~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0048 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [[email protected]]
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IN THIS ISSUE:
June Hybrid Sales Up From a Year Ago

June marks the sixth consecutive month of higher hybrid sales.

Cash For Clunkers is a Disappointment
In late June, President Barack Obama signed into law the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program (CARS). Its detractors are labeling it a classic waste of government money—and many supporters are wondering what went wrong.

GM Cuts Current Mild Hybrid System, Prepares for Another
GM is cutting back on technologies that are expensive and unsuccessful to make room for new and improved versions.

Criticism Hurled at Honda Insight
When the Insight was first introduced, the automotive press gushed with praise. Now reviewers are saying that Honda’s new hybrid is too small, underpowered, and buzzy.

Plug-in Hybrid Fever Spreads
Plug-ins are gaining momentum: plug-in hybrids from GM, Toyota, and Hyundai are slated for 2012 or earlier.

McDonald’s Deploys Plug-in Car Charging Station
The installation of the first car charging station at a McDonald’s is seen as a sign of the potential widespread adoption of cars that can be powered by electricity.

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
Hybrids sales are picking up again, decisively beating the overall car market. While government incentives like “Cash for Clunkers” are unlikely to accelerate growth in hybrid sales, the writing is already on the wall. The auto industry is moving steadily toward greener technologies, bringing down the cost of hybrids, and putting out new models that can run on electricity from the grid. A new charging station at the McDonald’s in Cary, N.C., shows just how mainstream hybrids and plug-in cars could become. This issue provides further evidence of the changes afoot. Enjoy.

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June Hybrid Sales Up From a Year Ago
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/june-hybrid-sales-year-ago-25900.html

Hybrid car sales in June were up 9 percent from a year ago and rose 2 percent compared to last month—outperforming the overall new car market that was down 28 percent from June 2008 and off 7 percent from May. June hybrid sales suggest that hybrids are recovering more quickly than the overall car market—just as they defied the economic downturn several months after overall car sales started to decline in 2008. June marks the sixth consecutive month of higher hybrid sales.

Nationally, car dealers sold 26,205 hybrids in June, the highest one-month total in 13 months. Hybrid car sales numbers exceeded 3 percent of the new car market, and could reflect the beginning of an anticipated long-term trend in which hybrid market share grows by as much as 1 percent every year. Dozens of new hybrid models will be introduced in the next few years. The world’s largest carmakers are significantly investing in increased production capacity for hybrid cars and advanced auto batteries.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/june-hybrid-sales-year-ago-25900.htm
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All the sales numbers:
https://www.hybridcars.com/hybrid-sales-dashboard/june-2009-dashboard.html

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Cash for Clunkers Is a Disappointment
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/obama-signs-cash-clunkers-mixed-reviews-25882.html

In late June, President Barack Obama signed into law the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program (CARS), or “Cash for Clunkers.” Its detractors are labeling it a classic waste of government money—and many supporters are wondering what went wrong.
When economist Alan Binder first proposed the scrappage program in a July 2008 New York Times op-ed piece, a struggling auto industry banded together with emissions hawks to champion a potential victory for both the economy and the environment. Is the law a victory for the partnership—or a clunker itself? That depends on who you ask.

For the auto industry—whose support for the bill came not only from Detroit but from Japan as well—the essential mission of this law was luring Americans back into dealerships to buy cars. To that end, any trade-in program would have been a step in the right direction. But Detroit worried that if fuel economy standards were set too high, it would drive consumers toward foreign car companies like Toyota and Honda, whose offerings are generally more fuel efficient than their American counterparts.

Enter Representatives Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who co-sponsored the version of the bill that eventually passed. Stabenow’s version of the bill increased the maximum fuel economy of cars eligible for trade-in to 18 mpg and decreased the incentive to buy truly fuel-efficient cars by reducing the minimum improvement to 4 mpg. Boosters of the American auto industry would have liked to have the bill cover only domestic cars—a violation of international trade laws—but with the incentive to buy Priuses and Insights gone, Detroit’s only qualm might now be that the program’s total funding was slashed to $1 billion—less than a quarter of the proposed $4.5 billion.

Not as many people are eligible to benefit as would under previous versions, and the required fuel efficiency improvements are minimal. But for those driving true relics, an extra few thousand dollars on top of the steep discounts dealers are already offering may finally make this the right time to buy or lease a new car.

Learn how to take advantage of Cash for Clunkers:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/how-cash-your-clunker-25875.html

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GM Cuts Current Mild Hybrid System, Prepares for Another
https://www.hybridcars.com/carmakers/chevy-axes-malibu-hybrid-25859.html

General Motors announced that it will stop making mild hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn Aura in the United States, and will phase out production of the Buick LaCrosse mild hybrid in China. It is one more sign that GM is cutting back on programs and technologies that are expensive and unsuccessful—in the same way that it’s reducing unprofitable brands and dealerships.

GM cited poor sales of the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid as the reason for cutting the car. Company officials said inventory of the Malibu Hybrid is backing up on dealers’ lots. Stopping production of the Malibu Hybrid and Buick LaCrosse Hybrid in China, as well as GM’s sale of the entire Saturn brand, effectively pulls the plug on the company’s existing mild hybrid technology.

GM is promising a new mild hybrid powertrain utilizing a lithium ion battery. The system would be introduced in the summer of 2010, but the company has not revealed which vehicles will receive the new hybrid treatment. “It will be more than one vehicle from more than one brand,” a GM representative told HybridCars.com. “But it definitely will not be the Malibu.”

Also:
GM: Buick Plug-in Hybrid Is Pure Speculation
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/gm-buick-plug-hybrid-pure-speculation-25867.html
Auto industry publications reported that an upcoming Buick Crossover due out in 2011 will be the first application of GM’s two-mode plug-in hybrid system—technology that was originally intended for the Saturn Vue. “Those reports are pure speculation,” GM spokesperson, Dayna Hart, told Hybridcars.com.

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Reviewers Hurl Criticism at 2010 Honda Insight
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/honda-insight-vs-critics-25891.html

When the Insight was introduced in early 2009, the media press gushed with praise. Reviewers claimed that the Honda Insight is more compelling and fun to drive than the quintessential gas-electric car, the Toyota Prius, which is bigger, faster, and uses a more sophisticated hybrid technology. Edmunds.com said, “Given its impressive talents and attractive price, it’s hard to fault the 2010 Honda Insight.” But in the past few weeks, a number of critics have found it quite easy to do just that—harshly criticizing the car for the very traits that have allowed Honda to keep down the price.

David Champion, senior director of the Consumer Reports auto test center, said, “The Insight is a noisy, stiff-riding car with clumsy handling that is nothing like the Fit on which it is based.”
Scott Burgess of the Detroit News wrote, “The Insight can feel underpowered at times, especially on the highway.”

UK reviewer Jeremy Clarkson of the popular show (and Web site) “Top Gear” wrote, “The Honda’s petrol engine…makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner.”
Dan Edmunds of Edmunds.com, wrote, “Those approaching 6 feet in height will feel the roof and wish for more legroom.”

Did early praise leave the Honda Insight open to hatchet jobs by contrary reviewers seeking dramatic headlines? Or did it just take time for the press to narrow in on the Insight’s shortcomings?

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/honda-insight-vs-critics-25891.html

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Plug-in Hybrid Fever Spreads
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/plug-hybrid-fever-spreads-despite-cost-25906.html

Most everyone agrees that the next big leap in hybrids—the capacity to plug in to the grid and run mostly on electricity—will be expensive. But that’s not stopping major automakers from pushing forward with plans for plug-in hybrids that promise dramatic increases in fuel efficiency.

General Motors said it’s on track to introduce the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid sedan in late 2010, followed by a plug-in sport-utility vehicle in 2011. Hyundai plans to have a plug-in hybrid on sale by late 2012. Toyota will begin commercial production of plug-in hybrids in 2012, producing between 20,000 and 30,000 units in the first year, according to media reports.

The cost of developing plug-in hybrids, and uncertainty about market acceptance, is not delaying GM’s plans for them—even though the company just emerged from bankruptcy.

Hyundai announced plans for a new plug-in hybrid based on its Blue-Will concept—but does not see the technology as profitable. “We want to be the leader in fuel economy and alternative fuels,” said Yang Woong-chul, president of research and development for Hyundai-Kia Motors. “We want to show our technology and improve our image, not necessarily make money on hybrids.” Hyundai said the Blue-Will will get an estimated 50 to 55 mpg in the hybrid-electric mode and can travel about 38 miles in electric-only mode.

Nikkei reported in early July that Toyota plans to begin commercial production of plug-in hybrids in 2012. Toyota has been slowly evaluating plug-in hybrid concepts, but until now has not committed to a production date. According to Nikkei, Toyota’s plug-ins will run 12 to 18 miles on battery power alone at full charge, and will cost about $48,000.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/plug-hybrid-fever-spreads-despite-cost-25906.html

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McDonald’s Deploys Plug-in Car Charging Station
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/mcdonalds-deploys-its-first-ev-charging-station-25902.html

The McDonald’s restaurant in Cary, N.C., will become the fast food restaurant in more than a decade to offer electric car recharging. The deployment of a ChargePoint charging station for plug-in vehicles is part of the Cary restaurant’s efforts to go green. Ric Richards, the independent owner of the McDonald’s, is building the new restaurant with eco-friendly materials and technologies.

“Our customers will have a dedicated place to park and recharge their vehicles,” said Richards. “McDonald’s is enabling a better environment for future generations by supporting zero-emissions transportation infrastructure.” The new “green” McDonald’s in Cary will open on July 14.

A McDonald’s in Phoenix installed a charging station in the late 1990s to accommodate a previous wave of electric cars. There are also plans to install plug-in car charging stations at McDonald’s locations in Sweden.

Widespread adoption of plug-in cars will partly depend on the establishment of convenient recharging locations where drivers live and work. ChargePoint and other providers are installing its first charging stations to anticipate the introduction of electric cars and plug-in hybrids—not expected in significant numbers until 2011 or later. Analysts forecast that as many as 1 million charging stations will be installed throughout the United States by 2015.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/mcdonalds-deploys-its-first-ev-charging-station-25902.html

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WRAP-UP
There you have it—the state of affairs in the hybrid world, circa July 2009. Hybrid sales are picking up, and the foundation is being laid for the green car revolution. Much depends on gas prices, macro-economic conditions, government incentives, technology advances, and automakers’ delivering on their promise to roll out new hybrids in the coming months and years. Stay tuned.

Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]