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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
 |  May 24 2011, 3:11 PM

In light of post-earthquake supply disruptions, Honda Civics may be a bit scarce where you are, but in Canada where the Civic has been the number-one selling car for 13 years straight, they now come in giant cereal boxes – or so a Vancouver ad agency would have you believe.

Honda is already marketing the car to a younger audience with fantastical themes, but this takes it to a new level, and may become a trend in trying to get peoples’ attention in an age where many think we’ve seen just about everything.

A similarly larger-than-life ad was a facade for a recent tall Hot Wheels ad on a real highway made to look like a car could do a quick loop along its way.

[Source: Adweek]

See video after the jump.

Continue Reading…

 |  Apr 15 2011, 5:15 PM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just made it easier to legally convert light- and heavy-duty vehicle conversions to alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas.

Manufacturers can now more readily sell conversions thanks to an exemption found in a 186-page EPA ruling that overrides previous rules against tampering when converting an engine.

The former rules required alternative-fuel conversion systems to be certified in the same stringent manner to which an original manufacturer would have to comply. This bureaucratic quagmire was difficult and expensive, thus creating a high barrier to entry.

A streamlined testing procedure now makes it simpler to comply. In short, depending on the age of the vehicle to be converted, retrofitted vehicles now only have to pass a graded compliance structure. More details can be seen in the EPA link below.

[Source: The Truth About Cars, EPA]

 |  Apr 14 2011, 9:07 PM

The Chevrolet Volt has been named “Best Engineered Vehicle of 2011″ by SAE International’s Automotive Engineering International (AEI) magazine.

SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries. For a group of engineers to name a car the “best engineered” is prestigious indeed.

The announcement was made during the SAE 2011 World Congress, which ran from April 12-14 in Detroit, Mich.

“The selection of the Volt as the 2011 Best Engineered Vehicle by our peers is an honor,” said Doug Parks, vehicle line executive for the Chevrolet Volt. “This award validates the hard work and effort of the engineering team to deliver a truly transformational vehicle.”

This is the eleventh year of the AEI “Best Engineered Vehicle” award. The SAE said it gave the Volt its top honor based on the Volt’s innovative engineering that resulted in it becoming the world’s first electric vehicle with extended range capability.

Further, GM’s aerodynamicists were credited with wind tunnel work that shaped the Volt’s design as the most aerodynamic vehicle in Chevrolet’s history.

The Volt won over the Nissan Leaf, BMW 5 Series, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Jetta, among others.

[Source: GM-Volt.com]

 |  Apr 12 2011, 4:02 PM

General Motors has recently lost one of its star engineers who had been largely responsible for the Chevrolet Volt, Opel and Vauxhall derivatives.

According to Automotive News Europe, Opel executive Frank Weber was accepted into BMW, and will answer directly to Klaus Draeger, BMW’s head of research and development. The external hiring from a competitor was unusual for BMW, which tends to promote from within.

This snapping up a GM engineer might help explain our recent observation that BMW seemed to be taking cues from the GM playbook, by saying it would consider a range-extended car in its panoply of gas-electric vehicles under development.

Weber was one largely credited with making the Volt a serial production car, and not just one more gee-wiz concept for GM. Until a couple years ago, he had been the global chief engineer for GM’s electric vehicle development. Late in 2009, he was sent to take over as head of corporate product planning for Opel and Vauxhall. His successor at Opel has not yet been announced.

[Source: Automotive News via AutoBlog Green]

 |  Apr 11 2011, 5:01 PM

When it comes to electric vehicles and hybrids, often we see cute little city cars, sensible family cars, and super-expensive sports cars.

Well, for something a little different, how about a macho-looking truck ready to back up its image with action.

Available as an all-electric, series hybrid or CNG V8-powered model, the Bremach USA-developed T-Rex industrial truck uses a sophisticated space frame and hand-assembled body with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, and ability to carry a payload of almost four tons.

The all-electric version claims a range of 100-150 miles under working conditions. Its motor offers 200 kW of grunt from its 100 kWh li-ion battery, which is enough to perform competitively against its siblings. The series hybrid version comes with a 40 kWh battery for 50-200-percent improved fuel economy.

