Monday, November 29, 2010

Is the EPA Setting Us Up?

The EPA is currently working out the EPA standards on electric and plug-in electric vehicles and there's been quite a lot of debate on how, why, who, what, etc... But this is the first time I've seen the values being labeled as outright fraudulence:

Using the DOE’s apples to apples methodology, the MPGe of the Nissan Leaf is not 99 but 36! Now, 36 is a good mileage number, but it is pretty pedestrian compared to the overblown expectations for electric vehicles, and is actually lower than the EPA calculated mileage of a number of hybrids and even a few traditional gasoline-powered vehicles like the Honda CR-Z. (Source: Forbes blog)
I don't agree with his argument at the end on tailpipe emissions, although I understand it. But in the long run, it's actually easier to mandate the power sources for emissions than it is each car.  And the analogy he uses for the main subject matter is definitely stretching things...

So is the EPA setting us up for a long term failure? Are we being fooled by the electric dream?

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Do We Really Want Green Cars

According to US News and World Report, "Despite all the hype surrounding hybrid and electric cars, some people just aren’t buying it. According to a new study, “some people” are most consumers."

That really doesn't cut it with me. Despite the hype and the hysteria surrounding the sales of hybrids, most people don't take into account hybrid car costs. But even though hybrid cars and SUVs are still luxury items, over 1% of the US market comes from Prius sales.

Let me repeat that in a slightly different way: 1 out of every 100 cars sold is a Prius.

There are very few cars that can say they make up such a large percentage of US consumers.  There are even fewer luxury cars that even come close to it.  Other hybrid cars aren't as fuel efficient, aren't as inexpensive and just plain aren't as good as the Prius. Which is why the Prius still dominates the hybrid car market place.

In the same article, JD Powers and Associates predicts that by 2020, over 7 percent of the passenger vehicles sold will be hybrids. Do you know of any other luxury option that will be doing as well?

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Federal Tax Credit for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
The 2011 Sonata Hybrid will come with a $1,300 tax credit (if you qualify). Unfortunately, if you're interested, you need to get it now. The tax credit expires at the end of the year. Which means you only have one month to buy the new hybrid which will be available in the beginning of December.

The Hyundai Hybrid received an EPA rating of 36/40 mpg city/highway. That put it below the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which got the full tax credit of $3,400. But then, Ford has already sold the 60,000 hybrid cars that put it over the limit, forcing the tax credits to phase out back in April. Toyota and Honda hybrids ran out of tax credits much sooner than that.

The price has not been released yet on the Sonata Hybrid.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Volt Accused of Not Going All the Way

Is it or is it not? That is the question being asked this past week as news comes the Chevy Volt may not be as electric as it claims to be. Edmunds says GM has lied: "it isn't as electric as GM has been saying for the past three years."

Electric, Hybrid, or Neither?

GM has fired back in a statement: "There is no direct mechanical connection (fixed gear ratio) between the Volt’s extended-range 1.4L engine and the drive wheels. In extended-range driving, the engine generates power that is fed through the drive unit and is balanced by the generator and traction motor. The resulting power flow provides a 10 to 15 percent improvement in highway fuel economy." and "If the traction motor is disabled, the range-extending internal combustion engine cannot drive the vehicle by itself."

Seemingly at the heart of the debate is what the Volt can call itself. GM claims the Volt is an electric car (ignore the gas engine behind the curtain, please). Edmunds (and others like the NY Times) claim the Volt is a hybrid, really a plug-in hybrid.  But that's not really the problem here.

Back Story, the Birth of an E-REV
The story I have had in my head based on all I've read and learned about the Chevy Volt E-REV goes like this. The Volt is a plug-in hybrid vehicle, but a variation within that framework, one I had come to realize deserves a new name to distinguish it from other plug-in hybrid vehicles. The Volt runs on electric power alone for 40 miles (electric power you have stored up overnight by plugging in). After that, the electricity is produced by a small gas engine which supposedly just recharged the battery pack.

Shocking Truth?  Or Just Media Bias?
It's shocking, to me and others, to find that story isn't quite true. According to Edmunds, the gas engine is assisting the electric motors at highway speeds (at or above 70 mph ). Kicking Tires points out "there's a power-split device similar to the type in hybrids from Toyota and Ford. "

It doesn't really matter if the car can only move if the electric motor is also running.  ("The engineers say yes. They say the arrangement produces a slight increase in efficiency, but they emphasize that it's not as if the gas engine takes over from the electric drive. The electric drive is indispensable, at high as well as low speeds, they say." Source: MSNBC") What matters is GM has been clear for years now the gas motor would not be capable of pushing the car.

Truth or How Dare They?
And the real kicker, does this mean the gas engine will kick in at highway speeds even in the first 40 miles? Can you really call a car like that an E-REV? What's exciting about the Volt is the ability (if you only travel less than 40 miles a day), you can own an electric car without the 'range anxiety' an all electric car brings. The Leaf goes for 100 miles, but after that you need to recharge. In other words, you need to find a plug and about 4-8 hours of time. The Volt just needs to pull into a local gas station if you don't have a handy plug.

And that's why most of the questions I've seen about the gas engine are 1) can it be even smaller? and 2) what if you don't go over 40 miles for a year or two?  Doesn't the gas go stale?

That's the way people are thinking about the Volt.

Truly an Electric for 40 miles or not?
But if that's not true, if your commute involves highway driving at 70 mph, and the gas engine is going to turn on anyways... Well, now we have a real problem.  This is what the true furor is about.

Consumers are hoping for an electric car for most days, but a gas car when you need it to go farther. What if they don't use gas for a couple of years? GM has said they have thought of this and it won't be an issue. Now I'm wondering if this is why they were so confident about that.

"The buzz around the internet — and at this event — suggests the world will soon come to an end because the Volt isn't what people thought it would be, that it's somehow a lesser vehicle. I don't see it. Once the engine starts, the point is efficiency." (Source: Joe Wiesenfelder at Kicking Tires)  With all respect to Joe, that's not the point at all of the Volt.  A true plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will be more efficient than an E-REV.

If the gas engine only 'assists' the electric motor after you are in 'extended range', then the furor over the name calling (what's in a name, after all?) will be over in my mind. The gas engine is already on and what difference does it make that the engine is not only recharging the battery pack, but it's also helping move the car a little bit increasing the efficiency.

What's in a Name
The E-REV definition separates the Volt from an all electric car. It also separates it from a plug-in hybrid (like the one expected from Toyota in the next year or so). But only if the gas engine doesn't assist at high speeds in the first 40 miles. If it does, then the Volt will need to be relabeled as a plug-in hybrid. Because that's what it would be, whether GM wants it to be called that or not.  Toyota and Ford hybrids already drive at low speeds on all electric power as just hybrids.  The difference maker for the Volt was being able to go any speed up to 40 miles (you're miles will vary).

BTW (To Mark Phelan at freep) who says "If you don't believe Parks and the independent testers who've driven the car, though, ask the federal government. It has approved the Volt for a $7,500 tax credit that only applies to electric vehicles. Hybrids need not apply." That's not true. The credit is not to 'electric cars' and the Toyota Prius plug-in will probably qualify for the tax credit.

Read More
To read more on the controversy: Money TimesIB TimesUS NewsKicking TiresEarth TechlingGMfreep
Join the Discussion at Clean MPG

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

End of Government Help Means Lower Prius Sales in Japan

The BBC is reporting the end of government subsidies has led to a drop in Prius sales in Japan. For almost a year and a half, Toyota has sold more Prius each month than in the prior year.

The Prius has also been the most popular car in Japan since the subsidies started. But with the end of the subsidies has come a drop of 14% over last years sales numbers. The Prius was still the number one car in September, however.

The Honda Fit was the second most popular car in Japan according the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JADA).

"The Prius remains hugely popular, but its sales tumbled due to the end of green car subsidies," said association spokesman Toshiki Miyake.

"Many consumers put off decisions to buy green cars following the end of government incentives."

The Prius will continue to be the most popular car for months to come, as the back log of orders is still being filled.

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Toyota Works on Their Own Smart Grid

Toyota is working on their own plug-in smart grid system for homes. With plug-in hybrids coming in the next couple of years, Toyota wants to be ready for the new phase of vehicle development.

One of the biggest limiting factors on electric (or even partially electric cars) is the limited sources for plugging in. Add in how long it takes to recharge a battery pack and you can understand why most people would be reluctant to switch out of their gasoline powered cars.

