Thursday, August 31, 2006

Eight of the top thirty are hybrids in JD Powers Automotive Environmental Index

There are two reasons for that. Half the index is weighted by fuel economy. The other is that hybrids just tend to be greener, anyways.

The eight hybrids getting a high index are the Ford Escape Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight, Lexus RX 400h, Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Toyota Prius.

Hybrid SUVs (the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid) are the only 'trucks' ranking among the top 30.

There are no diesels in the top 30.

Source: Automotive Environmental Index (AEI)

J.D. Power and Associates Reports:
Honda, Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen Land the Most Vehicles at the Top of the
Inaugural Automotive Environmental Index

While More than One-Half of Consumers are Considering a Hybrid Vehicle, Many Traditional Vehicles Provide Consumers with Similar Environmental Performance

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 31 August 2006 —Fifteen out of 37 automotive brands are represented in the top 30 list of environmentally friendly vehicles, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Alternative Powertrain StudySM released today.

All new for 2006, the Alternative Powertrain Study (APS) includes the Automotive Environmental Index (AEI), which combines U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publicly available information with voice-of-the-customer data related to fuel economy, air pollution and greenhouse gases for 2006 model-year vehicles. Voice-of-the-customer data is also used to help determine the relative importance of these environmental factors. The fuel economy factor represents approximately 50 percent of the index, while air pollution and greenhouse gases contribute to the remainder.

Among the top 30 AEI vehicles, eight are hybrids:
Ford Escape Hybrid Lexus RX 400H
Honda Accord Hybrid Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Honda Civic Hybrid Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Honda Insight Toyota Prius

Traditional gasoline-powered models in the top 30 are:
Acura RSX Hyundai Elantra Suzuki Reno
Chevrolet Aveo Kia Rio Toyota Camry
Chevrolet Cobalt Kia Spectra Toyota Corolla
Ford Focus Mazda3 Volkswagen Golf
Ford Focus Station Wagon Mazda MX-5 Volkswagen Jetta
Honda Accord Nissan Sentra Volkswagen New Beetle
Honda Civic Saturn Ion
Hyundai Accent Scion xA

Hybrid SUVs are the only truck models among the top 30. Only two luxury models—the Lexus RX400H and Acura RSX—are included among the top environmentally friendly vehicles.

Volkswagen ranks highest among nameplates in the Automotive Environmental Index, with three models in the top 30. While there are no diesels within the top 30, several diesel models from Volkswagen also perform well, which is reflected in VW’s strong overall nameplate performance. VW is followed in the nameplate rankings by Honda and Mazda, respectively.

“High gas prices, coupled with consumers becoming more familiar with alternative powertrain technology, are definitely increasing consumer interest in hybrids and flexible fuels,” said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power and Associates. “However, the additional price premiums associated with hybrid vehicles, which can run from $3,000 to $10,000 more than a comparable non-hybrid vehicle, remain the biggest concern among consumers considering a hybrid. The AEI highlights several non-hybrid models available that help consumers reduce fuel use and emissions.”

Consumers Interested in Hybrids and Flexible Fuel Vehicles
The study, which examines consumer perceptions regarding hybrids, diesel and flexible fuel vehicles, finds that fewer than one-fourth (23%) of consumers say they will only consider a gasoline-powered model for their next new vehicle. Among consumers who expect to acquire a new vehicle within the next two years, 57 percent indicate that they are considering a hybrid vehicle, while 49 percent are considering a flexible fuel (E85 ethanol-based fuel blend) vehicle and 12 percent a diesel.

On average, consumers considering a hybrid expect to pay approximately $5,250 more for the powertrain option. Acknowledging the increased vehicle price, these consumers expect an average fuel economy improvement of 28 miles per gallon compared to a similar vehicle powered by a gasoline internal combustion engine, when in reality, hybrid owners report getting an average improvement of just 9 mpg. Consumers considering a diesel expect to pay approximately $2,800 more for the option and expect an average fuel economy improvement of 21 mpg, while diesel owners report getting a 12 mpg improvement on average. Those considering an E85 vehicle are unsure whether to expect to pay more for the option or see an improvement in fuel economy, but instead hope the use of the ethanol-based fuel blend will help reduce U.S. dependency on foreign fuels. The availability of fuel or fueling stations is the largest concern among consumers considering a flexible fuel or diesel-powered vehicle.

“One of the biggest challenges for alternative powertrains is that consumers often have unrealistic expectations for the fuel-saving abilities of these vehicles,” Marshall said. “And particularly with hybrids, actual fuel performance often doesn’t live up to the vehicle’s EPA estimate. There is a real need to educate consumers about the technology and its benefits. Managing consumer expectations and lowering the cost premium will be instrumental in accelerating acceptance.”

Younger buyers are much more likely to consider an alternative powertrain in their next vehicle. Nearly three-quarters of consumers ages 16 to 25—who purchase fewer than 10 percent of all new vehicles—are interested in a hybrid vehicle, 52 percent are considering a flexible fuel vehicle and 15 percent a diesel vehicle. In contrast, fewer than one-half of consumers over 57 years old—one-quarter of new-vehicle buyers—would consider a hybrid or flexible fuel vehicle, and only 8 percent would consider a diesel. Consumers in the West (63%) and Northeast (61%) express the most interest in hybrid vehicles, while consumers in the Midwest (59%) are most interested in flexible fuel vehicles. Interest in diesel vehicles ranges between 11 percent and 13 percent across the country.

While actual hybrid vehicle owners tend to be older (55) than the average new-vehicle buyer and more affluent, with an average annual household income of $113,400, the study finds that consumers who indicate that they are considering a hybrid tend to be younger (averaging 43 years old), with an average annual household income of $88,000.

Despite often providing lower-than-expected gas mileage performance, hybrid and diesel U.S. market share continue to grow. J.D. Power and Associates forecasts that hybrid vehicles, which represented 1.2 percent of the U.S. new light-vehicle market in 2005, are expected to increase to 1.6 percent in 2006 and 5 percent by 2013.
Diesel vehicles, which represented 3.2 percent of the U.S. new light-vehicle market in 2005, are expected to increase to 3.6 percent in 2006 and 9 percent by 2013.

The 2006 Alternative Powertrain Study includes responses from more than 4,000 consumers who plan to purchase a new vehicle within the next two years. Respondents were surveyed in July 2006. The voice-of-the-customer components of the Automotive Environmental Index are derived from both the 2006 Alternative Powertrain Study and the 2006 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. The more than 63,000 respondents to the 2006 APEAL Study were surveyed between February and May 2006.

Comprehensive environmental ratings for 2006 models can be found on the J.D. Power Consumer Center at

About J.D. Power and Associates
Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is an ISO 9001-registered global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies
Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor’s, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 290 offices in 38 countries. Sales in 2005 were $6.0 billion. Additional information is available at
Media Relations Contacts:
John Tews
Director, Media Relations
J.D. Power and Associates
5435 Corporate Drive, Suite 300
Troy, MI, 48098
(248) 312-4119, or cell (248) 321-5109
Syvetril Perryman
Media Relations
J.D. Power and Associates
2625 Townsgate Road, Suite 100
Westlake Village, CA 91361
(805) 418-8103

Kim Milman
JMPR Public Relations
Woodland Hills, Calif.
(818) 992-4353/cell: (818) 618-7163

No advertising or other promotional use can be made of the information in this release without the express prior written consent of J.D. Power and Associates.

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Nissan unveils the hybrid Cabstar

According to the press realease: Nissan and ZF have collaborated to demonstrate the potential of hybrid engine technology application on a commercial vehicle. ZF has developed a parallel hybrid powertrain with an electric motor powered by an ion-lithium battery supplementing the Cabstar’s conventional 3.0-litre common-rail diesel developing 150PS (110kW). The Hybrid Cabstar is expected to cut fuel consumption by up to 30%.

The Cabstar is a light commercial truck run on diesel in Europe. As with all commercial trucks, hybrid technology could make a huge difference in the long term savings for commercial ventures which is why companies like UPS are spending so much money on research into the technology.

The current Cabstar comes in at 3,550 kg with a curb weight of over 1400 kg. The fuel tank capacity sits at 50 L while it seats 2. It has maximum power of 70kW (95.2PS) and a maximum torque of 210 Nm (21.4 kg-m).

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Top Ten Greenest Cars

Not surprisingly, the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius are on top as the two most eco-friendly vehicles compiled by the German road club (VCD). The top ten vehicles were (including their eco-ranking):

  1. Honda Civic Hybrid (8.34)
  2. Toyota Prius Hybrid (8.30)
  3. Citroen C1 1.0 Advance (7.94)
  4. Peugeot 107 Petit Filou (7.94)
  5. Toyota AYGO (7.94)
  6. Daihatsu Cuore 1.0 (7.79)
  7. Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion (7.70)
  8. Daihatsu Sirion 1.0 (7.67)
  9. Toyota Yaris 1.0 (7.39)
  10. Toyota Yaris 1.3 (7.36)

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Toyota has faced a production bottleneck

If the number of sales continue to increase for the Toyota Camry the way they have in the past few months, 48,000 a year won't be enough. But, giving the Prius production the freedom to go its own way will certainly free up Toyota from the limitations it has faced in the past. Prius sales have only been limited by production numbers, not demand, this year according to Toyota.
Source: Camry Craze - AutoWeek

Some inventory relief will come this fall when the Georgetown plant begins building 48,000 Camry Hybrid models, about one-eighth of Camry production at the plant. That will free up Toyota's Japanese export allocation for more standard Camrys, while the Japanese hybrid plant can concentrate on Prius production.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Lexus LS 600h

The newest Lexus hybrid will be revealed at the Paris Show on September 28 according to CARkeys. It will be a V8 luxury sedan with massage functions and body temperature controlled air conditioning.

Reports also indicate there will be two versions, the LS 600h and the LS 600h L (the for long... i.e. 12 cm longer than the base). As with the other Lexus hybrids, this hybrid car is not about fuel economy, so much as making a statement. I may be driving a luxury model performance car, but it's also a green car.

Source: CARkeys - Lexus Reveals Hybrid V8 Saloon

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Honda Insight retires

The Honda Insight is being retired this month. As such, it seems like a good time to look back on this remarkable vehicle

Source:Honda Insight: The Once and Future Mileage King - New York Times

CAN an automobile be ahead of its time and yet be obsolete? As it heads into retirement, the Honda Insight certainly looks that way.

BTW, I saw this article being cited at several other sites.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

2007 Honda Civic Hybrid will be more of the same

Looks like the 2007 Civic Hybrid will be the same as the 2006 Civic Hybrid.
KickingTires: Honda 2007 Lineup in Person

2007 Honda Civic: The Civic sedan, Civic Hybrid, Civic coupe and Civic Si coupe see no changes from 2006. The new Civic Si sedan will go on sale Sept. 28; check back for more information Sept. 1.

But they forgot to mention the cars that won't be there, like the Honda Insight.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hybrid Truck

Hybrid trucks are few and far between at the moment, although that should be changing soon. Given the recent announcement of the upcoming Chevy Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid (available in the fall of 2007), I thought it might be a good time to talk about the history of Hybrid Trucks in general.

So far, the choices when it comes to hybrid vehicles has been limited. At first, the modern hybrids were cars, i.e. the Prius and the Insight. Then the Honda Civic Hybrid. It wasn't until Ford came out with the Ford Escape Hybrid that some variety could be seen.

The first hybrid trucks to emerge were the GMC Sierra Hybrid and Chevy Silverado Hybrid pick up trucks, but they really weren't much of a hybrid at all. In fact, they are just pick up trucks, with what was termed a 'mild' hybrid system. All they have are integrated starter and generators (ISG) along with regenerative braking. This system allows the truck to stop its gas engine when stopped (say at red lights) and then start back up by stepping on the gas. As hybrids go, it wasn't much of an improvement in fuel economy or money well spent. Which is why sales have never been strong.

These mild hybrid trucks were a necessary step in the right direction, however. GM learned a lot from their mistakes. Most importantly, they realised in order for a customer to pay a premium price for hybrid technology in their trucks, the system they buy had better be a hybrid.

And so the hybrid trucks coming out next year will be something different. With the dual-mode hybrid system developed jointly by BMW, DaimlerChrysler and GM (by investing over $1 billion), an efficient hybrid that provides a 25% fuel economy savings plus plenty of power should be a welcome change for all.

The surprising part is how negatively some hybrid (and car) enthusiasts have reacted to the news. I would think such fuel economy increases would be congratulated, not derided. But some of the comments I have seen elsewhere have been surprising. It seems some people want to get rid of all trucks and SUVs and replace them with small, efficient cars. That's unrealistic and foolish.

As a country, we should be working towards creating more efficient and better vehicles all around. Trucks, SUVs, Minivans, cars, commercial trucks, delivery vehicles, etc... need to be improved across the board because they are all necessary to keep this nation moving. Will hybirds make our economy oil independent? No. But they will make us less dependent. And hybrid vehicles are available today, not tomorrow.

Hybrid trucks (not the mild hybrid trucks of the past and present) should be welcomed with cheers, not boos.

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Bosch acquires Dana Corp. hybrid engine technology unit

Despite Permo-Drive Technologies protests (and subsequent lawsuit), a judge has ruled Dana Corp can sell its hybrid technology unit fpr $2.7 million to Bosch. This hybrid engine unit develops hybrid technology for the US military vehicles like the HUMVEE.

Dana Corp filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in March and has been selling off many of its non-core units. Dana and Permo-Drive had reached an agreement to develop hybrid technology for military vehicles in 2003. They were also working on applying the same technology to other commercial vehicles, such as dump trucks. Permo-Drive protested the sale to Bosch because Bosch has a hybrid technology group they are in direct competition with and so the sale "violates public policy by eliminating competition to develop technology in this arena."

All three companies are auto parts suppliers. Dana Corp is based in Toledo, Ohio. Bosch is a German company, while Permo-Drive resides in Australia.

Source: Dana Aims to Sell Hybrid-Drive Unit

Dana's technology involves a system of computer-controlled pumps aimed at maximizing fuel efficiency. It also involves a system, developed in collaboration with Permo-Drive Technologies Ltd. of Australia, that allows energy generated by vehicles making frequent stops to be recaptured and put to use.

"Commercial vehicles that make frequent starts and stops would realize substantial fuel savings, as well as significant reductions in brake maintenance costs and vehicle emissions," Dana said late last year.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Plug-In Partners Organization video

I've mentioned the Plug-in Partners movement before this, but I think this video does a very good job of explaining exactly what they are going for.

There are real pros and cons when it comes to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). I think the video covers the pros quite well, including how there is nothing more to be developed. If you wanted to, you could go out and buy and use a plug-in hybrid today. Unlike flex-fuel or hydrogen cars, the infrastructure is already there. You could go 20 or 40 miles on battery power, then the gas engine can take over allowing you the freedom an electric car does not. Plug-in hybrids expand on the existing hybrid technology.

The cons cannot be avoided, however. First, if you charge and deplete the batteries fully everyday, they will not last as long as they do for hybrid cars. Damage to batteries is more likely to occur at those more 'extreme' levels. Toyota et al are able to guarantee their hybrid car battery packs for the life of the car because they never fully charge or discharge their batteries. So there is a question of how long these batteries will last and how expensive they would be to replace.

Second, the battery packs will need to be much larger than they are in hybrids today. Some owners of hybrids complain due to the lack of trunk space because the battery pack already steals a significant portion of it. And despite what the video seems to be saying, if you add more batteries to a hybrid in order to make it a plug-in, you will lose more space.

Third, is the cost. Hybrid cars come at an average of $3000 more than their more conventional counterparts. Plug-ins cost thousands more than hybrids.

If you want to know more about Plug-In Partners and what you can do to help their cause, head on over to their site to learn more. Most of their efforts are focused on demonstrating a market for plug-ins. They are looking for people to sign their petitions, governing bodies to make endorsements and companies to make so-called 'soft orders' (soft orders are an agreement to strongly consider purchasing flexible fuel plug-in hybrids if they are manufactured).

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Can you save money buying a hybrid?

Are you looking to buy a hybrid car, but aren't sure if the extra money to buy is worth it? Have you heard about the federal tax credits, but you've noticed the difference in price is still significant?

If you want to see if you're going to save money buying a hybrid, there's a simple calculation you need to make. You need to know how long you have to own your hybrid car before you can say you've made up for that price differential.

First, calculate how much more the hybrid will cost you against buying your alternate car. Let's assume (for the sake of this example) the difference is $2000. Don't forget to factor in the tax rebate from the federal government (plus any state rebates, as well).

Now look at the fuel economy of each car. The standard combined measurement is 1/3 the city value and 2/3 the highway. So, if our hybrid gets 40/40 and our comparator gets 27/33, the combined fuel economy will be 40 for the hybrid and 31 for our comparator. Which means you'll be getting 9 more miles per gallon from your hybrid.

Then it's just a matter of how much money you'll save on gas each year. For instance, if gas costs $3 a gallon and you think you're going to drive around 15,000 miles a year, you will need to buy (15,000/31) = 483.9 gallons at a cost of $1,451.61. For our hybrid, it will cost you $1,125.00. For a difference of $326.61. Take the premium price ($2,000) and divide that by your gas savings and you get 6.1. In other words, it will take 6.1 years to make up the difference in purchase price by gas savings alone.

If you want to do it all in one step, the formula is:
Years to Break Even = ((Premium)*(Combined MPG for hybrid)*(Combined MPG for comparator) )/ ((Miles per year)*($ per gallon)*(Combined MPG Hybrid - Combined MPG ) )

The Premium is the price differential after factoring in taxes, tax credits, etc... in the original purchase price.

Using my example, the formula looks like: Years to Break Even = ($2000*31*40)/(15,000*3*9) = 6.1 years. If we upped that to 25,000 miles a year, the years to break even would be 3.7 years.

There are lots of issues I'm leaving out. For instance, will it cost you more or less to insure the hybrid car over the other car? Since you're paying more for your hybrid, you may have to spend more on your insurance each year (although some insurance companies are offering discounts on hybrid cars).

Another factor you may want to investigate further is maintenance costs. Hybrid cars may cost less to maintain for oil and brake replacements, for instance. But if something serious does break, you will most likely need to take it to a dealership to deal with. Since dealerships charge more for repairs, that can make a big difference.

You also may want to play with the numbers I assumed above. For instance, do you do a lot more or a lot less highway driving? Then change the ratio of city/highway to create your own standard for combined fuel economy. Or perhaps you drive 25,000 miles a year (in which case your break even point will come a lot sooner).

Most comparisons are made brand name to brand name. For instance, most compare the Ford Escape Hybrid against the Ford Escape (gas-only) SUV (2.9 years to break even with 15,000 miles traveled each year). But that may not be the two cars you are comparing. Perhaps you are choosing between buying a Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic (gas-only). In which case you can use the above example to calculate how long it would take you to break even (5.8 years at 15,000 miles/year).

To summarize, you can save money by buying a hybrid car. But it all depends on what your other car would have been and how long you are planning on owning your new car.

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Gas prices may have peaked

Finally. It seems experts are predicting the high point has been reached and prices will continue to fall. Good news for everyone. Sometimes it just seems like filling up the gas tank can break you all by itself.

Source: Automotive News

Earlier this month, gasoline prices were approaching record highs. Because of recent drops in the price of a barrel of crude oil, gasoline prices no longer are threatening to break U.S. records.

