Choosing a Hybrid Vehicle

March 8, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles, Green

The Union of Concerned Scientists has recently released a hybrid scorecard on their website, www.hybridcenter.org , which ranks hybrid vehicles by environmental impact, value (price) and forced features (features which do not come standard that drive up the cost of the vehicle).   The scorecard can be found at www.hybridcenter.org/hybrid-scorecard/index.html.   Clicking on any of the vehicle links will give you detailed summaries about each model as well as additional information about their findings.   For more information about choosing a hybrid vehicle and other helpful recommendations, visit the hybrid score findings link at www.hybridcenter.org/hybrid-scorecard/hybrid-scorecard-findings.html.

Toyota Prius Greenest Car in 2010?

March 1, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles, News, Polls

Consumer Reports announced it list of top cars in various categories, including green.  The Toyota Prius received the award for being the top Green Car in 2010.  This is the seventh year in a row that the Prius has won this award in this category.

It’s still the most fuel-efficient car in our Ratings, getting 44 mpg overall. That distinction helped it earn our pick in this category for the seventh straight year, the longest of any current model. In addition, the Prius is a pleasant car to drive, with a roomy interior, a steady ride, hatchback versatility, and excellent reliability and crash-test results. The 2010 redesign also gave it a more solid feel and a dedicated EV mode that allows it to run longer on electric power at low speeds, an advantage mainly in slow, congested traffic.

I would question the reliability aspect because of the recent recalls, but it seems pretty apparent that the Prius seems to be considered the best “green” car by many, not just Consumer Reports.

I have not driven a Prius or driven in one, but I have not had good experiences with people I know who drive them.   It’s great that people want to buy a car that uses less gas mileage and is more eco-friendly, but some people buy these cars like they do new electronic devices.  Another thing that made me a little frustrated is the fact that some feel they can drive more just because they now have a more gas efficient car.  This mentality negates the whatever benefit you are receiving from having a more fuel efficient vehicle.

My experiences are with some of the owners of the Prius, not the car itself.   Overall, the Prius seems like a pretty good vehicle and great car to consider if in need of a new vehicle.  I would still much rather have a full EV than just a hybrid, but they are still a few years away from hitting the market.  It’s also good to find other ways than buying a new car to save on gas or avoid using a car at all.  Some include biking, car pooling, public transportation and many other gas saving tips.

I decided to include a poll to get an idea of how you feel about the Prius being the top green car on the market.

Is the Prius the Greenest Car of 2010?

View Results

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Nissan’s Leaf Electric Vehicle

February 3, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles

Nissan has finally come with an electric vehicle that separates itself from the other major manufacturers.  The Nissan Leaf was released late last year with a lithium-ion battery system which has a range of 100 miles.  The production version of this vehicle has already been released and should be available in markets later this year.

Turn Down Thermostat
Photo by cliff1066™.

The Leaf is the first electric vehicle on the market that offers both a fairly long range and affordable price.  Let’s take a look at some of the features of this vehicle:

  • Battery: 24 kWh lithium ion battery
  • Battery Life: 100 miles per charge
  • Speed: Up to 90 miles per hour
  • Seating: 5 seat hatchback
  • Charge: Quick charge of 30 minutes at 440V / Full charge in standard US home, 8 hours
  • Monitor: Dash mounted system monitor
  • Cool Feature: Mobile connected to charge battery.
  • Cost: $25,000 – $33,000

All these features cover the majority of American drivers today.  It may not be practical yet for a drive across the country, but it would cover most people.  The average driver doesn’t even get close to 90 mph and 100 miles is plenty for the daily commuter.

The Leaf recently won Green Car Journal’s Vision Award because of the practical pricing of this vehicle.  Unlike many of the other electric vehicles in America, it was able to achieve an affordable price, yet still get good speed and range.

There are still two major challenges that electric vehicles still have to face: better battery technology and charging stations.  Battery technology is constantly getting better, so that problem should resolve itself as times passes.  The bigger problem is to get charge stations set up throughout America.  Until that day comes, electric vehicles will not be the car of choice for the average commuter.

For a fully comprehensive look at the Nissan Leaf, check out Autoblog’s in depth look.

Tesla Motors Filing for IPO

February 2, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles, Finance

Tesla Motors is easily one of my favorite car companies out there.  They only currently have two models, the Roadster and the Model S, but their cars are light-years ahead of anything the big car manufacturers are offering.  Both of their models are stylish and fast, yet get several hundred miles per charge.

In an effort to raise more funds to continue manufacturing its vehicles, Tesla is filing for a $100 million IPO.  The goal is to starting making more Roadsters and having the Model S out by 2012 with the help of a federal loan along with these investment funds.

Their new Model S will cost $50,000 after a federal tax credit and are in the works of making a more practical model in the not so far future.  As with any stock and especially a smaller company like Tesla, there is a chance in losing money.  If  you are interesting in buying stocks, this is one company that looks really promising though.

Top Fuel Efficient SUVs

January 25, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles

Back when I signed a lease deal on my Honda Pilot in 2007, I did not give gas mileage a whole lot of thought.  I knew better than to buy a gigantic SUV that blatantly guzzled gas, but at the time, I thought that getting approximately 20 miles to the gallon, while also having all-wheel drive and seating space for seven, was a good deal all around.  So, I went with the Pilot.  A great car, I might add, I’ve enjoyed driving it, but unless big changes are in store for the Pilot in 2011, I think I can do a whole lot better on the green scale when I trade in my car this August (Honda, are you listening?).  So, my search begins for a more fuel-efficient SUV with an all-wheel-drive option (I live in Maine) and room for two kids, a friend, and a dog.  If car companies took orders like restaurants do, mine would look something like this:

  • AWD
  • Seven-seater
  • Fuel efficient
  • High safety rating

After doing a lot of research on fuel-efficient SUVs, it is clear that there are big differences between SUVs that have front-wheel-drive and those equipped with all-wheel drive.  The good news is, if you don’t need the 4×4 option, there are some exciting new vehicles on the market for 2010.  The bad news for people like me is, if all-wheel-drive is essential to maintaining your mental health during long winters, then it seems I may have to compromise considerably on fuel-efficiency.   Based on my  research so far and msn autos’ list of 2010′s Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs, the following cars are now on my short list:

1) Jeep Patriot/Compass

The Jeep Patriot/Compass is one of a few cross-over SUVs that offer mile-per-gallon numbers for 4×4 models that are comparable to FWD models.  The Patriot/Compass gets 23 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway.  Not bad.  I can also squeeze three booster seats side-by-side in the back seat, although it’s tight.  Cargo space is also an issue and fitting our luggage, plus one dog in the back might be tough.

2) Chevy Equinox/GMC Terrain

The newly designed Equinox and its sister model, the Terrain, both available with AWD, get 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.  The fuel-efficiency of the FWD option is even better, so if you are not looking for an AWD vehicle, this cross-over would definitely be worth a second look.   I also like the flexible rear seats, which make it possible to fit more cargo in the back when you need to.  I am not sure if I can fit three booster seats in the back, but I will give it a try on the test-drive.

3) Lexus RX 450h Hybrid

Gorgeous looks?  Check.  Excellent safety record?  Check.  Fuel efficient?  Check.  The Lexus RX 450h Hybrid has it all.  Getting an impressive 30 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, what’s not to like?  To make it even more appealing, the Lexus has one of the largest cargo areas in its class.  But unless I win the lottery in the next six months, this cross-over SUV will be too cost-prohibitive, with a sticker price between $41,000 and $43,000.  But it still makes my list… because, well, I can dream, can’t I?

4) Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute/Mercury Mariner Hybrids

Come to find out, this trio of small cross-overs offer 30 mpg city/27 mpg highway.   Seating five, these models reportedly also have lots of cargo space.  They also cost around $10,000 less than the Lexus, which is hard to argue with.

5) Subaru Outback Wagon

The Subaru Outback Wagon, which got a new look for 2010, is Motor Trend’s Sport/Utility of the year.

With an excellent safety record, the Subaru comes with AWD as a standard feature with all models.   So far so good, so let’s look at fuel efficiency …with several models to choose from, the most popular 2.5i  is able to achieve an average of 19 city/27 highway, which is, unfortunately, not that great.  But with great cargo space, full-time AWD, and a sticker price around $23,000, the Outback is still a contender, although its fuel-efficiency rating is only marginally better than the Pilot I am driving right now.

6) Toyota Highlander AWD Hybrid

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the only SUV I have found so far that seats seven, while still being able to compete with the smaller SUV cross-overs for overall fuel-efficiency.  With 27 mpg city/25 highway, the Highlander is starting to look pretty good.  Starting at just under $26,000, the Highlander Hybrid is less expensive than the Pilot and certainly would leave less of a carbon footprint.  We may have a winner!

