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Honda Accord Hybrid and PHEV win 2014 Green Car of the Year

11/21/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Diesel, Hybrid, MPG, Honda, LA Auto Show

2014 Green Car of the Year Honda Accord Hybrid

There was never a chance for a pure electric vehicle to win the 2014 Green Car of the Year - that's because the editors of didn't nominate one. Out of the five-car list of finalists, the many variants of the Honda Accord drove away with the win at the LA Auto Show.

The also-rans include the BMW 328d, the Audi A6 TDI, the Toyota Corolla in Eco trim and the Mazda3 with i-ELOOP and Skyactiv technologies. The judging pool, which include editors from Green Car Journal along with Jay Leno, Jean-Michel Cousteau and others, are not simply looking for the best or coolest "green car," but the most efficient vehicle that they believe will sell well. When it announced the finalists, Green Car Journal said:

Finalists are selected for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance. Availability to the mass market is a factor to ensure honored models have the potential to make a real difference in environmental impact, and finalists must be available for sale by January 1st of the award year.

Speaking at the award ceremony this morning, Green Car Journal editor Ron Cogan (pictured, right) praised the 50-mpg Accord Hybrid for bringing easy fuel efficiency to the masses. Last year, the various Ford Fusion models (plug-in hybrid and hybrid) won the Green Car of the Year award, and the year before that it was the Honda Civic Natural Gas. In 2011, the Chevrolet Volt snagged the title.
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Elio moves to make $6,800, 84-mpg three-wheeler more real

05/11/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, On Two Wheels

elio motors three-wheeler

Tell a hip-hop fan you've got a vehicle with three-wheel motion and they'll think of low-riders, '64 Impalas and hydraulics. Michigan-based Elio Motors has another idea, and the Detroit News says it's a few beats closer to reality.

Elio, which a few months ago made news when it agreed to buy an old General Motors plant in Shreveport, LA, has just announced 20 key suppliers - groups like IAV, Altair Engineering and Comau - for its upcoming three-wheeled vehicle. Elio is sticking with its previous estimate of starting production on the vehicle by next summer with the help of about 1,500 workers at the Louisiana factory. The company says the vehicle will have a $6,800 base price, get 84 miles per gallon, come with an eight-gallon gas tank and will be able to go from 0-60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds. Pulled by the two front wheels, of course. Power will be supplied by a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine that delivers 70 horsepower.

Earlier this year, the company started taking $100 reservations on the car, which will come with a three-year, 36,000 mile warranty. Elio also said it expects the vehicle to receive five-star crash ratings.

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Ford owners sue over MPG claims, 'under-performing' hybrids

04/26/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hybrid, MPG, USA

Ford C-Max Hybrid

A group of Ford hybrid owners in Pennsylvania aren't feeling too fraternal with the Blue Oval, suing the automaker for allegedly overstating fuel-economy figures, Bloomberg News reports.

The claim, which was filed in a Philadelphia court, seeks at least $5 million in damages and calls the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid models "under-performing, less valuable vehicles that inflict higher fuel costs on their owners." A Ford spokesman emailed a statement to Bloomberg that states the ratings are in accordance with protocols set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A similar claim was filed in California late last year, and two California law firms involved there have, more recently, combined claims. That followed a Consumer Reports study that found that the Fusion and C-Max Hybrids, both of which are rated at 47 miles per gallon combined, got about 39 mpg and 37 mpg, respectively, in the real world.

Ford isn't the only automaker with a fuel economy issue. Last year, Hyundai and its Kia affiliate ran into a similar issue with drivers alleging overstated fuel-economy figures. Earlier this year, the automakers agreed to set aside about $412 million to refund drivers claiming they've been overpaying for refueling costs.

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SAE Congress: Evolve Hybrid Wheels give Ford Focus SE a 1.1 mpg boost

04/20/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, SAE World Congress

As fuel economy regulations tighten all around the world, each part of the automobile is getting a second (and third and fourth ...) look to see if there is any way to squeeze out a few more yards per gallon. At the SAE World Congress in Detroit this week, Lacks Enterprises was showing off its contribution to the get-every-efficiency debate: Evolve Hybrid Wheels.

