Cars News and Reviews The Price of a Prius- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Wednesday

Cars are cheap in the US. I've said this before (and I will probably say it many more times). That's because, in the US, the price of a car is just that: the price of the car. The sales tax gets added on, but that varies from 7.5% (California) to nil (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon).

I've compiled the list price of a basic Toyota Prius in selected countries. I've chosen the Prius because it is sold everywhere, with the same hybrid drive and engine size, and in much the same version - although it's always amusing to see the variations in the websites. Here's a screen shot from Toyota's Chinese website:

Yeah, I know: I don't read those kanji characters either. But there is a trick that makes it possible for English speakers to navigate websites that don't even use alphabets: my tips here.

The current US price for the Prius, $ 24,200 for the basic model, is very similar to that in Canada and Mexico. In stark contrast, in Brazil the Prius is more than twice as expensive as in the US. And in Argentina, which saw a substantial hike in the tax on luxury goods, the price is an eye-popping six-figure number when expressed in US dollars.

The only other place that comes close to that would be Singapore: not because the list price of the car is so very high, but because you need to buy a Certificate of Entitlement, or the right to own a car for ten years. Currently those are auctioned for about $58,000.

In European countries, the Prius' hybrid engine tends to get it a break from the vehicle taxes dictated largely by a car's carbon dioxide emissions. Except in Denmark, where the hybrid exception doesn't apply. In most places sales are still subject to a hefty VAT (currenty 21% in the Netherlands, 20% in the UK).

Toyota Prius

MSRP "From"in US $
US$ 24,200$ 24,200
ArgentinaUS$ 108,900 $ 108,900
BrazilR$ 120,830 $ 49,100
Germany€ 26,850 $ 36,800
Netherlands€ 26,550 $ 36,400
DenmarkKr 428,990$ 73,400
UK£ 21,995$ 37,000
Japan¥ 2,232,000$ 20,600
South Korea? 3,140 00 00 $30,000
China¥ 229,800 $ 37,500
India Rs. 36,63,479 $ 59,900
IndonesiaRp. 635,900,000$ 52,300
AustraliaA$ 37,753$ 33,400

Japan is the one country where the Toyota Prius has a smaller price tag than the US. A few years ago, in 2011, the Japanese price tag was higher when expressed in US dollars: since then the dollar has strengthened considerably compared to the yen. Incidentally, Japan has the highest proportion of hybrid cars in the world: one third of passenger cars in Japan are hybrids.

In more developed Asian countries like South Korea and China, the Prius sells for $30,000 or more. Developing countries like India and Indonesia tend to put large import duties on foreign cars: this tips the price of a Prius over the $50,000 mark.

I repeat: cars are cheap in the US.



You may also like:

1. Why are cars so small outside the US?

2. Carbon Tax is an Effective Tool to Reduce Cars' Emissions

3. Beware the Sales Tax


More aboutCars News and Reviews The Price of a Prius- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Cars News and Reviews Solar Energy From a Road Surface is Now a Reality- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

Roads are great for allowing us to get from here to there in a quick and safe way. But while they're waiting to serve the next vehicle, they're just lying around idle, making the world warmer with their dark surfaces.

But it doesn't have to be that way. A city in the Netherlands just installed the first bit of road capable of generating electricity: this bike path - of course it's a bike path! - has solar panels embedded in the surface, beneath a protective glass layer.

The photo above shows a section of the bike path being installed. Only half of it has the solar cells embedded in the surface; I'm guessing the other half is there for comparison: since this is the first of its kind, the people who built it will want to observe how it does under real-life circumstances.

The top glass layer is roughened to give enough friction to ride on, so the surface doesn't look much different from ordinary concrete surfaces like that of the footpath tiles;

The SolaRoad project is a collaboration of the Dutch innovation incubator TNO, the technology company Imtech, the infrastructure construction company Ooms, and the government of the province of North Holland.

For all the powerhouse participants, the first stretch of solar-energy generating bike path is only 70 meters long - you could coast over the whole thing without pushing your pedals at all. But the hope is that this will be the initial part of a whole network of energy generating roads that can power at least the street lighting and road signs, and eventually also the homes in the neighbourhood.

It's certainly true that there is a whole lot more surface on roads than on rooftops. And where space is at a premium, such as the densely populated Netherlands, it makes sense to put all the available surface to work.

SolaRoad, the road that generates electricity from sunlight. from Mattheus Bleijenberg on Vimeo (In Dutch, with English subtitles).

In the US, Solar Roadways has proposed a similar idea, their Indiegogo campaign (the one with the snazzy "Solar FREAKIN' Roadways" video) raised over $2 million, or twice as much as they had aimed for. Apparently it's an idea whose time has come.



You may also like:

1. The Car of the Future

2. The Netherlands: Bike-Friendly By Law

3. Best of #ReplaceBikeWithCar so far


More aboutCars News and Reviews Solar Energy From a Road Surface is Now a Reality- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Cars News and Reviews Limits on car sales in Singapore: a model for capping carbon emissions?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

Singaporean authorities would rather that you not buy a car at all. After all, the tiny city state has excellent state-of-the-art public transport, and not a lot of space for roads and parking. But its wealthy population loves cars; even steeply increasing road taxes didn't keep the automotive overpopulation from becoming an acute problem. By the 1980s Singapore's road congestion had become unbearable.

Enter the Certificate of Entitlement.

The COE scheme is birth control for cars - to be precise, import control: Every year somebody counts the number of cars that have been retired from Singapore's automotive fleet, either by being scrapped or by being sold abroad. Also, the desired number of cars is determined for the next year. Those two things set the number of new cars that can be sold for that year, embodied by Certificates of Entitlement.

A Certificate of Entitlement is the right to own a car in Singapore for ten years. The COEs go on an auction, so the price is determined by how badly people want to own a car. This month, a COE in the "small car" category (engines up to 1.6L and 130HP) went for S$ 63,880. COEs for "medium" cars were S$72,180; that's down from over S$90,000 in January 2013. A Singapore dollar is about US$0.80.

Let me rub this in: S$72,180, or about US $58,000, does not buy you the car: it merely buys you the right to go haggle with your dealer about the price of the medium-sized, small-engined car you wish to own.

Also let me emphasize, before your social justice hackles go up: In Singapore you don't need a car to get to your job, go grocery shopping, take your children to the cinema or swimming pool, or otherwise have a good life. So a car is a luxury item.

It should be said, this is not the only way to achieve vehicular population control. For instance, before buying a car in Tokyo, you must prove that you have a parking spot ready to house it. But the COE scheme fits very well with Singapore's competitive capitalist instincts. Besides, it works.

Right. If all you wanted out of this article is to get scandalised over the price of car ownership in Singapore, you can stop right here.

But I think the really interesting part is how Singapore's COE scheme can be applied to fighting climate change. Let me explain.

When people call for a "price on carbon", it usually means that they want to levy a fee for burning fossil fuels, which causes carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. The idea is to start off the fee pretty low, around $15 per tonne of CO2 emitted, and to increase it every year until fossil fuels become relatively expensive and businesses and households start to shift to renewables for their energy needs.

There are a few such schemes already in place, from British Columbia's revenue-neutral carbon tax, which is said to have modest success, to the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS has helped reduce emissions, but could have achieved a larger cut.

So while carbon cap & trade schemes are working, they are not working fast enough. And here's why: Because the carbon fees are levied on businesses' carbon emissions, these schemes are a bit like trying to conserve water by putting a tax on people's wastewater stream. You can imagine the loopholes: There's leakage (both literal and figurative in the case of water); people might decide to use their bathwater for garden irrigation; people could take all their laundry to their cousin in the next state where they don't tax the wastewater; and so on.

Photo by Rachel Pasch

So it's asking for trouble to put a fee on carbon emissions: The huge number and variety of smokestacks and tailpipes instantly turns it into an intractable problem, an accounting nightmare, even before trading, offsets, credits and futures are introduced. In contrast, placing a levy at the source turns an intractable problem into one that is merely very difficult: this is because a rather small number of companies are in the business of fossil fuel production, and the production happens at a manageable number of sites.

This is a confusing point, so let me try to clarify the difference between putting a fee on emissions, and putting one at the source: Most schemes focus on carbon emissions, and seek payment from the businesses that burn fossil fuels, causing the emissions. That includes electricity generating utilities, airlines, construction companies, clothing manufacturers, farmers, and so on, all the way to the pizza place on the corner.

On the other hand, putting a levy at the source means that a carbon fee is paid by the companies that produce the fossil fuels, by drilling, digging or fracking. Those include Exxon, Shell, Peabody Coal, and producers controlled by the Koch brothers.

Let's think about carbon in term of flows: the carbon flow starts when fossil fuels are extracted from the ground. It then gets distributed to businesses who either burn it to generate electricity or make stuff, or pass it on to consumers who burn it to heat their homes or to make their cars move. So there are a myriad points where the carbon flow enters the atmosphere. In contrast, there are only a small number of points where the carbon comes out of the ground: where the flow begins.

