IN THIS ISSUE:

100th Anniversary of First US Hybrid Car Patent
Hybrids are celebrated as fuel-saving marvels of the high-tech age—but as shown by a US patent granted on March 2, 1909, the basic concept is more than a century old.

Honda’s 60-MPG Surprise
The first set of real-world road tests of the 2010 Honda Insight are arriving, and they are consistently higher than 60 mpg—a 50 percent jump over expected EPA estimates.

Stimulus Bill Provides Little Help to Today’s Car Buyers
The economic stimulus package provides tax credits for 25-mph-max neighborhood electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid cars that won’t be on the market for at least two years—but today’s hybrids get nothing.

Ford Sneaks Up on Electric Car Future
While all eyes are on high-profile plug-in announcements, Ford is quietly inching into a leading position in the race to get electric vehicles on the market.

Studies Question Plug-in Hybrid Mileage
Hybrids converted to plug-in vehicles might have stickers that read “100 MPG.” New data throws triple-digit mileage into question.

GM and Clean Diesels Hit Greenest Car List
A Honda vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas was named last month as the greenest car of the year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). But two GM cars also made the top 10 list.

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Greetings, Hybrid Car Enthusiasts,
If it weren’t for the worst auto sales numbers in decades—a minor detail—recent news would be pretty darn good for green cars. Let’s ignore the pending economic crisis for now, and focus on the genuinely great news for fuel-efficient alternative vehicles. The Honda Insight is racking up spectacular real-world fuel economy numbers. The US government is offering new and attractive tax incentives (even if only for future plug-in vehicles). Two GM cars made it to this year’s greenest car list. And more and more hybrids and electric cars are in the works from automakers around the world. Now, if we can only get through the next year or two. Thanks for tuning in to the latest hybrid car news, good and bad.

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100th Anniversary of First US Hybrid Car Patent

https://www.hybridcars.com/history/100th-anniversary-first-us-hybrid-car-patent-25616.html

You may not have known it, but March 2 was the 100th anniversary of the granting of the first US patent for what was called the “Mixed Drive for Autovehicles.” Henri Pieper, a German-born inventor and gunmaker in Belgium, submitted his application on Nov. 23, 1905—and was granted a US patent on March 2, 1909. Its opening paragraph says:

“Be it known that I, Henri Pieper, a subject of the King of Belgium, residing at 18 Rue des Bayards, in Liege, Belgium, have invented new and useful Improvements in Mixed Drives for Autovehicles…The invention…comprises an internal combustion or similar engine, a dynamo motor direct connected therewith, and a storage battery or accumulator in circuit with the dynamo motor, these elements being cooperatively related so that the dynamo motor may be run as a motor by the electrical energy stored in the accumulator to start the engine or to furnish a portion of the power delivered by the set, or may be run as a generator by the engine, when the power of the latter is in excess of that demanded of the set, and caused to store energy in the accumulator.”

Voila: the gas-electric hybrid!

Today, hybrids are celebrated as fuel-saving marvels of the high-tech age—but as shown by Pieper’s patent, the basic concept is more than a century old. We posted highlights of the patent document—including a couple of gorgeous technical drawings—to HybridCars.com. The text describes processes —including the parallel-hybrid design, and electric assistance for the engine under load—that are now well-known to hybrid engineers and mechanics.

While Henri Pieper was brilliant, his timing was horrible. The year before his patent was granted, Henry Ford built the first assembly lines in Detroit to produce the Ford Model T—the first affordable, mass-production, gas-powered car. The rest, as they say, is history.

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/history/100th-anniversary-first-us-hybrid-car-patent-25616.html

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Honda’s 60-MPG Surprise

https://www.hybridcars.com/gas-mileage/honda-60-mpg-surprise-25564.html

When Honda announced that the new 2010 Honda Insight would “only” average about 41 or 42 mpg, some hybrid fans wondered what went wrong. Forget that Honda’s goal with the new five-door model is affordability, not maximum mileage. The major ding against hybrids has been extra cost, and Honda was aiming once and for all to prove that gas-electric technology could come with a modest price tag—in this case about $19,000. (No official MSRP yet.)