As I still have six months to make a decision, I am going to wait and see if any car companies will market a yet-unnamed SUV that is both roomy and has a fuel rating that can blow away the competition.  If not, then I will have to weigh all of the options that are available at the time and decide which criteria are the most important….stay tuned!

msn.com autos’ entire top ten list of Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs can be found at:

http://editorial.autos.msn.com/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=1091150

Using Technology to Improve Fuel Efficiency in Vehicles

January 4, 2010 · Filed Under Automobiles

Today, electric cars and hybrid cars, which use a combination of electricity and gasoline, are becoming more common and are offered by most major automobile manufacturers. With Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, and Ford all offering more energy efficient vehicles, there are more options available today than ever before for someone looking to improve fuel efficiency.

Despite these changes, though, some researchers think it will be some time before the goals put forth by President Obama during his campaign, where he stated he wanted to have one million plug in cars on the road by 2015, are met.

In fact, if the market maintains its heading, it is thought that by 2015, only about 1.5% of all vehicles will powered using electricity. To reinforce these predictions, Chevy, the American Auto-Manufacturer who has been floundering as of late and narrowly avoided bankruptcy during 2009, is only expected to produce 10,000 Volts in 2011 and 60,000 the following year.

Even though the goals put forth by President Obama might not be attainable, this does not mean that we should not try to meet these goals or even that setting high expectations is necessarily a bad thing, as moving away from fossil fuels is important for the environment.

Technologies Used to Increase Fuel Efficiency

The push to develop more energy efficient cars is using some very interesting technology, which isn’t always in the form of a more efficient battery. Some of them actually might be a little surprising you.

  • The Dashboard of Tomorrow, Today: Many of the popular Hybrid and electricity cars, like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Maxima Hybrid, include a real time digital display that shows the driver how they are using their power. This allows the driver to see how the way they drive affects their energy usage in real-time, as well as how changing their driving habits can improve efficiency. Reports have found that this helps to raise awareness about energy consumption and has been shown to improve energy efficiency by as much as ten percent.
  • The Move Away from the Hybrid: Ford, Toyota, and Honda have all offered Hybrid Vehicles for some time, which use a combination of electric motors and gasoline motors. However, a number of manufacturers are experimenting with creating a 100% electric car that is both economical, but still very powerful. To this end, Telsa, who are named for the amazing inventor Nikola Telsa, is an up-and-coming manufacturer of some very fast all electric sports car. In the coming years, more of these types of cars are expected to be released.
  • Tires and Energy Efficiency: President Obama caught a lot of flack during the election when he suggested that changing tire pressure would have a dramatic impact on the energy efficiency of vehicles, but he was in fact correct. More and more, auto-parts manufacturers are latching onto the essential role of tires in energy efficiency, most notably with the low rolling-resistant tires, which can improve fuel efficiency by almost 5%. This might not sound like a lot, but even if only half of our cars switched to these more efficient tires, we could save over a billion gallons of fuel each year. Some vehicles, like the Ford F-150 now come with more energy efficient tires.
  • Loosing Weight is Not Just About Fitting into that Bathing Suit: Reducing the weight of vehicles is one of the most effective ways to improve fuel efficiency, with most manufacturers realizing the heavy steel cars are simply not efficient. To this end, most manufacturers are looking towards lighter-weight materials such as carbon Fiber and plastics, although Carbon Fiber is quite expensive.

About the Author

Tiger is a writer involved who often focuses on health issues, but also enjoys technology. Currently, he is a writer for Combibo Communications, which is a new revenue sharing website, where writers from all over the world can share their knowledge and experience. While in its Beta, enrollment at Combio is not open to the public, but you can submit a brief application in the contact us section, including a link to some of your published work, so you can take advantage of this excellent platform.

Almost Half Of Americans Would Buy Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

September 9, 2009 · Filed Under Automobiles, Polls

According to a recent study by Pike Research, 48% of consumers would be at least very likely to purchase a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) with a 40 mile charge.  The results are also interesting in that only 8% of all the peopled surveyed were completely uninterested in buying a PHEV.  Check out Environmental Leader for the remainder of the results and more details of the survey.

The results of this survey are important in that it shows that people are interested in buying electric vehicles, even if they only travel on a 40 mile charge.  I’m assuming this survey has to do with the Chevy Volt, which can run about 40 miles of a single charge.  I would image if the charge number were higher, the results would probably favor hybrid electric vehicles much greather.  I would rather have a vehicle that has a much longer charge like a few hundred miles like the Tesla or Aptera than a car that may or may not ake me to work and home in one charge.

So how would you answer this survey?  Let’s find out…

How Interested would You Be To Buy a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle with a 40 mile charge

View Results

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