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It’s common practice for regional auto journalist associations to gather, usually once a year, and vote on which cars they like most.
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.
The Chevrolet Volt has had its fair share of teething problems. Soon after its birth, there were reports of some vehicles spontaneously combusting.
This obviously had an effect on the cars reputation, and sales fell. To save money and rid themselves of backed up inventory, General Motors decided to halt production of the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant for five-weeks.
However, the Volt’s fortune quickly changed. March was its best sales month ever, as GM sold 2,289 examples of the plug-in range extended EV.
As yet another sign that sales of the Chevy Volt continue to fail to live up to expectations, General Motors will extend the scheduled summer shut down at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant where it’s built.
The assembly facility was already preparing for a two week production pause as part of a regular Summer break, but that period has been extended by an additional week in response to slower than expected demand. Currently the facility sits idle, with GM announcing several weeks ago that it would curb production in response to a glut of products on dealer lots.
Production for the range-extended gasoline car isn’t expected to resume until April 23rd.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, has decided to add five Chevrolet Volts to its Chicago fleet with up to 20 more EVs coming in 2012.
Zipcar members are able to reserve a Chevy Volt immediately starting at just $10 per hour. The first five Volts are available at Cityfront Place Apartments and in University Village at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Zipcar plans on deploying EVs throughout the city and is working with 350Green to install EV charging stations where the Zipcar EVs will be. Other partners in the program include Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Tishman Speyer, LAZ Parking and Cityfront Place Apartments. All of the above are helping to provide locations for the EVs along with charging stations.
Since most Zipcar members employ the use of their vehicles for less than 35 miles, the Volt is a perfect fit – or any EV for that matter – for the Zipcar program. Ideally most members would never have to pay for gas since the EVs will have charging stations conveniently located at several locations.
The City of Chicago is installing hundreds of EV charging stations for public use throughout the year as part of its Chicago Climate Action Plan. Zipcar has always been a huge supporter of advanced vehicle technologies. It was the first car sharing company in the U.S. to add EVs to its fleet with the Toyota RAV4 EVs in Boston back in 2002 and was the first to offer hybrids in the Seattle market in 2003.
“We are looking forward to providing our Chicago Zipsters with increased opportunities to reduce their environmental impact and drive some of the most technologically-advanced vehicles on the road as we roll out this EV program over the coming months,” said Charles Stephens, general manager, Zipcar Chicago. “Freedom has always been a hallmark of the Zipcar experience, and now members can have the best of both worlds – the low carbon experience of an electric car with the back-up security of a gas engine – as we introduce the new Volts into our fleet this week.”
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
So the American automaker went back to the drawing board to come up with a new ad campaign for its Volt. Because no doubt, the ad created for the Super Bowl had less than stellar results. This time around, they (smartly) decided to stick to just human beings, showing somewhat candid interviews of “Happy Volt Owners.”
GM CEO Dan Akerson says these commercials will feature “the facts” and are “more interesting” now that they have “the happiest drivers on the planet” in the ads.
The ads are a little more effective than using interstellar aliens inquiring about the Volt technology. It’s real-world people trying to explain how the Volt offers real-world advantages. Will it do the job for Chevy? Perhaps the automaker should see what their European brethren are doing to sell the Ampera.
Watch two of the commercials below
But it appears that GM executives can let out a sigh of relief, as the European counterpart, the Opel Ampera, has broken the 7,000 order mark and is nearly sold out until year’s end in Europe. The Ampera was recently named European Car of the Year which was no huge surprise considering the Nissan Leaf took the honor in 2011.
“We are extremely pleased with the continuing demand for our Ampera,” said Enno Fuchs, Opel’s e-mobility launch director. “This news shows us that our sales target of 10,000 units for 2012 is well within reach.”
What’s interesting now is how quickly Opel will be able to fulfill those orders considering GM shut down production for five weeks. The automaker began delivering Amperas to customers in February and according to Opel, deliveries are “going according to plan.” Interestingly enough, many of the Europeans purchasing the Ampera are switching from luxury brands such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz stating that the Ampera’s “cutting-edge technology” is what’s enticing.
[Source: Plug In Cars]
After complaints from Volt owners that their 120-volt charging cords were overheating, GM first insisted that the issue was with the wiring of the charging outlet, and not the car. Since then, however, the automaker has agreed to replace the cords on 9,500 existing Volts, though it is not being called a recall.
The new cord features a more heat-resistant cord and plug that matches what other electric vehicles come with. Of course GM said that the new cord is not a recall or safety issue but rather it was to “offer a more consistent charging experience.” Sure thing. Current Volt owners will be notified through a letter for the cord swap.
Interestingly enough, a Volt owner received the new charger already from their dealership, with the dealer stating that it should have been part of the Volt’s recall back in January. Owners with the new chargers are reporting that it now utilizes a 14-gauge wire instead of the 16-gauge found in the original.
