Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ethanol company CEO says the biofuel is a "most hated" industry

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

The ethanol industry in the U.S. has gotten billions in farm subsidies and has been praised by politicians of both major parties, but the recent bad press has not only led to the end of 30 years of corn subsidies to make the biofuel, but also for the entire industry to now be "one of the most hated industries in the world."

That's how Todd Becker, president and CEO of Green Plains Renewable Energy, phrased it to CNBC recently. It can be easy to see why, since the ethanol has been very publicly blamed for affecting gas pricesand hurting some engines. Green Plains Renewable Energy is feeling the criticism directly. Dealing with high corn prices, the company's stock recently hit a 52-week low, CNBC reports.

Even against this backdrop, Becker said he thinks ethanol will remain important in the U.S., since the biofuel's high octane rating can help bump up the the "84 octane subgrade gasoline" that refiners are currently making from petroleum, before blending it with 113-octane ethanol. "If you want to replace this octane, you're going to have to buy something much more expensive than ethanol today, and it's not in big supply," he said.

Source: Autoblog Green

Monday, July 30, 2012

BMW Electric Scooter Prototype

BMW has big plans for its i brand of plug-in electric cars, giving the lineup its own visual design language and its first foray into online sales. But beyond the i3 subcompact electric city car and the i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe, there will be other BMW i models--some of which, apparently, won't have four wheels.
The company recently unveiled the latest in a series of concept studies for a two-wheeled electric scooter that would also be sold as part of the BMW i lineup.

The latest prototype is known as the C Evolution scooter, and BMW's two-wheel division--known as BMW Motorrad--says it's a "near-production" design. The C reference in the name indicates it's intended to be the spiritual successor to the Concept E electric scooter, shown at last fall's Frankfurt Motor Show, as well as the innovative but discontinued C1 from the early years of the last decade.

The C Evolution contains an air-cooled 8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery to power an electric motor developing peak output power of 35 kilowatts (47 hp) and continuous power of 10 kW (15 hp). The range is given at up to 62 miles (100 km).
2012 BMW C evolution electric scooter prototype
2012 BMW C evolution electric scooter prototype
BMW says the electric scooter delivers performance equivalent to that of a conventional bike with a 600cc gasoline engine. With peak torque available from 0 rpm, the C Evolution is said to provide effortless hill starts even with a passenger as well as the rider on board.

BMW offered no dates or prices for the smallest member of the BMW i family, but its near-production status indicates it should launch around the same time as the i3 (next fall)--perhaps even before.
Analysts expect that electric two-wheelers will outnumber four-wheeled plug-in electric vehiclesglobally by 2020.

Developing markets like China and India are viewed as particularly ripe markets for the range and capacity offered by a vehicle more pleasant and refined than a gasoline two-wheeler.

2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid

It is now clear that gas-electric hybrids, while constantly being refined, are simply never going to gobble up huge slices of any major car market. They are needed, sure, but consumers are already wanting to see what's next, what's even more efficient and more technologically advanced. All the new regular hybrids coming out these days don't really create much excitement since their technology is essentially identical to all of the other parallel hybrids already on sale. So, what is going to keep the hybrid passenger car fires burning brightly and market percentage numbers climbing?

Diesel hybrids. Maybe not in the United States for some length of time, but they are starting to arrive in Europe. PSA Peugeot-Citro├źnhas, at last, started selling Peugeot models with the company'sHYbrid4 diesel hybrid system and I've personally enjoyed driving them. Besides the enjoyment factor, the efficiency gains are real.

Now I've have a chance to drive this new Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid, and my excitement is palpable because a big mainstream statement like this from a normally conservative Mercedes-Benz is something this movement has needed. Besides the smart thinking behind committing to this effort in general, Mercedes is launching its very cleanly engineered Modular Hybrid System that can now be plunked into nearly any of its models, much like Toyota-Lexus has been doing for years with its Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid side view2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid front view2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid rear view

The adage goes: "expensive diesel + expensive hybrid = expensive diesel hybrid."
A chief challenge to creating a viable parallel diesel hybrid system has been overcoming the sheer costs to the buyer. The adage goes: "expensive diesel + expensive hybrid = expensive diesel hybrid." This may be true on some levels, but we seem to have arrived at a point where the costs of scale are finally helping now that more and more joint ventures contribute to lower pricing.

