Plug-in hybrids rule; PHEV Hypercars rule even more

Let’s go all the way

When David pointed out that plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs) can reduce carbon emissions in all possible futures, two main arguments were raised in opposition -- practicality, and the possibility that they will provide too low a reduction, while blocking the path to something better. The way commercial plug-ins look to be implemented within the next five years is that normal hybrids will be built with large batteries and the ability to plug into a socket in your dedicated parking space. They will travel the first twenty miles or so on electricity and then turn on their gasoline engine around the 21st mile or so. Even with our current grid, they will emit less CO2 per mile than when they switch to their gasoline engine. Like hobbyists, who manually convert existing hybrids, these will have to be more expensive than a normal hybrid, because they have every expense a normal car has plus the extra battery cost. If gasoline prices rise high enough, I suppose they may pay for themselves in fuel savings, but mostly they will sell on the "cool" factor. However, there is another way to implement plug-ins, one we could begin now with a large enough investment, which produces savings comparable to a full electric car -- and which, if run on wind, or sun, or other ultra-low-carbon electricity sources, could actually provide a 98 percent emissions reduction.

Bicycle shame

Alan Durning on whether biking is for children and for losers

You don't have to go farther than Hollywood to see one reason Bicycle Neglect is so rampant in North America. Consider the 2005 film The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The middle-aged protagonist, obsessed with video games and action figures, seems stuck in early adolescence. The film spends two hours lampooning him for being emasculated, immature -- not a real man. His vehicle? A bike. (You can almost hear the schoolyard snickers.) To be a successful adult, apparently, you have to drive. Cycling is for children; cycling is for losers. In this view, it's fitting that the pinnacle of the sport of cycling is the Tour de France. (Implied snicker about France as a symbol -- unfair, of course -- of all that's cowardly, effeminate, and weak.) Call this Bicycle Shame.

Walk score

Calculate how walkable your home is

Some of you may have missed it, as Odograph introduced it down in comments, so I thought I’d bring it up front: Check out Walk Score, where you can plug in your address and find …

Ask a Brokeass: Sharing is caring

Who are the people in your neighborhood, and what have they got to lend?

I don’t actually have a question to respond to this week, so … pretend like somebody asked something. Remember back when people actually used to stop by their neighbor’s house and ask for a cup …


Britain’s gonna build some

Britain’s building five new "eco-towns": The towns, each with a minimum of 5,000 to 10,000 houses, will be built to meet zero carbon standards and will each showcase a specific project promoting energy preservation or …

Step right up, get your 'lifestyle center'!

Walkable town centers are hip

In "Center points: Urban lifestyle gains foothold in growing list of suburbs," a Chicago Tribune journalist describes the beginnings of a new phenomenon that could have a bigger impact than better CAFE standards, carbon taxes, or cap-and-trade of emissions, in my humble opinion: walkable town centers. If people could actually walk from their residence to a store, train station, or even work, perhaps the constant rise in miles driven in automobiles would start to come down: At opposite ends of the generational spectrum, Baby Boomers and buyers in their 20s are getting credit for supporting the emergence of suburban centers where people live close to restaurants, stores, theaters and even boutique hotels and spas. The key is to find housing that is an integral part of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

Clean diesel: General Motors says yes, Toyota, no

GM will offer clean diesel passenger cars in 2010

GM is planning to bring diesel Saturns and Caddies to the U.S. market in 2010. (A Caddie that gets decent mileage? Who'd have guessed?) They join Nissan, Honda, DaimlerChrysler, and of course Volkswagen in planning to market clean diesels that will meet the new 2008 regulations on NOx and particulate emissions from diesel vehicles. Missing from this list of diesel adopters is Toyota, which is saying that clean diesels "... would end up being more expensive than gasoline-electric hybrids," a market segment which it dominates.

Toyota moves to test plug-in Prius in Japan

It’s getting closer

Green Car Congress translated a story that appeared in the Japanese press: Toyota Motor Co. will obtain permission from Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport by the end of July for the testing of a prototype plug-in Prius on public roads. Toyota will be the first car maker to obtain permission for a plug-in hybrid test in Japan. After completing the road tests, Toyota will start building a way to market the model by leasing them to public (government and municipal) offices. According to the report, Toyota is testing a lithium-ion battery pack in the plug-in. Earlier this year, Nikkei Business speculated that Toyota would introduce the plug-in at the Tokyo Motor Show in November. One of their readers offered a "slightly different" interpretation:

Alternatives to auto-mobility


This op-ed from Rick Cole, city manager of Ventura, Calif., will be music to the ears of all you Gristians: The feel-good stage of California’s leadership on global warming is unsustainable. Kudos to the pop …

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