Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2011 Volkswagen Twin Drive Plug-In Hybrid Golf

Volkswagen is looking to make a production vehicle out of the 2011 Golf Twin Drive, a plug-in hybrid version of the Golf (Rabbit). There are 20 test vehicles on the road in Germany right now.

The hybrid engine is a 1.4L turbo direct injection four cylinder diesel engine mated to an electric motor, but the production vehicle will most likely have one less cylinder and be a gasoline engine.

The electric motor is powered by a Lithium-ion battery pack from Sanyo. The battery pack, located in the trunk, weighs 350 lbs. The battery pack is recharged through regenerative brakes and by plugging in. It has a full charge of 12 kWh, but is limited to 8 kWh. Since it's located in the trunk space, there's no spare tire.

Although the engineers at Volkswagen call the Twin Drive plug-in a range extended electric vehicle, it's unlike the Chevy Volt. The car will run on electric power up to 30 miles and up to 30 mph. And when traveling in reverse, the car is electric only. But at higher speeds, the gas engine kicks in. The gas motor has the equivalent of a single gear set to the top gear in a gas-only vehicle.

And so, the gas engine is 'clutched' to the wheels, which the Volt is not. In the Volt, the two motors are set in series, with only the electric motor capable of moving the vehicle. The gas engine is used to recharge the battery pack when it becomes sufficiently depleted. But you can turn the gas motor off at the touch of a button.

At higher speeds and during acceleration boosts, the electric motor will assist the gas engine.

This is the fun part. The system controller, which decides what mode the car should be powered at (electric or gas or both) is linked into the NAV system. And the decision making is smart. Since plugging in is the most efficient (cheapest) way of recharging the battery pack, it will try to ensure the battery is fully depleted when you reach your destination.

Source: 2011 VW Golf TwinDrive - Volkswagen's Chevy Volt Fighter Goes 30 Miles on Battery Power - Auto News - Motor Trend

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Kia Cee'd Hybrid and Soul Hybrid at Paris Motor Show

Kia will be showing off two hybrid prototypes at the Paris motor show, the Kia Soul and the Cee'd. Both cars will have 1.6 liter engines mated to 15-kW(or 20, depending on the source) electric motors.

The result will be 48 mpg for the Soul hybrid and possibly 49 mpg for the Cee'd.

Jalopnik is figuring the Kia hybrids will be mild versions, with the electric motor assisting the gas engine in acceleration and allowing for start-stop technology.  Add in regenerative braking and you've got a mild hybrid.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chevy Volt May get 100 MPG ... or Not

GM and the EPA are in negotiations to figure out what kind of rating the new Chevy Volt will be getting. And it's not a minor consideration for GM. If the EPA treats the Volt as an electric vehicle, it may get a mpg rating of 100+ mpg. If the EPA treats it as a gas vehicle, the rating may be in the 40+ mpg (around what the Prius gets).

GM will want the Volt to stand out, especially against hybrids like the Prius.  When you're going to cost twice as much as the competition, you need to be different.

If the EPA treats the Volt like gas cars, it will force the gas engine to run until the battery pack is fully recharged. If they treat it like an electric vehicle, the gas engine may not turn on at all during the testing of the vehicle.

Personally, I wish they would come up with a different classification for the Volt altogether. I want to know what the mpg is going to be like after I get to the 40 mile limit on the all electric power. I also want to know what it's going to be like during the first 40 miles (will the gas engine turn on for any reason to do anything?)

GM spokesman Dee Allen said the rating is far from set, stressing that what has been agreed to on a preliminary basis is that the Volt would be classified as an extended-range electric vehicle for the purpose of fuel-economy ratings.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Toyota Shows Off CNG Camry Hybrid at Los Angeles Auto Show

Toyota announced they will be bringing a compressed natural gas (CNG) Camry Hybrid to the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. While only a concept, there are good reasons to hope automakers would switch to CNG cars.

"With the combination of plentiful long-term supplies in North America, improved and more efficient recovery methods, favorable pricing and clean-burn/low emissions characteristics, CNG has become a prime energy-source for the future," said Irv Miller, group vice president, TMS Corporate Communications. "With this concept, we are confirming our interest in pursuing CNG within our broad and comprehensive R&D scope."

Toyota notes they had a CNG Camry in 1999, but limited sales led to the discontinuation of the vehicle. Sales were limited due to a limited refueling infrastructure, plus gas was much cheaper. Now that gas prices have skyrocketed, automakers are trying different methods including CNG again to see if customers are interested.

"Natural gas," adds Miller, "and an expanded retail-friendly CNG infrastructure could be seen as a model for future hydrogen infrastructure."

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

GM Will Build Volt Engine in Flint, MI

After receiving tax breaks from Michigan and the city of Flint, GM announces they will build their manufacturing plant in Flint. The plant will produce the global 4-cylinder engines and the Chevy Volt's range extending engine.

GM expects to spend $349 million to build the manufacturing plant. That includes the price to build a 552,000 square feet plant, machinery, equipment and special tooling. Another $21 million will go for vendor tooling. Construction on the plant will begin immediately and engine production is expected to begin in 2010.

According to the press release,

Two engines will be built at the new facility. A 1.4-liter turbo for the Chevrolet Cruze and 1.4-liter naturally aspirated engine for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV), will be new members of an engine family already deployed successfully around the world, primarily in Europe. The engines will play a key role in GM’s plan to double global production of small four-cylinder engines by 2011, with more than half of that increase coming from North America.

Tom Stephens, GM Executive Vice President of Global Powertrain and Global Quality spoke to the role the 1.4-liter turbo will play in the company’s line-up. “The new 1.4L turbo for the Chevrolet Cruze highlights GM’s global commitment to offering engines that provide outstanding fuel efficiency without compromising vehicle performance. The new 1.4L turbocharged engine has the power of a larger engine, but retains the efficiency of a small-displacement four-cylinder. And with this engine, we expect the Cruze to be a fuel economy leader in its segment when it’s introduced in early 2010 . ”

Within the new engine plant will be GM Powertrain’s most flexible and competitive engine assembly lines in the world, with approximately 300 highly flexible stations that will allow assembly of multiple 4-cylinder engine families without retooling. The plant will be a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified facility, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. And the plant will be landfill free, meaning no waste from manufacturing operations will go to landfills, but will be recycled, reused or converted to energy, proving the plant will be as environmentally sound as the products it manufactures.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

What's So Hard to Understand About Hybrids?

GM, Honda, Nissan, Ford, etc... They are all trying to figure out what makes Toyota Prius the leader in hybrid technology.  The Toyota Prius didn't get the best fuel economy raing, it wasn't the prettiest hybrid on the road.  It simply wasn't the best in a lot of categories.  But the Prius outsells the others hybrids on the road all the time.

People talk all the time about how the Prius has it all over the other hybrids for several reasons.  First, it's high mpg rating.  It's a dedicated hybrid, so it can't be compared easily. It's obviously a hybrid, allowing people to 'show-off' their green credentials.  It was one of the first hybrids, so it has a decade of sales to show people how reliable it is.  It has lots of fun gadgets inside to show you how well you're driving and conserving fuel, making it fun to drive.

But the Insight had all that and more.  It had a higher mpg rating.  It was the other 'first' hybrid on the road.   It was a dedicated hybrid.  It was very reliable. It had the mpg gauges.  It had green cred.

And yet, thousands bought the Prius, while the Insight sales had to trickle along.  It's pretty simple, really.  The Prius could seat four, while the Insight could only seat two.  Except for a few, most people couldn't justify buying a car, no matter the fuel efficiency, that could only transport two at a time.

That's what makes me laugh so hard at the futuristic concepts you see all the time for cars.  They're almost always one seater commuter cars.  Who's going to buy that?  How can you take anyone else out to lunch at the office?  Meet and drive around clients?  Go out with your friends, family or whoever when you're not at work.  Who's going to spend that much money on a covered motorcycle?

And what about those other hybrids on the road.  Ford brought out the first hybrid SUV.  You would think it would do very well, considering how popular SUVs are.  The Escape Hybrid (and Mariner Hybrid) are the most fuel efficient SUVs on the road), but Ford has never gotten behind the hybrid project.  They never brought the price down, making it hard to justify the price tag, no matter what the fuel savings would be.  Besides which, people interested in high fuel economy probably aren't interested in buying an SUV (which is why GM, Chrysler, and BMW mystify me with their two-mode hybrid project).