[Source: Yahoo! Autos]
It’s a Colorado thing, so you probably wouldn’t understand but four-wheel drives and Subarus seems to sell better than most cars in that state. Subaru aside, another car is trying to woo buyers with a lot of help by the State government: the Chevrolet Volt.
While other states are discouraging people from buying cars like the Nissan Leaf, Colorado is offering up to $6,000 in incentives which combined with the already-available $7,500 in federal tax incentives. That adds up to a maximum $13,500 lopped off the Volt’s price tag, making it a reasonably-riced car for folks living in the mountainous state.
“This rebate in Colorado provides an extra incentive for those that want to purchase or drive an energy-efficient and technologically advanced vehicle like the Chevrolet Volt,” said Volt Marketing Director Cristi Landy. “With the available state and federal tax credits, along with the fuel savings that many owners experience by charging daily, the Volt can fit the lifestyles and budgets of many people.”
It’s almost funny, but with a starting MSRP of $31,645 and the maximum discounts in place the Volt can come as cheaply as $18,145, before destination fees.
Still, that’s approaching sub-compact pricing for a mid-size sedan that gets better milage than the sub-compacts it’s suddenly price-competitive with. MItt Romney might not like the Volt, but with prices like this it seems likely that more folks in Colorado might warm to the extended range EV.
Toyota is the brand to beat when it comes to hybrid vehicles, and the recently launched Prius c subcompact helps reinforce that trend.
According to Toyota, the Prius c, which launched on March 12, has sold 1,201 in its first three days on the market, making it one of the company’s fastest selling vehicles.
In just three days, the Prius c outsold the February sales of the Volt, and Leaf, which sold 1,023, and 478 respectively.
The fact that gas prices in the US could hit $4.00 a gallon as early as memorial day certainly make the Prius c a shining beacon of hope for drivers who hope to save some money at the pump with the 53 mpg fuel economy rating. The under $19,000 price tag doesn’t hurt either.
As a whole, the Prius family of vehicles (the Prius, Prius c and Prius v) sold almost 10,000 units during the first half of March.
You can check out our review of the Prius c right here
The Chevrolet Volt has been a media glutton as of late, attracting more attention (and the wrong kind of it) than any one single car in quite a few years, and former GM Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz is not shy about sharing his feelings on the misinterpretation of Volt statistics in the public realm.
In his latest blog post on Forbes.com, Lutz presented some interesting Volt facts and discussed his unhappiness with the media that he believes has a politically fueled agenda when reporting on the car. The key issue in the post being the idea that all Chevy Volts are ready to spontaneously combust.
Lutz explains that Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly just two nights ago told the public once again that “several [Volts] have caught fire,” when in fact no Volt has ever caught fire in the real world, and the only three that have were a part of a carefully orchestrated test by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). “That’s the truth, whether ‘no spin O’Reilly’ likes it or not,” says Lutz after he presents his facts.
“Those who know me will vouch for my credentials as a conservative and vocal global warming skeptic. I spent 11 years as a Marine attack aviator trained and ready to take out Communists during the Cold War,” he said to prove wrong all the strong-headed right wingers by showing them that a conservative can in fact support the Volt.
The last, and seemingly most valid point in his defense of the Volt is that the Opel Ampera, the Volt’s European incarnation, was voted as European car of the year for 2012. This is the first time an American engineered and produced automobile won that distinction. It seems unlikely that a car about to burn would win such an award.
Maybe it’s because our European counterparts don’t pay attention to CNN, or the “No Spin Zone” with Bill O’Reilly.
General Motors announced today that Volt production will stop for five weeks from March 19 through April 23 in order to curb rising inventories of the plug-in hybrid.
“We need to maintain the right inventory levels and continue to meet demand,” GM spokesman Chris Lee said.
1,300 workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant will be temporarily laid off as the plant shuts down. At the end of February, GM had a total of 6,300 Volts left in inventory, which could last them almost half a year based on current sales rates.
The Volt is an important vehicle to Chevrolet, but also the industry as a whole. As the flagship range-extended EV to land in the American market, it serves as a barometer for EV sales sustainability.
There’s no question other companies that are later to the party, like Ford with its all-electric Focus, will be watching closely. If the Volt continues to suffer, it might be a strong indicator of how other manufacturers approach the EV market.
On the up side, if the Volt continues to be a poor seller, folks may find the price dropping to a more palatable level than the current $39,145 MSRP, which could represent substantial savings when paired with federal tax credits.
[Source: Automotive News]
The recent stories of the Tesla Roadster “bricking” will likely cause owners of other electric vehicles to worry. We’ve managed to track down and get a comment about the measures in place that can prevent other EVs from becoming damaged like the Tesla.
A “bricked” car is a lot like a bricked gadget. It can’t and won’t turn on, and is essentially useless (unless you want to use it as a giant and expensive paperweight).
