Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back to the Chevy Volt Price Speculation

Chevy Volt on Display

One of the only questions remaining for the vaunted Chevy Volt is where GM will place the final MSRP? With a reasonable price tag and a US Federal tax rebate of $7,500, the Chevy Volt could have a very broad market. If the Volt comes in at $32K then the final retail cost would be $24,500. A little more than the average small sedan price but still quite reasonable. Would you pay this much for a cutting edge plug-in hybrid vehicle?

Tony Posawatz is the Chevy Volt vehicle line executive.


The questions ran fast and furious as Posawatz worked the crowd.

“How much?”

“We have not priced it yet,” said an affable Posawatz, the father of two teenagers himself and in town mostly to explain the car to Olympic big shots and corporate honchos. He's heard the “How much?” question a million times and has been repeating that same answer every time.

In addition to being in charge of the Volt's development and launch, Posawatz is also the car's No. 1 salesman – has been since GM said it would make the Volt a real production model. That came after the General created a stir with its Volt concept car at the 2007 Detroit auto show. That silky two-door coupe concept, however, is nothing at all like the four-door, four-seat hatchback that has become the Volt production car.

The Volt, which GM repeatedly insists is a pure electric car with an anxiety-eliminating gas engine on board, remains the face of the “new” GM. The gas engine, a 1.4-litre four-banger borrowed from GM's European operations, is there only to charge the T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack running up the car's spine.

The batteries have a range of about 64 km. When they have no more juice, the gas engine kicks in to recharge them and keep drivers moving along. At no time are the Volt's wheels driven by the gas engine, however. The Volt is a pure EV.

Posawatz tells the students about GM research that says a 64-km range is more than enough for most commuters. But just in case, the gas engine is there. It eliminates what has become known in the EV world as “range anxiety.”

“The Volt is designed to be your everyday car,” he says. “It's not for towing and it's not your vacation car. It's your everyday car. The car you drive to work.”

Speed? Officially, 0-100 km/h in nine seconds or less, but insiders are saying a sub-eight-second sprint might be possible. Top speed: 160 km/hour.

Then he returns to the cost question. He simply must. The news media and the relentless blogosphere have been alive with predictions that the Volt will sticker for as much as $40,000 (U.S.). GM has not and really cannot confirm or deny that number.

What Posawatz is willing to say is that if government incentives for EVs are figured into the reduced overall ownership costs of driving a Volt, the real cost to a Volt buyer “is easily less than $30,000.”

Posawatz is referring to the $7,500 the U.S. federal government will subsidize Volt buyers. Ontario has also said it plans to give EV buyers as much as a $10,000 rebate – what some GM rivals call the “Volt subsidy.”

The B.C.government is expected to put in place an EV subsidy, as are other provinces. Ottawa remains silent on the matter.

Posawatz fields other questions, too, and they are not strictly about economics. Dollars-and-cents matters consume the new media covering the Volt, but not these young people – not yet, at least.

When the gas engine kicks in, he says in response to a question about what it feels like when the range-extender fires up to charge the batteries, “most of the time, you can't even feel it.” The batteries are designed to have a 10-year lifespan and even then, they'll carry a 70-per-cent charge and have a useful life beyond the car itself.

What nightmares will buyers face in getting replacement parts?

EVs, he says, are fundamentally less complicated than internal combustion engine cars. They should be easier to maintain and fix. On top of that, Volt dealers will have technicians thoroughly trained in keeping Volts on the road. In fact, he points out, nine prototypes are being winter tested right now in the frigid cold of Kapuskasing, Ont., at GM's winter testing facility.

His final message: “I think electric cars are the future. Whether the electricity will come from fuel cells or batteries or what is the question. But for us, we like to say burn rubber, not petroleum.”

With that, Posawatz and his small support crew (two public relations types, a technician and another engineer) jump into the Volt and a shiny Cadillac SRX crossover wagon and head down the mountain to the Olympic Village or thereabouts. The Volt may be the future – and these students are certainly interested in that future – but the present is still filled with 800 million gasoline and electric cars navigating roadways around the world – Vancouver included.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Avis Europe to Offer Renault Electric Cars for Hire from 2011

An Early Renault EV Prototype

How cool would it be to fly into your destination, head over to the Avis desk and proceed to rent an electric car? Or what if you were considering the purchase of a Renault EV and had the opportunity of renting it for a week first? Well, Avis of Europe is going to make the scenarios above a reality. We would love to be able to demo an electric vehicle before making the big commitment of a purchase.

From Green Car Congress:

Avis Europe has partnered with the Renault-Nissan Alliance to offer electric cars to its customers from 2011.

We are delighted to sign this important partnership with Renault to offer electric vehicles as part of our green fleet, which is an increasingly central part of our customer offering. Despite the impact of the recession, consumers are just as aware of the issues of climate change and it is only by working together with our partners that will we be able to make a difference.

—Pascal Bazin, Chief Executive for Avis Europe

From 2011, Renault will progressively roll out four electric vehicles. (Earlier post.) These include two derivatives of internal-combustion vehicles: the Renault Fluence Z.E., an electric version of Fluence; and the Renault Kangoo Express Z.E., an electric version of Renault Kangoo Express, intended primarily for fleet and business use.

The range of electric vehicles will later be extended to cover other segments, including two new cars whose architecture will be designed to run exclusively with electrical power: a car derived from the Twizy Z.E. Concept for motoring in built-up areas; and one that takes its inspiration from Zoe Z.E. Concept and is scheduled to be released at the beginning of 2012. It will be a particularly versatile vehicle intended for everyday motoring in and around cities.

Each car in the Avis Europe fleet is typically only six months old, to ensure maximum fuel efficiency, and the average CO2 emissions for cars purchased in 2009 was 144.6 g CO2/km.

Friday, February 26, 2010

AMP Unveils the 100% Electric GM Chevrolet Equinox

AMP (Advanced Mechanical Products, Inc.) has announced their latest electrical conversion of a GM product, namely the Equinox. This company does a great job with their products and we wish there were more like them. What a great way to own an SUV. Here is their most recent press release:

Vehicle displayed at grand opening of company's first showroom; Formal unveiling set for New York Auto Show.

Blue Ash, OH (PRWEB) February 24, 2010 -- Advanced Mechanical Products, Inc. (AMP), a company engaged in the all-electric, emission-free conversion of new vehicles, announced today the unveiling of its latest all-electric conversion platform, the GM Chevrolet Equinox, which will be revealed to the world today as part of the grand opening ceremonies of its first showroom.

News Image
Today's announcement is one of historic proportions, as the event is poised to make AMP the first to bring to market an all-electric, crossover vehicle for retail sale. The AMP'd Equinox is a converted or up-fitted GM Chevrolet Equinox that is a 100% electric, clean conversion, American-made vehicle. The vehicle will reach a top speed of 90 miles an hour, and will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in approximately eight seconds, with a charge voltage of either 110V or 220V. And with pricing expected to be below $50,000, after government incentives, the Company believes the AMP'd Equinox is also quite affordable.

Citing the Nissan Leaf as its closest rival, the AMP'd Equinox is already setting the bar high. The AMP'd Equinox, utilizing high efficiency Remy motors, will travel up to 150 miles on a single charge, which compares favorably to the Nissan Leaf which will travel up to 100 miles on a charge. The Leaf is not expected to reach the market until January 2011.

Steve Burns, CEO of Advanced Mechanical Products, said, "In a growing electric vehicle market, we believe AMP has clearly established itself as a pioneer. Not only will AMP be the first to reach the market, but we will also be breaking the mold in terms of what the public expects from an all-electric vehicle.

"Pre-conversion, the Chevy Equinox is an outstanding vehicle in its own right - winner of the Consumer Digest Best Buy award and a five-star frontal and side-impact crash safety ratings. This vehicle is truly a modern day car, with all the features and stringent safety requirements the Chevy Equinox is extolled for. We are thrilled to bring our next 100% electric vehicle platform to market, as this latest offering is a clear display of our true passion for, and an unyielding commitment to, the environment and sustainability."

AMP will be hosting the invitation-only grand opening party in its first showroom and U.S. production headquarters, located in Cincinnati, OH. Expected to be in attendance will be select guests and dignitaries, such as Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, and members of the media. The Company will begin taking orders at its opening event and expects the fully-converted vehicle to be available for a June 2010 delivery. AMP intends to have a formal unveiling, with demonstrations available, at the New York Auto Show, which commences on April 2, 2010.

About Advanced Mechanical Products, Inc.
AMP was founded in 2007 by automotive industry veterans who have created several hi-tech companies. Currently, the AMP team is comprised of top engineers and business executives, as well as two key pioneers of GM's EV1 project. AMP's first conversions to all-electric are the GM Saturn Sky and the Pontiac Solstice, with additional vehicles in development, including GM's Chevrolet Equinox. Since its inception last year, the AMP converted all-electric Saturn Sky has proven itself to be an idea that has generated an extreme amount of interest, with inquiries coming from around the world. AMP will be converting a wide range of GM vehicles to all-electric, and expects to announce new model conversions in 2010. The Company expects its patent-pending vehicle conversion technology will provide new solutions to America's energy demands.

To learn more, visit the AMP website at

Forward-Looking Statements
Certain statements contained in this press release may constitute "forward-looking statements". Forward-looking statements provide current expectations of future events based on certain assumptions and include any statement that does not directly relate to any historical or current fact. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors as disclosed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission located at their website ( In addition to these factors, actual future performance, outcomes, and results may differ materially because of more general factors including (without limitation) general industry and market conditions and growth rates, economic conditions, and governmental and public policy changes. The forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the Company's views as of the date of this press release and these views could change. However, while the Company may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the Company's views as of any date subsequent to the date of the press release.

SOURCE: Advanced Mechanical Products Inc.

Investors: info(at)csirgroup(dot)com
Media: mdektas(at)dhacustomerconnect(dot)com

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lotus to Introduce Plug-in Series Hybrid

Shot of the Evora 414E Hybrid concept. Click to enlarge.

Lotus Engineering will unveil the Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid concept at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show. The concept is a high-performance technology demonstrator with a plug-in series hybrid drive system—featuring the Lotus Range extender engine and new technologies for enhanced driver involvement.

For the Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid—so-named because it produces 414 PS (306 kW, 408 hp) of power—Lotus Engineering developed a drivetrain system consisting of twin motors each limited to providing 152 kW (207 PS/204 hp) of power and 400 N·m (295 lb-ft) of torque to each wheel via independent, single speed, reduction transmissions integrated into a single housing, enabling torque vectoring dynamic control of the vehicle. The 414E Hybrid accelerates from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 4 seconds.

A conventional Evora. Click to enlarge.

A Lithium Polymer battery pack provides 17 kWh of energy storage capacity. The battery pack is optimized for energy density, efficiency and high power demand, with more than 100 kW discharge capability. All electric range is up to 35 miles (56 km), and total hybrid range is more than 300 miles (483 kilometers).

The 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder Lotus Range Extender engine provides 35 kW (48 PS/47 hp) of power at 3,500 rpm via the integrated electrical generator and features an innovative architecture comprising an aluminium monoblock construction, integrating the cylinder block, cylinder head and exhaust manifold in one casting. This results in reduced engine mass, assembly costs, package size and improved emissions and engine durability.

The engine uses an optimized two-valve, port-fuel injection combustion system to reduce cost and mass and can be operated on alcohol-based fuels and/or gasoline. The generator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy to replenish the battery pack charge and provides additional vehicle range in a small light weight package. The generator is also used as a motor to start the range extender engine. The low mass of the range extender unit (85 kg) and compact package makes it ideal for the series hybrid drivetrain in the Evora 414E Hybrid.

All the operation and management of the range extender engine, the power management of the batteries and motor control are controlled by Lotus’ electronic control units and software systems.

For everyday commuting journeys, up to 35 miles can be travelled using battery power. The battery can be charged overnight using a conventional domestic supply through a socket concealed by the rear number plate.

Lotus used its own vehicle simulation tools to determine the size, capacity, power and performance of all the components in the drivetrain system to optimize the system operation. Overall this is far more energy-efficient, weight-efficient and cost-effective than fitting the vehicle with a larger and more expensive battery, which for the majority of short journeys is a redundant weight, which increases energy requirements, Louts says.

Lotus claims that with regard to the total lifetime CO2 emissions of the vehicle, including the energy required to manufacture and run it, the range extender solution has a lower overall CO2 footprint than a fully electric car of comparable performance and operating range running with a larger battery.

Innovation has always been at the heart of Lotus and is needed now more than ever. The Evora 414E Hybrid is the perfect demonstration of Lotus Engineering’s core competencies: lightweight architectures, efficient performance, electrical and electronics integration and driving dynamics. The technology demonstrator represents an encapsulation of the advanced technologies that Lotus Engineering continues to develop to overcome the current environmental challenges facing the automotive industry and showcases the future direction that the sector is taking and why Lotus Engineering is perfectly placed to lead the technological development in this area.

—Robert Hentschel, Director of Lotus Engineering

Driver interaction. The Evora 414E Hybrid provides less of a psychological step change for people familiar with high-performance cars compared to other electric and hybrid sports cars. The car has a simulated paddle shift gear change offering ultra quick gear changes reminiscent of a dual clutch transmission, while actually single speed. This enhances the driver interaction with the vehicle and provides a driving experience similar to current internal combustion engine high performance sports cars. The Evora 414E Hybrid uses a column mounted paddle shift to simulate the gear change and a synthesized engine sound changes frequency with virtual gear selection. The drive torque is also modulated to simulate a physical feeling of a gearshift jolt.

The virtual gearshift simulation, like a conventional gearbox, is used to change the driving characteristics and response of the vehicle. The most significant aspect that this offers the driver is the ability to control the vehicle deceleration by simulating engine braking through a virtual downshift in gears. Unlike true engine braking, the Lotus system does not dissipate the energy of the moving vehicle through internal engine friction but uses the electric motors to regenerate the energy back into the battery. While many electric and hybrid vehicles provide engine braking, this is generally at a fixed rate or preselected rate. In some driving situations this can either be too aggressive, slowing the vehicle unnecessarily, or too light, requiring additional braking application.

The Lotus system effectively allows the driver to select the appropriate level of regeneration by simulating stepping down by one, two or even three gears. The simulation of engine braking through both the gear noise change and the retardation of the vehicle is fully intuitive to a driver familiar with a conventional gearbox. The simulated gearchange capability can be selected for greater driving involvement or switched off for more relaxed driving.

The Evora 414E Hybrid uses the Lotus Engineering and Harman International developed HALOsonic suite of noise solutions. The first of which is Electronic Sound Synthesis. This generates engine sounds inside the vehicle through the audio system where it provides an exciting sports sound in line with the brand and nature of the vehicle together with a high level of driver feedback in an intuitive manner. In addition, it also generates sound on the outside of the vehicle through speakers mounted at the front and rear to provide a warning to increase pedestrian safety, which is especially important for electric and hybrid vehicles which can be difficult to hear at slower speeds.

There are four driver selectable engine sounds currently on the vehicle, two of which have been designed to have characteristics of a multi-cylinder conventional V6 and V12 engine. There is also a futuristic sound and a combination of a conventional engine and a futuristic sound, enhancing the brand identity of the vehicle as a step forward in electric vehicle design.

