Friday, June 30, 2006

Ward's Auto World ranks the top 10 engines

But hybrids were left off the list. According to technoride (The Ten Best High-Tech Engines)

Audi and General Motors have two engines each on the list. Others are from BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota. While hybrid engines won in past years, rising expectations kept Honda and Toyota engines off this year's list. Mixed real-world fuel economy, reduced economy in cold weather, and non-premium sounds from premium-price hybrid engines were all factors, says Ward's.

It seems hybrid engines are being held to a higher standard this year. And since there was little advancement, they were left off the list.

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Ford and Volvo announce hybrid research center in Goteborg

Ford is building a new research center in Goteberg, Sweden where its subsidiary Volvo Cars is located. They are planning on researching new hybrid technology for all of Ford's brands in Europe and for Volvo worldwide.

Volvo will run the center, investing $1.36 billion in environmental technology for its fleet over the coming years.

Volvo Chief Executive Fredrik Arp said the new center "underlines the fact that Sweden has all the prerequisites for research and development excellence."

"Volvo Cars' commitment to the environment is long-standing and well-recognized. It is a part of what people know us for," Arp said.

Talk about mixed messages. Just yesterday, Ford stated they are not going to make their goal for hybrids, instead they are going to focus on alternative fuels. And on the other hand, they are opening a research center for hybrid technology they are willing to invest a billion dollars on.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ford is looking to improve the Expedition using diesel or hybrid technology

The Ford Expedition has been having trouble selling lately. With gas prices soraring, US sales of the SUV fell 29.8 percent (in May) from last year. And the SUV is spending a lot more time on the lot at 82 days.

In the meantime, hybrid versions of the Tahoe and GMC Yukon, as well as the Dodge Durango are due out in the fall of 2007 and in 2008, respectively. With promises of 25% increase in fuel economy (moving them into the mid 20's range for mpg), Ford is feeling the pressure. Read more on GMs two-mode hybrid system developed in a partnership with DaimlerChrysler and BMW.

And so, Ford is looking to improve the Expedition with either a hybrid engine or turning it into a diesel. The biggest problem is time and cost. The diesel would be quicker and cheaper to build. The hybrid would need to be a rear-wheel drive hybrid powertrain transmission, something Ford doesn't have at the moment. If they started development today, it might take 3 to 4 years to complete. But Ford could buy the powertrain directly from GM, instead. And GM is willing to sell. They will begin production in Baltimore

But I wonder if that's what Ford will do. Given Bill Ford's backtracking on their hybrid promises yesterday, I wonder if they'll go the diesel route instead, despite any issues with more stringent exhast laws.

Source: An Expedition that doesn't guzzle? - AutoWeek

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Ford backs off on hybrid goals

Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler sent a letter to all Members of Congress yesterday announcing their intention to double annual production of vehicles capable of running on renewable fuels to two million cars and trucks by 2010.

Following that announcement, Ford chief executive Bill Ford sent an e-mail to employees yesterday saying the company will be focusing on other alternative fuels, not hybrids. And on top of that, Ford will fall short of its stated goal of producing 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year by 2010. Bill Ford also promised that half of Ford's products would be available as hybrids.

Ford backing off on this promise would represent a huge shift in the hybrid marketplace. Toyota is promising to take hybrids to the next level. It seems that Ford is giving up on that challenge.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ford is working on a hard sell to taxi drivers in Denver

For taxi drivers in Denver, the fuel savings would be great. At $30 a day in gas savings alone, I'm sure most taxi drivers would jump at the chance to drive a Ford Escape Hybrid, rather than just about any other conventional car.

Ford estimates the cabis savings at $6000 a year, but that's what they would save driving the hybrid SUV. The problem they have is the $29K price tag. Since most taxi drivers in Denver buy their own car at auction for $3 to $4K, making up the difference in initial price, insurance costs, taxes, interest payments, etc... would be decades away, if at all. What taxi driver is going to look that far ahead for (possible) long term savings? Even if you are going to pay less in maintenance costs (oil and brake pad replacements). - Ford tips cabbies to hybrid

"The extra gas mileage would be nice, but how do we afford these vehicles?" asked Freedom Cab driver Antneh Sharew, awaiting a fare Tuesday at the Adam's Mark hotel.

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North Carolina considers tax break for hybrid cars

North Carolina lawmakers are considering a $2000 state tax credit if you buy a hybrid car.

They are also working to promote alternative fuels, such as bio-diesel. They are hoping that by waiving the gas tax on bio-diesel, more companies will install the alternative fuel. Legislators Consider Incentives for Hybrid Cars

A total of 16,000 cars are on the road in the Triangle which could run on ethanol, which is derived from corn. But no local gas stations now pump ethanol fuel. A north Durham Exxon is the only public station which sells bio-diesel, which is 20 percent soybean oil.

