Cleantech Boosts Jobs in Specific Regions and Segments

By John Addison (10/7/10)

Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and information technology are all helping the U.S. overcome a severe recession and keep more people from losing their jobs. From our San Francisco roof deck, I am encouraged to see energy efficient homes, solar roofs, and electric buses gliding by. I am also discouraged to see massive ships from Asia sail into the harbor ladened with hundreds of rail cars full of Asian goods, then leave for distant customers with much lighter loads.

As trillion dollar industries are disrupted, he stakes are high for jobs and economies. The U.S. can win or lose in a future that includes energy efficient materials, LED lights, electric cars, high-speed rail, wind power, solar power, smart grids and smart apps.

Clean Tech Job Trends 2010 Details U.S. Growth

As the economy officially pulls out of The Great Recession, clean energy continues to fuel the plans of many cities, states, nations, investors, and companies as they look for the next wave of innovation and growth. In its second annual look at the state of clean-tech jobs in the U.S. and globally, Clean Edge published its Clean Tech Job Trends 2010. The report looks beyond green job evangelism to provide key insights and a sober analysis of the most important employment trends globally. I was particularly interested in my home state; cleantech is particularly important to California’s economic future. The Report states:

“Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley repeats as the top area for cleantech jobs, with Los Angeles second. Even in its challenging economic times, California continues to see fairly robust job activity in clean-tech startups and established players, with the state’s high-tech giants like Cisco, Intel, and Google aggressively expanding their smart-grid initiatives. San Diego (seventh) and Sacramento (15th) give California four cities in the Top 15, but the Golden State faces an uncertain clean-tech future if the state’s voters pass a November ballot measure, Proposition 23, that would suspend the state’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction laws.”

Tesla Motors provides a good example of job creation. In 2012, it plans to reopen a shuttered plant owned that was owned by a Toyota (TM) – General Motors JV. The plant will create about 1,000 jobs as two exciting new electric vehicles roll-out: the Tesla Model S (TSLA) premium sedan with a electric range that far exceeds the Nissan LEAF (NSANY) and Ford (F) Focus Electric; and the new Toyota RAV4 EV, long an SUV favorite of EV enthusiasts. In the new world of global “co-opetition,” Tesla is 2% owned by Toyota and 5% owned by Daimler. The two auto giants admire Tesla’s innovation, first to market speed, and battery-pack technology.

Northern California is also rich with smart grid leaders including Silver Spring Networks, Cisco (CSCO), and EPRI. Solar energy innovators abound including Bright Source, Sun Power (SPWRA), and MiaSole.

Southern California is rich innovators making gasoline and diesel not with petroleum, but with algae, waste, and cellulose. In San Diego’s biotech research center, surrounding the University of California at San Diego and the Salk Institute are over 40 companies working on biofuels from algae. Sapphire Energy and Synthetic Genomics both have received over $100 billion from private equity investors to expand their research and production of algal fuels.

These are a few examples from my home state of California. The Clean Edge report covers exciting opportunities nationwide, the dynamics of U.S. – China competition, and 3 million jobs globally in a variety of billion dollar cleantech sectors. Clean Tech Job Trends 2010 is recommended reading for everyone. The free report can be downloaded

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. The author has no positions in the stocks mentioned in this article.

Ford Focus Electric Cars from New Green Michigan Plant

By John Addison

Ford Focus EV Gets Green Plant

Ford’s (F) new Focus Electric Car and Plug-in Hybrid will be built in one of the auto industry’s greenest manufacturing plants. Ford is working with Detroit Edison (DTE) to install a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system at Michigan Assembly. The system will be integrated with a 750-kw energy storage facility that can store two million watt-hours of energy using batteries.

The renewable energy captured by the project’s primary solar energy system will help power the production of fuel-efficient small cars, including Ford’s all-new Focus and Focus Electric going into production in 2011, and a next-generation hybrid vehicle and a plug-in hybrid vehicle coming in 2012. My test drive of the Ford Focus Electric.

A secondary, smaller solar energy system will be integrated at a later date to power lighting systems at Michigan Assembly. The combined systems are expected to give Michigan Assembly the largest solar power array in Michigan and save an estimated $160,000 per year in energy costs. The installation of the system begins later this year.

Although the 500kW does not match the megawatts of solar that Toyota (TM) uses in California operations, Ford is advancing automaker use of large scale energy storage, reuse of automotive lithium batteries, smart microgrid, and solar charging.

Michigan Assembly will operate on a blend of renewable and conventional electricity managed by Xtreme Power’s Dynamic Power Resource on-site energy storage and power management system. Xtreme Power, a venture capital backed firm in Austin, Texas, manufactures integrated power management, smart control, and storage systems from 500 kW to 100 MW. XP technology is unique in its ability to provide immediate power when needed through precision control and complex power capabilities (VARs), and the ability to time shift large amounts of power/energy, all at a relatively low lifecycle cost. This is the industry’s first large-scale solid-state power management system. The XP solution comprises four components integrated into a comprehensive system: (1) hyper-efficient energy storage; (2) proprietary power electronics that enable very high power at very high efficiency; (3) smart control system of specialized hardware and software; and (4) factory integration which ties the first three components together under stringent quality control settings.

The renewable energy collected by the solar system will go directly into the energy-efficient microgrid. When the plant is inactive, such as holidays, the collected solar energy will go into the energy storage system for later use, providing power during periods of insufficient or inconsistent sunlight. Michigan Assembly’s energy storage system will be able to recharge from the grid during off-peak hours when energy is available at a lower cost. This in turn will provide inexpensive power during peak operating hours when the cost per kilowatt-hour is higher, and reduce peak demand on the grid.

Ten Charging Stations using Solar Power

Ford also will install 10 electric vehicle-charging stations at Michigan Assembly to demonstrate advanced battery charging technologies using renewable energy and other smart-grid advances. The stations will be used to recharge electric switcher trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities. Xtreme Power will provide an active power management system on the charging stations. Ford also will demonstrate the possibility for using electrified vehicle batteries as stationary power storage devices after their useful life as vehicle power sources is over.

“Ford is strongly committed to its sustainability strategy to support positive social change and reduce the environmental impact of its products and facilities,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “Michigan Assembly is the latest Ford manufacturing facility to utilize renewable power for production.”

Cradle to Cradle

Drive a typical gasoline car in the U.S. and you will emit about 10 tons of CO2 every year. Drive a Ford Fusion Hybrid, however, and only emit 4.7 tons annually – half of a an average car, and only a third of a larger SUV, such as the 2010 Ford Expedition 4WD FFV, with 13.3 tons of CO2 annually.

Ford plans to offer customers families of cars with a variety of fuel efficient drive systems. “The new Ford Focus is a clear demonstration that our ONE Ford strategy is providing global consumers with great products that harness the best of Ford Motor Company,” said Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and CEO. “The efficiencies generated by our new global C-car platform will enable us to provide Ford Focus customers with an affordable product offering quality, fuel efficiency, safety and technology beyond their expectations.” Ford is planning on a Global C platform for 12 to 14 different vehicles with a volume of 2 million units per year. Such volume, common chassis and many common components, can give Ford improved profit margins and room to price hybrid and electric cars competitively.

Clean Fleet Report predicts that in 2012 an all-new Ford Focus family will be offered with choices that include a gasoline-sipping EcoBoost engine, a Focus Hybrid, a Focus Plug-in Hybrid, and Focus Electric. The hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric will all use lithium-ion batteries. All will offer better fuel economy than the current 30 mpg and lower emissions than the 2010 Focus with 6.5 tons of CO2 per year.

You can find the mileage and carbon emissions of most cars with the U.S. EPA and DOE’s valuable The EPA combined miles per gallon rating is based on 45% highway and 55% city driving. The carbon footprint is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) based on 15,000 miles of driving, using the GREET 1.7 model.

Drive the new Ford Focus Electric with a 70 percent efficient electric drive using grid power, instead of that 15 percent efficient gasoline motor drive system, and emissions will be far below a Toyota Prius. Charge the Focus EV with solar or wind power and your source-to-wheels emissions of CO2 drops to zero.

But what about all the emissions associated with energy intensive manufacturing and mining of everything from iron to lithium (LIT)? Historically about 90 percent of a car’s emissions over its 15 years of use are from burning fuel, and only 10 percent from the mining and manufacturing. This is why environmental groups, the EPA, and websites like the Clean Fleet Report focus on source-to-wheels emissions, which is also called well-to-wheels due to our history of fuel from oil wells.

Ford, and other automakers, are following the classic practices of reduce, reuse, and recycle. As Ford electrifies hybrids and electric cars, many mechanical parts are replaced with lighter electric parts. Some steel gets replaced with lighter aluminum, plastic, and bioplastic. Hundreds of pounds are removed from a car, which allows it to go farther on less fuel. At end-of-life metals and parts are often recycled. Some lithium batteries will be repurposed in plants, renewable energy backup, and electric utility applications. Over 95 percent of auto battery materials are eventually recycled.

Ford’s new lean and green plant will build a new generation of cars, low in carbon footprint and high in industry impact.

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker.

Toyota and GM Fight for Plug-in Market

By John Addison, original report at Clean Fleet Report

Electric cars and hybrid cars are prominent here at the LA Auto Show. GM highlighted big plans for the Chevy Volt. Toyota, owning some 65 percent of the U.S. hybrid market, displayed the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) along with a growing family Toyota and Lexus hybrids. The Volt will have triple the electric range of the PHV. Toyota may have a $10,000 price advantage over the Volt.

For extended driving, the Toyota plug-in will normally blend power from the 1.8L gasoline engine and from the 60kW electric motor, just as the Prius does now. The Volt, however, is powered purely with its electric drive system, with a one liter gasoline engine configured in series to act as a generator. Although series designs have been used for years, GM insists that the Volt is in a unique category – the extended range electric vehicle (EREV). What may be unique is consumer confusion. Clean Fleet Report refers to both the Volt and Prius Plug-in as plug-in hybrids.

In 2010, Toyota will put 500 PHV into fleet tests with car sharing services, corporate and government fleets, and some individuals; 150 will be in the United States. At first glance, these PHV look identical to the 2010 Prius. The Prius Plug-in however use lithium-ion batteries instead of the NiMH batteries of the Prius. The PHV can travel 13 miles in electric range at up to 60 miles per hour. The PHV’S 5kWh Panasonic lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in 1.5 hours with 220 three different pack configurations will be tested.

The Volt will have a 40 mile electric range; triple that of the Prius Plug-in. The Volt has a 16kWh battery pack being jointly developed by GM with LG Chem. A 220 volt recharge may take 4 hours. GM 16 kWh hours may add $10,000 to the vehicle cost over Toyota’s 5 kWh hours. Neither automaker has announced sale prices or lease rates.

Both automakers will first emphasize the California market. Most of the nation’s 40,000 electric vehicles are now on the road in California, a state with zero-emission vehicle mandates and greenhouse gas cap-and-trade being implemented.

GM has produced 80 Volt prototypes so far. In late 2010, Chevrolet starts taking orders for the Volt. In his keynote speech, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz estimated 2011 Volt deliveries at 8,000. Early in 2011, 400 Volts will be put into 2 year tests similar to GM’s successful Project Driveway that placed 100 Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles. Four utility partners will deploy 100 Volts each: Southern California Edison, Sacramento Public Utility District, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Electric Power Research Institute. In parallel with these tests will be dealer sales to consumers and fleets.

These utilities and EPRI have worked closely with automakers to establish the new smart charging standard J1772. They have tested V2G, which will someday allow customers to sell power from the vehicle batteries at peak hours. All utilities have expressed interest in repurposing the lithium batteries in utility applications after 10 years of use in autos.

Plug-in hybrids will more aggressively use batteries than hybrids. Bob Lutz expressed confidence in a 10 year life for Volt batteries; he said the will use an 80/30 charge discharge cycle.

Premium Hybrids

The initial plug-in market share battle will extend up and down the product line of both automakers. Lexus currently offers four hybrid models; two have such good fuel economy that they are part of the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Hybrids.

In the luxury model, GM may offer the Cadillac Converj plug-in hybrid to leapfrog Lexus. Converj is a concept car with breathtaking design; it has attracted cars at auto shows. The roomy luxury coupe would utilize the Volt drive system.

As competition gets interesting between Toyota and GM, they will have dozens of competitors to worry about. Nissan is actively promoting its battery-electric Leaf. Ford will be offering several models of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid.

What is Next?

Jim Lentz, TMS president, said, “Toyota’s hybrid leadership will continue to expand in the U.S. and around the globe. With 10 new hybrid models between now and 2012 in various global markets, we plan to sell one million gas-electric hybrids per year, worldwide, sometime early in the next decade.”

Toyota has announced that it wants all of its cars to have a hybrid option by 2020. Ford wants the hybrid option for 90 percent of its cars much sooner. Competition will force Toyota to keep moving forward.

Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2012 according to Reuters. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Prius Plug-ins are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized 2012 pricing. With only a 5kWh battery, Toyota could under price the Chevy Volt, price near the Volt and enjoy profit margins, or offer a PHV with a larger battery. Competition will keep both companies on alert.

In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric vehicle. This little car will probably be similar to the IQ concept car that it has shown for a few years. In the U.S. in 2012 Toyota will face intense EV competition with Nissan, Ford, and dozens of innovative younger companies such as Tesla.

The customer will be the winner in the battle for electric car market share.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

2010 Hybrid Cars with Best MPG

By John Addison (11/10/09, original post Clean Fleet Report)

The new 2010 model hybrid cars offered in the U.S. are destined to sell with gasoline prices rising. Toyota (TM) dominates the list including new models from Lexus. There are also impressive offerings from Honda (HMC), Ford (F), Nissan (NSANY), and Chevrolet (GMGMQ.PK). Your top 10 choices include hatchbacks that start at under $20,000 and stretch to roomy premium SUVs that cost over $40,000.

Toyota Prius continues to lead the field in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize 4-door hatchback delivers 50 miles per gallon (mpg) and is lowest on the list with 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle. Yes, 3.7 tons of CO2e is a lot; but many cars, light trucks, and SUVs create three times that emission; to get lower emissions you would need a plug-in car. The hatchback design allows for more cargo, especially if you drop part or all of the 60/40 back bench seat. This year, Toyota is also putting 500 plug-in hybrid Priuses into fleet tests. 2010 Toyota Prius Review

Honda Civic Hybrid is a good alternative for those who want a traditional looking sedan that seats 5. This compact rates saves fuel at 42 mpg. At 4.4 annual tons of CO2e, this hybrid emits actually emits less greenhouse gases than its CNG cousin.

Honda Insight is a sporty four-door hatchback with an Ecological Drive Assist System. Although the Insight looks like the Prius, it is a bit smaller, lighter, and often $2,000 less than the Prius. The Insight will deliver 41 mpg combined, with annual emissions of about 4.5 tons of CO2e. Clean Fleet Report Test Drive

Ford Fusion Hybrid is appealing to those who want a made in America midsized sedan. This roomy 5-seater delivers 39 mpg and 4.7 tons of CO2e per year. The Fusion Hybrid and its first cousin the Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows for more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes, making for a smooth and quiet ride. Clean Fleet Report Test Drive The Mercury Milan Hybrid offers the same drive system and body, with upscale interior.

Lexus HS 250h is a stylish compact 4-seat sedan that delivers 35 mpg and 5.3 tons of CO2e per year. The Lexus brand lets your friends know that are using less petroleum by choice; you can afford a bit of luxury.

2010 Top 10 Hybrids for Best Fuel Economy:

1. Toyota Prius
2. Honda Civic Hybrid
3. Honda Insight
4. Ford Fusion Hybrid
5. Lexus HS 250h
6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
7. Toyota Camry Hybrid
8. Ford Escape Hybrid SUV
9. Lexus RX 450h SUV
10. Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Get more details about the Clean Fleet Report 2010 Top 10 Hybrids. Major auto shows are coming, so check back as we update the list in the months ahead.

By John Addison who publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He has no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

2010 Nissan LEAF EV on a Freeway Near You

By John Addison (8/3/09). Nissan (NSANY) will be the first to have thousands of affordable freeway-speed electric vehicles on the highways. The new 2010 Nissan LEAF is a comfortable compact hatchback that seats five.

Although Tesla will be the first to have a thousand freeway-speed EV on the roads, the $100,000 price tag is out of reach for most of us. According to Nissan, the LEAF will be “competitively priced in the range of a well-equipped C-segment vehicle.” In late 2010, Nissan will finalize pricing and its sale and/or lease strategy. We expect the LEAF to start around $30,000. Buyers are likely to qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

The Nissan LEAF will build on Nissan’s hybrid-electric success with the Altima Hybrid, which is in currently in the #6 position for U.S. cars with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. The Nissan Altima Hybrid starts at $26,500.

Clean Fleet Report’s test drives of the Nissan EV demonstrated plenty of acceleration. The Nissan LEAF is powered by 24kWh of laminated compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate 90 kW of power, while its electric motor delivers 80kW/280Nm.

The LEAF has a range of about 100 miles. In 8 hours you are good for another 100 miles with a Level 2 AC200V home-use charger; in 26 minutes you can be 80 percent charged with a Level 3 DC 50kW quick charger. The 440v Level 3 chargers are likely to be scare, expensive, and certainly not for home use.

