• Twenty Dollar BillsThe New Jersey state assembly has approved a bill (A-3651) that provides a tax credit or a gross income tax deduction for businesses that purchase electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids and a corporate business tax credit for the purchase of an electric truck or electric bus.


    The bill, introduced on Jan. 26 and passed on Feb. 17, was just one of several electric vehicle initiatives approved by the assembly last week. Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14), said that the bill provides for both a strong environmental and economic climate.


    “It is ultimately healthy for the nation,” said Benson.


    You may view the bill in its entirety here.



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  • LexusToyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is recalling 2.17 million vehicles to address the potential for unintended acceleration. 

    The automaker is recalling approximately 20,000 model year 2006 and early 2007 GS 300 and GS 350 All-Wheel Drive vehicles to modify the shape of the plastic pad embedded in the driver's side floor carpet. If the floor carpet around the accelerator pedal is not properly replaced in the correct position after a service operation, the plastic pad embedded into the floor carpet can potentially interfere with the operation of the accelerator pedal. If this occurs, the accelerator pedal may become temporarily stuck in a partially depressed position rather than returning to the idle position, Toyota said. 

    Toyota is also recalling approximately 372,000 MY 2004-2006 and early 2007 RX 330, RX 350 and RX 400h vehicles, and approximately 397,000 MY 2004 through 2006 Highlander and Highlander HV vehicles to replace the driver's side floor carpet cover and its two retention clips. If the forward retention clip used to secure the floor carpet cover (located in front of the center console) is not installed properly, the cover may lean toward the accelerator pedal and interfere with the accelerator pedal arm. If this occurs, the accelerator pedal may become temporarily stuck in a partially depressed position rather than returning to the idle position. 

    Owners of the involved vehicles will receive a notification by mail beginning in early March 2011. 

    Separately, Toyota has amended a November 2009 recall, adding three models to address the potential for unsecured or incompatible floor mat entrapment of the accelerator pedal. The models added include: 

        -Approximately 603,000 2003 through 2009 4Runner

        -Approximately 17,000 2008 through 2011 Lexus LX 570

        -Approximately 761,000 2006 through 2010 RAV4. 

    Toyota and Lexus dealers will make the repairs free of charge. 

    The recalls come at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after the agency conducted an investigation into Toyota's earlier gas pedal-entrapment recall.


    [via Automotive Fleet]

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  • As the trucking industry begins to contemplate what changes to equipment may be needed to meet heavy truck greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel economy standards proposed by the federal government, some lubricant makers believe “thinner” engine oils could be one likely solution.

    “I would expect to see an upgrade to the current CJ-4 [engine oil] product to perhaps a CJ-4 plus or a brand new standard to help increase fuel economy,” Reggie Dias, director of commercial products for ConocoPhillips Lubricants, told Fleet Owner at the 2011 Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting.

    How can new engine oil formulations improve heavy truck fuel economy? Dias said the key is lowering the viscosity of the oil, literally making it “thinner” to reduce the internal friction on engine components. Thinner oil means the engine’s pistons don’t need to work as hard to overcome the natural resistance caused by the oil in the cylinder, and less work translates into less fuel burned.

    He stressed, however, that “thinner” cannot and will not translate into less protection for engine components. Rather, new formulations of additive packages will be required to maintain and even increase protective levels even as the viscosity levels of oil is lowered.

    Dias expects a more general shift from 15W-40 down to 10W-30 oils over the next five years, a shift that would lead to roughly a 1% to 3% fuel economy improvement depending on the truck’s application and how it’s operated by the driver.  Longer term – perhaps over the next decade – there could be a shift down to 5W-30 oils, a move that would be highly dependent on warranty approval by engine OEMs and user confidence.

    And it is also important to understand that lowering the viscosity of the engine oil is only one small piece of a fuel economy solution for tractor-trailers, Dias stressed.

    “There are many variables that will need to be examined to meet fuel economy standards being proposed for the 2014/2015 time frame: the engines, the chassis, the drivetrain, the trailer, and of course the driver,” he said. “There will be a combination of things we’ll need to look at besides the lubricant in the engine.”


    [via FleetOwner]

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  • Going Green Toyota PriusToyota Motor Sales USA has announced that the general public has selected "Prii" as the preferred plural term for the brand’s flagship Prius hybrid. 

    With 25 percent of the votes, "Prii" becomes the word not only endorsed by the public who chose it, but also as the term recognized by Toyota. As such, Dictionary.com has updated its entry for the word "Prius" to reflect this. 

    After more than 1.8 million votes were cast during the course of the six-week campaign, Prii beat out its four competitors: Prius, Priuses, Prium and Prien. Prius came in at a close second with 24 percent of the votes.

    The plural of Prius has sparked debates since the launch of the vehicle 10 years ago. Now that the Prius family has grown, Toyota asked its customers to help the company decide on a term to describe the plural of Prius vehicles, thus answering the decade-long question -- what do you call more than one Prius?

    With the expansion of the Prius family to include the Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV), Prius v and Prius c concept, Toyota hopes to further increase acceptance of the Prius brand by offering a wider selection of vehicles.


    [via Automotive Fleet]



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  • Electronic KeyCONCERN over the implications of a 2006 revision to a federal safety standard is spurring regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to reconsider their change. At issue is whether the change, which redefined what constitutes a car’s ignition key, has effectively increased the possibility of accidents caused by a vehicle rolling away.


    The matter involves the so-called smart key fobs used in millions of vehicles to replace conventional metal keys. Instead of pins and tumblers, these devices use an electronic code that enables a vehicle to be started either by pressing a button or inserting the fob into a slot on the dashboard.

    The problem is that under the revised NHTSA standard for such devices, the vehicle’s engine can be shut off and the key fob removed without the automatic transmission being shifted to the Park position. A spokesman for the safety agency, Jose Alberto Ucles, said in an e-mail exchange that the chief concerns behind the fresh look at the standard “are vehicle roll-away, theft, possible carbon monoxide poisoning and shutting off moving vehicles in the event of an emergency.”

    Since 1992, automakers have been required under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114 to prevent the key from being removed from the ignition unless the transmission is in Park, a measure intended to prevent the “accidental roll-away of motor vehicles.”

    But as electronic fobs became more popular, the agency expanded its definition of the key beyond the traditional physical object to include the electronic codes of smart fobs. This change would prove an unpleasant surprise for some drivers.

     “It doesn’t pass the common-sense test,” said Sean Kane, the president of Safety Research and Strategies, a Massachusetts consulting firm that provides research for plaintiff’s attorneys.

    A spokeswoman for the safety agency, Karen Aldana, said in an e-mail that automakers originally asked the agency whether an electronic code could be considered a key and they were told that was allowed. “NHTSA doesn’t wish to discourage innovation when it comes to automotive technology,” she wrote.


    [via The New York Times]


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  • New York State Department of Motor VehiclesOfficials at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles have announced that the department will impose two points on the driving records of those who have been found guilty of driving while using a cell phone for offenses committed on or after Feb. 16 of this year.

    Previously, no points were assigned for talking on a cell phone although two points are assigned for texting while driving violations. The new regulation will align the point penalty for both violations.

    "Distracted driving is one of the most serious dangers on our roadways today," said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner J. David Sampson. "By strengthening the current law, our hope is that motorists will become even more aware of the potential consequences of their actions if they use a cell phone while driving."

    In New York State, driver distraction is a contributing factor in at least one out of five crashes. Each year more than 300,000 tickets are issued statewide for cell phone violations. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died nationwide in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver and more than 440,000 were injured.

    [via Automotive Fleet]


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  • Seal of the President of the United StatesThe Obama administration’s proposed 2012 budget eliminates or reduces funding for a number of programs, from DERA to fuel cells, and creates a consumer rebate for the purchase of electric vehicles. The cuts include eliminating funding for the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) and the budgets for the Fuels Program, the Fuel Cells Program, the Oil and Gas Research program, and the Unconventional Fossil Technology program.

    The administration has stated a serious commitment to electric vehicle technology, with a proposal to transform the existing $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles into a rebate available to consumers at the point of sale; a $200 million program to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure; removal of regulatory barriers to implementing electric vehicle infrastructure; and an increase in support for vehicle technology R&D.

    In addition, the administration’s proposed 2012 budget for the EPA include implementing new standards to reduce emissions from cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2012 through 2016, extending that program to model year 2017 and beyond, and creating a similar program to reduce GHGs from medium-and heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014-2018.

    With the budget now being sent to Congress for consideration, it will likely undergo major changes as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives pushes for deeper budget cuts.


    [via Automotive Fleet]



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  • Construction on side of highwayTwo senators introduced legislation last week to revamp the nation's surface transportation system, aiming to cut traffic deaths by 50 percent by 2030.


    Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the surface transportation subcommittee, introduced a bill to set sweeping policy goals for the nation's transportation system.


    "The United States' population is projected to increase by 50 percent between now and 2050," Rockefeller said. "What's needed is a sound, national blueprint for a 21st century system that's safe, efficient, and improves the mobility of people and American-made goods."


    Rockefeller and Lautenberg want to reduce national motor vehicle-related fatalities by 50 percent by 2030.


    The bills would have required NHTSA to act to upgrade numerous auto safety standards and would have given NHTSA more power to get dangerous vehicles off the roads and higher fines to deter automakers.


    The senators also want to reduce national per capita motor vehicle miles traveled on an annual basis and cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.


    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that the administration will work with Congress to properly fund transit construction projects. But he said the administration will not propose a gas tax increase or other mechanism to fund additional spending.


    The surface transportation programs authorized under a 2005 law expired at the end of 2009. The Obama administration and Senate transportation leaders want a six-year extension of transportation policy.


    [via The Detroit News]


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  • Here’s another Automotive Fleet safety tip to pass on to your drivers.  This time they’re looking at what to do when you know a collision is about to occur:

    In most cases, a driver can turn the vehicle quicker than he or she can stop it. Consider whether turning will help avoid the collision. Make sure you have a good grip with both hands on the steering wheel. Once you have turned away or changed lanes, you must be ready to keep the vehicle under control. Some drivers steer away from one collision only to end up in another. Always steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go. 

    With ABS: A valuable feature of ABS is that you can turn your vehicle while braking with less or no skidding. But do not "jerk" the steering wheel (steer violently) while braking if you have ABS. Doing so may send you farther to the side than intended, because the vehicle will continue to respond to steering input while ABS is working. Practice using ABS in an empty parking lot so you know how the vehicle will respond. 

    Without ABS: If you do not have ABS, you must use a different procedure to turn quickly. You should step on the brake pedal, then let up and turn the steering wheel. Braking will slow the vehicle, put more weight on the front tires, and allow for a quicker turn. Do not lock up the front wheels while braking or turn so sharply that the vehicle can only plow ahead. 

    Remember, generally it is better to run off the road than to crash head-on into another vehicle. Don't swerve into the opposing lane; turn to the right, going off the roadway if necessary.

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  • Toyota LogoThe Obama administration's investigation into Toyota safety problems found no electronic flaws to account for reports of sudden, unintentional acceleration and other safety problems. Government investigators said Tuesday the only known cause of the problems are mechanical defects that were fixed in previous recalls.

    The Transportation Department, assisted by engineers with NASA, said its 10-month study of Toyota vehicles concluded there was no electronic cause of unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. The study, which was launched at the request of Congress, responded to consumer complaints that flawed electronics could be the culprit behind Toyota's spate of recalls.

    "We feel that Toyota vehicles are safe to drive," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

    Toyota said in a statement that the report should "further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles" and "put to rest unsupported speculation" about the company's electronic throttle control systems, which it said are "well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur."

    NHTSA Deputy Administrator Ron Medford said that in many cases when a driver complained that the brakes were ineffective, the most likely cause was "pedal misapplication," in which the driver stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes.

    LaHood said NASA engineers "rigorously examined" nine Toyotas driven by consumers who complained of unintended acceleration. NASA reviewed 280,000 lines of software code to look for flaws that could cause the acceleration. Investigators tested mechanical components in Toyotas that could lead to the problem and bombarded vehicles with electro-magnetic radiation to see whether it could make the electronics cause the cars to speed up.

    The National Academy of Sciences is conducting a separate study of unintended acceleration in cars and trucks across the auto industry. The panel is expected to release its findings this fall.


    [via The New York Times]


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