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.
For at least the last decade Mitsubishi has been on the ropes in North America, but they’re still formidable in global markets. As a show of force the three-diamond brand revealed three concept vehicles at the Tokyo Motor Show.
When Opel/Vauxhall first announced that its Ampera plug-in hybrid electric vehicle would participate in the 13th International Monte Carlo Rally for alternative energy vehicles, it made a point to challenge the Tesla Roadster, which won the previous two years.
Completing the racing stages from Annecy-le-Vieux to Monte Carlo from March 22 through 25, the Opel Ampera of Bernard Darniche and Joseph Lambert finished in first place, winning the Ampera’s inaugural Monte Carlo Rally. Following the leading Ampera, three more crossed the line to finish in the top 10.
A total of 130 competitors from 30 manufacturers took part in the Monte Carlo Rally, including a total of seven Amperas, the Renault Fluence Z.E., Tesla Roadster, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Volkswagen Up!, and Peugeot Ion. A test of endurance for alternative propulsion, teams were judged based on energy usage at a steady speed via a ratio formula that accounted for vehicle weight, CO2 emission, energy density of the fuel and its consumption.
According to French rally co-pilot Joseph Lambert, “The sophisticated technology of the Ampera was always reliable and enabled our tremendous success.”
“The Ampera’s success in this versatility contest under very challenging conditions proves its impressive balance between durability and fuel efficiency. This underscores our leadership role in the field of alternative propulsion,” Vauxhall/Opel director of E-mobility Enno Fuchs said.
GALLERY: Monte Carlo Rally Opel Ampera
For years Honda has relied on its Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system, designed to help improve fuel economy without adding a lot of additional cost. A more basic system than Toyota’s two-mode, it doesn’t speak to Honda’s engineering prowess and has become out-dated.
Honda will aim to rectify that soon with the introduction of a proper two-mode hybrid system, and one that will also feature a plug-in feature, in a new mid-size vehicle soon. While that vehicle isn’t ready to be unveiled, Honda will provide the first details on the PHEV platform at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show.
While no additional details have been provided, the photos clearly show an inline (presumably 4-cylinder engine), which has been rumored to be the basis for the PHEV setup.
In addition, Honda will showcase the EV Concept, which is the next step in a plan by Honda to bring an electric car to market. At last year’s LA Auto Show, Honda unveiled the Fit EV, and little is expected to change for the car, with a 100 mile range and several drive modes (ECON, Normal and Sport) just like in the CR-Z.
GALLERY: Honda PHEV Platform, EV Concept
The next General Motors product to get a plug-in hybrid powertrain, like the one that will be introduced in the Chevy Volt, may be a Buick.
This new PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) was supposed to be a version of the Saturn Vue, but as GM has now sold off the Saturn brand to the Penske Automotive Group those plans have most likely been scrapped. After all, we can’t see GM parting with its fancy new PHEV system so easily after all the time, effort and resources it has poured into creating it.
Speculation as to which model would get the powertrain immediately turned towards similar GM crossovers, but according to the folks at GM-Volt.com, the doner chassis will be an all-new small crossover which, according to GM’s design boss Ed Welburn is due out in 2011.
If GM does decide to go this route, we will most-likely see Toyota develop a similar PHEV platform shortly afterwards. Or perhaps just a PHEV-version of the Lexus RX.
Toyota has announced that it will lease 500 plug-in hybrid-electric Prius models starting this year. These will be the first plug-in version of the Prius on the road and will feature new lithium-ion battery packs, which hold more energy than the conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries used in other hybrid systems.
Of the 500 vehicles, 200 will be leased in Japan, while 150 units will be sent to the U.S. and 150 to Europe. Two-thirds of the European vehicles are earmarked for France. The vehicles will be leased primarily to corporations and governments.
Toyota hopes that by introducing these plug-in hybrids now it can raise awareness about the upcoming production model. For short distances the Prius plug-in hybrid will be able to operate on just electric power. Once that energy store has been depleted, the gasoline engine will kick-in to to charge the battery-packs, which in turn will power the electric motor. This will allow for the cars to be driven without the driver having to worry about a place to plug-in.
Toyota is currently considering expanding this project to include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany.