New Lincoln Beats Lexus in Luxury Hybrid Car Battle

By John Addison (3/31/10)

Lincoln First Luxury to Better 40 mpg

The new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid will be the first luxury hybrid to beat 40 miles per gallon in city driving, topping the current luxury hybrid leader from Lexus. Last week I wrote about my test drive of the Lexus HS 250h which achieves 35 mpg city. I have been impressed with the smooth, quite drive of the Ford Fusion Hybrid with the same drive system to that of the new Lincoln, which is expected to get 39 mpg combined EPA rating compared to the Lexus 250h 35 mpg combined city and highway.

Hybrid cars are again popular now that oil prices have soared from a recent low of $32 per barrel to over $80 per barrel. In miles per gallon, the Ford Fusion Hybrid is #4 on the 2010 Clean Fleet Report Top 10 Hybrids. In 2011, we also expect the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to join the Fusion Hybrid on the list. The new 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is shown for the first time at the 2010 New York Auto Show. This first-ever hybrid for the Lincoln brand is expected to offer more passenger room and luxury features than the Lexus 250h Hybrid.

Part of Bigger Battle Between Ford and Toyota

Ford will use the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to try and take more market share from Toyota, this time in the luxury space. Ford outsold Toyota in February in the United States. Ford’s monthly sales of 140,319 vehicles were up 43 percent over February 2009, while Toyota sales dropped 9 percent to 100,027 vehicles. Part of Ford’s success is that its hybrids are taking on Toyota’s. Ford’s growing success comes at a time when Toyota, including Lexus, is recalling millions of vehicles, and suspending sales of key models, due to accelerator pedal problems. More customers now feel safer in a Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln than in a Toyota or Lexus.

Taking business from Lexus, however, will not be a slam-dunk. The Lexus hybrid has a starting MSRP price of around $34,200, the same MSRP as a non-hybrid Lincoln MKZ. The Fusion hybrid has about an $8,000 premium over the non-hybrid. Ford has yet to announce MKZ Hybrid pricing; it will go on sale this fall. The Lexus hybrid comes standard with a moonroof; with a Lincoln MKZ you pay extra. Buyers are likely to test drive both and compare prices when a number of premium features are included.

The new premium midsize sedan hybrid joins Ford Motor Company’s growing lineup of hybrids, including the Ford Fusion Hybrid – 2010 North American Car of the Year – plus the Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Milan and Mariner Hybrids.

Introduction of the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid also complements Ford’s aggressive global electrification plan. Ford is introducing five new electrified vehicles by 2013. They include the Transit Connect Electric, already being ordered by fleets such as AT&T, the Focus Electric in 2011, a next-generation hybrid electric vehicle and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in 2012, followed by another next-generation hybrid electric vehicle in 2013.

The 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid uses Ford’s second-generation hybrid technology – the 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 hybrid engine, named one of Ward’s 2010 “10 Best Engines” and electric battery-driven motors to deliver optimal performance and fuel economy. The combined gasoline engine and electric motor provide 191 net horsepower.

The pure electric mode on the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid extends to 47 mph – compared with the Lexus HS 250h electric-only mode which reaches just 25 mph. In my test drive of the Fusion Hybrid, also speced to 47 mph in electric mode, I was unable to stay in battery-electric mode at close to 47 mph, possibly because I was enjoying the ride along the Monterey coastline. During my Lexus 250h Hybrid test drive, I was unable to keep the Lexus in electric-only mode, because I had touched the Power button to accelerate on a race track.

If you are looking for a luxury car with performance, creature comforts, and a luxurious ride, check out both the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and the Lexus HS250h. You will be impressed with both. Let the competition begin.

2010 Top 10 Hybrid Car Report

Nissan LEAF Electric Car will start at $32,780 including the Lithium Battery

Nissan LEAF Electric Car will start at $32,780 including the Lithium Battery

(March 30, 2010)

Sale, Lease and Reservation Details for the Nissan EV

Nissan announced U.S. pricing for the 2011 Nissan LEAF electric car, which becomes available for purchase or lease at Nissan dealers in select markets in December and nationwide in 2011. Nissan will begin taking consumer reservations for the Nissan LEAF April 20, months ahead of other electric cars in this price range.