Yet the company’s revival of the “Insight” badge set an expectation that Honda would regain the mpg crown from the Toyota Prius. The first-generation Honda Insight—retired in 2006—was rated by the US Environmental Protection Agency at 70 mpg on the highway (which translates to about 65 mpg in the EPA’s updated system). That’s a far cry from the new Insight’s expected highway mileage around 43 mpg.

Just when expectations for the Honda Insight were being recalibrated…surprise! The first set of real-world road tests of the 2010 Honda Insight are arriving, and they are consistently higher than 60 mpg. Auto journalists using a smidgen of care—keeping a light throttle foot, staying at legal speeds, and coasting when possible—are getting these remarkable results:

  • Edward Loh, Motor Trend – 63.7 MPG
  • Sam Abuelsamid, Autobloggreen – 63.4 MPG
  • Jerry Garrett, New York Times – 65 mpg

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/gas-mileage/honda-60-mpg-surprise-25564.html

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Stimulus Bill Provides Little Help to Today’s Car Buyers

https://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/stimulus-bill-provides-little-help-today-car-buyers-25561.html

The $787 billion economic stimulus package President Obama signed into law last month may well be “an investment in the future,” but it contains relatively little to benefit today’s new-car buyers or to provide immediate economic stimulation. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 sets the stage for the dawning of plug-in vehicles, but if you’re looking for help in buying a hybrid or conventional car this year, you didn’t get a lot.

Existing tax credits for purchase of hybrid vehicles remain unchanged. Toyota and Honda hybrids no longer qualify, and Ford hybrids will reach the sales cap and begin fading out some time this spring. The Nissan Altima Hybrid (only sold in eight states) and various hybrid models from General Motors will qualify for some time yet. The new law does not extend these existing hybrid credits.

The most immediate impact on green cars is the new tax credit for buying low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), electric motorcycles, and three-wheeled vehicles. Buyers of NEVs—small cars that cannot legally travel faster than 25 miles per hour—now qualify for a tax credit of up to $2,500. This provision has been criticized as “pork for golf carts.” There are a handful of other expensive and low-production plug-in cars, such as the Tesla Roadster, that also qualify.

The stimulus bill grants a tax credit for 10 percent of the cost of a plug-in hybrid conversion. These conversions add a larger battery pack to lengthen the distance the car can run in all-electric mode. The credit maxes out at $4,000 (for a plug-in upgrade that costs $40,000), and the conversion kit must come from an authorized firm like A123/Hymotion—building your own doesn’t qualify you for the break. Only conversions done before the end of 2011 will qualify for the credit. A standard Prius conversion to a plug-in costs about $10,000—therefore the tax credit will be worth about $1,000.

Get the details:
https://www.hybridcars.com/incentives-laws/stimulus-bill-provides-little-help-today-car-buyers-25561.html

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Ford Sneaks Up on Electric Car Future

https://www.hybridcars.com/news/fords-sneaks-electric-car-future-25557.html

While all eyes are on high-profile plug-in announcements from General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and others, Ford appears to be quietly inching into a leading position in the race to get electric vehicles on the market.

Ford has recently made great advances in its hybrid technology with the 41-mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid and second-generation Escape Hybrid. But the company will take another big step forward when it rolls out its first electric vehicle—a European-built mini commercial vehicle called the Ford Transit Connect.

Ford will be quickly following the Transit EV with several pure electric vehicles aimed at the consumer market, including a Focus-sized subcompact that’s slated for sale in 2011. HybridCars.com took a quick demo-drive of the smaller electric vehicle—simply called BEV for battery electric vehicle—at the Washington Auto Show in February. The BEV accelerated in a brisk manner with barely a flutter of noise. Power delivery was seamless and constant.

