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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quantum Delivers First PHEV F-150 For Fleet Pilot Project

Published May 31, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

Yesterday, Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc. announced delivery of its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to Florida Power & Light Company (FPL).

The pilot version of the PHEV is in association with lithium-ion battery system supplier, Dow Kokam, and based on a Ford F-150.

"We are pleased to announce the first delivery of this exciting plug-in hybrid electric F-150 truck," said Brian Olson, CEO of Quantum. "In partnership with Dow Kokam, we have developed a truly innovative, unique and durable solution that provides significant advantages for fleets and utilities looking to substantially reduce their operating costs as well as their carbon footprint."

FPL was a natural choice for the pilot project as it already operates what is described as “one of the largest greenest fleets of any investor-owned utility in the country.”

The F-150 is powered by Quantum's "F-Drive" parallel plug-in hybrid electric drive system. The F-Drive allows the first 35 miles to be run with all-electric drive and then switches to hybrid mode.

Quantum says it achieves 100-plus mpg depending on drive cycle and charging frequency.

The vehicle uses "fully-integrated and safety-tested" lithium-ion energy storage systems from Dow Kokam.

Beyond this one truck, Quantum's portfolio of technologies includes electronic and software controls, hybrid electric drive systems, natural gas and hydrogen storage and metering systems and other alternative fuel technologies and solutions.

Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies' customer base includes automotive OEMs, fleets, aerospace industry, military and other governmental agencies, and other strategic alliance partners. It is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and has operations and affiliations in the U.S., Canada, Germany and India.

Renault Laguna Coupe Monaco GP Limited Edition

V6 / 3.498 cc / 240 PS / 244 ft/lb (330 Nm) @ 4.400 / 0 - 62 mph (100 km/h): 7,4 s / Vmax: 152 mph (244 km/h)

(click images for a larger view)

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West Coast Electric Highway Expands To Washington And Canadian Border

Published May 31, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

The border-to-border vision of the West Coast Electric Highway moves closer to becoming a reality with the opening of new EV charging sites extending the highway for U.S. and Canadian electric vehicle (EV) drivers to the Canadian border.

The expansion was considered in place yesterday when the Washington State Department of Transportation ( WSDOT), along with electric charging station partner AeroVironment opened ten new public charging stations. Seven are along Interstate 5 and three are along U.S. Route 2 in northern Washington and these provide EV drivers the ability to travel emission-free from Seattle to the Canadian border.

Eight of the 10 new charging stations in Washington feature AeroVironment’s “DC fast chargers,” which deliver a full charge for a nearly-depleted EV battery in less than 30 minutes.

All locations include AeroVironment Level 2 chargers, which provide EV drivers with convenient charging while they grab a bite to eat, run errands or visit with friends. The locations are strategically placed near desirable shopping and entertainment venues for drivers, which will benefit drivers and businesses alike.

Two of the 10 locations – at rest areas near Blaine and Vancouver – offer only Level 2 chargers. There, electricity is provided free to drivers by Adopt a Charger and the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association.

The West Coast Electric Highway is a vision for a transportation corridor from the Canadian to Mexican borders, connecting California, Oregon and Washington along I-5 that fully supports electric vehicles. Inaugurated in Southern Oregon on March 16, 2012, the West Coast Electric Highway’s expansion in Washington creates international opportunities, opening the gateway to Canada.

The AeroVironment charging stations are available at convenient locations in Blaine, Bellingham, Burlington, Tumwater, Centralia, Ridgefield and Vancouver along Interstate 5 and in Sultan, Skykomish and Leavenworth along U.S. Route 2. Two additional stations will be installed in the coming weeks.

The U. S. Department of Energy provided seed funding of $1.5 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand the West Coast Electric Highway in Washington. The funding is administered by the Department of Commerce through the State Energy Program.

Electric vehicle drivers will be able to access the charging stations by first enrolling in AeroVironment’s Charging Network at or by calling toll-free at 888-833-2148. Once enrolled, EV drivers will receive an AeroVironment Network key fob that will provide free access to all AeroVironment chargers along the West Coast Electric Highway for a limited time.

Low-Speed EVs Are Eligible for Tax Credits Says Oklahoma Supreme Court

Published May 31, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

Tomberlin low-speed electric vehicles may be “known as golf carts” as the Oklahoma state Tax Commission contended during a two-year legal battle, but according to the state’s Supreme Court, their buyers are entitled to tax credits.

About 753 Oklahoma state tax credits are pending on the Tomberlin-branded low-speed electric vehicles that may alternately be called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, and will now be paid out.

True enough some of the company’s model range may look especially like glorified golf carts, but they are street legal, and the Supreme Court said buyers are not to be discriminated against.

By definition, a Low Speed Electric Vehicle (LSV) is a four-wheeled motor vehicle whose speed attainable in one mile (1.6 km) is more than 20 mph (32 kph) and not more than 25 mph on a paved surface, and whose GVWR is less than 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg).

To date, the commission has reportedly paid credits to around 900 taxpayers who bought other brands of LSVs.

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As the Tomberlin video above portrays, the appeal of LSVs can be significant. Note the marketing talks about safety with a testimonial and mention of the word "safe" and feeling safe. In this case, that is a qualified term, and safety value for LSVs is worth further investigation by prospective consumers.

The upside to these types of vehicles is they are comparatively less expensive to own and operate. The downside, says the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) is they are not subject to mandatory crash tests. Being so light and small, they do not stand up against regular motor vehicles in collisions.

In testing them on its own, the IIHS found a high likelihood of greater injuries to driver and occupants when compared to similar impacts suffered in conventional motor vehicles.

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Nonetheless, LSVs are eligible for tax credits in some cases further improving their value proposition, and are being chosen as expedient short-range transportation.

In contradistinction once more, actual automotive electric vehicles that are engineered for full-on roadway use – such as the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt – have proven even more crash-worthy than conventional same class vehicles. Essentially, the extra weight of batteries and related hardware can give more kinetic energy to electrified vehicles that are otherwise engineered with the usual crumple zones, and impact absorbing technology of conventional motor vehicles.


Volt Virtually Demolished but Did Not Catch Fire

Published May 31, 2012

By Huw Evans


Photo credit: Lincoln County News/Michael Johnson

In Geneseo, NY earlier this month, a parked Chevy Volt was virtually destroyed after being hit by a speeding Toyota Camry. The impact was so severe that it crushed the Volt’s roof and much of the body structure.

The Camry, driven by 22-year-old Maura Duff, failed to stop at a nearby intersection and was going fast enough that it pushed the Volt 25 feet before coming to rest on its roof. The accident also damaged another adjacent vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, along with part of the garage it was parked near to.

Witnesses at the scene said the Camry’s engine caught fire after impact, though despite being completely mangled, there was no report of leakage or fire from the Volt.

According to Livingston County News, a policeman, Sherman Yates, and a trained EMT Cate Concannon, who were nearby neighbors and first on the scene following the accident, probably helped save Duff’s life. Once the fire was extinguished she was cut out of the car and taken to a nearby hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Although it’s nigh impossible to gauge based on a single accident, it appears that despite the brutal impact and widespread wreckage (some of it was found 150 feet away from the crash site), the Chevy Volt is far from a rolling barbeque as portrayed by some sources following the wake of NHTSA crash test investigations.

Johnson said that in the 38 years of living in the same house, he’s seen vehicles end up on his lawn seven or eight times. Regarding his destroyed Volt, he said the car is easily replaceable but at the end of the day “human life is more important than material things.”

Lincoln County News via Green Car Reports

Values of small used cars fall in lockstep with gas prices

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Category: Car Buying, Hybrid, Etc., Earnings/Financials

Tags: car sales, dealers, fuel prices, gas prices, light trucks, nada, national automobile dealers association, used car prices, used car sales, used cars

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ram Runner takes on Raptor in Duel in the Desert [w/video]

Leaves Ford SVT Raptor in the Dust

Mopar Ram Runner 33 seconds faster than Ford SVT Raptor on punishing 4.73-mile loop declares Mopar Ram Runner the winner

May 30, 2012 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - This showdown was at sunrise.

The Mopar Ram Runner and the Ford SVT Raptor met for a shoot-out at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), a state park in southeast California with 85,000 acres of nothing but dirt, dust and desert. When all was said and done, the Mopar Ram Runner was declared the winner. (powered by teamed with veteran SCORE International Off-Road Racing Series Trophy Truck driver Chad Ragland to thoroughly evaluate both trucks on a challenging 4.73-mile evaluation loop.

"I was impressed with Ram Runner's extreme off-road capability," said Ragland. "We jumped, slammed into mounds, cut through deep sand and it came out like a pro, rarely getting into the bumpstops or touching the skid plates," said Ragland. "Those front-end shocks are amazing. During our first set of runs, I could feel myself tighten a bit as we headed toward the big rocks and ruts, but then the front end just sucked it all up. Those big springs and shocks had no problems."

"We like how the Ram Runner kit can be built in pieces and stages based on what the truck owner wants and needs," said Mark Williams, Editor, "You can go full throttle right away, or take it slower, building your perfect desert explorer at your own pace, factoring in your own budget."

"Our Mopar Ram Runner is the ultimate desert racer based on a production vehicle," said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC's service, parts and customer-care brand. "Mopar Ram Runner offers superior suspension travel to handle rough terrain and greater approach and departure angles for better clearance."

"We're proud that – under the most punishing real-world test conditions possible – the Mopar Ram Runner takes's top off-road honors over the Ford Raptor," said Fred Diaz, President and CEO – Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico. "Whether you're into desert racing, rock crawling, hunting and fishing or just need a hard-working dependable work truck, there's truly a Ram truck for everyone."

Mopar Ram Runner

The Mopar Ram Runner kit, developed with successful Baja off-roader Kent Kroeker, includes the following: Pre-Runner Stage II Lift Kit, off-road front bumper, off-road front and rear fenders, off-road rear-tire carrier, sport performance hood and cat-back exhaust. Each element of the kit may be purchased separately. The kit may be installed by do-it-yourselfers or in a Ram dealership.

The Mopar Ram Runner kit is equal to or better than the competition on a number of fronts. The heavy-duty suspension system can handle practically any abuse the off-road dishes out. Front upper and lower control arms, which are three inches longer than production arms, provide added width and allow greater wheel travel over rough dirt trails.

Front lower control arms are constructed of plate steel in order to withstand off-road punishment. Upper control arms include rebuildable high-angle ball joints. Both inner and outer tie rods are substantially strengthened and contribute to the vehicle's rugged, off-road steering characteristics and capabilities. Outer tie rods, constructed of forged steel, measure 1 inch in diameter. Inner tie rods also are nearly 20-percent beefier than production, increasing from .62 inches to .75 inches.

At the rear, a 5-link coil spring rear suspension is utilized and helps provide a 30-degree departure angle.

The Pre-Runner Stage II kit offers a boost in suspension travel, 14 inches both front and rear, which is superior to the suspension travel on the Ford SVT Raptor. The Ram Runner kit, which includes Fox 3-inch internal bypass shocks, offers performance on par with that of an off-road Baja race truck and outperforms the 2.5-inch shocks of the competition.

Ground clearance is approximately 13 inches at the center of the front cross-member and 16 inches at the rocker panels.

Body parts included in the Mopar Ram Runner kit, created with Trophy Truck inspiration, feature a tough-yet-stylish look built to handle the rigors of the off-road while turning heads on the street. The front bumper is constructed of steel with an integrated skid plate. With a 41-degree approach angle, ample clearance is assured over the deepest off-road obstacles.

Front and rear fiberglass fenders are lightweight, tough and durable with wider wheel wells that allow for tremendous suspension articulation with zero tire-to-body interference. The eight-inch wider track also provides an imposing, aggressive look.

The stamped aluminum, dual-scooped sport performance hood adds even more to the forceful appearance of the Ram Runner Kit. The spare-tire carrier is located in the bed of the pickup and enables easier access and provides the ability to transport a larger spare tire, contributing to the overall appearance and "Baja truck feel."

Following is additional information on the Mopar Ram Runner kit, which is available for owners of 2009 to 2011 model-year Ram 1500 models:

Mopar Ram Runner Kit (each part may be purchased separately)

Pre-Runner Stage II Lift Kit: 5-link coil-spring rear suspension, lower control arms, upper control arms, rebuildable high-angle ball joints and forged steel, high-angle tie rods. Fourteen inches of suspension travel in front and rear, three-inch internal bypass Fox shocks. (MSRP: $13,670, Part No. P5155662)

Off-Road Front Bumper: Steel construction with integrated skid plate, high approach angle of 41 degrees provides greater clearance over off-road obstacles. (MSRP: $1,290, Part No. P5155663)

Off-Road Rear-Tire Carrier: Rear placement allows for easier access and ability to carry larger tires needed for the off-road. (MSRP: $1,425, Part No. P5155664AB)

Off-Road Front Fenders: Tough, durable fenders feature wide wheel wells allowing for tremendous suspension articulation, zero tire-to-body interference, and provide an imposing, aggressive look. (MSRP: $1,055, Part No. P5155665)

Off-Road Rear Fenders (6-foot, 4-inch bed): Tough, durable fenders feature wide wheel wells allowing for tremendous suspension articulation, zero tire-to-body interference, and provide an imposing, aggressive appearance. (MSRP: $1,395, Part No. P5155666)

Sport Performance Hood: Stamped aluminum, dual-scooped hood with molded bezels adds to the forceful appearance of the Ram Runner kit. (MSRP: $1,070, Part No. 82211065AE)

5.7L Cat-Back Exhaust: Dual exhaust with chromed tips for bumper with cut-outs. (MSRP: $1,175, Part No. P5155280)

Mopar-First Features

Mopar has introduced numerous industry-first features including:

Vehicle-information apps: first to introduce smartphone vehicle-information applications, a new channel of communication with consumers

Electronic owner manuals: first to introduce traditional owner manuals in a DVD and brief user-guide format

Wi-Fi: first to offer customers the ability to make their vehicle a wireless hot spot

Wireless charging: first to introduce in-vehicle wireless charging for portable devices

Electronic Vehicle Tracking System (EVTS): first to market with a new interactive vehicle tracking device that sends owner a text when vehicle is driven too fast or too far based on pre-set parameters

2011 Mopar Challenger Drag Pak: first to introduce a 500-plus cubic-inch V-10 drag-race package car

Camper trailers: first to introduce off-road camper trailers

Brand-specific customer care telephone lines: first to offer Sunday service hours for customers

WiTECH: first to support vehicle diagnosis and software updates leveraging off-the-shelf personal computers and a dedicated wireless tool network

About the Mopar Brand

Mopar is Chrysler Group LLC's service, parts and customer-care brand and distributes 280,000 parts and accessories. With the creation of the Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A. partnership, Mopar is extending its global reach, integrating service, parts and customer-care operations in order to enhance dealer and customer support worldwide. Combined with Fiat SpA, Mopar's global portfolio includes more than 500,000 parts and accessories that are distributed in more than 120 countries. Mopar is the source for all genuine parts and accessories for Chrysler Group and Fiat SpA brands.

