Sara Barz

Sara Barz is a writer based in Seattle.

Couldn't car less

Toyota Prius sales down 55% compared to March ’08

Today, Toyota Motor Sales reported March ’09 sales numbers, which showed a 55 percent decline for the Prius brand.  In March ’08, Toyota sold 20,635 Priuses, but in March ’09, only 8,924. (Maybe everyone is holding out for the 2010 model?) Overall, Toyota numbers were down 36 percent from March ’08, but up 19 percent from February.

Ford inFusion

Ford starts marketing campaign to emphasize fuel economy in new hybrid

During American Idol Tuesday evening, Ford launched the “We Speak Car” marketing campaign to sell the 2010 Fusion and Fusion Hybrid. The ads tout the Fusion Hybrid as “America’s most fuel efficient mid-size sedan,” which is awfully misleading because the 2010 Prius (50 mpg combined) is technically the most fuel efficient mid-size vehicle. It’s just not classified as a sedan. Still, the Fusion Hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg highway, which is higher than other hybrid sedans in its class like the Toyota Camry Hybrid (33 city/34 highway). Below is the ad, which emphasizes the Fusion …

Capture the eco flag

The specs and the dish on the 2010 third generation Prius

UPDATE: This story was changed to reflect updated EPA mileage estimates. Photo courtesy of Toyota. Toyota’s newest hybrid is almost here. Last week, the car company invited a group of journalists and bloggers to the third generation Prius preview in Napa, Calif. The deal was we could road test the 2010 model to our heart’s content, but we needed to stay mum about our impressions of the car and mileage readings until the end of March. Sigh. So I have been figuratively bound and gagged, but the Toyota folks did provide more detailed technical specs than those announced in January …

Green Light: All up in my bus-ness

A zero-emission bus tours California, Toyota flirts with ethanol, and more green auto news

Thursday in San Francisco, it was easier to get an electric bus than an electric car. Proterra, a commercial hybrid- and electric-vehicle manufacturer in Golden, Colo., finished its weeklong California clean bus tour in the city by the bay. The sleek EcoRide BE35 climbed the hills of San Francisco, flaunting its environmental and fiscal charms before California municipal and transit stakeholders. Getting bus-y? Proterra’s EcoRide BE35. Why California? Besides being the ultimate destination for fair-weather roadtrips, the California Air Resources Board mandated that 15 percent of all municipal urban bus fleets purchased for the 2012 model-year and beyond must consist …

Earle-y victory

Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and author, wins 2009 TED prize

Noted oceanographer Sylvia Earle is one of the three 2009 TED prize winners. The three winners are awarded the opportunity to share "one wish to change the world," along with $100,000 each to fund the pursuit of that wish. Here is Earle's wish: I wish you would use all means at your disposal -- the films, the expeditions, the web! -- to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet. Earle said she did not know how much of the oceans need to be protected, but that she said it's certainly more than the less-than-1-percent of the oceans currently under some governmental protection. She noted the technological advances that have been made to solve the energy crisis before adding, "but nothing will matter if we fail to protect the oceans. Our fate and the ocean's are one." See the full list of 2009 TED speakers.

Green Light: Greetings, master Toyota

Toyota becomes world's biggest automaker, Prius goes solar, and other green auto news

Toyota this week officially overtook the ailing General Motors to become the world's largest automaker. Both companies saw sales declines in 2008, but Toyota's 8.97 million vehicles sold bested its U.S. rival by about 620,000. GM was the globe's undisputed auto-king for 77 years. The 2010 Prius' solar roof. Photo courtesy of Toyota. Sales of Toyota's hybrid models dropped by 45 percent in December 2008, but the carmaker might win customers back with the 2010 Prius, which boasts 50+ mpg fuel efficiency, rooftop solar panels, three different drive modes to minimize fuel consumption, and LED headlights. Meanwhile, Toyota announced Tuesday that it would launch a Certified Used Hybrid program. In other auto news ... • Fiat agreed to take a 35 percent stake in Chrysler, which prompted speculation from media types that small, full-efficient, Italian-leathered, pentastar-bedecked coupes would be heading our way soon.

No rain on this parade

Photos from Plug In America's inaugural parade

Toyota RAV-4 EVs. Photo: Siel of greenLAgirl.com. Saturday morning, EV RIDRs and Obamamaniacs converged on the Santa Monica Civic Center to advocate for electric vehicles and celebrate President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. The Inaugural (EV) Parade West, led by Plug in America, attracted over 70 electric and hybrid vehicles to zoom the city streets in PEBO's honor. Four Tesla Roadsters, 40 Toyota RAV-4 EVs, one converted Porsche Speedster, and even one converted EV Hummer H2 (!?) joined the festivities. (To the New York Times editorial board: I believe these are the folks who will drive Detroit's fuel-efficient and electric vehicles. That is, once they are actually available.) Check out some parade photos below the fold.

Green Light: Electric shock

Automakers parade EVs in Detroit, Ontario Betters itself, and more green auto news

• Detroit: It's still around, and as long as the feds continue to give transit short-shrift, we'll be driving and bailing for years to come. But in honor of our societal shift toward fuel efficiency, the automakers have some brand new electric vehicles and hybrids they have been showing off this week at the North American International Auto Show, Jan. 11-25. From the third-generation Prius to the Dodge Circuit to the Mini E, talk of fuel efficiency and battery-life replaced praise for horsepower and chrome. Thank goodness for the 505-horsepower Revenge GTM-R or we might confuse ourselves and our cars with those subdued European models. While electric vehicles stole the auto show, Toyota's executive vice president, Masatami Takimoto, said in an interview with the New York Times that Toyota would produce a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle by 2015. GM's lead engineer on the Volt also thinks Hydrogen is the fuel of the future -- I guess he hasn't read Joseph Romm's opinions on the matter. GM's Larry Burns, vice president of research and development and strategic planning, thinks Toyota has a lock on hybrids and that the Americans need to "change the game," but he didn't specify if that meant a focus on hydrogen. From Jan. 17-25, NAIAS will be open to the public. If you live in Detroit, don't miss these 10 vehicles of interest, as advised by Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press, and when else will you take an i-Miev for an EcoExperience 10-mph test-drive a la Michigan Economic Development Corporation? (Side note: Jalopnik nearly ran into the Sen. Bob "I'm against the bailout plan" Corker (R-Tenn.) in their little electric mobile command center. You can -- hee hee -- watch the video here.) In other news ... • Like Israel, Denmark, Australia, California, and Hawaii before it, the city of Ontario, Canada, will now be a Better Place. • Ferrari is now offering research grants for automotive technology that reduces vehicle weight and CO2 emissions.

From Detroit with love

A photo tour of the green concepts and cars from North American Int'l Auto Show

The North American International Auto Show opened in Detroit with a bang. Literally. Apparently, the Chrysler Pentastar fell from the ceiling and startled a cluster of journalists as well as billionaire investor Wilbur Ross and his entourage. No one was hurt, but the portentous crash may be more than symbolic for the American auto industry if their bets on electric and hybrid vehicles fail to deliver, or if China's BYD motors beats them to the punch with their plug-in F3DM. Though subdued -- Chrysler left the steer back at the ranch this year -- the more "rational" Detroit Auto Show saw more hybrid and electric vehicles debuts than first-generation Prius-owners could have possibly imagined 10 years-ago. The Chrysler Circuit, Lexus HS 250h, third-generation Toyota Prius, new Honda Insight, Fisker Karma S, Lincoln Concept C, BMW Concept-7, and the smart ed -- which will be powered by Tesla batteries -- comprise just a smattering of the electric and hybrid concepts and production models that will start to roll off respective assembly lines by the end of this year. Check out the photo slideshow from Detroit below. To see the photo captions, click to enlarge and then press "show info" in the flickr slideshow. Photos courtesy of NAIAS.com.