Thursday, September 28, 2006

What do hybrid buyers worry about

CNN ran a story on what people who buy hybrid cars are worried about and they seem to have a fair and balanced view. Here are the seven major worries CNN feels people have:
1. Worry: Hybrids have complicated technology that is difficult or expensive to fix
2. Worry: Hybrids have limited battery pack life
3. Worry: Hybrids have technical problems like stalling and sputtering
4. Worry: Hybrids do not pay for themselves to justify their premium cost
5. Worry: Hybrids do not offer the driving performance needed
6. Worry: Hybrids will not hold resale value
7. Worry: Hybrids do not get the level of mileage promised

I might add something to that list. Hybrid car buyers are worried about the tax credit available from the federal government. It's not easy to figure out how to fill in your tax form as it is. And they are worried how they're going to deal with this new wrinkle.

Also, some worry about safety when it comes to hybrids involved in crashes. Since there is a bigger battery involved, it's a legitimate concern for emergency response teams, but that's a worry that is being applied to all new cars. ER personnel are very worried about all the new features, especially airbags, when cutting into a car.

Source:Hybrids: Seven worries, seven answers - Sep. 27, 2006

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hypermiling at 150 mpg

As hard as it is to believe, the hypermilers are trying to do even better. In a celebration of the Honda Insight and its capabilities, a group of six men are attempting to travel 2000 miles on one tank of gas. They, if they do it, will come in at 150 mpg in an unmodified Honda Insigt.

They are driving in shifts around a 40 mile 'track' of highway in Tulsa, Oklahoma. By going around this loop 50 times, they will complete their journey.

You can read more about their attempt at about: Hypermilers Attempting to Maintain 150 MPG for 2000 Miles or you can go directly to the source and read their posts on the matter at the forum Stats and pictures are being posted.

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Frost and Sullivan predict big things for manufacturers of hybrid engines

With the growth of hybrid car sales, manufacturers who can build hybrid engines have a big opportunity ahead.

Hybrid vehicles spell opportunity for U.S. motor manufacturers

An analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of Hybrid Automobiles and Impact on the U.S. Motors Markets, reveals that revenues in that market totaled $373.2 million in 2005 and predicts the total will jump to $851.9 million by 2012. The analysis attributes the growth to the increasing U.S. consumer demand for alternative means to reduce overall fuel expenditures.
Presently, most hybrid vehicle makers produce motors in-house because such motors require extensive customization and there is no standardized technology. However, as hybrid vehicle demand grows, manufacturers producing motors in-house will prefer to outsource motors to vendors that have a deeper understanding of the operational, supply chain and technical requirements of the hybrid automotive industry, predicts Frost & Sullivan.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Classification of Car Sizes by the EPA

A recent question posed by one of my readers in the post on how to choose a hybrid about the classification of the Prius led me to the following information. I thought it might be of interest to more of you, so I'm making it into its own post.

The EPA classifies cars and trucks based on either the interior space (measured in cubic feet) including the passenger and cargo area volume or the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (measured in pounds).

Which leads them to the following table of classifications.

CARS (based on interior passenger and cargo volume) TRUCKS (based on body style and load-bearing capacity)
Small Under 4,500 lbs.
MiniCompact Under 85 cu. ft.
Standard 4,500 to 8,500 lbs.
SubCompact 85 to 99 cu. ft. VANS Under 8,500 lbs.
Compact 100 to 109 cu. ft. Passenger
Midsize 110 to 119 cu. ft. Cargo
Large 120 or more cu. ft. MINIVANS Under 8,500 lbs.
Under 8,500 lbs.
Small Under 130 cu. ft. SPECIAL PURPOSE VEH.
Under 8,500 lbs.
Midsize 130 to 159 cu. ft. HEAVY-DUTY VEH.
Over 8,500 lbs.
Large 160 or more cu. ft.

Note that Vans, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) weighing more than 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight are classified as heavy-duty vehicles.

The reader was asking specifically about the Prius. The EPA classifies the Toyota Prius as a midsize vehicle, but Edmunds classifies it as a compact. That's because there's no regulation on how reviewers classify cars. I was using the classification from Edmunds, which naturally led to some confusion. Forbes classifies cars as the EPA does on most cars, but sometimes bases its classification on the "measurement of the distance between the front and rear wheels (wheelbase) to define its size" because "there are some cars that are huge on the outside and small on the inside."

By the way, the Prius has internal volume of 96.2 cu. ft. with cargo volume of 14.4 cu. ft. putting it slightly over the edge into the midsize range based on the EPA rating.

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Hybrid Car Sales in the coming months

According to the latest JD Powers survey, poor gas mileage is now the third most-cited reason for rejecting a vehicle. The first and second reasons cited were "total price too high" and "total monthly payment too high," respectively.

There are three major things happening at the end of September that may affect hybrid car sales in the coming months. First, the price of gas is dropping (albeit slowly) with the end of the summer driving season. Second, Toyota is about to lose half of its federal tax rebate, which may affect sales of the most popular hybrid vehicles, the Prius and Camry hybrid. And third, the winter season is settling in, a relatively slower time for buying cars.

2005 hybrid car sales, in the month of September, saw a big drop in hybrid sales, from over 23 thousand down to 19 thousand units sold. I would expect a drop to occur again this year based on seasonal differences (BTW, that's why car sales are measured year-to-year, not month to month), but I'm also forced to wonder about any differences in the expected drop. Will the drop be sharper based on the three reasons I listed above? Or perhaps, consumers will be more pessimistic about the recent price drops, leading them to look into the long term gas mileage savings?

