By on August 31, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe - Image: Honda

As I write this, one of my favorite race tracks is entirely underwater. Many years ago, I wrote for a Houston-based automotive website and we used MSR Houston as a testing facility. It was also the track where I nervously watched my little brother start his first wheel-to-wheel race back in 2013. Now the start/finish flag station looks out over a mirror-finished hurricane lake stretching to the horizon.

Every time something like this happens in the United States it tends to get people talking about climate change and what can be done to slow or halt the process. Predictably, the privately-owned automobile comes in for a fair share — maybe more than a fair share — of criticism as a result. I couldn’t tell you if the internal combustion engine actually makes a difference to the climate, and I suspect the facts are less clear than they are made out to be, but it doesn’t matter. Enough people believe in anthropogenic global warming (AGW) for public policy to be affected as a result. Nobody in Salem was really a witch but that little fact didn’t save anybody from being burned at the stake. The same is true when it comes to climate change and the automobile.

Sports cars and performance cars are a favorite target of the save-the-earth crowd, of course, but I think I can make the argument that increased availability of fast cars in general — and “hot hatches” in particular — can actually make a positive impact on carbon-dioxide emissions. Are you skeptical? Read on, my friend.

(Read More…)

By on July 8, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Volt

If the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius are presented as solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it may be a toss-up as to which one wins.

This is according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s fueleconomy.gov website, which lets consumers determine tailpipe plus upstream emission. The difference on a nationally averaged basis is negligible, while regional variations see one car or the other pulling ahead. (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2017

2017 Jaguar F-Pace - Image: Jaguar

Ralf Speth isn’t having it. Across Europe governments are cracking down on the use of diesel vehicles in a bid to lower air pollution, especially in the Jaguar Land Rover CEO’s own country. London has announced plans to levy stiff charges on anyone driving a diesel-powered vehicle through central areas of the capital starting in early 2019, adding fuel to the anti-diesel fire. Paris, Berlin and Athens also plan to ban the technology.

With compression ignition still a significant part of the automaker’s engine lineup — both in Europe and North America — Speth recently defended the technology’s importance in a finger-pointing spiel. The world needs diesel, he claimed, and the media (and Volkswagen) haven’t done anything to help the situation. (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2017

[Image: Tesla Motors]

With the “affordable” Tesla Model 3 on its way to an anticipated July production date, the company has promised to double the number of fast-charge plug-in points to feed the company’s growing fleet.

The electric automaker has already installed over 5,400 Supercharger outlets and about 9,000 lower-voltage Destination Charging connectors at various locations around the globe. In North America, Tesla promises a 150-percent increase in the number of charging points. However, don’t expect many of those stations to look like the photo above. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2017

Yosemite national park mountains

It’s looking like some sites just might not be feasible. Still, BMW, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, National Park Service and Department of Energy, has hatched a plan to lure electric vehicles out of their safe urban confines and into the wilderness.

It’s starting in New Jersey, about 12 miles west of New York City. (Hey, you have to begin somewhere.)

While the first EV charging station installed by the group can be found, fittingly, at Thomas Edison’s Glenmont laboratory in Llewellyn Park, NJ, plans are afoot to add up to 100 stations in or near national parks in the near future. (Read More…)

By on March 4, 2017

pumping gas

As we reported last week, automobile industry groups wasted no time lobbying newly minted Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt to reopen the book on the country’s fuel efficiency targets.

That volume had previously been slammed shut by Pruitt’s predecessor, putting an end to a midterm review and cementing the Obama-era light-duty vehicle target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Automakers would prefer not to be held to this rule, citing higher sticker prices caused by the addition of fuel-saving technology. Meanwhile, consumer and environmental groups have lobbied to keep the targets in place.

Well, according to a new report, the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard might not survive for long. Automakers, apparently, are about to see a wish come true. (Read More…)

By on February 24, 2017

tires

Remember when recycling was new and sexy and every 1980s sitcom included it as a subplot in at least one cringe-inducing episode? It was around the time that McDonald’s took away that convenient styrofoam container — you know, the one that stored a Big Mac on one side and a delicious pile of fries on the other.

Times change. Recycling is mundane, but it’s bigger than ever — and there’s no doubt about the environmental benefits. Unfortunately, there can also be unforeseen financial benefits for less-than-honest operators, especially if a program’s creator doesn’t keep watch on who’s minding the till.

If that creator is the government, things can get messy. Consider this cautionary tale of a massive program that went rotten so badly that it had to be scrapped. (Read More…)

By on February 17, 2017

Scott Pruitt (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The Environmental Protection Agency has a new administrator.

Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general and President Donald Trump’s first choice for the role, was confirmed today following a 52-46 Senate vote that fell mainly along party lines, with some exceptions.

In an odd twist of fate, the man who once sued the EPA multiple times is now the man running it. (Read More…)

By on December 19, 2016

Passat TDI engine, Picture Courtesy of Volkswagen

Half a year after an embattled Volkswagen agreed to pay nearly $15 billion in compensation to U.S. diesel owners and regulators, it’s Canada’s turn to dip into the automaker’s sooty wallet.

The company reached a deal today with the 2.0-liter diesel vehicle owners behind a class-action lawsuit. When finalized, the settlement means up to 105,000 bought-back vehicles and more cash added to the company’s penalty pile. $2.1 billion, to be exact, assuming everyone applies for a piece of the pie.

While the cash compensation has the same floor as in the U.S., the payout’s ceiling is lower. (Read More…)

By on August 30, 2016

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (3 of 8)

Faced with the option of waiting to see if their cars can be fixed or accepting a hefty cash payout, diesel Volkswagen owners are opting to take the money and run.

Once-fierce loyalty to the dirty “clean diesels” seems to have evaporated, as most owners who’ve registered for the settlement want the automaker to buy back their car, Automotive News reports. (Read More…)

By on August 25, 2016

1-Ethanol-Gas-006

A new study from the University of Michigan adds (bio)fuel to the growing backlash against supposedly clean and green fossil fuel substitutes.

The study claims that the environmental benefits of ethanol and biodiesel — championed by both the federal government and the lucrative biofuel industry — are based on completely false assumptions, the Detroit Free Press reports. (Read More…)

By on July 22, 2016

2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen’s Korean sales slump just became a sales cliff leading to the Challenger Deep.

The embattled automaker suspended sales of most of its models in the Asian country ahead of a environmental review that could lead to a sales ban, Reuters reports. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2016

Jetta TDI 2015

Volkswagen diesel owners will be able to spend many happy, polluting miles on the road, even after they request a fix instead of a buyback.

Buried in the automaker’s $15.3 billion U.S. settlement is the expectation that most of the recalled vehicles will still spew twice the allowable rate of emissions after being repaired, according to Bloomberg. A fix for the 475,000 2.0-liter diesels hasn’t been approved, but regulators fully expect any repair plan to fail — and they’re grudgingly okay with it. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2016

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Columbus, Ohio was chosen as the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Smart City Challenge,” beating out six other mid-size cities for the $40 million federal grant.

With that grant and $100 million pledged from philanthropic and business sources on tap, the city’s plan will see improvements in social infrastructure and green, connected transportation — including greater electric vehicle use and new recharging infrastructure — despite the fact that Ohio’s power grid isn’t very green. (Read More…)

By on July 7, 2016

Car exhaust (Image: JT/Flickr)

Halfway through its mandate to have 15.4 percent of the state’s vehicles generate zero emissions by 2025, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is now considering changing its requirements.

The problem is too many credits handed out to green car manufacturers, who then sell them to dirtier automakers to bolster their standing with CARB, Bloomberg reports. (Read More…)

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