April 17th, 2012 at 12:19pm
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission just approved the first liquefied natural gas export plant in the U.S. in nearly 50 years. Honda announced it’s teaming up with Japan Metals and Chemicals Company to reuse rare-earth metals from second-hand auto parts. Autoline Daily Correspondent Isaac Bouchard gives us a first look at the new Ford Focus Electric. All that and more, plus a rundown of the 2012 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors winners with guest host Christie Schweinsberg.
Welcome to Autoline Daily, for Tuesday, the 17th of April, 2012. I’m Christie Schweinsberg from WardsAuto.com filling in for John McElroy. Here are today’s top news stories.
LAND OF THE FREE, HOME OF THE GAS
And we start out in the good ole’ US of A where natural gas prices keep dropping. That’s why GM recently announced it will sell trucks powered by the fuel and the reason daily-rental company Hertz said it will begin testing CNG vehicles in its fleet. According to Reuters, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission just approved the first liquefied natural gas export plant in the U.S. in nearly 50 years. Cheniere Energy will build the facility in Louisiana, and it could come online by 2015. Analysts say there’s so much natural gas in the U.S. this decision won’t do much to put a dent in supplies.
IT COSTS MONEY TO SAVE MONEY
If you’ve seen me host this show before you know I love hybrids and EVs. They do have drawbacks, but like it or not they are the future. And a new study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists adds another feather to their electrified caps. According to Bloomberg, drivers of plug-in EVs like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf can save as much as 12-hundred bucks per year. That’s driving 11,000 miles annually compared to a vehicle that gets 27 MPG with gasoline at $3.50 per gallon. The study does not compare the total cost of ownership nor does it factor in how long an EV owner would have to drive their vehicle for it to pay off.
Speaking of electrics, Autoline Daily Correspondent Isaac Bouchard is out on the West Coast testing an exciting new earth-friendly vehicle.
(This feature is only available in the video version of today’s program)
For more on the Electric Focus you may want to check out WardsAuto.com.
HONDA RAMPS UP RARE-EARTH RECYCLING
Honda just announced it’s teaming up with Japan Metals and Chemicals Company to reuse rare-earth metals from second-hand Honda parts. The operation will be the first in the world to recycle these materials on a large scale. Around 80 percent of the rare-earth metals used in nickel-metal-hydride batteries can be extracted. The company plans to use the recycled metals in a wide range of products, not just batteries. The price of rare-earth metals has skyrocketed because China, which controls the majority of the world’s supply, is limiting exports.
PIPE DOWN! (subscription required)
Designing, engineering and manufacturing cars ain’t easy. Automakers have to meet all kinds of emissions, fuel economy and safety standards. And now European OEMs can add another worry to that list. The mother ship, WardsAuto.com reports the European Commission is calling for a drastic reduction in vehicle noise levels. They’re shooting for a limit of 68 decibels for cars and 70 for trucks, but cutting the racket isn’t cheap. It’s estimated the changes will cost hundreds or even thousands of Euros per vehicle. Understandably, OEMs are protesting loudly against this proposal.
They say it’s what’s inside that counts, and the editors at WardsAuto agree. We’ve just wrapped up our annual 10 Best Interiors competition. Find out which vehicles won our hearts, right after this.
2012 WARD’S 10 BEST INTERIORS
Last week WardsAuto editors selected the winners of our 2012 10 Best Interiors competition.
As always, assembling the list had some easy picks and some that were a bit more contentious.
If you haven’t heard yet, our winners include:
The Audi A7, Chevy Sonic, Chrysler 300 Luxury, Dodge Dart, Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Azera, Infiniti JX35, Mazda CX-5, Range Rover Evoque, and the Volkswagen Beetle.
We all agreed the Azera interior is stunning, with great, high-quality materials, beautiful design and extreme attention to detail. The true test of our love is we awarded the Azera even though our test car had a dark-color interior. Typically beige, brown or some other shade gets our blood pumping.
Speaking of ‘some other shade’ and ‘blood,’ the Vee Dub knocked our socks off with its red glossy trim, mimicking the exterior color of our test car. It’s a retro look that we loved, and we hope it inspires more auto makers to be bolder in their interior color choice.
The A7 took a little more debate, because its design borrows heavily from the last year’s winning A8. But in the end, the car’s styling flair and high-quality execution put it a step ahead of its competitors, including the redesigned BMW 335i, which had its supporters but left some of us wondering what exactly is new about it.
The Dodge Dart was another controversial pick. We loved its groundbreaking interior design, but had to convince ourselves to look past some fit-and-finish issues on the pre-production model. We’re told by Chrysler those will be fixed once the car is launched.
‘Superior subcompacts’ was a theme this year. I’m happy the Sonic and Accent won but a personal favorite of mine, the Kia Rio, was left off. Yes, the Rio’s cabin isn’t flashy, but its airplane-cockpit-inspired switchgear, thoughtfully patterned speaker grates and seamless, soft-touch dash – rare for a B-segment model – were spot-on.
I’m still licking my wounds over that one.
And that’ll do it for today’s episode of Autoline Daily. Again, I’m Christie Schweinsberg from WardsAuto.com. Thank you for watching, I’ll see you next time!