More Hybrid Options Means More Savings

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 25-06-2013

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Highlights from a recent WGN radio interview with Smart Motors’ own Allen Foster…

Continual questioning from consumer and expert markets are putting hybrid and EV’s under the telescope. Despite some hesitance for early adoption, these vehicles continually climb in sales and popularity.

Toyota Prius sales in the US are up nearly 10% in May over last years figures, and at Smart Motors in Madison, hybrid vehicles consistently make up nearly 50% of our new car sales. As additional manufacturers unveil new models, these alternative fuel vehicles will gain further traction. The Nissan Leaf, for example, has seen dramatic sales improvement (nearly 300%), thanks in part to a recent 18% reduction in price.

The increase in sales is not surprising, considering the inherent savings that these vehicles can provide to consumers. CR (Consumer Reports) estimates that the Prius costs owners 49 cents per mile — less than half the cost of operating an average car. One Chicago area listener estimates saving hundreds on fuel costs each month. The advent of plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles will undoubtedly show increased savings over the already efficient hybrids that we’ve come to know and love.

Follow the link to listen to the complete radio interview.

June 8th 2013 WGN 720 Hybrid Sales

For more information, visit our website at smarttoyota.com

 

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We Get a Charge Out of That…

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Community, Hybrids, News | Posted on 15-01-2013

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DSCN0479Now that plug-in Priuses and EVs are becoming more commonplace on our roadways the sight of one of these Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) hooked up to a public charger in the wild is no longer such an isolated event. Plug-in electrics offer many advantages, especially in city driving, including reduced gasoline use, reduced emissions and electricity costs that are less than gasoline per mile driven. So, as the technology evolves it’s not surprising to see plug-in hybrids and pure electrics catching on here in Madison.
Most owners are charging their cars at home, but here in Madison we are fortunate to have access to a network of public charging stations. Madison Gas and Electric is the biggest player with a network of 26 charging stations through-out the Madison area. Each charging station offers Level 1 charging that uses a standard 120-volt outlet and the adapter that is provided with the vehicle (auto manufacturers do not recommend using an off-the-shelf cord set and this may void the manufacturer’s warranty). The ChargePoint chargers in the MG&E network also provide Level 2 charging at 240-volts using the SAE J1772 electrical connector which is the North American standard for electric vehicles. Using a Level 1 or a Level 2 charger only changes the amount of time it takes to charge the car, not the charging cost. For example, the Prius Plug-in has a 4.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that takes 3 hours to charge with Level 1 charging (120-volts). That same charge only takes 90 minutes with Level 2 charging (240-volts).
Anyone interested in using one of MG&E’s charging stations can find a specific station and even see if it is currently in use at www.chargepoint.net . ChargePoint also offers a mobile phone app to locate and determine station availability. Another popular smartphone app for finding electric vehicle charging stations is PlugShare which is available at www.plugshare.com . PlugShare will not only help you locate public charging stations, it will also direct you to private home charging stations that the homeowner’s have made available to PEV owners (with permission).
Dave-Toso-MGECharging your vehicle at an MG&E public station is gratis for now as the utility is operating the stations free of charge within a trail period during which they are, among other things, gauging personal charging patterns and their demands on the power grid. There will be a cost in the future. As part of its Electric Vehicle Charging Research, MG&E is evaluating different cost options. Addresses for all of MG&E’s PEV charging stations in the network can be found at www.mge.com/ev . MG&E’s charge station map will also indicate which stations are ADA-compliant (American Disabilities Act) stations. Only vehicles with the proper disabled parking permits are allowed to park in these designated stalls.

250px-SAE_J1772_7058855567In addition to MG&E’s charge network, a number of local businesses have seen the value of installing charging stations for their customers who own electric vehicles. Kohl’s Department Store on Madison’s west side, Hy-Vee Grocery Stores, the east and west-side Willy Street Co-op locations and Copps in Shorewood have led the way in this regard. Other businesses, like Smart Motors have plans to install PEV charge stations for their customers in the very near future.
In practice, most people do their charging at home. Here you have the same options of Level 1 or Level 2 charging using a standard 120-volt outlet or you could install a home charging system connected to a 240-volt outlet. Check with an electrician to determine if your home is ready. Most auto manufacturers can provide information on home charging systems that are compatible with your vehicle and may even have a list of qualified electrical installers. Toyota has paired with Leviton, as an approved Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) provider for Toyota customers and dealers. Leviton offers a variety of charge equipment for home use, an extensive customer service center and deals with local, certified installers. Information and a pre-qualification survey are available online at www.toyota.leviton.com . Installation and equipment costs can range from $500 to $3000 depending on the type of equipment and the level of electrical work needed.

So, how much does it cost to charge an PEV at home? The maximum cost to charge the Prius Plug-in equals the battery capacity multiplied by MG&E’s per kilowatt-hour (kWh) electricity rate. The Prius Plug-in’s battery capacity is 4.4 kWh and MG&E charges 14₵ per kWh. So, the maximum charging cost for the Prius Plug-in is $0.62. However, the Prius Plug-in can be programed to charge over-night during off-peak hours when less electricity is used. Keep in mind, you must be enrolled in your utility’s time-of –use rate plan to take advantage of lower off-peak prices. Off-peak hours vary by rate plan and you pay more for electricity used during on-peak hours. The more energy you shift to off-peak use (not just EV charging), the more money you save!

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Where’s the tailpipe?

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 24-05-2012

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Check out this great “sneak peek” video from Mungenast Alton Toyota for the all new RAV 4 EV!

What do you think of Toyota’s all new, all electric SUV?

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Pushing Buttons Like the Jetsons – 2012 Prius Adds Revised Styling and Infotainment Features

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 20-02-2012

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The Prius surpasses itself once again!  For the 2012 model year, the global hybrid sales champion features an advanced infotainment system with mild exterior and interior styling revisions.  The 2012 Prius Liftback (the new name for the original member of the new Prius extended family) is still the same fuel economy master it always has been but with expanded options and some added content that includes, of all things, car-generated spaceship sounds.

The best-selling hybrid in the world offers Toyota’s signature Entune infotainment systems for 2012, including a suite of connectivity features which are accessed via your smart phone.  The Toyota Entune system is a collection of popular mobile applications and data services that are offered with the standard audio systems with three years of complimentary access on the Prius Three, Four and Five models.  Once a smart phone is connected to the vehicle using Bluetooth wireless technology or a USB cable, Entune’s features are operated using the vehicle’s controls, or for some services by voice recognition.  Entune offers mobile apps for Bing that facilitate point of interest searches for destinations such as shopping or dining, Open Table for restaurant searches and reservations, MovieTickets.com, Pandora and iHeartRadio.  Entune data services include a fuel price guide, sports scores for your favorite teams, stocks, traffic and weather information.  Depending on the Prius model all of this is delivered through a 6.1 or 7-inch touch screen.

The 2012 Prius is unbeatable when it comes to its audio capabilities.  The standard AM/FM CD player unit offers MP3/WMA playback with six speakers, a USB port for iPod connectivity and Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free phone capability.  The display also provides vehicle hybrid system operation feedback and fuel economy data. On screen menus also allow the driver to customize specific vehicle settings such as door-locking operation, Smart Key features and auto headlamp shut-off settings.

The third-generation Prius has plenty of other changes for 2012 some subtle, others not.  Outside it gets a slightly re-styled front-end with new headlights and LED daytime running lights.  In the back, the Prius gets new tail lights and some models get new wheels for 2012.  Behind the wheel the styling changes include revised graphics on the multi-information display with a new Eco Savings display that shows fuel savings versus other vehicles.  The Prius Two comes with re-styled 15-inch black alloys with new wheel covers and standard display audio with an integrated back-up camera.  The Three model now gets navigation as a standard feature along with Entune, a back-up camera, Sirius XM satellite radio and a revised smart-key system that now opens three doors.

