Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid Proves Popular: Production Doubles In Europe

There is, at the moment, only one production diesel plug-in hybrid car on sale, and it's currently only sold in Europe.
That car is the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid, combining the long-distance touring ability and economy of a diesel powertrain with the short-distance cleanliness and inexpense of electric power.
The combination is proving so popular that Volvo is quickly ramping up production to cope with demand, reports Cars UK.
Volvo built 1,000 V60 plug-ins in its first year, 2012 (which sold out immediately), but expected to raise that to somewhere between 4,000-6,000 units in 2013. Now, they've said that production will be raised to 10,000 units.
With CO2 emissions of just 48 g/km, the Volvo's popularity is largely to do with Europe's heavily CO2-based taxation rates for vehicles. In the Netherlands, where CO2 taxation can add thousands to the price of a new car, buyers have already ordered 3,000 cars.
Demand could go up in London too, with the announcement that the city's congestion charge exemption will only be granted to cars producing below 75 g/km of CO2. Once the regulations come into force in July, Volvo will be the only automaker with a luxury vehicle exempt from the $15-per-day charge.
Of course, dodging heavy taxes is just one of the V60 plug-in hybrid's virtues.
Based on the 2.4-liter five-cylinder turbodiesel model sold in Europe, the V60 Plug-In drives its front wheels with diesel and its rear wheels electrically, with peak system output of 285 horsepower.
It's quick, taking just over 6 seconds to reach 62 mph, and has an electric range of 31 mpg.
Combined economy on the European cycle--on which CO2 emissions are based--is 129 mpg. However, this figure is highly variable depending on several factors, and even Volvo itself admits the figure is unrealistic for most drivers.
Pricing is a steep $65,000 in Europe and it isn't coming to the U.S.--but right now, it seems like the right car for European buyers wanting to avoid hefty taxes.

Source: Green Car Reports

2013 Ford Escape 2.0-Liter EcoBoost: Gas Mileage Drive Report

The Ford Escape is one of the most popular compact crossovers on the market today, and its all-new 2013 model goes head-to-head with the Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4.
Both of those vehicles were redesigned in 2012 or 2013, so crossover competition is now fierce.
We spent six days with a pale green ("Ginger Ale Metallic") 2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine.
This is the top-of-the-line Escape, with a sticker price of almost $35,000--against the starting price of $23,365 for the almost nonexistent 2.5-liter Escape base model.
After surveying a number of auto writers, it appears that in many cities (including ours), Ford only gives out the nicest, priciest Escape models for media drives.
So right now, our gas mileage test only applies to this engine and drive configuration. We hope to test lesser Escapes in the future.
24-mpg rating
Rather to our surprise, our 2013 Escape was EPA-rated at just 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway).
The most fuel-efficient Escape is the front-wheel drive model with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, rated at 26 mpg combined.
Add all-wheel drive to the 1.6-liter model, and the combined number drops 1 mpg to 25 mpg. Or if you want the bigger 240-hp, 2.0-liter engine but can forgo the AWD, you'll also find a 25-mpg rating.
Of course, those numbers are nothing like the 32 mpg combined rating of the late, lamented Escape Hybrid (the front-wheel drive model), which went out of production after the 2012 model year.
Real-world results
Over the course of an 838-mile trip that took us through five states, we pretty much nailed the EPA combined rating.
We got 23. 9 miles per gallon, though during most of our fairly hilly trip, the reading was not that good.
But three solid hours of Interstate cruising on flat roads with a net downslope back to our sea-level destination boosted the recorded mileage enough to where we'd deem the EPA's rating of 24 mpg combined a reasonable expectation.
(Unlike the 47-mpg combined ratings in Ford's newest C-Max and Fusion hybrids. But that's another story.)
Filling up HOW often?
The most startling thing about our 2013 Escape was that it needed to have its gas tank refilled in less than 300 miles
2013 Ford Escape EcoBoost 2.0-liter, Pennsylvania, April 2013
2013 Ford Escape EcoBoost 2.0-liter, Pennsylvania, April 2013
The "low gas" warning light went off the first time with 246 miles on the trip odometer--and we'd received the car with a full tank indicated.
The second time it happened, we'd logged 266 miles.
Yes, we know there's a lot of leeway between the time the light goes on and the last drop in the tank. But still: 250 miles between fillups? RLY?
The 2013 Ford Escape is listed as having a 15.1-gallon tank, which would provide roughly 350 miles of range.
That's among the smallest in compact crossovers, but perhaps Ford has programmed its low-gas light to be exceptionally conservative.
In our 800-plus-mile trip, we put gas in the Escape three times.
You have been warned..

Modern, competent, comfortable
Frequent fillups aside, the 2013 Ford Escape proved to be a comfortable and up-to-date vehicle in which to cover lots of miles.
The cloth-and-leather seats in our Platinum model were both attractive and comfortable over our longest day.
The seat heaters, on the other hand, were so aggressive that we couldn't endure more than about 10 minutes even on the lowest setting. That, we suspect, is very much a First World Problem.
The interior mixes soft-touch and harder plastics, but is very similar to that of the C-Max we'd already driven (which is built on similar underpinnings), so it was familiar and worked well.
We give Ford credit for retaining a round volume adjustment knob for the radio rather than pushbuttons. The Escape also has knobs for the climate control system, so raising and lowering the temperature is similarly easy and intuitive.
We were disappointed with how little storage space was available on the console for our sunglasses, change, toll tickets, mobile phones, and the like.
Good handling, but body roll
It handles nicely and we found it relatively pleasant to toss around curvy country roads, although it sits high, meaning you have to get comfortable with the sensation of more body roll than you would in a sedan.
The electric power steering was about average; not as good in feel as the stellar system in the Mazda CX-5 (still our favorite crossover for driver experience and roadholding), but better than almost anything that Toyota makes.
One unusual feature of the engine noise was that on occasion, the engine stayed at lower speeds (well below 2000 rpm) when we'd have expected the six-speed automatic transmission to have downshifted.
Instead, we heard it making a low-pitched growling noise--today's equivalent of what older drivers used to call "lugging" the engine.
The car responded fine, and shifted down if we accelerated, but the noise was just enough to be noticeable--yet another side effect of stretching for every last tenth of a mile per gallon, we suspect.
The C-Max Hybrid uses active noise cancellation to offset similar sounds in that car, but the Escape does not.
One final note on gas mileage: The Escape 2.0-liter produces good mileage numbers on level ground, but keeping your foot into it predictably cuts efficiency a lot.
On the first part of our trip, running up and down the hills of central New York State, we rarely saw even 20 mpg. Once we hit freeways, the numbers slowly rose.
$35K Escape
The 2.0-liter Escape Titanium model with all-wheel drive carries a base price of $32,120.
Included as standard are the Titanium technology package, a tonneau cover over the load bay, the roof rack, high-intensity discharge automatic headlamps, the neat power liftgate, and rear sensors to compensate for the lack of rear visibility and aid in parking.
But our 2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD had a bottom-line sticker price of $34,735. That represented the addition of a $795 package that bundled MyFordTouch, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a navigation system, and another $995 for the parking technology package.
With the mandatory $825 delivery fee, our top-of-the-line Escape essentially cost $35,000 before tax, title, license, and insurance fees.

Source: Green Car Reports

Nissan Leaf time-lapse shows the EV being built

The 2013 Nissan Leaf was improved thanks to customer input and, earlier this year, Nissan started building the all-electric car in Tennessee (and, of course, now also in the UK). These two changes helped the world's best-selling EV reach its the best month of US sales ever in March – we look forward to seeing what the April numbers are, which we should be getting in the very near future. We know domestic production reduced costs, since Nissan was happy to tout that angle, but it wasn't until recently that media representatives were allowed inside to see how the company is building the car and battery pack.

We will have a detailed write-up on Nissan's moves in Smyrna, TN for you soon. Until then, you can see the Leaf being built in the time-lapse video below, courtesy of local newspaper, The Tennessean. The audio is not worth listening to, but the images are somehow mesmerizing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

VW sustaniability report shows emissions, production progress

The most recent companywide sustainability report from Volkswagen comes in at a tidy 168 pages. Here's hoping not too many folks took out trees by printing the whole thing out.

Europe's biggest automaker said it has reduced the amount of both energy and water required to make each vehicle by 10 percent during the past two years. Additionally, average new-car emissions on Volkswagen's European fleet has dropped about seven percent during that time.

VW, which so far has turned more to diesel than to electric-drive for fuel-efficiency gains, is looking to boost its environmental credibility, even going as far as making nice with Greenpeace after a couple years of salvos, mostly from Greenpeace. Last month, Volkswagen Chairman Martin Winterkorn and Greenpeace Chief Executive Director Brigitte Behrens met for the first time to pledge collective support of Europe's tightening emissions standards.

