Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Closer Look at the Toyota Prius C

Toyota's Prius is a hybrid electric vehicle, the best-known name and best-selling vehicle in this category. For more than a decade the Prius has soldiered on, delivering exceptional fuel efficiency for a good price. Beginning in 2011, Toyota started to expand the Prius' line, by bringing to the market more models including a wagon, a plug-in electric model and now a subcompact Prius. That subcompact is called the Prius c, with the "c" standing for city. Prices start under $19,000, making this vehicle one of the most affordable hybrid vehicles on the market.

Engine and Transmission

The Toyota Prius c is powered by a 1.5-liter four cylinder engine. This 16-valve all-aluminum motor comes with variable valve timing and produces 73 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 82 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. With its hybrid system this vehicle produces 99 horsepower.

Toyota pairs the Prius c engine with a continuously variable transmission. This engine has a high 13.4 to 1 compression ratio and measures 2.95 inches bore by 3.33 inches stroke.

Fuel Economy

One of the largest appeals for Prius c shoppers is its excellent fuel efficiency. Around town this vehicle gets 53 mpg. On the highway it returns 46 mpg. Combined, the Prius c gets 50 mpg. With its 9.5-gallon fuel tank the Prius c has a cruising range of approximately 475 miles. This model derives its energy from gasoline and its battery pack. When fueled, this subcompact model takes regular grade gasoline.

Prius c Dimensions

The Prius c weighs just 2,500 pounds and seats five people. Its weight is all the more remarkable given that it also houses a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. This vehicle has 87.4 cubic feet of passenger volume and 17.1 cubic feet of cargo volume.

Sitting on a 100.4-inch wheelbase, the Prius c is 157.3 inches long, 66.7 inches wide and 56.9 inches tall. This model has 38.6 inches of front head room and 37.0 inches of rear head room. Shoulder room measures 52.3 inches in the front and 51.7 inches in the rear. Hip room comes in at 51.0 inches up front and 50.8 inches in the rear. Leg room measures 41.7 inches up front and 35.0 inches in the back seat.

Model Notables

Available in four trim levels, the Prius c offers many features standard. This model includes projector-beam halogen headlamps, color-keyed side mirrors with turn signal indicators, intermittent wipers and a spoiler. Inside, this model offers automatic climate control, an AM/FM CD player with MP3 playback capability, a telescoping steering wheel, power windows, a 12-volt auxiliary power outlet, map lamps and a rear cargo area lamp.

Available options or upgrades include a navigation system, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a power moonroof and power side mirrors. Various tire and wheel upgrades are also available.

The Prius C comes with nine airbags and is equipped with traction control, stability control, an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology. This vehicle includes a tire pressure monitoring system, child-protector rear door locks and daytime running lights.

Matthew C. Keegan is a freelance automotive writer. Matt is also a contributing writer for Andy's Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including Corbeau Seats and Tokico Shocks.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mitsubishi Mirage Offers Minicar Goodness

Automotive fans may recognize the Mitsubishi Mirage name, once ascribed to a compact car sold by this small, Japanese automotive manufacturer. We haven't seen the Mirage name in more than a decade, but Mitsubishi has dusted off the name and is using it for a new minicar that was launched in Thailand this spring. Although Mitsubishi says that the car will be sold in Canada, its plans for the U.S. market are not quite clear. We think the Mirage will eventually be sold stateside -- please read on for more information about this A-segment entry.

Minicar Competitor

What makes the Mirage a possible player in the small car segment? Firstly, that would be its size. This vehicle is just 146.1 inches long and 65.6 inches wide or a foot shorter than cars like the subcompact Ford Fiesta.

Secondly, cars in this class routinely sell for under $15,000, an affordable price point for most new car buyers. Car prices have been climbing steadily with the average price of a new car now approaching $30,000. With the low price tag, consumers don't have to choose between buying a late model used car and a new car. The Mirage brings affordability to many consumers including first-time car buyers. And with a new car warranty in play, buying new makes much more sense than buying used.

Mitsubishi is outfitting the Mirage with a pair of three-cylinder engines, displacing at 1.0- and 1.2-liters. The larger three will likely be sold in Canada and thus in the United States. This engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission. Expect that this model will sip gas and deliver fuel economy well above 40 mpg.

Body Style

The all-new Mitsubishi Mirage has four doors and a liftback. This car would compete in the relatively new A-segment, minicars that include the Smart Fortwo, Fiat 500, Scion iQ and the Chevrolet Spark. Sales in this segment are limited at this time, thus the hesitancy for Mitsubishi to introduce the Mirage to the U.S. market.

Automotive manufacturers are testing the market to see what cars will sell in what volumes. Perhaps the most important challenge to Mitsubishi as the company considers the Mirage is whether it can turn a profit. Another concern is promotion as the company is investing millions promoting other products including its Outlander SUV. Still, a Mitsubishi Mirage that is priced right and loaded with amenities such as air-conditioning, power windows, an audio system and telematics might appeal to a segment of the car-buying populace. That segment also includes city drivers, people that are likely to appreciate this car's small footprint that is just right for fitting into tight parking spaces.

Matthew C. Keegan is a freelance automotive writer. Matt is also a contributing writer for Andy's Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including K & N Intake and Corsa Exhaust.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Wireless Electric Car Charging Takes Off in London

In 2012, the matter of wireless charging of electric cars became a major talking point as technology companies took major steps to make it popular

Qualcomm and Charge master

Qualcomm, a mobile technology market leader has united with the London Mayor and UK government. They plan to release a set of wireless electric charging stations for trails in London. There will be 50 different variants of electric cars being used including some Addison Lee taxis. Qualcomm's wireless electric vehicle charging technology is also known as Inductive Power Transfer (IPT). Electric charging kits will be provided by Chargemaster, which will be installed around London.

A major benefit of wireless charging stations is the convenience factor. No longer will electric car drivers have to step out and connect wires to their cars. The technology clearly indicates a step forward within the electric car industry. Such innovation is sure to be heavily relied upon in the future, as electric cars become cheaper and cheaper as they more are purchased. In essence wireless charging stations will add more flexibility to owners. It may also lower car insurance premiums too, adding more security to the way electric vehicles are actually charged.

They are expected to into force in the near future according to both Chargemaster and Qualcomm. First the trails must prove to be successful. One potential hindrance of the technology is the length of time in which a battery needs to fully charge. Some sources believe that the charging points could take up to four hours to give enough power for a whole battery. Will people have enough time to wait around for four hours?

The trails will be costly and will involve the analysis of many factors in order to determine whether it is a success or not. Trails are not expected to be a direct hit or miss in many respects. Depending on how the technology is used, developers could redesign certain aspects or create new elements that add to the technology. Chargemaster have confirmed already that the important aspects of the technology are already in place.

If the trails were indeed a success, this would mean that many public charging points around the UK would have to be rebuilt in order to adapt. Current electric cars will also not be able to simply roll on and utilise the technology instantly but none of them possess the technology to adapt to the system yet. This is where car manufacturers themselves would need to invest and ensure that their vehicles are able to adapt to the charging stations. Their vehicles would somehow need to have the ability to be charged wirelessly.

It is unclear as to when the trails will begin and end as of yet. When they do commence there will be plenty of interest from the public. It may even entice motorists to purchase an electric car.

How it all works

Qualcomm's IPT system works in a complex way. A transmitter pad connects to the vehicle's electric battery via the receiver pad. The receiver and transmission pad must be 400mm apart. The transmitter is conveniently installed within the ground with the receiver pad installed into the base of the car, ensuring a connection can easily be established. This allows the driver to simply drive over the transmission pad in order for the electric battery charging to safely commence.

The system sounds complicated but is in actual fact very easy to use. Even the most non-technical users will have no trouble charging their car using this method.

Oliver Richmond is founder of Servicing Stop.Servicing Stop is one of leading BMW Service website in the UK.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fuel Efficient Cars

ByVince Sandri

It seems like every time we fill up at a gas station, the price of gas has jumped ten cents since the last fill up. It has become clear that gas prices will only rise which is why now more than ever, fuel efficiency has become a desirable trait in vehicles. While hybrids and electric cars have the best fuel efficiency, hybrids are more expensive and electric cars have distance limitations and need chargers. There are a handful of cars that run on gas only and achieve 40 miles per gallon or higher for under $20,000. Here are some of those vehicles.

The 2012 Chevy Cruze Eco tops the list with a fuel economy of 28 MPG city and 42 highway miles with a six-speed manual transmission. The Cruze Eco has a 1.4L, turbocharged Ecotec engine with 138 horsepower. The Cruze Eco also has the option of a six-speed, automatic transmission that has a fuel economy of 26 city and 37 highway MPG. Even though the Cruze Eco is considered a compact car, it has the spaciousness and features of a midsized sedan with ten standard airbags for added safety.

