One-Third Of 2011 Ford F-150 Pickups Sold With EcoBoost V-6

MPGs matter, it turns out, even to pickup buyers. Or, perhaps especially to pickup truck buyers.

Just four months after Ford launched a version of its top-selling 2011 F-150 pickup truck, the company reports that fully 35 percent of that model’s sales are fitted with the more fuel-efficient 3.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine.

“The No. 1 unmet need for full-size pickup truck owners has been fuel economy,” said Doug Scott, marketing manager for the Ford Truck Group. He said the 2011 Ford F-150 now has “best-in-class fuel economy, best-in-class capability and power, and more powertrain choices.”

Ford has vowed that it will deliver best-in-class fuel economy in all of its new products.

The version of the EcoBoost engine used in the Ford F-150 pickup raises the truck’s fuel efficiency to 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 19 mpg.

That’s 12 percent better than the most economical V-8 offering, the 5.0-liter engine, which the EPA rates at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined.

2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost

A rise from 17 to 19 mpg may not sound very impressive. But in fact, it saves almost two-thirds of a gallon of gasoline every 100 miles, the same amount as raising the gas mileage of a smaller car all the way from 38 to 50 mpg.

That’s because miles-per-gallon isn’t a linear scale, and actually confuses a majority of car buyers. But we’ll leave that discussion for another time.

Many pickup trucks get driven more miles each year than passenger cars, and for those trucks, the fuel savings and reduction in tailpipe emissions are even higher.

Ford’s line of EcoBoost engines uses gasoline direct injection and turbocharging to extract more power from a smaller displacement. The company says its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 (fitted to the Ford Taurus SHO and Flex models, and the Lincoln MKS and MKZ) offers the performance of a V-8 with fuel efficiency up to 20 percent better.

The company’s EcoBoost lineup will expand over the next few years. It will launch a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine in its Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX models, though release dates have not yet been set. And there are even smaller EcoBoost fours to come, though they will be used first for models sold in Europe.

[Ford]

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This story originally appeared at Green Car Repor

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In: Driven

When the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid goes on sale about this time next year, it will be the first mass-production vehicle from Toyota that plugs in. Yet, despite that, the Plug-In feels more like a value-added version of the Prius than a model that will be itself iconic or radically new.

It’s value-added, because owners will have some of the benefits of an electric vehicle, without the worry that they won’t make it back on a charge. After a relatively short three-hour charge on standard 110V household power, you can drive approximately 12 to 15 miles without the gasoline engine contributing to propulsion. After that, it’s just a standard Prius and gets about the same mileage as the standard-issue model (which has an EPA-rated 51 mpg city, 48 highway).

A Prius…just one with an added charge

And it looks virtually identical to a standard Prius. The little charging door just ahead of the driver’s door is about the only difference you’ll see from the outside compared to a normal 2011 Prius.

To simplify a bit, the Plug-In drives much like a regular Prius—just one that’s a bit heavier.

 

The new lithium-ion battery pack that’s crammed under the Prius cargo floor allows the Prius Plug-In to go up to 14 miles on electric power alone; after that it’s, for all practical purposes, a standard Prius, and still capable of creeping along in parking lots and some of the slowest residential streets, in some situations on only electric power as well.

The Prius Plug-In’s larger pack takes up more space than the standard Prius pack, of course. It leaves no space under the rear cargo floor, no spare tire even; it’s all batteries.

The Prius is hauling around an extra three hundred pounds all the time with the larger battery pack, and it’s a difference you can feel in the way it rides and handles. More jarring ride quality at the rear wheels is the main difference you’ll feel, and while it’s probably just a bit slower than the standard Prius’s 0-60 time of around ten seconds, it feels noticeably more sluggish in low-speed transitions, when you’re getting back on the power out of a corner, for instance.

Keeping the Prius on electric mode requires some restraint. Push the throttle past the three-quarter point or so and the gasoline engine comes on; that’s not so much because the Prius wouldn’t be able to move quickly enough in EV mode, but it’s to best use the limited battery power toward better efficiency. At higher speeds and higher loads, well, that’s where the gasoline engine is better for bursts.

Enough EV pep to keep up with traffic, but not like Leaf

Driving the Prius Plug-In is actually nothing like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, even in EV Mode. While the Leaf feels surprisingly strong and torquey at stoplights, the Prius is a little sluggish, with few hints of that churning instant-on EV torque. The Prius can move respectably with most traffic in EV mode, though. Very carefully feathering the throttle at the three-quarter-or-so point before the gasoline engine comes on, we saw 60 mph take about 20 seconds from a standing start.

 

Even if you do drive slowly and mindfully, you’ll probably hear the gasoline engine firing up from time to time, even during ‘EV’ operation. We had the gasoline engine come on once just -after- cresting a gentle 55-mph crest; we observed it turn on and off during 35-mph boulevard cruising; and we noticed it turn on for all but two of our fully cold starts. It’s puzzling, and you just have to trust that it’s keeping the accessory system charged even though it’s not needed for propulsion. After a few days, we came to think of it in the same vein as as an A/C compressor.

EV Mode button on the way

Although the Prius PHEV will be available for purchase beginning next year in virtually the same form, it will by then get an EV Mode button, which won’t lock EV Mode on after you charge, as the system does now, but rather allow you to lock it out—if you have to drive almost immediately at higher speed or up a mountain pass, for instance, where you’d rather not exhaust all your charge quickly.

While you can, no doubt, go through charge quickly with the Plug-In if you’re heavier on the throttle, we saw much less of the variability we saw with the Nissan Leaf. That’s the case, reminded Toyota environmental spokesman John Hanson, because with a smaller capacity comes a shorter, albeit more consistent, range. We averaged a bit more than 12 miles in EV Mode, but over many charges we never saw significantly less than that.

Flaws: harder ride, less effective defogger

Other than the jarring ride, the other significant weakness we found was with the climate control. We had the Plug-In during some particularly cool, rainy days, and while the heater itself seemed plenty strong, the climate control system seemed unable at some times to quickly purge moisture. We switched from Eco Mode to the norma mode for the hybrid system, but that seemed to make no difference. In one instance, with three people in the vehicle, the windshield started re-fogging while the defogger was still on.

You can turn on the climate control in advance—something we recommend—and at the time it’s publicly available, about a year from now, the Plug-In will have an app for remote control of climate and charging functions.

Tested this year, on sale next

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Drive - March 2011

In the meantime, more than 160 Prius Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles are being placed with U.S. academic institutions, public utilities, local government, and corporations in an effort to gather more data on how Plug-Ins perform and are used. And they’re part of a test fleet of 600 PHEVs worldwide.

We were able to borrow one of the official program cars for six days, and over about six full charges and 103 miles of local errand-running, we got into the habit of plugging in. The catch with the Prius PHEV’s short range is that you truly do need to plug in after nearly every errand.

As to whether the Plug-In is value-added in terms of traditional dollars and cents, well, that’s not so certain. Toyota plans to sell the Prius Plug-In for $3,500 to $5,000 more than the standard Prius. We’ll follow this post up with a look at the numbers.

Overall, the Plug-In feels like the ultimate Prius—perfect for those who want a little extra EV ability in a worry-free vehicle they can still drive cross-country.


This story originally appeared at All Cars Electr

High Gas Prices May Soon Turn Your Lovely Suburb Into A Slum

Americans rarely think much about zoning, but it governs almost every facet of how we live our lives.

And unintended consequences of 50-year-old zoning codes may be about to turn some of our loveliest and quietest suburbs into the next slums.

Why? Simply because they’ve been built too far away from everything else, and we won’t be able to afford the gasoline it takes to go to and fro.

Suburbs: slums of the future?

At least, that’s the provocative conclusion of Peter Newman, one of the authors of a study released by the Planning Institute of Australia late last year.

The study looks at the future of suburban Australia, which has evolved in patterns very much like suburban America: sprawling, low-density, auto-dependent residential enclaves miles away from commercial areas and office parks.

“Urban sprawl is finished,” Newman told The Age. “If we continue to roll out new land releases and suburbs that are car-dependent, they will become the slums of the future.”

Homes vs stores vs offices & factories

Following World War II, with the rise of affordable automobiles, cheap fuel, and an increasingly affluent society, the brand-new suburban house on its own half- or full-acre plot was the American dream.

The controversial D909 in the suburbs of Paris

Zoning codes adopted in the U.S. isolated residences from any commercial and industrial activities, often in curving cul-de-sacs sans sidewalks. Many developments could be entered only from a single point off high-speed arterial roads.

No longer could you send the kid to the corner store on his bike to pick up a gallon of milk.

That corner store became a big-box chain store up to 10 miles away, and public transportation was ignored as a relic of decaying central cities.

Will cheap gasoline end?

That worked fine as long as gasoline remained cheap. With the greater difficulty of extracting and refining hydrocarbon-based fuels, not to mention unrest in oil-producing countries, we may be entering a future of permanently pricier gasoline.

For those trapped in “affordable” suburban homes 50 miles or more from their jobs, the theory goes, there will be few options other than more fuel-efficient vehicles. The value of the homes will decline and the neighborhoods will decay.

Traffic

We’re not entirely convinced by Newman’s prediction. More stringent corporate average fuel-economy laws are improving the average gas mileage of all vehicles. U.S. gasoline consumption actually peaked in 2006, and will likely fall more in coming years.

Households can switch to more fuel-efficient cars, and some level of telecommuting holds promise as well. Still, the housing market ruthlessly adjusts the value of all residences in real time.

Just too far away

This was evident in a late-2008 visit to California’s High Desert, the very furthest reach of exurban development. The area had seen huge waves of “affordable” town houses and starter homes for buyers priced out of Los Angeles.

Located 90 miles from central LA, the area was simply too far from most jobs. When gasoline prices spiked in 2008, half-built condos were abandoned, fully-built developments stayed empty, and developers walked away. 

Plug-ins offer hope

One ray of hope may be plug-in cars: The cost of driving a mile on grid electricity is one-fifth to one-half the cost of driving the same mile on $4-per-gallon gasoline in a 25-mpg vehicle. They’re pricey today, but they’ll get cheaper over time.

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid prototype, tested in November 2010

Unfortunately, the elected representatives of suburban enclaves are historically many of the same ones who have consistently voted against Federal funding for development and rollout of plug-in vehicles–which could come to be viewed as sacrificing long-term salvation for short-term convenience.

While the complete Australian study is only available online to members of the Planning Institute, we might recommend such works as James Howard Kunstler’s The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape.

Meanwhile, consider this question: How high would a gallon of gas have to rise before you’d reconsider where you now live?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[The Age via TreeHugger; photos of Kibera slum by Chrissy Olson]

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This story originally appeared at Green Car Repor

Selling A Used Car? Put A Gas-Mileage Sticker In The Window!

For every new vehicle that gets sold in the United States, four used cars change hands.

Those new cars have nice, big window stickers showing their EPA-rated gas mileage figures.

Used cars? All you get is the seller mumbling something like, “Oh, yeah, it always gets, ummmmm, at least 25 miles a gallon.”

Until now.

A neat new feature has quietly launched on FuelEconomy.gov, the Federal government site that offers gas-mileage ratings for all cars sold in the U.S. since 1984.

It lets used-car sellers print out a big, tidy window sticker showing the car’s EPA ratings (with all the latest statistical adjustments that make them consistent with new-car ratings).

The goal is to give used-car buyers more information about the costs of specific cars they’re evaluating–especially useful as gasoline prices continue their rise in the face of Mideast unrest.

Besides the city, highway, and combined gas-mileage ratings, the sticker includes a photo of the vehicle, and information about its engine size, transmission type, and the kind of fuel it takes.

There’s also a QR Code that can be scanned with a smart phone, which links directly to that vehicle’s information page on the FuelEconomy.gov mobile site. That gives access to additional information, including its annual fuel cost and its greenhouse gas emissions.

The sticker includes a footnote pointing out that fuel economy typically changes very little over a car’s life. The change is usually less than 2 percent over 15 years, assuming the vehicle has been properly maintained.

We have to say, this is one use of our tax dollars we heartily support.

[FuelEconomy.gov via Bo Saulsbury, Oak Ridge National Labs]

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This story originally appeared at Green Car Repor

You’ll Pay $700 More For Gasoline This Year (If You’re Average)

According to the Department of Energy, the average U.S. household will pay $700 more for gasoline this year than it did in 2010.

In a weekly review of the oil market, the department’s Energy Information Administration noted that prices will rise at least 10 cents more over the current national average of $3.50 a gallon, due to the lag in wholesale price rises reaching the pump.

It also projected that peak gas prices, which historically occur over the summer, will reach $3.71 a gallon. That’s a full dollar higher than the average price at the same time last year.

And the DoE says the chance that gas prices will soar above $4 a gallon this year is higher (25 percent) than the likelihood they’ll fall below $3 (10 percent).

2011 Toyota Prius

The current price rise is driven by uncertainty over the impact of political unrest in several oil-producing countries, most notably Libya.

Consumer interest in fuel-efficient cars, smaller models, and hybrids and clean diesels has risen, and more 40-mpg-rated cars are available in the U.S. market now than ever before.

(With a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg, the 2011 Toyota Prius hybrid remains the most fuel-efficient car sold in the U.S. today that doesn’t plug in.)

But some analysts suggest that buyers not pay too much attention to gasoline prices.

The argument goes like this: You can’t predict what will happen to oil prices, and buyers run the risk of overreacting and getting a smaller or a different kind of car than the one you really want.

But what do you think? Will the present rise in the cost of gas lead you to buy a different car than the one you might otherwise have gotten?

Tell us what you think in the Comments below.

[Reuters]

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This story originally appeared at Green Car Repor

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