Nissan did not announce that LEAF batteries can be quickly swapped, but Nissan continues to partner with Better Place.

Many drivers will only spend $20 to $40 per month for electricity – a fraction of what they now spend for gas at the pump. Early adopters of electric vehicles, especially fleets, often use their solar power to charge vehicles.

In 2010, the Nissan will first be available in CA, OR, WA, AZ, TN, and NC.

Nissan is working with a number of global partners to accelerate development of a charging infrastructure, early fleet use, and education. For example, when I recently spoke at a San Diego cleantech event (presentation videos) San Diego Gas and Electric (SRE) announced early roll-out of 1,000 Nissan LEAF and an extensive charging infrastructure. Clean Fleet Report predicts that Nissan will be the first to have 10,000 freeway-speed electric vehicles on the road.

Toyota, Chevrolet, Chrysler and others will compete with Nissan by offering plug-in hybrids which will go up to 40 miles in battery electric mode and then engage gasoline engines to provide hundreds of miles of added range until the next gasoline fill-up or electric charge.

Nissan, however, is focused on zero-emission leadership. Longer term, Nissan expects to see many urban centers, such as London, where only ZEV will be exempt from expensive daily congestion fees. The 100-mile range meets the needs of 90 percent of U.S. daily driving and meets the needs of households with two or more cars.

Nissan will also face battery-electric competition next year from Ford (F), Chrysler, Mercedes (DAI) Smart, and dozens of emerging innovators. Electric vehicles are not new to the United States. 40,000 now drive light electric-vehicles on corporate and college campuses, typically with 25 mph speeds and 25 mile ranges.

Nissan LEAF employs an exclusive advanced IT system. Connected to a global data center, the system can provide support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day. The dash-mounted monitor displays Nissan LEAF’s remaining power – or “reachable area” – in addition to showing a selection of nearby charging stations. Another state-of-the-art feature is the ability to use mobile phones to turn on air-conditioning and set charging functions – even when Nissan LEAF is powered down. An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be pre-programmed to recharge batteries.

The LEAF has a distinctive aerodynamic design. The “blue earth” color theme of the Aqua Globe body color of Nissan LEAF’s introductory model compliments the blue dashboard and instrumentation.

The first of Nissan’s EV’s will be manufactured at Oppama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for Smyrna, Tennessee, USA. Meanwhile, lithium-ion batteries are being produced in Zama, Japan, by the Nissan-NEC JV with additional capacity planned for the USA, the UK and Portugal, and other locations.

Nissan’s leadership will accelerate the manufacturing of fully-functional electric vehicles in volume. Manufacturing volume will drive down cost, making zero-emission vehicles cost competitive with gasoline counterparts. Electric vehicles will likely be less expensive for people to drive with low-cost nighttime charging. It will be easy for people to save on emissions when they are saving money at the same time.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. He is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Ford Returns to Profitability with Improved Mileage

By John Addison (7/23/09). Ford has returned to profitability, benefiting from increased market share which is the likely result of improved mileage. Ford earned almost $2.4 billion for the quarter, but it was the result of a large one-time gain associated with the debt reduction actions completed in April. The pre-tax operating losses were $424 million; an improvement of $609 million from year-ago results.

Ford has gained U.S. market share for January through June 2009. Wards Six month market share:

GM 19.8%
Toyota (TM) 16.1%
Ford (F) 15.9%
Honda (HMC) 11.1%
Chrysler 9.8%

Ford also gained share in Europe and Asia, boosted by the fuel efficient Fiesta.

In contrast with GM and Chrysler, Ford is the only U.S.-headquartered manufacturer with vehicles qualifying for the Clean Fleet Report Cars with the Lowest Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Both the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid are in the top 10 list.

Ford is on target to meeting CAFÉ with average fuel economy in 2010 being 20 % better than 2005.

The Focus will be increasingly important to Ford’s success as it lowers manufacturing cost with a global version and when it offers an electric version in 2011.

In 2012, the Ford Escape Hybrid, already the most fuel efficient SUV, will get a lot more efficient by also being available as a plug-in hybrid. The PHEV Escape Hybrid is already being tested in a number of fleets. By 2012, Ford will offer multiple

EcoBoost engines will be delivered in over 1 million vehicles globally, delivering better mileage through turbocharging and direct fuel injection.

Ford could have greater market share than GM by 2012, unless GM transforms its entrenched culture centered on large heavy vehicles as the only way to generate adequate profit margins. In the next few years, Ford will face increased competition with Toyota and Honda both offering hybrids for less than $20,000. Ford will also face intense EV competition with Nissan (NSANY), BYD, and a number of emerging electric vehicle makers.

In the future, oil price increases and oil shocks will deliver market share to makers who minimize consumption of petroleum fuels. Winners will build the best hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. Ford is investing nearly $14 billion in the U.S. over the next seven years on advanced technology vehicles, including $5.9 billion in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy for advanced fuel-saving vehicles.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally stated earlier this year. Now Ford is executing its electrification strategy.

Ford Q2 Earnings Presentation

Earnings Transcript

By John Addison. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

New Cars that Already Meet 2016 Fuel Economy Standards

By John Addison. President Barack Obama announced that automakers must meet average U.S. fuel-economy standards of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. This will be an exciting opportunity for automakers that already deliver vehicles that beat 35.5 mpg such as the Ford (F) Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, Toyota (TM) Prius, Honda (HMC) Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, and the Mercedes Smart Fortwo. You can buy these gas misers today. A number of other vehicles offered in the U.S. now come close to the 2016 standard, and will see mileage improvements next year.

In Europe, over 100 models can be purchased that meet the 2016 standards, thanks to the popularity of cars that are smaller, lighter weight, and often use efficient turbo diesel engines.

Over the next three years, dozens of exciting cars will be introduced in the United States. Here are some offerings that we are likely to see in the next one to three years from major auto makers.

Ford (F) will extend its current hybrid success with added models. During my recent test-drive of several vehicles that meet the 2016 requirement the midsized Ford Fusion Hybrid demonstrates that you can enjoy fuel economy in a larger car with comfort and safety. The Ford Fusion Hybrid has an EPA certified rating of 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The car can be driven up to 47 mph in electric mode with no gasoline being consumed. Ford will start selling pure battery electric vehicles next year that will lower its fleet mileage average.

The best mileage SUV on the market is the Ford Escape Hybrid with 32 mpg. In 2012, Ford will also offer a plug-in version of the Escape Hybrid that will blow-away the 35.5 mile standard. Bringing the popular Fiesta to the U.S. with a 1.6L gasoline engine will also attract budget minded buyers looking for good mileage.

In discussing the new standards, Ford CEO Alan Mulally stated, “We are pleased President Obama is taking decisive and positive action as we work together toward one national standard for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions that will benefit the environment and the economy.”

General Motors (GM) plans to be the leader in plug-in hybrids starting with the Chevy Volt. It has a major opportunity to extend its E-Flex architecture to SUVs and trucks by 2016. For the price conscious buyer, the Chevy Spark hatchback with a 1.2L gasoline engine should deliver over 40 mpg.

There are almost 40,000 Chrysler GEM electric vehicles in use today. The GEM 25 mph speed limits them to only being popular in fleets, university towns, and retirement communities. Chrysler will extend its early U.S. electric vehicle leadership in 2010 with new freeway speed plug-in hybrids that can be driven 40 miles in electric mode, before engaging the gasoline engine – the Jeep Wrangler, an SUV, and the Town and Country Minivan. Over time, Chrysler can expand its ENVI family. Chrysler’s new stockholder Fiat will bring in exciting smaller cars and help expand the EV success.

Toyota (TM) will expand on the success of the Prius with more new hybrids. Since 2002, I have been driving a Prius that has averaged 41 mpg in real world driving that has included climbing hills with bikes on a roof rack and driving through snow with skis on the roof rack. The Prius will also be made available as a plug-in hybrid – hundreds of these PHEVs are now being tested by fleets. The modestly priced Yaris, which gets 32 mpg, is likely to also be offered as a hybrid that delivers over 40 mpg.

Honda (HMC) is likely to be the first maker to meet 2016 CAFÉ requirements, building on its historical leadership in fuel economy. My mother has easily achieved over 45 mpg with her Honda Civic Hybrid. Now Honda is going after the Toyota Prius with the Honda Insight. The popular Fit, which gets 31 mpg, is likely to also be offered as a hybrid offering over 40 mpg. Look for more high mileage offerings from both Honda and Toyota as they compete for hybrid leadership.