The addition of this Lotus patented simulated gearshift concept not only provides for an exciting and involving driving experience that customers would expect from a Lotus, but also enhances the driver’s control of the vehicle while providing the capability for more efficient operation through a greater use of energy regeneration.

Structure. The Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid structure is the same award-winning, versatile vehicle architecture (VVA) used on the Lotus Evora. The low volume architecture was designed with the upmost flexibility in mind. The Evora 414E Hybrid is an example of how to integrate a compact packaged drivetrain, offering excellent performance and range, while using this underpinning. The complete chassis has remained unchanged from the Evora which maintains the structural integrity and strength performance of the original car.

The structure progresses the Lotus ‘bonded and riveted’ technology with new and unique extrusions and folded panels, whilst providing production build modularity and lower cost repairs. The chassis has been designed for scalability so that it can be extended in width, length and height. The strength and stiffness of the low volume VVA chassis can be modified cost effectively by varying the wall thickness of the extrusions, without altering the exterior dimensions. The ability to lengthen or shorten extrusions with the option to tailor the chassis stiffness vastly increases the number of vehicles that can be developed from this vehicle architecture.

Lotus is also showcasing a series hybrid vehicle technology application, including the Lotus Range Extender Engine, in the PROTON Concept to be unveiled at Geneva.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

VIDEO - Coda EV Test Ride At San Francisco EVA Meeting

The Coda EV doesn't get the hype like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, but it may give either of them a run for their money. The Coda EV has a 333 volt, 33.8 kWh, 728 cell battery. The battery makeup is lithium-iron phosphate and is warranted by Coda for 8 years or 100,000 miles. The vehicle's range is expected to fall between 90 and 120 miles and the annual output is pegged at 20,000 units. Estimated price is around $30,000 after the $7,500 tax credit is factored in.

Have a peek at this video:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Smith Electric Vehicles to Provide 10 Electric Vans to Ford of Europe

Ford is ramping up their green image, preparing for their upcoming electric van and Focus BEV. Unlike the Chevy Volt, we have not heard much about the progress of their EV program. Maybe this test program with Smith Electric Vehicles and Ford of Europe will clear one of the few remaining hurdles for this EV.

From Green Car Congress:

Smith Electric Vehicles is providing 10 Edison electric vans to Ford of Europe, which is a partner in the colognE-mobil project in Cologne (earlier post), which launched today.

The first phase of the project will examine the potential benefits of electric commercial vehicles in Cologne, then forecast how they could impact on Germany’s plans to deploy 1 million zero emission vehicles by 2020.

The Smith Edison is a pure electric version of the Ford Transit van, powered by lithium-ion batteries. Designed for urban operations, the vehicle delivers a range of up to 100 miles (160 km) on a full charge and a top speed of 50 mph (80 km/h) Smith has produced Edison in collaboration with Ford since 2007.

For this project, Smith will build seven Edison panel vans for delivery service companies, two Edison minibuses for passenger shuttle services and one Edison chassis cab for municipal use in the City of Cologne.

Ford of Europe will deliver the final vehicles to all these clients and is responsible for their technical maintenance and service during the project. Ford will also deploy a number of Ford Focus BEV electric passenger cars later in the project.

The initiative will research the impact of electric vans and cars on urban air quality, traffic safety and electricity supply infrastructure. Scientists will then scale up the results to examine the true benefits an electric future could deliver for the German city.

Ford is one of four partners in the colognE-mobil project. The others are utility company RheinEnergie AG, the City of Cologne and the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The colognE-mobil project is partly funded by the German government and coordinated by the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

VIDEO - Chris Paine Talks EV's on WNDT-23

Over the last year or three, we've seen filmmaker Chris Paine (Director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?") around the country at all sorts of plug-in vehicle events getting footage for his upcoming sequel "The Revenge of the Electric Car." The movie is due for release in 2011, and we're eagerly awaiting a trailer or short clip when they're ready. Recently, Paine was in Indiana to film the Think City Electric Car and the Bright Idea Plug-in van.

Paine had the following to say to the folks at WISH TV, "It turns out that Indiana is a big center for the rebirth of the electric car. In fact, some of the engineers working in Indiana worked on General Motors EV1, which is the subject of our first film."

Who saw this coming? Indiana, USA at the heart of the electric vehicle revolution! Let's hope that green jobs and green technology proliferate here in the United States and help boost the economy.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Natural Gas Vehicle Legislation and The Pickens Plan Push

The Phill Natural Gas Home Refueling Unit

T. Boone Pickens is tirelessly stumping for the United States to promote natural gas as an alternate to the billions of barrels of oil that we import and we support him wholeheartedly. Congress needs to get behind this endeavor and help the US expand its natural gas infrastructure, as well as encourage automakers to provide the vehicles. There are Chevy Cavaliers on the road that can run on both natural gas and regular gasoline, but you can't buy one in the showrooms. We need alternate energy choices for our vehicles sooner rather than later. Natural gas is an excellent choice for the near term future.

This is an excerpt from the recent Picken's Plan e-mail:

Last week the Western Governors' Association (WGA)—a non-partisan organization of 22 governors representing 19 U.S. states and 3 U.S. Territories—called upon Congress to make it a priority to pass legislation that would include incentives for the development and use of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and NGV infrastructure.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed by WGA's chairman and vice chairman, Govs. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) and C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-ID), they wrote:

“In addition to providing critical support for job growth in America, further development of NGVs and NGV infrastructure will help reduce our national trade deficit and dependence on oil from unstable and unfriendly regimes. Like members of Congress, we are concerned about how the staggering trade deficits impact America’s economic growth and prosperity, and a large portion of our nation’s trade deficit is attributable directly to the importation of oil. Every day the United States spends billions of dollars overseas in the form of oil payments that could be spent here, in America, employing our citizens and boosting the health of our economy. America's continued dependence on foreign oil represents a clear threat to our economic health and security.”

I couldn’t agree more. We need to act now.

Friday, February 19, 2010

ZAP Will Provide Electric Mail Truck For USPS

The Current ZAP Electric Pickup

The United States Postal Service (USPS) wants to electrify its fleet and Zap motors might just to do the trick. This week, the California-based company announced they are engineering an all-electric truck prototype for the mail delivery service. Full details are still unclear but U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey will tour the Zap EV facility next week “to learn more about how this federal program is creating local jobs.” The truck will not be the Xebra pictured above but a “conversion of a gasoline postal truck to run on electricity.”

In fact, USPS has awarded contracts to many California-based firms. They’re part of an effort to electrify all 142,000 USPS trucks. AC Propulsion Inc. of San Dimas is another hopeful for the postal service’s initiative to be more environmentally friendly.

“We will get the vehicles back in June or July and put them into service in the Washington, D.C., area, where we can monitor their cost and reliability,” said Joseph McGrath, a program manager at the postal service’s vehicle engineering division in Merrifield, Va.

Source: Gas2.0

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Introduing The Opel Flextreme GT/E Extended Range Electric Vehicle

Opel Flextreme Concept

This is a concept car that will be debuted at the Geneva Auto Show. Let's hope that Opel fast tracks this vehicle from concept to elimination.

From Green Car Congress:

Opel will unveil the Flextreme GT/E mid-size concept car at the 80th Geneva Motor Show (4-14 March). The 4.7-meter long Flextreme GT/E concept illustrates the application of GM’s extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV) technology to large or mid-size vehicles, as well as compact cars such as the upcoming Ampera, the European cousin of the Chevrolet Volt. (Earlier post.)

Despite its greater size and a maximum speed of more than 200 km/h (124 mph), the Flextreme GT/E is projected to offer performance similar to that of the Ampera: a battery-powered driving range of up to 60 km (37 miles) and a total range of more than 500 km (311 miles). Average gasoline fuel consumption is estimated at 1.6 L/100 km (147 mpg US), with CO2 emissions of less than 40 g/km.

The wheels of the Flextreme GT/E are powered at all times by electricity. For typical journeys up to 60 km, energy is supplied by a 16 kWh T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack located under the floor and rear seat.

Nominal voltage of the pack is 350V, and the vehicle has an on-board 3.3 kW charger. Full recharge at a 230V outlet will take less than 3 hours.

The electric drive unit delivers 120 kW of peak power, with 370 N·m (273 lb-ft) of torque. Projected zero to 100 km/h acceleration is less than nine seconds. The 4-cylinder, 1.4-liter engine powers a generator with 53 kW peak output.

The design enables the Flextreme GT/E to achieve a projected drag co-efficient of 0.22. A series of measures optimize airflow management. The 21-inch alloy wheels are relatively narrow, to reduce wind resistance, and fitted with 195/45, low rolling resistance tires. Clear, flush-mounted trim inserts also minimize air turbulence.

The minimal front intake improves airflow around the nose of the car and the underbody sweeps up, venturi-like, at the rear to further reduce drag.

The Flextreme GT/E also explores the potential for active shape shifting. At speeds above 50 km/h, a vertical panel extends along the body from the air extraction slot behind each rear wheel-arch. These 350 mm-long side spoilers guide high-speed airflow around the rear corners of the car, further reducing the amount of turbulence.

Mass reduction measures for the body include the use of lightweight, carbon composite outer panels, polycarbonate window glazing and aluminum alloy structural components. Compared to conventional materials, these offer a 40% weight saving which further contributes to reduced energy consumption and an increased driving range.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly Unveils Ambitious Plan for the Future


Opel/Vauxhall CEO Nick Reilly unveils ambitious Plan for the Future

Product offensive and new investments to put Opel on a sustainable path

o Opel to invest €11 billion by 2014
o Positive assessment of company's plan by independent auditors Warth & Klein
o Opel formally applies for loans or loan guarantees
o New product offensive to utilize Opel design and technology expertise
o Focus on alternative propulsion, desirable core products and growth markets
o Break-even by 2011, profitability expected by 2012
o 20 percent capacity reduction across Europe

Frankfurt/Rüsselsheim. Chief Executive Officer Nick Reilly today announced an ambitious five-year €11 billion Plan for the Future that will reinvigorate 80 percent of Opel/Vauxhall carlines and place a strong emphasis on alternative propulsions.

At the same time, Reilly said the external auditor Warth & Klein judged the plan sound and viable. With this assessment, the company this morning formally applied for loans or loan guarantees from the German government.

"We are extremely pleased that we now have independent confirmation that our plan is sound and will place Opel and Vauxhall on the road to sustainable, long-term profitability," Reilly said. "We now have a road map, we know where we are headed and we are working with all our partners so we can switch into high gear for a successful future."

The viability plan envisions that 80 percent of the Opel/Vauxhall carlines will be at an age of three years or less by 2012. This includes eight major launches in 2010 alone - such as Meriva, Corsa, Movano and Astra Sports Tourer - and another four in 2011, most notably the extended-range electric vehicle Ampera, an industry-first in Europe.

In addition, Opel/Vauxhall will spend €1 billion in innovative and fuel-efficient powertrain technology as it introduces a range of new green products. This includes:

* Launching an extended-range electric vehicle in addition to the Ampera
* Introducing pure battery-electric vehicles in smaller-size segments
* Expanding LPG and CNG applications, start/stop technology and right-sizing of engines.

In addition, the company has accelerated efforts to introduce an entry in the sub-Corsa segment and to make a strong push in the light commercial vehicle business. Several studies are under way to look at possible profitable export programs in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

"Opel/Vauxhall has a clear vision: to be a leading European manufacturer of high quality, desirable automotive products, based on German engineering, driven by a united team of professionals and respected around the world. This vision will be realized by offering an exciting and expanded product portfolio based on a strategic push into alternative propulsion technology," said Reilly.

In order to support this vision, the company has sharpened and refined its brand DNA and product pillars, and is embarking on a program that ensures this DNA is engrained in every future Opel/Vauxhall product. Future products will be developed in Rüsselsheim at the International Technical Development Center. If they are based on a vehicle architecture developed elsewhere, they will return to Rüsselsheim early to ensure they deliver on the Opel/Vauxhall brand promise.

€11 billion investment over next five years

The viability plan requires long-term funding of €3.3 billion to run the business during the transformation. In total, the company plans to invest approximately €11 billion over the next five years.

As part of the €3.3 billion funding requirements, parent company GM has already injected €600 million into the new Opel/Vauxhall business. In addition, GM provided €650 million in advanced payments in January to ensure appropriate cash positions. The company will continue to work with European governments to secure funding of approximately €2.7 billion through loans or loan guarantees. Discussions with employee representatives about the overall plan continue both on European and national levels.

"We will build a European company that is profitable, self-sustainable and fit for the long-term," Reilly said. "This keeps a manufacturing base in Europe. It is good for Europe, good for our employees and good for our customers. We therefore trust that the plan will be supported by our employees."

Major restructuring to include 20 percent reduction in capacity

The business plan foresees Opel/Vauxhall will break even by 2011 and be profitable by 2012. It is predicated on economic forecasts that 13.4 million cars will be sold in Western Europe this year - a reduction of more than 20 percent from 2007. Opel/Vauxhall does not believe the market will come back to the levels seen earlier in this century for quite some time.

To adjust to the current and forecasted market environment, Opel/Vauxhall will reduce its capacity by approximately 20 percent. This requires a job level reduction of approximately 8,300. That reduction will be spread out across most of Europe and includes 1,300 employees in sales and administration and 7,000 jobs in manufacturing. This includes the intent to close the Opel production facility in Antwerp, Belgium, as previously announced.

Once the capacity reduction is implemented, the company is expected to run at approximately 112 percent of its capacity on a two-shift basis and 87 percent on a three-shift basis and therefore has - along with other potential measures - sufficient upside potential once the market starts to recover.

The company has eliminated the former GM Europe management structure in Zurich, Switzerland, and is now managed from the Opel brand headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Germany.

Market share maintained due to strong new vehicle launches

Opel/Vauxhall started 2010 with confidence. The company maintained a 2009 market share of 7.59 percent in Western Europe in spite of tough price competition. Opel increased its market share and regained the number two position in its German home market, while Vauxhall remained number two in the United Kingdom. Sales of the Opel Insignia - European Car of the Year 2009 - jumped to 160,000 in 2009. In Europe, the Opel Insignia is the leader in the medium sedan segment. The new Astra won the prestigious European Golden Steering Wheel award (Goldenes Lenkrad) and several other awards even prior to its market introduction. More than 75,000 orders for the five-door version have already been placed.

Recently, the DEKRA vehicle monitoring organization reported Corsa had the lowest breakdown rate of all cars on the market in Germany. Despite a 16 percent reduction in volume, the company still was able to reduce Hours per Vehicle by four percent, an indication of its manufacturing excellence. Opel/Vauxhall for the first time reported less than 20 HPV - an industry milestone only achieved by two other companies.

"Today's announcement marks the beginning of a new era for Opel/Vauxhall. It is the biggest overhaul in the company's recent history," said Reilly.

"We now have all the necessary ingredients for a successful future in place: a motivated workforce, a new and accountable company culture, a product offensive based on innovative and highly fuel-efficient technology, a competitive cost structure based on conservative volume assumptions, a dedicated management team operating out of our Rüsselsheim headquarters, and the support from so many stakeholders. Now it is up to us to prove that we can do it. I am confident that we will," he added.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Better Place Opens EV Demonstration Center in Israel

Better Place Battery Swapping Demo Housed In An Oil Tank

Better Place, the California startup that last month obtained $350 million in funding to help launch a network of battery-switching stations for electric vehicles in Israel and Denmark starting next year, will open a demonstration center in Israel this week that gives visitors a chance to see how battery-switching stations work and to test drive electric cars around a one-mile track.

Better Place, which promotes the idea battery swapping as a solution to EV-range issues, also said Motorola and Computer Associates are among a group of 92 companies that will exchange a portion of their Israeli gas-powered corporate fleets for Renault EVs starting next year.

Better Place also plans to deploy switching stations at Dor Alon gas stations in Israel, the company said in a statement late last week.

Better Place, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Shai Agassi, promotes the idea that owners of plug-in electric vehicles should be able to lease charged batteries so they don't have to purchase the costly battery packs that propel their vehicles. Such packs can cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece.

Like cell-phone buyers who buy minutes of air time in prepaid monthly or annual packages tailored to fit their individual needs, Better Place customers would buy an electric-drive car and then purchase miles, in the form of kilowatt-hours of energy stored in battery packs that Better Place would supply.

The company got a big boost last month when it raised $350 million in a funding round that was led by London-based investment banker HSBC and included Lazard Asset Management and Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

Better Place, which has been in business for less than three years, has raised almost $800 million in funding and, with HSBC taking a 10 percent stake in the company, the company is valued at $1.25 billion.

As a symbolic gesture, Better Place's new demonstration center, which is about 10 miles north of central Tel Aviv, is constructed inside an old oil tank located in one of Israel's last remaining gasoline storage and distribution facilities.

Better Place, whose center's test track will initially accommodate demonstrations of converted Renault Lagunas, estimates that "tens of thousands" of people will visit the new facility this year.

While from the outside of the facility looks like a big concrete drum, on the inside the visitor center is very futuristic. The center includes a specially designed auditorium and an interactive information center in addition to the short driving course.

Upon entering the center, guests will be shown into a 30-seat auditorium with individual screens. The visitors will be shown a video describing the problems inherent to an automobile market based on fossil fuels and the solution that Better Place offers.

Following the screening, visitors will be invited to test-drive an EV in the company of a Better Place employee.

The cars themselves are modified Renault Lagunas and they were brought in from France, together with the French technicians, in time for the launch of the center.

In the future the center will feature Renault's Fluence ZE models, which may well be the first mass-produced electric cars.

Last May, Better Place had its first-ever public demonstration of a battery-switching station in Yokohama, Japan, saying at the time that a customer would be able to exchange batteries at a station in less than a minute.

Agassi estimated that it would take $500,000 - or about half the cost of a new gas station - to build and stock one battery-switching station, and that such cities as Los Angeles and Tokyo would need about 100 locations.


After Tour, Nissan's Leaf Coming Into Focus

The Five Door Hatchback Nissan Leaf

The 90 day tour is complete and now we are hearing more solid plans for the marketing and sales effort of this groundbreaking vehicle. The Leaf will be offered for purchase as well as a lease, which should encourage even more sales as buyers not comfortable with an outright sale will have options. The final piece of the puzzle is the car's MSRP, which will be announced in about two months. If the MRSP is $30K or less, then the final price will be roughly $22K after the US Federal Tax rebate of $7,500.

Would you consider the Leaf if you could bring it home for $22,000 or less?

From Gas2.0:

It’s been a whirlwind of a three month tour for the upcoming Nissan LEAF electric car. After kicking things off last November in Los Angeles, the LEAF and its accompanying drivable test mule made 63 stops in 24 cities, finally ending up at an appearance in New York City last week.

Nissan says the tour covered 10,000 miles and gave more than 100,000 people the ability to see and learn about the car–and electric vehicles in general.

“There was a groundswell of grassroots support from coast to coast,” said Carlos Tavares, Chairman of Nissan Americas, in a statement. “Everywhere we went, people recognized a new form of mobility–a turning point–and they wanted to be a part of it. The response was spontaneous and diverse. We were joined by mayors and government officials, CEOs, utility partners, car enthusiasts, students, dealers, media, environmentalists, Twitter users and lots of families.”

Reservation Process

Due in part to the large interest generated on the tour, more than 50,000 people have now signed up on Nissan's website to be the first to hear about developments with the LEAF. Turns out that was a wise decision by those people, because according to the company, only folks who are signed up on that list will be given the first chance to reserve a LEAF.

Actual reservations will begin in April, shortly after Nissan announces pricing of the LEAF. Nissan has always said the LEAF will be priced competitively with other cars in the same family–somewhere around $25,000. As Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Nissan-Renault Alliance has said in the past, “The only way you’re going to mass market electric cars is by offering zero emissions as a free premium.”

To reserve a LEAF in April, potential customers will need to pay a refundable $100 reservation fee, after which they will be placed in line to be one of the first to actually order the LEAF in August. The car will start being delivered to initial markets in December 2010–barely making it under the company’s stated delivery goal of 2010. Certainly the initial rollout will be slow and demand will far outpace supply and there’s no word on which markets will get the LEAF first or if it will be a staggered rollout, but Nissan does say that vehicles will be available in “all major launch markets quickly thereafter.”

To Buy or To Lease, That is the Question

To this point the question of whether or not the LEAF will be leased or purchased and whether or not the battery will be a separate purchase or lease has been largely left unanswered—sometimes confusingly so. But in their latest release, Nissan says quite clearly “The Nissan LEAF will be available to consumers via lease or sale, in a single transaction that includes the battery.”

So, it seems that Nissan will be giving customers the option of either leasing or purchasing and the car and battery are coming as a single package regardless of how it’s bought. No word on any pricing differences yet, but we’ll soon find out seeing as Nissan is planning on announcing pricing sometime in the next 2 months.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Porsche to Install 2MW Photovoltaic System on Roof of Parts Warehouse

Hats off to Porsche for taking their operations in Germany to a new green level. It appears they will sell most of this electricity back to the utility as their solar array will generate far more electricity than needed for operations. What is unknown is whether or not they get governmental subsidies or tax breaks for installing these solar panels. Wouldn't it be nice if more US companies would follow suit?

From Green Car Congress:

Porsche is making a 40,000-square-meter area on the roof top of its central spare parts warehouse in Sachsenheim (Baden-Wuerttemberg) available to the firm Goldbeck Solar GmbH, Hirschberg an der Bergstrasse, in order to install and operate approximately 8,500 photovoltaic modules there. The system has a nominal output of two megawatts. The electricity will be fed into the grid of the energy provider E&W Eichwald GmbH, Bietigheim-Bissingen.

The installation of the modules will begin before the end of February, and the photovoltaic system will be connected to the grid just a few weeks later. The system can generate nearly two million kilowatt hours per year, which is equivalent to the average energy consumption of approximately 500 four-person households.

At the same time, approximately 1,780 tons of carbon dioxide will be saved every year. The photovoltaic system in Sachsenheim is one of the most modern and efficient in the Greater Stuttgart area, Porsche said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ford Press Release With Details Regarding Transit Connect EV

The Exciting New Transit Connect EV

Ford Press Release:


* Ford Transit Connect Electric, a pure electric-powered version of the award-winning Transit Connect small van, goes into production in late 2010
* Ford is collaborating with Azure Dynamics Corporation to upfit the Transit Connect Electric with Azure's Force Drive™ battery electric powertrain and Johnson Controls-Saft's advanced lithium-ion battery technology
* Transit Connect Electric is the first product in Ford's accelerated electrified vehicle plan, and will be followed by the Focus Electric in 2011, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2012 and next-generation hybrid technology in 2012
* The all-electric, zero-emission Transit Connect Electric has targeted range of up to 80 miles per full charge, and will be rechargeable using either 240-volt or standard 120-volt outlets
* Transit Connect Electric is ideal for fleet owners that have well-defined routes of predictable distances and a central location for daily recharging


CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2010 – Ford Motor Company today unveiled the all-electric version of the Ford Transit Connect – the 2010 North American Truck of the Year – at the Chicago Auto Show and confirmed the zero-emissions small van will be in fleet operators' hands later this year.

The 2011 Transit Connect Electric will use a Force Drive electric powertrain manufactured and integrated by specialty upfitter Azure Dynamics.

"Transit Connect Electric exemplifies how we are leveraging our relationships as well as our hybrid and advanced powertrain programs to bring energy-efficient technologies from the laboratory to the street," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. "Not only is this an ideal vehicle for eco-conscious fleet operators, it is an important part of Ford's future."

In addition to the Transit Connect Electric, Ford plans to bring three more electrified vehicles to market by 2012 – the Focus Electric in 2011, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2012 and a next-generation hybrid in 2012.

Getting charged up and moving
Transit Connect Electric is well-suited for commercial fleets that travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving in urban and suburban environments and a central location for daily recharging. The vehicle, which will accelerate at a similar rate as the gas-powered Transit Connect and will have a top speed of 75 mph, has a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full charge.

Owners will have the option of recharging the Transit Connect Electric with either a standard 120V outlet or preferably a 240V charge station installed at the user's base of operations for optimal recharging in six to eight hours. A transportable cord that works with both types of outlets will be available for recharging at both kinds of locations.

The vehicle's charge port is located above the passenger-side rear wheel well. The onboard liquid-cooled 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is charged by connecting the charge port to a power outlet. Inside the vehicle, an onboard charger converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.

"We're excited about the potential for our electrified vehicles," said Praveen Cherian, program manager for the Transit Connect Electric, who added that today's electric vehicle buyers are similar to early adopters of hybrid vehicles. "People were a little hesitant about hybrid technology at first, but now they accept it and embrace it. We expect the same will be true of electric vehicles."

Driving on electric power
When the vehicle is operating, battery power is provided to the drive motor through the electric powertrain's motor controller. The motor controller uses throttle input from the driver to convert DC power supplied by the battery into three precisely timed signals used to drive the motor.

The onboard DC/DC converter allows the vehicle's main battery pack to charge the onboard 12V battery, which powers the vehicle's various accessories, such as headlights, power steering and coolant pumps.

In the Transit Connect Electric, the battery pack has been efficiently integrated without compromising interior passenger room and cargo space. The battery pack is expected to last the life of the vehicle.

Collaborations are key
Transit Connect Electric builds on the existing business relationship between Ford and Azure Dynamics, as well as their shared experience with battery supplier, Johnson Controls-Saft.

"There is an increasing interest in electrified vehicles, and we are committed to bringing these vehicles to the marketplace," said Nancy Gioia, Ford director of Global Electrification. "Ford's work with Azure and Johnson Controls-Saft to create a purely electric Transit Connect will allow us to offer fleet customers an additional option for eco-friendly transportation."

Oak Park, Mich.-based 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 opportunity to work with Ford on the Transit Connect Electric is a breakthrough advancement for us at Azure and for the light-commercial vehicle market," said Scott Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. "For us, 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."

Azure Dynamics' proprietary Force Drive battery electric powertrain will be the driving force in the Transit Connect Electric. 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.

Johnson Controls-Saft was selected by Azure Dynamics as the supplier for lithium-ion battery cells and battery packs for the Transit Connect Electric. Azure Dynamics and Ford both currently use Johnson Controls-Saft battery technology for other products.

An ideal platform
With a unique combination of car-like driving dynamics, cargo capacity, accessibility and low purchase and operation costs, the Transit Connect is an ideal choice for electrification.

The Transit Connect Electric is expected to offer lower cost of operation, because recharging with electricity is generally less expensive than refueling with gasoline. Users may also benefit from much lower maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle. Consider the following:

* The number of components typical in an internal combustion engine and transmission are dramatically reduced in an electric vehicle to just a few moving parts in the electric motor and transaxle, which results in much fewer parts to wear out or maintain
* Electric powertrains operate with solid state electronics, which have demonstrated low or no maintenance over the life of the product
* Electric vehicles have completely sealed cooling systems that do not require refilling, replacement or flushing
* Electric vehicles require no oil changes or tune-ups
* There are no belts to wear out or break and no spark plugs or injectors to clean or adjust
* There is no exhaust system to replace and no liquid fuel system to freeze or clog
* The use of regenerative braking reduces wear and tear on brake pads

Common strengths
Although there are significant differences between the Transit Connect Electric and its gas-powered twin, there are many things in common as well. Both models offer:

* 135 cubic feet of cargo volume with 59.1 inches of floor-to-ceiling load height and 47.8 inches of load width between the wheel arches
* Load length a generous 72.6 inches, or more than six feet of cargo floor space
* Split rear cargo doors that open at a standard 180 degrees, or an optionally available 255 degrees
* Lift-over height less than two feet when the vehicle is unloaded
* Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering allows a 39-foot curb-to-curb turning circle for maneuverability in tight urban spaces
* Bulkheads, racks, bins and other upfits can be mixed, matched and configured to suit many specific commercial applications and needs

"With interest in eco-friendly vehicles stronger than ever among commercial and government fleet operators, the Transit Connect Electric promises to offer another unique solution for their needs," said Gerry Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager.

# # #

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 198,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit


* Transit Connect Taxi goes into production and will be available for the 2011 model year
* Transit Connect is built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform, tested to Ford's toughest truck standards, offers a fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service
* A new engine prep package allows conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas)
* Transit Connect's roomy, easy-to-access interior provides passenger comfort and ample luggage storage space, even after modification to contain CNG/LPG fuel tanks


CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2010 – The Ford Transit Connect Taxi will go into production and arrive in dealerships later this year as a 2011 model, adding to Ford Motor Company's leadership in the North American taxi market.

Making the announcement today at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford also said it will introduce engine prep packages on all Transit Connect models – base and taxi – allowing conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas). Both CNG and LPG are popular among taxi operators because of their low cost of ownership.

The roomy, flexible interior of the Transit Connect – the 2010 North American Truck of the Year – is perfectly suited for taxi service and conversion to CNG and LPG. The vehicle's 135 cubic feet of cargo space accommodates a compressed gas tank while leaving ample passenger legroom and cargo capacity.

"While meeting with taxi operators in cities throughout the U.S., we found considerable interest for vehicles that run on alternative fuels," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of The Americas. "The Transit Connect Taxi, combined with an engine modified by Ford to use CNG/LPG, is designed to meet that need. This marks a new era in 'green' transit."

To further serve taxi operators, Ford will provide required calibration specifications for the CNG or LPG conversion. By properly following Ford's specifications, the conversion can be completed without voiding the engine's warranty.

The alternative fuel advantage
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CNG is less expensive and burns cleaner than gasoline, resulting in 30 percent to 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Propane also burns cleaner than gasoline.

"Compressed natural gas and propane offer more than sufficient power for vehicles because they are high-energy fuels," said Rob Stevens, Transit Connect chief engineer. "Another natural benefit for these fuels is they provide an overall lower emission of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline. Additionally, operating on CNG or LPG provides the operators lower fuel/operating costs for their fleet."

Furthermore, nearly 87 percent of natural gas used in the United States is domestically produced. There also are government tax credit incentives for fleets to convert to alternative fuels.

Since October 2009, CNG prep packages have been available on E-Series vans with 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gas engines.

A conversion-ready interior
The Transit Connect Taxi offers an outstanding interior package for people and cargo. With its open architecture, the taxi provides excellent interior headroom and passenger visibility. The vehicle's rear seat has been moved back three inches to maximize passenger comfort. Plus, with 6.5 inches of ground clearance, passengers step easily through the dual sliding doors. Additional climate control ventilation has been added for rear seat passengers.

