Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Daimler is the "most successful participant" in Shanghai Bibendum

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Daimler earned 23 "distinctions" with its Mercedes-Benz and smart brands at this year's Michelin Challenge Bibendum and, with that, is calling itself the "most successful participant" at the event. Daimler entered seven vehicles in the contest in a field of around 80. Some of the brand's highlights include:
  • The Mercedes-Benz E 300 Bluetec took ifirst place in the 170-kilometer production car rally and was noticed for it's acceleration, maneuverability and local pollutants.
  • The Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell, the smart fortwo cdi, the Mercedes-Benz F 600 and the Mercedes-Benz E 200 NGT were all noted for having low CO2 emissions (tank-to-tire).
There's more after the jump.

[Source: Daimler AG]

Daimler Scores Overall Victory in This Year's Michelin Challenge Bibendum
Nov 20, 2007 15:11 ET

- A total of 23 distinctions for Mercedes-Benz and smart

- Top marks in environmental compatibility and performance

STUTTGART, Germany, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- With a total of 23 distinctions, Daimler AG emerged as the most successful participant from this year's Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai. Seven cars from the Mercedes- Benz and smart brands faced up to the competition in the different disciplines of the globally most important event in the field of sustainable mobility. Some 80 participating cars were put to the test in the categories of acceleration, maneuverability, noise pollution, local pollutants, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions (tank-to-tire). In addition, the Mercedes-Benz E 300 BLUETEC, which made its European debut only recently, finished in first place in the 170-kilometer rally for production cars. Distinctions for the best design went to the smart fortwo cdi in the production car category as well as to the Mercedes-Benz F 600 in the prototype car category.

The distinctions at a glance

-- Mercedes-Benz E 300 BLUETEC
Four distinctions overall (categories: acceleration, maneuverability and local pollutants, as well as winner in the production car rally)

-- Mercedes-Benz E 200 NGT
Four distinctions overall (categories: acceleration, local pollutants, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions)

-- Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell
Three distinctions each for the two participating cars (categories: local pollutants, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions)

-- Mercedes-Benz F 600
Three distinctions overall (categories: local pollutants and CO2 emissions, as well as Design Award in the prototype car category)

-- smart fortwo mhd (micro hybrid drive)
Two distinctions overall (categories: noise pollution and local pollutants)

-- smart fortwo cdi, operating on synthetic BTL (SunDiesel biofuel)
Four distinctions overall (categories: noise pollution, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, as well as Design Award in the production car category)

This year, the Challenge Bibendum was staged in Shanghai from November 14 until 17. It is the world's most important forum for sustainable mobility. Its more than 3,000 participants include motor manufacturers, suppliers, energy companies, private and institutional research and development operations as well as some 450 international journalists. During this event, over 80 vehicles incorporating the latest technologies are tested under everyday operating conditions and evaluated in a large number of different categories.

Modular powertrain strategy for future mobility

The Daimler fleet at the ninth Michelin Challenge Bibendum reflected the company's powertrain strategy which is systematically geared to mastering the challenges which will arise in future private transport: ever more restricted access to cities, more stringent emission limits and ever scarcer resources versus the growing demand for individual mobility. This calls for a variety of drive concepts which are tailored to the individual applications.

The internal combustion engine will remain the Number One automotive drive system in the years to come - which is why Daimler is systematically working on its continuous improvement. The efficient and clean diesel engine, for instance, is particularly suitable for long-distance motoring. With the DIESOTTO, Mercedes-Benz demonstrates how the gasoline engine can be made even more economical in the future. When required, both diesel and gasoline engine can be combined with a hybrid module which additionally reduces fuel consumption and thus emissions in city traffic.

Alternative drive systems such as fuel cell or battery will complement the portfolio for specific applications - matched to the customer's requirements. Zero-emission vehicles powered by fuel cells or batteries are, for instance, a viable proposition for motoring in conurbations. On long distances, the fuel cell can in addition bring its advantages in terms of range to bear. Over and beyond this, Daimler promotes the development of high-grade and alternative fuels such as BTL (biomass-to-liquid), a second-generation biofuel.

Further information from Daimler is available on the internet at:


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Montana ZENN dealer Eco Auto talks to Electric Cars Are For Girls

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Readers who click through all of the links that we offer you in a day might remember Ron Gompertz, the owner of Eco Auto, Inc. He was mentioned in an article on MSNBC about eco-car dealers in the U.S. Lynne Mason over at Electric Cars Are For Girls has gotten hold of Gompertz for a lengthy Q&A on what it's like to sell EVs and other green cars in Bozeman, Montana. Gompertz sells ZENN, Miles, Evader scooters, SNUGG electric bicycles, and Smart cars, and will ship them to you no matter where you live in America. How does he feel about the two NEV makers on his list? Gompertz told Mason that, "For electric cars, we chose the Zenn and the Miles. They're both excellent quality electric cars that you can plug in like a cell phone, and both easily adaptable to Montana's 35mph NEV speed limit."

Read the whole thing over at the girly EV site.

[Source: Electric Cars Are For Girls]


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Porshce's lightweight technology eyed by VW and Audi

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The lightweight technology in Porsche's upcoming Panamera is being coveted by Volkswagen. Porsche Chief Designer Wolfgang Dürheimer told Automobilwoche that VW and Audi made it clear that they are interested in using the new materials for their own vehicles once Porsche became a significant VW shareholder. Since VW also has technologies that Porsche might want and the two have co-developed a hybrid transmission, working together on lightweight body panels, etc., is only natural, says Dürheimer. Porsche and VW will "increasingly work together in appropriate areas such as development to cut costs for all partners," he told the magazine.

[Source: Automotive News Europe]


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Four-door Zap Xebra approved for UK roads

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If crowding a bunch of school children into a Zap Xebra (remember this video?) sounds like fun to you, then perhaps a new four-door version of the all-electric vehicle will be the site of your next endeavor. Even if you just want to use the car around, town, this news might be welcomed by you. The new Xebra has been approved for use on UK roads by the UK's Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). The approval means the three-wheeled EV can go up to 40 mph on UK streets and Zap CEO Steve Schneider reminds people it's available in either a sedan or truck version. Details from Zap after the break.

[Source: Zap]
First Four-Door Electric Car Approved for UK From ZAP
Posted November 20th, 2007 by zapworld

LONDON -- November 20, 2007 -- A new four-dour electric car design from ZAP (OTC BB:ZAAP.OB - News) called the Xebra(R) has passed Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) inspection, allowing it to be driven on roads in the United Kingdom.

Electric car pioneer ZAP announced that the 100 percent electric Xebra sedan passed Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) inspection, allowing the car to be driven on roads in the United Kingdom.

VOSA provides a range of licensing, testing and services enforcing the roadworthiness standards of vehicles in the UK. VOSA approval means the vehicle complies with full road traffic standards set for UK cars.

"With its congestion toll zone, London has become the world's great proving ground for the electric car," said ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. "Here is a unique electric vehicle that will help drivers save significantly on fuel costs as well as free passes for the daily congestion tolls and parking. We believe the Xebra is the first four-door electric vehicle to pass the VOSA test."

Schneider noted the Xebra is also available in a truck configuration. ZAP designed the Xebra to quickly and affordably fill the demand for cars that don't use conventional fossil fuels. ZAP calls the Xebra a "city-car," a unique vehicle for city-speed driving up to 40 MPH (64.4 KPH). The sedan and pickup truck versions can recharge at any normal household outlet.

ZAP recently appointed UK-national and former Lotus Engineering CEO Albert Lam to its Board of Directors. Mr. Lam is the Chairman for ZAP's new joint venture to manufacture next-generation electric and hybrid vehicles with Youngman Automotive Group, one of China's leading bus manufacturers.

Based in Santa Rosa, California, ZAP is now expanding distribution for the Xebra and other electric vehicles worldwide. The Xebra is targeted towards government, corporate and utility fleet use as well as daily urban commuting for multi-car families and is now available at a price of just over US$10,000.

About ZAP

ZAP has been a leader in advanced transportation technologies since 1994, delivering over 100,000 vehicles to consumers in more than 75 countries. At the forefront of fuel-efficient transportation with new technologies including energy efficient gas systems, hydrogen, electric, fuel cell, ethanol, hybrid and other innovative power systems, ZAP has a joint venture to manufacture electric and hybrid vehicles with Youngman Automotive Group, one of China's leading manufacturers of buses and trucks. ZAP is developing a high-performance crossover SUV electric car concept called ZAP-X engineered by Lotus Engineering. ZAP is also developing a new generation of vehicles using advanced nanotech batteries with Advanced Battery Technologies. The Company recently announced a strategic partnership with Dubai-based Al Yousuf Group to expand its international vehicle distribution. ZAP also makes an innovative, new portable energy technology that manages power for mobile electronics from cell phones to laptops. For product, dealer and investor information, visit

Forward-looking statements in this release are made pursuant to the "safe harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, continued acceptance of the Company's products, increased levels of competition for the Company, new products and technological changes, the Company's dependence upon third-party suppliers, intellectual property rights, and other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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Where the US Farm Bill stands as Americans get ready to celebrate harvest fest/Thanksgiving

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Responding to a question from a reader in Pennsylvania, Jetta Wong has written an update on the 2007 Farm Bill over at Renewable Energy Access. This bill, as we've written before, has a lot to do with topics AutoblogGreen readers care about because it affects how biofuels might be grown in America in the coming years. As Americans get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, it's a good time to take a look at the bill that defines so much for the farmers and agribusinesses in this country.

The Farm Bill is a pentannual (I think that's a word) piece of legislation that deals with pretty much everything related to growing crops: pest control, subsidies, ethanol, food stamps, etc. The current status is that the bill is basically dead because the U.S. Senate voted to cut off debate on the Farm Bill five days ago. Wong's article gives a good recap of how we got to where are today, and says that with the current bill dead, it's looking like there might be a one-year or maybe two-year extension added to the current bill to give lawmakers more time to hem and haw.

The U.S. government's website about the bill is here. The Wikipedia hive mind version is here.

[Source: REA]


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Fred Thompson: there are no hybrids in NASCAR

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Actor and presidential hopeful Fred Thompson made a joke about Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney that included a reference to hybrids and NASCAR. At first, Fred made a joke equating Democrats to NASCAR (because they only turn left) and commented America was not ready to "turn over the keys" to the "most left-wing part of the left-wing party." Fred then had a suggestion for the good people of Northeastern Iowa;

Now, when Rudy and Mitt come down here from New York and Massachusetts, I want you to be nice to them. And the first thing I want you to do is explain to them what NASCAR is. ... It's not a hybrid automobile.

Iowa is "down here" meaning the south? Iowa is above the Mason-Dixon Line, in the Midwest and at the same latitude as New York. Anyway, while a lot of auto racing has gone green and many of the fastest cars in the world are electric, the idea that NASCAR will go hybrid is a joke.

[Source: ABC News]


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Interview with author of OECD's "Biofuels: Is the cure worse than the disease?" report

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The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report called "Biofuels: Is the cure worse than the disease?" (download the PDF link seems to be broken) earlier this fall. One of the authors of the report, Ronald Steenblik (who is also the Director of Research for the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)), was interviewed by Renewable Energy Access about the critical tone the report took towards biofuels and, IMHO, does a fine job of defending his attacks on government subsidies of biofuels and of suggesting we wait until second-generation biofuels (e.g., cellulosic ethanol) are commercially ready before investing heavily in an ethanol infrastructure.

Read the whole thing.

[Source: Renewable Energy Access]


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Oh, if only we had those nifty, thrifty European favorites here. Wait....

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The Volkswagen Golf (or Rabbit, if you're a Yank like me and always prefer a car's name to reference a potential meal rather than a game for old people) has just been awarded Car of the Year by ACFO, an organization that produces a bi-monthly journal called "Fleet Operator." CotY was awarded to the Golf for "delivering operational performance, whole-life cost control and driver appeal as well as an environmental edge." In other words, it's one of the best Euro-boxes out there for professionals and consumers alike.

So why isn't it as popular here? It is the exact same vehicle, with only some different engine options, though the ones offered in the States are still quite good. A wise man named Jack Handey once wrote, "Instead of building newer and larger weapons of mass destruction, I think mankind should try to get more use out of the ones we have." So instead of pining after the fun, practical microcars being enjoyed by so many across the pond, why don't we try to appreciate and, I don't know, buy the ones we already have here.

[Source: ACFO via Newspress]


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Fuel makers in Spain call for flexible biofuel blends

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The Spanish Association of Oil Producers and Operators (AOP) has shown a "profound disagreement" with Spain's plans for mandatory biofuel blends at the pumps. So far, the Government's plans state that by 2010, 5.85 percent of fuel sold at the pump must be from vegetable sources. What the AOP says is that the limit cannot be reached and is calling for a flexible blend, whereby fuel producers would adjust the contents of biodiesel and ethanol into diesel and gasoline pumps to reach a global figure of 5.85 percent.

