Forget high gasoline prices. That maybe a short term issue but the fact is global warming is the more important issue that we should not lose sight of:
2010 Prius Production
Moves to US
Like all automakers, Toyota is acutely aware of evolving consumer demands and is responding with some pivotal changes in its manufacturing structure and product mix. It’s beginning this in a big way by adjusting the production mix at three of its U.S. plants to improve production efficiency. In short, big trucks like the new Tundra aren’t selling so Toyota is aiming at the need to build more of its fuel-efficient cars that are in high demand. And the place to start? The Prius, of course.
The most interesting news to come out of this shift is that the next-generation Prius hybrid will be assembled at Toyota’s new Blue Springs, Mississippi plant in late 2010. That move makes it the second Toyota hybrid to be built in the U.S., with the current Camry Hybrid already assembled in Kentucky. The Highlander mid-size SUV was originally slated for production at the Mississippi plant but will now be built at Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana manufacturing facility in place of the full-size Tundra pickup. All current Prius models are currently built at Toyota’s Motomachi Plant in Toyota City, Japan. The move toward building popular hybrids in the markets where they’re already selling well or are expected to do so is already in play at Toyota, which announced recently that it would build the Camry Hybrid in Melbourne, Australia for that market.
When it emerges from the Mississippi assembly plant, the 2010 Prius will be the fourth generation of Toyota’s iconic gasoline-electric hybrid in North America. Speculation and rumors about the new car are running rampant as the current Prius – introduced as a completely revised model in 2004 – nears the end of its life cycle. Spy shots are circulating of what “might” be the next-generation Prius and sketches imagining what the next iteration will look like are also at play. Some are speculating that the 1/X Concept shown here, which debuted at the most recent Tokyo Motor Show, may provide clues regarding the look of the next Prius. The reality is that nobody really knows the true scoop. No doubt, when the new Prius debuts at the 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this coming January the world will definitely be watching.
The Greenest of 2008
This year, the natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX claims the title as the greenest vehicle for the fifth year running. Toyota’s hybrid-electric Prius, which places second, is the year’s top-scoring gasoline vehicle, while Honda’s Civic Hybrid ranks a close third. Rounding out the top five are the recently released Smart Fortwo Convertible and Coupe and Toyota Yaris. In total, the Greenest Vehicles list contains one natural gas, four hybrid-electric, and seven conventional gasoline vehicles, a mix of technologies that demonstrates some of the avenues automakers have taken in developing greener vehicles. Whether using hybrid gasoline-electric designs, compressed natural gas, or simply clean and efficient conventional gasoline designs, automakers have visibly demonstrated their ability to engineer with the environment in mind.
This year sees a number of changes to the nameplates on the Greenest Vehicles list. After being shut out of the top twelve in 2007, a domestic automaker makes an appearance on our top-twelve list. The 2008 Tier 2 Bin 3 / PZEV-certified Ford Focus comfortably takes the 9th spot in the annual ranking. Other new entries to the 2008 “Greenest” list include the Smart Fortwo Convertible/Coupe and the Mini Cooper/Clubman, both small cars that achieve excellent fuel economy. However, Hyundai’s PZEV-certified Elantra narrowly misses a spot on our list, landing in 13th place as a result of the above-mentioned new entries. Following suit are the Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Cobalt, and Pontiac G5, all of which score very well according to our ranking but face more competition this year from several clean vehicles that have entered the market. This is, of course, good news to consumers, who have greater options when it comes to buying the greenest vehicle that meets their needs and fits their budget.
Other good news is the fact that the vast majority of the year’s greenest vehicles are widely available coast-to-coast. Not too long ago, the list was dominated by vehicles for sale only in California, while today more than 80 percent of the Greenest Vehicles can be purchased in any state.
Concept Green Cars
Toyota first demonstrated a futuristic hybrid concept vehicle at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1995. The car, which consisted of an electric motor connected to a regular gasoline engine, was called the Toyota Prius. Hybrid skeptics ?both at the show and afterward?are now silent, as cumulative global sales continue to surpass all expectations. Which of today’s wild and wacky hi-tech enviro car concepts will become tomorrow’s practical fuel-efficient vehicles? Let’s take a look at some contenders.
The Volvo 3CC concept car, a rocket-shaped three-seater, can accommodate the full range of power systems, from traditional gasoline and alternative fuels such as ethanol, to hybrid and all electric. Three thousand lithium-ion batteries, just like those used in laptop computers, give it the equivalent of 105 horsepower. The 3CC has the aerodynamics of a two-seat sports car, but can slip a third passenger, or perhaps two children, in a single seat in the back.
Daihatsu UFE III
Daihatsu, the Japanese car company known for compacts, is on the third generation of the UFE (which stand for Ultra Fuel Economy). This mini-hybrid vehicle can transport three people?one upfront, and two in the back. The hybrid system comprises a 660-cubic centimeter direct-injection gasoline engine, two motors, and a nickel-metal hydride battery. Its estimated fuel economy is 169 miles per gallon.
Nissan has developed a bubble-shaped, three-seater electric car called the Pivo?short for pivot. It runs exclusively on electricity. The cabin sits atop a wheeled platform that can swivel 360 degrees, doing away with the need to reverse when emerging from narrow spaces.
But these are concept cars which means that they are years away from production. I do not think we are going to make it.