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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.
Ford recently announced the EPA fuel efficiency rating for its electric Focus model. Since it doesn’t burn any gasoline, the number isn’t in miles per gallon (MPG), but was given as miles per gallon gasoline equivalent, or MPGe. A new term to the automotive lexicon, it’s worth exploring exactly what MPGe means and how an MPGe rating is determined, especially as the number of electric cars and plug-in electric hybrids on the roads continues to increase.
Efficiency is the new black for automakers and consumers alike. Even Porsche customers can get their gas guzzling Cayenne fix in a more efficient hybrid now or diesel soon, which is why it might come as a surprise that two new fuel-efficient guppies in the veritable ocean that is the U.S. car market seem to be floundering.
The Fiat 500 and Chevrolet Volt are both reaching the end of their first fiscal year with disappointing numbers compared to their manufacturer’s forecasts. That outcome could be a bit of a puzzler, given that the 500 starts at $15,500, offers two more seats and, what some would say, stylish alternative to the Smart FourTwo for about $3000 more.
The same fate befell the Volt, which takes a practical approach to the burgeoning plug-in market. Rather than relying totally on a battery charge. Chevy’s iteration on the new trend borrows power from a teensy 1.4-liter gasoline engine and achieves a sky-scraping 94 mpg average with a starting price of just over $39,000 before tax incentives. Those incentives bring the car closer to $30,000, though other government subsidies for things like home charging stations disappear this year.
It doesn’t take a particularly good periscope to see above the water and realize why both these cars were slow sellers, consumers are often risk averse and both cars proved to be sketchy choices by year’s end.
The Volt will fall short of GM’s projected 10,000 unit forecast by at least 25 percent thanks in part to an NHTSA investigation surrounding spontaneous combustion of the lithium ion battery after severe crashes. The car was supposed to be Chevrolet’s poster boy for the future, but instead the crucial first year will be marred by shaky consumer confidence and questions about safety.
The Fiat 500 might have escaped that fate, given its quirky styling and heavy re-engineering for the North American palate, but poor sales proved otherwise.
It also suffered from a sales-scaring three out of five star safety rating by the NHTSA this month. Even without that damning verdict, the hatchback wouldn’t have met the projected 50,000 sales figure— as of November Chrysler’s parent company had managed to squeak out a dismal 17,444 units, with little promise of breaking the 20,000 mark by December 31.
[Source: Edmunds Inside Line]
Mitsubishi has achieved decent amounts of success with the i-MiEV electric car in its home land, and also in Europe, where this model is also sold badged as a Peugeot iOn.
Next month, the i-MiEV will be going on sale in America (called simply the “i” in our market), which will no doubt increase sales numbers of this innovative commuter car.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Mitsubishi has announced an ambitious plan to electrify themselves, by producing eight electric-vehicles by 2016. These will include plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles.
Part of this new plan is to produce small SUV’s and light trucks which will attract farmers, contractors, and others who use light trucks as part of their work.
Mitsubishi is well under way with this new project, and expects to put its electric truck on sale globally by April 2013. It’s not clear if the light truck will be part of Mitsubishi’s North American line-up, but its other electric vehicles will be available here.
Mitsubishi hopes to sell 42,000 electric vehicles in 2012, double the number it moved this fiscal year. The American market is a crucial part of Mitsubishi’s goals. The “i” car as mentioned before will go on sale soon with a starting price of $29,125, minus the Government rebates.
[Source: Automotive News]
Never heard of the American car company Coda? We won’t blame you. This electric car upstart is trying to make a name for itself, but has so far run into production delays plus other birthing problems new car companies face.
However, the editor’s at Forbes believe in Coda and that it will soon be among the most successful new companies in America. Forbes has thus included Coda in their annual “100 Most Promising Companies” list.
Coda is also the only car company in this exclusive list, which mostly is comprised of software companies, and has placed a burger joint (Smashburger) at the top.
Forbes says that the reason Coda is on its list is because of “compelling business models, strong management teams, notable customers, strategic partners and precious investment capital.” Even in tough times, Coda has managed to raise money, hire more people and start production, which is a huge accomplishment in these tough economic times.
Coda’s CEO Phil Murtaugh said he is “honored and excited for this recognition.”
If all goes to plan, Coda will start delivering their electric sedan in a few months time. Price start at $39,900 plus a destination charge of $895. However, due to its green credentials, you’ll get a $7500 credit from the Government. The Coda requires six-hours (from 220V) to charge fully and has a range of 150-miles.
It caused quite a stir back at the Geneva Auto Show in March, now Volvo is in the process of causing another one, having announced that the production version of its V60 Plug-in Hybrid wagon is heading to dealers next year as a 2013 model, albeit in the fourth quarter.
The V6o Plug-in Hybrid uses a 2.4-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel and a six-speed transaxle to power the front wheels, while the rears are turned via an electric motor that makes the equivalent of 70 hp. The electric motor receives its power from a 11.2 kilowatt per hour lithium-ion battery pack located underneath the floor of the car.
The V6 Plug-in Hybrid can operate in three different modes; Pure (electric), Hybrid, and Power (diesel only). In Pure mode, provided the battery is charged, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid can deliver a range of up to 32 miles on electric power alone.
In Hybrid form, both the electric powertrain and diesel engine are engaged, which happens automatically on vehicle startup. In this mode, the two power sources collectively aim to provide an ideal balance between low emissions, fuel economy and power when needed.
In Power Mode, where the turbo diesel engine is exclusively engaged, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid can accelerate from 0-62 mph in around 6.2 seconds, aided by 215 hp and some 324 lb-ft of torque.
As a Plug-in vehicle, the V60 PIH can be charged using a 230-volt outlet on 6, 10, 16 amp current cycles, though Volvo says a full charge using a 10 amp cycle takes approximately 4.5 hours (an hour less with 16A).
Other interesting features on the V60 Plug-in Hybrid include an electrically activated on-demand all-wheel drive system, that uses a central control unit to transmit power between the diesel driven front tires and the electric rears when needed (the electric motor also tops up the battery pack in AWD mode to ensure there’s adequate energy supply for the rear wheels); plus a two-stage braking system with regenerative action on the rear anchors that serve as the primary brakes (the hydraulically activated fronts are only engaged when additional braking force is required).
In addition, there’s also both electric and diesel engine operated heating systems, a further nod to maximizing overall vehicle efficiency in cold weather.
Volvo says it plans to build just 1,000 V6 Plug-in Hybrids next year, all will be aimed exclusively at European customers and all of them will be finished in just one exterior color; Electric Silver.
Other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, gloss black accents and small, discreet “Plug-in Hybrid” logos on the front fenders and rear liftgate. Volvo says it expects around 80 percent of sales to be company car orders, while 30 percent of total production will be targeted to Nordic customers (Sweden, Norway and Finland). Once the initial batch of 1,000 cars has been sold, Volvo says it plans to up production for the 2014 model year, to around 4,500 plus units. Given that the projected price (in the UK at least) is close to $80,000 ( minus government subsidies) it will be interesting to see if Volvo meets its sales targets with the vehicle.
At present, there’s been no word of offering a V60 Plug-in Hybrid in North America and given our market’s preference for gasoline engines, as well as ultra-strict diesel emissions requirements, if one does eventually materialize it will likely be different to the version offered in Europe.
California told 85,000 hybrid drivers to move over, literally. Now everyone is feeling the sting.
Starting last July the yellow stickers allowing hybrid owners to drive alone in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane expired. The move came in preparation for an anticipated increase in electric vehicles on the road that will be allowed to retain the privilege. Though it may be the case that EVs are gaining popularity, pushing hybrids into regular traffic is causing problems for everyone.
According to a study released Monday by the University of California-Berkeley, the change had the effect you might expect: regular traffic speeds decreased and HOV speeds went up.
That isn’t all though, traffic actually slowed in HOV lanes at points where drivers try to merge back into regular traffic because of the slowdown. In other words, drivers in both lanes are noticing new slowdowns.
The report was based on six months of roadway sensor speed and congestion data, and written by Michael Cassidy, a civil and environmental engineering professor, and Katae Jang, a doctoral student in that department.
Cassidy said there is still plenty of space for hybrids in the HOV lanes, even with the new EVs on the road.
The only new production cars available that meet the standard are the Tesla Roadster and the Nissan Leaf. The Chevy Volt doesn’t qualify because of a specific California emissions law, though Gm says it will be addressing the issue soon.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
While the Toyota Prius has long been the automotive ambassador of the green movement, Pike Research conducted a Cost of Driving test to find out whether the all new 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in can trump the Chevrolet Volt. According to its findings, by first establishing the price for every gallon of gas at $3.50 and every kilowatt-hour for 11 cents for the test, the Volt earned a more economic and cost effective result than a Prius Plug-in for trips under 70 miles.
For the first 15 miles of the graph, the lines are not visible because both vehicles will be capable running full electric. By 30 miles, the Volt’s cost for every mile gets significantly more expensive until it eventually crosses over Prius’ costs at 70 miles of driving.
Of course, if pricing parameters on gas and electricity were to change, then a different result would surface. All in all, customers should consider their driving routines day to day. When trips taken are no longer than 70 miles, as is often the case in urban regions where electric vehicles are popular, then a Volt proves to be more appealing.
GALLERY: Toyota Prius Plug-in & Chevrolet Volt
[Source: Autoblog Green]
At $32,760, Prius Plug-in provides more standard features like heated front seats, Entune, LED daytime running lights, an enhance keyless entry system as well as a remote start air conditioner, letting the car’s interior cool off even when the car is off. For $40,285, customers can opt for the Prius Plug-in advanced trim, featuring GPS navigation, a better speaker system, radar-guided cruise control, and much more.
With a 15 mile electric range, the Prius PHEV gets an impressive 87 MPGe rating, with a 49-mpg rating once operating as a conventional hybrid. A recharge cycle is said to take fro 2.5 to 3.0 hours using a conventional household outlet or 1.5 hours with a special charger.
At nearly $10,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, the Prius PHEV is also expected to receive federal tax credits to make it an even more enticing buy.
GALLERY: Toyota Prius PHEV
Last weekend, Nissan Canada officially began the reservation process for the all-new electric Leaf. Within two hours, all Leaf inventory was reserved.
On August 27th, Canadians attended one of 27 Nissan Leaf certified dealers and were invited to reserve the electric vehicle for a refundable $99 deposit. Judy Wheeler, Nissan Canada’s director of marketing, said, “Response from Canadians since we first revealed the Nissan Leaf in 2009 has been astounding, so we’re not surprised that our first inventory of 40 model year ’11 cars were snapped up so quickly”.
Nissan says that Leaf deliveries will begin sometime in September for Canadians that reserved the vehicle. Nissan will also be selling 600 units of the 2012 model year Leaf sometime soon.
General Motors has confirmed production of the Cadillac ELR coupe. The American automaker has yet to announce pricing for the coupe, but an unidentified course close to the project revealed the Cadillac ELR’s price will be lower than the $57,400 Tesla Model S. It is expected that the ELR will be priced somewhere around $49,900 with options adding up to $8,000 to that base price. Other sources have predicted that the plug-in ELR will cost somewhere in the mid-$50,000 range.
GALLERY: Cadillac ELR
[Source: GM Inside News]
Volvo is currently working on developing several green technologies including an electric C30, a flywheel hybrid system and a diesel-electric plug-in hybrid system. This week, Volvo announced that it’s working on a more ambitious project -three unique range-extended electric drive setups. Volvo is working with the Swedish Energy Agency and the European Union to develop this technology.
All three technical concepts utilize similar hardware- a three-cylinder combustion engine and a 111-hp electric motor but they differ in how the engine assists the electric motor.
Technical Concept I uses a modified Volvo C30 and the system consists of a 60-hp three-cylinder engine, the 111-hp electric motor and a 40-kW generator. The rear mounted engine turns the 40-kW generator that charges the car’s battery pack.
Technical Concept II also uses a modified C30 and utilizes a parallel-connected range extender. The rear mounted engine also turns the 40-kW generator. The engine and the electric motor operate in tandem. The engine powers the rear wheels and the 111-hp electric motor powers the front wheels.
Technical Concept III is installed in a European market V60 wagon and also uses a parallel connected system. Technical Concept III uses an electric motor and a turbocharged three-cylinder engine, with both units located in the engine bay. Both power-plants drive the front wheels through a two-stage automatic transmission.
[Source: Car and Driver]
There have been hybrids on our streets for some time, and even a few fully electric vehicles. However, the Chevrolet Volt is the first mass produced plug in hybrid to be offered to the general public.
It can either drive up to 40-miles on just electric power on a full-charge, or when this power source is depleted, it will revert to its on-board gasoline engine. The idea is, the gas engine is there to get you home, just in case you run out of electricity.
The advantages of this system is proving its worth to Volt owners, like Kory Levoy. He says he used to spend up to $200 a month filling up his Audi TT, but ever since he has bought the Volt, he has filled up only three times in 7500-miles of driving.
Levoy uses his 240-volt home charger to energize the car overnight, and also charges his car at work using the portable 120-volt charger. Since his total daily commute is only 50-miles, he has more than enough battery power to make the round trip.
He is not alone, as Carey Bailey, another Volt owner is also seeing the rewards of plug-in motoring. He used to spend roughly $500 a month on gas, and now he spends about $100. Bailey says he will probably see his fuel bills drop even more with time. The Volt roughly costs $1.10 a day to fully charge.
“About two-thirds of the more than 2 million miles driven by Volt owners to date have been powered by domestically produced electricity,” said Cristi Landy, Volt marketing director. “We are hearing from owners like Kory and Carey who are able to charge both at home overnight and at work during the day. These owners are able to maximize driving on electricity alone, seeing real saving at the pump and in their wallets.”
So if you’ve been frustrated by ever rising gas prices, perhaps the Volt really is a real-world answer.
There has been much speculation over whether electric vehicles are suitable for long distance journeys. The biggest issue is regarding the distance an electric car can travel before running out of power, and where to charge up. Skeptics also doubt whether the advanced lithium-ion battery can withstand the torture of numerous “Level 3″ charges within a single day.
If you count yourself one of the skeptical ones, perhaps this tale will change your mind. A Dutch duo drove a Nissan Leaf exactly 1,254 kilometers (779.19 miles) in just 24 hours! The duo recharged the Leaf several times (around 10) using quick-charge stations during their adventure. The car did not let the team down, the battery didn’t overheat, nor were any tow trucks needed.
Are you impressed? What’s the farthest you’ve ever driven in 24 hours?
Check out the video after the jump!
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.
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]
And they don’t know much more about hybrids, either. A study by London-based market research firm Synovate found that new vehicle buyers hardly knew that hybrids contained batteries, used gasoline, or couldn’t be plugged in.
Only two-thirds of people surveyed knew that hybrids used both battery and gasoline power (hence the “hybrid” name), and only one-third knew that hybrids could run on the electric motor by itself.
It gets more distressing. Those surveyed about plug-in hybrids didn’t know that they still required gasoline. Less than half knew that plug-ins, like their regular hybrid brethren, could also run in electric-only mode.
The survey was conducted from Oct. 22 and Nov. 2 of last year, among 1,898 Americans who were about to buy a new car or intended to do so. Synovate concluded from these results that a lack of buyer knowledge could affect vehicle sales, before going on to prove the aqueous qualities of dihydrogen monoxide.
“This low level of understanding about the way in which electric powertrain vehicles work will have profound consequences for vehicle sales,” said Stephen Popiel, senior vice president of Synovate Motoresearch. “In the short term, dealers will have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the workings of PHEVs and BEVs to interested buyers. We have to wonder if consumers will become disillusioned when they understand the actual requirements of electric vehicles.”