James Ardern, Lacks Wheel Trim Systems director of business development, told AutoblogGreen that wheels, which spin at 1,000 rpm, are pretty much four propellers that can have a big effect on aerodynamics, an effect that hasn't been measured nearly as much as it could be.

"We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle."

"We have learned that wheels are contributing significantly to the fuel economy of a vehicle," he said. The things right next to the wheels, the tires get tested. Consumer Reports, for example, has shown that better, more efficient tires can raise a vehicles mpg rating by one or two ticks, and Lacks has test results that show that the wheels - at least the Evolve wheels - can do the same.

The Evolve Hybrid Wheels are not to be only used on hybrids. The name comes from the hybrid composite wheel technology that is applied to a structural aluminum backbone that is both lightweight and strong. Then, the designers can add a variety of shapes to blend aerodynamic efficiency with good looks (eye of the beholder and all). Lacks had Roush conduct some independent tests, and discovered that a Ford Focus SE outfitted with the Evolve wheels got a 0.4 mile per gallon improvement in the average city fuel economy and a 1.1 mpg highway improvement, compared to the car's stock wheels.

The idea is to co-develop efficient wheels with the automakers, and Ardern said Lacks is currently in discussions with three different OEMs and, "We do have one Evolve wheel already launching on an OEM capacity towards the end of this year," but he would not name which company. First truck testing will be tested by June and a second in August/September, and the same type of test will be run. An expanded set of tests will be done on the Focus this summer as well. There are no plans to test the wheels on an alternative power vehicle, but Ardern did say the program "will keep expanding."

"Why hasn't this happened before? One, it hasn't been measured. Two, it is difficult to do it. It is not an exaggeration to say wheel development includes many towers of competency: wheel suppliers themselves from a manufacturing point of view, wheel engineering from a structural and safety point of view, not also weight teams and fuel economy and ride and handling teams are getting involved. But then you've still got design and now aero. The problem is, you put all of those people in the same room at the same time and you'll never optimize a wheel. The value of our product is you create the backbone and that cuts our all groups but the design and aero teams. Perhaps the key thing that's going to come out of all this is that the method is going to enable it to get out onto the road."

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Shell Eco-marathon

04/13/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Hydrogen, MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

An Oil Company Spends Big To Teach Students To Use Less

shell eco-marathon mater dei

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 is over, the winners declared. Thousands of excited students came to Houston last weekend with 140 cars and the winning team managed to get upwards of 3,580 miles per gallon. Now that the cars have been packed up and shipped back to schools throughout the hemisphere, from Alaska to Brazil, we can look back and discuss some of the bigger issues that the three frenzied, fuel-efficient competition days - and the months of hard work leading up to the event - raise.

Before leaving Houston, we got to sit down with representatives from Shell, which spends an undisclosed amount of money to put on these Eco-marathons around the world. It's a huge undertaking, and one that has lots of positive angles and some particularly thorny ones. But first, a short history.

The story goes that the first Eco-marathon started as a bet between two Shell engineers. The year was 1939 and the winner managed to hit 49.39 mpg.

The story goes that the first Eco-marathon was started as a bet between two Shell engineers to see who could go further on a gallon of fuel. The year was 1939 and the winner managed to hit 49.39 miles per gallon in a 1933 Plymouth. They had so much fun they did it again and, by 1949, the winner was getting 150.53 mpg. The numbers kept going up from there. 1968: 244.62 mpg. 1973: 392.02 mpg. And so on. The event was known as the Shell Mileage Marathon, but in 1985, a name change signified the start of the event in its current form. That year, students from 20 European countries in 25 teams competed in the first Eco-marathon in France, and the winners managed to get 1599.45 mpg. The 1997 event was canceled because of heavy rain and in 2006 the first solar cars ran the race. In 2007, the event was held in the US for the first time, in Fontana, CA, and Asia joined the party in 2010. Today, across the three events, over 400 teams participate each year. Next year, a fourth location will draw teams from the Middle East and Africa. The current record is 8,914 mpg, set by a French team in 2003.

Continue reading Shell Eco-marathon

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Shell Eco-marathon: 1959 Fiat 600 brings hypermiling history to Houston

04/09/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, FIAT

Shell Eco-marathon: 1959 Fiat 600

Long before the Fiat 500 came to the US to try and capture the public's imagination, a Fiat 600 was cruising in the Shell Mileage Marathons (the precursor to today's Eco-marathons) and setting records by getting over 300 miles per gallon. The little red cutie was on display at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 in Houston, TX this weekend to remind the students participating in the challenge - and the public stopping by to see what all the crazy cars were about - incredible that fuel efficiency is nothing new.

"They'd crank it, run and then kill the engine and coast. Same thing they're doing here. They just did it with real cars back then."

The 1959 Fiat 600 in question is currently in the hands of Ken Smith, who maintains a website on its history. For years, the car sat a junked state near the Talladega Museum before making headlines when it was discovered in 2007. "We didn't know what it was at first," he told AutoblogGreen, but bought it anyway and discovered that it had a fuel-saving past, running in the Wood River Mileage Marathons. Those events ended in the late 1970s, but with the Eco-marathons now back in the US, Smith thought it made sense to display the car. He also showed the car at the 2012 event in Houston.

The Fiat 600 ran at least three times in the Mileage Marathons, Smith said. It managed 173 mpg in 1967, 244 in 1968 and 304 in 1973. The car looks like a normal Fiat 600, but there were serious changes made inside.

"Basically, what they did was everything that ran off the pully at the bottom, they took off," he said. "The alternator is gone, the water pump is gone, the radiator is gone. There's no fan. They used electric pumps to circulate the water, and they used a small heater core as a small radiator for the air to come through, and the air would pick up the heat and help cool the water. But they didn't run the engine that long. They'd crank it, run and then kill the engine and coast. Same thing they're doing here. They just did it with real cars back then."

You can read more about this year's Shell Eco-marathon here and here.

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Diesel benefits shrink as gas engines get more fuel-efficient, torquier

04/03/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Diesel, MPG, USA

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

Could all of the work some automakers are doing to increase diesel engine adoption in the US be going up in a cloud of smoke? Maybe so, as torquier and more fuel-efficient gasoline engines and cheapening hybrid technology are cutting into what had been perceived as the advantages of diesel drivetrains, the Detroit News says.

While companies like General Motors and Chrysler have announced plans to add diesel models, Ford, Toyota and Hyundai are eschewing the technology for passenger cars. Hyundai CEO John Krafcik estimated that a diesel-powered car costs, on average, $5,000 more than a similar gas-powered car, while the price premium for hybrid-powered vehicles is about $1,500.

US diesel sales jumped 25 percent last year, but diesels sill only account for 2.7 percent of the overall market.

Additionally, gas engines are being developed to deliver more torque at the low end, which provides one of diesels benefits without the drawback of (currently) about 36 cents more per gallon compared to regular unleaded. While US diesel-vehicle sales did jump 25 percent last year, they sill only account for about 2.7 percent of new US cars, or slightly less than hybrids' market share, the newspaper says, citing Edmunds. Diesels account for about half of the new vehicles sold in Europe.

In February, General Motors unveiled the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, which will be GM's first diesel passenger car in the US since the 1986 Chevrolet Chevette. The Cruze Diesel, which is turbocharged, will deliver 148 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque as well as 42 miles per gallon highway fuel economy.

Late last year, Germany's largest automakers, including Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, joined up for their "Clean Diesel. Clearly Better." campaign, which promoted diesels as a relatively inexpensive way to boost fuel economy and combat rising refueling prices. Last year, VW's clean-diesel sales jumped 32 percent from 2011 to almost 83,000 units, while diesel sales for Audi in the US were down 1.6 percent to 7,179 vehicles.

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EPA finds 2012 fuel economy was highest ever, 23.8 mpg

03/16/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, USA

The average fuel economy for a new car in the US made a record single-year jump, according to new data from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Fleetwide fuel economy rose a record 1.4 miles per gallon to an all-time high of 23.8 mpg, the EPA says. During the past five years, average new-vehicle fuel economy went up 16 percent while emissions decreased 13 percent. Check out the EPA's press release below and find further information here.

