Cost & CO2 Calculator Helps Choose Electric, Diesel or Hybrid Car

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

As the Environmental Protection Agency struggles with how to accurately label passenger vehicles for fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions, a new online cost and CO2 emissions calculator launched today to help fill the void.

“Electrics, hybrids, plug-ins, all these alternative powertrain cars are a hot topic these days, but there’s not a good way to look at the bottom line of what it costs to own one of these,” said Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com, a frugal-living website that offers tools to help consumers save money, including its new calculator.

The calculator allows consumers to first determine which type of alternative-drivetrain vehicle best suits their driving needs based on what state they live in, how many city and highway miles they drive, how many road trips they take each year (and at what distance) and fuel costs in their state, whether it be electricity, gas or diesel.

Using its database of 64 vehicles (four electric, eight diesel, 13 hybrid and 39 popular gas-powered cars) the calculator then allows users to make side-by-side comparisons using EPA miles-per-gallon data, manufacturers’ suggested retail prices and other factors.

Electric car operating costs are translated into an mpg equivalent, or MPGe, using individual states’ electricity costs as calculated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Electric cars’ upstream carbon dioxide emissions are also calculated using DOE data on the electricity source for each state.

According to BeFrugal.com, Washington, Idaho, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas are the states with the lowest electricity rates, making electric cars most economical on a cost-per-mile basis. Vermont, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire are the best states in terms of electric cars’ lowest upstream CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour.

The top two states for electric cars’ lowest operating costs and greenhouse-gas emissions: Idaho and Washington.

California ranks sixth in lowest CO2 emissions, at 0.3 tons per kilowatt-hour (versus 0.001 for Vermont). The state ranks 45th in terms of electricity cost at 15.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (versus 8.3 cents for Washington).

SOURCE: LA Times

6 Myths About Hybrid Vehicles Unplugged

By dancurranjr On November 22nd, 2009

insightWhether you call them myths, urban legends, fables or old wives’ tales, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. These vehicles, abbreviated PHEVs, hold great promise as the key to weaning America from its dependence on imported oil, which represents nearly two-thirds of all the petroleum burned in the United States today.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has taken a lead role in developing and testing plug-in hybrid technologies. At the lab’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), vehicle systems engineer Forrest Jehlik and his colleagues work to bring these cars to market quickly and cheaply. Here, he dispels some commonly held myths about plug-in hybrids.

Myth #1: A significant number of plug-in hybrids are currently for sale.

Although several major auto manufacturers — including General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, and Volvo — have plug-in vehicles currently in the development pipeline, the first wave of these cars is still at least a year away from officially hitting the market, Jehlik said. The first plug-in hybrid for sale will likely be the Chevrolet Volt, which General Motors claims can travel up to 40 miles on a single charge. The Toyota Prius and other hybrids currently on the roads are not plug-ins — their batteries are charged by kinetic energy transferred from the brakes and wheels.

Myth #2: Researchers can measure the fuel economy for a plug-in hybrid just as easily as they can for gasoline-powered cars.

Establishing fuel economy standards — how many miles a plug-in hybrid vehicle can travel per gallon of gasoline burned — is a complicated question. The answer, Jehlik said, depends entirely on the driving and charging habits of the vehicle’s owner. If a particular plug-in hybrid gets 40 miles on a single charge, then a driver who has a 15-mile commute each way to work and does 10 miles of additional driving each day before charging the battery overnight would, theoretically, use no gasoline at all. If the same driver had a five-mile-longer commute, she’d probably burn just over a gallon of gasoline per week, despite driving 250 miles.

Myth #3: Prices for plug-in hybrid vehicles are currently so high because manufacturers are trying to make a killing on them.

“The truth of the matter is that the components required to build a viable plug-in hybrid are still quite expensive,” Jehlik said. In many cases, the battery for a plug-in vehicle by itself costs nearly $10,000. Because the price of petroleum remains relatively low, consumers may not yet be willing to invest the extra money in a plug-in vehicle — even with sizable government rebates.

Myth #4: The batteries in plug-in hybrid vehicles are unreliable, possibly unsafe, and require frequent replacement.

Most plug-in hybrids currently under development use lithium-ion batteries in their battery packs. Although complex chemical processes produce energy within the battery, vehicle system engineers have built in advanced control systems to prevent fires or other safety issues. “Researchers have devoted just as much time and effort to developing inner-pack safety systems as they have to the batteries themselves,” Jehlik said. “Consumers don’t need to worry about battery malfunction.”

Jehlik and his colleagues in the CTR have also tested the current generation of lithium-ion batteries in what are known as “lifecycle vehicle tests,” which take the car through its paces for more than 150,000 miles. Even at the end of the car’s life, the vast majority of batteries still function quite well, Jehlik said. “When these cars become available for sale, the batteries are going to last as long as any part of them will,” he said.

Myth #5: Scientists have identified lithium-ion batteries as the only battery technology that could work in plug-in hybrid cars.

Although lithium-ion technology came to replace nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries as the preeminent focus of electric vehicle development efforts, scientists at Argonne and around the world are currently investigating several different approaches for energy storage that could help to bring down the cost of plug-in hybrids. “Manufacturers are looking at these possible solutions not as silver bullets but as silver shotgun pellets,” Jehlik said. “The organizations that hedge their bets among a number of different technologies will likely be the ones that bring vehicles to market the earliest and the most successfully.”

