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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.
 |  Mar 31 2011, 12:24 PM

Tesla is suing the BBC following a 2008 episode of Top Gear in which its electric Roadster ran out of power while competing against a gas-powered Lotus.

In a report written by the BBC, Top Gear Host Jeremy Clarkson, was quoted as saying: “Although Tesla say it’ll do 200 miles, we worked out that on our track it would run out after just 55 miles.”

Tesla has a lot riding on its $109,000 supercar, reportedly the fastest production electric car. The company says the Roadster was certified by a third-party European Union test as being good for 211 miles.

If driven “mindfully,” says Tesla on its Web site, it could last for 313 miles, but because it was “driven aggressively” by Top Gear the charge did not last as long. Tesla also said it disagreed with several other aspects of Top Gear.

“The BBC stands by the programme,” said a Top Gear spokeswoman, “and will be vigorously defending this claim.”

[Source: BBC]

 |  Mar 31 2011, 10:58 AM

Word was leaked yesterday about a Buick version of the Chevrolet Volt being developed by GM.

The vehicle would be a more luxurious version of the already fairly upscale Volt, according to a report by Bloomberg.

This would make a fourth nameplate to carry a very similar platform. Already in Germany, Opel is showing its Volt-based Ampera, and in the UK, Vauxhall is preparing an Ampera as well.

The technology GM bases these cars on is called “Voltec,” and its development set GM back around $1 billion. It couples electric motors with a 1.4-liter gasoline-powered generator. A 16 kWh lithium-ion battery provides motive power for the electric drive.

The Volt car can travel in EV mode for about 35-50 miles, and early adopters have been reporting hundreds of miles traveled using little or no gasoline. GM’s CEO Dan Akerson has said it would develop other cars on four GM brands.  If approved, it could be hit production by 2013.

According to Jim Hall, principal of 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, Mich., he has yet to see what can be done. “The Volt is already well-equipped,” Hall told Bloomberg. “It’s missing power seats and that’s about it. What else can you add to make it a premium car?”

Some ways an upscale version could be done would be to use lighter, more sophisticated materials to give more range to the car. Whether any changes would be made to the power train, such as a larger battery, is anyone’s guess.

Another analyst Bloomberg interviewed said she did not fully see the reasoning. “Why are they badge engineering?” said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, a research firm based in Lexington, Massachusetts. “The Ampera really is just the Volt.”

A GM spokesman would offer no comment on the Buick plans. The company wants to sell the Chevrolet Volt quickly. It says it is on target with its new-tech car roll out, and plans to build 10,000 this year, and 45,000 next year. It sells for $41,000 before a $7,500 federal tax incentive.

[Source: Bloomberg]

 |  Mar 30 2011, 8:10 PM

In the midst of Earth Week next month, a motorcade of battery-powered, hybrid, and fuel-cell vehicles will drive through Washington D.C. to showcase alternatives to oil dependence.

Earth Week is scheduled from Friday, April 15 through Friday, April 22. The parade of cars and trucks will take place on Tuesday, April 19, and be part of the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) conference. Twenty-two companies will participate, including AMP Electric Vehicles, BMW, Coda Automotive, Edison Electric Institute, General Motors, Mitsubishi, Tesla, Toyota and VW.

It will be begin with a 10 a.m. press conference presided over by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and will terminate at the EDTA Conference Ride, Drive and Charge at the Washington Convention Center.

Plans for the next day are for U.S. DOT Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to open the 2011 EDTA conference.

With federal officials looking on, the EDTA has said it is hopeful to make a positive impression in promoting solutions for the worsening energy crisis. “We are excited to show consumers and policymakers how many electric drive choices are available and how rapidly innovations are being brought to the market place,” said Brian Wynne, president of EDTA. “These cars and trucks, and the technology that supports them, are helping to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, reducing driving costs and pollution, improving our national security and creating advanced energy jobs.”

For more information about EDTA and its members, visit EDTA’s Web site. For consumer information about owning and operating electric vehicles, click on GoElectricDrive.

 |  Mar 30 2011, 3:15 PM

An expected announcement today by President Barack Obama will outline the federal government’s commitment to buy only advanced technology vehicles by 2015.

Only hybrids, plug-in electrics, and flex-fuel vehicles will be allowed into its present fleet of 600,000 vehicles. The government has already doubled its number of hybrids in keeping with existing mandates.

Full-size SUVs and other vehicles could still be allowed, but they would need to run on E85 ethanol.

Also expected from Obama’s Georgetown University speech today will be a strategy to cut oil imports by one third by 2025, while calling for a substantial increase in fuel economy for vehicles produced from 2017-2025.

The reduction could save the U.S. more than 11 million barrels per day, the White House said, which is the amount the U.S. imported in 2008.

Obama will also ask Congress to increase incentives to assist compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for consumers, corporate and business fleets.

Today’s announcement will be just one of a long line of transportation energy measures tightening the belt in the face of ever diminishing oil supplies.

Last summer the White House supported a bill that would have approved $4 billion in assistance for CNG vehicles. That bill stalled in the last Congress, but did have some support from Republicans and Democrats.

In October 2009, the president directed federal agencies with 20 or more vehicles to cut fuel usage by 2 percent.

In 2010 the government bought 23,000 fuel-efficient vehicles, of which 9,000 were hybrids. This year the government will buy its first 100 battery electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt, shown above.

Concerned also with greenhouse gas emissions, a $300 million stimulus bill was approved by Congress in 2009. The White House also intends to finalize the first national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for commercial trucks, vans and buses.

These are planned to take effect in the 2014 model year and will cover the 2014-18 model years.

[Source: Detroit News]

 |  Mar 30 2011, 12:28 PM

With possibly just enough parts available to build two-thirds of its popular Prius hybrid, on Tuesday Toyota resumed production of that car, plus the Lexus HS250h, and CT 200h hybrids.

The assembly lines had been shut down following the Mar. 11 Japan earthquake, and resulting tsunami that is still causing trouble for the industry.

A Toyota spokesperson was not able to confirm restored production from one of three battery factories damaged during the natural calamity, and which normally supplies the Prius assembly line.

It is speculated by those in the know that the battery plant could still be out of business. If so, this would fit with previous Toyota warnings that U.S. Prius availability will be limited due to the affected battery plant.

[Source: Autoblog Green]

 |  Mar 29 2011, 12:10 PM

Volvo recently revealed that it is looking for 400 early adopters to test a prototype of its 24 kWh all-battery powered C30 Electric car. Better get in line early, because the limited range, practically hand-made vehicle will be leased for just $2,100 per month.

Why bother with an every day C30 four-passenger, two-door hatchback, when the exotic version can be had for 7.5 times more? OK. Snarky leading sentences behind, here’s a bit of background: Some are taking this as a sort of honesty index – with Volvo showing  just how expensive developing a viable EV can be.

Its been alleged that presently Nissan has not pleased too many automakers for practically giving away its LEAF at $32,780 before $7,500 federal tax credit.

The first Smart ForTwo test EVs looked like a rip-off by comparison at $599 per month, but are those more realistically priced considering what it cost to develop such vehicles?

Like Smart’s initiative, the plan with its “DriveE-powered C30 is to get significant numbers on the roads as a test vehicle. Production versions that may be available by 2013 or so would come with a less-than-exorbitant electric powertrain, or so the plan goes.

For now, Volvo is calling on a pool of heavily subsidized, environmental-advocating organizations, government fleet users, and such. Its plan is they should ante up, so Volvo does not have to take the price hit in preparing to launch its EV.

About 300 C30 Electrics could be leased in Europe, and 100 in the U.S. – with 50 on the West Coast, and 50 on the East.

Sounds like a win-win between Volvo, “green” corporations, and other advocating entities spending other people’s money to help usher in the age of the EV.

[Source: Edmunds Green Car Advisor]

Video after the jump

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 |  Mar 28 2011, 1:09 PM

Having left Japan just one day before the tsunami-inducing earthquake wreaked havoc, a large shipment of Nissan LEAF Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) has just arrived in Long Beach, Calif.

Nissan’s Luna Spirit vehicle-carrying transport ship was safely on the open ocean when a 500 MPH wave passed under it, at about 3-inches high.

About a week after the tsunami, Nissan announced more than 1,500 LEAFs were either in transit or in a U.S. port.

With the estimated 1,500 new BEVs now in the U.S., this will be make possible the first substantial delivery of LEAFs to the U.S. which at this juncture have had less than stellar sales.

Short supply has been said to be the primary reason why a waiting list of about 2,000 U.S. pre-orders remains unfilled.

In January, Nissan reported 87 LEAFS delivered, and in the 10-percent shorter month of February, just 67 LEAFS were sold. In all, just 173 LEAFS have been delivered to the U.S. according to the Japan Auto Dealers Association (JADA).

This U.S. allotment plus 3,657 LEAF sales primarily in Japan will mean over 5,000 LEAFs will have been produced. This makes it one of the highest production BEVs yet produced. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has previously stated that plug-in vehicles will account for a quarter of Nissan’s sales by 2020, and the LEAF represents the first step towards that goal.


 |  Mar 28 2011, 12:24 PM

What’s one simple way to extend range on the next-gen Fisker gasoline-electric powered car? Cut pork from the gasoline-engine side of the equation by using a lighter-weight, three- or four-cylinder engine.

According to information leaked by very knowledgeable sources, Fisker is weighing the feasibility of a dedicated range-extended engine after the current crop of Karma models has been launched.

The idea would be to slash anywhere from 110-160 pounds or so from next-gen models’ curb weight by replacing the 255-horsepower, 2.0-liter GM Ecotec engine, which was originally designed for a gas-only car.

The GM four-cylinder “LNF” turbocharged engine weighs about 360 pounds. Fisker is reportedly looking for a 200- to 250-pound turbo to feed the lithium-ion battery in its future cars.

The 1.2-liter Lotus Engineering three-cylinder is one likely candidate. It is produced with Fagor Ederlan Group in Spain, and is said to be the front-runner in consideration for the next iterations.

Fisker’s present generation cars are being built in Finland, according to a Fisker spokesperson. After Q4 of next year, they will be built in a former GM plant in Delaware.

[Source: Autoblog]