Feds and Toyota Tout Hybrids

By dancurranjr On March 30th, 2009

toyota-phev-priusWith concerns of a sagging economy, it may be hard to convince people to spend the extra money for a hybrid car, even if people are concerned about the environment.

But the price difference between hybrids and standards is getting smaller every year, said John-Paul Farag, an advanced technology and powertrain consultant for Toyota.

“When you think about it, the initial investment is not all that much, especially when you look at the potential for savings down the road especially when it comes to fuel consumption,” said Farag.

Farag is not overly concerned about the cars being a tough sell.

“Fuel prices have come down recently, but most Canadians understand that this is a short term thing,” he said.

With several members of Parliament and members of Natural Resources Canada on hand, Toyota Canada unveiled new hybrid models here Monday.

“These are vehicles that need opinion leaders behind them to really demonstrate that the technology is ready for prime time and that they represent the future of policy direction for the automobile,” said Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota Canada. “With the Obama administration in the U.S. pledging new fuel economy standards for 2011, it’ll be cars like these that will be important to meeting those standards.”

SOURCE: MetroNews

Kia Debuts Forte LPI Hybrid in Korea

By dancurranjr On March 30th, 2009

kia-forteTo meet the demand from consumers and the U.S. government, many of the automakers in America are hard at work on hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles like the Chevy Volt. American automakers aren’t the only one working hard on hybrid vehicles and Kia has introduced its hybrid for the Korean market today.

The vehicle is called the Kia Forte LPI hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). The Forte LPI HEV uses a 1.6L direct injection engine that develops 114 horsepower and an electric motor that adds an additional 20 HP.

The car uses new LG Chem lithium polymer batteries, which are lighter and smaller than more common nickel-metal hydride batteries in most hybrid vehicles. Chevy’s Volt will also use the same type of batteries.

Kia says that the vehicle is capable of 17.2 kilometers per liter of LPG fuel, which is equivalent to 41 MPG in the U.S. according to Kia World. Other features of the car include redesigned front and rear bumpers to differentiate the Forte LPI hybrid form other Kia vehicles. The car also has LED taillights and a Super Vision instrument cluster for its hybrid power train along with a navigation system.

The car is expected to hit the Korean market in August and may be launched in other markets where there is an excellent LPG distribution system — namely China. The vehicle will not be coming to America, the standard Forte will be all American drivers can purchase.

SOURCE: Daily Tech

New, Zero-Emission Electric Vehicles to Reach San Diego Next Year

By dancurranjr On March 30th, 2009

nissan-sdge-san-diegoSan Diego County will become one of the nation’s first “plug-in” ready green regions and start the transformation into a clean transportation community with San Diego Gas & Electric’s landmark partnership announced today with Nissan Motor Co. and the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

As President Obama pushes energy independence by creating opportunities for renewable energy vehicles, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Nissan will accelerate the transition to all-electric vehicle fleets by studying ways to invest in the necessary charging infrastructure these cars utilize.

Local community leaders and fleet operators joined SDG&E today at the Port of San Diego for a test drive as Nissan unveiled a prototype that features its newest generation zero-emission vehicle technology at the first of several planned California stops. Nissan’s all-electric vehicle will be introduced to fleet operators in late 2010 and reach showroom floors by 2012.

Under the partnership, SDG&E will serve as the local San Diego coordinator to help assemble a critical mass of regional electric vehicle fleets that municipalities, universities, the military, the port, private fleets and others use daily. The public-private collaborative will work to further develop and fine-tune the charging infrastructure, which is the critical link in making the vehicles commercially viable.

“SDG&E’s partnership is another step toward making San Diego a national center for clean technology and green practices,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. “The public and private sectors in this region are working hand-in-hand to promote innovation and adoption of environmentally friendly technologies.”

As part of its commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from its vehicle fleet by 15 percent by 2012, SDG&E has a goal of replacing its passenger vehicles with compressed natural gas and electric vehicles. With today’s announcement, SDG&E will be adding 15 to 20 of Nissan’s new zero-emission electric vehicles to the utility’s current fleet of 200 alternative-fuel vehicles.

“The increased use of zero-emission electric vehicles in San Diego will help achieve our nation’s goals of energy independence and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, and foster new jobs and opportunities in the region as we become a pioneer launch for these advanced vehicles,” said Debra L. Reed, president and chief executive officer of SDG&E. “The support and involvement of local government and private fleet operators will be crucial to our success in demonstrating San Diego’s continued leadership role in clean technology.”

In 2010, Nissan will introduce a five-passenger, compact all-electric passenger vehicle for fleet sales that is capable of achieving 100 miles on a single charge. Charging of the advanced lithium-ion battery is expected to take four to eight hours with a 220-volt line and also will be capable of charging through a standard 120-volt outlet. The vehicle will be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

“Nissan, through the Renault-Nissan Alliance, has committed to being a global leader in zero-emission vehicles,” said Dominique Thormann, senior vice president, administration and finance, Nissan North America. “Nissan and SDG&E have a shared belief that the introduction and expansion of electric vehicles is one of the best solutions to reducing CO2 emissions. This partnership is an important step in making zero-emission a reality in San Diego.”

SDG&E plans to collaborate with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and other local organizations to provide the critical mass needed to not only assess electric vehicle viability and charging infrastructure needs, but customer needs and education. With this investment, SDG&E expects to gain valuable insight into the impact of electric vehicles on the local electric distribution system, including customer charging habits, and to evaluate technologies that track a vehicle’s electric consumption so further investment can be warranted in the future.

“Increasing the supply of electric vehicles and creating infrastructure to better utilize renewable resources fits with SANDAG’s overall energy strategy for the region,” said Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler, chair of the SANDAG Board. “The strategy calls for reducing overall consumption as well as cutting our dependence on foreign oil — electric cars will help us accomplish those goals.”

Last year, SDG&E announced the results of a year-long study of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The plug-in hybrids showed a 60-percent increase in gas mileage and a 37-percent decrease in carbon-dioxide tailpipe emissions when compared with the original version of the hybrid vehicles. The early version of the hybrid vehicles already showed great reductions in these areas when compared with a conventional, gasoline-operated car.

SOURCE: Marketwire

Hot New Hybrids: The Prius and the Insight

By dancurranjr On March 29th, 2009

new-insightWhile the cost of a gallon of gasoline is far less these days than it was last summer, when it peaked at around $4, the conventional wisdom is that prices eventually will spiral their way back upwards.

“Americans view low gas prices as an aberration,” says Jack Gillis, public affairs director for the Consumer Federation of America and author of “The Car Book,” (Gillis Publishing, 2008). “Expecting higher gas prices in the future, they are planning to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Or at least that’s what automakers are betting, as they bring an array of new fuel-saving gas/electric-powered hybrid models to market this year.

For the uninitiated, hybrids use a conventional gasoline engine as the primary source of power, using an electric motor/generator to run the vehicle at lower speeds and augment the engine at other times. A hybrid’s battery pack is self-charging, recovering energy that’s otherwise lost via braking and decelerating, and the vehicle automatically powers down the engine at idle to further preserve fuel.

Here’s a quick review of several all-new hybrid cars and SUVs that will he hitting the road in the coming months as early 2010 models.

  • Toyota Prius. The industry’s top-selling hybrid gets a complete makeover this spring, though it still retains a futuristic appearance. Toyota says it’s roomier and quieter than before and boasts improved fuel economy that’s estimated at 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving. An improved hybrid powertrain features a more powerful 1.8-liter gasoline engine. Advanced options include a pre-collision system that automatically retracts the seat belts and applies the brakes when a crash is unavoidable and a solar panel sunroof that economically powers the car’s air conditioning. A Lexus-branded luxury spin-off, called the HS250h, will follow this fall.
  • Honda Insight. Not to be confused with Honda’s original two-seat hybrid from 2000-2006, an all-new Insight is a more-practical four-door hatchback. Wrapped in sleek aerodynamic styling, the Insight will be priced below the Civic Hybrid in Honda’s lineup when it debuts this April. A 98-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine teams with an electric motor/generator to power the front wheels via a gearless CVT automatic transmission. The engine can shut down select cylinders when not needed to provider greater fuel efficiency at highway speeds. It’s expected to deliver 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the open road.

SOURCE: Poughkeepsie Journal

Kia Debuts World First LPG-Fueled Hybrid Electric Car

By dancurranjr On March 29th, 2009

kia-forteKia has introduced Forte LPI hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), it’s first mass production hybrid car, to the South Korean consumers yesterday. In addition to that, Kia also unveiled its new eco-friendly sub-brand, Eco-Dynamics, an initiative which will bring a host of new eco-friendly technologies and models to the international markets.

The Forte LPI hybrid electric vehicle is powered by an economical mild-hybrid drive system consisting of 1.6L gasoline engine and electric motor. The Liquefied Petroleum Injected (LPI) engine generates 114 horsepower, while electric motor brings additional 20 hp. Equipped with this kind of hybrid system and continuously variable transmission, the Forte achieves a very competitive fuel economy rating of 17.2 kilometers per liter of LPG fuel (41 MPG US), which is equivalent to 21.5 kilometers per liter fuel economy in terms of gasoline, the company said.

To differentiate the Forte hybrid from it’s non-hybrid variants and improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics, some changes have been implemented to the existing exterior design. In front, you will notice a slightly different corporate Kia grille and a restyled front bumper with larger air intake and attractive fog lights design, while at rear, Forte now features a radically redesigned rear bumper and LED equipped taillights. On the inside, Forte LPI hybrid features a Super Vision instrument cluster for hybrid system data and a navigation display.

Kia’s Forte LPI hybrid will also be the world’s first hybrid vehicle to utilize the highly advanced lithium polymer (Li–poly) battery, which is lighter and smaller but has higher output than nickel-metal hydride batteries. Those will be supplied by Korean battery supplier LG Chem, the world’s fourth largest rechargeable battery producer. The LG Chem will also supply similar battery pack to GM’s Chevy Volt.

Following it’s recent announcement that the company will focus on developing of eco-friendly vehicles, Kia also revealed it plans to bring the first full-hybrid car – probably based on the next generation Optima sedan- to the market in late 2010 and it’s first hydrogen fuel cell powered car in 2012. Expected to hit the global markets in the same year is the plug-in hybrid sedan.

Together with it’s parent company Hyundai Motor Co, Kia plans to spend nearly $6 billion on research and development this year, with majority of money pumped into development of new hybrid and fuel cell electric cars such as Kia Forte LPI hybrid and Borrego FCEV.