Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Delayed Until January

By dancurranjr On December 18th, 2010

The U.S. launch of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has slipped a month, just enough to preclude buyers from taking advantage of a $1,300 Federal tax credit that expires December 31.

According to Hyundai, the first cars will now reach dealers in January or perhaps later, rather than in early or mid December as it had originally hoped. Spokesman Miles Johnson confirmed the delay to High Gear Media editor Marty Padgett.

The 2011 Sonata Hybrid is expected to be one of the few hybrids that delivers higher gas mileage in highway use than in the city. Hyundai cites statistics showing more than half of U.S. driving time is spent at higher speeds.

Hyundai predicted in June that the hybrid Sonata would achieve U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings of 36 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.

The eagerly awaited hybrid version of the popular 2011 Sonata was first unveiled at the New York Auto Show in March. It is unique among hybrids in having entirely different front styling than the conventional gasoline car on which it’s based. That provides clear exterior identification for buyers who want to show off their green credentials.

To reassure any customers who might have qualms about buying a hybrid-electric vehicle from a manufacturer without a previous history in hybrids, Hyundai said last month it would warranty the car’s battery pack for 10 years or 100,000 miles of use.

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the first mass-market hybrid sold with a lithium-ion battery pack, which is more compact and holds more energy than the older nickel-metal-hydride chemistry used in hybrids from Toyota, Honda, Ford and General Motors.


Tesla Electric Car Makes Pit Stop

By dancurranjr On December 11th, 2010

As they stepped out of the sleek, hand-built, carbon fiber Roadster, Danielle Molleur of Summit and her daughter Madeleine, were all smiles. “I can understand why there’s so much excitement and why we put our money down on one,” said Danielle, one foot still in the Tesla’s futuristic cockpit.

On Saturday, Summit residents interested in checking out, and test driving, Tesla’s innovative, high performance sports car were able to do so during the manufacturer’s national Go Electric Roadster Tour. All they had to do was make an appointment with Tesla’s representative, Michael J. Sexton, and meet at the Grand Summit Hotel.

“We’re not your typical type of automotive company,” said Sexton. “Our (business) model is very much like Apple. We go out into the marketplace with the vehicle and present it to prospective clients. We want people to experience the car, and the response is overwhelming. Today, my first drive is at 10 and my last drive is at 3. We’ll probably do 10 drives in Summit, altogether. And that’s a good manageable amount.”

The buzz around Tesla and its car has truly reached a fever pitch. In a climate where consumers are increasingly concerned not only with economics but also with reducing their impact on the environment, it’s easy to understand why.

The Tesla doesn’t need a single drop of gasoline and produces zero fumes. Twice as efficient as a typical hybrid, the Roadster is a pure, electric sports model. It accelerates from 0-60 in a mere 3.7 seconds, with a maximum speed of about 125 mph, and a range of up to 245 miles on a single electric charge.

Although the base model price is $106,000, Sexton is quick to point out that the car qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500 and that there is no sales tax on the vehicle, in the state of New Jersey.

According to the company, the Tesla’s sales numbers have been growing steadily ever since the company went public in June of this year. There are currently more than 1,400 Roadster owners in the world. Together, they have driven more than 8 million electric miles — saving more than 400,000 gallons of gas and 21,000 barrels of oil, in the process.

Named after the Serbian electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla, the company took its inspiration from the great inventor, who also happened to be the father of AC (alternative current) power. The Tesla has an AC induction motor.

“It was always a dream of Tesla’s to have a fully electric vehicle. At the turn of the 20th Century, he tinkered with electric vehicles. There was the Baker electric vehicle and he toyed with that — how to make that run without even using batteries,” added Sexton.

Tesla will be coming out with a four-door sedan version of the Roadster in 2012 — the Model S. This one will have a range of up to 300 miles. That’s the model that Danielle Molleur has actually committed to buy.

“The nice thing is that you buy one of these and you’re done. I mean, there’s no gas and an electrician can fix the engine. And no combustion engine. No spewing all kinds of stuff in the air. We have to move in that direction. Even Kuwait and Dubai are putting in solar fields. They know that the end is coming for fossil fuels,” she stressed.


