Sunday, March 31, 2013

GM shows half a Spark EV to give the whole picture of what’s inside

General Motors had a big presence and demonstration in the Javits Center North Hall at the New York auto show yesterday, but the highlight of the media presentation this time was not electrified vehicles.
To be sure, the Volt and a cutaway Spark EV and whole Spark EV were present, but ear plugs were handed out to media and guests before listening to a talk by Mark Reuss, GM Vice President and President, North America.

The ear plugs were not for Mr. Reuss, who spoke in a normal tone, but for an introductory video celebrating great Chevy performance and racing cars.
In the minutes leading up to the video and the GM media presentation, music had been byAerosmith; the raw and raucous, in-your-face defiant, “Back in the Saddle.” It set the tone for the pending automotive celebration, and was suggestive of the spirit underlying the company.
As the official presentation began, the volume was seriously cranked up for the brief car film clip shown inside the Bow-Tie-shaped movie screen on center stage. It resonated with GM racing car imagery and sounds to precede Reuss’s presentation and was so overwhelmingly loud as to boom the exhaust note of V8s into one’s eardrums. The ear plugs had been handed out without explanation, but their intent was soon apparent.
It was not unlike being at pit row – with your head at times only eight inches from a barely muffled 427 escalating up the ICE-tone musical scale to 7,000 rpm.
Actually the imagery was of a variety of perspectives viewing exciting racing machines doing what they do best, but it was turned up loud so as to physically pound home the hi-po theme being presented as GM’s heritage still being built upon to this day.
Celebrating its larger-than-life legacy, it was a reveling in GM speed and internal combustion power, and it would seem apparent that car guys and gals are very much running the show at GM.
After the brief video, the stage presentation by Reuss was essentially about recently revealed adrenaline inducers, including the C7 Vettes, the 2014 Camaro, and newly unveiled was GM’s latest Mustang fighter, a track-ready 2014 Z/28 Camaro.
The revived Z/28 features a who-cares-what-the-mpg-is 7.0-liter LS7 V8 engine with 500 horsepower and 470 pounds-feet of torque matched with a six-speed Tremec TR6060 manual transmission.
To be fair, while speaking of the new Corvette, Reuss did mention its new performance cars do better than ever in their EPA numbers – when driven sedately no doubt, not on the boil as they were made to do.
More than a 0-60 ripper, Reuss said GM’s engineers say the new Z/28 has amazing lateral acceleration, and “it is the real deal,” he said of the fast-lapping racer for the street.
Sound deadening on the Z/28 is deleted, there’s no audio entertainment system other than the sound generated by the tuned exhaust, rear window glass is thinner, air-conditioning is optional, and only one speaker inside the Z/28 is for a mandatory warning chime, which Reuss said he wanted to remove, but they had to keep it.
This beast is otherwise stripped for speed and is 300 pounds lighter thus more agile than the even-more-powerful ZL1 Camaro; the Z/28 is a turnkey track-day special, and it was the news of the day.
In the electrified realm, this week GM did also reveal its eAssist 2014 Buick Regal and 2014 LaCosse, and Chevrolets making a presence, but otherwise languishing by comparison in a corner were the Volt and pending Spark EV.
While a mob surrounded the big V8 vehicles on center stage, I went over and snapped some pictures of a Spark EV which GM had cut away revealing normally hidden carbon fiber boxes and orange insulation and other unique hardware for its first EV since the EV1.
No doubt the company says it is committed to electrification, and it is to be a greater part of its future, but Wednesday in New York was more about glorying in the days of thunder past, present, and future, than the sound of electrified silence.
Undoubtedly electrified cars are generating interest also but if this were likened to a culinary feast for the senses, the big iron were the delicious mouth-watering entrees or perhaps wonderful sugary and fattening desserts.
In contrast, electrified cars were the sensible, nutritious vegetables, and lean, trimmed portions that were good for you, and you knew you should eat more of them.
But for anyone with a taste for a healthier and more long-term sustainable automotive diet, in case you’ve not seen these images before, included are several of the cutaway Spark EV that GM had on display. You click on them to enlarge for better viewing.

Contest: Ford Puts up $50K for Apps That Track Fuel Economy

Ford wants Apps that track MPG

The PR wizards at Ford have announced a $50,000 contest wherein developers are invited to create a smartphone app that can tap into a car’s ECU data and track MPG.
Give the Ford PR crew credit where it’s due: not only is $50K a lot less than what it might cost Ford to develop such an app in-house, but it’s also announcing the contest hot on the heels ofAutomatic announcing its own app/accessory MPG tracking system, guaranteeing that at lease one company will participate/win/keep the feel-good PR machine rolling Ford’s way.
The contest, which launches this summer, focuses on using ECU data to create apps that help improve and/or track fuel efficiency. According to Facebook’s Global Head of Automotive Doug Frisbie, “fuel economy matters more to consumers than the car’s price by a factor of 10″ (according to Mashable). Frisbie and joined Ford VP of Global Marketing, Jim Farley, Jr., on stage for panel discussion to talk about the broader possibilities of tracking automotive data using smartphones.
Farley and Frisbie’s vision is to have all of a consumers’ screens – their smartphone, their PC, their tablet, and their cars’ infotainment system – finally work together to create a seamless customer experience, where a Google search for directions (the example given) that was begun on a phone walking to the car would be completed in the car, without the need to re-enter information. The execs involved are quoted as saying that “there is good reason to do this”, but I’m not sure I agree.
Not that anyone asked me, but the future of car-buyers are the millenials and “Gen Y” crowd, like it or not. A lot of them aren’t buying cars at all, and the ones that are buying cars are choosing simple, fun, screen-less transportation like the Scion TC, which boasts the youngest average car-buyer age in the business. This push by Ford, then, has the same stink of Grandma that those “GI Jim” dolls had when you unwrapped them on Christmas morning, you know?
You know.
Good luck, then, all you intrepid developers – and have fun spending Ford’s money!

Source: Ford

Saturday, March 30, 2013

BMW says new 328d ushers in next wave of advanced diesel models for US; ~37 mpg combined

BMW introduced the 328d Sedan at the New York International Auto, ushering in the next wave of BMW Advanced Diesel models in the US. The 328d will feature BMW’s 2.0-liter TwinPower diesel 4-cylinder engine, which produces 180 hp (134 kW) and 280 lb-ft (380 N·m) of torque, available from 1,750 rpm. It will be mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
BMW 328d. Click to enlarge.
The 328d Sedan will accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in just over seven seconds. Preliminary fuel economy estimates for the rear wheel drive 328d Sedan are 32 mpg city/45 mpg highway/37 mpg combined (7.4, 5.2 and 6.4 l/100 km respectively).
The 328d Sedan will be available in rear wheel drive and also with xDrive, BMW’s all-wheel drive system. The sedans will be joined by the 328d xDrive Sports Wagon. All Three variants will arrive in US showroom as 2014 models in fall of 2013.
BMW Advanced Diesel technology includes Selective Catalyst Reduction exhaust aftertreatment.
The options list will include Luxury, Sport and Modern Lines as well as M Sport. Detailed specifications and pricing will be available closer to launch. All three 328d variants will be available in US showrooms this fall.

Source: Green Car Congress

Mitsubishi halts production of i-MiEV, Outlander PHEV after two plug-in car fires

Last week was a rough one for Mitsubishi and its efforts to broaden its appeal among potential plug-in vehicle buyers. Two fires caused the Japanese automaker to halt production of both the Outlander plug-in hybrid and a version of the all-electric i-MiEV. The two separate incidents – both in Japan – involved plug-in vehicle battery-pack fires and, until the cause is found, production will be suspended, reports Automotive News.

The first fire occurred March 18 in the battery pack of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV (known in the US simply as the i) at the company's Mizushima factory. The pack overheated, causing a 98-minute fire in which no injuries or building damage occurred. The accident may have been caused by what Mitsubishi calls "a change in the manufacturing process of the battery supplier." As a result, the company is calling fleet-vehicle operators with i-MiEVs whose batteries were made under the same process as those that overheated and is working on a possible fix.

Meanwhile, on March 21, a battery pack in Outlander PHEV overheated at a Yokohama dealership. About 80 cells within the battery overheated, damaging one of the three blocks of cells in the battery and causing the unregistered car to not be able to run. Mitsubishi says owners of the Outlander PHEV should hold off on external charging until a further investigation of the cause of the incident is conducted. Mitsubishi says the fire will not delay the plug-in Outlander's US launch and there is no official word if a recall will be required for either vehicle. Mistubishi has sold 4,000 Outlander PHEVs in Japan.

Mitsubishi uses battery cells that have an indirect connection to the fires in the Boeing Dreamliner earlier this year, the batteries that Tesla Motors CEO called "fundamentally unsafe." Mitsubishi't cells come from Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between Mitsubishi and GS Yuasa that was started in 2007. GS Yuasa makes the batteries for the airplane, but Boeing says it will not stop testing the Dreamliner in light of these fires.

