Grades of Green is a well-known organization that empowers children to improve school sustainability around the country. Last week was an exciting time for Grades of Green because they put on two different assemblies, one at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica on Monday and the other at Adams Middle School in Redondo Beach.
Two Youth Corps students attended each of the assemblies and presented alongside with Allie to help get across the importance of recycling and sustainability in schools.
What Students Learned
While at the assembly students learned the importance of sorting their waste and how big of an impact such as simple task can have on their community. The assembly focused on small changes and what they can do over time for the environment. Sorting bins were put on display and used to show proper sorting techniques to make it easier to implement effective recycling methods at each of the schools. It’s a good first start toward future sustainability and an important message that each of the children needed to hear.
No Idle Zone Event
It’s believed that idling vehicles outside of schools significantly contribute to air pollution and lower the quality of breathing air around schools. To help reduce this issue Grades of Green is teaming up with Robinson Elementary School to try and set up a “No Idle Zone” that will keep idling vehicles farther away from the school. This should help improve the air quality around the school while also encouraging more people to stop idling their vehicles and save on fuel consumption.
The No Idle Zone event is scheduled to take place from 1 to 2 PM in Manhattan Beach on February 3rd. Everyone is encouraged to take part in the event and help further the cause for cleaner air around local schools.
For so long in American vehicles bigger has meant better. Larger cars can fit more people and store more things out back. Bigger means more flexibility, it means more capability, but what if smaller was better. What if smaller meant easier, more convenient, more efficient, more environmentally conscious. No matter how you want to look at it, bigger is not always better and the American market is sorely in need of smaller modes of transportation, especially in urban environments where roads are notoriously congested.
Take a Look at the i-Road Concept
Toyota’s vision of future transportation certainly meshes with the “smaller is better” idea. At first glance you might think it’s a very high-end and futuristic children’s toy. But on closer examination it’s easy to see the genius behind the design.
Convenient Safe Transport
Toyota worked hard to get two things out of the i-Road. It needed to be compact and nimble like an electric scooter, but stable like a car and enclosed for wet weather driving. They managed to infuse all this into the concept vehicle and it’s capable of travelling in most conditions capably while weaving in and out of tight spots like a full-sized car never could.
Getting You Around Town
Tthis pint-sized car, scooter, err vehicle does come with some limitations. It can’t climb above a top speed of 37 MPH, which might limit where you can take it. It also can’t travel more than 31 miles on a single charge. That probably won’t be an issue for city-dwellers looking to get around town, but it’s an issue to folks out in the suburbs with lengthier commutes. Still there are plenty of potential scenarios where the concept could do great things.
Leaning and Swiveling around Corners
If the appearance of this vehicle wasn’t enough to let you know that it isn’t a car per-se, watching it travel around a few corners will do the trick. The two front wheels come down from the wheel well to tip the cabin in the ideal direction to maintain balance around tight corners. Not only that but the rear of the vehicle has just a single wheel that swivels around giving you more effective cornering capabilities.
A Tight Second Seat
If you aren’t very tall yourself and you’re trying to transport someone else who’s pretty compact, such as a child, you can bring a passenger along for the ride in the cabin. They can sit right behind you in the vehicle, though it’s a bit of a squeeze. The added room in back can also serve as storage space for a briefcase, some groceries or anything else you might want to carry along with you from one side of the city to the other.
Of course this vehicle won’t be available in the United States anytime soon, but it’s being tested in Tokyo and France at the moment.
When you think about high-octane racing vehicles, chances are the Toyota Prius isn’t the first one to come up. After all, the Prius is known far and wide as the ultimate hybrid vehicle, not a gas-guzzling racecar. However, all that is about to change, as Toyota has just unveiled a high-performance version ready for Japan’s Super GT racing series. Introducing the 2016 Toyota Prius GT300!
Buying a hybrid vehicle used to be an easy process because the Prius was one of the few options on the market. That’s not the case any longer. There are hybrids from several different manufacturers and you have dozens of options to choose from. If you’re looking for a mix between efficiency and affordability you really only have a few options to choose from though. The Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius are often compared and to excellent hybrid vehicle options, depending on what you’re looking for.
