturn VUE hybrid is different. What they've created now is an assist hybrid rather than a full hybrid.

The alternator/starter motor is connected to the engine crankshaft via a toothed belt, that allows it to act as a generator (to the battery) or as a motor to assist the gas engine. This allows the gas engine to get more for less. And by keeping the electric part of the hybrid engine simple, Saturn (GM) can offer the hybrid version of the VUE for only $1,500 more than the basic package.

The EPA rates the Vue hybrid at 27/32 mpg. In real world testing (according to the article it was done by Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc.) shows the Vue hybrid gets 29.7 mpg.

You won't get all the frills, including computer readouts of your current mpg or any of the other luxuries you might expect from a hybrid. What you do get, is the lower price tag. Coming in at $7,000 less than the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Saturn is going to provide a cheaper alternate to those who want to go 'green' in an SUV, but can't afford to pay the premium for it.

Otherwise, the hybrid Vue is not a lot different than the conventional Vue. According to reviewers, the engine runs quieter than the base Vue, and the transition from gas-only to electric assist is very smooth.

Silent Savings - AutoWeek

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Pennsylvania Governor wants to increase rebates for hybrid cars

The hybrid rebate program has been so successful in the past, that Pennsylvania ran out of money to fund the program in the 2005-06 fiscal year. Now that Pennsylvania is finding itself in a tax revenue windfall, Governor Edward Rendell (D) wants to double the rebate to $1000. He is also looking to pay for business and family tax cuts, help subsidize prescription drugs for seniors and is proposing a sales tax holiday for consumers who buy energy-efficient appliances.

Pretty ambitious goals for a governor who is up for re-election this year.

The surplus is running to about $700 million with extra coming in from increases in personal income and real estate taxes. Only $260 million will be available for spending, however.


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Toyota recalls 1 million vehicles worldwide

Toyota is recalling almost 1 million vehicles due to a faulty intermediate shaft and sliding yokes. Toyota is worried they could distort or crack under strong pressure.

Yesterday I wrote that Toyota was recalling just over 500,000 vehicles, but it seems that is the number of vehicles being recalled in Japan. In the US, 170,000 Prius are being recalled. US owners should expect to be notified in mid-June.

Toyota has stated no injuries or crashes have been reported in regards to this issue.


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GM delivers hybrid buses to Denver

Denver added four buses powered by diesel-electric hybrid buses to its mass transit fleet today. These hybrid buses have better fuel economy, and produce up to 60 percent fewer oxides of nitrogen emissions and 90 percent fewer particulate, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions than standard diesel buses.

US Sen Ken Salazar and representatives from Denver RTD, Gillig Corp and General Motors were expected at today's ceremony.

Other benefits include lower maintenance costs relating to the brakes, oil, and transmission fluids. The hybrid buses can attain 50 percent faster acceleration and at the same time have reduced the sound levels. Although, hybrid buses tend to cost more up front.

Since 2004, more than 445 GM hybrid buses have been delivered to 37 communities in the US and Canada. GM expects to deliver 189 by the end of the year.

The two-mode hybrid technology in these buses has served as the starting point for GM’s co-development with DaimlerChrysler and BMW Group of a two-mode hybrid system for light-duty vehicles that GM will launch next year in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon fullsize SUVs, followed by the Cadillac Escalade in 2008.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Toyota recall includes the Prius

Toyota is recalling over 500K cars including 113,000 Toyota Prius for faulty parts that could cause drivers to lose control of the steering wheel.

Vehicles being recalled include the Wish, Isis, Prius, Corolla, Corolla Runx, Corolla Fielder, Corolla Spacio, Allex and Ractis brands built between September 2002 and November 2005.

Detroit free press

It wasn't immediately clear whether the recall affected cars sold outside Japan. Toyota officials couldn't be reached for comment late Tuesday.

The intermediate shafts and sliding yokes in the recalled cars lack the necessary strength and could distort or crack under strong pressure, causing drivers to lose control of the steering wheel, the Japanese automaker said in a statement.

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Why hybrid owners in California should worry

If you're one of the lucky (and I use the term loosely here, given the driving conditions in southern California) people who get to use the carpool lanes in LA, the least of your worries should be 'Prius backlash' from other drivers. You should be more worried about statements like the following from transportation experts.


"There's not enough excess capacity to absorb the hybrids," said James Moore, director of the University of Southern California's transportation engineering program. "I think the foreseeable outcome here is that the congestion advantage we traditionally attribute to (carpool) lanes will disappear."

The state will need new legislation to keep the carpool lane 'perk' beyond Jan, 2008. Once the limit of passes has been reached, the legistors will be keeping a close eye on how all those extra cars affect the car pool lane. And unless they have switched over to a hybrid themselves, they may take comments like the above very seriously, indeed.

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Comparing driving styles

Hybrid Cars - Walter McManus on Sustainable Mobility

So far, my two favorite driving styles are what I call "GO, GO, GO, GO, GO, GO" (GGGGGG) and "SMOOTH AS SILK" (SAS). As you no doubt can tell from the names, they represent extremes of behavior.

While most hybrid drivers will tell you driving slower is better in hybrids, Walter McManus, in his analysis, seems to be telling you saving a few minutes on your commute is better than driving more carefully.

I'm not sure I buy his whole analysis, but you should take a look and decide for yourself. Personally, I take issues with his quality of life score as well his numbers for the probability of dying in a fiery crash. If you drive aggressively, you're much more likely to have an accident, at the least. Even if you (or the person you hit) don't die, the insurance nightmare that follows will surely shorten your life via the stress incurred.

I'm just not sure if he wrote this tongue-in-cheek or not.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Top ten most fuel efficient SUVs

Autobytel put together a list of the top ten most fuel efficient SUVs and then ranked them based on their personal opinions.

The top 10 most fuel efficient SUVs of 2006, as rated by Autobytel, are:

  • Toyota RAV4-22 mpg city, 29 mpg hwy
  • Honda CR-V’s-23 mpg city, 29 mpg hwy
  • Honda Element’s-22 mpg city, 26 mpg hwy
  • Subaru Outback-23 mpg city, 28 mpg hwy
  • Ford Escape Hybrid-36 mpg city, 31 mpg hwy
  • Subaru Forester-22 mpg city, 29 mpg hwy
  • Lexus RX 400h-33 mpg city, 28 mpg hwy
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid-33 mpg city, 29 mpg hwy
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid-33 mpg city, 28 mpg hwy
  • Chevrolet HHR-23 mpg city, 30 mpg hwy

  • Note that when the Saturn Vue hybrid comes out, it will be in this top ten list. But for now, the most fuel efficient SUV is the Ford Escape hybrid followed by the Mercury Mariner hybrid. The Lexus RX 400h and Toyota Highlander Hybrid tie for third place, but note they have bigger engines to play with. I did a comparison of these four hybrid SUVs a short time ago.

    Each model on the list achieves at least 24 mpg in mixed driving when mated to an automatic transmission. The top 9 get 25+ mpg, and then the editors voted in their favorite 24 mpg SUV, the Honda Element.

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    Consumers are blaming automakers for not moving fast enough to build more fuel efficient cars

    A large majority (74%) of consumers say carmakers are not moving fast enough to build more fuel efficient cars according to a new Harris poll. In the meantime, 44% of those surveyed say they are cutting back on products or services in order to pay for the increase in the price of gasoline.

    And they are blaming the oil and gas companies for the rise in prices, too. Thirty-nine percent blame the oil and gas companies for wanting more profits, while only twenty-seven percent blame world crude oil prices.

    As for who can stop the rise in prices, thirty four percent think the oil and gas industry can do so, while twenty-nine percent believe the federal government has that ability. Twenty-two percent say consumers can can stop the increases.

    And consumers are pessimistic about increases. Eighty-one percent believe heating prices will be higher this winter when compared to last winter, while seventy-five percent believe gas prices on Labor Day in September will be higher than they are now.

    In the meantime, consumers are cutting back on other spending. Twenty-nine percent are cutting back on dining out and are reducing driving or staying home more. Twenty-four percent are cutting back on groceries, while eighteen percent are spending less on entertainment.

    Harris interviewd 2,085 adults ages 18 and older in the US between May 9 and 16, 2006. I first spotted this poll over at green car congress.

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    Mazda loans Tribute Hybrid Prototypes to Fire Departments in Southern California

    In a nice PR move, Mazda loaned out five Mazda Tribute Hybrid vehicles to the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD). Mazda previously loaned out ten hybrid Tributes to Orange County for a period of two years. Fifteen more hybrid SUVs will be loaned out to fire departments across southern California. These depts are located in Corona, San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside.

    The firefighters will use the SUVs in mostly non-emergency situations such as fire inspection, station maintenance or education visits. Mazda plans on using the performance data to enhance their production of the Tribute hybrid, a compact SUV. They will also be collecting input from the firefighters who drive the prototype vehicles.

    Mazda Tribute HEV is 99.4 percent cleaner, on average, than an unregulated vehicle, yet still delivers the performance required by SUV owners. With a combined horsepower output of 155, this Tribute HEV provides plenty of power yet meets strict Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEVII) and Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) standards in California - the strictest emission regulations a gasoline-fueled vehicle can meet.

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    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    Navigation System Override (Toyota Hack)

    For those of you who own a Toyota or Lexus Hybrid and are looking to use the navigation screen while the Prius is moving, here are the directions.