Nissan, with the new electric Leaf, had installers come and emplace vehicle recharging stations in homes of people who buy the Leaf. Toyota has the same intentions, apparently, but they want to install their systems into new car buyers homes.

The smart grid installation from Toyota "allows people to see on TV screens and mobile handsets how much electricity is being consumed by a household, how much a plug-in vehicle has charged, and how much electricity has been stored in the home. Source: Detroit News"

It also works out when to shut off gadgets that aren't being used and how to maximize when to recharge the battery in your car (rates are cheaper at night).

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Would You Buy a Car That Gets 62 MPG?

The Obamam administration is working on the new fuel efficiency guidelines starting in 2017. By then, the fuel economy average is supposed to be 35.5 mpg under the most recent guidelines adopted by the government over the past couple of years.

From 2017-2025, the discussion has continued on how much more can the US force out of the vehicle manufacturers. Administrative leaks have the goal for automakers being set anywhere from 47 to 62 mpg. That's an annual increase of 3 to 6 percent.

Environmentalist and other interested parties are pushing hard for at least 60 mpg by 2025. They argue the higher goals will force innovation and create new jobs in the automotive industry. The automotive industry says the new rules will cost consumers greatly when they go to buy their new cars.

The new proposals are expected in September, 2011, with the final ruling set in July 2012.

What's remarkable about these proposals is how few cars now meet or exceed these limits. The Prius, for instance is rated at 50 mpg. Although it should be pointed out the CAFE rules being revised are different from the ratings you see on the side of your car. The numbers can be wildly different under the two rating systems. Also, the rules require a fleet-wide average, not on individual cars. Plus, the rules are different based on the type of car being built (cars vs trucks, for instance).

Some groups, like the NRDC, are pushing hard for the higher standards:
"The Obama Administration is on the right path in recognizing the need to use the Clean Air Act to improve emission efficiency standards, but it should pursue the best option possible," Natural Resources Defense Council Transportation Program Director Roland Hwang said. "The problem with setting the bar at just a 3 percent improvement per year is that it puts the U.S. auto industry on a path towards mediocrity. A 6 percent improvement, which translates into a 62 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard, will really encourage innovative ideas, create more jobs, and do more to put the country’s auto industry back in a leadership role. But beyond the jobs and economic benefits, a stronger standard will help break our crippling dependence on oil."

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

2011 Lexus CT 200h

The Lexus CT 200h is a full hybrid luxury vehicle through and through. Introduced at the Geneva Auto Show, the hybrid Lexus provides full luxury in a compact vehicle hybrid.

The 1.8 litre motor is paired with an electric generator to provide power in four different drive modes. Each mode allows the driver to choose how he wants the hybrid to respond. Sport, eco, ev, and normal. To maximize fuel efficiency, the outer design was selected to minimize drag and optimize airflow.

Press Release follows:
The new CT 200h represents the synthesis of five key Lexus attributes which offer customers an unprecedented experience in premium compact motoring: Lexus Hybrid Drive and the extremely rigorous set of development standards known as the Lexus MUSTs; a unique driving character; the dynamic yet elegant styling inherent in the latest realization of Lexus’ L-finesse design philosophy; Lexus’ outstanding manufacturing quality and attention to detail; and the renowned customer service which lies at the heart of the Lexus ownership experience.

Lexus Hybrid Drive Powertrain
The CT 200h’s Lexus Hybrid Drive features a unique energy management system. Through the application of brand-specific engineering solutions and software tuning, Lexus engineers have focused on enhancing both the environmental and driving performance of the full hybrid series/parallel system, as well as its low NVH levels.

With a total system output of 134 hp (100 kW), the CT 200h will accelerate seamlessly from 0-60 mph in 9.8 seconds. Conversely, the CT 200h boasts remarkably low fuel consumption – a combined EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 42 mpg.

Lexus Hybrid Drive generates significantly less NOx and zero particulate emissions compared to an equivalent diesel engined vehicle. Moreover, when operating in a switchable EV mode, it generates zero NOx and particulate emissions, driving for up to one mile at speeds of up to 28 mph.

Further enhancing the Lexus Hybrid Drive system’s outstanding environmental credentials, the CT 200h incorporates numerous additional energy saving and environmentally-conscientious measures. These include LED lighting, an energy-efficient audio system amplifier and bamboo charcoal speakers, and the use of bio-sourced materials.

Dynamic Package
With a highly-focused driver’s environment, the new Lexus CT 200h has been developed to combine superior handling and a dynamic driving experience with the ride comfort expected of any Lexus.

Key to the new premium compact full hybrid’s sporting driving experience is its highly focused driver’s cockpit. It features a low driver’s seat with enhanced lateral and lumbar support, a sporting, wide grip steering wheel and a driver-focused instrument binnacle housing large, high-visibility, triple dials.

The CT 200h benefits from a highly modified existing platform incorporating numerous, exclusively developed body, chassis and powertrain control system engineering applications designed to offer customers a choice of two distinct driving moods – Dynamic, or Relaxing - in conjunction with the full hybrid’s EV, ECO, NORMAL and SPORT, ‘on-demand’ drive modes.

Particular attention has been paid to promoting superior handling stability through the high structural rigidity of the bodyshell, a low center of gravity and the minimizing of the yaw inertia moment through the use of an aluminum hood, tailgate and bumper reinforcements.

Introduced for the first time on a Lexus in this segment, a unique lateral performance damper system has been designed to help absorb and minimize body vibrations, giving a linear steering feel and further enhanced ride comfort.

The Lexus CT 200h features a bespoke suspension design which combines a proven, MacPherson strut front system with a new, fully-independent double wishbone architecture to the rear, offering superior levels of ride comfort, handling and package efficiency.

The Lexus CT 200h introduces a powerful new evolution of Lexus’ unique L finesse design philosophy to the heart of the premium compact segment.

Marrying refined elegance to sporting dynamism, the CT 200h has a highly distinctive, sharp-edged, resolute appearance, generating a unique aura which immediately sets it apart from segment rivals. With a powerful new Lexus frontal design, sweeping lines which mimic the natural flow of wind over and around the bodywork and a purposeful, wide track stance, the new full hybrid is the perfect expression of compact precision and power.

The CT 200h’s efficient and elegant cabin combines superior ergonomics, advanced Human/Machine Interface technologies and spacious passenger accommodation with hand-crafted feel, premium quality materials to create an outstandingly refined driving environment.

Its efficient package enables front and rear seat passenger accommodation that is spacious and a 14.3 cu. ft. luggage capacity is comparable to any vehicle its size.

The new premium compact full hybrid is equipped with a comprehensive range of active, passive and pedestrian impact safety features in the entry luxury segment.

The CT 200h offers an optional pre-emptive, Pre-Collision Safety system incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control. Eight airbags including driver and front passenger knee airbags and Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats are fitted as standard, and an upgraded Electronically Controlled Braking-Regeneration system (ECB-R) incorporates Anti-Lock brakes (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and a hybrid version of the brake override system, Smart Stop Technology.

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Jaguar C-X75 Extended Range Electric Vehicle

Jaguar C-X75
Jaguar has introduced the C-X75 plug-in concept. The Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV) from Jaguar has two gas micro-turbine from Bladon Jets along with two switched reluctance generators from SR Drives. The generators move the car along, while the gas turbines are there to recharge the battery that powers the generators.

Along with the above, four traction motors located on each wheel provide a total drive power of 580 kW/780 bhp. Jaguar thought it might be necessary to provide torque-vectored, all-wheel drive traction and grip when the vehicle produces 1,180 lb-ft of torque.

Twin Turbine Power Train
Full electric range is 68 miles (110 km), but will travel up to 560 miles once the gas turbines kick in (thus the 'extended range'). Acceleration is 0-62 in 3.4 seconds, 50-90 mph in 2.3 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph. Emissions are very low, at 28 g/CO2 per km on the EU test cycle.

The car’s interior is equally impressive, with the driver and passenger seated ahead of a sealed airbox that houses the micro gas-turbines. The seats are fixed to the bulkhead as in a single-seater racing car, and air to feed the turbines passes smoothly around them via channels in the structure of the body. With the seats anchored in place, the steering wheel, controls, main binnacle and pedal box all adjust towards the driver.