Durham resident Greg Hawkins said, "This is the only station I know in the area that sells bio-diesel. And I don't have the time to go around and collect huge vegetable oil, treat it and all that stuff."

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ghosn, Nissan CEO, warns of tough first half: Promises better second half

Nissans CEO Carlos Ghosn warned that sales would be slow in the first half of 2006, but would pick up in the second half. In the mean time, he's still very skeptical about the future of hybrid cars.

It's really not surprising that Ghosn isn't excited about hybrid cars, given Nissan doesn't have a hybrid car in its lineup, yet. They will soon, but even then only eight states will carry the Nissan Altima hybrid. Also, it will be running off of Toyotas technology, not their own. Nissan is working on their own hybrid technology in the meantime.


Nissan Motor Co chief executive Carlos Ghosn warned shareholders to brace for a tough spell in the months ahead but predicted a pick up in sales in late 2006.

Ghosn reiterated his scepticism about new fuel-efficient hybrid cars being championed by Toyota Motor Corp, noting that in Japan the gas-electric vehicles represented less than one percent of the total market.

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Michigan to grant tax break to (US) hybrid automakers

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan state congress is working to grant nine million tax credit over ten years to GM, DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG to help establish a R&D facility in Troy.

The bill (Single Business Tax credit) was voted on 104-0 on Wednesday and was sent to the Senate.

What makes this tax credit unique is its emphasis on workers, not equipment. The SBT credit entitles the participating companies to credits equal to 3.9% of the total compensation paid to workers at the facility, up to a maximum of $3 million for each company through 2016. Receipt of the full credit is based on reaching the projected employment targets.

The three automakers are working together to build a two-mode hybrid system. The two-mode hybrid system is a low and high-speed electric variable transmission (ECVT) (follow the link for more information on the two-mode hybrid).

Source on the tax credit: Automakers likely to get tax credit for hybrid R&D

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California is working towards a hydrogen highway

From Quantum Press Release:
The California Air Resources Board is intending to lease four hydrogen fueled Toyota Prius hybrids later this year as part of the California Hydrogen Highway Network (CaH2Net). Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc. has won the bid to lease the hybrids.

Quantums Hydrogen Hybrid Toyota Prius acheive Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle emissions rating (SULEV). The hydrogen hybrid has an electonic multi-point hydrogen injection system, turbocharger and intercooler.

CaH2Net is Calfornias initiative commercialize the hydrogen technology. As part of that, they are going to build 250 hydrogen fueling stations across the state and put 20,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road.

Quantum is also developing an H2Hybrid package for the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV in conjunction with the US Army.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Record bids were made for the new hybrid taxi medallions

It seems bidding has been high on the 254 medallions available in New York for hybrid taxis. The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) which regulates the number of taxis in NY, is reporting record bids on the new medallions, including one for $554,147. And this despite the medallions being offered at discount rates.

There are 27 hybrid cabs operating in NY today. With only 22 hybrid Escape, two Lexus RX 400h's, two Toyota Highlanders and one Toyota Prius, the technology has yet to be proven in New York. Although 30 hybrid taxis in San Francisco have been doing very well, reaching the 100,000 mile mark with ease.

Even with the increase, the number of hybrid taxis will be a small fraction of the 13,000 taxis currently running in NYC.

Taxi fleet owners like to talk about the green aspects associated with hybrid technology. And they will be happier with the reduced maintenance bills associated with the brakes and oil changes.

But its the cab drivers who will really be excited. Drivers essentially 'rent' their cab for the day, paying for all fuel costs during their shift. With the increased fuel efficiency, drivers are estimating $30 in fuel savings each day, which goes directly into their pockets.

Source: Financial Express

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GM looking to develop plug-in hybrid

GM is said to be developing a plug-in hybrid capable of getting more than 60 miles per gallon. Although the vehicle wouldn't be in production for at least a year, GM is hoping to have a prototype available for the Detroit auto show in January.

This 'leak' may be in response to Toyotas announcement regarding their research into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

Given Toyotas success in the hybrid vehicle business and GMs lack of success in selling their version of a hybrid, GM has been trying to play catch-up. And even though they had an all electric vehicle out in 1996 (the EV1), GM decided not to pursue the hybrid option.

GM will hopefully be able to solve some of the biggest drawbacks to its EV1, namely the limited range and having to plug it in to a special docking mechanism. Hybrids, at least, have solved the range problem by allowing vehicles to drive on gas only. Plug-in hybrids run on electricity only until the charge is drained. Then they switch to gas, which allows them to get higher mpg.

By plugging in, the power source is transferred from the oil and gas companies to the electric companies.

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Solo HOV access in Virigina for Hybrid owners

The AP had a story on the upcoming deadline for HOV access in Virginia, so I thought I would revisit the HOV lane access in Virginia as well.

Drivers who purchase hybrid cars before July 1st, 2066 are still eligible to apply for the Clean Special Fuel Vehicle license. These cars will still be eligible to stay in the HOV lane for another year on I-95 and I-395. Cars purchased after July 1st will not be eligible under the new rules, although until July 1, 2007 solo hybrid car drivers will be eligible on other highways.

The fee for the new license plate has been raised to $25, but so has the fine for HOV violations. First time offenders will incur a $125 fine, second time offenders will be charged twice that.

The new restrictions have been added in because of the explosive growth in hybrid ownership in Virginia. Lawmakers are worried that solo hybrid drivers may clog the HOV lane, forcing other eligible HOV drivers back into the other lanes.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Edmunds recently reviewed the Toyota Camry Hybrid and here's a summary of what they had to say.

    Engine Specs
  • 45 hp electric, 147 hp 2.4 liter DOHC 4 cylinder gas engine: net result 192 hp
  • CVT - continuously variable transmission
  • Engine torque 138 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm
  • Electric engine torque: 199 lb-ft at zero to 1,500 rpm
  • 0-60 in 8.6 seconds
  • 60-0 in 135 feet (braking test)

  • Hybrid Differences
  • If you didn't know it was a hybrid, you wouldn't be able to tell just by driving it.
  • MPG meter on the dash
  • slight undercarriage design to minimize drag

  • MPG Rating
  • EPA Rating: 40/38 mpg
  • Edmunds Testing: 38.4/42.4 mpg

  • Noise
  • Low Speed was eerily quiet (no gas engine)
  • High Speed road noise penetrated the cabin

  • Size
  • roomy, but not comfortable for three in the back seat
  • 10.6 cubic feet in the trunk (small)

Source: Full Test: 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Peugeot 307 hybride HDi Diesel

Peugeot introduced the 307 hybride HDi Diesel, extending its hybrid technology from the earlier prototype the Citro├źn C4 Hybride HDi.

By combining a 1.6 litre HDi diesel engine with a Diesel Particle Filter System and an electric power train, Peugeot is claiming nearly 70 mpg, a 30% gain compared to the standard HDi model. The vehicle gains 43bhp from the electric motor giving it improved acceleration. The gain in greenhouse gas emissions is around 25%.

The new power train is a parallel hybrid power train, in which the diesel engine is the main power source. The electric engine is connected in parallel to the diesel engine, giving it an assist. The electric engine is powered by a Nickel Metal Hydride battery made up of 240 cells. It is recharged by regenerative braking and by the diesel engine. Peugeot has also implemented a start-stop system which shuts down the diesel engine at up to speeds of 37 mph.

The new Peugeot 307 hybride HDi Diesel was introduced at the British International Motor Show.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hydraulic Hybrids

Hydraulic Hybrid engines get their power from two sources (thus the hybrid). One is a conventional gas engine (or diesel) and the second is a hydraulic system capable of storing and releasing a great amount of energy due to a higher power density.

The hydraulic system is made up of three components, a high pressure accumulator capable of storing hydraulic fluid and compressing nitrogen gas, a low pressure accumulator, and one (or more) hydraulic pump/motor units.

Since most of the energy comes from braking, hydraulic engines are best suited for urban situations where stop-and-go driving is the norm (think delivery trucks or buses). Since the hydraulic system helps with braking, an added benefit is the lower cost due to break wear.

Gas engines are typically least efficient in braking and accelerating. Since the hydraulic system assists in braking and allows for faster acceleration for less fuel cost, hydraulic hybrids get the best of both worlds. Basically, hydraulic hybrids allows the engine torque to be independent of vehicle speed, resulting in cleaner and more efficient engine operation.

Ford has been working together with the EPA to develop hydraulic technology and it is rumoured their 2008 Ford F-150 could be a hydraulic hybrid. UPS has also been working with the EPA on hydraulic technology, but has also gone ahead with developing gas-electric hybrid delivery trucks, as well.

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EPA reveals a new UPS hybrid hydraulic delivery truck

The US Environmental Protection Agency has been helping develop a new hybrid truck for UPS along with Eaton, International Truck and Engine and teh US Army. The EPA revealed the new truck today. They replaced the trucks transmission with hydraulics and combining that with a low emission diesel engine.

The result: 60 to 70 percent savings on fuel use. Which means UPS will take less than three years to recover the $7,000 premium to outfit its trucks with new hydraulic hybrid system. Those savings come not only from reduced fuel costs, but savings on brake wear as well.

Hydraulic hybrid technology stores energy normally wasted in braking (a type of regenerative braking).

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Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid

Treehugger is reporting a Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid being put through its paces in Death Valley, a common testing ground for vehicles about to go into production.

It's unlikely the Fuel Cell Hybrid is nearing that point, but it is nice to see Toyota putting a prototype fuel cell hybrid through its paces.

Treehugger: Spied: Fuel Cell Hybrid Toyota Highlander in Death Valley

Recently, there was an unusual sight in Death Valley, and photographs prove it wasn't just a mirage: a Toyota fuel cell vehicle.

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Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act

A bipartisan bill was introduced on Tuesday to raise the average fuel economy from 25 mpg to 35 mpg by the model year 2017. If implemented, the Senators expect to save 2.5 million barrels of oil per day and 420 milliion tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today continued his drive for better fuel economy in cars and trucks, calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to raise the average fuel economy for all vehicles. Durbin joined with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) in introducing the “Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act” to raise the average fuel economy standards for all vehicles, including SUVs and sedans, from 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 35 mpg by model year 2017.

As part of the bill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would need to update its testing to reflect actual fuel economy.

Durbin also pointed out a recent study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center whichconcluded that at $3 per gallon, cars and trucks that average 30% better mpg would save Illinoisans $3.6 billion on gasoline costs annually. Such savings could lead to new jobs and economic growth in other sectors of the economy.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Toyota may be developing a hybrid sports car

Formula One has decided to focus more on fuel efficiency, by allowing alternative 'surge power units' into the Formula One race cars. Safety concerns are said to be paramount, but the only other restriction is a weight limit of 20 kg (44 lbs) for the complete system.

Among the possible technology systems available for use then would be hydraulic systems and 'inertia systems'. But any systems they use would need to 'be directly relevant to research to improve fuel efficiency in road cars.'

In the mid 90's two teams experimented with hybrid systems, but the engines were disallowed given safety concerns.

Following on Formula Ones announcement a couple of weeks ago, Toyota is now hinting at developing a hybrid sports car. Since they stopped production of the Celica and the MR2, they don't have a direct way of implementing any techniques developed by their participation in Formula One Racing.

And so they are considering building a new sports car. And as part of any planning that goes on at Toyota now, they are considering how to make it a hybrid car.

Source: EV World and Toyota Planning Hybrid Sports Car - Car and Driver Magazine - June 2006

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Toyota passes the 50,000 mark for hybrids sold in Europe

Modified Press Release:
Of the 50,000 hybrid vehicles sold in Europe, almost 41,000 units were the Toyota Prius. Over 10,000 Lexus models, the RX 400h and GS 450h, have been sold in the past seventeen months.

Toyota expects its annual European hybrid sales to reach 37,400 units in 2006, while overall sales are expected to exceed 1 million units for the Toyota brand and attain 45,000 units for the Lexus brand.

Speaking on this milestone, Thierry Dombreval, Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor Europe, said: "Reaching 50,000 hybrid sales is a clear sign that Europeans have taken to this exciting new technology.

Hybrid has already established itself as an advanced solution delivering both power and environmental performance. Toyota is committed to developing a range of cleaner technologies including hybrid, clean diesel and alternative fuels."

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Hybrid Repair Costs

When you buy a hybrid car, you should expect higher repair costs. Not because of the technical difficulties expected from working with all the high tech gear, as most cars sold today are infinitely more complex than those sold even 10 or 20 years ago. No, most of the high repair costs come from always having to go to the dealership, where, as we all know, repairs cost more.

But an engineer from Worcester, Mass is trying to change that. Craig Van Batenburg is running a training course on how to repair these hybrid cars. If he, and others like him, train enough local repairman, the cost of repairs will come down. In the short term, those auto repairman who attend his class will still be able to charge top dollar for their new found know-how given how rare that knowledge is. In the long-term, it will benefit us all as the knowledge spreads.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette News

The class was the brainchild of Craig Van Batenburg, a self-taught engineer from Worcester who has become a big name in the hybrid-training world. He wants to give independent technicians the know-how to repair these increasingly popular cars, thereby keeping them in a market dominated by dealership shops.

The class began Friday and ends today, with 12 students and five instructors. Mr. Batenburg has three more planned and sold out, and is currently booking for May 2007.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Florida Credit Union Offers Discount on 'Green Car' Loans

A credit union in Florida is willing to cut their loan rates by 1 percent for those drivers who purchase a new vehicle averaging 30 mpg or better. This incentive is another given to drivers who go green.

As a side note: Drivers of hybrid electric vehicles in Florida can also get a sticker to travel in the HOV lane, regardless of the number of passengers.

Press Release:

SYNOPSIS: Drivers purchasing a new vehicle averaging 30 miles per gallon (MPG) or greater qualify for the special discounted "Green Rate."

