Hybrid Toyota Pickups Coming?

By dancurranjr On December 14th, 2010

Toyota may have won a near-monopoly on modern hybrid drivetrains over the last decade, but at least until recently its Hybrid Synergy Drive has been limited to use in car and crossover applications. Sensing the vulnerability, GM, Chrysler, Daimler and BMW collaborated to develop a large V8-based hybrid system capable of powering large light-duty trucks. The resulting “Two-Mode” hybrid system has largely proven to be a bust, as BMW and Mercedes have limited its use to one-time X5/X6 and ML Hybrids.

GM and Chrysler have tried to sell Two-Mode versions of their full-sized trucks and SUVs with little success over the past several years, as relatively low fuel prices and high MSRPs conspired against the hybrid truck segment. Now Toyota may be targeting the hybrid pickup market, as its Hino truck unit has begun testing a hybrid drivetrain for light-duty trucks that it hopes to commercialize by net year.  Greencarcongress.com reports:

The hybrid system, which features a clutch between its engine and motor, offers an all-electric drive mode for the truck. Internal Hino testing showed an improvement in fuel efficiency of a diesel truck by about 50%.

Testing by the Japanese postal service, and several private firms should give a better sense of the efficiency benefits of this system, but that will still leave the question of price. And gas prices. And America’s willingness to buy pickups from Toyota in Detroit-like numbers. On the other hand, it’s not safe to underestimate any Toyota hybrid. If this new drivetrain can do for trucks what Hybrid Synergy did for cars, things could get interesting…

SOURCE: Truth About Cars

Sport Utility Vehicles – Hybrid vs. Diesel SUVs

By dancurranjr On December 28th, 2009

As more diesel and hybrid vehicles enter the market, drivers increasingly want to know which is better. This is an especially big question for sport-utility fans who feel they could easily justify owning one of the large vehicles if only it could match the fuel economy of a car.

Of the diesel and hybrid SUVs I have driven – there are only a dozen or so available — the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited and Volkswagen Touareg TDI come closest to combining midsize-car-like fuel economy with the size and cargo capacity that make SUVs appealing. Most other models are either too small to give drivers the high-riding sense of command they seek, or don’t come close to having decent fuel economy.

The Highlander and Touareg are well matched in price, power and practicality, and are about the same size. But the $41,020 Highlander runs on hybrid technology and the $42,800 Toureg on a diesel engine. The Highlander also offers a third-row seat the Touareg lacks, but it is too small for convenient regular use.

Each has a relatively small six-cylinder engine that still manages to power a large vehicle competently. The Touareg’s engine is typical of most diesels — they are generally good at getting a vehicle moving from a stop, and have more power at low speeds than gasoline engines of similar size. Diesels don’t have as much high-speed horsepower, but their low-speed muscle, or torque, is a better fit for the way most people drive.

The Highlander’s hybrid drive system uses an electric motor to provide similar torque that assists the gasoline engine under hard acceleration. The result is that neither gives its driver that frustrating, underpowered feeling.

On paper the Highlander seems like the easy winner because its estimated fuel economy is 27 miles per gallon in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway, compared with the Touareg’s 17 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. But in typical everyday driving I found the two to be much closer in performance and fuel consumption. During long highway trips, both clawed their way to 27 miles per gallon, which is remarkable for big, heavy SUVs.

But I found that the hybrid’s urban fuel economy usually fell short of its estimate unless I drove in a slow, plodding way that makes the most of the hybrid’s electric motor. The problem is this driving style annoys other motorists, especially those caught behind you.

The Touareg diesel usually performed a bit better in the city than its estimate suggested, though it never came close to matching the hybrid in pure stop-and-go city driving. The Highlander’s ability to run on its electric motor alone at lower speeds lets it excel in the slow, choppy driving conditions at which gasoline and diesel engines are least efficient.

