2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Let’s see….I bring my groceries home in reusable grocery bags, I recycle all paper and plastic, I clean with only organic detergents, I purchase natural grown fruits and vegetables and last week I drove the Highlander Hybrid. Yes, I am doing my part to save the planet and go green.

Little of substance has changed between the 2008 and the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. My test vehicle had the 3.3L V6 engine and electric motor which provided good smooth acceleration and allowed it to achieve highway speeds easily. When you turn the key it seems like nothing happens. Rest assured, the vehicle is operational. The gas engine doesn’t start until it is needed. The gas engine also shuts off at stoplights but starts up again and gets moving when accelerating. Under the right conditions (coolant temperatures and full battery charge) you can press the EV, electric vehicle mode, button and drive the Hybrid up to two miles at less than 25 miles per hour on electric power alone. This is a great feature in stop and go traffic.

The Highlander is a so called cross-over SUV, meaning it’s built more like a car than a truck. As a result the Highlander offers a quiet cabin and a luxurious ride having been based on the architectural design of the Toyota Camry midsize sedan. Overall, I found the Toyota Highlander a great way to move people. The second row seats can slide forward and back and getting into the first two rows is easy and the removable middle seat can also be replaced by a center console. A walkthrough with fold and slide forward second-row seats add ease when accessing the optional third row, which can actually accommodate both children and adults.

Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid comes standard with some of my favorite features. Smart Entry System which includes keyless entry and push button starting, a 3.5-inch multifunction display screen that includes a rear back up camera, a clock, tire-pressure display, air conditioning readout, outside temperature gauge and trip computer information. An automatic rear air conditioning system with rear vents for the second and third row seating was an added option on my test vehicle but one I’d definitely include.

The 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers more room and more power without giving up fuel economy. With 25 highway miles per gallon and 27 city miles per gallon the Hybrid offers excellent fuel economy, particularly in the stop-and-go traffic or major metros. Emissions are also extremely low. If you add in the excellent reliability of a Toyota and resale value you can see why the Highlander Hybrid is a wise choice for active families and those who just want to “go green”

I have come to the realization that when I get into a vehicle for the first time, I immediately look at the cup holder options. Call me shallow or just an avid coffee drinker, who is seldom without a cup, but I found in talking to other people, women in particular, that this is a very important aspect of how we feel about the vehicle.

On a scale of 1-10

Cup holders – 10 With 10, plus a bottle holder in each door, there are plenty of storage spaces for small items.

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DETROIT–Automakers are in a new race to be the first to market with an all-electric car so they can claim the mantle as the world’s greenest automaker.

General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd updated plans Sunday at the North American International Auto show in Detroit to offer consumers all-electric or hybrid-powered vehicles in the next few years.

GM had garnered the limelight at last year’s show with the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt electric concept car and rolled the vehicle out again as a reminder the struggling U.S. automaker intends to have it on sale by the end of 2010.

Cheering GM employees, as well as Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, waved signs at the show that read: “We’re electric,” “Charged up,” “Game changer” and “We’re here to stay” as they walked ahead of the Volt. GM has said the electric car will have a 65-kilometre driving range on one battery charge.

GM vice-chair Bob Lutz said the launch remains “very much” on track and a U.S. economic stimulus package could include “heavy federal incentives” for buying fuel-efficient cars.

GM research chief Larry Burns added that government backing for electric-car technology should be modeled on support for the semiconductor industry in the 1980s.

U.S. rival Ford said it will have a small electric car ready for launch in 2011 that would get 160 kilometres to a charge, as well as a plug-in hybrid by 2012. It also will offer an electric commercial van in 2010.

Ford officials said electric car sales would focus on urban markets with initial sales of 5,000 to 10,000 units.

“We are moving to more hybrids, whether they are regular hybrids or plug-in hybrids,” Ford chief executive Alan Mulally told reporters.

Not to be outdone, Japan’s Toyota, the current king of green in the auto sector thanks to its Prius hybrid sedan, showed off its FT-EV electric concept and said it would launch an electric car for city commuting by 2012 in the United States.

“Last summer’s $4-a-gallon gasoline was no anomaly,” said Irv Miller, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. group vice president. “It was a brief glimpse of our future.”

However, Toyota still considers gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles its long-term core powertrain technology. It said it plans to introduce a hybrid car for its Lexus brand this summer.

Japan’s Nissan Motor Co Ltd is promoting plans to commercialize electric cars, but Toyota has stressed such cars, including its own, would be suited only for short-distance travel for the time being given the limitations on battery storage technology and recharging infrastructure.

Honda, meanwhile, said it will begin selling the Insight, the first of its next generation hybrid cars, in Japan in February, followed by launches in Europe and the United States in March and April.

The Insight has listed gas mileage of 40 miles per gallon in the city and 43 on the highway in the United States, but the company said the potential for as much as 72 mpg exists.

 

The F3DM is based on BYD’s F3 (shown here). While it may look generic, the car’s technology as a plug-in is innovative.

(Credit: BYD Auto)

BYD Auto’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the F3DM, is now on sale in China, the company announced this week at a press conference in Shenzhen, China.

The F3DM, which will retail for 149,800 yuan ($21,200), can travel 100 km (63 miles) on its battery before needing to be recharged, according to BYD Auto.

The car can be plugged in to any average Chinese 220-volt wall outlet to be recharged.

While there are other plug-in electric hybrid cars available for sale, BYD Auto’s F3DM is the first one in China to be mass-produced and, therefore, widely available to the general public, according to both BYD and The Wall Street Journal.

BYD Auto told reporters at the press conference that it expects to sell 350,000 F3DM cars in 2009. It also plans to launch an all-electric vehicle in 2009.

BYD Auto is not 100 percent Chinese-owned.

In September, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet announced that MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, had bought $230 million worth of stock in BYD, giving it a 10 percent interest in the company.

Average Americans may also soon have a chance to buy a piece of BYD. The company also announced that it plans to begin exporting the F3DM to the U.S. in 2010.

Many automakers, including General Motors and Toyota, have been working on plug-in electric vehicles for mass production. All have said that the battery technology for this type of vehicle has been the most challenging aspect of the development process.

It should be no surprise then, that the Shenzhen, China-based company which is now a major player in the Chinese auto industry, started out in 1995 as a cell phone battery manufacturer.

Despite the obvious economic crises faced by many automakers, 2008 has also been a year of innovative firsts finally being brought to the mass market.

 

In June, Honda began selling the FCX Clarity, the first commercial production car to run on electricity from a fuel cell battery powered by hydrogen fuel. While not truly available for mass consumption, the car is available for lease in parts of California and Japan.

This year also ushered in the birth of the first chain of electric battery exchange stations. Better Place signed deals with Australia, the California Bay Area, Hawaii, and Japan to build stations where electric vehicles could stop to swap drained car batteries for fully charged ones.