Dramatic theatre lighting is activated as the driver approaches the car; phosphor blue electro-luminescent wire lights illuminate the perimeter of the cabin and the turbines. When the car is started, additional blue LED lighting gently floods the door and bulkhead speaker cavities, highlighting the car’s lightweight construction. Bespoke interior materials include cream and grey leathers, polished and vapour-blasted aluminium and a soft-feel textured neoprene.

A new interface for the driver has also been created for the C-X75 using high-resolution TFT screens. Building on Jaguar’s 10-year expertise in touchscreen technology, the Jaguar Co-Pilot display in the centre console supports the driver in extracting the full potential of the C-X75 by seamlessly managing information.

The C-X75 – At a glance

  • DESIGN – A celebration of 75 years of beautiful, fast Jaguars which points the way to a new design language
  • PERFORMANCE – 0-100km/h (62mph) in 3.4 seconds, top speed of 330km/h (205mph) and 80-145km/h (50-90mph) in just 2.3 seconds
  • PROPULSION SYSTEM – A Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (RE-EV) using a unique combination of electric motors and micro gas-turbines to increase its range to 900km (560 miles)
  • EMISSIONS – A zero tailpipe emissions range of 110km (68 miles) while running solely on battery power
  • SUSTAINABILITY – By capitalising on its plug-in charge capability the C-X75 will produce just 28 grams of CO2 per kilometre on the EU test cycle
  • CONSTRUCTION – Jaguar’s advanced lightweight aluminium construction techniques provide great weight-saving and economy benefits. Additionally, up to 50 percent of the metal content is recycled
  • ACTIVE AERODYNAMICS – Drag coefficient of 0.32Cd and active downforce created through the use of an underbody Venturi
  • THEATRE – A dramatic entrance to the car is created by striking electro-luminescent wire lighting which alters to enhance the driving experience
  • UNIQUE USER INTERFACE – The touchscreen Jaguar Co-Pilot interface manages the information workload by predicting the needs of the driver
  • BESPOKE MATERIALS – Interior seamlessly blends traditional, hand-tailored leathers with textured neoprene panels and two different aluminium finishes

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Volvo Wants to Charge Up Your Car in a Different Way

Image from MotorTrend
Volvo, and nine other corporations, are looking to put the battery pack you might find in a plug-in vehicle (either electric or plug-in hybrid electric into a different place.

By using composite materials, they are examining the possibility of putting the battery into the body of the car.  The fun image they have at MotorTrend shows how much of the body would be taken up.

The composite material consists of carbon fiber and polymer resin.  The material is capable of storing great amounts of electric energy (enough to allow the car to travel up to 81 miles of all electric power (the Leaf goes 100 miles, while the upcoming Volt gets 40 miles of all electric range.  It's also supposed to recharge faster than a conventional battery.

Another advantage is by turning the battery pack into the body of the car, you can distribute the weight.  And the composite material is lighter than conventional building materials, reducing weight by as much as 15 percent.

The questions I'm left with is what if you're in an accident?  I can't imagine the body panels would be cheap to replace.  Also, what about scratches, dings, or outright dents?  Will that impact the cars ability to recharge or retain its charge?

The other partners in this project include the Imperial College London, Advanced Composites Group, Bundesanstalt Fur Material forschung undprufung, Chalmers, ETC Battery, Fuel Cells Sweden, INASCO Hella, Nanocyl, and Swerea SICOMP. The European Union jump-started the endeavor with 35 million Swedish krona ($5.2 million).

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honda IMA Hybrid for Less in Europe

2011 Jazz Hybrid to Debut in Paris
Honda is debuting the Jazz Hybrid at the Paris Auto Show. Due out as a 2011 model, the newest IMA hybrid is built using the Honda hybrid system used in the sporty CR-Z hybrid and Insight.

The Jazz hybrid will still have the same interior space, despite the addition of the electric motor and battery pack. The control unit and battery have been placed under the boot floor. The 'Magic Seats' still fold entirely flat to increase the cubic space inside, or can be folded to sit vertically, allowing for taller items to be transported.

Honda testing has shown the 1.3 litre i-VTEC engine has similar emissions at 104 g/km as the Honda Insight. At low speeds, the Jazz hybrid can run at all electric. Combined fuel efficiency is being estimated at 4.4 l/100km.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Kelley Blue Books Says Now is the Best Time to Buy a Used Hybrid

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) says now may be the best time ever to buy a used hybrid. That is, if your intent is to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, but not necessarily if you want savings at the pump.

Used hybrid car prices have started to normalize, as consumers have more choices than ever. That means the appreciation of comparable segments have outpaced hybrid cars in the past year.

New hybrid sales are down (mostly due to the spike from the Cash for Clunkers program) and values have leveled off. Along with steady gas prices (higher gas prices mean more hybrids sold), more cars are getting 40+ mpg. That means there is more competition in the fuel efficient segment.

Put it all together and you get a good time to buy a used hybrid, although not necessarily if you're looking to buy a Prius (see below).  And consumers may be catching on.  Monthly traffic at Kelley Blue Book has increased by 10-20 percent.

"If shoppers are convinced to buy a hybrid today, they should keep in mind that it can take upwards of 10 years to recover the premium paid for a hybrid versus a comparable non-hybrid alternative (based on $3 per gallon fuel prices and 12,000 miles driven per year)," said Juan Flores, director of vehicle valuations for Kelley Blue Book. "For those consumers considering a hybrid purchase purely to save money, they must consider how long they intend to hold the vehicle."

KBB points out that the hybrid premium can take years to 'pay off'.

According to their analysis, "If a consumer were to consider a new vehicle, the time needed to recoup the hybrid premium is more than 10 years. A driver would have to rack up 160,000 miles on a Prius, or more than 190,000 miles on a Civic Hybrid, before simply breaking even on their hybrid purchase! If a consumer were wise enough to purchase a used hybrid vehicle, the time needed to break-even falls substantially. For the Civic Hybrid, the break-even point is realized just shy of five years down the road as opposed to the sixteen years required for a new purchase. This would require only 57,600 miles to be driven before the hybrid premium was recovered. This seems quite reasonable and this kind of mileage should be easily handled by the Civic. For those in the market for a hybrid vehicle, Kelley Blue Book's best recommendation is to consider buying a used vehicle first."

When buying used, consumers should consider purchasing the hybrid alternative of an existing nameplate as opposed to an all-hybrid vehicle like the Prius, since it takes twice as long to recover the hybrid premium for a Prius as opposed to a Honda Civic Hybrid in the used market. Over time, the Prius has acquired a large following that has lead to what is called a "Prius Premium," in addition to the already costly hybrid premium. By sticking to a hybrid vehicle built off an existing platform (Civic Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, etc.) a consumer has a far better chance of coming out ahead on the purchase of a hybrid vehicle.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Toyota Outlines Plans for Future Hybrid Development

Toyota has ambitious plans when it comes to hybrid and other alternative cars. By 2012, they will launch the plug-in Prius and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle by 2015. Along with those more exotic introductions, they will also launch six new hybrids by the end of 2012.

Toyota is aiming for 20,000 plug-in sales in the first year, with a cost of $3,000 - $5,000 more than a Prius.

Four of the new hybrid vehicles will be Toyota and two will have Lexus branding.

Toyota continues to focus on hybrids because they are more cost and range effective than pure electric cars according to Mr. Uchiyamada, vice president of Toyota’s research and development.

“Based on the current battery tech, it is not feasible to have full electric vehicles to be the main way now,” he told reporters, through a translator, during a visit to Detroit. “There will be a period of time where plug-in hybrid vehicles will be used heavily. As battery technology gets better, there will be a transition to pure electric vehicles.”

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Report Card for Cars, What Grade Will Your Car Get?

New Fuel Economy Sticker for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
The EPA and DOT are working together to create a new fuel economy sticker to be placed on new cars. They have proposed two different labels, which while different, are both designed to let the buyer know just what kind of car they are buying.

The first label gives a letter grade to the car, based on its fuel economy. Electric cars would get A+ ratings, while no van would get over a C+. Plug-in hybrid vehicles would fall in the A- range.

The second label focuses in on the miles per gallon and the estimated fuel costs. This allows for greater comparison between vehicles, especially given the big differences that are happening with new cars.

Both label have MPG and GPM (gallons per 100 miles) ratings along with greenhouse gas emissions. They will also give an estimate of annual fuel costs, plus more information comparing the fuel economy of this car to that of other like vehicles. Smart phone owners will be able to scan in the QRR code and get additional information.
Electric Vehicles Get an A+

The exciting part for those who are following the new types of cars (electric, plug-in hybrid, E-REV, etc...) is the new labeling system. Vehicles like the Volt are supposed to drive for 40 miles or so on all electric power, then go hybrid. After that initial electric range, you need gas to go, so the fuel efficiency figure is important to know.