The Camry, Altima, and Civic are all very popular cars.  You would think a hybrid version of these sedans would do very well, but again sales have been limited so far.  The Accord Hybrid, now retired, was a hybrid failure.  But why?  It's simple really.  The Prius was compared against all the others and the others were found wanting.  The people interested in hybrid technology weren't interested in power (see the Accord hybrid), but in fuel efficiency.

So, when all those people talk about how having a dedicated hybrid helps the Prius because people don't have anything else to compare it to, they're wrong.  Consumers look at all the other sedans out there and compare them all to the Prius.  And the Prius wins.  It's relatively cheap (not really cheap, but compared to the other sedans, it's not out of sight).  And the fuel economy, even after the EPA changed the rules, still produces a 'wow' when people look at it.

Which is why I've wondered for years why the other car companies haven't seen that.  It's a small sedan that is big enough to fit four or five people that gets great gas mileage.  Why didn't the other car companies do the same thing?

Well, it seems that GM and Honda are finally getting it.  The new Honda Insight is going to be almost exactly like the Prius, only slightly cheaper.  That will make it very popular.  The Chevy Volt is going to get phenomenal mileage (in most driving conditions) and won't have the range limits or the fear of running out of juice that an all electric car would have.  Too bad it's going to cost twice as much as the Prius and the new Insight.  That's going to limit it.  Once again, despite not having a gas-only counterpart to compare it to, consumers are going to look at the field and compare the Volt against the Prius and the Insight.  I'm guessing a lot of people are going to wonder if it's worth the extra $20K.

Now if only the other car companies would get it.  Build a sedan (four or five seater) that gets over 40 mpg and is fun to drive (see the Toyota dashboard giving all that feedback) and you'll get sales.  Hit 50 mpg and you'll outsell the Prius tomorrow.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

GM Gets Another Tax Break in Michigan for the Volt

GM has been trying to decide where the Chevy Volt should be built. It has plans to build in Flint, Michigan, but asked the town and state to provide some incentives to offset the cost of building the $838 million investment in manufacturing plants and facilities.

The Flint City Council already approved a tax break for GM, and now they're goint to get a little bit more. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) board granted their wish and is willing to set $130 million in tax credits to motivate GM to build in Michigan.

GM's investment will cover a new plant in Flint ($326 million). The rest will go to the assembly plant in Detroit-Hamtramck, the metal stamping facility in Pontiac, technical center in Warren and an engine components factory in Bay City.

The board estimates the projects will retain 14,380 jobs and generate $644.3 million in state government revenue. There is a caveat to the deal. GM would have to retain 2,000 qualified full time employees at the five sites. That shouldn't be a problem since they already have 21,000 employees there.

GM is calling for a press conference on Sep 25 in Flint.

Source: Autonews

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Toyota Cuts Prices on Prius Battery

Toyota announced they would be reducing the price on their Prius battery pack. The first-generation battery for the 2000-2003 Prius was cut down to $2,299, while the 2004-2008 Prius battery will now cost $2,588. Both batteries cost $2,985 prior to the reduction.

That's good news for anyone who gets beyond the warranty on the Prius. Although it's still not cheap (when are car repairs ever cheap...), a 10% reduction in price is still something to be excited about.

"We are very pleased with the performance durability of the NiMh battery powering the Prius," said Gary Smith, TMS corporate manager for Product Quality and Service Support. "However, there will be rare cases where owners will require a hybrid battery replacement beyond the mileage limits of the 10-year 150,000-mile warranty or 8-year/100,000-mile warranty in non-California compliant states. For the most part, these high-mileage customers have a positive ownership experience and want to keep their vehicle. We've stated from the beginning that battery replacement costs would continue to decline due to technology and volume related advancements, and we believe this will continue."

Toyota also continues to look into re-manufacturing Prius batteries in North America.

Panasonic EV Energy, Ltd (60 percent share owned by Toyota) and Matsushita Electric produce the Nickel Metal Hydride Battery Packs (NiMH) or all Toyota and Lexus hybrids. A second plant is being built in Toyota, with a planned production rate of 1 million NiMH batteries per year by 2010.

Additionally, later this year, they will begin assembly-line production of lithium-ion batteries for automotive applications. These first-generation batteries will be used in a limited-volume placement program for a new lithium-battery powered PHV that will be leased beginning in late 2009 to fleet customers in Japan, Europe and North America.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Nissan Announces Recall on 2009 Altima

Nissan is recalling 3,403 2009 Altimas built at their Canton, MS plant for a possible loose bolt on the tire.  It's unclear if this would affect any hybrid Altimas.

Any 2009 Altima equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels may be affected.  One or more the five lug nuts may come loose, leading to a loss of control and possible crash.  Anyone who thinks they may be affected should contact Nissan immediately, or go to safercar.gov for more information.

The Recall notice from safercar.gov is below.

Manufacturer : NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC. Mfr's Report Date : SEP 04, 2008
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number : 08V464000 NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: WHEELS
Potential Number Of Units Affected : 3403

Update: I fixed the note at the top to reflect the plant is in Mississippi (MS), not Michigan (MI)... Doh!

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

EPA Projects Increase in Fuel Economy

The EPA is reporting an increase in fuel economy for the fourth year in a row. The projected average mpg for 2008 will rise from 20.6 to 20.8 mpg.

But right now, that's just a projection based on numbers submitted by automakers based on their sales projections for the year. And as we all know, those projections were way off. So, expect the fuel economy numbers to be even higher than the current projection of 20.8, but the EPA won't be sure until the sales numbers are submitted at the end of the year.

Based on publicly available sales data, which are not part of the formal EPA database, it appears that higher gasoline prices have led to a 10 to 15 percent decrease in overall light-duty vehicle sales relative to automaker projections. Further, the sales data suggest that subcompact, compact, and midsize cars have been the only vehicle classes to have met or exceeded sales projections by automakers, while sales of midsize SUVs, large SUVs, and large pickup trucks are 15 to 25 percent lower than automaker projections. It also appears that 4-cylinder engines have gained market share from 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder engines. Accordingly, it is extremely likely that the projected fleetwide average MY2008 fuel economy value of 20.8 mpg is too low. EPA will provide a more accurate value for MY2008 in the 2009 report, based on formal end-of-year submissions to EPA by automakers.
The new fuel economy trends report is available at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fetrends.htm

According to the report, we are in the midst of a fourth trend seen since they started recording the average back in 1975.
Since 1975, overall new light-duty vehicle fuel economy has moved through four phases:
1. a rapid increase from 1975 through the early 1980s,
2. a slower increase until reaching its peak in 1987,
3. a gradual decline until 2004, and
4. an increase beginning in 2005.
The projected percentage in hybrid sales is 2.5%.  I wonder if that will be higher, given the general decrease in sales, while the sales of hybrids has remained fairly stable?

The good news for consumers interested in increasing fuel economy trends is this is only the beginning of the upwards trend.  Since the new CAFE rules are setting the mpg standard to over 31 mpg by 2015, we should see a huge uptick in the fuel economy graphs over the next few years.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

The Volt is a Series Hybrid.... Or Not?

This is extremely confusing to me. There's a report at Edmunds saying the Volt gas engine is not used to recharge the battery pack. That means the Volt is not a series hybrid.

In contrast to popular (and our) impression, once a driver uses up his 40 or so miles of electric power, the 1.4-liter gas engine generates electricity to power the electric drive motor, but does not recharge the batteries. After the 40 or so miles, the battery becomes 400 pounds of uselessness, at least until the owner can plug the car into the electrical grid for a recharge. This means that regardless of how far one drives the Volt, the driver will only ever get up to 40 miles of electric-only range.
That's completely shocking to me.  I've been talking about the Chevy Volt since the prototype was unveiled and it was always my impression the Volt was a series hybrid and the gas engine would not power the vehicle.  It would only recharge the battery pack.

How can the battery pack not get recharged?  Won't the Volt have regenerating breaks?  Why would it not go back into electric mode?
A release from the day of the production prototype's reveal reads, "a gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt's electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery." And by "sustaining" GM says that it means only that no additional power is drained from the batteries. Get it?
Oh, alright, I guess I understand now.  This quote mean the gas engine 'sustains' the battery pack, allowing it to continue to power the electric motor, which in turn lets the electric motor continue to move the sedan, the way we think it does.

I can understand that. The battery pack is best charged by plugging it in. By keeping the battery pack at a certain level, you help it last longer.

But I guess I never thought it would last 40 miles and that would be that.  I would have thought the battery could get charged up and switch back into electric mode.

Update: Take a look at the powerflow the Volt uses.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chrysler Surprises US With Not One, But Three EV

Chrysler has dropped a bombshell today, announcing they should have an electric or an Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) in production by 2010. (See the report from CNBC.)  Chrysler set up their ENVI (short for environment)  engineering department and has been secretly developing their plug-in hybrids (excuse me, E-REV) vehicles for some time.

BTW, that's the same time line as the Chevy Volt we've been hearing so much about.

Chrysler introduced the Dodge EV, an all electric two-seater sports car that can go 0-60 mph in less than five seconds, with quarter-mile times of 13 second. It only has a range of 150-200 miles.

They also introduced two E-REV, the Jeep Wrangler and a Town and Country minivan.  Both can go 40 miles (or so) on all electric power.  Both are labled with the EV label, but have a small gas motor which is used to recharge the battery pack.  That helps extend their range to 400 miles.  It also means you won't end up running out of electricity somewhere, since you can always refill the gas tank.

All three cars are meant to be plugged in (4 hours to charge on a 220, 8 hours on a 110) to be recharged (see more about their specs at the bottom of the press release below).  They have lithium-ion battery packs (Li-Ion) with over 20 kWh.  For comparison, the current version of the Prius has a little over 1 kWh on its battery pack, while the Volt is supposed to have 16 kWh.

This is a big deal because GM has been working on and talking about their Chevy Volt for over a year.  GM has brought us along at each point in the production of their E-REV sedan and has really widened eyes with the potential behind these vehicles.  A cross between an electric and a gas car that truly gets the best of both worlds.  With a 40 mile electric range, most traveling could eliminate the use of gasoline.  But, if you needed to go farther, you still can.  You don't have to worry if you go on a long trip whether the hotel you're staying at will let you plug in overnight.  You can just refuel using gas and go.

At the same time, many people may not be able to plug in their vehicles at all (think apartment dwellers, people who park in garages, etc...).  So, it may never be possible to switch over everyone to an all electric, or even a partial electric, transportation system.

The strange part about this announcement (other than why didn't they bring these cars to an auto show, why do it through a news report?) is this.  All three vehicles have been pronounced able to go into production.  But they haven't decided which of them will.  In fact, all we know is one of the three will supposedly be in production by 2010.  Which one? 

Also, although the Volt is going to be a sedan, these three vehicles are in three different categories (sports, Jeep, and minivan).  So, are any of these really a threat to steal the show from GM?  I doubt it.  Although, if they choose the minivan, it may be the first hybrid minivan to hit production scene, making it a unique choice.  That may capture the attention of buyers.

But then, it also may come down to price.  Unless Chrysler gives us a real indicator of how much they are going to cost (and you can see how well they avoid the question in their announcement with CNBC), it's really hard to guage how well their new EV line-up will play.

As an aside, Chrysler is also bringing an all electric Peapod to production with GEM.  This is a small car (golfcart?) for gated communities and such.

Press Release Follows:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Actions speak louder than

    -- One targeted to be produced in 2010 for consumers in North American
       markets, and European markets after 2010
    -- Chrysler LLC to have approximately one hundred electric vehicles on the
       road in government, business, utility and development fleets in 2009
    -- Chrysler electric-drive technology to be applied to front-wheel-drive,
       rear-wheel-drive, and body-on-frame four-wheel-drive platforms
    -- Dodge EV:  All-electric Performance Sports Car
    -- Jeep(R) EV:  Wrangler Range-extended Electric Vehicle to allow
       customers to roam the planet and take care of it at the same time
    -- Chrysler EV:  Town & Country Range-extended Electric Vehicle
    -- Chrysler and General Electric pursue joint project with U.S. Department
       of Energy

    Chrysler LLC announced today that the Company and its ENVI organization
have new production-intent, advanced electric-drive technology packaged in
three different vehicles -- one for each of its brands, Chrysler, Jeep(R)
and Dodge.

    Chrysler will select one electric-drive model to be produced in 2010
for consumers in North American markets, and European markets after 2010.
Additionally, approximately one hundred Chrysler electric vehicles will be
on the road in government, business, utility and Chrysler development
fleets in 2009.

    The Company said that it is well into the development of advanced,
production-intent electric vehicles, and that it will apply electric-drive
technology to its front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and body-on-frame
four-wheel-drive platforms in the next several years.

    At its World Headquarters here today, Chrysler revealed its
electric-drive prototypes -- Dodge EV, Jeep EV and Chrysler EV -- and
demonstrated the driving performance and capability of each.

    "We have a social responsibility to our consumers to deliver
environmentally friendly, fuel efficient, advanced electric vehicles, and
our intention is to meet that responsibility quickly and more broadly than
any other automobile manufacturer," said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and CEO --
Chrysler LLC. "The introduction of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge electric
vehicles provides a glimpse of the very near future, and demonstrates that
we are serious and well along in the development of bringing electric
vehicles to market."

    ENVI Organization

    The development of Chrysler's Electric Vehicles and Range-extended
Electric Vehicles is led by ENVI -- representing the first four letters of
"environmental" -- the Company's in-house organization that was formed to
focus on electric-drive production vehicles and related advanced
technologies. The development of electric-drive systems for future
Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles is maturing quickly.

    "ENVI was created just over one year ago with the strategic intent to
develop electric-drive vehicles quickly for Chrysler, and it is surpassing
expectations," said Tom LaSorda -- Vice Chairman and President. "With ENVI,
Chrysler is developing technology to bring Electric Vehicles and extremely
fuel-efficient Range-extended Electric Vehicles to market."

    Electric Vehicle Technology

    Chrysler's Electric Vehicles utilize just three primary components.
These include an electric motor to drive the wheels, an advanced
lithium-ion battery system to power the electric-drive motor, and a
controller that manages energy flow. The electric-drive system is being
developed for front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, and body-on-frame
four-wheel-drive vehicle applications.

    "This technology provides customers with a vehicle that has zero
tailpipe emissions and a 150 to 200 mile driving range -- far exceeding
most Americans' daily commutes, as nearly 80 percent of Americans drive
less than 40 miles per day, or 14,000 miles per year," said Frank Klegon,
Executive Vice President -- Product Development. "Electric Vehicles provide
the opportunity to fulfill social responsibility, reduce dependency on
foreign oil, and eliminate monthly gasoline bills, while delivering
performance and utility that our customers desire."

    Range-extended Electric Vehicle Technology

    The Range-extended Electric Vehicle combines the electric-drive
components of the Electric Vehicle with a small gasoline engine and
integrated electric generator to produce additional energy to power the
electric-drive system when needed. This provides the positive attributes of
an Electric Vehicle with the driving range equivalent to today's
gasoline-powered vehicles -- with no compromises in performance.

    Range-extended Electric Vehicles offer environmental responsibility
without giving up driving range, comfort or utility.

    Dodge EV

    The Dodge EV development Electric Vehicle is a two-passenger
rear-wheel-drive sports car that marries high performance with zero
tailpipe emissions.

    "The Dodge EV sets a new standard for what can be expected in
electric-drive vehicles," said Lou Rhodes, Vice President -- Advance
Vehicle Engineering, and President -- ENVI. "The electric-vehicle
technology enables a fun-to-drive performance sports car and helps redefine
the vision of an environmentally responsible vehicle for the Dodge brand."

    The electric-drive system consists of three primary components: a 200
kW (268 horsepower) electric motor, an advanced lithium-ion battery and an
integrated power controller.

    The 200 kW electric-drive motor generates 650 N*m (480 lb.-ft.) of
torque. The instant high torque of the electric-drive motor delivers
outstanding performance, accelerating the Dodge EV to 60 mph in less than
five seconds, with quarter-mile times of 13 seconds. The Dodge EV has a top
speed of more than 120 mph.

    Working with the latest advanced lithium-ion battery technology, the
Dodge EV has a continuous driving range of 150 to 200 miles, based on
advancement of new battery technology -- more than triple the average daily
commute of most consumers. Recharging the vehicle is a simple one-step
process: plugging into a standard 110-volt household outlet for eight
hours. The recharge time can be cut in half to four hours by using a
typical 220-volt household appliance power outlet.

    The Dodge EV offers driving enthusiasts a performance sports car that
can be driven to work every day -- without consuming gasoline or producing
tailpipe emissions.

    Jeep EV

    The Jeep EV development vehicle is a Range-extended Electric Vehicle
that provides a glimpse into the future of a "Go Anywhere, Do Anything"
vehicle with renowned Jeep Wrangler capability.

    The Jeep EV combines Wrangler's unmatched off-road capability with the
ultimate "Tread Lightly" mindset by providing nature ambassadors with the
ability to roam the planet and take care of it at the same time.

