Worldwide Number Of Cars Passes One Billion

According to a study by the auto trade journal Ward’s, the total amount of cars on the road worldwide surpassed one billion in 2010. The staggering number, up from 980 million at the end of 2009, sheds new light on the global demand for automobiles and the increasingly dangerous reliance on oil.

Ward’s study examined government-reported car registrations as well as vehicle-population trends to discover that there are now 1.015 billion cars on the road today. The study took into account “light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses registered worldwide, but that does not include off-road, heavy-duty vehicles.”

The United States is still the world’s most prominent user of automobiles, with a total car population of almost 240 million, close to one car for every 1.3 people in the country. The sudden surge in automobile ownership, however, is not solely the fault of the U.S., whose number of cars only grew by 1% last year. China is responsible for a massive and sudden increase in car ownership; last year, car registrations were up by 27.5%, bringing the country’s number of cars to 78 million. According to Ward’s, the increase in car ownership in China accounts for more than half of the global number of cars. For the first time, China has surpassed Japan for the world’s second-largest amount of cars.

In addition to the massive amount of cars registered in China last year, several other countries have also experienced an increase in car population. Last year, India reached the 20 million mark in car ownership, signifying a growth of 8.9%. Brazil is also responsible for a significant increase, having added 2.5 million cars last year.

Even so, the countries that have experienced sudden increases in car ownership have a ways to go to catch up with the per-capita car ownership of the U.S. China, which has a human population of well over one billion people, currently has 78 million cars registered, equaling one car for every 17 people. India, which has the world’s second largest human population and also witnessed a sharp increase in car ownership last year, only has one car for every 53 people.

As the human population continues to multiply rapidly, the amount of cars on the road is expected to continue to grow right along with it. A study by the International Transport Forum predicts that the worldwide number of cars could reach 2.5 billion by 2050. One bright spot in the amount of cars currently being produced, and no doubt in the future, is that fuel efficiency standards have recently gotten much stricter, and the amount of hybrid and electric cars on the road is expected to increase. The U.S. government has committed to fuel efficiency standards of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a far cry from the gas-guzzling SUVs prominent on the road today.

Even with stricter fuel efficiency standards, however, the worldwide demand for oil is still great. A study by UC Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies analyzed what impact over 2 billion cars could have on the environment and the need for oil. Currently, a worldwide total of 87 million barrels of oil are produced daily, most of which comes from conventional sources. Having over 2 billion cars on the road will require a total production of at least 120 million barrels of oil every day, much of which will need to be derived from unconventional sources.

With the news that there are over one billion cars on the road, a number that is expected to rise dramatically within the next forty years, it’s time to reevaluate the importance of cars and the environmentally disastrous reliance on oil. Transportation currently accounts for 23% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and that number is only going to keep rising until cars and other methods of transportation can be made more environmentally friendly.

Photo Credit: ops.fhwa.dot.gov/aboutus/one_pagers/images/040_traffic_h.jpg

Under New Ownership, THINK Continues Electric Car Production

With a history of financial woes, THINK Global AS has once again been revived from bankruptcy. The electric car manufacturer was sold to industrialist and entrepreneur Boris Zingarevich. This means the company will continue its operations at locations around the world, including a manufacturing plant in Elkhart, Indiana. THINK vehicles will be sold under the new brand, Electric Mobility Solutions.

In addition to buying THINK, Zingarevich has forged agreements with Ener1, a lithium-ion battery manufacturer in the US, and Valmet, an automotive engineering company based in Finland that assembles a variety of cars, including the THINK City EV.

The THINK City includes a lithium-ion battery designed by Ener1, also based in Indiana. The battery gives the car a range of 100 miles on a single charge. And since 1999, customers and drivers have driven THINK City EVs an estimated 35 million road miles. The City EV features minimal environmental impact, low cost of ownership and maintenance, durability, and maneuverability.

THINK has been manufacturing electric cars since 1991, when they unveiled the first prototype of the THINK City EV. From 1999 to 2003, Ford invested $150 million in THINK which allowed them to produce and sell the THINK City EV in Europe and avail the cars for lease in San Francisco. In 2003, however, Ford dropped out of the electric car market and cut their support for the electric car company. Shortly after, THINK ended up in bankruptcy.

In 2006, Norwegian energy entrepreneur Jan-Olaf Willums and his partners purchased THINK and received support from a number of companies such as General Electric and Ener1. However, as the Willums-owned THINK produced and sold new City EVs, the electric car company struggled because of global economic troubles and increasing number of major auto companies wanting to develop their own electric vehicles instead of lending their support to smaller companies like THINK.

Despite the struggles, in December 2010, THINK shipped the first batch of City EVs built at the Elkhart plant. THINK CEO Barry Engle says that these 15 US built vehicles are the first step to expanding EV usage in America. Although EV charging infrastructures are currently not very accommodating for mainstream consumer use, Engle believes for fleets and government agencies, EVs are a very viable and cost effective means of transportation. Since they travel set routes, it is easier to plan when and where EVs can be charged.

Zingarevich believes THINK should continue on and its contributions to the electric car industry should not go to waste because of a few financial setbacks in the past. Says Zingarevich, “Having achieved the position of one of the world’s most highly regarded electric vehicle products, the Think brand is a valuable asset that deserves to continue its key role in the global shift to electrification.”

Since April 2011, THINK’s operations have slowed drastically after filing for bankruptcy. A shortage of parts resulted in reduced production and a decrease in the number of employees at the Elkhart plant. According to THINK North America spokesman Brendan Prebo, the company expects to hire up to 27 employees at the Elkhart plant. To receive some tax relief from the city, THINK proposed that by 2011, the company would have 100 employees at the Elkhart plant and 415 employees by 2013. Elkhart mayor Dick Moore believes that goal is achievable and would boost the local economy, in addition to the increased production and availability of their line of electric vehicles in the US.

Along with Ener1 and Valmet, Zingarevich believes THINK’s future will be bright this time around. Says Zingarevich, “With the potential of working with the leading American automotive lithium-ion battery maker and Europe’s top automobile engineering and manufacturing company, I believe we could have exactly the right combination and value chain to ensure that the brand will be increasingly competitive in the worldwide electric vehicle market.”

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/4734230764

Rolls-Royce’s Electric Vehicle Goes On World Tour

Known for making some of the world’s most luxurious and expensive luxury sedans, Rolls-Royce has launched a world tour for its first ever electric vehicle, the 102EX. The 102EX is, for the most part, a Rolls-Royce Phantom sedan whose standard V12 gasoline engine and transmission were replaced with a battery electric drivetrain. Because of the much higher cost to produce the car, Rolls-Royce intends to showcase the 102EX to customers and potential buyers during the world tour to see how much interest the 102EX generates.

First shown to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in 2011, the 102EX will make stops at places such as Singapore, China, Los Angeles, New York, and Dubai. Current owners of Rolls-Royce cars and other potential customers will have the opportunity to test drive the car and voice their opinions and feelings to the auto company. Rolls-Royce selected a total of 500 people to test drive the 102EX.

Rolls-Royce has insisted the 102EX would be expensive, if not “impossible”, to produce, mostly because of its massive battery pack. The battery pack will cost at least £100,000 ($160,000), according to Rolls-Royce. Weighing 640kg (1411 pounds), the battery pack contains 96 nickel cobalt manganese cells with a total power capacity of 71 kWh and is considered to be the largest battery ever used in a car. As a comparison, the Nissan Leaf’s battery has a rating of 24 kWh.

The 102EX has a pair of AC motors located where the original Phantom’s gas tank would be. Used also in the Tesla Roadster, the motors are each rated at 145kW (194bhp). The 102EX produces a total of 290 kW (388 hp), is less than the Phantom’s 338 kW (453 hp). However, the electric motors on the 102EX produce considerably more torque.

Before heading out on the tour, Rolls-Royce sent the 102EX to MIRA labs for independent testing. The car’s lithium ion battery was tested in various conditions such as extreme temperatures and humidity. Engineers at the lab confirm the battery continues to operate at temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

The testing also revealed a possible concern with the car’s battery management systems, which manages the safety and efficiency of the battery’s cells. At extreme temperatures, the system prevents the car’s battery from being charged until the cells of the battery cools down, ensuring longer battery life and optimal performance. This means drivers must wait some time before the car can be recharged.

The 102EX’s battery takes about 20 hours to recharge using single phase systems (domestic power outlets in the UK) and 8 hours using 3 phase systems. Rolls-Royce is also experimenting with a “wireless” induction charging system that will allow drivers to charge the 102EX by parking it over special induction pads. The pads transmit energy to the car’s battery without the need of any charging cables. The induction charging system can prove to be very convenient; Rolls-Royce claims the system has 90 percent efficiency and could be used to create networks of charging stations.

The 102EX has been tested by a handful of people with mixed reviews. Many agree that driving the 102EX is almost indistinguishable from driving a Phantom. They both have extremely quiet cabins and have nearly the same ride quality, thanks to the air bag suspension that Rolls-Royce uses on both vehicles. A big difference is the acceleration of each car. Where the Phantom’s V12 engine lets out a subtle growl, the 102EX electric motors are nearly silent, only producing a barely audible whine.

