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:

Toyota to Launch Prius Plug-in by 2012 in all Major Markets

By dancurranjr On December 24th, 2010

“Green Thinking” and development of nature friendly hybrid cars in the coming years is going to become a top priority for all the automakers. So says the Japanese company Toyota, which is one of the pioneers in the field of ‘green’ cars and is planning to bring hybrid car Prius by 2012 in a big way.

Now, while evaluating the results of this year, it is evident that Toyota has made huge investments in the development of innovative, and nature friendly technologies. In order to explore vast potentials of eco-cars, the company has set before it a large number of tasks for the next two years.

By the end of 2012, the world should see 11 brand new and updated hybrid models. Also in 2012, the company plans to begin intensive selling of Prius Plug-in model simultaneously in Europe, Japan and the U.S.: it is estimated that they will be able to sell about 50 thousand cars per year. In 2015, Toyota plans to release a model with a hydrogen engine mounted under the hood. Next year 2011, for strengthening the positive image of alternative technologies, Toyota iQ (in the electric version) will be included in the European program of road tests.

This year, as in the past, Toyota continues to develop new technologies. One of the promising areas is its development of new generation of batteries, which by their performance will be much better than the currently available lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are now being used in Toyota Prius Plug-in models. By the way, in order to evaluate the use of new generation of batteries in the automotive industry, earlier this year the company created a special organizational unit, bringing together a team of 100 people.

Toyota’s management is confident that eco-cars can have a positive effect on the state of nature, only if they would be used by maximum possible people in the world. Moreover, if the demand will be higher, more people will opt for the cars with new technologies thereby eventually leading to lowers costs.

SOURCE: Seer

Cadillac SRX Crossover Plug-In Hybrid Under Development

By dancurranjr On December 23rd, 2010

According to US reports, GM’s luxury car faculty, Cadillac, could be about to bring out a new plug-in hybrid luxury SUV using technology also seen on the Chevrolet Volt. The car in question is expected to be based on the Cadillac SRX Crossover concept first unveiled at the Detroit motor show in 2008.

Reports say GM internal sources have confirmed production for the new model and say it will use some of the technology from the Volt to help keep development costs down. The car is also said to be based on a since scrapped project which started in 2008, based on a Buick vehicle.

A Cadillac hybrid SUV would provide the market with a rival to Toyota’s luxury off-road hybrid Lexus RX vehicles, although the Cadillac version will have the upper hand since it will be a plug-in hybrid using range-extending technology. GM does see Toyota as its main competitor in terms of sales though.

If the project does go ahead, it will be the first range-extending, plug-in hybrid luxury SUV on the market. Speculators say it certainly could take some of the Prius sales away from Toyota in the future.

Since the plans haven’t officially been made public, a release date is yet to be estimated. We’ll keep you updated though.

SOURCE: CarAdvice

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/

Honda Planning a Major Jump in Hybrid Sales in Japan in 2011

By dancurranjr On December 20th, 2010

Honda will put pedal to the metal in Japan next year when a new and bigger range of hybrid models will land on the market.

Joining the CR-Z and Fit Hybrid on the scene will be a hybridized version of the Freed, Honda’s quirky small domestic van. Honda will also introduce a stretched wagon version of the Fit hybrid for domestic consumption, according to sources. The front half of the body will be stock, but overall length will stretch by more than 2 feet.

The Fit hybrid wagon is expected out in March, while the Freed hybrid will arrive later, around fall 2011.

The redesigned Civic Hybrid, to be unveiled in January at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show and tipped to be the first Honda hybrid to get a lithium-ion battery pack, will be another 2011 debut, but Japan, in fact, might not get it.

Having announced the end of Civic sales in Japan and with that longer Fit hybrid wagon in the wings, Honda may feel that it doesn’t need the new Civic Hybrid in Japan anymore, not even as an iconic stand-alone model.

Honda will also have the Insight to fall back on, of course, and the good news there is that that to-date lackluster model is due for a major revamp next July.

Toyota will counter with a hybrid version of the new Vitz (Yaris) and Mazda is promising a face-lifted Mazda 2 with the automaker’s new Skyactiv G gas engine that can achieve hybrid-type economy without the weight and complexity of battery and motor.

Add it up and, although the technology is light and compact, Honda’s IMA hybrids have yet to truly catch on and/or frighten Toyota, the market leader. So will 2011 at last be the turning point for Honda?

Inside Line says: The new Honda hybrids could be big in Japan where the word “hybrid” is a major come-on, but in the U.S., given the inevitable price premium for the technology, such small gasoline-electric models could be a harder sell.

SOURCE: InsideLine.com