Who’s Killing Plug-in Hybrids

By dancurranjr On May 29th, 2009

phev-charging-stationThe California Air Resources Board is scheduled to again take up the issue of regulating hybrids today, May 28, in Sacramento. The air board told its staff to go back to the drawing board after small businesses that convert Toyota Priuses to plug-in hybrids said that proposed regulations would put them out of business. However, the staff’s new proposed regulations would still effectively bankrupt small companies.

The new rules would allow small companies to sell up to ten conversion kits before having to undergo extensive emissions testing, which can cost up $200,000. But Daniel Sherwood, president of 3Prong Power of Berkeley, says that the new rules will bankrupt him and other similar companies because they can’t make enough money from selling just ten conversions to finance the tests. “It effectively adds $20,000 to the cost of each of those first ten conversions,” he said.

Currently, 3 Prong Power sells conversions, including installation, for about $6,700. As a result, if Sherwood’s company tried to pass the $20,000 emissions tests costs on to his customers, no one would buy them. After the conversion, a Prius becomes an electric-only vehicle when driving around town and can get more than 100 miles per gallon, thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sherwood wants the air board to change the rules to allow small companies to sell up to 100 kits before having to undergo the expensive tests. That way, the cost of the tests will be about $2,000 per conversion – still a high price, but possibly doable. “CARB should be supporting California’s plug-in hybrid conversion companies, not squashing us,” he said.

SOURCE: East Bay Express

Can Hybrid Cars Be Too Quiet?

By dancurranjr On May 18th, 2009

saturn-vue-plug-inResearchers presenting their findings at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America say that hybrid vehicles are so quiet they may present a danger to pedestrians. Karen Hopkin reports

Excerpt from the Scientific American Podcast:

Hybrid cars are good for the environment. But scientists say that they might be bad for pedestrians. Because hybrids are so quiet, it can be hard for walkers to hear them until it’s too late. Listen to this. [quiet car sound]

That’s a Toyota Prius moving at five miles an hour. If you didn’t hear anything, well, that’s what worries scientists at the University of California, Riverside. They recorded the sounds made by an approaching hybrid vehicle and by a car with a standard, internal combustion engine. They then asked listeners wearing headphones to determine whether the car was coming from the left or the right.

Turns out people could hear the standard vehicle from about 36 feet away. But the hybrid was able to sneak up to just 11 feet away before listeners knew where it was coming from. And when the scientists added some background noise, people couldn’t pinpoint the direction of the Prius until it had already passed them by, results they’ll be presenting at the May meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Portland, Oregon. The solution, they say, is to require a “minimum sound” for all late model cars. No annoying beeps or alarms. Just something to supply that new-car sound.

SOURCE and PODCAST at: Scientific American

Toyota Prius Hybrid Owners Convert Their Cars to Plug-Ins

By dancurranjr On April 20th, 2009

prius-phevThe major US automakers are not due to roll out their first electric cars until late 2010, but for those unwilling to wait, there is a new trend for DIY plug-in hybrids.

Owners of the popular Toyota Prius hybrid, which runs on petrol and a nickel-metal battery, have begun a slow-but-steady move towards converting their cars into plug-in vehicles. A few hundred Prius owners around America are believed to have taken the plunge.

Six Prius dealerships in the US now convert standard Priuses into plug-ins using commercially produced lithium-ion batteries.

The process is straightforward. The mechanics install a lithium-ion battery in the spot formerly reserved for the spare tire. They then drill a hole in the rear of the car to put in a plug point for charging. The battery has a range of 35 to 40 miles, and takes about five hours to recharge completely.

Prius owners have long had a reputation for trying to eke the maximum miles out of every drop of petrol – trading tips on the web. But the conversions began gaining a following in mid-2008 when prices at the pump rose above $4 (£2.68) a gallon.

With that in mind – along with moves into plug-ins from Chevrolet and Chyrsler as well as tax incentives from the Obama administration for hybrid vehicle owners – Toyota moved up the date for its roll-out of the first 500 purpose-built plug-in Priuses to later this year.

The cost of the conversions is prohibitive. Steve Rosenstock spent $10,900 converting his red 2008 model Prius to a plug-in – roughly half the cost of the entire car.

Rosenstock showed off his newly converted Prius at a renewable energy conference in Washington this week. On the open road, at constant speeds and in flat conditions, he has achieved mileage of well over 100mpg. That’s a considerable increase in efficiency over the standard Prius model which gets around 60mpg on the motorway.

In terms of running costs, if the petrol engine never comes on, Rosenstock says it costs about 1.57 cents to run his Prius. If the engine does engage, it comes to 4 cents a mile.

