Sparking interest in eco cars

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Sep 252012

How to Promote Green Cars

Governments and the auto industry are looking for ways to increase the demand for electric cars, as, at the moment, sales for these green cars are slow-moving. There has been plenty of debate and discussion regarding the development and promotion of eco cars.

Charging an Electric Car

Charging an Electric Car

Most of the UK’s focus has been on hybrid cars or fully electric cars that use plug-in charging systems. The Government has set-up initiatives on the supply side of things, yet consumer demand is still quite low.

Perhaps a Plug-In Car Grant

Attempts are being made to motivate demand, including the Plug-In car Grant, offering a cash incentive of up to 25 per cent to a maximum of £5,000, company car tax exemption, VED exemption and London congestion charge exemption. Still, these incentives have not caused much change in the demand of green cars.

Are they Unreliable?

One factor for slow demand of electric vehicles could be because the public thinks that they are potentially unreliable vehicles. Studies, such as by CABLED in the West Midlands, show that those willing to drive eco cars are either environmentally-conscious or technology-advanced people, while appealing to the wider public is still a challenge.

Is it Just Price?

Price remains the main problem, however, as well as the extra stress of charging a battery and the lack of selection in comparison to regular vehicles. As well, the green credential is undermined by production techniques and the electricity that is used to fuel the vehicles.

Improved Awareness

Experts and industry analysts agree that a greater political will is needed to aid in the growth of demand for green cars. Greater emphasis must be placed on the attitudes of consumers and their transport actions. A better strategy is one approach, with a strong emphasis on improved incentives and increased disincentives. However, improved awareness and a change in attitudes of vehicle owners are also essential.

More Incentive Packages

Improving the incentive packages for eco car consumers may very well help the green car market to improve if immediate benefits are considered. For example, in Norway, the government has introduced a package that includes 10 incentives, including free public parking, toll-road exemption, no congestion charges, access to bus lanes, a cut in annual road tax, free public vehicle charging, VAT and car tax exemption on purchases and a 50 per cent company car tax discount. These, together with 3,500 public charging posts, have increased the purchase of electric cars by 5,000, the highest number of green cars per capita in the world.

Improving Consumer Knowledge

Improving consumer knowledge about green cars, for example in terms of the range, performance, capacity and recharging, is also a key factor to the success of eco cars. The poor past performance of green cars has made current consumers avoid these vehicles, although they have greatly improved in recent years. Therefore, educating the public is essential, especially as many of the problems are exacerbated by bad driving habits.

Chevrolet Volt - A Car that Charges with Electric

Chevrolet Volt – A Car that Charges with Electric

Most of the journeys taken with eco cars are less than 40kms, which is well below the distance these vehicles are able to take on full charge. The government should, therefore, disclose the findings of vehicle trials to better promote the demand for electric vehicles.

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Four Second-hand Hybrids to Avoid

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Sep 252012

And one to keep an eye on

The Toyota Prius is by far the most popular eco car, and one of the best on the market. When looking at second-hand green cars this is the one to keep your eye open for but, since the rise in popularity of eco cars, there have been plenty of others showing up throughout the country.

Toyota Prius - Plug In Hybrid Eco Car

Toyota Prius – Plug In Hybrid Eco Car

Just because a car is labelled as a hybrid, does not particularly mean it is a good car or is fuel-efficient. If this is important got you, here are four second-hand hybrids on the market to steer clear from, or at least think twice about before heading to the bank.

2010-2011 BMW ActiveHybrid X6

It has the BMW name and looks like a regular BMW X6, but this now-discontinued car used a tailored two-mode hybrid system that was designed for a large truck, together with a custom 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 engine that resulted in an output of 407hp. Although the efficiency was better than BMW’s conventional X6, it still used 19mpg of fuel.

BMW ActivE - Electric Car

BMW ActivE – Electric Car

The idea behind BMW’s green car was to design a vehicle that would mimic a seven-speed transmission using four gears and three electric assists. This way the car would feel like a regular BMW when behind the wheel. The problem with this green car was that the two-mode hybrid system ended up costing more than $10,000 per vehicle. Now that this car is discontinued, it is very pricey to fix as parts are unavailable, which is something to consider before purchasing.

