Thursday, May 31, 2007

Solar Powered Prius

Solar PriusThe next breakthrough in hybrids will likely come from plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) technology. Plug-ins allow the vehicle owner to recharge the battery at night when rates are lowest, allowing the vehicle to travel farther and faster on an all electric charge. PHEVs will get fuel economy up over 100 mpg for the average commuter. But, the battery technology is still a few years away.

In the meantime, there is a company called Solar Electrical Vehicles (SEV) which may give your Prius an additional boost today. Located in Westlake Village, CA, the SEV system recharges the battery in your hybrid via solar panels installed on the roof the hybrid vehicle.

Prius SEVThe solar panels are made of high efficiency mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells, which can produce 215 watts of renewable energy. The system utilizes a 3kW supplemental battery pack, which extends the electric driving range up to 20 miles per day and improves fuel economy will range between 17 to 29% depending on driving habits, road speeds and conditions.

It takes 2 to 3 hours to install the custom molded low profile solar module, supplemental battery pack and the charge controlling system. The solar module is designed to last 30 years and it's maintenance free.

The SEV system costs between $2,000 and $4,000. Kits are available for the Prius, Highlander, Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Rav4 EV.

Source: San Fernando Business Journal (subscription required) via Treehugger

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hybrid Ferrari?

According to Motor Authority, there may be a hybrid Ferrari in the near future. Since the European Council has proposed restricting fleet averages for CO2 levels to 130g/km by 2012, small automakers who specialize like Ferrari could have serious issues meeting these demands.

And, of course, being Ferrari, they cannot compromise on performance even a little bit. They are who they are and that can't change that. So, they need to find ways of keeping performance up while cutting emissions down. They have stated they won't run on biofuel or diesel, which means they could look into hybrid technology, direct injection and/or brake-energy regeneration to even themselves out.

Lexus and Honda have both built 'performance' hybrids, and Toyota may follow up on their concept FT-HS hybrid sports car. So, a hybrid sports car is certainly feasible.

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Gas Prices and Inflation

The following chart is from and it shows average gas prices from 1918 to the present day. The red line shows inflation adjusted gas prices. In other words, how much gas cost in past years, translated into todays rates.

Gas Prices Adjusted for Inflation

It's interesting to see how gas prices have been either holding steady or trending downwards right up to the crisis in the 70's and into the early 80's. After that, the prices shot back down until Katrina hit.

It gives me hope to think the red line could come back 'down' in the next few years. Unfortunately, if you look carefully at the black line, you'll see that the actual price of gas probably won't go back down.

Found via: autoblog, auto prophet

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Toyota Delays Lithium-Ion Batteries

The next Prius was supposedly going to have a lithium-ion battery, but reports from Japan say Toyota is unwilling to take that risk. Despite Li-ion battery use in retrofitted plug-in Prius, by other companies, Toyota has decided to be cautious.

Source: Winding Road » Archive » Japan Report: Toyota Postponing Lithium-Ion Prius? via autobloggreen
Compared to the nickel-metal hydride battery pack in the current Prius, lithium-ion would be the neater, more technologically advanced solution, and in Toyotaspeak are “close to the level at which they can be mounted in cars.” But, the paper says, Toyota has put caution before innovation this time round… and being mindful of Toyota’s quality issues and soaring recall rate of late, maybe that’s a sound choice.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New Jersey PSE&G to go Hybrid

In order to eliminate over 81,000 tons of carbon emissions and 850,000 gallons of gasoline, Public Service Electric and Gas Company decided to replace 1,300 vehicles with hybrids over the next decade starting this year.

This will include light trucks, hybrid bucket truck prototypes of which they have already purchased two of.

PSE&G wants to roll back their emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which means they need to reduce their emissions by 20 percent of 46 million tons of CO2.

According to Ralph LaRossa, president and chief operating officer of PSE&G, "The fact is that transportation is New Jersey's largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, estimated to account for about half of all emissions. Focusing on transportation must be part of the strategy. To that end, we are transforming our fleet to one that is cleaner and greener - one that will allow us to make immediate gains in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions."

With more companies and cities investing in hybrid vehicles (see FedEx, UPS, taxis, buses etc...), you can expect to see the cost of building and maintaining hybrid engines to continue to come down.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Save Money on Gas the Way the Pros Do

As you head out on your long weekend of traveling, I thought I'd share some gas saving tips from the pros (hypermilers). Hypermilers are a select group of drivers who go out of their way to not only get what the EPA says their car can get, but exceed all expectations when it comes to fuel economy.

You've probably already heard most of the basic tips. Clear out your trunk; stay up to date with oil, keep your tires inflated, and get a tune up when you're supposed to; slow down or at least follow the speed limit; and turn off your a/c and heater and/or roll up your windows. So I'm going to concentrate on those efforts you probably haven't heard about.

Now some of these tips are not only dangerous, but they are also illegal. I present those more dangerous techniques here for your information, not to encourage you to copy some of these more risky techniques.

Tools of the Trade
Unless you own a hybrid or a luxury vehicle, you probably don't have any way of measuring your current fuel economy. You can always track your mileage and how much gas you are buying, but that doesn't really tell you how you're doing moment to moment. If you're serious about it, as hypermilers tend to be, there are inexpensive tools you can buy (i.e., ScanGauge II).

Another great tool to use is your foot. Take off your shoe and your ability to control how much gas you use at any particular moment will be tenfold. Shoes deaden the feel you have between yourself and your car.

Pay Attention to Everything
Hypermilers become hyper aware of their surroundings. Not only do they plan their route carefully to avoid stopping (see more about that later), they even take into account wind. That's right, they like to use tailwinds or they will avoid driving if there's too much wind in the wrong direction. Not very practical for most day to day driving.

More importantly (and more applicable to you), hypermilers tend to be more aware of where stop signs and lights are located. They will try to avoid stopping as much as possible because you are just wasting gas when you are at a standstill. They will also try to time lights so as to avoid using their brakes (unless you have a hybrid and regenerative braking can be helpful to recharge your batteries, brakes are a no-no when it comes to saving gas). It's called driving without brakes and it may be the best thing you can do to increase the time between fill-ups.

Cold is Bad, Heat is Good
Colder temperatures and the time it takes for your engine to heat up have a profound effect on your fuel economy. Keep that in mind when you start keeping track of your fuel economy. A warm sunny day can do more for your gas bill than any other tip you follow.

Parking Preferences
Where and how you park can have a profound affect on your bottom line. Keep in mind that you get your worst fuel economy just after you start your car up. Backing into or out of a spot can be a complete waste of fuel. If you parked farther out (no other cars around you, or near the exit, you're saving that much more fuel. You can also give yourself a little more leg work. Also, if you park at the top a parking lot, rather than at the bottom, you may be able to coast your way out without even turning your engine on.

Riding the Ridge
A nice little trick is to put your wheels on the painted white lines. By reducing resistance (rolling), you save on your fuel. You can also over-inflate your tires, but that's a risky move in my book. You will save on gas, but you may end up blowing a tire. The risk of a blow out is small if you're careful, but it's still a risk.

Hybrid Cars
Hybrid cars can also use the method called pulse and glide. I detailed it in this article way back when: Hypermilers and Hypermiling. It's a method reducing the amount of time you use the gas engine and maximize the time you use the electric motor instead.

Extreme and Dangerous Methods
Again, I don't recommend these. In fact, I would warn you against them. Not only are they dangerous, but they are illegal and should not be done. Some hypermilers will recommend drafting. Getting close enough to an 18-wheeler so that you can benefit from his trail breaking is dangerous and foolish. If he stops suddenly, you're now involved in a life threatening situation.

Another dangerous method is forced auto stopping. Basically, if you can't avoid stopping or if you are on a large hill turn the engine off. Just put your car into neutral and turn the key. This is dangerous (and illegal) for all sorts of reasons. You lose a lot of control when the engine is off. At the very least, you won't have power steering and you won't be able to accelerate out of the way if something comes your way you weren't expecting.

Want More?
Want to read more about hypermiling techniques? Head over to cleanmpg forums, or more specifically, you can read about hypermiling techniques for the Ford Escape Hybrid. I tried to avoid the hypermiling techniques for hybrids only, but there are several tips for those of you with hybrid cars there. There was also an article at Edmunds about hypermiling that inspired me to talk about these techniques today.

Enjoy your long weekend, and I hope the weather there is beautiful.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hybrids and Diesels Will Make up 15 Percent of the Marketplace by 2012

Ricardo plc, a technology provider and strategic consultant to the world's
automotive industries, and UBS, a leading financial firm, are predicting a big rise in diesel sales by 2012.

According to their press release:

At present, hybrid gasoline technology appears to be the preferred route in the United States, not least due to its attraction as a visible badge of green awareness amongst higher income purchasers.

But they feel that diesel vehicles have an advantage when it comes to manufacturing cost. And this is despite the added cost of fitting complex exhaust after-treatment technologies in order to pass the more stringent emissions regulations.

Ricardo is predicting 15 percent of the US light vehicle market will be hybrid or diesel cars by 2012. They believe that diesel sales will rise to 1.5 million units, while hybrids will be at 1.2 million units.

They feel that European automakers who dominate diesel sales in Europe will benefit the most from such a shift.

What this means to you (to borrow from Edmunds and others), or in other words, what's my opinion about this? Not much. Such a huge shift upwards in diesel sales would be highly surprising to me. Diesels still suffer from a bad image and despite any shift in who the EMA places into diesel cars in the next few years, five years seems like too short a time for people to shift their buying patterns in such a radical manner.

BTW, for those of wondering about the EMA reference: According to CNNMoney, they're the PR group in Hollywood making sure your favorite stars are being seen in hybrid cars and alternative vehicles because Toyota has paid them nearly $100,000,000 to push hybrids into the household vernacular. The same article is hinting that EMA is looking to help out Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and VW/Audi in their push for diesels.

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High Gas Prices are Pushing Car Buyers into More Fuel Efficient Cars

According to the latest Consumer Reports Poll, nearly seventy percent of those who planned to purchase a new car during the coming year would be looking for a more fuel efficient vehicle than their current model. Nearly half of them would consider a diesel, hybrid or flex-fuel vehicle, even though only one in nine primarily drive one now.

Half would give up size or capacity (52%), range (49%), performance (48%) or amenities (44%) for higher fuel efficiency. 42% were willing to pay more for a fuel-efficient car, while 31% were willing to pay more for a special fuel.

Looks like the current high gas prices are affecting the way people are thinking about shopping for their next car. I saw similar polls last year when gas prices sky-rocketed, and since then there has been a slow erosion in the largest vehicle market and a small increase in the small car market. We'll have to see if this means we'll see an even larger move in that direction.

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Hybrid Equals Low Emissions and Great Fuel Economy?

Today, I want to talk about a popular myth about hybrids, i.e. hybrid technology means low emissions and great fuel economy, right?


While hybrid technology can be used to lower emission and increase fuel savings, it can also be used to enhance performance instead.

For example, the Prius and the Insight were both designed to maximize fuel economy and to lower emissions. Since these were the two hybrids first sold on the modern market, hybrid technology has become synonymous with fuel savings and being good for the environment.

Some, more recently introduced hybrid electric cars were not designed that way, however. For instance, the Honda Accord Hybrid was designed to get more power by using the electric engine to produce more horsepower, i.e. you can get V8 power with a V6 engine.

Another good example is the new Lexus LS 600h which just went on sale in Japan and will be out in the US in June. This car was designed for luxury and power. Yes, it gets higher fuel economy than other cars in its class, but buyers should not expect to be wowed by those numbers (low 20's) just because its a hybrid. Instead, what Lexus (or Toyota if you want to think of it that way) did was put in a V8 engine, and enhance it with the electric engine so that you get V12 power.

What brought about this issue is the following story from ABG (Lexus hybrid ad reported as misleading - AutoblogGreen). Lexus has been warned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in England for misrepresenting the RX400h.

Specifically, Lexus was touting the following tag line: "HIGH PERFORMANCE. LOW EMISSIONS. ZERO GUILT". But, low emissions is a subjective thing. According to Lexus, they meant low emissions in comparison to other vehicles in its class, which is true. But that's not what others were seeing. Since the RX400h emits 192g/km of CO2, but the average European car emits less than 160 g/km, the RX400h does not have low emissions by that standard.

To summarize, hybrid electric cars do emit less and do get better fuel economy than their counterparts. But you should always look to who those counterparts are. Yes, the RX400h does emit less and does get better gas mileage than other luxury SUVs, but it is not better than a compact car.

Just because it says hybrid on the bumper does not mean you should feel like you're correcting all the worlds woes.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Next Generation Prius

Hybrid XRecently, a commenter asked if he (or it could be a she?) should wait for the next Prius. I told them that next years Prius would be fairly similar, but the next generation Prius would be several years away. I've been looking into it a little more and thought I would share the information I had found on what the next generation Prius would be like.

According to Edmunds, the next generation Prius (2009?) will not only change its styling, but will increase its fuel economy a little bit. The current Prius is rated at 99 mpg (35 km/l), while the next generation has a goal of 40 km/l (113 mpg). These are Japanese fuel-economy figures, which will not translate directly to real-world driving conditions in the U.S.

Most reports seem to indicate that the giant improvements will come from the replacement of nickel-metal hydride batteries with lithium-ion batteries, along with various improvements to the electrical engine.

Because of changes in the way the EPA rates fuel economy, the current Prius is expected to lose that 60 mpg rating, but instead will sit at the 40-45 mpg range it currently sits at in real-world numbers.

At the same time, the next Prius will be able to run longer and faster in electric mode.

The final design is (supposedly) similar to the Hybrid X concept car.

According to one Edmunds article:

Toyota was rocked when news seeped out that Honda was planning a low price Fit hybrid for 2008, with the price differential just 200,000 yen (some $1,700) more than the regular gasoline version. So work on the next Prius has redoubled to slash R&D costs and halve Toyota's current hybrid differential of 500,000 yen (some $4,240) to compete.

Recent reports say that Toyota wants the profit from a hybrid car to be on par with a conventional gas-only car by 2010.

Other rumors on the net indicate the Prius will come in three different sizes, ranging from a compact to a full size sedan. With the popularity of the prius and given Toyotas stated goal of selling one million hybrids worldwide a year in 2010, this could be a smart move on their part to capitalize on the namesake.

Sources: Next-Generation Toyota Prius Promises Improved Mileage and Unique Styling
Ultra-Green: Radical 100-MPG Toyota Prius in the Works for 2009
Next Generation Prius: 94 MPG in 2008?
Rumors Rampant: Next-Gen 94MPG Prius by 2008?

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VW to Go Completely Hybrid?

There's a story on MonstersandCritics, which is quoting Germany's Auto Bild newspaper, claiming VW wants to offer a hybrid version for every model in as little as two years. Considering they don't have any hybrids today, that would be a tall order.

According to this article, VW is considering both mild and full hybrids. In past reports, VW was promising a small hybrid (Golf and/or Jetta) which would be a mild hybrid. A full hybrid version of the Tourag was scheduled for 2010.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gas Price Plus Sticker Price Means Hybrid? just released a list of the top 10 cars for different car segments that deliver the best 'bang for the buck,' or in this case, the best lifetime cost when you add the sticker price and the gas price together.

I was perusing the list (see the press release below) and I noticed for midsize cars, the Prius was right at number 6 despite being surrounded by vehicles which cost $6,000 less. Then I looked at the SUVS list and I noticed the Saturn Vue listed at number 5, while the Saturn Vue Hybrid was listed at number 10.

No other hybrid made the list. That's because the base sticker price for most hybrids is much higher than the top 10 vehicles listed. But at the same time, hybrids tend to get all the high-tech gadgets, so keep that in mind when you do look at the sticker price.

Another thing to keep in mind is this is a very simplistic calculation on the lifetime cost of a car. Sticker price and gas price (calculated over an eight year period), are just the basics. Off the top of my head, there's also dealership rebates, sales, insurance and maintenance costs. For hybrids, you should also look at the federal tax credit (how much you can get depends on your financial situation, which make it is and which model), local and state tax breaks, free parking, access to the HOV, etc... All of these things should go into your decision-making process, not just the gas price.

Press Release Follows:

CHICAGO, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- As the price of gas continues to reach
record highs, more car shoppers are making fuel efficiency a top priority.
While gas mileage typically takes center stage, combining the sticker price
of a car with its predicted lifetime fuel cost can offer consumers a guide
to their overall savings during the lifetime of a car.
"Hybrid cars get a lot of attention when gas prices start to rise. They
certainly can save money at the pump and are typically better for the
environment," said Patrick Olsen, managing editor. "However, not
everyone can afford to own a hybrid, and some consumers have needs that are
not met by hybrids. If your primary goal is to save money, there may be
better options." ( looks at the top 10 cars in various
vehicle segments that deliver the best bang for the buck based on vehicle
price and average lifetime fuel costs. The Toyota Yaris tops the list with
a base price slightly more than $11,000 for a two-door hatchback and
average fuel economy of 34 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.
The list was compiled by combining the base sticker price with a fuel
cost estimate based on the car's estimated gas mileage. Fuel cost estimates
assume the car will be driven 15,000 miles per year, with 45 percent of
those miles on the highway and 55 percent on city streets. The cost of
regular unleaded gasoline in the estimate is $3.13 per gallon, and it
assumes the car is owned for eight years. Premium fuel costs are estimated
at $3.44 per gallon.
Top Compact Cars City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Toyota Yaris 34/40 $11,150 $10,301 $21,451
2. Hyundai Accent 32/35 $10,415 $11,285 $21,700
3. Kia Rio 32/35 $10,770 $11,285 $22,055
4. Chevrolet Aveo5 27/37 $9,995 $12,219 $22,214
5. Chevrolet Aveo 27/37 $12,010 $12,219 $24,229
6. Nissan Versa 30/34 $12,550 $11,857 $24,407
7. Honda Fit 33/38 $13,850 $10,708 $24,558
8. Toyota Corolla 32/41 $14,305 $10,578 $24,883
9. Saturn Ion 26/35 $12,300 $12,775 $25,075
10. Kia Spectra 27/33 $12,895 $12,773 $25,668

Top Midsize Cars City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Hyundai Elantra 28/36 $13,395 $12,073 $25,468
2. Dodge Caliber 28/32 $13,725 $12,660 $26,385
3. Toyota Matrix 30/36 $15,410 $11,581 $26,991
4. Suzuki Aerio 25/31 $14,299 $13,715 $28,014
5. Pontiac Vibe 30/36 $16,760 $11,581 $28,341
6. Toyota Prius 60/51 $22,175 $6,757 $28,932
7. Kia Optima 24/34 $16,355 $13,579 $29,934
8. Nissan Altima 26/35 $17,950 $12,775 $30,725
9. Chevrolet Malibu 24/34 $17,215 $13,579 $30,794
10. Hyundai Sonata 24/34 $17,345 $13,579 $30,924

Top Full-Size Cars City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Chevrolet Impala 21/31 $21,015 $15,289 $36,304
2. Dodge Charger 21/28 $22,100 $15,874 $37,974
3. Ford Five Hundred 21/29 $23,035 $15,665 $38,700
4. Dodge Magnum 21/28 $23,245 $15,874 $39,119
5. Mercury Montego 21/29 $23,835 $15,665 $39,500
6. Toyota Avalon 22/31 $24,320 $15,874 $40,194
7. Buick Lucerne 19/28 $26,875 $14,842 $41,717
8. Kia Amanti 19//26 $25,745 $16,909 $42,654
9. Chrysler 300 21/28 $25,495 $17,373 $42,868
10. Ford Crown Victoria 17/25 $24,620 $18,913 $43,533

Top Luxury Cars City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Volvo S40* 22/29 $24,240 $16,726 $40,966
2. Hyundai Azera 19/28 $24,235 $16,909 $41,144
3. Chrysler Pacifica 18/25 $24,460 $18,237 $42,697
4. Volvo V50* 22/29 $26,690 $16,726 $43,416
5. Lexus IS 250* 24/32 $30,255 $15,265 $45,520
7. Lincoln MKZ 19/27 $29,305 $17,133 $46,438
6. Volvo V70* 22/29 $30,045 $16,726 $46,771
8. Cadillac CTS 18/27 $29,925 $17,737 $47,662
9. Volvo S60* 21/30 $30,885 $17,003 $47,888
10. Mercedes-Benz C230* 19/25 $29,650 $19,380 $49,030
* Premium fuel is recommended by the manufacturer for these cars. Premium
fuel costs of $3.44 a gallon were used in these calculations.

Top Minivans City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Mazda5 22/27 $17,735 $15,650 $33,385
2. Dodge Caravan 20/26 $19,055 $16,830 $35,885
3. Chevrolet Uplander 18/25 $20,205 $18,237 $38,442
4. Kia Sedona 18/25 $20,695 $18,237 $38,932
5. Chrysler Town & Country19/26 $21,695 $17,373 $39,068
6. Saturn Relay 18/25 $21,570 $18,237 $39,807
7. Toyota Sienna 19/26 $24,155 $17,373 $41,528
8. Hyundai Entourage 18/25 $23,895 $18,237 $42,132
9. Ford Freestar 17/23 $23,705 $19,500 $43,205
10. Honda Odyssey 18/25 $25,645 $18,237 $43,882

Top SUVs City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Jeep Patriot 26/30 $14,425 $13,579 $28,004
2. Jeep Compass 26/30 $15,425 $13,579 $29,004
3. Kia Sportage 23/28 $15,900 $15,018 $30,918
4. Hyundai Tucson 23/28 $16,995 $15,018 $32,013
5. Saturn Vue 23/29 $17,475 $14,810 $32,285
6. Ford Escape 24/29 $19,320 $14,436 $33,756
7. Toyota RAV4 24/30 $20,950 $14,242 $35,192
8. Honda CR-V 23/30 $20,600 $14,616 $35,216
9. Honda Element 21/25 $18,900 $16,598 $35,498
10. Saturn Vue Hybrid 27/32 $22,870 $12,933 $35,803

Top Pickup Trucks City/Hwy Base Lifetime Sticker &
mpg Sticker Fuel Cost Lifetime Fuel
1. Ford Ranger 24/29 $13,860 $14,436 $28,296
2. Toyota Tacoma 23/28 $14,180 $15,018 $29,198
3. Mazda B2300 24/29 $15,535 $14,436 $29,971
4. Chevrolet Colorado 20/26 $14,085 $16,830 $30,915
5. GMC Canyon 20/26 $14,235 $16,830 $31,065
6. Nissan Frontier 22/25 $16,050 $16,151 $32,201
7. Isuzu i-290 20/26 $16,989 $16,830 $33,819
8. Chevrolet Silverado Classic17/21 $15,840 $20,260 $36,100
9. GMC Sierra Classic 17/21 $15,840 $20,260 $36,100
10. Mazda B3000 18/23 $19,040 $18,825 $37,865
For a more complete guide to fuel economy, including cars that get the
best gas mileage, information on alternative fuel technology and
fuel-savings tips, visit

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New York Taxis Are Going Hybrid

Hybrid TaxiMayor Michael Bloomberg is setting new standards for taxis in New York that call fro very strict emissions and mileage standards by next year. By October of 2005, 1,000 taxis will be required to be hybrid. After 5 years, the whole taxi fleet of 13,000 vehicles will be hybrid.

In October 2008, taxis will be required to achieve a minimum of 25 miles per gallon (which means the Crown Vic is out). A year later, all new vehicles must get 30 miles per gallon and be hybrid

New York has been a testbed for hybrid taxis for the past couple of years. There are currently 375 hybrid taxis on the road in New York today.

Ford reported that the 18 Escape Hybrids used as taxis that were part of the original test fleet passed the 175,000 mile mark back in April. Back in June of 2006, over 250 medallions were put up for sale for taxis that were also hybrids.

According to all the reports I've seen, hybrid taxis have been doing well in NY, San Francisco and elsewhere. The drivers like spending so much less on gas each day, while the fleet owners appreciate spending less on brakes and oil changes. Local politicians like to talk about the green aspects such as low emissions.

"There's an awful lot of taxicabs on the streets of New York City," Bloomberg said. "These cars just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes.

"This does a lot less. It's a lot better for all of us," he said of the hybrid plan.