The Transit Connect Taxi also features a wiring upfit package with a hole in the roof for signage, vinyl front and rear seats, rubber rear floor, sliding second-row windows and standard third-row windows – all of which are factory installed. Additional installation of technology and other taxi modifications such as roof signage and the optional seating partition are handled by taxi upfitters in local markets.

The vehicle's cargo area easily accommodates compressed natural gas tanks directly behind the second-row seat, still allowing ample luggage storage.

Technology on the go
Ford is collaborating with Creative Mobile Technologies, LLC (CMT), to integrate premier payment processing and passenger information technologies in the Transit Connect Taxi.

Ford and CMT also are developing strategies for potential integration of Ford Work Solutions, a suite of productivity technologies for business owners providing a wireless in-dash computer with full high-speed Internet access and navigation. "Ford has demonstrated a significant commitment to support the taxi industry with not only a dedicated product but also with the commitment to work with the technology companies that support the industry," said Jason Poliner, chief operating officer, CMT. "Ford understands that the taxi business is not just the vehicle but a complete technological solution."

Evidence of how this technology could work in the future is included in the Transit Connect Taxi. It also features an 8.4-inch electronic infotainment and navigation screen that shows cab fare, news, weather, sports scores and stock ticker. With the touch screen, passengers also can select their choice of programming, follow the taxi's journey on a map, or scroll through a list of points of interest along the route – including restaurants, museums and shops.

Once at the destination, the screen displays the fare with options to pay via cash, credit or debit. Cardholders can swipe their card, select a pre-calculated tip recommendation or utilize the touch screen to enter a tip amount, and complete the transaction right from their seat.

Building on taxi leadership
The "green" taxi isn't new at Ford, which has been a leader in the taxi business for decades. Ford was the first manufacturer to introduce gas-electric hybrid-powered taxis into North American fleets with the launch of the Ford Escape Hybrid in San Francisco and New York City in early 2005.

Built on a dedicated commercial vehicle platform and tested to Ford tough truck standards, the Transit Connect Taxi – including gasoline-powered versions and those modified to operate on CNG/LPG – is designed to meet the extreme demands of taxi service.

With its standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, the conventionally powered Transit Connect is expected to deliver an estimated 30 percent improvement in fuel economy over many of today's traditional taxis.

"Transit Connect already has proven that it offers tremendous versatility for commercial fleet use," said Gerry Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager. "The Transit Connect taxi, combined with the capability for CNG/LPG conversion, further demonstrates its flexibility."

# # #

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 198,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit

NREL Study Finds That A “Dynamic Plug-in” Vehicle Could Be A Promising Technology Pathway for Cost-Effective Vehicle Electrification

We have to wonder who subsidizes these studies that basically state electric cars and plug-in electric cars will have little to no impact. This particular study goes so far as to say that you would need to recharge the vehicle as you are rocking down the highway. What is needed is a study of an EV or PHEV fleet being utilized in the real world with real drivers. Of course, this study is difficult since auto manufacturers cannot (or will not?) even provide a test fleet of electric vehicles.

From Green Car Congress:

Cost-effectiveness of vehicle electrification using today’s assumptions. The EHEV pathway is the dynamic, road-charged hybrid. Source: Brooker et al. Click to enlarge.

A study by researchers at the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found that, under today’s battery assumptions, while plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles significantly decrease consumption, none of a variety of electrification pathways were cost-effective compared to conventional vehicles or hybrids, except for a “dynamic plug-in” hybrid that recharges while moving.

The study by Aaron Brooker, Matthew Thorton and John Rugh aimed to identify possible pathways to cost-effective vehicle electrification by evaluating a variety of scenarios and technology improvements. Using current battery performance and cost, they evaluated PHEVs and EVs across a range of scenarios and configurations—which including 10-, 20- or 40-mile all electric range, with low or high electric power, with or without battery replacement, and with or without opportunity charging. Electric vehicle’s cost-effectiveness improved with battery replacement and opportunity charging, but it was not enough to match the conventional platforms.

Among their general findings are:

  • Increasing battery power in plug-in hybrids (10-, 20- and 40-mile AER, from low to high power) had little effect on fuel consumption results because the battery power can provide most of the driving on the test cycles, so the fuel economy only differs slightly. For the electric-powered vehicles, the electricity cost is relatively low, reflecting the low cost of electricity and the high efficiency of batteries and motors. The gasoline, on the other hand, is a large expense, especially for the conventional vehicle. Even so, they found, extra battery costs in PHEVs and EVs outweighed the gasoline cost savings.

  • Battery replacement had minor overall improvements in cost-effectiveness. In these cases, they reduced the size of the battery but used it more aggressively to reduce upfront cost and weight and take advantage of lower future battery costs. The advantages, they found, were mostly balanced out by the increase in battery wear.

    Battery life cycle curves showing the relationship of SOC swing to cycle life. Source: Brooker et al. Click to enlarge.

    For a smaller battery to provide the same electric range and regenerative braking, it must use a greater portion of the battery energy, and thus have greater depths of discharge. Since battery wear increases non-linearly with depth of discharge, each battery has to be larger than half of the single battery case.

    For example, in the high power PHEV10 case, a 5.9 kWh battery would last the life of the vehicle using 34% of the energy. Having one replacement, however, required more than half of a 5.9 kWh battery. It required purchasing two 3.7 kWh batteries using 54% of the energy to meet the life requirement. Although it was assumed that future batteries cost less and that there is a time value of money advantage to purchasing the second battery, these advantages did not make up for the total added cost of buying more total battery energy. The nonlinear wear trend balanced out the advantages for little overall gain.

    —Brooker et al.
  • Opportunity charging further decreased the gasoline consumption, and thus gasoline cost, of PHEVs, but at a greater increase in battery cost. Although the fuel cost went down, opportunity charging increased the use of the battery. As one example, in order to sustain the additional use and wear, the battery energy had to be increased from 5.9 kWh to 10 kWh in a PHEV10. Including the additional electricity cost, opportunity charging increased the total cost for the PHEV10 by $4,400.

  • On the other hand, opportunity charging decreased the EV cost. Opportunity charging increased the frequency of recharging, reducing the depth of discharges and the amount of wear, and thus reducing the amount that the battery has to be oversized to last the required life. Specifically, it reduced the battery size from 47 kWh to 32 kWh. The EV still exceeded the cost of all the other vehicle types.

  • Combining battery replacement and opportunity charging increased the use of the high cost battery to better leverage the investment, but little to nothing was gained by adding battery replacement to the opportunity charging cases under current battery life assumptions.

Their analysis found three potential approaches for improving the cost-effectiveness of vehicle electrification: what they called the electrified HEV (EHEV)—i.e., a vehicle that recharges while moving along the roadway—because of the resulting downsizing of the battery pack; significant battery improvements reducing the cost to the DOE target of $300/kWh (they used $700/kWh as the current level); or an improvement in battery life by a factor of 10.

If an acceptable method for plugging in while traveling along the roadway can be devised, it may provide a cost-effective pathway to vehicle electrification. This approach benefits from the low electric fuel cost of a large battery without the high cost, cycling wear, weight, and efficiency loss. Even with assuming a $1,000 price for the connection device, the cost to the consumer was still lower than for today’s conventional and hybrid vehicles. This pathway requires infrastructure, but only along a small fraction of heavily traveled roadways to gain the same gasoline saving benefits as battery PHEVs.

—Brooker et al.

The fraction of infrastructure is small because most travel occurs on just a few roads. The interstate, for example, makes up 1% of the miles of roadway but carries 22% of the vehicle miles traveled. Their scenario assumed that 50% of the distance driven is connected dynamically. It also assumed an additional $1,000 cost to the consumer for the dynamic connection, the same fuel cost per mile as an HEV when not connected dynamically, and the charge depleting fuel cost per mile of a PHEV when connected.

