Hybrid Cars - Alternative Energy

Hybrid cars have increased in popularity as of late.Nows the time to support alternative energy solutions and technologies.

Hybrid Cars - Alternative Energy


"Hybrid Nation"

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tax credit still applies to Ford hybrids


)-- The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that hybrid cars made by Ford Motor Co. are still eligible for a tax credit intended to encourage buying the fuel-efficient cars.

The federal tax credit for new hybrid vehicles begins to phase out after a car maker has sold 60,000 hybrid or other fuel-efficient vehicles. Ford and its Mercury luxury division have sold more than 22,000 hybrid sport utility vehicles since the credit started last year, with more than 5,600 sold in the fourth quarter, the IRS said.

That means the automaker has not yet reached the legal limit for the tax credit, the IRS said.

The 2005 federal energy bill provided up to $3,600 in tax credits to U.S. consumers who buy hybrids. Toyota Motor Corp., which makes hybrids under the Toyota and Lexus brands, last summer hit the tax credit limit and is the only automaker to do so far. Toyota has urged Congress to extend the tax credit.

U.S.-traded shares of Toyota fell 93 cents to close at $131.78 on the New York Stock Exchange, where Ford shares fell 7 cents to close at $8.13.check it

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lawmakers Preview Plug-In Cars

Meghan Hughes
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News Washington, D.C. Bureau
ASHINGTON -- Would people in Seattle buy plug-in cars?

Local Congressman Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) says yes.

Tuesday, he gave lawmakers a preview on Capitol Hill by hosting a display of the new Chevrolet Volt.

The plug-in hybrid concept car will run for 40 miles on battery power after being plugged into a garage overnight. After those 40 miles, it runs on gas or ethanol. Rep. Inslee says not only will the car help curb global warming, but the ethanol use could also be an economic boon to the state.

“So you use your battery power the first 40 miles, then you burn ethanol that’s maybe grown in Eastern Washington with the plants we’re going to develop there,” Inslee said. “So you use electricity and ethanol. It’s called a flex fuel hybrid. It can burn gasoline or ethanol. That’s the beauty of this car -- it’s a triple threat.”

Inslee, who is member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is pushing Congress to fund more research on these green vehicles. He believes the plug-in hybrid is a more immediate answer to global warming than hydrogen fuel cells. Inslee says this model could be on the market in 5 or 6 years.story continued

Plugging the energy gap with hybrid strategy

President Bush's focus last week on expansion of the ethanol industry was accompanied by sky-high corn prices. That's a stark reminder for consumers and policymakers about the food-vs.-fuel tradeoffs the nation faces.

By Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune
President Bush's focus last week on expansion of the ethanol industry was accompanied by sky-high corn prices. That's a stark reminder for consumers and policymakers about the food-vs.-fuel tradeoffs the nation faces.

Can we grow enough corn or other fuel stocks to supply one-quarter of motor fuels over the next 20 years?

The experts say no. There's not enough corn and soybeans grown to fuel our future, independent of the Middle East and our own dwindling supply of easy-to-tap oil reserves.

But that leaves a great opportunity for more-efficient vehicles and the emergence of "plug-in hybrid" cars.story continued

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hopes high for plug-in hybrids

Calls to cut use of gas spark new interest in electric cars
By Mark Sauer
January 28, 2007

Electric-car owners such as J.F. Lancelot of San Diego were devastated when auto companies pulled the plug on their battery-powered runabouts a few years ago.

Lancelot drives a Mini Cooper now. “I just waste a lot of gas, like everybody else,” he said.

But Lancelot and many other Americans are taking heart from a surge of interest in plug-in hybrid cars, which began with national media exposure last year and got a boost last week from President Bush in his State of the Union address.

Bush set a goal of reducing gasoline use in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years. In addition to expanding the use of alternative fuels such as ethanol, wind and solar power, the president said, “We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles.”

Bush followed that the next day with an executive order mandating that all federal agencies with more than 20 vehicles use “PHEVs” – plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – when they become commercially available.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Getting hydrogen cars to live up to their hype

By Sholnn Freeman
The Ford Edge gliding along the George Washington Memorial Parkway doesn't have spinning rims or a booming sound system. The bling in this SUV is the technology. The vehicle runs almost silently. It needs no gas and releases no polluting exhaust.

The HySeries Edge, which is to be unveiled at the Washington Auto Show today, is a plug-in hybrid with an electric drive powered by a battery and a hydrogen fuel cell. Its arrival intensifies the competition to manufacture a mass-market electric hybrid that reduces reliance on gasoline and curbs the emission of greenhouse gases.

But the futuristic Edge vehicle is Ford's only one, and it cost $2 million to build. To get a car like this into the showroom for sale to the public will require the automotive and energy industries to leap high technological hurdles. The infrastructure to deliver alternative fuels such as hydrogen is in its infancy, and engineers are puzzling over how to mass-produce a lightweight, inexpensive and safe electric battery.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Coolest High-Tech Cars 2007

Dan Lienert, 01.22.07, 12:01 AM ET
Today, virtually all autos are well built and come with lots of sophisticated features and options.

All good, right? Wrong.

Items once reserved for luxury cars, such as navigation systems and heated seats, are now appearing on such comparatively modest vehicles as Volkswagens and Chevrolets.

This presents a problem for luxury-car manufacturers: How can they make their vehicles stand out when buyers expect even entry-level cars to come loaded with desirable options?

more on this story

Energy Dept. Grants $17M for Hybrid Vehicle Technology

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007; 4:06 PM

The U.S. Department of Energy announced today $17 million in grants to support the development of battery technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles and ethanol, two areas in the energy debate where officials in Washington and Detroit are closely aligned.

The money will be offered as two separate solicitation grants, one for $14 million for the plug-in technology and another $3 million for ethanol. The money for battery development aims to improve the technology's performance. The $3 million grants will support engineering advances to improve the E85 flex-fuel blend.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Bush set to give ethanol industry its biggest boost yet

WASHINGTON: After three decades of surviving mostly on tax subsidies, the ethanol industry is poised on Tuesday to get its biggest endorsement yet as a potential homegrown alternative to gasoline.

In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush is expected to call for a huge increase in the amount of ethanol that refiners mix with gasoline, perhaps to as much as 60 billion gallons, or 227 million liters, annually by 2030 — an amount equal to more than 40 percent of the country's current gasoline consumption.

For an industry once dominated by a single powerful producer, Archer Daniels Midland, ethanol has come a long way, joining the oil industry and producers of major agricultural commodities as an entrenched political force in Washington.

But with dozens of new ethanol plants designed to turn corn into fuel coming online this year, the ethanol lobby is facing a critical point. The political reality is that corn's days as the chief crop for making the fuel are numbered.

Corn-based ethanol can reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. But it does little if anything to improve energy efficiency, and the lobby's mounting concern is that relying on corn is leading to collateral damage in other parts of the agricultural economy and threatening the country's status as the world's leading corn exporter. The big increase in the works could even mean that consumers would end up paying more at the supermarket.story continued

Sunday, January 21, 2007

State politicians pair Earth-friendly legislation with hybrid cars

January 21, 2007

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Nearly half the state Assembly is switching to hybrids as their choice for state-leased vehicles, a marked change from the gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and luxury sedans that have long been favored by lawmakers.

Thirty-nine of the 80 Assembly members now are driving hybrids, up from 27 last year. Of the 40 senators, 13 opted for hybrids, three more than last year.

State lawmakers choose their official vehicles, which are subsidized by taxpayers.

Legislators had been criticized for voting for clean air and greenhouse gas laws while driving higher-polluting vehicles.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, D-Los Angeles, for instance, was driving a 2003 Ford Explorer last year as he pushed passage of AB32, the landmark law to fight global warming. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has two Hummers converted to use alternative fuels, is seeking to tighten tailpipe emissions again this year.

"I do believe in the notion that you have to practice what you preach. In my case, the alternative is here," said Nuñez, who now squires a new Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Being green isn't cheap, however. The Assembly doubled the extra allowance for hybrids to $6,000 to offset the higher price of those vehicles, which Nuñez suspects encouraged more lawmakers to make the switch.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

APA praises several automakers for being serious about environment

Friday, January 19, 2007

MONTREAL (CP) - The head of the Automobile Protection Association believes the major car show currently going on in Montreal is the perfect vehicle to get consumers to think green.

George Iny says buyers should focus on smaller models which are more economical and take up less space.

"In most cases, you can have the same comfort in something that's a little more fuel-efficient and more economical because technology and performance have been migrating down into the smaller cars," Iny said in an interview.

"There are some superb $20,000 cars out there like the Mazda 3 and the Honda Civic, which also has a relatively clean engine. . .You don't have to necessarily spend $30,000 dollars for a hybrid."

Automakers may not be renowned for being environmentally friendly but Iny does have words of praise for some of them for taking the environment seriously.

"Certainly, Toyota and Honda have some interesting products," Iny said at the Montreal International Auto Show, which runs until Jan. 28.

But he added that General Motors is "just talking" when the North American automaker it says it's serious about the environment.

The Canadian Automobile Association gave Toyota one of its 2007 Pyramid awards for environmental initiatives.
story continued

Friday, January 19, 2007

The World Needs to Harvest the Energy of Ocean Waves

By Lance Winslow
We need to fund a prototype ocean wave harvesting energy generation station in the United States as part of the Alternative Energy Initiatives. Currently we are doing some terrific things with Clean Coal Technologies, Solar, Bio-waste, Ethanol and Wind Generation. However, we cannot rest on our laurels now, this is no time to let off the gas.

As our nation expands so will our energy needs and we need renewable and alternative energy research and development to meet those future needs. Perhaps the government funding might yield results from such an R and D investment and the prototypes and later units might even be able to run government installations, saving them a ton of money.

Surely if the United States does not take the lead other nations will. Consider all the nations with huge coastlines. The United States of America must not be out done when it comes to Alternative Energy future technologies. All nations now need to work to control their CO2 output and nothing is cleaner than ocean wave energy.

The Chinese need energy solutions as much as we do as they work to clean their air and they cannot build new systems Energy Generation Power Plants fast enough in their nation, meanwhile Shanghai, Beijing need the power now. But you know so does Taiwan and what about Japan and their floating airport? Recently an Online Think Tank studied the different designs and enjoyed the Fieldstone Design
Now many are asking where are these new units and why are we not including them in our funding for Alternative Energy Initiatives? It is time now to move into the future and capture the energy, which has been around for Billions of years just waiting for us to harvest it. Perhaps this article will propel thought in 2006?


Ethanol stocks options heat up ahead of Bush speech

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Many investors flocked to bullish options in producers of ethanol on Friday ahead of U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union annual address, which is expected to call for expanded use of the clean fuel.

Bush's annual speech to Congress on Tuesday could call for up to 60 billion gallons of ethanol -- produced mostly from corn in the United States -- and biodiesel annually by 2030, according to a source briefed by the White House.

more on this story

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Lexus LS 600hL makes its Canadian debut

Lexus unveils its most sophisticated flagship sedan at the Montréal
International Auto Show

MONTREAL, Jan. 18 /CNW/ - Lexus today took the wraps off the luxury
auto-maker's most sophisticated flagship vehicle, as the 2008 Lexus LS 600hL
made its Canadian debut at the Montréal International Auto Show.
This hybrid luxury long-wheelbase sedan - scheduled to arrive in Canada
in the spring - is the world's first vehicle to feature a full-hybrid V8
Powered by the world's most proven hybrid technology - the Lexus Hybrid
Drive - the LS 600hL is the industry's most advanced deployment of hybrid
power to date. This flagship luxury model features a 5.0 L V8 engine, coupled
to large, high-output electric motors and a newly designed large-capacity
battery pack. The result is performance on par with a V12 from a system that
achieves best-in-class V8 fuel efficiency while generating a fraction of the
emissions of a conventionally powered vehicle. The LS 600hL is expected to
achieve a Tier 2, Bin 3 emissions rating, meaning it will generate nearly
70 per cent fewer emissions than the cleanest of its competitors.
"It's fair to say that - to our knowledge - there is nothing on the road
or on the drawing board that comes close to delivering such a formerly
contradictory combination of jaw-dropping engine performance, fuel efficiency,
and low emissions," said Stuart Payne, Director responsible for Lexus in
Canada. "The LS 600hL is quite simply in a class by itself."
story continued

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Automakers target emissions as way to stay ahead

Staff writer

The growing gap in profitability among the world's automakers is becoming more apparent, as seen in the contrasting fortunes of Toyota Motor Corp., whose sales have been growing strongly, and ailing U.S. giant General Motors Corp., which is struggling to stem a tide of red ink.Toyota is set to pass GM as the world's largest automaker this year. Honda Motor Co. is also enjoying brisk sales overseas.

But although Japanese automakers are basking in the glow of their strong performance, they are well aware they must keep their eye on industry trends or they could find their rivals closing the gap.

Analysts say one such trend is the emphasis on cleaner cars as regulations on auto emissions are tightened in Europe, the United States and Japan.

"Technologies in environmental protection will be crucially important this year," said Noriyuki Matsushima, a credit analyst at Nikko Citigroup Ltd. source japan times

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Prices falling - except at the pump

Sunday, January 14, 2007
ROY L. WILLIAMSNews staff writer
Crude oil prices have fallen sharply this month, but that hasn't translated into big drops at the gasoline pump - a phenomenon some call "the rocket and feather cycle."
Samford University Business Dean Beck Taylor, who tracked oil prices closely when he worked at Baylor University in Texas, said that's the term analysts use when motorists don't see quick relief when crude prices are plunging.
So far this year, crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange have fallen 13.2 percent, despite a rise of $1.11 on Friday to $52.99 a barrel.
"Retail prices generally rise in accordance with crude oil prices faster than they fall," Taylor said. "They rocket up and come down slowly like a feather."
The slow fall is the result of wholesalers and retailers attempting to hold onto higher profit margins, Taylor said.
Clay Ingram, spokesman for AAA-Alabama, said he has no idea why motorists haven't benefited more from the sharp decline in crude prices. "The only thing I can figure is that gas companies and retailers figure the current price is something consumers are willing to pay," Ingram said.
The average U.S. price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline has slipped 2 percent from $2.33 Jan. 1 to $2.27 on Friday, according to a AAA survey. In Birmingham, prices averaged $2.17 for a gallon of regular unleaded Friday, down 3 cents from a month ago and nearly 9 cents lower than a year ago, according to the AAA. source al.com

Why hesitate on electric and hybrid vehicles?

January 14, 2007
Regarding "Return trip for electric vehicles," Jan. 7: General Motors is to be praised for accepting that the most efficient plug-in is the serial plug-in hybrid, whose only use for the engine is to generate power for the drive electric motor. But GM is holding its Chevrolet Volt hostage until as late as 2012, attributing the wait to the development of new batteries. The first EV1 was released, and worked fine, with normal Panasonic lead-acid batteries, achieving a real-world oil-free range of 80 to 110 miles. GM could use lead-acid for the Volt, which needs only 20 to 40 miles of oil-free range before the internal-combustion engine comes on to charge the battery or run the car directly. GM also is ignoring the nickel-metal-hydride batteries still in use on the 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV, which yield oil-free range of 100 to 200 miles and last longer than the vehicle. Doug Korthof Seal Beach http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-letters14.2jan14,1,431162.story?coll=la-headlines-business&ctrack=1&cset=true

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ford unveils interchangeable plug-in hydrogen fuel cell hybrid vehicle

Ford Motor Company will unveil a hydrogen-fueled, battery-powered plug-in in the new Airstream concept vehicle. The system, installed in a Ford Edge prototype will be displayed at the Washington, D C, Auto Show on 23 January, 2007.

Ford Motor says it is committed exploring alternative powertrains.

The powertrain is said to offer fuel, engine and energy-conversion flexibility. Called HySeries Drive, the system is powered by a 336-volt lithium-ion battery pack at all times that gives it a range of 40km on a full electric power.

Once the battery pack is depleted by about 40 per cent, the hydrogen-powered fuel cell begins generating electricity to recharge the batteries, increasing range another 448km, for a total driving range of more than 480km.

story continued

Monday, January 08, 2007

GM tries to change image to Green Motors

By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer
January 8 2007: 3:51 PM EST

DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors' environmental image is an inconvenient perception for the company.

The automaker, which was essentially the villain in the documentary film "Who killed the electric car?" in 2006, is seen as a big part of the problem by those concerned about the environment and global warming.

And industry experts agree that perception translates into difficulties for GM (Charts).

In an era of high gasoline prices, the automaker that makes Hummers is competing against Toyota (Charts), well known for making fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly hybrids.

Even for buyers who would never purchase a vehicle from either car maker, the image of gas-guzzling GM vs. fuel efficient Toyota is pervasive. And most industry executives and experts agree that fuel efficiency has grown significantly as a factor in the thinking of U.S. buyers over the last year, even if hybrids remain a niche part of the market.

more on this story

Mazda to Sell Ford-Built Hybrid SUV in U.S. by June

By Naoko Fujimura and Tetsuya Komatsu

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Mazda Motor Corp. said it will sell a gasoline-electric hybrid version of the Tribute sport-utility vehicle built by partner Ford Motor Co. to meet growing demand for hybrid autos in the U.S.

Mazda plans to introduce the Tribute hybrid in the second quarter of this year, said Daniel Morris, senior managing executive officer in charge of marketing, sales and customer service, in an interview yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Mazda, the fifth-largest Japanese automaker, will join its bigger rivals in the gasoline-electric market. Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. account for about 90 percent of U.S. hybrid sales. Nissan Motor Co. plans to introduce a hybrid version of its Altima next month.

``Offering hybrids is important to meet consumers' tastes in the U.S.,'' said Hitoshi Yamamoto, who manages the equivalent of $1 billion in Japanese equities as president of Commerz International Capital Management (Japan) Ltd. in Tokyo.

Ford will build the Tribute hybrid, to be based on its own Escape model, at a factory in Kansas City, Missouri, Morris said. Mazda is one-third owned by Ford.

Fuel Prices

Regular gasoline averaged $2.57 a gallon at the pump in the U.S. in 2006, 13 percent more than in 2005, according to weekly U.S. Energy Department surveys.

story continued

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A true breath of fresh air: the 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid

Showing its commitment to improving the world’s air quality, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) will unveil the all-new 2008 Mazda Tribute Hybrid-Electric Vehicle (HEV) at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. With a hydrogen-powered version of the RX-8 and a hydrogen-powered hybrid version of the MAZDA 5 undergoing extensive testing in Japan, the Tribute HEV is the latest environmentally friendly vehicle to join the Mazda lineup.

Tribute HEV will debut in mid-2007, as a 2008 model-year vehicle. Mazda will provide more details – exact timing, pricing, distribution, sales volumes, etc. – closer to the launch date.

A “full” hybrid, the Tribute HEV can run on 100 percent electric power up to approximately 25 mph, maximizing in-city fuel economy and making it one of the least-polluting vehicles sold. Still, the Tribute HEV stays true to the Zoom-Zoom Mazda owners have come to expect by delivering the performance required by SUV owners. The Tribute HEV provides plenty of power yet meets California’s strict Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) requirements by achieving Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle II (SULEVII) standards, plus zero evaporative emissions standards – the strictest emission regulations a gasoline-fueled vehicle can meet.
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GM dominates stage as Detroit show opens

DETROIT - After an impressive first day at the auto industry's biggest trade show, General Motors Chief Executive Rick Wagoner can afford a little bravado.

Speaking with reporters here in Detroit Sunday, Wagoner said that this year he expects the world’s largest automaker to sell more vehicles this year domestically than the 3 million it sold in 2006.

The prediction seems like a tall order, given that U.S. vehicle sales are projected to be flat this year and domestic automakers have been losing share to Asian rivals led by Toyota and Honda. But the struggling U.S. automaker has earned some bragging rights.

story continued

Friday, January 05, 2007

lexus offers technological masterpiece

Lexus is quickly becoming known for building some very fine vehicles. From the great little IS series all the way up to the GS, Lexus’s lineup is a complete one, filled with top-tier technology and sophisticated engineering. This is especially true of its hybrid models; both the RX 400h and GS 450h have gained repute as two of the finest, well-built hybrids on the planet. They’re also the only two luxury hybrids around, although their world is about to become a little more crowded. Lexus will soon blow them both away with this; the LS 600h L.

Set to hit show rooms in the spring of 2007, Lexus’ new range topper is a car that should set the standard for luxury cars; and it owes it all to its marvelous drivetrain. Powered by a full hybrid-enhanced 5.0L V8, the LS 600h will, according to Lexus, provide V12-like power with the fuel economy of a V6. Similar to the system used in everything from the Toyota Prius to the similar GS 450h, the flagship LS will use both the gasoline V8 and electric motor to put more than 430 horsepower to the ground through all four wheels. Between the advanced all-wheel drive system and the equally advanced engine is an all-new dual-stage electronically controlled CVT transmission, meaning that the power should be positively unrelenting. As a hybrid, the ultra-luxury sedan will have a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) rating, with the LS 600h putting out nearly 70 per cent fewer emissions than its full-size competitors.
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Suzuki plans worldwide hybrid push

Suzuki Motor Corp., the biggest maker of minicars in Japan, plans to introduce a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle in Japan, the United States and Europe to meet tighter rules on auto emissions in the world's major auto markets, Suzuki President Hiroshi Tsuda said in an interview Friday.

But Tsuda declined to reveal exactly when Suzuki will begin selling the more environment-friendly vehicles, saying only that it intends to release the cars as soon as possible.

Tsuda added the vehicles will use a hybrid engine developed jointly with General Motors Corp. of the United States.

GM reduced its stake in Suzuki from 20 percent to 3 percent last March to raise cash for its restructuring efforts, with Suzuki buying back 17 percent of its own shares for 230 billion yen
story continued

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Hybrid cars and SUVs are selling well, with ever more coming to market. Hybrid school buses are already carrying kids. Hybrid shuttle buses, refuse and utility trucks are ready for production. FedEx, UPS and Puralator have hybrid package-delivery trucks in their fleets. Some 500 hybrid electric transit buses are already in service around the country.

Next step are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, also called grid connected hybrids. The PHEV's batteries are charged from the electric grid using a common household 110-volt outlet while parked, as well as by the internal combustion engine while driving. This reduces the amount of time the internal combustion engine has to operate, and thus reduces fuel consumption and emissions. PHEVs can be plugged into the electric grid at night to recharge the batteries when electric rates are usually lower. PHEVs have larger capacity batteries so they have longer "electric only" ranges. more on this story

2007 Detroit Auto Show

With the 2007 L.A. Auto Show well behind us thanks to its new November time slot, it's time to gear up for the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. Officially known as the North American International Auto Show, Detroit is the heavyweight of the car show scene. You want to make news that gets heard around the automotive world? Detroit in January is the place to do it.

This year's Detroit auto show is shaping up nicely thanks to a good mix of concept cars and new production models, many of which have already made public appearances. As you might expect, the Big Three put in a big effort with multiple vehicles from the brands under the DaimlerChrysler, Ford and GM umbrellas.

First out of the gate were two concepts from the Ford camp — the Lincoln MKR coupe and the Jaguar C-XF sedan. Both cars look like futuristic concepts, but they're actually closer to production than you might think. Same goes for the Volvo XC60 concept, a thinly disguised version of the eventual production vehicle. Also keep an eye out for revamped versions of Ford's more mainstream products like the Focus and the Five Hundred, along with another surprising concept.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Spoils of record oil prices seen throughout Midland economy

Midlanders began 2006 watching natural gas prices hit record levels around $15 per thousand cubic feet. As the year progressed, they watched supply concerns, strong demand and political tensions send crude prices into record territory. In July, crude futures peaked at a record $78 before retreating to just over $60 at year's end.

"There is no denying the effect that as goes the oil and gas industry, so goes the economy of Midland," said Karr Ingham, an Amarillo economist. "It's been a great year -- a great couple of years with double-digit economic growth, double-digit increases in retail sales, growth in employment, car sales, construction. Virtually every sector of that economy has benefited from the price peaking well into the $70 range this summer; these are the spoils of those oil prices."

more on this story

Looming tax hikes fill stores, fuel tanks

By Alexandre Da Silva and Robert Shikina
It may be pennies on the dollar, but they sure add up fast, and that's why many Oahu consumers were buying gasoline and even computer gear before the knell of midnight yesterday.

The reasons: the general excise tax goes up today, and a gas exemption that was saving consumers about 11 cents a gallon ended yesterday.

Many shoppers took advantage of the last day to spend money without paying for a new tax hike on all goods.

Vani Aweau saved almost $10 by getting computer supplies yesterday and beating a general excise tax hike that takes effect today to fund a mass transit system. But for Aweau, who spent $200 at CompUSA, the good news stopped there.

The 43-year-old Liliha resident is not happy about joining every Oahu consumer who -- with every purchase they now make -- will automatically pitch in for an alternative method of transportation for Honolulu.


"I probably won't be using it," Aweau said.

A county surcharge tax that state lawmakers approved last year is raising the 4 percent general excise tax in the City and County of Honolulu to 4.5 percent. The additional tax is projected to bring in $150 million a year to fund a mass transit system, which is expected to cost at least $4.6 billion.

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VW gives diesels a new start

Effective tomorrow, the first day of 2007, newly formulated, low-sulfur diesel fuel becomes the standard across the United States. We're told the new fuel will pollute less. It's expected to give diesel-powered passenger cars a new start in Massachusetts, where the sale of new diesels has been outlawed.

I hope it does. Diesels are efficient, durable, high-mileage engines that excite a loyal following from some practical automobilists who aren't afraid to defy convention.

Of course, in some parts of the world, diesel engines are conventional. They are hugely popular in Europe, where high taxes on motor fuels elevate pump prices, making people appreciate the high-mileage capabilities that are inherent in diesel engines.

But in the United States the situation is much more muddled. We all know that truckers rely on diesels for their fuel economy. But the rest of us can scarcely find a diesel-powered passenger car. Their outlawing by Massachusetts and just four other states is a relatively recent barrier. The larger problem is that the diesel-engine market in the U.S. never developed. Diesels had a shot at stardom in the 1970s and 1980s, when fuel prices that were higher than today's (when adjusted for inflation) made economy a new virtue. Americans might have embraced diesels, but then General Motors rushed out a diesel engine that was a such a disaster that it sabotaged the reputation of the entire technology.

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