Issue 001: Feb. 2004

Newsletter Archive Index

~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0001 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman []

In This Issue:

The Prius Waiting Game (and what you can do while you wait)
A Brief History of Hybrid Cars
When Will American Carmakers Produce a Hybrid?
Hybrid Tax Breaks
Driving Habits and Gas Mileage

Ladies and Gentleman. Start your engines (and electric motors). This is the inaugural issue of the Hybrid Cars Newsletter. Thanks for being a part of the first group to receive what I hope will become a great resource for Hybrid Car enthusiasts. As usual, I’m happy to hear from you, to get feedback, and to accept suggestions for this newsletter and/or

~~ The Prius Waiting Game ~~~

The big hybrid car story of the last several weeks has obviously been the 2004 Toyota Prius. The waiting lists for the Prius were already forming when it took Car of the Year Awards from Motor Trend and the North American International Auto Show. Now, as some of you may be experiencing, the waiting list for a Prius may be as long as six months. Toyota recently announced that it’s increasing 2004 production from 36,000 to 47,000, but that doesn’t help those eager to take advantage of the Prius’s 60 mpg in the city. (Among the untested theories about why Prius under-produced: totally unanticipated market desire, and Toyota loses money on the Prius and wanted to cut losses. Toyota claims that the Prius is profitable.)

It’s not only the Prius gang who’s waiting. A lot of folks send email to me wanting to know when we’re going to see the first Hybrid wagons, mini-vans, pick-ups, and Hybrid SUVs (an oxymoron if ever there was one). Despite the hype already hitting the media, we all may be waiting until late in 2004 before the Lexus and Ford SUVs, and the GM pick-ups are available in the showroom.

What can you do? My suggestions for those wanting to get behind the wheel of hybrid, sooner rather than later:
— Get on the Prius Waiting List Now
— Consider the Honda Civic Hybrid (Available Now)
— Consider a Used Hybrid
— Consider the Ford Focus PZEV (Non-hybrid)

Details at this page:

And while you’re waiting, don’t forget how much impact your driving habits have on fuel efficiency. More on that later.

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~~~ History of Hybrids ~~~

Projections for hybrid sales this year are around 100,000, resulting in Wired Magazine calling 2004 “the year of the Green Machine.” I personally think the explosion will happen in 2005. In any event, I thought it would be interesting to trace the history of hybrid cars back to its beginning. I put together a timeline for your review and commentary.

Here are three highlights to pique your interest:

Robert Anderson of Aberdeen Scotland built the first electric vehicle.

The Pope Manufacturing Company merged with two smaller electric car companies to form Electric Vehicle Company, the first large-scale operation in the American automobile industry. The company had assets of $200 million.

Toyota Motor Corporation announces the "Earth Charter," a document outlining goals to develop and market vehicles with the lowest emissions possible.

Take a look at the complete timeline:

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~~~ When Will American Car Makers Produce a Hybrid? ~~~

Ten years after the U.S. Department of Energy established a “super car” program, tossing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to the big three U.S. carmakers, you still can’t buy an American hybrid. What’s the status of the hybrid programs at Ford, GM, and DaimlerChrysler?

DaimlerChrysler seems to be pushing “clean” diesel over hybrid technology. But is this approach masking problems with their hybrid program? A former hybrid engineer at DaimlerChrysler recently called the program “a charade.”

GM is putting their energy, a billion dollars, and 500 employees to develop cars that run on hydrogen-fuel cars by 2010. One scientist calls this move a strategy “to undermine political momentum to raise fuel economy standards.” GM will focus its upcoming hybrids on big trucks.

Hopefully, Ford will release its Escape SUV Hybrid this summer. They have already postponed its introduction once. They’ll be competing against the luxury Lexus SUV hybrid to become the first gas-electric SUV. In the meantime, they continue to earn most of their revenue from conventional gas-guzzling SUVs.
Read the details:

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~~~ Good Driving Habits Could Give You 10 mpg Boost ~~~

After five months behind the wheel of his Civic Hybrid, Mark Linroth, a self-employed petroleum engineer, sent me some of his observations. I thought you would like to see what he says:

  • The trip computer reads approximately 10% too high on fuel economy compared to the gas tickets (I have always kept a detailed gas log going back to 1980)
  • The best mileage comes not on the interstate but on rural/highway driving where I can take advantage of long (1/2 mile or more) roll-ups to stop-signs and turns
  • Lower temperatures, in the 30s and 40s, reduce my mileage by about 15% (+/- 7-8 mpg)
  • Mileage is much more dependant on driving habits in this car than in others I’ve owned. By the gas tickets, I get between 53-57 mpg in mixed highway/city driving. My wife, taking the same routes gets 43-45 mpg.
  • If you watch the trip computer, you can see that accelerating from a dead stop uses more gasoline than all the rest of the driving in the city does
  • One feature, not related to fuel economy that I absolutely love about the Civic is the DEAD QUIET stops the car makes, plus the ‘silent start’

Mark also offers some humorous comments about saving time with a hybrid:

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~~~ Hybrid Car Tax Breaks ~~~

Believe it or not, tax time is not far off. There have been a number of articles in the press about hybrid car deductions. I’ve put the main points together in a handy-dandy list. Depending on your tax bracket, the deduction could be worth $300 – $500, or more.

By the way, still no decision from the federal government to grant hybrid cars permission to drive solo in the carpool lane, as requested by Arizona, California, and Virginia.

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~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter Wrap-up ~~~

That does it for issue number one. I tried to keep it short and offer links to for those interested in more details. I haven’t established a regular schedule for this newsletter, but I’ll aim for about one a month. For the next issue, I’ve already lined up an interview with an automotive instructor who specializes in training mechanics to service hybrids. What else would you like me to include?

Until next time, take care,

Brad Berman

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