Category Archives: Cars & Trucks

Top 5 Green Cars of Fall 2013

Top5GreenCarsFall2013

Alternatively fueled cars aren’t sexy simply for how they help the environment—they save you the money you normally would spend on gas, too. From hybrids to true electric, luxury to everyday driving, these five cars mark an exciting time in U.S. car culture. Plug in to these alt-fuel cars and enjoy the ride, as well as the savings in your pocket.

Cadillac ELR

The Cadillac ELR is what the Chevy Volt was intended to be, according to Car and Driver. It’s fuel-efficient, fun to drive and a feast for the eyes. The drive train is the same as the Volt, the engine is bigger and the exterior has the lines of the Converj concept car displayed at the 2009 auto show in Detroit. Planned for a late 2013 release, the price is rumored to be close to $60,000, which will keep curiosity seekers away but draw those with a green conscience and a taste for luxury.

A large console dominates the front interior, to cover the 288-cell battery that powers this machine. This is the same battery as in the Volt, with two drive motors and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine to keep it charged. Per GM, the performance is expected to be in the range of zero-60 mph in eight seconds. One may expect 35 miles on a full battery charge.

BMW i3

Car Connection reports that the i3 is a new-from-the-ground-up design. It’s not an electric retrofit of another model.

The body is carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, making it lighter and stronger than other cars. The entire side of the car can be opened for access, because there is no need for a door pillar. This shell sits on an aluminum frame which holds the battery and drive train.

A two-cylinder gasoline engine is available as an option to generate enough electricity to keep the car moving between charges. This is a standard feature in the Chevy Volt, but is optional in the BMW.

BMW states the expected mileage on a charge is 80-100 miles. The estimated MSRP is $41,000. People who love their BMWs may watch how well this new design takes off. The initial buyers will likely already have a BMW in their garage.

Ford Focus Electric

Less about style and more about function, the electric Focus has an estimated mileage of 75 on a full charge. Otherwise, the performance should be similar to the gas version of the Focus. At an MSRP of $39,200, this Focus is packed with many standard features, such as HD radio, navigation and Ford’s MyTouch infotainment system.

This is still a Ford Focus with an electric engine. Those who prefer the subcompact world but want to step into the green, all-electric world, should look into this vehicle.

Chevy Volt

The Volt was a pioneer of electric cars, and it has set the tone for many designs after it. The $39,000 MSRP may scare off potential buyers, but by now, the Volt will be showing up in used car listings. The Kelley Blue Book has used cars and prices, so future Volt owners may find a good deal on a 1-year-old electric car.

The two electric motors and unique drive train are still innovative. The standard gas engine charges the battery and gives an average 35 mpg. For many, this is still the car to buy as an entry into all-electric driving.

Nissan Leaf

Available in late 2013 will be the second generation of the Leaf. There are a few changes, mainly to the electrical equipment. With the improvements comes a reduction in price. The MSRP will be $29,650.

An improved charging system, navigation, voice SMS read-out and backup camera system highlight the equipment changes. Mileage is expected to be almost 75 miles on a full charge.

The Leaf has had a year of production driving, so consumers will have real road statistics from which to buy into electric.

What green car are you most intrigued by?

Don’t Make Driving a Drag: Fuel Economy Tips

Fuel Economy Tips

If you were paying attention in your high school physics class, you know that engine size and acceleration are only partially responsible for how fast you go and how fast you burn through a gallon of gas. Fuel economy also depends on things like weight, wind resistance, friction and driving habits.

As part of President Obama’s plan to decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil and lessen the environmental impact of gas pollution, all new cars and light trucks will have to average 54.5 mpg by 2025. By improving one or more of the components that determine fuel efficiency, car manufacturers can achieve that goal. As a driver, you can also do your part when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle.

Fuel Economy Tips: How You Can Improve Your Gas Mileage

Aggressive driving can result in a five percent decrease in gas mileage in city driving and as much as a 33 percent decrease at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Rapid acceleration, speeding and hard braking makes your engine work harder and need more fuel.

Carrying too much weight in your vehicle is also robbing you of better mileage. While you don’t want to throw Grandma out the back seat, avoid hauling all that junk in your trunk. While putting 500 pounds in the back of your Dodge Ram pickup truck won’t have much impact, if you put that same 500 pounds in a Honda Civic, it will.

Other things that you can do to gain better mileage are to make sure your tires are properly inflated, turn off your engine instead of letting it idle for 10 minutes and keep your car tuned-up.

Wind Drag and Aerodynamics

Auto manufacturers and engineers use wind tunnels to test the aerodynamics of a new or redesigned car. By shaping parts of the body of the car, changing the grill or making the car lower to the ground, they can reduce the drag on the vehicle. If you have ever stuck your arm out of the window of a car traveling at 70 mph, that powerful force that pushes against you, is the same force that your car must overcome. Turn your hand sideways and it becomes more aerodynamic, like an airplane wing, and you will need less strength and energy to keep your hand and arm in place.

When the 2009 Ford Flex hit the showroom floor, it had a coefficient of drag of just 0.355, significantly better than its Asian competitors. According to the Flex team, the wide, low stance of the vehicle reduced wind resistance by forcing more air over the vehicle and not under it, where it could create the most drag.

Driveline Friction

The vehicle’s driveline also contributes to its fuel efficiency, TireBuyer adds. That includes your drive shaft, transmission and axles, which receive the power to turn the wheels and propel your vehicle. Using lighter materials like aluminum instead of steel and manufacturing the driveline parts to precise specifications can reduce friction and add a few miles of travel distance to each tankful of gas. Unfortunately, to do this, you’d need to take your vehicle to a body shop, and changes to these areas could result in voiding warrantees.

No matter what model vehicle you own, if you understand some basic concepts of physics, you can make your car more efficient. Good habits like keeping enough air in your tires, accelerating slowly and not keeping your set of 50 pound dumbbells in your trunk will help give you better gas mileage. Friction, drag and inertia can all rob you of fuel efficiency. A car manufacturer can make a more aerodynamic vehicle, but can not control the way you drive it. Be smart about the way you drive and you will use less gas, save money and also do something good for the environment.

Hybrids on the Horizon: The Future Looks Green

Since the first hybrid vehicle hit the U.S. in 1999, with the Honda Insight Hybrid, people looking for a greener ride found their answer in hybrid vehicles. But environmentally minded consumers don’t make a large market share, and it wasn’t until the promise of savings at the pump that flocks of consumers were finally noticed by automakers.

After the introduction of the Insight, followed by Prius in 2000, the number of available hybrid vehicles, including popular sports vehicles, soon began to grow — as did hybrid technology and consumer interest.

Hybrid Image

Sticker Shock

It took several years of refinement before hybrids truly gained traction in the minds of the average consumer. One of the biggest challenges has been the premium price tag. Automakers have had to educate consumers on looking past the initial sticker shock and determine whether they could save money over the lifetime of the vehicle, given the lower cost of fuel and maintenance. But as battery technologies improved, the gap between a hybrid vehicle and its conventional counterpart has lessened. The higher initial cost of many of today’s hybrids can almost always be justified by fuel savings during the lifetime of the car.

Understanding Hybrid Technology

How does hybrid technology work? Hybrid vehicles feature a smaller, fuel-efficient gas engine that works in tandem with an electric motor. While some plug-in hybrids charge overnight, much like a full electric vehicle, most hybrid vehicles today rely entirely on the battery recharging as the vehicle is driven. Hybrids make use of a special braking system called regenerative braking, which recaptures energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and uses it to refuel the battery, instead.

Essentially, the electric motor can be used to slow the car, which allows it to act as a generator in charging the battery. Earlier hybrid batteries were larger and less efficient than today’s hybrids, which hasn’t only helped improve the vehicle’s efficiency but also lowered its price.

Another advancement in hybrid technology has been the periodic engine shut off. As a hybrid car is stopped in traffic, the engine temporarily shuts off and then restarts again when the car moves.

Hybrids have also greatly improved in advanced aerodynamics. This is important in achieving high-fuel efficiency because it helps to reduce drag. Similarly, some hybrid cars sport lower-rolling resistance tires which are more narrow and stiffer, and thus produce less drag.

The steady improvement in technology hasn’t only caused the price to decrease, but has vastly grown the number of hybrid vehicles available, with new models hitting the showroom floor yearly. New, more affordable hybrid family cars at multiple price points, as well as additional SUVs and light trucks, are joining the ranks of current hybrids. Together, new and existing models are expected to grow the market share for hybrids to double its size within the next five years. Fast forward a year and finding Phoenix Chevrolet dealers with green options will be easier than ever before.

Emerging Technologies

Hybrid technology is expected to continue to improve, which should boost market share even further. While improvements in battery technologies hold the greatest potential, other technologies — such as improvements in regenerative braking and aerodynamics, as well as the emergence of new alternative fuels such as fuel cells — are expected also to have a generous, green impact.