The story is that an owner let his Roadster die and left it uncharged for two months. The car then couldn’t be turned on or started, or re-charged. When the car was taken for repairs it was found that it would cost $40,000 to fix the vehicle.
It’s stated several times in the Roadster’s owner’s manual not to leave the vehicle discharged for an extended period of time. Specifically: “Situations may arise when in which you must leave your vehicle unplugged for an extended period of time. If this is the case, it is your responsibility to ensure that the battery does not become fully depleted.” Lastly, “Over-discharge can permanently damage the battery.” While it’s clear that owner negligence caused this damage, some blame can be put on the manufacturer to have more safety measures to protect the vehicle.
Nissan states that the Leaf cannot be fully discharged “thanks to an advanced battery management system designed to protect the battery from damage. One element of the battery management system is a failsafe wall that stops the battery from reaching absolute zero state-of-charge, even after a period of unplugged storage,”Steve Yaegar, Nissan’s technology communications manager said.
Still there are some warnings in the Leaf’s manual that advises owners to take proper care of its battery. One of the more conspicuous warnings says: “Avoid leaving your vehicle for over 14 days where the Li-ion battery available charge gauge reaches a zero or near zero (state of charge)”
When pushed, Yaegar skirted the issue of what would happen to a Leaf if a user ignored that advice.
While the Chevrolet has a gas generator to help keep the battery charged, what would happen if the battery is discharged completely? Nothing really. Chevrolet spokesperson Robert Peterson told us “This isn’t an issue for the Volt. The Volt uses only 10.4 kW of its 16 kWh battery. The rest of the battery space serves as a buffer to prevent overcharging or deep discharging.”
In the i-MiEV’s warranty manual, Mitsubishi states that the standard warranty does not cover any damages to the Li-Ion battery resulting from “failure to keep the main drive lithium-ion battery charged during storage of the vehicle.”
John Arnone a representative from Mitsubishi, said that while the i-MiEV battery can be fully discharged, if left for a long period of time it will still be able to be recharged by the usual means.
It’s true that electric Smart cars aren’t really on sale (lease-only), a member of customer relations told us that the upcoming 2013 model shouldn’t encounter any issues if left discharged. She did warn us that it may take a bit longer to fully charge back up again though.
It’s clear that electric vehicles are in their infancy. Being able to drive about without paying for gas certainly is a huge benefit. However, potential electric car buyers are already concerned about cost, range anxiety and charge times. Looks like its time to add battery maintenance to that list of concerns.
You would think with all the damage control Chevrolet has to do after their share of bad press on the Volt that they would be able to come up with a better, more creative ad for this year’s Super Bowl.
Nonetheless, Chevy will be presenting your run-of-the-mill commercial featuring aliens from another planet, or galaxy far, far away that are interested in the technology behind the Chevy Volt. Unfortunately it doesn’t really say too much about what makes the Volt a great, but more importantly safe, vehicle – other than the fact that “it’s electric, and when I need to go farther it runs on gas.”
We have to admit that Chevy is going to have to really step up their game if they hope to change the general public’s perception of their Volt. Aliens just won’t cut it these days.
Check out the odd commercial after the break.
Earlier this month a new reports noted that Chevrolet Volt sales were more successful in its first year than the sales numbers of the Toyota Prius hybrid on its first year back in 2000. What little optimism Chevrolet might have had on the Volt’s sales performance were quickly silenced when data revealed that Toyota dealt a quick knockout as its new Prius v wagon (also in its first year) out sold the Volt. And it did so with just 10 weeks on sale.
Official numbers for Chevrolet Volt’s 2011 sales are 7,671 units delivered. Toyota managed to sell 8,399 hybrid wagons, which did not arrive to U.S. dealerships and showrooms until the last week of October.
President of Toyota U.S. Sales Jim Lentz says, “Prius v is off to a great start.” For 2012, Toyota aims to deliver 220,000 Prii to U.S. customers, a 60 percent increase from 2011. Toyota’s offensive includes offerings of the original Prius, the Pruis v wagon, and the Prius c subcompact that arrives in March.
GALLERY: Toyota Prius v wagon
Read AutoGuide’s 2012 Toyota Prius v Review here and watch the video review below:
The Chevrolet Volt ended the last month of 2011 with its best month of sales to date. Having sold 1,529 Volts in December, GM ended its full year of Volt sales at a total of 7,671 units for 2011.
While this figure is significantly lower than its 10,000 sales goal, Fox News noted that the Volt’s sales performance for its first year easily trump the sales performance of the Toyota Prius on its first year, which only managed to sell 5,600 units all the way back in the year 2000. Today, the Prius is the best-selling hybrid in America and Toyota has sold 136,463 units of Prius models in 2011.
Going forward, Chevrolet aims to sell 45,000 Volts for 2012 and reach a round 60,000 total units worldwide. An ambitious goal, Chevrolet will have to sell a lot more Volts for every quarter of 2012 than the total number of Volts it sold for all of 2011.
[Source: Fox News]