That type of information will now be found on the sticker. The new sticker is designed to let you know the estimated fuel economy in each different mode (electric, hybrid, or gas-only).

The only problem I have with the new sticker is its emphasis on 'energy consumption measurement' where the energy consumption (in this case, electricity) is in MPGe, or Miles Per Gallon equivalent. That sort of measurement is confusing to people. The KiloWatt hours is shown on the electric vehicles, but not on the plug-in hybrid vehicles. That's less informative than it could be.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2011 Honda Jazz Hybrid

Honda Jazz Hybrid
The 2011 Honda Jazz Hybrid is set to debut at the Paris Auto Show in in September and should arrive in dealers lots early 2011.  The Jazz Hybrid (known as the Honda Fit in Japan and the US) is undergoing a 2011 update and is set to receive the hybrid engine just as the Fit did in Japan.

It's expected to get similar gas mileage as the Insight, since it has the same underpinning as the Insight.  The IMA Hybrid system is the same as the Honda Civic Hybrid and Insight, which means the micro-car can travel for short distances on all electric power, while the electric motor assists the gas engine in other situations.  A start-stop system will turn the gas engine off when you are coming to a stop.

The 1.3 liter four-cylinder gas engine is mated to a CVT gearbox with the electric motor matched on.  The 2011 Hybrid Jazz will have a few distinctive features, including a new grill, blue tinted headlights, a 'tweaked' bumper and clear taillight lenses.  The Honda Fit is the cheapest hybrid available, and the Jazz is expected to follow suit when it goes on sale in Europe.

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Toyota Wants to Double Hybrid Sales

Toyota, by far the top seller of hybrid cars, wants to reach 5 million hybrid sales by 2015. That is twice what they've sold so far since 1997.

Toyota released a five year 'environment impact plan' stating they wish to improve their carbon emissions by 25 percent and see a 25% gain in fuel efficiency over their 2005 levels.

To top it off, they want to release a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle by fiscal 2015.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toyota Test Plug-in Prius at Logan Airport

Toyota has been testing their plug-in Prius (due out in 2012 or so) in various sites and with different customers throughout the world. And now it's Logan Airport in Boston who gets to try one out.

It will only be for two months as Toyota gathers feedback and testing information. Massport officials, who run Logan, will use the "car to drive to meetings, visit construction sites and terminals, and to help with other errands."

That's most likely going to result in really good test results, as the miles driven at any time will most likely be very low, which means less reliance on gasoline and more on the battery pack. Unlike the Chevy Volt, the plug-in Prius is more like a souped up hybrid. It will drive at higher speeds on all battery power for longer time periods, but doesn't rely on just the one power source. The Volt goes for 40 miles (your miles will vary) before the gas engine kicks in. The Prius plug-in may start using the gas engine immediately (or not) depending on your use.

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Having Problems With Honda Civic Hybrid Battery Fix

According to visitors to, the fix being applied to the software in the hybrid Civic is a little bit disappointing:

Apparently, the software change does not directly address the battery problem—but instead reduces the vehicle’s reliance on the batteries and electric motor. Essentially, the “fix” extends the life of the battery, but turns a Civic Hybrid into a standard hybrid in the process. As a result, fuel economy is reduced from low- to mid-40 mpg, to the level of a standard hybrid in the mid-30s. The change also deprives the Honda hybrid system, known as Integrated Motor Assist, of its ability to “assist” by receiving a power boost from the electric motor during acceleration.
That's bad news for anyone interested in getting the best mileage out of their hybrid. By using the battery less, Honda can guarantee the battery will last longer. But there should have been a better method. Also, given how this affects mileage, I wonder if Honda shouldn't have to re do their mpg rating with the EPA?

I'm not the only one wondering, either. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is asking some pointed questions about whether the 'fix' is increasing emissions.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honda Civic Hybrid Owners Get Software Fix for Battery Pack

Honda Civic Hybrid owners are starting to be notified that their hybrid battery pack could fail sooner than warranted by Honda. Model years 2006, 2007 and 2008 are affected by a software flaw that causes the battery to drain sooner than it should.

Honda did not issue a recall since the flaw does not cause any danger to people's safety, but instead issued a technical service bulletin.

But I'm betting owners aren't too happy to hear they've been driving around with something like this for a while. I would wonder if the software glitch had shortened battery life, even after it's fixed. And will it affect resale values? People are wary enough over how long the battery pack will last when buying a used hybrid.

16,000 units were being fixed in Japan, while around 90,000 units are affected in the US. 2009-2010 hybrid civic models are not affected.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Detroit Edison Offers New Electric Car Buyers Special Rate

Detroit Edison is offering first buyers a lower price on electricity. For those who buy an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid vehicle, Edison is offering to the first 2,500 residential customers either a lower rate for charging during off-peak hours (11 pm - 9 am) or a monthly flat rate of $40 per vehicle.

They are also willing to pay up to $2,500 for a residential charging station, although they expect a typical 220-volt station to retail at $600.

"We view -- as do a lot of people -- electric vehicles as something of the future," said Edward Falletich, manager for pricing at Detroit Edison. "What this does is let us be privy to how much power is used to charge a vehicle."

By offering the special rate, they encourage new buyers, plus they get to guage how electric vehicles will affect the grid. They also get to see when owners will plug in, plus how much they use.

The $40 a month equates to 13 cents per kilowatt hour. 84% of respondents to an Electric Power Research Institute expect to charge their electric vehicles at night.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

One Million Prius Sold in Japan and Counting

Although Toyota started selling the Prius in 1997, it wasn't until 2007 the 1 million milestone was passed. After that, it only took until 2009 to pass the 2 million mark. Now, with the incentives still in full swing and a backlog of orders, hybrid sales in Japan alone have passed the million marker. The Prius has been the top selling car in Japan for 15 months straight.

Worldwide sales have topped 2.68 million.

Toyota estimates that the hybrid vehicles they have sold since 1997 have led to approximately 4 million fewer tons3 of CO2 emissions—considered to be a cause of global warming—in Japan, and approximately 15 million fewer tons globally, than would have been emitted by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance.

TMC Hybrid Vehicle Chronology
Year Month Milestone
1997 Mar. Toyota Hybrid System unveiled
1997 Aug. Coaster Hybrid EV launched (Japan only)
1997 Dec. Prius launched
2000 Nov. Cumulative Prius sales top 50,000 vehicles
2001 Jun. Estima Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2001 Aug. Crown Mild Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2002 Mar. Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 100,000 mark
2002 Aug. Cumulative Prius sales top 100,000 vehicles
2003 Apr. Toyota Hybrid System II unveiled
2003 Jul. Alphard Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2003 Sep. Second-generation Prius launched
2003 Nov. Dyna Hybrid and Toyoace Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2005 Mar. Harrier Hybrid (RX400h outside Japan) and Kluger Hybrid (Highlander Hybrid) launched
2005 Oct. Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 500,000 mark
2005 Dec. Prius production commenced at SFTM's Changchun Plant, China
2006 Mar. GS450h launched in Japan
2006 Apr. Cumulative Prius sales top 500,000 vehicles
2006 May Camry Hybrid launched (for sale outside Japan)
2006 Jun. Redesigned Estima Hybrid launched (Japan only)
2006 Oct. Camry Hybrid production commenced at TMMK's plant in the U.S.; Quick Delivery
2007 May Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 1-million mark; LS600h/LS600hL launched
2008 Feb. Crown Hybrid unveiled (launched in April; Japan only)
2008 May Cumulative Prius sales top 1 million vehicles
2009 Jan. RX450h unveiled (launched in April)
2009 May Third-generation Prius launched
2009 Jul. Camry Hybrid production commenced at the Gateway Plant, Thailand; HS250h launched
2009 Aug. Cumulative hybrid vehicle sales top 2-million mark
2009 Oct. Sai unveiled (launched in December, Japan only)
2009 Dec. Camry Hybrid production commenced at the TMCA's Altona Plant, Australia
2010 Apr. Camry Hybrid production commenced at the GTMC's plant in China
2010 Jun. Auris Hybrid production commenced at the TMUK's Burnaston Plant, UK; Auris Hybrid launched (for sale outside Japan)
2010 Jul. Cumulative sales in Japan of TMC hybrids top 1 million units

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Mild Hybrids Make a Come Back in 2011

GM is working on a second generation of mild hybrids to be available in the third quarter of 2011. They have a mid-sized sedan (they won't say which) for the US and another in China. The source (via Autonews) was Larry Nitz, GM executive director of hybrid and electric powertrain engineering.

That's great news and important if GM wants to meet the upcoming guidelines on fuel efficiency for their fleet of cars in the US. Not every car can be a hybrid or a plug in the coming years. Mild hybrids give a much smaller boost in fuel efficiency, but the cost to implement it is also a lot lower. A start-stop (gas engine turns off at stop lights) system paired with regenerative braking and a much smaller battery pack and you can boost acceleration using electric power rather than more gasoline.

More than likely, the more powerful part will come from a new generation of battery pack (maybe lithium-ion?). Nitz said the benefit would be about 20% in fuel economy.

GM lost most of they mild hybrid line-up when they dropped Saturn.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Can Hyundai Get to 50 MPG?

Hyundai announced their plans to reach 50 mpg fleetwide by 2025. That's for all of its passenger cars and light duty trucks. That's a really impressive goal, considering the most fuel efficient car they have in the US right now gets 30 mpg combined.

But this is by CAFE rules, where Hyundai is the leader at 30.9 mpg fleetwide. By 2016, the NHTSA is requiring automakers to get to 35.5 mpg. So, even the most fuel efficient automakers still have some ground to make up.

"We're committed to setting the pace in this industry on fuel economy, and we're inspired by the possibilities that our advanced Blue Drive technologies afford," said John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president and CEO. "Getting to 50 mpg and beyond seems like a huge leap, but by making this commitment and aligning our R&D initiatives now, we know we can get there."

This is a stretch goal, so maybe it's not achievable. But, with the vehicles Hyundai has in its pipleine, the 50 mpg goal is possible. That is, if people are willing to buy them.

Hyundai is working on improvements and innovation in powertrains including gasoline direct injection, turbocharging, electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, light-weight materials and design, and more. These are all part of their Blue Drive strategy.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

GM Invests in Bright IDEA

GM is investing in Bright Automotive. GM will become a minority owner in the company, while Bright will gain access to GM technologies, and advanced engine and transmission systems, for its vehicle. Bright is working on building a plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle.

I'd say this was significant on a few fronts. A promising company built on creating a plug-in hybrid for commercial purposes is exciting on its own. Commercial vehicles can be perfect fits for electrification. With frequent stops, hybrid commercial vehicles can double or triple their gas savings. The IDEA saves 1,500 gallons of fuel per year vs its competitors while driving 40 miles on all electric and getting 40 mpg in standard hybrid mode.

But it also allows GM to expand on its use of its hybrid technology and parts. By expanding the user base, they can start cutting the costs (increasing scale and all that). Maybe that means they'll be able to cut the MSRP on vehicles like the Volt sooner rather than later.

And, it's a good sign for GM to be investing in others, not just itself. Looks like they are recovering. Either that or they are expanding too fast...

Press release follows:

Detroit, MI and Anderson, IN (August 3, 2010) — Bright Automotive and General Motors today announced they have agreed to pursue a strategic relationship and that GM has provided funding to the Indiana automaker. This is the first funding action by the newly-formed General Motors Ventures, LLC, and it will help accelerate Bright’s production of the IDEA, a revolutionary plug-in hybrid commercial vehicle.

“This relationship is an important step forward for Bright, and a strong endorsement of our highly experienced automotive team and our incredible vehicle,” said Reuben Munger, Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO. “With this deal, Bright gets financial support that puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the IDEA. And perhaps just as importantly, we gain a strategic partner that is a world leader in electrification.”

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding in July. General Motors Ventures LLC provided funding to Bright this week, and the two companies intend to complete the formal agreements later this year. Upon completion of the agreements and other terms, General Motors Ventures would have a minority stake in Bright Automotive ( and Bright would have access to GM technologies, and advanced engine and transmission systems, for its vehicle.

"Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business at GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage," said Jon Lauckner, President of GM Ventures. "In this case, our funding of Bright Automotive will accelerate the introduction of advanced propulsion and light-weight technologies in the commercial vehicle market."

“We talked with several leading automakers, but GM clearly had the right vision, the most capable technology, and the closest alignment with our business approach,” said Michael Brylawski, Bright Automotive Executive Vice President. “We are thrilled to work with GM to create American jobs, stimulate technology development, and build an innovative American vehicle that will help reduce oil dependence and cut costs for businesses.”

In developing the IDEA, Bright started with a clean sheet of paper, listened to customers, and took a novel approach to product development that focused on light-weighting, aerodynamics and a highly efficient drivetrain. The result is a multipurpose vehicle for business fleets — the first designed to be highly efficient and provide a clear economic benefit.

The IDEA delivers a positive total cost of ownership to fleet customers by providing significantly greater fuel efficiency than current fleet vehicles in its class. The IDEA operates in electric mode for 40 miles before switching to an estimated 36-mpg hybrid mode for 100+ mpg potential based on daily driving behavior. Bright Automotive provides details on the IDEA at

Funding through GM Ventures will allow Bright to begin ramping-up the development of the production program for the IDEA in the third quarter of 2010. Bright continues to seek a low interest loan through the Department of Energy’s ATVM program. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

GM Increases Production of Volt in 2012

A pre-production Chevy Volt nears the end of the line
GM has decided to increase production from 30,000 to 45,000 on the Volt in its second year (2012). GM just opened up pre-orders a few days ago on the Chevy Volt. If they decided to up production by 15,000 units, to me, that means they are having very strong pre-sales.

At $41,000, you would think the Volt was not going to be a high production vehicle. But at 45,000 units a year, you can't label the Chevy Volt as 'green washing' either.

Expect a nice trickle down effect on suppliers, too.

Press Release follows:

DETROIT, Mich. – General Motors today said that thanks to strong public interest in the Chevrolet Volt, the 340-mile extended range electric vehicle, it will increase U.S. production capacity of the groundbreaking new car by 50 percent, from 30,000 units to 45,000 units, in 2012.

The announcement came as U.S. President Barack Obama toured the Detroit-Hamtramck facility, where the Volt is being produced now for sale later this year.

“The Chevrolet Volt provides drivers with the latest technology, outstanding innovation, and something no other electric vehicle can provide – peace of mind,” said Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., GM Chairman and CEO. “We are very proud to host the President of the United States at this plant, where the future of the American automobile industry is being built today by the men and women of General Motors.”

The expanded U.S. production capacity is the latest in a series of positive developments for the Chevrolet Volt. This week, participating Chevrolet dealers in launch markets began taking customer orders for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, following the release of retail and lease pricing. The brand also recently announced unprecedented battery and vehicle limited warranties to bring value and peace of mind to Volt customers. And the number of U.S. launch markets for the vehicle recently was raised from three to seven. In the past few weeks, more than 25,000 people have joined the Chevrolet Volt enthusiast list.

The Volt offers a total driving range of about 340 miles and is powered by electricity at all times. For up to the first 40 miles, the vehicle drives gas- and tailpipe-emissions-free using electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas-powered, engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the driving range another 300 miles on a full tank.

The Detroit-Hamtramck plant received $336 million in new investment to prepare for production of the Volt, part of more than $700 million GM has invested in eight Michigan facilities to support Volt production since 2008. This includes a 33,000 square-foot battery systems lab in Warren; a battery assembly facility in Brownstown Township; and supporting engine and stamping operations in Grand Blanc, Bay City, and three plants in Flint.

Besides direct GM jobs, the Volt has helped spur additional supplier employment and investment. Earlier this month, battery cell supplier LG Chem/Compact Power Inc. broke ground on a $300 million, 650,000 square-foot plant in Holland, Mich., to support Volt production, creating 400 jobs. In addition, the Volt helped start an electrification trend. Since its debut in January 2007, other automakers have announced 30 plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New York City Loses Bid to Force Hybrid Taxi... Again

New York City has lost again in its battle to create a hybrid taxi fleet in New York City. Cab owners have been fighting the city for years, claiming the city was attempting to mandate fuel economy and emissions, which only the federal government can do.

Cab owners aren't really worried about federal lawgivers rights, however. They just don't want to spend more money on purchasing the vehicles. Cab drivers love driving hybrids, since they save so much money on gas over the Ford Victoria.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the city's appeal. The next step, if the city wishes to pursue it, would be the Supreme Court.

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But Do You Want Them to Pick You Up?

Enterprise Rent-A-Car will be offering 500 Nissan Leafs for rent starting January 2011. The Nissan Leaf, an all electric vehicle (EV), has a range of about 100 miles (depends on your driving conditions). It can be recharged in a standard 110-volt home outlet. Although you do have the option of speeding things up if you have a 220-volt or even a 480-volt outlet available.

Enterprise is offering the EV in eight different markets; Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.; Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn.; San Diego; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle. The cars will only be available in limited number of branches, assuring they can train their workers on how to show customers how to recharge.

Beginning in November, Enterprise locations will be installing charging stations at 100 locations.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2011 Chevy Volt Price

2011 Chevy Volt, $41K for an E-REV
All the speculation is over as the Chevy Volt price has finally been revealed. And at $41,000, the E-REV from GM is not going to be a car for everyone.

The price is not surprising, but it is a bit disappointing. I was hoping that with the lower than expected price tag on the Nissan Leaf, GM would be forced to bring it down to at least the mid $35,000 range. Keeping it under forty thousand would have been something.

But, you could also point out that GM is pricing the Volt closer to what it truly costs them to build (at least for now). With an all new battery type, engine type, production plants, etc... the Volt has been an expensive car to build. It's likely that GM will lose money on the Volt for years, something a company just out of bankruptcy and government loans needs to be careful about.

The Nissan Leaf lease is almost identical to the Chevy Volt lease. By matching the Leaf lease, GM is hoping to compete with Nissan. The lease terms are supposed to entice customers who are reluctant to buy into an unknown type of car.  The $7,500 federal tax credit is applied to the cost of the car when you lease, which is why the price is set so much lower.  If you buy the car outright, you have to get the tax credit yourself, if you qualify.

The Nissan Leaf qualifies for the $5,000 tax credit in California for being a PZEV, but the Volt does not.

Others reacting to the price announcement:
Detroit News
Edmunds Blog Green Car Advisor
Autoblog Green
Hybrid Car Blog
Clean MPG Forums (Price, Lease)
GM Fastlane

Still interested?  Head to to place your order. The website will let you see where you are on the waiting list. GM will build 10,000 Volts in the first year, 30,000 the next. Then we'll see where the demand is and whether they'll expand on the production.

GM has created a website,, which will let customers start placing orders today with dealers in launch markets.

Interestingly, GM is already pushing back on the comparison to the Volt.  With only 100 mile range, the Leaf may be a bad comparator, but would they rather the comparison be with the Prius?  At almost half the price, would that be good for them?

Read more about the Volt, the lease terms, and how to order:

SAN JOSE, CA – Starting today, participating Chevrolet dealers in launch markets will begin taking customer orders for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, the industry’s first electric vehicle with extended-range capability.

Chevrolet is so confident in the overall value of the Volt that the brand will offer a lease program on the Volt with a monthly payment as low as $350 for 36 months at Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price with $2,500 due at lease signing, including security deposit based on current conditions, which could vary at time of delivery. The benefit of the $7,500 tax credit is included in the reduced lease payment, with the tax credit going to the lessor. The Volt’s MSRP will start at $41,000 ($33,500 net of the full federal tax credit, which ranges from $0-$7,500) including a destination freight charge of $720. Customer deliveries of the Chevrolet Volt are scheduled to begin in launch markets late this year with initial production limited.

“The Chevrolet Volt will be the best vehicle in its class…because it’s in a class by itself,” said Joel Ewanick, vice president of U.S. marketing for General Motors, who made the announcement at the Plug-In 2010 conference. “No other automaker offers an electrically driven vehicle that can be your everyday driver, to take you wherever, whenever. The Volt will be packed with premium content and innovation, standard.”

The Volt will be initially available to Chevrolet customers in California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area. To be among the first to purchase a Volt, customers can visit their nearest participating Chevrolet Volt dealer. A Volt dealer locator will be available later today at The dealer will begin the order process, which will be followed up by contact from a dedicated Volt advisor who will be available to answer any questions and keep the customer apprised of the progress of their order. For customers needing general Volt information, Chevrolet will have a team of Volt advisors available to answer questions starting today at 1-888-VOLT-4-YOU (1-888-865-8496).

The Chevrolet Volt is the only electric vehicle that can operate under a range of weather climates and driving conditions with little concern of being stranded by a depleted battery. Volt has a total driving range of about 340 miles and is powered by electricity at all times. For up to the first 40 miles, the Volt drives gas- and tailpipe-emissions-free using electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas powered range-extending engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the driving range another 300 miles on a full tank.

Depending on their tax situation, Volt owners can qualify for up to $7,500 in U.S. Federal income tax credit, as well as other potential state and local tax credits, depending on location. Owners in certain states may qualify for the added convenience of High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane access.

While the Chevrolet Volt will come standard with a 120-volt charge cord that will provide owners with the ability to charge their Volt directly from a standard home electrical outlet, a total of 4,400 Volt buyers in launch markets could be eligible for a free 240-volt charging station, including home installation. The installations are part of a program developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to install approximately 15,000 240-volt home charging stations across the U.S.

Technologies Keep Volt Customers Connected

When it comes to advanced technology, Volt customers are on the leading edge. The 2011 Chevrolet Volt has standard technology features that link and entertain in innovative ways, starting with standard seven-inch touch screen navigation and an energy-efficient Bose premium audio system.

The Volt is the first GM vehicle to offer five years of OnStar Directions and Connections service, which includes Automatic Crash Response, stolen vehicle assistance and connected navigation, all standard. Volt will expand on OnStar’s foundation of leading-edge safety and security technology through the introduction of an OnStar-enabled mobile app that connects the vehicle to the owner’s smartphone.

“We wanted to make the Volt ownership experience unlike anything we’ve done at Chevrolet, because the Volt is unlike any vehicle we’ve offered,” said Tony DiSalle, director of Chevrolet Volt product marketing. “We want customers to fully enjoy the Volt lifestyle by providing unprecedented connectivity to their vehicle through the Volt mobile app.”

Unprecedented Warranties Bring Value and Peace of Mind

Volt owners will be provided outstanding battery and vehicle limited warranties. The Volt’s 16-kWh lithium-ion battery is covered by an industry-leading transferable warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles. In addition, Chevrolet will provide:

3-year / 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage
5-year / 100,000-mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation
5-year/100,000-mile limited gas engine coverage
6-year/100,000-mile corrosion protection coverage
The Volt also has an array of standard safety features, including eight air bags -- dual-stage frontal, side-impact, knee, and roof-rail side-impact - and StabiliTrak electronic stability control with Traction Control. The Volt is constructed of 80 percent high-strength steel for additional safety and protection.

Chevrolet will also provide customer assistance via a Volt advisor available 24/7 by phone or Internet. Dealers will also provide on-site dedicated Volt service and sales experts who will be able to address inquiries.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Volt Pricing to be Set on Tuesday... Will the Volt Flop Before it is Produced?

We'll finally have a clue as to whether or not the Chevy Volt; often cited, advertised, overexposed, etc....; will succeed or not. The MSRP will be announced Tuesday at 12 PM ET on July 27. Ever since the Volt was a prototype, this has been the biggest question on everyone's mind. It's all well and good to make a prototype that gets great reviews. It's even better when a plug-in hybrid is designed as a production vehicle. Even in bankruptcy, GM has promised the Volt for the fall of 2010 and has kept to that timetable. It's been pretty remarkable.

And along the way, GM has garnered praise for its forward thinking and the progress it is making to move the US away from its oil dependence. But all that could backfire on Tuesday if GM announces a price and everyone realizes this car was made only for millionaires and will be a fringe luxury car. Green-washing will be the claim and it will stick.

What is the Volt?
If you don't know it (and what rock have you been hiding under?), the Chevy Volt is GMs upcoming Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV). GM promises the Volt will travel 40 miles on all electric power, but the small gas engine will 'extend' the range for another 300 miles. Your mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, but that's the basic idea.

After you get home, you can plug the car back in and fully recharge the battery pack, giving you another 40 miles of all electric drive.

The Competition Already Exists
The Volt may be the first production plug-in hybrid vehicle to hit the road to truly make an impact. Others exist, either in post-production re-work or in smaller companies making a few hundred a year. But the Volt will the first plug-in from one of the major auto maker who's willing to make tens of thousands a year.

So it's easy to see why the price tag for the Volt can be seen as the comparison point for all upcoming plug-ins. But it already has some competition. Since plug-in hybrid electric cars can be thought of as the midway point between all electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EV and HEV), GM has to keep the price lower in order to compete with the people who are already buying a Toyota Prius (mid $20-30,000) and the electric Nissan Leaf. I'm sure it won't exceed $40,000, not when the all electric Nissan Leaf was set at $32,780. With federal and state tax breaks, you can buy an all electric car for about $20K.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shocking Price Tag for Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
I admit it, I'm shocked to see this. Ford has opted to price the hybrid MKZ at the same price as its gas-only version.  At $35,180, including destination and delivery, this is still not a cheap car.  But hybrid cars have always come with an increased price tag.

In case you're wondering (and I was) the gas-only version is a V6.  So, if you were going to buy the V-6, why wouldn't you opt for the hybrid version?  You're fuel economy will go from 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway to 41 mpg city and 36 on the highway.

The other hybrid in that price range is the Lexus HS 250h, which gets 35/34 mpg. And it will cost about $250 less.

This will certainly help the MKZ Hybrid gain some notice in a field (luxury hybrid sedans) that is already getting crowded and is about to see some more competitors. Nissan will be releasing the Infiniti Hybrid, along with competition from the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. The Leaf and Chevy may not be considered luxury, but will certainly draw off possible buyers given the price range and who may be interested in buying a hybrid model.

More about the MKZ Hybrid can be found in the PR below:

Lincoln’s new MKZ Hybrid – the most fuel-efficient luxury car in America – will be a standout in the marketplace for another unique distinction when it goes on sale this fall: It will be priced the same as its conventional gas sibling.

“Lincoln is about delivering luxury standard,” said John Felice, general manager, Ford and Lincoln Marketing. “Whether it’s our new MKX with standard MyLincoln Touch™ technology or the no-cost choice of a gas or hybrid powertrain with the Lincoln MKZ, we want to give customers premium amenities with unexpected value.”

When the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid goes on sale this fall, it will have an MSRP starting at $35,180, including destination and delivery. The pricing is identical to the 2011 Lincoln MKZ gas model and below the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, the MKZ Hybrid’s nearest competitor.

Lincoln is the first automaker to offer luxury customers a premium hybrid vehicle with an MSRP that matches its conventional gas sibling.

The decision to offer the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and gas models at the same price point is another example of the Lincoln brand’s philosophy of bringing luxury standard to customers. From standout product design, and class-leading technology and powertrains that deliver top performance and fuel efficiency, Lincoln is changing the game in the luxury market.

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid redefines future of American luxury
The new 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is a game-changing vehicle that offers modern car buyers all the indulgence of a premium midsize sedan and all the environmental benefits of a hybrid vehicle at an amazing price.

Building on Ford’s reputation as a world leader in electrified technology, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid uses the company’s second-generation hybrid technology – the 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle
I-4 hybrid engine – named one of Ward’s 2010 “10 Best Engines.” The system combines the best attributes of the gasoline engine and electric battery-driven motors to deliver optimal performance and fuel economy.

The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid delivers a 41 mpg fuel economy rating in the city, topping its only near competitor – the 2010 Lexus HS 250h – by 6 mpg. It also trumps the Lexus with more passenger space, more standard luxury and segment-exclusive safety features.

The following features come standard on the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. They are either not offered at all on the Lexus HS 250h, or are available at an extra cost:

  • SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide – Ford’s highly successful interactive technology provides real-time information to help drivers maximize fuel efficiency, and coaches drivers on how to optimize hybrid performance. Lincoln takes SmartGauge to the next level of engagement by giving drivers enhanced positive feedback on long-term fuel efficiency and driving performance through the “growth” of virtual small flowers on the system’s right-most screen. Lincoln’s white flowers, inspired by apple blossoms, remain permanently unless long-term fuel economy is reset.
  • Genuine wood trim – In addition to their exquisite appearance, the Swirl Walnut and Olive Ash wood trims offered in the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid are eco-friendly as well. The veneers come from well-managed forests, as defined by strict environmental, social and economic standards, and from other rigorously controlled sources.
  • Bridge of Weir leather-trimmed seats – The world-renowned luxury leather from Scotland is unembossed, allowing the natural beauty and character of the grain to shine through. The leather is milled for up to 12 hours to ensure a buttery, soft hand, and Bridge of Weir uses a chromium-free tanning process, which makes it easier to recycle.
  • Lincoln SYNC® – The Lincoln-exclusive voice-activated communications and entertainment system provides an omnipresent link to contacts and information. In addition to Bluetooth® phone, audible text and MP3 player capabilities, Lincoln customers also can access Vehicle Health Report and 911 Assist™.
  • 10-way power passenger seat – The seat is designed to accommodate a diverse group of passengers. Memory functions enable passengers to fine-tune and recall positions.
  • Power driver memory seat settings – The driver seat memory feature helps ensure personal seating preferences anytime, with the touch of a button.
  • Heated and cooled front seats – This uniquely engineered system delivers exceptional heating and cooling comfort.
  • Reverse sensing system – This system senses what drivers might not see behind them and relays an audible alert if objects are near, which increases in frequency the closer a driver gets.
  • Keyless entry keypad – This Lincoln-exclusive feature provides secure entry at a driver’s fingertips. A personal combination holds a memory for driver preferences. So if an owner is out for a run and doesn’t want to take the keys along, the vehicle can be opened with the touch of a few buttons.
  • Easy Fuel® (capless fuel filler) – This Lincoln-exclusive feature uses an integrated spring-loaded flapper door to eliminate the need for a fuel tank screw cap. That means no more fumbling to remove and tighten the cap and less fuel odor on a driver’s hands.
  • Personal Safety System™ – This Lincoln-exclusive suite of seven protection technologies work together as a system to help protect vehicle occupants. The system includes dual-stage front airbags and an occupant classification system to sense whether the passenger seat is occupied. It tailors – or suppresses – airbag deployment to help provide an appropriate level of protection. It also features the Ford Belt-Minder® system to remind front seat occupants to buckle up.
  • MyKey™ – This Lincoln-exclusive feature allows parents to program a key to limit speed and audio volume to encourage teens to drive safer and improve fuel efficiency. It also encourages seat belt use, provides earlier low-fuel warnings, and can be programmed to sound chimes at 45, 55 and 65 mph.
  • Integrated spotter mirrors – The traditional sideview mirrors are designed with a secondary convex spotter mirror in the top outer corner, which provides a view of the driver’s blind spot. When traffic enters the driver’s blind spot on either side of the vehicle, it is visible in the secondary convex mirror, alerting the driver of obstacles.
  • Acoustic laminated windshield – This windshield features a layer of sound-absorbent vinyl sandwiched between two sheets of glass, which enhances interior quietness.

“Customers are very enthusiastic about the MKZ Hybrid and we think they will be even more excited to learn they sacrifice nothing to be able to go green in style,” said Felice. “We’re launching a world-class hybrid that beats all competitors, and at an introductory price that is sure to draw the interest of new customers to Lincoln.”

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Honda Gets Aggressive With Hybrids

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito has decided it will be more aggressive in the hybrid playing field.  Probably because Toyota has dominated in Japan with their new Prius sales (becoming the number one car sold in Japan), Honda has decided they need to be more aggressive in creating hybrid cars.  Ito laid out Honda's strategy in an address in Tokyo.

Honda will introduce new advanced environmental technology vehicles, including a battery-electric vehicle and a new plug-in hybrid vehicle, to the U.S. market in 2012, the company announced today in the mid-year address by Honda Motor Co., Ltd., President and CEO Takanobu Ito, in Tokyo, Japan. Ito also announced application of a lithium-ion battery in the next-generation Civic Hybrid in 2011.
The announcement outlined Honda's commitment to developing advanced environmental technologies for application across all of Honda's global operations. Highlights specifically related to the U.S. market include:
  • By the end of 2010 and continuing through 2011, Honda will roll out a battery-electric vehicle demonstration program in the U.S. with participants, including: Stanford University, Google Inc. and the City of Torrance, Calif.
  • The City of Torrance will receive a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for evaluation by the end of 2010.
  • A battery-electric commuter vehicle will be introduced in the U.S. market in 2012.
  • A new plug-in hybrid system for mid-size to larger vehicles will be introduced in the U.S. market in 2012.
  • Honda's first hybrid application of a lithium-ion battery will debut in the next- generation Civic Hybrid to be introduced in 2011. The lithium-ion battery was developed through the Honda and GS Yuasa joint-venture company, Blue Energy Co., Ltd.
All of this and the Civic will go completely hybrid in Japan. The biggest news is the switch to lithium-ion battery packs in the next generation of hybrids. Any automaker will quickly fall behind if they don't start switching over.