Nissan’s (NSANY) Altima Hybrid delivers an impressive 34 mpg. Beyond hybrids, Nissan is determined to be the leader in battery electric vehicles. Working with fleet consortiums and major electric utilities, next year Nissan may seed the market with thousands of freeway speed electric vehicles. The Nissan EVs have ranges of at least 100 miles per charge. Clean Fleet Report EV Test Drive

This article does not pretend to be a complete review of what is coming, rather a taste of what is here and what will soon be here from six major automakers. Given economic challenges, not all forecasts will happen. There will be surprises, more new models, and new model names. Not all plans will be executed as Chrysler deals with bankruptcy reorganization and as GM considers one.

Meeting the CAFÉ standards by 2016 will not be a slam dunk for all of the automakers, but they will make it. Historically, CAFE standards have not aligned with the EPA fuel economy determinations used in this article. For better and worse, flexfuel vehicles get artificially high numbers, making it easier for GM, Ford, and Chrysler to meet CAFE targets. Plug-in hybrid and EV ratings need to be finalized. To meet fleet average requirements, cars will need to average higher than 35.5; light-trucks and SUVs lower.

Trends to more efficient drive systems are a certainty. With oil prices now close to double the recent lows of earlier this year, these new vehicles bring important relief to every driver who wants to save at the pump.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and details the future of transportation in his new book Save Gas, Save the Planet.

2010 Cars Deliver Performance and Fuel Economy

This is my first time to drive on a race track and I’m wondering if these are my final moments on planet earth. Here at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I take the Andretti Hairpin and learn to accelerate in successive turns. After accelerating uphill, I enter “The Corkscrew” where I cannot see the sharp downhill turn to the left until I am in the middle of it. As I get into this sharp turn, I need to prepare for the sequence of curves that immediately follow. Yes, it’s a corkscrew.

I try to remember the coaching that I received. Hold the steering wheel with something less than a death grip. Breathe. Look ahead – but looking ahead at the top of the Corkscrew I only see blue sky. Looking ahead to my future, I only see darkness.

The 2009 BMW 335d that I am driving handles beautifully, offers more turbodiesel acceleration than I care to try, and I guarantee you that the brakes work.

After three laps, I exit the track, park the BMW, remove my helmet as I leave the car, and resist kissing the ground in front of real drivers. I have been invited to test drive new vehicles with the Western Automotive Journalists, even though I write about green cars and clean transportation. I long for yesterday.

Yesterday, I tested cars with good fuel economy on streets with posted speed limits. Drives included three cars that made the list of Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars. Yesterday, the 20 mile test drives were along the ocean in Monterey and on beautiful tree lined roads where I could easily see the next turn.

The 2010 Ford (F) Fusion Hybrid easily seats five, has plenty of trunk storage, and actually delivers better mileage than the MINI due to Ford’s impressive hybrid drive system. The new Ford midsized sedan that I drove has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The base suggested price is $27,995.

It may prove to be popular with anyone considering the Toyota (TM) Camry Hybrid; Ford delivers equal room, safety, and comfort with better rated mileage. Although the Fusion Hybrid has a better mileage rating than the Camry Hybrid, that advantage is not always delivered in real world driving. Edmonds Test Drive

In theory, the Ford Fusion Hybrid can travel up to 47 miles per hour in electric mode; I could only sustain the engine-off mode when gliding downhill. Even on flat roads driving 25 mph, the engine would engage.

Ford does a nice job of encouraging drivers to get better fuel economy. The SmartGage had a display section that filled with green leaves as I drove with a light touch that reduced demands on the 2.5L engine. The Ford Fusion Hybrid delivered the smoothest driving experience of any hybrid which I have driven. I did not notice the transitions from gas to electric mode. The transitions were seamless.

Even better mileage was delivered by the 2010 Honda (HMC) Insight EX which I drove in Monterey. It is rated 43 mpg highway and 40 mpg city. The Insight’s combined EPA rating of 41 contrasts with the 2010 Prius expected rating of at least 50 mpg. The Honda Insight has an aerodynamic body similar to the Prius. Although the two five-door hatchbacks look similar, the Prius is a longer midsized car. In theory, the Honda Insight pricing starts at $19,800 which has pressured Toyota to offer a Prius with a base price only $2,000 higher. The 2010 Insight that I drove included upgrades such as a navigation system and six speaker audio system. The vehicle price, including pre-delivery service, was $23,770.

I started the Insight, and then touched the ECO button. Even in that mode, I had enough acceleration to get on any freeway in a hurry. The ECO mode helped me minimize demands on the 1.3L gasoline engine as I navigated the roads hugging Monterey’s dramatic coast. Like the Ford Fusion Hybrid, I was rewarded with a display of green leaves for my eco-driving behavior. Handling was smooth and a bit sporty.

Driving the Honda Insight was smooth and quiet even when I went up a sustained 16 percent grade, demonstrating that its electric motor is quite effective in blending power with the 98 hp engine.

Price will definitely be a factor in buyers deciding between the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius. In some markets, such as California, another factor may be the ability to get an HOV sticker with the Insight. For my money, if I could get a larger more fuel efficient Prius for only $2,000 more, then I would get the Prius. On the other hand, if there was a $5,000 price differential at the dealer, then I would go with the Insight. All in all, both are wonderful cars.

If you want great fuel economy, few compromises, and driving pleasure, test drive the latest hybrids from automakers like Toyota, Honda, and Ford. The intensified competition between them is bringing better performance and safety and economy.

Complete Article including MINI Cooper test drive.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Ford Expands Hybrid Success to Electric Vehicles

By John Addison. Toyota’s (TM) global market share leadership has been helped by the success of its hybrids. Looking to a future that will increasingly emphasize fuel economy and lower emissions, Toyota will put 500 plug-in hybrid Priuses on the road in 2009.

Competition is just getting started in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. One company that Toyota must watch carefully is Ford (F). It is Ford with the world’s most fuel-efficient SUV – the Ford Escape Hybrid. It is Ford that is now selling a mid-sized hybrid which can be driven to 47 mph in electric vehicle mode – the Ford Fusion Hybrid. It is Ford that is successfully testing the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid with major electrical utilities across the nation. It is Ford, not Toyota, which will be selling commercial electric vehicles in the United States in 2010.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California, this month. Ford will start selling commercial electric vehicle in 2010, a sedan EV in 2011, and a plug-in hybrid in 2012. “You’ll see more hybrids, but you will really see a lot more electric vehicles,” he said. Reuters

Last week, I discussed Ford’s plans with Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford.

This is the fifth year of success for the Ford Escape Hybrid and its cousins the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid. The vehicle has enough passenger room and cargo space to be popular with families to taxi fleets. The SUV delivers an impressive 32 mpg. It is the only SUV that could make the list of Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Vehicles.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, making it even more fuel efficient with less CO2e emissions than the Escape Hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid is powered by both an electric motor and by a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid engine. The advanced intake variable cam timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. The Fusion has a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel economy is not only a function of what we drive, but how we drive. Ford conducted a study that resulted in an average of 24 percent improvement in fuel economy when typical drivers were coached by eco-driving experts. With the Fusion, Ford introduces SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide, which coaches hybrid drivers to maximize fuel efficiency. In the future, SmartGauge will be included in a number of Ford vehicles.

In addition to the visual feedback with SmartGauge, the new Fusion Hybrid includes Ford’s MyKey™ , a programmable feature that allows drivers, parents, or fleet owners to limit top speed and audio volume of vehicles, and set speed alert chimes to encourage safer driving. Tire pressure monitoring is another new feature that helps improve mileage.

United States Infrastructure Company (USIC), a utility services business that operates a fleet of 3,500 vehicles nationwide, could benefit from using MyKey, said Phil Samuelson, USIC purchasing and asset manager. The company uses many Ford vehicles, and its drivers put an average of 24,000 miles on each vehicle every year. “Operating a fleet equipped with MyKey technology could be great for our business and our drivers,” Samuelson said. “By encouraging safety belt use and limiting the top speed and audio volume on our vehicles, we’d be better able to protect our employees and our fleet investment while potentially saving fuel, too.”

What Ford is not offering in its hybrids and plug-in hybrids is a flexfuel engine. The U.S. flexfuel offerings from any automaker have failed to deliver respectable mileage when running on gasoline. Typically their mileage is reduced 27 percent when running on the E85 ethanol blend.

Ford may make hybrids even more affordable in 2010 with a new Focus hybrid or other hybrid 4-door sedan. By 2012, Ford will have a new more fuel efficient hybrid drive system. Currently, Ford hybrids use NiMH batteries. The more expensive lithium-ion batteries are planned for the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid offerings. By 2012, even the hybrid offerings may be lithium if a cost advantage can be secured. For 2012, Ford is evaluating battery technology and has not made final decisions, explained Nancy Gioia. Ford battery partner for the Escape PHEV is Johnson Controls-Saft (JCI, SGPEF).

A charging infrastructure will be critical to the success of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. “There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies. Because they need less range, urban dwellers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.