Mopar parts are unique in that they are engineered with the same teams that create factory-authorized vehicle specifications for Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A.vehicles - a direct connection that no other aftermarket parts company can provide. A complete list of Mopar accessories and performance parts is available at

75 Years of Mopar

Mopar (a simple contraction of the words MOtor and PARts) was trademarked for antifreeze product in 1937. The Mopar brand made its mark in the 1960s - the muscle-car era. The Chrysler Corporation built race-ready Dodge and Plymouth "package cars" equipped with special high-performance parts. Mopar carried a line of "special parts" for super-stock drag racers and developed its racing parts division called Mopar Performance Parts to enhance speed and handling for both road and racing use. The brand has expanded to include technical service and customer support.

About the Ram Truck Brand

The Ram Truck brand continues to establish its own identity and clearly define its customer since its launch as a stand-alone vehicle brand. Creating a distinct brand for Ram trucks has allowed the brand to concentrate on how core customers use their trucks and what new features they'd like to see. Whether focusing on family that uses its half-ton truck day in and day out, a hard-working Ram Heavy Duty owner or a business that depends on its commercial vehicles every day, Ram has the truck market covered.

About is a website dedicated to the distinct needs of pickup truck buyers and owners. In addition to thousands of new- and used-truck listings, offers relevant information and powerful tools so that truck buyers can make the right decision on what to buy, where to buy, how much to pay and how to outfit their vehicles. The site features expert truck reviews, the latest truck news, a pickup truck configurator, pricing calculators, user generated ratings and more. is a member of the family of sites. is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC™.

Related Gallery 2012 Ford SVT Raptor

2012 Ford SVT Raptor 2012 Ford SVT Raptor hood 2012 Ford SVT Raptor camera 2012 Ford SVT Raptor wheel 2012 Ford SVT Raptor interior

Related Gallery 2011 Ram Runner

News Source:

Category: Aftermarket, Motorsports, Performance, Truck, Videos, Ford, Off-Road, Ram

Tags: f-150 svt raptor, ford, ford f-150 svt raptor, mopar ram runner, ram, ram runner, raptor, video

Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid Review

By Larry E. Hall

Volkswagen, along with other European auto companies, has long proclaimed diesels as a better green strategy than hybridization. True, diesels are efficient and practical, but in the U.S., they still have a reputation of being noisy and smelly. VW has worked hard to overcome that image with cars like the Jetta TDI and Passat TDI but now are beginning to change direction (although they still like diesels) toward electrification, both hybrid and electric only.

The company’s first foray into gasoline-electric hybrids is the Touareg Hybrid, a midsize crossover sport-utility vehicle. It’s part of a three-vehicle lineup that includes two V6 models, a 276 horsepower, 3.6-liter gasoline version and a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel that makes 236 horsepower. Loaded with tons of standard premium features, the Hybrid is not exactly in the luxury segment, but clearly not entry-level, and therefore has no direct competitors.

The Volkswagen Touareg was all new for 2011 and there are no significant changes for the 2012 model year. Base price for the 2012 Volkswagen Touareg is $61,995, a $1,430 increase from last year.

About the name: It’s pronounced TOUR-egg, and is named after an African Sahara tribe of nomads called the Touareg (pronounced TWA-regg). Volkswagen says the nomadic tribe has a hearty reputation, calling them “the ultimate off-roaders.”

Das Hybrid

The Touareg Hybrid shares its drivetrain with the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid. That means adding a 47 horsepower (35kw) electric motor to an Audi-sourced supercharged 333 horsepower V6 engine. This brings total output to 380 ponies and a peak torque of 425 pounds feet at just 1,000 rpm. The powertrain has the added bonus of a 7,700-pound towing capacity. That far exceeds other hybrid crossovers as well as most gasoline powered midsized models.

Volkswagen joins other manufacturers in the move away from the continuously variable transmission (CVT) employed by most hybrid vehicles. The eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission is not only a less costly hybrid approach, it wrings out the most power from the engine and makes the Touareg Hybrid feel more like a car than an SUV.

The drivetrain is completed with VW’s 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system with a Torsen self-locking center differential. Biased 60 percent to the rear during normal driving conditions, if one of the wheels starts to loose grip, the differential directs torque to the axle with the most traction.

The hybrid system’s unique feature is a hydraulic clutch between the engine and motor that disengages the engine so it can shut down under light loads. The electric motor then takes up the load until the engine restarts. Volkswagen engineers call the result “sailing” – for the quiet sensation of speed using only electric power.

