Hybrids Score High in Crash Safety

By dancurranjr On August 17th, 2009

In addition to getting higher gas mileage, there’s good safety news about three 2010 small cars – including two hybrids – from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids and the Kia Soul all received the Insurance Institute’s top rating of Good (on a scale of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor) in front, side and rear crash testing. They are all going to be Top Safety Picks. To be a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle has to earn good ratings in all three tests and must offer electronic stability control.

Electronic stability control comes as standard equipment on all Soul and Prius models. It is standard equipment on the more expensive models of the Insight, the EX and EX with the navigation system; it is not even available as an option on the least expensive model, the LX.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety The Kia Soul, post front crash test.

The Insurance Institute did not conduct its own front and side crash tests of the Prius. Because the previous generation of the Prius received good ratings in the two tests, it was eligible for the agency’s crash test verification program. Under this program, the Insurance Institute asks automakers to provide their crash test data and film of the crash tests for a particular vehicle. The Insurance Institute’s engineers then verify the data, said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the institute. During the year they will then randomly crash test a couple of vehicles from the program as a spot check to ensure they are getting accurate information from the automakers.

Here are some detailed findings from the crash tests:

  • In the Insight’s frontal crash, the driver dummy’s head hit the side curtain air bag, which deployed, keeping the head away from stiff structures in the vehicle that could cause injury. In the Insight’s side impact there was a possibility of rib fractures, but the risk of other significant injuries was low.
  • In the Prius’ frontal crash test, the driver dummy’s head hit the B-pillar (the one next to the shoulder), but the impact was relatively low. The dummy’s head also hit the steering wheel through the air bag and that impact was hard.
  • On the frontal impact in the Soul, the dummy’s head leaned part of the way out the open side window and hit the top and rear portions of the window frame, but the force was low. The dummy’s head also hit the steering wheel through the front air bag, indicating that head injuries would be possible.

It is important to keep in mind that the frontal impact results are valid only when comparing models of about the same weight. A Prius and an Insight would do a good job of protecting occupants if they were in a crash with each other or other vehicles of similar size. If they were in a crash with even a slightly larger vehicle, which a recent test done by the institute showed, the same results would most likely not apply. Side crash test results, however, apply no matter what size vehicles you are comparing.

SOURCE: New York Times

Honda CR-Z and Fit Hybrid Planned for 2010

By dancurranjr On August 8th, 2009

honda-crzThe Honda CR-Z, when it first appeared at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007 as a concept car, caused quite a stir, both good and bad.

Readers were reminded of the Honda CRX of the 1980s and the fond memories it evoked. At the same time, few admired the styling, especially the big-mouth front end.

On Monday, Honda announced that the CR-Z would move from concept to reality and that it would go on sale in the United States next year.

It will be a gas-electric hybrid, using the current Integrated Motor Assist that is found in the new Insight and Civic Hybrid. Honda said it was also working on a new hybrid system for midsize and large cars.

Details were still sketchy, but according to a news release, sales of the CR-Z will start in Japan in February 2010. The Fit Hybrid will be available in Japan by the end of 2010. While Honda has not announced the availability of the Fit Hybrid outside of Japan, the CR-Z has its own American micro site, where consumers can register for e-mail updates.

Honda said the letters CR-Z stand for Compact Renaissance Zero. Many people will think of the Honda CRX, which continues to be one of the more beloved cars from the 1980s.

SOURCE: New York Times

Honda Fit for sale

Is Volvo Building an Electric Car?

By dancurranjr On August 8th, 2009

VolvoThere has been Internet chatter that Volvo, which has already said it will make a plug-in hybrid vehicle, will also produce an electric version of its C30. Then the other day, a source who is pretty high up in the electric car industry and who has done some work with Volvo, told me that the electric C30 was more than a rumor.

“Am I reasonably confident that the battery E.V. is a go? Yes,” said the source, who asked not to be identified out of concern that it would harm future business dealings with Volvo. The source estimated that initial volumes of the two vehicles together could total 5,000 to 10,000.

When asked about the E.V., Daniel Johnston, a spokesman for Volvo, said: “I can’t talk about it. Volvo is looking at quite a few alternatives.”

In July, Volvo said it was working with Ener1, an American lithium-ion battery supplier, on three plug-in hybrid demonstrator cars based on the V70. Ener1 is also a battery supplier to the Fisker plug-in hybrid sports car (to be built in Finland) and to the Think Global EV company (based in Norway).

The Volvo plug-in hybrids will be “put through their paces across Europe this fall as part of a rigorous development program leading up to the planned 2012 commercial launch of a production plug-in model,” Ener1 said in a press release. The company also said that the production cars will “feature somewhat different technology” from the demonstrators.

Rachel Carroll, a spokeswoman for Ener1, said it had been working with Volvo for three years and hoped that the company would be chosen to equip the 2012 production plug-in hybrid car.

A battery-only vehicle, based on the small C30 coupe, could presumably share some technology with the plug-in hybrid.

Since 2007, Volvo has had a joint venture partnership with one of Scandinavia’s largest utilities, Vattenfall, which is designing both home-based and public fast-charging systems. Lars G. Josefsson, president and chief executive of Vattenfall, said in a press statement that his company and Volvo were “developing the next-generation technology based on plug-in cars and various charging alternatives.”

That charging research would also benefit a Volvo battery-only car, if indeed one were in the works.

SOURCE: New York Times

July Hybrid Sales Reach Record High Market Share

By dancurranjr On August 4th, 2009

toyota-phev-priusWith nearly all gas-electric hybrid cars qualifying for the Cash for Clunkers vouchers, hybrid sales in July grew to 3.55 percent of the new car market—its largest market share ever. New car dealers sold 35,429 hybrids, with more than half of the sales coming from the Toyota Prius.

Hybrid sales jumped by 35 percent in July compared with last month and a year ago—while sales of conventional new vehicles rose 15.4 percent for the month and were down 13 percent from July 2008.

Toyota sold 19,193 Priuses, making it one of America’s best sellers in July. Prius sales rose by 47.5 percent for the month and were up 29.7 percent from July 2008.

On a unit basis, April 2008 was the biggest month for hybrid sales, when 40,198 hybrids were sold. But July 2008 represents the largest market share for hybrids, considering the reduced size of the overall vehicle market.

Other big sellers in July were the Lexus RX450, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Ford Fusion and Ford Escape Hybrid. Sales of the Ford Escape Hybrid increased by 80 percent compared to June, and more than doubled from July 2008.

Unfortunately, Honda and General Motors did not enjoy the bump in hybrid sales. While the 2010 Honda Insight rose by a mild 10.4 percent, the Honda Civic Hybrid dropped by 38.8 percent compared to last month. The combined sales of seven hybrids from General Motors increased by just 2.3 percent from June.

SOURCE: Hybrid Cars