Monday, July 30, 2007

2008 Lexus RX 400h Pricing

A brand new 2008 Lexus Rx 400h will only cost you 40 grand next year, the same as last. To be specific, the base MSRP for the 2008 RX 400h with front-wheel-drive is $41,180, while the all-wheel-drive comes in at $42,580.

For that money, you get a several style 'enhancements,' including a new exterior chrome door handles, a new finish on the five-spoke, 18-inch wheels, and a color-keyed rear spoiler.

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Going Green in Boston Taxis Just Got a Little Cheaper

Boston is offering taxi cab owners $1,000 each to buy a hybrid taxi. Up to $40,000 will be given out in an effort to promote hybrids in Beantown.

While taxi drivers like driving hybrids, they pay for the gas out of their own pockets, taxi car owners (fleet owners) aren't sold on hybrids, yet. Brett Barenholtz, CEO of Boston Cab Co. Dispatch, which owns 15 of the city’s 19 hybrid cabs points out the purchase price for those 15 hybrid cars cost his company $450,000. Buying 15 Crown Victorias would have cost them about $105,000.

Taxi Cab drivers point to the gas savings and the new Logan policy as to why they want to drive the hybrid Camry taxicabs. While the company charges them $10 a day to take out the hybrid, they can save $20 a day on gas. Also, when they pull into Logan, they get to go to the head of the line to pick up their passengers. And there are some customers who are requesting a hybrid to get around town.

Mark Cohen, director of the licensing division at the Boston Police Department thinks the $1,000 grant may appeal to the smaller companies or independent cabbies.

"It’s a small grant, but for the little guys it’s $1,000 that helps them get going on this," Cohen said.

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2008 Toyota Prius Pricing

The 2008 Prius arrives on lots in August. The base price has been reduced to $20,950 for the standard model and $23,220 for the Touring model. The average MSRP has increased by about $150 from 2007.

July 30, 2007 – Torrance, CA - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) today for the 2008 Avalon full-size sedan, Prius gas-electric hybrid, Yaris subcompact, RAV4 compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), FJ Cruiser off-road SUV, 4Runner mid-size SUV, Tacoma pickup and Sienna. All eight models begin arriving in dealerships in late July and throughout the month of August.

Avalon, the flagship of the Toyota passenger car lineup, continues to set the standard for performance, luxury, and value in its class. For 2008, Avalon receives a new six-speed automatic transmission and a braking system upgrade for improved stopping distance, reduced fade and pedal firmness.

Exterior changes include a new aggressive design for the headlamps, front bumper and radiator grille, in-key remote keyless entry and tinted tail lamps. New 17-inch alloy wheels are offered on the Touring and XLS models. The Limited model also receives chrome door handles.

Interior changes include a new dark wood grain trim and eight-way power front passenger's seat with power lumbar support on XLS and Limited models. The Touring model features a new aluminum-style interior trim.

The 2008 Avalon also has an updated AM/FM/CD changer with nine speakers, MP3 playback capability and auxiliary audio input jack as a standard feature.

The base MSRP for the 2008 Avalon ranges from $27,075 for the XL model to $34,415 for the Limited model. The total Avalon average MSRP increases $201 or 0.6 percent.

The fuel-efficient 2008 Prius is a better value this year with an expanded lineup to include a lower-priced, new standard model. The base MSRP for Prius ranges from $20,950 for the newly introduced standard model to $23,220 for the Touring model. The total Prius average MSRP increases $150 or 0.7 percent.

The new Prius arrives in dealerships in August.

The Yaris subcompact carries over unchanged for 2008 except for the addition of a standard tire pressure monitoring system for all models. The 2008 Yaris also gains the all-new Liftback Sport model. The Yaris Liftback Sport features several exterior enhancements, including color-keyed front and rear under-bumper spoilers and side rocker panels, and is equipped with standard features such as driver and front passenger sport seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, tachometer with amber illumination, 15-inch wheels, rear window defroster, rear window wiper, AM/FM/CD player with MP3/WMA capability and auxiliary audio input jack.

The five-speed manual transmission Liftback carries a base MSRP of $11,300 and the Sedan with automatic transmission carries a base MSRP of $12,900. The Yaris Sport Liftback with five-speed manual transmission will carry a base MSRP of $12,975. All Yaris vehicles arrive in August and the total Yaris average MSRP increases $150 or 1.2 percent.

The RAV4 maintains all interior and safety enhancements for 2008. All models now feature driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags and first- and second-row side-curtain airbags with roll-over sensor as standard equipment. RAV4 models carry a base MSRP that ranges from $21,100 for the base model 2WD four-cylinder to $26,670 for the 4WD Limited V6. Total RAV4 average MSRP increases $150 or 0.6 percent.

The FJ Cruiser, the most capable off-road SUV in the Toyota line-up, will feature a number of key upgrades, including an anti-theft system, an illuminated entry system, side-curtain airbags for both rows and sun visors with vanity mirrors. The FJ's base MSRP ranges from $22,545 for the 2WD automatic to $24,13

4Runner will improve its numerous standard safety features on all models with the addition of driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags and first- and second-row side-curtain airbags with roll-over sensor. For 2008 the MSRP will increase $380 for SR5 and Sport Edition models and $350 for Limited models. The 4Runner MSRP ranges from $28,015 for the 2WD SR5 V6 to $38,735 for the 4WD Limited V8. The total 4Runner average MSRP increases $376 or 1.2 percent.

For 2008, the Tacoma pickup truck will receive a price increase of $100 or 0.5 percent for all models. The base MSRP ranges from $14,280 for the 2WD four-cylinder with a manual transmission to $26,115 for the Double Cab 4WD V6 automatic long bed. The total Tacoma average MSRP increases 0.5 percent.

Sienna offers new product enhancements and Extra Value Packages. New standard features include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control and rear disc brakes on all models. Also, Bluetooth® is now on all models featuring standard or available JBL audio. The Sienna MSRP ranges from $24,340 for the 2WD CE to $37,665 for the AWD Limited model. The total Sienna average MSRP increases $35 or 0.1 percent.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

What You Didn't Know About the Safety of Hybrids

The following 5 star ratings come from the NHTSA site Clearly, the most highly rated hybrid on the site is the Toyota Camry Hybrid with five stars across the board. The Prius improved its safety rating after 2003 from 3 stars to 4 across most categories.

Most of the hybrids have achieved four or five stars across the board. The Lexus GS450h, Lexus RX400h and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid were not rated.

Vehicle Frontal Star Rating: Based on Risk of Head and Chest Injury Side Star Rating: Based on Risk of Chest Injury Rollover Rating
Driver Passenger Front Seat Rear Seat 2 Wheel Drive 4 Wheel Drive
2008 Honda Civic Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (PC/C) 5 5 4 5

2007 Honda Civic Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (PC/C) 5 5 4 5 4
2006 Honda Civic Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (PC/C) 5 5 4 5 4
2008 Toyota Prius 4-DR.w/SAB (PC/C) 4 4 5 4 4
2007 Toyota Prius 4-DR.w/SAB (PC/C) 4 4 5 4 4
2006 Toyota Prius 4-DR. (PC/C) 4 4 4 4 4
2005 Toyota Prius 4-DR. (PC/C) 5 4 4 4 4
2004 Toyota Prius 4-DR. (PC/C) 5 4 4 4 4
2003 Toyota Prius 4-DR. (PC/C) 3 4 3 3 4
2002 Toyota Prius 4-DR. (PC/C) 3 4 3 3 4
2001 Toyota Prius 4-DR. (PC/C) 3 4 NR NR 4
2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (PC/Me) 5 5 5 5 NR
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (PC/Me) 5 5 5 5 NR
2007 Honda Accord Hybrid 4-DR w/SAB (PC/Me) 5 5 4 4 4
2006 Honda Accord Hybrid 4-DR w/SAB (PC/Me) 5 5 4 4 4
2005 Honda Accord Hybrid 4-DR w/SAB (PC/Me) 5 5 4 4 4
2006 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 4 No Seat 4
2005 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 4 No Seat 4
2004 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 4 No Seat 4
2003 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 4 No Seat 4
2002 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 4 No Seat NR
2001 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 4 No Seat NR
2000 Honda Insight 2-DR. (PC/Mi) 4 4 NR No Seat NR
2008 Ford Escape Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (Early release) (SUV) 3 5 5 5 NR NR
2008 Ford Escape Hybrid 4-DR. w/SAB (Later release) (SUV) 4 5 5 5 NR NR
2007 Ford Escape Hybrid 4-DR (SUV) 4 4 5 5 NR NR
2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4-DR (SUV) 4 4 5 5 NR NR
2005 Ford Escape Hybrid 4-DR (SUV) 4 4 5 5 NR NR
NR Indicates Not Rated

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Are Hybrids Safe in the UK?

According to the latest NCAP test, the Honda Civic Hybrid dropped from five stars to four. The Civic dropped a point for adult occupancy protection when the driver's airbag did not prevent the dummy from hitting its head on the steering wheel. But the Civic Hybrid did score higher for child protection and pedestrian protection.

The Prius scored five stars for adult occupation protection back in 2004.

Source: Fabia and Civic Hybrid drop points in NCAP tests

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Paris Goes Hybrid, for Free

Paris Hilton gets a Hybrid EscapeParis, was recently given a Ford Hybrid Escape for attending the BPM 'Gone Green' event.

According to Paris, "Driving hybrid cars is the new way to go. Anyone can do it, no matter how old." Which is quite a silly thing to say since hybrid car drivers tend to be older and more financially well off than not.

I suppose this could be labeled as a pro or a con for hybrid cars, depending on what you think of her. For me, I'll label it a con.

Source:Paris Gets a Free Car | Hollyscoop

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Who Else Wants in on Plug-Ins? Toyota, That's Who

Ford has said they will be testing plug-ins through a partnership with Southern California Edison. GM has the Volt, a plug-in hybrid GM touts as being powered by the electric motor and only assisted by the small gas engine. Google and some electric utilities are pushing for the technology to be developed. Congress is already talking about tax incentives for the development of plug-ins.

And now Toyota has the plug-in based on its Prius, called the Plug-in HV. None of the current models being showcased by the car makers are production ready. All of the hype surrounding plug-ins are based on the presumption that lithium-ion batteries for hybrids will be developed in the next few years.

Toyota was granted permission by the Japanese government to road test a prototype plug-in based on the Prius. They are looking to test eight prototypes of the plug-in hybrid to gather information on real-lifedriving over the next three years.

Since the prototype uses nickel-metal hydride batteries, rather than the Lithium-Ion batteries car makers want to use in plug-in hybrids, the HV can only run eight miles (thirteen km) on one charge. As such, Toyota has already made the point it is not ready for commercialization.

"It's difficult to say when plug-in hybrids could be commercialized, since it would depend largely on advances in battery technology," said Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, in charge of Toyota's powertrain technology, told a news conference.

Toyota is hoping to road test the HV in Europe and in the US in the near future.

Update: Toyota will be working with researchers from UC Irvine and UC Berkeley as part of the schools' continuing study of sustainable modes of transportation.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Avis Adds Altima to Hybrid Rentals

Avis is expanding its rental line-up to include the Altima Hybrid in addition to the Toyota Prius. The new hybrids will be available on the West Coast and D.C. The Prius will also be available soon in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia

Avis will be adding 500 Nissan Altima Hybrids to their US rental fleet. Avis already has 1,000 Prius available for rent. With the addition of the Altima Hybrid, Avis is looking to give renters a slightly larger hybrid vehicle to rent. Both come with guaranteed reservations as part of their "Cool Cars" Collection.

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And the Winner for Best Hybrid Sedan is...

Saturn has recently begun putting the Aura next to its biggest competitors on their own lots so that potential buyers can test drive all three cars. It's a confident move by a company who wants you to know that their car is there and they feel good about it.

