IN THIS ISSUE:

The Ultimate Cocktail Party about Hybrids, Cars, the Environment
Imagine two days of conversations about the future of auto technology with the very people shaping that future. HybridCars.com helped put together the ultimate green car conference, and it’s coming up, March 12 – 14, in Vancouver, B.C.

Zapping the Top Five Excuses to Wait to Buy a Hybrid
Maybe you’ve been feeling the pain at the pump, or reading the inconvenient news about global warming, and have been picturing a hybrid car for your future. But you’ve been dragging your heels. We offer reasons to quit your procrastination.

Plug-in Prius and the Race to 2010
It seemed as if Toyota would never come around on plug-in hybrids. And then Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota, gave a date for delivery of the first Toyota plug-ins. This sets up a race between the Prius Plug-in and the Chevy Volt.

Mixed Messages on Diesel
In December, the market research firm BrandIntel said that U.S. consumers are starting to see diesel as a viable alternative to hybrid and gas-powered vehicles. In January, Kelley Blue Book said just the opposite. What gives?

Tomorrow’s Whodunit: Who Might Kill the Chevrolet Volt
It’s been more than a year since General Motors unveiled its visionary Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid concept vehicle—and GM executives are showing a level of dedication bordering on zeal. But enthusiasm, and even a big budget, doesn’t ensure GM’s victory against those who might kill the Volt.

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
It’s been a very busy new year for HybridCars.com. First of all, we launched a new version of the site to allow car buyers to compare different models and technologies, with greater coverage of the full range of greener technologies—including hybrids, high-mpg small cars, diesels, and electric vehicles. And now we are getting ready to launch Auto FutureTech–Summit 2008, the conference we’ve organized with the Globe Foundation of Canada. If you’re in the auto industry, or related energy/environmental fields—or just care a lot about cars and the environment—this is a must-attend event. If you attend, you’ll hear from people who will connect the dots between vehicles, markets, fuels, energy, the environment and technology. More about Auto FutureTech in a minute, along with the latest news about the world of hybrids and green motoring. Enjoy.

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The Ultimate Cocktail Party about Hybrids, Cars, the Environment
Do you have plans for March 12 – 14? If not, you should book a flight to Vancouver, British Columbia, and sign up to attend Auto FutureTech – Summit 2008, which is part of the Globe Conference on Business and the Environment. More than 2,000 delegates will attend, including more than 200 CEOs from companies leading the corporate environmental sustainability movement.

The auto portion of the program will include sessions on hybrids with Toyota, Ford, Rocky Mountain Institute and Andy Frank, the godfather of the plug-in hybrid. What about lithium ion batteries? We’ll have the CEOs of A123Systems, Compact Power, and EnerDel. Leaders in diesel technology from Bosch, Volkswagen, and Chrysler will talk about clean diesel. And there’s the same caliber of participants for panels on market trends, cars and the electric grid, electric vehicles, fuel cells, and smart roads. You’ll have a chance to meet Beth Lowery, VP of Energy and the Environment for GM; David Chen, VP for GM China; chief executives from Tier 1 suppliers such as Continental, Johnson Controls, Delphi, and Magna; legendary auto entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin; and other movers and shakers.

Click now for details:
http://www.autofuturetech.com

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Zapping the Top Five Excuses to Wait to Buy a Hybrid
We recently posted five reasons—nay, excuses—for holding off on buying a hybrid now. And five counterpoints to suggest why a fuel-sipping, eco-friendly hybrid should move up on your to-do list in 2008. Here’s excuse #5: “Hybrid mileage is pretty good now, but I’m waiting for quantum leaps in hybrid fuel economy coming in the next year or two.”

And our response: Hybrids’ fuel efficiency will slowly increase over time, but unless we dramatically change the weight, size, shape, and acceleration of our vehicles, we should expect only modest improvements in the mpg for today’s most fuel-efficient cars—which happen to be hybrids.

Check out the four other top excuses and counterpoints:
https://www.hybridcars.com/economics/top-five-excuses-to-wait-to-buy-hybrid.html

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Toyota’s Plugin Prius and The Race to 2010
Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota, said at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show that his company would develop a fleet of plug-in hybrids to run on more powerful lithium-ion batteries, rather than using the current nickel-metal hydride battery technology. This decision will give the company greater opportunity to extend the electric range of its hybrids beyond the seven miles achievable by its current plug-in Prius prototype. More importantly, Watanabe said that Toyota would make its plug-in hybrid available to commercial customers by 2010—roughly the same timeline provided by General Motors for introduction of its Chevrolet Volt and Saturn Vue plug-in hybrids.

