Thursday, November 30, 2006

Toyota hopes federal tax credit on hybrid cars get extended

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

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

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

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

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

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2008 Ford Escape Hybrid

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

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

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

Press Release from Ford follows:

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

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

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

Bolder, Tougher Exterior Design

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

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

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

Refined and Recycled Interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard Safety Equipment and Fuel-efficient Powertrains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ford Escape Hybrid, 2nd Generation

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

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

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Saturn Vue hybrid goes dual mode in 2008

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

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

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

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

From the press release:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturn Vue Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: MSN Money Central

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Volkswagen hybrids

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

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

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

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

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2007 Honda Hybrid Tax Credits

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

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

Press Release from Honda follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nissan may sell all electic cars in three years

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Autobytel survey of hybrid car buyers

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

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

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

    • 12% African American

    • 11% Hispanic

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

Source: Hybrid buyers veer away from expectations | Chicago Tribune

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hybrid Car Sales Through October, 2004 to 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Democrats looking to own expansion of tax breaks for hybrids

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

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

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chevrolet Silverado Hybrids and GMC Sierra

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

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

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

Source: Latest News | News | Hemscott

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Better mileage in a hybrid car

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

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

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

Other Basic Tips on how to save money on gas.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hybrid car batteries are becoming more expensive

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

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

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

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

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

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Hybrid trash collectors

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

Press Release Follows:

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

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

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

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

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

About Oshkosh Truck Corporation

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

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

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Bush meets with the Big 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Reuters Report

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Monday, November 13, 2006

AAA tips on driving a hybrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit

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Low Gas prices = Low interest in Hybrids?

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

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

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

I spotted this story over at autobloggreen.

Source for press release: -- PR Newswire Press Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Dealer Email Inquiries (October)

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

Top Cars Listed for Sale by Owner (October)

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

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

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hybrid Reliability and Satisfaction, as reported by Consumer Reports

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

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

Consumer Reports gets responses from 1.3 million vehicle owners.

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

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

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

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Australia auto makers pushed to go hybrid

Australia is looking to push auto makers into making hybrids. Parliamenty secretary, Greg Hunt at the Environment Ministry told reporters "the government is in direct contact with manufacturers and is encouraging them to retool and take advantage of world trends toward more fuel efficient vehicles."

Car makers are being asked to put proposals to the government on hybrid car development. The Australian government has spent $1.53 billion on initiatives to reduce global warning.

Source: United Press International - NewsTrack - Australian auto makers urged to go hybrid

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nissan won't have its own hybrid engine by 2010?

Nissan executive Shiga dismissed claims they would be ready to launch their own hybrid engine by 2010. Nissan is developing components used in hybrid engines, but has no near-term plans to develop a whole engine (Source: Steve McGrath: Dow Jones Newswire). This is the first indication that Nissan won't have its own hybrid engine by 2010, as promised back in September.

Nissan recently unveiled the Nissan Altima Hybrid, due to be sold early in 2007. The Altima Hybrid is built on Toyotas hybrid synergy technology. Nissan has decided to sell the hybrid Altima exclusively in the eight states that have adopted California emission standards; California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and New Jersey.

Nissan CEO Ghosn has been pessimistic about hybrids from the beginning. Reluctant to sell cars at a loss, Nissan has fallen behind in developing new tech in general, and sales have been falling. Ghosn has promised a better future, with seven new models coming out in the next eighteen months.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Interest in Hybrids remains high

According to the latest poll by autobytel, interest in hybrid vehicles remains high, despite the lower gas prices. Twenty-three percent of those polled have already bought or plan on buying a hybrid for their next vehicle. Fifty-nine percent are considering a hybrid for their next purchase.

Ninety-five percent believe gas prices will be heading north again, soon. Interest in the Prius remains steady, despite lower sales this past month.

Source: Consumers Eye Hybrids Despite Gas Prices

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Monday, November 06, 2006

GM to produce hybrid cars in China

GM is looking to prodcue hybrid cars in China by 2008 along with its partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC). The good news is it looks like its going to be a hydrogen fuel cell-powered hybrid. But it's not clear form the story if that's true. The announcement was made by GM chief executive Rick Wagoner at in advance of the first test drive of the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Sequel in China, so I may be misinterpreting the story line.

* Update: I was misinterpreting it. They will be producing hybrid electric cars (HEV), not fuel cell hybrids. I really didn't think it was likely.

Source: General Motors, SAIC to build hybrid autos in China from 2008 -

"From a China and Asia Pacific perspective, development of world-class fuel cells and the associated infrastructure are key initiatives that need the support of industry, government and the academic community," Wagoner said in the statement.

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Prius turnover rate down to 17 days on the lot

In a follow-up to my post on hybrid car sales in October, I noticed this article in the USAToday touting how buyers no longer have to wait for their Prius. It seems the turnover rate on Toyotas lots for the Prius have increased from 5 or 6 days up to 17 days (the average lot time is 64 days). And Chris Woodyard is thinking along the same lines as I am: Namely the reason the demand was down this past month was 1) lower gas prices, 2) lower federal tax credits (for Toyota/Lexus) and 3) more hybrid cars are available.

Now we just need to adopt a wait and see what happens this coming month to see if we have a trend or if we have a 'hiccup.'

Woodyard points out that the increased lot time may be due to increased production, as the Toyota Camry hybrid is now being built in the US, letting Toyota increase the production of the Prius in Japan. Toyota now expects to import 122,590 Priuses this year, not 110,000 as predicted.

Prius finally available without a wait -

Through October, Toyota had sold 89,672 Pruises in the USA. Production levels tumbled earlier this year as the same plant ramped up for the start of Camry hybrids. Prius sales fell 12% last month in the USA, although they are down only 1.4% for the year, Autodata reports. Slowing demand:

• Reduced tax credits. On Oct. 1, the $3,150 federal income tax credit for buying a Prius was cut in half. On April 1, the subsidy will be halved again.

• Lower gasoline prices. Gas prices have fallen from an August peak of $3.038 a gallon to $2.218 last week, the Energy Information Administration reports. That doesn't help sales of cars at the top of gas mileage charts. Prius has an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 60 miles a gallon in city driving.

• Increased competition. Automakers are adding a growing list of hybrid models. Besides Camry, Toyota offers hybrids in its Lexus line. Prius also faces off against a newer Honda Civic model and Nissan's first hybrid, an Altima.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Hybrid Sales, October 2006

Sales of hybrids are up 10.9% from last year, increasing to 18,784 units sold in the month of October, 2006. The story this month is three fold. One, sales are still increasing despite the lower gas prices this past month. And two, Toyota sales are seeming a little bit shaky, perhaps due to the decrease in federal tax credits starting on the first of October. And three, GM hasn't split out the sales of the Hybrid Vue, so those numbers aren't included.

Honda hybrid sales saw a marked increase 68.4% due to the whopping increase of 890.5% from last year of the Honda Civic Hybrid. The strong sales of the Civic Hybrid have allowed Honda to capture 13.8% of the hybrid market this month.

The Civic Hybrid only sold 231 units last October, a remarkably small number. It makes me wonder if 1) maybe I made a typo on the number (which I've checked and I didn't) or 2) there was an issue in production or delivery that month. Sales of the Civic have been above 1000 units each month (excepting October, 2005) since before I started keeping track (January, 2004).

The Honda Accord and Insight (no longer in production) were down 77.3% and 75.7%, respectively to 287 and 9 units sold. The Honda Accord hybrid is suffering due to its performance design. It seems consumers, given a wide choice of other hybrids to pick from, are more interested in fuel economy, not a slight performance increase for a premium pricetag.

Ford sold 1,602 units of its Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid this month. That's up 30.6% from last year. That's 8.5% of the hybrid market on only two (really one model with a luxury package) models.

Toyota saw a 'hiccup' in hybrid sales this month. The Prius saw sales drop to 8,733 units sold, a drop of 12.1%. The first time in 5 months sales have seen a decrease from last year and only the fifth time sales have dropped in two years. Toyota blamed some of the other decreases, not on lack of demand, but on lack of production, as the Toyota Camry was being built in the same plant. So, it's interesting to see a drop here.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX 400h also saw decrease to 1643 and 1239 units sold, respectively. That's a decrease of 29.5% for the Highlander Hybrid and 34.9% for the RX 400h.

The Toyota Camry saw 2806 units sold in October and the Lexus GS 450h sold 177 units. Neither were on sale last October and so there is no comparison.

So, despite seeing drops in all four vehicles being sold last October, Toyota still managed to increase sales of its hybrids from last October by 3.0%. If we took out the Camry and GS 450h, however, Toyota Hybrid sales would have been seen to drop 18.0%. Its possible Toyota is starting to see some sales decrease because of the phasing out of its federal tax credit.

I may be overstating this, though. Given that Toyota still sold 77.7% of the hybrids sold in October (down from 80.4% last month) and three of the top four hybrids being sold, it's not like they are having trouble making sales.

The top three hybrids being sold were the Prius, the Camry and the Civic at 46.5% 14.9% and 12.2% of the hybrid market, respectively. The top two SUV hybrids were the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Escape/Mariner at 8.7% and 8.5% of the hybrid market, respectively.

Hybrid Sales, September 2006

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Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute investigated for car fires

The Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute are being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) The Ford Escape hybrid is not involved in the investigation, because the models affected are from 2001 to 2003. The Escape came out in 2004.

It seems the antilock braking system's electronic control module may be overheating, starting fires in eight vehicles (five of which were parked). In two other cases, reports of smoke or melted electrical connectors and wiring near the system in Escapes.

The Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute have similar structures.

Source: Gov't probing reports of engine fires

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Ford E-350 and E-450 Hybrids in 2008

Ford and Azure have agreed to build Ford E-350 and E-450 hybrids by 2008. In case you're wondering E-350 and E-450 chassis-cabs are the basis for many Class C motorhomes. You might also see them in local use at the airports as small transports (i.e. getting you to and from the parking lot).

Source: News Desk - Ford E-Series Chassis Get Hybrid Conversions

The system, using a Ford 5.4-liter V-8 gasoline engine coupled with an electric motor-mounted inline with the stock drivetrain, is claimed to provide mileage improvements of up to 35 percent. Some of the gains are attributed to a regenerative braking system, which recovers a portion of the vehicle's energy while braking to recharge the batteries.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid wins SEMA Vehicle Design Award

Chevy Hybrid Silverado gets top honors from SEMA as best hybrid. Best hybrid is the newest design award at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show.

"The SEMA Vehicle Design Awards were established to honor those newly introduced vehicles that best exemplify the alliance between the OEMs and SEMA-member companies. The awards recognize and celebrate the vehicles that a select group of voting members has chosen as the most accessory-friendly vehicles of the year. The Chevrolet Silverado Classic Hybrid received nearly 22 percent of the votes for 2006."

Source: Press Release
SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association founded in 1963, represents the $34 billion specialty automotive industry of 6,817 member-companies. It is the authoritative source for research, data, trends and market growth information for the specialty auto parts industry. The industry provides appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles. For more information, contact SEMA at 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765, tel: 909/396-0289 or visit and

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October US Auto Sales are up 6.1%

US Auto Sales were up 6.1% from last October, but total sales for the year are still down 2.9%. GM sales were up 17.3%, Ford saw 8.0% gains and Toyota was up 9.2%. Nissan was also up 3.9% from last year. Despite the large increases, companies are still suffering in comparison to last year when sales had taken a steep dive after a summer of heavy discounts.

Lower gas prices have seen a surge in larger vehicles, trucks and SUVs. A drop in hybrid car sales occured as well (I'll be posting more on that later).

Source: autonews (reg required)

Oct. Oct. Pct.

2006 2005 chng.
BMW* 24,492 25,666 –4.6%
DaimlerChrysler** 180,209 183,191 –1.6%
Ford Motor Co.*** 214,591 198,716 8.00%
General Motors**** 297,401 253,546 17.30%
American Honda† 110,624 110,895 –0.2%
Hyundai Group†† 50,576 50,044 1.10%
Isuzu 638 778 –18.0%
Mazda 18,843 19,504 –3.4%
Mitsubishi 9,288 9,292 –%
Nissan††† 75,095 72,279 3.90%
Porsche 2,355 2,588 –9.0%
Subaru 15,404 16,774 –8.2%
Suzuki 5,950 6,246 –4.7%
Toyota‡ 189,011 173,085 9.20%
VW‡‡ 22,613 24,168 –6.4%
Other (estimate) 599 530 13.00%
TOTAL 1,217,689 1,147,302 6.10%
Numbers in this table are calculated by Automotive News based on actual monthly sales reported by the manufacturers and may differ from numbers reported elsewhere.
Source: Automotive News Data Center
Note: Other includes estimates for Ferrari, Lamborghini and Lotus
*Includes Mini and Rolls-Royce
**Includes Mercedes-Benz

***Includes Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo
****Includes Saab

†Includes Honda Division and Acura
††Includes Hyundai and Kia

†††Includes Nissan Division and Infiniti
‡Includes Toyota Division and Lexus
‡‡Includes VW, Audi and Bentley

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Multiple types of Prius available in the future?

Instead of trying to build different hybrid cars, Ohnsman at Bloomberg is predicting Toyota will simply expand the Prius nameplate. For instance, they might build a slightly different (read smaller) Prius for city driving. Japan

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's top seller of gasoline-electric autos, may turn its Prius car into a line of vehicles as the company tries to triple annual U.S. sales of hybrids.

The U.S. will account for more than half of the 1 million hybrid cars and light trucks Toyota plans to sell worldwide each year by early next decade, Jim Lentz, executive vice president of the company's U.S. sales unit, said yesterday. Prius-based models might include a wagon and a smaller car, he said.

``For us to do 600,000, there will probably have to be Prius and derivatives of Prius that are selling in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 400,000,'' Lentz said in an interview at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas. ``We don't have any plans to do that right now, but that's the direction that nameplate can go, because it is that strong.''

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Yahoo has alternative fuel automotve site

Yahoo is launching a new alternative fuel automotive site. The new site is focused on social media (i.e. forums and other interactive social media) and alternative fuel autos such as hybrids, E85, biodiesel, etc...

Press Release follows:

Las Vegas, NV - Nov. 1, 2006 - Yahoo! Autos, one of the most comprehensive automotive resources on the Internet, today announced the launch of the new Yahoo! Autos Green Center The new Green Center provides consumers with the most comprehensive, unbiased source of information, resources and community about alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), including hybrid, flex fuel/E85, bio-diesel, compressed natural gas and others. The Green Center brings together industry information from expert partners as well as consumer-generated content from Yahoo!’s leading social media properties, Yahoo! Answers, and Yahoo! Groups.

Yahoo! Autos, in partnership with Environmental Defense, the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to cost-effective solutions to society’s most urgent environmental problems, has also developed a proprietary Green Rating which determines the environmental impact of any vehicle on a scale of 1-100. The Green Rating factors in tailpipe pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel economy and the manufacturing process to give consumers a quick way to gauge the environmental friendliness of a car. Users can also quickly access the green rating through a new shortcut in Yahoo! Search by typing any vehicle model name plus "green rating."

"Yahoo! Autos new Green Center is at the confluence of two large, growing trends - green going mainstream, and the explosion of social media on the Web," said Jennifer Dulski, general manager, Yahoo! Autos. "According to a Yahoo! survey, one in every two people is interested in learning more about alternative fuel vehicles, which signals clear consumer demand for a product like the Green Center."

The new Green Center allows users to:

- Research the pros and cons of available alternative fuel technologies

- Access federal and state incentive programs and alternative fuel station locations.

- Tap into the knowledge and experience of current AFV owners and other interested buyers through Yahoo! Answers, and Yahoo! Groups.

- Watch expert video reviews of alternative fuel vehicles.

- Find the latest news about alternative fuel technology

- View any vehicle’s Green Rating, or compare any two vehicles’ environmental impact using a gas mileage impact calculator.

New Survey Shows Green is Not Just a Fad

In a recent Yahoo! survey, respondents indicated strong concern for the environment as well as high interest in AFVs. The survey was fielded in Oct. 2006 to a random sample of nearly 1,000 people on the Yahoo! network.

- 78 percent of respondents believe we need to act now in order to save the environment for future generations.

- 85 percent of people believe the U.S. is too dependent on foreign oil.

- 76 percent believe AFVs can help lower U.S. energy consumption.

- 54 percent of people surveyed are interested in learning more about AFVs

- 42 percent of respondents plan to purchase an AFV within two years

- The top three reasons people are interested in purchasing an AFV are to do their part to save the environment (77%), to lessen country’s dependence on foreign oil (67%), and to save money on their gas bills (67%).

Yahoo! Uses Alternative Fuels

In a demonstration of the viability of alternative fuels, Yahoo! Autos, along with Orange County Rod & Custom, will attempt to set a land speed record with a custom built, grease-powered vehicle. On Nov 12, 2006 at the Southern California Timing Association sanctioned event at the El Mirage Dry Lake bed, Yahoo! Autos will attempt to pilot a six cylinder, 3500 hp, twin turbo, grease-fueled diesel to a new land speed record.

Additionally, to help balance its carbon-footprint, Yahoo! has converted its employee commuter shuttles that travel from San Francisco to its Sunnyvale and Santa Clara campuses to run on bio-diesel, significantly reducing harmful emissions.

About Yahoo! Autos

Yahoo! Autos ( is one of the most comprehensive sources of automotive information on the Internet, delivering resources for researching, buying, maintaining and communicating with others about vehicle decisions and purchases. Now, with the launch of the Yahoo! Autos Green Center, consumers have a one-stop resource and forum for all their automotive and alternative fuel concerns, including the latest news on alternative fuel vehicles, what others are saying about them and how your next automotive purchase can be an environmentally-friendly one. Yahoo! Autos also is the home to one of the leading enthusiast community sites, Yahoo! Autos Custom (, bringing together the entire automotive specialty equipment industry and consumers, delivering powerful online community tools that enable enthusiasts to gather inspiration, share ideas and find parts and service online.

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