Posted on March 10th, 2009 No comments
The new Third Generation Prius is rated as the greenest car in Australia, read all about it here.
Posted on January 26th, 2009 No comments
All I need to do is post this headline…
Hybrid cars are silent killers
And newspapers wonder why their circulation is down. I don’t.
Posted on November 25th, 2008 No comments
Making Bay Area friendly for electric cars
Erin Allday, Chronicle Staff Writer
Bay Area environmental leaders are counting on a $1 billion investment to build the nation’s first electric vehicle network – with service stations to recharge batteries and garages to swap depleted batteries for fresh ones – and finally make the gasoline-free cars practical.
The Palo Alto-based company Better Place says its network of electric-vehicle charging stations will cover the Bay Area by 2012. In exchange for the investment from Better Place, the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland announced plans Thursday to collectively create cohesive regulations for electric vehicles that will apply to cities and counties throughout the region.
In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom said the city will use tax breaks to promote sales of electric vehicles and encourage homes and businesses to make charging stations widely available. The city will also look at ways to speed up the permitting process to install charging outlets at homes and businesses.
“We’re going to get serious about advancing our local climate action plans, about getting into the business of alternative transportation,” Newsom said during a news conference at City Hall. “I don’t believe halfway is good enough. I’m a guy driving a hybrid (vehicle) and I don’t feel too good about that. For us to get to the next level, we need unprecedented regional collaboration.”
Better Place has built similar networks in Israel, Denmark and Australia, but the Bay Area infrastructure, which will allow drivers of electric vehicles to make long-distance trips without worrying about finding a place to charge or change a battery, will be the first of its kind in the United States.
San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland will begin implementing their own policies next month, with plans to make electrical outlets for low-voltage vehicles available on all public buildings next year. Higher-voltage charging equipment also will be made available at city parking lots and curbs – including one plan to put outlets in sidewalk streetlights in San Jose and San Francisco.
In the current economic and political climate, it’s more important than ever that the United States find creative ways to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, said Shai Agassi, founder of the investor-funded Better Place.
“We need to start thinking about this as the next generation of the car. It’s about time we changed from car 1.0 to car 2.0,” Agassi said. “We’re following a model that’s worked in Israel, in Denmark. We build the infrastructure first. By 2012 we’ll be ready for a mass market of cars.”
Newsom said he speaks from experience on the current hurdles keeping people from owning electric vehicles. The mayor is chauffeured in a hybrid SUV most of the time, but two years ago he got on the waiting list for a $100,000 electric car from Tesla Motors.
He’s told the car will finally be available next week. But storage is going to be a problem. The building managers of his Russian Hill complex don’t yet know how he should pay for the electricity he uses.
“This is the problem, the classic problem,” he said. “We’re in an apartment building, and everything in the garage is shared in terms of cost. But then a guy like me comes in, and I pull all this energy, and people say, ‘Why am I paying for his electric use?’ This is the problem. It’s very complex.”
E-mail Erin Allday at email@example.com.
Posted on October 15th, 2008 No comments
Of course, one of the problems with lead acid is their weight but still, any advance is probably good.
AUSTRALIAN researchers have found a way to produce cheaper and more powerful batteries to run hybrid-electric cars.
CSIRO researchers in Melbourne have developed a new type of lead-acid battery to replace nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries used by environmentally friendly hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius.
Lead-acid batteries are cheap and can store large amounts of energy.
But if they are repeatedly and rapidly charged and discharged – as happens when used in a hybrid car – the battery plate becomes coated with chemical deposits, meaning the batteries wear out faster than NiMH batteries.
But the UltraBattery, developed by Dr Lan Trieu Lam and his CSIRO team, combines a lead-acid battery with a supercapacitor.
The combination stores as much energy as a standard lead-acid battery, but without the messy deposits on the plate.
“By acting as a buffer during charging and discharging, the capacitor boosts the battery’s life to match that of NiMH batteries,” Dr Lam said.
During lab tests, the UltraBattery lasted four times as long as the best lead-acid batteries, while producing 50 per cent more power.
A test vehicle running until the UltraBattery fails has so far covered 185,000km, while being recharged as needed.
The cost of the battery is also expected to be a third to a quarter of NiMH batteries and a sixth of the lithium-ion batteries used in some high-performance electric cars.
Independent testing has yet to be carried out.
Posted on October 13th, 2008 No comments
Report: Lexus will likely become a hybrid-only brand
BY JEREMY WEBER
Already known as the luxury segment’s “greenest” brand, Lexus is reportedly looking to build upon this reputation by moving to a completely hybrid lineup in the medium to long term. The statements were made by Toyota managing officer Toshio Furutani to Japan’s Nikkei business daily and indicate the company will fast-track development of future hybrid models.
The information backs up statements previously made by Lexus executives in Europe and Australia about the future of the brand as it expands out of the North American market.
Lexus already sells three hybrid models, the LS 600h, the GS 450h and the RX 400h crossover. We’ve already had confirmation that Lexus will show a dedicated hybrid vehicle based on the Prius at next year’s Detroit Auto Show and the new-generation RX crossover with a hybrid variant is expected to debut sometime within the next year as well.
That still leaves a number of models in the carmaker’s portfolio with no hybrid powertrains such as the IS, GX, LX, and the ES, all of which are likely to go hybrid only when updated models are released. With the SC nearing the end of production, it’s expected a possible brand new model could be a luxury hybrid convertible, although Lexus hasn’t decided whether it till revive the SC badge.
Another option on the table is a small hatchback to compete with the BMW 1-series and Audi A3. Such a vehicle would best be served with a plug-in hybrid powertrain for regular city use. Toyota is already testing plug-in versions of the Prius and expects to release it in 2010.
The GS 450h has already shown what a “performance” hybrid is capable of doing, so Lexus may also decide to expand the technology to future ‘F’ branded models. With 100% of torque instantaneously available from the electric motor, hybrid performance could put an end to the old saying “there’s no replacement for displacement.” One of the first F hybrids could be the upcoming LF-A supercar, which is expected to be available with a petrol-electric option.
Posted on September 1st, 2008 No comments
Demand for green cars keeps growing
Posted by: Paul Lucas
The international popularity of green cars has been reaffirmed in Australia, where demand for hybrid cars is surpassing supply.
Around 3,000 petrol/electric cars and SUVs have been sold in the country so far this year, with the Honda Civic emerging as a legitimate challenger to the Toyota Prius’s green throne.
The vehicle is priced at just $32,990 – which is around $5,000 less than the cheapest Prius model. Around 603 Civics have been sold in Australia so far this year – which is an increase from 501 in the same period in 2007. In June, the Civic actually out-sold the Prius for the first time in the private sector.
Much of the Civic’s success is attributed to the fact that it looks like a traditional petrol saloon car. However, with increased demand in America most of the production has been taken to US soil.
Unfortunately for Australian green car enthusiasts, the Honda natural-gas powered Civic, dubbed the world’s cleanest combustion engine, is unlikely to make it to the country due to the lack of refuelling infrastructure. By contrast, in the US it sells with a home refuelling station plumbed into homes.
Posted on August 25th, 2008 No comments
Yet another installment of the solution in search of problem.
This time the headline gives us some insight into where this article is going…
And although the article is simplistic and one-sided the real payoff doesn’t come until the end…
You’re probably thinking, “Is this really a problem?” I thought that too when I first read about concerns of too-silent hybrids. Then, not three hours later, I saw a little old lady nearly get run over by a Prius driver that wasn’t paying attention — right outside my door. It was a little unnerving. But the again, so is the thought mandating any number of annoying noises — beeps, humming, fake engines — as the new voice of the hybrid and electric vehicle.
Ok, five points for saying the obvious, yes, it is stupid to make a quiet car noisier. But the crap before that? As if the noise had anything to do with what the writer reported? Oh, and that’s the first time, I’m sure, that a “little old lady” was nearly run over by a driver not paying attention.
Nice job bringing in the irrelevant incident to, well, to illustrate something I’m sure.
And just so we can feel as though the US isn’t the only place succumbed to mass stupidity, the Australians are biting at this one too.
Posted on August 18th, 2008 No comments
I love wine but I seldom drink it anymore mainly because of the way it is packaged and sold here in Pennsylvania. Aside from it being expensive (hey, I grew up in California where there are a lot of great wines dirt cheap), wine in a bottle is a pain in the butt in a lot of circumstances. That’s all I’m going to say for now, read through, please…
Drink Outside the Box
By TYLER COLMAN
ITALY’S Agriculture Ministry announced this month that some wines that receive the government’s quality assurance label may now be sold in boxes. That’s right, Italian wine is going green, and for some connoisseurs, the sky might as well be falling.
But the sky isn’t falling. Wine in a box makes sense environmentally and economically. Indeed, vintners in the United States would be wise to embrace the trend that is slowly gaining acceptance worldwide.
Wine in a box has been around for more than 30 years — though with varying quality. The Australians were among the first to popularize it. And hardly a fridge in the south of France, especially this time of year, is complete without a box of rosé. Here in America, by contrast, boxed wine has had trouble escaping a down-market image. But now that wine producers are talking about reducing their carbon footprint — that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the transportation of wine — selling the beverage in alternative, lighter packaging instead of heavier glass seems like the right thing to do.
More than 90 percent of American wine production occurs on the West Coast, but because the majority of consumers live east of the Mississippi, a large part of carbon-dioxide emissions associated with wine comes from simply trucking it from the vineyard to tables on the East Coast. A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New York. A 3-liter box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters. Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.
But here’s another reason to sell wine in a box. America will soon become the largest wine market in the world. In recent years, we overtook Italy, and France is now in our sights. (This is total consumption, not per person; we are still well behind by the latter measure.) As Americans drink more wine, we will be drinking it not only on special occasions like dates and weddings, but also on Monday nights with pizza. That’s a lot of wine — and potentially a big carbon footprint.
Although some sommeliers may scoff at wine from a plastic spigot, boxes are perfect for table wines that don’t need to age, which is to say, all but a relative handful of the top wines from around the world. What’s more, boxed wine is superior to glass bottle storage in resolving that age-old problem of not being able to finish a bottle in one sitting. Once open, a box preserves wine for about four weeks compared with only a day or two for a bottle. Boxed wine may be short on charm, but it is long on practicality.
Which leads to a final reason for boxed wine: it’s so much more economical. Having an affordable glass of wine may be the best way to keep our 15-year bull market for wine consumption running. It also would help keep per-glass prices of wine from rising as the dollar falls.
The main obstacle to a smaller carbon footprint for wine is the frequently abysmal quality of wine put in boxes. But that’s an easy fix: raise the quality.
In the past few years, the boxed wine sold in America has shown some signs of improvement. There’s been wine in a stylish cardboard tube made by a top winemaker in Burgundy. There’s a good, old-vine grenache from the Pyrenees sold in a box. A succulent unoaked malbec from organically grown grapes in Argentina is now available in the United States thanks to the 1-liter TetraPak, which is also being used by three renegade Californians who have a line of wines that are sold in 250-milliliter packages — about the size of juice boxes, but without straws. And then, of course, there’s the news from Italy.
Producers everywhere need to deliver better wine in a box — and make it snappy. Perhaps they will if consumers start to demand that everyday wines that don’t need to age in a bottle be sold in a box. If you’re sorry about the change, squeeze off another well-preserved, affordable, low-carbon serving of boxed wine and mull it over.
Tyler Colman is the author of “Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink,” and he blogs at DrVino.com.
Very well said Mr. Colman, Bravo! I’m as big of snob as the next annoying wine geek but there is a time and place for everything. Fancy storage for wines that aren’t fancy is frivolous and expensive marketing. Wine lovers in general should support anything that spreads that culture. Wine is a healthy thing (in moderation, blah, blah, blah…). There’s no reason we should reject a deliver vehicle (da box) which makes it economical, environmentally sound and easy to use.
Now, if I could only get that wonderful Chenin Blanc in a box…
Posted on August 15th, 2008 No comments
Or, “Who Whittled The Car?”
Early look at GM’s upcoming Chevrolet Volt
Written by Nelson Ireson
Engineers at General Motors have extended the electric-only range of the Volt by about 10km (up from the previously claimed 64km range) by improving the aerodynamics of the original concept. New teaser images released by the carmaker for the actual production version hint at the smoother shape, though we’ll have to wait until late 2010 for the advanced plug-in hybrid to make its world debut.
According to Bob Boniface, GM’s director of design for the Volt, some of the key changes from the concept include a rounded and flush front fascia, tapered corners and closed grille, all of which are designed with an eye to moving the air around the car more efficiently while maintaining the ‘look’ of the Volt.
The Volt is a plug-in hybrid, which means it uses petrol to power on-board generators and batteries that in turn power the electric motors that drive the car. It has been hinted at by top GM officials for the Australian market, and is tipped to arrive just one or two years after its U.S. debut in 2010.
Initial production volume will be low – around 10,000 units per year, but GM hopes to be able to ramp volume up to 60,000 within a few years of the start of production. The first batches of Volts will be distributed to trend-setting markets in the U.S., like California, New York and Florida. Other markets will follow as production builds and word about the Volt gets out.
No petrol necessary in electric-only driving
Achieving the goal of 70-plus kilometres on electric power only is significant, since most motorists use their vehicles less than that amount, even amongst the suburban sprawl of American cities.
In Australia, where the average motorist drives around 16,000km per year, or just 44km per day, the Volt would actually have some reserve distance while still remaining entirely electricity-powered.
Because the Volt is a plug-in hybrid, it can accept electricity from the power grid via a charging station while it is not in use. If charged each night after the day’s use, and not driven beyond its electric-only range each day, the Volt could function like a pure electric vehicle, emitting no gases – greenhouse or otherwise – at the tailpipe, and responsible only for the emissions created in generating the electricity used to power it.
Test mules already show it is possible
Engineers are using previous generation Malibu sedan bodies as camouflage for the new Volt prototypes. GM’s vice chairman Bob Lutz has previously stated that this was the first time the prototype was running on electric power alone and that it was reliably meeting its objectives with rough calibration, the wrong drive unit and the wrong body.
The new Volt features an electric drivetrain powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries as well as an internal combustion engine running on petrol, diesel or ethanol-blended fuel – which fuel it runs on depends on the market where it is sold.
European versions are likely to be diesel-powered, U.S. and Australian Volts will likely get their power from petrol, while South American market Volts will probably get their go from ethanol.
GM’s closest competitor Toyota is already developing a plug-in hybrid but there are no firm details or reports about the progress of the car.
Here’s what I love. The New York Times reports that
General Motors said Thursday that it had “essentially finished” designing its first plug-in hybrid car, the Chevrolet Volt, and would have production-ready prototypes within 10 days.
Well, then how long ago were the pictures of the guy whittling away at the Volt taken? I assume quite some time ago if the NYT is accurate…
Posted on July 21st, 2008 No comments
Web guide to a greener set of wheels
PETROL-guzzlers that emit high levels of carbon will be exposed in a car buyers’ guide.
To be launched by the Federal Government today, the guide compares the running costs and carbon dioxide emissions of a range of makes and models. The web tool, at www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au, has a fuel calculator showing how much motorists can save by buying wisely.
The six-cylinder Holden Commodore is a chief environmental offender, costing $2430 a year for petrol and emitting 2.6 tonnes of carbon.
It is followed closely by the Ford Falcon – $2272 in petrol and belching 3.6 tonnes of carbon annually.
Calculations are based on an average petrol price of $1.50 a litre, and annual distance travelled of 15,000 kilometres.
The Toyota Prius takes top spot in the medium car category, consuming just $990 in petrol and emitting just 1.6 tonnes of carbon.
In comparison, the family favourite medium car, the Toyota Corolla, uses $1642 in petrol and emits 2.6 tonnes of carbon.
Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said filling up the family car had a significant impact on the weekly budget.
“Knowing this cost in advance will help you make an informed choice and ultimately buy a car you can afford,” he said.
The website dovetails with a national campaign encouraging car-buyers to “make a smarter choice”.
Fuel consumption labels will also start to appear on car windscreens within the next few months. The labels will be mandatory for all new models from October.
Posted on July 19th, 2008 1 comment
It’s a competition vehicle, not a production prototype but I do note that this vehicle looks a little more substantial than others I recall seeing.
Never mind that this solar-powered car looks like a streamlined humpback whale covered with high-tech barnacles. The SolarWorld No.1 can hit a top speed of 75mph, and averaged 45mph over an 1864-mile race course without once stopping at a gas station. Solar cars are getting so advanced, those stats were only good enough for this vehicle to place fourth in the 2008 World Solar Challenge, held this month in Australia.
Designed by a group of 50 students and their professors, it looked cool enough to win the Best Challenge Class Design Award. Form follows function, too, with its single motor driving the front wheel at an impressive 94% efficiency, a far cry from the 26% efficiency of a typical internal combustion engine. Maybe that solar Prius is an even better idea than we thought.
More pictures here.
Posted on July 17th, 2008 No comments
In the age of high petrol prices, reality check on hybrids
Joshua Dowling Motoring Editor
THE type of cars we drive will change dramatically within five to 10 years. The world’s biggest car makers have accelerated the development of electric cars and other more fuel-efficient vehicles.
They will not be in showrooms within five years as it takes five years to design, engineer and build a new model.
As it happens, that is the time the Government is giving consumers to acquire more fuel-efficient cars before the carbon tax could start affecting petrol prices. When the carbon tax scheme starts in 2010, the Government will cut fuel excise to offset the effect of the new tax. After 2013 it will review the offset.
Yesterday it would not guarantee that offsets would continue after 2013.
There are a number of affordable fuel-efficient cars you can buy today – and whose resale values will be better protected against rising petrol prices. Lost in the hype around hybrid cars are a number of safe and affordable fuel misers priced below $20,000.
Models such as the Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Suzuki Swift and Honda Jazz sip fuel at a rate of between 5.5 and 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres. A Toyota Prius hybrid consumes about 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres but costs almost twice as much to buy.
Australians have been quick to embrace smaller “city” cars – sales in the first six months of this year are up 6 per cent compared with the same period last year. Overall, new vehicle sales have increased by just 3.5 per cent, and sales of large cars such as the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon are down by 16 per cent compared with last year’s figures.
Resale values provide an interesting – and almost instant – barometer for the changing tastes of car buyers.
For example, an 18-month-old Commodore or Falcon fleet sedan can now be bought for as little as $12,000 despite costing $38,000 when new. A basic Toyota Corolla of the same age can fetch up to $18,000 even though it only cost about $22,000 when new.
Used-car buyers are deserting large cars because of their perception that six-cylinder engines guzzle petrol. This, in turn, has forced fleets to reconsider what cars they buy as they are losing so much on large sedans at resale time.
All this has led Holden to reconsider going ahead with a hybrid Commodore.
Two months ago a visiting General Motors executive let slip that a petrol-electric Commodore was about two years away. But this week the managing director of Holden, Mark Reuss, cast doubt on the project.
“We aren’t going to provide a solution; we are going to provide many solutions. One of the many solutions may or may not be a hybrid Commodore,” Mr Reuss told the automotive industry journal Go Auto.
He said hybrid cars did not make sense when “the price of a hybrid for the average person anywhere in the world and the benefit of that price and cost and payback on fuel” were considered.
Today’s car bosses talk about “the gradual electrification” of the motor car. That is, petrol engines in hybrid cars will get smaller and electric motors will get bigger as battery technology improves enough to allow motorists to get the same driving range between refills as they do today.
In the meantime, Holden and other car makers are also working on LPG and ethanol-blended fuel technology.
However, while LPG and 85 per cent ethanol fuels are cheaper than regular unleaded, they burn faster and therefore have less driving range between refills.
Australia’s biggest-selling LPG car, the Ford Falcon, burns up to 50 per cent more fuel than a regular petrol Falcon (15 litres per 100 kilometres compared with 10.5 litres per 100 kilometres).
Testing by the Herald has shown that E85 unleaded burns twice as fast as regular unleaded, reducing driving range from 400 kilometres on one tank to about 200 kilometres.
So, for the next few years at least, the so-called city cars make the most sense when it comes to cutting your fuel bill.