Monday, September 10, 2007

Last tank - Sept 10 2007

53.8 MPG, 451.9 Miles.

MPG-to-date: 49.6 MPG

Thursday, September 6, 2007

More hybrid bashing: "MINI D emits less CO2 than hybrids"

BMW-owned MINI recently commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct a survey on alternative fuels and technologies in Britain. It turns that few respondents were aware that some diesel-powered cars actually had lower CO2 emissions than the hybrids currently on the market. Of the cars included in the list (Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius, MINI Cooper D, Ford Focus 1.6 Duratorq TDCi and Citroen C4 1.6 HDi), most people thought the Civic Hybrid had the lowest emissions. In fact the MINI D was lowest at 104g/km equal to the Prius and ahead of the Civic's 109g/km.

Umm... ok. I guess. How can BMW claim that the Mini "had lower CO2 emissions than the hybrids currently on the market" when it turns out that the Prius has the same lower CO2 emissions level?

And why would one compare the Mini (a sub-compact) to the Prius (midsize) or the Civic (compact)?

--- Oren

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Prius vs. Hummer

The debate over which iconic vehicle - the Hummer or the Prius - uses less energy over the course of the vehicle's lifetime comes up again and again. 
Joseph Romm, writing at grist yesterday, tries to put the argument to rest - finally, hopefully - with his post "Prius easily beats Hummer in lifecycle energy use; 'Dust to Dust' report has no basis in fact."
Romm specifically says he's tackling the story because the original study, by CNW Marketing Research, that claims a Hummer is better for the environment than a Prius keeps echoing around the Internet while "a couple of good debunking studies -- by the Pacific Institute (PDF) and by Rocky Mountain Institute (PDF) -- haven't gotten much attention, according to Technorati."
Romm's done a lot of work in his post, and I want to give him credit by sending readers his way. The important thing to takeaway from the post, though, is this:

I am mocking this [CNW's] report because it is the most contrived and mistake-filled study I have ever seen -- by far (and that's saying a lot, since I worked for the federal government for five years). I am not certain there is an accurate calculation in the entire report. I say this without fear of contradiction, because this is also the most opaque study I have ever seen -- by far. I defy anyone to figure out their methodology.

All in all, Romm debunks like the best of 'em. Whenever the Prius v. Hummer debate comes up again in the future, we'll just point people to his post. You wouldn't think it'd be so hard to convince people that a car that gets 45+mpg is better for the environment than a vehicle that gets ~17, but with marketing firms like CNW mucking the waters, common sense sometimes has a hard time finding the light.
[Source: grist, autobloggreen]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Toyota Uncertain of Consumer Demand for Plug-Ins

 Bloomberg. Toyota Motor is uncertain of US consumer demand for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and says that extensive tests are needed to determine demand before it offers PHEVs for the US market.

“There is a consumer market at some price-point for plug- ins,” Bill Reinert, national manager for advanced vehicle technology at Toyota’s U.S. unit, said in an interview yesterday. “We just don’t yet know the size of that market.”

Toyota’s caution reveals a difference in approach between the Japanese automaker, which has sold more than 800,000 Prius hybrids globally since 1997, and General Motors Corp., which wants to build as many of 60,000 Volt plug-in electric cars in the model’s first year, people with knowledge of GM’s plans said earlier this week.

GM also says that it is moving forward with plans to develop a plug-in version of its upcoming two-mode Saturn VUE Green Line.

Toyota plans road tests later this year of modified Priuses with rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries that allow about eight miles of all-electric range.

“I know there’s a lot of enthusiasm right now about plug-ins,” Reinert said in the interview. “I’m a little cautious about how much of that ends up as real consumer behavior.”

[source: Green Car Congress]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Canada's eco-Auto program backfiring, pickup sales increase

A new program to urge Canadian drivers to downsize to more fuel-efficient vehicles from large gas-guzzling SUVs has had the unwarranted effect of lifting sales of pickup trucks.

The new ecoAUTO Rebate Program offers a rebate ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for people who pick up certain fuel-efficient vehicle, but slaps a $4,000 excise tax on fuel-heavy SUVs and sports cars.
Of course, there are many out there who are forced to use heavy pickups for their businesses, so to appease them, the Government exempted the excise on pickups. According to research released by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, the program has been driving up sales of new pickup trucks since its introduction in March as a result.

New car-buyers who previously wanted an SUV are now switching to pickup models. Take Ford's Ranger, sales are up 18% for the first seven months of the year...

(and it does not help that the ecoAUTO rebates to not apply to hybrid/green cars which have been imported from the US).

[Source:  Autoblog, The Truth About Cars]

Toyota Announces Prices For 2008 Highlander Hybrid

 Toyota Motor Sales USA announced manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) for the 2008 Highlander Hybrid.The 2008 model is larger and quieter than its predecessor, and will be offered in Base and Limited grades, powered by a 3.3-liter V6 with four-wheel drive with intelligence (4WD-i) that delivers 270 hp (201 kW). A new EV Mode, ECON Mode and Hybrid System Indicator assist the driver to enhance fuel economy and driving experience.

Highlander’s advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive system has been upgraded for 2008 for both power and economy. The new Highlander gained about 500 pounds, growing significantly in every dimension and receiving extensive body and chassis reinforcement, aimed specifically at achieving best-in-class crash ratings. Engineers were able to increase output to 270 net horsepower—the same as that produced by the 3.5-liter engine in the conventional hybrid—with no fuel economy penalty.

EV Mode allows the driver to operate the Highlander Hybrid in electric mode for a limited distance at low speeds, or in stop-and-go driving conditions. ECON Mode activates a throttle-control program that smoothes out throttle response; thereby, limiting excessive acceleration. A Hybrid System Indicator provides the driver with a visual guideline for optimizing fuel economy.

Highlander Hybrid rides on an all-new chassis derived from the current Camry and Avalon. It is nearly four inches longer, three inches wider, and has three inches of additional wheelbase than the Highlander it replaces.

With new standard equipment and convenience features, the 2008 Highlander Hybrid base grade 4WD-i model will carry an MSRP of $33,700, a decrease of $190, or 0.6% over the previous generation comparably-equipped Highlander Hybrid.

The Limited grade 4WD i-model will carry a base MSRP of $39,950, an increase of $3,400 or 9.3%. The Highlander Hybrid will arrive in dealerships in early October.

Friday, August 17, 2007

$30,000 Electric Car in 2009: The XS 500 by Miles Automotive Group


Ever since we first heard about the Tesla Roadster, folks have been drooling over its sexy looks and lamenting its six-figure price tag. While that works for Jay Leno and Condoleeza Rice, many of the rest of us are left to smile nicely and hope that someone will come up with a battery-powered, zero emission (while it's driving, at least) car. While ZAP has promised a few, one is a 644-horsepower SUV and one isn't even a car (it has three wheels), so the market is still missing the sub-$30,000 electric sedan...until now (maybe).

Miles Automotive Group, featured recently at CNN Money, is promising the $30,000 Miles XS 500 to reach a top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of 120 miles at 60 miles per hour; six hours of charging in a normal wall socket will top the batteries off. Founder Miles "Per Gallon" Rubin says he'll have 6 prototypes of the XS 500 by the fall, but they still need tinkering to get safety approval from U.S. regulators, plus do additional battery testing, meaning that the real deal could be here by 2009. "The cars will speak for themselves. You can PR it to death, but if it doesn't perform well, it's dead on arrival," he says. We'll just have to wait and see how true that will be. ::Miles Automotive Group via ::CNN Money

[Source: by Collin Dunn, Seattle on 08.15.07

The Army's first hybrid tank

Oh, yeah! Now, that's a hybrid. BAE Systems demoed the first hybrid drive for a ground combat vehicle. It's a part of the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS). The army is also developing a hybrid Hummer. They are even going to Detroit looking for batteries. You might think: the Army, embracing this hippie crap? Don't be surprised.
Fuel efficiency means fewer supply lines. Fewer supply lines mean fewer troops in danger. The Army wants green power too. It's about saving lives. Well, our troop's lives. The Army is not the Red Cross. The army's hybrids are not going to do the environment much good either.
Pictured is the first vehicle it will be used which should begin production in 2008. Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C), the lead FCS ground combat vehicle with a fully automated, 155mm self-propelled howitzer. That thing does not plant trees! YEEHAW!

[Source:, Green Car Congress]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update - Toyota Denies Delays In Future Hybrid

Toyota says it’s “bemused” by the Wall Street Journal's recent story that the timing for its next generation of the Prius has been pushed back. Rebutting the story, Toyota issued the following statement:

“We've been very interested to note stories in The Wall Street Journal over the past couple of days purporting that the introduction of a next-generation Prius has been delayed because of the slow pace of development of lithium-ion batteries.

--- Read the full statement here.

Air-powered Car?

World's First Air-Powered Car: Zero Emissions by Next Summer

This six-seater tax, which should be available in India next year, is powered entirely by a tank filled with compressed air.

India’s largest automaker is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.

Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car’s carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours.

Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesn’t mean the major automakers can write it off as a bizarre Indian experiment — MDI has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Amazing - 1,562 miles on s single Prius tank!

(originally posted on PriusChat):

Kazu Tochigi achieved 1,562 miles/tank (2,513 km). The computer mileage was 104.2 mpg (44.3 km/L).

Even with the larger tank in the Japanese Prius, this is still an amazing feat.

As noted on PriusChat, this would be the equivalent of going from NYC to Dallas, on a single tank of gas!

--- Oren

Saturday, August 11, 2007

More on Toyota's Prius plug-in delays

Toyota downplays value of plug-in cars

Sharon Terlep / The Detroit News

TRAVERSE CITY -- Plug-in electric cars aren't likely the panacea they're being made out to be by a public eager for alternatives to the traditional gasoline engine, a Toyota Motor Co. engineer said on Friday.

A number of serious hurdles stand between current technology and the reality of getting plug-ins on the road, Justin Ward, an engineer with Toyota's Advanced Technology Vehicles, said to an industry gathering at the annual Management Briefing Seminars. Even if the vehicles do make it to market, he said, data shows a battery-powered plug-in may be no more efficient in reducing carbon dioxide emissions than the gas-electric hybrids on the road today.

Ward's comments come amid reports that Toyota is delaying its next-generation electric car because of safety concerns, which Toyota didn't confirm. And they stood in contrast to one of General Motors Corp.'s biggest mantras of late: that plug-ins are coming soon and the vehicles will significantly reduce auto-related pollution and U.S. fuel consumption.

"Everyone wants these benefits now. But as with any type of prototype activity, there are challenges and the challenges are real," Ward said.

GM and Toyota are racing to be first to market with a vehicle that would use a powerful lithium-ion battery. Both companies are focusing on a number of different options, which include plug-in cars that can recharge batteries via a wall outlet and hybrids that mate battery power and gasoline engine.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Prius '08 photos and info

My Japanese ain't that great, but if you're looking for info on the new Prius '08, you can find it here.

Nice colors...

--- Oren

Ikea switches to hybrid company cars

Ikea, the Swedish furniture and homeware brand that has brought Scandinavian design to the masses, has announced that all management team in Spain, or at least those (lucky ones) who have company cars, will have hybrids. The model is a Toyota Prius, and some would say "of course".
The switch to the popular hybrid model will be performed as the lease of current vehicles expire until they reach 44 at the end of this year. The plan is part of Ikea's announcement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions on transport 9 percent before 2010 and reducing waste from packages.
A recent Ikea campaign celebrating Madrid's third shop included giving away free metro (subway) tickets for shoppers.
Now, what if they could team up to make a foldable and recyclable car? Maybe I've seen too many reruns of Dragon Ball...

[Source: Europa Press,]

Need to Plug In your Car?

If you happen to drive a plug-in electric vehicle (EV) or a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), check out this website to see where you can charge it while on the go.

One of the concerns with plug-in hybrids is the lack of proper basic infrastructure - just where are we supposed to plug-in?

--- Oren

Prius emissions - Compared to...

Ever wondered just how clean the AT-PZEV-rated Prius is?

Check out this Flash presentation on The Chicago Prius Group website.

--- Oren

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Last tank - Aug 9 2007

443 miles, 44.9MPG.

Lifetime average: 44.9MPG

Is the Prius bad for the environment?

I've come to realized that I've been duped. The Prius is far from being eco-friendly. Quite the opposite, I find that it is the least environmentally friendly car I've driven.

Here's a list of the cars I had owned:

- Fiat Uno
- Renault Cleo
- Hyundai Elantra
- Ford Focus
- Renault Twingo
- Pontiac Sunfire

One thing they all had in common - they sucked. Over the years, driving was something I had to do to get from point A to point B. I never enjoyed it, and, generally, went out of my way to avoid driving whenever possible (including 4 years of being car-less in Manhattan).

Now I drive a Prius. It's FUN to drive. It's engaging. It provides feedback. It has more features than I've had before. It makes a statement. It's DIFFERENT.

The result? I enjoy driving more than I ever did. I even volunteer to take my wife to IKEA every other week. IKEA!!!. And why travel short distances (less fuel efficient) - let's go on longer drives (take the scenic route...).

My green car gets driven a lot more than any of my other cars did. And while I benefit from the fuel savings, I'm probably being LESS eco-friendly than before...

Why-oh-why couldn't they (Toyota) have made the Prius a crappier car?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Toyota Delays its Next Generation Hybrid

It seems that Toyota is still trying to figure out its next generation plug-in hybrid strategy. I guess my 2nd generation Prius will retain its value over the next 2-3 years...

[source: Wall Street Journal]

Toyota U.S. Hybrid Delay
Could Help Rivals Close Gap

Lithium-Ion Worries Will Scale Back Plans For Slew of New Models

Toyota Motor Corp., which exploited the green image of its gasoline-electric Toyota Prius to propel a U.S. sales surge, has decided to delay by as long as two years the launches of new high-mileage hybrids using lithium-ion battery technology. The slowdown could offer General Motors Corp. and other rivals a chance to close the gap in the race to define future clean-vehicle technology.

Until recently, Toyota was preparing to unleash an aggressive hybrid-product blitz, rolling out a dozen new and redesigned hybrids using new lithium-ion battery technology in the U.S. between 2008 and 2010. Its current hybrids use nickel-metal-hydride batteries. But problems with the lithium-ion technology have forced Toyota to back away from that timetable, people familiar with the company's strategy say.

That marketing push -- critical to Toyota's goal of selling 600,000 hybrids a year in the U.S. by early next decade -- is now on hold, according to Toyota executives knowledgeable about the company's hybrid-product plans for the U.S. market.

Moreover, Toyota postponed plans for hybrid versions of its big and fuel-thirsty Tundra pickup and Sequoia sport-utility vehicle, though the executives added there is a chance Toyota would revive big-truck hybrids and come out with them by 2013 or 2014. GM and Chrysler LLC plan to launch hybrid large SUVs next year, using a system developed jointly by GM, DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG.

Toyota hit the brakes on the newer-technology hybrids because of problems with the safety of lithium-ion-battery technology, which the auto maker was counting on to make hybrids even more fuel-efficient and affordable. Because they pack more electricity in the same space and weight, those batteries are expected to allow auto makers to halve the size of the current hybrid-propulsion system using nickel-metal-hydride batteries. That would also make the hybrids substantially cheaper and capable of achieving about 25 to 30 kilometers a liter in normal operation.

Toyota had bet on batteries based on lithium-cobalt-oxide technology. But such batteries have shown a tendency to overheat, catch fire or explode in some cases. Similar concerns have bedeviled laptop-computer makers using lithium-ion batteries made by Japan's Sony Corp.

The batteries Toyota is trying to develop use particles of lithium cobalt oxide. The technology risks a phenomenon called "thermal runaway," when it suffers an electrical short in the system, which could be caused by physical damage to the system in an accident. Experts say lithium-ion batteries in general tend to perform poorly in extreme low or high temperatures.

[Prius sales in the US]

Tomomi Imai, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo, declined to comment. But, according to Toyota executives, Sony's experience with lithium-ion batteries for laptops sounded an alarm because the chemistry of the Sony batteries was similar to batteries Toyota was trying to use for future hybrids.

Toyota had planned to use lithium-ion batteries starting with the next-generation Prius, originally scheduled for launch in late 2008. But because of safety concerns, Toyota has decided not to use those batteries in the new Prius, say Toyota executives familiar with the company's plans. The company will use instead the conventional nickel-metal-hydride batteries it has been using in the Prius since its launch in the mid-1990s. The next-generation Prius, using conventional batteries, is now expected to launch in early 2009, a delay of about six months.

The first Toyota hybrid that uses lithium-ion battery technology won't arrive in the U.S. until early 2011 when a derivative of the Prius, a wagon, comes out, company executives say. The Prius wagon had originally been scheduled to hit the market in early 2010, which means it could be delayed by at least a year.

By that time, GM has said it wants to have started production of lithium-ion hybrids. Tony Posawatz, GM's vehicle-line director for the Chevrolet Volt and related hybrid vehicles, said the first of GM's lithium-ion hybrids will be the Saturn VUE Green Line plug-in hybrid, which individuals knowledgeable about GM's product plans say could hit dealer showrooms as early as late 2009. GM also plans to launch by 2010 a plug-in hybrid car called the Volt, based on a design GM unveiled earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show. GM has selected two supplier groups that are expected to deliver battery packs for testing later this year, Mr. Posawatz said.

Mr. Posawatz, in an interview, expressed confidence that GM's lithium-ion hybrid strategy is on track toward a 2010 launch date, though he said the company isn't ready to commit to that date. Still, GM appears to have a chance to beat Toyota to market with a lithium-ion, extended-range hybrid by more than a year.

Behind GM's confidence in being able to deliver lithium-ion hybrids faster than Toyota is suppliers like A123 Systems, a Watertown, Massachusetts, start-up. A123 has come up with a different kind of lithium-ion battery, based on iron phosphates, that it says is more chemically stable and less likely to overheat and catch on fire. The company is one of a handful of likely candidates to supply lithium-ion batteries to GM. Another possible supplier of such batteries is Compact Power, a unit of South Korean chemical company LG Chem Ltd., which also has come up with batteries with a chemistry that is different from the kind Toyota is pursuing.

"Toyota certainly is a very, very credible and capable company. We view them as just a top-drawer competitor," Mr. Posawatz says. "But we also recognize technology is evolving so fast that the amount of capability any individual company and their partners and supply base can muster is limited."

Lithium-ion hybrids -- including so-called plug-in hybrids that recharge batteries by plugging into the electric grid and that run for 32 to 64 kilometers on electricity alone -- won't likely be high-volume models soon, given their relatively high cost.

Still, if GM can field a plug-in hybrid ahead of Toyota, it could burnish the Detroit auto maker's image as a technology leader. For nearly two decades, GM and its brands have suffered in the U.S. from a reputation for old technology and poor fuel economy -- an image GM executives say is now undeserved.

A senior Toyota executive said the timing for the launch of Toyota's first lithium-ion-battery hybrid model is being decided as part of a medium-term hybrid-product plan, which he said is -- while close to being finalized -- "still very, very fluid in some aspects." The final plan is due before the end of this year. The executive noted that the Prius derivative, most likely Toyota's first lithium-ion hybrid, will hit the market in early 2011 but that there is a force within Toyota's engineering and product-development division that is insisting on launching the model by the end of 2010. In that case, it could be a horse race between Toyota and General Motors.

Delays to the next-generation Toyota hybrids also offer an opportunity for rivals that have bet on clean diesel as a response to demands for more-efficient cars.

Honda Motor Co., for example, is pursuing a multipronged approach to alternative technologies, including a bet on a newly developed diesel engine. As Toyota grapples with lithium-ion technology, John Mendel, a senior Honda executive in the U.S., said the delays will likely provide Honda and others "a big break to build up awareness of an alternative to hybrids, like diesels, that has tremendous benefits in efficiency."

"We think diesel has a real opportunity," Mr. Mendel added.

Honda remains favorable to the long-term potential of lithium-ion technology, said company President Takeo Fukui. But Mr. Fukui said he is skeptical the technology can be made reliable enough for vehicles in the next few years. Mr. Fukui said he and his wife recently bought an electrically assisted hybrid bicycle for 100,000 yen ($842) in Japan, but its lithium-ion battery failed after only six months. The couple had to dish out 40,000 yen to replace it because it wasn't covered by the bike's warranty. "That wouldn't cut in the auto industry," Mr. Fukui said.

By 2009, Honda plans to launch in the U.S. a subcompact hybrid with improved nickel-metal-hydride batteries. A hybrid version of the Civic now costs about $4,000 more than a comparably equipped gasoline-engine Civic model. With the new subcompact, Mr. Fukui says Honda is trying to cut the hybrid premium to less than $2,000 -- about what a consumer pays for a satellite-based navigation system as optional added equipment.

European auto makers, including Volkswagen AG, BMW and the Mercedes-Benz unit of Daimler AG, also plan to field modern diesel engines in U.S. models starting next year. In long-distance highway driving, modern European diesels can often outperform a gasoline-electric hybrid. The challenge for diesel is meeting tough U.S. clean-air rules. European auto makers say they now have the technology to do that, although it will be costly at first.

Toyota doesn't have diesel engines that meet air-quality standards in all 50 U.S. states. Fearful of being left behind if diesels gain in popularity, Toyota last year bought a 5.9% stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd. to gain access to the latter's clean-diesel technology.

Toyota's move to slow hybrid launches comes as the company's president, Katsuaki Watanabe, is starting to decelerate the company's breakneck expansion pace, which vaulted it past GM to be the world's No. 1 auto maker by vehicle sales volume this year.

Mr. Watanabe has expressed concern that Toyota's rapid expansion has strained the company's human and technical resources and undermined the quality of Toyota vehicles.

Last year, Mr. Watanabe told The Wall Street Journal that the company would slow the overall pace of product development by as many as six months to shore up vehicle quality and reliability after a string of recalls and other quality gaffes in recent years. But delays are turning out to be longer when it comes to more technologically complicated hybrid vehicles.

According to a tentative, medium-term hybrid-product plan reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, in addition to the next-generation Prius, Toyota will likely have to delay other new hybrid models as well, by more than one year in most cases and as many as two years in others.

"The delays show the company has been too focused on one type of technology," said Masaki Taketani, a senior analyst at CSM Worldwide, an auto-industry research firm in Michigan. "Toyota would be in big trouble if other types of lithium-ion batteries, or a new breed of clean-burning diesel engines, gained steam as a better fuel-saving proposition to the American consumer."

Toyota still outstrips GM by other measures, such as market capitalization and profitability. Toyota earlier this month reported quarterly net income of $4.1 billion, nearly five times GM's result for the same period. Toyota's financial resources give it a huge advantage in the competition to develop more-fuel-efficient vehicles.

Toyota executives stress that they have only delayed, not abandoned, plans to use longer-range lithium-ion batteries in hybrid vehicles.

Aside from the new lithium-ion Prius wagon, Toyota also plans to launch in the 2011-12 time frame as many as nine other lithium-ion-battery hybrids. Among them are a new wagon-style crossover with three rows of seating based on the Japan-only model called the Wish; a wagon derivative of the Camry; a sporty coupe code named FT-HS, which was shown at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year as a concept car; and possibly a hybrid version of the redesigned Corolla.

Toyota, according to the knowledgeable executives, is also mulling developing a lithium-ion-battery hybrid version of the RAV4 crossover SUV and the Estima minivan hybrid, currently sold only in Japan, launching them sometime in 2012. But those projects are still "very fluid," one of the executives says.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How the Prius is changing How I Drive

You would think that after +16 years on the road, my driving habits would be set in stone. Not so. Ever since I started driving my Toyota Prius hybrid, my driving style has changed dramatically.

Some of it has to do with the hybrid features of the car - For example, I find myself breaking sooner, and more slowly, in order to maximize the benefits of regenerative breaking.

But it's not so much the hybrid nature of the car that is affecting how I drive. Rather, it is the amount of information it makes available to me, in real time, that has completely transformed my driving.

With the Multi-functional display (MFD), the Prius provides me with real-time fuel consumption information. I can now correlate my behavior with the car's fuel consumption. The result?

- I no longer exceed the speed limit,
- I no longer accelerate as fast as I can,
- I hardly touch the gas pedal, unless it is for a short burst of acceleration,
- I try to anticipate and plan ahead. Whereas before I used to keep my speed until just before a red light, now I let the car slow down on its own, even if I'm 300-400 yards away.
- I'm much more relaxed, sticking to the right lane.

Again, this has nothing to do with the car being hybrid - even with a regular vehicle you'll realize significant fuel savings if you apply these methods. But with no real-time indicators, we simply don't see the immediate benefit.

Imagine the gas savings we could realize if all cars would benefit from this immediate bio-feedback mechanism!

--- Oren

Sunday, August 5, 2007

DIY: Make your own biodiesel for fun and profit

Etruk, a UK company, is selling a do it yourself biodiesel machine that will turn your fry grease into fuel for just pennies a gallon! For just £895 ($1,821) you can buy its smallest distiller that turns out 40-liter batches. Etruk's site says it's perfect for keeping a single car fueled. Or you can step up to the largest machine, which costs £2,095 ($4,265) and churns out 150 liters of fuel at a time. Just the right amount says the site for someone who wants to start their own biodiesel fueling station.
While it's legal for Brits to make their own highly-flammable fuel right in their own back yards, it's not clear how U.S. authorities would react. So before you go ordering one of these, check your state and local laws.
[Source: Gizmodo, Autoblog]

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hybrid Marketing - Prius Rules...

Karl Greenberg posted a great article on MediaPost, titled:  "Hybrid Marketers Might Take A Lesson From Toyota"

Here are some of the highlights - clearly the stats support the notion that people who buy hybrids want to make a personal statement:

AUTOMAKERS, BOWING SEVEN NEW HYBRID vehicles this year, might want to think of ways to make gas/electric cars and trucks scream: "Hey, look, I'm a hybrid." A big visible difference from non-hybrids, big fuel economy gains and a small price difference have determined winners and losers in the growing segment, say market observers.

...with a profusion of hybrid cars in market now and more coming, Toyota's Prius rules, and consultancies say the car will continue to do so: Toyota sold a record 16,062 Priuses last month--a dizzying 50% increase versus the month last year. Year to date, the company saw an 85% increase through July versus the period in 2006. Toyota reported that among all of its hybrids, it saw a 59% increase in sales in the period.

Toyota, which plans to offer hybrid-powertrain versions of its entire portfolio by 2012, now sells gas/electric versions of four other vehicles, but all of those combined don't come near sales of Prius.

"Prius is a stand-alone car--it makes a statement on its own," says George Magliano, director of automotive research for the Americas at Global Insight, Lexington, Mass. "You see it on the road and know it's a hybrid. And the issue with this type of vehicle is that people want you to know they have a hybrid."

Dan Gorrell, president of Auto Stratagem, a research and consulting firm in Tustin, Calif., concurs. "Consider the hybrid Highlander (SUV). It hasn't sold well, partly because it violates a major issue: you need to look different. A lot of why people are buying hybrids has to do with being noticed; it's a self-esteem issue."

Gorrell says the efforts are driven in no small part by publicity and automakers' desire to position themselves as progressive. "There's been a lot of me-too's. Press has put pressures on manufacturers, and it's gotten into the image arena because if one isn't offering a hybrid then one is an evil gas guzzler. Toyota has played the hybrid card in an interesting way to promote its corporate image."

Toyota has been moving hybrid metal by offering incentives earlier this year--to offset the government's rescinding of the federal consumer tax break on hybrid purchases--on a car that used to have a six-month waiting list. Although there are now 11 hybrid models for sale in the U.S. market, Prius still accounts for over 50% of all new hybrid vehicles bought in the U.S. According to J.D. Power & Associates, it will continue to dominate.


Among current hybrid-version models sold in the U.S.: Toyota's Camry, Highlander, Prius and Lexus GS car and RX SUV; Ford's Escape and Mercury Mariner; GM's Saturn Vue and Aura; Honda's Civic and (for now) Accord; and Nissan's Altima hybrid. The latter uses Toyota technology, but Nissan hasn't marketed the vehicle and has only sold 2,800 units this year.

On the domestic side, Ford has sold over 11,000 units of its Escape hybrid in the first half of this year.

Indeed, not all hybrids are selling well. Honda has seen a modest 6% increase in sales of its hybrid-version Civic this year--but is discontinuing the hybrid version of the Accord sedan, of which it has only sold 2,304 this year, as it sells down inventory.

"The hybrid Accord was the wrong price and the wrong concept," says Gorrell, who says Honda's mistake was marketing the car for performance. "People buy hybrids for fuel economy, and they clearly weren't getting that with the hybrid Accord."

General Motors' Saturn division has hybrids under the Green Line sub-brand of the Vue crossover and Aura sedan. The latter is touted as the lowest-priced hybrid on the market. "I think that GM is doing well with lesser technology partly because the vehicles aren't priced at a premium either, so it's a step in the right direction," he says.

Mike Omotoso, senior manager, Global Powertrain at J.D. Power, says GM's price premium is between $1,000 and $1,500. GM has sold less than 1,000 of its Aura hybrids since it went on sale in April.

Omotoso says Prius has done so well because it fires on all cylinders with a unique look and a pure hybrid powertrain (versus hybrid-assist versions) and market adjustments offering lower-priced versions. "You can see from a hundred yards away, it is the only one of the group that can run completely on electric, and it has the best fuel economy out of all of them. Honda sells 300,000 Civics per year, and the hybrid portion is 10% of that--and from a distance it looks like a Civic," he says.

According to J.D. Power, people are willing to pay a price premium of $2,400 for a hybrid. "One of the reasons the Accord hybrid failed is that it carried a $3,700 premium," he says, adding that it would take ten years to recoup that cost if one were saving $350 per year in gas costs using the car.

He says the Camry hybrid is the second-highest-selling hybrid car, followed by the Civic hybrid. Among hybrid-powered SUVs, the Toyota Highlander is the top seller, says Omotoso. "Toyota has credibility. They have done a great job of marketing themselves as hybrid leaders, and the Highlander--the non-hybrid version--is already a high-selling truck."

J.D. Power says the industry will get an infusion of 65 hybrid models--28 cars and 37 light trucks--by 2010, with sales expected to reach nearly 775,000 units, or 4.6% of the total U.S. new light-vehicle market. Both Toyota and GM are testing plug-in hybrids.

Among the seven new hybrids coming into the market are hybrid versions of Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedan; Chevy Malibu; Hyundai Santa Fe; and Toyota Sienna minivan. General Motors will also offer full hybrids on its Yukon, Escalade and Tahoe trucks. Lexus is the first to launch an ultra-premium hybrid with the $104,000 LS 600h, on sale this summer.

Gorrell says the winners in the hybrid wars will be the ones offering the whole package. "The key will be--do they look different, how are they priced and do they offer that much of an advantage? It had better offer gasoline advantages and look different. That's what's required."


--- Oren

Online Searches for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Decrease as Gas Prices Drop

 What can I say - this makes little sense, but it goes to show that people are far from logical.  We all know by now that buying a hybrid is less about saving at the pump and more about saving the environment.  From a purely economical point of view, it may takes years before fuel savings add up.

Anyhow, here's the story, from GreenCarCongress:

As gas prices begin to fall, so does US consumer interest in fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the latest Consumer Search Index. is reporting a decline in searches for hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars, all of which saw dramatic increases over the last several months when gas prices were at all-time highs.

This is fairly consistent with what we’ve experienced in past years with the ebb and flow of gas prices. As gas prices decline, we are starting to see people searching for crossover vehicles and some SUVs. We have yet to see a sustained movement away from gas-guzzlers. Instead, we find that consumers are reacting to current prices at the pump when it comes to their automotive search and buying behavior.

—Patrick Olsen, managing editor of

Keeping with manufacturers’ reports of strong crossover sales, GM’s trio of crossover-vehicles—the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia—all made the list of cars experiencing a large increase in the amount of search activity last month. expects that crossover vehicles as a category will continue to generate interest on the site in the coming months.

--- Oren

Are Diesels more popular than hybrids?

It looks like another case of tell me which side of the argument you're on and I'll give you the statistics to prove you're right. A few weeks ago we reported on a survey by J.D. Power and Associates that indicated that interest in hybrids was beginning to wane in favor of diesels. While potential car buyers may have increasing motivation towards oil-burners aside from heavy duty trucks, there aren't a lot of these vehicles available to US buyers at the moment.
With a flurry of new hybrid models coming later this year including the Chevy Malibu and Tahoe, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan and others, Power is now saying 2007 will be a record year for hybrid sales. This should come as a surprise to no one as gas prices across most of the country remain at or above $3 a gallon. While the numbers were down more than half of respondents still wanted a hybrid. That's all part of why they are predicting that hybrid sales will increase thirty-five percent this year to 345,000 units. As more diesels become available in 2008, things may change, but sales will probably still continue to climb.
[Source: J.D. Power and Associates, AutoblogGreen]

Thursday, August 2, 2007

US Sales of Hybrids Up 12% in July

While overall light-duty vehicle sales in the US fell about 12% in July 2007 from July 2006, sales of hybrids increased by about 12% for the same period, according to July sales reports from Toyota, Honda, Ford and Nissan. GM does not break out its hybrid sales. The month’s results also saw the combined US market share of GM, Chrysler and Ford drop below 50% for the first time.
Monthly US sales of hybrids. Click to enlarge.

Reported hybrid sales increased to 28,585 units in July 2007, up from 25,626 in July 2006. Hybrids represented 2.2% of the new vehicle sales in the month.

Toyota continued to lead, with the Prius posting its own July record of 16,062 units, an increase of 44.5% from July 2006. (Comparisons are based on total sales volume, not day sales rate.) Camry Hybrid turned in 4,329 units, a drop of 13.8% from July 2006, and representing 10.4% of all Camry models sold. Highlander Hybrid sold 1,205 units, a 56.7% drop from July 2006, and representing 13.6% of all Highlander sales.

The Lexus Rx 400h posted 1,385 units, a 13.5% increase from 2006, and representing 16.5% of all Rx 350/400h models sold. The GS 450h posted 142 units, a 9.6% decrease from July 2006, but representing 91% of all GS 430/450h models. The GS 450h accounted for 7.3% of all GS models, including the GS 350.

Nissan broke the four-figure mark for the first time with its limited sales of the Nissan Altima Hybrid. The monthly total of 1,131 does not include the 500 units that Avis announced it will purchase. The July results represented 4.6% of all Altima models sold.

Nissan was also the only one of the top six automakers in the US to post an overall sales increase in July.

Honda sold 2,493 units of the Civic Hybrid, a decrease of 6.7% from July 2006, representing 9.0% of all Civics sold. The Accord Hybrid came in with 260 units, a 48.4% drop from July 2006, and representing 0.7% of all Accord models sold.

Combined sales of Ford’s Escape and Mariner hybrids dropped 23.4% to 1,578 units, representing 10.5% of total combined Escape and Mariner sales. Overall, sales for the redesigned 2008 Escape and Mariner vehicles were up 2% compared to last year. While Ford’s total sales dropped 19%, sales of crossover utility vehicles were up 40%. on Plug-in Hybrids published a very interesting article about the future of plug-in hybrids.

Here is a snippet from the article, asking all the right questions:

"If more than half of U.S. motorists switched to plug-in hybrid vehicles, the country’s greenhouse gas emissions would plummet by the middle of this century, according to a July 19 study from the Electric Power Research Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Several automakers are gearing up to their part, but major obstacles remain.

Could the power grid handle such a widespread switch to vehicles that guzzle from electric sockets instead of gas pumps? Opinions differ.

And are millions of consumers willing to plug their cars into a wall outlet just like they would a toaster? Not quite yet, industry insiders say."

Personally, I can't wait to get my hand on a plug-in Prius. Only two minor problems - I don't have a garage at home, and no access to a plug while parked at work...

--- Oren

I'm no longer alone

Well, that didn't take long.

Two weeks after I started driving my new Prius, I saw another one parked at the parking lot where I work.

Just like mine, it was imported from the US (not yet licensed in BC). Unlike mine, it seems to be used (hmm... I guess the Honda dealer's info gave it away).

