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Do You Prefer a Gas Tax or a Miles-Driven Tax?

May 26th, 2015
Should owners of electric vehicles have to pay taxes for roads?

Should owners of electric vehicles have to pay taxes for roads?

Some ideas are destined to never work.

The hoverboard is one. So is the flying car. A peanut-butter-and-sardine sandwich would also make the list of ideas not likely to catch on.

The state of Oregon is about to discover one more: a miles-driven tax in place of a fuel tax.

The slow rise of electric and hybrid vehicles, in addition to improved fuel economy in vehicles powered by fossil fuels, has presented state governments with a new problem: how to fund roads with less money coming in from fuel taxes.

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NEMPA Panels Dig Into Green Vehicle Technology

May 22nd, 2015

DSCN1961

This week we attended the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA)’s panel discussion on the future of green vehicle technology, California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, and mass-market adoption of these technologies. It was a terrific, fruitful discussion. Two 4-person panels brought together expertise and opinions from automakers, energy research groups, electric utilities, and state politicians as they discussed the industry’s current strategies and what needs to change to increase the desirability and sales of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs).

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Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Politics, Electric Vehicles, General Chat, Green Updates, Hybrid Cars

Audi Creates Synthetic Fuel Using Air and Water

April 27th, 2015

audi_e-diesel

Synthetic oil has been around for as long as I’ve been doing oil changes. In all that time it never occurred to me that maybe someone could invent synthetic fuel, too.

Fuel made from renewable resources rather than harvested from oil buried deep in the earth can provide clean power to our cars without damaging the atmosphere. That’s a dream scenario, but plenty of technological and logistical problems exist with the concept.

Audi, though, has succeeded in creating a process that results in clean e-diesel, a fully synthetic fuel capable of powering modern diesel engines.

It turns out synthetic fuel has been around since the early 1900s, when it was discovered in Germany. Many processes to make it have been created in the years since, but all of them require some kind of earth-based raw material, such as coal. Audi’s is a little different.

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Hydrogen Fuel Gets Closer to Mainstream

January 22nd, 2015

hydrogen_station_california

I know, I know. We talk a lot about the fuel that powers our cars on these pages.

We complain about high gas prices, we get cautiously excited about low prices, we wonder if governments should increase taxes on fossil fuels, and we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of alternative-fuel vehicles.

The question always comes back to this: environmental effects. Fossil fuels are damaging to pump out of the earth, and they pollute the atmosphere when burned. Electric-powered cars don’t emit any gasses when driving, but the production of the electricity that charges them can be harmful.

Hydrogen is, theoretically, clean from all angles. A new filling station in California could change the game on how we think about fueling our cars.

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More Volt Sales: Bad News for GM, Good News for Used Shoppers

September 11th, 2012

2012 Chevrolet Volt

You might think that the good people over at General Motors would love to read a news story that begins with this sentence:

General Motors sold a record number of Chevrolet Volt sedans in August.

That’s really good news for the maker of the slow-selling $40,000 electric car, right?

Well, yes, it is, but there’s a huge problem with those increased sales numbers.

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Green Update: Hypercar Hybrids from Porsche and Ferrari

May 15th, 2012

Design study for the F70

We have written about the incredible Porsche 918 hybrid before, with details here and here. Now, 918 Spyder prototypes have been spotted testing, looking a little like the old 917 race cars (see pix here).

The 918 will produce some 770 hp from a V8 and “two independent electric motors, one on the front and one in the drive line, acting on the rear wheels.” All this with decent fuel economy. Production is expected by the end of 2013, so you have time to save up the $850K it will cost.

The new Ferrari F70 is expected to replace the Enzo and may come to market around the same time as the 918, according to Automotive News. The F70 will probably cost more than the Porsche, but has some amazing technology, which we will illustrate below.

Why are these companies building such monster cars?

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Green Update: New Toyota RAV4 EV for Sale, with Some Restrictions

May 8th, 2012

Toyota RAV4 EV, front-quarter view

The 2013 RAV4 EV is a pretty nice car. With Tesla-made battery and powertrain, it gives you good power, a 100-mile range, classy interior and equipment, and plenty of room. Read here a short version of its features.

However, there are a few—let us call them—restrictions. The biggest is price: a whopping $50,610, including destination charge and not including Federal and California tax rebates, which can knock off $10 grand. A very mid-level car with a luxury pricetag.

The second restriction is that it’s available in only four California regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles/Orange County and San Diego. The company expects to sell a mere 2,600 over three years.

The third restriction is that this is clearly a so-called “compliance car,” built to sell only in small numbers to satisfy California’s zero-emissions requirements. The law essentially requires that in order to sell cars in the state, a carmaker has to build at least some few ZEVs.

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Green Update: Obese Cars… and Obese Drivers

May 1st, 2012

Overweight driver

The subject of obesity is often a very sensitive one. I have a close relative who is enormous and who gets very upset if you mention diets, exercise or heart conditions.

Imagine how fat car owners feel. If they think about it, they might realize that cars have gotten very much bigger and heavier over the years, in part to accommodate them.

One study now reveals the astonishing costs of getting fat:

U.S. hospitals are ripping out wall-mounted toilets and replacing them with floor models to better support obese patients. The Federal Transit Administration wants buses to be tested for the impact of heavier riders on steering and braking. Cars are burning nearly a billion gallons of gasoline more a year than if passengers weighed what they did in 1960.

A billion gallons a year? That comes from a 2006 study on obesity and driving habits. Since then, the obesity problem has gotten much worse, now affecting over one-third of all U.S. adults, so you know it’s way more than a billion gallons.

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Green Update: Two Interesting Hondas at Beijing

April 24th, 2012

Honda Concept S minivan

Beijing is right now the most important auto show in the world, because it links carmakers and the buying public to the most important auto market in the world. GM plans to open 600 dealerships in China this year.

The show is also significant for giving companies like Honda, whose fortunes have declined, a chance to show off concepts that may lead the way back.

The company brought an interesting Concept S hybrid minivan (above), whose name signifies, Honda says, “stylish,” “smart” and “surprise.” I guess that’s better than “slow,” “stinky” and “shoddy.”

This is a sharp-looking minivan design in which Honda finally seems to have gotten a good basic shape without screwing up the details (except for the front driving lights and some kind of jet-exhaust rear reflector things under the well-designed taillights). The car will debut in China next year, then go global.

I think it is designed to give the Prius V some real competition. Good pix can be found here.

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Green Update: There’s Gas… and Then There’s Gas

April 17th, 2012

CNG-powered Ram pickup

We’ve heard a lot about the natural gas revolution lately—you know, the immense resources of gas just waiting to be fracked out of places like Pennsylvania and Western Canada, not to mention parts of China, Europe and Central Asia.

There are literally trillions of cubic feet of the stuff locked away in rocks under the surface in the U.S. alone. However, the extraction and environmental costs will be huge. It’s the same deal with shale oil, which requires much refining.

With gasoline prices heading north of $5 a gallon, Americans (at least some) will continue to trade in their SUV swizzlers and vans for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. And they will be driving less. So oil imports will be reduced—a trend already happening—and so will greenhouse gas emissions, slightly.

But gasoline prices are determined on the world oil market, and they will continue to rise as functions of supply, demand, geopolitics and speculation. The biggest factor will surely be rising demand from China, India and other developing countries. One blog claims we presently use three billion gallons of gasoline a day on this earth.

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