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline nationwide was $2.92 a gallon today, down 5 cents from Friday, Aug. 18, and down 8 cents from one week ago, according to AAA, of Hawthorne, Fla.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chevy Silverado Hybrid

The Chevy Silverado Hybrid is a full size pickup truck. The newest version of the hybrid will incorporate the dual-mode hybrid engine developed jointly with BMW and DaimlerChrysler.

The Silverado hybrid will get a combined city/highway fuel economy of 25 mpg. Current (2007) conventional gas only models get 15 city and 20 highway (depending on the model, of course). So the hybrid truck will be improving its gas mileage by 25%.

Chevys hybrid gas-electric (HEV) engine will reportedly produce 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. That improved fuel economy and power comes at a price, of course. The new Silverado hybrid may cost up to $3000 more.

The dual-mode hybrid engine requires a larger engine to work with, which is why GM is bringing it out with its trucks. If you want to learn more about the system, follow the link to dual-mode hybrids.

Current versions of the Chevy Silverado Hybrid are considered to be mild hybrids. With smaller rechargeable battery packs and an inability to run on electric alone, many considered the Silverado hybrid (and its mate, the Tahoe) as non-hybrids with start-stop technology.

The Chevy Silverado according to Edmunds:
Although more up-to-date competitors offer finer cabin detail and greater overall refinement, Chevy’s Silverado 1500 Classic still has a few key strengths, such as powerful performance, stout underpinnings and a variety of configurations that make it worthy of consideration.

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Edmunds declares some hybrids will save you money

SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 22,'s latest hybrid study shows that despite higher sales prices, purchasing some -- though not all -- of today's hybrids can make good financial sense.

For the latest installment of its "Fuel Economy Guide," compared the sales prices and annual gas expenses of hybrid vehicles and their non-hybrid counterparts.

"Our study revealed that high gas prices and generous tax credits now offset the high sales prices of some hybrids, assuming owners keep their hybrids for a few years," said Alex Rosten, Manager of Pricing and Market Analysis for's study indicates that the higher purchase price is completely recovered for the Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Prius within three years of ownership, while buyers of the Honda Civic Hybrid, Saturn VUE Green Line and Toyota Camry Hybrid reach break-even within six years of ownership, in each case assuming the vehicle is driven 15,000 miles per year.

Full tax credits are only provided to consumers until shortly after each manufacturer has sold 60,000 hybrids. After that threshold is reached, the tax credit gets cut in half. For Toyota and Lexus buyers, that threshold has been reached -- so anyone who buys a Toyota or Lexus hybrid after September 30, 2006, will only qualify for half the tax credit. The credit for these models will drop to 25% in April 2007 and then to zero in October 2007.

Year/Make/Model Years to Break Even

15,000 miles/year 25000 miles/year
2007 Saturn Vue vs. 5.7 3.4
2007 Saturn Vue Greenline

2007 Ford Escape XLT vs. 2.9 1.7
2007 Ford Escape Hybrid

2007 Mercury Mariner vs. 7.8 4.7
2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

2006 Honda Civic EX vs. 6.1 3.7
2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

2006 Honda Accord EX V6 vs. 11.3 6.8
2006 Honda Accord Hybrid

2006 Toyota Corolla LE vs. 13.6 8.2
2006 Toyota Prius

2007 Toyota Camry LE vs. 2.1 1.2
2006 Toyota Prius

2007 Toyota Camry XLE vs. 5.8 3.5
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2007 Toyota Camry LE V6 vs. 8.2 4.9
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid

2006 Toyota Highlander Limited vs. 15.5 9.3
2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

2007 Lexus RX 350 vs. 13.6 8.2
2006 Lexus RX 400h

2006 Lexus GS 430 vs. 15.1 9.1
2007 Lexus GS 450h

"If you're in the market for a hybrid, right now is the best time to buy," said Joanne Helperin, Senior Editor of's "Fuel Economy Guide." "It will take buyers much longer to break-even if their tax credit is halved."

This hybrid study assumed the vehicles were sold at the True Market Value® price and achieved the Environmental Protection Agency's recorded mileage for combined city and highway driving. The 2006 federal tax credit was applied when appropriate. Figures were calculated based on the assumption that one gallon of gasoline costs $3.00 (which was the nation's average price for regular unleaded fuel on August 14, 2006). For more information about this study, please visit

About, Inc. ( publishes three Web sites that empower, engage and educate automotive consumers and enthusiasts. is the premier online resource for automotive consumer information. Perhaps the most popular product, True Market Value® pricing, is relied upon by millions of people seeking market-reflective valuations for new and used vehicles. was named "Best Car Research Site" by Forbes ASAP, has been selected by consumers as the "Most Useful Web Site" according to every J.D. Power and Associates New Study(SM), was ranked first in the Survey of Car-Shopping Web Sites by The Wall Street Journal and was rated "#1" in Keynote's study of third-party automotive Web sites. Inside Line ( launched in January 2005 and is the most-read automotive enthusiast Web site. CarSpace ( launched in February 2006 and is an automotive lifestyle social networking Web site for anyone with an interest in automobiles. The company is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and maintains a satellite office in suburban Detroit.

Contact: Corporate Communications
Chintan Talati and Jeannine Fallon, 310-309-4900


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Monday, August 21, 2006

Honda sells 117 Civic Hybrids to the UK Metro Police

Honda and London Metropolian Police in Biggest Hybrid Deal Ever

Honda (UK) has secured Britain's biggest ever fleet deal for hybrid cars. The Metropolitan Police has ordered 117 Honda Civic Hybrids for its Community Support Officers to use as part of a Safer Neighbourhoods scheme – an initiative to increase police presence on the streets. Officers will use the cars to travel from their operational bases to the start of their foot patrols.

The hybrids are being leased for a two year period (24,000 miles) and won't be used in most police actions. It seems the hybrid choice is more for PR and environmental reasons. The Metro Police feel that hybrid cars are stepping stones to fuel cell cars.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hybrid Owners of America

Hybrid owners are getting their own lobbying group in Washington. As strange as it is to hear about a hybrid owners lobbying group, it's stranger to find out there is a SUV owners lobby group. Who knew there was a need for these types of groups. And more importantly, who funds them?

The new hybrid owners lobbying group has a website here:

Hybrid owners get lobby - 08/17/06 - The Detroit News Online

Taking a page from the SUV Owners of America, a new group calling itself "Hybrid Owners of America" will kick off its lobbying efforts today to "advocate for the interests of the more than half a million Americans who already own hybrid gas-electric cars and other vehicles."

Hybrid Owners of America spokeswoman Ailis Aaron Wolf said the group is independent from the auto industry.

"Hybrid Owners of America will strive to be a true voice for owners of gas-electric hybrid cars and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles," she said. "HOA will track and defend existing hybrid purchase incentives as well as advocating for new incentive arrangements."

Ron DeFore, who is spokesman for the SUV Owners of America, said the organization opposes special perks for hybrid owners.

"We're not against hybrids. We just think all of the benefits for hybrid owners discriminate against people who want to drive SUVs," DeFore said.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

US Senator Barack Obama -- hybrids and Envoys

WPSDTV ran a story pointing out a small irony that came out of a speech given by US Senator Barack Obama on Monday in Metropolis, IL. After encouraging the crowd to give up their SUVs for hybrid cars, he left in a GM Envoy. The Envoy is rated at 15 mpg.

Obamas press secretary asked WPSDTV to correct their story by claiming Obamas vehicle was flex fuel capable (Runs on E85.  E85 gasoline is 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded).

There are two problems with that statement. One, Obama did not get into the vehicle that was flex fuel capable. It seems he jumped into a staffers vehicle. Second, and this is the biggest problem when considering flex fuel cars, its unlikely the gas in the car was E85. There are very few flex fuel pumps in the US, nevermind Illinois. So, chances are the fuel in the tank of the flex fuel capable vehicle was just normal gasoline.

Vietor withdrew his demand for a correction on the basis of the first issue.

A similar incident occured back in April. Senators held a group rally to protest high gas prices at a local gas station (one block away from the Senate). One Senator then jumped into a Chrysler LHS (18 mpg) while another jumped into a Hyundai Elantra for the return trip.

Source: NewsChannel 6 - Working To Make A Difference

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ford and GM are going in different directions

It seems that Ford and GM are heading in different directions according to investors today. Despite the fact both companies are in the midst of restructuring and hemmorhaging money every quarter, investing in the Detroit automakers may not be a bad idea in the near future.

Source Reuters:

Shares of Ford Motor Co. rose today while larger rival General Motors slipped after a Bear Stearns analyst changed his ratings on both automakers.

Peter Nesvold raised his rating on Ford to "outperform" from "underperform," and lowered GM to "underperform" from "peer perform."

But I wouldn't be so quick to jump into the market right now. It's expected that Toyota will soon pass GM for the number one carmaker on the planet this year. Also, despite car buyers being more satisfied, Ford and GM are still lagging behind foreign automakers in the satisfaction ratings.

According to the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index, auto makers have increased satisfaction across the board in quality, raising the percentage of satisfied customers to 81%. Toyota led the way at 87%, followed closely by Buick (GM) and Honda at 86%. Fords luxury division, Lincoln Mercury came in at 83%. But the non-luxury brands for GM and Ford weren't rated as highly. GMC (GM) had an average of 82% while Ford was rated lowest at 77%.

In other words, GM and Ford may be successfully restructuring, but until they start competing with Toyota in quality (for their non-luxury, mass sales divisions), they are going to keep losing ground in sales.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Top Ten Hybrid Cars

A list of the top ten hybrid cars is pretty easy to make, given that there are only 10 hybrid cars (and suvs) available on the market today.

  1. Toyota Prius -- the Prius has become synonymous with hybrid cars. One of the first modern hybrids available, its still the best seller and the best family hybrid car for the money available on the market.  And the next generation Prius is rumoured to get over 90 mpg.

  2. Honda Insight -- The only other hybrid-only car available, it still gets the best mileage even though it was the first hybrid car available on the market. But, if you're into small two-seaters that get great gas mileage, you better get one fast. Production of the Insight has been set to end in September.

  3. Toyota Camry Hybrid -- By taking one of the most popular cars on the road and hybridizing it, Toyota created the second most popular hybrid car available today. The Camry is said to be taking hybrids into the mainstream.  Although, given the number of Prius on the road today, I'd say hybrids are already there.

  4. Ford Escape Hybrid (SUV) -- The Ford Escape Hybrid was the first SUV hybrid on the road, and it still gets the best fuel economy in its hybrid class. Not only that, its the only hybrid Kermit the frog endorses.

  5. Toyota Highlander Hybrid (SUV) -- Built with quality in mind, it was the second best selling hybrid, at least until the Toyota Camry hybrid came along.  Its also a midsize SUV, for anyone who wants something larger than the compact Escape.

  6. Honda Civic Hybrid -- Designed to maximize efficiency and mass marketing, this hybrid has done well by its maker. Just don't expect any of your tall friends to ride for long periods in the backseat.

  7. Lexus GS 450h -- A luxury midsize sedan with hybrid 'green' rep. Not only do you get to look good, you get to feel good about driving this flagship of the Lexus division. But don't expect such good feelings to come cheaply. The starting price is over $50K

  8. Lexus RX 400h (SUV) -- A luxury SUV you don't have to feel bad about driving. The only way you can tell you're driving a hybrid is by looking for that tiny hybrid badge on the rear. But you'll know its there. If you have to ask how much this one starts at, you can't afford it.

  9. Honda Accord -- The Performance hybrid that just hasn't performed for Honda. This electric section of this hybrid engine was designed to assist the gas engine, giving it more power than the conventional Accord. But, consumers are asking if the premium price is worth it.

  10. Mercury Mariner (SUV) -- The luxury sister of the Ford Escape, I'm not sure the 'upgrades' are worth the extra money.

I'm not including the current Sierra or Silverado, as they are 'mild' hybrids. I've also excluded the Saturn Vue Green Line, as it is not available, yet.

The ranking was fairly arbitrary, based on my own opinion of what each car is worth. Given that I can't afford the luxury hybrids, they ranked lower on my scale. The Prius and Insight were given preference for being the first two modern hybrids available (see the Woods Dual Power), but the Insight was never very practical. I'm also not very excited by the Accord, although recent news about software upgrades was certainly welcome.

If you want to know more about hybrids (or just want to see another list), might I suggest the pros and cons of hybrid cars.

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Prius Engergy Monitor

Ever wonder what the energy monitor looks like in a Toyota Prius? Someone took the time to film the monitor as it switches back and forth from battery to gas consumption. Take a look.

While the glare on the screen makes it hard to read, it's still pretty fascinating to watch. It's also fun to watch the fuel economy jump around as well.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

JD Powers study dependability

J. D. Powers released the results of a study on the dependability of 2003 vehicles. Lexus was rated number one for dependability as an automaker. The average problems per 100 vehicles is down to 15, an impressive increase in overall quality. Quality improvements with non-luxury brands are seen primarily in two categories—ride, handling, braking, and engine and transmission—which both have a strong impact on customer satisfaction.

The Toyota Prius was one of the top three for quality in compact cars.

Of interest is how perception can be misleading when it comes to automakers and quality. Note where Saturn and Volvo are on this list, while Ford is above average. Also, luxury branding does not necessarily mean quality and vice-versa.

