Falling Gas Prices – It Looks Like a Great Time to Buy a Prius!

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Family, Hybrids, Madison, News | Posted on 04-11-2014

0

Gas Prices LowBooming SUV, crossover and pickup sales can only signal one thing — low gas prices.  With average gas prices falling to below $3 per gallon according to AAA, hybrid sales have softened a bit.  Earlier this year TrueCar reported a shift in consumer car buying preferences away from hybrids and toward pickups and SUVs.   In September Prius sales were down a little more than 10 percent compared to a year ago.   Last month Prius demand was off 14 percent, as gas prices stabilized.  To boost demand hybrid sales incentives have gone up to levels equal to, or even surpassing those of their gasoline counterparts.  The average transaction price for hybrids has shrunk by $113, according to TrueCar, while the average price for gasoline vehicles has actually gone up by over $700.

 

Turn the clock back about seven years to a time when the Prius was at the ‘top of its game’ – – when demand and gas prices were high and dealer inventories were low or non-existent. NS4 captureBack then, the window sticker price was the selling price and incentives were virtually nil.  In fact, there were waiting lists for the Prius with many customers queued up for over a year waiting to take delivery.  In September 2007, the Prius sold with average incentives totaling only $91 (or about the cost of the floor mats).  Fast-forward to last month — incentives across the US for the Prius liftback averaged $2,309 per vehicle.  The fortunes of hybrid sales have always risen or fallen with the price of gasoline, so this is not particularly surprising. That falling gas prices cause consumers to tack back to larger format vehicles is nothing new.  A TrueCar analysis of current year registrations shows that full-size pickup trucks now lead sales in 34 of 50 US states with most of these states located in the South.  But,  as  Matt DiLallo of The Motley Fool pointed out in October of last year, “fracking — that process of injecting high pressure fluids into the ground in order to fracture rock and retrieve oil or natural gas in the shale regions of the Upper Midwest and Pennsylvania has also prompted an incredible demand for pickups.”   Those four-wheeled pickups are sometimes the only viable solution for workers to get to a wellhead, so it is the vehicle of necessity.  

 

Recently, West Texas Intermediate crude dropped to below $80 a barrel, the lowest level in more than two years after Saudi Arabia reduced the cost of its oil to U.S. customers.   U.S. crude imports from Saudi Arabia fell to a four-year low last month and according to FuelFix, the Saudi move is more about wanting to preserve its US market share in the face of soaring North American output.   FuelFix reports that oil “has collapsed into a bear market as leading members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries resisted calls to cut production even amid signs of slowing global demand.”  Members of the group, which pumps about 40 percent of the world’s crude, “are engaged in an internal price war’ as they seek to defend their share of an oversupplied market”.  A US Energy Information Administration Market Prices and Uncertainty Report bears out that even as gas prices continue to slide due to robust supply and potentially weakening demand one thing is certain — these prices will remain historically volatile.  

 

Although at this point it would take a dramatic increase at the gas pump to wean some  buyers away from the larger format vehicles, this fall still looks like a great time to buy a hybrid. The third generation Toyota Prius has been on sale in its current form now since 2009 and despite help from the extended Prius family like the Prius v, Prius c and the Plug-in, sales of the traditional liftback have fallen off almost every month in 2014.  While it is still one of the best-selling Toyota models, it is obviously reaching the end of its current lifecycle.  Problem is, the next generation super-Prius won’t go into production for another year.  Therein lies the problem for Prius sales – low gas prices combined with the slack-end of a model cycle conspire to create a perfect storm for lagging hybrid demand.

 

Capture Welcome to PriusSo here’s the opportunity — slowing hybrid sales mean there are deals to be had and if you are a proactive car-buyer who wants a Prius now to prepare for the next time gas prices creep up to $4 per gallon there is no time like the present!  After all, whether gas costs $4, $3 or even $2 a gallon using less of this fossil fuel and saving money in the bargain is always a good idea!  So, if a Prius works for you (and not all of us want a SUV or a crossover), now is the time to act!

 

 

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

The Toyota Prius v Puts on a More Aggressive Face for 2015

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Family, Hybrids, Madison, News | Posted on 13-10-2014

0

2015-toyota-prius-v-3The Prius v (Prius+ in Europe) is getting the first facelift since its launch in 2012.  Following a design theme that Toyota has been implementing these days, the design re-fresh will feature sharper edges for a sportier look with thinner, more aero headlights and a big-mouthed trapezoidal grille intake vent.  The result is a more aggressive face with more sharp edges than the first generation.

New LED headlamps are set in slimmer, more aero bezels with chrome and black plating.  The glossy black front grille utilizes the trapezoid shape which has become formulaic with a number of Toyota models.  This creates an overall impression of a wider front end when combined with the re-designed vertical side vents and the slim LED daytime running lights.  The rear-end gets an updated look thanks to new tail lights with red lens as opposed to the clear LED lenses from the last model.  A diffuser integrated into the rear bumper adds to the drama.

Cosmetic changes to the cabin include dark silver metallic and chrome finishes to the trim and climate controls with a new infotainment system.  Befitting an eco-vehicle like the Prius, the new Prius v toyota-prius-v-gets-an-angry-face-for-2015_1connects the driver to an assortment of fuel efficiency data and hypermiling feedback to enhance the Eco Experience.  According to the European website autoevolution.com, one such upgrade is a little game called the Eco Judge in which the driver scores points based on their eco-driving abilities.

x2015-toyota-prius-v-2.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ylTH-CIXeh (1)rearMechanically, the 2015 Prius v will be powered by the same Hybrid Synergy Drive unit as before, but with a slightly re-tuned suspension for improved ride damping quality.  The previous Prius v had road-leveling technology that automatically adjusted the car’s balance and posture to variations in the road, so the ride must be getting even cushier now.  

Prices and full specs haven’t been announced yet and Toyota hasn’t announced the exact schedule.

 

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Matt Kenseth to Visit Smart Toyota

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Employees, Events, Family, Madison, News, Racing | Posted on 02-07-2014

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

_MG_1039Local NASCAR fans will have a rare opportunity to meet one of racing’s current superstars, as Matt Kenseth visits Smart Toyota in Madison on Monday, July 14th. As some might expect of a small-town-Wisconsin born celebrity, Matt Kenseth, NASCAR standout, makes a concerted effort to reach his hometown crowd. Originally from nearby Cambridge, WI, Kenseth has been catapulted into the national limelight through years of impressive stock car racing. Although Kenseth currently resides in North Carolina, he still finds time to make it home to see his fans, and even to do a bit of racing. Recently, Kenseth took to his former home track at the Madison International Speedway, where he wowed and pleased fans with a hometown victory in his #8 Smart Toyota Camry. He’s scheduled to man the same car at Slinger Super Speedway on July 15th, as well. Prior to his race in Slinger, Matt Kenseth has again set aside time for fans, bringing his replica Dollar General race car to Smart Toyota in Madison. Guests will be given an opportunity to meet Matt for an autograph, see his car, and even test their skills in a NASCAR simulator.

2014 NASCAR Daytona 500

We’re ecstatic about the visit, as I’m sure many fans are, and are eager to see Kenseth’s replica race car, the NASCAR simulator, racing memorabilia, and Matt himself. The event is open to the public between 6 and 8 pm Monday evening, and guests interested in an autograph will be permitted after receiving a wristband, which will be distributed starting at 5pm. With opportunities to see and experience much of Kenseth’s racing world, this should prove to be an exciting evening for all in attendance.

MK MSN - VL Smart

Some of the Smart Motors staff were on hand for Matt Kenseth’s recent victory at Madison Int’l Speedway

 

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

New Silicon Carbide Semi-Conductors Could Boost the Efficiency of Toyota’s Hybrids By Up to Ten Percent

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Hybrids, News | Posted on 20-05-2014

0

In the spirit of one of Toyota’s vital principles, Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) the company has developed a new semiconductor it says can boost fuel efficiency in hybrid cars such as the Prius by up to 10 percent.

The world’s largest manufacturer of gasoline-electric cars with it’s relentless efficiency improvements aims to extend its lead in hybrid technology.  This particular advancement, which was developed with Toyota’s in-house technology partner Denso, is focused on the semiconductors that manage the flow of electricity through the power control unit (PCU) that integrates a hybrid’s battery, motor and generator.  The new semiconductors utilize only a tenth of the energy that today’s chips gobble up and enable the PCU to be 80 percent smaller, according to Toyota’s press release.

The technology has the potential to deliver a ten percent increase in fuel efficiency because less energy is lost when the battery powers the car’s electric motor or when regenerative braking recharges the battery.  Better internal combustion engines (ICEs), traction batteries and aerodynamics are a key part of Toyota’s plans for future hybrids, including the next generation Prius.  But the company has targeted the performance of these power-hungry PCU chips that also sap energy.

Although Toyota still has a commanding sales lead in the hybrid segment, especially with the pioneering segment-leading Prius, competition had gotten keener and the world’s largest producer has been ramping up research on ways to squeeze out better mpg.  “We are aiming for great improvement in fuel economy and miniaturization, says Kimimori Hamada, the project manager of Toyota’s electronics development division.

Toyota opened a vast semiconductor development center at its Hirose plant in Toyota City last year to expand this new technology.  That facility already makes semiconductors for Toyota’s existing hybrid systems.  Toyota has historically developed hybrid technology and components in-house, starting with the development of the first-generation Prius which began in 1993 and the car company holds over two  thousand of patents on hybrid systems and components.

Toyota’s new approach with semiconductors is to use silicon carbide (SiC), instead of simply silicon, to make the semiconductor wafers.  Silicon carbide wafers have a few distinct advantages.  Just as an internal combustion engine experiences ineffiency due to heat loss, whenever energy (in this case current) passes through the PCU semiconductor, power is lost as heat.  In fact, Toyota says, semiconductors account for about 20 percent of all power loss in hybrid systems.

toyotadeveloSilicon carbide semiconductors experience only a tenth of the energy loss of the silicon-based chips in use today.  Also, Toyota engineers say that silicon carbide semiconductors can switch on and off at much higher frequencies.  That makes them more efficient and obviates the need for space-clogging coils and capacitors that are used in PCUs to temporarily store power.  Capacitors and coils take up about 40 percent of the space in a typical PCU.  Because fewer of these components are needed with silicon carbide semiconductors, the overall size and weight of the PCU can be made 80 percent smaller.  The new PCU is about the size of a shoe box.  The new silicon carbide semiconductors will be applicable to hybrid, all-electric or fuel cell power trains and can be mated to lithium ion or nickel-metal hydride batteries according to Toyota’s press release.

Toyota’s next generation Prius is already expected to see a 10 percent improvement in efficiency compared to the current model, with a touted fuel economy just above 55 mpg.  The new semiconductors have not been confirmed for the next Prius, though Toyota does say it intends to “boost development activities” so that it can implement the technology sooner, not later.  Each Prius generation has come with a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the outgoing model and the next Prius will surely benefit from this.  Add the fact that Toyota is also developing new, highly efficient gasoline engines that achieve an amazing thermal efficiency and fuel efficiency improvements of at least 10 percent and you can count on the the next Prius being the most efficient hybrid so far.

  Sources: Toyota Pressroom, Toyota GB, Automotive News, autorevolution.com, greencarreport

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FGSOK5l6s0?rel=0]

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Smart Express Lube – Remodeled and Reopen

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Driving, Madison, Service | Posted on 27-02-2014

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1

 

After nearly 4 months of destruction and subsequent reconstruction, the Smart Motors Express Lube is back to full-speed! As an “Express” lube facility, timeliness is essential. Our recently renovated no-appointment Express Lube facility has practically doubled in size, with literally twice as many service bays and a larger and more comfortable and convenient guest lounge.

IMG_1319s

The reasoning behind the renovation was the aforementioned essential: timeliness! Our service customer base grows steadily every year and our hard-working Express Lube employees were becoming limited by their facilities and equipment, causing prolonged visits for our customers. Adding four additional bays to the four existing bays, all complete with the necessary equipment to perform routine oil and filter changes, tire rotation and repair, and a variety of other related services, will provide the staff with the space and tools necessary to quickly and conveniently serve our incoming guests.