TALLAHASSEE – Envision Credit Union today unveiled its new "Go Green,Save Green" loan program, reducing drivers’ annual percentage rate (APR) by 1 percent, saving borrowers who buy eco-friendly cars nearly $700 on a $20,000 loan over 36 months. With the summer travel season in full swing and gas prices at near record levels, lowering the cost of borrowing will surely bring relief to anyone buying a new "green" vehicle.

According to Consumer Report’s May 2006 national survey, 37 percent of consumers say gasoline prices are so high they are looking at replacing their current vehicles with a more fuel-efficient model. Of those saying they might replace their vehicles, 38 percent are considering either Hybrid-fuel or diesel vehicles. More than half planning to replace their car (55%) said they are thinking about a small economy car.

"With higher gasoline prices, motorists are becoming more conscious of fuel efficiency," says Ray E. Cromer, Jr., President/CEO of Envision Credit Union. "We want to provide assistance to our members feeling the pressure of elevated gas prices and offer rewards to those purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles."

The "Go Green, Save Green" program runs through Oct. 31, 2006. Drivers purchasing a new vehicle averaging 30 miles per gallon (MPG) or greater qualify for the special discounted "Green Rate" offered by Envision’s "Go Green, Save Green" program. Mileage is based upon Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. Final APR is dependent upon an applicant’s credit score. New vehicles must have less than 15,000 miles and be no older than the current model year, plus three prior model years.

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Toyota Prius wins top honors as ideal image car

Auto Pacific has awarded the Toyota Prius as the Top Image Compact Car. Based on owner surveys, owners rate their new 2006 model year cars and trucks by how closely they come to their ideal.

The top-rated vehicle and top-rated car is the Mercury Montego in the Large Car/Luxury Car category. In fact, Ford Motor Company sweeps the first three positions overall with the Ford Crown Victoria and Ford Five Hundred in second and third place. The top-rated truck is the Honda Odyssey Minivan.

The top-rated product segment is Large Car/Luxury Car confirming that Americans continue to value large, comfortable cars suitable for suburban and highway cruising.

Of the sixteen Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) categories, Japanese brands have seven segment winners, American brands have four, European brands have three and Korean brands have two winners.

AutoPacific - 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards

Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Entry Luxury Car: BMW 3-Series
Large Car/Luxury Car: Mercury Montego
Premium Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata
Mid-Size Car: Mercury Milan
Image Compact Car: Toyota Prius
Compact Car: Ford Focus
Sports Car: Porsche 911
Sporty Car: Acura RSX

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New Jersey proposes tax break for hybrid vehicles

Joining other states who offer incentives to those who purchase hybrid vehicles, New Jersey is proposing an exemption for state sales tax. The exemption would be applied to any hybrid cars and any new vehicles with an average fuel economy of at least 35 mpg.

States such as Connecticut have given exemptions to hybrids getting at least 40 mpg until July 1, 2008. Other states have offered tax rebates (i.e. Pennsylvania). If you're looking to buy a new hybrid, you should look for local and state incentives before buying.

North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

The Assembly Transportation and Public Works Committee on Thursday endorsed a plan to exempt all hybrid and certain highly fuel efficient vehicles from the state sales tax.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hybrid car service

PlanetTran is an all hybrid car service based in Boston. With a fleet of 12 Toyota Prius and two Lexus hybrids, they can drive you anywhere you want to go.

They are not a taxi service, however, so no curbside or hailing them on the street. Instead, you will need to make a reservation. PlanetTran expects most of their business will come in transports to Logan airport.

Larger bags (golf bags and such) may cut down the number of passengers to 2 in a Prius. But they can normally seat four plus the driver.

Source: The Boston Globe

TPlanetTran is on track to hit $2 million in revenue this year

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Honda warns of falling profit margins

But that comes from more competition, not just more advanced vehicles. Admittedly, making cars with better safety features does cost the automaker more in terms of building and supply costs, but in a less competitive market, that cost could be passed onto the consumer. The problem is Honda wants to compete, price-wise, with all the other carmakers out there. So they can't raise their selling price. And so, you get slimmer profit margins.

Hagino, Senior Managing Director, pointed out that profit margins mattered little as long as absolute earnings were growing, i.e. more cars are selling. And the way to sell more cars is to continue spending on R&D, since consumers are more likely to buy the better, safer car. The article writer points to how this could be taken as a jab at Nissan, whose reputation is for caution in approaching and researching new ideas (including hybrids).

Honda exec says margins to fall as cars advance |

TOKYO, June 12 (Reuters) - A top executive at Honda Motor Co. (7267.T: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Monday profit margins would inevitably fall as more advanced vehicles spread through the market, but he stressed that skimping on R&D costs would do greater harm in the long run.

