Friday, September 30, 2011

GE, Nissan sign R&D agreement to fast track broader adoption of electric cars

GE and Nissan have signed a two-year research collaboration to speed up the development of a reliable, robust smart charging infrastructure to fuel mass market adoption of electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF.

GE and Nissan have identified two key focus areas for the research efforts: the first relates to the integration of electric vehicles with homes and buildings; the second looks at electric vehicle charging dynamics and the future impact on the grid once millions of electric cars are on the road.

Several projects around the two focus areas already are underway. In one project, researchers from the companies are studying how electric cars like Nissan LEAF can be incorporated into GE’s overall concept for a Smart Home. Nissan engineers are developing methods to connect the vehicle to the home, making it a more integrated part of the building's energy equipment. This project will look at how the addition of an electric car impacts the cost of electricity and changes overall home electricity loads.

In another study, researchers will use aggregate usage data along with sophisticated simulation and modeling experiments, to analyze the effect millions of electric cars could have on our electrical distribution system.

For all of these projects, researchers will be seeking answers to a number of important questions, including:

  • How can smart energy management systems for homes and buildings be leveraged to support the management of EV charging?
  • How can we take advantage of energy storage and renewable power, such as home solar arrays, to reliably manage and meet the power needs of electric cars?
  • Are there innovative ways to directly link charging stations with renewable power sources?

Nissan researchers are studying the use of two-way power flow between the vehicle and the home, via its CHAdeMO quick charging port, as a method to reduce the home’s consumption from the grid during peak periods, or to utilize the vehicle for emergency backup power. GE researchers have programs under way to understand how these systems, in tandem with the utility, could be used to meet vehicle charging needs without over-stressing the grid.

GE’s work will be conducted primarily at its global research operations in Niskayuna, New York. Nissan Technical Center North America, located in Farmington Hills, Mich., will lead the automaker’s efforts, including integration of vehicle-to-home charging technology, with support from the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Japan.

Source: Green Car Congress

Nissan Leaf nets middling 78-point Consumer Reports score, still beats Volt

Consumer Reports has wrapped up its five-month road test of the 2011 Nissan Leaf and reports the electric hatch scored 78 points. That puts the EV into the middle of six recently tested fuel-efficient hatchbacks. The Leaf ranked two points shy of the Toyota Prius and 11 points above the Chevrolet Volt. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid scored a disappointing 69, 20 points below the conventional Sonata GLS.

Of the Leaf, Consumer Reports states:
The Leaf is a civilized vehicle with very low running costs. It's quick, very quiet, rides comfortably and is easy to get in and out of. The Leaf's main drawbacks are a limited driving range of only about 75 miles per charge. The Leaf rides well but handling, though secure, lacks agility. Braking is Very Good. The interior is nicely finished but not posh.
As we all know and CR proved once again, the Leaf's range varies dramatically depending on driving style and weather conditions. For example, CR discovered that, under gentle driving conditions, the Leaf averaged 90 miles on a full charge. But in cold weather, CR's testers report the range dropped to approximately 60 miles. It's for this reason that CR refers to the Leaf as an urban runabout.

In terms of efficiency, the tested Leaf returned 3.16 miles per kWh, or the equivalent of 106 miles per gallon in mixed driving. The operating costs for CR's Leaf rang in at approximately 3.5 cents per mile, as figured at average national electricity rates of 11 cents per kWh. With reliability of the Nissan Leaf still unknown, CR has decided it can't put its Recommended tag on the electric hatch.

Source: Autoblog Green

BMW ActiveHybrid 5 to arrive in US showrooms in March 2012

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5. Click to enlarge.

BMW’s newest hybrid, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, will arrive in US showrooms in March 2012. BMW unveiled the Concept version of the 5 Series ActiveHybrid at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010. (Earlier post.)

Based on the BMW 535i Sedan, the ActiveHybrid 5 brings together BMW’s 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline six-cylinder engine, an electric drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission for the first time. The latest generation of BMW ActiveHybrid technology also adds controlled energy management to the mix. The drive system generates combined output of 335 hp (DIN) (250 kW) a with maximum torque of 330 lb-ft (447 N·m); allows the car to be driven on electric power alone up to 37 mph (60 km/h); and accelerates the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds (preliminary).

Under the hood. Click to enlarge.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 delivers a double-digit percentage improvement in fuel economy over the BMW 535i based on preliminary results. (At the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, BMW said the Concept version would reduce fuel consumption 10%.)

This is the first time BMW has mated an inline six to a BMW ActiveHybrid system. The 3.0-liter engine, which develops 300 hp (224 kW) and peak torque of 300 lb-ft (407 N·m), has won the international Engine of the Year Award two years running. The BMW TwinPower Turbo technology of the six-cylinder engine combines a twin-scroll turbocharger, High Precision Direct Injection, Double VANOS variable valve timing and VALVETRONIC intake control.

The synchronous electric motor of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is integrated into the housing of the eight-speed automatic transmission, saving space. The interplay between the electric motor and gearbox is controlled by a clutch. The motor’s operating temperature is regulated by the combustion engine’s cooling system.

The electric drive system develops 55 hp (41 kW) and makes 155 lb-ft (210 N·m) of torque available from rest. The motor is supplied with energy by a high-performance lithium-ion battery, specially developed for the BMW ActiveHybrid 5. The high-voltage battery is encased in a special high-strength housing and positioned between the wheel arches in the trunk, providing it with optimum protection. It consists of 96 cells, has its own cooling system and offers usable energy capacity of 675 Wh.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 has both a conventional 14-volt power supply and a high-voltage supply with an operating voltage of 317 volts. They are linked by a voltage transformer which ensures that maximum electric energy can be used to enhance driving dynamics and comfort in any operating phase. Like the electric motor, the air conditioning compressor is also fed with power from the lithium-ion battery exclusively via the high-voltage supply. In addition, the stationary climate control function can be used to cool the interior before the engine is started.

The high-performance lithium-ion battery is charged when the car is coasting or braking. The electric motor acts as a generator feeding energy into the high-voltage battery; under acceleration, the electric motor takes on a boost function. Here, it assists the inline six by generating an extra burst of power.

Integrated into the standard Driving Dynamics Control is an ECO PRO mode. It tailors the driving systems for maximum efficiency, including making more frequent use of all-electric mode. In ECO PRO mode, the combustion engine can be switched off and fully decoupled while coasting at speeds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h). In coasting mode, as with all-electric mode for urban driving, all safety and comfort functions remain fully operational. To avoid periods with the engine running at idle, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 is equipped with a hybrid start-stop function.

Further, the power electronics in the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 are linked up with the standard navigation system, enabling proactive analysis of driving conditions based on the selected route. This enables the drive components to be primed to deliver maximum efficiency (the effect may vary according to the quality of the available navigation data). All the hybrid-specific components of the drive technology and energy management systems have been developed specially for use in the BMW ActiveHybrid 5.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 can operate in all-electric mode up to a speed of 37 mph (60 km/h), for zero emissions in town. The lithium-ion high-voltage battery can store sufficient energy to give an all-electric driving range of up to approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) at an average speed of 22 mph (35 km/h).

The operating status of the powertrain components is shown in displays, unique to the ActiveHybrid 5, in the instrument cluster and in the Control Display. As well as the energy flow and energy recuperation display, these include an additional gauge next to the tachometer which shows the boost effect being provided by the electric motor during acceleration. A display in the iDrive interface provides a variety of information – for example on the battery’s current charge level and the power-sharing between the internal combustion engine and the electric motor during the course of a journey.

The chassis specifications of the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 include double-wishbone front and integral rear suspensions, Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering, a high-performance brake system and 18-inch alloy wheels. Dynamic Damper Control, featuring electronically controlled shock absorbers, is available as an option. The Dynamic Stability Control system, which stabilizes the vehicle by individually applying the brakes and reducing engine power, also incorporates functions such as Dynamic Traction Control, the Anti-lock Braking System, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Assist, Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Drying and Start-Off Assistant.

The hybrid-specific safety features, which protect the high-voltage lithium-ion battery and the power electronics, are integrated into the BMW 5 Series’ existing active and passive safety systems. In a collision, high-strength structural components and large deformation zones help to keep impact forces away from the passenger cell and also from the hybrid drive components.

In the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 the standard Driving Dynamics Control switch offers not only Sport+, Sport and Comfort set-ups (as well as Comfort+ mode if the optional Dynamic Damper Control is specified), but also the ECO PRO mode. As an alternative to the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, an 8-speed sport automatic with faster shift times is available.

A number of BMW ConnectedDrive features are available for the BMW ActiveHybrid 5 including Park Distance Control, a rear-view camera, Surround View, High-Beam Assistant, Parking Assistant, Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, BMW Night Vision with pedestrian recognition and Head-Up Display. The BMW Apps option offers integration of the Apple iPhone.

Source: Green Car Congress

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is evolutionary

You say you want an evolution? Well, look no further than the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. It's not game-changing like the Nissan Leaf. It's no Chevrolet Volt. But it's truly the most advanced Prius ever to hit the streets.

From behind the wheel, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid drives much the same as its non-plugged in sibling, the 2012 Prius Liftback. But the seemingly simple addition of a 4.4-kWh lithium-ion battery makes for a Prius that returns an estimated 49 miles per gallon combined and 87 MPGe.

What does the world's most advanced Prius to date cost? Well, $32,000 is the point of entry, but the Advanced version – a radar toatin', auto parkin', lane keepin', Pandora playin' machine – starts at $39,525.

For those of you dying to find out what it's like to drive the 2012 Prius Plug-in, your wait is now over as our sister site, Autoblog, has just posted its First Drive of Toyota's plugged-in machine.

Source: Autoblog Green

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lotus Ethos plug-in minicar headed to U.S. in 2013?

It's time to start gearing up for the possible 2013 arrival of a $45,000 plug-in minicar with a Lotus badge. We haven't heard much clamor for such a car, but if it's truly your dream, then you'd be thrilled to know that the extended-range Lotus Ethos will reportedly hit U.S. dealerships in late 2013 as a Model Year 2014 vehicle.

Unveiled at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, Lotus' minicar concept, now called the Ethos, will enter the production cycle in 2013. That's official. However, word of the Ethos coming to the U.S. has not been confirmed by the automaker.

In production form, the plug-in Ethos is expected to employ a range-extending 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine. Lotus claims the Ethos will have an electric-only range of 37 miles before that range extender swings into action and adding 270 miles of gas-burnin' action. Top speed checks in at a reported 76 miles per hour and the 0 to 62-mph dash takes nine movements of the second hand. The more important number is that $45k, which we're willing to bet will be a bit of an issue when it comes to racking up sales here in the States.

Source: Autoblog Green

Nissan brings LEAF to new US markets

Nissan North America Inc. is expanding the availability of the battery-electric Nissan LEAF in the US. Orders for the 2012 Nissan LEAF begin today in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York. Deliveries of the LEAF, enriched for the 2012 model year with additional standard equipment including quick charging and cold-weather features, will take place in these markets by December.

At the end of August, Nissan reported 6,187 LEAF units sold since its December 2010 launch.

A prioritized ordering phase begins today for individuals with existing reservations in these new markets. On 3 Oct., Nissan will open new reservations and orders to the general public. Nissan will expand into additional new markets as the year continues. By the end of the year, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island will be added as markets where the Nissan LEAF will be available for order.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

U.S. intends to spend more on electric vehicle research

Yesterday the U.S. Energy Department released its first-ever “Quadrennial Technology Review,” saying it wants to increase funding research for electrified vehicles and supporting infrastructure.

Its total 2011 budget was $3 billion, and the thinking by the government is it needs a faster return on its investment, so diverting a higher percentage toward electrification could engender more near-term solutions for America’s pressing energy and environmental needs.

“Today, our nation is at a cross road. While we have the world’s greatest innovation machine, countries around the world are moving aggressively to lead in the clean energy economy,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist in an introduction to the 168-page review. “We can either lead in the development of the clean energy economy or we can stand back and wait for others to move forward a sustainable energy future. For the sake of our economic prosperity and our national security, we must lead.”

This year the Energy Department again co-sponsored the EcoCar Challenge exploring ways to improve efficiency with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and fuel cell technologies. Shown are the 2011 first place winners.

The Energy Department says it ought not to get too far ahead of the private sector in its research spending, and for its proposed 2013 budget looks at what it can invest in that will be feasible in the next 10 years.

“Currently DOE focuses too much effort on researching technologies that are multiple generations away from practical use,” said the review, which surveyed more than 600 stakeholders in industry, academia and government.

At present, the Energy Department said it is “underinvested” with only 26 percent of its budget devoted to transportation research.

Electric vehicle research received only 9 percent, and 4 percent went toward making vehicles more efficient. The lion’s share went to advanced fuels, but the Energy Department intends to shift the balance.

For heavy-duty road trucks, the Energy Department will also focus on advanced biofuels instead of “mature” ethanol and fuels that require new fuel station infrastructure.

This year’s spending allocated 51 percent for clean electricity, and here too spending will be shifted toward projects to help upgrade the aging power grid, and make buildings more energy efficient.

Carbon capture and storage research will also continue receiving funding as this fits with existing power infrastructure. The Energy Department will also focus on engineering support for licensing a new type of nuclear reactor known as the small modular reactor.

“The Department will give priority to research on technologies that can be operated economically with low water consumption, including solar photovoltaic and wind,” the review said.

At least the plan is for all of these proposed priority shifts.

Chu and other DOE officials led the review, and used its results to guide planning for a budget proposal for fiscal 2013 that will be released early in 2012.

The review is modeled on similar efforts by the Defense Department, and the proposal must go through annual negotiations between the executive branch and Congress.

On its Web site, it said the DOE-QTR was written with the purpose to “address our nation’s challenges, energy security and U.S. competitiveness.”

The review, which you can download here, defines six key strategies: increase vehicle efficiency; electrification of the light duty fleet; deploy alternative fuels; increase building and industrial efficiency; modernize the electrical grid; and deploy clean electricity.

Findings of the DOE-QTR include:

• DOE should give greater emphasis to the transport sector relative to the stationary sector.
• Among the transport strategies, DOE will devote its greatest effort to electrification of the vehicle fleet, a sweet spot for pre-competitive DOE R&D.
• Within the stationary heat and power sector, the DOE-QTR finds that the Department should increase emphasis on efficiency and understanding the grid. It states that the Department’s role as a source of information and as a convener of interested parties, two functions that are often underestimated, are unique and indispensable in advancing energy technologies.
• Finally, the DOE-QTR highlights the need for the Department to develop stronger, more integrated policy, economics, and technical analyses of its research and development activities.

“With nearly 90 percent of the energy system owned and operated by the private sector, the DOE-QTR recognizes that the Department is not the sole agent in transforming the system,” said DOE Under Secretary Steven Koonin. “Through discussions with hundreds of energy stakeholders, we have learned that, beyond our technology development activities, the Department’s unique role as a convener and source of accurate techno-economic information is a great public benefit.”

Overall, the Energy Department led by Chu has maintained an optimistic tone.

“The stakes are high for our country, and I am optimistic that we can still lead the world in technological innovation,” he said.


Nissan Canada delivers first 100% electric Nissan LEAF to Canadian consumer


- Ottawa Resident Receives Keys to 2011 Nissan LEAF from President of Nissan Canada -

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Sept. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ - Today Nissan Canada made history when it delivered the first all-electric Nissan LEAF to a Canadian consumer at an event in Ottawa. Ricardo Borba, an Ottawa resident and the first person in Canada to place a Nissan LEAF order, received the keys to his black Nissan LEAF SL from Allen Childs, President of Nissan Canada. Hunt Club Nissan in Ottawa hosted the event and is also hosting the Ottawa stop of Nissan's cross-Canada Drive Electric Tour.

"This is a significant milestone in the movement that brings sustainable mobility within our grasp and at Nissan we're excited to be leading the way by bringing the world's first all-electric car to the mass market, which was also recognized as the 2011 World Car of the Year," said Allen Childs, President of Nissan Canada, Inc. "Today we made history by handing over the keys to Mr. Borba, the first Canadian consumer to purchase a Nissan LEAF. This represents the freedom to choose a car that has no tailpipe, produces no emissions and will never have to visit a gas station."

Borba, a 44-year old electric engineer and software developer with IBM currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his wife and son. His new Nissan LEAF will be the family's primary car providing ample range for their day-to-day commutes.

"My family and I were starting to look for a new car last year when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred and prompted us to think about alternatives to gas-powered vehicles," said Borba. "We considered several options and the Nissan LEAF was the one that best fits our needs. It's all-electric and looks and drives just like a regular car with five seats, ample cargo space and loaded with high-tech features. It's smooth, quiet and has incredible acceleration. In other words, it's fun to drive!"

Delivery of Model Year 11 Nissan LEAFs will continue in the coming weeks across Canada. In late October, Nissan Canada will open its online reservation process for its allocation of Model Year 12 Nissan LEAFs. Reservations are eligible to those registered on the Nissan LEAF microsite ( and living within the vicinity of the 27 EV-certified dealers across Canada. By the end of MY12 Nissan anticipates 600 Nissan LEAFs on Canadian roads.

Coinciding with the event is the Ottawa stop of Nissan's Drive Electric Tour (DET), a one-of-a-kind consumer driving experience. Hosted at the 27 EV-Certified dealers across Canada, the DET provides prospective Nissan LEAF owners and those curious about all-electric mobility with the opportunity to learn about the car, its technology and features, and take it for a test drive. More information about the DET and reservations for test drives are available at

"We're thrilled to host the event today representing the arrival of the Nissan LEAF to the Canadian market," said Jean Malouin, President of Hunt Club Nissan. "We've had a lot of consumers come into the dealership asking questions about the Nissan LEAF, really curious about an all-electric car and how it would fit into their lifestyle. It's very exciting to be at the forefront of the sustainable mobility movement."

About the Nissan LEAF

One of the industry's most-discussed vehicles for good reason, Nissan LEAF™ is the world's first mass-marketed all-electric car made for the real-world driving needs of consumers and was recently named the 2011 World Car of the Year.

Nissan LEAF is a medium-size hatchback with ample cargo space and seating for five adults comfortably. With a range of 160 kilometres (EPA LA4 cycle) on one full charge, Nissan LEAF provides 90% of Canadians with the range needed for daily commutes. With a 240 volt home charging dock full charge is achieved in seven hours, and with a Level 3 Quick Charger, 80% charge can be achieved in just 26 minutes.

Powered by a lithium-ion battery, Nissan LEAF generates 107 horsepower, 207 lb-ft of torque providing a highly responsive, fun-to-drive experience. Because there's no traditional engine, Nissan LEAF is ultra-quiet and for safety reasons a sound had to be added so pedestrians could hear the car coming. In April, Nissan LEAF was awarded a "Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The instrument panel provides the driver with regular updates on range and driving efficiency, and using a telematics system called CARWINGS, the driver can communicate with the car via a smart phone with the ability to turn on the air conditioning or heat remotely, and manage and monitor charging.

More information, high-res images and b-roll are available at or upon request.

About Nissan Canada Inc.

Nissan Canada Inc. (NCI) is the Canadian sales, marketing and distribution subsidiary of Nissan Motor Limited and Nissan North America, Inc. With offices in Vancouver (BC), Mississauga (ON), and Kirkland (QC), NCI directly employs 250 full-time staff. There are 171 independent Nissan dealerships and 29 Infiniti retailers across Canada. A pioneer in zero emission mobility, Nissan made history with the introduction of the Nissan LEAF, the first affordable, mass-market, pure-electric vehicle and winner of numerous international accolades including the prestigious 2011 European Car of the Year and World Car of the Year awards.

More information about Nissan in Canada and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at and

About Nissan

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Japan's second largest Japanese automotive company by volume, is headquartered in Yokohama, Japan and is an integral pillar of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Operating with more than 150,000 employees globally, Nissan provided customers with more than 4 million vehicles in 2010. With a strong commitment to developing exciting and innovative products for all, Nissan delivers a comprehensive range of fuel-efficient and low-emissions vehicles under the Nissan and Infiniti brands. A pioneer in zero emission mobility, Nissan made history with the introduction of the Nissan LEAF, the first affordable, mass-market, pure-electric vehicle and winner of numerous international accolades including the prestigious 2011 European Car of the Year and World Car of the Year awards.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

See the latest Chevy Volt ads - VIDEO

Here is a sneak peek at the latest Chevrolet Volt advertisements:

Gordon Murray Design and Toray Announce Electric Sportscar


Today Gordon Murray Design Limited and Toray Industries Inc announce a prototype electric sports car named TEEWAVE AR.1

The AR.1 had an internal GMD code number of ' T.32' and the car is the result of a commission from Toray for Gordon Murray Design to design, tool and build a fully functioning prototype vehicle which utilises many of Toray's advanced automotive materials in order to achieve Toray's basic concept of an attractive vehicle for everyone.

The 2-seater sports car is designed to use the Toray carbon fibre component system with a process time of less than 10 minutes. A carbon monocoque, one of the key technologies of TEEWAVE, can be applied to all types of vehicle other than the 2-seater sports car.

The entire programme from concept discussions to running vehicle took just 9 months and was delivered on target, both in terms of cost and final handover. The power train in the vehicle are the base components used in one of the commercial electric vehicles currently available, but the unique electrical architecture and control units were developed by Gordon Murray Design.

A carbon front crash structure was designed and developed for the car. A Full vehicle Euro Ncap O.D.B test was simulated in addition to a rigid barrier dynamic impact. A correlation process was conducted on the front crash structure for both half energy and full energy using physical tests. Quasi -static bend and torsion analysis was also conducted.

The AR.1 has a remarkably low weight of just 850kg (including the 240kg battery) putting the car firmly in Lotus Elise territory and some 400kg lighter than a Tesla. The ultimate performance is limited by an output figure of 47kw but a torque of 180 Nm available from a standing start results in lively acceleration.

A great deal of attention has been given to the low weight, low centre of gravity and suspension geometry which has resulted in an excellent ride and handling balance.

The concept design team included Barry Lett, Frank Coppuck, Kevin Richards and Gordon Murray. Exterior and interior styling was designed by Zachary Seward, Kevin Richards, Barry Lett and Gordon Murray. The project leader at Gordon Murray Design was Mark Lewis.

The main architecture design team was led by Barry Lett and the engineering, composites and analysis team were led by Frank Coppuck, while the electrical system and power train design was by Dr Ralph Clague.

Gordon Murray Designs' world class prototype build team ensured the vehicle was built to schedule and Gordon Murray Designs exacting standards.

At all stages during design and development Gordon Murray Design and Toray worked very closely on the design, use of materials and Toray's automotive applications.

The Toray team consisted of Toru Yamanaka, Project Leader, Nobuhiko Shimizu, Project Manager, Yukitane Kimoto, Composite Team Leader, Yoshito Kuroda, Yuki Sakamoto, Kosaku Hashimoto, Composite Team, Alan Riley, UK Composite Handling and Osamu Goto, Project Advisor from Geo Technology.

Professor Gordon Murray of Gordon Murray Design said:

"It has been a pleasure to work with Toray Industries' team on this challenging project. The resultant vehicle weight of just 850Kg achieved using Toray's carbon fibre once again proves that performance through light weight is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to achieve power to weight targets."

Toray Industries said:

"Toray is happy to work with the Gordon Murray Design team to achieve Toray's basic concept of an eco-friendly and highly efficient light weight electric concept vehicle, TEEWAVE. It should be viewed as a flagship for embodying our Green Innovation Project in the automotive field."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bob Lutz to join electric-vehicle startup VIA Motors

Former General Motors product czar Bob Lutz has joined the board of VIA Motors, an Orem, Utah, startup that has developed a plug-in hybrid powertrain for pickups and other light trucks, initially for sales to fleet customers.

Lutz, 79, will help the company raise money and get its foot in the door as it seeks partnerships with automakers, David West, VIA's chief marketing officer, said in an interview today.

Lutz's role as an adviser to GM is unaffected by his joining VIA, a GM spokesman said. On Sept. 2, GM said it brought on Lutz as a part-time paid adviser in a broad role that will include product development, marketing and communications.

Lutz said at the time that his contract precluded him from consulting with other automakers, with the exception of British sports car maker Lotus, where he has been working as a part-time paid adviser. GM spokesman Alan Adler said today Lutz is allowed to do work with companies such as VIA.

VIA's GM ties

West said VIA's GM connections played a role in Lutz's decision to join the company. Alan Perriton, VIA's COO, ran GM Korea and is credited with creating the supply chain for GM's now-defunct Saturn brand. VIA's chief engineer, Nick Zielinski, was a lead engineer during development of the Chevrolet Volt.

"His main role will be to help move this along, particularly with GM, but also with other OEMs," West said. "This kind of thing needs a lot of high-level buy-in."

VIA buys Chevrolet Silverados from GM, then outfits the pickups with a plug-in electric powertrain that it developed, West said.

This fall, it plans to test about 35 of the vehicles with fleet customers, mostly large utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

'Expand the vision'

In a statement issued by VIA, he said: "In my long career working with GM, Ford, Chrysler and BMW, I considered the Chevy Volt the most important car we had yet made. I am now pleased to join VIA Motors to expand the vision of extended range electric vehicles and help build the next generation of electrified trucks, vans and SUVs."

VIA's powertrain allows the vehicle to drive about 40 miles on an electric charge. After that, it uses a small gasoline-powered generator to run an electric motor.

In an e-mail to Automotive News today, Lutz said the extended-range concept "makes even more sense, economically, in large vehicles" than in smaller cars like the Volt. The goal, he said, is to "duplicate the Volt proposition for pick-ups and large SUVs. This will get these popular vehicles into the 100mpg range."

A123 Systems Inc. supplies the powertrain's lithium ion batteries, which are under the bed of the pickup inside the frame rails.

In a statement, Perriton said: "Trucks have been notorious for poor fuel economy in the past, but when electrified, they can have a much greater impact on reducing oil consumption and emissions than smaller vehicles, while offering a much faster payback."

Kraig Higginson is VIA's CEO.

Honda develops new 700cc and 125cc engines and dual clutch transmission for two-wheelers

Newly developed 700cc engine (second-generation Dual Clutch Transmission). Click to enlarge.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. has developed new 700cc and 125cc engines for two-wheelers, as well as an accompanying lightweight, compact second-generation Dual Clutch Transmission, featuring a smooth, direct feel and excellent transmission efficiency.

700cc. This new engine is a liquid-cooled, 700cc, 4-stroke, in-line, 2-cylinder engine that fits into the mid-class range (displacement between 500 and 750cc) popular in Europe. Fuel economy exceeds 27 km/L (3.7 L/100km, 63.5 mpg US) WMTC (World Motorcycle Test Cycle) mode by Honda’s calculation and achieves an approximate 40% improvement over other sports models in its class.

This new engine will be mounted on three models based on different concepts, which are slated for exhibition at EICMA2011 (69th International Motorcycle Exhibition) to be held in November in Milan, Italy.

Development of the new engine was performed to meet these requirements:

  • An engine that is easy to handle with plentiful torque in the range normally used, and which also delivers a pleasant, throbbing feel during sporty rides.

  • Top-class, fuel-efficient environmental performance best suited for the next-generation mid-class engine.

  • A lightweight, compact design that allows more freedom in the body layout and provides highly convenient space.

Honda determined the engine layout after examining a variety of engine types from numerous perspectives and decided on an in-line, 700cc, 2-cylinder engine with a 62° forward lean (cylinder assembly angle). To meet a wide variety of uses, two transmissions can be coupled with this engine: the second generation of Honda’s innovative Dual Clutch Transmission, and a 6-speed manual transmission.

The new engine incorporates a wide variety of low friction technologies that aid better fuel economy. To improve fuel efficiency through better-controlled combustion while realizing a powerful ride in the low- to mid-rpm ranges, the bore-stroke ratio is set at 73×80mm. An optimized combustion chamber shape and optimum valve timing also contribute to achieve stable combustion. Resin coating is applied to the pistons, and lightweight aluminum material is employed for the first time in a motorcycle in the friction-reducing roller rocker arm.

Adoption of uneven-interval firing with a 270° phase crank and uniaxial primary balancer help realize an engine with a pleasant throbbing feel that also reduces vibration.

The layout of a branch intake port inside the cylinder head was chosen to have only one intake channel for two cylinders. This design creates deliberate interference between the two cylinders’ intake processes to achieve precisely calculated changes to combustion timing.

In addition, to change the valve timing between the two in-line cylinders with one camshaft, the specifications provide for a cam with two timing routines for the intake valve. Through these measures, subtle combustion changes can be generated to give the engine a delightful, pulsating feel.

To maximize the efficiency of exhaust aftertreatment so that the three-way catalyst can be started promptly after the engine starts, the TWC has been placed directly beneath the exhaust ports. This design lets the combustion gas pass through the catalyst while the gas is still hot. In addition, a combination of measures, including the adoption of an electronically-controlled fuel injection system (PGM-FI), allows the engine to achieve an emission level approximately half the European emission standards (Euro 3).

2nd generation Dual Clutch Transmission. Click to enlarge.

Second-generation Dual Clutch Transmission. The Dual Clutch Transmission, developed for the first time by Honda for motorcycles and installed on the VFR1200F, is now lighter and more compact through a simplified hydraulic circuit and other design enhancements. A learning function has been added to each selected running mode to detect a variety of riding environments from city streets to mountain passes and automatically performs the most suitable shift control. Although it is an automatic transmission, the Dual Clutch Transmission delivers fuel economy on a par with manual transmissions as a result of its transmission efficiency, Honda says.

125cc global-standard engine (cut-away model). Click to enlarge.

125cc. The new 125c engine is developed for next-generation 125cc scooters and accommodates an advanced idle stop system for motorcycles. Fuel economy is approximately 25% better than that of conventional engines for scooters with the same displacement, according to Honda. This liquid-cooled, 125cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine incorporates a wide range of low-friction technologies while packing its lighter weight in a more compact body.

This new engine will be mounted on a variety of 125cc scooters to be sold in many countries around the world and is planned for global rollout starting from 2012.

Development was performed to meet these requirements:

  • Powerful output and greater durability with an emphasis on practicality.

  • Excellent fuel efficiency suitable for the next-generation global-standard engine.

  • Contributing to CO2 reduction on a worldwide scale by applying to global models.

  • Realizing an affordable price.

Low-friction technologies such as an offset cylinder and a roller rocker arm are supplemented by such techniques as intelligent control to lessen friction during power generation and the first adoption of a shell-type needle bearing for the rocker arm shaft. Low-friction technologies applied include:

  • Offset cylinder reduces friction caused by the contact between the sliding piston and the cylinder.

  • Piston weight has been thoroughly reduced through CAE analysis.

  • A spiny sleeve with minute spines on the outer surface of the cylinder sleeve has been adopted to reduce oil consumption and improve cooling performance.

  • A shell-type needle bearing is used for the rocker arm shaft to reduce friction.

  • Smaller and lighter rollers together with an optimized cam profile and valve spring load.

  • Radiator core with high cooling efficiency has been adopted (approximately 1.5 times the efficiency of current models). This enables a smaller and lighter cooling fan on the back of the radiator and reduces friction loss by approximately 30%.

  • Transmission oil capacity is reduced 25% compared to current 125cc engines through modifications inside the transmission case in order to lower the oil agitation loss.

