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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.
Get ready California, Hyundai’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are here.
After more than a century the internal-combustion engine still reigns supreme as the world’s go-to powerplant for vehicular propulsion. Of course electrics have started to chip away at that dominance but they really haven’t had all that much success. When it comes to alternative technologies will fuel cells fare any better? Well, maybe if Toyota starts pushing them.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is rapidly becoming a new Bob Lutz for the 21st century. The savvy South African is not afraid to share his opinion on a variety of topics and is at times refreshingly blunt.
Toyota pulled back the covers today at its Hybrid World Tour event in Michigan, giving a small glimpse of advanced fuel-saving technologies currently in development.
Toyota is deepening its partnership with BMW by agreeing to supply the German automaker with hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The companies first partnered in December of last year with BMW supplying Toyota with small diesel engines for the European market in exchange for Toyota’s lithium-ion hybrid systems and research.
Fuel economy numbers are more important now than ever before, as gas prices continue to rise in North America.
An impressively high number, even a class-leading car like the Hyundai Elantra, which gets 40 mpg highway, only achieves an average of 33 mpg. While the exact fuel economy figures have yet to be released and a 40 mpg highway rating is still in sight, when the Dart (above) goes on sale later this year it most certainly will not get 40 mpg average; not in real world driving and not even on the window sticker.
Dodge wasn’t wrong. They’re not even entirely to blame. If fact, they were just using a different testing method to get their fuel economy numbers. Or to put it more accurately, they weren’t even doing the testing. So why would a different testing method be used? It’s a long and complex story, but the gist of it is that according to a government mandate, in order for Fiat to take control of Chrysler it needed achieve three goals, the final one being building a 40 mpg car on American soil. Being government related, that number is a CAFE number, not an EPA number. What’s the difference? Read on.
According to Reuters, General Motors and BMW are jumping into bed over fuel cells. GM is already established as a leader in the technology, though they are staying tight-lipped about the partnership according to Autoblog.
BMW told the site that they are ”speaking about various future technologies.” Additionally, German business magazine, Wirtschafts Woche says according to an inside source that talks are already very far along.
The partnership isn’t surprising considering car companies will need to achieve 35.5 miles-per-gallon by 2016 in the U.S. and 54.5 mpg for cars and light trucks by 2025.
This isn’t the first move BMW made with other companies to advance their green tech. Earlier this month we reported that the German automaker announced a partnership with Toyota to work on green projects.
Fuel Cell Vehicles that run on electricity and emit nothing but water vapor may sound like a pipe dream, but Toyota is reconfirming its commitment to making them a reality by 2015 with the new FCV-R Concept. Unveiled today at the Tokyo Motor Show, the FCV-R (Fuel Cell Vehicle – Reality & Revolution) is a strong hint that Toyota is far more serious about mass production hydrogen fuel cell vehicles than it was when it first began testing the modified Highlander FCHV back in 2007.
Toyota has said it will offer a fuel cell model for fleet use in 2015 and while that is still a ways off, this new car is a strong indication of the serious nature of the project, giving it a unique design language (similar to the Prius family). The car is also an original model in that it doesn’t ride on an obvious donor platform. Details are still scarce but Toyota has said the car is roughly 185-inches, which for a size comparison is 4-inches shorter than the current Camry. That said, it’s significantly more substantial a vehicle than the Prius.
Impressively, Toyota claims an emissions free driving range of 430 miles in the FCV-R Concept. We expect to see further renditions of this concept over the next few years, becoming increasingly closer to production at each stage.
GALLERY: Toyota FCV-R Concept
Up first is the FT-EV III (Future Toyota – Electric Vehicle III). Based on the iQ, it uses a lithium-ion battery and electric motor and can travel up to 65 miles on a full charge and has room for four. Calling it a “near future” concept, Toyota will sell an electric iQ next year.
Perhaps the most exciting of the vehicles is the “mid-term” FCV-R (Fuel Cell Vehicle – Reality & Revolution) concept. Looking like the future of the Prius, it’s a larger car measuring 185-inches in length (just 4-inches short of the new Camry). Toyota claims a total driving range of 430 miles, emissions free! As the word “reality” in the car’s name suggests, Toyota is serious about this new car with plans to offer a fuel cell vehicle to fleets by 2015.
And finally, there’s the Toyota Fun-Vii (Fun-Vehicle interactive internet), which the automaker says,” heralds Toyota’s vision of a future where people, cars and society are linked.”
GALLERY: Toyota Tokyo Motor Show Preview
Japanese car firm Toyota is already a world leader in hybrid technology. Now it seems, Toyota wants to have a similar strangle hold of the fuel-cell market.
According to vice-president of product planning and marketing for Toyota Europe, Alain Uyttenhoven, Toyota is planning on selling a few thousand fuel-cell vehicles starting in 2015. Sales are expected to be low due to the price required to make the vehicles. Since the technology is new and thus expensive to produce, each vehicle could sell for as much as $138,000.
The price means that it would attract the most eco-minded drivers and government agencies looking to put more green in their footprint.
For 2012, Toyota will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius along with the regular Prius models. The plug-in version uses the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system as the regular version, but since it has a much larger 4.4 kwh lithium-ion battery pack, it can travel 13-miles on electric mode alone. Since the battery pack is not very big, it takes just 3-hours to fully charge from a standard 120v household outlet, or just 1.5-hours from a 240v system. Once the battery is depleted, you can continue the journey using the normal Prius hybrid drive system.
Hyundai has unveiled a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, dubbed the Tuscon iX FCEV, that will allow the automaker to explore another area of alternative fuel technology.
With a total range of 403 miles (up from 230 previously), the Tuscon has some fairly good legs compared to the electric vehicles current marketed. Hyundai has also reduced the space needed to store hydrogen by 20 percent, and the vehicle gets an equivalent rating of 72 mpg. Hyundai also replaced the previous super capacitor system with a 21kw battery, which is credited with the bump in fuel economy.
Last year, the Obama Administration heavily backed Detroit’s automakers with a big helping of government funding. The bail-out money that was partly provided to General Motors and Chrysler, was for these companies to develop and sell hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles. The end result was the hardly amazing Chevrolet Volt.
However, the Obama administration still wants to help the electric and hybrid car industry, and their latest move to help move such products is to cut funding for clean-diesel and fuel-cell technology.
So while $80-million was budgeted for clean-diesel development in 2010, for 2011 that budget is cut down to zero. Congress had originally promised $500-million over 5-years for this project. Similar cuts have been made towards the development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
The money that is being cut from clean-diesel and fuel-cell vehicles will now go to plug-in hybrid vehicles. Under the new plan, the $7500 tax break will be given to the customer at the dealership, not when taxes are claimed at the end of the year.
So while this might be great news for anyone who is looking to buy a plug-in hybrid vehicle, this will have an effect on manufacturers who had invested in other technologies. Essentially, those who manufacture clean-diesel or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will see marketing their vehicles in North America pointless.
Mercedes-Benz introduced its BlueZero E-Cell Plus concept car at the Frankfurt Auto show.
The plug-in electric Hybrid can travel up to 100km (62 miles) on electric power before the gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the lithium-ion batteries, enabling an extended range of 600km (373 miles). The engine is a turbocharged 1.0-liter 3-cylinder powerplant producing 67hp.
The electric motor which actually powers the car makes 134hp and 236 ft-lbs of torque, enabling the plug-in hybrid to hit 62 mph in 11 seconds.
Impressively, the BlueZERO E-Cell Plus can be recharged for 50km trips in just 30 minutes using a special rapid charger. A full charge will take an hour or up to six hours with a conventional wall outlet.
The E-Cell Plus’ door handles are flush with the door, popping open with a touch. I had a hard time figuring it out myself; I tried touching it, tapping it, even swiping a finger across the handle but I couldn’t get it to work. A Mercedes-Benz rep came by to help me out, giving the handle a simple tap on its wider back end. The door handle then slowly slid out, opening the door at the same time.
The E-Cell Plus is one of three models in Mercedes-Benz’s BlueZero family. The E-Cell, introduced in Detroit earlier this year, is completely battery-powered with a range of 200 km (124 miles). The F-Cell is powered by fuel cell with a hydrogen gas tank. It has a range of 400 km (248 miles) and produces water vapor as a by-product.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz BlueZero E-Cell Plus
Nissan has just announced that they have begun testing second-generation fuel-cell technology. The new fuel-cell stack is fitted to a Nissan X-Train SUV.
Nissan first announced their plans to explore a mode advanced fuel-cell technology in August of 2008. The new fuel cell is 25 percent smaller than the previous generation and provides 1.4 times the power. Total output is rated at 130 Kw, compared to 90 Kw in the old unit. The advantages are more than just in the size and power departments, however, as Nissan says the new stack uses half the amount of platinum for the electrodes and uses a more durable catalyst, making it not only longer-lasting but significantly cheaper to manufacture.
The second-gen fuel-cell-equipped X-Train actually began testing in late 2008 and more recently has been undergoing cold weather testing at the company’s Hokkaido Proving Ground.
Currently Nissan has their fuel-cell X-Trail, called the X-Trail FCV, on display at the FC Expo in Tokyo.
Three versions of green car planned: Electric, Hydrogen Fuel-Cell & Hybrid
Mercedes-Benz says it will develop three blueZero models, including an electric model, a hydrogen fuel-cell model and an extended range hybrid-electric model. Some of the versions will even begin production this year.
Dr Thomas Weber, the man in charge of corporate research and development at Mercedes-Benz Cars says that, “From 2009, we will be producing the first Mercedes fuel-cell cars on a small scale. Small-scale production of Mercedes-Benz cars with battery-electric drive alone will then commence in 2010.” The extended-range hybrid-electric blueZero is expected after that.
The blueZero E-Cell will be a pure electric vehicle and will have an operating range of 124 miles. Mercedes estimates a 0-62 mph time of 11 seconds for it and the other models.
The blueZero F-Cell will be powered by an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries as well as a hydrogen fuel-cell – all of which will be located below the passenger compartment. This is due to Mercedes’ Sandwich architecture floor architecture, first developed for the A-Class and later used in the B-Class. Mercedes claims it will have an operating range of more than 250 miles.
Finally, Mercedes is still working on an extended-range blueZero, called the E-Cell Plus, which will use a battery and electric engine as well as a standard internal combustion engine. The gasoline engine will be the three-cylinder turbocharged motor found in the Smart fortwo. It will, however, operate on just the electric motor for 62 miles, at which point the gasoline motor will kick in to charge the batteries – much like a standard hybrid system. In total, Mercedes says the E-Cell Plus will achieve a range of 375 miles.