Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Michigan Passes Tax Credits for Battery Development

In an effort to draw some of the new battery development and keep the Chevy Volt development and production in Michigan, the Michigan Legislature passed a tax credit worth up to $335 million from 2011 to 2016 to build high-tech batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

GM is expected to decide where to build their battery pack facility in January.

The bill passed at 31-3 in the Senate and 94-0 in the House. They estimate the federal government is going to spend $1 billion in battery development and MI is hoping some of that money will be invested in their state.

I think this is the summary of the bill, and it looks like the refundable tax credit puts the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) as the key player. Under the rules, MEGA could enter into agreements for the following:

  • The manufacture of plug-in traction battery packs in Michigan, for tax years beginning after 2009 and ending before 2015, subject to various total amounts based on kilowatt hours of battery capacity.
  • Qualified expenses for vehicle engineering in Michigan to support battery integration, prototyping, and launch expenses, incurred for tax years beginning after 2008 and ending before 2014; this credit could not exceed $15.0 million per year, MEGA could not authorize more than $90.0 million in total credits under this provision, and the credit could be taken for tax years beginning after 2011.
  • Engaging in engineering in Michigan for advanced automotive battery technologies; MEGA could not enter into more than one agreement for this credit, which would be subject to a total limit of $30.0 million and a yearly limit of $10.0 million.
  • Capital investment expenses for the construction of an integrative cell manufacturing facility that would include anode and cathode manufacturing and cell assembly, for tax years beginning after 2011; MEGA could enter into up to two agreements for this credit, which would be limited to $100.0 million per agreement; and MEGA would have to appoint a review board to advise it about decisions concerning this credit.

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Ford Fusion Hybrid Fuel Economy

Ford completed their fuel economy tests and the Fusion Hybrid has received some very impressive mpg numbers.  At 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, the Fusion Hybrid has jumped to the top of the list of most fuel efficient cars.

The Prius and Civic Hybrid beat out the Fusion Hybrid by a bit, but the Fusion Hybrid outranks the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid, which may be it's two main rivals for truly midsize cars.

The Fusion Hybrid has a reach of 700 miles on one tank of gas and is a full hybrid, meaning it can go up to 47 mph on all electric power. The range for all electric power is limited, but the battery power is recharged through the gas engine and an improved regenerative braking system which captures 94 percent of brake friction energy.

The Fusion's nickel-metal hydride battery is lighter and produces 20 percent more power than the Ford Escape hybrid. It also devised a way to get 28 percent more power out of the battery cells, said Praveen Cherian, program leader for the Fusion Hybrid.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

White House Announces 17 Billion Dollar Loans to GM and Chrysler Now Available

The White House announced they would be making up to $17 billion available in loans to the domestic auto makers in order to stave off their bankruptcy. But, in order to qualify for the loans, some new rules and proof of viability.

There must be a two-thirds reduction in debt by exchanging debt for equitey, more flexible work rules and cuts in wages.

According to Bush, the most important rule is the company must become viable, but not necessarily profitable. "this does not mean the firms has to be profitable but clearly to have a positive net present value the firms have to be profitable soon."

Bush noted, "In the midst of a crisis and a recession allowing the US auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action."

The money will come from the $700 billion set aside for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). $13.4 billion will be available immediately, while another $4 billion is contingent upon congressional approval of the second portion of TARP.

Chrysler has already signed a letter of intent. According to LLC chariman and chief executive Bob Nardelli, "These requirements will require consideration from all constituents, requiring commitment first in principal, leading to implementation this coming year," Nardelli said.

"Chrysler is committed to meeting these requirements."

I would expect GM to follow suit given how badly they've pushed for government loans, while Ford has said they don't need the loans right now.

Update: As expected, word out of GM is they will be applying for the loans, too.

DETROIT – General Motors Corp. CEO Rick Wagoner says the automaker has significant work ahead after receiving a federal bailout Friday, but he is confident GM will work with stakeholders to make the company viable.

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Construction of Plant to Build Volt and Cruze Engine Suspended

GM has halted production of its engine manufacturing plant in Flint, MI until it can get the cash it needs to finish the job.  The plant is slated to build the 1.4 liter engines for the Chevy Volt and Cruze.  But even so, the time line for the Volt is not being affected, yet, by the cash crisis at GM.

According to the story, GM is trying to save money by putting off the purchase of the structural steel to build the new factory. But, GM is also saying Volt production will not be delayed by any delays in the construction of the plant.  The assembly of the Volt will happen at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, while the Cruze is scheduled to be built in Lordstown, Ohio. 

According to the spokesman from GM, there is still plenty of time to build the plant and begin engine assembly and even if there wasn't the plans for the Volt will not be delayed.   The 1.4 liter engine is already being built in Australia, giving GM some options.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hybrids and Plug-ins Will Increase Sales as Oil Imports Fall Through 2030 According to the US Govt

The government is predicting no growth in U.S. oil consumption until 2030. This is the first time in 20 years that no growth has been predicted.

The prediction is based on the new CAFE standards, requirements for increased use of renewable fuels, and an assumed increase in oil prices as the economy recovers.

What may be even more remarkable, the government is now predicting the increased us of domestically produced biofuels, rising domestic oil production spurred by higher prices will lead to a decline of 58 percent in net import share of total liquids supplied to 40 percent by 2025. It will then increase to 41 percent by 2030.

The EIA is also predicting the import shore of total natural gas use will also decline from 16 percent to 3 percent in 2030.

The government is predicting the price of oil will once again rise as the growth exceeds the supply of non-OPEC related countries.  That will raise the price of oil from it's current $60 (or so) to about $130 per barrel (in 2007 dollars, $189 in nominal dollars) in 2030.

Current laws will also lead to a sharp increase in unconventional vehicle technologies, including flex-fuel, hybrid, and diesel vehicles.  A decline will be seen in the new light-truck share of total light-duty vehicle sales.  Hybrid vehicles will increase from their 2 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales in 2007 to 38 percent in 2030.  Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs) will grow to 90,000 vehicles by 2014, supported by the recently enacted tax credits.  By 2030, PHEVs will account for 2 percent of new light vehicle sales.

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Honda Says Don't Expect Insight MPG Numbers From the Insight

Honda, realizing they needed something to fight back against the Prius reputation if they were going to be recognized as the most fuel efficient car company, decided to build a dedicated hybrid, similar in size to the Prius. After retiring the Insight a couple years before, they didn't have any other dedicated hybrids on the road and wanted some of that back.

So they decided to build the (new) Insight. But what they don't want is for people to get confused and expect the same fuel economy they saw in the two-seater Insight they had retired.

Well then, why did they call it the Insight?

That's a little bit of sarcasm on my part, but the truth is they should have come up with a different name for the new Insight. It would have avoided any of this and made my life easier as every time I talk about the Honda Insight now, I have to be careful about which one I'm talking about.

Anyways, to get back on track, Honda wants you to know the new Insight won't get the same fuel economy numbers as the old one for many obvious reasons. These include comparing a two-seater vs. a five-seater and the new MPG guidelines from the EPA.

The price is going to be a lot different, too. At under $20,000, the new Insight is going to be the cheapest hybrid car to buy. If they get decent mpg numbers, the new Insight may make a run at the Prius, especially with the fun toys inside.

Hopefully the fact Honda is bringing up the MPG numbers at all means they're getting closer to finding out what those numbers are going to be.

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Audi Kills Plans for Hybrid Q5

According to Autocar, the Q5 hybrid is out indefinitely. Audi has been reluctant to get into hybrid cars and now it's telling people they are out until 'we can make nickel metal hydride batteries safer in crash situations.'

Now, that may be a reason, but really, Audi doesn't want to spend money to develop this fuel saving technology when they can go for other options, like diesel. Or they can use cheaper options like simple start/stop solutions or aluminum chassis.

Audi had previously thought of implementing a hybrid Q7 and a hybrid A4, but both measures were eventually killed off.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chinese Automaker BYD Launches Plug-in Hybrid Car

As promised, Chinese automaker launched their first plug-in hybrid car, the F3DM (F3 Dual Mode) in Shenzhen, China. It can run up to 62 miles on electric power, then switches over to running on the gas engine. It takes nine hours to recharge using a normal outlet.

And all this for just $22,000 (149,800 yuan). The car will be the first commercialized (according to BYD) plug-in hybrid and is in direct competition with projects like the Chevy Volt from GM and the plug-in Prius being developed by Toyota.

Source: China battery company launches plug-in hybrid car | | The Detroit News

The problem is it's unknown what kind of standards have been met with the production of the F3DM. We'll know more if or when BYD begins exporting the F3DM to other countries, including the US.  BYD has said they wish to start exporting to the US by the end of 2009, beginning of 2010.

BYD is receiving compensation from the Chinese government, and local authorities have pledged to buy the F3DM in order to further support their efforts.

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Prius Plant in Mississippi is Suspended

Whenever someone talks about how badly run the Big 3 are, and how come they need a bailout to save the US jobs, I have to wonder what they're talking about. With the economic downturn hitting all carmakers, it's a wonder any of them still have money to do anything with. Can you imagine Wal-Mart losing 1/3 to 1/2 of their business for six months or longer and still being in business?

The latest victim to fall is the plant in Mississippi for Toyota. Slated to begin production of the next generation Prius here in the US, completion of the plant has been 'indefinitely' suspended.  One month ago, Toyota had said no decisions had been made, yet, but the delay was being considered.

Construction will be finished, but equipment will not be installed. $300 million has already been invested in the plant.

"Due to the uncertainty of the market, it is impossible to say at this time when production will begin," Toyota said in a statement. "Toyota continues to evaluate its operations globally and reduce production as necessary to match the weak market."

“This is an unfortunate reminder that Mississippi is not immune to the global economic slowdown," U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said in a press release Monday afternoon. "Today’s news is disappointing, but I am encouraged by Toyota’s commitment to finishing construction and to getting the Blue Springs plant operational as soon as market conditions allow. As a leading hybrid vehicle, the Prius has a very bright future in our country. And while it may have been delayed by the economic downturn, I am confident Mississippi workers will still play an important part of that future.”

The plant in Mississippi was begun with the intention of building Highlander SUVs, but the plans were changed and Prius production was supposed to begin in 2010

Delaying the plant production will likely affect other plans, such as building or buying batteries here in the US.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Canada May Bail Auto Industry Out

Canada has set up a possible bail out loan for the auto industry in Canada, but only if the money comes through in Washington (found via GreenCarCongress).

The federal government and Ontario have reached a deal to offer proportional funds to Canada's auto industry if a proposed $14-billion US aid package is approved in Washington, Industry Minister Tony Clement said Friday.

Speaking to reporters in Toronto, Clement said the proposed aid to Canada's ailing auto sector would amount to approximately 20 per cent of the U.S. proposal, or about $3.3 billion Cdn.
The pre-emptive move by Ottawa and Ontario will make it harder for U.S. lawmakers to strike a deal that protects American jobs at the expense of Canadian ones, said veteran auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers.
For someone from the US, I got a real kick by the final few paragraphs.  With the possible money going to kickstart the economy, the government was warning they may be heading into a deficit.

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MINI Cooper Recall

The Mini Cooper is facing a re-call. The tailpipe extends slightly beyond the rear bumber. Since the heat and exhaust heat the tailpipe, it is possible someone could bump their leg against the tailpipe and get burnt.

Dealers, starting in January, will begin replacing the longer tailpipe with a shorter one.

Full NHTSA Report on the recall is below:

MINI / COOPER S 2007-2008
Manufacturer: BMW OF NORTH AMERICA, LLC Mfr's Report Date: DEC 12, 2008
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 08V657000
NHTSA Action Number: EA08020
Potential Number of Units Affected: 28450

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Some Free Thinking on $750 Million for the Volt

GM, as part of their case put forth to the US government to save them, noted they are spending $750 million on the development of the Chevy Volt E-REV.  $750 million is certainly a number worth noting.

But I was curious as to how that stood up against the numbers that have come before in hybrid development.

Take for instance, the development of the dual mode hybrid system by GM, Chrysler and BMW.  They put one billion into their research.  That technology can already be found in the GM SUVs Escalade, Tahoe and Yukon hybrids as well as the already retired Durango and Aspen Hybrids.  GM is also putting together a dual mode Saturn Vue, but the launch date for the full hybrid Vue has already been pushed back.  Also, GM is considering (again, referencing the plan from GM to the government) cancelling Saturn, nevermind the Vue.

According to some sources, Toyota spent $2 billion developing the hybrid synergy drive they use in their hybrids (as well as selling it to Nissan for the Altima Hybrid).  Toyota has reportedly been able to start making a profit off their investment, but it took a long time to do it.

Ford is supposed to start making off of their hybrid development this coming year with the new Fusion and Milan Hybrids.  I haven't seen any reports from Honda, but given they've had their hybrid technology as long as Toyota has, plus they've released said they've cut the price of their hybrid IMA in half, leads me to believe they are making money off their hybrid cars.

Will GM ever make money off their research investment?

Maybe they should have looked for a partner to help pay for the research on the Volt?

It's certainly looking like their investment in the dual mode hybrid engine is not going to pay for itself.  Or will the dual mode hybrid engine hang around until GM feels they can expand on it, just as Ford has done with the Escape Hybrid?

Will the Volt's price tag (close to $40,000) mean a turning point of 2016 for the E-REV engine mean it will never come about?  Will they sell enough Volts to make it viable?  Or will it go into retirement like the Durango Hybrid after just 3 months?

Will a GM bankruptcy kill the Volt, or will it still be something the board feels is needed no matter the cost?

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Duke Researcher Notes Hybrids Are Just as Good as Plug-in Hybrids

Duke University researchers claim plug-in hybrids, despite how enamored some groups are with them, would not lower carbon emissions any better than hybrids already do.

And they're more expensive to boot.

The paper compares the two hybrid technologies to see which could lead to lower carbon emissions based on several scenarios.

The scenario results vary depending on what author Chris Williams calls a price signal. If federal or regional climate legislation places a limit on the amount of CO2 allowed, it will create a price signal that will drive the electricity sector to become more efficient and less carbon intensive.

Without a CO2 price signal, plug-in hybrids are essentially no better than regular hybrids. With a significant CO2 price signal, plug-ins do make a moderate reduction in CO2 emissions.

When gas prices hit $6 a gallon, plug-ins become cost-effective.

Not surprisingly, certain regions are not suited for plug-in technology in regards to CO2 emission reductions since they have carbon-intensive electricity systems, i.e. coal.

“It’s not a simple equation,” Williams explains in a press release. “Plug-in hybrids save gasoline but consume electricity. In most of the country, electricity generation relies on fossil fuels, which means that plug-ins would lead to an increase in electricity sector fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.”

CCPP is an interdisciplinary research partnership of Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Nicholas School of the Environment and Center on Global Change. CCPP researches carbon-mitigating technology, infrastructure, institutions and systems to inform lawmakers and business leaders as they lay the foundation of a low-carbon economy.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Senate Rejects Auto Loan Program (Bailout)

Well, it didn't take long for the Senate to decide, again, not to pass the auto bailout for $14 billion.  This time, Republicans are citing UAW having issues with the bill, while the UAW blames Senators from the Southern States for supporting the foreign automakers who have industries in their states.

