U.S. states and cities tell EPA to leave fuel-economy standards alone

WASHINGTON — Nearly a dozen U.S. states and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday promised to defend federal automobile efficiency standards against a rollback proposed this week by Scott Pruitt, the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“All Americans … deserve to enjoy fuel-efficient, low-emission cars and light trucks that save money on gas, improve our health and support American jobs,” the attorneys general from 11 states said in a statement responding to Pruitt’s proposal on Monday to ease the Obama-era standards.

The standards called for roughly doubling by 2025 the average fuel efficiency of new vehicles sold in the United States to about 50 miles (80 km) per gallon. Proponents say the standards help spur innovation in clean technologies and cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

California has long been allowed by an EPA waiver to impose stricter standards than Washington does on vehicle emissions of some pollutants. And 12 other states follow California’s lead on cleaner cars.

The attorneys general, from states including New York, Iowa and Massachusetts, said they would challenge a rollback in court. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has already threatened to sue in defense of the standards.

The statement, also signed by more than 50 mayors from around the country, said automakers have been making progress in meeting the national standards and that compliance costs have been lower than projected.

Auto industry executives have not publicly sought specific reductions in the requirements negotiated with the Obama administration in 2011 as part of a bailout deal. But they have urged Pruitt and President Donald Trump to revise the standards so it becomes easier and less costly to meet the targets.

Pruitt defended his decision at EPA headquarters on Tuesday.

“We have nothing to be apologetic about with respect to the progress we’ve made in reducing emissions as a country,” Pruitt said. The EPA will make sure that U.S. consumers would not have to buy more expensive autos as a result of efficiency standards, he said.

Pruitt, a former attorney general of Oklahoma, a major oil producer, has been criticized by politicians after reports that he paid well below market rates to live in a condo owned by a lobbyist who deals with issues overseen by his agency. Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly phoned Pruitt this week to say they support him, an administration source said on Tuesday.

[Source: Autoblog]


2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid costs $26,000, goes 29 miles on electricity


The Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and Ioniq Electric were two of the more pleasant surprises of 2017. Besides their lofty fuel economy and useful electric range, respectively, they boasted reasonable pricing, a useful interior and shockingly buttoned down handling. They could almost be deemed fun to drive.

Yet, there was a missing member of the family for 2017. While we always knew a plug-in hybrid would be added — it was with its siblings when the Ioniq was introduced at the 2016 New York Auto Show, and we drove a prototype earlier this year — it wouldn’t be until year 2 when the production car would show its face. And although that face is shared with the Ioniq Hybrid rather than the Electric, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid obviously has its own set of facts and figures that have now been revealed.

Chief among them is a 29-mile all-electric driving range, which, when depleted, effectively turns the Ioniq Plug-in into a regular hybrid capable of 52 mpg combined. It has a 119 MPGe estimate, for whatever that’s worth. To put all those numbers into perspective, there’s the Toyota Prius Prime (25 miles, 54 mpg combined, 133 MPGe), the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid (48 miles, 42 mpg combined, 110 MPGe), Chevrolet Volt (53 miles, 42 mpg combined, 106 MPGe), and the Ioniq’s mechanical sibling, the Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid (26 miles, 46 mpg combined, 105 MPGe).

Pricing for the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid starts at $25,835, including destination. The Limited trim level starts at $29,185. By comparison, the regular Ioniq Hybrid starts at $22,200 for its Blue trim and goes up to $27,550 for the Limited trim. However, keep in mind that the Plug-in Hybrid is subject to a $4,500 federal tax rebate plus whatever your particular state doles out. As such, the Plug-in Hybrid is effectively cheaper.

That’s also the case with the Toyota Prius Prime relative to the regular Prius. However, the Prime starts at just north of $27,995 (including destination). A regular Prius’ base price is also only about $1,500 lower than the Ioniq Hybrid. In other words, the Plug-in Hybrid seems like a screaming bargain … and if its siblings are any indication, it’ll be a pretty appealing car, too.

Other updates for the 2018 Ioniq lineup include paddle shifters added to the Hybrid (yay?), lane keeping assist added when lane departure warning is specified, and the availability of red paint for the Hybrid. The Ioniq Electric’s trim structure has also been simplified to base and Limited, matching the Plug-in.

[Source: Autoblog]

Insight? Civic? Accord? We need some Clarity: Honda’s hybrid hierarchy


Today, Honda previewed the revival of the Insight hybrid, seen above, ahead of its official debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. This comes just shortly after the launch of the Clarity trio — a battery electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and fuel cell electric (FCEV) — which doesn’t have a standard, non-plug-in hybrid model. What gives? If you’re a little confused, you’re not alone, but we think we can help you make sense of Honda’s hybrid hierarchy, and how they correspond to other advanced- and traditional-powertrain vehicles in its lineup.

Let’s start with the Insight. We honestly didn’t know that Honda would be recycling that nameplate until this morning. We didknow that Honda would reveal a “compact dedicated hybrid” at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. We don’t know what platform will underpin the new Insight — and “dedicated” could just refer to the nameplate, not the platform. So perhaps it’s on its own platform, or it shares with another compact Honda: the Civic.

Then why not call it the Civic Hybrid?

Our guess is that Honda wants to separate the sporty from the “upscale,” the latter being a used to describe the Insight in its press release this morning.

But Clarity is also being called “upscale,” yet there’s no traditional hybrid under that nameplate. What’s that about?

That’s a separation of segment, and possibly also powertrain technology. Insight is compact, Clarity is mid-size. The Clarity nameplate might also be reserved for cars with plugs or fuel cells, which the Insight doesn’t have. The fact that Honda chose to make its midsize PHEV a Clarity rather than stick with the Accord nameplate could be evidence of that.

Oh yeah, the Accord. What’s up with that?

There is a new Accord Hybrid on the way. It’ll be roomier than the Insight. There won’t be an Accord Plug-In Hybrid, because Clarity has that covered. Clear enough?

One more time?

Honda compact ICE: Civic
Honda compact hybrid: Insight
Honda compact EVs: None, right now. (But you can get the sub-compact Fit EV in certain places.)

Honda mid-size ICE: Accord
Honda mid-size hybrid: Accord Hybrid
Honda mid-size EVs: Clarity Electric, Clarity Fuel Cell, Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

So what would Honda call a compact plug-in or fuel cell vehicle?

Who knows? But probably not Civic. We’d guess they’d either start growing the Insight family or give it its own nameplate.


You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

[Source: Autoblog]

Hyundai offers discounts to owners done with dirty VW diesels


For Volkswagen owners that aren’t satisfied with getting a payout from the company to make up for dirty emissions, and need to rid themselves of their polluting machines, Hyundai may have a solution. The South Korean automaker is now offering Friends and Family Pricing Plus on new Hyundais for owners of 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagens. A Hyundai spokesperson said it’s “an alternative to potentially orphaned diesel owners that will be entering the market for a new vehicle.”

This discounted pricing plan starts with the gross dealer invoice price, which includes destination and advertising fees. From there, the buyer gets $1,250 off the purchase price, as well as 3-percent off of the MSRP, excluding destination charges. Also, any current Hyundai incentives can be added to the Friends and Family Pricing discounts. A list of the eligible VW models is below:

These incentives certainly make the prospect of a new Hyundai rather attractive, especially for VW owners with that sweet settlement money burning a hole through their wallets. The question is, will owners of these cars find any current Hyundais they like as much as their VWs?

[Source: Autoblog]

An early gas-electric hybrid was developed by…Exxon?


We’re not sure which aspect of Exxon’s 1970s-era efforts to develop advanced and electrified powertrains is the most ironic. There’s Exxon, that of the Valdez oil spill infamy, being on the leading edge of hybrids and electric vehicles. There’s a boat-like Chrysler Cordova getting 27 miles per gallon. And there’s the central role a Volkswagen diesel engine plays in that hybrid development. It’s all outlined in an article (linked above) by Inside Climate News, and it’s an amusing read.

Flush with cash and fearing what it thought was peak oil production in the 1970s, Exxon funded a host of new ventures divisions geared to find alternatives to gas-powered powertrains. In the early 1970s, Exxon lured chemist M. Stanley Whittingham to develop what would become a prototype of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

Then, in the late 1970s, Exxon pioneered the concept of using an alternating-current (AC) motor as part of a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The company retrofitted a Chrysler Cordova (yes, that’s the model Ricardo Montalban used to hawk) with a powertrain that combined 10 Sears Die-Hard car batteries, an alternating current synthesizer (ACS), a 100-horsepower AC motor, and, yes, a four-cylinder 50-horsepower Volkswagen diesel engine. The result was a rather large two-door sedan that got an impressive 27 mpg. And while US automakers didn’t see the potential in the early concept, in 1980 Exxon and Toyota began collaborating on a project that would involve retrofitting a Toyota Cressida with a hybrid engine. That car was completed in 1981, and may have been one of the seeds that eventually helped sprout the concept of the Toyota Prius.

Soon after rebuilding the Cressida, Exxon would get out of the advanced-powertrain-development business, as oil prices began to fall in the early 1980s, spurring cost-cutting measures. Cry no tears for the Exxon, though, as what’s now known as ExxonMobil is the largest US oil company.

Portland to use sewage gas to shift away from diesel


Portland, Oregon has a plan to get polluting diesels off its streets, and it involves sewage.

Since 2008, the city’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant has been collecting methane – a stinky greenhouse gas that also doubles as a relatively clean-burning hydrocarbon fuel – produced by bacteria as it decomposes solid waste in sewage. It currently captures about 77 percent of the methane generated there, and uses some to generate electricity, and sells the rest. The other 23 percent is essentially wasted, as it’s flared off, producing carbon dioxide.

But Portland now wants to use 100 percent of the methane produced at the treatment plant, turning it into renewable natural gas for use in vehicles. City Council approved a plan to build a CNG fueling station at the site, and convert or replace diesel vehicles. The plan could make a significant impact, too, as the Bureau of Environmental Services estimates the plant can produce enough natural gas to fuel 154 garbage trucks, with the diverted methane and the move away from diesel saving 21,000 tons in carbon emissions every year.

As renewable natural gas fetches a higher price than the extracted kind – despite being chemically and practically identical – the city will use the gas they generate for vehicles, and simply purchase the natural gas they need to continue to provide their electricity generation needs. While city vehicles can fill up at the onsite fueling station, Portland also wants to sell its renewable natural gas to outside customers to help pay for the project and CNG vehicles. While the construction and CNG conversions are expected to cost about $12 million, the city expects to generate some $3 million in revenue per year from sales.

Report says clean car tech supports 288,000 US jobs


As automakers build more electrified vehicles and improve the fuel efficiency of traditionally powered vehicles, the green car market is slowly growing. The market share of these cars, especially EVs, may be small, but they still have an impact on average fuel economy and emissions. They’re also having an impact on jobs, according to a recent study from the BlueGreen Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report, compiled with the support of the United Steelworkers union, finds that technology that reduces pollution and improves fuel economy ­– in passenger and commercial vehicles alike – affects 288,000 jobs at more than 1,200 factories across 48 states. Michigan tops the list, with 69,593 clean-car jobs, with two more Midwest states, five Southeastern states, and California all being home to more than 10,000 jobs supported by this technology.

The sorts of technologies and parts that fall under the umbrella of this report include hybrid systems and electric propulsion, low rolling resistance tires, efficient transmissions, lightweight materials, direct injection, and turbocharging. The paper lists a number of manufacturers that produce these parts, and highlights their growth, spurred by innovation and encourage by environmental policies. Compared to 2011, these jobs have almost doubled in number, with more than 2.5 times as many facilities.

The report concludes that for this economic success to continue, decision makers need to protect and continue to improve emissions and fuel-economy standards. It says tax and trade policies are tools to encourage domestic manufacturing. It also recommends protecting and strengthening labor standards and workers’ rights to ensure decent wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The report, which admittedly reads a bit like a lobbyist’s pitch, does a good job of highlighting the ways that fuel economy standards haven’t derailed the US auto industry since it fell on hard times a few years back. Sure, job growth tends to correspond with economic growth in general, but making cars cleaner and more efficient appears to be doing its part in the grand scheme of the industry since its recovery. Despite what some might have you believe, environmental and economic trajectories can align nicely.