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Hybrid Owners of America, 2006-2013

Launched in 2006, the Hybrid Owners of America campaign ended in February 2013. To understand why this step was taken, please read the text of the final blog entry on the Web site:

HOA News Releases & Reports

HOA Blog Entries

FAREWELL FROM HYBRID OWNERS OF AMERICA

Friday, February 1, 2013: It's been quite a ride! When the Civil Society Institute launched the Hybrid Owners of America about seven years ago, a number of journalists heaped scorn on any suggestion that Americans (1) cared about smaller, more fuel efficient cars and (2) would ever actually buy and drive such vehicles. (The reception we received was even rougher in March of 2005, when CSI launched 40MPG.org, which was folded into Hybrid Owners of America in 2012.) Obviously, things have changed a lot since those days. A case in point: The rather startling news that the Prius was the best-selling car in California last year. Not number one among hybrids ... not number one among all highly fuel-efficient vehicles. No - the Prius was the No. 1 car of any kind. And that trend is not limited to Cali. Prius sales for the U.S. were the highest ever in 2012 - 235,000 versus 135,000 in 2011 and even significantly increased from the previous one-year record high of 160,000 in 2008. The Prius clearly played a significant role in helping boost Toyota once again to the position of world's top automaker, topping General Motors ... With this significant news about the Prius and the news that hybrids made up 3 percent of market share in the U.S. in 2012, up from 2.1 percent in 2011, hybrids are clearly a well-known and established commodity. Think back to 2006 when HOA was founded. The general public did not know much about hybrids and they were seen by many as an extravagance for those with money burn to indulge their green inclinations. Fast forward to today: Hybrids now play a key role in the lineups of almost every major automaker in the world. Just as importantly, hybrid technology - such as stop-start tech - is also being widely incorporated into standard combustion engine vehicles to make them more efficient as well. Hybrids have gone from the fringe of the American automotive world to the heart of the business. (In a very similar vein, we were years ahead of the curve with 40MPG.org's campaign for higher MPG standards. We started out being scoffed at and dismissed as unrealistic dreamers ... and ended up helping to bring about federal fuel efficiency targets that will end up exceeding 40 MPG. Mission accomplished!) So, we'd like to think we played an important role in making some good things happen. As such, our work is done and this site is being retired in February 2013. We hope that you will continue to follow the important work of the Civil Society Institute ...

HYBRIDS DOMINATE DETROIT AUTO SHOW

Wednesday, January 23, 2013: Hybrids have come a long way in the last 13 years. Although it seems much longer, Toyota first announced its hybrid Prius in the year 2000. Now, almost every automaker at the North American Auto Show in Detroit this week has hybrid and electric vehicles as part of their current or upcoming lineup, showing just how mainstream hybrid and electric vehicles have become. Plug-In Hybrid Electric (PHEV) vehicles were highlighted by several automakers, including the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid and 2013 Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid. The 2014 Accord will be available across the country this fall, having launched already in California and Oregon, and will be built in the U.S. at Honda's Marysville, Ohio plant. The Toyota Prius Plug-In has new technology like a heads up display to combat distracted driving. And the Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In gets an impressive 100 highway/100 city MPGe, which should combat well any fears of range anxiety ... A new survey of drivers age 18-39 from consultants McKinsey & Co. shows the market for hybrid and electric vehicles will only continue to grow. The younger generation not only was willing to pay more for an electric vehicle but is extremely attracted by the high level of technology featured in hybrid and electric vehicles. They also see hybrid and electric vehicles as making a statement about your environmental awareness, one that appeals to them ...

FIAT 500e: NO HOME TO RANGE ANXIETY

Wednesday, January 9, 2013: If you thought the Fiat 500 you've seen around town was pretty cool looking, how about a version that gets 116 MPGe?  Yes, please. And with an 87-mile range, consumers don't have to sweat "range anxiety" either. Along with those excellent stats, the EPA estimates cost to power the 500e for a year is just $500 ... Of all the backwards proposals out there, the first 2013 award for the worst state legislative concept has to go to Oregon. Lawmakers in the Beaver State will soon consider legislation imposing a tax on vehicles that get at least 55 miles per gallon. Oregon is looking to make up for lost gas tax revenue but there has to be a better way than by a tax that would deter consumers from purchasing vehicles that are good for the environment, which helps everyone.  It certainly seems like an odd for move for a state known for being environmentally friendly.  Let's hope Oregon legislators come to their senses ...

EV CHARGING ON THE CHEAP

Thursday, January 3, 2013: If you have an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), you are already spending a lot less at the gas pump.  Electric vehicles save their owners 50 percent or more in "fuel" costs over gasoline-powered vehicles. But what about shopping around to find the cheapest way to charge up your electric car?  If you already own an EV or PHEV or are looking to buy ... and want to know how or if you can slash your electric car recharging costs, Edmunds has some tips  ...  From the annals of cool technology being used to improve fuel efficiency, researchers at the University of Illinois developed a method for using use nanotechnology to scrub sulfur from gasoline in the internal combustion process. The mats they created made of metal oxide nanofibers to remove the sulfur compounds would improve fuel efficiency and cost less than the traditional method used now ...

2013: NEW MPG GAINS IN NEW YEAR

Thursday, December 20, 2012: Electric vehicle sales to double and hybrid sales to jump by a quarter in the new year?  Sounds good to us.  Auto industry analyst Alan Baum is predicting this development for 2013 and also says at least six new hybrid models will be available next year and eight new plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles will also be brought to market.  Baum also said prices for hybrid and electric may start falling as the pressure brought to market from lower-cost models of vehicles like the Nissan Leaf generates responses from other manufacturers ... Speaking of the Leaf, Nissan just announced that the batteries for the 2013 Leaf will now be produced in the U.S., with the opening of the its new lithium-ion automotive battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn., the largest of its kind in the country. Nissan also said its plans by 2015 to have 85 percent of its Nissan and Infiniti products sold in the U.S. to be produced in North America. The new battery plant, which is located next to the existing Nissan vehicle assembly plant, has already created about 300 jobs, with more job creation to come ...

CALL IT THE FORD FUDGIN'?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012: Despite the fact that - according to tests run by Consumer Reports -  the hybrid Ford C-MAX and Fusion are not getting the fuel economy numbers advertised by the company, consumers don't seem to mind. The C-MAX wagon outsold the Prius v wagon for November and recently, the committee responsible for picking the "Green Car of the Year" at the LA Auto Show, conferred that much-sought-after status on the Ford Fusion.  Although the LA Auto Show panel and many consumers don't seem too perturbed by the MPG number flap, the federal government does.  The Environmental Protection Agency, which is understandably sensitive following following the discovery in past months that Hyundai and Kia had overstated their fuel economy numbers for 13 vehicles, has said it will be reviewing mileage claims for Ford's two newest hybrid models ... If you already own a hybrid or are looking to purchase one soon, you are probably interested in resale value in addition to the gas-sipping platform that will save you money at the pump and reduce emissions.  You're in luck as Kelley Blue Book just released its list of resale value leaders and among them are awards for best resale value for a hybrid and for an electric vehicle.  The Ford Fusion hybrid won the hybrid/alternate energy car category.  The Chevrolet Volt won the electric vehicle category ...

TOYOTA: ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER RECALL

Friday, November 16, 2012: Although it may be a good thing that Toyota is being proactive about issuing voluntary recalls for problems that could potentially be safety issues, the news this week of yet another Toyota recall after they just issued one about a month ago does raise our eyebrows.  The recall this week involving 670,000 Prius vehicles from the U.S. and a total of 2.77 million Toyota vehicles worldwide - both Prius and Corolla models - involves two components - a steering shaft with manufacturer defects that could cause it to deform and an electric motor that drives the water pump that circulates coolant through the hybrid components can shut off, causing the hybrid system to shut off while its being driven.  No crashes or injuries have been reported related to these two issues. The early-October recall of nearly 8 million vehicles worldwide for a power window problem that created a fire risk involved Highlander, Matrix, Tundra, Yaris, Corolla, Camry and RAV4 models from several years. The company does not expect the recent recalls to affect their earnings so perhaps it is the right call. And they're in good company, with General Motors announcing recalls this week for issues with rear head restraints in its XTS sedans and  Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze, and Chevrolet Sonic cars for possible issues with the driver side airbag ... Big news on the electric scene this week from GM...the company announced it plans to build up to 500,000 electric vehicles per year by 2017.  This aggressive target includes hybrid, plug-in hybrids and all electric vehicles. The Chevy Spark EV being launched next summer will add to their stable and the company also plans to add its eAssist system - an electric technology which that boosts fuel efficiency in gasoline-powered cars - to hundreds of thousands of vehicles by 2017 ...

HYBRID SALES UP 70 PERCENT

Thursday, November 8, 2012: Another sign 2012 is the "Year of the Green Car"?  Hybrid sales were up nearly 70 percent in the first 10 months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011.  And which manufacturer is winning the hybrid car race in the U.S.?  Not surprisingly, Toyota, having added two additional Prius models since October 2011, is smoking the competition.   Of the 33,290 hybrids sold this October,  24,065 were Toyotas. The next closest in hybrid sales was Ford, with 4,730 hybrids sold in October ... We've seen stories upon stories and many photos about the gas shortages in the areas of the country worst hit by Hurricane Sandy.  So the taxi drivers in New York City lucky enough to get a hybrid have found their significant fuel economy advantage over gas-hungry Ford Crown Victoria to be beneficial to more than just their pocketbook.  It has saved drivers from driving around to find gas stations that actually have gas and then waiting in long lines to refuel ...

SOME "FAILURE"!: 2012 PLUG-IN SALES UP 200+ PERCENT

Friday, November 2, 2012: With the close of model year 2012, it's now official:  Plug-in electric car sales have increased more than three-fold - 228 percent over model year 2011 to be exact. Despite some presidential campaign rhetoric to the contrary, it's clear the market for electric vehicles is thriving. In addition, model year 2012 saw a 55 percent increase in conventional hybrid sales as well. In addition to these significant sales figures, model year 2012 also resulted in a record high in fuel efficiency for new vehicles - 26.3 MPG. As some experts are saying, it looks like 2012 really is "The Year of the Green Car" ...  Leave it to the Germans to figure out how to do this:  According to Green Car Reports, "German technology supplier Hella is developing a stop-start system for regular gasoline and diesel vehicles which can shut off the engine below 60 mph." While it sounds scary that the engine would cut out at highway speed, it would immediately turn back on if the driver needed to accelerate.  If it can boost gas mileage by the 10 percent Hella projects, we're all game.  Just another way hybrid technology helps boost MPG for regular combustion engines ...

VOLT OWNERS "GAS ANXIETY"?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012: Although "gas anxiety" sounds like it might have to do with your digestive tract, it is actually the new term coined for Volt owners who charge more often than necessary to avoid having to visit the gas station. ECOtality, a company trying to help build charging infrastructure for electric and plug-in vehicles in the U.S.,  has been tracking use patterns for about 6,000 vehicles, mainly Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs. They track how often and for how long owners charge at their home charging stations and at stores and restaurants where charging stations have been installed.  They were surprised to find that drivers of the Chevy Volt plug in more often each day - 1.5 times day for Volts owners versus 1.1 times a day for Leaf owners. They also plug in 21 percent of the time when away from home, versus the Leaf charging 11 percent of the time away from home.  The Leaf does have a better range than the Volt - 100 miles per charge to the Volt's 40 miles per charge - but the Volt also has a backup gas engine ... Here's an item that should be of interest to retailers:  At stores where charging stations are offered, both Leaf and Volt drivers visited the stores three times as often and spend twice as much as average customers ... Do hybrid owners still fit a stereotype?  Over-privileged and smug about the fact that they are saving the earth? It turns out the stereotype of hybrid owners has been busted by several developments in the hybrid market. There has been a significant increase in the variety of hybrid vehicles available and there have been significant improvements made since the first Prius hit the market. Hybrids also gotten cooler with their entrance into the world of motorsports.  Also, with design moving more towards conventional styling cues, hybrids appeal to a wider audience ...

BATTERY MAKER "DEMISE" NOT AS SIMPLE AS 1-2-3

Thursday, October 18, 2012: Although it's not great news that electric battery maker A123 Systems has filed for bankruptcy, it's not all bad news for the hybrid and electric car manufacturers the company supplies.  The well-established U.S. company Johnson Controls will buy the automotive part of A123 Systems business, including its two Michigan battery manufacturing factories, and automotive technologies, contracts and customers, in addition to a Chinese, cathode powder facility and interest in a Chinese battery company.  So the technology, manufacturing capacity and likely the jobs will remain in the U.S. ... When the 2013 Leaf's start rolling off the Smyrna, Tennessee assembly line in a few months, there will be a new stripped-down "trim" level joining the lineup.  We don't know the name or exact price yet but the new base model will cost less than the SV trim level, which currently costs $36,050.  (The SL trim price is currently $38,100.)  At least part of the reduced price will be due to the vehicle being produced stateside instead of having to be shipped from Japan. According to HybridCars.com, to get costs down, the new base model electric vehicle will, "lose features including LED headlights, navigation, and likely other areas of the car will see deletions or changes to cut costs. Further, some electronic components will be relocated within the chassis, and suppliers have been asked to discount certain costs." We hope to see further updates from Nissan before production starts in December and sales in February 2013 ...

HYBRIDS GETTING CHEAPER

Tuesday, October 2, 2012: Hybrids continue to be not only a great choice for the environment but, as more and more technological advances are added, an even more appealing option for consumers. Not too long ago, the Toyota Prius cost $6,000 more than an equivalent conventional vehicle.  Several years later, the difference is only $2,500 more. According to the MIT Technology Review, " ... advances going forward-better batteries, electric motors, and power electronics and transmissions-could cut costs by another 50 percent." So now your fuel-efficient hybrid can pay for the additional cost even sooner with savings at the pump  ... Of all the things biofuel could be made from, cheese seems like an odd one. But researchers at Utah State University have managed to make an apparently tasty-smelling biofuel from the waste left when industrial cheese-makers make cheese by using yeast microbes to convert the sugar into fat.  And the yeast biofuel can be used as a substitute for regular diesel. So it's not only biofuel but, as the LA Times notes, "... it creates a use for the millions of gallons of liquid cheese waste produced by the industrial cheese industry each day." ...

HYBRID/EV RECALL MEDIA DOUBLE STANDARD?

Thursday, August 30, 2012: Although hybrid and electric vehicles don't yet make up a large percentage of vehicles on U.S. roads, why is it that recalls associated with them seem to get such extensive coverage from the news media? If you have been wondering what's going with the deluge of stories about the recent Fisker Karma recall, with only 949 of the vehicles on the road and 428 in dealerships for a total slightly under 1,400, or the recall earlier this year of 8,000 Chevy Volts, you are not alone.  As a Greener Ideal story points out: "Media reports about unsafe EVs and exploding vehicle batteries fail to place these recalls into the context of vehicle recalls across the industry. GM had to recall 44,668 Sonic compacts this month due to faulty connections between windshield wipers and fluid reservoirs. ... Mercedes-Benz has recalled 8,675 M-Class SUVs built in the last two years due to floor mats that easily cram underneath gas pedals. Toyota, Ford and Honda were required to service up to 18.2 million recalled vehicles in 2011 based on NHTSA statistics." Maybe it's the fascination with something new in the auto world - and maybe it's something else at work here  ...  In what is quite possibly one of the biggest reversals we've seen in auto sales, it seems fuel economy is now the top selling point for pickup trucks.  In a field where we're used to hearing horsepower, torque and towing capacity highlighted, Chrysler has just revealed that three versions of its new Ram 1500 pickup will get 25 MPG highway/21 MPG combined. While 25 MPG doesn't seem so high when compared to  the overall goal of 35.5 MPG that is expected for fleetwide MPG by 2016, it's nothing to scoff at when it comes to full size pickups. Until the new Chrysler pickups appear in showrooms, Ford will retain its competitive edge, with the V-6, EcoBoost version of its F-150 that gets 23 MPG highway and 19 combined.  But Ford is planning a revamp of the F-150 in 2014, already slated to be 700 pounds lighter, and it will undoubtedly be even more fuel efficient ...  

WHEN DID FUEL ECONOMY BECOME POLITICAL?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012: Since the effort to increase fuel economy standards originated with the Bush White House and the standards set by the current White House previously had bipartisan support, it's disappointing that some now seem intent on turning fuel efficiency into a partisan wedge issue.  As a Modesto Bee editorial points out, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney has changed positions since George Bush first said we were addicted to oil in 2006 and set a goal for cutting U.S. gasoline consumption.  Although there is widespread support for more ambitious auto MPG standards,  some politicians are now pushing for a delay of the final fuel announcement. Thankfully, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the rules are still expected to come shortly  ...  Formula One race cars seem like a natural place to look for fuel efficiency technology, right? No?  Well, European automakers are looking to the flywheels of these powerful engines as a way to make passenger vehicles both more efficient and more powerful.  Flywheels operate as a kinetic energy recovery system - like regenerative brakes  -  and were previously too heavy or bulky to use. But thanks to new, lighter materials, power management systems and high-tech engineering, that is no longer the case  ...  Thinking about changing out your gas guzzler for a gas-sipping hybrid and not sure where to start?  DigitalTrends has just released an excellent overview of the best hybrid cars of 2012.  They offer top picks if you're looking for a small/compact car, midsize, luxury or SUV. And if you are curious which hybrid cars are the most affordable, check out the Cheapism.com picks ...

HYBRIDS HOTTER THAN EVER WITH BUYERS

Wednesday, August 15, 2012: One in four car owners are more interested in purchasing a hybrid compared to the same time last year and overall, one in three car owners are interested in purchasing a hybrid, according to a survey released last week by market research firm Harris Interactive. And who is most likely to make a hybrid purchase? Not surprisingly, the younger generation - consumers aged 18 through 35 - have the most intense level of interest.  Over half of consumers say their interest in hybrids stems from their wish to save on fuel costs and over a quarter are interested due to environmental concerns ... More and more evidence continues to pile up showing that fuel economy regulations increasing the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles leads to increased jobs. A new report from http://www.DrivingGrowth.org shows just how significant an impact the fuel economy regulations have had on the jobs situation in the U.S.. This includes the regulations already in effect for 2012-2016 as well as the next set to be finalized shortly, which will go through 2025. Per AOL Autos: "The U.S. has added 236,600 jobs in the industry since June 2009, and a significant portion of them have been related to consumer demand and government mandates for gas-sipping cars." Auto sales are expected to increase in 2012 and fuel efficiency remains a top concern of car buyers ... The Obama Administration has announced yet another set of investments in fostering improved fuel efficiency for passenger vehicles.  The Department of Energy will spend $8 million on projects this year to develop stronger and lighter materials for building vehicles.  Much has already been done to improve vehicle weight but every little bit helps.  The DOE said reducing the weight of vehicles by 10 percent could boost fuel economy anywhere from 6 to 8 percent ...    

FRANCE GETS GOLD, U.S. NO LONGER "MEDALS"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: France may not win a lot of medals at the Olympics this week, but it gets the gold for supporting hybrids. The nation recently boosted incentives to $6,900 for purchasing a hybrid car and $8,500 for purchasing an electric car. For some time, France has offered more modest subsidies equivalent to between $2,400 and $4,800, respectively. Sadly,  there are no longer any subsidies from the federal government in the U.S. for purchasing a hybrid car and haven't been since the end of 2010. As the Obama Administration fuel efficiency standards push us towards ever cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles, doesn't it make sense for the U.S to take another look at encouraging hybrid sales through incentives?  We think so  ...  Naysayers forecasted that lower gas prices might negatively impact sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, but 2012 vehicle sales numbers say it just ain't so. Kelly Blue Book is reporting that sales of electric and hybrid vehicles in June 2012 are up 164 percent over the sales volumes from June of last year. Edmunds reports that sales of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius plug-in "have jumped 381 percent to more than 13,000 in the first half of this year," as reported in the Seattle Times. And another plug-in hybrid competitor is set to enter the scene shortly - the Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. These numbers make a new study predicting an almost 20 percent increase in sales of hybrid cars by 2015 seem more and more realistic ...

MORE MPG = MORE JOBS

Wednesday, July 25, 2012: Auto executives expect American demand for fuel-efficient vehicles to replace their older, gas guzzlers to remain high and it looks like auto workers will benefit from the strong sales.  A new KPMG survey of auto industry executives shows that nearly three-quarters say their companies plan to hire in the next year and almost a quarter plan to increase the number of employees by more than 7 percent.  With the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads at an all-time high of almost 11 years, it's certainly not a stretch to expect sales of newer, fuel sipping and lower emissions vehicles to stay strong.  Considering the survey released by the Consumer Federation of America that we reported on last week showed that Americans (1) overwhelmingly support new fuel economy standards, (2) would pay more for higher fuel efficiency vehicles, and (3) plan for the next vehicles they purchase to get about seven miles-per-gallon more than their current vehicle, we hope to see quite a lot of hiring to keep up with productions demands   ... On the jobs front, Honda has already announced plans to hire 300 more workers at its Greensburg, Indiana plantThe Greensburg plant will also be Honda's first American plant to produce a hybrid, as the company plans to start production of the Civic Hybrid next year ...

30 MPG PLUS VEHICLES QUADRUPLED IN FIVE YEARS

Tuesday, July 17, 2012: From 12 models getting over 30 MPG to 52 models getting over 30 MPG in just five years? According to a new analysis and survey released from the Consumer Federation of America, the new 54.5 MPG by 2025 fuel economy standards have driven automakers to more than quadruple the number of passenger cars and truck on the market in the last five years.  Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, they also showed that the costs versus consumer benefits of fuel economy technology have more fuel-efficient cars consistently paying off for consumers.  For example: "The analysis found that a Chevy Malibu's improvements in fuel economy over the past decade have increased the sticker price $348 compared to the 2002 price. But the typical owner who keeps the car for six years will save $2,885 in fuel costs. This translates into gasoline savings more than eight times the cost of new fuel economy technology. Similarly, a Ford F-150 pickup costs $950 more than it did in 2002 due to fuel economy improvements. The analysis found that the owner would save $5,369 in fuel costs, coming out $4419 ahead."  Their polling also shows that the new 54.5 MPG by 2025 standards align with what consumers want and need from their vehicles moving forward  ...  Ford expects up to 25 percent of its fleet will be electrified by 2020, with 75 percent of vehicles being traditional hybrids, 20-25 percent plug-in hybrids and 5-10 percent, battery electrics.  As we reported a few weeks ago, Tesla CEO thinks half of the cars on the market will be electric in 20 years and Nissan has said they think 10 percent will be electric in 10 years.  It looks like Ford is pushing more aggressively towards an electric fleet ... If you're looking for a green car to save at the pump and reduce emissions, you should check out the 2012 Green Car Buyers Guide from Mother Earth News.  All the vehicles get more than 35 MPG ...

NEW FUEL STANDARDS = MORE JOBS

Tuesday, July 10, 2012: What is the connection between better fuel economy and job creation for the United States? First, new technologies to increase fuel efficiency require more auto workers to manufacture them. Second, savings at the pump mean Americans can spend elsewhere, which would boost the economy, supporting additional jobs. A new study, Gearing Up: Smart Standards Create Good Jobs Building Cleaner Cars, released by the BlueGreen Alliance and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) finds that as auto efficiency increases to meet new standards set by the Obama Administration, 570,000 new jobs will be created by 2030. Pretty impressive! ... Could a plug-in hybrid no longer require a plug?  Wireless charging mats may be the future of hybrid and electric car charging.  A number of companies are developing ways to replenish electric and plug-in batteries wirelessly with a mat that sits on the floor.  The new tech could boost the market for electric car sales. A few kinks are still being worked out but suppliers except to have the chargers ready for sale around 2015 ... How does Mazda plan to increase fuel economy another 5 to 10 percent? By using a technology borrowed from hybrids that many automakers have been adding of late - regenerative braking. The next generation Mazda6 sedan, due out early next year, is the first to benefit from Mazda's new i-Eloop technology ...  

SHOCKING PREDICTION: HALF OF NEW CARS ELECTRIC IN 20 YEARS

Wednesday, June 27, 2012: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said half of all new cars will be electric in 20 years or less but is it really possible?  Most analysts think sales will only account for a single digit percentage of total sales in the next decade. However, rival automaker Nissan thinks 10 percent of cars will be electric by 2020, which is about eight years away, so why not double that in more than twice the time? With Tesla just releasing the first batch of Model S sedans, which have the highest EPA rated range of any electric cars so far at 265 miles to a single charge, and regular updates about more and more electric being added to the market, the sky is the limit ... How much competition will the new Ford one-liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine be to the hybrid world? The company has announced plans to bring the engine to the U.S. next year, although it has not given the fuel economy rating or pricing details yet.  It is currently found on the Focus in Europe and that vehicle gets the equivalent of 49 MPG U.S.  Although it likely won't beat the Toyota Prius on fuel economy, it certainly should give it a run for the money on pricing so we can't wait to hear more ... New EPA fuel economy stickers will take any guesswork out of how to compare standard combustion engine vehicles with hybrid  and electric vehicles. Starting with model year 2013, all new passenger cars and trucks will get the stickers, allowing fuel economy and environmental ratings to be made across all new vehicles, including advanced technology vehicles such as electric cars ...

HOT HYBRIDS: CLINCHING LE MANS

Tuesday, June 19, 2012: For the first time ever, a hybrid has won the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, completing 5,152 kilometers (3,201 miles) in 24 hours.  The diesel-hybrid Audi R18 e-tron Quattro also set the pole two days before clinching the race. It was a big race for Audi, which swept the top three spots ... More news on the ways-automakers-plan-to-get-more-MPG-out-of-their-vehicles front...in order to lighten the load, more aluminum will be phased in to replace heavier steel.  ALCOA seems pretty happy, as they project it will more than double  the demand for aluminum by 2025 ... Also, will all vehicles soon be "losing the spare tire" in order to up their MPGs?   More and more automakers are phasing out the spare tire in an effort to drop weight, which increases fuel efficiency. Instead, they are providing lightweight tire sealant and inflation kits, which weigh only five to six pounds compared with a spare tire that weighs 30 pounds or a full size spare at 50 pounds ...

MPG "FIT"NESS CHAMP

Wednesday, June 13, 2012: Who wins the honors for the highest fuel economy rating from the Environmental Protection Agency?  The 2013 Honda Fit electric car, with its combined adjusted mile-per-gallon-equivalency rating of 118 mpg, was just recognized as the top green vehicle. It beat out the Mitsubishi Motors Corp i-MiEV subcompact,  which the EPA rates at 112 mpg equivalent. The electric Fit also has the highest highway driving range - 82 miles on a single charge.  The runner up for highest range was the electric Ford Focus, with a 76-mile range and combined adjusted mile-per-gallon-equivalency rating of 105 mpg, followed by the Nissan Leaf, with a combined rating of 99 mpg and a 73-mile range. The i-MiEV has a 62-mile range. ...  Diesel sales are up by more than a third in one quarter?  After making steady gains over the past two years, the first quarter of 2012 saw this significant jump in sales of diesel passenger vehicles.  We've been saying it for a while but this proves it:  the old diesel reputation as noisy, smelly and smoky definitely a thing of the past.  Diesels have always been known for their fuel efficiency - and power - and as consumers purchase more and more fuel efficient vehicles to save money at the pump, reduce our oil consumption and reduce emissions, they have definitely been snapping up the newest, high MPG vehicles.  And as consumers go, so do automakers.  At least 10 new diesel cars and light duty trucks will be launched by eight manufacturers in the next two years.  Volkswagen has been leading the charge from the start and others are now starting to follow ...

GAS JUMPS OVER HALF A BUCK IN THREE MONTHS

Friday, March 16, 2012: As gas prices climb ever higher, we continue to see talk about the record high gas prices of 2008.  With current gas prices having jumped 54 cents since the start of the year to $3.81 per gallon, we're fast approaching the all-time record high of $4.11 per gallon set in June 2008.  So what is a key difference between 2008 and now?  The number of fuel-efficient vehicles now available on the market is significantly higher due in large part to the 2012-2016 fuel economy standards set by the Obama Administration.  According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, average fuel economy has increased 16 percent since 2008. Does this mean Americans - and the automakers who were staunchly criticized in 2008 for not being prepared for the high gas prices at that time - are better equipped to handle this round of pain at the pump? It looks like the skyrocketing-and-continuing-to-rise-gas-prices have resulted in current vehicles sales with the highest average fuel economy ever so not only is the American public keeping more money in their pocket as they purchase vehicles from the increased selection of highly fuel efficient vehicles, automakers are seeing the sales dollars roll in as well.  It's a win-win situation ... And with sales of new fuel-efficient vehicles on the rise, the number of jobs created to produce these green machines is also going up.  Nissan plans to double the number of workers over the next year at a Tennessee plant that will increase production of its electric Leaf. And as Detroit automakers create thousands of new jobs to keep up with demand for high MPG vehicles, parts suppliers are also adding tens of thousands of new jobs in order to keep up ...

ELECTRIC BATTERY BREAKTHROUGH?

Friday, March 9, 2012: Will a recent breakthrough from an American battery maker be enough to make a significant dent in the cost premium of hybrids and electric cars?  California-based battery maker Envia Systems announced this week a major advance in lithium-ion cell technology that would not only result in a major boost in the energy density of lithium-ion battery packs to almost three times that of conventional auto cells, it also could reduce the cost of cells by close to 50 percent. And that cost savings could make all the difference to additional sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, especially when it comes to consumer concerns about the potential cost of replacement batteries. The battery maker, which receives financing from the Energy Department, General Motors, and other investors, also says the cells aren't demonstrations or experiments - they could be in automotive production within a year and a half. With more consumers already considering hybrid and electric vehicles due to high gas prices, cost savings in the purchase price could be the push many need to take the electric plunge  ...A full one fifth improvement in fleet fuel economy by 2020?  It's a lofty goal but Ford is already on its way with the introduction of the Focus Electric, which the company says will get 110 MPGe rating in city driving from the EPA, beating the Nissan Leaf. (The Mitsubishi i remains the 2012 fuel economy leader, achieving 126 MPGe city according to the EPA.) Many of the technologies they will use to improve their lineup are readily available to the market - start-stop technology, turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and weight reduction through lighter materials, to name a few - so let's hope other automakers follow Ford's lead ...

BACK TO THE EIGHTIES: THE SUV TOLL ON MPG

Wednesday, February 29, 2012: What would have happened if the smaller, fuel-efficient cars of the early post-oil embargo 1980s had not been replaced by gas-hogging SUVs and other larger vehicles?  A new research paper from MIT says that, if the same  technological advancements we've made over the last three decades had been applied to a nation of smaller vehicles, we would be getting a 37 MPG fleet average - 10 MPG higher than we are now.  With national gas prices currently at $3.72 a gallon and rising, we could be saving significant amounts of money at the pump. Although U.S. fuel efficiency has increased - it went up 15 percent between 1980 and 2006 - we would have done much better if not for vehicle curb weights increasing by 26 percent and engine power output growing by a whopping 107 percent during that same 26-year period.  So much for "bigger is better"! ... The $4-per-gallon mark for gasoline has long been recognized as a tipping point for consumers, one at which they say they would change their driving habits, and a recent poll from AAA reinforces thatPrices nationwide may soon exceed the highs we hit in 2008.  Not only will high gas prices change our driving habits, the Los Angeles Times even says they could fundamentally change the way we live. So if you've considered sifting to one of the more highly fuel efficient vehicles currently being sold, there may be no better time than now.  And Consumer Reports can help get you started, with the respected magazine's list of vehicles that exceed the government fuel economy ratings ...

UP 3 MPG ALREADY ... AND CLIMBING

Friday, February 10, 2012: Would you be surprised to hear that the fuel economy of new cars sold in the last three years has jumped by 3 MPG, a 14 percent increase?  While we are impressed, it is not surprising given that we have known for years that auto companies have been capable of hitting higher fuel economy targets with exiting off-the-shelf technology.  A new study from the University of Michigan Transport Research Institute shows that the average fuel economy of all 2012 model year light vehicles available on the U.S. market is 21.5 MPG, up from 2008 model year's average of 18.9 MPG ... Can it be true or is it just a claim to amp up interest?  According to Toyota, the new Avalon, one of 19 new models they will introduce this year, will beat the Fiat 500 on fuel economy. As Autoblog points out: " Since the current generation Avalon is five feet longer and considerably wider than the 500, that's an impressive claim."  Will this Avalon be on a hybrid platform?  We don't know yet but reports are that the car will debut at the 2012 New York Auto show in April so we'll be eagerly awaiting the unveiling ... And remember the story we reported on of the attorney who, unhappy that her Civic Hybrid was not meeting promised fuel economy targets advertised by Honda, filed suit in small claims court against the company? It turns out she won her case and Honda has been directed by LA Superior Court to pay her almost $10,000, the amount she claimed would make up for the additional fuel costs she incurred, the additional premium she paid for the hybrid when she purchased it, and the reduced resale value of the car.  Honda plans to appeal but it will be interesting to see what precedent this sets ...

CALIFORNIA: STILL LEADING THE GREEN WAY

Thursday, February 2, 2012: California is once again leading the way towards cleaner cars ... and cleaner air. As part of a mandate to reduce smog-forming pollutants by 75 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, the state will require that 1.4 million vehicles on state roads by 2025 be hybrid or electric vehicles. Stated another way, one in seven new cars sold in 2025 must be electric or otherwise zero emissions. The California regulations will, once again, have more far-reaching implications than just within the state as 10 other states, including New York and New Jersey, plan on adopting the standards. Phase-in of the rule will start in 2018 and the new regulations also include requirements for construction of hydrogen fueling stations for fuel-cell vehicles.  This is yet another tremendous step forward for the environment, automotive technology and the health of Americans thanks to the Golden State ... Will the plug-in Prius best the Chevy Volt on fuel economy?  According to Toyota, it will.  Although official numbers from the government are not yet available, Toyota says its plug-in Prius will get, "50 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving running solely as a hybrid, and 95 mpg-equivalent when its lithium-ion battery pack is frequently charged," according to Bloomberg. The Volt is rated as getting 37 MPG after its initial charge wears out and 94 mpg-e when running on battery power alone.  The only place it looks like the Volt will do better than the plug-in Prius is on the miles it will run on electricity alone.  The plug-in Prius will go 15 miles on a charge versus the Volt's 30 miles ...

YOUNG DRIVERS: LOVIN' SOME HYBRID APPS

Friday, January 27, 2012: Some think that youth is wasted on the young but it seems to us that young drivers have the right idea when to comes to driving green vehicles.  In what sounds like excellent news for automakers working hard to produce more hybrid and electric vehicles, a recent survey from Deloitte shows that six out of ten Millennials - also know as Gen Y - would prefer to buy a hybrid over any other kind of car or truck.  The group, which consist of drivers currently aged 19 to 31, are also looking for technology like smartphone integration and touchscreen controls in their fuel efficient vehicles. Not only do Gen Y consumers know the value of fuel efficiency, they are willing to pay more for it. CBS Moneywatch reports that, "close to half (49%) of Gen Y customers are willing to pay an extra $300 for each mile per gallon of improvement they can get out of a hybrid, according to Deloitte." ... In what sounds like one of the most short-sighted moves ever, Kansas lawmakers are considering imposing a new fee on the power used by electric car and hybrid owners when they charge up their vehicles.  As our country makes gains towards lowering our emissions, why any lawmaker would consider a fee that would penalize consumers who are looking to do the right thing for the environment by driving vehicles that get both extremely low or no emissions and are highly fuel efficient is beyond us. Let's hope state legislators come to their senses and figure out another way to recoup possible lost gas tax revenue as cars move towards using less gas in the future ...

GREEN RACING: ELECTRIC ZOOM ZOOM?

Thursday, January 19, 2012: Let's take a little break from our usual focus on compacts and subcompacts ... Auto racing is tremendously popular around the globe.  Will electric vehicles lead it towards an even brighter future?  The American Le Mans Series, International Motor Sports Association and Quimera, a company that works on sustainability projects, are working on developing a racing series around electric vehicles.  A good amount of technology developed for the racing world ends up in practical applications for passenger vehicles so it could be a boon for electric car technology.  Quimera already has its own electric racecar - the AEGT (All Electric GT) - ready to hit the track in some 2012 demo races  ...  Although we already have a clear picture which groups fall on either side of the debate about proposed fuel economy standards that would get the U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles to 54.5 MPG by 2025, it's heartening to see so many individuals and organizations are engaged on the issue.  As part of the public comment period on the proposed standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held its first public hearing in Detroit Tuesday. When more than 90 people signed up to testify, they had to extend the length of the hearing so everyone had an opportunity to be heard. As they have previously, the auto dealers remained staunch in their opposition to the standards. The UAW, along with high-ranking environmentalists and U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), again came out in support of the new standards, noting that although consumers may have to pay $2,100 more on the initial purchase of their vehicles, they will save $4,000 over the life of that vehicle. Seven automakers also attended in support of the new standards. We just keep wondering how long the auto dealers will remain a lone wolf in their opposition to these achievable standards that will benefit consumers and the environment ...

HIGH MPG: HYBRIDS ONLY PART OF THE PICTURE

Friday, January 13, 2012: While it's clear hybrid and electric vehicles play an important part of the mix that will allow automakers to reach the new 54.5 MPG by 2025 fuel economy standards, industry experts agree that improvements to the standard combustion engine will lead the way.  As the Detroit auto show previewed new car lineups to journalists, a panel at the nearby Automotive News World Congress showed that automakers and environmental groups -  who often have disparate views - agree that "the greatest improvements in fuel efficiency will come by adding new gas-saving technologies to the internal combustion engine. " So what role will electric and hybrid vehicles play? In an EV World interview, the Natural Resources Defense Council's Roland Hwang says "the U.S. fleet only needs to see 3% of its fleet electric cars, 15% standard hybrids, and the rest made up of smaller turbocharged internal combustion engines in order to meet its EPA fleet average." And what about diesels?  With diesel sales increasing 27 percent in 2011 and with at least six new diesel vehicles set to be released over the next few years, it's clear they will have a role, too  ...  A blast from the past bringing us into the future? A car last made in 1976 is being re-introduced at the Detroit auto show...and getting a lot of buzz.  The Dodge Dart, popular in the 1960's for its low cost - and tail fins - is going to test the Fiat-Chrysler relationship.  The car, going on sale this year for $15,995, will get 40 MPG  ...  And Volkswagen continues its push to make it to the top of world sales with a forward-thinking strategy on technology.  VW's U.S. sales increased 26 percent last year, at least in part due to the company leading the way on diesel. At the auto show in Detroit this week, Volkswagen introduced two high fuel economy hybrid/electric vehicles - a production-ready hybrid Jetta, which will get 45 MPG and go on sale later this year, and a concept electric 2-seater version of the Beetle, which will be called the E-Bugster ...

2012: HOPING FOR A BETTER YEAR FOR HYBRIDS/EVs

Thursday, January 5, 2012: 2011 closed out with several unfortunate stories for hybrids but will 2012 be better? We certainly hope so. The new year hasn't started off great for Chevrolet, who has issued a recall of 8,000 Volts to re-engineer the battery coolant system and make structural enhancements to the car to protect the battery.  This is in response to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration probe we reported on in early December after fires broke out in the Volt battery pack during crash testing  ...  As for Honda, it seems a former attorney has decided to take matters into her own hands regarding her complaints about the Civic Hybrid not meeting fuel economy estimates and has filed a suit in small claims court against the company, preventing Honda from bringing out its expert legal team.  She had opted out of a class action suit against the company originally brought in 2007 for the same reasons, where the original plaintiffs said they had only obtained 31 MPG in a mix of city and highway driving versus the EPA-certified 51 m.p.g. highway and 46 m.p.g. city ratings.  A proposed settlement offer in that class action suit was rejected in March 2010 and will be revisited again this coming March. Heather Peters of Los Angeles, who brought the case in small claims court, wants Honda to be required to pay the additional fuel costs she has incurred since the vehicle did not meet the standards the company advertised, the additional premium she paid for the hybrid when she purchased it, and the reduced resale value of the car, which she estimates would add up to about $10,000  ...  Also part of the bad news stories at the end of 2011, Fisker has recalled 239 of its 2012 Karma luxury plug-in hybrid cars due to a hose clamp being improperly installed, which could cause a coolant leak that could lead of a fire in the engine. The issue was discovered by workers at the assembly plant in Finland.  At least Fisker's recall is pre-emptive, as the company had not had any consumer complaints or warranty claims for the vehicle yet ...

"ECO ROUTING" - THE NEW WRINKLE IN FUEL EFFICIENCY

Thursday, December 22, 2011: Fuel efficiency advances don't have to be restricted to higher MPG.   We've heard about UPS saving gas and reducing the miles they need to drive for deliveries simply by configuring routes that use the most right hand turns. Last year, the company saved three million gallons of gas nationwide and shaved 30 million miles off its delivery routes with this method. A new study from the New York University at Buffalo shows that the traffic of an entire region can be routed in such a way that significant emissions reductions could be made without increasing drive times significantly. Even rerouting just one-fifth of drivers could mean a 20 percent reduction in emissions. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the NYU Buffalo report authors found that, "Funneling cars along surface streets instead of freeways helped to limit fuel consumption ," according to Futurity.org.  And these are changes that could be made now.  Let's hope urban planners and manufacturers of GPS and online maps take note of this ... As the Detroit Auto Show approaches, we're starting to see some intriguing early model information released.  Mercedes-Benz will showcase two hybrids at the show.  The E400 hybrid will not only be able to go from 0-60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds and go up to 130 mph, it will also deliver 32.4 MPG.  The diesel-hybrid E300 BlueTEC will deliver 67.3 MPG and still go from 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds.  The E400 will be sold only in America but we are still waiting for word on the U.S. status of the E300 BlueTEC ...

MITSUBISHI TO BE MPG KING?

Thursday, December 15, 2011: Although we thought it would be hard to beat the 99 MPGe fuel economy of the Leaf, it looks like the Mitsubishi i is going to do Nissan one better at a projected 121 MPGe.  In addition, although the EPA has not released an official fuel economy rating for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric, Ford says it expects its Focus Electric to get a 100 MPG-equivalent fuel economy rating, also better than the Leaf.    Ford also expects its upcoming C-Max Hybrid multi-activity vehicle to get more than 42 MPG, better than the new Prius v ...  Could half of the cars in the world by hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles by 2040?  According to the world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil, they will be.   The company still predicts 90 percent of the world's transportation will run on oil-based fuels by 2040 but says that as world governments increase fuel economy requirements, hybrids will become mainstream ...

GREEN CHRISTMAS FOR HYBRID/EV SALES?

Thursday, December 8, 2011: Great news for conventional and plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles - Edmunds AutoObserver reports that November sales hit an eight-month high and were up 34 percent over November 2010 sales.  In addition, the "average fuel economy of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs sold in November was 22.7 miles per gallon, up from 22.6 mpg in October and up from 22.1 mpg in both August and September," according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.  As more and more alternative fuel vehicles make it to market, we expect both numbers will continue to rise  ...  Can Honda make it back to the top as fuel economy king?  They're certainly going to try.  With Honda's "Earth Dreams Technology", the company says it plans to reduce the CO2 output of its vehicles 30 percent by 2020 and take the lead in fuel economy for all segments.  How will they do this?  By incorporating six different technologies into their lineup, including an upgrade to its VTEC system,  direct injection,  and VTC (variable timing control), among others.  They're also planning to update their diesel engine lineup and incorporate a full-hybrid system to replace its mild hybrid system.  And they're planning on a new EV powertrain that they claim will be among the most efficient in the world.  These are all aggressive goals but Honda can certainly achieve them if they are truly committed ...

CALLING THE FTC: ARE VOLT ADS MISLEADING?

Thursday, December 1, 2011: The tagline for the newest Chevy Volt commercial is, "Electric When You Want It, Gas When You Need It."  Say what?  To us, the implication of that statement is that you can switch between the gas and electric engine at will.  Or, more to the point that you can run on electric-only whenever you want to do so.  That sounds swell ... and makes for great ad copy ... but it just isn't so.  And we say that if consumers are confused by the Volt ads, they have every right to be.  The language is confusing at best ... and misleading at worst.     In fact, the Volt will only take you about 35 miles on its electric battery following a charge then switch to the gas engine.    Even when Chevy tries to go beyond the ad slogan for the Volt, the misleading rhetoric continues:   "Volt is unique among electric vehicles because you have two sources of energy. You have an electric source-a battery-that allows you to drive gas-free for an EPA-estimated 35 miles. And there's also an onboard gas generator that produces electricity so you can go up to a total of 375 additional miles on a full tank of gas. So if you want to drive using only electricity, you can. If you want to drive using electricity and gas, you can do that too."   (emphasis added)    Unfortunately, the recent news for the Volt hasn't been great, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a probe last week after fires broke out in the battery pack during Volt crash testing  ...  More and more people looking to purchase a new car today put their carbon footprint - and the fuel economy of vehicles they are considering - at the top of their list of things to consider.  When looking for the greenest vehicles, you can use resources like the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide.  If you want to know what cars you should avoid if you're trying to be green, Forbes has assembled a list of "America's Dirtiest Vehicles" of 2012. The worst offender - with four vehicles on the list of 16 - is BMW ...

U.S FUEL ECONOMY: DOUBLED BY 2025

Thursday, November 17, 2011: On the heels of a Consumer Reports survey showing that 93 percent of American consumers support an increase in fuel economy and 77 percent agreeing that automakers should produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and that the government should increase standards and enforce them, the Obama Administration this week formalized the agreement made with automakers in July which would double average fuel economy to 54.5 MPG by 2025. The proposed rule could be formalized next summer after a 60-day comment period.  Lifetime fuel savings for American consumers could add up to $4,400.  In addition to saving Americans at the pump, the government estimates the new standards will help save as much as 2.2 million barrels of oil per day by 2025, reducing our dependence on foreign oil  ...  If you're looking for a vehicle now that gets close to that 54.5 MPG number, look to the new 2012 Fuel Economy Guide just released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation.  It includes the top fuel economy performers in each vehicles class, as well as an estimated annual fuel cost. According to NJToday.com: "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." ...

NO TOYOTA FUEL CELL CAR FOR US?

Friday, November 11, 2011: Another car with fuel efficient technology for Europe but not the U.S.?  Once again, it looks like Europe will be the beneficiary of new, fuel efficient technology, with no reports of when we may see the technology in the U.S.   Toyota says that it plans to bring a hydrogen fuel cell car to Europe by 2015. Although the numbers will be limited and cost estimates for the vehicle have jumped significantly - from a previously estimated $50,000 to the equivalent of a whopping $138,000 - it would be nice to at least have the option in the U.S. We have not seen any reports yet of when, or if, the Toyota hydrogen fuel cell will make it to our side of the pond.  If you're wondering, as we were, why the cost estimates have jumped so much, it's being attributed to decreased profits from lower output due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and recent floods in Thailand  ...  As we approach the end of the year and draw ever closer to the start of the 2012-2016 federal fuel economy requirements, it looks like the average fuel economy of vehicles sold in the U.S. is going up. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute reports that average fuel economy of cars, light trucks, minivans, and SUVs purchased in October was 22.6 mpg, up from 22.1 mpg in September. We expect these numbers to continue to rise as more and more fuel efficient vehicles make it to market ...

UP NEXT: PHEV PICKUPS?

Thursday, November 3, 2011: We are intrigued by the possibilities in the Chrysler/U.S. Department of Energy partnership to test a fleet of plug-in hybrids. Over the next three years, Chrysler will send 140 RAM 1500 pickups to cities across the U.S. to test the vehicles' fuel economy, emissions, impact on each region's electric grid and other factors. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Ram 1500 PHEV is powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 engine and a liquid-cooled 12.9 kWhr lithium ion battery pack with and a 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger. Additional features include AC power generation of up to 6.6 kilowatts and regenerative braking to capture more energy." Although Chrysler has been slow to the hybrid race, funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 went to supplement Chrysler's funding of this initiative.  Houston,  Las Vegas, Auburn Hills, MI and Charlotte, N.C. are among the cities selected ... We know that reducing aerodynamic friction in vehicle body design is one way automakers are looking at meeting fuel economy standards. It turns out another way is to reduce the friction inside the engine. Honda has already made a 3 MPG gain in its V6 engine by reducing friction in the engine by 4 percent. And Mercedes-Benz has been using friction-reducing coatings in the cylinder bores as far back as 2006 ...

THE GREEN TO BEAT: NISSAN

Thursday, October 27, 2011: An all-new hybrid and all-new plug-in hybrid by 2016? 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on the road by the March 2017? A better than one-third boost in corporate fuel economy as compared with 2005 levels? Nissan certainly sounds serious with all its plans to "outdo every competitor in its environmental initiatives," according to Hybridcars.com. And we have not heard of this level of devotion to the improving fuel economy and environmental initiative from any other automaker.  Nissan has already shown its cred with the electric Leaf, which has 15,000 in sales so far.  We look forward to seeing their new plug-in and hybrid - and how their green plans progress ... Although in the past Chrysler has been less than devoted to hybrids, it looks like new fuel economy standards have motivated them to invest in hybrid technology.  In addition, Chrysler will also bring more diesels to the U.S.  Chrysler will launch a diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2013 and the 2013 Chrysler 300 hybrid will be their first production model.  The company may also be considering adding more compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles to their stable as well ...   

124 MPG PLUG-IN HYBRID DIESEL? NOT FOR THE U.S.

Friday, October 21, 2011: It turns out the Volvo's statement that its V60 plug-in hybrid diesel was production ready when it debuted the concept car at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this year was spot on. Volvo has confirmed the sedan and wagon versions of the car will go on sale in Europe starting in early 2012.  Not only is it impressive from a performance standard getting to 62 mph in 6.2 seconds, it can go 31 miles on electricity alone, will get the equivalent of 124 MPG, and has up to a 745 mile range on one tank of fuel. Volvo stopped selling its V60 wagon in the U.S. so we won't get this impressive vehicle on our shores, unfortunately, which seem short-sighted on the part of Volvo. However, the Volvo CEO has said he does hope to sell a plug-in hybrid in the U.S. by 2013 or 2014 and we can't wait to hear more details  ...  And why is the National Automobile Dealers Association opposing the proposed new fuel economy standards that would get us to 54.5 MPG by 2025?  We're not the only ones wondering about this same question, especially since the standards are supported by industry, labor, national security groups and consumer groups, along with others.  The CEOs of eight environmental, science and public interest groups sent a letter to the NADA calling on them to drop their efforts to delay the new standards, which would save consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump, curb pollution, create new jobs, and cut America's dependence on oil  ...  A bolt-on hybrid system for trucks and vans that can improve fuel efficiency in the city buy up to 20 percent?  Sounds good to us.  XL Hybrids is pilot testing its bolt-on hybrid system for GM full-size vans, which they say could lead to annual savings of between $1,500 and $2,500 per year, per vehicle. Sounds like a great idea for delivery drivers ...

WILL GM REVIVE THE ELECTRIC CAR?

Friday, October 14, 2011: Will we see GM's first new all electric since the EV1 soon?  Looks like we will - and it's going to be the Chevrolet Spark.  G.M. has announced the electric version will be sold in limited quantities starting in 2013 starting in California.  The gas-powered Spark will appear in the U.S. market in 2012.  Pricing information and fuel economy information has not yet been released but the Spark's battery pack will be sourced from U.S. company A123 systems ... Looks like German company Daimler is also throwing its hat in the ring in China on electric vehicles.  We reported recently that GM was acceding to Chinese demands to share their technology from the Volt in order to sell electric cars in the country. Daimler is actually partnering with Chinese company BYD to produce an electric car in China next year.  The U.S. was originally promised a BYD electric car for 2010 but a date for launch continues to be delayed, and the company has seen some bumps along the road. We're now being told the U.S. will get the BYD e6 electric car in the near future ...

NEW FUEL ECONOMY RULES = BILLIONS SAVED BY AMERICANS

Friday, October 7, 2011: How much will the new 54.5 MPG by 2025 fuel economy standards save Americans?  Quite a lot, it turns out. A new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Union of Concerned Scientists, both members of the Go60MPG coalition,  shows that Americans will see $44.3 billion dollars in net savings at the gas pump by 2030.  The new standards will reduce America's dependence on oil by 23.7 billion gallons and reduce carbon pollution by 280 million metric tons, the equivalent of having 40 million fewer vehicles on the road in 2030.  The analysis also showed how much would be saved in each state and the big winners are (1) Texas, (2) California and (3) Florida  ...  In the market for a hybrid and want to know the best models on showroom floors right now?  While the Prius remains the best-selling hybrid and is likely to maintain the throne due to new versions like the Prius v wagon and Prius Plug-in, cars like the Civic Hybrid and Honda Insight remain good hybrid options at a reasonable price.  And if you have a bit more to spend, consider the Lexus CT 200h or Chevrolet Volt  ...  Wondering about the technologies automakers are and will use to meet both the 35.5 MPG by 2016 and 54.5 MPG by 2025 fuel economy standards?  CNET provides a great description of 11 different fuel saving technologies like direct injection, deceleration fuel shut-off, cylinder deactivation and several others...

94 MPG FROM NEW TOYOTA?

Thursday, September 29, 2011: A 94 MPG hybrid?  Toyota has announced plans to launch a compact hybrid in Japan in January that the company says would get the equivalent of 94 MPG U.S. (40 km on a liter of gasoline). The Aqua will have the same powertrain as the Prius but "will reflect actual driving patterns more closely than the Prius," according to Reuters.  The Aqua would also sell for less than the Prius, at the equivalent of $22,000 U.S. (1.7 million yen). There is no word on whether we'll see this MPG powerhouse in the U.S. but we'll be monitoring and will let you know  ...  The official announcement for the new 2017-2025 fuel efficiency and emissions rule from the Obama Administration has been delayed slightly.  Although originally planned for the end of this month, officials say they need another six weeks to "iron out the final language," according to the Detroit Free Press.  The Environmental Protection Agency also says it needs more time to coordinate with California, which has agreed not to issue standard independent of the federal government. The delay does not appear to be a big deal in the long run, as the administration would "remain on track to meet its deadline for issuing final rules next July, five years before they take effect, "according to Reuters.  The administration says we will see the proposed rule by mid-November. President Obama had announced an agreement with automakers in July to require new fuel efficiency rules raising the fleetwide average to 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025  ...  It looks like small businesses are among the many varied groups that support stronger fuel economy standards. A new poll released last week by the Small Business Majority showed that 87 percent of the 1,257 small business owners who responded support federal action to increase car and truck fuel efficiency.  In addition, 80 percent would have supported a Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard of 60 miles per gallon by the year 2025 (polling commenced shortly before the 54.5 MPG announcement) ...

WILL ELECTRIC CARS SHUT DOWN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT?

Friday, September 23, 2011: A stopgap funding bill for the U.S. government was defeated by a unusual alliance of Democrats and Tea Party Republicans Wednesday because it included $1.5 billion in cuts to a government loan program to help car companies build fuel-efficient vehicles.  Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out in opposition to cuts to the federal program to encourage green cars and related jobs.  Anyone up for cutting oil company subsidies?  ...  It looks like GM is conceding to Chinese demands and will share its electric car tech in exchange for the opportunity to manufacture and sell electric cars in China.  Although it seems like a shakedown so China can get ahold of Chevy Volt technology, it may benefit  GM's bottom line through the savings the company will have on purchase of rare earth minerals, avoiding transport costs and import fees, and the Chinese offer to make significant tax rebates available for GM electric vehicles if the company agreed to its requirements  ...  If you have some time and money on hand, you too can convert your combustion engine vehicles to an electric car. Two guys in Missouri - Jack Rickard and Brian Noto - have apparently developed a cult following for their EVTVwebcast, or Electric Vehicle Television, according to NPR. Each week, They go through every detail of how to take a combustion engine vehicle and convert it to all-electric power.  They say the key is in using lithium ion batteries and they don't come cheap.  A full conversion can cost between $15,000 and $20,000 dollars.  Talk about extreme DIY! ...

SEEING "GRĂśN" IN FRANKFURT?

Thursday, September 15, 2011: Gullwing doors and hydrogen power?  Although it's just a concept for now, the hydrogen-powered Mercedes-Benz F125 that premiered Tuesday at the Frankfurt Auto Show was just one of the sleek new green vehicles featured at the show.  The concept car has a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles), more than twice that of the fuel-cell version of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which has a range of up to 400 kilometers (about 249 miles) and is going into production in 2014.  Opel also debuted their electric One Euro concept, so named because it can travel 100 km  (about 62 miles) for the price of one Euro.  The zero-emission two-seater is suited for urban life and parents will particularly like it as it will have parental controls allowing speed to be limited for teen drivers  ...  Europeans will also be the lucky beneficiaries of some fuel-sipping technology from Ford and the company has said it expects half of all Ford cars sold in Europe by late next year will have its ECOnetic technology. With ECOnetic, Ford is looking to show that internal-combustion engine cars can be as green as a hybrid.  But how does Ford get the C-Segment Focus ECOnetic to 83.2 UK mpg, 69.2 US mpg and 89 gr/km CO2 and the Fiesta ECOnetic to 85.6 UK mpg, 71.3 US mpg and 87 gr/km CO2?  At least some of the tech comes from hybrid and electric vehicles, like auto stop/start and regenerative charging, among others. Unfortunately, this is another example of high-MPG cars we may not see any time soon in the U.S.  ...  With new Chinese fuel economy standards expected to be phased in over the next few years, Honda has announced plans to launch five hybrid vehicles in China next year and potentially start producing the hybrids in China within two-three years if initial sales do well ...

CHINA: STRONG ARMING ITS WAY INTO HYBRIDS?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011: Will China succeed in holding General Motors hostage?   China may only offer significant subsidies for Volt purchases within its borders if G.M. caves in and shares a key piece of its technology. China is a huge market and, so far, the government has given a big advantage to domestic producers of electric and hybrid vehicles in order to try and spur growth in the sector, which would help reduce polluting emissions. If GM proceeds with plans to start selling the car in China by the end of the year, the Volt would be the first mass-market predominantly electric car imported to China by a foreign manufacturer.  However, the New York Times states: "The Chinese government is refusing to let the Volt qualify for subsidies totaling up to $19,300 a car unless G.M. agrees to transfer the engineering secrets for one of the Volt's three main technologies to a joint venture in China with a Chinese automaker, G.M. officials said." Ford, which is only conducting demonstrations of its electric cars in China and has not set a date for commercial sales, has already said it will give in to the Chinese demand  ...  Hybrids and electric cars, among other items, depend on rare earth metals, as we've discussed in the past.  China controls the lion's share of the world's rare earth minerals, producing more than 90 percent of the world supply. As such, there are numerous ways they affect the hybrid and electric car market.  In another example of the pull of the Chinese marketplace, Toyota has decided to start manufacturing hybrid car parts in China to help boost its sales - particularly for the Prius - within the country.  China has a variety of restrictions in exports of rare earth minerals but by manufacturing hybrids and electrics within the country for sale within the country, Toyota can circumvent those restrictions.  Although it may not be helpful to Toyota's green footprint since China is one of the world's biggest polluters, the company says it just makes financial sense.  However, Toyota is also developing a motor for future models and electrics cars that would not rely on rare earth metals so they are not hamstrung by the high rare-earth prices set by China  ...

5 MILLION MORE ELECTRIC CARS IN SIX YEARS?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011: There are currently only 114,000 plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles on the road today.  But a new industry forecast released by Pike Research predicts there will be 5.2 million plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) worldwide by 2017. The U.S. is expected to have the highest adoption rate. Pike also that predicts over a million hybrids will be sold worldwide next year alone ... It seems like partnerships are in the air.  On the heels of the announcement that Toyota and Ford are partnering to develop hybrid tech for pickups and SUVs, LG and General Motors have announced they will partner to "jointly create a new line of electric and hybrid vehicles, with the aim of reducing both production costs and the time taken to bring those cars to market."  The deal is the first of its kind, pairing an automaker and electronics giant. LG will be covering half the cost of developing this new line of vehicles ... Can the Prius get even greener? It appears so.  The new Prius A - the "A" stands for "Alpha" - will feature interiors made of between 20 percent and 37 percent renewably sourced thermoplastic resin derived from plant sugar ...

TOYOTA AND FORD JOIN HYBRID FORCES

Tuesday, August 23, 2011: Strange bedfellows?  Maybe not.  While Toyota and Ford are each strong on their own in the hybrid sector, it looks like they've decided to join forces to develop new hybrid technology for rear-wheel drive pickups and SUVs.  Since the pickup and SUV sector is a major drag on MPG, it certainly can't hurt to put their heads together... It looks like Leonardo DiCaprio even beat out Al Gore and Colin Powell on delivery of the first Fisker Karma, a luxury $100,000 plug-in hybrid that not only can get up to 100 MPG but goes 0-60 miles per hour in under six seconds.  That's our kind of hybrid! ...  Which electric and plug-in cars do you think will succeed?  Jim Motavalli is currently betting that the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf will both do well.  If you're curious about the rest, check out his list of the top 10 electric cars most likely to succeed ...

107 MPG FROM NEW PRIUS PLUG-IN?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011: It looks like the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid is going to go a long way towards helping Toyota meet the new fuel economy standards requiring  a 54.5 MPG fleet fuel economy average by 2025.  The Prius Plug-in is slated to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in mid-September and the European homologation cycle had the Prius PHEV at 128.4 MPG UK, the equivalent of 106.9 MPG U.S.  Toyota says the Prius PHEV can be fully charged in approximately three hours from a standard 110-volt electrical outlet, and in 90 minutes with a 220-volt connection ... Have you been considering a Chevy Volt but worry you'll forget to plug it in each night?  We all know it can sometimes be hard to remember to plug in something like a cell phone at night but a new wireless charging system for the Volt makes it easy.  The new Evantran Plugless Power wireless/proximity charging system stands in the garage and has a "round disk that the driver pulls up over to charge. When the charger is aligned and charging the Volt the green light on the charger will glow," according to Slash Gear.  Sounds like a cool solution ...

HYBRIDS: BACK TO THE FUTURE?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011: Will the future see ultracapacitors in hybrids? Sounds suspiciously like a "flux capacitor", doesn't it?  With the start-stop technology found in hybrids, their batteries, which are required to store lots of energy, may need to discharge discharge that energy quickly to restart the engine after it shuts down at a stop light.  However, hybrid batteries usually need to discharge slowly to power the vehicle. This need to discharge both slowly and quickly can be a challenge for batteries.  A company called Ioxus is testing a battery that, according to The New York Times, "marries a device called an ultracapacitor, which bottles up something like a lightning bolt of power, with a conventional battery, which can store more energy but absorbs and discharges it at a slower rate. " Ultracapacitors can also boost the storage capacity of electric car batteries. This is the kind of technology we may see in the future as auto companies look for ways to meet new fuel economy standards.  The technology is also already being used in another clean energy source: wind power  ...  Californians considering buying a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle have reason to celebrate as the state will make $17 to $21 million available to fund tax rebates for those who purchase new electric vehicles, extending the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project into a third year.  The original rebate program ran out of funding last month, leaving EV buyers on holding lists for those awaiting rebates.   The California Air Resources Board will also make available " $11 million to $16 million to continue providing vouchers for California businesses to buy lower-emitting and fuel-efficient hybrid and zero-emission trucks and buses; and, $2 million to $3 million toward promising locomotive, truck, and bus technology demonstration projects needed for California to meet its long-term air quality goals." ...

FORD: CROWDSOURCING HYBRID NOISE

Tuesday, July 26, 2011: Since all hybrid and electric vehicles will now be required to make some sort of noise at speeds under 15 mph for safety reasons, we like Ford's innovative way of getting its "fans" involved in the process.  Ford invited its Facebook fans to watch and listen to four possible sounds that its 2012 Ford Focus Electric will emit and asked them to submit comments.   (Interesting that three of the four sounds have such a distinctly sci-fi kind of tone to them.)  Nearly 300 fans ranked the sounds and 400 posted comments, it appears the idea was a success ... A total of 208 hybrids managed to use only four gallons of gas in the 2.1 mile parade loop in Madison, WI this past Sunday when they broke the Guinness World Record for the longest procession of hybrid vehicles.  (That over 200 vehicles using a total of four gallons of gas!)  Many of the vehicles did not even need to use their gas engines.  The parade included vehicles from Ohio, Florida, Texas, Colorado, Georgia and Quebec ... And President Obama's promise to create green jobs is being put into action with the announcement that a Celgard LLC, a plant located in North Caroline that makes high-tech battery components including those used in hybrid and electric cars,  will create 250 jobs with its opening this week.  The company received nearly $50 million from the Energy Department in 2009 ...

THE JETSONS CAR IS FINALLY HERE

Tuesday, July 19, 2011: The long-delayed flying car is now (supposedly) a reality - and it's a hybrid.  The Model 367 BiPod, designed by Burt Rutan, is a "gasoline-electric twin-pod vehicle has a range of 760 miles in the air and 820 miles on the ground and it works a bit like a Chevrolet Volt."  The vehicle will have two engines which power a pair of electric generators which power the electric motors. Lithium ion batteries will provide power during takeoff and landing. On the ground, the vehicle will have an all-electric range of 35 miles. And its removable wings allow it to fit in a one-car garage ... Prius to the rescue?  Toyota is going donate emergency power supply systems linked to 40 of its Prius hybrid cars to help ease power shortages in the northeast region of Japan following the earthquake and tsunami this past spring.  Hybrid vehicles can be used to store and generate electricity because it is partly an electric vehicle that runs on a high-quality battery. Many individuals had already been using the Prius battery as a source of backup power following the disaster ...

LEAF ALREADY LOSING MPG CROWN?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011: If you thought the Nissan Leaf, with its 106 MPGe (that's "miles per gallon gasoline equivalent" to those of you who are not in the know) in the city and 92 MPGe on the highway, is unbeatable, think again. It looks like the new 2012 Mitsubishi i surpasses the Leaf in the MPGe standings - with 126 MPGe city and 99 MPGe highway.  The Leaf does still beat the "i" in range:  73 EPA-rated miles on a charge to the "i"s 62 miles.  The 2012 "i" will go on sale in November starting on the West Coast and the starting price will be $28,850.  The company is also showcasing a solar-powered charging station for electric vehicles at its North American headquarters in California  ...  A solar-powered diesel-hybrid semi?  Kind of a complicated idea, but it sure sounds intriguing.  Considering how inefficient heavy-duty trucks are - most tractor-trailers typically get about 6 mpg to 7 mpg - slapping 20 feet of solar panels on the roof of the trucks seems like a smart move. A patent is pending for the technology, developed by a couple in South Dakota who are long-haul drivers who are presumably fed up with high gas prices ... Silent hybrids no more? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced the first steps towards a rule that would require hybrids to sound alerts at low speeds to alert pedestrians - especially those who are sight-impaired - to their presence.  Some hybrids already have warning systems for pedestrians.  The Volt has one, although its owners have to turn it on.  Japan already requires its automakers to have a sound alert system, so the Nissan Leaf emits engine noises at low speeds and makes a chirping sound when in reverse ...

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: THE TERRORIST LOSE?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011: Osama Bin Laden may be gone but the bumper sticker on Former CIA Director James Woolsey's Prius could be applied to any Middle East terrorist: "Bin Laden Hates This Car." Why?  Because America send nearly one billion dollars overseas every day to import oil and 43 percent of our oil imports are from countries that pose a great security threat to the United States.  Overall, the U.S. imports over half the oil we use (57 percent) from overseas so if we reduce our dependence on oil, we would send less overseas to possible terrorists, making our nation more secure.  Hybrids and electric vehicles are an important part of reducing this oil addiction, since they use significantly less or no gas.  If structured properly, President's Obama's proposed fuel economy rule to require automakers to achieve 56.2 MPG by 2025 - although we'd prefer the higher 62 MPG by 2025 under consideration - could help support the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).  If implemented without loopholes, it could reduce our oil consumption by 4.7 billion barrels and save Americas $705 billion in fuel costs. No wonder terrorists don't like hybrid and EVs ... Although the introduction of the plug-in Prius in less than a year will no doubt deal a blow to the Chevy Volt, Toyota has yet another image soiling recall on its hands, this time with its hybrid SUVs, the Highlander and its Lexus RX400h.  In the U.S., 82,200 Toyota hybrid SUVs are being recalled, with a total 110,000 being recalled globally.  The recall is being conducted because the vehicles could stop suddenly due to an electrical problem leading to a blown fuse.  With Toyota just starting to recover from Japan's earthquake and tsunami, which allowed other companies to surge forward with sales of their fuel-sipping vehicles, yet another recall might topple Toyota from its position as world's biggest carmaker ... Sayonara HOV lanes! Starting July 1, the 85,000 hybrid owners in California who had special stickers to let them use the HOV lanes are no longer enjoying a faster commute. "State officials say the time has come to end the hugely popular incentive program introduced in August 2005 because they've met their goal of getting drivers to switch to low-emission hybrids," according to The Associated Press.  Although Virginia also plans to end HOV access for hybrids in 2012, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Tennessee and New York will continue to allow hybrids in the HOV lanes to keep traffic moving ...

HOLY ROLLER GOES HYBRID

Friday, June 24, 2011: Will the new holy roller be a hybrid?  Although Mercedes has not confirmed it, a report from a German business magazine says the new popemobile being delivered in September will be a hybrid.  Pope Benedict XVI will take delivery of the new vehicle when he makes his first official state visit home to Germany. The first-ever hybrid popemobile would be able to go 18.5-miles on battery power, requiring a one-hour charge.  Apparently, it was never under consideration to have the vehicle be all-electric, due to the need to have the option for the pope to make a quick getaway.  Mercedes has provided vehicles to the Vatican for eight decades ... While many people purchase hybrids to help curb climate change since they emit less greenhouse gases, most people also take gas savings into account when looking at the additional cost of a hybrid.  If you want to know which cars give you the most MPG-bang for the money, look no further.  The Hartford Courant divided the combined city/highway mpg by the base MSRP and multiplied by 1,000 to come up with a ranking of the best hybrids for your money. A high mpg rating and low price yield a high efficiency-cost rating. And who were the winners?  The 2011 Honda Insight came in as the best hybrid for your money, at $18,200 and 41 MPG combined.  The Insight was followed by the 2011 Toyota Prius and the 2011 Lexus CT 200h.  At the bottom were pricey luxury cars, such as the Lexus LS 600h L, BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid, and Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid.  In those cases, you're really paying for the luxury though, and the hybrid is a fringe benefit  ... Although we thought the Nissan Altima Hybrid was dead, it turns out it will be resurrected in a new and improved version.  The current Altima Hybrid being retired after the 2011 model year used a hybrid system licensed from Toyota.  Nissan has been developing its own hybrid system, which is considerably simpler than Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system.  The new Nissan hybrid engine is appearing in the rear-wheel-drive 2012 Infiniti M35h luxury sedan but the technology is being adapted for front-wheel drive vehicles as well. Expect to see Nissan's new hybrid system show up on a new Altima Hybrid for the 2013 model year ...

FORD: BUCKING FOR KING OF THE HYBRID HILL?

Friday, June 17, 2011: With Toyota still trying to recover after the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and from various recalls, Ford has set its sights squarely on moving into a leadership position in the hybrid space.  The company is betting on the C-Max, currently available in Europe, which will make the jump across the pond as a dedicated hybrid and plug-in hybrid model only.  The company originally had plans to bring the 7-passenger Grand C-Max to the U.S. to compete in the minivan market but see a greater potential for hybrid and plug-in versions of the smaller 5-passenger hatchback version.  This will be the first car Ford offers solely as a hybrid model and it is clear the hybrid C-Max is aimed squarely at the Prius, which Toyota also offers only as a hybrid.  We will be interested to see exactly how the MPG will compare with the Prius though, as Ford has so far only said it will get better than 41 MPG combined.  The company has also said the C-Max Energi, the plug-in version, should compare favorably with the Chevy Volt and will operate in a similar manner.  But if Ford's plug-in does get the 500-mile range they have stated, it will definitely best the 397-mile range of the Volt, plus Ford has said they expect the C-Max Energi to be sold for much less than the Volt.  Ford currently offers hybrid versions of the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans and the Escape SUV and will start selling an all-electric Ford Focus in the U.S. later this year.  It looks like the C-Max should start selling in the U.S. sometime in 2012.  We can't wait to hear more and will keep you updated ... If you drive a hybrid or have been thinking about purchasing one, you can be secure in the knowledge that you are indeed being green.  While detractors have tried to argue that the emissions created in production of a hybrid or electric car could negate the environmental benefit of their lower emission during driving, a new study shows clearly that is not true. The study done for the UK's Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) found that that hybrid cars have a smaller carbon footprint than conventional cars even when you consider the manufacturing process.  Although production of the battery does make the emissions during the manufacturing process higher than those of a similar combustion vehicle, the lower emissions put out during the lifetime of the car still keeps a hybrid or electric vehicles carbon footprint lower.  The report also looks at ways to lower carbon emissions  in other ways throughout the lifecycle of vehicles so let's hope automakers take note ... One way automakers, particularly overseas manufacturers, are already starting to try and lower some of the lifecycle emissions of vehicles is something you might not have expected.   Toyota installed solar panels on one of its cargo ships a few years ago and has been continuing to work on the technology to reduce demand on the ship's diesel engines.  One problem originally was the energy supply from the solar panels was dependent on the weather. The company has now fitted out its ship - the Auriga Leader - with nickel-metal hydride batteries and its onboard generator modified to run on low-sulfur diesel, so the batteries can be charged either by the solar panels or the generator to help secure a stable energy supply.  Makes sense to ship hybrid cars with a diesel-hybrid engine, right? ...

TOYOTA: GETTING GREEN IN THE UK

Thursday, June 9, 2011: Toyota is clearly recognized as the front-runner in hybrid production so far, being one of the earliest (although not the first) to mass-produce them with the Prius, and having sold the largest volume worldwide, with over a million in sales for the Prius. And now, a Toyota manufacturing plant in the United Kingdom will be the first auto manufacturer in the country to add solar power generation facilities to its plant.  The plant in South Derbyshire is having 17,000 panels installed, which will produce 4,600,000 kWh (kilo-Watt hours) of electricity, enough to produce 7,000 cars.  Toyota says the panels will reduce the company's carbon footprint by saving 2,000 tonnes (British) in CO2 emissions a year. In the U.S., GM and Ford are already in the process of installing solar arrays on some of their plants so let's hope more manufacturers jump on this bandwagon  ...  Do you have a hybrid?  Do you like a challenge or to set records?  If so, you might want to consider participating in the hybrid vehicle parade being planned for July 24 in Madison, Wisconsin.  Toyota dealership Smart Motors is organizing the parade to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records by stringing 500 vehicles together in a 6.2-mile line, which would crush an earlier record set in Belgium with 140 cars. All hybrids are welcome but they're only taking the first 500 applicants at http://thehop.eventbrite.com/  ...  Several hybrids have once again made it to the top of the list of Consumer Reports most fuel-efficient models.  The Toyota Prius was at the top for most fuel-efficient family car. The Lexus HS 250h won for best upscale/sports sedan.  And the Ford Escape Hybrid won for best small SUV for fuel-efficiency ...

YET ANOTHER BUMP IN THE ROAD FOR TOYOTA

Friday, June 3, 2011: It seems as though Toyota - well, Toyota drivers - just can't get a break.  Although the most recent Toyota recall is for the first generation Prius, the one for which you'd expect to find more kinks to iron out, bad news is never good, especially considering their track record over the last few yearsA new recall for the first generation Prius - cars sold between 2001 and 2003 -  was announced yesterday. (It is due to faulty steering caused by a nut that may come loose.) It affects a total of 106,000 Prius around the globe - 48,000 Prius vehicles in Japan, 52,000 in the U.S., 1,200 in Great Britain, and 800 in Germany. Although only one minor accident suspected of being related to the problem has been reported in the U.S., it looks like the company has learned its lesson and is playing it safe  ...  Hybrid sales will continue to benefit from high gas prices here in the U.S..  Although there was a short dip in prices before Memorial Day - from $4 per gallon average to $3.80 a gallon - the pain at the gas pump is edging up again.  And Goldman Sachs is predicting Americans may see $5 per gallon gas by mid-July.  So much for all that happy talk about a cheaper summer driving season for Americans!  ...  Look for hybrid auto tech to spread to heavy-duty industry vehicles in the future. According to ZDNet: "Heavy duty non-road mobile machines used in construction, mining and agriculture are operated for long periods of time resulting in high fuel consumption and emissions. So why not use similar technology that has proven successful in hybrid cars to improve efficiency? That's exactly what researchers at Aalto University in Finland have done. They've created hybrid machines with both combustion and electric engines that cut the amount of fuel consumed by half." ...

CITIES TO BE NEXT HIGH MPG BOOSTERS?

Thursday, May 19, 2011: State governments in the U.S. have done a decent job of offering incentives to encourage consumers to purchase cleaner cars.  Is Shanghai, China now going to inspire cities to do the same?  By the end of June, Shanghai has said it will give 20,000 yuan ($3,074) in subsidies for buyers of plug-in hybrid cars and 40,000 yuan for pure electric cars. While installing electric car charging stations does help get consumers part of the way, most of the 1,800 stations across the U.S. have been funded through federal dollars, albeit with the support of local governments. We'd love to see cities get more involved in encouraging low emission hybrid and electrics  ...  After several delays, the $96,000-$109,000 Fisker Karma performance plug-in will start being delivered to U.S. customers this month. In addition, the company is reporting it has raised an additional $100 million in its third round of funding, which will help Fisker produce a second, cheaper electric car in a similar price range to the Chevy Volt.   The Karma competes with the Tesla Roadster but the starting price is lower than the $109,000 Tesla Roaster. The Karma "has an effective fuel efficiency of around 100 miles per gallon, according to the company, and can travel up to 300 miles before needing to refuel. The internal combustion engine kicks in after 50 miles of use on the electric motors - similar to the Volt ..."  Tesla is also working on a less expensive sedan - the Model S - but it is predicted to come in around $57,000 before government incentives, much higher than the $35-50,000 range expected for the less pricey Fisker model  ...  And it seems one of the hottest tickets in Russia is the new hybrid Yo-mobile. Yo-Auto reported it got 47,000 pre-orders on Tuesday for the Y-mobile, which exceeds the company's initial production capacity of 45,000.  The company had said it will double production capacity after the second stage of the plant is built.  Sounds like that can't come too soon ...

PLUG-IN PRIUS LINEUP BY 2014? MAYBE NOT

Thursday, May 12, 2011: Although early reports indicated Toyota would make plug-in technology standard in the Prius by 2014, the company quickly responded that the report was incorrect and it will only offer plug-in technology in smaller quantities in its hybrid lineup.  However, since the company was once reluctant to offer any plug-in technology at all, this should satisfy at least some of those who want a bit more MPG from  Prius.  And why isn't Toyota taking the bold step of converting its entire hybrid lineup to plug-ins?  The company says the technology adds a lot of weight and cost to the cars and the benefits aren't large enough to justify.  Toyota is also skeptical that all consumers of the popular Prius will want to pay thousands more for 10 to 15 miles of electric charge. Nonetheless, the plug-in Prius will become a piece of Toyota's hybrid lineup starting in 2012 and the online order system is now open, if you want to sign up to say you are interested in purchasing the Prius plug-in.  There are some who believe Toyota should proceed with the bold move and add plugs to all their Prii by 2014 - if they are also sold at the same price that the regular hybrid version is now, which is what was originally reported.  It might cost the company up front but could keep the plug-in hybrid market firmly in Toyota's grasp, with the plug-in Prius at $26,000 clearly beating out the $41,000 Chevy Volt .... If we told you there was a plug-in hybrid that could go 200 mph and go from zero to 60 in less than three seconds, you'd probably be skeptical.  But it's true.  However, if you're interested in this plug-in hybrid sports car, you better have some serious cash.  Not only does the Jaguar C-X75 belong on the green car list, it also qualifies for the most expensive car list at a cool million dollars. If you're interested in a slightly less expensive plug-in hybrid sports car, the Porsche 918  Spyder is available for $845,000. And Acura is working on a hybrid successor to its discontinued NSX sports car. Jim Motavalli also proposes hybrid/electric versions of cars from high-end manufacturers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, which sound good to us ...

HYBRID SALES ON FIRE

Tuesday, April 26, 2011: Higher gas prices are boosting hybrid vehicle sales to new highs.  According to auto analyst firm Baum and Associates, hybrid sales - and clean diesel sales as well - have jumped 46 percent in March 2011 as compared with March 2010.  Not only that but the gain is about three times that of the overall car sales market increase.  With some gas price records from 2008 having already been broken and some analysts predicting $4.25 per gallon gas by Memorial Day, we don't expect the pace of sales to slow except where supply is unable to meet demand, as may happen with the Prius due to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  However, Toyota is trying to make lemonade out of lemons by pointing out that a hybrid can be a good earthquake survival tool since it does not need to be filled up as often and the battery can provide portable power generation  ...  How many Chicago cabs will go green?  A new incentive announced by Mayor Richard Daly on Earth Day will reimburse cab companies $2,000 for each hybrid they purchase and between $9,000 and $14,000 for converting cars to compressed natural gas or propane power  ...  It was only a matter of time but now it looks at least on piece of technology to make hybrids more affordable has already arrived.  Some new hybrids - like the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Infiniti M35 Hybrid - use a second clutch to separate the operation of the gas engine and electric motor.  A September 2010 paper published by NHTSA, the EPA and California Air Resources Board, "showed the price of batteries for P2 hybrids at a quarter the cost of a Volt-like plug-in hybrid and about a tenth the cost of 100-mile electric vehicle, projected all the way out to 2025."  Hopefully, other manufacturers will incorporate the technology sooner rather than later ...

ELECTRIC FEVER TAKES HOLD?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011: As of now, there are less than half a dozen electric or plug-in vehicles available to consumers ... but more are on the way.  Starting this year and continuing through 2012 and into 2013, automakers should roll out more than 20 new electric or plug-in vehicles.  While some, like the Honda Fit EV, Ford Focus Electric and Toyota RAV4 EV are geared more towards everyday consumers, there will also be high-end electrics, like the Fisker Karma ($95,900-$108,900) and Tesla Model S ($57,400) for the well-heeled. Some commuter vehicles will also make an appearance, like the Think City two-seat electric car and a Nissan or Infiniti small urban vehicle.  The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is currently available for lease in limited numbers but will go on sale by mid-2012.  We can't wait to see more and more electrics on the road! ... Hybrid drivers in Virginia have been granted an HOV reprieve. The governor just signed an extension allowing drivers with hybrid vehicles and clean fuel license plates to continue using HOV lanes during restricted hours through June 2012. However, there are some vehicles who to not qualify so make sure to check the DMV website before you hit the road ...

HIGHER GAS PRICES PUMP UP HYBRIDS SALES

Tuesday, April 12, 2011: With gas prices averaging almost a dollar more now than they were a year ago - $3.71 a gallon now vs. $2.83 a year ago - sales of hybrids have jumped.  In the first quarter of 2011, 37 percent more hybrids have sold than compared to a year ago.  The higher gas prices have also driven up Prius sales - 141,000 in just this quarter - to allow the hybrid to hit the million-cars-sold in the U.S. mark since that car's launch in 2000. And we expect to see hybrid sales continue their run as gas prices inch ever higher as we approach the summer driving season ...Want to be able to check on your car from your smartphone or computer?  It looks like buyers of hybrids and electric cars from Toyota will be the first to benefit from a partnership with Microsoft linking their cloud-computing infrastructure to Toyota's vehicles.  Consumers may start seeing the feature as soon as next year, which could enable the owner of an electric car to use the cloud to schedule charging cycles for when energy consumption is at its lowest ...If you drive a lot for business, you probably pay a lot of attention to the amount the IRS lets you deduct for mileage.  One way to get the most bang for your buck is to drive the most fuel efficient car you can get. A Toyota Prius gets a combined 50 MPG rating, which can seriously help if you drive a lot of miles for work.  As GreenCarReports.com notes: "... if you charge 5,000 miles a year as a business expense, that fuel-cost differential alone adds up to $600." Food for thought ...

OVER 100 EV CAR MODELS BY 2015?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011: What is the forecast for the electric vehicle market over the next few years and beyond? A new report produced by Citi and Ceres' Investor Network on Climate Risk shows that over the next few years, the electric vehicle industry will grow at a steady pace. Baum & Associates, one of the report authors, even forecasts that over 100 models ranging from hybrids to plug-ins, fuel cell vehicles and full electric cars will be available by 2015. Key to the growth of the industry is already and will remain government incentives and policies, both at a federal and state level ...With gas prices over $100 a barrel, it seems now is perfect timing for electric vehicles to be entering the market. In just a few years, we've gone from no battery manufacturers in the U.S. to half a dozen and electric battery prices have already started to go down. The Department of Energy says key will be further reductions in the price of electric batteries and they intend to foster U.S. competitiveness in the industry as it continues to grow ...

NOT SO FLEET ON ADOPTION OF HYBRIDS?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011: States and corporations that make purchases every year for their fleet have talked about "greening" their fleets.  But it looks like it was just talk, in many cases.  As Jim Motavalli says:  It's time for fleet buyers to "walk the talk" and start buying more green cars.  On the state level, Washington is an example of what others should be striving towards - 54 percent of its fleet is hybrid.  No other states come even close, including the supposedly green state of California, in which only 1 percent of its fleet is hybrid.  And as for corporations, FedEx said eight years ago that it would replace its entire fleet of 30,000 medium-duty trucks with green vehicles in 10 years, but at last count it had only bought 1,800 of them. The federal government hasn't even upped its contingent of hybrids that much higher, with the General Services Administration reporting only 0.3 percent hybrid penetration by the fall of 2010.  With the gas price average at $3.58 nationally and averaging up to $4 a gallon in California, there is no better time for fleets to step up and go green ...  Beyond gas prices, there are other good reasons to buy hybrids now.  Although sales incentives have mostly disappeared and dealer-offered prices are up due to higher gas prices and the affect of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on supply, interest rates are low.  With global demand for oil on the rise, future gas prices will likely persist at $3.50 a gallon or even higher. And as global economies rise out of the recession, we're likely to see interest rates - now at 3 or 4 percent for top credit scores - go back up. So even if hybrid prices do go down or incentives return as the economy improves, so we are likely to see interest rates go up as well and offset the cost savings.  Remember:  There are many reasons hybrids are a great idea for you now and into the future:  Hybrids will always save on fuel costs, you can get discounts of up to 10 percent on insurance costs,  you may qualify for state or federal tax incentives and you may qualify for HOV lane access ...  

