AutoGuide News Blog
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.
The new year is rapidly approaching and with it a host of new vehicles begging to be driven are sitting in dealer lots waiting to wow shoppers. When it comes to new cars, those shoppers often expect more for less as new models hit the showroom, but that wont be the case for electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf (pictured above).
Next year the government is removing three of the four subsidies available to consumers as incentives to adopt the new technology. The fourth, and arguably most important, will remain in the coming year. A total of $8,500 in tax incentives will get the ax as the ball drops in Times Square, which represents more than half of the total $16,000 in incentives offered this year. Consumers buying EVs next year won’t enjoy this year’s $1,000 maximum to install a home charging station, $2,500 maximum for two- or three-wheeled EVs with 2.5-kWh batteries or larger and the $4,000 maximum for converting either a hybrid to plug-in or a regular ICE to EV power.
People purchasing EVs will still be eligible to receive up to $7,500 in tax credits for buying a new plug-in vehicle, though the subsidy depends on the size of the battery in the vehicle. These incentives are meant to boost the number of EVs sold and will be phased out on a per-manufacturer basis once the individual automakers sell more than 200,000 plug-ins.
It might be good to act before the new year if you’ve been planning on cashing in with those incentives, but don’t worry about losing out on the $7,500 credit that will remain. The 200,000 vehicle figure isn’t likely to be hit any time soon thanks to low selection and relatively high prices for EVs with or without bonuses.
General Motors is moving closer to a solution for the fires that occurred in Volts after crash testing earlier this year.
Fox News reported yesterday that, according to an unnamed source, fires sparking inside Chevrolet‘s lauded green car might be caused by coolant crystallizing on the car’s battery after a crash, leading to a short circuit.
Since then, Reuters reported that GM is moving towards a set of dealership-implemented fixes to ensure post-crash safety in the cars, though the solution isn’t finalized.
“To the best of my knowledge, we’re not discussing exact solutions at this point,” GM spokesman Rob Peterson said.
Despite that, rumored solutions continue to surface by unnamed sources. Among those unofficial fixes, it seems that GM might laminate the 400-pound battery pack as well as strengthen the casing around it. They may also take steps to better protect against coolant leakage after a crash.
While those possibilities aren’t certain, GM senior management expects a solution by the end of the week. Barring demand by U.S. safety regulators for a deeper-reaching solution, the fix is expected to cost less than $1 million, or roughly $1000 per car.
GM is also offering current Volt owners loaner cars to drive until their vehicle is bolstered against the potential disaster. The aggressive repair policy signals how serious GM is about making the Volt their symbol of future progress.
As far as the EV market is concerned, others are on the way, but for now the Volt’s sole competitor is the Nissan Leaf. The key difference between the two is that the Leaf runs solely on battery power, whereas the Volt has a 1.4-liter gasoline engine that extends driving range. The Leaf didn’t experience the same problems after crash tests, possibly because it doesn’t a use liquid-cooled battery.
Last week GM CEO, Dan Akerson told the Associated Press that GM plans to buy back Volts from any customers concerned about the cars catching fire. He also maintained that they are safe to drive and that owners shouldn’t worry about the issue.
“I think it behooves everyone including General Motors and all of our competition, but more importantly our customers, that we get it right,” Akerson said.
Getting it right definitely involves fixing hazardous issues, but how right is it that GM knew about the problem as early as May without making the public aware? In an earlier story, we reported that it’s possible both GM and the NHTSA knew about the problem but failed to disclose it until last November.
The third generation Smart fortwo is on its way, hitting dealers in the spring of 2012. The electric Smart car will roll off the production line in Hamback, France and will be available in more than thirty markets worldwide when released.
The third generation smart fortwo electric drive features a fifty-five kW magneto-electric motor, churning out 130 lb-ft of torque. The fortwo will accelerate from 0-62 mph in less than thirteen seconds, and have a top speed of more than 120 km/h. The 17.6 kWh battery allows the car to travel more than 140 kilometers before needing a recharge.
“The smart fortwo has exceeded itself. It has always been a pioneer of urban mobility and with the new electric drive it is once again setting standards with even more driving fun and environmental compatibility,” says Dr. Annette Winkler, Head of smart. “With the new generation the frequently cited “electric era” has finally arrived.”
The third- gen Smart car will feature a larger radiator grille featuring the electric drive logo, stylish LED lights below the headlights, wider door sills and several modifications to the rear of the vehicle. Smart has also teamed up with iPhone to create a drive app. Important features include making phone calls via hands-free system, your own extensive music collection, internet radio and a navigation system.
Toyota has already racked up 25,000 pre-orders for its Prius V wagon, (sold as the Prius Alpha in Japan), a figure that works out to more than eight times its original sales target of 3,000 units per month.
The Prius V is the first of many planned iterations of the Prius model range, with a smaller model planned next. Production of the Prius V was delayed due to the earthquake in Japan, which disrupted battery component production and other critical parts. In Japan and Europe, Toyota will sell both five and seven passenger variants, while North American models will only be available with five seats.
Tax credits for hybrid cars sold in Japan are set to expire in April 2012, and fears that vehicles may not be available on time are undoubtedly prompting some of the pre-order rush.
Ford Motor Company Chairman Bill Ford (great-grandson of Henry Ford) revealed to Fortune magazine that his namesake automaker will apparently launch a global line of electric vehicles, with 25 percent of Ford’s lineup available with some degree of electrification by 2020.
Ford cited the electric Focus and both plug-in and fully electric versions of the C-Max as the start of a shift towards electric vehicles as a viable alternative to gasoline powered passenger cars, but the surprising nugget of information within the article was Ford’s calls for government involvement in the propagation of electric vehicles.
“I think it’s a matter of national security to have a competitive American battery industry,” said Ford. “Washington should increase R&D spending here unless they want to cede the development of batteries to other nations.” Ford cited China as the most imminent threat, as they have made significant strides in lithium-ion battery technology, and Ford fears that America will fall behind in one of the most important emerging industries.
Furthermore, Ford also laid out a vision for future cars that is heavily reliant on smart-phones, WiFi and GPS technology, which would enable cars to talk to one another and share information on traffic jams and other pertinent data, all in the name of eco-friendliness.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]
The upcoming Toyota Prius V, a pseudo-minivan version of Toyota’s wildly popular Prius hybrid, may be delayed for up to a year because of battery shortages resulting from the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Toyota initially planned to launch the vehicle in April, but the resulting supply chain issues have thrown their plans into turmoil. Toyota claimed that the battery shortage was an issue even before the earthquake, but the resulting disruption means that production levels will not reach normal levels for a number of months.
The new battery is a lithium-ion model, which is more compact, and available on the seven-seater Prius V, which will not be coming to North America. Toyota is said to be capable of producing 1,000 cars equipped with this battery, compared to 2,000 per month with the standard nickel-metal hydride unit. But Toyota is hoping to sell 2,000 examples of the Prius V in North America each month, a figure that will have to be adjusted in light of the current situation.
[Source: The Detroit News]
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]
General Motors is throwing its weight behind the Chevrolet Volt’s battery system by offering an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery pack.
Many potential consumers have expressed reservations about the longevity and durability of electric vehicle batteries, which can be extremely expensive to replace and are a relatively new technology that hasn’t seen widespread adoption. In addition to these factors, the battery’s ability to fully charge is diminished over time with each charge and discharge cycle.
The warranty represents General Motors’ efforts to soothe consumer concerns over the potential battery pack issues. The Volt is a crucial product for GM, and a poor market reception could be disastrous for the company, as well as future alternative vehicle projects.
[Source: Consumer Reports]
Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz and BYD, China’s fastest growing car company, established a joint venture to develop electric cars in China. Based in the industrial city of Shenzen, the two companies respective experience with electric cars complements one another. BYD is experienced with battery and drivetrain systems, while Daimler will bring their knowledge of safety and structural design to the table.
With BYD’s push into the American market this year, the partnership is an astute move for both companies, as China becomes an increasingly larger presence in the automarket, while Daimler is able to leverage its premium Mercedes-Benz brand to help propel sales and interest in their vehicles.
Hit The Jump To See The Official Press Release
[Source: World Car Fans]
There’s no such thing as a get rich quick scheme, and Nissan knows this, even as demand for their new Leaf electric car outstrips supply. Any new technology takes a significant amount of time to turn a profit, as development costs must be amortized. One can imagine how expensive a car with an $18,000 battery must have been to develop.
Brian Carolin, Nissan’s U.S. sales and marketing head told the Wall Street Journal that “Over the course of the vehicle life, it is profitable – in year three.” While three years is a not a small amount of time (most vehicles have a five year life cycle) the long road to profitability is an inevitable part of the road to making EV’s profitable, one that companies like Nissan will have to incur if electric cars wish to go mainstream.
[Source: Wall Street Journal]
Another addition to the viral video campaign
DieHard Battery has asked in the all-in-one Seattle based entertainer, Reggie Watts, to help show once again how the DieHard Platinum battery can handle even the toughest of situations, powering the amp, mic, 100 LED lights, and of course the car. Hit the jump to watch this very funny video.
BMW introduced its 1-Series Coupe-based Active E electric vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Powered by newly developed lithium-ion batteries, the Active E has a claimed power output of 170 hp with 184.4 ft-lb. of torque.
As per BMW tradition, the Active E is rear-wheel drive, testing an early version of the electric powertrain system which will eventually be used in BMW’s upcoming Megacity Vehicle (MCV).
The Active E will also use BMW’s ConnectedDrive system, using newly developed features including the ability to check the car’s battery level via cell phone, and using mobile devices as a remote control for heating and air conditioning.
BMW will produce a trial fleet of the Active E in 2011, providing further real-world data following the MINI-E trial currently underway.
Gallery: BMW Concept Active E
BMW will introduce a new electric concept model based on the 1 Series Coupe at the Detroit Auto Show.
The BMW Concept ActiveE will follow the MINI E as the second stage of BMW’s electric vehicle development program. BMW has begun development of a trial fleet of cars based on the ActiveE as part of a large-scale field test.
The ActiveE is powered by an electric motor BMW claims can produce 170 hp and a maximum torque of 184 ft-lb. BMW also claims a 0-60 time of approximately 8.5 seconds. The entire drive system is fully integrated into the ActiveE’s rear axle, taking up about the same space as a conventional vehicle’s differential.
Powering the motor is a litihium-ion battery pack specially developed by BMW and SB LiMotive for the ActiveE. BMW says the battery supports a range of 100 miles in everyday use, with a charge time of 4.5 hours using a North American 32A circuit.
The electric motor can also serve as a generator when the accelerator isn’t being pressed. The car’s kinetic energy is converted into electric power and stored in the battery pack. BMW estimates this process can increase the ActiveE’s range by up to 20%.
We’ll have more on the BMW Concept ActiveE when it is officially unveiled at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show.
Gallery: BMW Concept ActiveE
Officially release after the jump: