Monday, April 30, 2007

Hybrid Cabs, Parking and Saving Money

San Francisco is getting some hybrid taxis. Green Cab opens up with five hybrid taxis for those who want to get around town while emitting less. The new cab company will be using Honda Civic Hybrids and will be easy to spot with their green checkers.

The new owners estimate they will be paying $8 a day in fuel costs, as opposed to the normal $45.

Hybrid taxis
are available in much larger numbers in New York City, but maybe this is is how they are going to start spreading out into more major cities now that they've been road tested in NYC. noticed out in Chicago, Home Depot has come up with its own incentive for hybrid cars. Close-up parking is now available for those who drive alternative fueled vehicles (as long as those large contractor trucks don't use them as a free parking spot -- read the story at

And in case you were wondering, you can save money buying a hybrid even sooner than you think. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, you can break even in as little as a year! After that, its all savings.

The incentives being offered by Toyota on their hybrids lately has upped the ante, making the premium you pay for a hybrid as little as sixteen hundred dollars over a conventional gas only vehicle. That means you need less time to make up the difference. It also doesn't hurt when you look at current gas prices.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at

Friday, April 27, 2007

GM Ends Hybrid Truck Production

GM has ended production of its Chevy Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid. Considered mild hybrids, neither was very impressive.

The 'hybrid' system improved the mileage by 2 mpg never impressed anyone. And at a price tag over $30,000, it wasn't enough to make consumers excited about them. Only about 3,000 hybrid trucks were produced since they were released back in 2004

That slight improvement did make them the trucks with the highest fuel economy. GM hoped contractors would be attracted to having an electric generator (the electric engine), capable of producing 2,400 Watts with four 120-volt outlets.

The dual-mode hybrid (two-mode) is due out in 2008.

Source: Hybrids on Hold - AutoWeek

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What exactly do hybrids run on?

I saw the following question on Yahoo Answers and I thought I could answer it here.

What exactly do hybrids run on? Are they practical? Do they save you money in the long run or are there some unforseen expenses, say with parts and repairs, that would eat up those "savings"? What's a good model and why?

Hybrids run on gas and electricity. The gas, of course, you know about. Large battery packs, usually stored near the back of the hybrid, power the electric motor. The battery gets its power from regenerative braking and the gas engine. (Find out more by perusing the types of hybrid cars).

They are a practical choice but, if you're willing to go small, a compact will save you the most money in the long run. But if you do buy a hybrid, according to a recent Intellichoice study, you will save money eventually. Its tough to overcome the initial premium cost, but after an average of five years, you will make up the difference.

The best way to save money is to look into the federal tax credit, followed by any local tax credits (PA offers a rebate, for instance). You may also be able to get solo access to a HOV lane, but again, that depends on which state you live in. Some other local perks include free parking.

Hybrid engines have been reputed to be very reliable. The only 'hidden cost' is the battery pack. If it goes, you could be looking at thousands to replace it. But, automakers guarantee the battery pack for 8 or 10 years (again, depends on which state you're in), which means they will pay for the replacement if you need one.

You can actually save money on maintenance, since you won't have to replace the brakes or oil as often. The brakes last longer because the regenerative braking takes some of the load.

As for which model is best for you? I couldn't say without talking to you directly. You can look over my list of hybrid cars.

If you're looking for the best hybrid, the Prius is almost synonymous with hybrid. You can also get a good deal on it right now as Toyota is trying to increase sales. But if you're looking to buy a hybrid, don't want the weird shape, but still want to save on gas, there's the Civic or the Camry Hybrid. The Accord hybrid was designed for performance, so I'm assuming you don't want that one. That's because very few did and the Accord was subsequently retired.

If its a hybrid SUV you want, you could look at the Ford Escape or the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. If you want more luxury, then the Mariner Hybrid could be the one for you.

If money is no object, you might look into the Lexus hybrid line-up.

The Saturn Vue hybrid is a mild hybrid and, while you may pay less up front for it, you also get less. A mild hybrid has both the electric motor and the gas motor. But, unlike a full hybrid, the electric motor can't move the car on its own. A full hybrid allows you to get up to speed (30 mph, depending on the model) before the gas engine kicks in. A mild hybrid engine has the electric motor assist the gas motor to increase its fuel economy.

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Jamaica Cuts Import Duty, More Time Needed

Jamaica, in an effort to help hybrid sales, has cut import duty on hybrid cars by sixty-three percent. I'm quite sure the consumers would love to take advantage of the reduced cost. Unfortunately, the premium price tag associated with hybrids isn't the problem.

Hybrids just aren't on the island, yet. Local dealers can only request hybrids be sent over, they can't guarantee it.

Another issue is the lack of trained mechanics. While most of a hybrid engine is the same and can be worked on by any mechanic, there are some unique parts that locals will need special training on.

Despite the difficulties, some are optimistic about the future of hybrid technology on Jamaica.

"It is an excellent move on the part of Government, as we have serious problems with the cost of fossil fuel," said Andre Hylton, owner of Andre's Auto Supplies.

Source: Duty cut on hybrid vehicles a non-starter so far - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM

Update: The reduction has officially occurred. On June 25, the Cabinet approved the ammendment to cut the import tax rate to 16.5% regardless of the size of the vehicle.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shatter? Not Likely

This is a recent headline from - Study Shatters Myth of Hybrid Premium. The story goes on to talk about a study by Topline Strategy Group in which they looked at why people buy hybrids, what their demographics are and how satisfied they are with their purchase.

Too bad the study really doesn't shatter anything. With 118 Prius drivers who were located by putting fliers on their windshield, this study proves nothing about hybrid drivers in general. In fact, I would go so far as to say it proves nothing beyond what these 118 people had to say.

The issues I have are many. First, only 118 people gives you a very small sample size. Which means your confidence intervals are of necessity very wide. Two, this is nowhere near a random sample of hybrid drivers. People who buy a Prius could be extremely different from those who buy an Escape Hybrid (SUV buyer vs sedan consumer, think about it).

As for whether this study 'shatters myth of hybrid premium,' its extremely unlikely. Despite the following two items from the study:

  • When asked what kind of car they would have purchased if they had not bought a hybrid, these shoppers would have purchased a vehicle costing thousands of dollars more than a Prius.
  • Most of the respondents used longer periods of ownership and higher gas prices than usually used by journalists.
Subjects are notoriously bad at coming up with facts and numbers in questionnaires. So, just because these people are reporting they are paying more for gas doesn't mean all that much.

Also, only those who feel strongly about a subject matter are likely to respond. Those who are feeling ok about their car aren't likely to respond to a flyer like this. So when you see the following numbers:
  • 71 percent of respondents earned more than $100,000 per year.
  • 73 percent were 40 years or older.
  • 58 percent were men.
  • 88 percent were “very happy” with their Prius; 12 percent were “somewhat happy.”
  • Most bought their prius because they wanted an eco-car.
You should be asking questions like: Where was this study done? Was it in California, where many drivers may have been motivated by access to the HOV lane? Were the fliers distributed in a city or a suburb? A parking garage for commuters? All of these things would affect who was responding.

When I first saw the press release on this study, I thought it was worthy of being ignored. Now that I have looked a little more closely at it, I'm glad I did.

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Hybrids Get Preferential Treatment at Logan

Driving a hybrid into Logan just got a whole lot nicer in Boston with the new incentives program announced by Mayor Menino yesterday.

Hybrid car owners who drive to Logan Airport in Boston will be eligible to get preferred parking. The program will start in May, with more than 100 parking spaces being reserved in central parking, terminal B, E and in the economy parking lots.

Cab drivers who use vehicles with alternative fuels will get to move to the head of the line to pick up passengers. Cab drivers can obtain these low emission vehicles by applying for $25,000 in grant money.

"This move allows clean cabs to spend more time collecting fares and less time waiting in line," said Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

"The city is actually allowing cab owners to charge more in rental fees to the cab driver, and the driver obviously, is realizing this in the savings of fuel," said Mark Cohen of the Boston Police Licensing Division.

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Lexus LS 600h L

Toyota has released the preliminary EPA fuel economy ratings for the high-end luxury LS 600h L hybrid: 20 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined.

Toyota/Lexus/Scion Pressroom: LS 600h L Hybrid Sedan: The Ultimate Lexus

LS 600h L Hybrid Sedan: The Ultimate Lexus

April 23, 2007 – Torrance, CA - When the 2008 LS 600h L hybrid luxury sedan launches this summer it will provide the highest level of performance and technology, and the truest expression of luxury of any Lexus ever created. The hybrid model elevates the LS to a new level, expanding Lexus and its presence among the ever more discriminating customer.

"The LS 600h L will stand as the flagship for the Lexus brand by providing the highest level of technical advancements, ride comfort, safety and luxury of any vehicle in our lineup," said Jim Farley, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "Its development process mixed the old and the new. The old, through a Lexus-established build process that achieves an extraordinary fit and finish only attainable by our master craftsmen, and the new with cutting-edge engineering innovations. Through this combination the LS 600h L raises our own quality expectations and may rank among the most technologically advanced automobiles in the industry."

Lexus Hybrid Drive
The all-new LS 600h L will be powered by the ultra-quiet Lexus Hybrid Drive system, the automotive industry's most advanced gas-electric hybrid system developed to date that features the world's first full V8, all-wheel-drive (AWD) hybrid drivetrain. The system combines a new 5.0-liter V8 gasoline engine with two powerful electric motors and a newly designed large-capacity battery pack that is lighter and extremely quiet. Together, this advanced combination provides the LS 600h L with an unmatched balance of environmental efficiency and performance.

The LS 600h L's Lexus Hybrid Drive system provides power and performance on par with competitors normally aspirated 12-cylinder powerplants. The hybrid powertrain generates a peak combined output rating of 438 horsepower and can effortlessly accelerate the LS 600h L from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Mid-range acceleration is even more impressive. The system's electric motor is capable of delivering maximum torque, on demand, and is most beneficial during passing maneuvers. Finally, exhilarating torque is in abundance at higher speeds as the LS 600h L rapidly accelerates from 50-70 mph in a rapid 3.5 seconds.

The innovative V8 features an electric-motor driven Variable Valve Timing with intelligence and Electrically controlled intake cam (VVT-iE). This combination of VVT-i with electric-motor driven intake and a hydraulically controlled two-way exhaust system achieves superior engine-startup operation and high-output performance. A newly developed Hydrocarbon Adsorber and Catalyst (HCAC) system is linked to the two-way exhaust to help prevent hydrocarbons contained in the exhaust from being released into the atmosphere during cold start up when the catalysts are not up to temperature.

The LS 600h L's high-output performance is matched with a preliminary MY08 EPA-estimated miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency rating of 20 in the city, and 22 on the highway. Its combined fuel economy rating of 21 mpg is equal to or better than the combined fuel-economy ratings of many V6 all-wheel-drive mid-sized luxury sedans.

The LS hybrid is expected to carry a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating. A SULEV rating means the LS 600h L has nearly 70 percent cleaner smog forming emissions than vehicles with a conventional internal combustion engine and cleaner than the ambient air in some major cities.

An added benefit to Lexus Hybrid Drive is the significant reduction in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) it delivers to the LS 600h L. The new V8 is tuned to reduce vibration and sound by adding additional sound insulating materials around the cylinder head covers. Additional NVH reduction is achieved by reducing damper pulley tensions and perfecting engine mount sizes and locations through repeated testing by Lexus engineers. The NVH levels in the LS 600h L are approximately half those found in other luxury cars, making it one of the quietest automobiles ever built.

"Full Hybrid" Powertrain
The LS 600h L is defined as a "full hybrid," capable of operating in electric-only mode or with a combination of the gas engine and electric motor. In contrast, other hybrid technologies require constant gas operation and are not capable of running only on electric power alone. Lexus hybrid technology allows electric-mode-only operation at low speeds or stop-and-go driving conditions, reducing fuel consumption and noise.

The hybrid system in the LS 600h L uses a 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) compact battery pack installed behind the rear seat. The trunk also contains a 12-volt auxiliary battery that powers the audio, navigation, and other systems. The battery's power is directed through a "boost converter" that efficiently raises voltage to a maximum 650V DC. An inverter changes this to AC, providing it elevated power to a 165-kW electric motor that turns at a rate of as much as 10,240 rpm. Lexus engineers devised a higher output inverter that both increases output by 10 percent and makes it compact in size and weight for easy mounting in the engine compartment.

The LS 600h L's powertrain uses two motor generators: MG1 and MG2. Each performs specific functions and can operate as either a motor or a generator, although MG1 is used as a starter motor and provides no motive force. The engine-driven generator, MG1, can charge the battery pack or provide additional power to the drive motor, MG2, as needed.

Full-Time All-Wheel Drive
The vast power of the LS 600h L is distributed by a newly developed full-time AWD system that delivers superior handling and traction control. This state-of-the-art system adapts to almost any road surface to help provide excellent vehicle stability during acceleration, high-speed driving and cornering while also delivering the natural handling feel of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle.

The outstanding performance of the AWD system is accomplished through a new transfer case that is ultra quiet, compact and equipped with a unique Torsen® limited-slip differential (LSD) that is 30 percent lighter in size and weight than previous Torsen® systems. To maximize the AWD system's performance, the LSD features a rear biased torque distribution of 40:60 under normal straight-line driving. The LSD automatically and continually adjusts power distribution between the front and rear wheels according to changing speed and road conditions.

The micron-polished finish of the gears in the transfer case renders remarkably low noise levels. Placement of the LSD inside the transfer case further reduces noise and helps eliminate the raised-floor tunnel, providing enhanced interior comfort.

Extraordinary Hybrid Transmission
The LS 600h L features a dual-stage electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. The combination of a V8 5.0-liter AWD system and hybrid transmission results in impressive power and seamless acceleration.

The dual-stage electronically controlled continuously variable transmission includes eight-speed sequential braking. The sequential braking mode is activated when the shift lever is in the "S" mode, allowing eight different stages of response. When up-shifting, engine speed is controlled by the selected range, offering an exhilarating boost in acceleration during each of the eight shift stages. When downshifting, brake-force increases allowing for an equally exciting deceleration.
Power is controlled by a three-mode hybrid switch to allow the driver the most effective use of torque output. The driver can select "hybrid" (normal), "power," or "snow" options. The "hybrid" mode provides the smoothest operation and is ideal for city or suburban driving; "power" sharpens accelerator pedal response and "snow" mode softens accelerator pedal response, making it easier to accelerate on slippery road surfaces.

For the ultimate in quiet driving and low emissions the LS 600h L features an EV drive mode. By pushing an EV switch, power reverts to full electric mode for short-distance, slow driving situations such as residential areas or parking garages.

Optimum Fuel Saving Technology
The LS 600h L is equipped with a power-steering system and air-conditioning compressor that are electrically powered to reduce parasitic losses to the engine, thereby helping improve fuel consumption. This is necessary because, as a fuel-saving benefit of the hybrid system, the gas engine often shuts down, particularly when the vehicle is stopped or driven slowly in traffic. Additionally, demand on the air conditioner is reduced through the use of ultraviolet and infrared ray-reducing tinted glass on all windows.

A regenerative braking system further boosts efficiency. When the vehicle is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric motors function as generators, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes and transforming it into useable electricity to recharge the batteries.

Responsive Handling
The powerful acceleration of the LS 600h L is matched by responsive handling that includes a class-leading turning radius while maintaining the ultra-comfortable ride that has become synonymous with all Lexus vehicles. Lexus engineers developed multi-link front- and rear-suspension systems to achieve outstanding adaptability to unevenness in road surfaces, including a new multi-link front suspension exclusive to the LS 600h L. This new suspension helps overcome under-steering and drifting situations common when driving an AWD vehicle at high speeds. A newly developed front suspension and an optional active stabilizer help maintain exceptional vehicle control and ride comfort during high-speed lane changes or driving on winding roads.

External cylinder-restriction air springs smoothly absorb shock, achieving ride comfort without roll sensation or vibration due to road conditions. A standard air suspension control system helps maintain superb vehicle posture and stable driving performance with minimal pitching and rolling.

The LS 600h L is equipped with large front- and rear-ventilated disc brakes and standard 19-inch, seven-spoke aluminum alloy wheels with all-season tires. These special wheels receive extensive buffing, and their shape is meticulously analyzed to create a form with shade depths that shift when the vehicle is in motion.

The LS 600h L is controlled by Electronic Power Steering (EPS), which delivers a smooth steering feel that supports the multilink suspension and large-diameter tires. The EPS motor creates a steering impression that responds to the driver's touch and provides a responsive feel when cornering.

Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) is integrated into the steering-gear housing to optimize the steering gear ratio according to vehicle speed, enhancing responsiveness and driver control. VGRS also partners with the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, making minor adjustments to the front-wheel angle to help provide improved stability in challenging road conditions.

Elegant Styling and Appointments
Over the last three years, Lexus has developed its L-finesse styling philosophy. This new design language rests upon the inherent contrast between simplicity and elegance, and the beauty of achieving a balance between the two. Like the LS 460, GS, IS and ES, the all-new LS 600h L flagship adopts this philosophy, revealing a family resemblance in the new Lexus sedans – one that conveys elegance, refinement and a strong emotional appeal.

With the new LS 600h L, designers have achieved a new level of meticulous detail, polished excellence and engaging comfort that is unique to Lexus. Styled at the Global Design Center in Tokyo, the LS 600h L uses complex lines and surfaces throughout the body. Exterior design cues embody a dignified strength, yet a sense of emotion and aggressiveness is exemplified in the continuous flow of the hood and bumper. The LS 600h L adopts the forceful profile, portraying a sense of power combined with an image of increasing speed. Minimal body gaps, a low front grille and deep-drawn fenders all contribute to this look.

Stylish projector-type headlamps with blue crystal rings, which also include the world's first night-time LED low beams, provide excellent visibility and contribute to the LS 600h L styling theme. Blue accents on the front headlamps, taillamps, badging, engine cover and the SmartAccess key fobs and Smart Card key are unique to the
LS 600h L.

Passenger space and luxury comfort were the primary focus of the interior cabin design. Genuine semi-analine leather is featured throughout the cabin, its rich appearance softened and structured with additional stitching to create a relaxed atmosphere. The leather-trim extends beyond the seats and onto the instrument panel, upper front doors and door armrests. The center console adds to passenger comfort and convenience through perfect angle placement for ease of use from either the driver or front passenger seat and is placed at the same height as the door armrests for a comfortable balance. Additional luxury touches unique to the LS 600h L includes a wood-trimmed and chrome-plated shift knob and wood-trimmed assist grip.

Advanced Safety Technologies
Cutting-edge active and passive safety technologies combine in the LS 600h L to create one integrated system. Active safety features include the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) stability system, which assimilates and manages the Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB) system, EPS, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and engine torque via the electronically controlled throttle. Monitoring a variety of sensors, the system anticipates the onset of a vehicle skid or slide while cornering, and then helps correct the situation with a combination of braking, throttle and steering control in a way that is essentially transparent to the driver. The VDIM system gathers data from more sources, processed earlier and faster than in previous designs, which helps make the LS 600h L's system even more seamless and effective. VSC can also be turned off by the driver via the Trac Off button. In addition to the active safety features, the LS 600h L is standard-equipped with eight standard airbags, with a maximum of 11 airbags available through option packages.

Lexus engineers have also developed an Advanced Pre-Collision System (APCS). It is the world's first system designed to help detect pedestrians in the vehicle's path. APCS, with two small cameras mounted at the front of the car that work in conjunction with millimeter-wave radar, is sensitive enough to detect certain nonmetallic objects.

As part of APCS the LS also offers the world's first Driver Monitor System. A third camera, mounted on the steering column, monitors the orientation of the driver's face. If the camera detects that it appears the driver is not looking directly ahead for a few seconds or more, and if an obstacle is detected ahead, then it alerts the driver first with a warning chime and a flashing light. As the car gets closer to the obstacle, APCS can begin to gently apply the brakes on its own. To assist the driver in maneuvering around the obstacle, the system reprograms the steering ratio, amplifying the intensity and quickness of the steering response.

While all of this is happening, the system automatically retracts the front seatbelts and prepares the brake system to respond with full force when activated by the driver in anticipation of a possible impact.

Refined Comfort and Convenience
The LS600h L delivers nearly five inches more legroom than the LS 460. It also provides the highest level of comfort and convenience features among all LS models. Standard features include a hard disk drive (HDD) Lexus Navigation system with a backup camera and Bluetooth® technology and voice activation, and XM factory-installed satellite radio with real-time traffic displays and dynamic route guidance. For genuine theater-level entertainment, the LS 600h L features a standard 19-speaker 450-watt Mark Levinson® Reference Surround Sound audio system, raising the bar for automotive sound systems. A portion of the HDD is dedicated to storing as many as 2,000 (128-bit) digital songs. An auxiliary jack located in the front center console allows for iPod or MP3 capable digital music players.

Additional standard features include an Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), climate-controlled front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, one-touch open/close power trunk, power door closers, headlamp washers, SmartAccess with push-button start and card key, electronic parking brake, Intuitive Park Assist, and laminated side glass.

A list of optional conveniences includes an Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS) to assist with parallel and back-in parking. Once the driver has correctly positioned the car and identified the desired parking spot via the navigation screen, APGS utilizes the rear back-up camera parking sonar sensors and electric power steering system to guide the car into the spot, while the driver controls speed via braking.

Special option packages offer unique features for the ultimate touch of luxury. The Premium Package includes climate comfort rear seats with a heat/cool knob, rear power seats with memory, rear power headrests, rear seat side airbags, Lexus Link and APGS. The left-side rear power seat has a built-in 28-degree angle and reclines up to 38 degrees and the rear seat moves front to back approximately three inches.
The Premium Package II includes all features in the Premium Package and a heater control panel, four-zone climate control, rear audio controls, additional wood trim, rear air purifier, rear cool box, rear headliner and side air ducts, power rear-door sunshades, and a rear seat entertainment system equipped with a power ceiling-mounted nine-inch screen for DVD viewing.

The Executive Class Seating Package II includes all features in the Premium Package II and features a power right rear seat that reclines up to 45 degrees with an upper-back recliner featuring a 17-degree angle adjustment. A multi-function massage feature includes an enhanced massage mode for the right-rear seat recliner that can be used separately or in conjunction with the seat heater and cooler. The package also includes a rear-seat wood-trimmed table and the rear-seat entertainment system features wireless headphones.

The rear climate control is upgraded with three infrared sensors located in the headliner that measure lap, upper body and seat on each side and then adjusts airflow accordingly.

An Active Power Stabilizer is also available and features 19-inch summer tires, high-friction brakes and an active-stabilizer system to help reduce body roll.

