A Brief History of Batteries and Battery Tech

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

What comes to mind when you hear the term “car battery”? Fifteen years ago, the answer would have been quite obvious. But lately the idea of what a car battery entails has shifted away from that essential-but-oft-forgotten black box under the hood to state-of-the-art propulsion systems of the near future. When talking about batteries, we focus less on volts and more on kilowatt-hours and MPGe. We’ve mentioned batteries a lot lately, specifically in regards to the Chevrolet Bolt, GM’s potentially game-changing affordable all-electric vehicle. But when we talk about the Bolt’s 238 miles of battery range, how is that different from talking about the battery at the end of your jumper cables?

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Has the Toyota Prius Fallen from Grace?

2017-toyota-prius-prime

The Toyota Prius first came off the production line in 1997 and immediately sparked an automotive revolution. Since the day it was introduced, Toyota has sold 3.7 million versions of the Prius worldwide.

Part of that success came from the fact that the Prius was the only hybrid in production when it hit the market. Today virtually every large auto manufacturer offers at least one hybrid model. Even Toyota has expanded its hybrid offerings to include models that compete with the Prius.

Not only is there a glut of hybrids on the market, but automakers are evolving toward fully electric cars, which may eventually push the Prius and its fellow hybrids into obsolescence.

Toyota’s June sales numbers seem to confirm the fall of the Prius. Is there hope for a resurgence?

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Taking a Look at the Most and Least Expensive Cars to Own

2016 BMW 340i

There are some things we replace, and other things we repair. I have no qualms replacing a toothbrush every couple months, or buying a new pair of running shoes after a few hundred miles. When it comes to more expensive items, however, my point of view shifts dramatically. Companies like Patagonia have made a strong push against disposable merchandise, offering repair services for their products and encouraging shoppers to fix their gear rather than just throwing it away and buying replacements. It’s a commendable, environmentally friendly decision—and considering the price tags on Patagonia products, one that’s appreciated by shoppers, too.

Of course, when it comes to repairing vs. replacing, nothing trumps the auto industry. Drivers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars per year keeping their cars on the road and, try as a I might, I just can’t visualize disposable cars showing up anytime soon. YourMechanic.com connects car owners with mechanics and in doing so has amassed an impressive data set breaking down the average cost of ownership by brand and specific model, including the maladies that most commonly afflict each brand.

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10 Economical Options for the Sensible Graduate

personal_car_rental

As Boston-area folks know all too well, another year’s worth of college students will soon graduate and move on to their next stage in life. Whether that next stage will be an entry-level job, more school, volunteer or charity work, or getting right to work on their first (next?) startup, we wish this year’s graduates nothing but the best with whatever comes next.

We ran a recent survey that determined more than half of graduating college students plan to buy a car, and we were happily surprised to learn that over half of them expect to buy it themselves. Two-thirds of those getting a new car plan to buy a used one, and almost half expect to spend $15,000 or less, though we also learned that graduating college students don’t understand a car’s true costs. Over half plan to work in the city, and 71% plan to commute by car.

So here’s a graduation present from CarGurus: a list of 10 cars available used at an average cost of $15,000 or less that are all fine commuting cars and should hold their value relatively well. We deliberately avoided sports cars, which might tempt even a valedictorian to drive unsafely and would cost substantially more to insure. We hope all recent graduates plan to continue learning in their next stage of life, and we look forward to celebrating some of their successes in the no doubt impressively near future.

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10 Cars We’d Happily Let Do the Driving

Google Self-Driving Prototype

Self-driving cars are coming. Thanks to visions of Skynet and Terminators, this is a frightening proposition to many people. Rather than being seen as an unparalleled convenience, autonomous cars have often been viewed as a soul-sucking leech on the driving experience. But that’s a shame, because if you begin to see cars as appliances, the appeal of an autonomous automobile is enormous.

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CarMD Names 10 Best Cars for Repair Costs

The 2014 Toyota Corolla has the lowest cost to repair among any 1996-2015 models.

The 2014 Toyota Corolla has the lowest cost to repair among any 1996-2015 models.

Preventive maintenance is the secret to automotive happiness. Failing that, it helps to own a car with low maintenance costs. A new list provided by CarMD provides some excellent guidance into the 10 best cars for repair costs.

It’s part of CarMD’s annual manufacturer and vehicle reliability rankings. It measures the top 10 manufacturers, top 100 vehicles, top 3 vehicles by vehicle category, and common repairs by vehicle make. This year’s Vehicle Health Index™ is based on more than 251,000 repairs recommended for model year 1996 to 2015 vehicles in the United States from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015.

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Alternatives to Volkswagen Diesels Worth Considering

2015 Jetta TDI 4218

So, as most people know, the automotive world has been shaken by the announcement that Volkswagen has massively cheated on emissions testing for 11 million of its diesel-engine vehicles across the globe—482,000 in the United States. That scandal will effectively kill the market for Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars for months, if not years, to come.

What should you do, though, if you had your heart set on a diesel-engine car? It’s time to consider alternatives to the affected 2.0-liter turbodiesel models. Let’s look at the models included in the emissions scandal and suggest another good option. One important thing to point out, though, is that you can find all of these VW models with gasoline engines that were not subject to the illegal tampering. However, their fuel economy will be much lower.

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Demand Drops as New Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt Introduced

2016 Toyota Prius

The 2016 Toyota Prius had its global debut Tuesday in Las Vegas. The main message at the premiere was not fuel economy. It was looks and handling.

Sure, almost every car in the world is sold on looks and handling, but that’s a huge change in direction for the most fuel-efficient car on the market that doesn’t have a plug. Toyota didn’t totally step away from that message. After all, it expects the Prius, when it goes on sale early in 2016, to get a combined 55 mpg.

It’s not a problem unique to the Prius, either. Fuel efficiency is an almost impossible selling point when the national price for gas is $2.39, according to AAA, which predicts prices could fall below $2. That’s great for us as consumers, but lousy for Toyota as it introduces its latest and greatest hybrid vehicle.

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10 Cool Cars to Beat the Heat

2014 Dodge Charger


Regardless of where you live, the weathermen seem to be offering the same warning: It’s going to be a scorcher. We’ve seen heat waves hit nearly every part of the globe this summer, and despite coming off one of the most brutal winters on record, we’re already tired of the heat and humidity here in Boston. Being in the northeast, central air conditioning isn’t a given. However, unless you paid Porsche for a new Boxster Spyder, you’ll most likely be able to find some relief in your car.

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When a Prius Changes Shape, Is It Still a Prius?

Toyota NS4 concept

Will the next Prius look like this NS4 concept?

The shape of the Toyota Prius defines it as much as its name. In its earlier days, people wanted the hybrid to look different so it was immediately clear to other motorists that the driver cared for the environment and believed in saving money at the pump. That was a time when hybrid buyers were more Ed Begley, Jr., than regular families looking to save a few bucks.

Of course, the Prius’ wedge-like shape also contributes greatly to aerodynamics, helping push mileage figures ever higher.

The current-generation Prius has looked mostly the same since the Bush Administration. Can a new Prius, that looks nothing like a Prius, still sell well for Toyota?

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