New Stuff on HowStuffWorks.com

I’ve got a couple of new articles on HowStuffWorks.com (which is owned by Discovery), both of which have to do with hybrid vehicles. First, I did a Toyota Prius comparison of the second-generation Prius, the Prius Touring edition, and the new third-gen Prius. I also wrote up a piece on regenerative braking and kinetic energy, but I can’t seem to find it on the site. It’s there somewhere.

Twitter Networking FTW

Yesterday, The Square, local NBC affiliate KGW’s live news magazine, sent out a tweet looking for a Portland-based auto writer. Another journalist I follow on Twitter, who follows The Square, re-tweeted the post, knowing I was out there somewhere. I picked up on it, and emailed the station. A quick phone call confirmed that I was knowledgable enough to answer host Stephanie Strickland’s questions about the new CAFE standards, and I was slotted in for five live minutes at 7:10 p.m.

So, thanks to Twitter, I had my first experience being interviewed for my auto analysis skills. Here’s the clip, in case you’re interested.

Lunch with VW’s Stefan Jacoby

The chicken mole at Seattle’s Hotel 1000 was lovely, but VW head Stefan Jacoby’s comments were enlightening. For instance, VW wants to triple its vehicle sales in the U.S. in the next decade, including sales of whatever full-sized sedan will be built at the factory under construction in Chattanooga, Tennesee. (Jacoby promised the car would “solve the cupholder problem” for the American market.”)

VW also sees clean diesel and refinements to gasoline engines as the most practical solution for the near future, Jacoby said, with fuel economy raised by as much as 50% and emissions reduced significantly. That said, VW isn’t complettely counting out fuel cell technology, second-gen biofuels, and some kind of battery-electric vehicle. But for now, it’s sticking with what it knows for mass-market vehicles.

Speaking of which, VW brought a Euro-spec 6-speed manual Golf TDI for short test drives in hilly Seattle traffic. It was only a few miles, but I really liked the feel of the car while I was at the wheel. Until, that is, I got stopped at a light on a 45-degree incline. Luckily fellow auto journalist Doug Newcomb of Edmunds.com was in the passenger seat to teach me a trick with the emergency brake that kept me from rolling backward and hitting the road-test Touareg behind me. At least I didn’t curb the wheel in front of the hotel (I’m looking at you, Bruce).

EV Enthusiast Wants to Take on Wayland

I went to the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association’s monthly meeting on Thursday (after an absence of many months — for shame) and met a couple of great guys. The first was Wade Patterson, who has a Zero X electric dirt bike that he demos around the Northwest. I’m going to interview him for an upcoming NY Times story, if I can ever pin him down.

At the same time, I met Bob Simpson, an electrical engineer and EV enthusiast who’s working to convert a 2003 BMW 325i to lithium-ion power — and beat John Wayland and White Zombie. A key supplier for the conversion reneged on a deal, so the project has stalled. Simpson won’t be able to take on White Zombie at this summer’s Wayland Invitational, but he’ll be there to watch the other Teslas, bikes, and conversions attempt to set records at Portland International Raceway July 24-25.

New Ford Fusion Hybrid Event

I was out of the home office yesterday (yay!) for a Ford Fusion event in downtown Portland. I have never been so glad to see a carafe of coffee in my life. Nancy Gioia from Ford gave a great presentation about the Fusion hybrid and Ford’s green plans for the future, but I had spent the entire morning without liquid fuel. Four cups later, I felt much better.

We got to take the Fusion hybrid for short test drives, and the LCD instrument panel is super geeky hi-tech. Apparently, the engineers’ first attempt was too much like a video game, and drivers in the simulation watched the gas-saving graphics more than the road. Much to the team’s dismay, that version was scrapped for the cool-but-not-too-cool production version.

Ms. Gioia also gave me an interview after lunch (sandwiches and cupcakes) for an article for HowStuffWorks.com on whether owners can recoup the hybrid premium. The article will be up on the site two weeks from tomorrow, I think. Her answer matches my math — you can definitely maybe make up that cash in incentives and hypermiling. But probably not. But maybe.

Portland Auto Show

I went to the press day for the Portland Auto Show yesterday — lunch courtesy of Ford, dinner courtesy of GM, and a talk in the middle from Chrysler’s rep and all-around good guy Scott Brown.

I didn’t learn anything at the Portland show that wasn’t said at the Detroit show less than a month ago, but I was surprised at what’s missing from the Portland floor. Toyota didn’t bring the latest Prius, Honda didn’t bring its resurrected Insight, Chrysler didn’t bring its ENVI cars or its GEM electric vehicles, and GM didn’t bring the Volt.

Some of these cars are at the big auto show in D.C. right now, putting on their best razzle-dazzle dance for the guys who hold the money, and several of those cars are one-of-a-kind concepts. But Prius and Honda aren’t getting any money from the U.S. government, and those two hybrid cars go on sale in a couple of months. Surely there’s more than one Prius and one Insight in existence. And surely they recognize the eco-minded auto market we have in the Pacific Northwest, right? Right?

Detroit Auto Show

Toyota Prius under wraps

I went to my first Detroit Auto Show this year; from what I understand, this was a real downer of a show. I wouldn’t know, have nothing to compare it to and no time to think about it while I was there. I’ve put images of the latest eco-friendly-ish cars on Flickr and created image galleries on About.com for the supercars.

Check out these links to the pieces I’ve written so far:

About.com

GoodGreenCars.com

Flickr

Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Show

I headed all the way out to the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro yesterday to visit the Alternative Energy Show. It was small, but the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association had a presence, with an AC-powered 914, a converted Honda Insight, and a factory electric Chevy pickup. They even had a trailer of pop-up solar panels to use for charging, thanks to Oregon State University.

I spoke with OEVA members about the Chevy Volt’s chances of survival, and Ford’s lack of leadership in the alternative-fuel market. The show was small, but the vendors and information was useful. Zenn had a display as well, and there was a LNG-powered car, too, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to the woman manning that booth.