Friday, October 30, 2009

Edmunds and Obama Fight it Out Over Cash for Clunkers

The Cash for Clunkers Program is over and done, but the overall benefit and cost is still being debated.  On Wednesday, Edmunds laid out a study showing it cost taxpayers $24,000 per vehicle sold under the Cash for Clunkers Program.

Edmunds Lays Out the Cost
What it boils down to, for Edmunds, is despite 690,000 sales being made under the Cash for Clunkers Program, they believe only 129,000 would not have been made otherwise.  They based it on what the prediction for sales was, plus the 'hangover' affect slowing sales before and after the program

"Our research indicates that without the Cash for Clunkers program, many customers would not have traded in an old vehicle when making a new purchase," Senior Analyst David Tompkins, PhD told "That may give some credence to the environmental claims, but unfortunately the economic claims have been rendered quite weak."
The White House Gets Angry

That analysis seems to have ticked off the whitehouse.  Waxing on the sarcastic side, the Whitehouse blog accuses Edmunds of attempting to grab headlines (which they did: CNN).  The White House went on to say Edmunds was saying "all the other cars were being sold on Mars."

I think their counter was strong enough not to need the sarcasm, but that's just me.

Anyways, the White House points out that "people were drawn into dealerships by the Cash for Clunkers program and ended up buying cars even though their old car was not eligible for the program."  And 2) "Major automakers including GM, Ford, Honda and Chrysler all increased their production through the end of the year as a result of this program, which will help boost growth beyond the third quarter."

The White House points to a CEA report, which estimates the number of sales made as a result of the CARS program at being 3-4X higher than that of Edmunds.  There's a lot of fuzziness around both numbers, but that's the problem with these analysis.

The report cited by the White House says exactly that in the first sentence of their conclusion: "The analysis contained here is necessarily speculative, because little can be said with confidence about two key questions: what is the time frame over which the “payback” effect will occur, and what would the pace of clunker-replacement-induced demand for new cars have been in the absence of the program?"

Edmunds Reply
Edmunds has fired back saying "The truth is that consumer incentive programs are always hugely expensive when calculated by incremental sales — always in the tens of thousands of dollars. Cash for Clunkers was no exception."  They also point out the claim for drawing potential customers in was "widely supported by anecdote but by little analysis."  And finally "the economy is recovering accompanied by improved car sales. No manufacturer increases production -- a decision with long-term consequences -- based on the 30-day sales blip triggered by an event like Cash for Clunkers."

As an aside: One wonders if, like the banks, the auto makers started increasing production so quickly based on pressure from the government.   The banks were told to take the loans being offered, and GM and Chrysler are still the major beneficiaries of government 'aid.'  It's fair to suppose the production increases may have been political decisions, even if they weren't asked to do so.

Who Wins?
So, who's right?  I'd say they both were.  Certainly, when Edmunds focused in tightly on what the cost per vehicle was, that cost is going to be high.  And they are certainly right to say that most of the sales during the program would have happened anyways.  The number they use may be low, but sales would have happened with or without the CARS program.

I would argue the Dept of Transportation and the Whitehouse did not need to be sarcastic in their counter, but they definitely were correct in pointing out the bigger picture.  But that picture is not as black and white as they say.  The long term economic recovery is what is driving the car makers to increase production, not the C4C program.

Was the program helpful at a low point for the manufacturers? Absolutely. Although it was harder on the dealers than the administration would probably want to talk about, Edmunds figures show at least an increase of over 100K sales. That's not nothing.

But the high cost per vehicle is also a key reminder that such programs, while helpful for the overall economy, do cost a lot to run and the tax payers paid it. Was there a payback? Was it worth it? These, unfortunately, aren't answerable. Not in the real world, which is too fluid and when either direction can find indicators for it.

Follow Up
It seems that Detroit News writer David Shepardson is siding with the White House in their argument with Edmunds. He points out (See the different estimates: Ford says 30-40 percent of the sales were from the Cash for Clunkers (CARS) program (210,000-280,000), GM thought it was 500,000 and Moody estimated the difference at 60 percent (420,000).

That's quite a range of numbers to deal with.  Edmunds is clearly on the more pessimistic side, while GM is clearly the most optimistic about the affect, although both the government and the Moody figures are obviously on the more 'optimistic' side.

But most damaging to Edmunds is the quote from Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation.
While Edmunds is usually highly respected within the automotive industry for its accuracy and reliability, he said, its analysis of the cash for clunkers program is "shoddy."

"Simply put, they've misrepresented the facts, and the White House is completely justified in calling them out on it," Jackson said, adding that it appears "Edmunds' political views have tainted their usual rigorous approach to research."
Ouch! The shoddy remark in particular was pretty harsh. None of those involved in the argument can truly be treated as disinterested parties, however. Any estimate from Ford or GM, especially, have to be taken with a grain of salt. The same can be said of AutoNation, Moody's and Edmunds. And certainly the White House has a stake in how the program is perceived.

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Toyota Prius Gets Best Fuel Efficiency Award from Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics gives the 2010 Toyota Prius the award for Best Fuel Efficiency.

Best Fuel Efficiency: 2010 Toyota Prius
Few cars define efficient travel like the Toyota Prius. And the Prius has been the mpg leader— a title it has earned yet again with its 2010 model.
Toyota’s hybrid system remains the benchmark. But the tech extends beyond the drivetrain with optional solar ventilation, radar-based cruise control and intelligent parking. Yet it’s the driving dynamics that make the Toyota appealing to a wider audience. This is the first Prius that’s actually fun to drive.
Not a surprising award, but still notable.

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High Expectations for Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids

As the economy recovers, oil prices are expected to rise. And some are predicting that will move more people into hybrids and into plug-in hybrids.

Source: "Plugs Everywhere: Hybrid, EV Sales to Triple Globally by 2013, Report Predicts " Green Car Advisor

Gas-electric hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles may account for as much as 8 percent of new vehicle sales in the U.S. in 2013, up from about 2 percent last year, as the combination of rising oil prices, falling prices relative to hybrids' conventional counterparts and a broader network of plug-in charging sites pull more people away from gasoline-burning cars, according to a recent report on the next generation of autos.

Worldwide, hybrid-vehicle sales will surge to about 2 million units in 2013 from about 550,000 units last year, while rechargeable - or plug-in - battery-electric cars will account for about 350,000 sales, compared with less than 10,000 plug-in sales last year, according to the NextGen research unit of technology industry specialist ABI Research.
Those are big numbers for a market that isn't even here, yet. While I could see hybrid sales possibly making those numbers, it's hard to imagine plug-in hybrids making that number that quickly.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ford Pushes Toyota Prius Out of the Top Spot

An 'ultra efficient' Ford Fiesta ECOnetic has pushed the Toyota Prius out of the top spot in fuel efficiency ratings in Australia according to the GoAutoNews (via FreeP).

At 63 mpg combined, the Ford Fiesta beats out the 60 mpg for the Prius in the Australia rating system. For comparison purposes, the Prius is rated at 50 mpg in the US. The Ford Fiesta ECOnetic is a diesel. Ford has no plans on introducing the sub-brand or to sell the Fiesta ECOnetic in the States, for now.

The Fiesta uses a 1.6-liter turbodiesel with low resistance tires and uses low-viscosity oil.  The ECOnetic TDCi engine produces 66 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque.

Other efficiency focused changes include:
  • A specially-calibrated Duratorq TDCi common rail diesel engine
  • Longer final drive gear ratio
  • Addition of a green shift indicator light in the instrument cluster, which signals the optimal point to change gear to maximize fuel economy
  • Improved aerodynamics – lowered ride height, air deflectors, unique wheel covers
  • Weight reduction by removing the spare for a tire mobility kit

Press Release Follows:
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – October 16, 2009: Ford Australia today set a new fuel efficiency benchmark for the auto industry in this country by introducing Australia's most fuel efficient car – the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic.

With a combined fuel consumption rating of just 3.7 litres per 100 kilometres1, the fuel efficiency of Fiesta ECOnetic surpasses all other vehicles currently on sale in Australia, including petrol/electric hybrid models.

It also produces fewer CO2 emissions than any other conventional, internal combustion engine vehicle, with an official CO2 emission rating of 98 grams per kilometre – making it only the second vehicle in Australia to achieve CO2 emissions under 100g/km and the only non-hybrid vehicle to attain such an ultra-low CO2 standard.
PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

"Ford is fully committed to working towards fuel economy leadership in every segment in which we compete, across local and imported vehicles," said Ford Australia President and CEO Marin Burela.

