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PUBLIC MARKS from multilinko with tag cars

March 2006 : Watt hype! Dubious claims driving hybrid frenzy

Detroit is making better cars. But Motown just can't win. Look at the April issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the bible of product testing. For the first time, each of the top 10 picks is Japanese. Two of them are hybrids -- the chic and green-tinged Toyota Prius and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid luxury SUV. Hybrids are hot. There are long waiting lists for the Prius -- its sales rose 100 per cent in 2005 -- and they command premium price tags. Toyota and Honda are going big on hybrids, which combine a conventional gasoline engine with an electric motor. Wary of missing out on yet another showroom hit, Detroit is going even bigger, it appears. The Ford Escape hybrid is for sale. Ford and GM will roll out a dozen others in the next few years, including hybrid versions of the Malibu, Silverado, Fusion and Vue (called the Vue Green Line). Is Detroit about to blow it again? Hybrids might be the most overhyped consumer product since New Coke or the five-blade razor and it's just a matter of time before the innocent wise up. The wheeled gadgets are expensive and represent dubious value. Their fuel economy stats are exaggerated and the auto makers, no slouches when it comes to cynical marketing, have figured out that hybrid technology can appeal to lube heads who adore power and cherish the ability to accelerate to the stop sign in 2.4 seconds flat. So much for green effect. While Consumer Reports gives high ratings to the Highlander and Prius (for things like comfort, performance and fuel efficiency) it also notes that hybrids make about as much financial sense as dry cleaning your underwear. Take the regular Honda Accord versus the hybrid Accord. The hybrid version costs $5,700 (U.S.) more. Therefore the sales tax and financing charges are higher. The higher sticker price translates into extra depreciation costs. But don't the fuel savings still make it a bargain? Forget it. The Accord hybrid gets only two miles per gallon (mpg) more than the non-hybrid. Add it all up and the extra cost over five years for the hybrid is $10,250, according to Consumer Reports. The extra five-year cost of a Prius over a Toyota Corolla is $5,250 even though the Prius does better than the Corolla by 15 mpg. Fine, you say; what's a few thousand bucks if it means saving the planet? Wrong, tree hugger. Hybrids aren't saving the planet. They still burn fossil fuels. Combustion of any type adds to smog and produces carbon dioxide, the gas that's turning the Arctic into a gigantic toaster oven. Yes, hybrids get better fuel economy than non-hybrids of similar size, but the difference isn't as big as you might think. You wouldn't know that from official government figures, though. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures the mileage of every car on the road, and the law states that only EPA figures can be used in advertising. The problem is that EPA tests pretty much ignore real-world driving. They do not take into account speeds greater than 100 km an hour or the extra burden put on an engine when the air conditioning is on. Take the Prius again. The EPA says the little sweetie gets 55 mpg. Consumer Reports puts the figure at 44. The lead-foots at Car & Driver magazine put it at 42, or about one-quarter less than the posted figure. Still, 42 is better than a Corolla's 29. Differences elsewhere can be minimal. The New York Times last year tested the Lexus SUV in regular and hybrid versions. The hybrid got 23 mpg, only 1.4 mpg more than the non-hybrid. So why buy a hybrid Lexus? In a word, power. The extra torque provided by combing a V6 gasoline engine with two electric motors boosts torque (or turning force), allowing it to accelerate faster than the non-hybrid in spite of the extra 150 kilos of weight. You can see what's starting to happen here. More and more cars and SUVs will get the hybrid treatment to improve acceleration first, fuel economy second. The auto makers hope this translates into marketing nirvana. Hybrids might allow them to attract the type of buyer who wants wheel-smoking performance without the environmental guilt that goes with it. Never mind that the SUV's green envelope is gossamer thin; the neighbours won't know. Consumers are enamoured. In February, sales of the Lexus SUV hybrid were 22 per cent of the total sales of that model family. Eventually, consumers will figure out the fuel savings of the vehicles are not worth the price premium, and that the green image is just that -- an image. Nonetheless, Detroit, coming late to the hybrid game, considers the hybrid the path to salvation. The sensible way to improve fuel economy is to build smaller, lighter cars. It takes great amounts of energy to propel greater amounts of mass, end of story. If the smaller cars are also safe, reliable and fun to drive -- a formula the Europeans and the Japanese figured out -- they will attract buyers. So instead of sticking an electric motor in the mediocre Chevy Malibu, why not make the Malibu better than the Honda Accord, its direct competitor, in every sense? The answer is that the hybrid propaganda is working. For now, that is. - Ottawa and Region - Toll may make trips a fee ride

Travelling into downtown Ottawa could get costly if a city councillor has his way. If rising gas prices aren’t enough to make you take the bus, maybe a congestion charge will. Capital Coun. Clive Doucet wants the city to charge a user fee for every car heading into the downtown core to help pay for road and sewer repairs in older Ottawa neighbourhoods. He wants the city to experiment with a two-year pilot project to test its effectiveness and gauge the public’s reaction to the charge. The idea is similar to one instituted by London, England, which began charging drivers a toll in an effort to discourage cars in the capital’s core.

December 2005

Sympatico / MSN Health & Fitness : News : Car Crashes Kill More People Than Terrorism: toll is 400 times higher in U.S.

The number of deaths caused by traffic crashes in the United States and other developed countries is nearly 400 times greater than the toll taken by international terrorism, notes a study published in the latest issue of Injury Prevention.

September 2005

CNET editors' 2005 hybrid car buying guide - CNET reviews

With fuel topping $2.50 per gallon, traditional cars are too thirsty and produce too much pollution. But cleaner electric, hydrogen, or fuel cell vehicles aren't quite ready for the road. Enter the hybrid engine, a new automotive technology that combines the best of both worlds: a gasoline and an electric motor. The result? The greenest thing on wheels--so far. To help you decide whether to make a hybrid your next car (or truck or SUV), we've explored the ins and outs of this burgeoning technology, then checked out the hybrid models currently on the market and those just around the bend.

August 2005 - New mileage rules require only slight improvement - Aug 23, 2005

Environmentalists already are criticizing the proposal, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Eric Haxthausen, an economist with Environmental Defense, told the newspaper the rules are "woefully inadequate." The paper reported Tuesday that environmental lobbyists are looking for the fuel economy target to be raised about 1.5 miles per gallon over three years, beginning with the 2008 model year.

Fuel efficiency plan targets SUVs, except the biggest |

The proposal is a complicated formula based on the dimensions (not weight) of six different categories of such vehicles. Smaller pickups, minivans, and SUVs would have to become stingier on gas between now and 2011 than under current law (28.4 miles per gallon instead of 23.5 m.p.g.); for larger light truck models, the requirement would actually be reduced somewhat (21.3 m.p.g. instead of 23.5 m.p.g.). Highway behemoths - Hummer H2s, Ford Excursions, and other models weighing between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds - would remain exempt from fuel economy standards on the grounds that they're a very small percentage of all personal vehicles on the road today.

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