July 27th, 2009
Written by Andrew Williams, courtesy of Gas2.0, originally published on July 26, 2009
Rumors are gathering pace that Toyota is working on a two-door coupe version of its ultra-popular Prius hybrid, possibly scheduled to hit the market sometime in 2012.
The latest reports suggest that the Japanese outfit is currently developing a compact 2+2 Prius-based hybrid sports coupe featuring a beefed-up version of its 1.8-liter 2ZR-FXE four-cylinder engine, capable of achieving around 134 hp – 36 hp more than the sedan counterpart.
Although the higher power levels are likely to affect the Prius’s impressive fuel mileage, insiders are speculating that the company’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system will keep this to a minimum.
If the coupe does see the light of day, it is expected to be around 100 mm shorter than the sedan and feature the same interior spec as the standard Prius.
At this stage, there’s no indication of a name for the new coupe or any news on whether or not it will be sold in the US.
Image Credit - Autoblog
Popularity: 3% [?]
May 25th, 2009
With the announcement of new fuel economy standards last week, the Obama administration made sure that the days of car company battles against fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles are safely in our rear-view mirrors. Numerous studies have shown that 75%+ of the energy used by a car over its lifetime is consumed in the operation of the vehicle, so this focus on efficiency is well-placed. But we shouldn’t forget about the other 25% of energy use or the environmental impacts that come with it - hazardous chemicals that off-gas when our cars sit in the sun, components that are difficult to recycle, and loads of plastics made from petrochemicals among them.
Green building practices are successful because they consider every aspect of how a house is built. Energy systems such as furnaces, water heaters, insulation and renewable energy options are important, but so too are sustainably harvested woods, countertops made from recycled materials, and paints or adhesives that don’t harm our health. Shouldn’t we expect the same from our cars, with their thousands of components sourced from around the world?
The good news is that manufacturers are starting to take the challenge of building efficient AND sustainable cars seriously. Ford Motors, for instance, highlighted the following initiatives last week:
- Soy-based polyurethane foam seat cushions and backs. In 2008, Ford used the soy foam in over 1,000,000 vehicles including the Escape (hybrid and standard), Focus and Mustang, cutting its use of petrochemicals by over 1,000,000 pounds.
- Post-industrial recycled content (good) and post-consumer recycled content (better) yarns in seat fabrics. Ford’s use of post-industrial recycled yarns in some models has reduced CO2 emissions and energy use by over 60%. Recycled plastic soda bottles are used to make the seat fabrics of the Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKZ models.
- Plastic underbody shields made from recycled detergent bottles, tires and battery casings. Use of these recycled materials in 2008 diverted over 25 million pounds of waste from landfills, and Ford is using the materials on all 2009 models.
Ford has more such projects on the drawing board, and is examining the use of plastics filled with natural / compostable fibers, the use of completely biodegradable plastics (PLA, made from certain vegetables) and soy-based materials in components throughout a car.
Other manufacturers are launching similar programs:
- Lexus uses plant-based eco-plastics in interior components, and Lexus plants recycle over 98% of manufacturing waste.
- Honda is working with suppliers to reduce the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) overall in car interiors. Low-VOC interiors are included in the 2008 (and we assume later) Honda Accord and the 2009 Acura TL among other models.
We’d love to hear more about efforts with other manufacturers, so if you have news please let us know in the comments to this post.
Popularity: 5% [?]
May 20th, 2009
Written by Christopher DeMorro, courtesy of Gas2.0
Jeremy Clarkson, the outspoken host of Britain’s Top Gear auto show, made a spectacle of racing a Prius vs. a BMW M3, in which the latter recieved better gas mileage. His point was that is isn’t what you drive, but how you drive. Nothing emphasizes this idea more than the Aerocivic, a simple yet highly publicized Civic whose owner, Mike Turner, utilized basic hypermilling techniques such as coasting down hills and shutting off his engine at stop lights to maximize fuel usage. He then took his very basic car a step further by applying an aerodynamic body kit to reduce drag at high speeds, and now he is using the power of the Interweb to give further insight into the how and why of his car, the Aerocivic.
