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Volvo C30 will get start-stop tech in 2009

If you love the safe feeling of driving a Volvo but not the around-town gas mileage (16 mpg in an S80!), do the Swedes have good news for you. Volvo announced at the Paris auto show, where green was king, that it would introduce start-stop technology in some of its 2009 models, with diesel hybrids to appear in 2012 and plug-in hybrids to come sometime soon after that.

The smaller C30, S40, and V50 will get the start-stop treatment first. This relatively uncomplicated technology shuts off the engine when it’s not under load, at stop lights, say, and starts it back up when you’re ready to get moving. Start-stop will make its way into the rest of Volvo’s lineup in the future.

Diesel hybrid systems will be used in the company’s larger vehicles, like SUVs, wagons, and the big sedans. The Volvo setup will have a 5-cylinder turbodiesel engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor to power the rear wheels. At low speeds, the electric motor will be able to do all the necessary work.

Automotive News mentioned that electric motors and diesel engines have the same shortcoming, namely a lack of horsepower at high rpm. Volvo execs say that they’re more interested in reducing CO2 emissions, and this is the best way for them to do that. I doubt many people were buying Volvo wagons for their sportiness, anyway.

2009 Honda Insight Concept

Now that the new 2010 Honda Insight Hybrid has made its Paris debut, like any model worth her skinny jeans would do, the company has launched two new online outlets for the car.

“Latest Insight” is a blog that follows the car from debut to dealership. The design seems to be final with only the manufacturing step left to go, so I’m not sure what “journey” the bloggers at Honda will be following. You can count on posts and pics from every event and auto show the car graces, though.

Honda also launched a mini site, “Words of Hybrid,”* that showcases all of its hybrid vehicles, including the original Insight and the forthcoming CR-Z. There’s a link at the bottom of the list for a Jazz Hybrid that can’t be clicked. (The Jazz is the name of the Fit in Europe and the Middle East.) U.K. site What Car says the hybrid Jazz could reach the European market by 2010.

*You can also reach the Honda mini site by visiting Honda’s world hybrid site and clicking “Launch.”

Spooky photo of the Insight courtesy of Honda.

October 4 is opening day at Mondial de l’Automobile, or the Paris Auto Show to most Americans. Europe has long had more small cars that get better gas mileage than what we can buy in the U.S., and a wider array of clean diesel cars. We can certainly expect to see more of these kinds of autos in Paris this year; the difference is that now we want them, too.

Here’s a list of debuts and concepts to look for at Mondial de l’Automobile as the reports start filling the blogosphere next month.


  • Ford Fiesta ECOnetic, 65 mpg and not U.S.-bound
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid, with lithium-ion batteries
  • Nissan Pixo minicar, one foot shorter than the Chevy Aveo


  • Citroen Hypnos hybrid
  • Honda Insight hybrid, poised to battle the Prius
  • Lexus LF-Xh hybrid, based on the concept LF-X SUV
  • Nissan Nuvu EV minicar
  • Opel Insignia EcoFLEX sports tourer, clean diesel on sale in Europe next spring
  • Peugeot hybrid
  • Renault Ondelious diesel mild hybrid
  • Suzuki SX4-FCV fuel cell vehicle, already certified in Japan

2009 Mercury MilanAt a press event in Portland, Oregon, Dan Kapp, Ford’s director of powertrain research, said that the company has plans to become the number-one hybrid  producer in the country next year. By adding hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan to the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids already on the market, Ford will double the number of its hybrids on the road.

Kapp laid out Ford’s long-term strategy, from today to 2050. The company plans to migrate its advanced fuel-saving technologies, like hybrid systems and the new EcoBoost engine, across the product line by 2012, so at least a few Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles will get a little better gas mileage. By 2020, Kapp said Ford will fully implement current technology and begin to delve into more gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and more. After that, the plan is to roll out hydrogen fuel-cell cars, biofuel-powered vehicles, and whatever other new technologies have developed by then.

Kapp was eager to point out the advantages of Ford’s new EcoBoost engine, which uses gasoline direct injection and turbocharging to raise fuel efficiency by as much as 20% and lower tailpipe emissions by as much as 15%. The physically smaller engine will be able to deliver the same or greater power as traditional Ford engines, and will be available first in the 2009 Lincoln MKS sedan.

Kapp pointed out that while Ford was not pursuing hydrogen-powered cars as quickly as Honda, nor was it chasing Chevy’s PHEV Volt with any conviction, it does have the first driveable hydrogen fuel-cell PHEV in the Edge HySeries. The fleet of 30 cars is still very much in the test stage, and Kapp noted that hydrogen fuel has “monumental infrastructure problems.”

When fielding questions about bringing clean diesel cars from Europe (answer: not any time soon), a fellow journalist mentioned that he ran his diesel-powered Ford truck on B99 every summer. Kapp nearly choked on his coffee when he heard that one of his trucks was being powered by 99% biodiesel a few months out of the year. I was surprised that he was surprised — he was in eco-conscious Portland, after all.

eQocar\'s homepage

Say you’re spending a week in sunny southern California on business, and you just know you’re going to be mortified driving around in your Chevy Cobalt or similar rental car while Jamie Lee Curtis is tooling around town in her Honda FCX Clarity. Fear not — eQocar is here to help your eco-ego and your carbon footprint.

The three-month-old car rental agency in Burbank has a lot full of hybrids, from the lowly Prius to the massive GMC Yukon hybrid. Prices aren’t cheap — the Prius runs $59 a day, while the Yukon goes for $139. And if only the best will do, the hybrid Lexus LS600 can be had for $650 a day.

The Green Car Advisor blog from Edmunds.com says business is brisk for eQocar, and that it hopes to expand further into California and across the nation. It also wants to add the Volt, Tesla, Aptera, and other cars to its current fleet of 45 as they become available.

image by lanier67

Peterbilt delivered two hybrid Model 335 trucks to VinLux Fine Wine Transport last week for use in the San Francisco area. The medium-duty trucks have a 30%-50% increase in fuel economy and “dramatically reduce tailpipe emissions of hydrocarbon (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx),” according to a Peterbilt press release.

The trucks have an electric motor to assist the gasoline-powered engine and regenerative braking to capture energy for reuse on accelerating. Representatives of VinLux expect the savings in gas to make up for the premium hybrid price in the next few years of use, while at the same time getting them closer to their goal of reducing carbon emissions.

Inifiti Hybrid Prototype

Three of Japan’s largest car manufacturers have all made announcements recently about their future hybrid plans. Here’s a quick recap, in order of each hybrid’s expected release date:

April 2009 — Honda’s Hybrid

Honda’s Prius-fighting five-door hybrid-only model will see showroom floors next April, according to the company’s American executive VP Dick Colliver. He also said the new hybrid, which doesn’t have an official name yet, will be cheaper than the Prius. Honda plans to build 200,000 of the car globally, with about half of them to be sold in the U.S.

Sometime in 2010 — Nissan’s Hybrid

The first car to carry Nissan’s in-house hybrid technology (its previous hybrids used a system leased from Toyota) will be badged as an upscale Inifiti. The new hybrid features a lithium-ion battery and a V6 engine, but Nissan engineers say there are still some kinks to be worked out before the car hits the streets, notably a lag when the gasoline engine kicked in.

By 2020 — Toyota’s Full Line of Hybrids

The manager of Toyota’s advance powertrain program said at a seminar recently that the company plans to have hybrids in each of its product lines at the end of the next decade. He added that the 1 million hybrid Toyotas sold so far have saved 7 million tons of carbon monoxide emissions, and that the company wants to continue to develop cleaner powertrains. Toyota’s also working to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology to complement its domination in the hybrid market.

Cadillac’s first-ever hybrid, the 2009 Escalade Hybrid, will cost a whopping $71,685, including destination charges. The green-ish Escalade turns in 20 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, same as the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrids, but it costs $20,000 more than either of its stablemates.

The Escalade will hit dealerships in September and will likely appeal to the same people who were buying the top-end luxury SUV in the first place, but now it comes with eco-cachet. That little green “H” logo looks good no matter which aftermarket rims and grilles you choose.

In contrast, the standard-issue 2009 Escalade without the two-mode hybrid system gets 12 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway with gasonline or 10 mpg/14 mpg if you get the E85 Flex Fuel version. The hybrid has puts out 9.2 tons of carbon annually, according to the EPA, while E85 emits 10.1 tons and gasoline emits 12. 2 tons.

Chery ISG HybridKeep an eye out during the opening ceremonies tonight and throughout the games for Chery’s new hybrids based on its A5 model. The Chinese company’s 10 ISG hybrids and 40 BSG hybrids make up more than half the official Olympic fleet and mark the first time an Chinese brand has participated in the games.

According to a press release from Chery, the first electric car to be used in the Olympic games was at Munich in 1972. While Chery’s cars are hybrids, not EVs, they do improve gas mileage by 15-30%, and cut emissions by 12%. The cars will go into full production after the Olympics.

Volkswagen Group is also supplying cars to the games, with a massive fleet of low-consumption, low-emissions vehicles from its Chinese lineup. Their fleet of 5,000 vehicles includes the Magotan 2.0 TDI, Sagitar 1.4 TSI, Touran EcoFuel, Tiguan 2.0 TDI and Magotan BlueMotion.

Nissan has commited itself to its Green Program 2010, and it keeps making strides toward meeting its goals. This week, it previewed its EV and hybrid technologies, though not any final designs for the cars these powertrains will power.

Nissan EV PrototypeThe electric vehicle will be based on an array of lithium-ion batteries installed under the floor to allow for maxium passenger and cargo space. Though no one outside the company knows what the EV might look like when it hits the market in 2010, it won’t look like anything Nissan currently offers, according to the company.

The hybrid will carry Nissan’s own, recently developed technology instead of the hybrid tech it’s been leasing from Toyota to power the Altima. The HEV will have regenerative braking and power assist like most hybrids on the road right now. The difference is in its parallel powertrain, which has two clutches to improve fuel efficiency, or so Nissan says.

Lotus Engineering\'s Safe & Sound

Lotus Engineering, which I imagine looks like Q’s lab in the James Bond films, has found a solution to the problem of nearly silent electric motors: the Safe & Sound system. The Toyota Prius demonstration car has a speaker attached at the front of the car next to the radiator that emits a “realistic engine sound,” according to the company.

Earlier this year, groups like the National Federation of the Blind pointed out that blind people and their seeing-eye dogs rely on the sound of approaching cars to determine the safety of crossing the street. This spring, a boy on a bike was hit by a Prius, an accident his mother blamed on the silent electric motor (never mind that the car is not equipped with invisibility, like Wonder Woman’s jet). In reaction, people have been searching for a way to make quiet cars safer for pedestrians. One potential solution was the Vibering concept, which would sense hybrid and electric motors and tell the wearer when one is nearby.

Lotus’s system was ironically born from its noise-dampening technologies. Safe & Sound synthesizes the engine sound and varies it depending on speed so people waiting at a crosswalk or walking across a parking lot can hear the approaching vehicle. If it’s a hybrid, and it goes fast enough to engage the gasoline engine, the system automatically shuts off. Also, once the car passes, the sound is no longer heard.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama released a plan this week that aims to change U.S. energy policies and usage. Part of that plan is to get 1 million American-built plug-in hybrid cars — “cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon,” according to the senator’s PDF — to market by 2015.

In the 8-page speech, he mentions an emergency energy rebate of $500 per individual and $1000 for a couple to help with the cost of fuel and food. Where will this money come from? Big Oil’s very own pockets. That seems difficult, to say the least. He also wants to increase fuel economy standards by 4% each year, convert all White House vehicles to PHEVs in his first year, and make at least half of the federal government’s auto purchases PHEVs or EVs by 2012.

As part of his desire to increase “green collar” jobs, Obama wants all new vehicles to be flex-fuel capable, and he would work toward creating the next generation of sustainable biofuels. He also says he would work to keep American auto jobs in the country and encourage automakers to focus on fuel-efficient cars.

He also backs smart-grid technology of the kind Boulder, Colorado, is experimenting with. His plan goes much further than just car-related points, including mentions of controversial subjects like safer nuclear power and clean coal. But some of his other points are more common-sense, like assisting in weatherizing a million homes annually.

It’s not the most invigorating reading, that plan, but it’s important to know what ideas these guys have for our future. To see Republican candidate John McCain’s energy speech from June, click here.

Honda and Mitsubishi have both launched microsites on the Internet dedicated to their latest entries into the green-car market. Honda is preparing the world for its line of hybrid vehicles on its microsite, while Mitsubishi is laying the groundwork for its i MiEV concept.

Honda is expected to debut its new hybrid at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, a five-door hatchback. The as-yet-unnamed car will be offered only as a hybrid, unlike its Civic and Accord stablemates. Honda also has a hybrid sports car that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show this year, but the CR-Z, as it’s called, has a long way to go to get from car shows to showroom-floor.

Mitsubishi’s microsite introduces the i MiEV, an electric vehicle currently in fleet testing. The car is small, not much bigger than a Smart ForTwo, though Mitsu says it seats four. The car’s lithium-ion batteries are good for 80 mph max and nearly 100 miles, making it a more feasible commuter car than neighborhood EVs like the Zap Xebra or Zenn NEV.

CRAFTY BONUS: Mitsubishi has a page full of paper craft plans and instructions for building models of its cars, including the i MiEV. Seems like an excellent way to recycle that useless meeting agenda someone left on your desk this morning.