Electric Car Market Gets Useful Jump-Start, Tax Breaks

By dancurranjr On December 25th, 2010

When Toyota unveiled its gasoline-electric Prius hybrid in Japan in 1997, car executives here scoffed that the car was little more than an expensive novelty. When Honda began selling the first hybrid in the U.S. market in 1999, the two-seat Insight was derided as cramped and impractical.

OPPOSING VIEW: Subsidies? Just say no

Eleven years later, more than 2 million Priuses have been sold worldwide, and there are about 1.5 million hybrids on the roads here, including models from the U.S. automakers. That’s still a tiny fraction of the 250 million vehicles in America, but they have helped cut gasoline use.

Now comes Round 2, as General Motors and Nissan begin delivering their first new electric cars to buyers amid some of the same sort of skepticism that dogged the early hybrids. Americans should hope the skeptics are wrong again.

The two new cars, due to be followed by models from other automakers, are promising fuel savers. The Chevy Volt can go 25 miles to 50 miles on battery power alone; after that a gasoline engine kicks in to power a generator for a total range of about 350 miles before fill-up or recharge. The more limited battery-only Nissan Leaf can travel an estimated 62 miles to 138 miles before it needs a recharge.

It’s easy to deride the new electric cars, just as it was the early hybrids. The batteries take hours to recharge, and when the Leaf is out of juice, it had better be at a plug. It presumably would be useful only to short-range commuters with no other need for the car. Both cars are small, though the Volt is no smaller than many sedans, and automotive writers say it’s as quick and responsive as a gas-powered car.

The biggest drawback, and the one critics have made much of, is the cost, and not just to buyers. The Volt lists for $41,000 and the Leaf for $33,000, so the federal government, eager to jump-start a market for electric cars, is helping with the sticker shock by shelling out up to $7,500 per car in tax credits for the first 200,000 cars an automaker sells.

There’s a downside to this. The tax code would be far better if it weren’t riddled with tax breaks such as this one. In addition, the tax credit spends money the government doesn’t have.

But those are bigger, more important issues in which the credit is a bit player. The benefit comes if electric-car technology gets cheap enough to stand on its own, providing a way to trim U.S. dependency on foreign oil, now two-thirds of our use, some of it from countries hostile to us. There’s plenty of skepticism, but the automakers are optimistic enough to invest in the technology, betting that rising oil prices will boost sales, as they did with hybrids.

One of the best arguments for tax breaks is that they helped get the hybrid market where it is today, along with gas prices and the fact that some states allowed hybrid drivers access to HOV lanes.

Those hybrid tax breaks have been phasing out as the law required — just as the tax breaks for electric cars are required to do. Electric cars must eventually live or die without government help.

As the writer of the opposing view argues, there are compelling arguments against the new cars — but there are equally compelling arguments against every other alternative to the status quo as well. Nuclear is too dangerous, coal too dirty, solar and wind too unreliable, offshore oil drilling too risky and so on.

But the most compelling argument is that the status quo — more and more foreign oil — is unsustainable. Electric cars might not be the answer, but they are an answer, and that makes them worth a try.

SOURCE:

Introducing the Lexus CT Hybrid

By dancurranjr On December 22nd, 2010

Lexus is going to try to sell the CT as a value proposition. “For just $1,000 more than the cost of a non-luxury hybrid, buyers can indulge in a CT 200h with our proven Lexus Hybrid Drive technology,” said Mark Templin, group vice president and general manager, Lexus Division. He says Lexus hybrids currently make up 90% of all luxury hybrid sales in the U.S.

Hybrid Namplate

Let’s break down that name. The “ES” portion is obvious enough, as is the appended “h,” which is attached to the end of every Lexus hybrid nameplate. We can safely assume that the “300″ in between—like the digits in other Lexus hybrids—refers to a faux engine displacement. Fearless prediction: an ES300h would use a four-cylinder engine paired with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system. This could either be a straight swiping of the
Low Cost Of Entry

In some ways it’s not surprising that the Lexus CT 200h bears such a low cost of entry. The vehicle is clearly youth-oriented, in a way that only the brand’s IS sedan, coupe and convertible have been up until this time, and its small dimensions would also seem to suggest a more affordable sticker. However, the CT 200h is a hybrid, and in the luxury world gasoline / electric automobiles are almost always saddled with higher than average price tags. Not only that, but the CT 200h is also positioned as a hybrid that offers an engaging, even sporty driving experience, qualities that frequently command a premium. This combination of affordability, enthusiast-oriented design and hybrid drivetrain serve to mark the Lexus CT 200h as a unique player in the eco-luxury segment.

Power

However, seeing as it’s the power that Lexus is boasting about, we pretty much have to focus on how the new engine improves the LS 460. Umm, it doesn’t, actually. It’s still as great as ever, not noticeably any quicker, and as quiet and pampering as you’d expect. Maybe the six-and-a-half second sprint to 100kph should mean something to me, but I spent all my time with the LS 460 as any normal owner would; wafting about at quarter-throttle and nodding off at every traffic light. I did like the ‘eco mode’ feature, but that’s always been there, and even with it on you hardly save any fuel shoving a 1,945kg heap of steel down the highway.

SOURCE: AOMIDNews

http://aomid.com/lexus-is-really-making-2011-the-year-of-the-hybrid/225327/

New Features and Cheaper Base Model for 2011 Honda Insight

By dancurranjr On December 1st, 2010

The slow-selling Honda Insight hasn’t exactly stolen any of the Toyota Prius’ thunder since its introduction last year, and with new green cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf ready to join the battle, the future of Honda’s hybrid hatch doesn’t look too bright. Still, the Japanese automaker has given the Insight a host of improvements for the 2011 model year, including a new base model that retails for $18,950 (including the $750 destination charge).

So, what do you lose gain with the base Insight? For starters, a downgraded stereo system is on hand, with a single CD player and two – yes, two – speakers. Audiophiles need not apply. Remote entry is standard on the base Insight, but if you want amenities like cruise control, a USB audio interface, center armrest and floor mats, you’ll need to opt for the mid-grade LX trim. In other words, the new price leader is something of a municipal and fleet special. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the pricier EX now comes standard with steering wheel-mounted audio controls and can be optioned with navigation.

The Insight’s 1.3-liter inline-four with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist carries over largely unchanged, with fuel economy rated at 40/43 miles per gallon, city/highway.

SOURCE: Autoblog

Tata To Introduce Hybrid Version of Nano

By dancurranjr On December 3rd, 2009

tata-nanoThe producer of the “world’s cheapest car,” the Tata Group, has announced its plans to produce a hybrid Nano. According to the company, the hybrid Nano will allow them to join the dozens of automakers that are producing hybrid vehicles. The company is India’s largest auto maker and Americans may be most familiar with its Jaguar Land Rover brand.

However, this is not the company’s first foray into the new green car sector, as earlier this year, the company announced that it may begin selling its Indica Vista EV, all-electric vehicle in Europe as soon as the end of this year.

As reported by the Maeil Business Newspaper, Tata Group Chairman, Ratan Tata said that in Mumbai, “low-priced goods would create stronger demand than high-end products in India, and the so-called low-price revolution would continue across the world.”

The Nano sells for approximately $2,000 US dollars and its high sales have helped the company see growing profits. In fact, Tata recently announced that it is considering letting other companies manufacture and sell the Nano under individual brands. Staying with its mission of manufacturing affordable cars, Ratan Tata said that the hybrid version would also be affordable but declined to name a price range.

In addition to being a player in the auto industry, the Tata Group is looking into South American biofuels investments in Brazil and Argentina, and has made significant inroads in the U.S. telecommunications business.

While the company has no plans to sell the Nano in the states, it will be of interest to watch if the country’s growing demand for affordable hybrids will spur Tata Group to enter the American market with the world’s “cheapest hybrid car.”

SOURCE: Gas 2.0