Monday, September 30, 2013

2014 Chevrolet Cruze: Gasoline, Diesel, Now Natural Gas (Bi-Fuel Conversion)

Talk about covering your bases.
The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze is already available with gasoline and diesel engines, and soon it will add compressed natural gas (CNG) to its resume--albeit as an aftermarket conversion.
IMPCO will offer a bi-fuel conversion for the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged Cruze engine. The added CNG tank gives the Cruze a 200-mile natural gas range, but cuts cargo space roughly in half.
The Cruze is the only 2014 passenger sedan with an available, EPA-approved, bi-fuel conversion. Its only real competition is the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which operates on CNG only.

2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas
2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas
The Civic has a 1.8-liter, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, but has 21 percent less power and 17 percent less torque than a comparable gasoline Civic. Honda says its range is 248 miles.
The Civic Natural Gas carries a base price of $27,095, significantly more than a base gasoline Civic, which starts at $18,955.
A 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Eco has a base price of $19,835. The bi-fuel conversion is expected to add between $5,000 and $6,500 to the price, bringing the converted Cruze fairly close to the Civic in price.
Bi-fuel conversions are common for large pickup trucks and commercial vehicles, but relatively unusual for passenger cars like the Cruze.
That's because commercial operators often supply their own natural gas at centralized fueling stations to which trucks return every night.
Public natural-gas refueling infrastructure, on the other hand, is relatively undeveloped.
Natural-gas vehicle prototypes, Los Angeles, May 2013 - group shot at Playa del Rey storage field
Natural-gas vehicle prototypes, Los Angeles, May 2013 - group shot at Playa del Rey storage field
The U.S. has roughly 1,000 natural-gas fueling stations, but only about half are open to the public. That compares to more than 100,000 gasoline stations.
One hope for the natural-gas industry is the development of an inexpensive home fueling station, which could fuel a natural-gas vehicle overnight from a home's natural-gas supply line.
Gas-industry groups have recently prototyped natural-gas vehicles with gasoline engines as range extenders, but the practicality of such a vehicle and a reasonable payback would depend on a home-fueling appliance costing only around $1,000 or $1,500.
Meanwhile, buyers looking for alternative fuels and higher highway efficiency can now look to the 2014 Cruze Diesel, although its starting price of around $25,000 requires some serious calculations by shoppers to determine what the payback may be.

Source: Green Car Reports

Infographic: WSJ Charts the Growth of Electric Cars


The growth of the electric car market in the past few years may not be what we all expected in the summer of 2008 with record gas prices breaking our wallets and easy credit financing still being a thing, but the 500+ % annual growth in plug-in sales is nothing to sneeze at. Many people, though, wonder about the demographic that’s buying and driving EVs. That’s where the Wall Street Journal comes in.
Using information gathered from the recently bankrupt Ecotality vehicle charging company, the WSJ has put together this handy infographic. The chart shows us know the average age, income, and location of consumers who are pulling the trigger on a new plug-in car. There are a few surprises in the mix (Atlanta? Really!?), but since the chart doesn’t seem to distinguish between plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt and “pure” electrics like Nissan’s Leaf and the Chevy Spark, I think it’s safe to take it in as a bit of fun, if general, information.
You can check out the WSJ infographic, below, and click on through to their original article via the link at the bottom of this page. Enjoy!

Electric Car Chart

Source | PhotosWall Street Journal, via Cleantechnica.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

VW’s 260 MPG XL1 Supercar Gets More Super With Help from Ducati

VW XL1 Sport Racecar

Volkswagen’s 260 MPG XL1 supercar is a marvel of low weight and aerodynamic design – and the XL1 has always struck us as a new breed of supercar that used all the high-tech materials and design concepts that made Porsches, Lamborghinis and Bugattis special, and applied them to a “go far”, rather than a “go fast” product. Still, we did talk amongst ourselves. “What if it had more power?” we asked each other. It looks like Volkswagen’s CEO, Ferdinand Piech, asked himself the same thing. The result is a Volkswagen XL1 powered by a quick-revving, high-horsepower Ducati motorcycle engine.
Oh, yeah!
Despite VW’s history of building affordable cars, Piech is no stranger to building exotic machinery. The Volkswagen company was started by Piech’s grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche, and now manufactures the Audi, Porsche, Lambirghini, Bentley, and Bugatti brand vehicles, as well as the affordable Rabbit hatchback. Recently, the company acquired the storied motorcycle brand, Ducati, which builds bikes like the Panigale. If you’re unfamiliar with that bike, it looks like this …

Ducati 1199 Panigale

… and, if you’re anything but an expert rider, the Panigale will absolutely impress you with its combination of prodigious torque and knife-edge steering.
With 190 HP and a screaming, 12,000 rpm redline, the upcoming XL1 Sports will be the best new car of 2014. Green or not. And make no mistake, the car is real. It was promised by Piech, personally, at a lecture at the Vienna University of Technology this week – only a decade or so after he promised to produce a 1,000 hp, 250 mph Bug.
Believe him.

Source | PhotosBild magazine.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It’s Really Real: Toyota i-Road Production Begins

Toyota i-Road

Toyota’s pie-in-the-sky EV concept from this year’s Geneva show was hailed by the company as a production-ready concept, leading to a number of sarcastic nods and knowing “Yeah, right.” comments from the motoring press. Here we are, just a few months later, and reports are starting to surface that Toyota has begun production of their innovative, 3-wheeled EV, and that as many as 100 of the jet fighter-inspired machines will be available as part of a car-sharing program in Toyota City.
The production Toyota i-Road vehicles will be available alongside the conventional COMS EV (shown in the gallery, below), as well as a number of electric Yamaha scooters similar to those used as pitbikes by the Toyota racing team that competed at LeMans this past year.
Still no word on whether or not the i-Road will make it to the US or European markets, but the fact that there will be triple-digit numbers of these is, at least, something for EV enthusiasts to get excited about.


Source | PhotosMotorpasion.

The 1982 Mercedes Plug-In Hybrid Wagon


High gas prices have forced car companies to deploy a host of new technologies, including diesel and electric vehicles, though technology has come quite far since the early 1980s. One needs only look at this 1982 Mercedes electric wagon to see just how far battery-electric vehicles have come in the last three decades.
The centerpiece of this Mercedes concept was a 1,322 pound nickel-iron battery pack the filled the entire cargo area up to the windows. Mercedes actually had to shorten the rear windows in order to include metal air vents that kept the battery pack cool. Come came from a 41 horsepower (!) electric motor that sent power to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission with a friction clutch controlled by the accelerator pedal. This minimized power loss, not that there was much power to lose.
Alone, the battery pack gave the electric Merc a range of 62 miles, and could be charged from a normal 220-volt European outlet. The two-cylinder range extender added another 30 miles of range, for a total driving distance of 92 miles, or about two hours worth of driving. See, that 41-horsepower motor could only manage a top speed of 50 mph, a main reason why this concept never made it past the concept phase, just like many of rival BMW’s pure electric concepts.
Still, plug-in hybrids are increasingly popular with both consumers and automakers, with Mercedes rolling out much more practical hybrids of its own. My, how far history has come.

Source: Ran When Parked

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rumors Of A Rotary-Hybrid Mazda RX9 Surface Again


As one of the only unaligned major automakers left in the world, Mazda knows it needs to take some big risks if it hopes to keep going it alone. The delayed Mazda 6 diesel is a cornerstone of Mazda’s risky comeback plan, but rumors of a RX8 successor with a rotary-hybrid drivetrain have fanboys sitting on the fence, wondering just how potent a hybrid sports car can be.
Well if you ask Porsche, hybrid sports cars are the future, and well-heeled consumers are on-board as well. However, Mazda has been slow to jump onto the hybrid trend train, preferring instead to dabble with supercapcitors and hydrogen vehicles. Yet rumors of a rotary-powered hybrid car, perhaps running hydrogen in the place gasoline, have been floated for years. Now obviously a gas-powered rotary hybrid would have a more far-reaching appeal, and could actually be the perfect match as a range-extender for a plug-in hybrid sports car.
With electric motors providing power to the wheels, a rotary engine would serve as an excellent range-extender, as it has fewer moving parts and can be tuned to be quite efficient. Mazda may also merely go with a regular rotary-powered RX9, which is due to arrive anytime in the next 2 to 5 years, as a nod to enthusiasts who remain die-hard fans of the funky engine. Mazda has proved it isn’t afraid to link alternative fuels and sports cars, though hybrid andelectric vehicles remain a sticky issue for many enthusiasts.
For now though, Mazda remains focused on its core cars, like the Mazda 6 and Mazda 3, and there still isn’t any sign of a hybrid anything from the maker of zoom-zoom. For all its investment into hydrogen test vehicles, Mazda still needs something it can sell en masse, while getting people talking. A rotary-hybrid sports car could be just what the enthusiast ordered.

