August 29, 2004

GM Brings 8 Hybrid Busses to the RNC

According to this press release from the 2004 Republican National Convention, General Motors will be the official transportation provider for the convention, and will supply the city with eight hybrid powered busses.

However, the document states that GM will also provide hybrid pickup trucks, and describes them as "highly efficient vehicles." While generous of GM, it is a complete lie that their hybrid pickups are efficient. GM's vehicles are mild hybrids, and do not get the same increase in efficiency as do other HEVs. For example, a Prius gets around double the mileage a conventional car its class gets, but the GM hybrid pickups have increased fuel efficiency by only 5% - 13%, according to the US EPA. Mild hybrid technology on a pickup does not even break 20 mpg. That certainly does not qualify as a 'highly efficient vehicle'.

It seems that both GM and the RNC are attempting to benefit from the halo effect of hybrid technology, somewhat undeservedly.

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August 26, 2004

California Gives Hybrids Carpool Lane Access

Lawmakers in California's capitol, Sacramento, have decided to allow up to 75,000 hybrid cars in HOV or carpool lanes without the usual requirement of having a passenger. The proposal is set to go before Governor Schwarzenegger, and he is expected to sign it into law.

The catch is that not all hybrids will be allowed single occupant entry into California's carpool lanes. The proposal states a minimum efficiency requirement of 45 miles per gallon, inducting the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, and Honda Insight. Reportedly, Ford is not excited about this requirement, as their hybrid Escape model does not make the cut.

It was the aim of lawmakers to reward efficiency, not technology. This makes perfect sense and was discussed in the passenger mile theory, which would exclude extra low efficiency vehicles from carpool lanes without enough passengers to meet efficiency qualifications.

August 23, 2004

Massachusetts Official Hybrid Fleet & Burritos

Today I spotted a first generation Toyota Prius outside of Anna's Taqueria, the best burrito place in town. Of course, this shows that this particular hybrid driver has impeccable taste in burritos, but there's more to the story.

The vehicle had official state plates, and the emblem of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In 2003, Republican Governor Mitt Romney issued an executive order stating that the state must purchase the most efficient and the best value
vehicles available. In addition, there is a mileage floor of 20 mpg city and must be ULEV compliant. Exceptions and purchases of SUVs must be justified in writing.

I can't be certain, but I suspect that today's burrito lunch Prius sighting was a result of this mandate.

August 21, 2004

SUVs Gouge Conumers After Incentives

Vera Gibbons, correspondent from Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine reported today on MSNBC that large SUVs have incredibly high profit margins for manufacturers.

Although dealers are offering record financial incentives to purchase SUVs, manufacturers are profiting up to $10,000 per unit after these incentives, specifically citing the monster Chevy Suburban. Of course, following the rip-off priced SUV ($40,000+) is the aftershock gouge the consumer faces at the pump, as the Suburban gets mileage of 14 city / 18 highway.

Gibbons went on to specifically mention the Toyota Prius which currently has no purchase incentives, and is in fact selling above sticker price in many locations due to its incredible value.

The free market speaks for itself: you get much more for your money when you buy a Prius than an SUV.

August 18, 2004

Rholab Lead-Acid Battery

As many analysts have said, HEVs are in their early stages of innovation. Meanwhile, internal combustion vehicles are at the closing half of their product cycles - the major innovations have already been applied to the vehicles.

The Rholab (reliable, highly optimized lead-acid battery) is a new rechargeable battery prototype that could drastically reduce the cost of hybrid car batteries. Ni-MH batteries, the kind hybrid vehicles currently use, are very expensive. The Rholab is a lead-acid battery, which is less expensive to produce.

Whether the Rholab comes to market is anyone's guess. The point is, there is a large emerging market for durable, high capacity, high power, rechargeable batteries. With that market demand, corporations are pursuing research that could lead to product improvements, and that means better products at better prices.

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August 15, 2004

Civic Production Will Not Increase

With lengthy hybrid waiting lists for both the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius, consumers are looking to 2005 to see their hybrid dreams fulfilled. However, according to this article, Honda will not increase production of its Civic Hybrid model.

This strategic decision may be influenced by the introduction of its 2005 hybrid Accord model, as Honda may expect cannibalization by the availability of an additional hybrid option.

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August 14, 2004

Ford's Claycomo Plant in Kansas City to Produce Mercury Mariner

Already slated to produce Ford's Escape hybrid model, the same Kansas City plant is set to produce the Mercury Mariner in 2007. The Mariner is very similar to the Escape, as many Ford and Mercury models share attributes.

This article published by Sun-News of the Northland discusses the positive effect the plant has on the local community, providing not only factory jobs but also supporting the local economy.

Currently, this is the only plant in the United States that produces hybrid vehicles.

August 12, 2004

HEV Presence to Increase 500% Over 3 Years

CNBC ran a story this morning on Squalkbox about hybrid vehicles. Reportedly, hybrid cars currently account for less than 0.5% of vehicles on the road, but that number is expected to climb to 2.5% over the next three years. That's an increase of 500%.

Squalkbox is a financial show, reporting on market growth and trends, and the prediction for hybrid technology is as encouraging as I have ever seen.

August 11, 2004

Escape Hybrid Begins Production in Kansas City

According to a Ford press release, the highly anticipated Escape SUV hybrid has begun production.

This is the first hybrid vehicle to be manufactured in the United States. Proponents of trade deficit reduction and energy independence literally have no choice but to make the hybrid Escape their vehicle of choice.

Ford plans to roll out 20,000 models in the first year of production.

August 09, 2004

Kerry, Edwards on Ford Hybrid List

According to Rocky Mountain News, both John Kerry and John Edwards are on the waiting list for the new hybrid Ford Escape. Kerry has significant plans for alternative fuel in his energy strategy, and his planned purchase of a HEV is at least a personal endorsement of his policy. Let's just hope it replaces his fleet of conventional SUVs.

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August 08, 2004

Nissan Licenses Technology From Toyota

According to MotorTrend, hybrid technology for the 2007 Nissan Altima will be licensed from industrial nemesis, Toyota. That means the Altima, like the Prius, will be both a series and a parallel configuration, using Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology. That's great news for Toyota, because they'll recoup some of the research and development costs of their pioneering technology. But it's also great news for Nissan, as they'll be using a proven system.

August 05, 2004

Beyond Efficient Travel: Efficient Traffic Lights

The DOE's office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy reported that LED traffic lights are saving cities and towns hundreds of thousands of dollars. Citing Syracuse, NY as an example, the replacement of 299 traffic lights is expected to save $225,000 worth of energy each year. (related .pdf article about efficient traffic lights)

While hybrid vehicles give individuals an opportunity to contribute to energy independence, it's nice to see the government taking action, too.

August 04, 2004

Toyota to Increase Prius Production in '05

Toyota has confirmed that they will increase Prius production in 2005 by 50%. That accounts to a reported increase of 5,000 units per month to be produced at one of Toyota's Japanese facilities. Hopefully, that will clear up the long wait in the US for people on the Prius waiting list.

August 01, 2004

Toyota Volta: Hybrid Sports Car

It has been reported that the concept car known as the Volta will become commercially available in Germany and the United States. Named after Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery, this is a real break from the Prius.

Toyota Volta Concept Hybrid Car
Image Courtesy of Toyota
First, goes 0-60 in 4 seconds, has a 408 horse power Hybrid Synergy Drive with an electric motor powering each axel. The seating configuration features three in the front and one in the back. It doesn't stop there; the vehicle is 'drive by wire' so you can slide the steering wheel and pedals over to one of the two other front seat passengers, all while getting over 30 miles per gallon.

Practical? At over $70,000, not really. But it gives new personality to green technology everywhere.

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