"The Fiesta ECOnetic is evidence of how Ford is looking at a portfolio of technology solutions to meet the sustainability challenge and how we are intent on delivering affordable and accessible products to our customers,"

Fiesta ECOnetic will officially go on sale on December 1 with a recommended offer price of $24,990 driveaway, offering consumers one of the most affordable and fuel efficient vehicle packages ever presented for sale in Australia.

"Fiesta ECOnetic perfectly balances a stylish, affordable car that considers the environment and our future, without compromising the style or technology which has made the Fiesta one of Australia and the world’s most popular small cars," Mr Burela said.

"It brings together a whole range of clever thinking and technologies that are available right now, creating a 'greener' vehicle that delivers economy without compromise and genuine savings against the fuel cost of daily driving."

Fiesta ECOnetic looks and functions just like a conventional Fiesta, using conventional diesel powertrain technology, yet it delivers industry-leading fuel efficiency, as well as best-in-class CO2 emissions.

Using a combination of the latest generation common rail diesel powertrain, together with a carefully selected list of features specifically engineered to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, Fiesta ECOnetic achieves a combined fuel consumption rating of 3.7 L/100km1.

The detailed urban/extra urban results for Fiesta ECOnetic are also class- and industry-leading achievements, with urban cycle fuel consumption of 4.6 L/100km and an extra urban (highway) cycle figure of just 3.2 L/100km1 – the latter being 13.5 per cent more efficient than the leading hybrid model.

This efficiency is matched by impressive driving quality and performance, with the 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi engine producing maximum power of 66 kW at 4000 rpm and peak torque of 200 Nm at a very accessible 1750 rpm.

"The challenge for our engineering team in developing the ECOnetic vehicle line was to deliver the maximum reduction in fuel economy and CO2 emissions using available and affordable technologies," Mr Burela said.

This reduction in fuel usage and CO2 emissions has been achieved through the use of:
# A specially-calibrated Duratorq 1.6-litre TDCi common rail diesel engine with coated Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)
# Low rolling resistance tyres
# Unique transmission and final drive ratios
# Improved aerodynamics – lowered ride height, air deflectors, unique wheel covers
# Weight reduction through the provision of a tyre mobility kit in lieu of a traditional spare wheel/tyre
# Addition of a green shift indicator light in the instrument cluster, which signals the optimal point to change gear to maximise fuel economy

In addition to its industry-leading fuel efficiency, Fiesta ECOnetic also offers a comprehensive list of active and passive safety features, culminating in a 5-star safety rating from ANCAP.

Driver and front passenger airbags, head and thorax front side airbags, and a driver's knee airbag are all fitted as standard equipment, along with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA).

"In addition to its full complement of safety equipment, comfort and convenience features, Fiesta ECOnetic will provide the next step up for customers who prioritise fuel efficiency and low CO2 emission performance when it comes to choosing a new vehicle," Mr Burela said.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mercedes-Benz Opening Hybrid R&D Center

Mercedes-Benz, according to Daimler, will be opening a R&D center for hybrid and other alternative powertrain technology in Redford Township in Michigan. The township offered a $2.3 million tax exemption to Mercedes-Benz, in addition to the $7.5 million tax incentives from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.

Source: Mercedes to do hybrid R&D in Redford Twp. | Detroit Free Press |

“We’re very excited about the possibility of launching the center in Southeast Michigan,” said Judy Brunson, MBH operations officer.

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Honda Offers $500 to Previous Hybrid Owners

Honda is offering a $500 rebate to 2003-2007 hybrid Civic owners as the result of a lawsuit against it. A Honda Civic Hybrid owner from California was upset he was not achieving the mpg numbers 'promised' him and brought a lawsuit against Honda.

At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous lawsuit, given Honda doesn't make the claims. Cars are rated by the EPA.

But as part of a settlement (Source: Reuters), Honda will now offer $500 in rebates or $100 in cash for previous Civic Hybrid owners if they are willing to buy a new hybrid from Honda.

MPGs are determined by the driving conditions, the tire pressure, the road conditions, the oil changes, whether you have the windows open or closed, turn the air conditioner on, what you have in the trunk, what speed you are driving, if it's windy out, etc... For someone to bring a suit against a car company because they advertised, legally, the fuel economy numbers as set by the EPA... I don't know what to think.

The EPA adjusted the fuel economy numbers of all cars a short time ago, when they realized their testing was setting too high a standard for all cars. Hybrids mpg numbers fell more than other cars, but then, they had farther to fall than most cars. Hypermilers were achieving higher than the ratings then, and they're still doing it now.

I can't agree with the writers conclusions more (see the Reuters article I linked to above). Plug-in hybrid car makers had better start being careful about the numbers they throw out. The 230 mpg claimed by GM for the Volt is ridiculous on the face of it and dangerous in the short and long term. If anyone goes into a dealership expecting to get 230 mpg with the car they drive out with, GM is in for a lot of trouble.

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2010 Lexus LS 600h L

The Lexus LS 600h L sedan has a slightly different look and a brand new telematics system for 2010. While not exactly a fuel miser, the LS 600h L does use all wheel drive hybrid drivetrain combined with a v8 gas engine to up its fuel efficiency to 21 mpg (combined). The LS is rated as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (SULEV II) certification, emitting nearly 70-percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car.

For 2010, the front grille and bumper have been revised. The rear of the vehicle has been enhanced with blue tinted taillamps and a license plate with surround and exhaust diffusers.

The side mirrors have integrated turn signals and the trunk space has increased by two cubic feet. New Intelligent High Beams adjust their lighting in response to oncoming vehicles.

The drives seat now has a standard slide-away feature that makes ingress/egress more comfortable. The front passenger gets his/her own passenger memory system. The LCD instrument cluster is all new. And the Lexus Navigation system employs new casual language recognition; Bluetooth® phonebook capability and new music playing capability with USB/iPod® connectivity and Bluetooth audio streaming.

And the aforementioned all new Lexus Enform™ with Safety Connect™ telematics system is available with a complimentary one-year trial subscription.

Keep reading for more details on the interior and exterior features of the 2010 Lexus LS 600h L as written in the press release.

The LS 600h L hybrid powertrain system uniquely combines a 5.0-liter V8 gasoline engine with two powerful electric motors and a large-capacity battery pack. The hybrid powertrain generates a peak combined output rating of 438 horsepower and can effortlessly accelerate the LS 600h L from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Mid-range acceleration is even more impressive. The system's electric motor is capable of delivering maximum torque on demand and is most beneficial during passing maneuvers. The LS 600h L can accelerate from 50-70 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

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

The LS 600h L meets the Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (SULEV II) certification, emitting nearly 70-percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car.

The super-low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in the LS 600h L make it one of the quietest automobiles ever built. The LS 600h L is a full hybrid, capable of operating in electric-only mode or with a combination of the gas engine and electric motor. Lexus hybrid technology allows electric-mode-only operation when certain conditions are met at low speeds or stop-and-go driving conditions, reducing fuel consumption and noise.

A compact 288-volt DC Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack is installed behind the rear seat. The battery's power is directed through a boost converter that efficiently raises voltage to a maximum 650V DC. An inverter changes this to AC, providing its elevated power to a 165-kW electric motor that turns at up to 10,240 rpm. The trunk also contains a 12-volt auxiliary battery that powers the audio, navigation, and other systems.

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

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

A state-of-the-art, full-time all-wheel drive system adapts to road surface conditions to help provide excellent vehicle control during acceleration, high-speed driving and cornering. The AWD system employs a compact, ultra-quiet transfer case equipped with a TORSEN® limited-slip differential (LSD) that is 30 percent lighter in size and weight than previous TORSEN systems.

The LSD provides rear biased torque distribution of 40:60 during normal straight-line driving, automatically and continually adjusting power distribution according to changing speed and road conditions.

An eight-speed sequential braking mode, activated when the shift lever is in the “S” position, allows eight different stages of response. When up-shifting, engine speed is controlled by the selected range, offering an exhilarating boost in acceleration during each of the eight “shift” stages. When downshifting, brake-force increases to provide powerful deceleration.