The thing is, the Senate could have passed the law if they wanted to.  It would be nice if the union fell in line with what they wanted, but at the same time, did they need them to agree?  Of course the union doesn't want their benefits cut, but they had already signed a new agreement to do just that.

"We are about three words -- three words -- away from a deal." - Senator Rob Corker.

GM is looking into the options they have, including bankruptcy. 

The deal would have allowed GM to push off bankruptcy by providing low interest loans from the money set aside to make more fuel efficient cars.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

House Passes Auto Loan Program

The House has passed the bailout program for the Auto Industry (by a vote of 237 to 170) to the tune of $14 billion (what happened to the $15?).  The bill still needs to move on to the Senate, where it still has a significant uphill battle.

Funds for the bailout loans are to come from the $25 billion already appropriated for the fuel efficiency program set up in November.  There are several safety features being built into the bill for the protection of our tax dollars.  They include the creation of an Auto Czar, a super seniority setting for this loan over other loans the car maker takes, the ability for the Auto Czar to reject any deal over $100 million which the Czar decides is detrimental to the sustainability of the company and so on.

The executives are being placed under several restrictions, including (1) no bonuses or incentives to 25 most highly paid employees; (2) stringent prohibition on golden parachutes; and (3) no compensation plan that could encourage manipulation of reported earnings to enhance compensation.  Also, no dividends or distributions can be paid out during the life of the loan, which effects any stock holders.

The loans are being set for 7 years, with a 5% interest during the first five years and a 9% interest after that.  The seven year term can be extended at the discretion of the Auto Czar, and there's no prepayment penalty.

The Auto Czar will become a 20% shareholder in the car companies themselves: "...he receives from the Auto Manufacturer warrants for non-voting common stock or preferred stock equal to 20% of the loan amount. If the Automobile Manufacturer is privately held, as in Chrysler’s case, the government will receive warrants or the economic equivalent of warrants in Chrysler’s holding company or in Cerberus, the company that controls a majority stake in Chrysler."

You can read the summary of H.R. 7321 below.  You can read the whole bill here.  I'm not a lawyer or a banker, so don't ask me if it makes any sense. I personally found the clause making the companies sell their planes laughable, but that's just me. 

Summary of H.R. 7321 (Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act)

President’s Designee – The President shall designate 1 or more officers in the Executive Branch with appropriate expertise (President’s Designee) to carry out the requirements of the Act. The President or the President’s Designee also may employ, appoint or contract with additional advisors.

Bridge Financing

Directs the President’s Designee to authorize and direct the disbursement of bridge loans or commitments for lines of credit to eligible auto manufacturers that submitted a plan to Congress on 12/2/08 (Chrysler, Ford, and GM) (Auto Manufacturers) from funds previously appropriated for Section 136 of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Approximately $14 billion will be disbursed or committed for bridge financing.

No new funds will be available for bridge financing after the President’s Designee approves the Auto Manufacturer’s restructuring plan.

Assessment of Restructuring Progress – The President’s Designee must establish, not later than 1/1/09, appropriate measures to assess the progress of each Auto Manufacturer in developing a restructuring plan; and must evaluate the progress of each Auto Manufacturer against those measures in 45 days.

Restructuring Plan

Not later than 3/31/09, each Auto Manufacturer must submit to the President’s Designee a restructuring plan to achieve long-term viability, international competitiveness and energy efficiency, including repayment of government financing, compliance with applicable fuel efficiency and emissions requirements, achievement of positive net present value, rationalization of costs and capacity, and proposals for restructuring existing debt. The President’s Designee may provide financial assistance to an Auto Manufacturer to implement an approved restructuring plan.

The President’s Designee will facilitate agreement on a restructuring plan by the representatives of major stakeholders of each Auto Manufacturer.

If the President’s Designee determines that adequate progress is not being made to reach agreement on a restructuring plan, the President’s Designee will submit to Congress his own plan to achieve long-term viability for the Automobile Manufacturer.

Taxpayer Protections

Warrants: The President’s Designee may not provide any loan to an Automobile Manufacturer unless he receives from the Auto Manufacturer warrants for non-voting common stock or preferred stock equal to 20% of the loan amount. If the Automobile Manufacturer is privately held, as in Chrysler’s case, the government will receive warrants or the economic equivalent of warrants in Chrysler’s holding company or in Cerberus, the company that controls a majority stake in Chrysler.

Executive Compensation: All executive compensation restrictions of TARP apply to Auto Manufacturers receiving financial assistance for the duration of that assistance, plus: (1) no bonuses or incentives to 25 most highly paid employees; (2) stringent prohibition on golden parachutes; and (3) no compensation plan that could encourage manipulation of reported earnings to enhance compensation.

Dividends: Auto Manufacturers receiving financial assistance (including any holding company in case of Chrysler) generally may not pay dividends, distributions, or their economic equivalent for duration of the assistance.

Super Seniority: All other obligations of any Auto Manufacturer receiving loans (or in the case of Chrysler, Chrysler’s holding company or Cerberus) will be subordinate to those loans to the extent permitted by the terms of such obligations in effect as of 12/2/08. Auto Manufacturer will pledge all available security and collateral against the loans.

Discharge: In the event of a bankruptcy of an Automobile Manufacturer, the debts to the government from the financial assistance will not be dischargeable.

Aircraft: An Auto Manufacturer must divest and may not own or lease any private passenger aircraft while financial assistance is outstanding. 1

Loans Called for Failure to Achieve Approved Plan – If an Automobile Manufacturer fails to submit a restructuring plan that can be approved by the President’s Designee within the time provided by the Act, the loan will be called in 30 days, unless a restructuring plan is approved within that period.

Oversight – Provisions similar to GAO and Special IG oversight provisions of TARP apply, plus explicit grant to GAO of access to Auto Manufacturers’ records (including records of any subsidiary, affiliate, or majority stakeholder in case of Chrysler/Cerberus). Extensive reporting requirements from GAO, Special IG, and President’s Designee to Congress.

Allocation of Funds – The President’s Designee will prioritize allocation of financial assistance to Auto Manufacturers as follows:

For bridge loans, based in order on (1) necessity of the financial assistance, (2) potential impact of failure of the Auto Manufacturer on the U.S. economy, and (3) ability to utilize the financial assistance optimally.

For any long-term financial assistance, based in order on (1) ability to utilize the financial assistance optimally, (2) potential impact of failure of the Auto Manufacturer on the U.S. economy, and (3) necessity of the financial assistance.

Terms and Conditions of Loans

Term: 7 years (or longer as may be determined by the President’s Designee).

Interest Rate: 5% for first 5 years and 9% thereafter.

No prepayment penalty.

Full Information Access: Automobile Manufacturers (including the majority stakeholder in case of Chrysler/Cerberus) receiving loans are required to provide the President’s Designee access to all information that may be relevant to monitor the interests of the government.

Oversight of Transactions and Financial Condition: For duration of the loan, the President’s Designee may review and prohibit any asset sale, investment, contract, or commitment proposed to be entered into by the Auto Manufacturer valued in excess of $100 million if inconsistent with or detrimental to long-term viability.

Consequences for Failure to Comply: The President’s Designee may accelerate repayment of a loan or cancel other financial assistance of an Automobile Manufacturer if (1) the President’s Designee determines that the Automobile Manufacturer has failed to make adequate progress towards developing a restructuring plan, (2) the Automobile Manufacturer fails to submit an acceptable restructuring plan or fails comply with any other applicable condition or requirement of the loan program, or (3) the Automobile Manufacturer fails to make adequate progress in the implementation of an approved restructuring plan.

Energy Efficient Advanced Technology Vehicles: Reserves $500 million in credit subsidy equal to $1.5 billion for Section 136 loans (manufacturing energy efficient advanced technology vehicles), and thorizes additional appropriations to replenish Section 136 funds.

Fuel Efficiency and Emissions Requirements: Restructuring plan will not be approved unless the President’s Designee determines that the plan will result in the ability of the Automobile Manufacturer to comply with applicable fuel efficiency and emissions requirements. In addition, the President’s Designee may accelerate repayment of a loan or cancel other financial assistance if the Automobile Manufacturer fails to comply with applicable fuel efficiency and emissions requirements after 3/31/09.

Transit: Each Automobile Manufacturer will analyze the potential use of excess production capacity to manufacture vehicles (including buses and rail cars) for sale to public transit agencies. Also includes provisions to guarantee leases of qualified public transit agencies.

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PSA Peugeot Citroen Partners With Bosch to Build Hybrid Diesel

PSA Peugeot Citroen and Bosch are partnering to develop diesel hybrid technology. Bosch to co-develop, industrialize and supply the electric motors and power electronics to be used in PSA Peugeot Citroen's four-wheel-drive diesel hybrid powertrain.

The diesel hybrid engine is expected to start showing up in Peugeot and Citroen vehicles sometime in 2011.

Bosch is supplying the rear electric motor, the front-mounted high voltage alternator and the power electronics that will control them. Bosch is also set to supply the specifications on the interface between the electric and electronic components, the antilock braking system and the electronic stability program to enhance energy recovery.

Unfortunately, diesel engines are more expensive to build than gas engines.  Combing that extra cost to the premium you pay for hybrid engines and you basically double the amount of money you need to pay over a gas electric hybrid engine.

According to both of the companies, this collaboration between the partners' engineering and design teams will optimise the hybrid powertrain's operation while speeding the acquisition of mutual expertise in this area, which is expected to expand rapidly in the next few years. The carmaker believes that this is the right approach for bringing to market quickly and cost effectively technological innovations that can significantly lower Carbon dioxide emissions. PSA also hopes that this agreement will strengthen the European hybrid technology industry.

PSA Peugeot Citro├źn said that by choosing Bosch as a core partner, the company will be able to market quickly and cost effectively technological innovations that can help lower CO2 emissions.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tesla is Worried About $400 Million Loan Application in Federal Money

Tesla is worried they won't have enough money to build their sedan if they don't get the low cost loan they hoped for from the federal government.

Tesla had applied for $400 million of the $25 billion dollar loan program set up by the government to build high fuel efficient vehicles. But now that money may be used in the 'bailout' of the Big 3 (GM and Chrysler, more than Ford if reports are to be believed.

But some are criticizing the use of the federal government money to build the new hybrid sedan from Tesla. The vehicle is expected to be priced at $57,499 and that makes it a luxury vehicle.

But, the Volt is going to cost close to $40,000, so I'm not sure what people are expecting out of these cars.

The money may be initially used to build expensive luxury cars, but the technology, battery production, and so on are just what's needed to advance the fuel economy goals set out by the government.

The loan money for Tesla will be used to open a $250 million manufacturing facility in San Jose, CA. They are also planning on using the money to expand its drivetrain business, which they sell to other automakers and for a battery-cell production factory.

"We can't move forward with that without a major amount of capital," Musk said. "If we don't get any government funding, then what we need to do is we need to wait until the capital markets recover, which could be a year or two years from now."

Source: Electric car maker seeks U.S. aid | The Detroit News |

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hybrid Car Sales, November 2008

Hybrid car sales are suffering under the current economic climate.  Sales were down over 50% from last year.  The total number is somwhere in the range of hybrid car sales from 2005.

Some of that is due to last November being one of the best sales months for hybrids and some of it is due to the lowering of gas prices.  But most of it is due, I believe, to the current economic climate.  I spoke just the other day about why I believe Prius sales were down this month, but I would like to point out a few things.

Hybrid cars cost more than their counterparts to purchase.  They are long term decision, and it can take years for the payoff to become noticeable.  With their high purchase price, hybrids are being deemed a luxury right now.  A luxury that, like most cars, are being put off until the economy recovers.

There were no bright spots in the sales numbers this month.  Although the Prius outsold all of the other hybrid vehicles combined, Ford may be the happiest, since their sales were only down by 39%.

Sales numbers for the year are still ok, but it's not looking like next year will be better.  Honda is still up 3% for the year with their Civic Hybrid, and Nissan is also up 9%.   But the Nissan numbers are a little deceiving since the Altima Hybrid began sales in February of last year.

Only two other notes.  The beginning of reported sales from Chrysler was not exactly auspicious with only 35 Aspen and Durango Hybrids sold.  But that's OK since the Aspen and Durango have already been retired this coming month.  The Vue Hybrid sales (not reported) accounted for almost 10% of all Vue sales.  Perhaps that's a good indication that mild hybrids are worth the extra money to some?

Make Model Nov-07 Nov-08 % Change
Honda Accord 204 0 -100%
Honda Civic 3,238 1,043 -68%
Honda Insight 0 0 -
Toyota Prius 16,737 8,660 -48%
Toyota Highlander 2,577 907 -65%
Toyota Camry 5,118 2,174 -58%
Toyota GS 450h 100 42 -58%
Toyota RX 400h 1,674 624 -63%
Toyota LS600hL 170 37 -78%
Ford Escape/Mariner 2,224 1,361 -39%
Nissan Altima 1,191 353 -70%
GM Yukon/Tahoe/Escalade 0 767 -
Chrysler Aspen/Durango 0 35 -
Total 33,233 15,968 -52%
Make Model Cumulative, 2007 Cumulative, 2008 % Change
Honda Accord 3,255 197 -94%
Honda Civic 29,352 30,261 3%
Honda Insight 3 0 -100%
Toyota Prius 167,009 151,027 -10%
Toyota Highlander 19,261 18,501 -4%
Toyota Camry 49,508 44,384 -10%
Toyota GS 450h 1,776 627 -65%
Toyota RX 400h 15,259 13,737 -10%
Toyota LS600hL 808 930 15%
Ford Escape/Mariner 22,843 18,373 -20%
Nissan Altima 7,424 8,109 9%
GM Yukon/Tahoe/Escalade 0 4,948 -
Chrysler Aspen/Durango 0 35 -
Total 316,498 291,129 -8%

Hybrid Car Sales, October 2008
Hybrid Car Sales, November 2007

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Production Version of Honda Insight Will Come to Detroit Auto Show

The production version of the new five-seater 2009 Honda Insight will appear at the Detroit Auto Show. The new dedicated hybrid from Honda will go on sale in the spring of 2009. 

The prototype was unveiled at the Paris Auto show, and the production model is very similar.

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit happens in January and will see the introduction of the new HS 250h, an all new dedicated hybrid from Lexus, as well.

Honda has big plans for the five seater, five door hybrid car. They've targeted 200,000 sales a year globally, with 100,000 in North America. Despite the inclusion of their Eco Assist display, the Insight will come at a price tag of under $20,000. (I've seen a reported MSRP of $18,500.)

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DOE Hands Out $14 Million in Grants

Ford and GM may be mud over in Congress, but their standing at the DOE hasn't missed a beat. Over the next three years, the DOE will give $14.55 million, with just under half of the money to go to Ford and GM.

The rest of the money is being spread out to four other companies to research, develop and demonstration of advanced vehicle technologies. The money will be handed out over the next three years depending on appropriation each year.

Ford and GM both received grant money ($6.5 million) to develop thermoelectric HVAC systems. The systems involve solid-state devices to cool or heat the occupants without heating the compartment (think seat heaters). Thermoelectric HVAC systems are necessary for electric or even hybrid/plug-in hybrid cars that rely on battery power more than gas power. Ford will be working with the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop their system.

$6.85 million will be invested in lithium-ion battery materials and manufacturing. The three projects being funded included and industrial process for the production of low-cost positive electrodes, or cathodes, by BASF Catalyst LLC. FMC Corporation is receiving funding to scale up its production of stabilized lithium metal powders, which is used to produce cathodes.

3M Company is being given support to develop advanced materials for negative electrodes, or anodes.

Navistar International Corporation rounds out the recipients by receiving funding to design, demonstrate, and bring to market a tractor-trailer combination and tire package that can reduce the fuel consumption of a heavy-duty vehicle by at least 15%. Navistar will include DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on its team.

Private funding will run the total up to $29.3 million to be invested in the projects.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Pros and Cons of E-REV Like the Chevy Volt (Extended Range Electric Vehicles)

Today's hybrid car runs on a mix of electric power provided by a large battery pack and by a gas engine powered by gasoline.  A full hybrid will run at low speeds on all electric power, while the gas engine takes over at higher speeds.  In order to recharge the battery pack, either the gas engine or regenerative braking pushes energy back into the storage.  You can travel for a mile or three on all electric power, but the gas engine will turn on as the power drain on the battery pack is tremendous.

A plug-in hybrid is basically the same concept, except the battery pack is larger and can be recharged by plugging the car in.  After the juice wears out, the gas engine takes over moving the car along and recharging the battery pack along with regenerative braking.  You can go farther on all electric power, but movement of the car is provided by both the gas and the electric motor.

Extended Range Electric Vehicles (E-REV) are plug-in hybrids, but with a twist.  The gas engine does not move the car.  Instead, it is just there to recharge the battery pack which powers the electric motor which moves the car. 

The electric motor, when powered by a fully charged (plugged in overnight) battery pack, can move the car on its own at whatever speed up to 40-50 miles.  You can count on some re-charging from regenerative braking.  But after that, the gas engine begins recharging the batteries until you can get back to a plug.

Basically, you have an electric car, whose range has been extended by the gas motor.  Current estimates put the Chevy Volt, the most talked about E-REV on the way from GM, fuel economy somewhere between 120 and 200 mpg.  Can you imagine a car that gets 150 mpg?

Pros of E-REVs
What are the benefits of E-REV over plug-in hybrids or just hybrid cars?  To put it simply, you may not need to put gas in the car again.  If your every day commute is short enough and you have access to a plug, you can always charge the battery pack via plug and never need to 'gas up' again.  Plug-ins, since they are designed to run the electric and gas motor in tandem, will need to be re-fueled even if you do plug it in every night.  If you're traveling greater distances, a plug-in can be more efficient, but for most people who drive less than 40 miles a day, the E-REV may be the better choice.

Most conservationists feel that running on electricity, rather than oil, is better for the environment.  I'm not an expert in this area, but I believe it would be easier to regulate the electric companies than it is to regulate the cars.  One source of power, compared to thousands of sources, is just simpler. 

Another positive note is lessening the dependence our country has on oil.  By running more on electric, rather than gas, we can cut our oil use drastically. 

And, for now, electricity is cheaper as a fuel than gasoline is.  Your location will vary depending on how much your electricity costs and when you plug-in (night time electricity can cost less than daytime), but there are some estimates that an all-electric car costs you 2-6 cents per mile to drive.  The Prius, in comparision, costs 21 cents per mile to drive.  The E-REV should end up having fuel costs closer to the bottom of that range.

Of course, there's the cool factor associated with being the first to drive a new type of car.  The first to drive the Insight or Prius off the lot were certainly asked a lot of questions about how and why they were buying the first generation of modern hybrids.  I'm sure the new owners of the E-REVs on the way will get the same kind of notice.

A bonus that may not appeal to many who are interested in the new technology is the performance levels.  Based on hybrid car sales, it's the cars that focus in on fuel economy that are the winners.  But, if applied, E-REV engines can be designed for performance levels instead.  Take a look at what the Karma will be able to do and you can see how powerful these engines can be without even trying.

And then there's the federal government tax breaks on E-REV already in place.  The Chevy Volt is already being estimated to qualify you for up to $7,500 in tax credits.  That's if you qualify and so on and so forth, but that's a pretty nice discount on the sure to be expensive Volt.

And, while we haven't seen them yet, I'm sure the E-REVs coming out will qualify for local perks just like hybrid cars have.  Better parking, access to HOV lanes, local and state tax breaks, etc... Just getting access to the HOV lane can be quite a relief depending on your commute.

Cons of E-REVs
But, of course, it's not all bright and cheery.  When it comes to E-REV technology, there are just as many cons to consider as there are benefits.

For instance, do you even have access to a plug where you park your car?  You probably don't have one at your workplace or wherever else you go, but what about at home?  Do you live in an apt buiding and there's no extension cord long enough? 

It may take 6-8 hours for you to fully re-charge the battery pack.  Will you be able to do that consistently, or will you be relying on the gas engine to charge the batteries all the time?  What if you forget to plug-in?  There goes your fuel economy for the day (I've seen an estimate the Volt may have gotten a rating of 40+ mpg, so it's not like it would be a tragedy).   There are some 'quick chargers' being developed and deployed, but I'm guessing it won't be something so cheap you'll want one in your garage.

Do you have to worry about the battery pack getting depleted if you leave the car parked for a week?  a month?  I'm not sure you could 'jump' these batteries easily.

And, of course, you probably will have to re-fuel with gas, too.  Is that a nuisance factor, having to re-fuel twice?   Plugging in at night (every night), and if your commute is long enough, having to re-fuel too?

And is electricity any cleaner than gas?  There's certainly enough debate on the matter that I'm not weighing in on the matter, but from the reports I've seen, it all depends on where you live and how your electricity is produced.  Yes, you will cut down on oil imports, but oil independence may not be your motivating factor.  If pollution and 'green' products are your motivation, you may have to look closely at this one.

And, of course, there's the biggest CON of all; Cost.  The Chevy Volt is estimated to cost somewhere in the range of $40,000.  That sort of up-front payment is not feasible for a lot of people.   Given the current economic climate, the number of people willing to pay that much for a car is probably going down right now.  Everyone I've spoken to about the Volt, who has heard some things and is getting excited about it, has quickly cooled down when they heard that estimate.  When you look at the Prius, which runs in the $20K range, and the new Insight, which will cost under $19K, some of those who are interested in the Volt may be turned off.

The look of the Volt (not E-REV) has also been a detractor so far.  After seeing the concept vehicle, then seeing the production vehicle, a lot of people took their names off of the 'waiting list.'  Designed for wind tunnels, the Volt came out looking a lot like the Prius and the new Insight.  Mind you, the fuel economy benefits are plentiful, but if you're looking to distinguish yourself from the crowd, the new look doesn't do it. 

How much will it cost you to repair the new vehicle whenever anything goes wrong?  The battery pack may be the most expensive item in the car, so if something goes wrong there, ugghhh...  That's not likely to occur, and I would also expect GM et. al. will continue the high warranty levels they have on their hybrids right now (including battery replacement cost), but that still leaves all the other things going on under the hood. 

Any repairs on a new type of vehicle like this will most likely have to occur at the dealership.  So, if you think you can save money by going to your local mechanic, think again.  They may not even touch it for a routine oil change.  So, even though oil changes and such will occur a lot less often, the overall repair and maintenance cost will most likely end up on the high side since you will have to rely on the dealership repair shops.

So, is an E-REV right for you?  Not if you're making an economic decision it isn't.  But, if you're interested in moving cars away from gasoline, cutting our oil dependence, interested in making yourself noticed, or hate going to fill your car up but don't want the limited range of an all electric vehicle holding you back, then an E-REV may be the car for you.