As in most hybrids, the electric motor also restarts the engine, and recharges the 288-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack fitted into the former spare-tire well. The hybrid system is tuned to give lots of electric assist at highway speeds, which silences the usual hybrid critics, who frequently gloat that most hybrid systems are useless during Interstate cruises.

Volkswagen says the Touareg Hybrid runs up to 31 mph for around two miles in all-electric mode. More remarkably, the company also says it can run on electricity at speeds up to 99 miles per hour – though that’s slightly deceptive, since it means the engine may shut down for a while at speeds that high, leaving the electric motor to propel the car. Still, traveling on battery power at speeds higher than any legal U.S. limit is quite an accomplishment for a 5,135-pound vehicle. Additionally, with the disc-shaped electric motor placed between the engine and transmission in the parallel system, there’s no electric whine when the motor moves the Touareg alone.

As for on-road performance, the company claims the hybrid Touareg posts 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds with both the electric motor and the boosted engine providing power. Top speed is 150 mph. At the same time, fuel economy ratings of 20 in the city and 24 on the highway – while not dramatically high numbers – are a big step up from the gasoline powered variant, which has city fuel economy in the mid-teens.

Euro Styling

When Volkswagen redesigned the second-generation Touareg for 2011, it dialed back the off-road-ready character of its predecessor and shed some 350 pounds in the process. Yet it’s larger inside and out, with clean, muscular styling that is more European wagon than American crossover.

Up front the Touareg Hybrid wears VW’s new corporate design. Staunch vertical lines of the grille blend into the swept back Bi-Xenon headlamps that are outlined with LED running lights. The lower grille is bolstered on either side by large air intakes that add a slightly muscular look.

Well proportioned defines the overall look. Body lines are clean with no sharp creases, while pronounced rear haunches add a touch of flair and there’s just enough chrome trim to spice things up. The only evidence of its greenness are small hybrid badges that adorn the front and rear on the exterior.

Inside, the Touareg Hybrid looks as if top interior decorators designed the cabin and grabbed materials from Audi when they weren’t looking. Leather upholstery has a nice, pronounced texture; the brushed metal and wood trim aren’t overdone. A standard panorama glass sunroof turns the cabin into a veritable Vista Dome railroad car.

The dashboard is straightforward with clean lines and is laid out in a way that makes it easy to locate all the controls. Gauges are white with red indicators and thankfully not the bright blue and red illumination found in other Volkswagen models.

Seats are pleasantly firm and hours-long comfortable, and not just in the front row. The heated rear 60/40 split bench seat is fully adjustable, sliding forward and aft enough to make room for long-legged passengers. The seats can be easily folded to expand rear cargo space from 32.1 cubic feet to a generous 64 cubic feet. A standard power tailgate quickly opens to a low load height cargo floor.

A lengthy list of standard gear begins with an eight-speaker audio system with more audio sources than most – 18GB of music storage on the hard drive; a port offering iPhone, mini-USB, standard USB, and 1/8-inch audio connectivity; Bluetooth audio streaming; satellite radio; and a CD player with two SD card slots. Curiously, the Hybrid doesn’t offer a rear cabin DVD entertainment system.

The Touareg Hybrid gets VW’s latest navigation system with hard-drive-stored maps showing 3D views of the terrain and outlines of buildings. Below the eight-inch color touch screen, buttons offer quick access to the stereo, navigation and Bluetooth phone system.

A rear view camera and park-distance control are standard, as is adaptive front lighting. This feature perceives oncoming traffic and adjusts the headlamp beams to eliminate unwanted glare.

A Short Test Drive

Like all hybrids, the Touareg requires a light touch on the accelerator to operate in electric-only driving. But unlike other systems, the decoupling of the engine – the “sailing” function – operates at any speed so, even when driving in the city, the engine shuts down and the electric motor takes over long before the car comes to a stop. At 70 mph highway speeds, depending on the terrain, the Touareg sailed in silence for nearly a mile. A “Sport” mode reduces the sailing feature to speeds under 45 mph, but brings to the forefront the combined power of the gas engine and electric motor with the application of a heavy right foot.

The ride leans towards Germanic-stiff, but won’t jar, and overall, the fully independent suspension carries it well. Weighing two-and-a-half-tons, the Hybrid can feel a tad top heavy in quick changes of direction, but nowhere near enough to be troubling. Its electrohydraulic power steering steers with a natural linearity, while the regenerative brake system is quite touchy and takes some getting used to.

Local knowledge of a not-well-known off road trail between downtown Seattle and SeaTac airport provided the opportunity for a taste of the Hybrid’s bark and bite. The not-quite-three-mile-loop is deeply rutted in spots with a couple of steep hills.

The Touareg doesn’t have the chops of, say a Land Rover Discovery, but the 4Motion system can handle terrain that the typical owner will want to drive on. A console-mounted off-road mode locks all four wheels and adjusts the traction control and drivetrain programs. The suspension did a decent job of eating up potholes and the 7.9-inches of ground clearance kept the undercarriage undamaged. As advertised, the standard hill-descent control allowed us to slowly creep downward with feet off the pedals as the system kept engine revs low and automatically modulated the brakes.


Yes, the 2012 Touareg Hybrid’s MSRP of $61,995 is nearly $19,000 more than the base gasoline model, and $15,000 more than the base turbo diesel version, however, the Hybrid is luxury loaded for its price. When compared to the gas and diesel top trim levels, the price difference shrinks to $6,000 and $3,000 respectively, which is a typical variance between a hybrid and non-hybrid version of the same model.

An obvious comparison is the Lexus RX 450h. Its MSRP of $46,825 is $15,000 less than the Touareg Hybrid and trumps the Volkswagen’s fuel economy with an EPA rating of 30/28/29. While it is available with a rear seat entertainment system, the AWD setup is not suitable for off-road driving and the towing capacity is half the Touareg’s.

If you need seating for seven, Toyota’s top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Highlander Hybrid LTD offers near-luxury appointments starting at $44,370. Fuel economy of 28/28/28 bests the Touareg Hybrid. But like the Lexus, off-roading is a no, no and towing is limited to 3,500 pounds.

If you really like the Touareg and rack up a lot of highway miles, the Touareg TDI diesel registers 28 highway mpg and costs $3,000 less when comparably equipped.

The Touareg Hybrid may not be the best value for the money spent, but if you have the greenbacks to go Volkswagen green, buy it: You’ll like the performance and handling, the luxurious interior, the off-road and towing capabilities along with improved fuel economy.

Prices are manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.

Urgent Need for Alternative Fuel Sources, Fuel Freedom Foundation Says

Published May 30, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

The Fuel Freedom Foundation ( FFF) says that a new warning from the International Monetary Fund underscores the urgency of opening markets to competition from alternative fuels such as natural gas, ethanol, methanol and electricity.

The IMF Working Paper, titled “The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology,” predicts that oil prices could permanently double in the next decade.

“The IMF report warns that a doubling in oil prices will send the global economy into ‘uncharted territory,’ which would spell disaster,” said Joseph A. Cannon, president of the Fuel Freedom Foundation. “Fortunately, disaster can be averted if we open our markets to competition from cheaper, cleaner, American-made alternative fuels to gasoline. This is the only way to bring down oil prices significantly and structurally, and ensure future economic growth.”

The paper combines two opposing positions in the debate to arrive at a more accurate model for predicting oil prices. On the one hand, the “peak oil” argument holds that the consumption of finite resources will push prices ever higher. On the other, the technological argument says that higher prices will spur new methods for extracting oil, as well as substitutions for petroleum products. These advances, in turn, will lead to greater output and eventually lower prices.

The authors—who emphasized that their findings do not necessarily reflect IMF policy—found the peak oil argument too pessimistic. However, they concluded that geological constraints on production, plus “demand shocks” such as rapid growth in China and India, best explain the trend in oil prices. At the same time, the researchers found limits to the impact of technological advances in the long run. The result is a near doubling in oil prices, and a “pain barrier” beyond which there is lasting damage to economic growth.

The Fuel Freedom Foundation declares itself a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and is based in Irvine, Calif. The FFF is dedicated to breaking the U.S. economy’s oil addiction by removing barriers to competition to promote the development of cheaper, cleaner, American-made fuels. “Fuel freedom” is said to mean that gasoline, diesel, methanol, natural gas, ethanol and electricity compete on equal footing both at the dealership and at the pump. Achieving fuel freedom, says the FFF organization, will lower fuel prices, create jobs, spur economic growth, reduce pollution, and improve national and global security.

Watch Toyota celebrate UAE launch of GT 86

Related Gallery 2012 Toyota GT 86

News Source: Toyota UAE via YouTube, Facebook

Tip: Hat tip to Imtiaz!

Category: Car Buying, Coupe, Performance, Etc., Videos, Toyota, Middle East

Tags: 86, fr-s, frs, gt 86, gt86, scion fr-s, toyobaru, toyota, toyota 86, toyota gt, toyota gt 86, toyota gt 86 launch video, uae, united arab emirates, video

IFQC Ranks Top 100 Countries by Diesel Sulfur Limits

Published May 30, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

The International Fuel Quality Center ( IFQC) has ranked the Top 100 countries based on sulfur limits in on-road diesel and found that 44 countries can now boast that their on-road diesel fuel is the cleanest in the world.

Countries were ranked based on the order of the following criteria: maximum allowable sulfur limits in national standards, sulfur limits in local/regional standards (such as specifications for cities/states) and by year of implementation.

"Sulfur reduction remains essential and unique, as it is the only component of the refining process for petroleum fuels that lowers all airborne pollutants from the transport sector,” said Liisa Kiuru-Griffith, executive director, IFQC. “This is why there is added pressure and a movement to reduce sulfur limits in other categories, like marine fuels."

Sweden, Germany and Japan lead the rankings, while the U.S. is in 46th position. Canada is 45th.