Rosenstock, who works at the Edison Electric Institute, a lobbying group for the US electricity industry, does not use the car to go to work and so does not charge it up regularly. He said there was no real increase in his electricity bills. Even so, he admitted he is unlikely to ever recover his investment.

“The first plasma TV cost $10,000. The first DVD player cost $1,000,” he said. “I like being an early adopter in this case.”

SOURCE: Guardian.co.uk

British Firm Artemis Turns BMW 5 Series into a ‘Wave Power’ Hybrid Car

By dancurranjr On March 3rd, 2009

wave-power-bmw-5A greener car based on wave power technology? It sounds like a PR stretch too far but examine Artemis Intelligent Power’s idea further and you see why the analogy is apt.

The Edinburgh-based company yesterday unveiled its retrofit of a BMW 5-series saloon which it claims, using its Digital Displacement technology, can double its miles per gallon of fuel – and all without any heavy batteries.

Digital Displacement is a purely hydraulic system that sits between a car’s engine and wheels. The car’s engine drives a pump which pushes a pressurised hydraulic fluid to drive electric motors on the rear wheels.

When the car brakes, the system goes into reverse – some of the energy that is normally lost as heat in the brake discs is captured and stored by pressurising a gas cylinder. During acceleration, the pressurised gas is then used to drive the motors.

The wave-power part comes from the way the hydraulics turn these slow and irregular waves into a steady supply of power for electrical generators. The hydraulics are managed by computers to keep the power flow constant.

Win Rampen, director of Artemis said: “Our technology represents a serious step forward in terms of cost-effective fuel economy improvement. The system will be much less expensive than electric hybrids, and will help to make hybrid vehicles an economic, rather than a lifestyle choice.”

The test car runs on a mixture of stored energy and petrol and, in combined city and motorway driving, it cut its carbon emissions by an average of 30% with no compromise in performance. The technology seems most useful for urban use and for buses and vans: wherever vehicles need to do a lot of stop-start driving and plenty of braking.

Artemis, set up by Edinburgh University researchers, has been touting its technology idea for some time. The project was supported by the Department for Transport and the Energy Saving Trust as a promising mechanical transmission alternative to the stable of electronic transmission hybrid cars planned by mainstream manufacturers later this year.

In April, Honda launches its “Prius-killer”, the Insight. This is a petrol-electric hybrid family car that will cost from £15,490 in the UK. Further down the line, slated for July, is Toyota’s new Prius. The car will appear at next week’s Geneva motor show and rumours abound about its improvements – an overall power increase of 22% and CO2 emissions down to 89g/km. Let’s wait and see.

SOURCE: Guardian

TopGear.com to Build a 70 mpg Car

By dancurranjr On February 22nd, 2009

top-gear-garageThe new Honda Insight hybrid is expected to get 43 mpg on the highway. A Toyota Prius or Volkswagen Jetta TDI will get you roughly the same. Look beyond that one number, though, and the three cars share a common thread: They all have spectacularly low lifetime CO2 output, because each and every one will bore you to death before you get a chance to refill the tank. Each of these greenies will do 0-60 in about a week, they’re all styled like lumps of cold mashed potatoes and every last one handles like a couch. If this is what it takes to save the world, maybe the world isn’t worth saving.

No, if we’re going to stop the terrorists, rebuild the polar bears’ igloos and somehow turn on the global air conditioner, we’re going to need much more impressive mileage and, more important, something that’s actually worth driving. You can’t honestly expect us to give up driving fun just for a silly little planet, can you?

So if 45 mpg doesn’t change the equation, how about 70? Suck on that for a second. Forty-five is probably a lot better than whatever you’re driving, but it’s still within the realm of the imaginable. But 70? It’s absurd. Perfect, then.

On top of unlikely mileage, we need it from something with a little soul. We don’t need supercar performance, but we should at least be able to outrun a minivan. Naught to 60 in 7 seconds is about as slow as we can stand before our minds wander. Come to think of it, breaking the 7-second barrier will also roast a Ferrari 308, which will help keep that Magnum P.I. fantasy alive.

And then there’s the price. If trees and puppies and little green frogs make your heart go pitter-patter, the Insight’s $20,000 price tag is downright reasonable. Lovers of the other kind of green will always do the math, though, and inevitably determine that it will take 18 years of fuel savings to pay off their investment, so they might as well keep driving that Hummer. Price, then, is key if we really want to save the world.

For absolutely no other reason than the fact that a good theme seems to be developing entirely on its own, $7,000 seems like the kind of irresistibly low price that would make even Arnold give up his monster truck.

So there it is, the top 10 cars that get 70 mpg, do 0-60 in less than 7 seconds and cost $7,000 (and have sexy Italian styling):


No? Well, then, it’s official. TopGear.com America has a new project.

Read the Rest of the Story at: Top Gear