Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hyundai fuel cell chief says EV makers jumped the gun

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) spew water vapor. FCEV enthusiasts are likely hoping that the head of fuel-cell research at Hyundai isn't just spewing hot air.

Hyundai's Lim Tae-won said electric-vehicle makers like Nissan started mass-producing models such as theLeaf too early and are hurting mass acceptance of EVs because there isn't a sufficient vehicle charging infrastructure in place to support broad sales. Specifically, Reuters reports, he said:
"It was a hasty approach. The battery electric cars may have helped raise brand value for a couple of years, but ended up slowing down the take-off in the market."
The Hyundai executive also said that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) will become price competitive with battery-electric vehicles sometime between 2020 and 2025, and that FCEVs will become preferred to battery-electric vehicles for the reasons we've all heard before: FCEVs can go about as far as a conventional fossil-fueled vehicle on a full tank – roughly four times a most fully charged EVs. FCEVs also don't emit greenhouse gas emissions.

At the Paris Motor Show earlier this week, Hyundai said that it will make the first mass-produced FCEV. This will be the ix35 (it's the Tucson in the U.S.) fuel-cell crossover and will be available to the public for lease by the end of the year. Through 2015, Hyundai says it will make about 1,000 ix35 FCEVs, which have a full-tank range of about 365 miles.

Earlier this week, Hyundai said it would lease 15 ix35 FCEVs to the city of Copenhagen, which is looking to become "carbon free" by 2025.

Source: Autoblog Green

Researchers discover how nickel may inhibit charge/discharge rate in Li-ion batteries

Left. Image of LMNO surface layer.Upper right. Simulated zone projection image based on LMNO crystal model with 20% Ni/Li disorder corresponding to blue rectangle. Lower right. Simulated zone projection image based on LMNO crystal model with 10% Ni/Li disorder corresponding to white rectangle. TM = transition metal. Credit: ACS, Gu et al. Click to enlarge.

A research team from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), with colleagues from FEI, Inc. and Binghamton University, has discovered a thermodynamically driven, yet kinetically controlled, surface modification in lithium-nickel-manganese-oxide (LMNO) cathode material which may inhibit the battery charge/discharge rate.
Examining battery materials on the nano-scale, they found how nickel forms a physical barrier that impedes the shuttling of lithium ions in the electrode, reducing how fast the materials charge and discharge. Published last week in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the research also suggests a way to improve the materials.
Lithium transition-metal oxides have been widely used as the cathode for Li ion batteries. They can be tailored to gain either high voltage or high capacity by adjusting the relative ratio of different transition-metal ions and preparation conditions. For example, a layered composite based on lithium nickel manganese oxide Li1.2Ni0.2Mn0.6O2 (LNMO) has demonstrated a rechargeable capacity of >250 mAh/g, which is much larger than that of the conventional LiCoO2 cathode (<140 a="a" act="act" as="as" by="by" can="can" category="category" channels="channels" charge="charge" composite="composite" discharge="discharge" during="during" em="em" featured="featured" for="for" g="g" in="in" ions="ions" is="is" layered="layered" li="li" low-barrier="low-barrier" mah="mah" material="material" move="move" of="of" path="path" processes.="processes." structure="structure" the="the" this="this" to="to" which="which" within="within">
Here we report our surprising discovery of a selective surface lattice plane segregation of nickel (Ni) ions for the case of LNMO as a representative case for the transition-metal oxide-based cathode and the possible implications of such a surface segregation on the Li ion transport behavior in this category of cathode material. What we have observed is a phenomenon that is far beyond general expectation and will broadly impact the research effort for enhancing the rate performance of Li ion batteries and stability of cathode in the electrolyte.
—Gu et al.
The researchers, led by PNNL’s Chongmin Wang, created high-resolution 3D images of electrode materials made from lithium-nickel-manganese oxide layered nanoparticles, mapping the individual elements. These maps showed that nickel formed clumps at certain spots in the nanoparticles. A higher magnification view showed the nickel blocking the channels through which lithium ions normally travel when batteries are charged and discharged.
We were surprised to see the nickel selectively segregate like it did. When the moving lithium ions hit the segregated nickel-rich layer, they essentially encounter a barrier that appears to slow them down. The block forms in the manufacturing process, and we’d like to find a way to prevent it.
—Chongmin Wang
In lithium-manganese oxide electrodes, the manganese and oxygen atoms form rows like a field of cornstalks. In the channels between the stalks, lithium ions zip towards the electrodes on either end, the direction depending on whether the battery is being used or being charged.
Researchers have known for a long time that adding nickel improves energy capacity and voltage, but haven’t understood why the capacity falls after repeated usage.
The researchers used electron microscopy at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at PNNL and the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to view how the different atoms are arranged in the electrode materials produced by Argonne National Laboratory researchers. The electrodes were based on nanoparticles made with lithium, nickel, and manganese oxides.
First, the team took high-resolution images that clearly showed rows of atoms separated by channels filled with lithium ions. On the surface, they saw the accumulation of nickel at the ends of the rows, essentially blocking lithium from moving in and out.
To find out how the surface layer is distributed on and within the whole nanoparticle, the team used a technique called three-dimensional composition mapping. Using a nanoparticle about 200 nanometers in size, they took 50 images of the individual elements as they tilted the nanoparticle at various angles. The team reconstructed a three-dimensional map from the individual elemental maps, revealing spots of nickel on a background of lithium-manganese oxide.
The three-dimensional distribution of manganese, oxygen and lithium atoms along the surface and within the particle was relatively even. The nickel, however, parked itself in small areas on the surface. Internally, the nickel clumped on the edges of smaller regions called grains.
This data visualization shows how manganese (blue) and nickel (green) are distributed in a nanoparticle about 200 nanometers tall. Nickel’s uneven distribution affects the energy capacity of the battery electrode made from these nanoparticles in lithium-ion batteries.
To explore why nickel aggregates on certain surfaces, the team calculated how easily nickel and lithium traveled through the channels. Nickel moved more easily up and down the channels than lithium. While nickel normally resides within the manganese oxide cornrows, sometimes it slips out into the channels. And when it does, this analysis showed that it flows much easier through the channels to the end of the field, where it accumulates and forms a block.
The researchers used a variety of methods to make the nanoparticles. Wang said that the longer the nanoparticles stayed at high temperature during fabrication, the more nickel segregated and the poorer the particles performed in charging and discharging tests. They plan on doing more closely controlled experiments to determine if a particular manufacturing method produces a better electrode.
This work was supported by PNNL’s Chemical Imaging Initiative.

Source: Green Car Congress

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fisker Receives $100 Million for Development of Atlantic