    The Jeep EV Range-extended Electric Vehicle uses an electric motor, an
advanced lithium-ion battery system, and a small gasoline engine with an
integrated electric generator to produce additional energy to power the
electric-drive system when needed. The 200 kW (268 horsepower) electric
motor generates 400 N*m (295 lb.-ft.) of torque. With approximately eight
gallons of gasoline, the Jeep EV has a range of 400 miles, including 40
miles of zero fuel-consumption, zero-emissions, all-electric operation.

    "We are also exploring four-wheel-drive, in-wheel electric motors to
demonstrate the full reach of ENVI's advanced electric-drive technologies,"
said Rhodes.

    The instant high torque of the electric-drive motor and the ability to
precisely control each wheel independently results in off-road capability
ideally suited for the Jeep brand, without compromising on-road driving

    Chrysler EV

    The Chrysler EV development vehicle is a Range-extended Electric
Vehicle that demonstrates another possible application of ENVI
electric-drive technology in the segment-leading Chrysler Town & Country

    "With the Chrysler EV, we are able to blend seven-passenger capability
and the luxury of the Chrysler Town & Country minivan with electric-drive
technology, demonstrating family practicality with zero compromise," said
Rhodes. "ENVI's electric-drive development vehicles showcase our
accelerated application of electric-drive systems into a wide range of
vehicles in Chrysler's future product portfolio."

    The Chrysler EV combines the electric-drive components of an Electric
Vehicle with an integrated small-displacement engine and generator to
produce additional electricity to power the electric-drive system when
needed. This provides all of the positive attributes of an Electric Vehicle
and extends the driving range to be equivalent to today's gasoline-powered
vehicles -- without compromises.

    The Chrysler EV uses a 190 kW (255 horsepower) motor, producing 350 N*m
(258 lb.-ft.) of torque, providing 0 to 60 mph acceleration in
approximately nine seconds. The Chrysler EV Range-extended Electric Vehicle
can drive 40 miles on all-electric power, and boasts a range of 400 miles
on approximately eight gallons of gasoline. This makes the Chrysler EV the
perfect fuel-efficient family vehicle.

    The knowledge and experience gained from the Chrysler EV will be
applied to other front-wheel-drive applications in Chrysler's portfolio.

    Chrysler LLC Electric-vehicle Consumer Web Site

    Chrysler LLC has launched a web site -- http://www.Chryslergoeselectric.com --
to allow consumers to view the latest updates on Electric Vehicles and
Range-extended Electric Vehicles from the Company. Content will include
videos, photography and news, and visitors can sign up for updates. In
addition, the site features a blog where consumers can interact directly
with the Company.

    Department of Energy Cooperative Agreement

    Chrysler and General Electric are jointly pursuing a project with the
United States Department of Energy to explore advanced energy-storage

    "Chrysler's partnership with General Electric combines the
electric-drive technology demonstrated in the Chrysler Electric Vehicles,
with GE's research and development of advanced energy storage systems,"
said Klegon. "Our collective goal working with the DOE is to develop a new,
integrated energy-storage system to make electric vehicle battery packs
smaller and significantly less expensive than current designs."

    Chrysler and GE will develop and evaluate dual-battery solutions based
on GE's unique technology.

    "One of the challenges with electric vehicles is finding a battery with
the correct balance between power -- for example, during vehicle
acceleration -- and energy for long driving range," said Klegon. "We
believe that combining two unique battery chemistries -- one biased toward
power and the other toward energy -- into a single battery pack is very
promising for a future Chrysler Electric Vehicle."

                                   DODGE EV
                          PRELIMINARY SPECIFICATIONS

    Vehicle Type
    Body style:            Two-passenger, performance sports car
    Drivetrain:            Electric propulsion, rear-wheel drive
    Category:              Electric Vehicle

    Electric-drive System
    Power:                 200 kW (268 hp)
    Torque:                650 N*m (480 lb.-ft.)
    Energy Recovery:       Regenerative braking

    Battery System
    Type:                  Lithium-ion
    Energy:                26 kWh
    Peak power:            200 kW
    Voltage:               380 to 420
    Charging:              Onboard charger - dual voltage
                           110/120-volt outlet (15A) - standard household
                            power outlet
                           220/240-volt outlet: (30A) - household appliance
                            power outlet

    0-60 mph:              Less than 5.0 seconds
    1/4-mile Acceleration: 13.0 seconds
    Top speed:             More than 120 mph
    Range (city):          150 to 200 miles

                                   JEEP EV
                          PRELIMINARY SPECIFICATIONS

    Vehicle Type
    Body style:            Five-passenger SUV
    Drivetrain:            Electric propulsion, two-wheel drive and four-wheel
    Category:              Range-extended Electric Vehicle

    Electric-drive System
    Power:                 200 kW (268 hp)
    Torque:                400 N*m (295 lb.-ft.)
    Energy Recovery:       Regenerative braking

    Battery System
    Type:                  Lithium-ion
    Energy:                27 kWh
    Peak power:            200 kW
    Voltage:               370 to 410
    Charging:              Onboard charger - dual voltage
                           110/120-volt outlet (15A) - standard household
                            power outlet
                           220/240-volt outlet: (30A) - household appliance
                            power outlet

    0-60 mph:              9.0 seconds
    1/4-mile Acceleration: 16.5 seconds
    Top speed:             More than 90 mph
    Range (city):          400 miles, with more than 40 miles all-electric

                                 CHRYSLER EV
                          PRELIMINARY SPECIFICATIONS

    Vehicle Type
    Body style:            Seven-passenger minivan
    Drivetrain:            Electric propulsion, front-wheel drive
    Category:              Range-extended Electric Vehicle

    Electric-drive System
    Power:                 190 kW (255 hp)
    Torque:                350 N*m (258 lb.-ft.)
    Energy Recovery:       Regenerative braking

    Battery System
    Type:                  Lithium-ion
    Energy:                22 kWh
    Peak power:            200 kW
    Voltage:               370 to 410
    Charging:              Onboard charger - dual voltage
                           110/120-volt outlet (15A) - standard household
                            power outlet
                           220/240-volt outlet: (30A) - household appliance
                            power outlet

    0-60 mph:              8.7 seconds
    1/4-mile Acceleration: 16.2 seconds
    Top speed:             More than 100 mph
    Range (city):         400 miles, with more than 40 miles all-electric

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Honolulu Deploys Hybrid Cop Cars

Police are really starting to feel the crunch when it comes to budgeting for fuel (link goes to story in Athens, Ohio and how they are dealing with the gas prices). Other police departments are ordering hybrid cars in an effort to cut down on fuel costs. Not everyone feels hybrid cars can make it as police cars, but the other choices aren't great.

In a six month pilot project, six Toyota Camry Hybrids are taking the streets as patrol cars in Honolulu. The intent is to test out the concept and see whether the extra cost for the hybrid can be made up in fuel savings. (Source: HPD Gets Hybrid Patrol Cars | KHON2.com)

At $28,000 each, the hybrid patrol cars cost about $1,500 more than the police cars normally cost. But they don't have cages installed. That will limit their use to patrols and to tagging drivers for traffic violations.

The test vehicles were purchased using federal money.

The cops expect to save tremendously on fuel. The Crown Vics they currently use get 10-15 mpg, while they expect the hybrids to get 30+ mpg.

An important consideration since the police dept use 133-thousand gallons of gas each month.

Photo from flickr by geognerd.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Monday, September 22, 2008

MINI Goes Electric

Car Magazine got a few pictures of an electric Mini driving by. The car had a stamp with 'hybrid' on it, but there is no tailpipe, which means (unless there is a tailpipe somewhere else) that it really is an electric MINI being tested.

Good news for those who want an electric car, certainly. But I wonder what the range would be like unless you have a really big battery (the Volt's battery, which will give you 40 miles on all electric power, is about 6 feet long). If you stick a really big battery into a MINI, where are you going to put the passengers?

Anyways, Jalopnik pointed the article out, but are reporting it as a hybrid because of the sticker. Am I missing something?

Car Magazine believes the electric MINI will be unveiled at the 2008 LA motor show in November.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

VW Jetta TDI Qualifies for Federal Tax Credit

When the Jetta TDI complied with the 50-state diesel standard, it also set itself up to qualify for a federal tax credit. And the EPA has come through, announcing those who buy the Jetta TDI may qualify for the $1,300 federal income tax credit.

Both the TDI sedan and SportWagen have qualified.

The tax credit for qualify diesels comes from the Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle income tax credit.

"The $1,300 tax credit provides an even greater value to the upcoming Jetta TDI sedan and SportWagen," said Mark Barnes, COO, Volkswagen of America, Inc. "Our clean diesel vehicles offer consumers the fuel efficiency that they're looking for while providing power, utility, performance, safety and excellent value."

Although the TDI qualifed for a 28 mpg city and 40 mpg highway rating at the EPA, VW wasn't satisfied with those numbers. They hired a third party to test their car and came up with a 38 city / 44 highway in 'real world' driving conditions.

Either way, those numbers are pretty good.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tax Credit for Plug-In Hybrids, the Early Version

On Tuesday, the House passed a bill (the Off-Shore Drilling Bill) that includes a provision to provide tax breaks for plug-in hybrids vehicles. From the reports I've seen, the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate this year. There is little reason to believe the Senate would look askance at a tax break for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, but it probably won't pass for other reasons.

If it were to pass, the tax credit is based on the kilowatt hour of the battery pack. There is a base credit of $3,000 and for every kilowatt hour over 5, it will go up $200 to a maximum of $5,000. Since the Volt is supposed to have a 16 kWh battery pack, that means it would qualify for the full $5,000.  The tax credits could reach as much as $7500 for light-duty vehicles.

Like the current federal tax credit for hybrid cars, there is a phase out involved. After the first 60,000 are sold by an automaker, the credit would be halved for the next two quarters and then halved again for the next two quarters. After that it would end.

The Tesla Roadster would qualify for the tax credit, while the current Toyota Prius would not (the Prius has a smaller battery pack).

It's unclear to me why they picked a base of 5 kWh for battery packs. But I can think of at least one possibility.  Today's hybrids already have a tax credit.  Imagine if they passed a new tax credit that would apply to them.  Suddenly Toyota and Honda hybrids would be eligible again.

But then, what happens if Toyota comes out with a plug-in Prius that has a 4.5 kWh battery pack? Would that be fair to those who prefer the Prius? While it may seem unlikely that any plug-in hybrid car would come in that low, perhaps the manufacturer wants a car that can travel 10 miles on all electric power before switching to the gas engine. That would require a much smaller battery than needed in the Volt.

But, an all electric car would need a larger battery pack (the Roadster battery pack is rated over 50kWh, for instance), otherwise it wouldn't have the range to compete with gas vehicles.  So, perhaps tying the credit to the size of the battery pack isn't necessarily a bad thing since it will encourage electric vehicles.  Although, when it comes to plug-ins, it almost seems like Congress wants to encourage manufacturers to use bigger batteries, even if they aren't necessary.

Read more on the tax credit for plug-in hybrids at Detroit News, US News, WSJ, Autobloggreen, and KickingTires.

In other tax break news, several Mercedes-Benz models have been deemed eligible for tax credits.  The ML 320 BlueTEC, R 320 BlueTEC and GL 320 BlueTEC have all been certified by the IRS to meet the 50-state strict emission requirements.  Those who buy a ML 320 BlueTEC may get a $900 federal tax credit, while the R320 can get $1,550 and the GL 320 BlueTEC makes you eligible for up to $1,800 in tax credit.  You may or may not qualify for the federal tax credit.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Toyota Not Worried About Competition From Honda

With the new Honda Insight coming out, you might think Toyota should be worried about the competition. After all, the new Insight will cost less and yet all you have to do is look at the pictures to the right (can you tell me which is which without really looking at it?) and you can see you'll be getting a very similar car to the Prius. It's unknown what the fuel economy numbers are going to be, but I would bet they will be similar.

In which case, Toyota should be worried, right? The new Insight costs less and it's very similar to the Prius.  So, which would you choose?

But Toyota isn't worried at all.

"There's plenty of room for both of us to sell probably whatever we can produce," Jim Lentz, president of Toyota's U.S. sales unit, said in an interview in Detroit yesterday.

And he's right.

At least, for now.

There's no doubt the demand for the Prius is well over what Toyota can produce. With $4 gasoline this year, which Toyota hadn't expected, the demand for hybrids, especially the Prius has skyrocketed.  But the number of Prius produced this year will end up being very similar to what was built last year.

Lentz said there's intention to purchase over 600,000. That's well over what they can build this year or even next year. But I'm sure they plan on building more over the next few years. And if Honda can produce just as many Insights as Toyota can build Prius, the demand is about to be met, probably sooner than you might expect.

Especially if you consider all the plug-in hybrids expected in 2010.  You may expect a lot of the people looking for hybrids today are going to want plug-ins in 2010-2011.

Which means, Toyota shouldn't be worried about the Prius today or even tomorrow. But there's finally going to be some real competition and Toyota should be making plans for that now.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Lithium-Ion is the Way to Go

Lithium-Ion batteries should dominate the hybrid electric car marketplace for the next 10 to 15 years according to CEO Prabhakar Patil of LG Chem Ltd unit Compact Power.

Of course, they're a little biased, since they are going to supply lithium-ion batteries to Chevy for the Volt. They hope to deal with other automakers.

Source: Li-ion seen dominating hybrid market for 15-20 years | Technology | Reuters

Oh, the bottom line? Compact Power expects $1 billion in sales over the next 10 years.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tesla Model S Will be Built in the US

Tesla Motors has decided their next big project, the Model S all electric luxury sedan, will be built in San Jose, CA. The plant will employ approximately 1,000 workers, and will cover 89 acres.

Construction of the plant begins in 2009, and the first unit to be produced will happen in 2010.

If you're interested in the Model S, it's projected to cost $60,000. Tesla says you will be able to travel 240 miles per charge and if it's anything like the Tesla Roadster (see image), this will be a powerful vehicle.

Tesla currently produces the Roadster in the UK and is still only producing a handful at a time.

Press Release follows:

SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Tesla Motors Inc. plans to build a $250 million facility to manufacture a zero-emission luxury sedan in the heart of Silicon Valley. The nation’s leading all-electric car company will also relocate its corporate headquarters and research and development efforts to a consolidated campus in San Jose, Calif.

Tesla President and CEO Ze'ev Drori announced Wednesday that construction on the 89-acre site would begin in the summer of 2009. When fully operational, the facility will employ approximately 1,000 workers.

Tesla selected San Jose in part because the region already enjoys a high concentration of highly skilled engineers and support infrastructure. The factory – expected to achieve gold certification from U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – will be 20 miles from the current headquarters in San Carlos, minimizing inconvenience for more than 250 employees.

“Big deals like this happen when both parties have something significant to gain,” said Drori, who praised San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s 15-year “Green Vision” job-creation initiative. “Locating Tesla’s headquarters, manufacturing and R&D in San Jose will allow us to proceed with minimum disruptions and virtually no dislocations.”

Model S is Tesla’s zero-emission, five-passenger luxury sedan powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. It is expected to have a base price of about $60,000 and get about 240 miles per charge with exceptional performance. The first sedans will likely roll off the assembly line in late 2010.

Tesla’s first production vehicle is the Roadster, a zero-emission, all-electric, two-seat sports car. On sale now in the United States and Europe, the Roadster is assembled at a Group Lotus PLC factory in Hethel, U.K. Tesla has no plans to move Roadster production.

Tesla, which has delivered about 30 Roadsters so far, announced last week it was ramping up production amid scorching demand. About 1,200 people have put down deposits to reserve a Roadster.

Tesla also announced recently a string of high-profile hires with deep industry expertise. Executive Vice President Mike Donoughe, who spent 24 years at Chrysler, is overseeing Tesla’s Model S and Roadster programs. Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja was formerly controller at Ford. Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen, former director of design for Mazda North America, is designing the Model S.

“Tesla has amazing momentum right now. The excitement within the company is palpable,” said Tesla Product Architect and Chairman Elon Musk. “The company has clearly taken production of all-electric vehicles to the next level, and the Model S assembly plant will dramatically accelerate our growth.”

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Burbank Taxi Drivers Love the Hybrids

New York Cabbies should take a look at what their counterparts in Burbank have to say about hybrid taxis before they continue their fight against the hybrid change-over.

Despite an initial reluctance on the part of the cabbies to make the change, now they love them. It's all about the cost of gas, too.

"Most of my passengers really like it. Some think it's small, but I'd say 97% of them like this car," said cab driver Káren Malkhasyan.

"It's comfortable. It's roomy, even for me."

And when talking about his Prius, which now has 250,000 miles on it, "No major problems with it. I get around 40 miles per gallon. I think new ones get even more," he said.

At $26,000 to $32,000 to purchase a hybrid taxi, I can understand their reluctance. But when it only takes 14 months to pay off the difference, I'm less sympathetic to the taxi cab owners (not the drivers). When you consider the $6,500 a refurbished Crown Vic costs, the reluctance makes a lot of sense.

The LA Times article (see link above) points out the same concerns about partitions that the NY cabbies have.

One complicating factor is the Los Angeles requirement that cabs have safety partitions to protect drivers. Before the thick plastic shields were mandated in 1993, taxi drivers were being murdered at a rate of one every 18 months. Since then, only two cabbies have been killed by robbers in their car, Drischler said.

"It's hard to put a safety shield in a Prius," but surveillance cameras might be an option, he said.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GM Unveils the Chevy Volt

As part of the 100 year anniversary, GM has officially unveiled the plug-in Chevy Volt today.  The celebration, videos of the unveiling, online chats, etc... are being held online at GMNext.com.

While this is the official unveiling, photos of the Volt were inadvertently leaked last week, and spread quickly on the web.  While many have been disappointed by the new look, others have jumped behind the new streamlined approach.  If you're going to build a car that emphasizes fuel efficiency the way hybrids, especially plug-ins, are supposed to, then you should definitely go for it.

After all, the reason why most people are interested in the Prius is for its fuel efficiency.  Anything else, such as the image it projects and the 'coolness' of the tech, are just added bonuses.

The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid. On a full charge, you should be able to travel 40 miles without the gas engine turning on at all. After 40 miles or so, the small ICE will turn on, but to recharge the batteries. Since the Volt is a series hybrid, only one of the two motors can move the car.  GM decided it was better to use the electric engine, solely, to create movement.  That way, they reasoned, if they can get it to travel on 40 miles on all electric power, most commuters would never have to buy gas.

A parallel hybrid, like the Prius, can be powered by either the gas engine or the electric motor.  But that means you are constantly moving from one power source to the other.  GM is betting consumers, if they can do so, want to move away from using gas.  You can't do that with the Prius.

How Much Will it Cost to Re-Fuel the Chevy Volt?
In order to recharge the battery pack, you can plug in the car into an ordinary home electrical outlet.  The ports for the plug are located just ahead of each of the side mirrors.  GM estimates it will cost less than 2 cents per mile to drive on electric power.  They estimate a normal car costs about 12 cents per mile to travel on gasoline alone.  (See the controversy on how to rate the mpg of the Volt at the EPA).

If you don't believe GM, Google just released the costs associated with fueling their small test fleet of hybrids (including a couple of plug-ins).  Their Toyota Prius plug-in (probably the most comparable vehicle to the Volt) has electric costs of $2.07 to travel 100 miles.  The total costs, including gasoline, is $6.90 per 100 miles.  I would guess the Volt would be similar if you routinely traveled over that 40 mile mark and had to use the gas engine.  To compare, the Toyota Corolla costs $14.68 per 100 miles.

And just to make the point, the founder of Tesla estimates it costs him 2-3 cents per mile to drive around in his Tesla Roadster.  That's an all electric, powerful, sports car.  But, if you go ahead and read the whole post, you'll see your costs can vary widely even in a small region of California.  Although, the range goes from 2-6 cents, so maybe it's not really all that much variation.

Design Makes Room for the Battery, Stays Low-Tech
Because of the large battery pack, the Volt can only fit 4 people. The center position in the back is filled. The battery pack sits where the 'transmission tunnel' in a conventional rear-wheel-drive car would be. Which means you have more room in the trunk for cargo. The front seat has the 'twin-cockpit' look derived from the Corvette.

The front end has been rounded off, while the back has a 'sharp, angular shape, complete with a wing incorporated into the trailing edge of the roof. The sharp angles help smooth the air flow as it trails off the vehicle.

Other techno-gadgets include:
  • Driver-configurable, liquid crystal instrument display 
  • Standard seven-inch touch screen vehicle information display 
  • Touch screen-style climate and infotainment controls 
  • Optional navigation system with onboard hard drive for maps and music storage 
  • Standard Bluetooth for cellular phone and USB/Bluetooth for music streaming

To understand why people are disappointed with the look of the new car, you can see the prototype (left) of which Lutz once said, they would have done better putting it in the wind tunnel backwards and on the right side you can see the production model.  The production vehicle is more rounded and certainly better when it comes to aerodynamics.  But the sharp edges on the production vehicle front end were very exciting.  But I prefer the production car.  But then, I never thought the Prius was ugly, either.

Chevy Volt concept image from flickr by RobertHeese.  Production vehicle image from the leaked images GM provided.

The Chevy Volt is a five door front-wheel drive sedan that seats four..  It is classified as an Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV).  The chassis has indepindependent McPherson struts front, compound crank twist axle rear, four-wheel disc brakes, full regenerative brakes to maximize energy capture, and electric power-assist steering.

The tires are specially developed low rolling-resistance tires on 17-inch forged aluminum wheels.

The Volt has a top speed of 100 mph and has an EV range of 40 miles (based on EPA city cycle).
  • Wheelbase (in / mm): 105.7 / 2685
  • Length (in / mm): 177 / 4404 
  • Width (in / mm): 70.8 / 1798 
  • Height (in / mm): 56.3 / 1430 
  • Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 10.6 / 301 
  • Length (in / mm): 177 / 4404
  • Width (in / mm): 70.8 / 1798
  • Height (in / mm): 56.3 / 1430
  • Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 10.6 / 301
The battery pack is lithium-ion (Li-Ion) with 16 kWh.  The electric drive unit can produce 111 kW / 150hp and torque of 273 lb-ft / 370 Nm.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Mercedes to Offer Hybrid S-Class in 2009

Mercedes hybrid S-ClassAs previously noted, the Mercedes S-Class hybrid will be in Europe by June, 2009. By September, 2009, it will be offered in the U.S. The mild hybrid will increase the fuel efficiency of the luxury sedan over 29 mpg, according to the engineers.

The S-Class can also produce 299 hp and go from 0-60 in 7.3 seconds. While not a full hybrid, the new hybrid from Mercedes will have a lithium-ion battery pack, rather than the nickel metal hydride battery packs currently seen in hybrid cars. That's a big improvement, since the lithium-ion battery pack is more powerful as well while being half the size.

The mild hybrid engine is being built in Germany, while the battery pack is being built in France by Johnson Controls and Saft Advanced Power Solutions. The plant making the battery packs is being set to build 5,000 packs a year, so don't expect the S-Class Hybrid to have huge sales numbers. Of course, you could probably figure that out based on the $100K pricetag.

Unlike most of their competitors, Mercedes expects to make a profit on their hybrid cars right away.  Why?  Because they can place a $14,000 premium on their hybrid cars and the buyers aren't even going to blink.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport says Mercedes will introduce a new hybrid each year beginning with the S 400, and it says one of every five cars it sells will be a hybrid by 2015. (via Wired)

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nissan Makes Their Diodes 20 Percent Lighter

Nissan says they have developed a way to cut the size and weight of their electrical inverters by 20 percent. Which is extremely important to hybrid car (and electrical car) makers. Any time you cut back on size and weight, you improve the fuel economy of a car, and that's very important to the hybrid car consumers.

Inverters are an electrical or electro-mechanical device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). They are used to convert the battery power to AC power for the electric motor.

The Nissan inverter has a new diode that is 15 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter. Diodes have two active electrodes between which the signal of interest may flow, and most are used for their unidirectional electric current property. They are used to regulate the current between the battery and the electric motor.

Nissan has big plans concerning hybrids and electric cars over the next few years.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chevy Volt Looks Are Dissapointing to Some

It seems the pictures of the Chevy Volt aren't exactly inspiring to some.

Volt hype undone by its design

Photos of the much anticipated Chevrolet Volt hit the Internet Monday after they were "accidentally" posted on GM's media Web site -- and an external site. But the debate that's waged since, between those who think it's not true enough to the concept car unveiled at the Detroit auto show last year and those who don't care what it looks like as long as it's green enough to satisfy the Goracle, is about as uninspiring as conversation about a sedan.
Like the Prius and the new Insight, there are only so many ways to create an aerodynamic body. If they all end up resembling each other, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The Prius may have the advantage of 10 years of dominating the hybrid car scene, but the new Honda Insight is going to pull in people who 1) like Honda and 2) want the lower price.   If the new Insight gets a mpg rating anywhere near the Prius rating, Toyota had better beware.

Toyota may fight back by dropping the price on the Prius, which would be great from a buyers perspective. The Volt, at twice the cost, is going to have an uphill battle from that perspective.

