Ioxus, a start up company in Oneonta, N.Y., are experimenting with ultra capacitors in hybrid and electric vehicles in order to make batteries work better and last longer.

In order to improve fuel economy on hybrid and electric vehicles, the engine shuts down when the car stops. When the vehicle starts to move again, a large amount of power is needed. While lithium ion batteries can store large amounts of energy, they are not able to discharge quickly enough to get the vehicle going again. Lead acid batteries can deliver the power needed, but the life of the battery is sacrificed in the process.

Ioxus is using ultra capacitors to work with the battery, allowing the burst of energy needed to get the vehicle going and allowing quick recharging for the next stop. According to Mark E. McGough, the company’s chief executive, this technology could also be used to run an electrically driven power steering system, making hybrid and electric vehicles work even more efficiently. While this technology is not being used commercially on hybrid and electric vehicles, it has been proven to be very effective in turning the blades on wind turbines.

In May of 2009, California, the White House and auto manufacturers worked together to reached a deal for fuel efficiency standards from 2012-2016. The final agreement will see vehicles with a 34.1 mpg fuel efficiency… an agreement that is estimated to cost the auto industry over $50 billion to develop the technology to reach this goal. The 2017-2025 fuel efficiency standards proposed have been much more aggressive, and has automakers showing much more resistance. Automakers have warned that obtaining the proposed 56.2 mpg could have consumers paying over $2,000 more per vehicle. In response to this the White house has eased their fuel savings proposal to 54.5 mpg in an attempt to convince automakers to sign on. According to VW of America President and CEO Jonathan Browning, the talks have been constructive. “Everyone is focused on making sure that the final agreement is both fair to the auto industry and is still affordable to consumers.”

The administration has also been in talks on credits for automakers to meet the requirements through air conditioning improvements and building flex-fuel vehicles. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told officials that the government was committed to treating all automakers fairly. The new plan will not only make the fuel efficiency more obtainable, but will offer special rules for heavier light duty vehicles used for construction.

Ford and Google are working together to develop a tool that will help make Ford’s hybrid vehicles even more efficient. The Application Program Interface (API), also known as Google Predictions, will analyze driver habits using cloud based computing, in order to come up with customized strategies for saving energy. The driver would input their destination and the car would use its stored traffic information to determine the best route. The API would adapt to the drivers driving habits allowing the best fuel efficiency for the driver. The technology is still in a research phase, but Ford hopes to have a working prototype ready for production in four to eight years.

According to Ed LaRocque, Toyota’s U.S. marketing manager for advanced technology vehicles, Toyota’s new family sized Prius will be hitting the U.S. market this fall after delays due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The Prius V is being targeted to young families offering versatility and more interior room than most small sport utility vehicles on the market. The company sees the Prius V competing against vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and the Volkswagen Jetta wagon. Toyota will also be offering a plug in version of the current Prius model early next year followed by a smaller version, known as the Prius C. Toyota has dominated the gasoline electric hybrid market since the Prius went on sale in the U.S. in 2000. The company hopes that Prius sales will eventually rival the sales of Toyota’s popular models like the Camry and Corolla sedans.

California regulators are pushing a mandate that could have zero emission vehicles making up 5.5% of new car sales by 2018, increasing to 14% by 2025. The proposal is being rejected by auto makers who feel the plan is the first step into establishing new national fuel efficiency standards that could end up costing them $5,000 for every vehicle that does not meet the standard. According to the Association of Global Automakers (AGA) the requirement of electric vehicles would interfere with auto makers ability to meet the new fuel economy and emissions standards being proposed by the Obama administration. They feel that auto makers will be forced into building vehicles that are not in demand, into an infrastructure that can not meet their refueling needs. It is expected the plan would hit smaller auto companies the worst, because they have fewer resources and development advances for electric vehicles.

In April of 2010, when the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with their national greenhouse gas emission standards, there were concerns about how the new requirements would be received. It was expected that automobile manufacturers would turn to more efficient conventional technologies, while others would go one step further and pursue more advanced fuel saving technologies like diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles. Today, with gasoline prices on a steady rise, Americans are demanding that their new cars not only meet, but exceed the standards set by the government. Because some consumers are still skeptical of the new hybrid and electric technologies, many have chosen to trade in their V-6’s for more fuel efficient four cylinder engines.

Four cylinder engines now account for almost 65% of all vehicles built in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. This is the biggest shift since the 1980’s when consumers traded in their V-8’s for the smaller V-6 engines. It is expected that within the next five years, over half the vehicles in the U.S. will be four cylinder engines. But todays consumers don’t have to give up power to drive the smaller engine vehicles. New technologies have left the underpowered four cylinder engines a thing of the past, and automakers have changed their marketing strategies to focus on the horsepower and fuel economy instead of the number of cylinders a vehicle has.

Ford new generation Explorer will soon offer two liter four cylinder “Eco Boost” engine and are already working on a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine.

BMW, who has not built a four cylinder engine in the U.S. for over a decade is now offering their customers the new Z4 sports car scheduled to go on sale this year, and have also been working on a three cylinder engine.

Hyundai has almost abandoned anything bigger than a four-cylinder, which accounts for nearly 90% of its U.S. sales.

And finally, automobile manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Nissan, who were once criticized for their small powerless vehicles, are now leaders in the new fuel efficient, environmentally friendly technologies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled their new fuel economy window stickers on Wednesday, saying that the new stickers will show the most changes in thirty years. The new labels will allow consumers to compare conventional cars, hybrids and all electric vehicles, giving information on greenhouse gas ratings, emissions, smog ratings, and fuel costs. The new stickers are scheduled to appear on the new 2013 models, but automakers have the option to start using them on on 2012 models as well.

Federal regulators had originally considered using a letter grading system from A to D, comparing fuel economy and air pollution to those of the entire fleet of new cars, but automakers objected, saying that the stickers were too simplistic and potentially misleading to automobile consumer’s. The government instead decided to go with a much busier label with more information and a sliding scale comparing vehicles across classes. According to transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, “These labels will provide consumers with up-front information about a vehicle’s fuel costs and savings so that they can make informed decisions when purchasing a new car.”

The label will also include a Quick Response Code (QR Code) that can be scanned by a smart phone to get information on cost estimates based on a consumer’s driving habits and the price of gasoline and electricity of their area. This information will also be accessible to vehicle shoppers online.

California has always been a leader in environmentally friendly living. In 2004 we were one of the first to pass a law restricting vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions and since then the legislation has been extended twice. One of the stipulations of the legislation gave almost 85,000 hybrid owner access to drive in the carpool lanes. On July 1, these get out of traffic free cards are about to expire, and this has hybrid owners protesting

Since the inception of the law, the amount of hybrid, and now electric vehicles on the road have significantly increased. This increase is starting to make car pool lanes more congested especially in the state of California where the percentage of hybrid is now well over 24%. According to state senator, Fran Pavley, one of the original sponsors of the legislation, “An extension of the carpool lane privileges in unlikely to bear fruit.” She says that taking away these privileges ranks right up there with taking away someones firstborn. She added that the legislation should be extended for at least one more year since vehicles that qualify for the new green sticker program do not go on sale until next year.

California Hybrid carpool privileges