Electric Beetle Combines Classic Styling With Modern Drivetrain


The Volkswagen Beetle became an icon of the 1960s, invading America’s roads with its rugged air-cooled engine and low, low price. Volkswagen continued to make the Beetle up until 2003 (not an uncommon practice for VW), and Mexico City still used Beetles as taxis up until last year. Things have come full circle for the Bug, with German company Karabag converting the classic people moving into an electric car.
Starting with a Mexican-built Beetle, Karabag removes the air-cooled four-cylinder engine in favor of a 23-kilowatt/30 horsepower electric motor that sends 109 ft-lbs of torque to the rear wheels. A liquid-cooled battery is good for 74 miles between charges, and the Beetle can reach a blistering top speed of 71 mph.
Alright, so it’s not exactly fast, but neither was the original Beetle. But it also isn’t cheap, with the conversion costing $15,000, plus a $133-per-month battery rental fee and the cost of the donor car. Even with cars costing way more in Europe due to high taxes and the VAT, that’s quite a bit of money for this limited-use EV. Karabag also adds a touchscreen device to help you monitor the battery, as well as an ethanol-burning heater.
Then again, with gas prices over $8.00 a gallon in many places, a little electric bug could be quite the money saver, battery pack rental or not. Karabag hopes to perform some 20,000 electric conversions in the coming year, and for customers looking to get a second life out of their older cars, an electric conversion might be the best bet.
The Beetle may prove to be the most resilient automotive design of both the 20th and 21st centuries if this keeps up.

Source: Gas2.0

Nissan Titan Diesel V8 Originally Meant For Ram


It has been known for awhile that Nissan was working with Cummins on a diesel engine for its full-size Titan pickup, but few would have predicted the 5.0 liter V8 that was delivered. Apparently, the 5.0 liter Cummins going into the Nissan Titan was originally going to be used in Ram truck too, back when Chrysler and Nissan planned to co-develop pickups together.
Originally Cummins was said to be working on a smaller, 2.8 liter diesel four-cylinder engine that would be used by Nissan and Chrysler in their identical trucks. But Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy put the kibosh on those plans, with Fiat swooping in with a 3.0 liter EcoDiesel engine that could get upwards of 26 mpg highway while providing 400 ft-lbs of torque. That’s a winning combination.
But according to sources within Chrysler, it wasn’t just Fiat’s arrival that spurred the use of the smaller diesel engine. The 5.0 liter Cummins V8 is said to return only 23 or 24 mpg, and while its 500 ft-lbs of torque are impressive enough, the 23 mpg 3.5 liter Ford EcoBoost gas engine provides 420 ft-lbs of torque. While not quite as powerful, the EcoBoost is in all likelihood thousands of dollars cheaper than the diesel-powered Titan will end up being. The Ram EcoDiesel option costs just $2,850 more than the gas-powered HEMI V8.
Of course I’ll wait for the official details to pass judgement, but it seems to me the American truck market still needs a small-displacement, high-MPG diesel with torque and a reasonable asking price. Nissan missed the bullseye by going big and trying to compete with domestic diesels, though the gamble might still pay off if the price is right.

Scuderi Split-Cycle Engine Being Used As LPG-Air Hybrid Generators


Is the combustion engine as we know it dead? Depending on whom you ask, yes, yes it is. The Scuderi Group has developed a split-cycle combustion engine that runs on propane and utilizes compressed air storage to achieve up to 75% thermal efficiency, and they’ve signed a letter of intent to build four generators for the San Juan police department.
Scuderi’s split-cycle engine divides the four-strokes of a typical combustion engine between two-paired piston, one doing the intake and compression cycles, the other doing the power and exhaust cycles. This lets the Scuderi engine do more work on less fuel, and the Massachusetts-based company was said to be in talks with major automakers about licensing the design.
But no such automotive deal has materialized yet; rather, the Scuderi Group has signed on to produce propane-powered split-cycle generators with compressed air storage capabilities. The compressed air can be stored in a large tank to run the engine without any fuel, and is filled either from alternative power sources or during off-peak hours, when prices are low.
The LPG-air hybrid generators will be used by members of the San Juan, Puerto Rico police department, and the first one is expected to come online 18 months from now. That might help quiet some of the haters…or it could just throw fuel onto the fire.