Japan's third-biggest auto maker last month outlined plans to reduce its cars' carbon dioxide emissions by an average 10 percent by 2010 compared with 2000 levels, mainly by developing more efficient gasoline engines, clean diesel engines and improving its hybrid powertrain.

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Toyota looking to create more environmentally friendly vehicles

As part of their effort to create a more environmentally friendly fleet of vehicles, Toyota is looking to increase the number of hybrid vehicles they have available.

Toyota is promising to doube the number of hybrid models available in the next decade and work on plug-in hybrid vehicles, as well.

They have also revamped their conventional gas engines and transmissions by introducing the continuously variable transmission for Toyotas compact and midsize passenger vehicles. The new engine has at least 5% greater fuel efficiency and achieves clean exhaust emissions (approximately 75% lower than the maximum allowed by 2005 emissions standards).

They are also considering introducing flex-fuel vehicles in the US and in Brazil (2007).

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ford is hoping hybrid taxis become more popular

Ford is starting an eight city tour promoting the Ford Escape Hybrid, an SUV, as a great alternative to gas only taxis.

San Francisco and New York already have 40 and 22 hybrid taxis, respectively. With over 125,000 miles logged in San Francisco and 50,000 miles logged in New York, Ford is hoping other cities will take note of the durability of the hybrid technology.

Over the course of 100,000 miles, an Escape Hybrid Taxi will save approximately 1,666 gallons of gas over a conventional cab. Taxi drivers have to pay for their own gas and driving a hybrid SUV can save the driver $30 per shift in costs. So, convincing taxi drivers about the benefits of going hybrid is easy. It's the taxi fleet owners and local politicians who assign the taxi medallions who need to be convinced.

And that's where the durability testing of hybrid taxis in San Francisco and New York come in. If the Ford Escape Hybrid survives on the streets of New York, its likely to be seen as a successful alternative in other cities as well. In San Francisco, several water heaters blew around the 50,000 mile mark, but whatever issue they were having has been fixed.

Politicians will love talking about the 'green' aspects of hybrid technology. When they can stand up and tell their voters how the Ford Escape Hybrid will save or 32,000 lbs of carbon emissions over a conventional cab, that's good for them. The Escape Hybrid also meets California's AT-PZEV standard, the cleanest emission standard available for a vehicle that uses fossil fuels.

The taxi fleet owners will enjoy having more cab medallions available to them. They will also like the reduced costs in brakes (regenerative braking tends to reduced wear on the brakes), transmission and oil changes.

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Toyota Estima Hybrid, a hybrid minivan in Japan

Why don't they release hybrid minivans in the US? I would think they would be a big hit with the 'soccer mom' crowd, but perhaps I'm a little behind the times.

My theory is the SUVs are simply more popular in the US and so automakers, who are looking to sell as may hybrids as possible, have looked to SUVs rather than minivans as the best outlet for hybrid technology. The same goes for family sedans. These are the most popular vehicles on the road in the US, making them the best choice for hybrid technology being integrated into the line-up.

Press Release on the
Toyota Estima Hybrid relaunch

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Whoops, we ran out

I don't think it's all that hard to tell the difference between a hybrid and a non-hybrid vehicle, but maybe that's because I'm so interested in them. For metermaids (is that the PC term now?), who are a little bit busy and too stressed out as it is, I can imagine it's easy to miss the hybrid badge on some hybrid cars.

In New Haven, hybrid car owners get to park at metered spots for free, although they are not exempt from the time limit. Unfortunately, they ran out of the stickers hybrid owners placed on their windows, and so new owners are getting ticketed. Fortunately for them, they can appeal at no cost and will have their tickets dismissed.

The policy on free parking for hybrids in New Haven ends on June 30th. On June 15th, a reauthorization hearing will be held. In the meantime, temporary permits are being handed out.

BTW, only 100 stickers were handed out, and only 10 or so people have had to appeal when ticketed. I wonder if others simply paid the fines, rather than skip out on work that day to protest it?

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Monday, June 12, 2006

American Jewish Committee Offers Employees Bonuses for Hybrid Cars

Joining other companies such as Google, Bank of America, and Timberlake who offer the hybrid benefit, the American Jewish Committee, a non-profit organization, is now offering $2,500 or $1,500 in bonuses to employees depending on the hybrid vehicle purchased.

NEW YORK, June 12 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The American Jewish Committee is offering its employees across the United States an incentive to purchase or lease fuel-efficient, environmentally- friendly vehicles. AJC's Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Bonus Program is believed to be the first offer of its kind to employees of any non-profit organization in the U.S.