NYC Getting First Hydrogen Hybrid Ferry

By dancurranjr On December 11th, 2010

First there was the Hornblower Hybrid, a revolutionary vessel that began plying the waters of San Francisco Bay in 2008 using a combination of solar, wind and diesel power. Now Hornblower Cruises & Events is planning to bring the hybrid ferry concept to the East Coast for its service to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but with a twist: The new 1,400-horsepower New York Hornblower Hybrid will run on energy generated by hydrogen fuel cells, in addition to diesel, solar and wind.

Statue Cruises, a division of San Francisco-based Hornblower, said that Derecktor Shipyards in Bridgeport, Conn., is working on what it called “the world’s first hybrid ferry using hydrogen fuel” and expects to be done by April 2011. “This boat will produce minimal carbon emissions and sip, rather than guzzle, diesel fuel,” Gavin Higgins, Derecktor’s VP for business development, said in a statement. “Along the way it will help make New York harbor a cleaner, safer and more pleasant place.”

Statue has the contract with the National Park Services to run cruises out to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. The company said the 600-passenger New York Hornblower will be powered in part by a proton exchange membrane fuel cell that turns hydrogen into electricity.

The company also outlined a long list “eco-friendly” elements to the vessel, including recycled glass countertops, LEED-certified carpet and aluminum wall coverings, LED video screens and low-VOC exterior paint, including a copper-free paint the company has been testing as part of an Environmental Protection Agency-funded project.

The All-Electric Tesla Is An Eco-Thriller!

By dancurranjr On December 6th, 2010

A small pothole sends a jolt to my tailbone. This car’s suspension is tight, its tires low-profile, with barely any sidewall between rim and road.

But mashing the accelerator pedal practically touches off St. Elmo’s fire. The next stoplight comes up fast. Absurdly fast, in an unnervingly quiet rush. Golf cart meets F-16.

I am folded into a Tesla Roadster 2.5 Sport, the $100,000-plus, all-electric exotic that looks a lot like a Lotus Elise and, from a performance standpoint, leaves most hybrid cars in its electron cloud.

Tesla is a boutique automaker, and that’s where the Roadster’s chassis and some other parts are sourced, though it’s more than 90 percent original, including its lovely, lightweight, partly carbon-fiber body, this one in Batmobile black.

It has been raining on and off in Boston. Wet leaves blow around in the chill. Even mid-day there are too many other cars on the river roads along the Charles to properly wring this thing out. Here a Suffolk County sheriff. There a Statie.

But the Roadster can’t cloak its personality. It’s all urges and surges. Loaded with torque, It does zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds – comparable to (maybe even a coat-of-paint faster) than Ferrari’s frighteningly quick F430. (In fairness, that Italian job also has a top-end speed of about 200 m.p.h.; Tesla’s is 125.)

Electric vehicles are hardly new – the newsprint Monitor was delivered locally by electric trucks before World War I – but they’ve entered a new era. Tesla is, so far, the one true electric supercar. It pretty neatly redefines “plug and play.”

You’ve probably heard of this exotic. It’s the one George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio waited online to get.

I waited four years just to get in it. In 2006 I saw its predecessor being built in San Carlos, Calif. Executives and engineers (who’ve since relocated to Palo Alto) were very forthcoming, but there was no tester on hand. Everything had wires hanging out of it.

It was worth the wait.

I’ve flogged a modern Mustang GT on a straight back road. Run a 12-cylinder BMW hard on the Autobahn. Even turned in quarter miles on a drag strip in a Jaguar XKR.

This is different. In terms of power on tap, it’s more like twisting the throttle in first gear on a Suzuki GSX-R sport bike – but without the screaming harmonics. (Frankly, that’s about the only shortcoming of this eco-exotic.)

Fairly restrained today among Boston’s Kias and Volvos, the Roadster is sure-footed. The steering wheel feeds back every ripple in the road.