Edmunds did something similar by comparing the Saturn Aura Hybrid against the Altima Hybrid and Camry Hybrid. After three weeks of testing in which they weighted their tests heavily by both price and by fuel consumption, the Aura Hybrid was left in the dust. Despite costing so much less than the competition, the fuel savings were so much less that the Camry Hybrid and Altima Hybrid ran away to become 1a and 1b respectively.

And although the Cary Hybrid edged out the Altima Hybrid by getting better fuel economy, the Altima hybrid was "the personal choice for every editor who participated in this test." Like me, the editors are impressed by the Altima steering and power. But those improvements mean the Camry Hybrid beats it out on fuel economy even though they are both built on top of Toyotas Hybrid Synergy Drive.

The one other difference is the 2007 Camry comes with more standard features. But since the 2008 Camry Hybrid dropped in price by $1,000 by cutting out some of those standard features, I wonder if it would win using 2008 models?

The results:
Third Place - Saturn Aura Hybrid

  • Fuel Economy is nowhere near the Camry Hybrid or Altima Hybrid.
  • Low Price is very attractive.
  • Slowest and least powerful.
  • Most trunk space (smaller battery pack).
  • You get what you pay for.

Second Place - Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • Better Steering
  • Fewer features than the Camry Hybrid
  • Available in only eight states
  • Built on top of Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive

First Place - Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Best fuel economy, edging out the Altima
  • Most Features

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Will Cut Fuel Consumption by One Third

Porsche says their new Cayenne Hybrid (SUV) will cut fuel consumption by 1/3 when it arrives at the end of 2009.

The new Cayenne Hybrid will get 26.8 mpg (8.9 L/100 kM). The gas-only model gets 18.5 mpg (12.9 L). With the tighter restrictions on emissions coming down in Europe, Porsche needs to get the 320 to 378 grams per km it currently gets down.

The new hybrid powertrain, coupled with regenerative braking, will allow the electic motor to power the vehicle up to 74 mph (120 kph).

Porsche is looking to build a hybrid Panamera, but not a Boxster or Cayman or 911 sports cars.

There was some question about the release date of the Cayenne Hybrid (2008 then 2009 then 2010) but it is now back to 2009. If these numbers being quoted by autonews are right, the hybrid from Porsche will be a huge step upwards in hybrid technology.

Source: Porsche hybrid to cut Cayenne fuel usage by a third - Automotive News Europe

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Toyota Camry Hybrid Pricing at $1,000 Less

Toyota announced their pricing on the Toyota Camry Hybrid today. The price is being set at $1,000 below the 2007 model price at $25,200. The base MSRP for the 2008 Camry sedan ranges from $18,570 for the four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission to $28,120 for the premium XLE grade with a V6 engine and six- speed automatic transmission.

The 2008 Prius was discounted by up to $2,000 on some option packages, and now the Camry has dropped its base price by $1,000. With Toyotas aggressive sales goals for hybrids and since buyers of Toyota hybrids have lost out on their federal tax credits, Toyota has chosen to discount hybrid sales to keep their top ranking for hybrid cars.

    TORRANCE, Calif., July 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Toyota Motor Sales (TMS),
U.S.A., Inc., announced manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) today
for the 2008 Camry and Camry Hybrid.
America's best-selling car, and winner of Motor Trend's 2007 Car of the
Year Award, continues to set global standards for comfort, performance and
-- with the Camry Hybrid -- ultra-efficient fuel economy.
The gas version carries over unchanged for the 2008 model year with a
price increase of $100 for each grade. The weighted average of the increase
represents 0.4 percent across all grades. The base MSRP for the 2008 Camry
sedan ranges from $18,570 for the four-cylinder engine and five-speed
manual transmission to $28,120 for the premium XLE grade with a V6 engine
and six- speed automatic transmission.
The 2008 Camry Hybrid is a better value than ever as its price point
has been lowered significantly, making Camry and Hybrid Synergy Drive
technology available to more people. The Camry Hybrid is equipped with an
array of standard features including a Smart Key system, dual-zone
automatic climate control, Plasmacluster(TM) ionizer, sixteen-inch steel
wheels, and AM/FM/single CD audio system with six speakers.
Two new upgrade packages are available to those seeking more amenities.
The upgrade packages are available with or without navigation. Both
packages offer sixteen-inch alloy wheels, JBL audio, leather-trimmed
steering wheel and shift knob, electrochromic rearview mirror with compass,
and HomeLink(R).
Stand-alone options include power tilt/slide moonroof, leather-trimmed
interior, driver and front passenger heated seats and heated outside
Camry Hybrid's base MSRP begins at $25,200, a decrease of $1,000 or
-3.8 percent versus the 2007 model.
Both the 2008 Camry and Camry Hybrid will begin arriving in dealerships
later this month.

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Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles, New and Used

NADAGuides published their top 10 2007 most fuel efficient new cars (and top 10 most fuel efficient used cars). What they want you to notice is it doesn't take hybrid technology to make your car 'green.' Note that of the top 10 vehicles, only three are hybrids.

What they fail to point out is the size of the vehicles. It's no surprise that smaller cars get better fuel economy. And if that is your main goal, then by all means, you should look into the Yaris ($11,150 Base MSRP) or the Cooper ($18,050) or any of the other compacts and subcompacts shown. Look at the list of used vehicles with great mpg numbers. There's the Golf, Beetle, Jetta, Civic, etc... If you're willing to go small, you will get great fuel economy.

But what hybrids give you is better fuel economy at any size. The Prius hybrid tops all other vehicles because it is small (its rated a midsize by some, compact by others) and because it's a hybrid. The Ford Escape Hybrid, which is not on the list of vehicles with the best fuel economy, gets the best fuel economy in its class (small SUV). Same for the Highlander Hybrid (large SUV).
What hybrid technology gives you is better fuel economy, even if you don't (or can't) drive a (sub-)compact.

List from NADAGuides press release:
New Cars with Best Fuel Mileage (EPA Estimates and Base MSRP)
1. 2007 Toyota Prius Hybrid - 51 Highway/60 City - $22,175
2. 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid - 51 Highway/40 City - $22,600
3. 2007 Toyota Corolla - 41 Highway/32 City - $14,305
4. 2007 Toyota Yaris - 40 Highway/34 City - $11,150
5. 2007 MINI Cooper - 40 Highway/32 City - $18,050
6. 2007 Honda Civic Sedan - 40 Highway/30 City - $15,010
7. 2007 Honda Civic Coupe - 40 Highway/30 City - $14,810
8. 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid - 38 Highway/40 City - $26,200
9. 2007 Honda Fit - 38 Highway/33 City - $13,850
10. 2007 Kia Rio - 38 Highway/32 City - $10,770

Used Cars with Best Fuel Mileage (EPA Estimates and Clean Retail Value, Base Models)
1. 2000 Honda Insight Hybrid - 70 Highway/61 City - $8,025
2. 2006 Toyota Prius Hybrid - 51 Highway/60 City - $21,775
3. 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid - 51 Highway/49 City - $17,310
4. 2004 Honda Civic - 51 Highway/48 City - $11,600
5. 2002 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon - 50 Highway/42 City - $9,000
6. 1998 Volkswagen Passat - 50 Highway/39 City - $5,400
7. 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle - 49 Highway/42 City - $6,025
8. 1999 Volkswagen New Golf - 49 Highway/42 City - $4,875
9. 1998 Chevrolet Metro - 49 Highway/41 City - $2,175
10. 1999 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan - 49 Highway/40 City - $4,275

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Almost Half of the US Will Own a Hybrid in 10 Years

A new study from Reuters/Zogby says 45 percent of people expect to own a hybrid in 10 years. Also, they expect if gas prices hit $3.50 a gallon, they will need to cut back on their driving. Only 20 percent expected to own a gas-only car in 10 years.

19 percent of those polled said they would cut back if gas hit $4 a gallon, while another 16 percent would cut back at $5 a gallon.

39 percent they would cut back on their energy use, while 22 percent would cut back on their entertainment. 12 percent would cut their retail spending.

Source: Poll: When gasoline reaches $3.50 a gallon, Americans will hit the brakes - Automotive News (reg req'd)

The findings are the result of questions asked between July 12 and 14 of 524 U.S. voters who identified themselves as members of an "investor class." The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The respondents were a subset of a broader survey of 1,012 likely voters who were asked about topics ranging from President George W. Bush's performance to whether they shopped at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

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Chevy Volt Videos

Take a look at the Chevy Volt Plug-in Vehicle. Introduced this past year as a electric car that is assisted by its gas engine (most hybrids are thought of as the electric motor assisting the gas engine), the Volt is GM's answer to the future of hybrids.

It is capable of running for 40 miles on electric power on the charge you got overnight from the plug. The gas engine will kick in after 40 miles (in theory) which will recharge the battery.

GM is hoping to showboat the Volt in D.C. in order to convince legislators that stricter CAFE standards are not needed or wanted (I'm not sure I follow their argument, do you?).

The video below gives you more information from on the Volt.

Everytime you see the Volt, you will also hear the warning about how the batteries aren't ready. But, GM keeps saying they want to move ahead with this vehicle and have put together a team to make it happen.

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Plug-In Hybrids by 2050, is it a Reality?

A new study shows that if plug in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) were adopted by a majority of the country, emissions and oil use would fall dramatically by 2050. The funding for the study was provided by two nonprofite groups, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The study showed that by 2050 if
1) marginal improvements at power plant in emissions added to 20% penetration of plug in vehicles by US drivers would cut emissions by 163 million tons.
2) Or if we assume a larger penetration of PHEVS, up to 62%, and more stringent measures are adopted for power plants, emissions could be cut by 468 million tons a year. That's the equivalent of removing 82.5 million vehicles from the road today, or about 1/3 of the light vehicle market.

A 60 percent PHEV market share would use up only 7 to 8% of the nationwide electricity in 2050. It would also reduce petroleum consumption by 3 to 4 million barrels of oil per day by 2050.

The researchers assumed 3/4 of owners would typically recharge their vehicles overnight during off-peak hours.

A separate study by the organizations found that plug-in vehicles also could lead to small improvements in the nation‘s air quality. Most regions of the country would see improvements in ambient air quality and the reduction of pollutants, they found.

"NRDC believes that a combination of more efficient vehicles, improved battery technology, and a lower-emitting electric power plant fleet can produce substantial reduction in global warming pollution from both the electric power and the transportation sectors", said David Hawkins, Director of NRDC’s Climate Center. "Our results show that PHEVs recharged from low- and non-emitting electricity sources can decrease the carbon footprint in the nation’s transportation sector."

My Opinion: I find it would be a remarkable change if by 2050 even 20% of consumers had adopted plug-in cars. After a decade of use, only 2.5% of the new cars sold this year are hybrids (that don't have to be plugged in at night).

Another key point to keep in mind is the battery technology isn't here, yet. Lithium-ion battery packs for cars have been promised by 2010, but the battery makers still have their safety issues to resolve.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007 via Green Car Congress is reporting that Toyota is working on obtaining a permit to test a prototype plug-in Prius on public roads by the end of July. They need to get permission from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

After testing the plug-in Prius, Toyota will start leasing them to public offices.

GCC also said Toyota may be introducing the plug-in at the Tokyo Motor Show in November according to the Nikkei.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's Wrong With People

Why do people do such stupid things? Attacking another man's property to make a political statement just puts yourself in a bad position.

Two men were seen smashing a hummer at 3:30 in the morning in the D.C. area. The next morning, the owner found "For the Enviro" scratched into the side of the vehicle.

Police said they see small acts of vandalism in the area from time to time, but they have not seen anything so severe, or with such a clear political message, in recent years.

