Archives – May, 2015

The Difference Between a Formula 1 Car and a Prius

2015-03-03_Geneva_Motor_Show_3759Some of the improvements that were seen on the track before showing up in hybrid cars include better suspensions, disc brakes, aerodynamic spoilers, automatic transmissions, multi-valve engines, and tuned exhaust. According to two McGill research engineers, the hybrid technology that combines both gasoline and electric power has greatly gone from the street to the track. Since last year, cars have been using hybrid power units including powerful electric motors run from electricity-generating systems and high-performance gasoline engines. The two McGill engineers, Kieran Humphries and Diego Mascarella have shown great fascination in the current Formula 1 power units’ complex systems.  

It is essential to keep in mind the goal and purpose of a hybrid car parked in the driveway differs from that of a formula 1 car on track racing. With a Prius, a driver’s goal is energy arbitrage and energy optimization. This means that sometimes the car can run on an electric motor and other times a combination of both the engine and electric motor. This gives either discharge battery or charging scenarios. The main goal here is lowering the fuel consumption. With a formula 1 car, the torque performance is what one is looking for. This performance is what enables a driver to overtake another car. It is very different in the Prius, since a driver does not necessarily need to overtake another car, but rather to ensure that the engine is operating at an efficient range. Basically, electric motors complement engines and thus ensure that they are operating at optimal efficiency points.

Humphries noted that cramming the biggest charge of fuel/air mixture into the C-6 engines’ combustion chambers is the main objective of the turbocharged F-1 engines. The Prius on the other hand runs an Atkinson cycle using the 98-horsepower engine, which gives better fuel efficiency by lowering compression. Another key difference is that there is a parallel architecture for the F-1 car with the electric motor attached to the engine while the Prius has its electric motor connected in a power-split configuration to the gear box.

The electric motor in an F-1 car can never run on its own. The car runs on either the engine plus more electric power or on the engine alone. An electric motor alone scenario never occurs. An advantage of formula-1 Cars is their energy recovery mode that allows electricity to be generated and stored when needed. Although the Prius is known for its regenerative braking, the F-1 car has the potential to recover different energy in various complex ways.


Leave a Comment May 30, 2015

Buyers Bypass Hybrid Cars as Gas Prices Go Down

'15_Toyota_Prius_v_(MIAS_'15)Hybrid car owners are rethinking their loyalty as gasoline becomes affordable. Hybrid and electric car owners are defecting to SUVs and other gasoline-fueled conventional models with bargain gasoline prices making an appearance. It seems there are limits as to how far the consumers are willing to go to purchase green vehicles. When gas prices soared in 2012, it could take as little as five years for a hybrid car to pay back its higher upfront costs. Now, it can take up to ten years or more to achieve that oft-calculated payback period. According to the director of industry analysis for, Jessica Caldwell, even though saving the environment is a noble idea, it may be too expensive considering the low gas prices.

One of the Las Vegas consumers, Erik Tufteland prefers a 2014 Subaru Forester to a trusty 2015 Honda Civic Hybrid. Erik chose the Subaru because it is not only an all-wheel drive, but it can also go for snowboard trips. Erik also feared the possibility of having to replace the expensive battery of his Honda Civic. Erik said that his lifestyle changed after trading a hybrid car for a gasoline-powered car. He elaborated that while a hybrid car is perfect for around the city driving, it was a white-knuckle experience on mountain roads. He said however, that the 45 mpg economy of the Honda Civic is what he will greatly miss. Although he wished he still had the additional 12 mpg, he prefers the Subaru Forester. The costs of fuel are almost the same with the Subaru having an added advantage of functionality with respect to comfort, space and ability to go anywhere. He therefore believed that the Subaru was perfect for him.

Basically, at a trade-in time, about 55% of electric and hybrid car owners are defecting to a gasoline-fueled model. Since started tracking such transactions in 2011, this is the lowest level of hybrid loyalty. Those switching to a conventional SUV are more than one in five. This is almost two times the rate that was reported in 2012. The rise in switching rate corresponds to the decreasing sales of hybrid and electric vehicles. The sales of electrified models went down to 2.7% of the market through April. Over the same period last year, the sales were at 3.4%. SUVs at the same time reported an increase in sales from 31.6% to 34.4%. It is thus clear that with the falling gas prices, consumers are opting for gasoline cars that are more capable and larger.


Leave a Comment May 30, 2015

Intelligent and Elegant Toyota’s Camry Hybrid

TOYOTA_CAMRY_AVV50_SMS2015_001About a week ago, a new variant of both the Camry hybrid and the Camry were launched by Toyota. The new Camry hybrid is an elegant and intelligent choice. With respect to the exterior, this hybrid car is large-sized. The chrome surround that runs around its chin and the big air dam is what accentuates the car’s size at the front. Likewise, there is a pronounced chrome tip at the nose. The car’s turning lights are smartly located near the wheel arch. Inside the bumper there are the fog lamps. The new Camry still does not appear to be the most identifiable designs on the road despite the fact that it has a more upmarket outlook compared to the older model.

With respect to the interior, a noticeable feature on the meter is the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) that gives an impression of advanced technology. There is ventilation on both the front seats owed to microvents that allow the flow of cool air, as well as back support that eliminates moisture. A new beige shade has been added to the cabin though the car lacks an inbuilt feature for satellite navigation. Toyota ensured that the rear seat is as cozy as possible since the Camry Hybrid would mainly be chauffeur-driven.

In fact, it is an understatement to refer to it as a seat; it should instead be called a sofa since it is possible to recline it by 8 degrees. The windshield sunshade, AC, audio system, and even a power socket can easily be controlled from the rear armrest. The back of the front seats has been fitted with assist grips that enable easy egress and ingress. The rear passenger can slide the front passenger seat as per their convenience at the touch of a button. There are three zones that make up the AC. There are specific temperature controls for the rear passenger, the front passenger and the driver. Toyota has claimed that there is a pollen filter water-coated ion technology in the AC.

With respect to drive, the car produces no sound from a standstill until you gradually reach 40-50 kph because it is exclusively powered by the electric motor. The petrol engine comes to life when the accelerator pedal is floored. When the brakes are pressed as the driver approaches a traffic signal, the batteries are charged following the conversion of the car’s kinetic energy into electric energy by the regenerative braking system. Generally, Toyota’s Camry hybrid is a luxury model with a spacious cabin.



Leave a Comment May 22, 2015

Hybrids such as BMW’s i8 have Changed Car Design Constraints

2014_BMW_i8_(15658788520)According to  Jacob Benoit , the head of BMW, electric and hybrid technologies are changing the cars’ design, which has been stagnant for several decades. Benoit said this during an interview concerning the sports car model, i8. BMW’s i8 is one of the nominees for the 2015 car designs of the year award. It is a plug-in car that is powered by both a petrol engine and an electric motor. This plug-in hybrid car has been conceived to be a sports car with high performance. Moreover, the car has been said to emit fewer fuel emissions compared to a small gasoline-fueled car.

Jacob Benoit is BMW’s i8 designer and he mentioned that cars have undergone an evolution into a nearly perfect form after almost a century of development. Following this evolution, manufacturers are finding it challenging to think outside the box and come up with unique models. Cars have come a long way with respect to appearance, quality, performance and safety. A different set of design challenges and aesthetic opportunities have been presented by recent technological advances coupled with new lightweight materials. These opportunities were explored by Jacob and his i team to create the i8 model.

Jacob explained that if there were no good constraints, then there is no good design. He further emphasized on the need for some rules to govern car manufacturing. An interesting aspect concerning hybrid car development is that there has been a slight change in the constraints from those that are applicable to a conventional car. Building a hybrid car differs from manufacturing a conventional car. The difference is in terms of the proportions, which have a direct impact on the car’s design. These differences presented an opportunity to push the design boundaries and create the BMW’s i8.

The BMW i8 is a vehicle that is not only low-sitting, but also incorporates clean, minimal lines and a structure consisting of surfaces that overlap and interlock. The car’s contrasting color scheme emphasizes the interlocking and overlapping. Running from the car’s bonnet is a V-shaped black belt that extends over the car’s roof to the rear section. Lightweight thermoplastic polymers have been used to make out the car’s outer skin. The car’s front clearly signals that it is a BMW brand. An addition to take note of is a blue hue that has been incorporated to the grille as a symbol of the vehicle’s electric capability. Jacob knew that in order to win over a marketplace skeptical of hybrid cars, he had to create visual cues to the i8’s performance.


Leave a Comment May 22, 2015

Hundreds of Workers Laid off as Hybrid Car Sales go Down

2013 Ford Fusion Energi SEL plug-in hybridIn the past six months, Ford has seen a decline in sales of its greenest cars. This is following a growth in large vehicle sales boosted by cheap gasoline across the United States. Seven hundred workers responsible for building the C-Max and Focus hybrids at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan, plant will be sacked. This is according to Associated Press Reports. The laying off was the first of its kind by the automaker since 2009. Further hints of the uncertainty of standard hybrid cars’ future on the United States market are being felt.

Some of the models produced by the Wayne plant employees include the C-Max hybrid, Focus ST, C-Max Energi, and Focus Electric. The automaker’s most efficient vehicles include C-Max Energi, Focus Electric and the Focus. Despite being termed efficient, U.S. consumers are yet to gain intense interest in them. The sales of C-Max hybrid have gone down by 31 % year-over-year in the first quarter of 2015. Over the same time period there was a 9% drop by the low-volume Focus electric car. While the Ford Focus sales have stagnated, with 2% gains in 2015, Toyota Corolla sales have increased by 17%. Explorer is Ford’s biggest winner with a sales increase of 27% in the year 2015. Similarly, the massive sales total of Ford’s F-150 pickup has improved with a total of 177,312 consumers in 2015. Sales of trucks remain high for United States automakers offering full-size pickups as the construction market continues to become strong. Yet, a problem is created for automakers when gas prices decline as the demand for cars like the C-Max hybrid remains low.

Ford’s Wayne plant situation necessitates a thorough view of the state of standard hybrid cars in the United States market. There was a decline across the board for vehicles ranging from the vaunted Toyota Prius to the Honda Accord Hybrid, according to the sales statistics compiled by Autoblog Green. When the prices of gas do not justify the short-term investment needed to upgrade from a standard gas model, there is little appeal for a more costly hybrid model. On the contrary, superior efficiency at much lower cost is offered by plug-in cars offering pure electric range, regardless of the gas prices’ trend. Studies show that most of the trips last for less than twenty miles and this has provided a cheap market for models such as the C-Max Energi. Compared to late April 2014 prices, gasoline remains over $1.20 cheaper in the United States.


Leave a Comment May 16, 2015

Reasons for Low Hybrid Car Repair Costs

Ford C-Max Energi  and Honda Fit EV at a public charging station in front of San Francisco City HallIn recent years, it has been harder to find electric and hybrid car repair experts just like Mercedes mechanics back in the 1980s. This phenomenon has made green car drivers incur higher repair bills than if they owned a normal gasoline car. The trend is now moving in the other direction, according to CarMD study of repairs in 2014. As more mechanics gain knowledge on handling gas-electric systems and the costs of equipment drops, hybrid repair costs are going down. CarMD is currently compiling its annual Vehicle Health index, which has tracked repair information for four years. A total of 98,000 repairs were sorted through for 2015 so as to give consumers and fleet managers relevant information on gauging the total cost of vehicle ownership. Fortunately, in 2014 most repairs held constant with the most common diagnostic services required in any car on the road being the “check engine sensor.”

As the cost of labor and general parts remained constant, hybrid-car repair costs slightly dropped as common fixes became normal services in more shops and more mechanics learned to handle hybrid car systems. As per the last check, there was only one hybrid car repair ranked among the top ten most expensive fixes. This was contrary the previous year where three hybrid repairs appeared at the top ten ranks. The cost of battery replacement increased by 11 percent, though the price of inverter assembly replacement has for the last five years been plummeting. For 2010, the cost of repair was $7,300; in 2011 it was $4,098, $3,927 in 2013 and $1,357 in 2014. The list of ten costliest repairs was equally important for car owners. The cost of transmission assembly replacement topped the list in 2014, followed by the cost of replacing the engine. Transmission repair was ranked third costliest. The data was a good reminder of the lower cost of ownership associated with electric vehicles.

Coverhound insurance released a report last fall on a study that indicated that it was cheaper to insure electric cars compared to their gasoline counterparts. The major reason given was that the electric drivetrain did not have moving parts or a transmission, which are the two most expensive parts to repair. Most studies have shown that the labor is the main expense incurred in hybrid and electric vehicle repairs. It is therefore essential for car consumers hunting for new cars to take the full ownership cost into consideration. This ranges from operation to available incentives, as well as the repair costs.


Leave a Comment May 16, 2015

Exploring the Best Cars

512px-Toyota_Prius_V_Hybrid_car_launchIt is essential to explore the best cars so as to figure out whether now is the best time to purchase a hybrid or electric car. With the Formula E in full effect, the future of driving seems to be geared towards electric cars. While the days of gasoline-fuel powered engines may be numbered, is it really the best time to shift to electric cars? With respect to pure electric cars, the selection is not huge at the moment. However, these cars have a range that is good for daily use. Leading the field is Tesla’s model S whose drive is all-wheel. Other brands known for making pure electric cars at reasonable prices include Ford, Nissan, VW, BMW, and Renault.

When making a decision on whether to go or not to go electric, most people will consider charging times, range, power, and price. Regarding price, the VW e-Gold is the most expensive, followed by BMW’s i3, Kia’s Soul, Nissan’s Leaf and the Renault Zoe. With respect to plug-in hybrids, Toyota Prius tops by having a dual-drive system. The plug-in hybrids have now gained popularity with a majority of drivers choosing the Prius. Over the past few years, the market has further grown with the manufacture of plug-in hybrid cars that allow for home charging. In this way, drivers may see no need to utilize the fuel engines and rather reserve that for driving long distances. A major advantage of plug-in hybrid cars is that their range is extended. Some of the popular plug-in hybrids include Mitsubishi’s PGEV GX3h, Ford’s Titanium Hybrid and Toyota’s Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

With respect to range, the Ford Mondeo Titanium hybrid leads with an impressive range of 967 miles, while BMW’s i3 follows closely with a range of 930 miles. While the Toyota Prius can go up to 700 miles in a single journey, it loses solely on electric with only 15 miles range on charge. Just like pure electrics, the plug-in electric cars offer a charge of up to 80% in 30 minutes. Upgrading a home charger for rapid charging would cost the driver, though doing so would reduce the time needed for full charging to only three hours. It is evident that there is a positive future for electric and hybrid cars. There has been a cropping up of charging infrastructure countrywide. Thanks to fast chargers, it is now possible to drive pure electric cars for long journeys. This means that choosing to buy an electric or hybrid car right now is not as risky as it was some years back.



Leave a Comment May 8, 2015

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt and Cost Speculation

Chevy_Volt_(4374735485)Prior to its launch this summer, General Motors has promoted the superiority of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. The automaker started by displaying the car’s specifications online, but was skeptical about revealing the price. It is unclear whether General Motors will price this new model effectively. Cost is a rather sensitive issue and this is especially true with GM and its extended-range electric car. Talk has been that the 2016 Volt might retail below $30,000, and this was prior to the December 2010 launch of the original 2011 model. The speculation later proved to be unrealistic, especially when an almost $40,000 sticker price was placed on the compact Chevrolet.

Following the leads of Nissan and other automakers in the year 2014, the price of Volt dropped to just less than $35,000. A major question now is the price tag that will be placed on the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. In an interview, Andrew Farah, the lead Volt engineer did not specify the price of the new Volt. A goal of whittling off $10,000 had been put as per the previous reports. This is however yet to be confirmed. While GM gauges excitement, touts benefits and refines the last details of the 2016 Chevy Volt, the company has been noticeably quiet about the pricing details. A decent starting point of $29,995 has been suggested by the speculators on Some have suggested a low of $27,995 and a fair price of $39,995, as well.

The question of price may be solved between June and July when General Motors will make the official announcement that everyone has been waiting for. The automaker plans to give a price to alternative-energy products as per to what is thought to be worthy. For the 2011 Volt, many people were given a jolt starting price of $40,000. The sales never took off as predicted, combined with politicized backlash and other factors. Therefore, the initial forecast of 45,000 U.S. sales by GM was altered by the end of the year 2011 to fit the supply versus demand.

According to GM, the 2016 Chevy Volt will be a mainstream vehicle. The outgoing lame duck Volt sold a total of 18,805 units in 2014, with 23,094 Volts sold in 2013 while and 23,461 in the year 2012. The automaker claims that this model with have a broader appeal. It will not only market it more cleverly, but also give sufficient support to its dealers. Analysts have projected that about 24,300 Volt units will be sold for the first year.


Leave a Comment May 8, 2015

An Overview of Honda’s 2015 Accord Hybrid

2015_honda_accord_hybrid_angularfrontThe Honda Accord Hybrid is among the few hybrid cars that utilize advanced technology, which is mostly a reserve for plug-in hybrid customers. When it comes to green cars, plug-in cars are now leading in emission reductions and technological advancement. This is coupled to the fact that the prices of gasoline have dropped at a lower level compared to last year. In comparison to regular cars, hybrids save gas. It is even easier for buyers to include fuel efficiency in their list of buying priorities given the lower prices of gas, coupled with increased efficiency of regular cars. Still, there is quite a good number of consumers who appreciate the strong efficiency associated with hybrid cars and would go for nothing less. For several years now, Toyota’s Camry Hybrid has remained one of the best-selling cars, in not only the United States, but also Canada. Among the electrified hybrid sedans, the gas-electric Camry is still leading the way with regard to sales.

Accord Hybrid’s design is parallel to that of the Accord Plug-in, but there is a difference in terms of battery size where the Accord Hybrid has a smaller battery size. The advanced technology utilized by both is a major similarity that allows the cars to maximize the time of operation in the quiet electric-only mode. The 2015 Honda’s Accord Hybrid uses a generator, as well as a two-motor system for driving at low speeds. In this way, the car is able to generate electricity that is doled out to the front wheels, as well as any electricity recaptured at city speeds using gas. The car does not have a functional transmission at city speeds.

There is still some lumpiness in the brake pedal feel from the driver’s seat and more often than not, the hydraulic brakes comes into play when the car stops. Like most hybrid cars, the system has the advantage of helping minimize brake wear. This is because the regeneration mode of the electric motor is sufficient enough to fully stop the vehicle to approximately 8 km/h when the driver uses full hydraulic pressure. The engine is a Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder of 2 liters with an electric motor of 124 kilowatt. This combination gives a 196hp with the electric motor releasing a torque of 226 lb-ft. Although overall acceleration effect is not enough to make the Honda Accord a sports sedan, it is evidently enough to make it a responsive mid-sized sedan. Therefore, the Accord should be a good choice owed to its impressive technology.



Leave a Comment May 1, 2015

Low Hybrid and Electric Car Sales as Gasoline Prices Remain Down

2010_red_Ford_Fusion_frontAlthough the 45th anniversary of Earth Day was marked the other day, so far the hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric carmakers have no reason for celebration. The sales of hybrids such as the Toyota Prius have gone down by 15.6 % for the first quarter of 2015 in comparison to the previous year totals. Sixty-six percent of the United States market for hybrid vehicles is accounted for by the different Toyota Prius models, as well as the Avalon and Camry hybrids. The only hybrid car that showed a slight increase in sales (4.6%) in the first quarter is the Prius V Compact wagon. The worse thing is that the hybrid and electric cars are being traded in at a higher rate as the prices of gasoline remains low. Edmunds claimed that approximately 22 percent of car owners who have chosen to trade in their electric and hybrid cars have bought a novel SUV. This is almost two times the rate seen three years ago (11.9%).

The electric and hybrid car trade-ins that have gone toward the purchase of another alternative fuel car so far are only at 45%. According to Edmunds, the loyalty rates among alternative-fuel car owners for the first time had gone below 50 percent. The story is clearly explained by the math. In October 2012, the average cost of gasoline per gallon was $4.67 and it was projected that it would take five years to recover the price difference between a Camry Hybrid and a gasoline-fueled Camry. The payback period rises to ten years at a national average price of $2.27 per gallon. There is even a greater difference for electric vehicles such as the GM’s Chevy Spark, the Nissan Leaf and Ford Motor’s Ford Focus electric vehicle. For the first three months of 2015, the sales of Nissan Leaf are down 21.2 % year-over-year, while those of Focus electric vehicle are down by about 9 percent. A 31% jump in sales was reported by the Chevy Spark with a total of only 151 units.

Plug-in hybrid cars such as the Ford C-Max Energy and the Chevrolet Volt reported low quarter sales of 1.5% and 48% respectively. The Ford Fusion Energi is the best-selling car in this group with March sales of 837 units. Compared with the first quarter of 2014, the sales have gone down by 15.6%. In the first quarter, GM’s Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid saw a 73% increase in sales. It sold 311 units compared to 2014’s 180 units.


Leave a Comment May 1, 2015

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