Toyota Electric Car Unveiled in Detroit

Posted on the Australian CarsGuide website, comes the interesting headline “$20,000 electric car: Toyota FT-EV“. It gets more interesting: since it’s an Australian website, presumably that is the Australian price tag, which makes the American figure $13,162 at the time of this writing (via Google), although the price is still speculation.

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Looking at new plug-in hybrid tax credits

Hidden in the $700 billion “bailout” package is a brand new set of incentives intended to encourage the development of plug-in hybrid technology.  The program can potentially give more than double the incentive previously given to buyers of hybrids.  The law states that plug-in electric cars with at least a 4-kilowatt-hour battery pack will be eligible for a $2,500 credit.  The credit will increase with every kilowatt-hour of capacity with a cap of $7,500.  The program will last through 2015, and will phase out after 250,000 models are sold.  This low-risk program will only cost taxpayers less than $2 billion.  Nonetheless, we should take a look at how effective it will be at encouraging the diffusion of these cars into the U.S. auto fleet.

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HHO Gas Magic — What a hydrogen car isn’t

In researching another post, I stumbled upon a site advertising so-called HHO gas engine modification technique (HHO gas is the term they use for a 2:1 mixture of elemental hydrogen and oxygen). Usually, such snake oil would not even be worth addressing. The idea itself is that water can be used to supplement gas in fueling an automobile, thereby getting additional travel distance at no extra cost. Some readers probably notice that this would violate the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. According to sites like this, the reason why this design is not being used already is that automobile companies are conspiring to hide it from the general public to keep us dependent on oil. The site makes use of the common grifting fiction that the people peddling this manual are crusaders here to rescue us from corporate insiders in smoke-filled rooms.

The reason this is relevant, and the reason that some people might fall for it and buy the kit, is the exaggerated hype surrounding actual hydrogen vehicles. Be it the fuel-cell design, or combustion of hydrogen, there is this perception that hydrogen is the source of power. The element of hydrogen is also closely associated with water, contributing to the mythology of cars that run on water.The catch is that hydrogen is just a medium for energy transfer, not an energy source. Continue reading

“Zero-emission” car debut – Honda FCX


The hydrogen fuel cell car is being praised for its smoothness and futuristic qualities as it arrives in southern California. The “zero-emission” Honda FCX Clarity, two times more energy efficient than a gas-electric hybrid and available for lease for $600/month, is currently being received by Hollywood actors, but is limited to areas near fuel stations in Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine. The lack of a hydrogen infrastructure is labeled is the “single limiting factor” in the expansion of the technology.

There are a few things to keep in mind before we get too excited about this breakthrough.
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GM transforming product-line from SUVs to Volts

GM is closing 4 SUV and truck plants, opening a new small car plant, and re-evaluating the Hummer

A few days after Ford announced that the new plant for the Fiesta subcompact would be in Mexico, GM is planning their own dramatic shift to smaller vehicles, affecting 10,000 workers. Before, we briefly discussed the impact of the subcompact on new, “green collar” jobs. While closing four plants dedicated to producing SUVs and trucks, a new plant in Lordstown, Ohio is set to open in mid-2010 for the Chevrolet Volt, a car capable of driving 40 miles without gasoline of which GM plans to sell 100,000 by 2012. A turbocharged engine for the car would be produced in Flint, Michigan. Foreign auto companies are also expected to make up for the loss of jobs by employing 39,000 more people by 2011.

This is likely the beginning of drastic changes for GM. Here’s what CEO Rick Wagoner had to say.

At this point, we are considering all options for the Hummer brand… everything from a complete revamp of the product lineup to partial or complete sale of the brand

In the long-run its probably best to axe the Hummer brand. Its not unlikely, seeing that Wagoner sees $4 gasoline as more than just a temporary spike, even having a “bias upwards” in future plans. Typically its said that you should look to what people do rather than what they say. For GM, it appears that those two are in accordance and they are preparing for a future of high-fuel prices.

Return of the subcompact car

Is this what is meant by new “green collar jobs” as the economy shifts?  There’s no clear definition of the “green collar job”, but Mexico will be getting 4,500 new jobs as part of a $3 billion investment in the country by Ford as the Ford Fiesta returns to their lineup. 25,000 jobs at direct and indirect suppliers are expected to be created, as well.

This further demonstrates how the shift towards ‘green’ alternatives does not have to come at the expense of the economy. In fact, with a possible fuel economy as high as 50 mpg on the gasoline model and a list price expected below $15,000, the new Fiesta could save consumers both on their car payments and at the gas pumps. Its not ridiculous to suggest that gas prices could rise to $10 or $12 per gallon in the next 5 years, making driving a luxury and cars like this a precious commodity to those who need an automobile.

How many more car fires are we going to see so people can buy a Fiesta?

Sanyo and VW to mass produce Lithium-ion batteries

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Volkswagen is hoping producing cars using Lithium-ion batteries by 2010.  The plans include diesel-electric plug-in hybrids in order to move towards a future “directed more strongly at making electrically powered automobiles alongside ones driven by more efficient combustion engines.”  Nissan is planning on mass-producing the same batteries by 2009.  These are steps in the right direction, but is it too little too late?  Could we also be trading one scarce resource for another in an attempt to continue to power personal automobiles?

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