The other issue has been refinement. Between the potentially rougher on-off nature of the high-compression diesel in a parallel hybrid luxury car alongside the desired start-stop function to help save even more fuel, refining drivetrain feel was simply a qualitative challenge. But from what I can tell based on my long drive of a pre-production E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid on both the European flatlands and over several mountainous passes, Mercedes seems to have the situation mostly licked.

2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid headlight2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid wheel2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid taillight2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid badge

As all manufacturers are realizing, they cannot just leave their stock V6 or V8 in the engine bay of their bigger cars, slap on a parallel hybrid system, charge a mess of money for it and call it good. When car buyers go hybrid, they are volunteering to change their performance expectations of their daily driver, and therefore must be more than willing to change their driving style to get the most out of the shift.

Accordingly, carmakers are currently looking through their vast array of sophisticated four-cylinders to help dramatically bring down the counterproductive weight of a big hybrid car or SUV. In the case of the well-executed E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid, Mercedes turns to its 201-horsepower 2.2-liter CDI, known internally as OM651, a powerplant currently seen in many European 220/230/250 CDI models. Versus the E 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY T-Modell (i.e. station wagon) in Europe at 4,070 pounds, the E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid T-Modell adds just over 200 lbs. With that weight you get the lithium-ion battery pack, electronic management system and a compact electric motor capable of 25 hp/184 pound-feet of torque integrated with the 7G-tronic transmission.

2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid engine

I managed to hit 44.4 miles per U.S. gallon and was impressed that the fuel needle barely moved.
You also get a potential range from the 15.6-gallon fuel tank of 870 miles. Over my 120-mile drive, I managed to hit 44.4 miles per U.S. gallon and was impressed that the fuel needle barely moved. One tester in our group managed 54.7 mpg but also admitted to "attracting the ire of many motorists" who were stuck following him. You know the frustrating style of driving I'm talking about. So, no, never in your wildest dreams could you hit 870 miles on a tank, but you could hit over 700 miles while driving fairly normally and pollute impressively little in the process. Not bad something as large and lux as an E-Class wagon.

Regarding E-Class wagons in general, for me, they are nigh unto paradise – even just so far as their relative sexiness and remarkable packaging are concerned. The cargo area is the epitome of easy flexibility with a completely flat floor and no intrusion into the space that might give away that this is any sort of hybrid with a lithium ion battery pack to accommodate. Space back there goes from 24.5 all the way to 68.9 cubic feet.

2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid interior2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid front seats2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid rear seats2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid rear cargo area

Acceleration to 62 mph is estimated at 7.8 seconds.
The 12-volt car battery has been moved to the rear of the car while the compact 55-pound lithium ion pack is placed to the right in the engine bay up against the bulkhead, thus putting all the "business" end of this deal up front. Using the equally compact 2.2-liter inline four-cylinder engine has certainly helped make this simplicity possible.

Thanks to the use of the 7G-Tronic Plus transmission, this little four gets some legs to cruise on, fifth gear being the 1:1 and sixth and seventh gears stretching out long. Our revs while cruising fast on no-limit sections of the Autobahn never exceeded 4,000 rpm. The tires are standard Continental ContiSportContact 5 – 245/45 R17 99Y – and they are not so hard that the typical Euro road sound shoots through the chassis to the base of one's neck. Acceleration to 62 mph for our chosen E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid T-Modell is estimated at 7.8 seconds and at 7.5 seconds for the sedan.

2012 Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid rear 3/4 view

This is a big success for diesel hybrids and the entire system has an even larger future in store.
Given that the lithium ion pack is small and good for just 0.8 kWh of energy, the pure EV part of the equation is held to around 1,000 yards max and the integrated eDrive motor is good by itself up to 22 mph. Meanwhile, the eDrive cuts out totally at any speed beyond 100 mph. The 35-cell battery pack is constantly recharging due to engine deceleration and brake energy recuperation, but all of these actions are barely felt thanks to the added NVH work done to separate passengers from the under-hood goings-on. The software research done to smooth out the frequent off-and-back-on moments of the little four-cylinder has reached its apex in the E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid, so much so that it wasn't even a point of conversation all day.

This is a big success for diesel hybrids, and the entire system has an even larger future in store. With any luck (in a sense), things will get so bad with the cost of fuels that more people in the United States will be clamoring for hybrid diesels and stop whining so much about paying a premium for a luxurious and clean Mercedes that runs predominantly via a petite four-cylinder.

With well-designed diesel hybrid systems like this one from Mercedes, the hybrid market share might not level off quite so soon.