Before the announcement, Toyota officials had refused to give a production timeline for a plug-in hybrid. Toyota’s North American sales chief, Jim Lentz, had told Reuters that Toyota was willing to be beaten to market for a plug-in vehicle if that meant building a better vehicle. “While we’d love to be first, we’re determined to be best.” By establishing 2010 as the release date for its first plug-in hybrid, Toyota has apparently grown more interested in bragging rights for delivering the world’s first production-level plug-in hybrid. It’s on.

See details about Toyota’s change of heart on plug-in hybrids:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news2/toyota-plugin-hybrid-2010.html

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Mixed Messages on Diesels
https://www.hybridcars.com/news2/internet-chatter-diesels.html
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/study-consumer-confidence-diesel-declines.html
If chatter—or in this case, clatter?—on the Internet is any indication of market trends, then clean diesel technology will become a strong contender in the world of green motoring. BrandIntel, a market research firm, analyzed the volume and sentiment of online discussions about eco-friendly transportation. It concluded that American consumers are starting to see diesel as a viable alternative to hybrid and gas-powered vehicles. “Diesel has been under the radar. Now we are seeing new diesel technology, including clean diesel…creating a bit of buzz and excitement,” said Vince Bucciachio, BrandIntel auto analyst.

On the other hand, a new study by Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research showed that only 6 percent of new-car shoppers in the United States think that diesel can be a mainstream powertrain. This number pales in comparison to the 40 percent of consumers who have confidence in hybrids, 17 percent in favor of flexible-fuel systems, and a shocking 20 percent for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. “Many automakers are looking toward diesels as a very workable solution for the future,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “But the results of this study should give them pause.”

Meanwhile, reports of a diesel vehicle clean enough to pass California’s strict standards appear to be premature. Diesel vehicles with advanced after-treatment systems, like the Mercedes E320 Bluetec, may make a debut late in 2008. However, availability will be extremely limited during this calendar year. High mpg and high performance are key selling points for diesel, but until the new emissions systems roll out, diesel will not be nearly as clean as hybrids in terms of tailpipe emissions.

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Tomorrow’s Whodunit: Who Might Kill the Chevrolet Volt
It’s been more than a year since General Motors unveiled its visionary Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid concept vehicle. GM promises that the Volt will allow most Americans to drive 40 miles each day without burning a single drop of petroleum. Instead, the energy will come from next-generation batteries recharged from a common household electric outlet.

Since the Chevy Volt’s introduction at last year’s 2007 Detroit Auto Show, the General’s PR machinery has buzzed with ever-increasing intensity, churning out news releases, keynote speeches, and television commercials extolling the virtues of the Volt. The intensity of the buzz is matched by an equal fervor from GM executives and engineers—a level of enthusiasm and dedication bordering on zeal. We’ve met with Volt team leaders on multiple occasions over the past year, and I’ve seen the fire in their eyes. But enthusiasm, and even a big budget, doesn’t ensure GM’s victory against those who would kill the Volt. See our futuristic whodunit; print it out and look at it five years from now to see which suspect proved to be guilty as charged.

Suspect #1: OPEC
Of course, our friends in Dhahran and Caracas are not literally trying to undermine GM’s plug-in hybrid project. But if the price of oil drops by $20 or $30 a barrel, even if it lasts only for a few months, GM’s devotion to the Volt could waiver.

Suspect #2: GM’s Stockholders
The Chevy Volt is an expensive endeavor. GM will invest tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in the project before it sees a penny of profit. Bob Lutz, GM’s product guru, told us that the return on investment might take 10 years. If GM faces any delays with delivering on the Volt’s promise, stockholders could grow very inpatient.

Suspect #3: Sir Isaac Newton
The laws of economics are a formidable challenge to the Volt—but they’re nothing when compared with the laws of physics. GM is basing all its plans for the Volt on the development of lithium ion battery technology, which has never been used for powering a production vehicle. Will the company face perpetual delays because Newton’s essential law of physics doesn’t bend to corporate will?

See our complete rap sheet on these three suspects:
https://www.hybridcars.com/plug-in-hybrids/whodunit-who-might-kill-the-chevrolet-volt.html

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Other recent articles to consider:
Turborcharging, The New Hybrid? – https://www.hybridcars.com/news/turbocharging-new-hybrid.html

Tesla Will Go Hybrid – https://www.hybridcars.com/news/tesla-plans-utilize-gas-electric-powertrain.html

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WRAP-UP
That’s all for now. Thanks for tuning in. See you online, or in person in Vancouver for Auto FutureTech. Until then,
Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]