~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0052 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [[email protected]]
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IN THIS ISSUE:
Top Hybrid Rankings from EPA and Consumer Reports

In back-to-back announcements, hybrids were ranked as the most fuel-efficient and the most reliable cars on the road.

Dude, Where’s my Subie Hybrid?
The Subaru personality is urban, progressive, outdoorsy, and family-oriented. Then, why no hybrids?

Key to Hybrid Minivans: Getting Small
Japan has had hybrid minivans for about a decade, but those minivans are much smaller than US models. Is it time to get small?

Tokyo Auto Show Wrap-Up: Plug-ins and Urban Networked Electric Cars
The theme of last month’s 2009 Tokyo Auto Show 2009 was “Fun Driving for Us, Eco Driving for Earth.” That translates to some seriously funky futuristic networked electric cars.

VW Overwhelmed by Demand for Clean Diesel Sportwagen
“The TDI penetration rate was spectacular,” VW told us. “It caught us off guard a little bit.”

Mercedes Takes Hybrid Lead Among European Carmakers
Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, is promising a hybrid version of each of Mercedes’s high-volume cars and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Attack of the Meat-Eating Prius Drivers
Michael Pollan, author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” made this claim: “A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius.” Then, he had to eat his words.

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,

For about a decade, we’ve been watching gas prices move in lock step with interest in hybrids. And once again, gas prices are climbing. Forecasters are predicting oil prices to stay high through the rest of the year, with lots of instability through 2010 and beyond. Unlike previous spikes, the auto industry is preparing for the next one with an unprecedented selection of hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars. Read on to learn about the new players, new segments, and the latest controversies in the hybrid world. Enjoy.

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Top Hybrid Rankings from EPA and Consumer Reports
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/hybrids-dominate-epa-top-10-fuel-economy-list-26168.html
https://www.hybridcars.com/decision-process/consumer-reports-names-honda-insight-most-reliable-car-26207.html

October was a good month for hybrid self-esteem. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but nine of the top 10 vehicles in the Environmental Protection Agency’s new fuel economy rankings for the 2010 model year were hybrid gas-electric vehicles. The list also reveals the trend of more hybrid models coming out from a wider group of automakers. Six different car companies now make hybrids. “There’s now a hybrid for everyone,” the EPA said in releasing the latest findings. “It’s not either a Prius or a Insight anymore.”

The Toyota Prius was once again the leader, with fuel economy of 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. Other vehicles in the top 10 include the Ford Fusion Hybrid and its Mercury Milan twin, the Insight and Civic Hybrid from Honda, and the Nissan Altima. The only non-hybrid on the list was the tiny Smart ForTwo, which is rated at 33 mpg city/41 highway.

Two weeks later, Consumer Reports released results from its annual car reliability survey, and the 2010 Honda Insight scored the highest of any vehicle in predicted reliability. Hybrids dominated the list for reliability—with five of the eight most reliable family cars: Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Among all automakers, Honda was at the top, with every Honda and Acura vehicle surveyed having average or better-than-average predicted reliability. Toyota and Lexus models were right behind, with 98 percent of the models surveyed having average-or-better predicted reliability. Ford secured its position as the only Detroit automaker with world-class reliability. There were no hybrids on the magazine’s least reliable vehicle lists.

When the EPA and CR rankings are read together, hybrid gas-electric cars establish a dominant status as both the most fuel-efficient and most reliable segment of automobiles.

Learn more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/hybrids-dominate-epa-top-10-fuel-economy-list-26168.html
https://www.hybridcars.com/decision-process/consumer-reports-names-honda-insight-most-reliable-car-26207.html

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Dude, Where’s my Subie Hybrid?
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/subaru-executive-confirms-hybrid-plans-26193.html
https://www.hybridcars.com/hybrid-drivers/subaru-fans-where-my-hybrid-26145.html

If ever there was an automotive brand that embodied the spirit of hybrid cars—urban, progressive, outdoorsy, family-oriented—it would be Subaru. Furthermore, Toyota, the hybrid leader, owns 16 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars. Yet, loyal Subaru owners continue to wait in vain for the Japanese company, whose name translates to “unite,” to delivers on its promise to go hybrid.

In May 2009, Subaru announced plans to introduce a gas-electric hybrid car by 2012—but provided no details. Readers of HybridCars.com responded with enthusiasm. Family Guy wrote, “I want it. My 2002 Outback will be 10 years old by 2012. Now, I can look forward to the possibility of replacing my Subaru with a hybrid from Subaru. Woo!” But others appeared tired of waiting. TS wrote, “We leased a 2005 Outback, hoping they’d have a hybrid by the time the lease was up. Didn’t happen. Too bad. Bought a Prius now. They missed a window.” William admonished Subaru, “Toe dipping in the hybrid pool is useless.”

In the run up to last month’s 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, some hybrid fans harbored hope that Subaru would finally pull the wraps off a practical affordable Subaru model heading to a US showroom sometime soon. Instead, the company presented the four-seat Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept, yet another hypothetical rad-cool vehicle with gull-wing doors, lithium ion batteries, and motor-generators in front and back to electrify the company’s signature all-wheel drive and direct fuel-injected Boxer engine.

Then, news finally came. Speaking from the Tokyo Motor Show, Ikuo Mori, president of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru cars, reiterated the company’s hybrid plans, saying that a hybrid would help Subaru meet tougher US fuel economy rules—and it would be on roads by 2012. He did not specify which model would get a hybrid drivetrain, but suggested it would be a smaller vehicle. Mori expressed concern about the company’s ability to meet long-range emissions regulations with its current gasoline engines. “We need a hybrid system.”

Mori’s promise of a 2012 hybrid did not inspire unanimous confidence. A HybridCars.com reader named Skeptic responded: “We’ve been here before. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Get the details:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/subaru-executive-confirms-hybrid-plans-26193.html
https://www.hybridcars.com/hybrid-drivers/subaru-fans-where-my-hybrid-26145.html

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Key to Hybrid Minivans: Getting Small
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/key-hybrid-minivans-getting-small-26178.html

The clamoring of Subaru fans is nothing compared to the pitchfork-level cries of those demanding a hybrid gas-electric minivan. After all, they say, Japan has had hybrid minivans for about a decade. The explanation that Japan’s minivans are much smaller than US models—and therefore better suited for Toyota and Honda gas-electric drivetrains—offers little solace. But help might be on the way, in the form of pint-sized three-row family haulers coming to America.

According to Automotive News, a growing segment of compact minivans—in the style of the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo—are in the works. Ford is planning to make compact US vehicles with minivan and wagon characteristics: three rows of seats, fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines and sticker prices several thousand dollars lower than those of minivans. The seven-seat Ford C-Max—only a little bigger than a Ford Focus—is scheduled to go on sale in the US with a sticker price of about $20,000. Ford showed the new 2010 C-Max at the recent Frankfurt Auto Show. The vehicle will introduce a host of new fuel-efficient technologies, including an all-new 1.6-liter Ford EcoBoost direct injection petrol engine.

General Motors will offer the similarly small Chevy Orlando also in 2011. Both vehicles were developed in Europe but will be built in the US. The Chevy Orlando will be built on the same platform as the upcoming Chevy Cruze and Chevy Volt. GM’s Bob Lutz fueled speculation that the Orlando could one day be offered as family-friendly plug-in hybrid when he said, “We are actually studying the adaptation of Volt technology to the upcoming Orlando.”

The key question is if the waiting list for a hybrid minivan would evaporate if it came in the form of a mini-minivan. Small vans have been successful in Europe and Asia, but surveys find that some US consumers are critical of the vehicles’ lack of power, cargo space and legroom in a tight third row.

More info:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/key-hybrid-minivans-getting-small-26178.html

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Tokyo Auto Show Wrap-Up: PHEVs and Urban Networked Electric Cars
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/funky-urban-networked-electric-cars-coming-tokyo-show-26159.html

The theme of last month’s 2009 Tokyo Auto Show 2009 was “Fun Driving for Us, Eco Driving for Earth.” So, it’s no surprise that Japan’s biggest automakers—Toyota, Nissan and Honda—rolled rolling out their funky futuristic networked electric cars.

While falling behind on hybrids, Nissan is taking the lead on electric cars. The company showed the Nissan Leaf, which will make its US debut in late 2010. But Nissan will also display a concept two-seat electric car called the Land Glider. The cocoon-shaped vehicle is 10 feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide, and can lean as much as 17 degrees when turning corners. According to Nissan, the ultra-compact, ultra-lightweight, ultra-narrow Land Glider has a potential to become a new means of transportation in urban areas, reducing traffic and parking congestion.

Honda showed a near-ready production version of its CR-Z hybrid—as the company follows its strategy of focusing on small and affordable hybrids like the Honda Insight. The company also gazes into the future when cities will be more congested and more networked. Honda displayed the EV-N design study—a small, four-seat battery-electric vehicle that combines Internet-age technology and retro-1960s style. The Honda EV-N uses solar cells in the roof, and a wireless communication system for traffic and EV charging station info. The EV-N’s door conveniently stores the Honda U3-X, its quirky electric unicycle that can move in any direction when the driver leans in the intended direction.

See the other concepts with photos:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/funky-urban-networked-electric-cars-coming-tokyo-show-26159.html

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VW Overwhelmed by Demand for Clean Diesel Sportwagen
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/vw-overwhelmed-demand-clean-diesel-sportwagen-26149.html

Soaring demand for Volkswagen’s clean diesel Jetta Sportwagen TDI left VW dealerships unable to keep up with demand. Waiting lists for the $24,000 vehicle—with MPG ratings of 30 city / 42 highway—are as long as 45 days in some Southern California dealerships.

“We’re almost selling them off the trucks,” said Tom Wegehaupt, Volkswagen PR specialist, in an interview with HybridCars.com. “As soon as they’re on dealer lots, they’re gone.” The demand for the Sportwagen TDI is especially striking, considering a dismal auto market that has left most dealers desperate for customers.

Demand for the clean diesel Jetta Sportwagen prior to the Cash for Clunkers program left VW dealership inventories stretched to the limit. With the Clunkers program, inventory for the vehicle was depleted in areas of the country—mostly East and West Coasts where diesel vehicles and Volkswagens are most popular. The problem is exacerbated by the Sportwagen TDI going through a model year changeover, with an inventory gap between the outgoing 2009 version being phased out and the redesigned 2010 version arriving in dealerships this month.

“Eighty percent of all Sportwagens that were sold had the TDI engine in it. The TDI penetration rate was spectacular,” Wegehaupt said. “It caught us off guard a little bit.”

In many respects, the Sportwagen TDI is to clean diesel what Prius is to hybrid: the halo vehicle that succeeds for its fuel-efficient technology but more importantly for the sum total of its benefits, functions and design. Sales of clean diesel vehicles from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes—either luxury or SUV or both—have not performed nearly as well, much the same way that SUV and luxury hybrids have lagged behind the Prius.

It will be interesting to follow the public’s response to the new 2010 Golf TDI sedan—30 mpg city / 42 high mpg—which just hit showrooms. VW announced a starting price tag of $21,990 for the Golf diesel.

Learn more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/vw-overwhelmed-demand-clean-diesel-sportwagen-26149.html

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Mercedes Takes Hybrid Lead Among European Carmakers
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/mercedes-takes-hybrid-lead-among-european-carmakers-26153.html

It looks like Mercedes has caught hybrid fever. In August, the company launched its Mercedes S400 mild hybrid—the first hybrid from a European automaker and the first hybrid vehicle to use a lithium ion battery. Even more impressive, Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, is promising a hybrid version of each of Mercedes’s high-volume cars and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.

The $89,000 Mercedes S400 mild hybrid began arriving in US showrooms in August. The S400 hybrid is the lowest-price model in the S-class range—and was awarded a federal tax credit of $1,150 awarded. At the same time, the S400’s mileage rating of 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway is 30 percent more fuel efficient than the more expensive S550. Efficiency gains come from the 120-volt battery pack, which is neatly packaged in the engine compartment—unlike other hybrids that use trunk space for the batteries.

The tradeoff of efficiency for horsepower reflects a shift in the luxury market. The Mercedes S550 delivers 382 horsepower versus the S400’s 275 hp. “I am convinced that many customers continue to want a comfortable and spacious car. They would not like to be called callous by their neighbor because the fuel consumption is astronomic,” Zetsche said in an interview with Automotive News. “We have to provide fun without pain by being able to offer these kinds of attributes in a vehicle and with lower fuel consumption.”

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/mercedes-takes-hybrid-lead-among-european-carmakers-26153.html

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Attack of the Meat-Eating Prius Drivers
https://www.hybridcars.com/environment/michael-pollan-recants-comment-about-meat-eating-prius-drivers-26210.html

At last week’s 2009 Poptech conference, author Michael Pollan made this claim: “A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius.” Days later, Pollan, author of the bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma, retracted the statement after researchers showed that Hummers are significantly more destructive to the environment than hamburgers.

Pollan wrote this mea culpa: “After digging into it further…I don’t feel comfortable defending [my earlier statement]. It’s much more important to keep the focus on the central thrust of the environmental case against eating industrial meat, which is not in dispute and certainly does not stand or fall on the case of the vegan Hummer driver.”

Pollan’s acknowledgment that he put his foot in his mouth is not likely to stop the ongoing debate about the relative impact of clean driving and dirty dining. The blogger Fat Knowledge posted a 2007 spreadsheet calling a tie between Hummer-driving vegans and burger-chomping Prius owners. Then, there’s the infamous 2006 CNW study that claims that Priuses are worse than Hummers in terms of energy consumption, regardless of drivers’ diets. And let’s not forget Big Vegan’s 2007 challenge to Al Gore to give up his cherished cheeseburgers to prove his commitment to reducing global warming.

In issuing the challenge to Gore, various vegetarian organizations and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals cited a United Nations study showing that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/environment/michael-pollan-recants-comment-about-meat-eating-prius-drivers-26210.html

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WRAP-UP

Thanks for checking out this month’s hybrid romp—from the absurd to the ridiculous.

Don’t forget to check out the HybridCars.com Store:

http://store.hybridcars.com/

Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]