Armenia and New Caledonia joined the select group atop IFQC's annual ranking by completing their nationwide transitions to diesel fuel with sulfur content of 10 ppm. The top 47 countries share a maximum sulfur limit of 15 ppm or less with varying implementation timelines.

Six countries advanced in the 2012 list, led by Ecuador, which joined the Top 100 by lowering its maximum sulfur limit from 7,000 ppm to 500 ppm and moving up 47 spots to No. 83. Saudi Arabia joined Ecuador at No. 83 by rising 23 spots. Its maximum diesel sulfur content was lowered from 800 ppm to 500 ppm.

"With distillates experiencing the largest growth among all petroleum products globally, it makes it even more challenging to achieve such strict quality requirements," said Kristine Klavers, senior vice president, Hart Energy. "All of us at IFQC extend hearty congratulations to global governments, automakers, refiners, and technology suppliers — all who contributed equally to one of the world's great environmental success stories."

IFQC's analysts based the rankings on maximum allowable limits in national standards and year of implementation. The complete list can be found here.

Jaguar Mk2 3,4

S6 / 3.442 cc / 213 PS / 215 ft/lb (291 Nm) @ 3.000 / Vmax: 120 mph (193 km/h)

(click images for a larger view)

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Feds and Auto Industry Divided Over Plug-In Vehicles?

Published May 30, 2012

By Huw Evans

It’s no secret that the Obama Adminstration has been aggressively pursuing goals aimed at seeing 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015.

However, according to a report by Automotive News, a divide is emerging between the government and vehicle manufacturers. The report emphasizes that while many automakers recognize the importance of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids as important in achieving long-term fuel savings and emissions reduction, over shorter time spans, the internal combustion engine still has a lot of potential.

Strategies by Ford Motor Company, which has pursued a somewhat low-key roll out of its Focus Electric, with no defined sales target and even Toyota, which is only planning to sell 15,000 examples of its new Prius Plug-In Hybrid this year, would appear to support the notion.

However, despite still marginal sales volumes and skepticism among many industry “experts” that plug-in vehicles won’t meet the government’s projections, sales and interest in plug-in vehicles has been increasing.

There are at least three new plug-in models on the market in 2012 and for those that were also on sale in 2011, sales have noticeably increased. The Chevy Volt, which sold 1,703 copies in the first four months of 2011, saw demand jump to 5,377 units in the same period for 2012. Nissan’s all-electric LEAF although not seeing as significant a jump, witnessed sales grow from 1,025 to 2,103 units during the same period.

Over the next few years more plug-in vehicles are expected to launch including both pure EV and range extending form, and should help contribute to automakers reaching aggressive Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets. And, in an effort to spur sales, the Obama administration is looking at further incentives, such as increasing the federal tax credit from $7,500 to $10,000 on some alternative fuel vehicles.

Automotive News (subscription req'd)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sustainable Fusion

Published May 29, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Ford’s new 2013 Fusion will be available this fall. In the name of recycling, every Fusion built will carry some unexpected materials beneath its body, like denim material equivalent to slightly more than two average-sized pairs of blue jeans; 38.9 clear plastic 16-ounce recycled bottles; and bout 31,250 soybeans.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) control is held to world-class standards in the all-new Ford Fusion with post-industrial, recycled cotton used as sound-absorbing material. In every Fusion, the denim equivalent of slightly more than two pairs of average-sized American blue jeans helps to nullify unwanted road, wind and powertrain noise.

Fusion’s North American cloth seat surfaces are made with 100 percent Repreve yarn, which is a hybrid of post-industrial and post-consumer waste (or materials once utilized for industry purposes; and materials used by everyday consumers respectively). Cloth-seat Fusion models contain the equivalent of 38.9 recycled, clear 16-ounce plastic bottles.

Post-consumer plastic water and soda bottles are collected, chopped, ground, melted and reformulated into chips. These chips are then extruded and textured into fiber. The fibers are then used in the creation of fabric, then dyed, finished and rolled for shipment.

Excess fabric from each procedure in the process is recycled back into the system to further eliminate waste.

The foam used in seat cushions, seat backs and head restraints is a soy-based sustainable material, with the equivalent of approximately 31,250 soybeans.

Ford first used soy-based foam in the Ford Mustang in 2007. Today, Ford uses soy foam on every vehicle built in North America. Ford’s use of soy foam has reduced petroleum production by more than 5 million pounds and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 million pounds annually.

Every 2013 Fusion utilizes plastic made from recycled car battery casings. These post-consumer materials were otherwise destined for a landfill. This plastic may be found in fender splash shields and other underbody components. Annually, these applications on the Fusion will utilize close to 2 million pounds of recycled plastic.

Revised BMW Hybrid Flagship

Published May 29, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

BMW is in the midst of launching its new generation of 7 Series flagship sedan and the lineup will include the BMW ActiveHybrid 7. This new 2013 hybrid 7 series will combine an inline 6-cylinder engine with a hybrid powertrain.

