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 Chinese are running at redline to develop, improve and promote their domestic automotive industry. Brands like FAW, Chang’an Motors and SAIC may be totally obscure to the typical American car buyer, but they may become household names in just a few years. One company that’s pushing hard is the GAC group.
A new study suggests that lithium ion batteries used in cars could be cheap enough to compete with internal combustion engines in the next 20 years.
From in-car technology to turbocharging, there is perhaps no other trend that’s fundamentally changing new cars more than the move to dramatically reduce the weight of modern vehicles.
Despite the fuel efficiency benefits of a hybrid vehicle, the average cost premium of purchasing a hybrid over a conventional internal combustion vehicle is still approximately $2,000.
In order to begin seeing the cost benefits of fuel frugality, an ownership period may be as long as 6 years before money saved at the tank can make the initial premium of the hybrid technology seem worth it. Because of the long payback period, hybrids seem less appealing, reflected by the small market share of hybrid vehicles in North America at a mere 2.2 percent.
However, research firm Pikes Research predicts that the price difference between EVs and gasoline-powered cars will gradually lessen as the cost of lithium-ion battery production is expected to drop by over 30 percent by the end of 2017.
The key component for the drop in Li-Ion battery costs is the continuous innovation in the field of Li-ion battery technology and the streamlining of manufacturing processes to make its construction more cost effective. What’s more, as the access to lithium becomes more common, the price of raw materials should fall as well. Basically, Pikes Research claims, a growing demand of electric and hybrid vehicles will become the catalyst for the future cost decline.
Research director John Gartner explains, “The market for Li-Ion batteries will be driven primarily by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), which require much larger battery packs than hybrids.” Gartner then adds, “Reducing the installed price of EV batteries to $523 per kilowatt hour in 2017 will be a critical step towards making PEVs cost-competitive with petroleum-powered vehicles.”
Studies from Pikes Research suggest that if electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles could really narrow the price gap, then the market for Li-Ion batteries will increase from $2 billion in 2011 to $14.6 billion by 2017. Approximately half of the demand is expected to come from Asia, 25 percent from the United States, and 21 percent from Europe.
[Source: Pikes Research]
Electric powered vehicles have long faced challenges in battery cell packaging and the difficulties of maximizing range optimizing weight and placement.
In the past, nickel-metal hydride cells failed to store enough energy to propel an EV any more than 100 miles and required a lengthy recharge after the battery depletes. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) does improve the volume-to-energy capacity ratio but automakers must still store battery cells that weigh 1,000 pounds.
Now, technology giant IBM has developed a new battery cell that promises to deliver a solution. Called the lithium-air (Li-air) battery, this new cell has the theoretical density of more than 1,000 greater than Li-ion. What’s more, IBM found the Li-air cells capable of being one-fifth the size and to possess a lifespan that is 5 times as long.
However, IBM withholds the technology for now because they discovered that frequent recharging cycles still compromise the life of the battery. Engineers are currently testing an alternative electrolyte to see whether they could attain improved results. A full-scale prototype is targeted to be ready by 2013.
[Source: New Scientist]
On June 26, an electric Nissan Leaf will compete in the 89th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb driven by Nissan off-road truck racing champion Chad Hord. The Leaf will compete in the Production Class for electric vehicles in factory shape. Other than a roll cage, racing seats and safety harnesses the car will be entirely stock.
The Nissan Leaf is powered by a lithium-ion battery composed of 48 compact modules and a high response 80kW AC synchronous motor producing 107-hp and 207 lb-ft of torque.
“This is another innovative way to showcase the fun-to-drive nature of the Nissan Leaf and highlight that 100 percent electric vehicles perform very well in demanding situations like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb,” said Ron Stukenberg, senior manager, Marketing Communications, Motorsports. “The instant torque available from the electric motor makes the LEAF a fun car to drive and the abundance of corners on the hill climb will give Chad a chance to take advantage of that torque.”
Nissan is very excited to enter the Leaf in the competition and hopes to show the general public the potential of this fully electric vehicle.
“Nissan is committed to taking an innovative approach to showcasing the Nissan Leaf and Pikes Peak is an excellent venue to do just that,” explained Stukenberg . “Nissan Leaf owners are fully embracing this new world of zero-emission technology. We believe the same potential exists in the motorsports world, and we’re proud to be one of the first on the grid.”
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]
Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that its E300 Bluetec Hybrid is on the way and will hit showrooms in Europe by the end of 2012. While it hasn’t been confirmed for a U.S. launch, execs also haven’t ruled it out.
The first capable diesel hybrid from Stuttgart available for public use debuted at this past March’s Geneva Auto Show. It combines the latest generation 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel with a 20-hp electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack to deliver a sedate 204-hp. Torque, however, is significant at 428 lb-ft at some very low revs. The fuel economy advantages are impressive with an estimated 57.4 mpg average on the European test cycle. The EPA rating is a less impressive, but no less significant 45-mpg.
What hasn’t been confirmed is the cost, but you can bet it won’t be cheap, with both diesel and hybrid technology certain to tack on significant premiums to this already un-cheap luxury sedan.
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]
Car companies pay close attention to the Middle-East market, but it’s usually in relation to high-priced exotics and luxury cars.
So it comes as a big surprise to hear that Volkwagen might be launching a concept car at the upcoming Qatar Motor Show that will consume only 1-liter of fuel to travel 100 km. That is equivalent to 235 mpg. Will the Shiekhs be interested and impressed? Time will tell.
In the past, VW has shown concept vehicles with such a fuel-sipping consumption, the latest of which – called the L1 concept, was shown at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Reports suggest that the new version will be powered by a diesel-electric hybrid system, which thanks to new lithium-ion batteries will give this vehicle its magical fuel consumption figure.
All will hopefully be revealed very soon. The Qatar Motor Show will be held Between January 26 – 29.
Toyota will launch a Prius minivan next year, powered by advanced lithium-ion battery technology. News comes from Japan’s Nieeki business daily via Reuters and is the latest report indicating the direction of Toyota’s plan to expand the Prius name into a whole lineup of vehicles.
The Prius van (or more likely an MPV similar to a Matrix or Mazda5) would be priced competitively to the current Prius and would offer improved fuel economy thanks to the new battery technology. The new model would include three rows with seating for 5 to 7 people.
The plan to produce of a hybrid van or hybrid MPV comes as no surprise as we reported last week that Chevrolet will also debut a version of the upcoming Chevy Orlando using the Chevy Volt’s Voltec powertrain. The Volt MPV is expected to debut in concept form later this month at the Beijing Auto Show.
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
Volvo will present a battery-powered electric C30 at the Detroit Auto Show in January, with plans to build a test fleet of 50 vehicles for real-world testing in 2011.
The model being shown in Detroit will be further along the development process than the prototype previously presented in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
“The first prototype helped us identify the main technological challenges, such as battery packaging and safety issues. We have addressed these challenges without compromising the C30′s cool and fun-to-drive personality. I am very happy with the result. The electric C30 in Detroit is a much more complete product,” says Lennart Stegland, Director of Volvo Cars Special Vehicles.
Volvo will begin building the test fleet in 2010 before handing the keys over to selected users for a two-year trial.
Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the electric C30 can reach a top speed of /81 mph and a range of 94 miles. Volvo says the electric C30 can go from 0 to 60 in 11 seconds.
The battery can be charged through a regular household power outlet with eight hours needed for a full charge.
Gallery: Electric Volvo C30
Official release after the jump:
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:
Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will begin production of a zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell powered version of its compact B-Class model with sales starting in the U.S. and Europe next year.
Using a hydrogen-powered electric motor and a lithium ion battery pack, the F-Cell B-Class will make 134hp and 214 ft-lbs of torque. It will be capable of traveling 250 miles on a tank of hydrogen and get roughly 70 mpg.
“2009 is the year in which we are establishing further milestones where sustainable mobility is concerned. The B-Class F-CELL is taking on a pioneering role as the world’s first fuel cell powered automobile to be produced under series production conditions”, says Mercedes R&D boss Dr. Thomas Weber.
Like any Mercedes the B-Class F-Cell will be well equipped with leather, heated seats, automatic climate control and the Mercedes Command system.
In anticipation of the B-Class F-Cell hitting the market Mercedes is working with local governments in California as well as in Hamburg and Stuttgart in Germany to set up hydrogen refueling stations.
GALLERY: Mercedes B-Class F-Cell
Official release after the jump:
With the launch of Nissan’s new zero-emissions website dedicated to the upcoming launch of the automaker’s new electric vehicle comes a sneak peek at the revolutionary EV.
We can’t tell much from the picture but it does appear to be an expectedly-funky design and a small car to boot. That being said, if the overall size and weight do prove to be diminutive, then the EV should certainly be a fun car to drive wit 107-hp and 207 ft-lbs of torque.
Nissan has said that the new vehicle will be an original platform and won’t be based on the Cube, Versa or any other existing Nissan. Powered by an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack Nissan’s EV will be able to travel a distance of 100 miles on a single charge. And to help owners operate within that limit the car will come with a navigation system which displays the maximum distance the car can go in each direction.
At all times, the car will be tied in to Nissan’s global data center to provide support (should it be needed) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Nissan will officially unveil its new EV on August 2nd during the opening of its new headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. The car will be manufactured in both the U.S. and Japan and will go on sale in next year.
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Fleet of 500 zero-emissions cars begins testing
Recently MINI delivered 500 MINI Es (electric versions of the popular MINI) to California, New York and New Jersey to begin an exciting new pilot project. Each vehicle is powered by a 204hp electric motor, which draws power from a lithium-ion battery. MINI claims the vehicles are good for 156 miles on a single charge and that a recharge will take just 2.5 hours with a special wallbox that allows a more powerful 240 volt output. Recharge is also possible with a conventional wall plug.
With the 204hp and an immediately available 163 ft-lbs of torque, the MINI E can hit 60 mph in 8.5 seconds – a number that is less impressive than you might expect due to the curb weight of 3,230 lbs (573 of which are battery weight).
MINI estimates the cost of running the MINI E to be roughly $1.80 every 62 miles.
MINI E Concept
At the LA Auto Show and on the Streets of California
As Mitsubishi used the LA Auto Show to showcase its i MiEV electric car, several models were sent out onto the roads of California for real-world testing.
Based on a gasoline-powered version of the same car that Mitsubishi currently sells in Japan, the i MiEV uses a 330-volt lithium-ion battery to power a magnet electric motor. The battery makes 47 kW, which, says Mitsubishi, can move the car quicker than it’s 64hp gasoline sibling.
Because the battery is located low in the car the cabin is spacious and the center of gravity is very low. Mitsubishi says the i MiEV will be able to travel 100 miles on a single charge.
The i MiEV is currently undergoing testing for production and Mitsubishi claims it will be the first “new generation” lithium-ion-powered electric vehicles to hit the market.
Official release after the jump: