What the new fuel standard really means

Federal regulators on Wednesday released a proposed rule for hiking the fuel economy for cars to be sold from 2017 to 2025, and it’s full of incentives for encouraging automakers to use battery-powered and other alternative-fuel technologies.

Car Buyers Want More Data & Tighter MPG Standards: Survey

“Utter market failure.” That’s how Mark Cooper, research director for the consumer advocacy group Consumer Federation of America describes the U.S. vehicle supply. For the 2010 model year, just 44 models (4 percent of all EPA-rated vehicles for the year) get 30 MPG or more, despite widespread consumer interest in more fuel efficient vehicles, according to a new survey conducted this month and released today from the group.

Published just days ahead of the deadline for public comments on tighter fuel economy standards, the CFA survey finds 78 percent of Americans support raising the bar to 35 MPG by 2016 (up from 25 MPG today) for the average MPG of an automaker’s fleet, as the Obama administration has proposed.
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Apple to Open New Retail Store in Paris

According to reports today on ifoAppleStore and French mac site MacPlus, Paris is getting a new Apple (s aapl) retail store before the end of the year.

apple-store-paris

The Carousel du Louvre retail store has been adorned with banner graphics depicting the iconic colours and white click-wheel design of the iPod Nano. The largest of the banners reads “Apple Store Carousel du Louvre. Bientôt.” (For those of us who don’t speak French, “Bientôt” means “shortly” or “in the near future”.)

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the graphic resembles the famous La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), a giant skylight in the shopping mall at the Louvre Museum. ifoAppleStore cites “a tipster” who said that in 2007, Steve Jobs himself said a store would open in Paris that same year.

OK, so, maybe it’s a little late. But combined with the Windows 7 Café, this does – finally – give me a good reason to visit Paris.

Photo courtesy of MacPlus

Wi-Fi Cafe Users Love Apple and Like to Spend

iStock_000001567953XSmallWhile you’re enjoying a cup of joe in a local cafe, the folks sitting around you typing on their laptops and smartphones could very well be purchasing something online. Nearly 38 percent of people who use a cafe’s Wi-Fi say they make an online purchase during their visit, according to the findings of a report released today from mobile media company JiWire. Of those, more than half say they’re making a personal buy, while just 15 percent say they’re making a business purchase.
In addition, the iPhone and iPod touch are hugely popular with the cafe crowd, the report reveals. The two Apple (s appl) devices account for a whopping 98 percent of mobile gadgets used in cafes with Wi-Fi. About 54.2 percent and 43.4 percent of people using Wi-Fi in a cafe say they use the iPhone and iPod touch, respectively. (For more on the iPhone, check out our upcoming Mobilize 09 conference.) And although 74 percent of the cafe Wi-Fi crowd use PC laptops, over one-quarter are Mac users — which is notable given that Apple accounts for just 7.4 percent of the U.S. market share for notebooks. To boost its share even more, maybe Apple should target cafe goers in the future. Read More about Wi-Fi Cafe Users Love Apple and Like to Spend

What You Need to Know About the New Car Emissions Standards

The Obama administration is certain about a couple things in its plan for a new national fuel economy and tailpipe emission standard: It’s meant to start taking effect in 2012, and have automakers achieving a fleet average of 35.5 MPG by 2016, four years earlier than previously required. That condensed time frame, as we wrote earlier this week, means big auto companies and young startups alike are under added pressure to get moving on green car tech.

But there are several key points on which the EPA and the Department of Transportation are undecided, as explained in their memo on the upcoming proposal, released this week. Here’s what you should know about incentives for green car innovation that are still under consideration and will open up for public comment before the rules are finalized.

Emission Limits: Just what of kind limits are we talking for greenhouse gas emissions? The feds are proposing to require a maximum average of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile by model year 2016, with a “generally linear phase-in” beginning with 2012 models.

Size Matters: A critical point for automakers in getting on board with the administration’s proposal is that it is “attribute-based.” The attribute that will be used to determine what emission and fuel economy standard applies to a given fleet is what’s called vehicle footprint. This is defined as “a vehicle’s wheelbase multiplied by its track width — in other words, the area enclosed by the points at which the wheels meet the ground.” Vehicle footprints will be used to calculate a unique standard for each manufacturer’s fleet, with a separate standard for passenger cars and light trucks. As explained in the memo:
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Daily Sprout

What Was Detroit Thinking?: After decades of battling, complaining and maneuvering over fuel economy standards, why did carmakers decide to fall in line with a tough, new nationwide MPG standard this week? — New York Times

Climate Outlook Gets Gloomier: New climate modeling suggests that without rapid and massive action, global warming in this century will be no less than twice as severe as estimated six years ago. — MIT News Office

UK Car Clubs Cut Carbon: A new survey from the Transport Research Laboratory finds members of car-sharing services in the UK are less likely to drive than non-members, opting instead to walk, bike or use public transit, and an average vehicle available through these “car clubs” is about 35 percent more efficient than an average private vehicle. — TheGreenCarWebsite UK

Dems Hold Off Energy Amendments: House Democrats defeated 14 hours worth of amendments proposed by GOP lawmakers and put to vote in a markup session for the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill yesterday. — ClimateWire via NYT

ARPA-E Underway: The DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, designed to fund high-risk clean energy development, is now accepting proposals. Cold fusion inventors are among those anxious to get in line. — WSJ’s Environmental Capital

Obama MPG Proposal Raises Stakes for Green Car Tech

Automakers received yet another push this morning to accelerate efforts to clean up their fleets, with the unveiling of tough, new limits for tailpipe emissions set to take effect in 2012. If the big automakers were interested in bringing startups with clean vehicle technology into the fold before as a way to leapfrog lengthy internal R&D efforts — Daimler (s DAI), for example, teamed up with Tesla Motors this morning to help get an electric version of its Smart model on the road as soon as possible, and Chrysler tapped startup A123Systems for lithium-ion batteries in hopes of getting its ENVI lineup off the ground — they may now have added pressure to consider such deals.

The Obama administration’s proposal includes a 39 MPG average for automakers’ passenger car lineups, plus a 30 MPG average for light trucks and 35.5 MPG overall — all by 2016. That’s four years earlier than required under the current standards, established as part of the 2007 energy bill. The proposal has tighter standards beginning to take effect in 2012.

The administration wants to go beyond fuel economy to also address pollution. If the proposed rules make it through the EPA and the Transportation Department, it will be the first time the U.S. combines MPG standards and tailpipe pollution controls into a single regulation. It will also be the first national fuel economy standard, as Obama has largely taken up the stricter standards proposed by California and 13 other states. As the Associated Press notes, handing CAFE standards development and enforcement over to the federal government could be a boon for states like California with mounting budget troubles.
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Is Verizon Really Ready to Open Up Its Network?

Verizon Wireless (s VZ) today issued a call for developers to attend a May 13 conference to learn how to develop devices for the fourth-generation LTE network due to roll out starting in 2010. And in keeping with the requirements set by the FCC when the carrier won the chunk of 700 MHz spectrum at auction last year, there’s a lot of talk about openness and transparency in the announcement. But will Verizon really use this as a starting point to bring open devices to its network, or is this just a way to keep regulators happy? Read More about Is Verizon Really Ready to Open Up Its Network?

After 20+ Years, Feds Raise the Bar on MPG for Cars

If you have your eye on a 50 MPG gen-3 Prius hybrid or a 150 MPG plug-in Volt, the new CAFE standards won’t seem like much. But the Department of Transportation’s plan to require automakers’ car and truck lineups to have an average fuel efficiency of 27.3 MPG by 2011 — an increase of 2 MPG over the 2010 standard — is a significant step: This is the first increase for passenger vehicle fuel efficiency since before A Flock of Seagulls was anything but a bunch of birds.
According to Obama administration officials who spoke with the Detroit News and Associated Press late yesterday ahead of this morning’s official announcement, the new standards will require automakers’ 2011 passenger cars (rolling into showrooms in late 2010) to get an average of 30.2 MPG. Light truck fleets (including SUVs, pickups and minivans) will need an average of 24.1 MPG.
The move signals that the Obama administration intends to raise the bar on automakers, although not quite as quickly as some environmentalists had hoped and the Bush administration proposed, but delayed, implementing (27.8 MPG average for 2011). The Department of Transportation said in its announcement this morning that a multiyear fuel economy plan for post-2011 models is “already well under way.”
Auto companies — two of which have received $17.4 billion in federal loans and requested an additional $21.6 billion — have protested that the new standards will cost the industry $1.5 billion. Tighter standards are on the way: An energy law passed in 2007 mandates a minimum 35 MPG fleet average by 2020.
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