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The Prius C: Not a swan, but a damn fine duck

The Toyota Prius C.

Cross-posted from The Phoenix Sun.

It’s getting toward sunset and I’m lost, sitting behind the wheel of a cherry-red Prius C prototype, at the bottom of a very steep hill somewhere in the urban wilds of San Diego.

My driving partner, Melissa Hincha-Ownby, looks over and flashes a big grin. In addition to being an auto geek, the MNN blogger is also a mind reader. “Go for it!” she cries.

I do -- jamming the pedal to the metal.

Imagine the smell of burning rubber as we rocket up the hill, the acceleration slamming us back into our seats. Then get your imagination recalibrated.

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Sporty little MIT ‘city car’ is cute as an animal-themed butt plug

MIT's 1,609-pound, all-electric wheeled pod thingy is actually going to be produced and sold, so we thought it could use a marketing campaign. Also, the whole web is kind of having a holiday right now, and we wanted to throw our party hats in the ring.

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Shocking but true! The director of ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ wants to chat with you!

Chris Paine, director of Revenge of the Electric Car.

Director Chris Paine chatted with Grist readers about his latest film, Revenge of the Electric Car, which comes out on DVD this week after a nationwide tour.

Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, told the tale of the EV-1, a prototype electric car created, then buried, by General Motors. Revenge of the Electric Car is the sequel, and follows the saga of four men, all racing to create a plug-in vehicle for the mass market, for the luxury set, or just for the pure awesomeness of it. (Read our review of the film here.)

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How plug-in cars can face up to winter’s challenges

The practice of plugging in conventional cars to block heaters -- shown here in Finland -- is still common in some cold climates. (Photo by Suvi Korhonen.)

Cross-posted from Midwest Energy News.

Decades ago, plug-in cars were common in Minnesota.

For cars poorly suited to the upper Midwest’s frigid winters, a block heater plugged in overnight could keep the engine warm enough to start the next morning. Cars and trucks with electrical cords protruding from their grills were a frequent sight.

New technologies such as fuel injection, direct ignition, superior motor oils, and better batteries have largely relegated that custom to history in all but the most frigid regions of the world. But with more than a dozen electric and plug-in car models due on the U.S. market in 2012, some Minnesotans will find themselves reviving the practice.

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Almost all U.S. car use is within an electric car’s range

Because it takes longer to fill up an electric vehicle than to fill a gas tank, and because EV infrastructure is still limited, the most common criticism of EVs goes something like "OMG RANGE ANXIETY." And, sure, no one wants to get stuck in their big metal bucket on the side of a highway until a tow truck can haul your ride to the nearest charger. But two Columbia Ph.D. students have parsed real actual data (from the National Household Travel Survey) to show that, in the daily lives of most people, range anxiety just shouldn't be a thing.

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Weird new all-electric cars debut at Detroit Auto Show

Volkswagen E-Bugster Hitting the "on" button on this car (because in the future, all cars will be started the same way you start up a laptop) makes the interior flash blue like you've just stepped into a light cycle from TRON. Check the video, below, for the full effect. Paul Tan's Automotive News reports: The car’s central electric module weighs just 80 kg, and juice for the motor is stored in a lithium-ion battery whose modules are housed in a space-saving location behind the front seats. The battery has an energy capacity of 28.3 kWh, offering the car a 180 …

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The only defense of electric cars you really need

Maggie Koerth-Baker is one of the most responsible energy journalists on the planet, in part because she writes for the blog of all blogs, BoingBoing, which has never felt the need to cloak its writers' opinions in trumped-up objectivity and false balance. So it was refreshing to see her refute the latest turd lobbed over the wall by the Internet's favorite tabloid, Gawker Media: "You Are Not Alone. America Hates Electric Cars." Forming interest groups around your own misbegotten prejudices is nothing new, so kudos (I guess) to author Joel Johnson for remembering that the shortest route to pageviews is …

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Critical List: Toxic chemicals on the rise; baby seals in trouble

The EPA may retest water in Dimock, Pa., where residents have linked polluted water to fracking operations. In its first round of testing the town's water, the EPA declared it safe. GM is fixing up the Volt in order to avoid in real-life battery fires like the ones that started during testing. As winter sea ice disappears in the Arctic, fewer baby harp seals are making it. The amount of toxic chemicals shunted into the environment went up 16 percent between 2009 and 2010, according a new EPA report. The president of the Maldives has a message for Australia: The …

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Huge strides in fuel efficiency innovation canceled out by bigger cars

If, and this is true, automakers have made huge strides in fuel efficiency over the past 30 years, why aren't we all driving the 100-mpg ubercars we were promised at Epcot Center when we were but wee lads and lasses? The answer is that our cars, like our homes and just about everything else we consume, have been supersized, says MIT economist Christopher Knittel. Specifically, between 1980 and 2006, the average gas mileage of vehicles sold in the United States increased by slightly more than 15 percent — a relatively modest improvement. But during that time, Knittel has found, the …

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Confused with a chance of flip-flop: Mitt Romney’s views on climate and energy

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney.Photo: Gage SkidmoreWhere does Mitt Romney stand on climate change and energy issues? Brace yourself: He doesn't have that flip-flopper reputation for nothing.

Then

Romney used to be one of the more sane Republicans when it comes to climate change. He would play up uncertainty and use weasel words, but he still acknowledged global warming as a problem.

In his 2010 book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney wrote:

I believe that climate change is occurring -- the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to factors out of our control.