  • Bearings for each of the three axes in the transmission unit are exclusively designed according to the load received, resulting in an optimal set of specifications that lessen the rolling resistance inside the bearings. Friction loss has been cut by approximately 20% compared to the current engine (when running at 50km/h).

To increase combustion efficiency, Honda used a compact combustion chamber design incorporating burning velocity and cooling performance suitable for an engine that emphasizes torque characteristics in the rpm ranges actually used by a 125cc scooter.

Another step in this area includes redesigning the air intake port connection to the combustion chamber into a smoother shape that does not impede the flow of the fuel-air mixture. Optimal ignition timing is set due to improved knocking resistance created by a highly efficient radiator and a water jacket that efficiently cools the combustion chamber.

A smooth and quiet start has been realized through an electronically-controlled ACG starter, which serves as both a self-starter and a dynamo. An advanced idle stop system has also been applied.

A swing-back that returns the crank to its position before air intake is electronically controlled for easy restart, while a decompression mechanism mitigates cranking resistance arising from compression during engine start.

A wide-ratio continuously variable transmission with V-belt (V-Matic) utilizes a drive belt made of newly developed high-elasticity rubber. Both fuel efficiency and quietness are achieved through the efficient transmission of driving force by optimizing the lateral pressure applied to the belt, along with the durability of the belt.

Source: Green Car Congress

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Introducing the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic with Test Drive

General Motors is no longer giving its fuel-efficient small cars short shrift. After much of a day behind the wheel of the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic earlier this week, in the San Francisco Bay area, we found the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic to be fuel-efficient, comfortable, and in 1.4T form, the most refined model in this class, and one of the most engaging to drive.

With an all-new global platform, the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is a completely different car than the Aveo it replaces. While the Aveo was one of our lowest-rated cars, with sluggish performance, subpar safety, and disappointing gas mileage, the new Sonic's platform is stiff and rigid, with nearly 60 percent high-strength steel; and its powertrains—a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter and a turbocharged 1.4-liter—are poached directly from the Cruze compact sedan.

Perkier than Cruze, but no Eco

Since the Sonic weighs a few hundred pounds less than the Cruze, that translates to a perkier driving feel. Both engines make 138 horsepower, but the available 1.4T produces more torque, much lower in the rev range. The Michigan-made 1.4T also feels smoother and quieter; the 1.8-liter model moves nearly as quickly, but it becomes boomy when pushed.

Fuel economy is another reason to opt for the 1.4T—a $700 option on most of the lineup. While lower-level Sonic models with the 1.8 will return 25 mpg city, 35 highway with the new six-speed automatic or 26/35 with the five-speed manual (perhaps the only carry-over from the Aveo), the Sonic gets a much better 28/40 with its new six-speed manual. And it's expected to also hit 40 mpg on the highway with the 1.4T and six-speed automatic, a combination that will be out late this calendar year.

What's not part of the lineup at this point is a Chevrolet Sonic Eco. And, according to Chevrolet officials, it likely won't be part of the lineup.

Why? At higher speeds, shape matters more than weight, to some extent, and shorter cars the Sonic's length (particularly the shorter hatchback) have less favorable aerodynamics than longer ones at highway speeds. So even though the Cruze is several hundred pounds heavier, it was easier to get that 42-mpg highway rating out of the Chevrolet Cruze Eco than it would be to meet that figure in a Sonic Eco.

Promising mpg—especially from 1.4T

What we saw in our first extensive drive, in the San Francisco Bay area this past week, was promising. In driving that wasn't very eco-minded—stop-and-go through S.F., then out Highway 1 and into the mountains above Half Moon Bay and near Santa Cruz, we saw about 28 mpg in an automatic 1.8-liter car. Then on a similarly twisty route, down then back up along Skyline Drive, and along Bay Area freeways, we averaged 33 mpg in a 1.4T Sonic.

Part of what makes the 1.4T return such good numbers, we suspect, even when you're driving rapidly, is that its electronic throttle is programmed to dull (or smooth, to use a kinder word) the engine's response when you rapidly dab in. We also noticed that when you're below 3,000 rpm—as you should be most of the time, as a mileage-minded driver—there was noticeable turbo lag of a full second or two. Once you learn to 'trick' the system a little bit—by pressing a little harder, and letting up when the boost comes on—the Sonic becomes more fun to drive, and we liked its well-weighted electric power steering and well-tuned suspension.

It's no enthusiast setup, but it's far more charming on a twisty road than you're likely to suspect—and just a frugal 1.4-liter the rest of the time. And adding to the ride, handling, and refinement is that alloy wheels are standard across the model line—quite the value in a cheap subcompact.

Well-designed, cosmetically and functionally

The Sonic's interior is also very well designed, with space enough for four adults, provided none are much over six feet tall. Seats are far more comfortable than the dreaded perches in the Aveo, and we took a liking to the instrument panel, which includes both a swoopy, wrap-around look combined with a straightforward, V-shaped center stack. Then there's the motorcycle-inspired gauge cluster, with its digital speedo and big sweeping tach.

About the only part of the Sonic's package that we didn't end up liking so much was the hatch's rather high cargo floor, which looks very space-inefficient next to the Honda Fit. But there is a 'hidden' compartment under the rearmost cargo area, good enough for a laptop bag. Cargo space in the Sonic sedan is jaw-droppingly good, though; a colleague called it a two-body trunk.

Overall, based on our short first drive, we can say that the Cruze was no fluke. The new Sonic catapults GM toward the head of the subcompact class, too, with a stylish sedan and hatchback that feel smart and sensible—and not nearly as cheap as they're priced.

Source: Green Car Reports

GM China Advanced Technical Center Phase I Opens in Shanghai


Shanghai – General Motors Chairman and CEO Daniel Akerson participated in today's opening of the first phase of the GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) in Shanghai. The new facility, which is adjacent to the GM International Operations and GM China Headquarters, will carry out important research and development for GM on a worldwide basis.

"The ATC is an integral component of GM's global technology development strategy," said Akerson. "As one of GM's most important and comprehensive technical and design facilities, it will lead GM's global research and development efforts in targeted areas. Working with our company's other technical centers, it will share the latest achievements and expertise to drive the innovation of tomorrow's technology."

The ATC is the most comprehensive advanced automotive technology development center in China. It will serve as the home of four key GM technical and design organizations: the China Science Lab, Vehicle Engineering Lab, Advanced Powertrain Engineering Lab and Advanced Design Center. When completed, the 65,000-square-meter ATC will include 62 test labs and 9 research labs. When fully staffed, the ATC will have more than 300 employees, including engineers, designers, researchers and technicians.

The first phase – the Advanced Materials Laboratory Building – includes a battery cell testing lab, battery material lab, metallography and electrochemical lab, cell fabrication lab, and micro-foundry and formability lab. It will focus on research in lightweight materials and battery cells for the development of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, extended-range electric vehicles and other advanced technology vehicles.

The ATC will share learnings and support ongoing engineering work at GM's Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) joint venture with SAIC in Shanghai as well as at GM's operations globally. It will leverage China-specific expertise throughout the GM network.

"The ATC reinforces GM's commitment to advanced technology leadership in China," said Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of the GM China Group. "It represents an important step forward for realizing GM's vision of sustainable mobility, which we showcased at World Expo 2010 Shanghai. It will ensure that GM keeps up with the needs of our local customers through the development of cutting-edge automotive technology that is cleaner, more efficient and affordable."

GM broke ground for the ATC in July 2010. The second phase is scheduled to open in the second half of 2012.

General Motors traces its roots back to 1908. GM has 11 joint ventures, two wholly owned foreign enterprises and more than 35,000 employees in China. GM and its joint ventures offer the broadest lineup of vehicles and brands among automakers in China. Passenger cars and commercial vehicles are sold under the Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Jiefang, Opel and Wuling brands. In 2010, GM sold more than 2.35 million vehicles in China, which represented 28.8 percent growth over the prior year. It has been the sales leader among global automakers in the market for six consecutive years. More information on General Motors in China can be found at GM Media Online.

Could plug-in vehicles save the U.S. Postal Service?

