~~~ Hybrid Cars Newsletter: Issue No. 0057 ~~~
Moderator: Bradley Berman [[email protected]]
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IN THIS ISSUE:
Announcing Launch of PluginCars.com!
It’s with great pride that we announce the launch of PluginCars.com, a sister site focusing on plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Check it out, and let us know what you think.

Blame for Gulf Coast Spill Begins at the Pump
If you’re mad about the spill, think about what you’re driving.

13 Key Questions and Answers about Nissan Leaf
Last week, we attended the groundbreaking for Nissan’s new electric car battery plant. That gave us a chance to do a deep dive with Nissan.

Honda Boss: Next Insight Will Beat Prius MPG
Honda’s chief said the company has been “complacent.” To make up for lost ground, it’s going to try to reclaim the MPG crown.

Hyundai Has Prius-Killer in the Works
The South Korean company is studying a dedicated hybrid-specific vehicle. “It’s its own thing,” Hyundai said.

Despite Caveats, Prius Plug-in Hybrid Could Be Surprise Hit
Before we got behind the wheel of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota told us the reasons why plug-in hybrid might not be the best choice. Then, we took it for an 18-mile spin and easily got 87.7 miles per gallon.

Ray LaHood: “People Want Out of Their Cars”
The 64-year-old secretary of transportation tweeted this message: “More cars on more roads may not be the best way to move people more effectively.”

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
Have you noticed that all the reports about runaway Priuses have stopped? Either the problem magically went away or, just maybe, one or two extremely isolated cases got blown out of proportion? Discuss amongst yourselves. In the meantime, it looks like the Prius is still the green mark for car companies such as Honda and Hyundai to hit. At least, until the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt and other plug-ins hit the road. This newsletter chronicles the latest news. Enjoy.

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PluginCars.com Launches!
http://www.plugincars.com

The web company behind HybridCars.com today launched PluginCars.com, creating a forum for shoppers, drivers, carmakers, municipalities, and energy companies. The site offers online community tools focused on the plug-in cars arriving later this year, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, as well as about 20 other upcoming electric-drive models, including the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Coda Sedan, and Fisker Karma.

The electric vehicle industry is trying to overcome negative public perception around the last generation of electric cars, marketed primarily in California from 1996 to 2003. That history was documented in the 2006 film, Who Killed the Electric Car?

“Because of the history, it’s crucial this time around that we get it right. Credible, objective information from manufacturers and media will be key, but the educational and marketing power of the plug-in vehicle community should not be underestimated,” said Chelsea Sexton, one of the key figures in the documentary. “Electric cars can be fast, comfortable, fun to drive and easy to recharge. PluginCars.com creates a channel for consumers to learn directly from experienced drivers as well as some of the most veteran voices in the industry.”

We hope that you’ll visit the site and become an active member of the community of plug-in drivers.

Take a look:
http://www.plugincars.com

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Blame for Gulf Coast Spill Begins at the Pump
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/blame-gulf-coast-spill-begins-pump-27877.html

If you’re mad about the spill, think about what you’re driving.

The devastating oil spill in the Gulf Coast will embolden green transportation advocates to push harder for change—from fuel-efficient cars to public transportation and bicycle use. But that change won’t happen until drivers make a fundamental connection between their oil use, oil spills, and other severe environmental and economic risks.

Electric-drive cars, especially those fueled by electricity instead of petroleum, could play a key role in reducing the need to drill. The good news is that electric cars and plug-in hybrids are finally coming to market, but they are trickling out while the spill in the Gulf gushes out. The current spill is not an isolated event. Between 2001 and 2007, there were 356 oil spills of varying degrees of seriousness on federal lands and waters alone.

We could get angry at Big Oil, or at negligent federal regulators, but consider this possibility: Nothing will change as long as the average driver—not just hybrid and EV owners—fails to connect the dots. That’s why author Lisa Margonelli’s clever idea is maybe about the best we can muster right now: “We should print the risks [of using oil] on every gasoline receipt, just as we label smoking’s risks on cigarette packs.”

Read on:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/blame-gulf-coast-spill-begins-pump-27877.html

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13 Key Questions and Answers about Nissan Leaf Battery Pack and Ordering
http://www.plugincars.com/13-key-questions-and-answers-about-nissan-leaf-battery-pack-and-ordering.html

Last week’s groundbreaking for Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn. battery plant allowed us to do a deep dive with Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning for the Nissan Leaf. The new facility will thrust Nissan and the State of Tennessee into the forefront of global manufacturing of electric cars and the lithium batteries that power them.

We compiled what we learned into a set of questions and answers. Check out these two, and visit PluginCars.com for the other 11.

Will the future generations of Nissan Leaf cars have battery packs with much longer range?

Nissan is anticipating an improvement in capacity at about 8 to 10 percent year over year. This improvement could be applied to greater range or reducing the cost. If customers indicate that they are satisfied with 100 miles range, then future battery packs may be smaller with fewer cells, and therefore cheaper.

Will Nissan allow selling or trading pre-sale reservations/registrations either locally or out-of-state?

People will be discouraged from selling their reservation spot. Trading reservations to interested customers out-of-state will be allowed. Nissan will fully inform customers outside the official first markets that they will be driving without the benefit of the charging stations installed in those initial markets in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Tennessee. Therefore, those customers will need to be comfortable with relying exclusively on home charging. Service from Nissan dealers may also be an issue.

Read on:
http://www.plugincars.com/13-key-questions-and-answers-about-nissan-leaf-battery-pack-and-ordering.html

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Your Support
Check out the Hybrid Cars Store for hybrid accessories:
http://store.hybridcars.com

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Honda Boss: Next Insight Will Beat Prius MPG
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/honda-boss-next-generation-insight-will-beat-prius-mpg-27839.html

Takanobu Ito, Honda’s president, said in April that the company has grown “complacent,” and specifically pointed to its poor performance with hybrids as a key sign of the problem. To correct the situation, Ito is pushing his engineers to have the next-generation Honda Insight beat the Toyota Prius’s fuel economy numbers—and to deliver it as soon as possible.

In concept, the Honda Insight was intended to compete as a more affordable alternative to Toyota Prius. But the price of the Insight, typically in the low $20,000s, is not that much cheaper than a Prius—and the fuel economy is considerably lower. The Prius gets 51 mpg in the city and 48 on the highway, compared with the Insight’s 40/43. The copycat shape of the Insight added to the negative comparison with the Toyota Prius, which has outsold the Insight by about 5 to 1.

In addition to trying to beat the mileage of the Prius, Ito wants to roll out a new two-motor hybrid technical design—one motor employed to increase engine power and another to solely charge the battery. The new system is also likely to switch to lithium ion batteries from the nickel metal hydride technology currently in use. Honda will apply its new hybrid approach to a minivan and in Acura models.

Honda’s new and improved hybrids are not expected until about 2012. Meanwhile, the company will introduce the Honda CR-Z hybrid coupe this summer.

Read more about the CR-Z and other Honda hybrids:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/honda-boss-next-generation-insight-will-beat-prius-mpg-27839.html

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Hyundai Has Prius-Killer in the Works
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/hyundai-has-prius-killer-works-27772.html

Honda is not the only company going after the Toyota Prius. “We are studying a dedicated Prius-fighter vehicle, meaning a hybrid-specific nameplate that isn’t based off a Sonata or a Santa Fe,” Miles Johnson, Hyundai’s product public relations manager, told HybridCars.com. “It’s its own thing.”

While Johnson did not confirm a specific production date, he placed the new hybrid-only model ahead of the Hyundai Blue Will plug-in hybrid concept. “We’ve also been studying plug-in hybrid technology, which is a bit farther out for us. But the near-term would be a Prius-sized vehicle,” Johnson said. “You can look at the dimensions of the Blue Will concept and see it would be a similar package and size to a Prius.”

We can look at the shape and design of the Blue Will—which employs Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” concept—for cues on the shape of a new Hyundai hybrid-only model. Johnson said the Blue Will was like “fluidic sculpture on steroids.” So, tone down all the flourishes and gadgetry to predict the design direction of a new ground-up Hyundai hybrid.

In terms of technology, a new Prius-like Hyundai likely will follow the direction of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, due for release in late 2010. That model uses Hyundai’s proprietary full hybrid system with lithium polymer batteries. Great pains were taken to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics in the Sonata Hybrid. An original platform should allow Hyundai to go even further. Moreover, Hyundai is emphasizing efficiency in highway driving instead of city driving.

Learn more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/hyundai-has-prius-killer-works-27772.html

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Despite Caveats, Prius Plug-in Hybrid Could Be Surprise Hit
http://www.plugincars.com/despite-caveats-prius-plug-hybrid-could-be-surprise-hit.html

Last month, we attended Toyota’s Sustainable Mobility Seminar in La Jolla, Calif.—where Toyota gave us all the reasons why today’s hybrids, rather than tomorrow’ plug-in hybrids, make the most sense. Then, we had a chance to drive one of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid test vehicles.

The Plug-in Prius, which will be tested for the next two years, is almost identical to the 2010 conventional Prius. Besides the addition of extra batteries and a plug, the differences are fairly trivial: air vents under the rear seats to help cool the additional batteries; no manual EV button because the computer takes care of shifting in and out of all-electric mode; and a small indicator lighter on the dash that goes off when the three-hour full charge from a 110-volt outlet is complete. Otherwise, in terms of its driving characteristics, creature comforts and style, it’s a Prius.

Based on our 18-mile test drive of the Prius Plug-in along the gorgeous La Jolla coast, Toyota could have a problem keeping up with demand when the vehicle goes on sale in 2012. Until the last mile of our route, when we put the car in power-performance mode, cranked the AC and floored the accelerator uphill, the car maxed out to 99.9 mpg. By the end of the trip, we tallied an average of 87.7 miles per gallon, with 12.6 percent of driving in EV mode. Our top EV speed was 62 mph, and the average speed—including a number of stops at long traffic lights—was 25 mph.

Our only gripe is that the dashboard designers didn’t move the decimal point over so we could see how far over 100 mpg typical driving would be.

Read the full article and watch the video:
http://www.plugincars.com/despite-caveats-prius-plug-hybrid-could-be-surprise-hit.html

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Ray LaHood: “People Want Out of Their Cars”
https://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/ray-lahood-people-want-out-their-cars-27716.html

In March, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood surprised delegates at the National Bike Summit, when he jumped up on table and proclaimed that national policy would no longer “favor motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.” It was a watershed—a direct statement from the US czar of transportation that fuel-efficient auto technologies, such as hybrids and electric cars, are only part of the solution.

“People want out of their cars, they want out of congestion, they want to live in livable neighborhoods and livable communities,” LaHood told the crowd.

Despite the federal support for electric-drive cars–$2.4 billion in grants and $25 billion in low-interest loans for retooling – it will take decade or more for hybrids and EVs to rise above their niche status. The greenest cars are still cars—which require tons of energy, produce lots of emissions, and erode the quality of life along increasingly congested roadways. And after all, bicycles are the only true zero emissions vehicles.

Mr. LaHood, the 64-year-old former Republican member of the US House of Representatives, outlined the new policy in his blog. He called on state and local governments to go beyond minimum planning and maintenance requirements to provide convenient and safe amenities for bikers and walkers. “Walking and biking should not be an afterthought in roadway design.” Transportation agencies are urged to take action on a number of fronts, including the creation of pathways for bike riders and pedestrians on bridges, and providing children with safe biking and walking routes to schools.”

In a follow-up tweet, LaHood wrote, “More cars on more roads may not be the best way to move people more effectively.” The response from the blogosphere was almost all positive. One enthusiastic commenter wrote on LaHood’s Facebook page, “Finally we have a Secretary of Transportation and not a Secretary of the Automobile.”

Check it out:
https://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/ray-lahood-people-want-out-their-cars-27716.html

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WRAP-UP
Let’s recap and imagine what the road looks like in about two years: the 50-mpg Prius next to a 50-mpg Honda, next to a 50-mpg Hyundai, next to a 90-mpg Prius Plug-in Hybrid, next to the pure-electric Nissan Leaf, next to a Chevy Volt—with 64-year-old Secretary LaHood whizzing by in his bicycle. The times they are a-changin’.

Don’t forget to check out PluginCars.com. (In the coming months, we’ll spin off a plug-in specific newsletter.)

Thanks and Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]