Ultimately, “whose job is it to educate consumers about these powertrains?” Popiel asked. Is it the manufacturer’s responsibility? The media’s? Or even the government’s? Synovate didn’t suggest anything. Either way, “long-term success of the electrification of the fleet will only come about with a better-educated consumer,” said Popiel.
Certainly, shelling out for the second most-expensive consumer purchase in one’s lifetime merits even basic knowledge of its functions. You may not have to read the owner’s manual cover to cover (unless you’re a nerd), but if you don’t remember to put gasoline in your hybrid, then it’s back to the drawing board.
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.
An estimated 14,000 taxpayers claimed $37 million in tax credits meant for buyers of plug-in or electric vehicles, while attempting to pass of vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Camaro and “golf cart” as worthy of the credit.
Among the most ignominous offenders were 88 prisoners and IRS employees who attempted to claim the credits. With an estimated $7,500 credit per vehicle, the program is intended to add an incentive to buyers considering the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt. The IRS said that $130 million of the $163 million given out was legitimate. On the other hand, some claimants listed their vehicle as merely “bicycle”, “taxi” or “golf cart”.
In light of the attempted fraud, the IRS will enact new regulations for trying to claim the credit, including supplying the Vehicle Identification Number on their tax forms, and selecting the vehicle information from a specific list on electronic filing forms.
[Source: The Detroit News]
As Nissan strives to sell the Leaf electric car at an affordable price point, the company is expressing concerns that the current subsidies offered by governments to encourage EV adoption will expire after three years, hurting sales and pushing the cost of electric vehicles back into unattainable territory.
“My assumption is that they won’t be cut off but they might be pared back,” Nissan Vice-President Simon Thomas said. “There’s no obligation for governments to extend those programs beyond the definitive agreement — and in some countries we don’t have a definitive agreement.”
Nissan is struggling to keep the Leaf below 30,000 euros. The car will make its debut in Portugal and the Netherlands this December, because the two countries offer a 5,000 euro credit for electric vehicles. However, the company said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the cars would turn a profit, likely around the third year of production.
[Source: Business Week]
When it comes to hybrid and eco-friendly technology, it looks like blue is the new green. Both Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz have chosen the color blue to represent their environmentally friendly vehicles with their respective Blue Drive and Blue Efficiency brands. Hyundai’s latest hybrid concept, the Blue-Will, is a look into the future of eco-friendly vehicles.
First introduced at the Seoul Auto Show in April, the Blue-Will made an appearance at the Hyundai exhibit at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
Concept cars usually include features that are way out there and will likely never see production. In the Blue-Will, this would include features like the LED screen under the front grille (which seems a bit strange when an internal graphic display promotes fuel saving driving habits).
Some of the Blue-Will’s features may be worth another look however. Touch screen drive selection may not appeal to those who like the feel of a stick, but with the Blue-Will’s continuously variable transmission, the only choices you’ll have are drive, reverse, neutral and park. Touch screen HVAC and entertainment controls seem like a natural evolution however, judging by the popularity of products like the iPhone.
The Blue-Will is powered by a 152hp GDI 1.6l engine and a 100 kW motor in a proprietary parallel hybrid system. Hyundai says this parallel hybrid architecture will be the base for the company’s future hybrid models, starting with the next generation Sonata in the U.S.
Another interesting innovation is a thermal generator in the exhaust manifold that converts heat into electrical energy. Hyundai says this energy will be used to power auxiliary systems, which, we assume, include the LED screen above the front bumper.
The Blue-Will is a plug-in hybrid, and designers have placed the power port at the front of the car behind the pop-out Hyundai insignia on the front grille. The lithium ion polymer battery is located under the rear seat however, so more conventional location for the power port may make more a sense.
Overall, the Hyundai Blue-Wire is an interesting concept, but with some of the choices the designers made might make you wonder what that concept is.