IMG_1302s

What has become somewhat routine for us here at Smart Motors in recent years, this substantial project was deemed essential for our continued growth, with long-term benefits greatly outweighing some short-term setbacks and challenges. The expanded Express Lube is sure to offer the outstanding service that Smart Motors customers have come to expect, combined with convenient no-schedule maintenance and lots of practical amenities that make for comfortable visits. The best part? Now we can accommodate even more guests and be introduced to new customers.

 

Whether you’re due for your next oil change, or have yet to experience Smart Motors’ award-winning service, come check out the newly expanded Express Lube.

 

 

IMG_1305s IMG_1308s

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Quick Jump Start Guide

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Automotive, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Driving, Service, Winter Driving | Posted on 18-12-2013

Tags: , , ,

0

Your vehicle’s battery is responsible for starting your vehicle, as well as powering a variety of electrical accessories. An alternator recharges your battery while the vehicle is running, but your battery may become drained for a variety of reasons, including extreme temperatures, leaving lights on, or simply old age. No matter what the reason, a dead battery can leave you stranded, and frustrated. If you believe the battery is the culprit of your car-starting woes, follow these simple steps for a successful jump start.

Boost_Park

1.     Park the booster vehicle close but not touching the vehicle that needs to be jumped. Once in position, shut off the booster vehicle.

 

2.     Begin the process by clamping one of the positive jumper cable ends (red) to the positive battery terminal (labeled with a “+” on the battery) of the dead vehicle.

 

3.     Connect the other end of the positive cable (red) to the positive battery terminal on the booster vehicle (again, confirm that a “+” is next to the battery terminal).

 

Boost_Compartment

4.     Connect the negative cable end (black) to the negative battery terminal on the booster car (marked with a “-“). Finally, attach the other end of the negative cable to an unpainted metal surface on the engine of the dead car.

 

5.     Start the booster vehicle and allow it to idle for about 1 minute before attempting to start the dead vehicle.

 

6.     Start the dead vehicle and let the two vehicles idle for a few minutes.

 

Boost_Order

7.     Once the dead vehicle is started and running smoothly, disconnect the jumper cables in the reverse order that they were connected.

 

8.     Drive the revived car to somewhere safe and secure before shutting off the engine.

Note: If the dead vehicle is not starting after  a few attempts, check all connections and reposition if necessary. You may also need to let the booster vehicle idle for up to 5 minutes while connected to the dead vehicle, in order to reach an adequate charge.

 

 

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Keep Loving Your Car

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Auto Body, Auto Glass, Automotive, Driving, Madison, News | Posted on 10-12-2013

Tags: ,

0

 

When consumers shop for their next car purchase they spend countless hours online, driving through lots, and garnering insights from friends, relatives and strangers. The goal, obviously, is to find the perfect car that will suit their needs and keep them driving happily for

IMG_0453years to come. Most dealers, and certainly we here at Smart Motors, aim to help consumers do exactly that; find the perfect car for them. However, as we all know, life happens, people change, and sometimes that dream car can become less than ideal. We take issue with that here at Smart Motors, and want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your vehicle, so you can continue to drive with a big, care-free smile.

 

Our loyal customers know that bringing their Toyota back to Smart for service is a great way to keep their vehicle running in tip-top shape, which certainly adds comfort and ease to daily driving. However, we strive to go beyond routine maintenance and complimentary carwashes, and really want to ensure that you like driving the car you’re driving. We have two dedicated Quality Assurance Managers who are positioned to aid customers who do find themselves lacking in love for their current chariot. Roger Ingalls and Chad Nettesheim, our Quality Assurance Managers, aim to please. It’s their goal, and a goal for all of Smart Motors, to make sure th

at our customers are driving happy. Chad says it’s as simple as asking customers, “Hey, how is everything going with your car? Is there anything you don’t like about it?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then odds are Chad and Roger can help with a solution.

IMG_0012

 

Whether there are small cosmetic blemishes that you find frustratingly unsightly, your car needs a serious deep cleaning, or the absence of modern amenities is getting you down, we’ve got options to satisfy. From our service drive and guest lounge, we’re ready to provide you with a variety of options to not only keep you car running great, but looking, feeling, and functioning just as well. We offer fixes for cosmetic body damage; including spot paint repair, paintless dent removal, and even glass repair or replacement. A full detail shop offers intensive cleaning inside and out, from upholstery steam extraction to waxing and buffing. Of course, if you’re looking to update your vehicle with roof racks, mud flaps, electronics and more, we offer a full line of accessories to help you customize and optimize your vehicle.

 

IMG_0394

Of course, if you don’t feel that your vehicle is suiting you well, and want to explore the option of a new vehicle entirely, our Quality Assurance team can take the hassle and frustration out of evaluating your current vehicle and finding new options that would be a good fit. With tools to provide information about equity, trade-in value, and cost calculation, we can easily assist you in making a smart choice.

 

As a company who genuinely cares about their customer’s satisfaction, Smart Motors does strive to go above and beyond to keep guests happy. Our Quality Assurance Managers are just another example of this, and help make Smart Motors a great place to purchase or service your vehicles.

 

If you need to contact our Quality Assurance Managers, you can email them with questions, comments, or concerns.

Chad Nettesheim at CNettesheim@smartmotors.com and Roger Ingalls at RIngalls@smartmotors.com

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Toyota FCV Fuel Cell Concept Moves Ahead

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 09-12-2013

0

Side

The annual Tokyo Auto Show is known for its edgy concept cars, but this year the show featured a ‘radical’ technology from Toyota that is scheduled to go into global production in 2015 — the Toyota Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV) Concept.  

 

Although there have been reports that those of us in the United States won’t see it until much later, Toyota has hinted that it may make the FCV available in select regions of the country beginning in 2015.  The absence of a developed hydrogen fueling infrastructure here in the US remains a huge obstacle to adoption of this technology.  Yet, Toyota says it expects to sell a production vehicle based on the FCV in the United States, targeting areas where hydrogen fueling is available.  In all likelihood that means California where 10 of the nation’s 28 or so public hydrogen fuel stations exist.  Further, the California Fuel Cell Partnership has an action plan in place to develop 46 retail hydrogen fueling stations in six key California communities at a cost of about $180 million over the next four years; $60 million will come from industry and $120 million from government.

 

According to Catherine Dunwoody, CaFCP’s Executive Director, fuel cell vehicles are coming to California and the infra-structure needs to be in place, “By 2017, automotive manufacturers plan to place 50,000 zero-emission fuel cell vehicles in customer hands.  FCVs will provide the performance, durability, driving range, and comfort that customers want, and meet the nation’s need for a domestic fuel that is better for the environment”.  No one expects anything like this to happen over night, but the bottom line is that the funds have been allocated for more stations and there is a plan in place with future funding.  This funding is being justified by future demand allowing for additional expansion of H2 stations to meet the potential mass adoption of hydrogen-based vehicles.

 

Utilities in Japan have already started putting in more stations as part of a pilot program co-sponsored by Toyota.  For this reason, Toyota will initially launch the FCV in four Japanese cities — Tokyo, Chukyo, Kansai and Fukuoka during 2015.  From there it will come to Europe next, where there is a more developed H2 fueling network and to California and then possibly, Hawaii after that, targeting areas where hydrogen fueling is available.

Toyota is serious about hydrogen fuel cell cars and the development of its technology began in 1993 concurrent with the research and development on the Prius.  When Toyota

Rearfirst launched the gas-electric hybrid which has since become the industry standard, the response from the auto industry and mainstream America was pretty skeptical.  Through relentless engineering and continuous improvement and a solid three generations of the model, Toyota developed the Prius brand into a hybrid standard.  This is the company’s plan with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

 

 

Fuel cell cars are basically extended-range electric cars — only a hydrogen-powered fuel cell stack serves as the range extender instead of a conventional internal combustion engine as in the Chevy Volt.  Toyota believes that this is the best solution to meet the future challenges of dwindling energy sources and increasing emissions.  A fuel cell vehicle produces zero emissions during operation and hydrogen is one of the more abundant elements around, although it needs to be extracted (separated) from others (such as H2O).  The hydrogen isolation process can be driven by energy sources such as natural gas, but solar energy would have the least environmental impact.  A hydrogen station, a storage or filling station for hydrogen, could be located along a road on the hydrogen highway, or in the home as part of the distributed generation resources concept.  A hydrogen highway is a chain of hydrogen-equipped filling stations and other infrastructure along a road or highway, such as the one the California Fuel Cell Partnership is developing.  Ultimately, a hydrogen highway would link states and countries.  Italy and Germany are collaborating to build a hydrogen highway between Mantova (Italy) and Munich (Germany).

 

 

Front Quarter

The Toyota FCV Concept that is making the rounds on the auto show circuit this season features it’s own fuel cell stack and a pair of high-pressure hydrogen tanks.  It is roughly the size of a Camry and has a range of around 310 miles per hydrogen fill-up.  Once the fuel stacks are depleted, it takes just three minutes to refuel.  Toyota says the FCV would also be capable of powering the average Japanese home for more than a week using the same amount of hydrogen.  Toyota is keen on developing home and even neighborhood fuel cell power in Japan where there has been a series of recent natural disasters.

 

According to a Toyota press release, the fuel cell stack of the FCV develops a peak power output of around 100 kilowatts

H2 TanksSide Quarter

(134 horsepower) but there is no mention of the output of the electric traction motors onboard the vehicle.  Toyota did mention that the FCV concept is equipped with a high-efficiency boost converter, which increases the voltage so the size of the electric motor  and the number of fuel cells could be reduced.  The result is a smaller system offering enhanced performance at reduced cost.  We can expect a top speed for the FCV to be at or just above 98 mph which was the top-end for the fuel cell Highlander test vehicle that successfully completed cold-weather testing during the 2,700 mile ALCAN Highway testing in 2007.  The 100kW output of the new FCV is more than twice that of the 2007 Highlander FCHV demonstration vehicle.  Although the fuel cell can deliver sustained power of 100 kilowatts, power delivery to the electric motor driving the front wheels is buffered through a lithium battery pack located under the specially designed body.  This allows the vehicle controller to alter power output quickly in response to acceleration and braking.

 

Front

The exterior styling of the FCV takes its design cues, says Toyota, from the operation of a fuel cell— conveying “the air-to-

water transformation (in fuel cells) with its flowing-liquid door profile and wave-motif fuel cap.”  The air and water themes are everywhere.  The large-mouth grille design typical of Toyotas these days, is beyond prominent on the FCV and symbolizes “taking in air”.  There are Prius cues in the roofline with a “floating roof” effect.  The FCV’s rear continues the “flowing water” theme and looks a little like the stern of a catamaran “emitting water” in its wake.  Even the color hints of water and air.

 

Toyota marketing executives are debating whether to include the upcoming fuel cell sedan into the Prius family.  The name “Prius” is loaded with marketing weight for both Toyota and its many customers.  The Prius is already a successful sub-brand with four models.  The “Hybrid Synergy Drive” power train branding will eventually be applied to every Toyota and Lexus.  More importantly, as a Toyota engineer mentioned nearly a decade ago at a training session prior to the launch of the Gen ll Prius, “Down the road, all we have to do with Hybrid Synergy Drive is take out the ICE (internal combustion engine) and replace it with a fuel stack and hydrogen fuel tanks and we have a fuel cell vehicle!”  Although not that simple, a fuel cell vehicle would fit right in with the rest of the family!

 

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Winter Pests: Keeping Rodents out of Your Vehicle

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Auto Body, Automotive, Car Care, Car Maintenance, Driving, Pest Control, Winter Driving | Posted on 23-10-2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2

Does anyone remember Klondike Kat anymore?  His motto was:  “Klondike Kat always gets his mouse!”  Of course, he never did, but many of us could use a mouse catcher for our cars this time of year.

As the weather turns colder, rodents like mice and even rats look for warm places to nest and get away from the elements, and many find cars to be an ideal option.  Vehicles tend to be warm, dry, and full of little places to hide from predators.  Unfortunately, once these animals get inside, they tend to do a lot of damage.

A common hang out for these pests is under the hood, and they like to get inside things like the air filter housing, where they will chew up the filter to make nesting material.  Small animals will also go under the hood insulation, often dragging food along with them, like dog food, bird seed, acorns and walnuts.  If they don’t have food to bring along, they may feast on the wiring in the engine compartment and wreak havoc on your ability to drive the car.

Rodents can find their way inside the car, as well.  They typically can enter through the ventilation system, and love to nest near the heater fan, which is generally located behind the glove box on the right side of the dash, nearby or directly above the heater core.  The heater core stays warm long after you leave the car and have turned off the engine, making this spot an ideal nesting area.  These critters pack food and nesting material inside the fan blade, which looks similar to a hamster wheel, and throw the blade out of balance, causing noise and vibration during operation.  Other problems stemming from this include blocked vents, which impedes airflow, as well as complications from chewed wiring.

Mice_Fan_Compartment

Now, it’s bad enough to think about mice living in your vehicle, but it can get worse:  they can die inside the engine compartment or vehicle, as well.  Whether these bothersome tenants meet their demise trying to escape fan blades, chewing electrified wires, or otherwise, the outcome remains the same. The often hard-to-find remains can be foul smelling and continue to contribute to the aforementioned problems. Finding the culprit and eliminating the damage and the odor can be difficult and expensive.  How big of a problem is this?  We have seen damage over $10,000 caused by rodents.  And we see about one vehicle per week during the warm months with a problem, and sometimes 4 or 5 per week when the weather turns cold.  Fortunately for some owners, comprehensive insurance usually covers the cost of repairs (see your agent for coverage).

 

The best solution to this problem is to avoid the problem in the first place. Below are several tips that should help prevent rodents from exploring your chariot.

 

  1. Don’t store pet food or bird food in a garage or outside unless it is in a tightly sealed, mouse-proof container.  Food attracts rodents, and they will take that food into your car.mice-dryer-sheet
  2. Depending on how you feel about trapping, killing, or poisoning mice, the best way to keep them out of your car is to keep them out of your garage.  Setting traps or poison baits are one way, but moth-balls strategically placed in a garage (away from children and pets) can also be effective.
  3. Many boat and RV owners will stuff fabric softener sheets into compartments when the vehicles are put into storage.  Placing Bounce fabric softener sheets in the glove box, under the seats and even inside the hood insulation may keep mice away.  There is the added benefit of that fresh laundry smell, too!mice_vacuum
  4. Throw away garbage in your car.  Those dropped French fries between the seats are attractants to animals.  Keeping the interior clean will help keep the mice away.
  5. Get a cat!

 

 

A little prevention can go a long way to protecting your car from invasion this fall and winter, and can potentially save you from costly cleaning and repairs.

Cat-and-Mouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Matt Jones – Smart Motors Service Manager

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email

Plug-in Day: Electric Cars, Plug-in Hybrids Whizz and Whirr Up the Winding Road to Acceptance

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Automotive, Community, Driving, Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 15-10-2013

0

DSCN0480The Third Annual National Plug-in Day held recently, included events in nearly 100 cities around the world.  Plug-in and electric car enthusiasts came together for an annual celebration of driving cars with a cord.  Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are increasingly popular and the world-wide event drew more than double the attendees compared to the year before.  The primary feature of each event was displaying the plug-in vehicles from the major automakers as well as the newcomers.  Scores of people had their first experience with vehicles that burn little or no gas.  This was the most important element of the event because most advocates believe that familiarity is the absolute key to popular acceptance of these vehicles and National Plug-in Day raised the bar on what is possible!

National Plug-in Day is ongoing proof that Americans, and drivers the world over are keen to drive vehicles that use little or no gasoline, cut down on airborne pollutants and keep1383193_365819993552808_2127503790_n our fuel dollars local.  The Silicon Valley event in Cupertino was a perfect example of the growth of the event, where approximately 2,000 attendees checked out nearly 300 vehicles on display from 20 major automakers.  Events in Seattle and the Los Angeles area had similar turnouts.  In Nashville, Nissan decided to promote electric cars by giving away free gasoline.  Cities from Maine to Hawaii hosted similar events and many saw a big increase in attendance compared to last year.  Initial numbers from Plug-in America, a coalition of first generation RAV4 EV owners and former lessees of Honda EV+, GM EV1, Ford Ranger and Ford Think City electrics from the “Who Killed the Electric Car?” era and long-time Plug-in advocates, pegged total US attendance at between 40,000 and 50,000 people.  According to the organizers, that’s a 43 percent boost in participation.

