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Hyundai admits 'error' in KDM Sonata fuel economy announcement

03/18/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, Hyundai, Legislation and Policy, Asia

2014 Hyundai Sonata

Stop us if you've heard this one before: Hyundai is going to have to reduce the officially announced miles-per-gallon number for its 2014 Sonata. While there's a lot of similarity between this new situation and events that transpired in 2012, there are some important differences. For one, the new mileage mistake, which Hyundai says was once again caused by an error at its test centers, is only applicable to cars in the Korean Domestic Market. Secondly, it's not so much mpg as kilometers per liter.

"We are very sorry for causing confusion to reporters" - Hyundai

According to Reuters, the numbers for the Korean Sonata were originally announced as 12.6 kilometers per liter (29.63 mpg), a six-percent increase over the previous model. The automaker has just announced that government verification showed an actual result of 12.1 kpl (28.46 mpg), which is only a two-percent increase. Since these numbers were done using the South Korean economy test, they are not equivalent to the US EPA numbers, the latter of which say the 2014 Sonata gets 36/40/38 miles per gallon. The correction came before the new Sonata went on sale in South Korea. In an official statement, Hyundai said, "We are very sorry for causing confusion to reporters." Hyundai Motor America's Jim Trainor, product public relations senior group manager, assured AutoblogGreen that the Korean error will have "no effect" on US ratings.

In 2012, Hyundai and Kia faced a media and consumer firestorm after being caught up in exaggerated mileage claims for vehicles like its 2013 Accent, Veloster and Elantra. The sister companies agreed to compensate buyers to the tune of $395 million for what they said were "honest mistakes" and "human error" during in-house fuel economy tests. There is no word yet on whether similar customer satisfaction actions will follow this domestic market snafu.

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Audi traffic light recognition could save 240 million gallons of fuel [UPDATE]

03/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, MPG, Audi

Audi Online traffic light information system

Audi Online traffic light information systemAny hypermiler will tell you that the way you drive your car has a huge impact on how much energy it uses. But these greenfoot drivers haven't had a car that's smart enough to tell them about the inner lives of traffic lights. That's what a prototype system in an Audi A6 Saloon that the German automaker recently tested in Las Vegas can do. Since the car can communicate with local traffic signals and is able to predict when lights will change, the car can help reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent. Further, Audi says that the system could save some 238 million gallons of fuel (900 million liters), if deployed across Germany. We can only imagine what hypermilers could do with this.

We got to drive the Audi Online traffic light information system prototype in January, but we focused more on how the system worked rather than the green aspect. Now that Audi has had a bit more time to crunch the numbers, it has released fuel economy information for the connected car. The key points for the eco-side of things are that the driver is told in the dashboard how fast/slow to go to hit the next green light. This can help prevent unnecessary speeding and or encourage drivers to go a bit faster in order to hit the green, thus preventing idling and wasted time.

The system is too smart to let you idle for long.

Except that Audi Online is too smart to let you idle for long. The Audi connect system can calculate how much longer the light will be red and can access the car's start-stop capabilities and will fire up the engine "five seconds before the green phase." That seems like an awful long time in a world where competitors have figured out ways to restart an engine in 0.35 seconds. We've asked Audi for an explanation on why this buffer is so lengthy, and will let you know what the reasoning is when we hear back.

Despite the trials in the A6, Audi says the Audi Online traffic system could be integrated into any Audi model, "subject to the necessary government legislation." Aside from the Sin City tests, Audi is running trials of the connected car in Verona, Italy and Berlin, Germany. If you'd like to test it out yourself some day, take heart from this line in the press release, available below: "A market launch is currently the subject of intense analysis in the United States."

*UPDATE: Audi's Mark Dahncke told AutoblogGreen that the five second window is meant, "To alert the driver that the light is about to turn green. In other words, get ready to drive."

Continue reading Audi traffic light recognition could save 240 million gallons of fuel [UPDATE]

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Audi traffic light recognition could save 240 million gallons of fuel

03/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, MPG, Audi

Audi Online traffic light information system

Audi Online traffic light information systemAny hypermiler will tell you that the way you drive your car has a huge impact on how much energy it uses. But these greenfoot drivers haven't had a car that's smart enough to tell them about the inner lives of traffic lights. That's what a prototype system in an Audi A6 Saloon that the German automaker recently tested in Las Vegas can do. Since the car can communicate with local traffic signals and is able to predict when lights will change, the car can help reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent. Further, Audi says that the system could save some 238 million gallons of fuel (900 million liters), if deployed across Germany. We can only imagine what hypermilers could do with this.