 Source: Green Car Congress

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2014 Kia Forte Review


The rise of Korea’s twin automakers, Hyundai and Kia, has given more established automakers a lot to think about as another Asian competitor rises to steal market share. But Kia and Hyundai are also working to differentiate themselves from each other, with Kia taking a more upscale-approach to new car buyers. Nowhere is that more evident than in their compact offering, the newly-redesigned 2014 Kia Forte.
Launched in 2010 to replace the aging Kia Spectra, the Forte has struggled to gain traction against more-established nameplates in the suddenly-competitive compact car market. The 2014 iteration seeks to establish Kia Forte as a more premium nameplate on any level, and the high-quality, soft-touch materials throughout the cabin exude a level of refinement one might expect on a much more expensive car.
The 2014 Kia Forte got an updated look, but this sporty-looking compact is still begging for more performance options.
Available as either a coupe (or Koup in Kia-speak) or a sedan, the 2014 Kia Forte certainly looks the part of a 21st century commuter car, though some might argue its corporate cousin the Hyundai Elantra still looks better. My tester was a top-level Forte EX with the $2,600 premium package and $2,300 technology package, adding lots of nice features you might expect on a luxury car like a LCD gauge cluster, padded sliding center armrest, push-button start, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. All these help elevate the Forte over many competitors, and help it feel like much less of an economy car.
The level of technology interfacing is also indicative of a car company trying to capture more affluent buyers who are more likely to sync their smartphones with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. A phone-charging and linking dock below the center console make the Forte feel like the right car for the time, though it may one day be a dated reminder of a time long past.
That’s a premium interior for a supposedly economy car.
An optional technology package further enhances the cutting-edge feel by adding a LCD gauge cluster, Xenon HID headlights, and LED taillights, all features you’d expect on a car costing twice as much. The optional navigation system worked well enough getting me to my destination, and it was a lot less annoying than the programs from other automakers.
But while the 2014 Kia Forte gets the premium feel and technology factors right, the driving experience as a whole was underwhelming. Many of my friends in Kia’s prime compact car-buying demographic, Generation Y, commented on how good the Kia looked in my driveway, but after just a few short drives I found myself wanting for a more dynamic driving experience.
The 2014 Kia Forte has the same driving mechanics as any other compact car; dull. The ride is smooth enough, and the 173 horsepower 2.0 liter gas engine provides adequate throttle response and fuel economy, but I shudder to think how the Forte performs with the base 148 horsepower 1.8 liter engine. Passing with the 2.0 took long enough, and there was no enjoyment in stomping the gas pedal; this is a car desperately begging for some forced induction and a sport-tuned suspension.
The 2.0 liter engine is adequate, but it won’t get your heart (or Kia) racing.
Alas, neither option is available, and doubly disappointing is the lackluster fuel economy. During my week with the 2014 Kia Forte, I managed to top 31 mpg just once, on a 60-mile highway trip to a town fair Connecticut’s far-east corner. This falls pretty far short of the 36 mpg the 2014 Kia Forte is rated at, and my average fuel economy was closer to 27 or 28 mpg in mixed driving, while delivering a very “meh” driving experience.
Other competitors in this segment, like the Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus, offer 40+ mpg variants, as Kia and Hyundai had to downgrade their MPG estimates and compensate prior buyers. There are better options out there if you’re looking for a faster or more fuel-efficient car, and rear legroom is lacking as well. I’m on the taller side (5’11) and my seat positioning left very little room in the seat behind me. I wouldn’t want to sit back there.
Push-button start isn’t cheap, and the 2014 Kia Forte can get downright expensive.
Finally, there is pricing; all these upscale features don’t come cheap. The 2014 Kia Forte base model starts at $15,900, while the EX model starts at $19,900, and from there options take it north of $25,000. That’s a $10,000 spread between the base price and the best-equipped model, and for that money you can move into a nicely-equipped midsize sedan.
Still, for those of you who are swayed only by interior comfort and exterior looks, the 2014 Kia Forte has a lot going for it. Korean cars are in vogue with us millennials, and it’s easy to see why. The 2014 Forte is easy on the eyes, comes loaded with features keeping my generation well-connected, and feels like a more upscale car than it really is.
Driving shortcomings aside, the 2014 Forte is a solid option in a competitive segment, though there are more exciting rides out there.
The 2.0 liter engine is adequate, but it won't get your heart (or Kia) racing.
Push-button start isn't cheap, and the 2014 Kia Forte can get downright expensive.
Source:  Gas 2.