Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents

This is an interesting read published by the Wall Street Journal

By MIKE RAMSEY And KATE LINEBAUGH

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.

The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings don’t exonerate Toyota from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals to the floor.

0713DRIVER

Associated PressA recalled Toyota gas pedal is posed next to a recalled Toyota Avalon at a dealership in Palo Alto, Calif.

The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involve a sample of reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing.

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government.

The findings are consistent with a 1989 government-sponsored study that blamed similar driver mistakes for a rash of sudden-acceleration reports involving Audi 5000 sedans.

The Toyota findings, which haven’t been released by NHTSA, support Toyota’s position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren’t caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged. More than 100 people have sued the auto maker claiming crashes were the result of faulty electronics.

NHTSA has received more than 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyotas, including some dating to early last decade, according to a report the agency compiled in March. The incidents include 75 fatal crashes involving 93 deaths.

However, NHTSA has been able to verify only one of those fatal crashes was caused by a problem with the vehicle, according to information the agency provided to the National Academy of Sciences. That accident last Aug. 28, which killed a California highway patrolman and three passengers in a Lexus, was traced to a floor mat that trapped the gas pedal in the depressed position.

Toyota has recalled more than eight million cars globally to fix floor mats and sticky accelerators.

A NHTSA spokeswoman declined to confirm the results from the data recorders. She said the agency was continuing to investigate the Toyota accidents and wouldn’t be prepared to comment fully on the probe until a broader study is completed in conjunction with NASA, which is expected to take months.

Transportation Department officials, however, have said publicly that they have yet to find any electronic problems in Toyota cars.

Daniel Smith, NHTSA’s associate administrator for enforcement, told a panel of the National Academy of Sciences last month that the agency’s sudden-acceleration probe had yet to find any car defects beyond those identified by the company: pedals entrapped by floor mats, and “sticky” accelerator pedals that are slow to return to idle.

“In spite of our investigations, we have not actually been able yet to find a defect” in electronic throttle-control systems, Mr. Smith told the scientific panel, which is looking into potential causes of sudden acceleration.

“We’re bound and determined that if it exists we’re going to find it,” he added. “But as yet, we haven’t found it.”

Toyota officials haven’t been briefed on NHTSA’s findings, but they corroborate its own tests, said Mike Michels, the chief spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales. Toyota’s downloads of event data recorders have found evidence of sticky pedals and pedal entrapment as well as driver error, which is characterized by no evidence of the brakes being depressed during an impact.

Some company officials say they are informally aware of the NHTSA results. But Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said the company won’t blame customers for its problems as part of its public-relations response.

Toyota is still trying to repair damage to its reputation caused as much by disclosures that the company hid knowledge of safety problems with its vehicles as by the reports of sudden acceleration.

NHTSA levied a $16.4 million fine against Toyota earlier this year for failing to notify the agency in a timely manner about its sticky-accelerator issue. Toyota’s handling of a rash of safety complaints involving high-profile models such as the hybrid Toyota Prius has prompted Congress to consider a far-reaching overhaul of U.S. auto-safety laws.

Last week, Toyota announced it had taken steps to improve its vehicle quality, including moving 1,000 engineers into a new group that will try to pin down problems. The Japanese auto maker also will extend development times by at least four weeks on new models to do more testing and will cut down on the use of contract engineers.Toyota showed reporters the inner workings of its labs, including how it has been testing its electronic throttle control module to find any malfunctions. The system is controlled by a main computer and has a second computer as a backup if the first fails. In either instance, failures should be noted in the car’s main computer and result in engine power being cut.

The car maker also has tested its vehicles’ responses to strong electromagnetic radiation, such as the waves generated by cellphones and radio towers, which some critics have said could be causing a malfunction. The only interference engineers have encountered after bombarding cars with electromagnetic waves is static on the car radio.

U.S. Reps. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) and Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) have been critical of Toyota’s efforts to track down alternative causes of unintended acceleration. They have said Toyota has been slow to react or evasive. Toyota has said it is doing everything in its power to respond to both Congress and customer complaints.

—Josh Mitchell contributed
to this article.


Could Runaway Prius Have Been Faked?

Posted: Mar. 12, 2010 10:03 a.m.

Yesterday we told you about doubts Edmunds Inside Line raised about a California man who claimed his Prius had raced out of control. Today, more people are looking into the story.

Jalopnik thinks James Sikes, the man in the incident, may have had a motive: “James Sikes, the San Diego runaway Toyota Prius driver, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and now has over $700,000 in debt. According to one anonymous tipster, we’re also told he hasn’t been making payments on his Prius,” they write, adding, “it’s potential motivation for wanting to find an out — any out — on paying for the vehicle.”

