Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lexus introduces 2013 ES 350 and first ES 300h hybrid

2013 Lexus ES 300h. Click to enlarge.
Lexus has introduced the 2013 ES 350—the sixth generation of Lexus’ luxury sedan since its introduction more than 20 years ago—and the first hybrid version of the ES, the ES 300h. Lexus had unveiled the ES 350 and 300h earlier this year at the New York International Auto Show. 
Featuring the Lexus Hybrid Drive with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine (2AR-FXE), the ES 300h is expected to earn EPA fuel economy ratings of approximately 40 mpg city, 39 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined (5.88, 6.03 and 6.03 L/100km, respectively).
The new, low-friction engine utilizes an advanced power management system and high compression ratio (12.5:1) to increase overall efficiency. The fuel system uses electronically controlled sequential fuel injection (SFI) with regular 87 octane unleaded gasoline. Bore and stroke are 3.54" and 3.86".
Equipped with an electric water pump, electric power steering, and an integrated hybrid electric motor/generator, this engine does not require any accessory belts. The beltless design helps improve fuel economy and overall reliability.
Engine-only power output is 156 hp (116 kW) @ 5,700 rpm, with 156 lb-ft (212 N·m) @ 4,500 rpm. The ES 300h generates 200 total system horsepower (149 kW).
The ES 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with Dual VVT-i that delivers 268 hp (200 kW) at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft (336 N·m) of peak torque at 4,700. The six-speed sequential-shift automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) provides enhanced driving performance, fuel efficiency and smooth shifts. Low friction materials further improve efficiency and help with the ES 350’s EPA-fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined (11.2, 7.59 and 9.80 L/100km, respectively).
Both the ES 350 and ES 300h feature a Drive Mode selector. Normal mode provides a blend of performance and efficiency that is suited to everyday driving, while Eco mode favors fuel economy. Sport mode increases powertrain and steering responsiveness, and for the ES 300h, the IP changes from the hybrid power monitor to a tachometer. The ES 300h adds an EV mode which allows short distance drives, at reduced speed, using only the power from the hybrid battery pack.
The wheelbase of the new ES has been lengthened by 1.8 inches, while the overall length of the vehicle has grown by one inch, resulting in shorter overhangs and a more spacious interior. Suspension changes, a stiffer body and a quicker steering gear ratio deliver more precise handling in the new 2013 Lexus ES.
The front suspension employs opposite-wound coil springs to help enhance straight-line stability. Revised rear suspension geometry and improved shock absorber damping characteristics enhance ride comfort. The steering gear ratio has been reduced from 16.1:1 to 14.8:1 to help deliver a more responsive and direct steering feel. Increased body rigidity is achieved through lightweight, high tensile strength steel, added bracing and more spot welds. Airflow is smoothed beneath the vehicle, improving stability and fuel economy, and reducing drag.
Warranty. All new Lexus vehicles come with a 48-month/50,000 mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48 months/unlimited miles. Powertrain and restraint system coverage is provided for 72 months/70,000 miles. Corrosion perforation protection is covered for 72 months, regardless of mileage. Hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery-control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

Source: Green Car Congress

TAC Motors selects the D1g1tal Dr1ve for their upcoming eStark


TAC Motors to build an electric version of their very popular Stark, jeep style sport-ute in 2013. "Deciding to make an electric Stark was an easy decision, the difficult part was, how?" said Giovani Balduino, TAC Motors' Technical Director. "MotoCzysz answered that question with the D1g1tal Dr1ve."

The D1g1tal Dr1ve is specifically designed for OEM's looking to build EV's. The single unit contains a liquid cooled, IPM electric motor and IGBT inverter, configurable gear reduction (1:1-10:1), differential, heat exchange, oil pump and miscellaneous electronics encased in a single box approximately the size of a carry-on piece of luggage. All that is needed to create torque is DC current supply, water loop and a low voltage wiring harness.

"The eStark is a very exciting and cool vehicle that I think will be a real success in Brazil and hopefully eventually in North America as well," said Michael Czysz, CEO of MotoCzysz. The D1g1tal Dr1ve is the commercialization of everything MotoCzysz has learned while maintaining a dominate force in electric motorcycle racing. With race-proven advanced cooling and integration, the D1g1tal Dr1ve is the first, fully integrated electric drive system for the next generation automobile.

The agreement between TAC Motors and MotoCzysz is for $27M USD / 3,600 D1 D1g1tal Dr1ves; deliveries to begin in 2013.

TAC Motors – A Brazilian company specializing in manufacturing and marketing vehicles, goods and services to automotive market niches. TAC Motors developed and manufactures the Stark, a 4WD vehicle specially designed for an excellent performance in any kind of terrain. With independent suspension and double shock absorbers on each wheel, Stark has a light structure made with RTM process fiberglass panels and engineering plastic covering a "cage shaped" reinforced tubular chassis, minimizing risks to the driver and passengers. Always aiming to provide innovative solutions to its customers, TAC Motors decided to use the D1g1tal Dr1ve to power its upcoming electrical vehicle, eStark.

MotoCzysz, LLC - Inventors of the fully integrated electric drive system. D1g1tal Dr1ves are the world's first, fully integrated electric drive systems designed for OEM's building electric automobiles and commercial vehicles. Recently added to the D1g1tal Dr1ve family is the D9, generating a remarkable 5,000Nm of drive torque for commercial vehicles. The D9 is currently undergoing rigorous government testing.

Marchionne: We're only making Fiat 500 EV because California's forcing us

It's a near-endless tale, the story of the all-electric Fiat 500. Whether you're looking back at 2010, 2011 or earlier in 2012, there's been reports and claims and stories. Today, there's more.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne recently spoke to the media about his companies' fuel-efficiency efforts, saying that hybrids and natural gas-powered vehicles will be coming by 2017. On the electric front, the Fiat 500 EV will be introduced in North America later this year, Marchionne said, admitting the car was being built for two main reasons: first, because California's ZEV mandates require it and, second, so Chrysler engineers learn more about electric powertrains. That sure makes it sound like Chrysler is years behind other companies, given that others have EVs on the market already. We know that Chrysler made a splash with the ENVI vehicles in 2008, but it's been relatively quiet since then.

The Fiat EV is not going to be a financial windfall. Marchionne recently said (again) that Fiat "will lose money on every car we make." The car could lose Fiat as much as $10,000 per vehicle.

Source: Autoblog Green

Details on Nissan’s I3 1.2L supercharged direct-injection gasoline engine

In 2011, Nissan launched a version of the Micra city car equipped with a new supercharged gasoline direct-injection engine (HR12DDR). The 1.2-liter, inline three-cylinder Direct Injection Gasoline-Supercharger (DIG-S) engine, assisted with a stop-start system, produces 72 kW (97 hp) and 142 N·m (105 lb-ft), while CO2 emissions are 95 g/km for the manual version (115 g/km for the CVT version).