Closer to home, the Upper Midwest Plug-in Day held in Madison, Wisconsin featured over 25 electric vehicles on display, along with demonstrations, owner testimonials and test drives.  Some of the vehicles on display included home-built and concept vehicles along with all-electrics (Nissan LEAF and Tesla).  Various Plug-in Hybrids (Plug-in Priuses, Gen ll Prius Plug-in modifications, Ford C-Max Energi, Chevy Volt, and Wheego) were all equally represented.  Electric bikes and mopeds were also featured at the event.  Flux Mopeds of Madison, Len’s Electric Bikes and Ride Green Bikes of Milwaukee showed off their clean, quiet, 100% electric offerings.  In addition, Madison Gas and Electric was on hand to talk about their Madison-wide electric vehicle charging network and answer all power-related questions.  There were plenty of EV owners on hand sharing information on what its like to own and drive a plug-in vehicle.

National Plug-in Day was also marked in Sauk City, Wisconsin where the Free Congregation of Sauk County held a Free Forum on Energy, Climate and Our Future.  The social and environmental responsibility of cleanDSCN0557 energy was the theme of the day and Plug-in vehicles were on display outside of Freethinker’s Hall.  A Prius Plug-in, a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt were on display and there were representatives on hand to answer all the questions.

Electric drive enthusiasts had plenty of success to celebrate on Plug-in Day.  Still, plug-ins only make up a tiny segment of the total auto market.  Slowly but surely, as National Plug-in Day underscores, many people are making that change, and the mainstream auto industry has taken note.  Higher fuel-efficiency standards and government subsidies have shifted the center-of-gravity a little more toward Plug-in and EV vehicles and it appears no automaker wants to be the one not moving forward with this technology.

The good news for consumers is that automakers have been dropping the prices of hybrids and EVs, making it easier to get into the game.  Reuters says that “automakers have slashed prices on their electric cars to help overcome consumer qualms about high costs and fears of driving range.”  This has been borne out by plug-in sales which have remained high month by month this year.  Sales rose as prices for these vehicles came down.  Recently, the Plug-in Prius joined the Volt and the Leaf at a lowered price-point as Toyota dropped the price of the 2014 model.  Toyota has always been very good at making complex electromechanical systems smaller, cheaper and more reliable.  And a lesson learned from the early history of the Prius just might indicate that Plug-ins may have an advantage at this stage of their history that the Prius did not – when the 2001 Prius went on sale in the United States Toyota sold only small numbers of that first gas-electric from 2001 through 2003, but it had big plans for the little hybrid from the start.

DSCN0558With the re-designed second-generation Prius in 2004, Toyota had a winner.  Since then, Prius sales have never looked back and now there is a family line of separate Prius vehicles, which are now Toyota’s third best-selling passenger car in the United States market.  The success of the Prius and the company’s hybrids in general, has paved the way for a much earlier acceptance of plug-in hybrids and EVs compared to early hybrid history.  According to the United States Department of Energy, around 40,000 plug-in electric vehicles were purchased by Americans in the first six months of 2013, that’s more than double the amount sold throughout the same period last year.  In 2012 there were 52,000 EVs sold, which was an increase from 17,000 in 2011.

So, compared to hybrid cars — which took about a decade to catch on in the U.S. and now represent four percent of the total car market — electric vehicles are doing better earlier in the cycle, historically, than hybrids after their first 30 months on the market. There were about 3,000 hybrids sold per month 30 months after the cars were first introduced.  Over the same time period, plug-in electric vehicles are selling at a rate of about 9,000 per month.  It is clear that there is a growing segment of car-buyers who are ready for this technology.

 

DSCN0559Toyota has always taken a long-term view of hybrid-electric technology planning not only in five year and ten year cycles, but twenty-five and even fifty year plans, as well.  This has worked out very well for Toyota.  Today, the company has built 5 million hybrids and sells 23 different hybrids around the world – and has plans to launch additional hybrid models each year going forward along with a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle coming on the market in 2015!  DSCN0560

 

Share this:
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Email