Mitsubishi's press releases on the incidents are available below.
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Fisker Furloughs Workers, Hires Bankruptcy Lawyers


The vultures are circling the headquarters of Fisker Automotive, and the clock is ticking as the signs of an inevitable bankruptcy continue to pile up. Fisker has put its more than 200 employees on furlough earlier this week, and with Chinese investors backing out, management has reportedly hired lawyers to begin bankruptcy proceedings. This is the end, my friend.
Or maybe not quite. Reuters reports that Fisker has hired “restructuring” lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis to prepare for a possible (though we say probable) bankruptcy filing. Fisker had hoped to find salvation from Chinese automakers Geely and Dongfeng, but both companies pulled out, leaving Fisker up a creek without a paddle.
Not that things were looking good for Fisker, especially after founder Henrik Fisker left the company over disagreements with management on the future of the automaker. Henrik had been pushing to downsize Fisker, which may have been the only real chance for the green car maker to survive on its own. Alas, management won that battle, but without cash, there won’t be any new cars built.
Then again, Fisker hasn’t built a car since last summer, their contract with battery maker A123 may or may not be void, and natural disasters have taken a huge chunk out of the company’s bottom line. Whether Fisker ends up liquidating, restructuring, or being bought out, things look rather bleak for this once-promising automaker.

Source: Reuters

Audi A3 e-tron Confirmed For U.S. Market


German automakers have been cautious about hybrid vehicles, including Audi, which in America offers just one hybrid vehicle, the Q5 SUV. But a new hybrid will be joining the U.S. Audi lineup next year, the Audi A3 e-tron, which was confirmed at the New York Auto Show.
At launch, the Audi A3 sportback will have four engine options, including a 2.0 liter turbodiesel. But for those who really want to save some gas, the Audi A3 e-tron will be a plug-in hybrid with a 1.4 liter gas engine in conjunction with an electric motor.
On pure electric power, the A3 e-tron will go up to 31 miles. The combined output for this powertrain is 204 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs of torque, more than any other plug-in hybrid currently available, including the Cadillac ELR. Audi claims this setup will deliver 156 MPGe.
Power will go through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, and the A3 sportback body style should appeal to a younger, “hipper” buyer. This millennial certainly likes the look, as well as the combination of hybrid fuel economy and plenty of power. Look for the Audi A3 e-tron to hit dealerships starting next year.

Source: Gas2.0

Friday, March 29, 2013

GM will make next electric car in Korea; expected to be bigger than Spark EV

GM reportedly will produce next-generation electric vehicles in South Korea, alongside the Chevrolet SparkEV (pictured), due to arrive in American showrooms by summer, and later this year in Europe. The Spark EV also will be available for fleets in Canada.

GM Korea honcho Sergio Rocha told journalists at the Seoul Auto Show, now underway, that the new electric will be an entirely new design and will be a bit larger than the current Spark. Also, it will be an EV-specific design, not a gas-to-electric model, and GM's first dedicated EV since the bullet-shaped EV1, whose demise was well-documented in the 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car? GM has vaguely mentioned plans for two other new EVs, one with a 100-mile range, another with 200. Stay tuned to find out which one will be produced first. Whichever it is, the lithium-ion batteries will be from LG Chem, according toReuters.

GM Korea makes more than 40 percent of Chevrolet's smaller models at its Bupyeong plant, including Aveo, which is no longer sold in the US, and Malibu, which is.

Source: Autoblog Green

Bankrupt A123 changes name to B456 PDQ

Ok, so we made the "PDQ" part up, but battery maker A123 Systems, Inc. has changed its name to B456 Systems, Inc. – and no, this is not an early April Fool's Day joke. As part of A123's bankruptcy proceedings dating to last October, it was required to change its name in order to be purchased by Chinese company Wanxiang. According to the Detroit Free Press, as part of a March 22, 2013 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, A123 declared that its new name is B456. We're not sure if anyone at A123 realized the irony – B456 is also the model number for a fire extinguisher made by Amerex that happens to be good for "energized electrical equipment."

Wanxiang completed its purchase of A123 B456 earlier this year. The company formerly known as A123 had received hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, tax credits and grants from the federal government and the states of Michigan and Massachusetts. Part of the funds from the Wanxiang purchase repaid the $2.8 million it received from Massachusetts, but it looks like the other monies will go unrepaid. The Chinese company has said it will keep the Michigan plants open, but Michigan is trying to keep Wanxiang from collecting the rest of its unused incentives.