Jalopnik’s questions about Sikes’ motives add to questions Inside Line raised about the story.  Inside Line pointed out that it’s relatively easy to shift the Prius into neutral, even at highway speeds.  They also found it odd that though he claimed to be doing well over 90, Sikes managed to avoid an accident on a California highway for over 20 minutes — while panicking.

The Associated Press says the runaway Prius story may be reinforcing itself. “Experts on consumer psychology say the relentless negative media attention Toyota has received since the fall makes it much more likely that drivers will mistake anything unexpected — or even a misplaced foot — for actual danger.” AP adds, “In just the first 10 weeks of this year, 272 complaints have been filed nationwide for speed control problems with the Prius, according to an Associated Press analysis of unverified complaints received by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. By comparison, only 74 complaints were filed in all of last year, and just eight the year before that.”

Autoblog Green comments, “We’ll let the authorities investigate these latest cases and determine as best they can what happened there, but we also want the madness to calm down. Problems should be fixed, sure, but just because some people have problems doesn’t mean everyone does.”

The day after the Prius incident in California, according to reports, a Prius accelerated suddenly in New York. In that incident, a woman was pulling out of her driveway when she says the accelerator stuck, causing the Prius to surge forward into a stonewall. No one was hurt in the incident.

However, Richard Schmidt, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, writes in the New York Times that the kind of driveway scenario the woman describes is a prime example of driver error being mistaken for a mechanical problem. Shchmidt has spent much of his career investigating cases of unintended acceleration for automakers.  His work has found that reports of unintended acceleration “typically happened when the driver first got into the car and started it. After turning on the ignition, the driver would intend to press lightly on the brake pedal while shifting from park to drive (or reverse), and suddenly the car would leap forward (or backward). Drivers said that continued pressing on the brake would not stop the car; it would keep going until it crashed.”  Schmidt adds, “Drivers believed that something had gone wrong in the acceleration system, and that the brakes had failed.”

When engineers would examine the cars, they’d find nothing was wrong.  Schmidt writes, “Several researchers hypothesized how a driver, intending to apply the brake pedal to keep the car from creeping, would occasionally press the accelerator instead. Then, surprised that the car moved so much, he would try pressing harder. Of course, if his right foot was actually on the accelerator, the throttle would open and the car would move faster.”  The result? “This would then lead the driver to press the ‘brake’ harder still, and to bring about even more acceleration. Eventually, the car would be at full throttle, until it crashed. The driver’s foot would be all the way to the floor, giving him the impression that the brakes had failed.”

Of course, Schmidt’s reasoning doesn’t explain the reports of the runaway Prius in California, and it doesn’t prove that nothing was wrong with the Prius in New York.  But, driver error plus increased publicity may explain some of the spike in reports of problems with Toyota.

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company’s recent troubles affect our rankings. If you’re in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year’s best cars as well as this month’s best car deals.

Here are some other good reads as well………

Unintended Acceleration Expert Provides His Perspective in the New York Times

In a column in Wednesday’s New York Times, Richard Schmidt, professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles and the author of a well known study on unintended acceleration, provided his perspective on this issue in response to reports that the federal government may require brake override systems on new vehicles.

Approaching the issue from a historical perspective, Prof. Schmidt noted: “From the mid-1980s until 2000, thousands of incidents of sudden acceleration were reported in all makes and models of cars (and buses, tractors and golf carts). Then, as now, the incidents were relatively rare among car crashes generally, but they were nevertheless frequent and dangerous enough to upset automakers, drivers and the news media.  But when engineers examined these vehicles post-crash, they found nothing that could account for what the drivers had reported.”

To read the full column, click here

Two Professors Say Satisfied Toyota Customers Protect the Brand
Two Rice University management professors say in an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle that the media frenzy on Toyota has “focused on vivid yet highly unrepresentative events that ignore the most important constituents: Toyota’s current customers.” Vikas Mittal and Utpal Dholakia note that Toyota has a large base of unwavering loyal customers who “drive their Toyotas day in and day out and experience reliable and trouble-free performance.” That positive experience, accumulated over decades, “insulate” the brand from long-term damage. “When customers are highly satisfied and consistently so (and consistency in the key), they are prone to see the occasional performance lapse as an anomaly.” They go on to say Toyota has that “brand insulation effect” and can recover from its current difficulties. To read the full column, click on the link below:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/6909344.html

Toyota Didn’t Pay Stanford Professor for Unintended Acceleration Analysis

In light of recent press reports, Toyota issued a statement Thursday making it clear the company didn’t compensate Stanford University professor Chris Gerdes for his analysis of unintended acceleration claims made by Southern Illinois University professor David Gilbert.

