~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0049 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [[email protected]]

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IN THIS ISSUE:
Nissan Unveils All-Electric Nissan Leaf, Hedges with Hybrids

Nissan has been focusing on all-electric vehicles, but now says it will make more hybrids.

New Honda President: “Our Theme is Hybrids”
Honda’s new president Takanobu Ito promised on July 13 to speed up production of hybrid cars.

Toyota Plans a Subcompact Hybrid
Toyota plans to launch a new $16,000 subcompact hybrid, using the platform and engine of the Yaris subcompact.

How Congress Saved Fuel Cells, Ethanol And the Pickens Plan
Despite recent setbacks, proponents of hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol, and compressed natural gas aren’t yet ready to give up.

Is It Time for An Open-Source Car?
Could “open source” or “crowdsourcing” concepts be the keys to making the next great hybrid, plug-in, or fuel cell car?

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
The three major Japanese companies are intensifying their hybrid efforts—with a focus on making small high-mpg hybrids. We’ve yet to see smaller cars—subcompacts the size of a Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris—equipped with a hybrid system. Domestic and European carmakers are aiming for more hybrids and plug-in cars of all sizes, but political forces are reluctant to let go of less feasible or beneficial alternatives. Lobbyists are working double-time to make sure that hydrogen, ethanol and compressed natural gas are not pushed aside—as hybrids and plug-in cars begin to take dominance. We take a look at these trends—and the possibility that a completely open vehicle development system might emerge in the coming years. Enjoy.

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Nissan Unveils All-Electric Nissan Leaf, Hedges with Hybrids
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/reversing-track-nissan-plans-more-hybrids-25934.html

For the past few years, Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan, has consistently called gas-electric hybrids “niche products” and “not a good business story.” But the popularity of hybrids, especially in Japan, is apparently pulling Nissan into the hybrid market.

On July 17, a Nissan spokesman told Bloomberg News that the automaker is “studying possibilities to put our hybrid system in other models” in addition to the Nissan Altima Hybrid and a future luxury hybrid. According to Nissan, no definite decisions about which models will become hybrids have been made.

Nissan has been licensing Toyota’s hybrid technology for use in the Altima Hybrid, which is sold in eight states in the United States. In August 2008, Nissan announced that it will develop its own hybrid technology, featuring lithium ion batteries, rear-wheel drive and a parallel hybrid powertrain. Nissan will begin selling hybrids based on its own homegrown technology in Japan in 2011. A new report from Nikkei indicated that a minivan could be Nissan’s first hybrid in Japan.

Nissan unveiled the design of the Nissan Leaf, its first all-electric sedan on August 2—and is targeting its first sales in 2010 in Japan, with a roll out to fleets in the US around 2012.

See photos and video of the Nissan Leaf:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/nissan-unveils-affordable-electric-car-nissan-leaf-25950.html

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/reversing-track-nissan-plans-more-hybrids-25934.html

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New Honda President: “Our Theme is Hybrids”
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/new-honda-president-our-theme-hybrids-25915.html

Honda’s new president Takanobu Ito promised on July 13 to speed up production of hybrid cars. Ito said that Honda will offer a CR-Z hybrid in Japan in February 2010, followed by a hybrid version of the company’s best-selling compact, Honda Fit, before the end of 2010.

According to the Associated Press, Ito said hybrids are crucial to the future of the auto industry—and projected that nearly every model from every automaker will be offered as a hybrid over the next 20 years. “There are some issues left to overcome on battery and motor technology, so it won’t happen overnight,” Ito said, sitting next to a blue Insight in a Tokyo showroom. “Our theme is hybrids.”

The CR-Z hybrid will be sold in North America and Europe, but Ito did not provide a release date. The Honda Fit Hybrid will also be offered in North America. The company is focusing on hybrid versions of smaller cars, but is also developing a hybrid system suited to mid-size and large vehicles.

“Applying the hybrid system to smaller vehicles will help Honda boost sales,” said Yoshihiro Okumura, a funds manager at Tokyo-based Chiba-gin Asset Management Co. “Once the US market starts to pick up, they’ll be well-positioned,” Okumura told Bloomberg.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/new-honda-president-our-theme-hybrids-25915.html

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Toyota Plans a Subcompact Hybrid
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/toyota-plans-subcompact-hybrid-25944.html

Sales of the Toyota Prius went through the roof in July. Prius sales rose by 47.5 percent for the month and were up 29.7 percent from July 2008. Is Toyota going to rest on the laurels of the Prius? Not according to Japan’s Asahi newspaper, which reported in late July that Toyota plans to launch a new $16,000 subcompact hybrid. The car, expected in late 2011, will use the platform and engine of the Yaris subcompact—but will feature a unique name, design, and a hybrid system that is more cost-competitive than the company’s other hybrid models. The Toyota subcompact hybrid will be produced in Japan, and in France for the European market, according to Asahi. Toyota did not comment on the story.

The focus on a smaller size and lower cost is an attempt to compete against Honda’s upcoming small hybrids, the Honda Fit Hybrid and Honda CR-Z Hybrid. However, the 2010 Honda Insight—the smallest and least expensive hybrid currently available in the US market—has not sold well. Honda was targeting 100,000 Insight sales in the US in the first 12 months, but based on average monthly sales of 2,000 to 2,500 units, will miss the mark by a wide margin. However, the Honda Insight has been a hit in Japan—thanks to government incentives and gas prices of about $4.50 a gallon.

New subcompact hybrids could immediately rise to the top of fuel economy rankings—50 mpg or higher—while maintaining a price lower than any other current hybrid. Those small hybrids will also help carmakers meet new stricter fuel economy and carbon emission standards.

An unidentified Toyota source later told Autocar that the timing of a Yaris-esque hybrid was inaccurately reported. The source said, “Smaller cars are more likely to benefit from hybrid systems further into the future.”

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/toyota-plans-subcompact-hybrid-25944.html

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How Congress Saved Fuel Cells, Ethanol And the Pickens Plan
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/how-congress-saved-hydrogen-fuel-cells-ethanol-and-pickens-plan-25914.html

With the first wave of mass-marketed plug-in hybrids just two years away, lithium ion batteries and electric drivetrains are looking more and more like the short-term winners of the technology race to replace gasoline in the United States. But proponents of hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol, and compressed natural gas aren’t yet ready to give up—and their influence in Washington doesn’t appear to be shrinking.

In May, shortly after the Department of Energy decided to cut federal funding for hydrogen fuel cell research, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told The MIT Technology Review that fuel cells were still too far off to be an immediate priority for funding. Nevertheless, the House Appropriations Committee voted in mid-July to restore $40 million in fuel cell funding that the Department of Energy had stripped from its budget proposal.

The Senate Water and Energy Appropriations Committee has also recommended increasing spending on the technology increase to $190 million for 2010. Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan has long been one of the technology’s biggest cheerleaders, so it’s no wonder that four of the senator’s top 20 campaign contributors are involved in some way in fuel cell research.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson led a group of lawmakers from agriculture states who threatened to kill the climate bill if more protections for ethanol producers and farmers weren’t added. They apparently got their wish. The EPA’s proposed rule change has been pushed back by at least five years so that land use issues can receive “further study” from the Agriculture and Energy departments. Three major lobbying coalitions employing several prominent former politicians exist to defend ethanol interests in Washington. Throw in the more than $1.1 billion that agriculture corporations like Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto have spent on lobbying activities.

Despite a litany of setbacks for supporters of Compressed Natural Gas for use in vehicles, including the collapse of the capital markets and billions of dollars in loses for T. Boone Pickens and his investment firm, the 80-year-old billionaire remains optimistic about his plan—and some members of congress seem to agree. First introduced in the House of Representatives in April, the NAT GAS Act may find its way into the final version of the Senate climate bill, which would greatly increase its chances of becoming law. Backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and key Senate Republican Orrin Hatch, the legislation would create a long list of tax credits for natural gas vehicle purchases and conversions.

Get the details:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/how-congress-saved-hydrogen-fuel-cells-ethanol-and-pickens-plan-25914.html

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Is It Time for An Open-Source Car?
https://www.hybridcars.com/types-systems/is-it-time-for-open-source-car-25942.html

In the Internet age, a company with limited funds and no track record can build a successful business with nothing more than a good idea and some powerful technology. It’s not easy, but it can be done. The same entrepreneurial spirit is coming to the auto industry. As cars become more and more like high-tech gadgets on wheels, a crop of new companies is trying to put “open source” or “crowdsourcing” concepts to use in making the next great hybrid, plug-in, or fuel cell car.

Three of these companies—Riversimple, OScar, and Local Motors—are up and running, but far from the practical step of actually building cars, much less becoming viable businesses. The stated goal of Riversimple is not to sell fuel cell cars, but to share its many design concepts so that other companies can build their versions. For the OScar Car (as in operating system car) Project, the mission is to build a car “without an engineering center, without a boss, without money, and without borders…but with the help of the collective creativity of the Internet community,” according to its manifesto. And Local Motors asks automotive designers to upload images of their creations. Web visitors vote for which design should be put into production.

It remains to be seen if any of these open source cars see the light of day. But their existence—and the ideas that power them—shows there’s never been a better time for enterprising souls (and companies) with a passion for cars and sustainability. What’s your big idea?

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/types-systems/is-it-time-for-open-source-car-25942.html

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WRAP-UP
That’s the story. More hybrids and plug-in cars on the way. Other alternatives fighting not to get lost in the shuffle. And a world of possibilities driven by fresh new ideas.

Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]