There are so many other ways to get your point across. Start a blog. Join a political group. Vote for the candidate that supports your position. Hang flyers.

Active violence against other people is so wrong. This poor guy saved his money up, bought the hummer to support his business and had it vandalized just a few weeks later.

What if someone had destroyed a hybrid to make their point about the 'smugness' of hybrid owners. Would that be seen as a legitimate political statement?

Source: Hummer Owner Gets Angry Message -

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Toyota Hybrid Wins 24 Hour Motor Race

Toyota entered the Tokashi 24-Hour Race last year with the hybrid Lexus GS450h and came in 17th place. This year they entered the Supra HV-R hybrid race car and came in first.

The racing hybrid is based on a modified Supra GT. The modified hybrid uses three electric motors and a quick-charging capacitor to power the electric motors under the grueling race conditions. The four wheel regeneration and drive system includes front in-wheel motors and one 150 kW rear-axle mounted electric motor. Combined, the system can quickly recharge the capacitor in the rapid deceleration and acceleration conditions you would expect in a race.

Like most race car producers, Toyota hopes to use what it learns on the race track to better their production vehicles. In this case, Toyota is looking to lighten the hybrid system.

Source: Toyota News | Toyota: First motor race win with a hybrid car

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Vermont Utility Wants You to Plug In Your Hybrid

Central Vermont Public Service Co (CVPS), the largest utility in Vt., has purchased two plug-in vehicles and is encouraging others to do the same by reducing rates to charge the vehicles.

"CVPS plug 'n go gives our customers the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of reducing automobile emissions and extending vehicle mileage, and the next generation of highly efficient cars and trucks," said CVPS President Bob Young.

Of the two plug-ins purchased by CVPS, one will be operated by Green Mountain College, which will study the cars performance.

Like Google, Plug-In Partners and others, CVPS is looking to encourage the automakers to start building fleets of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV). Converting existing hybrids into plug-ins can cost $10,000 and voids the guarantees from the carmakers.

Source: Vt. utility encouraging hybrid cars with low rates - Fosters

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Hybrids Take 10 Spots in the Automotive Environmental Index

According to J.D. Powers and Associates, 10 of the top 30 models as ranked by the Automotive Environmental Index are Hybrids, up from only eight models last year.

Toyota is the highest ranking nameplate, followed by Volkswagen and Honda. Honda had four models in the top 30, while Ford and Nissan had three. Only two luxury models made the cut, the 450h and RX 400h, both hybrids from Lexus.

The top 30 cars are (hybrids are listed first, then the conventional vehicles in no particular order):

  • Ford Escape Hybrid
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid
  • Honda Accord Hybrid
  • Saturn VUE Green Line
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Lexus GS 450h
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  • Lexus RX 400h
  • Toyota Prius
  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Honda Fit
  • Mazda3
  • Pontiac Vibe
  • Chevrolet Aveo5
  • Hyundai Accent
  • MINI Cooper Convertible
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Ford Focus
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Nissan Altima
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Ford Focus Station Wagon
  • Kia Rio
  • Nissan Sentra
  • Toyota Yaris
  • Honda Civic
  • Kia Spectra
  • Nissan Versa
  • Volkswagen New Beetle
The voice of the customer components of the Automotive Environmental Index are derived from the 2007 Alternative Powertrain Study and the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Initial Quality StudySM.

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Interest in Hybrids is Down

According to the latest study by J.D. Power and Associates, interest in hybrid cars is down from 57% last year to 50% this year. New-vehicle shoppers are, according to the study, less enchanted with the real-world fuel economy ratings from the EPA.

While a downward trend was seen across all age groups, the youngest group 16-25 saw the greatest decline from 73 percent in 2006 to 60 percent this year.

In my opinion, the big drop-off may be due to the cost. As hybrid interest has increased, the youngest buyers may be realizing the initial cost to purchase may be too high and instead are looking at small cars. Hybrid car buyers tend to be older and wealthier. Since consumers expect to pay $2,396 more for a hybrid, that may put the younger crowd off.

According to the study, those asked said they expect hybrids to improve their fuel economy by 18.5 mpg.

The study is also showing a remarkable increase in interest in clean diesel, rising from 12 percent to 23 percent. Consumers were willing to pay an addition $1,491 and expect a 15 mpg increase for the extra cost.

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Hybrid Penetration

Hybrid PenetrationAccording to a report (pdf) from PIN Insights,
published by Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power and Associates, hybrid penetration has increased by one-third from a last year, up to 2.5%. Toyota has the largest penetration of hybrids, with over 1 in 10 of every vehicle sold being a hybrid. Lexus is second with 5% of all cars sold under the Lexus nameplate bearing a hybrid badge. Saturn is a surprising third, at almost 4%. Honda, Mercury Ford, and Nissan follow in order.

Considering how few carmakers sell hybrids (only seven of the thirty seven), a penetration of 2.5% is pretty remarkable.

There is no distinction being made between full and mild hybrids in the report.

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Illinois Offers $1000 Rebate to Hybrid Car Buyers

The State of Illinois is offereing $1,000 in rebates to those buying hybrid cars or other energy-efficient vehicles. The program, called "Green Rewards", was announced by Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias on Sunday.

The Green Awards program will be funded to the tune of $2 million by partnering the state with banks. By depositing state funds at local banks and credit unions at a below-market interest rate, the savings can be passed on to consumers in the form of a rebate when they secure a loan from the participating bank.

Only one rebate is allowed per vehicle.

Green Rewards is one of the State Treasurer's Cultivate Illinois Agricultural and Environmental programs. For more information, contact (312) 814-1901, (217) 557-6436 or

Source: State offering rebates on hybrid vehicles | Chicago Tribune

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Foreign Irony

Ichiro Suzuki accepts Chevy Tahoe Hybrid MVP AwardAs Ichiro Suzuki accepted his MVP award in the form of a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, I was struck by the irony of the situation.

