Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cadillac likely to approve flagship, more hybrid models

According to The Detroit Bureau, Cadillac is aiming to produce a new high-end flagship on the massive Omega platform. The news comes in the wake of the exuberant public reaction to the company's Ciel Concept, and General Motors says that a hard-top version of the lengthy convertible is already in the works. We may see that concept in as little as a few months. While General Motors is being fairly tight-lipped about the vehicle's actual production schedule, The Detroit Bureau reports that the new Omega may land in dealerships by 2015 at the latest.

But that's not the only news from Cadillac. The company has also made it clear that buyers can expect to be able to snap up a range of hybrid vehicles from the luxury automaker. While that includes efforts like the upcoming Volt-based ELR, the brand intends to flex its tech muscles with multiple hybrid technologies in the near future. The Detroit Bureau hypothesizes that Cadillac may dabble in incredibly efficient vehicles as well as high-performance hybrids similar to what Porsche is currently producing.

Source: Autoblog Green

Siemens and Volvo Car Corporation launch electric mobility partnership

The permanent magnet synchronous motor from Siemens has its first application in the Volvo C 30 Electric. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Corporation and Siemens intend to jointly advance the technical development of electric cars through an extensive strategic cooperation. The focus is on the joint development of electrical drive technology, power electronics and charging technology as well as the integration of those systems into Volvo C30 Electric vehicles.

The first electric cars of this model fitted with Siemens electric motors will be on the test tracks as early as the end of this year. Beginning in late 2012, the Swedish carmaker will deliver a test series of up to 200 vehicles to Siemens, which will then be tested and validated under real-life conditions as part of a Siemens internal test fleet.

Drive and motor frame. Click to enlarge.

Siemens is developing a scalable product family of permanent magnet and asynchronous motors for electric vehicles with continuous power rating from 30–80 kW. The Siemens electric motors developed for Volvo have a peak power output of 108 kW (62 kW continuous) with a rated torque of 119 N·m (88 lb-ft) and maximum torque of 220 N·m (162 lb-ft). The motor weighs 50 kg, and is packaged in a specially developed, crash-tested frame with the transmission—a compact, single-stage planetary gear from Getrag with differential and drive shaft through the hollow shaft—and inverter in front of the vehicle.

The Siemens inverters for automotive applications are compatible with all permanent magnet and asynchronous motor types. They are scalable for different power classes up to 80 kW at 400 V. Click to enlarge.

The inverter design will be jointly optimized to meet all safety requirements in an automotive application. In addition, Siemens will provide efficient and fast on-board and off-board charging systems.

The partnership gives Siemens the chance to extend its industrial leadership in electric drive technology into the automotive market, while Volvo will be relying on proven and efficient Siemens technology for the electrification of its future vehicles.

Cooperation with Volvo is an important milestone in the development of top-quality components and systems for electric cars subsequently intended for series production. It is our long-term goal to establish Siemens as a global system provider both inside and outside of electric vehicles. We see ourselves as a comprehensive electric mobility pioneer.

—Siegfried Russwurm, Siemens Board member and CEO of the Siemens Industry Sector

Volvo Car Corporation starts small-scale production of the Volvo C30 Electric this year, and next year the company will start selling the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid.

This means that we are moving from prototypes and small volumes towards series production, starting with the plug-in hybrid. Our upcoming new Scalable Platform Architecture paves the way for electrification throughout our model range.

—Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO at Volvo Car Corporation

Source: Green Car Congress

Ford unveiling Evos Concept with cloud-optimized plug-in hybrid powertrain at Frankfurt show; previews new global design language

The Ford Evos Concept previews a new global design language for the next generation of Ford cars, MAVs and CUVs. Click to enlarge.

Ford will unveil the Ford Evos Concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The company said the four-door, four-seat fastback concept with plug-in hybrid powertrain previews its new global design language, while exploring key future powertrain and vehicle technologies.

Ford’s global Research and Innovation team, led by Paul Mascarenas, was tasked with building Evos Concept around an advanced technology experience that exploits a new generation of driver interaction and awareness currently under development in the Ford Research and Innovation laboratories. Seamless connectivity between the vehicle and the driver’s “personal cloud” of information is at the heart of the vision for its capabilities.

With information from the cloud, the vehicle can provide the same connected lifestyle the driver experiences at home or office. The car knows the driver, and automatically adapts handling, steering and engine controls to deliver an exceptionally dynamic driving experience.

Ford researchers are focusing their efforts in this area to deliver on four key customer benefits: personalization; seamless enhancement of the driving experience; looking after the driver’s well-being; and delivering smart electrified powertrain optimization.

Cloud-optimized hybrid powertrain. The Ford Evos Concept is equipped with a lithium-ion plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain providing the same performance and fuel economy as the Ford C-MAX Energi scheduled for introduction in North America in 2012 and Europe in 2013. The Ford powersplit hybrid architecture allows the electric motor and gasoline engine to work together or separately to maximize efficiency. The advanced powertrain typically runs in all-electric mode before switching to charge-sustaining hybrid mode for continued optimal fuel efficiency.

Cloud connectivity would provide further opportunities to enhance performance and efficiency by selecting the optimum combination of powertrain modes for any given journey.

Access to historical driver behavior and travel patterns allows us to calculate the optimal fuel and energy efficiency by predicting the destination. Our researchers are working to increase understanding of driver behavior, develop accurate protocols to predict it and enhance the trip by providing the smartest use of fuel or battery for the situation.

—Paul Mascarenas

The cloud-optimized powertrain would automatically ‘know’ when to save energy and switch modes, using information about the vehicle’s predicted travel route, any emission zone restrictions during the journey and current weather conditions.

In the future, communities may place firm restrictions on the types of vehicles allowed to use certain roads or highway lanes, and some city centers may choose to be open only to full electric vehicles. Helping drivers comply with such regulations could therefore be among the benefits of this technology. For example, the French government is considering creating zones mandating lower emissions, while cities such as London, Berlin, and Stockholm already have them in place.

This capability would further enhance the performance of Ford’s advanced PHEV technology, which offers an overall driving range of more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) using the battery and engine.

The other customer benefits of Ford’s approach include:

  • The personalized, cloud-connected lifestyle. While today’s Ford products provide drivers with many personalization options, cloud connectivity will enable future Ford vehicles to take the experience to the next level. Drawing from a detailed understanding of the driver’s preferences and driving habits, the Ford Evos Concept combines this personal information with additional data from the cloud, such as the driver’s work schedule and local traffic or weather conditions. This information provides a personalized and seamless experience as the driver transitions in and out of the car.

  • Enhanced driving experience. Ford Evos Concept explores adaptive vehicle technologies to redefine the driving experience. Current technology requires vehicle chassis settings to be defined based upon the abilities and tastes of a cross-section of drivers and the topography of typical roads. The concept foresees tuning handling and performance to the road ahead and the specific individual behind the wheel.

    Learning driver habits and capabilities, the technology can overlay map and weather data sourced from the cloud to adjust powertrain, steering, suspension and braking systems for optimum enjoyment, comfort and safety. Because the vehicle is adaptive and honed to maximum performance based on the situation, it takes driving engagement to a new level.

  • Driver wellness. Ford researchers have already developed technologies focused on driver wellness, such as the heart-rate monitoring seat and certified allergy-free interiors. With a seamless connection to the cloud, the Ford Evos Concept monitors the physical state and workload of the driver and adjusts the driving experience accordingly.

    The Ford Evos Concept is also equipped with advanced air quality sensors and filtration systems to help allergy sufferers. Location aware, it can access air quality data from the cloud and proactively suggest a healthier route to the destination.

    In dynamic driving situations, the vehicle may simplify the appearance of the instrument panel to display only necessary gauge information and switch the driver’s connected smartphone to “Do Not Disturb” mode to help keep the focus of attention on the road.

Ford’s new design direction. The Ford Evos Concept was specifically developed to introduce the new Ford design direction. Key design elements will be applied to forthcoming Ford vehicles.

With Ford Evos Concept is the length of a typical C-car, but with the width of a CD-car. The forward position of the cowl, the strongly rounded front screen and the A-pillars set further to the rear enabled the designers to create the impression of a classic GT car, but with a contemporary feel. The concept’s hinged gullwing-style doors, both front and rear, provide access to the four-seat cabin.

The concept car measures 4.50m (177in) long, 1.97m (77in) wide and 1.36m (53in) high, with a wheelbase of 2.74m (108in).

The Ford Evos Concept unites three key elements which are at the core of our One Ford global product strategy: outstanding design, smart technologies and fuel economy leadership. With its compelling design and innovative technology experience, this is a clear demonstration of the exciting vision we have for the Ford brand. While you will never see this car on the road, the next generation of Ford products around the world will display many of the distinctive design ideas and advanced technologies it showcases.

—Derrick Kuzak, group vice president of Global Product Development

Source: Green Car Congress

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Subtle Changes For the 2012 Chevrolet Volt

A few questions have been asked about what changes have been made to the Chevrolet VOLT for 2012. The documentation sent to the dealerships has everything spelled out in text, but uses the same photos from the 2011 model.

The first 2012 VOLT arrived at our dealership this past Thursday. My customer had ordered a 2011 VOLT on Feb. 20, and sadly we could not get the additional allocation. Thankfully, he was very patient and we rolled it over to a 2012. We scheduled a delivery time for Friday at 5 pm. Our service department and detailers did not finish the pre-delivery inspection and detailing of the car until 4:30, so I had very little time to go over the car myself to see what has actually changed.

Below are a few photos followed by the “Official List” of changes and the “What’s New” pdf that I received.

New passive reflectors this year.

Someone posted the question a few days ago about the tail light having additional white squares on them. This was the first thing I checked out. Using the brakes and the turn signals, I found that these white squares are merely “passive reflectors.”

When the turn signals or brakes are used, the red light shines straight through them. But, when the car is parked and just sitting there, they reflect the light better than the old tail light bezels.

Updated door handle.

Next, is the Standard Keyless Access. The surprising part here is that the new push-button appears on all four doors! That I did not expect. The button is chrome, not body-colored, so it is easy to spot. With the key fob in your pocket or purse, when you approach the car, pushing the button once unlocks the driver’s door. A second time unlocks the remaining doors and the rear hatch.

New icons.

The Driver Display Screen has a couple of new icons. In the bottom-left under the “Total Range” readout is a green icon of a car and the word “READY.”

The documentation sent to us does not explain why this was added, but it was briefly mentioned in a training video that is is there to let you know the car is ready to operate. I do not know if a similar or different-colored icon appears if it were “NOT READY” …

Also, there is a new icon for “Navigation.” Again the documentation does not go into detail about this selection, but it was mentioned in the training video that when the “OnStar Turn-By-Turn-Navigation” is used, selecting this on the driver’s display will show the nav system instructions in that small area of the screen.

Yellow back-lit PRNDL display is new this year.

Another welcome improvement is on the center console next to the gear selector. In addition to the PRNDL that is shown in the upper-right of the driver’s display, there are backlit PRNDL letters in the center console itself. The letters are back lit in yellow for the chosen gear.

Improved clarity here too.

My favorite improvement is to the clarity and size of the text on the touch-panel center stack. The labels are slightly larger and much crisper than on last year’s car. They are very easy to read now and you don’t have to squint at them to read them even in bright daylight. I did not have the chance to check them out at night, but I would guess that there is an improvement there also.

Energy in kWh used is shown.

On the centerstack screen for “Energy Info” the display now shows “kWh used” for this charge. I know that many of you have posted that this calculation is far more informative than “Total Miles”. It still shows “250+ mpg” on the right, and the Lifetime MPG calculation on the bottom-right.

Eco-minded hooligans take note: Could this be an On/Off capability for traction control?

And finally, on the overhead console there is a new button for “Traction Control On/Off.” This may be the most “FUN” addition to the VOLT !!! In the 2011 Owner’s Manual, Page 1-23, it states “The Traction Control System limits wheelspin. The system turns on automatically every time the vehicle is on and cannot be turned off.”

Get ready fans!!! Now you CAN TURN IT OFF, and smoke your tires with the best of them! I do not have a copy of the 2012 owner’s manual yet to fully confirm this, but what other reason would there be to add a button to turn the dang thing off?

Well, that is all I could find in the very short time I had with a 2012 VOLT. In addition to the 11 remaining orders that we have taken so far that need to be filled, we just ordered a Summit White VOLT, with all of the options, to put in our showroom for sale. We hope to have it by Thanksgiving.


NASCAR Stars Go Green in Their Chevrolet Volts - VIDEO

A couple NASCAR drivers relate their experiences with the Chevrolet Volt:

Hertz and Marriott Announce EV Car-Sharing Partnership; San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront and Downtown San Francisco First Launch locales


Hertz (NYSE: HTZ) and Marriott introduce electric-vehicle (EV) car sharing at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront and the first EV car rental program in downtown San Francisco. This new, cutting-edge hotel amenity enables guests and local area residents to drive a wide range of new EV models made available on an hourly or daily basis through Hertz On Demand car sharing. EVs are available at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront 24/7 with Hertz self-service technology enabling guests and area residents the luxury of signing up for Hertz On Demand car sharing on the spot and using an EV immediately. In addition, Hertz is the first car rental company to introduce EVs into its downtown San Francisco fleet which can be rented from Hertz Rent A Car's Mason Street Location.

"Hertz is excited to partner with Marriott to bring EVs to car rental customers in the city of San Francisco," commented Mark P. Frissora, Hertz chairman and CEO. "Hertz has a 30-year relationship with Marriott and we can be found in more than 100 Marriott hotels nationwide. There is a strong appetite for EVs in San Francisco and residents have proven to be early adopters of this new mobility solution. Introducing EVs into San Francisco ushers in a new, exciting chapter in our relationship as we bring the cars of tomorrow to consumers today."

According to Clif Clark, general manager of the San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel, "The hotel recently installed two EV charging stations that can fully charge an electric vehicle in three to four hours. Additionally, we are the first Marriott hotel to enter into a car-sharing agreement with Hertz, which enables us to have dedicated electric vehicles available for guests, associates or general public use."

Hertz is the first car-rental company to deploy EVs and PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric) in both the U.S. (available to the public in New York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco) and the U.K. (available in London.) As the world's largest airport general-use car-rental brand, Hertz is introducing multiple groups of consumers -- urban drivers, university students, travelers and corporations -- to all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. As a result, the company is forming partnerships with automakers, charging-station providers (e.g., GE), municipalities, non-governmental organizations, corporations and other stakeholders like the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront to make EVs easily accessible to consumers.

To reward consumers for embracing the economic savings and positive environmental impact of electric vehicles, the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront will offer free valet parking and a free car charge for an electric vehicle when dining in Flights 101 lounge or Hangar Steak restaurant, or when staying overnight. Additionally, the hotel and Hertz's Mason Street location will have a series of electric vehicles available for hourly rental ranging in price from $6 to $8. Customers will be able to join Hertz On Demand car sharing for free at the hotel and Mason Street location -- or via any Internet browser -- then reserve the dedicated EVs (Nissan Leaf, EV Smart Car, and later Chevy Volt) at their convenience on a first-come, first-served basis.

The San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront is located in Burlingame, Calif., just minutes from the SFO International Airport, overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The waterfront hotel features 685 guestrooms and 24 suites. Guests can enjoy a meal before a long flight at the hotel's Hangar Steak restaurant or sip a cocktail in the Flights 101 Lounge overlooking the water. For additional information, visit or call 650-692-9100.

Marriott Hotels & Resorts is Marriott International's signature and most widely distributed brand, with more than 500 hotels and resorts in 54 countries. Marriott continues to inspire performance and a balanced life on the road for discerning and high-achieving business and leisure travelers, offering warm, professional service; sophisticated yet functional guest room design; lobby spaces that facilitate working, dining and socializing; restaurants and bars serving international cuisine prepared simply and from the freshest ingredients; meeting and event spaces and services that are gold standard; and expansive, 24-hour fitness facilities. All Marriott hotels participate in the award winning Marriott Rewards frequent travel program that allows members to earn hotel points or airline miles for every dollar spent during each stay. For more information, visit Follow Marriott Hotels & Resorts on Twitter at

Visit Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE: MAR) for company information. For more information or reservations, please visit our web site at, and for the latest company news, visit

About Hertz

Hertz is the largest worldwide airport general use car rental brand operating from more than 8,500 locations in 146 countries worldwide. Hertz is the number one airport car rental brand in the U.S. and at 83 major airports in Europe, operating both corporate and licensee locations in cities and airports in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The Company also operates the Advantage car rental brand at 26 airports in the U.S. In addition, Hertz operates one of the world's largest equipment rental businesses, Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation, offering a diverse line of rental equipment, including tools and supplies, and new and used equipment for sale from approximately 325 branches in the United States, Canada, China, France, Italy, Spain and Saudi Arabia.

RøhneSelmer in Norway places early repeat order for 100 more Transit Connect Electric vans

Azure Dynamics Corporation announced that its Norwegian Ford dealership, RøhneSelmer, has signed an order for an additional 100 Transit Connect Electric vans. RøhneSelmer’s original order in March was for 58 units for various clients, among them Norway Post (Posten Norge AS).

We sold 50 Transit Connect Electric vans before the first unit was delivered to us and we’re confident we’ll sell many, many more the remainder of this year and beyond. It’s the right product for today’s Norwegian market.

— Anders Gadsboll, Sales Director of RøhneSelmer

With a 28 kWh battery pack, Transit Connect Electric has a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) and a range of up to 130 km (80 miles) on a full charge. Transit Connect Electric can be recharged using standard European 220-volt outlets in approximately eight hours.

Transit Connect Electric is operating on a global stage and this early repeat order from RøhneSelmer is further validation of the value it brings to customers like Norway Post and others with shorter delivery routes and frequent stop and go driving conditions.

—Scott Harrison, Azure’s CEO

The Transit Connect Electric went into production in Europe in June this year following its production launch in North America in April, 2011.

Source: Green Car Congress



Accelerated timing responds to "visionary" state and municipal initiatives, investments
Today, Nissan Americas officials joined Gov. Pat Quinn and representatives from the City of Chicago to announce the Illinois rollout of the all-electric Nissan LEAF for this fall. Nissan has accelerated the launch of Nissan LEAF in Illinois in response to strong consumer demand and supported by plans that include an extensive electric car charging network in Chicago and surrounding suburbs in the coming year.

"Governor Quinn, Mayor Emmanuel and other visionary Chicago-area leaders have paved the way for mass market adoption of electric cars in their community," said Scott Becker, senior vice president, Administration and Finance, Nissan Americas. "Chicagoland consumers want a transportation solution that uses no gas and produces no emissions, and the introduction of the Nissan LEAF to Illinois makes that a reality."

In February, Gov. Quinn announced an investment of $1 million in capital funding to install state-of-the-art charging infrastructure for electric cars throughout the Chicagoland area, matching an additional $1 million in Clean Cities Grant funding secured by the City of Chicago. In total, the project will result in a network of 280 electric vehicle charging stations. Illinois also offers up to $4,000 in rebates after the purchase of electric and alternative technology vehicles – in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit – making Nissan LEAF even more affordable to Illinois residents.

"Illinois is laying the groundwork for electric vehicles, and our efforts are paying off," Gov. Quinn said. "By investing in electric vehicle technology, both the State of Illinois and Nissan are making transportation in our state more efficient, sustainable and affordable."

"Nissan's entry into the Chicago market is exactly what the city had in mind when we developed our EV infrastructure plan," said Karen Weigert, Chicago's Chief Sustainability Officer. "With the 40 Level 2 charging stations to date already installed, Chicago is well on its way to having the most robust EV infrastructure in the nation."

The City of Chicago working with 350Green helped spearhead an aggressive EV infrastructure plan that called for 73 DC quick-charging stations and 207 Level 2 stations to be installed at public parking garages, grocery stores, tollway oases, etc. by the end of 2011. Thus far, 40 stations have been installed and, when complete, the system will provide the Chicagoland area with the most extensive infrastructure for electric vehicles in the U.S.

Nissan LEAF

The Nissan LEAF is the first and only 100-percent electric, zero-emission vehicle available to the mass market. Since its launch in December 2010, Nissan has delivered more than 5,000 Nissan LEAF electric vehicles in the United States. The Nissan LEAF currently is available in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas, Oregon and Washington, with Illinois and other additional markets launching later this year. To date, more than 5,000 Nissan LEAFs have been delivered to consumers in the United States, and more than 10,000 globally. Also, more than 350,000 have expressed interest in the Nissan LEAF by signing up for updates, including information on how to purchase and reserve a vehicle, at

About Nissan Americas

In the Americas, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program and was recognized as an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 and 2011. More information on Nissan in North America, the Nissan LEAF and zero emissions can be found at

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peugeot unveiling 508 RXH diesel-electric hybrid and concept HX1 plug-in diesel-electric hybrid at Frankfurt

The 508 RXH diesel-electric hybrid goes on sale in Spring 2012. Click to enlarge.

Peugeot will introduce the 508 RXH diesel-electric hybrid, the third model in the 508 range and the second deployment of the HYbrid4 diesel-electric drivetrain following its release on the 3008 HYbrid4, at the upcoming Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) in September. The model is due to go on sale in Spring 2012.

Peugeot is also staging the worldwide debut of the six-seat multipurpose HX1 plug-in diesel-electric hybrid concept at the show.

508 RXH. The 508 RXH features a combined output of 200 bhp from its front-wheel drive 2.0 HDi FAP diesel engine and electric motor on the rear axle, and offers a choice of four HYbrid4 modes (Automatic, “Zero Emissions Vehicle”, Sport or 4WD) and exceptional fuel economy (4.0 l/100 km (59 mpg US) in the Combined Drive Cycle, and CO2 of 109 g/km).

The maximum combined power can reach 147 kW (200 bhp) by combining the 120 kW (163 bhp) from the 2.0 l diesel and the on-demand peak power of the 27 kW (37 bhp) electric motor. Up to 300 N·m (221 lb-ft) of torque is delivered to the front wheels by the HDi diesel unit and up to 200 N·m (148 lb-ft) to the rear wheels with the electric motor. The maximum combined value is 450 N·m (332 l b-ft) at lower road speeds, providing excellent traction in most driving conditions.

HX1 preview. Click to enlarge.

HX1. The HX1 offers combined output of 299 bhp from the 2.2 liter HDi engine driving the front wheels and its rear axle electric motor. With an all-electric potential range of 30 km (18.6 miles) , the plug-in hybrid offers combined fuel consumption of 3.2 l/100 km (74 mpg US) with CO2 emissions of 83 g/km.

The HX1 mates a 150 kW (204 hp) 2.2 liter HDi diesel, linked to an automatic 6-speed gearbox (the same powertrain as that used on the 508’s range-topping GT version) with a 70 kW (95 bhp) electric motor. The battery pack can be recharged by plugging in to a standard 240 V electric socket.

Source: Green Car Congress

General Motors launches Buick LaCrosse eAssist in China

General Motors launched the Buick LaCrosse with eAssist on August 25. The new model features a 2.4-liter SIDI intelligent direct injection engine along with advanced eAssist intelligent technology (light electrification, which work together to reduce fuel consumption by 20% compared with the standard model. Deliveries to customers will begin in September.

The LaCrosse is a popular member of the Buick family in China. Through the end of July 2011, about 215,000 had been sold nationwide. (By comparison, GM delivered 35,298 units of the LaCrosse in the US from January through the end of July 2011.)

At the heart of the LaCrosse eAssist is a 115V lithium-ion battery and 15kW motor-generator unit, which help increase fuel economy. This provides electricity to charge the battery and electric power assistance during heavy acceleration. The system offers engine start-stop functionality when the vehicle is stopped, the use of electricity instead of gasoline when stopped, aggressive fuel cut-off during deceleration for added fuel savings, and intelligent charge/discharge of the high-voltage battery.

The LaCrosse eAssist also features improved underbody aerodynamics and tires optimized for performance and fuel economy, as well as active control of front-end airflow that improves aerodynamics and engine warm-up.

Active shutters in the lower grille close at higher speeds to push more air over the vehicle, which increases aerodynamic efficiency to enhance fuel economy. All of these technologies improve the vehicle’s efficiency.

The LaCrosse eAssist consumes 5.2 liters of fuel per 100 km (45 mpg US) at a constant 90 km/h (56 mph) and 7.2 liters of fuel per 100 km (33 mpg US) under combined road conditions. It offers a fuel economy improvement of 20% compared with the standard model. In city driving with heavy congestion, fuel economy can increase by more than 30% .

Source: Green Car Congress

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nikkei: Japanese Li-ion battery firms boost R&D to counter aggressive S Koreans

The Nikkei reports that Japanese makers of Li-ion batteries are boosting R&D to bolster their position as lower-cost South Korean rivals threaten to steal a slice of their market.

Japanese manufacturers started developing Li-ion batteries for vehicles in the 1990s and have become world leaders. They are hoping to cash in on the explosive growth expected in the market for such batteries. Techno Systems Research Co., a Tokyo-based market research firm, expects that market to be 54 times bigger in 2020 than it was in 2010. By that year, global sales of lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles are expected to reach 38 billion dollars (3 trillion yen).

...Toshiba, Hitachi and other Japanese makers of Li-ion batteries are striving to develop new, more competitive products because they are feeling the heat from hard-charging South Korean manufacturers. South Korean battery makers are trying to grab bigger chunks of the market by undercutting their Japanese rivals.

...One Japanese manufacturer was recently shocked by the prices offered to automakers by a South Korean supplier, which were one-half to one-third that of similar Japanese products. “A Japanese battery maker would lose money selling at such prices,” said an industry executive.

Volkswagen to invest $1.4 billion in offshore wind farms, other sources of renewable energy

Volkswagen is getting ready to open its pocketbook in a thunderous way. Financial Times Deutschland reports that VW will turn its eye for renewable energy to the sea, wind and sun, joining in on VW group partner Audi's ongoing renewable energy projects.

VW will reportedly dish out two billion euros ($1.4 billion U.S. at the current exchange rate) over the next two years to get more involved with renewable energy. FTD reports that VW will seek out and secure a, "partner for ecological power generation" by year's end and will detail its grand renewable energy plan in the near future.

It's believed that much of VW's renewable energy work will focus on offshore wind farms in the North Sea, with some money set aside for solar and hydropower. This investment should lead to electric automobiles becoming a bit closer to true "zero-emissions" vehicles in some areas of Europe. The timing is good for VW, so, since its electric vehicles won't be here for a few years.