Even though it’s a rear-wheel-drive car, the Roadster’s rear end won’t quite break loose on wet pavement in a hard on-ramp turn, with acceleration. Weight is well distributed.

Let off the accelerator and the electric-drive system slows the car fast. Braking, when needed, is regenerative. The Roadster’s advertised range is 245 miles with its 900-lb. lithium-ion battery pack. Fully charging it is basically an overnight affair.

On the whole, electrics have seen no overnight success. General Motors’s EV1 famously failed (or was made to fail). It took Toyota what seemed like forever just to produce a plug-in Prius. Aftermarket modifiers had to take the lead.

GM’s long-anticipated Volt – talked up as an electric car and finally rolling out this month– comes with a small combustion engine dedicated to battery-charging.

One reason for the hesitant adoption: Many drivers have “range anxiety.” That should fade as more businesses and communities add charging stations.

Sure, the Nissan Leaf is a mainstream all-electric. There is an all-electric scooter. But like the Volt, most of these post-petroleum vehicles can’t quite let go of combustion technology.

Tesla’s supercar signals that, like everything else, some exotics have tilted eco. That could point to a values shift even among conspicuous consumers who traditionally haven’t given any thought to the price of premium gas (or to tailpipe emissions).

So along with practical little EVs (electric vehicles) that look like moon-base shuttles (Aptera) or Smart cars that have been squeezed (Lumenco SMERA), you also have pedigreed performers that are getting greener by degrees.

The new Porsche 918 is a stunning gas-electric hybrid that leans heavily on its electric thrusters. The Jaguar C-X75 (still a concept, just recently unveiled in Paris) uses one electric motor on each wheel – each making 195 h.p., for a synchronized 780 h.p. It also use micro turbines, which burn gas, natural gas, diesel, or biofuel, to generate supplemental electricity. (They’re provided by a jet-engine manufacturer.)

Still, Tesla’s Roadster pretty much owns its crackling niche. Coming next year: its fully electric Model S sedan. Another silent streak, this time with room for the family. Tesla’s a firm with some juice.

SOURCE: CS Monitor

Insight Into Honda’s Hybrid Future

By dancurranjr On December 6th, 2010

Honda reckons many motorists are put off hybrid cars because they view them as expensive and elitist. So it’s aiming to change that attitude with its new Insight, as Rob Maetzig reports.

It’s now been more than 10 years since Honda launched its first petrol-electric hybrid car to the world.

That car was called Insight, and it was a swoopy-looking little two-door car that achieved incredibly low fuel consumption. It never was made available for sale in this country, although Honda New Zealand did import one for evaluation and promotional purposes.

The aim behind that original Honda hybrid was clear: To avoid waste. Engineers reasoned that if energy generated from braking and deceleration could be harnessed and stored in a battery pack, it could then be used to power an electric motor that would supplement the performance of the car’s petrol engine.

That led to development of what is known as a parallel hybrid system, in which the petrol engine is the main source of power and torque, and is assisted sometimes by the electric motor.

Honda called its system Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), and it comprised a low-friction 1.3-litre engine as the primary power source, an ultra-thin electric motor, and a lightweight and compact battery pack, all mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
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This basic setup hasn’t changed much over the intervening 10 years, but it has been vastly improved as it been progressively introduced to other Honda vehicles, including the Civic hybrid we get in New Zealand.

Now another Honda hybrid has arrived – and appropriately it is called Insight. It’s an impressive new five-door hatchback that uses a modified version of the 1.3-litre engine from the Civic, and features a fifth-generation IMA system that is 24 per cent more compact than the fourth- generation version currently in the Civic.

Some real improvements have been made with this new IMA. The electric motor is now much thinner than before – 35.7mm compared to 61.5mm on the Civic – which helps make the entire system more compact and light.

Big improvements have also been made to the battery pack, which is 19 per cent smaller and 28 per cent lighter, which allows it to be stored under the floor of the Insight’s boot.