Read VW's press release below and get access to the link to the report here.
Show full PR text

Volvo Flywheel Hybrid System (aka KERS) Tests Completed Successfully

If you follow Formula One racing, you'll have heard of KERS, or Kinetic Energy Recovery System.
There are several techologies being used, but among them is flywheel KERS, using a spinning flywheel to capture energy which can then be used at a later time.
Volvo has been trialing such a system for its road vehicles for the last two years, and has now announced the successful completion of its testing program.
Volvo's tests showed the system can offer 25 percent fuel consumption cuts over a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, when paired with a regular four-cylinder turbocharged unit.
That's while offering performance comparable with the larger engine, a typical benefit of hybrid systems.
Flywheel KERS works by spooling up a flywheel when a driver brakes, and then using that kinetic energy to assist the car under acceleration, both boosting performance and reducing fuel use.
The energy in Volvo's flywheel is equivalent to 80 horsepower. In Volvo's S60 test car, the extra power to the rear wheels is enough to launch the car to 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds.
Like many hybrid vehicles, the system is said to work best in urban conditions. The flywheel stores only limited energy--albeit enough to power the car alone for short periods--so the constant stop and go of urban traffic allows it to be used most effectively.
It's also cheaper, easier to maintain and lighter than a typical battery-based hybrid.
Volvo says the system will now be implemented in prototypes for its future vehicles, helping the company evaluate a possible production model.

Source: Green Car Reports

Tesla announces 'World's Best Service and Warranty Program,' hints at future 500-mile battery

Tesla Motors has just revealed the latest edition of it 5-part announcement trilogy. Whereas the previous first installment had to do with the company's new leasing program, this episode is all about service and warranty, comes gift-wrapped in the glittery descriptor of "World's Best," and is accompanied by hints of a future battery upgrade.

The new plan improves on the California automaker's service program by adding a valet service that brings you a top-spec Model S Performance – or a Tesla Roadster, if you prefer – to temporarily replace your personal vehicle while it's being serviced. CEO Elon Musk states that this fleet of Model S service vehicles, which will initially number about 100, will ideally be less than three months old and also be available for immediate sale. Like your loaner more than your own car? You can keep it, paying "a price that is lower by 1% per month of age and $1 per mile" for your new ride and taking, likely, a similar hit on your trade-in.

Musk hinted that a 500-mile battery would not be an unreasonable thing to expect in four or five years.
Not only should the purchase scheme keep the loaner fleet nice and fresh, it may also create a cache of certified pre-owned inventory for buyers who are looking for a deal on a Tesla that starts at $69,900 from the factory, or who would rather not wait a couple months for a new, made-to-order car.

As well as no-travel hassle, Tesla has also made its $600 annual service optional without effecting the standard 5-year/50,000-mile warranty. The company has also made the battery portion of the warranty unconditional, meaning that, if you manage to somehowturn it into a useless brick (something that should be quite difficult to accomplish with the Model S), you will get a replacement unit of equal capacity free of charge.

Speaking of battery capacity, during the media call, Mr. Musk also offered some hope for those anxious for packs that hold more energy than the current EPA-estimated 265-mile/85 kilowatt-hour packs now available. In response to a question about upcoming technology improvements, he hinted that a 500-mile battery would not be an unreasonable thing to expect in four or five years. He then added that, eventually, Tesla would likely offer owners the opportunity to upgrade their vehicles with longer-range capabilities.

It all sounds pretty good to us, and we can't help but think if this upstart company keeps it up, surpassing sales of the Chevy Volt might seem a minor accomplishment. For more details on this newest warranty arrangement, you can get more details in a blog post on the Tesla website.

Source: Autoblog Green

Friday, April 26, 2013

2014 Chevy Spark EV First With CCS Quick-Charge Port (As Option)

Chevrolet's diminutive Spark EV will be the first car in the U.S. to offer the new SAE Combo charger for DC fast charging.
Other electric cars have touted such a system, including the Fiat 500e and upcoming BMW i3 electric car, but the Spark will be the first production car available with the system.
Available shortly after launch, the optional system will allow Spark EV drivers to charge to 80 percent capacity in 20 minutes.
Chevy says the battery is capable of handling fast charges every day too, in contrast with companies that sometimes recommend against it to preserve battery life. The 21 kWh pack comes with an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty.
The company has already caused quite a stir with the Spark EV, with performance that comfortably eclipses that of the standard gasoline Spark.
Thanks to a 100 kilowatt (130 horsepower) electric motor, Chevy quotes a 0-60 mph time of under eight seconds. Its torque output of 400 pounds-feet is greater than that of some supercars.
That performance is combined with impressive efficiency. The Spark EV is rated at 119 MPG-equivalent in EPA combined testing, with 128 MPGe and 109 MPGe city and highway figures.
While the Spark EV itself is built in South Korea alongside other Spark models, Chevy recently announced that production of its electric motor and drive systembegan in White Marsh, Maryland.
We've recently driven the Spark EV again, so keep your eyes peeled for a video drive, coming soon.

Source: Green Car Reports

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Toyota FT-HT Yueija Is A Hybrid Not Named Prius


With nearly 20 million new cars sold in 2012, China represents far and away the largest automotive market on the planet. This has automakers around the world working to build cars specifically for the Chinese market, including Toyota, which introduced a six-seater hybrid concept that isn’t called the Prius. I wonder why?
The Toyota Prius is without a doubt the most popular hybrid car on the planet, and Toyota has sold over 5 million hybrid models since the turn of the millennium  The Prius is sold throughout the developed world, including in China, but the Toyota FT-HT hybrid concept does away with the Prius name entirely.


Instead, this six-passenger swoopy sedan utilizes the same Synergy hybrid drive system found in the Prius, but for an increasingly young and wealthy Chinese consumer. The design is definitely trying to appeal to a younger crowd, whereas your typical Prius owner tends to be at or around 50 years old. Toyota wants to get people half that age into their hybrids.
And they just might be able to do that with the FT-HT, which Toyota says will inspire an actual production car. In addition to being a hybrid, it also features three row seating, fitting six full-size adults. It’s definitely a cool idea, and a decent looking car. Is this a sneak peek at the future of Toyota design? If so, my only comment is “More please!”

Electric Two-Wheelers Run Rampant In China, Outrun Regulations

China might be one of the biggest car markets on the planet, but for makers of electric and hybrid vehicles, it's a tough one to crack.
The same cannot be said for electric bicycles, though.
The country's love of bicycles is well-publicized, but the market penetration of electric bikes still shocks. Navigant Researchsuggests there are as many as 2,700 to 3,000 electric two-wheel vehicle producers in the country.
That's producers alone, not a sales figure. Those are even more staggering, with overeight million sales when electrified scooters and bicycles are consolidated. In 2012, the Chinese market accounted for 81 percent of the global market for electric scooters and motorcycles.
Electric two-wheelers in China are popular for two main reasons.
The first is that they're the most accessible form of powered transport available. A rudimentary electric bicycle might not be quick and it might not do much for your image, but it's still one of the cheapest, least labor-intensive ways of getting around.
It works for the same reason any bicycle works in China too--it'll cut through the awful traffic of major cities like nothing else.
The second reason electric bikes sell in such vast numbers is because the rules governing them have been fairly relaxed, until recently.
China's government is trying to change this, with limited success. Currently, an e-bicycle in China only needs to meet fairly basic criteria. It should have pedals, a top speed of no more than 12.4 mph, and a weight limit of 88.2 pounds.
And that's pretty much it. As e-bikes they don't have to meet licensing laws, so they're much cheaper than scooters or motorcycles. Most are even built like scooters, with a step-through frame and virtually useless pedals--and many retailers will instruct customers on how to disable the speed limiter. It's easy to see the appeal.
New Chinese rules require e-bike makers to obtain licenses, have cut down on lead-acid battery production, and some regions have even tried outright bans. Eventually, suggests Navigant, it's likely that the categories for electric two-wheelers will be revised to make them easier to regulate.
If sales continue at their current rate though, annual electric scooter sales could top 12 million by 2018.
The future of electric cars may not be that rosy in China, but two-wheeler manufacturers will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Source: Green Car Reports

Tesla Stock Reaches All-Time High Of $53 A Share


The economic recovery we keep hearing about may not feel like much of a recovery for most of us, but Wall Street is riding high on a wave of optimism, especially in the car industry. One of the unlikely heroes of the Wall Street comeback is Tesla Motors, whose shares hit a record high of $53 this week. But will the wave last?
Yesterday morning Tesla shares briefly went over $53 a share, about three times the initial public offering price of $17 a share when Tesla went public back in June of 2010. Shares of Tesla are up 50% this year alone, with Model S production chugging along and CEO Elon Musk finally reporting a (very small) profit. After years and years of blowing through millions of dollars, Tesla finally seems as though it can stand on its own two feet as a car company. As of this writing, Tesla stock is trading for about $50 a share.
This stock market success stands in stark contrast to competitor Fisker Automotive, which was recently declared one of the worst venture capital disasters in recent history. But the road ahead is still full of potholes and detours that could derail Tesla’s hard-earned success. With Musk promising to deliver the Model X SUV next year, and a more-affordable sedan by 2017, Tesla Motors still has a long way to go.
But hey, at least Wall Street is happy, right?

