Monday, May 31, 2010

Daimler And BYD Team Up For Electric Car Alliance

Until Toyota stepped in last week, Daimler was the only major auto manufacturer to take a stake in electric-car startup Tesla Motors— a company that has now become synonymous with next-generation transportation. Now Daimler wants to work the same magic with BYD, the Chinese battery and electric vehicle maker. Daimler announced today that it is partnering with BYD to build a new brand of electric cars via a joint venture called Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology. Together, they have invested $88 million into the development of the product, which will be targeted at Chinese consumers.

The deal sounds extremely similar to the partnership announced by Toyota and Tesla last week. Even though the most recent version of Tesla's S-1 filing reveals that no official agreement has been made between the two companies, both of their CEOs aired plans to build a car in tandem, with Tesla providing the unique powertrain system and Toyota supplying everything else. Seemingly following in their footsteps, Daimler says it will be building cars around BYD’s powertrains and batteries.

While Tesla has a proposed all-electric Model S sedan in the works, BYD already has an all-electric car of its own, the e6, which has found its way into Chinese government fleets so far. The big difference: the e6 is already out and ready to launch on the consumer market this year, while the Model S is slated to launch in 2012.

For this reason, it seems like BYD might be a more stable partner for Daimler. Not only does BYD have a thriving battery business, it also has the blessing of American mogul Warren Buffett, who bought a $230 million stake in the company. A shrewd investor, he rarely chooses wrong.

In addition to its technology, BYD also brings manpower to the table. The company already boasts 3,000 engineers and has the capacity to hire 10,000 more. It also has a low-cost manufacturing infrastructure in place, which the joint venture will be able to take advantage of. Tesla says it will also be able to staff its recently purchased NUMMI automotive plant with 10,000 workers prepared to churn out Tesla-Toyota vehicles, but the ramp up will be slow, if it happens at all.

The Daimler-BYD joint venture also has government subsidies to look forward to in China. Already, the government has expressed support for the development of greener vehicles, and incentives for consumers are believed to be on the way.

The two companies have yet to announce a timeline for their new brand of cars. Tesla says that its potential vehicle developed with Toyota would probably come out in four to five years. As an investor in the company, Daimler obviously has an interest in this coming to fruition. In the meantime though, it looks like its hedging its bets with a BYD alliance likely to yield more results sooner.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

GM India Launches CNG Version of Chevrolet Aveo

These are the headlines that utterly aggravate us. Here is General Motors providing an alternate energy vehicle for India but will not offer the same in the US. Why is that? With a vehicle like the Aveo, that gets great fuel economy, it would be great for the US market. They seem to want to keep us trapped with oil fired internal combustion engines.

From Green Car Congress:

General Motors India recently launched the CNG version of its Chevrolet Aveo mid-size sedan. The Aveo CNG is a bi-fuel vehicle with a full-size gasoline tank.

The running cost of the CNG Aveo is approximately 54% lower than a similar vehicle powered by gasoline and 25% lower than a similar vehicle powered by diesel, according to GM. Under normal driving conditions, the Aveo CNG has a range of 180 to 200 kilometers (112 to 124 miles) on a full tank of CNG and is BS IV compliant.

The Chevrolet Aveo CNG is equipped with next-generation computer-controlled CNG injection technology from Italy. All “critical to quality” CNG kit components are fitted at the factory—including the CNG injectors, selector switch, modified wiring and suspension. In addition, the body is reinforced to carry the additional mass of the cylinder. Sequential injection represents the most advanced level of evolution of CNG kit technology. The ECU (Electronic Controller Unit) calculates the opening times of the injectors for each cylinder and acts separately on each gas injector with the highest precision.

Hardened valve seats and anodized pistons are used in the proven 1.4-liter VGIS (Variable Geometry Intake System) gasoline engine. This ensures no engine damage or reliability issues in CNG mode.

GM India engineers have done extensive testing and validation of the Aveo CNG. The Chevrolet Aveo CNG comes with a three-year/100,000-km standard warranty, which is an industry first in the mid-size sedan segment, and a service interval of 5,000 km or six months (whichever comes first). During the run of the Aveo in pure CNG mode will not impact the vehicle warranty.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nissan Leaf Charging Options Explained

Nissan Leaf Charge Port

More news from Nissan regarding their Leaf.

At the Nissan Leaf battery plant groundbreaking yesterday in Smyrna, Tennessee, I made it a goal to squeeze as much detailed information as I could out of Nissan regarding the LEAF and what kinds of equipment it will ship with.

To this point — as is usually the case in the echo chamber that is the internet these days — nobody (including myself… mea culpa) seems to have been able to get it right about two things: whether or not the LEAF will have a Level 3 fast charge receptacle when it ships and if it will be able to use a Level 1 standard 3 prong outlet.

Although it was clear that the LEAF would have Level 2 charging capability (the J-1772 SAE standard 240 volt/up to 60 amp “quick charger”), the lack of standards regarding Level 3 charging and the relatively slow trickle of power that comes out of your standard household outlet (known as Level 1 charging) made it questionable if either of those would be included with the LEAF.

As it turns out, the LEAF will launch with both a receptacle for a Level 2 plug as well as one for a Level 3 plug based on the CHAdeMO DC fast charging standards coming out of Japan, according to Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning and strategy for North America. The receptacle setup on the LEAF will look just like the photos above and below. In those pictures, on the left is the CHAdeMO receptacle and on the right is the J-1772 Level 2 receptacle.

In addition to the Level 3 receptacle, the LEAF will ship with a 7.5 meter (24.5 feet) long “emergency” Level 1 cable that will have a J-1772 plug on one end and a standard 3-prong Level 1 plug on the other. But according to Perry, Nissan doesn’t expect people to use that except very infrequently when they “miscalculate” their range.

In an average situation, a standard household outlet is rated at 110 volts/15 amps, although most people won’t get more than 10-12 amps out of that outlet. So, what that means is that the outlet will put out about 1.1 kW of power and it would take about 22 hours to get the LEAF battery from 0% to 100% full; clearly not a realistic daily charging situation. “So that’s why we think the Level 1 really is just there for that emergency,” said Perry. “In an hour under level 1 charging you might see 4 or 5 miles or additional range added to the battery pack.”

Another interesting tidbit to come out of my meeting with Mark Perry clarified why the LEAF will take 8 hours to charge its 24 kWh battery even when a Level 2 charger is rated at an average of 6 kW, although it can get up to 14.4 kW. At 6 kW you’d expect a 24 kWh battery to take 4 hours to fully charge. However, as Perry explained it, the LEAF battery will be throttled by its onboard Battery Management System to 3.3 kW… hence the approximately 8 hour charge time.

So, even if you get that Level 2 charge station installed in your garage and you max it out at 240 Volts and 60 Amps, you won’t be able to cut the charge time. So, if money’s a concern and it would cost you more to do the high end installation, you might want to settle for the cheaper lower voltage, lower amperage installation. Your LEAF won’t know the difference.

Source: Gas2.0

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nissan Celebrates Battery Plant Commencement In Tennessee

The hot, sweltering Tennessee sun baked us under a big white-top tent this morning as Nissan dedicated the future site of their $1.7 billion dollar, state-of-the art Nissan LEAF battery plant in Smyrna. Encompassing 1.3 million square feet (22 American football fields), when the plant comes online in late 2012 it will be one of the largest battery facilities in North America.

Tennessee’s Governor, Phil Bredesen, was on hand along with Daniel Poneman, the Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Energy and Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO and President.

The plant will deliver batteries to Nissan LEAFs that are set to be assembled in the existing Smyrna vehicle assembly plant right next door. As the battery plant is constructed over the next year and a half, the vehicle assembly facility will be retooled to be able to add LEAFs into the production line alongside Altimas, Fronteras, X-Terras and Pathfinders. When all’s said and done, the battery and LEAF production will create an additional 1,300 jobs. Nissan expects that the full capacity of the co-located plants will be about 200,000 batteries and 150,000 LEAFs each and every year.

Until the Smyrna facilities come online, there will only be one plant in Japan supplying Nissan LEAFs to the world with a production capacity of 50,000 vehicles annually. That will all change in 2012, when the Japanese facility is joined by Smyrna and other plants around the world, including a couple in Europe. At that point the production capacity for LEAFs and other Renault-Nissan EVs will jump from 50,000 to 500,000 per year.

During a tour of the Smyrna vehicle assembly plant, we were told that Nissan will be able to maintain current production levels of all the vehicles they assemble there (the plant has actually been in continuous operation since 1981) and that the 150,000 LEAF capacity will be in addition to those.

In order to accommodating the special needs of assembling an electric vehicle, Nissan is using some serious creativity to make the inclusion of the LEAF alongside conventional vehicle assembly a virtually seamless endeavor. For instance, at the station where the fuel tank is normally brought in underneath a suspended vehicle, the LEAF will have its battery pack added. And at the station where the engine is brought in to the vehicle, the electric motor will be added. Other than that, the assembly of an electric vehicle is much simpler than a conventional one.

“Nissan is committed to affordable, sustainable mobility. What we’re doing here will radically transform the automotive experience for consumers. Today is a major step in helping create a green economy in the United States,” said Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan. “Production of Nissan LEAF and lithium-ion batteries in Smyrna brings the United States closer to its goal of energy independence, creates green jobs and helps sustain American manufacturing. Nissan is a leader in global manufacturing innovation, and this state-of-the-art battery plant will strengthen that leadership.”

The battery assembly plant was spurred by a $1.4 billion, low-interest loan from the US Department of Energy as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.

Source: Gas2.0

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Coda Automotive Looks To Ohio For Automotive Li-ion Battery Manufacturing Facility

The CODA All-Electric Sedan

CODA, a California-based electric car and battery company, plans to build an automotive-grade lithium ion battery system manufacturing facility in Ohio. CODA is considering several sites within Ohio for the facility, which could employ more than 1,000 initially.

Construction of the facility is contingent upon finalizing an incentive package with the state of Ohio and the approval of an application for a Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan (ATVM) to be submitted soon.

Lio Energy Systems, a joint venture between CODA and Lishen Power Battery, would operate the facility. Lio Energy Systems currently operates a one-million square foot facility in Tianjin, China with the production capacity to produce more than 20,000 battery packs per year.

The proposed facility in Ohio would replicate this facility. CODA will be the majority and control shareholder of the US venture.

CODA is slated to begin delivering its all-electric car in the fourth quarter of this year and anticipates that it can deliver more than 14,000 vehicles to customers by the end of 2011.

Source: Green Car Congress

Ford Takes Cue From GM and Prepares In-House EV Component Construction

The Ford Focus EV

Ford Motor Company, moving to create a center of excellence in Michigan for vehicle electrification, is investing $135 million to design, engineer and produce key components for the company’s next-generation hybrid-electric vehicles.

Ford engineers in Dearborn, Michigan will design the Li-ion battery packs while engineers in Livonia, Michigan will design and engineer an electric, front-wheel-drive, continuously variable transaxle (the HF35) to supply its next-generation hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles in North America.

Ford’s Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., will assemble the battery packs beginning in 2012, moving work to Michigan that is currently performed in Mexico by a supplier. To support battery pack assembly at the Rawsonville Plant, Ford will invest approximately $10 million in capital equipment and add about 40 jobs. Ford’s investment also supports the necessary engineering and launch costs for the advanced battery systems.

Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., will build the electric drive transaxles beginning in 2012. Current model electric-drive transaxles are provided by a supplier in Japan. Ford is adding a combined 170 jobs at the Rawsonville and Van Dyke facilities to build these key components.

Ford will invest about $125 million at its Van Dyke facility. The investment includes a grant received from the Department of Energy to help create green technology jobs in the US. This investment includes manufacturing capital equipment, launch and engineering costs and supplier tooling upgrades, all required to support the production launch of the HF35 transaxle.

Ford’s creation of a center of excellence for vehicle electrification in Michigan now includes the design and manufacture of electrified key components as well as total vehicle manufacturing for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles. Ford is adding more than 50 engineers to work on electrification as it brings these technologies in-house.

By physically bringing research, engineering and manufacturing closer together, Ford says it and its suppliers, universities and related industries can drive both innovation and job growth in this evolving form of transportation.

Ford’s global electrification strategy includes plans to launch five new full electric or hybrid vehicles in the compact, midsize and light commercial segments for the North American market by 2012 and European markets by 2013.

  • The Transit Connect Electric light commercial vehicle in North America later this year and in Europe in 2011;
  • The Focus Electric in North America in 2011 and in Europe in 2012;
  • A Lincoln MKZ hybrid, available this fall in North America;
  • A next-generation hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle based on Ford’s global C-car platform in North America in 2012; and
  • A C-MAX hybrid electric and plug-in hybrid electric model for Europe in 2013.

Source: Green Car Congress

Monday, May 24, 2010

BYD Bringing E6 To US For Government Fleet Use

The BYD All-Electric E6 Sedan

BYD Auto Co. recently said it would locate its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles and begin selling a plug-in electric car in the United States by year end. But the Chinese automaker has a history of big announcements that don't pan out.

This time may be different. But don't expect to see a BYD-badged electric vehicle on your street any time soon -- unless, perhaps, you live in downtown Los Angeles.

"Initially, we will sell the e6 electric car to government agencies to get feedback," Fred Ni, general manager of BYD's North America operations, told Automotive News on the sidelines of an international trade conference here. "We may not start immediately marketing to individuals."

In 2007, BYD unveiled plans to mass-produce an electric car. It showed an early version of the e6 at the 2008 Beijing auto show. But the car just went on sale in China, and only to government fleets.

No. 7 in China

BYD, formed in 1995 as a maker of cell phone batteries, began manufacturing cars in 2003. A portion of the company, including its automotive unit, is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The unlisted portion is closely held.

It is the seventh-largest automaker in China and sold about 450,000 units in 2009, according to J.D. Power and Associates. This year BYD aims to sell 800,000 units. Its gasoline-powered F3 small car, priced at around $7,500, was China's top-selling model in 2009 at more than 280,000 units.

Measured by revenue, BYD Auto was China's 14th-largest vehicle manufacturer, according to a list compiled by the China Machinery Industry Federation and China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. BYD's 2009 revenues totaled 21.5 billion yuan ($3.14 billion).

BYD has sold no plug-in electric cars and only a few hundred plug-in hybrid cars, all in China. Kevin Huang, a market analyst in Guangzhou, China, with JATO Dynamics, questions the public perception of BYD as a high-tech company. "When people talk about BYD, they think of 'battery car' rather than 'cheap,'" he says. "But low price is still the major reason for its rapid growth."

Ni says BYD is talking with dealership groups in the United States about a partnership that would serve as a distribution network. He would not give specific names.

Battery doubts

Distribution is not the only hurdle the Chinese brand faces here. The brand is not well known, and consumer trust of its technology will be hard to gain, says Duan Chengwu, senior technical analyst in Shanghai with IHS Global Insight. "There is no solid evidence to convince consumers that their battery technology is mature enough," he says.