"L-system Tree" by Nevit Dilmen

So Citizens Climate Lobby's proposal to levy a carbon fee at the point of extraction makes sense to me.

But one could argue that even that is not enough.

Here's the thing: we know how much fossil fuel is in the ground, and we know that in order to prevent catastrophic warming, most of those fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Because once it's been drilled, dug or fracked, it will get burned.

Let's go back to the example of Singapore, which aimed to reduce severe traffic congestion. The government tried putting an increasingly steep road tax on cars. That didn't help much: Singaporeans (whose per-capita GDP is among the top five globally) could afford the tax, and the number of cars continued to rise inexorably.

What it took to stabilise the car population was a hard limit on the number of new cars: a real cap, placed at the point of import.

Similarly, what it takes to stabilise and then reduce global carbon emissions is the introduction of a well-defined and global cap on the extraction of fossil fuels. We know what is required to stay below 2C warming: an emissions reduction of 6 percent annually. The most effective way to get the required reductions is to cap the extraction of fossil fuels at those steadily decreasing levels.

Furthermore, I propose that the limited number of permits to drill / dig / frack are not sold at a set price but auctioned to the fossil fuel companies. (Let it not be said that I never say anything in favour of healthy competition on the free market). This "Cap & Auction" scheme is entirely separate from whatever agreements are currently in place between fossil fuel companies and the countries where they produce the fuels.

One permit is the licence to extract enough fossil fuels to result in the total ("lifecycle") emissions of one tonne of CO2; this accounts for the differences in carbon emission potential between, say, natural gas and tar sands bitumen.

A permit is to be used in the year it is issued, by the company who won the bid for that permit. Such a "use it or lose it" rule precludes trading, and the invention of futures, options and other derivatives on permits. Keeping things simple tends to keep prices from going up and down in wild gyrations.

Worldwide emissions is currently about 50 gigatonnes of carbon per year. If the Cap & Auction proceeds are $10 per tonne, the total yield is $ 500bn every year.

Of that, let the first $100bn be earmarked for climate support as requested by developing countries. (In fact, one can impose a minimum price, to guarantee a yield of at least $100bn). Perhaps that can also be earmarked as reparations, owed by developed countries for past emissions, since a large fraction of these costs are passed on to consumers in rich countries. That way the rich countries need not actively scrape together those funds (shamefully, they're not even coming close on that, anyway).

For the bulk of the Cap & Auction proceeds, the global equivalent of CCL's idea of a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend can be achieved by disbursing an portion to each country according to its population divided by its per-capita GDP (you can tweak that by also dividing by the country's carbon intensity). This disbursement scheme favours developing countries, which have the most pressing need for funds for climate mitigation and adaptation, while allowing for their development over the years.

You can't tell any country what to do with their part of the auction proceeds. And that is how it should be. After all, climate change will affect each region in a different way, so solutions for mitigation and adaptation will need to be optimised for local needs, and aligned to local culture and tradition.

One can imagine that some countries put those funds to work shoring up their coastal defenses or greening their transportation networks. Some countries might invest in sustainable irrigation works, renewable energy generation, or desalination plants. Some countries might decide to cut a "dividend" check for each citizen, and some might put the money in a disaster relief fund, to be used when climate disaster strikes. Which will happen to everyone sooner or later.

I know what this sounds like: it is the talk of a geek who has no clue of how international agreements are reached in places like the UN.

I'm not saying that the Carbon Tax, Cap & Trade, and other schemes to reduce emissions aren't working. I recognise and respect the results of lots of hard work by lots of people who do know how to negotiate. I'm saying that maybe they aren't working fast enough. If we are serious about emissions reduction fast enough that we can stay below 2C of global warming, maybe it's time to consider some alternative methods to put limits on our carbon emissions. A global Cap & Auction scheme is one.

(Updated 15OCT14 to clarify difference between imposing carbon fee at source and at emission point).



You may also like:

1. Slash your carbon footprint

2. Enough Hockey Sticks for TWO Teams

3. Climate Pickup Lines


More aboutCars News and Reviews Limits on car sales in Singapore: a model for capping carbon emissions?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Cars News and Reviews My Dutch Canondale- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Saturday

I was getting too old for my bike.

Not that I'm getting too old for biking. Let me explain.

My trusty bike is a Canondale that has been with me for twentyfive years now, and on which I spent happy days with my friends, tearing up the trails in the woods.

The bike easily accommodated my children when they came: first in a baby seat that I hung from the handlebars, then in a child seat on the back. I have two Dutch bikebags that I hang from the luggage rack, for errands to the library, the grocery store, etc.. The only thing you have to be careful about is that the Canondale, with its aluminum frame, is considerably lighter than a standard Dutch bike, so you have to be more careful balancing cargo - such as a baby at the handlebars.

About those handlebars. You know how mountain bikes have straight handlebars? It gives you better handling on rough terrain.

But I'm never on rough terrain any more. And the straight handlebar, not exactly ergonomic, was starting to hurt my wrists. Leaning on them while biking doesn't help that at all. Also, as I'm getting older I find that I'm less comfortable leaning over: I feel much better balanced on a Dutch bike that allows you to sit up straight.

I considered importing a Dutch bike. CelloDad told me I was crazy. And he has a point. A good Dutch bike of old-fashioned quality is not a cheap item, and then you have to get it over here somehow.

But I did the next best thing: bought myself a Dutch handlebar this summer. Dutch bike shops have a selection of them, with varying widths and different curvature. A handlebar is much cheaper than a whole Gazelle bike, and you can carry it inside a suitcase. Last week, I finally made it to a local bike shop, the haunts of one of my rideshare children; they did an expert job of installing the handlebar.

I am stoked!

It's still my trusty Canondale: smooth gear shifting, easy to haul up a hill - but now I'm sitting upright on it!

I can look around, not up: I don't get a crick in my neck from just biking around town. I'm not bent over the handlebar, so the weight is off my wrists. And - let's be honest about it - my tummy doesn't get scrunched, even after a big meal. I feel better balanced, and can take the corners tighter and faster - heck, I'm almost ready to ditch my helmet!

Just kidding. I wouldn't ride around without a helmet anywhere in the US; the odds are stacked too steeply against cyclers here.

But I'm going to ride around on my Dutchified Canondale, wearing a big grin on my face. For the first time in many years, I'm actually totally comfortable on this bike. And it's not as heavy as a Dutch bike. With its light frame, and with that pleasingly curved and ergonomic handlebar, now it's a Dutch/mountain bike hybrid: if that isn't too much of an oxymoron (there are no mountains in Holland).

A hint to bicyle advocacy groups: if you want more bikers, and better bike infrastructure, you must get the moms on board. And yes, the little old ladies whose cadre I will be joining soon enough. There are lots of us, and our numbers will really make a difference. But we do need to feel comfortable: we need safe bike paths ("If an eight year old can't bike there alone it's not a safe bike path"), bike-friendly laws - and mom-friendly bikes. A mountain bike is fun, but it's not mom-friendly: it's really designed for energetic young people, without children and without a tummy. Too bad it's about the only kind of bike sold in the US right now.



You may also like:

1. How the Dutch got their Bicycle Paths

2. Ten Ways to Calm Car Traffic

3. Low Traffic Zones: anything but cars


More aboutCars News and Reviews My Dutch Canondale- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Cars News and Reviews Greener Ways to Get There- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Thursday

I've written before of the lowest-carbon way to get from here to there, and summarised it in this graphic:

The people at 1BOG (which stands for One Block Off the Grid) have made a much larger infographic which is more complete and breaks things down by the distance traveled. I don't usually like large infographics, but this one is worthwhile because it shows that for transportation, not one size fits all.

A few takeaway points:

For travel inside or near town, nothing beats a bike. (And it makes you feel happy. And it's good for you!).

For regional travel, a bus is best right now, at least in the US where trains have a far larger carbon footprint than elsewhere. Certainly buses are cheaper. But where high-speed trains are installed and running frequently, they are obviously the preferred way to travel: they're always full.

For long-distance trips, buses (and shared rides in efficient cars) are the very low-carbon way to go. But if you factor in the travel time, you can be forgiven for opting for flying.

On this infographic, travel by car assumes that it's only the driver in the car, which is lonely and tiring. If you share the car, a chore becomes a social outing and, as my graphic above shows,the per-passenger emissions go way down.

And I can't help mentioning: calling a car that does 32 mpg "efficient", as this infographic does for the benefit of American readers, is sort of embarrassing. In reality, 32 mpg is not very efficient. To give an example: my diesel Golf (38mpg) is on the gas-guzzler side of the average new European car, even the ones sold back in 2011. In a few years, my car will be a fossil-fuel relic, as the European emissions standards are progressively tightened.



You may also like:

1. Why are cars so small outside the US?

2. Why I Love High-Speed Trains

3. How to buy a gas sipper for less


More aboutCars News and Reviews Greener Ways to Get There- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS