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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


A diverse approach Variety in green tech should be encouraged: Expert Robert Bienenfeld has been with Honda’s U.S. subsidiary for 25 years but he cut his teeth on southern California’s alternative-fuel and electric vehicle movement. Bienenfeld, American Honda’s head of environment and energy strategy, is paid to think about longterm approaches to meet government emission and fuel-economy regulations and the Japanese automaker’s goal to produce efficient, environmentally sustainable vehicles. And he has a warning: Don’t let the auto industry’s financial problems stampede us into making bad choices, specifically picking technological winners and losers in the fight against global warming and declining oil supplies. GM’s talisman has been the Chevrolet Volt, a plugin electric car it promises to debut within a year. Chrysler has been showing


Go Green a battery-powered vehicle built on the Lotus Elise sports car, among other concepts. Every carmaker has different and often multiple technologies in the works. Bienenfeld thinks that’s as it should be and governments should resist the urge to push one or the other. “It’s clear we need to take a portfolio approach,” says Bienenfeld. Honda recently unveiled its Insight hybrid four-door hatchback, a decade after it launched the first Insight as a tiny two-seat commuter hybrid that introduced the technology to North American drivers. The new model goes on sale today. Toyota is into the third

Robert Bienenfeld, manager of American Honda's environment and energy strategy, stands with Honda’s new Insight hybrid in Vancouver. Bienenfeld says automakers must develop a portfolio of green technologies rather than try to pick a single winner.

generation of its popular Prius and has seven hybrids wearing Toyota and Lexus badges. Hybrids may be in the mainstream now but they may not be The Answer. Nor should companies be wedded — by choice or government mandate — to a particular approach for battery-car development. The herd mentality has led down some technological dead ends in the past, Bienenfeld says. In the 1970s, when

“It’s clear we need to take a portfolio approach. American Honda’s Robert Bienenfeld smog was seen as the big environmental threat, clean-burning methanol seemed like the solution. But its corrosive effect on engine metals and plastics, plus shorter range than the equivalent

amount of gasoline, has limited it largely to use in race cars that like its highoctane rating. Ethanol, another alcohol-based fuel, looked like the answer to a prayer for anyone worried about diminishing oil supplies and carbon emissions. After all, it’s made from plants. But it takes as much energy to produce as it provides, has the same range problems as methanol and if you're using corn as a feedstock it drives up the

price of tortillas in Mexico. That doesn’t mean it has no place. Ethanol-gasoline mixes are in widespread use and biofuels that use waste products such as corn stalks or wood chips are still promising if the full-cycle energy cost can be overcome. Bienenfeld’s point is that all viable technologies should stay on the table while they evolve and their relative merits and problems are fully explored. THE CANADIAN PRESS


MyKey: Putting brakes on teen drivers JIL MCINTOSH for Metro Canada

When your teenager takes out the family car, you may not always know where he is. But thanks to Ford’s new MyKey system, you’ll have a better idea of what he’s doing. Debuting on the 2010 Focus and planned for several more models, MyKey is a no-charge standard feature that limits the car’s top speed, prevents the traction control from being disabled, chimes warnings at pre-set speeds, encourages seatbelt use, and caps the volume on the audio system. It works through the message centre in the instrument cluster, and is invisible to drivers who don’t want to use it. Parents program keys through the ignition, turning them into “MyKey keys.” These trigger the pre-set system when they’re used to start the car, limiting what the vehicle will do. One key always remains the “administrator,” and is used to program others; it also lets parents operate

“Buckle up, watch your speed, and turn down the radio are the three things parents ask.” Ford’s Kerri Stoakley

Ford’s innovative technology MyKey will be a standard feature on the 2010 Focus.

the vehicle without limits. The MyKeys can be wiped clean or reprogrammed at any time, if desired. Any microchipped key can become a MyKey, whether it’s one of the keys that comes with the car, or purchased from the dealer. Starting the car with a MyKey always triggers three automatic defaults. The regular seatbelt reminder chimes, but the stereo won’t work until the driver has buckled up, as well as any front-seat passenger. The low-fuel

warning comes on at 120 km to empty, rather than the usual 80 km notice. And if the vehicle is equipped with special safety features such as Park Aid or the new Blind Spot Information System, these can’t be disabled by the driver. Beyond those, parents can also program in speed alert chimes at 72, 88 or 105 km/h; the inability to disable the traction control; a limit of 44 per cent of the stereo’s volume; and a limited top speed of 130

km/h. (That’s higher than most of Canada’s speed limits, but it’s permissible on some U.S. highways, and Ford determined that the car must be driveable everywhere.) And if your teen’s a technology wizard, fear not. “The system tracks the kilometres, and so the parents can see if the MyKey is being used,” said Kerri Stoakley, Ford’s communications manager. “The parent may note that the child had the car, but there are no kilometres registered

on the MyKey, so she can tell if the teenager is using the administrator key. It will also show the number of MyKeys programmed, which lets parents know if the MyKey has been wiped clean and is now an administrator key. And the teenager can’t “de-MyKey” it alone, because you need the administrator key to change it.” Research found that while most teens initially disliked the system, they were more in favour if they thought it would lead to greater driving privileges. “Buckle up, watch your speed, and turn down the radio are the three things parents ask,” Stoakley said. “So mom and dad might give more seat time with the system. It’s a good reminder to children that they need to drive safely.”

Sammy and his owner Heather Cammisa pose on the dog ramp of the new Honda Element at recent the New York auto show.

Honda Element a dog’s best friend A new offering from Honda may get dogs more interested in checking out the inside of their ride rather than hanging their heads out the window. The Japanese automaker showed off a Dog Friendly version of the Honda Element SUV at the New York International Auto Show recently. The concept features a cushioned pet bed in the cargo area, a spillresistant water bowl, and even a ventilation fan to keep canines comfortable. There’s also an integrated pet carrier and machinewashable seat covers to make it convenient and safe to carry smaller pets in the back seat. Honda says the Dog Friendly Element will be available this fall. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


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a garden. Ride your bike. Remem- ber the oceans, the bees, the worms — they are your neighbours ... and our heroes. Albert Einstein famousl...

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a garden. Ride your bike. Remem- ber the oceans, the bees, the worms — they are your neighbours ... and our heroes. Albert Einstein famousl...

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