Including the $7,500 federal tax credit for which the Nissan LEAF  will be fully eligible, the consumer’s after-tax net value of the vehicle will be $25,280. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF is $32,780, which includes three years of roadside assistance. Additionally, there is an array of state and local incentives that may further defray the costs and increase the benefits of owning and charging a Nissan LEAF – such as a $5,000 statewide tax rebate in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon; and carpool-lane access in some states, including California.

As a result of aggressive pricing and the availability of the $7,500 federal tax credit whose benefit is immediately included, Nissan will be able to offer a monthly lease payment beginning at $349, not including state or local incentives, which could further reduce the net cost of the Nissan LEAF.

The vehicle at the standard SV trim level is well-equipped with a variety of standard features, including an advanced navigation system and Internet/smart phone connectivity to the vehicle, including pre-heat/pre-cool and charging control. Nissan LEAF is equipped with energy-efficient LED headlights and makes extensive use of recycled and recyclable materials, such as seat fabric, instrument panel materials, and front- and rear-bumper fascias. Other standard amenities include Bluetooth connectivity; Intelligent-key with push button start; Sirius/XM satellite radio capabilities and roadside assistance. Safety features include vehicle dynamic control (stability control), traction control and six airbags. The SL trim level, available for an additional $940 (MSRP), adds features including rearview monitor, solar panel spoiler, fog lights, and automatic headlights.

Reservations on April 20

In order to ensure a one-stop-shop customer experience, Nissan is carefully managing the purchase process from the first step, when consumers sign up on NissanUSA.com, until the customer takes the Nissan LEAF home and plugs it into a personal charging dock.

■Nissan begins accepting reservations on April 20 first from people who have signed up on NissanUSA.com, and, after a brief introductory period, to all interested consumers.

■Consumers will be required to pay a $99 reservation fee, which is fully refundable.

■Reserving a Nissan LEAF ensures consumers a place in line when Nissan begins taking firm orders in August, as well as access to special, upcoming Nissan LEAF events.

■Rollout to select markets begins in December, with nationwide availability in 2011.

Charging Equipment

In tandem with the purchase process, Nissan will offer personal charging docks, which operate on a 220-volt supply, as well as their installation. Nissan is providing these home-charging stations, which will be built and installed by AeroVironment, as part of a one-stop-shop process that includes a home assessment.

■The average cost for the charging dock plus installation will be $2,200.

■Charging dock and installation are eligible for a 50 percent federal tax credit up to $2,000.

■Using current national electricity averages, Nissan LEAF will cost less than $3 to “fill up.”

■Nissan LEAF also will be the sole vehicle available as part of The EV Project, which is led by EV infrastructure provider eTec, a division of ECOtality, and will provide free home-charging stations and installation for up to 4,700 Nissan LEAF owners in those markets.

This major announcement gives Nissan a lead over Toyota, General Motors, Ford and others that will also be offering electric cars. Top 10 Electric Car Makers 2011 U.S. Offerings

Lexus HS 250h – Test Driving a Hybrid Car

Lexus HS 250h – Test Driving a Hybrid Car

By John Addison (3/26/10)
Since Toyota and Lexus have been getting some bad press for acceleration and braking problems, I had to discover the truth. I put on my helmut and accelerated the Lexus HS 250h on to the track at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The production of this premium hybrid had been temporarily halted during the big recall. The Lexus hybrid basically uses the same regen braking system as the Prius and Camry Hybrid.

The Lexus hybrid has four modes – Eco, Normal, EV, and Power. If you are into Eco or if you’re Normal, don’t get on a racetrack with thirty other auto journalists in Viper Coupes, Audi and BMW turbodiesels, Mercedes AMGs, Corvettes, and Mustang Shelby GT500s. Don’t get on a track where the drivers are loaded with caffeine and pumped with adrenaline. If you’re normal, don’t go on a racetrack. Being not quite normal, I touched the Power button.

The Lexus hybrid has plenty of acceleration. As I approach the Andretti Hairpin, I hit the brakes. OK Toyota and Lexus, acceleration and braking work fine. Going through the 180-degree hairpin the hybrid handles well. Smooth, tight, no skidding. As I approach Turn 3, I’ve got to remember what the driving instructor told me: stay to the left, start the sharp turn at the last second, and accelerate through the turn. It worked!

Now I get enough straightaway to accelerate. The Lexus HS 250h picks-up speed well. It is rated 0 to 60 in 8.4 seconds. Using a two-motor hybrid system, the HS 250h uses a 141 hp drive motor that combines with the 147 hp gas engine. Of course, a couple of the adrenaline-pumped guys in their 400 hp race cars pass me. It’s not really the fault of the Lexus; it’s more that I’m thinking how I’d like to survive the next 90-degree turn. I promised my wife that I’d be home for dinner, as opposed to spending the night in the Monterey hospital.

The Lexus hybrid continues to perform well as I accelerate through tight turns. The brakes also work well as I hit them approaching the Corkscrew, a malicious turn that at the peak of a hill takes you 70-degrees left sharply downhill, and then adds more turns. As I enter the Corkscrew, what scares me is that all I can see is the sky. I turn left, aim for the scrawny oak, going downhill I can finally see the road, and complete the turn. I accelerate a little through the next turn and set-up the sequence of turns where the instructor told me that I will not need to brake again. Right. I brake and take the Rainey Curve, then accelerate. I release my death grip on the wheel.

After three laps around the track, each lap with 11 turns including the Corkscrew, I bring the Lexus HS 250h into the pits. Its handling was impressive, the hybrid had all the acceleration that I would want in getting on a freeway, or in passing a slow truck on a two-lane road, and the brakes definitely work.

Luxury car buyers now longer need to sacrifice mileage. The Lexus HS250h gives you the image of success, luxury features, and a hybrid that delivers 35 miles per gallon. Only four other hybrids offer better fuel economy. You will notice premium appointments in the leather trim, one-touch moonroof, and a rich sound system. The base model starts at $34,200. The model I drove had a navigation system, luxury leather and walnut trim interior, sports suspension and 18 inch wheels. It cost $39,993.

If you can afford a Lexus, then you can afford $3,900 for an added safety technology package is available that includes a pre-collision system, parking assist, wide-view front monitor, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. If you care about safety, touch the Eco button, enjoy the ride, and stay off racetracks with hairpin and corkscrew turns.

2010 Lexus HS 250h Premium Hybrid Car with Best MPG

2010 Lexus HS 250h Premium Hybrid Car with Best MPG

By John Addison (updated 3/31/10; original 3/26/10)

Summary

Luxury car buyers now longer need to sacrifice mileage. The Lexus HS250h gives you the image of success, luxury features, and a hybrid that delivers 35 miles per gallon. Only four other hybrids offer better fuel economy, none with what Lexus bills as a luxury car. You will notice premium appointments in the leather trim, one-touch moonroof, and the quiet ride resulting from added noise insulation. Basically this compact premium 4-door sedan uses the Camry drive system, but seats 5 with more luxury appointments than available in a Camry or Prius. Use half the gas of many luxury cars. This new Lexus was designed to exclusively be a hybrid; there is no 250 non-hybrid.

Mileage & Carbon Footprint

  • 35 miles per gallon (mpg) overall
  • 34 mpg highway
  • 35 mpg city
  • 5.3 tons CO2e carbon emissions per year

Price

  • $34,200 starting
  • $45,000 if loaded with entertainment, navigation, luxury touring package, and safety technology

Hybrid Drive System

Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive engages an electric motor, a gasoline engine, or both to keep you moving with front-wheel drive. The Lexus 250 hybrid incorporates a drive-mode switch that allows the driver to select between four modes: Normal, Power, Eco and EV. Most of the time, you will probably want to be in Eco mode to save gas yet have performance. Touch Power for freeway acceleration or passing a slow truck on a two-lane road. EV mode will let you travel a short distance in silence with only the electric motor engaged, receiving electricity from the NiMH battery pack. Most of the time, both electric motor and the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine are working together to improve fuel efficiency. In this automatic, acceleration is smoothly managed by the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). Using a two-motor hybrid system, the HS 250h uses a 141 hp drive motor that combines with the 147 hp gas engine. A second motor in the hybrid system serves as both engine starter and generator to charge the hybrid battery pack.

Green Features

The greenest feature is the hybrid drive system that delivers 35 mpg. The 2010 Lexus HS 250h lets you touch a button to select the EV Mode to run in electric-only mode for less than 1 mile if the battery is fully charged or ECO Mode to drive with the best fuel economy over a distance. Added fuel savings involves an Exhaust Heat Recovery System that captures the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed engine coolant warm-up and allow the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, giving this Lexus better fuel economy in the city than on the highway. Overall, the system can improve fuel efficiency by as much as seven percent in low ambient temperatures.

Although the Lexus HS 250h looks like a conventional sedan, it saves fuel by being aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of .27, close to the .25 of the Prius. To be more eco-friendly, bioplastic from plant sources is the raw material for parts of the interior upholstery, injection-molded, foam and board components including trunk compartment trim, cowl side trim, door scuff plates, seat cushions and the package tray. Overall, approximately 30 percent of the combined interior and trunk are covered in bioplastic.

Space

As a compact you get good handling and performance, but this compact four-door sedan is a bit snug, especially in the back seat. The Lexus HS250h provides 90 cubic feet of space for up to 5 people, and 12 cubic feet of trunk space.

Safety

After selling 18,000 of these Lexus hybrids, production was temporarily stopped during the Toyota recall.  This Lexus uses the Prius regen brake system. During my drive the brakes worked fine. The Lexus HS250h uses the Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB2) system with regenerative control and incorporating Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

For $3,900 an added safety technology package is available that includes a pre-collision system, parking assist, wide-view front monitor, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. This safety technology package requires the optional $2,125 Navigation System includes a GPS navigation with realtime traffic feeds and voice recognition. An optional $350 backup monitor is available.

The Lexus HS 250h achieved almost all 5-stars in the U.S. NHTSA crash tests, with 5-stars for frontal driver, side driver, frontal passenger, and rear passenger; 4-stars for roll-over. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Lexus HS250h its best rating for front crash test. Other IIHS tests have not been conducted on this new car.

Future

At this March 2010 New York International Auto Show, Lexus is showing off the Lexus CT 200h sportback hybrid. You may be able to place your order in early 2011. This is another hybrid-only Lexus offering. Fuel economy may be better than the 250h, because the 200h uses a smaller 1.8L engine, the same size as the Prius. “The CT 200h is expected to lead the class in fuel economy and deliver low emissions, but the CT 200h isn’t just about being a hybrid, it’s about having fun,” said Mark Templin, Lexus division group vice president and general manager. In future years, plug-in hybrid Lexus models are likely to be introduced. Lexus, a Division of Toyota, could easily incorporate the drive system of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

Other Cars to Investigate

Lexus RX 450h is a premium hybrid SUV with room for 5 people and much more cargo room than the 250h sedan, but starts at over $42,000. For a powerful SUV, it still conserves with 30 mpg and 6.1 tons of CO2e. Unlike the Lexus HS 250 hybrid, the SUV has an AWD option.

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is a smooth riding traditional 4-door midsized sedan that is made in America. It offers more room than the Lexus HS250h, easily seats 5, better fuel economy at 41 mpg city, 39 mpg combined, a number of safety features, premium options, but is likely to price $7,000 to $10,000 more than the Lexus hybrid when orders can be placed in the fall of 2010. Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid has essentially the same hybrid drive system as the Lexus HS 250h and about the same mileage. The Camry has 101 cubic feet of passenger space making it a midsize, bigger than 90 cubic feet for the compact Lexus hybrid. The Camry hybrid also offers a 40/60 drop down rear seat for expanded cargo. The Camry Hybrid prices about $8,000 less than the Lexus HS 250h.

