Monthly Archives: May 2006

Consumer Reports announces Top Picks for 2006

In the Hybrid SUV category the Toyota Highlander comes up on top according to Consumer Reports latest announcement. With the inception of the Highlander, Consumer Reports now has two hybrids in its Top Picks, the other being the Toyota Prius. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid beat the other SUV’s in its category based on the fact that it accelerates quicker and has moderately better fuel economy in its class.


Ford Looks into PHEV’s

Probably in a couple of years down the road people will be able to buy a Ford PHEV. The California Cars Initiative and University of California at Davis Professor Andy Frank today welcomed Ford Motor Co CEO Bill Ford, Jr.’s acknowledgment that the company is exploring plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology.

These are the same guys who made the first plug-in hybrid version of the Toyota Prius in 2004. They plan on converting a hybrid Ford Escape into a PHEV. By doing this, one can recharge your PHEV from a conventional 120 volt power socket at home. But the fact that Bill Ford had to be cornered when ansked if Ford was ever going to make a PHEV simply shows that the auto industry is not too keen on change. As consumers it is up to us to encourage, in fact demand that more innovative ideas such as this actually make it from the drawing board to the production line.

More Corn for Michigan

GM is pushing for more ethanol based gas stations in Michigan. There are currently 5 gas pumps in the entire state that supply E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline blend) based gas for FFV. Now GM is going to “encourage” that all its employees driving FFV’s gas up at these pumps. There are plans to introduce 20 more gas pumps which will serve E85 in Michigan, predominately in the Wayne County & Detroit area. General Motors Corp.’s drive to put ethanol-based fuel in the tanks of more U.S. cars and trucks may transform Detroit’s neighborhood gas stations and its drivers into pioneers in the use of the gasoline alternative.


Cow Dung Power: Talk about a renewable resource

Now this a new concept coming all the way from India. A little background on cow dung aka cow pies, its the manure gotten from the cow which is shaped as pie, three stripes (finger imprints lengthwise, note: not the same as adidas) on the top of them. These are then layed out to dry and bake in the Indian summer. If you are ever traveling around rural India you will find cow pies slapped on walls along the road and sidewalks. This is the poor man’s fuel. People in rural areas in India have been using dried cow dung as a fuel for ages. Its generally used in clay ovens as a cooking medium. Now cow manure gives offf methane which can be used to power pretty much anything. There is a car that runs on cow pies. It’s fast, the fuel is cheap and the vehicle smells nothing like the dairy that produces the gas in its tank.

The Viking 32 is one such methane driven concept car being entered at the Tour de Sol at the Saratoga Automobile Museum Auto Show in Saratoga Spa State Park. “Fledge”, a one person hybrid designed and developed by seven Delhi College of Engineering students, which gives 60 miles on a single charge is another entrant at the show from India.

Cow pie or methane powered vehicles will definitely work in countries such as India, because due to the rapid economic growth of the country, India’s fuel resources cannot keep up witht the demand. Currently only the affluent in India can own a car, and they make up a very small demographic. For even these people to own a hybrid vehicle such as the Prius (USD24,000 converts to over Indian Rupees 1million). So I wish those students from India and all the other entrants all the best in the contest and hopefully someday we will see greener cars in Indian cities. Hint: Combine the cheap hybrid with a methane powered engine.
Source: Racing for a better way to power cars


Prius: International Engine of the year 2006

For the third year in succession, the 1.5-liter gasoline engine of the Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain has won both the International Engine of the Year Award in the 1.4– 1.8-liter category and the “Best Fuel Economy” category. The awards were made at the Engine Expo in Stuttgart, Germany.

Apart from this, BMW snapped up five awards in various engine performance and size categories. Other entrants such as VW won three, while Honda and Subaru got one each.


Toyota Yaris: Will it go Hybrid

The question all possible hybrid car buyers who are looking for a hybrid cheaper than the current ones on the market (Prius, Honda, Ford, etc) which cost 24k and above, is when will Toyota produce a hybrid Yaris. Honda already plans on producing the Fit as a hybrid. The Yaris is a subcompact car and if hybrid technology is intergrated into this vehicle, the Yaris hybrid would come as a blessing to city drivers. At about 17k ($3000 more approx. for the hybrid model) more people will be able to afford a hybrid. With gas prices hovering around $2.77-3.00 a gallon and with no signs of coming down this could very well change the mindset of the average American car owner. I know people are resistant to any form of change but for goodness sake if it comes down to paying your bills and buying groceries versus filling up your gas tank every other day just to get to work, would you not rather own a car that uses less gas and is environmentally friendly. I mean do we really need to have huge gas guzzling vehicles just to get our fat behinds to the store.I was in the parking lot of a “grocery store” yesterday and the only spot I found was between two huge pickup trucks. I mean do we really need to have huge gas guzzling vehicles just to get our fat behinds to the store. The other reason is that you cannot see anything when you are backing out of the parking space. The only consolation was that in front of us was a Ford Escape Hybrid. Yes, the down side is that subcompacts are small, but then at the end of the day you do not end up giving ALL your hard earned salary to fat rich oil executives who get $400 million retirement packages.


Hybrid Car Race at Dartmouth

A team of students at the Thayer School of Engineering hosted Formula Hybrid, the first collegiate car race to use only hybrid and electric vehicles, at the New Hampshire International Speedway on Thursday.

Even though Dartmouth and McGill University (Krissy and my alma mater) were the only two teams to compete, events like these promote hybrid technology. I cannot wait to see the various hybrid Formula 1 models built by undergrads next year, when more teams compete at Dartmouth. If timed right I may even go up to Dartmouth to cover it next year.

X1: Formula 1 type EV

The X1 looks every bit the Formula 1 car you would find at any Grand Prix venue. The main differences, its has seats for two passengers, runs solely on lithium-ions battery cells, range 100 miles and takes 4.5 hours to recharge and it only cost $100,000. Ian Wright, a 50-year-old entrepreneur from New Zealand, thinks his electric car, the X1, can soon be made into a small-production roadster that car fanatics and weekend warriors will happily take home for about $100,000 – a quarter ton of batteries included. He has even launched a startup, called Wrightspeed, to custom-make and sell the car.

Ferrari,Porsche, Bugatti look out for the competition, the future is here. Albeit the common race car enthusiast will never be able to own one of these, atleast the weekend warriors with these toys can now contribute to saving our fragile environment and help control CO2 emissions.