With the United States Postal Service facing financial woes, Infrastructurist claims to have found a plugged-in solution that will keep the centuries-old, Constitution-formed government agency alive and kicking: four tips that, if successful, would make Benjamin Franklin* proud. Here's an abbreviated look at tip number one:
The USPS currently operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world, with an estimated 218,684 vehicles. In 2009, these vehicles used an average of 444 million gallons of fuel, at a cost of $1.1 billion. Every penny increase in the average cost of gas costs the USPS an extra $8 million, according to a USPS official. The good news: In 2009, the USPS got 6,500 hybrid cars. That leaves only 212,184 to go!
So, a switch to hybrids – or even better still, plug-in vehicles – could save the USPS millions. While likely true, the U.S. Postal Service is no stranger to plug-ins. In fact, the Postal Service has been plugging in for more than 100 years and it all started back in July 1899 in the New York city of Buffalo when an electric carriage replaced a far slower horse-drawn wagon and doubled the speed of mail collection. Adding more plug-in vehicles to the fleet won't make mail arrive twice as fast, but it could save the government a lot of money. Given some calls to shut the USPS down or limit service, saving money could do something more impressive: keep the mail moving at all.

Source: Autoblog Green

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors Expand OEM Business in Japan


Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation have announced that the two companies have agreed to expand the scope of their OEM supply agreements in the Japanese market as follows:

Nissan will provide the Fuga luxury sedan to Mitsubishi Motors starting from summer 2012.
The two companies have started deliberations on the provision of Mitsubishi Motors' MINICAB-MiEV commercial mini EV to Nissan in fiscal year 2012.

The two new OEM project agreements are part of the core agreement signed in December 2010 to expand cooperation between the two companies. These new projects follow on a prior agreement for Nissan to provide the NV200 Vanette compact van to Mitsubishi Motors starting from October 2011, together with the establishment of the joint venture NMKV Co., Ltd., in June 2011. These initiatives are intended to strengthen the competitiveness of both companies in Japan.

Pike Research forecasts US plug-in vehicle penetration rates to be highest in smaller states

Pike Research forecasts that annual sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) will reach 358,959 vehicles by 2017, representing a compound anual growth rate (CAGR) of 43% between 2011 and 2017. To understand where these vehicles will likely be sold, Pike Research created a geographic forecast model using a variety of inputs including population and demographic trends; affinity towards electric vehicles; and automakers’ intended availability of vehicles.

While the most populous states will see the highest sales volumes, with California, New York and Florida likely leading the way, as a percentage of total vehicle sales, smaller states will lead, with Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, DC, and Delaware among the top states for PEV penetration.

Pike forecasts that California, New York and Florida will post cumulative PEV vehicle sales between 2011 and 2017 of 366,099, 146,242, and 101,530 units, representing 5.4%, 3.7%, and 2.8% penetration, respectively.

Hawaii, which typically has among the highest gas prices in the nation, will be the top state, with PEVs representing 6.3% of total light-duty vehicle sales in 2017. The second highest penetration rate will be in California (5.4%), followed by Oregon (5.4%), Washington, D.C. (4.6%), and Delaware (4.5%).

Pike Research forecasts that the top 5 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) for cumulative electric vehicle purchases between 2011 and 2017 will be:

  • New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA
  • Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI

Despite being large MSAs in terms of population, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, and Washington, DC are not expected to show strong sales of PEVs, with all forecast to have fewer than 28,000 PEVs in their respective markets. California dominates the tope ten MSAs when ranked by PEV sales, with all six of the top California MSAs in the top ten, along with New York CIty, Chicago, Phoenix and Seattle.

Relative to population, the firm anticipates that PEV penetration rates will be the highest in several smaller MSAs including Raleigh-Cary, NC; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; and Sacramento-Arden Arcade-Roseville, CA.

Pike Research expects that the electric utilities with the largest number of electric vehicles will be:

  • Southern California Edison (California)
  • Pacific Gas & Electric (California)
  • Consolidated Edison (New York)
  • Exelon (Illinois, Pennsylvania)
  • FPL Group (Florida)

PEV penetration will be influenced by several factors. Demographics, consumer attitudes, and available infrastructure will all help determine the uptake of PEVs in different areas.

—Pike Research senior analyst Dave Hurst

Using current hybrid vehicle owner demographics as a model, Pike ranked geographic regions by an index rating that compared them with the national average; the demographic measures included age, gender, household income, race and household size. The MSAs that most match the model demographics were:

  • Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO
  • Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, MA
  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA

Consumer attitudes toward electric vehicles differ from state to state, as well. Using data from Pike Research’s Electric Vehicle Customer Survey, as well as qualitative indicators, Pike Research developed an “Index of Positive Opinion” toward PEVs. Scores ranged from 4.36, for Northern California, to 0.07 (effectively, a negative overall opinion) in North Dakota (1.0 represents the national average). The top areas are:

  • Northern California: 4.36
  • Southern California: 2.90
  • North Carolina: 2.86
  • Arizona: 2.85
  • Downstate NY: 2.27
  • Ohio: 1.69

In addition, because of manufacturers’ rollout schedules, the availability of PEVs will vary widely by state and by region. New York and California today account for more than half of the available PEVs in the United States, while Southern states like Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama, as well as largely rural states such as Wyoming and Alaska, have very few plug-in electric vehicles available. This means that certain utilities, such as Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric in California and New York’s Consolidated Edison, will need to accelerate their preparations for significant rollouts of PEVs compared to their counterparts in other regions.

Pike Research’s report, “Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts”, provides data and forecasts for the plug-in electric vehicle market at the state and metropolitan statistical area levels. The report also includes forecasts for plug-in electric vehicle sales within selected electric utility service territories. The data includes sales forecasts from 2011 to 2017 at each geographic level, and analysis of major trends in the forecasts.

Source: Green Car Congress

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chevy Volt sales: What's the real story?

There's no end to people's emotions surrounding GM's Chevy Volt. Those with hate-GM and/or hate-Obama agendas are duty-bound to rage against it because they resent the bailout and see the Volt as a direct result of that money (even though it's not). Those who can love only "pure" battery electric vehicles must disapprove because it burns some fossil fuel on days when it runs out of battery juice.

On the other pole is just about everyone who has spent time in a Volt, including virtually all automotive media and the few thousand owners, including a local gas service station owner who bought the second one in my area and flat-out loves it. An eco-minded businessman who also paid big bucks to install the only E85 pump in our town a couple years ago, he drives it daily and encourages customers to take it for a spin.

Volt critics seem delighted that Chevy's range-extender EV has been selling in the low three digits monthly. This is a sure sign, they chortle, that the plug-in hybrid is too pricey and/or nearly no one wants one. No doubt it's expensive ($40,000 for the 2012 model, minus the $7,500 federal tax credit), which doesn't help. But Volt sales (like the Nissan Leaf's) are still limited by short supply, not lack of demand. There are waiting lists for both.

chevy volt production line

GM says Volts typically sit on dealer lots an average of three days before being delivered to a customer. But when Ward's Auto World recently reported that 226 Volts sat on dealer lots at the end of July, critics jumped on that as a 22-days' supply (inventory divided by sales rate) – which would actually be good, since about 70 days' is average – but they failed to note that only 550 Chevy dealers had been allocated Volts by that time. So if 226 of them had one, the other 324 had exactly zero in stock.

Ward's James Amend, who wrote that story, tells me he regrets that it has been misinterpreted. "Days' supply can be very misleading with low-volume vehicles," he says.

When Popular Mechanics recently asked me to do a story on (Volt and Leaf) EV sales, I found that Volt sales were just 302 in August and 3,172 for the first eight months of 2011. We can compare this to 1,362 Leafs in August and 6,168 since January 1.

GM reports that fewer than 4,300 2011 Volts were built before the Detroit-Hamtramck plant shut down for a month in mid-June for upgrades needed to increase Volt capacity from 16,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012. Of those, 784 (as of Aug. 31) had been assigned to dealers in 13 launch-market states as not-to-be-sold demonstrators, and some 300 are being used for GM engineer and executive evaluations, engineering test and development and media test cars. That leaves about 3,200 saleable Volts, which correlates well with AN's reported 3,172 total.

