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Mar 032014
 

GRN Reports:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced its finalized emission standards for cars and gasoline aimed at reducing air pollution and saving lives.

Austin traffic - pollutionThese new standards will, according to the EPA:

  • Reduce the thresholds for smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent.
  • Establish a new guideline for the allowed concentration of particulate matter released by cars, making it 70 percent stricter.
  • Reduce vehicle emissions of toxics such as benzene by up to 30 percent.
  • Reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down from 30 to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017.

The new thresholds for tailpipe pollution will help quickly clear the air of toxics that would otherwise be expected to cause 2,000 premature deaths and an estimated 50,000 respiratory illnesses among children, in part in communities built near freeways, according to the agency.

The EPA spelled out two other key benefits of slashing noxious car emissions: The reduction of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions (from nitrogen oxides), and the enabling of new fuel efficiencies. By cutting sulfur emissions, new cars will be able to go farther on a gallon of gasoline.

Together, the changes are estimated to save American drivers $1.7 trillion over the model years affected of 2012 through 2025, the EPA reported.

“These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment, and a win for our pocketbooks,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By working with the auto industry, health groups, and other stakeholders, we’re continuing to build on the Obama Administration’s broader clean fuels and vehicles efforts that cut carbon pollution, clean the air we breathe, and save families money at the pump.”
The price tag for saving the climate, human health and making cars more efficient is not so much, EPA officials said. Here’s how the agency spelled it out:

“The final standards are expected to provide up to 13 dollars in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards, more than was estimated for the proposal. The sulfur standards will cost less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $72 per vehicle in 2025…”

The final standards are based on input from a broad range of groups, including state and local governments, auto manufacturers, emissions control suppliers, refiners, fuel distributors and others in the petroleum industry, renewable fuels providers, health and environmental organizations, consumer groups, labor groups and private citizens. The agency collected more than 200,000 comments from the public, and heard input at meetings in Philadelphia and Chicago before crafting the finalized standards.

To help suppliers meet the cleaner gasoline standards, the agency will be allowing refiners almost six years to meet the new rules.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/tier3.htm


Nov 012013
 

The Alliance to Save Energy presents information about how fuel efficiency saves you money and energy. This video will walk you through common options.

Also, keep in mind:

Electric Vehicle Tax Credit — Battery-powered, plug-in cars may be eligible for a credit of up to $7,500 if you bought it in 2011. Use IRS form 8834 [PDF] for personal vehicles and form 3800 (PDF) for business use, and see the ASE’s top tax credit resource for more information.

A smaller credit of up to $2,500 for certain “low-speed” neighborhood electric vehicles is available.

A credit also exists for conversion of vehicles to plug-in hybrid vehicles; it is worth 10% of costs up to $40,000.

Buying a new or used car? Think high gas mileage. Switching from a car with 20 MPG to one with 30 MPG will save you $930 in fuel costs in your first year, and $4,650 in five years, the ASE says.  You can find more info at the Department of Energy’s fuel economy website or look for a SmartWay© certified vehicle on EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.


Jan 272012
 

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

You reach a certain age when it seems the only surprises are bad surprises. The 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid is a rare happy surprise.

Kia Optima Hybrid, a happy surprise.

The rise of Korean automobile makers is an oft-told tale – cheap lemons to top-notch serious competition for the likes of Toyota and Honda. The 2012 Kia Optima isn’t your father’s Kia. Heck, it isn’t even your big brother’s Kia.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a good-looking car – sleek, aggressive, more German sports sedan than Korean family sedan. A slightly lower stance – just five millimeters – a special side mirror design and other aerodynamic tweaks give the hybrid model a 0.26 drag coefficient – a 10-percent improvement over the standard Optima. A downside to the design is limited rear visibility, but a rear back-up camera solves that problem.

The interior is nicely done – again recalling a German sports sedan. The leather-trimmed seats provide great lateral support. The Premium Technology Package – a $5,000 option – includes heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats. Rear legroom is very good while rear headroom is a bit tight.

The hybrid engine mates a 2.4-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle gas engine with an electric motor for a power output peaks 206 horsepower. The car’s air-cooled 270V lithium-polymer battery weighs 95 pounds – 20-30 percent lighter than nickel metal hydride systems. The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth enough.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is more fun to drive than you might expect. A good thing. But the gas mileage isn’t a high as you might expect. A not so good thing. The EPA fuel economy estimate is 35 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway. We got about 34 mpg in a mix of typical suburban driving and, ahem, spirited mountain driving.

Safety features include driver and passenger advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, first and second row side curtain airbags, front active headrests, side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control.

The sticker price on the test car – which included the Premium Technology Package with a navigation system, satellite radio, panoramic sunroof and other goodies – was $32,250.

Copyright © 2012 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network


Jan 102012
 

(As transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Roland Hwang advocates for cleaner, more efficient transportation. Below is his speech to the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit on Jan. 10, 2012.)

Roland Hwang NRDC

I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council. A few years ago, I felt something like Daniel in the lion’s den addressing this audience. But the truth is there has been amazing progress in the last few years … a real coming together of the minds. No longer is there a huge gulf everywhere between environmentalists and the auto industry.

While it is true that some elements of the industry have been slow to warm up to outside perspectives … others have been very receptive. For my part, I have tried to be a better listener and to find common ground where possible. It seems to me there is just  too much at stake here for everyone involved … the auto industry … car consumers … and, in fact, Americans in general. We have to continue to find ways to work together … and I am committed to doing so.

Today, I am going to address one of those topics where more and more people are finding a way to agree – and not just reflexively oppose everything the other side has to say.

Imagine if our nation was offered a choice of how to spend half a trillion dollars of our wealth over the next two decades.

One option would be to send $350 billion overseas to the Middle East and other oil exporting countries, and the remainder on increasing oil industry revenues.

An alternative option would be to take that half a trillion dollars and invest $300 billion directly into the U.S. auto industry, put $200 billion back into consumers’ pockets, and create half a million new jobs while cutting emissions of dangerous carbon pollution.

Is this choice just a pipe dream? Is it too simplistic a way to look at things?

Hardly.

In fact, what I just outlined is the promise, broadly speaking, of the historic new clean car agreement between the Obama Administration, California and major carmakers. They joined together last summer in a grand bargain to deliver cars that get, on average, the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by the model year 2025, roughly double the average for cars on the road today.

GM's Cruze Eco offers 42 mpg on the highway, mileage that beats competitors.

The additional technology to meet this target will result in $300 billion in greater revenues for the U.S. auto industry and ensure it will be a global leader in advanced vehicle innovation.

Stopping $350 billion from being sent overseas will strengthen our economy, make us less vulnerable to oil price shocks, and create hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.

And curbing emissions of carbon pollution will help protect our economy against the costly impacts of global climate change, such as extreme weather events, like hurricanes, heat waves, and flooding.

Fortunately for the auto industry, it doesn’t have to wait til 2025 to see the benefits of stronger standards.

In a world of unpredictable fuel prices, it is the predictability of stronger fuel-efficiency standards that has allowed the auto industry to assert control over its own destiny.

Thanks to the 2009 agreement to raise standards to 35.5 mpg by 2016, the industry is much better prepared, more resilient and – indeed – thriving in the face of this past year’s record high gasoline expenditures. Sales, profits and fuel efficiency are all on the rise. And unlike with every past oil shock, GM and Ford actually have gained market share this time around.

54.5 mpg will spark even greater spark innovation that will ensure the rebirth of the U.S. auto industry.

But I want to be clear that … as you know … these innovations are not going to rely on some imaginary “black box” technology.

This is very much existing know-how … the science of what already exists … as opposed to “science fiction.”

Now … I know it’s unrealistic to assume that overnight every American is going to be driving home from work and plugging in their car to charge up … just like they do their cell phones.

Electric drivetrains are certainly the future of the car. But to meet 54.5 mpg, over 80 percent of the vehicles will be still be powered by conventional–albeit highly sophisticated–gasoline engines.

The good news is that’s where there is tremendous opportunity for some of the most consequential technology to come into play.

Adding a simple turbocharger, direct injection to engines and cutting cylinders can deliver the same power and dependable performance while burning less gas. Automatic and dual clutch, automated 8-speed transmissions shift faster and allow the engine to run at its sweet spot longer. High

Ford's popular F-150 truck now offers an EcoBoost engine that increases mileage.

strength, advanced materials ensure cars will be safe and efficient.

These innovations are already moving from limited applications in a handful of models … to widespread use on assembly lines in every auto factory.