See the GM representative handing out a Chevy SUV to a Japanese baseball star for winning the MVP in the All-Star Game for America's favorite game. The Chevy Tahoe Hybrid transmission is built in Baltimore, MD and assembled in Arlington, Texas.

So we have an American company celebrating fuel efficiency in a large SUV. While most people are wondering why they've never heard of an American hybrid up to this point, Ichiro was probably wondering why they weren't giving him a Prius built by Toyota in Japan. Or perhaps a Camry Hybrid, which is built in the US.

To me, it seems ironic that in order to celebrate America's game, Chevy (official sponsor of the MLB) was showing off the Malibu Hybrid (mild as it is) and introducing the Tahoe Hybrid.

The global marketplace keeps getting smaller.

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New York Waives SalesTax on Hybrids?

taxesNew York politicians are looking to reinstate a tax break on fuel efficient cars, including hybrids. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockvill Centre). It was passed by the Senate, but not by the full assembly.

Skelos is looking to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect the environment. New York previously had a tax credit on hybrid cars that expired in 2005.

The bill, as it is right now, would cut the sales tax on a variety of new and used vehicles. State sales tax would be waived on new and used hybrids, fuel cell-powered vehicles, and new or used cars that get 35 mpg or better as estimated by the EPA.

A county tax might also be waived, but Nassau County Legis. Dave Mejias (D-North Massapequa) would only reintroduce the legislation if the bill is passed into law.

Another bill which provides a 25 percent tax credit for the installation of tanks, piping and other infrastructure to make alternatives to gasoline like biodiesel and the "E85" ethanol/gasoline blend more available to New York motorists has also passed through the Senate.

Source: LI lawmakers seek hybrid tax exemption -

This bill certainly makes a lot of sense to me. There's nothing magical about hybri technology when it comes to our reduction on oil or having an impact on the environment. It is only the high fuel economy ratings they can achieve which can do that. Expanding the sales tax waiver onto other fuel saving cars makes a lot of sense to me.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Plug-ins, Taxes, and Rob Lowe

In an effort to bring back tax breaks for those who convert their hybrid cars into plug in hybrid cars, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a "Plug-in Hybrid Opportunity Act of 2007." The tax break would give converters a 35% tax credit.

Senators had tried to push a different package through last month, but it was eventually pulled over concerns on how to pay for it. Incentives for building plug-in vehicles and a $7,500 tax credit to converters would have been payed by taxing the oil companies.

Automakers have pushed back citing increased safety concerns. The conversion invalidates the manufacturer's warranty, increases the risk of car fires, often forces the removal of a spare tire to make room for the extra batteries, and may even increase greenhouse gas emissions.

A hearing will be held by Markey, demonstrating the conversion with A123's president and CEO David Vieau. The mayor Austin Texas will also be present. As a major force in the Plug in Partners Campaign, the mayor is a logical selection for inclusion.

Rob Lowe, since he has "driven a plug-in hybrid and is passionate about the issue," is also being invited. Not surprisingly, the automakers are a little bit skeptical about the invite to Lowe.

Source: The Detroit News

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GM Could Build Hybrids in Mexico

According to Kevin Williams, the president of GM's Mexican operations, GM could bring hybrid vehicles and other new programs to Mexico.

But which hybrids (or hybrid engines) and when are unclear. The Ramos Arizpe site was opened in 1981 and builds the Chevrolet C2, Chevy HHR and Saturn Vue. It produces 3.5 and 3.5 liter engines along with transmissions. The site is "undergoing extensive changes in preparation for new global vehicles."

Source: GM broadens plant expansions in Mexico - Automotive News

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ford Wants in on the Plug-In Bandwagon

Ford and utility Southern California Edison announced their alliance to test 20 rechargeable electric vehicles.

During the announcement, Ford CEO Alan Mulally said "Within five to 10 years we will start to see this technology in our hands."

But, just as with all the other automakers, Ford says such developments hinge on the development of lithium-ion batteries.

By 2009, Ford will provide 20 2008 Ford Escape Hybrids which will be reworked as plug-in hybrid SUVs. The first is to be delivered by the end of this year.

Those 20 SUVs will be handed out to customers who have electric 'smart meters' capable of monitoring their use (charge).

Ford had previously said they wanted in on the plug-in game back in April and before that in January. This partnership with SCE is just one of the first steps towards that goal.

GM has said they expect to have a plug-in Saturn Vue soon, while maintaining their work on the Chevy Volt concept. Toyota has said they are also working on plug-in hybrids. Google has also gotten into the plug-in hybrid game. Even Nissan, despite their cautious approach, has said they want a plug-in vehicle.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dual Mode Hybrids Are Expensive

But, fortunately for the consumer, GM has decided to absorb some of the costs out of the door to make the new hybrids more appealing.

As part of a research agreement between BMW, DaimlerChrysler and GM, dual mode hybrid were developed over several years. The dual mode hybrid will begin coming out starting with the GMC Yukon hybrid and Chevy Tahoe Hybrid.

But according to automotive news, the new hybrid engines are very expensive, costing $10,000 to build. That sort of cost can't easily be passed onto the consumer and like Toyota did, GM is going to absorb some of the costs.

The new dual mode hybrids are said to improve fuel economy by 25%, but even that amount of gas bill savings may not sway consumers looking to buy the new SUV hybrids.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Hybrid Cars and Baseball

Hybrid cars are playing a big role at the MLB All-Star game this year.

  • The new Chevy Malibu Hybrid (release date is in October/November) is being shown at the All Star Fan Fest.
  • Fox Sports employees will be driving hybrid cars from EV Rental Car, including the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Prius, and Honda Civic Hybrid.
  • On Monday, Chevy E85 flex-fuel vehicles will transport players in the All-Star parade, and on Tuesday night, the MVP of the game will win a Tahoe Hybrid vehicle.
The focus, right now, is on the 2008 Malibu Hybrid. Like the Vue and Aura hybrid systems, the Malibu Hybrid is a mild hybrid. Which means the gas engine gets an 'assist' from the electric motor powered by the battery pack. The electric motor is incapable of powering the vehicle by itself as would be true in a full hybrid.

According to the Chevy press release, the EPA rates the 2008 Hybrid Malibu at 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway – a two-mpg increase over the non-hybrid four-cylinder model – and will be Chevrolet value-priced, offering customers an affordable hybrid choice.

The Malibu Hybrid is capable of:
  • Shutting off the engine when the vehicle is stopped, to minimize idling
  • Restarting the engine promptly when the brake pedal is released
  • Enabling early fuel shut-off during vehicle deceleration
  • Capturing vehicle kinetic energy during deceleration through regenerative braking to charge the advanced nickel metal hydride battery
  • Performing intelligent battery charging when it is most efficient
The GM Hybrid system provides additional power, when required, during launch from the electric motor/generator. At wide-open throttle, such as during a passing maneuver, the system enhances acceleration by using the motor/generator to bolster the gasoline engine and achieve maximum power.

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Mazda Tribute Hybrid Federal Tax Credit

The IRS has qualified the 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid as being eligible for $3,000 in tax credits. The four-wheel drive has qualified for $2,200 in tax credits for eligible consumers.

The Mazda Tribute is based on the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs. As such, its surprising that it took so long for the Tribute to get its own hybrid version since the Escape hybrid has been out for three years. Both the Escape and Mariner hybrids qualified for the same amount of tax credits.

If you're interested in buying a hybrid, you should look into the federal tax credits for hybrid cars. Not everyone will qualify under the guidelines put forth by the IRS. Your AMT and the automakers phaseout period can have a profound affect on how much you can save come tax time. See the category on hybrid cars federal tax credit for more information.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Hybrid Car Sales, June 2007

hybrid car sales june 2007As we hit the six month mark, Toyota hybrid car sales have once again increased remarkably from last year. Overall, hybrid cars sales are up 48.8% to 34,300 units sold in the month of June. Through the month of June, hybrid car sales are up 55.5% over last years first six months for a total of 181,972 units sold.

There are three main stories to tell this month. First, hybrid sales trends are way up in 2007. Much of that may be attributed to high gas prices and aggressive sales from Toyota. The second is how much better Toyota is doing selling hybrid cars compared to everyone else. And the third is Honda is about to crossover the 60,000 limit on the federal tax credit.

Toyota Hybrid Car Sales
Toyota sold 27,382 hybrid cars in the month of June. That brings their six month total up to 146,536 hybrids since January. Of those, 94,503 were Prius.

Hybrid Car Sales, June 2006 to June 2007For the month of June, Toyota sold 17,756 Prius, and increase of 83.1% from last year. Highlander Hybrid sales were down 11.2% to 2,403 units sold. Camry Hybrid sales, however, were up 29.6% for 5,530 units sold. For the first six months of 2007, Prius sales are up 99.6% from last year. But, Highlander Hybrid sales are down 22.7%. No comparison is possible for the Camry since it came out in April, 2006.

Lexus sales were mixed. GS450h sales were down to 131 units sold, a drop of 43.3%. But RX 400h sales were up 31.3% from last June, with 1,562 units sold. For the first half of the year RX 400h sales are down 29.1%. The GS 450h came out in April of 2006, so no comparison is made.

Honda Hybrid Car Sales
Honda sales were up for the Civic Hybrid 24.8% in the month of June with 3,246 sales. Accord Hybrid sales continue to slump, dropping 13.6% to 342 units sold. The Accord Hybrid is set to be retired for low sales. That brings Honda Hybrid sales to 3,588 units sold in the month of June and to 19,188 units sold through 2007.

Honda will cross the 60,000 units sold next month which will send Honda hybrid buyers into the federal tax credit on hybrid cars phaseout period next year.

Percent of Each Model Hybrid Car Sales, June 2007Ford Hybrid Car Sales
Ford / Mercury sold 2,526 Escape Hybrids and Mariner Hybrids combined in the month of June. That is an increase of 34.1% over last years totals. For the first six months of 2007, Ford has sold 13,472 units. That's an increase of 12.3% from last year.

Nissan Hybrid Car Sales
Nissan, with their limited release of the Altima Hybrid sold 804 units. The Altima Hybrid is sold in only eight states in the US.

GM Hybrid Car Sales
I don't keep track of hybrid car sales from GM for two reasons. One, they are mild hybrids until the dual mode hybrid system comes out later this year. That makes them hard to qualify as hybrids in my mind. And two, GM doesn't break out hybrid car sales like the other automakers do. Therefore, all totals and percentages shown above exclude GM hybrid car sales.

Hybrid Car Sales, Trends
The question is, where do hybrid car sales stand in the first six months of sales? According to the following table, they're accelerating at a rapid pace. The column labeled 2006 shows total sales over the 12 months of 2006. The column labeled 2007 shows the cumulative sales through the first six months. The last column shows the percentage difference. For example, in 2006 there were 106,971 Prius sold. Through June 2006, Toyota has sold 94,503, which means they are 88% of the way to matching their total 2007 sales. Of course, the retired Insight and the soon to be retired Accord hybrid show a different trend altogether.




% Difference


















GS 450h



RX 400h













Hybrid Car Sales, May 2007

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Belmont Wants Incentives for Hybrids

While I'm not sure his idea won't affect the town budget as little as he thinks it does, I applaud Dave Warden (see below) for creative thinking. Without mandating a change, this idea promotes hybrid car buyers without giving them more public privileges like free parking or solo access to the HOV lane.

San Mateo Daily Journal

Belmont Councilman Dave Warden is suggesting the city draft a rebate program that could give residents approximately $500 in the form of a gift certificate in addition to the federal income tax rebate. Rather than cutting residents a check, it would offer gift certificates to city services.

“It would be some kind of credit so in the future, if you want to take a parks and recreation class, rent a facility ... you can use this credit,” Warden said.

The “gift certificates” could also pay for building permits and other such city fees. It would not cut into the city budget because it would require staff time rather than cutting a check to residents, Warden said.

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Honda Sued Over Fuel Economy Claims

This is so stupid it makes my head hurt. A Honda Civic Hybrid owner is suing Honda over their mileage claims.

But the EPA is the one who mandates those fuel economy figures on the sticker.

The driver estimates he gets 32 mpg in mixed driving after 6,000 miles, even though the Civic Hybrid is rated to get 49/51.

The lawsuit may come down to a simple wording change. The EPA says mileage will vary, while Honda advertisements say mileage may vary. According to the plaintiff's attorney, that implies it's possible to get the mileage advertised.

That's because it is possible to get the mileage advertised. All Honda needs to do is bring in one hypermiler to counter that claim. Put one guy or girl up on the stand who can show they get well over the mpg rating from the EPA and that argument is out the window.

"I can tell you that the 49/51 figures are EPA numbers, not Honda numbers," Honda spokesman Sage Marie said Thursday. "Some customers achieve the EPA mpg figures and some don't, as fuel economy performance is a function of conditions, traffic, driving style, load, etc."

He said the "vast majority of Civic Hybrid customers are satisfied with the performance since it delivers consistently and substantially higher numbers than comparable nonhybrid vehicles in the real world. It is possible to attain the EPA estimates, and customers do all the time."

What it comes down to (most of the time) is driving habits. Aggressive driving kills fuel economy every time. The plaintiff in this case will have to show that he consistently drives well. And how do you do that?

But what really drives me nuts about this case is it's the EPA that rates cars, not carmakers. But suing the car company is probably more profitable.

Source: Hybrid owner sues Honda over mileage claims

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Prius Top Speed

Prius Race Car GreensportApparently, I wasn't the only one amused by the headlines yesterday emphasizing how fast a Prius was going. Toyota's open road blog has a post on how many media people were calling in and asking how fast can a Prius go?

I get the feeling they were wondering if it really was possible for the Prius to hit 105 mph.

The Prius top speed is limited to 103 mph, btw.

Unless you're driving a specially tricked out version using bigger wheels and tires, and a change in gearing. In which case the land speed record for a Prius is 130 mph set back in 2004.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hybrid Cars as Statements

The Prius is number 16 on the top selling list through June.

There's an article making the rounds today on how CNW Marketing has another study showing a majority of Prius drivers are buying the Prius just to make a statement (just like the politicians and entertainers do).

Reasons for buying a Prius:

  • Makes a statement about me: 57%
  • Other, including incentives, business, etc.: 42%
  • Higher fuel economy: 36%
  • Distinctive styling: 33%
  • Lower Emissions: 25%
  • New technology: 7%
It's not surprising that so few are buying a Prius because it's 'new' technology anymore. They've been around for a decade. And anyone who buys a Prius for its looks is kidding themselves.

No, I'm not surprised to see 'statement' as a top reason for buying a Prius. Too many of our leaders are doing it for it not be picked up on. We all know what hybrid cars the candidates are driving (or not driving). And we all know which movie stars care enough to be seen in a hybrid on the red carpet and which don't. And now, even the Israeli envoys are being required to drive hybrid cars as a matter of policy.

And of course, we all know what Al Gore wants you to drive.

Given that type of attention, it's not surprising to see all the headlines this morning screaming out at us about how Al Gore's son was busted for drugs while driving 100 mph in a hybrid (Prius).

It's funny what the pundits are emphasizing with these headlines. 1) He was driving 100 mph, as if that should be surprising given he was driving a hybrid. Don't all hybrid drivers drive 45 in the right hand lane? 2) No matter what, reporters and pundits were going to ask what kind of car he was driving because he was Al Gore's son. And 3) I wonder if the same pundits, if they could have, would have dropped the whole drug thing out of the headlines.

Which brings me to my next point. Are you surprised when you see a Prius pass you in the left hand lane on the highway? You really shouldn't be. Given how many are sold these days you have to realize that just because a majority choose a hybrid to make a statement doesn't mean they want to drive slowly.

So there are good people and bad people who drive hybrid these days. The days when you could look at a Prius and tell right away what type of person he/she is over with. And perhaps thats what we should be getting out of these headlines on Al's son. Hybrid drivers are not necessarily smug. Nor are they all hypermilers going for that last ounce of gas. They are good, they are bad. They have borrowed the car to see what it can do. Maybe, just maybe, they do like the way it looks.

Who knows?

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2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid

More information from Nissan on the Altima Sedan and Hybrid.

2008 Nissan Altima Sedan

With a new generation of Altima introduced in 2007, Nissan’s best-selling model enters the 2008 model year with minimal changes. The Altima Sedan has been designed to be the best-performing front wheel drive sedan available globally. Built on Nissan’s “D” platform, the 2008 Altima Sedan is available with a choice of two engines: the award-winning VQ-series 3.5-liter V6 or the powerful 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder.

The 2008 Altima offers a long list of technology features, including standard Intelligent Key with Push Start Ignition, available Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, RearView Monitor and an advanced touch-screen navigation system.

Enhancements to the 2008 Altima Sedan include:
- Standard splash guards
- Standard Diversity Antenna
- Available factory-activated XM® Satellite Radio (required monthly subscription sold separately)
- Standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD)

2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid

Introduced in 2007, the 2008 Altima Hybrid mates a refined version of Nissan’s QR25 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine with an advanced electric drive motor/generator. Together they give Altima Hybrid a net power rating of 198 horsepower (148 kW). With its standard electronically controlled CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the Altima Hybrid achieves an estimated EPA fuel economy of 35 mpg City and 33 mpg Highway and is rated as an Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV).

Altima Hybrid shares the appealing standard and available equipment with the 2008 Altima Sedan, including its advanced platform and long list of amenities and safety features.

Enhancements to the 2008 Altima Hybrid include:
- Standard splash guards
- Standard Diversity Antenna
- Available factory-activated XM® Satellite Radio (required monthly subscription sold separately)

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