The Ford BEV is a joint venture between Ford and Magna International, a major global parts supplier. Magna supplies the batteries and powertrain components, as well as the engineering and vehicle design. The BEV technology has been applied to a Ford Focus mule that has been in road testing for the past six months.

Ford plans to deliver some version of the BEV in 2011, and then to follow in 2012 with its next-generation hybrid vehicles and a plug-in hybrid. If the company delivers, it will be only slightly behind Toyota’s plug-in Prius and GM’s Chevy Volt. That’s not far at all, considering the small initial production numbers for these vehicles. By that time, Ford will have a couple years of real-world road experience with electric vehicles.

More details:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/fords-sneaks-electric-car-future-25557.html

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Studies Question Plug-in Hybrid Mileage

https://www.hybridcars.com/news/studies-question-plug-hybrid-mileage-25613.html

A new study by Carnegie Mellon University says that plug-in hybrids with 40 miles of all-electric range are less cost-effective than hybrids with smaller battery packs.

“Forty miles might be a sweet spot for making sure a lot of people get to work without using gasoline, but you’re doing it at a cost that will never be repaid in fuel savings,” said Jeremy Michalek, an engineering professor who led the study, in an interview with Bloomberg. The Carnegie Mellon study is an attempt to test how prices and driving habits may affect consumer choices between current hybrids and future plug-in hybrids that run on a combination of gasoline and household electricity.

The study is only the latest in a series of recent reports questioning the real-world mileage and benefits of plug-in hybrids. In its February issue, Consumer Reports road-tested a plug-in version of the Toyota Prius and concluded the cost was “more than you could ever expect to recoup in gas savings.” Last week, the Seattle Times reported that the City of Seattle’s fleet of plug-in hybrids—designed to run for 30 miles exclusively on electricity—is averaging 51 miles per gallon. Google has nine plug-in Prius hybrids used by its employees, and they are achieving an average of 54.9 mpg. These relatively low mileage numbers are partly attributed to the fact that Seattle’s and Google’s models were converted to plug-ins from conventional Priuses. Purpose-built plug-in hybrids are expected to have better fuel economy—perhaps 70 or 80 mpg.

“I think we all need to be more careful,” said Tom Turrentine, director of the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center, in Davis, Calif., in an interview with the Seattle Times. “When we say we’re going to get 100 or 150 miles per gallon [with a plug-in hybrid], then that’s setting expectations way too high. It just leads to disappointment. We need to deal in reality.”

Read more:
https://www.hybridcars.com/news/studies-question-plug-hybrid-mileage-25613.html

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GM and Clean Diesels Hit Greenest Car List

https://www.hybridcars.com/environment/chevy-cars-and-clean-diesels-hit-green-car-list-25543.html

The Honda Civic GX, a vehicle that runs on compressed natural gas, last month was named the greenest car of the year by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid placed second and third in ACEEE’s annual environmental rankings—the Green Book Online—followed by the Smart ForTwo, Toyota Yaris and Nissan Altima Hybrid.

This is the 12th year that ACEEE produced the Green Book Online, which assigns vehicles a single “green” score based on tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions, and a cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis. The most dramatic trend this year was the emergence of two GM cars on the top 10 list—and the introduction of clean diesel vehicles.

Shruti Vaidynanathan, primary analyst for Green Book Online, told us: “I think domestic manufacturers have realized the need to go greener in order to compete effectively. With fluctuating gasoline prices and oil prices, and an unstable economy, domestic manufacturers are realizing they have to up their game and provide consumers with what they want. And in this case, it’s a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. Hence, the Chevy Aveo and Pontiac G5 making it to the list.”

Read the entire interview with Shruti Vaidynanathan:
https://www.hybridcars.com/environment/chevy-cars-and-clean-diesels-hit-green-car-list-25543.html

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WRAP-UP

As you can see, there’s a ton of activity emerging on the legislative front and from the R&D departments in the automotive capitals of the world. And a lot of it is green. Full speed ahead.

Happy Driving,
Bradley Berman
[email protected]