Nissan recently published an SAE paper outlining the development of the new engine, which was developed as a new concept for achieving low levels of CO2 emissions. In the engine, the use of a high compression ratio (13:1) with a boosting system, a lower surface/volume ratio piston, and high tumble intake port optimize direct injection combustion. A supercharger with a magnetic clutch compensates for the disadvantage of the small displacement engine with the Miller cycle without sacrificing fuel economy.
The HR12DDR is based on the HR12DE, and betters that engine in terms of power output and torque, as well as fuel consumption and CO2emissions.
Nissan engine specifications
Bore (mm) 66 73 78 78
Stroke (mm) 68 82.8 83.6 83.6
Displacement (cc) 930 1386 1198 1198
Comp. ratio 7.7 9.8 13 10.7
Max power (kW/rpm) 81/6400 72/5600 72/5200 58/6000
Max torque (N·m/rpm) 130/4800 137/3200 142/4400 106/4400
Aspiration super and turbocharger natural supercharger natural
Injection port port direct port
CO2 (g/km) Euro Jpn only 154 95 115
Maximizing thermal efficiency with a CR of 13:1. While a higher compression ratio improves thermal efficiency, it also substantially induces knock due to the in-cylinder temperature rise at the end of compression. Adding a boosting system to a high CR ratio engine makes it more difficult to address that issue.
Partly to address that issue, Nissan adopted the direct injection system and additional cooling items such as a piston oil jet and high thermal conductivity piston ring.
Generally, Nissan noted, a valve recess on the piston surface is required to enhance volumetric efficiency under high load conditions. For the HR12DDE engine, this role can be taken over by supercharging, thereby minimizing valve recess and achieving a minimum piston S/V ratio. As a result, the piston retains its low S/V even with a compression ratio of 13, leading to higher thermal efficiency under partial load conditions. This piston enables Nissan to reach the same level of thermal efficiency at a CR of 13 as a conventional piston with a compression ratio of 14.

To maximize the effect of direct injection (DI), Nissan engineers adopted a 6-hole injector, and determined its spray pattern using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, considering the oil dilution issue in small bore engines.

While DI offers a number of well-known benefits (knock suppression through using the latent heat of evaporation to lower the temperature and the end of compression, better homogeneous combustion stability), it can also result in a non-homogeneous mixture in the cylinder, resulting in slower combustion, formation of hydrocarbon emissions (HC), and knock. A strong gas flow is required as a countermeasure to improve the homogeneity of the mixture at intake and compression, Nissan said.

Because the new engine has a supercharging system, the intake port could be designed for tumble flow specifically, allocating the air charging function on the supercharger. A sharp edge on the intake port brings on a shredding of the port lower side air flow and increased tumble.

Minimizing pumping loss. The main concept for reducing pumping loss is the late intake valve closing (LIVC) Miller cycle with high compression ratio. This enables a high expansion ratio even in LIVC state. In the HR12DDR, intake valve closing (IVC) is retarded until 100 ° after bottom dead center (ABDC)—corresponding to an effective CR of about 7:1. To reduce the rest of the pumping loss on un-boosted partial load, Nissan combined internal EGR with exhaust continuously variable valve timing (CVTC) and external EGR.

However, this concept causes “a severe combustion state”—inert burned gas and low effective CR. Further, combining Miller and a high CR attenuates the gas flow.

To strengthen gas turbulence at ignition, Nissan adopted a swirl control valve on the intake port; the swirl flow contribues to combustion stability even with heavy EGR.

The Miller cycle with internal EGR is realized using intake and exhaust CVTC; with this engine, Nissan is adopting for the first time an intake retard CVTC system. Nissan says that the system can satisfy both engine stability and LIVC Miller operation for fuel economy.

Reducing mechanical friction. Nissan adopted various friction-reducing technologies on the HR12DDR in addition to the piston oil jet, including H-free Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) coated piston rings—a first.
Although piston ring tension was increased to suppress oil consumption caused by increased thermal load in a high output boosted engine, the piston friction remained the same due to the DLC-coated ring.
A new decouple damper pulley and supercharger electromagnetic clutch and auto tensioner resulted in lower belt tension and reduced the friction by 20% compared to a conventional system.

In spite of the use of supercharging boosting, direct injection, and oil-dependent devices such as exhaust VTC, Nissan achieved a 10% reduction in engine friction with the HR12DDR compared to the HR12DE.
Optimized boosting system. Because the engine is a small displacement Miller engine, it has relatively less exhaust gas volume and energy, Nissan noted, citing that as the reason why the boosting system does not rely on the exhaust gas energy.

Nissan used an Eaton Roots-type supercharger with twin 4-lobe rotors, with a revolution of 2.4:1 compared to engine revolution. Although the supercharger already has low-rotating friction under a non-boosting condition, Nissan adopted the electromagnetic clutch—driven directly by the ECU—for further friction reduction. For boost pressure control, the engine uses a bypass valve upstream of the throttle valve.
An air-cooled intercooler is downstream of the supercharger; Nissan said that this is important to maintain knock quality using Miller cycle on the boost condition. It alo makes it easy to control the charged air volume along with recirculation under partial boost conditions.

Source: Green Car Congress

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Propane Cabs Slated for Pittsburg

Yellow Cab of Pittsburgh, a division of the Pittsburgh Transportation Group (PTG), is introducing propane-powered taxi cabs to Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will be on hand at the cab drivers annual barbecue Wednesday at the PTG garage on Preble Avenue in Manchester to see the first group of an anticipated 55 cabs to undergo the conversion.
It’s all part of the green initiative undertaken by our parent company—Veolia Transportation. Besides reducing pollution, the conversion will also provide a significant savings to our drivers who lease the cabs and must pay for their own fuel. With the current price of gasoline, we’re talking a savings of about $1.40 a gallon. That could be as much as $2,300 a year or more.
—Jamie Campolongo, president of PTG
PTG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Veolia Transportation, North America’s largest operator of multiple modes of transportation.

Nichicon introduces smallest and lightest 10 kW quick charger for EVs

Nichicon Corporation has introduced what it believes is the smallest and lightest quick charger for Electric Vehicles (EVs). This 10-kW-capacity model is certified for the CHAdeMO system and expands the company’s lineup by adding an EV quick charger that simplifies installation and lowers the user’s total costs. Output voltage is DC 50 V to 500 V (rapid recharging, CHAdeMO).
The NQC-A102 10-kW quick charger. Click to enlarge.
By utilizing its technology for OBCs (on board chargers) for EVs and standardizing the main components, Nichicon has succeeded in developing an ultra-compact quick charger. The product was displayed at the 2012 Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan, Inc. Annual Congress, from 23–25 May at Pacifico Yokohama.
Nichicon has been supplying OBCs (OBC with DC/DC converter) for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Nissan LEAF since the release of these two electric vehicles.
Utilizing its technology for OBCs for EVs, the company has developed and released ever-more-compact quick chargers in the 20-, 30-, and 50-kW output classes.
Nichicon said it was able to make this 10-kW ultra-compact quick charger the world’s smallest and lightest in its class by utilizing the company’s OBC technology and standardizing the main components.

Source: Green Car Congress

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Toyota Prius now third-most-popular car in the world... sort of

Think you're seeing more Toyota Prius models on the road these days? Well, you are.

