Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ford C-Max Hybrid falls well short in careful CleanMPG economy test, beat by Toyota Prius V

The grain of salt one should take this post with is that Wayne Gerdes is just one man, and that his personal test results may not be applicable to everyone. Still, Gerdes is well-known in the green car community – his Guinness World Record for lowest fuel consumption in a hybrid and his position as owner of CleanMPG are just two good reasons – so when he and his crew tested a Ford C-Max Hybrid, the results are worth paying attention to. Turns out, they couldn't get anywhere near the EPA's claimed efficiency numbers.

Already the subject of a class action lawsuit over fuel economy claims, the C-Max Hybrid officially gets 47 miles per gallon across all three of the EPA's test categories (city/highway/combined). Plenty of peoplehave questioned whether 47 mpg is an accurate real-world number, and Gerdes' discovered that the C-Max Hybrid doesn't always reach the lofty EPA levels.

During a recent test in the sunny southwest, Gerdes and crew discovered the C-Max only managed 35.537 mpg over 360 highway miles but did get 52 mpg over 22.8 miles in the city. The drive was a comparison test with the Toyota Prius V, which is rated at 44 mpg city, 40 highway and 42 combined, and the V handily beat the C-Max, despite its lower EPA numbers.

Along the same route, the Prius V got 40.768 mpg on the highway and 55.8 mpg in the city. Gerdes wrote, "While the C-Max did beat its EPA city result, it fell woefully short of besting the lower fuel economy-rated Prius V revealing that the C-Max fuel economy claims beyond that of the Prius V are not what we were meant to believe." Motor Trend also found the Prius V beats the C-Max.

2012 Toyota Prius V

Gerdes is incredibly careful to take notes and pictures to document his tests (as we learned in person a few years ago), so we trust his results with the C-Max. Gerdes explained to AutoblogGreen that:
Given we are coming up on Spring training, here is a baseball analogy. With a neatly appointed interior and fastball-like performance, there is a lot to like about the all-new 2013 Ford C-Max. From a cargo carrying standpoint however, the design team took a swing and missed when compared to the Prius liftback and Prius V in particular.

In addition, it appears Ford's engineers and marketing team are in the unenviable position of simply being too far out ahead of a the curve when compared to anything in the entire Prius family lineup. The Fuel Economy curve, that is. Hopefully the Ford team will keep their eyes on the ball so that the next iteration will supply owner satisfaction from the standpoint of the C-Max's strengths while also providing a lot less pain at the pump. Right now, they appear to be getting called "out" by all the umpires well before reaching home
When it was launched late last year, the C-Max Hybrid started with incredibly strong sales, and some drivers are certainly able to get 45+ mpg. Still, the automaker and the EPA are in discussion about potentially changing test procedures for hybrid vehicles and the lawsuits continue. You can read all of the details of theCleanMPG C-Max Hybrid MPG test here.

Source: Autoblog Green

The New Volkswagen Golf GTD is the GTI of Diesels


We don’t often think of diesel engines as being performance powerhouses, but Volkswagen has always been an exception to this rule. Continuing a tradition that goes back over 30 years, the new Volkswagen Golf GTD is a diesel version of the hot hatchback known as the GTI.

Similar to the 1982 Golf GTD, the new one includes the styling cues and sportier chassis of  a GTI, but this time with a diesel engine. The diesel engine is a 2.0 litr turbocharged common rail model producing 141 HP and 280 ft-lbs of torque (380 Newton-metres) from 1,750 RPM. The transmission options include a six-speed manual, or a six-speed dual clutch DSG. There was no mention an automatic option.

Four-cylinder engines aren’t exactly known for their torque, but the 2.0 liter turbodiesel in the Volkswagen Golf GTD provides a whole lotta torque, which should make for a very spirited ride. Acceleration from 0 to 60 MPH is estimated to take 7.5 seconds, and it can attain a top speed of 229 kph or 142 mph.

With the manual transmission, the GTD achieves a fuel efficiency of 4.2 litres per 100 km, or about 56 mpg on the U.S. testing cycling. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 109 grams per km, and 122 grams per km for the DSG transmission. There aren’t many cars that can offer nearly 300 ft-lbs of torque, and gas mileage that exceeds the Toyota Prius.

Exterior features include a honeycomb grille and bumper design reminiscent of that of GTI vehicles, smoked LED rear lights with LED license plate illumination, chrome dual tailpipes, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/45 tires, side skirts, a rear diffuser, and a large roof spoiler. The interior is equipped with tartan sports seats, a black headliner, flat-bottom sports steering wheel, stainless steel pedals, plus a GTD-specific gear lever, trim strips and instrument cluster.

In Europe, the Golf GTD VII should start its sales after its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March. It will be priced at €29,350 (US$38,700). No word on if Volkswagen plans to bring the GTD to America, though the recent surge of interest in diesel vehicles could convince Vdub that this is one hot diesel hatchback worth importing.

Source: Volkswagen

New Audi A3 e-tron Plug-in Hybrid with 201HP to Debut at Geneva Motor Show


Two weeks from now, the latest Audi A3 e-tron PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show.

The latest A3 e-tron is equipped with a 1.4 litre TFSI turbocharged gasoline engine that generates 148 HP, and an electric motor that generates 101 HP. It utilizes a newly designed e-S tronic six-speed transmission that transmits the mechanical power to the front wheels. The two motors in the propulsion system provide a combined 201 HP, and 350 Newton-metres, or 258.1 ft-lbs of torque. This propulsion system facilitates a 0 to 62 MPH (100 km/h) acceleration time of 7.6 seconds, and a maximum velocity of 138 MPH (222 km/h). Not too shabby performance numbers for a plug-in hybrid.

Audi said that, according to the ECE standard for plug-in hybrid automobiles, this A3 e-tron consumes 1.5 litres of fuel per 100 km (156.8 MPG U.S or 188 MPG U.K). Its CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions are 35 g/km, when the electric motor is in constant use.

The A3 can be driven in three different modes:
  1. Electric-only: In this mode, the vehicle uses only electricity and can travel 31 miles (50 km) per charge. To convert miles to km, multiply the miles figure by 1.609344. The vehicle can attain a top speed of 81 MPH (130 km/h).
  2. Hybrid mode: This involves the combined use of the electric motor and gasoline engine. The vehicle can attain a speed of 138 MPH in this mode.
  3. Gasoline-only: This involves the use of the gasoline engine alone.
Even more appealing though are the looks of the Audi A3 e-tron, with the Sportback styling that is both sporty, yet practical. There is also a variant of the A3 that runs on the supposedly carbon neutral “E-Gas” that Audi is developing. Audi has not yet stated which countries this vehicle will be available in, though here’s hoping it comes to the U.S.

Source: Audi

2014 Ferrari F150 Hypercar Revealed! (kinda)

Ferrari F70 F150

The new McLaren hybrid exotic got its share of press last week, but the real star of next month’s Geneva motor show is sure to be the new-for-2013 (MY 2014)hybrid Ferrari F150 supercar … and this is, I think, the best guess yet as to what it’s going to look like when it finally bows.

The new car will probably be called the Ferrari F150 in honor of what would have been Enzo Ferrari’s 150th birthday, or the Ferrari F70 in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the company’s founding (the F40 and F50 supercars, respectively, were named for the company’s 40th and 50th anniversaries). They could probably call it “Steve” and make it on the cover of every respectable car magazine in the business, though, considering the weird hype surrounding the 800+ hp, Bugatti Veyron-baiting hyper hybrid.

How close is it? We won’t know until the car’s official reveal in a few weeks – but it jives with Jalopnik’s recently published Ferrari F150 drawings that were inspired by witness reports, police-sketch-artist style. So … pretty close?

Source | ImagesGTSpirit.

Nissan Announces All-new Hybrid System - VIDEO

Nissan Hybrid Cutaway

After years of simply buying hybrid drivetrains from Toyota and stuffing them underneath its Altima models, Nissan has – finally – introduced a proprietary new hybrid system for its mainstream, front-wheel-drive vehicle platforms. Based on the video they’ve provided explaining the new Nissan hybrid package, it seems genuinely innovative!

Owen Thunes, Senior Project Engineer, Zero Emissions Research Group at Nissan, provided an updated overview of the company’s new parallel hybrid system, explaining that its single-motor design is both significantly different and significantly better than the more conventional dual-electric-motor designs used by Nissan’s rivals. “In a series parallel system, motor power and engine power are somewhat scaled together, resulting in two electric machines—sometimes three — which are relatively large compared with the battery output power capability. In a parallel system, the engine power and the motor power are completely independent — it’s a design choice.”
Mated to the new hybrid system is an also-new 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder supercharged engine that replaces the ubiquitous 3.5 liter Nissan V6 currently found under the Altima, Maxima, etc. Torque exceeds the 3.5 liter V6′s in the mid RPM range, with the electric motor providing immediate, low-end torque, filling the gap between 4 cyl. and the older, less-efficient V6.

You can take a look at Nissan’s new hybrid system in the company’s pretty video, below.

SourceNissan, via Green Car Congress.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

First production Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell Vehicle prepped for Geneva

It's at least 57 days late, but Hyundai will be bringing the first ix35 Fuel Cell production vehicle to Geneva next week. The SUV, rolled off the line in Ulsan, Korea today, even though Hyundai promised that the ix35would start production by the end of 2012. Still, this is most concrete sign yet that Hyundai remains committed to it stated goal of making and leasing 1,000 hydrogen-powered ix35 vehicles (based on the standard ix35, aka Tuscon) by 2015. That's the year many automakers, like Nissan and Toyota, are planning to launch widespread H2 vehicles.

Hyundai says that ix35 Fuel Cell delivery to European customers is already underway, and the vehicle finished today is one of 17 that will be going to fleets in Copenhagen, Denmark (15) and Skane, Sweden (2). Europe will be the biggest early market for the new ix35, Hyundai says, "in order to prepare the market for mass production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles" after costs are expected to come down after 2015. At that point, Hyundai plans to offer H2 vehicles for sale.

Differences between the gas- and hydrogen-powered ix35 vehicles include a refreshed radiator grille, bumper and fog lamps. The seven-inch GPS is also exclusive to the hydrogen-powered ix35. It has a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour and (99 miles an hour) and can go 594 kilometers (369 miles) per fill up. With today's production, Hyundai is laying claim to the title of "World's first automaker to launch mass production of Fuel Cell vehicles." We'll get a better look in Geneva, but for now you can see a pre-production from Paris last year.
Show full PR text

New York Times Admits Tesla Writer Didn’t Exercise “Good Judgement”


New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, commented on the actions of John Broder, the writer who wrote that a Tesla Model S failed to last a trip that spanned from Delaware to Connecticut. She said that John Broder didn’t use “good judgement” when testing the car, and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors said that the car’s logs suggest that John Broder may have purposefully driven the car in the worst possible way to yield the poor results mentioned below. While Sullivan defends Broder’s integrity as a journalist, she also admits that he could have done a better job in testing the Tesla Model S.

Broder initially claimed that he had to turn the heater down low, and then off, and that he drove the car at low speeds on the highway. Tesla’s logs proved Broder wrong, and Musk also criticizes Broder’s decision to not plug the Tesla in overnight at a hotel. As a result, the Tesla lost two-thirds of its estimated range, eventually leaving Broder stranded on his way back to the Milford, CT Supercharger station.  The article created a backlash against Tesla stock, and Elon Musk wasted no time in defending his electric sedan.

This suggests that there is something fishy going on, or that something is wrong with the car. This is inconsistent with the results of range tests posted on CNN Money and Autoblog Green, both of which yielded positive results, and comments from the CNN article such as:

“Not only did I have enough battery range left, I had plenty. I had at least 40 miles — more than an entire Chevy Volt’s worth of electricity — left to play with. I sped up, cruising over 70, riding in the left lane, mashing the gas pedal just to feel how fast the car could shoot from 65 to 80. I was practically giddy.
In the end, I made it — and it wasn’t that hard.”.

Will The Automotive World Pull The Plug On Electric Cars?


Industry leaders Nissan and Toyota are looking for the next big thing in automotive, and their actions suggest it is not electric vehicles (EVs).

Hybrid cars, like the Prius, are selling well and small high mileage gas powered cars are leading the market; but consumers just are not buying EVs even with government subsidies and tax incentives in place. Because of this manufactures are looking past EVs and towards other options such as hydrogen powered cars (as if Hydrogen will be so much cheaper than all electric!).  The Obama administration last week has even backed away from its goal to put 1 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2015

While the Nissan Leaf is the bestselling pure EV in the United States, Nissan sold about as many Leaf EVs in 2012 as they did in 2011. In fact, total EV sales (not counting plug-in hybrids) in 2012 were only 14,687, representing 0.1% of total U.S. sales. Not a good sign for Nissan. When looking at hybrid sales in 2012, the number climbs to 473,083 roughly 3.3% of the market and the majority of those sales were for Toyota of Lexus vehicles.  As a result Nissan has decided to shift more of its green tech investment into hybrid vehicle development.

Reports like this do paint an unclear future. On the bright side, the push from developers and consumers for some type of alternative fuel vehicle continues. On the darker side, the American infrastructure might be investing in preparation for the wrong type of technology.

The problem is the extremely hi price to play in the EV arena. Let the government increase the subsidy to $15,000 and there might be some movement. There is currently no reasonably good reason to buy an electric car when that cars identical gasoline twin can be had for half the investment.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chreos EV - Claims 600 Miles Range, 10 Minute Recharge and 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds - VIDEO

Silex Power, a Chinese automaker, claims that an electric car they designed called the ChreosEV, achieves several jaw-dropping feats, including a driving range of over 600 miles, a charge time of ten minutes, and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. Everybody else can go home now; Silex Power has won the electric car.
To wit, the exact specifications of this wunder-EV are;
  1. 621 miles (1,000 km) of driving range.
  2. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
  3. 10 minute charge time.
  4. 4,400 Newton-metres (3,245 pound-feet) of torque.
So, Silex Power solved all the EV issues except cost? Sounds outstanding, and almost certainly not true. Let’s count the reasons why.

10 Minute Charge Time

This is highly unusual, but it is perfectly possible, and such battery technology is in the prototype stage. There are, however, multiple technologies that come close to this charge time, and one which blows it out of the water. The Toshiba SuperCharge (lithium titanate) battery is already on the market, and charges in 15 minutes. A battery was developed at MIT which charged in 20 seconds (no, that wasn’t an error, it really is 20 seconds). But has Silex Power also developed the technology to charge such a massive battery pack in so little time?

621 Miles of Range

This is also highly unusual, but might be possible via the use of an extremely large battery bank, or, more likely, a new and improved battery technology. Technology developed at Stanford that can store ten times as much energy as typical lithium-ion batteries can probably achieve this. That said, being able to add more than 600 miles of range to a car in ten minutes or less seems highly, highly suspect. If such technology existed, why haven’t any other automakers developed similar results? One answer could be immense cost, or a very short-lived battery.

0-60 MPH in 2.9 Seconds

The White Zombie has almost achieved this already, with a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3 seconds, only 0.1 seconds slower. But that battery pack is purpose built, and provides much less range than the claimed range of the Silex Chreos EV. Such a battery pack would be huge, and heavy, really dragging acceleration down. Sure, the Tesla Model S weighs more than 2.5 tons and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. But it doesn’t have even half the projected range, and it takes an hour from a fastcharger to juice the Tesla up to 90% range.
As you probably gathered from this, outstandingly powerful, lightweight, and overall stupendous battery technologies are sitting in laboratories being developed by scientists, so we cannot be certain that Silex Power’s claims are false (although, manufacturers lie about this all the time), because the technology required to achieve it does exist, but at what cost?

640 Horsepower, 3,245 Ft-Lbs Torque, 186 MPH Top Speed

This is not far-fetched. Electric motors can already do this, and other electric cars are pushing the boundaries of speed everyday. But can the Cheros EV specifically make this sort of power? Who knows? At the very least, this project is ambitious, wouldn’t you say?
Source: Autoblog Green