The Cruze Eco is not the only Chevrolet to achieve excellent fuel efficiency. The 2012 Chevy Sonic Eco has a fuel economy of 40 highway MPG. The Sonic Eco is Chevy's replacement for the Aveo and the only small car built in America. It is available as a sedan or five-door hatchback. The Sonic comes with a 1.4L, turbocharged engine that delivers 138 horsepower while achieving 40 MPG on the highway. The Sonic comes standard with ten airbags as well and has more cargo space than the Ford Fiesta.

The Ford Fiesta is Ford's competitor to the Chevy Sonic. The 2012 Ford Fiesta can achieve a fuel economy of 29 city and 40 highway MPG. The design of the Fiesta is based off of popular European designs and comes as a sedan or hatchback. The 1.6L four-cylinder engine gives the Fiesta 120 horsepower. The Ford Fiesta comes standard with seven airbags and traction and stability control as well as an SFE package that includes accessories like a rear spoiler, underbody shields, lower grille blockers, and low-rolling resistance tires for higher fuel efficiency.

The Honda Civic is annually a top fuel efficient pick and the 2012 Honda Civic is no exception. The 2012 Honda Civic has been redesigned for a more spacious interior with an improved engine. Civics are available in coupe or sedan styles with gas or hybrid powered engines. Gasoline powered Civics feature a 1.8L, four-cylinder engine that gets 140 horsepower and 29 city and 41 highway MPG when combined with a five-speed automatic transmission. The 2012 Honda Civics also have improved aerodynamics and reduced rolling resistance to maximize fuel efficiency.

So while there seems to be no relief in sight for gas prices, cars are becoming increasingly more fuel efficient. The most fuel efficient gas powered cars are also quite affordable ranging from 12 to 20,000 dollars. Switching to a more fuel efficient car is the best way to decrease fuel costs and protect yourself from rising gas prices.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alternative Fuels: Basics of Natural Gas (CNG) Car Conversions and Kits

The price of crude oil is getting higher and higher. This has a direct impact on our economy because higher oil prices mean costlier gasoline. For most Americans and their families, car fuel is one of the biggest expenses the pay and it can easily reach over $400 per month. Sure there are opportunities for mass transit, expensive new hybrids, and other alternative fuel vehicles. However, most of these are not practical for the vast majority of Americans. Most people just need the ability to control or reduce their transportation costs.

The US has been using Compressed Natural Gas aka "CNG" ("methane") in homes for decades. It burns very clean, is relatively inexpensive, and we source this fuel domestically in the USA. In fact, most countries in Europe and Asia have also been using CNG as an alternative fuel for vehicles for many years. Other countries use CNG "bi-fuel" engines (runs on either CNG or gasoline) in their cars and trucks. The US is now facing increased gasoline prices and drivers are searching for ways to avoid traditional fossil fuels. To make CNG even more attractive, natural gas prices are near record lows! Gasoline prices are over $4.00 per gallon and CNG less than half that price in most areas. The typical middle class driver can't afford to just sell his/her car and then buy a brand new NGV (natural gas vehicle) for $30,000 (not to mention the vehicle is probably a compact!). This is where the CNG car conversion kit becomes of interest.

CNG car conversion kits have been around for decades and the technology is very reliable. There are two main types of systems: 1) Sequential electronic fuel injection kit- usually the most efficient and technologically sound for OBDII vehicles (1996 and later car models), and 2) The "venturi" or "mixer" system which is cheaper, does not use a computer, and bypasses the injectors. There are also four basic components of the CNG car conversion kit:

1. The CNG cylinder (high pressure tank)

2. Regulator (reduces from high pressure to low pressure)

3. ECU (electronic control unit)

4. Injectors (for sequential fuel injection OBDII kits) or the mixer (for "venturi" or carburetor kits)

The CNG cylinder is typically the single most expensive component of the conversion system, and they are classified as type 1 through 4. Type 1 cylinders are made of heavy steel, and are the most common... mainly because they are most affordable. Type 2, 3, and 4 are composed of steel and/or carbon fiber. Typically, the higher the type, the lighter the weight and the more expensive the cylinder will be. A brand new type 1 CNG cylinder can reach as much as $1500 depending on the volume, while type 4 cylinders can be four or five times as much.

The regulator will bring the 3600 PSI high pressure gas down to a level your engine can utilize. Injectors will then spray the appropriate amount of CNG inside the manifold of your engine for ignition. This process is all controlled by the computer, or "ECU". The ECU will make sure CNG levels are accurate and safe for your engine. Too much CNG can burn your valves since CNG burns at about 120-130 octane. The ECU is connected to your vehicle's OBDII computer and calibrated by software (which will come with a good CNG conversion kit). Bi-fuel CNG conversion kits like this will allow the driver to operate on gasoline or CNG. The kit will have a small switch to install on your dash which will allow the driver to change fuel types even while the engine is running. Your original gasoline fuel system is not damaged in any way (if installed correctly). A benefit of bi-fuel CNG conversion kits is they allow the driver to utilize CNG while commuting or driving around town and CNG pumps are usually more convenient, but they also allow the driver to use traditional gasoline on longer road trips where CNG may not be available. The CNG infrastructure is growing each day, so if CNG is not convenient for you then it soon should be!

CNG conversion systems can cost anywhere from $1,000 up to several thousand dollars for newer EPA certified kits. This price does NOT include the cost of the cylinder. In a state like California, the CARB won't let you legally install anything but an expensive EPA certified kit. Further, you can only install the kits on certain vehicle and engine types.

A CNG conversion kit can be installed within four to eight hours on most vehicles. You should try to find a mechanic with CNG experience or at least use an ASE certified mechanic.

Not all CNG conversion kits are equal. Please be aware of exactly what your are buying. Also, your local government rules and regulations can be very confusing and maybe even restrictive to certain CNG components.

Brent Skipper


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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

AC Motors for Electric Cars

ByGil Norman

Electric cars have been around for a very long time now but the idea of driving one has never really caught on with the public until recently. The difference between an electric car motor and a hybrid is that electric cars are powered exclusively by electricity. Unlike a hybrid that uses a battery and motor to improve efficiency of its gasoline-fueled motor.

Batteries have improved over the years. The storage and cost of production of the batteries needed to power electric cars have always greatly changed. They are now more efficient, less expensive, and perform much longer than the outdated batteries of yesterday.

As you may be well aware, the motor is the heart of any vehicle. It is often the motor that is defining and sometimes limiting its performance. Electric cars can use either an AC or DC motor. Majority of the DC motors used in electric cars come from the electric forklift industry and may run from 96 to 192 volts.

If the electric vehicle is powered by an AC motor then the probability of it running 3 phase AC motor at 240 volts is high. It might also have its own 300 volt battery pack. DC motors are no doubt simpler and less expensive compared to its AC electric car motor counterpart. A typical DC motor will be around in the 20,000 watt - 30,000 watt range while a typical controller will be in the 40,000-watt to 60,000-watt range (for example, a 96-volt controller will deliver a maximum of 400 or 600 amps). The nice thing about DC motors is that you can overdrive them.

Now let us compare that to the AC electric car motor. An AC motor selection or AC controllers may require a matching motor and most of the AC motors that are being marketed for electronic vehicles may come with a controller. The controllers that come with it may often include a built-in charger and DC-DC converter.

The power AC inverter is the main part of the electrical system of the AC EV motor car, and its role is simple. It should effortlessly convert the battery energy to the form that is deemed usable for the AC motor, and to deliver the right amount of this energy per driver's demand.

AC installations allow you to use almost any kind of industrial three-phase AC motor. This is an advantage for you because that can mean that finding a motor with a specific size, power rating, and shape is so much easier to do. Another advantage of AC motors in electric cars is that most of them have a regen feature built into them. What that means is that when you hit the breaks or during breaking the AC EV motor in your vehicle turns into a generator and delivers power back into your batteries.

Other advantages when using or choosing the AC electric car motor are; electronic reverse, ability to adapt exact characteristics of the motor which also includes the throttle and brake potentiometers parameters, battery, and other hardware parameters via software, integrated components (main contactors and DC-DC converter), lack of brushes, high top RPM limit (about 10,000 for this motor), water cooling and high reliability.

more info about electric motors for cars including AC motors can be found in this website

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Monday, June 4, 2012

10 Good Reasons For Using Hydrogen For Cars

With today's fuel prices increasing at a fast rate and global warming a worldwide threat, many people are looking for ways to use less fuel. Hydrogen for cars is one way to reduce your fuel cost with hundreds of dollars every month, increase the engine's horsepower and torque, make your car's engine live longer with less costs. This fuel saver is also known as hydrogen Booster, hydrogen injection or even hydrogen additive technology, no matter what you call it, they all work very similar and is becoming very popular. Hydrogen for cars booster is a system that helps turn water into hydrogen to operate your car. This Hydrogen for cars is good news for many reasons.

Here are 10 reasons why Hydrogen for cars is good

It Helps save money on fuel and helps your gasoline burn more efficiently and increases your vehicle's gas mileage between 25% and 50%.
Increases engine performance and decrease emissions at the same time.
Helps improve efficiency of the fuel combustion, whether it be diesel or gasoline.
Works for cars, motorcycles, trucks-rigs and even motor-homes whether old or new.
It will help eliminate carbon deposits caused by unburned gasoline.
The Hydrogen for cars (HHO gas) changes the combustion cycle and makes it more even. It makes the engine more quiet and calm.
Hydrogen for cars will make your car a water hybrid and will save you on fuel cost.
Uses little electricity from your car battery to cause water to turn into HHO gas. This is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen also known as Brown Gas. It burns smoothly and releases a lot of energy. The result of this process is Water.
A small container filled with water is placed in the car, under the hood. The device is supplied with electricity (12 volts) from the battery and via electrolysis it produces HHO gas. The Hydrogen for cars is supplied to the engine via intake manifold or carb. The gas then helps your gasoline burn more efficiently. That added combustion of the hydrogen gives you more power, and ultimately requires less gasoline to run your engine, resulting, in better gas mileage.
It is very safe because the compustible gas is extracted on demand and burned steadily from the water.It is easy to set up and operate. It can be easily produced using a homemade generator with water and will increase your gas mileage.

Did you know that the HHO known as Browns Gas was discovered by William A. Rhodes in 1961 and patent in 1962. This means that it has been around for 50 decade. So why the big secret? If hydrogen for cars reduces your fuel cost with hundreds of dollars every month, increase the engine's horsepower and torque, make your car's engine live longer with less costs why not let everyone in on the good news. Simply put there are Big oil companies that don't want you to know that Hydrogen fuel is cheaper, safer and more powerful than any other existing fuel today.

Hopefully you know a little bit more about what hydrogen for cars is and how it works. What it is useful for and how it can help you.

If you want more information and are looking to build your own hydrogen for cars (HHO Booster) then check out this site:

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Infiniti LE Luxury Sedan Gives Green Car Manufacturers a Run For Their Money

Nissan is ahead of the game again with plans to release the first ever mass-marketed electric luxury sedan in 2014. The company's luxury division, Infiniti, unveiled the Infiniti LE model at the 2012 New York Auto Show. The car has many of the qualities of a high-end luxury vehicle, albeit with zero emissions and innovative green technology.

Sleek Aerodynamic Design

Infiniti designed the LE with the idea that "zero emission does not have to be small" in mind. The car is 186.4 inches long, a significant increase from the usual hatchback models on the market, and more in line with the company's G37 Sedan. The LE also features a sleek aerodynamic design, with flowing lines reminiscent of a Japanese kimono. The double arch-grille, rear pillar with a crescent cut, and blue LED lights flowing from front to back, are signature design elements that give the LE a much cleaner, more modern look than EV models from years past. Moreover, the aluminum alloy wheels, rear aero diffuser, and front, side, and rear spoilers ensure that this model will get the most out of every mile.

Advanced EV Power and Technology

The Infiniti LE will use a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery to power the electric motor that can run at 134 horsepower with 240 pounds feet of torque. Infiniti estimates that the vehicle will be able to get 100 miles of range. While this is a slight improvement over their earlier model, the Nissan Leaf, the innovative charging technology is really what shoots this car to the top of its game. The battery can be charged with a wireless charging port, which uses a charging pad in the garage to juice up the car. The charging pad uses inductive energy flow and a magnetic field to activate an electric current in the battery of the car. This makes charging convenient, cable-free, and safe. Alternatively, LE owners can use the quick charger, which can be plugged into the front grille of the car under the Infiniti emblem.

Luxury Features

Like all the vehicles in the Infiniti line, the main focus is on luxury, comfort, and convenience. The LE does not fail here, with a roomy interior featuring suede seats with mesh fabric covers and leather trim. The twin-screen display system will have Internet access, a navigation system, a feature that automatically pinpoints charging stations, Nissan's Intelligent Park Assist, and Infiniti's exclusive 24-hour Personal Assistant concierge service. In addition, drivers can program the twin display system to pre-heat or pre-cool the interior of the car at designated times. All these features attest to Infiniti's claim that they wanted the LE to be a luxury sedan before an electric car.

With models like the Infiniti LE in production, the future is looking bright for electric cars. Although the boxy, unsightly electric cars of yesteryear are not extinct yet, companies like Nissan remind us that going green does not have to mean sacrificing style and comfort.

This article was brought to you by Heather Harless at If you're looking to buy a set of Infiniti Rims or any OE Rims please visit us at

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Are Solar Powered Cars the Future?

Every time you pull up to a gas pump to full your tank you're probably cringing at the cost per gallon. With the prices of gas at an all-time high, people are jumping on the bandwagon of electric cars and hybrids. Having one of these cars can save you some money while reducing the harmful emissions produced from burning fuel. This is all good and well to invest in, but hybrids still run on gasoline at the end of the day and electric cars, for lack of a better explanation, use your electricity. You're still spending money to use your car whether you like it or not. But what if there was another way to drive without harming the planet and can save you money in the process?

Solar power is the world's number one source of renewable energy currently and it's only going to become more popular as time goes on. Over 1 million homes and businesses in the United States have already gone solar, with many more in the process of joining them. If you research solar on the internet, you'll find that there are many solar powered hand held objects; for instance there are solar powered flash lights, backpacks, cell phone charges, hand held lights, driveway lights, and even water bottles. So if we can invent ways to power our everyday objects and energy needs, then why haven't we established a solar powered car? Many would think that just strapping a panel or two to the roof of a car would suffice. But it doesn't work like that.

Retaining enough of the sun's energy to power a full sized sedan is more difficult than you think. For one, it's difficult to move such a heavy object by just using the sun. Cars need to much lighter in order for the idea to work effectively. There are several events each year where engineers and inventors race their very own solar powered vehicles. If you do you research, you'll see that most of them are extremely small, usually fit one person, and resemble something out of a space movie. You might be thinking, "well we have Smart Cars, Mini Coopers, and Fiat's popping up everywhere", while that may be true, you have to also think about how many people are in your average American family today. According to the 2010 census, there's an average of 2.59 people living in the average US home. If you take the idea of a solar powered car as it is right now, it wouldn't be a working idea. The more people you put into a car the heavier it will be (duh).

Aside from the car not being able to drive with the current solar powered car technology, it's pretty costly build. To reconfigure an entire car to drive 100% on solar would cost thousands to complete, maybe more. The car would need to be a totally different design than today's cars; more aerodynamic to move freely, more roof space to utilize the maximum amount of solar panels, and weigh less to actually keep its efficiency.

But most importantly, solar panels need sunny days to function. What happens when it's raining out or overcast? Would it keep you from driving to your destination? Solar generated on a sunny day would need to be stored in extra batteries inside of the car (also making the car heavier). Also, not everyone drives during the day. What would happen if you took your solar powered car out at night? That's another technological glitch these solar car inventors are working on.

Don't fret because solar powered cars will one day become a reality. The technology is constantly advancing into better, more productive ways every day. And although we can't effectively use solar to power the entire car right now, we can use panels to power parts of the car; such as the air conditioner, radio, and even the headlights!

Interested in going solar for $0 down? Contact Raytricity today!

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Electric Powered Vehicles: Hype or the Future?

It's election year, so why wouldn't politicians jump on an easy target to benefit their agendas? Lets face it, life revolves around the all mighty dollar and, in too many cases, greed and power. We as consumers need to peel away the BS and discover for ourselves if electric powered vehicles could make sense for our future as individuals, and the country as a whole. Just like many of you, we had a lot of unanswered questions and really didn't know what to believe. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when alternatives to oil will become absolutely critical.

In this article, we will begin to uncover the truth about electric powered vehicles. What does it actually cost to own and operate an electric powered vehicle? Are there potential cost savings to owning one? Is it truly environmentally friendly? How easy are they to live with? Even if you currently have no interest in owning an electric vehicle right now, this is something you should become aware of.

To start with, we'll briefly explain the four categories electric vehicles (EVs) typically fall into:

Hybrid Electric

A hybrid electric vehicle uses a battery-powered electric motor to supplement its traditional gas powered engine. The addition of the electric motor helps to reduce idling and enables the vehicle to operate with zero emissions at low speeds, typically below 40 miles per hour. At higher speeds, the gas powered engine drives the vehicle.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

A plug-in hybrid vehicle is similar to a standard hybrid in that it combines an electric motor with a traditional gas powered engine. The difference is that it uses a larger battery which can be recharged by plugging the vehicle into an electrical outlet. As a result of this larger battery, the vehicle receives more power from electricity therefore increasing fuel economy.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

These vehicles run solely on electricity and have no gas engines, therefore they produce zero tailpipe emissions. As a result of running exclusively on a battery, it is necessary to remain within the vehicle's range until the next available charge.

Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (ER-EVs)

Extended-range electric vehicles have both an electric motor and a gas powered generator. The electric motor directly propels the vehicle for the first 25 to 50 miles. After that, the on-board gasoline "generator" provides electricity to the motor. (The gas engine does not actually provide power to the wheels directly, instead it charges the battery which powers the electric motor.) This eliminates the need to drive within a limited range as it can continue to run on gasoline.

Our first EV test vehicle was a Chevy Volt, therefore will make a few references about our experiences with it in this article.

Available Incentives to Help Purchase an EV

The cost to design and build EVs are higher for manufacturers since it is still new technology and they do not have the benefit of economies of scale. In order to help entice consumers to make an EV purchase, the Federal Government and many state governments offer incentives. At the time this article was published, the Federal Government incentive for purchasing a new EV ranged from a $2,500 to $7,500 tax credit, depending on the type of EV and your filing status. There are also talks of increasing the Federal tax credit maximum amount to $10,000 and/or providing the credit at the time of purchase versus having to wait until you file your taxes as currently is the case.

A vehicle that has a potential tax credit is often marketed as having a flat tax credit amount, of course advertised as the maximum in the range. In reality, it's only worth that amount if your total Federal tax bill is as much or more for that fiscal year. In the case of the Volt which is eligible for up to a $7,500 tax credit, if you owe $6,000 in Federal income tax the year you purchase the car you'd receive a $6,000 benefit. The remaining difference can not be applied against the following year's taxes. If you opt to lease an EV car which qualifies for the incentive, the monetary credit stays with the leasing company who is the actual owner of the vehicle. Don't worry though, in most cases the tax credit has been factored into the cost of the lease so you are still gaining the benefit.

Many states also offer additional incentives from tax credits, such as Colorado's credit of up to $6,000, to other forms of incentives such as the state of California offering the sought-after car-pool lane access to EV owners. Knowing the potential incentives available to you can dramatically influence your purchasing decision.

Government Subsidies

It's interesting to hear how many people are so against the government subsidizing EVs. Yet, we don't hear much about how oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses in the U.S., despite being a hugely profitable industry. The International Energy Agency estimates that in 2009, governments worldwide spent $300 billion subsidizing fossil fuels. In 2010, that number grew to a staggering $409 billion. The U.S. alone averages approximately $4 billion per year in subsidies to the oil industry. Why doesn't this receive more attention? The reason is simple. "For the last decade, the oil industry has been one of the most powerful lobbying constituencies in Washington. It has spent nearly a billion dollars on federal lobbying since 1998." (1) What motivation would there be for affected political leaders to impart a change?

Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

Level 1 - Most EVs purchased will come standard with a Level 1 charging station which you can simply plug into a standard 110 volt AC house outlet, just as you would a cell phone charger or coffee maker. This type of charger is also often referred to as an "over-night charging station" because of the amount of time it takes to fully charge a depleted battery. Keep in mind the bigger the battery, the more juice required when fully depleted. Using a level 1 charger, a Plug-in Hybrid may only take approximately 3 hours to fully charge, an Extended-Range Electric Vehicle 10 - 12 hours, whereas a Battery Electric Vehicle is approximately 17 hours from a depleted battery.

Level 2 - This type of charging station uses between a 208 through 240 volt AC outlet depending upon the station you purchase. It is important to look at the specific EV voltage the vehicle will accept in order to mate it with the appropriate charging station. If it will accept a 220 volt power supply, that is the same outlet typically used to run a clothes dryer. The benefit of a Level 2 charging station is the significant reduction of time to charge an EV. As an example, a Chevy Volt can be fully charged from a depleted battery in about 4 hours. The approximate one-time expense for the equipment and installation is typically between $1,500 - $2,000.

Level 3 - This is often called a "fast charge" station and uses a 480 volt DC power supply. The drawback is that these will not typically be available in residential areas because it's beyond the capabilities of existing transformers. This charging station will be seen most often in commercial areas. For EVs that are capable of using this type of charging station, it can charge a depleted battery in approximately 30 minutes.

To determine what level charging station is best for you, give some thought to when you would most likely be charging the battery and how much of a charge will be needed. If it'll be exclusively overnight, a Level 1 charging station might be just fine. Even now in it's relative infancy, you can buy a level 2 charging station from Best Buy, Lowes, Home Depot, Amazon and many other Big Box Outlets.

Where people can recharge their EV doesn't stop at home. Several cities are also beginning to install charging stations with many others conducting research on the viability of moving forward with the project. The city of Chicago has already begun installations of a massive project which promises to include 280 charging stations in the city and surrounding region within a year. Of these stations, there will be a total of 73 level three stations. California just recently announced that a minimum of 200 level 3 charging stations will be installed and in addition to creating the infrastructure for 10,000 plug-in units. Even with Hawaii having the highest electricity costs, they are adding over 200 public charging stations. This trend is continuing to grow contrary to reports of the EV demise. Imagine being at work, plugging in at no or little extra cost and having no fuel bill?