Source: Autoblog Green

Saturday, August 27, 2011

General Motors and LG Group agree to co-develop electric vehicles

Lately we have heard about companies partnering to combat mandated efficiency rules, and yesterday another agreement was announced, this time between General Motors and LG Group with the stated goal to jointly design and engineer electric vehicles.

This is the second agreement between GM and a battery supplier reported in recent weeks. Earlier in August, GM similarly announced a large but unspecified deal with A123 Systems.

The GM-LG news also follows on the heels of yesterday’s report of other American-owned automakers’ partnerships or desired collaborations to share the load in the rapidly changing automotive industry climate.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson and Juno Cho, president and COO of LG Corp sign an agreement to collaborate on the design and creation of new electric vehicles yet to be disclosed.

As GM-Volt readers know, LG Chem is the battery supplier for the Volt and Ampera, but that was just the beginning between the two companies, GM said.

“The success of the extended-range propulsion system in the Volt and Ampera led to exploring other collaborations in the electrification of the automobile,” GM said. “Teams of LG and GM engineers will work on key components, as well as vehicle structures and architectures.”

GM said a definitive agreement was signed Wednesday and described it as win-win. GM gets “LG’s proven expertise” and LG gets a feather in its cap by widening its portfolio as a solutions provider.

“Many solutions for tomorrow’s transportation needs may be available more quickly by building on our partnership strategy,” said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. ”Consumers benefit by getting the latest fuel-saving technology faster if we work with the best suppliers and we save time and money in the development process.”

No money has yet changed hands in relation to this partnership, GM said.

The company is also staying mum about specific vehicles that will be born from this new agreement, saying only that more will be announced closer to market readiness.

Speaking of which, the partnership is expected to augment GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson’s commitment to stay ahead of competitors in the yet nascent, but rapidly expanding electric vehicle development.

Akerson has also said he would like to lower the Volt’s cost both through efficiencies, and better supplier pricing due to economies of scale.

In making its announcement this week, GM noted this is not the first time LG and GM have collaborated to build a vehicle.

Last year the two companies worked together to build a demonstration fleet of electric Chevy Cruzes. These were used during the G20 summit in Seoul as official vehicles, and GM is still “market testing” these BEVS, GM said.

World conditions are demanding world solutions and cooperation as GM also observed.

“Accelerating the pace of roadworthy technology is more important than ever with the announcement of a number of more stringent emission and fuel consumption regulations around the world, including the recent agreement calling for a U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 54.5 mpg (23.2km/l) by the end of the 2025 model year,” GM said. “Electric vehicles, which have no tailpipe emissions and require no gasoline, are expected to play a major role in reaching the CAFE goal.”

As we noted yesterday regarding a Ford-Toyota deal, automakers are not only concerned with domestic mandates in the U.S., but also with creating global platforms and solutions to minimize barriers to acceptance in other markets.

But at this point, GM would not state where the LG/GM vehicles will be sold, and merely said products resulting from the partnership will be marketed in many countries.

We asked GM also if these new vehicles would include eAssist, BEVS, EREVs, hybrids, or what? While GM has said it and LG would develop “electric vehicles” suggesting BEVs or EREVs, GM would not answer this question.

“We cannot give any information on specific technologies,” said GM spokesman Kevin M. Kelly, “nor on which markets the vehicles will be sold in at this time.”


Honda invests $355 million in mpg-increasing wind tunnel, other upgrades at Ohio sites

Honda Motors is making $355 million worth of upgrades at two facilities in Ohio and has opened its first-ever U.S. wind tunnel. The end goal here is to eke out more fuel efficiency gains from vehicles designed, built and sold in North America.

The Ohio projects for the first Japanese automaker to manufacture vehicles in the U.S. include $166 million of improvements to its factory in East Liberty and a $64 million stamping press at its Marysville site, according to Ron Lietzke, spokesman for Honda's assembly division. Honda didn't disclose the cost of the wind tunnel or other specific modifications that will be made to its engineering center in East Liberty.

Lietzke says the upgrades will "improve all our characteristics," even though boosting output is not the main goal. Lietzke did say that, "If we end up increasing production capacity as a result, that's fine."

Honda is refurbishing its factories as it prepares to return to full production in North America next month following parts shortages triggered by Japan's March quake that left the company with only a limited amount of vehicles to sell.

Source: Autoblog Green

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2012 Chevrolet Volt: The Plug-In Hybrid Basics You Need to Know

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt will soon be arriving at Chevrolet dealers nationwide as General Motors makes the plug-in hybrid electric car available to all fifty states before the end of this year.

But on year on from the launch of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, what are the differences between the 2011 and 2012 models?

Here’s our list of things that you need to know about the revised 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

How it works

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is a range-extended plug-in hybrid. Using a small battery pack, it can operate for up to 35 miles in all-electric mode everywhere from city streets through to the freeway.

But when its battery pack is depleted, the Volt’s 1.4 liter gasoline engine kicks in, powering a generator capable of producing up to 55 kilowatts to run its 111kilowatt electric motor for a total range of 379 miles.

The Volt can also be run in ‘mountain mode’ -- allowing the driver to force the Volt to use both gasoline and battery power in situations when the car will be operating under heavy load for many miles.


2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port

As the 2012 Chevrolet Volt is a car which can operate from either electricity or gasoline, its battery pack is a lot smaller than all-electric cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf.

At just 16 kilowatt-hours in size, the Volt’s battery pack can charge from empty in 10 hours or less using a standard 110-volt charging cord plugged into a domestic power outlet, or in around 4 hours using a suitable level 2 J1772 compliant charging station.

Pricing, options

At $39,995, the base-level 2012 Chevrolet Volt is over $1,000 cheaper than the base-level 2011 Volt -- but it has less standard features than its predecessor.

The Satellite navigation and DVD entertainment system featured as standard on the 2011 Volt is now offered as a $1,995 premium option for the 2012 Volt.

Also reduced on the 2012 Chevrolet Volt is the car’s OnStar coverage. Dropped to 3 years complimentary coverage from the 5 years offered with the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, owners of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt will have to pay an additional $299 per year for the additional coverage.

So although the 2012 Volt has a lower base price and larger, more impressive options list than the year before anyone wanting a Volt with the same specifications as the previous year’s $41,000 base model will find themselves shelling out an shattering $43,083.

Driving, handling

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

Although we’ve not driven the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, its driving experience will be identical to the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

We’ve found the Volt to provide a very impressive driving experience thanks to excellent road manners and its T-shaped battery pack providing a very low center of gravity.

Cabin noise is noticeably quiet too -- both with and without the Volt’s range extending gasoline engine running. Part of that is down to the way in which the Volt’s engine works in range-extended mode. Rather than rise and fall with the speed of the car, it operates within a very narrow band of engine speeds -- making it easy for engineers at chevrolet to design acoustic dampening to keep noise minimal inside the cabin.

We also love the Volt’s “Low” setting on its “transmission selector”. Paired with the “Sport” power mode, it’s possible to drive the Chevrolet Volt without really even touching the brake pedal in what we lovingly title “The Volt’s Tesla Setting”.

Source: Autoblog Green

ALTe signs long-term supply agreement with A123 systems for advanced lithium-ion battery packs

ALTe has signed a long-term supply agreement with A123 Systems for complete lithium-ion battery packs to be integrated into ALTe’s range-extended hybrid electric powertrain systems. (Earlier post.) Built on A123’s advanced Nanophosphate technology, the 21.6 kWh packs are designed to deliver high power, greater usable energy, long life and increased safety, forming a critical part of the ALTe powertrain.

The packs will be matched with a four-cylinder engine, electric motors and proprietary controls modules to increase fuel economy by up to 200%.

The ALTe powertrain is targeted toward the light truck market (including full size pickups and vans) with a focus on commercial, government and utility fleets. The system is expected to provide an initial 30 miles (48 km) of driving in an all-electric mode, and an estimated additional 270 miles (435 km) in a charge-sustained mode before the vehicle would need to be either refueled or plugged in.

The A123 battery pack can be charged within an eight-hour timeframe from a 110-volt outlet or in about four hours from a 220-volt outlet. In addition to significant fuel economy savings, the system increases the vehicle’s torque while offering similar cargo capacity, horsepower and towing capability compared to trucks with the original V8 engine. ALTe expects to begin accepting purchase orders by the end of 2011 and plans to start installing its electric powertrain systems in summer 2012.

Earlier this month, ALTe announced it was collaborating with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) to help validate the ALTe powertrain for the fleet industry.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Report: ZEV credit shuffle: Is the Toyota RAV4 EV just here to please CARB?

Toyota RAV4 EV – Click above for high-res image gallery

In early August, we reported that initial sales of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV will be limited to the state of California. That revelation came straight from the mouth of Bob Carter, group vice-president and general manager of Toyota Motor U.S. Limiting sales to California raised eyebrows, including those of the folks over at Plugin Cars who speculate that Toyota is releasing the RAV4 EV in large part just to please the powers that be at the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Plugin Cars says the timing of the electric RAV4's launch, coupled with its anticipated limited production volume suggests Toyota is aiming to satisfy CARB's Zero-Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Next year, ZEV credits accumulated by Toyota from the 1997-2003 RAV4 EV will expire, as CARB opens the 2012-2014 chapter of its ZEV mandate. This phase will require a fresh batch of plug-ins (or the purchasing of ZEV credits from other manufacturers) from automakers to meet ZEV obligations; Plugin Cars speculates the 2012 RAV4 EV will be one of those vehicles.

Officially, Toyota told Plugin Cars that it has not announced "production volume" for the 2012 electric RAV4 and Jana Hartline, Toyota's environmental communications manager, told AutoblogGreen that:
Toyota will meet our ZEV credits mandate with a combination of conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The specific year-by-year combinations are flexible and will depend largely on market response and infrastructure development. As was the case with the first generation RAV4 EV, the market will ultimately decide.
Toyota also says it "does not disclose information" regarding ZEV credits, but if we assume Toyota will have to sell approximately 690 electric vehicles in California a year from 2012-2014 and that the estimated production of the electric RAV4 is 3,000 units over that same three-year period, then it would seem California will get the bulk of the RAV4s. Of course, this is speculative, but definitely something worth keeping in mind as automakers launch numerous plug-ins over the next couple of years.

Source: Autoblog Green

Audi to start series production of A8 hybrid in 2012

Audi A8 hybrid. Click to enlarge.

Audi will start series production of the A8 hybrid in 2012. (Earlier post.) Its 2.0 TFSI gasoline engine and an electric motor develop peak output of 180 kW (245 hp) and 480 N·m (345 lb-ft) of torque. Average fuel consumption in the EU cycle is below 6.4 liters per 100 km (36.75 mpg US); CO2 emissions are below 148 grams per km (238 g/mile). (All figures are provisional.)

The Audi A8 hybrid reaches 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 7.7 seconds from a standing start and has a top speed of 235 km/h (146 mph). The sedan can travel at speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph) on electric power alone, and cover around three kilometers (1.86 miles) with zero local emissions at a constant speed of 60 km/h (37 mph).

The A8 hybrid is a parallel hybrid. The 2.0 TFSI, which has been modified in some areas, generates an output of 155 kW (211 hp) and 350 N·m (258 lb-ft) of torque, which is available between 1,500 and 4,200 rpm. The combustion engine works together with a disc-shaped electric motor which develops 40 kW (54 hp) and 210 N·m (155 lb-ft).

The permanent magnet synchronous motor is mounted in the space usually occupied by the torque converter in front of the modified eight-speed tiptronic. A multi-plate clutch that operates in an oil bath connects or disconnects the electric motor and the TFSI engine. The fast-shifting hybrid transmission guides the torque to the front wheels; with its wide gear spread it contributes to the efficiency of the Audi A8 hybrid.

The driver has the choice of three modes: The EV characteristic map gives priority to the electric drive, while the D mode efficiently controls both the engine and the electric motor. The S mode and the tiptronic gate are designed for a sporty driving style.

The hybrid sedan has five operating states: with the TFSI engine alone, with electric drive only or in hybrid mode; recuperation and boosting are also possible. Two displays show the driver all operating modes in detail.

The lithium-ion battery, which weighs 36.7 kilograms (80.91 lb), is located in a crash-proof area in the trunk. It provides 1.3 kWh of nominal energy and up to 40 kW of power. Two different methods are used to air-cool the battery, depending on need: with air blown from the passenger compartment by a fan and via a separate cooling circuit coupled to the automatic air conditioning system. The battery is thus kept within the temperature window required for it to perform to its full potential over a wide range.

The electric motor and the compact power electronics which serve as a controller between the electric motor and the battery are water-cooled.

The Audi A8 hybrid will be one of the lightest sedans in its category. Its ASF (Audi Space Frame) body is made entirely of aluminum, while the B-pillars are of hot-shaped, ultra-high-strength steel. Weighing 231 kilograms (509 lb), it is roughly 40% lighter than a comparable steel construction.

Source: Green Car Congress

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ford and Toyota to collaborate on new rear-wheel drive hybrid system for light trucks, SUVs; partnering also on telematics standards and technologies

Ford and Toyota are collaborating as equal partners on the development of an advanced new hybrid system for light trucks and SUVs. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the product development collaboration, with the formal agreement expected by next year.

Ford and Toyota also agreed to work together on enablers to complement each company’s existing telematics platform standards, helping bring more Internet-based services and useful information to consumers globally.