Update: Ford released a press release following the announcement by the Mayor on things they would like you to know about the Ford Escape Hybrid Taxis
    Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi Facts
-- Most fuel-Efficient SUV on Earth: EPA rated at 34 miles per gallon in
city driving, the front-wheel drive Escape Hybrid is the most fuel-
efficient SUV on earth, and can provide drivers 500 miles to a tank.

-- Taxi Drivers Save $30 Per Shift: According to San Francisco cab driver
Paul Gillespie, driving an Escape Hybrid saves him up to $30 per shift.
Working four shifts a week for a year could equal more than $6,000.

-- Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV) Certified: The Escape Hybrid
dramatically reduces smog-forming emissions, as it meets the cleanest
emissions standard available for a vehicle that uses fossil fuels --
California's AT-PZEV standard. Over 100,000 miles the Escape Hybrid
will conserve approximately 1,666 gallons of gas over a traditional
cab, effectively preventing 32,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

-- Reliability and Durability is Key for Taxi Use: The Escape Hybrid is
proving to be remarkably durable, capable of surviving around-the-clock
use in one of the most severe driving conditions any vehicle will face.
This durability is backed by a standard 8-year / 100,000-mile limited
warranty for unique hybrid components, including the battery pack.

-- Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner Hybrid Have Highest Tax Credits: Because
the real world fuel economy of the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner
Hybrids increased for the 2008 model year, the Federal income tax
credits available now are $3,000 for FWD models (up $400) and $2,200 on
4WD models (up $250). The Ford and Mercury Hybrids now have the
highest tax credit of any hybrid -- up to $900 more than the closest
competitor. For both vehicles, the new EPA-certified fuel economy for
FWD models is 34 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, and 29 mpg city and 27
mpg highway for AWD models.

-- Insurance Discounts for Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner Hybrids:
Travelers, one of the largest providers of personal insurance products
in the United States, offers hybrid drivers in the states of
California, New Jersey, Texas, New York, Maryland, Florida, Kentucky,
Georgia and Washington discounts of up to 10 percent on certain
coverages. The company estimates their hybrid policy business grew by
200 percent in 2006.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

How to Buy a Used Hybrid

When it comes to buying used cars, you probably know the smart things to do.

  • Get a lifetime report.
  • Check the price at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or
  • Know who you're dealing with.
  • Don't be afraid to bargain.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away.
  • Make sure you test drive it.
  • Get a mechanic to look over the engine.
But, put the word hybrid into that phrase 'buying a used car' and you have a different story. Suddenly, people are unsure of what to look for. They have questions and insecurities they didn't feel before. And like the housing market a few years ago, you don't have a lot of time to think it over. Wait a week and that used Prius you had your eye on is gone.

The Biggest Question Mark?
The biggest question on everyone's minds when buying a used hybrid: How long does the battery pack last? Everyone has heard it would be very expensive to replace the battery and, not surprisingly, they don't want to spend thousands of dollars to maintain a used vehicle.

The truth is the battery pack is expensive, very expensive. It can cost several thousand dollars to buy a new one. But, don't despair. There are a few simple things you can do to alleviate those worries.

Check the Miles and the Warranty
First, it's even more important to know how many miles there are on a used hybrid car. If the used hybrid has a transferable warranty , and it should, then you need to know how many miles it covers. It can vary from 80,000 to 100,000 to 150,000 miles. (Note: the 80 or 100K mile warranty is more likely.) That way, you know you're covered if the battery pack fails.

Your Local Mechanic
Second, having your trusted mechanic look it over may not be good enough. You may need to take it to a dealership. Almost all the engine parts are the same and should be treated as such. But the electric motor and battery pack may be foreign territory for your local mechanic. If you have a trusted mechanic, ask him/her if they are comfortable looking at a hybrid. If they start talking about getting electrocuted, they haven't worked with hybrids before. Instead, take it to a dealership that sells hybrids. They may charge you for it, but it will be worth the money.

Reliability Issues
Hybrids tend to be highly reliable from all reports, and that includes the battery pack. Hybrid owners tend to be highly satisfied consumers. But don't just assume that to be true for this hybrid. Have the history checked. You don't want to find out it was totaled and then repaired last year. Car reports aren't necessarily reliable, so again, make sure a mechanic looks it over.

Ask about the Mileage
If you buy from a private owner, ask them about their fuel economy. Most likely, given gas prices today, that's what you're interested in. So don't be afraid to ask about gas receipts or any other records they may have. They may be proud of what they've been getting and may present you with a report. Also, don't rely solely on the fuel gauge most hybrids come with. That can be reset at any time.

Tax Credits and Other Benefits
When you buy used, you are not eligible for the federal tax credits. If you live in California or another state where solo access to the HOV lane is possible, check for a sticker. The sticker goes with the vehicle, not the owner.

Last Piece of Advice
Don't be afraid to walk away. Hybrids were scarce a few years ago, but that's no longer the case. You still may not find one at your local dealer, and even if you do, they still won't stay there for very long. But don't panic into rushing into buying something. You can always look online or wait until the next one comes along. They may still be rare, but they aren't that rare.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lexus LS 600h Released in Japan

Toyota released the Lexus LS 600h and 600h L today in Japan. The new luxury hybrid will show up in the North America, Europe and other markets starting in June. (The L stands for Long and the h is for hybrid.) Set to sell for over $100,000, this vehicle is not for the light of pocket.

The LS 600h is a full hybrid, capable of operating in electric-only mode for short distances at low speeds. The 5.0-liter V8 gasoline engine is mated to two powerful electric motors and a 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) compact battery pack installed behind the rear seat that is lighter and extremely quiet. Lexus engineers claim the V8 is equivalent to a conventional 12 cylinder in power.

At the same time, the fuel economy is set to what a luxury six cylinder is capable of. The preliminary EPA ratings set the LS 600h L at 20 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined.

LS hybrid is expected to receive a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rating. A SULEV rating means it will be nearly 70 percent cleaner smog forming emissions than vehicles with a conventional internal combustion engine.

Since the gas engine can and will shut down when the vehicle comes to a stop, the power-steering system and air-conditioning compressor are electrically powered to reduce parasitic losses to the engine. The trunk also contains a 12-volt auxiliary battery that powers the audio, navigation, and other systems. A regenerative braking system further boosts fuel efficiency by recapturing energy normally lost in braking.

The 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 LS hybrid engine delivers a combined 438 horsepower with a dual-stage electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. The luxury hybrid is capable of accelerating from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Even more impressive, the electric motor assists the gas engine in passing maneuvers. The LS 600h L rapidly accelerates from 50-70 mph in a rapid 3.5 seconds.

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.

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EPA Proposal for Single Occupancy in HOV Lanes

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users Act (SAFETEA-LU) requires the EPA to issue regulations for certifying vehicles as "low emission and energy-efficient." The EPA released their proposal today.

In order to qualify for an exemption, the EPA is proposing that vehicles under 8,500 lbs meet both low emission and energy efficient guidelines.

To the EPA, low emission means the vehicle is certified to either the federal Tier 2 bin 5 (or cleaner) or California LEV II emission standards.

To be energy efficient, the vehicle must be a dedicated alternative fuel vehicle or a hybrid that achieves 50 percent or better in-city fuel economy or 25 percent or better in combined city/highway fuel economy when compared to a similar gasoline fueled vehicle. In other words, the Escape Hybrid is compared to the Escape. The Civic Hybrid is compared to the Civic.

Which is why some hybrids do not qualify. As of right now, only the Honda Civic Hybrid, the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius are allowed in the HOV lane in California. The new rules for who makes the grade (pdf).

Update: CNN has posted their list of vehicles that get passing marks from the EPA:

Only four manufacturers -- Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. -- make vehicles that would qualify. A limited number of natural gas vehicles built by Honda and Ford also would meet the standards.

The qualifying vehicles include: the 2004-07 Toyota Prius, 2006-07 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 2006-07 Lexus RX400h, 2006 Mazda Tribute Hybrid, 2005-07 Ford Escape Hybrid, 2006-07 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, 2003-07 Honda Civic Hybrid, 2003-06 Honda Insight and 2005 and 2007 models of the Honda Accord Hybrid.

Natural gas versions of the 2003-05 Honda Civic and 2003-2004 Ford Crown Victoria would apply, too.