A paper on their work, which will be presented at the SAE World Congress in Detroit in April, details the assumptions and approach for the study.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hyundai to Launch Plug-in Hybrid in 2012 With Testing Scheduled In US and Korea

Hyundai Blue-Will PHEV Concept

Hyundai will introduce a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to the market in 2012, according to Dr. Byungsoon Min, of Hyundai Motor Company R&D Center, presenting at the SAE 2010 Hybrid Vehicle Technologies Symposium in San Diego this week. In preparation for that launch, he said, the company is planning a fleet test program in Korea and the US.

Hyundai is accelerating its efforts with conventional hybrids, Dr. Min said, noting that Hyundai is “late in launching hybrid vehicles.” Hyundai will launch its full parallel hybrid Sonata in the US this year. (Earlier post.) However, he noted, the company thinks it may be able to lead with its plug-in hybrid technology.

The conventional hybrid Sonata is based on Hyundai’s full parallel Hybrid Blue Drive architecture, which will serve as the foundation for future hybrid drive vehicles to be developed by Hyundai. (Earlier post.) Hybrid Blue Drive as envisioned for the Sonata is made up of nine major components:

  • Optimized Theta II 2.4-liter engine;
  • Integrated starter generator for stop-start;
  • 30 kW electric motor delivering 205 Nm of torque;
  • Regenerative braking system;
  • 6-speed automatic transmission with an improved efficiency electric oil pump;
  • 1.4 kWh lithium polymer battery pack (5.3 Ah, 270 V);
  • Hybrid power control unit;
  • Electric air conditioning compressor; and
  • Weight-efficient architecture coupled with a low drag coefficient.

During the introduction of the 2011 Sonata at the Los Angeles Auto Show in December 2009, Hyundai said that it would provide more details on the upcoming Sonata hybrid at the 2010 New York International Auto Show in April.

At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, Hyundai highlighted the Blue-Will Plug-in Hybrid Concept as presaging its future production PHEVs.

The Blue-Will concept is powered by an all-aluminum 152 hp (113 kW) Gasoline Direct Injected (GDI) 1.6-liter engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and a 100 kW electric motor. The wheels are turned by power coming directly from the gasoline engine, the electric motor, or both together, as conditions demand. Fuel economy for the Blue-Will in charge sustaining mode (regular hybrid mode) is projected to be 50-55 mpg US (4.7-4.3 L/100km). Hyundai says that vehicle range is 652 miles (1,049 km).

Blue-Will promises an electric-only driving distance of up to 40 miles on a single charge and a fuel economy rating of up to 106 mpg US (2.2 L/100km).

In his talk at the SAE event, Min said that Hyundai’s current analysis is concluding that an all electric range of approximately 20 miles, plus or minus 5 miles (i.e., an envelope of 15-25 miles) was a likely target for the 2012 production PHEV.

Source: Green Car Congress

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nissan Leaf To Be Offered As Sale Or Lease (With Video)

Nissan Leaf

On Thursday Nissan finished showing off the LEAF at 63 stops in 24 cities when it arrived in New York. Now, we are learning more details pertaining to the sale of this revolutionary new electric vehicle.

Nissan is now saying consumers will be able to either purchase OR lease the LEAF in "a single transaction that includes the battery." "When you buy the car – you are buying the battery,” according to a Nissan spokesperson. "When you lease the car – you are leasing the battery”.

In order to purchase the car you need to first register on the official LEAF website, then reserve the car with a refundable $100 deposit in April, and finally place a firm order in August.

The car is scheduled for a roll out to “select markets” beginning in December followed by “all major launch markets quickly thereafter.”

Now, we need to keep our fingers crossed and hope the MSRP comes in at a reasonable figure that we can match up with the $7500 federal tax rebate. This car could give the Chevy Volt a run for consumer's money, depending on where they fix the MSRP.

Nissan Teaser Ad:

Volkswagen Reveals New Touareg and Touareg Hybrib

The Volkswagen Touareg

The new Touareg being unveiled by VW seems to be mediocre at best. Appparently, they simply wanted to affix the "hybrid" moniker to this vehicle.

From Green Car Congress:

Volkswagen staged the world premiere of the all-new Touareg—which is up to 200 kg lighter and up to 20% more fuel efficient than the outgoing model—and the new Touareg Hybrid at the Postpalast in Munich. The new Touareg will offer a range of conventional gasoline and diesel engine options, an eight-speed transmission and, on the majority of models, Stop-Start technology.

The new Touareg Hybrid combines a 3.3-liter supercharged V6 direct injection gasoline engine producing 333 PS (328 hp, 245 kW) and 265 lb-ft (359 N·m) of torque; a hybrid module integrating a 47 PS (46 hp, 35 kW) electric motor and disengagement clutch; and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Total system output is 380 PS (375 hp, 279 kW) and 428 lb-ft (580 N·m) of torque; combined-cycle fuel consumption is 8.2 L/100km (28.7 mpg US), with CO2 emissions of 193 g/km.

The Touareg Hybrid attains a maximum speed of 240 km/h (149 mph) and accelerates to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds.

Compared to a conventional SUV of the same size and power, the hybrid delivers more than 25% fuel savings in city driving. In combined mode driving, development engineers calculate an average savings of 17%. Essentially, four parameters were exploited to achieve this fuel efficiency on the Touareg Hybrid:

  • E-Motor: All-electric driving (up to 50 km/h / 31 mph) reduces gasoline consumption. In this case, the V6 TSI is not only shut off, but is also disengaged from the 8-speed automatic by a disengagement clutch to avoid drag torque losses.

  • Coasting: As soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal, the V6 TSI is disengaged from the transmission. This is even possible at higher speeds (up to 160 km/h, 99 mph), i.e. on the freeway as well. The Touareg rolls significantly longer, since drag torque losses are eliminated. When drivers adopt an anticipatory style of driving, this has a direct and positive impact on fuel economy.

  • Regenerative Braking: During braking, the E-Motor recovers kinetic energy, which is then stored in the high-voltage NiMH battery pack.

  • Stop-Start System: The Stop-Start system integrated in the powertrain improves fuel economy, especially in urban areas and stop-and-go traffic.

The hybrid drive replaces the previous V8 gasoline engines in Europe and America and carries on Volkswagen’s downsizing strategy. Consequently, the V10 TDI and W12 engine versions of the previous model are no longer being offered.

The electric motor can operate independently of the combustion engine making the new Touareg a full hybrid. On electric power alone the new Touareg is capable of travelling at speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h). Alternatively the electric motor can supplement the V6 engine to provide a useful boost during overtaking manoeuvres and allows the Touareg Hybrid to accelerate from rest to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds before reaching a top speed of 149 mph (240 km/h).

Conventional drive. The entry-level engine and the likely volume seller is a 3.0-liter V6 TDI engine generating 240 PS (237 hp, 177 kW) and 405 lb-ft (549 N·m) of torque with fuel consumption of 7.4 L/100km (32 mpg US) and emitting 195 g/km of CO2.

A new 4.2-liter TDI V8 engine producing 340 PS (335 hp, 250 kW) and 590 lb-ft (800 N·m) of torque sits at the top of the new Touareg range. The new engine consumes 9.1 L/100km (26 mpg US) on the European combined cycle while emitting 239 g/km of CO2.

The 3.6L V6 FSI, a direct injection gasoline engine with 280 PS (276 hp, 206 kW), consumes 9.9 L/100 km (23.8 mpg US)—2.5 liters less than the previous engine version. This combined fuel consumption is equivalent to CO2 emissions of 236 g/km, 60 g/km less than before.

The overall length and wheelbase of the Touareg have each grown by 40 mm to measure 4,758 mm and 2,900 mm respectively. The width of the new Touareg remains as before at 1,928 mm while overall height drops by 20 mm to 1,724 mm.