Which brings us back to the latest JD Powers survey. The survey was taken after the recent price drops in gas prices. So, it looks like people are still looking for better fuel economy when shopping for new cars. So, I'm not looking for an extra drop in sales for that reason. Also, the Prius and Camry are backed by the Toyota reputation for quality, so I doubt the loss of tax credit incentives will force a big shift in sales away from them. And, even if shoppers do, they will probably just look into other hybrid vehicles.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Nissan to produce a hybrid without Toyota technology

In the past, CEO of Nissan Carlos Ghosn has indicated their deal to produce hybrids using Toyotas technology won't last too long. And back in April, Nissan dropped a few hints about what their new hybrid technology will be like. Well, Nissan has now come out and promised they are going their own way by 2010. First up will be a hybrid compact using a Lithium-ion battery with its larger capacity and quicker recharging capabilities.

But don't expect Nissan to jump into the hybrid market with both feet, even with their own technology. Nissan's approach has been cautious to the extreme, and that's not going to change with Ghosn in the lead.

In fact, the Nissan Altima Hybrid, when it is released, will only be available in limited numbers in limited states.

It seems that Nissan is interested in the commercial hybrid vehicle market, going so far as to produce the hybrid cabstar, for instance.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Boston gets a Hybrid Taxi

A Toyota Camry Hybrid to be exact. Other cities, including New York and San Francisco have had hybrid vehicles serving as taxis for months now, but Boston didn't have one, until now.

The new hybrid taxi is part of the Boston CleanAir Cabs designed to replace older taxis with those with alternate fuels making them cleaner. So far, only the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and CNG Ford Crown Victoria are eligible. Any new taxis that qualify will have a green strip indicating they are running cleaner for the environment.

The MassPort Agency has also partnered with the program. Massport is considering giving reduced airport access fees as a way to get more alternatives out there on the streets.

Hybrid Taxis may cost more up front, but drivers like them because they have to pay less in fuel costs. - Boston Gets First Hybrid Taxi

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Toyota is increasing production on its Prius

Toyota is looking to increase production of the Prius to 300,000 units in 2007, an increase of 50 percent according to the Nihon Keizai. Toyota has projected worldwide sales of 1 million hybrid annually soon after 2010. In order to do that, they will be offereing twice the number of hybrids and would need to increase production on all the models.

With the Toyota Camry Hybrid production switching to the plant in Kentucky, letting them switch back to building the Prius in their plant in Japan. The carmaker has stated sales of the Prius have been limited since the release of the Camry hybrid to what they could build. Consumers on waiting lists for weeks to months will most likely be jumping for joy at the news.

But, Toyota may be facing some difficulties in the months ahead. The federal tax credit on hybrid cars sold by Toyota (and Lexus) will be cut in half after September 30th. For instance, the Toyota Prius tax credit will be cut from $3,100 to $1,575, while other manufacturers can still offer the full tax credit on their cars. Honda probably will be offering the full credit when Toyota has to cut that in half again on April 1, 2007, while Ford will most likely be offering the full credit right up until it expires at the end of 2010.

It's hard to imagine that Toyota could lose some of the hybrid market it has dominated, but it is possible. In the meantime, Toyota is forecasting sales growth of 11 percent to 9.8 million units in 2008.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Toyota Hybrid Tax Credit Phase Out

Under the current tax law, the credit for buying a hybrid vehicle begins to phase out during the second calendar quarter after the quarter in which the company sells its 60,000th hybrid or lean burn technology vehicle.

The credit for all new advanced lean burn technology motor vehicles or new qualified hybrid passenger automobiles or light trucks manufactured by Toyota Motor Corporation will begin to phase out on Oct. 1, 2006.

Vehicles purchased before Oct. 1, 2006 qualify for the full credit. For Toyota hybrid vehicles bought on or after October 1, 2006, and on or before March 31, 2007, the credit is 50 percent of the otherwise allowable credit amount. Taxpayers buying vehicles on or after April 1, 2007, and on or before September 30, 2007, can only get 25 percent of the credit.

Here are the credit amounts for Oct. 1, 2006 - March 31, 2007:

* 2005 Prius - $1,575
* 2006 Prius - $1,575
* 2006 Highlander 4WD Hybrid - $1,300
* 2006 Highlander 2WD Hybrid - $1,300
* 2006 Lexus RX400h 2WD - $1,100
* 2006 Lexus RX400h 4WD - $1,100
* 2007 Camry Hybrid - $1,300
* 2007 Lexus GS 450h - $775

Here are the credit amounts for April 1, 2007 - September 30, 2007:

* 2005 Prius - $787.50
* 2006 Prius - $787.50
* 2006 Highlander 4WD Hybrid - $650
* 2006 Highlander 2WD Hybrid - $650
* 2006 Lexus RX400h 2WD - $550
* 2006 Lexus RX400h 4WD - $550
* 2007 Camry Hybrid - $650
* 2007 Lexus GS 450h - $387.50

Beginning October 1, 2007, taxpayers who buy a Toyota hybrid cannot claim the related tax credit.

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$20 billion in loans to help research hybrids and alternative fuels

According to a Reuters report, Rep Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan is looking to offer a $20 billion loan to automakers (i.e GM, Ford and Chrysler) to develop alternative fuels, hybrids and other energy saving technologies.

With the big 3 automakers hemorrhaging money, they have been cutting back on production, cutting back on jobs, and losing market share to Toyota in sales. The US automakers have focused on trucks and SUV sales in the past decade and have suffered when consumers began switching to smaller vehicles with better mileage (and better quality reputations).

In order to qualify for the loans, foreing carmakers would need to open research and development operations into the US. Under the loan guarantee, the government backs the majority of financing from banks and private sector lenders.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hack for the Insight Air Conditioner and Defroster

Do the Defrost hack so you can enter Auto Stop.
1) Turn the vent control (top knob) to "face" (one to the right of
2) Turn the temperature knob all the way to cold (left)
3) Turn the fan control to "auto"
4) Hold the 3 buttons down: The A/C, recirculate and Econ buttons.
5) Insert the key into the ignition, turn to "Start"
6) Hold the buttons down for 7 seconds. The ECON light will blink, 7 times.
7) Release buttons.

This hack will turn off the A/C when the defroster is on.

BTW. The reason the a/c goes on is to remove moisture in the air. It defrosts faster with a/c.

Source:defrost AC hacks - GreenHybrid

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Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid SUV is finally coming to dealers

The Saturn Vue Hybrid is being delivered to dealers across the country from the plant in Tennessee. Given the trouble Saturn (GM) has been facing, the hybrid SUV has to be bright spot in their future plans.

The hybrid Saturn Vue costs about $3000 more than the standard version of the vue, but delivers some savings in fuel economy. It will also be the most affordable hybrid SUV by a long shot. The Saturn Vue Green Line does qualify for $650 in federal tax credits, somewhat offsetting the premium pricetag.

GM rolls out hybrid model of Saturn Vue

It's been a couple of years in coming, but the hybrid version of the Saturn Vue has begun rolling off the assembly line at the General Motors assembly plant here.

About 600 of the gasoline/electric-powered sport utility vehicles were shipped to dealers last week, fulfilling a pledge first made at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 2003 that the Vue would play a vital role in GM's hybrid strategy.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Will all cars be capable of getting a tax credit?

If Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah get their way, all fuel efficient cars will be eligible for tax credits, not just hybrids.

If the bill gets passed (its not likely to this late in the session), the tax credit will range from $630 up to $1,860 depending on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle pruchased. Passenger vehicles that are rated at 34.5 mpg or greater would be eligible. Light trucks would be eligible at 27.5 mpg or better.

The tax credit would cost $1.3 billion a year, but would be totally offset by eliminating a tax break given to oil companies. Only the five largest oil companies are eligible to apply for this tax break at the moment. The companies can "expense 70 percent of domestic "intangible drilling costs" -- such as leasing equipment and land acquisition -- in the first year, instead of depreciating it over a number of years. The legislation would require the companies to write off those expenses over five years instead of one."

Of course, oil company representatives are against this bill, claiming it will be bad for domestic oil drilling. If it becomes more expensive to drill here, they will move their drilling to other countries, forcing the US to become more dependent on foreign oil imports.

On the other side of the coin, automakers and environmental groups are throwing their support behind the proposed legislation.

Source:Bill expands tax credit for gas-saving cars, trucks

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How to choose which hybrid to buy

So, you've decided to buy a hybrid.

You've heard all they hype about hybrid technology. How they are so good for the environment by running on electric at low speeds and gas at high speeds, giving you the best of both worlds. Or perhaps you're more interested in fuel economy, and have heard the rumors you can actually save money buying a hybrid in the long run. Or maybe, you just want to qualify for the tax credit. Or perhaps you saw Kermit the Frog on TV.

Whatever your reasons, your only choice now is which hybrid to buy? Will you go with the most popular hybrid and buy the Toyota Prius? Or perhaps you're just interested in price? City driving? Highway driving? SUV vs Car?

If it's a hybrid SUV you are interested in, you now have five choices. In order of how much its going to cost you, there is the Saturn Vue Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Lexus RX 400h. Each has its pros and cons, but they are all worth a look. The Ford Escape gets the best mileage (36/31), the RX 400h is going to delivery luxury (for a hefty price), the Saturn Vue Green Line (hybrid) gives you an economic choice (but you get fewer internal gadgets), and the Toyota Highlander gives you good power (V6 engine vs the V4 Escape) and with Toyota quality.

If you're looking for great fuel economy, the Honda Insight (out of production in September) and the Toyota Prius are what you're looking for. Each car outperforms every other vehicle on the road when it comes to fuel economy at the price of internal space. Both cars are compacts (the Insight is a two-seater).

If you want to stand out from the crowd, these two are the most likely to turn heads, as well. Both are styled for air flow, giving them a unique look that says: here is a hybrid.

If you're looking for the best price on a hybrid, the Honda Civic is the way to go. Starting at $14,760 (prices vary up to $24,440), none of the other cars can come close. You can also count the Saturn Vue Hybrid Green Line as the newest hybrid on the road for a great price. With prices ranging from $17,370 to $23,525, you're not going to get a better deal on a hybrid.

If luxury is your thing, there are currently three choices. The Lexus GS 450h gives you every bell and whistle you can think of for a whopping $54,900. The Lexus RX 400h is the luxury SUV for Toyota/Lexus and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid is the luxury vehicle from Ford. The Mariner is a basic twin of the Ford Escape Hybrid, but with all the options (and priced at a lot less than the other two).

If you want to go with the crowd, the best selling hybrids on the road today are the Toyota Prius and Toyota Camry. The Toyota Camry is a new comer to the hybrid field but quickly jumped into the no. 2 spot in sales of hybrid.

The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are two of the best selling vehicles in the world, so you would expect adding a hybrid component to either one would quickly pay off for the two Japanese carmakers. Honda Accord sales, however, have languished. The difference is easy to see. The Toyota Camry gets an EPA rating of 40 city/38 highway. The Accord? At best 25/34. Honda built a performance hybrid at the expense of fuel economy and is paying the price of their ill fated choice. Sales have not been strong and production was lowered. It seems the extra power being delivered wasn't worth the extra premium.

Price Range* City* Highway*
Year** Make Model Size Min Max Min Max Min Max
2006 Honda Insight Compact Coupe $ 19,330 $ 21,530 57
2006 Honda Accord Midsize Sedan $ 18,225 $ 32,990 20 25 29 34
2006 Honda Civic Compact Sedan $ 14,760 $ 24,440 28 49 39 51
2007 Lexus GS 450h Midsize Sedan $ 54,900
25 28

2007 Toyota Camry Midsize Sedan $ 25,900
2006 Toyota Prius Compact Sedan $ 21,725
2007 Ford Escape Compact SUV $ 25,600 $ 27,205 33 36 29 31
2007 Lexus RX 400h Midsize SUV $ 41,180 $ 42,580 31 33 27 28
2006 Mercury Mariner Compact SUV $ 29,225
2007 Saturn Vue Midsize SUV $ 17,370 $ 23,525 19 27 25 32
2006 Toyota Highlander Midsize SUV $ 33,030 $ 39,290 31 33 27 28

* Range of values depends on trim/engine/etc...
** 2007 numbers provided where available.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Innacurate Reports

It's disappointing to see stories like this.

Hybrid Buying Guide 2006 -

As the highest-volume and most famous gas/electric hybrid, Toyota Motors' Prius sedan sets the tone for the hybrid market. So what does it mean that its American sales are down 3% this year?

Are buyers suddenly less fuel-conscious? Have they stopped liking the car's looks? More likely, the demise of a $3,000 tax credit is to blame. Hybrids are simply not the deals they once were.

If you read the second paragraph from the story above, you'll see how the writer attributes slower sales to the loss of the tax credit. Too bad the 'demise' of the tax credit (for Toyota) won't occur until the end of the month.

Sales of the Toyota Prius are down because Toyota started building the Toyota Camry hybrid. This took away production from the Prius. According to Toyota, every Prius made was being sold (and quickly according to days-on-the-lot numbers). With production of the Toyota Camry Hybrid being switched to the US soon, the production and sales of the Prius will most likely see a jump up.

The only stumbling block in the future may be the demise of the tax credit. After September 30th, consumers who purchase hybrids from Toyota will qualify for half of the credit.

The following paragraph is more accurate:
Other hybrids have hit the wall too. Sales of Honda Motor's Accord Hybrid sedan are down 64%. Ford Motor's 2006 Escape Hybrid SUV is carrying a $1,000 rebate and 0% financing. Last September, according to Automotive News, the 2005 model was not carrying any incentives, unless they were part of a company-wide sale affecting most 2005 Fords.

But the reasons for this drop in sales is more complex than what's indicated. The Honda Accord Hybrid was built to be a 'performance' hybrid. The electric engine was designed, not to give you the best fuel economy you would expect from a hybrid, but Honda focused on an increase in power, instead. Unfortunately, you're not getting that much more power over the conventional engine. With the premium for the hybrid engine thousands over that of the conventional engine, it just isn't worth the extra money. The Honda Civic Hybrid, on the other hand, was designed for fuel economy. And the sales are telling. The Civic hybrid is currently the third most popular hybrid being sold behind the Toyota Prius and Camry Hybrid. And sales are increasing, with car sales up 14.3% from last year (through August).

The Ford Escape Hybrid seems to suffer simply because it's a Ford, not because it's a hybrid. But, Ford is still increasing sales. In fact, through August, Ford has increased sales of the Escape and Mariner by 56.3%.

Overall hybrid car sales have increased 24.8% over last year. Now, some of that is because of the introduction of some new models, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Lexus GS450h. But not all. Despite the huge decrease in Accord hybrid sales, the market is still increasing.

There is some interesting, factual material in the article. It's just too bad that quite a bit of it is just plain wrong or misleading.

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Honda Civic Hybrid may be assembled in China

According to a recent report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Honda may begin assembling the Honda Civic Hybrid in China.

Currently, all Civic Hybrids are made and exported from Japan. It all depends on how well sales go in China when it goes on market next year.

Source: Honda may assemble Civic Hybrid in China - report -

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Google to produce a hybrid car

Some companies subsidise their employees ability to buy hybrid cars as part of their 'dedication to the enviroment and their employees. This list of generous employers includes Bank of America, Timberland and Google.

But apparently Google doesn't think this is enough. Google has decided to go one step further and has started looking into developing the next generation of hybrid cars.

Google org, a for-profit charity seeded with $1 billion in initial capital has been given the minor goals of tackling poverty, disease and globabl warming. Given it's for-profit status, it is capable of 1) paying taxes and 2) do other business things like fund other companies and form partnerships with venture capitalists.

But what caught my eye in the NY times article was this:
Philanthropy Google’s Way: Not the Usual - New York Times

One of its maiden projects reflects the philanthropy’s nontraditional approach. According to people briefed on the program, the organization, called, plans to develop an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline.

The philanthropy is consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and automakers, and has arranged for the purchase of a small fleet of cars with plans to convert the engines so that their gas mileage exceeds 100 miles per gallon. The goal of the project is to reduce dependence on oil while alleviating the effects of global warming.

Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, believe for-profit status will greatly increase their philanthropy’s range and flexibility. It could, for example, form a company to sell the converted cars, finance that company in partnership with venture capitalists, and even hire a lobbyist to pressure Congress to pass legislation granting a tax credit to consumers who buy the cars.

The bad thing about being a for-profit organization under the wings of its parent, Google, is that the money can be taken back at any time. If google sees a downturn in its economics, shareholders can recall the funding.

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Will hybrid sales follow gas prices?

Source: Marketplace: Will hybrid sales follow gas prices down?

Cars like the Toyota Prius became popular while gas prices were rising. So it might seem logical to conclude that demand for hybrid cars would fall if gas prices drop.

But Anthony Pratt with JD Power Automotive Forecasting says that logic is flawed.


ANTHONY PRATT: "Vehicle manufacturers have committed to producing these hybrid electric vehicles, so regardless of short term swings in gasoline prices, they'll produce these hybrid electric vehicles."

It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure I completely agree. While I think hybrid vehicle sales will continue to increase, I would have to say it's not a one-to-one relationship with production. While Toyota is selling as many Prius as they can build, all you have to do is look at sales of the Honda Accord Hybrid and you will know that just because they build it doesn't mean they are going to sell it.

Honda Accord Hybrid Sales:
Month-Year Honda Accord All Hybrid Vehicles
Jan-05 805 8455
Feb-05 855 10400
Mar-05 1862 16619
Apr-05 2023 20974
May-05 1314 16887
Jun-05 1080 19223
Jul-05 1376 19428
Aug-05 2336 23307
Sep-05 2352 19180
Oct-05 1266 16934
Nov-05 837 16103
Dec-05 720 18238
Jan-06 351 15867
Feb-06 783 14957
Mar-06 581 17861
Apr-06 614 21707
May-06 520 23554
Jun-06 396 23048
Jul-06 504 25626
Aug-06 499 26249

As you can see, despite being highly popular at the beginning, sales of the Accord hybrid have fallen since. And Honda has gone on record that they will be cutting production of this hybrid. But at the same time, overall hybrid sales have increased in a stepwise fashion each time a new hybrid vehicle comes on to the market (note the jump in June, 2005 when the Toyota Highlander was introduced or in May, 2006 when the Toyota Camry and Lexus GS450h came fully into the market).

Hybrid car sales do have a tendency to follow the gas price, but given consumer pessimism about gas prices and where they are headed despite the recent dip, the demand is going to stay high and it's not going away. The hybrid just has to do what the consumers expect it to do, and that is get better mileage.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Johnson Controls sees hybrids in 5 to 8 percent of all new cars

Johnson Controls is no 5 on the list of top 100 global suppliers (according to Automotive News) in world wide auto parts sales. And vicie president and general manager of power solutions at Johnson Controls Gregg Sherrill predicts hybrid engines could be put into 5 to 8 percent of all new cars.

Source: Reuters report can be seen at Automotive News

"Clearly we see hybrids playing a significant role," said Gregg Sherrill, group vice president and general manager of power solutions at Johnson Controls, which makes batteries used in hybrid cars. "There will probably be multiple technologies, I don't see hybrids taking over 100 percent of vehicle builds," he said Monday, Sept. 11.

Johnson Controls is not a impartial bystander in the world of hybrids, however. They've recently been awarded contracts to supply lithium-ion batteries for hybrid engines with a 'major' vehicle manufacturer. Two weeks ago, they announced a 24 month contract to develop advanced lithium-ion batteries for hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC). In the project, 50% financed by USABC, engineers and scientists at JCS will enhance lithium-ion battery technology for near-future HEVs. They will focus on accelerating Li-Ion technology development by improving battery power in low temperatures, and creating solutions that reduce battery system costs.

JCS and the United States Department of Energy are funding the project, and USABC is providing program support. JCS will supply cell modules that can be tested for abuse tolerance, pulse power, calendar life, and cycle life. A major goal is to meet the FreedomCAR USABC battery-performance requirements. FreedomCAR is an industry government research initiative that targets the development of technologies for boosting fuel economy and reducing emissions of U.S. passenger vehicles.

n 2004, the USABC granted Johnson Controls an 18-month contract supporting the development of advanced, lithium-ion battery technology. That same year Saft was awarded a contract with the USABC of a similar nature. This new contract awarded to the joint venture is a culmination of the development work by both companies to drive the technology to commercial viability.

The Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture was officially launched in January 2006.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Toyota Prius gets into Monopoly

It seems the Toyota Prius is replacing the racing car in the new Monopoly game, 'Here and Now'. Other funny features, instead of winning $10 in a beauty contest, you can win $100,000 on a reality show.

Press Release follows:
Times Square Earns Coveted 'Boardwalk' Space in New Monopoly(R): Here & Now(TM) Edition; World's Most Popular Board Game Receives a 21st Century Makeover

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 12, 2006--The votes are tallied! America has elected New York City's Times Square to occupy the highest rent property space (traditionally home to Boardwalk) on the game board of the new MONOPOLY: Here & Now Edition. The Big Apple shares the coveted blue property color group with its northern neighbor Boston, which landed its Fenway ballpark on the space traditionally occupied by Park Place.

Americans cast more than 3 million online votes during Spring 2006 to shape the new edition's game board. The votes determined which landmarks from 22 cities made it onto the board, as well as the location of those landmarks on the board. The game goes on sale on Thurs., Sept. 14, 2006 at mass retail merchants nationwide for a suggested retail price of $29.99.

Mr. Monopoly revealed all 22 new properties during an unveiling event in Times Square this morning. Mr. Monopoly then threw out the first dice roll of the game and played the Edition's first official round with event attendees. Several cities represented on the board sent a local official to the event to learn first hand about their city's location on the game board.

Additional game board highlights:

-- The rest of the high-rent district (which includes the green color group) features the White House (representing Washington, D.C.), Chicago's Wrigley's Field, and the neon-glittering Las Vegas Blvd (aka "The Strip").

-- Orlando's Disney World occupies the red space traditionally known as Illinois Avenue, which has proven to be the most landed-upon property space on the board during a game.

-- Cleveland's Jacobs Field and Dallas' Texas Stadium are the most affordable properties for real estate moguls to purchase, occupying the dark purple spaces.

MONOPOLY: Here & Now Edition was designed to answer the question: "What would the most popular board game of all time look like if it were invented today instead of in 1935?" Beyond the new property landmarks, the new game has newly appraised property values and rents (players who land on Times Square with a hotel will pay $20 million), larger currency denominations, and airports replacing the railroad spaces.

Additionally, the game includes contemporary game-mover tokens. In a nod to the 21st Century, the classic race car has been replaced with an environmentally-friendly hybrid Toyota Prius, the old shoe has been given the boot in favor of a New Balance running shoe, and the hip labradoodle takes the place of the Scottish terrier. The game tokens also include McDonald's French Fries, a Motorola RAZR cell phone, an airplane, and a laptop computer.

The Chance and Community Chest cards, too, have received updated scenarios. For example, winning $10 in a beauty contest has changed to winning $100,000 in a reality TV show, and players are sent directly to jail (without passing GO) for such misdeeds as identity theft and insider trading.

"For the past 70 years, millions of Americans have tasted the thrill of 'owning it all' by playing MONOPOLY," said Matt Collins, Vice President of Marketing for Parker Brothers. "The new MONOPOLY: Here & Now Edition allows aspiring real estate tycoons to enjoy an elevated game play experience that more closely matches today's America."

The complete list of new landmarks on the game board are as follows:


Boardwalk is now New York City's Times Square

Park Place is now Boston's Fenway Park


Pennsylvania Ave. is now Washington's White House

North Carolina Ave. is now Chicago's Wrigley Field

Pacific Ave. is now Las Vegas' Las Vegas Blvd.


Marvin Gardens is now San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

Ventnor Ave. is now Los Angeles' Hollywood

Atlantic Ave. is now New Orleans' French Quarter


Illinois Ave. is now Orlando's Disney World

Indiana Ave. is now Honolulu's Waikiki Beach

Kentucky Ave. is now Phoenix' Camelback Mountain


New York Ave. is now Seattle's Pioneer Square

Tennessee Ave. is now Houston's Johnson Space Center

St. James Place is now Miami's South Beach


Virginia Ave. is now Philadelphia's Liberty Bell

States Ave. is now Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre

St. Charles Place is now Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park


Connecticut Ave. is now Minneapolis' Mall of America

Vermont Ave. is now St. Louis' Gateway Arch

Oriental Ave. is now Nashville's Grand Ole Opry


Baltic Ave. is now Dallas' Texas Stadium

Mediterranean Ave. is now Cleveland's Jacobs Field

The traditional flagship MONOPOLY game, which is based on streets in Atlantic City, N.J., will continue to be on sale alongside the new MONOPOLY: Here & Now Edition.

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Toyota pleasantly surprised by hybrid demand in Germany

Hybrid sales, while mainly occuring in the US are taking place worldwide. Just today, Toyota Deutschland Vice-President Markus Schrick noted he has been "pleasantly surprised by the demand for hybrid models."

He was commenting on Toyotas expectation to hit their 2006 sales target for selling 140,000 units in Germany, Europe's biggest auto market.

Source: Toyota says on track to hit German sales target | Transportation |

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Arizona Governor allows hybrid cars into the HOV lane

In an effort to encourage the use of hybrid cars, Arizona governor has issued an executive order allowing hybrid cars into the HOV lane during rush hour. Also, Napolitano ordered state agencies to only purchase hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles starting in 2007.

While they are doing that, the state is also been committed to reduce greenhouse gases by fifty percent below the 2000 levels by 2040.

I would imagine (although I am not involved with the process) that the state agencies involved will be setting up a system to give hov access to hybrid cars in a similar manner as California and Virginia have done. In other words, you'll have to register for a small fee to drive in the HOV lane.

Source: Energy debate turns to hybrid cars, emissions, solar tax credits - The Business Journal of Phoenix:

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Hybrid are considered Best Deal by Intellichoice

Intellichoice selected several hybrids as 'Best Deals' for September, 2006. Hybrid vehicles are proving their value over 'long haul'.