The medium-duty hauler can be configured in a variety of ways besides as a pick-up. While it is a civilian-oriented design, the company said is also military ready.

The 4X4 runs quietly, and can crawl up to a 45-degree angle slope. It was developed by the Chino, Calif. based company around a legacy design from the Italian company Bremach.

MSRP for the all-electric model is $120,000, and for the hybrid, it’s $140,000. Most sales are to Europe at this point, but contact Bremach if you are interested.

According to Bremach Motors USA business developer, Ben Montgomery, the price is actually cost effective because the T-Rex uses a 115-volt system, instead of 300-500 volts found in competitive industrial electric trucks. While prices for large-format prismatic battery cells are coming down, he said, high-voltage controller and battery management electronics are still pricey, thus more dollars spent on a T-Rex go toward the high-tech truck itself, and less toward costly electronics.

[Source: Bremach Motors USA]

Check the video after the jump.

Continue Reading…

 |  Apr 11 2011, 12:16 PM

Audi is reportedly preparing to release its all-electric e-tron drivetrain in an A3-based platform, possibly within the next couple of years or so.

The entry-level hatch is to get 130 horsepower, and 199 lb-ft torque from its under-hood electric motor. Juice is supplied via mid- and rear-mounted li-ion battery packs adding up to 26.5 kWh total.

The front-wheel-drive car should be good for 0-60 MPH in 11 seconds, with a top speed of 90 MPH. While performance is only moderate, a 400-volt charger could replenish the batteries in a fairly quick four hours or less. Charging from a standard 110-volt outlet could take nine hours.

The Audi A3 e-tron is expected to have a low-consumption HVAC system, a new gauge cluster and heated windshield.

When exactly Audi intends to put it on the market is in question. Its top-of-the-range, R8-based e-tron is slated to go on sale in late 2012, and the Euro e-car market is heating up with BMW’s pending ActiveE competitors. The ActiveE 1 Series would be a likely match-up against the Audi A3 e-tron.

[Source: Autoblog]

 |  Apr 09 2011, 11:36 AM

As electric vehicle numbers increase, charging stations are expected to as well, but at this point there are comparatively few high-output charging facilities in most regions of the country.

This week, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) said it has noticed a growing trend for RV parks to offer their already existent 50-amp, 240-volt AC outlets as convenient fast plug-in points for EVs.

About a half dozen campgrounds in the area of Maryland outside of Washington D.C., and at least one in Northern California have done it, and this is something any campground with this common type of outlet could do. In question though is what is a fair mark-up for this convenience? Prices from $8.50 to $10 for a four-hour plug-in were reported. This is more than the actual utility cost, and a questionable value particularly for a Chevy Volt, which can run on gas when needed.

After reading a press release on this yesterday, a Volt owner in the GM-Volt forum offered his views.

“This would amount to $8.50 for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gas in a Volt,” he wrote, “nor would it be much better for a vehicle with a larger pack (in 4 hours). You’d have to be a real green ideologue (or a really desperate BEV driver) to put up with this.”

The campground owners report no complaints however. Electric vehicle owners have been said to be grateful, and while waiting, might read a book, have lunch, or distract themselves some other way at the outdoor recreation facilities. To be sure, it is a value-added service, and the actual dollar amounts are relatively not much.

But – not just at the RV parks, but everywhere – someone looking closer might ask how vulnerable EVs will be to gouging going forward? It’s already known car dealers have gouged in selling them. Will early adopters also be over-charged on the back end? Or will widely fluctuating recharge prices become the norm just like a convenience store might triple charge what the grocery store does down the street?

[Source: ARVC]

 |  Apr 09 2011, 6:59 AM

The Think City electric car is to go on sale for $36,495 by the end of the summer this year.

This is about $2,500 more than it estimated last year for the two-seater, and $3,715 more than the larger Nissan LEAF. The price does not include a $7,500 federal tax credit, or potential state and local incentives where applicable.

Presently, there’s a hodge-podge of benefits on the state level from none to some, with Colorado leading the way by offering the most incentive dollars.