End result of all of this is a new hatchback that in every sense is just that – a hatchback. The compactness of the latest- generation IMA means so little storage space is required that the rear cargo room is 408 litres with all the seats in use, which is more than most other hatchbacks including the Toyota Corolla, and there is normal leg and headroom throughout.

Even the hybrid system works in a normal and unobtrusive way. On its own, the engine produces 65 kilowatts of power and 121 newton metres of torque, and when combined with the IMA this increases to 72 kW and 167 Nm.

All this is allowing Honda to market the new Insight not so much as a hybrid but as a hatchback, albeit one that has the technology to cost 40 per cent less to run than a conventional hatch.

Insight also carries a conventional price – which, Honda New Zealand claims, makes it the most affordable high-technology car on the market.

The base model S retails for $35,600 and more upmarket E for $38,800, which is not only almost lineball with conventional hatchbacks of a similar size, but way cheaper than the other hybrids currently on the market here, particularly the $42,000 Civic and the $48,500-$62,000 Toyota Prius.

This is all part of a grand plan by Honda, which discovered during recent overseas research that most motorists considered hybrids to be too expensive, and many others considered them to be elitist status symbols rather than efficient, cleaner modes of transport.

So the company set about changing that, embarking on a big effort to bring the price of the Insight down to much more acceptable levels.

It did it by using a large amount of existing componentry. For example the suspension, brakes and steering are pinched from the Honda Jazz. The engine compartment is also from the Jazz, and the engine and IMA system are modified versions of what is already aboard the Civic.

At a conference for New Zealand media in Queensland last week, special guest Yasunari Seki, the Insight’s project leader, said the aim of the development project was to reduce the size, complexity and price of components and systems in a big effort to drive the Insight’s final retail price downwards.

“Our engineers have shown great tenacity and skill in reducing the cost of the IMA system, which has allowed us to reduce the build costs of Insight,” he said.

Insight has been on the New Zealand new car scene for some weeks now, with potential customers taking the 40 demonstrators based at various dealerships for test drives. Interest has been such that as at last Thursday’s media conference 175 orders had been taken, and HNZ boss Graeme Seymour is confident things will settle to down to an average of more than 30 sales a month.

It’s an attractive car that looks more new-age than most other hatchbacks, with bodyshell lines that are reminiscent of the futuristic FX Clarity hydrogen- powered car that is now sold by Honda in some parts of the world.

But it’s pretty conventional all the same. The only real indications that the Insight is a hybrid are various features that are designed to “coach” the person behind the wheel to drive economically.

The primary such feature is a speedometer that glows green when the car is economically sipping petrol, and changes to blue when it is not.

It is a simple method of telling the driver how things are going, and far less intrusive than many of the other economy-encouraging systems aboard this car, including one that electronically grows leaves on trees during thousands of kilometres of being driven carefully, and rewards the driver by electronically presenting him or her with a trophy icon.

Research by Honda showed that different driving styles can cause variances in fuel economy by as much as 20 per cent. But the IMA aboard the Insight is capable of immediately getting back half of that via an ECON button that, when pushed, does such things as optimises gear ratios, engine revs and output by 4 per cent, controls air air conditioning and even keeps an eye on the cruise control, all in the interests of using less fuel.

Honda says the remaining half can be dealt to by subtly encouraging encouraging drivers to use more fuel-efficient driving techniques – and that’s what the coaching system is all about.

I recently drove an Insight more than 1800 kilometres during the AA Energywise Rally from Auckland to Wellington and back, and last week’s media event included a drive programme of another 250 km inland from the Gold Coast.

Both times I quickly discovered that rather than being anal about things and using every little guide to fuel economy available in this Insight, it was easier to simply hit the ECON button, keep the speedo colour green as much as possible, and take it from there.

Both times this allowed me to achieve an average fuel economy of 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres. In Aussie I also tried things out with the ECON off and the speedo coloured blue as often as possible – and the economy figure went out to 5.9 L/100 km.

And even that’s pretty good for a new Honda that to all intents and purposes is a conventional five- door hatch with excellent interior room and sound performance. The difference is that it will also reward careful driving but not severely punish the lead-footed stuff.