Archive for February, 2012

Allison Ringold’s school project promoting electric cars is garnering attraction in her home state of Michigan. The 10-year-old created the website “What’s Was Old Is New Again” to detail the history of the electric car.

The website, her entry into the National History Day 2012, covers the journey of the electrically-powered car from its inception up to 2012 models such as the Leaf and the Volt. Ringold’s interest in electric vehicles is nothing new to her family. Her uncle and aunt, Mark and Amy Swains, have been members of the daily electric car drivers and the Plug-in America groups for years. The Swains’ passion for these vehicles is so deep that Mark was on the Chevy Volt Customer Advisory Board.

The website has not yet been evaluated by the National History Day 2012 judges.

Infinti Emerg-E Photos Released: A Winner

Photos of the Infiniti Emerg-E have been released a month before the car itself is to be revealed at the Geneva Auto Show in March. The pictures show that the mid-engined electric supercar will be a gorgeously curved vehicle possessing smoothly organic lines. With its extended range, a seat within an Emerg-E must be, at this stage of the game, a throne in the Valhalla of electric vehicles.

However, pretty does not necessarily equal performance, and, so although, its looks compare to what you’d find on a McLaren MP4-12C or a Ferrari 458, there are still questions as to how well its drivetrain will perform.

But, with its looks and range, there is little doubt that there will be consumers eager to try out its untested drivetrain.

California Welcomes the Volt in Carpool Lanes

California commuters have a new weapon in the war against traffic.  The Chevy Volt, a hybrid offered by GM, is being shipped to the state with a new $1,500 rebate as an incentive to new buyers.  Not only that, but with federal tax credits, buyers of new Volts stand to get up to $8,500 off the price of a new vehicle. 

Although 2011 sales for the Volt were well below forecasts due to some problems discovered during crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Highway Administration has closed its investigation and given the Volt a clean bill of health.  The new Volts are expected to arrive in dealerships in California by the end of February.

The Chevy Volt last year was introduced amidst much fanfare.  Considered the most advanced hybrid on the road yet, the Volt can travel up to 50 miles without using any gasoline, at which point the gasoline engine kicks in to provide up to 300 additional miles of range. 

But the biggest draw for many Volt buyers?  The fact that you can legally drive in the carpool lane with one—without actually carpooling with anyone.  The Volt is one of the rare exceptions allowed in the HOV commuter lanes with only a single passenger. 

Actress Daryl Hannah’s former 1983 El Camino pickup truck has been sold at auction for $2,250. In her sales video from four years back when she sold the vehicle on eBay for $10,000, the former mermaid can be seen not only driving her gun-metal grey matte finished classic car, but drinking the bio-diesel fuel that powers it. Its bio-diesel fuel is derived from recycled vegetable oil.

Hannah is a well-known supporter of green causes who does more than talk the talk. She has been touting the benefits of bio-fuel alternatives since around the time she finally refused to stay for Jackson Browne. Nine years ago, Hannah founded the Sustainable Biofuels Alliance. Since then, she demonstrated how useful biofuels are by powering her stock Chevy pickup truck for many years on fuel made from recycled vegetable oil for many years.       

The El Camino’s new owner is still a mystery at the time of this writing.  

Green Cars Not Limited to Plug Ins

Though they tend to make the headlines and fill the dreams of self-described progressives everywhere, electric vehicles are not the only player in the green vehicle game. In fact, there are several options to plug-ins that are not only viable, but also in some cases a better choice for the consumer.

One great option is the natural gas-powered vehicle. These cars burn clean and use a fuel that is readily available in the U.S. A second option is the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that is powered by a system that nearly seems to be otherworldly. Fuel cells create water as a by-product as they combine oxygen from the air with hydrogen gas to produce electrons that power electric motors.

A well-known option is the hybrid vehicle. It has two motors, an electric one and one that is gas-powered. Hybrids are gaining in popularity since they are in effect electric cars with extended ranges. The next option, diesel, is more widely known than even the hybrids are. Diesel engines are known for being fuel efficient and burning cleaner than gasoline-powered vehicles.

The final green alternative to the plug in is the newer gasoline engines. Due to new technologies such as direct fuel injection, sophisticated variable valve timing, turbocharging and more advanced transmissions gasoline engines are forever becoming more fuel efficient and cleaner to burn.  

Is that New Car Smell Killing You?

Generations of new car buyers have gotten a thrill each time they caught a whiff of their new steed’s interior. However, this enticing smell could prove to be downright hazardous.

According to a survey just released by the Ecology Center, the chemicals that make up these auto aromas are often volatile and, while no one but the writer of the above headline is suggesting that they can kill you, they can make you rather sick.

Speaking about this danger, Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center, said, “Automobiles function as chemical reactors, creating one of the most hazardous environments we spend time in.” This aroma awareness is a departure from just a decade or so back when many automakers actually worked to create the classic new car scent within their vehicles.

The Ecology Center survey listed both the most dangerous and the cleanest from an interior chemical perspective. Smell-wise, the safest new cars are the Honda Civic, the Toyota Prius and the Honda CR-Z, while the most dangerous new vehicles are the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the Chrysler 300C and the Kia Soul.

More New Clear Air Laws in California

The California Air Resources Board, apparently not satisfied with the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements that every automaker’s fleet must average 54.5 mpg by the year 2025, has decided to tack on an additional requirement that 15.4% of each automaker’s lineup must be “non-polluting”.

These vehicles can be hybrids, fully electric, or hydrogen fuel cell powered, but they must have zero emissions. According to chairwoman Mary Nichols, 15.4% of an entire fleet is “a relatively modest goal”. What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not that many people will be interested in buying these vehicles, since the mere fact of legislation passed does not automatically equate to changing consumer tastes.

To help attract new customers to the potentially more expensive drivetrains, Nichols added that they would be considering rebates and/or tax credits to those who purchase the vehicles to help offset the higher cost.

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the new CAFE standards that will apply to vehicles sold beginning in 2017. Federal government studies have found that these standards will save the average buyer of a new vehicle in 2025 $6,600 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle.  Of course, offsetting this is the steeper price purchasers will pay for hybrid/electric drivetrains.  The NADA is now saying that new standards could make vehicles cost $3200 more!