Monday, February 28, 2011

Hyundai Hybrid Ad Snipes at Prius, Other Moments in Oscar Awards

Hyundai did most of the automotive advertising during the Academy Awards last night as it becomes more aggressive and big spending in the US market for its Hyundai and Kia products. It seems to be working for them. One commercial stood out promoting the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. The voice over said, "It's not the first hybrid, but it might be yours." So, there are actually other hybrids on the market besides the Prius and you might like the Sonata Hybrid even more, the ad suggests.

Overall, the Oscars were a bit lackluster even with their amusing young co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco. "The King's Speech" winning all the major awards took some of the wind out of the sales of the Oscars appealing to younger demographics. Hathaway and Franco could banter and be cute together, but it was still the Oscars, for better or worse.

As for other green moments, two stood out. "Let's Pollute" was nominated for best animated short movie, and "Gasland" for best documentary. "Let's Pollute" offers a satire on old educational student movies instructing people how to be better polluters for a better blighted tomorrow. "Gasland" showed an image of a man nearly burning himself to death turning on his kitchen stove, living right near a shale field where "fracking" is being done for natural gas. Natural gas vehicles are part of a tough climate now with pressure on natural gas safety as fracking grows by leaps and bounds each year.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Plug-in Cruise Ships, Toyota's Own Charger, EV Building Codes, EVs Get Rooted

Ships go Plug-in: The Port of Los Angeles has installed electric accessory power to supply three separate cruise lines. The port says it is the first worldwide to provide Alternative Maritime Power to three cruise lines. In the last few weeks, ships from Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line have all used AMP Mobile technology, specifically designed for the port’s World Cruise Center. The system allows cruise ships at berth to plug into either 6.6 kilovolts (kV) or 11 kV electrical power distribution systems, instead of running their diesel engines.

Toyota's Very Own EV Charger: Toyota has announced that it will launch its own home electric car charger. While Toyota’s charger will work with non-Toyota cars, this definitely seems like a way for Toyota to sell its chargers to people buying the plug-in Prius. The Japanese manufacturer is hoping to sell 50,000 plug-in Prii (the now official plural of Prius) starting in 2012.

Cleaning Up Building Codes: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory yesterday published case studies of four locations that have crafted plans to encourage drivers to go electric. Rather than financial or technical hurdles, the biggest priority of these cities is updating the permitting process around home and public charging stations. Although it's not necessary, most plug-in electric-car owners are expected to have a dedicated charge port installed at their homes, which will work at 240 volts and cut charge time roughly in half. One of the concerns automakers and potential buyers have is long delays in getting these chargers installed since building codes don't always explicitly address them.One of the concerns automakers and potential buyers have is long delays in getting these chargers installed since building codes don't always explicitly address them.

Green Machines Getting Rooted: The Electric Drive Transportation Association describes itself as "the preeminent trade association representing battery, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric drive vehicles." Not just plug-in electric vehicles, which encompasses pure electric and plug-in hybrid. Hybrid electric vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles are included in the membership, which is very good to hear about. All of these routes are important to green machines taking root in the auto industry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Econation Takes Chauffeured Transportation Award

Econation, a Los Angeles-based chauffeured transportation company, is the very first green transportation provider to win one of LCT Magazine's influential Operator of the Year awards. The company's fleet is entirely green - hybrids and alternative fuels - and serves sustainability officers and entertainment industry executives who wish to have this option. Congratulations Econation. Read more here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tweeting about Green Machines

Tweeting has grown in leaps and bounds in recent months, catching up with Facebook in the universe of social media. Twitter has grown so popular that, of all people, Denis Leary (infamous comedian/character/star of "Rescue Me") has a bestselling book taken from his daily tweets, called Suck on This Year: LYFAO @ 140 Characters or Less. Further evidence of Twitter taking over social media for now:, one of the two Black Eyed Peas famous lead singers, tweeted during half time at the Super Bowl while he and his band entertained 111 million TV viewers.

Automotive Digest Weekly Green now tweets daily @AutoGreenDig. We invite you to follow, and invite us to do the same. Just like with the Green Machine Digest blog, there's enough happening in green cars and fuels every day to spend time sifting through the news and gossip, and posting social media comments. ADW Green will remain a weekly newsletter for now, and the blogging and tweeting keep it live and fun.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Correct Name for Growing Prius Family

When you're talking about the growing Prius family -- plans include 7 passenger Prius V and compact Prius C Concept -- don't say Prius, say Prii. Toyota got public feedback on how to pluralize the famous brand name now that there's going to be one version of it. And coming up with this could help the brand marketing as buzz abounds over the new word. 

Results were announced at the Chicago Auto Show, and voting was kicked off January 10th at the Detroit Auto Show. It went so well that added the new word to its Prius listing. So it is now official. 

Best and Worst Deals for Pickups at the Gas Pump

Pickup truck owners tend to be polar opposites to Prius lovers and those drooling over getting their hands on a Leaf or Volt. Truckers love the space, elevation, and utility. You can help your buddy move, throw your handyman belt and tools in the back, let your dogs wag their tongues and look over the sides, tow stuff, and have fun offroad. Now that gas prices are going back up, the fun wares off a bit if you're concerned about pocketbook.

Edmunds addressed the issue with a chart showing cheapest and most expensive monthly gas bills for pickups on the market. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid did the best at $184 per month. The Ford F-150 was the best non-hybrid pickup with monthly fuel costs at $203, and slightly higher if going on E85. A tank of ethanol doesn't take a truck as many miles as a tank of gas -- maybe 75% the distance. The emissions are better but the cost is higher. Most expensive -- Ford F-150 SVT Raptor -- $324 per month -- much higher than its non-SVT Raptor F-150 sibling.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A few thoughts on green fleet management

From Green Car Congress: "The Hybrid Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program will provide vouchers on a first-come, first-served basis to help California fleets purchase fuel-efficient hybrid medium- and heavy-duty vehicles... The program is part of the Air Quality Improvement Program established in 2007 to provide funding for advanced technology vehicles and equipment."

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Fleets are very smart to tap into incentive programs. The funding would probably not be there if federal, state, and regional funding weren't sought out, and something this comes from nonprofits and education institutions. Or a collaboration of public/private funding.

2. Air quality management is a very good thing, whether you believe in global warming or climate change, and whether greenhouse gas emissions should be the baseline or something else like nitrogen oxide, air quality will get the public's attention, and that of decision makers.

3. Hybrid technology has an edge over other green vehicle technologies and has been worming its way from the Prius to several fleet applications. Expect more of this to happen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Surprises Galore from Annual ACEEE Green Book Ratings

The American Council for Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has been publishing its Green Book ratings for year, so I looked forward to reading their rankings of green cars. The organization uses SAE standards and takes a wide range of pointers into consideration beyond mileage ratings. Surprisingly, the natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX narrowly beat out the Nissan Leaf for No. 1. Even more surprising , the Chevy Volt hit No. 12 on the list, after sweeping a few awards recently like Green Car of the Year from Green Car Journal. A large factor in the rating is the car's weight, and the Volt is a heavy car, sort of a muscle car PEV. They also factored in a ratio of the car typically running 64% of time on electricity and 36% on gasoline, and the gas part of the trip doesn't get great fuel economy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roaming in your electric car, fuel cell funding sputters out

Roam when you want to, roam around the world:  According to All Cars Electric, it appears the cell phone roaming concept may be heading towards the world of electric cars, and specifically electric car charging with a new service known as emerging in Europe. The brainchild of Nokia Siemens and a German public utility group called Smartlab, will authenticate your data across a charging infrastructure, regardless of whom owns the different infrastructres across a country. It can use data such as your EV charging contract ID, an RFID card number, a PIN or a telephone number. This will take away a lot of the limitations of available charging stations for travelers.

