Lexus RX450h F Sport 2012 Review

September 3rd, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

If there are any vehicles that are poised to reap the best market acceptance from hybrid technology, it should be SUVs. People like SUVs because of their practicality, but they don’t like stupendous fuel bills and that’s one of the reasons why sales of traditional SUVs have struggled recently and will continue to do so as the price of fuel increases.

If you are considering a Lexus LX450h, though, you’re probably unconcerned at the extra one or two thousand dollars a year in fuel bills you’ll save over purchasing a non-hybrid SUV. Chances are your other car is a Euro model with a large engine and the Lexus SUV will be for more practical duties like going snowboarding (it has a snow mode) or taking the kids to school. Therefore the hybrid badge on a Lexus SUV is because Continue reading “Lexus RX450h F Sport 2012 Review” »

Toyota Camry i-Tech Hybrid 2012 Review

August 1st, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

The top-of-the-line Toyota Camry i-Tech is a hybrid with no performance compromise. There’s not a whole lot of price difference between the Camry i-Tech and the Prius i-Tech (only a couple of grand), but while the Prius i-Tech is packed with more features (adaptive cruise control, heated seats, head-up display and a few other comfort items), the Camry focuses more on the driving experience.

A back-country drive through Tahuna, Otway and Te Aroha gave the Camry some serious Continue reading “Toyota Camry i-Tech Hybrid 2012 Review” »

Toyota Prius i-Tech 2012 Review

July 23rd, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

There’s an interesting exercise in brand pricing going on with the Prius i-Tech. You can get into the Prius range with the Prius c for around thirty-one to thirty-five thousand, but then there’s a big jump to the base model Prius at fifty grand, and if you want this tricked-out i-Tech verion, it’s $54,490 (online price).

Coincidentally this is only $10 less than the base model Lexus hybrid (the CT200h), but if you plump for the top-of-the-line CT200h F Sport which has similar features to the Prius i-Tech you’ll pony up $72,000.

So, your decision is whether to Continue reading “Toyota Prius i-Tech 2012 Review” »

Toyota Prius c 2012 Review

July 20th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Today I read a scathing dissertation on global warming in Rolling Stone magazine. The main thrust of the article was that the globe simply can’t tolerate a 2% rise in CO2, but the oil companies are too politically powerful to be legislated against and that any change in our oil consumption habits has to be driven from the population. But in the Herald today it said that half of New Zealanders are ‘sloth-like’. So it’s not going to suddenly happen due to us all deciding to bike to work.

It’s going to happen eventually, though, because Continue reading “Toyota Prius c 2012 Review” »

Honda CRZ 2012 Review

January 18th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

To date, hybrid vehicles have certainly been rather dull automobiles that have failed miserably to excite anyone with the need for speed. Just when you thought all was lost for anyone wanting to save the planet one kilometre at a time, Honda’s new CRZ hybrid has come to the rescue.  Billed as the long awaited replacement for the CRX, Honda has managed to capture that same youthful enthusiasm the CRX delivered those 26 years ago.

Everywhere you look the CRZ has taken styling cues from the CRX. From the bodylines to the classic split rear window, it’s instantly recognisable as its predecessor.

That CRX feel is carried on into the interior, with the instrument cluster featuring wings like the original 1986 model. A large central analogue rev counter dominates the display with a digital speedo inside. Everything can be controlled right at your fingertips on the steering wheel, including shift paddles if you elect for the CVVT auto transmission model. As with decent modern stereos there is both an aux and USB input for MP3 player or iPod. The USB cord is hidden in a small smart device sized compartment in the centre console, keeping the device out of sight and out of harm’s way.

Continue reading “Honda CRZ 2012 Review” »

Volvo’s petrol plug-in hybrid

January 10th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Volvo will unveil an innovative petrol plug-in hybrid XC60 at the Detroit Auto Show later this month. It is an electric car, a highly economical hybrid and a powerful high-performance car all rolled into one.

At the touch of a button, the driver decides how the available power from the combination of the high-performance petrol engine and the electric motor is to be utilized.

“The technology in the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept is as ingenious as it is unique,” says Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of Volvo. “You can make really green progress on the road without compromising on any of the luxury car’s renowned properties. No other manufacturer has succeeded in delivering fuel economy and electrical range on this level in a capable, spacious performance car with 262 kWs on tap.”

The same concept in the Volvo V60 plug in diesel hybrid goes on sale in Europe later this year and subject to further evaluation could be seen in New Zealand some time in 2013.

Volvo expects to introduce the plug in petrol hybrid technology to North America, which prefers petrol to diesel, in 2014 although it may be in a different car to the XC60 Concept on show in Detroit this month.

The driver chooses the driving mode via three buttons on the instrument panel. The buttons give the car three distinct temperaments: Pure, Hybrid or Power.

In Pure mode the car is powered solely by its electric motor as much as possible. The operational range is around 50 kms.

Hybrid mode is the standard setting whenever the car is started. The gasoline engine and electric motor cooperate to provide minimum environmental impact. According to the European certification driving cycle NEDC, CO2 emissions are 53 g/km with 2.3 litres/100 kms fuel economy. The car has a total operating range of up to 960 kms.

In Power mode, the technology is optimized to create maximum possible power and 580 Nm of torque. The electric motor’s instant torque delivery contributes to the car’s acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds.

The front wheels of the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept are powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine from the forthcoming VEA (Volvo Environmental Architecture) engine family. This engine produces 210 kWs and maximum torque of 380 Nm. Power delivery to the wheels comes via a newly developed eight-speed automatic transmission.

“In the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept we demonstrate that our forthcoming four-cylinder engines offer the same high performance as today’s sixes. At the same time, their fuel consumption will be lower than in current four-cylinder engines,” says Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research & Development at Volvo.

The concept car carries a “T8” badge, which emphasizes the combined 262 kWs of the high-performance four-cylinder engine and the electric motor. This moves the car into territory previously occupied solely by eight-cylinder engines or turbo sixes.

Fuel economy with the new VEA modular motor is improved by up to 35 percent compared to engines with similar performance. Modularity and compact transverse design are also ideal for future electrification developments.

The engine in the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept has no conventional starter motor or alternator. Instead, there is an Integrated Starter motor and Generator (ISG) connected to the crankshaft, which is located between the engine and the transmission. The ISG is capable of delivering an extra 34 kWs during acceleration. It also charges the battery during braking.

The rear axle of the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept is driven by an electric motor producing 53 kWs. It is supplied with power from a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack installed under the floor of the load compartment.

The battery pack is recharged from a regular power outlet, at home or at a parking place. Recharging time varies with the current. If 220V is available a full charge with 12A takes just 3.5 hours.

The electric four-wheel drive in the XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept is activated by pressing the AWD button. Instead of the mechanical power transfer of conventional four-wheel drive, the central control unit distributes power between the gasoline-driven front wheels and the electrically driven rear axle.

The electric four-wheel drive system has been designed to provide better traction when starting and when driving on slippery roads.

The driver can choose to save battery power for later in order to drive on pure electricity later on, for example, an urban green zone or in the heart of a city. When Save is activated, the generator charges and tops up the battery pack if necessary.

Toyota unveils Prius C hybrid small hatch

November 16th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota has officially revealed its new standalone hybrid hatchback model that will be called the Aqua in Japan and be known as the Prius C in the rest of the world.

The Prius C is set to be the fourth entry into Toyota’s expanding range of Prius-badged hybrid models. There’s the regular Prius, the new plug-in Prius PHEV and the Prius V minivan. The new Prius C five-door hatchback will occupy a position as the base model of the Prius family.

The Prius C is only slightly bigger than the Toyota Yaris but packs a hybrid drivetrain, consisting of a “high-output” electric motor with a 1.5-litre gasoline engine. The 1.5-liter petrol unit produces 55kW at 4,800 rpm and 111Nm of torque, with the electric motor adding in up to 45kW and 169Nm.

Toyota said that it expects the Prius C to return a fuel economy of around 4.7lt/100km when used in the city. Continue reading “Toyota unveils Prius C hybrid small hatch” »

Mitsubishi taking new Mirage and electric concept to Tokyo

November 14th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Tokyo Motor Show is rapidly approaching and the latest automaker to show its hand is Mitsubishi. The Tri-Diamond automaker will display two brand new machines one a production model and the other a concept.

The production model will be the next-generation of the familiar Mirage hatchback. The new Mirage is a basic five-door hatch that will come sporting an economy-focused 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with stop/start technology and a CVT Transmission. Expect it to be a frugal little number when it launches in the Thai market first, in March 2012.

Mitsubishi’s more daring concept vehicle will be theplug-in hybrid Concept PX-MiEV II which represents Mitsubishi’s vision for a mid-size SUV of the future. This concept is also chasing down extreme fuel economy with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors. The advanced drivetrain will push all four wheels through Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (Super-All Wheel Control) traction control system. Apparently its performance is comparable with that of a 3.0-litre V6. Continue reading “Mitsubishi taking new Mirage and electric concept to Tokyo” »