    How To Override The Navigation Screen (Highlander Hybrid, Prius, RX 400h)

    Warnings are especially important to read when you start hacking your car. Keep in mind that this override is only temporary. The fix lasts only until the car is shut down.

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    Toyota Hybrid Cars

    Toyota currently has five hybrid cars on the road and has managed to capture and maintain a majority of the hybrid car sales in the US in these past few years. Toyota sells the Prius, Highlander, and Camry Hybrid under its Toyota brand. Lexus, Toyotas luxury brand, sells the GS 450h and RX 400h.

    The Toyota Prius is the hybrid. Small but comfortable with some of the best fuel efficiency, the Prius accounts for over 40% of all hybrids sold in the US. Limited only by the number they can build, consumers are waiting for months to drive off with their new Toyota Prius.

    The Toyota Highlander hybrid was Toyota's second hybrid SUV. Despite Ford getting to the market first with the Escape SUV Hybrid, Toyota was managing to sell twice as many Highlander hybrids as Fords SUV Hybrids right up until last month. The hybrid version of the Highlander made up 35.2% of all Highlander sales for April. Roomy and comfortable, the Highlander hybrid succeeds based on Toyota's reputation for quality as much as its fuel economy.

    The Lexus RX 400h was Toyota's answer to the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrids. Built as a luxury vehicle, it sacrifices fuel economy for luxury and power. Built as a luxury SUV and priced as one, sales have been brisk for this hybrid SUV. If you want all the bells and whistles in an SUV but still want to make a statement about your green politics, this is the hybrid for you.

    Toyota rolled out the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the luxury sedan, Lexus RX 400h last month. The Toyota Camry is, of course, one of the most popular vehicles on the road. It remains to be seen if that popularity will transfer over onto the hybrid version. The Luxury RX 400h is following in the footsteps of the RX 450h. Sacrificing fuel economy for luxury and power seems to be the way to go when it comes to luxury hybrid vehicles.

    In the future, Toyota is planning on implementing hybrid technology across its entire lineup of cars. As a result, they plan on selling 1 million hybrid vehicles by 2012.

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    Saturn Vue Green Line starts at $22,995

    Saturn announced the MSRP for the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid SUV at $22,995. That brings it in well below any other hybrid SUV on the market today.

    But that's not all. They've also announced the Hybrid SUV will have the best fuel economy of any SUV availabe with an EPA rating of 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway. This is a 20 percent improvement over the conventional gas engine available in the Vue.

    "The Vue Green Line proves you can go green without going broke," said Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak. "With a starting sticker price almost $4,000 less than any competing hybrid SUV, it makes true hybrid fuel savings available to more people than ever before."

    The hybrid Vue will be available later this summer.

    The Vue’s hybrid system combines sophisticated controls with a precise electric motor/generator mated to the engine. The system delivers fuel economy gains by providing electric power assist during acceleration, through early fuel cut-off during deceleration with torque smoothing and by shutting the engine off at idle. The system also captures electrical energy through regenerative braking.

    Where Saturn is saving money is by building a mild hybrid. Unlike the Toyota Highlander or Ford Escape, the Saturn Vue isn't capable of running on electric power alone.

    The vehicle’s 2.4 liter hybrid powertrain provides approximately 170 horsepower – 27 more horsepower than the 2.2 liter engine that powers the conventional Vue. The Vue Green Line’s acceleration is comparable or better than similarly equipped non-hybrid SUVs.

    In addition to its hybrid powertrain, the Vue Green Line also features several standard equipment upgrades, including antilock brakes with traction control, 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome-finish skid plates, body-color door handles and exterior mirrors, bright side moldings and rear spoiler as well as specific instrumentation designed to provide the driver with hybrid system information.

    As with all Vues, the Green Line model offers standard power convenience package (windows, door locks and exterior mirrors), remote keyless entry, fold-flat front passenger seatback and rear cargo organizer. All Saturn vehicles also come equipped with OnStar and a one-year subscription to the Safe and Sound service plan.

    Complete information on the Vue Green Line can be found on the Web at

    Saturn is rolling out the Vue Green Line hybrid along with several other cars this summer including the Outlook crossover and the all-new Aura sports sedan. The "Like always. Like never before" campaign will start with the Sky roadster which is arriving at retailers now.

    Saturn also recently announced plans for a Green Line hybrid version of the Aura sedan in 2007.

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    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    Army considers a hybrid HUMVEE

    The armed forces are always looking to save gasoline in their fighting vehicles. Whether they are improving from four mpg up to five mpg by building a hybrid HEMTT, or creating a hydrogen hybrid, or are dealing with the more efficient HUMVEE (all things are relative), improving mileage improves logistics which saves lives.

    When it comes to field action, supplies are almost always the limiting factor. Just ask Patton what he thinks about improving gas mileage.

    And so, the armed forces are weighing all options, i.e. hybrids, fuel cells, etc... Whether they go hybrid or not remains to be seen. It all depends on making sure they are producing the best fighting vehicle for the field. If hybrid technology gives them more flexibility and more power, then that's what they'll do.

    If we were to compare the army's image of what's important to the civilian hybrids available, I imagine the army is looking for a Honda Accord, a 'performance' hybrid. In the Accord hybrid, the electrica engine is used to supplement the gas engine, getting more for less. By coupling the two engine together, Honda was able to produce its most powerful Accord.

    The replacement for the HUMVEE won't be in place until 2012.

    Source: Marine Corps Times - Corps eyes hybrid Humvee

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    Hybrid Hacking

    CNET has a story on outlining some of the hacks users have made to their hybrids. Some of the possible hacks include:

  • Changing your hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) into a plug-in hybrid (PHEV).
  • Turning off that annoying beep when going in reverse or when you aren't wearing a seat belt.
  • Using the on board navigation system while driving.
  • Installing the switch so that you can drive on all electric power in local driving.

  • Hacking your Prius
    "It's quite a few steps, and you have to turn the car on and off, and you have to get the sequence right, (but) it was a piece of cake," said Pizer. "It reminded me of beta testers. Beta testers in a game will have a 20-step sequence for finding an exploit, and they're bizarre, bizarre sets of steps. It was very much like that, and I loved the idea of people figuring it out."

    BTW, a Toyota spokesman pointed out they took out the switch for all electric driving in the US in order to qualify for the eight year warranty on the car's power system. That, to me, indicates a big warning to anyone who wants to hack these systems for better fuel savings. You may save more on gas now, but wait until the bill comes due for a new battery that much sooner!

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    GM Fuel Price Protection Program

    ALPHARETTA, GA – GM today announced its “GM Fuel Price Protection Program.” This regional program caps what consumers pay for gas at $1.99 a gallon when they purchase select 2006 and 2007 GM full-size utilities and mid-size cars.

    “This program gives consumers an opportunity to experience the highly fuel-efficient vehicles GM has to offer in the mid-size segment,” said Dave Borchelt, GM Southeast regional general manager. “It helps protect consumers against rising fuel prices by providing them with a partial credit for their fuel purchases for one year.”

    The credit is based on the consumer’s estimated fuel usage each month. Fuel consumption is calculated based on the mileage driven, as recorded by OnStar and the EPA city fuel economy mileage rating for the vehicle.

    Using the calculation of the consumer’s estimated fuel usage each month, they will be credited for the difference between the average price per gallon of premium fuel in their state, as published by the Automobile Association of America (AAA), and the $1.99 gas price protection cap.

    The credit will be applied each month to a pre-paid card, which will be issued to the consumer. The credits are good until December 31, 2007 and may be used for any type of purchase at any location that accepts MasterCard. There is no mileage limitation.

    “This is a unique offer that only GM is making,” said Mike Jackson, GM North America vice president, Vehicle Brand Marketing/Advertising. “This program leverages some of our greatest strengths, including great new GM vehicles, often with some of the best fuel economy ratings in their class, and leading edge OnStar technology. To top it off, we’re now offering consumers in Florida and California protection against rising fuel prices.”

    A California resident who purchases a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe and drives it 1,000 miles a month, would realize an estimated $103.75 monthly credit, based on the current average premium fuel price of $3.65/gallon (as of May 15). A Florida resident who purchases a 2006 Buick LaCrosse with the standard V-6 engine and drives about 1,000 a month, would see an estimated monthly credit of $60, based on the current average premium fuel price of $3.19/gallon in that state.

    “The services offered by OnStar are another example of how GM is using technology and innovation to deliver added value to its customers,” said Chet Huber, president, OnStar. “The diagnostic e-mail service is a GM-exclusive and enables only GM to offer consumers a credit for their gas purchases based on the actual mileage that they drive .”

    Beginning on May 25, consumers will be able to go to a special web site ( to calculate their potential savings based on their vehicle selection.

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    Honda willing to share its hybrid technology

    In an attempt to set itself as the leader in evironmental friendliness, Honda is letting it be known they are willing to share their proprietary hybrid and diesel-engine technologies with other carmakers.

    Toyota is the current leader, controlling the supply of most hybrid technologies. 

    Honda has been making news over the past week regarding this tech, promising a dedicated cheap hybrid by 2009, while retiring the Insight in September.  They also have plans to produce a four cylinder diesel engine capable of qualifying under the strict environmental rules being applied in 2009.

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    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    One in Three Will Consider Hybrids According to a Consumer Reports Poll

    According to the latest poll by Consumer Reports, high gas prices are forcing people to change the way they drive. And one out of three are now considering hybrid vehicles.