Indeed, Long Nanyao, vice chairman of InterChina Consulting, says BYD's battery technology is not ready for high-volume use in the auto industry. BYD's quality control is not stringent enough for the charging and discharging cycles required for multicell traction battery packs, he says.

"They are coming from a 'good enough' mentality, with lower accuracies and wider tolerances," Long says. "We do expect BYD to make breakthroughs, but we also expect it to take time."

Nevertheless, Warren Buffett's Mid-American Energy Holdings gave BYD's technology a vote of confidence with a $230 million investment. Mid-American declined to comment for this story.

BYD's electric cars use a lithium ion phosphate battery developed by parent BYD Co., a major global manufacturer of lithium ion batteries for cell phones. BYD says the battery can go more than 200 miles on a charge.

Industry experts say that could be true -- when the battery is brand-new and the driving conditions are ideal, with few stops or hills and not much drain by the air-conditioning system, for example.

Ni grants that the 200-mile estimate was "under specific conditions," but insists they are similar to testing conditions used by other automakers. "If you are driving in 100-degree weather and running the air conditioner all the time," it might not hold true, he says.

L.A.'s lure

Vance Baugham, president of the World Trade Center Association of Los Angeles-Long Beach, visited BYD in China and helped lure the automaker to Los Angeles. The bait included lowered fees at the Port of Los Angeles, help renovating the building in downtown Los Angeles that will serve as BYD's headquarters and promises of sales to the Los Angeles County and Los Angeles municipal fleets. BYD also signed a deal with the city's Department of Light and Power to install a network of residential and public charging stations, he says.

Baugham is not concerned about the timing of the launch of BYD cars in the United States. The company also will promote its solar panel, energy storage, and LED lighting technology at its Los Angeles headquarters.

"They are not [just] an automobile company," Baugham says. "They are a series of companies."

After the e6, BYD likely will bring a hybrid model to the United States, Ni says. It will be based on the F3DM hybrid currently on sale in China, but styled differently. Says Ni: "We will make the car more attractive."

Source: Automotive News

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Will The Chevy Volt Rejuvenate General Motors?

He stands all day, bent over noisy machines, cutting giant sheets of steel and feeding them into monster-sized presses so powerful the concrete floor rumbles beneath his size-16 feet.

This is how Steve Prucnell builds cars.

In 22 years, the parts haven't changed much. A car's a car. But then another project came along, something totally different.

After decades of building hundreds of cars -- everything from Corvettes to Saturns to Silverados -- Prucnell took a giant leap into the future, joining the team that built test models of the Chevy Volt, General Motors' new electric car. It's a high-risk, high-profile venture and Prucnell is understandably nervous.

Maybe it's the 13 foreclosure signs that popped up on his street. Or turning 50 in a struggling industry. Or working for a company that needed a $52-billion loan from the U.S. Treasury to stay alive. Whatever the reason, Prucnell is keeping his fingers crossed, hoping America is ready for a new kind of love affair -- battery included.

The Volt could help usher in a new generation of electric cars, but there's more at stake here than a technological breakthrough: The fate of GM and its workers. The future of a beleaguered state. And, maybe, in some larger sense, the image of all U.S. autoworkers, eager to prove they have what it takes to compete on the global stage.

The moment of truth is coming, and Steve Prucnell feels the pressure.

"If this doesn't fly, what's left for GM?" he asks, his 6-foot-6 frame hunched over while taking a break in the union hall near the GM Tech Center. "Wall Street is going to say, 'We knew they couldn't dig themselves out of the hole.'"

There was, Prucnell says, a different vibe building the Volt. It wasn't just the intense scrutiny from above. It was the anxiety down below, on the shop floor.

"I don't want to say that we worked harder on this," Prucnell says. "I think we worked a lot smarter. I mean everybody was on their 'A' game. It wasn't, 'No, that's good enough.' It was, 'We want to make sure we're perfect.'"

"We know the Volt is the last hurrah for GM," he adds. "It's either do or die."

Source: Automotive News

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Introducing The Nido EV From Pininfarina

The Nido EV. Click to enlarge.

Leading automotive design group Pininfarina unveiled the Nido EV, the first running prototype of the “Nido Development Program”, the project for an electric car conceived, designed and built entirely by the Pininfarina Style and Engineering Centre of Cambiano (Turin). The Nido EV prototype is a designed both to explore the electrification of a small city car and to develop a modular floorpan.

The Nido EV prototype is propelled by a 30 kW, 125 N·m (92 lb-ft) synchronous permanent magnet motor powered by a 21.2 kWh, 278V Zebra Z5 Ni-NaCl battery. When fully charged, it has a range of 140 km (87 miles) and a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), limited electronically, and accelerates 0-60 km/h in 6.7 seconds.

Interior of the prototype. Click to enlarge.

Charge time for the battery is 8 hours.

The body structure of this first prototype is a tubular steel frame, while the final version will have an aluminium space frame. The structure was designed to adapt to four different, completely electric or hybrid vehicles: 2-seater, 2+2, pickup and light van.

The Nido Development Program also envisages the development of two more, slightly larger versions: the first will be a hybrid with an engine positioned at the front and a motor at the rear; the second will be electric with a front motor.

The Nido Development Program will use an AC electrical compressor and a high voltage electric heater making it possible to implement automatic control strategies which will help to reduce consumption in most conditions.

The Program will also cover research into solutions and light-weight components with a high mechanical/electrical efficiency, and energy saving solutions (batteries with outstanding charging performance) and braking systems specifically for hybrid/electrical applications.

Pininfarina is also collaborating with the French company Bolloré on the BlueCar EV development.The BlueCar is powered by a BatScap lithium metal polymer pack.

We will continue to ‘dress’ technology, and we will offer even more industrial design services, continuing to play a key role as a design house and an innovative partner with unique skills, able to provide solutions that can translate into competitive advantage for our clients.

Consistent with our industrial plan, we will maintain our commitment to sustainable mobility, in other words both the development and production of electrical vehicles (cars and buses), and research into both alternative components and materials, and aerodynamic shapes that can help to make vehicles lighter and reduce their consumption and emissions.

—Pininfarina CEO Silvio Pietro Angori

Friday, May 21, 2010

Toyota To Invest $50 million in Tesla Electric Car Plant (Formerly NUMMI)

Tesla Mode S All-Electric Sedan

Todays big news.

The heads of Tesla Motors Inc. and Toyota Motors Corp. surprised the auto world Thursday by announcing a partnership to develop and build electric cars at a recently shuttered auto plant in the San Francisco Bay area.

Akio Toyoda, CEO of the world's largest automaker, said Toyota will invest $50 million in Tesla when the company begins selling stock to the public, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company will purchase the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory, known as Nummi, in Fremont where the Model S electric sedan will be built.

"We're going to create electric cars together," Musk told a news conference at Tesla's office in Palo Alto. "It's a great honor to work with a company like Toyota, one of the automobile leaders of the world and one I've personally long admired."

Toyoda flew in from Japan to make the announcement a day after both companies finalized the deals.

"I spent time at Nummi and learned much about working in America there, so I feel a sense of attachment (to the plant)," Toyoda said. He also said in a statement that through the venture, Toyota hopes to learn from Tesla's "challenging spirit, quick decision-making and flexibility."

Analysts said the partnership enhances the credibility of Tesla, a Silicon Valley startup just a few years ago, and boosts Toyota's image after being fined a record $16.4 million for its slow response to an accelerator pedal recall.