In April, Tom LaSorda--then CEO of Fisker Automotive--said the company was raising additional capital.
Today, Fisker announced that it had closed a new round of financing, with more than $100 million coming into the company's coffers.
It will use the money, it says, for "continued product development, market expansion, and a new global marketing campaign for the Fisker Karma."
The product development work will be for the Fisker Atlantic, the company's second and more affordable car, after it shelved plans for the Surf and Sunset models of the larger Karma.
The mid-size Atlantic sedan was unveiled at the New York Auto Show, in April, and is expected to sell for around $50,000.
The "market expansion" will include both continued sales of its $106,000 Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan, and expansion into new markets, both in China and the Middle East.
Thus far, Fisker has built about 2,000 Karma sedans, after repeated schedule delays, recalls and customer upgrades, and--most recently--a recall for a faulty cooling fan that may have led to two separate fires in customer cars.
The company said in its announcement of the financing that it has delivered "nearly 1,500" Karma sedans to buyers in the U.S. and Europe.
The 2012 Fisker Karma has received mixed reviews, with compliments for its styling but criticism for its interior volume, inefficient powertrain, and frequent quality glitches.
Last week, Consumer Reports delivered a stinging review of the Karma, calling it "full of flaws" and deeming its touchscreen controls an "ergonomic disaster."
Fisker appointed a new CEO, Tony Posawatz, in August; one of his highest priorities has clearly been closing the current round of financing to keep the company solvent.
"We are grateful to both our investors and our initial customers," Posawatz said, noting that both groups "have supported our company and are quickly becoming our biggest advocates.”
2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012
2012 Fisker Karma during road test, Los Angeles, Feb 2012
Posawatz pledged to announce both production plans and a timeline for the Fisker Atlantic by the end of this year.
Since it was founded in 2007, Fisker has raised more than $1.2 billion in private investment.
It also borrowed $193 million in low-cost loans granted under the U.S. Department of Energy's advanced-technology vehicle manufacturing initiative.
The company was originally approved for $529 million of loans in September 2009, but funds were frozen by the DoE in early 2011 after Fisker repeatedly failed to meet milestones and deadlines in the loan agreement.
Since that time, Fisker has garnered more than $600 million of investment, almost half of which came after the Karma went on the market last December.
What remains unclear are the terms of the new financing.
Just six weeks ago, Fisker was reported to be seeking $150 million--and it was rumored that the new money would be a "down round," or raised at a lower valuation than previous rounds.
To raise that money, board chairman and venture capitalist Ray Lane told several media outlets that FiskerAutomotive might attempt an initial public offering (IPO) in 2013.

Honda updates CR-Z hybrid with more power and Li-ion battery

Honda has updated the sporty CR-Z hybrid with a range of improvements focusing on style and performance. The power of both the gasoline engine and electric motor has been increased to 137 PS (128 hp, 96 kW) without compromising fuel economy or increasing exhaust emissions.
Updated CR-Z hybrid. Click to enlarge.
The car also features a Lithium-ion battery for the first time and a Plus Sport (S+) boost system to help the driver make the best use of this sporty performance. The revised CR-Z will go on sale in January 2013.
The CR-Z’s 1.5-liter gasoline engine has been updated with changes to the variable valve timing system and Engine Control Unit (ECU). An anti-vibration knock sensor has been introduced and the material of the crankshaft has been upgraded. The peak power output has been increased from 114 PS (112 hp, 84 kW) to 121 PS (119 hp, 89 kW).
The electric motor system has also been improved. The change from a nickel-metal hybrid (Ni-MH) to a lithium-ion battery has been accompanied by an increase in power from 14 PS (10 kW) to 20 PS (15 kW).
Working in unison, the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system now delivers a combined output of 137 PS at 6600 rpm (+13 PS) and 190 N·m (140 lb-ft) of torque (N·m ). The 0-62 mph sprint time falls from 9.7 sec to 9.0 sec and top speed is 124 mph (200 km/h). The combined consumption is 5 l/100 km (47 mpg US), with 116 g/km of CO2.
To help the driver make the best use of this sporty performance, Honda has introduced a Plus Sport (S+) boost system. If the battery is more than 50% charged, the driver can activate this system using the S+ button on the steering wheel. When the accelerator is pressed the electric boost begins, delivering increased acceleration for up to ten seconds. A flashing gauge on the dashboard indicates when the system is active. S+ can be used in ECON, Normal or Sport modes.

Nissan Buys Back the Leaf Under Arizona Lemon Law

On Thursday, a local news station in Phoenix, Arizona, confirmed that Nissan has agreed to buy back wilting Leaf electric cars from their owners under the state’s Lemon Law.
The news comes less than a week after Mark Perry, Nissan North America’s product planning and advancedtechnology director, blamed the premature range loss suffered by some Leaf owners in hot states on excessive high mileage
As CBS5 in Phoenix reports, Andrea and Mason Convey, and Scott Yarosh, are among those who are selling their Leafs back to Nissan.
Earlier this year, Convey and Yarosh’s cars were among seven Leafs taken to Nissan’s testing facility in Case Grande for official Nissan examination, after continued complaints to the automaker. 
“I had to get rid of it,” Yarosh told CBS5. “When I turned my car in, I was only able to get 42 miles on a single charge,” he explained, pointing out that his work commute was 45 miles. 
After just 15 months of ownership, three of the capacity bars on his Leaf’s dashboard had disappeared, representing a 27.5 percent loss in battery capacity.
Unable to drive his car to work, Yarosh turned his car in, and was hit by almost $700 in fees. A week later, Nissan gave him a full refund. 
“I think they’re trying to get me to shut up to be honest, to keep my mouth shut,” he said.
Three Nissan Leafs
Three Nissan Leafs
The Conveys are similarly suspicious.
“We’re not sure if this is the beginning of their admission that there is an issue or if this is them trying to quiet a few isolated individuals,” Mason Convey said. “It’s been a long four months and there’s still a lot of bitterness still left over from the way they treated us.”
Other Leaf owners have also accepted a buy-back offer from Nissan, including Randy Miller, owner of the appropriately named blog.
“One thing I will point out is that the repurchase price is based on the mileage (reasonable use charge according to AZ Lemon Law), and that mileage is based on the first complaint to Nissan,” Miller wrote. “So if you are a Leaf owner and are having range / battery capacity issues, be sure to file a complaint with the BBB Auto Line as soon as possible.”
According to Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary, the decision to buy back cars isn't an admittance of fault on Nissan's part: it's a way to keep customers happy.
"Nissan works hard to satisfy individual customers when they express unhappiness with their ownership experience," she told us. "In the interest of customer satisfaction, Nissan has recently repurchased two customer vehicles as a good will gesture. The company's investigation has determined that there is no defect with the Nissan Leaf, but we did use a buyback formula modelled on an Arizona state repurchase law, given its stablished criteria."
Reiterating that Nissan believes the issue of premature battery loss to be confined to a small number of cases, and that globally, Nissan Leaf customers remain one of the most satisfied car owners in the world, Zachary added, "Remember, this is a small group of owners we're talking about, and it's not a pervasive problem. It's a combination of high temperatures and high miles in a small number of cases."
Nissan has not made an official statement on the subject of the first  class-action lawsuit now filed against Nissan in California for the same complaint. 

Source: Green Car Reports

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mazda6 Diesel Could Offer 60 MPG, If They Sell It In US

When I first laid eyes on the Mazda6 wagon diesel, me (and most of the auto blogging world) were smitten with the looks, the options, and the infinite possibilities. Now that the Mazda6 diesel has made its official Paris Auto Show debut, we are getting some new details, including fuel economy figures that could be as high as 60 mpg on the U.S. standard.

As I said before, the Mazda6 diesel, and especially the wagon version, offers pretty much anything anyone could ever need in a vehicle. Car makers can just stop designing cars, because Mazda has achieved automotive perfection. The 60 mpg (on the sedan model) is just icing on the cake-of-a-car that offers a manual transmission, sport-tuned suspension, and a SkyActiv-D 2.2 liter turbodiesel engine with racing credentials.
But there is more than just a kickass diesel engine at work here. Mazda is also offering two fuel-saving feature in conjunction with the diesel engine. i-ELOOP uses a supercapacitor uses recovered deceleration energy to power the car’s electrical systems. Mazda engineers have turned 10 seconds of stopping into about a minute of energy for the supercapacitor. The implications of this technology are huge.

Then there is i-stop, an idle start/stop system, which combined with i-ELOOP drastically improves city driving economy. I know Mazda has been having a tough time with sales here in America, but this diesel wagon could appeal to a lot of customers who need a versatile-yet-fuel efficient vehicle. Alas, Europe gets first dibs, though diesel cars are slowly gaining popularity here in the States.

Have faith, brothers and sisters, that the automotive gods will deliver unto us a stylish diesel wagon of epic fuel economy and driving pleasure!

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Plugin Hybrid at Paris Auto Show

As far as plug-in cars go, the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) has to be one of the most important vehicles making its debut this year at the Paris Auto Show. 
The first vehicle to launch under Mitsubishi’s ambitious goals to offer plug-in hybrid or all-electric versions of every car it sells within 4 years, the 2013 Outlander PHEV is the plug-in hybrid variant of Mitsubishi’s popular crossover SUV.
It will be offered for sale starting in 2013 alongside an internal-combustion engine version of the same vehicle. 
Due to launch in Japan early next year, followed by a slow global rollout in Europe and North America, the Outlander PHEV has two, 60-kilowatt electric motors, one driving each axle. 
In all-electric mode, it can drive for around 20 miles on a full charge from its 12 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

When the battery pack is depleted, or extra power is required, a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine can operate in range-extender mode, powering a 70-kilowatt electric generator. Alternatively, it can drive the front wheels directly. 
Built to compete directly with cars like the LexusRX450 and other luxury crossover vehicles, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will be the first plug-in hybrid SUV to hit the market.
There’s no details on pricing or launch schedule yet, but given what we know so far, would you want one? 

First 1,000 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrids already sold out

Since at least May, the plan has been for Volvo to sell the V60 diesel plug-in hybrid before the calendar flips to show 2013. Today, the Swedish automaker announced that the first 1,000 units, all model year 2013 vehicles, have been purchased, and "the order books for next year's cars are already filling up." And the PHEV hasn't even hit showrooms yet. Volvo says it expects to make (and presumably sell) 5,000 V60 PHEVs "as of model year 2014."

The first 1,000 V60 PHEVs are all part of a "Pure Limited" edition, which has Electric Silver livery, "aero-designed" 17-inch wheels and integrated exhaust tailpipes. When Volvo introduced the V60 PHEV last year, it said the wagon uses a five-cylinder 2.4-liter turbo diesel engine that offers 215 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that powers the front wheels. The electric side of the powertrain uses a 11.2-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 70-hp electric motor on the back wheels. The V60 PHEV can go up to 32 miles on battery power. Earlier this year, reports said the V60 PHEV would cost around the equivalent of $81,000 U.S., and we might even get it in the U.S., if the Europeans don't buy them all first.

Source: Autoblog Green


Thursday, September 27, 2012

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive Makes Official, Expensive Debut

One of the most exciting cars in the electric vehicle world has been the Mercedes SLS AMG E-Cell concept. Well the official version will be called the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive, and it retains the crazy horsepower, pure-electric power, and insane speeds of the concept.

And you can only buy it if you live in Europe and can afford to shell out $434,000. That ain’t cheap!
But for that monstrous sum of money, you get one hell of a car. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive packs a 1,200 pound, 60 kWh battery that sends power to four electric motors. The combined output of these motors is 740 horsepower and 737 ft-lbs of torque, way more than its gas-powered cousin.

Thanks to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis, Mercedes kept the SLS AMG Electric Drive’s weight low enough for the electric supercar to go from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Alas, top speed is limited to just 155 mph, and the range is similarly limited to just 150 miles. That’s a far cry from the Tesla Model S, which delivers similar 0-60 times, and more range for about a quarter of the price. If you must have a Mercedes EV though, there is always the B-Class Electric Drive.

Rumor has it that the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive will only be available in Europe though, so most of you won’t have to worry about all of that. Mercedes has definitely crafted an electric supercar, and it looks especially lovely in that electric blue color. But is it good enough to topple Tesla, who is planning their own electric supercar?

Source: Mercedes

Mazda6 diesel sedan offers up to 60 mpg US

Both the wagon and sedan versions of the new Mazda6 made their collective debut at the Paris Motor Show. The Mazda6— now in its third generation— is also the company’s first mass-production model equipped with i-ELOOP, its brake energy regeneration system.
i-ELOOP joins the i-stop idle-stop system and SKYACTIV powertrains, chassis and body (introduced on the CX-5) to deliver fuel consumption as low as 3.9 l/100 km (60 mpg US) and CO2 emissions of 104 g/km (European combined cycle with standard diesel SKYACTIV-D 2.2 and SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual), in the CD-segment without sacrificing performance.
Mazda is offering the choice of five SKYACTIV engines (two diesels and three gasoline powerplants) coupled with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions in the Mazda6. Most are available with i-ELOOP as well as i-stop.
i-ELOOP (short for “intelligent Energy Loop”) uses a supercapacitor to store electricity recovered during deceleration to power the vehicle’s electrical systems, thereby improving fuel economy.
Mazda’s engineers determined that a typical vehicle deceleration phase lasts only about 10 seconds. Realizing that the effectiveness of regenerative braking to date has been limited by the charging and storage drawbacks of conventional lead-acid starter batteries, they instead adopted an electric double-layer capacitor (EDLC), which recharges fully within only a few seconds. An efficient 12V-25V variable voltage alternator generates the electricity and charges the EDLC; a DC/DC converter then steps down the voltage to power electrical components like the climate control and audio systems, with any surplus going to the starter battery.
A full capacitor charge is enough to run the vehicle’s electrical systems for a minute or so. This makes i-ELOOP an ideal companion for i-stop, as there is no need to revert to battery power even when Mazda’s idle-stop system has shut the car off. During stop-and-go city driving, charging often resumes before the capacitor is fully discharged. i-ELOOP can therefore produce most if not all of a vehicle’s electricity needs, whereas normally some of the engine’s output is required just to drive the alternator. By freeing up this engine capacity, i-ELOOP increases fuel economy under everyday urban driving conditions.
Mazda6 Engines
Standard Power
High Power
Standard Power
High Power
Displacement (cm3)1,9982,4882,1912,191
Camshaft driveTiming chain
Fuel injection systemDirect injection
Compression ratio14.0:113.0:114.0:1
Max power (kW)107 @ 6,000121 @ 6,000141 @ 5,700110 @ 4,500129 @ 4,500
Max torque (N·m)210 @ 4,000256 @ 3,250380 @ 2,000420 @ 2,000
TransmissionsSKYACTIV-DRIVE (AT)
The gasoline engined models achieve Euro 5 emissions standards, while the diesel models are Euro 6 compliant.
The SKYACTIV-Body on the Mazda6 is lighter yet stronger than the current model through the use of more ultra-high tensile steel and other innovations to bolster the body’s structures.

Source: Green Car Congress

Say what you want, Chevy Volt outselling half the cars in U.S.

It's like having a ringside seat without having to shell out for the tickets.

The Christian Science Monitor is the latest to weigh on the perceived "success" or "failure" of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in hybrid, and we can now add that publication to the list of those that consider the car a "success."

Truth be told, the CSM had a tailwind here, as its editorial was written by John Voelcker of Green Car Reports, who called out some other publications, notably Forbes, for blasting the vehicle and the way General Motors promotes it.

As was pointed out by an AutoblogGreen reader recently, through August, the Volt has outsold about half of the approximately 260 light-duty vehicle models available in the U.S., including the BMW 7-seriesAudi A6,Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Lexus RX 400h and CT 200h hybrids. In fact, the Toyota PriusToyota Camry Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid were the only alt-fuel vehicles to outsell the Volt. So, if the Volt is a flop, then so are half the vehicles on dealers lots right now.

Last week, a Forbes piece said GM is manipulating its sales numbersForbes contributor Patrick Michaels accused GM of "giving away rent-a-Volts" to inflate the Volt's sales numbers to a record high 2,831 units last month. Michaels also alluded to recent reports that the Department of Defense will buy 1,500 Volts, calling such a purchase a "scam" by the U.S. government.

We breathlessly await GM's September sales figures for the Volt, which is due out next week. And the ensuing rhetoric, of course.

Source: Autoblog Green