Some of the vehicles that would not qualify include the luxury Lexus GS450h Hybrid, DaimlerChrysler AG's Dodge Ram Hybrid and General Motors Corp.'s Saturn Vue Greenline Hybrid.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Small Vehicle and Hybrid Sales Are Benefitting From the Rise in Gas Price

JD Powers is reporting through their Power Information Network (PIN) rising gas prices are moving some owners of large and midsize trucks into smaller vehicles. They are also seeing a similar pattern for hybrid electric cars. As gas prices increase, so do hybrid car sales.

The study shows that from February to April, as gas prices rose to all time highs ($3.10 a gallon nationwide average), owner loyalty is being affected. Midsize and large utility vehicle owners have moved into smaller vehicles. At the same time, owner loyalty within small vehicles segment has increased. The small vehicle segment includes cars and light trucks.

There have been increased sales seen in four cylinder engines from 27.5 percent to 35.7 percent from April 2004 to April 2007. Time to turn (the number of days a car spends on a dealership lot before being sold) has also decreased for new and used small vehicles as gas price rise.

It should be noted that large and midsize cars, small crossovers and small SUVS have remained relatively unchanged.

These patterns are very similar to those seen in 2006 when gas prices rose.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

20 in 10 Proposal

President Bush, in his State of the Union speech, outlined a "Twenty in Ten" plan in which the the US would cut gasoline consumption by twenty percent over the next ten years.

The Twenty in Ten plan has so far consisted of two Legislative Proposals

1. Increasing The Supply Of Renewable And Other Alternative Fuels By Setting A Mandatory Fuels Standard To Require The Equivalent Of 35 Billion Gallons Of Renewable And Other Alternative Fuels In 2017 – Nearly Five Times The 2012 Target Now In Law. In 2017, this will displace 15 percent of projected annual gasoline use.

2. Reforming And Modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards For Cars And Extending The Current Light Truck Rule. In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and other alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.

Back in April, the Supreme Court ruled the EPA must take action under the Clean Air Act regarding greenhouse Gas emissions from motor vehicles. And so President Bush took the first step today towards such regulation by issuing an Executive Order for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) And The U.S. Departments Of Energy (DOE), Transportation (DOT), And Agriculture (USDA).

Bush directed the above agencies to require coordination between the agencies when developing any regulations regarding greenhouse emissions from "motor vehicles, nonroad vehicles, and nonroad engines proceed in a manner consistent with sound science, analysis of benefits and costs, public safety, and economic growth." Such regulation should be developed by the end of 2008.

References: The Presidents Executive Order and Twenty in Ten Fact Sheet

Steve Johnson, Administrator of the EPA had the following to say in response to the Executive Order (source: Green Car Congress and the following transcript)

We will solicit comments on a proposed rule from a broad array of stakeholders and other interested members of the public. Our ultimate decision must reflect a thorough consideration of public comments and an evaluation of how it fits within the scope of the Clean Air Act. Only after EPA has issued a proposal and considered public comments can it finalize a regulation.
Dave McCurdy, President & CEO of the Alliance, released the following press release in response to President Bush
"Automakers support reforming and raising car fuel economy standards, consistent with the need to preserve jobs and consumer choice. Determining the right level for the future will require sound science and engineering, in an open process that involves everyone. Automakers support DOT and NHTSA continuing to set fuel economy standards, and we believe that NHTSA should begin a rulemaking now to implement the President’s plan.

"The Alliance pledges to work constructively with Congress and the administration to help reduce oil consumption and carbon dioxide, while at the same time preserving the diverse range of automobiles that consumers require today."

"Automakers have put more than 10 million alternative fuel autos, including hybrids, diesel and ethanol-capable vehicles, U.S. roads, and we need more alternative fuels to power them."

Background on CAFE and CO2

· Automakers join policymakers in wanting to accelerate the introduction of fuel-efficient technologies on our roads, and Alliance members support raising fuel economy standards to the maximum feasible level that balances technological feasibility, affordability, jobs and safety.

· Extreme, unrealistic CAFE increases could force manufacturers into offering vehicles for sale that do not match up with consumer demand for versatility, performance, affordability, and passenger and cargo space. If higher standards make vehicles less attractive to consumers, vehicle sales will drop, negatively impacting auto dealers, suppliers, automakers, and the U.S. economy.

· Automakers have long been contributing solutions on energy security, vehicle efficiency, and climate change. The CAFE program has regulated the amount of carbon emissions from cars and trucks for the past 30 years – unlike any other part of the transportation sector.

· As Congress focuses on climate change, it should consider a broader set of policies beyond just CAFE to reduce CO2. The transport sector comprises a complex system of fuel providers, automobiles, and consumers, and each has a role to play if we are to meaningfully reduce oil consumption and CO2 emissions.

Background on Alternative Fuels

· Automakers commend President Bush for encouraging the development of alternative fuel automobiles and alternative fuels. Currently automakers are selling 60 models of alternative fuel automobiles including ethanol-capable E-85, hybrid electric, clean diesel and more. (A list of vehicles can be found at

· The Alliance supports improved energy conservation and energy security, and automakers advocate developing U.S. transportation energy policy that is comprehensive involving all sectors of the economy. Reducing petroleum consumption is a shared responsibility.

· Automakers are working with the energy industry to develop a range of alternative fuels capable of sustaining mobility while ensuring more secure energy sources. Alliance members have forged more than 25 partnerships, joint ventures or research and development projects with energy producers to expand the fueling infrastructure for fuels such as ethanol, biomass and hydrogen.

The Alliance represents 9 manufacturers including BMW, DaimlerChrsysler, Ford, GM, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

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Nissan Technology Center Will Focus on Hybrid Engine

Nissan opened up a technology center in Atsugi, just west of Tokyo. Nissan has said it expects to have its own hybrid engine by 2010.

Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn has been cautious in his approach to hybrid cars. And so Nissans first hybrid, the Altima Hybrid, was built using technology from Toyota. But Nissan wants to go their own way.

Part of that reluctance has been a lack of funds to do research since their near total collapse in 1999. Only their partnership with Renault SA saved them.

Nissan is also developing a "three-liter car" capable of traveling 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, on just three liters -- or about three quarts -- of gasoline. The company hopes to unveil a new model in Japan in 2010.

Source:Nissan opens technology center

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Toyota Looks to Increase Profits on Hybrids

According to a Reuters report, Toyota vice president Masatami Takimoto was quoted as predicting Toyota will be making just as much money on a hybrid car as they do on a conventional gas-only engine by 2010. They are also hoping Toyota will be selling only hybrids by 2020.

By making the Prius a mainstream vehicle, they are that much closer to their sales goal of one million hybrids annually by 2010. By doing so, they will be able to cut down on construction costs.

Rumors are circulating lately that Toyota is looking to split the Prius into three types. By building a hybrid compact, midsize and fullsize sedan under the Prius name, they are hoping to capitalize on the brand.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Ford Fusion Hybrid Debut?

Ford may be debuting the Ford Fusion Hybrid at the LA Auto Show, although it may be pushed back to the Detroit show (Source: Super Ford Hybrid Potential: Over The Back Fence: Ford Fusion Hybrid To Debut At LA Auto Show? - Jalopnik). The Fusion hybrid is currently due in 2009.

Ford plans on releasing three hybrids in the near future: the Fusion Hybrid, the Mercury Milan Hybrid and the Mazda Tribute Hybrid.

Related: Leftlanenews had a spy shot of the Fusion Hybrid engine back in December.

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More Benefits for Driving a Hybrid

San Antonio started a program to allow hybrid owners free parking at any of the meters in town. The council, in their effort to promote air quality, decided to continue the program.

170 hybrids have already signed up for the program.

Ikea decided to reward hybrid owners with great parking in Canada. The program starts May 16 and includes any low-emissions vehicle.

"At this time we're saying hybrids but it's really open to people driving what we also are considering low-emission vehicles — anything that falls under the recent federal government incentive program would apply," Ikea spokeswoman Debbie McDowell said.

Ikea is also asking anyone who is loading their car at the loading dock to turn the engine off.

Related: Home Depot started a similar parking for low emissions program (at least out in Chicago). Logan Airport in Boston made hybrids preferential and Portland gave free parking spots to hybrid cars.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Toyota Prius is the Most Satisfying to Own (UK)

According to the most recent J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? magazine 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) StudySM released today, the Toyota Prius is the most satisfying for new-car owners. It tied with the Lexus IS for the top ranking for models included in the study.

The Prius received 868 index points out of 1,000. Prius owners were most satisfied with day-to-day operating costs, vehicle quality, appeal and dealer service.

I wonder if the high satisfaction with day-to-day operating costs was not only about the fuel economy, but the congestion charge in London.

The Press Release follows:

LONDON: 10 May 2007 – For the first time, a hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, is the highest-ranking model in satisfying new-car owners, according to the J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? magazine 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) StudySM released today. The Prius ties with the Lexus IS for the top ranking among models included in the study.

Following the Prius and Lexus IS, the top 10 model rankings are dominated by Japanese models from Toyota, Honda and Lexus, although Škoda makes an excellent showing with the Octavia and Fabia ranking fifth and seventh overall.

Highlighting the growing focus on environmentally friendly cars, the Toyota Prius receives 868 index points on a 1,000 point scale and earns particularly high ratings in ownership costs. Prius owners are most satisfied with day-to-day operating costs and also report high satisfaction for vehicle quality, vehicle appeal and dealer service.

“The Prius clearly demonstrates that car owners think green is good,” said Steve Fowler, editor of What Car? magazine. “We know that there’s an increase in consumer interest in environmentally friendly cars here in the UK, and with the Prius topping the model rankings in the 2007 study, we may be seeing a trend emerging in people’s thinking about these vehicles.”

In the nameplate rankings, luxury Japanese brand Lexus ranks highest for a seventh consecutive year, receiving a customer satisfaction score of 862 index points. Lexus continues to receive particularly high ratings in three of the four key measures: quality/reliability, service satisfaction and vehicle appeal. Following Lexus in the rankings are Honda and Škoda in a tie at 845 points, Toyota (832) and Daihatsu (824).

Mercedes-Benz is the most improved nameplate in 2007, increasing 12 points from 2006. Other notable improvements include Citroën, MG Rover and Land Rover.

“Mercedes-Benz has made impressive strides over the past two years, with major improvements in vehicle quality and dealer service making a strong impact on satisfaction with the overall ownership experience,” said Frank Parisi, director of European automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. “It is also particularly notable to see a hybrid car perform so well, and that the increasing popularity amongst UK consumers for the green credentials of this car seems to be matched by levels of ownership satisfaction.”

The 2007 UK Car Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study is based on the evaluations of more than 18,000 UK car owners after an average of two years of ownership. The study includes 33 brands and 113 models. Owners provide detailed evaluations of their vehicles and dealers, which covers 77 attributes grouped in four measurements of satisfaction. In order of importance, they are:

* Quality and reliability (30%)
* Vehicle appeal (28%), which includes performance, design, comfort and features
* Dealer service satisfaction (22%)
* Ownership costs (19%), which includes fuel consumption, insurance and costs of service/repair

J.D. Power and Associates conducts CSI studies around the world, including Europe (France, Germany, United Kingdom); North America (Canada, Mexico, United States); Asia Pacific (China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand); and Africa (South Africa).

The annual J.D. Power and Associates/What Car? study is designed to help manufacturers provide high levels of satisfaction to their customers, and gives consumers access to reliable and accurate information about many different vehicle models. More comprehensive study results are published exclusively in the July issue of What Car? on sale Thursday, 10 May, 2007.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Intelligent Cars vs Hybrid Cars

Intelligent Cars are outfitted with sensors that query other cars on the road for oncoming road conditions. This allows the car to avoid the stop-start that costs so much in fuel. The sensor and network system goes under the name telematics.

Engineers at the University of Melbourne in Australia compared hybrid technology against intelligent cars. The paper is being described at physorg. I found the article to be condescending to hybrids (I mean, why say 'vaunted' hybrid vehicles? Of course, that brings up the question of whether you can be condescending to a type of car, but I'm getting off track.) The study shows that telematics can improve fuel economy.

The researchers calculated hybrid technology would deliver 15 to 25 percent increased fuel economy over a non-converted vehicle. Then they calculated the savings telematics using three different driving cycles (I'm not sure what a driving cycle is), the Australian, the US and the European driving cycle.

The intelligent car was able to match the hybrid for fuel savings when it was able to sense the road ahead for as little as seven seconds when in the Australian driving cycle. For the US or European drive cycles, it took 60 seconds of look-ahead ability to match a hybrid. If the car was able to look ahead 180 seconds, the intelligent car was able to beat out the hybrid by 33 percent.

The obvious point I would make is why not outfit a hybrid with the technology to see what it could do. I'm assuming since the whole point is to avoid stop-start, the savings would not be as dramatic, since full hybrids turn the engine off when coasting to a stop anyways, but you would be able to avoid some of the acceleration cost.

Then there are the other issues surround intelligent cars. Safety aside, my first question would be who is driving the car, you or the computer?

Secondly, hypermilers already use this system by looking ahead and making smarter choices about approaching lights. Why do we need a (probably) very expensive system?

Then there's the question about privacy. If your car is communicating with other vehicles in this network, who's looking after the network.

Then, of course, there are some people who would absolutely refuse to coast up to lights, anyways. How would that affect such a network?

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Senate Committe Passes Fuel Efficiency Proposal

The Senate Commerce Committee passed a fuel efficiency proposal which could be taken up by the full Senate as early as June. The new bill would require the fleets of cars, trucks, and SUVs to improve fuel efficiency by four percent annually beginning in 2011 and average 35 mpg by 2020.

The House has its own version, which tends to emphasize alternative fuels, rather than working with Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).

Newly updated standards say light trucks must get 24 mpg by 2011. Car standards have not been updated for nearly 20 years, but the standard says cars must average 27.5 mpg.

Automakers have been campaigning against these proposals, saying it may cost them $114 billion to comply.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Honda is Next

The IRS certified GM and Nissan have not hit the 60,000 unit limit on sales for the tax credit phase out period to begin today.

Toyota is almost at the end of their phase out, and Honda will most likely hit their limit in August or September this year, triggering their phase out.

The federal tax credit has a complicated system in place to limit the number of consumers who can claim the credit. Those who buy qualifying vehicles may claim the full tax credit (the amount varies by model) up to the end of the first quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records the sale of its 60,000th qualified vehicle. For the second and third quarters after the quarter in which the limit is reached, the credit is cut in half. Two quarters after that, the credit is cut in half again (so it is one quarter of the full credit amount). After two more quarters pass, the credit is phased out completely.

The phase out period was intended as a domestic incentive policy, since it was known right from the beginning that domestic automakers would be likely to hit the limit later than Toyota or Honda.

Toyota triggered the phase out period back in June, 2006. Which means anyone buying a Toyota or Lexus hybrid today may only claim one fourth of the full tax credit, and that's only if they qualify. If you buy from Toyota after September 30, 2007, you will not be able to claim any credit.

Nissan, Ford and GM
According to the IRS, GM sold 2,927 qualifying vehicles in the first quarter bringing their total up to 8,485 units. Nissan sold 2,094 units in the first quarter. Ford, according to my spreadsheet, has sold just over 30,000 units since January of 2006. So, none of the three automakers are likely to hit the 60,000 unit limit any time soon.

Honda Will Soon Hit the Federal Tax Credit Limit
Honda has sold over 48,000 units since January of 2006. At their current rate of sales, they will hit the 60,000 limit in another 4 months or so. If they do so, the IRS will trigger their phase out in October of 2007. And, if I'm keeping this all straight, that means their credits will be cut in half in January, 2008.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Hybrid Electric Cars -- The Top Five

While there is a lot of buzz surrounding hybrid electric cars right now, there seems to be a lot of misinformation relating to them, as well. I'll be trying to guide you through some of that I as I talk about the top five hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) that are available today.

The Five Best Hybrid Cars

1) The Toyota PriusToyota Prius
The Toyota Prius is the best hybrid car. As of right now, half of all hybrids sold are Prius and there are many reasons for that. Most hybrids today look like and act like regular gas-only cars. The only way you can tell most hybrids are hybrids is by the badging automakers put on the sides and rear paneling. Not so with the Prius.

Its unique design, has been harshly criticized by consumers who think it is just ugly. But the truth is the design is not there to please the eye. The lines and shape are designed to help the Prius cut through the air, thereby giving it the best fuel economy possible. A midsize sedan capable of 55 mpg combined, the Prius will only cost less to run than most sub-compacts. That high mileage rating gives the Prius the lowest emissions rating. According to, the Prius emits only 3.5 tons of greenhouse gas each year and it's regularly awarded top honors when the 'Green' awards are presented.

2) Honda Civic HybridHonda Civic Hybrid Electric
At a combined 50 mpg, the Honda Civic Hybrid gives the Prius a run for its money. But it is smaller (the Civic is a compact) and not as distinctive as the Prius. And so, just driving down the street won't announce your attempt to save the world as loudly as if you were buying a Prius. And the sales reflect that.

The only issues Honda has with the Civic Electric Hybrid is its size and the inevitable comparison. There's not much Honda can do about the size. Although the Prius is not much bigger and it has that weird shape, the Civic is smaller. Since the Prius gets better fuel economy, it also emits fewer greenhouse gases. And so the Civic suffers in comparison to the its hybrid competition. Not only that, but its next closest rival is usually sitting right next to it on the lot. Many times, consumers will switch to the gas only hybrid Civic because it is cheaper and because it already gets great gas mileage. Honda has announced it will be producing a hybrid only vehicle in an effort to compete.

Put it all together and you get the second best hybrid car.

3a and 3b) Nissan Altima Electric Hybrid and Toyota Camry Electric HybridNissan Altima Hybrid Electric
The Nissan Altima Hybrid Electric Car is a great hybrid. Not only is the Altima a fun car to drive, it also comes with Toyotas Hybrid Synergy Drive which has been proven to be reliable. But therein lies the rub for Nissan. Since it does not have its own hybrid technology, yet, they claim they lose money on each hybrid sold. They have promised a hybrid car of their own by the next decade, but in the meantime, they are very reluctant to sell hybrids at all.

And so Nissan has limited sales of its lone hybrid to just eight states. The pr statement says they are limiting sales to those states with the most interest in hybrids. What comes closer to the truth is the Altima Hybrid Electric Car is being sold in only those states with the highest emissions rating.

But the Altima Hybrid is a great hybrid to own. It gets a combined 39 mpg and has a huge gas tank (20.0 gallons) which means you can go 702 miles between fill-ups. Its also rated just above the Toyota Camry Hybrid in greenhouse gas emissions.

Toyota Camry Hybrid ElectricWhich brings us to the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Camry is one of the top selling vehicles on the planet. The Camry Hybrid became the second most popular hybrid on the road almost immediately on its release. And it's not hard to see why. The Camry Hybrid also gets 39 mpg combined. Unlike the Prius, it does not come in that weird shape. And unlike the Civic, its not a compact. More room inside (not a lot more room, but enough to make you comfortable) and more room in the trunk means the Camry Hybrid, like the Nissan Altima Hybrid, are more practical choices than the Civic Hybrid. So, if you don't mind sacrificing some fuel economy for comfort, but don't want that funky shape, the Camry or Altima Hybrid Electric Cars could be just right for you.

5) Ford Escape HybridFord Escape Hybrid Electric
Number 5 is actually hard to pick. There are several other HEVs available including Saturns Aura and Vue Greenline, the Lexus GS 450h, RX 400h and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. But the Escape Hybrid comes at a more reasonable price than the Lexus or Highlander Hybrids, while getting the best combined mpg (34 for FWD and 31 for 4WD) of the hybrid SUVs available today. The Saturn Hybrid Electric vehicles are termed mild hybrids, and as such are incapable of powering the vehicle on electric power alone.

The Ford Escape Electric Hybrid is a SUV hybrid. That gives it more room and gives the driver more options for those who are just interested in a sedan. While not as popular as the Highlander Hybrid, the Escape is a compact SUV that strives to get the most it can. The 2008 model is a big step up in terms of noise control and other features, while costing less than it used to. And if you want some luxury options, you could always upgrade to the Mercury Mariner Hybrid. The Escape and Mariner are basically the same vehicles, Mercury is just the luxury brand.

So, there you go. Those are my top five best hybrid cars. My ratings are based on my personal feelings, sales figures, dimensions, and probably most importantly, fuel economy. I don't believe hybrids would be as popular right now if gas prices weren't rising so dramatically. Despite the 'green' aspects involved (hybrids are usually at the front of the line when it comes to emissions ratings), its gasoline costs that are on the minds of most consumers today.

I won't go into any details, but here are some last pieces of information I have detailed elsewhere when it comes to looking into hybrid electric cars.

  1. You will save money in the long run (average of 3 to 5 years depending on the model) depending on how many miles you drive annually.
  2. Federal tax credits are nice, but now that they are phasing out for Toyota Hybrids, you may be able to get a deal.
  3. Some states offer rebates of their own. There are also some local perks to driving hybrids including solo access to HOV lanes and free parking.
  4. Some insurance companies will offer lower rates to hybrid car owners.
  5. If you don't mind driving a compact or subcompact, they may be a better deal for you. Anything larger than that and you should consider hybrids for their fuel savings if nothing else.
If you're curious, search around this site for any more information you might want to know about. Also, if you want to post a comment, I will respond as quickly as I can to it.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Hybrid Car Sales, April 2007

Hybrid Car Sales April 2007Hybrid car sales jumped to 27,351 units sold, an increase of 26.0% over last April. Toyota and, to be specific, the Prius are still the main driving force. Toyota sold 21,418 units, which means three out of every four hybrids sold last month were from Toyota or Lexus. Honda came in a distant second, selling 3,175 units. While Ford and Nissan sold 2,275 and 483 units, respectively. GM does not break out their (mild) hybrid cars sales and so are not included.

Toyota Hybrid Sales
Toyota sold 13,056 Prius units, an increase of 58.6% from last April. Which means almost half (47.7%) of all hybrids sold last month were Prius. Sales of the Prius were way down from March, but that may be due to the issues surrounding the federal tax credit. Percent Hybrid Sales April 2007The end of March marked the next phase for Toyota, which cut all Toyota models down to 25% of their original credit amounts. So its quite likely many customers got a rush order delivered in March to take advantage.

Highlander Hybrid sales were down 36.5% to 2,394 units sold. Camry Hybrid sales entered their second year of sales, hitting 4,410 units. The Camry Hybrid retained its position as the second most popular hybrid, capturing 16 percent of the market.

Lexus RX 400h sales decreased by 38.4% to 1,384 units. Lexus GS 450h sales were up as it started its second year of sales by increasing sales by 23.4% to 174 units sold.

Honda Hybrid Sales
Hybrid Car Sales April 2006 to April 2007Honda Hybrid sales were down last month. Accord Hybrid sales continue to suffer. They were down 48.2% from last year to 318 units sold. The Accord Hybrid was built for performance, not for fuel economy and sales have been dropping consistently. Honda Civic Hybrid sales also dropped 7.5% to 2,855 units sold. By capturing over 10 percent of the hybrid market, the Civic stayed in third place in the hybrid market. Honda also sold 2 Insights, the discontinued two-seater.

Ford and Nissan Hybrid Sales
Ford Escape and Mariner Hybrid sales dropped by 33.5% to 2,275 units sold. Nissan sold 483 units of the Altima hybrid. Nissan has chosen to sell the Altima Hybrid in just eight states, those who follow California's stricter emissions guidelines.

Hybrid SUV Sales
Of some note: hybrid SUV sales have decreased 35.8% from last April. Hybrid SUV sales have only increased twice in the past 11 months. Higher gas prices may be affecting even those SUVs with more fuel economy. Or, its possible these figures are being biased as some hybrid SUV buyers are going to the Saturn Vue Greenline, whose sales numbers I do not have.

These numbers should show some dramatic increases by the end of the year as GM and then DaimlerChrysler followed by BMW enter the hybrid SUV market with their dual-mode hybrid systems installed in their SUVs.

Overall Car Sales in April, 2007
April car sales were down 7.6% in the month of April. Only BMW, DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi showed increases from last April. According to some analysts, rising gas prices and a weak housing market have depressed the automotive market. The increase in hybrid car sales may be a sign of consumers moving to cars with higher fuel economy.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hybrid SUVs, Now and in the Future

Ford Escape Hybrid SUVYou have five choices if you're looking for a hybrid SUV today. There's the Ford Escape Hybrid/Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Lexus RX 400h and the Saturn Vue Greenline.

Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid -- SUV
The Ford Escape Hybrid and the Mercury Mariner Hybrid are twins, with the Mariner coming with more luxury components. The 2008 Ford Escape (4dr SUV AWD, 2.3L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) has a MSRP of $26,825, while the Mariner (4dr SUV AWD, 2.3L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) comes in at $27,515. They are rated at 152 ft-lbs. @ 4250 rpm and can seat 5 comfortably. They also have the smallest gas tank (15 gallons) and get about 29/27 city/highway mpg.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUVToyota Highlander Hybrid -- SUV
The Highlander Hybrid is bigger than the Escape Hybrid in most ways and it has a price tag to match. The 2007 Highlander Hybrid (4dr Midsize SUV AWD w/3rd Row, 3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) has an MSRP of $34,430. But you get a larger engine (6 cylinders vs the 4 in the Escape) and third row seating. You also get higher fuel economy at 31/27 city/highway mpg and a larger gas tank 17.2 gallons, which means you can go farther on each tank of gas.

Lexus RX 400h -- SUVLexus RX400h SUV
The RX 400h is the luxury SUV. Capable of getting 31/27 city/highway mpg, the 2007 400h (4dr SUV AWD, 3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT) has an MSRP of $42,580. But for that, you'll get all the options including a six disc CD player, lots of leather and trim, and more options for moving your seat around. You also get more horsepower (268 hp@5600 rpm), and more towing capacity (212 ft-lbs.@4400 rpm).

Saturn Vue Hybrid -- SUVSaturn Vue Hybrid SUV
The Vue Greenline, unlike the other hybrid SUVs available today, is a mild hybrid. Which means the engine cannot move the vehicle on electric power alone. The electric motor (through a Belt Assist System) is there to assist the gas engine. This gives the Vue an EPA rating of 27/32 mpg, allowing it to claim the number one spot for highway fuel economy. It also comes with the smallest price tag, with an MSRP of $22,370 for the 2007 model (4dr SUV, 2.4L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid 4A). The smaller engine does what it can, giving 170 hp@6600 rpm and a torque of 162 ft-lbs.@4400 rpm.

The Future of Hybrid SUVs
If you're not looking right now, but are willing to wait until the end of the year or even into next year, there are many more hybrid SUVs coming out soon. GM, BMW and DaimlerChrysler partnered together to develop the 2-mode (sometimes called dual-mode) hybrid system. The new hybrid system is promised to give each of the new hybrid SUVs 25% improvement in fuel economy.

GM will be first to market with the Yukon Hybrid and Tahoe Hybrid late this year. GM is also going to refit the Saturn Vue Hybrid with a dual mode engine next year. Chrysler should be releasing the hybrid Aspen (yeah, it's got a hemi) and the Dodge Durango hybrid sometime next year. BMW has promised hybrids in the next three years. And at some point, Mazda says it will release the Tribute Hybrid. The Tribute is a cousin to the Escape/Mariner, so the only question about the Tribute you should have is, what took so long?

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Gas Prices Opinion Survey

A new poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute which runs project indicates people are getting frustrated with high gas prices.

Expectations are low on price hikes, with 72 percent expecting $3.50 a gallon and 28 percent expect to see $4.00 a gallon this summer. Not surprisingly, 83 percent of those surveyed think price gouging is occurring at the pump.

If gas prices do hit $3.50 a gallon, around half of those surveyed will probably cut back on personal spending or travel. Also, 35 percent would be more likely to buy a hybrid or other highly fuel-efficient car.

More than three quarters feel the recent gas prices want more to be done about the high energy costs and our dependence on Middle Eastern oil (Democrats 88 percent, Republicans 64 percent and Independents at 79 percent). 67 percent feel the recent gas prices warrant government action to increase fuel efficiency standards (R-61, D-75, Ind-65).

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Chrysler Announces Hybrid Aspen for 2008

Chrysler, BMW, and GM got together and developed a dual-mode hybrid system they all can share. So far, GM has plans to release the Saturn Vue Hybrid as a dual-mode in 2008. The Silverado and GMC Sierra are also expected to be released next year with the two-mode hybrid system. The 2007 Yukon and Tahoe hybrids are coming soon. BMW will have the system deployed in the next few years.

Chrysler wanted to get the Dodge Durango in 2008 to go hybrid, but now they want even more. They've just announced the Hybrid Aspen to be released in 2008. The new Aspen will still come with a Hemi, but will deliver 25% better fuel economy and may be 40% better in the city. Translation: the Aspen may end up being rated over 20 mpg.

"With the new Hemi-powered Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, we are delivering the ultimate combination of fuel efficiency, overall performance and capability in a premium full-size SUV," said Chrysler Group executive vice president Frank Klegon in a statement.

Press Release Follows:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., April 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- That new Chrysler Aspen Hybrid got a HEMI(R)?

Yes, it does -- as does the new Dodge Durango Hybrid. Both vehicles -- powered by Chrysler Group's all-new 5.7-liter HEMI Hybrid powertrain -- debut next year as the first volume-production hybrid offerings from the Chrysler Group and the first vehicles to feature DaimlerChrysler's advanced two-mode hybrid technology.

"The all-new Chrysler Group HEMI Hybrid will offer our customers the best of both worlds: renowned performance and significantly improved fuel economy," said Frank Klegon, Executive Vice President - Product Development, Chrysler Group. "With the new HEMI-powered Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, we are delivering the ultimate combination of fuel efficiency, overall performance and capability in a premium full-size SUV."

The new 5.7-liter HEMI Hybrid is expected to deliver an overall fuel economy improvement of more than 25 percent, including an improvement of nearly 40 percent in the city.

The HEMI powerplant, in hybrid form, will continue to feature Chrysler Group's Multi-displacement System (MDS), which allows the engine to seamlessly alternate between four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand. For the fifth year in a row -- and every year since its 2003 re-introduction -- Chrysler Group's famous 5.7-liter HEMI engine has earned a place on Ward's 10 Best Engines list.

The new Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid vehicles represent a bold change in what is generally a "me too" category. Chrysler Group's full- size hybrid vehicles will deliver seamless dependable power on demand in an efficient package. With an electrically variable transmission (featuring two electric motors), two full hybrid modes of operation, and four fixed mechanical gear ratios, the drive system improves fuel economy around town and at highway speeds.

Chrysler Aspen
Boasting elegant Chrysler styling, unsurpassed capability and performance, and abundant premium amenities, the Chrysler Aspen is a premium SUV that is a value alternative to luxury-priced competitors. Offering more for less, Aspen features numerous premium features, elegant Chrysler design, 30 safety features and best-in-class horsepower, torque and interior room.

Two-mode Hybrid
Chrysler Group's two-mode hybrid powertrain -- jointly developed by DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and the BMW Group -- represents a major automotive industry milestone due to the unprecedented fully integrated combination of electric motors with a fixed-gear transmission.

As a result of the low- and high-speed electric continuously variable transmission (ECVT) modes, the system is commonly referred to as the two-mode hybrid. However, the sophisticated fuel-saving system also incorporates four fixed gear ratios for high efficiency and power-handling capabilities in a broad variety of vehicle applications. The new Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid vehicles can be powered either by the electric motors or by the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine -- or a combination of the two. During the two ECVT modes and four fixed-gear operations, the hybrid system can use the electric motors for boosting and/or regenerative braking. When full power is needed, the system automatically adjusts for passing, driving steep grades or hauling a trailer. The result is trend-setting hybrid technology that provides superior fuel economy, performance and load-carrying capability.

Joint Development Center
Located in Troy, Mich., the DaimlerChrysler, GM and BMW Hybrid Development Center jointly developed the overall modular two-mode hybrid system and the individual components: electric motors, transmission, high-voltage battery, high-performance electronics, wiring, safety systems, energy management and hybrid system control units. In addition, the Hybrid Development Center is responsible for system integration and project management.

Chrysler Group Advanced Propulsion Technology
Hybrid technology is one part of Chrysler Group's advanced propulsion technology umbrella, which also includes efficient gasoline engines, advanced clean-diesel technology, and ethanol flex-fuel and zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles. DaimlerChrysler is the only automaker building plug-in hybrids and testing them with customers in the United States.

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