What's going to make the difference for the Volt is it's engine. Being able to travel 40 miles on electric power alone will be a powerful draw for some.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

GM Will Bring E-REV to Europe in Three Years

GM will bring extended range electric vehicles (E-REV) to Europe in about three years according to a Reuters report: GM says plans hybrid cars for Europe in three years.

GM Europe Chief Car-Peter Forster was quoted at an auto conference in Berlin, "We are investing an enormous amount. We will launch these cars in Europe, both as Opel and as Chevrolet, in around three years."

GM believes that cars like the Volt (the only E-REV in development now) would be more popular than all electric cars because they can go farther.

The Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and will be capable of traveling 40 miles on a full charge.  After the charge has been depleted, a small gas motor will kick in to recharge the battery pack.  Only the electric motor will be used to move the vehicle. Once a plug is handy, you can recharge the battery pack using an outlet.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Toyota Road Tests Plug-in Hybrid in the UK

Toyota has begun road testing a plug-in hybrid Prius in the UK. This is the fifth country Toyota has chosen to test their plug-in hybrid technology. They have also begun testing in Japan, US, France, and Belgium.

Toyota and EDF Energy, the British subsidiary of the French energy company EDF, held a joint press conference on September 10th to kick off the testing. UK Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform John Hutton, other members of the UK Parliament, London municipal government officials and the Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Shin Ebihara were there to participate in the press conference.

At the press conference, TMC's Saga, who is in charge of hybrid system development, said, "We are very excited to expand our PHV road testing program to the UK in collaboration with EDF Energy. Today's announcement represents a step-change towards acceptance of electricity in combination with hybrid technology as a viable and sustainable transport solution."

The road tests, which should last more than one year, are used to evaluate the infrastructure, vehicle performance, and ease of use. Participant drivers will be surveyed as part of the evaluation process.

While the current tests involve use of vehicles equipped with nickel-metal hydride batteries, TMC is also accelerating development of plug-in hybrid vehicles equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Sales of the latter to fleet customers in Japan, the United States and Europe are planned to begin - ahead of the original schedule - by the end of 2009.

But note that it will be fleet customers who will get their hands on the new plug-ins first. Unlike the Chevy Volt, which GM plans on mass producing almost immediately.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Washington Waives Sales Tax for Hybrid Cars

Washington state is implementing a sales tax exemption on hybrid cars and new clean alternative fuel vehicles. The exemption, enacted back in 2005, begins on January 1, 2009 and expires December 31, 2010.

In order to qualify, the car has to get 40 mpg or better. There are very few cars that are that fuel efficient on the road. Or you can buy any vehicle including passenger cars, light duty trucks and medium duty passenger vehicles that are powered by clean alternative fuels such as natural gas, propane, hydrogen or electricity.

If you purchase the vehicle before Jan. 1, make sure the vehicle is registered, titled, and delivered after the 1st so that you can qualify. Out of state purchases as well as leases qualify.

More detail can be found in the notice: http://dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/specialnotices/2008/sn_08_greenvehicleexmpt.pdf.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Next Generation Prius Will Cut Costs in Half

Toyota has some big plans for their hybrids in the coming years.  With plans in hand to build batteries for their next generation Prius in North America, Toyota hopes to cut cost by another 50%, leaving them with a profit margin similar to what they make on the Corolla.

"We reduced costs of hybrid systems for the current Prius by 50 percent from the first generation," Vice Chairman Kazuo Okamoto said on Friday at a presentation to financial analysts and reporters in New York.
"For the next-generation Prius, we will be able to cut costs by another half, so I think we've been able to ensure profitability will be similar to regular vehicles, such as the Corolla," Okamoto said.

Toyota wants to build batteries here because they plan on building the Prius in Mississippi by 2010.  Building the parts (like the expensive battery packs) overseas and then shipping them over to a plant here would likely be expensive, which would ruin the whole point of building the Prius here in the first place.

Okamoto said that Toyota's plug-in Prius prototypes have shown an initial all-electric cruising range of 13 kilometers (8 miles). To improve that range requires larger batteries but that means less cargo space and higher prices, he said.

"What's the best combination between space usage, cruising range and the price involved? Finding out that optimal point is key," Okamoto said.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Lexus Announces Price Changes on 2009 Hybrid Cars

Lexus LS 600h Pebble Edition 2009Lexus announced they would be increasing prices on several different models, including the GS 450h luxury hybrid sports sedan and the LS 600h L premium hybrid luxury sedan.

The 2009 GS 450h price tag will be increasing by $600 to $56,400. But you will get 10.6 cu. ft. more in trunk space. That's an increase of 40 percent.

The 2009 LS 600h L will have modest $985 increase, and will have a base MSRP of $105,885. For that, you will get front-passenger-seat memory added in.

Press Release follows:

September. 5, 2008 - Torrance, CA. - Lexus announced Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) today for the 2009 IS 250 and IS 350 luxury sport sedans, IS F high-performance luxury sport sedan, ES 350 luxury sedan, GS 350 and GS 460 luxury sport sedans, GS 450h luxury hybrid sport sedan, LS 460 and LS 460 L premium luxury sedans, the recently added LS 460 and LS 460 L all-wheel drive versions, and the LS 600h L premium hybrid luxury sedan.

The 2009 IS 250 and IS 350 will receive significant enhancements to both its exterior and interior. Exterior changes include newly designed 17- and 18-inch wheel, front and rear bumpers, a revised front grille, and side rear-view mirrors with incorporated turn signals. The interior will receive a newly designed center cluster and foldable rear headrests.

Mechanically, both the IS 250 and IS 350 receive a revised suspension and steering tuning, further enhancing the cars' handling. In addition, the IS 250 will come standard with Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) with a cutoff switch, which had been available only on the IS 350. The 2009 IS 250 manual and automatic, IS 250 all-wheel drive, and IS 350 receive a 0.8-1.0 percent increase or $300. The IS 250 with a manual transmission will carry a base MSRP of $31,155, the IS 250 with an automatic transmission will have a base MSRP of $32,325, the IS 250 all-wheel drive will carry a base MSRP of $34,785 and the IS 350 will have a base MSRP of $36,605.

Launched earlier this year, the Lexus IS F also will receive a few enhancements for the 2009 model year. New features include a revised instrument panel cluster design, illuminated mirror controls, a new open/close moonroof switch, and a piano-black center-cluster finish for navigation-equipped vehicles. A sporty new terra cotta and black two-tone interior will also be offered in 2009. The IS F will have a base MSRP of $56,610, an increase of 1.1 percent or $610.
The 2009 ES 350 will carry over unchanged with a base MSRP of $34,320, an increase of 0.6 percent or $200.

The 2009 GS 350, GS 350 all-wheel drive, and GS 460 luxury sport sedans carry over unchanged, with each receiving a 0.6-0.7 percent increase or $300. The GS 350 will have a base MSRP of $44,850, the GS 350 all-wheel drive will be $46,800, and the GS 460 will be $53,320. The 2009 GS 450h hybrid luxury sport sedan receives an increase in trunk capacity of more than 40 percent, yielding 10.6 cu. ft. of space. It will have a base MSRP of $56,400, an increase of 1.1 percent or $600.

The 2009 LS 460 and LS 460 L luxury sedans carry over with the addition of front-passenger-seat memory. The LS 460 will have a base MSRP of $63,675, an increase of 1.2 percent or $775; the LS 460 L will have a base MSRP of $73,585, an increase of 0.9 percent or $685.

The newest additions to the LS lineup are the all-wheel drive versions of the LS 460 and LS 460 L, and they will carry base MSRPs of $67,200 and $77,110, respectively. The AWD system features a highly compact center TORSEN® Limited-Slip Differential (LSD) that distributes drive torque between the front and rear wheels. In addition to the luxury, convenience and safety features found on the current LS 460, both AWD versions will come standard with air suspension, Variable Gear-Ratio Steering (VGRS), and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS).

The 2009 LS 600h L flagship hybrid luxury sedan adds front-passenger-seat memory to a long list of luxury features and will have a base MSRP of $105,885, an increase of 0.9 percent or $985.

The MSRP does not include a delivery, processing and handling fee of $825.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NYC Taxi Owners File Lawsuit to Stop Hybrid Taxis

Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi
NYC Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (MTBOT) has decided to fight the switch to hybrid taxi cabs by pursuing the 'safety' angle. They hired an automotive engineer to analyze the safety of the hybrid cars being transformed into taxi cabs and, based on his findings, have filed a lawsuit to halt the switchover.

The report questions how well the hybrid taxis would hold out in the 24/7 operating conditions they would face (has he seen the test fleet results???) and possibly more damaging, questions the alterations made to outfit the hybrids cars with partitions.

The report claims the inserted partitions, since they are not part of the original equipment are a safety hazard. They may block "side-curtain airbags from deploying; become easily dislodged in accidents; restrict drivers from safely distancing themselves from front airbags; and diminish backseat legroom..."

While I question the reason why the MTBOT has brought the lawsuit forward, the question of safety hazards will need to be addressed. The hybrid taxi fleet owners are motivated by the cost of the hybrid cars, and that's understandable given how much more a hybrid taxi costs over the Crown Victoria. But then again, it only takes 14 months for the cost difference to be made up

An earlier protest by fleet owners over the availability of enough hybrids was beaten back when NYC received assurances from car makers that enough would be put aside for their use.

Press Release follows:

NEW YORK, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- A new report by a well-known automotive engineer, who previously consulted for the City of New York and several major automakers, exposes the risks and dangers of riding in New York City's hybrid yellow taxicabs. The report is the result of several months of analysis and concludes that hybrid taxis are unsafe and incompatible with the rigorous demands of New York City taxicabs that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hybrids will start to replace the stretch Ford Crown Victoria, a purpose-built taxi, and other taxis on October 1, 2008 if a City mandate requiring that all new taxis have a minimum city rating of 25 mpg is not halted. Citing public endangerment, the city's largest taxi advocacy group urged a federal court on Monday to intervene.

According to the report's author, C. Bruce Gambardella, P.E., "from an engineering standpoint, vehicles have to be designed for the duty cycle they are likely to encounter and cannot feature modifications that will compromise their safety systems." Hybrids strike out on both counts, over and over again in virtually every category analyzed in the 43-page report.

The report concludes that hybrids are not designed to hold partitions, which are mandated by the Taxi and Limousine Commission ("TLC") to prevent drivers from being assaulted, robbed or killed. Partitions in hybrid taxis were found to compromise their safety systems by blocking side-curtain airbags from deploying; become easily dislodged in accidents; restrict drivers from safely distancing themselves from front airbags; and diminish backseat legroom so severely -- as much as 10 inches less than in a stretch Ford Crown Victoria -- that even belted passengers will hit their faces on the hard unyielding surface of the partitions in an accident. Mr. Gambardella took particular issue with the "L-shaped" partition, which features sharp edges, presents a dangerously confined driver space and places passengers at great risk for injury.

Mr. Gambardella, who is the first engineer in the country to analyze and compare safety in both hybrid and conventional taxicabs in New York City, argues that "due to the mandatory vehicle modifications, the TLC has, in effect, created its own vehicle design" and "as such, the TLC has an obligation to crash-test the modified vehicles or require that the automakers crash-test the vehicles as modified." He writes, "it is completely unknown whether these modified cars would pass federal crash tests." He also opined: "No automaker would put such an inadequately tested vehicle on the road, nor should the public or any federal regulatory agency stand for it."

Furthermore, the report asserts that the TLC either failed to read, or blatantly ignored, explicit warnings in all hybrid vehicle owners' manuals that expressly forbid modifications like partitions that could interfere with airbag deployment and other aspects of the safety systems. The report cites more than 75 separate manufacturers' warnings in 5 different hybrids authorized for taxi use by the TLC.

Mr. Gambardella calls the Crown Victoria the safest taxicab on the road. He cites its 25 years of experience as a taxi (6 years as a stretch model) and stresses that they are purpose-built for the police and taxi markets, anticipate partition installations and are built for heavy-duty 24/7 usage. (Fleet taxis average 85,000 - 100,000 miles per year.) In contrast, hybrids are designed for non-commercial, private use where the average driver clocks well under 20,000 miles per year. Hybrid taxis have little experience as 24/7 taxis.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade ("MTBOT"), the fleet trade association that commissioned the report out of concern for passenger and driver safety, instructed its attorneys at Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff and Abady LLP to send the report's key findings to several hybrid automakers. In a letter, the firm requests explicit automaker certification and supporting documentation demonstrating that hybrid taxis, outfitted with partitions, are safe for commercial taxi use in New York City. The TLC was also provided with the letter and key findings. MTBOT has received no responses to date.

Ron Sherman, President of MTBOT, stated, "The City's dangerously aggressive hybrid taxi mandate presents a public danger to our 240 million annual passengers and tens of thousands of taxi drivers, as this report makes clear. MTBOT has desperately tried to work with the TLC and the Bloomberg Administration on a taxi policy that improves the environment without compromising public safety, but to no avail. We were left with no choice but to seek the court's intervention to prevent the City from making a tragic mistake."

On Monday, September 8, 2008, MTBOT and other parties concerned that passenger and driver safety was being compromised, filed a complaint in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, urging an immediate halt to the mandate. The lawsuit, which maintains that the City's mandate will cause irreparable harm to taxi passengers and drivers, argues, that the City's decision to mandate that all new taxis, as of October 1, 2008, have a city rating of 25 mpg or more is arbitrary and capricious because the City failed to follow its own long-standing procedures requiring safety testing and a pilot program prior to the mandate of new vehicles. The lawsuit also argues that the City's mandate is preempted by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act as well as the federal Clean Air Act. The suit asks for the October 1st mandate to be annulled. Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff and Abady, LLP represents the plaintiffs.

MTBOT and the report's author C. Bruce Gambardella, P.E. plan to testify at the New York City Council Transportation Committee's oversight hearing, "Green Taxis: Are They Safe" on Wednesday, September 10th at 1 pm in City Hall. This is the Committee's second oversight hearing. The TLC refused to testify at the Council's June 3 2008 hearing, leaving many safety questions unanswered.

MTBOT is the country's largest taxi fleet association. It represents 27 yellow medallion taxi fleets in New York City and over 3,500 medallion taxicabs - approximately 25% of the taxi industry. MTBOT members have operated more than 30 different vehicles over several decades including minivans, Compressed Natural Gas vehicles and hybrids. MTBOT advocates on behalf of its members, its 14,000 drivers and the riding public.

C. Bruce Gambardella is a licensed Professional Engineer in New York, Michigan and Connecticut and has worked as an accident reconstruction expert full time since 1982. Clients have included the City of New York, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, NYC Transit Authority, the New York Attorney General's Office and numerous major insurance companies and private attorneys. He has inspected more than 3,000 vehicles and performed more than 1,300 detailed accident reconstructions.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

How Will the EPA Cope With Plug-in Hybrids?

As plug-in hybrid cars come closer to a reality, the EPA and the automakers are going to have to figure out how to deal with them. The EPA is required to set a fuel economy rating for each car on the road. And that's usually a straight forward testing procedure.  Even if your results will vary, you still have a way of comparing vehicles for their fuel efficiency.  But plug-in hybrids are going to be a different story.

Since plug-in hybrids run off electric power until the battery power runs down, for some amount of distance, the fuel economy is off the charts. Take the Volt (labeled an extended range electric vehicle, E-REV), for instance. After being fully charged by plugging in, the Chevy Volt is supposed to travel 40 miles on electric power alone.

After that, the gas engine will kick in, but not to move the vehicle. The small gas engine will only recharge the battery pack.

And according to Motortrend, that's causing a headache for the EPA and for GM. According to GM, you can get over 100 mpg using the Volt. The EPA, however wants the battery to be fully recharged by the gas engine before it takes its reading. That would set the fuel economy at 48 mpg.

Now, 48 mpg is nothing to laugh at. Most car companies (except for Toyota with the Prius) would love for a gas powered engine to get that sort of rating from the EPA. But GM is worried about what that sort of rating could do to those potential customers of the Volt.

Unfortunately, government agencies don't exactly have a stellar record when it comes to certifying hybrid cars. Georgia failed hybrids on their emissions test every single time. Every time a hybrid came in the door, the tester would fail the car because the gas engine would shut off.

But I would also like to think, no matter what the rating the EPA eventually gives, most people will still be interested no matter what the EPA says. A lot of people could drive less than 40 miles a day and never buy gas (Dumb question: Does just leaving the gas in the compartment lead to issues? I know you shouldn't leave a gas mower over the winter with a full tank of gas. Will the same issues affect those people who don't travel over 40 miles a day and are faithful about plugging it back in?) Others will still love to go 40 miles on electric power alone, but still be able to get to where they're going without having to worry about plugging in.

Besides which, isn't 48 mpg the rating you want to know about? You know you can go 40 miles on electric power. What you don't know is how far you can go after that.  In the end, will the EPA have to come up with an electric range along with a fuel economy figure?

Either way, there's not a lot of time left for the EPA to figure this one out.  Plug-ins are coming soon.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

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