Each limited Launch Edition LS 600h L will come in a unique Truffle Mica exterior color matched to an Alabaster and Black leather interior. Additional features exclusive to the Launch Edition model will include a leather-trimmed upper and lower black monotone instrument panel, 19-inch split five-spoke aluminum wheels with a shiny chrome finish, an etched chrome-finish "Launch Edition" interior badge including the vehicle's serial number, "Launch Edition" logo floormats, and the Premium Package.

Superior Craftsmanship
Beyond the advanced technology and endless array of comfort and convenience features, at the heart of the LS 600h L is the meticulous pursuit of perfection for which Lexus has always stood. This is especially evident in the new LS build process. Through the use of a revolutionary production process, Lexus has elevated the bar on what has already been globally recognized as the best production facility in the world. A build process was developed specifically for the LS line at the award-winning assembly plant in Tahara, Japan. With remarkable levels of fit, finish, accuracy and refinement achieved through the combined skill, knowledge, and pride of Lexus master craftsmen and advanced technology, the LS 600h L exemplifies "world's best."

Premium Protection
All new Lexus vehicles come with a 48-month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48-months/unlimited miles. Powertrain and restraint system coverage is provided for 72 months/70,000 miles. Corrosion perforation protection is covered for 72 months, regardless of mileage. The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hybrids are Failing Emissions Testing

Hybrids are failing the emissions test in Georgia. But this isn't a story about how hybrids are failing. No, this story is a clear indication of how foolish government can be.

For the first time, owners of the 2004 Prius have to take their cars in for emissions testing. The test requires the car to be set at idle at 2,500 rpm on the tester. The problem is that hybrids shut themselves off rather than sit in idle, to save gas. The equipment then issues a failure to the hybrid because it says the hybrid is refusing to take the test.

Rather than admit that the Prius doesn't have any emissions at idle (engine off means there are no emissions), Georgia requires Prius owners to pay $25 for the aborted test, which allows them to go and claim a waiver (there are only five centers in the state). Only then are they given permission to buy a license plate.

How dumb is that?

If you are worried about emissions from a hybrid, look at There you can sort cars by their emissions. The top vehicles for emissions ratings are all hybrids.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

New York May Waive Sales Tax on Hybrids

State Sen Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) presented a bill in New York on Wednesday that would waive the four percent sales tax on the purchase of hybrids and other vehicles capable of getting 35 mpg or better.

"Hybrid cars lessen the need for gasoline, making the cost of driving the car less expensive and more affordable, and have less of an impact on our air," said Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

"As automobiles are among the greatest producers of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, out state should be using its tax policies to promote the purchase of hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles," said Assemblyman Steven Englebright, D-Suffolk County. "Middle-class New Yorkers know the issues and want to do something about it, but they need to able to afford the technology."

Cities and countries could also opt in to the tax waiver. The bill would be applied to new and used vehicles.

There was no indication of how much the bill would cost the state.

There are 22,799 hybrids registered in the state. Previously, New York had offered a tax credit of up to $2,000, but that expired in 2005. Hybrid cars are currently allowed solo access to the HOV lane in New York.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nissan Altima Hybrid Price Increase

Nissan is increasing the MSRP on the 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid to $24,990, a net increase of $590. The Altima Hybrid still qualifies for the full Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit of $2,350.

This is surprising given the limited release (only eight states carry the hybrid Altima because they are the states with the most stringent emissions laws). Also, Nissan only sold just under 500 units last month.

It makes me wonder if there is a waiting list, and if so, what the production numbers are. Toyota is offering sales incentives on the Prius while Ford and GM have also had incentives on the Escape Hybrid and Vue Hybrid recently.

Source: Nissan Announces Pricing Adjustment on 2007 Altima Hybrid

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Hybrid Cars and Parenthood

Anyone who has raised a child will understand this story. Anyone who appreciates good writing will enjoy reading this story. Anyone who held out to buy a hybrid should read this story.

San Diego CityBEAT

Two years ago, Sam and I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid. The salesdude tried to steer us toward the standard Civic because the hybrid wait list was lengthy; the mileage difference, in his opinion, wasn't worth the cost; and for thousands less we could drive off the lot that very same day! He also tried to sell us pukey colors (we weren't having it) and, eventually, a Minivan (over my dead body). We stuck to our tree-huggin' principles, waited five weeks and spent the extra Benjamins determined to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. The car's been terrific, not because of the awesome mileage but because of the single most valuable feature I accidentally discovered late last year. Turns out that the cab—she's sound proof.

Related: Toyota Highlander From a Dad's Perspective

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hybrids will be Core

According to Toyota's managing officer, Yasuhiko Ichihashi, hybrid cars will be a core segment of the future vehicle market. He was the keynote speaker at the 2007 SAE World Congress.

Given the recent legislation in Europe and in the US, hybrid technology is growing swiftly to meet that future demand. Continental, which offers full and mild hybrids, would need to double the size of its hybrid engineering team to meet current demand for its fuel-saving solutions. Its core hybrid engineering team consists of 160 engineers already. So, they've been turning away some recent proposals.

GM has also put out the word they are hiring engineers who want to work on hybrid engines. That and the recent news by Nissan saying they want to build lithium-ion batteries, which will be used in the next generation of hybrid cars, shows that future where hybrids will be core is taking shape right now.

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Hybrids are part of the Top 12 Greenest Cars from Forbes

Just the other day I was pointing out one of the benefits of choosing a hybrid is its lower emissions. Or, you could pick a small car that emits less and gets great gas mileage. One of the nice things about hybrid technology is the ability to go bigger while emitting less and getting better gas mileage.

Forbes put together the top 12 Greenest Cars based on the numbers from the EPA. Not surprisingly, hybrids and small (compact) cars score well.

Source: Top 12 Greenest Vehicles -

For new vehicles, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose data we used to compile our list, issues air pollution scores and greenhouse gas scores, both of which are ratings from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Only the Prius and Civic Hybrid have perfect greenhouse gas scores, but many cars tie for the top ranking on the air pollution scale (no new car has an air pollution score of 10, but several reach 9.5).

To assemble our list, we took the vehicles with air pollution scores of 9.5, then ranked them based on their greenhouse gas scores. Twelve cars got nods for superior environmental friendliness, including the 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid and the 2007 Ford Focus.
1) Honda Civic Hybrid sedan
Base price: $22,600
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 10/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 49/51

2) Toyota Prius sedan
Base price: $22,175
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 10/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 60/51

3) Toyota Camry Hybrid sedan
Base price: $26,200
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 9/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 40/38

4) Ford Escape Hybrid SUV
Base price: $25,740
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 36/31

5) Ford Focus
Base price: $13,995
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 27/37

6) Honda Accord Hybrid sedan
Base price: $31,090
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 28/35

7) Hyundai Elantra sedan
Base price: $13,395
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 28/36

8) Kia Spectra
Base price: $13,495
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 27/35

9) Mazda3
Base price: $14,490
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 28/35

10) Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV
Base price: $26,430
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 32/29

11) Nissan Altima sedan
Base price: $19,800
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 26/35

12) Saturn Ion
Base price: $12,890
Air pollution score: 9.5/10
Greenhouse gas score: 8/10
City/highway miles per gallon: 26/35

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hybrids are in the Top 10 for Resale Value According to KBB

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) announced they are now showing projected resale values for all new vehicles on their web site.

Curious, I went to look at the resale value for the 2007 Prius. And I got the following graph: The Prius has the highest resale value shown (grey line) followed by all 2007 hybrids (red line). 2007 hatchbacks and sedans are next followed by the line for all 2007 vehicles.

Resale values are an important consideration when buying any vehicle. According to KBB: Resale value is an important factor in determining overall vehicle cost as depreciation is historically most consumers’ biggest expense during their ownership period.

The Prius and the Honda Civic are both in the top 10 for resale values.

Based on the informed projections of Kelley Blue Book's expert staff of market analysts—encapsulated in the Kelley Blue Book Residual Value Guide—our annual Best Resale Value Awards honor the vehicles that best maintain their financial worth after thousands of miles and years of service. What do these cars have in common? In general, a combination of design and engineering that is compelling enough to generate customer appeal that stands the test of time.


Toyota Prius
When compared to the Honda Civic Hybrid, which features the same sheetmetal as its conventional sedan counterpart, the uniquely styled Prius is the more recognizable gas-electric hybrid vehicle. It's also a very sensible and accommodating passenger car.


Honda Civic
Even though it's now available with niceties like a navigation system and can top $20,000, the Honda Civic remains the quintessential economy car and equally appealing to new-car and used-car shoppers alike.

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Is a Hybrid Right For You?

The question you need to ask yourself are

  • Do you mind paying more up front?
  • Are you willing to hold on to the vehicle for a while before you start saving money?
  • Do you want to have a car with lower emissions?
  • Do you want to be seen as green?
  • Are there any local, state or federal perks for driving a hybrid that you can take advantage of?

There are a lot of options out there and I can't say for sure whether a hybrid is right for you or not. What it comes down to is personal preference and budgetary constraints.

Budget Considerations
There's not much I can say about your budget. If you just want to pay the least you can and get the best fuel economy you can and you don't care about size, then a hybrid car may not be your best choice. I would probably recommend one of the smaller mini-cars out there instead (Yaris, Aveo, etc...)

Hybrids Save You Money
If you can afford to pay at least $20K for a car and you don't want a mini, then a hybrid may be the best way to go. The hybrid engine can give you better fuel economy, but it doesn't come at a cheap up front price. Yet, you can save money in the long run compared to other cars in the same class if you choose to go hybrid. How long you need to own the car before you will see any savings depends on gas prices and how much driving you do.

Hybrid cars can emit less pollutants. Look on for greenhouse gas emissions and sort the 2007 family sedans from best to worst. The top four models are hybrids. Repeat the process for SUVs and you will see the top 8 models are hybrids. There's no doubt about it. Buying a hybrid means you will be putting out less emissions than with other cars in the same class.

Image Consultation
So your choice may come down to being seen as being green. Unlike buying smaller cars, which may classify you as thrifty instead of green, hybrids are recognized as being both economic and green. In which case you may want to buy the Prius, recognized everywhere as being a hybrid. If you don't want to show off your green credentials so blatantly, you can choose any of the others. Except for the hybrid badging, there's very little difference between the hybrid model and the gas-only counterparts. Until someone gets into your car for a trip, they may not even realize it.

Sometimes, being green can pay off in little ways. Access to the HOV lane, free parking, lower taxes from the federal or state, etc... Look into what you can get if you decide to buy a hybrid.

More to Know
If you really feel like a hybrid is right for you, but aren't sure which hybrid to buy, please take a look around on this site. You'll find plenty of information. I would start by looking at The Top Ten Hybrids or How to Choose Which Hybrid to Buy. There's also the Pros and Cons of Hybrids.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Every Lexus Will Be a Hybrid

A story in MarketingWeek makes the point that all five passenger vehicle models made by Lexus will by hybrids after the next two years.

With the LS 600h release this year and the SC and IS going hybrid by 2009 Lexus wants to differentiate their brand by hybrid technology. "We want to establish Lexus as the default brand for hybrids. Other manufacturers are saying that by 2009 they’ll have hybrid versions of certain models but by 2009 we’ll have a hybrid for every car in our range" says Lexus GB director Steve Settle.

Toyota wants to go hybrid across the board and plans on selling 430,000 hybrid vehicles this year.

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Stealing HOV Stickers, the newest crimewave

A short time ago, I pointed out an article on USAToday saying that carpool stickers that allow hybrid cars access to the HOV lane in California gave owners a reason to sell. People were willing to pay $4,000 more for a hybrid car, if it had a sticker.

Well, it seems that thieves have caught on. According to this news story

"We knew it was only a matter of time," California Highway Patrol officer Mike Wright said.

The California DMV is receiveing two or three dozen requests a month for replacement stickers after people have reported the decals stolen.

According to the DMV, the stickers are treated chemically so that they crumble if they are tampered with and the word "void" appears.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ford saves the President

Ok, I can understand you wouldn't particularly want to plug the hydrogen into an electric outlet, but would it have really immolated President Bush?

Last week Ford presented the hydrogen-electric hybrid on the White House south lawn. In order to fully demonstrate its capabilities, and get a good photo-op, an electric charger was set up so that Bush could plug it in.

Unfortunately for the president, someone left the cord at the wrong end of the car. Fortunately for the president, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally was quick enough to grab Bush's arm before he plugged it in.

Someone needs to work on their safety protocols at Ford if plugging in the cord at the wrong end could end with a serious injury.

The last quote from Mulally is just precious: "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen. This is all off the record, right?"

Read the article: Plug it in, fire it up, Mr. President via hybridcarblog

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Vehicle to Grid Power Using Plug-In Hybrids

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) demonstrated a new technology specifically designed for plug-in vehicles. Plug-in vehicles, because of their large capacity batteries, could be used to help store electricity overnight when the demand is lower, then could be used to feed that power back into the grid during high peak hours.

It would work like this. A plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) owner would plug their car in overnight. The battery recharges at low peak usage time, when the rates are lowest. Then the owner gets up, drives to work or a parking garage or even a transit lot.

Once there, the owner plugs the car into a high-tech meter that measure electricity use via remote control. During high peak usage hours in the late afternoon, the power can be taken back into the grid, for which the PHEV owner would be credited. The amount would be limited by the utility company and the meter would match the vehicle to the owners account.

Right now, this is all hypothetical and prototypes since there are no mass produced plug-in hybrids. The charging system, according to PG&E, is not expected until 2012.

The demonstration was given using a modified Toyota Prius, equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack. The car battery was used to light up some lamps and run a space heater.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Lexus LS 600h Pricing

Lexus announced the pricing for the LS 600h (the h is for hybrid). At a base price of $104,000, not many people are going to be able to afford this luxury sedan.

With a V8 powertrain mated to dual-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT), the engine will produce more than 430 hp. At the same time, the luxury hybrid has attained a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating. Which means it will emit nearly 70 percent fewer emissions than the 'cleanest' of its competitors.

The LS 600h will be available in June. The luxury Lexus (follow the link to find out how luxurious this Lexus will be) was revealed at the New York Auto Show last year. There will be two models, the regular and the long version (Lexus LS 600h L) which has a longer wheelbase of 12 cm.

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Toyota offers big discounts on the Prius

Toyota offered some incentives on the Prius in February and March and were awarded for their efforts with record sales. The Prius even hit no. 9 in US car sales. Now, they are going even farther to counteract any affect being felt by the halving of their federal tax credit. Toyota is offering up to $2000 in discounts on the Prius.

Press Release follows:

In February and March, Toyota offered mild financing and lease incentives on Prius, resulting in robust sales increases of 86.8 percent and 133.2 percent respectively, over the previous year, both all-time records.

With combined sales of 169,797 units in 2006, and 57,162 units through the first quarter of 2007, the Toyota Prius, Camry Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid are the industry’s three top-selling hybrid models. In calendar year 2007, combined sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids will exceed a quarter million units.

Effective April 3, 2007, Prius customers will receive discounts on available factory-installed option packages, except the base and Package #1 (HE) models.

Discounts on pricing for factory-installed option packages range from $600 to $2,000. Each package in the program offers safety features such as Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), backup camera, Smart Key system and audio system with MP3 capability and auxiliary port.

Packages for Touring Edition are comprised of HID headlamps, backup camera, Smart Key system, JBL® Premium sound system with nine speakers, MP3 connectivity, Bluetooth®, VSC, security alarm, HomeLink®, navigation system, and leather steering wheel and seats.

Discounted MSRP for factory-installed option packages are outlined in charts below:

Factory-installed Options



Package #1 (HE)

Package Discontinued, Limited Supply Available


Package #2 (HG)



Package #3 (HI)



Package #4 (HK)



Package #5 (NL)



Package #6 (NW)



Touring Edition
Factory-installed Options



Package #5 (NM)



Package #6 (NR)



The base MSRP for the Toyota 2007 Prius is $22,175 and the Touring Edition Prius MSRP starts at $23,070.

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Ford Wants Plug-In Hybrids, Too

Ford has thrown it's hat into the plug-in ring. GM has already stated they are working on a plug-in hybrid (Vue) capable of driving 40 miles on battery power. Toyota has also stated they will be working on a plug-in vehicle. And now Ford says they are also researching plug-ins.

All of the carmakers have stated the only real issue is the battery pack. Plug-ins require larger batteries, which are very expensive. There are also some issues with stability.

Product chief Derrick Kuzak of Ford made the announcement in New York. Kuzak says Ford is aiming for 25 miles on electric power. That will make it easier to overcome the battery issue and possibley make it more affordable.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hybrid Car Sales, March 2007

hybrid car sales march 2007Hybrid car sales were boosted to new heights this month, due to the huge increase in sales from the Toyota Prius. Altogether, 34,637 hybrid units were sold in the month of March, an increase of 93.9% from last March. Honda also increased hybrid car sales, no thanks to the Honda Accord Hybrid. Ford increased sales by 58.7% on its Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner Hybrid. Nissan increased sales of the Altima Hybrid by twice what they sold last month.

