59 MPG Toyota iQ On Sale In Europe, US Plans Unclear

Perhaps the ultimate city car for the childless, the Toyota iQ includes all of the safety, comfort, and convenience you’d expect from a larger car, but packaged in the world’s smallest 59 mpg 4-seater. [social_buttons] Before the details fanatics among us get all hot and bothered, the 59 mpg (4.0 liters/100 km) rating refers to the diesel iQ’s combined city/highway fuel economy expressed in U.S. miles but as measured by European standards (base directive 80/1268/EEC, latest amendment 2004/3/EC). With lower carbon dioxide emissions than the Prius — around 159 grams of CO2 emitted per mile by the 1.0 liter gas engine and 166 g/mile for the diesel version — not only does the iQ deliver on fuel economy, but its straight-up conventional engine is a pollution winner too.

New Battery Alternative Stores Huge Amounts of Energy

Whatever you do, don’t call it a battery. [social_buttons] A research group at the University of Texas at Austin has taken a carbon-based nanomaterial called graphene, and developed it into a device that has the potential to vastly improve upon the energy storage capacity of batteries. Reportedly, graphene could also double the current maximum storage capacity of the group of battery alternatives known as ultracapacitors. If the research group’s findings bear out when applied to reality, it could mean a complete phase change in the way we approach energizing not only our transportation sector, but our entire energy infrastructure.

Why Can’t the U.S. Have Toyota’s 40 MPG 4WD Minivan?

Toyota sells a 40 mile-per-gallon, four-wheel-drive hybrid minivan in Japan, and has since 2001, but they’re playing keeps. [social_buttons] Its become a bit of a perennial question that I’m reminded of when I find myself mired in the depths of the internet — a question that’s been simmering in the back of my mind since I learned about the Toyota Estima hybrid minivan 3 years ago… and then went to full boil when I learned that the Estima hybrid has been sold in Japan since 2001. At the time, I googled extensively, I asked some Japanese colleagues, I contacted Toyota — I even set up a half-hearted online petition to bring the Estima hybrid to the US (offline now, but the Union of Concerned Scientists was more ambitious, garnering over 18,000 signatures). After all th...

Tesla Improves Roadster Powertrain, Boosts Range and Torque

Tesla Motors Inc. has selected BorgWarner Inc. for the production of a single-speed gearbox for the Tesla Roadster and is initiating a ramped-up production rate. Tesla engineers developed the specifications for the new gearbox and provided them to BorgWarner. The new powertrain delivers about 30% higher motor torque on a single gear ratio, and it achieves a 10% higher EPA combined range. The Roaster torque will be increased to 280 foot-pounds, while the EPA rated range of the car will increase to 244 miles, up from 221 miles. The quarter-mile time for the car is now in the 12.9 second range.

Air Cars vs. Electric Cars vs. Hybrids – Which are Greener?

An ‘air car’ sure sounds clean.  A car that runs on air?  What’s cleaner than that?  But of course it’s not quite that simple. The world’s first commercial air car is currently being produced by India’s largest automaker, Tata Motors, who is licensing the technology from European-based company MDI.  A compressed-air car uses the force of super-compressed air to move the engine’s pistons up and down, as opposed to explosions produced from injecting a small amount of fuel.  At higher speeds the engine will burn a small amount of fuel to create more compressed air, sort of like how a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt produces on-the-fly electricity. The hybrid air-car setup should be able use any number of fuels, including gasoline, propane, or ethanol. So now that we...

U.S. Could Cut Fuel Use 50% by 2035

[social_buttons] A new report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative predicts that a 30-50% reduction in fuel consumption is possible in the US over the next 25-30 years. Initially, this will be achieved through improved gasoline and diesel engines and transmissions, gasoline hybrids and reductions in vehicle weight and drag. In the longer term, the study concludes that plug-in hybrids and, later, hydrogen fuel cells may begin to have a significant impact on fuel use and emissions. The report, ‘On the Road in 2035: Reducing Transportation’s Petroleum Consumption and GHG Emissions,’ summarizes the results of an MIT research project that assessed the technology of vehicles and fuels that could be developed and commercialized during the next 25 ...

Flex-Fuel Kits Convert Toyota Prius to E85 Ethanol (For Less Than $1000)

[social_buttons] Dutch firm Green Fuel Systems, along with several other companies, has developed flex-fuel conversion kits for the Toyota Prius that cost less than $1,000. Converting our existing fleet to second-generation ethanol could be the best near-term play to directly replace fossil fuels. Although the concept of a hybrid/biofuel combo has been around for a while, it has (at least in our minds) mostly been in the form of diesel hybrids running on biodiesel (which isn’t going to happen). But what if we could take America’s most fuel efficient car and convert it to run on another domestically-produced renewable fuel: cellulosic ethanol?

Startup Converting Ford F-150s Into 41 MPG Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

[social_buttons] The 16 MPG  F-150 is one of the most ubiquitous vehicles on the road today. What if you could convert them all to get 41 MPG? The Illinois Institute of Technology’s masters program has spun-off a start-up with big plans for our aging fleet of big trucks. The company, called Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technology (HEVT), has built a bolt-on module that will convert a standard F-150 into a 41 MPG plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). HEVT demo’d their first prototype at the Plug-In 2008 conference in San Jose earlier in the month. The suddenly attractive F-150 PHEV (which is not the 1994 model depicted above) gets 15 miles of emissions-free driving on electricity before it switches over to gas/electric hybrid mode, where it will continue to get an impressive 41 MPG...

Tesla Begins Popping Roadster EVs Off Production Line

While the kinks are worked out, Tesla is starting to move Roadsters off the production line slowly. 27 Roadsters are currently in various stages of assembly, and the company hopes to reach a monthly production rate of 100 cars by this December. In a blog post on the company website, Tesla CEO Ze’ev Drori has reprinted the content of a note he sent to customers last Friday in which he states that Tesla has finally “broken the logjam” and already delivered 9 Roadsters to California.

An Air Car You Could See in 2009: ZPM’s 106 MPG Compressed-Air Hybrid

[social_buttons] Compressed-Air Powered cars could take you over 800 miles on a single fill-up, at speeds of up to 96 mph. They should refuel in less than 3 minutes, and at speeds over 35 mph emit about half the CO2 of a Toyota Prius. Best part? You could see them in the US at the end of next year. Car-tech aficionados may already be familiar with Zero Pollution Motor’s (ZPM) compressed-air powered car. For those that haven’t heard of it yet, read on: “The compressed air vehicle is a new generation of vehicle that finally solves the motorist’s dilemma: how to drive and not pollute at a cost that is affordable!” What happens when you replace the explosions in your car’s combustion chamber with clean compressed air? Well, as long as you lighten things up by repl...

Prototype Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid: 88 MPG on 85% Ethanol

[social_buttons] First Flex-Fuel Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle As part of a push by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to make plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) cost competitive with other cars by 2014, Ford has delivered a plug-in hybrid electric flex-fuel Escape to the DOE to join its test fleet of other PHEVs currently undergoing research and testing. The vehicle is equipped with a 10 kilowatt lithium ion battery that can take it up to 30 miles at speeds under 40 mph before needing to fire up its fuel-fed hybrid-electric engine. After that, the hybrid-electric engine kicks in and can deliver a fuel economy of 88 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway when using E85 (85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend).

Inflatable Electric Cars: Surround Your Body in Bliss

[social_buttons] Here’s an interesting idea: instead of putting the airbag in the car, put the car in the airbag. Sure it sounds silly, but XP vehicles, a start-up in California, is doing just that with their upcoming electric car, the Whisper™. Apparently, XP has taken the same sort of airbag technology developed to safely land recent NASA missions on Mars and used it to create an inflatable polymer car frame in which they pack all the essentials for it to actually be considered an automobile.