~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0047 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [[email protected]]

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IN THIS ISSUE:
Game Over for Gas Guzzling

On May 19, President Obama raised the fuel efficiency requirements of cars and trucks to an average of 35.5 mpg by 2016. So long V8s. Hello hybrids.

Hybrid Cars Are Red Hot in Japan
In April, the Honda Insight was the number one selling passenger car in Japan. In May, it was the 2010 Prius.

Honda Fit Hybrid on Fast Track
Honda plans to roll out a gas-electric hybrid version of the Fit in Japan in fall 2010—about a year and a half ahead of the original schedule.

Will the Chevy Volt Survive Bankruptcy?
In the direct aftermath of General Motors filing for Chapter 11, the fate of the Chevy Volt remains unclear—and GM’s ability to move forward on the Volt, to some degree, rests in the hands of the Obama Administration.

Ford’s Plain Vanilla EV
The Ford Focus EV, due out in late 2011, is the first electric car designed for the generic aisle of the dealership.

Volvo Gets Serious about Plug-in Hybrids
Consider the possibilities of a Volvo V70 wagon equipped with plug-in capacity, the ability to go 30 or so miles on electricity alone, and the rest of the power coming from an efficient diesel engine.

Top Seven Issues for an Electric Car Conversion
What if you can’t wait two or three years for an EV? We take a look at what it will take to convert a gas vehicle to all-electric.

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
We interrupt this newsletter greeting to inform you that HybridCars.com has just launched its own car comparison tool. This will make it very easy for you to review the pros and cons of up to three different green cars, as well as likely fuel use, fuel cost, and annual greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll also be able to see a long list of detailed side-by-side photos of the three cars. For example, you can compare the Prius, Fusion and Insight:

https://www.hybridcars.com/comparison/prius/fusion/insight

Or the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Saturn Vue Hybrid:

https://www.hybridcars.com/comparison/escape/highlander/vue

Also a note to hybrid drivers in Northern California: AAA has two hybrid driver training courses coming up right away. June 11 in Santa Clara and June 13 in Sacramento. Both are free. Register and learn about upcoming classes in Nevada and Utah:
http://www.aaa.com/hybridtraining.

We now return to the hybrid car revolution already in progress, with news about higher fuel efficiency standards, new hybrids and EVs in the works, and what you can do to convert a gas-powered car into an all-electric, emissions-free road warrior. Enjoy.

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Game Over for Gas Guzzling, With New Auto Efficiency Rules
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/game-over-gas-guzzling-new-auto-efficiency-rules-25812.html

President Barack Obama announced last month that his administration will enact dramatically tougher fuel economy standards and the first-ever greenhouse gas pollution mandates for cars. He made the announcement at a press conference attended by auto executives, labor leaders, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

The proposal will require carmakers to reach an average of 27.3 mpg by 2011, and 35.5 mpg by 2016—four years faster than previously scheduled. This means an average of 39 mpg for cars, and 30 mpg for trucks and SUVs. Currently, cars must average 27.5 mpg and trucks must get 24 mpg.

The increase to 39 mpg within one or two product cycles will mean a radical change to product lineups—effectively requiring the discontinuation of the worst gas-guzzlers and the introduction of a wide array of fuel-saving technologies in vehicles of all sizes. John DeCicco, senior fellow for automotive strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the announcement represents a major breakthrough. “It will give a boost to hybrid technologies as well as to advanced engines, lightweight materials and other engineering solutions,” DeCicco told HybridCars.com. “It’ll be important for helping the Detroit automakers develop much more robust recovery plans, and of course it’s a huge step forward for climate protection.”

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/game-over-gas-guzzling-new-auto-efficiency-rules-25812.html

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Hybrid Cars Are Red Hot in Japan
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/hybrid-cars-are-red-hot-japan-25810.html

Japanese carmakers are widely recognized as the world’s leading exporters of hybrid cars. But their key strategic advantage may become their ability to sell hybrid gas-electric vehicles to Japanese consumers. In April, Honda sold 10,481 units of the new Honda Insight in Japan—double its monthly sales target—marking the first time a hybrid was Japan’s monthly bestseller, not including minicars. Toyota sold 10,915 Prius cars in May in Japan, more than a five-fold increase from the previous month. That means for the second straight month, a hybrid car topped the sales charts in Japan.

The Associated Press reported that advanced orders for the new Prius have topped 110,000 units, and Toyota is increasing its global production of the Prius this year from 400,000 to 500,000. And this is in the environment of the worst auto market in a generation?

These numbers suggest that Japan’s hybrid market is quickly catching up to the American market in terms of size, despite Japan’s overall vehicle market being less than half the size of the American market. In 2007, five times as many hybrid gas-electric cars were sold in the United States than in Japan. In 2008, the ratio was closer to 3-to-1. Given the fierce battle between the new Honda Insight and the new Toyota Prius for domestic sales, Japan will gain even more ground this year.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/hybrid-cars-are-red-hot-japan-25810.html

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Honda Fit Hybrid on Fast Track
https://www.hybridcars.com/compacts-sedans/honda-fit-hybrid.html

HybridCars.com reported in 2006 that Honda was planning a hybrid version of the Fit. That news flash was based on an exclusive interview with an unidentified source—but company officials denied the report. “We’re not thinking of a Jazz (Fit) hybrid right now,” said Takeo Fukui, Honda president and CEO, in December 2006. “To us, the Jazz has sufficient fuel efficiency with the current gasoline engine.”

Fukui reversed his story in May 2008 when he told reporters that the spike in crude oil prices convinced Honda that “a Fit hybrid is now starting to make sense.” A year later, almost to the day, Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported that Honda plans to roll out a gas-electric hybrid version of the Fit in Japan in fall 2010—about a year and a half ahead of the original schedule.

The story in 2006 suggested that the Fit would use the original Honda Insight drivetrain. Reports that the Fit Hybrid would sell in the $12,000 range seem exaggerated—but even with a hybrid premium of a few thousand dollars, it’s reasonable to assume that the Fit Hybrid would sell for considerably less than the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid—and maybe even less than the 2010 Honda Insight. At the same time, it’s likely that the Honda Fit Hybrid’s mileage will exceed all other hybrids.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/compacts-sedans/honda-fit-hybrid.html

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Will the Chevy Volt Survive Bankruptcy?
https://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/will-chevy-volt-survive-bankruptcy-25836.html

In the direct aftermath of General Motors filing for Chapter 11, the fate of the Chevy Volt remains unclear. The Volt, a plug-in hybrid that promises 40 miles of gas-free, all-electric driving, is considered a Hail Mary pass for market relevance that the old GM never got a chance to throw. The ability to move forward on the Volt, to some degree, rests in the hands of the Obama Administration. The fate of the Volt also represents a potential conflict of interest for the federal government, which will need to balance its interest in leading GM toward financial viability with its political agenda to have US automakers produce the next generation of advanced fuel-efficient vehicles.

GM’s chief executive, Fritz Henderson, defended the company’s fuel-efficient technologies in his remarks following Obama’s presentation about the bankruptcy filing. Henderson said, “Between demand and the requirements of the law, the fuel efficiency of our vehicles is going to improve. I think the technologies we’re investing in, whether it’s the Volt, whether it’s hybrid technologies, whether it’s basic research, is all important to get that accomplished.”

As GM works its way out of bankruptcy, the symbolism of the Volt could play a role for the company’s future. But the much bigger and more immediate impact to the bottom line will come from GM producing leaner and meaner fuel-efficient cars for its entire lineup.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/will-chevy-volt-survive-bankruptcy-25836.html

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Ford’s Plain Vanilla EV
https://www.hybridcars.com/vehicle/ford-focus-ev.html

Many electric car companies are still trying to compensate for “glorified golf cart syndrome.” It’s a kind of inferiority complex that pushes them to produce ultra-hip, spectacularly innovative, or screaming fast electric vehicles—and to brand them as revolutionary—even though it drives the cost up and out of range for most consumers. What about folks who simply want an affordable, dressed-down, highway-capable family sedan that runs on electric drive technology that’s been proven to work for 100 years?

The answer could be the Ford Focus EV due out in late 2011—the first electric car designed for the generic aisle of the dealership. Ford’s plans for the Focus EV are not aimed at buzz and sizzle. Instead, the company is focused on addressing the biggest obstacle between EVs and the mainstream: cost.

The Ford Focus EV will be based on the next-generation Ford Focus, a capable if not head-turning car. By choosing an existing platform, Ford will save the expense associated with developing a unique design. The second cost-cutting measure is Ford’s use of generic pre-made electric car technology. In other words, Ford is using a system developed by Magna International, a major global auto supply and technology firm, which has been looking for a carmaker to use its pre-packaged electric car architecture, including motor, transmission, motor controller, lithium ion battery system and charger. Ford is the first to sign on.

Ford is gambling that the cool factor lies in the technology and price, not in the car’s name or the shape of the sheet metal. Pricing is not yet announced, but trimming the cost obviously will give Ford the ability to aim for affordability and profitability.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/vehicle/ford-focus-ev.html

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Volvo Gets Serious about Plug-in Hybrids
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/volvo-gets-serious-plug-hybrids-25842.html

When Volvo announced plans earlier last week to produce a plug-in diesel hybrid, green car fans understandably got excited. Consider the possibilities of a safe, stylish and highly functional Volvo V70 wagon—but one with plug-in capacity, the ability to go 30 or so miles on electricity alone, and the rest of the power coming from an efficient diesel engine. Media reports said this would be “a reality” by 2012.

At the press conference, Volvo chief executive Stephen Odell said, “This is a significant leap compared to our earlier plans of offering a regular full-hybrid on the market by 2012.” Volvo engineers now are working feverishly to achieve that goal. What you may not know is that Volvo is hardly a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to plug-in hybrids. As far back as 1992, Volvo—with its ECC, Environmental Concept Car—had identified hybrids as the most promising future auto technology.

The company admits that a diesel vehicle with a lithium ion battery will be expensive—and that’s the main point of the company’s announcement this week. Volvo hopes to gain a better understanding of the driving and charging habits of plug-in drivers. In this way, it can refine the design of its plug-in hybrid and determine if the lithium ion battery—the most expensive component in a plug-in hybrid or electric car—can be made smaller.

The announcement about Volvo’s plug-in hybrid test program comes at a time when the company’s future is uncertain. Ford, its parent company, is shopping the brand and there are reportedly several interested buyers. The severing of ties with the US auto company allows Volvo to fully reclaim its Swedish identity—and fully adopt the Swedish government’s goal of becoming the world’s first oil-free economy by 2020.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/volvo-gets-serious-plug-hybrids-25842.html

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Top Seven Issues for an Electric Car Conversion
https://www.hybridcars.com/decision-process/top-7-issues-electric-car-conversion-25839.html

Major auto companies—like Ford, Chevy and Nissan—plan to roll out the next generation of practical, affordable plug-in cars in 2011 or 2012. But what if you can’t wait two or three years for an EV? Or if you don’t have deep enough pockets for a Tesla? What if you don’t believe the car companies’ press releases? There’s an answer for those skeptics and impatient souls: An electric car conversion. But be prepared for major compromises to test the limits of your skepticism and impatience.

After speaking with three experts in the field of electric car conversions, we were able to distill seven critical steps/issues. Here are two:

Choose A Donor Car – Nearly any four-cylinder, manual transmission vehicle can work, but you’ll probably want to use a model that others have converted before. Go with an affordable compact car, like a Chevy Aveo, Geo Metro, or Honda Civic, if economics and efficiency are your top concern. If you are trying to maximize driving range, go with a small pickup that has room for all the batteries. A Chevy S10 or Ford Ranger are common choices.

Calculate Costs – The cost of doing an electric car conversion (DC system) on your own, according to our three experts, is between $8,000 and $11,000—not including the donor car. If you hire a company to do the conversion, expect to spend in the range of $12,000 and $18,000, including all the necessary parts and labor

Check out all the issues in detail, including how to choose the right technology and shop for a conversion company:
https://www.hybridcars.com/decision-process/top-7-issues-electric-car-conversion-25839.html

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WRAP-UP

Obama set the target. And as you can see, every carmaker is aiming to hit it as soon as possible. The government is applying pressure from above, and everyday folks (including those converting old cars into electric drive vehicles) are pushing from below. As this newsletter goes out, the price of oil is passing $70 a barrel. Do you get the feeling that the dominos are starting to fall? We’ll keep an eye on things and report back to you in our next newsletter. Thanks for your interest.

Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]