Turner details the cost of improvements to his 1992 Civic DX, such as the boat tail, smaller side view mirrors, and lower nose, all of which work to lower the drag coefficient, thus allowing the car to slide through the air easier and using less power and petrol. Turner says he spent only $400 improving the fuel efficiency of his car, which has been the subject of many stories already, and on a level road going 65 mph he claims to get 95 miles per gallon.
The website is very informational and also details where Mike got his influences, such as homemade aircraft and the 1939 Maybach Stromlinienkarosserie. The little details like the sealed panel gaps and windshield wiper deflectors help greatly in reducing drag, you can really appreciate the thought that went into this car. It is a really great read and contains some good ideas for your own Aero-car project, so make sure you check out the Aerocivic website.
Popularity: 3% [?]
March 4th, 2009
With the money Detroit got recently, will we finally be able to expect hot green cars from U.S. carmakers soon? Hopefully, but for now, the Toyota Prius is still king. In Consumer Report’s 2009 auto issue, the Prius got the green car top pick nod — for the 6th year in a row.
“The base model’s 44 overall mpg is the best we’ve measured in any five-passenger car,” opines Consumer Reports, which made its top picks based on 3 main criteria — road tests, reliability, and safety — as well as eco-reasons for the green car category.
But lest you lose interest, thinking nothing new’s happening in the green car world, rest assured that the Consumer Reports issue does offer other useful eco info. For one, the “Best in class: Fuel-efficient vehicles” guide highlights six vehicles — from budget cars to minivans — that offer the best miles per gallon value for your needs.
Plus, the New Car Preview gives us a look at some hybrid and electric models — including the Chevy Volt, which I feel I’ve been waiting for so long I’ll have a green heart attack if and when it actually hits showroom floors.
Last but not least is Consumer Report’s Green Car Guide, which goes beyond how you can save gas in your next car to focus on how you can save gas (and money) in the car you have now. You can also check out the handy spreadsheet that shows you fuel savings depending on your car’s MPG, an article on when best to downsize your car (presumably to a more eco-friendly model) to get the most bang out of your buck, and a video on money-saving hybrids.
After all, in this recession, going eco’s important, but saving money’s going to be at the forefront of people’s minds. This auto issue will help people address both to make the most eco-nomically sensible decisions.
Images via consumerreports.org
Popularity: 3% [?]
February 23rd, 2009
There are lots of exciting developments on the green auto scene…and here are some of the highlights.
San Francisco continues to be a leading green city and is installing electric vehicles in front of City Hall. Mayor Gavin Newsom did a guest blog post on Gas2.0 last week in which he describes the city’s commitment to making electric transportation a feasible reality. Let’s hope more American cities follow SF’s approach.
Speaking of electric cars, there is a new one on the market– the ZERO from Tazzari. This is a cute little city car worth checking out. According to the company ZERO’s electric motors deliver brisk acceleration to 35 mpg and a top speed just over 55 mph for a claimed 88 miles. Click here to watch a video of the ZERO in peppy action.
On the not-so-good-news front, one of our favorite green car companies has decided to delay the launch of their plug-in hybrid by a bit. The futuristic Aptera 2e was slated for release in late 2008, but is now aiming for late 2009/early 2010. This is a hotly awaited vehicle. The company says they just want to get it right and make sure that all customers are totally delighted with the vehicle. They did offer test drives at the recent TED conference, though.
A bit of great news is how amazing the mileage is for the new Honda Insight. HybridCars.com reports that the 2010 Insight is routinely getting over 60 MPG in road tests. Originally Honda had announced that the new 2010 Honda Insight would “only” average about 41 or 42 mpg — but it seems they have outdone themselves. (Hey that even puts my Prius to shame.) And what’s even better is the price point Honda is aiming for: somewhere around $19,000. (There is no official exact price yet.) If they can deliver a sub-$20K car that gets 60 MPG, this car will seriously be a green dream.
Popularity: 3% [?]