Fuel cell funding dwindles: The Obama administration has proposed to stop funding research on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. This is not the first time that the US government has proposed cuts into fuel-cell research funds. With this move, the hydrogen fuel-cell market will be lost to strategic competitors in Germany and Japan, according to members of the industrial community.

 $290 billion green market: National Marketing Institute says that 83% of consumers representing four generations — Baby Boomers, Millennials, Gen Ys, and Gen Zs – are some shade of green. Each in their own way, these generations are quickly transforming what used to be a fringe market to a bona fide $290 billion industry ranging from organic foods to hybrid cars, ecotourism to green home furnishings. It seems like this market took its presence to the next level starting about 10 years ago -- publications like GreenBiz started coming out, as did the Toyota Prius and Honda hybrids, a series of meetings and conferences, and natural food products and retail channels including farmer's markets.

Tesla expects a very good year: According to Automotive News coverage, Tesla Motors Inc. said its revenue this year may rise as much as 50% because of higher demand for its rechargeable vehicles and battery packs. The company released annual results today for the first time since its initial public offering in June, posting revenue of $116.7 million in 2010. Tesla’s forecast for this year exceeded the $152 million average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Tesla is seeking to become the leader in battery-powered cars, aided by supply agreements with Toyota and Daimler. Along with development costs related to the Model S, the company is also readying a former Toyota joint-venture factory in Fremont, Calif., that is to begin making the $57,400 Model S next year. “Until the Model S is available, and sold, in large quantities, there is no real channel of revenue for Tesla,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at in Santa Monica, Calif.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anti-Gore Movie, Pro Clean and Green

Anti-Gore: A new movie is coming out soon called Carbon Nation, and is positioning itself as an anti-Al Gore climate change movie. The premise is that you don’t have to believe in the science of climate change to watch the movie and want to support clean power and greener transportation, which may be more viable as clean energy and green transportation take root. Perhaps "global warming" and "climate change" are not going to be user-friendly terms to use anymore. The United Nations might have to change its conference name.

Automakers Get Feisty: According to Automotive News... "Auto companies are resurgent financially and attracting support from powerful Republicans in Congress, placing them on firmer ground to challenge moves toward even stricter U.S. fuel-efficiency standards. While the industry touts cleaner burning engines and is more serious about batteries for hybrids and electric plug-ins, car companies are seeking to slow or ease any requirement to nearly double efficiency by 2025 to 60 miles per gallon." Two years ago, automakers were more sweetly reasonable about the goals set by the Obama administration, and which also became more pressing in the European Union. Now, things are changing.

Obama Budget Bummer: The administration's proposed budget will raise the hackles of some in the green/alternative fuels and energy arena. Ironically or not, one of those groups just had its annual convention this week -- National Hydrogen Association, which now goes by the name of Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association. The Obama administration proposed cutting research for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and ending a clean-diesel grant program, while promoting the market for electric cars.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jets Joining Green Flyers Club, 1 Million EV Club, Fuel Economy Numbers

B-B-B-B-Bennie and the Green Jets... Jet airlines and fuel suppliers have pressure to go clean and green and that will probably increase as private/small jets grow in volume on a daily basis. BioJet International Ltd. has received a whopping $1.2 billion of financial backing from Equity Partners Fund SPC. The massive amount of capital will allow BioJet, an international supplier of renewable aviation fuels, to fund its biofuel development and launch projects aimed at expanding the use of renewable feedstocks.

Not Joining the 1 Million EV Club: Center for Automotive Research has estimated the national distribution patterns of electric-drive vehicles across the U.S. over the next four years and concluded that 469,000 EVs should be on American roads in 2015. That figure does not include the number of electric-drive vehicles sold before 2012. So, CAR doesn't think President Obama's State of the Union vision that a million electric cars will be on the road by 2015. 

Figuring Out Fuel Economy Numbers: And what about new window stickers and EPA mileage ratings on all the brand new green machines coming to dealer lots? According to Denise McCluggage at The Detroit Bureau, "these figures are best considered an index, numbers to be compared with those on the sticker on other cars. You can infer from them a general idea how each vehicle might do in your hands. And under your right foot. And with your traffic and your hills and your climate and your altitude. And attitude."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kiplinger's car rankings, Leaf buyer rate, Ford educational video, Volt and OnStar

Green cars did well in Kiplinger's annual rankings (most recent one in 65 years) "One thing we saw a lot of this year, the vehicles that were green … hybrids, diesels, did well in the rankings," said Jessica L. Anderson, an associate editor at Kiplinger's. Kiplinger's tested nearly 1,300 vehicles beginning in October.

Only about 40% of the people who plunked down a $99 deposit to reserve a space in the Leaf queue are actually following up and placing orders with their local Nissan dealers. Not bad - industry watchers says that a 40% fulfillment rate is about right when there is no penalty for canceling a reservation - but it means Nissan likely will build and sell fewer than 10,000 Leafs in the first wave of U.S. sales.

Ford Motor Co. released a three-minute educational video highlighting the company's family of electric-drive vehicles and explaining the differences between hybrid, plug-in-hybrid and battery-electric automobiles. The video does a good job of explaining the differences between Ford's Focus Electric 5-door hatchback, C-Max Hybrid compact MPV, Fusion Hybrid gasoline-electric 4-door sedan, Transit Connect Electric van, and C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid 5-passenger compact MPV

Future versions of the Chevy Volt will be outfitted with the new OnStar feature that allows drivers the ability to continually manage their energy usage. Available to owners that opt in is access to current time of use rates that get downloaded into the vehicle's computer. This lets the driver make an informed, possibly money saving, decision when scheduling the Volt's charging time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Electric Car Insurance Might Be Higher, Lowenthal Changes Jobs

Green car news for the day...

Electric cars are not yet fully known by the insurance industry, causing some potential headaches for first time owners and hiking the price of premiums up above those increases already determined by driver age, location, occupation and miles driven per year, according to AllCarsElectric. A couple of the factors... while electric cars may not have as many components forming the drivetrain and fuel system as gasoline cars, the costs to replace electric drive trains, batteries and motors are more expensive right now. And while many investment firms and institutions have tried to come up with a realistic model for electric car depreciation, no-one can agree on it.

Coulomb Technologies has named longtime digital networking executive Pasquale "Pat" Romano as its new chief executive and president, replacing co-founder Richard Lowenthal. Lowenthal, who helped start the California-based company in 2007, is transitioning into the post of chief technical officer and head of Coulomb's government affairs office as the company makes a transition of its own from entrepreneurial start-up into the growth and marketing development stages.

The new Honda EV Concept electric vehicle will be displayed in Geneva, alongside a platform for mid-size plug-in hybrid vehicles. The concepts will be shown as part of Honda's "Road to Zero Emissions", illustrating the current technology of hybrids alongside the near-future technology of plug-in vehicles and the ultimate goal of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, like Honda's FCX Clarity.

Automotive News reports that production of the first 500 Wheego Whip LiFes is finally underway and the company expects to have them ready for retail sales on March 30th. The company claims 24 dealers have shown interest in selling the LiFe and the automaker's two additional models – a battery-powered pickup truck and a four-door electric crossover – which Wheego's president insists will debut by the end of the year.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Green and clean reportage: News and random thoughts

According to ExxonMobil, engines adore clean. If 10% of cars on US roads were hybrids, reduced greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to taking five million cars off the roads. And if every car on the road had properly inflated tires, over 700 million gallons of gas would be saved every year. You can also view a version of the story on this website. And if you're just thinking about gasoline, ExxonMobil says it offers quality fuels you can trust. "Engines adore clean" is another oil company marketing campaign in the post-Gulf oil spill environment.

Speaking of green and clean ad campaigns, Chevrolet ran one during the Super Bowl with the slogan, "Chevy Runs Deep." It offers the following pitch: "What do we call eliminating 8 million metric tons of carbon from the air? We call it a start." Chevrolet says buyers will be part of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and tree-planting projects in local communities across America.