GM says the plant is now building roughly 150 2012 Volts per day and that Chevy dealers nationwide will be getting them by the end of this year, when more than 2,500 will have demo vehicles. GM also said that 6,000 2011s and 15,000 2012s will be shipped to Europe and other overseas markets, leaving just 10,000 2011s and 45,000 2012s for U.S. dealers.

"We expect demand to exceed supply for most, if not all, of the 2012 model year."
"Volts are being sold as quickly as they arrive," a GM spokesperson added. "We remain on target to sell every one of the 10,000 units we will build this year for U.S. consumers. Demand continues to significantly outstrip supply, [and] we expect demand to exceed supply for most, if not all, of the 2012 model year."

Of course sales would be better if dealers could sell their demos, but GM believes that retaining them for folks to see and drive is more important: "Although it's tough to limit the number of Volts for sale to potential customers when demand is so strong, the dealer demo program is the right strategy as the vehicle is drawing new customers into our dealerships." See also: Cruze sales.

chevy cruze

Then there is the laughable theory that GM and the federal government are conspiring to cover up weak sales of what one web writer calls, "an unwanted, over-priced vehicle that has no measurable benefit to the environment." Really? So GM must be lying when it reports owner satisfaction data better than on any GM car ever, then?

An amazing 97 percent of Volt owners say they are "completely" or "very" satisfied, while the other three percent are merely "satisfied." They report driving more than 1,000 miles (or about 30 days), on average, before refilling their gas tanks, and that two-thirds of those miles are on electric "grid" power. Nearly 90 percent of those who traded in vehicles for a 2011 Volt traded non-GM cars and are new to Chevrolet, and 35 percent considered no other vehicle.

This agenda-driven writer also claims that "billions of taxpayer dollars are being funneled to GM for production of green vehicles." Really? That would be great news to the incredibly dedicated and hard working team already laboring on the next-generation Volt and Voltec powertrain (and a variety of other EV, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles)... if it were true.

Perhaps GM could falsify owner survey data for a short while, if it believed it worth the trouble. Of course, the company would inevitability be embarrassingly caught. How in the world could anyone believe they could hide poor sales of any vehicle for long with relentless global media focused on U.S. sales, especially Volt/Leaf performance?

It is entirely possible that the high cost – and therefore a high price – of the Volt and other extended-range EVs will limit demand to where they will eventually start piling up on dealer lots. But with production so slow and supply so limited, that is far from happening right now and likely won't over the next year.

By the time supply does catch up to (and maybe pass) demand for the current Volt, there may be a more efficient and affordable Gen II ready for launch (that'll be the subject of a future column). But if GM were not confident, would it be investing in Gen II and expanding its EREV range to Cadillac and other brands and products? And would other OEMs already be showing EREV concepts that may or may not be heading for production?

We'll all see soon enough how Volt – as well as Leaf and other BEVs – will perform over time in the U.S. market. With no investment or agenda, my view on Volt's prospects has evolved from skepticism to cautious confidence. But show me a real inventory build-up or some seriously dissatisfied owners, and that opinion could change.

Source: Autoblog Green

350Green to install more than 400 ChargePoint Network Charging Stations for EVs across US

350Green and Coulomb Technologies will extend the reach of both companies’ technologies and services. 350Green has agreed to purchase and install more than 400 charging stations across the country powered by the ChargePoint Network, further growing the largest network of independently-owned charging stations. (Earlier post.)

350Green will also utilize ChargePoint Network cloud-based EV charging solutions to manage its national network, including charging stations from its other manufacturer partners.

Coulomb says the ChargePoint Network is the largest online network of electric vehicle charging stations and drivers.

350Green is building out a national network of more than 1,000 charging stations, with projects under way in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and California. The company is installing both Level 2 and DC Fast chargers in convenient locations through partnerships with retailers like Walgreens and real estate developers like Simon Property Group.

This is a significant expansion of our ChargePoint Network as 350Green has chosen to exclusively utilize ChargePoint Network to deliver services to its customers.

—Pat Romano, president and CEO at Coulomb

Source: Green Car Congress

State of Ohio Governor, John Kasich, Might Push State Fleet to Use Natural Gas

Ohio might join with neighboring states and convert government vehicle fleets to run on natural gas, which would boost demand for gas from the region’s shale formations, Gov. John Kasich said yesterday.

The governor spoke about the plan in the closing address of his two-day energy conference. He also said his office will announce a comprehensive energy policy by spring, although he gave few details about what it might include.

Kasich said he spoke with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett about the natural-gas-fueled vehicle idea, and members of his staff have brought up the idea with counterparts in Indiana and Michigan.

If several states worked together, they could create enough demand to drive down costs and encourage the manufacture of more natural-gas-fueled vehicles, Kasich said.

“Maybe some of those new cars will be built in Ohio,” he said.

Ohio’s state fleet has more than 12,000 vehicles. It is not clear how many of these would become natural-gas-fueled or how much such a project would cost.

The country had 114,270 compressed-natural-gas vehicles, according to 2009 figures, the most-recent available from the Department of Energy.

The Honda Civic Natural Gas, made in Indiana, is the only mass-market passenger car sold in the United States that runs on natural gas.

Other passenger models can be converted to run on the fuel.

The larger issue at the conference was the promise of natural gas from shale — and the potential that regulatory and environmental issues might hinder the industry’s development. Critics have said that “fracking” — the drilling technique used to extract resources from shale — is bad for air and water quality.

“We cannot stop fracking,” Kasich said, later adding that the process needs to be done in a way that respects the environment, or else “we’ll never forgive ourselves.”

Also at the event, executives of some of the country’s top automakers spoke about the role of energy in their businesses, and about the obstacles they face when deciding whether to expand in Ohio.

“Over the medium term and long term, auto manufacturing will be sustained in Ohio and grow in Ohio,” said Rick Schostek, vice president of Honda of America Manufacturing, based in Marysville. His company has more than 13,000 employees in the state, more than any other automaker.

Chrysler, Ford and General Motors also have plants in the state.

At least one other automaker considered Ohio in the early 2000s. Toyota decided to build elsewhere, partly because the state had a large number of plants, which would have lead to competition for workers and suppliers, said Dennis Cuneo, a former Toyota executive who is now a site-selection consultant.

“We didn’t want to be in Honda’s backyard,” he said.

Since then, though, with the closing of several plants in the state, he thinks there is room for an automaker to build a plant in the Dayton or Cincinnati areas.

The greatest impediment to attracting an auto company might be the state’s tradition of organized labor, Cuneo said, a comment he prefaced by asking the audience not to “kill the messenger.”

Contacted for a response, Ken Lortz, a regional director for the United Auto Workers in Ohio, said it is “absurd” to suggest that unions are an impediment to attracting employers. He listed examples of unionized auto plants that repeatedly have won awards for quality and productivity.

Other panels covered regulatory issues and the environmental concerns related to oil and gas production. The latter topic led to this comment about fracking:

“You can frack responsibly, but you have to use proper earth-control methods,” said Robert Chase, chairman of the petroleum-engineering department at Marietta College.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, September 22, 2011

GE and GM to partner on deploying EV infrastructure in China; focus on Shanghai

General Electric and General Motors signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to accelerate jointly the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in China. The MOU was announced at the 2011 China International Electric Power and Electric Engineering Technology Exhibition in Shanghai.

The main piece of the co-operation centers on Shanghai, which was selected by the Chinese government as the country’s first EV pilot city earlier this year and home to both GE’s and GM’s China headquarters. The two companies agreed to install GE’s WattStation and DuraStation charging systems at a government-assigned international EV demonstration zone in Shanghai’s Jiading District and at the GM Headquarters office in the city.

WattStation and DuraStation are different specifications of EV charging systems developed by GE Energy Industrial Solutions group that enable rapid charging for electric vehicles both at home and on the road.