    Willing to Consider Hybrids
    Almost all of those who are considering buying a hybrid cite fuel efficiency as a reason. Fewer than half of them consider the tax incentives as important, but instead: eighty-two percent were impressed by their reliability, and 74% liked the owner satisfaction ratings. Seventy percent want to reduce foreign oil dependence, while 64% find hybrid's evironmental friendliness to be important.

    And Those Who Will Not
    For those who would not consider buying a hybrid, higher costs seem to be the biggest concern. Higher purchase price (69%), maintenance (67%) and reliability (63%) were cited as major factors. More than half (52%) wonder about poor reliability.

    Concerns about Gas Prices
    Fifty five percent of those surveyed are considering a small car, while only twenty percent were considering a family sedan or SUV.

    Consumers are also pessimistic about gas prices. Seventy two percent feel that fuel prices will be even more expensive next year. Seventy percent have accepted paying three dollars per gallon of gas, but only fifty percent were prepared to purchase at four dollars a gallon.

    High Gas prices are Changing How We Drive
    42% strongly agreed they will drive less to save gas
    38% will reduce spending on restaurant meals and other entertainment
    38% will drive more slowly and more smoothly in order to save gas
    16% will walk or ride a bicycle more
    13% will carpool more
    10% will use public transportation more

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    Nissan releases the Atlas 20 Diesel Hybrid

    Compared with a conventional Atlas 20 diesel-engine model, the Atlas 20 Hybrid achieves a 35% improvement in fuel economy in M15 mode and improvements of 10% to 20% in normal city driving. The vehicle’s CO2 emissions drop by 25% in M15 mode. M15 mode is the standard used in Japan for measuring the fuel efficiency of urban heavy-duty vehicles.

    “A growing number of LCV customers are paying more attention to environmental issues,” said Andy Palmer, corporate vice president and head of Nissan’s LCV business unit. “With the Atlas 20 Hybrid, we plan to meet their demands for more environmentally-friendly trucks,” he added.

    The Atlas 20 Hybrid employs a power-take-off (PTO) type parallel-drive hybrid system in which the motor/generator is connected to a different drive shaft from the engine for reliable operation. Even if a failure occurs in the hybrid system, the vehicle can still be driven using the diesel engine.

    The system uses lithium-ion batteries with a lifespan approximately three times longer than that of nickel metal hybrid batteries. The low weight of the batteries also ensures that there is little impact on the payload of the vehicle.

    The Atlas 20 Hybrid features Smoother Autoshift as standard equipment. This automatic shift eliminates any need for clutch adjustment or replacement, dramatically reducing maintenance costs, while preventing failures on the road due to clutch problems.

    The Atlas 20 Hybrid, which will be built by Isuzu Motors Ltd. on an original-equipment-manufacturing basis, will use Isuzu’s hybrid system.

    Nissan has identified the light commercial vehicles business as one of four breakthrough areas for the company under the Nissan Value-Up three-year business plan, which started in fiscal year 2005. Nissan has set ambitious objectives for the LCV business, which are to double operating profit margin to 8% and grow volumes by 40% to 434,000 units worldwide by fiscal year 2007. In fiscal 2005, Nissan’s LCV business unit sold 400,296 vehicles and posted a consolidated operating profit margin of 7.7%.

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    Toyota may build Prius in the US in the future

    In order for Toyota to build the Prius in the US, they would need to build smaller, lighter parts according to Toyota Vice Chairman Fujio Cho.

    Source:Wall Street Journal

    "Given the popularity the car has proven and given the way American consumers have snapped up the car, I have been urging the company, almost as a matter of strategy, to produce the Prius in the U.S.," Mr. Cho said.

    Toyota is hoping to build 70% to 75% of the three million cars and trucks they expect to sell in the US domestically. If demand continues to increase as it has, Cho expects Toyota to build an eighth plant here. They currently have five, with two more being built.

    The Prius is currently being built in Japan because the parts are being built in Japan. They are just too bulky to be shipped into the US. If the batteries, inverters and electric motors shrink and become lighter, production would naturally move to the US.

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    Monday, May 22, 2006

    New York is adding to its hybrid taxi fleet

    New York city will soon see a big increase in the number of hybrid taxis available. Of the 308 medallions for sale in June, 254 will be for vehicles that use hybrid fuel or compressed natural gas.

    Currently, there are only 27 hybrid cabs in operation. There are 22 hybrid Escapes, two Lexus RX 400h's, two Toyota Highlanders and one Toyota Prius, according to the taxi commission.

    Taxi drivers have indicated they are in favor of more hybrids since it saves them money. Drivers 'rent' the vehicle for the day and need to return the cab with a full fuel tank. When they drive a hybrid, they save money at the pump.

    The taxi fleet owners would have more of a beef, given the added cost of buying a hybrid over buying a Ford Victoria up to $4 to $5,000 more for an Escape. In an incentive to purchase hybrids, the taxi commission offered medallions at reduced prices previously, but its not clear that such a deal will be offered this time around.

    The Escape has less leg room in the back the Crown Victoria, which means the partition between the front and back will be missing. Instead, security cameras will need to be installed. Also, the dark tinted side windows will need to be replaced with clear glass.

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    Thursday, May 18, 2006


    "Trinity," a highly fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid vehicle, was unveiled today by engineering students at the University of California, Davis. The vehicle is the team's entry in the national Challenge X competition, sponsored by General Motors Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy. Field trials for the competition will take place in Phoenix next month.

    Trinity is a 2006 model Chevy Equinox SUV powered by electric motors and a small internal combustion engine that can run on gasoline or ethanol. The electric motors and batteries provide power for driving at low speeds and for a range of up to 40 miles, and the gas engine supplies additional power for longer journeys and highway driving.

    "This is a car that is completely sustainable with no oil at all," said Andy Frank, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at UC Davis, who advises the team. Trinity does all the things a conventional model of the vehicle can do with higher performance, Frank said.

    Unlike hybrids currently on the market such as the Toyota Prius, Trinity's batteries can be recharged from a domestic power supply, allowing the vehicle to be powered by cheap off-peak electricity. This reduces fuel consumption and emissions and allows the vehicle to run exclusively on electric power for most short trips around town.

    Computer models run by the team show that Trinity's average gas consumption in everyday use could reach about 200 miles per gallon, assuming an all-electric range of 40 miles, said graduate student Peter English, outreach coordinator for the team.

    As part of the project, team members have been teaching classes on hybrids at Vaca Pena Middle School in Vacaville and Little Oak Rural School in Oregon House, east of Yuba City. The school students have been working on controls for electric motors and aim to move on to building hybrid go-karts and eventually a hybrid car, English said.

    Frank sees plug-in hybrids as a way to integrate transportation energy use with stationary energy systems for homes and businesses. Solar panels on home rooftops could be used to charge vehicle batteries for driving. While parked and plugged in, vehicles could feed stored energy back to the home or to the electricity grid.

    Trinity also carries a small on-board fuel cell to provide auxiliary power for air conditioning, entertainment systems and other services.

    Trinity is the latest refinement in a series of award-winning plug-in hybrids built by Frank and his students. Others include "Sequoia," a Chevy Suburban, and "Yosemite," a Ford Explorer. The group has also built high mileage versions of the Mercury Sable and other cars.

    The original unmodified vehicle was donated by General Motors and supplied locally by Hanlees Chevrolet of Davis for the competition.

    Challenge X is a three-year national competition sponsored by General Motors, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other partners. Engineering students from 17 universities across North America are challenged to re-engineer a mid-size SUV to achieve better fuel economy and lower emissions. The program provides the opportunity for engineering schools to participate in real-world research and math-intensive development with leading-edge automotive propulsion, fuels, materials and emissions-control technologies.

    In the first year (2004-5), teams worked on vehicle design using the same techniques and software as auto industry designers. Over the past year, they have worked on putting their designs together in an actual vehicle, which will compete in field tests this June. In the final year (2006-7), they will refine their vehicles leading up to the final competition.

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    The Best Hybrid Car

    Are you in the market for a new or used car and you want to buy a hybrid, but aren't sure which hybrid car is best? A better question would be to ask which hybrid car is the best car for you?

    There are currently 10 hybrid cars and SUVs on the market today. Honda has three, the Accord, Civic and Insight. Toyota has five under its Toyota/Lexus branding, the Prius, Highlander, Camry, GS450h and RX400h. And Ford is currently offering two hybrids, the Escape and its luxury version, the Mercury Mariner.

    The Toyota Prius is the most popular hybrid car available. Capable of seating four and rated at 60/51 mpg. the Prius has become the hybrid people think of. Low, sleek (sometimes called ugly), and comfortable, the Prius is the 'king' of hybrids.

    The Honda Insight was the first mass produced hybrid car available in the US. Rated as the most fuel efficient, it has had limited sales (only 600+ units sold last year) and has limited use. Completely designed from the wheels up, the Insight is a two-seater, making it of limited utility to most drivers. Honda, despite its long run, is halting production of the Insight in September, 2006.

    The Honda Civic Hybrid was introduced as the crossover between hybrids and the more conventional gas counterparts. If you know what the Honda Civic looks like, then you know what the Honda Civic Hybrid looks and drives like. The first car to have a comparator, it has suffered by comparison. Despite getting great gas mileage, consumers quickly realized the premium price you pay for a hybrid would not offset the initial cost of purchasing one (Update: this is no longer true. According to studies done recently, you will save money in the long run). Despite that, the Honda Civic Hybrid is selling well in the US.

    The Ford Escape Hybrid (and its luxury version the Mercury Mariner) was the first mass produced hybrid SUV introduced onto the market. As with all of the other hybrids except for the Insight and Prius, it is available as a hybrid or a non-hybrid version. And just like the others, there is very little to differentiate on the outside what a different engine there is available on the inside. Ford has recently begun offering 0% financing on the Escape and the Mariner. With these incentives, sales of the SUV hybrid have recently spiked after slowing down significantly in recent months. Sales of the Ford Escape Hybrid began to suffer after the Toyota Highlander Hybrid was introduced in June 2005.

    The Honda Accord Hybrid began its run in December of 2004. Immediately popular, the Accord was differentiated by its power, not its fuel economy. Labeled as a 'Performance Hybrid', the Accord uses the electric engine to assist in the power output of the gas engine, getting more for less. But with the spike in gas prices, the Accord has suffered recently leading to Hondas recent decision to limit production. But if you want lower emissions, better mileage (even if only a little), plus a lot of power despite the smaller engine, then the Accord Hybrid could be just what you're looking for (Update: The Accord Hybrid is set to be retired).

    If you have a lot of spare change (MSRP starts at $44K), want a big SUV engine, but still want to claim green status (plus whatever perks go to hybrid owners), the Lexus RX 400h could be the hybrid SUV for you. This was the second luxury SUV hybrid introduced and it has done well. Expect all the bonuses of luxury living in this suped up SUV.

    The Toyota Highlander Hybrid was introduced next (June, 2005) and has quickly become the second most popular hybrid available. As with the Prius, the Highlander Hybrid is limited in sales only by its production numbers. The Highlander has a great reputation, but is more expensive than the Ford Escape Hybrid or even the Mercury Mariner.

    Toyota has recently started selling the Lexus RX 400h, a luxury hybrid sedan. Like the Lexus GS 450h, you're going to pay more for this hybrid vehicle, but you will get a lot more for the money. Expect all the best in this extravagant vehicle.

    Toyota has also recently introduced the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Honda Civic and Toyota Camry go head to head when it comes to conventional gas engines, but the Camry Hybrid sells at $5K more the Honda Civic Hybrid.

    In the near future, GM is trying to get into the hybrid game with the Saturn Vue Hybrid. The Saturn Vue Green is going to be the more economical choice for hybrid SUVs. Coming in at $23K, the Vue will gives you mild hybrid power at a lot less than the competition.

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    ExxonMobil Chemical Highlights Technology at Advanced Automotive Battery Conference

    HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 17, 2006--ExxonMobil Chemical is presenting its polymer technology capability at the sixth International Advanced Automotive Battery and Ultracapacitor Conference in Baltimore May 15-19, 2006.

    The company is presenting a technical paper jointly with its affiliate in Japan, Tonen Chemical Corporation, on prototype microporous film for lithium ion battery (LIB) separators that is expected to dramatically improve LIB power and safety performance in hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) applications.

    The film offers the potential to make HEV batteries lighter weight and smaller, thereby contributing to HEV system cost reduction and to improvements in design flexibility and durability.

    The technical paper "Battery Separators for HEV Application" shares preliminary findings of ExxonMobil Chemical's and Tonen Chemical's current LIB separator development activity, as well as expected improvements from next-generation LIB separator development efforts.

    In April, ExxonMobil Chemical and Tonen Chemical announced increased production capacity at the Nasu Plant in Japan to satisfy strong demand and high growth in the lithium ion battery separator market.

    "The added film lines at the Nasu production facilities enable us to pursue potential demand growth for customers developing new-generation lithium ion batteries for hybrid vehicles," said Jim Harris, Polymers senior vice president, ExxonMobil Chemical Company, a division of Exxon Mobil Corporation.

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    Honda Insight to be halted

    The Honda Insight, introduced as the first mass produced hybrid sold in the US gets a fuel economy rating of 60/66 and 57/56 for its 5-speed manual transmission or CVT models. It's also been the most fuel efficient model offered in the US for years.

    But now production is being halted in September. With only 608 sold in 2004 and 666 sold in 2005, the two seater Insight just isn't popular enough to keep it going. Honda has only produced the Insight for so long so that they can claim to produce the most fuel efficient vehicle every year.

    And so Honda is going in a new direction, developing a new dedicated hybrid vehicle suitable for family use to be available in 2009.

    BTW, since this is a dedicated hybrid vehicle, this is not the Honda Fit hybrid that has been rumoured to be introduced next year.

    Honda's description of the 2006 Honda Insight follows:
    As the first of three hybrid vehicles offered by Honda, the Insight remains a favorite vehicle choice among customers seeking cutting edge technology and industry leading fuel economy, and demonstrates Honda's long-standing commitment to technological and environmental leadership.

    The Insight employs Honda's unique Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system that couples a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine with a thin, lightweight electric motor for enhanced fuel economy and added power when accelerating. The system recaptures energy from the car's momentum during braking and deceleration, with the electric motor acting as a generator that automatically recharges the batteries so that it never needs to be plugged in.

    The IMA system in the Insight also uses an "idle stop" feature that automatically turns off the engine when the car is not moving to reduce unnecessary fuel consumption and emissions. On models equipped with the CVT, the engine automatically restarts when the driver's foot is removed from the brake, and on 5-speed models it restarts when first gear is engaged.

    The Insight was designed from the ground up to deliver world-class fuel economy and ultra low emissions. This was accomplished in part by using a lightweight, aerodynamic, aluminum-intensive body and chassis combination that delivers a low 0.25 coefficient of drag, and contributes to a range of more than 500 miles on a single tank of gas.

    An extensive number of features come as standard equipment on the Insight, including dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, electric power steering, power windows and mirrors, power door locks with keyless entry, anti-theft Immobilizer system and available automatic climate control.

    *For the 2006 model year, all Honda horsepower and torque specifications have been updated to reflect revised Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J1349 (Rev 8/04) net calculations that went into affect in January of 2005. These new calculations reflect a number of significant changes in the way horsepower and torque are measured and may cause SAE net horsepower and torque totals published in 2006 media materials to differ from the figures published in previous years. To avoid confusion, all 2006 Honda press materials will specify "SAE net (Rev 8/04" ) after all horsepower and torque figures to denote adherence to the new standards.

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    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Honda outlines its plans for the future

    President Takeo Fukui outlined Hondas plans for the future in his Mid=Year CEO Speech. Honda is developing a new dedicated hybrid vehicle suitable for family use. They are hoping to take advantage of new technologies and offer this hybrid for less than the Honda Civic Hybrid. The Honda Civic Hybrid currently has a MSRP of $14,760-$23,650.

    The Suzuka factory will produce this new hybrid. Honda projects sales in North America alone will hit 100,000, with worldwide sales hitting 200,000.

    Honda is also planning on a new auto plant in the US, planned to be operational in 2008 capable of producing 200,000 units at a cost of $400 million. With this new plant in place, Honda will be capable of building 1.6 million units in North America. Honda is also planning on beginning operation in 2008 on a new engine plant in Canada. Fukui also pointed out the new transmission plant in Georgia began operations this month.

    Questions that occur to me when I look at Hondas outline. Is this the new Honda Fit Hybrid? When in 2009 will it be available. Are they going to cut back on production of the Honda Accord given its poor sales these past few months? 100,000 sales is quite a jump for a car maker who may reach 50 to 60,000 units sold this year on all three of its current hybrid cars in the US. Does this mean the production block that has limited hybrid sales will be lifted by then?

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    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    US Postal Service goes hybrid

    The USPS is unveiling a hybrid delivery vehicle, powered by Azure's hybrid electric powertrain at a special event being held in Boston. According to one source, every one cent increase in gas prices translates into an annual $8 million increase in gasoline costs.

    According to the press release, this will be the USPS first converted hybrid electric vehicle. The event will showcase learning about hybrid technology as well as other alternative-fuel vehicles. Sott Wimmer, NASCAR driver will be available for photographs.

    Hear remarks from Walter O’Tormey, vice president, engineering, USPS; and Campbell Deacon, CEO, Azure Dynamics Corporation. Azure Dynamics is a developer of electric and hybrid electric powertrain systems. These systems can convert conventional Postal Service mail-delivery trucks to hybrids.

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    GM has a good story to tell

    In GM's annual report to stockholders, GM talks about its efforts to build fuel efficient vehicles.

    • Gm offers more vehicles here with an EPA rating of 30 mpg than any other car maker. GM offers nine models capable of E85 and has built 1.5 million flexible fuel vehicles.
    • They offer a hybrid bus.
    • They have had a light hybrid pickup truck for two years.
    • The low cost Saturn Vue hybrid will be offered at a base sticker of less than $23,000.
    • The 2008 Chevy Tahoe will be offered with the all new two mode hybrid system. The two-mode hybrid system was designed in conjunction with DaimleryChrysler and BMW.
    • GM is also promising fuel cell technology sometime in the future.

    The author of the article I'm sourcing has several issues with these claims: GM's Fuelish Talk -
    GM. Yet, in its just-issued annual report, GM tells stockholders, “We have a good story to tell…”

    The issues I have with these statements are varied and deal mostly with the hybrid cars. Although the light pickup is a 'hybrid', it's what referred to as a mild hybrid. Capable of shutting the engine off when stopping and regenerative braking, the electric motor is not capable of much else. And so these 'hybrids' are helpful in congested areas, but make no significant differences in other areas of driving. The trucks GM is referencing barely qualify as hybrids.

    The Saturn VUE hybrid will be a low cost hybrid, but again, will be a mild hybrid. Drivers will be saving a total of 4 mpg over the conventional gas engine, and so its unlikely consumers will be willing to shell out a premium for so little in savings.

    The two mode hbyrid system could end up making a significant difference in the future. But its capabilities have yet to be seen.

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    Saturn unveils new ad campaign

    Saturn's new ad campaign, "Like always. Like never before." is introducing Saturn's new line-up. The TV spots will highlight Saturn's customer service reputation linked with its new cars and trucks.

    Saturn is introducing the Sky roadster now. Later this summer they will be bringing out the Aura midsize sports sedan, the hybrid VUE (suv) and the Sky Red Line. Last but not least, the Outlook will be coming out towards the end of the year.

    The new ad campaign debuted last night with The King of Queens and 24.
    GM Media Online

    "Since Saturn debuted in 1990, we have built a strong reputation for our great customer care, innovation, safety and environmental awareness," said Dave Smidebush, director of marketing and advertising for Saturn. "With five new products this year, we are rapidly building onto that identity with a new level of style and performance to our lineup like never before in our history."

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    Monday, May 15, 2006

    Tour De Sol results

    There's just too much in the press release to discuss in one post:

    Press release from: NESEA-NorthEast Sustainable Energy Association

    Tour De Sol, America’s #1 Green Car Show and Competition, Demonstrates How to Reduce Oil Use and Climate Change Emissions By Over 100%

    Tour De Sol Winners Announced

    (CSRwire) GREENFIELD, MA—The results are in – and over 50 light duty vehicles competing in the Tour de Sol, America’s #1 green car show and competition "driving toward zero carbon emissions" demonstrated their ability of reducing oil use and climate change emissions by over 100%, compared to conventional vehicles that achieve the 27 mpg CAFÉ standard for light duty vehicles.

    Held May 10-14 at the Saratoga Spa State Park and Saratoga Automobile Musuem in Saratoga Springs, NY, the Tour de Sol featured entrants in three separate competitions who turned in spectacular results and took home trophies and $10,000 in cash prizes. Using many energy efficiency techniques, and in some cases switching to less carbon intensive fuels such as compressed natural gas, biodiesel, vegetable oil, or electricity and hydrogen from clean renewable sources, the entrants demonstrated an average of 66 mpg, 140% above the current CAFÉ standard, and reductions in climate change emissions of 130%.

    Wayne Gerdes of Illinois, West Philadelphia High School of Philadelphia, PA, Greasecar Vegetable Fuel System, of Easthampton, MA, Burlington County Electecs of Lawrenceville, NJ and Optibike of Bolder, CO took top honors.

    "For auto enthusiasts and environmentalists these are tremendously exciting results," said Nancy Hazard of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), organizer of the Tour de Sol. "This demonstrates what is possible today and that we can do even better in the near future. We must work together and continue to develop vehicles that aim to cut oil use and climate change emissions to zero."

    "We have been very impressed with the innovative technologies demonstrated by the vehicles participating in the Tour de Sol," said Peter R. Smith, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, premier sponsor of the event. "NYSERDA is pleased to have brought the Tour de Sol to New York State to showcase how we can lessen our dependence on foreign energy sources, and control our own energy destiny."

    In the Monte Carlo style Rally, Gerdes drove a stock Insight from Chicago on a single tank of gas achieving 90.4 mpg and captured the grand prize of the Monte Carlo-style fuel efficiency Championship. Two other interesting independent teams, Jack Lee from Venice, FL and Willy Williford from Campo, CA, had added TurboChargers to their Honda Insights, which have a 57 mpg EPA rating. Jack Lee’s vehicle demonstrated over 76 mpg.

    Perhaps the most interesting entry in the Monte Carlo Rally was a modified Honda Insight employing Plug-In charging and Integrated Motor Assist, and a 5th wheel powered by an electric motor for faster electric startup. This unique vehicle, driven by Mike Dabrowski of North Grosvenordale, CT. achieved an overall performance of 82.49 mpg and took 3 awards, including the top "Plug-In Hybrid" Award.

    Additionally, HyMotion, from Concord, Ontario, Canada, showed one of the most interesting commercial options that could take hybrid technology to the next level. HyMotion’s PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle) kit is designed to convert a Toyota Prius or Ford Hybrid Escape into a hybrid vehicle that can drive in electric-only mode for 20 miles, and plug into an electrical outlet for recharging. The advantage of such a vehicle is that, in normal use where daily driving is often between 20-40 miles, it could reduce gasoline use by 50- 80%, and shift its motive energy to electricity from the Grid that can be produced by zero-carbon renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

    In the alternative fuel division of the Monte Carlo-style Rally, Homeland Energy Resources Development drove a Honda GX that runs on compressed natural gas and has been cited as the "cleanest car on earth." Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems entered an Austin Mini Clubman converted with their kit to run on 100% vegetable oil. Eastern Biofuels, the largest biodiesel supplier in the Northeast, refueled the biodiesel-powered vehicles. The Gavin Watson team received a cash prize from the National Biodiesel Board for taking first place in this division with a 1973 Porsche 914 powered by 100% soybean oil that got 53 mpg and reduced climate change emissions by 87% compared to a conventional 27-mpg vehicle.

    "We were thrilled with these performances," said Jim Dunn, CEO of the Center for Technology Commercialization, Monte Carlo-style Rally sponsor. "Over twenty teams entered conventional hybrid cars and demonstrated their ability to exceed the EPA mpg standards in every case – and the modified hybrids turned in spectacular results."

    Sixteen teams entered the Tour de Sol Championship this year. This competition challenges entrants to build one-of-a-kind highway-worthy vehicles that aim to reduce oil use and climate change emissions to zero. West Philadelphia High School took top honors in the student Hybrid and Alternative fuel division. Their purpose-built sports car that can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds achieved a fuel efficiency of 55 mpg. The Greasecar Mad Mini team carried the day in the independent division with Mini Cooper Clubman with Greasecar Vegetable Fuel System kit installed so that it could run on 100% vegetable oil.

    In the battery electric division, EVermont, from Waterbury, VT demonstrated incredible fuel efficiency of electric vehicles with over 160 MPGe, while the Burlington Electecs of Lawrenceville, NJ took top honors with a student-built electric vehicle. In the Solar-Assisted electric division, the West Irondequoit took top honors in the one-person category, and St. Mark’s School, Southborough, MA, took top honors in the two-person category. St. Mark’s and the North Haven Community School from North Haven, ME tied for the "Renewablity Prize," demonstrating zero climate change emissions. St. Marks purchased green electricity from their local utility to run their car, while North Haven added solar panels to their school to generate electricity to run their car.

    Another unique team, which traveled from Delhi College in Delhi India to the Tour de Sol, showcased a one-person hybrid vehicle. Their vehicle demonstrated the importance of designing a vehicle to suit its use. This vehicle was designed to address the transportation needs of millions of people in India that presently use highly polluting motorcycles by presenting them with a practical, very efficient hybrid option.

    "We saw lots of innovative ideas in these one-of-a-kind vehicles that students and independent teams brought this year," said Dr. Robert Wills, technical director of the Tour de Sol Championship. "As in the past, we hope to see many of these technologies on the showroom floor in the near future – helping to clean the air we breathe and reduce carbon emission."

    The new Around Town Vehicle Competition grew to eleven entries this year. This competition challenges entrants to design motorized vehicles that could replace the conventional car in our communities with zero carbon emission vehicles.

    In the production division both Optibike and RunAbout Cycles attracted much attention. Optibike, of Bolder, CO, demonstrated an amazing range of 104 miles in less than four hours on its electric bicycle, Optibike 400, which uses lithium batteries. In the independent and student divisions there were four entries using lithium batteries and two using lead acid batteries.

    In the neighborhood electric vehicle division, competition was fierce with three GEMs entered - one from the Southern Berkshire Regional School, Sheffield, MA and two from the Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs, NY. All of the vehicles drove over 20 miles with conventional lead acid batteries and received a cash prize from the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium for their achievements. The Berkshire school also brought an amazing educational trailer with wind and solar demonstrations. Lastly Newburgh Free Academy, New Windsor, NY, entered several interesting non-road vehicles.

    "We were thrilled to see the Around Town Vehicle Competition grow this year," said Paul O’Brien of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, creator of the new NEV competition rules. "This kind of a project is affordable and a great teaching tool. It involves research, problem solving, teamwork, computer and hands-on experience, and it creates awareness about our energy and environmental challenges and possible solutions in the transportation sector."

    Premier sponsors of the 2006 Tour de Sol were the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Center for Technology Commercialization. Additional key sponsors included the New York Power Authority, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, Stewart’s Shops, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Eastern Biofuels, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Toyota, the UK Trade & Investment, Honda, Kurkoski Solar Electric, Westboro Toyota, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, E-The Environmental Magazine, EIN Publishing, and

    The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, organizer of the Tour de Sol, is the Northeast’s leading organization of professionals and concerned citizens working in sustainable energy, and whole systems thinking. NESEA facilitates the widespread adoption and use of sustainable energy by providing support to industry professionals and by educating and motivating consumers to learn about, ask for and adopt sustainable-energy and green-building practices. NESEA accomplishes this through conferences, K-12 educational resources, its members and chapters, its Sustainable Yellow Pages, and public events.

    To find out more about the Tour de Sol:

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    The dangers of hybrid rescue

    Hybrid cars are a new technology that most rescue workers are becoming wary of. Why? When cars are involved in an accident, seconds can count. And now these first responders are being forced to stop and evaluate the situation for hidden dangers.

    When a conventional gas engine is running, you can almost always tell by the noise. But hybrid engines can be so quiet, you could miss it. Imagine if the responder believes the engine is off, but then someone in an accident steps on the accelerator. Things can go from bad to worse very quickly.

    Also, the larger batteries in a hybrid can be a concern. First responders are worried about getting electrocuted by these orange high voltage wires running throughout a hybrid engine.

    Car makers are distributing information about their cars, how to check for wiring, where it should be located, how to make sure the engine is turned off, how to cut the electricity if you need to, etc... Of course, its not only hybrids that they are worried about. Anytime a new car comes out, emergency workers need to learn various about the various safety issues involved. For instance, if they need to use the jaws of life to cut someone out, they don't want to cut through an airbag.

    If you're truly concerned about hybrid safety, I would suggest you read this article over at Green Car Congress. "Green Car Congress recently sat down with extrication instructor Ron Shaw to discuss the rapidly increasing technology present in today’s vehicles, and in innovative vehicles in particular. The interview also touched on the challenges presented by hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles."

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    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Honda CR-V Hybrid Cancelled?

    There are mixed reports about the upcoming hybrids coming out of Honda. I previously reported a story on about the Honda CR-V and Fit becoming hybrids in the near future. Hybridcars claimed to have an inside source at Honda. They claimed Honda would be outfitting the Fit with the hybrid engine from the Insight and the Honda CR-V hybrid would be available in late 2006.

    But now the Inside Line (Edmunds) is claiming they have sources confirming the Honda CR-V was cancelled, citing the premium cost. Putting a hybrid engine into the CR-V would put a premium of $7000 onto the hybrid version. And, not surprisingly, Honda feels most consumers would not buy the hybrid version at that price.

    Their source is also claiming the Honda Fit Hybrid is still being planned, but instead of using the Insights hybrid engine, the Hybrid Fit will be outfitted using a modified version of the powerplant used in the Honda Civic. The hybridized version will be slightly more costlyat a premium of $1,800. But it will be the first real full production economy car outfitted as a hybrid and capable of getting 50 mpg.


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    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    GM will continue to build hybrids

    GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner plans on continuing to build hybrids for its favorable image.  Unfortunately, GM doesn't currently make hybrids that project the best image.

    Reuters Business Channel |

    General Motors Corp. plans to stay in the hybrid vehicle business for the favorable image it projects, Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said in an interview this week, adding that the United States also needs to focus on ethanol to reduce foreign-oil dependency.

    GM makes mild hybrids. These vehicles have regenerative braking and the electric motor assists the gas engine. But the vehicle is not capable of being propelled by the electric engine alone as in a full hybrid.

    As part of a joint effort called the 'Global Alliance for Hybrid Drive Development,' GM, BMW and DaimlerChrysler recently announced a breakthrough in developing a two-mode hybrid.

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    Ford considering producing a plug-in hybrid

    Chief Executive Bill Ford stated Ford is currently considering the launch of a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

    Plug-in hybrids can get over 100 mpg, but have been limited in production and sales. Costs for converting hybrids into plug-ins have been deterring most consumers from buying a plug-in. But, if a major manufacturer builds one and prices it to compete with hybrid vehicles, they should capture a hardcore group of consumers who would be purchasing a hybrid car.

    Ford may also be looking to be seen as more innovative, and 'building better cars'. Toyota, who has attributed its growth to its reputation as an innovator, has reported record sales and profits in the past few months.

    Reuters Business Channel |

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    Federal tax credit phase out period

    Buyers of hybrid cars are eligible for a federal tax credit in 2006 of up to $3400. But the full tax credit is only available up until the quarter following the time the manufacturer of the hybrid car sells 60,000 hybrid cars.

    Intended as a domestic tax incentive, federal lawmakers are currently discussing dropping this cap. And considering Toyota will most likely hit that cap number sometime in the 2nd Quarter of 2006, it would probably work as a domestic incentive if left alone. In the meantime, Toyota has set up a website outlining some basic hybrid car tax credit information you need to know if you have already bought, or are considering buying a hybrid.

    The really nice feature of this page is their outline on how the tax credit will phase out after the 2nd Quarter.

    Since Toyota expects to hit the cap number some time during the second quarter of this year (they've already sold over 50,000 hybrid cars this year), the full tax credit will begin to phase out in the third quarter, i.e. after September 30, 2006. After that, consumers will be eligible for 50% of the tax credit for two more quarters, followed by 25% for the two quarters after that. And so, on September 30, 2007, there will be no federal tax available on Toyota hybrid cars.

    Honda and Ford have sold arond 13K and 7K hybrid cars so far this year. Considering their rate of sales, those who purchase from Honda and Ford/Mercury will be eligible for the full tax credit well into next year.

    Keep in mind that some states give tax relief as well. For instance, Colorado offers a tax credit (until 2011) based on the vehicle similar to the federal tax credit and Connecticett offers a full sales tax exemption on buyers who purchase hybrid cars (expires July 1, 2008).

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    Concerns about buying a used hybrid

    JD Power and Associates used vehicle sales and certification study (UVSC) looks at consumers who are interested in buying used hybrids.

    Used Vehicle Sales and Certification (UVSC) Study

    With fuel prices continuing to rise and sales of new hybrid-electric vehicles increasing every year, many consumers are turning their attention to used hybrid vehicles. The study finds that 44 percent of late-model used-vehicle buyers are willing to consider a pre-owned hybrid-electric vehicle rather than a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle, even at an additional cost. Major concerns that used-vehicle buyers have with considering used hybrid-electric vehicles are the estimated higher maintenance costs, reliability, and the life span of the vehicle’s battery pack.

    “Previously owned hybrids are perfect candidates for certification programs, where in-depth inspections and longer warranties help alleviate the concerns of buyers about purchasing used hybrids,” said Crane.

    Concerns about hybrid battery life should be tops on the list of anyone who looks to buy a used hybrid. Hybrid batteries are guaranteed for 8 years (10 years in select states), which is a respectable amount of time for a car battery. But once the battery goes, it can cost thousands to replace.

    Also, most engine repairs can be made by your local mechanic. But, as with any time something goes wrong with a major system, you will probably have to go to your local dealer instead. And repairs by dealers tend to be more expensive.

    Routine maintenance costs are actually less for hybrids, since brakes will last longer because the regenerative braking takes some of the strain. Also fewer oil changes are needed over the lifetime of the car.

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    Prius takes two in International Engine of the Year

    The Toyota Prius took top honors at the International Engine of the Year for the eighth time in eight years. The Prius took two this year, taking first for Best Fuel Economy and first in 1.4 - 1.8 litre engine. The Hybrid Synergy may be available across several other vehicles in the Lexus and Toyota lines, but the Prius is almost equivalent to hybrid.

    The Prius is able to operate at 32 percent efficiency, compareed with the average of 14 percent by turning off when stopped, using regenerateive braking, as well as its hybrid gas electric engine.

    INTERNATIONAL ENGINE OF THE YEAR 2006 - 1.4-litre to 1.8-litre and Best Fuel Economy awards.

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    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Hybrid trends

    After seeing the google trends, I had to try it out using some common hybrid car terms. I found the following search interesting:

    If you take a look, I searched for trends for the following terms: toyota prius, highlander hybrid, honda insight, ford escape hybrid, and hybrid cars. You can see how interest in hybrids peaked last year with the corresponding spike in gas prices.

    You can also see that the Toyota Prius outranks the other cars I searched for by a significant amount. And that searches for Prius and hybrid cars are basically equivalent in size. To me, this indicates that the Prius is distinctively hybrid and continues to be the most popular hybrid car, despite the entry of so many new hybrid vehicles.

    I also noted that searches for the Honda Insight seems to distinguish itself when the gas prices spiked last year. This shouldn't be surprising since the Insight is the most efficient hybrid car available, even though it's low production (only 110 made in April) and is only a two seater.

    You may have noticed I put 'hybrid' in with ford escape, toyota highlander and honda accord. I was attempting to distinguish between the hybrid and the conventional gas engine. If I take hybrid out, you can see that searches for the Honda Accord are much higher than any of the others. But, what I find interesting is how searches for these three cars dropped drastically with the spike in gas prices. But if you look carefully, searches for the Honda Accord have climbed dramatically recently.

    One last note. The bottom of the graph shows trends in news stories for these terms. The big spikes seem to correspond to releases of their hybrid versions. But, there is no corresponding spike in search terms.

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    Bosch is ready to supply hybrid parts

    The biggest limiting factor for hybrid sales last month was supply. Toyota really felt the crunch as their hybrid sales dropped significantly compared to last April, but the drop was artificial in that they have waiting lists of up to four months on their Toyota Prius.

    Bosch is the world's largest supplier and has concluded the prototype and is in contact with customers about contracting for hte business development phase.


    we are offering the electric motor, the power electronics, engine controls - meaning adapted engine controls - and, depending on the requirements, brake technology in the form of brake-by-wire.

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    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Ford and GM want access to the HOV lane for their hybrids

    Ford and GM want access to HOV lanes for their hybrids, no matter what their actual fuel efficiency is. As it stands right now, New York and California opened their HOV lanes to hybrids who also meet a standard of 45 mpg (EPA rating) highway. Only three cars meet California's standard, which was applied to New York, the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda Insight.

    Ford and GM are charging that the federal law allows any hybrids that get 50% better highway mileage or 25% better city-highway mileage combined than identical gasoline powered models. Ford and GM's hybrids would meet those standards.

    While I can understand why Ford and GM want access for their vehicles to the HOV lane, I would have to say that California's rules are more sensible. It really doesn't make any sense to claim they are being discriminated against, not when Toyota and Honda have hybrids that don't qualify. Also, it makes sense to allow this perk for those hybrids that truly make a difference in combatting oil dependence, not just because they are hybrids.

    Also, some drivers in the HOV lane are getting upset at the special priviliges hybrid drivers are receiving. Calling it Prius backlash, people are upset at what they perceive as overcrowding in the HOV lane. If the HOV lane fills up due to hybrid use, drivers who currently carpool will give up and go back to driving themselves to work.

    It makes sense to offer the special privilige to hybrid owners who have bought the most fuel efficient vehicles. These hybrids are still comparable to other cars in the HOV lane with 3 or more passengers. Ford and GM's hybrids just aren't.

    JS Online:Ford, GM want their hybrids let in carpool lanes

    Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., seeking to boost sales, want the federal government to force New York and California to let solo drivers of their hybrid vehicles join those of Honda and Toyota cars in highway carpool lanes.

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    West Philadelphia High School Team Looks to Repeat at Tour de Sol

    As a follow up to an earlier story I had on the group of high school kids who built a car and won the Tor de Sol last year, I am including their press release for entering this year's race. Last year, they took a K-1 kit, an old Accord, and some soybean oil (along with some donated parts and money) and built a car that goes from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds and gets 50 mpg. While it may smell like french fries when you start it up, there's nothing lost in this car.

    PHILADELPHIA, May 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Supporters of the Electric Vehicle Team of West Philadelphia High School's Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering (WPHSAAME) will gather on Tuesday afternoon to wish the students success in this week's Tour de Sol. The Tour de Sol is the nation's oldest and most prestigious competition for alternative fuel vehicles, now in its 18th year. The race is being held in Saratoga Springs, NY and begins on Wednesday with technical testing of vehicles.

    Last year, the team from West Philadelphia High School won the Tour de Sol defeating not only colleges and universities, but production vehicles from Toyota and Honda. Their vehicle, the Hybrid Attack, was the greenest vehicle in the competition.

    The competition will again be fierce. This year besides the usual array of colleges, universities and manufacturers there will be a team from Delhi College, the premier engineering school of India. Also in the competition will be West's closest competitor, Western Washington University, which will be sending two (2) vehicles.

    "At a time when the price of gas is over $3.00 a gallon, building a vehicle that gets great mileage and runs on soybean oil is a great educational experience," said Simon Hauger, the Team's mentor.

    The students and staff at West have been working very hard to prepare for the race. Supporters including AFSCME District Council 33, and others from the labor and business communities will be gathering at the West Philadelphia High School's Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering at 221 South Hanson Street at 3:00 PM on Tuesday, May 9, 2006 to cheer the Team on as they get ready to once again take on the challenge of building the greenest vehicle.

    The team members are students Calvin Cheesboro, Joe Pak, Tyson Drummond, Tysheema Lovett, Kerri Gabe, Nkosi Harmon, Bruce Harmon, Kevin McKnight, Victor Webster and Tete Occannsey, along with teachers Simon Hauger, Clayton Kinsler and Ron Preiss.

    For more information about the Tour de Sol visit the website of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (

    The WPHSAAME is a program of the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Academies, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides services in dozens of public high schools and middle schools. For more information about Philadelphia Academies visit their website at

    The work of the WPHSAAME is supported by its Board of Governors and business partners: AFSCME D. C. 33, AAA Mid-Atlantic, Central City Toyota, City of Philadelphia Office of Fleet Management, Community College of Philadelphia, Gary Barbera Dodgeland, Haines Street Collex, Meissner Chevrolet, Mitchell 1, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the Philadelphia School District, Pep Boys, Sunoco, Inc., Subaru of America and the University of Pennsylvania.

    Source: AFSCME District Council 33

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    Hybrid cars are in short supply

    Hybrid car sales increased from April 2005 to April 2006, but not as much as you might expect. Ford had record sales, while Honda and Toyota sales were mixed. The problem, according to Toyota US President Jim Press lies in the supply. - Lack of supply reduces hybrid sales

    "We sold down our inventory. We're down to a two-day supply," says Toyota U.S. President Jim Press. "The fact is, demand has never been higher."

    For Toyota, the release of the Toyota Camry Hybrid has reduced hybrid supplies available for the Toyota Prius. That limited the number of sales they were capable of making last month.

    Buying the Toyota Prius typically requires a wait of a couple of weeks up to four months and the Prius and Civic sit on lots for less than 10 days. The average car takes 57 days to move off of the lot.

    The Honda Civic hybrid supplies were limited by supplies, but sales of the Honda Accord Hybrid have been slipping. The Honda Accord hybrid is a performance hybrid which uses the electric engine to assist the gas engine for more power, rather than better mileage.

    Ford, on the other hand, had room to grow, allowing it to double its sales.


    At best, Press said Toyota Motor Sales can double its U.S. hybrid sales from last year, when it sold 146,560 units.

    As for the future, Press said Toyota is short of the engineering resources to accelerate its plans to bring new hybrid models to market.

    "Expanding hybrid volume requires increasing the number of vehicles that have the hybrid option available," he said. "That's driven by engineering resources, and it's difficult to accelerate that."

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    Monday, May 08, 2006

    Moms are looking for safety and fuel economy surveyed more than 520 mothers of various-aged children (including expectant monthers) as part of their Mother's Day survey.

    Over half of the respondents currently drive an SUV. 67% indicated that safety was among their most important consideration, followed by 52% who are concerned about fuel economy. While only 6% currently drive a minivan, 17% wish they did and 12% wish they drove a hybrid.

    When It Comes to Buying a Car, Mom's the Word: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

    When asked if they'd like to drive something different than the vehicle they currently drive, 52% responded they currently drive the type of vehicle they ideally want to drive, followed by 17% who responded they'd ideally like to drive a Mini Van, and 12% who indicated they'd like to drive a Hybrid.

    I would say the numbers on SUV drivers and minivan drivers explain why there is a hybrid SUV, but right now, there is no hybrid mini-van.

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    Senate moves to reduce dependence on foreign oil

    The Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006, a bipartisan bill in the Senate is looking to reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil. As part of that legislation, they are looking to increase spending on new technologies such as plug in hybrids.
    U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

    The Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006, introduced today, will greatly spur energy conservation, with a focus on reducing oil demand through greater fuel efficiency and finding ways to moderate natural gas demand by promoting renewable electricity production. Among the most important provisions of the bill will be an emphasis on an expanded plan for economy-wide oil savings that will cut oil use, from projected levels, by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2016, 7 million barrels of oil per day by 2026, and 10 million barrels of oil per day by 2031.
    The legislation includes a variety of initiatives designed to reduce our nation’s nearly total reliance on petroleum products in the transportation sector, including programs that will:
    · Speed the development of new vehicle technologies such as plug-in hybrids and the use of advanced light weight materials in vehicles;
    · Expand the authority of the Secretary of Energy to provide loan guarantees and competitive grants to automakers and parts manufacturers to convert existing plants or to build new facilities for manufacturing fuel-efficient vehicles and vehicle components;
    · Increase the availability of alternative fuels, such as E85, across the country by providing funding for alternative fueling stations;
    · Provide funds to states for programs to encourage motorists to retire vehicles that are inefficient, and for programs to reduce school bus idling; and
    · Provide incentives for the production of cellulosic ethanol.

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    Hybrid SUV Market

    Some interesting changes are occuring in the hybrid market. Back in June 2005 with the introduction of the Toyota Highlander SUV Hybrid, the hybrid SUV market hit 34% of the total hybrid market. From that point, until January, 2006, the SUV market has hovered around 30%. In February, the market increased to 39%. In March, it stayed at 39% and in April, the SUV market has increased to 43%.

    Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising since four of the ten hybrids available today are SUVs, but the number of hybrid car types has been increasing, not the number hybrid SUVs. Also, the biggest player, the Toyota Prius, has run into production limits, limiting its market share.

    This increase in the hybrid SUV market is related to the increase in gas prices, greater marketing efforts by Toyota and Ford, as well as recent incentives being offered by Ford on its Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid including 0% financing.

    Its unlikely the SUV market will become the majority, simply because of the number of car alternatives are increasing at a faster rate. For instance, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and GS 450h were just introduced into the North American marketplace during the last week in April.

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    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Emergency workers are worried about hybrid safety

    Emergency workers were worried about any damage the hybrid car could do to them as they tried to rescue the victim in a recent car crash involving a Prius. - Local News: Extra care taken after ’hybrid’ crash

    In freeing her from the car, Porter reported the car itself posed the most difficulty.
    "These new hybrid cars can make our rescue process after a car wreck slightly more dangerous," Porter said. "Not only do we need to worry about disconnecting the battery, but now we need to worry about the possibility of being electrocuted by [the cars’] additional high-powered electrical system."