Automotive News is reporting that all those increased Prius sales in the U.S. and Japan (see here and here and here and here etc.) have turned the Prius into the world's third-best-selling car model for the first three months of 2012. During the first quarter, the Prius sold 247,230 copies around the world. The only cars that sold more during that time were the Toyota Corolla (300,800) and the Ford Focus (277,000).

There's an asterisk on the Prius' sales figures, though. Much of that new success is due to the fact that there are a brace of new Prius models, namely the C, V and Plug-in – that have expanded the line, with the C being the "car of the moment in Japan," according to Automotive News. Sales in the U.S. were up 42 percent in the first quarter. The new models and the increased sales make up what AN calls a "Prius surge," one that could be capacity constrained in the States. AN writes that the sales pace could reach 250,000 units, but Toyota only has 220,000 units assigned to the market. More vehicles have been ordered, a Toyota exec says, but whether or not they arrive is uncertain. After last year's production issues, though, this is the good kind of problem to have.

Source: Autoblog Green

Ford Focus 1.0L EcoBoost model accounts for 23.3% of Focus orders in April in Europe

Across Europe, more than 4,700 customers ordered a Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost in April, accounting for 23.3% of the Ford Focus models in Europe’s major 19 markets.
The Euro 19 markets are: Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
The 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine is an example of an innovation arriving to market at just the right time, when customers are looking for a very fuel efficient but still-fun-to-drive petrol engine.
—Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe
The new EcoBoost turbo-charged, direct injection engine is Ford’s smallest, yet highest power density gasoline engine yet, delivering the performance of a conventional 1.6-liter engine with improved fuel efficiency and lower CO2. The Focus 1.0-liter EcoBoost is class-leading in fuel economy and CO2 emissions in the C-segment for gasoline-engine vehicles, Ford says.

Weighing just 97 kg (214 lbs), the 1.0-liter EcoBoost is small enough to sit on a sheet of A4 paper. The engine will also be available in the Ford B-MAX and Ford C-MAX later this year, with further applications yet to be announced.

The Volt continues to bring dealer floor traffic and attract Prius owners

Chevrolet has just issued a press release saying a fair number of Prius owners are voting with their bank accounts in favor of its Volt.
Marketing data collected on the extended-range electric car shows the Prius is the most traded-in vehicle for those opting for the Volt. Following this are the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, and various iterations of the BMW 3-Series.
Now that the Volt has been granted eligibility for solo access to the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in California, GM’s marketers are charging in hard finding case examples of happy new Volt converts.
According to Chevrolet, Del Grande Dealer Group President Shaun Del Grande is seeing new customers trading in Toyota Prii and Honda Civics for Volts at his dealership.
“I owned a Prius for six years and loved it. I was one of the first to sign-up for the plug-in (version),” said Steve Glenn of Santa Monica, Calif. “While I was waiting for it to ship, I learned that the Volt would qualify for the HOV stickers, so I did a test drive. I fell in love then. It’s faster, better appointed and gets far better gas mileage than the Prius (or the plug-in). I’ve driven it over 1,000 miles and I’ve only used five gallons of gas.”
And probably even easier to find was a dealer willing to also tout its advantages.
“Volt is a game changer for us in northern California,” said Shaun Del Grande, president, Del Grande Dealer Group in San Jose. “On a daily basis new customers are coming into our dealership to check out the Volt because of its breakthrough technology and superior fuel economy. Our dealership is seeing new customers who are trading in Prius and Civic models, and we’re just getting started with electric vehicles.”
On the other hand, GM has caught heat from some for being in other ways tepid in its marketing, not as truly aggressive as, say, Nissan, in pushing its new technology to more platforms.
But GM is playing according to its own muse, and seemingly content to make the Volt a halo car while it’s still solidifying its post-bankruptcy balance sheet and the Volt’s also recently wounded reputation.
On this last score, the Volt was top ranked in owner satisfaction by Consumer Reports and a recent survey showed Volt owners “expressed their passion for the vehicle” and 93 percent said they’d buy another one again.
This, Chevrolet says, as it is also naming Prius owners as the number one category of those trading in for the Volt.
And it says it while the long-established Toyota – and variants – continue at this early juncture to dominate in monthly sales volume, and the Volt is still only selling in limited numbers.
In counterpoint once more, the Volt also comes packed with a prestige value for GM that may be inestimable. Recently former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz was quoted as saying the new halo single-handedly rescued GM’s reputation from one of mediocre technology.
Perhaps that dovetails also with GM’s data saying how GM is experiencing a resurgence of new customers due to the Volt.
“Nearly seven in 10 Volt buyers are new to Chevrolet,” said Volt marketing manager Cristi Landy. “With new customers coming to the brand because of the Volt, our dealers have a great opportunity to establish lasting relationships and introduce them to our entire Chevrolet product line up.”
But since GM says the Volt is such a great car, others have said they’d like to see GM show it really means it and bring in some lower price point Voltec variants as well, maybe also a crossover vehicle while they’re at it.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Chevrolet Volt Solves Zombie Anxiety

It won a film award in Spain, it’s not coming to the U.S., and frankly, it’s not that big of a deal because a recent Chevy Volt ad sidesteps the actual target its makers no doubt thought of in highlighting primordial fears associated with “range anxiety.”
Face it, some people today would worry about electric cars in the event of a terrorist attack, or calamity, or emergency – or some reason for needing to hightail it out of town.
Beyond that, GM has always emphasized the Volt solves a perceived everyday problem of limited electric range by offering gasoline backup serviceable at normally available gas stations.
Volt and Zombies

That said, the “Zombie Ride” Volt ad done for the Barcelona 2012 Video Contest playing off of subconscious fears baked in from Hollywood-style post-apocalyptic scenarios features a gasoline car running out of gas while zombies chase two guys running from the mutants left from the catastrophe.
Portrayed this way, the film maker bypassed his opportunity to implicitly diss the likes of the Nissan Leaf, or Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric, or any other electric car that can go 70-100-some miles before running out of juice without a plug in sight.
Instead, the poor refugees picked a gasoline-powered clunker car that runs to Empty, with zombies closing in.
To be fair to more optimistic critiques, we’ll note others have observed this is a first Volt ad that emphasizes the car’s ability to travel on electricity when gas leaves you stranded.
This is possible. The European Volt and Ampera do have a “Hold” feature enabling them to run exclusively on gasoline, saving the battery power for later.
OK, we get that point too, but assuming it was in electric mode – and ignoring that the Mazda in the ad is in the western desert with a California license plate – the Volt would be a victim of range anxiety soon enough – possibly sooner than a Leaf for that matter which has a larger battery.
And otherwise, how much difference does it make comparing gas car versus gas-electric Volt? Those guys could have stashed a couple of 5-gallon gas cans in the trunk and put hundreds of miles between them and disaster.
Their odds were otherwise nearly equal to the Volt’s extended-range solution, but perhaps the filmmaker was being too polite?

The ad even made up a new definition of “Range Anxiety: The fear of being stranded in an automotive vehicle.’’
Nope, sorry. That is not what was said before. The message has consistently been the Volt beats EVs as a solution for range anxiety and offers all the advantages of a gasoline car.
Oh well. It’s an novel commercial at any rate. People can be entertained for a minute and still get the point, even if it is watered down.


Initial details on fiery crash involving BYD e6 that killed 3

Three passengers in a BYD e6 taxicab, including the driver, were killed in an accident in Shenzhen on 26 May.
BYD e6 in flames following crash. Click to enlarge.
In its microblog on, Shenzhen traffic police say the accident happened at about 3:08 in the early morning on Binhai Dadao (Beach Boulevard) near the city’s downtown. A drunk driver crashed a high-speed Nissan GT-R into a BYD e6, and then collided with another, gasoline taxicab. The e6 hit a tree before bursting into flames. The GR-R was traveling at no less than 180km/h [112 mph], an eyewitness told Guangzhou TV reporting on the crash. The driver and two female passengers on the pure-electric car apparently never had a chance to get out. A person in the other taxi suffered minor injuries. The drunk driver ran away from the scene, but turned himself in to the police later that morning, at about 10.
News about the accident has spread quickly as speculation mounts over the cause of the EV fire and its possible effects on BYD and the industry. It evokes the burning of a Zotye EV, which also served as a taxicab (no one was injured in that case)...While the e6 was obviously not at fault, people want to know why an EV, without a gas tank, can burn to ashes in minutes. Many of them still remember the words of Wang Chuanfu, Chairman of BYD: “Batteries from BYD would not explode even if you throw them into a fire.”
About 400 e6s are in service in Shenzhen as taxis; the city plans to grow the fleet to 800 units this year. BYD has not yet issued a statement about the crash.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

IBM names Coda a 'GOOD' company

Well, it can't be a bad thing to be mentioned in the same breath as the Green Bay Packers, though last year would've been better timing.

Electric-vehicle maker Coda Automotive was named in an IBM-led survey as one of 40 so-called "GOOD" companies for its innovations, environmental emphasis and social responsibility.

Coda was recognized among mid-sized (that is, 100 to 1,000 workers) companies as representing a combination of sustainable and creative business practices that further diversity and social good. Other notable companies on the list include Cascade Engineering, Patagonia, Zipcar and, yes, the Green Bay Packers, winners of the 2011 Super Bowl.

Coda, which opened its Los Angeles headquarters late last year, sold its first Coda Sedan EVs in March. The company sells the Sedan with an official 88-mile single-charge range for $39,900. Coda late last month reached a deal with China-based Great Wall Motors to make a vehicle for Europe, China and North America that would undercut most other electric vehicles, pricewise.

Source: Autoblog Green

EcoCAR 2 Year One Winner: Mississippi State University

EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future named Mississippi State University, with its series-parallel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle design, the Year One winner at the EcoCAR 2012 Competition in Los Angeles. The 15 universities competing in EcoCAR 2 gathered for six days of judged competition for $100,000 in prize money.
EcoCAR 2—which follows the competition series EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge—is a three-year competition sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE), General Motors (GM) and 25 other government and industry leaders to give students the opportunity to gain real-world automotive engineering experience while striving to improve the energy efficiency of a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.
Year One of the competition series emphasized engineering design though modeling and simulation to select and virtually test their plug-in hybrid electric vehicle architecture. Teams also started developing their hybrid control strategy using hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation tools and designing major vehicle subsystems, including hybrid powertrain, energy storage, and high-voltage electrical systems.
Throughout the competition events in Los Angeles, EcoCAR 2 teams put their designs to the test, giving presentations to industry and government professionals based on their mechanical, electrical, control and HIL strategies, project initiation approval, outreach and business plans, and trade show display.
The Mississippi State University team produced top tier design reports, won Best Facilities Inspection, Best Final Technical Report, Best Project Initiation Approval Presentation, Best Trade Show Evaluation, and Best Controls Presentation categories. The university started competing nine years ago and has since taken first place three times previously.
The second place team is The Ohio State, and University of Waterloo took third place overall.
Now that their vehicle architectures are finalized, the 15 teams also received the keys to the GM-donated 2013 Chevrolet Malibu they will spend the next two years rebuilding, testing and refining.
Sponsors, which have contributed a total of $745 million in software, hardware and cash donations, include: General Motors; US Department of Energy; Natural Resources Canada; MathWorks; California Air Resources Board; Clean Cities; dSPACE, Inc.; A123 Systems, Inc.; Freescale; AVL Powertrain Engineering, Inc.; National Science Foundation; ETAS; Snap-On Tools; Magna E-Car Systems; Magna Powertrain; Robert Bosch, LLC; FleetCarma; Siemens PLM Software; CD-adapco; Ventor CANtech, Inc.; GKN; Blackberry; QNX; Woodward; Delphi Foundation; Caterpillar and Women in the Winner’s Circle.

Source: Green Car Congress

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Best of it and Some Surprises From New Opel Ampera Owner

 By Jean-Charles Jacquemin

 The best of it

What has been best for me during those last weeks since I drive my Ampera and still is, are mainly the facts that:
- I do best than the Audis and BMWs in the roundabouts and, more generally, in urban traffic, their drivers don’t like it at all …
- I show my students and researchers what a better future mobility could be. To their surprise, I let them drive my Ampera to convince them and they are still speaking about the experience two weeks after,
- I speak about it to my colleagues, friends and interested neighbors and also I let them have a ride and drive it to really feel the difference
- and, the best of it, I may leave my house and come back without my neighbors knowing it.
So life has been very interesting and instructive since I received the keys of my Ampera.
The picture below is my first vision of my Ampera, arriving in my Opel garage driven by the dealer.

Some surprises too

First, I’m convinced that all the fuss about the danger of the silent drive for pedestrians with riding at low speed is much ado about nothing. Never, even in crowded streets, had I to brake violently to avoid one, really if you drive with an attention to pedestrians and cyclists, there is no problem at all.
Second, the original charging cord supplied with the car is very sensitive to the type of electric current it receives, I was unable to charge at a friend’s home because the charging cord didn’t find the good tension and … even if the son of the house is electrician and checked all the power outlets which were, on belief of his instruments readings, OK. My charging station works fine at around 14.95 A. I get a better mileage for a full charge with it (68 km) than with the original charging cord at 5A for which I got 62 km for a full charge.
The second picture shows my charging station with its cable, the screen of the station is a subcounter linked to my smartphone to pilot the station and to the internet to archive the history of charging my Ampera. It has also a subcounter for the cost of the charge based on the current electricity rates.

Third, Opel was not very efficient – as I related in some comments in April – when I was waiting to get my Ampera. I must say they made a commercial gesture to compensate for the inconvenience by offering me some accessories like the luggage net, the hard cargo liner for trunk protection, the sun-shade windshield, and the charge cord bag. The last three items are very useful and I recommend them.
Fourth, and without doubt the most important for me, my driving style has completely changed. As the Volt or the Ampera is conceived to make you aware of your energy consumption, I surprised myself to give me a challenge to get a 100-percent driving efficiency on every trip and I often succeed. So that often I get more than 70 km on a full charge even in difficult terrain. It is now a challenge between my wife and me to get the higher mileage on a full charge or on a trip.
Fifth, usually I have to drive in heavy, often stop and go traffic. Before with my previous ICE cars, I returned home tired and stressed. Nothing like this with the Ampera with its driving easiness, the linearity of its accelerations, the regenerative power of the L position (I run in D only on highways if the traffic is not dense, that is 2 percent of the time) … and the quality of its infotainment system.
And at last, my surprise was that in the HOLD mode, the gas consumption in a long trip is around 4.8l/100km (more or less 50 mpg) with a normal driving style. I often drive in HOLD mode on highways when I know I cannot recharge at my destination to be able to drive in NORMAL mode in town and on the return trip.
Usually as an early adopter of new technologies I’m disappointed about one or another feature of my new purchase. Until now I have nothing to complaint about my Ampera (yes perhaps my own dumbness when it comes to assimilate and apply all the contents of the user’s manual!). I must say I learned a lot on and I have nothing extraordinary to tell about the mileage or the technology in different situations (I think all has already been said) except that I have been surprised by the response delay when I accelerate brutally (a very rare situation) in HOLD mode.
I only hope more people could have the opportunity and the pleasure to drive an Ampera or a Volt. For this, its price has to be lower, early adopters like a lot of us may help. It will help the world to diminish its oil dependency.


Hybrid, plug-in vehicle sales will jump fivefold in five years, report says


According to a new market research report "Low (Zero) Emission Vehicle Market (2012 - 2017) - By Degree of Hybridization & Type of Traction Battery Used - Global Forecast, Trends & Analysis" published by MarketsandMarkets (, the global low emission vehicle market was valued $21.13 billion in 2011 and is expected to grow from $27.45 billion in 2012 to $103.13 billion by 2017 at an estimated CAGR of 30.3% from 2012 to 2017. 826.8 thousand low emission vehicle were shipped on a global level for 2011 and the number is expected to reach 3532.1 thousand units by 2017, at an estimated CAGR of 27.8% from 2012 to 2017.

Browse 105 tables and in-depth TOC on "Low (Zero) Emission Vehicle Market (2012 - 2017) - By Degree of Hybridization & Type of Traction Battery Used - Global Forecast, Trends & Analysis". Early buyers will receive 10% customization on reports.

A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a type of hybrid vehicle and electric vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) propulsion system with an electric propulsion system. The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle, or better performance.

The world is dominated by ICE-powered vehicle and enjoying the benefits of advances in technology and mass production; wide support from components manufacturer industries, and availability of talented resources. However, the outcome of this dominance includes faster consumption of global fossil fuel resources and an increasing amount of exhaust emissions such as CO2 and CO in the environment. Given these challenges, governments and automakers are looking for better alternative to ICE-powered vehicle that can reduce the exhaust emission and reduce the dependence on oil, which is the primary fuel to tradition vehicles. That is why the need for low emission vehicle is evolving and is continuously growing. This approach will act as a medium to make automotive industry more environment-friendly, ultimately benefiting the world.

Talking of low emission vehicle [ ] market based on degree of hybridization, FHEVs are expected to remain as market leaders during the forecasted period. Market for FHEVs and BEVs will develop at a faster rate due to governments' initiatives to develop charging infrastructure and development in battery technology. Till date, the mass produced FHEV cars have been powered by nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries, which are larger and heavier than lithium ion; for example, battery used in Toyota Prius. For PHEV and BEV, lithium seems to the best option in the years to come; due to its high energy density.

Various low emission vehicle types that are covered in the report are Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV), Full Hybrid Electric Vehicle (FHEV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), and Pure Electric Vehicle (EV or BEV). The report also profiles 15 key low emission vehicle manufacturers, along with 7 key players of the vehicle component manufacturers. The report draws the competitive landscape of low emission vehicle market, providing an in-depth comparative analysis of the technological and marketing strategies the key players are adopting in order to gain an edge over the their competitors.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alt-fuel cars unsustainable without government assistance

According to the 2012 U.S. Automotive Industry Survey and Confidence Index by Booz & Co., alternative vehicle powertrains may take up as much as 10 percent of the total market by 2020, but only if the federal government continues to support development.

Without a helping hand from Uncle Sam, only 30 percent of the researchers, executives and consumers who participated in the survey believe alternative-fuel machines will be able to carve out that small slice of the market. Specifically, federal tax incentives for potential buyers could help push the technology forward in the future.

According to Wards Auto, further development faces a double hurdle. First, additional urban planning is required to demonstrate plug-in hybrids and EVs will be viable options for buyers, but at the same time, government agencies also need to see fuel cell and battery costs come down before being willing to pony up for chargers or incentives.

Even so, 70 percent of those surveyed said they were more confident about future hybrid demand than they were in 2011. Take a look at the full survey results here.

Source: Autoblog Green

Identifying the Current Chevrolet Volt Market

Who buys a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car?
It’s a question that we’ve tried to answer in the past, examining initial sales data from General Motors to try and create the automotive equivalent of an indentikit Volt buyer.
Unsurprisingly, many early-adopting Volt buyers were green car fans looking to make the switch to a plug-in hybrid, regardless of who made it. As a consequence, 90 percent of early-adopters were new to the Chevy brand.
Now data from GM shows that trend has continued, with nearly 70percent of new Volt sales to date being made to customers who would traditionally have avoided the Chevy brand.
Traditionally called “conquest buyers”, these new-to-Chevy buyers are trading in an array of different cars from different automakers.
Most noticeably however, the most frequently traded-in cars are the Toyota Prius Hybrid, followed by the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic and BMW 3-series.

“Nearly seven in ten Volt buyers are new to Chevrolet,” said Volt marketing manager Christi Landy in a recent press release. “With new customers coming to the brand because of the Volt, our dealers have a great opportunity to establish lasting relationships and introduce them to our entire Chevrolet product line up.”
It’s worth noting of course that while many new Chevy customers go to a Chevy dealer to look at a Volt, not all of them end up buying one.
For Chevy however, it’s not always a loss: once inside a Chevy dealership -- somewhere they’d not ordinarily shop for a car -- those car buyers who decide a Volt isn’t for them end up buying a different model, such as the 2012 Chevy Cruze.
In short, the Volt not only brings in new electric car customers to Chevy, but also new gasoline car customers.
However, it’s easy to get overexcited over sales data, and worth noting that the only competitor to the Volt at present is the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
With little competition from elsewhere, we think it prudent to remember that the true measure of the Volt’s popularity -- just like any other green car --  can only be measured when the plug-in hybrid marketplace has substantially grown.

Source: Green Car Reports

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mercedes A-Class going electric with Tesla's help; for real this time?

Reports of Mercedes-Benz and Tesla building an electric A-Class together are nothing new. In fact, a fleet of 500 A-Class-based E-Cells was built for Europe. Most recently, a Tesla earnings report revealed that Tesla was still working on an all-electric powertrain for an unnamed EV for Daimler, the evolution of a deal that began when Daimler invested in the Silicon Valley automaker in 2009. The two automakers also worked together on the Smart ED.

So, what's this then in a Dutch website? A report on Groen7 says that "a source at Tesla" has revealed that the previously unnamed EV Tesla is busy with (among other things) is an updated, electric version of the new A-Class, one that will perhaps arrive in 2013. We had previously guessed the secret Tesla-Daimler deal would result in an all-electric B-Class, but being wrong there won't stop us from trying to predict the future again: the hints are present that this next A-Class EV will remain a small-scale project. We hope we're proved wrong. 

Source: Autoblog Green

Skylark Restaurants in Japan to offer free EV recharging at 900 locations

Integrity Exports. The Skylark restaurant group in Japan plans to offer free EV public recharging at their 900 locations around Japan, with no obligation to be a customer of the restaurant.
Initially, the chargers will be standard “slow” chargers, but if you combine a meal with a bit of shopping, you could end up with a quarter to a third of a “tank” for free. Skylark will be gradually supplementing these with fast chargers as well, so customers will be able to get a full charge while they eat.
Theoretically you could tour the entire country paying nothing for your travel and eating cheap at Skylark’s restaurants. Of course, all this is in the future, as they are currently working on 9 “Gusto” restaurants—one each in Kanagawa, Saitama, Kyoto, Nara and Shiga, but this will increase to a third of their locations in the next five years.
...Of course, these will all be in addition to the charging points springing up around Japan in car dealerships (right now 25% of Mitsubishi dealers—about 180 dealerships—have chargers up and running), convenience stores (the big players like Lawson, Family Mart and Circle K together have 51 installations) and other locations.
—Stephen Munday, Integrity Exports

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nissan to begin production of e-NV200 electric LCV in FY 2013 at Barcelona

Nissan will begin production of its e-NV200 battery-electric compact van into production at its Barcelona plant in FY 2013, which will become the sole producer of the EV. The new model will be based on the existing NV200 currently produced at the plant.

e-NV200 will become Nissan’s second all-electric vehicle (EV) following the LEAF. The new model, which represents a €100 million investment by Nissan in Spain, is expected to create around 700 new jobs at the plant and throughout its local supplier base.
Nissan says that the addition of the e-NV200 to the Barcelona production slate highlights the growing competitiveness of Nissan’s Spanish industrial operations. Nissan last week allocated a new medium duty truck to the Avila Plant in central Spain.
The current NV200 line up has already sold around 100,000 units, and has been chosen as the next-generation New York City Taxi of Tomorrow. Currently, evaluations of prototype NV200-based electric vehicles are being carried out in Europe. Trials will continue in coming months.

Hold the Phone, the Aptera is Back!

This story is now a couple of weeks old, but we haven't hurried to publish it.
The gist is that the unique Aptera three-wheeled electric car is supposedly going to be reborn, and will return to the U.S. market sometime next year.
A new company, Aptera USA, purchased the assets of the old Aptera after its December shutdown--including the designs and the trademark for the plastic-bodied 2e electric car.
That car had been put on the back burner back in January 2011, when the company turned its attention to a four-wheel vehicle in an ultimately futile attempt to win low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.
The new company--initially to be named Zaptera, about which more later--plans to build the rolling shell of the new Aptera in China, it says, and install the lithium-ion battery pack and electric running gear in the States.
Weirdly, the Chinese builder, Zhejiang Jonway, competed against Aptera in the Progressive Automotive X Prize contest, which Aptera had high hopes of winning--and did not after a door flew open on the handling test.
Aptera 2e during Automotive X-Prize handling tests, from Consumer Reports video on YouTubeAptera 2e during Automotive X-Prize handling tests, from Consumer Reports video on YouTube
The new three-wheeler is said to use a 20-kilowatt-hour pack with cells from A123 Systems--which also provides batteries for the Fisker Karma and the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV--powering a 82-kilowatt (110-horsepower) electric motor.
At some point this year, the new team plans to reactivate the Aptera website and begin taking deposits again, with priority going to previous Aptera depositors.
Ultimately, the new company plans to sell the car not just in California, as old Aptera planned, but across the U.S. and internationally. The projected price is around $25,000.
Frankly, we'll believe it when we see it.
We're glad, though, that the reborn Aptera is apparently not affiliated with Zap Jonway. Zap has a long and well-documented history of not delivering promised products on time; read the 2008 Wired expose to which we've linked for the whole sordid story.
But there are several factors working against the new Aptera.
Aptera 2eAptera 2e
First, it's incredibly expensive and takes a very long time to start up a car company in the U.S. and get certification for any new vehicle. (Whether the company will certify the new Aptera as a three-wheel car or a motorcycle is open to question.)
Second, the market for two-seat vehicles in the U.S. has always been tiny, at 100,000 units or less out of a market of up to 15 million vehicles.
Third, the market for plug-in electric vehicles--which remain expensive to buy--is equally small at the moment, though it will grow over time.
Finally, it takes a special kind of owner to want to drive an all-electric two-seater that also has just three wheels and looks like a Cessna cabin shorn of its wings.
Don't get us wrong; we think the Aptera is a neat car and a thought-provoking exercise in ultra-efficient transportation design. But whether it's a viable business is a different question.
So while we're eager to learn more about the resuscitated Aptera, and certainly to drive a production version of the car ... we're not going to hold our breath.

Source: Green Car Reports

Navigating the Electric Car Pricing Maze

Always read the fine print. That's a lesson every car buyer should take to heart.
Especially since Nissan, Chevrolet, Tesla, and Mitsubishi all now engage in a pricing practice of which they should be ashamed.
It's so-called "net pricing" of their electric cars, in which the price appearing in their marketing and on their websites is $7,500 lower than the actual list price.
While electric-car advocates and fans may understand the practice, the broader public doesn't.
And the sticker shock at dealers can be substantial when a buyer, prepared to spend $27,700 for a brand-new 2012 Nissan Leaf suddenly learns that in fact the price is $35,200.
What's the difference? It's the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit for purchase of an electric car (with a battery pack of 16 kilowatt-hours or more).
First, it can take up to 16 months to realize the savings: A Leaf owner who bought her car this past January won't realize the $7,500 savings until she gets her 2012 tax refund--sometime in April or May 2013.
The credit can be realized immediately by leasing the electric car rather than buying--the lease issuer claims the credit and reduces the monthly cost accordingly--but not everyone wants to lease.
Second, not every buyer will qualify for the tax credit (though most people with the means to buy a $35,000 to $85,000 electric car probably will).
And third, buyers incur an extra $900 in financing costs over a typical 60-month loan term to finance that extra $7,500.
Showing how the lower-than-list price is prominently featured, here are pages with the four companies' electric-car prices in large, distinct type:
  • 2012 Tesla Model S: "$49,900" (it's actually $57,400, or 15 percent higher--though we give Tesla a bit of credit for noting "After $7,500 Federal Tax Credit" in tiny silver type at the side)
  • 2012 Chevrolet Volt: "MSRP As Low As $31,695" with two separate footnotes (it's actually $39,195 before delivery, or 24 percent higher)
  • 2012 Nissan Leaf: "Starting at $27,700" plus an asterisk (it's actually $35,200, or 27 percent higher)
  • 2012 Mitsubishi i: "As low as $21,625 net value, after tax saving" with a footnote (it's actually $29,125, or fully 35 percent higher--though its pricing detail page spells it out nicely with the credit deducted at the bottom)
Yes, they all have asterisks or daggers that indicate there's fine print to be read.
Yes, even gasoline cars have mandatory delivery charges (usually $600 to $1,000) that aren't included in the base price.
Sleazy Car SalesmanSleazy Car Salesman
And, yes, we get that it's "effective pricing after Federal incentives."
We still think net pricing of electric cars is deceptive, duplicitous ... and, frankly, counterproductive.
And electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton goes even further.
"While tempting, the practice of net price quoting is misleading," she says, "and all but guarantees sticker shock when buyers are asked to hand over or finance the full amount at time of purchase"
Rather than this bit of pricing trickery, "it would be far more useful for automakers to engage in the third-rail conversation of actually reforming the tax credit," Sexton suggests.
"There are a handful of ways that would make all of their vehicles more affordable, and support increased plug-in sales, while also saving taxpayer money."
Sexton is referring, among other ideas, to converting the Federal tax credit into a purchase rebate.
Barack ObamaBarack Obama
Under that plan, rather than waiting up to 15 months, buyers would get a rebate check in the mail within weeks--as is now the case for the $2,500 California incentive for buying all three cars.
President Barack Obama said more than a year ago that he's in favor of that change, and proposed in his 2012 budget to raise the incentive to $10,000.
Neither change has happened, and we suspect that all of Washington will stay as far away as possible from electric-car incentives until after the November election.
The outcome of that election will likely affect those incentives--for good or for bad.
Meanwhile, we urge automakers to post the actual list price for their plug-in models, not some hypothetical "effective net price" that differs radically from the check buyers must write.
It's simply called honesty and transparency.

Source: Green Car Reports

Worldwide sales of Toyota Motor hybrids top 4M units; Prius family accounts for almost 72%

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced that global cumulative sales of its hybrid vehicles—passenger car and commercial—topped the 4-million unit mark as of 30 April. The company reached the 3-million mark with its hybrids in February 2011.
Of these, the original Prius (liftback) accounts for 65.8% of cumulative sales, with 2.631 million units sold—44% of those sales were in Japan, and 56% overseas. The expanded Prius family—Prius, Prius α/v (138K), 81% in Japan; Prius Aqua/c (95.5K), 87% in Japan; and Prius PHV (7.3K), 64% in Japan—accounts for 71.8% of cumulative TMC hybrid sales.
After the Prius, the second-best selling hybrid for TMC has been the Camry, with 269.6 thousand units sold, with 95% of those sales occurring outside of Japan. In third place is the Rx 400h/Rx 450h, with 238.6 thousand units sold cumulatively, with 92.8% of those sales outside of Japan.
TMC currently sells 18 hybrid, passenger vehicle models in approximately 80 countries and regions around the world. This year, hybrid vehicles have accounted for 15% of TMC’s global vehicle sales. With the upcoming “Yaris Hybrid” scheduled for launch in Europe and the Lexus “ES 300h” for the United States, TMC is committed to augmenting its hybrid product lineup further, and increasing the number of countries and regions in which it sells hybrid vehicles.
Annual sales of TMC hybrids, Japan and Overseas. Data: TMC. Click to enlarge.
In 1997 in Japan, TMC launched the “Coaster Hybrid EV” in August and launched the “Prius”—the world's first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle—in December. Sales of the Prius began in North America, Europe and elsewhere in 2000. The second-generation Prius followed in 2003 along with the expanded use of TMC’s hybrid system on such vehicles as minivans, SUVs, rear-wheel-drive sedans and compact hatchbacks.
The third-generation Prius launched in May 2009 received strong support from customers around the world, leading to global cumulative sales of TMC’s hybrid vehicles topping 3 million vehicles by the end of February 2011.
As of April 30, 2012, TMC calculates that TMC hybrid vehicles, since 1997, have led to approximately 26 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions than would have been emitted by gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance.

Cumulative sales of select TMC hybrids. Click to enlarge.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Report: 2012 Tesla Model S Deliveries Commence June 22nd

It’s official: in one month, Tesla will deliver its first 2012 Model S electric sedan to customers in the U.S., webcasting the whole ceremony live on the Internet. 
A few weeks ahead of schedule, Tesla’s engineering team have been working hard to ensure that production is up to speed at its massive factory in Fremont, California.
Now, with one month left until launch, Tesla’s press team are working overtime to run a series of events celebrating the launch of its new car, as well as promote some features that it is particularly proud of.
Customized regenerative braking
Unlike its previous electric car, the 2008-2011 Tesla Roadster, Tesla has decided to offer customers a way of adjusting the amount of regenerative braking their Model S gives on accelerator lift-off. 
This means that those new to electric cars can customize their Model S’ accelerator lift-off regenerative braking to mimic the engine braking found on their previous car, or perhaps opt for none at all for maximum coasting potential. 
Customizable from the car’s built-in touch-screen center console, it also means drivers can customize regenerative braking to suit the type of trip they’re making.
Customized steering
Like many premium and luxury cars on the market today, Tesla has decided to allow customers the ability to change the steering response on their 2012 Tesla Model S. 
Switchable between Comfort, Standard and Sport settings, it promises the greatest control, whatever the type of road being driven on. 
Adjustable suspension
While adjustable air suspension has always been listed as a feature on the upper end 2012 Tesla Model S Signature models, Tesla is now keen to point out that fully adjustable suspension is standard on all but the base-level 2012 Model S.
This means customers can choose between a road-hugging low suspension setup for freeway cruising, or a higher, more practical suspension setting for round-town trips and errands. 
Signature first
Although Tesla is keen to point out that its 2012 Model S is a few weeks early to market, it is keeping with its plan to initially only sell 2012 Model S Signature and Signature Performance models. 
With an EPA-approved range of 265-miles, these models, complete with an 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack, will win the 2012 Model S the accolade of longest-distance production electric car on the market today. 
But if you want one, you’ll be in for a wait: Tesla has already sold out of its 2012 Model S Signature series.
Still available to preorder, however, is the 2012 Model S. fitted with a 40-kilowatt-hour battery pack, it starts at $49,900 and is expected to offer between 140 and 160 miles of all-electric range. 

Source: Green Car Reports

What Happens To That Old Volt or Ampera Battery?

The Chevrolet Volt and Opel/Vauxhall Ampera represent a new kind of powertrain for General Motors which the company has covered with an 8-year/100,000 mile warranty, but what happens to that expensive battery should it cause issues, or after its usable service life?
We’ve heard critical speculators say Volt owners will be in for a new battery shortly after the 8 years, or 100,000 miles (160,000 km) – whichever comes first – thus wiping away the savings offered by potentially bypassing the gas pump due to its ability to operate as a medium-range electric vehicle.
In short, there’s no reason to suspect this worst-case scenario will be the case.

To begin with, the Volt/Ampera battery does not have a “die gene” imposing electrical rigor mortis on a car left in the hands of a hapless owner as soon as GM’s warranty liability period is over.
It is true the battery loses its charge holding capacity, but there’s reason to believe it’s over-engineered. It is thermally managed with liquid cooling and heating, and GM built in a “buffer” zone in which its battery management system never fully charges or discharges the pack. In fact, only 10 kilowatt-hours out of a total 16 are ever used as a means to preserving its longevity.
But according to GM’s Manager, Electric Vehicle and Hybrid Communications, Kevin Kelly, what GM has fully disclosed already is it does not quite know all the potential scenarios that could play out for aging Volt and Ampera batteries – but “we’re working diligently on it every day” he said of potential re-use scenarios and related questions.
By definition, GM considers the 16-kilowtt-hour Volt/Ampera battery to be at the end of its usable life cycle when it has around 70-percent charge-holding capacity. When exactly that threshold is reached could vary widely depending on climate, and how the vehicle is used – but what it also means is the battery is not useless after its “usable life.”

Post Retirement

If someone buys a Volt or Ampera and intends to run it till the proverbial wheels fall off, he or she will be faced eventually with a decision about the aging battery.
The greatest likelihood is someone will simply notice a progressive diminishing of its all-electric range. Newer Volt owners have reported range varying from around 25 miles in cold weather to just over 50 miles with gentle driving in perfect weather – batteries function best and “like” the same moderate weather humans do, and the Volt’s battery thermal management helps keep it closer to its ideal zone.
As one potential scenario, if someone normally gets, say, 38 miles electric range on an average day, and the battery became 75-percent worn out, the car might get only 28.5 miles electric range compared to when brand new. So no doubt, owners will see usable electric range drop over the years.
If they go well-beyond the warranty period – like 10-12 years or longer and well over 100,000 miles – the battery at some point will have probably degraded below its nominal “70-percent” usable life, but it still should have usable life – just not as much.
The good news is it won’t be an expensive-to-replace dead brick as some critics have implied. The not-as-good news is, the Volt/Ampera owner will benefit less from electric-only driving, which was a primary reason for buying the car.
The standard 8-year warranty averages to 12,500 miles driving per year. If the Volt/Ampera driver travels farther per year, naturally, the warranty will be exhausted sooner. When ever the end of “usable life” comes, again, it won’t be a definite end, but more a tapering off.

Future Unknown

Exactly what the most sensible decision will be for a future degraded battery, say, in 2020 is anyone’s guess – including GM’s – but that is why the company is researching and developing several possibilities now.
Kelly says the company has test Volts with well in excess of 200,000 miles still operating within spec which means the liquid-heated and cooled battery and related systems are engineered to at least go the distance in all climates.
But since this is a new kind of car in a nascent industry in which energy storage technology is developing – and battery prices are dropping on existing lithium-ion chemistries – Kelly says he cannot say what might be the best option at the end of the warranty period.
In as far away as eight years from now, it could be an upgraded original equipment retrofit, or the standard battery, which at present is the only recommended replacement.
How much would it cost?
“We don’t know that. We just don’t know that. Battery chemistries and battery technology is advancing at a rapid pace,” Kelly said. “We’re seeing the cost curve come down pretty significantly and we’re looking into other chemistries and other materials. We’re looking at ways to improve the value equation.”
If this kind of uncertainty alarms you, perhaps a Volt is not right for you, but that is not a conclusion GM would suggest, as it has a do-what-it-takes policy in place to help soften the potential edges of adapting to its new technology.

Opel Ampera.
Since the Volt’s launch, GM has offered white glove treatment for its early adopters better than Cadillac service. Consumer Reports rated the Volt as number one in owner satisfaction at 93 percent, currently placing it above all cars sold today.
During the recent publicity crisis in which the federal government was investigating the Volt’s battery, GM actually offered to buy back Volts from customers who were concerned for their safety; this move was considered above the call of duty, and Kelly said the company will continue to offer high levels of assurance all the way through the lifecycle of the Volt or Ampera in years to come.
That’s not saying GM is opening itself up to frivolous claims, but merely that it has policies and procedures in place to prevent Volt owners from coming out feeling like losers for having taken a chance on the car.
Should a battery need repair or replacement within warranty, by the way, Kelly said the company just contracted with Midtronics for tool that can “de-power” and service the Volt/Ampera battery.
The large T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack is comprised of LG Chem cells constructed in nine modules of varying capacities. Dealers authorized to work on the Volt/Ampera receive training on diagnosing its battery. In a warranty situation, dealers may replace modules or whole battery assemblies.
The policy is that should an entire battery be replaced, owners will get a new replacement battery. On the other hand if it is a repair scenario, the dealer is authorized to restore the battery to pro-rated performance levels on par with where the battery should have been at that point in its life. So, for example, if it is a four-year-old battery, a repair does not restore to new-spec charge holding capacity, but to a level on the anticipated wear curve for a normal four-year-old battery – exactly how much usable life is expected year after year of use is info that GM keeps confidential.
Unknown is whether aftermarketers would be in business to offer replacements.
Unknown is what value a used battery would have if an owner wanted to replace it, or how an owner would be credited or paid for a used battery that still has, say, 69-percent or less usable life in it. Kelly was unwilling to say what he thinks a used Volt/Ampera battery might be worth after so many years, but that it will have value is at least certain.
Of course all this becomes moot if someone leases the car, and simply turns it back in. Or, if longer-range, higher performance, electrified vehicles come down the pike as GM says they will, people may not even want to hold onto their old Volts.
So, as you might expect, also unknown is the used car market for first generation Volts a half decade or longer from now. Out of the gate, leasing companies have erred on the safe side, and projected lower values than might be expected for comparably priced gasoline cars.


While Volt/Ampera owners may opt in the future to replace their battery because its vehicle propulsion value is below acceptable, again, the used battery is not scrap, and GM is looking into ways to intelligently re-purpose the Volt/Ampera battery.

Research begun last year by GM predicts that secondary use of 33 Volt batteries will have enough capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours during a power outage.
One possible way is being worked on in collaboration with ABB Group. It and GM engineers are putting used Volt batteries back to work – with what capacity they have remaining – into energy storage devices for use by subdivisions, industrial parks, businesses or the like.
“GM’s battery leadership position doesn’t stop at the road – it extends throughout the life of the battery, including ways we can benefit society and the environment,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director – Global Electrical Systems, Electrification and Infotainment. “As we grow our battery systems expertise, we need to assure we’re optimizing the development of our battery systems with secondary use in mind from the start.
“Partnerships with organizations such as ABB provide real-world applications that prove what we’re doing is real, not fiction,” Bly said.
Kelly said later this year, GM and ABB will test a pilot project of re-purposed Volt batteries. This would involve reconfiguring the used modules, perhaps into squared shapes for mounting in a box sited at a facility, not merely re-using the entire Volt’s T-shaped pack which is shaped that way to fit the car.
Beyond this, Kelly said the company is looking at a number of different scenarios.

GM is even reusing scrap Chevrolet Volt battery covers as wood duck and screech owl nesting boxes. More than 150 have been installed in designated wildlife habitat areas surrounding GM facilities, as well as various locations across the U.S.
Like its customers, GM has not traveled this path before. The upside is the Volt is showing a major payback unlike conventional cars, so the belief by those who buy them is it will all pan out.
In the meantime, Kelly reiterated GM intends to stand by its owners all the way through.
“We want them to be happy,” he said, as GM continues to develop its technology – and wants repeat business.
Given the way GM has treated its Volt customers to date, we have seen no reason to suspect its stated position is anything but true.