At least, if you have the money to buy one.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prius is the Worst Performing Car in Sales... Hardly

According to a Treehugger post (Worst Sales Performance of Any Car: Toyota Prius : TreeHugger)

What is the worst performing car (in sales) in America in November? The Prius.
There are a couple of problems with that claim. First, they only look at the most popular cars and trucks, so claiming the Prius is the worst performing car is over the top.

Sales are Bad
Not that a 48% sales decline is anything to be happy about.

But at the same time, this is an indication of how numbers can lie. Having kept track of hybrid sales for a couple of years now, I think I can understand why the numbers are declining on the Prius.

First, the cost of gas has gone way down in the past month. That alone should relieve some of the pressure on more fuel economic cars. Until gas prices go up, at least some people are going to be opting for less fuel efficient cars.

The Prius may be the most inexpensive full hybrid on the road to buy right now, but that doesn't make it cheap to buy. It's price puts it above the line for a lot people.  In the current economy, anything that might be considered a luxury is being put off.

Also, despite the downturn in sales, hybrids are not getting discounted. I've even seen some reports of dealerships charging more than the asking price, even now. Other cars are getting discounts and special financing deals, but not hybrids.

The Prius is about to move into a next generation. For those who know, waiting until the next generation Prius is on the road is a smart move.

One last point (and this may be the biggest one).  Last November, sales on hybrids (not just the Prius) were up 82%.  The Prius was up by 109%!  After moving their Camry Hybrid production into Kentucky, Toyota was able to increase production of the Prius and November's sales showed how well they were doing in filling in the back orders they had.

Prius is Still at the Top
Despite all the downward pressure on car sales, the Prius is still one of the top selling cars in the US.  Toyota has very little inventory on the Prius. They are selling the ones they have, without any attempt to increase production. To put it simply, Toyota is selling every Prius they make.

If we take the list at Treehugger at face value, it's #16 on the list of all cars, trucks and SUVs.  If we just restrict to cars, it's in the top 10.   Sales are down 10% on the year.  I wonder how many other cars can say that's all they're down.

I'd have to say Treehugger Lloyd Alter is getting this one wrong. I know his point is how Ford and GM aren't exactly getting everything wrong as compared to Toyota or Honda. But that doesn't mean his claims about the Prius are right.

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Dodge Challenger Auction to Benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children

I normally limit all my posts to those regarding hybrid cars, but an auction on a Dodge Challenger to benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children is worth the attention I can give it.

Boston, MA - An iconic muscle car of the 1970s, the Dodge Challenger, is back after a 35-year absence and a limited-edition 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 is up for auction on eBay through Sunday, Dec. 7. Proceeds of the online auction will benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The New England Dodge Dealers Association donated the car because the group wants to raise awareness and funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children. "The decision to donate the Challenger SRT8 was based on the positive personal experiences many of our dealers and the association's Board members have had with the Shriners and Shriners Hospitals," said New England Dodge Dealer Association President Frank Brody. "Shriners Hospitals for Children is truly a benevolent organization that has proven they really want to make a difference for children."

The Dodge Challenger SRT8, which is #234 of the 6,400 produced in 2008, goes zero to 60 in five seconds and is loaded with options, including a 6.1 liter HEMI® V-8 engine with 425 horsepower, GPS navigation system, Keyless Go Entry, MyGIG multimedia system and UConnect hands-free communication.

This car is on display at the New England International Auto Show at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, located at 415 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210 from Wednesday, Dec. 3 to Sunday, Dec. 7. The winning bid will be announced at the show on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.

For a link to the auction site, go to

For more information on the New England International Auto Show please visit

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Hybrids are on Their Way to Washington

According to the news reports, the CEO from Ford and GM are no longer traveling by plane to go see Congress in D.C.  Instead, they'll travel down in their own hybrids in an effort to disengage themselves from the corporate jet image they left with.

GM Chairman and CEO Wagoner will be traveling in a Chevy Malibu Hybrid, while For CEO Alan Mulally will take a Ford Escape Hybrid from Detroit to D.C. Wagoner's staff may be flying down, but Mulally's staffers will take turns with him in driving the Escape.

Chrysler Nardelli hasn't said if he'll be driving, but it's a good guess he won't be traveling by corporate jet.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Fisker Karma

Fisker Automotive will be showing the first production model at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It will be very similar to the show car shown off at the show in January.

The Karma is not exactly for everyone. With a pricetag of $87,900, very few will be enjoying its comforts. It's a very impressive Extended Range Electric Vehicle (plug-in hybrid), with all the bells and whistles you might expect.  You can travel up to 50 miles on all electric power, and after that, the gas engine will kick in and you can run in hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) mode. 
The electric motor is powered by the (very large!) battery pack (22.6 kWh).  You can charge it using an 110V or 220V plug

Fisker estimates you can get 100 mpg out of this very powerful sports car if you commute less than 50 miles a day and charge the Karma overnight.  And you can go 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.  You can select which mode you prefer on the fly, stealth or sports.  The stealth mode restricts your powerful engine and extends the all electric range, while the sports mode allows for enhanced vehicle performance.

And, just to top it off, there will be solar panels on the roof.  The energy captured goes to the battery pack, giving you an extended range on all electric power.

Read more about the Karma, how it's being built in Finland,  or just follow the category (Fisker) tag at the end of this post.

Press Release Follows:

RVINE, Calif., Dec. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Fisker Automotive, Inc., a green American premium sports car company, today announced that its first production car, the Fisker Karma, will be showcased at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). With only minor design enhancements made to the exterior of the vehicle, the production Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid retains the extreme proportions and beautiful sculpture of the January 2008 Karma show car.

"We are very excited to be bringing the Fisker Karma back to NAIAS," said Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker. "In the year since we debuted the Karma, the reception we've received has been tremendous. I'm proud to announce at this time that we are already sold out on the car until mid-2010."

With a base price of $87,900 (USD), the Fisker Karma is scheduled to begin delivery in November 2009. Featuring the proprietary Q-Drive powertrain, the Fisker Karma will have an all-electric range of 50 miles (80km). After the all electric 50 miles, the gasoline engine turns a generator to charge the lithium ion battery. Once the 50-mile electric range has been exceeded, the Fisker Karma can be used as a normal hybrid vehicle. With this balance of electric and gas range, Fisker Automotive estimates that most Karma drivers who charge the Karma overnight and commute less than 50 miles per day will be able to achieve an average fuel economy of 100 mpg (2.4L/100km) per year.

The production model to be featured at the 2009 NAIAS will include an upper grill that is graphically enhanced, being slightly larger towards the outer corners. The lower air intake has been enlarged to allow for more airflow and underneath the rear bumper, an aerodynamic diffuser includes the integration of a cooling cover for the electric drivetrain.

To optimize cooling and aerodynamics, the exhaust pipe from the ICE engine is routed directly out behind the front wheels. A small functional side vent will release the hot air when the ICE engine is turned on. The Fisker Karma also features a complete flush B-pillar. The B-pillar is a safety feature and already fulfills the proposed 2012 rollover protection safety regulations.

Underneath the Karma is an all aluminum spaceframe made in cooperation with Norsk Hydro. The exterior body is a combination of aluminum panels and composite panels.

The Karma has a unique sustainable interior strategy. The design of the interior cabin is a luxurious tailored space for four adults. The interior will be unveiled for the first time in its final form at the 2009 NAIAS.

The vehicle's ride and handling is decisively sporty and includes very responsive steering. The Karma's long wheel base, wide track and low center of gravity provide excellent cornering and stability at highway speeds.

The innovative powertrain, Q-drive, utilizes a large, powerful lithium ion battery and a powerful 2-liter direct injected turbo-charged 4-cylinder gasoline engine developing 260 hp, which enables the Karma to achieve a continuous top speed of 125 mph and a 0-60 of 5.8 seconds. The large powerful lithium ion battery provides 22.6 kWh, which has unique control software. The two powerful electric motors deliver a combined 408 hp.

Additional features of the Karma include:

Karma Powertrain "Q-Drive"

Powertrain Overview Description

The Karma powertrain is a high performance, high efficiency, plug-in hybrid electric system comprised of three electric machines, three inverters, a turbo-charged 2.0 L high-feature DI gasoline engine and an advanced Lithium- ion technology battery pack. This hardware combination coupled with the innovative Q-Drive control system provides for a unique driving experience where energy, power, feel, and fuel economy are optimized to satisfy driver demands.

Energy Storage System

The energy storage system incorporates an advanced lithium-ion chemistry battery pack with integrated control and safety systems that ensure safe and powerful operation throughout the operating life. The system has a maximum storage capacity of 22.6 kW-hrs and is capable of delivering a peak electric power of 200 kW (500 Amps at 400 Volts) throughout the charge depleting range of operation. The Advanced Lithium Power battery pack has been designed for the rigorous requirements of the automotive environment, and is a full "plug and play unit" utilizing all advanced vehicle communications software. The battery pack uses inherently safe cell chemistry and has been designed with multiple levels of software and hardware features to ensure optimal performance while providing the highest levels of safety features.

Powertrain Electric Traction

The power dense dual motor traction drive is capable of delivering a peak output mechanical power of 300 kW (408 hp) and a peak torque of 1300 Nm (959 Ft-lb) to the input of the differential. In Sport mode this provides for a high performance luxury sport sedan acceleration time of 0 to 60 mph (0-100 km/h) in less than 6 seconds. The sustained (electronic limited) top speed is 125 mph (200 km/h).

Karma Powertrain Operating Modes


Stealth is the default mode of operation. In this mode of operation the Q-Drive continuously optimizes the system performance and efficiency around fuel economy and electric operation. The high efficiency traction system and stable battery pack operating characteristics provide for full no-compromise electric performance on the urban driving schedule. The total achievable all electric range of greater than 50 miles is realized while in Stealth mode. In this mode the maximum vehicle speed will be limited to 95 mph with slightly limited acceleration. When electric mode is exited, the charge sustaining low energy threshold has been reached. The Q-Drive system then transitions to HEV operation. In HEV mode, the Q-Drive still optimizes fuel economy.


Sport is a driver selectable feature allowing for enhanced vehicle performance operation. This mode takes full advantage of the peak traction system performance capability and delivers the peak on-demand power and torque in order to achieve a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.8 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph. At anytime the driver can switch between stealth and sport modes. Should the driver wish to change back to Stealth mode, the Q-Drive will transition the vehicle operation to the Stealth mode low energy operating threshold.


When in HEV or charge sustaining mode the Q-Drive control system operates the vehicle very much the same as a normal strong hybrid. This includes deceleration engine shutdown, zero speed engine-off, electric launch and auto- start capability, and charge sustaining while maintaining charge balancing throughout the customer drive cycle. When the driver is in Sport mode, the Q- Drive automatically transitions to the charge sustaining mode at a higher SOC level than when in Stealth mode. This ensures that sufficient energy is available to support driver demands. Should the driver transition from Stealth to Sport while in HEV mode, the Q-Drive will restore the higher low- energy threshold. This provides for a high performance, on-demand, no- compromise, vehicle operation.

Fuel Economy & Energy Recovery

The Q-Drive system in all modes of operation works synchronously with the regenerative braking system and optimizes the energy recovery around driving conditions, driver demands for downhill simulated engine braking, vehicle speed, and road conditions.

Exterior Design

Eco Chic

Low, wide and coupe-like in profile, sensually sculpted surfaces mix with dramatic and powerful proportions to give the Fisker Karma a "look" all its own. The Karma's dynamic stance is just as much a thing of beauty as it is a result of the car's proprietary technical layout. Standard 22-inch light alloy rims at all four corners make Karma a world-leader in the wheel to body relationship. Form and function go hand in hand at Fisker.

Furthermore, innovative and functional design features such as side- mounted charging indicators, state-of-the-art LED-Xenon lighting, unique external-mounted speaker covers and a one-piece solar glass roof work in harmony to express the new design aesthetic that is Eco-Chic.

The exterior design of the production Karma is instantly recognizable and makes no compromises, with only minor changes from the 2008 Karma show car.

Headlamps/Tail lamps

The Karma headlamp combines a Bi-Xenon main lighting module with state-of- the-art LEDs making it one of the most energy-efficient headlamps ever offered. The distinctive bezel design is yet another example of the new Eco- Chic aesthetic.

The tail lamps features state-of-the-art LEDs for low energy consumption

Solar Roof

The Fisker Karma is unique in having the world's largest continuous formed glass solar roof panel on a car. The splayed solar cell array maximizes solar ray absorption under various lighting conditions. The graphic accent that runs between the solar cells gives the solar roof a unique and futuristic appearance.

Solar Roof Functionality

The Karma solar energy system converts radiated power from the sun into stored electrical energy. All energy gained from the sun supplants that of the batteries and fuel, effectively increasing the electric range of the Karma.

Solar Power Modes

During vehicle on mode and accessory mode, the electrical system will use all available solar power. For vehicle off mode, the driver may choose from 3 solar power strategies.

1. Auto - the Karma will use the solar power for optimal benefit and focus on system efficiency and reduced costs, including energy and longevity. The Karma will use this default strategy unless the driver selects otherwise, and the Karma resets to this strategy after each power-on.

2. Climate - the energy management system will utilize the solar power to ventilate the passenger compartment and reduce the effects of radiant heating. The driver can select this option from the solar menu.

3. Charging - the Karma will store as much energy as possible from solar power. The driver can select this option from the solar menu.

System Architecture

The solar system architecture consists of a the solar panel and power conditioning devices which manage the power delivered utilizing maximum power point (MPP) tracking. The solar panel is comprised of 4 electrically separate zones, each consisting of 20 cells in series. Each of the 4 zones incorporates MPP tracking to maximize power output for various solar radiation angles and partial shading conditions.

As a subsystem, it serves as an integral part of the vehicle onboard energy management strategy to continuously optimizes and manage on board vehicle energy.

Technical Specifications
-- 0.5 kWh/day
-- 130 W

Charging Port

-- Locking charging port with lid for 110V and 220V charging on driver's side rear quarter panel (analog to fuel filler on passenger side)

High-Performance Spaceframe Body Structure

Embodied in the Fisker Karma is a high-performance light-weight aluminum space-frame - developed by the most experienced body structure engineers in the automotive industry. The Karma aluminum spaceframe fulfills high stiffness targets for bending and torsion while fulfilling all current crash standards. The strong aluminum spaceframe allows the driver of the Fisker Karma to experience a new level of body rigidity and damping. The resulting steering feel and the driving dynamics will be unmatched in the 4-door sports sedan class.

The side glass "DLO" appears as one smooth, unbroken curved surface that incorporates a flush B-pillar. Due to the strong B-pillar, the Fisker Karma easily fulfills the proposed 2012 rollover protection rules.

Vehicle Architecture

The Fisker Karma's vehicle architecture layout features the lithium ion battery packaged into the tunnel enabling a very low center of gravity in the middle of the vehicle - perfect for best driving dynamics and safety. A further advantage of this architecture is the completely closed and rigid body shell that surrounds the driver and the passengers between the front and the rear of the vehicle.


The final production interior will be unveiled in Detroit at the NAIAS on January 15, 2009.

Chassis - Suspension

Designed to match the unique driving experience of the Fisker Karma's electric driveline, the suspension system balances attributes of a grand touring sedan with the fun-to-drive characteristics of a legitimate sports car. Using a systems integration approach to the complex tradeoffs of an all new plug-in hybrid platform, engineers were able to meet rigorous functional targets that are competitive with other luxury sports sedans. The design result takes advantage of Karma's low center of gravity, wide track, and long wheelbase to deliver a unique driving experience with a blend of response and comfort.

Both front and rear suspensions feature a "short long arm" (SLA) architecture with a short spindle height. Similar to that found in many sports cars, the compact package of the SLA suspension is compatible with Karma's low overall hood height and a dramatic rear end styling.

All suspension components including control arms, knuckles and sub frame are made from lightweight cast aluminum. The liberal use of aluminum in many chassis components reduces the overall weight, including un-sprung weight, to improve agility and ride performance.

The Karma is controlled at each of four wheels with mono-tube shock absorbers that are specifically tuned to improve the level of roll damping, giving a sense of flat cornering with little body roll. The rear shock absorbers are load-leveling, so the vehicle maintains its showroom stature at any loaded condition.

Fundamental to the driver interface, the steering is a hydraulically power-assisted rack and pinion. The hydraulic power unit is electrically driven and tuned for optimum steering feel with a programmable servo assist feature. Steering ratio is 14 to 1, with 2.7 turns lock-to-lock giving remarkable steering responsiveness. Specific focus has been also been given to balancing highway responsiveness with reduced parking efforts, giving a sense of an overall smaller and more nimble vehicle.

Brake Actuation System
-- Electro-hydraulic brake boost unit with integral chassis control
-- Brake proportioning
-- ABS
-- Traction control
-- Stability control
-- Electrically regenerative brake blending with friction braking

-- Parking Brake
-- Electrically actuated parking brake, bi-directional switch operation

Chassis - Wheels & Tires
-- Tires
-- Front: 245/35R22 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 with optimized rolling
-- Rear: 265/35R22 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 with optimized rolling

Overall Vehicle Specifications
-- Acceleration ('sport' mode)
-- 0-60 miles/hour = 5.8 seconds (0-100 km/h in 60 seconds)
-- Top speed (continuous) = 125 miles/hour (200 km/h)
-- Weight
-- curb weight = 4,650 lbs
-- Range
-- Electric Only Range = 50 miles EPA city cycle
-- Total Range = Over 300 miles
-- Exterior Dimensions
-- Overall Length = 4987 mm
-- Overall Width = 1984 mm
-- Overall Height = 1330 mm
-- Front Overhang = 913 mm
-- Rear Overhang = 914 mm
-- Wheelbase = 3160 mm
-- Front Track = 1689 mm
-- Rear Track = 1720 mm

Powertrain Specifications:
-- Rear Wheel Drive
-- Performance:
-- Stealth Mode = max 95 mph - battery only
-- Performance Mode = max 125 mph (ICE & battery - combined)
-- Drive Motor(s) Power = 2 x 150 kW (408 hp)
-- Battery Size
-- Dimensions = 1870 mm L x 205 mm W x 360 mm H
-- Energy Capacity = 22.6 kW hours
-- ICE Powertrain = 2.0 Liter DI Turbo Ecotec
-- Exhaust System Location = Engine Bay
-- Transmission = Not Required

The Fisker Karma will be assembled by Valmet Automotive in a highly automized assembly facility. Valmet Automotive is currently producing the Porsche Boxster and Porsche Cayman. The first Fisker Karma will be delivered to customers in November 2009. Yearly volume is anticipated to reach 15,000 cars per year.

A total of 40 retailers for the U.S. will be established by October 2009. Fisker Automotive will announce 20 of their Retailers in January 2009. European pricing will be announced at the International Geneva Motor Show in March, 2009.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Camry Hybrid Sets Milestone for Production in the US

Toyota has now produced its 100,000th Camry Hybrid at the Georgetown, Kentucky plant. After just two years, the $10 million investment at the plant has seen a trememdous output from the first plant in the US to produce a hybrid.

Back when the plant was first updated, the Prius and the Camry Hybrid were being built in Japan, resulting in a bottleneck in hybrid production. Every Camry Hybrid built meant a Prius was not being built. By moving production to the US, the plants in Japan were able to build more Prius, resulting in a huge production and sales gain. It's what allowed the Prius to move into the top 10 category for cars being sold.

Other car built at the plant include the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Solara convertible and Venza. The plant is the largest manufacturing facility in North America and employs 7,000. It can produce up to 500,000 vehicles and engines annually.

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2009 Saturn Vue Recall Notice

There's a recall notice on the 2009 Saturn Vue. Some (2,149) may have been built with an incorrect right and/or left front steering knuckle.

I'm not sure what a steering knuckle is, but the overall consequences could be severe. It's unclear whether the Vue hybrid is affected, but I thought there was a possibility, so I'm posting the rest of the information here.

Recall Results : ODI - Office of Defects Investigation


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Do We Avoid Certain Cars

J.D. Power and Associates most recent study (2008 Avoider Study(SM)) indicates consumers are looking for low prices and better gas mileage before they even consider a new car. This is the sixth year in a row J.D. Power and Associates has looked at what consumers are looking for and fuel economy is becoming a more important factor in decision buying.

These results don't seem surprising to me, but I wonder if it will hold true with gas prices dropping so much lately. The study ended in September, when gas prices were almost double what they are now.

It seems that 23 percent of new-vehicle buyers cited price as a reason to avoid certain models, while gas mileage climbed to 13 percent, up from 7 percent in 2004.

"In these tough economic times, a significant number of would-be new-vehicle buyers are postponing their purchases, but for those who are purchasing new vehicles, the market has shifted toward smaller, less expensive and more fuel-efficient models," said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates in the press release. "Although we've recently seen a considerable decrease in the price of gasoline, consumers will not soon forget having had to pay in the range of $80 to $90 for a tank of gas earlier this year."

But, the study also indicates gas mileage is not about being environmentally conscious, since only 4 percent of buyers cited it for avoidance, down from 5 percent in 2007.

"With the recent trend in automotive marketing centered on 'green' vehicles for environmentally conscious buyers, it seems that now would be the time that environmental concerns would resonate strongly with new-vehicle buyers," said Osborn. "However, the reality is that environmental concerns are seldom mentioned as a reason to either avoid or purchase specific models. Gas mileage is now the primary factor in the new vehicle purchase decision, so it appears that buyers are looking for better gas mileage as a way to save money, rather than out of concern for the environment."

Styling is still the number one reason (43%), but long term reliability (22%), quality (14%) and resale value (16%) were also very important.

The 2008 Avoider Study is based on responses from more than 33,000 owners who registered a new vehicle in May 2008. The study was fielded August through September 2008.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saturn Vue Hybrid Delayed

GM is delaying the launch of their new two-mode hybrid Saturn Vue. Built using the same technology as their other two-mode hybrids (Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade), the Vue hybrid launch is being pushed back into 2009.

It was originally scheduled to begin deliveries in December, 2008. Now it will start appearing in dealerships in 2009.  The Vue was rumored to be delayed earlier this month, but now Saturn has confirmed it.

"It will help save some costs, and it dominoes down the line," says Saturn spokesman Steve Janisse.

In addition to postponing costs for distribution to dealers and marketing, Janisse says, "We can put off the expense of dealer training, and the dealers can put off buying special equipment to service the vehicle. It helps everybody right now."
So, they are pushing off the costs from this quarter into next.  This sort of cost cutting is not affecting the development of the Chevy Volt, so far, but apparently every little bit helps GM push off their own bankruptcy.

The Vue has been the test-bed for all things hybrid and GM.  It has been a mild hybrid (once called the GreenLine), will be a full hybrid when it goes on sale in 2009, and GM also plans on delivering a plug-in version.

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