In order to make use of the Volt’s 50 mile range each time you drive it you have to be committed to plugging it in each time you finish your trip. That means plugging it in at home and at work, unless of course you work 20 miles or so from your house. The charging time when plugging into a standard outlet is 9 hours, but it drops down to 4 hours when using a 240 volt level-2 charging station instead. The Prius on the other hand delivers excellent fuel-efficiency all the time and never has to be charged. That means you can hop in it and drive as often as you like and still enjoy the high levels of fuel efficiency.
The Fuel Efficiency Battle
It’s tough to say which of the two vehicles get better fuel efficiency because it really depends on the driving conditions. If you have time to charge your vehicle every day and you drive fewer than 50 miles each day you’re going to get better efficiency out of the Volt. You won’t have to rely on gas and can just use the electric motor to get where you need. On the other hand, once you surpass that 50 mile marker things get a bit more confusing and complicated. The Prius is more fuel-efficient when running on gas, so the farther past that 50 mile mark you get with your regular driving, the better the Prius becomes as an option.
Modern Versus Conventional Controls
Both the Prius and the Volt are pretty upscale inside, but the Prius has a much more modern and even futuristic look to it with touchscreen controls and an advanced console, while the Volt has a much more conventional look to it. If you prefer your vehicles to look modern and futuristic the Prius is the way to go, if you want something that looks like a standard car with standard styling that you would expect in any standard car then the Volt is for you.
The option that’s best for you really depends on the type of driving that you’ll be doing. If you plan on travelling many times a day and you don’t have time to recharge your car all the time you’ll likely get better efficiency out of a Prius. If you’re a less frequent driver and you don’t go too far you’ll enjoy the Volt more. Not only that but you can drive the Volt like a normal vehicle if you don’t have time to charge it, and you’ll still get pretty decent efficiency levels overall.
Both vehicles have a lot going for them. The Prius is easier to own and drive at peak efficiency, but the Volt comes with the added electric battery versatility for drivers that want to maximize their fuel efficiency for shorter trips. The one last thing you have to consider is the release date of each vehicle. New models of the Prius are already coming viable around the country, the new Volt isn’t expected to be sold around the country until close to 2017 if not even later. If you don’t feel like waiting for the latest model you might want to consider the Prius instead. Neither vehicle is better than the other, just different. It’s up to you to decide which kind of different is the right one for you.
Most people know about the famous 718 racecars back in the 50’s and 60’s and some actually began rumors that Porsche would bring that heritage back in the form of its Cayman and Boxster line. It looks like those rumors were mostly true, and Porsche is breathing a bit of life into its Boxster lineup by adding on the 718 badge and making the vehicles more powerful than ever. It’s an exciting time to be a Boxster owner, and these new models are something that many fans are going to be on the lookout for.
The biggest change that comes with that 718 badge is with the engine in the 718 Boxster and Boxster S. They both come equipped with a turbo-flat four. The Boxster comes equipped with a 2.0 liter flat four with 300 HP and the Boxster S has a 2.5 liter V4 offering a total of 350 HP.
Not only do both of these engines pack more power into the unassuming Boxsters, they also boost fuel economy, something most drivers will be thankful for. An efficiency improvement of around 14% will leave the vehicles operating with fuel efficiency levels up near the 30’s. The NEDC European fuel efficiency test reports 34 MPG for the Boxster and 32 for the Boxster S, but the EPA ratings will likely be quite a bit lower than those figures.
While the horsepower improvements were notable, the real power changes come in the form of enhanced torque, especially for the 718 Boxster. It gains a whopping 74 lb.-ft. of torque putting it up at a grand total of 280 lb.-ft. of torque. The 718 Boxster S also saw a more modest improvement of 43 lb.-ft. of torque to bring it up to 309 lb.-ft. of torque overall.
These improvements speed up the vehicles quite a bit as well. Getting to 60 MPH takes just 4.5 seconds in the Boxster and 4.0 in the Boxster S down from 5.2 and 4.5 seconds respectively. They manage top speeds of 170 and 177.
The Transmission and Virtual Gears
The 718 Boxsters still aren’t going to come with a 7-speed manual like the 911 does, but they do get an option for a 6-speed manual. These cars can also be equipped with the PDK automatic transmission and it comes with something Porsche dubs “Virtual Gears”. This system will occasionally engage both clutches at the same time to activate the second and third gears at once to bolster efficiency.
A Revamped Appearance
The 718 isn’t a completely new vehicle by any means and instead is a revamped version of the previous Boxster. The front end of the car comes with larger air intakes than ever before and they stretch farther horizontally giving it a wide stance. The car also comes with a very noticeable Porsche strip between the two taillights that has a lifted and darkened look to it.
The latest Boxster is bringing along with it Porsche Active Suspension. This dynamic suspension system drops the car by about .4 inches under normal conditions and when the Sport Suspension setting is engaged the car dips down another .4 inches toward the ground.
A Capable Infotainment System
The Porsche 718 Boxster comes equipped with a highly capable touchscreen infotainment system that’s sleek, beautiful and highly responsive. It lacks a built-in navigation system however, and if you’d like one added it’ll cost you extra.
Higher Price for the Improved Cars
While these cars are significantly improved over their predecessors you’l have to pay for those improvements. The 718 Boxster comes in at $57,050, an increase of $3,900 and the Boxster S begins at $69,450, a jump up of $4,500. While these aren’t radical price increased for cars in this range, they’re big enough to be noticeable for Porsche fans wanting entry-level vehicles.
If you, like most Porsche fans have fallen in love with the Boxster then this is your chance to get one of the most powerful versions of it sold to date. These cars are highly capable and they come with the mid-mount engine that so many driving enthusiasts love.
Most people think that Toyota just got into hydrogen fuel-cell technology because they learned about the Mirai. That’s simply not the case. The automaker has been working on the tech behind the Mirai for the past 23 years and is one of the most dedicated companies to the technology. Toyota knows that hydrogen powered vehicles could be a very big thing for the world and something that should be pursued heavily, but they’ve come up against some pretty serious problems with the release of the Mirai. The hydrogen refueling infrastructure still isn’t there and Toyota has been scaling back the sales of the vehicle for that very reason. That doesn’t mean the tech will fail, or that it’s not worth the time and effort, it just means the company has to work even harder than before to make it happen, and that’s exactly what they seem to be doing.
Creating Refueling Networks
Toyota has run into some hiccups while trying to sell the Mirai to customers and get the vehicle spread out throughout California. Refueling stations that were supposed to open already have been behind schedule and the company actually had to open up the dealerships where the vehicles were sold to handle refueling tasks. For the automaker, one of the biggest challenges of getting hydrogen vehicles out to the general public is building up a solid refueling infrastructure. A total of 49 stations are supposed to open in California to serve that market, but Toyota is already working on getting some stations in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The company plans on having major success with the Mirai and future hydrogen vehicles and is banking big time on the tech that’s supposed to be better than electricity.
Almost half of the Mirai is put together by hand, and the remaining sections of the vehicle are handled by robots. This process helps keep costs down while guaranteeing a high level of precision and accuracy where it’s needed most. The vehicle is unique and the construction process will likely become even more streamlined in time, but Toyota takes a great deal of care making sure that they are built to high standards.
There isn’t too much information about what Toyota plans for the future beyond the Mirai, but the automaker still has pretty big plans for the little hydrogen-powered car. The company wants to have 3,000 Mirais out on the open road by 2017, and it plans to make those sales numbers jump even further after that point.
Releasing hydrogen vehicles to the general public and getting them to adapt the technology and actively embrace it is a bold goal. It’s something that most automakers would never dream of doing, but Toyota isn’t a common automaker. As the pioneer of hydrogen vehicles and one of the largest automakers in the world Toyota has the experience and the power to make its goal happen.
While the Lexus IS was supposed to be a sporty vehicle from the beginning, it isn’t until the latest version of the vehicle that a turbocharged engine was finally incorporated, and that’s something to get very excited about. This latest version of the IS combines what’s so great about the car already, with more power than before and more efficiency, making it into a highly capable sedan for regular driving.
Replacing the V6
The Lexus IS has traditionally been sold with either a V-6 or V-8 engine, that’s not the case any longer. With the addition of the IS 200t, the V-6 is out and a turbo-charged four cylinder is in. Not only does the new engine offer more power than what the V-6 could put out, but it’s more efficient as well. It’s hard to argue with a boost from 204 HP to 241 and a whopping torque rating of 258 lb.-ft. which is quite a bit higher than what you’d get from the V-6. Not only that but fuel efficiency figures are up from 21/30 to 22/33. Those aren’t massive improvements, but drivers should notice a difference with regular highway trips.
Fuel Requirement Considerations
One consideration that you have to make is a change of fuel requirements to the IS. The old V-6 wasn’t too picky about the grade of gas that you fed it. The turbocharged engine requires premium grade fuel. If you weren’t running the good gas already you’ll likely experience an increase in gas expenses rather than a cost savings from switching to the latest IS. That doesn’t mean that you’re worse off, because you’ll be running better quality fuel, but you won’t save much if any on your fuel expenses if you have to change to the more expensive form of fuel.
Lexus interiors aren’t known for being over-the-top or lavish and the IS doesn’t break that stereotype. It’s functional, it relies on quality materials and it’s certainly comfortable, but it’s not extreme. Nobody is going to think that you’re riding around in a $100,000+ vehicle, and that’s okay, because the materials used will hold up and the design of the vehicle is for ease-of-use and comfort before appearances.
Lexus and Toyota vehicles are known for their high level of reliability and the 2016 IS is no different. It’s expected to hold up as well as most other luxury vehicles sold today and will likely perform better than many of them over the long-term. Lexus vehicles are often purchases for their reliability over other similar models, and the IS still has that going for it.
If you want a fun-to-drive Lexus that’s going to get you better fuel efficiency and a bit more power, the latest model is a pretty nice deal. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a pretty good mix of quality, luxury and power.
Volkswagen recently made it known that it’s going to be focusing on electric car technology more often. While I wouldn’t expect a mass explosion of EVs from the VW headquarters anytime soon, the company did make a commitment to producing up to 20 hybrids/EVs by 2020, set up an electric vehicle subdivision within the country and decided to actually release the electric microbus that received so much publicity after being shown off at CES.
The Electric Vehicle Subdivision
Volkswagen put together a subdivision of the company designed specifically to further electric vehicle production. This smaller subset of the massive corporation is designed to be more agile. It can make changes faster and hopefully lead to more revolutionary electric vehicles in general.
When the division was created Volkswagen focused on a commitment of releasing 20 different hybrid vehicles and EV’s by 2020. That’s a major undertaking and a massive investment in batteries, electric motors and electric vehicle architecture. The commitment says that Volkswagen is committed to producing electric vehicles and sees value in it later on down the road.
The Electric Micro Bus
At the Consumer Electronics Show this year Volkswagen showed off the Budd-e concept. It’s a full-electric micro-bus very similar to the older microbus Volkswagen sold that surfers are known for being so fond of. This concept comes along with some pretty cool features, the first of which is a 200 to 300 mile full-electric range. The second is an 80% recharge time of just 15 minutes. That means you could travel farther with less difficulty without relying on fossil fuels.
The coolest part of that little futuristic van, bus, or whatever you want to call it, is that Volkswagen is actually going to make it and sell it. Unlike most crazy concept vehicles, Volkswagen is actually backing up its product. It will be sold to the general public and the automaker plans to release it by 2020.
In a time when many automakers are doing everything they can to keep up with government regulations without relying on hybrids and full electric vehicles, it’s refreshing to see a company embracing electric vehicles so fully, and Volkswagen could be one of the leaders in electric vehicle technology by 2020 with its current pace.
Now that it’s getting colder some parts of the country are experiencing snowy and icy conditions that aren’t conducive to safe driving, at least without some serious adjustments to your driving technique. Not only do you have to get snow tires and all the gear that will make your car handle more capably in these conditions, but you also have to learn how to drive your vehicle when the conditions aren’t great for it, and that’s a real adjustment for most people.
Get the Right Gear
The most important investment that you can make for your safety in cold-weather driving conditions is a pair of snow tires. They will allow you to brake more effectively and maintain your grip while turning and driving around as usual. With the proper snow tires you should consider adding chains or studs in order to enhance the traction on your tires even further. These accessories will only be used for severe weather driving and would have to be removed for the average days, but will really help enhance traction when it’s needed most.
Work in Slow Motion
Driving in winter weather isn’t just about lowering your speed, though that’s a pretty good first step. You also have to think about how you turn the vehicle. Changing direction too quickly while driving in the snow can lead to problems with sliding. You have to turn slowly and with a wider arc than you normally would for best performance. This takes some getting used to and you’ll have to practice in order to get good at driving in the snow without performance problems. To be sure that you’re safe go extremely slow while out in the snow or on icy roads at first, and over time you’ll develop a feel for winter driving that’s very safe.
Watch Far Ahead
It’s always important to remain aware of your surroundings while driving, but it becomes even more important while driving in the snow. It’s in your best interests to avoid driving after dark on snowy roads in general to help you avoid running into situations with low visibility. While driving look far ahead down the road and prepare to slow down as soon as you can so you can do it slowly. You have to begin braking sooner and slow down at a much slower pace than you would expect.
A Little Gas Makes all the Difference
In the event that you start to spin out and lose traction don’t make the major mistake of slamming down on your brakes. That will take a minor problem and turn it into something very serious. Instead lightly press down on the gas to keep the tires spinning and carefully ride out the problem. As long as you have some decent tires equipped the slipping will subside in a matter of moments and you can continue to drive as usual. The moment you press down on the brakes you go into an out-of-control slide that’s really hard to control.
Driving out on snowy and icy roads isn’t much fun. However, it doesn’t have to be unsafe if you know what you’re doing and you take the time to prepare adequately. Sure some work is involved, but you’ll feel more confident out on the road and shouldn’t have as many problems either.
In this day and age a manual transmission makes no sense at all, at least not on paper. That’s because a quality automatic, or one of the dual-clutch transmissions can perform at a much higher level than a manual transmission can, even when its being operated at the highest professional level. That’s why many automakers have given up on selling manuals, or they offer them as a niche feature on just a few vehicle types. That’s not the direction that Porsche wants to go with the feature for as long as the automaker can.
Manuals Make Sense Emotionally
Even though manuals don’t make much sense on paper, they make a lot of sense emotionally, and Porsche vehicles are largely an emotional product. Buyers pick up a Porsche because of how they feel about the luxury vehicle when looking at it. They aren’t just buying performance numbers, they are buying a feeling, a lifestyle that they want. Porsche cars need to feel as good as they possibly can to drive around, and according to a whole bunch of driving enthusiasts manual is the way to go for the right feeling. It’s highly enjoyable to motor around in a manual vehicle and to shift through all the gears with just the right timing. There’s nothing that will make you feel like more of an accomplished driver than executing a perfect set of shifts while tearing up the road, and that’s why many buyers will be going to Porsche for the foreseeable future because the automaker plans on releasing manual transmissions for as long as possible.
A Unique Selling Proposition
According to Erhard Mossle, Porsche’s engineering boss, the manual transmission is an important feature that will help the automaker sell more vehicles over time. That’s because most automakers today aren’t bothering offering manuals any longer. Not only do fewer people today know how to drive a manual vehicle, but manual transmissions don’t offer the same perks. Even though they don’t make a lot of sense on paper, there’s just something special about a manual and Porsche wants to harness that for its 911 line for as long as it possibly can.
2028 is the Magic Number
According to Mossle there should be Porsche 911 models equipped with a manual transmission up until 2028. That means you still have plenty of time to get into one of those manual vehicles before they stop producing them, and who knows how the automaker is going to feel about the technology in the 2020’s and beyond. It could realize that the tech is never going anywhere, or it could decide to drop manuals after 2028.
Either way Porsche is supporting an emotional technology that many automakers have already abandoned. Sure they aren’t the fastest or the most efficient, but manuals are a blast to drive and nothing’s going to change that. At least Porsche still gets it.