Electric utilities in many areas are not ready for the load of everyone in a neighborhood charging an EV, especially at peak-load hours. Utilities will want to encourage smart charging during the night, when excess electricity is often available. Since 2007, Ford has been working with utilities and research organizations to develop extensive data from demonstrations of prototype Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrids. Ford now has over ten partners including:

  • Southern California Edison
  • New York Power Authority
  • Consolidated Edison of New York
  • American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio
  • Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala.; and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
  • Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C.
  • DTE Energy of Detroit
  • National Grid of Waltham, Mass.
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, a state agency.
  • Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Utilities need to lead with a smart-charging infrastructure and communications standards. In addition to Ford’s official plug-in demonstrations, fleets and communities have converted Ford Escape Hybrids to be plug-in. Google uses Escape plug-ins that are solar charged. Xcel is evaluating vehicle-to-grid in its Smart Grid City.

Drivers of the demonstration Ford Escape PHEV will make far fewer trips to the gas station. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. Look for faster charging 220 volt on-board charger in the future. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg – roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive.

Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. Ford is not waiting until 2012 to start selling battery electric vehicles.

In 2010, Ford also plans to begin sales of zero-emission battery-electric vans. To speed time to market, Ford will be collaborating with Tanfield’s Smith Electric Vehicles to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Smith Electric Vehicles will build the Transit Connect in Kansas City, Missouri.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is in offering a 4-door sedan that can achieve freeway speeds and has a range of at least 100 miles. In the typical U.S. household with two vehicles, one of those vehicles almost never travels over 40 miles in a day. In 2011, using Magna International (MGA) to do the power system assembly, Ford will offer a C-sized 4-door sedan electric vehicle with both 110 and 220 volt on-board charging. The battery supplier is to be determined.

Through continued advances and strategic partnerships in hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicles, Ford is positioned to compete and even lead in growth segments of the auto industry.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

2010 Prius Delivers Record Mileage and Accelerates Plug-in Plans

By John Addison. Toyota achieves a record 50 miles per gallon with the new 2010 Prius, which just made its formal debut at the North American International Auto Show. This article also covers Toyota’s latest plug-in hybrid and EV announcements.

Since the Prius was first went on sale in Japan in 1997, continuous improvements have been made. My 2002 Prius has a combined EPA rating of 41, and that has been its actual mileage. Newer models are rated at 46 mpg. The new 2010 should be rated at 50 miles per gallon, or better. Toyota

In addition to normal driving, Prius now comes with three selectable modes – EV, Eco and Power – to accommodate a wide range of driving conditions.

Hybrid components like the inverter, motor, and generator are now smaller and lighter. The new midsized 2010 Prius improves fuel efficiency with a 0.25 coefficient of drag making it the world’s most aerodynamic production vehicle. Hybrid components like the inverter, motor, and generator are now smaller and lighter. The new beltless 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine with 98 horsepower, runs at lower RPMs at highway speeds for better fuel efficiency and improved uphill performance. An exhaust heat recovery system, exhaust gas recirculation, and an electric water pump contribute to a more efficient hybrid system with a net horsepower rating of 134.

An exciting new option is the solar moonroof using Kyocera PV that automatically powers a ventilation system on hot days. This system allows fresh air to circulate into the vehicle, cooling down the cabin so that the A/C doesn’t have to work as hard, conserving battery power. The solar roof will be paired with a remote air-conditioning system that is the first in the world to run on battery power alone. LED head lamps are another exciting energy saving option.

The Prius will face increased competition. The new Honda Insight 4-door sedan, 5-seater, with an Ecological Drive Assist System is expected to be priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. The Insight will have a combined EPA rating of 41 miles per gallon, over 20 percent less than the 2010 Prius.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsize 4-door sedan will be on sale in the US this next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes.

Toyota is also accelerating its roll-out of plug-in hybrids. Beginning in late 2009, Toyota will start global delivery of 500 Prius plug-in hybrids powered by lithium-ion batteries. Of these initial vehicles, 150 will be placed with U.S. lease-fleet customers.

The first-generation lithium-ion batteries powering these plug-in hybrids will be built on an assembly line at Toyota’s Panasonic EV Energy Company battery plant, a joint-venture production facility in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. During its development, the new Prius was designed and engineered to package either the lithium-ion battery pack with plug-in capability, or the nickel-metal hydride battery for the conventional gas-electric system.

Toyota plans to make a hybrid drive system optional on all vehicles by 2020. At the North American International Auto Show, Toyota confirmed its plan to launch a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) by 2012. The FT-EV concept shares its platform with the revolutionary-new iQ urban commuter vehicle. Toyota continues to give customers an increasingly exciting selection of fuel-efficient hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – goes on sale March 25.

Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans

By John Addison. The four-door sedan continues to be a popular vehicle for fleets and for individuals. These sedans often deliver the right amount of space for 4 or 5 passengers and enough cargo space for a taxi. The following 10 four-door sedans have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per mile of any vehicles available for volume commercial sale in 2009. In many cases, they also have the best fuel economy. Most are already selling in quantity. In a few cases, we are betting that the manufacturer will sell 1,000 to fleets by the end of 2009. Buying these clean cars often gives fleets tax breaks and special funding opportunities.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions are becoming a priority with fleet managers and millions of conscientious consumers. These Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Doors are listed from lowest to highest in carbon footprint.

  1. Toyota Prius
  2. Honda Insight
  3. Honda Civic Hybrid
  4. Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid
  5. Ford Fusion Hybrid
  6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
  7. Honda Civic CNG
  8. Toyota Camry Hybrid
  9. Toyota Yaris
  10. Chevrolet Aveo

Fleets are also early adopters of vehicles with even less emissions including electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid conversions, and diesel hybrid concept cars. Because these are not offered for commercial volume sale, they are not part of this Top 10 Four-Door Sedan list. Electric and alt-fuel vehicles are also covered in detail at Clean Fleet Report.

The Toyota Prius continues to lead the four-door sedan field in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize is lowest on the list with 4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle; combined fuel economy is 46 mpg. Yes, 4 tons of CO2e is a lot; by comparison the 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago rates at 18.3 tons and only gets 10 mpg. Sorry fleet managers, you’ll need to take that Lamborghini out of the budget. Watch for new announcements from Toyota at the Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows, including a solar roof option to power accessories and thereby boost mileage. Prius

The new Honda Insight four-door sedan with an Ecological Drive Assist System is expected to be priced for thousands less than the Prius. Honda will start selling the Insight in North America in spring 2009. Honda is setting expectations that mileage will be similar to the Honda Civic Hybrid. Honda Insight

The Honda Civic Hybrid compact rates at 4.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 42 mpg. Civic Hybrid

The Toyota Camry CNG Hybrid was presented to me as a concept car at the LA Auto Show. Should gas prices start climbing as summer approaches, then Clean Fleet Report is betting that Toyota will make this available to fleets. A similar move happened 10 years ago in 1999 when Toyota marketed a CNG Camry to fleet customers in California. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.6 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle, based on achieving 32 mpg combined. Camry CNG Hybrid

The Ford Fusion Hybrid will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car on sale in the US by next spring, with an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Clean Fleet Report makes an unofficial estimate that emissions will be 4.8 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle. The Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid may travel up to 47 miles per hour in pure electric mode. The Advanced Intake Variable Cam Timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. Green Car Congress

Cleanfleet Report with discussion of other Low Carbon Vehicles

If you are planning to buy any four-door sedans, this list may be a good starting point. The focus is on low CO2e emissions and likely commercial availability. Some will need larger sedans, while others will need affordable small cars, including small station wagons and two-doors which are not part of the list. Executives and sales managers that once required luxury sedans may now insist on one of the green alternatives in the Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Four-Door Sedans for 2009.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report. His new book, Save Gas, Save the Planet, will be published March 25, 2009.

Solar Powers more Vehicles as Gasoline use Drops

By John Addison. Solar is powering more vehicles. American’s have reduced their use of petroleum 5 percent this year. So far, petroleum reduction is the result of fewer miles traveled solo as people cut travel to deal with high gas prices and a slowing economy. At the margin, however, solar power is replacing oil.

There are now 40,000 electric vehicles in use in the United States. They are primarily the 25 mile per hour light electric vehicles. Fleets are starting to use heavy electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrids, that formerly required copious gallons of diesel and gasoline. In 2010, consumers will start buying freeway speed electric vehicles.

The U.S. Marine Corp at Camp Pendleton, during my last visit, showed me an 8-station solar car port that they use to charge their 320 light-electric vehicles. Petroleum fuel is a multi-billion dollar part of the U.S. Defense budget. Once the solar panels are installed, however, the sunlight is free. Solar is increasingly also used by the Marines and Army for stationary power in the U.S. and Iraq, reducing the need for petroleum in the form of diesel and JP8 jet fuel for running gen sets to air condition tents and buildings.

Every 44 minutes, sufficient energy from the sun strikes the Earth to provide the entire world’s energy requirements for one year, including the energy needed to move vehicles. Solar power grows 40 percent per year, as we become increasingly efficient at turning sunlight into electricity and heat.

Most importantly, with continued innovation and larger scale manufacturing, the price of solar keeps dropping. There is enthusiasm for advancements in photovoltaics (PV) and for large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP). As I researched and wrote this article at the Solar Power 2008 Conference, last week, the evidence of growth was everywhere. 17,000 from 92 countries attended the conference in San Diego, California. 425 companies exhibited, with 450 more turned away due to lack of convention floor space.

8 GW of solar power are now installed. Deutsche Bank forecasts that the photovoltaic market will growfrom $13 billion in 2006 to $30 billion in 2010. Polysilicon supply is expected to triple by 2010. New technology continues to delivers more electricity output with less silicon. These technologies include thin film, high efficiency PV, organic, concentrating PV and balance of system improvements.

For those interested in transportation, one notable area of growth is solar covered parking structures – a cool solution for a planet that is getting hotter.

When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opened the Solar Power International conference, he highlighted Applied Materials’ 2 MW solar power that also shades their parking lot. The vast solar shading is designed to efficiently capture energy using SunPower 19% efficient panels implemented horizontally with a system that rotates the panels to track the sunlight.

Envision Solar specializes in solar parking structures. Designed by architects, Envision uses biomimicry to have parking structures that suggest groves of trees. NREL in Colorado uses an Envision solar carport with a charging station for two vehicles including its plug-in hybrid and EV. Other organizations have installed Envison solar parking structures with the support poles pre-engineered with wiring for future charging or integration of nighttime energy-efficient lighting. These organizations include the University of California San Diego and major solar panel maker Kyocera.

New Jersey Transit is preparing for a future where parked cars can be charged with sunlight while people use public transportation. Premier Power Renewable Energy recently completed the first of two 201kW solar canopies, on the rooftops of two large six-story parking garages at the new Trenton AMTRAK Transit center. Each project includes more than 600 solar panels. The solar systems will eliminate approximately 141 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The New Jersey parking structures are also equipped with 110v charging stations for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and Electric Vehicles (EVs). Participating in the October 14 ribbon cutting was the Mid-Atlantic Grid Interactive Cars (MAGIC) consortium, which includes the University of Delaware, Pepco Holdings, Inc., PJM Interconnect, Comverge, AC Propulsion and the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, created to further develop, test and demonstrate Vehicle-to-Grid technology.

At Google, part of their 1.6 MW solar PV installation is a solar carport structure that includes charging stations for Google’s plug-in hybrid converted Toyota Priuses and Ford Excapes.

The conference included many lively debates about whether the financial crisis would stop solar’s growth in 2009. Large projects usually require millions for project financing. Allowing customers to pay by the kilowatt with power purchase agreements requires long-term financing. Illiquidity will surely slow growth.

In most U.S. states, however, electric utilities are required by law to expand the percentage of power that is delivered with renewables. In California, for example, the renewable portfolio must be 20 percent by 2010. Pacific Gas and Electric is installing 800 MW of utility scale solar PV to meet part of that. Arizona Public Service has contracted with Abengoa to install 280 MW of concentrating solar thermal that includes molten salt towers to store six hours energy for delivery during peak hours.

Utilities have deep pockets and these volume projects are lowering costs. With illiquidity in other sectors, utilizes will increasingly drive centralized solar. In areas with positive regulatory environments and with robust grids, utilities will also encourage decentralized solar PV as part of their mix.

United States power utilities spend $70 billion annually for new power plants and transmission, plus added billions for coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel. For $26 to $33 billion per year investment, ten percent of United States electricity can be from solar by 2025, details the Utility Solar Assessment Study, produced by clean-tech research firm Clean Edge.

By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions. In their Scientific American article, Ken Zweibel, James Mason and Vasilis Fthenakis detail the scenario. A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity by 2050. This quantity includes enough to supply all the electricity consumed by 344 million plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The price tag for the transition would be $400 billion, but this could be spread over a number of years. Should this seem too expensive, consider the alternatives. This is a fraction of what the U.S. has spent for the war in Iraq.

In the final keynote of the Solar Power International conference, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) explained that both Republicans and Democrats ultimately supported an 8-year extension of solar and other renewable investment tax credits in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. This bill also included $7,500 tax credits for the purchase of new plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Senator Cantwell also strongly supports United States investment in a smart and robust grid, and in bringing high-voltage lines from major sources of renewable energy to major markets.

The transition to clean energy is increasingly recognized as an excellent investment. Due to rapid cost reduction, solar is a growing part of the solution that includes electric vehicles, energy efficiency, wind, bioenergy, geothermal, and other renewable sources. Compared to business as usual with oil and coal, renewable energy is downright cheap. The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2030, $5.4 trillion must be invested to increase global oil production.

Read the Full Article

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and writes about cleantech and renewable energy. He has a modest stock holdings in Abengoa and Q-Cells.

A Passion for Plug-ins

By John Addison (8/7/08). Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe spoke about his dream of building a car that could cross the United States on a single tank of gasoline. A plug-in hybrid running on E85 would potentially use only one gallon of gasoline every 500 miles in a blend with five gallons of ethanol, with the rest of the energy being fueled by electricity and biofuel.

In a recent article, I shared the stories of fleets and enthusiastic advocates and individuals who have converted their hybrids to be plug-in hybrids. Most people, however, will wait for vehicles that are designed from the ground-up to be plug-in hybrids. These vehicles will be warrantied by major manufacturers. Future plug-in hybrids will have larger electric motors, smaller engines, lithium battery stacks, and optimized control systems.

GM has announced plans for new plug-in sales by the end of 2010. Toyota is more likely to first deliver hundreds of fleet evaluation cars in 2010 and may follow with sales in 2011. Because both may start with limited numbers of vehicles and long wait times, it may be 2011 before you could get delivery of a new plug-in hybrid.

Toyota has put ten of its prototype plug-in hybrid into test applications in Japan and California. These test vehicles are Priuses with nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Toyota is being a bit secretive about its new plug-in hybrid. The car is likely to be smaller and lighter than the Prius and use lithium batteries. By carrying less weight and more advanced batteries, Toyota can give the vehicle greater electric-only range, possibly 40 miles which would accommodate the daily range requirements of 78% of all U.S. drivers.

General Motors has made clear statements that it will start taking orders for the Chevy Volt from U.S. consumers by the end of 2010. Last December, I attended a General Motors showing of its Chevy Volt – an elegant four-door sedan shown in this photo which I took. One GM designer admitted that the Mercedes CLS gave some inspiration for the Volt. The Chevy Volt can be driven 40 miles in electric-mode using 16kW of lithium batteries, before its small one liter engine is engaged. 16kW is twelve times the storage of my Prius NiMH batteries.

The Volt uses an electric drive system with a small ICE in series that is only used to generate added electricity, not give power to the wheels. GM’s modular E-Flex propulsion could be adapted to various engines including diesel, fuel cells, and potentially battery-electric.

Ford currently has the SUV with the best fuel economy in the Ford Escape Hybrid. A number of fleets have contracted with vehicle system integrators to convert the Escape Hybrid to be a plug-in. Ford delivered twenty of its own Escape Plug-in Hybrid prototypes to major electric utility SCE. The SUV uses a 10 kWh lithium-ion battery pack from Johnson Controls-Saft. The PHEV uses a blended operating strategy, and delivers an equivalent 30-mile all-electric range.

A hybrid battery might use a state of charge depletion window of twenty percent. A plug-in hybrid conversion kit might use a state of charge depletion window of 80 percent, and only be willing to warranty the battery for two or three years. GM will want to offer customers ten year warranties by having 150,000 mile target lives for their batteries. GM will likely use a state of charge depletion window of 50 percent with the Volt. While GM and Toyota see long-term market share advantage by being first to market with a plug-in, other auto makers are cautious.

Daimler is actively expanding the use of electric drive systems in a number of vehicles. The Mercedes Smart Car will be offered as an electric vehicle. The larger Sprinter Van will include a plug-in offer in the future. Several fleets have demonstrated Sprinter Vans converted to be plug-ins. In the future, Daimler may offer its own Plug-in Sprinter.

Plug-in hybrids will face growing competition from electric vehicles, which have more limited range, but have no engine and therefore never require a fuel like gasoline or diesel. At times some of these EV makers have floated the idea of plug-ins in the future. Such comments have come from Nissan-Renault, Tesla, BYD, and others.

In this era of record gasoline prices, people are using many successful approaches to spend less for gas and cut emissions. A record number are cutting personal miles by taking part in employer flexwork programs, car pooling, using transit, and grouping trips. Households are maximizing use of their most fuel efficient vehicles while leaving the gas guzzler parked. More are buying fuel efficient cars. Plug-in hybrids will become a growing part of the solution to save gas and slow global warming.

Plug-in hybrids are destined to be a major success. According to the California Electric Transportation Coalition, if automakers begin producing plug-ins within the next few years, 2.5 million cars could be plug-ins by the year 2020, saving 11.5 million tons of CO2 and 1.14 billion gallons of gasoline each year.

Complete Article about New Plug-ins

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.

Plug-in Drivers Get Charged

By John Addison (7/31/08). In 1971, a bright engineer, Dr. Andy Frank, was looking to the future. He knew that oil production had peaked in the U.S. and that cheap oil would later peak globally. He calculated how to get 100 miles per gallon, and then he built a hybrid-electric car.

A few years later there was a crisis in the Mideast. Oil tankers stopped moving through the Suez Canal. There were hour gas lines in the United States with engines fuming emissions and drivers fuming with anger. Gasoline was rationed. The crisis intensified Andy Frank’s commitment to build great vehicles with outstanding fuel economy. He has been on that mission ever since.

Andy Frank took me for a ride in a big GM Equinox SUV that got double the fuel economy of a conventional SUV because he converted it to a plug-in hybrid. The ride was the same as in any other SUV except it was more quiet. Fuel economy doubled because much of the time the vehicle ran on electricity with the engine off.

This vehicle was typical of many projects. The large engine was removed. An engine less-than half its size was put in its place. His team saved hundreds of extra pounds by replacing the standard GM transmission with a smaller and lighter continuously variable transmission. Even with an added electric motor and lithium batteries, the vehicle weighed less than a standard Equinox. The air conditioning and other accessories ran electrically, instead of placing mechanical demands on a large engine. Converted to be powered electrically, the air conditioning could run with the engine off.

Andy Frank is the father of plug-in hybrids. His students at U. C. Davis have gone on to be some of the brightest minds in automotive design and transportation management. Over the past 15 years, he and his students have built over ten different plug-in hybrids. They have ranged from sport cars to full-sized SUVs. Typically these PHEV can go over 40 miles (64km) in electric-only range and weigh no more than their standard counterparts. U. C. Davis Team Fate Vehicles

The idea of plugging-in is not new. We are in the habit of recharging our mobile phone every night. Soon, we may also be recharging our vehicle every night. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) look and drive like regular hybrids. They have a large battery pack that captures braking and engine-generated energy. Like hybrids they have computer chips that decide when to run only the electric motor, using no gas, when to run the gasoline engine, and when to run both. Many plug-in hybrids are programmed to run on only electricity for ten to forty miles before engaging the engine. Heavy duty vehicles, and eventually some passenger cars, will use more efficient diesel engines, not gasoline.

Andy Frank was all smiles as a crowd of 600 applauded at the Plug-in 2008 Conference in San Jose, California, last week. Many in the crowd now drive plug-in hybrids as part of their fleet demonstration programs. A number in the crowd had converted their personal Toyota Priuses or Ford Escape Hybrids. This was a crowd of plug-in converts.

Some visionary fleet managers have accelerated the development of plug-in hybrids. Rather than wait years for major vehicle manufacturers to offer plug-ins, these fleets have contracted for conversions then used their own maintenance teams to keep the experimental vehicles running. For example, Google is getting 93 miles per gallon (mpg) with its converted plug-in Priuses, over double the 48 mpg of its normal Priuses. Google uses solar power to charge the cars. Google’s

In Southern California, 24 million people live in an area where the mountains trap smog and damage people’s lungs. South Coast Air Quality Management District plans to reduce emissions by contracting the conversion to plug-in of 10 Priuses, 20 Ford Escape Hybrids, and several Daimler Sprinter Vans. The vehicles are being put into a variety of fleets with hopes that “a thousand flowers will bloom.”

Fleets are piloting plug-in conversions around the country. These fleets include New York City, the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado, King and Chelan County Counties in Washington, Minneapolis and the City of Santa Monica.

Electric utilities have started a variety of plug-in hybrid pilot projects involving everything from cars to large trouble trucks. These utilities include Southern California Edison, Austin Energy, Duke Energy, Wisconsin Power, and Pacific Gas and Electric to name a few. At a time when there are desperate discussions about being more dependent on oil, including taking ten years to get oil from environmentally sensitive areas, electric utilities are coming to the rescue by increasingly powering our vehicles.

Because some plug-ins will go up to 40 miles in electric mode at slower speeds, it is possible to get over 100 miles per gallon. With short trips in cold weather, little improvement might be seen. Driving on freeways without recharging will not help. However, for most driving cycles, plug-ins can dramatically reduce the need for expensive gasoline fill-ups.

You can get over 100 miles per gallon (mpg) by either adding a kit to an existing hybrid, or by waiting until late 2010 to order a new car from the car makers that will be discussed in next week’s article. Due to probable wait lists, it may be three years before individuals can get delivery of plug-ins from car makers. If you are now getting only 20 mpg, getting 100 mpg would cut your gasoline bill 80%. Over the next few years, you will have a growing number of choices of plug-in hybrids.

Plug-In Supply unveiled its $4,995 Conversion Kit at the Plug-in 2008 Conference. The lead acid (PbA) conversion kit, based on the CalCars Open Source design, converts a Prius into a plug-in hybrid with an all-electric range of up to 15 miles if kept to a maximum of 52 mph. At freeway speed the gasoline engine will be engaged. Green Car Congress Article

Most fleets and people who convert prefer to deal with a system integrator, garage, or mechanic that is experienced with plug-in conversions and can maintain the vehicles. For example, Luscious Garage has converted about 20 vehicles. A garage might charge $2,000 or more to install a plug-in kit.

A123 Hymotion is establishing certified conversion centers throughout the nation so that people can convert their Toyota Priuses to plug-in hybrids for $9,995 per car. The conversion kit includes interfacing to the Prius computer that controls hybrid operation, interfacing with existing Prius NiMH battery, and includes a 5kWh A123 lithium battery.

Many early converts are enthusiastic about their plug-in hybrids. They report that electricity is only costing the equivalent of 75 cents per gallon, compared to over $4 per gallon of gasoline. If you plan to convert a hybrid to a plug-in, be sure that you have a safe and convenient place for recharging at home, work, or other location. For most, a 110 volt garage line will be the best option., a leading plug-in non-profit group, has been a major force in the growth of plug-in hybrids. Technical guru, Ron Gremban converted a Prius in 2004, and now contributes in many areas including the development of an Open Source plug-in platform. CalCars Founder Felix Kramer has patiently nurtured the expanding support of electric vehicle groups, environmental groups, media, legislatures, and auto makers. He has made “plug-in” a household name. There are a growing number of batteries, plug-in conversion kits, and garages for plug-in conversions. CalCars summarizes offerings and provides links.

In California, Sven Thesen converted his family’s Prius to a plug-in with help from He and his wife love it, and share the plug-in Prius as their only vehicle. For them, it was not about saving money, rather it was to protect the future for their young daughters and everyone’s children. In Boston, students Zoë and Melissa converted because they see conventional cars as bad for the environment. In Texas, Jim Philippi replaced his 12 mpg Yukon with a converted plug-in that gets over 100 mpg. He buys renewable energy credits to use wind power for the plug-in charging. See Videos and Read about over 100 Plug-in Drivers

There is some truth to the old adage that you can recognize the pioneers by the arrows in their backs. Early conversions have sometimes produced problems and downtime. The conversions typically add an expensive second battery pack to the vehicle’s existing nickel metal hydride battery pack. To make the plug-in hybrid controls work, the manufacturer’s control system must be “fooled” with new input signals.

The added battery pack often displaces the Prius spare tire. In the Escape, a larger battery pack is often placed in the rear cargo area, behind the passengers seating in the rear seat. Battery life is a function of the state of charge. In hybrids, auto makers only use a narrow range of charging and discharging, so that they can warranty batteries for up to ten years. In plug-in hybrids, batteries are usually deeply discharged, reducing battery life. Kits may only warranty the expensive batteries for up to three years.

If anything goes wrong, auto makers like Toyota and Ford, may claim that the conversion created the problem and that their warranty is void. Although the car owner may have legal recourse, many are leery of warranty issues.

Even if vehicle lifecycle operating costs are higher with plug-in conversions and warranties limited, these issues have not stopped plug-in hybrid enthusiasts who strongly feel that we cannot wait for the big auto makers. They want rapid adoption of solutions to address global warming and oil addiction to end now. These early drivers of plug-in hybrids are leading the way — at 100 miles per gallon.

I returned from the conference to learn that my wife was spending $2,000 for new drapes. This was good news, for I assumed that it would therefore be no problem for me to spend $24,000 on a new Prius, less a nice trade-in for our 2002 model, and another $10,000 to convert it to a plug-in. An interesting discussion ensued.

We both want to save gas and take some leadership in making the future better, but $25,000+ (after trade-in) is a lot of money, especially in this economy. If the battery is dead in three years, that could be another $10,000, or less if kit providers offer extended warranties. Giving up the spare tire space is another concern. At least three times in my travels, I have needed to put on the emergency spare.

Like many, we are more likely to wait until the end of 2010, hoping for several electric vehicle and plug-in offerings for auto makers. These vehicles will be designed to be plug-ins, with smaller engines, only one lithium battery pack, better drive systems, and balanced vehicle weight. These new offerings will be discussed in my next article.

We can all be thankful for those who refuse to wait, often concerned with climate and energy security issues. There are over 200 converted plug-in hybrids now on the road. One year from now, there may be over 1,000 plug-in hybrids of all shapes and sizes in use.

By the end of 2010, we may be able to start buying plug-in hybrids from major auto makers. Once cars designed from the ground-up to be plug-ins are made in volume, prices differentials will drop to a fraction of the current charge of converted hybrids. In a few years, plug-ins, with long battery warranties may cost less than $5,000 more than their hybrid counterparts.

Plug-in hybrids will succeed because of Andy Frank and the early leaders who converted their vehicles to use more electricity and less petroleum. We will all benefit from the reduced gasoline use and cleaner air that started with the courageous pioneering of the plug-in converts.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences.

Copyright (c) 2008 John Addison. Portions of this article will appear in John Addison’s next book.

Turbo Diesels Take on Hybrids

By John Addison (6/17/08). Last week, I test drove of the new Volkswagen Jetta TDI Diesel. It accelerated on to the freeway faster than my Toyota Prius. Driving freeways and stop-go city, I wondered which would be the bigger seller, the new European turbodiesels or the Japanese Hybrids.

For Detroit, May was the cruelest month, as they were outsold by Asia for the first time. Fuel economy is in; gas guzzling is being punished. General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler combined for a record low market share of 44.4 percent, compared with 48.1 percent for 10 Asian brands, according to the Autodata Corporation, the industry statistics firm. Toyota and Honda continued to gain market share. In the months ahead, Detroit will also lose share to the new fuel efficient diesels from Europe where diesel vehicles outsell gasoline alternatives.

The VW Jetta TDI Diesel has an EPA rated mileage on 41 mpg highway and 30 city with a 6-speed stick; 40/29 with an automatic. With 140 horsepower, the Jetta has plenty of performance. The diesel Jetta has a combined EPA rating of 33, compared with 25 for its gasoline cousin. In other words, diesel delivers over 30 percent better mileage, making a real difference to the pocket book even with diesel fuel’s higher prices, and to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Over 1.5 million Toyota Priuses are now on the road. The 2008 Priuses has an EPA rated mileage of 48 city and 45 highway. Notice that this hybrid with regenerative braking actually gets better mileage in stop and go than on freeways where there is added wind resistance. The Prius computer automatically disengages the engine most of the time when stopped and going slowly, making it more quiet than diesels. The Prius has a bit more passenger room than the Jetta. Both have the same trunk space.

Using both an electric motor and an engine, the Prius has always delivered more performance than I’ve needed, whether accelerating on a freeway or climbing a steep and icy mountain road. With its powerful electric motor, the Prius has plenty of torque and good acceleration.

Honda is not happy with Toyota’s success in selling four hybrids for everyone that Honda has sold. In John Murphy’s interview with Honda about their green image, Honda CEO Mr. Fukui stated that “Honda’s image was better but has evened out with [Toyota] because of the strong image of one single model, the Prius, which Honda feels is a problem. Next year, we will come up with a dedicated hybrid vehicle. We feel this model will have to overwhelm and overtake Prius.” It is rumored that the new Honda hybrid will be priced well under $20,000 and reach a broader market. Wall Street Journal Interview

In the next two years, Honda is also likely to bring diesels to the U.S. including the Acura, the Odyssey minivan, and the CR-V SUV,.

In the USA, many prefer SUVs to sedans. SUVs have more cargo space. Some can seat more than five people, but not the more fuel efficient SUVs. They ride higher. Some drivers feel safer, although sedans like the Prius and Jetta score better than some SUVs in front and rear collisions and are loaded with air bags and advanced vehicle controls.

The Ford Escape Hybrid is the most fuel efficient SUV on the market with an EPA rating of 34 mpg highway and 30 city. The VW Tiguan is a somewhat comparable compact SUV, but less fuel efficient with 26 mpg highway and 19 city using a six-speed shift; and only 24/18 with an automatic. The Tiguan is a light-duty vehicle that is roomy with 95 cubic feet for passengers and 24 for cargo. Drop the back seat and you have 56 for cargo.

The new VW Jetta Sportswagen offers many SUV lovers with an appealing alternative. It achieves the same mileage as the Jetta sedan of 41 mpg highway and 30 city with a 6-speed stick; 40/29 with an automatic. With 33 cargo cubic feet, it beats SUVs like the Escape and Tiguan. Drop the back seat and you have 67 cubic feet. Watch VW take market share from SUVs that get half the miles per gallon of this new turbo diesel.

The Prius, Jetta, Jetta Sportswagen, Tiguan and Escape all seat five people. All have ways to accommodate a fair amount of cargo when the back seat is dropped. The four-door sedans offer much better fuel economy. In the new era of $4 per gallon gas prices, sedans are gaining market share at the expense of SUVs and light trucks, like the once best selling Ford F150.

For those who enjoy both performance and luxury, Mercedes and BMW have new turbo diesel cars with about 30% better fuel economy than their gasoline counterparts. Last summer when I was treated to test drives of the Mercedes E320 Bluetec and the BMW 535D. I was impressed with the quiet, smooth, performance of these larger sedans and with the roomy luxurious experience. Mercedes and BMW are also bringing concept hybrid diesels to auto shows.

The new turbo diesels are not your diesels of the past. They are quiet. I could smell no emissions. Emissions are far lower than those of the previous decade, meeting the tough new 50 state requirements including using ultra-low sulfur diesel.

Forget putting B100 biodiesel in these new engines with common rail and very high pressure injection. Don’t think about home brewed vegetable oil or recycled restaurant grease. Even B20 voids the warranty in the U.S., although not in Europe where biodiesel quality is better. B5 is the limit in the U.S. Biodiesel’s Future

For the moment gasoline hybrids give most people better fuel economy than the new turbo diesels in the U.S. The diesel hybrids being developed by VW, Audi, Mercedes, and BMW could change the game. Most significant are diesel plug-in hybrids. The VW Golf TDI Hybrid concept is demonstrating 69 mpg. The full-hybrid supports an all-electric mode.

Volkswagen is serious about hybrids and electric drive systems. In announcing a new lithium-ion venture with Sanyo, Prof. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of the Volkswagen Group stated that VW’s future “will be directed more strongly at making electrically powered automobiles alongside ones driven by more efficient combustion engines.” Volkswagen’s Audi is also demonstrating a plug-in hybrid concept Quattro.

Toyota is well aware of the success of diesel in Europe. Toyota is developing an advanced diesel engine in both the Tundra and Sequoia. Toyota plans to expand its use of hybrids in a wide-range of vehicles. Currently Toyota is constrained by trying to increase battery manufacturing enough to meet its current exploding demand for hybrids. Toyota also plans a plug-in hybrid by the end of 2010.

General Motors does not intend to watch Asia and European rivals take all its market share. In late 2010, it plans to offer both gasoline and diesel plug-in hybrids that will give the average driver over 100 miles per gallon. In the USA it will introduce the Chevy Volt gasoline plug-in hybrid. In Europe, GM will sell a diesel plug-in hybrid under the Opel brand.

Are there other offerings of hybrids, diesels, and other fuel efficient alternatives? Yes. A good starting point to compare vehicles is at the EPA’s Fuel Economy site.

Different people need different types of vehicles. Hybrids benefit everyone who spends part of their driving in cities and/or stop-go traffic. The new turbo diesels tend to get thirty percent better performance than their gasoline counterparts. Two long-term trends are converging – the expanded use of more fuel-efficient diesel engines and the expanded use of electric drive systems for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and for electric vehicles.

Cleaner vehicles, however, are not the whole solution. When gasoline hit $4 per gallon, Marcia and Christian convinced a car dealer to take their two vehicles as trade-in, including a large SUV, for one more fuel efficient SUV. Living and working in a city, only one vehicle was needed because both could use public transportation and car pool with friends. They save over $5,000 per year by sharing one vehicle. Now that is a real solution to save at the pump and help all of us by saving emissions.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report.