Overall, one of every two hybrids sold were Prius and four out of every five hybrids sold in March were from Toyota. Honda took 9.2% of the hybrid market, while Fords' slice came to 7.3%. Nissan, with the limited release of the Altima last month scooped up 1.3%.

Despite the huge increases for Toyota and Ford, the news is not all good for the hybrid car market. Except for the Prius and Escape/Mariner Hybrid, hybrid car sales for the first quarter are down from last year for all other hybrid car models.

Toyota Hybrid Sales
hybrid car sales 2007Increased sales for Toyota may come from the tax credits once again being halved as of April 1st. Toyota has also been offering different incentives on hybrid cars. Toyota set loft sales goals for this year when it comes to hybrids and it looks like they are trying extremely hard to meet them.

Toyota increased sales to a record high, selling 28,453 units in March. That's an increase of 137 percent from last March. The Prius had sales of 19,156 units, a personal best, and an increase of 141.8% from last year. The Prius was the number one hybrid in sales this month, making up ...% of the hybrid market. Highlander Hybrid sales were down 16.3% and Lexus RX400h sales were down 40.4%. Toyota also sold 5,144 units of the Camry Hybrid (the 2nd most popular hybrid) and 181 units of the Lexus GS 450h. Comparisons from last year will start next month, as both were put on sale in March, 2006.

Also according to the press release: TMS calendar-year-to-date hybrid sales totaled 61,635 units, an increase of 68 percent over the same period last year, while cumulative hybrid sales to-date surpassed the 500,000 sales mark.

"This month marks a milestone eight years in the making," said Jim Lentz, TMS executive vice president. "Record U.S. sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids have now topped the half-million mark."

Honda Hybrid Sales
March to March Hybrid SalesHonda increased hybrid sales to 3,199 units in the month of March. Honda Civic Hybrid sales were up by 26.0%, which covered the drop of 33.7% of the Honda Accord. Honda sold 2,813 units of the Civic Hybrid and 385 units of the Honda Accord Hybrid. Honda expects a new hybrid-only model to come to market in the next couple of years. This new model will replace the Insight.

Ford Hybrid Sales
Ford sold 2,523 units of the Ford Escape Hybrid/Mercury Mariner Hybrid. The Escape and it's luxury sister are totaled together by Ford. That's a pretty heft increase in sales from last year.

Nissan Hybrid Sales
Nissan sold 462 units of the Altima Hybrid. The Altima Hybrid is on sale in only 8 states, those with higher emissions standards.

First Quarter Sales are Down For Most Hybrid Models

  • Honda Accord Hybrid: 1,715 to 945 units sold, down 44.9%
  • Honda Civic Hybrid: 7,177 to 6,520 units sold, down 9.2%
  • Toyota Prius: 22,123 to 39,682 units sold, up 79.4%
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid: 7,881 to 6,203 units sold, down 21.3%
  • RX 400h: 5,750 to 3,965 units sold, down 31.0%
  • Ford Escape/Mariner Hybrid: 3,829 to 5,457 units sold, up 58.7%
first quarter hybrid car sales 2007Other models not included since they weren't on sale during the first quarter. Total hybrid car sales for the first quarter are up 54.5% from the first quarter last year, but that number is being dominated by the Prius which makes up 52.8% of all hybrid car sales in the first quarter of 2007.

The downward trend in models besides the Prius may be due to the cutting of federal tax credits for Toyota and the relative stability of gas prices during the first few months of 2007. As gas prices continue to climb, I expect hybrid sales will also start to increase.

Toyota has been so much more successful for several reasons. Because their customers are slowly losing out on their federal tax credits, Toyota has been pushing out sales incentives. Also, they have started major ad campaigns on for all of their hybrid models. The Prius is the only hybrid car available to be a hybrid only model since the Insight was discontinued. That and being one of the first hybrids which also gets the best mileage makes the Prius almost synonymous with the word hybrid.

The other car companies have been focusing away from hybrid cars, despite how successful Toyota has been. Toyota increased sales in the US by 7.7%, while almost 12% of the cars sold by Toyota in March were hybrids. Perhaps its time for the other automakers to rethink their strategies.

Hybrid Car Sales, February 2007
Hybrid Car Sales, March 2007

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Ford Hybrid Taxis pass 175,000 mile mark

Ford is reporting the 18 Hybrid Escape taxis that were part of the first wave being used in New York have passed 175K miles. Pretty impressive mileage numbers from 2005. Although they don't cite how they can guess, Ford is estimating fuel savings of $250,000 for the fleet. An average customer could drive that far in 11 years, so Ford can definitely feel like they have proven the durability of their hybrid SUVs in real world conditions.

Check out the Taxi label below to find previous stories on how the Taxi tests has been going in New York, SF, and elsewhere.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

What the Candidates Drive

If you're worried about what kind of car the candidates are driving, I think you're worried about the wrong things when it comes to who to vote for on election day. But, as a point of interest whenever they debate over alternative fuels, fuel economy, and/or hybrid cars, I do think it is relevant to the story.

So here you go:


  • Mitt Romney: Mitt announced his candidacy while standing in front of a hybrid Ford Escape and a Rambler from AMC. But he drives a Ford Mustang, while his wife drives a Cadillac SRX SUV. He did rent a flex-fuel vehicle in Iowa while campaigning.
  • Rudolph Giuliana: Campaign uses a Cadillac Escalade, but Rudy will walk between destinations when the cameras are rolling. <- That's probably unfair of me, but it was noted in the article that he walked to his next destination after giving a talk on energy policy.
  • John McCain: Drives a Cadillac CTS.
Source: Campaigns Save Energy With Hybrid Cars - Los Angeles Times

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