The driver can select "hybrid" (normal), "power," or "snow" modes to change the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle. The "hybrid" mode provides the smoothest operation and is ideal for city or suburban driving; "power" sharpens accelerator pedal response and "snow" mode softens accelerator pedal response, making it easier to accelerate on slippery road surfaces. By pushing an EV switch, power reverts to full electric mode for short-distance, low-speed driving situations such as residential areas or parking garages.

Multi-link front and rear air-suspension systems help maintain superb vehicle posture and driving performance while maintaining the ultra-comfortable ride that is synonymous with all Lexus vehicles.

The LS 600h L is equipped with large front- and rear-ventilated disc brakes and standard 19-inch, seven-spoke aluminum alloy wheels with all-season tires. These special wheels receive extensive buffing.

Electronic Power Steering (EPS) delivers a smooth steering feel and reduces parasitic losses. Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) optimizes the steering gear ratio according to vehicle speed, enhancing responsiveness and driver control.

Networked with the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, VGRS can make minor adjustments to the front-wheel angle to help provide improved stability in challenging road conditions.

Safety/Security Features
The VDIM stability system incorporates and manages all of the car’s dynamic handling sub-systems, including: Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB) system, EPS, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and engine torque via the electronically controlled throttle. Monitoring a variety of sensors, the system anticipates the onset of a vehicle skid or slide while cornering, and helps correct the situation with a combination of braking, throttle and steering control in a way that is essentially transparent to the driver. VSC can be turned off for particular circumstances via the Trac Off button.

In addition to the active safety features, the LS 600h L is standard-equipped with eight airbags, with a maximum of 11 airbags available through option packages. The world’s first low-beam LED headlamps provide superior road illumination, and the standard Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) helps to illuminate a turn or curve as the driver steers into it.

The available Advanced Pre-Collision System (APCS) was the world's first system designed to help detect pedestrians in the vehicle's path when it debuted on the 2009 Pebble Beach® Edition LS 600h L. This system is now available for the 2010 LS 600h L (and the LS 460 models) with Lane Keep Assist. Using two small cameras mounted at the front of the car that work in conjunction with millimeter-wave radar, APCS is sensitive enough to detect certain nonmetallic objects.

As part of APCS, the LS also offers the Driver Monitor System, which was another world first. A third camera, mounted on the steering column, monitors the orientation of the driver's face.

If the camera detects that it appears the driver is not looking directly ahead for a few seconds or more, and if an obstacle is detected ahead, then it alerts the driver, first with a warning chime and a flashing light. As the car gets closer to the obstacle, APCS can begin to gently apply the brakes on its own.

To help assist the driver in maneuvering around the obstacle, the system reprograms the steering ratio, amplifying the intensity and quickness of the steering response. At the same time, APCS automatically retracts the front seatbelts and prepares the brake system to respond with full force when activated by the driver in anticipation of a possible impact.

The LS 600h L is based on the long-wheelbase LS chassis, providing nearly five inches more legroom than the standard LS 460 model. This flagship sedan provides the highest level of comfort and convenience features in the LS series. Standard features include a hard disk drive (HDD) Lexus Navigation system with a backup camera, Bluetooth technology, Voice Command casual language voice-recognition system, plus an integrated XM® Satellite Radio receiver.

For theater-level entertainment, the LS 600h L features a standard 19-speaker 450-watt Mark Levinson® Reference Surround Sound audio system. An auxiliary jack located in the front center console allows for MP3 digital music players while a USB port allows for iPod connectivity.

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

New standard features for 2010 include the Cold Weather Package, which includes a windshield de-icer, upgraded battery and more efficient heater, and the Advanced Parking Guidance System (APGS). APGS is designed to assist with parallel and back-in parking. Once the driver has correctly positioned the car and identified the desired parking spot via the navigation screen, APGS utilizes the rear back-up camera parking sonar sensors and electric power steering system to guide the car into the space, while the driver controls speed via braking.

Luxury Options
The Premium Package II includes two new additions for 2010, butterfly rear headrests and left rear seat with lumbar massage. The package also features rear climate controlled power seats with memory and power headrests, rear seat-mounted side airbags, a rear heater control panel, four-zone climate control, rear audio controls, additional wood trim, rear air purifier, rear headliner and side air ducts, power rear-door sunshades, and a rear seat entertainment system equipped with a power ceiling-mounted nine-inch screen for DVD viewing.

The Executive Class Seating Package II includes all features in the Premium Package II and adds a power right rear seat with ottoman. The seat reclines up to 45 degrees with an upper-back recliner featuring a 17-degree angle adjustment. A multi-function massage feature for the right-rear seat recliner can be used separately or in conjunction with the seat heater and cooler.

The package also includes a rear-seat wood-trimmed table, and the rear-seat entertainment system features a rear DVD player and wireless headphones. The rear climate control is upgraded with an infrared sensor located in the headliner that measures lap, upper body and seat surface temperatures on each side and adjusts airflow accordingly.

Exterior Design
The LS 600h L flagship hybrid luxury sedan showcases the brand’s L-finesse design philosophy, revealing a family resemblance that conveys elegance, refinement and a strong emotional appeal. Minimal body gaps, a low front grille and deep-drawn fenders all contribute to the car's distinctive, muscular profile. Lexus’ attention to detail is seen in the integrated dual chrome exhaust tips and the one-piece chrome window surround.

Projector-type headlamps with blue crystal rings, which introduced the world's first nighttime LED low beams, provide excellent visibility and contribute to the design theme. Blue accents on the headlamps, badging, engine cover and the SmartAccess key fobs and Smart Card key are unique to the LS 600h L – as are the blue-tinted taillamps added for 2010.

Interior Design
Passenger space and comfort were the primary focus of the interior cabin design. Genuine semi-aniline leather is featured throughout the cabin, its rich appearance softened and structured with additional stitching to create a relaxed atmosphere. The leather trim extends beyond the seats and onto the instrument panel, upper front doors and door armrests.

An Alcantara® headliner adds a pleasing touch point, and the center console is placed at the same height as the door armrests to enhance comfort and convenience. Additional luxury touches unique to the LS 600h L include a wood-trimmed and chrome-plated shift knob and wood-trimmed assist grips.
Lexus Enform™ with Safety Connect™

The Lexus LS 600h L offers an all-new telematics system, Lexus Enform™ with Safety Connect™, available by subscription. Complimentary one-year trial subscriptions are included on all purchases of new Lexus vehicles equipped with these features. Both the Lexus Enform and the Safety Connect response center operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—every day of the year.

Safety Connect, the cornerstone of the services, is standard on LS 600h L and offers four safety and security features: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance, which adds GPS data to the already included warranty-based Lexus roadside service.

Lexus Enform includes all of the Safety Connect features and builds upon them with the premium services of Destination Assist and eDestination. Destination Assist agents are available via the on-board cellular equipment and can help drivers find a specific address, a business by name, or a type of business (e.g., gas station, movie theater, etc.), and even Zagat®-rated restaurants, and then send the coordinates to the navigation system for routing. With eDestination, drivers can go online via to save and sort destinations in up to 20 folders, each holding as many as 10 destinations. Then drivers can send the locations—up to 200 at a time—to their vehicle, where they will be available for download into the navigation system. Online, drivers can create personalized location names (e.g., “Favorite sushi,” “1 PM Appt,” “Kids’ doc,” etc.) and even list notes about their saved locations, all helping them see exactly the information they choose in the vehicle.

Lexus Insider™, a complimentary, opt-in service is also available without a subscription on all Lexus Enform-equipped vehicles. This feature offers in-vehicle audio casts that provide owners access to useful vehicle tips and event information, and insights into exclusive owners' benefits – all designed to further enhance the Lexus experience.

XM – Beyond Radio
Lexus Enform vehicles are factory ready for subscriptions to a variety of innovative XM services. An Integrated XM® satellite radio receiver is standard. Additionally, Lexus Enform vehicles feature XM NavTraffic® and XM NavWeather™ services. XM NavTraffic informs the driver of current traffic conditions with real-time traffic displays. When traffic problems are detected the navigation system alerts the driver so that the route can be adjusted. XM NavWeather provides near real-time weather conditions as well as spoken and nav-screen forecasts, both based on official National Weather Service data.

Lexus Enform also provides the platform for XM® Sports and Stocks, which features in-vehicle updates on sports and stocks so drivers can stay connected to their favorite teams and investment data while on the road. XM Sports provides game results and schedules for up to five personally selected national league sports teams while XM Stocks supplies data for up to 10 personally selected stocks. After inputting their selections, drivers can access the reports either by the navigation system, or by using the voice command system, adding a new level of flexibility.

XM services require separate XM subscriptions. The XM Sports and Stocks service is included with an XM® radio subscription. All XM services offer complimentary 90-day trial subscriptions.

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

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Toyota Prius Wins Car of the Year in Japan

The Toyota Prius has been named the 2009-2010 Japan Car of the Year. (via motortrend) It narrowly beat out the Honda Insight (433 to 391). Which makes sense given the sales numbers, but that's not always a good indicator for what jurors are going to consider in any vote.

61 jurors voted at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The Volkswagen Golf came in third, and was crowned Import Car of the Year. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the first 'real world' vehicle  to use lithium-ion batteries, won 'Most Advanced Technology' and the Nissan Fairlady Z (370Z) won for 'Most Fun.' The Subaru Legacy took 'Best Value.'

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LoJack Announces LoJack for Hybrids

LoJack is introducing a next generation Stolen Vehicle Recovery System with a 'proprietary power management protocol' allowing the system to be self-powered.

With hybrids and plug-in hybrids relying so heavily on their battery packs (now and especially into the future), LoJack figures this new system is great for hybrid electric cars.

Autoblog is guessing this system is a re-worked version of the system used in trailers, which can work for up to five years.

Press Release Follows (found via autoblog)

Westwood, MA -- October 26, 2009 -- LoJack Corporation (NASDAQ: LOJN), the company that invented and leads the Stolen Vehicle Recovery category, today introduced its next generation Stolen Vehicle Recovery System based on a newly developed proprietary power management protocol. This self-powered Stolen Vehicle Recovery System does not draw any power from a vehicle's battery or electrical system, which makes it ideally suited for the vehicles of today and the future, including hybrid and electric cars.

The next generation Stolen Vehicle Recovery System answers the needs of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that are seeking to implement intelligent power management systems in new cars. With the growing number of features and devices installed and utilized in today's vehicles, there is an increasing need to reduce the draw on a vehicle's battery to enable maximum vehicle performance and efficiency.

President Barack Obama has called for a million plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles to be on United States roadways by 2015 and this system delivers an energy efficient and proven theft recovery solution for these types of vehicles.

"As we looked to the future of the automotive market and held discussions with OEMs and our international licensees, it was clear that there was a need for a new generation of aftermarket products that are self-powered and optimized for newer vehicles," said Ronald V. Waters, LoJack Corporation's President and Chief Executive Officer. "This new Stolen Vehicle Recovery System directly answers that market demand and places LoJack in a strong position moving forward for the automotive market. As we continue to diversify our business, the new power management protocol will have beneficial applications in future versions of all LoJack products."

Provides Benefits for All Vehicles Including Hybrids, Electric and Collector Cars
More than one third of all vehicle breakdowns are due to electrical failures caused by too much dependence on the battery. Unlike GPS-based aftermarket products that draw power from a vehicle's electrical system, the self powered LoJack solution helps retain battery power. It is especially ideal for hybrids and electric vehicles where maintaining battery power is so essential. And, by eliminating the draw on the vehicle battery, it is optimized for collector cars as well because there is no need to connect to the electrical system, which can be a complicated and disruptive process in customized collector vehicles.

System Increases Installation Flexibility and Enhances Covertness
Since the new system does not have to be connected to the vehicle's electrical system, it provides efficiencies in the installation process and increases the number of locations inside the vehicle where the unit may be hiddenâ€"which is especially critical for the company's licensees in markets where the theft problem is particularly severe. Being even more covert also will help ensure that LoJack's Stolen Vehicle Recovery System "with its national recovery rate of 90 percent" remains the industry leader moving forward.

The next generation Stolen Vehicle Recovery System will be available for distribution through the company's international licensees in the fourth quarter of this year and rolled out in the United States beginning in the first quarter of 2010.

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Consumer Reports Once Again Points to Hybrids for Reliability

Starting with the Honda Insight, hybrids have once again been named as some of the most reliable cars. The Honda Insight was rated as the most reliable car by Consumer Reports.

CR went on to point out five of the eight most reliable family cars are also hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

The Toyota Prius ranked first for family sedans, followed by the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan.

But Toyota and Honda dominated the top ranks. 36 of the top 48 were from Toyota and Honda.

Press Release follows:

YONKERS, N.Y., Oct. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ford has secured its position as the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability. About 90 percent (46 of 51) of Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln products were found to have average or better reliability, according to Consumer Reports' 2009 Annual Car Reliability Survey. The results were announced today at an Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit.

Ford's sustained production of vehicles that are as dependable--or better than--some of the industry's best dispels the notion that only Japanese manufacturers make reliable cars. Other than the Toyota Prius, the reliability of the 4-cylinder Fusion and Milan ranks higher than that of any other family sedan. Both of those Ford Motor Company products continue to beat the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, while the upscale Lincoln MKZ tops its rivals, the Acura TL and Lexus ES.

"It's rare for Consumer Reports to see family sedans from domestic carmakers continue to beat the reliability scores of such highly regarded Japanese models as the Camry and Accord," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Automotive Test Center. The last domestic sedan that had better reliability than the Camry and Accord was the Buick Regal in 2004, he noted.

Ford's position as the most reliable domestic carmaker includes good scores for its new Ford Flex SUV. But the Lincoln division has had mixed results; some models score below their Ford equivalents. All-wheel-drive versions of the Lincoln MKS, MKX, and MKZ, essentially high-end versions of the Ford Taurus, Edge, and Fusion, respectively, are all below average.

More details, and a list of models with the best and worst predicted-reliability Ratings, will appear first on The reliability report will also appear in the December issue of Consumer Reports, on sale November 3, and in the latest Consumer Reports Cars publication, Best & Worst New Cars for 2010, which also includes predicted-reliability ratings for more than 300 models.

A large margin separates the best from the worst. The least reliable vehicle, the Volkswagen Touareg, is 27 times more likely to have a problem than the most reliable car, the Honda Insight.

In addition to the Insight, small car reliability scores stood out. Twenty of 37 small cars have above-average predicted-reliability including the Honda Fit, Scion xD and Volkswagen Golf. Family cars fared nearly as well, with 21 out of 42 scoring above average. Five of the eight most reliable family cars are hybrids, including the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Even good brands falter. Among the least reliable vehicles in their respective classes are the all-wheel-drive Lexus GS, the Nissan Versa sedan, and the Subaru Impreza WRX.

General Motors shows some bright spots, Chrysler still struggles

Some newer GM products are bright spots. Overall 20 of the 48 GM models Consumer Reports surveyed have average reliability scores, while the Chevrolet Malibu V6 has shown better-than-average scores and is on par with the most reliable family sedans. The Buick Lucerne did well in Consumer Reports road tests, and it scores average in reliability.

The Chevrolet Traverse SUV also makes the cut, as does its cousin, the Buick Enclave, but only in the all-wheel-drive version. The reliability scores of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups have improved enough to earn Consumer Reports' Recommendation. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on the Annual Auto Survey, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

GM has a number of strong contenders either just released or in the pipeline, but they are too new for CR to have reliability data on them.

Chrysler continues to struggle. More than one-third of Chrysler products are much worse than average, including its new car-based SUV, the Dodge Journey. Last year, Consumers Reports couldn't Recommend any of its products either because of mediocre performance, poor reliability scores, or both. However, this year CR can recommend one important vehicle in Chrysler's lineup: the four-wheel-drive version of the redesigned Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. It did well in CR road tests and rates average in reliability.

Asian brands still in command

Of the 48 models with top reliability scores, 36 are Asian--Toyota accounts for 18; Honda, eight; Nissan, four; and Hyundai/Kia and Subaru, three each. With only a few exceptions, Japanese vehicles are consistently good. All Honda and Acura products have average or above average reliability. Although, Toyota, with its Lexus and Scion brands, provides a broader product range; the Lexus GS AWD is the only Toyota model with below average reliability.

Models from Nissan and its Infiniti luxury division have mostly been very reliable. The once-troublesome Infiniti QX56 and Nissan Armada are now average, as is the four-wheel-drive Nissan Titan, although its rear-wheel-drive version is still troublesome. The Nissan Versa has produced uneven results. Over the last two surveys, the hatchback has been average while the sedan has been far below average. The Nissan Quest minivan also remains troublesome.

Hyundai and Kia continue to make reliable cars. The Hyundai Elantra and Tucson, and the Kia Sportage get top marks. The new Hyundai Genesis V6 is better than average; the V8 version is average. Only Kia's Sedona minivan and Sorento SUV score below average.

European models continue to rally

European brands continue to improve. Mercedes-Benz has significantly rebounded, with most models average or better, and the GLK did exceptionally well in its first year in CR's survey. Scores from rival BMW are more mixed. The 535i sedan and X3 SUV declined in reliability, and the 135i, debuting in this survey, scores below average. Some BMW models have average or better reliability, but the 328i versions are the only ones that we have tested and can Recommend.

Volkswagen and Audi are also staging a nice reliability recovery. The Volkswagen Rabbit (Golf) and the new CC earn top scores. The VW Jetta's Recommendation now extends to the diesel version, making it the only diesel Consumer Reports currently recommends.

Both the VW Passat and Audi A3 have improved so that they now have average reliability scores. The new VW Tiguan SUV is average. The Audi Q7 SUV continues to be much worse than average, but not as bad as its platform mate, the VW Touareg, which not only scores poorly but has the worst new-car predicted reliability score in the survey.

All of Volvo's sedans are average or better, but Volvo's XC90 SUV is below average. Porsche, which has been doing quite well in our survey of late, has one serious hiccup this year: The Boxster drops to below average, which strikes it from Consumer Reports Recommended list. But the Cayenne SUV improved to average.

Findings are based on responses on more than 1.4 million vehicles owned or leased by subscribers to Consumer Reports or its Web site,, the biggest response in the Annual Auto Survey's history. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2009 by Consumer Reports' National Survey Research Center and covered model years 2000 to 2009.

Consumer Reports' expert team of statisticians and automotive engineers used the survey data to predict reliability of new 2010 models. Predicted reliability is CR's forecast of how well models currently on sale are likely to hold up. To calculate predicted-reliability ratings, CR averages the overall reliability scores (used car verdicts) for the most recent three model years, provided that the model remained unchanged in that period and also didn't substantially change for 2010. If a model was new or redesigned in the past couple of years, one or two years' data may be used, or if that's all that's available.

Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey is used in determining which makes and models are recommended to consumers by CR. Consumer Reports recommends only models that have performed well in tests conducted at its 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut, and that have average or better predicted reliability based on its annual survey. In addition, vehicles must perform well in government or insurance-industry crash and rollover tests, if tested, in order to be Recommended. Occasionally, Consumer Reports may recommend a redesigned model too new to have compiled a reliability record if the previous generation, and the manufacturer's reliability track record has been consistently outstanding, and if the model meets the other criteria.

Full reliability history charts and predicted-reliability ratings on hundreds of 2010 models, plus a list of what's up and what's down, best and worst models, and a comparison chart of brands can be found online at, in the December issue and in the latest Consumer Reports Cars publication, Best & Worst New Cars for 2010 ($6.99 U.S./$7.99 Canada), on sale November 17, 2009 everywhere magazines are sold.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fisker Goes to Delaware

Fisker has made it official, have signed a letter of intent to buy the Delaware auto plant, formerly owned by GM. The 'affordable' plug-in hybrid vehicle they hope to build there will be the end result of Project NINA. Fisker estimates the plug-in hybrid sedan will cost $39,900 after federal tax credits (so, the MSRP will be $7,500 more than that).

Fisker executives made the announcement alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and other state officials inside the plant.

Fisker hopes to begin production in 2012. They also estimate Project NINA will create or support 2,000 factory jobs and more than 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014, with 75,000 to 100,000 vehicles a year in production.

The Wilmington, Delaware plant was selected for its size, production capacity, world-class paint facilities, access to shipping ports, rail lines and available skilled workforce.

"This is a major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology," said Henrik Fisker, CEO. "Wilmington is perfect for high quality, low volume production and will soon be the proud builder of world-class, fuel-efficient Fisker plug-in hybrids."

The cost to buy the plant is set at $18 million, and will happen after a four-month evaluation period. Fisker plans on spending another $175 to retool and refurbish the plant.

Funds for the plant are coming from the $528.7 Million loan from the Dept of Energy. The loan was given out as part of the $25 Billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program created by Congress.

"With our close-knit business, government, and educational communities and our potential to respond rapidly to new opportunities, today's announcement is a testament to what works best in Delaware. Fisker is a perfect partner in shaping Delaware's economic future, and we are thrilled that the vehicle that can reshape the automobile industry will be built here in Delaware, by Delaware workers." said Governor Jack Markell (D-Delaware).

Gary Casteel, UAW director responsible for the plant, said, "It gives me great pride to give UAW Local 435 workers the opportunity to partner with Fisker Automotive to create a greener America by building a plug-in hybrid car that will compete globally."

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Hybrid Bus Accelerates Too Quickly for Some

Some MTA passengers are getting injured (or at least claims for injuries are up) when hybrid buses accelerate too quickly.

It seems the buses 'jerk' forward because they accelerate too quickly. "The hybrids work like an electric golf cart, where stepping on the gas after a complete stop can cause them to lurch into action." (Source: MTA rolls out fix to "jerky" hybrid buses - am New York).

Claims were up by 13% from July 2008 to July 2009.

The transit has worked on a fix that will 'smooth out' the acceleration curve, keeping passengers from falling over when the bus starts up.

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Chrysler Will Have a Hybrid Ram in 2010

Chrysler is still planning on introducing a hybrid Dodge Ram in 2010, but a diesel version is now in question.

To be honest, when I thought about Chrysler's hybrid plans, I thought they were basically dropping them. Chrysler had introduced two hybrid SUVs using the two-mode hybrid technology created with GM and BMW. But the hybrids were quickly dropped after just a couple of months. They had also at one point talked about the ENVI project and introducing an electric vehicle, but not a lot has been heard about that, either.

Then with the economy, the bankruptcy, etc... I had guessed, incorrectly it turns out, that Chrysler would just quietly drop the whole project.

Plans for a hybrid Ram roll forward | | The Detroit News

There have been no changes to the plans for the hybrid, Scott Kunselman, Chrysler senior vice president of engineering, confirmed in an interview at a recent Ram event here.
The engineering chief went on to cast a lot of doubt on the diesel version of the Ram. This may be surprising since the heavy duty diesel Ram is so popular, but the diesel is very popular with commercial buyers, unlike the light-duty Ram buyers who may not factor in the high resale value.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

There is a Hybrid For That

Toyota has put together an app for your iphone. The Prius Experience App allows you to take a 360 degree tour of the interior of a Prius.

There's also a 10 level game using the built in accelerometer.

Toyota, Honda, Ford, etc... they are all working hard to build up their social networking presence. This may be the first iPhone application I've seen, but I bet there are more on the way.

Press Release Follows:

Torrance, CA. – October 26, 2009 – Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc., along with its advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi LA, today announced The Prius Experience App is available for free from the App Store. The Prius Experience App has four modes to help educate and entertain iPhone™ users interested in learning more about the EPA-rated 50 MPG 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid.

“The Prius Experience App gives iPhone users a dynamic, in-depth experience of the third-generation Prius in the palm of their hands,” said Tim Morrison, corporate manager of marketing communications for TMS.

Notably, The Prius Experience App takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer to give users a 360-degree interior tour of the Prius. The app has four modes:

• Tour - Rotate your iPhone for a 360-degree interior view of the Prius, then explore the features that make the car so unique.

• Interact - Use your iPhone camera to interact with the Prius ads you see in your favorite magazines.

• Draw - Touch the innovative Multi-Touch user interface to draw directly into the environment of the Prius, then watch it react to your shapes and objects.

• Play - Think your way through 10 levels of a force-based game that utilizes the accelerometer.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Turn Your Car Into a Golf Ball to Increase Your Fuel Efficiency

It works, it really works!

Growing up, I always wondered why golf balls were dimpled and I was surprised to learn the answer. It's not obvious, but the dimples help the ball travel farther and longer by creating chaos in the wind stream, which cuts down on the tail (watch the video for a great visual explanation). And then I wondered why we didn't see it more often, say on cars?

I always assumed the dimple effect only took place at higher speeds. Either that or it was just plain ugly.

Turns out Mythbusters thought the same thing (via Autoblog). They took a Ford Taurus and covered it with dimpled modelers clay.