Hyundai is opting for transparent CAFE standard reporting. The company says it reached 34.7 mpg in January for its vehicle fleet available in the US, which is close to meeting the federal requirement of 35.5 mpg by the 2016 model year.

AllCarsElectric has new details on Tesla's Model X, scheduled to be launched in 2014. The vehicle is being designed as a sporty crossover about the same size as a compact SUV. Thanks to efficient packaging of its electric drivetrain and batteries, however, the smallish soft-roader is expected to have the interior space of a full-size passenger van.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Green Police a Risky Way to Work and Live

According to Greenwire... "Yousef Abuteir's wanted poster stands out among the 16 on U.S. EPA's Web page for environmental fugitives -- and not just because it's the most recent addition to the two-year-old list. After a rundown of aliases, a physical description and a brief explanation of how he conspired to dodge federal excise taxes in a diesel fuel scam, there is a line written in bold letters. It reads: 'Abuteir is known to carry a weapon at all times.' The warning serves as a reminder of the risks faced each day by the approximately 200 special agents who work in EPA's Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training (OCEFT). But a more profound testament to the danger EPA's law enforcement officers face is located at the agency's headquarters office in Washington, D.C. That is where OCEFT keeps a plaque that honors the agents who have died while on active duty."

I don't have a paid subscription so I couldn't read the rest, though sometimes their stories also run in NY Times. It does remind me of a commercial for the Audi A3 that ran last year during the Super Bowl where the song "Dream Police" became "Green Police." It depicts an Orwellian future where police bust people for littering and doing other bad things to the environment. Drivers of the Green Car of the Year award winning, fuel efficient A3 would be pardoned by the law. I did see Cheap Trick playing their version of the song recently on "Conan," backed by a symphony. I always digged their music, and seeing them live in 1979/80 stands out vividly in my memory.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Natural Gas Providers Face "Fracking" Big Problem

Natural gas vehicles are facing a wall to climb -- increased scrutiny from regulators, more neighborhoods being directly exposed to natural gas exploration, and questions arising about the fuel’s global climate benefits, according to New York Times coverage. All that said, it certainly has its advocates -- fleet managers in love with their NGVs, technology suppliers proud of their latest offerings, T. Boone Pickens, Alternative Fuel Vehicle Institute, and certain environmentalists who see natural gas a bridge away from gasoline/diesel toward renewables and biofuels.

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who has fought for tighter regulation of natural gas drillers, said: “If natural gas is a bridge fuel, how long and wide is that bridge? Right now, the propaganda suggests a wide, long bridge where natural gas is imported, exported, used for transportation fleets, electricity generation, and other purposes for nearly a 100 years.”

There's also a new movie out on the subject. A while back, a filmmaker named Josh Fox was asked to lease his land for “fracking,” or drilling for natural gas. The experience led him to traveling cross country and making an Academy Award nominated movie called "Gasland," about the growing natural gas drilling boom in the US, and the environmental and safety pressures connected with it. One incident covered in the movie shows a Pennsylvania town close to drilling fields where residents are able to light their drinking water on fire. A lot is going on behind the scenes as this country becomes known as Gasland, according to the filmmaker.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Launching Think City in America Has Been a Very Tough Prospect, Indeed

Think has had a tough time getting started in the US market, and it's not getting any easier. The latest development has been a recall of the long-awaited City electric car by NHTSA. Reflecting Think's low production rate, only 39 vehicles are involved in the pair of safety recalls. Sixteen cars may have a driver's-side seat belt installed on the passenger side, meaning it's missing a tensioner needed to retain a child seat properly if one is installed.

According to coverage, another 23 Think City models may have inadequate defroster systems that fail to clear the inside of the windshield adequately, which could impede the driver's vision in cold or humid weather. The defroster is powered by a separate liquid heating circuit that may not function properly. So, getting electric cars to the mass market may take longer than anticipated.