Source: Motley Fool

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chevrolet Spark EV EPA-rated at 119 MPGe and 82-mile range

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (earlier post) now carries a combined city/highway EPA-estimated range of 82 miles when fully charged and an EPA-estimated combined city/highway 119 MPGe fuel economy equivalent (28 kWh/100 miles), making it one of the most fuel-efficient EVs assessed by the EPA.
By comparison, the 2013 Scion iQ EV is EPA-rated at 121 MPGe; the Honda Fit EV at 118 MPGe; the Fiat 500e at 116 MPGe; the i-MiEV at 112 MPGe; the Ford Focus Electric at 105 MPGe; and the smart fortwo electric at 107 MPGe. Other EVs on the market have combined fuel economy ratings below 100 MPGe.
The Spark EV’s 21 kWh lithium-ion battery pack carries a limited warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Spark EV will be the first vehicle on the market to offer as an available option the recently approved SAE combo charger for DC Fast Charging. The capability, available shortly after launch, will enable the Spark EV to recharge up to 80% of its capacity in approximately 20 minutes. The battery system is capable of handling multiple DC Fast Charges daily. Charging can also be completed in less than seven hours using a dedicated 240V charge. A 120V charge cord set comes standard. Charging can be managed and monitored remotely using the Spark EV’s smart phone application, provided by OnStar, which is standard for three years.
The GM designed oil-cooled, permanent magnet motor is the heart of the Spark EV’s propulsion system. Putting more than half a million road miles on development versions of the Spark EV enabled engineers to make the performance of the electric motor the best it could be by using a bar wound copper stator and unique rotor configuration.

Source: Green Car Congress

Toyota unveils ME.WE concept EV

Toyota European Design & Development (ED2) and creative designer Jean-Marie Massaud have unveiled the Toyota ME.WE concept car. The Toyota ME.WE has been conceived as an electric car with integrated wheel motors (as the Toyota i-ROAD), and with batteries located under the floor (like the Toyota iQ EV). Without traditional packaging constraints, the interior is devoted entirely to the needs of its five passengers and their possessions.
The WE.ME. Click to enlarge.
To achieve the goal of weight reduction, the Toyota ME.WE has an aluminium structure clad in body panels that have been formed from expanded polypropylene. Thus, the weight of ME.WE could be 750 kg (1,653 lbs)—a figure that represents a minimum 20% saving compared to a traditional B-segment car with a steel body. The curb weight saving is mainly due to the difference in mass between body panels made of polypropylene—14 kg (31 lbs)—and those made in steel.
Depending on its original use and intended secondary use, expanded polypropylene can be 100% recycled. The same is true of aluminium, while the bamboo used for the floor and horizontal surfaces has been selected for its aesthetic qualities and its renewable character.
With an electric motor in each wheel, the ME.WE can be a two- or four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Source: Green Car Congress

Space-age electric tuk-tuk ready for taxi passengers in Philippines

Tuk-tuks are the three-wheeled passenger vehicles commonly used in Asia, and they're often noisy and most-certainly-not-emissions-free. To counter the current state, Japanese start-up company Terra Motorshas launched an electric tuk-tuk and thinks its electric tricycle will be a cost competitive taxi in Asia.

The company plans to build the car in the Philippines and start selling it later this year for about $6,300. It can go about 31 miles on a two-hour charge, which could propose a bit of a limitation for all-day taxi use. This three-wheeler ties into a national program in the Philippines to replace 100,000 gas-powered tuk-tuks with more efficient, cost-effective EVs by 2016.

Drivers can acquire the Terra tuk-tuk on a lease-to-own basis. The idea is to save drivers money by offering lower fuel costs while reducing air pollution in densely populated urban areas. The challenge is that drivers can buy a gas-powered tuk-tuk for somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500, and those don't have a 31-mile range limitation. Still, plans call for the company to expand the business to the broader Asian market while continuing to work on hitting the right price point, according to Terra Motors director of business development Tetsuya Ohashi.

Terra Motors is counting on consumers enjoying the space-age design and ample interior seating. Investors such as former top executives at Apple Japan, Google Japan, Sony and Compaq have been impressed by Terra's plans, despite a small number of Chinese companies also marketing electric tuk-tuks. Of all the e-tuk-tuk builders, Terra is considered the most ambitious and you can see a TV news report on the company's six-seat taxi video below.

News Source: TechCrunch