The updated model sets itself apart with lower fuel consumption and emissions, as well as innovative auxiliary functions. This latest evolutionary step uses BMW’s 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine. It is the same 315-horsepower version as in the new 2013 BMW 740Li and replaces the V8 engine previously used in the ActiveHybrid 7.

Other hybrid components include a 55-horsepower synchronous electric motor, hybrid-spec 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, a lithium ion high-performance battery and power electronics which run the intelligent energy management.

BMW’s goal was to give the ActiveHybrid 7 an outstanding balance between performance and efficiency. With combined output of 349 horsepower and peak torque of
367 pound-feet, the new BMW ActiveHybrid 7 accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds (preliminary).

At the same time, it delivers significantly improved fuel efficiency. U.S. EPA numbers are not yet available; however, in the EU test cycle the new ActiveHybrid 7 yields efficiency gains of 14 percent over the new 740Li which itself sees an improvement over its predecessor.

A host of innovative features enhance the car’s dynamics and ensure optimum efficiency of the hybrid drive system. For example, the electric motor provides an extra 155 lb-ft of torque through the boost function if the driver should need a quick sprint or to call on strong mid-range acceleration. ECO PRO mode, with coasting function and proactive analysis, prepares the drive system in advance for upcoming situations on the road. Brake Energy Regeneration and the Hybrid Start-Stop system also work together to maximize overall efficiency.

The 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 7 can also run purely on electric power. If the hybrid battery has sufficient charge and the driver goes easy on the accelerator, the car can cover a distance of up to 2.5 miles almost silently and without producing any tailpipe emissions. The top speed on electric power alone is 37 mph.

The new ActiveHybrid 7 will be available in the U.S. as a long-wheelbase model only.

All new BMW 7 Series models come equipped with Auto Start-Stop which can cut fuel consumption by up to six percent as well as Brake Energy Regeneration. Generally the battery is only recharged when the driver is off the throttle, for example, when coasting or under braking. Driving Dynamics Control in the new 7 now includes ECO PRO mode which modifies the powertrain management as well as the programming of the heating and air conditioning, heated seats and exterior mirror heating to operate with optimum efficiency. It also offers tips for an efficient driving style. According to BMW, ECO PRO can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20 percent.

Ponch Approved? California chooses Ford Explorer Police Interceptor as next patrol car

Related Gallery Ford Police Interceptor Utility: Live Shots

News Source: Motor Trend

Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

Category: Car Buying, SUV, Government/Legal, Ford, Police/Emergency

Tags: 2013 ford explorer, california highway patrol, chp, explorer, Explorer Police Interceptor Utility, ford, ford police interceptor, michigan state police, police car

Wisconsin man avoids jail by agreeing to have his Nissan Skylines crushed

News Source: Stevens Point Journal

Tip: Hat tip to Justin!

Image Credit:

Category: Aftermarket, Classics, Coupe, Performance, Government/Legal, Japan, Nissan, Luxury

Tags: beno, confiscated nissan skyline, confiscation, crusher, fast and the furious, fast and the furious skyline, gray market, just beno skyline, justin beno, nissan, nissan skyline, skyline

Toyota Prius now third-most-popular car in the world... sort of

Related Gallery 2012 Toyota Prius

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Toyota

Category: Car Buying, Hybrid, Wagon, Hatchback, Toyota

Tags: 2013 toyota prius, hybrid sales, prius, prius c, prius plug-in, prius sales, prius v, toyota, toyota prius, toyota sales

Prius Family Becomes Third Top-Selling Car Line in First Quarter 2012

Published May 29, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

With the launch of new variants, having paid its dues in gaining acceptance, and in light of generally high fuel prices this year, plus other positive sales pressures, Toyota’s Prius line became the third-ranked last quarter.

Last quarter global Prius line sales were 247,230 units, according to Bloomberg, compared to 300,800 Toyota Corollas and 277,000 recorded Ford Focus sales.

This latest feather in Toyota's cap comes as it recently traded places again with GM as the world’s largest automaker, and having three top-10 models, the Camry line being the third aside from the Corolla and Prius.

The Prius line now consists of the Liftback, Plug-In, Prius v and Prius c.

Japanese sales in post-tsunami Japan for the Aqua – as the Prius c is called there – have also helped a lot. Prius family sales have tripled in that country from 175,080 in Q1 versus 52,507 last year.

Eric Noble, president of automotive California-based consultancy firm, the Car Lab, said to Bloomberg what readers have long thought in assessing the Prius family success.

“It proves Prius wasn’t a fluke, that there’s a long-term market for hybrids,” he said.

Toyota’s Group Vice President of Global Sales, Bob Carter, said also the Prius line success makes it a de fact brand.

“Prius is a Prius first and a Toyota second,” Carter said. “The fact it’s doing well this year is a reflection of the strength of the model line and the Prius brand.”

Carter said he’s ordered additional production, noting especially high demand in Japan, and said he is confident he get more in the available supply for the U.S. also.


Cadillac Ciel

V6 Hybrid / 3.564 cc / 430 PS / 430 ft/lb (583 Nm) / twin turbo / AWD

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