Thursday, April 30, 2009

Denver Wants $15 Million to Plug-in

A coalition in Denver will apply for $15 million in federal funding from the stimulus plan to get the US Dept of Energy to help fund the Funding Electric Vehicle Expansion in the Rockies (FEVER).

The coalition is made up of 12 cities and two dozen government and private business partners. The federal funding would be matched by the cities to bring the total funding up to $30 million. The money would be used to promote electricity, ethanol, natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel and propane instead of gasoline and petroleum diesel.

Specifically, the want to convert the existing hybrid fleet into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. If they converted, for instance, Denver Mayor Ford Escape Hybrid to a plug-in hybrid, the fuel economy would jump from 29 mpg to 70 mpg.

"Each step about doubles the efficiency of the vehicle," Sabrina Williams, environmental analyst and project manager, said. "I think we're looking at about a thousand vehicles total which would include about 700 conversions."

The coalition will apply for the grant by the end of May and hope to be approved in July. The funding would be provided sometime in September.

In addition, recharging stations would be installed in government fleet parking areas, theaters, recreation centers, and libraries as well as other public destinations spots.

Read more, including a Q&A session with Meghan Hughes, Communications Director for Denvers environmental health department at the DenverChannel.

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Nevada Wants to Give $1 Million to New Hybrid Car Owners

The Office of Energy Conservation in Nevada wants to put $1 million aside to help people purchase hybrid cars (source: LasVegasSun). The proposed plan would last three years and the money would come from federal funding the the Energy Department.

Anyone who buys hybrid vehicle would have their registration fee paid for by the Office of Energy Conservation in a first come first serve manner. The plan is expected to cover 200,000 purchases at a cost of approximately $500 each.

Dealers would give buyers a certificate they could use at the DMV to have their payment passed on to the Energy Office.

“It will be on a first come, first served basis because there is no way to allocate it out to the dealers,” Ramirez, a spokesman for the Energy Office, told the Nevada Senate Finance Committee.

The plan still needs to be approved at the federal Dept and a decision is expected in June.

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Insight Outsells Prius in UK

The Honda Insight is outselling the Toyota Prius (and other hybrids) in the UK... for now.

In its first month of sales, Honda has sold 229 Insights in the UK, 31 more units than the Toyota Prius. Honda also sold 79 Civic Hybrids with a few days remaining in the month of April.

“The Insight is proving a hit with cost-savvy consumers looking for a cleaner car that’s more affordable,” said John Kingston, Honda (UK)’s Environment and Government Affairs Manager. “More and more people want a car that makes sound financial sense, especially in the current economic climate, and the Insight offers numerous running cost savings such as reduced road tax of £15 per year and great fuel economy.”

Honda hopes to sell 7,000 Insights in the UK this year, and has a sales goal of 200,000 units worldwide.

The pace they've set in the UK has been good so far, but the next generation Prius will start sales in the US at the end of the month. At that point, we may get a much better impression of how much competition the Insight can truly be for the Prius.

Press Release found via GCC.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Loss of Saturn Hybrids

GM has said they will stop building Saturn models with the 2009 MY, which means they will stop building Saturn vehicles in just a few weeks. That means GM is ending their Saturn hybrid line-up, the Vue and Aura hybrids. The Vue was also scheduled to come out with a plug-in version as well as a full hybrid two-mode hybrid engine.

There are three things here that need to be discussed (Source for the basis of two of the three issues: autonews). One, how the loss of the fuel efficient line-up from Saturn will affect GM under CAFE. Two, the loss of so much of their hybrid line-up (two of their six hybrid models) will have an affect on the image GM wants to present. And three, how the loss of Saturn will affect people's image of GM.

CAFE and the Loss of Saturn
First, the CAFE standards shouldn't be a problem as far as losing the more fuel efficient line-up from Saturn. Since GM is also cutting Hummer and Pontiac, the initial hit will be minor for their overall fleet. The long term shouldn't be a problem in relation to whether they kept Saturn or not. They just don't sell enough Saturns to make a big enough difference in the upcoming years when they really will have to increase their overall fuel economy levels.

The Loss of Saturn Means the Loss of Hybrids
The other issue is their hybrid technology, which won't be lost. The mild hybrid versions of the Aura and Vue were already incorporated into the mild hybrid Malibu. The BAS system from GM hasn't been very popular with buyers, but it's still there and it's still a cheap option to be employed elsewhere to raise the GM fleet's fuel economy.

The Vue two-mode, while it would have been exciting to see a full hybrid with Saturn badging, wasn't native to Saturn. The dual mode hybrid system was co-developed by GM, BMW and Chrysler and has already been sold in the Hybrid Tahoe and Yukon SUVs since last May. And more recently, it's been deployed in the Hybrid Silverado and Sierra truck platform. So there's no loss there.

The plug-in Vue may be the biggest loss, since it would have been the first major plug-in SUV on the road from a major automaker. It's unknown what kind of system the plug-in Vue would have employed, since it was never really backed by the hype machine the Chevy Volt has enjoyed. It may have been a technical nightmare or it may have been lauded as the next best thing. We'll never know now.

The real loss here is the test-bed Saturn has been, especially the Vue. Over the past few years, GM has used the Vue to showcase and test out their mild hybrid system (BAS), and was slated to receive the full mode hybrid system as well as the plug-in hybrid electric motor. GM is also losing out on 25% of their hybrid car sales, even if the were mild hybrids, which may be harder to swallow from an image standpoint. But the Saturn line-up hasn't exactly wowed spectators with their sales, anyways.

Goodbye Saturn
Mostly, what they're losing in the Saturn hybrid vehicles is their sympathy. The Saturn divisions was supposed to be different. It garnered a lot of support, a lot of popularity, and a lot of positive feelings towards GM. The hybrid models were part of that image. But like Saturn itself, it seems that those dreams of a better GM are going nowhere.

Other people have told the story of Saturn and how it got lost on the way, so I won't go much farther than this. It just makes me sad to say goodbye and I guess I just wanted to send that out there.

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Can Car Makers Make a Profit Off of Hybrid Cars

Apparently they can. Toyota and Honda (according to the Nikkei via GCC) are making about $3,100 on every hybrid they sell, which is similar to what they make on small gas powered vehicles.

Which is why it's not surprising to see comments like this in the NY Times:

Honda is also hoping to increase revenue this year with the Insight, a new, low-cost hybrid vehicle introduced in March that could challenge the leading model in the hybrid market, the Toyota Prius. Toyota has said it would cut prices on its next Prius models to compete better with the Insight.
Honda expects to make money off of the Insight in the coming year. Toyota expects to make money on every hybrid they sell. Ford expects to start making a profit on their hybrids this year.

The initial cost in research is expensive, there's no doubt. But building and selling hybrid cars can be profitable. It just takes time.

According to the Nikkei report, the gross profit on the Honda Insight is still 'low' when factoring in the large development costs. But Honda can now 'count on it to generate the fourth-largest revenue stream behind its luxury, midsize and small car operations.'

And that's why Toyota can afford to cut the price on their new 2010 Toyota Prius to compete with the Insight. Meanwhile GM is talking about a $40,000 Chevy Volt. By getting in on the hybrid ground floor, Toyota, Honda, and Ford are reaping the rewards.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Toyota Recalls Highlander and Highlander Hybrid

Approximately 39,100 Highlander and Highlander Hybrids are being recalled as part of an Equipment Safety Recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An optional accessory, Stainless Steel Exhaust Tip retention Clamps, may develop cracks and fall off due to improper heat treatment.

The clamp can be found in 2008 MY Highlander and Highland HV vehicles sold in the US.

Due to improper heat treatment, the original clamp used to secure the stainless steel exhaust tip to the exhaust pipe may develop microscopic cracks. If this occurs, the crack may expand causing the clamp to break and in the worst case the exhaust tip may fall off.

Although approximately 39,100 accessory kits may be affected, all of the 121,000 vehicle owners will be notified. This accessory is installed at the Toyota vehicle processing centers and dealers, and is available over-the-counter.

There have been ten reports of this condition, and no other vehicles are involved.

Notification of owners will begin in May. The notification will include inspection instructions for owners to determine if their vehicle is equipped with this accessory. Affected owners are requested to contact their local Toyota dealer for inspection and repair.

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NASCAR Driver Carl Edwards Driver Takes Ford Fusion Hybrid 1000 Miles on Single Tank of Gas... Keeps Going

Ford, in a promotional event for the all new Ford Fusion Hybrid, challenged NASCAR driver Carl Edwards to drive a Ford Fusion Hybrid 1,000 miles on a single tank of gas. Carl and his team have beaten the mark this morning and they're still going. So far, he's averaging 80 mpg and he still has a 1/3 of a tank left.

Hypermiling is nothing new, but most people, if they know about it, think about hypermiling in a Toyota or Honda hybrid. Ford is working hard to get you to think about their cars, too.

Edwards and the driving team, which includes Wayne Gerdes and several Ford hybrid engineers are driving the Fusion Hybrid from Mount Vernon, Va to Washington, D.C. over a three day period. They began the trek on April 25 and expect to end on April 28.

The 80+ mpg was achieved over 47 hours of continuous driving. The team will continue to drive until the full tank is depleted. You can track their progress through several sources, including YouTube and Twitter.

Wayne Gerdes is a hypermiling expert and is most likely leading the effort to get the most out of the driving.

Ford is competing to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. As part of the event, the team is conducting clinics for media and customers in the Fusion Hybrid, providing interviews and vehicle demonstrations on how simple techniques can make a significant difference to real world fuel economy numbers.

Mileage-maximizing techniques that the Ford team used and recommend to consumers include:
  • Slowing down and maintaining even throttle pressure;
  • Gradually accelerating and smoothly braking;
  • Maintaining a safe distance between vehicles and anticipating traffic conditions;
  • Coasting up to red lights and stop signs to avoid fuel waste and brake wear;
  • Minimize use of heater and air conditioning to reduce the load on the engine;
  • Close windows at high speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag;
  • Applying the “Pulse and Glide” technique while maintaining the flow of traffic;
  • Minimize excessive engine workload by using the vehicle’s kinetic forward motion to climb hills, and use downhill momentum to build speed; and
  • Avoiding bumps and potholes that can reduce momentum

Update: The final numbers: 1,445.7 miles on one tank of gas for an average fuel economy of 81.5 mpg. Ford, Edwards, Gerdes and the rest of the team outdid themselves with this challenge.

Also, Pamela Sorensen from Pamela's Punch ( get a few lessons in Eco-driving from Ford's Chief Engineer for Hybrids, Sherif Marakby.

And another video from the 'final moments.'

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Toyota Increases Production of 2010 Prius Before It Even Begins Selling

In response to the 40,000 pre-orders on the new 2010 Prius, Toyota has decided to increase production.  Starting in June, Toyota will up the number from 40,000 units per month to 50,000.  Production in fiscal 2009 should hit 500,000 instead of the previous 300,000 worldwide goal. (Nikkei via GCC)

Toyota expects the 40,000 pre-orders to hit 60-70K before the launch date.

It seems the aggressive pricing has hit a nerve.  It also seems that I was right on in talking about why Prius sales have been so far down.  Maybe we're just seeing all the pressure from people holding off just to buy the new Prius as opposed to the old Prius and this pressure will ease shortly after the release date (once they work through the 60,000 pre-orders).  I suppose that will be determined by the economy in another quarter or two.

Honda saw a huge pre-order surge for the Insight, but the more established Prius is getting a fantastic run-up.  It makes you wonder where their competitors are? 

One last question.  I wonder which of the five types of Prius is getting the biggest push?  Is it the cheapest option (no frills or cruise control expected) or are people opting in for all the fun stuff?

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

4 Billion For Development of Smart Grid

The Dept of Energy is setting up a $4 billion program to develop the smart grid.  As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, vice president Biden announced the program to distribute more than $3.3 billion in smart grid technology development grants and an additional $615 million for smart grid storage, monitoring and technology viability.

This is important to those advocating plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs).  With smart grid technology, consumers can recharge their car overnight at home when rates are lower, drive to work and plug back in.  As the day progresses, the electric grid can take back some of the electricity stored in the battery, for which the owner would be paid for at the higher rates.  The owner can then drive back home and plug back in.

This is also a move strongly advocated for by GM lately.  They want the country to be plug-in ready as soon as possible, given their target date for production of the Chevy Volt  is in 2010.

“We need an upgraded electrical grid to take full advantage of the vast renewable resources in this country – to take the wind from the Midwest and the sun from the Southwest and power areas across the country,” said Vice President Biden.  “By investing in updating the grid now, we will lower utility bills for American families and businesses, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and create good jobs that will drive our economic recovery – a strong return on our investment.”

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is responsible for assisting with the development of a framework for standards associated with Smart Grid systems and devices.  

As part of Vice President Biden's announcement, the Department of Energy released a Notice of Intent (NOI) for the DOE Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, as well as a draft Funding Opportunity Announcement from the Department for a smart grid regional demonstration initiative.
These investments will help implement the necessary digital upgrades in the home and on the electric grid, enabling it to be more efficient, resilient, and secure.  They will also help make the grid capable to effectively integrate renewable supplies, plug in electric and hybrid vehicles, and energy management technologies, ultimately reducing energy infrastructure requirements and our dependence on foreign oil. 

$3.375 billion for Smart Grid Investment Grant Program
DOE’s Smart Grid Investment Grant Program will provide grants ranging from $500,000 to $20 million for smart grid technology deployments.  It will also provide grants of $100,000 to $5 million for the deployment of grid monitoring devices. This program provides matching grants of up to 50 percent for investments planned by electric utilities and other entities to deploy smart grid technologies.  The program will use a competitive, merit-based process to select qualified projects to receive funding. 

Eligible applicants include, but are not limited to, electric utilities, companies that distribute or sell electricity, organizations that coordinate or control grid operations, appliance and equipment manufacturers, and firms that wish to install smart grid technology. There will be a 20-day public comment period on the Notice of Intent; the Department will use feedback to finalize the grant program structure and subsequent solicitation. 

$615 million for Smart Grid Demonstration Projects
The draft Funding Opportunity Announcement is for smart grid demonstrations in three areas:

  • Smart Grid Regional Demonstrations will quantify smart grid costs and benefits, verify technology viability, and examine new business models.    
  • Utility-Scale Energy Storage Demonstrations can include technologies such as advanced battery systems, ultra-capacitors, flywheels, and compressed air energy systems, and applications such as wind and photovoltaic integration and grid congestion relief. 
  • Grid Monitoring Demonstrations will support the installation and networking of multiple high-resolution, time-synchronized grid monitoring devices, called phasor measurement units, that allow transmission system operators to see, and therefore influence, electric flows in real-time. 
Each demonstration project must be carried out in collaboration with the electric utility that owns the grid facilities. An integrated team approach that includes, for example, products and services suppliers, end users, and state and municipal governments, is encouraged.  The projects require a cost share of at least 50 percent of non-federal funds.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Sun Microsystems Buy Out Threatens X Prize Contestant Neil Young

I just saw a tweet that
Neil Young is worried that because Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, his LincVolt hybrid car business will be excised from the project list.
The LincVolt project is an entrant in the X Automotive Prize and Neil Young has partnered with SUN to make it happen.

Linc Volt is a classic 1959 Lincoln Continental Mk IV that has been re-powered by Neil Young and a team from Wichita Kansas with a new series-hybrid system and now runs on electricity produced by a natural gas powered generator.

Java technology is a playing a part in this cool project! Perrone Robotics (the team behind Tommy Jr, the autonomous vehicle at JavaOne 2008) has installed sensors that use Java technology to monitor performance elements of Linc Volt as the team travels down the road. This data is displayed on a touch-screen panel in the car. In the future when the team starts long distance testing we will be displaying this information on!
The LincVolt is a Lincoln Continental Mk IV convertible manufactured in 1959 and is going a renovation to be powered by a new series-hybrid system.  At 19.5 feet long, this is one big car.

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Lexus 450h Price Announced

Toyota has set the price on the 2010 RX 450h at base MSRP of $41,660 for the front-wheel drive (FWD) model and $43,250 for the all-wheel drive (AWD) version.  The 450h has an updated Lexus Hybrid Drive, featuring a 3.5-liter V6 Atkinson-cycle engine, lighter electric motors, a smaller and lighter power-control unit and other fuel-saving innovations.  

All that adds up to 32 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for the FWD; and 30 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for the AWD.

It also achieves a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) certification in California (Tier 2-Bin 3 in other states), producing nearly 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than conventionally powered vehicles.

The 450h, produces 27 hp more than the current RX 400h, for a total of 295 hp.

From the press release:

Active safety features include the available Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), which governs all of the vehicle’s standard dynamic handling systems – the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) – employing them collectively and seamlessly to make corrections while allowing higher dynamic capability. The new RX adopts Hill-start Assist Control, which uses brake pressure to help prevent the vehicle from moving backward when starting out on an incline. The RX450h also has the available new Intelligent Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS), and the Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

The 2010 RX450h is equipped with a segment-leading 10 standard airbags, including side curtain airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, rear side airbags (for the outboard seating positions) and knee airbags for the driver and the front passenger.

It features new wider standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, which were designed to appear as if carved from a single block, and 235/60R18 tires. Optional unique 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 235/55R19 tires are available.

Lexus’ available next-generation Hard Disc Drive (HDD) navigation system eliminates the need for DVD map discs and offers a unique voice recognition system, which can work using casual-language inputs on certain functions. A distinctive Remote Touch controller allows the user to operate the navigation system, climate, audio, phone controls and more. The screen menus are selected with the controller, eliminating the need to reach out or avert eyes from the road. The attribute that most distinguishes Lexus’ navigation controller from other devices in other luxury models is its “haptic”-feedback technology, which provides a tactile response to the hand.

The new RX450h accommodates a variety of music sources, providing auxiliary and available USB inputs, Bluetooth® Audio wireless connectivity and standard XM® satellite radio capability (requires subscription), which is also joined by XM NavTraffic® and XM NavWeather®.

An optional rear-seat entertainment system includes two high-definition seven-inch screens, one on each of the front seatbacks. The available wide-view side monitor and backup monitor each help provide the driver with a wider range of visibility.

The all-new RX450h is now available with a Heads-Up Display (HUD) that offers displays for speed, navigation, and audio. High-intensity LEDs project high-contrast white figures onto the windshield, which are easier to read – and easier on the eyes – than the typical green-colored readouts.

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Toyota Prius Priced to Compete with Insight

As expected, Toyota has cut the price on their new 2010 Toyota Prius to compete with the cheaper Honda Insight.  Just keep in mind that if you go for the cheapest option at $21,000 (plus $750 fee), you won't be getting all the bells and whistles and that's if you can find it.  Buyers shouldn't expect every dealership to have the cheapest model.

Let's face it, most people won't be interested in the cheapest model, anyways.   You may not want leather trim and heated seats, but if you're interested in Bluetooth integration, for instance, you have to move up to the Prius III, which starts at $23,000.

The new Prius goes on sale in May.

Toyota Prius Priced to Compete with Honda Insight
The Honda Insight II is the cheapest full hybrid on the road, with a MSRP of under $20,000.  At most, in other words with every option offered, the Insight will cost you somewhere slightly north of $24,000.  The Prius, if you opt for everything, could cost you in the mid $30K. 

Toyota had already announced they would be cutting the price in Japan, along with keeping the older generation Prius around as a cheaper option.  Toyota is also working on a Yaris Hybrid, which is more likely to compete legitimately with the Insight price tag. 

Although, in the current climate, you might just broker a deal with your local dealer to get either car for lower than you expected.  Or maybe not, since Toyota already has 20,000 pre-orders for the Prius.

Toyota has yet to let everyone know what's in the lowest tier Prius, but don't expect much.

Standard Equipment
Prius I
To be released at a later date
Prius II
1.8-liter Atkinson cycle engine

P195/65 R15 all-season tires with alloy wheels & covers

Smart Key (driver’s door) and Push Button start

EV, Eco, and Power modes

Multi-Informational Display with energy monitor and fuel consumption history

AM/FM/MP3 CD player with six speakers and satellite radio capability and auxiliary audio jack

Cruise control

STAR Safety System and active front headrest

Seven airbags including driver knee airbag

Four-wheel disc brakes

Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and HVAC

Controls with Touch Tracer Display

Six-way adjustable driver seat

Auto up/down on all windows

Color-keyed foldable power heated side mirrors

Prius III
In addition to Prius II features:

JBL AM/FM/MP3 six-disc CD changer with eight speakers

Integrated satellite radio capability

Hands-free phone capability via Bluetooth® wireless technology

Prius IV
In addition to Prius III features:

Three-door Smart Key system

Leather-trimmed interior

Heated front seats with driver lumbar support

Driver and front passenger water repellant windows

Plasmacluster™ ionizer

Auto dimming mirror with HomeLink®

Prius V
In addition to Prius IV features:

17-inch alloy wheels and P215/45 R17 tires

LED headlamps with auto leveling and washers

Integrated foglamps

Optional Equipment
Prius II
Prius III
Prius IV
Prius V
Navigation Package
Voice-actived touch-screen DVD navigation system with JBL AM/FM/MP3 four-disc CD changer, eight speakers, integrated satellite radio capability, XM NavTraffic capability, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and integrated backup camera

Solar Roof Package
Includes Navigation Package equipment plus power tilt/slide moonroof with Solar Powered Ventilation System and Remote Air Conditioning System

Advanced Technology Package

Includes Navigation Package equipment plus Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA)


TORRANCE, Calif., April 21, 2009 - - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) today for the all-new 2010 Prius midsize hybrid, scheduled to go on sale beginning in late May at Toyota dealers nationwide.

The third-generation Prius will be available in one grade with a starting MSRP of $21,000. The Prius will be offered with five levels of popular standard equipment combinations.

“The 2010 Prius delivers outstanding mileage, performance and advanced technology at a great price,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division.

Carter sees the most popular model starting at an MSRP of $22,000, equipped with a high level of standard features, “This model provides more than $2,000 added value, including the features most buyers want, at the same price as the current base model” he said.

A new base model with a lower level of standard equipment is scheduled to be available later this year. It is designed to appeal to the most cost-conscious businesses and consumers.

Celebrated as the benchmark for cars of the future, the Prius has delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than 1.2 million owners worldwide for over 10 years. When it goes on sale, the 2010 Toyota Prius will once again set new standards for innovative hybrid design and technology, raising its level of convenience features and performance to new heights, including EPA fuel economy estimates of 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway and 50 mpg combined (EPA MPG estimates, actual mileage will vary).

The third-generation 2010 Prius will offer enhanced performance and innovative design features. It will be quieter, roomier, and equipped with advanced standard and available features such as four driving modes, steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel, a moonroof with solar panels, and Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA).
The Prius is equipped with Toyota’s industry-leading Hybrid Synergy Drive and certified as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV), emitting over 70 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new vehicle. A larger and more powerful yet more efficient 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower at 5,200 rpm. Together with its electric motor the hybrid system in the new Prius will generate a combined net horsepower of 134, an increase of 24 horsepower over the previous generation.

All Prius models offer Toyota’s Star Safety System™ as standard equipment, which includes enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) Systems, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Other standard features include electric power steering and four-wheel disc brakes.

Starting fall 2009, select Prius models will include Toyota’s all-new telematics service, Safety Connect™, which will offer four safety and security features: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and Roadside Assistance. Safety Connect will be available by subscription, with an included one-year trial subscription.

Adding to the appeal of Prius is an additional array of standard convenience features on most models that include automatic air conditioning equipped with an electric air compressor; AM/FM/MP3 CD player with six-speakers and satellite radio capability; driver door Smart Key system with Push Button Start and remote illuminated entry; a Multi-Informational Display with an energy monitor and fuel consumption history; six-way adjustable driver seat; power door locks; auto up/down on all windows with window jam protection; cruise control; tilt/telescopic adjustable steering wheel with audio and HVAC controls; color-keyed foldable power heated side mirrors; dual sun visors with vanity mirrors; and tonneau cover.

Prius also brings many new firsts to the Toyota lineup. To help increase fuel efficiency, the 1.8-liter engine is beltless, uses an electric water pump, a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, and an exhaust heat collection system.

Other Toyota firsts include a new Touch Tracer Display, which features touch sensors on the steering wheel switches that are designed to reduce driver eye movement for better concentration on the road; an available sliding glass moonroof is packaged with solar panels that power a new ventilation system; a remote air-conditioning system functions on battery-power alone, and allows remote operation so the driver can cool the interior temperature for comfort before getting in the car.

Also new to Toyota is an available Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system that uses advanced millimeter wave radar. The system also enables Lane Keep Assist, which helps the driver stay safely within the lane, and the Pre-Collision System, which retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a crash is unavoidable.
Base MSRPs do not include a delivery, processing, and handling (DPH) fee of $750. The DPH fee for vehicles distributed by Southeast Toyota (SET) and Gulf States Toyota (GST) may vary.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dept of Energy Provides $10 Million to Build Plug-in Hybrid Buses

The Department of Energy will be awarding $10 million to develop a testing project on plug-in hybrid school buses across the country.

According to the press release, Navistar Corporation (Fort Wayne, IN) has been selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) for negotiation of a cost-shared award of up to $10 million to develop, test, and deploy an electric hybrid school bus. PHEVs will play an important role in achieving America’s energy independence by reducing petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions. Today's announcement will also help meet President Obama’s goal of putting one million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.

"These projects will help move technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace by improving their durability, reducing their costs, and validating their performance in real-world settings," said Secretary Chu. "By investing in the vehicles of the future, we will create new jobs while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving our environment."

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can be driven in electric-only or hybrid modes and recharged from a standard electrical outlet. They offer increased energy efficiency and decreased petroleum consumption by using electricity as the primary fuel for urban driving.

DOE will provide up to $10 million over three years (50 percent of the project’s projected total cost), subject to annual appropriations. Development will include examining hybrid architectures to achieve a 40-mile electric range, evaluating advanced energy storage devices, and operating on an emissions compliant diesel engine capable of running on renewable fuels. The project plans to deploy 60 vehicles for a three-year period in fleets across the nation

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Raser Unveils 100 MPG Hummer

Raser has modified a Hummer into a 100+ mpg gas sipping machine by plugging it in. The Hummer H3 is being shown off at the 2009 SAE International World Congress in Detroit, MI.

The demonstration vehicle has been modified using the Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) power train by Raser and their development partner FEV Inc. The E-REV developed in association with the Plug-in Hybrid Development Consortium. The power train was developed with larger vehicles (trucks and SUVs) in mind, unlike the development of the Volt, which has been focused on cars only.

The vehicle has "performed well in initial test drives and dynamometer testing conducted by FEV". Video from recent test drives of the 100+mpg H3 is available online:

The range for the plug-in is about 400 miles, with 40 miles driven exclusively with the battery powered electric motor only. Like GM and their development of the Chevy Volt, the 40 miles of all electric power is the key, since most drivers wouldn't have to use gas at all on their daily drive. That leads to 100 mpg+ over time.

There is some debate about how to measure fuel economy in plug-ins. Should they be driven on their full range to see what the final number is? Should the tests emphasize the fuel economy at the beginning of the drive, when the battery is fully charged? Or should the car be driven until the battery has been fully drained and the car is driving solely on gas. Should there be a double standard, one for mostly electric drive and one for mostly gas drive?

"We chose the Hummer H3 and H3T as demonstration vehicles because trucks and SUVs are the best-selling vehicles in America and can benefit the most from increased fuel economy and reduced emissions," said Cook.

The hybrid motor consists of the 200kW advanced AC induction motor connected to a 4WD transmission. A small high efficiency EcoTech engine and a 100KW electric generator is used to recharge the battery pack while driving or to provide additional power when needed.

"Our goal was to demonstrate that electric vehicle technology is a viable solution for a variety of vehicle platforms," said Gary Rogers, president and chief executive officer of FEV. "This full-sized SUV extended-range electric vehicle shows that fuel economy in larger vehicles does not mean sacrificing power and utility."

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Toyota Wants to Build the Camry Hybrid in China Soon

Toyota is looking produce and sell the Toyota Camry in China in the near future. The announcement came at a press conference attended by TMC President Katsuaki Watanabe at the 13th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition, held at the Shanghai New International Expo Center.

Hybrid car sales have been slow so far in China, where Toyota dropped the price of the Prius. They had a sales goal of only 1,500 in 2008. The Prius is built in China, but key hybrid components are shipped in from Japan.

Other hybrid models in China include the Lexus LS, GS and RX.

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GM Confuses Readers With Plug-in Standards

GM is pushing for standards for plug-in hybrids, specifically, standards for plugging in and charging the battery.

After all, most people are like Candace Page of the Burlington Free Press and want the following: "The most surprising thing about driving a plug-in hybrid was how ordinary it felt."

And so GM is pushing for SAE J1772™. Too bad they posted about their plans. It seems all they did was confuse people. The plug they showed does not look like one you can just plug into a standard wall socket. As one commenter put it: "when I go spend a weekend at Grandma’s, I won’t be able to run an extension cord from the standard outlet on her porch to recharge? Am I dead in the water unless she has an outlet that one of those funny looking plugs in your picture will fit into?"

Let's hope they get this one right. A standard plug should be all that's needed. Maybe you could decrease your recharge time by using a special system. But for most people to go out and buy a plug-in (or E-REV) from any car company, they're going to want to be able to just plug it in anywhere.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Nevada Moves to Allow Plug-in Hybrids into HOV

Nevada has decided to promote plug-in hybrids, by allowing them solo driver access to the HOV lanes. Of course, it would help if there were any mass produced hybrids on the road today.

But, by unanimous vote, a Senate panel voted to allow plug-ins the right to travel in the HOV lane, irregardless of the number of passengers. The measure, if it becomes law, will promote plug-in hybrids and fuel efficiency. The bill was proposed to the Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee by Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas.

I wonder if they've considered whether or not converted plug-ins could have access?

Nevada has 5 miles of HOV lanes in the state, although that will increase to 15 miles by the end of the year. Also the bill, as stated, makes the allowance optional, which means the authorities can disallow the usage by plug-in hybrids if they get too crowded.

Source: Bill helps hybrid cars - San Jose Mercury News

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

UK to Offer Thousands For Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Buyers

Over the next five years, the UK will be offering subsidies of £2000 - £5000 ($3,000 - $7,500) towards buying their first electric or plug-in hybrid electric cars. However, they don't expect these cars (the Volt, for instance) to hit the UK until 2011.

The funding is part of the £250 million program to 'deliver a green motoring transformation' and cut carbon emissions.  Not all electric and plug-in hybrids would qualify, however.  The Dept of Transportation notes the vehicles must meet modern safety standards and have a range and top speed sufficient to give mass market appeal.

"Cutting road transport CO2 emissions is a key element to tackling climate change," said Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon. "Less than 0.1% of the UK's 26 million cars are electric, so there is a huge untapped potential to reduce emissions.

"The scale of incentives we're announcing today will mean that an electric car is a real option for motorists as well as helping to make the UK a world leader in low carbon transport."

£20 million is also being set aside to provide for charging points and related infrastructure needed to develop a network of 'electric car cities' throughout the UK.

This money is in addition to the £400 million set to support development and uptake of ultra low emission vehicles.

  • £23 million for the TSB Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform - phase 1
  • £100 million for the TSB Low Carbon Vehicle Integrated Delivery Programme
  • £20 million for the DfT Low Carbon Vehicle Public Procurement Programme
  • £250 million for the DfT EV consumer incentive package 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ford and GM Give Drivers at NY Auto Show $50 Just to Test Drive

GM and Ford are handing out $50 to anyone attending the NY International Auto Show if they head to a local dealer and test drive a vehicle.

Now that's really working hard to get customers into the showroom.

The thought here is to 1) get the attention of high potential customers and 2) get those same customers to test drive a vehicle of theirs and 3) show they are willing to put their money where there mouth is. In other words, if you would just give us a chance, we can show you our cars are quality.

The $50 is in the form of gift cards. Ford gift cards can be spent anywhere. The GM gift card is only good for purchases on

"Auto shows provide a perfect opportunity for buyers to see, touch and feel the latest new cars under one roof," said Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the organization that owns and produces the New York Auto Show.

"Programs like the $50 gift card offered by GM and Ford help continue conversations between auto show visitors and new car dealers. This is a great way to get engage customers and gets them behind the wheel of some amazing new vehicles," concluded Schienberg.

The $50 offer is available to New York International Auto Show visitors, which runs at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, until Sunday, April 19. For more information, visit

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Toyota Laughs at Insight Hype

It seems Toyota was worried over nothing when it comes to the new Insight from Honda. Despite outselling the old Prius in its first few months in Japan, pre-orders for the new Prius are 'pouring in.'

When the Insight arrived, the second generation Prius was nearing the end of the road. The new Prius is due out in mid-May and customers tend to wait for the new model, rather than paying just as much for the old model, which just isn't as good.

And so the new Insight was outselling the Prius, despite getting lower fuel economy figures. The cheaper option was looking good, and so Toyota announced they would be keeping the older model Prius around as a cheaper option to the new Prius, and they cut the price on the new Prius.

Pre-orders for the new Prius are already at 20,000 and are expected to reach 40,000 units in Japan by the time it goes on sale, which means sales would 'easily overtake' the new Insight sales.

So, what does this mean?  Are customers just attracted to the 'newness' factor?  Are they still flocking to the most fuel efficient option, even if it is still a little more expensive?  Has the price cut on the new generation Prius made it that attractive?  And how will it all affect US sales?

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Ford to Push Hybrids at SAE Conference

The Ford team is looking to push hybrid and electric vehicle technology at the 2009 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress, which makes sense since the theme this year is "Racing to Green Mobility."

The SAE Conference is April 20-23 and Ford will be there in strength. Over 70 papers will be presented by engineers, researchers and academia. Ford will be well represented by Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, chief technical officer and vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering; and Sherif Marakby, chief engineer, Ford Global Hybrid Engineering.

The SAE also will honor Schmidt on April 21 as the 2009 winner of the organization's all-new Franz F. Pischinger Powertrain Innovation Award.

"As a former Ph.D. student of Professor Pischinger, this award is particularly meaningful to me," said Schmidt. "This award truly recognizes the team of talented people I've been honored to work beside throughout my career."

Ford's Marakby will speak to trends in consumer hybrid purchase considerations during the "Making Green Cool While Staying in the Black" panel discussion on April 21. Ford's innovative SmartGauge with EcoGuide digital instrument cluster will be illustrated as a perfect example of cool-factor hybrid technology.

"What we are discovering is that the notion of a hybrid and its outstanding fuel economy is what may draw the consumer to the showroom, but it's the cool factor - the HMI displays, the next-generation navigation system, Ford SYNC functionality - that is a significant dynamic in the customer purchase decision," said Marakby.

On April 22, Marakby will lead a more technical discussion on full hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles as a participant in the "Which Hybrid Concepts Will Rise to the Top? The Race to the Marketplace" panel.

Ford engineers will be highlighting their direct injection, turbocharged EcoBoost engine and the development of lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery systems. They are also looking to highlight the role of vehicle weight, aerodynamics, materials, and electrical loads and how they affect the total energy use.

"Improving fuel economy involves optimizing every aspect of a vehicle's energy consumption, including aerodynamics, weight, rolling resistance and electrical loads. These actions, coupled with state-of-the-art powertrain technologies, can be seen in many of our newly-launched vehicles," said Paul Mascarenas, vice president of engineering for Global Product Development.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dodge Caliber Hybrid E-REV

FEV will show off their plug-in hybrid built on the Dodge Caliber platform at the 2009 SAE World Congress. The Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) has a top speed of 84 mpg and can go 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds. But it also gets 40 miles of all electric power before it uses any gas.

The hybrid engine is comprised of a 1.0L, 3-cylinder, 4 valve engine that is mated to a UQM PP75 generator that provides 41kW of continuous power in extended-range mode, with a peak power of 75kW. The energy storage system consists of a 20 kW-h liquid-cooled Lithium Ion battery pack that operates at 346V, with a Delphi DC/DC converter. A UQM PP125EX traction motor powers the wheels.

This is a demonstration vehicle for FEV to use in showing off their hybrid engineering. FEV's Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Development Center in Michigan built the demonstration plug-in hybrid in an effort to showcase their capabilities.

"FEV believes that to provide the most value to our customers, we must continue to develop innovative technologies and capabilities within our own walls, conceiving and developing projects that our customers will need now and in the future," said Wolschendorf. "This ReEV concept vehicle has been developed as an internal R&D project, and gives us an opportunity to show our capabilities. We are also using this vehicle to evaluate different options for the engine/generator unit, and the associated calibration strategies."

The ReEV propulsion system was developed entirely by FEV, including:

  • Performance modeling and simulations
  • Component selection and procurement
  • Design, analysis and packaging
  • High Voltage system architecture, development and integration
  • Hybrid controls and powertrain development and testing
  • Complete vehicle integration
  • Vehicle exhaust and evaporative emission calibration
  • Overall vehicle calibration, testing and validation
  • NVH optimization

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hyundai Nuvis Hybrid

Hyundai presented their Nuvis Hybrid Concept, a small 'future-generation' crossover. Hyundai tried to blend in motion as in a living machine, with lots of blue.

The hybrid engine is a 2.4-liter Theta II engine to a 6-speed automatic transmission and a 30kW (205 N-m) electric motor, and is used to showcase Hyundai's parallel hybrid system. The electric motor or gas motor or both can move the car at any time, depending on the situation. This is the basis of the hybrid motor Hyundai will be using in their future cars.

In the rear, a high trunk floor houses the Nuvis' lithium polymer battery pack.

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Texas Senate Passes Rebate for Hybrid Cars

In a bill intended to cut down on plants in heavily polluted areas, the Texas Senate included a rebate for people who buy plug-in hybrid cars. The bill still has to go to the House (Source: The bill sets up a $4,000 rebate for anyone who buys a plug-in hybrid.

According to the wording in the bill (as it currently stands), the rebate program run by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) would set up a phone number and web site for consumers to use.  Automakers would need to submit their list of vehicles to the program in order to get it onto the list of eligible vehicles.  The program would expire on January 1, 2019.

It's estimated the program would cost $200,000 in both 2010 and 2011, with an increase of $105,00 in each following year.  The initial costs are to set up the rebate database.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

ML 450 Hybrid from Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is making a splash at the NY International Auto Show by showing off their ML 450 Hybrid, the latest dual-mode hybrid SUV.  The 3.5 liter V6 Atkinson engine is mated to an electric motor and is capable of producing power comparable to an eight-cylinder SUV, while fuel consumption is reduced by 60%.  The ML 450 Hybrid is rated at 21 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

Mercedes-Benz co-developed the dual-mode hybrid system with GM and BMW, and so the ML450 Hybrid SUV will be using the same technology as the dual-mode hybrids from Chrysler and GM. But unlike GM, Mercedes-Benz figures they can cover the cost of the hybrid system and make money off of the deal right away.  Put simply, this luxury vehicle can be sold for more money, which means you can afford to pay the cost of installing the hybrid system (which may be why the two hybrid SUVs from Chrysler were retired after just two months).

In a side note, the ML 450 Hybrid was delayed due to some battery supplier issues.  The 288 Volt nickel metal hydride battery pack and hybrid system, as in the S400 Hybrid, has been integrated into the motor, so no trunk space or passenger room has been compromised.

The dual-mode hybrid system is designed with two electric modes which are used in different situations to boost fuel efficiency.  You can read through the press release below to get a feel for how the Atkinson cycle engine works with the electric motor to boost fuel efficiency while retaining power.

Mercedes-Benz ML450 HYBRID
The perfect hybrid powertrain

  • Compact 288 volt battery with high energy density
  • Sophisticated control system calculates most efficient operating mode in real time - 160 times per seconds with up to 50 million computations.
  • Atkinson V6 gasoline engine with 275 hp and optimized fuel economy
  • Classic M-Class benefits remain intact - economy of space, high levels of active and passive safety, driving comfort and 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive

In the search for the optimum hybrid system for the premium auto sector, one thing was absolutely clear to development engineers right from the very earliest stages of the concept phase – a Mercedes-Benz SUV with a hybrid driveline will have to possess the same brand characteristics as every other vehicle produced by the brand. Core elements such as the highest possible levels of active and passive safety, the best in driving and user comfort, uncompromising operational safety and reliability over a long period of time and high- quality workmanship with select materials must all be at the same level as a comparable, conventionally-driven series production vehicle - combined with the highest possible efficiency. At the same time, the hybrid powertrain system should emphasize the innovative strength and leading technological excellence of the company. These objectives necessitated a full vehicle development program – as would be required for an entirely new model range. In bringing it to production, engineers and technicians covered a total of 2.5 million miles - many of them in regions with extreme variations in climate conditions - in order to guarantee the operational safety of the system in everything from freezing arctic temperatures through the dry heat of the desert to the extreme humidity of the tropics. This work was complemented by extensive test cell development and detailed simulation using a "digital prototype". One important objective of the development process was the optimum matching of the various sub-systems integrated within the driveline. Thanks to this "system matching" process, the user experience of the different drive modes is seamless and intuitive.

The ML450 HYBRID has a powertrain architecture that enables both purely-electric and purely-combustion engine operation, as well as a combination of both. Its two-mode hybrid technology is based on the fundamental work carried out by the "Global Hybrid Cooperation". This industry grouping brings together the research and development efforts of Daimler AG, the BMW Group, General Motors and Chrysler.

Superior technology – two-mode hybrid is the most efficient driveline

Thanks to its two-mode hybrid technology, the ML450 HYBRID possesses considerable benefits; its performance figures are comparable to those of a classic eight-cylinder SUV with permanent all-wheel drive, while fuel consumption and emissions are up to 60 percent lower. The ML450 HYBRID, which was conceived specifically for the North American market, achieves city gas mileage of 21 mpg and highway mileage of 24 mpg. Classified as a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle), the SUV currently complies with the most stringent of all U.S. emissions legislation for vehicles with internal combustion engines. At the same time, the ML450 HYBRID delivers a system performance of 335 hp and an overall torque of 381 lb-ft to guarantee a refined driving experience combined with increased powertrain comfort. The powertrain is controlled fully automatically, meaning that the driver can concentrate on the traffic and enjoy the driving experience of the ML450 HYBRID without additional operational effort. The functionality of the 4MATIC all-wheel drive also remains fully intact.

At the heart of the two-mode hybrid driveline is the transmission unit with two compact electric motors, three planetary gear sets and four clutches. This configuration enables the drive to be split through one electrical and one mechanical route. Conventional one-mode hybrid systems generally have no mechanical gearing. These systems must therefore transfer the majority of their power through the electrical driveline with higher electrical output and subsequently reduced efficiency. Their most efficient operation takes place largely at lower loads and speeds. Should power transfer also be required at higher loads and speeds, then a larger electric motor would be required. This, in turn, would use more energy and take up more space, to the detriment of efficiency. In contrast, as load and speed increases, two-mode hybrid technology transfers drive in a variable fashion from the electrical line to the mechanical driveline. In so doing, the system functions significantly more effectively under all conditions ranging from stop-and-go city traffic to rapid highway driving. It also enables the use of more compact electric motors. The "two-mode" technology also derives its name from its increased efficiency in both city traffic and on the open road.

Through the activation of the four clutches, the electrical and internal combustion engine drive is split between all four wheels of the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive via four fixed ratios and two variable electrical ratios in accordance with driving conditions. A range of strategies – defined by traffic conditions or driver preference – deliver the best possible figures in terms of fuel economy and performance.
  • In pulling away or at low speeds up to the second fixed gear, the ML450 HYBRID drives very smoothly in ECVT 1 mode (Electric Continuously Variable Transmission).
  • The ECVT 2 mode takes over at higher speeds starting at the second fixed gear ratio. Depending on the optimum operating point, either a combined or constantly variable mode will be selected.
  • In the first and third fixed gear ratios, both electric motors operate together either to provide additional energy for acceleration (boost) or to store the braking and drive energy (recuperation).
  • In the second and fourth fixed ratio, one of the electric motors is switched off in order to increase efficiency. The other electric motor is used for boost and for recuperation.

Both compact electric motors have a high power density and are fully integrated into the transmission casing. The limited packaging space called for a different set up for each of the two motors. The first is positioned closer to the internal combustion engine, generates 83 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque and is set up specifically for performance. The motor located at the output end of the transmission generates 80 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque and is dedicated to pulling away under electric power and to provide boost.

Compact 288 volt battery with high power density

In the ML450 HYBRID, electrical energy is stored in a compact, liquid-cooled, high-voltage nickel metal hydride battery. Summary battery data:
  • Battery type Liquid-cooled, high-voltage nickel metal hydride battery
  • Location Below rear cargo area
  • Weight (lbs) 183 Modules / cells (no.) 24 / 240
  • Electrical output (kW) 45
  • Capacity (kWh) 2.4 voltage (V) 288

A battery management system monitors and controls the varying charge flow during electric driving, boost or recuperation and ensures a stable charge condition. The entire high-voltage network on board the vehicle is equipped to the highest safety standards.

Sophisticated control system calculates most efficient operating mode in real time

The operation of the two electric motors and the control of the overall high-voltage network demand a sophisticated system of power electronics, which is located under the hood of the ML450 HYBRID. In order to increase its efficiency, waste heat is channeled through a separate cooling system. An integrated auxiliary power module facilitates energy exchange between the 288 volt and 12 volt vehicle networks.

A powerful computer controls the hybrid system with up to 50 million computations per second. The central electronic control unit calculates the most efficient operating mode 160 times per second, thus achieving the lowest possible fuel consumption. The control system also facilitates the control of new comfort and functionality features:

The coordinated transmission shift strategies allows for exceptionally smooth maneuvering
The "chill down" mode enables battery recovery under excessive load or high temperatures*
An adaptive driving program learns the road profile and the driving characteristics of the person at the wheel and uses this information to optimize the agility of the driving program.
"Power Launch Control" facilitates the best possible acceleration figures in boost mode*
The "Traffic Jam" feature enables pure electric driving in stop-and-go operation, even when the battery charge status is low*
* exclusive features of the ML450 HYBRID

Atkinson V6 engine with optimized fuel economy

The redesigned 3.5 liter V6 gasoline engine has been optimized in accordance with the Atkinson cycle and enables considerably improved fuel economy and emissions values at a power output of 275 hp and maximum torque of 258 lb-ft. Development engineers took advantage of some of the benefits of the Atkinson principle, whereby the intake stroke is longer than the compression stroke. To achieve this, the intake valve stays open a little longer between intake and compression, thus increasing the thermal efficiency of the engine while reducing specific fuel consumption and raw emissions. Vehicles with conventional drivelines don't employ this process, because, aside from their consumption and emissions benefits, Atkinson engines have a tendency to produce lower torque in the lower rev range, thus offering a poorer throttle response, especially at lower engine speeds. In the ML450 HYBRID, this disadvantage is more than compensated for by the use of the electric motors for normal pulling away, acceleration and boost. The M-Class enjoys the highest levels of throttle response and agility.

Compared with the conventional 3.5 liter V6 engine, the cylinder heads, pistons and camshafts have all been modified in the Atkinson version. The camshaft control is also different. The redeveloped, controlled oil pump adjusts its demand to the actual engine requirements, thus minimizing the required feed and contributing to a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. As the tasks performed by the alternator and starter motor are integrated into the functionality of both electric motors, these components become superfluous and can thus be removed from the ancillary belt drive. It was also possible to remove the air conditioning compressor and the power steering pump from the belt drive. In the ML450 HYBRID, these are powered electrically and can be driven independent of the combustion engine.

Operating strategies of the two-mode hybrid powertrain
  • The ML450 HYBRID offers the maximum additional functionality possible from a hybrid powertrain. This includes variable hybrid driving in city and highway traffic, silent electric- only pull-away and drive, power boost for lively acceleration, energy recuperation and automatic start/stop function. These functions are activated in accordance with operating status and traffic conditions:
  • At a standstill, the internal combustion engine is switched off. The functionality of the air conditioning and power steering are fully maintained through the electrical operation of the air conditioning compressor and the steering pump.
  • Low-speed maneuvering, e.g. during parking, is handled using electric drive only.
  • When the driver activates the gas pedal while the vehicle is at a standstill, the ML 450 HYBRID pulls away in electric-only mode. In the event that the pedal is depressed quickly, the system control recognizes the desire for heavy acceleration, activates the combustion engine and supports this with added torque from the electric motor (boost effect) to noticeably increase the responsiveness of the vehicle. The transmission also has a kick-down function, if required.
  • During consistent driving, the operating point of the V6 engine shifts in favor of lower specific fuel consumption in order to increase efficiency, particularly under partial load
  • Recuperation - the conversion and storage of braking energy as electrical energy - begins immediately following the application of the boost function or during normal braking maneuvers. Under heavy braking, the mechanical brakes are also applied. If required, the ML450 HYBRID provides the same degree of maximum braking power as a conventionally powered M-Class, while sustaining its exceptional handling stability.
  • The automatic start / stop function deactivates the V6 engine whenever it is not required, e.g. when rolling up to a red light. As soon as the driver depresses the gas pedal, the ML pulls away under electric power, before then starting the combustion engine.
  • The Silent Start function enables noiseless starting of the vehicle.
Display provides information on current operating status

The ML450 HYBRID driving experience delivers an impressive level of agility and balanced powertrain characteristics under all operating conditions. A specially designed display system informs the driver of the current operating mode. On the COMAND system display, the driver can opt to see the energy flow between the high-voltage battery, combustion engine and electric motors with the associated percentage battery charge status, or a diagram indicating fuel consumption and energy recuperation. The battery charge status can also be called-up on the instrument cluster. The conventional rev counter is replaced by a gauge that shows the total current powertrain and recuperation output.

A matter of preference – Economy or Sports mode

In order to make the extraordinary agility of the ML450 HYBRID even more apparent, the model offers a Sport mode alongside its Economy mode, activated by the "E/S" switch in the center console. This operating mode offers the characteristics of a conventional automatic transmission with eight fixed ratios and extremely short shift times. The sportier engine and transmission logic, as well as the direct drive characteristics of the powertrain make throttle response even more instantaneous. The Sport program also recognizes driving style and road profile and adapts the system control accordingly.

Classic M-Class benefits remain fully intact

The models of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class are among the world's most successful premium SUVs and offer the highest possible active and passive safety, the best in driving and user comfort, uncompromising operational safety and reliability over a long period of time and high-quality workmanship with select materials. These attributes apply also to the ML450 HYBRID, which offers performance in all of these areas equal to that of the conventionally powered variants. The hybrid version fulfills the same crash test requirements and offers outstanding active safety with stability control systems such as ESP©, ABS and BAS, as well as 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The integration of the hybrid technology has been perfectly engineered, and requires no additional packaging space that would in any way compromise comfort or functionality. The space available in the passenger cabin is every bit as generous as before and the trunk capacity remains fully intact. From the outside, the ML450 HYBRID is recognizable by its modified hood, the BlueEFFICIENCY logo on the fender and by the HYBRID badge on its tailgate.

Manufacturing of the ML450 HYBRID is completely integrated into the production system at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

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2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

The new S-Class Hybrid will be the "world's most economical luxury car with a gasoline engine" according to Mercedes-Benze (Daimler). And at 29 mpg, that puts them right up there with other fuel efficient luxury cars.

The combination of a 3.5L V-6 mated to a seven-speed automatic and electric motor with lithium-ion battery pack combines to produce 295 hp and a maximum torque of 284 lb-ft. The hybrid system includes start-stop and regenerative braking.

The battery pack is tucked into the engine bay and doesn't compromise on trunk or interior space, which is unlike other automakers who have their hybrid systems, including the battery elsewhere.

But the big news here is the lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery pack. Hybrids today come with nickel-metal hydride battery packs, but lithium is lighter and more powerful. Mercedes-Benz may be the first to market with a production hybrid sporting Li-Ion.

The new S400 will be available in August.

Luxury appointments include:
  • Night View Assist Plus now detects and highlights pedestrians on its display.
  • Improvements to the long- and medium-range radar systems of the Brake Assist and Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control.
  • Lane Keeping Assist alerts the driver if the vehicle wavers about, but can determine if movements are intentional or not by evaluating driver inputs.
  • Pre-Safe Brake system can activate maximum stopping pressure 0.6 seconds before unavoidable accidents if the driver does not react to audible and visual warnings.
  • Direct-Steer system brings variable-ratio steering.
  • Active Body Control now features a crosswind stabilization function that analyzes yaw rates and lateral acceleration to vary wheel loads and compensate for strong gusts.
  • Attention Assist monitors 70 different parameters and warns drivers if they become drowsy with audible and visual indicators.
  • The Command infotainment system receives a 40-gig hard drive, HD Radio and can display Zagat restaurant ratings. Mercedes claims the revised physical media interface makes easier integration for iPods and USB sticks.

Press Release:
After three years of the current S-Class, Mercedes-Benz is launching the restyled 2010 S-Class in August. With the very latest technology for even greater safety, as well as trailblazing innovations in comfort and drive technology, the Mercedes-Benz flagship is reasserting its leading position as the brand's innovation platform and benchmark for luxury sedans.

In the 2010 S-Class, Mercedes-Benz has improved the renowned safety level even further with a unique combination of innovative camera and radar-based driver assistance systems. These include Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and the PRE-SAFE® brake system linked to the proximity regulating radar, which intervenes autonomously before an impending rear-end collision and acts like an invisible crumple zone. Other innovations in the 2010 S-Class include the ATTENTION ASSIST driver drowsiness monitor and Active Body Control with automatic crosswind stabilization.

The new S400 HYBRID is also celebrating its debut. As the first series-production Mercedes-Benz passenger car with hybrid drive, this S-Class model is the world's most economical luxury car with a gasoline engine. Its estimated combined fuel consumption of 29 miles per gallon sets a new worldwide benchmark in this vehicle segment.

"The S400 HYBRID is a major milestone on our road towards emission-free mobility", says Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars. "Our first series-production hybrid passenger car exemplifies the long-term, sustainability-oriented development strategy of Mercedes-Benz, which has a clearly defined aim: economical and environmentally compatible premium automobiles, with no compromises in terms of safety, comfort and a superior driving experience." The S400 HYBRID is also a trailblazer where energy storage is concerned: the new luxury sedan is the first series production car in the world to be equipped with the very latest lithium-ion battery technology. "In this way the S-Class and the Mercedes-Benz brand are doing important pioneering work for the electrification of the automobile."

The new hybrid model combines a low fuel consumption and a high level of environmental compatibility with superior performance: the internal combustion engine and the hybrid module develop a combined output of 295 hp, and a combined maximum torque of 284 lb-ft. (The electric motor contributes 20 hp and 118 lb-ft to the powertrain).

With 270,000 units sold world-wide since its launch, the W 221-series S-Class is the world's most successful luxury sedan, and seamlessly continues the success story of the flagship model in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. Since 1951, when the model 220 began the direct lineage of the S-Class, Mercedes-Benz has delivered around 3.3 million passenger cars from this model series to customers.

The U.S. line-up includes the S400 HYBRID, the 382-hp V8-powered S550 and all-wheel-drive S550 4MATIC as well as the high-performance 518-hp S63 AMG. V12 offerings include the 510-hp S600 and the top-of-the-line 604-hp S65 AMG. The 2010 S-Class will be in U.S. showrooms beginning in August.

Unique combination of driver assistance systems

An absolutely unique combination of ultra-modern assistance and protection systems is available for the 2010 S-Class. Many of these systems are also available for the new E-Class, which debuts this summer. The new assistance systems turn the models in the E and S-Class into "intelligent" partners for their driver. The car is able to "see", "feel", respond reflexively and act autonomously to prevent accidents or mitigate their effects. Mercedes-Benz also uses cameras in these systems - these are able to look well ahead, monitor the car's surroundings and interpret typically critical situations. One example is the optional Adaptive Highbeam Assist. This system recognizes oncoming or leading vehicles and then controls the headlamps to ensure the best possible beam range without dazzling other drivers on the road.

The Sindelfingen-based engineers have also developed Night View Assist further – Night View Assist PLUS is equipped with a special pedestrian detection function: as soon as the system detects pedestrians ahead of the car, they are highlighted on the display to make it easier for the driver to see them.

Lane Keeping Assist is another system that "looks ahead" for even safer driving. The system's computer is able to recognize lane markings by evaluating the contrasting images of the road surface and the markings. If the vehicle leaves the lane unintentionally, the driver is warned by short vibrations of the steering wheel. Unlike conventional systems of this kind, the Mercedes-Benz system is able to evaluate the driver's activities as well and can reliably ascertain whether the car is leaving its lane intentionally or not. Therefore, there is no warning if the driver accelerates before overtaking or merging onto a highway, brakes heavily, or enters a curve.

Drowsiness detection on the basis of more than 70 parameters

With the driver drowsiness monitor, ATTENTION ASSIST, the 2010 S-Class has very sensitive monitors for the attention level of its driver and can warn them in time when they becomes drowsy. This innovative technology continuously monitors more than 70 different parameters. Once the high-resolution steering angle sensor recognizes the steering behavior that typically indicates the onset of drowsiness, a warning signal is sounded and "ATTENTION ASSIST. Time for a break!" appears in the instrument cluster.

Mercedes-Benz has also improved the long and medium-range radar used by Brake Assist PLUS and DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control. Both systems assist the driver during emergency braking. If the driver is distracted and fails to recognize the immediate danger of a rear-end collision, the PRE-SAFE®Brake is able to intervene and brake the vehicle independently. For the 2010 S-Class the developers in Sindelfingen have improved this system even further: if the driver fails to react even after an acoustic and visual warning, the PRE-SAFE®Brake is able to activate the maximum braking pressure around 0.6 seconds before what is now recognized as an unavoidable accident -- an emergency braking action that can significantly mitigate the severity of the impact. The system therefore acts as something like an "electronic crumple zone".

Detailed fine-tuning has also given the 2010 S-Class better driving dynamics and agility. This is in large measure due to the new electro-hydraulic Direct-Steer system, where the ratio varies with the steering angle.

New: Active Body Control (ABC) compensates for crosswinds

Mercedes-Benz developers have also added a crosswind stabilization function to Active Body Control (ABC) suspension. For this purpose ABC uses the yaw rates and lateral acceleration sensors of the Electronic Stability Program ESP® to vary the wheel load distribution via the ABC spring struts, depending on the direction and intensity of the crosswind. This enables the effects of crosswinds to be compensated, or reduced to a minimum in the case of strong gusts.

S400 HYBRID: the world's most economical gasoline-engined luxury sedan

The 2010 S-Class also plays a pioneering role where its drive system is concerned: "The modular hybrid concept sets the new standard for efficient, clean and superior motoring pleasure in all vehicle segments, and is therefore a driving force for the premium automobile of the future", says Dr. Thomas Weber, the member of the Daimler AG Executive Board responsible for corporate research and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The new S400 HYBRID is the first car to be designed on the basis of the highly intelligent modular concept developed by Mercedes-Benz to give its customers the best hybrid solution for their requirements. The S400 HYBRID, which is a true technological trendsetter with this concept, features all the necessary

* a compact yet powerful electric motor
* the accompanying operating electronics
* a modern lithium-ion storage battery with a high capacity.

The compact hybrid module combines the hybrid functions of an automatic start-stop system and energy recuperation. In several respects this means that the S400 HYBRID sets a new standard in its class, making it the world's most economical luxury sedan with a gasoline engine. Dr. Thomas Weber: "This demonstrates that Mercedes-Benz is able to combine sustainable mobility with the claim of automotive premium positioning - with vehicles that are efficient and environmentally compatible, without having to accept compromises in terms of safety, comfort and superior driving refinement. At the same time the S400 HYBRID dispels the myth that sustainable mobility is only possible with small cars."

The combined fuel economy for the S400 HYBRID is estimated at 29 miles per gallon, a 30-percent increase over the S550.

This figure is accompanied by a truly superior performance potential: the modified 3.5-liter gasoline engine develops 275 hp, while the electric motor generates 20 hp and a starting torque of 118 lb-ft.

The new Mercedes-Benz S400 HYBRID is based on a V6 version of the S-Class and features an extensively modified drive train. This encompasses a further development of the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, an additional magneto-electric motor, the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission specially configured for the hybrid module, the necessary operating and control electronics, the transformer and a high-voltage lithium-ion battery.

During braking the electric motor acts as a generator and is able to recover kinetic energy by a process known as recuperation. During this process the electric motor works together seamlessly with the engine brake of the internal combustion engine and the conventional wheel brakes. The recuperated energy is stored by a compact but efficient lithium-ion battery in the engine compartment and retrieved when required. Major advantages over conventional nickel/metal hydride batteries include a higher energy density and greater electrical efficiency combined with more compact dimensions and a low battery weight. Thanks to space-saving installation in the engine compartment, the trunk capacity and generous interior dimensions remain unchanged. The hybrid module also has a
convenient start-stop function.

Comfort: the latest multimedia technology

With its 6.5-inch color display screen, the standard COMAND system with GPS navigation has been refined with a forty-gigabyte hard drive as well as an integrated six-disc CD-DVD player and a Music Register for around 1,000 MP3 tracks. HD Digital Radio and Zagat Restaurant ratings are also available.

A new media interface makes it easier than ever to connect an iPod, USB stick, memory card and other devices. Music tracks can be indicated on the COMAND display located on the center console as well as a smaller display in the center of the instrument cluster and they can be selected with the buttons on the multi-function steering wheel.

Any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone will work hands-free – even with the phone in a pocket or purse, the audio is automatically muted when a call is made or received and callers are heard over the audio system speakers. In addition, phone book info can be displayed by the COMAND system.

Design: a muscular, self-assured presence

The modified design reflects the effortless superiority and power of the S-Class sedan. It is characterized by the more pronounced arrow-shape of the radiator grille, plus a new front bumper with a discreet light-catching contour and a chrome strip below the cooling air intakes. Exhaust tailpipes of all S-Class variants are visibly integrated into the rear bumper. The headlamps incorporate bi-xenon technology and LED indicators on the lower edge of the headlamp as standard. Eye-catching highlights on the S400 HYBRID are provided by the two round foglamps and daytime driving lights on each side of the front bumper. Their location at the outer edges of the bumper underlines the muscular character of the S400 HYBRID.

An even more dynamic look is provided by the Premium 1 package, which is standard on the majority of the model line and includes striking LED arrays for daytime driving lights, indicators and marker lights. They lend an unmistakable day-and-night design to the front end. The rear end is characterized by tail lights in an innovative LED design. Here too, a total of 52 LEDs in the form of a double-C form an unmistakable light signature.

Mercedes-Benz also makes more use of light as a styling element in the interior via the standard ambient lighting, now with a choice between three lighting moods: solar (amber), neutral (white) and polar (ice-blue).

Interior: carefully selected materials and first-class finishing

The multifunction steering wheel of the S-Class has also been modified by the Mercedes-Benz designers: the rim and airbag module are lined with soft premium leather as standard. The new, flatter airbag module also lends a sporty touch to the multifunction steering wheel. Mercedes-Benz engineers have also implemented specific aerodynamic measures to reduce wind noise, which also contributes to greater traveling comfort.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be in U.S. showrooms beginning in August 2009.

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