Ford’s version of the downsized gasoline direct injection turbocharged engine, called the Ecoboost, now accounts for 4 of every 10 F-150s. After just being introduced last February, it recently passed the 100,000 sales mark.

So, what’s the catch?

Well, as usual, ideologues in the media and in Washington D.C., who are more interested in thwarting anything that even remotely seems “green” than doing what is best for our nation, have joined forces with auto dealers to try to preserve the status quo. Through costly investigations and wasteful legislation aimed at blocking the new standards from being implemented, they’re doing all they can to scuttle this historic accord, bury the benefits it would provide, and return us to political gridlock on clean cars.

As they have in years past, those who oppose needed progress have dusted off tired arguments aimed at convincing us all that somehow Americans don’t like the idea of saving money and driving better cars.

Fortunately, consumers are way ahead of the game.

They’re voting with their wallets and marching in droves to snap up a new generation of fuel-efficient cars as fast as Detroit and other automakers can make them.

Where once SUVs and V-8s ruled the road, now one out of every two vehicles sold is a small car, small crossover, or mid-size car. Thrifty 4-cylinders are now America’s most popular engine choice.

According to Truecar.com, when compared to the same month the previous year, average fuel efficiency of new vehicles has increased for the last 15 straight months.

New vehicle fuel efficiency is – by far – the single most important consideration to Americans buying a new car, with 45 percent of consumers calling it the number-one factor in their decision, according to a national survey Ford Motor Co. commissioned last fall.

54.5 mpg will be a boon for consumers by expanding the number of fuel efficient offerings. Already, thanks to the 2009 clean car agreement, nearly 4o models offered for sale today can essentially meet the proposed 2017 fleet average standard of 36.6 mpg. these models range from compact cars to pickup trucks, including the Buick Lacrosse, Ford Focus and Honda Odyssey.

Consumers expecting to pay more for a car that meets 54.5 mpg may be surprised. Over the life of the vehicle, they will save thousands of dollars. But perhaps more importantly, households balancing monthly bills will see immediate savings since their monthly fuel savings will outweigh their increased monthly auto payments.

So my message today is simple: Let’s work together.

The latest clean car agreement offers our country another choice … a choice between gridlock and progress. Imagine a time when automakers, regulators and environmentalist are all working together, in partnership, to build markets for clean cars, cut our dangerous dependence on oil, and re-invest in American manufacturing leadership.

The latest clean car agreement brought together unusual bedfellows in an unprecedented and diverse array of support… from automakers to environmentalists, Republicans to Democrats, consumer advocates to energy security advocates, business leaders to labor unions.

Let’s hope those who want to disrupt this program and return us to the dark days of political gridlock don’t succeed. The choice is ours …. and the stakes are very high for the U.S. auto industry:  American jobs and our nation’s future.

I look forward to working with you to keep things moving ahead in the right direction. Thank you!

[The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are taking public comment this month on the proposed new 54.5 mpg standard. The agencies will hold three public hearings, each from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. on Jan. 17 in Detroit at the Courtyard
Detroit Downtown, 333 East Jefferson Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48226; on Jan. 19 at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia Downtown, 1800 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103 and on  Jan. 24, at the Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf, 555 North Point Street, San Francisco, California 94133. Citizens may also comment online at the website for the NHTSA’s Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (Draft EIS)
.]


Nov 052009
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

If you’re the lead foot in your family — or if you’re just annoyed by the lead-footed driver in your family — you’ll enjoy this video about saving gas. It’s cute, and makes a good point.

This little ditty won the video contest sponsored by the Drive Smarter Challenge, a campaign by the Alliance to Save Energy, with support from many other energy-focused groups. It’s timely, as we prepare to hit the roads for the holidays.

Notice in the piece that how you drive can be a big factor when it comes to maximizing your gas mileage.


(For more about the Challenge, see our story.)

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Aug 272009
 

By Harriet Blake
Green Right Now

The Cash for Clunkers program, which ended this week, may have been more environmentally friendly than originally thought. The concern among environmentalists was that by tossing away old cars and buying news ones, the program encouraged a throw-away society mentality — something Americans are often accused of.

The Sierra Club, says the organization’s policy analyst Jesse Prentice-Dunn, initially had concerns that the bill was weak.

“Now, looking at the final stats,” he says, “consumers did buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. One thing that was very encouraging, was that more than 84 percent traded in trucks and other gas guzzlers; and 59 percent purchased cars.”

