Alternative Fuels Australia

Archive for the ‘Hybrid’ Category

NSW government allows hybrids to be used as taxis

Posted by Car Geek on November 28, 2007

Soon to be a common sight on Sydney's roads? Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. Sydneysiders could soon be hitching a ride in a much cleaner, quieter vehicle in the future, after today’s announcement from New South Wales transport minister John Watkins that taxi regulations are being changed to allow operators to use the Toyota Prius.

The Prius was trialled by the NSW government previously to determine its suitability as a taxi vehicle, with the results proving successful and commercially viable enough to allow permanent operation of the vehicles.

“I expect to see more and more Prius on the road as taxi operators strive to deliver greener options,” Mr Watkins said.

“Based on the popularity of the green taxi, I imagine we will also see a significant take-up of compliant hybrid vehicles in hire car fleets.”

The vehicles are especially well-suited to urban taxis, which start and stop frequently, and allows the vehicle to operate accessories such as air conditioning and the radio without idling, making it ideal for the long periods of time some taxis spend in queues.


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Posted in Hybrid, Taxis | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Alternative fuel vehicle sales for October 2007

Posted by Car Geek on November 18, 2007

Alternatively fuelled vehicles showed a general improvement last month over September’s figures, with diesels showing particular improvement compared to last month and October 2006. Some of the highlights:

  • Non-petrol vehicle sales were growing faster than petrol vehicle sales compared to 2006, with combined alternative fuel passenger and 4WD vehicle sales representing 13% of the total sales in October 2007, compared with 10% in October 2006.
  • Diesel vehicles recorded the strongest growth, with diesel passenger vehicle sales growing by 14% over the previous month and 60% over October 06. Diesel 4WD sales were also higher, with October recording 21% higher sales over September.
  • Hybrid vehicles also recorded growth, particularly in the hybrid 4WD market, which grew 128% compared to September. Hybrid sales are now split roughly equally between private and fleet operators, showing an increase in the uptake of hybrids among private owners.
  • LPG was the only fuel to record a decrease in sales, likely due to a trailing off of initial interest after the federal government’s LPG incentives were introduced. Non-private or fleet operators are still overwhelmingly the major buyers of LPG passenger vehicles, buying some 50 times as many of the vehicles as private operators.
  • No data on ethanol-capable vehicles was available, though Saab is the only company to sell such production cars in Australia.

(Source: FCAI)

Posted in alternative fuels, Diesel, Ethanol, Hybrid, LPG | 1 Comment »

Toyota wants government support for its local hybrid

Posted by Car Geek on October 28, 2007

Following on from the news that Toyota has plans to build a hybrid Camry or Aurion in Australia, there are now reports that the deal may hinge on support from the federal government for a friendlier environment in which to develop the vehicle. Toyota executives at the Tokyo motor show confirmed that they are considering building a hybrid vehicle in Altona, in Melbourne’s western suburbs, but would only do so if economic conditions were favourable.

Executive VP for global planning and operations, Tokuichi Uranishi, blamed the strong Australian dollar for the hesitation to build in Australia.

“We have lots of alternatives, (we can) take (a hybrid car) from Japan … or Thailand,” he says. “We are doing business, therefore we have to seriously compare which is the most economical way.

“[With] the very strong Aussie dollar, local production is getting very [difficult]. We are carefully looking at the movement of future arrangement of the import duty.”

If the economic conditions are considered appropriate, the new hybrid vehicle could be rolling off the production lines as early as 2010.

Toyota is certainly not the only Australian car manufacturer to be feeling the effects of globalisation, with the parent companies of both Ford and Holden seeking to draw their Australian operations back into their respective global families. This could mean fewer cars produced in Australia, perhaps, while they are cheaper to build overseas, but it may also afford us greater access to technology available in other parts of the world. It will be a tough decision for Toyota whether it decides to build a hybrid Camry here or simply import them, one that the government might see fit to help them make – particularly in an election year, with the possibility of more Australian jobs on the line.


Posted in Hybrid, Toyota | 2 Comments »

Plug-in Prius shows off in Tokyo

Posted by Car Geek on October 25, 2007

The Toyota Prius is Australia’s most popular hybrid, a story that seems to repeat itself the world over, so it’s no surprise that some attention is being paid to its next iteration. Although official announcements have been scarce, all information currently points to the next-generation Prius having “plug-in” capability, which will allow it to travel in all-electric mode (that’s zero litres per hundred kilometres) by charging it at home using a standard power outlet.

Plug-in Prius, image courtesy Popular Mechanics.

Popular Mechanics was lucky enough to take Toyota’s prototype for a test run during the Tokyo Motor Show currently underway. While the model they tested looks like a stock Prius on the outside, Toyota engineers beefed up the battery pack to hold more charge, similar in capacity to what the production model is expected to have. The plug-in hybrid (or PHEV) version has a range of about 7 miles (10 km) in all-electric mode using the enhanced nickel-metal hydride battery pack, and can reach 62 mph (about 100 km/h) without using a drop of fuel. The battery takes about 3-4 hours to charge on a 110V outlet, which would drop to half that on Australia’s 240V outlets.

Toyota remains coy about their plans for the battery technology they’ll use inside the next-generation Prius. The prototype model uses two of the NiMH battery packs used in the current hybrid vehicle, which takes their weight up to about 100kg. Lithium-based batteries are considerably lighter and have better qualities for automotive applications, but Toyota is taking a cautious approach with the Lithium Ion technology, given its expense and the tendency of some forms to encounter “thermal runaway” events. At the moment, it seems likely that Toyota will release the new Prius with a boosted NiMH battery first, then release a Lithium-Ion version when it feels the technology is ready.

So when are we likely to see it? The new version is expected to be released in 2009, and an eventual release in Australia is inevitable given the success of the current model, but when it will arrive in local showrooms is anyone’s guess. It’s likely to depend largely on how fast they can ramp up production to meet the larger Japanese and American markets. Who knows, maybe this new evolution of the Hybrid Synergy Drive technology might even find its way into Toyota’s local hybrid foray.

(Source: Popular Mechanics)

Posted in Hybrid, PHEV, Toyota | 2 Comments »

University develops hybrid scooter

Posted by Car Geek on October 21, 2007

Hybrid scooter. Image from the University of Tasmania. Engineers at the University of Tasmania have developed what is believed to be Australia’s first hybrid scooter, which is capable of running on both electric power and ethanol fuel.

The scooter, built by the university’s School of Engineering, is able to reach a top speed of 80 km/h and uses just 1.7 L/100km when operating in hybrid mode. The vehicle also uses regenerative braking to charge the batteries in operation, according to Steven Ambrose, a scholar at the School.

Chief investigator Dr Vishy Karri extolled the virtues of Australia developing its own expertise in alternative fuels. “The pilot program has reinforced our capability in building yet another solution to alternative fuels,” he said.

“We need several, parallel efforts to build alternative energy sources. Hydrogen technologies, biodiesel as an alternative fuel and now the plug-in hybrids are our efforts to reduce our dependency on petrol in the future. I am extremely proud of our technical team, their capabilities and their enthusiasm for new challenges.”

(S0urces: University of Tasmania, ABC News)

Posted in Ethanol, Hybrid, Scooter | Leave a Comment »

Adelaide students work on new hydrogen storage method for hybrid fuel cell vehicle

Posted by Car Geek on October 18, 2007

Image from the University of Adelaide. A group of students from the University of Adelaide has developed a one-tenth working model of a hydrogen-powered hybrid vehicle using a novel method of hydrogen storage.

The students, from the Department of Chemical Engineering, were exhibiting their work this week as part of a presentation sponsored by Santos and the Australian Institute of Energy. The team’s fuel-cell hybrid vehicle is a remote-controlled car that uses energy stored in a bank of rechargeable batteries and draws additional power through a hydrogen fuel cell. Rather than use a traditional method of storing gaseous compressed hydrogen in a tank, the students have opted for a safer solid-state metal hydride vessel that eliminates the dangers associated with high-pressure vessels.

Fuel cell hybrid vehicles are already in development and testing by a number of car manufacturers worldwide, such as Toyota and Ford, however most of them use traditional compressed hydrogen storage, which requires an expensive carbon fibre tank.

The exhibition also demonstrated other alternative fuel technologies, such as research into biodiesel from “microalgae” and its associated emissions.

(Source: University of Adelaide via The Advertiser)

Posted in Hybrid, Hydrogen | 1 Comment »

Many more hybrids to hit Australian shores

Posted by Car Geek on September 25, 2007

The Frankfurt auto show looks like it might have held some good news for Australia, with many more hybrids potentially hitting Australia in the next few years:

  • Porsche will be releasing its new Cayenne GTS in 2008, with a hybrid version joining the lineup in 2010. The hybrid will be powered by a direct-injection V6 engine combined with an electric motor, similar to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. No word yet on the price of the car when it reaches here, but it’s likely to be at least a few thousand dollars more expensive than the $94,700 that the current V6 Cayenne goes for. Here’s a video of the hybrid powertrain and how it works:
  • Citroen will offer every model with a diesel-hybrid variant by 2012, according to reports out of Frankfurt. All the models currently offered in Australia have been marked for hybrids, with the C2 and C3 using Peugeot’s 1.6 litre diesel-electric hybrid, and larger vehicles such as the C5 and C6 using the UrbanHybrid powertrain, featuring a V6 diesel mated with an electric motor. Citroen hopes to keep the traditionally high cost of hybrids low by finding innovative ways to save costs elsewhere in the car, such as reducing the number of parts required in the interior. The C4 is likely to be the first hybrid to hit Australia, potentially reaching here by the end of 2008.
  • Volkswagen has been reported by Automobilewoche magazine in Germany to be following Citroen’s lead and will start offering hybrids next year, with the eventual goal of offering hybrid options in all its models. No word yet on when the models will reach Australia, though.

(Source:,, Autobloggreen)

Posted in Citroen, Hybrid, Porsche, Volkswagen | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Will Australia import more efficient technology?

Posted by Car Geek on September 1, 2007

While pressure mounts considerably for auto companies in the US to clean up their act, and an impressive range of new technologies make their way on to the market to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, there is still some question about whether or not these innovations will find their way into Australian cars.

General Motors, the US owner of Holden, has recently announced a wide range of fuel-saving innovations to their vehicles, ranging from hybrid powertrains to diesels, direct injection engines and cylinder deactivation. Some models released under the Holden badge in Australia even have hybrid counterparts in the United States, such as the Saturn Vue (known as the Captiva MaXX here). However, despite a recent shift in focus within Holden towards being part of the global GM group rather than considering itself a separate entity, the Melbourne-based car manufacturer has made no suggestions one way or another about importing some of GM’s technology for use in its Australian-made or imported vehicles. Spokesman John Lindsay admitted to the existence of “some (VE Commodore) mules running around with hybrid systems in them”, but said that there are no plans to bring a hybrid Commodore to production at this stage. Similarly there seems to be no move to use more conventional engine technology such as direct injection in their Australian-built engines, let alone much hope for radical projects such as the Chevy Volt to make their way to our shores. Paradoxically, Holden exports a version of the Commodore Omega that is capable of using a 24% ethanol blend to Brazil (under the Chevrolet brand), but will not endorse the use of ethanol concentrations above 10% for its Australian vehicles.

The situation seems paralleled at Ford, with the US branch currently looking into longer-term solutions such as hydrogen-hybrid Focus and HySeries experimental vehicles, as well as an existing range of ethanol-capable and hybrid vehicles and powertrain developments such as continuously variable transmission.  Ford Motor Company Australia recently made the tough decision to close its production of the “Barra” engine at Geelong in favour of importing the more efficient Duratec engine from Detroit, which is a significant move for the industry, however the company has made it clear that the likelihood of seeing a Ford-badged hybrid on Australian roads in the near future is remote.

With the Australian market too small to cost-effectively innovate on a large scale, the auto industry’s best hope is to exploit its global partnerships and import technology to help reduce fuel consumption and emissions from Australian vehicles, but it’s likely that the cultural shift required for the industry to embrace such globalisation may take some time.

(Source: Drive, Carsguide)

Posted in alternative fuels, Ethanol, Ford, Holden, Hybrid, Hydrogen | 2 Comments »

Toyota to wait until after elections for its hybrid

Posted by Car Geek on August 18, 2007

Although a homegrown hybrid is looking likely, Toyota isn’t going to make a final decision until after the federal election.

The Altona-based manufacturer says that it is likely to wait until after this year’s elections to determine the level of government support and subsidies it will receive for building a hybrid, likely based on either the Camry or Aurion models which are already produced in Australia. Toyota’s David Buttner says that the new model isn’t likely to hit the streets until about 2011.

“We want to build a hybrid in this country and we want to build one at Altona,” Buttner confirmed.

“We’re now talking about Camry or Aurion and it’s the right time with the mood at the moment and the governments are seen to be green.”

Currently governments buy the majority of hybrid vehicles in Australia, in particular the Toyota Prius, the world’s best-selling hybrid. That trend is beginning to change as new models come on the market and consumer awareness increases.

(Source: Courier-Mail)

Posted in Hybrid | 1 Comment »

Piaggio launches a hybrid scooter

Posted by Car Geek on August 12, 2007

The MP3. Image from, licenced under CC 2.0. Yeah, I want one too. For many of us, a car simply isn’t necessary for many of the trips we make. Smaller vehicles, such as bicycle, motorbikes or scooters, are particularly well-suited to urban areas which currently have to deal with the dual problems of pollution and congestion. Unfortunately, many of the smaller powered vehicles aren’t exactly environmentally friendly for their size, with relatively few emissions regulation measures onboard when compared to their larger four-wheeled counterparts.

Enter Piaggio, the makers of the universally known Vespa, who have developed a hybrid drive for some of their range of scooters. The HyS system, as it is known, operates in three modes: standard petrol, hybrid (in much a similar way to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive), and pure electric. The battery pack can be charged through both regenerative braking and conventional mains power through a plug-in capability, and has a range of up to 20 kilometres in pure electric mode. When operating in hybrid mode, the combined petrol engine and electric motor provide up to 85 per cent extra performance over a conventional petrol engine.

The HyS system will be available on the Vespa LX, the Piaggio X8 and the three-wheeled MP3 (pictured), and will be introduced in Australia at a date to be determined.

(Source: Piaggio Australia)

Posted in Hybrid, Piaggio, Scooter | 5 Comments »