Friday, February 27, 2009

E-REV Too Expensive to Run

In an article to be published in Energy Policy, authors from Carnegie Mellon have found Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) technology may not be worth the cost of the battery.

Source: Design Decisions Laboratory | Home

In an article to appear in the journal Energy Policy, the authors find that urban drivers who can charge their vehicles frequently (every 20 miles or less) can simultaneously reduce petroleum consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and expenses with a plug-in hybrid vehicle whose battery pack is sized for about 7 miles of electric travel per charge. In contrast, plug-in hybrid vehicles with large battery packs – sized for 40 or more miles of electric travel – are too expensive for fuel savings to compensate, even in optimistic scenarios.

That shouldn't be too surprising to anyone who's been paying attention to the progress being made on the Volt by GM. The battery pack is huge, is very expensive, and is heavy. That's why Toyota, based on their own study of the technology, has opted for a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) rather than an E-REV.

But then, that's what they said about hybrids in the first place. But I'm sure anyone who sat down with a pad and pencil last summer figured out the gas savings when fuel was $4 a gallon. It didn't take that long to compensate for the hybrid technology then. And now that hybrids are getting less expensive, the time to recoup your costs are dropping even though gas seems to have stabilized at under $2.

Early cost analysis like these are important, but are also misleading. If we get more plug-ins or E-REVs on the road, the cost will come down on the battery pack. The batteries themselves could get smaller, as things are simplified.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

List of Hybrid Cars

With more hybrid cars coming out every year, I thought it would be helpful to update the list of hybrid cars along with some of their basic information.  If you want to see their fuel efficiency, you can take a look at the list of most fuel efficient vehicles I put together.

Make Model Class Status Full/ Mild Hybrid System Year Introduced
Cadillac Escalade SUV Current Full Two-Mode 2008
Chevy Malibu Car Current Mild BAS 2008
Chevy Silverado Truck Retired Mild BAS 2005
Chevy Silverado Truck Current Full Two-Mode 2008
Chevy Tahoe SUV Current Full Two-Mode 2008
Chrysler Aspen SUV Retired Full Two-Mode 2008
Dodge Durango SUV Retired Full Two-Mode 2008
Ford Escape SUV Current Full Ford Hybrid System 2004
Ford Fusion Car Future Full Ford Hybrid System 2009
GMC Sierra Truck Retired Mild BAS 2005
GMC Yukon SUV Current Full Two-Mode 2008
Honda Accord Car Retired Full IMA 2004
Honda Civic Car Current Full IMA 2002
Honda Insight Car Retired Full IMA 1999
Honda Insight Car Current Full IMA 2009
Lexus 600h l Car Current Full HSD 2007
Lexus GS 450h Car Current Full HSD 2006
Lexus RX 400h SUV Current Full HSD 2005
Mazda Tribute SUV Current Full Ford Hybrid System 2007
Mercury Mariner SUV Current Full Ford Hybrid System 2005
Mercury Milan Car Future Full Ford Hybrid System 2009
Nissan Altima Car Current Full HSD 2007
Saturn Aura Car Current Mild BAS 2007
Saturn Vue SUV Current Mild BAS 2006
Toyota Camry Car Current Full HSD 2006
Toyota Highlander SUV Current Full HSD 2005
Toyota Prius Car Current Full HSD 1997 in Japan/
2000 in US

Full vs Mild Hybrids
While there is more to it than this, what it comes down to is mild hybrids are incapable of moving the vehicle with their electric powertrain alone. The electric motor is their to 'assist' the internal combustion engine (ICE). The advantage to being a mild hybrid is cost, simplicity, and smaller battery size. The disadvantage is lower fuel efficiency.

Hybrid Systems
Toyota has their Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) system in place in their hybrid cars, while Honda has their Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). Ford has their own hybrid system, which is similar to Toyota. GM has the Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) installed into their mild hybrid vehicles. GM and Chrysler use the two-mode hybrid system for their full hybrids they co-developed with BMW.

Current vs Retired
Several hybrid cars have already come and gone, usually because of low sales volume. The mild hybrid trucks from GM and the Honda Accord and Insight have all been retired. The Accord Hybrid was designed to increase performance, rather than emphasizing fuel economy, which resulted in poor sales. The two-seat Insight just never took off with it's lack of utility, despite being the most fuel efficient hybrid built to this day. Chrysler retired their two-mode hybrid SUVs after just two months of production in the context of the economy meltdown and lackluster interest/sales.