EARTHQUAKE TRIGGERED HYBRID SHORTAGE?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011: It is clear that with gas prices continuing to rise higher and higher, consumers are looking to high MPG vehicles to help ease the pain at the pump.  "A full 53% of car shoppers on AutoTrader.com in February said they are more likely to consider a more fuel-efficient car than the one they currently own as a result of rising fuel prices, according to a just-completed survey of visitors to the car-shopping and information site in February," according to Dealer magazine. And the Prius is one of the popular gas-sipping cars consumer have been buying, with sales up nearly 70 percent in February 2011 over the prior year. The big question now in the mind of many consumers - and likely car dealers as well - is whether the Japanese earthquake and tsunami will affect the supply of hybrids available? It seems the answer is yes. Along with the popular Prius, also affected may be the Honda Insight and CR-Z, Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Leaf, due to a combination of factors ranging from full production overseas to delay in delivery of parts which come from Japan. In some places, the combination of soaring gas prices and the Japanese earthquake has already caused a sales run on hybrids.  If you've been looking to buy a hybrid, you might want to go for it now or else you may have to wait  ...  Could a new type of engine triple the fuel economy of hybrids? Although the technology is not quite there, researchers at Michigan State University have been working on the wave disk engine, which uses shock waves from a disk with a number of channels to ignite the fuel in the engine and get the rotor to spin to create electricity.  The wave disk engine is three and a half times more efficient than a conventional combustion engine.  And it would result in the engine being 20 percent lighter and would be much less expensive to manufacture.  Now we just need it to go to production...

HERE COMES PLUG-IN DIESEL!

Friday, March 11, 2011: Although it's unclear whether some of the hottest green cars being showcased in Geneva will make it to the U.S. (or will go into production at all), what we see in the next generation of hybrid and electric vehicles is pretty exciting. Volvo debuted its three-in-one Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid concept car - the first plug-in diesel - at the Geneva Auto Show.  Drivers will have three options with the push of a button: pure, power and hybrid.  Pure starts all-electric for 30 miles then goes to diesel.  Power will go from zero-to-62 in 6.9 seconds with the combined 285 horsepower produced from the diesel and electric motors. And the hybrid mode will take you about 745 miles on one tank of fuel. The vehicle is expected to start selling in Europe next year but it's unclear whether it will make it to U.S. shores and, if it does, whether the diesel engine will remain. Land Rover also showed a diesel hybrid, the Range_e, expected to get over 40 MPG but there was no word on production plans. Another concept is the Nissan Esflow, a sexy-looking electric sports car with a 142-mile range. The Toyota Yaris hybrid unveiled in Geneva is expected to go on sale in Europe next year and we hope to hear about plans to bring it to the U.S> very soon.  One car that does have plans to come to the U.S. in late 2011 is the Audi Q5 hybrid, which will get combined MPG numbers in the 36 MPG range  ...  With gas prices expected to hit or exceed $4 per gallon this summer, consumers aren't the only ones looking to alternative fuel vehicles to save at the pump. The City of Tulsa is looking to expand its fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.   Since they just opened a  CNG fueling station in town, the town sees the money they spend on the vehicles as going right back into their economy. As long as it helps the environment and reduces our dependence on foreign oil, we're all for it ...

FROM THE MAGIC BUS TO THE GREEN BUS?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011: We all know the "Magic Bus" - the beloved Volkswagen Microbus is part of our cultural heritage from the 1960's and 70's.  Will we soon see a green bus from VW?  At the Geneva Auto Show this week, Volkswagen has unveiled a new electric version of their microbus - the Bulli - whose motor would have a 186-mile range.  Not only that, a high speed charging station could have it up and running again in less than an hour.  And with styling cues that make its lineage unmistakable, fans of the original microbus will be jumping for joy. It's still a concept for now and no timetable or price have been announced but with gas prices soaring, but let's hope this fun electric makes it the U.S. soon  ...  With global unrest contributing to ever increasing gas prices, interest in hybrids is on the upswing.  We've seen several stories about an increase in interest and in sales of hybrids as gas prices have been on the upswing.  Overall hybrid sales for January were up 12 percent from the year prior.  As we approach warmer weather, when gas prices typically increase anyway, and with the situation overseas remaining unstable, we expect the new wave of interest in hybrids will keep rolling for some time  ...  In view of the upcoming plug-in Prius and electric Toyota iQ, both of which are planned to launch in 2012 in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, Toyota has decided to enter the home battery charging market.  The company will start selling two types of chargers - one which would extend from an exterior wall of a home and one for setting up in a garage - and they will also be compatible with non-Toyota vehicles.  The company expects to sell between 20,000 and 30,000 electric car chargers in the first year alone ...  

THE BIGGEST LOSER: "CHUBBY" VOLT MISSES TOP 12

Friday, February 18, 2011: While it may not be surprising that the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the hybrid-electric Toyota Prius placed second and third respectively behind the compressed natural gas Honda Civic GX in the annual American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Green Book ratings, what is interesting is that the much-hyped Chevrolet Volt did not even in make it in the top 12.  The Volt came in at number 13, being beat by the likes of the combustion engine Smart ForTwo and Chevrolet Cruze Eco.  A large factor in the ratings system is a car's weight; the Volt is heavy so that brought it down in the rankings.  Also for the purpose of the rankings, ACEEE assumed the Volt was driven on plug-in electricity 64 percent of the time and on gasoline 36 percent of the time - and the gas-operated Volt does not get great fuel economy.  (Don't expect to see that in the ads!)  If you want to see the rest of the top greenest vehicles, you can check them out at http://greenercars.org/  ...  It looks like the Indian government is jumping on the hybrid bandwagon as part of an effort to protect the environment and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.  They plan to incentivize research and development for hybrids and promote manufacturing of hybrid vehicles within the country  ...  And Chicago is the latest city to be electrified for the purposes of autos.  280 electric vehicle charging stations in the city and suburbs - as well as new jobs - will reach the Windy City by the end of the year.  The city has signed a $1.9 million contract with California company, 350Green LLC, to roll out the charging stations. So if you live in Chicago and were thinking about an electric car or plug-in, sounds like the time is right ...

HYBRIDS' ELECTRIFYING RESALE VALUE

Thursday, February 3, 2011: If you've been thinking about making the switch to a hybrid and have been looking at the pros and cons when it comes to purchase price and fuel savings, put this in your "plus" column: Hybrids (as well as clean diesels) retain a greater percentage of their purchase price than do similar combustion engine vehicles. A Carnegie Mellon University study compared the Toyota Prius with the standard Toyota Camry sedan, among others, and the Prius came out ahead when it came to resale value. The researchers used auction data-provided by Manheim Auctions, a wholesale vehicle operator-for vehicles sold after three years of ownership ... After a relatively weak 2010, it looks like hybrid sales are on the upswing again, with gains of 12 percent compared to a year ago. And with gas prices continuing to rise, expectations are that sales will continue on the upswing ... We expect the White House plan to deploy one million advanced technology vehicles by 2015 - reiterated in President Obama's State of the Union address - will boost not only to hybrid sales but also straight EV sales. OK, all together now: "the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades." ...

RARE-EARTHLESS HYBRIDS?

Thursday, January 20, 2011: Heard about the controversy surrounding rare earth minerals? If you follow news about hybrids - or international trade, for that matter - you probably already have. Although the term "rare earth mineral" is widely regarded as a misnomer as the minerals are not necessarily rare (they just come from a limited number of places in the world), the world's largest supplier of minerals like neodymium - used to make magnets in an electric motor - and lanthanum - used in a hybrid battery - is China. So if China decides to block exports of these minerals to a country like Japan (or even just significantly jack up the prices for them), it can put a big crimp in the number of Priuses that can be manufactured. But Toyota says it is developing a "rare earth free" electric motor for hybrids. "The new motor Toyota is working on is based on the very common and inexpensive induction motor, found in such devices as kitchen mixers. Induction motors use electromagnets-magnets that only have their magnetic attraction when power is applied to them," according to the Wall Street Journal ... And in what could be an even better idea, Chrysler is teaming up with the EPA to develop a battery-less hybrid. How can you have a hybrid without a battery, you ask? The company plans to use a system that relies on pumped-up hydraulic fluid and has said they will launch the system in the Town & Country by the end of 2012. What's next ... personal jetpacks? Sign us up! ...

THE NEXT BIG THING: HYBRIDS FOR THE FAMILY

Thursday, January 13, 2011: Automakers usually pull a few rabbits out of their hats during the Detroit Auto show and this year has certainly been no exception.  One big news item is that hybrids are going to start getting more "family friendly."  Toyota has finally unveiled the Prius wagon, which has been hinted at for a while, along with a plug-in and compact sibling for the original Prius. And Ford announced that the company's first plug-in  hybrid will be the five-passenger 2012 C-Max, which will also be the first plug-in minivan from a major manufacturer. A traditional gas-electric hybrid C-Max will also be available in addition to the plug-in.  We may even see Chevy Volt technology make it into a minivan. And while we'd love to see a Subaru wagon hybrid since the company says they will be bringing a hybrid to market by 2013, we've heard their hybrid aspirations before and not seen results. Hopefully, other hybrid auto manufacturers will follow suit and we'll see more hybrid wagons and minivans in the coming years  ...  Will the newly announced Ford Focus Electric bring some real competition to the Nissan Leaf?  Competition is always good for the consumer so we certainly hope so.  The five-door hatchback will have a 100-mile range. Interestingly, Ford decided to introduce the new car at the Consumer Electronics Show instead of the Detroit Auto Show.  The addition of this electric car and the new C-Max hybrids should be music to the ears of automotive workers as Ford said they will be hiring 7,000 workers in the next few years to produce the vehicles ...

MYTHBUSTING: PLUG-IN ELECTRICS

Thursday, January 6, 2011: If "electrify my ride" is one of your new year's resolutions but you worry about reports that your utility bill will go up or that the U.S. electric grid can't handle the extra burden of electric cars, rest easy.  These and other myths are busted in a recent Mother Jones article.  For example, utilities have been beefing up the grid for years to prevent overload with the addition of electric car charging.  On the higher electric bill issue, the truth is that you will pay a bit more to charge your car but you will more than make up for it with the savings on gas  ...  And critics who say the extra cost of an electric car doesn't pay off in a short enough time may want to take a look at a new study from new Deutsche Bank.  They forecast that with the current pace of lithium ion battery cost reductions, by 2020 the additional expense of pure battery-powered electric vehicles will be paid back in three to four years, making them cost-effective even without the need for subsidies  ...  If you live in Pennsylvania and have been thinking about buying a hybrid or electric vehicle, you may soon be able to do so with half the sales tax.  "State Representative Joseph Preston Jr. (D-Allegheny) is planning to introduce legislation to cut the state sales tax from 6% to 3% on eco-friendly cars, down from 7% to 4% in Allegheny County and 8% to 4% in Philadelphia," according to WDUQ.  Preston plans to introduce it in the next Keystone State legislative session starting later this month.  We'll keep you updated ...

NO LUMP OF COAL FOR ELECTRIC CAR OWNERS

Tuesday, December 28, 2010: Good news as we head into 2011 for all of you would-be EV owners.  There's some new ammo you can use to fire back against the naysayers out there who argue that electric cars just transfer the pollution "from the tailpipe to the smokestack," referring to the energy electric vehicles would use that is derived from coal-fired power plants.  The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that electric battery cars are 30 to 40 percent cleaner than an average gasoline car in terms of carbon dioxide emissions -- even when coming from a heavily coal-dependent grid.  And it gets better:  The Environmental Protection Agency's new plan for greenhouse gas limits on coal-fired power plants will make the electricity used to charge up your EV battery even cleaner.  So, electric vehicles are still substantially better for the environment and they will just keep getting better in the near future as coal-fired power plants have to clean up their acts  ...  Ford is the latest to plan a boost to the MPG of its gasoline lineup by doing what is called "hybridizing" - adding technology usually found on its hybrid cars to its standard combustion engine vehicles.  The company announced plans to add start-stop technology - which turns off a car's engine when it comes to a stop - to its North American lineup by 2012.  The new Auto Start-Stop for gasoline vehicles can improve fuel economy by at least four percent and can go as high as a 10 percent improvement, depending on the size of the vehicles and usage.  Although it is unclear whether the feature will be offered standard in the U.S. or as an option, Ford's global rollout of hybridizing technology for gas-powered vehicles already has started in Europe ...

GM CEO: BITTER, PARTY OF ONE?

Thursday, December 16, 2010: In the course of begging the federal government to loosen the restrictions on executive pay, General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson branded the Toyota Prius a "geek-mobile." We have to wonder, and we're not the only ones, if Akerson remembers GM's EV-1. Perhaps he's just bitter that Toyota has sold more than two million Prius' worldwide, after GM unceremoniously killed the EV-1. And while Akerson attempted to insult the Prius in the course of promoting GM's Volt, was it really necessary? Also, as Toyota responded, two million buyers can't all be geeks. However, is being a geek such a bad thing? Many adults we know are proud to call themselves geeks. And if being a geek means owning a car the reduces emissions of the gases that cause global warming and also has the benefit of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we're all for it ... Is this a new, greener chapter for Russian motorists? Russia's first gas-electric hybrid car was rolled out earlier this week. The Yo can use either natural gas or gasoline to power its electric motor. Designers claim it will get about 67 miles per gallon, which would best the Prius, but at present, the Yo is intended for domestic sale in Russia. The Yo is the first product that will be produced out of a new Russian company called e-Auto, which is being created and funded by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The company plans to start sales in mid-2012 with three models, a "sporty" model, a sedan and a pickup ...

NO "FREE" CHARGING STATION FOR MOST LEAF OWNERS?

Thursday, December 9, 2010: If you ordered a Nissan Leaf but are not in one of the initial roll-out markets such as California and the installation of your charging station has been delayed, what happens if you try and get one of the federal government grants that will supply 15,000 free electric-car chargers?  That question has come up because the grant program expires on  December 31, 2010.  We contacted Nissan to ask how we could take advantage of the government grant program.  (This is after we had originally been told - incorrectly -- that a Nissan vendor would work with us over the last summer to install a charging station.)  It looks like, unless we can purchase and take delivery of a charging dock from a Nissan-approved third party manufacturer, have a private electrician install it, and successfully submit a federal grant application by December 31, we are out of luck on the "free" charging station.  Nissan says it may be a few months before we can get our charging station installed with them, although we are still slated to place our full Leaf order this month.  At least we'll still be able to get the $7500 tax credit.  Color us disappointed on the charger station delay that means we missed out on the federal grant  ...  Although not an official recall, we have to wonder about news that Toyota is volunteering to fix 650,000 of its popular Prius' worldwide due to an issue with its coolant pump that could cause the car to overheat and lose power.  On the surface, it seems to be a positive move by Toyota, which is  taking the initiative by making this fix without being required to do so by government entities.  But the car company has been plagued by recall-related problems with its vehicles for over a year now, some having to do with the Prius, and yet another problem can't help the company try and repair its reputation.  The Prius still remains popular due to its outstanding fuel economy though so we'll continue to watch how the company does ...  

THE U.S. VS. CHINA ELECTRIC RACE

Tuesday, November 30, 2010: Will the United States fall behind China in the race to develop advanced vehicles? China has announced plans to invest $17 billion in fuel economy,  hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric and fuel cell vehicles.  The country plans to produce 5 million "new energy" vehicles and 15 million fuel efficient conventional vehicles by 2020. In comparison, the U.S. has devoted more than $10 billion in loans and grants to boost electric, batteries and other advanced vehicles and plans to award another $16 billion more. Who will come out ahead?  The U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has warned that the U.S. could fall behind but is working hard to stay at the front  ...  Although we imagine they won't make it to U.S. shores, another automaker has announced plans to join the global hybrid car competition.  Malaysia's national car maker Proton will start a pilot run of its hybrid fleet this coming January in advance of plans for mass production in 2012. Testing of prototypes began two months ago in Britain and the vehicles are being developed in cooperation with British technology partner Fraser-Nash Research Ltd and South Korea's LG  ...  Although Audi has been hesitant to add hybrid and electric vehicles to its lineup in the past, it looks like the company has plans to jump with both feet in for the coming years.  The company has announced plans to offer a plug-in hybrid starting in 2014 and it will bring full-hybrid versions of the A8 and the Q5 to its lineup by the end of 2011 and the A6 by 2012.  The company has ambitious plans to have five percent of their lineup electric.  No doubt this is spurred by the new U.S. rules to have their fleet fuel economy reach 35.5 MPG by 2016 but whatever spurred it on, we're glad to see more and more alternative fuel vehicles enter the market ...

HONDA: "FIT" TO BE TIED WITH NISSAN LEAF?

Friday, November 19, 2010: We have been eagerly awaiting news about when the Honda Fit hybrid would make it to the U.S. but now it looks like the company is making an even bolder move.  An electric Fit will come to the U.S. in 2012.  The company has been hesitant to participate in the electric car market, although they were one of the first to enter the hybrid market with the original Insight.  They see hydrogen-powered cars as having a brighter future than all-electrics.  But Honda seems to have finally bowed to market pressure and will start road testing of the electric Fit next year before its launch.  They expect the electric car to have a 100-mile range but have not yet announced a price  ...  Once again, EPA's top 10 list of fuel efficient cars is dominated by hybrids - nine out of the top 10 are hybrids.  While many of the cars on the 2011 list are the same as 2010, there is one notable variation.  The new Honda CR-Z has ousted the popular Toyota Camry Hybrid from the list. The Toyota Prius held on to its top spot but now Honda has a larger number of vehicles on the list  ...  Thinking about an alternative fuel vehicles but confused about how to compare ownership costs? Since even the EPA is still working on how to calculate fuel economy and emissions information for vehicles like the all-electrics coming to market, it can be difficult to determine.  But a new online calculator may be able to help you decide if a hybrid, electric or diesel will work best for you. It uses information like where you live, how many miles you drive, and fuel costs in your area to decide which drivetrain will work best for you ...   

CALIFORNIA REAMING: MORE BAD NEWS FOR VOLT

Thursday, October 28, 2010: Another week, another batch of bad news for Volt:  On top of the recent acknowledgement  that the Volt isn't really an electric car but is more of a hybrid - which we've been saying for a while - now it looks like the Volt won't even qualify for the California carpool lanes.  The California Air Resources Board (CARB) does not have an EV mode so they only test cars when the engine is running.  Due to that factor, the Volt is classified as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV), which is a notch under the Toyota Prius, Volkswagen Jetta TDI and even the Honda Accord Sedan I4.  Unfortunately, this means either GM will need to tweak the car to meet the more stringent emissions standards or buyers looking to purchase a Volt to get them in the carpool lanes in California will be out of luck.  The car also won't qualify for a $5,000 state tax rebate and preferential parking  ...  Nissan has unveiled the latest hybrid addition to its lineup, known as the Fuga in Asia and the Infiniti M in the U.S. and Europe.  Although they claim it is the company's first foray into mass-produced hybrids, they do also currently offer the Altima hybrid. The Fuga will go on sale in Japan on November 2 but the Infiniti M launch date has not yet be set, although it is expected to be early next year.  Nissan says  it gets the equivalent of 45 MPG so we're interested to check it out when it gets here  ...  Although Honda has been slow to enter the electric car race, they will unveil a prototype of an electric car at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.  They will also show a new type of gas-electric hybrid engine. According to the Wall Street Journal, the delay to go electric is because " some of its executives have publicly expressed concerns that the cost of electric cars will be too high for most consumers, and the driving range too short." ...

CONGRESS GOES ELECTRIC

Friday, October 22, 2010: Are electric car charging stations coming to the U.S. Capitol? If Senator Carl Levin has his way, they are.  Who better to lead the way towards greener, electric cars than our lawmakers, right?  Levin was one of the first to order a 2011 Chevy Volt but doesn't have a garage at his Capitol Hill house.  He has a request in to the Architect of the Capitol to install charging stations in parking areas for federal lawmakers.  Users of the stations would have to pay for their own charge.  As the Detroit News points out: the "Energy Department has set aside millions of dollars to help install charging stations for new electric vehicle owners' homes and public stations," it makes sense for them to have at least one, if not more, available to members of Congress.  As electric and plug-in hybrid cars make it to market, we expect to see charging stations cropping up all over Washington  ...  With only a few months before plug-in cars go on sale, the EPA is still trying to figure out how to rate their fuel economy.  The New York Times notes: "Providing the customary city and highway miles-per-gallon information would make little sense for the Volt, which can drive 25 to 50 miles on battery power before its gas engine kicks on, and even less so for the Leaf, which is powered by only a rechargeable battery." At the moment, it looks like there will be multiple fuel economy figures on the sticker for the Volt.  One would be a MPG equivalency for when the car operates on battery power and the other would be a standard rating for the gas engine after the battery has been drained.  We'll be following this closely and report back ...

FINALLY THE TRUTH COMES OUT ABOUT THE VOLT ...

Thursday, October 14, 2010: We've been pointing this out for weeks now: if the Volt has a gas engine, how exactly can it be called an "electric car"? GM has been calling it a range-assisted electric car, originally saying that it would go for 40 miles solely on the electric battery, and then switch to the gas engine if needed before the next charge.  Now, it comes out that GM was stretching the truth a bit - and more than a bit.  The company is finally admitting that the Volt may use the gas engine to power the electric battery during periods of heavy acceleration.  This detail had apparently been kept secret due to its patent.  So if the car has and uses its gas engine, doesn't that make it just another hybrid?    Several news outlets have been asking the same question and Popular Mechanics and Edmunds, among others, say they consider the Volt to be a plug-in hybrid. A note to buyers: if you're looking for a plug-in hybrid, you might want to think about the Volt but for an all-electric, check out the Nissan Leaf  ...  Is the traffic getting to work giving you road rage? Does the stop and go traffic wreak havoc on your gas bill at the pump?  Maybe the self-driving Prius is for you.  While not a reality yet, Google recently road-tested one of these true "cars of the future, " which was "driven by an 'electric brain' powered by 'software, linked to GPS satellite navigation technology' and 'video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to 'see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead.'"  ...  One of the first products we'll see as a result of the Tesla-Toyota partnership was shown to dealers for the first time this past week: the RAV4 EV. Toyota plans to sell the lithium-ion battery powered electric compact SUV in the U.S. by 2012 ...

PRIUS TO BE IN A FAMILY WAY SOON?

Friday, October 8, 2010: We'd heard the rumors about different versions of the Prius coming to market, including a smaller, less expensive version to compete with the expected Honda Fit Hybrid. But it looks like we may see a Prius multi-passenger vehicle (MPV) first. Some spy and testing shots have surfaced and it looks like the size would be equivalent to the Mazda 5 or Kia Rondo - perfect for a family. There is speculation that this possible 7-seater could get 40 plus MPG, which would really shake up the competition in this size class. Since some shots appear to have been taken in California, we wonder also if we'll see the Prius MPV at the upcoming LA Auto Show. We'll be on the lookout ... Although we won't see them all here in the U.S., the Paris Auto Show shows that the largest competition right now is for dominance among hybrid and electric cars. Peugeot-Citroen, which does not offer vehicles in the U.S., says their diesel-electric hybrid - which they will show in a 4WD crossover getting 60 MPG - is the solution to have a car with power and low carbon emissions. On the other hand, Nissan-Renault is planning to launch four pure electrics in the next two years - a sedan, mini-car, city car and a light commercial van. And Toyota will rely on its well-tested standard gas-electric hybrid ...

USED HYBRIDS A REAL BUY NOW?

Thursday, September 30, 2010: If you've been thinking about buying a hybrid, now may be the best time to do so - as long as you buy used. According to Kelly Blue Book, several factors have combined to make now a great time to take the plunge and go green with a used hybrid. As is always true with buying used, you avoid the "drive-it-off-the-lot" hit you suffer when buying new. Additionally, new technology and improvements in gas vehicles - as with the Ford Fiesta and Chevy Cruze - are putting up MPG numbers competitive to the hybrids - although hybrids maintain the advantage on emissions. And lower gas prices have also caused downward pressure on the price asked for used hybrids ... Is the Honda Fit Hybrid ever going to get to U.S. shores? As we hear about it making an appearance in Japan and then in Europe, we're still waiting on word about when it will make the jump across the pond. Known as the Jazz in Europe, Motor Trend says if the Fit Hybrid came to the U.S., it would beat even the Prius on gas mileage, with a projected 53.3 MPG. We'll keep you updated if/when we hear more ....

HYBRID CAR OWNERSHIP: LUKE, IT IS YOUR DESTINY

Friday, September 24, 2010: Were you "born" to buy a hybrid? Sure, people who care about the environment are the obvious candidates to own one. But are there other reasons people have for their purchase? Believe it or not, your genetics may play a role in whether or not you buy a hybrid. A team of researchers from Stanford who studied consumer preferences found that certain purchasing behaviors have a genetic basis. Also motivated by genes: buying chocolate, mustard and sci-fi movies. (Feel free to insert your own Luke-it-IS-your-destiny joke here.) ... It may come as a surprise since Daimler AG is working cooperatively with Nissan-Renault on hybrid tech, but Toyota is in talks to supply Daimler AG with parts an technology for a hybrid vehicle. If the deal proceeds, Daimler would be the fourth automaker to benefit from Toyota's hybrid tech, following Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. Sharing of hybrid technology will help expand the available number of hybrids sold and hopefully bring down the purchase costs since each automaker will not have to develop their own hybrids from scratch ... Is it really possible that California could have one million plug-in vehicles on the roads by 2020? If so, it will be great news for the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and other electrics and hybrids planned for the next few years. By 2018, the state plans to require auto-makers to produce large numbers of zero-emissions vehicles and they plan to have the infrastructure updated to handle all the plug-ins by 2020. Going from 200,000 hybrids to one million plug-ins will be a challenge but of anyone can do it, California can ...

HOW MUCH TO "FILL UP" YOUR ELECTRIC CAR?

Friday, September 10, 2010: A big question many potential purchasers of electric cars wonder is how much it will add to their electric bill to charge an electric car.  It is clear "filling up" an electric car will cost significantly less than it does for a gasoline-fueled engine.  If you want to do some comparison pricing to see just how an electric would compare to what you spend on gas, a new tool is being offered by Southern California Edison.  While the pricing applies mainly for Californians, others can get a general idea as well.  "The site, at sce.com/pev, prompts users to enter information such as location, daily power usage, type of hybrid car they plan to get and time of day they plan to charge it, and then calculates an estimated cost for an average month's worth of electricity - and how it compares to gasoline," according to the Orange County Register ... Tennessee is the latest of a group of states offering tax rebates to the first purchasers of electric vehicles. It will offer a $2,500 rebate to the first 1,000 buyers of electric vehicles sold in the state and the rebate can be combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit for electrics.  Since Tennessee is one of the first states to get the Nissan Leaf and an assembly line and battery plant for the Leaf will be in the state, it make a lot of sense.  Other states that will get electric vehicles early are also offering tax rebates, including California, which has a $5,000 tax rebate for residents who buy a battery, electric or plug-in hybrid car, Georgia, which offers a $5,000 tax credit, and Oregon, which has a $1,500 tax credit ... We're used to computer processing memory doubling every two years but an I.B.M. scientist advises consumers not to expect the same from electric car batteries.  It turns out lithium ion, considered the best battery storage for electric cars today, has remained essentially same since 2003.  All is not lost, though. I.B.M.'s Battery 500 project, out of the Almaden Research Center of I.B.M. in San Jose, Calif., is trying to develop a new battery technology called lithium air that could allow a car to go 500 miles on a single charge. Since most electric cars coming onto the market this year have a range of around 100 miles, this would be a significant gain.  Let's hope their R&D pays off with big results ...

THE DUCK SOUP EFFECT: 300 MPG

Thursday, September 2, 2010: We came across an item about a new 300 MPG car design and were reminded of the famous Groucho Marx joke from the movie "Duck Soup":   "Why, a four year old child could understand this. Run out and get me a four year old child, I can't make head or tail out of it." It turns out that the latest high-mileage, zero-emission vehicle not only gets 300 MPG - an impressive feat - but wasn't designed by the engineering students or industry experts in Japan, Detroit or Germany.  The high school students in Kansas City, Missouri who conceived of and delivered the 300 MPG electric car have even applied to Guinness World Records for their achievement. "The students' electric car consists of a chassis from the 2000 Lola Indy, an ultra light-weight aerodynamic body and Bridgestone Ecopia EP100 tires, and a high-end electric propulsion system specially designed for the vehicle ... With a test run showing the vehicle got around 300 mpg, the students are looking for a suitable automaker who can turn the project into a full-scale commercial entity ..." according to MyFoxDC.com ... It's official!  We reported a few weeks ago on a proposed California law which would create a new HOV sticker program for electric cars and extend carpool lane privileges that currently exist for hybrids.  California Governor Schwarzenegger has now signed it into law. The new sticker program for up to 40,000 vehicles includes all electric cars - and also hydrogen fuel cell cars and plug-in hybrids.  It will run through 2015.  The 85,000 hybrid-electric owners who currently have stickers will have privileges extended another six months ...   Boston's Logan airport is has had to increase the number of spots available for hybrids as part of its clean vehicle program.  Logan started out by offering 100 special spots for hybrid owners two years ago and has had to increase that to 160 spots. Hybrid drivers at Chicago's Midway airport and Los Angeles LAX also get benefits along the same lines. Let's hope this trend spreads across the country ...

CAN A MILLION CHINA HYBRIDS BE WRONG?

Friday, August 27, 2010: China has not historically been at the forefront of the green movement. However, a major new effort to put more than a million hybrid and electric vehicles on the roads is part of a real sea change for the country. As part of the China's plan to become a world leader in green technology, a group of 16 big state-owned companies has agreed to form an alliance to do research and development, and create standards for electric and hybrid vehicles. If reports that the companies will invest the equivalent of $15 billion in the endeavor are true, that " ...would make it one of the world's most ambitious attempts to develop more energy-efficient vehicles." In the U.S., President Obama had pledged to bring a million hybrid and electric cars to highways by 2015 a while back. He pushed a $2.4 billion grant program to develop next-generation batteries, which could lead to 500,000 batteries a year by late 2014 and his administration has passed tough fuel economy regulations, partly to encourage automakers to produce more hybrid and electric vehicles. With any luck, the combined effect of the Chinese and U.S. efforts will lead to some real breakthroughs on the hybrid/all-electric vehicle front ... More "Fusion" for the NYPD? NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a major proponent of hybrid and electric cars as part of the city's push to go green. The NYPD recently deployed 30 of 102 Ford Fusion hybrids for use as marked patrol cars. The Fusion's join the city's fleet of 76 Nissan Altima hybrids, which were the first hybrids to join the patrol car ranks in April 2009. Alternative fuel vehicles now account for 400 of the NYPD's fleet of 3,000 vehicles ...

SNAFU FOR HONDA?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010: If you are one of the 90,000 owners of a 2006-2008 Honda Civic Hybrid, make sure you hightail it to your dealership!  Honda has issued a "technical service bulletin" regarding a software flaw that can cause the Civic Hybrid batteries to wear out sooner than expected. The company hasn't confirmed whether the flaw actually caused any of the vehicles in the U.S. to fail but did say the software modification affects how the battery is used and won't reduce fuel economy for the compact sedans ... A popular program in California for hybrid cars may have new wind in its sails.  And a new one for plug-in and electric cars could provide the extra push buyers need to purchase these super green vehicles.  A proposal has been sent to desk of the "Governator" that would extend through mid-2011 carpool lane privileges for the 85,000 hybrid vehicles enrolled in an early incentive program and create a new sticker program for up to 40,000 PHEV and all-electric vehicles to run through 2015. The current hybrid stickers permission to use carpool lanes is currently set to expire in January 2011.  We're not sure why the program would only be extended six months - especially since Cali is widely recognized as one of the most progressive states on green policy - but at least it's a start.  Hopefully, the state will realize anything that encourages use not only of electric vehicles but also hybrids will go a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially the smog in LA! ... Although it is unclear whether the Honda Fit Hybrid will come to the U.S., the vehicle will already have some stiff competition overseas.  Toyota is planning a hybrid smaller than the Prius that could be priced under $18,000. Honda has announced the pricing for the Japanese launch of the Fit Hybrid this October will be the equivalent of $18,600.  If the Fit Hybrid is coming to the U.S., we'll surely let you know but for now, the hybrid subcompact competition is heating up overseas ...

HIGH MPG IN THE DUMPS?

Thursday, August 5, 2010: Your friendly neighborhood garbage truck stinks.  At least it used to ...  both in terms of poor gas mileage (less than 5 MPG!) and dirty diesel emissions.  That's all changing.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio-based Eaton Corporation developed a system called "hydraulic hybrid", which is now being tested in several cities.  The new system increases fuel economy up to 30 percent and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent or more in heavy-duty truck applications. UPS is also testing a variation of the design in some of its trucks.  Soon the only thing that stinks in this process may be your garbage itself!  ...  Following in the footsteps of Toyota, which recently announced a partnership with smaller electric car company Tesla, General Motors has invested in a hybrid auto maker called Bright Automotive. Bright Automotive, which was spun out of the Rocky Mountain Institute, plans to develop lightweight plug-in hybrids and utility vehicles. The company will get access to GM's technologies but plans to focus on weight, wind resistance and materials in its designs.  The relationship will also likely accelerate launch of a Bright vehicle, which may now appear in 2012 instead of a year later  ...  The price difference between the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt is already pretty stark but will dealer markups on the Volt drive an even larger wedge?  Since production on the volt is limited at first, it sounds like some dealers may be planning huge markups for the Volt.  Here's hoping the GM does not turn the Volt into the E(lectric)dsel! ...  

VOLT VERSUS LEAF: FIXED FIGHT?

Thursday, July 29, 2010: Everyone seems to want to compare the Volt and the Leaf.  But does that really make sense?  How can you have a "battle of the electric cars" with only one electric car in the match?  The Leaf is all electric; the Volt is not.  The Leaf is reported to be good for 100 miles fully charged; the Volt's electric battery can propel it for 40 miles.  After that, it switches to gas. And TheTruthAboutCars.com points out, the Volt's gas engine requires pricey premium unleaded.  And there's another big difference.  Chevrolet unveiled the price tag for the Volt and we find ourselves asking: Can the $41,000 Volt really compete with the $33,000 Leaf?  Seems like this fight is for PR purposes only.  It's really a case of fighters in two completely different weight classes  ...  Following the concept we mentioned last week of hybrids approaching the same cost as their gas counterparts, it looks like a trend may be emerging.  Ford announced this week that it will price its 2011 Lincoln MKZ hybrid the same as its gas counterpart.  Although some hybrids still have a much higher price tag than their gas twin, like the Mercury Mariner with a $6,100 price differential, other hybrid-gas twins are very close in cost.  The Toyota Camry only has a $515 price difference and the Cadillac Escalade hybrid only outpaces the gas version by $148. We'll let you know how this trend develops ...

CHEAPEST MERCEDES IS A ... HYBRID?

Friday, July 23, 2010: The least expensive S-Class Mercedes you can get is now a ... wait for it ... hybrid?  Who woulda thunk.  Not only that, it's also the most fuel efficient.  We've certainly been scratching our heads as hybrids are usually more expensive that their gas counterparts but perhaps this is a sign of a sea change. While the $88,825 S400 Hybrid is by no means the least expensive hybrid on the market, we've always said as demand for hybrids increased and production along with it, the components would come down in price.  So if you like the luxury that Mercedes provides and want to be a bit greener, perhaps this car is for you  ...  It may have been this first to offer a mass market hybrid, but will the new, planned hybrid and electric offerings from Honda truly compete with the likes of the Nissan Leaf (among others)?  The main competition would be an all electric which would launch in 2012, which is also when Toyota plans to launch its own all-electric. The Civic will also get a new, lithium ion battery for its 2011 model ...  We've mentioned the Tesla-Toyota partnership before but it looks like the first concrete product of their partnership will show up later this year.  Tesla will be producing electric RAV4's for Toyota. The electric RAV4 was first produced by the automaker in the 1990s as a competitor to the EV1 (wow, how long ago does that seem), but was discontinued.  But the more competition the better and any entries to the hybrid SUV space are welcome ... 

LEAF-ING US HANGING?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010: We've been eagerly awaiting further details about the next stage in the delivery process of our pre-ordered Nissan Leaf but it looks like the company has hit a snag. While some lucky folks in the early roll-out states like California and Oregon, where the company was able to form cooperative partnerships with the state, municipality, utility company or others, have scheduled their home inspections for potential electric car charging station installation, we're among those who got a vague email from Nissan saying they are working out details of the ordering process and we'd hear back "later this summer."  We're guessing they were not prepared for the huge level of interest they have had.  Hopefully, the company will get the situation resolved quickly but we'll keep you updated ...  Interesting: Washington state is planning to turns its Interstate 5 into part of the "West Coast Green Highway," joining Oregon, California and British Columbia in plans to make the entirety of I-5 into a green highway with recharging stations and alternative fuel stations along the length of the 1,350-mile road.  According to the New York Times, "Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington announced that the state would install electric car charging stations along the length of Interstate 5 so that electric car owners would be able to drive not just around town, but the full 276 miles from its border with Canada to its border with Oregon. The stations are to be financed by $1.3 million in federal stimulus money. The goal is to place public-access electric vehicle fast-charge stations every 40 to 60 miles by the end of 2010." Sounds good to us ...  

TESLA'S IPO DEBUT ELECTRIFIES WALL STREET

Friday, July 2, 2010: If you have been following the Tesla's financial news, you saw how well the company did this week. The electric car company's initial public offering (IPO) climbed as high as 41 percent over the initial asking price. Even in the midst of the overall market slump, investors are clearly excited about the future of electric cars. The initial public stock offering from Tesla is the first IPO for an auto company since Ford went public in 1956. And some experts, including Marketwatch, are saying Tesla stock is a good buy: "... yesterday's IPO performance proves Tesla is tailor-made for this kind of overcast environment on Wall Street. This electric vehicle company is a cleantech innovator -- a stock I call a 'game changer' that has what it takes to succeed despite a particularly volatile environment on Wall Street right now." In addition to their current offering - the Roadster - the company plans to use the funds raised in the IPO to produce a 5-passenger sedan - the more affordable "Model S" - for 2012 and to expand overall production. The company's success also should be welcome by those who have supported the green vehicles: "The outcome, indirectly, amounts to a small measure of private-sector validation for Congress and the Obama administration, which has invested billions of government dollars in electric-car technology, including a $465 million loan commitment to Tesla." ... Is the U.S lagging in providing the infrastructure needed for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles to succeed? Both Israel and the U.K., among others, are in the process of updating their infrastructure to be more electric-friendly. In order to allow for the success of these environmentally-friendly vehicles, Michael Valocchi, the global energy and utilities industry leader for IBM Global Business Services suggests some things that need to be done ...

NISSAN: CONQUEST-LEAF-ADOR?

Friday, June 25, 2010: Ever heard the term "conquest sales"? We hadn't either. We were interested to learn that a "conquest sale" is when a car company steals a customer away from a competitor - such as Nissan poaching a current Prius owner or likely Prius buyer.  It turns out that was Nissan's goal with the electric Leaf - and it seems to be working.  Of the 14,000 pre-orders they have had for the their eagerly-awaited electric car, 90 percent will be conquest sales. We are on the Leaf pre-order list and can't wait to get ours.   But we haven't decided what we'll be doing with our Prius once the Leaf arrives.  Would it be a "double conquest" if we bought the new Leaf instead of a new Prius and then ditched our old Prius in the bargain?  ...  We're happy to see that a few, smaller U.S.-based companies have taken cues from the electric car maker Tesla and are getting into the action.   California-based Coda Automotive plans to start selling its all-electric sedans this summer with delivery to start late in the year. And another California-based company - Phoenix Motorcars - plans to sell what may be the first electric pickup truck - although they call it a SUT (sport utility truck). And across the pond in the UK,  sports car enthusiasts who want to go green should be excited about the Lightning, which could end up being some serious competition for the Tesla Roadster when it comes to the U.S. Not as sexy as its curves: its projected price point of around $180,000 would put it about $50,000 higher than the Tesla ...

HOW MANY PRIUSES EQUAL AN OIL SPILL?

Thursday, June 17, 2010: Here is an interesting way to put the Gulf Oil Spill in perspective: How many Priuses would it take to offset the spill?  TheCarConnection asked this question and we can't say the answer surprised us. "If the average U.S. car drives 10,000 miles a year at 25 miles per gallon (to make the math easy), then the 50-MPG 2010 Toyota Prius saves 200 gallons of gasoline per year. Or 0.55 gallons per day. So you'd have to sell 912,500 Priuses--each of them saving a little over half a gallon of gasoline a day--to offset the loss of half a million gallons every day." Now for the rest of the math.  An estimate from the Washington Post said one million barrels of oil have been escaping from the well each day.  One gallon of unrefined light crude produces one-half gallon of gas.  So that means we'd need to save 500,000 gallons of gas a day. One problem?  Toyota is only able to produce 500,000 Priuses a year right now because of constraints in the supply of battery materials ... It's official!  Volkswagen will add a hybrid version of the Jetta to its lineup in 2012. We'd reported back in January that the Jetta was one of the cars that VW would make hybrid but didn't not have details. And VW said in May that the Golf would have a hybrid version by 2013.  VW's first hybrid to market will be the Toureg Hybrid SUV, which will be available later this year. It is expected the Jetta Hybrid will cost in the low-to-mid $20,000 range and get gas mileage in the mid-40 MPG range. And HybridCars.com points out: "It will represent the first time an automaker stacks up a hybrid and clean diesel option in a cost-competitive model." ...

CHARGE YOUR E-CAR FOR FREE?

Thursday, June 10, 2010: Consumers in select cities will benefit from a program sponsored by charger-maker Coulomb Technologies to install electric-car chargers.  The program, ChargePoint America, will offer the first 4,600 chargers in the program for free.  Both private individuals and cities will have access to the new public charging stations. Lucky residents in nine cities who are interested in electric vehicle ownership will be the primary beneficiaries here: Austin, Texas; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando; Sacramento, Calif.; the San Jose/San Francisco Bay area; Redmond, Wash.; and Washington, D.C. ... Hybrid sales are on the upswing, as evidenced by an almost 20 percent increase in sales in May over the previous month.  In addition, hybrid sales outpaced those of the overall vehicles market, which stood at just over 12 percent.  Buyers did not seem put-off by Toyota's recent woes, as 73 percent of the hybrid sales were for Toyota vehicles (51 percent for the Prius).  And sales of the Ford Fusion increased 64 percent, putting the manufacturer in the number two spot for hybrid sales ... Will a zero emissions taxi take you where you need to go for the London Olympics in 2012?  It's possible.  According to The Engineer: "London's Deputy Mayor for Policing Kit Malthouse, who chairs the London Hydrogen Partnership, announced that a fleet of up to 20 of these cabs will be on the streets by 2012. This falls into line with Mayor Boris Johnson's call for zero emissions from all London taxis by 2020." Now we just need to get a few to be brought across the pond to the U.S. ...

WHAT'S WITH THE TESLA-TOYOTA DEAL?

Friday, June 4, 2010: Some analysts are scratching their heads but it looks like there are benefits for both companies to the recently announced Tesla-Toyota partnership.  It's clear what Tesla gets - a $50 million influx of cash and an opportunity to be a volume carmarker.  Some think the benefits to Toyota are less clear but one seems obvious: reputation.  Nissan has seen a huge success surrounding the launch of the Leaf while Toyota has been dealing with the PR problems surrounding their recalls.  Tesla has the positive buzz to help Toyota. Either way, the partnership is a step forward for electric cars and that is good to see ... Aptly named the "Electrification Coalition",  members of the U.S. House and Senate have introduced a $11 billion package to create communities to jump start the electric drive revolution.  There are still many differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill though so it is unclear when the Act may be finalized ... California-based car company Fisker plans to build 100 of its luxury plug-in hybrid sports car, the Karma, this year and will go into mass production next February.  We'd reported back in January that Fisker had obtained enough private-equity funding to quality for federal loans to develop plug-in hybrid cars and it appears it is being put to good use ...

HYBRIDS: SILENT BUT "DEADLY" NO MORE?

Thursday, May 20, 2010: Not sure there's one documented case of a real problem out there with hybrids being so quiet, but we see that a "fix" is coming all the same.   We may soon see regulations requiring the addition of noise to hybrid cars traveling at slow speeds as part of an auto safety bill making its way through Congress.  Automakers have agreed to add noise to hybrids operating at slower speeds in order to alert pedestrians - particularly the blind - about the presence of the vehicle.   (Again, interesting hypothetical problem - but not sure it's ever actually unfolded in the real world.)  The requirement to add this noise to hybrid cars would be added to the Motor Safety Act of 2010 along with other new auto safety rules. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be responsible for writing the new standards  ...  Not only is BMW adding a 5-Series hybrid  and possibly a 3-Series hybrid to the 7-Series currently offered, but they're also testing out electric cars.  The electric Mini E's will head to France and China this year for use in fleets.  The first electric BMW in series production will be the "subbranded" MegaCity Vehicle in 2013. The urban car will run on lithium ion batteries that BMW claims will be sustainable throughout its lifecycle ... Maybe the U.S. should look more closely at Japan if we want to really encourage sales of hybrids.  As reported by Hybridcars.com, R.L. Polk says that "hybrid sales in Japan for the first two months of 2010 were 72,191 units-more than double hybrid sales in the United States."  Japan has been offering major incentives for purchases of hybrids cars  while the U.S. has been phasing them out.  We ask again - does that make any sense? ...

HYDROGEN NEARLY READY FOR PRIME TIME?

Friday, May 14, 2010: With Toyota's announcement this week that they expect to price their first mass-market hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle at $50,000, it's starting to look like a tiny bit as though hydrogen is edging closer to the mass market. This price reflects cost cuts of about 90 percent since the mid 2000s, according to the company.  The car would have zero emissions and the range and refueling time of a gas-powered vehicle.  Bloomberg also reports: "Toyota, General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co., Daimler AG and Hyundai Motor Co. have all said they will be ready to sell fuel-cell vehicles to retail customers by about 2015."  And in Hawaii, which is always looking for eco-friendly transportation options and has some of the highest gas prices in the country, General Motors is testing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. There are benefits and minuses to the technology, as expected, but the largest hurdle is development of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.  A fun note in this neighborhood:  A new all-time record - 11,516 MPG was set at the Shell Eco-marathon recently by a hydrogen fuel-cell car  ...  As we enter the beginning of the electric and plug-in hybrid making it to market, it looks like the technology for charging is keeping up.  Nissan has a California company ready to install home charging station for customers who buy the Leaf. Nissan and GE are working together and Ford is collaborating with Microsoft on R&D for "smart charging," where people schedule the ideal time to plug in their cars to reduce strain on the energy grid. Companies around the world - including some in the U.S. located in California and Virginia, are working on developing fast charging stations, where an EV can charge in 30 minutes or less.  And Frost & Sullivan estimates that more than 80 percent of electric vehicles sold by 2015 will have systems allowing the driver to locate the next charging station on their route and to book charging time ... Luxury automaker Jaguar Land Rover is the next to throw its hat in the hybrid ring.  The company is developing hybrids which will go to market in 2013-2014.  A part-electric Land Rover is planned for 2013, with Jaguar vehicles to follow ...

YAH-VOLT! GERMANY GOES IN BIG FOR ELECTRIC CARS

Thursday, May 6, 2010: In a move reminiscent of President Obama's goal of putting one millions plug-in hybrids on U.S. roads by 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched a plan this week to put one million electric cars on German roads by 2020. With cooperation from German automakers and energy companies, Merkel has stated the goal is to have one in 45 vehicles in Germany be electric within 10 years. In response, Volkswagen has announced plans to launch an all-electric Golf by 2013. They unveiled the Golf Blue e-motion concept this week at a summit meeting on EVs. The production version will have113-horsepower electric motor with an 87-mph top speed and a 93-mile driving range ... An issue with widespread expansion of electric vehicles in the U.S. has been the addition of readily-available charging stations. It sounds like Austria may have a great idea on that front. Telekom Austria has decided to turn public telephone boxes into charging stations for electric cars. Since mobile phones have largely made pay phones obsolete in the U.S., as has happened around the world, we'd like to hear of a similar plan from a major telecommunications provider in the U.S. Any takers? ... Do you live in or near the mountains and want to buy a Chevy Volt? Are you concerned the electric car won't be able to handle the incline? Have no fear! Chevrolet has announced the Volt will have a mountain mode, in addition to the normal and port mode. According to CNET: "Mountain mode, which will be selected by the driver, is essentially a cue to the car to start storing up extra energy in the battery." Sounds good to us! ...

CHINA: NEXT KING OF THE HYBRID HILL?

Thursday, April 29, 2010: The U.S. leads in sales of hybrid and electric vehicles and likely will continue to do so in the immediate future. However, several car companies are already looking toward China with development and production of hybrid and electric vehicles. Analysts believe interest is limited in China at present for hybrid and electric cars and predict such vehicles will achieve up to a 30 percent market share in the U.S. by 2030. Still, auto companies are not taking China for granted; Toyota has announced plans to test launch its plug-in hybrid and Nissan plans to sell hundreds of its Leaf electric car in China. At the recent Auto China 2010 show, GM unveiled a mini-van version of its Chevy Volt electric model, and announced it would begin selling the "saloon" version in China. China recently topped the U.S. in auto sales and gas emission regulations are expected to become stricter in the country so it makes sense for the automakers to renew their focus on high MPG, low emission vehicles. But will the lower level of interest continue? We expect if China increases its focus on the environment and offers tax incentives, as the U.S. has done, the hybrid and electric market will grow ... It looks like the NYPD is taking cues from the Obama Administration. The New York City Police Department has announced plans to add 200 hybrids to their fleet in 2010. The department already has a fleet of 200 hybrids so this will double the number. The new hybrids will be Ford Fusion and Ford Escape Hybrids and will start arriving as soon as they are outfitted for law enforcement use ... An update to our comments about the Nissan Leaf registration last week: we called and were able to easily place our reservation for a sporty red SL with a helpful agent after the initial hiccups. Now we just have to look forward to Nissan conducting a home assessment to provide us with a written estimate of what it will cost to get our house's 220-volt outlet ready. We're excited to see how the rest of the process goes ...

LEAFING CUSTOMERS OUT IN THE COLD?

Thursday, April 22, 2010: If you've been salivating at the prospect of making your reservation for the new Nissan Leaf, it looks like you'll have to wait a bit longer. Nissan flubbed it as  several glitches cropped up in its registration system, which opened (theoretically!) on April 20th.  First among the problems:  Many customers on the pre-interest list never even got the email about registration being opened - and we were among the many who were left out in the cold by Nissan.  Once we found out about the availability of the $99 refundable registration through other means, we were among the those who jumped on it ... and then found that the registration system was no longer available.  It sounds like the level of traffic might have been an issue - apparently the system could not handle so many people trying to register at one time. Considering that 115,000 people were on the pre-interest list, you'd think Nissan would have planned for the rush.  Not a very encouraging start!  However, it is good to see so much interest in the all-electric car.  We hear that we will have to wait until May 15 to make our delayed reservation ... Is a natural gas hybrid the next step in hybrid evolution? If the collaborative effort among American Public Gas Association (APGA), NGVAmerica, and Hybrid Kinetic Motors Corporation (HK Motors) succeeds, we'll see a mass-produced light duty hybrid roll off an Alabama assembly line starting in 2013 ...

WHAT'S RUSSIAN FOR "HYBRID"?

Friday, April 16, 2010: While we can't say we expected it, with the popularity of the hybrid rising as a way to reduce global warming, it was only a matter of time.  Russia is the latest country to announce their entry in to the hybrid race.  Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is investing 150 million euros ($204 million) in a joint venture with Russian truck maker Yarovit to produce hybrid electric vehicles.  They plan to unveil three electric-vehicle prototypes by the end of the year, with a hybrid being the first vehicle entering production.  The company expects to break even once production begins ... Although not the first Chinese company on the hybrid scene, SAIC, China's largest automaker, has announced plans to roll out its first self-developed hybrid car this year.  The company plans to follow with a plug-in hybrid car in 2012.  Chinese car company BYD has already rolled out its first mass-produced plug-in hybrid in China in December 2008 so SAIC is a bit late to the game.  But SAIC's size and the fact that it operates a manufacturing venture with General Motors and Volkswagen AG may make for a staunch competitor to BYD ... Automakers are pressing the government for more subsidies to spur sales of electric vehicles. We've made the point here before that it's crazy to allow hybrid tax breaks to expire when the government is trying to spur people to drive more highly fuel-efficient vehicles and decrease emissions.  The industry is saying that, in order to meet President Obama's goal of putting 1 million electric of plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015, more money needs to go to things like "tax credits for homeowners to install electrical outlets, more money to build public charging stations, and additional tax incentives for battery makers and car buyers."  We agree!  

NO PHEV FOR POTUS?

Thursday, April 8, 2010: As much as he might want one, the presidential limo will not be a plug-in electric car ... or even an "old fashioned" hybrid, for that matter.  Responding in a town hall in North Carolina last week, President Obama said that, upon taking office, he asked if the Presidential limo could be a hybrid.  The Secret Service had to say no because the armor-plated limo is twice as heavy as a normal limo and a hybrid powertrain would just not handle the extra weight. But President Obama does have experience with hybrids - before being elected he was driving a Ford Escape Hybrid. Plus, as we reported last week, the president significantly increased the number of hybrids in the U.S. federal fleet with an order for 5,600 hybrids  ...  Will Honda be offering a plug-in option to compete with the Chevy Volt?  Rumors are swirling that the next Accord will have a plug-in option. The new plug-in drive may also have the ability to be fitted to larger vehicles, like SUVs.  We'll follow the whispers on this and keep you updated  ...  When the Kia Optima Hybrid appears next year, will it steal the title of cost-effective hybrid sedan from the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid?  It's clear Kia is gunning for the Sonata even with its regular gas platform as the powerplant options are the same. Although pricing has not been announced for the hybrid, Kia's vehicle lineup is already less expensive than that of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ...

MAZDA CLONES THE PRIUS

Thursday, April 1, 2010: In a deal that moves Mazda even further away from previous one-third owner Ford, the company has announced it will introduce a midsize hybrid by 2013 based on hybrid components from Toyota.  The deal will help Toyota lower production costs since they will be producing larger amounts of hybrid parts.   And the move will get Mazda into the hybrid sedan market sooner than if it had to develop the tech on their own.  Reuters notes: "... Mazda will be the first company outside the Toyota group to receive large-scale supplies of such core components."  Mazda already uses Ford's hybrid technology in the Tribute hybrid so it is interesting that they would make the move to Toyota for this sedan. Mazda explains it is because the car will be produced in Japan and procuring components is easier and quicker from a domestic supplier ... Part of the Obama Administration push for lower greenhouse gas emissions through higher MPG and alternative fuel vehicles is being fulfilled this week.  President Obama announced the federal government will more than double its hybrid fleet with an order for 5,600 hybrids. The government also plans to add 100 Chevrolet Volts next year ... The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's fuel economy number looks as good as we thought they would, with a combined 38 MPG fuel economy.  We were excited to hear in February about the Sonata joining the hybrid race; the new car finally made its appearance at the New York Auto Show this past week ...

HONDA MAKES ITS MOVE ON PUMMELED PRIUS

Thursday, March 25, 2010: With sales up almost 13 percent in February and expected to continue at a good pace in the near term, Honda continues to plan ways to take over Toyota's lead in the hybrid market while Toyota is hurting from numerous recalls. Honda is already offering aggressive lease deals to entice customers away from Toyota. The next step: Honda plans to introduce lithium-ion batteries in two-three years in its Civic hybrid. We reported last week that orders for the new CR-Z hybrid in Japan were over 8,000 but this week, the company reported they're now over 10,000. Will all Honda's maneuvering put them on top? We will be watching closely ... Lexus is bringing the first-ever luxury compact hybrid to the U.S. in 2011. Consumers can check out the Lexus CT200h U.S. debut at the New York International Auto Show from March 31-April 11. For the green driver, the car "comes with an ECO driving indicator that illuminates when the vehicle is being driven in an environmentally sensible manner." But we think it's cool that you can also pick one of four driving modes - normal, eco, sport and EV - depending on your needs ... Although Nissan expects most customers to lease rather than buy battery packs for their vehicles, the company's North American unit decided against battery pack leases in the U.S. for their Leaf electric car. Seems like a bad move for U.S. consumers; we are looking into it ...

DUMBED-DOWN HYBRID TECHNOLOGY?

Friday, March 19, 2010: Not sure what we think about so-called "micro-hybrids".  By adding a few features found on traditional hybrids, but not the whole powertrain, conventional cars can see an increase of 3-8 percent in fuel.  The so-called micro-hybrids incorporate features such as the start-stop technology found in most hybrids, which shuts down the engine when a car is at a stoplight and then restarts it when the driver lifts his or her foot from the brake pedal.  Several automakers are already using the technology in Europe -- including BMW, Mazda and Mercedes-Benz -- but the micro-hybrids have yet to make it to U.S. shores.  More MPG is nice, but what about cutting down more directly on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as regular hybrids do?   Maybe "faux hybrids" is a more descriptive name for this new trend  ... Will the Honda CR-Z hybrid be another car whose sales will benefit from Toyota's woes?  Although the car won't be available in the U.S. until this summer, orders for the CR-Z hybrid in Japan, which only went on the market three weeks ago, have far exceeded the company's expectations. Reuters reports: "Honda Motor Co said on Tuesday it had received about 8,000 orders for the CR-Z sporty hybrid car in Japan after less than three weeks on the market, or eight times the monthly sales target of 1,000 units." ... Although it's hurting due to the economic downturn, California has not lost its dedication when it comes to the environment. Golden State residents interested in buying an electric car can get a $5,000 rebate ... at least until the $4.1 million for the program runs out.  The rebate does not apply to conventional hybrids; it's only good for plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars, such as the soon-to-arrive Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt ...

LEAF BEATS VOLT?

Thursday, March 11, 2010: Will the Nissan Leaf beat out the Chevy Volt in the battle of the electrics? Signs point to yes.  Nissan is reporting that 71,000 people have already expressed interest in the Leaf through their Web site.   (Full disclosure:  We're one of them!)   Nissan will start taking reservations in April, when consumers can pay a $99 refundable fee to get first priority when the company starts taking orders in August before the electric car arrives in December ... New reports this week about unintentional acceleration by more than one Toyota Prius have to make you wonder if yet another recall is inevitable.  How will these new reports affect sales of what is currently the most popular hybrid in the world?  Earlier Toyota recalls, including one for the 2010 Prius, have already put a damper on February sales  ... BYD, the Chinese auto company, which unveiled its e6 electric crossover at the Detroit auto show in January and said it planned to sell the car in the U.S. later in the year, may build an assembly plant in the U.S. The company may also open a North American headquarters in Los Angeles  ...

WILL TOYOTA HYBRID SUV BEST FORD?

Friday, March 5, 2010: Will Toyota beat the Ford Escape Hybrid in MPG? Toyota has finally announced plans to release a hybrid version of the RAV4. The larger Highlander Hybrid gets 27 MPG city and 25 MPG highway so it is assumed the smaller RAV4 will get over 30 MPG. But the question is ... how much over 30 MPG? The Ford Escape Hybrid currently holds the best fuel economy numbers for its size class at 34 MPG highway and 31 city. The RAV4 Hybrid will be available in spring 2012. If it's top in MPG, it could be a real shot in the arm for recall-plagued Toyota ... Thinking about going hybrid or electric? You'll want to know the current status of federal tax breaks. You have until March 31 to get a Ford or Mercury hybrid and still get a tax break before their credit expires, as it already has gone bye-bye for Honda and Toyota. Credits are still available for GM, which includes Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan. Additionally, tax credits are available for electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids. The credit is even good for plug-in electric drive conversion kits so if you already have a hybrid and want to get even more MPG, maybe a conversion is the way to go ... There has been a lot of hubbub about the mileage of the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion, and rightly so. But if you want a hybrid that still gets the high mileage numbers but isn't the same as everyone else, you might want to check out the Mercury Milan Hybrid. It still gets 41 MPG highway and 36 MPG city but in a more unassuming package. It's also recommended by Consumer Reports ...

MOVE OVER CHEVY VOLT - MAKE ROOM FOR 2,572 MPG!

Thursday, February 25, 2010: It won't make it to mass production but the Black Widow's 2,572 MPG still blows us away!  (Of course it helps when the "vehicle" only weighs 96 pounds and runs on a three horsepower engine!) As Wired magazine points out, that is "more than 13 times higher than the 230 mpg General Motors claims the Chevrolet Volt will deliver - and Cal Poly car doesn't even need batteries."  Even better - the California Polytechnic State University Supermileage Team's work on the vehicles trains engineers to push the boundaries of fuel efficiency so it stays key in their mind as they enter the working world, where they may work on mass market vehicle design. The ultra high-mileage 3-wheeled vehicle will compete in the upcoming Shell Eco-Marathon.  If you want to check out the Black Widow and other high MPG vehicles, the event is being held in downtown Houston from March 26-28, 2010 ... Could consumers benefit from a glut in the battery market for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles? While there are some warnings circulating for investors that the construction of new factories across the U.S., Asia and Europe to manufacture batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles will lead to a capacity glut, which would also not be good for some of the companies themselves, basic economics would lead us to believe that more supply than demand would equal lower prices. That sounds good to us as more hybrid and electric vehicles on the road equals less greenhouse gas emissions and decreased dependence on foreign oil ... It looks like acceptance of electric vehicles in India is on the rise, according to a recent survey by Frost & Sullivan.  And of those that are very likely to purchase an electric vehicle in India, they are willing to pay a premium ...

NOT INCOMPATIBLE? HYBRID AND "ZOOM ZOOM"

Thursday, February 18, 2010: Most traditional hybrids use regenerative braking to replenish their battery power.  But it looks like Porsche's racing team has developed a novel adaptation of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) technology first built into Formula 1 race cars for use in its Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid.  "Rather than a battery, that system is based on a flywheel, mounted where the passenger seat would normally sit and spinning at speeds up to 40,000 rpm, to capture energy reclaimed from braking. At the press of a button, the flywheel releases its kinetic energy to power a generator that provides up to eight seconds of electricity to two 60-kilowatt electric motors in the front wheel hubs. The boost serves to maximize exit speed from a corner or to pass another car." The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid is expected to compete at the "24 Hours of NĂĽrburgring" this May.  We will see a more conventional hybrid battery make it into Porche's 2011 Cayenne Hybrid, to show up by the end of this year, and the company has said it will offer a hybrid version of its new 2010 Panamera four-door luxury sedan ... Not surprisingly, almost half the this year's greenest cars, as ranked by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), are hybrids.  Hybrids in the top 12 include: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight, Ford Fusion Hybrid/Mercury Milan Hybrid, and Nissan Altima Hybrid ... More competition in the midsize sedan hybrid market? Bring it on. Hyundai will unveil its new 2011 Sonata Hybrid in a few weeks at the New York Auto Show, adding more choice to the midsize sedan hybrid market, which currently only sports the Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid.  Although they haven't announced the fuel economy yet, the standard version already gets a best in class 35 MPG highway and 24 MPG city so we can't wait to see how the hybrid does ...

PRIUS RECALL: CAN TOYOTA BOUNCE BACK?

Thursday, February 11, 2010: It took a while for the decision to be made but it looks like Toyota is finally recalling more than 400,000 Priuses.  In theory, the fix will take care of a software glitch in the brake systems of the Prius and other hybrid models that apparently has caused brief and sometimes frightening delays in braking capacity on icy or bumpy roads. It will apply to 223,000 hybrids sold in Japan, along with 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS 250h vehicles in the United States. As we commented last week, it is unclear what the long term repercussions of this and other wider recalls will be on Toyota's reputation.  Current recalls notwithstanding, a recent study by Edmunds.com of complaints submitted over the past 10 years to the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that Toyota actually gets fewer complaints per car than a number of other car companies.  It also does appear the company is making some effort to reach out to customers.  Digg invited questions to be used in an interview with Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer (COO) of Toyota Motor Sales.  You may want to check out the interesting submissions.  Our guess is that Toyota will bounce back from this in the hybrid space and keep on humming right along ... Since the federal government has not yet modified its policy of phasing out tax credits for hybrids, it looks like states continue to take matters into their own hands. New Jersey residents may soon be eligible for a sales tax break on purchases if hybrid vehicles that get more than 35 MPG, if new legislation is approved.  It's nice to see someone is looking to reduce tailpipe emissions through expanded sales of hybrids ...

IS PRIUS NOW A DIRTY WORD?

Friday, February 5, 2010: Will the Prius brake investigation and potential recall allow another auto company to knock the world's most popular hybrid off the top of the mountain?  Other carmakers had already started taking advantage of the earlier defect plaguing Toyota so we can only imagine they will jump on the opportunity to try and unseat the world's hybrid leader. A formal recall has not yet been issued for the Prius but the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a formal investigation into the complaints about Prius brakes as the model has significantly more complaints than the models which generated the two recalls of eight other Toyota models.   How the company reacts to the recalls and the investigation will lay the framework for whether their reputation can recover ... Just for fun - you may not be able to afford it (and it's not the greenest) but how much of a kick would it be to drive a hybrid Ferrari? Reports are a 599 Hybrid will be unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March.  Got a couple hundred thousand bucks lying around?  You could have the benefit of a Ferrari with 30 percent improvement in fuel economy (8.7 MPG to 13.8 MPG) while still getting 612 horsepower.  Vroom! ... Most people realize if they want to buy a hybrid, they will have to spend a little extra for the powertrain. But is that $3,000 extra what is preventing more people from making the switch to a hybrid?  It turns out extras like leather seats and keyless entry, which also add to the price of the vehicle, are being automatically included in the  base models of hybrids and increasing their prices further.  Since most consumers who buy a hybrid are primarily focused on better fuel economy and reduced emissions, we have to wonder why some of these pricy add-ons aren't offered as options, as with most vehicles. If car companies are including these options to drive up the price and increase the profit, which makes them inaccessible to many, wouldn't it make more sense to offer extras as options and perhaps sell more vehicles? More hybrids on the road = reduced global warming emissions as well. And, as USA Today points out: "Toyota had promised to make a lower-priced, no-nonsense Prius when the new version was introduced last year, but delayed it and is talking as if it won't be available for direct sales to consumers, only fleet buyers."  What gives? ...  

GM FIRST IN U.S. TO BUILD ELECTRIC MOTOR

Friday, January 29, 2010: Although Ford has been leading the way in hybrid and electric car development among U.S. automakers, it looks like General Motors is giving their rivals a run for the money on another front.  Drum roll please!  GM will be the first major automaker in the U.S. to build its own electric engines.  The company is investing $246 million to expand a Baltimore-area factory to make electric motors for its next generation of hybrid starting in 2013.  An added positive - the effort will create an additional 200 "green" jobs at the plant   ... Wondering how much difference plug-in cars can make in the pollution produced in the U.S. and in our oil consumption?  A new white paper from Environment Arizona concludes: "Powering a car on electricity would result in 93 percent less smog-forming volatile organic compounds and 31 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions than powering a car on gasoline. If half of the light vehicles in the United States were electric vehicles powered by completely clean electricity in 2030, total fleet emissions would be reduced by 62 percent. If three-fourths of American vehicles including cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs and vans were electric, oil use would be reduced by about one-third. Operating costs of plug-in cars are likely to be significantly lower than those of gasoline-powered cars. Electricity costs three to five cents per mile with average electric rates, or the equivalent of $0.75 to $1.25 per gallon of gasoline." ... Do you remember taking the old, pollution-belching school bus to school growing up?  Well, welcome to the new generation of school bus.  The Ventura-CA school district is putting a state-of-the-art plug-in hybrid school bus to work this week to replace a 1977 model. It is expected to reduce fuel economy by 30 percent and reduce emissions by 40 percent. Sounds good to us! ...

TOYOTA: GLOBAL HYBRID DOMINATION TO CONTINUE?

Thursday, January 21, 2010: Toyota has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to being aggressive about being the leader in the hybrid car world. Will any other companies be able to catch up to them in hybrid production? According to Nikkei, Toyota plans to increase global production of hybrid cars to one million units in 2011, twice the volume of last year, in its race to stay on top. It seems unlikely any other automaker will be able to reach that lofty goal anytime soon. The automaker plans to add 10 new hybrid models to its lineup, starting with the unveiling of the new FT-CH hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show last week ... Small, Irvine, CA-based automaker Fisker Automotive has succeeded in securing enough private equity funding - $115.3 million - to qualify to gain access to $528.7 million in federal loans from the U.S department of energy to develop plug-in hybrid cars. Given the economy, this seems like a real vote of confidence for plug-in hybrids. The funding will help it develop the Karma, its first plug-in hybrid, and will pave the way for a lower-cost hybrid to follow ... Although specifics have not been detailed, Acura has announced it plans to add a hybrid drivetrain to its lineup. Given that parent company Honda was the first in the U.S. to launch a hybrid, it seems like it's about time ...

"HIPPER" PRIUS IN THE WORKS?

Thursday, January 14, 2010: Not surprisingly, hybrids are in the spotlight again this year at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. And of all the hybrids showcased and plans discussed, Toyota leads the way ... yet again. The company says it plans to launch eight hybrid models in the next few years, including hybrid models of some of its most popular vehicles. One possible addition was unveiled to much interested chatter. The FT-CH compact, which would be an expansion of the Prius line, is shorter than its parent but includes retro-styling the company hopes would appeal to the younger, eco-conscious, urban consumer. It would have a lower price tag and is expected to get 50 MPG ... The Ford Fusion hybrid won the 2010 North American Car of the Year award, part of Ford's sweep of both the car and truck of the year awards. It was only the third time in 17 years that one automaker won both awards. As we have noted before, Ford was the only U.S. automaker not to take bailout funds and they were the only domestic automaker to gain market share. Coincidence, we think not ... Of the announcements made at the Auto Show this week in Detroit, we found a few of particular interest. Volkswagen said its first hybrid model, an SUV, will be on the road this summer and unveiled a sporting hybrid concept called the New Compact Coupé. Leading VW to the starting line on hybrid couples, the new CR-Z, a hybrid sports coupe from Honda, will go on sale in the U.S. this summer. And BMW introduced an electric test version of its 1-Series, the ActiveE ...

PULLING THE PLUG ON EV MYTHS

Friday, January 8, 2010: Thinking about driving a more eco-friendly car in 2010?  Want to go electric but afraid of not having enough range or worried about when and where to charge?  If so, you need to look at what New York Times contributor Jim Motavalli says about some of the top electric car myths.  Take this myth: EVs don't have enough range. As Motavalli points out: "FACT: Americans drive an average of 40 miles per day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Most new battery electrics have a range of at least double that and can be charged at any ordinary electrical outlet (120V) or publicly accessible station with a faster charger."  Even if you aren't ready to go electric, it's worth considering some additional resolutions he suggests to reduce your carbon footprint, like driving smart to improve fuel economy, ride sharing and buying food locally to drop mileage from what you eat  ...  Forget what "Brown Can Do For You."  Think "What Green Can Do For Brown." Delivery companies like UPS, Fedex and DHL have been testing hybrid delivery vans for years. A new study released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory evaluating the use of six hybrid UPS delivery vans over a 12-month period in the Phoenix area had some phenomenal results.  "After twelve months of operation, the hybrid vans averaged 28.9 percent lower fuel consumption than similar conventional diesel vans. Even with the extra cost of the hybrid vehicles, the overall cost per mile was cut by 15 percent, " reports Autoblog.  We look forward to an expansion of use of hybrids for delivery fleets ... Will this be the decade China will surge ahead in the electric car space?  Chinese automaker BYD will showcase an all-electric car and a plug-in hybrid at the Detroit Auto Show next week.  This year, the vehicles will benefit from new incentives outlined recently by the Chinese government.  Only time will tell whether BYD has the potential to dominate the global hybrid market by 2025, per their stated goal ...

PRIUS PLUG-IN: UNDER $35K?

Thursday, December 17, 2009: Pricing info on the plug-in Prius is finally leaking out ... and it looks pretty good.  Whereas the Chevy Volt will be priced at a reported $40,000, the plug-in Prius supposedly will cost less than $10,000 more than the regular hybrid version, which puts it at about $33,000 if you're estimating from the Prius base price. The Prius PHEV is set to go on sale in 2011 as a 2012 model but a test fleet of 600 is already set to start in January next year in Japan, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  150 of the cars will be tested in the U.S. mostly by government agencies, corporations, universities and research agencies to collect data on real-world driving use and recharging habits ... Thinking about an electric car, but suffering from "range anxiety"?  Tesla is hoping a planned road trip will alleviate that fear for consumers. Starting today, Tesla will send one of its Roadster's on the 3,100 miles drive from Los Angeles to Detroit, where it will arrive at the North American International Auto Show. Although it will take 19 days to drive what would take six in a gas vehicle, showing consumers what the car is capable of is the end game.   We doubt most electric car buyers would be getting them other than to commute to work and in their neighborhood but we certainly wouldn't mind driving the stylish and sporty Tesla around ... Still scratching our heads about this one:  a hybrid bike?  But researchers at M.I.T. are developing a wheel that uses the same type of kinetic energy recovery system found in hybrid vehicles to capture the energy generated when a cyclist brakes.  The idea is to hold on to the energy for when the cyclist may need a boost.  It sounds pretty cool to us.  "It can be retrofitted to any bike's rear wheel, and it includes sensors that track air quality, a meter that logs miles and a GPS unit to track routes. All that data can be sent via Bluetooth to a rider's smartphone and shared with others," according to the New York Times ...

TALKING TRASH ABOUT HYBRIDS

Friday, December 11, 2009: New York City is testing a hybrid electric-diesel garbage truck and as CrunchGear points out: "The application is perfect if you think about it. Hybrids generally have high city MPG ratings because the electric motor is there to assist in acceleration and regenerates when the brakes are used. The daily life of a garbage truck is stopping to pick up trash and then racing to the next grouping of trash cans 100 feet down the road. All they do is accelerate and stop."  Similarly, school buses (and buses in general) do a lot of starting and stopping.  A Virginia-based company is now selling hybrid school buses, which offer almost double the gas mileage of a regular school bus.  We've reported before that delivery companies like UPS and Fedex have been incorporating hybrids into their fleets but we'd love to see even more commercial-level hybrids out there ... Green jobs for Michigan? There will be if the state lends a hand to Ford.  More than a thousand jobs may be coming to Michigan by way of support for Ford's electric car production if state lawmakers expand an existing incentive program and approve $85 million in tax credits. The Detroit News reports: "If those conditions are met, the Dearborn automaker would engineer and assemble battery packs for a new generation of hybrid vehicles in Michigan. Ford also would commit to manufacturing a new hybrid and plug-in hybrid here that would be based on the same platform as the new Ford Focus it plans to unveil in Detroit in January." ... Ever think you'd see a hybrid from Malaysia of all places?  Malaysian automaker Proton has announced it hopes to start mass production for its hybrid by 2011.  No word on whether they'd make their way to the U.S. but several Exora hybrids are currently being tested in Britain ...

ULTRA-CHEAP HYBRID COMING TO U.S.?

Thursday, December 3, 2009: Is a hybrid under $10,000 in your future? While details have yet to be released, Indian car company Tata has announced it is planning to produced a hybrid version of its Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car. The regular version of the car, which was launched in July in India, is about $2,200 U.S. and gets 51.7 MPG so we can only speculate what the specs would be for a hybrid version.  An improvement over 51.7 MPG, along with reduced emissions of a hybrid, would be impressive.  The regular Nano is slated to go on sale in Europe in 2011 and sales in the U.S. are expected shortly thereafter - though the company has not announced any non-India roll-out dates for the hybrid version ... Will Denmark's aggressive plan to push electric cars get the world a lot closer to Warren Buffett's prediction that all cars will be electric by 2030? Only time will tell.  The government in Denmark already offers a minimum $40,000 tax break on new electric cars and free parking in downtown Copenhagen but there has been skepticism.  Now, Dong Energy, the largest utility in Denmark, is partnering with a Silicon Valley start-up "in a $100 million effort to wire the country with charging poles as well as service stations that can change out batteries in minutes," reports the New York Times. They hope that easy access to charging stations will up the interest in electric cars in Denmark, one of the world's most environmentally conscious nations ... Ah, it's the stuff of science fiction. Almost 200 miles on a single charge?  If you'd told us just a few years ago an electric car could go this far without a recharge, we would  have laughed you right out of the room.  But Nissan has just announced it is working on a new lithium-ion battery that would go up to 190 miles on a single charge.  They plan to use the battery in the Leaf, which reportedly gets 100 miles on a charge presently.  They are planning the long-range battery to go into cars starting in 2015 ...

"BAILING OUT" EV CARS

Friday, November 20, 2009: Want to significantly ramp up the number of plug-in and electric cars on the road to combat global warming and U.S. dependence on oil? Get the government to chip in a lot of money.  Perhaps not surprisingly, that's the plan favored by a group of auto and utility industry executives calling for federal assistance to jumpstart the electric car revolution. The Electrification Coalition says the proliferation of hybrids could have been faster with government help and released a report detailing a four-stage plan that would get hundreds of thousands of plug-in and battery-electric vehicles - what they call "grid-enabled" vehicles - on the road within four years.  The plan makes specific policy recommendations, like adjusting utility rates to better accommodate E.V. charging and significantly increasing federal plug-in tax credits for early adopters.  Major companies like Nissan and FedEx and battery makers like A123 Systems are part of the 13-member group  ...  Is it odd that the city that is the home of the U.S. oil industry would be blazing the trail for the electric car future? Houston and Reliant Energy are launching a project to convert a portion of the city's new Prius hybrids in to plug-ins and install 10 charging stations around the city, including 7 that will be open to the public. They hope to raise consumer awareness about plug-ins and promote Houston as a place for future green advances.  The city of Houston already owns one of the largest fleets of hybrids in the country - 750 of its 12,500 vehicles.  Reliant is covering the cost of the $10,000 conversation and the charging stations and we hope to see more of this type of project  around the country as plug-ins and electric vehicles expand their numbers in the marketplace  ...  We reported a few weeks ago that Korean battery makers were upping the competition on the global hybrid battery wars.  It's good to hear that one Korean company, LG Chem, which will supply batteries for the Chevy Volt, has announced plans to open a factory in Michigan next year.  The plant will create more than 400 green jobs ...

WHAT U.S. HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS COULD TEACH FIAT ...

Thursday, November 12, 2009: If high school students are capable of building hybrid and electric vehicles, why does a large company like Chrysler choose to pull the plug on their electric car plans? A West Philly high school team is one of just 43 teams chosen to move to the second round of competition in the international Progressive Automotive X Prize competition in New York.  The goal of the competition  is to build two cars that get at last 100 miles per gallon and have significantly reduced carbon emissions.  Our sister site, 40mpg.org, reported earlier this week that, although Chrysler's new owners - Fiat - have plans to significantly improve fleet MPG - they are also discontinuing plans for electric cars and possibly for hybrids as well. Conveniently, this is AFTER they accepted billions in bail-out dollars while promising a bright future of electric cars.  A writer for The Atlantic observes: "Remember how we had to bail out Chrysler and give the company to Fiat because they were going to save American jobs and the environment with their awesome new electric cars? The electric cars that were going to start hitting the streets in 2010?  Apparently, now that they've gotten the money, it's festina lente ... It's worth keeping in mind every time we hear companies demanding money from the government based on their outstanding future contributions to society." Many of our readers expressed to Congress the sentiments we had that loan guarantees should have been narrowly targeted to hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicle development.  Maybe it would have prevented our tax dollars from going elsewhere ... Have champagne tastes but want to be green?  Rolls-Royce may have the car for you.  The company has announced plans to build a hybrid version of its latest luxury sedan, the 2010 Ghost.  The vehicle will borrow hybrid technology from the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 and is expected to have a fuel economy improvement of 15% over the standard vehicle ... There has been plenty of talk about the Chevy Volt but it looks like GM has plans for some additional electric vehicles.  Cadillac reportedly has plans to build the Converj, a plug-in that will also have batteries capable of driving 40 miles on a charge with a small, 4-cylinder gas engine to pick up the slack until the next charge.  The lean and mean concept was shown at Detroit's auto show last year and we're excited to hear more about it ...

'WAVING' GOOD-BYE TO CARBON EMISSIONS?

Friday, November 6, 2009: Cut carbon emissions from cars by 90 percent?  That's the kind of technology we can really get behind.  A group of Michigan State University researchers are working on creating a wave disk generator, a prototype of a more fuel-efficient engine for hybrid electric vehicles.  The State Journal reports: "The wave disk generator has the potential to make hybrid electric vehicles five times more efficient than combustion engines currently used in hybrid cars. The wave disc generator could cut carbon emissions by about 90 percent compared to cars on the road today..."  The work is funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy ... We mentioned last week that Sanyo had announced ambitious goals with regards to lithium-ion batteries for hybrids as part of the wider South Korean battery makers rising competitiveness with Japanese battery makers.  But it seems Japan's Panasonic now has plans to take control of Sanyo for $4.45 billion, which would make for a combined company responsible for most of the batteries currently in hybrids - nickel-metal hydride ones - and 30% of the production capacity for lithium-ion batteries, the hybrid battery of the future. Sanyo had also just announced it would be supplying hybrid batteries to the PSA Peugeot Citroen Group for their diesel-hybrid cars starting in 2011.  Sanyo already supplies the hybrid batteries for the Honda Insight and for Ford's hybrids and is expected to supply lithium-ion batteries to Volkswagen and Toyota in the future. Sounds like Panasonic is getting its money worth but let's hope consumers aren't affected with higher hybrid prices ...  And it look like our neighbors to the north are taking a cue from California and other hybrid-friendly states.  Ontario is introducing a new green license plate for plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles that will allow driver to travel in the province's carpool lanes until 2015.  California's wildly popular sticker "Clean Air Stickers" program gave out 85,000 stickers before they ran out in 2007 but used hybrids that have the stickers can still garner up to $4,000 more on resale ...

COLORADO: HOME OF BEST STATE HYBRID TAX BREAK?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009: Which state is friendliest to hybrid car buyers? It looks like Colorado tops the list if the standard is tax credits - at least until the end of the year. Right now, purchasers of the all-electric Tesla Roadster sports car in Colorado can qualify for a "$42,083 tax credit, the equivalent of a 39 percent discount on the $109,000 Roadster." Buyers could also get a $20,000 tax credit on the Lexus LSS 600h hybrid. The state legislature put a cap of $6,000 this year on the tax credit - effective in 2010 - but that is still an excellent opportunity for hybrid buyers fortunate enough to reside in The Centennial State ... Will the hybrid and electric car battery war be fought and won in Asia? Only time will tell. South Korean battery makers are stepping up their game and plan to offer some serious competition to the Japanese. General Motors had chosen Seoul-based LG Chem Ltd to provide batteries for the Volt. One analyst says that LG Chem and Samsung could grab between them 30 percent of the $36-billion electric car battery market by 2020. China's BYD, with expertise in lithium-ion batteries, has the backing of Warren Buffett. On the Japanese side of the battery wars, Sanyo has just announced its plans to start making lithium-ion batteries for plug-in hybrids in 2011. The Wall Street Journal reports: "The plan is a step toward Sanyo's ambitious target of producing 10 million lithium-ion batteries per month for hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2015. The company has also said it aims to grab a 40% share of the global markets for lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries by 2020. " ... A Toyota executive is forecasting that 30 percent of all new cars sold worldwide could be hybrids by 2020 ...

NISSAN FIRST TO RECYCLE ELECTRIC CAR BATTERIES

Wednesday, October 21, 2009: Will a new effort to recycle electric car batteries give Nissan an edge in the electric car market? If the joint venture with Sumitomo Corp. makes Nissan's electric vehicles more affordable, we have no doubt it will. The company says the recycling project will allow them to lower the prices of their electric vehicles because they will take into account the resale value of the batteries. Seems like a smart approach to be even more green with the product - both for the environment and customers pockets - and we expect to hear other manufacturers will jump on this bandwagon ... In the next 10 years, Ford plans to "electrify" a significant portion of its fleet. Ford will make 10 to 25 percent of its fleet - 800,000 to 2 million vehicles - either all-electric or gas-electric vehicles by 2020. "Ford is now working on an updated generation of its hybrid power train which will be used on its plug-in hybrid vehicles, which will come to market in 2012. Equipped with a larger battery than a traditional hybrid, the company projects its plug-in hybrid cars will allow drivers to go about 30 miles in electric mode, with the gasoline engine kicking in as needed for acceleration during those initial miles," according to CNET. An all-electric Focus will make an appearance in 2011 ... Are you ready for the first commercial plug-ins on a road near you? Toyota is set to start testing its plug-in prototypes later this year in the U.S., Europe and Japan. The company will release 500 plug-in versions of its Prius by January 1 in a pilot using newer lithium-ion batteries instead of the nickel-metal hydride used in the current Prius. The New York Times reports: "The pilot will kick off a three-year effort by the Japanese auto giant to get data on how these cars fare in the real world: how they're charged, how their batteries perform, and what sort of mileage they get. ... Engineers will use the new plug-in data to design a more widely produced plug-in version of the Prius..." ...