They may not have purchased hybrids, says Prentice-Dunn — the Prius was No. 7 on the list of cars purchased. However, the fact that they bought more fuel-efficient cars was important. The Sierra Club, he says, was encouraged by consumers’ choices.

The Cash for Clunkers program made a point, says Prentice-Dunn. “It’s time for national discussion on fuel economy. [The program] helped move us forward on curbing global warming.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation said that under the CARS program — in which consumers traded in outdated vehicles for cash rebates on new car purchases — dealers submitted 690,114 sales totaling $2.88 billion, just shy of the plan’s $3 billion budget.

The biggest industry beneficiaries were Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan, which accounted for 41 percent of the new vehicle sales, according to the Associated Press.

That outpaced Detroit automakers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which had a share of nearly 39 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. led the industry with 19.4 percent of new sales, followed by General Motors Co. with 17.6 percent and Ford Motor Co. with 14.4 percent, the AP reported.

The Toyota Corolla was the most popular new vehicle purchased under the program. The Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Ford Focus held the next three top spots. All four are built in the United States.

“This program has been a lifeline to the automobile industry, jump-starting a major sector of the economy and putting people back to work,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “At the same time, we’ve been able to take old, polluting cars off the road and help consumers purchase fuel efficient vehicles.”

The Cash for Clunkers program, as the Sierra Club’s website points out, put the consumer in the driver’s seat to make the best choice. To help with this decision, the site provided readers with advice on making a selection as well as charts to help buyers calculate their savings.

President Barack Obama signed the Clunkers bill, officially named the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Program, in June. The progam was wildly embraced by consumers when it began in July, and ran out of money in just one week. A second infusion of cash put it back in business in August.

Under the program owners of gas-guzzling cars could trade them in for a $3,500 to $4,500 voucher toward a new and more energy-efficient car. The gas guzzlers had to meet certain age requirements and get 18 miles or less to the gallon.

NPR reported on the program’s merits in a broadcast earlier this week, stating that questions still remain about the program’s effect on the environment. The broadcast quoted Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law, as saying the program was wonderful for the economy, but had only a “middling success for greenhouse gas emissions.” In order to make a large impact, says Gerrard, the government should have demanded a greater mileage differential between the required difference in mileage for old and new vehicles.

Prentice Dunn says he agrees that there should have been more stringent fuel economy considerations in the original CARS legislation. “The Sierra Club endorsed competing proposals in both the House and Senate,” he says. “However, over the duration of the Cash for Clunkers program, we’ve seen that consumers have valued fuel economy and indeed traded in clunkers in favor of more efficient vehicles. Would this be the first policy to turn to in an effort to solve climate change? No. However, because of consumer’s decisions, this program has stimulated auto sales, taken gas-guzzling SUVs off the road and replaced them with more efficient cars and importantly, put the benefits of efficient vehicles and reducing oil dependence and global warmings in water cooler and kitchen table conversations across the country.”

Rae Tyson with the US DOT believes the program was a win-win situation. “You get vehicles off the road that use more fuel and at the same time you send the old ones to salvage yards that can recycle the car parts.”

“The engine is destroyed,” says Tyson, “but then we give salvage yards time to recycle as much of the vehicle as possible. Aluminum, for instance, may end up as the metal of a soft drink can. The only parts that can’t be recycled are shredded and crushed. “The vehicle’s end products do not end up in the landfill, says Tyson.

The Sierra Club’s Prentice-Dunn notes that the law is clear. “The car dealers have to show proof that they have disabled the engines — [the part of the vehicle] which has us addicted to oil. Then car dealers have 180 days to recycle the parts, remove mercury and sell the rest as scrap.”

Prentice-Dunn says he’s impressed with  the Department of Transportation, which “has had to do the bulk of the heaving lifting in a short time frame” to put Cash for Clunkers into effect.

Irwin Dawid, a member of the Sierra Club’s California Air Quality Committee, acknowledges that while some environmentalists dismissed the program because of its lack of improvements on vehicle efficiency, the program did succeed on two levels.

“Not only did the motorist purchase a more efficient vehicle, but guzzlers were literally being scrapped. While many parts can be pulled for resale, the engine and the drive train go to the shredder, along with the rest of the clunker that is recycled. More importantly, from an air quality perspective, the gains are more substantial than the energy savings as new vehicles, including SUVs and trucks, are far cleaner than older models because of the advanced emission technology.”

Perhaps Cash for Clunkers was not green enough for everyone. Yet it did bring fuel economy to the forefront of a needed national conversation.

Copyright © 2009 | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Jul 082009
 

By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

Desperate automobile dealers are slashing sticker prices, passing on rebates and offering zero percent financing to move metal, making this a good time to buy a new car. And the good times are about to get better thanks to the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program kicking off later this month.

The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) signed into law last month is designed to help car makers and the environment by providing vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new vehicle in exchange for a gas-guzzling clunker. The program essentially inflates the trade-in value of older cars and trucks, providing drivers an incentive to go ahead and buy a new, more fuel-efficient rig right now.

Add the CARS voucher to existing tax credits and the generosity of Uncle Sam goes a long ways to paying for a new hybrid or clean-burning diesel vehicle.

Uncle Sam’s definition of a clunker is pretty specific, however. To qualify for a voucher your car must:

  • have been manufactured in 1984 or later;
  • have a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less;
  • be drivable;
  • be owned and insured by you for at least a year.

The new vehicle can’t cost more than $45,000. If the car gets at least 22 mpg (combined city and highway mpg) the voucher is worth $3,500. If the new car gets 10 mpg better than the clunker you’re trading in the voucher is worth $4,500.

The bar is lower for new SUVs, vans and light-duty pickup trucks. The program offers $3,500 if the new vehicle gets at least 18 mpg combined and that is 2 mpg better than the old SUV, van or pickup. If the new vehicle gets 5 mpg better than the old, the voucher is $4,500.

The government voucher is paid directly to the dealer – your old car will be crushed.

The voucher is your down payment, so the program is useful to you only if the trade-in value of your vehicle is less than that of the voucher. Automobile shopping websites such as Edmonds and Kelly Blue Book have compiled lists of clunkers that are likely good candidates for the program.

The math is pretty simple when it comes to gauging the program’s benefits for car buyers. It’s less so when trying to estimate the environmental benefits.

“The fuel economy requirements are so lax in the final version that it’s hard to say with confidence that there will be net environmental benefits,” said Therese Langer, Transportation Program Director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.


May 192009
 

From Green Right Now Reports

How do cars pollute? In two main ways, through inefficient mileage (guzzling a gallon of gas every eight or 10 or 14 miles) and through tailpipe emissions.

There’s the pollution associated with manufacturing, also, but to keep it simple let’s stick with emissions and mileage. Obviously, both affect the air. Think of mileage as a measure of your car’s pollution volume over time – if a gallon of gas doesn’t take you very far, you have to burn a lot more gas — and emissions as the chemistry of that pollution; if the mix is particularly noxious, your car will be a bigger offender than one with better tailpipe controls.

So if you want to buy the cleanest car you can — in the price range you need — you’ll look at both factors. Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already done this work, assigning a  “greenhouse gas” score to most models. Find it at the EPA’s Green Vehicles website.

The EPA’s “greenhouse gas” score considers how much a vehicle contributes to global warming via its full lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO2), and hydroflurocarbons (HFCs). The rating is mainly a function of a car’s gas mileage, but the analysis also looks at the fuel a car uses (gasoline, natural gas, diesel, ethanol) to factor in emissions.

Cars are given a score between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest (the Prius solos at this rating) and 5 being not so hot (the Lincoln Town Car) and 3 (the GMC Sierra 15 gasoline model) being about as low as it goes. (The Sierra 15 jumps to a 6 on ethanol though.)

At the same site, the EPA chart also breaks out a column that considers just regulated tailpipe emissions — which doesn’t capture all the greenhouse gases and considers some outputs that aren’t greenhouse gases — giving each model an “air pollution score” as well. A diesel, say, might not score as well on this scale as it would on the greenhouse gas scale.

Interested in seeing just the EPA’s gas mileage ratings? Look to fueleconomy.gov, courtesy of the Department of Energy.


May 062009
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

When Rachel Ray chooses a saute pan, cooks take note.

So American car shoppers, here’s the equivalent: Sokolis Group, a fuel management and consulting company, has selected the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid to be its company car.

Sokolis, which advises building and trucking companies and even AAA on how to conserve on fuel costs, chose the Fusion because it is “the best car in its class,” said Glen Sokolis, president of the company, based in Warrington, Penn.

