Friday, October 30, 2009

Tesla Roadster Sets Record With 313 Mile Single Charge Trek

Tesla Roadster

Tesla Press Release

Tesla Roadster travels 313 miles on a single charge in what appears to be new world record

Competing in Australia's Global Green Challenge, Customer Simon Hackett's red Roadster goes from Alice Springs to Coober Pedy with 3 miles left on the charge.

Coober Pedy, South Australia -- (Oct. 27, 2009) - Tesla Roadster owner Simon Hackett and co-driver Emilis Prelgauskas completed 313 miles (501 km) in a Tesla Roadster on a single charge – a distance that appears to set a new record for a production electric vehicle.

Hackett and Prelgauskas are driving Hackett's red 2008 Roadster as part of the 10th annual Global Green Challenge, one of the most high-profile rallies worldwide for alternative fuel cars. Hackett is providing updates in real time on his blog.

The pair drove from Alice Springs, in the Australian Northern Territory, to the finish marker at a point 183 km north of Coober Pedy, in South Australia. They had an estimated 3 miles left on the charge at the finish marker.

The previous distance record for an electric vehicle was set in April, when another Roadster was the only vehicle to complete the entire, 241-mile Rallye Monte Carlo d'Energies Alternatives. It had an estimated 38 miles left on the charge.

The Tesla Roadster is the first production automobile to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production EV with a range greater than 200 miles (320 km) per charge. Tesla has delivered about 900 Roadsters to customers so far.

Hackett sent Tesla the following note before going to bed last night:

"Emilis and I have decades of experience flying gliders competitively and we applied the same energy conservation techniques to our driving, with significant results! The car had about 3 miles of range left when the drive was completed. We travelled 501km on a single charge. Let that sink in for a minute.

"The security seal was applied to the charge port door when we started the journey. As this is being done as part of the Global Green Challenge, we have a full set of official verifiers here who will attest to the results and to achieving the outcome. We were followed along the journey by our support crew and a documentary film crew - so we have it on film.

"It's late here and we have another 541k to drive (with an intermediate charge stop) tomorrow - and another two days of the event left after that. When we're done, we will have driven over 3000 km's in the Roadster over the course of only six days, from Darwin to Adelaide.

Ford Now Partnering with Azure Dynamics to Deliver Electric Vehicle in 2010

The Ford Focus EV as Seen On Jay Leno

In a confusing turn of events and alliances, Ford is now partnering with Azure Dynamics to deliver a pure battery electric Ford Transit Connect van for the United States and Canadian markets in 2010. Originally, Smith Electric Vehicles was to help Ford bring these vans to market. Fortunately, the schedule for delivery of the announced Ford electric vehicles is still on track, as follows:

  • Battery electric Transit Connect van in 2010
  • Battery electric Ford Focus passenger car in 2011
  • Next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012
  • Plug-In hybrid vehicle in 2012
From Green Car Congress:

Ford Motor Company and Smith Electric Vehicles US (SEV US) have mutually agreed to terminate the development project of an electric car-derived van based on Transit Connect. (Earlier post.)

In a trading statement issued today, UK-based Tanfield Group, SEV US’ parent, said that given the growth in demand for its production-ready Smith Newton, the forecast volumes of the electric Transit Connect did not, in the short- to medium-term, justify the investment requirement to deliver the vehicle, and also limited the working capital available to support the growth of Newton. SEV US has commenced production of the Smith Newton electric truck platform at its assembly facility in Kansas City, Missouri, and currently has an order book of 255 trucks.

Tanfield said that SEV US Corp believes that investing in the existing Smith platforms represents a better use of its financial resources, allowing it to take full advantage of a potentially very sizeable market and to gain market traction more quickly. It was concerned that the market for electric car-derived vans would become increasingly competitive. Tanfield remains Ford of Europe’s official collaborator on commercial electric vehicles, initially focused solely on the Ford Transit platform, which is marketed as the Smith Edison.

Ford and Azure. Ford Motor Company will now partner with Azure Dynamics Corporation to deliver a pure battery electric Ford Transit Connect van for the United States and Canadian markets in 2010.

Oak Park, Mich.-based Azure Dynamics will integrate its proprietary battery electric drivetrain (branded Force Drive) into the Transit Connect BEV, which will have a targeted range of 80 miles minimum on a full charge. Force Drive components have previously been deployed in more than 40 vehicle integrations and have more than 25 million miles of on-the-road experience. The vehicle will be badged with both the Ford Blue Oval and Azure’s Force Drive logo.

Azure Dynamics has selected Johnson Controls-Saft as the supplier for lithium-ion battery cells and battery packs for the Transit Connect BEV. Azure Dynamics and Ford both currently utilize Johnson Controls-Saft battery technology for other products. The Transit Connect BEV will use the same proven cell technology that is currently deployed in the Ford Escape plug-in hybrid fleet that is on the road today.

In addition, Azure had previously announced it would use Johnson Controls-Saft lithium-ion batteries for its E- 450 Balance Hybrid Electric beginning in the second half of 2010.

The collaboration with Azure Dynamics for the Transit Connect BEV will build on the existing business relationship between Ford and Azure as well as their shared experience with battery supplier, Johnson Controls-Saft. Azure Dynamics develops hybrid electric and electric drive technology for shuttle buses and commercial trucks, such as the Balance Hybrid Electric, which is built on the Ford E-450 cutaway and strip chassis for the medium duty commercial vehicle segment.

The Transit Connect BEV will be built on Ford’s global commercial vehicle platform as part of the company’s One Ford global product vision. It is the first of four electrified vehicles from Ford that will become available over the next three years in the US and Canada including:

  • Battery electric Transit Connect van in 2010
  • Battery electric Ford Focus passenger car in 2011
  • Next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012
  • Plug-In hybrid vehicle in 2012

The opportunity to work with Ford on the Transit Connect BEV is a breakthrough advancement for us at Azure and for the light commercial vehicle market. For Azure, it’s an important evolution of our existing relationship with Ford. From an industry standpoint, we are seeing delivery fleet and utility vehicle operators move to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. The Transit Connect BEV will come to market at an ideal time to meet this growing trend.

—Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO

The final manufacturing location for the Transit Connect BEV has not yet been determined.

SEV US and AM General. SEV US Corp, together with AM General, a leading manufacturer of military and commercial vehicles, headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, USA, is developing a prototype electric version of the gasoline-powered Long Life Vehicle for the United States Postal Service (USPS).

There are currently approximately 178,000 Long Life Vehicles in service with the USPS. AM General will manufacture the chassis and SEV US Corp will supply the electric drive train, including the motor, battery pack, electronics and ancillary systems.

With AM General we combine a global leader in specialist vehicles with a world leader in electric vehicle integration. The goal is to deliver an electric vehicle that is perfect for the United States Postal Service; a vehicle that is energy efficient, cost-effective, reduces US reliance on oil and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

—Darren Kell, CEO of The Tanfield Group Plc

On 6 August 2009, SEV US Corp won $10 million in grant funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE), to facilitate its growth towards volume production and to build a demonstration fleet of electric trucks. In addition, SEV US Corp customers have been awarded funding for 65 Smith Newton electric trucks, amounting to $4.5 million, through the US Clean Cities Program. SEV US Corp is applying for more funding through the US Government green vehicles programs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Toshiba to Build Another Li Ion Facility in Japan

Here is more good news for EV enthusiasts. The greater the production of EV batteries, the lower the cost will become thus making real EV's affordable to the masses.

From Green Car Congress:

Anticipating strong future demand, Toshiba Corporation will construct a second dedicated production facility for its safe, long-life, rapid charge SCiB battery (earlier post), in the Kashiwazaki Frontier Park, in Kashiwazaki city, Niigata prefecture.

Construction is scheduled to start in April 2010, with a completion date of October 2010. In spring 2011, the plant will start to produce SCiB cells and modules for application in battery-powered electric vehicles (EV). The initial capacity of 500,000 cells a month is expected to rise when the automotive application market takes off in fiscal year 2011, allowing the plant to achieve significant cost reductions through mass production.

The total investment in construction and installation of manufacturing equipment will be in the region of ¥25 billion (US$276 million), and the new facility will have a floor area be approximately 33,000 m2.

The market for lithium-ion batteries is expected to see significant demand growth, and to account for a growing share of a lithium-ion battery market scale that is expected to reach sales of approximately ¥2 trillion (US$22 billion) worldwide in fiscal year 2015.

Toshiba anticipates strong demand for SCiB, primarily for application in battery-powered electric vehicles (EV), in a range extending from motorcycles to forklifts through to cars.

Toshiba positions the SCiB as a new business with promising long term growth potential. The company currently produces SCiB for industrial applications at Saku Operations in Nagano prefecture. Establishing a new production facility site will support an operating structure that allows timely responses to increasing demand from the new market for battery-powered electric vehicles (EV) and also for the power storage market that will accompany the coming transition to Smart Grids. The company aims to achieve net sales of ¥200 billion (US$2.2 billion) from the SCiB business by fiscal year 2015.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

President Obama Authorizes $3.4 Billion in Smart Grid Projects

Spend, spend and then spend some more seems to be the theme of the Obama administration. The latest winners will be companies that specialize in smart grid technologies and infrastructure. The ultimate goal of this spending is to "beef up" the grid so that it can sustain the impact of plug in vehicles. Said vehicles are virtually non-existent and will not affect our power grid for years and years and years, but hopefully this cash injection will help us when we get to that point.

From Green Car Congress:

Map of the 100 smart grid awards. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.

Speaking at Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, President Barack Obama announced $3.4 billion in grant awards to 100 private companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners—the largest single energy grid modernization investment in US history—to fund a broad range of smart grid technologies and projects.

The $3.4 billion in grant awards are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth more than $8 billion. Full listings of the grant awards by category and state are available here and here.

An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that the implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4% by 2030.

Major elements in the announcement include:

  • Empowering Consumers to Save Energy and Cut Utility Bills: $1 billion. These investments will create the infrastructure and expand access to smart meters and customer systems so that consumers will be able to access dynamic pricing information and have the ability to save money by programming smart appliances and equipment to run when rates are lowest.

  • Making Electricity Distribution and Transmission More Efficient: $400 million. The Administration is funding several grid modernization projects across the country that will significantly reduce the amount of power that is wasted from the time it is produced at a power plant to the time it gets to a house. By deploying digital monitoring devices and increasing grid automation, these awards will increase the efficiency, reliability and security of the system, and will help link up renewable energy resources with the electric grid.

  • Integrating and Crosscutting Across Different “Smart” Components of a Smart Grid: $2 billion. Much like electronic banking, the Smart Grid is not the sum total of its components but how those components work together. The Administration is funding a range of projects that will incorporate these various components into one system or cut across various project areas—including smart meters, smart thermostats and appliances, syncrophasors, automated substations, plug in hybrid electric vehicles, renewable energy sources, etc.

  • Building a Smart Grid Manufacturing Industry: $26 million. These investments will help expand the US manufacturing base of companies that can produce the smart meters, smart appliances, synchrophasors, smart transformers, and other components for smart grid systems in the United States and around the world.

More specifically, the awards are grouped into six categories:

  • Advanced Metering Infrastructure (31 awards, $818 million in Recovery Act funding, $2.0 billion total investment)
  • Customer Systems (5 projects, $32.4 million in Recovery Act funding, $67.3 million total)
  • Electric Distribution Systems (13 projects, $254.3 million in Recovery Act funding, $509 million total)
  • Electric Transmission Systems (10 projects, $148 million in Recovery Act funding, $298.4 million total)
  • Equipment Manufacturing (2 projects, $25.8 million in Recovery Act funding, $51.6 million total)
  • Integrated and/or Cross-cutting Systems (39 projects, $2.2 billion in Recovery Act funding, $5.2 billion total)

Among the expected outcomes of the projects, when fully implemented, are:

  • Higher grid reliability, reducing power outages that cost American consumers $150 billion a year.

  • Installation of more than 850 sensors—‘Phasor Measurement Units’—that will cover 100% of the US electric grid and make it possible for grid operators to better monitor grid conditions and prevent minor disturbances in the electrical system from cascading into local or regional power outages or blackouts. This monitoring ability will also help the grid to incorporate large blocks of intermittent renewable energy, like wind and solar power, to take advantage of clean energy resources when they are available and make adjustments when they’re not.

  • Installation of more than 200,000 smart transformers that will make it possible for power companies to replace units before they fail thus saving money and reducing power outages.

  • Installation of almost 700 automated substations, representing about 5% of the nation’s total that will make it possible for power companies to respond faster and more effectively to restore service when bad weather knocks down power lines or causes electricity disruptions.

  • Power companies today typically do not know there has been a power outage until a customer calls to report it. With these smart grid devices, power companies will have the tools they need for better outage prevention and faster response to make repairs when outages do occur.

  • Deployment of more than 40 million smart meters in American homes and businesses over the next few years that will help consumers cut their utility bills.

  • Installation of more than 1 million in-home displays, 170,000 smart thermostats, and 175,000 other load control devices to enable consumers to reduce their energy use. Funding will also help expand the market for smart washers, dryers, and dishwashers, so that American consumers can further control their energy use and lower their electricity bills.

  • Put the US on a path to get 20% or more of it energy from renewable sources by 2020.

  • Reduce peak electricity demand by more than 1,400 MW—the equivalent of several larger power plants.

Fisker Announces Use Of GM Plant in Delaware For PHEV Production


WILMINGTON, DE -- Oct. 27, 2009 – Fisker Automotive has selected the Wilmington Assembly plant in Wilmington Delaware to build affordable plug-in hybrid cars.

Fisker executives made the announcement inside the dormant facility today, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and other state officials.

The plant will support Fisker Automotive's Project NINA, the development and build of an affordable, family-oriented plug-in hybrid sedan costing about $39,900 after federal tax credits.

Production is scheduled to begin in late 2012. Fisker Automotive anticipates Project NINA will ultimately create or support 2,000 factory jobs and more than 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs by 2014, as production ramps up to full capacity of 75,000-100,000 vehicles per year. More than half will be exported, the largest percentage of any domestic manufacturer.

The modernized Wilmington Assembly plant was selected for its size, production capacity, world-class paint facilities, access to shipping ports, rail lines and available skilled workforce.

“This is a major step toward establishing America as a leader of advanced vehicle technology,” said Henrik Fisker, CEO. “Wilmington is perfect for high quality, low volume production and will soon be the proud builder of world-class, fuel-efficient Fisker plug-in hybrids.”

Fisker Automotive has signed a letter of intent with Motors Liquidation Co. (MLC), formerly known as General Motors Corp. to purchase the Wilmington plant for $18 million after a routine four-month evaluation period.

An additional $175 million will be spent to refurbish and retool the factory over the next three years.

Funds will come from a conditional loan of $528.7M the Department of Energy awarded the company in September.

The loan is part of the $25B Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program (ATVM) appropriated by Congress in 2007 to help the United States lead in the development and manufacturing of advanced technology vehicles.

The company's first car, the Fisker Karma, will be the world's first production plug-in hybrid when it goes on sale this summer at retailers in the U.S. and Europe.

Fisker plug-in hybrid cars will help remove the country's dependence on foreign energy by eliminating the need for 42 million barrels of oil by 2016. They will also offset 8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

“With our close-knit business, government, and educational communities and our potential to respond rapidly to new opportunities, today's announcement is a testament to what works best in Delaware. Fisker is a perfect partner in shaping Delaware's economic future, and we are thrilled that the vehicle that can reshape the automobile industry will be built here in Delaware, by Delaware workers.” said Governor Jack Markell (D-Delaware).

Gary Casteel, UAW director responsible for the plant, said, "It gives me great pride to give UAW Local 435 workers the opportunity to partner with Fisker Automotive to create a greener America by building a plug-in hybrid car that will compete globally."


Fisker Automotive is a privately owned, premium American car company with a vision to lead the automotive industry into the next-generation of automobiles with high-end design expertise and eco-friendly powertrain technology. Global headquarters are in Irvine, California, USA.

The company was created in 2007 to leverage the design capabilities of Fisker Coachbuild, LLC, founded by auto design veterans Henrik Fisker and Bernhard Koehler, and the PHEV powertrain capabilities of Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc. (NASDAQ-QTWW), a major Tier 1 supplier of clean vehicle technologies to the automotive OEMs. Previously, Fisker, CEO, was design director for Aston Martin and president and CEO of BMW's DesignworksUSA. Koehler, COO, led operations for Ford's Global Advanced Design Studio and created concept cars for Aston Martin, MINI and BMW.


The Wilmington Assembly plant was built by General Motors in1947. Over the years it has been expanded to 3.2 million square feet on 142 acres of land. It includes an on-site powerhouse and waste water treatment facility. More than 8.5 million cars have been manufactured there, including the Pontiac Streamliner, original Chevrolet Impala, 1997-1999 Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn L-Series and the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky/Opel GT roadsters. Production capacity is 300,000 cars per year. The plant and its workforce have received many awards for excellence in quality, production and safety.

PRESS RELEASE: AlixPartners Client ‘Old GM' Announces Agreement to Sell First Major Asset

Electric-Carmaker Fisker Automotive to Purchase Assembly Plant in Delaware

WILMINGTON, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--AlixPartners LLP, the global business-advisory firm that since last December worked to help keep General Motors Corp. away from a freefall bankruptcy and that since July has managed the estate of “Old GM” (Motors Liquidation Co.), today commented on the announcement that MLC has signed a letter of intent to complete its first major asset sale: the sale of a former GM assembly plant in Wilmington, Del., to premium carmaker Fisker Automotive Inc. of Irvine, Calif., which has said it plans to build plug-in electric vehicles in the plant.

It was announced today that Fisker Automotive will be paying MLC $18 million for the 3.2-million-sq.-ft. plant, which was commissioned in 1947 and until this summer was building Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky and Opel GT models.

“This is a big day for Wilmington, a big day for the creditors in this case and, I believe, a good day for America,” said Al Koch, the vice chairman of AlixPartners who is currently serving as chief executive officer of MLC. “AlixPartners is a firm that has long prided itself on obtaining the best possible outcomes, no matter the odds, and that's certainly been our goal all along in this very big, very high-profile case. To that end, we are extremely pleased that not only will this plant not be going away, but that it will continue as a vehicle-assembly site, providing employment and other commercial activity in this area.”

Continued Koch: “We very much applaud the leadership of Governor Markell, the Delaware congressional delegation and many others here in helping make today's news possible. They've worked tirelessly to help us come up with a win-win-win outcome.”

Said Ted Stenger, a managing director of AlixPartners who is serving as executive vice president of MLC: “Wherever we have facilities or properties, we continue to work with government officials at all levels, community leaders and economic-development experts to try to identify re-use possibilities, consistent with the local market conditions, the attributes of each individual property and with our obligations under the bankruptcy code. This sale is an example of where many separate groups acted together to arrive at a solution beneficial to all. Working together, we hope to have more such solutions in the future.”

About AlixPartners

AlixPartners is a leading global business-advisory firm offering services across four main disciplines – operational performance improvement and strategic consulting, financial restructuring and bankruptcy reorganization, litigation consulting and financial advisory services. The firm's expertise is in helping clients anticipate, evaluate and successfully resolve urgent, high-impact business challenges in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic landscape. Drawing on the experience of more than 900 employees from 14 offices across North America, Europe and Asia, the firm commits small teams of seasoned professionals to deliver results when it really matters. For more information, visit

Monday, October 26, 2009

ALTe To Develop Serial Plug-In Hybrid Drivetrains For Conversions

We need more and more companies like ALTe.

From Green Car Congress:

Rendering of the Gen 2 series plug-in hybrid powertrain under development. Source: ALTe. Click to enlarge.

A Bloomfield, Michigan startup is developing light- and medium-duty series plug-in hybrid electric vehicle powertrain systems—initially as conversions, but ultimately extending to an OEM basis.

ALTe, LLC has initially targeted fleet applications—specifically, the New York Ford Crown Victoria taxi fleet—as the passenger car market does not drive enough miles per year to deliver the financial payback on the incremental cost of the conversion, said John Thomas, ALTe CEO, at the Business of Plugging In conference in Detroit last week.

Gen1 System installed in a Crown Vic. Click to enlarge. Gen 2 system in a rolling chassis. Click to enlarge.

ALTe already has Gen 1 proof-of-concept systems running in a Crown Vic taxi equipped with a 20 kWh Li-ion battery pack. In the Crown Victoria, the proof of concept powertrain conversion systems improve fuel economy from 80%-200% from the base 4.6L V8: from 14 mpg to up to 43 mpg, depending on vehicle use. With fleet mileage, ALTe projects ROI on a conversion in less than two years.

20 kWh pack in the proof-of-concept Crown Vic conversion. Subsequent versions will leave more trunk space for luggage. Click to enlarge.

(Another benefit of targeting a conversion application such as the taxi fleet is that the vehicles are all out of warranty, Thomas noted.)

A Gen 2 Series PHEV Powertrain under development is installed in a running rolling chassis.

Thomas came to ALTe from Tesla Motors, where he was Senior Program Director and General Manager, and was working on “Whitestar”, later revealed as the Model S. Prior to Tesla, Thomas was Director of Special Projects at Magna Steyr, VP and Division General Manager at auto supplier Collins & Aikman, and a powertrain component design engineer and powertrain system project and project engineer for 10 years. ALTe is staffed by traditional auto industry and Tesla Motors alumni averaging more than 24 years of experience at major auto OEMs and suppliers in the US, Japan and Korea, Thomas said.

“The series plug-in hybrid is the best transitional powertrain technology due to cost and range issues of current battery science.”
—John Thomas

Thomas said that ALTe is building a robustly engineered, professional quality, mass production powertrain conversion kit assembly operation and plans to produce up to 90,000 powertrains per year. The company will deliver these powertrain kits to a dealer network to be established.

