Toyota to Introduce $35k Hybrid Sports Car

So, if General Motors, Ford and the rest of the failing auto makers haven’t taken notice of Toyota and hybrid technologies, it seems like it’s about time.

It appears that Toyota is in the process of developing a new hybrid sports car in the mold of the Supra – a 400 horsepower car that will go from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds and will cost around $35,000.  Even with all that quickness, the engine will only be a V-6 and will utilize a 650-volt motor.

The car is scheduled to make its debut this January 7 at the North American International Auto Show.

From the looks of things, this car looks pretty sweet and the fact that it’s a hybrid will only add to its popularity.  If this car is able to actually make it to production, it appears that it will be the hybrid rival to the Tesla Roadster, the top of the line electric sports car.

It seems the only thing not cool about Toyota’s hybrid sports car is its name, which is currently FT-HS Sports Hybrid.

Either way, it looks like Toyota is really trying to up the ante regarding their hybrid cars and their practical capabilities.  With the race for “America’s Top Selling Car Company” currently neck and neck between Toyota and General Motors, this car and concept could finally be the thing that pushes Toyota over the top; making America’s best selling auto manufacture a non-American company.

Hybrid Cars Save Owners Plenty of Money

First off, I apologize for the obviousness of the title of this post, as I’m sure it didn’t give you any insight that you didn’t already have.

That being said, I came across an interesting article that spells out how a guy was able to “save” $3,000 by owning a Honda Insight as opposed to the car that he was going to buy.  I use the term “save” rather loosely because it’s not like the guy came out ahead in the transaction.  By his calculations, owning the Honda Insight cost roughly $10,000 to operate, while the car he would have purchased (a Mazda 626) would have cost him around $13,000 to operate.

Anyway, I do have another point to make besides the obvious one that hybrid cars will help you save some money.

For those of you who drive regular cars (that would be most of us) not all hope is lost.  By maximizing your car’s gas mileage, you, too, can save hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of your car.

By simply watching how fast you drive, taking it easy on the acceleration, getting all the extra weight out of your car and performing basic car maintenance, you can increase your vehicle’s gas mileage by up to 20%.  Depending on how much you drive, this could easily add up to a savings of several hundred dollars per year.

And, with gas prices rising over 5% in the past two weeks, now’s as good a time as any to get started.

Nearly 1 Out of 4 Hybrid Drivers Own an SUV, Too

According to an interesting article published in the latest issue of Newsweek Magazine, thanks to the dramatic fall of gas prices, sales of trucks and SUVs have recently begun to rise, while sales of hybrids have become a bit stale.

While this certainly is interesting news, it doesn’t compare to another statistic discovered by Newsweek: nearly 1 out of every 4 (24.2%) households that owned a hybrid car also owned an SUV.

This statistic just absolutely blew my mind.  One would assume that if you were environmentally friendly enough to own a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight, that would probably preclude you from owning a Ford Explorer or Chevy Suburban.  Apparently that’s not the case.

While I can understand the increase in sales of SUVs and small trucks, thanks to lower gas prices as well as unheard of manufacturer and dealer incentives, it still seems hard to fathom that hybrid sales are proportionately decreasing.  Considering up until recently there were long waiting lists for popular hybrid vehicles, it just doesn’t seem logical.

In regards to the one out of four hybrid owners also owning an SUV, this sounds to me like some people were buying hybrid cars just because it was the “in thing” to do, just like several years ago everyone had to own an SUV.

Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006 – Toyota

In returning to the “Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006” list, today we’ll check out Toyota.

Toyota has the distinction of having America’s best selling hybrid car in the Toyota Prius, with over 30,000 units sold in the first half of 2006.  In addition to the Prius, Toyota introduced the Highlander Hybrid, which between the two vehicles gave Toyota nearly 80% of all hybrid car sales in the United States.

Here are Toyota’s Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006:

  1. Toyota Prius (Automatic Transmission) – 60 City / 51 Highway – Compact Car
  2. Corolla (Manual Transmission) – 32 City / 41 Highway – Compact Car
  3. Matrix (Manual Transmission) – 30 City / 36 Highway – Compact Car
  4. Highlander Hybrid (Automatic Transmission) – 33 City / 28 Highway – SUV
  5. Camry (Automatic Transmission) – 24 City / 34 Highway – Sedan

Despite having a great 2006, it appears 2007 is going to be even better for Toyota as the company will be introducing two new fuel efficient cars.  The major addition will be Toyota’s third hybrid car, the Camry Hybrid, which will get 40 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.  The other addition will be the Toyota Yaris, which will get 34 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

It’s nice to see Toyota isn’t resting on the success of the Toyota Prius and is continuing to be at the forefront of hybrid technology.

Google’s Quest for the 100 MPG Car

Thanks to the philanthropic nature of Google’s two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, it appears a 100 mpg car may be available for purchase sooner rather than later.

According to a New York Times article, Google.org, the for-profit philanthropic arm of Google, Inc., has plans to develop “an ultra-fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid car engine that runs on ethanol, electricity and gasoline” with the ultimate goal of having the cars achieve 100 mpg.

The article then goes on to state:

“The philanthropy is consulting with hybrid-engine scientists and automakers, and has arranged for the purchase of a small fleet of cars with plans to convert the engines so that their gas mileage exceeds 100 miles per gallon.  The goal of the project is to reduce dependence on oil while alleviating the effects of global warming.”

The concept I find most interesting regarding the production of these vehicles is it doesn’t sound like these cars are going to be built from scratch, rather they are existing vehicles that are going to be augmented in order to achieve the desired gas mileage.

Because I’m a skeptic at heart, this leads me to ask the following question: If all they’re doing is messing around with existing vehicles, why haven’t car  manufacturers already mass produced vehicles that get 100 mpg?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that Google is willing to put forth a large amount of its own money in order to try and develop cars that get triple digit gas mileage, but to me it seems like this is either a pipe dream or car manufacturers have been holding out on us for a long time.

Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006 – Honda

Today I will take a look at Honda, the first foreign car manufacturer to be covered in “The Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006” series.

2006 was a great year for fuel efficiency at Honda, especially with the addition of its third hybrid car (the Accord Hybrid) to its already very gas thrifty fleet of vehicles.  It certainly appears that Honda was well ahead of the curve in producing so many gas friendly vehicles. 

Here are Honda’s Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006:

  1. Insight Hybrid (Manual Transmission) – 60 City / 66 Highway – Compact Car
  2. Civic Hybrid (Manual Transmission) – 49 City / 51 Highway – Compact Car
  3. Accord Hybrid (Automatic Transmission) – 25 City / 34 Highway – Mid-sized Sedan
  4. CR-V (Manual Transmission) – 23 City / 29 Highway – Compact SUV
  5. Odyssey (Automatic Transmission) – 20 City / 28 Highway – Mini-van

From everything I can tell, it doesn’t appear that Honda will introduce any new hybrid vehicles during 2007.  Considering, out of all the car manufacturers, Honda currently has the most variety among hybrid cars, it doesn’t appear they have to rush anything new to the market.

However, with Honda’s track record making very fuel friendly vehicles, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they introduce additional hybrid vehicles with more advanced technology.

Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles of 2006 – Ford

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to review the year that was for each of the major car manufacturers and show which of their 2006 models were the most fuel efficient vehicles.  I’ll also take a look at what 2007 and beyond has in store for each manufacturer as well.

First up is Ford, which has had a fiscal year that it would probably like to forget.  The one bright spot for Ford was the fact it was the first American car maker to introduce a widely produced hybrid vehicle in its Escape Hybrid.