In everyday driving, I avoided unnecessarily fast starts and tried to drive smoothly, but did not truly strive for top fuel economy. The result: About 24 miles per gallon overall in both the Highlander and Touareg. However, when I tried a little harder to squeeze extra miles out of each vehicle by obeying speed limits, planning suburban routes to avoid stop-and-go driving and coasting whenever possible, the Highlander began to edge ahead. Both SUVs have trip computers that keep track of average fuel economy, and the Highlander’s seemed to respond more readily to small changes in driving style. If you work hard to hone your driving technique to maximize fuel economy, the Highlander seems to work with you and is therefore more rewarding to drive.

The biggest difference between these vehicles lies in their mechanical feel on the road. Other than using diesel fuel, the Touareg feels conventional. Its engine rumbles steadily and its six-speed automatic transmission shifts with a rhythm that most drivers will find familiar.

The Highlander, however, has a continuously variable transmission that smoothly varies its drive ratios in a way that lets the vehicle’s speed build without the distinct steps of a transmission with conventional gears. The feel is seamless, but less engaging. The engine often sounds like it is laboring, but “CVTs” tend to be more efficient than typical transmissions.

Drivers who are especially fond of SUVs with traditional power plants and familiar mechanical layouts may still prefer the way the Touareg feels on the road and responds more sharply to the throttle, while finding the Highlander a bit off-putting. Still, I got used to the Highlander’s transmission quickly and liked the way it smoothed out its overall ride. I also appreciated that the Highlander weighed several hundred pounds less than the Touareg despite carrying two power systems (electric and gas). Drivers who frequently tow heavy loads will almost surely pick the Volkswagen for its 7,716-pound towing capacity, compared with a rather weak 3,500 for the Toyota.

I would happily drive either vehicle every day. Both run smoothly, handle well and are comfortable for long trips. But the Highlander always felt like Toyota took more time and care in putting the car together. And then there are the numbers — the Environmental Protection Agency’s average fuel cost estimate for the Highlander is $1,542, compared with $2,100 for the Touareg diesel. While such estimates aren’t perfect, they are especially helpful when comparing vehicles. In the end, the Highlander does a better job at mixing the often incompatible elements of SUV size and space with small-car fuel economy.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal

A Review of the Chevy Silverado Hybrid

By dancurranjr On June 7th, 2009

silveradoChevy has created the world’s first 2-mode hybrid truck. It has a battery pack that helps the truck accelerate from a resting stop, when vehicles have their worst gas mileage. The battery packs are recharged by braking the vehicle. Chevy offers the system on many of their vehicles now and it results in huge increases in city gas mileage. The normal crew cab Silverado provides 14mpg city and 19 or 20mpg on the highway. The Silverado Hybrid performs at 21mpg city and 22mpg highway. You’ll be stopping at the gas station less with the 50 percent fuel mileage increase. The highway mileage isn’t nearly as improved because the hybrid system only benefits the car when accelerating at low speeds. I originally thought Chevy would ship the hybrid with a weaker/smaller engine, but this was not the case. The hybrid actually receives the largest engine of the Silverados with a 6.0L V8 that produces 332 horsepower and 367 torque. Don’t worry about pulling your boat either with a 6,100-pound trailering capability.

Upsides: Fantastic fuel mileage combined with Chevy’s extremely capable truck platform produces a very well-rounded package.

Downsides: You can’t really find any Silverado Hybrids. According to Chevy’s Web site, there weren’t any listed in the Houston area. This was supposed to be a slow roll-out, so more are sure to turn up.

Price: $39,015 for 2WD.

Final thoughts: Again, here is another baby step in the right direction for Chevy. The troubled automaker announced their bankruptcy recently, but Chevy will remain around in one form or another. I got the pleasure to drive the Silverado Hybrid to Fort Worth and very much enjoyed the trip. The truck is very responsive and I averaged 20.4 MPG for the entire time I had the truck. I don’t think too many trucks can make the trip to DFW for $30 in gas, especially in crew cab form. The truck also came with many accessories like a soft tonneau cover for the bed and bluetooth for wireless cell connectivity that is included in the price.