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Toyota Settles Lawsuit with Paice

Toyota has finally settled the lawsuit made by Paice LLC, which had a patent infringement case going for six years. The agreement was announced just before the hearing was set to begin in front of the US International Trade Commission.

The agreement says that "Toyota invented, designed and developed the Prius and Toyota's hybrid technology independent of any inventions of Dr. Severinsky and Paice as part of Toyota's long history of innovation."

But according to the news article, Toyota has agreed to license all 23 of Paice's patents.

Toyota had already lost the case, and could not argue in court they weren't impinging on the patent. So, a settlement on their part is no real surprise.

“After six years of litigation, we are pleased to reach a settlement with Toyota,” said Frances Keenan, chairman of the Paice board of directors in a statement. “Toyota has been a leader in the hybrid industry – selling more hybrid vehicles than anyone in the world – and we appreciate and applaud their achievements.”

Paice has already settled with Ford, but that lawsuit was less visible.

If things had gone really badly in court, Toyota may have been forced to stop importing all of their hybrids.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

President Obama Praises the Chevy Volt

President Obama Next to Chevy Volt
President Obama, even as BP finally cuts off the flow of oil into the Gulf (maybe!), was visiting the ground breaking of a battery plant in Holland, MI. The Compact Power (Compact Power is a subsidiary of LG Chem) battery plant will make the battery cells for the Chevy Volt. The Chevy Volt will be the first of it's kind, an Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV).

The battery plant was partially built using federal funds of $151 million and matched by the company. The plant will create several hundred jobs over the next few years as construction finishes and workers are hired.

Powered by electricity, the battery pack can be recharged by a small gas engine designed only to recharge the battery. So, you can travel for up to 40 miles on electric power, then you can keep on going as gas engine kicks in.

The Volt goes on sale later this year in select states.

According to Obama, the US will have the capacity to build 40 percent of the world's batteries by 2015.

Ford will also be purchasing batteries from the Compact Power plant.

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Toyota Electric RAV4 Will be Built by Tesla

Tesla and Toyota announced today they will partner to build an electric RAV4. The prototypes will be made combing the RAV4 with a Tesla electric powertrain. One prototype has already been built. Tesla will produce and deliver the fleet of prototypes this year.

The electric RAV4 will used Tesla's liquid cooled lithium-ion battery configuration. The configuration ties together thousands of commodity cells that you would normally find in a laptop.

In May, Tesla and Toyota announced the partnership to cooperate on the development of electric vehicle parts and production systems. Tesla wants to benefit from Toyota's experience in engineering, manufacturing, and production. Toyota wants to benefit from Tesla's technology, 'daring spirit, quick decision making and flexibility.'

The electric RAV4 will be marketed in the US starting in 2012.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

GM Warranty for 100,000 Miles on the Volt Battery

GM is guaranteeing their Volt battery for eight years, 100,000 miles. That's a pretty good guarantee. And GM hopes it will be enough to alleviate the worries new Volt buyers may have about the new battery types.

The 16kWh lithium-ion battery found in the Volt isn't based off of new technology, but it is expensive. If it failed (and there was no guarantee), it would cost thousands to replace.

Used Volt buyers a decade from now... they may have something to worry about. But that's the risk people take when they buy used. If you bought a used gas-only car and the transmission died, it's going to cost. So, buying a used hybrid or E-REV like the Volt should be the same, right?

The warranty covers the battery components, the liquid thermal management system, charging system and electric drive components and is transferable at no cost.

The rest of the warranty is extensive:
100,000 mile/5-year transferable Engine Limited Warranty (for Range Extender)
100,000 mile/5-year 24/7 Roadside Assistance Program
100,000 mile/5-year 24/7 Courtesy Transportation Program
36,000 mile/ 3-year no deductible Bumper-to-Bumper transferable warranty
100,000 mile/6-year corrosion protection

One last note: the graphic is a bit ridiculous. The comparison to the Tesla is warranted, but a better comparison would be to the Prius battery warranty, not to cell phone batteries. Yes, cell phone batteries are lithium, but really...

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Honda Building a New Hybrid Plant in Japan

There's a Nikkei report Honda will be building a new hybrid plant by 2013. They will drop their plans to build a minivehicle factory in order to make room in Saitama.

They hope to meet the 'rebounding demands' in Japan and in North America.

Source: Marketwatch.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GM Will Have a Warranty on the Lithium-Ion Battery Pack in Volt

I can't say that the warranty Toyota and Honda put on their battery and hybrid engines was the key to their successful launch of hybrid cars in the US. But I can say this, without them, they would have failed.

Even though we know now battery failure occurs at an extremely low rate, people still ask about it and worry about it a decade later.

Customers would not have lined up to make the Prius one of the top ten vehicles sold in the US if they were worried the battery, which cost thousands to replace, didn't have the warranty.

So, it's no surprise to hear GM knows this and is working on their own warranty plan for the Chevy Volt, their plug-in electric hybrid with lithium-ion batteries. Especially since lithium-ion batteries are a lot more expensive than the batteries found in Toyota, Honda and Ford hybrids.

Details of GMs plan are expected to be announced on Wednesday (DetNews).

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LG Chem to Supply Batteries for Ford Focus Electric

Ford will be using battery packs made by Compact Power, a subsidiary of LG Chem in their Ford Focus Electric due out in 2011. The lithium-ion battery cell production will be built in Holland, MI. The Ford Electric will be built at the Michigan Assembly Plant along with a next-generation hybrid and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Press Release Follows:

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) today announced it has selected Compact Power, Inc. (CPI), a subsidiary of LG Chem, to build lithium-ion battery packs for the Ford Focus Electric, which will go on sale in the U.S. in 2011.

The Focus Electric battery packs will leverage CPI and parent company LG Chem's deep expertise in advanced flat format lithium-ion cells and advanced liquid-cooled modules and battery management systems.

"CPI is an emerging leader in the lithium-ion battery field and we are pleased to have them as a strategic supplier as we prepare to bring the Ford Focus Electric to market," said Sherif Marakby, Ford director, Sustainable Mobility Products and Hybrid programs. "We are moving aggressively with our electrification strategy and our work to help make Michigan a center of excellence for a range of electrified vehicles."

CPI, based in Troy, Mich., will begin battery pack assembly for the Ford Focus Electric next year and is finalizing production site selection for the U.S. The lithium-ion cells for the packs will initially be sourced from Korea through LG Chem. LG Chem and CPI will be localizing cell production at their new site in Holland, Mich.

"We are very excited to be partnering with Ford on their new battery electric-powered Ford Focus," said Prabhakar Patil, CEO of CPI. "It tells us we are on track in developing high-power and high-energy lithium-ion batteries that the industry needs as it moves toward the electrification of vehicles that lessen our dependence on foreign oil."

The cells will incorporate LG Chem's proprietary chemistry and its industry-leading safety-reinforced-separator technology that provides unparalleled safety performance.

Focus Electric will have a targeted range of up to 100 miles per full charge with zero tailpipe emissions. It is one of five electrified vehicles Ford is bringing to market in the U.S. in the next two years. These include the Transit Connect Electric, a small commercial van in 2010; Focus Electric in 2011; two new lithium-ion battery-powered hybrids; and a plug-in hybrid in 2012.

Focus Electric, a full battery electric passenger car, will be produced at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., which will begin producing gasoline versions of the all-new 2011 Focus later this year.

Ford previously announced plans to invest $550 million to transform Michigan Assembly Plant from a large SUV factory to a modern car plant to build the new Focus and Focus Electric. The plant also will produce a next-generation hybrid and a plug-in hybrid in 2012. All of the vehicles will be built off the company's new global C-car platform.

This complements Ford's overall strategy to establish a center of excellence in Michigan for electrification of a broad range of vehicles, including lithium-ion battery-powered hybrids, plug-ins and pure electric vehicles. Ford is committed to delivering electrified vehicles as part of its overall vehicle portfolio designed to deliver both the fuel efficiency and the performance customers demand.

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