Source: Autoblog Green

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Volt Rated Most-Loved Compact Car


According to J.D. Power and Associates’ latest U.S. APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) study, the Chevrolet Volt was named the most-loved compact car, ahead of the Volkswagen Golf and Honda CR-Z Hybrid. In fact among the awards for each class of vehicle, Chevrolet received the most accolades of any one brand, with the Avalanche and Sonic also garnering most-loved status in the large pickup and subcompact car categories.
The APEAL study is designed to examine how gratifying a new car or truck is to own and drive, using owner evaluations of more than 80 different vehicle attributes. For the 2012 study, data was gathered from over 74,000 different vehicle purchases and lessees between February and May this year. These motorists were survey after owning their vehicles for approximately 90 days.
The APEAL study, which is designed to supplement J.D. Power’s well-known Initial Quality Study, highlighted some fairly industry trends for 2012; notably that 27 percent of new vehicle buyers downsized when trading in.
According to David Sargent, J.D. Power and Associates’ vice-president of global automotive, a significant factor for this is due to the fact that “new-vehicle buyers who downsize aren’t making the sacrifice they once were. Automakers are heavily focused on providing [the U.S. market] with smaller models and buyers may be surprised at just how good they are.”
Interestingly, the Volt was the only EV to make the 2012 list, the only other significant “green” vehicles being the CR-Z and Toyota Prius v, both of which ranked third in their respective categories.

By Huw Evans

Ford Prices C-MAX Energi At $33,745


On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company announced official pricing for its upcoming C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid Multi-Purpose Vehicle. When it goes on sale this fall it will have a MSRP of $33,745 before subsidies.
The car is eligible for a $3,750 federal tax credit, which would bring the net price down to $29,995, and Michael O’Brien, electric vehicle marketing manager at Ford, offered his thoughts on the value proposition.
“The C-MAX Energi is within financial reach for those who want a hybrid, but is also something customers will want to reach for because of its unique look and amazing value,” he said. “It offers exceptional fuel economy, better features and a better price tag than a Prius plug-in hybrid, which we think will help make C-MAX Energi one of our most attractive vehicles for import customers.”
Ford says that cost savings on its current hybrid system are around 30 percent greater than the previous generation gas/electric powertrain; as a result, the company says it is passing those savings onto consumers. Greater commonality of components with other models also contributes to lower development and manufacturing costs for the C-Max.
The C-Max Energi employs a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine and a battery driven electric motor that collectively, generate 188 horsepower (195 hp with a full battery charge). With this setup, it is expected to be able to cover distances of more than 20 miles on pure electric power, with a total range of 550 miles on a full tank of fuel and a full battery charged.
The basic C-MAX, from which it’s derived, has sold more than 144,000 copies in Europe since the MPV’s debut there in 2010. And with conventional gas, hybrid and Energi models, Ford is betting that its C-segment MPV will attract a similar following here.
In California, the C-MAX Energi is expected to qualify for ZT-PZEV status, meaning that not only will it be eligible for solo motoring in carpool lanes; it will also qualify for an additional $1,500 state rebate. This; along with the high profile rep currently being enjoyed by hybrids and plug-in vehicles, will likely serve as a good promotional tool for helping generate interest and potential sales.

Fisker Steps On The Business Development Accelerator


Fisker is stepping up its efforts and is now clearly in business growth mode.
First, Fisker announced Wednesday the appointment of Barny Koehler to the newly created role of Chief Business Development Officer, reporting to Tom LaSorda, CEO.
In his new position as Chief Business Development Officer and Co-Founder, Barny Koehler will move from his operational role of bringing the Karma to market to focusing specifically on strategic initiatives and new business opportunities. Key activities will include pursuing strategic alliances and partnerships, sharing advanced technology and intellectual property, and exploring manufacturing synergies with other global partners.
This announcement follows the recent selection of Jim Yost as Chief Financial Officer.
In the meantime, Fisker Automotive continues its expansion into new markets around the world. The Karma sedan, Fisker’s flagship model, is now fully certified for safety and emissions in the fast-growing automotive markets of the Middle East and China.
Fisker’s exclusive agreement with the Al-Futtaim Group, one of the Middle East’s most experienced automotive distributors, will leverage the group’s network of experienced retailers to establish Fisker’s sales presence in the region. Now that certification is complete, the path is clear to bring the Karma to customers in the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Egypt. Furthermore, certification of the Karma in China opens up the single largest automotive market in the world to Fisker Automotive.
Finally, Fisker Automotive is also launching a new corporate site: http://fiskerglobal.com. The corporate site will be the new portal for all business updates and corporate developments.

Despite Q2 Loss, Tesla Forecast Optimistic


On Wednesday Tesla Motors Announced that it had recorded a loss for the second quarter this year. Nevertheless, the $93 million GAAP deficit, at $0.89 per share is still better than Wall Street Analysts predicted; Thomson Reuters initially predicting a loss of $0.93 per share.
Following announcement of the figures, Tesla stock jumped in value by 3.7 percent in external trading; company investors such as Jeffries Group, Maxim Group and Needham & Company reaffirming their recommendations in the company. Barclays Capital also re-confirmed its overweight rating of Tesla stock.
Yet despite the better than expected performance and Tesla stating that it is still on track to produce 5,000 Model S orders by the end of the year, with 1,000 cars expected to be delivered during the third quarter; some analysts are concerned actual output will fall short. Theodore O’Neil at Wunderlich Securities even went officially on record, saying that he expects Tesla to deliver only around 500 Model S sedans for Q3.
Nonetheless, Tesla’s flamboyant CEO, Elon Musk is doing his best to deliver a positive message following the earnings announcement.
“We are thrilled that our customers, investors and the media have now had a chance to see for themselves just how compelling Model S is,” he said. “We are also excited to have delivered the first group of Model S cars. We continue to focus on our long term goals of increasing quality production of the Model S so that we can achieve all of our goals to deliver on our volume, cash flow and profitability commitments.”
Tesla also reiterated plans on Wednesday to begin repaying its $465 million in federal loans – of which just $33 million are left, and Tesla said it will draw these funds down in the next few months.
It also reportedly said that in response to a 10-plus month long Model S waiting list, it will consider increasing 2013 production from a projected 20,000 units to as many as 30,000.
In all, news reports with commentary on Tesla’s prospects have been mixed between optimistic and pessimistic.
That this company’s success would be a boon to the entire electric vehicle industry is without question, as it threatens to remain a prod to large automakers showing what a small determined start up can do.

Nissan Leaf stretch limo makes an on-camera appearance - VIDEO

This is a cool ride and will sure be a quiet one. And probably a short one, too.

Imperial Coach Builders of Springfield, MO has built what it calls the first 100-percent, all-electric limo out of a customized Nissan Leaf. The local TV news has a quick report on it, but now Imperial has posted a video (watch it below) that gives the curious an idea of what it's like to ride inside of it.

The three-minute video has no narration and is pretty much sound-free, which is appropriate given the stretch limo's near-silent powertrain. The company looks to appeal to the green set by saying the stretched EV is a way to cut pollution while being driven around in style. The limo is fairly typical on the inside, with a 2+2 facing sets set-up and a bunch of wood trim that may or may not be real.

Still no word on how far this heavier-than-usual Leaf can go on a single charge, but we're guessing that the 74 miles a conventional Leaf can go on a single charge will require a few juice-ups in the elongated version.

Source: Autoblog Green

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Car2go opens in Miami today, but there's an unfortunate payment twist


car2go Brings a New Way of Carsharing to Miami

240 smart fortwo vehicles available for carsharing beginning July 28
Launch events feature free registration, free test drives, free driving minutes, and free food

MIAMI - car2go North America LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler North America Corporation, will officially launch a new way of carsharing in Miami, Florida on Saturday, July 28, making a network of 240 low-emission smart fortwo vehicles widely available and affordable throughout the City of Miami.

"The success of car2go around the world to date shows that we are in a time that demands and calls for new mobility solutions in urban settings, and we are thrilled to be working with the City of Miami and the Miami Parking Authority to bring the next generation of carsharing to the people who live in, work in and visit Miami," said Nicholas Cole, president and CEO of car2go North America.

The car2go carsharing model, when used alongside existing public transportation, serves to substantially reduce the C02 emissions and traffic congestion that are common in densely populated and vibrant cities like Miami.

"We are proud to welcome car2go to Miami," said Art Noriega, CEO of the Miami Parking Authority. "car2go will provide our customers the flexibility to use another form of transportation on an as-needed basis, thus expanding the personal mobility options available to those who work, live, visit or patronize businesses in Miami."

Open for Business
Beginning Saturday, July 28, there will be 240 car2go edition smart fortwo vehicles available for people in Miami to use and share collaboratively. Those who register to become a car2go member will receive a membership card that will allow them to gain access to and drive in any of the available car2go vehicles in Miami, whenever they need it, for as long as they need it, without having to commit to a return time or location.

Registration is currently open online at Miami.car2go.com. For a limited time, all new members who use the promotion code HEAT will receive 30 free minutes of driving time, and currently the one-time $35 membership fee is being waived.

A New Way to Carshare
car2go provides an entirely new way of carsharing that gives members 24/7 access to a free-floating network of smart fortwo cars. It differs from traditional carsharing or car rental companies, particularly in these three areas:

BY THE MINUTE: Members pay only for the time they use the car, by the minute, with discounted rates for hourly and daily use. There is no minimum amount of time that a car can be used. Whether a member needs a car for 10 minutes or an entire day, members simply get in and drive for as long as they want, without having to commit to a specific return time or location. Parking, fuel, maintenance and insurance are included at no additional cost, and there are no annual or monthly fees.

ON DEMAND: Members can use the first available car2go they find, via a smartphone app, via the car2go vehicle finder at car2go.com, by calling the customer call center, or by simply locating an available car2go. Reservations are not required because with car2go, members have unrestricted and unlimited access to car2go vehicles 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

FREE-FLOATING: Members can pick up and drop off a car2go anywhere within the car2go Home Area. They can simply drive the car for as long as they need it, park the car in one of the designated parking areas, and end the rental by swiping the card on the windshield reader. Instantly the car becomes available for the next member to use.

Launch Events
car2go is celebrating the launch of its ground-breaking carsharing program in the City of Miami at two events this weekend. At each event, visitors will receive free registration and 30 free minutes of driving time, learn how car2go works, test drive the car2go edition smart fortwo, enjoy free brunch, and have the opportunity to win prizes, while supplies last.
The car2go Miami launch events are taking place at:

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
July 28, 2012, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2550 NW 2nd Avenue

BARU Urbano Brickell
July 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
1001 S Miami Avenue

Lithium-Air Batteries Get a Recharge


A redesign points the way for air-breathing rechargeable batteries that pack in much more energy than today’s lithium-ion cells

Lithium, the lightest metal, when paired with oxygen from the atmosphere, makes for a tantalizing partnership in a lightweight battery. In theory, this “lithium-air battery” offers several times the energy per kilogram of today’s lithium-ion batteries. But so far, in laboratory tests the lithium gets distracted by dead-end chemical reactions that prevent the batteries from recharging. A one-shot battery is fine for a wristwatch, but not for a next-generation electric vehicle.
Last month, researchers in Rome and Seoul, South Korea, reported designing a lithium-air battery that did not have the recharging problem, achieving approximately 100 charge and discharge cycles with little capacity loss. And this week, a research team led by chemist Peter Bruce of the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, reports in the journal Science a differently designed lithium-air battery that reached 100 cycles, losing only 5 percent of its capacity in the process. Bruce says that these recent results show that lithium-air batteries can sustain “a truly reversible reaction.” The group measured the mix of chemicals involved, showing that the lithium was really being recycled through a reversible substance, lithium peroxide (Li2O2), during each charge and discharge.
Lithium-air batteries work, at least in theory, by exposing a lithium anode to an electrolyte that grabs its positively charged lithium ions and drives them toward the cathode, made of a different, porous material that allows oxygen from the air to form the crucial lithium peroxide.
But until these latest developments, there wasn’t a good way to reverse the process. “There’s no electrolyte that currently works well,” explains M. Stanley Whittingham, an expert in materials science at Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York. But researchers have made some headway in understanding why that is. Linda Nazar, an energy-storage researcher at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, recently reported that carbon, from which most cathodes are made, reacts with lithium, costing the battery some of its ability to recharge. And in some experimental batteries, researchers found that lithium sometimes reacted with the electrolytes.
With that in mind, Bruce and his colleagues replaced the carbon cathode with one made from nanoporous gold and replaced the organic carbonates and ethers used as electrolytes in earlier lithium-air batteries with lithium perchlorate (LiClO4) solvent and dimethyl sulfoxide. When they discharged their battery and measured the resulting chemicals, they found mostly lithium peroxide, a chemical that is easy to use for reversing the reaction—or recharging the battery. “Up to this point, the electrode materials haven’t been able to deliver pure lithium peroxide,” Bruce says. Why it works is a bit of a mystery. The St. Andrews scientists knew gold had been tried in some previous batteries, but they still don’t particularly understand, in detail, what it is about this combination that delivers this, Bruce says.
IBM and some carmakers are exploring lithium-air technology, but it is by no means the front-runner for car batteries, says Whittingham. Such batteries are on the bleeding edge of technology, and currently funding for their research is primarily provided by big risk takers, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E). Other ARPA-E–funded projects, such as Pellion, are exploring magnesium as an alternative to lithium for high-density batteries. Magnesium carries two electrons versus lithium’s one, so scientists think it may prove more efficient.
One problem is that in order to provide the same energy as, say, gasoline, lithium-air batteries require more space—although not much more weight—than the fossil fuel. Whittingham predicts that the technology will be used for large, stationary energy-storage applications rather than for portable batteries.
Another problem is that lithium-air batteries are chemically delicate: The lithium gets diverted into dead-end reactions with water or carbon dioxide in the air, so the electrodes in any future battery may need to be sealed or filtered so that they interact only with dry air and the electrolyte, an added expense and complication.
At any rate, the material used by Bruce’s group is handy for experiments but probably too hazardous, expensive, and heavy for commercial use. But University of Cambridge chemist Clare Grey says that identifying stable electrodes and electrolytes will help research on lithium-air batteries, even if there are a large number of practical things that still need to be sorted out before commercial versions hit the road as part of electric vehicles.

Friday, July 27, 2012

EDTA: Plug-in vehicles are successful, but auto industry "didn't build that"


Electric Drive Transportation Association Says Government Partnerships are Accelerating Advanced Vehicle Technology Success

- Industry Growth Will Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence, Boost Economy -

Washington, DC-July 26, 2012-As an ample, affordable and domestically-available resource, electricity can be a key solution to reducing American dependence on foreign oil and improving the U.S. economy, Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) President Brian Wynne testified today during a U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee (Subcommittee on Energy and Environment) hearing. The hearing reviewed the U.S. Department of Energy's (U.S. DOE) Vehicle Technologies Program (VTP) and its activities.

Since the U.S. imports approximately 45 percent of the oil used in the transportation sector, there is an economic imperative to move toward electricity generated at home as an alternative to oil. The CRS estimates that the U.S. will pay $451 billion for imported oil in 2012, $30 billion more than 2011.

"With electric drive technologies – hybrids, plug-in vehicles and fuel cells – electricity displaces oil and reduces its stranglehold on our national security and our economy," Wynne said. "Electric drive is a real solution that is here now, and the industry continues to expand."

There are now currently more than 40 hybrid vehicle being sold in the U.S. , and manufacturers are planning to increase available plug-in vehicles from ten this year to more than 20 – at multiple price points – in the next two years. The electric car charging market is also growing, as U.S.DOE has documented more than 4,000 public charging stations across the country. Pike Research predicts that by 2017 there will be more than 1.5 million charging units in the U.S. Partnering with federal, state and local entities to research and develop electric vehicles and infrastructure is accelerating the growth of electrification. For example, through VTP, the U.S. DOE has worked with industry partners to decrease the cost of lithium ion batteries by a third since 2008. In addition, ongoing collaborative efforts with industry and the U.S. DOE have resulted in fuel cell vehicles meeting aggressive costs, performance and deployment milestones for commercialization in 2015.

Collaborative deployment efforts are also yielding substantial results. The U.S. DOE Clean Cities program works with more than 100 regional coalitions to help deploy alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure. Since its inception in 1994, Clean Cities has saved more than 3 billion gallons of petroleum.

There are also numerous state and local efforts involving utilities, manufacturers, local business and city planners who are helping promote electric drive investments. To encourage advanced transportation options, states and communities across the country are establishing policies such as access to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, permitting for recharging infrastructure and parking incentives for electric vehicle drivers.

"The return on public government investment in advancing electric drive is a nation that is less dependent on foreign oil and spends its energy dollars domestically,"Wynne said. "We must be able to compete effectively in the global market with these advanced technologies."


About EDTA
The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) is the preeminent trade association promoting battery, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric drive technologies and infrastructure. EDTA conducts public policy advocacy, education, industry networking, and international conferences. EDTA's membership includes vehicle and equipment manufacturers, energy companies, technology developers, component suppliers, government agencies and others. For more information about EDTA and its members, visit ElectricDrive.org. For information about owning and operating electric vehicles, please visit GoElectricDrive.com.

Buying a Chevy Volt; You Can Never Be Too Old

If you examine the demographics of the ‘average’ electric car buyer, you’re likely to find out that they are educated to at least college level, drive less than 50 miles per day, and have a household income of at least $125,000 a year. The mean age of an electric car buyer? 45 years. But one couple in Carroll County, Virginia have proven that you’re never too old to make the switch from gasoline to electric. 

Enter 101-year old Edward Heine and his 85-year old wife Hya, who have just traded in their Jaguar for a 2012 Chevrolet Volt. 

According to the Carroll County Times, Edward no-longer drives, but purchased the Volt for his wife to drive after she expressed an interest in the plug-inhybrid. m“If you’re going to live, you should be up to date, and try to be technologically intelligent,” said Hya.  Six years ago, the couple built a new house, to the amazement of family and friends. “I don’t believe in lying down and taking off my shoes, and that’s the end,” Hya explained. “I want to keep going. So does he, as much as he can. So that’s how you live.”
2012 Chevrolet Volt
2012 Chevrolet Volt

The couple’s ‘never-too-late’ philosophy can be seen in other areas of their life. Edward and Hya married 41 years ago, when Edward was already 60 years old. 
Rather than buy the car outright, the couple decided that leasing was the smart choice. “In two years, I’ll trade it in,” said Edward, explaining that the couple believed plug-in technology will have advanced a lot by then. 
“I don’t expect to be alive, but my wife will be,” he added. 
What makes Edward Heine special?
During his formative years, cars like the 1915 Detroit Electric, and 1913 Baker Electric would have been common sights on the roads of the U.S.
In other words, Heine has lived long enough to not only see the electric car become popular for the first time, but also to see its resurgence some 100 years later. 
Then again, Heine’s driving history, like his age, is worthy of note. 

According to his wife, Heine started driving at the age of 16, and purchased his first car in 1937 aged 26. 
In 82-years of driving, he claims to have only dented his car four times.

We hope the Heines enjoy their new plug-in car, and experience many happy miles traveling together in it. 

And remember: You’re never too old to change your driving habits (or your car).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Volkswagen e-Bugster Concept with Video

Driving $2 million prototypes on public roads is risky, so rather than increase the count of gray hair on their heads, Volkswagen's public relations team invited us up to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to spend some time in its all-electric E-Bugster Concept. But don't think the German automaker handed us the keys and set us free on the famed racing circuit – our drive was on the near-empty perimeter roads and our top speed was limited to less than 20 mph.

Tooling along at an insect's pace (pun intended) was hardly electrifying. But as it turned out, driving impressions weren't our primary objective. Not only did Volkswagen want to showcase its electric technology, but they also wanted to give us a sneak peek of the next-generation Beetle Convertible and gauge consumer interest in a potential Beetle Speedster model. With more than a sedate drive on our agenda, our leisurely cruise through the hills of Monterey became much more interesting.

Our first glimpse of the Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept came just before the 2012 Detroit Auto Show when Volkswagen released a slew of pictures for our first post and a gallery. The next day, we aimed our lenses at its glistening paint and fixed hard roof live from the show floor. Three months later, the automaker rolled it out again – sans top – at the Beijing Motor Show.

Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept side viewVolkswagen E-Bugster Concept side mirrorVolkswagen E-Bugster Concept taillight

The E-Bugster Concept is an early look at the next-generation Beetle convertible.
It is not much of a stretch to realize that the E-Bugster Concept is an early look at the next-generation Beetle convertible – expect it to officially debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this year. Ignore the burly flared fenders, crafted to encapsulate the 20-inch two-piece alloy "Fuchs-style" wheels, and peer beyond the trick front and rear fascia to see the upcoming drop-top. We don't need to remind you that the E-Bugster's chopped windshield won't make it to production for the standard vehicle (more on that later), but the real deal won't stray much from the design. Overall, thanks to its more masculine character traits, the new Beetle is going to make one great-looking convertible when we first see it in late November.

The E-Bugster Concept is an all-electric vehicle (EV). Hidden beneath its meticulously painted skin (in person – and it seems only in direct sunlight – one can make out blue metallic flakes over the pearl white paint) is a powertrain adapted from the automaker's e-Golf. Like that five-door, the E-Bugster features an 85 kW electric motor (114 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque) driving the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. Energy comes from a 695-pound lithium-ion battery with an energy capacity of 28.3 kWh (note it has slightly higher capacity than the 26.5 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy storage in the e-Golf).

Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept front fenderVolkswagen E-Bugster Concept interior

Volkswagen boasts that the central electric module weighs just 80 kg (about 176 pounds), and that helps to keep overall vehicle weight down. The engineers on site wouldn't give us a curb weight, but they did say that the E-Bugster came in lighter than the e-Golf (so we figure it has a curb weight of about 3,300 pounds). That power-to-weight ratio translates to a 0-60 sprint in just over 10 seconds and affords a range of at least 180 km (about 110 miles) in a city cycle.

Its power-to-weight ratio translates to a 0-60 sprint in just over 10 seconds and a range of at least 110 miles.
Find the proper power supply, a level 3 DC fast charge unit able to provide the Volkswagen's Combined Charging System with enough juice, and the two-seater can be "refueled" within 35 minutes. At home, with a more conventional charging station (single-phase with AC current), one will need to keep it plugged-in overnight. The interface for the charger is conveniently located behind the conventional fuel-filler door.

As mentioned, Volkswagen allowed us to cruise its expensive one-off E-Bugster concept – sans fixed top – around Laguna Seca at very slow speeds (the wheels are made by hand, thus explaining their apprehension). The German engineers had electronically limited the top speed to 30 km/h, or just 18 mph, meaning the combustion-engine chase vehicles were riding their brakes just to keep pace. In addition, the drive-by-wire throttle had been remapped so accelerator inputs were insanely lethargic (the vehicles at Disneyland's Autopia ride have quicker throttle response).

Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept interiorVolkswagen E-Bugster Concept seatsVolkswagen E-Bugster Concept shifter

An integrated LG touch-screen tablet replaces the audio/navigation unit.
After dropping behind the steering wheel (so brilliantly white that we felt guilty touching it), we were given a tour of the tastefully executed cabin. Directly in front of the driver is a primary instrument cluster housing the a digital screen with the speedometer and other charge indicators. To the driver's right, in the center of the console replacing the audio/navigation unit, is an integrated LG touch-screen tablet (while the screen on the device was washed out in the bright daylight, the unit arrives complete with an electronic version of "Punch Buggy" designed to save your shoulders from bruising). Centrally located at the top of the dashboard are the digital outside temperature gauge and a state-of-charge display (bar graphs and digital numbers). All other controls, from the headlights to the blinkers, are rather conventional.

The start button activates the drive system (Volkswagen calls the complete electric drive unit "Blue-e-Motion"), which simultaneously powers everything up and starts the light show – yes, the light show. The interior is first immersed in a white light, followed by a blue light. The pulse, for lack of a better description, emanates with a small dash on the instrument cluster. It eventually works its way around the cabin as a thin (one millimeter wide) beam at shoulder height moving across the dashboard and door panels. Although it was nearly impossible to see in stark daylight, it was visible while we filmed our Short Cut video.

Unlike most prototypes, the E-Bugster drove very well on the asphalt roadway.
The Bugster's transmission (PRNDB) has two different forward drive modes. In "D" the EV acts much like a traditional vehicle. This means it coasts well, and there is limited regenerative braking. However, when placed in "B" mode the regenerative braking is much stronger and the vehicle quickly slows when the driver's foot leaves the accelerator pedal (this mode significantly extends the driving range). For our slow drive, only the "D" mode was software-enabled.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed silently cruising around the grounds in the concept. Unlike most prototypes, which are quite rickety as they only need to resemble something cool under show lights, the E-Bugster drove very well on the asphalt roadway. The steering was solid, the tires never rubbed the bodywork even in tight turns and the chassis didn't squeak. The multi-piston brakes (stolen from an Audi TT-RS) even had a chance to demonstrate their strength when we exceeded the 30 km/h speed coasting down the long hill – we took a scolding from our Volkswagen passenger in the process.

Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept driving

Is there room in the Volkswagen lineup for a sharply sculpted Beetle speedster?
With our short drive completed, the tone of the conversation changed as the public relations team started to ask us the questions – they had a friendly ulterior motive. The inquisitive interrogation reminded us of our Audi TT-RS preview, more than two years earlier, when the Germans teased us with a car and asked us if we thought there was a domestic market for it (we all know how that ended, as the 2012 Audi TT-RS rolled onto our shores late last year).

So, what if Volkswagen's board of directors gave a Beetle Speedster variant a green light? Theoretically, its shape would nearly mirror that of the E-Bugster, right down to the chopped windshield and two-passenger cabin. As for power, we'd expect nothing less than a turbocharged 2.0-liter mated to a six-speed manual or DCT. Realizing that the automaker is already offering a Beetle, Beetle Turbo, Beetle TDI and Beetle R, is there room in the Volkswagen lineup for a sharply sculpted Beetle speedster with limited passenger room... but plenty of unique style?

Source: Autoblog Green