ALTe plans to develop series plug-in hybrid powertrains for a range of popular vehicles such as taxis, shuttle busses, pickup trucks, SUVs, etc, and is targeting more than $2 billion of revenues within five years.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Honda Unveils All-Electric Scooter

The Retro Honda EV-Cub With Dual Motors

Honda, one of the world wide leaders in scooter production has finally announced a version of their Cub model which will operate in full EV mode. The Cub was a popular gas scooter decades ago and so the new version will have a built in "retro" look. Why it took so long for Honda to jump on the EV bandwagon is a mystery. Chinese manufacturers have been pumping out electric scooters for years now, leaving the big boys like Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki in the dust. Let's hope that Honda sets a competitive MSRP for the EV-Cub.


Honda Motor Co. has released images of several new environment-friendly motorcycles that it will display at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show next week. Honda’s green two-wheel lineup includes the much-anticipated EV-Cub electric motorcycle, the EVE-neo electric scooter and the PCX global scooter—which boasts of being the first two-wheeler to employ an “idling stop system.”

The EV-Cub is fitted with the company’s “car2car” and “car2driver” communication system that’s called HELLO! (Honda ELectric mobility LOop) as well as a LOOP hand-held, portable communication tool.
Though few details have been released, the EV-Cub appears to have electric motors in the front and rear wheels, indicating that it’s a two-wheel-drive motorcycle—something that’s expected to become commonplace in the future as they offer traction advantages on loose terrain and wet roads, improving rider safety.

Much thinner than a normal motorcycle, the EV-Cub will maximize its relatively low power by its light weight. Honda, which had said it aims to sell an electric motorcycle by the end of 2010, will likely mass-produce the EV-Cub in the next few months.

Meanwhile, the PCX is equipped with a newly developed low-friction, water-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder 125cc engine that’s capable of traveling 50 kilometers in a liter of fuel, Honda said. The PCX’s “idling stop system,” which automatically shuts down the engine when the motorcycle comes to a temporary stop, was adopted to improve fuel economy.

Honda bared the PCX, which will be manufactured in Thailand, conforms to current exhaust emission standards in Japan, Europe and the US. The company credited its PGM-FI electronic fuel injection system as well as a catalyst device in the muffler for the bike’s low emissions.

Besides having the first stop-start system on a motorcycle, the PCX also employs Honda’s ACG starter that combines a cell motor and alternating current generator. The PCX will be equipped with a Combined Brake System for the front and rear wheels.

For its part, the EVE-neo electric scooter is seen to “achieve clean and tough performance that only an electric-powered scooter can provide,” according to Honda.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Suzuki Demonstrates A Fuel Cell Burgman Scooter In Tokyo

We would have preferred an electric only Burgman but Suzuki decided to concept a fuel cell version. The problem with fuel cell technology, of course, is the lack of hydrogen refueling stations.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, Suzuki has introduced its concept Burgman Fuel-Cell Scooter, based on technologies from the Crosscage concept motorcycle that it displayed at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, thereby realizing a more practical and accessible fuel-cell bike.
Burgman Fuel-Cell Scooter. Click to enlarge.

The air-cooled PEM fuel cell—made by UK-based Intelligent Energy, Suzuki’s partner in other fuel cell efforts—is fueled by a 70 MPa (10,000 psi) hydrogen tank (the highest-pressure tank used on a bike thus far). The tank is mounted within a robust frame for safety.

The scooter is also equipped with a Li-ion battery for energy storage.

No other specifics were available.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Volvo Hybrid V70 and the C30 Electric Vehicle

The Sleek Volvo C30 EV

Volvo appears to be ready for the hybrid bandwagon that is making the rounds these days. They have a hybrid wagon in the works that can travel 31 miles in EV mode with one notable difference. The combustion engine is diesel powered, giving the owner the option of running the car on biodiesel. Obviously, this makes for a very green automobile, especially if the car can be charged via solar power.

The C30 EV is just a concept at this point, but if it ever enters production it will be a real player.

Here are the specifics from Popular Mechanics:

In this rough economic climate, it appears Volvo has weathered the storm. In September, Ford's Swedish car-making arm, Volvo, showed a 16 percent sales increase over last year—one of only nine automakers to do so. And the Swedes are showing a firm embrace on the latest environmental technologies, even if the company doesn't quite have the wherewithal to put them all into production right now. What will be in European showrooms next year is the plug-in hybrid V70 wagon with the capability of traveling 31 miles in electric-only mode. We're going to have to wait for the battery-electric C30EV coupe, but we were given a preview drive of both recently.

The Specs

Volvo has been researching hybrid drivelines for almost 20 years with its first hybrid concept car, the ECC hybrid, appearing in 1992. Electric drive seems a perfect fit for a company that lists the protection of the environment in its articles of association. The V70 range of station wagons is a solid candidate for hybridization, with a constituency of wealthy, environmentally savvy buyers who might be willing to fork out a little extra for a bit of right-on eco hardware in their family wagon.

Rather than go for a traditional hybrid, where Toyota's Prius has an almost unassailable lead, Volvo is choosing to leapfrog into plug-in technology with a diesel engine. With a conventional front-wheel drive 205-hp 2.4-liter diesel packing 331 lb-ft of torque under the hood, the V70 PHEV will operate in diesel-only mode most of the time. In the back, however, is a 12-kilowatt-hour, U.S.-made EnerDel lithium-ion battery pack that powers a 70-hp permanent-magnet AC motor with 162 lb-ft of torque driving the rear wheels. That, according to Volvo, is enough to propel this 4433-pound charabanc on electric-only power for a maximum of 31 miles, enough to cover over 75 percent of daily European commuting. Top speed using the diesel engine is about 135 mph; in electric mode it is limited to 80 mph and 0 to 62 mph acceleration is 8.9 seconds and 15 seconds, respectively.

As befits a Volvo, the emphasis is on safety, with the battery enclosed in a heavy steel cage that will withstand almost any conceivable accident, including a crunching offset rear impact. The separate diesel and electric drivelines also mean there is a rudimentary all-wheel-drive capability for when the going gets really sticky, which is also the basis of the forthcoming 4WD system from Land Rover.

The C30EV is an altogether more ambitious project, but one without a green light at present. Based on Volvo's attractive four-seat coupe, this 3250-pound car is powered with twin 330-pound lithium-ion battery packs (also from EnerDel) that sit under the rear seat and down the center of the vehicle. With a combined capacity of 24 kwh, these batteries provide enough juice to the 109-hp permanent-magnet motor with 137 lb-ft of torque, to give a range of 93 miles, a limited top speed of 81 mph and 0 to 62 mph acceleration of 10.5 seconds, though not all at the same time of course. That theoretical range is enough to cover more than 90 percent of European commuting.

The Drive

Climb in either of these cars and you quickly appreciate Volvo's fundamental grasp of driver ergonomics. These are the clearest and easiest to understand instruments on any electric car, with gauges for battery contents, charge and discharge, and a separate needle for the rate at which the car's ancillaries such as the heated windscreens, radio and so on are eating into the batteries' charge. Add in Volvo's immaculate passenger comfort, including brilliant seats and competent interior packaging, and electric power (hybrid or battery) seems as normal as, well, any other Volvo.

The V70 plug-in starts with a quick systems check followed by, um, silence. Select "Drive" on the standard automatic gearbox and this big station wagon rolls gently forward without you touching the accelerator. Volvo's engineers have designed this "creep," but also ensured it doesn't burn up battery capacity at the standstill.

The whirring estate fair races away from the standstill, a characteristic of electric-powered cars, which provide maximum torque at zero motor revolutions. The rear-mounted motor is very quiet and provides easy 50-mph cruising and wafting acceleration that is perfect for commuting, if not the interstate dash, where the diesel engine will start and can occasionally be boosted with the electric drive for high-power overtaking moments. The car feels heavy, but not impossibly so. Trouble is, that weight takes its toll and after just three gentle laps of the test track we had burned 2 kwh of the batteries' charge, which gives an effective range of just 18 miles. Fewer hills and much gentler driving would extend this, but it's still obvious that the V70's diesel engine is going to be running for a fair amount of time and then you are just dragging around 551-pounds of battery pack, control electronics, inverter and motor.

Volvo Plug-ins Photo Gallery


The C30EV doesn't have this drawback, in theory at least, as it has no conventional engine. But you can feel the considerable heft as you take off. The front-mounted motor is louder than the V70's, although a dodgy wheelbearing on the test car added to the overall cacophony. Acceleration is brisk but tails off as the speed increases. Without the planned distribution of the batteries (the test car only had a rear battery), it was difficult to judge the handling at extremes but the coupe felt stable and perfect for the suburban crawl, if not tearing around country roads.

The Bottom Line

Volvo is not in a position to lead the world into electric motoring. It lacks the money and the inertia. Even the V70 plug-in hybrid, which goes on sale next year, is a simple device that merely stores braking energy as volts and allows a bit of grid-powered driving. Volvo is banking on two things to make sense of the V70 and the C30EV. First: economies of scale that bring down the cost of lithium-ion batteries and second, that governments in Europe will restrict combustion engines in congested urban areas either with heavy tolls or outright bans.

In the first instance, it's worth noting that the cost of batteries has fallen by 30 percent since last December and looks like it might fall further. In the second, will the V70's mere 31 miles of electric-only range be enough to escape the European tolls? And will the V70 manage that range in normal driving?

As to the C30EV, this is a polished effort, which drives well and promises fine handling. Right now Volvo is doing the same math as most other companies: Do you sell or lease the battery? Do you get into bed with the electricity suppliers, or the battery recharging companies? The C30EV is an impressive start, but no one really knows what an electric future will look like and how it will work. With that in mind the best we can say is that Volvo's technology is certainly promising.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carlos Ghosn Announces Infinity to Join the EV Fray

The Nissan Leaf All-Electric Vehicle

Another vehicle brand will produce an all electric vehicle as these announcements seem to come every day. This time around, the Nissan Leaf will be joined by a sibling from Infinity.

Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., announced at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show that Infiniti plans to introduce an electric vehicle—one that will be true to the Infiniti brand’s promise of “Inspired Performance.”

Ghosn stated that a concept is being developed for a stylish, compact, high performance four-seat luxury Infiniti.

Earlier in October, Nissan confirmed production of the Infiniti M35 Hybrid, due to go on sale beginning in Spring 2011.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Live Webchat With GM's Britta Gross and EPRI's Mark Duvall Discussing EV Charging Infrastructure

Title: Britta Gross, Chevrolet and Mark Duvall, EPRI

Monday, October 19, 2009

17 M Natural Gas Vehicles Globally by 2015

The Stylish Honda Civic GX CNG

We tend to cover mostly electric vehicles on this forum so it is refreshing to see positive stories concerning other alternate energy vehicles. Here is a story that predicts a doubling of natural gas vehicles on the road by the year 2015. Here in the United States, we have an abundance of this fuel and need not import it from hostile nations. If the major oil companies would stop blocking efforts to build out the natural gas fueling infrastructure, there would be more interest in the product.

Natural gas vehicles such as Honda's Civic GC CNG operate nearly identical to gasoline engines and yet do not emit all the poisonous pollutants. With the proper sized tank, the range is also nearly identical. There are even home refueling products that make it a pleasure to be able to wave at the gas station on the commute home. We need as many alternate energy vehicles as possible in order to liberate us from the tyranny of oil cartels.

From Green Car Congress:

Cleantech research firm Pike Research forecasts growth in natural gas vehicles (NGV) on the road worldwide to 17 million units by 2015, up from 9.7 million in 2008. Pike Research forecasts that the NGV market will grow globally at a CAGR of 5.5% to reach just over 3 million vehicles (including conversions) by 2015.

The top five markets for NGVs are currently Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, and India. Pike Research anticipates India will be the fastest-growing NGV market with a CAGR of 18.4% between 2008 and 2015. This rapid expansion will largely be due to the availability of refueling stations and the growth of government emissions rules in large cities in India.

Despite growth of the market as a whole, the US NGV market is expected to remain dominated by fleet sales to government and commercial customers (89% of sales in 2015). Pike expects the CAGR for US NGV sales to be 17.7% between 2008 and 2015, which translates into 31,347 vehicles (including conversions) sold in 2015.

In general, the demand drivers for NGV adoption come down to four key drivers, according to the report:

  • Economics. The fuel has to be cheaper than gasoline/diesel to recover the additional cost of the vehicle within a reasonable amount of time.

  • Environmental benefits. NGVs have substantially lower GHG, CO2, and NOx.

  • Energy security. In most regions, the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel is for the purpose of reducing the usage of imported crude oil or imported refined gasoline.

  • Availability. The fuel, vehicles, and repair technicians have to be readily available or the market will not grow.

Although economics is the most important of these drivers for all markets, the report says, the others also play a key role. Indeed, the other drivers take center stage in some specific markets (e.g., governments may mandate that NGVs be used to provide cleaner air quality).

Governments, fleet managers, and consumers are increasingly recognizing the environmental benefits of lower emissions from natural gas vehicles. However, lack of refueling station infrastructure has inhibited NGV demand in many countries. In regions where NGVs have strong market performance, adoption is largely due to a combination of inexpensive natural gas, a large number of existing refueling stations, and government subsidies of vehicles, fuel, and infrastructure.

— Dave Hurst, Pike Research

Pike Research’s report, “Natural Gas Vehicles”, analyzes the opportunities and challenges facing NGV cars, light trucks, and medium/heavy duty trucks. The report includes an assessment of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicle technologies, and it also examines key drivers of demand with both fleet customers and private consumers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Introducing The Elio Motor Car

Our previous post mentioned that a little company named Elio will request US Government funds to bring a highly fuel efficient vehicle to the States. The best facet of the Elio will be its tentative MSRP of less that $6000.


So I can buy six Elio's for the same price as a Chevy Volt? Or, at 80 mpg, I can buy one Elio and save $30,000 to purchase gasoline for my trips, for all of my trips, for all the rest of my life! If successful, the Elio could become the perfect commuter vehicle.

Their website:

Elio - Invest in the next Cultural Icon

Congresses Passes Legislation Allowing Three-Wheeled Vehicles to Share in Energy Department Funds

The Gull Winged Aptera

Finally, the little guys will get some of the action. Instead of the giant, bloated and wasteful companies like GM getting all the handouts, companies like Aptera and Elio will get a slice of the pie. All we can say is, "It's about time".

From Automotive News:

A bill to make fuel-efficient three-wheeled vehicles eligible for federal funding now available to automakers and their suppliers has passed Congress and is headed to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

Obama is expected to sign the legislation, a White House spokeswoman said.

The bill, which would open Energy Department funds to companies such as Aptera Motors and Elio Motors, was passed by the Senate yesterday as part of the energy appropriations bill after being approved by the House.

“This is a huge win for scientific innovation and the environment,” said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., a co-sponsor of the original bill. “We need more innovation and less regulation when it comes to promoting new ways to save energy while saving money at the pump.”

The legislation has been criticized by General Motors Co. The company has said the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program is intended for large automakers that make many cars and whose technology will help save large amounts of gasoline.

GM spokesman Greg Martin declined comment today. GM has applied for three Energy Department loans totaling $10 billion.

Possible borrowers

Aptera plans to begin mass production of its plug-in electric vehicle, called 2e, in the middle of next year. CEO Paul Wilbur has said the company wants to borrow $75 million from the Energy Department.

The Vista, Calif., company's electric vehicle will be able to go at least 100 miles on an electric charge, Wilbur has said.

Elio plans to start marketing a narrow, gasoline-powered three-wheeler by the spring of 2011. The Tempe, Ariz., company expects to start marketing an 83-mpg vehicle for under $7,500 by the spring of 2011, owner Paul Elio has said.

The legislation would overturn Energy Department rules that limit funding to any four-wheeled vehicle that meets certain emissions and fuel-economy requirements.

It would expand eligibility for the loan program to fully enclosed vehicles that are designed to carry at least two adults and that average at least 75 mpg.

The Energy Department also would have to reconsider applications filed last year that were rejected because the vehicles didn't qualify. The agency has awarded more than $8 billion of the advanced technology loans this year.

White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage did not immediately respond to a request for comment

Friday, October 16, 2009

New and Improved Redox Flow Batteries For EV's

Redox battery technology is one that can be sold to the masses. The concept of pulling into a station and exchanging used battery fluid for fresh is something we can all relate to. We have been performing this task since we turned 16 and it comes naturally. If the scientists can get the energy density of the exchange fluid to be comparable to Lithium ion, then we will have something. Install a 120 mile range battery pack with the Redox system and all barriers to range anxiety are eliminated. When the battery is low, you stop, replace the fluids and five minutes later you are off for another 120 miles.

From Science Daily:

A new type of redox flow battery presents a huge advantage for electric cars. If the rechargeable batteries are low, the discharged electrolyte fluid can simply be exchanged at the gas station for recharged fluid – as easy as refilling the petrol tank.

Electric mobility is becoming increasingly important. The German government’s ambitious plan envisages one million electric cars being sold in Germany by the year 2020. Until then, however, researchers still have to overcome some hurdles, such as the question of energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries offer a possible solution, but it takes hours to charge them – time that an automobile driver doesn’t have when on the road.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal near Karlsruhe see an alternative in redox flow batteries. “These batteries are based on fluid electrolytes. They can therefore be recharged at the gas station in a few minutes – the discharged electrolyte is simply pumped out and replaced with recharged fluid,” says engineer Jens Noack from ICT. “The pumped-off electrolyte can be recharged at the gas station, for example, using a wind turbine or solar plant.”

The principle of redox flow batteries is not new – two fluid electrolytes containing metal ions flow through porous graphite felt electrodes, separated by a membrane which allows protons to pass through it. During this exchange of charge a current flows over the electrodes, which can be used by a battery powered device.

Until now, however, redox flow batteries have had the disadvantage of storing significantly less energy than lithium-ion batteries. The vehicles would only be able to cover about a quarter of the normal distance – around 25 kilometers – which means the driver would have to recharge the batteries four times as often. “We can now increase the mileage four or fivefold, to approximately that of lithium-ion batteries,” Noack enthuses.

The researchers have already produced the prototype of a cell. Now they must assemble several cells into a battery and optimize them. This further development is being carried out with colleagues from the University of Applied Sciences, Ostphalia, in Wolfenb├╝ttel and Braunschweig. They are testing electric drives and energy storage units on model vehicles that are only a tenth of the size of normal vehicles. The research team has already built a traditional redox flow battery into a model vehicle. A vehicle on a scale of 1:5 can be seen in action on a test rig set up at the eCarTech in Munich from 13 to 15 October. In the coming year the researchers also want to integrate the new battery, with four times greater mileage, into a model vehicle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

GM To Host Webchat With Felix Kramer and Tony Posawatz To Discuss Plugging In

Mark your calendar if you are interested in the following:

In test run for next week’s Business of Plugging In Conference in Detroit, GM is hosting a webchat on Friday, 16 October at 12:30 pm EDT with Felix Kramer, president of California Cars Institute (CalCars) and Tony Posawatz, Vehicle Line Director for the Chevrolet Volt.

Both will speak on a panel at the conference the following week on consumers and the prospects for market penetration of plug-in vehicles.

The webchat is hosted on the Chevrolet Voltage website and is also accessible below.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ford Hybrid Vehicle Sales in US Up 73%

The Uber Practical Ford Fusion

Here is the day's big news as Ford is reporting their sales of hybrid vehicles is up 73% over the same nine months from 2008. What is the data really telling us though? It could be telling us that 2008 was an abysmal sales year or it could be telling us that Ford did not have many hybrid vehicles available last year. Hopefully, the data means that people like the hybrid offerings from Ford and this is the reason for the big increase. Maybe all the credit goes to its newest hybrid offering, the Ford Fusion.

From Green Car Congress:

Ford Motor Company’s US hybrid sales for the first nine months of 2009 are 73% higher than the same period in 2008, fueled by the introduction of hybrid versions of the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, which went on sale in March 2009. In contrast, total reported hybrid sales in the US dropped 14% (from 257,533 to 220,593 units) during the same period. (Earlier post.)

Through September, Ford has sold 26,016 hybrid vehicles, up 73% versus the 15,015 units for the same period last year. Toyota, still the number one provider of hybrids in the US with 144,351 units sold in the first nine months of 2009, saw its hybrid sales drop 28% from the same period in 2008 (200,450 units).

Honda, the second leading seller of hybrids in the US during the first 9 months of 2009 with 29,958 units, saw its hybrid sales rise 8% compared to the same period in 2008 (27,793 units).

Hybrid customers increasingly are considering Ford. More than 60 percent of Fusion Hybrid sales have been from non-Ford owners, and more than half of those are customers coming from import brands, mostly from Toyota and Honda.

—David Finnegan, Ford hybrid marketing manager

Ford’s 2009 hybrid sales have been fueled by the introduction of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids. Combined sales of these mid-size hybrid sedans for through September were 12,602 units, according to Ford—48.4% of the total. Both vehicles deliver an EPA-certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, topping the Toyota Camry hybrid by 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.

While the introduction of the Fusion Hybrid has spurred sales from non-Ford owners, Ford said, its longest-running hybrid nameplate, the Escape Hybrid, has proven popular with Ford customers operating taxi, lifeguard and government fleets due to the combination of fuel efficiency and durability. The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid delivers 34 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway.

In 2005, San Francisco became one of the first cities to adopt hybrids into taxi service, with hybrids accounting for 14% of its current fleet. Each of the original fleet of 15 Escape Hybrids exceeded 300,000 miles per vehicle before being retired and replaced with more Escape Hybrids. There are almost 200 Escape Hybrid taxis on San Francisco’s streets today.

New York has more hybrid taxis in service than any other city in North America with 13,237, of which more than 2,000 are Escape Hybrids. New York recently began retiring its original fleet of Escape Hybrids put into service in the 2005 model year after accumulating 300,000 and 350,000 miles per vehicle.

In 2009, federal agencies have purchased more than 3,000 hybrids from Ford, more than any other automotive brand. Included in the sales were 1,900 vehicles acquired through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the purpose of improving the fuel economy of the federal fleet. The US Army was the single largest purchaser among the government fleets, acquiring 400 Fusion hybrids.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Renault Opens Up Their New EV Website

A Renault EV Prototype

Open for business is Renault's new website touting four new electric vehicles that will arrive in 898 days. That is an awful long time and is the first quarter of 2012 to be more precise. Will they be too late to the party?

Apparently, one of the reasons this will take so long is the installation of the battery swapping stations that Better Place is trying to commercialize. Will this approach work? It seems like a great idea on the surface of it, but how practical will this be? What if there are 10 cars that need their battery swapped and only five ready in the station? Many questions remain for Renault, but they have apparently given themselves a long time to answer them.

Renault's new website can be found here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview With GM's Tony Posawatz Regarding Next Steps For Chevy Volt

Here is the official word from Tony Posawatz spelling out the immediate future for the Chevy Volt. Next off the production line will be a thousand or so "PPV's", which stands for pre-production vehicles that will again be put through the paces and refined such that a final generation "one" model can be ready for mass production. In case you were not aware, GM is already working on the second and third iterations.

Thanks to Lyle and the others at for the interview. Find their story here.

As was reported on Friday October 9, GM completed building the last of a total of 74 pre-production Chevy Volts, which were built in the modest-sized pre-production operations facility in GM’s Warren campus. I had the chance to discuss with Volt vehicle line engineer Tony Posawatz what happens now.

Now that these cars are finished what happens next?
Interestingly enough this is probably where the intense work begins. From a build perspective, we won’t build again until early next year in Hamtramck. What we do now is we take the production intent designs that were built up in the integration vehicles and we test the living daylights out of them and continue to do iterations and iterations. A lot of it is software. A lot of it is taking some of the crudeness in fit in the body fits and tighten them up. Although we do it on math, variations occur and flushness and fit come out a little differently then they do on paper.

So we’re now tuning it. And between that time from October of this year and March of next year, we test the vehicle to confirm the production design works, tweak and fix things, and as we tweak and fix things those changes have to be incorporated in the production tooling and those things typically have a longer lead time.

Then the production tooling is in place. Those are the big heavy expensive dyes to stamp the sheet metal. Those are more significant molds and cavities and processes to manufacture plastic parts in high volume. That’s kind of what happens right now. Right now is the testing, problem-solving, refining and putting all that learning into the production tools. Come the March timeframe and we’re running Volts with production tools. And that is still an iteration process or learning process to refine it for what’s going to happen later in the year.

Are you beginning to put hardware into the Hamtramck plant?
Oh yeah, the Hamtramck plant and the battery plant are on a project plan to upgrade themselves to be ready to build in the early 2010 timeframe. So right now there are tools in toolshops being produced and as we find out, we need this or that, we’ll change it on a production tool. That’s the process we’re in.

When you first start building in March what are those vehicles called?
We call them PPVs, pre-production vehicles or validations. We have a couple more “flavors” but those are all flavors of production vehicle that we work through. This is fairly state of the industry, our terminology is a little different, but every manufacturer does these iterations or flavors of vehicles that have the next phase of software.

At some point in time for example the interior parts have a certain graining to them that you do as one of the last things. You put in a little grain into the tool, but once the tool is grained and they have this nice little texture to the plastic parts it’s very hard to change the tool if you have any functional dimensional changes. Later in the Spring we’ll actually grain the parts so that they really look like production and piece the cars together.

Right now things are actually going pretty well. We have certainly a lot of issues but that’s standard for this type of project and where we are at in the program. Issues are actually a good thing. We know no one is that good to get it spot-on or if the issues don’t properly surface they somehow surface later. If you have a lot of variation in some of the parts, and you don’t see it early enough to try to control it, to get thefir finsihs and execution elements perfect.

PPVs are not saleable?
No, they’re not saleable yet.

So you will build a few hundred of those?
No we build in the two to three thousand range. We’re finalizing that number right now. A lot of that is practicing the processing of that. Ultimately their will be a line rate of many jobs per hour when we do this so you want to get the guys actually practicing in the production environment.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Volt's Final Pre-Production Car Comes Off Assembly Line

The 74th Pre-Production Chevy Volt

Another big milestone for the Chevy Volt occurred this weekend with the final pre-production vehicle coming off the line. Chevy now has their full fleet of test vehicles that will amass data before a real production run begins. Despite the setbacks to the auto industry over the past year, it appears the Volt will actually make its debut next fall. We have yet to hear of any setbacks in the development of this breakthrough car so there would have to be something catastrophic to keep it from meeting its deadline.

Here is a report from Mark Phelan about the occasion on

The Chevrolet Volt moved significantly closer to America’s driveways as the last pre-production version of the extended-range electric vehicle rolled out of General Motors’ test-assembly facility in Warren Friday.


Gliding so silently through the factory aisles that quality auditor Shelia Asunto beeped a discreet pedestrian-alert horn to let workers know it was coming, the Volt’s next stop is GM’s Milford proving ground and a career in hostile environments to make sure its electric drivetrain functions in extreme temperatures.

After more than a year of testing cobbled-together car bodies that made the revolutionary Volt look like any other development vehicle, the Volt’s advanced and aerodynamic body gives a hint of why GM thinks it will reshape the automaker’s image and establish Chevrolet as a world leader for advanced technology and environmentally friendly vehicles.

Its spacious interior included novel features like gauges the driver can reconfigure to display different sets of information, a spinning, three-dimensional “Volt” logo on a touch-screen panel, and a green charging light for when it’s plugged in between drives.

Things can change in a year, but it would be very surprising if all those features on the 74th and final preproduction Volt don’t make it to the model that will be sold at Chevrolet dealerships.

“This is our shining moment after all we’ve been through with the bankruptcy this year,” said Andy Pawlaczyk, chairperson of UAW Local 160, which will build the Volt with Local 122 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. About 20 UAW workers from Detroit-Hamtramck worked alongside the preproduction workers at Warren.

The Volt, which aims to cover 40 miles on battery power alone and travel longer distances with a small onboard gas-powered generator, should reach dealerships in November 2010.

“This is the same kind of work we do on any new car, but it’s got a different purpose,” said Keith Brown, who assembles new vehicles in the preproduction facility. “We want to get off foreign oil. I hope everybody buys the Volt and loves it, and we can push the industry in that direction.”

Recent visits from the British minister of industry and Australia’s prime minister — both of whom want GM to build the Volt in their countries as well as the United States — demonstrate interest far beyond Detroit.

“This gives us so much hope for the future of our plant and General Motors,” said Patrick Marano, an assembly team leader from the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

An upcoming three-day test drive by GM engineers and senior executives will help identify final issues to resolve before the Volt goes on sale, chief engineer Andy Farah said.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Tesla Model S Will Utilize Panasonic Lithium Ion Cells

The next EV from Tesla Motors will be the Model S, which is going to be much more affordable than its predecessor, the Roadster. The Model S will retail for $57,400 which puts it at $49,900 with the US Federal tax rebate of $7500. We use the term affordable in relation only to the Roadster's sticker of $112,000. Obviously, this is still a hefty pricetag but is still no more costly than modest luxury sedans and SUV's.

What is attractive about the Model S is that it is all-electric without ever having the need for a drop of gasoline. What is especially attractive is its 160 mile range. This is more than adequate for the overwhelming majority of drivers and could easily be the family's primary vehicle.

From Greentech Media:

Tesla has counted on Japanese battery cell makers for its Roadster. Now it’s set to do it again with the cheaper sedan.

Panasonic is set to supply batteries to Tesla Motor for its Model S, according to sources close to the Japanese electronics maker.

Model S would be the second line of electric cars for the San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla, which plans to launch it in late 2011. The startup carmaker unveiled a prototype Model S in March this year and is close to settling on a location in Southern California to produce the car (see Can Tesla Impress the Masses).

The U.S. Department of Energy recently approved a loan of $365 million to finance Model S production. The DOE gave an additional loan of $100 million to Tesla for a powertrain factory in the Silicon Valley town of Palo Alto.

Battery pack makes up one of the most expensive components in an electric car. In the past, Tesla has declined to disclose the lithium-ion battery suppliers for its first model, the Roadster, except to say that the company buys battery cells from Japanese suppliers.

Panasonic strengthened its battery business when it announced last December that it would purchase Sanyo. Sanyo was the world's largest lithium-ion battery maker, with most of the batteries going to consumer electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops. The companies have gotten government approval for the deal in Japan, and are seeking the nod from the European Commission.

Panasonic was already in the car battery business when it announced the Sanyo deal. Panasonic had created a joint venture with Toyota Motor called Panasonic EV Energy (see Toyota Drives Toward Greener Fleet).

Tesla's spokeswoman Rachel Konrad declined to comment about Panasonic.

At a starting price of $57,400 ($49,900 if you include the federal tax credit), a standard Model S would come with a battery pack that allows for 160 miles per charge. Consumers can upgrade to battery packs that would prolong the range to 230 miles and 300 miles. Tesla hasn't announced the prices for the upgrades.

The battery pack for the 230-mile or 300-mile range is made up of 8,000 cells, compared with the 6,800 cells in the battery for Tesla's Roadster, a $100,000-plus sports car with a 244-mile range. Tesla is using better cells for the 300-mile battery pack, hence the number of the cells is the same as the battery for the 230-mile range, said J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer, earlier this year. The battery pack for the 160-mile range would come with 5,500 cells.

The potential boom in the market for electric car and plug-in electric hybrid cars has spurred hefty public and private investments in car battery technologies.

In August this year, the DOE announced $2.4 billion in grants to a slew of car battery and electric drive companies, including A123 Systems, General Motors and Johnson Controls.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Daimler Announces Smart ForTwo EV Will See Increased Production in 2012

The All-Electric Smart ForTwo EV

Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Hambach, France plant that manufacturers the diminutive micro car. The big announcement was Daimler's commitment to the vehicle as well as to the facility.

After an initial limited production run of 1,000 vehicles, Dr. Zetsche vows the Smart ForTwo will be produced in "significantly larger volumes". This increase in production will commence by the year 2012 and Daimler will back up the claim by investing millions of euros in the plant. Apparently, Daimler Benz truly believes in this city car and believes that it will sell in volume. Let's hope they are right.

A quote from Dr. Zetsche:

The smart fortwo electric drive proves that emission-free driving in an urban environment is already feasible today. The initial series production will begin now with 1,000 vehicles, the first of which will be delivered to customers by the end of this year. As of 2012, the smart fortwo electric drive will then be part of the regular product program of the smart brand. With our decision to locate production here at the parent plant in Hambach, we are setting the course both for series production of electric vehicles and for the future of this highly innovative assembly plant.

—Dr. Zetsche

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Toyota At The Tokyo Motor Show With Another Small EV

Toyota is displaying another smallish EV at this year's Tokyo Motor Show. Actually, it is a second revision of a previous concept. Not sure either one is very palatable on the streets of America, but maybe there is a market. It seems these tiny cars are made for Japanese and European markets where the distnace between cities is limited.

From Green Car Congress:

Toyota’s new FT-EV II concept. Click to enlarge.

Toyota will display a new electric vehicle concept—the FT-EV II—at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show later this month. Toyota will also showcase the Li-ion plug-in Prius concept, and a new compact, rear-wheel drive sports car concept.

In January 2009 at the North American International Auto Show, Toyota introduced its first FT-EV concept, based on the iQ. (Earlier post.) The FT-EV II features a body even more compact than ultra-compact iQ, but that still seats four. The FT-EV II is a compact EV designed for short distances, and is based on the idea of a future mobility society in which EVs are common, and means of transport are divided according to purpose, the characteristics of the energy to be used and the status of the supply infrastructure.

The vehicle offers a top speed of more than 100 km/h (62 mph), and range on a single charge of up to 90 km (56 miles).

Drive-by-wire technology enables joystick operation of all functions including accelerator, brakes and steering wheel; ample legroom is provided by elimination of accelerator and brake pedals. The vehicle is designed with a low front cowl and auxiliary window below windshield for outstanding forward visibility; further consideration paid to safety around vehicle led to see-through LED rear combination taillights.

Electric sliding doors on both sides facilitate ingress and egress, particularly in narrow spaces.

Plug-in Prius. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept, which uses the first lithium-ion batteries to be used to power a Toyota-brand vehicle, is based on the third-generation Prius and will have its Japan debut at the show. (Earlier post.)

The Plug-in aims to have fuel efficiency of 55 km/L (130 mpg US, 1.8 L/100 km), CO2 emissions of 42 g/km or less and an EV cruising range of 20 km (12 miles) or more on a fully charged battery. Approximate battery-charging times are 180 minutes at 100V and 100 minutes at 200V.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ford Escapes Converted to EV's by REV For City of Inglewood, CA

The Appropriately Colored Ford Escape Hybrid

Its going to be good to be an employee of the city of Inglewood, California. A company named REV will be converting Ford Escape hybrid SUV's into highway capable battery electric vehicles. The converted Ford Escape will then be known as the REV 300 ACX.

REV is a Vancouver, Canada company that converts Ford fleet vehicles into highway capable battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The type of company we need more of.

The Specifics:

  • A 90 kW AC induction traction motor
  • Li-ion phosphate battery packs
  • 90-260 VAC input on the charger, 350-410 VDC output, 6.6 kW at 220 VAC
  • Charge time of 3.5-5 hrs at 240 V
  • eGear drive transmission
  • Top speed of 105 mph (169 km/h)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Myers Motors NMG For TWO!

We have featured the Myers Motors NMG in the past and could only come up with one knock, namely the room for a single passenger. Apparently, others have expressed the same concern and to Dana Myer's credit, they have listened. Now the customer has a choice, one seat or two.

Their new model (as yet to be named, be sure to enter the competition for finding the right moniker) is still similar in appearance to the original yet has its own striking, good looks. In fact, we tend to prefer the lines and character of the new model. There are plenty of photos on the website, so have a look and tell us what you think.

One of the biggest challenges for the original NMG's was their use of lead acid batteries, which gave them a 30 mile range and short life span. Now, all NMG's come with Lithium ion battery packs, which yield a 60 mile range in the two seat version. Now, we have an EV that is extremely practical for commuters and even has plenty of room for the groceries that might be needed after work. Myers plans to offer this new two-seat model at a price that is even lower than the original NMG, which makes it a no brainer.

A snippet from

Myers Motors is proud to introduce the look of its new two passenger model. Like the NmG, this vehicle will use Myers Motors’ proven electric drive and advanced lithium battery systems so it will travel at highway speeds, have a 60 mile range, and cost around 2-cents per mile to drive. But, this new vehicle will also have room for 2, more storage space, and great upgrades available like extended ranges and air conditioning.

Myers Motors will release more details, including images of the interior soon. We plan to start taking reservations on October 21st. Oh, and did we mention that the base price will be less than the NmG?

You might wonder why we haven’t shared the name. Since we designed this vehicle around your feedback, we believe we should give you the chance to name it. The Myers Motors 2-passenger vehicle naming competition runs from October 1, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. through November 1, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Click here for more information about this competition.