NEW HYBRIDS, ALL-ELECTRIC CARS FROM JAPAN

Tuesday, October 13, 2009: Japanese automakers have led the way on development of hybrid and electric vehicles. But is that lead in jeopardy? There has been a great deal of competition in the field due to the global push towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on oil. But that competition will get a run for its money when Japanese automakers showcase some promising new vehicles and concept cars at the upcoming Tokyo auto show. Toyota will show its small, 4-seater all-electric FT-EV II, which uses a joystick instead of a steering wheel and is designed for urban use. From Honda, we'll see the EV-N, a retro-looking, concept electric vehicle also meant for city use, which has a solar panel in the roof. Suzuki will showcase a Swift plug-in hybrid and an SX4 FCV (fuel cell vehicle). Although it has focused so far on all-electric vehicles, Mitsubishi will unveil a plug-in hybrid crossover concept called the PX - MiEV. The first Infiniti hybrid in the U.S., the M35 hybrid, will make its appearance with a 2012 model, which will debut in Tokyo as the Fuga Hybrid. And although photos and some initial news have been circulating about Nissan's new electric Leaf, it will make its official debut in Tokyo. If you're looking for more details on when we'll see the Leaf in the U.S. and how much it'll cost, Automobile magazine discussed the recently available intel: "Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) will be offered to commercial fleets in the U.S. in 2010. By 2012, the LEAF will be offered to consumers in select markets, including Oregon, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Diego, Seattle, Sonoma, Tennessee, Tucson, and Washington D.C. Nissan says the price of the EV will be close to that of a family sedan, which we take to mean somewhere near $25,000 to $30,000. To ease early adopters' fears about costly replacement, Nissan will likely lease the battery pack. The company is still debating if the car itself - the body, the chassis, and the powertrain - will be leased or sold to customers." ... This is interesting: Toyota is taking umbrage at California's plan to give utilities emissions credits for supporting electric vehicles - but not offer them to automakers. They argue that carmakers absorbed the cost of developing the advanced vehicles to meet the state's requirements. Bloomberg reports: "From model years 2012 through 2014, the largest carmakers by volume in California must sell about 60,000 plug-in hybrids and electric cars combined, according to the state Air Resources Board. As the top car seller in the state, Toyota City, Japan- based Toyota has the biggest share of that total. Toyota's California market share means it may need to sell more than 16,000 plug-in hybrids and all-electric models over the three-year period, based on a Bloomberg calculation. A company failing to meet California rules can potentially be barred from selling any vehicles in the state, the biggest U.S. auto market. Emissions credits shouldn't go to utilities, (Kevin) Webber said in Toyota's filing. Any credits not given to carmakers selling electric vehicles in California should go into a publicly held trust to offset increases in power rates for low-income families, he said. " ...

MAZDA: GETTING OFF THE HYBRID SIDELINES

Tuesday, October 6, 2009: Although Mazda has only offered one hybrid so far -- and needed to use borrowed-from-Ford technology in order to field the Tribute hybrid -- the company is now planning a major share sale to raise $1 billion to go towards building its own hybrid offering. Here is our take: It's about time that this successful, mid-size Japanese carmaker got serious about the hybrid race. To try and narrow the gap between itself and Toyota and Honda, the company will sell new shares equivalent to a quarter of its current stock to go towards development of hybrids and other environmentally-friendly vehicles. The company plans to show a prototype of a new hybrid passenger car at the Tokyo auto show later this month and has plans to sell the car by 2011 ... In an effort to "make the French energy and car industry a world leader," France's Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo announced that the country will invest 1.5 billion Euros (2.2 billion dollars) on infrastructure for the two million hybrid and electric cars it plans to have on French roads by 2020. This investment is a major step towards proliferation of green vehicles and other countries should take note. The investment will go towards a million battery-charging points, industrial research, making batteries and producing clean vehicles. The state and major companies plan to order 100,000 electric vehicles by 2015 ... Are "hybrid only" taxis in the card for cities like New York and Boston? As part of the draft climate bill now being considered by the U.S. Senate, The Green Taxis Act of 2009 would amend federal laws to allow cities to establish these requirements. We hope to see this Act make it through the bill process so cities that live or die by their taxis will be allowed to act on their conscience to help the environment ...

TURNING YOUR GARAGE INTO A POWER SUBSTATION

Thursday, October 1, 2009: Interested in getting a $1,500 check from your power company at the end of each year? Just buy a plug-in car. The U.S. power grid chief Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said plug-in owners who connect their batteries to the grid could be getting those kind of sweet deals. Power companies would pay plug-in owners for the additional storage lent to the nation's electric power grid when the vehicles are connected. Some detractors have said the public won't want to pay the cost premium for plug-ins. But with the plug-ins already low costs for filling up at the pump, checks from the electric grid would allow owners to recoup their up-front costs even faster. Power companies clearly see plug-ins as part of the future, as several companies announced that their fleets will be all plug-in or electric vehicles by 2020. According to the New York Times, "the companies said the commitment ... could offset 125,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas." But the real sign of potential for the future - Google announced it is looking into developing software to manage integration of plug-ins with the electric grid to achieve optimal efficiency. Now all we need is the plug-in cars that we can actually buy! ... In another effort to give Toyota a run for its money on hybrids, Honda will show an updated, production-ready version of the CR-Z hybrid it plans to launch next February at the Tokyo Motor Show next month. They've said they plan to price it competitively and it looks very cool to us. Also at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Honda Skydeck concept is something we'd love to see make it to production. A hybrid minivan, the futuristic styling would make it a minivan even uber-cool soccer moms would like ...

AN AFFORDABLE ELECTRIC CAR ... IN INDIA?

Friday, September 25, 2009: If India can make an affordable electric car, why can't the U.S. do the same thing? With GM along for the ride, "India's Reva Electric Car Co. will start producing a small, affordable electric car for the Indian market in 2010, " according to the Associated Press. (Our sister site, 40mpg.org, has noted that domestic carmakers should be bringing green cars from overseas to the U.S.) But while the U.S. will get the Volt next year at an expected price of $32,500, the new electric version of the Reva Spark is set to retail not too much above the $6,000-7,000 cost of the current non-electric version, with Reva intent on being "very competitive" on the price. Reva will go live in 2011 with the cool feature of emergency roadside recharging ... We've written before about state and local governments leading the way on use of hybrid and electric technology. Motorists driving plug-ins can fill up for free - on electricity - at a rest stop in Virginia through a pilot project involving the state and Dominion Power. A Springfield, MA city administrator is recommending expansion of hybrid use in the city fleet. Fort Wayne, IN will add hybrid vehicles to their fleet for the first time. And Southeastern Wisconsin officials are looking to make a name for the region as a hub for plug-in electric vehicle research ... A new study from Purdue University researchers will help engineers design technology for hybrid cars to more effectively cool their high-power electronic components. Electronic components generate a great deal of heat and better systems have been needed to prevent overheating of key hybrid systems, like those dealing with regenerative braking ...

FROM FRANKFURT: LATEST ON HYBRIDS

Thursday, September 17, 2009: European automakers are finally jumping on the hybrid and all-electric bandwagon in a big way. At the Frankfurt Auto Show, German automakers, in particular, are looking for recognition with green offerings from Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes, to name a few. VW has updated its L1 two-seater concept car and now claims it gets a whopping 170 MPG with only 36 g/km of CO2 emissions. The original prototype seven years ago was the world's first car to travel 100 kilometers on just a single liter of fuel. VW says the new ultra-fuel-sipping auto is close to production and could make it to market as soon as 2013. Mercedes-Benz got in the act with the Vision S 500 plug-in hybrid, a spinoff of their recently introduced S400 hybrid. Mercedes is ballparking it at more than 60 MPG. CNET has some great photos of these and other hybrids featured in Frankfurt. Enjoy! ... After three years of testing lithium-ion batteries, Toyota has decided to stick with nickel metal hydride as its preferred battery material for hybrids. Bloomberg reports: "While Toyota's lithium version performed well and gave 'small' fuel-economy gains because of lighter weight, nickel is favored for conventional, mass-market hybrids for its cost ..." ... Hybrid technology continues to spill over into the rest of car culture. Techies and high-MPG fans are latching onto some popular hybrid features. One item with particular appeal is the dash display indicating how efficient a driver is with fuel use. For non-hybrid owners, several aftermarket products now allow you to track your fuel economy in real time ...

ALMOST HALF OF AMERICANS WOULD BUY A PLUG-IN

Thursday, September 10, 2009: Think the popularity of hybrids might be waning as oil prices seem to be holding at current levels?  Think again.  A new survey shows that 48 percent of Americans are interested in buying a plug-in hybrid vehicle.  Plug-in's usually have a range of about 40 miles per charge, which fits in well with the standard commute for most Americans.  The "Electric Vehicle Consumer Survey" from Pike Research reported that 82 percent of respondents said they drive 40 miles or less per day.  Now we just wait for the outcome of the race to make plug-ins commercially available  ...  Mercedes-Benz made headlines this week when they announced they may convert their entire line of S-Class sedans into hybrids.  As USA Today reports: "It would be the first time an entire conventional model line has been converted to an alternative powertrain. So far, gas-electric hybrid powertrains have come as options or in a handful of one-off models, such as Toyota's Prius, aimed at eco-conscious shoppers."  Meanwhile, Mercedes also became the first foreign automaker to launch a hybrid in Japan, where it launched the S-Class hybrid sedan  ...  And, although Honda reinforced its preference for hybrids, the company announced it will sell an all-electric vehicle in a few years in the U.S., bowing to pressure from a market full of competitors.  They plan to display a prototype at next month's Tokyo auto show ...

ARE HYBRIDS "HOGGING" RARE MINERALS?

Thursday, September 3, 2009: Do hybrid owners need to worry about shortages of rare earth elements (REE) - such as neodymium - due to the demand for high-capacity batteries? Although there has been some recent handwringing about the use of REE in hybrid batteries, there also have been assurances that production can ramp up to meet demands. Let's be clear what we are talking about here: The ominous-sounding term "rare earth elements" only means that they are harder to find in large deposits that are easy to mine. The U.S., however, has some of the largest known deposits of REE. Could recycling of batteries help? Although lithium is not now in short supply, some Japanese companies see recycling lithium ion batteries as desirable and potentially profitable ... Starting next year, Seattle and four other cities - Phoenix, Nashville, Portland and San Diego -- "will become labs for (a) huge federal and private sector experiment with electric cars," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The government will provide almost $100 million to 5 cities to install about 2,500 electric vehicle chargers and about 40 firms will match the federal appropriations. The timing will coincide with at least two planned electric car launches - Nissan's introduction of the Leaf and Chevrolet's launch of the Volt. While some questions still need to be worked out, installation of the chargers is set to begin in summer 2010 and be completed by summer 2011 ... There always seem to be new electric-vehicle technologies - or new modifications of existing technologies - cropping up and we love to pass along what we are hearing about them. A start-up firm in Silicon Valley is looking to put a new take on fuel cells into hybrid and electric vehicles. Oorja Protonics is looking at producing methanol fuel cells to be used as a range extender. Methanol can be derived from wood, grass, landfills, natural gas and coal ...

NEW ON THE ALL-ELECTRIC SCENE: HONDA

Thursday, August 27, 2009: Electric car announcements have been all the rage in the last few weeks. On the heels of recent electric car news from Chevy and Nissan, Honda has just announced they plan to produce an all-electric car of their own, albeit not until 2015. The prototype will be unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in October. We wonder about the delay, since the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf will appear for the 2011 model year, Toyota plans an electric car for 2012, and other manufacturers are talking about producing electric cars well ahead of 2015. The foot dragging is surprising since Honda was first on the scene in the U.S. with its hybrid Insight in 1999. We would have expected them to be in the forefront on electric cars as well. Better late than never? Or, too little, too late?  ...  And we have to say this is one of the more unorthodox hybrid incentives we've heard about so far. Hybrid and electric car owners in Los Angeles were treated to a free eco-friendly car wash this past Tuesday from bikini models teaching the drivers how to save the environment. It was promo for a new Web site, Angry Green Girl  ...  In addition to Europe being serious about boosting hybrid sales, Korea is also looking at offering incentives of up to $1,600 (2 million won) next year as part of the nation's "green growth" initiative ... 

HYBRID SALES UP MORE THAN A THIRD

Thursday, August 20, 2009: So much for the demise of hybrid sales.   Purchases of hybrids in July were up significantly, both from the previous month and year.  Sales were up 35 percent from June numbers and 31.8 percent year-on-year. If that weren't impressive enough, July sales also reached a record market share of 3.55 percent of new car sales.  In comparison, sales of conventional vehicles rose 15.4 percent from June.  July was also the first time a U.S. manufacturer had two of the top four hybrid models in sales.  The Ford Escape and Fusion hybrid earned that honor  ...  Ford has been working since 2007 on technology to sync plug-in hybrid cars with the electric grid and it looks like they have made significant gains. As Greentech Media notes, the company just announced that they have "... engineered a communications system that would allow car owners to program when and for how long to charge their electric vehicles' batteries."  In layman's terms, it will allow plug-in hybrids to "talk" to the electric grid and charge more efficiently. And Ford says the electric grid is ready for plug-ins, as long as everyone doesn't plug-in at one time.  We'll first see the technology for public use in the Focus Hybrid in 2011  ...  Just when we thought pretty much everyone had made it to the hybrid market, a newcomer joins the competition.  Suzuki may introduce a hybrid in North America in 2011 to meet the demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.  The company would be using a hybrid system they developed with General Motors ...

MPG WARS: 367 VERSUS 230?!

Thursday, August 13, 2009: Now we are talking real MPG! In the wake of Chevrolet's announcement that the Volt will get 230 MPG, Nissan was among those who snorted with derision. There has been a fair amount of skepticism about the calculations for the 230 MPG number. Using the same formula, Nissan says it's Leaf all-electric vehicle will get 367 MPG! And they supposedly are intending to sell it for a reasonable price -- $25,000 versus the Volt's $40,000 price tag. So much for arguing about who's the best in the 30-50 MPG range! ... President Obama, Vice President Biden and others announced grants of $2.4 billion to develop next-generation electric vehicles and batteries. And the funds will be spread around the country, with grants going to 50 projects in 25 states ... Looks like Europe is more serious about boosting hybrid sales. We've talked before about the nonsensical phasing out of hybrid incentives in the U.S. and this is yet another in a long serious of examples of how the world is totally leaving us in their dust on higher MPG ...

NISSAN TURNS NEW LEAF: WILL INFRASTRUCTURE FOLLOW?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009: Anyone who grew up in the upper Midwest - such as Minnesota and the Dakotas - is familiar with parking lots full of electrical jacks that are used on those -10 and -20 nights to plug in engine/block heaters. But it turns out that kind of electrified parking lot is not so common in other parts of the nation - and that could be an impediment for plug-in electric cars. We were not the only people reflecting on that possible hitch when we read of Nissan's new zero-emission vehicle: the Leaf. It's an exciting new vehicle development and we applaud it. At the same time, we want to make sure that our nation's infrastructure doesn't get too far behind the advances in new vehicles. As the Los Angeles Times' excellent "Up to Speed" blog points out: "Recharging will take less than a half-hour (to 80% charge) using a high-capacity charger, Nissan says, and about 8 hours using a home charger running at 200 Volts. Nissan is working with a half-dozen municipalities and other agencies around the country to develop the quick-charge infrastructure. With the Volt, Mitsubishi's IMiev and Nissan's LEAF coming onto the U.S. market in the next 18 months, the infrastructure issue will begin to dominate the EV debate. Simply put, the cars will become less of a technical hurdle than places to plug them in." ...

FARMERS HARVESTS HYBRID DISCOUNT PROFITS

Tuesday, July 28, 2009: What's good for hybrid owners is also good for insurance companies. Farmers Insurance Group says that its 10% discount on insurance for hybrid drivers, pioneered by the company in 2005, has brought in a choice consumer segment for the company. And, although collision costs are higher when hybrids are involved, Farmers is finding that better-than-average results in bodily-injury and property-damage costs have made up for the discount. The reason? Hybrid drivers "...have lived up to their reputation for being careful and responsible in their approach to driving ..." according to Brian Dwyer, senior vice president of auto for Farmers. Some other insurance companies -- such as Travelers - also offer similar discounts ... A new study from University of Calgary says that drivers could cut as much as 90 percent of emissions by driving a plug-in hybrid in places where cars have access to wind power and charging them during off-peak hours. Hamid Zareipour of the University's Schulich School of Engineering, "envisions a so-called 'smart charging system' to distribute electricity to cars when wind power production is highest, usually at night." ... Some Minnesota college students have spent their summer tricking out some very cool technology - super-charged hybrids. One class at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, MN took a 2005 Prius, which usually gets 50 to 55 MPG and converted it to a plug-in that can get 90 MPG and higher. The Minnesota Department of Commerce gave $29,000 grants to six schools and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System gave another $10,000 to each school. The schools will use the plug-ins as fleet vehicles and monitor the performance to report back to the state to help officials make decisions about hybrids on the state-level ...

ANADA: LAND OF THE KING-SIZED HYBRID REBATES?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009: In a serious move to combat global warming, the premier of Ontario, Canada's largest province by population and second in size, has announced the government will offer king-size rebates from $4,000 to $10,000 for those who buy a plug-in hybrid after July 1, 2010.  Premier Dalton McGuinty said the goal was to have one out of every 20 vehicles in Ontario powered electrically by 2020.  There have been some mixed reviews but an oped in the Toronto Star states: "... McGuinty is showing the international community that Ontario is serious about creating demand for electric vehicles and investing in the infrastructure to support it - that is, making the necessary upgrades to the electricity system, putting in place a charging-station network, updating standards and codes, and funding related research at colleges and universities." We hope to see other local governments around the world willing to take bold steps to make the world a greener place  ...  In an about-face from past statements, Nissan has announced it will start to develop its own hybrid technology in order to expand its hybrid offerings.  Hybrids are in demand globally as countries crack down on global warming emissions and fossil fuel use by automobiles.  Nissan has been offering a hybrid version of its Altima but was sourcing components from rival Toyota. Nissan has so far said it plans to use its own hybrid technology in a version if its Serena minivan in 2011 in Japan  ...  It looks like Mazda may be able to join the hybrid scene earlier than expected if talks with Toyota are successful.  If Toyota agrees to provide Mazda with hybrid components, it could also pave the way for similar deals in the future with other companies to spread the use of hybrid technology ...  

FINALLY ... A SEXY HYBRID?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009: Honda announced today that is launching the world's first mass-market hybrid sports car early next year. In addition to the planned February launch of the CR-Z hybrid sports car, new Honda President and Chief Executive Officer Takanobu Ito will also launch a hybrid version of its compact Fit by the end of 2010. The vehicles would launch in Japan and come to the U.S. at a later date ... It looks like the competition may get intense for a piece of the $2 billion stimulus fund pie aimed at developing batteries for hybrid cars. One California company, Quallion, is seeking $220 million to build a manufacturing plant that would produce more than 20,000 batteries a year for hybrids by 2012. Per the LA Times: "Only seven or eight companies will receive grants to build factories to make lithium-ion batteries, believed by many to be the next step toward making hybrid cars more efficient and easier to mass produce." Other U.S. companies like GE and Boston-Power also hope to get stimulus funds for hybrid batteries manufacturing to start edging Asian companies out as the market leader ... And a few companies have announced launches of their first hybrids. Mercedes-Benz will launch two new hybrids, which are different from each other in a few ways. The S 400, which will be manufactured in Germany, will launch in Europe in June and come to the U.S. in September and gets a super efficient lithium-ion battery. The ML450h, launching in December 2009, will be made in Alabama and will have the more conventional nickel metal hydride battery. With a $90,000 price tag, luxury vehicles like the S 400 hybrid obviously are not for the average consumer ...

140 MPG HYBRID?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009: If you're looking to get 140 MPG from a hybrid passenger car, it may be a while before one is produced for manufacturing on a mass scale. But if you want the mileage from a hybrid and it's just you and a friend, look no further. Vespa plans to launch its hybrid 3-wheeled scooter by early 2010, which, if true, would make it the first hybrid plug-in, beating the Chevy Volt to the title. Italy's Piaggio, maker of the Vespa, claims the scooter will include a couple of firsts. Per the New York Times: "It's powered by a lithium battery, unlike the first-generation of hybrid cars, and the gas and electric engines operate simultaneously. That combines the sharp acceleration of an electric motor with the range of a gas-powered engine." New also to the hybrid scooter - a horn ... Not only is the Prius the first hybrid car to outsell all other vehicles in Japan, but it boosted hybrid sales in Japan above hybrid sales in the U.S. for June. That made Japan the largest market for gas-electric hybrids in the world ... at least for the month. A combination of excitement about the third gen Prius and the Honda Insight, coupled with high gas prices and incentives from the Japanese government brought on the perfect sales storm ... And although they will be behind Nissan and General Motors, Toyota has announced its plan to mass produce plug-in hybrids by 2012. Although late to the starting block, Toyota's planned production capacity of 20,000 to 30,000 vehicles in the first year will make them a serious contender. Sales will start in Japan and there isn't word yet on when they will start in the U.S. ...

A GM PRIUS?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009: Could a "rebadged" version of the Toyota's popular Prius help pull GM back from the brink? We don't know if it would turnaround the ailing company but it could certainly go a long way towards getting it back on the right road. Bloomberg reports: "Toyota Motor Corp. may offer to supply a version of its Prius hybrid car to General Motors Corp. during a meeting between the companies' chief executives, two people familiar with the plan said. Toyota President Akio Toyoda and GM's Fritz Henderson will meet in Michigan in August said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan isn't public. A GM-badged car based on the Prius is among the options for new products at a jointly owned factory in California after GM said it would end assembly of the Pontiac Vibe there earlier than planned, they said." ... It looks like Britain will be the first European country to produce Toyota's hybrid vehicles, following an announcement by Toyota that they will start production of the Prius at the Burnaston plant near Derby. This is also the first time Britain will produce any hybrid vehicles. Toyota makes most of its hybrids in Japan and a small number are produced in America and China ... Could a new hybrid production plant be coming to Mississippi? A lawsuit filing just unsealed revealed that a multibillion dollar hybrid car plant may be in the future for Tunica, Miss. The suit involves Chinese businessmen fighting for control of the company ...

NISSAN: FIRST WITH ELECTRIC CAR FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009: Looking to reduce your carbon footprint without wiping out your bank account? Nissan claims it has the answer for you. The company announced plans to mass produce a zero-emissions electric car by 2012 that will be affordable. They figure on rolling out their first electric vehicle in Japan in August and start sales in the U.S. in 2010. And here's a smart move: The company also has plans to manufacture the vehicle in the U.S. As we previously reported, Mitsubishi recently released its new i-MiEV priced at 4.59 million yen ($48,300), which is a pretty stiff price tag for most consumers. So kudos to Nissan if they bring some real price competition to the marketplace ... While hybrids have been popular in the U.S. for a while now, they continue to gain more traction in overseas markets. The Indian company Tata Motors has announced it will use the small car platform of its Nano to build electric and hybrid cars. The number of hybrid cars in the Netherlands doubled last year. And Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia are trying to narrow the gap with leader Japan in the hybrid and electric market ... Many local governments in the U.S. are looking to use federal stimulus dollars to green up their fleets by adding hybrid vehicles. We've seen stories from Kansas and Arizona, among others. And some smart folks in Chicago are making the argument that the city should use stimulus funds to buy hybrid buses, instead of the diesel ones planned. Sounds like a great plan to us, since it could "use about 30,000 fewer gallons of fuel than a diesel bus over the course of the vehicle's lifetime, and taxpayer savings generated by a fleet of hybrid buses could exceed $2.6 million, according to a statement from (U.S. Rep. Mark) Kirk's office," per the Chicago Tribune ...

PRIUS: REPORTS OF ITS DEMISE ARE EXAGGERATED

Wednesday, June 17, 2009: Looks like Toyota is having the last laugh at the expense of all those gas-guzzling haters who tried to interpret a few down sales month as the decline and fall of the Prius. Although sales have been slumping overall at Toyota and other automakers in the face of the global recession, the Prius is once again a bright point. Toyota received advance orders for 80,000 Priuses before the new, third-gen version went on sale in May and has sold 110,000 so far. Yes, that's right: Prius waiting lists are back! The Prius is just now being rolled out in the U.S. and some dealers have quietly been building up wait lists for a year now. And while there is increased overall interest in some places in the U.S. for hybrids, it looks like Honda's Insight hybrid, meant to be competition for the Prius, may miss its sales goal by 33 percent - a victim of the economy and - dare we say it! - a distinct lack of sex appeal reflected in their boring ads. Looks like the Prius will remain on top for now ... While hybrid passenger cars and SUVs have had their day on Capitol Hill and in the media, commercial trucks finally got their opportunity last Thursday. "Hybrid On The Hill" day, sponsored by the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) Incentive Working Group and Calstart, featured 17 medium and heavy-duty commercial hybrid trucks. Although companies like FedEx and UPS have been incorporating hybrids in their commercial fleet, it hasn't been big news the way that hybrid passenger vehicles have. That is in spite of the fact that commercial trucking is considered a major contributor to carbon emissions and some states are considering emissions from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. ... Mitsubishi will launch its i MiEV electric car next month in Japan, beating both major player Toyota and Nissan to the punch on electric cars. While Toyota and Nissan have announced plans to launch rival electric cars by 2012, the Mitsubishi i MiEV, which has a range of 99 miles on a single charge, will be sold for 4.6 million yen ($47,500) in just a few weeks ...

HERE COME THE PLUG-INS!

Thursday, June 4, 2009: Toyota announced it will start leasing plug-ins in U.S., Japan and Europe by the end of the year. This will also be the company's first use of lithium-ion batteries in the plug-ins, with current Toyota hybrid using nickel-metal hydride batteries. 500 plug-ins will be leased globally, with 200 in Japan and 150 each in the United States and Europe, including 100 in France ... With reports circulating that Volvo may soon be out from under its Ford ownership, the company has announced that it plans to put plug-in hybrids on the market by 2012. Not only are they planning to enter the plug-in market but they're looking at what would be the world's first plug-in diesel. It would operate in a similar fashion to the Chevy Volt, going the first 40 miles on electric power alone. And the improvement on carbon emissions will be a major boon. Per FoxNews.com: "The company says that over the NEDC standardized European driving cycle, its plug-in diesel hybrid will emit less than 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. Considering that the very best European subcompacts, with optimized turbodiesel engines and lots of high-mileage tweaks, emit roughly 90 g/km, Volvo's claim of 50 g/km is impressive indeed." ...

HYBRIDS: 20% OF CAR SALES BY 2020

Friday, May 29, 2009: Ten years ago, hybrids were little known. Ten years from now, they may represent one in five new vehicles sold in the U.S. A new study by J.P Morgan estimates that hybrid vehicles will account for almost 20 percent of U.S. vehicles sales and 13 percent globally in 2020. MotorAuthority.com notes: "Today hybrids make up a little less than 1% of the cars sold around the world, totaling about 480,000 in 2008 -- most of those in the U.S. That leaves a lot of growth to be done by 2020, but with ever-stricter emissions rules, more favorable incentives and higher fuel economy standards, the hybrid will soon be getting an even push from both consumers and government." J.P. Morgan also says that the proliferation in hybrid sales will significantly drive down the cost - from $5,667 more than their standard counterpart today to $1,890 in 2020 ... Honda has announced it will roll out a hybrid version of its Fit subcompact in the fall of 2010, about a year and a half before its originally scheduled due date. The company is looking to "tap growing demand for low-emission vehicles." Honda has said it plans to launch three more low-cost gas-electric hybrids by 2012, starting with the sporty CR-Z ... Ferrari is considering a hybrid-electric propulsion system for its road cars, which would also incorporate an all-wheel drive system. The company already uses a hybrid system in its Formula One race cars and has filed for patents for the system for its road cars. "Vroom, vroom" is all we have to say ...

PRIUS V. INSIGHT: THE CLASH OF CAR CULTURES

Thursday, May 21, 2009: It's hard to say which hybrid will end up the winner -  the Prius, now with its next generation update including aggressive pricing on a lower-end model, or the newer Insight introduced by Honda.  An Automotive News piece says the Prius vs. Insight debate is a clash of corporate cultures: "In one corner is the Honda Insight--a case study in utilitarian expedience. It's powered by a simplified four-banger with an electric motor adding just enough oomph to cut down on trips to the pump. It sports a plasticy, no-frills interior and poaches parts from sister models. In the other corner is the redesigned Toyota Prius--a paragon of engineering excellence. It pushes the envelope with an ingenious planetary gear transmission, outstanding fuel economy and snazzy options such as solar panels. The car that made hybrids famous carries a first-class sticker price to match."   A Wired blogger said reports were that Toyota had presold 75,000 of the Next-Gen Prius before its official launch so it seems the Insight hasn't made a huge dent in Toyota's sales so far, as about 20,000 Insights have made it off showroom floors.  But only time will tell. The Prius vs. Insight battle is definitely a hot topic, as you can see here, here, and here ... Will the Raser Technologies electric Hummer H3 being touted on Capitol Hill by Sen. Orrin Hatch actually get the 100 MPG the company claims?   While we're especially happy to see MPG gains being made from some of the worst SUV offenders, alternativeenergy.com operator Doug Schiller says 33 MPG is more realistic.  Since the regular Hummer H3 gets between 13 and 18 MPG depending on the model and city vs. highway driving, battery power can only do so much to boost the overall MPG ...  

CHINA STEPS UP ON EVs

Wednesday, April 15, 2009: China will use the Auto Shanghai 2009 Show starting Monday as an opportunity to showcase the nation's advances on "new energy" vehicles, according to the Xinhau news service: "Domestic carmakers including Geely and BYD announced earlier that they would unveil new-energy vehicles, while the country's first hybrid sport utility vehicle (SUV) CS7 is expected to make its debut. New-energy autos mainly refer to electric vehicles (EV) -- driven by an onboard power generator; hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) -- which combine two or more propulsion system and can save as much as 40 percent of the fuel, and hydrogen or solar energy cars. These automobiles, which feature less reliance on gasoline and diesel, energy-saving and environment protection have attracted many countries worldwide to set foot in research and development in the hope of saving energy. " ... Would you pay $87,900 for good Karma? That's what Fisker is betting on at the New York Auto Show: "With the body of a stretched-out Porsche 911 - plus additional head space and legroom - the [plug-in EV Fisker Karma] stakes its claim as an eco-friendly car in the class of the Mercedes CLS and the BMW 7 Series. Despite its sleek exterior, the Karma is a hippie on the inside. The car's wood trim is made of trees recovered from the California wildfires, and its leather interior is crafted from free-range cattle hides." ... We are wondering if some other large organization put in a fleet order of more than 2,500 hybrids at a time? Transport Topics reports: "The U.S. General Services Administration has announced a $285 million plan to replace thousands of government vehicles with more fuel-efficient models and to launch a pilot program for alternative fuel vehicles. Under the plan, GSA will purchase 17,600 new, fuel-efficient vehicles by June 1. Included in that total are 2,500 hybrid sedans that were scheduled to be ordered by April 15 ... Each vehicle purchased must have a higher miles-per-gallon rating than the vehicle it replaces. Each one will replace a vehicle already in service that meets replacement criteria. The ultimate goal is to increase by 10% the collective fuel-efficiency of the vehicles being replaced." ...

U.S. NEWS ON SHUNNING AMERICAN CARS

Wednesday, April 1, 2009: Ouch! Check out the stinging comments in "Five Reasons to Shun American Cars" at USNews.com. Reason #3: "The Detroit 3 are environmental laggards. Chrysler still doesn't even offer a hybrid. GM spent nearly a decade scoffing at hybrids, until gas hit $4 a gallon and the Toyota Prius became a bestseller. Ford's a bit further ahead, but its Fusion and Escape hybrids are still a generation behind Toyota and Honda-and pricey compared to new hybrids like the Honda Insight and the third-generation Prius. While hawking their huge, gas-guzzling SUVs, all three automakers fell far behind on fun, economical small cars. And now, despite aggressive plans to catch up, even bold new vehicles like the Chevy Volt electric plug-in won't help Detroit reclaim environmental leadership." ... Not everyone takes such a dim view of U.S. automakers. The folks at the CleanTech blog write: "Competition is just getting started in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. One company that Toyota must watch carefully is Ford (F). It is Ford with the world's most fuel-efficient SUV - the Ford Escape Hybrid. It is Ford that is now selling a mid-sized hybrid which can be driven to 47 mph in electric vehicle mode - the Ford Fusion Hybrid. It is Ford that is successfully testing the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid with major electrical utilities across the nation. It is Ford, not Toyota, which will be selling commercial electric vehicles in the United States in 2010." ... Of course, Toyota has its hands full today with recent moves made at Honda. Automotive News (via CNet.com) reports: "The green car race between Toyota and Honda is heating up. Toyota Motor Corp. plans a new small hybrid car to take on the Insight, the inexpensive Honda hybrid that just reached the United States. The small gasoline-electric car being planned will be a low-priced spinoff of the Toyota Yaris, said Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer of the redesigned, third-generation Toyota Prius ... Otsuka did not say when the small hybrid will debut, but it could arrive as early as 2011, according to Japan's Nikkei business newspaper. Toyota's plan is the clearest sign yet that the world's biggest automaker is worried about the inroads its domestic archrival is making into small, low-priced hybrid vehicles. Honda's Insight, starting at around $20,000, is selling briskly in Japan and will be followed by a hybrid version of the Fit compact." ...

HERE COME THE HYBRID PRICE WARS!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009: Amid growing evidence of slumping sales and increased competition, comes this report from Bloomberg: "Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest automaker, may cut the price of its Prius gasoline- electric hybrid car in Japan to match Honda Motor Co.'s Insight." Any price war is likely to spread quickly to the prime battleground for consumer spending: the United States ... We really like the look of this car port that doubles as a solar charging station for electric cars: "The Romag 'PowerPark' canopy uses its entire roof area to house photovoltaic cells that have a 1.7KW capacity, which equates to about half the amount of energy used by an average household. The canopy could be used to charge the batteries of an electric or hybrid car, provide energy for a building or even feed electricity back into the (UK) National Grid." ... Speaking of striking images, check out the concept images here at Inhabit for the Lightning Hybrid: "Lightning Hybrid's 4 wheel sedan will feature a 90 HP high-efficiency biodiesel engine in addition to a 150 HP hydraulic motor/pump and accumulator system. Whereas electric hybrids like the Prius store energy from regenerative breaking in a battery, hydraulic hybrids work by storing energy in a pressurized chamber and releasing it upon acceleration. As told by Lightning Hybrids team leader Dan Johnson to Gas 2.0: 'We have developed a unique and patent-pending biodiesel-hydraulic hybrid vehicle which emphasizes thermodynamic and hydraulic system efficiencies, lightweight mechanical and composite structures, and clean sports car styling.' The vehicle will be officially unveiled at the Denver Auto Show this April, and they are aiming for release in 2010 at a price point of $39,000 - $59,000." ...

FOREIGN ADDICTIONS: FIRST OIL ... NOW BATTERIES?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009: If you didn't catch this interview between Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria and Alex Molinaroli, president of power solutions at Johnson Controls, which is making the battery for Ford's first plug-in electric vehicle, make sure to check it out. Here is Zakaria's key question: "So if it's a race among private-sector enterprises, why do you need subsidies? The stimulus bill that just passed has loan guarantees and tax credits for battery makers." To that, Molinaroli responds: "Does the United States want to have the same kind of leadership position it's had in other emerging technologies? When the dotcom era came, our technology position made us competitive. Do United States citizens want to open up the hood of these vehicles and instead of seeing Middle East oil, do we want to see Asian battery suppliers? The United States is not coming from a position of strength. The consumer battery industry moved offshore 15, 20 years ago." .... Talk about leaving yourself wide open to the punsters! Toyota is going to use some seaweed byproducts in their next generation of hybrids. But, really: "Kelp Is On the Way"? In a more serious vein, Fast Company explains: "Bioplastics are an emerging technology that converts biomass into an oil-plastic alternative--typically crops like corn starch, or vegetable oil are used with 'plasticizing' chemicals to create a durable material. As alternatives to 'traditional' plastics, they have the advantages of not using up a precious non-renewable resource and, depending on the particular chemistry involved, they can be biodegradeable so they don't consume waste-dump space or leach unfriendly chemicals into the environment at the end of their life. Seaweed-based plastic is an alternative, and brings the benefit of not consuming farm resources that may be better suited for food production" ...

NEXT-GEN BATTERIES: WILL STIMULUS PUT U.S. AHEAD OF JAPAN?

Friday, February 20, 2009: Will American battery makers become major players in the field by the time the electric car markets goes big time?  Or will the experience that Asian battery makers already have and their established funding sources allow them to keep the lead?  Several contenders have cropped up in the U.S. market, including A123 Systems, and several companies joined forces recently to work together to develop breakthrough lithium ion battery technology.  Volkswagen has even teamed up with Toshiba in the race to develop battery systems for the mass market.  Although Asia may have led the charge in investments in battery technology up to this point, the just-passed U.S. stimulus legislation includes $2 billion in investments for companies that can crack the code of next-gen high capacity, low-weight batteries.  Will this federal investment make U.S. companies into true global contenders? Only time will tell  ...  We have reported before on power companies around the country testing plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with their electric grids.  It looks like Virginia is joining the ranks.  Dominion Virginia Power is testing a pair of plug-in hybrid cars and a pair of hybrid-powered bucket trucks on the road in the Northern Virginia area.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: "Recharging takes about five hours plugged in to a 110-volt electrical outlet and costs less than 50 cents, the utility said. That compares with $2 to $4 for the same mileage in an ordinary vehicle with gas selling at $2 a gallon."  ...  Edmunds has released a comprehensive look at all 2009 hybrid vehicles currently available on the market.  The list of 24 cars, trucks and SUVs includes vehicles with, according to Edmunds, "base prices rang[ing] from about $19,000 to $106,710. They can return as little as 20 mpg or more than 50 mpg. And future plug-in hybrids might be able to do better than 65 mpg (and if you believe Chevy, even 100 mpg)."  If you're in the market for a clean, fuel-sipping vehicle, you'll want to check this list out ...

HYBRIDS AND MUSCLE CAR LOVERS: PERFECT TOGETHER?

Friday, February 13, 2009: Can gas-guzzling and horsepower-loving sports car enthusiasts learn to love hybrids? A self-proclaimed "car-guy horsepower freak" says the answer to that question is "yes." Motor Trend blogger Frank Marcus makes the point that, among other reasons, " ... great looking, dynamic designs like the Cadillac Converj will draw enthusiasts no matter what's under the hood. And as cars like this, and the Fisker Karma (if it ever actually materializes, which I'm not overly confident of), and even the Tesla are getting the word out that an electric drivetrain doesn't have to deliver golf-cart/sensible shoes driving." ... Although Volkswagen has eschewed hybrids in the past in favor of clean diesel technology, it looks like they're finally going to join the hybrid bandwagon. HybridCars.com sources report that the prototype VW Toureg hybrid has been upgraded to productions status and should make it to showrooms in 2011. And a BusinessWeek test drive of the hybrid Toureg sounds promising ... Is a recent move by the Los Angeles City Council to end free parking for hybrids shortsighted? We're not the only ones who think so, based on the comments on a story by ABC 7 in LA. The incentive worked towards the admirable goal of encouraging motorists to drive fuel-efficient, low-emissions hybrid vehicles. The City Council had just extended the incentive last year to 2011 but, apparently due to economic woes, has decided to revoke the benefit ...

THE YUGO OF HYBRIDS ... OR A "PRIUS KILLER"?

Friday, February 6, 2009: With sales of the new Honda Insight hybrid starting this month in Japan, Honda's dream of a "Prius-killer" may have a shot of coming true with the Insight's thrifty under-$20,000 price tag. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says, in real-life, the car can even get anywhere from 55 MPG to 70 MPG. But is the Insight finally a competitor that could knock the popular Prius off its throne? We'll see when the Insight makes its appearance on the scene, which is expected to happen this April ... It looks like Ford will be the next victim of the nonsensical phasing out of hybrid tax incentives. Ford hit the arbitrary 60,000 sales cutoff in the last quarter of 2008 so the tax credit for their hybrid will start the phaseout process on March 31 this year - right in time for its highly fuel-efficient 39 MPG Ford Fusion hybrid and Mercury Milan hybrid to hit the showroom floor. We've been saying it for years now but perhaps a new Presidential Administration with aggressive environmental goals will start listening. The removal of hybrid tax credits does not make sense for a country that is trying to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Let's hope President Obama will propose a change to the current IRS policy in favor of permanent tax breaks for hybrids ... And GM just announced that its new plug-in electric Volt will go on sale in Washington and San Francisco, according to the Washington Post. The two Metro areas will start seeing the cars arrive in late 2010. The company is looking to obtain favorable municipal and business accommodations in the mean time, including special carpool lane access and the installation of charging stations at offices and public areas ...

PERRY CONFUSING: TX GOV HATES ON EPA ... BUT LOVES PLUG-IN HYBRIDS?

Friday, January 30, 2009: Texas has now joined the ranks of only about a half-dozen states looking to offer plug-in hybrid incentives.  Per the Wall Street Journal Environmental Capital blog: "Gov. Rick Perry is an outspoken opponent of government regulation of greenhouse gases and what he calls 'an increasingly activist EPA.' So what's he doing subsidizing green transport? It's all part of the governor's plan to sidestep fresh mandates from Washington, he explained. From his prepared remarks: 'Rather than wait for more mandates and punishments for environmental non-attainment, let's continue encouraging innovation. I support giving Texans in the non-attainment areas of our state a $5,000 incentive towards a purchase of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles, using the funds Texans have already paid to reduce emissions, while providing a unique way to store wind energy.'"  The non-attainment areas include metro areas of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Galveston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and El Paso. While we don't expect Perry to change his feelings about the EPA or government regulation of GHGs  anytime soon, it's great to see Texas take this step towards reducing the emissions that contribute to global warming  ...  Looking for a (relatively) affordable sports car that is environmentally-friendly?  Do you like to be on the cutting edge when it comes to new technology?  Perhaps the new ZAP Alias is for you.  ZAP worked with Lotus engineering to design the electric vehicle, which they unveiled at the NADA Expo in New Orleans this week.  The company is accepting reservations for orders on the three-wheeled vehicle, which has an electric range of 100 miles and will have an MSRP below $35,000  ...  It looks like consumers in the United Arab Emirates market will soon be able to get hybrid cars.  Toyota is working with Dubai's transport regulator Roads and Transport Authority to test hybrids in the market ...  

WILL CALIFORNIA KILL THE PLUG-IN?

Thursday, January 22, 2009: California is widely recognized as a leader in supporting efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  But new regulations there may restrict the abilities of the small, independent entrepreneurs that have thus far led the charge of plug-in hybrid conversions.  Hybridcars.com states: "Converting a conventional hybrid into a plug-in hybrid can approximately double the fuel efficiency of a Toyota Prius -- from about 45 mpg to nearly 100 mpg -- thus greatly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicle. But CARB is concerned about potential increases in smog-related emissions from the converted vehicles. Air resources board engineers are recommending that plug-in hybrids undergo extensive cold-start emissions and gasoline-evaporation testing. According to agency documents, the tests could cost between $20,000 and $125,000 depending on the number of vehicles that CARB requests be tested by each company. "  That could be tough for the small plug-in hybrid outfits  ...  Plug-in hybrids are doing better in the Bay State. A state-owned Prius has been converted to a plug-in hybrid, capable of getting 100 mpg, as a showcase of energy efficiency.  As WCVB reports:  "The state is trying lead by example when it comes to environmental issues, and hopes the technology will become more common."  ...  Have you been thinking of purchasing a hybrid but can't afford a new one? Toyota is now offering a solution: a certified used vehicle program specifically for hybrids ...      

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE FROM U.S. ON HYBRIDS?

Thursday, January 15, 2009: Now that a U.S. automaker's hybrid gets 41 MPG - as in the case of the new Ford Fusion hybrid - the question still remains: can U.S. hybrids can beat the Japanese competition? While the Fusion hybrid is an accomplishment, is it about five years too late to help? Toyota also made a big announcement at the Detroit Auto Show on the 2010 relaunch of the Prius, which will get 50 MPG combined - and have more power than its earlier version. The fact remains that while hybrid technology actually originated with GM, they did not have the vision that hybrids would be a success story and sold the patent to Japanese companies, who then ran with it. And the Japanese clearly have a leg up since they've been producing hybrids for much longer and really know the underlying technology inside and out. Maybe Ford will surprise us - but we're not betting on it ... With the start of the North American International Auto Show this week, automakers have been putting out a great deal of hybrid and electric news. Ford told journalists that it will produce an electric Focus by 2011 as part of its "extensive 'electrification' plans." A small company, Fisker Automotive, introduced its production-ready Fisker Karma plug-in series hybrid luxury car, said to be the first hybrid convertible. Volkswagen said it will offer hybrids, in addition to its clean diesels, for four upcoming vehicles for the U.S. market, including the Jetta, an unnamed midsize sedan and two other vehicles. Lexus debuted its first entry-level luxury hybrid. These are just a few highlights ... If you're thinking of taking advantage of the lull in the auto sales market to get a good deal on a hybrid and also want to get that tax bonus, here is the most recent list of hybrids eligible for tax credits ...

WHERE WAS YOUR HYBRID WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT?

Thursday, January 8, 2009: Ever been caught with no power in the midst of a winter storm and not have a generator? Well, if you have a hybrid, you may not need one. An enterprising Boston man hooked up his house to his Toyota Prius recently during a three-day-long power outage. The Boston Herald reports: "John Sweeney of Harvard, Mass., has provided a tantalizing glimpse of the future. ... Sweeney, an electrical engineer, told the Boston Business Journal he used an inverter to convert direct current from the car battery to 120-volt alternating current for the refrigerator, freezer, the fan for a wood stove, television and some lights. The car ran for a few minutes every half an hour and 'burned about five gallons of gas' while producing about 17 kilowatt-hours, Sweeney said." Of course, this may be a bit over the heads of those of us who are not Harvard electrical engineers ... Several cities and states around the U.S. have had promising developments on the hybrid and electric car front recently. San Jose debuted its first electric car charging station earlier this week. As of the start of 2009, New Jersey "will now implement the California Low Emission Vehicle program that 'requires that more hybrid cars be sold in New Jersey' and 'also requires automakers to sell zero-emission cars in the state by 2011.'" And New York Governor Paterson announced a new initiative on hybrid car production and research earlier this week. It's great to see so many state and local initiatives leading the way towards decreasing greenhouse gas emissions ... And, via the Washington Times Out of Context, we learn that Toyota is secretly developing car powered by cells on the roof. Initially, the solar cells would just power some of the cars battery and accessories but the automaker hopes the car could eventually be powered completely by energy from the sun ...

FORD FUSION HYBRID: BATTERY WOES?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008: The new 2010 41 MPG city Ford Fusion hybrid midsize sedan is a step forward for U.S. automakers on the hybrid front. However, it's disappointing to see that it apparently will be difficult for Ford to keep up with demand for both the new Fusion hybrid and its sister vehicle, the Mercury Milan hybrid, due to battery supply issues. This comes at a point when Ford hopes to quiet congressional critics in Washington, who have gone after all the Detroit automakers for a perceived lack of commitment to fuel economy. Maybe Ford can fix this "flat" for the Fusion and get things back on track ... We reported last week that Honda would be partnering with a Japanese company to focus on development of lithium-ion batteries, the next generation of technology for use in hybrids, and it seems Nissan is hot on their tail in the business as well. Nissan, NEC and NEC Tokin Corp announced they are entering into a joint venture "to make lithium-ion batteries for about 200,000 electric and hybrid cars annually in 2011 or later." The companies will invest at least $1.1 billion to start and "plan to ramp up annual capacity gradually to supply 65,000 units in 2011 for use in Nissan's in-house hybrid car and electric vehicles due in 2010." We say the more competition, the better, as the lithium-ion race heats up ... The hybrid tax credit for qualifying Hondas expires today. However, buyers can still get full tax credits for General Motors and Ford hybrids. A new tax credit is being offered for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and will range between $2,500 and $7,500 depending on the battery capacity of the vehicle. Certain clean diesels also qualify for credits under the "alternative motor vehicle tax credit" ...

AMERICAN BATTERY COMPANIES ALL CHARGED UP ON LITHIUM ION

Monday, December 22, 2008: It looks like some U.S. battery companies are joining forces to boost American manufacturing of lithium ion batteries, the primary component of future hybrid and electric cars. Several companies are coming together to form a united front to compete with Asian companies, which currently dominate the lithium ion battery market. It is refreshing to see a United States industry decide to be a leader, rather than ceding green tech dominance to other nations ... Looks like those U.S. battery companies got their act together just in time. Honda will be focusing on the development of the next generation of lithium ion batteries. Japan's second largest automaker will enter a joint venture with Kyoto-based battery maker GS Yuasa Corp. to the tune of some 15 billion yen (about 170 million dollars) ... Consumers can look forward to many new hybrids and all-electric vehicles in the coming new year. Chevy will have a new "mild hybrid" Malibu. Chrysler will make available its first hybrid, the Aspen. Mercury will follow-up its popular Mariner hybrid with a hybrid Milan. Ford will release the Ford Fusion hybrid this spring, and the list goes on and on ...

FINALLY: THE FIRST MASS-PRODUCED PHEV

Wednesday, December 17, 2008: Although China's greenhouse gas emissions may more than double by 2020, a Chinese company is the first in the world to offer a mass-produced technology that could substantially ease those emissions. The world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid electric vehicle went on sale this past week in China. BYD Co., a Chinese automaker backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, also made available China's first mass-produced hybrid-electric vehicle this week as well. The new PHEV, the F3 DM, can run for 100 kilometers (62 miles) using only batteries, according to the BYD Co. Bringing up the rear on PHEVs are Toyota, which plans to begin testing plug-ins late next year, and GM, which claims that it still plans to start selling the Volt plug-in in late 2010 ... A recent oped in the Boston Globe makes an impressive argument that all vehicles should be required to have the capability to recycle energy. This capability would make a significant advance towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Hybrids, currently the only drive system currently available that recycles kinetic energy, could act as a model and show that this ability is possible. "Imagine if it were possible to recycle energy, just as we do bottles and newspapers. Well, it is, and hybrid cars are the proof. They are the key to making significant reductions in our fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas production, and are therefore the future of American transportation ... If the very existence of our society rests on energy, why do we make no effort to recycle it?" We couldn't have said it better ... Although gas prices may be down, the development of green automotive technology and advancement of green vehicles is still alive and well. New hybrid vehicles are on the horizon. Ford is set to release its first hybrid sedan, the Ford Fusion, early next year. And Mercedes-Benz plans to unveil its lineup of all-electric plug-ins next month at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show ...

THE TRUTH ABOUT HYBRID SALES NUMBERS

Friday, December 5, 2008: Are hybrid sales really all that far down?  The truth is that sales of all new vehicles have taken a hit with the slumping economy.  Where most vehicles are getting heavily discounted, hybrids like the Prius aren't coming with any price breaks and, in some cases, are still getting marked up above the MSRP.  With gas prices having dropped, it's easy to see why people may be holding off for the moment.  But people who care about the environment are many and once the financial climate improves and gas prices start moving back up, hybrid sales numbers will take off once again.  Additionally, studies have shown that hybrid owners are extremely loyal to their gas-sipping vehicles and continue to purchase new hybrids on trade-ins, particularly for the Prius, which has been around a while. Since we continue to see research reports come out predicting high levels of growth in the hybrid market, we're taking the gloom-and-doom crowd on hybrid sales with a grain of salt  ...  It looks like investments in smaller, independent carmakers devoted to hybrid, electric, and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles might be the wave of the future - and be helpful to the domestic jobs market.  While Ford, GM and Chrysler go to Congress for a loan bailout, "there is another $25 billion auto industry loan program, set up by the Department of Energy to quicken the development of fuel-efficient cars."  A number of companies besides the Big Three came to DC this week to learn about the rules governing the program. Any company with "a promise and a plan to make more fuel-efficient cars" can qualify.  In line for the federal bucks are companies such as EcoMotors International, a Troy, Mich., company developing a two-stroke diesel engine that it says will allow compact cars to get 100 miles to the gallon, and Tesla Motors, a privately held company in San Carlos, Calif., that has applied for loans to develop an advanced battery and power train for the company's electric car and develop a lower-priced midsize sedan using the same technology.  We look forward to the innovations that result as well  ...  And it looks like hot rodding isn't just the purview of classic car enthusiasts and HEMI worshippers any more.  Hot rodding has come to the hybrids  ...

DECEMBER 2ND: D(ETROIT) DAY FOR BAILOUT

Wednesday, November 26, 2008: Mark your calendars: December 2 is D-Day for U.S. automakers to assemble a recovery plan before Congress votes on whether to extend the industry another $25 billion in loans. As things stand now, opinion generally seems to be running against the bailout. (See here, here, here, here and here.) Here's our view: If the bailout does move forward, Congress needs to require the Big Three to end their lawsuits against global warming emissions laws in California and three other states and also target any loan guarantees to the development and delivery of hybrids, clean-diesels and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles. Join our campaign to send that message to Congress and President-Elect Barack Obama ... Whether Detroit automakers get a bailout or not, it looks like Ford is in better shape to withstand the current financial crisis - and keep their greener car agenda - than is G.M. and Chrysler. The latest reports are that the company has enough cash on hand to continue operations thought 2009 and continue development of more fuel-efficient vehicles ... The Volkswagen Jetta TDI clean diesel was named "Green Car of the Year" at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show last week, beating out two hybrids, another diesel and a car that looks like a golf cart. That particular Volkswagen model, along with the best of hybrids, electric cars, highly fuel efficient vehicles and even concept and potential future vehicles, are all part of the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) list of today's most environmentally friendly cars. ACEEE rates currently available vehicles on a green scale of zero to 100, taking into account such factors as emissions and fuel economy ...

SHORTSIGHTEDNESS DEFINED: PRIVATE JETS VERSUS HYBRIDS

Friday, November 21, 2008: While some automakers are saying they can't afford to develop more hybrids due to the global financial crisis, Detroit automakers pressing Congress for an additional $25 million bailout somehow found tens of thousands of dollars to fly their CEOs to DC in private corporate jets.  Members of Congress were not amused.  As we have said before, perhaps if U.S. automakers had paid attention to the winds of change for the future and started building hybrids and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles earlier, they would not be anywhere near as bad off as they are now  ...  A company in Washington state says it has developed an innovation for electric lithium-ion batteries, like those used in plug-in hybrids, that would resolve an issue the batteries have shown with a decrease in battery life due to the high current flow fluctuations during acceleration and deceleration.  The company plans to apply for a loan from the Energy Department to make vehicles with this system based off their prototype, which has been tested  ...  A new study from R.L. Polk & Company "forecasts that more than one in 20 new vehicles sold in the United States and Canada will have a hybrid gas-electric powertrain by 2012."  That means growth will almost double from 2.8 percent in 2008 to 5.3 percent in 2012.  The study also shows that the rate of growth of hybrids in Western Europe will be even more dramatic - from one-half percent this year to 5 percent in 2012. The study also highlights trends for hybrids, noting that the global financial situation may cause lower overall sales but the demand for hybrids will remain strong, which is supported by similar predications from J.D. Power.  Also, global growth of hybrids will continue and loyalty rates for hybrids owners are consistently high ...

CONGRESS SHOULD MAKE SMART INVESTMENT IN HYBRIDS

Thursday, November 13, 2008: More than 600 emails already have been sent to Capitol Hill and the incoming Obama Administration from 40mpg.org and TheClean.org (our sister organizations at the Civil Society Institute). Your elected officials need to hear from you now: If Washington is going to give yet another loan-guarantee bailout to Detroit automakers, the price tag for doing so should include requiring the car manufacturers to end their four-year-long legal assault against global warming laws in California and three other states (Vermont, Rhode Island and New Mexico). The groups also called on Congress and the White House to narrowly target any additional loan guarantees for U.S. car makers to the development and delivery of hybrids, clean diesels and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles. Want to get involved? Concerned Americans are being urged to go to http://www.40mpg.org/bailout to send an email urging that the bailout restrictions be supported by their members of Congress and the transition team of President-Elect Barack Obama. You can read the full 40MPG.org/TheCLEAN.org news release here ... How close are we to the ability for large-scale deployment of PHEV technology with smart electric grids? Looks like we're nearly there. The nation's first large-scale test of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with vehicle-to-grid technologies will take place in Boulder, CO by Xcel Energy. The company gave a "$75,000 grant to the Boulder County Commissioners to launch a test of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can both charge from, and give power back to, the 'smart' power-grid technology being built in Boulder." The test will start with four vehicles but Xcel hopes to eventually have 500 plug-in hybrids working on the grid system in a large-scale test ...

SAVE VANISHING HYBRID TAX INCENTIVES!

Thursday, November 6, 2008: We've said it before and we'll say it again:  Why take away incentives for hybrids when they go so far towards higher MPG, lower greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction in our dependence on foreign oil?  Another popular hybrid - the Honda Civic hybrid - will lose its tax credit at the end of this year and it doesn't make any sense to us at all.  We can only hope that, as some analysts are saying, Congress may revisit these incentives as part of a "stimulus" package.  There are incentives for additional alternative fuel technologies, such as the new clean diesel tech in the VW Jetta and Jetta SportWagen released this fall and for various plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles that will appear starting in 2010.  But why remove the "old" incentives that paved the way, showing us that tax credits will help motivate Americans to climb in behind the wheel of the fuel-saving, emission-reducing technology found in hybrids?  ...  Looks like hybrid fever isn't confined to the U.S.  Our neighbors to the north and countries in Europe are finally seeing sales of hybrids catch on.  The embrace by Canadian insurance companies of the discounts and incentives being offered for hybrids in the U.S. has sweetened the affordability - and appeal - of hybrids to Canadian buyers. And Greece, among other EU nations, has seen a nice jump in hybrid sales as well.  With EU legislators looking at higher penalties for manufacturers failing to meet strict CO2 emission standards, expansion of hybrid sales may pick up even more steam  ...  Going the extra (green) mile?  Sounds like it to us.  One specialty garage in San Francisco not only focuses on repairs for hybrids and offers conversion to plug-in hybrids, it goes even further by recycling almost everything - paper, plastic, rubber, metal and oil - and getting power from solar panels on the roof of its building.   There is plenty of business for the woman-owned garage, Luscious, since the Bay Area is home to more Priuses - 70,000 as of 2006 - than most U.S. states ...

HYBRID TAX CREDIT ON STEROIDS

Friday, October 31, 2008: So much for that measly $3,150 that you got when you bought your new Prius hybrid! A little-understood provision in the bank bailout package recently approved by Congress will extend up to $7,500 for plug-in vehicles, such as the 2009 Toyota PHEV, the 2011 GM Volt and the planned Tesla Roadster. According to AP: "Under the new law, plug-in electric cars with at least a 4-kilowatt-hour battery pack will be eligible for a $2,500 credit, with an additional $417 for each additional kilowatt-hour of battery capacity, up to $7,500. GM expects the Volt will merit the maximum credit." (There was some interesting behind-the-scenes griping from Toyota early on when it looked like only the Volt would qualify for the new tax credit.) More details can be found in this Los Angeles Times blog: "The tax credits begin to phase out after 250,000 qualifying vehicles are sold industrywide in the United States. Only new vehicles are eligible, so existing gas-electric hybrids that have been converted to plug-in operation - a process that costs $6,000 to more than $10,000 - won't qualify for the credit, said Genevieve Cullen, vice president of the Electric Drive Transportation Assn., which represents utilities, battery makers, car companies and others with skin in the plug-in game." ...

CALL IT MINI-E

Friday, October 24, 2008: A limited run test fleet of all-electric Mini Coopers from BMW will be available for lease starting next year in Los Angeles and New York.  Already dubbed the "Mini E," the vehicle will be leased on yearly contracts at a cost of $850 per month, with customers being reimbursed for the cost of charging.  The "Mini E" will have a top speed of 95 miles per hour and a range per charge of 150 miles  ...  First the Volt.  Now?  Troubled car company General Motors is looking to amp up its investment in electric battery technology.  The company is partnering with Chrysler to obtain government funding to electrify larger passenger vehicles and has increased its investment in electric-battery producer A123 Systems Inc. As Reuters reports: " GE and Chrysler are teaming up to develop plug-in hybrid electric cars that use two batteries -- lithium-ion, which GE researchers said is better-suited for creating short bursts of power when starting a car -- and another using sodium-metal halide technology, which GE contends is preferable for producing long-term, steady power, like at cruising speed."  ...  St. Paul, MN., will soon have a plug-in hybrid car-share program.  In a similar model to the Zipcar and Flexcar companies we already see in cities like Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia, HOURCAR will be available shortly.  And get this nice little twist:  The HOURCAR recharging stations will be solar-powered ...

NEXT: AN ALL HYBRID LUXURY BRAND?

Thursday, October 16, 2008: It's not news that luxury carmakers are circling the hybrid/plug-in marketplace.  But Lexus, with Toyota as its parent, is clearly in a stronger position than its competitors to jump in with both feet. Lexus currently offers three hybrid vehicles in their lineup.  So the question now is: Will Lexus take the plunge and offer only hybrid vehicles?  The answer is a definite "maybe."  Lexus is now planning a luxury hybrid based on the Prius and a new hybrid RX crossover. With Toyota well along in its tests for a plug-in version of the Prius, Lexus would also benefits from a piece of that action as well  ...  Recent projections of the impact of plug-in hybrids on electricity demand in the U.S. show they could end up being negligible. The Electric Power Research Institute provided statistics for a recent Marketwatch story showing it would take 14 million GM Volts charging every night for a year to equal the power consumed yearly by U.S. residents' dishwashers. And if PHEV owners charge their batteries during non-peak hours, it would them cost about 80 cents, allowing the owners to go 40 miles without using gas.  Additionally, charging during off-peak times may enable power companies to better use their existing capacity, which could result in utility rates actually going down. Of course, we will believe that when we see it!  ...  And what would a merger between 2 major U.S. automakers, specifically GM and Chrysler, mean for the future of hybrids and plug-in cars?  The emerging consensus seems to be that it would not be a particularly good development ...

AUTO BAILOUTS: FRANCE 1, USA 0

Friday, October 10, 2008: Maybe the reason some people on Capitol Hill don't like the French is because Gallic policy makers can be so much smarter than their American counterparts. A case in point: Auto bail outs. Congress just got done setting aside for U.S. automakers $25 billion that "could" be used to support development of hybrid and electric cars. Not will be used that way ... but could be used that way. Enter French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has pledged €400 million (US$549 million) "'exclusively for the research and development of nonpolluting vehicles' over four years ..." Quoting a French poet, President Abraham Lincoln wrote the following when he was accused of changing his plans in the face of new circumstances: "L'homme absurde est celui qui ne change jamais." (For those of you on Capitol Hill, that translates roughly as follows: "The stupid man is he who never alters.") If it was up to us Congress would go even farther and bar auto companies from pursuing lawsuits to bar tougher state vehicle emission standards. Why should taxpayers subsidize such suits - even if only indirectly?  ...  Could things get even worse in Congress when it comes to auto policy? You bet! Certain members of Congress are doing their best to try and prevent states from enforcing motor vehicle emissions standards that exceed weak federal standards. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) released draft legislation this week to cap greenhouse emissions. However, "the House measure includes a controversial proposal to preempt the ability of states to set their own motor vehicle emission standards." We are sure that it's a complete coincidence that Rep. Dingell's wife is vice chairman of the General Motors Foundation  ...  Looks like there is more than meets the eye to the new federal tax credit for plug-in hybrid cars, part of the sprawling $700 billion bailout bill signed into law last week by President Bush. Under the new measure, the larger the battery the bigger the subsidy is the rule, even if the car housing a smaller battery gets superior performance and range. Although tax credits for plug-ins is a step in the right direction, it seems unhelpful to advance them at the expense of other clean and high-MPG alternatives, such as clean diesels ...

TRUCKS, CYCLE MAKERS REVVING UP HYBRID PLANS

Friday, October 3, 2008: Not all announcements of new hybrids are exactly alike. Kenworth, which manufactures commercial trucks, announced the launch of its T series hybrid, the first medium-duty truck on the North American market. This diesel-electric hybrid truck is intended for city driving, and in the right conditions, will yield improved fuel economy of 25-40 percent.  On the two-wheeling front, Honda has announced it will be producing a hybrid-electric motorcycle, which will use a drivetrain much like that of the new Insight and should be seen in showrooms in two years.  We know motorcycles already get much better fuel economy than cars due to their size but the gas-electric drivetrain will improve that by an additional 50 percent  ...  Nearly every car maker was scrambling to tout its electric and hybrid models at the Paris Auto Show. Even Lamborghini has hinted it's new sports car could be a hybrid.  And, although the new Honda Insight which was featured at the show may not be quite as fuel efficient as the Prius, buyers will be happy to learn that the price will be lower  ...  We knew Hyundai had plans to enter the hybrid market but it looks like they are intent on being very aggressive and want to hit the ground running in 2010.  The company has announced it plans to sell 500,000 hybrids by 2018, with initial production of 50,000 Sonata-based hybrid cars per year ...

TOYOTA ENVIES HONDA CNG GAINS

Thursday, September 25, 2008: Although they've made no plans yet to put it into production, Toyota announced it will debut its natural-gas hybrid at the LA Auto Show in November. Toyota has long lagged behind Honda with CNG vehicles and they've clearly taken note of Honda's success with the CNG Civic in California and New York, the two states where it's sold. Although there aren't too many fueling stations so far, the price at the pump makes it a very attractive option ... Chrysler says it will bring three electric vehicles to the market, with an eye to launching one of them by 2010. For its new plug-in hybrids (which Chrysler calls "range-extended electric cars"), the auto company will power the vehicles using a similar concept to the one for the GM Volt: a small electric motor which will include a small gasoline engine that charges a battery that generates electricity to power the motor. Chrysler is planning to develop an all-electric sports car, a plug-in hybrid Wrangler and a plug-in hybrid Town & Country minivan ... but hasn't decided which will be the first to market ... A new study has confirmed the "... viability of electricity as a clean and low-cost transportation fuel and the advantages that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles offer over standard hybrid electric vehicles for increased gas mileage and lower tailpipe emissions. " The year-long study, conducted by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), found that the plug-in hybrid achieved fuel-cost savings of 57 percent over conventional gas vehicles and 18 percent over regular hybrids. The electric company also found that the plug-in hybrid achieved a 37 percent decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) tailpipe emissions over the standard hybrid vehicle ...

STAY UP FOR "LATE NIGHT" ... WITH YOUR PLUG-IN HYBRID

Wednesday, September 17, 2008: Is there a new habit in the making for Americans?  Try this:  Plugging in the next generation of hybrids when Leno and Letterman come on.  A recent Time magazine story makes the point that if plug-in's were charged late at night, the off-peak capacity of the electric grid is such that no new power plants would need the be built to accommodate the energy needs of the vehicles. "According to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, off-peak capacity could support the conversion of 73 percent of the current auto fleet - enough to cut demand for oil in half - without the addition of a single extra plant ..." It also states that a shift to plug-in's could help develop renewable power. If millions of plug-in's were attached to the grid, they could serve as mini-batteries, which would store renewable electricity as it's generated and could eventually even channel solar- and wind-energy electricity back into grid during cloudy or windless days  ...  General Motors finally unveiled the "essentially complete" Volt, the electric car they plan to start selling in 2010. Electricity will be stored in a large lithium-ion battery pack and after it is charged for several hours, the vehicle will have a range of 40 miles without using gasoline before needing a recharge.  Although they did not announce pricing for the car, reports have said the price will be around $40,000  ...  And Mercedes has announced it will bring a hybrid to the U.S. and Europe, with reports saying it will be a ersion of its luxury S-Class. The company reports that the new hybrid will be available in the U.S. and Europe in September 2009 and will get around 29.8 miles per gallon ...

CONSUMER REPORTS: HYBRIDS PAY OFF

Tuesday, September 9, 2008: Will this kill the recent string of hybrids-don't-make-good-economic-sense stories? Six out of 12 hybrid models recently looked at by Consumer Reports in an analysis paid off their price premium in just one year, even without tax credits, and three additional vehicles also come out ahead after a year with tax incentives. Take that hybrid haters! ... We have to wholeheartedly agree with a recent entry on the "Kicking Tires" blog that the U.S. doesn't necessarily need stopgap fuels like natural gas and ethanol in order to become energy independent. If we went all hybrid - or at least got our average fuel economy to around 40 mpg -- we could be free of oil imports from OPEC countries and Russia, which together account for half of our current imports ... It looks like Honda will enter another vehicle into the hybrid race, as it has planned to unveil its revamped Insight hybrid. The Insight was the first hybrid on the scene in 1999, but production was discontinued in 2006 after it was eclipsed by the red-hot Prius. The Insight Concept, to be unveiled at the International Auto Show held in Paris in early October, will expand the original two-seater to five seats. Honda also plans to unveil another hybrid based on the sporty CR-Z ...

DO PLUG-IN HYBRIDS UNDERCUT PICKENS PLAN?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008: Unless you are living in a cave, you've seen the T. Boone Pickens TV ad making the case that we need to use more of our country's wind resources to reduce the amount of imported oil.   We like that as far as it goes, but a Washington Post op-ed from this past weekend makes a good point:   Another part of Pickens plan -- shifting natural gas away from electricity production to use in powering cars -- doesn't make sense when plug-in hybrid's are so close to entering the market.  Natural gas is a fossil fuel that still emits greenhouse gases, whereas increased wind energy production could be used to fuel plug-in hybrids, providing a clean electricity source for the zero emissions vehicles.  ...  California still leads the country in hybrid purchases.  A new report released by the Polk Center for Automotive Studies and The Travelers Cos. Inc. reports: "For the year to date through May, 39,830 new hybrids were registered in California, almost five times as many as in Florida, the next closet state with 8,810 registrations. New York, Texas and Illinois rounded out the top five states." The top cities for hybrid sales were Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, IL.  More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on insurance for hybrids, including Travelers which offers a 10 percent discount.  ...  Interested in building your own diesel-hybrid vehicle?  A design company in Phoenix, Arizona is selling design plans for a three-wheeled hybrid that could achieve 225 miles per gallon ...

HYBRIDS FLYING OUT OF RENTAL CAR LOTS

Tuesday, August 26, 2008: It's not only car sales lots where hybrids are a hot commodity. With gas prices still high relative to last year, many travelers are trying to ease the pain at the pump by renting hybrid vehicles. At the car rental counter, hybrids are still in short supply and the demand is causing rental agencies to charge a premium. ... Could "multi-fuel" cars be another option that could help both with our global warming crisis and the pain in our pockets? We're not sure of the answer but Salon.com is posing the question ... Enough already with the Prius-owners-are-eco-snobs stories! The steady stream of us-against-them stories strikes us as being a total media fabrication ... Your grandfather -- or great grandfather! -- may have owned an electric car. No kidding. ...

ALL CARS ARE HYBRIDS BY 2020?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008: This seems like even too much for us to hope!  A new report from IBM's Institute for Business Value, based on interviews with 125 anonymous car industry executives in 15 countries, claims that all new cars sold in 2020 will be hybrids of some form or another. The report also claims that investment in biofuels will continue but that ethanol from corn or other food products is a dead end, although cellulosic ethanol has potential.  ...  Maybe that's not so far-fetched as it seems.  Toyota has announced it plans to put hybrid engines in all its vehicles by 2020.  ...  It looks like towns and counties across New York state are feeling the pinch of high gas prices and are taking steps to alleviate their pain at the pump as their budgets are strained.  An example:  "In Westchester, county officials have turned to electric hybrid vehicles and vegetable oil to help lower fuel costs. Officials have replaced almost 50 percent of the county's 330 cars with hybrids and converted several larger vehicles, including trucks and a commuter bus, to run on vegetable oil. The oil comes from the county's parks department food concession stands and local restaurants that leave the greasy donations at three county filtering facilities where they are cleaned and processed." ...

NISSAN JUMPS INTO ELECTRIC CAR RACE

Tuesday, August 12, 2008: Looks like there is another contender in the race to manufacture a mass market electric vehicle. Nissan unveiled its entry in the electric race last Wednesday. The company plans to launch sales of its car in Japan and the U.S. by 2010 and expand globally by 2012. The manufacturer also intends to start using its own hybrid system by 2010 for the Altima, for which Nissan had been purchasing the Toyota hybrid system ... Not surprising to us is a new report showing that hybrid car owners are some of the most loyal in the U.S. market, with almost half purchasing the same make when they buy a new vehicle. According to Experian Automotive, 47 percent of hybrid owners buy the same make as compared with 35 percent of buyers overall. And 18 percent of hybrid owners even buy the same model ... And it looks like the Prius, Tesla and other hybrids may soon have sound added to handle the supposed "issue" of hybrids being too silent for some pedestrians, particularly the blind. Lotus Engineering has come up with a system that adds waterproof speakers to the front of the vehicle to project the sound of a conventional vehicle ...

HYBRID PRICE WAR IN THE WORKS?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008: With stories popping up around the U.S. about how the used-auto market for Priuses is so red hot that they often sell for more than list price of a new Prius, Honda is making noise about introducing in early 2009 a new "Prius fighter" that would be priced at half the cost of America's number 1 selling hybrid auto.  As Jalopnik reports:  "The five-door, five-passenger hybrid-only car will get to that low, low price point by using a greatly simplified - and 50% cheaper - version of its Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system."  It will be interesting to see if Honda, which let its Insight leadership slip through its fingers, will be able to get its hybrid act together again ...  Have hybrids jumped the shark?   Even the folks who make the grandpa-mobiles at Chrysler are now getting into the act, with hybrids planned for the Durango and Aspen ...  Mercedes Benz just can't seem to catch a break when it comes to hybrids.  Now, there's a report that its long-awaited M-class hybrid may be delayed due to a dispute with the battery makers for the vehicle ...

ELECTRIC TESLA ROADSTERS FOR THE MASSES?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008: It looks like Tesla, makers of the electric Roadster based on the sporty Lotus Elise platform, are considering producing a mass-market electric vehicle. They're only in the early planning stages but they may do up to 20,000 units in the sub-$30,000 price range, which would make it affordable for many, which is pretty decent. And since they have the experience of already creating an electric car - and a hot, high-performance one at that - we are very excited about this prospect! ... We've all heard the stories about individual truckers, as well as trucking companies, being hit hard by the sky-high prices at the pump. Now, a company near Seattle plans to begin full production of its medium duty truck with a hybrid diesel-electric engine. Like the Prius and other hybrids cars, the truck can capture the energy used from braking and store it for use later in its electric motor. The Seattle Times reports: "Medium-duty trucks are the backbone of the distribution industry. They are used, mostly in city traffic, to deliver anything from furniture to beer, and about 39,000 are operating just in Washington state, according to Kenworth. Kenworth chief engineer Mike Dozier said hybrids are ideally suited for such delivery fleets, because stop-and-go driving allows the electric motor to operate and recharge its batteries more frequently." Another plus: These trucks are less noisy in crowded business districts and otherwise quiet residential areas ... Trend-setting Minnesota is doing it again. The Land of 10,000 Lakes (and soon even more hybrids!) has the right idea when it comes to promoting plug-in hybrids. The Legislature passed funding for the state's Office of Energy Security to provide grants that will help Minnesotans with up to 30 percent of the conversion kit fee for hybrids to switch from a standard hybrid to a full-blown PHEVs ...

CAN HONDA GET ITS HYBRID MOJO BACK?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008: Honda had a leg up when it introduced the Insight, the first hybrid car.  But then the Japanese car company blew that first-to-market advantage.  Here's the bottom line:  The company has sold just 227,000 hybrids compared to Toyota 's stellar 1.5 million. But Honda is now looking to change that, planning to sell 500,000 hybrids by early in the next decade.  ...  Maybe GM will have more luck getting power on a regular basis than we do with our unreliable electric power company!  A much-hyped collaboration between General Motors and more than 30 American electric utilities is being touted as a boost for the introduction and adoption of plug-in hybrids in the U.S.  Check out the report from NPR  ...  Looking forward to introductions of plug-in hybrids and eventual large scale use, a project funded by the Department of Energy is testing batteries and a 'smart' electric grid that will mitigate possible strain on the electric grid. eTec, which specializes in rechargeable lithium ion and lead acid batteries, will work with V2Green, which has  "developed a 'smart' electric grid that allows charging stations to control the flow of electricity between plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) batteries and an electric grid."  The goal is to develop a system that would allow PHEVs to store energy at battery-charging station so they could charge in 10 minutes at any time, only taking electricity from the grid during off-peak hours and putting it back in during peak hours ...  

EVEN CHRYSLER IS GETTING ON THE EV BANDWAGON

Tuesday, July 15, 2008: Look like it's not going to be your grandfather's Chrysler any more. Chrysler is joining the fray on electric vehicles -- a burgeoning space where Chevrolet, Toyota, and Ford already are working either on concept cars or soon-to-be-market-ready vehicles. Chrysler has launched a new division called ENVI to bring electric-drive vehicles and other advanced-propulsion vehicles to market. They say they intend to bring a product to the market within three to five years. It may not beat the Chevy Volt to market (2010 is still the target there) but it's an interesting development ... And in a sign of the changing times, Toyota has finally announced it will begin manufacturing its hybrid Prius in the U.S. The cars will be rolling of the assembly line of a new plant in Mississippi by late 2010 to help meet demand for more fuel efficient vehicles. At the same time, Toyota said it would shut down truck production at two United States plants for three months and consolidate its pickups into one factory next year. As with many automakers, Toyota has been hit with slumping SUV and pickup sales as gas prices have hit record highs ... If you're ever curious exactly how large the spike in sales of hybrid cars has been in recent years, the Electric Drive Transportation Association has a great chart. In 2000, total hybrid sales were 9,367 and by the end of 2007, sales were over 330,000 ...

SUN TO SHINE ON PRIUS?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008: It is now clear that Toyota is not content to rest on its hybrid laurels. The company announced this week that it plans to install solar panels on the next generation of its Prius hybrid, which would mark the first major automaker use of solar technology in vehicles. Nikkei reports: "... Toyota would equip solar panels on the roof of the high-end version of the Prius when it redesigns the gasoline-electric hybrid car early next year, and the power generated by the system would be used for the air conditioning." ... Fitting in with NYC Mayor Bloomberg's plan to "green" New York City, the NYPD will be testing a fleet of 20 hybrid SUVs starting this week. The city police had already been testing electic Vetrix scooters, which carry one officer and are similar to the Segway and go up to 55 miles before requiring a charge ... Japan's top carmakers showcased a fleet of electric plug-ins, hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell cars for attendees of the G8 summit this week, where leaders are seeking to hold a green summit. Mitsubishi, Toyota and Mazda are among the companies showcasing both available and concept technology at the summit. The Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell car, which we reported earlier would start being leased in California this month, was used to ferry summit delegates ...

EARTH TO FORD: WRONG TIME FOR COLD FEET ON HYBRIDS

Tuesday, July 1, 2008: What are they thinking over there at Ford? Now they are going to hold back on plug-in hybrids, let other companies take the risk and see what happens? Didn't the whole Toyota Prius episode teach them anything about the dangers of timidity? Yeesh! ... As if Ford needed more evidence that it is on the wrong road on hybrids, there was the Citizens Lead for Energy Action Now (CLEAN) survey last week showing that over half of Americans (53 percent) - including 58 percent of those who are angry about gas prices and 47 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Independents -- are "more likely" to "buy a hybrid, clean-diesel or other more fuel-efficient vehicle now than [they] were six months ago." This is up sharply from the 35 percent of Americans who indicated in April 2007 that they were more likely to buy a hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle than six months before that point ... Looks like another car company plans to enter the hybrid race. Korean automaker Hyundai says they will be selling hybrids in Korea starting next year and by 2010, will be selling them around the world. The company first plans to make hybrid variants of its Accent, Sonata and Avante sedans ...

"HYBRID PREMIUM" NO DETERRENT TO SALES

Tuesday, June 24, 2008: Faced with a demand that is outstripping supply, some hybrid auto dealers are tacking on a little something extra to their sticker prices.   But that premium isn't putting a dent in consumer demand.  J.D. Power reports: "Seventy-two percent of recent car buyers said they're definitely or probably interested in getting a hybrid for their next vehicle..." By comparison, however, just 37 percent of consumers were interested in clean diesel technology but Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies at J.D. Power, said consumers just don't have as much knowledge of clean diesel technology.  That could change as more offerings hit the market, but clean-diesel car advocates had better get on the stick and explain to consumers that the higher per-gallon price for diesel is offset by improved gas mileage  ...  Do you drive a gas-guzzling Porsche or Lamborghini?  Have you been feeling the pain at the pump lately?  Well, now you, too, can go green.  Conversion shops are now able to convert high-octane cars such as Porsche's into electric cars. Now you can be sporty and green!  ...  India is getting its first hybrid. Honda launched sales last week in that nation for the Honda Civic hybrid. The vehicle will get about 50 percent higher fuel economy than the standard petrol version available in India ...

DETROIT PLUGS INTO HYBRID SUBSIDY

Friday, June 20, 2008: Sounds like U.S. automakers will have to stop whining about "unfair" subsidies that governments in other nations may or may not be providing to their hybrid automakers. The U.S. Department of Energy is going to pony up some bucks for development of plug-in hybrid technology by U.S. automakers. Following on the heels of a Ford executive's chastising of the U.S. government for not helping out on R&D costs for plug-in hybrid's, both Ford and GM will be the beneficiaries of awards from the total of $30 million in taxpayer subsidies that the DOE will provide over the next three years.  ...  It looks like Mitsubishi may be throwing its hat into the ring on the plug-in hybrid front. In an effort to be the first large-scale producer of all-electric cars, they plan to introduce plug-in hybrids on a mass-market scale as early as 2013. Looks like Mitsubishi is stepping into the gap created by Toyota's recent decision to stop short at plug-in hybrids for fleet leasing only ...

TOYOTA LETS DOWN CONSUMERS ON PLUG-INS

Friday, June 13, 2008: Those of you who have accused HOA of being "in the bag" for the Toyota Prius hybrid will find the following to be of interest:   While we're happy to hear that Toyota plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid with next-generation lithium-ion batteries in Japan, the United States and Europe by 2010, we are more than a little disappointed that the company only has plans to serve the fleet leasing sector for now.  Yeah, we know.  We've heard the explanation that the limits on battery production are the reason that the new all-electric vehicles won't be produced on a volume scale.   But it's still a huge letdown and it also sounds suspiciously like the kind of go-ahead-slow thinking on hybrids that got Detroit into trouble while Toyota dreamed big  ...  A top Ford executive is "warning that the United States was falling behind in developing the technology critical to the advanced vehicles" and urging the U.S. government to make a commitment to developing the technology.  Mark Fields, Ford's president of the America, pointed out that governments in several countries (Japan, China, Korea and India) are (supposedly) helping to fund the development of these technologies.   Gee, aren't these the same guys who want to keep the government out of the MPG and emissions standard-setting business? Are multi-billion-dollar handouts the exception to the leave-it-to-the-industry rule?  ...  Ever wonder why the trucking industry hasn't followed in the footsteps of the passenger vehicle development and sales of hybrid vehicles?   You can't explain it all away with diesel engines; Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) pointed out in a hearing this past Tuesday on Capitol Hill that both consumers and the trucking industry could benefit from the advances in hybrid technologies. FYI:  Coca-Cola has the largest fleet of hybrid trucks in the U.S. at 142 and says they have been a good investment ...

THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW: CONGRESSIONAL GAS HOGS

Thursday, June 5, 2008: Do as I say, not as I do.  That seems to be the message from Congress on fuel efficiency.  Even though hybrids (and other small cars) are so popular they're sold out around the country due to record gas prices, federal lawmakers are still - to paraphrase Prince -- driving like it's 1999.  Since taxpayers are often footing the bill, many members of Congress seem to be bothered neither by high gas prices nor their shameful carbon footprint.  ...  A recent study released by J.D. Power predicts that hybrid sales as percentage of total vehicle sales in the U.S. will jump to 7 percent by 2015, over the 2.2 percent of the market they currently hold  ...  In the selling-ice-to-Eskimos department:  Now that GM is shuttering plants in the U.S. due to poor sales from their gas guzzlers, it looks like they're looking elsewhere to boost their sales.  Marketwatch is reporting that GM has plans to sell hybrid vehicles in Persian Gulf states. Considering gas in Saudi Arabia, for example, is about 91 cents a gallon, we're interested to see how hybrids fare ...  

220 MPG HYBRID?

Friday, May 30, 2008: It's a little late for April Fool's Day pranks, so we are going to assume that this item is on the level. A North Carolina-based company, Hybrid Technologies, has announced they're working on a hybrid that will not only get 220 MPG minimum but would also compete with the Corvette ZR-1's V8, that gets mid-600s-scale horsepower. They plan to enter it along with an all-electric version that could go 150-180 miles between charges, in the Automotive X-Prize competition. ... More reports here and here about hybrid shortages at car dealers ... Due to the rising demand for hybrids, Toyota is building a third plant in Japan to manufacture batteries for its hybrid and electric vehicles ...

PRIUS HITS A MILLION

Thursday, May 22, 2008: Toyota has sold its one millionth Prius, the world's first mass-market hybrid-electric vehicle. This is a tremendous milestone for hybrids and it really shows the solid place the technology is taking in the era of high fuel-efficiency and low-emission vehicles. Paul Eisenstein points out in The Car Connection: "In its early days, Prius had little competition, initially only the Honda Insight, a teardrop-shaped two-seater that actually beat Toyota's offering to the States, but never really charged up consumers. Today, Prius is being sold in more than 40 countries, and with gas prices surging to new records, almost by the day, it is also drawing a flood of new competitors. ... The big challenge is to take the technology to the next step - while also driving down costs." ... Among the plans to offer more competition to the Prius, Honda has announced its plans to sell a "new, improved and affordable gas-electric hybrid in the U.S., Japan and Europe starting in early 2009..." Like the Prius, the new Honda will not have an all-gas counterpart. In addition, Honda has plans to launch more new hybrid models - including a sporty take on the CR-Z and a variation of the Fit subcompact. We can't wait to see them roll out! ... Along with many other states, Massachusetts has seen a boom in hybrid sales over the past several months of high gas prices. According to a recent review of motor vehicle registrations, the number of Massachusetts motorists who own hybrid cars has jumped 36 percent in the past nine months alone! ...

THE HYBRID SHORTAGE IS BACK!

