Friday, October 19, 2007

Tesla's WhiteStar Albuquerque plant grows bigger (on paper)

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Tesla Motors is working on a assembly plant for its upcoming WhiteStar sedan in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Albuquerque Tribune is now reporting that the plans for that plant are getting larger. The Tribune's Erik Siemers writes that Tesla representatives, including vice president of sales Darryl Siry, were in town yesterday to discuss expanding the plans. Siry said, "We're looking at a potentially larger program. The program has been much more clearly defined, and we're further along in defining what the car is. That has ramifications for our supply chain and logistics." Since the WhiteStar itself is not yet designed, the specifics of the plant have not yet been set, but apparently it's more than previously thought.

Another hint that New Mexico might suit Tesla just fine came from State Economic Development Secretary Fred Mondragon, who said, "We are in discussions with them about the possibility of more than just an assembly plant." Hmmm.

[Source: Albuquerque Tribune]


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Did San Jose city council member try to change law to help sell his electric car?

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GEM for SaleIn San Jose, California, as in many cities, hybrids (at least those bought in the city) park free. This has lead to a $7,700 loss of revenue, monthly, for the city. That's not too much, in the larger picture, but a little more couldn't hurt, right? City council member Pete Constant wants zero emission vehicles to qualify for that free parking too, no matter where they were purchased. But the proposal was taken off the agenda by the city attorney. Why? A potential conflict of interest, as Pete is trying to sell his 2002 GEM.

"There's no determination that there's a conflict but just the appearance, I think, he decided to just kick this until we get this resolved," says Pete. Oh, good catch.

[Source: ABC 7 News]


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Diesel Subies to beat hybrids to market

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Not long after Toyota took up the stake in Subaru that was formerly owned by General Motors, the two companies agreed to work together to add hybrid power-trains to the all-wheel-drive specialist's lineup. The problem is that the unique layout of the Subarus precludes just dropping in the hybrid synergy drive. That means that while Toyota's technology can be used it has to be repackaged. In the meantime Subaru was already working on a new flat four-cylinder diesel engine which was unveiled at last spring's Geneva Motor Show. That diesel will begin appearing in Subarus in the European market after the 2008 Geneva show.

Work continues on the hybrids although Subaru won't say what the timeline is. Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru's parent company) has said that they won't build hybrids until lithium ion batteries are available. Given Subaru's association with Toyota and their battery problems, it may be a while before we get any Subaru hybrids.

[Source: Left Lane News]


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Audi launches TDI initiative in the US

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In order to celebrate that the TDIs are arriving in America, Audi is launching a campaign to promote the new 3.0 TDI engine which goes on sale in 2008. The engine will be installed in the marque's sedans and Q7 SUV.

Audi claims that the TDI burns 35 percent less fuel than gasoline counterparts, which reduces CO2 emissions accordingly. At the "German TecDay," an information event organised jointly by Volkswagen, Bosch and the Association of the German Automotive Industry in San Francisco, California, Ralf Weyler from Audi Marketing said: "No other drive system can beat the TDI's combination of high power and low fuel consumption."

According to EPA estimates referenced by Audi, the US could save 1.4 million barrels of oil per day if one third of passenger vehicles and light duty trucks used modern diesel engines. A report by J. D. Power forecasts a 12 to 15 percent of share market for diesel vehicles in 2015.

The engine has impressive figures: 240 HP, 550 Nm of torque (406 lb/ft) obtained from an array of technical features such as common rail injection, monitors that control the combustion chambers and an emission system that uses carbonic acid diamide solution ("urea"). The engine fulfills the LEV Tier II Bin 5 emission standards (operatiing in states such as California, Massachusetts, New York, Maine and Vermont) and the new emission limits that will come into force in Europe in 2014.

Full press release after the jump.

[Source: Audi]
Ingolstadt, 2007-10-17

High potential for the very latest technology in North America
Audi launches TDI initiative in the USA
  • Cleanest diesel engine in the world to go into production in 2008
  • TDI engines achieve a major reduction in fuel consumption
  • New drive technologies for even greater efficiency
Audi is launching its TDI initiative on the North American market. As early as next year, Audi will be putting the cleanest diesel engine in the world into production in the USA virtually in parallel to its launch in Europe: the 3.0 TDI with ultra-low emission system will initially be available for the Audi Q7, and later for the new Audi A4 too. Audi has been expanding steadily in the USA for many years now, and sees the market as holding high potential for its cutting-edge TDI engines. The low-sulphur fuel required for the engines' operation was introduced throughout the country a year ago, paving the way for the initiative to begin.

The TDI engine is the most successful efficiency technology in existence; Audi first introduced it into series production 18 years ago and has been progressively extending its lead over rival technologies ever since. "The TDI units burn up to 35 percent less fuel than the average of petrol engines typically used in the USA. This means that the TDI can assume an important role in the rapid reduction of CO2 emissions," comments Ralph Weyler, Board Member for Marketing and Sales at AUDI AG. At the "German TecDay", an information event organised jointly by Volkswagen, Bosch and the Association of the German Automotive Industry in San Francisco, California, Weyler emphasised: "No other drive system can beat the TDI's combination of high power and low fuel consumption."

According to calculations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States could save 1.4 million barrels of crude oil every day if just one third of all passenger cars and light-duty commercial vehicles were equipped with up-to-date diesel engines.

Leading market research firms such as J. D. Power predict that diesel engines will have a 12 to 15 percent share of the US market in 2015, which represents a substantial jump compared to the current share of sales of around four percent.

The new Audi 3.0 TDI with ultra-low emission system develops an output of 176 kW (240 bhp) and 550 Nm of torque, making it both powerful and efficient. New technologies optimise the combustion process in the V6: the common-rail injection system builds up 2000 bar of pressure, while sensors monitor the combustion chambers. One crucial innovation is the ultra-low emission system in the exhaust tract, which largely eliminates nitrogen oxides by means of a carbonic acid diamide solution. With this system on board, the 3.0 TDI fulfils the toughest emission standard in the world - the LEV II Bin 5 classification, which is operative in the US states of California, New York, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. The high-tech diesel from Audi also already complies with the emissions limits that are due to come into force in Europe from 2014.

Audi is tackling the issue of efficiency with all its resources - with new technologies, new engines and new drive concepts. A host of other forward-looking solutions are available besides the cleanest diesel engine in the world. These include the groundbreaking, ultra-efficient FSI engines with petrol direct injection, as well as technology modules for Intelligent Energy Management (IEM), such as a start/stop system and a micro-hybrid. In view of the fact that the fuels themselves have a key role to play in the reduction of CO2 emissions, Audi is also focusing its attention on the second generation of biofuels which use the entire plant rather than just its fruits.

Whatever new development it is working on, the brand with the four rings stays true to one clearly defined precept: Audi seeks to heighten the efficiency of all its new models, whilst at the same time further enhancing their sporty profile and the driving pleasure they offer.


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Ottowa's first permanent hydrogen fuelling station now open

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Hey, are there Project Driveway participants in Ottowa? There could be, now that Gary Lunn, Canada's minister of natural resources, helped open the city's first permanent hydrogen fueling station. According to Fuel Cell Today, this is part of the Hydrogen on the Hill project, which "aims to improve public awareness of the capability of hydrogen energy technologies and the role Canadian firms are playing in working towards the creation of a hydrogen economy."

All told, there are ten permanent hydrogen fueling stations in Canada, five of those in Ontario. Ten down, I wonder how many more thousand to go.

[Source: Fuel Cell Today]


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Could explosive growth in Chinese electric bikes be driving up lead prices?

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Chinese bikesThe price of lead hit a record high on October 9 and Chinese electric bikes may have played a silent role in driving up the price. China produced 19 million battery-driven bikes in 2006 and that could rise 30 percent this year. There are estimates of up to 300 electric bike companies in China and 400,000 tons of lead used in Chinese "e" bikes last year.

"The explosive growth is already over, and we expect new standards being developed for the larger bikes to slow growth in 2008," said Zhang Changhai, lead analyst with metals consultancy Antaike in Beijing. Wow, China is actually making laws trying to stop the growth of electric bikes. China is developing in more interesting and greener ways than I have seen reported. Check below the fold for a video of an American student in China studying the growth in electric bikes.

[Source: Scientific American and tipster Domenick]


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Ford launches new diesel engine for the Ranger, in Europe

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Although pickup trucks aren't the most popular vehicle on European roads, their sales aren't all that minimal. Of course, you can't buy (as far as I know) any of those trucks with gasoline engines, and the trucks that are availabe are ones which would be considered small in the US.

Nevertheless, Ford has launched revamped versions of the Euro-spec Ford Ranger with two diesel engines: the 2.5 TDCi found in other models such as the Transit van and a new 3.0 TDCi engine, the latter only available with the 4-door king cab version.

Specifications aren't impressive, as you would expect from such a vehicle: 3.0 liter 4 cylinder engine, with common rail direct injection. 156 HP and 380 Nm of torque (280 lb/ft), following the Euro IV emission rules. You can have a manual 5-speed gearbox or a new 5-speed automatic. The car weighs almost two tons (1,910 kg), which, adding the plastic cladding this version has, translates into 25 MPG average (European mixed cycle), 28 on highway. CO2 emissions are 252 g/km.

[Source: Ford France]


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The EU reduces subsidies for biofuel crops

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The EU's Direct Payments Management Committee has listened to the European Commission and is cutting subsidies for biofuel crops. These subsidies were created to support these crops as long as they didn't reach 2 million Ha. This figure will be exceeded before the year is out.

If you wonder how much money that was, farmers got 45 EUR per Ha, as long as the production was agreed to be sold for producing biofuels. This help has been adjusted and farmers will only receive subsidies for 70 percent of the land. This percentage will be changed if the allocated budget (90 million EUR) runs out.

This policy was established in 2003, before the latest 10 countries joined the EU, countries that have increased the total number of biofuel crop acres in the Union. While in 2004, biofuel crops were grown on 0.31 million Ha, and the figures have increased steadily: 0.57 million in 2005, 1.23 million in 2006 and 2 million estimates for 2007.

The European Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Mariann Fischer Boel said that this measure has fuelled the European biofuel industry but the EU has yet to decide if it's still necessary for the new budget.

[Source: Europa Press via Econoticias]


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Bladder buster alert! Nissan Qashqai goes 867 miles on a tank of diesel

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A team of Nissan test drivers recently set out from Land's End in Southern England in a Nissan Qashqai with the goal of seeing how much ground they could cover without refueling. They began their trek in the compact crossover with 65 L of diesel and at the end of their 867-mile trip to John o'Groat's on the northern tip of Scotland they had consumed a mere 58L. That amounts to 56.1L mpg US from the 1.5L diesel engine. The remaining 7L of diesel would have brought the total range up to 977 miles before having to refill the tank. The Qashqai is similar in size and style to the new Rogue crossover that recently went on sale in the US, but the Rogue only comes with a gas engine that is rated at a comparatively mediocre 21/26 mpg. Hopefully Nissan will add a Tier 2 / Bin 5 compliant small diesel to our model to improve the situation.

[Source: CarScoop]


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Consumer Reports' top five reliable family cars list includes two hybrids, Prius at #1

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Two of the five most reliable family cars in the U.S. are hybrids, according to the readers surveyed by Consumer Reports in the non-profit magazine's latest reliability survey. At the number one spot we find the Toyota Prius, and coming in at number 4 is the Toyota Camry Hybrid (note: in the CBC article that mentions this list, the Camry entry includes an asterisk that is then not identified anywhere on the page, so go figure). The other cars in the top five are Honda Accord (#2), Hyundai Sonata, 4-cyl. (#3), and Ford Fusion (#5).

Consumer Reports says that, overall, Ford has gotten better with its vehicle reliability recently, while Toyota has slipped. Toyota still dominated the ratings, though, with 17 of the top 39 most-reliable vehicles. CR's four least reliable vehicles are listed after the jump.

[Source: CBC News via Green Car Congress]
Consumer Reports least reliable family cars
  1. Chevrolet Impala V8
  2. Volkswagen Passat
  3. Pontiac G6
  4. Volvo S40/V50


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Wouldn't it be nice: Biodiesel Basics promises breakthrough for DIY biodiesel

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You've been there, right? Monkeying around in the garage or down at the biodiesel co-op for hours getting all the titration and pH levels just right to turn restaurant waste grease into a fine biodiesel for your old Mercedes. This glorious image might just slip into the faded past if a new-fangled biodiesel homebrew method turns out to be for real.

The new company, Biofuel Basics, says it has found a way to turn used veggie oil into biodiesel. That's not hard (it's not easy, either). The trick is that Biofuel Basic's method is that it requires no heating, and will cost the maker as little as 45 cents a gallon. The secret? "Our exclusive formula," says Eugene Kaser, president of Biofuel Basics.

What's in that formula? Biofuel Basics isn't saying. What they are saying is you can get a starter kit with 18 oz. of the formula (enough for 108 gallons of biodiesel) for $37.49, and that's with a promised money-back guarantee. Any of our homebrewers out there want to give this a shot and report in on how it goes? We talking snake oil or prime biodiesel magic here?

[Source: Biofuel Basics]


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Redesigned Honda Fit to go on sale Oct. 26 in Japan

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We got our first look at the next generation Honda Fit a few weeks when a couple of sites that got invited to the long-lead previews in Japan spilled the beans. Honda will be showing the the new Fit publicly for the first time next week at the Tokyo Motor Show and, unlike so many auto show debuts, there will be no six month lag between between the show and retail sales. The new Fit will go on sale in Japan on October 26 just as the Tokyo Show opens to the public.

The initial reactions to the new styling has been decidedly mixed with some liking the updated look while others prefer the existing car. While the car has grown by a couple of inches in length, the crashworthiness is improved and apparently the weight has remained the same which is definitely a bonus. In Japan, buyers get a choice of 1.3L or 1.5L engines both of which offer improved fuel efficiency. If they follow the current pattern, only the larger engine will be available when the new car comes to the US, probably sometime in mid-2008 for the 2009 model year. That model is now rated at 46 mpg (US) on the Japanese test schedule. More details on the new Fit are after the jump.

Gallery: 2009 Honda Fit preview

[Source: Honda]
TOKYO, Japan, October 18, 2007-Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced plans to begin sales in Japan of the all-new, completely redesigned Honda Fit on Friday, October 26, 2007. The Fit has gained popularity as a small car that features outstanding packaging, excellent fuel economy, and advanced styling.

The second-generation Fit was developed following the tradition of Honda's man maximum, machine minimum*1 concept with the goal of creating the ideal small car for a new age. To provide values which exceed customer expectations for a small car and to set a new benchmark in the highly competitive small car segment, packaging, utility and driving performance have been further advanced with the all-new Fit.

The packaging of the new Fit is based on Honda's innovative center tank layout, with a longer wheelbase and wider track for enhanced interior space and practicality, combined with the small-car maneuverability of a 4.7-meter minimum turning radius. The front pillar has been moved forward to create a spacious interior, while the exterior boasts exhilarating styling. An ingenious interior layout helped create a comfortable cabin with space equivalent to a mid-sized sedan. The new Fit's practicality has also been enhanced with four-mode "Ultra Seat" and three-mode "Ultra Luggage*2" storage spaces.

The new Fit's dynamic performance is made possible by a newly developed 1.3-liter i-VTEC engine that delivers maximum output of 73kW (100PS). Combined with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and newly developed torque converter, the engine provides enjoyable driving and class-leading*3 24 km/l fuel economy*4. The body rigidity and crash safety performance were also enhanced while maintaining weight equivalent to the previous model. Moreover, the newly designed chassis also helps achieve superior comfort and steady handling.

Newly added to the Fit lineup is a Road Sailing (RS) version which highlights a sportier and sophisticated character with a newly developed 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine and a specially designed suspension with enhanced styling and a richer feel.

Honda Fit was first introduced in Japan in June 2001. It is now being produced in six factories in five countries and sold in approximately 115 countries around the world, with cumulative sales of more than two million units*5.
*1 Honda's man maximum, machine minimum concept is a basic approach to car design that calls for maximizing the space available for humans and minimizing the space occupied by mechanical components.
*2 Standard equipment on Types L and RS, factory option on Type G.
*3 1.3-liter class
*4 Figures for Type G (FF) Fit, based on results of 10-15 mode fuel-efficiency testing by Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
*5 Honda calculations

Key features of the New Fit
Exterior styling

The exterior styling is intended to express both spaciousness and dynamic motion, with front pillars moved forward for an advanced, super-forward form. The fuel lid dovetails seamlessly with the monoform styling thanks to Honda's first application of a push-lift opener. The door mirrors provide greater visibility with 30%*6 more surface area supported by a compact mount located at the base of the front quarter light. The addition of five new colors brings the total available body colors to twelve.
*6 Honda calculations; compared to the previous model


The center tank layout was carried over from the previous model to help maintain the maneuverability expected of a small car while allowing enhancement of cabin space and practicality. The overall length has been increased 55 mm*7 to 3,900 mm and the width 20 mm*7 to 1,695 mm, while the 1,525 mm*7 height remains the same as the previous model, allowing for use of tower parking.

While the wheelbase has been increased 50 mm*7 to 2,500 mm, the tread size has also been increased to help optimize the steering angle and maintain the minimum turning radius of the previous model at 4.7 meters.

An emergency tire repair kit is provided instead of a spare tire, freeing up 64 liters*8 of storage space beneath the floor. Combined with the space in the luggage room this brings the total available luggage space to an amazing 427 liters*8.

The rear hatch opening is located 605 mm from the ground, making it easy to load and unload luggage. The rear doors also open to a wide 80° angle, providing even easier access for passengers and facilitating loading and unloading of luggage.
*7 Honda calculations; compared to the previous model
*8 Honda calculations in accordance with the VDA method


The cabin features an ingenious layout with equivalent space as one of Honda's middle-class sedans, providing passengers a natural feeling of comfort.

The large three-meter cluster provides superior visibility with permanent illumination. The speedometer, located in the center of the cluster, features a large LED display providing of a broad range of information, including current fuel economy and range indications.

To ensure a comfortable driving position for all drivers, a tilt and telescopic steering column*9 as well as a ratchet-operated seat height adjuster*10 have been applied.

The front quarter windows are three times*11 of the size of those in the previous model, and the width of the front pillar has been reduced by 20 mm*11 to provide enhanced visibility. A new Sky Roof provides even more sense of space and comfort in the cabin. The power sun shield can be opened and closed with the touch of a switch for a comfortable cabin all year round.

The front seat is based on the seat frame of a middle-class sedan and fitted with springs and padding optimized for seat hold and ride comfort. The rear seats are 20 mmwider*11, 15 mm deeper*11, and have cushions 10 mm thicker*11 for enhanced ride comfort. The left and right headrests fit into the seat back for easy seat arrangement and 30%*11 better rearward visibilities.
*9 Standard equipment on Type L and RS.
*10 Standard equipment on Type L and RS; factory option on Type G.
*11 Honda calculation; compared to the previous model


The four modes of "Ultra Seat" provide enhanced utility.
Utility mode: Easy one-motion dive down and release operation of the rear seats. The luggage space can be extended to a maximum length of 1,720 mm*12 thanks to the spacious full-flat floor.
Long mode: In Utility mode, place the passenger seat in the full reclining position to create a space up to 2,400 mm long to carry long objects.
Tall mode: Fold up the rear seat cushions to take advantage of Fit's 1,280 mm roof height-the perfect way to make space for tall items like house plants.
Refresh mode: Remove the front seat headrests and put the front seats in full reclining position to stretch out across the front and rear seats for a rest.

The three "Ultra Luggage" modes provide added practicality to Fit's cargo space.
Upper/Lower mode: Lift the flexible luggage board from the floor to separate the luggage space into upper and lower partitions. The net used to create the upper space is perfect for carrying irregularly shaped objects that won't sit flat.
Tall mode: Open the flexible luggage board to create enough space to load tall objects.
Regular mode: The under floor space is perfect for storing sports gear or raincoats and umbrellas. And once the lid is on, you won't have to worry about soiling your other luggage.

The Fit interior is replete with practical utility, starting with 10 cup-holders and a wide range of easy-to-use storage spaces.

A Honda HDD InterNavi*13 navigation system equipped with a 7-inch wide display and a 40GB hard disk is available as a factory option. And with the new Fit Honda introduces two new services to enhance the driving experience of members of the InterNavi Premium Club: New Road Data and Earthquake Information System.
*12 As measured with the passenger seat moved all the way forward
*13 Equipped with rear-camera, 7-inch wide display, TV (one-segment broadcasting), AM/FM tuner, DVD/CD player, AV input terminals, illuminated Audio Remote Control Switch, 4 speakers


The new Fit comes with either of two new engines: a 1.3 liter i-VTEC or a 1.5 liter i-VTEC. In addition to the superior low-rpm torque of its predecessors, the new 1.3l i-VTEC brings more power to the high rpm range and delivers enhanced fuel economy in everyday driving. The new four-valve configuration with enhanced intake performance and drive-by-wire technology combine to help achieve a power rating of 73 kW(100PS). The use of only one of the two intake valves at low rpm increases EGR efficiency, helping the Fit achieve a class-leading*14 24 km per liter*15 fuel economy.

The new 1.5 liter i-VTEC delivers superior fuel economy combined with lively dynamic performance and plentiful torque throughout all speed ranges. Intake valve timing and clearance settings switch to match for low- and high-speed driving and optimized valve overlap in the low-, mid-, and high speed ranges enhances intake and exhaust efficiency for power output of 88 kW(120PS) and superior fuel economy of 19.6 km per liter*16.

The Fit's continuous variable transmission delivers enhanced drive and off-the-line acceleration thanks to the implementation of a new torque converter. Higher gear ratios also help improve fuel economy by keeping rpms low during cruising. The low-friction, high-efficiency oil pump and pulleys as well as a new creep control system provide optimized creep control at low speeds and during idling for improved fuel economy.
*14 1.3 liter class
*15 Calculations for Type G (FF) Fit, based on results of 10-15 mode fuel efficiency testing by Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
*16 Calculations for Type RS (FF w/CVT) Fit, based on results of 10-15 mode fuel efficiency testing by Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Body construction and design have been ingeniously modified to improve body rigidity and crash safety performance even while maintaining the same weight as the previous model. Noise and vibration during idling as well as booming noise while cruising are quieter than ever thanks to highly efficient connections of structural members and enhanced body stiffness.

The implementation of sound-absorbing acoustic materials in the roof, carpet, and dashboard insulation contribute both to greater quietness and to lower weight. The RS Type is equipped with special damping and acoustic materials to achieve quietness expected of more expensive vehicles.

The newly designed chassis realizes both superior ride comfort and steady handling. The rigid body and supple suspension provide an exceptional dynamic performance.

The new Fit features a McPherson strut front suspension.

The H-shaped torsion beam rear suspension achieves the maximum possible space for the rear seats and cargo area as well as supple ride comfort and steady handling.

The new electric power steering has more capacity than the previous model, and improvements to steering gear box rigidity and attachment points provide a more direct steering feel.

Safety Performance

The RS Type comes with Honda's vehicle stability assist (VSA) system, which is the first implementation of VSA with a manual transmission vehicle in this class*17. In addition, engine torque control and DBW throttle control enable precise control of the vehicle in driving.

A side curtain air bag system function with the front seat i-side air bag system to provide added protection against head injuries during side collisions. Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering Body provides enhanced self-protection and better compatibility in collisions with other vehicles. Honda pedestrian-injury reduction body design helps protect pedestrians from injury in the event of a collision.

All Fit models are equipped with an electronic brake distribution ABS system plus brake assist functionality as standard equipment. In addition to an ISO FIX child seat bar, tether anchors are provided in both the left and right rear seats as standard equipment.
*17 Both 1.3 liter and 1.5 liter classes

Environmental Performance

All types have been certified by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport as having achieved a 75% reduction with respect to emissions regulations for 2005. All types equipped with CVT*18 exceed Japanese fuel economy standards for 2010 by 20%; G- and L-Type equipped with 4WD as well as RS-Type equipped with 5MT exceed Japanese fuel economy standards for 2010 by 5%; RS-Type equipped with 4WD comply with Japanese fuel economy standards for 2010.

The use of VOCs in the cabin has been reduced to a minimum, and all types comply with indoor density guidelines set out by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
*18 Type RS (FF/CVT) equipped with factory options exceed Japanese fuel economy standards for 2010 by 10%.

Rotating passenger seat
A rotating passenger seat is available to take full advantage of Fit's ease of access. Incorporating the same styling, ride comfort, and bolstering as the base model, this exclusive seat has been designed with a specially contoured seat cushion for enhanced ease of access. Oversized bearings help ensure smooth rotation.

295 mm of foot space during rotation-a full 65 mm more than the previous model-has been achieved together with a seat height of 585 mm for enhanced ease of access.

The tip up configuration of the ULTR SEAT Tall mode enables easy loading and unloading of a wheelchair through the rear seats.


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China to make bicycle numbering and registration mandatory

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In China, you must register video games, blogs, online video, cars and very soon, your bike. In an attempt to cut down on theft, China is moving to a "real name" system for bikes. This is not the first time China has tried bike registration. In the past, China required bike registration with the transportation department, parts inspection, ownership papers from the police and even a license plate! Shockingly, no one bothered because... it's a bike. So, now the government is making the manufactures and bike shops do the work.

Bike manufactures can apply for codes starting October 21. Starting December 1, bike manufactures must print numbers on bikes. Bike shops must record the bike number and "basic information" when bikes are sold, and hand that information over to local government. That's according to a circular jointly released by the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Commerce, the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce. That's a lot of government departments that really care about bikes.

There are editorials that wonder if numbering bikes will solve the theft of problem, will just lead to a bike tax and whether if it infringes on personal property rights. There are 470 million bikes in China and 4 million bikes (including 700,000 electric bikes) stolen every year, a loss to the bikers of 2 billion yuan ($267 million). From March to June, of the 393,000 stolen bikes recovered by the police, only about half were returned to owners. The new numbering system should make that process a lot easier. So, for future reference, if you want to buy a bike in China, don't forget your ID.

[Source: China Daily]


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Carsharing, yes; owning, no #4: Ready to go

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As you can see in the pic, my car sharing user card arrived in the post today. That's nice, 48 hours after I faxed all the documentation they requested. The pic also shows the T10 cards that allow 10 trips on any kind of public transport in Barcelona Metro Area, on up to 4 different transport modes.

Now what I have done is checked the reservation system at the website, which is really easy to use. The reservation management screen is very simple: simply choose the start time and date for rental and the time you want to return the car. Cars must be rented at least for one hour.

Then simply choose the location and drop station. Note that I must return the car to the same station I took the car from. Avancar has 21 stations in the city of Barcelona and 4 additional ones in nearby cities (Granollers, Sabadell and Sant Cugat del Vallès). All the stations are in easy-to-find parking lots and most of them are at just a few minutes from a public transport stop or station.

Finally, the systems asks me to choose the car I want and gives an estimate of the cost of the rental, without figuring in miles driven. Continue after the break to find about the cars available.


All cars available are diesels with the latest emissions technologies available. There are 5 types of cars, as follows, and I've added approximate model, engine size, HP and CO2 emissions.

-Renault Clio 1.5 dCi (70 HP, 120 g/km)
-Opel Corsa 1.3 CDTi (75 HP, 119 g/km)

-Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi (100 HP, 161 g/km)
-Renault Mégane 1.5 dCi (85 HP, 117 g/km)

-Renault Mégane Grand Tour 1.5 dCi (85 HP, 117 g/km)

Familiar (5+2 seats)
-Opel Zafira 1.9 CDTi (100 HP, 162 g/km)
-Renault Grand Scénic 1.5 dCi (85 HP, 137 g/km)

Minibus (9 seats)
-Opel Vivaro 2.0 CDTi (114 HP, 220 g/km)

[Source: Spanish websites for Renault, Opel and Ford]


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Tokyo preview: Official leakage of the Audi A1

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Click on the A1 concept to enlarge

Over the past couple of months, we've seen numerous rendered images of what the upcoming Audi A1 would look like and now we finally have the real thing. The A1 Metroproject Quattro is a concept that will appear next week at the Tokyo Motor Show previewing the production A1. This smallest Audi has a nose dominated by a grille that looks like it's sized for the big Q7 V-12 TDI. Propulsion comes from the 150hp 1.4L TFSI four cylinder that appears in several other VW group cars.

Power from the engine goes to the front wheels by way of a dual clutch gearbox. To earn the Quattro badge, the rear wheels are propelled by a 41 hp electric motor. The electrons required to get 200 Nm of torque out of that motor are stored in a lithium ion battery pack. The A1 has plug-in capability and can reportedly go 60 miles in pure electric mode. The 12.8 foot long A1 is rated at 48 mpg and has CO2 emissions of 112 g/km. The production A1 should arrive in 2009.

[Source: MotorAuthority]


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First pictures from Santa Monica's Alt Car Expo 2007 - Electrum Spyder and Vectrix scooter

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The Alt Car Expo here in Santa Monica starts this morning. Last night, on the Santa Monica Pier, some of the organizers and exhibitors met for a swanky get-together. I'm not one to pass up a tasty event like that, so I went. And look what I found parked outside - the updated Electrum Spyder and the new Vectrix electric scooter. We'll have more on these vehicles before the weekend is out, but I thought you'd enjoy some pics before the more serious info-gathering begins. If you only have time for one click, make sure it's this one - to see what I'm pretty sure is the Spyder's, um, unusual spedometer.

Gallery: Ventrix Electric Scooter

Gallery: Electrum Spyder 2007


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