Nissan has been accused of selling its LEAF as a loss leader, and if the Think City is any indicator, it is starting to look truer. For Think’s only imported model, its U.S. market demand is already looking weak, and was blamed for recent layoffs at its supplier, Ener1, an Indianapolis-based semiconductor firm.

[Source: GreenCarAdvisor]

 |  Apr 08 2011, 1:16 PM

The Chevrolet Volt has been reported as averaging fuel economy high enough to see 1,000 miles between trips to the gas station.

“A sample of our early Volt customers suggest that they drive 1,000 miles before they fill up the gas tank,” said vehicle line director for the Chevrolet Volt, Tony Posawatz, at a conference yesterday in New York.

This news was reported by Bloomberg, but comes as no surprise to those who already know the gasoline-electric powered car. The Volt is capable of running on its 16kW lithium-ion battery indefinitely, as long as miles between recharges are below the 35-50 mile threshold, at which point the 1.4-liter generator kicks on.

General Motors had to design a pressure-sealed steel gasoline tank for the Volt just to keep its fuel from going stale. The Volt’s computer monitors the age of the gas, and if a Volt driver never taps into the fuel supply, it will periodically start the generator to use the gas before it gets too old.

In this light, it is clear that Posawatz’ reported revelation is only one conservative estimate. Volt drivers may not just get 1,000 miles between fill-ups – some have reported several hundred miles to nearly 1,000 miles before burning even one gallon of gasoline. It’s all a matter of using the energy budget wisely. Since electricity is cheaper, the idea is to use the grid, and avoid gas stations.

GM has also said Volt sales are “right on target” as its deliberately slow roll out continues. “Demand for the product is very, very high,” Posawatz said. Consumers “can’t get enough of them.”

[Source: Bloomberg]

 |  Apr 07 2011, 5:49 PM

For the second year in a row, while competing against alternative-fuel cars and hybrids, an all-electric Tesla Roadster has won the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally.

Former F1 driver Erik Comas was chosen by Tesla to compete in the 800-km (497-mile) rally against more than 100 competitors. It ended Sunday, and included sprints on the Monaco F1 track. “Thanks to the incredible efficiency of the Roadster, we were able to drive for more than 450 km on Saturday. There is nothing on the road like it,” said Comas. “Next year I will enter five Roadsters owned by my company, Green Car Challenge, into this amazing event.”

According to Myra J. Pasek, Tesla’s director of communications for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, the Palo Alto company’s innovative electric vehicle won out over a variety of technologies. “The Tesla Roadster was competing in efficiency and regularity against other EV’s,” Pasek said, mentioning the Venturi Volage, as well as “full and mild hybrids, bioethanol, CNG’s … ”

The rally’s course followed some of the route used by the historic Monte Carlo Rally, and challenged cars to climb to an elevation of 1230 meters (4035 feet) as they passed over the Col du Corobin. Tesla reports its Roadster was the only electric vehicle that could fully endure the challenging course.

This long-range race win comes as Tesla is suing the BBC after its Top Gear program allegedly faked a video of the Roadster running out of power while competing against a Lotus in 2008. Tesla has also recently said cumulative owner miles of around 1,500 Roadsters have topped the 10 million mark. Tesla said the $109,000-128,500 all electric sports car has an EU-certified range of 212 miles (340km) on a single charge.

A complete list of the contenders can be downloaded at the Monte Carlo Rally’s Web site.

[Source: Tesla]

 |  Apr 07 2011, 3:32 PM


After a Federal Appeals court stuck down New York City’s plans to create a hybrid taxi fleet, it appears the impetus to get it done has not yet failed.

The New York State Congress is now mulling the Green Taxis Act, a bill which would permit individual municipalities to set their own taxi fleet fuel-efficiency standards. These sorts of fuel efficiency rules are presently only mandated and regulated by the federal government.

Advocates say New York’s attempt to set an example is generally a good idea, as it could set a precedent for other cities to control their own energy policy. Additionally, with all the taxis in New York, a policy adjustment in favor of more economical cabs would undoubtedly multiply fuel savings and reduced pollution.

If the proposal goes all the way through to law, it would also enable New York to create its own new style taxi. Presently,  several hybrid minivan-style designs have been suggested as the Big Apple looks to improve its image and become more green.

[Source: Gas 2.0]

 |  Apr 07 2011, 12:41 PM

Apart from their limited range, another objection to electric vehicles is that they take hours to recharge a depleted battery.

Recently Siemens announced that prototypes of a high-powered electric vehicle charger promise to make filling a typical EV battery inside of 60 minutes. The first 22-kilowatt (kW) CP700A chargers are being rolled out through the European Commission-sponsored, Europe-wide Green eMotion initiative. They will first be deployed in Germany, but it is expected this technology will soon become available elsewhere.

Siemen’s electric mobility team head, Ralph Griewing, was reported as saying that the CP700A is the next best thing to taking an EV to the gas station in terms of speed to refill. The sub-60 minute estimate is for a typically sized battery that is fully drained. Naturally, periodic top offs for partially drained batteries would take less time, and this is actually recommended to extend the number of recharge cycles in a li-ion battery’s life cycle.

While the CP700A is capable of a 22kW dump, its software reads what kind of vehicle is being plugged in. If an electric motorcycle or scooter were to connect, it would know not to force heavy amp loads into it, and could trickle charge as low as 3.7 kW.

[Source: Autoblog Green]

 |  Apr 06 2011, 3:43 PM

Has BMW, the maker of the ultimate (electric) driving machines decided to follow Chevrolet’s example?

Word from Munich today is that BMW’s head of electrical components, Dr. Christian Schmidt, said it is weighing the possibility of a range-extended engine to pair to electric vehicles.

For some time now BMW has said it would consider an array of gas-plus-electric possibilities. Its fully electric i3 prototype is on one extreme, and its mildly e-boosted 7 Series ActiveHybrid is on the other.

BMW’s pending i8 (pictured) is in the middle and closer to a range-extended car. With mid-mounted petrol engine plus one electric motor driving the front wheels and one driving the rear, it can go either all-electric around town or gas-plus electric for high performance.

The extended-range Chevrolet Volt couples a gas-powered generator to pick up when limited-range batteries would leave a driver stranded, and apparently BMW is seeing the logic in GM’s engineered compromise.

Rumors and conjecture abound state that battery energy density increases will make doing away with petrol power viable for cost-effective, longer-range, quicker charging EVs. One battery researcher working for EPRI, a non-profit utility company research arm, recently estimated a conservative doubling of power in the next 10 years.

BMW’s Schmidt did not say which BMWs could receive a range extender, but said the Mini E did not receive many range anxiety complaints. If BMW decides to go with a range extender, it will be one more gas-electric solution in its growing stable of partially electric vehicles.

[Source: Autoblog]

 |  Apr 06 2011, 1:29 PM

Gas prices are getting higher and Chrysler would like to sell you its Fiat 500 EV that uses no gas for $10,000 below cost.

What’s the catch? No catch, except its cost could be three times higher than a $15,995 gasoline-powered version.

Citing the high price of developing an all-electric city car, Chrysler Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly said the company will roll out a limited number of Fiat 500 EVs and will take the loss in order to get them out there.

Even at around $45,000, the car will already be a good $12,000 or more than a Nissan LEAF – another purported loss leader – so this is the high price of trying to start an automotive revolution.

Edmunds.com said it could not get a comment from Chrysler reps, but said in order to get an electric alternative to the far more sophisticated extended-range Chevy Volt, pending Ford Focus EV, and others, Chrysler is willing to do what it takes.

Last March, the financially troubled Chrysler first committed to the Mexican-built, Italian-brand car after its 2010 fleet was ranked last in EPA fuel economy ratings among 14 major automakers. Sprinkling the mix with fuel-free units probably won’t hurt on that score either.

Thus far, the expense of bringing EVs to market has been an oft-repeated story in one form or another. The industry is being government mandated, and manufacturers and consumers are being subsidized respectively to develop and buy them. On the positive side, the proposed paradigm shift has created a frenzy of enthusiasm among companies working on much-needed solutions to dwindling oil supplies, greenhouse gases, and other ill effects, with high hopes on the horizon.

The incentive at this point is seen as necessary in today’s far more complicated economic climate to, er, jump start the new industry. No matter where the grand experiment will go, nearly every major automaker is rushing to get into the fray. It would appear the Fiat 500 EV is Chrysler’s first charitable donation to the effort.

[Source: Edmunds Blog]

 |  Apr 06 2011, 12:46 PM

In case you were wondering, the plural term for Prius is “Prii.” You might want to remember that, because according to Toyota, the car is multiplying fast.

Its supply may be limited in parts by last month’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but that hasn’t stopped it from setting sales records, the most recent one being one million sold in the U.S.

In the past six months, Toyota said the Prius has seen three all-time milestones reached. Six months ago its global sales topped two million units, and by October, worldwide sales crossed the three-million mark.

“Since the Prius went on sale [in the U.S.] 11 years ago not a year has gone by when it hasn’t been the number one selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S.,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. “Prius has become synonymous with the word ‘hybrid’ and as we see fuel prices starting to rise again, it has accounted for more than 60 percent of hybrid passenger car sales so far this year. “

Toyota said when compared to the average car, the Prius has saved Americans more than 881 million gallons of gasoline, $2.19 billion in fuel costs, and 12.4 million tons of CO2 emissions.

The Prius hybrid is now in its third generation, and was number one on the EPA’s 2011 list of the Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles for 2011. According to Toyota, more than 97 percent of all Toyota “Prii” sold since 2000 are still on the road.

[Source: Toyota]

 |  Apr 05 2011, 5:37 PM

The initial slow start to the Chevrolet Volt rollout sped up in March with sales of more than twice the number than were sold in January and February combined.

Sales of 608 Volts plus 321 in January and 281 in February now make 1,210 total. This is not a lot compared to 18,018 Cruzes sold in March alone, but GM is not calling defeat by any stretch of the imagination at this early juncture.

Its initial sales were through dealers in regions whose demographics supported hybrids and alternative technology. By the end of the year, GM plans for nationwide distribution.

Last month Chevrolet also reported big gains for its combined new model line. A 54-percent increase in the new car category led the bowtie brand’s sales.

“March sales demonstrated our newest models continue to win over customers,” said Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations. “Vehicles like the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox put us in great position to benefit from consumer’s increasing desire for fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Overall, Chevrolet posted 148,197 sales in March, an 11-percent increase over the same month a year ago. This number includes an 18 percent gain in retail sales of cars, trucks and crossovers.

To date this year, Chevrolet has sold 416,505 vehicles, representing a 37-percent spike in retail sales, and 23 percent increase in total sales.

[Sources: GM, Fender Bender]

 |  Apr 05 2011, 2:20 PM

With an eye toward fostering electric-powered F1 competition, Jean Todt, president of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), said it plans to begin with electric auto, go-kart, and single-seater racing.

The first season could come as soon as 2013, he said, and plans for a series and championships are comprehensive. “We want as soon as possible to have new categories with new energy,” Todt told the Financial Times. “As much as we can do it all over the world, we will do it.”

The idea dovetails with a number of Europe-wide public transportation initiatives to switch to electric power in coming years. Plans for European cities call for a 50-percent reduction of petrol-powered cars by 2030, and utterly phasing them out by 2050.

Todt has been encouraged to start on a similar path in the racing world by Antonio Tajani, the European Union’s industry commissioner. The idea is that witnessing high-powered electric F1 and other race cars will promote EV’s overall acceptance. Tajani has said he would at least like EU-based racing to promote electric cars.

But Todt is expected to meet opposition from Bernie Ecclestone, president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration. Ecclestone is already against hybrid turbo F1 racers proposed for 2013, and would likely disagree with all-electric because alternative tech is not as competitive.

“The racing community are only interested in how to improve performance because they want to win,” he said.

Presently, the world’s quickest EV the Shelby Ultimate Aero EV does 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, about a second slower than an F1 car. How long EVs could race, and how quick re-charging pit stops would be handled for longer races is also in question.

[Source: The Telegraph]

 |  Apr 04 2011, 5:36 PM

On of the world’s top car sharing companies, Zipcar, is planning to make an initial public offering. It recently amended its Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and is now seeking about $89.2 million from sale of 8.3 million shares at around $14-16 each.

The company has been in business since 1999 with regional service for its by-the-hour hybrid rentals. Zipcar has been making money, but also plagued by expenses keeping it from being an outright success story.

Nevertheless, it is moving forward to sell 6.6 million shares with stockholders selling an additional 1.6 million. The deal is being underwritten by Goldman Sachs and Co. and JPMorgan.

The company is expected to be listed on the NASDAQ exchange under “ZIP.” This is essentially what the company netted after losses in 2009, when the green company reported being $4.7 million in the red.

It has garnered 400,000 paying customers in the decade since opening. Some of its IPO will go toward repayment of debt.

[Source: AutoblogGreen]

 |  Apr 04 2011, 3:46 PM

After three months of delays due to a last-minute fix to its pedestrian warning system, 1,550 Hyundai Sonata Hybrids are due at U.S. dealers any day now.

Hyundai said about 900 Sonata Hybrids are now in port, and 650 more are on their way. Supposedly a few were delivered in January, but Ward’s Auto reports that dealers say “no one has them.”

Hyundai told AutoGuide today that the Sonata Hybrid’s pedestrian warning system needed to be modified so it is always on. Initially, the it had an on/off switch.

Already there are similar conflicts cropping up about pedestrian warning systems, as automakers grapple with varying rules around the world. In January this year President Obama signed a new law to study and then mandate some form of pedestrian warning system on hybrids and electric cars in coming years.

Anticipating the U.S. law mandating always-on pedestrian warning sound emitter, Hyundai said it proactively modified its 2011 model, potentially years in advance of when rules will actually be handed down.

[Source: AutoblogGreen]

 |  Apr 04 2011, 1:25 PM

BMW’s in-development electric car, the i3 has been confirmed as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with a mid-mounted electric motor. It is expected to be for sale by 2013.

Its motor support platform was developed in house and made mostly of carbon fiber. The motor will be positioned ahead of the rear wheels, and the serviceable battery pack will be below the trunk.

Before the i3, BMW will be show a version of its all-electric drivetrain in the ActiveE 1 Series, scheduled to debut later this month at the New York Auto Show.

The more familiar-looking 1 Series model will have a different battery configuration. It will reside between the passenger compartment and trunk. Its cells will not be grouped together, as they are for the i3. BMW said it will announce ActiveE price and a leasing plan details at New York.

[Source: Autoblog]

 |  Apr 03 2011, 2:30 PM

A team of Georgia Tech students has put together a dual-battery, solar-powered Audi TT to compete later this year in the World Solar Challenge in Australia.

One of the car’s batteries is charged by solar panels, and energizes power brakes, windows and steering. The second battery puts out 120 volts which is directed to an electric motor giving the solar racer 70-miles range between charges.

The car does not presently use lithium ion batteries, as employed in most modern electric vehicles, but plans to add at least one li-ion battery pack are projected to increase range to 140 miles per charge.

The six-day World Solar Challenge is scheduled for Oct. 16-23 this year. It dates back to 1987, and challenges the world’s top engineering colleges to advance solar and electric vehicle technology.

[Source: Inhabitant]

 |  Apr 01 2011, 10:19 AM

With practically every automaker jockeying for a place in the emerging EV market, it’s still open territory for small innovators like ECOmove, a, Danish firm, to also stake their claim. The company is only a couple years old, but says it has experienced automotive innovators on staff who put together its modular all-battery powered chassis – along with the QBEAK shown – built on the proprietary design.

As shown in the video, it looks like the QBEAK’s designers had in mind that old expression, “It’s easier to catch early adopters with honey, than vinegar,” or however that saying goes. For what is intended to be utilitarian transportation, the QBEAK’S fun factor has been maxed out. It will be offered with a convertible or hard-top option, modernistic styling, a center-mounted steering wheel, electric sliding doors, and wild color schemes.