To find public charging stations in your area may take some time unless you're lucky. We were not able to find a single website that listed all charging stations in our area (Connecticut) and recommend you take the time to search multiple sites when you do your research. Like most technologies, this will evolve and potentially grow with time. Remember when the home computer was such a novelty?

Electricity's Not Free, So What Does it Actually Cost?

While driving an EV will reduce or potentially eliminate the need for purchasing gasoline, it still costs money to charge the battery. The factors that will impact the cost are how much power is required to charge your EV's battery, and what your electric provider's fees are. To give you a rough idea, using the U.S. average electric rates it costs approximately $1.50 to charge a fully depleted Chevy Volt battery. Living in CT where energy rates are towards the most expensive in the U.S., it still only cost us about $1.80 to fully charge a depleted Volt battery. Keep in mind that if you don't fully drain the battery, it won't require a full charge.

When evaluating electricity pricing, below are a few items we suggest you look into.

• Does your electric provider have a flat charge or a tiered rate structure based on the amount of electricity used?

• Do they utilize "smart grids" where your rate varies depending on consumption in the area (typically at night) results in a discounted price?

• Do they offer an EV owner discount?

• Are you able to change suppliers and if so, are there any that offer lower rates?

When looking at costs, be aware that there are additional fees other than just the electricity supply service charge. In our case there are also a delivery service charges representing a Generation service charge, Transmission charge, Distribution charge, CTA charge, FMCC delivery charge, and a combined public benefit charge. Enough different charges?

Saving the Planet! But Is Electricity Really Green?

A selling point many people make about transitioning to electric powered vehicles is how environmentally friendly they are. While it's true that EVs reduce tailpipe emissions or depending on the type of EV, even eliminate them completely, there's more to it. To really determine if an EV will truly be Green where you'll be using it most, take a look at how your electricity is being produced.

Most of the U.S.'s electricity is produced domestically and is often times delivered from a mix of power plants including coal, nuclear, natural gas, petroleum, and renewable sources. The type of power plants vary by region, therefore it's important to examine these vehicles on a regional basis in order to better understand their environmental impact.

The time of day the EV will be recharged also plays a role on how Green the electricity is. The generation mix at the time of charging is different based on the time of day, time of year, geographic region, and load patterns. Sharp summer peaks are caused by air conditioning demand, although such peaks typically occur in the afternoon. Overnight when businesses are closed, demand is at its lowest. As a result of this, the power plants that are most expensive to operate and easiest to power down such as old coal and natural gas, get turned off. Other plants that have less expensive operating costs and are harder to turn off such as wind, hydroelectric and nuclear, are kept running.

Even if you live in an area where the production of electricity is not typically produced using clean methods, you might have the option to change it to a clean source. Regardless of where you live, this is worth looking into. While we have not yet purchased an EV, it did spur us to look into the different alternative energy sources. Our current supplier charges 8.25 cents per kW and uses a mix of various energy sources including coal. Our state allows us the option to use another supplier, and we found a 100% renewable energy source (primarily wind in our case) that has a rate of 7.99 cents per kW. Yes, that same company also offers coal produced electricity at a lower rate of 7.39 cents per kW, but the switch to clean energy still provides a savings.

According to electric vehicle manufacturers and other sources we saw, the impact of producing the lithium-ion battery is less than or equal to the impact of producing a similar gas car. More than 95% of the battery materials can be recycled or reused with minimal environmental impact. The minerals used in these types of batteries are expensive, so it's not hard to imagine companies being especially motivated to find methods of reusing them.

Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil

Every President dating back to Nixon has stated the need to formulate methods to control our energy future and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The U.S. has around 2.5% of the world's oil reserves but uses about 20%. While those statistics vary depending upon the source, it's clear that we are heavily dependent upon foreign sources of oil. Approximately 70% of America's daily oil consumption is currently used in transportation, therefore this is a major area that deserves attention. As other countries continue to increase their oil reserve demand, gas prices will continue to rise. In 2010, China alone added approximately 10 million cars to the road. President Obama's All In energy policy (one that Bush advocated and that McCain supported as well) attempts to reduce our dependency on oil. This is not a left or right political issue nor is it something that can be solved over night. It is however, an issue that we need to address together as a nation. This is yet another benefit of electric vehicles and reasoning of why government (Federal and state) is providing incentives.


We recognize this article only touches upon the vast information available on this topic. What we hope is that it will spur some additional thought about EVs, and maybe even just related environmental concerns in general. Why not go test drive one yourself?

Reference: (1) NY Times

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