"Our monthly analyses have consistently shown that, even with higher up-front costs such as purchase price and slightly higher insurance, the Total Cost of Ownership over five years is lower than that of each hybrid's competitors in the same category."

The Insight (out of production this month), Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid, and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. They were listed under the following categories as the 'Best Deal' in September, 2006.

Class Brand Model
Subcompact Honda Insight (Manual)
Compact over $16,000 Honda Civic Hybrid (Auto)
Midsize under $21,000 Toyota Prius
Compact Utility over $21,000 Ford Escape Hybrid 2WD
Intermediate Utility over $29,000 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2WD updates vehicle data several times a month in order to capture the many expiring rebates and ongoing programs offered by manufacturers--giving consumers the most up-to-date analysis.'s "Best Deals" designation enables consumers to identify how rebates affect a vehicle's value throughout ownership and not just at the time of purchase. Ownership costs can vary significantly among different trim lines of the same model. Additionally, continuously updates fuel costs based on the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Vehicles designated an " Best Deal of the Month" are typically cars and trucks that have good to great ownership cost values before any manufacturer rebate. However, a rebate can often turn a good ownership cost value into a great value, and a great value into an " Best Deal of the Month."

This story was spotted over at autobloggreen.

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Ford Innovation Website and Hybrid Technology

It took me a few clicks to find the section on hybrid technology on Fords new innovation website, but it was worth the time to view it. It's fairly simple, but it gives you some of the basic advantages of driving hybrid vehicles. Plus, videos are always more fun to view.

Here's some of the information you get from the innovation website:

  • With a hybrid, you get all the benefits of a conventional vehicle and then some!
  • Drive cleaner: Potentially, fewer fill-ups and less pollution
    Drive quieter: When a hybrid is running on the electric battery, it hardly makes a sound
  • Drive simply: The only lifestyle change you need to make is getting used to fewer pit stops for refueling
  • Drive farther: Depending on driving habits and conditions, drivers of the 2006 Escape Hybrid can expect to travel up to 500 miles on a single tank of regular unleaded fuel* -- about 40% farther than drivers of the non-hybrid Escape V6
  • Drive smarter: Some hybrid purchases may be eligible for certain federal, state and local tax deductions

  • In 2008, Ford will offer three more hybrid vehicles: Mazda Tribute, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid.

    *Based on EPA estimated 36 city/31 hwy mpg. Actual mileage will vary.

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    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Dealers must display crash ratings on all cars next year

    According to a reuters report, the safety displays must be on all vehicles, except pickups, no later than September 1, 2007. Which brings up the question as to why not pickups?

    According to the article, pickups were overlooked when the laws were written. Apparently, they haven't been around long enough, given they have only been sold as everyday vehicles for over a decade. "Automakers and government officials said" the oversight "would be addressed."

    Safety information is located on the NHTSA website ( The safety data on the new sticker includes data on front and side crash protection and rollover risk.

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    2007 Honda Civic Pricing and Fuel Economy Estimates (EPA)

    Honda released its 2007 Civic pricing and EPA estimates yesterday. Unfortunately, the pricing on the 2007 Civic hybrid is not availabe, yet. It's interesting to see all of the different types of Civics available, however. Also, note how the best EPA City/Highway mileage for a non-hybrid is 30/40. The 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid is rated to get 49/51.

    2007 Honda Civic Prices and EPA Data

    Coupe Models


    MSRP $ EPA

    Civic DX Coupe

    5-Speed Manual

    14,810 30/38

    5-Speed Automatic

    15,610 30/40

    Civic LX Coupe

    5-Speed Manual

    16,760 30/38

    5-Speed Automatic

    17,560 30/40

    Civic EX Coupe

    5-Speed Manual

    18,710 30/38

    5-Speed Automatic

    19,510 30/40

    Civic EX Coupe with Navi and XM Satellite Radio

    5-Speed Manual

    20,460 30/38

    5-Speed Automatic

    21,260 30/40

    Civic Si Coupe

    6-Speed Manual

    TBA 23/32

    Civic Si Coupe with high performance tire

    6-Speed Manual

    TBA 23/32

    Civic Si Coupe with Navi and XM Satellite Radio

    6-Speed Manual

    TBA 23/32

    Civic Si Coupe with Navi, XM Satellite Radio and high performance tire

    6-Speed Manual

    TBA 23/32

    Sedan Models Transmission MSRP $ City/Hwy.

    Civic DX Sedan

    5-Speed Manual



    5-Speed Automatic



    Civic LX Sedan

    5-Speed Manual



    5-Speed Automatic



    Civic EX Sedan

    5-Speed Manual



    5-Speed Automatic



    Civic EX Sedan with Navi

    5-Speed Manual



    and XM Satellite Radio

    5-Speed Automatic



    Civic Si Sedan

    6-Speed Manual



    Civic Si Sedan with high performance tire

    6-Speed Manual



    Civic Si Sedan with Navi and XM Satellite Radio

    6-Speed Manual



    Civic Si Sedan with Navi, XM Satellite Radio and high performance tire

    6-Speed Manual



    Civic Hybrid Sedan

    Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)



    Civic Hybrid Sedan with Navi and XM Satellite Radio

    Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)



    Destination and Handling Charge is $595 per vehicle

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    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    President Clinton to receive a Mercury Mariner Hybrid

    I've altered the press release, basically cutting out some of it, but the gist is this: Ford will be delivering a Mercury Mariner Hybrid to President Clinton as part of the Clinton Global Initiative conference set for September 20-22 in New York City.