Both companies have been working independently on their own future-generation rear-wheel drive hybrid systems. Ford and Toyota believe that their collaboration will allow them to bring these hybrid technologies to customers sooner and more affordably than either company could have accomplished alone.

Under the MOU agreement, the two companies will bring the best of their independently developed hybrid powertrain technology and knowledge to a new co-developed hybrid system, which will be used in rear-wheel-drive light trucks arriving later this decade.

This rear-wheel-drive hybrid system will be based on an all-new architecture. While the rear-wheel-drive hybrid system will share significant common technology and components, Ford and Toyota will individually integrate the system into their own vehicles. Each company also will determine the calibration and performance dynamics characteristics of their respective light pickups and SUVs.

By working together, we will be able to serve our customers with the very best affordable, advanced powertrains, delivering even better fuel economy. This is the kind of collaborative effort that is required to address the big global challenges of energy independence and environmental sustainability.

—Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally

Toyota is extremely proud to join Ford in developing a hybrid system for pickup trucks and SUVs. Not only is this tie-up clearly one aimed at making automobiles ever better, it should also become an important building block for future mobility in the U.S. By building a global, long-term relationship with Ford, our desire is to be able to continue to provide people in America automobiles that exceed their expectations.

—Toyota President Akio Toyoda

In addition, as telematics plays an increasingly more important role in the in-car experience, both companies have agreed to collaborate on standards and technologies needed to enable a safer, more secure and more convenient in-car experience for next-generation telematics systems. The telematics collaboration relates only to standards and technologies, and each company will continue to separately develop their own in-vehicle products and features.

Source: Green Car Congress

107-MPGe Prius Plug-in Hybrid to debut next month

As its launch date approaches, both verifiable and speculative reports are circulating about the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

Among them are that it is expected to return a standard-Prius-beating 107 MPGe, cut CO2 emissions from 89 g/km to 49 g/km, and will debut September 13 at the Frankfurt auto show.

In response to our inquiry, Toyota told us that the 2012 Prius plug-in will indeed be first presented at Frankfurt. The company is keeping a lid on other info, but we’ll tell you more of what the reports are saying just the same.

2010 Prius Plug-in Hybrid at the EDTA conference in Washington in April.

First off, the outstanding fuel economy and emissions efficiency reports appear to be correct. They are based on the car’s reportedly having gone through a UK drive cycle. In it, the Prius plug-in achieved a 128-mpg rating, which is being equated to 107 MPGe for the U.S.

Toyota was quick to qualify this report however.

“That number is based on a virtual test cycle,” said Toyota’s Amy K. Taylor in an email, apparently not wanting to over promise and under deliver. “We expect the number to vary in real world driving conditions.”

Like the standard Prius, the plug-in will use a 1.8-liter, 134-horsepower engine and a 60-kilowatt electric motor, with the addition of on-board charger for the battery.

The distance it can travel at speeds up to 60 mph remains a mystery.

Another improvement over the standard Prius – as well as the 2010 demonstration version (in photos) – is the 2012 production plug-in car’s battery is believed to offer slightly higher output to enable around 15 miles of all-electric range. This is up a wee bit from an estimated 13 miles – and remember it could even be higher, and we probably won’t know for another month.

Rumor has it that the 2012 Prius Plug-in’s battery could be as large as 5.2 kWh.

Taylor said the 2010 demonstration version had a 3-kWh battery, and all-electric speed of 60 mph, but of the 2012 version, said only, “Product details have not been announced regarding the production vehicle.”

Since Taylor did not deny an improved battery, it remains possible a more powerful, maybe even more compact battery pack will come with the 2012 plug-in Prius.

Recharge time from 120-volt house current for its battery – that could be around one-fifth to one-third the size of the Chevrolet Volt’s battery – is for now still estimated at around 90 minutes.

One difference between Toyota’s thinking and General Motors’ approach to the Volt with its 16-kWh battery is that by giving the Prius plug-in a smaller, lighter, less expensive battery, it yields a lighter car with lower selling price.

Gas 2.0 and others report Toyota expects to sell 17,000 units for 2012, and estimated a U.S. price at around $26,000-$32,000 before incentives.

Here too, Toyota declined to verify the eager speculation abounding on the plug-in version of this most popular hybrid.

“We have not made any announcement regarding production plans,” Taylor said. “Pricing will be announced closer to on sale date.”

The Prius plug-in is due to go on sale in the U.S. in the spring of 2012, Taylor said.

She could not confirm if or when the Prius plug-in would be made available in other parts of the world.

“I’m not aware of the launching timing for other markets or if it has been announced yet,” Taylor said.

Since its introduction, the standard Prius, now in a third-generation version, has grown steadily to a high degree of popularity among alternative technology vehicles.

Plugged in at the Renaissance Marriott across the street from the EDTA conference in Washington: a prime spot reserved for a prime customer.

The cars are imported from Japan where the U.S. is largely blocked from competing on an even footing due to tariffs and alleged trade inequity.

Further, when factoring all the economic advantages a plug-in Prius will provide, it may be worth considering the ships required to transport the Prius use an enormous amount of bunker fuel – as much as 120 gallons per mile.

One very rough estimate put the consumption of bunker fuel needed to import approximately 141,000 Prii last year at around 40,000 metric tons, which also equates to tremendous amounts of CO2.

To help curtail this pollution, waste and expense, Toyota is experimenting with a fuel-efficient diesel-hybrid-solar ship.

We have not been able to acquire data to do a full apples-to-apples comparison along these lines between the Prius and the U.S.-produced Volt, however, which also contains imported components, some being costly, bulky, and required to be shipped in too.

General Motors does have plans for next year to begin domestically producing the Volt’s for-now imported battery cells which Volt Line Director Tony Posawatz told us would also result in significant cost reduction.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

VW up! minicar to launch in December with 3-cylinder gasoline engines; natural gas engine to follow

The new Volkswagen up!. Click to enlarge.

Volkswagen will launch its new up! minicar in December, first in the European market, with 3 versions for different budgets and needs: take up! is the entry-level car; move up! the comfort-oriented one; and high up! the top version. Directly at the car’s market launch, there will also be 2 independent models based on the high up!: the up! black and the up! white.

The new up! initially will offer two variants of a new generation of 3-cylinder gasoline engine, with output of 44 kW / 60 PS (59 hp) and 55 kW / 75 PS (74 hp). Combined fuel consumption as a BlueMotion Technology version (including a Stop/Start system) is 4.2 l/100 km (56 mpg US) for the 60 PS model and 4.3 l/100 km (55 mpg US) for the 75 PS model. Both of these 1.0-liter engines emit less than 100 g/km CO2.

A natural gas engine with 50 kW / 68 PS (67 hp) with the same basic configuration will follow. Its combined fuel consumption of 3.2 kg/100 km (natural gas) is equivalent to a CO2 value of 86 g/km; as a BlueMotion Technology version the natural-gas powered up! attains a low CO2 value of 79 g/km. There are also definite plans for an up! with an electric drive for the year 2013.

A new safety technology system is the optional City Emergency Braking system. It is automatically active at speeds under 30 km/h (19 mph), and it uses a laser sensor to detect the risk of an imminent collision. Depending on the vehicle’s speed and the driving situation, City Emergency Braking can reduce accident severity by initiating automatic brake interventions, and possibly even avoid a crash, VW says. So far, the up! is the only vehicle in the segment to be offered with an emergency braking function for city driving.

With a 3.54 meter length and 1.64 meter width, the up! is one of the smallest four-seat cars. The Volkswagen is 1.48 meters tall. Its overall length consists of short body overhangs and a very long wheelbase (2.42 meters).

If the goal is to maximize space, the ideal form for a small car would be a rectangular box. In the up! we were able to sculpt such a box with a clean and powerful design that does not lose sight of space utilization.

—Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design for the Volkswagen Brand

Space utilization in the car is facilitated by the wheelbase, combined with an engine that is mounted well forward.

Source: Green Car Congress

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why the Chevrolet Volt gets my vote

For a car that has been on the market for little more than half a year, and sold fewer than 5,000 units in a deliberately slow roll-out thus far, the Chevrolet Volt has seen its share of attention.

Because General Motors has a checkered past, and relied on taxpayer money a couple of years ago to get itself out of trouble, the company and its post-bankruptcy doings have created a cottage industry of self-appointed critics.

Attempting to sidestep these negative factors as much as possible, I will share the positive side for why I think it is enlightened self interest to give GM the benefit of the doubt, and why I like the Chevrolet Volt.

I drove the Chevy down to Philly to see the place where America was born. Here the Volt is pictured in front of Independence Hall and the building housing the Liberty Bell (right).

Every day for the past week, I’ve driven a 2011 Volt on loan from GM, and can see how a site like GM-Volt grew to popularity from 2007 onward, well before the production car was launched.

The site has scientists, engineers and other insightful people reading it daily – people who have understood what the Volt represents and embraced what it could do for beleaguered America.

The Volt has been heavily reviewed already. Some have criticized it, others have named it car of the year, applauded its exceptional safety, high-tech, class-leading efficiency and more.

Is the Volt perfect? No. Is it the best of its type in the world? In my view, yes it is.

The Volt is an electric car with four-cylinder gasoline engine backup that will not leave you stranded once its 25-55 mile range batteries run out. (Range often averages between 35-45 miles, but like fuel mileage, depends a lot on how hard you drive. Also cold weather can decrease range, although the Volt’s battery is thermally managed).

If you are among the approximately 75 percent of people in this society who drive less than 40 miles daily, you can almost stop using gasoline much of the time.

In electric mode, the Volt gets “infinite” miles per gallon (93 MPGe). Its cost of operation depends on how much you pay for electricity. The Volt’s electric bill is much less than a gasoline bill, so that’s a big savings, plus it produces no emissions in electric mode – unless you count the emissions from a generating plant.

Either way, studies show total emissions are far less overall, and the car’s carbon footprint is therefore greatly reduced.

Another reason why I like the Volt is it is a well-engineered solution made by the home team.

Ford is also due to launch an electric car and more hybrids, but neither it nor Fiat-owned Chrysler have anything like the Volt with its gasoline-generator backup.

It is an oft-repeated story how the U.S. is seeing manufacturing going offshore. Our gross domestic product is heavily dependent upon consumer spending, and the fundamental strength of domestic manufacturing has been eroding for many years.

For its part, GM has said it intends to keep paying back and investing in U.S. manufacturing. The Volt is already being produced in Michigan and exported for now to the rest of the world. Recently GM began sourcing its engines from Flint, Mich. Presently it assembles battery packs in Brownstown, Mich. using imported battery cells, but next year the battery cells will also be made in the U.S. and assembled in Brownstown, further increasing its domestic content and giving more Americans jobs.

It is not a hard concept to grasp. When you go to a sporting event, you know enough to root for the team you want to win, don’t you?

In an age when ideas like “loyalty” are not as often taught, it might bear considering that the idea ought not be relegated to archaic status, and its value is not dead.

Yes, GM has messed up in the past, and it is still an international company doing business all over the world, so I am not deluded in this line of thought.

That said, GM will continue to invest here, and the benefits to the U.S. economy will be felt if the Volt and it spinoffs succeed.

So, yes, I am taking into account prospects for improving the outlook for the domestic economy.

The other value the Volt offers is a step toward energy independence.

The Volt is the first of a new kind of vehicle that – if the experiment pans out – could lead to all kinds of new vehicles powered by sustainable energy.

This fact is not lost on a growing number of established and start-up companies, as copycat technology is coming along in a variety of forms.

Granted, automakers, including GM, are not putting all their eggs in one basket and are also trying other technologies to improve efficiency and lower emissions, so yes, more yet needs to be proven.

That said, the more you look into electric-powered vehicles, the more reasons you see why electric propulsion is catching on everywhere worldwide.

One study says by 2030, 64 percent of all light vehicles sold in the U.S. will be electrically powered, so this EV phenomenon is not a flash in the pan, and GM is definitely committed to it, that’s for sure.

I can also tell you: After driving an electric car, you start to realize some things about it are better than in a gasoline-powered car.

The Volt spoils you with near silent power. There is something very satisfying about it that you need to drive to experience.

Further, making the financial leap from say, the Volt’s cousin, the Chevrolet Cruze (or any similar class car) to the Volt is not as vast as one might think.

The Volt qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, in some cases state subsidies, and its build quality and amenities make the Volt more like a Buick-class car, even though it’s badged as a humble Chevy.

When weighing in factors like energy savings, incentives, and the good feeling one gets from polluting less, and owning an American solution to a world problem, the cost gap begins to look narrower.

This is my view. If you disagree, I respect that.

In fact, I’ll add if a person cannot afford the $39,995-plus Volt (minus subsidies bringing its net to low 30s), or the car does not meet his or her needs, I’d respect that too. In that case, maybe you should get another vehicle better suited for you.

The Volt, like any car, is not for everyone, and that is why they make vehicles in all sizes and price ranges. If however, it is a class of car you could use, it is worth looking at.

In front of the National Memorial Arch at Valley Forge.

While the Volt was made to feel a lot like a good-handling, well-appointed car, it further stands out as the world’s lowest price extended-range electric vehicle.

Weighing in all factors is an important element besides what ever number crunching and conceptualizing based on other peoples’ opinions you may also do.

Driving the Volt is as important as anything else. Because it is unique, first-hand experience will be vital to a good decision besides what any other reviewer or I might have to say.