Ford Escape Embodies the True Spirit of Hybrid Technology

By dancurranjr On June 2nd, 2009

ford-escape-hybridThe color green used to be solely reserved for St. Patricks Day, jealousy and grass stains.

Now, however, it is the color of a movement. Green means energy-saving, environmentally friendly and getting back to nature. It seems that everybody and everything is “going green.”

Perhaps that is why the Ford company put a little green leaf on the hybrid label of its 2009 Escape.

The Escape definitely saves energy — specifically gas. The self-proclaimed “most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet” pairs a traditional gas engine with a Nickel-metal-hydride battery-powered electric engine. This merger means that the vehicle doesn’t use any fuel when stopped in traffic or up to 40 miles per gallon when in full electric mode. This allows the Ford SUV to get an amazing 34 mpg in stop-and-go traffic, while still offering V6-like acceleration.

Environmentally friendly? This technology, obviously, means that the Escape has much lower emissions. In fact, the hybrid SUV meets strict Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV II) and Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) standards. Want more environmentally pleasing features? The cloth seat fabric is made from postindustrial materials — polyester fibers that would have ended up in landfills otherwise. And the cushions use a bio-based polyurethane foam derived from the oils of soybeans. More than simply “green,” the durable, comfortable and stylish nature of the material also makes it a perfect fit for the Escape Hybrid.

What really makes the 2009 Ford Escape a hybrid to remember, however, is its 4WD capabilities. Need to get back to nature? No problem in the Escape. The vehicle handles steep dirt inclines, muddy stream beds and other rugged driving with relative ease. As with many conventional SUVs, the Escape comfortably seats five adults and offers plenty of cargo space to boot.

The technology doesn’t stop with the engine. Ford offers a SYNC communications and entertainment system, powered by Microsoft, that comes standard on the 2009 Escape Hybrid. This state-of-the-art, voice-activated system fully integrates many Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and digital media players. Additionally, the Escape offers an optional voice-activated navigation system that includes a detailed freeway exit, turn and ramp transition lane guidance; street name announcement, etc. The system comes with a 10MB drive for photo storage, burning CDs and managing music. Also, when the vehicle is stopped, DVD movies can be watched in the viewfinder.

Those who need additional incentive to check out the Ford Escape hybrid should take a look at the federal tax credit. For the FWD model, buyers may be eligible for up to $3,000 in tax credit (not deductions). For the 4WD model, typical tax credits come to $1,950.

One major drawback, for many, when discussing the practicality of a hybrid vehicle such as the Ford Escape, is finding local garages that can service that type of engine at a reasonable price. Doing some undercover work, I called a dozen random local garages fro the phonebook and asked those who answered the phone if they did any work on a Ford Escape hybrid engine. Out of the 12 I called, all 12 said they did not work on the hybrid electrical part of the engine. One mechanic admitted that he hadn’t “monkeyed around” with that sort of engine yet.

Which, of course can mean after the vehicle’s 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty is up, you will have to pay a little more cash out of your wallet.

Sort of fitting that the ultimate “green” vehicle can also cost you a little extra green at times. Of course, the question is — will the Ford Escape Hybrid save you more in the long haul?

SOURCE: The Daily Item

2010 Automobiles Convert To Hybrid New Cars

By dancurranjr On June 2nd, 2009

new-insightThe new 2010 automobiles will soon change the future in transportation as conventional vehicles make the switch to hybrid cars. The new cars also qualify for government incentives to use as a 2009 hybrid car tax credit. Hybrid cars can achieve better fuel efficiency and are led by car manufacturers including Ford Motor Company, Toyota, Honda, and General Motors.

If you’re in the market to buy a new eco-friendly car, you may want to check out the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Toyota Prius, or the Honda Insight. These hybrids are the ones we reviewed so far, and I’m sure the list will keep building as we test-drive and gather more information. Owning one of the environmental safe vehicles will also qualify for government incentives to obtain a 2009 hybrid car tax credit.

While GM might be heading for bankruptcy on June 1, 2009, it’s clear what direction the car manufacturer is heading. It has three prototypes of a new electric vehicle known as the Chevy Volt. The Volt can plugin to any 110 volt outlet to recharge.

Only time will tell if hybrid cars will reduce America’s dependency for foreign oil. However, one thing is for sure, that the battery electric cars are fuel efficient. The bottom line is, this will save time and the price at the pump for automobile owners. The other matters to consider are the distances and mileage a person drives each day.

America experienced the worst gas crises in 2008. Prices soared to nearly $5.00 per gallon in some states, while the national average was about $4.50. Small cars were costing drivers as much as $80 to fill up at the pump. Skeptics argue that the automakers are 20 years behind while foreign countries are price gauging.

Some people have often wondered how hybrid cars work. This would be another topic of discussion, but one that is very fascinating. Most people believe that running a cord between the electrical outlet to the vehicle will do the trick. However, some car manufacturers are coming up with some new techniques.

Some car makers are using the brake pedal as a way to power accessories such as air conditioning by sending the energy directly to the battery to store a recharge. This method is utilizing all possible ways to produce energy from the driver without taxing comfort ability and the driving experience.


Auto Tax Credits For Eco-Friendly Hybrid Cars

By dancurranjr On May 25th, 2009

irsAuto tax incentives for Hybrid cars and electric vehicles are being phased out later in 2009. However, there could be new tax credits for these eco-friendly cars. The whole purpose of these tax deductions is to reduce the amount of carbon emissions, which provide cleaner air quality.

The tax incentives started with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which replaces the clean-fuel burning deduction with a tax credit. A tax credit is subtracted directly from the total amount of federal tax owed, thus reducing or even eliminating the taxpayer’s tax obligation. The tax credit for hybrid vehicles applies to electric vehicles purchased or placed in service on or after January 1, 2006.

The credit is only available to the original purchaser of a new qualifying vehicle. If a qualifying vehicle is leased to a consumer, the leasing company may claim the credit. The Hybrid vehicle must also have a drive train powered by both an internal combustion engine and a rechargeable battery.

This is a list of some of the models, which qualify, including the amount for the tax credit:

  • Chrysler Aspen Hybrid – $2,200
  • Dodge Durango Hybrid – $2,200
  • Ford Escape Hybrid 2WD – $3,000
  • Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD – $1,950
  • Mazda Tribute Hybrid 2WD – $3,000
  • Mazda Tribute Hybrid 4WD – $1,950
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid 2WD – $3,000
  • Mercury Mariner Hybrid 4WD – $1,950
  • Nissan Altima Hybrid – $2,350

This is not a complete list and there might be another wave of tax credits for all-electric vehicles. Most automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota are already building new prototypes. These prototypes will enter the market in late 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Critics of the Energy Policy Act and the recent tax credits say the government should do more to help convert gasoline powered automobiles to Hybrid and electric solutions. For example, the government is already phasing out the tax credits during the economic recession. The critics feel that the tax credits should be extended for at least another 24 months.

The tax credits started with a $7,500 deduction which actually helped the new Hybrids gain respect and awareness. However, consumers can still save fuel costs as most of the new Hybrids can travel up to 50 miles without using a single drop of gasoline. As gas prices rise, drivers can switch the vehicle from gas to electric power for shorter travel rides.

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.

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