SOURCE: The Tribune

Hybrid Chevy Truck Cuts Construction Costs

By dancurranjr On May 16th, 2009

chevy-silveradoOnce in a while you run across a strutting blowhard who drives a pickup truck for the same reason he wears green janitor pants. He wants to look like a serious worker who gets things done. Never mind that he hasn’t held a job for years. And never mind that the cluttered, faded look of his property shows unmistakably that he doesn’t get much done at all. Never mind reality. The guy craves the image.

Image is an important factor for many motorists. It explains why some silver-haired gents with fat wallets drive youthfully sinewed Porsches. It explains why some donors to the Sierra Club will only buy a Toyota Prius, a hybrid car designed to use gas sparingly.

But the green sensitivity that motivates so many hybrid-car sales hardly seems to mesh with the workman image imparted by pickup trucks. So I wondered, why is Chevrolet now bringing out a hybrid version of its full-sized Silverado pickup.

The answer came from Brian Hesse, general manager at Commonwealth Motors in Lawrence. He pointed out that the 2009 Silverado Hybrid pays legitimate dividends to real working men. A lot of them work with trucks that stay largely in limited confines — at a construction site, for example, or around town with a landscaping crew and some gear. Hybrid vehicles, Silverado’s version included, get good gas mileage on city streets, where conventionally powered models burn a lot of fuel.

“I don’t think they’re marketing this to people in Vermont. It’s a contractor’s vehicle,” said Hesse. “Construction companies are doing a lot of work in the cities. They’re seeing 20-plus miles per gallon in the city” with Silverado Hybrid. “That’s great for them.”

Officially, the rear-wheel-drive version of the hybrid Chevy truck is rated at 21 miles per gallon in city driving, and 22 mpg on the highway. The four-wheel-drive Silverado Hybrid drops slightly, to 20 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. Both versions come as four-door, crew-cab models that accommodate six people. They include some fuel-saving features as standard equipment, such as low rolling-resistance tires, a front air damn shaped to cut wind resistance, and a soft, removable bed cover over the back to reduce turbulence.

The base sticker price is $39,015 for two-wheel drive, and $41,870 for four-wheel drive. But Hesse noted that current discounts from Chevrolet knock down prices to about $35,000 for some Silverado Hybrids. As of last week, Commonwealth Motors had one available. But overall the hybrid is a limited-production model. You won’t find a lot of them around.

Test-driving a four-wheel-drive Silverado Hybrid, I averaged 20 mpg without even trying, covering 525 miles in seven days, with about three-quarters of that on the highway. I never felt that the big truck lacked pick-up or power. Its combination of a 6.0-liter V8 gasoline engine and an electric motor produces 332 horsepower.

Like other hybrids, the Silverado automatically shut down its gasoline engine whenever I stopped — mostly while waiting at intersections. Hybrids obtain such favorable around-town fuel economy primarily because their engines don’t waste gas by idling when the vehicle stands still. What’s more, Chevrolet says its Silverado Hybrid can move as fast as 30 mph on electric power alone, before the gas engine kicks in to share the load. When I drove it, I heard the gas engine start around 12 to 15 mph whenever I launched the vehicle moderately at intersections. The transition was easy to discern, because truck’s electric motor and its four-speed automatic transmission were very audible until the engine started.

But except for the electric motor’s whir at low speeds, nothing in the Silverado’s operation gave away that I was driving a hybrid pickup. Not only did the hauler seem capable of performing legitimate pickup-truck chores, it also conveyed the appropriate, get-it-done image.

In addition to the Chevy Silverado, the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade — big, truck-based SUVs made by General Motors — employ the same hybrid system. If combined sales rise high enough to make the hybrid-drive setup more economical to manufacture, prices might fall. A lower purchase price could make Silverado Hybrid more attractive to more ordinary consumers, suggested Kevin Bihl, general manager of sales and marketing for Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Cadillac in Haverhill.

A run-up in gas prices also might goose interest in the hybrid truck, he noted.

“The phone calls on hybrids at this time last year were frequent,” said Bihl. But that was when gas prices had begun their journey toward $4 per gallon. “The phone calls now are minimal,” with gas at a comfortable, $2 per gallon, he said.

In fact, moderate gas prices, along with cut-rate deals from manufacturers, are bringing more recreational truck users back to dealerships to buy conventionally powered models, reported both DeLuca and Commonwealth.

“Last summer, only the businesses were buying trucks,” said Hesse of Commonwealth, which sells Honda, Kia and Volkswagen vehicles in addition to Chevrolet. “Now I’m seeing a lot of people who like to have a truck around for personal use.”

That especially includes families that play hard, added Kevin Bihl of DeLuca. With seating for five or six and a big, open cargo box, crew-cab pickups are favored for towing snowmobiles, Jet Skis and dirt bikes for family getaways, he illustrated.

Sure, the pickup-truck fashion has passed. A couple of years back, “there were more people buying pickups just because they thought they were good looking,” Bihl conceded. But dealers agree that the core pickup buyers — those returning to showrooms today — remain loyal because the trucks genuinely serve them.

That may include a few fuming blowhards. But most of all, tradesmen, laborers, active homeowners and outdoor recreationalists — people with happy and healthy outlooks — will keep coming back to places like Bill DeLuca and Commonwealth to buy the big haulers, both Bihl and Hesse believe.

And if the price of gas surges, the Silverado Hybrid could become an attractive alternative for more than just contractors who idle around work sites.

SOURCE: Eagle Tribune

2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid Offers Good MPG and Fair Price

By dancurranjr On May 15th, 2009

2010mercury-milanFord Motor Company introduces the 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid which delivers up to 41 miles per gallon. The vehicle is a midsize sedan which can also operate on electric power with speeds up to 47 MPH without using a drop of gasoline. The automobile features an innovative dual-LCD SmartGauge cluster with EcoGuide which provides a four-level display to help you improve fuel efficiency.

One of the nice things about this Mercury car is that it is capable of driving more than 700 miles on one tank of fuel. The propulsion system is also equipped with a combination with a permanent magnet electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride (NiMN) battery. The engine is a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle which runs on 4-cycliners.

The combined power rating is 191-net horsepower which features late intake valve closing (LIVC) and advancements in processor technology for seamless transitions from gas to electric operation. The Mercury automobile can also be equipped with a standard 3.0L Duratec 24-vavle V6 engine. It can use either gasoline or E85 alternative fuel that reduces carbon emissions.

SmartGauge With EcoGuide

SmartGauge with EcoGuide can help extend mileage on a tank of gas. It features an innovative LCD gauge cluster with colorful graphics and provides you with performance-related information on the Milan. There are four different levels of information which include:

  • Inform: Adds fuel level and battery-charge status
  • Enlighten: Adds electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer
  • Engage: Adds engine output power and battery output power
  • Empower: Adds power to wheels, engine pull-up threshold and accessory power consumption

Nickel-Metal-Hydrive Battery Pack

The battery is a 275-volt nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) pack which transfers power to the electric motor. This propels the Milan car up to 47 miles per hour. In fact, that’s the highest possible speed of any hybrid vehicle in the electric mode. Ford also offers 8-year/100,000-mile limited warranty.

The hybrid vehicle also has Regenerative Braking which helps to recharge the battery pack. For example, when you apply the brakes in a conventional vehicle, the energy is lost due to friction. During braking in the Milan, the electric motor captures 94 percent of this energy that is normally lost and sends it back to the battery pack to be stored for later use.

Milan also handles the roadway using Ford’s new Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (AWD) technology. If the roadway is gravel or web, the Intelligent AWD can help provide proper traction. The AWD features are automatic and will respond instantly depending on road conditions.

The quality of the ride is responsive and smooth. The Mercury Milan has a double-wishbone independent front suspension with a stabilizer bar, a design commonly found in top-of-the-line sports and luxury cars. The flexibility of the multi-link independent rear suspension is designed to deliver excellent ride quality and handling capability.


Mercury Milan at LemonFree.com