News reports have implied that Toyota’s support of Stanford’s Center for Automotive Research may have influenced Gerdes’ analysis, which challenged Gilbert’s claims. Yet, Toyota is only one of many auto manufacturers that support the center. Toyota also supports other automotive programs, including the Division of Automotive Technology at Southern Illinois University, where Gilbert teaches. Such support is common in the auto industry and does not mean that independent professors will naturally side with corporate donors.

To read the entire statement, click on: http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/toyota-update-regarding-dr-chris-155054.aspx.

2-second Prius video causes headache for ABC News

By DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK (AP) – For the want of a better two-second picture of a tachometer, ABC News has called into question its reporting on acceleration problems with Toyota vehicles.

The network’s handling of a Feb. 22 “World News” story about potential problems with computer systems in Toyotas has created ethical questions and intensified bitter feelings the besieged automaker already had toward ABC.

ABC has admitted to a misjudgment and swapped out the brief dashboard video in its report, which continues to be available online. Its story illustrated a report by David Gilbert, a Southern Illinois University professor who suggested that a design flaw in Toyotas might leave a short-circuit that could cause sudden acceleration undetected by the car’s computer system.

Correspondent Brian Ross'”World News” report showed him driving a Toyota with Gilbert that was rigged to quickly accelerate. Even though he knew it was coming, Ross said the incident left him shaken, and he had a hard time getting the car to come to a stop.

Briefly during the drive, ABC cut to a picture of a tachometer with the needle zooming forward. The impression was that the tachometer was documenting the ride Ross was taking. Instead, that picture was taken from a separate instance where a short-circuit was induced in a parked car.

ABC said that editing was done because it was impossible to get a good picture of the tachometer while the car was moving because the camera was shaking. The camera shot was steady when it was taken in a parked car.

“The tachometer showed the same thing every time,” said ABC News spokeswoman Emily Lenzner.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson disputes that, saying tachometers react much more dramatically when short-circuits happen in a parked car than a car that is moving. Tachometers measure engine speed.

It all points to problems that are created when visual journalists try to alter reality in order to get a better picture.

“Anytime you give the audience any reason to doubt the honesty of the piece, that’s a serious problem,” said Charlotte Grimes, a Syracuse University journalism professor who specializes in ethical issues.

“Do they honestly think that a company like Toyota, with all the resources that it has, would not be looking at these things?” Grimes asked.

Toyota recognized the differences right away: the shot showed the car’s speedometer was at zero, the parking brake was on and no one was using the seat belts – while Ross wore one on the test drive, Hanson said. Online discussion of the differences began almost immediately, and the Web site Gawker.com wrote about it last week.

ABC edited the online version of its story shortly after that story appeared and wrote a note on its Web site explaining why.

“This was a misjudgment made in the editing room,” Lenzner said. “They should have left the shaky shot in. But I want to make clear that the two-second shot that was used did not change the outcome of the report in any way.”

The inserted tachometer shot still didn’t specifically illustrate Ross’ ride. It was from another ride made in order to create different camera angles. A camera person could not have captured the tachometer shot with Ross and Gilbert both in the car, Lenzner said.

Toyota’s Hanson said it was next to impossible for the short circuit detailed by Gilbert to happen in real life. The automaker, which had to recall many of its cars because of problems associated with a depressed gas pedal, held a news conference on Monday to try and refute Gilbert’s study. It depicted similar short circuits in other cars, none of which were detected by the vehicles’ computer system.

Gilbert did not return phone or e-mail messages for comment, and a woman who answered the phone at his home said he was unavailable.

Hanson said he wished Toyota could have been invited to see the simulation conducted by ABC. “Simulation” is a word that brings back tough memories for TV networks: NBC’s news president lost his job in 1993 after it was revealed that for a “Dateline NBC” study about alleged safety problems with General Motors trucks, the network rigged a truck with small explosives for a story. Lenzner said it was ridiculous to compare a two-second tachometer shot to the NBC case.

She said Toyota was given a chance to comment on the story the day it was aired.

“It was not like ABC was trying to alter the footage,” she said. “There was no staging. There was no dramatization. It was an editing mistake.”

Even before this report, relations between Toyota and ABC were on edge. More than 100 Toyota dealerships in the Southeast had agreed last month to pull advertising on local ABC affiliated because they were angry with Ross’ aggressive reporting on the automaker’s problems.

CARS program in full

Hello All!

