The good oil: Prius saves cabbie cash

By Alastair Sloane

An Auckland cabbie reckons he's saving upwards of $300 a week on fuel now that he's driving a Toyota Prius hybrid. The Alert driver had been driving a 2-litre Nissan Cefiro sedan, a Japanese import. The 1500km he was doing each week was costing him around $400 in fuel. Now, he says, the same distance is costing him between $70 and $80. His Prius is a 2006 model, brought into New Zealand through Toyota's second-hand Signature programme.

Garbage to guts

GM Holden plans to join forces across the ditch with the Victorian State Government, US bio-fuels leader Coskata, oil company Caltex and other partners to develop Australia's first plant to make ethanol from garbage. The likely Melbourne plant will use Coskata's technology to produce more than 200 million litres of ethanol a year from household rubbish and building waste for E85 automotive fuel, a blend of up to 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol. Coskata and General Motors are partners in similar plants in the US. The aim is to set up an Australia-wide ethanol fuel network to fuel E85-compatible cars like the upcoming flex-fuel Holden Commodore.

Tesla breaks into Oz

US start-up carmaker Tesla Motors is expected to begin selling its Lotus Elise-based all-electric roadster from a purpose-built showroom in Sydney later this year, providing the car meets Australian homologation.

A handful of Australians have already ordered right-hand-drive versions of the car through Tesla's London sales outlet, where it is priced at £86,950 ($190,000). If Tesla gets the go-ahead it is certain to broaden the range within the next couple of years with the Model S, an all-electric sedan that goes on sale in the US next year at around half the price of the roadster.

Navara gets boost

Nissan will upgrade its Navara ute range - and the big news is the revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. It gets new cylinder heads, a variable turbocharger and a boost in direct-injection pressure for output of 140kW/450Nm, or 11 per cent more power and 12 per cent more torque. The new model will be the class leader in the oomph stakes.

Beemers show front

BMW has confirmed speculation it will produce a front-drive model, based on the third-generation Mini platform. The plan comes after years of BMW saying it would never go front drive. The range will be aimed at Audi's A3 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and will come with all-wheel-drive in some markets. Meantime, BMW has signed a deal to deliver more than 240,000 six-cylinder diesel engines to a company that makes purpose-built vehicles for American law-enforcement agencies. Carbon Motors Corp is the world's first company to build vehicles especially for US lawmen. BMW marketing executive Ian Robertson said the deal will help to "reduce the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of more than 240,000 US law enforcement vehicles by up to 40 per cent over the coming years".

We are the world

Idaho man Craig Show, 49, has filed a lawsuit against the US state for compensation following his arrest for drink driving. Show said the cops opened his prized medicine bag, allowing "mystical powers" inside to escape. He said the bag was blessed by a "medicine woman" in 1995 and had been unopened since then.

alastair.sloane@nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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