"Many had doubted (Tesla's) ability to deliver on all its promises, but Toyota must have conducted substantial due diligence before making this investment," said John O'Dell, senior editor for car adviser Edmunds'

The news stunned city officials from Downey, who expected to vote Thursday on a lease deal allowing Tesla to rent 20 acres of city property south of Los Angeles. Downey spent months courting the automaker to locate its factory there, and officials said they were certain of clinching a deal after meeting with Musk recently.

"Tesla has been extremely disingenuous in their dealing with Downey, and I now have new appreciation as to why America is fed up with many large corporations," Downey Councilman Mario Guerra said. "This last-minute betrayal is even more shocking because (Downey) was hours away from signing the lease with Tesla that would have been an economic boon for the city."

Downey had offered to waive $6.9 million in rent in hopes that the plant could create up to 1,200 jobs and revitalize its reputation as Southern California's high-tech hub.

Musk said there was no effort to mislead Downey officials, adding that parts of the deal with Toyota were only resolved Wednesday.

"We weren't sure could a deal be put together, could Tesla afford Nummi," Musk said. "These were question marks that that were only resolved yesterday."

Tesla, which currently makes a two-seater electric sports car costing $109,000, said its goal is to produce increasingly affordable electric cars. It has been scouting for a site to build the Model S, which is scheduled to go on sale in 2012.

The Model S is slated to sell for $49,900, including federal tax credits, and is designed to travel as far as 300 miles on a three- to five-hour charge.

The Nummi plant, established in 1984 as a joint venture between General Motors Co. and Toyota, employed 4,700 workers. GM made the Pontiac Vibe there but withdrew from the alliance last year after filing for bankruptcy protection.

Toyota made the Corolla sedan and Tacoma pickup at the plant but said in August that without GM, it could not sustain the factory. The last of nearly 8 million vehicles that moved through the sprawling facility rolled off the lot last month.

The fate of the plant had been unclear. At its closure, plant executives said some employees would stay on while they try to sell off equipment and clean up. Executives also said the plant would try to find a buyer and work with city and state officials to identify the best new use for the site.

Musk would not disclose what Tesla paid for the factory. It bought only a parcel of the sprawling Nummi plant.

He said there is a lot of potential for long-term growth and that he sees the partnership eventually generating about 10,000 jobs between suppliers and factory workers.

He said Tesla already has started hiring former Nummi employees and plans to add workers at a rate of about 50 a month. Nummi was a union shop, and Musk said Tesla was "neutral" on any possible guild organization -- it would neither encourage or fight such an effort.

Source: Yahoo! Finance

1920 Milburn owned by Tom Henry in Winter Park, FL - VIDEO

The owner this very well preserved Milburn is Tom Henry. Tom is a 72 year old electrician-turned-educator who owns Tom Henry's Code Electrical classes, which has taught over 28,000 people since he opened in 1982. Over the years, he's owned several vintage cars, including 16 Model T's he recently parted with to expand his business into teaching solar courses. Tom kept the Milburn since, in his own words: I'm an electrician, I figured I needed to have an electric car!

This vehicle has a top speed of 20 mph and a 100 mile range. Remarkable!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mitsubishi Begins Sales of i-MiEV to Individuals in Hong Kong

Mitsubishi iMiev

Universal Cars Ltd. (UCL), Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC)’s importer and distributor for Hong Kong, will begin sales tomorrow of the i-MiEV electric vehicle to individuals in Hong Kong.

Mass-production i-MiEVs have already been delivered to the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR) and some companies; however this announcement marks the first time sales to individuals will be commenced in Hong Kong, and also marks the first time that the i-MiEV will be sold to individuals outside of Japan.

UCL is offering the i-MiEV at a price of HK$395,000 (US$50,631), with a target to sell 50 units by the end of this year.

MMC and UCL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the HKSAR government regarding cooperation on the popularization of electric vehicles (EV) on 26 February 2009. From May of 2009, the HKSAR government conducted practicality tests with a pre-production test model i-MiEV as well as worked together with electric power companies regarding EV charging infrastructure.

UCL has delivered about 30 i-MiEVs to the HKSAR government and other corporations since December 2009.

In Japan, MMC first sold the i-MiEV mainly to corporations and municipalities in fiscal year 2009, with sales of about 1,400 units. In April of 2010, MMC expanded its sales to include sales to individuals.

MMC has been conducting fleet testing in countries and other areas all over the globe, and plans to launch left-hand drive i-MiEVs in Europe from the end of this year.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Honda Motor COmpany Still Not Buying Into Electric Vehicle Viability

Honda's EV Plus All-Electric Vehicle

Honda Motor Co., remains skeptical about demand for electric cars 10 years after it stopped selling its EV Plus battery-powered model, the head of research at Japan’s second-largest carmaker said.

“We lack confidence” in the electric-vehicle business, Tomohiko Kawanabe, president of Honda’s research and development unit, said in an interview in Wako City, northwest of Tokyo. “It’s questionable whether consumers will accept the annoyances of limited driving range and having to spend time charging them.”

The skepticism contrasts with an estimate by Nissan Motor Co.’s Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn that the vehicles will make up 10 percent of the global car market by 2020. While Honda plans to sell electric cars in the U.S. to help meet California emission rules, its priority is to improve the fuel efficiency of new and upgraded models, Kawanabe said.

“We are definitely conducting research on electric cars, but I can’t say I can wholeheartedly recommend them,” said Kawanabe, 58, an engine specialist who replaced Chief Executive Officer Takanobu Ito as head of Honda R&D Co. on April 1.

Nissan’s Leaf electric car, which will go on sale this year in Japan and the U.S., and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s i-MiEV have maximum driving distances of about 100 miles (161 kilometers) on a fully-charged battery. Running the air conditioner or accelerating for long periods of time reduces the range.

California Rules

Honda rose 0.7 percent to close at 3,010 yen in Tokyo trading today. The shares have declined 3.2 percent this year.

From model years 2012 through 2014, the largest carmakers by volume in California must sell about 60,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric cars combined, according to the state Air Resources Board. Nissan’s Ghosn said last week he aims to have capacity to build 500,000 electric cars a year by 2012, even as other demand estimates are lower than his.

Electric vehicles will amount to no more than 1 percent of the global market by 2020, according to Menahem Anderman, president of Advanced Automotive Batteries, a consulting firm based in Oregon House, California.

Honda, based in Tokyo, started researching battery cars in 1988 and leased about 320 EV Plus models in the U.S. and Japan between 1997 and 2000. The model used a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and ran 210 kilometers on a single charge.

While the carmaker displayed a concept version of an electric car named EV-N at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, it is focusing on expanding its lineup of gasoline-electric hybrid models and improving its gasoline engines, according to Kawanabe.

The company views hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles as the ultimate zero-emission vehicle, although inadequate charging infrastructure still hampers the technology’s mass-market potential, he said.

While Toyota Motor Co., the world’s largest carmaker, has also tried selling electric cars, it only delivered about 1,900 electric RAV4 sport-utility vehicles between 1997 and 2003 in the U.S. and Japan.

Honda, which sells the Civic and Insight hybrid models in the U.S., is considering U.S. production of hybrids to avoid the negative impact of a stronger yen against the dollar, Kawanabe said, without elaborating on timing. Core parts like batteries, invertors and motors would still be shipped from Japan, he said.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

OnStar Leverages Google technology to Connect Customers to the Chevrolet Volt

Press Release:

Detroit – OnStar is leveraging the power of Google technology to develop a number of new mobile app features that strengthen Chevrolet’s commitment to providing Volt customers with the most connected vehicle experience possible.

The public will get a peek at what OnStar is working on at the Google I/O conference May 19-20 in San Francisco, CA, where OnStar will debut and demonstrate new functionalities they’re developing for the Chevrolet Volt mobile application leveraging the AndroidTM platform.

“While OnStar will never lose sight of our core focus on safety and security, this relationship is an example of how we’re evolving our leadership position in connected vehicle technology,” said Chris Preuss, OnStar president. “What we’re talking about today is only the beginning.”

A new “navigation” tab has been added to the home screen of the existing Chevrolet Volt mobile app on the Android smartphone. When a Volt owner presses this tab, they will be able to see the current location of their Volt pinpointed on Google MapsTM , as well as their location relative to it.

From this map screen, owners can use Google search by voice to vocally search for a destination with their Android handset, and see where that destination is related to the Volt’s current location. They can then elect to send the destination from their Android phone to their Volt and have OnStar Turn-By-Turn directions to their destination waiting for them when they start the vehicle. Additionally, the owner will also have the option to get voice-guided directions to their vehicle from their current location, using Google Maps Navigation.

The new functionalities won’t be available on the Volt mobile app at launch, but are planned for a 2.0 version.

The smartphone mobile application for the Chevrolet Volt made its debut at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show and is planned to launch in tandem with the Volt this fall. Launch features include:

· Charge status display – plugged in or not and voltage (120V or 240V)

· Flexibility to “Charge Now” or schedule charge timing

· Display percentage of battery charge level, electric and total ranges

· Ability to manually set grid-friendly charge mode for off-peak times when electricity rates are lowest

· Send text or email notifications for charge reminders, interruptions and full charge

· Display miles per gallon, electric only miles, and odometer readings

· Shows miles per gallon, EV miles and miles driven for last trip and lifetime

· Remotely start the vehicle to pre-condition the interior temperature

“These two new features add to the suite of mobile application features for Volt that given Volt owners a personal connection to their car,” said Tony DiSalle, Chevrolet Volt marketing director. “Connecting customers to their cars is one way we’re using technology to provide value and a real useful benefit to the Volt owner.”

# # #

About General Motors

General Motors, one of the world’s largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 217,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, FAW, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM’s largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. General Motors acquired operations from General Motors Corporation on July 10, 2009, and references to prior periods in this and other press materials refer to operations of the old General Motors Corporation. More information on the new General Motors can be found at

Chevy, GMC Announce CNG and LPG Vans for Fleets


DETROIT, Mich. – Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) powered versions of the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans will be offered to fleet and commercial customers beginning later this year, General Motors Co. announced Monday.

The vans have specially designed engines for the gaseous fuels and come direct to the customer with the fully integrated and warranted dedicated gaseous fuel system in place.

“We’re listening to our fleet customers and dealers about offering options that help them achieve their business objectives”, said Brian Small, general manager of GM’s fleet and commercial operations. “The industry commitment to expand the CNG and LPG infrastructure in key fleet markets was an enabler to allowing us to introduce these options now.”

Going beyond the competition, GM’s proven Vortec 6.0L V8 engine receives hardened exhaust valves and intake and exhaust valve seats for improved wear resistance and durability for gaseous fuel systems. Along with dedicated gaseous fuel injection and fuel storage systems, both the CNG and LPG systems are fully integrated into the vehicle, and will meet EPA and CARB certification requirements, and be fully compliant with applicable motor vehicle safety standards.

The initial CNG offerings will be available on 2011 model year cargo vans and built at GM’s Wentzville assembly plant with the specialized Vortec engine installed. The vans are then completed at a separate facility with the dedicated gaseous fuel system and related vehicle calibrations before shipment to the Special Vehicle Manufacturer (SVM), Fleet Customer or GM Dealer.

Both CNG and LPG vans will carry GM's limited new vehicle warranty including the 5-year/100,000 mile transferable GM powertrain limited warranty.

“We’ve made choosing a CNG or LPG van easier for our customers,” said Joyce Mattman, director of GM’s commercial products and specialty vehicles. “No other manufacturer offers a commercial CNG or LPG option that provides a solution with this level of support and availability.”

Leveraging the same Vortec 6.0L V8 with hardened, durable components, a dedicated LPG gaseous fuel system will be offered on 2011 model year cutaway vans to fleet and commercial customers. The cutaways are then configured into cube, delivery, and shuttle bus vans depending upon the customer’s final requirements.

“We recognize the value in providing our fleet and commercial customers with a range of fuel saving and alternative fuel technologies,” Mattman said. ”The CNG and LPG additions are part of GM’s expanding alternative fuel portfolio including more than 17 E85-capable and five hybrid models in our fleet and commercial vehicle lineup.”

About General Motors: General Motors, one of the world’s largest automakers, traces its roots to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 217,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in some 140 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 34 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, FAW, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. GM’s largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy. GM’s OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. General Motors acquired operations from General Motors Corporation on July 10, 2009, and references to prior periods in this and other press materials refer to operations of the old General Motors Corporation. More information on the new General Motors can be found at

40 BYD e6-Based Electric Taxis Enter Service in Shenzhen City

The BYD E6 - Coming To The US Later This Year

Forty battery-electric taxis-based on BYD’s e6—officially entered service in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province. Shenzhen is the first city to officially put electric taxis in operation in China, according to Hu Jianping, president of Shenzhen Bus Group (SBG) at the launch ceremony.

Wang Chuanfu, chief executive of BYD, said that the five passenger e6 has a maximum speed of 140 km/h (87 mph); consumes 21.5 kWh per 100 km; and can run about 300 km on one charge.

The electric taxis are being operated by Pengcheng Electric Taxi Co., Ltd, a joint venture of BYD and SBG.

BYD plans to have 100 E6 taxis on Shenzhen’s roads by the end of June. The company expects to start selling E6 cars to the United States through its headquarters in Los Angeles later this year, [Wang] said. Wang said BYD would try to roll out E6 in the European market in February 2011, but gave no details.

BYD received government approval to produce the e6, which is powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries, in January.

Now we need to see this kind of activity here in the United States. More partnerships between fleet operators and alternate energy vehicle manufacturers.

Source: Green Car Congress

Monday, May 17, 2010

GM's EV1 From the Perspective of a Lessee - VIDEO

Another look at the EV1, a car that every driver seemed to fall in love with.

Remembering the GM EV1 - VIDEOS

Here is a rarely seen commercial for the all-electric EV1. All of the advertising for this wonderful car was bizarre, to say the least and after viewing, you weren't sure this is something that you wanted! After the commercial is a video that gives tribute to the great little car that could.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nissan Leaf Battery Pack Cost and Future Projections

Nissan Leaf Battery Pack

Nissan Motor Co., which will start selling its Leaf electric car this year, aims to cut the cost of the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack to less than $370 per kilowatt-hour to make a profit from the model.

The target compares with the Japanese government’s industrywide estimate of about 150,000 yen ($1,600) per kilowatt-hour, said Masahiko Otsuka, president of Automotive Energy Supply Corp., a joint venture between Nissan and NEC Tokin Corp. that is making the battery for Nissan.

“Our target is a lot tougher” than $370, Otsuka said in an interview yesterday at AESC’s headquarters in Zama City, west of Tokyo. The cost depends on factors including the scale of production as well as resale value for recycling, he said, declining to give a time frame for the target.

The lithium-ion battery, which stores 24 kilowatt-hours of energy, is the most expensive component of the Leaf, which will sell for $32,780 in the U.S. and 3.76 million yen in Japan before government incentives for consumers. Nissan is introducing the Leaf in response to government emissions rules and potentially higher oil prices.

Nissan’s battery currently costs about 1.05 million yen, or $472 per kilowatt-hour, according to Takeshi Miyao, an analyst in Tokyo at auto consulting company Carnorama. Other components cost about 1.4 million yen, and labor and other indirect costs must be contained to 35 percent of the sticker price to secure a profit, he said.

Toyota, Honda

The Japanese carmaker is spending more than 500 billion yen developing electric cars to compete with Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius and Honda Motor Co.’s Insight hybrids. Nissan plans to spend 430 billion yen in total research and development this fiscal year ending in March.

Selling the battery to other customers will also cut costs by increasing production volume. Potential buyers outside the auto industry, including defense contractors, have approached Nissan and AESC, Otsuka said.

Nissan’s Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said earlier this week he aims to have capacity to build 500,000 electric cars a year by 2012. He estimates demand will reach 10 percent of the global car market by 2020.

Other forecasts are lower. Electric-drive vehicles will amount to no more than 1 percent of the global market by 2020, said Menahem Anderman, president of Advanced Automotive Batteries, a consulting firm based in Oregon House, California. This follows other estimates, including one by the Boston Consulting Group, that are far lower than Nissan’s.

Anderman says lithium-ion batteries are going to cost much more and perform more poorly than Nissan and other carmakers assume.

Nissan and its biggest shareholder, Renault SA plan to build electric cars at plants in the U.K., Japan, France, Portugal and Tennessee.

Source: Bloomberg

Friday, May 14, 2010

Porsche 914 Electric Vehicle Conversion - VIDEO

Here is a well done video highlighting Ross Cuniff's Porsche 914 conversion to electric propulsion. Ross used an AC conversion system as opposed to the more popular DC types. This allows him to re-capture some energy through regenerative braking which lets the slowing vehicle spin the motor while decelerating, adding power back into the pack. Ross has the perfect commuter car now!

Looking To Test Drive A Nissan Leaf? Try Hertz!

Leaf Coming Soon To a Hertz Near You

Beginning early next year you'll be able to treat yourself to a day or two behind the wheel of Nissan's upcoming Leaf electric car to see if you and an EV might be suited for each other.

Just visit your local Hertz car rental office - if you live in one of the select areas of the U.S. and Europe in which the company plans to add the 5-passenger car to its rental list.

Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera told Green Car Advisor that the company hasn't settled on how many Leafs it will order, which offices will offer them or even how much the daily rental will be (we'll bet that it will be considered a premium-priced product of some sort), but does expect to do a good business.

The company also plans to place the Leaf in the fleet for the Connect-by-Hertz car-sharing programs that it runs in 150 U.S. locations as well as in several major Europen urban areas.

It's likely that the initial Hertz EV rentals will be in regions where Nissan is selling the cars, making California a likely hot spot.

Hawaii, where the Leaf's 100 miles of range will take a tourist a long way, also could be a hot spot for Hertz' Leaf rentals.

Nissan is launching the Leaf in December in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Tennessee, with other states to follow as production ramps up through 2011 and early 2012. Hawaii was recently selected as one of the first states to get Leafs in 2011.

In addition to rentals to green-minded customers, Hertz sees a market in Leaf rentals to people who would like to try a car on the road before committing to buying of leasing.

The Toyota Prius brought the company a lot of that kind of business in the early days of the hybrid.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nissan Leaf Production Capacity Revelaed

The Nissan Leaf EV

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn said on Wednesday during a FY 2009 financial results presentation in Yokohama that when the Nissan LEAF goes on sale this year—as the first of the eight all-electric models to launch—the Renault-Nissan Alliance will be the first to mass-market affordable zero-emission vehicles, backed by battery capacity of 500,000 units.

No other automaker will be producing electric batteries or cars at such a scale. And customers are ready. To date, 130,000 consumers in the US have registered their interest in buying a Nissan LEAF. With sales starting this December, 13,000 pre-orders have been submitted in just over one month in the US and Japan, largely driven by individual customer demand. This amount already surpasses our available production capacity for fiscal year 2010.

—Carlos Ghosn

Another focus has been on very affordable transportation. Nissan is planning a lineup of global compact cars based on the new V-platform, which will represent 1 million unit sales at full launch, Ghosn said.

Nissan will be able to produce more than 1 million cars a year in China in 2012, based on two shifts at its Huadu, Xiangfang and Zhengzhou plants, and will expand its capacity further in line with market growth. Its intention is to grow market share from 6% today to 10% as soon as possible, Ghosn said.

The Alliance plant in Chennai, India, has started production with a 200,000-unit capacity and plans to increase to 400,000 units at full ramp-up in order to supply the Indian market and to export to more than 100 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It is also partnering with Ashok Leyland to start LCV production and with Bajaj for an Alliance ultra-low-cost car.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vienna Motor Symposium Shows Off FEV LiiON Vehicle With Wankel Range Extender

The FEV Li Ion Drive Plug-in Hybrid

FEV Motorentechnik GmbH (FEV) featured its LiiOn Drive with Wankel Range Extender Vehicle at this year’s Vienna Motor Symposium, 29-30 April, where it was one of the most popular Ride & Drive vehicles. Earlier, at the SAE 2009 World Congress, FEV had displayed a 295 cc Wankel genset for extended range electric vehicles.

The FEV LiiON Drive is based on a Fiat 500, equipped with a 12 kWh battery pack mounted under the floor and a permanent magnet synchronous motor with 60 kW peak power. The vehicle can accelerate to 60 km/h (37 mph) in less than 6 seconds, and top speed is higher than 120 km/h (75 mph). Urban use of the vehicle results in an almost emission-free operation with a range of 50 miles. The 20 kW Wankel Range Extender provides up to 190 miles (306 km) of extended range, with 80 g/mile of CO2 emissions.

Powertrain elements. Click to enlarge. Power electronics. Click to enlarge.

While the vehicle shown in Vienna is a concept, the electric vehicle LiiON Drive with Wankel Range Extender is licensed for public road traffic.

FEV developed the Wankel Range Extender in cooperation with the Wankel engine production supplier AIXRO. The basic powertrain has been comprehensively revised for automotive use. Modern engine management with electronic throttle, inlet pipe injection and three-way catalyst ensure that the exhaust gas emission limits will be met. The heating and temperature preservation strategy of the catalyst has been specifically adapted.

An FEV assessment of the properties of different range extender modules. Click to enlarge.

The partially encapsulated Wankel Range Extender was mounted in the position of the fuel tank, which had been reduced to a capacity of 12L. The engine, which is inertia force-free by design, together with careful tuning of the thermodynamics, yields an excellent, previously unparalleled NVH behavior. All test drivers acknowledged this feature specifically.

The positive response to the FEV concept, which was chosen for the first E-Car Tech Award in 2009, provides further validation among the international powertrain community of the vehicle’s potential, FEV says.

We definitely want one of these great commuters!

Source: Green Car Congress

Waiting for a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt? What about the Wheego EV?

The Wheego Whip EV

The first battery electric car (besides the Tesla) on the U.S. market may not be the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt or Coda sedan — it could be the Wheego Whip Life. You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of it, but Atlanta-based Wheego has been quietly turning its local-only Wheego Whip into a highway-capable car, and if crash testing (and fund raising) goes well, the Life could be on the market by August. Its main challenge will be finding buyers at a price point equal to more established brands entering the market slightly later.

According to its SEC filing, Wheego is seeking to sell equity and raise $5 million. That money, which the company hopes will be in new investment from clean tech funds, will cover the cost of producing the first batch of approximately 200 cars, CEO Mike McQuary told me in an interview. “We need investors to take us across the finish line,” he said. “We were a risky proposition three years ago, but now we’re on the home stretch.” McQuary talked to The Deal about the company’s finances last October:

Wheego is hardly an auto industry monolith: A 2009 spinoff of Ruff and Tuff Vehicles (which makes electric ATVs) it has just five full-time employees, and contracts out its major services, including the car’s body and chassis (which started life as the conventionally powered Shaunghuan Noble), the batteries (from California’s Flux Power) and assembly (Hi Power in Ontario, California). Operating from a small office building in Atlanta, it can’t be accused of loading on the overhead, and that’s one reason it’s looking for only $5 million (and not 10 times that much).

While the company is beating the bushes for tech funding, McQuary said, the two-seat car will be put through crucial crash tests in Wisconsin. “We’re going to put some metal against concrete and see what happens,” McQuary said. “We did well in computer simulation at the University of Maryland, but in the real world things happen that you couldn’t have foreseen, no matter how much simulation you do.”

McQuary is a car executive by way of the computer industry — he guided Internet provider Mindspring through its merger with EarthLink (which became the second-largest ISP) in 1999, then founded a record company (Brash Music, also in that Atlanta building). He has diverse interests, but seems determined to make the Whip Life an early contender in the EV sweepstakes.

Chinese manufacturers are great copyists, and Shuanghuan was accused of ripping off the Smart car for its design. But the Chinese company won that suit in a Greek court, which said that “an informed buyer” would not confuse the Noble and the Smart fortwo. “The geometry is similar,” McQuary said, “but there are dramatic differences — our car is a lot bigger.” The Whip Life has a 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, a 60-horsepower electric motor made in Wisconsin by Leeson, 80 to 90 miles of range, and a top speed of 67 mph.

The Life will sell for $33,500, which makes it slightly more expensive than the five-seat Nissan Leaf. Wheego will have to work hard to make its car a better proposition than the Leaf, which is already benefiting from television advertising. Being on the market first might help. Like the Leaf, the Life will be cheapest in California ($21,000) because a $5,000 cash rebate there joins a $7,500 federal income tax credit. “Those subsidies and the ability to drive alone in the HOV lane will drive sales for us in California,” McQuary said.

The company, which has sold 250 of the $19,000 low-speed version of the Whip (half in Oklahoma, which offers lucrative subsidies) hopes to sell 2,000 full-speed cars in 2011. McQuary says the company will be profitable if it can reach that goal.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Ford Introducing Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid C-MAX Models in Europe in 2013

Ford C-Max Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid

Great news for Ford consumers in Europe. Question is, "When will the US see these vehicles?" Especially interesting is the plug-in hybrid model.

From Green Car Congress:

Ford’s Valencia plant in Spain will build the company’s first hybrid models for European customers with two advanced technology derivatives of the new Ford C-MAX compact multi-activity model to be launched in 2013: a full Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), and a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).

Ford said that the reason for building both full HEV and PHEV versions of the five-seat Ford C-MAX is to provide customers with greater choice to suit their specific driving and living environments.

Valencia was confirmed in 2009 as the European single source for all versions of the all-new Ford C-MAX and Grand C-MAX which launch later this year, and which feature a range of new Ford EcoBoost gasoline and Duratorq TDCi diesel engines. As part of the company’s global sourcing strategy, the Valencia Plant also will produce the seven-seat version of the C-MAX for export to North America beginning in late 2011.

Total investment in the new Ford C-MAX program in Spain over the next three years, including the hybrid models, is almost $410 million (€320 million). Investment in the hybrid program is expected to be up to $36 million (€28 million). The Spanish government and Valencia regional administration are providing the highest grant support in line with European Union requirements. The exact amount of this support will be determined at a later date.

Ford has committed to introduce five Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) and Hybrid models in Europe by 2013. The C-MAX HEV and PHEV models will join the full battery-electric Ford Transit Connect, already announced for 2011, and a battery-electric derivative of the next-generation Ford Focus, due in 2012. The fifth vehicle will also be a hybrid-electric model and will be announced at a later time.

The new five-seat Ford C-MAX and seven-seat Grand C-MAX models are the first of at least ten new models or derivatives that the company will launch around the world based on its new global C-segment platform.

Ford’s new generation of C-segment vehicles will be sold in more than 120 markets and are intended to account for more than two million units annually. The C-segment accounts for one-in-four cars sold worldwide today and, in conjunction with the B-segment, is expected to rise to 50% of all cars sold globally by 2013.

Think Survey Finds Potential EV Customers Would Trade Range for Price

Think City All-Electric Vehicle

Electric car maker THINK released results of a customer survey that found that 50% of potential EV buyers responding would be willing to accept 70-80 miles range if it reduced the cost of the vehicle by $5,000. The online survey was conducted by a team of MBA students from University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

One hundred miles range has long been considered a customer requirement for full-functioning, highway-capable electric vehicles.

The survey also indicated that potential electric vehicle customers would be willing to pay more for extended range. Fifty-five percent of the respondents indicated that they would pay a $5,000 premium for an electric vehicle with 150-160 mile range. Only 9% of potential customers said they were interested in reducing their range below 50 miles for a greater discount.

Offering different sizes of batteries for different customers is an intriguing idea. Customer support for it will likely grow as fast charging technology becomes more widespread.

—Richard Canny, THINK CEO

The THINK City electric car, being sold in Europe today and coming to the United States later this year, has a range of 100 miles on a single charge. The company announced in January that it was working with AeroVironment, a leading developer and supplier of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to promote fast changing project using AV’s level III fast-charge system and the THINK City electric vehicle.

A total of 367 consumers completed the survey.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Coda Automotive Considers Three States For Its Battery Plant

Coda Automotive EV Sedan

Electric vehicle maker Coda Automotive is looking at sites in Ohio, California and North Carolina for a new battery plant that will supply its Coda electric sedan, according to The Columbus Dispatch newspaper.

Coda CEO Kevin Czinger told the Ohio newspaper that the company expects to decide on a location in the next month. Coda has been looking for a site for about four months.

“We have not yet made a decision regarding where our manufacturing plant will be and we are actively in discussions with several states,” Coda spokesman Forrest Beanum said in an e-mail Friday to Automotive News. “We do expect to make a decision in the very near future.”

Coda, of Santa Monica, Calif., plans a two-stage assembly process. The Coda sedan’s body will first be assembled in China. Then installation of the batteries and other drive components would take place in the United States, according to the Dispatch.

The battery plant initially would produce about 20,000 battery packs per year.

The company estimates it will produce 15,000 vehicles next year, primarily for corporate fleets and for use as commuter cars.

Prototypes of the Coda sedan, with a range of 120 miles per charge, will be available to test drive in California this summer. Retail sales will begin shortly afterward.

Coda has raised roughly $400 million in capital: $100 million from investors and about $300 million in credit, Czinger told the newspaper. Coda spun off from Miles Electric, a maker of low-speed vehicles, last year.

Researchers Develop Higher Performance Li-Ion Electrode Materials Using Ultracentrifugal Processing

From Green Car Congress:

Researchers at the Naoi Laboratory at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have used an in situ sol-gel process induced by ultra-centrifugal mechanical agitation to add an active material inside carbon for use as electrode materials in lithium-ion batteries to improve performance.

