Archive for March, 2008

Utilities jump on board to plan for plug-in cars

  In a sign of accelerating progress on plug-in hybrids — the 100 mpg vehicles you can’t yet buy in showrooms — electric utilities quickly are linking with automakers and tech companies to develop “smart-charging” technology that controls when and how fast a vehicle is recharged. “Smart charging is an essential capability for Duke and all electric utilities as PHEVs enter the market,” Duke Energy chief technology officer David Mohler says. “Through this capability, we’re able to reduce stress on the grid during peak periods and keep rates low.” As if to make the point that plug-ins no longer are exotic experiments, California clean-air regulators last week required automakers to put 58,333 of them on the state’s roads from 2012 through 2014. Certain that plug-ins are imminent, utilities and others are moving on everyday details for recharging. “People are saying, ‘(Plug-ins) are more immediate …

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Why Cars Have Become Difficult – And Expensive to Repair

  Last weekend, I had to replace a burned out headlight on my daughter’s Chevrolet HHR. I figured this was a do-it-yourself job. So I went to my local auto-parts store, scored a new halogen bulb, went home, and popped the hood. Roughly 45 minutes and a few choice words later, I got the job done. In the course of replacing one burned-out bulb, I used a socket wrench and pliers to partially remove a plastic liner inside the left front wheel well. I took out about a half dozen fasteners, of two different kinds. Then I had to work my hand through a tangle of wires to get at the offending bulb, disconnect it, twist it out, and then replace it. I did all this by feel, because I couldn’t see my hand, wedged inside the fender between the half removed …

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Hydrogen Car Prospects Sputter

  Even California, which wants to lead the U.S. in green technology, can’t seem to will technology to evolve fast enough. At least, that was the conclusion last week when California regulators confronted the stark reality that the state won’t be able to strong arm manufacturers into making as many hydrogen-fueled cars by 2014 as regulators had once hoped. The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously during the last week of March to scale back the ambitious automotive clean air rules it adopted five years ago. The board ruled that the six largest automakers operating in the state will collectively need to produce 7,500 zero-emissions vehicles by 2014–a whopping 70% fewer than the 25,000 ZEVs it had mandated in 2003. This is the fourth revision of California’s clean air standards since the state instituted its first zero-emissions vehicle mandate in 1990. The new ruling …

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Warning to Zipcar: Traffic ahead

  Zipcar Inc. may have finally woken the dozing giants of car rental. Since Cambridge-based Zipcar got started in 1999, it has attracted a loyal customer base by re-imagining the concept of car rental. Cars are sprinkled throughout city neighborhoods. And there’s never any paperwork or standing in line required to borrow one: just wave a membership card over the windshield, and the doors pop open. Seconds later, you drive off in a Mini Cooper, Ford Escape, or BMW sedan. Gas and insurance are included in the hourly rate, which hovers around $10. With a fleet of 5,000 vehicles parked in cities such as London, San Francisco, and Boston, and 180,000 members, Zipcar claims to be the world’s largest car-sharing service. Last fall, Zipcar took over its only significant US competitor, Flexcar Inc., based in Washington, D.C. Suddenly though, big players, including Hertz Corp., Enterprise …

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Mansfield Senior High grad’s start-up business converts cars to electric, hybrid power

  MANSFIELD — “Electric is the new gas.” Bryce Millikin is banking on that statement in the days of $3 a gallon gasoline. “I think this has come at definitely the right time,” he said. The 1990 Mansfield Senior High School graduate has started Nu-Zevs, a company that converts vehicles from gasoline or diesel fuel to either a battery-electric or hybrid system.The electric option replaces a vehicle’s present engine with a battery and electric system. The hybrid adds an electric system to the existing engine, which Millikin said increases mileage by 30 to 90 percent, depending on the miles driven per day. He is installing one of the 90-pound electric motors in his 1987 BMW 528E to be used as a demo for prospective buyers. It’s a full-size sedan in which the batteries will surround the motor. Nu-Zevs can install the …

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California killing the electric car…again?

  California and the electric car. Is this deja vu all over again? You probably know the story of the first round of electric vehicles made for the California market, and then their demise over a decade ago. You may not recall it was action by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that allowed the big auto manufacturers to stop makking those early electric cars. The makers had only LEASED the electric cars so they re-possessed them from crying drivers and had them crushed. Well, now CARB has once again rescinded a ruling that looked like it would have forced electric cars onto California roads. They’ve made the auto industry happy by cutting the once stringent anti-pollution standards for coming years. They have thus infuriated the environmental, pro-electric car folks. Pluginamerica, Sierra Club and others are now urging the California legislature to …

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‘Sopranos’ Vehicles Hit Auction Block At PB Car Show

  PALM BEACH, Fla. — Cars and SUVs driven by the infamous TV mobsters on “The Sopranos” will be sold at no reserve during the 6th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event in West Palm Beach. A total of eight vehicles from the award winning HBO series will cross the block, led by Tony Soprano’s 2003 Cadillac Escalade ESV, with net proceeds benefiting Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.SPEED will once again bring the action home with 19 hours of TV coverage during the auction as approximately 600 of the finest collector vehicles are sold at No Reserve. For the sixth consecutive year, the event will take place at the spacious Americraft Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds, located at 9067 Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach. “From the biggest show on television to the biggest stage in the collector car industry, these movie star …

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Trucks to debut at Dallas Auto Show – Slumping truck industry to debut fastest and finest at event next week

  Dodge engineers spent hours in a wind tunnel smoothing and reshaping the rearview mirrors on the new Ram pickup to improve the truck’s aerodynamics.But when the 2009 Ram and extensively restyled 2009 Ford F-150 make their big local debuts next week at the Dallas Auto Show, both will face headwinds they can’t control.Although the Ram and F-150 are loaded with features, they are part of a segment that has been buffeted by the slumping economy. Even all-new pickups must battle a falling housing market, high fuel prices and low consumer confidence.”All in all, people are very nervous about the economy,” said Bob Hegbloom, senior manager of Ram pickups at Dodge, which is part of the Chrysler Group. “But we’re still pretty confident. Even in today’s environment with fuel what it is, people still have jobs to do and toys that …

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Will We Have a 100-mpg Car Soon? – A $10 million contest may get us there quicker then you think.

  Drivers often joke their car “is running on fumes,” when the tank gets low. Well, how about an engine that actually gets its energy from gasoline fumes? Or, tired of looking for parking space? Well, someone has dreamed up an all-electric car so thin it can compete with motorcycles for the gaps between SUVs. And no need to fill up on expensive gasoline anymore — one would-be Henry Ford wants to build an engine that runs on compressed air, the stuff that fills your tires. Naturally, it’s called the Air Car. All of these ideas — some with actual tires on the ground — are entered for the Progressive Automotive X Prize, an international competition that will award $10 million to the first team that can build and bring to market a car that gets the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon. So …

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Toyota sticks by production plans – Hybrid and eco-cars fit global strategy

  The Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor remains firm on its plan to produce a hybrid car in Thailand despite some technical snags as it hopes to meet rising global demand for environmentally friendly vehicles. Mitsuhiro Sonoda, the president of Toyota Motor Thailand, said the hybrid car and small passenger vehicles, including the so-called eco-cars, were part of Toyota’s strategy to meet global environmental standards and retain its global competitiveness. ”Under Toyota’s ecology product approach, we intend to shift our focus from diesel- or gasoline-based vehicles to hybrid cars, the model set to be built in Thailand,” Mr Sonoda said yesterday at a seminar on enhancing the competitiveness of Thai companies. ”Despite the slow progress, we want to have the hybrid car produced in Thailand and we want to make it on a scale to compete in the global market.” He said 15 Toyota …

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