Solar Electric Cars more efficient than most Biofuels

“The analysis considered land-use, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and took into account the production and use life cycles of both the fuels themselves and the vehicles they power. …all things considered, a pretty clear win for solar-powered electric battery vehicles.”

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/03/28/solar-electric-cars-crush-biofuels-in-efficiency/

solar-vs-biofuel-cars

 

…this is an interesting study, however it is not considering a much more efficient ethanol crop, algae!

Check this out: http://organicmechanic.com/ethanol-from-algae/

World’s Most Aerodynamic and Efficient Production Car

Volkswagen: VW XL1 Headed for Production at 261 MPG
A bit more than 10 years after the first prototype was shown, the Volkswagen XL1 is now officially on its way to the marketplace as the most efficient production car in the industry and the most aerodynamic production car ever. The tale of the tape: A nifty 261 mpg combined in the European testing cycle and a coefficient of drag of just 0.189—to put that into perspective, the 2013 Toyota Prius manages a Cd of 0.29 and the notably slippery 2013 Tesla Model S comes in at 0.24.

Source: http://www.autobytel.com/volkswagen/news/volkswagen-vw-xl1-headed-for-production-at-261-mpg-115560/

DIY: Build Your Own Car

“The whole point of designing an electric vehicle is to save energy. So it pays to keep that in mind when you’re adding a bunch of new things to an older car. When you are retrofitting a car, you need to install electric vehicle components such as a motor, controller, batteries, a charger, and accessories.”
Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2012/07/29/do-it-yourself-how-to-build-your-own-electric-car/#kpTOL8RALi7SyjGF.99

UPS Setting Green Example For Other Businesses


UPS which is known for their signature brown delivery trucks are turning green. They’ve recently made the largest commercial grade order of hybrid electrical vehicles and CNG vehicles than any other company to date. So, why the change? UPS has decided to go green in a big way through creating an alternative fuel delivery fleet. Already a pioneer in the business they possess the U.S. record for the largest private fleet which they plan on expanding over the next few years. The UPS “Green Fleet” is currently operating in locations throughout the world including France, Brazil, and the United Kingdom to name a few. These fleets will assist in reducing carbon emissions and the company’s negative impact on the environment.

One of the vehicles UPS has purchased for their eco-friendly fleet is the Xebra. This compact automobile releases zero-emissions and are surprisingly more cost-effective for the company than their standard delivery trucks. The newly introduced green fleet is expected to save 176,000 gallons of gasoline and reduce Co2 emissions by 1,786 metric tons a year. The fleet will include CNG and HEV vehicles. The 300 CNG vehicles operate on natural gas. These types of automobiles use clean burning fuel that helps the environment instead of causing pollution. HEV’s hybrid system conserves fuel by using a battery pack, generator, and power unit which pumps electric power when needed. Each hybrid uses regenerative braking. Regenerative braking is when the energy generated in the process of stopping or braking is saved and returned to the vehicle’s main battery system. UPS’s alternative fleet trucks are constructed inside to appear similar to the traditional delivery vehicles but they are now more “green” than brown.

According to UPS’s corporate sustainability officer Bob Stoffel, the company is focusing on conservation programs and increasing network efficiency to reduce their overall fuel usage. The alternative fuel fleets are not the only green improvements UPS has made. They have route optimization, new airline strategies, next-generation packaging solutions, and paper conserving technology to continue their environmentally conscious efforts. Their leading edge technology enables them to find the best routes possible to prevent the wasting of fuel. UPS utilizes CDA’s which are continuous descent arrivals for airline landings which also lessens harmful emissions released into the air. UPS uses eco-friendly products that are reusable for their packaging now also. Like many other companies they have decided to go paperless with invoices and preserve trees.

Many companies claim to go green but UPS is actually making the commitment and sticking with it. It’s important for businesses to see the positive effects of becoming more environmentally conscious. The process of going green can be tedious but the benefits are endless for a company that really wants to make a difference.

UPS has a sensational “green” program that truly sets the bar high for other businesses to follow. If more companies venture in the direction UPS has taken the environment and the world can change for the better.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Reduce Gas, Save Money & Environment

With current rising gas prices, environmental concerns, and financial worries in a potential unstable economy it is more important than ever to learn new methods to conserve. Reducing your gas usage will instantly save you money and limit further air pollution caused by harmful emissions. There are nine super easy tips you can follow to help save the planet and your pocket through reduction of your dependence on gasoline.

• Regular Tire Maintenance – Taking the time to make sure your tires are properly inflated is essential for fuel efficiency. The average driver wastes thousands of dollars of gas a year from driving a under-performing vehicle. It’s usually free or extremely inexpensive to inflate your tires.

• Follow the Speed Limit – Speeding can do more than simply get you a ticket. It’s also a major waste of gas. Many drivers who stray from the recommended speed limit are bound to make extra trips to the gas pump. Stay within the speed limit.

• Take it Easy – Try not to accelerate quickly and avoid hitting the brakes hard. This common bad driving habit can cost you valuable money and limit your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

• Tune it Up – If you can’t afford to invest in an alternative fuel vehicle than regularly tuning up your current automobile is important. A well-tuned car will not emit as much pollution.

• Check Air Filters – Air plays a major role in the function of your engine. Dirty filters hinders your car’s efficiency. Check your filter frequently and replace it if needed. The environment is worth it.

• De-Junk & De-Clutter – Most drivers have additional weight in their automobile which causes the engine to go into overdrive consuming larger amounts of gasoline than necessary. Clear out any items in your car that you do not need. The less the better for a high performing vehicle.

• Eliminate Wind Resistance – Having a roof rack causes the car to use additional fuel to get from point A to point B. Remove your rack and save cash. It’s really a simple task you can do quickly.

• Research Your Vehicle – Different models and makes have specific flaws that can contribute to low fuel efficiency and environmental hazards. Research the model of your car and find out what to be on the look out for. Correcting these small issues can assist in reducing your fossil fuel use.

• Monitor Check Engine Lights – Mal-functioning check engine lights are often a sign of a more serious problem. They also cause poor vehicle performance.

Saving the planet is an ongoing process that we all must participate in. Although, it may not seem like much taking small steps in reduction of fossil fuel wastes and dependency can greatly improve the amount of daily pollution. Becoming more environmentally conscious can save you money at the pump as well. Try taking little baby steps in reducing your need for gasoline and slowly you will adjust to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

* Follow our next 10 post series on Gas, Cars, & The Future for tips and ideas on how to conserve at the pump! Break your dependence on fossil fuel and save the planet in the process!

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Almost Makes You Feel

– that the US is finally taking the environment (or at least the gas crisis) seriously:

From AutoblogGreen:

States pay drivers to replace their older cars

Considering that the legacy left behind by American car companies has little to do with being clean, there seems to be an increased sense of urgency by some U.S. states to replace the older fleet of vehicles with newer, and therefore cleaner, vehicles. The states with the two largest vehicle fleets, Texas and California, have both implemented new programs which offer cash-based incentives to owners of older vehicles which fail current emissions testing. In Texas, up to $3,500 is offered towards a vehicle three-years old or newer, though income restrictions do apply. In California, there is no maximum income number, though the far-left state is a bit less generous, offering $1,500 towards the purchase of a replacement vehicle.

Canada is also getting in on the act with a program slated to begin on January 1 of next year. In a move close to our hearts, the incentive is applicable to new vehicles, new bicycles or even bus passes. Sadly, the value is a rather low $300. Way to go Canada; perhaps upping the ante a bit would make the program a bit more meaningful.

[Source: The Detroit News]

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com

Green Cars in Paris

From AutoBlog Green:

Paris Mayor announces more details about EV public rental service

Paris is a city with its fair share of traffic problems. It’s also the largest city where a public bicycle rental service is being used, very successfully (Ve’lib) and we already knew about the city’s plans to install a similar service featuring electric cars. An EV rental plan even helped the Mayor win re-election, and more information about this plan has now been unveiled. First of all, the fleet is going to be exclusively electric, with 4,000 units. That’s a very large order for a single model of a vehicle – but which model has not yet been announced. The system, called Auto’lib, which means “Auto à libre disposition” (Help-yourself car) will not only be installed in the city itself, but it will cover the suburbs (banlieue), expanding the range that the bike rental service operates in.

The scheduled roll-out date is late 2009 and to handle the 4,000 EVs the system will have 700 stations (with 200 of them underground) and a powerful computer system coordinating the rentals. Prices aren’t yet known (rumors hint at about €250 per month, including full insurance), but it seems likely that Parisians will be able to enjoy the service with their regular “Navigo” mass transit cards.

Smart Energy Technology: www.OrganicMechanic.com