Source: Autoblog

Diesel-Powered BMW 328d Is Good For 48 MPG, Lots Of Torque


Every automaker is taking a slightly different path in their quest for fuel economy domination, and for German automaker BMW, diesels seem to make the most sense. We already knew that BMW would bring a diesel 3-series, the 328d, to the New York Auto Show. What we didn’t know is that in addition to an impressive amount of torque, this diesel Bimmer would be good for up to 48 mpg. Wowza.
48 mpg? From a BMW, and a non-hybrid at that? What is this, the Twilight Zone or something? Nope, just BMW finally getting around to offering diesel-powered goodness in America, something they’ve done doing for years in Europe. The new 2.0 liter BMW turbodiesel isn’t short on power either, with a respectable 180 horsepower and 280 ft-lbs of torque on tap as well. That 48 mpg figure is on the highway, by the way; BMW reps are keeping the city rating mum for now. Still, hybrids have been put on notice.
Of course all that really matters is how it performs, and BMW is not known for selling anything less than a quality performance sedan. The BMW 328d should be fun to drive and then some, with reps claiming a 0-60 mph of around 7.2 seconds. While not “fast” per se, it is certainly on par with the competition…and there is always the possibility of a M-version of the diesel Bimmers. BMW is already planning to bring other diesel sedans to market, including a 5-series sedan powered by a turbodiesel V6
Alas, the only available transmission (for now) is an 8-speed automatic, and the diesel engine will carry a $7,000 premium over a base BMW 3-series. But with hybrid-like fuel economy, and plenty of torque to boot, we think this oil-burning Bimmer will find plenty of willing buyers.

Source: Gas2.0

Subaru XV Crosstek Hybris


While it has garnered a well-deserved reputation as a “green” automaker, Subaru has yet to actually sell a single “green” car. But that has all changed with the introduction of the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid, which debuted today at the New York International Auto Show alongside the new WRX Concept. But for a hybrid, this new Subaru isn’t exactly a fuel economy king.
In fact, the new hybrid setup mates a 2.0 liter gas engine to a small electric motor to produce the same horsepower as a non-hybrid XV Crosstrek; 148 horsepower and 145 ft-lbs of torque. That is respectable, if not impressive.
Unfortunately, fuel economy recieved what could only be described as a very modest boost. Subaru says that the XV Crosstrek will deliver around 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, up from 25/33 on the non-hybrid. Part of the problem is that the hybrid technology adds an extra 300 pounds to the Crosstrek’s curb weight, much of that from the 13.5 kWh nickel-hydride battery in the trunk area. Subaru also added start/stop features and regenerative braking, but all told, the fuel economy figures are kind of disappointing.
Subaru also debuted a new WRX concept vehicle, and while the radical design probably won’t make it into production, the car seemed to be very well recieved. No details were given out, but when a new WRX does hit the market, expect at least a few of these design cues to come along for the ride.
Subaru fans, we want to hear from you; were you expecting better from Subie’s first hybrid? Or does this work well enough for now?

Source: Gas2.0

Thursday, March 28, 2013

2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive is headed for US

Despite the fact that Daimler's press release doesn't mention this company by name, we have to assumethat the 28-kWh lithium-ion battery in the upcoming 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive comes fromTesla Motors. What Daimler is being much more clear about is that the B-Class EV is coming to the USearlier than you might expect, in early 2014. The car has a range of "around 115 miles" and is being unveiled today at the New York Auto Show.

Last year, there was a hint that the electrified small Mercedes-Benz would have a range extender, but the information released today is all electric, all the time. We've got mention of "completely emission-free driving" and "electric driving at the premium level." With a motor that offers up 134 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque, the B-Class Electric Drive (we like the naming convention here, just like the Smart ED) can scoot from zero to 60 miles an hour in "less than ten seconds." The top speed has been limited to 100 miles an hour, "in the interests of operating range." Even if Tesla is providing the battery here, there is noSupercharging in sight: the recharge time for 60 miles worth of range is two hours from a 240-volt, Level 2 charger.

While B-Class models with liquid-fuel powertrains are available in other markets, the car will only be sold as an EV in the US and will also be available in Europe. The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive hits these shores May 1.

Source: Autoblog

Nissan starts 2013 Leaf production in UK, EV now made on three continents

Building the Leaf in Tennessee helped Nissan sell more of the all-electric car in the US in March than in any other month. The start of production in the UK, in Nissan's Sunderland plant, has been in the planning stages for a while and today's official start of production means the world's best-selling all-electric vehicle is now being made on three continents (since 2010, the Leaf has been made in Japan). The Sunderland plant was opened in 1986, and Nissan invested £420 million ($635 million US) so it can build the Leaf and its battery there. Nissan claims the expansion will, "support more than 2,000 jobs in the UK automotive industry," 500 of those at Nissan.