Clean Fleet Report 2010 Top 10 Hybrids

China Invested $88 billion in High Speed Rail in 2009

China Invested $88 billion in High Speed Rail in 2009

Bombardier China HSRClean Edge’s 2010 Clean Energy Trends forecasts growth for high-speed rail and renewables

Clean Edge included high-speed rail (HSR) for the first time in its annual Clean Energy Trends report which tracks key developments in clean-energy markets. China is leading the surge in HSR according to Clean Edge:

China’s Ministry of Railways spent $88 billion on HSR projects in 2009 – part of an existing $300 billion plan to expand and connect all of the country’s major cities with a projected 10,000 miles of dedicated HSR lines by 2020.

There will be more high-speed rail added in China over the next five years than the rest of the world combined, says Keith Dierkx, director of IBM’s Global Rail Innovation Center in Beijing. Global HSR manufacturers like Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Alstom, GE Transportation, Siemens, and others have formed joint ventures or partnerships in China. A Canadian-Chinese joint venture, Bombardier Sifang, recently won $4 billion from the Chinese government to manufacture up to 80 high-speed trains. These same companies are developing opportunities in other emerging countries like Brazil, Russia and South Korea.

HSR’s main development challenge is its high price tag. The 800-mile Beijing-to-Shanghai line will cost an estimated $32 billion – in the same cost ballpark as the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric project.

Maglev potential projects in Japan, China, and the United States are also discussed in the Clean Energy Trends.

A United States 17,000 mile high-speed rail system is envisioned. With 30 states committed to renewable energy growth, electric HSR will help the nation be less dependent on oil. Clean Fleet Report forecasts that high-speed rail ridership will exceed one billion within three years, from over 600 million today. Clean Fleet Reports about U.S. High-Speed Rail.

China Also Leads in Renewables Growth

“Despite severe economic conditions, clean-energy markets were able to hold their momentum in 2009 as many regional and federal governments and private corporations focused on clean-energy investments as a way to pull out of the global economic tailspin,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director. “From the smart grid and energy efficiency to renewable energy generation and advanced battery storage, clean tech continues to be a major driver of regional job growth, economic recovery, and technological competitiveness.”

China is expected to lead RE growth. China could end up spending $440 billion to $660 billion toward its clean-energy build out over the next ten years, according to estimates discussed in the Clean Energy Trends. The report’s key findings include:

Wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to expand from $63.5 billion in 2009 to $114.5 billion in 2019. Last year’s global wind power installations reached a record 37,500 MW. China, the first-time global leader in new installations, accounted for more than a third of new installations, with 13,000 MW.

Solar PV will grow from a $30.7 billion industry in 2009 to $98.9 billion by 2019. New installations reached almost 6 GW worldwide in 2009, a nearly sixfold increase from five years earlier. But because of rapidly declining solar PV prices, industry revenue in 2009 fell about 20 percent, from $38.5 billion in 2008. Utility scale PV is expected including a 2GW plant in China using First Solar.

The global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel reached $44.9 billion in 2009 and is projected to grow to $112.5 billion by 2019. In 2009, the biofuel market consisted of more than 23.6 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel production worldwide.

Clean Edge is the world’s first research and publishing firm devoted to the clean-tech sector. The company offers insight and intelligence on emerging clean-tech trends, opportunities, and challenges for a range of clients, including companies, investors, governments, and nonprofits. The company publishes the annual Clean Energy Trends and Clean Tech Job Trends reports; produces the annual Clean-Tech Investor Summit (in partnership with IBF); maintains a number of benchmark clean-tech stock indexes with NASDAQ OMX including CELS, QGRD, and QWND. The annual Clean Energy Trends report, now in its ninth year, can be downloaded for free.