Archive for the ‘Hybrid cars’ Category

Kia Plugs in to Great Concept

Posted in: General, Hybrid cars

kia-rayIn the interest of full disclosure, first let me say that I’ve never been inside of a Kia. In fact, until the Korean-based auto manufacturer introduced the Soul in 2009, I’d never given their cars so much as a passing glance.

So no one was more surprised than I was when the introduction of their new concept hybrid completely stopped me in my tracks.

The Ray, which is making its debut at the Chicago Auto Show right now, shows a promising future for hybrids. While I’m still chomping at the bit to see a sleek and sexy electric car go into mass production (Tesla, are you listening?), hybrids are going to play a major role in our acceptance of non-gasoline-powered autos. And with Ray, Kia shows it is on the right track.

While its eco-friendly design speaks directly to the heart of environmentally conscious consumers, it’s the Ray’s style that is even more surprising. I’m not saying that their previous vehicles have been uninspired, but let’s just say they’ve had a tendency to blend in with the rest of the cars on the road. They began changing that with the Soul, which has given Nissan’s Cube a run for its money, and now they’ve stepped it up to a new level.

Even though it’s a four-seater, Kia’s Ray bears faint resemblance to any of its four-door family sedans. (The lines are clean and flowing; this car looks faster standing still than many of its models look on the road!) Riding low to the ground, it’s curvaceous and aerodynamic, giving a great blend of form and function. Inside, the white interior is designed to reflect the sunlight rather than absorb it, and the eco-friendly recycled materials used within are also designed to keep interior temperatures low and reduce air-conditioner use.

The “green” features on this car are extensive and impressive, going beyond its gas/electric power combination. If there’s a downside at all to this car, it would be that it is only a concept, so we’ll have to wait for this one to go into production. From its solar cell-powered lighting and climate control systems to its “cool car” technology to reduce air conditioning load and greenhouse emissions, the Ray shows a lot of promise.

You just might call it a Ray of hope.

Ditch the Prius; Porsche Unveils Hybrid Racer

Posted in: Hybrid cars, Porsche

porsche-hybridPorsche has given us a lot of reasons to love it over the years. But now, the company is taking that love affair to the next level with the launch of its 911 GT3 racecar.

The new GT3, which boasts a unique hybrid technology created specifically for racing, has two electric motors on the front axle. Unlike hybrid daily drivers, which rely on heavy batteries, the 911 GT3 hybrid has an electrical flywheel power generator that sits next to the driver to deliver energy.

As a racecar, the Porsche 911 boasts an enviable racing pedigree that includes more than 20,000 wins, and the introduction of this hybrid at the Geneva Motor Show next month will open a new chapter for the marque.

Even better for us non-helmet wearing drivers is the hope that this technology will eventually make its way into the road-ready sports cars that we love so dearly. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Good Karma Making the Rounds

Fisker Automotive’s Karma plug-in hybrid has a busy 2010 Fisker_Karma059[1NEW]month planned for August. Just 19 months after being unveiled as a concept car, it will make its world driving debut at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races on Aug. 15. The prototype is on tap to take two laps on the 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca course. Karma isn’t just making laps, it’s making history, as this marks the first time a plug-in hybrid vehicle appears on track at the event.

Fisker reps have a busy schedule that week; it will be on display at Concorso Italiano on Aug. 14 along with the Karma Sunset hardtop convertible concept, and the Sunset will be on display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Aug. 16.

Less Pain at the Pump

It’s almost impossible to remember the last time I watched a newscast that didn’t include2009 Ford Escape Hybrid a report on the rising price of gas. As the numbers break the $4 a gallon mark, even those who can afford the $100 tank of gas are rethinking their choices.

The one-two punch of environmental awareness and soaring gas prices has led GM to shun its behemouth Hummer and has made the used SUV market a bargain for anyone who doesn’t mind making up for it at the gas pump.

So now, some good news: GM has turned its attention to the Volt, its plug-in hybrid, with production set for 2010. For those who don’t want to wait, has released its list of the 10 most fuel-efficient vehicles in the U.S.

It’s no surprise to find the Toyota Prius at the top of that list. The highly praised Prius has become a celebrity in its own right and the symbol for all things green. With 48 mpg/highway and 45 mpg in the city, no other car can touch this one. Yet.

Following on its heels are the 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid (45/highway, 40/city); the tiny Smart Fortwo (41/highway, 33/city); the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid (35/highway, 33/city); and the 2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid (34/highway, 33/city).

Rounding out the top 10 list are the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid, the ’08 Toyota Yaris, the ’08 Mini Cooper and the 2008 Honda Fit. See the whole story here.