Global production isn't the only thing that's new. Sunderland will build the 2013 Leaf, which has (in the UK, at least) 100 updates, the most important of which are more range (now up to 123 miles) and a shorter recharge time (half as long as a first-gen Leaf took). The European Leaf also gets special suspension settings, "specifically tailored for European roads." We hope the button to engage this looks like cobblestones. You can read about the US updates to the 2013 Leaf here.

Show full PR text
  • Improved model with more than 100 updates, longer range and quicker charging
  • Announcement represents £420m investment in UK battery and LEAF production
Production to support more than 2,000 jobs in the UK automotive industry

UK Government thanked for continuing support and investment

Sunderland (March 28, 2013) – Nissan is today celebrating the dawn of a bold new era in European car manufacturing with the official start of production of the new and improved, 100% electric Nissan LEAF.

This new Nissan LEAF, incorporating more than 100 updates, is now rolling off the line at the company's record-breaking Sunderland Plant, using advanced lithium-ion batteries manufactured in Nissan's new UK Battery Plant.

Today marks the culmination of four years of preparation at the plant and a previously announced £420m investment by Nissan. Together the Battery Plant and Nissan LEAF production are supporting jobs for more than 2,000 people in the UK car industry, including more than 500 directly at Nissan.

Nissan's continuing innovation means the world's best-selling electric vehicle is now even better. The new LEAF for 2013 has more than 100 updates aimed at making Nissan's zero-emissions technology accessible to even more European drivers, including an increased driving range of 199km (123 miles) and the ability to recharge in half the time of the first-generation LEAF.

UK Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. David Cameron said: "Nissan's record breaking year last year is a success story for UK volume car manufacturing and demonstrates how our automotive industry is competing and thriving in the global race. I warmly welcome the production of the new electric LEAF model and battery plant at Sunderland. This £420 million investment, backed by Government, is supporting over 2,000 jobs in our automotive sector including more than 500 at Nissan in Sunderland, helping people in the area who want to work hard and get on.

"The Government has committed £400 million to make the UK a leading market for ultra low carbon vehicles. Nissan's announcement shows the confidence the company has in the skills-base and the business environment in the UK and that the UK is open for business."

This historic launch event comes as Nissan Sunderland Plant celebrates making more than seven million units since its opening in 1986. Last year it produced 510,572 vehicles and so became the first UK car factory ever to make more than half a million cars in one year.

Nissan's Executive Vice President Andy Palmer celebrated the official start of electric vehicle production with the 6,100 staff now employed on site. "Today's announcement progresses Nissan's unwavering commitment to zero emissions motoring.

"The Nissan LEAF is our most technically advanced car yet and the launch of this new model, built along with its batteries in Sunderland, is a huge boost not only for the plant but for British manufacturing. We have been showing that you can operate a world-beating plant in the UK for almost 30 years and the construction of the Battery Plant is a vote of confidence in the country's ability to support high-technology manufacturing."

"We could not have reached this point without the support and commitment we have enjoyed from Governments across Europe, especially the British Government, who are backing the car industry on manufacturing and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. I would also like to once again place on record our thanks to our many partners and their strong belief in zero-emissions motoring."

With more than 55,000 Nissan LEAFs on the world's roads today, and with two years of real-world zero emissions experience behind it, today's announcement marks the start of an exciting chapter for Nissan. The Nissan LEAF now is built in three locations worldwide: Sunderland, UK; Smyrna, Tennessee, USA; and Oppama, Japan.

The launch of three new grades, new interior trim, the addition of Nissan's Around View Monitor technology and new suspension settings specifically tailored for European roads build on the LEAF's unique driving experience. This new package gives customers in Europe a second generation zero-emissions car, before most companies have even launched their first electric vehicle.

Integrated on the same line as the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, the new LEAF is a major milestone in Nissan's global zero-emission leadership. In just 12 months, Nissan has increased the number of dealers selling the LEAF from 200 to 1,400 and the number of charging points in Europe has grown from 12,000 to more than 20,000, proving that electric vehicles are becoming increasingly attractive.

The new Nissan LEAF soon will be joined by all-electric versions of the award-winning NV200, to be called e-NV200, in both light commercial van and five-seat combi versions. Development of a dedicated EV taxi based on the e-NV200 is also under way. An Infiniti EV is expected in 2015.