• Fleets Taking Notice Of CNG VehiclesCommercial fleet managers are finding more reasons to switch from conventional gasoline to compressed natural gas, Ford officials said from Michigan.

    A Connecticut company, Consider Metro Taxi, saying it was acting in part because of the rising price of gasoline, which topped $4 per gallon in some U.S. markets, announced that it was taking delivery of 20 CNG vehicles.

    Rod Phillips, Ford's commercial manager for the New England area, said rising gasoline prices and the move toward a greener economy made CNG an attractive alternative fuel source.

    "Fleet managers are adding all the reasons up and concluding that it makes sense to switch to CNG now more than ever," he said in a statement.

    Ford said CNG usage results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy noted the price per gallon of CNG peaked in 2008 at $2.34 and was now around $1.93.

    The Michigan automotive company added that Washington was providing $300 million in incentives to fund CNG projects and increase the number of fuel stations across the United States.

    [via UPI]

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  • NREAL Studies HybridThe National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which recently completed a year-long technology evaluation of gasoline hybrid electric trucks in the FedEx fleet, has released its report on the project.

    NREL's Fleet Test and Evaluation Team collected and analyzed data on three gasoline hybrid electric trucks and three conventional diesel trucks used for FedEx parcel delivery service in the Los Angeles area. The team also tested a hybrid and a conventional truck at NREL's Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Research Laboratory in Denver, Colo.

    The gasoline hybrid electric trucks produced substantially reduced tailpipe emissions during all drive cycles tested in the laboratory when compared to conventional diesel vehicles. On a drive cycle representing routes with frequent stops and accelerations, the gasoline hybrid electric trucks exhibited a 20-percent improvement in fuel economy while drive cycles representing routes with fewer stops and accelerations demonstrated similar fuel economy to the diesels.

    Manufactured by Ford, the gasoline hybrid electric trucks feature 5.4L gasoline engines and hybrid propulsion systems produced by Azure Dynamics with 100kW electric motors, regenerative braking and nickel-metal-hydride batteries.

    FedEx Express operates more than 32,000 motorized vehicles in the United States, including 20 gasoline hybrid electric trucks on parcel delivery routes in Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif. The FedEx Express hybrid fleet, which has driven more than 8 million miles in revenue service, includes an all-hybrid station in Bronx, N.Y., where nearly half of the vehicles are gasoline hybrid electric vehicles.

    This evaluation was funded by DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program with additional funding from CALSTART and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

    NREL is the Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC.

     

    [via Automotive Fleet]

     

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  • Just over a year since it sank into government-run bankruptcy, a leaner, meaner GM relisted its shares on major world stock exchanges, bursting back onto the investment scene with the world’s largest initial public offering.

    Is GM Repeating Old Mistakes

     

    In the opening months of 2011 sales of GM’s cars and trucks have surged, as the company grabbed market share from its rivals, according to sales data from J.D. Power and Associates. That would appear to bode well for the company’s future, and with it, the potential for U.S. taxpayers to recover the remainder of their investment in the company.

     

    But some have questioned how those sales were made, and competitors have complained over GM’s tactics. They say the use of sales incentives such as rebates to grab market share is a shortsighted tactic whose use is worrisome coming from a company now led by an industry outsider.

     

    GM has added hefty incentives to its cars since the start of the year, offering big rebates to current owners of GM cars, no-penalty early trade-ins for currently leased GM cars and bigger rebates for users of the GM credit card. The result has been a U.S. market share of more than 21 percent, higher than the company has had in years.

     

    But the word in the industry is that sales slumped in March once the incentives expired. “The metaphor that has been used is like drug addition,” said

    George Pipas, spokesman on sales analysis for Ford Motor Co. “If you depend on it to move sheet metal it is not so good.  Then your customers depend on it.”

     

    Some industry veterans worry that new GM CEO Daniel Akerson’s unfamiliarity with carmaking -- he had a long career as an executive with Nextel and MCI -- is leading GM to repeat mistakes it made when it was headed from 1992 to 1995 by Chairman John Smale, previously president and CEO of consumer products company Procter & Gamble.

     

    [via MSNBC]

     

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  • Fleet Driver PayDriver pay will rise an average 3 to 5 cents a mile for company drivers and 4 to 6 cents for owner-operators over the next 12 months, predicted Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transportation Institute in a speech Monday, March 14, to Truckload Carriers Association members at TCA’s annual meeting in San Diego.