"Our car-buying incentive initiative is integral to AJC's long-term commitment to developing a serious energy policy in the U.S.," said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris in announcing the program. "By encouraging our employees to first look other energy-efficient models such as hybrids, we hope other organizations will join us in recognizing that sound choices are available that can contribute to reducing America's dependence on imported oil from hostile nations, a dependency that threatens our national security, and helping our environment."

Harris announced the program in a memo to AJC, and in his national radio message broadcast on the CBS radio network during the Osgood File, which reaches tens of millions of listeners.

AJC maintains its headquarters in New York and 32 offices across the U.S. Employees who qualify will be entitled to receive bonus payments of $2,500 or $1,500, depending on the vehicle model.

Qualifying cars for the program include the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight, Ford Escape Hybrid, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, Mazda 3, Saturn Ion, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Focus Compact Car and Ford Focus Wagon.

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Hybrid Car Tax Credit

Chances are, you're looking for current information on the hybrid car tax credit. Follow the link to find out about the 2007 hybrid car tax credit.

The following list shows the cars approved by the IRS for the federal tax credit in 2006. Any owners of vehicles purchased or placed in service in 2006 are eligible.

  • 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid - $2,600
  • 2005 Toyota Prius - $3,150
  • 2006 Toyota Prius - $3,150
  • 2006 Toyota Highlander 4WD Hybrid - $2,600
  • 2006 Toyota Highlander 2WD Hybrid - $2,600
  • 2007 Lexus GS 450h - $1,550
  • 2006 Lexus RX400h 2WD - $2,200
  • 2006 Lexus RX400h 4WD - $2,200
  • 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid Front WD - $2,600
  • 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4 WD - $1,950
  • 2006 Mercury Mariner Hybrid 4 WD - $1,950
  • 2005 Honda Insight CVT - $1,450
  • 2006 Honda Insight CVT - $1,450
  • 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid MT and CVT - $1,700
  • 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT - $2,100
  • 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid AT and Navi AT - $650
  • 2006 Honda Accord Hybrid AT w/updated calibration and Navi AT w/updated calibration - $1,300*

  • *2006 Honda Accord Hybrid AT and Navi AT without updated calibration qualify for a credit of $650.

    The Energy Policy Act of 2005 replaced the clean-fuel burning deduction with a tax credit. A tax credit is better than a deduction since the credit is subtracted directly from the total amount of federal tax owed. But keep in mind this credit can only be applied to vehicles purchased or placed in service on or after January 1, 2006.

    Hybrid Car Leases
    Keep in mind that those who lease hybrid cars are not eligible for the federal tax credit, although companies that lease hybrid cars are.

    Future Tax Credits
    Future consumers of Toyotas hybrids should be aware of the 60,000 vehicles sold limitation. Toyota has already passed this limit and so the tax credit reduction is already in play. According to the IRS, taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th hybrid or advance lean burn technology. For the second and third calendar quarters after the quarter in which the 60,000th vehicle is sold, taxpayers may claim 50 percent of the credit. For the fourth and fifth calendar quarters, taxpayers may claim 25 percent of the credit. No credit is allowed after the fifth quarter.

    That means you have until September 30 to purchase a Toyota hybrid and still be able to qualify for the full tax credit. From October 1st through the next two quarter, you will only be eligible for half of the credit.

    Hybrid Technology

    Hybrid technology
    is currently available in cars, suvs and trucks. Hybrid vehicles are powered by engines with dual power sources, one gas the other electric.

    Local Tax Incentives
    Some states also offer other incentives to those who buy hybrid vehicles. Some allow hybrid vehicles into the hov lanes, others give tax incentives. And even some towns and cities let hybrid cars park for free in metered parking spots. Check with your local authorities.

    Check with your tax advisor for the details.

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    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Bank of America goes hybrid

    As an incentive to employees, Bank of America is offering $3000 to any employee in Boston, LA, or Charlotte who buy hybrid vehicles. Add that to the federal tax break and anybody who follows up on this offer will pay less for a hybrid than they would for a conventional gas car.

    "The hybrid program expands our commitment to the environment and helps our associates to participate in making a difference while cutting down on their commuting costs," said Anne Finucane, head of the company's environmental council.

    "We are pleased to be one of the first corporations offering this benefit and strengthening our long-standing leadership on environmental issues."

    Bank of America is describing this incentive as a pilot program. They want to see how it goes before offering it to all employees.

    Bank of America is following other companies such as Google and Timberland, who also offer cash to employees who purchase hybrids.

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    Friday, June 02, 2006

    DaimlerChrysler believes half of the buses in the US will be hybrids in the next 3 to 5 years

    DaimlerChrysler is predicting half of the buses in the US run by transit agencies will be hybrids within the next three to five years. Diesel-electric buses get 4 or more mpg, while conventional gas buses get about 3 mpg.

    Currently, about 10 percent of the buses running are hybrids. Hybrid buses tend to cost $500,000 more than their conventional counterparts, a 40 percent increase in the cost to purchase. But even the small increase in fuel efficiency can pay off in the long run. Also, there are lower maintenance costs relating to oil and transmission. Brakes get worn out at a slower rate as well, because the regenerative braking takes some of the strain.

    Daimler sees fast US takeup of diesel-hybrid buses |

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    Hybrid Sales increase year to year in May

    Hybrid sales increased to 23,554 units sold, the best hybrid sales month ever. The number of hybrid SUVs decreased slightly from last month, but increased by over 2,000 units for the number of hybrid cars sold. Overall, sales increased 39% from last May.

    Toyota was the biggest seller of hybrids with 17,190 hybrid units sold. The Prius sold as many units as they could make, although production right now is limited by the introduction of other hybrid units such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Toyota Camry Hybrid had very strong initial sales of 3,032 units, while the other new hybrid vehicle, the luxury Lexus sedan GS 450h posted strong sales of 294 units. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid also sold 3755 hybrid units this past month, making up 35% of all Highlander sales.

    Honda Accord hybrid sales are way down (60% decrease) from last year. The performance hybrid concept seems to be falling flat on its face. Meanwhile the Honda Civic Hybrid increased sales by 53% to 2890 units sold. The low production Honda Insight, scheduled to be axed in September, sold 92 units.

    Ford sold 2862 hybrid units in the month of May combining sales of its Ford Escape Hybrid and its luxury twin, Mercury Mariner Hybrid. This was an increase of 132% over last year. Note they only sold the Ford Escape Hybrid last year in May, but the Mariner typically makes up only 8% to 14% of all hybrid sales for Ford.

    The big news this month is for Toyota. By selling more than 60,000 hybrid units this year, they have crossed the tax credit line, initiating the tax credit phase out period. As of September 30, 2006, buyers of Toyota hybrids will be eligible for half of the tax credit. Two quarters after that, they will only be eligible for 25%. And two quarters after that, they get no tax credit.

    It's too early to know how this will affect Toyota's sales numbers and if there will be a helpful boost to Honda or Ford (or GM when they introduce their hybrids). The Prius is the hybrid to own, so it is possible buyers will continue to buy Toyota, even without the federal tax credit.

    President Bush and some legislators are currently thinking of dropping the tax credit sales limit.

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    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Hybrids land in the top ten for city driving

    ForbesAutos put together a list of the top 10 best cars to drive in the city and hybrids take top honors. The Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius took places one and two, respectively. Coming in at number six was the Honda Civic Hybrid.

    The judges based their decisions on several very important considerations. How well will the vehicle fit on the streets? How easy will it be to park? How is the visibility from the driver’s seat? How well does it handle and maneuver, and how comfortable is it?

    First, they excluded sports cars, convertibles and pickups because of their poor ingress/egress, easy access to vandalism and just having stiff springs. Otherwise they judgedt the best vehicles from 2006 with the smallest overall footprint (length and width), outward visibility including being able to see curbs (you really need to watch what the other guy is doing on crammed city streets and SUVs tend to block those low obstructions), ease of getting in and out of the vehicles, riding comfort, and turning radius.

    What's really interesting about hybrids doing so well in this top ten list is the lack of fuel economy ratings. Oftentimes, when considering hybrids, the only concern given is to the best mileage and how high gas prices are today. Especially when considering city driving, where the hybrid engine is rated so well because it shuts down the gas engine when stopped or coasting.

    Best and worst cars for city driving - -

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    Honda is extending its warranty on the Insight battery

    Honda is worried about the battery found in the Honda Insight (2000 - 2004) and is volunteering to extend on the warranty for up to 10 years or 150,000 miles. Over 12,000 Insights are covered under this new policy.

    The batteries have had a "higher than expected" failure rate in some areas with higher than normal temperatures or in mountainous regions. The batteries tend to get overcharged during long descents.

    In a service campaign, Insight owners in California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada and Texas will be notified to get some parts changed at a local dealer.

    Honda extends warranty on problematic battery of Insight hybrid

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    Ford has announced its "Drive on US" sale

    Ford has announced its Nationwide sale on almost all Ford cars and SUVs, including the Ford Escape Hybrid. They are offering 0% financing, for those who qualify, and a MasterCard debit card that can be used to purchase up to $1,000 of gas, E-85 or diesel, or $1,100 on select trucks and SUVs.

    Instead of the debit card for gas, you can choose $1,000 cash back that can be applied to the purchase or taken in cash.

    The sale starts today (June 1) and ends on July 31, 2006.

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