    The victim said her brakes failed so she ended up crossing through a resident's backyard, eventually coming to rest on its side. The women was unhurt, but firefighters had to break the glass to get her out. The driver was cited for failure to stop or yield.

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    Honda Fit Hybrid

    Hybridcars has confirmed Honda's intentions to release the Honda Fit Hybrid in mid 2007.

    Hybrid Cars - Honda Fit Hybrid

    The Emergence of the Economy Hybrid
    In an exclusive interview with, an industry insider has confirmed that Honda will release a hybrid version of the Honda Fit subcompact. The vehicle is schedule for release in mid-2007. The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said:
    "If you take the measurement from the wheel hub to the wheel hub of the Fit and the Insight, they are the same to the millimeter. The Fit is going to get the Insight engine. It's already a proven powertrain. It will probably get fuel economy in the low to mid-50s."

    They also confirmed the hybrid CR-V min-SUV will be available in late 2006.

    The Honda Fit Hybrid is big news because it will be so affordable. The closest hybrid in price is about $20K. While the Honda Fit hybrid may sell for under $12,000. It is only a subcompact car, meaning it would be of limited utility, but hybrid consumers may embrace the price tag.

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    Hybrids get into the HOV lane in NJ

    NJ Turnpike Authority is now allowing hybrid cars into the HOV lane on the NJ Turnpike. Unfortunately, the HOV lane is only available between exits 11 and 14.

    Governor Jon S Corzine asked the Authority to authorize hybrids in the HOV lane last week. Yesterday, the Authority voted to allow hybrid vehicles to use the HOV lanes. The governor is hoping to encourage people to use more fuel efficient cars in an effort to combat high gas prices.

    Source: AP Report --

    They should have consulted with Virginia's turnpike authority or California's before acting so quickly. It seems that HOV lanes in those states are beginning to get clogged by hybrid cars, which is leading to a backlash on hybrid drivers, who tend to drive the speed limit in order to conserve on gas consumption.

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    Hybrid trucks for the military

    An AP report on hybrid (diesel-electric) trucks in the military brings up some interesting uses. These hybrid trucks, a Heavy Expanded Mobility Technical Truck (HEMTT) being produced by OshKosh Truck, are prototypes. The conventional HEMTT gets 3 to 4 miles per gallon, while the hybrid increases mileage by 20 percent. And, just as a bonus, it generates enough electricity to power a hospital.

    Current HEMMT (diesel) costs range from $200K to $400K, but its not clear how much the hybrid version will cost. Implications for military vehicles going hybrid are clear, however. Gas savings can be significant, alongside the utility of a power producing truck capable of heading into danger or emergency zones.

    The HEMTT is capable of carrying 13 tons of cargo, and must be capable of going where few others can go (hills, heights, little or no pavement, etc...) The hybrid prototype has a smaller engine, lower center of gravity, produces less noise and is capable of fitting in a third passenger.

    OshKosh also produces tow, garbage, concrete mixers and fire trucks, which means developing a hybrid for the military could lead to more advances in hybrid trucks for the future.

    Read more about it at

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    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Car and Driver reviews the Toyota Camry Hybrid

    And to put it briefly, they seem to be impressed. In summary, you get good performance (0-60 in 7.7 seconds). The EPA rates city/highway at 43/37 mpg, although they had an observed 33 mpg mixed metro driving.

    They also had only good things to say about its looks and feel:

    Short Take Review: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid - Car and Driver - June 2006

    Hybrid or not, there’s a lot to like about this new Camry, starting with its intriguing shape. It crouches with its nose low, ready to pounce as you approach from the front. The side glass arcs inward as it rises, suggesting a canopy. Inside, the feeling is spacious, with the windshield and dashboard pushed forward and out of your face. The driving position is excellent. Even with the optional navigation system, remarkably few buttons are needed to operate this complex machine. The new instrument cluster, with large white-on-black markings, is wonderfully legible. Instead of a tach, the hybrid features an instantaneous-mpg gauge that swings a long, well-damped needle over a broad arc marked from 0 mpg to 60, and then into a blue range beyond the numbers — the zone of infinite mileage that the Camry enters when it drives without engine power.

    The Toyota Camry hybrid is a full hybrid, capable of electric power only at low speeds. Regenerative braking makes the braking feel different from conventional cars, but the reviewers felt the Camry wasn't too bad, if not as good as in a conventional Camry.

    The large (150 lbs nickel-metal hydride) battery is in the back, which takes out four cubic feet in the trunk and reduces the gas tank by 1.4 gallons.

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    Road and Track looks at hybrids

    They road tested the Honda Civic hybrid, the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid. While the Camry and Escape fared well in the 'frugal in comparison' category, all three hybrids got rave reviews from the drivers. They were especially impressed with the improvements in hybrid technology, as well as the seamless transition from electric to gas power.

    Overall, they seem to understand hybrids better than most.

    Road and Track.

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    The top 10 hybrid states

    In a follow up to a previous story on hybrid registration in 2005, R.L. Polk & Co. also put together a list of the top 10 hybrid states.   These are the states that registered the most hybrids in 2005.

    California and Virginia both give some extra benefits to those who buy hybrids, so its not surprising to see them in the list of top 10 states that own hybrids. Also, you should factor in state populations (obviously, California has more people, so you are more likely to see people buying hybrids there).

    AP report via Yahoo!

    State 2005 Percent of total volume
    1. California 52,619 26.4 percent
    2. Florida 10,470 5.3 percent
    3. Texas 9,632 4.8 percent
    4. New York 9,372 4.7 percent
    5. Virginia 8,650 4.3 percent
    6. Illinois 7,286 3.7 percent
    7. Washington 6,970 3.5 percent
    8. Pennsylvania 6,948 3.5 percent
    9. Massachusetts 6,060 3.0 percent
    10. Maryland 5,673 2.8 percent
    Combined Top Ten 123,680 62.1 percent
    Source: R.L. Polk & Co.

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    Hybrid vehicles face testing by Which? magazine

    Which? magazine tested the Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Lexus RX 400h and the Toyota Prius for their environmental friendliness. Not surprisingly, they were unable to reach the mileage each car is rated for.

    Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Green claims for hybrid cars fail to add up, says Which? survey

    "We didn't do a highly technical laboratory test and simply drove them around on a mixture of roads in a normal way. It should be noted that all cars will struggle to get near the official mpg figures, but we feel that some of these should have done better. The Honda was nice to drive but as a fuel-saving hybrid, though, we're not sure that the figures add up."

    What they fail to note is that all cars, hybrid or not, will not match with their fuel efficiency ratings. Hybrids are held to a higher standard because they are rated higher. But in normal driving conditions, its the driver that matters most. In fact some hybrid drivers realize better mileage than what the EPA (in the US) rates them for. By using a technique called 'hypermiling', they can even reach over 100 mpg.

    Also, mileage is closely related to several factors, such as weather and road conditions. But the most telling mileage factor is the driver. By stomping on the gas pedal, one driver can kill mileage ratings for any car. That's why the EPA has standard testing procedures which are used for comparison purposes. Also, those EPA ratings are currently being rewritten to provide more 'real world' data.

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    US Hybrid sales doubled last year

    According to research by R.L. Polk & Co., 199,148 new hybrid vehicles were registered in 2005, a 139 percent increase from the year before. A record number of hybrids were sold in the US in 2005.

    Most of the hybrids sold were from Toyota/Lexus, who accounted for 70% of the hybrid market. Ford had less than 10%, while Honda took the rest. Toyota's main success came from the Toyota Prius, which accounted for more than half of the hybrids sold, all by itself.

    Registrations for new hybrids rose to 199,148 in 2005, a 139 percent increase from the year before, as more models came on the market, according to R.L. Polk & Co., a Southfield, Mich.-based firm that collects and interprets automotive data. The Lexus RX400h and hybrid versions of the Toyota Highlander and Mercury Mariner were among the new models from which consumers had to choose.

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    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    GM Chief Executive uncertain about hybrid future

    GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner has been and will continue to be cautious in his approach to hybrids. In the meantime, GM is going to keep developing bigger vehicles that will also have better fuel economy.

    Wagoner also expects gas prices to come back down based on the current supply and demand equation for oil. He is predicting gas prices will not "get to a price range when it would affect behavior". He expects gas prices would need to be well over $3 a gallon in order to significantly hurt consumers.

    In the meantime, Wagoner is uncertain about the future for hybrids.

    "A question I'm often asked is: How big the hybrid market could get to be? The honest answer to that is, I don't think anybody really knows. If you believe we're going to be at $120 (per barrel oil price) for a long period of time, the answer is a heck of a lot more than if you believe $60. Consumers will drive this. Our focus is to make sure we have the capability."

    GM is launching its new Saturn Vue Green line later this year. Its base price should start at $23,000, which puts it well below other hybrid SUVs. But, the Saturn Vue Green is not a full hybrid in the sense that the electric engine is not capable of running the vehicle at low speeds. The gas engine will shut off when the vehicle is stopped and regenerative breaking is used to recharge the batteries. But the conventional gas engine gets 22/27 mpg with an automatic transmission. The hybrid will improve that EPA esimate to 27/32 mpg.

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