Here are Ford’s Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient Models for 2006:

  1. Escape Hybrid – 36 City / 31 Highway – Compact SUV
  2. Focus (Manual Transmission) – 26 City / 34 Highway – Compact Car
  3. Fusion (Automatic Transmission) – 24 City / 32 Highway - Mid-size Sedan
  4. Escape (Manual Transmission) – 24 City / 29 Highway – Compact SUV
  5. Five Hundred – 21 City / 29 Highway – Sedan 

For 2007, it doesn’t appear that there will be much of a change in Ford’s fleet.  Unfortunately for the company, it seems it is a bit hamstrung by the fact its best selling vehicles are its F-Series trucks, so as long as they remain as the company’s top sellers, it’s going to be hard for Ford to migrate away from trucks.

However, with the relative success of the Escape Hybrid, I’m sure Ford is looking at whether or not it is feasible to bring hybrid technology over to heavy duty trucks.  It might be difficult, but if truck owners are willing to sacrifice power and torque, it may be possible.

As was the case in the 1970s and early 1980s, it appears foreign manufacturers have beaten their American counterparts to the punch in mass producing fuel efficient vehicles.  In order for these American car makers to regain market share, I believe they are going to have to create more vehicles with hybrid technology – especially considering gas is much more likely to return to $3 per gallon than it is to $1 per gallon.

Although, with Ford’s introduction of the Escape Hybrid, it appears that it may be ahead of the curve with respect to the other American manufacturers.

How to Get Hybrid Gas Mileage in Your Regular Car

It’s no secret that hybrid cars get better fuel economy than their “regular” counterparts.  Unfortunately, chances are you probably don’t own a hybrid car.  Thankfully, that doesn’t have to stop you from getting great gas mileage. 

Below are several things you can do to help your vehicle get hybrid like fuel economy without having to shell out the extra money for an actual hybrid car:

  1. Remove all excess weight from your vehicle.  The rule of thumb is for every extra 100 pounds you carry in your car, you reduce its fuel economy by 2%.  A good place to start is in the trunk of your car.  Do you really need to carry your golf clubs around all the time?
  2. Make sure your tires are properly inflated.  Again, the rule of thumb is driving with under inflated tires will reduce your fuel economy by 2%, on average.  You should try and check your tire pressure at least once per month.
  3. Watch your speed.  According to FuelEconomy.gov, for every 5 miles per hour you drive above 60 mph, you reduce your fuel economy by 6%.  That’s a pretty big incentive to just hang out in the right lane.
  4. Reduce the amount of time you are in idle.  Again, according to FuelEconomy.gov, your car wastes up to 17% of its fuel by simply being in idle.  Whether you turn the car off when you’re sitting at a long stop light, or park the car when you pick up something from a friend’s house, you need to find ways to reduce the amount of time your car sits in idle.
  5. Use moderate acceleration.  Rapid acceleration, coupled with accelerating in to stops (as opposed to coasting) can decrease your fuel economy by as much as 33%!  So, the next time the light turns green, don’t gun it.

It may seem unrealistic, using the above tips should help you increase your fuel economy by between 10 and 20%.  You may not be able to get the same fuel economy as an actual hybrid car, but following these items should get you pretty close. 

General Motors Unveils Plans for “Dual Hybrid” Technology

It looks like General Motors, America’s largest auto maker, has finally decided to get on board with hybrid technology and has announced that beginning in 2008 it will sell pickups and SUVs that will be 25% more fuel efficient than current models.

Granted, for most vehicles in their larger fleet, that will be raising the gas mileage from 18 mpg to 22.5 mpg, but I guess every little bit counts.

According to the referenced article, GM’s dual hybrid technology will consist of:

“Two electric motors, a V-8 engine that can work on only four cylinders, a really smart computer, and a four-speed transmission that joins them into one package.”

What makes this dual hybrid technology sound even more promising, is it appears it will help not only in “city driving” but at highway speeds as well.  The reason being is the “really smart computer” has the option to “chose from thousands of combinations of running on one electric motor, two electric motors, a combination of electric motors and the V-8 gasoline engine, or shutting down some of the V-8’s cylinders.”

Regardless of the outcome, it’s good to see that hybrid technology is begining to be integrated into larger vehicles, although it may only prove to be an attempt to stop a hemorrhage with a bandaid.

But, like I said, at this point every little bit helps.

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