We got to drive the Audi Online traffic light information system prototype in January, but we focused more on how the system worked rather than the green aspect. Now that Audi has had a bit more time to crunch the numbers, it has released fuel economy information for the connected car. The key points for the eco-side of things are that the driver is told in the dashboard how fast/slow to go to hit the next green light. This can help prevent unnecessary speeding and or encourage drivers to go a bit faster in order to hit the green, thus preventing idling and wasted time.

The system is too smart to let you idle for long.

Except that Audi Online is too smart to let you idle for long. The Audi connect system can calculate how much longer the light will be red and can access the car's start-stop capabilities and will fire up the engine "five seconds before the green phase." That seems like an awful long time in a world where competitors have figured out ways to restart an engine in 0.35 seconds. We've asked Audi for an explanation on why this buffer is so lengthy, and will let you know what the reasoning is when we hear back.

Despite the trials in the A6, Audi says the Audi Online traffic system could be integrated into any Audi model, "subject to the necessary government legislation." Aside from the Sin City tests, Audi is running trials of the connected car in Verona, Italy and Berlin, Germany. If you'd like to test it out yourself some day, take heart from this line in the press release, available below: "A market launch is currently the subject of intense analysis in the United States."

Continue reading Audi traffic light recognition could save 240 million gallons of fuel

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Big Oil says California's cap-and-trade system will raise gas prices

03/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, Legislation and Policy, USA

California Greenhouse Gases

You try to do a good thing, but someone always has to come around and say there's a down side. In this case, the good thing is AB 32, also known as California's greenhouse gas emission reduction law, and the potential down side is one that could generate a lot of bad publicity.

First, some background. The idea behind the law was to reverse the climbing trend of emissions in the state, shrinking them down to 1990 levels by 2020. That means, in the end, a "15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the 'business-as-usual' scenario in 2020 if we did nothing at all," according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which is the force behind the law. AB 32 was passed in 2006 and was signed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The emission cap for 2013 was set at a level about two percent lower than the emissions that were expected (in 2006) to be in 2012, and AB 32 gets stricter from here. It drops another two percent (roughly) in 2014 and then about three percent every year from 2015 to 2020.

CARB chair Mary Nichols said she doesn't believe the oil companies.

Since there is a cap on overall emissions, the affected industries can trade emissions credits as one way to comply. Or they can conduct cleaner operations. In 2013, the law took effect for electric utilities and large industrial facilities (which have already racked up $1.5 billion in pollution permit fees), and it will kick in next year for "distributors of transportation, natural gas and other fuels." As 2015 approaches, the oil industry is warning that the increased hassle of AB 32 will add at least 12 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas in California. State regulators claim the increase could be anywhere from negligible to over 10 cents a gallon, the AP says. The current average price in the state today is about $3.90. CARB chair Mary Nichols told the AP that she doesn't believe the oil companies when they warn the public about higher gas prices. "It would appear to be some deliberate measure on their part if there were to be a sudden rise in [fuel] prices on January 1," she said.

Dave Clegern, CARB's public information officer, says that the reported cost increases are unlikely. "So far," he told AutoblogGreen, "the costs of compliance with AB 32 programs has held to the basic economic model which indicates a possible impact on fuel prices of three-to-five percent over an eight year period. This is less than the rate of inflation."

An overview of AB 32's cap-and-trade provision is available here in PDF and a general state government page on the law is here. You can read more about a proposed alternative (a flat carbon tax) for the gas producers here. Clegern also dismissed the flat tax proposal because, "ARB's mandate under AB 32 is to design programs which reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions cap in the cap-and-trade program ensures verifiable emission reductions each year. The carbon tax discussed in the [AP] article cannot ensure any emissions reduction."

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EPA says new Tier 3 emissions levels will clean the air, save lives

03/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, MPG, Legislation and Policy, USA

AUTO EMMISSIONS

Almost one year after first proposing the stricter vehicle emissions standards known as Tier 3, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized the new levels. These restraints on "harmful soot, smog and toxic emissions" should go a long way to cleaning up the air and reducing the negative health impacts of the cars and trucks we drive. While they reserved the right to change their minds once the full specifics have been studied, the response from the auto industry and other stakeholders have been overwhelmingly positive.