I have included a current graph for the Cash for Clunkers program that is supposed to go into effect on July 23rd. We are currently taking deposits on cars and trucks that qualify for the program. We also know the money that is set aside for the program is limited so if you are interested, we can help you before the program goes into effect so you can get the voucher that is coming to you plus the car or truck you want.

Incentive Chart for Cash for Clunkers
Incentive Chart for Cash for Clunkers

2010 Toyota Prius vs. Honda Insight

Prius vs. Insight: A clash of corporate cultures

Hans Greimel
Automotive News
May 18, 2009 – 12:01 am ET

TOKYO — Few cars better embody the wide divergence in the corporate cultures of Toyota and Honda than these two hybrids.

In one corner is the Honda Insight — a case study in utilitarian expedience. It’s powered by a simplified four-banger with an electric motor adding just enough oomph to cut down on trips to the pump. It sports a plasticky, no-frills interior and poaches parts from sister models.

In the other corner is the redesigned Toyota Prius — a paragon of engineering excellence. It pushes the envelope with an ingenious planetary gear transmission, outstanding fuel economy and snazzy options such as solar panels. The car that made hybrids famous carries a first-class sticker price to match.

For better and worse, the redesigned Prius and Insight exude the distinct corporate identities that gave them birth. The result is as much a battle of the automakers’ business philosophies as a two-car rivalry.

Faultless Toyota Motor Corp. reached new technological heights but drifted into cost creep, a risky trend in a recession. Penny-pinching Honda Motor Co. did a lot with a little, churning out a low-budget hybrid that can’t match its rival’s specs.

Different strokes
The Insight and Prius highlight personality differences between Honda and Toyota.
Honda Insight Toyota Prius
Objective Affordable sticker Fuel-efficiency tour de force
Price No discounting No discounting
Drivetrain Simplify current engine Go high-tech for more power
Bottom line Practicality with compromise Perfection at a price
Pricing policies

image

2010 Toyota Prius

The redesigned 2010 Toyota Prius goes on sale in the United States in late May with a base price of $22,750, including freight. The price of the top-trim Prius will be $28,020. Later this year, a stripped-down base model will be offered for $21,750.

The Insight, by contrast, starts at $20,470 and climbs to $23,000, fully loaded. Toyota’s aggressive pricing of the third-generation Prius may pressure margins again. Says Takaki Nakanishi, an auto industry analyst at JPMorgan: “It will be difficult to make a profit at the lower grades.”

Honda and Toyota share a reverence for the principles of kaizen — or continuous improvement — and just-in-time manufacturing. But their subtle differences are best summed in Honda’s pragmatism vs. Toyota’s perfectionism.

Pragmatism vs. perfectionism

image

Honda Insight

“Honda always has to prioritize what they can and can’t do because they just don’t have the resources of Toyota,” says Tatsuo Yoshida, an auto analyst with UBS Securities in Tokyo. “If they tried to follow Toyota on development, it would be like committing suicide.”

Take mileage. Honda was satisfied with a respectable EPA rating of 40 mpg city/43 highway for the Insight. But the Prius reached for and attained an eye-popping 51/48.

Honda got there by simplifying an existing 1.3-liter engine to two modes of variable valve timing, instead of three. It chose a one-clutch drivetrain instead of a two-clutch version. That reduced the efficiency of regenerative braking but was cheaper.

The lowest trim-level Insight lacks such staples as cruise control and stability control.

In aerodynamics, the Insight has a 0.28 drag coefficient. Good, but not even as good as the Honda Civic‘s. Yasunari Seki, the chief engineer, was ordered to poach body structure from the Honda Fit compact, a move that limited aerodynamic improvements and also resulted in ho-hum styling. In fact, attention to styling is such an afterthought at Honda that the company doesn’t have a company wide design chief.

The pursuit of expedience is echoed in Honda’s aversion to full-sized trucks and V-8 Acura offerings. Honda can’t be all things to all people so it compromises with the car-based Honda Ridgeline and a V-6 Acura. They may not be best-in-class, but they leverage Honda’s strengths.

“We believe it fits with the culture of our company, where we want to build environmentally friendly cars that get good gas mileage,” says Dick Colliver, who retired recently as executive vice president of sales at American Honda Motor Co. “You don’t have to have a V-8 engine to be Tier 1.”

High-tech luxury

Meanwhile, Akihiko Otsuka, Toyota’s chief engineer, was striving to make his Prius the world’s greenest car. The solution was cutting-edge.