Myth #6: America’s electric grid can’t handle the increased load caused by the charging of millions of electric vehicles.

According to Jehlik, the nation’s current electric grid has the capacity to accommodate the imminent rollout of plug-in hybrids onto the country’s roads. “If everyone were somehow able to buy a plug-in hybrid tomorrow, that would probably present a problem as far as the supply of electricity is concerned,” Jehlik said, “but given the pace that they are likely to enter the market, we won’t face a system-wide failure.”

However, Jehlik noted that the country’s electric infrastructure would need to change eventually—not only to keep up with added demand, but to ensure the smarter transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity.

Source: PhysOrg

SFO Airport Hybrid Car Renters Get $15 Discount

By dancurranjr On June 6th, 2009

green_rentalSan Francisco International Airport is launching the nation’s first Green Rental Car program that rewards customers for renting “green” alternative-fueled vehicles. Customers who rent hybrid cars at SFO, such as the Honda Civic Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid or Toyota PRIUS will receive a $15 discount at the counter.

It is estimated that more than 4,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year will be eliminated through the implementation of this program.Currently, 10 percent of the rental car fleet at SFO is comprised of high-mileage cars—such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Focus—in addition to alternative-fuel cars.

“The Green Rental Car program is the first of several green initiatives the airport is rolling out in 2009,” said John L. Martin, Director of SFO. “We are committed to making SFO the sustainable Airport of Choice for California travelers.”

Participating rental car agencies:

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Fox
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Thrifty

SOURCE: SF Examiner

Adding Renewable Energy to the Grid will Make Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs) Cleaner

By dancurranjr On May 17th, 2009

phev-charging-stationPlug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are taking off as the next big thing in energyefficient automaking. Essentially hybrids with extension cords and larger batteries, PHEVs can go up to 40 miles on electricity alone. That might not sound like a lot, but more than 60 percent of American drivers travel fewer than 31 miles each day.

Plugging in also shifts most emissions from the tailpipes of individual vehicles to smokestacks at centralized power plants, making pollutants easier to capture. But before ecophiles reach for their wallets, they should know that plug-ins may only be nominally better for the environment than hybrids, according to a study in Environmental Science and Technology that compared total life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of PHEVs, hybrids, and conventional vehicles.
That’s because total emissions depend heavily on how the electricity a PHEV runs on is generated. If the electricity comes from a coal-burning power plant, then plugins can actually contribute more greenhouse gases than regular hybrids. But if the US incorporates more renewables like wind into its energy mix, plug-ins would have the lowest emissions, the study’s authors say. “There’s a real opportunity to have very large greenhouse gas–emission reductions,” says Constantine Samaras, a coauthor, “but that’s only if we can develop low-carbon electricity sources.” The graph below shows how PHEVs stack up against hybrids and conventional cars.

Toyota Hopes Innovative Pace Car Can Accelerate Hybrid Sales

By dancurranjr On April 23rd, 2009

denny-hamlin-toyota-camry-hybrid-pace-carDenny Hamlin didn’t break 110 mph Tuesday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, but he still was impressed with a car whose speed pales in comparison to that of his Sprint Cup ride.

“I thought it wouldn’t take off as well as a combustion engine,” Hamlin said after about an hour making laps in a 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid that will pace the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 at the 1.5-mile oval. “The pickup was surprising; I’m amazed it takes off as good as anything.”

Acceleration was an important feature in winning approval for the vehicle, which will become the first hybrid used as a pace car for the duration of a Cup event (a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid led the field to the green flag in the 2008 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway before yielding to a 2010 Ford Fusion Sport).

From a standing start at the pit exit in Turn 1, the 187-horsepower, four-cylinder Camry (which wasn’t modified from the street model that retails for about $33,000 and gets an EPA-estimated 33 miles a gallon) had to reach 100 mph by the exit of Turn 2 to satisfy NASCAR’s standards for pacing the 600-mile event, the longest on the 36-race Cup schedule.

Ed Laukes, manager for motor sports marketing at Toyota Motor Sales USA, said the approval process took about a year and included an on-track test Toyota passed with flying colors.

Hybrids have competed in the American Le Mans Series. Laukes said Toyota has interest in eventually racing them in NASCAR.

“I know it’s a ways away, but I wouldn’t be surprised down the road sometime if there’s hybrid technology in a race,” he said.

Hamlin, whose Lowe’s appearance was timed to coincide with today’s celebration of Earth Day, plans on his next personal car being a Lexus hybrid (“it’s smooth and quiet and everything I look for in a daily driver”) but would prefer to remain behind the wheel of an internal-combustion-powered car when driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“For an everyday street car, it’s not as important, but race fans still love the sounds and noise of a combustion engine,” Hamlin said. “I’d prefer a stock car in knowing how exciting it is to hear the engine roar, but I think NASCAR drivers are embracing the green outlook of hybrids.”

Toyota, which has sold more than 1 million hybrids in the USA, is hoping NASCAR fans will embrace hybrids through its marketing of the pace car, which also will appear at Infineon Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Martinsville Speedway and in the Oct. 17 race at Lowe’s. The car used in the 600 will be given to a fan who finds a “golden can” of Coca-Cola Classic.

“There’s stodginess about hybrid technology among the public that we’re trying to erase,” Laukes said. “This is a way for us to demonstrate the hybrid used on the track is the exact same car you can buy at a showroom.”

SOURCE: USA Today