The key points are that the new rules are holistic and nationwide.

Perhaps that's because the EPA has spent the past 11 months or so getting "extensive input" from these interested parties, and the two key points in the new rules are that a.) the different parts of what makes cars so dirty - the way they burn the fuel as well as the fuels themselves - are being looked at holistically and b.) there will be a national regulatory framework. Among other groups, the EPA worked with the California Air Resources Board to figure out the new levels.

The holistic view means that, while the cars will have to emit fewer emissions from their tailpipes (volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides will need to drop by 80 percent, the particulate matter standard will be 70 percent tighter and toxic air pollutants like benzene will be curtailed "by up to 30 percent," for example), the automakers are getting a boost from cleaner fuels. Tier 3 requires the oil industry to reduce the sulfur level in gasoline by more than 60 percent, to just 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. It's currently 30 ppm.

Cleaner gasoline will mean that today's cars will be cleaner as well.

As you can probably figure out, cleaner gasoline will mean that today's cars will burn cleaner as well. The changes should be good enough to "help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children," the EPA says (those numbers have changed from when Tier 3 was first proposed). Not a bad return on an average investment of less than a penny per gallon at the pump and about $72 per vehicle in 2025. That last number is quite a drop from when the EPA proposed the rules and said the cost would be $130 per vehicle. The various parts of the Tier 3 standards start kicking in in 2017. You can get more details in the many press releases below. Pictured above, a worker for the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission tests a vehicle's emissions levels.

Continue reading EPA says new Tier 3 emissions levels will clean the air, save lives

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Obama's call for greener trucks could save every household $250 annually

02/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, Legislation and Policy, USA

Semi-trucks in a row

In his State Of The Union speech last week, President Obama made mention of higher fuel economy standards for big trucks. We all know (or should, at least), that picking up the low-mpg stragglers in our vehicle fleet is where we can make big efficiency gains, but what would greener trucks mean for the average American - besides some cleaner air, hopefully?

We can easily imagine how lower refueling costs can reduce shipping costs, but the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has done the math. The CFA found that an aggressive CAFE-style regulations for semi trucks - with aggressive here meaning cutting fuel use by "nearly 50 percent" - could end up saving $29.5 Billion, which is the equivalent of $250 per US household. The reason, according to Mark Cooper, the Director of Research for the CFA and the author of Paying the Freight: The Consumer Benefits of Increasing the Fuel Economy of Medium and Heavy-Duty Trucks (PDF), is that Americans currently pay an average of $1,100 per household towards medium and heavy duty truck fuel costs (based on 2010 data) and that any lowering in this cost will be passed through to consumers "because the transportation sector is very competitive."

Now, the President did not say anything about slicing big rig fuel use in half - the White House fact sheet simply says, "The President will propose new incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on alternative fuels like natural gas and the infrastructure needed to deploy them, and the Administration will set new fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles." - so don't go spending that $250 quite yet.

Continue reading Obama's call for greener trucks could save every household $250 annually

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SOTU: President Obama promises tougher truck mpg standards, more renewable energy

01/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Biodiesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, MPG, Solar, Legislation and Policy, Natural Gas, USA

State of Union speech President Obama

The green car rhetoric of President Obama's State Of The Union speech last night was much, much softer than it was three years ago. That was when he spoke about a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. It was even less vociferous than last year, when Obama said we could take money given to oil and gas companies and put it into an "Energy Security Trust." So, what is the state of the green car union for 2014? In a word: renewable. In two more words: natural gas.

"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact" - President Obama

President Obama said that, "America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades," thanks to both natural gas (which is a good thing, "if extracted safely") and an ever-growing amount of solar energy. He said that another American home or business "goes solar" every four minutes and he called on Congress to "help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas." On the regulatory side, Obama said he would work "in the coming months" to set a new fuel economy standard for trucks. This means heavy trucks like semis, as light-duty trucks are already covered in the 54.5 miles per gallon CAFE standard for 2025 agreed to in 2011. The President did not mention biofuels or plug-in vehicles in his speech. He did acknowledge new General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who was a guest of the First Lady.

As is usual with a State of the Union speech, details were scarce, so we'll have to see how this all plays out in the coming months. One thing that did come across loud and clear, though, was that Obama does not want to discuss the matter with global warming deniers. "The debate is settled," he said, "Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say 'Yes, we did.'"

You can find the full transcript of the SOTU speech here or watch it here. We have reactions from some groups in the green car sector available below.

Continue reading SOTU: President Obama promises tougher truck mpg standards, more renewable energy

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EPA says Mazda's 27.5 mpg average makes it most fuel-efficient automaker in US

12/18/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, Mazda, USA

mazda6

Zoom-Zoom, indeed. Toyota may be the world's biggest maker of hybrids and Nissan may be making big strides on the plug-in front with increased sales of its Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, but it's Japanese automaker Mazda that has once again topped the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of most fuel-efficient automakers selling vehicles in the US, increasing its Model Year 2012 average by half a mile per gallon compared to MY2011.

Mazda wins with a 27.5 mpg average.

According to the EPA's "Trends" report (PDF), Mazda not only had the highest fleetwide fuel economy last year, but it also had the lowest emissions rate among the 11 largest automakers in the US. Mazda boosted its 2013 model-year fuel economy to 27.5 miles per gallon, up from 27 mpg. The company's fleetwide emissions fell to 324 grams of CO2 per mile, down from 328.

Honda came in second on the fuel-economy front with an even 27 mpg, while Volkswagen and Subaru tied for third at 26.2 mpg. Chrysler/Fiat filled out the bottom of the list with 21.6 mpg, just beaten by General Motors with 22 mpg. Chrysler/Fiat did have the largest year-over-year fuel economy jump at 1.5 mpg, however.

Mazda has eschewed hybrid and plug-in powertrains in favor of its more efficient Skyactiv engines and platform development technologies, and it also doesn't offer many large vehicles - its CX-9 crossover sells in modest numbers and it doesn't offer any pickups. After years of slow sales, Mazda finally appears to be on to a winning formula, announcing plans in August to Skyactiv engine production because of stronger-than-expected sales. Mazda expects to sell 1.7 million vehicles worldwide by 2016, and Skyactiv engines are expected to account for 80 percent of those sales. Mazda's official press release is available below.

Continue reading EPA says Mazda's 27.5 mpg average makes it most fuel-efficient automaker in US

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US to help China draft stricter emissions regulations

12/11/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, Legislation and Policy, China, USA

APTOPIX China Shanghai Pollution

The US will soon work with China as the world's most populous nation works to draft stricter emissions standards. The two countries certainly know how to put pollution into the air - China is the world's biggest emitter polluter, followed by the US.

The announcement was made during a visit Vice President Joe Biden recently made to China. According to Reuters, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy will work with the Asian nation on its so-called China VI standards. These regulations will, among other things, require cars to have filters that capture particulate matter.

The legislation is slated to follow the China IV standards, which included diesel regulations that reduced engines' maximum-allowable sulfur content by a factor of seven, along with China V, which will bring sulfur content down by another 80 percent by 2017. Once China reaches that level, it will be lower than current US standards.

Just in time, too. Vehicle ownership in China is expected to jump to more than 200 million by the end of the decade, way up from 120 million estimated at the end of 2012. Earlier this year, a number of Chinese government entities pushed for fuel economy standards that would require a fleetwide 34 miles per gallon average by 2015 as part of the country's first-ever fuel-economy mandate.

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Q&A with 'Ingenious' author Jason Fagone on the legacy of X Prize [w/video]

12/11/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Green Culture, MPG, AutoblogGreen Q & A, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, Automotive X-Prize

Automotive X Prize West Philly Car

In 2007, more than 200 teams set out on an ambitious automotive undertaking. The X Prize Foundation announced it would create a $10-million competition open to anyone who could build a safe, mass-producible car that achieved 100 miles per gallon equivalent. AutoblogGreen followed the competition in real time, but the grueling three-year adventure has now been recounted in fascinating detail by author Jason Fagone in Ingenious, an ambitious new book on sale this month.

Fagone follows four of the teams in the competition, chronicling the adventures of these innovators, inventors and tinkerers who rose above their relatively limited automotive experience to achieve incredible results. He recently chatted with us about the book, about the legacy of the X Prize and the state of American innovation itself. Check out our review of Ingenious and our fascinating conversation with Fagone below.

Continue reading Q&A with 'Ingenious' author Jason Fagone on the legacy of X Prize [w/video]

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