The numbers reflect the fact that the number of US hybrid and diesel models has doubled in the last five years, thanks to automakers expanding their line-ups. Last year, alt-fuel vehicle sales jumped 63 percent to more than 540,000 vehicles, while plug-in vehicle sales roughly tripled to about 50,000 vehicles.

The EPA report echoes similar findings from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), which earlier this year said fleetwide fuel-economy advanced 1.3 miles per gallon to a record 23.8 MPG. And UMTRI said in a separate report early last month that January's average new-vehicle fuel economy continued to increase to a monthly record of 24.5 miles per gallon.

David Friedman, the senior engineer and deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles program, said in a statement that the progress is good, but more needs to be done. "With high gas prices the new norm, the average model year 2011 vehicle will cost its owners almost as much to fill up over its lifetime as it did to purchase it," he said. "Consumers need more options to shield themselves from the high cost of gasoline."

Continue reading EPA finds 2012 fuel economy was highest ever, 23.8 mpg

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Obama calls for spending $2 billion in oil lease revenues on clean vehicles

03/15/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, MPG, Legislation and Policy, USA

President Obama wants to know how many clean cars $2 billion can buy. In an announcement expected later today, the President is expected to ask Congress to use $2 billion that the government has raised from allowing oil and gas exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf to fund clean energy transportation. That means plug-in vehicles, better batteries, biofuels and compressed natural gas vehicles.

Obama will reportedly make the announcement at Argonne National Laboratory, a site already known for automotive innovation, including the development of an omnivorous engine and, with General Motors, improved batteries. The President previously mentioned taking oil and gas money and putting it into an "Energy Security Trust" fund in his State of the Union speech last month. The money would come from offshore oil drilling leases and would be spread out over 10 years. There would not be any expansion of offshore drilling (or a change in the administration's position on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) to raise the money. The end goal, as we've heard so many times before, is to "protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels," according to White House documents.

Of course, just because the President asks for something doesn't mean Congress will go along. As the The Detroit News notes, the President asked for $650 million for battery and vehicle research last year but Congress only approved $330 million. Also, there are still many billions of Department of Energy loan money left over from the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan (ATVMP).

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Carmakers taking advantage of EU fuel economy test by taping up seams, overinflating tires

03/15/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: MPG, Legislation and Policy, Europe/EU

Common Ways Carmakers Manipulate Tests

Automakers don't necessarily sell the same vehicles in both North America and Europe, but a new report from the Continent's Transport And Environment makes it sound like the fuel-economy rating... questions we've seen here in the US might also be happening across The Pond. Well, except over there it sounds like full-on legal cheating.

The report features lines like this:

When the road load test procedures were drafted 30 years ago, no-one expected carmakers to adjust the brakes, pump up the tyres, and tape up all the cracks around the doors and windows to reduce the air and rolling resistance. These practices are now commonplace.

As you can sort of see in the image above (click to enlarge), manufacturers overinflate tires to reduce rolling resistance and tape over indents to improve drag, among two dozen other tricks. In short, the report describes a complex system for automakers to get the highest possible fuel economy rating (You can download it yourself in PDF). How bad is it? Transport And Environment had independent tests done, and found that those results showed 12-percent higher "fuel consumption and CO2 emissions than official figures reported by the carmaker."

"There is no evidence that carmakers are breaking any formal rules - but they don't need to."

Greg Archer, the clean vehicles manager for Transport And Environment, told the Guardian that the tricks are evidence the automakers are cheating customers and legislators because, "EU laws intended to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and vans are only being met in the laboratory, not on the road. The only way to rebuild this trust is by closing loopholes in the current test procedures, to ensure that cheaters never prosper."

Europe uses the New European Driving Cycle test, which is built in such a way that it results in higher fuel economy numbers than the EPA test used in the US. NEDC is also about three decades old, an updated ruleset is supposed to be introduced in the next few years. The most frustrating aspect is that, as Transport And Environment writes, "There is no evidence that carmakers are breaking any formal rules - but they don't need to - the current test procedures are so lax there is ample opportunity to massage the test results.

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