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GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW are investing $1 billion in hybrid tech

Compared to the $2 billion Toyota spent developing hybrid technology (estimated), $1 billion by three companies doesn't seem like a lot.

Source: Germany

Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp., DaimlerChrysler AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG are investing more than $1 billion combined on a shared gasoline-electric system for autos that will compete with hybrid leader Toyota Motor Corp.

Toyota has licensed hybrid technology to Ford Motor Co., supplies components to Nissan Motor Co. for a hybrid Altima sedan that goes on sale in 2007, and plans to work with affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Subaru on gasoline-electric vehicles.

GM will be using the new hybrid technology (dual-mode hybrid) in its 2007 Yukon and Tahoe. DaimlerChrysler will have a hybrid Durango in 2008, while BMW, who just signed on last year to the joint operation, plans on having a hybrid in about three to five years.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Post April 2006 Honda Accord Hybrid Owners

Anyone who bought a Honda Accord Hybrid post April 2006 should definitely take a look at this. Any Honda Accord Hybrid AT without this control calibration qualifies for a tax credit of $650. Anyone with it can get $1300.

This software update will help increase your fuel mileage in a significant way.

Thanks for the tip off, Mike.

Read more at the link:Calling any post-April 2006 owners! - GreenHybrid

DATE: July 14, 2006
TO: All Honda Sales, Service & Parts Managers
FROM: American Honda Service Division
RE: 2006 Accord Hybrid Campaign Announcement

Honda Motor Co., LTD. is announcing a product update campaign affecting 2006 Accord Hybrids thru VIN JHMCN3...6C002303. On affected vehicles, the original PCM software for the PGM-FI system and the A/T can be updated to increase fuel mileage. Updating the PCM software also allows qualified owners to claim a higher federal income tax credit (subject to various limitations).

NOTE: Customers inquiring about hybrid vehicle tax incentives should be directed to their accountant or other tax professional.

Repair Strategy
The repair is to update the PGM-FI and the A/T software with the HDS, using software version 2.005.004 or later.

For details, refer to service bulletin 06-045, Product Update: PCM Update to Improve Fuel Mileage.

Before beginning work on a vehicle, verify its eligibility by checking at least one of these items:

· The customer has a notification letter.
· The vehicle is shown on your campaign responsibility report.
· The vehicle is shown as eligible on a VIN status inquiry.

In addition, check for a punch mark above the first character of the engine compartment VIN. A punch mark in that location means this product update has already been done.

Some vehicles affected by this product update may be in your new vehicle inventory. These vehicles must be updated before they are sold or leased.

Customer Notification
Customers will be sent a notification of this product update on July 24, 2006.

Software Information
To successfully update the PCM, make sure the HDS is loaded with software version 2.005.004 or later.

Parts Information
Parts are NOT needed for this software update.

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Honda Automobile Division

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Honda will not focus in on hybrid technology alone

John Mendel, Senior VP American Honda stated Hondas long term approach to fuel efficiency and environmental yesterday at the Center for Automotive Research. It seems Honda, while proud of what it has done in the past with hybrid technology, doesn't feel that it, alone, is the answer.

Honda will continue to make hybrid cars and introduce new hybrid cars, but will also increase the introduction of other alternative engines including diesel.

Mendel also emphasized the new hybrid car coming out in 2009. It will be a small, affordable hybrid. As he puts it, there is a "need for an affordable hybrid as a next generation people's car." In other words, the Accord Hybrid isn't selling well, but the Honda Civic Hybrid is. And it's fairly obvious why that is.

The Accord Hybrid was built as a 'performance' hybrid, capable of beating out its conventional all-gas engine counterpart in performance. The Honda Civic Hybrid was built emphasizing the fuel economy. Given how the Civic Hybrid has outsold the Accord Hybrid by more than 4-1 this year, I believe Honda is on the right track by building a small family hybrid car that is affordable.

Remarks by John Mendel, Senior Vice President, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Beyond conventional engine technology, Honda has taken the lead in a host of advanced technologies from hybrids, to natural gas and hydrogen fuel cell. But our strategy is not about pursuing the latest fad. And I would include hybrids in that statement. Now, be careful about what you just heard... I did not say hybrids are a fad. But I want to emphasize they are just one necessary approach.

I know people have wondered about our hybrid strategy - we have been questioned repeatedly regarding why we haven't joined those companies promising to sell 250-thousand to a million hybrids by the end of the decade. The reason is simple... Honda always proceeds with a sense of urgency, but we also have a patience that is born out of experience with technology. There are multiple solutions to the environmental challenge - and we have a responsibility both to our customers and our shareholders... and the answer is not necessarily hybrids for all model types. We did introduce America's first hybrid... and America's first mass-market hybrid... and America's first V-6 hybrid. In each case... we learned a lot about real world performance requirements and the needs of the customer. This has been a great advantage.

By developing the technology ourselves, and gaining real world experience with it, we aren't guided by another company's beliefs or technology timetable... and we fundamentally understand the technology so that we can continue to advance it ourselves. The Civic has the 4th generation Honda Hybrid System with new technology that increases horsepower and torque, yet is also more efficient.

Today, hybrids mean fuel economy - and that is really their greatest value... both when it comes to addressing CO2 reduction... and giving the consumer what they want... which is higher mileage. Toward this end, earlier this year, we announced plans to introduce a new, more affordable hybrid car. This was the result of a strong request from those of us at American Honda to Honda R&D.

We explained to them the need for an affordable hybrid as a next generation people's car. As a means to improve fuel efficiency, we determined that hybrid technology is most effective in smaller displacement vehicles. With the key understanding that the success of a small hybrid is based on offering it at an affordable price. Our R&D operations have taken on this challenge... and the new small hybrid vehicle will be launched in 2009... with a projected North American sales volume of 100-thousand units.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ford is considering investing $1 billion in Michigan

According to Mark Shields of Ford Motor Company, Ford is considering investing one billion dollars in research and facilities in the state of MIchigan. The following remarks were made as part of his speech on August 9, 2006 at the Center for Automotive Research’s 41st annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich. SPEECH: FORD CONFIRMS NEW SHELBY GT AND LINCOLN MKS SEDAN; $1 BILLION POTENTIAL INVESTMENT TO BUILD MORE PRODUCTS

Just as we’re asking the people in the state of Michigan to believe in Ford, we want to make it very clear that the Ford Motor Company believes in the future of Michigan.

Today, I’m happy to announce that we are working with the state on a new partnership to try to ensure that a good portion of our investments in future products remain right here in our back yard.

Ford is considering investments of up to $1 billion in several Michigan facilities as part of our Way Forward and our product-led turnaround.

The investments would be dedicated to expanding flexible manufacturing at several of our facilities here in Michigan and be used for the research and development of future products, advanced powertrain technologies and hybrid vehicles.

To be fair, these new investments are not yet finalized, but we will continue to work with the state and our various facilities, and make decisions as part of our Way Forward plans.

Ford recently announced it would be investing one billion dollars in the UK to develop hybrid technology there, as well. It seems Ford may have backed off of its promise to create 250,000 hybrid cars by 2010, but they haven't given up on the technology. Maybe they just could not produce that many hybrids in such a short period of time, given the scarcity of materials (i.e. the Prius has been limited in sales for a few months now by availability, not by demand).

I spotted this story over at greencarcongress.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hybrid car owners are loyal car owners

According to the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIDA) newsletter, hybrid owners are loyal owners according to a study by the Power Information Network (PIN) (link is pdf).

74.3% percent of Toyota Prius owners traded their vehicles in for another Toyota vehicle. 41.9% re-acquire a Prius. "Owners of all three Honda-badged hybrids are moreloyal than the typical Honda driver. Six of every 10 owners of the Civic Hybrid and Accord Hybrid trade for another Honda or Acura, a corporate retention rate exceeded only by owners of the Odyssey and Pilot."

Given how satisfied hybrid owners are, that shouldn't be a suprise. Also, I would have to believe hybrid owners would look for another hybrid to buy. Given the relatively few choices available to them, it's not surprising how loyal hybrid owners are to Honda and Toyota.

BTW, in the same report from PIN, there's bad news for US carmakers. According to their study, nine of the ten models with the highest percent of buyers 25 years old and younger are foreign imports. The Dodge Neon was knocked off of the list by the Toyota Yaris. The sole remaining domestic car was the Cobalt.

The Scion topped the list and the proportion of young buyers was greater than one third its nearest competition.

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2007 Toyota Prius and the Touring Edition

Toyota announced it is raising the price of the 2007 Prius by 2.1 percent, raising the price for the base model by $450 to $22,175. The Touring Model will be set at $23,070.

The Prius has been selling out of stock for months now. Given the limited supply (mostly it comes to how many batteries can be supplied for all of the hybrid cars being made), it makes sense for Toyota to raise the price now, although some of the incentive may slip away given the hybrid tax credit will be getting cut in half at the end of September on all Toyota and Lexus hybrid models.

For their part, Toyota is introducing the new Touring Edition, sporting larger wheels (16-inch alloy wheels), a larger rear spoiler, high density discharge headlamps (HID) and foglamps and a stiffer suspension.

Don't forget about all those extras, too. If you want leather seats, nav system, rear camera, etc... your price tag is only going to go up.

The Toyota Camry Hybrid price is staying at $25,900 for next year.

Source: Chicago Tribune (registration required)

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Hybrid Sales July 2006

Fords hybrid sales went up 81.0% in the month of July (comparisons are made to last years numbers unless otherwise noted) compared to Toyotas increase of 39.8% and Hondas loss of 13.4%. But Toyota is still the big winner, selling over 20,000 hybrid cars and suvs or 79.2% of all hybrids sold in July. Overall, hybrid sales have hit a new high, selling 25,626 units.

Ford should be happy with its increase in numbers from last year from 1,138 hybrids sold to 2,060. Although, their numbers are down from their record pace just a few months ago, when in April, they sold over 3,400 units. Ford recently backed off their promise to build 250,000 hybrids by 2010.

Honda had mixed results, given how poorly their Accord Hybrid has performed, it's no wonder they are looking into reducing production of their 'performance' hybrid. The Accord hybrid continued its decline, selling 504 units, 63.4% below last years numbers. The Honda Civic hybrid, however increased sales 14.8% to 2,673 units sold. The low production Insight, scheduled to be terminated next month, increased its sales to 91 units.

Toyota increased sales of its Highlander Hybrid by 8.6% to 2,784 units sold. The Lexus RX 400h is down 46.1% from last year, to 1,220 units sold. The Lexus GS 450h sold 157 units in the month of July.

The biggest sellers were the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Toyota Prius. The Camry sold 5,023 units, increasing sales from last month by over 700 cars. The Prius increased sales to 11,114 units sold increasing sales by 14.7%. I wonder if this means they are increasing production somehow on their top hybrid seller as in recent months, Toyota has explained the decrease in Prius sales on selling out of their stock, rather than a lack of demand.

Given how well Toyota hybrids have been selling, it should be noted that Toyota has already surpassed the 60,000 hybrid cars sold this year. That means all hybrid cars Toyota makes and sells will no longer be eligible for the full tax credit after September 30.

Overall, hybrid car sales increased by 45.3% over last year, boosted by sales of the hybrid Camry, while hybrid SUV sales have only increased by 1.7% over last year.

Hybrid car sales have increased every month since February, while hybrid SUV sales had decreased since April until this month. Percentage-wise, 76% of the hybrids sold in July were cars.

Year to date, the Prius has captured 37.8% of the hybrid market. The Highlander Hybrid is second in sales (13.3%) made, with the Honda Civic coming in a close third (11.8%). Combined sales of the Ford Escape hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid come in at fourth with 9.0% of the year to date hybrid market. The Lexus Rx400h and Toyota Camry come in fifth and sixth respectively at 7.0%, although it should be noted the Toyota Camry Hybrid has only been on sale since May.

Read last months car sales numbers: June, 2006 hybrid car sales.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

2007 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid

GM is bringing out its first dual mode hybrids in the fall of 2007. The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra full size pickup trucks will incorporate the dual-mode hybrid engine developed jointly with BMW and DaimlerChrysler.

The hybrid trucks will get a combined city/highway fuel economy of 25 mpg, a 25% improvement. The engine will reportedly have 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. But the improved fuel economy and powere will also come with a premium price tag of about $3000 more than their conventional counterparts.

The dual-mode hybrid engine requires a larger engine to work with, which is why GM is bringing it out with its trucks. If you want to learn more about the system, follow the link to dual-mode hybrids.

Source: Inside Line: IL Insider: GM To Debut Hybrid Full-Sized Trucks in Fall '07 -

GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner did not mention the dual-mode hybrid in his formal remarks at the Wednesday reveal here of the 2007 Silverado and Sierra, although he emphasized that the big trucks are "the most important part of our turnaround plan."

The company said it will begin production of the light-duty variants of the big trucks in October, with a February launch slated for the heavy-duty variants. The company noted that all variants of the trucks will be launched within a five-month timeframe, as opposed to a rolling two-year launch for the previous generation.

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New York Research Center

According to NY governor Pataki, New York is building a research center to look into how to conserve energy, decrease dependence on petroleum and reduce emissions. This center will be built in the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park about 20 miles north of Albany.

The only taker so far is a Canadian high-tech battery manufacturer. So, their first goal may be converting hybrids plug-in hybrids. The research center will open in 2008.

Pataki also announced that the state would spend $10 million to convert 600 state vehicles to plug-in hybrid vehicles. After the state project is done, the facility will be made available to private companies to retrofit vehicles.

Earlier in the day at the former Seneca Army Depot in Central New York's Romulus, Pataki announced an ethanol refining company, Empire Biofuels, will invest $87 million to build a refinery there. It will produced 50 million gallons of the corn-based vehicle fuel and create 60 jobs, Pataki said.

The company will receive a tax credit of up to $2.5 million a year based on production.

Source: State to open research center for alternative fuel cars -

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Smaller cars are in as gas prices keep rising

Sixty two percent say smaller cars are hot, but more importantly to the overall economy, a lot of people are making changes to their buying lifestyle to accomodate the rising gas prices. That includes eating out less, fewer major purchases and less vacation and travel.

Press Release follows:

BIGresearch Survey Reveals That Small Cars Are Hot, But Big Vehicle Owners Are Willing to Make Sacrifices to Keep on Trucking

According to BIGresearch's July Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (CIA), when asked if small cars are hot, nearly 62% of over 9,000 respondents said "yes." The survey divided those respondents into categories based on the vehicle they currently own -- from cars and hybrids to trucks, SUVs, minivans and cross-overs (a cross between a car and an SUV) -- to see what role higher gas prices might play in the trend toward small car preference.

"It's clear, especially among truck owners, that people are willing to drive less, spend less and consider every option to equalize the impact of rising gas prices -- including buying a smaller car," said Gary Drenik, president and CEO of BIGresearch. "In fact, those who own trucks have deferred major purchases (35%), reduced dining out (55%) and decreased vacation and travel (58%) just to be able to fill their gas tanks."

The survey revealed that over 60% of truck owners are making fewer shopping trips, plus they are shopping closer to home, using coupons more often and doing more comparative shopping both online and with newspaper ads and circulars.

On the flip side, owners of cars and hybrids are not cutting back so drastically. When asked at what price per gallon gasoline would have to reach before they would change their driving habits, 44% said their driving habits would not change, regardless of price. In addition, 57% of car and hybrid owners said that fluctuating gas prices have had no major impact on their spending.

"The math is simple. When gas prices have gone up over 30% in the last year, a smaller car plus better mileage equals more spending money in the consumer's pocket," said Drenik. "That's why even the most devoted truck and SUV fans might be willing to buy a smaller car."

Of all the respondents to the survey who said they are planning on buying a new vehicle in the next 6 months, 75.9% of car owners said they would consider buying a car, 37.1% of truck owners, 30.6% of minivan owners and 47.3% of SUV owners.

"If gas prices continue to soar, small cars could be the biggest thing going for the automotive industry," said Drenik. "However, if people continue to have to make sacrifices in order to drive, retailers, entertainment and other industries will have to work harder and market smarter to capture ever-shrinking consumer dollars."

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Toyota outsells Ford for the first time

In the month of July, Toyota outsold Ford for the first time in the number of US sales for the month.

In order, the top three sellers were:
1. General Motors
2. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
3. Ford Motor Co.

Analysts had predicted the Detroit carmakers would post big drops in US sales for July (from last year) because last years sales were the biggest month of auto sales ever.

GM was down 22.5 percent, Ford Motor was down 34.3 percent, and the Chrysler group was down 37.4 percent.

If you remember, employee pricing deals were all the rage and the big three automakers were in the middle of a pricing war.

Toyota and Honda didn't join in on the fun last year. And this year, both companies had increases: Toyota Motor's sales totaled 241,826 units, up 11.7 percent from July 2005. For the year to date, Toyota's U.S. sales are up 10.1 percent from the same period last year.

American Honda's U.S. sales in July totaled 151,804 units, up 6.0 percent from July 2005. The automaker's year-to-date U.S. sales are up 6.9 percent from last year to 893,031 units.

Nissan, on the other hand, is having a tough first half. Sales were down 19.5 percent from last year (86,408 units sold). Nissan has dropped (year to date) 8 percent overall. But Nissan CEO Ghosn is predicting this year will be a year of two stories. A big drop in the first half, followed by a huge jump in the second with the arrival of new or redesigned products.

Overall, US auto sales in July were down 17.4 percent from July, 2005. Year to date sales are down 5.0 percent.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hybrid Engines - in Parallel

There are two types of hybrid engines. These two engines are differentiated by how the electric and fueled halves of the powertrain connect.

A parallel system is the most common design seen today. It connects the electrical and internal combustion systems to the mechanical transmission.

Most designs combine a large electrical generator and a motor into one unit, often situated between the internal combustion engine and the transmission, in the location of the flywheel, replacing both the conventional starter motor and the generator or alternator.

In some cases, the electrical generator only provides a boost to the primary power source, the gas engine. In other cases, the electrical generator can be considered a co-primary power source. The electric side of the engine will power the engine up to a certain speed, at which point the gas engine will turn on and produce the primary power. This allows the gas engine to provide power only when it is most efficient to do so.

A large battery pack is required in a parallel engine. The battery will be charged both through regenerative braking and by the gas engine, when needed.

Accessories normally powered by the engine, such as power steering and the air conditioning are powered by the electric motors. This allows them to keep running when the gas engine is off. This offers the possibility of further efficiency gains, by modulating the electrical power delivered to these systems, rather than having them run directly from the engine at a speed which depends on engine speed.

Read about Series Engines.

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Hybrid Engines - in Series

There are two types of hybrid engines. These two engines are differentiated by how the electric and fueled halves of the powertrain connect. All hybrids have regenerative brakes where the battery is charged from when you brake your vehicle.

When the engine is not directly connected to the drivetrain, but instead powers an electrical generator, you have a series engine. Electricy flows out of the generator into the motor that moves the car. Excess energy is used in charging the battery.

When in high stress situations, energy is fed from both the generator and the battery pack. Since electric engines work fairly efficiently at all speeds, the transmission in a normal engine may be removed all together.

This flexibility allows for a simpleness in the design, although you do need a separate motor for the gas engine and the generator. The combined efficiency is actually lower than that of conventional transmission.

A series engine is most efficient in stop-and-go situations, so you may see this engine type more often in a hybrid delivery truck or a hybrid bus.

Read about parallel hybrid engines.

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