What If Your Hybrid Needs Repairs?

Posted in: General, Hybrid cars

2007-toyota-prius.jpgHybrids have become some of the hottest property around, thanks to that one-two punch of environmental consciousness and skyrocketing gas prices. In fact, according to Automotive News, sales of the Toyota Prius are up nearly 4 percent from last year and a year-old Prius is now worth more than it was when it was new.

That’s good news for owners – and for the environment – but this new ownership comes with some new questions. Like – Where do you get it fixed if you are far from your home dealership?

The answer, according to Angie Hicks – namesake and founder of Angie’s List, a service company rating site – is getting easier to find.

“Right now the easiest way to ensure you get a hybrid-certified mechanic is to use the service department of a dealership that sells new hybrid vehicles,” recommends Hicks. “Mechanics at those dealerships are required to undergo extensive hybrid training that some independent mechanics may not have gotten yet.”

However, with hybrids heating up the market, more repair shops are sending their mechanics back to school to learn the tricks of this new trade. She advises to simply ask for proof that the mechanic is certified to work on a hybrid before handing him the keys.

The best plan, of course, is to find a certified mechanic before you need one. Developing a long-term relationship with your mechanic is always a good idea, so plan ahead and start cultivating this before you need one. Some of Hicks’ tips for hybrid auto repair also include:

– Never work on the electrical system yourself.

– Be timely with the tire rotations, as the torque of a hybrid engines can wear out tires faster than on a traditional gasoline engine.

– Keep your routine – maintenance, that is. Staying current on your regular maintenance schedule extends the life of your hybrid in addition to preserving its resale value.

As if lower gas bills and environmental do-goodism weren’t enough, Hicks found another piece of good news for hybrid owners: Maintenance and repair costs are less than maintenance of traditional vehicles, thanks to fewer components that require regular maintenance. So you aren’t just driving green – you’re saving green!

Land Rover’s New Concept a Winner

Land Rover’s latest brainchild hasn’t hit the production line yet – but it’s already a hit.

The South East Automotive Media Organization named Land Rover’s LRX Concept the 2008 North American Concept Truck of the Year on Tuesday, citing its great looks and new technology as major factors. The award is based on design, style, materials, technology, market viability and market responsiveness.

Although it’s still technically an SUV, the sleekly designed Land Rover LRX Concept incorporates some rather innovative options into its design. It’s a turbo diesel hybrid vehicle – the first of its kind – which means it can get over 50 miles to the gallon and can run on bio-diesel. With just three doors, it is smaller and lighter than the Land Rovers on the road tody, and it also has an “ECO” mode to optimize fuel economy.

Inside, the interiors are as luxurious as ever, but it’s designed to not only look good, but to reduce the weight of the LRX as well. Instead of glass in the roof and side windows, designers used polycarbonate – which is 40 percent lighter than glass and blocks virtually all UV light. At the same time, Land Rover used special nanotechnology within the polycarbonate to reduce infra-red transmission, which helps the interior keep its cool.

With an eye toward sustainability, the LRX uses vegetable-tanned leather, aluminum (good both for reducing weight and for recycling) and carpeting made from sustainable sources. The fine suede on the door inserts and headliners is actually made from recycled plastic bottles and fibers. And the creature comforts aim to please, with touches like an iPod docking station, a cool box (no more bulky coolers in the car!) and even a bottle chiller.

So, finally, there’s a Land Rover that is as good for the environment as it is good-looking. In fact, the only problem I could see with this vehicle is that it’s not on the road yet. Here’s hoping that Land Rover will make that happen long before the LRX’s previously anticipated 2011-ish debut…

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What’s Sexier – A Porsche or a Prius?

OK, the answer to that question may seem obvious, but you might be surprised.

According to a recent poll, called the Challenge X Survey, about 88 percent of women said they would be more likely to stop and strike up a conversation with guys who are driving the latest fuel-efficient car as opposed to someone cruising around in a hot new sports car. What’s more, about 80 percent of car buyers here in the U.S. say they would rather spend quality time at a party talking to someone in a fuel-efficient auto rather than an exotic sports model.

This kind of information could cause quite a stir among males planning a mid-life crisis – in the past, they’ve been able to buy a Corvette (or some other life-affirming symbol of their manly power) and call it good. But in light of this new information, what’s a guy to do?

Does this mean that they’ll be trading their Hummers for Hondas? They just might, once they discover that more and more women are turning their attention toward cars that are green instead of admiring those fast, mean machines. What’s more, most respondents in the 18-to-43-year-old category said they consider it a fashion faux pas to buy a car that’s not environmentally friendly.

This, of course, poses questions for those tooling around in the kinds of cars that would only be green if you painted them. What does it mean for their future? That remains to be seen.

Until automakers start producing hybrid and electric vehicles that are as sleek and sporty as their gas-guzzling counterparts, auto enthusiasts are in a challenging position. Yes, I want to save the polar bears … but I’m also infatuated with the Bentley Continental. Fortunately, several automakers are trying to follow in the footsteps of the California-based Tesla Motors and give us some sexy yet environmentally friendly cars. Honestly, it just can’t happen soon enough.

A few years ago, a guy (who drove a minivan) tried to convince me that the car you drive has nothing to do with who you are. But we all know that it says as much about you as the music you listen to, the clothes you choose to wear and the style of home you live in. That’s not a shallow indictment of an individual’s strengths and shortcomings, but rather an outward indication of what matters is most important to them.

Perhaps what this survey is saying is that it really is what’s inside – or in this case, under the hood – that counts. What we need now are more cars that take that inner beauty and look as good on the outside as they do under the hood.

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Using Karma to Save the Planet

Posted in: General, Hybrid cars

One of the biggest conflicts facing many auto enthusiasts comes from knowing the atrocities that their vehicles commit upon the environment.

While I won’t drink from a landfill-clogging plastic bottle, I will happily jump inside a gas-guzzling sports car with a carbon footprint that rivals Bigfoot. I know it’s wrong.

And I know I’m not alone in this conflict.

About a year ago, I was talking about cars and biodiesel fuel with Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing to you “Dallas” fans…) and he touted his passion for the Prius. Yep, the man who played the King of Oil in the ’80s drives a hybrid. His wife, Maj, meanwhile, confessed to absolutely loving her Ferrari – even though she knows it doesn’t fall in the eco-friendly category. Not even close. So what’s a girl to do?

Up until now, the options have either been to park it and assuage your guilt, or ignore that pesky conscience and hit the gas. But Fisker Automotive has a better plan.

The California-based car company first introduced its prototype, the Fisker Karma, five months ago at the North American International Auto Show. Since then, they’ve received some 500 orders for the luxury hybrid car, which is slated to be on the market in 2009. The company plans to hit a production schedule of 1,250 cars per month in 2010.

The numbers are impressive – this plug-in hybrid will hit 125 mph in sport mode, and tops out at 95 mph in electric (or “stealth”) mode. And the styling lets you know that this is no ordinary plug-in. With a sleek, low-slung profile, the Karma hugs the ground and stands about as tall as the Porsche 911 and is about as wide as BMW’s M-series cars.

The Fisker Karma goes from 0-60 in less than six seconds, and includes a full-length solar roof to help charge the car – and keep it cool – while it’s parked.

Inside, you’ll find all the electronic creature comforts required for today’s driver, including a built-in navigation system, DVD system and state-of-the art push-button controls. Of course, we’ve yet to see how this dream car translates from the showroom to the open road, but it looks like one of the most promising things to jump off the drawing board in quite some time.

And with a price point of $80,000, it’s easier on the checkbook than many sportsters out there – even before you start saving money on fuel.

Great styling and performance without the guilt? Now that’s what I call great Karma! Maj Hagman, I think your car is calling…

Get Sporty: Honda Unveils CR-Z Hybrid

Posted in: General, Hybrid cars

Last week, Honda announced plans to roll out additional cars to join its original hybrid – the Honda Civic –Honda CR-Z Sports Car and try to continue living up to the title of “greenest automaker,” which has been bestowed upon the car company by the Union of Concerned Scientists for four consecutive years.

The first new car on the block will be a five-door family friendly hatchback, but Honda’s most exciting piece of news was their plan to also offer a hybrid sportscar. Based on the CR-Z sports car that they first showed off at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, the new car will combine sporty performance with environmental awareness. (Kind of like a Tesla Roadster, only the price tag will fall well below $98,000.)

The CR-Z, which stands for “Compact Renaissance Zero,” will use Honda’s FCX Clarity, a next-generation, zero-emissions hydrogen-powered fuel cell. The name gives a nod to the idea of creating a renaissance in the design of compact cars, offering advanced technology and driving pleasure while at the same time reducing the vehicle’s overall environmental footprint. The outer design is futuristic, with an oversized grille lending a high-performance look and feel to the car. LED headlights and fin-shaped sub-lights are nice touches that suggest a dynamic, exciting ride. Inside, look for a high-tech environment that is both sporty and sophisticated.

Sports cars often put drivers in a dilemma: Save the environment or enjoy the ride. It looks like soon, we may be able to do both. In style.