I don't know who you are - but if you just bought a (used) black Prius in Bellingham, and parked it in Port Coquitlam this morning, feel free to drop me a line :)

--- Oren

Hybrid Sales on the Rise

It's always nice to note you're not alone.  I love my Prius (and the MPG I'm getting).  I also love the fact that more and more people now consider a hybrid vehicle.  With rising fuel prices on one hand, and the recently announced Prius price drop, everyone should be looking at the hybrid option.

Here are the most recent hybrid sales stats (US) from J.D. Power and Associates:

An estimated 187,000 hybrids were sold in the first six months of 2007, accounting for 2.3 percent of all new vehicle sales. 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.
The Toyota Prius continues to be the best-selling hybrid model, accounting for just more than half of all hybrids sold. J.D. Power said Prius sales also got a boost this year from incentives of up to $2,000 per vehicle, which helped offset a decrease in federal tax breaks for hybrids.

Competition in the segment will intensify in the coming years. There will be as many as 65 hybrid models, more than half of them trucks, in the market by 2010, with projected sales of nearly 775,000, J.D. Power said.


--- Oren

30 Minutes with the Highlander Hybrid

Toyota has been on a roll with hybrids lately, with the 170,000 units sold in 2006 expected to be easily eclipsed this year by 80,000 units or more. The Prius is the obvious hybrid sales leader, but the Highlander came in at a surprising 2nd place last year, with 31,000 units sold. That number should only go up with the introduction of the 2008 Highlander Hybrid, which is expected to arrive in dealerships at the end of September. We had a chance to take Toyota's battery-assisted CUV for a spin during the vehicle's unveiling in Dearborn, Michigan, and we found a vehicle that was spacious and clever on the inside and better looking outside (that was easy).
Of course the single aspect of the hybrid version of the Highlander that intrigues us the most is the powertrain, and from our standpoint Toyota has done a good job of integrating their battery technology into this seven-seat CUV. $3 per gallon gasoline has placed fuel economy at the top of everybody's mind right now, and the 2008 Highlander Hybrid has upped the ante, if only slightly. Using the EPA's new fuel economy calculations, the 08 model achieves 27mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway. Those numbers are exactly the same for 07, but the new EPA numbers are stiffer, and account for aggressive driving and the use of air conditioners. What's impressive is that Toyota managed better fuel economy on a larger CUV that weighs 300lb more than the vehicle it replaces, while working with the same 3.3L V6 paired to essentially the same battery pack.
The 2008 Highlander Hybrid comes with plenty of great standard features like backup assist with a dash-mounted 3.5 inch screen, 19' rims, seven air bags, and stability control. The hybrid can also tow 3500lbs while boasting SULEV emissions. Also standard are and EV mode that can go 1-2 miles at speeds under 25mph while using only the battery. Another fuel-saving technology is Toyota's Econ mode, which helps achieve better gas mileage by governing the amount of throttle that can be used at any time. Click through to read our driving impressions of the 2008 Highlander Hybrid.

Very little differentiates the hybrid Highlander from the standard gasoline-powered model, but the hybrid is easily distinguishable by the different front grille and the the Hybrid Synergy Drive badging. On the inside, the hybrid loses the sequential shift transmission, but gains an EV mode button. The green Highlander has blue lighting in the gauge cluster, while the gas version has red. Toyota isn't exactly taking any big risks with the Highlander's styling, but it's at least superior to the model it replaces. Toyota did a superb job with interior packaging, and you can read all about the updates on Autoblog here. We even have video of Toyota's interior packaging overview presentation.
In our limited time driving the Highlander Hybrid, we were impressed with the vehicle's roominess, its smooth ride, and Toyota's attention to detail. The gauge cluster has easy to understand ways to show battery charge, and drivers can easily note when they're getting the most out of your alternative powertrain by keeping the needle in the prescribed range. During our drive, the EV mode only worked for about 200 yards, but that was because the battery wasn't fully charged, and four bars on the 3.5 inch display are needed for EV-only operation to work. It was easy to run on batteries only at low speeds even without EV mode, and the transition to gasoline power was barely detectable. Steering was light and slightly vague, but that's standard fare in a family hauler.

Toyota sold 31,000 Highlander Hybrids last year, and with the 2008 model better in every way, 2007 and beyond should be even better. The only gripe we had with the hybrid version of the Highlander was that it's only about 1mpg more efficient than the past model. The vehicle gained 300lbs and became more family-friendly, but the point of a hybrid should be to get great fuel economy while impacting the environment less than a comparably-sized gasoline powered vehicle. While Toyota is all alone in the seven-passenger hybrid CUV category (GM has the larger Tahoe hybrid SUV), the folks from Aichi, Japan will need to provide more economy for the dollar when the competition finally arrives.

[source: AutoblogGreen]

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Plugin hybrid TV ad by a power company

AutoblogGreen wrote about the Plugin hybrid vehicle trials the power company Edison International plans with Ford. Seems Edison likes plugin hybrids so much they are singing their praises in TV ads. Here is a synopsis of an ad they ran on CNN's Larry King Live.

The commercial has Earth rolling by big text; Renewables, Clean Coal and Plug-In Hybrids. There is a white background and boxes with video like a lady in a pink blouse plugging in a car. Throughout there is a voice over that says "Small planet. Big challenges and a future that rests on our thinking about energy in new and better ways. Like the wider use of cost effective renewables. Clean coal technologies to transform a plentiful American resource into a greener energy source and plugin hybrid electric vehicles working as powerful engines for change. All aimed at making the electricity we use more cost efficient and environmentally sound. Edison International. Life powered by Edison."

This is probably the first time plugin hybrids have turned up in a commercial for a power company. It's great to see them high on the list of solutions. Plugin hybrids have the potential to be a great contributor to a cleaner energy future and it's about time someone said it.

[Source: AutoblogGreen]

Kids say the darnest things...

My 3 year old was playing with his toy cars yesterday, as I was coming back from work.

"Dad, look at me, I have a hybrid car, look, it's hybrid!" - (he was holding a tiny 60's Chevy Impala replica).

"umm... Son, what does 'hybrid' mean?"

"It means the car is electric. Look, I have a hybrid car!"

- How cool is that? :)

We spend the next 15 minutes learning all about hybrid cars and why they're important.

I think the Prius is rubbing off on us...

--- Oren

Monday, July 30, 2007

Prius '08 pricing - mixed emotions

Toyota announced its planned MSRP for the '08 Prius. The "basic model" is more than $1,000 cheaper than the basic model available today. That said, it is unclear whether the new basic model has all the features of the '07 model, or whether Toyota simply introduced a cheaper entry-level model.

I bought my '07 model two weeks ago. Yes, I would have liked to pay less for the car (I paid MSRP), but I did enjoy from the Package 2 discount which was (and still is) in effect. My guess is that Toyota will eliminate the promotion once the '08 model arrives.

Since I imported my car from the US, I did save thousands of dollars in the process. In the past two weeks Toyota has really come down on its US dealers, preventing them from selling vehicles to Canadians. With that in mind, I'm happy I was able to get my hands on a new Prius. If I had waited for the new model, there's nothing to guarantee that I would have actually been able to purchase it.

--- Oren

2008 Prius price drop with the new standard model


If $1,225 is all that's been holding you back from buying a new Prius, August could be your month. Toyota announced today a new expanded line-up for the 2008 Prius, and the new standard model has a low MSRP. Toyota suggests that the 2008 Prius versions sell for between $20,950 (the standard model) to $23,220 for the Touring model.

