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EPA Introduces Two New Fuel Efficiency Labels For Public Comment

On: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 9:53AM | By: Chris Weiss

EPA Introduces Two New Fuel Efficiency Labels For Public Comment test 1-1

The Environmental Protection Agency together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have proposed two new designs for fuel economy labels. The labels are required to appear on the windows of all new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. and provide comprehensive information about a given vehicle's fuel economy and emissions and how they compare with the greater market. The designs have been introduced for public comment.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the EPA and NHTSA are charged with redesigning the fuel efficiency label that is required for new cars and light trucks. The current label includes information about miles per gallon, average annual fuel cost and comparative market fuel economy. 

The more radical of the two redesigns takes the emphasis off of numerical comparisons and uses a more distinguishable letter grade system. It shows a large letter grade at the top of the sticker, outlined in yellow. According to the Detroit News, the system ranges from A+ to D with the industry median at B-.

Electric vehicles would be in the A+ category; plug-in hybrids in the A category and other hybrids in the A- category. On the other end of the spectrum, most SUVs and all vans would be at a C+ or lower. An A+ would constitute 59 mpg or more and a D would constitute under 14 mpg. That label design also includes a figure on average fuel cost savings over five years versus an average vehicle.

The 789 Chevy

On: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 9:36AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The 789 Chevy test 1-1

Imagine a car that has all of the most attractive features from three different classic Chevy models such as the 1957 Bel Air, 1958 Impala, and the 1959 Chevrolet. Then wrap this contemporary body around a 2005-2007 Corvette C6 chassis. This is precisely what was done with a concept car called the 789!

This is a concept car built by n2a motors in limited edition—only approximately 100 vehicles will be available. The chassis is a Corvette C6 and the front of the vehicle is styled similar to the classic 57 Chevy BelAir, the side designed after the 58 Chevy, and the rear resembles the 59 Chevy, hence the name “789.”

Booming Brazilian Market Benefits Automakers

On: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 9:26AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Booming Brazilian Market Benefits Automakers test 1-1

Ford Motor Company considers its Camacari plant in northern Brazil to be its most progressive. Why? It’s the plant where the subcompact EcoSport SUV and Fiesta are manufactured. Ford’s suppliers work side by side with the autoworkers to build the vehicles in a most efficient method. The plant built over 200,000 vehicles in 2009.

Ford is investing millions of dollars in a new engineering center for subcompact cars at the Camacari plant. Ford has added close to 1,300 engineers to its Brazilian manufacturing plant in the past two years in an effort to ramp up its operations there.  

According to Jim Farley (Ford’s vice-president of global marketing), "Brazil is incredibly important to the company." Farley also stated: "It could be in the top couple of countries in Ford's world in terms of vehicle sales."

Ford Motor Co. places a high value on its Brazilian plant, not only for its growing product development proficiency, but also for the profit it generates for the company. Ford executives say that the profits from Ford’s South American operation was a major factor in enabling Ford to avoid taking federal bailouts in 2009.

The Brazilian market is positioned for tremendous sales growth; in fact, this year Brazil could replace the United Kingdom to become Ford's second-largest market in terms of sales (after the United States). Last year South America generated $765 million in income for 2009, compared with Europe's $86 million.
Why Brazil? A rapidly increasing middle class, a strong currency, and plenty of employment opportunities are increasing the demand for vehicles, especially subcompacts. The country's gross domestic product is predicted to go up 7.2% this year.

Mazda Previews Paris-Bound Shinari Concept

On: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 9:20AM | By: Chris Weiss

Mazda Previews Paris-Bound Shinari Concept test 1-1

Mazda is showcasing new design language in a concept that it calls Shinari. The Japanese automaker recently previewed the new concept at a design event in Milan, and will officially debut the Shinari at the 2010 Paris Motor Show in late-September/October.

The Shinari is a curvaceous five-door hatch with an RX-8-meets-Aston-Martin look. The concept displays a shift in design language from Nagare to Kodo. Kodo translates into "soul of motion." The new language clearly drops the flowing side strakes that were such an integral part of the Nagare language, but maintains a similar flowing, kinetic style. The front-end has been tightened over the more bulbous front ends seen under Nagare, representing a move toward a more compact, focused design ethic.

Not to be confused with the nigiri of Japanese sushi houses, Nagare translates to "flow." The vehicles crafted under the mantra were designed to show “motion in vehicles, whether they’re moving or still,” with prominent lines flowing along the sides melding the front fasica seamlessly to the rear-end. Nagare first appeared on the aptly-named Nagare Concept, which debuted at the 2006 LA Motor Show.

The language appeared on several other concepts before making its full production debut on the 2011 Mazda5 at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. Reports earlier this summer indicated that Mazda was unhappy with the language and was moving in a new direction.


The "Bio-Bug" Methane Powered Volkswagen

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 2:03PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The "Bio-Bug" Methane Powered Volkswagen test 1-1

Popular Science magazine is making an analogy between a new concept car in the UK and cars that run like “crap.” Yes, the high tech writers have stooped to an all-time low in using bathroom slang as adjectives, but how else should a car that runs on sewage be described? It seems that a Volkswagen Beetle has been transformed by Wessex Water (a sewage utility near Bristol UK) to operate on human waste byproducts. If all goes well, the Water Company plans to build a slew of what they call “Bio-Bugs.”

The methane gas produced by the sewage treatment plan has been utilized to power the facility for some time, but after noticing that there was an excess of methane left, the facility decided to design a green vehicle so that the methane was put to good use. According to the press release; human waste from the toilets of 70 homes can power the “Bio-Bug” for an entire year, provided the car is driven an average of around 10,000 miles. Wessex Water describes in its press release that compressed natural gas is used quite extensively in other countries, such as China and India.

Nissan May Drop Xterra From Its Line-Up

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 12:20PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan May Drop Xterra From Its Line-Up  test 1-1

What a difference a decade can make. At the turn of the millenium, auto manufacturers couldn't pump SUVs off the lines fast enough. But in 2010, they can't seem to give them a way. Blame the economy, rising gas prices, a reborn effort to save the environment and a certain self-awareness that just didn't exist a decade ago, but manufacturers are watering down old SUVs with unitized frames and swank interiors and/or killing off the SUVs of old altogether. We saw it with the new Ford Explorer; the new Dodge Durango is set to take the same direction and now another body-on-frame SUV is on the chopping block. Nissan may eliminate the Xterra from its line, leaving mid-size SUV traditionalists less options than ever.

Like any company, Nissan's decision will be guided by its bottom line. Sales of the Xterra have been floundering, with only 12,186 sold as of July this year, compared to 88,578 sold in 2000. According to Wards' numbers, automakers in general sold a total of 211,042 mid-size SUVs in 2009. Compare that to the 1.65 million they were selling back in the 2000 year, and it's painfully obvious that SUVs are simply no where near the cash cows they once were.

Combine the dismal sales of the greater mid-size market with tightening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, and you have the recipe for extinction. With CAFE standards set to rise to 34.1 mpg by 2016, a number that is fleet-wide and includes both passenger cars and light trucks like the Xterra, the Xterra's fuel economy numbers of 17 mpg combined certainly won't help Nissan's cause.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Sports Car Weekend

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 11:55AM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Sports Car Weekend test 1-1

The two premiere North American road racing series took to Canadian tracks this weekend, with mixed results. Both the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand Am Series ran their second to last races, ALMS at Mosposrt in Ontario, and Grand Am at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal. Both race courses are stunning, and feature heavy doses of history and elevation change. Mosposrt offers some of the best downhill straights in North America, bettered only by Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca. It’s no Spa Francochamps, but its damn close. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has one of the best hairpins anywhere in the world, the turn 10 complex. This is spectator heaven, at the bottom of a hill and set up so that it can be surrounded by race fans. Truly an excellent piece of track engineering.

Both races were entertaining, in their own way. The Rolex Grand Am race was disappointing because it is the last race before the season ender—at the dreadfully boring Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. The ALMS offering was bad for several other reasons. I've actually had serious nightmares about the ALMS folding or turning into a series dominated by GT cars. The bad and the ugly aren't going to help me sleep . . .

Lotus Reveals Evora S and Evora IPS Before Paris Debut

On: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 5:20PM | By: Chris Weiss

Lotus Reveals Evora S and Evora IPS Before Paris Debut test 1-1

We may not have any idea what Lotus' upcoming Esprit-replacing supercar will look like, but thanks to an early introduction, we have all of the info on two other cars that Lotus plans to debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show: the Evora S and Evora IPS. The "S" stands for supercharged and the "IPS" for "Intelligence Performance Shift." The two new cars deliver some extra performance to the already spritely, agile Evora.

The Evora S adds a supercharger to the Evora's standard Toyota 3.5-liter V6 engine, providing a leap in power from 276 hp to 345 hp. Torque jumps from 258 lb-ft to 295 lb-ft. Other mechanical upgrades include tuned suspension, a Sport button for controlling throttle response and a large, center-mounted exhaust.

The upgrade in output translates into added performance, with the Evora S beating the standard Evora to 60 mph by .3 seconds and adding 10 mph to the top end. The 0 to 60 mph time is 4.6 seconds and the top speed is 172 mph.

Along with the new exhaust, visual alterations include a new rear diffuser and bigger cross-drilled disc brakes. The new rear-end provides a beefy look that gives the car a more powerful demeanor to match its upgraded specs.

1970 Oldsmobile Toronado GT RV-Conversion

On: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 1:55PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

1970 Oldsmobile Toronado GT RV-Conversion  test 1-1

The most unique eBay find of the day is a 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado that was converted into a recreational vehicle—yes, a camper!  Believe it or not, the one-of-a-kind vehicle was actually designed and built as a factory project for a retired RV industry executive.

For those who doubt the feasibility of a Toronado-made-RV, be advised that GMC utilized the EXACT same platform in its “spaceship-shaped” motor home design, built from 1973 to 1978, as was used in the Oldsmobile Toronado. The design was radical for its day, with front-wheel drive, a low profile, and a fully integrated body.  

Motorhomes were built by recreational vehicle manufacturers on bare frames and drivetrains supplied by a chassis manufacturers.

The original GMC built motorhome had a front wheel drive transaxle used in the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado, with an Oldsmobile 455 cu. 7.5 liter V8 engine from the Toronado.

The final drive was connected directly to the transmission, and power was fed to the front wheels using half shafts that ran under the front portion of the engine.
The original GMC RVs often had luxury features common on upper models of GM brands such as cruise control, air conditioning, AM/FM/8-track sound systems, an aluminum/fiberglass body, as well as air suspension. The aerodynamic styling, with the wrap-around windshield and expansive glass area, gave the vehicle a futuristic (or spaceship-shaped) appearance.

Best Buy Adds Ford Vans For Its Geek Squad Fleet

On: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 1:53PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Best Buy Adds Ford Vans For Its Geek Squad Fleet test 1-1

Best Buy is partnering up with Ford Motor Company to purchase a new fleet of commercial vans in an effort to save money while making the Geek Squad fleet more efficient. 290 fuel saving Ford Transit Connect vans will be used to replace the large cargo vans that Best Buy currently uses.

The popular electronics store is planning to hand over the Transit Connect vans to its Geek Squad employees, and the bigger E-Series vans will be used by those who deliver and install home appliances, such as home theatre equipment.  

The unique look of the Ford Transit Connect will blend well with the exclusive Geek Squad business insignia, and will give technicians easy access to tools and equipment via the side access panels in the vans. Every new vehicle will wear the Geek Squad brand colors of black and white with the orange and black Geek Squad logo.

The Prius Plug-In Hybrid is Delivered for Testing in Canada

On: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 1:52PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The Prius Plug-In Hybrid is Delivered for Testing in Canada  test 1-1

Toyota Canada has delivered a Prius Plug-In Hybrid (Pruis PHV) to its testing partners (the Province of Ontario Ministry of Energy and Transportation) in Ontario today in a ceremony dedicated to honoring the new hybrid electric plug-in concept car.

Many prestigious Canadians showed up to observe the ceremony, including the Deputy Mayor of the City of Toronto, and Toyota Canada’s President Yoichi, to name a few.

According to a spokesperson for the Minister of Energy: "The McGuinty government is pleased to be a partner in this pilot project, which will help provide us with data needed to build province-wide charging infrastructure for electric vehicles—a core element of our Smart Grid vision." Brad Duguid also stated; "The Smart Grid will not only play an important role in achieving our goal of having one electric car for every 20 vehicles on the road by 2020, it will also make it easier to bring smaller renewable energy projects on-line under our Green Energy Act."

Toyota says that the Prius PHV, with its upgraded hybrid synergy drive system powered by lithium-ion batteries, is projected to reach speeds of up to 62 mph on electricity alone. It has the ability to sustain 62 mph on electric-only power for up to 12.5 miles. Additionally, the vehicle will be able to accelerate up 62 mph from a standing start without using its gasoline engine, though Toyota makes no mention of how long it will take to reach 62 mph in full EV mode.