The ultracentrifugal processing technology was developed by K&W, a venture firm spun off from the university. The Naoi Lab earlier used the ultracentrifugal (>75000 N) technology to develop a Li-ion capacitor with a negative electrode made from CNFs and lithium titanate (Li4Ti5O12, LTO).

Researchers used the technique to add lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) to hollow carbon and to carbon nanofibers—resulting in materials called the “ground cherry type” and “podded pea type” respectively.

In a discharge of 60C, the specific capacities of the ground cherry type and the podded pea type are 131 mAh/g and 113 mAh/g, respectively. The advantage of the ground cherry type is that it has a high performance at a high output and it can be made by using commercially-available carbon black. The podded pea type, on the other hand, has a high specific gravity, making it easy to enhance the energy density.

For an anode material, the researchers incorporated tin oxide (SnO2) in carbon. Tin oxide is a promising anode material offering increased capacity, but suffers from a short lifecycle due to volumetric changes during charge and discharge.

When a cell was made by using the negative-electrode material and a positive-electrode material using lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), its specific capacity was 693 mAh/g after 800 cycles, showing no sign of capacity degradation, the university said.

“We found that the ultracentrifugal processing technology enables to add a variety of active materials inside carbon and enhance the performance,” said Kenji Tamamitsu, chief of the Functionality Materials Lab at the Basic Research Headquarters of Nippon Chemi-Con. “We would like to utilize it for battery materials in the future.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

Coda Automotive Breaks the Mold On Traditional Car Manufacturing And Sales

The Coda EV Sedan

From The Columbus Dispatch:

Coda Automotive is proposing more than just a new technology for cars. The company has a new business model for manufacturing and selling its all-electric sedan.

Kevin Czinger, Coda's CEO, presented his plan yesterday at Moving Ahead 2010, a conference at Ohio State University about the future of transportation.

Although his company is based in southern California, he is considering central Ohio for a battery plant. That possibility, and the 1,000 jobs that would come with it, has led to an aggressive marketing effort by state and local leaders.

"We are looking at this not as a new-car-model introduction, but as a new-technology introduction," Czinger said, speaking to several hundred academics and industry leaders.

The new technology is a lithium-ion battery that provides enough power to allow the sedan to exceed 120 miles on a charge.

All the processes surrounding the battery are set up for flexibility and low cost, he said.

The vehicle's body will be assembled in China at a leased plant. The partially built car will be shipped to California for final assembly.

This approach means the company won't need to pay to open an assembly plant, reducing startup costs.

At first, the sedan will be for sale only in California. And this won't be a typical auto dealership. The company plans to have a single store in Los Angeles County, plus seven other locations across the state where customers can go for test drives.

Instead of a service department, Coda will contract with Firestone to have technicians trained to do warranty work at 75 Firestone retail locations.

The cars will have a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty on all components and an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the battery.

Much like the plan for manufacturing, the retail model has a very low cost and will allow the company to slowly ramp up sales.

Czinger used the analogy of the "Genius Bar" at Apple retail stores, where experts help customers in a low-pressure environment.

The company hasn't determined the vehicle's cost, although preliminary estimates are in the $30,000 to $35,000 range. During the next five years, Coda hopes to push the price below $30,000 and get a longer mileage range on a single charge of the battery.

Initially, the market for electric cars will be a small number of early adopters, Czinger said. The cars will be used mainly for commuting and for corporate fleets; production next year is estimated at 15,000 vehicles.

Within five years, though, Czinger hopes to make inroads in the larger market.

Czinger is a Cleveland-area native. He previously worked for Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, and Bertelsmann AG, a media company.

Coda started last year, after several years as part of Miles Electric Vehicles, a maker of low-speed vehicles.

All-electric vehicles are one of several technologies looking to gain traction with customers.

Jerry Hutton, director of the Hocking College Energy Institute in Logan, thinks that the cost of gasoline will ultimately decide how quickly the market grows for these alternatives.

"The only green that people worry about is the green in their pocket," he said.

Hutton sees all-electric vehicles as one of several appealing prospects; others are vehicles that run on natural gas and gasoline-electric hybrids.

Coda executives have said they plan to decide in the next month where to build their battery plant. The company is also considering sites in California and North Carolina.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nissan Leaf Battery Pack Reportedly Costs $9,000 US

Nissan Leaf Battery Pack

It is being reported that the Nissan Leaf lithium ion battery pack costs $9,000. Since the entire pack has a capacity of 24 kWh's, the price per kWh is $9,000 / 24 = $375. We were not supposed to see these low figures until 2015 or thereabouts. It was estimated ten years ago that mass producing NiMH batteries (like the ones used in the Toyota Rav4 EV) would equate to $250 per kWh. At these prices, the Federal Tax rebate alone can pay for the battery pack, which makes the EV comparable in price to similiarly sized internal combustion vehicles.

The Times Online claims that the LEAF battery pack costs about £6,000 British to build. At today’s exchange rates, this equates to roughly $9,000 US dollars. To give you an idea of just how low this figure is, a few years ago prices of $1,000 per kWh were being bandied around. Today, the industry average is about $650 per kWh. Industry analysts have said that they expect battery prices to drop faster than previously thought, but that it would still likely be 2015/2016 before battery prices were $325 per kWh. If Nissan’s battery is being built for $375 per kWh now, that means Nissan is about 5 years ahead of the industry average.

The more batteries they make, the faster the price will drop as the economies of scale kick in. We feel that if the auto companies build them, the customers will come.

Source: Gas2.0

French Government to Order 50,000 Electric Vehicles

The All-Electric Fluence Z.E.

These are the headlines that truly make a difference. The French Government is making a huge statement by putting their money where their mouth is. Instead of droning on about the need for alternate energy transportation, the French are kick-starting the industry by placing this massive order. The United States should take note and then order 100,000 vehicles! I would much rather see Congress spend a trillion on making its fleet run on electricity rather than bail out evil banking institutions.

From Gas2.0:

The objective of a government is to lead, though the exact definition of “leading” has always been up for subjective interpretation. Whether that means leading in an Orwellian sense, by controlling every aspect of your life, or by simply providing the bare necessities to stave off anarchy, government is essential on at least some level. Personally, I think if the government expects the citizenry to act responsibly, they should lead by example.

So I give big props to the French government, something I rarely do. The French government has announced that it will purchase an astounding 50,000 electric vehicles for government fleet use over the next few years. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.

Actually, they haven’t really put any money on the table yet for these cars, so I’m jumping the gun a bit. And it isn’t like France is the first government to announce such support for electric vehicles. Plenty of governments are going out of their way to make buying an electric car easier on the wallet. Here in the U.S. we have a $7,500 tax credit for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, as well as state incentives. Ireland is providing a tax credit of its own, placing lots of charging points across the country, and placing a sizable order of electric vehicles itself. But France seems to want to take the lead on electric vehicles, and is working with 20 corporations to fill out its order form.

I expect most of the electric vehicles will come from the Renault-Nissan alliance. After all, Renault is a French company, and Renault-Nissan already announced deals with other countries like Ireland. Still, 50,000 electric vehicles would replace a large chunk of the French government’s fleet, and while the intial cost might be staggering, I think France will find more than enough money saved on maintenance and fuel. They are also offering a $6,600 tax credit for electric vehicle buyers through 2012. I just hope France plans on installing enough charging points to handle the extra burden of electric cars.

Let’s just hope France follows through on this commitment. It might convince more than a few fence sitters that electric is the way to go.