The fact is that Spain's current fuel market is split into 79 percent for diesel and 21 percent for gasoline. While Spain produces all the gasoline it need and even exports some (about 3 millions a year), diesel must be imported to satisfy the demand (some 15 million liters per year). According to the AOP, biodiesel can fix the solution because it will allow the country to reduce imported biodiesel, and there will be more gasoline left for export. Of course, the actual blend of ethanol in gasoline should be 8 percent to compensate for the lower energy content of ethanol.

[Source: Europa Press via Econoticias]


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Tata claims $2,500 car will be the cleanest in India

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India's Tata Motors wants to build the Model T for the 21st century with a $2,500 "peoples" car (or, we could call it the Volks Car, or something). The problem is that even with a nascent private auto market, Indian cities already have major traffic and increasing pollution problems. In spite of concerns that the new, cheap Tata would dramatically amplify these problems, company chairman Ratan Tata wants to press ahead. He insists that the new model will be the cleanest car on the road in India and would meet quality standards equal to any company in the world. Although the small-engined Tata would likely emit fewer greenhouse gases than other cars, Dr. David Cole told AP that the cars still won't meet US emissions standards.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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Video: Green Team beats up hybrid driver (NSFW)

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Funnymen Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Adam Mckay are the "Green Team" in the above web comedy sketch. The video includes the trio driving an electric golf cart and beating up a guy that drives a hybrid. Why? Will explains "just because it's a hybrid does not mean it does not burn gas." When I wrote this article, the video had over 112,000 views. TA warning, the video is not safe for a work for many, many reasons.

[Source: Funny or Die]


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Cool videos: BAE's electric tank, MIT's stackable car

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The video above is of a BAE Systems' electric-powered military vehicle. According to one of video description, BAE Systems has made military vehicles with "electromagnetic hub mounted wheel motors from MST." The military is very interested in the silence and efficiency of electric vehicles because of the tactical advantages of stealth and long ranges. Below the fold you will find a video of MIT's concept electric city car. The car stacks in a row, which allows for a better use of space and the car at the end of the stack to recharge. The cars can even be customized to match the drivers preferences. Watch it change colors in the video.

[Source: YouTube]


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Volkswagen improves the Touareg TDI

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Europe's best-selling engine in the Touareg, the V6 TDI, has been optimized. And most of the work has resulted in reduced fuel consumption.

The V6 now averages 9.6 liters of diesel per 100 km (24.5 mpg) while putting out increased torque and power (550 Nm or 405 lb/ft and 240 HP respectively). Despite the power and torque increase, which, according to VW accounts for 0.8 liters less on the highway and even 1.4 liters to 100 km during the Euro urban cycle, the Touareg can make the jump form 0 to 100 km/h in 8 seconds, one second quicker than before.

The press release doesn't make any reference to CO2 emission figures, which in the older model weren't that impressive: 283 g/km. Press release after the jump.

[Source: Volkswagen]

Volkswagen Touareg with enhanced V6 TDI engine

Wolfsburg, 16 November 2007 - Already the best-selling engine in the successful Touareg range, the V6 TDI has now been further enhanced. The result: less consumption - more power. Since being revamped in the spring of 2007, the Touareg has seen deliveries in Europe increase by a further 2.5%. In total, sales of the Touareg since its original launch in 2002 amount to 204,000 in Europe, and worldwide to 331,000.

The diesel engine's enhancement focussed a decrease in fuel consumption. The V6 TDI, the most popular engine within the Touareg range with a market share of 80% in Germany, now needs an average of 9.6 litres of diesel for 100 kilometers. Despite the significant increases in power and torque, this figure translates into 0.8 l/100 km less than the predecessor version, and some 1.4 l/100 km city fuel consumption.

In the Volkswagen Touareg, the new 3.0 TDI six-cylinder unit now boasts a peak torque of 550 Nm (an increase of 10%) and an output of 176 KW / 240 hp (an increase of 7%). This means that the Touareg reaches his top speed of 214 km/h and attained the 100 km/h mark almost a full second faster (8.0 seconds).

In Germany the enhanced Touareg V6 TDI with manual gearbox is available immediately for a price of € 46,900; prices for the automatic version start at € 49,150.