The Prius Four model includes that system plus eight JBL GreenEdge speakers and an eight-channel JBL amplifier.  GreenEdge audio technology is quite cool really and since it significantly reduces electric draw on the vehicle which in turn, enhances fuel economy, it is perfectly at home on the Prius.  It also does not hurt that JBL GreenEdge sound systems pump out the equivalent of 600 watts of sound while using only 120 watts of power either!  The Prius Four also provides the driver with a ‘first’ for the Prius — an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat!  Then there is the ‘enhanced’ comfort of the new leather-imitating SofTex-trimmed seats! ‘Enhanced’ because no animals were injured in the making of these seats since they do not use real leather hides.

When the Solar Roof Package is ordered on the Prius Four, that system is further upgraded with a Head-up Display and a Premium HDD (Hard Disc Drive) Navigation System, which uses a seven-inch touch-screen with split-screen capability.  Other Prius models offer a navigation system with the 6.1 inch screen that is a little more ‘Garmin-like’ in its appearance and functionality.

The Solar roof package is the world’s first sliding glass moon roof equipped with solar panels located over the rear seating area that power an interior ventilation system.  The photo-voltaic system from Kyocera Solar powers a ventilation fan that helps reduce interior temperature when the vehicle is parked directly in the sun.  Cool down time is shorter when the driver returns to the Prius, thus reducing  air conditioner usage.

The top of the line Prius Five model’s Advanced Technology Package for 2012 includes an HDD Navigation System, the Head-up Display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System and Lane Keep Assist.  The Pre-Collision System retracts the front seat belts and pressurizes the brakes when the system detects that a crash is unavoidable. Lane Keep Assist alerts the driver when the Prius wanders out of it’s lane.

The new Head-up Display (HUD) is maybe the most interesting change in the Prius for 2012.   The feature projects information like speed, navi details and hybrid efficiency onto the windshield.  The system, which originated in the field of aviation, improves safety by keeping the driver’s eyes on the road instead of the complex dashboard display.  This is the first time HUD has been available on the US spec Prius and it is an option on Prius Four and Five models.

For those who want a sportier Prius, there is the PLUS Performance package which gives the world-class hybrid a more aggressive attitude as well as sharper handling. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) engineered the package to deliver a more aggressive and lower-profile stance.  It includes a custom body kit that was aerodynamically designed to further reduce the already remarkable coefficient of drag of the Prius while retaining its already great fuel efficiency.  Track width and rolling resistance is increased while unsprung weight is reduced with the addition of seventeen inch forged alloy wheels.  Lowering springs reduce the vehicle’s stance by 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear to enhance steering response and cornering ability. A rear sway bar helps reduce body lean for flatter cornering.  The PLUS Package can be ordered from Toyota or dealer installed.

The Prius is an Eco Icon that is also known for its trend-setting design and features.  With all the updates and additional content available for 2012 the range of options for the Prius buyer has expanded with only a moderate uptick in price.  Still, many of us choose the world-class hybrid for its Hybrid Synergy Drive and its record of continuous improvement in fuel economy and low emissions.  For those of us who are fuel misers and not necessarily swayed by added content and additional option choices there will always be the time-honored Prius Two. The Prius base — all the legendary Prius MPGs without all the change-ups!

While the big news with the 2012 Prius improvements has to be the addition of the Entune multimedia system for those who live life through the connectivity of their smart phones, there is another, not so subtle change.  The Prius makes a new sound, a sound alert system to be more precise.  The 2012 Prius, the Prius v and the Prius Plug-in model and every hybrid and electric vehicle going forward will now have a sound- emitting Vehicle Proximity Notification System (VPNS) as standard equipment.  Toyota engineers designed the new audible alert system to be recognizable as a car yet be futuristic enough to represent the advanced state of Hybrid Synergy Drive.  Just like Nissan, Ford and every other manufacturer of hybrids and electric cars, Toyota engineers have come up with a sound that is a little like a cross between a Jetsons-like spaceship and well, an amplified electric motor.  The VPNS is only activated at low speeds when the internal combustion engine is off, such as in a parking lot.

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 has made all these new science-fiction sounds coming from our hybrids and EVs mandatory out of rising safety concerns for pedestrians, in particular the blind and the elderly and bikers.  An oft-silent-running hybrid or EV does present a clear danger to pedestrians.  Yet it is ironic that after decades of efforts by automakers to produce vehicles that are more quiet we finally get there and the cars are so quiet that we have to add a noisemaker, albeit a futuristic noisemaker.  It only activates at parking lot speeds and to be honest, it is barely noticeable to those inside the Prius.  So, it doesn’t look like the days of the silent running Prius are particularly over.  Who knows?  Soon drivers might download “vroomtones” for their cars, the way they download ringtones to their smart phones today!

Toyota Newsroom, AutoblogGreen, Scientific American, US Congress GovTrack, Energyboom.com, Engadget.com, Hybridcars.com

 

 

VPNS Demonstration

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1YVwM3HpII]

 

 

The Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CFxQGWAaho&w=420&h=315]

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The Whole Prius Family Receives GreenCarReports’ 2012 Best Green Car to Buy Award

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 28-11-2011

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<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-529" src="http://blog.smartmotors.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2012-toyota-prius_100350438_l-300×225.jpg"

alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ />GreenCarReports.com has just named the entire 2012 Toyota Prius family of vehicles its “Best Green Car to Buy 2012.” As we have reported in this blog earlier, the Prius will expand in the 2012 model year to a family of four, including the third-generation Prius Liftback, the Prius v, the Prius c and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

 

GreenCarReports editors choose the most significant new ‘green’ car available to shoppers during each model year based on practicality, new technologies and their impact on the environment. The website’s “Best Green Car to Buy” award recognizes mass-market, environmentally-friendly vehicles. Utilizing the CarConnection’s ratings as a starting point for their evaluations, their editorial team applies their own criteria to select the winner that will carry the “Best Green Car to Buy” environmental message.

 

“The Prius is more than just one car this year,” said GreenCarReports editor John Voelcker. “With a new Prius v and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, it is now a family of vehicles with some of the highest gas mileage on the market today, and the Prius name is likely to help encourage buyers to take the plunge into plug-in vehicles.”

 

The Prius vehicles that won the award were chosen from a very competitive field of environmentally sensitive cars that also included the Honda Civic Hybrid, Infiniti M35h, Mitsubishi i and the Volkswagen Passat TDI.

 

“Judging from the regular stream of e-mails asking us when someone will make a hybrid minivan or wagon”, Voelcker said, “Toyota should see a lot of interest in the 2012 Prius V wagon. It’s taller, longer, and has far more load space–and a much more flexible rear seat–than the standard 2012 Prius hatchback.”

And based GreenCarReports first drive review of the 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon, Voelcker said that Prius v’s 42 mpg mileage figure is real–and can be replicated by real-world drivers. The Prius v is every inch a Prius, but with more space. “That means that families with a couple of kids in car seats now have 34 to 40 cubic feet of load space behind the rear seat, or 67 cubic feet with the seat down. The rear seat of the Prius V also slides back and forth several inches, expanding and contracting the load bay as needed”, added the GreenCarReports editor. (By comparison, the five-door hatchback Prius offers 22 cubic feet with the seat up.)

Concerning the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Voelcker said, “we think it will be viewed as the safest, least risky way for car buyers to experiment with plug-in vehicles. The production plug-in Prius carries an asset that neither the Volt nor the Leaf has: the Prius name, which for a decade now has stood for very high gas mileage and Toyota solidity.”

For more info on the GreenCarReports Best Car To Buy 2012 award, see their dedicated page, Best Car To Buy 2012, which includes a profile of every nominee and more on the award itself (as well as last year’s winner, the 2011 Nissan Leaf–the first battery electric vehicle sold in volume in many decades).

Sources:

pressroom.toyota.com, greencarreports.com

 

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE-pE3bXhAk&w=560&h=315]

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Prius Projects No. 11: A Bicycle That Can Read Your Mind

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 14-11-2011

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  Last year Toyota kicked off the Prius Projects to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Prius, track its history and to encourage partnerships and projects that engage the Prius community.  According to Toyota, the Prius Projects encourage inventors and dreamers alike to tinker with technology and “celebrate how Prius people are making the world more interesting.”  The Prius Projects website will track and document the various Prius-related partnerships, sponsorships, contests and projects over the next year.

 

One of the more innovative side projects to come out of the Prius Projects incubator so far from Prius folks is the Prius X Parlee (PXP) concept bicycle.  The svelte carbon fiber bike is a hybrid, which is appropriate given the Prius connection.  The PXP is part road racer, part time-trial bike and part tourer.  Like the Prius, the bike is also designed for optimal aero-efficiency.  The designers at Parlee Cycles put in a lot of time in the wind tunnel at MIT to get the bike’s shape right.  The matte white interlocking carbon frame is slick and gorgeous and with all the electronics installed it still only weighs around 16 pounds.

 

Did you catch that phrase, “with all the electronics installed”?  Why in the wide, wide world of sports would a bicycle need a lot of electronics?  Well, going for a ride on this bike requires a little more thought than simply hopping on and just pedaling off down on the trail.  That’s because the Prius X is a mind-controlled bike that uses neurotransmitters in the rider’s helmet to switch gears by simply thinking about it.  That’s right, the derailleur shifts by mind control.

 

Parlee Cycles teamed up with the human/digital interface specialists Deeplocal who crammed the rider’s helmet with neurotransmitters that allow the rider to shift gears “without using a single one of their appendages”.  The neurotransmitter helmet is connected to an iPhone 4 mounted on the bike’s stem.  Once your brain gets synced through the helmet to the iPhone app you can shift gears by just thinking “shift up” or “shift down”.  The electrodes in the ‘neuron helmet’ pick up neuron-electrical brain activity to send signals to an electronic gear shifter controller mounted under the bike seat.  Apparently, the gear transitions couldn’t be smoother.  It supposedly takes a few minutes for the helmet to adjust to your individual brainwaves allowing for smooth gear transitions on the road or bike trail.  The iPhone will also choose gears according to your desired exercise level and pedaling cadence.  The bike is capable of remembering past behavior.  For instance, the bike will downshift the next time you ride past a location where you have downshifted before.  If shifting with your brain is a big deal because your thoughts are too clouded by that guy in the SUV that cut you off earlier, you can also do the shifting by simply touching the screen on the iPhone.  There are also traditional levers for low-tech manual shifting.  

 

There are plans to mass produce the Prius X Parlee (PXP) possibly in 2013, so you just might see one parked at your local coffee shop one day.  The technology is cool, impressive and really does work.  Then again, if I want to change a gear on my 29er using my mind, I can get my brain to fire off a signal to my finger to squeeze the Shimanos to get the derailleur to do my bidding.  At least, for now.

Sources: Prius Project, Parlee Cycles, Deeplocal, Global Graphica, Wired, Los Angeles Times, Autoblog Green, TreeHugger

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWzdWMapJ-c]

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Toyota ranked as world’s greenest company!

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Hybrids, News | Posted on 01-08-2011

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This just in from Smartplanet.com, “You might not be surprised to see Toyota, the Japanese automaker behind the pioneering Prius hybrid, rank amongst the most environmentally conscious car manufacturers.

But a recent study by brand monitoring company Interbrand found the company to be the world’s greenest brand overall, besting multinational corporations like 3M, Siemens, and Johnson & Johnson.”

For more information visit: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/transportation/toyota-is-ranked-as-worlds-greenest-brand/700

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More great press for Hybrids on Parade

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in Community, Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 25-07-2011

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“Hybrid enthusiasts set a world record Sunday in Madison for longest hybrid-vehicle parade. And the 208 vehicles involved used a total of about four gallons of gasoline.”

Read more: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/environment/article_c6b5176a-b637-11e0-ae13-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1T9J4gRA0

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