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Toyota Remains Bullish on the Prius Line

The Toyota Motor Company is coming off of a tough period where the quality of its cars have been questioned and as customers consider competing models. For the first time Toyota’s supposed invincibility has been challenged and the automaker is now finding that its once smooth road has been littered with quality potholes.

But, Toyota is working diligently to take care of its own problems and is moving forward in its quest to elevate its Prius hybrid model. The Toyota Prius has been around for more than a decade, the benchmark model by which all other hybrids are patterned. Toyota cannot afford to rest on its laurels, however, as Ford, Hyundai, Kia and others have brought their own hybrid models to the market. Plug-in hybrids are here as well and include the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. Suddenly, Toyota is in danger of being bypassed by the competition.

Expanding Prius

The Prius line is, however, the most popular hybrid on the market. Sales in 2010 were down in this segment, but that is considered to be only a temporary glitch. Gas prices have moved north of $3 per gallon which means car buyers are exploring their options including finding cars getting exceptional fuel mileage.

Toyota’s plans for Prius are unfolding, with the automaker using the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit to explain where the brand is headed. Between show releases and company chatter, we can expect the Prius line to look far different over the coming years as that model is expanded:

Plug-In Prius – Like other automakers, a plug-in version of the Prius is on its way. This model will use a lithium-ion battery pack and be rechargeable. Having plug-in capacity will enable the Prius to go much farther on electricity only, with a gas engine kicking in when the battery has been depleted.

New Models – The Prius v is the first new model for the Prius family. This wagon-like vehicle is a crossover. The cabin is larger, which means back seat passengers will get more room. Storage has been increased, by 50 percent according to Toyota. The “v” will debut as a 2012 model and will ride on the same platform powering other Priuses.

Concept Prius – Although not green-lighted for production, the Prius C concept shows that Toyota is serious about building an entire line of Priuses. This model, a 2011 NAIAS debut candidate, maintains the five-door versatility of the original Prius, but has a sportier visage and is being targeted to compete against the cheaper Honda Insight.

Rare Earth – Toyota, like other hybrid builders, relies on rare earth materials such a lanthanum to power its Prius. That may change as the automaker is looking at using an induction system for its hybrid models, avoiding usage of materials which are expensive and 90 percent controlled by the communist Chinese government.

Future Growth

Expect Toyota to roll out additional Prius models as the sub-brand continues to grow. A coupe is possible as is an even smaller Yaris-size model. Don’t expect Prius to become its own brand, but it will be an important sub-brand and could prove to be the model line credited with rescuing Toyota.

The Best Places to Show Off Your Car

With so many cars on the road these days, we see the familiar shapes and colours drifting into each other and become just one more mundane car. But for groups of auto enthusiasts, a car means so much more than something to get from A to B, it is a way of showing your personality, or of bringing something back to life, or even a piece of art.

These small groups of people around the country spend hours, days and even years creating their own private masterpieces and gain immense pride from the slightest complement to all their hard work, not to mention the thousands of dollars they spend in the process. So where are the best places to go to see these custom cars?

Many owners are members of clubs which organise runs or tours to a specific point where they will stop for breakfast, lunch or even just the scenic outlook, and most are happy for the public to take a look around their vehicles.

Another common type of event which are increasing in frequency is the Car ‘Show N Shine’ an organised even usually held in a public park or sports ground where a large number of different types cars will convene to compete for a ‘Best of Show’ title. The public are usually granted admission to such event for a small fee, and are able to browse the vehicles for a few hours.

An increasingly popular event is the regular Friday or Saturday Night Cruise where a large number of different vehicles will meet at a set point, these type of meets are not officially conducted by any one group and tend to grow with popularity through word of mouth, and the standard of vehicles attending varies widely.

One of the newer concepts is the ‘MySpace’ type webspace, whereby users devote their own webpage to their vehicle, and are also able to interact with their friends via galleries, forums and chatrooms. These webpages are becoming increasingly popular as Gen Y become increasingly interested in the scene and are boosting their usage.

Of course, all these different sorts of events and clubs may attract different sets of people, so if you are interested in the custom car scene, it is well advisable to look at each of these avenues and explore which best suits you.

And please remember, these people have put a lot of work into their vehicles, so please admire them and remember to respect them at all times.

Volvo Electric Powered Concept Sports Car and Volvo Replacement Parts

While major U.S. automakers are focusing on hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, Volvo took a different route, unveiling a sports car powered entirely with lithium-ion batteries. Volvo’s 3CC concept car, won “Best Design” and five Gold Standards at the recent Michelin Challenge Bibendum environmental competition in Shanghai, China.

“Not only does the 3CC combine classic Volvo styling cues with exotic gull-wing doors and a tapered, 2+1 seating configuration, but it does so with a highly advanced lithium-ion battery electric drive train. That’s a step apart from the crowd, which these days is largely focused on hybrid and fuel cell concepts,” says Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of the Green Car Journal.

“Just as the earlier ECC forwarded new thought in hybrid propulsion with its high-speed turbine-generator design,” adds Cogan, “today’s lithium-ion 3CC innovates with its thousands of smallish laptop computer-style batteries, which power this zero emission vehicle to impressive levels of efficiency and performance.”

Advanced research into sustainable mobility and Volvo engineers have placed particular focus on the conditions regulating safety in small cars and their ability to handle incoming forces in a frontal collision.

The unique aerodynamic styling of Volvo’s 3CC concept car allows room for a third seat in back. The unique ducktail design creates room for a third seat in the back, while the batteries are sandwiched into the floor panels.

The 3CC concept car features an 80-kilowatt motor that delivers up to 107 horsepower, it has a potential driving range of 300 km (approx 180 miles) the 3CC has a top speed of over 135 km per hour.

The carbon-fiber body is mounted on a steel space frame and composite floor panels, giving the lightweight vehicle the ability to leap to 60 miles per hour in less than 10 seconds. Volvo says the 3CC can travel 180 miles on one charge under ideal driving conditions

The Volvo 3 CC’s safety features include Volvo Safety Ride Down Concept, a unique solution with a seat system that moves forward, a bit like a sled, at the same time as the front is deformed. This movement is slowed with the help of adaptive shock absorbers that tailor the damping effect to suit the collision force and the occupants’ number and weight. The interior can be moved between 0 and 200 mm forward, which has the same overall effect as extending the crumple zone by a corresponding length. It has seats that slide forward at the moment of deformation, the intention being to compensate for the small car’s traditional lack of space in the crumple zone.

Virtual tests showed that the most important part of a ride-down system is the energy absorber and that it needs to be adaptive in order to be a viable concept, by responding to differences in occupant load and crash severity”.

An environmentally efficient car that also has to be comfortable, enjoyable to drive, attractive to look at and safe to ride is an entirely new approach. The result is the Volvo 3CC, a sporty and appealing, extremely aerodynamic and compact car equipped with an energy-efficient electric motor.

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