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See John Kanzius combust salt water

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If Jeremy's post last week piqued your interest, here's the video to prove it. Found in the magical realm of YouTube, this news story was originally on NBC News. John Kanzius was trying to find a way to cure cancer via a specialized bombardment of radio waves. What he accidentally discovered was that when he put a test tube of salt water in the beam of radio waves, it disrupted the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen and ignited a flame that burned up to 3000 degrees. Needless to say, this is an alarming discovery.

While Kanzius is using the flame to run a small model steam engine, it may perhaps have greater potential as a substitution for an electrolyzer. Or, if the system can be miniaturized and made cost-effectively efficient, it could combust in the cylinder of an ICE directly. There is also a lot of valid criticism regarding this idea, which many of you commented on last week. In any case, Kanzius' discovery could greatly impact the transportation industry, as well as find the cure to cancer he was looking for in the first place.

Related Posts:
Related Video:
[Source: YouTube -- Thanks for the tip, Sean!]


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Astucia's SolarLite "road studs" offer 10x road visibility through solar power

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Currently, the highest tech devices we see "lighting" the roads at night in areas where streetlights are impractical are reflectors. Not exactly the newest of the new. And, with nighttime accidents not uncommon, increasing the visibility of the road at night is a good thing. Doing it by using solar energy is great.

Enter the British firm Astucia, which has developed the SolarLite flush road stud. This stud contains LEDs that are powered by tiny solar panels that collect and store energy during the day (so don't expect these in tunnels or heavily forested areas) and automatically turn on the lights when it gets dark out. The SolarLites can be seen from 900 meters away (over half a mile) which is much better than a reflector's 90 meters of visibility. Astucia claims that this increase gives drivers over 30 seconds to react to changes in the road direction instead of the 3.2 seconds they have when only reflectors are involved. Already in use in places around the UK, nighttime accidents in those areas have dropped by over 70 percent since the SolarLites were installed, Astucia says.

And here's another bonus, one that surprised me. Astucia says a SolarLite will last between 8-10 years, much longer than a conventional retro-reflective stud that needs to be replaced every year or two. Is that really how often those road reflectors need to be replaced? Yikes.

Gallery: Solar road studs

[Source: Astucia and Autoblog]


Astucia SolarLite flush road stud uses stored solar power to give a ten-fold improvement in night time road visibility.

Shorter days and longer hours of darkness, along with inclement winter weather place particular emphasis on the need for road delineation, to show the driver where the road goes next. The latest generation of a British-designed "smart" road-stud has just been certified by the Department for Transport and is making a significant improvement to driving safety, with a big boost in visibility compared with the traditional reflective "cats-eye."

The Astucia SolarLite[TM] stud stores solar energy during the day, then built-in Light Emitting Diodes automatically illuminate from dusk to dawn, providing drivers with up to 900 metres of visibility. This is ten times greater than the traditional, retro-reflective, passive road stud which relies on being illuminated by the headlight beam of the approaching vehicle. At best it has a useful range of 90 metres.

The increased visibility given by the SolarLite road stud extends driver reaction times from 3.2 to over 30 seconds, when driving at 60mph. The studs are now in use in approximately 120 locations across the UK and a number of Local Authorities have reported reductions in night time accidents of well over 70% since the installation of the SolarLite "smart" road studs.

Research carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory also shows that when the smart studs are used, drivers also significantly less likely to cross the white line in the centre of a road or move out of lane on a dual carriageway. They also brake earlier and more consistently.

The greater number of visual references also means that drivers tend not to speed into the corners. In addition, the flush fitting studs are also safer for cyclist and motorcyclists. All make their contribution to added driving safety.

The latest generation of the SolarLite F Series intelligent road stud has taken advantage of improved solar panel and Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, along with internal design developments, to allow costs to be dramatically reduced in comparison with earlier units.

The latest Astucia stud reduces casualties on the road and has a projected life of eight to ten years, compared with just one to two years for a conventional retro-reflective stud. Over its lifespan an Astucia "smart" stud will therefore cost no more than a traditional cat's eye. The units' efficiency can also allow a reduction in the use of energy- and maintenance-intensive, carbon-inefficient, streetlights.

In comparison with the cost and trauma of a fatal road accident of course, the price of any road stud fades into insignificance. According to the latest UK Department for Transport annual statistics, there are on average more than 8 fatal accidents every day, each one costing the country £1.69 million pounds. While only one third of all journeys occur at night, almost half of the serious or fatal accidents occur during the hours of darkness.

In the UK, Astucia road studs are currently installed on roads in Lothian in Scotland, the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales, in Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Oxfordshire. They are also used in more specialised applications such as demarking cycle lanes in Cambridgeshire and Fast Track bus lanes in Essex.

The smart, safe and sustainable concept that created the Astucia SolarLite studs was conceived in 1989 by Martin Dicks. A former member of the London Fire Brigade, he formed Astucia to develop and market his invention in 1992..

Martin is recognised within the industry as one of the true visionaries in this vital field of road safety, building on the legacy of Percy Shaw, the inventor of the original "cats-eye" in the 1930s. Dicks is the inventor of an entire product range covering solar and hardwired studs, including studs that can warn of impending hazards such as fog, ice and surface water, or stationary traffic ahead

In 2003, Astucia made a significant step forward when John Madejski OBE DL, best known for his ownership of Reading Football Club and, more recently for his charitable work in the arts field supporting the Royal Academy and the V&A museum, acquired a controlling interest in the business. He made further investments to fund the R&D program and has supported the development of the company as a part of the Clearview Traffic Group, which also includes Golden River Traffic, a leader in the field of automated traffic counting and classifying, and Count On Us, the largest UK provider of transportation data collection and analysis services.

"Astucia is shaping the future of traffic safety by providing superior information to drivers about potential hazards direct from the road in their natural field of vision" says Martin Rodgers, sales and marketing director for Clearview Traffic. "The advance information on the road ahead provided to drivers by the Astucia studs is clearly proven to reduce incidents, so we're delighted to be able to bring to the market this next generation of flush stud, which is also easier and therefore cheaper to install, further justifying a unique British product which is continuing to prevent accidents and save lives."


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Big jump in the cost of Thanksgiving travel, ethanol trade group claims to help

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Here in the US, this is Thanksgiving week and it's usually one of the biggest travel weekends of the year as people hit the road to visit family. With gas prices on the rise again, it's expected that travel will cost Americans an extra $520 million this weekend compared to last year. But guess who's coming to the rescue? The ethanol industry.

The Renewable Fuels Association is claiming that ten percent ethanol blends reduce pump prices by $0.15 a gallon. That claim seems rather dubious given that E85 pump prices are generally pretty close to gas prices. Until we move beyond corn ethanol, the economic benefits will be minimal at best. There may be some benefits in terms of increased oxygen content and octane levels, but it's questionable for a trade group to make such claims about saving money. Their press release is after the jump.

[Source: Renewable Fuels Association, thanks to Steve for the tip]

Thanksgiving Travel, Turkey More Expensive This Year
Oil, Gasoline Prices Leaving Less for Consumers Heading into Holiday Season
November 20, 2007

Washington - Americans will take a hit in their wallet as well as their waistlines this Thanksgiving holiday. The run up in oil prices over the past year is forcing fuel prices as well as food prices ever higher.

An analysis by John Urbanchuk, a director at the economic consulting firm LECG, LLC, released today estimates that Americans will fork over $520 million more this year than last year on their Thanksgiving travel. That means, based on the national gas price average of $3.11, an increase of 39 percent over 2006 just to drive over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house. That is $520 million that won't be spent on Black Friday, the traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season. More specifically, it will cost the average family an extra $17 for roundtrip travel for Thanksgiving dinner.

"Soaring oil prices are hitting average Americans where it hurts the most: the pocket book," said Urbanchuk. "High oil and gasoline prices will cost Americans more than half a billion dollars in travel this Thanksgiving holiday. That is money that won't be spent at Wal-Mart or online as the holiday shopping season begins in earnest."

In addition to the high prices at the pump, Americans will also get pinched at the dinner table. The wholesale price of turkey, the staple of any Thanksgiving meal, is down four percent over last year. However, retail prices for turkeys in the grocery aisle are up 12 percent, a reflection of the impact soaring oil and fuel costs are having on food items across the board. In fact, a recent analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation of the cost of the average Thanksgiving dinner for 10 this year showed an increase of 11 percent over 2006.

The news for all Americans isn't so grim. Where gasoline marketers are blending ethanol, drivers are realizing a savings at the pump. Today, ethanol is blended in roughly half of the nation's gasoline. Given the current economics of ethanol and gasoline, the increasing availability of ethanol is helping keep gasoline prices up to $0.15 lower than they otherwise might be.

"Americans are literally over a barrel this holiday season as oil prices are likely to remain high and gasoline will no doubt follow suit," said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "Were it not for the growing availability of ethanol, Americans would be spending a whole lot more to go over the river and through the woods this holiday season."

Key findings of the analysis include:

o. At today's prices, Americans will spend more than $1.8 billion on gasoline over the Thanksgiving holiday, nearly $520 million, or 39 percent, more than Thanksgiving 2006. That is $520 million that cannot be spent on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season.

o. With the national average retail price of regular gasoline topping $3.11 per gallon, the average traveling family will spend $16.80, or 39 percent, more on gasoline to travel to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner this year than last.

o. Without ethanol blended at ten percent with gasoline (E10), the average pump price of gasoline would be as much as $0.15 per gallon, or 4.7 percent higher than current levels and the average American household would pay $19.68 more than last year for the Thanksgiving trip.

A complete copy of the analysis can found at


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

LA Auto Show video: Bob Lutz makes apparent slam at Hillary Clinton's energy plan

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The video above is an interview with the emanently quotable GM vice Chairman Bob Lutz on GM's move towards making greener cars and CAFE standards at the 2007 LA Auto Show. Bob says the reasoning for making more fuel efficient cars is really a global one because there are places around the world with $9-a-gallon gas. Bob continues by saying they will continue to make "both" anyways (i.e make green green cars and fuel wasting sports cars and SUVs).

In the interview, Bob was specifically asked about Hillary Clinton's CAFE standard which is the mpg plan by a presidential contender that calls for the largest increase in the shortest amount of time. Bob says the candidates are on a "mad race" to outdo each other by coming up with ever larger CAFE standards. Bob then makes an apparent direct slam at Clinton's plan to give them money to "retool" their plants and repeated his apparent new reasoning that CAFE means larger cars. Here is exactly what he said:

The politicians now seem to be in a mad race to who can come out with the larger number. Nobody seems to be concerned with technological feasibility or what it's going to take in terms of technology and cost to reach these numbers. Because anybody who thinks we can just sort of retool the factory to produce 35 MPG cars obviously does not understand the situation.

Bob could have meant another candidate reference to retooling plants but I don't recall another candidate or policy asking for retooling. Anyway, just the way says "retool" makes me think Hillary's energy plan was not read happily in GM offices. Bob Lutz wittiest quote, from the many great one in this short interview, was probably that "a lot of the CAFE discussion is well intentioned, maybe, but misguided." You, sir, are a poet.


[Source: Wall Street Journal video]


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Lamborghini trying also to become greener

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Lamborghini is ranked among the most polluting brands in Europe and the US. But, as the same way Ferrari is aware that they have to do something about their not-so-green reputation, Lamborghini has made public its intentions to improve CO2 emissions. Of course, a brand which makes performance and looks its trademarks can only improve them by reducing weight, said Stephan Winkelmann, Lamborghini CEO.

The shadow of the EU's 130 g/km of CO2 regulations is very large, coming in effect in 2010. Lamborghini's actual figure is (take a deep breath) about 400 g/km. Weight-reducing solutions to improve this figure will surely imply the use of lighter materials for the chassis and the body, although the brand won't surely reach the required figures.

Nevertheless, there is a concern about noise pollution as well, which is a nightmare in some cities. Winkelmann stated that Lamborghinis are driven mostly on weekends, which causes the least concerns for citizens. Cities in Southern Europe are currently limiting the maximum dB a car can emit while running on streets.

Continue after the jump to see the latest Lamborghini's project, the Reventón

[Source: Reuters]

Just for the note. Lamborghini names its cars according to bull's names taken from Spanish Bullfighting (according to the video, this one is named after one that was very brave in 1943). While some great names were the Gallardo and the Murciélago, Reventón might be a bull name, but it also means blowout.


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White House Thanksgiving turkeys delivered by Flex Fuel Ford running on E85

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The traditional pardoned White House turkeys were delivered by a Flex Fuel Ford F-150 running on E85. The turkeys were named "May" and "Flower" and not "the names the Vice President suggested, which was 'Lunch' and 'Dinner,'" joked President Bush. The turkeys were delivered by Hotel Washington bellhops, in dog carriers, at 8:10 am to the waiting Ford F-150 as camera crews from Toyko TV and NBC News recorded the entire thing. The Ford drove two blocks to the White House.

Ziad Ojakli, Ford's group vice president for government and community relations, said "Corn is the turkeys' fuel and the truck's. ... Ford is pleased to provide the getaway vehicle in the turkey-cade." After the pardoning ceremony at noon, the turkeys in a dozen-car motorcade, escorted by 5 police motorbikes and a police car with sirens on, drove to Dulles Airport. The turkeys are going to Disneyland. Yes, Disneyland. They are going to be grand marshals of Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

[Source: Detroit News]


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Ford Ecogrants funds conservation projects in the Philippines

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Ford Philippines announced yesterday that it will give out grants worth nearly a million Philippine pesos to local four conservation and environmental groups. That sounds like a lot, but it's really just over $23,000US. The awards are part of Ford Philippines annual Ecogrants program.

Only one of this year's grantees is related to carbon emissions or something else that we would usually report on, but this is an example of Ford's self-expressed statement that "Caring for the environment is part of the Ford DNA." The winners of the 2007 Ford Ecogrants were, in the words of Ford's announcment:
  1. Dr. Menandro Acda - for his project entitled "Recycling Waste Chicken Feathers For Low Cost Building Material in the Philippines". Dr. Acda is a repeat grantee from 2006. His project this year seeks to utilize the thousands of tons of chicken feathers as a binding agent for concrete blocks. The result is a cheap and effective building material which simultaneously rids farmers and the environment of thousands of tons of chicken feathers. The practice of the disposing of feathers through burning contributes to global warming while its burial takes years to decompose due to its keratin composition also badly contributing to the environment. The funding received from the Ford Ecogrants will be used for research and laboratory equipment as well as the procurement and transportation of the chicken feathers.
  2. Mr. Rodilo Lebino - For his project entitled, "Conservation and Rehabilitation of T'nalak Production" which seeks to reinvigorate the practices of the ethnic people of Cotabato in the ritual cloth weaving called T'nalak. The Ford grant money will be used to procure the weaving materials and implements for T'nalak production and training natives in the processes of T'nalak production.
  3. Clean and Green Foundation, Inc. - the Clean and Green foundations project, entitled "Orchids and Butterflies" seeks to create a greenhouse at the Orchidarium in Manila that will serve as a genuine repository and showcase area of endangered and rare Philippine flora.
  4. KLIMA- Climate Change Center - Manila Observatory - This repeat winner's project entitled "Schools on LOCo2 With The Low Carbon Diet For A Healthy Lifestyle," which is a continuation of last year's project seeks to promote awareness among the youth on global warming and harmful CO2 emissions. They aim to achieve this by creating educational and awareness materials in the form of posters, flyers and panels which they then tour around different schools. They also have talks and fora where students can get more information on global warming. The Ford grant money will be used to develop new educational material and awareness-generating campaigns.
In the eight years that these Ecogrants have been given out, 62 groups have received over 18 million Philippine pesos.

[Source: Ford Philippines]


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LA Auto Show video: Bob Lutz confirms GM will release 16 hybrid in next four years

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In GM's LA Auto Show press conference, which you can watch above in full, GM Vice Chairman of Global Product Development, Bob Lutz says the same thing we reported GM CEO's Rick Wagoner said: GM will release sixteen hybrids in the next four years. Here is the exact quote:

If you want to talk hybrids; we are introducing four more hybrids in the US this year. In fact, counting the new Saturn Green Line, we are introducing sixteen hybrids in the next four years. That's one about every three months.

Bob continues saying that the 16 will include vehicles with GM's full, two-mode hybrids. Before that, Bob said GM has a goal of making and selling the most fuel efficient car in every available category, and mentioned the company already has the most fuel-efficient pick ups and has sold 2.5 M flex fuel cars. GM announced its "strong intent" to be the "world wide fuel solutions leader and undisputed environmental and technological leader in the industry." Bob says they are going to do it across their entire line of cars and not just with a single iconic green car, which Bob says they will have anyway. Bob even hinted at a lot more flex fuel cars coming from GM, whic makes me wonder if some big announcement is coming.

Basically, GM is talking to Toyota Muhammad Ali-style: we are the best and we are going to kick your butt!

[Source: Podtech]


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