They took some model clay, placed it in the back seat (to make the weight the same) and saw they could get 26 mpg at 65 mph. Then they put the 1,082 dimples onto the car. Testing showed they went up to 29 mpg at 65 mph.

The video for the episode is from megavideo:

So, why not do this to a Prius?

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Fisker May be Going to Delaware?

Fisker Automotive announced they would be making an announcement on where their next automotive plant would be located this week. But the cat may be out of the bag. (Source: Delawareonline)

The Boxwood Road plant near Newport may be the new site for Fisker. They have toured the plant, idled since GM closed the plant in July. Fisker intends to build as many as 100,000 electric hybrid sedans annually at the site starting in 2012.

The 3.2 million square foot plant was used to produce the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and Opel GT sports car.

Any sale would have to be approved in bankruptcy court, since GM left the plant behind during their bankruptcy.

Fisker received a federal loan for several hundred million which is expected to be used to renovate the plant.

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Tweaking Software to Increase MPG

Ford and the University of Michigan are working together to tweak software in Ford hybrids to increase fuel efficiency. The team is taking data from 2,5000 road trips. Using the data, they have run nearly 1 million design simulations so far - nearly 50,000 a week.

“The Ford Fusion Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan available, and its performance is second to none. Our work with U of M is helping us develop the next generation of Ford hybrids and bring them to market even faster,” said Ryan McGee, supervisor of Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design in Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering.

By working through the simulations, Ford is hoping to build up hybrid controls in which they can increase fuel efficiency, 'drivability', or both.

The research is still in its early research stages, but initial results are promising.

"Working together with the University of Michigan research team, we are testing the boundaries of hybrid vehicle technology, exploring innovative ways to raise the bar on fuel economy and drivability," said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, chief technical officer, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "This joint work on hybrid software development shows great promise in helping us lead the development of more efficient hybrid systems for the future."

As a reuters article based on the press release points out, hypermilers have been doing this for a long time now. By driving differently, maximizing fuel efficiency in all driving situations, testing, and re-testing, hypermilers work to exceed the EPA fuel ratings every day.

In some hybrids now, you're going to see 'econ' buttons that do just this, tweak the software controls to emphasize either fuel efficiency or 'drivability.'

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Get 42 Thousand Dollars Buying a Tesla

In the great state of Colorado, you can now buy a 2009 Tesla Roadster for just $67,800, or $42 thousand less than what most people pay for it.  And just in time for the holidays, Tesla will be opening the doors to its Gallery in Boulder, Colorado.

The only catch is this is a tax break so you have to live in Colorado (almost makes it worth the money to move there, doesn't it?) and you have to buy before December 31.

Source: Green Car Reports

That's not all. If you want to (see the full list in this pdf from Colorado state), you could buy a 2009 Lexus LS 600h L and get $20,000 back. Or, if you want to spend less (or just don't expect somehow to pay $20,000 in taxes for which you would be eligible for a tax credit to get it back), you could buy an Insight or Prius and expect $3,000 in tax credits.

The tax credits were set up to return up to 85% of the difference between alternative fueled cars, and the price of an equivalent car running on just gas.

Interested in a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid? You could get almost $4,000 back. A Lexus GS 450h? Almost $6,500. The 2009 Cadillac Escalade could net you almost $5,500 in tax credits.

I'm not sure this state tax credit was well thought out???

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Honda CR-Z

Honda debuted the CR-Z, concept, at the Tokyo Auto Show. The sporty hybrid coupe concept is supposedly very close to what the production version will look like. The production car will be a 2-seat hybrid which will be introduced in 2010 at the North American International Auto Show in January.

"The Honda CR-Z will expand our lineup of hybrid vehicles and reinforce the fun-to-drive values associated with the Honda brand," said Erik Berkman, vice president of Automobile Corporate Planning and Logistics for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "Beyond great styling and features, CR-Z will bring new levels of engagement and fun to customers interested a small car or a hybrid vehicle."

The CR-Z has a 1.5 liter displacement, four cylinder gas engine with a six speed manual gearbox, marking a first for a hybrid.

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2009 Hybrid Escalade and Honda Insight Getting Big Incentives

According to Edmunds, the 2009 Hybrid Escalade and Honda Insight are now the 'Deals of the Month' list, with big incentives.

GM is working to move the 2009 Hybrid Escalade off the lot, to make room for the 2010 model

"There are finance and cash deals on several of GM's hybrids, largely because sales have been slow all year and the automaker is hoping to move the 2009 models off the lots before the 2010s start piling up," said Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell.
The Insight has faced heavy competition from the Prius, right from the start. So Honda is looking for ways to fight back through price. Since the Insight gets lower fuel economy, and doesn't have the same reputation as the Prius, the best way for Honda to sell the 'everybody hybrid' is to work with the price.
"And the Insight just hasn't been moving very well, so the reduced lease they're offering is a good hook to pull people into Honda dealerships to look at them," she said.
As a result, Honda is now offering the entry-level Insight LX, which has a base price of $20,510, with a discounted 3-year, 36,000-mile lease of $199 a month.

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Infiniti Electric Vehicle in the Works

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, announced Infiniti will have an electric vehicle, one that will be "true to the Infiniti brand's promise of Inspired Performance.'

A concept is currently being developed for a stylish, compact, high performance four-seat luxury Infiniti with zero emissions.

Ghosn made the announcement during the Tokyo Auto Show in which he drove onto stage in the Nissan Land Glider, a two-seater EV. The Land Glider will lean into turns like a motorcycle, but is fully enclosed with four wheels. The EV is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack stored under the vehicle's floor.

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Mitsubishi or Subaru Hybrid by 2012

While talking about the concept PX-MiEV at the Tokyo Auto Show, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. President Ikuo Mori announced they are looking to bring a hybrid by 2012. They are also working with Toyota to build a 'zero-emission' electric vehicle with Toyota.

The PX-MiEV is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The electric motor is used primarily for propulsion, while the gas engine can turn a generator to power the electric motor as needed. In high speeds, the gas motor can also be used to provide additional power via a clutch in the transmission.

At lower speeds, the electric motors (one for each of the front and rear axles), provide the power via the lithium-ion battery pack. So, you can get all-wheel drive when both motors engage.

It's also a good preview of the Mitsubishi Outlander crossover.

The lithium-ion battery pack can be fully charged overnight, or a high-voltage quick charge can bring you up to 80% power in 30 minutes.

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Sanyo to Start Producing Lithium-Ion Battery Packs for Toyota Plug-in Hybrid

Sanyo will begin making hybrid car batteries for Toyota starting in 2011 (Source: Source: Reuters). The lithium-ion battery packs will be made to go into Toyotas upcoming plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The new production line can produce 300,000 to 400,000 cells a month.

Sanyo will also be making lithium-ion battery packs for 'conventional' hybrids towards the end of the year. In 2010, Sanyo will be capable of building 1.1 million cells a month. Sanyo wants everyone to know they will be ready to cell their batteries to any car maker (Source: Kyodo News) even though they will be owned by Panasonic, which produces batteries for Toyota.

Sanyo currently has a lithium-ion battery plant in Tokushima Prefecture, and is building another in Hyogo Prefecture.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hybrid Taxi Fleet in Phoenix

Clean Air Cab is going to be the second taxi fleet in the country to go all hybrid.

The company will offer a slightly lower rate than other area cab companies and claims to be carbon negative by by planting ten trees per month for each cab we have on the road in addition to our carbon offsets.

According to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, “Phoenix is committed to becoming the first carbon neutral city in the nation. We have been leaders on sustainability issues for decades and value responsible investments like this one to help us be the best stewards we can be.”

“We believe that going green isn’t something you do - it is something you are,” said Steve Lopez, Founder of Clean Air Cab. “Our intention is to take the trendy out of ‘going green’ and deliver a product that allows consumers to be green just by participating.”

Clean Air Cab has 26 cabs on the road and plans on buying 200+ cabs in the future. They currently use the Toyota Prius.

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Toyota to Sell Hybrids in South Korea

Toyota is looking to begin selling hybrids and other models in South Korea. With modest goals, 500 units a month initially, Toyota is looking to break into the Korean market.

"The introduction of the Toyota brand into South Korea is aimed to meet the diversifying needs of consumers in this growing market," Toyota Executive Vice President Yukitoshi Funo told a news conference.

"We intend to make every effort to contribute to South Korean society and earn a loyal following."

The Prius, Camry Hybrid, Camry, and RAV4 will go on sale soon. Toyota hopes to increase sales there to 700 units a month in 2010.

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Toyota Sai Hybrid Has Lofty Goals

Toyota aims to sell 36,000 Hybrid Sai a year. The Sai is the second hybrid only sedan available from Toyota, but will be sold only in Japan.

The Toyota Sai is being built on the same platform as the Lexus HS 250h. The interior and exterior will be differentiated, although the drivetrain will be the same. The cost is $37,290 (3.38 million yen), which is 15% less than the HS 250h.

The Sai is rated at 23 km/liter (54 mpg).

The Prius is currently the number one car in Japan, with over 20,000 units being sold every month.  The Sai will probably have a great head start, with the tax breaks and other concessions still in effect.  It's unclear if Toyota could keep up with the demand, since the Prius is backlogged so severely right now that the waiting list is around nine months.  

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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Nissan Leaf Electric Battery Video

Nissan released a 60 second video on the battery pack found in the upcoming Nissan Leaf.  Nothing really new here, but the basics are the best place to start, right?

Update: Nissan is looking to create a business model for recycling the lithium-ion battery packs that are beginning to show up in electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

To do that, Nissan and Sumitomo Corp are going to team up to build a battery recycling business. The battery packs, after running too low to hold a charge for cars, can still be used in 'stationary systems ranging from emergency back-up power to storage of solar and wind-generated electricity.'

Nissan is expected to lease the battery pack to car buyers. By creating a marketplace for recycled batteries, the recycled value can be entered in to the cost of building the batteries in the first place.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 2010 Fuel Economy Guide is Here

The 2010 Fuel Economy Guide is out.  Get it hot off the presses.  Or you could just peruse the most fuel efficient vehicles for 2010.

Press Release:

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy today unveiled the 2010 Fuel Economy Guide, which gives consumers important information about estimated fuel costs and mileage standards for model year 2010 vehicles.

“Every year, consumers use the Fuel Economy Guide to find clean, efficient, cost-effective vehicles that meets their needs and their budgets,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “It's an easy, accessible resource for everyone, and helps us cut harmful pollution from the air, and save money for American drivers.”

“Fuel economy is about both saving energy and saving money,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Buying fuel efficient vehicles - like the many hybrid technologies featured in this year’s Fuel Economy Guide – helps limit carbon pollution, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce driving costs for American families.”

Fuel-efficient models come in all types and sizes, so consumers can save thousands of dollars over a vehicle’s lifetime without sacrificing performance. Model year 2010 fuel economy leaders include a wide range of hybrid models, from compact cars to sport-utility vehicles.

Each vehicle listing in the Fuel Economy Guide provides an estimated annual fuel cost. The estimate is calculated based on the vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) rating and national estimates for annual mileage and fuel prices. The online version of the guide allows consumers to input their local gasoline prices and typical driving habits to receive a personalized fuel cost estimate.

Fuel efficiency is important for reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change. One of the most important things consumers can do to reduce their contribution to climate change is to buy a vehicle with better fuel economy.

The Fuel Economy Guide continues to be available to mobile users (, and is readily accessible from a mobile device, smart phone, or personal digital assistant (or PDA).

More online sources with fuel economy information:

Visit the joint DOE/EPA Fuel Economy website for detailed information on fuel economy, including a complete version of the Fuel Economy Guide.

View the 2010 fuel economy leaders within each class as well as the lowest fuel economy models.

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Not Everyone Gets TARP Funds for Hybrids

With all the press releases from towns, counties and states that have gotten federal money to buy hybrids lately, it's interesting to note those who don't.

In Oregon, a $15 million application to provide hybrid vehicles and electric recharging stations along Interstate 5 and Interstate 84 was not approved.  Oregon had hoped to use the funds to help purchase 800 vehicles that use partial or all electric power, as well as 1,250 recharging stations.

"Oregon's project was unfortunately not selected for funding under this opportunity. We are currently trying to identify other sources of funds or other ways to accomplish the objectives of the project," said Oregon Business Development Department Clean Tech Industry Strategist Mark Brady.

Source:State loses on hybrid money |

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ford Hybrid Cars

Ford released some interesting facts about their hybrid fleet, which includes the Hybrid Fusion, Hybrid Milan, Hybrid Escape and Hybrid Mariner.   You may already be aware of most of them, if you've been reading my blog for a while ;-), but it's still interesting to see them all laid out.

Fuel Efficiency is the Name of the Game
The first hybrid SUV on the market, Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid, are still the most fuel efficient.  And the new Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid are number 3 on the list of most fuel efficient cars, right behind the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid are rated at 41 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway. The front-wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid are rated at 34 mpg in city/ 30 mpg highway.

Fuel Efficiency is Paying Off
With the release of the Fusion and Milan this past year, Ford hybrid vehicle sales are up by 73% through the first three quarters of 2009 over the same period in 2008.  And 60 percent of sales of the Fusion Hybrid are by 'non-Ford owners.'  Half of those previously owned an import brand.

“Hybrid customers increasingly are considering Ford,” said David Finnegan, Ford hybrid marketing manager.  “More than 60 percent of Fusion Hybrid sales have been from non-Ford owners, and more than half of those are customers coming from import brands, mostly from Toyota and Honda.”

Taxis, Government Service, and Lifeguards
Ford hybrid SUVs have been used extensively in taxi services. Each of the 15 Escape Hybrids in San Francisco, in operation since 2005, exceeded the 300,000 mile limit before being retired (by mandate) and replaced with more Escape Hybrids. There are currently almost 200 hybrid Escape taxis on the road in SF.

New York currently has more than 2,000 Escape Hybrids. Again, the first units which began service in 2005 are being forcefully retired after reaching the 300-350,000 mile mark.

In 2009, federal agencies have purchased more than 3,000 hybrids from Ford, more than any other automotive brand. But that last statement is a little misleading since Ford is the only 'domestic brand' that produced full hybrids for the longest time. GM has begun producing mild hybrids and larger hybrid SUVs, but Ford had a big lead time on them. And a government agency that does not purchase a 'domestic brand' vehicle had better have a good reason once word gets out.

Los Angeles has had 45 Escape Hybrids in use on the beaches. The County Lifeguards uses the hybrid SUVs along the 72 miles of Southern California coastline. After the first 11 months of service, lifeguards reported that Escape Hybrids had played a crucial part in thousands of rescues and more than a million rescue preventions at L.A. County beaches. They've also saved 25 percent on their fuel usage, more than 5,000 gallons of gas during the first six months of service.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GM Invests $230 Million to Build Up Plants for Chevy Cruze and Volt Production

GM is investing $230 million to build up four production plants in the Flint, Michigan area to support the production of the Chevy Volt and Chevy Cruze.  GM estimates this build up will support 500 jobs.

As GM winds down the prototype production (around 80 or so were built), and begin the pre-production vehicles, these plants are about to become very busy.

"These four GM manufacturing plants have a key role in GM's production of the next generation of fuel-efficient vehicles, the Chevrolet Volt and Cruze," said Larry Zahner, GM manufacturing manager. "The men and women at these plants are working hard to exceed their quality and cost objectives while maintaining a relentless focus on safety and improved efficiency."

  • Flint Engine South: General Motors Company is investing $202 million in Flint Engine South to renovate the former I5/I6 manufacturing operations for production of a 1.4L four-cylinder engine generator for the Chevrolet Volt and a 1.4L four-cylinder turbo engine for the Cruze. The project represents approximately 240 employees.

  • Flint Metal Center: General Motors Company is investing $1.7 million in Flint Metal Center to refurbish press lines that will produce sheet metal stampings for the Volt, representing 30 jobs.

  • Flint Tool and Die: This facility designed dies for the Chevrolet Cruze and is responsible for the construction and tryout of stamping die sets for the Volt program. All dies for the Chevy Volt were engineered at Flint Tool & Die. Approximately 50 percent of dies for the Volt were designed at this facility.

  • Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center: General Motors Company is investing approximately $30 million in this facility to build the robotic weld tool cells that will assemble the Volt body at the Volt assembly plant. Approximately 250 employees are working on this project, including 60 who are installing the weld tool equipment at the assembly plant. Grand Blanc Weld Tool Center also built the robotic weld tool cells for the body shop to assemble the Chevrolet Cruze at Lordstown (Ohio) Assembly.

  • The four plants have cut their waste by 97 percent. They have recycled 12 tons of batteries, 47,000 tons of scrap metal, 616 tons of oil, 229 tons of wood and 74 tons of plastic paper.

    The plants will be part of the process to develop automated equipment and tooling for the Chevy Cruze and Volt assembly plants, die die development and stamping of body panels and other components and the manufacturing and assembly of key powertrain components including the 1.4L four-cylinder engine generator for the Volt and the 1.4L four-cylinder turbo engine for the Cruze.

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    Monday, October 12, 2009

    The 2010 LS 600h

    The 2010 LS 600h has a few minor upgrades from the prior model year. The hybrid battery package is more compact, giving you more room in the trunk (or boot). The ECO driving mode has been added, giving you efficiency adjusted throttle and AC. New brakes were added in. The hybrid model has a few exterior styling features of its own, plus the HDD Lexus Navigation System has been upgraded. Lexus also changed the seating to maximize comfort the passenger in this highly pampered limo.

    The new brakes are designed to be quieter with less vibration.

    The exterior changes include a new grill and front bumper with redesigned air intakes and foglamps.

    The LS 600h l has been designed as a limo, so it may not be surprising to see the Lexus Rear Seat Relaxation which includes an upper seatback reclining mechanism, fully retractable leg and footrest and lower back massage function, all operated using a remote controller. It also offers different levels of massage using an array of eight pneumatic chambers built into the seatback, and lumbar and shoulder areas.

    Press Release Follows:

    The LS 600h, the full hybrid Lexus flagship, gains a range of technological and styling improvements for the 2010 model year, changes that have been unveiled for the first time at the Frankfurt motor show.

    With redesigned seating, updated equipment, a new ECO driving mode and new brakes, the LS 600h and the long wheelbase LS 600h L achieve advances in comfort and driving dynamics.

    Lexus Hybrid Drive system
    The full hybrid Lexus Hybrid Drive system that powers the LS 600h has a new ECO mode, which modifies the throttle action and performance of the air conditioning system to support fuel-efficient driving.

    The relationship between movement of the accelerator pedal and system output is automatically controlled, reducing response to aggressive inputs to improve fuel economy and promote smoother driving. The load on the engine is also reduced under acceleration, which also helps improve fuel efficiency.

    When the outside temperature is 20°C or higher, the air conditioning system automatically selects its air recirculation mode to reduce power consumption. The blower airflow is reduced when set to “high” and operation of the supplementary electrical heating system (the PTcompact heater) is stopped, further cutting the amount of power used. Also, the system will not signal for an increase in engine speed to boost power when the vehicle is at idle.

    Repackaging of the full hybrid system’s battery into two sections of six and 14 modules has reduced its overall size and freed up more luggage space in the boot.

    Further development of the Lexus Hybrid Drive system has been revised to meet Euro V exhaust emissions standards, but with no change to the car’s performance: the combination of the 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine and 165kW electric motor produces a maximum 439bhp and 520Nm of torque, giving nought to 62mph acceleration in 6.3 seconds. CO2 emissions are 219g/km and combined cycle fuel economy remains 30.4mpg (figures provisional prior to UK homologation).

    New brakes
    The LS 600h is newly equipped with larger, 380mm ventilated front disc brakes with six-piston callipers, rotors and pads developed jointly with specialist manufacturer Brembo. The pads are designed for quieter performance with less vibration and give fade-free high-speed stopping power.

    Exterior styling
    The revised model is distinguished visually by a new four-bar grille and front bumper with redesigned air intakes and foglamps. The headlamps have a new running light design and are finished in Lexus hybrid blue, giving the car a distinctive appearance befitting its flagship status.

    In profile, the car has a new one-piece rocker moulding and new door mirrors that incorporate twin LED turn signals and puddle lamps, with chrome highlights.

    Further new details include a lower bumper design with vertical fins to smooth the airflow from beneath the car. The range of exterior colours has been increased, with Mesa Red, Vanilla Mist, Richmond Green and Atlantic Blue newly available, together with the hybrid-exclusive Crystal Sapphire. The paint has a new Self-restoring Coat treatment that helps maintain a superb finish over the vehicle’s lifetime.

    Interior features
    In the cabin the instrument binnacle has been revised to include a new full colour, TFT LCD display. A new meter design features a three-ring analogue dial with a central speedometer, a tachometer and coolant temperature gauge to the left, and a fuel gauge and hybrid system indicator to the right. A display

    in the centre of the speedometer can be customised to display vehicle information, turn-by-turn navigation instructions and hybrid system status.

    The upper air vents have been set apart from the instrumentation on the centre console, giving the dashboard a strong horizontal emphasis. The EMV multi-display touch screen has large switches and rearranged layout for the audio controls. The audio switch is now made of aluminium, adding to the premium feel and quality of the design.

    The range of interior colour and trim combinations includes a new light grey semi-aniline leather upholstery.

    New seating features
    Both front seats are equipped with new, inflator operated active headrests. Activated by a signal from the airbag ECU in the event of a rear impact, the inflator slides a piston into the headrest, unlocking a mechanism that projects the headrest forwards and upwards, reducing the risk of whiplash injury.

    The driver’s seat also has a new return/away function. Linked to a similar function that moves the steering wheel, this automatically slides the seat back by up to 50mm when the driver unbuckles the seatbelt and turns the engine off. The seat returns to its selected driving position once the car is started again.

    For the new model year the LS 600h is available with the Lexus Rear Seat Relaxation Pack for the first time in conjunction with a five-seat configuration.

    The premium seat arrangement has a 40:20:40 design with an upper seatback reclining mechanism, fully retractable leg and footrest and lower back massage function, all operated using a remote controller. It also offers different levels of massage using an array of eight pneumatic chambers built into the seatback, and lumbar and shoulder areas.

    The horizontal suspension position of the rear seat has been moved forwards 45mm to improve fit around the hips and the shape of the seat surface over the outer edges has been plumped up by around 10mm for better support.

    The centre armrest has been redesigned too, fitted with a sliding lid and housing controls for the seats, earphone jack points and the remote control for the relaxation system. The seats have integral side airbags and the seat behind the front passenger in the Rear Seat Relaxation Pack has a seat cushion airbag to give the occupant extra restraint below the hips in the event of a collision.

    Models fitted with the Rear Seat Relaxation Pack also offer an extra 40mm in the forward sliding range of the front passenger seat. Operated in conjunction with the retractable leg and foot rest, this allows the seat to be moved to its full front or return position using a switch in the rear centre armrest, or on the shoulder of the seat itself. When the front set is moved to its furthest forward position, its headrest is automatically retracted to give a clearer view from the rear.

    Reducing the size of the rear air conditioning unit has increased boot capacity by approximately 35 litres.

    New Lexus Navigation System
    In common with its sister Lexus models, the LS 600h is adopting a new hard disc drive (HDD) navigation system with the 40GB capacity, giving Europe-wide coverage with traffic information data capture in each country.

    The 19-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System fitted as standard in the LS 600h gives 7.1-channel surround sound on selected CDs and DVDs. It is now DAB ready (DAB audio will be available as a centre-fitted accessory) and provides USB and audio jack plug connection for fully controlled use of portable music players, and Bluetooth with an audio streaming function.

    It also provides a new “sound library” function, using the navigation system’s HDD to transfer and store music files from CD up to 10GB capacity – the equivalent of about 2,000 music tracks.

    Automatic high beam system
    The revised LS 600h features a new, automatic high beam system. A camera sensor in the rear view mirror detects oncoming traffic, street lamps and vehicles travelling ahead and automatically switches the headlamp high beam on and off according to driving conditions.

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    Friday, October 09, 2009

    2010 Lexus GS 450h Priced at $56,550

    Lexus decided to hold the 2010 GS 450h MSRP steady at $56,550. The GS models are arriving in showrooms this month.

    GS 450h receives a few exterior enhancements to distinguish itself from the gas-only model, including a revised front grille, clear taillamp covers and unique 18-inch wheels.

    The also updated the Lexus Premium Aduio System and navigation system. The Lexus Navigation System includes a casual-speech voice recognition feature, voice command, and enhanced Bluetooth® with phonebook download. The updated Lexus Premium Audio System includes Bluetooth streaming audio and a USB port, in addition to the auxiliary port. When an iPod® is connected through the USB port, information such as artist, track and album is displayed on the head unit, while music can be controlled through the head unit or steering wheel audio controls. An integrated XM® Satellite Radio receiver is also standard.

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