And, as a bonus, the new hybrid-version Fusion’s American made. (By the American company that seems least wobbly.)

“We feel that by getting behind Ford’s great American name and great car, we’re presenting our own little stimulus package to help the American economy,” Sokolis said in a press release on the subject.

Sokolis Group provides “outsourced fuel management services to businesses large and small across the country that need help buying and managing their fuel costs.”

The Ford Fusion hybrid, reportedly rated at 41 mpg, which Sokolis noted is “the highest fuel economy of any midsize sedan.”

“That’s more than 700 miles on a tank of gas-and it can run on E85 ethanol as well as regular gasoline.”

Ford spokesman Bob Cyran noted that the Fusion was doing well among Ford’s line up even before the 2010 Fusion Hybrid was formulated and that it has received strong reviews from Car and Driver, which rated it ahead of the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Nissan Altima Hybrid and the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid.

“To have a fuel efficiency expert choose the Fusion hybrid is further confirmation of its attributes,” he added.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Jan 212009
 

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

Last summer, we reported on an effort by professors at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business to get the world to change the way it thinks about automotive fuel efficiency: Ranking cars in terms of miles per gallon, they explained, is much less helpful when it comes to making green choices than ranking the gallons required to drive a set number of miles.

At the time, professors Richard Larrick and Jack Soll were wishing automakers would start adding this rating to the vehicle stats on every car model they sell. Unsurprisingly, that hasn’t happened — so the scholars have taken matters into their own hands, developing an online tool set to help car shoppers do that work on their own.

The site offers three approaches to “gallons per mile” evaluation. Users can a) see a list of all new 2009 car models, ranked against each other, b) pick two, three, or four models and compare their efficiency side-by-side, or c) input a miles-per-gallon figure themselves. The last option might be the most useful, allowing owners to get a read on the cars they already drive (or might buy used), no matter how old they are.

While the logical basis for moving from MPG to GPM can be tricky to explain in a sentence or two — see this blog entitled “The Miles Per Gallon Illusion” for an in-depth but layman-friendly introduction — the researchers give their online calculator an easy hook by emphasizing the dollars involved in each efficiency leap. It may be hard to gauge how big a deal a certain amount of carbon emissions represents, they effectively say, but everybody can appreciate saving $1,200 in gas a year.

“This kind of calculator is exactly what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Consumer Reports needs to adopt to help people think straight about fuel efficiency,” says Richard Larrick, who surely knows it would take an act of Congress (literally) to make automakers themselves post such data on window stickers.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Oct 092008
 

By John DeFore

Image courtesy of Temple University

While automakers and garage-based inventors work on replacing the car as we know it, a scientist at Temple University claims to have found a way of squeezing more out of the ones we already own with a process tongue-twistingly dubbed electrorheology.

A team led by professor Rongjia Tao implemented the principle for a small device that creates a strong electric field to make auto fuel less viscous; that allows much smaller fuel droplets to be injected into the engine for combustion. As the authors explain in the introduction to their paper: “Because combustion starts at the interface between fuel and air and most harmful emissions are coming from incomplete burning, reducing the size of fuel droplets would increase the total surface area to start burning, leading to a cleaner and more efficient engine.”

While other strategies exist for reducing the size of fuel droplets, the researchers say they don’t yet exist in forms usable in unmodified vehicles. Tao’s team’s innovation, on the other hand, “could be easily applied on current engines to improve their efficiency” — by up to an impressive 20% in a diesel-based experiment, according to this summary in Science Daily:

“Six months of road testing in a diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz automobile showed that the device increased highway fuel [economy] from 32 miles per gallon to 38 mpg, a 20 percent boost, and a 12-15 percent gain in city driving.”

While the device is still being modified and tested, Temple has already licensed the technology to California-based Save The World Air, Inc., which plans to use it in diesel trucks.

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Aug 252008
 

By John DeFore

Saturday marked the end of a tour hoping to convince Americans that hydrogen-fueled cars are not as far away from practicality as we might think.

The Hydrogen Road Tour ’08 was an explicit (if partial) answer to the lament “what does it matter if I can buy a hydrogen car, if I can’t get fuel for it?”: Starting in Portland, Maine and ending in Los Angeles, the varied cars in this caravan covered the continent while running entirely on hydrogen. Continue reading »