    Klemp’s firm surveys medium- and large-sized fleets quarterly. In addition to the expected mileage pay hikes, he predicted several other employment trends over the next year, including:

                -Driver pay more closely tied to performance measurements, including driver scores under the new federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability program

                -More use of sign-on and referral bonuses, which virtually disappeared during the recession. Klemp said 40 to 70 percent of fleets now offer one or the other

                -Expanded in-house driving training programs

                -Expanded truck lease-purchase programs

    Klemp said that these pay rate hikes are also tied to a shortage of drivers created by downsizing due to the recession, generous unemployment benefits for laid-off drivers, a high retirement rate, and a movement of many drivers into the underground economy.

     “Supply’s not going to get better,” Klemp said. “Retention management, I think, is going to be huge.”

    That will require not just good pay rates, but also finding new ways to recruit new drivers, train them well and do a better job of explaining their total compensation package to prevent them from mistakenly leaving a good carrier during periods of high turnover, Klemp said.

    [via Commercial Carrier Journal]


     

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  • At the Detroit and Chicago auto shows earlier this year, Toyota began a clever marketing campaign to kick off the concept of multiple Prius models by asking consumers what the plural of "Prius" should be, because soon, there will be four models, not just one. One of those models will be the Prius PHV, or "Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle," which the Chicago Tribune was able to get a hand-on experience with.

    Toyota Expanding Prius To Plug

     

    Like the new Chevrolet Volt, the PHV will operate like a regular gas-electric hybrid, but you can plug it in to household current to add to vehicle electric-only range. The PHV takes about three hours hooked up to a regular 110-volt outlet to completely charge, and then is good for about 13 miles of electric-only travel. So, if your daily commute is less than 13 miles, the Prius can make it without burning any gasoline.

     

    The Prius PHV uses a more sophisticated 288-cell lithium-ion battery, as opposed to the nickel-metal hydride battery back in the regular Prius. Lithium-ion doesn't have a memory, meaning you don't have to "train" the battery like nickel-metal hydride to accept full charges. Toyota says the materials to make lithium-ion batteries costs less than nickel-metal hydride, but production costs are greater.

     

    Once the Prius PHV runs out of pure-battery power, it operates like any other Prius. Toyota hasn't released mileage figures, but even after the 13-mile runs using the battery, a test driver averaged 53.7 mpg, driving very conservatively.

     

    This extra battery capacity adds weight, and takes up trunk space -- a placard in the PHV said that if you get a flat tire, call roadside assistance, as there is no room for a spare. On the road, you feel the extra weight, especially in corners, but the average Prius driver won't notice much difference. Outside, the only distinction is an extra little panel in front of the driver's door that pops open for the plug -- it looks just like the fuel-filler door at the rear of the car.

     

    Toyota hasn't released prices for the Prius PHV, and won't for a while, but the best guess is it could add maybe $3,500 to the price. If going 13 miles on pure electricity is meaningful to you, it's worth it. But if you drive, say, 100 miles a day, it may not be.

     

    [via The Chicago Tribune]


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  • New York FoodWith entrepreneurs deploying food trucks in cities across the country, a number of business owners in New York City have banded together to form the New York Food Truck Association.

    According to the association’s website, “The New York City Food Truck Association (NYCFTA) is an association of small businesses that own and operate premium food trucks in NYC focused on innovation in hospitality, high quality food, and community development. The Association aims to reinvent food truck vending in a way that is beneficial to New Yorkers, New York City, food truck entrepreneurs, and their patrons.”

    According to a Wall Street Journal article, some of the issues the association plans to tackle are disputes over locations where food trucks can idle and dealing with city ordinances that prevent idling at metered spots.

     

    While there is no official count of the number of food trucks operating in New York City, estimates show a group of more than 50 vendors, not counting hundreds of ice cream trucks.

     

    [via Business Fleet]

     

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  • Twenty Dollar BillsThe New Jersey state assembly has approved a bill (A-3651) that provides a tax credit or a gross income tax deduction for businesses that purchase electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids and a corporate business tax credit for the purchase of an electric truck or electric bus.

     

    The bill, introduced on Jan. 26 and passed on Feb. 17, was just one of several electric vehicle initiatives approved by the assembly last week. Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14), said that the bill provides for both a strong environmental and economic climate.

     

    “It is ultimately healthy for the nation,” said Benson.

     

    You may view the bill in its entirety here.

     

     


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  • LexusToyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is recalling 2.17 million vehicles to address the potential for unintended acceleration. 

    The automaker is recalling approximately 20,000 model year 2006 and early 2007 GS 300 and GS 350 All-Wheel Drive vehicles to modify the shape of the plastic pad embedded in the driver's side floor carpet. If the floor carpet around the accelerator pedal is not properly replaced in the correct position after a service operation, the plastic pad embedded into the floor carpet can potentially interfere with the operation of the accelerator pedal. If this occurs, the accelerator pedal may become temporarily stuck in a partially depressed position rather than returning to the idle position, Toyota said. 

    Toyota is also recalling approximately 372,000 MY 2004-2006 and early 2007 RX 330, RX 350 and RX 400h vehicles, and approximately 397,000 MY 2004 through 2006 Highlander and Highlander HV vehicles to replace the driver's side floor carpet cover and its two retention clips. If the forward retention clip used to secure the floor carpet cover (located in front of the center console) is not installed properly, the cover may lean toward the accelerator pedal and interfere with the accelerator pedal arm. If this occurs, the accelerator pedal may become temporarily stuck in a partially depressed position rather than returning to the idle position. 

    Owners of the involved vehicles will receive a notification by mail beginning in early March 2011. 

    Separately, Toyota has amended a November 2009 recall, adding three models to address the potential for unsecured or incompatible floor mat entrapment of the accelerator pedal. The models added include: 

        -Approximately 603,000 2003 through 2009 4Runner

        -Approximately 17,000 2008 through 2011 Lexus LX 570

        -Approximately 761,000 2006 through 2010 RAV4. 

    Toyota and Lexus dealers will make the repairs free of charge. 

    The recalls come at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after the agency conducted an investigation into Toyota's earlier gas pedal-entrapment recall.

     

    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • As the trucking industry begins to contemplate what changes to equipment may be needed to meet heavy truck greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy standards proposed by the federal government, some lubricant makers believe “thinner” engine oils could be one likely solution.

    “I would expect to see an upgrade to the current CJ-4 [engine oil] product to perhaps a CJ-4 plus or a brand new standard to help increase fuel economy,” Reggie Dias, director of commercial products for ConocoPhillips Lubricants, told Fleet Owner at the 2011 Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting.

    How can new engine oil formulations improve heavy truck fuel economy? Dias said the key is lowering the viscosity of the oil, literally making it “thinner” to reduce the internal friction on engine components. Thinner oil means the engine’s pistons don’t need to work as hard to overcome the natural resistance caused by the oil in the cylinder, and less work translates into less fuel burned.

    He stressed, however, that “thinner” cannot and will not translate into less protection for engine components. Rather, new formulations of additive packages will be required to maintain and even increase protective levels even as the viscosity levels of oil is lowered.

    Dias expects a more general shift from 15W-40 down to 10W-30 oils over the next five years, a shift that would lead to roughly a 1% to 3% fuel economy improvement depending on the truck’s application and how it’s operated by the driver.  Longer term – perhaps over the next decade – there could be a shift down to 5W-30 oils, a move that would be highly dependent on warranty approval by engine OEMs and user confidence.

    And it is also important to understand that lowering the viscosity of the engine oil is only one small piece of a fuel economy solution for tractor-trailers, Dias stressed.

    “There are many variables that will need to be examined to meet fuel economy standards being proposed for the 2014/2015 time frame: the engines, the chassis, the drivetrain, the trailer, and of course the driver,” he said. “There will be a combination of things we’ll need to look at besides the lubricant in the engine.”

     

    [via FleetOwner]


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  • Going Green Toyota PriusToyota Motor Sales USA has announced that the general public has selected "Prii" as the preferred plural term for the brand’s flagship Prius hybrid. 

    With 25 percent of the votes, "Prii" becomes the word not only endorsed by the public who chose it, but also as the term recognized by Toyota. As such, Dictionary.com has updated its entry for the word "Prius" to reflect this. 

    After more than 1.8 million votes were cast during the course of the six-week campaign, Prii beat out its four competitors: Prius, Priuses, Prium and Prien. Prius came in at a close second with 24 percent of the votes.

    The plural of Prius has sparked debates since the launch of the vehicle 10 years ago. Now that the Prius family has grown, Toyota asked its customers to help the company decide on a term to describe the plural of Prius vehicles, thus answering the decade-long question -- what do you call more than one Prius?

    With the expansion of the Prius family to include the Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV), Prius v and Prius c concept, Toyota hopes to further increase acceptance of the Prius brand by offering a wider selection of vehicles.

     

    [via Automotive Fleet]

     

     

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