The hybrid trucks from GM are making a come-back as full hybrids using the two-mode system, while Honda has begun selling the new Insight as a 'cheaper' hybrid.

The Future of Hybrid Cars Through 2009
On the day I created this list of hybrid cars, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids are not up for sale, yet.  But they are due out in just a short time.

Other major hybrid cars due out in 2009 include the Fisker Karma, Mercedes-Benz S-Class (mild), Porsche Cayenne, and the Saturn Vue Green Line as a two-mode full hybrid. But the dates on these vehicles have been more fluid, so I think I'll leave them off until later.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Overwhelming Response to the Honda Insight

Honda has good reason to feel good about their hybrid car sales right now. The company just announced they had sold over 300,000 hybrids since putting the old Insight up for sale a decade ago. And the response from customers so far to the new Insight has been overwhelming.

"The response has been overwhelming," Hiroshi Kobayashi, deputy chief operating officer for Honda's domestic operations, told a small group of reporters at a test-drive event in Tokyo.

"We will have to increase production plans," he said. But he stopped short of saying how much it could expand output given possible supply limits for hybrid components.
While that's a good thing, considering what the new Insight represents, it's very unlikely Honda is going to suddenly open up the floodgates and start producing many more Insights.

But still, it's good to see companies like Toyota (which just stated they were more interested in hybrid efficiency than power efficiency) and Honda. The competition between the Insight and the Prius (and to a lesser degree, the Ford Fusion hybrid and the Camry Hybrid) can only mean one thing: lower prices for hybrids in general.

Honda has simplified their IMA system to produce a cheaper hybrid car. It may not beat the Prius out in fuel economy, but the price tag will certainly be exciting to anyone who compares the two. And the new model year Camry Hybrid was just priced a thousand dollars less than the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Porsche Cayenne Hybrid Fuel Economy Figures

Looks like the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid is going to make quite a difference when it comes to fuel economy. The supercharged V-6 Cayenne Hybrid will get you 9 liters per 100 km, or 26 mpg, according to Kicking Tires(Porsche Delivers Preliminary Mileage for Cayenne Hybrid - KickingTires).

That's not bad for a car that can get you from 0-62 mph in 6.8 seconds. It looks even better when you consider the 2009 Cayenne gets between 13 and 16 mpg combined, depending on the engine/model.

But then, don't think this is going to come cheap, either. The base Cayenne starts at $45,000 according to

Those fuel economy numbers for the Hybrid Cayenne are not from the EPA, as they won't be testing the Cayenne Hybrid until next year.

Porsche wanted to cut fuel consumption for the Cayenne by one-third.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Honda Has Now Sold Three Hundred Thousand Hybrids

Honda announced, as of January 2009, they have sold 300,000 hybrids since November, 1999 when they introduced the Honda Insight.  That includes over 200,000 sales in the US alone.

Along with the record breaking Honda Insight (original), Honda has sold a Civic Hybrid and the Accord Hybrid (retired).  The new Honda Insight has begun sales in Japan and is due out in the US in the next couple of months.

Honda has had a mixed bag for hybrids so far.  The original Insight, while getting phenomenal fuel efficiency ratings, was never very practical since it was a two-seater.  The Honda Accord Hybrid emphasized power over fuel economy, but that message didn't really resonate with consumers and it was retired along with the original Insight.

The Civic Hybrid, while not as popular as the Prius, has shown consistent sales since it's introduction.  Small in size, but large enough to do most things while being fuel efficient enough to make a difference, the Civic Hybrid has been the most popular hybrid Honda has offered.

The new Insight has yet to be seen, but has certainly set things buzzing.  With a great fuel economy rating, which will put it in the top echelon of lists of the most fuel efficient cars, while being the cheapest hybrid offered, the Insight has done very well in Japan so far. 

Honda has been the second most successful at building and selling hybrids so far.  Unlike GM, who likes to talk about what they're going to do, Nissan and Ford who prefer the more conservative approach, Honda and Toyota have gone out and done it.  They took the risk on developing hybrids sooner rather than later and so far, it's paid off for them.