The 3-meter-long city car is actually able to be configured in a number of ways, with space for up to six seats or three seats plus 2.5 square meters of storage space.

“One of the core concepts of the QBEAK is to let the customer be the master of style and appearance,” ECOmove says, “The interior and exterior are completely customizable and if fashion changes, it is possible to change the entire style of the car, inside and out.”

As for the also-for sale underlying modular chassis, we can’t give exact specs, because that’s up to a manufacturer to decide, but the rolling platform is said to be able to travel 30-300 km (19-190 miles) depending on whether it goes with 1-6 battery modules.

The rolling QBEAK prototypes shown use recyclable, non-corrosive bodywork. In front, “crash box” technology gives assurance for the safety side of things.

Underneath, the chassis shows it is not just a splashy styling exercise.

The flexible electric car platform does away with heavy steel suspension, using composites instead. Wheel hub motors propel the car, and stainless steel brake rotors recapture braking energy for the battery pack.

Even though it’s a tiny car, the Danish company says interior space is decent because of the integrated motor and wheels.

More can be seen at the company’s Web site.

See QBEAK video after the jump.

Continue Reading…

 |  Mar 31 2011, 3:58 PM

Federal legislators have begun examining ways to tax highway users based on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as a way to bring up shortfalls to the Highway Trust Fund.

A concern is that as fuel-efficient hybrids and plug-in cars increase, fuel tax generated revenues will do little for the already insufficient funding base.

In a Congressional Budget Office report released last week, ways were examined in great detail to begin tracking vehicles across the country via GPS, electronic sensors, and other sophisticated technology.

The Obama administration has said it wants $566 billion over the next six years to pay for the federal portion of roadway building improvements. States and local municipalities also pay for these projects.

Since 2008, the general fund had to be tapped for $30 billion to make up for deficits. Presently, gasoline is taxed at 18.4 cents per gallon, and diesel at 24.4 cents. This has been used until recently to raise needed revenues, but the U.S. DOT says it is now not enough.

Earlier in March, the Senate Budget Committee expressed concerns over super efficient vehicles getting away without paying an equitable share.

The CBO report was quickly generated to give policymakers info to better propose new road tax legislation. Other concerns raised by the CBO study are for lower income, urban, and rural dwellers. It made a case that VMT-based taxation could be more equitable, if not entirely so.

Concerns over citizens’ privacy would need to be tackled, as VMT monitoring involves nationwide tracking and reporting of drivers’ data. Also, figuring out how to fairly tax heavy trucks compared to much-lighter cars and many other issues would need to be settled.

Any possible scenario could be proposed. For example, fuel taxes could be eliminated, with the VMT taking over. Fuel taxes could be reduced, with VMT taking up the slack. Fuel taxes could be raised, and no move to impose the VMT could be chosen.

[Source: GM-Volt.com]

 |  Mar 31 2011, 12:50 PM

Hyundai began showing a new hydrogen fuel-cell concept car today at the Seoul Motor Show. Called the Blue2, its name is a merging of Blue Drive, Hyundai’s environmentally conscious sub brand, and H2, which is the symbol for hydrogen.

Also code named the HDN-6, it is a luxury car featuring around 121 horsepower, and delivering 82 MPG of hydrogen consumption. The car shows Hyundai’s desire to gain a competitive edge, and continued commitment to this technology that allows hydrogen energy to turn an electric drive system.

The Blue2 also utilizes low rolling resistance tires and lightweight alloy wheels, and features “future concept” styling merging sporty lines with efficiency.

Among the gadgets on the Blue2 are a system to recognize and welcome the driver by opening a self-opening door. Drivers are further coddled by wider-than-usual seats for easier ingress and egress.

The Blue2 has no rear-view mirrors, relying instead on cameras displaying images on a screen. The car displays info on an LED monitor using “Transparent Organic” technology, said to be more vivid.

Climate control includes an ionizing system to clean air as it circulates through the interior.

[Source: WorldCarFans]