Otsuka used a bigger engine to get better mileage at high speeds. He eliminated drive belts for the air conditioning compressor and water pump, making them electric. He devised an exhaust-heat recapture system to help keep the engine operating at optimal efficiency.

Otsuka also improved drag to 0.25, from 0.26. The new Prius was the world’s slickest production car until Mercedes unveiled its new E-class coupe at 0.24.

The Prius brims with luxury features, most famously the gimmicky solar panels whose sole task is to run a ventilation system to cool the cabin when the car is parked in the sun.

Toyota’s approach mirrors the whole-hog ambition that thrust it into the full-sized pickup segment with the Toyota Tundra and into premium sedans with the Lexus lineup.

“It’s part of Toyota culture to always improve on what it’s already done,” says Chris Richter, of CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. “It wants to position itself as higher end.”

Honda re-engineered the Insight’s hybrid system to cost 40 percent less than the previous-generation hybrid drivetrain, used in the current Civic Hybrid. Toyota was able to shave 35 percent off the costs of the current generation. But Otsuka missed the internal target of halving the cost.

Hybrid Article in Automotive News

Hybrids 101

Perplexed by plug-ins? Lost when it comes to lithium ion? Start with this sample from our extensive online guide

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Nearly every major automaker plans to roll out environmentally friendly vehicles or add to its current fleet of hybrids or hydrogen-powered cars.

Subscribe to Automotive News

If these plans come to fruition, by around 2012 consumers will be able to choose from:

— Battery-powered electric vehicles.

— Plug-in hybrids.

— Fuel cell vehicles that use hydrogen.

A century ago, cars powered by gasoline, steam and electricity battled for supremacy. Over the next decade, consumers once again will have a number of powertrains and fuels from which to choose. Back then, gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines emerged triumphant. This time there may be more than one winner.

Daimler AG’s Smart microcar shows how Americans’ car-buying patterns are evolving in an era of environmental concerns and fluctuating fuel prices. Smart has proved that some people will plunk down $13,000 to $20,000 for a small, highly maneuverable car best suited to cities rather than highway driving. First-year sales totaled about 25,000.

So a small battery-powered electric car such as the upcoming Mitsubishi i MiEV or Toyota FT-EV could find a place on American roads, even though the driving range will be limited to about 100 miles on a charge.

Hybrid Guide

Because so many automakers are working on advanced-propulsion vehicles and often giving different names to the same technologies, it is difficult to keep track of all that is going on.

So Automotive News has put together a Hybrid Guide explaining the powertrains of the future. We define the terms you see in automakers’ messages. We explain how the different types of hybrids work.

Also included is a list of major automakers’ plans for hybrids and electric vehicles with as much information as is known — such as what kind of hybrid, what kind of batteries it uses and when it will be available.

The full guide is available online at http://www.autonews.com/hybridguide. Here’s a small sampling.

Types of vehicles

Not all hybrids work the same way. There are two types of hybrids: full (or strong) and mild. There also are two different powertrain configurations: series and parallel.

Here’s how they work:

Full hybrid: Found in the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, it can be driven short distances by the electric motor alone. After a percentage of the battery’s charge is used or when the vehicle reaches a certain speed, the gasoline engine turns on, drives the wheels and recharges the battery pack. Under heavy acceleration, both the engine and the motor drive the wheels.

Mild hybrid: Found in the Honda Civic Hybrid, it uses the electric motor to supplement the gasoline engine. In other words, the electric motor reduces the load on the gasoline engine and acts as a stop-start system. The electric motor does not drive the vehicle by itself.

Mild hybrid powertrains are designed in two ways. The first has an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission, as in Honda Motor Co.’s Integrated Motor Assist. General Motors uses another approach in its Belt-Alternator Starter system. It has a combined motor/generator bolted to the front of the engine.

A mild hybrid can improve fuel economy by 20 to 30 percent in some driving conditions. The Saturn Vue offers a good example of how a mild hybrid can improve fuel efficiency. The Vue has a 2.4-liter engine and automatic transmission. The non-hybrid version is EPA rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway. The mild hybrid version, which also has a 2.4-liter engine and automatic transmission, carries EPA ratings of 25 city and 32 mpg highway.

Series hybrid: Propulsion comes entirely from the electric motor or motors. The onboard gasoline engine generates electricity directly for the motor and the battery pack. The Chevrolet Volt is an example of a series hybrid. After 40 miles, the charge in the battery pack runs down and the gasoline engine starts up, turning the generator which makes electricity for the motor and the battery pack. The gasoline engine does not drive the wheels and is not mechanically connected to the wheels. Its sole purpose is to generate electricity.

Parallel hybrid: Found in the hybrid versions of the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Tahoe, it uses both the gasoline engine and electric motor to provide mechanical propulsion to the wheels, either together or independently.

Hybrid terms

Belt-Alternator Starter system, or BAS: A combination of motor/generator that is bolted to the front of the engine and connected to the crankshaft by the fan belt. It provides a slight boost to acceleration, puts energy back into the battery pack on deceleration and gives the vehicle stop-start capability.

Plug-in hybrid: The initial charge for a plug-in hybrid comes from the grid and gives a hybrid vehicle a longer driving range on pure electric power only. Plug-ins are scheduled to be introduced late in 2010, with the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt leading the way. Plug-ins can be either series hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt or parallel hybrids such as the Toyota Prius.

Range extender: This is a hybrid vehicle that has to be plugged in for its initial charge and has an onboard source of electricity, such as a fuel cell or a gasoline engine that spins a generator. The Chevy Volt is a range-extended, gasoline-electric plug-in series hybrid. Some automakers want to classify their range-extended hybrids as electric cars because if driven 40 miles per day or less, the vehicle will not need its gasoline engine to generate electricity. But under the Society of Automotive Engineers’ definition of a hybrid, the vehicle has two sources of energy for propulsion stored onboard. So a range-extended vehicle is a hybrid.

Two Mode: The marketing name for a hybrid drive system developed by BMW, Chrysler LLC, Daimler and General Motors. Two different Two Mode transmissions have been developed, one for rear-drive vehicles and one for front-drive vehicles.

The Two Mode transmission has two electric motors and delivers the fuel economy advantages of hybrid driving in the city and on the highway. A regular one mode hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius, uses the electric motor to drive the vehicle at low speeds and to assist the gasoline engine when accelerating. At highway speeds, the electric motor in the Prius does not drive the vehicle. The Two Mode uses its electric motors to drive the wheels all the time, sometimes in conjunction with the gasoline engine.

Advanced propulsion plans

Here are BMW’s plans for advanced-propulsion vehicles. The online guide examines 14 automakers’ plans.

BMW: The German automaker’s Mini brand is leasing 500 Mini E battery-powered electric cars to consumers now. This is an electric car that must be plugged in at night to recharge the lithium ion batteries. The test could lead to limited production in about 2011.

BMW plans to introduce the X6 crossover with a Two-Mode hybrid powertrain in late 2009 or early 2010. This will be a gasoline-powered hybrid that uses the Two Mode transmission developed by BMW, Chrysler, Daimler and GM. In this application, the Two Mode transmission is a four-speed rear-drive system that delivers the benefits of electric-assist hybrid propulsion in both city and highway driving and also can tow heavy loads.

On European vehicles, various BMWs are equipped with a stop-start system that uses lithium ion batteries.

BMW also is testing a fleet of 7-series sedans with an internal combustion engine that burns either gasoline or liquid hydrogen.

New Toyota Prius Features

Ok everybody, I have been away from the blog but I promise I will be here on a regular basis. Here is some cool stuff about the new Prius.


EMBARGO DATE: JANUARY 12, 2009 AT 11:30 A.M. EASTERN TIME

TMS – – 003 – – 09

TOYOTA REVEALS ALL-NEW PRIUS

DETROIT, January 12, 2009 — Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc.,

unveiled the all-new 50-mile-per gallon rated third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle

today at the 2009 North American International Auto show.

Celebrated as the benchmark for cars of the future, the Prius has

delivered superior fuel economy and ultra-low emissions to more than one million

owners worldwide for more than 10 years.

The midsize third-generation 2010 Prius will offer even better mileage

ratings, enhanced performance, and innovative design features. It will be quieter,

roomier, and equipped with advanced standard and available features such as a

moonroof with solar panels, four driving modes, Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA)

and steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel.

An Eco-Icon

The first-generation Prius entered the market in 1997 as the world’s first

mass-produced hybrid. The name Prius, “to go before” in Latin, became symbolic

of a car that was launched even before environmental awareness had become a

mainstream social issue.

From the beginning, Toyota’s full-hybrid system was developed in-house

and has become a driving force behind advanced vehicle technology. The

company’s exclusive Hybrid Synergy Drive System was introduced in 2004 on

the second-generation Prius. Since then, more than 670,000 have been sold in

the U.S.

-more2010

Toyota Prius 2-2-2-2

In designing the new, third-generation Prius, Toyota engineers combined

a careful refinement of existing systems with an aggressive measure of new

technology necessary for the future of automobiles.

Fuel Economy and Environmental Performance

The new Prius will be built using processes that reduce pollution in every

stage of vehicle life, from production and driving, through to disposal.

The third-generation Prius extends its record of continuous improvement

in fuel economy. The first-generation Prius, which was rated 41 EPA combined

mpg, was replaced by the current model, which is EPA rated at 46 mpg,

combined city/highway. Using a combination of technologies, fuel efficiency was

increased to an estimated 50 miles per gallon for the new Prius.

A larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine

will power the new Prius. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the larger engine

actually helps improve highway mileage. By making more torque, the new engine

can run at lower average rpm on the highway. When operating at lower rpm, the

new engine uses less fuel. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions

and at higher speeds.

Use of an electric water pump and a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR)

system also contribute to the engine’s efficiency. The 1.8-liter Prius engine is the

first Toyota power plant that requires no belts under the hood for better fuel

economy and less potential maintenance.

A multi-information display panel that monitors fuel and energy

consumption is standard. It provides feedback on the Prius’ efficiency using

three different displays to help the driver acquire economical driving habits.

Unlike most other hybrid vehicles available, Prius has been a “full” hybrid

since introduction. This allows it to run on engine alone, battery alone, or a

combination of both. The system blends the best of parallel hybrid and series

hybrid designs to achieve the ability to operate on the electric mode alone, and to

charge the batteries while the car is running.

-more2010

Toyota Prius 3-3-3-3

The patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the 2010 Prius is 90 percent

newly-developed with significant improvements over previous models.

The transaxle is lighter in weight and reduces torque losses by as much

as 20 percent compared to the previous model.

The inverter, which converts direct current to alternating current, has a

new direct cooling system to reduce size and weight.

Taken together, the inverter, motor and transaxle are smaller and 20

percent lighter.

A newly developed electronically controlled regenerative braking system

has been adopted, with control logic optimized to enhance regeneration.

The new Prius will offer three alternative driving modes. EV-Drive Mode

allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions

permit. There is also a Power Mode, which increases sensitivity to throttle input

for a sportier feel, and an Eco Mode, which helps the driver achieve their best

mileage.

Cutting Edge Styling

In designing the new Prius, aerodynamic performance was an important

factor. The goal was to create a beautiful silhouette, while not compromising

function. Designers preserved the dynamic triangle form of the

current model–instantly recognizable as a Prius–but made alterations to the

overall profile, pillar position and angle. The front pillar, extended forward, helps

refine the performance-focusing, shaped form.

The overall height of the Prius is the same, but the roof profile is altered by

moving the top of the roof 3.9 inches to the rear. This emphasizes the wedge

shape, and also allows for enhanced rear headroom and improved

aerodynamics.

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2010 Toyota Prius 4-4-4-4

The design of the new Prius’ front and rear corners are sharp, sporty and

aerodynamic. Strong side character lines, rising from front to rear, define the

glazed geometric shape. Viewed from the rear, wider rear treads provide a solid,

firmly rooted stance.

Dimensionally, the new Prius has the same wheelbase as the current

generation. Overall length is slightly increased by 0.6 inches, in part by moving

the front cowl forward.

World’s Lowest Cd

The new Prius received more wind tunnel hours of testing than any other

Toyota in history, resulting in the cleanest aerodynamic profile of any massproduced

vehicle in the world. By focusing on the shape of the body, underfloor,

wheelhouse liner and shape of the wheels, the designers of the new Prius were

able to reduce the coefficient of drag (Cd) value to 0.25, compared to 0.26 for the

previous model. The airflow under the car was studied extensively. Engineers

made changes to the shape of the fender liner, front surface of the underfloor,

and added a fin at the rear floor cover to increase linear stability.

Advanced Equipment For a New Era

An available sliding glass moonroof is packaged with solar panels, located

over the rear seating area, that power a new ventilation system. This solar

powered ventilation system uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that

does not require engine assist. The system prevents the interior air temperature

from rising while the vehicle is parked, making the cool-down time shorter when

the driver returns to the vehicle, thus reducing the use of air conditioning.

The remote air-conditioning system is the first system in the world to

function on battery-power alone and that can be remotely operated, so the driver

can adjust the interior temperature for comfort before getting in the car.

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2010 Toyota Prius 5-5-5-5

Reducing the vehicle’s power consumption, available LED (light emitting

diode) lamps are used for low beams and also in the tail and stop lamps. Air

conditioning, a major energy drain, has been re-engineered to increase efficiency

and cool-down performance. In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system

reduces heat waste by warming engine coolant during cold startup, for improved

performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently.

Enhanced Vehicle Performance

The next-generation Prius is built on a new platform, which enables

improved handling stability, quieter operation, and collision safety. The

suspension consists of front struts and a rear intermediate beam design, as

before, but handling stability is advanced by improving the stabilizer layout,

higher caster angle and tuning the bushing characteristics. Disc brakes are now

used on all four corners, replacing the front disc/rear drum brakes in the current

model.

Weight was saved through use of aluminum in the hood, rear hatch, front

suspension axle and brake caliper and super high-tensile steel in the rocker

inner, center pillar, and roof reinforcement. To meet customer expectations for

everyday performance, zero-to-60 acceleration has been improved to 9.8

seconds, more than a second faster, in internal testing.

Better-performing sound insulation, working with improved vibration

damping, has been installed in various locations to reduce road noise.

Functional Interior Is Bigger on the Inside

Proving that small changes add up to big gains, the cargo area of the new

Prius was expanded 0.4 inches in length and 2.2 inches in width by using a new

and an improved layout of the battery cooling unit.

Rear seat legroom is enhanced by a new space-saving contoured frontseat

design.

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2010 Toyota Prius 6-6-6-6

Viewed from the cockpit, the center cluster smoothly flows from the

instrument panel to the console. Handy storage space has been added under the

shift lever by taking advantage of the shift-by-wire system. Simple, fin-type air

vents are consistent with the cabin’s efficient appearance. Judicious use of silver

accents adds a finished, technical feel.

Touch sensors on the steering wheel switches are designed to reduce

driver eye movement for better concentration on the road. When the driver

touches the audio or info switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image

is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of the driver. This system,

called Touch Tracer, is the first system in the world to allow steering wheel

controls to read out on the instrument panel.

The ECO indicator on the Multi-Informational Display (MID) provides driver

feedback for lower fuel consumption.

In pursuit of developing various advanced technologies aimed at realizing

sustainable mobility, Toyota will use plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in the

2010 Prius. The newly-developed plastics, known as “ecological plastic,” will be

used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and

deck trim cover. Ecological plastic emits less CO2 during a product lifecycle

(from manufacturing to disposal) than plastic made solely from petroleum; it also

helps reduce petroleum use.

Safety Enhancements

The new Prius was designed to comply with class-top level collision safety

performance in each global region of sale, and to accommodate increasingly

strict safety requirements in the future.

In addition to advanced driver and front passenger Supplemental Restraint

System (SRS) airbags front and rear side curtain airbags, driver and passenger

seat-mounted side airbags and driver’s knee airbag are standard equipment.

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2010 Toyota Prius 7-7-7-7

Active headrests are used in both front seats to reduce the possibility of

whiplash in a collision. Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake

Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), electronic traction control (TRAC) and

Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) are included with Toyota’s standard Star Safety

System.

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, using advanced millimeter wave

radar, is an available option. The system also enables Lane Keep Assist, which

helps the driver stay safely within the lane, and the Pre-Collision System, which

retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a crash is

unavoidable.

Next-generation Intelligent Parking Assist features simplified settings to

help guide the car into parking spaces.

A backup monitor, which provides a view of rear obstacles when reverse

is engaged, is available with an optional voice-activated navigation system.

Safety Connect, Toyota’s first safety and security service, includes automatic

collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and an SOS call button. Safety

Connect will be available a few months after launch.

The development of the Prius has required applications for over 1,000

patents filed across the world, of which 292 are U.S. applications.

Pricing for the 2010 Prius will be announced shortly before it goes on sale

late spring.

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2010 Toyota Prius 8-8-8-8

2010 PRUIS PRELIMINARY SPECIFICATIONS

POWERTRAIN

1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with VVT-i

Engine horsepower: 98 hp @ 5,200 rpm

Engine torque: 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Electric motor: Permanent magnet synchronous motor

Electric motor power output: 80 hp/153 lb-ft torque

Hybrid system net horsepower: 134 hp

Emission rating: SULEV (with AT-PZEV)

Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission

Drive System: Front-wheel-drive

Hybrid battery pack: Nickel-metal hydride

Estimated fuel economy: 50 mpg (combined)*

DIMENSIONS (inches)

Overall Length: 175.6

Overall Width: 68.7

Overall Height: 58.7

Wheelbase: 106.3

Ground clearance: 5.5

Coefficient of Drag: 0.25

Wheels: 15-inch alloy wheels

17-inch alloy wheels (optional)

Tire Size: 15-inch: 195/65R15

17-inch: 215/45R17 (optional)

Seating Capacity: 5

EPA class rating: Midsize

* Preliminary figure based on Toyota’s internal testing. Actual mileage will vary.