Friday, May 16, 2008: Across the U.S., demand is once again outstripping supply when it comes to hybrid cars. High gas prices are clearly a factor but we wonder why automakers didn't anticipate the demand. Gas prices have been heading upwards for a while now and analysts have been projecting price increases due to increasing demand globally for a few years now. So, why are we right back to the early 2006-style hybrid shortage? ... Both in the U.S. and Canada, stories continue to pop up about people who are tired of their gas guzzling SUVS and want to buy hybrids and other more fuel efficient vehicles. A Toronto Globe and Mail columnist notes: "SUVs just don't have the cachet they used to. They're too big, too square, too hard to park, too easy to roll over. They're starting to remind me of the giant shoulder pads I used to wear in the 1980s. I thought those power suits looked great then. They just look silly now. 'The SUV craze was a bubble and now it is bursting,' George Hoffer, an automotive economist, told The Boston Globe." ... Due to high gas prices, it's taking even less time to recoup the cost of a hybrid. USA Today reports: "Rising fuel prices and competition among a proliferation of gasoline-electric hybrids have sliced the payback period for hybrids to two or three years in some cases, instead of five years or more ..." ...

MIT SAYS WE NEED MORE HYBRIDS ON THE ROAD NOW

Thursday, May 8, 2008: An MIT study found that if we have the same mix of vehicles on the road in 2035 that we had in 2005, our fuel use will rise 35 percent. However, "aggressive adoption of hybrids would make carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent lower than if no changes were made in the next 27 years. That would require 55 percent of new cars on the road to be hybrids or plug-in hybrids, leaving 44 percent to run on gasoline." The researchers also called for immediate government support through fuel-efficiency tax credits ... As if we need more evidence that high gas prices are affecting car-buying habits: "A year ago, the Toyota Prius was the 13th most shopped model on third- party web sites such as Edmunds.com and Autotrader.com. In April, as gas prices jumped from the $2.70 range to the $3.25 range, the hybrid became the 4th most shopped, according to a new report by Compete.com, Boston." ... Zoom zoom! Sixteen college teams participated in a hybrid racing competition this past Tuesday, where the hybrids keep getting faster and faster ...

PRIUS PLUG-IN: AS SIMPLE AS A123?

Friday, May 2, 2008: Are you a Prius owner who is eagerly awaiting more opportunities to convert to a plug-in? A123 Systems is now taking pre-orders for their Hymotion 5 battery, which converts a Prius into a plug-in hybrid. The battery, which fits in the spare truck slot under the trunk, takes the average 40 miles per gallon fuel economy of the Prius and jacks it up to a potential of over 100 miles per gallon.  ...  Looks like hybrid-like technology may be adapted for use in regular gas vehicles to improve their fuel efficiency.  As those of us who live in cities know particularly well, we spend many hours of our life sitting in traffic or at red lights.  The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that "17 billion gallons of fuel are spent each year while cars sit motionless."  We were intrigued to see that a German transmission company has "introduced a technique ... that stops fuel consumption when a non-hybrid car comes to a halt and restarts it within 350 milliseconds of the brake being disengaged. This reduces fuel consumption on starts by 5%"  ...  One police technician in California took on the challenge of converting hybrids into police-ready vehicles and his success is now drawing interest from police agencies around the country. Local shops weren't able to convert properly the Highlander Hybrids ordered by the Lindsay police and Toyota even refused to offer technical support.  But Officer Eliseo Mendez was able to work out all the kinks so the police and fire department would have a reliable and greener mode of transport ...

HYBRIDS SCARCE AGAIN ON CAR DEALER LOTS

Friday, April 25, 2008: As gas prices continue to rise to nose-bleed levels, hybrid sales are surging. It's like the winter of 2006 all over again with car dealers unable to keep up with the demand for hybrids and forced to take backorders. You can see stories here and here about gas prices whipping hybrid sales into a new frenzy. ... Here's some good news: a recent survey shows that hybrids "have a better total cost of ownership over five years or 70,000 miles than the vehicles they directly compete against." Makes sense - the higher gas prices go, the smarter hybrid buyers look ... An analysis from automotive research firm R.L. Polk found that hybrid car registrations went up 38 percent from 2006 through 2007. Have you walked through a parking garage in the last few months? Just wait until R.L. Polk sees the 2008 hybrid sales numbers! ...

DIESELS TO OFFER HYBRIDS A RUN FOR (GAS) MONEY?

Friday, April 18, 2008: Clean diesels entering the U.S. car market could be stiff competition for hybrids.  We think both technologies can peacefully co-exist, playing important roles in reducing emissions.  Some characteristics of clean diesels will appeal to certain consumers, while others will prefer hybrids.  As Business Week points out: "For most of the past century, diesel engines have been associated with smoky, smelly trucks and buses. Now there's a surprise: A new generation of diesel-powered passenger cars is delivering punchy performance and emission levels so low they pass muster in all 50 U.S. states. ... The high fuel efficiency of diesel cars makes for attractive economics. Compared with similar gas engines, diesels deliver up to 35% better mileage. So even though prices for diesel at the pump are now running about 12% more than gasoline, per-mile fuel costs for new diesel cars are 15% to 20% lower than for gas-powered autos."  ...  A European carmaker plans to join the ranks of hybrid manufacturers.  Fiat, not currently available in the U.S., "is developing gasoline and diesel hybrid-drive systems for small cars and vans that could be production ready by 2011." The CEO of the company also announced that their goal is to have the lowest CO2 emissions of any European carmaker by 2012. ... And there appears to be a great deal of controversy in the world of high-end hybrid sports cars.  Tesla, who we have reported on in the past, has filed a lawsuit against a competing company and two of its employees, saying they stole design ideas and trade secrets. ...

CALIFORNIA LEADS PLUG-IN HYBRID CHARGE

Friday, April 11, 2008: The state leading the drive for plug-in hybrids is California. The state's Air Resources Board has "declared that by 2012-2014, they want the 'Big Six' car makers to produce at least 58,333 plug-in hybrid vehicles, along with up to 7,500 'pure zero-emission vehicles' -- essentially fuel-cell vehicles or hydrogen fueled combustion cars such as the BMW Hydrogen 7 -- or 12,500 battery-electric vehicles with a range of at least 100 miles." ... The new hip, suburban vehicle to drive is none other than a hybrid. Whereas just a few years ago, honking SUVs were the status symbol to own, hybrid cars increasingly claim the title of coolest ride. And it doesn't hurt that with the record high gas prices nowadays, a hybrid is not only hip, but easy on the wallet ... Ecogeek reports that Mercedes is coming out with a 40 MPG diesel hybrid SUV. Mercedes-Benz showcased the Vision GLK BlueTec Hybrid at the Geneva Auto Show ... And hybrids, which have been identified in the past as a yuppie car, are increasingly being looked at by blue-collar companies as a way to save money ...

SUBSIDIES - BAD FOR PRIUS ... GOOD FOR DETROIT?

Friday, April 4, 2008: Nothing like some good old fashioned hypocrisy! U.S. auto enthusiasts are up in arms over the claim by former Toyota executive, Jim Press, that the Japanese government paid for the development of the hybrid battery system for the Prius but Toyota denies it and the Japanese government backs Toyota's proclamation. But what's bad for the Prius is apparently just hunk dory for Detroit! Press and other American car company executives are pressing for the U.S. government to provide financial support to assist their companies in the research and development of technologies to help meet the new CAFÉ standards. ... An Oregon cab company is trying to squeeze a few pennies and help out the environment by giving hybrid cabs a spin. This piece points out that the difference between filling up a traditional cab and a hybrid is about $40 ... Popular Mechanics says "Hybrids Beware!" in a recent piece about the coming invasion of diesel cars. "Speed, fuel efficiency and minimal emissions? These aren't characteristics usually associated with diesel-powered vehicles. But they will be." What's to be afraid of if clean diesels are part of the high MPG solution. We'd like to park a clean diesel right alongside our existing hybrid! ... And in New York, as in many other places in the nation, car dealerships are making changes in order to accommodate the fast-rising ranks of hybrid car buyers. ...

MORE AUTO MANUFACTURERS JOIN HYBRID RANKS

Thursday, March 27, 2008: A couple of latecomers to the hybrid scene announced their plans this week to jump on the dual-powered bandwagon. South Korea's Hyundai intends to mass produce hybrids starting in 2009. Hyundai is talking up the Avante (Elantra) LPI (liquefied petroleum injection) hybrid, a car that uses both liquefied petroleum gas and electricity. It will follow in 2010 with a mid-sized hybrid. And Nissan plans to introduce a purely electric car by 2010 for fleet customers in the U.S. and Japan. ... So, we're not just a "fad" anymore? Experts say that demand for hybrid will continue to rise with the rising gas prices. But the Cincy Enquirer reports that a recent Edmunds.com study finds an even lower gas price pain threshold than the $4-a-gallon level our sister organization, 40MPG.org, reported in its last gas-price survey. As the Enquirer noted: "The Edmunds study found that $2.80 a gallon was the turning point at which visitors to its Web site showed significantly more interest in hybrids. Edmunds researchers then calculated the increase in visits when gas prices hit $3.01 in December and extrapolated those findings to conclude that hybrids would see a whopping 502 percent increase in visits by online shoppers if gas prices hit $4." ... Three hybrids made it onto Consumers Reports new list of the "top 12 gas savers": the Toyota Prius, the Honda Civic hybrid and Toyota Camry hybrid...

WILL VW TDI HYBRID KILL THE PRIUS?

Friday, March 21, 2008: Volkswagen has just unveiled a new concept version of its Golf TDI Hybrid, promising an eye-popping 83 MPG and virtually no CO2 emissions. Even with diesel selling at a premium of 75 cents or more per gallon over premium unleaded today, some are asking if the TDI will be the car that will unseat the Prius as the top-selling green vehicle.  While we own and love the Prius, we agree with the Inhabitat blog poster who observes:  " ... this is a competition that we are happy too [sic] see."  ...   Want to take a look at the current lineup of hybrids?  Cars.com has come up with a top 10 list based on fuel savings as compared with a non-hybrid version, as well as how much the saved gas would have cost you.  If you're not sure which hybrid you might want, this gives you a good rundown on MPG and purchase prices, as well as additional useful details ... Although Volvo did not have a fully operational concept vehicle at the Frankfurt auto show last year, they now have a working concept on the road of their ReCharge plug-in hybrid concept, which is based on the Volvo C30 model.  CNET reports: "Volvo, in a consortium with Saab, the Swedish government, and energy company Vattenfall, announced a five-year plan to develop plug-in hybrids. The consortium's goal is to produce a fleet of 10 plug-in hybrid cars, using Sweden as a testing field." ... As gas prices rise, so does the demand for hybrid vehicles.  As a result, manufacturers have had to increase production to keep up with this demand.  Since it doesn't look like gas prices will leave their current nose-bleed altitudes any time soon, look for this trend to continue ...  

DARTH VADER DRIVES A HYBRID?

Friday, March 14, 2008: For its Flat Earth Society approach to climate science, Exxon Mobil has been referred to as the "Darth Vader of global warming".  So pardon us if we are cynical about this profit-bloated oil company's curious new interest in hybrid cars.  The Wall Street Journal reports: "After filling automobile gas tanks for decades, the company has started looking under the hood. It's betting that further development of a component it created for cellphone batteries can help improve a new type of battery that may eventually power most hybrid cars. If it's right, Exxon could play a part in ushering in a new generation of hybrid and electric cars, lessening the world's reliance on gasoline."  ...  Toyota is working to build a green car that will run on fuel cells but predicts it will be a long time before anything makes it to market. "Japanese companies have been working to create a viable car running on fuel cells, which would produce electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, leaving water as the only by-product. 'When we first started the research and development of fuel-cell cars, some people predicted that they may be commercialised by around 2010. But that's difficult,' Toyota Motor Corp. president Katsuaki Watanabe said. 'The technological advances are significant. The only problem is the cost,' he told reporters."  ...  And the industrious ZAP, which sells electric cars, is partnering with a Boulder, CO company to convert Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids into plug-in hybrids. ... 

BACK TO THE FUTURE FOR HYBRID BATTERIES?

Thursday, March 6, 2008: "Could the ultracapacitor replace lithium ion in hybrids and plug-in vehicles?"  That question is posed by Popular Mechanics in a recent article. We can't resist asking:  What ... the flux?  It turns out researchers at MIT are working on the capacitor technology. "The focus of (Joel) Schindall's research is ultracapacitors, which store drastically less energy than a battery but have essentially none of the drawbacks. In any capacitor, there's no battery memory caused by partial discharging and no reduction in capacity with each recharge."  We're just curious whether they'll put the ultracapacitor technology in any DeLoreans ... Daimler AG will use a lithium ion battery in its first hybrid model. EETimes reports: "In order to secure constant power level of the battery type that hitherto only was used in consumer electronics devices, the temperature of the battery has to be maintained at a range between 15 and 35 degrees Celsius. Thus, the Daimler engineers included the battery into the air-conditioning control loop ... Lithium ion batteries are considered a key technology for the success of hybrid-driven vehicles. Compared to conventional NiMH batteries, they offer higher energy density at lower weight which translates into higher cruising range."  ... And General Electric announced an investment in a Norwegian electric car manufacturer, Think, which is unveiling a new plug-in electric car at Geneva's International Motor Show. GE also has invested in A123 systems, a widely followed Boston-based tech company developing high-capacity, lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid cars ...

BUSH CLUELESS ON GAS PRICES

Friday, February 29, 2008: Is it any wonder that 72 percent of Americans think our political leaders are weak when it comes to energy and climate solutions? Could the fact that President Bush is - what's a nice way to put this? - let's use a euphemism and say - unaware of the increasing likelihood of $4 gasoline have something to do with the Administration's apparent lack of concern about the impact of auto fuel costs on American consumers? If you want to feel the pain at the pump (as if you aren't already!), check out the survey released in January by the Civil Society Institute and our sister organization, 40mpg.org, showing that 71 percent of Americans expect gasoline prices to reach $4 a gallon this summer. ... Automotive News reports that the Mercedes GLK concept with a diesel hybrid powertrain that was shown at the Geneva auto show will start sales in the U.S. in January 2009 ... "Is Silicon Valley the new Detroit for electric cars?" Definite innovations in alternative-fuel vehicles are coming out of the hub of high tech America, including the two-seater electric roadster Tesla ...

HYBRID ENGINES - HOT TO TROT?

Thursday, February 21, 2008: This is interesting:  Honda is researching a way to use hybrid vehicle engine heat to recharge the battery the same way the brakes are doing now.  "The Japanese auto giant has released a paper detailing how a Rankine cycle co-generation unit could help recharge the battery in a hybrid and thereby increase gas mileage, according to Green Car Congress. Honda put the Rankine unit in a test car (a Honda Stream) and found that the unit generated more electricity than regenerative braking. However, the unit isn't very efficient so more work will be required before Honda can put one of these in cars. Waste heat, according to some, is one of the untapped sources of power in the world."  ... Would you like to more than double your Prius mileage to get 100 MPG or more?  A California company will be ready to convert about 30 Priuses as soon as March.  The San Jose Mercury News reports: " For $12,500, OEMtek says it can add a bigger battery pack to your Prius and double its mileage - to 100 mpg or more. The company has battery packs on hand and continues to do durability testing and other late-stage engineering work.   We can't wait to see the results! ... Is it still news that hybrids are becoming mainstream?  ... And here is an update on the ad state of hybrid tax credits  ...

PIMP MY (PRIUS) RIDE

Thursday, February 14, 2008: We're not sure that this is what Xzibit and Mad Mike had in mind, but it caught our attention all the same.  Should you be so inclined, you now can "pimp your hybrid ride" by adding some new rims  ... A submarine-powered hybrid?  The folks behind the Chevy Volt concept plug-in hybrid are saying their technology was "pioneered in submarines about a hundred years ago." We'll have to see what that's about ... The state of North Carolina is partnering with Progress Energy and Duke Energy to form a new center at N.C. State University to do research on plug-in hybrids. "'It is our patriotic duty to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and become leaders in developing the technology to make our nation energy independent,' said [Governor Mike] Easley, who made his announcement at the Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh." ... Finding the right battery is still the biggest issue for the future of hybrid and electric vehicles. Business Week states: "The linchpin to the development of electric vehicles still comes down to developing the right battery. Many of the major auto makers have gravitated toward lithium ion -- the type of battery used in smaller devices such as notebook computers and digital media players. It is lighter, holds a stronger charge and has the potential to last longer. But safety and cost issues remain. ... demand for eco-friendly vehicles is high, as illustrated by the strong sales of hybrid cars, which have both gas- and electric-powered motors to provide better acceleration and distance. With gas prices high and a focus on environmental responsibility a new priority for companies, auto makers want to go even further."  ...

HOW CLOSE IS THE PLUG-IN HYBRID?

Thursday, February 7, 2008: Put this on the top of your must-read list:  A February 6, 2008 Popular Mechanics article entitled "Inside Plug-in Car Tech's Race to Production" ... We are doing some research to learn more about all of the alkalyte shortage concerns that are making the rounds right now.  "Alkylate is a little-known substance that could have a huge impact on hybrid car sales in 2008.  Referred to as 'liquid gold' and the 'magic bullet,' this expensive gasoline additive is about to be in short supply and high demand, just in time for the summer driving season.  Adding insult to injury are accusations that oil companies are purposely reducing the output of alkylate in an attempt to further increase profits.  Regardless of who's to blame, if gas prices top $3.50 a gallon this year, expect to see a lot more people buying hybrid cars and SUVs in '08."  Another intriguing topic:  Toyota's post-Prius 1/X concept car.  "The ultra-lightweight stature of the 1/X also helps contribute to a fuel efficiency target that would double that of the Prius and allow the 1/X to operate with an ultra-small hybrid powertrain located under the rear seat. The system combines a home rechargeable plug-in hybrid unit with a small 500cc 0.5-liter flexible-fuel engine that is 1/4th of the total weight of the Prius powertrain. The hybrid plug-in concept is designed to accommodate a lithium-ion battery that would be rechargeable at home. The result is a vehicle with the possibility of traveling over 600 miles on a small four-gallon tank of fuel and achieving the acceleration performance that is equivalent to the Prius." ...

POLL: $4 GAS TO FUEL HYBRID SALES

Friday, February 1, 2008: Will this mean the return of waiting lists for hot hybrids?  A new Civil Society Institute/40MPG.org survey shows:  "More than a third (37 percent) of Americans say they would be more likely to buy a hybrid, clean diesel or other highly fuel-efficient vehicle if the price of gasoline goes to $4. This percentage increases to 44 percent if the price of gas exceeds $4 a gallon."   ... MSNBC reports: "... at their current rate of growth, [hybrids] dominate the roads in another five or 10 years. U.S. hybrid sales jumped more than 34 percent to a total of 338,851 in 2007, according to CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. ... With rising gas prices and higher fuel economy standards mandated by the federal government, analysts expect hybrid technology to proliferate in the coming years."  They also make this observation: "The lack of  tax incentives doesn't seem to have hurt the Toyota Prius' popularity, however, with 181,221 units sold in 2007 for an increase of nearly 70 percent over 2006, according to CNW. The Prius remains the most popular hybrid in the U.S. by an astronomical margin."  Looks like the hybrid haters were completely wrong about what the vanishing tax credit would do to sales! ...This seems encouraging: "The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced plans to invest up to $30 million in a public-private, cost-sharing program funding the development of technology supporting Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)."    ...

CITIES GET ON THE BUS WITH HYBRIDS

Tuesday, January 22, 2008: Hybrid diesel-electric buses are catching on in a major way in U.S. cities. As USA Today reports: "Four U.S. cities recently ordered more than 1,700 hybrid buses, General Motors, one of two major manufacturers of hybrid bus systems, plans to announce today. The orders include 950 for Washington, D.C., 480 for Philadelphia and 300 for Minneapolis and St. Paul. Last month, New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority - which began experimenting with the buses in 1998 - ordered 850 with systems from GM competitor BAE Systems, MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said." ... General Motors Corp. (GM) introduced its first China-made hybrid car during a ceremony in Shanghai today. The Buick LaCrosse Eco-Hybrid is made by GM's passenger car joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. and will be available at dealerships sometime this year. ... In addition to its plans to build a plug-in hybrid by 2010, Toyota will field a hybrid vehicle for the 2010 Le Mans 24-hour race ... Colorado is the latest state to allow hybrids in its high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, even if the car is only occupied by the driver. The new guidelines will open up the HOV/HOT lanes to 2,000 hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles as soon as this spring ...

PLUG-IN WARS: TOYOTA V. GM

Tuesday, January 15, 2008: Look for the plug-in hybrid sparks to fly in 2010.  Toyota has announced plans to build a plug-in hybrid by 2010.  "The move puts Toyota in direct competition with General Motors, which has announced plans to sell its own plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt, sometime around 2010... G.M., Toyota and Ford Motor, the world's three biggest car companies, all are developing plug-in hybrid vehicles. Along with the Volt, G.M. has said it plans to produce a plug-in version of its Saturn Vue hybrid. Ford has not yet given details of its plug-in hybrid, which it first discussed in 2006."  The proven Prius versus the runs-on-hype Volt.  Wonder who wins that race to the market? ....  On a related note, GM has announced a second generation version of the Saturn Vue Green Line that "will leapfrog models like the Toyota Highlander hybrid to become the world's most fuel-efficient V6 SUV when it goes on sale late this year or early in 2009, General Motors promises.  Saturn hasn't revealed final fuel economy figures, but early tests have shown a 60% improvement in city fuel economy and nearly 50% on the highway. The mileage improvements Saturn insiders talk about would work out to 25-26 m.p.g. in the city and around 34 m.p.g. on the highway."  ...  It's official:  Sales of hybrids cruised past the one-million mark in 2007  ...

GM'S CONVENTION-AL HYBRIDS

Tuesday, January 8, 2008: They say that Democrats are more likely to buy hybrids ... and now it looks like Democrats are voting for GM hybrids. The Democratic National Campaign Committee (DNCC) has lined up 400 green vehicles for the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August. The Rocky Mountain News reports: "Cameron Moody, the DNCC's director of operations, said this was the most ambitious attempt to have a fleet of alternative fuel or high-mileage vehicles during a political convention... Among the cars that will be used as a part of the DNCC's transportation team are the hybrid versions of the Saturn Vue, the Aura Green Line and the Chevrolet Malibu." ... We've written about electric commuter cars before but here's an offer from Zap Cars that gas-price weary commuters will find tough to turn down: zero fuel costs for one year. Top that off with no emissions and you've got one sweet deal ... And Porsche is throwing its hat in the ring with a hybrid of its own. They plan to launch the "Panamera" next year as a 2010 model. Autoweek says: "In contrast to many current hybrid cars that place the battery pack between the trunk and the passenger compartment, Porsche will package its battery below the trunk to keep weight distribution balanced for driving characteristics. Porsche claims there will be a 30 percent decrease in fuel consumption in the Panamera hybrid compared with nonhybrid models." We can't wait for the test drive! ....

GREENING YOUR 2008 VACATION

Wednesday, January 2, 2008: Thinking forward to plan your vacations for the coming year?   Want to help your company make your work travel more earth-friendly? Turns out, you'll have plenty of options to keep your carbon footprint down when renting vehicles.  MSNBC reports: "Seems there's a popular new color at the local rental car lot - and we're not talking body paint. Whether it's a function of high gas prices or the threat of global warming, green is definitely in. This week, for example, Enterprise Rent-A-Car is launching an affordable, easy-to-use program that will give customers the opportunity to offset the carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from their rentals - and promising to match their efforts up to $1 million. Meanwhile, across the airport parking garage, Hertz is planning to take delivery of another 2,400 hybrid cars this year - a move that will help push the nation's rental pool for the gas-sipping, emissions-cutting gas/electric vehicles to more than 10,000 vehicles."   ... At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney:  Have you ever wondered why more doctors aren't driving hybrids, considering the huge toll on human lungs from tailpipe emissions?  It turns out that a Louisiana home health care company is turning its entire fleet hybrid ... Just in case you need a little hybrid humor to kick off the New Year.  This tongue-in-cheek article on ESPN.com promises new technology on the 2008 PGA Tour:  "Toyota will enter the golf club business with a hybrid iron that uses electricity on the backswing and gasoline on the downswing." ...

GOOGLING HYBRIDS

Wednesday, December 26, 2007: They may have a ways to go to catch up to searches for Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan on Google, but hybrids now "own" auto-related searches. Six out of 10 Cars.com searches in November were for hybrids and Carmax.com says that searches for hybrids on its sites jumped 43 percent from October to November 2007. ... Toyota is on pace to replace GM as the world's largest automaker in 2007, having been boosted by its popular Prius hybrid. Not to be outdone, Honda predicts that 10 percent of its global sales will by hybrids within the next two years. To help with this goal, a new hybrid based on the Fit is slated to launch for 2009 followed by a sports car hybrid based on the CRZ concept that made the rounds at U.S. auto shows this year. ... And if you are looking for more green driving options, there are several hybrid and electric vehicles that will show up in the near future ...

HYBRID SALES STILL RED HOT IN 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007: For consumers who care about climate change, energy independence and saving money at the gas pump, the hybrid is king.  Green Car Congress reports that U.S. hybrid sales are up 82 percent from this time last year. And these numbers underestimate the total hybrids sales because GM's rapidly growing Vue Green Line (and other) hybrid sales aren't included, since that automaker doesn't break out those numbers separately. Not surprisingly, Toyota saw the greatest 2007 sales increase, despite the loss of its tax credit, with Prius sales jumping 109 percent from last year and Camry hybrid sales up a strong 65 percent. ...  A new survey shows that hybrid owners tend to be healthy, wealthy, tech-savvy and are Democratic. According to CNET News: "The face behind the wheel of a hybrid car is most likely to belong to an upwardly mobile, physically active person with tech savvy Forty-two percent of those polled earn six figures or more each year...Only 14 percent of hybrid owners identify as Republican, while 38 percent are Democrats, and 34 percent call themselves independent ..." ... USA Today reports that some high-tech hybrid features may start to show up in regular gas vehicles to help consumers improve their fuel efficiency.  "Fancy fuel-economy gauges are so popular in gas-electric hybrid vehicles that Toyota is studying whether they might provide a cheap way for drivers of its conventional cars to save gas as well ... The gauge would show motorists when they are driving most efficiently, discouraging wasteful moves such as jackrabbit starts."  ... 

THE CRAZINESS OF VANISHING HYBRID TAX CREDITS

Tuesday, December 4, 2007: Only Congress could come up with this scheme:  As gas prices go higher, more and more popular hybrids are being stripped of federal tax credit status. The IRS has announced that the tax credit for new, qualified Honda vehicles will start the expiration process starting January 1, 2008. Following the removal of tax credit status for the Prius and other Toyota vehicles, Honda hit the completely arbitrary 60,000 cap on eligible sales in the quarter that ended September 30th.  We need incentives that put hybrids and other highly fuel-efficient cars on the road, not take them off ... More debate on whether or not hybrids and all-electric vehicles actually help our power grid?  The New Scientist reports: "Electric and hybrid cars could act as energy stores for the power grid while not being driven, say US researchers... if hundreds or thousands more car owners adopted the system, it could significantly improve the efficiency of power distribution, the scientists say." ... Planning a trip soon and want to try out a hybrid or just make your trip more green? Orbitz now offer hybrids through Avis or Budget including the Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid ...

HYBRIDS POWERED BY THE SUN

Tuesday, November 27, 2007: Here's a new hybrid technology you might not have heard of yet -- a solar hybrid.  A California company (no surprises there) is selling conversion kits to provide power to the electric battery of a hybrid with the power of the sun. "... Johanson - who co-designed the first entirely solar-powered vehicle - launched Solar Electrical Vehicles as a sister business in 2005 to focus on bringing solar power to hybrid cars ... A solar Prius will use 17 percent to 29 percent less gasoline than a standard Prius, according to a research paper on the Solar Electrical Vehicles site." ... Promising news from the L.A. Auto Show -- Mercedes-Benz plans to have their diesel-hybrid drivetrain in showrooms in 2010. " ... the S400 combines one of the German company's Bluetec V-6 diesel engines with a 20-horsepower electric motor for a hybrid drivetrain that offers 'the performance of a V-8 with the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder,' says the company. The marriage yields performance figures of 265 bhp and a full 465 lb.-ft. of torque and is said to help the Teutonic heavyweight earn an impressive 0-60 mph time of only 7.2 seconds - while attaining 40.5 mpg on the highway. What's more, the S400's diesel-hybrid drivetrain will be compliant with emissions regulations in all 50 states upon its rollout in a couple years' time." ...

HYBRID RIVALRY?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007: While GM may have been slow on the uptake adopting hybrid technology, they are now on a mission to be known for their green genes, according to a recent Business Week article.  "That's right, GM, once a laggard in fuel efficiency technology, is making its nemesis Toyota (TM)-the undisputed image leader in fuel-efficient transportation-take notice by starting a new and legitimate rivalry for the next generation of hybrid trucks and SUVs, as well as plug-in vehicles. Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW all opted in 2005 to adopt GM's hybrid technology in a four-company venture, rather than to license Toyota's hybrid hardware." ...   If you're out West this week, check out the L.A. Auto Show, where "...nearly everyone is also showcasing hybrid, electric or fuel-cell vehicles and vowing to increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets." ... Human-powered hybrid cars? What will they think of next ... 

ON BECOMING A TWO-HYBRID FAMILY

Tuesday, November 13, 2007: We just took home our second hybrid vehicle over the weekend.  It's a kiwi-colored 2008 Mariner that it is now parked alongside our 2007 Prius (Virginia plate:  LES CO2).   Initially, it was a toss up between the clean-diesel Mercedes E320 and the Mercury vehicle.   But two sedans didn't make much sense and we are intrigued by anecdotal reports from HOA members and other sources that you can really milk the low-speed MPG stats on the Mariner -- even though it is a SUV.  We'll just have to see how that works out.  Stay tuned for updates! ... You know the world is coming around to hybrids when you see a buying-tips article in the Detroit News ...  The man who used to design James Bond's car (the Aston Martin) is now trying his hand at an $80,000 hybrid sports car:  the Eco-Chic ... As hot as hybrids are across the United States, there are places where they are red hot.  Madison, Wisconsin is one of them -- where a car dealer reports that hybrids account for 45 percent of new car sales ...

CONFUSING PLUG-IN HYBRID MPG MATH

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: How exactly will the EPA calculate the MPG rating for a plug-in hybrid? It's not such a simple matter. The New York Times reports: "Toyota and the [EPA] are mulling over how to describe the advantages of adding plug-in capability to a hybrid. The current test, which gives the Prius an E.P.A. estimated mileage of 55 m.p.g. for combined city and highway driving, does not work. Toyota estimates that for a daily commute of 15.5 miles, running costs of this prototype will be about 8 percent lower than the current Prius if the battery is charged during the day, and 41 percent cheaper if charged at off-peak rates where time-of-day electricity pricing is available." ... GM keeps talking up its hopes for hydrogen fuel-cell power vehicle technology ... Toyota's Prius has turned 10 ... Look for hybrids to get a closer look from even more car buyers now that gasoline is back over $3 a gallon ...

GUILT-FREE SUV OWNERSHIP?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007: So much for any doubts that automakers are holding back on rolling out hybrids. The Nikkei Business Daily reports that Honda is seriously expanding its hybrid production, with a goal of selling half a million units by 2010 -- a whopping 10 percent of its overall sales target ... Not to be outdone, GM is hoping to take the sting out of high gas prices and shore up its weakening full-size SUV sales. The heart of what GM Vice President Bob Lutz calls "guilt-free SUV ownership" will come out of a plant near Baltimore ... Once you couldn't find a hybrid on a car dealer's floor. Now, those floors will be filled with hybrids. "Ford has the Escape. It's one of those smaller sport utility types. Honda's got a couple of them, a Civic and an Accord, both hybrids. Chevrolet has a pick up truck. GM has a hybrid," said Tom Rosdahl, professor of automotive service at Pierce College. "Toyota is probably the leader, and, of course, the Lexus, which is a high-dollar Toyota. Nissan is coming out with a hybrid. It's kind of like, right now, it's the thing." ... Kudos to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. He dumped the city's official Ford Crown Vic in favor of a hybrid -- and then converted it to a full-blown plug-in hybrid! ...

TOYOTA: FROM RABBIT TO TORTOISE IN PLUG-IN HYBRID RACE?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007: Now that all the latecomers to the hybrid party are trying to elbow their way into the room, Toyota is sending signals that it may be adopting a go-ahead-slow approach to plug-in hybrids. Toyota is even going so far as to throw cold water on such initiatives as the much-hyped Chevrolet Volt ... Not showing Toyota's lack of faith in plug-in hybrids are the entrepreneurs who expect to mass market a $9,000 plug-in hybrid aftermarket conversion kit starting in 2008 ... Stamford, CT. is looking at a $2,000 tax break for hybrid owners ... Does anyone seriously think that spending $3.80 on "carbon offsets" is the same thing as getting a hybrid and not generating the air pollution in the first place? Put us down for being a real part of the solution by driving a hybrid ... and not pretending to "buy our way" out of the problem by cutting somebody a check as a way to salve our guilty conscience ...

EPA RATINGS DON'T BRAKE HYBRID SALES

Tuesday, October 16, 2007: There is some anecdotal evidence trickling in that the more conservative EPA mileage estimates are not harming hybrid auto sales. The CBS affiliate in Denver reports that hybrids sales there are continuing to be strong even with the lower mileage ratings. It's all relative, as this example illustrates: "Jill Walker bought a Ford Escape hybrid in June because of its EPA rating. The original rating for the Ford was 32 miles per gallon. The 2008 model has the same powertrain but with the new EPA rating it fell to 28 miles per gallon. Walker still is satisfied with her purchase. 'My old car I was getting 18 to 20 and it was about the same size as this (Ford Escape Hybrid),' she said." ... Honda is making some interesting moves to try to open up the hybrid vehicle market in India ... But can Honda turn around its overall hybrid sales slump by focusing on "sporty" hybrids? Only time will tell ...

15 NEW HYBRIDS FOR 2008

Wednesday, October 10, 2007: The good news: You can look for 15 new hybrids to hit car dealer floors in 2008, which is up four from 2007. The not-so-good news: "But they're not just gas-sipping compacts anymore. Two huge SUVs and a full-size luxury sedan are among the new hybrids available for U.S. drivers, giving them a wide choice in price, size and mileage ranges. And the world's manufacturers plan more than a dozen new models using the complex gas-electric technology in the next two years." ... Honda has been struggling of late to click with car buyers when it comes to hybrids. Their latest bid for popularity is a hybrid version of the sporty CR-Z. The new hybrid is to be unveiled this month at the Tokyo auto show ... Is this the breakthrough we've been waiting for on hybrid batteries? An Indianapolis firm, EnerDel, claims it has a new, longer-life lithium ion power source for hybrids ....

APPLE PIE, HOT DOGS ... AND HYBRIDS?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007: How exactly did the inclination to buy a hybrid become so, well, American?  Hybrids are catching on in the United States in a big way, but they remain a surprisingly tough sell in Europe, where small vehicles and fuel efficiency have been in vogue for decades.   Experts are studying why European hybrid sales seem to be stuck at an anemic 0.2 percent of all autos ... Maybe so-called "mild" hybrids do have a future after all.  A new survey of luxury auto buyers shows that a very high 83 percent definitely would consider buying a hybrid ...  Here's an interesting hybrid story that is going on below the radar for the most part.  It's all about fuel-cell hybrid vehicle (FCHV) technology.  Chevy had the first FCHV to go 300 miles on a single tank (if that's the right word!), but now Toyota has topped them with a FCHV that went 348 miles in a test spin from Osaka to Tokyo.  Sound familiar?  ...  PHEV conversions have the blessing of state officials in Massachusetts.  Bay State officials have hired a private firm to convert 10 test vehicles to full-blown plug-in hybrid status ...

THE

Tuesday, September 25, 2007: More evidence that not all hybrids are born equal: Check out the Forbes.com/ABCNews.com piece by Peter Hoy entitled "Hybrids or 'Hype-Brids'?: Green Guzzlers." Hoy makes some excellent points about marginal uses of hybrid technology by carmakers eager to look greener and/or more fuel efficient ... A new Harris National Study shows that more than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. consumers are inclined to buy a car with plug-in hybrid technology ... Audi is hitting the breaks on at least some of its clean diesel and hybrid offerings ... Mazda is going to dip its toe in the hybrid pool by offering its 2008 Tribute SUV in a hybrid version -- but only in California ...

HYBRID SALES SURGING IN 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007: So much for the prediction that hybrids would be a passing fad. "In the first seven months of 2007, registration of new hybrid vehicles has shot up 49% nationwide from the same time frame last year. According to R.L. Polk & Co., the Midwest saw the largest gain, at 56.9%, while California remains the state with the most registrations." The top five state list (by growth) includes three from the "trend-challenged" Midwest: Oklahoma (up 143.3 percent); Minnesota (97.7 percent); and Kansas (71.9 percent) ... This makes for pretty amazing reading: GM could have made a plug-in hybrid vehicle 38 years ago?! ... Google is searching for new hybrid technology with a $10 million investment ... The city of Chicago is looking to double its fleet of hybrid cars ...

HYBRIDS: YOUR POWER SUPPLY IN A STORM?

Friday, September 7, 2007: Millions of Americans live in (1) a hurricane-prone area, (2) blackout-stricken sections of California or (3) a market that is served by an unreliable power company that has trouble keeping the electricity running on a more frequent basis than it is available in downtown Baghdad. (We happen to fall into the third grouping.) If you are cursed to live in a home in one or more of these low-power categories, check out the New York Times article about car owners who are retrofitting hybrids to serve as back-up power supplies for their homes ... At first, the Germans were betting most of their chips on clean diesels. Now, they are hedging their bets a bit by also moving into the hybrid auto space, according to Handelsblatt ... Unclear on which hybrids qualify for federal tax breaks? This handy guide from SmartMoney.com sets out all the key facts ...

HYBRIDS ON STEROIDS?

Friday, August 31, 2007: The new issue of Scientific American has an interesting article on how "ultracapacitors" could put a lot more oomph into hybrid performance, but without sacrificing fuel efficiency.  As the article notes:  "Are ultracapacitors the key to making hybrids king of the auto market? Many motorists chuckle smugly after giving their cars a little extra gas to leave a Toyota Prius or some other eco-friendly automobile in the dust. But Toyota and its Earth-loving ilk may yet have the last laugh as they cultivate encouraging new advances in ultracapacitor technology that promise to one day put hybrids in the driver's seat." ... Speaking of remaking the face of the auto marketplace:  Honda is making noise (again!) about ousting Toyota from the hybrid auto sales throne. Honda certainly has its work cut out for them.  As one observer points out:  "Toyota sold over 110,000 units of the Prius through the first seven months of 2007. Honda, on the other hand, struggled to sell one-fifth that number with the Civic Hybrid and Accord Hybrid sales combined." ... Coming soon to a shopping mall near you:  "GREEN VEHICLE PARKING ONLY"? ...      

HOLY GRAIL OF HYBRID BATTERIES

Friday, August 24, 2007: What's holding up the process of getting plug-in hybrids in the garages of millions of American motorists? The holy grail of hybrid battery technology is an all-electric power source that will handle 40 miles of travel or longer -- enough to handle the needs of most U.S. commuters. Edmunds has an interesting article on this topic that concludes: "Plug-in hybrids are on their way in one form or another and EVs like the Tesla are right around the corner as well. Due to the state of world politics and the environment, the public is demanding alternatives, and batteries will play a big part in that revolution. At the present time, cost, energy density and market demands for high-range vehicles place lithium-ion at the forefront of the next wave in EVs and hybrid cars. As to whether they will stand up to the test of daily high-mileage usage, only time will tell." ... Here's another article grumbling about Toyota resting on its hybrid laurels ... A three-wheel car that gets 100 miles per gallon and can top 100 miles per hour? If you are a fan of high-powered tricycles, check this out ...

WHY NOT A PRIUS CONVERTIBLE?

Friday, August 17, 2007: How long will America have to wait before it sees a "sexy" hybrid?  High-mileage doesn't have to be boring, as the SmartCar folks are demonstrating very nicely.  And how about a little variety?  Jerry Garrett writes in the "Wheels" blog at the New York Times: "Why is there no Prius wagon? How about a hatchback and a sedan? A coupe? Or even a convertible? I mean, who said hybrid buyers have to take a vow of boredom? One size fits all? Really! ... the Wall Street Journal (has) reported that Toyota plans to unveil a Prius wagon in 2011, coinciding with Toyota's switch to lithium-ion batteries ... Officially, Toyota is keeping its trap shut on the next generation Prius. But for at least the next several years, and maybe longer (for all we know), one Prius is all we get. The hybrid market, as far as the self-proclaimed world leader in fuel-saving hybrid technology is concerned, is worth only one dedicated vehicle? I don't get it." ... Electric utilities are banking on making big money off plug-in hybrids ... Florida hybrid drivers soon may be able to avoid paying up to $6 at a crack while using new I-95 toll lanes ...  

HYBRID SALES HEADING FOR RECORD YEAR

Thursday, August 9, 2007: It's going to be another banner year for hybrid auto sales in the U.S. The Associated Press reports: "Hybrid vehicles are on track to reach record U.S. sales this year, an auto information company said. An estimated 187,000 hybrids were sold in the first six months of 2007, accounting for 2.3 percent of all new vehicle sales, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Although a sales slowdown is expected in the second half of the year, J.D. Power is forecasting total sales of 345,000 hybrids for the year, a 35 percent increase from 2006 when the current record of 256,000 hybrids were sold. The Toyota Prius continues to be the best-selling hybrid model, accounting for just more than half of all hybrids sold." ... Even though Toyota may be getting cold feet about plug-in hybrid batteries, the technology got a glowing write-up this week from Wall Street Journal auto columnist Joseph B. White ... Should those big honking SUV hybrids get the same tax break as a Prius? Here's an interesting concept: Base any tax breaks for hybrid buyers on the weight of the vehicle ..

PLUG-IN MANIA GRIPS AUTO WORLD!

Thursday, August 2, 2007: Plug-in hybrids used to get the cold shoulder from automakers. Now, they are getting a passionate embrace. Not content with being dubbed the greenest car in the world, the Prius is now headed for the full plug-in treatment -- reflecting a reversal on the part of Toyota ... Even the "mild" hybrid Saturn VUE is going plug-in, according to this excellent overview article by ForbestAuto.com ... We love these all-electric and hybrid race cars that are kicking the you-know-whats of gas guzzlers! ... What do you do if Congress phases out your tax credit? If you are Toyota, you roll out a lower-cost version of the Prius for 2008 ... Avis added 1,000 Priuses to its car rental fleet earlier this summer. Due to popular demand, it is now going to field 500 Nissan Altima hybrids ...

PHONY "PRIUS POLITICS"

Thursday, July 26, 2007: There is little that is more frustrating these days than people who argue that there's no point in trying to do anything about America's addiction to oil.  A case in point:  Washington Post syndicated writer Robert J. Samuelson's column "Prius Politics."  Samuelson's thesis is that you shouldn't bother buying a Prius (or other hybrid), because you are just going to end up buying a bigger house that will more than offset the energy you save with your hybrid.  Talk about not getting it!   Most people we know who are driving hybrids are implementing a number of energy-saving methods in various aspects of their lives.  We love it when columnists try to rationalize their own energy wasteful ways ...  Want to convert your hybrid to an all-electric vehicle?  It still costs a bundle to do the customization ... Geek power rules!  The hybrid is the No. 1 selling car in Silicon Valley ...

TAKING 80 MILLION CARS OFF THE ROAD

Friday, July 20, 2007: A new study from the National Resources Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute looks at the impact of large numbers of plug-in hybrids -- as much as 60 percent of the fleet -- between 2010 and 2050 and concluded that they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide by 2050 by an amount equivalent to that produced by 82.5 million cars." ... Is it just me or is anyone else out there sick of hearing about how hybrid vehicle owners are supposedly smugger than thou? And, even if that "rap" is true, would you rather be a hopelessly clueless H2 or H3 owner? .... Speaking of bum raps, let's take on the notion that hybrids are underpowered "toy cars." A Toyota hybrid just became the first to win a major auto race ... You know the car world is changing when they start talking about a hybrid version of a Chevy Malibu! ... And, finally, in what is very nearly in the backyard of Detroit, state officials in Illinois are handing out $1,000 tax rebates to hybrid owners ...

AMERICA'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH HYBRIDS

Friday, July 13, 2007: When it comes to fuel efficiency, the diesel vehicle is king in Europe and elsewhere around the globe. But, in this country, the throne is occupied by hybrids. The U.S. accounts for 70 percent of worldwide hybrid sales ... What's better than saving fuel and reducing pollution emission with a Prius or other hybrid car? Think about the benefits when it comes to a hybrid Mack truck, which is the equivalent of 21 Priuses ... A truly electrifying development or just more Ford foot dragging? "Southern California Edison and Ford Motor Co. have forged a partnership to test rechargeable hybrid vehicles in hopes of fast-tracking the technology for mass production ... SCE is scheduled to get one Ford plug-in hybrid vehicle this year and as many as 20 during 2009 to test their durability, range and impact on the grid." ... You can read here what they are saying in Canada about the Hybrid Owners of America ...

HYBRID: A FOUR-WHEELED 'ISSUE BRACELET'?

Friday, July 6, 2007: If you are interested in the evolving sense of what it means to own a hybrid, check out this fascinating page 1 July 4th story in the New York Times: "The Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those popular rubber 'issue bracelets' in yellow and other colors - it shows the world that its owner cares. In fact, more than half of the Prius buyers surveyed this spring by CNW Marketing Research of Bandon, Ore., said the main reason they purchased their car was that 'it makes a statement about me.' Only a third of Prius owners cited that reason just three years ago, according to CNW, which tracks consumer buying trends." ... Wired.com has an interesting article on the next generation of car batteries ...

AUTOMAKERS CHANGING TUNE ON HYBRIDS

Thursday, June 28, 2007: What do Ford, Chrysler and Nissan all have in common? These automakers once were among the leading pooh-poohers of hybrids. That was then ... now, all three of these car companies are scrambling to play catch up on hybrids. As the Detroit Free Press reports: 'Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally told reporters Tuesday ... that he envisions a future with many more varieties of hybrid vehicles ... 'The hybrids we're looking at now are petrol and electricity. But over time, I can also see hybrids with diesel and electricity, and also hydrogen and electricity and petrol." The view that hybrids should be included in the powertrain technology of most, if not all, vehicles of the future seems to be growing ... Over at Nissan, they are singing a similar tune: "Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday his company is working hard to develop the next generation of smaller, lighter auto batteries ... As demand for green vehicles grows, automakers are racing to develop viable lithium ion batteries ... Nissan, which has fallen behind rivals Toyota and Honda in hybrid vehicles, recently opened a new tech center in Japan to develop environmentally friendly technologies." ... Even Chrysler is getting the message: "The company has been trailing behind other automakers in fuel economy ... 'Chrysler Group is focused directly on improving fuel efficiency across our vehicle lineup,' product development chief Frank Klegon said ... Klegon estimated that the new hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles could make up as much as 30 percent of its market in the U.S., a major increase from current levels." ...

GOOGLING HYBRIDS

Thursday, June 21, 2007: Another big week for plug-in hybrids. Search-engine giant Google announced its RechargeIT initiative. "The plan promotes the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles -- hybrid gas/electric cars that can be plugged into a wall socket to either charge the battery or sell excess electricity back to the power grid ... the new initiative aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil and gasoline use, and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the development and adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are capable of selling stored electricity back to electric companies. To get started, Google modified some of its vehicle fleet to plug into its own solar electricity power, as well as into any 120-volt power outlet." ... On Capitol Hill, Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, TX. unveiled a bill to provide a tax credit of from $4,000 to $6,000 for consumers who buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle ... What is it about Virginia and hybrids? The state ranks behind only California when it comes to hybrids on the road. "In 2006, nearly 240,000 hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles took to Virginia roads, a 21 percent increase from the year before, according to a study conducted for the alliance by R.L. Polk and Co. As a nation, hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles increased by 1.5 million, or 16.7 percent, to 10.5 million." ... California and the Feds just can't get on the same page when it comes to fuel-efficiency. Washington says the Golden State's HOV lanes are clogged due to hybrids and California officials say the problem is rapid population growth ...

AVIS, HERTZ TRY HARDER ON HYBRIDS

Thursday, June 14, 2007: Lots of evidence this week that hybrids are playing a sweetheart role in America's love affair with automobiles. Car rental giants Hertz and Avis announced major boosts in their levels of available hybrid vehicles. And Edmunds.com reported: "If any doubt remained that hybrid vehicles have become part of the automotive mainstream, it disappeared last spring. That's when Toyota began offering the industry's favorite sales bait - in the form of $2,000 incentives - on the Prius sedan, even though it already was America's best-selling hybrid ... Prius sales this year are expected to increase by about 50 percent, up to 175,000 cars." ... Ever wonder what your mechanic thinks about hybrids? ... Here's an interesting story from New England: "Vermont's largest utility, Central Vermont Public Service, is helping advance the latest technology in energy efficient vehicles. CVPS has purchased two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and will offer customers a reduced rate to charge such vehicles from their homes." ...

HYBRID OUTSELLS ALL BUT ONE DETROIT CAR MODEL

Friday, June 8, 2007: Even as the Honda Accord hybrid bit the dust, Toyota announced that it had sold its one-millionth hybrid on a worldwide basis. What does that mean in practical terms? "As U.S. hybrid sales jumped to 45,000 vehicles - their highest monthly total ever - Toyota Motor Co. captured 80 percent of all new hybrid customers ... While other automakers reported sizable increases in hybrid sales, Toyota saw sales of its hybrid Prius more than double from a year earlier. With sales of 24,009 vehicles - more than all other hybrids combined - the Prius was the ninth top-selling U.S. model in the industry for May, outselling mass-market names such as the Nissan Altima, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Cobalt. The only car model from a Detroit automaker that outsold the Prius last month was the Chevrolet Impala." ... In fact, May 2007 may be the month when hybrid sales settled into a groove and remained there for good -- accounting for an all-time high of nearly 3 percent of total auto sales in the U.S. ...

ARE YOU A HYPERMILER?

Friday, June 1, 2007: Do you coast down hills in your hybrid? Do you find yourself traveling much slower than other traffic on the road? Do you either overinflate your hybrid car tires or check the inflation level obsessively? If so, you may be a "hypermiler." Either way, make sure to check out this interesting story. We have to confess that it describes us here at HOA just about perfectly! ... If you've purchased a Ford Escape or Mercury Mariner hybrid, you will want to see what the IRS is saying about the federal tax credit level that you are eligible for ... Here's a promising development: "The Ford Edge with HySeries Drive, the world's first drivable fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle, hit the streets of Canada for the first time in Vancouver Wednesday as part of a trip to showcase the advanced research vehicle alongside its most technologically advanced production vehicle, the new hot-selling 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid." ... Here is an unorthodox way for a utility to cut down on its global warming emissions: Public Service Electric & Gas in New Jersey is switching over a third of its vehicle fleet to hybrids ...

NY TAXIS GOING HYBRID

Thursday, May 24, 2007: First, there was the Checker cab. Then came the Crown Vics that account for 90 percent of the 13,000 yellow cabs in New York City. What's next? "The spacious but gas-guzzling Ford Crown Victoria, long the emblematic vehicle of the city's yellow cab fleet, would be replaced by cleaner, more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles under a five-year plan proposed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg yesterday. The move, which requires approval by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, is part of the mayor's ambitious environmental agenda for the city, PlaNYC, which calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030." The city figures that replacing the fuel-wasting Crown Vics with hybrids would be the pollution equivalent of removing 32,000 gas-engine vehicles from Gotham's crowded streets ... Maybe they will park all of those abandoned New York cabs alongside former Army Humvees. The Army is working on a prototype of a Prius-style hybrid battlewagon ... Not to be outdone, UPS is testing 50 hybrid/electric delivery trucks in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Atlanta. UPS expects to burn 44,000 fewer gallons of fuel, compared to its traditional diesel-powered delivery trucks ...

EPA TO

Friday, May 18, 2007: To the list of those who are unimpressed with so-called "mild" hybrids, you can add an unexpected name: the Bush Administration's Environmental Protection Agency, which just issued proposed rules for states to use in granting hybrids special HOV lane access. As AP reports: "Only four manufacturers -- Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. -- make vehicles that would qualify. ... The qualifying vehicles include: the 2004-07 Toyota Prius, 2006-07 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 2006-07 Lexus RX400h, 2006 Mazda Tribute Hybrid, 2005-07 Ford Escape Hybrid, 2006-07 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, 2003-07 Honda Civic Hybrid, 2003-06 Honda Insight and 2005 and 2007 models of the Honda Accord Hybrid ... Some of the vehicles that would not qualify include the luxury Lexus GS450h Hybrid, DaimlerChrysler AG's Dodge Ram Hybrid and General Motors Corp.'s Saturn Vue Greenline Hybrid." ... Here's an interesting report that Toyota will make the hybrid the company's standard drivetrain for all vehicles by 2020 ... New Hampshire to New York and back again on $27 -- at today's gas prices? It can be done if you drive a hybrid ... You know when they start talking about a Porsche hybrid that this thing has really caught on ...

HYBRIDS ON ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE?

Friday, May 11, 2007: The Associated Press reports that at least five presidential candidates -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo -- drive hybrid vehicles, including three Ford Escape hybrids, one Prius and one Honda Civic hybrid. Who are the "gas hogs" who want the job? AP reports that Obama has a full-size Chrysler 300C sport-luxury sedan, Mike Huckabee has two large pick-ups and John McCain has a Cadillac CTS luxury sedan. Notes AP: "Hybrids are gaining in popularity with the political class, judging from the cars of choice of the presidential candidates." ... Brits love the Toyota Prius, which is now ranked No.1 in the United Kingdom as the most satisfying car to own ... This USA Today letter to the editor headline says it all: "Want Lower Gas Prices? Buy a Hybrid Car" ... Highway-safe all electric vehicles are on the way, according to Edmunds.com ... The big push to upscale consumers is on for the Lexus hybrid ... Look for a hybrid Land Rover in the near future ... and GM may just have the "Prius Fighter" in its new Volt, according to Auto Week ...

SURVEY: LONG WAITS FOR HYBRIDS IN THE OFFING?

Friday, May 4, 2007: Long waits for popular hybrid models may be coming back this summer, according to a major new Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) survey conducted for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI) think tank and its 40MPG.org project.  Nearly three out of four Americans (72 percent) expect gasoline prices to hit $3.50 a gallon or higher this summer.  And nearly three in 10 U.S. adults (29 percent) say will be inclined to go out and buy a hybrid or other highly fuel-efficient car if the pain at the pump actually reaches the $3.50 level.  What about the interest in hybrids even at today's gas prices levels?  On that point, the CSI/40MPG.org survey notes:  "Two-thirds of Americans are either more likely (35 percent) or just as likely (31 percent) to buy a hybrid, clean-diesel or other highly fuel efficient car as they were six months ago. Less than a third (31 percent) say they are less likely to make such a purchase." ...

THERE IS NO STOPPING HYBRIDS NOW!

Friday, April 27, 2007: Everywhere you look, you see signs that hybrids are catching on with auto consumers.   According to a new Priceline survey, 72 percent of rental car customers now want hybrids as an option.  (And you know how it works with business and pleasure travelers who use the rental opportunity as an extended "test drive" before they go home and buy the car in question.) ... More good news:  The folks at Kelley Blue Book put two hybrids in the top 10 for resale value ... And then there's the sad case of General Motors, which, after 76 years, has lost its crown as world sales leader to Toyota ...  How fitting that the people who killed the electric car were topped during the first quarter of 2007 by the people who popularized the gas-electric hybrid Prius! ... Still think that hybrid = boring?  Check out this story on a new design for a hybrid sports car that is aiming to break the 200mph/200mpg barrier! ...

THE NIGHT THE HYBRID HEADLIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA

Friday, April 20, 2007: Somebody please tell us that this is a bad joke: Georgia is flunking Prius hybrids during vehicle inspections because the gas engine can't be tested when it cuts out while idling! Isn't the only thing better than low emissions no emissions? If we have been "punk'd" in some late April Fool's joke, please let us know ... Presidential candidate Barack Obama has reintroduced legislation allowing automakers in the U.S. to get federal help on autoworker health insurance costs if they invest some of the savings in hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles ... Now here's an idea we really like: New York state lawmakers have introduced legislation "waiving the state's 4-percent sales tax on the purchase of hybrids and other high-efficiency vehicles that get 35-miles-per-gallon or more on highways." That tax break would be available for new and used vehicles ....

NEW HYBRID STICKER SHOCK: IT'S BEEN STOLEN!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007: It used to be that car thieves were content to settle for hubcaps, hood ornaments, car stereos -- or even the entire car. In the wake of California's limited availability of HOV lane passes, thieves have settled on a new target: hybrid HOV stickers reportedly are being swiped from cars across the state ... More news from California: the utility PG&E is trying to cash in on the plug-in hybrid trend ... Why are hybrid sales holding up so strongly? It could have something to do with those gas prices that surged 18 cents in the last two weeks alone! ... The Union of Concerned Scientists looked at how green major auto makers are. No surprises: Honda and Toyota left U.S. car makers in their dust ... Are you what the Japanese call nenpimania: a hybrid "mileage maniac"? ...

HYBRID SALES HIT NEW HIGHS

Wednesday, April 4, 2007: Are hybrid car sales finally going to get some respect? Shucking off the "fad" label that some have tried in vain to attach to it, the Prius posted record sales numbers in March 2007 - rising more than 133 percent to 19,156 units ... Along with interest in the new Tundra pick-up, the big jump in Prius sales helped Toyota achieve strong sales growth in March, while Ford and GM limped across the finish line with distressing one-month declines ... Of course, the hybrid haters aren't going to give up easily. They will minimize the new Prius record by pointing to Toyota sales incentives. Of course, that ignores the real issue here: soaring gasoline prices that already are over $3 in many parts of the U.S. -- and even over $4 in some locations ... And while we are debunking fact-free myths about hybrids, let's talk about those people who say hybrids are an unproven commodity in terms of standing up to wear and tear on the road in real-world conditions. Chalk that up as another busted myth: If hybrids can take the punishment of serving as New York City cabs, they can more than hack your commute to and from work ...

9% OF NEW CAR SALES TO BE HYBRIDS, DIESELS

Thursday, March 29, 2007: J.D. Power and Associates are forecasting that  "hybrids and diesels will continue to gain market share. By 2009, hybrids and diesels will make up 9% of U.S. auto sales.  Toyota will continue to dominate this marketplace, given their increased production capacity. Toyota has sold 70% of all new hybrid vehicles over the past two years." ...  Don't look for that trend to change any time soon, given the way oil markets are rattled again about the threat of a U.S. attack on Iran ...  However, you shouldn't assume that Detroit will start getting it on the growing consumer demand for hybrids and other new technologies.  Check out this Motor Trend blog editorial that argues we should all just sit back and let Detroit continue to work its "magic" ...  GM is getting cold feet about all the interest surrounding its all-electric Volt prototype ... A reprieve for Virginia motorists:  State lawmakers extend special HOV lane access for hybrid owners ...

THE PERFECT TIME TO BUY A HYBRID?

Friday, March 16, 2007: According to the venerable Edmunds.com, there is no better time than right now to buy a hybrid.   As Edmunds.com explains it:  "There are four key reasons:  (1) ... average transaction prices of most hybrid vehicle models are at their lowest levels in history because the supply is finally beginning to exceed the demand; (2) for the first time ever, incentives are being offered on many popular hybrids; (3) certain hybrid tax credits will be lower for those who purchase later in the spring, after automakers reach specific hybrid sales targets; and (4) gas prices have begun their seasonal rise. AAA recently reported that unleaded fuel is up 32 cents per gallon compared with one month ago."  We certainly won't disagree with that assessment of the situation! ... Check out the reference to the Hybrid Owners of America in this story on "cleaner, greener cars" in the new issue of E/Environment Magazine ... Don't give up hope on inventors coming up with the new longer-life battery needed to make plug-in hybrid vehicles a practical reality ... Toyota is looking to bring out a flex-fuel powered hybrid ... and this leader Down Under wants his government to invest $500 million to help spur development of new hybrids and other more fuel-efficient vehicles ...

MORE BAD NEWS FOR HYBRID HATERS!

Friday, March 9, 2007: Here's a bitter pill to swallow for all those people who have been predicting the imminent demise of hybrids. "Combined sales of hybrids in the US rose 52% in February to more than 22,792 units, up 52% from the results in February 2006. The figures do not include sales of GM hybrids, which the automaker does not yet break out, but do reflect the addition of the Nissan Altima Hybrid, now sold in eight states ... The Toyota Prius had its best month ever, posting 12,227 units, an 87% increase over February 2006 results. That represents 54% of all hybrids sold in the month." With gasoline prices already up over $3 in some parts of the U.S., you can expect those hybrid sales to keep humming right along in the coming months ... Even though hybrid sales numbers remain healthy, they would look even better without the short-sighted expiration of federal tax breaks for more and more hybrid models ... Don't feel so bad Detroit! German automakers also are kicking themselves for being behind the curve on hybrids and are now striving mightily to make up lost ground and time ...

FACTORY-MADE PLUG-IN PRIUS COMING?

Friday, March 2, 2007: Plug-in hybrids took a trip to the White House this week, but the big news is that Toyota is seriously considering a factory-produced plug-in version of its popular Prius. That will come as good news to everyone who wants do the plug-in hybrid conversion, but doesn't want to void their warranty in order to make the switch happen ... With retail gasoline prices climbing steadily higher, hybrids sales are continuing to rise in 2007, though not as quickly as during 2006 ... Will lower EPA mileage estimates for hybrids hurt sales? Maybe not, given that non-hybrid mileage levels now look even worse by comparison. Our guess is that -- with consumers paying a billion dollars a day for gasoline -- hybrid vehicle choices and sales will keep chugging right along ... Better late than never: DaimlerChrysler and BMW are looking to develop a "mild" hybrid system ...

HYBRIDS GO TO THE OSCARS

Friday, February 23, 2007: Hybrids: They're not just for Ed Begley, Jr., anymore. When Hollywood turns out for the Oscars Sunday night, many stars will be rolling up to the red carpet in hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles ... Apparently, when you're (almost!) Number 1, you have to watch your back more. Amid its strong success in the United States and the continuing demise of American automakers, Toyota is worrying more and more about a backlash. And why is Toyota doing so well? While timid automakers dither on hybrids, Toyota is already mapping out innovations for its third generation of hybrids ... Washington may be sending the wrong message when it comes to tax breaks for hybrid buyers, but the states are sending strong positive signals on various fronts: HOV access preferences for hybrid drivers are being extended in Virginia; Texas lawmakers are looking at new breaks for hybrid buyers; and the Utah legislature will consider a requirement to raise the fuel-efficiency level of state vehicles ...

NO SLUMP IN HYBRID DEMAND

Friday, February 16, 2007: Contrary to some reports playing up the first Prius sales incentives, there is no hard evidence that U.S. consumer demand for hybrids is waning. A new Civil Society Institute (CSI)/40MPG.org survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation shows: "76 percent of Americans are as or more likely to 'buy a hybrid or other more fuel-efficient vehicle' today than they were six months ago." One explanation for the continuing demand for hybrids is very apparent in the CSI/40MPG.org survey: "More than nine out of 10 Americans (92 percent) 'expect gasoline prices to go back up in the near future' -- including over half (52 percent) who 'definitely' expect such higher prices at the pump. Only one out of four Americans say that they are NOT taking 'expected future gasoline price increases into consideration in thinking about buying a new vehicle.' ... What do global trends look like? Yano Research sees the worldwide hybrid auto market expanding by sixteen times over the next decade ... Check out this interesting Christian Science Monitor article on the case for plug-in hybrid vehicles ... Arizona becomes the latest state to open up its HOV lanes to hybrids ... Do silent-running hybrids pose a danger to the blind? ... Don't be surprised if the federal Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) eats your hybrid tax credit ... You can find more coverage here and here of the GM Volt concept car ...

HYBRIDS ELECTRIFY TOYOTA PROFITS

Tuesday, February 6, 2007: Hybrid sales are getting a healthy share of the credit for the Toyota's strong profit statement this week ... How strong are Prius sales?  It was not until this January that Toyota bothered to offer its first incentives to boost leases and purchases of such vehicles ... Not to be outdone, Honda is looking to add a little sex appeal to the still stodgy hybrid category ... Here's more on that diesel-hybrid prototype that Volvo is working on ... Time for an encore?  The 8,500 extra HOV lane passes that were made available in California were snapped up in almost no time at all ... If they can "dump the pump" on U.S. military bases, you know the future of plug-in hybrid vehicles is going to be bright ...

STATE OF THE UNION BUMP FOR HYBRIDS?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007: President Bush's State of the Union address may be getting mixed marks from experts on alternative fuels, but there does appear to be some good news on the hybrid side. Some observers see it as one of several factors now boosting prospects for hybrids, while others are encouraged by an executive order requiring future use of plug-in hybrid vehicles under certain circumstances ... In the mean time, hybrid sales continue to be strong, with Toyota forecasting a 40 percent jump in global hybrid sales. One projection is that hybrids will end up accounting for 6 percent of vehicles on the road ... Following the lead (however late!) of their foreign competitors, U.S. automakers are now seeking government help in developing new vehicle battery and fuel technology. Even without such aid, investors are waking up to the potential of hybrid technology ... What are the hottest hybrids for 2007? Check out the rundown from ForbesAuto.com ...

IS DETROIT REALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR PRIUS?

Thursday, January 18, 2007: Did the Big 3 accidentally spur Toyota to create the Prius?  In a fascinating editorial, the Christian Science Monitor notes:  ".. from 1993 to its end in 2001, the industry-government Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles set a goal to develop mid-sized hybrid vehicles that by 2004 could get 80 m.p.g. To some observers, few within the Big Three took the program seriously. Others argue that they took it seriously, but the criteria were too ambitious. By 2001, the National Research Council concluded that the mileage and affordability goals couldn't be reached by 2004. Japan, on the other hand, saw the US program as a significant threat. Toyota and Honda designed hybrids that fell short of several of the US program's goals. But they were reliable and affordable."  Ouch! ...  Maybe Toyota should get its public messengers on the same page.  On the one hand, the company is pushing for the restoration of the full federal tax credit for its most popular hybrid vehicles.  On the other hand, Toyota is saying it is going to sell 250,000 hybrids in the U.S. one way or the other in 2007 ...  Not much of a sales pitch for consumers:  the outfit that made the ill-starred Yugo car brand a punchline for late-night comedians is trying to find a Chinese car company that will make hybrids on the cheap for importation to the U.S. ...

HYBRID OWNERS DO SAVE MONEY

Tuesday, January 9, 2007: More evidence that hybrid owners come out ahead:  Intellichoice has released its own analysis that takes into account the costs of financing, fuel, taxes, license fees, repairs, maintenance and depreciation.  It concludes: "'Across the board, we found that all 22 hybrid vehicles have a better total cost of ownership over five years or 70,000 miles than the vehicles they directly compete against,' said James Bell, Intellichoice.com's publisher." ... It's a little reVOLTing how much media mileage GM is getting out of an electric vehicle for which the battery doesn't even exist to make it run ...  Just as out there, but more interesting is Ford's HySeries Drive concept car combining a plug-in hybrid with a fuel cell ... And it keeps going and going and going:  Check out this engineering trade publication article about the latest advances in lithium batteries for hybrids.

2007: THE YEAR PLUG-IN HYBRIDS TAKE OFF?

Tuesday, January 2, 2007: How far along have plug-in hybrids come? If you could imagine a year ago that they would be touted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, then you have way better prognostication skills than most other people. (If you can't open the Journal link, try this version of the James R. Woolsey op-ed at EV World.) ... A "sexy" hybrid? Check out this review of the 2007 Nissan Altima hybrid in the Detroit News ... In what is (nearly) in the shadow of the nation's capitol, Arlington County, Virginia is planning an interesting experiement in a personal property tax break for residents who buy hybrid vehicles ... If the Swedes can do it, why can't we? "Sales of environmentally-friendlier cars such as hybrids and ethanol-powered vehicles has increased by 156 percent in Sweden in 2006. According to new figures from Swedish car industry organization Bil Sweden, 36,611 greener cars were registered in 2006, accounting for 13.5 percent of all private cars registered." That's better than one out of eight new cars sold in Sweden, compared to just a few percentage points of auto sales in the U.S. ...

PUTTING THE BRAKES ON POWER OUTAGES

Tuesday, December 26, 2006: Could plug-in hybrids be a big part of the answer to preventing future electrical power brown-outs? The authors of an intriguing article in MIT Technology Review think so. They make the case that "plug-in hybrids could actually help stabilize the grid if owners charged their cars at times of low demand, and if the vehicles could return excess energy to the grid when it's needed -- say while parked in the company lot at work during peak demand" ... An ironic note on which to end the year: 2007 will not see a new model of either the Honda Insight (the first mass-production hybrid vehicle) and the original version of the Hummer (one of the worst gas hogs on the road today) ... It doesn't hurt when your government lends its support to new hybrid technology. Even as the U.S. is stunting hybrid sales by trimming back the tax credit for the most popular gas-electric vehicle on the road, Great Britain and South Korea are finding ways to support hybrid vehicle innovation ... What Washington, D.C., doesn't get, the state of Kentucky does. Kentucky is now joining the long list of states considering tax incentives for those who purchase hybrid vehicles ...

WHY HYBRID SALES REMAIN STRONG

Tuesday, December 19, 2006: Sales of hybrids and other highly fuel-efficient vehicles are not hitting the brakes in the way that some SUVphiles have predicted. "... We have not seen a collective amnesia among American car buyers," said James Kliesch, research associate and principal vehicle analyst at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). "On a whole, Americans are collectively more responsive to fuel prices." ... Volkswagen is a leading proponent of "clean diesel" technology, but the automaker is going to start moving into hybrid vehicle production ... Concerned about those Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test results for mini cars? The Institute advises that fuel-conscious Americans consider heavier vehicles -- including hybrids -- that still achieve well-above-average MPG levels ... and the Ford Escape is now over the one-million-sold mark, thanks in part to the introduction of the hybrid version of the vehicle. Happy holidays!

YOU SNOOZE, YOU CRUISE

Friday, December 15, 2006: Quote of the week? "The U.S. Department of Energy has concluded that the existing U.S. electrical grid -- without additional construction for generation or transmission -- could accommodate 180 million cars that draw their power from night-time (off-peak) electricity. That's about 85 percent of the cars in the country." Wow! Here's more reporting on the same topic ... We are less excited about this quote: "According to the EPA, most vehicles will see average city mileage ratings drop by 12 percent and highway ratings will drop by an estimated 8 percent. Hybrids will be the big losers, however, with the new EPA testing. Hybrids like the Prius and Civic Hybrid will see their city ratings drop by 20 percent to 30 percent in the city and 10 percent to 20 percent on the highway." ... Finally, there's more talk from Toyota about the prospect of a diesel Prius hybrid.

GM: A LITTLE GREEN AROUND THE GRILLES

Tuesday, December 5, 2006: General Motors made big news this week with its plans for a major focus on plug-in vehicles. See stories here and here ... Hit with temporarily lower fuel prices and a shrinking federal tax credit for the most popular models, hybrid sales have slipped a bit. However, that didn't stop hybrid sales leader Toyota from taking the #2 title away from Ford again in November. But Toyota isn't taking any chances: The Japanese automaker wants Washington to extend the hybrid tax credits and mandate hybrid purchases for the federal vehicle fleet ... Hybrids were all the talk at the LA Auto Show ... Want to rent a hybrid or other highly fuel efficient vehicle? Here is an interesting option ...

NO TAX BREAKS FOR 'LITE' HYBRIDS?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006: The Irish may be on to something here: All hybrids are not the same when it comes to fuel-efficiency and lowered environmental impacts. So why should giant SUVs and luxury vehicles that don't get great fuel economy or significantly improve emissions get any kind of tax break? Hmmm .... Will the real impetus for the widespread availability of plug-in electric hybrids come from private or government buyers? Check out this article on the growing demand from state and local officials across the U.S. for plug-in hybrids ... Toyota is reported to be eyeing the possibility of a diesel hybrid ... Are people really still surprised by this kind of thing? An online survey at Autobytel shows that -- shocker! -- hybrid vehicle buyers look more and more like all other U.S. car purchasers ... and a sad note in closing: The engineer linked to the rise of hybrids in the U.S. died over the weekend in a small plane crash. ...

WHAT AILS MERCURY'S MARINER HYBRID?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006: Here's a puzzle for you: Why is the Mercury Mariner hybrid -- which the New York Times has called perhaps "the first great American vehicle of the 21st century" -- languishing when it comes to auto sales? In an article entitled "Not All Hybrids are Hot," Autoweek points out that only about 2,000 of the Mariner hybrids have been sold so far this year. While some other model sales (such as the Honda Accord hybrid) are also disappointing, the good news is that overall hybrids sales in the U.S. through October rose to 211,134, up considerably from 171,523 through the same point last year ... Do you need "hybrid driving school"? You might want to get a few pointers if you find yourself turning into one of the increasing number of obsessive hybrid vehicle owners who use all the tricks in the book to eke out every last possible MPG ...

2 OUT OF 3 U.S. AUTO CEOS DRIVE HYBRIDS?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006: OK, so maybe they are starting to get it in Detroit. When GM, Ford and Chrysler CEOs met today with President Bush, two out of three drove through the White House gates in hybrids: a Ford Escape Hybrid and a Saturn VUE Greenline ... What's up with the GM plug-in hybrid? The rumor is that the automaker will unveil a prototype plug-in hybrid at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January ... China is the latest to join the growing list of nations producing "homegrown" hybrid vehicles ... Here's another story about how you could power your house from a plug-in Prius ... Want to read up on hybrids? Check out this new book ... Could a hybrid trash truck be picking up your garbage in the near future?

HYBRID WAIT TIME SHORTENS

Wednesday, November 8, 2006: Good news for would-be hybrid owners: The wait times at dealerships for Priuses and other hot hybrids is now shorter -- but don't expect hybrids to be quite as easy to get yet as other vehicles ... Not convinced that hybrids are catching on? Take a look at what's on the floor at local auto shows ... Check out the fun at the Huffington Post's "hybrid movement" ... Another sign of the rise of hybrids: The iconic Peterbilt truck company is coming out with a hybrid cab for the cross-country hauling set ... GM steps up its hybrid plans in China and Korea ...

WHO RESURRECTED THE ELECTRIC CAR?

Thursday, November 2, 2006: Did someone at GM actually sneak in and see "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It would be a shame to find out that GM's recent announcement of its interest in producing a plug-in hybrid is just another false start on the part of Detroit ... Hyundai is finally getting serious about cracking the hybrid market ... Toyota is thinking about expanding its successful Prius hybrid into an entire line of cars ... Government purchases of hybrids continue to pick up steam across the U.S., including the University of Kansas, Florida's Broward County and across New Jersey ... The interest in hybrids and all-electric cars is fueling the rise of "boutique automakers" ...

TAKING A DIM VUE OF SATURN HYBRID

Thursday, October 26, 2006: The Los Angeles Times offers a less than kind review of the Saturn Vue Green Line: "It would be easy - effortless, even - to accuse GM of bad faith in the Saturn Vue Green Line, a maximally minimal venture in hybrid powertrain technology that would seem less about fuel economy and more about securing coveted hybrid badges on the doors ..." ... Despite a high level of consumer excitement, plug-in hybrid vehicles face an uncertain future, according to this New York Times report ... The University of Florida is committed to buying only hybrid or flex-fuel vehicles, with 12 hybrids and 45 "flex fuel" vehicles in the campus fleet already ... Both versions of the Ford Escape are now qualified for the federal hybrid vehicle tax break ... An intriguing notion from London: parking permit fees based on fuel efficiency, with hybrids parking for free!

GAS PRICES: HURTING HYBRID SALES?

Thursday, October 19, 2006: Are falling gas prices hurting hybrids? The Detroit News rests its "case" for the impending demise of hybrids on the thin reed of one-month's worth of car dealer sales figures. But you only have to go to the nearby Kalamazoo Gazette to find an article on the very same day entitled, "High-mileage vehicles fueling Michigan's woes." As the Gazette points out: "Those who want to know what's hurting Michigan's economy need look no further than the 2007 U.S. Department of Energy list of fuel-efficient vehicles, released this week. How many of the top 10 are built by domestic automakers? Two. The Ford Escape SUV hybrid and the Mercury Mariner hybrid." Who's right in this debate? Our money is on the Kalamazoo Gazette. There probably were days near the end when it looked for a moment or two like things might turn around for the dinosaurs and get better, but we all know how things worked out there ... In what could be very good news for plug-in hybrid vehicle fans, a breakthrough is being claimed in hybrid battery life ... Next up from Japan: hybrid passenger trains ...

U.S. KEY TO HYBRID AUTO GROWTH

Thursday, October 12, 2006: Hybrids are hot in the U.S., but are taking more time to catch on elsewhere. According to one report: "70 percent of the some 283,000 hybrid vehicles sold worldwide go to buyers in the United States, compared with 21 percent in Japan and just 8 percent in western Europe" ... Red, white and green: the new patriotism? 71 percent of Americans say that it is "patriotic" to buy a hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicle ... U.S. production of hybrids is underway at the Lexington, Kentucky plant now churning out Camry hybrids. In an interesting article, the Detroit Free Press asks if the Camry hybrid has what it takes to overtake the market-leading Prius, which is described as "funky" and largely of interest only to the environmentally-minded ... Clean diesel -- seen by some as the big technology that could challenge the dominance of hybrids -- continues to make inroads in the U.S. ... Check out this new write-up about Hybrid Owners of America on the popular Treehugger Web site ...

JAPANESE AUTOMAKERS NOW ALL HYBRID

Thursday, October 5, 2006: It's official:  Every major Japanese automaker is committed to hybrids now that Nissan is offering a hybrid-powered version of its popular Altima ... Dream on, Detroit:  The latest stage in the denial process is for U.S. automakers to try to convince themselves that hybrids are just some craze for flakes living in California.  As Jerry Seinfeld would say:  Who are these "marketing wizards"?  Have they looked at the cars on the road alongside them lately? ... Enjoy driving and playing videogames?  You can do both at the same time -- in a way -- with the Toyota Camry hybrid that evaluates your fuel-efficiency performance at the end of each drive ... Ten thousand more hybrids in California carpool lanes will be the result of recently signed legislation in that state ... Curious what your tax break would be now on a Toyota Prius under the recently initiated credit phase-out for that automaker?  Consult this Toyota news release for the details ...

DIRTY SMOKESTACKS, CLEAN TAILPIPES

Thursday, September 28, 2006: Here's another reason to clean up America's hundreds of power plants that are failing to use the latest and greatest in anti-pollution technology:  Dirty electric power is a lousy source of energy for clean plug-in hybrids, according to a new report ... What are the seven biggest worries that Americans have about adopting hybrid technologies -- and are those concerns legitimate?  CNN Money takes an interesting look at the issues raised in a Kelley Blue Book survey ... Another community (this time on Long Island) gives special parking privileges to hybrid car drivers ... See the Hybrid Owners of America in action!  The Detroit Free Press quoted our blog from last week decrying the tax break ceiling going into effect on October 1st for Toyota hybrids, including the popular Prius ...

IRS CUTS PRIUS TAX BREAK IN HALF

Thursday, September 21, 2006: The insanity of the hybrid tax break cap is finally a reality: The IRS made it official this week that Toyota hit the 60,000-vehicle limit in 2006. That means the Toyota and Lexus tax break will be chopped in half in October. The $3,150 break for the Toyota Prius will fall to $1,575. Congress needs to rethink this sales-crimping limit through a tax credit on a type of technology that can reduce our addiction to foreign oil and cut vehicle global-warming pollution emissions by more than 80 percent on some vehicles. Let's get serious. We need a much more robust hybrid tax credit that puts more hybrids on the road -- not one that looks out first for those dinosaurs in Detroit ... The demand for hybrid-related breaks is huge and growing. In California, a new law would raise the ceiling on carpool lane access stickers for hybrids from 75,000 to 85,000. The bill is still waiting for the governor's signature and 83,000 sticker applications already are pending ... More insurance breaks for hybrid owners are now available in Kansas and New Jersey ... Are officials in Washington state the first in the nation to buy significantly more hybrids than traditional gas-powered vehicles? In 2006, the state bought 218 gas-only vehicles, which was easily offset by the state's purchase of more than 400 gas/electric hybrids and nearly 400 gas/ethanol powered vehicles ...

MORE HOV LANE PERKS FOR HYBRIDS

Thursday, September 14, 2006: HOV lane access for hybrids is still gaining ground, including in some new places, such as Arizona. California soon may increase its ceiling on the number of hybrids given HOV lane access, as well as extending the number of years before the special access expires ... It seems that Detroit is not alone in missing out on the hybrid boom. The Korea Herald laments that Hyundai and Kia also have been left in the dust by their Japanese auto competitors ... Those old Crown Vics are getting mothballed. More and more police forces in the U.S. are turning to hybrids. The Northern Illinois University police force shifted to hybrids from cars that were getting a pathetic 8-10 miles per gallon. The NIU force saved 4,500 gallons of fuel -- almost $16,000 in energy costs. Des Moines, Iowa, police detectives are driving to and from their cases in a fleet of eight hybrids ... Downsized by Detroit, saved by Toyota? Workers at this Midwest Delphi plant are hoping that their jobs will be saved by booming orders for hybrid car batteries ... Is it really the "ultimate (hybrid) driving machine"? The Detroit News has an interesting article on the BMW Hydrogen 7 -- a hybrid gasoline/hydrogen-powered car. BMW plans to put 100 movie stars, politicians and other "opinion leaders" in the U.S. behind the wheel of these cars in the next few years. Guess that means the lines will be short at your friendly neighborhood hydrogen refilling station, right? ...

MORE POWER TO HYBRIDS

Friday, September 8, 2006: In a sign of changing times, J.D. Power & Associates has released its first-ever "Automotive Environmental Index." Of the top 30 vehicles in the new Index, eight are hybrids, including the only truck models on the list. In a related opinion survey of U.S. consumers, the firm found that more than half of Americans are considering the purchase of a hybrid vehicle. The one cautionary note sounded by J.D. Power & Associates is that some consumers may have unrealistic expectations about potential fuel savings with a hybrid ... He rode into office in a vintage 1960s Mustang. Today, former President Bill Clinton is behind the wheel of a hybrid! ... Big news week for plug-in hybrids. The most interesting news story in the bunch focuses on how the major power company PG&E is pushing plug-in hybrids, presumably as a potential future profit center of electricity use ... Want to let the world (and automakers) know that you would buy a plug-in hybrid? If so, here is the petition for you ...

HYBRIDS: ONE FLEET DEAL?

Thursday, August 31, 2006: Cities, counties and other jurisdictions are joining a growing number of corporations in making bulk purchases of hybrids. In London, the Metropolitan Police have announced the largest hybrid fleet purchase deal so far in England: 117 Honda Civic Hybrids that will be used as police cars. Closer to home, Eagle County in Colorado is looking at replacing its auto fleet with 20 hybrids ... Are special deals for hybrid owners catching on in Detroit? In the nearby suburb of Ferndale, hybrid owners (and others with vehicles getting 30mpg or better) no longer have to feed parking meters. Such park-for-free deals already are available in San Antonio, Texas, San Jose, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Fresno, California, New Haven, Connecticut and Baltimore, Maryland ... American automakers are not alone in being frustrated by the Japanese lead in hybrid technology. The Deutsche Presse Agentur reports that "(t)wo Japanese cars, the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius Hybrid, head a list of the most eco-friendly vehicles compiled by the German road club (VCD) with only one German-made car, the VW Polo BlueMotion, reaching the top ten. "The (German) car makers are more eager to improve on luxury and acceleration rather than reducing fuel consumption and thus doing something for climate protection," the VCD said ... Don't blink or you'll miss him! Hybrid Owners of America Project Director Scott Stapf appeared on the August 30th "Today" show talking about hybrid car fuel savings ...

HYBRID-FRIENDLY AGENDA GOES TO CONGRESS

Friday, August 25, 2006: We've had a big first week! More than 100 new members have joined the Hybrid Owners of America. And we are well on our way to our goal for Labor Day of at least 500 emails and letters to Capitol Hill in support of HOA's 5-point "hybrid friendly" agenda ... We've had a warm welcome from the news media, with the Christian Science Monitor naming our brand spanking new Web site a "weekend pick" ... You can find more coverage at the launch of the Hybrid Owners of America at the Detroit News, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Palm Beach Post, the Auto Channel and many other places. And, yes, we do have a sense of humor. We all got a big laugh out of the Wonkette column item ... Must read news: Probably the biggest news that came out for potential and current hybrid owners this week was the Edmunds.com study showing that hybrids can make good economic sense for consumers. As one Edmunds.com expert put it: "High gas prices and generous tax credits now offset the high sales prices of some hybrids, assuming owners keep their hybrids for a few years". Take that hybrid bashers! ...

HYBRID OWNERS UNITE!

Thursday, August 17, 2006: We are here ... join us! The new and 100 percent independent organization - the Hybrid Owners of America - is being launched today to organize and advocate for the interests of the roughly 500,000 Americans who are saving money on gas, reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, and reducing global warming pollution by driving hybrid cars and other gas/electric vehicles. In addition to tracking federal, state, local and private sector incentives to keep hybrid car owners armed with the latest information, HOA is encouraging hybrid vehicle drivers to get involved by urging Congress and the White House to embrace a five-point "hybrid friendly" agenda: lifting the current cap on the federal tax break for hybrid purchases; creating a new federal tax incentive for those who undertake a plug-in hybrid conversion; promoting a new federal tax break for corporations that provide direct incentives to employees who buy hybrids; rewarding U.S. automakers that undertake more hybrid research and production with assistance in dealing with health care and other high-cost issues; and conversion of 30 percent of the federal car and truck fleet over three years to hybrids ...