While Toyota says the total Prius average MSRP increases by $150 (0.7 percent), the low-end 2008 Prius is quite a bit cheaper ($1,225, to be exact) than the lowest-priced 2007 version.The MSRP for the 2007 Prius is $22,175 - $23,070.

You can find the 2008 Prius in dealerships in August. Toyota also announced prices for the 2008 Avalon, Yaris, RAV4, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Tacoma and Sienna.

[Source: Toyota, h/t Linton/Hugg]


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lexus announces price for the 2008 RX 400h

Lexus Announces Prices on 2008 RX 400h, SC 430, GX 470, IS 250/350, ES 350 and LS 460
TORRANCE, Calif., July 27/PRNewswire/ -- Lexus announced manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) today for the 2008 RX 400h hybrid luxury utility vehicle, SC 430 luxury hardtop convertible, GX 470 premium luxury utility vehicle, IS 250/350 luxury sport sedans, ES 350 luxury sedan, and LS 460 premium luxury sedan. Each model will go on sale in September.
For 2008, the RX 400h hybrid luxury utility vehicle receives several styling enhancements including a restyled front grille design, new exterior chrome door handles, a new finish on the five-spoke, 18-inch wheels, and a color-keyed rear spoiler. The world's first luxury utility hybrid also receives seven new exterior colors including Smoky Granite Mica, Golden Almond Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, Breakwater Blue Metallic, Brandy Wine Mica, Desert Sage Metallic and Matador Red Mica.
The base MSRP for the RX 400h with front-wheel-drive will remain unchanged at $41,180. The price of the all-wheel-drive RX 400h also remains unchanged from 2007 at $42,580.
The SC 430 luxury hardtop convertible carries over unchanged for the 2008 model year. The base MSRP for the 2008 SC 430 also remains unchanged at $65,455.
The 2008 GX 470 also receives additional styling upgrades including a new dark metallic finish on the front grille, chrome roof rack side rails, liquid graphite on the standard 17-inch alloy wheels, a clear rear combination lamp turn signal lens cover, and two new colors -- Salsa Red Pearl and Desert Sage metallic. Inside, the GX 470 receives a new Brown Walnut wood trim and a chrome finish on the front door speaker grilles. Additional changes were also made on the optional Sport Package where the carpeting, third-seat latch and cargo hook will now be black.
The 2008 GX 470 will carry a base MSRP of $46,815, an increase of $180, or 0.4 percent. Additionally, the price of the popular Third Row Seat with Rear Air Conditioner option significantly reduced by $1,545 and will now be offered at $485.
The 2008 IS 250 and 350 features a new finish to its standard 17-inch wheels for a sportier appearance. Additional upgrades include backlighting on the outside power mirror control, white illuminated scuff plates and an additional coin holder.
The base MSRP for the IS 250 with a manual transmission will be $30,455, an increase of $200, or 0.7 percent. The IS 250 with an automatic transmission will carry a base MSRP of $31,625, up $200, or 0.6 percent. The IS 250 with all-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission will carry a base MSRP of $34,085, a price reduction of $200, or 0.6 percent. The IS 350 will be base priced at $35,905, an increase of $200, or 0.6 percent.
For 2008 the Lexus ES 350 receives restyled outside rear-view mirrors for a sleeker look. Inside, the ES adds two rear personal lamps for added passenger convenience.
The ES 350 will carry a base MSRP of $33,720, an increase of $250, or 0.7 percent.
Launched in the fall of 2006, the all-new LS 460 and LS 460 L have received overwhelming accolades and enjoyed spectacular consumer acceptance. For the 2008 model year, the LS will carry over unchanged with the exception of one new exterior color, Opaline Pearl. The long wheelbase LS 460 L offers a new Air Suspension package that includes 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with 245/45R19 all-season tires, Variable Gear Ratio Steering and Adaptive Variable Air Suspension.
The 2008 LS 460 will have a base MSRP of $61,500, an increase of $500, or 0.8 percent. The base MSRP for the LS 460 L will be $71,500, an increase of $500, or 0.7 percent.

Honda and Lexus to introduce new hybrids

honda hybrid
Hybrid vehicles are hot these days. Factors like constantly rising fuel prices, a growing concern about the environment and fear of tighter emission norms around the globe have spurred the production and sales of hybrids. Powered by this interest, great strides have been made in the field of batteries and associated technologies. All this made the hybrids more user friendly and evolved greater consumer interest in these vehicles. Major brands are now seriously considering the launch of dedicated hybrids.

Brands now offer hybrid versions of some of their very popular gasoline models. The market interest, however, is ‘going back in time’. Honda and Lexus are considering the production of new vehicles that will be ‘just hybrids’. The first hybrids were dedicated design and offered only as hybrids, not mere hybrid versions of popular gasoline models.

Reports say Lexus is at work on a vehicle that will be marketed only as a hybrid. Lexus currently produces a wide range of hybrids including the RX 400h and its costliest car, the LS600hL. A point in case; Lexus hybrids are not mere fuel misers, the focus is more on performance and refinement.

With its new hybrid speculated to be launched in the D-segment, Lexus wants to address some problems that have dogged hybrids since long. The focus will be more on trunk space, interior space and quality rather than on styling and looks. This new dedicated hybrid is expected to enter the market by 2010.

Notwithstanding its recent hitches with the Insight and Accord hybrid, Honda is all set to work on its dedicated hybrid. Honda’s hybrid will most likely target the entry-level segment. This hybrid will come as a family-car. Nearly 200,000 units of this car will come to the market each year. This vehicle is scheduled for a 2009 launch.

Going back to the dedicated hybrids is a good idea. Honda and Toyota pioneered the hybrid market years ago, but can they pull another revolution now?


Toyota Camry hybrid sheds $1000 off its price tag

2008 toyota camry hybrid image
The 2008 Toyota Camry hybrid will cost less by nearly a grand. The Camry hybrid will now be priced at $25,860, still $5,400 more than the gasoline only variant. The gasoline only Camry is the most popular car in the USA.

How does the Camry hybrid afford this price cut? Simply by doing away with some of previously standard equipment. The aluminium wheels have given way to steel units. The JBL stereo and leather trim on the steering wheel and shifter are now a thing of the past.

Camry hybrid comes with a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine that gives 187 horsepower when combined with the electric motor. Estimates say the Camry hybrid gives a fuel economy of 40mpg in the city and 38mpg on the highway.

The move may be welcome, as people will not have to pay for the stuff they don’t require. At the same time, many may resent the list of ‘not so impressive’ standard equipment.

Arguably, the Camry hybrid faces tough competition from other hybrids on the road. Some give excellent fuel economy; others give a better performance and more power. The lower price tag might just save the day for this car.

[Via: Autobloggreen]

Porsche Cayenne hybrid: the fuel friendly Cayenne

porsche cayenne
SUVs are mostly referred to as gas-guzzlers; the Porsche Cayenne is no exception. Porsche AG, however aims to change things a bit with the introduction of the Cayenne hybrid, likely to be rolled out by the end of 2009.

Cayenne hybrid will cut the fuel consumption of the Cayenne by nearly a third. Porsche wants the hybrid to cover 100km in 8.9 litres of fuel, as compared to the 12.9 litres of the all-gas Cayenne. With such a high fuel usage, the Cayenne exhales 320 to 378 grams of carbon dioxide per km. There is no word on the CO2 output of the hybrid.

These high figures of carbon emission can land the Cayenne into trouble in the near future. Emission standards are tightening worldwide. The European Commission plans for new rules by mid-2008, that aim to reduce pollution from passenger cars to 130grams of CO2 per km by 2012. Upcoming CAFE standards in the USA are already causing car manufacturers to lose sleep.

Porsche is working with Volkswagen and Audi for development of hybrid powertrains that capture energy from braking and use it to drive an electric motor. The parallel-full hybrid lets the electric motor drive the vehicle at speeds upto 120kmph (now that’s something), with the gas engine first taking over at high speeds.

The age of gas-guzzlers is over. As the world gets more conscious of environment and people feel the pinch of high gas prices on their wallets, demand for cleaner and fuel economical vehicles is on the rise. Hybrids lead the way in this changing world.

[Image: Autobloggreen]

[Source: Reuters]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Importing a Prius Hybrid to Canada - Conclusion


Yesterday I had my new Prius inspected and licensed. Here is the remainder of the process (it’s BC specific, but should apply elsewhere in Canada).

(you can read the entire thread by following these posts: US/Canada Prius price comparison; US Customs forms; Step by step guide)

After coming home with the new car, I scanned and emailed the required documents (which included the Recall Letter AND printouts from Toyota’s recall database (provided by the US dealer) to RIV. About three business days later I called them up, and they emailed me my inspection form.

Just about the only modification required are daytime running lights.

I then got a temporary permit from ICBC for one day, and was off to Canadian Tire - I had them do the Federal & Provincial inspections, as well as installing DRL.

Even though they sell a DRL kit (which turns on ALL lights at 100%), this is NOT what they use when they install DRL themselves. On my (non-HID) Prius they installed DRL that run off the signal lights, not the main lights.

Federal exam: free (included in RIV fee)
Provincial (BC) exam: $89.95
DRL parts: $40.93
DRL labor: $133.50
Gov’t inspection decal: $10

Once done with Canadian Tire, it was off to ICBC, and voila - it’s done.

Don’t forget, when you’re done with ICBC, to claim your PST refund. Here are detailed instructions (which were emailed to me by Ministry of Small Business and Revenue):

“To claim a PST refund complete and submit an Application of Refund for Social Service Tax Paid on a Vehicle form (FIN 413MV), which is available on our website at: For more information on the refund process, see GEN 008, Refunds of Overpayments of Tax, available on our website at:

When submitting the form, please remember to attach the relevant documentation including:

a) a copy of this email;

b) a copy of the registration certificate showing the make, model, year, and fuel type of the vehicle.

c) a copy of the bill of sale that indicates the date of purchase;

d) a copy of the ICBC receipt indicating the amount of PST that was paid when the vehicle was registered.

For more information see Bulletin SST 085, Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Alternative Motor Fuel Tax Concessions, available on our website at:”

That’s it! I’ll be happy to answer any questions regarding the import process. I highly recommend it.

— Oren

Importing a Prius hybrid to Canada - Step by Step Guide

Just got back a couple of hours ago from WA state with my brand new Prius.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to import your Prius, based on my experience:

(a) Find a Toyota dealer who’ll deal with you. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds, since Toyota does not allow its US dealers to sell to Canadians.

(b) Finalize the deal.

(c) Send all the required info to US Customs (see my previous post) at least 72 hours before your pick-up time.

(d) On the day before you pick the car up, get a temporary insurance binder from ICBC (or your provincial authority). This will allow you to drive the car home, provided the dealer set you up with temporary US permits.

(e) Go across the border.

(f) Pick up your car.

(g) Go back to the border crossing. Present your MSO to US Customs. They’ll compare it against the information you had sent them, and then they’ll stamp your MSO. This took about 45 seconds.

(h) Go to Canada customs. They’ll fill out RIV Form 1 for you. You’ll pay $206 RIV fee + duty + GST. All can be put on a credit card.

(i) Go home (don’t collect $200…) :)

I picked it up from the dealer just in time - they told me that Toyota is applying more and more pressure, and that they (the dealer) have now suspended sales to Canadians. Up until now they were just about the only dealer in WA state to sell to Canadians.

— Oren

Importing a Prius hybrid to Canada - US Customs forms

I went ahead and bought a Toyota Prius in the US. As part of the import (or export, depending on your point of view), you are required to provide information to US Customs at least 72 hours prior to taking the car out of the US.

For those of you who are based in BC, here are the instructions from Blaine / Pacific Highway US Customs:

(1) - Information packet

(2) - Worksheet

(3) - Status Form

Make sure to use these documents when submitting your vehicle’s information.

By the way, I was unable to fax the forms over to the Customs office - it was constantly busy. Instead, I scanned them all and emailed them to the email address listed in the Packet. Within an hour I had received an email confirmation, with the date on which I’ll be able to export the car from the US.

I’ll be picking up my new car next week, as which point I’ll post all about the actual border crossing experience.

— Oren

Importing a Prius hybrid to Canada

BC Business Magazine posted an article on the economics involved in importing vehicles from the US to Canada. As I’m currently researching the very same topic, here are some cost comparisons, for those of you who are looking to import a Toyota Prius.

It is almost impossible to compare apples to apples when looking at importing a Prius. The reason is quite simple - Canadian consumers have a smaller selection of packages and options to choose from. As such, a consumer looking as specific functionality may be required to pay for additional features, simply because they’ve been bundled into an expensive package.

Here are the features I was looking for:

- Prius ‘07

- VSC (Vehicle Stability Control)

- Backup camera

- Audio system /w MP3 support and aux input

In the US, this feature set is called Package #2. In Canada these features are part of Package B, which also includes premium audio, Bluetooth support, and many other features I don’t care for. However, since I won’t consider buying the car without the features I am looking for, the effective Canadian price becomes that of Package B.

Now for the cost comparison - US Prius ‘07 package 2 vs. Canada Prius ‘07 package B. Although the CAD is trading today at 1.056 CAD per USD, I’ll use the conservative 1.07 exchange rate. The results (in Canadian dollars) are astounding:


  • Canada: $35,360 (includes package B)

  • US: $23,727.25

- US Package 2: $615.25

- Accessories (high-end cabin+cargo mats, first aid kit):

  • Canada: $300 (not all accessories are available)

  • US: $365.94 (for all desired accessories)

- Destination charge (note that in both cases the vehicle comes directly from Japan to the west coast):

  • Canada: $1,240

  • US: $663.4

- Levies (A/C, battery, tires): $125 in both cases.

- Additional fees (est.): $66 in both cases.

- Duty:

  • Canada: $0

  • US: $1551.76 (at a rate of 6.1%)

- PST (BC, 7%):

  • Canada: $2,596.3

  • US: $1898.08

- GST (6%):

  • Canada: $2,225.4

  • US: $1,626.93

- RIV fee (for importing a vehicle into Canada):

  • US: $195

- Installing daytime running lights on imported vehicle:

  • US: $150 ($40 parts + $85 labor, USD)

- Vehicle inspection for imported vehicle:

  • US:~$150 (est.)

- BC PST refund (up to $2,000):

  • Canada: $2,000

  • US: $1,898.08

Total price, Canada: $39,911

Total price, US: $29,221

Price difference: $10,690

All I can say is “wow”. You can save +$10k by driving south for 90 minutes. And before you ask, Toyota’s warranty covers North America - Canada included.

Of course Toyota isn’t making this easy - they try and prevent US dealers from selling to Canadians. But some dealers will take your money - do your research.

More to follow…

— Oren