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Learning From New Jersey’s Gas Tax Disaster

July 21st, 2016

gastaxes

New Jersey has the second-lowest gas tax in the country. Residents of the state enjoy their cheap gas and neighboring New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians routinely jump across the border to take advantage of a cheap fill-up.

The average price per gallon in the state is about $2.10, with some locations showing prices between $1.80 and $1.90.

While that’s great news for commuters and road-trippers, it’s not so great for the state’s government. A low gas tax means less money for the state coffers, which has effectively bankrupted the state’s transportation department.

In fact, road construction projects state-wide were halted last week due to a lack of funds (and a hefty dose of political maneuvering). Drivers may enjoy cheap gas, but they’ve been left to navigate New Jersey’s deteriorating and unfinished roads until a solution is found.

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What the New CAFE Standards Mean for Auto Buyers

July 20th, 2016

White House Infographic, fuel economy standards

There has been a lot of news this week regarding the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issuing new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The reports seem to suggest the government has gone lax on the issue of fuel economy because most Americans don’t seem to care about it.

One analyst, however, suggests the opposite may be true. Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive, read the entire 1217-page midterm report that discussed the standards (something probably 99 percent of journalists didn’t do, including me).

She wrote in Forbes, “The (CAFE) standard and NHTSA projected figures for the 2025 model year targets, however, have now been revealed as a projection rather than a legal requirement. The report is supportive of the progress and direction of the existing standards. The agencies believe automakers can meet the challenge, and that consumers want it.”

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Stan Hatoff said, “Gas is Gas,” but Stan Hatoff was Wrong

July 12th, 2016

canada_gas_prices

Down in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, there’s a little outpost of late 20th-century automotive culture. Accepting only cash, Hatoff’s gas and service station is known around the city for consistently providing some of the cheapest gasoline you can find. It’s hard to imagine impatient New Englanders willing to walk away from their car, ask the man behind bulletproof glass for “$20 on pump 4,” and watch as the numbers on an ancient pump slowly climb—but without fail, Stan Hatoff’s station is one of the busiest in Boston.

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Don’t Give Up On Diesels Yet

June 29th, 2016

2014-Jeep-Grand-Cherokee-Diesel

The last few months have given us plenty of reasons to not buy a diesel vehicle.

Aside from the massive Volkswagen emissions scandal that basically exposed the oil-based fuel as a dirty alternative to gasoline, there are new allegations that Chevrolet did the same with its Cruze diesel.

Those problems began just as American car buyers were getting used to the idea of so-called “clean diesel.”

There aren’t many new diesel options are on the market today and Americans may have lost their taste for the once-promising propulsion method.

There are a few scenarios, though, where buying a diesel still makes sense.

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Volkswagen Looks Toward an Electric Future

June 20th, 2016

VW-Electric-Bus

Volkswagen’s emissions scandal may have killed diesel-fueled cars in the U.S. forever.

Prior to September of 2015, cars with diesel engines were on the rise in the United States. Long popular in Europe, the fuel was on the verge of overcoming the stigma of its dirty past and even rivaled hybrid technology as a clean, efficient alternative to gasoline.

Volkswagen led that charge with its Clean Diesel marketing campaign and its promise of efficient, environmentally friendly sedans and SUVs.

Then it all came crashing down when the story broke that VW had cheated on emissions tests and the engines were, in fact, heavy polluters.

The fallout of the scandal is still ongoing and VW hasn’t sold a new diesel automobile in the States in over nine months. The company may not sell one here ever again.

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What’s Past Is Prologue: Looking Back on the Origins of Today’s Tech

June 7th, 2016

1962 Oldsmobile Cutlass Jetfire Advertisement

In The Tempest, William Shakespeare once wrote, “what’s past is prologue.” The quotation implies that one’s history can dictate his or her future actions. It’s written outside the United States National Archives Building, and I had a particularly intelligent and entertaining professor who reflected on it often. Looking at the auto industry, it’s clear that the sentiment extends beyond Shakespeare’s verse.

New automotive technologies emerge every year. We covered some of them last week. Some, like the airbag or the seat belt, have ushered in a new era of motoring, changing the landscape forever. Others fall flat—despite Saab’s creative thinking with the 9000 Prometheus, steering via joystick never really got off the ground (the Prometheus didn’t even make it to production). What I find most interesting is looking back on these advancements and seeing how they’ve impacted cars today, despite their often lackluster starts.

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GM Overstates Fuel-Economy Numbers, Will Pay Out $100 Million

May 27th, 2016

2016 GMC Acadia SLT

Rarely do people buy SUVs for the stellar fuel economy they deliver.

When people do buy an SUV, though, they should be properly informed of how often they should expect to stop at a gas station. The numbers on the window sticker are supposed to do just that, but a few automakers have gotten into trouble recently for misrepresenting their fuel-economy estimates.

In 2014, Hyundai had to pay a fine of $100 million for inflated fuel-economy numbers, in addition to compensating owners.

Mitsubishi is in the midst of crisis in its home country for the same reason, and now General Motors has admitted to providing overly optimistic numbers in the U.S.

How do inflated MPG estimates happen? Doesn’t the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency control those numbers?

Not exactly.

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Hyundai Diving Into EVs with 26 New Models

May 26th, 2016
2017 Ioniq HEV

2017 Ioniq HEV

The year 2020 could become a major turning point for electric vehicles in this country.

Aston Martin, Audi, Ford, GM, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo are some of the major automakers with plans to introduce at least one all-electric vehicle by the end of the decade. Newcomers Faraday Future, Apple, and maybe even Dyson (yes, the vacuum company) are rumored to be working on electric vehicles as well.

We’re on the cusp of an electric revolution in the auto world, but the cars won’t replace gasoline-fueled cars until people stop caring about electric range. That’s getting easier to comprehend, as Tesla and GM will both produce affordable EVs with a 200-mile range.

Looks like we can include Hyundai on that list now, too.

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Fake Engine Noise Could Lead to Improved Fuel Economy

May 17th, 2016

2016_ford_focus

Shifting by ear is one of the great pleasures of driving.

For many drivers, accelerating out of a turn and shifting from second to third just as the engine reaches its peak is a feeling bested only by knowing it’ll happen again when it’s time to shift into fourth.

The only problem with shifting by ear is that it doesn’t correlate with what’s best for delivering optimal fuel economy.

That’s being addressed by Ford in new technology that includes fake engine sounds, which the automaker hopes to use to fool drivers into shifting earlier, thus providing better fuel efficiency.

Fake engine noises shouldn’t come as any surprise because many automakers, from Ford to Volkswagen, have been faking, or at least enhancing, engine noises for years.

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Honda to Offer Electric, Hybrid, and Hydrogen Versions of Clarity

May 4th, 2016

Honda_Clarity

With its hydrogen-powered Clarity, Honda promises to deliver an alternative fuel source that it hopes will prove as viable as electricity.

Honda figured out how to package the vehicle as a standard five-seat midsize sedan with all the room and versatility buyers in the segment expect. Plus, it can carry enough hydrogen to propel it for over 430 miles and needs only three minutes to fill at a refueling station.

Previous efforts at creating hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles were limited by large tanks that infringed on passenger space, took too long to refuel, and didn’t provide nearly as much range. The Clarity, despite its odd proportions in the rear, is a design marvel that could bring hydrogen power into the mainstream.

Except that Honda will also create electric and plug-in versions of the Clarity. Why?

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