According to the agreement, GE will also purchase GM’s Chevrolet Volt, an electric vehicle with extended-range capability, for use at its China headquarters campus in Shanghai. General Motors plans to begin selling Volts in China before the end of this year.

In addition, the companies will coordinate their respective engagement efforts with relevant Chinese government ministries, regulators and grid operators on formulation of the country’s EV industrial standards.

The electric vehicle era is not only about cars powered by greener fuels; a convenient charging facility network will play a key role in its success. To make it a reality in China, we bring innovative charging station solutions and are engaging grid operators, auto makers, city governments and end customers to advance their deployment.

—GE China’s Chief Commercial Officer Albert Wong

In August, GE Energy announced a partnership with Hertz Corporation, the world’s largest airport car rental company, to advance the rollout of EVs and charging stations in China, which includes the co-location of electric vehicles and GE EV charging infrastructure as a combined offering.

GM regards electrification as a key global industry trend. We are bringing our solutions for the electrification of the motor vehicle to China as part of our commitment to the sustainable development of the automotive industry. We look forward to working with GE to promote the acceptance and infrastructure for use of vehicles powered by electricity in the world’s largest vehicle market.

—Ray Bierzynski, GM Executive Director of Electrification

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Introducing Dirigo, the Homemade 99 MPG Three Wheeler

Bill Buchholz has built one of the most unique looking experimental diesel powered cars on the road. A one-time contender for the $10 million dollar Automotive X Prize, Dirigo is made of fiberglass and wood, Western Red Cider to be exact, and has gotten up to 99 miles per gallon (mpg); 89 mpg and 92 mpg recorded in events and competitions throughout the United States.

The first thing that strikes many people about Dirigo is the design. With the wooden planking and the pointed back end, Dirigo looks a bit like a boat. As it happens, Mr. Buchholz is boat builder by trade and lives in the historically nautical state of Maine; however Mr. Buchholz insists that the design just came out of necessity to keep the car light and aerodynamic.

The Western Red Cider wooden planking is easy to build compound curves out of and is light— Dirigo’s body weights only 120 pounds. During the design process the team that made Dirigo tossed around the idea of if wood was carbon neutral. Although the team never reached a concrete conclusion on the carbon neutrality of wood, people continue to positively respond to the wooden body Mr. Buchholz pointed out,

“People look at things that are different all the time. If you see a Lamborghini go by it catchers your eye, but it does not move you or inspire you to smile and wave.”

Dirigo is the product of The Maine Automotive X Team, with the original goal of winning the $10 million dollar Automotive X Prize contest. A prize incentive has historically lead to great human achievements Mr. Buchholz said,

“Lindbergh flew the Atlantic for a prize, there was a prize offered for the first transatlantic flight and that’s why he did it.”

The Maine Automotive X Team originally consisted of some twenty active members and now is composed of just Mr. Buchholz. At the start of the project Mr. Buchholz was just a member of The Maine Automotive X Team; never in his wildest dreams did Mr. Buchholz expect to end up with the completed Dirigo, or to be the manager of The Maine Automotive X Team’s 501c3 nonprofit that was formed to raise money for the project.

The Maine Automotive X Team was committed to using off the shelf technology that was easy to get and could meet the design parameters of the Automotive X Prize, all the while keeping the price relatively low. Thus, The Maine Automotive X Team went in search of non automotive components—specifically UTV parts that belonged to John Deere Gators or Kawasaki Mules. The Team settled on a 1985 Kawasaki Mule purchased on eBay for the UTV’s strut suspension, rear differential, steering, and most importantly the Daihatsu diesel engine. By the time the team received and stripped the Mule, only six team members remained.

From the parts of that Mule, Dirigo emerged. A three wheeled, front wheeled drive, five speed manual transmission, two seater, with five cubic feet of cargo space in the back and powered by a 28 hp, 3-cylinder Daihatsu diesel engine. As for the vehicles name, Mr. Buchholz explained,

“Dirigo is the Maine state slogan and it is Latin for leading the way or I lead. It comes from the political myth of as goes Maine so goes the nation. So we though well we are the team from Maine, Dirigo has a nice double entendre so let’s do that.”

With the deadline for the Automotive X Prize approaching fast The Maine Automotive X Team, which now consisted of three members including Mr. Buchholz, realized that Dirigo was not going to be ready. The team set a new goal of entering Dirigo in the Green Grand Prix. This goal was met and Dirigo placed second, going up against thirty competitors, at the Green Grand Prix with 89 miles per gallon– not a bad début. As for the overall cost and time of the project Mr. Buchholz said,

“It took around $15,000 dollars and it took eighteen months of Saturday mornings. Three guys, eighteen months, Saturday mornings.”

Since the Green Grand Prix Mr. Buchholz has become the sole driver of Dirigo and has registered Dirigo as a modified motorcycle. Insurance, however, is a bit vague. Technically Dirigo is 1985 Kawasaki Mule 750. Interestingly enough, Progressive Auto Insurance, who was a sponsor of the Automotive X Prize, does offer experimental, three wheel vehicle coverage plans. In the long run, determining how to insure and register a vehicle like Dirigo should not be a deterrent to anyone who is thinking of embarking on such a project. Mr. Buchholz never thought about it while building the Dirigo,

“People who are going to think about building these things are free thinkers; they will not be thinking about the paper work, they will find a way.”

Since becoming the caretaker of Dirigo and manager of the nonprofit, Mr. Buchholz has been busy. Mr. Buchholz organized a cross country trek across the United States with other former Automotive X Prize contestants and has participated in a number of “green” events; such as partaking three years in a row in The One Gallon Challenge and returning to the Green Grand Prix. Additionally Mr. Buchholz and Dirigo have been featured in a number of publications including The New York Times and The Boston Globe.

Dirigo’s diesel engine is currently running off at the pump diesel fuel but could be tuned to use bio diesel fuel. However, Mr. Buchholz does not feel comfortable burning food for fuel. On the topic of ethanol, Mr. Buchholz said that his dream scenario would be to use sugar cane from Cuba. Ideally this scenario would get America off corn, solve some American Cuban relation issues, and rebuild Cuba’s sugar cane industry. For now though, Mr. Buchholz would be happy upgrading to a three cylinder smart diesel engine.

Riding in Dirigo is quite the experience. Even with honeycomb core boards for sound reduction and marine insulation throughout, the differential of Dirigo causes some cab noise. Noise aside, Dirigo rides great. Reaching speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, equipped with cruise control, a sun roof, removable windows, and two seats that hug the body while Dirigo takes corners as if the car were on rails.

How does Dirigo feel to drive? Mr. Buchholz explained,

“I mentioned Lindbergh before because I think about him a lot and what it must have been like flying that airplane. It’s a lot like this, you are really aware of what you are doing, you are really driving the car, your trying to make it go and it’s not hard, I think it might be like driving an early 1950s MG, like driving a MG TC. You’re really driving it; you’re not just pushing a button with this car.”

As for what the future holds for Dirigo Mr. Buchholz said,

“That’s the big question, maybe it’s going to go to the grocery store, I don’t know. I drive it around because it is fun to drive, and people look at it and smile and wave, and it is also cheap to drive.”

Dirigo’s next public outing will be at The Mother Earth News Fair in Western Pennsylvania, 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in Silver Springs. And yes, Mr. Buchholz will be driving Dirigo all the way to Pennsylvania and then back home Maine.

The Maine Automotive X Team nonprofit is still active and Mr. Buchholz is interested in all comers who want to embark on some projects and follow an ideology that Mr. Buchholz shared,

“Owner builders, if you start, if you just start, and don’t think about the end, but just start doing it, with some rhythm and pace, even if you do it really slowly, even if it takes you five years, and you only spend $2 thousand dollars a year in materials, after 5 years you have a car. And five years is not really that long. And to have a project like this in your life is inspiring and fun.”

Learn more about Dirigo and get in touch with Bill Buchholz via The Maine Automotive X Team Website at

Image Source: Andrew Meggison,

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail.

Source: Gas2.0