    “My Foundation is committed to making a difference in the fight against global warming,” said former President Bill Clinton. “The Clinton Climate Initiative is working with some of the world's largest cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I'm happy to have a fuel efficient vehicle to do my part and I’d like to thank the Ford Motor Company for this.”

    The custom interior of the Presidential Mariner Hybrid emphasizes the comfort, convenience and productivity of an executive office, with details such as unique LED lighting, a 110-volt outlet and a new writing table. The Mariner Hybrid’s full-hybrid powertrain was unchanged, preserving its impressive 32 miles per gallon in city driving, 29 mpg on the highway, and ultra-clean emissions.

    The Mercury Mariner Hybrid’s full-hybrid blends the best features of a gasoline engine and an electric motor to deliver comparable acceleration and passing performance to the conventional Mariner equipped with a 200 horsepower V-6 engine, and nearly a 50 percent increase in fuel economy. Ford Motor Company has received more than 150 patents on the hybrid powertrain system.

    As a full hybrid, the Mariner Hybrid is capable of traveling up to 25 miles per hour solely on electric power, with no fuel consumption or emissions.

    When the output of the 2.3-liter gasoline is not needed – during coasting, idling at stoplights, or crawling through slow traffic – the gasoline engine automatically shuts off. On demand, the gasoline engine and electric motor automatically team up to deliver maximum acceleration or passing performance.

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    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Hybrid Sales, August 2006

    Ford and Toyota hybrid sales were both up by over 30% from last August, while Honda was down almost 40%. Overall sales of hybrid vehicles were up 12.6% from last year with a total of 26,249 units sold. That marks the greatest sales month for hybrids ever.

    Despite an overall decline of 11.6% in sales for Ford, the number of hybrid units sold this month increased from last year. Toyota sales numbers were bolstered by the Prius' second best sales month ever as well as Toyota Camry Hybrid and GS 450h sales which were not available last year. Honda hybrid sales have continued to falter on the basis of the general failure of the Honda Accord Hybrid. Despite near record sales of the Honda Civic, Honda Accord Hybrid sales are still down over 78% from last year.

    Honda Accord Hybrid sales fell to 499 units sold, a decrease of 78.6% from last year. Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid decreased 17.7% as well, although last August saw record sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid. Honda Insight increased sales by 36.3% to 109 units sold entering its last month of production.

    Toyota saw increases in sales of the Toyota Prius by 13.5% to 11,177 units sold. The Toyota sold 2,581 units of the Highlander Hybrid, a decrease of 11.8%. The luxury sedan Lexus RX 400h also faced a fairly steep decline of 41.9% to 1,514 units sold. The Toyota Camry and Lexus GS 450h sold 4,977 units and 192 units. That makes the Toyota Camry the second most popular hybrid being sold last month once again.

    Ford sold 1,789 Escape Hybrids and Mercury Mariner Hybrid, an increase of 31.3% from last August.

    At the end of September, Toyota will see all of its hybrid vehicles lose half of their federal tax breaks. As you can see from this final image, Honda and Ford have a way to go before breaking the 60,000 units sold barrier. It has been estimated Honda will break through sometime next year, while Ford may never hit the mark before the tax break expires in 2010.

    Which leads into the big question for Toyota (and the others). Will Toyota begin to lose some of its hybrid market share when the others are getting better tax breaks?

    See July Hybrid Sales.

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    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Hybrid Mini

    My first question, when reading about the hybrid mini developed by PML, is what would happen if you put this system into a larger car? 80 mpg is very impressive, even for a small car like the mini.

    Inside Line: 80 MPG/150 MPH: Joystick Kings Create Electric Hybrid Mini -

    The Mini QED — which stands for Quad Electric Drive, for the four electric motors, one in each wheel — was built with no involvement from BMW, Mini's owner. In fact, BMW wants Mini owners to know that this sort of conversion would invalidate a Mini's warranty.

    But check out the numbers: zero emissions, zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph — and 80 mpg, thanks to an onboard engine/generator. The Mini QED does not need to be recharged, PML says.

    Also, according to the article, the Mini QED has regenerative breaking.

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    Friday, September 01, 2006

    More than half of all buyers in the next two years will consider a hybrid

    According to JD Powers and Associates, more than half of all buyers (57 percent) will consider a hybrid in the next two years. Only 23 percent will consider a gas-only vehicle.

    Also, those surveyed expect the premium on hybrid technology to be over $5000. But hybrids tend to cost $3000 more in todays market.

    I've talked about similar polls before this, but sales of hybrid cars make up over one percent of the market. Some experts are predicting hybrid vehicle sales will make up 5 percent of the marketplace in the next few years.

    It seems there is a disconnect between the consideration of and the buying of the hybrid car. And my guess is, despite knowing the hybrid vehicle is going to cost more, many buyers just aren't willing to pay the premium when it comes down to the moment of purchase.

    And it's hard to blame them. Despite the return on the investment (Edmunds has a study declaring some hybrids will make up the premium in three years), paying several thousand dollars more for a car takes something more. It takes either a fascination with 'technology' in the first place, or a commitment to being 'green' or perhaps you want to do your part to reduce this countries dependence on oil. In other words, the buyers have some higher goal in mind when they purchase to overcome that premium price difference.


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