2008-2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

GM launched this green car a few years ago using a mid-hybrid Belt-Alternator-Starter system. It was only offered for two years and was paired with a 164hp 2.4-litre Ecotec four-cylinder engine. The problem was that its EPA ratings were only marginally better than a regular six-speed automatic transmission Malibu, which cost $2,000 less than the Hybrid.

The Malibu Hybrid does not offer drivers a smooth ride due to the rotation of the electric motor switching over to regenerate the battery charging. When GM declared bankruptcy in 2009, the Malibu Hybrid disappeared.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid / 2009 Chrysler Aspen Hybrid

A Hybrid SUV sounded like a fantastic idea, but it only took Chrysler a few months to realise that this was not the case. After making less than 1,000 Dodge Durango Hybrids and Chrysler Aspen Hybrids, production of this eco car ceased.

Since then, these hybrids are the only green cars Chrysler has manufactured using the two-mode hybrid system that it developed with BMW. Like the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, that system is extremely expensive, not only to manufacture, but also to repair.

2005-2007 Honda Accord Hybrid

This was the only time Honda used its Integrated Motor Assist mild-hybrid system with a 3.0-litre V-6 engine, and it was quite confusing to consumers who saw eco cars as fuel-efficient. Due to its unpopularity, this green car was only made for three years, selling a total of only 28,500 units.

Honda Accord Hybrid Eco Car

Honda Accord Hybrid Eco Car

The Accord Hybrid was 20 per cent better on petrol than the conventional Accord, but it did not only drive by using electric.  Luckily Honda  made other hybrid cars that are high-mileage compacts, but the Accord Hybrid fell short.

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Emissions to be cut in Europe on New Cars

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Sep 132012

New Rule – Less Emissions

Under a new proposed rule set out on July 11 in Brussels, within the next eight years new cars and vans throughout Europe will generate one-third less carbon dioxide. With the rule in place, new cars will have to have a maximum carbon dioxide level of 95g per kilometre by 2020. If these regulations are accepted, it will cut today’s emission levels by more than 40g per kilometre.

Will We and Car Manufacturers Accept

If these goals can be achieved it will greatly cut fuel consumption, thus saving money for European consumers, says Connie Hedegaard the climate chief of the European commission. But for this new regulation to be in place, it will have to be accepted by members of state and the European parliament, something that may be a bit tricky with car manufacturers backing up key politicians.

Billions Saved

If the rule is accepted, drivers of new cars in Europe would save on fuel costs, increasing the EU GDP as well as saving about 160m tonnes of imported oil. As a result, new jobs would be created.

Research and Development Cost

Car manufacturers protesting against the new emissions proposals say that it would mean spending heaps on research and development to adapt its production lines. The same was true when the new emissions rules were set for 2015, yet most manufacturers have met these targets, and ahead of schedule.

We want Cheaper Eco-Cars

Consumers today are actually taking notice that their cars are more fuel efficient thanks to the 2015 targets, says Hedegaard. Europeans today want cheaper, eco cars. Green campaigners agree with Hedegaard and even feel that the 2015 targets are too weak.

Green and Inefficient Car Balance

Greenpeace has offered a solution to car manufacturers to make the switch to green cars more cost efficient. The organisation proposes that if manufacturers could continue to make big, heavier cars with high emissions, this could be offset by also manufacturing a selection of more efficient eco cars. This way they could continue to make inefficient cars while actually saving on emissions through the production of these green cars.

Greenpeace Opinion

Greenpeace EU’s transport policy director Franziska Achterberg said that there is much to be gained by implementing high efficiency targets, not only for drivers but also for the climate. In order for this to happen, emissions from vans will have to drop from the 2010 limit of 181.4g to 147g/km in 2020. Greenpeace thinks that this will unfortunately also not be enough to have a major impact.

All in all a Positive Proposal

Having fuel economy and emissions standards is good for jobs and the European economy, says Greg Archer, programme manager for clean vehicles at Transport and Environment. He also says that it is good for the planet, and is a positive proposal. If the commission had shown more ambition, the benefits of these new targets could have been much greater, he added.

Hedegaard reported that the commission is currently working on targets for 2020. A target of 80g/km is definitely realistic and would save drivers about €650 (£510 ish) a year.

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