Saturday, May 24, 2008

What's more polluted? The air outside your car or the air inside your car?

We can all see that many cities are extremely polluted and it's clear that vehicles are responsible for much of that pollution. Nitrogen oxydes, Ozone and particulates are considered the main three pollutants that affect air quality in cities. But how bad is the air for our lungs when we talk about using a specific means of transportation? Is biking in the dirty air worse than sitting in your car? Libération, one of France's most important newspapers, has a very interesting article about just this topic. The article describes the results of a study on air quality in some urban environments based on various activites. How bad is it to travel in different urban situations and how does this affect to the air quality we breathe? Follow us after the jump to see the results from worst to best.

Lexus considering two dedicated hybrid models

We've known for quite some time that Toyota would be introducing the world to its third-generation Prius hybrid sedan at next year's Detroit Auto Show. Expected to be powered by a revised and enlarged 1.8-liter engine and electric motors, the new model aims to continue Toyota's hybrid dominance, at least for the next few model years. We also expect Lexus to get its own more luxurious version of the Prius, and Inside Line is reporting that it will come in calender year 2010 and could be the first Toyota-made hybrid with lithium ion batteries. What's more, Lexus is said to be considering a second hybrid-only model to be based on Toyota's midsize sedan architecture, as is the current RX, which is available in both standard and hybrid guises. Rumor is that the second dedicated hybrid model might be a crossover utility vehicle, the current darling of the it's-not-a-station-wagon set. We'll surely hear more about this new model before its expected introduction in 2011.

Suzuki Crosscage is now a runnerEmerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Hydrogen, Suzuki, On Two Wheels, Green Daily

We've been keeping tabs on Suzuki's innovative Crosscage concept bike since its debut at the last Tokyo Auto Show. Since then, Suzuki and Intelligent Energy, makers of the fuel cell ENV bike and the fuel cell powering the Crosscage, have been working hard on making this vehicle workable. It's apparently paid dividends, as you can see from the pictures of the bike in operation. From what we can tell, this machine is, in fact, fully operational and is running on electricity. Even exotic parts such as the single-sided front fork and rear swingarm are present and accounted for on the running version of the prototype. Very thin-section tires are used for their low rolling resistance, which should translate into extended range. The seat features an innovative flip-up action, allowing the hydrogen tank to be refilled. There is a full digital dash atop the bars including a tachometer and speedometer. We're rather surprised that this bike has gotten so far in the design stage in such short order. Keep up the good work, Suzuki!

Volkswagen Scirocco GT24 debuts at Wörthersee

If you've ever lingered behind after a professional sports event, you've probably seen some of the athletes graciously staying behind to shake hands and sign autographs while others make a B-line through the fans to the locker room. If the Volkswagen group were an athlete, it would be the former. Every year the German automaker comes to Wörthersee to meet its most die-hard enthusiasts, and never comes empty-handed. You'll recall that last year Volkswagen unveiled the shockingly exotic Golf GTI W12 650 while Audi showed up with the TT clubsport quattro. This year, not only is Audi bringing both the A3 TDI clubsport quattro concept and the pre-production TT clubsport quattro roadster, but Volkswagen has rolled in to town with the Scirocco GT24, the competition version of its new sport-hatch that the German automaker will be campaigning at this weekend's 2008 Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race.

As we've reported previously, power comes from the same 2-liter turbo four that drove the race-prepped GTI to victory at the Ring last year. 321 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque are channeled to the front wheels (not all four) via Volkswagen's trademark six-speed DSG, only with beefed-up clutch plates, revised gearing and a lightweight flywheel. Dimensions for the racing version have grown slightly, with an extra 227mm in length for aero stability and 61mm in width to cover the 18-inch racing rims on a wide track, dropping ride height by 75mm. The interior is stripped and race-prepped with a full roll cage, Recaro seats with five-point harnesses, competition steering wheel, electronic instrumentation and fire extinguisher, all in all stripping 178kg from the interior.

While the Scirocco GT24 wows the crowds at Wörthersee and takes on all comers at the Nurburgring, Volkswagen has given us a mouthwatering, knee-buckling preview of what a road-going Scirocco R version could look like. Check out the images in the gallery below and the press release after the jump.

Honda CEO shares more details about new hybrid models coming next year

Last fall at the Tokyo Motor Show, Honda announced its plans to introduce a new dedicated hybrid drive vehicle in 2009. The new hybrid would the first dedicated hybrid from Honda since the original Insight ended production in 2006. At his mid-year press conference, CEO Takeo Fukui revealed that Honda would in fact introduce two new dedicated hybrids next year along with a hybrid version of the new Fit. The first of the hybrid-only models will be a five seat, five door hatchback with styling based on the look of the FCX Clarity fuel cell car (pictured). The second new hybrid will be a coupe based on last year's CR-Z concept which will be great news to fans of the long-departed Civic CRX.

To make all of this happen, Honda has developed an updated version of their Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. The revised IMA will significantly reduce both the weight and cost of the system, allowing it to be applied to more vehicles. Honda is expanding and adding a second IMA production line at its Suzuka, Japan factory (where the Civic hybrid is produced) to build the new hybrid models and bringing the capacity to 250,000 hybrids. Between the two new hybrids, the Fit and the Civic, Honda hopes to have 500,000 annual hybrid sales within the next couple of years. Thanks to theRookie for the tip!

Undercover Stangs: Indiana police to use unmarked Mustangs

Being a cop just got a little more fun for state troopers in the state of Indiana. The police department just purchased 18 brand new black Ford Mustang GTs for traffic patrol, with one being sent to each district. The Mustangs look completely stock and only have a light bar inside the top of the windshield - not even antennas usually found on unmarked vehicles. A few troopers took the opportunity to test out their new pony cars at O'Reilly Raceway Park last week and found them to handle "differently" than the Crown Vics. We would hope so.

Liberty Electric Cars will convert "tens of thousands" of luxury cars and SUVs

Take £30 million, create 250 jobs and end up with "tens of thousands" of new electric vehicles in the UK. This is the plan of the new company Liberty Electric Cars Ltd. Liberty announced today that it will be converting many currently-existing large luxury cars and 4 x 4s (SUVs) into electric vehicles - starting with Range Rover models - and sell them for between £95,000 and £125,000 ($187,000 U.S. to $246,000). Liberty Electric Cars made the announcement at the Eden Project Green Car Show. The battery technology that Liberty will use in these luxury EVs was not disclosed, but it will be "state of the art energy storage and management systems" that will give the vehicles "extended driving range and shorter recharge times." On the electric Land Rover, that means a range of around 200 miles. Whatever the system looks like, Liberty says it will offer the technology to other automakers. ETA on these expensive rides? N/A. More details after the break.

2009 Kia Soul bares itself ahead of Paris

Kia has released the first official image of the production Soul. And that's pretty much it. The press release accompanying it is several paragraphs of filler that tells you exactly nothing of value, other than that the car keeps "it's" concept forebear's name and will be formally unveiled in October at the Paris Motor Show (which we knew). Kia also says that the Soul "defies classification," which is elaborate automaker code for, "it's a small crossover that's our answer to the Scion xB." Yes, but this is better-looking.

Motorcycles owners report average of 56 miles per gallon

While scanning the news for important green automotive information, we ran across a note from Allstate Insurance which mentions that the average motorcycle rider reports fuel consumption of just over fifty-six miles per gallon. For comparisons sake, automobile drivers report an average of 22.4 miles per gallon. It's impossible to know for sure how many new riders have specifically chosen to ride a motorcycle or scooter for the sake of fuel savings. What's not debatable, though, is the rapid rise in motorcycle registrations in the last decade. As Allstate points out, ten years ago, there were roughly four million cycles registered in the United States. This year, there are over six million bikes registered. Granted, not every trip that's possible with a car is possible with a motorcycle, but when a bike is a viable option, we're pretty sure that the owners of said two-wheelers are enjoying the less frequent fill-ups that their rides require.

2010 Chevy Camaro caught in first stages of production

We don't know how how someone got access to take these pictures or whether someone is getting in a lot of trouble as we speak, but they have infiltrated the internets overnight. So now we too bring you photos of the 2010 Camaro in its first stages of production. There are apparently two preproduction units on the line in these photos as we see the body shells advance from stage to stage and get molested by a dozens of potentially suicidal robots. In fact, not a single human can be found anywhere in these pictures, which is just as well considering the trouble GM's had with striking workers lately. As for where these pictures were taken, our best guess is GM's plant in Oshawa, Ontario since that's where actual production of the Camaro is scheduled to take place. Peruse the gallery below and see if you can pick out any interesting details we might've missed about the car. Thanks for the tip, everyone!

Officially Official: EPA rates 2009 Jetta TDI at 30/41mpg

The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is coming to VW dealers this summer as the first of the new batch of 50 state clean diesels and the official EPA fuel economy numbers are now out. The diesel has come in with ratings of 30mpg on the urban cycle and 41mpg on the highway cycle. Those numbers are a bit lower than expected, with Volkswagen having implied previously implied that 40mpg both city and highway were possible. More recently they have indicated that real world highway figures of up to 60mpg were possible. Regardless of the expectations we might have had, these numbers are a huge improvement over the current 2.5L five cylinder and 2.0L turbo offerings. The 34mpg combined figure is a 41.7 percent improvement over the 2.5L and 36 percent boost over the 2.0L. The Prius is rated at 48/45mpg city/highway. We'll be looking forward to our chance to evaluate a new Jetta TDI to see how it does in the real world. Update: We just talked to VW spokesman Keith Price about the EPA numbers and his response was that the VW TDIs typically do better in real world mileage performance than the official ratings. We'll reserve judgement until we get our hands on one in late June.

True targa-top Porsche 911 available from aftermarket

If you've been in the market for a vintage, or just affordable, Porsche 911 in the last ten years, you've undoubtedly noticed the number of Targa-topped 911s for sale. The reason for the glut of Targas is two fold: Porsche sold a slew of them in the 70s and 80s and they remain less desirable than their fixed-roof counterparts. However, the allure of the Targa hasn't been lost.

Porsche's introduction of the 911 Targa was largely a response to stringent safety regulations in the 1960s, but the appeal of both an open-air experience (without the aesthetic and noise issues of a traditional cloth convertible) and some manner of additional safety made the Targa a popular choice. Porsche reintroduced its modern interpretation of the Targa last year, but instead of the removable roof and fixed rollbar/B-pillar, it opted for a duo of sliding glass panels.

Paso Robles, California-based performance shop, VeloTech, has decided to move beyond its bread and butter business – turbocharging European vehicles – and has developed its own traditional targa setup for current 911s. The roof, which is comprised mainly of carbon fiber, is still a pricey solution for a very select group of enthusiasts, but VeloTech maintains that if the price for the conversion can be reduced from its current cost ($10,000) to something more palatable ($6,000), the market could expand.

Spy Shots: Possible Chevy Beat mule sighted in U.S.

Whether the Chevy Beat mini-car makes it to the U.S. market is still an open question - although if fuel prices keep climbing it seems increasingly likely. Regardless of its ultimate fate in this market, at least mule vehicles are being tested on U.S. soil. Autoblog reader Rob tipped us off that he had spotted four cars, a pair of what are likely 2010 Cobalt prototypes and a pair of mutilated mini-cars. The minis are based on the body shell of the current Daewoo Matiz/Chevy Spark which is likely to be replaced by the production version of the Beat. The mini-mules have a wider track than the production Matiz and the front end modifications speak for themselves. All four cars were sighted on I-70 near Denver, Colorado, probably either on their way to or from Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak is commonly used by manufacturers for high intensity brake testing as well as general high altitude performance evaluation. The fact that the car is being tested in the U.S. shouldn't be taken as confirmation that the car will be sold here. It's common practice for cars that are only sold overseas to be tested here, especially at extreme locations like Pikes Peak and Death Valley.

Stretching Your Fuel

The price of fuel has surely gone up. And with the rising costs of almost everything around us, it is important that we do know how to stretch our dollar. Fuel can also be stretched, did you know that? Just in case you don’t, keep reading and learn about Shell “FuelStretch” tips.

01. Drive smoothly: Avoid heavy acceleration or braking. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower your gasoline mileage by 5 percent at lower speeds around town and by 33 percent at highway speeds.

02. Replace dirty or clogged air filters: Replacing a dirty or clogged air filter with a clean one can improve gasoline mileage by as much as 10 percent. A car’s air filter can protect the engine from impurities.

03. Keep your engine well-tuned and repair any problems immediately: If your car has failed an emissions test or is noticeably out of tune, repairing the problem could improve your gasoline mileage by 4 percent on average.

04. Make sure tires are not over or under-inflated: Proper air pressure cuts down on fuel used while driving. Keeping tires at the correct pressure can improve your gasoline mileage by more than 3 percent.

05. Minimize vehicle drag: Keep your trunk and back seat clear of unnecessary items that only add weight. Removing excess weight can improve your gasoline mileage.

06. Use the recommended grade of oil in your engine: Following your manufacturer’s motor oil recommendation can improve gasoline mileage by up to 2 percent. Look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol to ensure it contains friction-reducing additives.

07. Choose a high-quality gasoline: Top automakers say that carbon deposits can build up on critical engine parts, which can decrease the power, performance and fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen recommend using TOP TIER Detergent Gasolines to help keep engines clean. All Shell gasolines meet TOP TIER standards and stop gunky build-up on critical engine parts to help cars perform at their best.

08. Use cruise control on major roads and in free-flowing traffic: Maintaining a constant speed can improve gasoline mileage.

09. Avoid idling: When you idle, you get zero miles per gallon.

10. Avoid higher speeds: Gasoline mileage usually decreases when driving at speeds over 60 miles per hour.

11. Plan your outings to avoid separate trips: Combine your errands into one outing to avoid short separate trips. This helps avoid unnecessary cold starts and keeps your car’s engine running warm and more efficiently.

12. Pay with a rebate credit card: Credit cards offer a simple way to pay for things quickly, but using a rebate credit card means earning rewards with every purchase. For example, with a 5 percent rebate on Shell gasoline purchases and a 1 percent rebate on all other purchases, the Shell Platinum MasterCard(R) is one of the best rebate cards of its kind, helping consumers lower the cost of driving without sacrificing the quality of their gasoline.

Monaco post office buys electric vans

The Monaco post office has just purchased a pair of electric delivery vans from Newteon ecofriendly vehicles. Le Poste Monaco chose a pair of Electric Porter vans equipped with lithium batteries. Newteon offers the Porter with either lead acid or lithium phosphate battery packs. Both variants have top speeds of 70km/h (44mph) but the lead acid battery only yields about 44miles of range. The lithium pack ups that range to about 75 miles and increases the payload from 900lb to 1,100lbs. The compact dimensions of the Porter make it well-suited to the use in the narrow streets of the Mediterranean principality.

Mahindra joins Tata as interested party to purchase MV Agusta?

Tata Motors, rumored to have been interested in purchasing a large chunk of Italian motorcycle maker MV Agusta, could have some competition. Another large Indian conglomerate, Mahindra & Mahindra may now be interested in a controlling stake in the storied company. According to India Automotive, the potential exists to gain instant traction in the global motorcycle market by picking up MV Agusta, and the Italian company could use the extra funds from a large and profitable company to release a new line of more competitive machines. Volkswagen, are you paying attention to all of this? As we've previously reported, the German automaker has expressed interest in purchasing an established motorcycle brand, even going so far as to mention Ducati by name. MV Agusta would offer instant credibility and would be a rather easy entrance into the marketplace.