Category: Green Articles
Green Car Journal has identified its five finalists for the magazine’s high-profile 2014 Green Car of the Year® program. The five 2014 models include the Audi A6 TDI, BMW 328d, Honda Accord, Mazda3, and Toyota Corolla. These five finalists are also honored as Green Car Journal’s “Top 5 Green Cars for 2014″ and earn the magazine’s “Green Car Product of Excellence” honors.
An increasing number of vehicle models are considered for the Green Car of the Year® program each year, a reflection of the auto industry’s expanding efforts in offering new vehicles with higher efficiency and improved environmental impact. Green Car Journal has been honoring the most important “green” vehicles every year at the LA Auto Show, since its inaugural award announced at the show in 2005.
“The diversity of this field of finalists illustrates not only that ‘green’ has gone mainstream, but also that there is no single approach to achieving ever higher levels of fuel efficiency and environmental performance,” says Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and CarsOfChange.com. “There’s something for everyone in this year’s field of finalists, including clean diesel, high efficiency gasoline, and hybrid/plug-in hybrid power featured in mainstream, sporty, and executive models.”
Finalists are selected for their achievements in raising the bar in environmental performance. Availability to the mass market is a factor to ensure honored models have the potential to make a real difference in environmental impact, and finalists must be available for sale by January 1st of the award year.
“Audi is honored to be named as a finalist for the Green Car of the Year award,” said Mark Del Rosso, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Audi of America. “Audi has been a leader in clean diesel since the introduction of Audi TDI technology in the U.S. in 2009. With the debut of four all-new TDI models this year, Audi continues to set the bar for fuel efficiency and uncompromised luxury.”
New for the 2014 Model Year, the Audi A6 TDI achieves an impressive EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 city/ 38 highway/ 29 combined MPG while at the same time delivering uncompromised performance, design and luxury. The A6 TDI delivers the best fuel economy among TDI competitors in its segment, with 30-percent more fuel efficiency than gasoline engines.
“Audi’s new A6 TDI underscores that improved environmental performance needn’t come at the expense of the joy of driving,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and CarsOfChange.com. “This sedan seems to offer it all – comfort, luxury, style, and advanced on-board electronics, while also attending to lower CO2 emissions and surprisingly high fuel efficiency for this class of vehicle. Offering a powerful and efficient TDI clean diesel option in the A6, and other Audi models, is important. The A6 TDI is a deserving nominee for 2014 Green Car of the Year®.
Green Car of the Year® jurors include auto enthusiast and Tonight Show host Jay Leno, plus leaders of the nation’s major environmental organizations including Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; and Matt Petersen, board member of Global Green USA. Green Car Journal editors round out the 2014 Green Car of the Year® jury.
Created by environmental education non-profit Grades of Green and sponsored by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, as well as Santa Monica-based LAcarGUY, the third annual Trash-Free Lunch Challenge, an L.A. County contest that rewards schools for reducing lunchtime trash, has doubled in scope since its inception two years ago.
“LAcarGUY is thrilled to sponsor Grades of Green and the Trash-Free Lunch Challenge. There’s no better way to teach eco-friendly habits to the next generation,” said Mike Sullivan, founder and President of LAcarGUY.
The Trash-Free Lunch Challenge has diverted as many as 40,000 bags of trash from area landfills and saved schools thousands of dollars over two years. “With 24 schools in this year’s program, we expect to see nearly 30,000 more bags of trash diverted from the new schools alone,” said Lisa Coppedge, Grades of Green’s Director of Programs. “But what’s more important is that an additional 17,500 students will learn how to reduce, reuse, recycle and compost–new habits that will protect the environment in the years to come.”
The competition gets underway October 2, when representatives from each school will attend a training session and tour of the Sanitation Districts’ Puente Hills Landfill and Materials Recovery Facility.
Once the competing schools implement their Trash-Free Lunch programs, Grades of Green selects three finalists through an application process. A panel of environmental experts and other judges will evaluate the implementation and success of the three finalists’ programs. The winning school will receive a Grand Prize of a $1,000 education grant. The second- and third-place schools will receive $750 and $500, respectively.
Though the deadline has passed to compete in this year’s Trash-Free Lunch Challenge, any school may still initiate a Trash-Free Lunch program. Complete instructions are available at no cost to schools at www.gradesofgreen.org/initiatives/trash-redux/trash-free-tuesdays.
With the help of over 11,000 volunteers, over 24,000 pounds of trash was collected at this year’s annual Clean the Beach Day that was held on September 21st. LAcarGUY is proud to sponsor the event which is put on by our partners at Heal the Bay. The event is the largest volunteer day on the planet and over 200 LAcarGUY team members joined in on the fun.
Volunteers cleaned over 32 miles of beach, inland waterways, regional parks, and city neighborhoods in 50 L.A. County locations. In total, over 24,000 pounds of trash was removed and that does not include the bulky items that have yet to be weighed and reported by the City of L.A.
LAcarGUY is proud to support this great effort every year to keep out beaches clean. This year we had the largest corporate group of volunteers on the day, and that speaks volumes to the love and dedication to the environment that everyone here at LAcarGUY has.
We thank everyone who came out to volunteer, and we hope to see you again next year.
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com The Toyota Prius family was the best-selling vehicle line in California over the first half of 2013, moving more than 170,000 total units through June of this year. But despite progressively growing sales numbers each year in California and around the country—as well as the release of three new Prius models including the Prius c, Prius v and Prius Plug-in—Toyota hasn’t actually given the platform a true overhaul in more than four years. In 2009, improvements to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system and the vehicle’s overall design netted an increase in the Prius’s average fuel economy rating to 50 mpg. Since then, no other carmaker has managed to match that number in a pure hybrid. Recently though, at an event in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Toyota Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso gave journalists a sneak peak at what’s in store for the new generation of Prius family vehicles. First and foremost on the list of improvements will of course be fuel economy—the driving factor in the Prius’s success over the last decade. According to Ogiso, the next Prius will feature a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy, pulling average efficiency up to 55 mpg. The increase will come as a result of a redesigned Hybrid Synergy Drive, lighter materials and a new battery pack, which is rumored to potentially be powered by lithium ion rather than nickel metal hydride. Handing will also improve, as Toyota works to lower the center of gravity of its cars under its New Global Architecture. Toyota also announced changes to the next generation Prius Plug-in, promising more electric range and possibly a wireless charging feature that the carmaker is currently testing. The fourth generation of Prius is scheduled to hit the road sometime in 2015.
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com
One of California’s largest electrical providers, Southern California Edison, has released a report [PDF] detailing the usage patterns and expanding needs of its plug-in vehicle driving customers since the technology re-emerged to the market in late-2010. In the paper, SCE reports that it currently services 12,000 plug-in electric vehicle owners, or roughly 10 percent of the nationwide total. Over the next six and a half years, the utility expects that number to grow to many as 350,000 households.
Naturally, since most plug-in owners opt to install higher-voltage Level 2 charging stations, which recharge their cars at 240V rather than the 120V voltage of a standard outlet, equipping the grid to handle this added demand might present some challenges for a utility. Southern California Edison says that it has had no problems meeting the current needs of its PEV-driving customers, and that it will be ready for an 338,000 additional cars hooking up to the grid each night by 2020.
The study bodes well for other utilities across the nation, which will face the same challenges (albeit at a slower pace) in the coming years, as plug-in adoption approaches the 1 million-vehicle goal set by the President four years ago. SCE found that 65 percent of the plug-in drivers in its coverage area drive plug-in hybrids, which have smaller batteries and require less charge each night. Of those PHEV drivers, half charge almost exclusively via a standard outlet, which significantly tamps down strain on the system.
Southern California Edison says that improvements to the grid are being addressed on a need basis, which happens to coincide with upgrades that would be necessary anyway. So far, just 1 percent of the upgrades it has made are directly attributable to EVs.
The greatest challenge identified by the study lies with multi-occupancy dwellings such as apartment buildings and condos. According to SCE, less than 5 percent of the building owners and condo associations surveyed are currently considering providing charging infrastructure for plug-ins. That may change as more vehicles hit the road, but in the meantime, the issue will remain a barrier for plug-in adoption among non-homeowners.
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com
In recent years, the hybrid market has grown from the Toyota Prius and a handful of other offerings to nearly fifty unique models spread across more than a dozen different nameplates. Hybrids have gone from being a blip on the radar to a significant piece of nearly every automaker’s strategy for improving the fuel economy across its lineup. Still, with more carmakers tossing evermore hats into the gas-electric ring each year, Toyota has kept hold of its early dominance both nationally and in the key green car bastion of California.
Recently, the carmaker sought to remind us of this via a press release trumpeting the company’s continued success in the California market. Through the first half of the year, Toyota announced it had maintained a 61-percent market share in the Golden State, with the Prius representing half of all hybrid sales in California.
“The hybrid industry has become competitive, but our wide-range of hybrid vehicles continue to deliver high value and strong attributes to both new and loyal customers,” said Bill Fay, vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in the release.
Though California’s robust green vehicle market still represents the most vital region in the U.S. hybrid and electric vehicle game, Toyota’s performance nationally has been even more impressive this year. According to HybridCars.com, Toyota hybrids account for 70 percent of nationwide hybrid sales through July, up from 67% for all of 2012, when hybrids made up roughly 3.5 percent of the total vehicle market.
According to Toyota more than 90 percent of the nearly 1.5 million hybrids it has sold in the U.S. (spread across 7 different models including the Prius line) are still on the road. The company says it remains on schedule with plans to expand to 18 new or remade hybrid models by 2015.
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com
Pundits began calling the electric vehicle market a failure long before the first Nissan LEAF deliveries began back in 2010. Though sales have boomed recently thanks to falling prices on some models, the numbers for the two biggest plug-in models are still well below what Chevy and Nissan had hoped for. But does this really prove what so many editorialists have written over the course of the last three years—that Americans simply don’t want plug-ins?
It all depends on how you look at it. When the first hybrids went on sale more than ten years ago, they were far more expensive than conventional ICEs and consumers didn’t know about or trust the new technology. Today, nearly every major brand either already sells or will soon sell a hybrid model, with some carmakers like Toyota offering hybrid variants across most of their platforms.
So how does early plug-in adoption compare to the first few years of hybrid sales? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the numbers actually predict a pretty bright future for electric vehicles.
The DOE recently tweeted a graph comparing the first 31 months of hybrid sales to the first 31 months of plug-in sales. From the very beginning, electric vehicles have outsold hybrids during the same period of their existence by more than a two-to-one margin. Where hybrids had sold roughly 50,000 units in the U.S. after 31 months, more than 115,000 plug-ins have been sold since late 2010.
According to GreenCarReports.com, plug-in sales more than tripled last year over 2011 numbers, from about 17,500 to 53,000 in 2012. This year, plug-ins are on pace to sell more than 100,000 units. Hardly a failure as far as technology adoption curves go.
What’s more, plug-in vehicle infrastructure is still in its early days of development, and only a few of the 14 models on the market are available outside of California and the handful of other states that have been targeted by carmakers for early market releases. As plug-ins begin to spread to other markets, sales numbers will continue to grow—the only question is how fast?
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com Over the last dozen years, Volkswagen has gradually been working to perfect a concept car so revolutionary in its fuel efficiency that it was known as the “One-Liter.” The naming reflected VW’s original goal for the car, to produce a vehicle that could travel 100 kilometers on a single gallon of fuel. Now, with the addition of a small lithium ion battery pack and plug-in hybrid charging capability, the One-Liter has evolved into the XL1, a limited-run production vehicle that will not only meet, but exceed the original goal of 100 km/L fuel economy by 10 km/L. VW recently invited a small group of journalists to drive the car in Wolfsburg, Germany, giving them a chance to peep some of the more nuanced fuel-saving features and find out how the final production vehicles drive. The verdict form PluginCars.com is that while the XL1 most certainly wasn’t built to appeal to the mainstream, its single-minded focus on reducing inefficiencies provides a unique look into the future of automotive transportation. The most noticeably deviant feature of the XL1 compared to other cars is its shape. With a wider front that tapers off into a teardrop-like rear, the XL1 was designed to be among the most aerodynamic vehicles ever on the road. A coefficient of drag of just 0.19 blows production plug-ins like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt (which both have a 0.28 coefficient,) and the Tesla Model S (0.24) out of the water. Another measure Volkswagen undertook to reduce drag was the elimination of side and rearview mirrors in favor of cameras that display on screens inside of the cockpit. This approach saves weight and drag on the vehicle, and is an example of a feature that may see its way onto production vehicles from a number of carmakers in the future. Full-sized power windows have also been replaced by small, hand-cranked miniature sub-windows which exist as part of the full window glass on the driver and passenger-side doors. This kind of feature, as well as minimal sound-proofing that makes every bump and acceleration audible to those inside of the cabin, is likely a sacrifice that would be unacceptable to mass-market consumers. For Volkswagen though, the XL1 is still largely a test vehicle, even if 250 will soon be made available on the European market. What the company learns from its experience with the XL1 though will likely pave the way for a number of future fuel-saving innovations available to the greater market.
by Zach McDonald | HybridCars.com
The Toyota Prius Plug-in is designed to give variable results in fuel economy depending up on how it is used, thanks to its 11-mile EV Mode driving range. Use it to drive only short distances in between charges and the Prius Plug-in can regularly operate without any gasoline whatsoever. Drive longer distances between charges and it will perform closer to a standard Prius.
In an effort to gamify this disparity, Toyota this week announced the Prius MPG Challenge. Five waves of charitable organizations comprised of as many as eight groups at a time will be given Prius Plug-ins to drive for 30 days. Participants for the first wave of the challenge will be based in the New York Tri-State Area, and include the Greyston Foundation, Greater Mercer TMA, Bloomfield College, RYASAP, Glamourgals, and Helping Hands Food Pantry.
“By tapping regional organizations, we’re able to engage at a local level while demonstrating the Toyota Prius Plug-In‘s ability to improve the lives of our fellow community members,” said Toyota New York Region general manager David Christ in a press release.
Each group’s fuel usage will be recorded via the car’s on-board trip computer over the course of the month. The winning teams will receive $2,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, and $500 for third. Each car must travel at least 500 miles total, with a weekly minimum of 75 miles. Fans can monitor the progress of the challenge on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
by Zach McDonald | hybridcars.com
This week, Porsche turned its soon-to-be released Panamera S E-Hybrid over to journalists for a series of test drives at an event in Stuttgart, Germany. Over the course 42 sessions, journalists were allowed to pilot the car through a 28.7 km course “comprised [of] 6.5 km city driving, 9.2 km of country roads and 13 km of German Autobahn.” At the conclusion of the tests, the car had racked up an impressive average efficiency of 53.5 mpg, with one driver managing to push fuel economy as high as 84 mpg.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid debuted at last month’s Shanghai Auto Show and has an all-electric range of about 22 miles. Porsche touted the car as the first plug-in hybrid in its class, promising it would travel in all-electric mode at speeds of up to 83 mph. Estimated average fuel economy stands at 75 mpg by European standards, leading to questions of just how well it will perform under American EPA tests.
But if the recent journalist test drives are any indication, the answer should be “pretty well.” Average speed for the tests was 54 km/h, while the average speed for the European fuel economy testing regimen is just 33 km/h.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid‘s dual drivetrain combines for a total of 416 horsepower and 435 pound-feet of torque, via a twin-turbocharged V6 engine and 95-hp electric motor. Electric energy is stored by a 9.4 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack. Suggested pricing in the United States will start at $99,000, roughly a $21,000 premium over the gas-only Panamera.