Press Release from Honda follows:

TOKYO, Japan, February 18, 2009 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today announced that global sales of Honda hybrid vehicles passed the 300,000-unit mark on a cumulative basis at the end of January 2009, since the introduction of the first-generation Insight in November 1999.

Honda is now selling its hybrid models in approximately 40 countries around the world including the key markets of Japan, North America and Europe.

Honda Hybrid Sales by Model/Region (as of the end of January 2009)

Model Region Start of Sales Cumulative
Unit Sales
Insight Japan Nov. 1999 2,340
North America Dec. 1999 14,288
Europe Mar. 2000 392
Total   17,020
Civic Hybrid Japan Dec. 2001 22,899
North America Mar. 2002 191,493
Europe May. 2003 34,757
Asia/Oceania Feb. 2004 5,514
China Nov. 2007 280
Others May. 2006 306
Total   255,249
Accord Hybrid North America Dec. 2004 28,471
Total   28,471
Total Unit Sales of Honda Hybrid Models 300,740

Honda began sales in Japan February 6, 2009, of the all-new Insight hybrid vehicle, a five-door hatchback model featuring a lightweight, compact hybrid system that achieves exceptional fuel economy at an affordable price. Sales of the all-new Insight is scheduled to begin in Europe and North America in March and April, respectively. Honda set annual sales targets of approximately 60,000 units in Japan, more than 30,000 units in Europe and approximately 100,000 units in North America. The annual global sales target is approximately 200,000 units.

Honda will further enhance its hybrid model lineup with the introduction of the all-new sporty hybrid vehicle, based on the CR-Z design concept model, in 2010, in the effort to achieve full-scale market penetration of hybrid vehicles.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Honda Insight Sales Twice Expected So Far in Japan

It seems that if you cut the price on a hybrid, you're going to make sales.  Honda has a monthly sales goal of 5,000 Honda Insights a month, and so far they've sold 10,000. (Nikkei report via GCC).  And that's just for the first 10 days!

Now, that includes pre-orders, but  that's still a great start to what is hopefully going to be the beginning of a real competition for the Prius.  As long as sales for other hybrids go up, Toyota will feel the pressure to keep improving the Prius and keep the price down, if not cut it.

That pace will come down, and we'll have to wait and see how well Honda does in the US with the new Insight.  But I'm betting the pace will be high here.  There seems to be some pent up demand for high fuel economy at lower prices.  As gas prices continue to creep back up, people are looking for more from their cars.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

New York Police Testing Hybrid Cars in Patrols

Looks like New York is getting a little more hybrid over the next couple of weeks.  The police force will be testing out 40 Hybrid Altimas out as police vehicles.

18 have been outfitted as patrol cars,  20 are unmarked, and 2 more will be disguised as taxis.

It's the latest step in NYC since they decided to support the Pickens Plan to begin "reducing America's dependence on foreign oil by investing in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, and promoting alternative fuel vehicles.".

The cost so far has been $1.1 million, but if things go well, the whole fleet of police cars may go hybrid.

"We won't know whether they are suitable for wider use until they are subjected to the NYPD's demanding environment, which includes virtual 24-hour-a-day operation by multiple drivers," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Post.

But then, the NY taxi fleet was supposed to go hybrid, too.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Although production of domestic crude oil is supposed to increase in 2009 by 400,000 bbl/d, the price of oil is predicted to continue its upward trend through 2010 according to the EIA (Energy Information Administration).

The production of domestic crude oil will rise for the first time since 1991 because of the Gulf of Mexico Thunder Horse platform (online now) and the Tahiti platform is expected to come on stream later this year. The EIA is predicting 5.35 million bbl/d in 2009.

While prices over the past year have ranged from up to $150 per barrel in July and back down to $30 per barrel at the end of 2008, the EIA is predicting oil prices to average $43 per barrel in 2009. That should rise to $55 per barrel in 2010. But the analysts point out things could change with "the possibility of a milder recession or faster economic recovery, lower non-OPEC production because of the current low oil prices and financial market constraints, and more aggressive action to lower production by OPEC countries could lead to a faster and stronger recovery in oil prices."

The EIA is projecting gas prices to average $1.95 in 2009 and $2.19 in 2010.

But the figure they provide makes me pause a moment and think hard about their predictions.  It's almost like the childhood figures that ask you to spot the differences between picture A and picture B.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stimulus For Plug-In Hybrids

The stimulus bill (also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) provides some incentives for plug-in hybrids and extended-range electric vehicles (E-REV), which is good news for those interested in the plug-in Prius or Chevy Volt due out next year or in converting their hybrid into a plug-in today.  The final bill provides for federal tax credits set up similarly to those for hybrid cars.

The tax credit for plug-in hybrids ranges based on the size of the battery pack and the size of the vehicle.  People who buy the Chevy Volt are expected to get $7,500 in tax credits, if they qualify.  But the amount of the credit could move upwards to $15,000 for plug-in trucks.

The number of vehicles eligible for the tax credit was moved from 250,000 to 500,000, and is not based on what company makes the vehicle.  That provision makes it unlike the hybrid car tax credit, which phased out for each automaker after they sold their first 60,000.  The provision was made to alleviate the concern domestic car makers had since Toyota and Honda had a big lead on building hybrid cars when the law was passed.

Other Provisions for Battery, Electric and Hybrid Technology

  • Conversions will get up to $4,000 in tax credits, if the buyer qualifies for the tax credit, at 10% of the conversion price.
  • Neighborhood electric vehicles (golf carts?) are also eligible for a tax credit.
  • The bill also provides for $2 billion in direct grants for battery development and manufacturing. 
  • New car buyers could see a tax deduction from auto loans and local sales taxes.
  • The federal government will also have money to lease alternative fuel vehicles, like hybrids, plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles.
Defense Spending on Alternative Fuel Vehicles
According to the Democratic Policy Committee report, $200 million is being set aside for Operation and Maintenance funds for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps for the lease of alternative energy vehicles; $100 million to DOD for the procurement of lithium ion batteries, robotics, fuel cells, and other alternative vehicle technologies; and $200 million in Defense-wide Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) for the Manufacturing Technology Program, for rapid technology transitions and energy efficient technologies for use by operational forces and military installations;

Obama's Reaction
"The auto industry, RV industry, transportation industry is so important to us here in the Midwest," Obama said. "If we don’t use this crisis as an opportunity to start retooling, then we will never catch up and be able to compete effectively against Japanese automakers, Korean automakers.

"We will find ourselves continuing to slide. This should be an opportunity for us to retool."

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Japan Will Cut Taxes on Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Green Car Congress found a Nikkei report showing Japan will be cutting out the taxes on hybrid and electric vehicles. A typical tax for new cars is 5% of the car's price, and three years worth of the weight tax. But hybrid or electric cars will have the tax waived completely, while other types of 'environmentally friendly' could see 50-75% tax reduction.

Which is good news for us. Japanese companies have shown they are willing to export their hybrid technology to the US and elsewhere. When the Japanese government actively encourages that technology, the Japanese and other car makers who produce hybrids are encouraged to keep it up, and to continue to develop more.

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Honda Insight Begins Selling in Japan

Honda began selling its new Honda Insight in Japan and, based on the price set there, the US should expect the new dedicated hybrid to come in under $20,000.

Honda set the pricetag at 1.89 million yen ($21,000) in Japan, making it the cheapest full hybrid on the road today. With the economic climate where it is, plus cheaper gas prices, some are wondering how well the new Insight will do.

In comparison, the Prius sells for 2.3 million yen in Japan, over $22,000 in the US. Although, you can probably get a good deal on the Prius right now with a new generation Prius due out in a few months.

The Insight will also face stiffer competition from Ford, with their new Hybrid Fusion and Hybrid Milan due out in a few months. And if you act quickly, Ford hybrids are still eligible for the full amount of the hybrid tax credits from the federal government. Toyota and Honda hybrid buyers are no longer eligible for even part of the federal tax credit.

Honda has hoped to sell 200,000 Insights a year, with a 100,000 being bought in the US. It's unlikely to see those sorts of numbers right now, but based on projections six months ago, that was a reasonable goal given sales of the Prius.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

A Serious Weakness to the Chevy Volt?

E-REV (Extended Range Electric Vehicle) technology has a lot to offer, all the strengths of the electric car over not-so-short driving distances, with the range of a gas engine comes to mind. But Ford, and Toyota, have not gone for it so far. In fact GM seems to be the leader in the E-REV field, while other companies have continued their development of plug-in hybrid technology.

Without going into all the details of the differences, it seems there's a reason for that reluctance and in an interview, Nancy Gioia, Director of Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford, feels their is a significant weakness to E-REV technology. Read the entire interview at GM-Volt, but what it boils down to is the lack of flexibility in the E-REV.

The engine can't switch back and forth from the gas engine to the electric propulsion, which may leave the driver in a bad spot. I don't want to go any farther than that, but read the interview at GM-Volt if you're at all interested in the Volt.

You can also use a smaller battery pack, which given the size and expense of the battery packs, is no small consideration.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Maryland Begins Move to Hybrid Bus Fleet

The plan to purchase 100 diesel electric hybrids in Maryland has been approved to the tune of $62 million. The new buses should be hitting the streets this year.

Last July, Governor O'Malley announced his intention to commit the Maryland Transit Administration to only purchase hybrid electric buses in the future.

The plan is to get 500 hybrid diesel electric buses on the road by 2014.

According to testing, hybrid buses used 20 percent less fuel and have been 50 percent quieter.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Chevy Volt Named 2009 Green Car Vision Award Winner

Green Car Journal announced the Chevy Volt as the 2009 Green Car Vision Award winner at the Washington Auto Show.

"The Chevy Volt offers a bold and far-reaching approach that will bring an exceptionally fuel-efficient model to consumers at reasonable cost," says Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of the Green Car Journal and editor of "Besides being a great design, the Volt promises exactly what many consumers are asking for -- a car capable of driving on zero emission battery power most of the time at pennies per mile, with over 100 mpg possible on longer journeys when electric power from its range extender engine-generator is needed."

Other candidates included the Fisker Karma, launching late this year; the Honda FCX Clarity, a sleek, fuel-cell sedan; the MINI E, an electric version of the conventional internal combustion MINI Cooper; and the Mitsubishi I-MiEV, a battery electric city car based on a popular internal combustion model in Japan.

The Green Car Vision Award looks to recognize the most important vehicle in an award year that 'envisions the road ahead' but is not yet on sale. It complements Green Car Journal's Green Car of the Year award, which by nature focuses on new vehicle models that lead the field in environmental performance and are available at new car showrooms today.

"Chevrolet's Volt is a milestone vehicle that re-thinks the drivetrain of the future," says Cogan. "The Volt is one of the most anticipated vehicles in the auto industry's 100-plus year history, and when it launches in 2010, it will surely be one of the most coveted vehicles on the road."

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Texans With Bad Air May Get Five Thousand for Plug-in Hybrids

Texas may have a new tax break for plug-in hybrid owners. In order to "sidestep fresh mandates from Washington," Governor Rick Perry is proposing a $5,000 incentive towards a purchase of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for those in the non-attainment areas of Texas.

He made his proposal during his state of the state address last week.

Unfortunately, our strength in petrochemical production and refining makes us a big target on the radar of an increasingly activist EPA, whose one-size-fits-all approaches could severely harm our energy sector; an agency whose potential to harm our state with punitive actions will only increase in the months and years to come.

Rather than wait for more mandates and punishments for environmental non-attainment, let’s continue encouraging innovation.
Add in the federal tax credit of up to $7,500, and Texans with bad air quality could be looking at a $12,500 discount on their purchase (if they qualify for the tax credits). If you assume plug-ins like the Volt will be in the $40K range, that's over 25% of the cost to consumers.

Non-attainment areas are locations where "levels of the selected pollutant exceed EPA standards."

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Toyota Says Fuel Economy of Plug-In Prius is Still Unknown

Toyota wants you to know they are not ready to make any claims about fuel economy for the plug-in Prius. A recent story in Automotive News noted test plug-in Prius on the road were averaging 65 mpg.

Irv Miller, VP Environmental and Public Affairs, in the Toyota blog, says Toyota believes the quoted mpg comes a misunderstanding. The reporter and the spokesperson, "who were also discussing Prius vehicles that had been converted to plug-ins by aftermarket companies and are currently being tested by private individuals, companies, utilities and so on. Many of these owners of converted PHVs have stated or publicly posted performance numbers in the 65 mpg range.

For the record, Toyota has only a small test fleet of PHVs in the U.S. and has never offered mileage estimates on PHV technology. These PHVs are being used for auto show displays, brief demonstrations and university studies. They are very early "converted" prototypes using double nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Miller notes the plug-in Prius will be using lithium-ion battery packs, but individual results will vary based on conditions and driving habits.  But since they are using lithium-ion battery packs instead of nickel metal hydride, I would guess Toyota expects their fuel economy figures will be higher than 65 mpg. 

Maybe they got tired of seeing all the comparisons between them and the Chevy Volt, which may end up with over 120 mpg rating from the EPA.

But mostly it sounds like Toyota is covering themselves from any repercussions on fuel economy claims in the future.

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Ford CEO Personally Thanks Ford Fusion Hybrid Buyer

Ford CEO Alan Mulally called up to thank one of his new customers personally. Is this the beginning of a new trend? Given how hard the industry is being hit right now, it's probably a great idea for all of the executives at the car makers to get on the phone right now and start making calls.

The reason this story caught my attention is, of course, the customer in question was buying a Ford Fusion Hybrid. The reason the story got into the paper is two fold.

One, the customer decided to buy a Ford Fusion Hybrid over the Toyota Prius, even though the Fusion Hybrid isn't available until this spring.

Which brings up an issue with hybrid car sales right now. Despite the quite reasonable assumption that hybrid car sales have dropped because 1) gas prices are still down, although they certainly seem to be creeping back up and 2) the overall industry is down, there is one other factor that has to be weighing in on buyers minds.

There are three very exciting hybrids on the way right now. The new Toyota Prius, which has upped the fuel economy ante to 50 mpg; the new Honda Insight, which not only will be a dedicated hybrid, but the cheapest to purchase (which will force everyone else to look closely at how much they're willing to charge for their hybrids); and last but not least, the new Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids which, if you go out and get your name down on one now, will still qualify you for the full federal tax credit, something Honda and Toyota hybrid buyers can no longer state.

Source: Ford boss thanks man who picked Fusion over Prius | | The Detroit News

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Hybrid Car Sales, January 2009

The start of the new year has not gone well for car makers, even in their hybrid sales.  Sales were down 33% in reported hybrid car sales (full hybrids only).  Although the percentage drop is better than that of overall sales, most of that is due to the Prius, which did not fall as much as most of the others.

Some might find that odd since a new generation Prius is on its way in a few months, but Toyota has been offering deals on the Prius to help clear out the inventory. 

Make Model Jan-08 Jan-09 % Change
Honda Accord 48 1 -98%
Honda Civic 1,745 1,076 -38%
Honda Insight 0 0 -
Toyota Prius 11,379 8,121 -29%
Toyota Highlander 2,143 984 -54%
Toyota Camry 3,750 1,141 -70%
Toyota GS 450h 64 41 -36%
Toyota RX 400h 1,211 1,556 28%
Toyota LS600hL 105 33 -69%
Ford Escape/Mariner 1,474 880 -40%
Nissan Altima 473 644 36%
GM Yukon/Tahoe 0 467 -
GM Escalade 0 132 -
Chrysler Aspen/Durango 0 0 -
Total 22,392 15,076 -33%
Make Model Cumulative, 2008 Cumulative, 2009 % Change
Honda Accord 48 1 -98%
Honda Civic 1,745 1,076 -38%
Honda Insight 0 0 -
Toyota Prius 11,379 8,121 -29%
Toyota Highlander 2,143 984 -54%
Toyota Camry 3,750 1,141 -70%
Toyota GS 450h 64 41 -36%
Toyota RX 400h 1,211 1,556 28%
Toyota LS600hL 105 33 -69%
Ford Escape/Mariner 1,474 880 -40%
Nissan Altima 473 644 36%
GM Yukon/Tahoe 0 467 -
GM Escalade 0 132 -
Chrysler Aspen/Durango 0 0 -
Total 22,392 15,076 -33%

Nissan saw a rise in sales for their Altima Hybrid, but sales of the Hybrid Altima are limited and so are supplies. So, it's hard to gauge how well Nissan is doing with their hybrid cars. Until they can get their own hybrid on the road (the Altima Hybrid is built using Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive), that's not likely to change.

Chrysler is out of the Hybrid marketplace, with the short-lived Hybrid Aspen and Durango no longer in production.

Honda, Toyota and Ford were all down 36% to 40% in overall hybrid car sales. That's in line with the overall drop of 37% of sales in the auto industry. In a way, that shows how far hybrid cars have come. They are part of the crowd, no longer set apart from what is going on with the rest of the industry.

There are other reasons why hybrid car sales are down right now, but it seems to be reflective of how sales were overall, rather than a reflection of hybrids.

Hybrid Car Sales, January 2008
Hybrid Car Sales, December 2008
Hybrid Car Sales in 2008 and 2009

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Fisher Coachworks Raises $3.2 Million to Develop Hybrid Bus

Fisher Coachworks introduced their hybrid bus prototype back in July, 2008. They had $6 million in DOE grants and private investment and raised $3.2 million in a $4.25 million Series A fundraising push to continue their development.

$200,000 will got salaries and $500,000 will go towards machinery purchases.  They are also planning on a $7 million factory in Livonia, MI.

Fisher is building the GTB-40, a 40-foot serial drive hybrid, which will be half the weight and twice as fuel efficient. They are cutting weight through the use of Nitronic, a stiffer alloy of stainless steel.

A small diesel engine powers the generator and keeps the battery charged. The buses also employ regenerative braking.

Fisher claims the bus is getting 10 mpg, double the normal 4 or 5 mpg hybrid buses usually get, which is twice what diesel buses can expect.

The GTB-40 completed DOE load-test requirements last September and will begin testing brakes, suspension durability, bumper protection, passenger safety and overall maintainability.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Renting a Hybrid Car Just Got Easier at Enterprise

The biggest reason for not renting a hybrid is unavailability, and now it's getting easier. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is adding 5,000 hybrids to their nationwide fleet. With the concentration of hybrid vehicles at 80 branches, they can now be reserved online or by phone.

Enterprise, Hertz and Avis have been steadily building up their hybrid vehicle fleet over the past few years. And according to anecdotal reports, renting hybrids is paying off.

The 5,000 hybrids will more than double the number of hybrids Enterprise already has for rent.

Locations for Renting Hybrid Cars
The 80 'hybrid branches' are lcoated in 24 major markets including California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and Fresno); Colorado (Denver); Florida (Orlando, Tampa); New York (Albany, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester); Oregon (Eugene, Portland); Texas (Austin, Dallas, Houston); Atlanta; Boston; Detroit; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; St. Louis; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Which Hybrid Cars Are Available
Customers will be able to choose between the Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid. Rates for hybrid cars tend to be higher, but customers will pay less for fuel (may not be enough to offset the extra cost). But Enterprise thinks their customers are looking for something else.

"Whether they're traveling for business or pleasure, our customers continue to seek out environmentally friendly vehicle options," said Jeff Morrell, Vice President of Business Development for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "Doubling our fleet of hybrid vehicles nationally is in direct response to that demand and furthers our commitment to help grow the market for new engine technologies and alternative fuels."

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Volkswage Shifts to Hybrid Touareg

Volkswagen has shifted its plans to release a Hybrid Touareg, not a hybrid Jetta in 2010 as model year 2011.  VW believes the extra cost of a hybrid powertrain can be made up more easily than the Jetta could.  If the hybrid system costs $2500 more to install, the percentage increase to the pricetag of a Touareg would be much lower than that of the Jetta.

 The Hybrid Touareg will have a V6 mated to a TSI petrol engine and a new eight-speed automatic transmission.  The full hybrid capability will allow the SUV to travel up to 30 mph on all electric power.  Fuel economy is supposed to increase to 26 mpg, while power is still up at 333 hp.  And if reports are correct, it will be capable of towing 3.5 metric tons (7,500 lbs).

But then, we've seen these sorts of plans come and go out of VW before.  There was going to be a hybrid Cayenne, a hybrid Jetta, hybrid Golf, and a hybrid Touareg.  It's unclear which, if any, will actually make it to production and begin sales in the US.  Although VW has been clear all along on their decision to build their own hybrid system.

VW tends to focus in on diesel engines.  We'll just have to wait and see what they ultimately decide.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

MVP Holmes Wins Cadillac Hybrid for MVP Performance

Superbowl MVP Santonio Holmes selected a 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Platinum as his car. This is the sixth time in eight years the MVP candidate chose a Cadillac (Brady has two and Manning chose a Hybrid Cadillac last year, Ichiro Suzuki picked a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid as his MVP prize) but Cadillac did not make a big deal out of the prize this year.

Most likely that's due to the possible backlash from the recent bailout and how the public might react to someone receiving a car worth $85,275.

"Given the current business environment, it was much more appropriate we not do that," Krell said in a phone interview. "We made the decision not to actively participate in the Super Bowl. We congratulate the MVP, it is a great achievement. We are very sensitive to the federal assistance loan we have received and we want to carry on our fiduciary responsibility. The Super Bowl was not a place for us to be this year. That is not to say it's not a great platform."

The 2009 Cadillac will begun production in a couple of weeks, and Holmes Cadillac will be delivered afterwards (the price includes the $950 destination charge).

The Platinum model includes a unique front end, Magnetic Ride Control and LED headlamps.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Plug-In Hybrid Prius Getting 65 mpg

Toyota has been testing their plug-in Prius and it's looking good so far. Initial trials show the plug-in getting 65 mpg (3.6L/100km) in mixed driving. In comparison, the next generation 2010 Toyota Prius is getting 50 mpg in the same cycle.

"That is real-world driving," said Bill Reinert, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.'s national alternative-fuel vehicle manager. "I ask my guys to drive them as you drive your normal Prius."

Those figures are in line with what other testers are seeing. Google, for instance, was getting similar numbers from their plug-in testing as part of their non-profit testing of various hybrids and plug-in hybrids, at least until they decided to work at increasing their numbers.  After deciding to do some testing, google found they could get 100 mpg out of their plug-in fleet.

But what does 65 mpg vs 50 mpg in mixed driving mean? About 55 gallons a year if you drive 12,000 miles a year. Around 70 gallons if you drive 15,000 miles. If you look at 40 mpg as the lower value (say, what the new Honda Insight will likely get), you're still only saving 115 gallons a year at 12,000 miles.

That's not much, and it's definitely a consideration when you look at the likely price differential between the new Prius (or Honda Insight, for that matter) and the likely price of a plug-in Prius.

But, if you're interested in doing anything you can to reduce oil imports or gasoline emissions, the plug-in that gets 65 mpg is definitely a big step in the right direction.  Besides, if you really tried to enhance the way you drive, and not just 'drive your normal' way, you can probably kick the fuel economy way up with a plug-in.

The Chevy Volt, on the other hand, may be getting better numbers because of the way it's designed.  The EPA rating may not be available, but some people could see their mpg's in the 100 mpg range if they keep their driving distance down.  That's because the Volt won't use the gas engine until it's used up the juice in it's battery pack.  After that, your fuel economy is going to go way down, but given how hard they've worked on the design, you're probably still likely to get very good mpgs even when the gas engine is being fully employed.

(A little side-note: going from 65 mpg to 100 mpg only saves you another 65 gallons a year.)

The Plug-in Prius, on the other hand, has been designed to use the battery pack and the gas engine in tandem.  Depending on your driving situation, either method could be better.

In case you're interested, here's a quick and dirty conversion from mpg to gallons per year when you drive 12,000 miles a year

MPG Gallons per Year
60 200
55 218
50 240
45 267
40 300
35 343
30 400
25 480
20 600
15 800
10 1200

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Hybrid Bus Issues in Honolulu

In Honolulu, a fleet of hybrid buses around town in an effort to cut down on pollution and gas use.

The city purchased 40 standard 40-foot buses in 2006 and 10 articulated extra-long hybrid buses in 2004. And they plan on buying 10 more. And the recent 'stimulus package' is putting aside some money to buy about 59 hybrid buses at the tune of $41.5 million.

But there have been issues with the program.

Apparently the forty hybrid buses have suffered 10 breakdowns in the past 10 months while traveling up and down the Pali. The bus engines had been improperly calibrated and the batteries were being overcharged, which caused them to break down.

The problem has been solved.

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