Although Rolls-Royce may not be releasing a truly eco-friendly luxury sedan anytime soon, the 102EX is a sign that even automakers of the most expensive and luxurious cars are taking a look at alternative energy sources. The 102EX and the research involved with its development is a step toward independence from petroleum fuels.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jim68000/4673299270

Prius V To Be Released This Fall

Toyota has announced a new release time for the Prius V. Originally slated for release this summer, production was delayed after the March 11th earthquake in Japan. The Prius V is now scheduled to be released in the fall of 2011.

The Prius V offers the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system as the third-generation model, offering the same “advantages of high mileage, low emissions, and never needing to be recharged.” Hybrid Synergy Drive is a hybrid system that allows the car to provide power from the engine alone, the motor alone, or a combination of both. The Prius’ engine is an efficient 98-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that has a total horsepower of 134. The engine is small and lightweight, which minimizes the noise and vibration.

The EPA fuel economy ratings are 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 42 mpg combined. Bob Carter, the Vice President and General Manager of Toyota Division Group, calls the newest Prius a “win-win for everybody” due to the fact that the Prius “produces 66 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new vehicle.”

The Prius V offers four driving modes: standard, Eco, EV, and Power. Eco mode allows for the most fuel efficient method of driving, while EV mode allows the Prius to run completely on battery power for short distances and low speeds. Power mode allows the car to deal with slopes and mountainous terrain.

A new feature of the Prius V is Pitch and Bounce Control, which improves comfort and control by working with suspension enhancements. Front and rear suspension components have been redesigned, and the steering ger is now attached to the front suspension member. In addition, wheels that are 17 inches in diameter are offered as an alternative to the standard 16 inch wheels.

The newest Prius is “specifically designed with young families in mind,” offering spacious seating for five. The car also offers more cargo space than 80 percent of SUVs, making it the perfect decision for a family car. The Prius V is also user-friendly; in keeping with older models of the car, driving controls including the parking switch and driving mode buttons are easily accessible.

The car is also equipped with Bluetooth wireless connection, full iPod integration, and a new seven-inch Premium HDD Navigation System. The new premium system offers JBL GreenEdge audio system, which allows for a 66 percent reduction in overall mass and a 50 percent improvement in sound efficiency. 

One of the available seat materials for the newest Prius is SofTex, which can be easily cleaned and does not contain any animal-based products. The manufacturing process of SofTex uses 99 percent fewer volatile organic compounds (also known as VOCs) than synthetic leather and has a weight reduction of 50 percent.

The price of the Prius V is expected to be approximately $2500 higher than older models, which currently range from $22,410 (standard) and ($37,000) fully loaded.

In addition to the Prius V, several other versions of the Prius are due to hit the market soon. A plug-in version of the standard Prius will be released in the first half of 2012. The Prius C, will be released after and is expected to have the highest mileage ratings of any non-plug in hybrid.

Photo Credit: fueleconomy2.ornl.gov/feg/best-worst.shtml

Nissan North America Named ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year 2011

For the second year in a row, Nissan North America has been named ENERGY STAR partner of the year. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Energy (DOE) honor organizations every year with this award for their commitment to energy efficiency and protecting the environment.
Nissan has been an ENERGY STAR partner since 2006 and is one of the 20,000 organizations participating in the program. Headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, Nissan North America coordinates manufacturing, marketing, sales, and distribution operations in North America. Also, Nissan operates two assembly plants in Mexico. Since joining the ENERGY STAR program, Nissan’s vehicle assembly plants in Smyrna, Tennessee and Canton, Mississippi and the powertrain assembly plant in Decherd, Tennessee have reported increasing energy efficiency by over 30%. The company saved $11.5 million dollars from these energy efficiencies.
Although advances in technology can help improve energy efficiency, Nissan North America believes being honored as ENERGY STAR partner of the year was due largely to the employees. Increasing awareness among its employees enabled Nissan to be more effective in fulfilling its goals to be environmentally friendly. “Nissan has created an energy-wise culture throughout our operations that fosters an atmosphere of idea sharing. These innovative ideas come from our employees and yield significant reductions in energy usage while helping protect the environment,” said Mike Clemmer, Director and Plant Manager of Paint and Plastics and sub-leader for the Energy Management Competitiveness Team.
Receiving praise from the EPA, Nissan continues to implement the Nissan Green Program to fulfill the company’s views on energy efficiency and the well being of the environment: “Symbiosis of People, Vehicles and Nature.” First started in 2002 to address the various environmental issues automobile companies face, the Nissan Green Program sets challenging goals to push the company to reduce its negative impacts on the environment. Under the Nissan Green Program, Nissan added CO2 emissions as a measurement of performance and its impact on the environment. Previously, the only performance indicators used were “quality, cost, and time.”
Nissan plans to continue to reduce its CO2 emissions in a number of ways. Some of the goals Nissan wants to achieve under the Nissan Green Program include developing and implementing technologies that increases fuel efficiency and to develop and improve the electric powerplants in hybrid and electric vehicles.
Some of the engine technologies Nissan uses include efficient turbocharger systems for four cylinder engines and Variable Valve Event & Lift System (VVEL) for larger V6 and V8 engines. Nissan claims VVEL will reduce CO2 emissions by 10%. Also, Nissan’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is equipped on many of its vehicles. Cars with CVT have 10% less CO2 emissions than cars with equipped with a conventional automatic transmission.
In 2010, Nissan released the Leaf, a mass produced electric car. The Leaf has a driving range of 100 miles based on the EPA LA4 test cycle, though range is affected by various conditions. Nissan also plans to improve hybrid vehicles, including plug in hybrids which are similar to current hybrid vehicles but with the added option of charging the car’s battery at home. The Leaf is powered completely by an electric motor and produces no emissions.
Nissan has also committed to biofuels. All of Nissan’s current gasoline engine cars can use a blend of ethanol up to 10% (E10). The Nissan Armada FFV and Titan FFV can both run on E85.
Nissan plans to develop clean diesel cars that can meet United States Tier2 BIN5 emissions standards for diesel engines.
Through its proactive approach to environmental issues, Nissan has become a leader in energy efficiency. With their development and implementation of new technologies into their operations and products along with the increased awareness among its employees, Nissan continues to set the standard for being an environmentally conscious company. As Elizabeth Craig, Acting Director of EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs, said, “Nissan’s robust energy management program is a national model, demonstrating how to fight climate change through energy efficiency.”

Be Green Behind The Wheel

With the rising cost of gas prices nationwide, here are some simple tips you can use when behind the wheel to be more green without buying a newer fuel efficient vehicle or hybrid. The most important tip is to plan ahead so you are not making unnecessary trips. Try to condense the amount of time you drive if possible, that way you will be driving less and using less fuel. Make your car as light as possible by removing any excess heavy items in the trunk or interior. For instance, a heavy box of books that you have been meaning to drop off can reduce fuel economy. A simple rule of thumb, is that for every 100 extra pounds your vehicle carries fuel economy drops one percent. However, carrying a few extra pounds shouldn’t break the bank.

Try to reduce the amount of time your vehicle is idling. Keep in mind newer cars no longer need to warm up like older models. Turn your vehicle’s ignition off anytime you are stopped or parked for more than a few minutes. Examples of this could be waiting in your favorite drive-thru line, or picking up the kids from school. When driving don’t be in a hurry, and go easy on the gas pedal. It’s all about being smooth and cruising to your destination. Avoid sudden starts, stops, and go the speed limit. Driving above the speed limit is not only dangerous, but ruins your vehicles potential fuel economy.

The way you park your car can have potential increases or decreases in fuel efficiency. Simply, using a reflective windshield shade or parking in the shade can greatly increase you fuel economy. You will be using less air conditioning to cool your car down on a hot day. Resulting in greater fuel efficiency. Even parking your car in the garage can have dramatic results by keeping the interior cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Proper maintenance of your vehicle can drastically increase both fuel economy and the longevity of your vehicle. Regular maintenance, tune-ups, engine air filter replacement, and oil changes are suggested by vehicle manufactures to keep fuel economy high. Just make sure to properly dispose of used motor oil. Making sure your tires are properly inflated is critical to achieving increased fuel mileage. Under inflated tires can decrease fuel economy by as much as 25 percent. You will save money in the long run as well, by not having to buy new tires sooner. 

Eventually though, you will have to refuel your vehicle at the pump. Some simple tips to remember at the pump is to avoid “topping off”. Have faith in the auto-shutoff, overfilling can lead to spilled and wasted gasoline. Try to purchase your gasoline in cooler weather to minimize gasoline evaporation into the air. Help the surrounding air by using gas stations that use pollution reducing vapor recovery nozzles or simply that accordion looking plastic device covering the nozzle. Studies have shown gasoline is typically cheaper on Wednesday’s as well.

By using these simple tips and consciously making an effort behind the wheel one can see a potential increase in fuel economy of their vehicle. It doesn’t hurt to use public transportation, bike, walk, or car pool either. Drive safely!

Photo Source: dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/behaviors/aggressive/driving-tips.htm

Motor Trend: Chevy Volt is ‘Car of the Year’

November 16, 2010
By: GreenAnswers Staff

Motor Trend picked the Chevrolet Volt as its 2011 Car of the Year, the magazine announced today. The Volt, which officially entered production just days ago, is a product of General Motors, which is also issuing its initial public offering later this week.
“This is a fully developed vehicle with seamlessly integrated systems and software, a real car that provides a unique driving experience. And commuters may never need to buy gas!” said Chris Theodore, one of the Motor Trend judges.
The Volt has both a battery powered electric engine, as well as a small internal combustion engine, which gives it a total range of approximately 300 miles. For commuters who travel fewer than 40 miles, the car may never require a gasoline fill up.
Motor Trend Editor-in-Chief Angus MacKenzie said, the Volt “absolutely delivers on the promise of the vehicle concept as originally outlined by GM, combining the smooth, silent, efficient, low-emissions capability of an electric motor with the range and flexibility of an internal combustion engine.”

Tesla Loses $35 Million and Shares Rally 19 Percent

November 10, 2010
By: GreenAnswers Staff

Stock prices for Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors rose 19 percent today on heavy trading. Interestingly, this increase is  in response to Tesla’s reported third quarter earnings, which marked a loss of $34.9 million. Wall Street analysts had been predicting a larger loss and were encouraged by the announcement.
Much of Tesla’s costs last quarter were used in the development of its new electric vehicle, the Model S. The Model S will be an electric sedan with a more affordable sticker price than the Tesla Roadster, which is priced at $101,500.
Meanwhile, sales of Tesla’s iconic Roadster fell by about half last quarter to 151 units.
Tesla is aiming for a mid-2012 launch of the Model S, which is being assembled at a newly upgraded plant in Fremont, CA.
Despite Tesla’s losses, the stock price of the company continues to remain strong. Much of this is due to recent collaborations Tesla has pursued with major car manufacturers, such as Toyota, as well as market confidence in the company founder, Elon Musk.

Hybrid, Electric & Alternative Fuel Cars Face Lower Demand

Oct. 27, 2010 (GreenAnswers Staff) – Consumer demand for alternative fuel cars, such as hybrids and electric vehicles could be lower than expected, according to a forecast by J.D. Power & Associates. The report predicted that by 2020, alternative fuel cars should only amount to 7.3 percent of global sales, a level substantially lower than that advocated by environmentalists.

The forecast calls for combined deliveries of only 5.2 million alternative fuel vehicles out of a total 70.9 million passenger cars predicted to be sold in 2020. This would also be a big disappointment for Toyota and Nissan which are betting big on their Prius and Leaf hybrids, respectively.

According to J.D. Power’s senior vice president of automotive operations, John Humphrey, “barring significant changes to public policy, including tax incentives and higher fuel-economy standards, we don’t anticipate a mass migration to green vehicles in the coming decade.”

Although President Obama has pushed for increased fuel efficiency standards, a compelling government incentive to purchase hybrid vehicles is limited. So far, the purchase of alternative fuel cars has been generally limited to a small niche of the global population, including consumers who are more educated, wealthy and older.

Humphrey explains, “many consumers say they are concerned about the environment, but when they find out how much a green vehicle is going to cost, their altruistic inclination declines considerably.”

EPA and DOT Propose Adding Eco-Letter Grades to New Vehicle Stickers

[img_assist|nid=190822|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=270|height=589]August 30 – The U.S. Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that they were considering two new labeling options for new vehicles sold at car dealerships. The proposal would highlight a car’s fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed changes stem from a 2007 energy bill that required updating the labeling requirements. Currently, U.S. passenger cars account for about 20% of the country’s greenhouse gases and burn about 44% of the oil consumed nationally.

The two options being considered, one of which will be implemented by next year, would either assign a letter grade for each car, or merely update the design of the current sticker to include additional fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions data.

Not surprisingly, the automakers are questioning the wisdom of the proposed letter grades. A spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group, said “the letter grade inadvertently suggests a value judgment, taking us back to school days where grades were powerful symbols of passing or failing.”

Under a letter grade system, the Ford F-150, the country’s top selling pickup truck, would receive a C grade. The lowest grade awarded would be a D for the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.

All electric cars would receive an A+, plug-in hybrid electric cars would receive an A. The Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius, all gas-electric hybrids, would each receive an A- grade.

While environmentalists are supportive of the plan to feature fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions on vehicle stickers, some point out that the grades fail to take into account emissions released from the generation of electricity, such as from coal burning power plants. The stickers will only account for emissions from vehicle tailpipes, so electric cars will get a free pass on pollution related to the country’s electricity grid.