Zipcar places Honda Fit EVs into Portland fleet

Zipcar, Inc. has introduced the battery-electric 2013 Honda Fit EV into the Zipcar Portland fleet, with the first vehicles located at Portland State University (PSU). Charging stations for the EVs are provided by ECOtality, Inc..
The new Honda Fit EVs are located on PSU’s campus at Parking Structure 1, and are available to all Zipcar members ages 21+ for hourly reservations, starting from $10.25 per hour.
Through Zipcar’s program with ECOtality, members who reserve Honda Fit EVs in Portland will have full access to ECOtality’s Blink Network of charging stations located throughout the Portland area if they are in need of a charge during their reservation. Each Zipcar Fit EV is outfitted with a Blink InCard, which provides complimentary access to Blink Network charging stations to charge up.
Prior to reserving one of the Zipcar EVs, members will have the opportunity to learn more about driving electric vehicles through Zipcar’s member education program.
Honda’s 2013 Fit EV, based on the five-passenger Fit, earns a combined adjusted Environmental Protection Agency mile-per-gallon-equivalency rating of 118 MPGe, and a consumption rating of 29 kWh per 100 miles. The Honda Fit EV features a 20 kWh Li-ion battery and a compact 92 kW AC synchronous electric motor that generates 256 N·m (189 lb-ft) of torque. When connected to a 240-volt circuit, the Honda Fit EV battery can be recharged in less than three hours from a low charge indicator illumination point.

Cadillac ELR Tested in Snow and Ice Of Northern Michigan - VIDEO


Since its award-winning world debut at the North American International Auto Show, the plug-in hybrid Cadillac ELR  is undergoing extreme real-world testing before it is placed in showrooms in 2014. This video shows GM hard at work testing the Cadillac ELR in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Engineers last week completed winter weather testing on the chassis of the pre-production ELR models in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to ensure that the plug-in Caddy handles well in winter weather. During testing, there were more than 4 inches of snowfall that helped the team finalize specifications on the ELR’s steering, tires, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control and Continuous Damping Control suspension that adjusts damping every two milliseconds to maintain optimal control as the vehicle drives through different conditions. 
“Being able to test the ELR in extreme road conditions, like those we experienced here in the U.P., allows us to provide a ride-and-handling character unlike any EV on the market today,” said Chris Thomason, ELR chief engineer. “During this latest test, the ELR continued to perform beyond our expectations.”

The electric Cadillac ELR  is based on the Cadillac Converj Concept and the propulsion system is based on the GM Voltec concept that the GM Volt uses. GM expects the Volt-based Cadillac ELR to deliver an EPA-estimated range of 35 miles on just electricity, 3 miles less than the Volt. All those extra luxury features and creature comforts suck up a lot of power, but the more-powerful ELR will also be a good deal sportier than the Volt.

While they don’t get going too fast, the engineers in charge sure make this hybrid Cadillac look like a whole mess of fun. No price has been announced…but we can tell you right now, it won’t be cheap.

Source: Cadillac

Amarok P1 Electric Superbike is Coming Together - VIDEO

Amarok P1

We first talked about Amarok Racing’s TTXGP electric racer almost 2 years ago, when the initial prototype was little more than a rolling chassis. Now, however, the concept has benefitted from additional development, investment, and technology to become a “real” bike.

Called the P1 (“P” is for prototype) the Amarok is featured in its makers’ film, below, with co-founders Michael Uhlarik and Kevin O’Neil explaining the philosophy behind the P1′s innovative design. Check it out, and let us know what you think of this made-in-Canada electric superbike in the comments.



Amarok Racing, on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ford has low expectations for Focus EV sales

Ford is quadrupling the number of US dealers that will be certified to sell plug-in vehicles, but that optimism isn't being translated to the Focus Electric, apparently. The automaker says the Focus EV will account for five percent of its alt-fuel vehicle sales, at most, the Detroit News says, citing an interview with Ford marketing executive C.J. O'Donnell. About 90 percent of the Focus EVs sold so far are in California.

Challenging Focus EV sales is the fact that Nissan just cut the price of its all-electric Leaf to a price that runs about $10,000 less than the Focus EV. The base MSRPs are $28,800 for the Leaf and $39,200 for the Focus.

Ford's had a tough time selling its plug-ins. Specifically, Ford sold just 81 Focus Electrics last month, down from 167 in December, and moved less than 700 Focus EVs all of last year. C-Max Energi sales dropped to 338 units in January from 971 in December. The automaker's brooding its stable of plug-in certified US dealers to about 900 from 200 during the next couple of months.

Source: Autoblog Green

Consortium seeks to show total cost of EVs can be less than combustion engine reference car

EVs for use by Michelin and Siemens staffers in the project. (Photo: Sandra Göttisheim) Click to enlarge.

Michelin and Siemens, in cooperation with research partners at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, are launching a project to demonstrate that the total cost of electric vehicles can be less than that of a conventional combustion-engined car. In January 2013, the consortium was promised funding by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport, Building, and Urban Development (BMVBS) under the Baden-Württemberg LivingLab BWe mobil showcase project.
The three-year, nearly €2-million (US$2.6 million) project will be funded by the BMVBF and the project partners at a ratio of 50:50.
Michelin and Siemens staff commute frequently between their German and French facilities in conventional vehicles. However, an electric vehicle may ultimately prove to be less expensive, even given the higher initial purchase cost, as every kilometer driven electrically costs less than driving on gasoline or diesel fuel.
Under the project, electric vehicles will be used by Michelin staff commuting from Alsace to the Michelin factory in Karlsruhe. Siemens staff members will use an electric instead of a gasoline-based vehicle for their trips between the factories in Karlsruhe and Haguenau, France (about 65 km, 40 miles). In both cases, utilization of the vehicles is planned to be increased, such that the electric vehicle will be less expensive than the reference car with a combustion engine at the end of the project.
If electric mobility is to be successful in Europe, it has to be economically efficient. We are looking for applications in which electric vehicles are cheaper than a reference car with a combustion engine. If the vehicle is used often, costs can be reduced considerably and the high purchasing price is compensated.
—Dr. Olaf Wollersheim, head of the RheinMobil showcase project at KIT
Reaching the project objectives will require smart operation strategies for the vehicles, charging stations at the right places, and driver education, the partners said. Fraunhofer ISI and KIT have already studied user expectations and commercialization obstacles and know that factors such as high costs, small ranges, and limited availability of charging infrastructure deter people from using electric vehicles.
A new company—e-MotionLine—established by KIT graduates will supply vehicles for the project.
We take care of the selection of economically most efficient vehicles, coordinate the charging infrastructure, and train the users in using this new technology.
—Max Nastold, managing director of e-MotionLine
For the recharging infrastructure, the RheinMobil partners will cooperate closely with the CROss-border Mobility for EVs (CROME) project funded by several German and French ministries.
In April 2012, the federal government selected four regions in Germany as “electric mobility showcases”. In these regions, research and development of alternative drive trains are funded according to the decision made by German parliament. The RheinMobil project is one of about 40 projects in the Baden-Württemberg “LivingLab BWe mobil” electric mobility showcase.
In the Baden-Württemberg “LivingLab BWe mobil” showcase, more than 100 partners from industry, science, and public institutions are studying electric mobility in practice. The projects concentrate on the region of Stuttgart and the city of Karlsruhe. The projects address aspects of intermodality, fleets, commercial transport, infrastructure and energy, urban and traffic planning, vehicle technology, communication, and participation as well as training and qualification. “LivingLab BWe mobil” is coordinated by the State Agency for Electric Mobility and Fuel Cell Technology e-mobil BW GmbH and the Stuttgart Regional Economic Development Corporation (WRS).

2014 Jeep Cherokee: New, Greener 4x4 With Old Name

Here you are: These are the first photos of the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
Yep, that's right: Cherokee. No, not Grand Cherokee. Plain old Cherokee, the revival of a name that vanished (in the U.S.) a decade ago, although it's lived on in Europe.
The new 2014 Cherokee is Jeep's replacement for the old Jeep Liberty that was discontinued last year.
It revives a well-loved name dating back to 1984 on what was arguably the first sport-utility vehicle sold in high volumes, kicking off the entire SUV craze and changing the face of U.S. cars forever.
But the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is about as far from the old one as you can get.
It's a unit-construction all-wheel drive vehicle built on a car platform--meaning we'd call it a crossover now--and with its engine mounted transversely up front.
The Cherokee platform is adapted from the one underneath the front-wheel-drive Dodge Dart compact sedan, not a truck platform like the old Cherokee.
We won't get all the details on Jeep's new 4x4 until the New York Auto Show late next month, but now Chrysler-Fiat has released the photos you see above.
The new Cherokee will undoubtedly be greener than the old Liberty was, and will likely offer at least one four-cylinder version along with a more powerful model that features the Chrysler Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine.
Those engines could be mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Yes, you read that right: the first production nine-speed automatic in the world might be fitted to a Jeep.
The best gas mileage achieved by the old Liberty, which ran from 2002 through 2012 in two generations, was 18 mpg combined for the rear-wheel drive version.
2000 Jeep Cherokee Sport
2000 Jeep Cherokee Sport
Jeep says the new model will return up to 45 percent better ratings than that, which would mean a combined rating of roughly 26 mpg for the most fuel-efficient version.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee will also offer best-in-class capability for off-roading, including at least one Trail-Rated model.
For more details on the new 2014 Cherokee and all the rest of the launches and concept cars, be sure to bookmark our New York Auto Show news page.
Meanwhile, what do you think of the design and styling of the new Jeep Cherokee? Is it a real successor to the old Jeep Liberty?

Source: Green Car Reports

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on high cost of building Model S: "I wanted to punch myself in the face"

Tesla Motors has been spending way too much money building each Model S. That reality, and how the company is remedying the situation, was one of the main talking points during a conference call that followed the release of the automaker's fourth-quarter letter to investors and financial results. The discussion offered a great look inside a company that is moving from its start-up stage to becoming a full-blown, car-building, money-making operation.

Tesla could bump up production to 500 Model S EVs a week, but will focus on reducing costs first.
To achieve the first-quarter profitability target that CEO Elon Musk says he expects to hit, Tesla is focusing on improving production efficiency and increasing gross margin, rather than just increasing the rate at which they turn out cars. Tesla could build as many as 500 Model S vehicles per week – instead of the current 400 – but wants to reduce the cost per car before it turns up the production volume. Musk reiterated the precise goal during the call, saying, "I'm highly confident that we'll be above 25 percent gross margin, without considering zero-emission credits, by the end of this year"

"The amount of overtime required to achieve 400 cars per week was pretty extreme."
There are several ways to pursue that target, one of which is reducing the man-hours required to pump out each Model S. In December, at the height of its efforts to achieve a 20,000-vehicle annualized production rate, workers were averaging something like 68 hours a week, Musk said (and also participated in). Obviously, that's expensive in terms of paying additional overtime wages, and can lead to employee burn out if sustained. "The amount of overtime required to achieve 400 cars per week was pretty extreme. That has improved pretty dramatically," Musk said. That number is now down to about 50 hours a week and should drop to the mid-40's sometime next month, Musk said. At the same time, the company is working to greatly reduce the number of temporary workers it employs and increasing, somewhat, the ranks of its full-time team.

Another area where Tesla is achieving large cost savings is in its supply chain. As a startup, suppliers didn't offer Tesla the same sort of deals they might to an established OEM. They used industry estimates of 1,500 units per year – rather than Tesla's figure of 20,000 – to set pricing. That's now changing and, as the company meets certain volume targets, the prices (particularly for the all-important battery cells it's sourcing from Panasonic) are falling to more reasonable levels.

Even the supply-chain logistics are improving as its industrial relationships mature. Musk told one anecdote that encapsulated many of the company's teething experiences. Apparently, it was taking longer than the 30-day financial terms in place to receive 21-inch tires from a tire supplier, so that the company was overdue payment on goods that hadn't yet been delivered. The supplier then put a hold on further shipments, creating a hiccup in the production process and forcing Tesla to ship some cars with 19-inch wheels with a promise to replace them at a later date.

"I wanted to punch myself in the face for that one."
To get things moving, Tesla ended up flying the tires from the Czech Republic to California – not an inexpensive proposition. Said Musk, "I wanted to punch myself in the face for that one." It was, indeed, a memorable line that helped sum up the frustrations of moving through an awkward developmental stage.

Hopefully, these lessons learned will help the California company exceed performance expectations, just like the cars it produces. Market analysts on the call didn't see it that way, and punched the TSLA stock price in the face – knocking it back 8.77 percent on the day following the release.

Source: Autoblog Green