Saturday, November 30, 2013

BMW planning to stretch i3 into i5 family hauler?

If you're sweet on the new BMW i3 but wish it had more space to carry people and stuff, we've got good news for you. According to AutocarBMW is planning on stretching the platform that underpins the i3 to create a new model, expected to be called i5.

The stretch job would add an extra four inches of legroom in the back and another six inches of rear overhang to the benefit of cargo space. The result would create a vehicle longer than the current Mini Countryman - although the next Countryman is likely to be even larger. As Autocar points out, the process of extending the i3's composte passenger cell likely wouldn't be as difficult or cost-intensive as lengthening a conventional metal chassis, although the rear doors would need to be re-engineered.

Whether the resulting vehicle would more closely resemble a hatchback, wagon, minivan or something in between remains to be seen, however BMW is said to have already registered the nameplates i1 through i8, signalling that the possibility is at least there to add more members to its new EV family.
News Source: Autocar

Lithium-Sulfur Battery Lab Tests Show High Energy Density

The month wouldn't be complete without another battery technology breakthrough, and this time it's the turn of lithium-sulfur technology.
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are experimenting with a lithium-sulfur battery design with twice the specific energy of lithium-ion batteries, and a usefully long life under repeated charging and discharging cycles.
According to Green Car Congress, such batteries would also be cheaper and safer than lithium-ion designs--without the overheating and fire issues that have made the news over the last few years.
In a paper in the ACS journal Nano Letters, the researchers explained how they've overcome one of the main limitations of existing lithium-sulfur designs--a poor life cycle.
Normally, lithium polysulfide particles dissolve in the electrolyte during discharging and react with the lithium anode, forming a barrier layer. The conversion reaction under charging and discharging can also cause the sulfur electrode to swell and contract, causing damage.
To prevent these issues, the team uses a sulfur-graphene oxide nanocomposite cathode.
Graphene--to recap--is considered one of the most important materials developed for many years. Nanoparticles of the material are built from single-atom-thick sheets of carbon--with incredibly strong bonds and a huge surface area that has seen them used widely in battery technology since its discovery.
Not only does the sulfur-graphene oxide cathode allow high charging and discharging rates, but its flexibility prevents electrode damage during the expansion and contraction process. This is further mitigated by an 'elastromeric binder'.
A new ionic liquid electrolyte also improves the battery chemistry and prevents the dissolution of lithium polysulfide particles, helping the battery charge and discharge at a faster rate. After 1,500 cycles, the battery retains over 96 percent coulombic efficiency--the efficiency with which electrons are transferred during the battery's cycles.
By now, you can probably guess the technology's main benefits, as it's common to other experimental battery technologies: High specific capacity means greater energy storage for electric cars with greater range--or smaller, lighter batteries for the same range. High reliability is also a benefit.

Ford starts production of CNG-ready F-150

The Ford Motor Company is getting competitive on the compressed natural gas (CNG) truck front. While Detroit counterparts General Motors and Chrysler have a head start, Ford has begun manufacturing its 2014 F-150 – the first CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup – and the CNG engine will be extended to eight of its commercial vehicles.

Ford is now building the CNG F-150 at its Kansas City, MO, factory with a 3.7-liter, V6 engine with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that can run on either natural gas or gasoline. When it comes equipped with a bi-fuel CNG/LPG engine package, the F-150 can travel more than 750 miles on the combined gasoline and CNG tanks.

Along with the half-ton pickup and bi-fuel vehicle options, Ford has an ambitious goal of offering eight of its commercial vehicles with the natural gas option. Ford's full line of commercial trucks and vans will be covered – Transit ConnectE-Series van, F-Series Super Duty pickups, F-650 medium duty, and more. Details are in the press release below.
First CNG-Capable 2014 Ford F-150 Rolls Off the Line in Kansas City
  • 2014 Ford F-150 launches with gaseous-fuel prep option on the 3.7-liter V6 engine; it will be able to run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas
  • By next summer, Ford will offer eight vehicles that can run on clean-burning, inexpensive CNG/LPG and puts the company on track to sell more than 15,000 such vehicles this year
  • Nearly 20 states now offer or soon will offer tax incentives or rebates for CNG-converted vehicles
  • Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers offer a wide variety of CNG options to help customers find the most cost-effective solution to their diverse operating needs
Ford, America's truck leader, began production of the 2014 F-150 with the ability to run on compressed natural gas, making Ford the only manufacturer with an available CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup.

The 2014 Ford F-150 with 3.7-liter V6 engine is available with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, and pistons and rings so it can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.

When equipped with a bi-fuel CNG/LPG engine package, the 3.7-liter V6 F-150 is capable of achieving more than 750 miles on combined tanks of gasoline and CNG, depending on the tank sizes selected. The Ford F-150 with 3.7-liter V6 has an EPA-estimated rating of 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined.

"Businesses and fleet customers have been asking Ford to make F-150 available with CNG capability to take advantage of the fuel's low price and clean emissions," said Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager.

CNG/LPG engine prep from the factory costs $315 before the customer chooses a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier to supply fuel tanks, fuel lines and unique fuel injectors. Upfits run approximately $6,000 to $9,500 depending on fuel tank capacity.

CNG conversions can provide stability against fluctuating fuel prices as well as lower vehicle operating costs for fleet administrators. CNG sells for an average of $2.10 per gallon of gasoline equivalent, and is as low as $1 in some parts of the country, representing a significant savings over unleaded regular fuel. The national average for unleaded regular fuel is $3.29 per gallon.

Customers also can accelerate the payback period by taking advantage of a growing number of state incentives. Nearly 20 states – including Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida – offer or soon will provide tax incentives or rebates for CNG-converted vehicles. In Florida, fleet customers will be eligible for rebates of up to $25,000 beginning in 2014.

Most CNG options
By next summer, Ford will offer eight commercial vehicles with a gaseous-prep option, a number no other full-line manufacturer can match:
  • Transit Connect van and wagon
  • Transit van, wagon, cutaway and chassis cab
  • E-Series van, wagon, cutaway and stripped chassis
  • F-Series Super Duty pickup and F-350 chassis cab
  • F-Series Super Duty chassis cab (F-450, F-550)
  • F-650 medium-duty truck
  • F53 and F59 stripped chassis
  • 2014 F-150 light-duty pickup
Customers are enthusiastically responding to this powerful array of choices. Since reintroducing the option in 2009, Ford has established itself as the leader in CNG/LPG engine sales. The company is on pace to sell more than 15,000 CNG/LPG-prepped vehicles this year, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2012.

AT&T is one of many Ford fleet customers that are finding value in CNG. The communications giant recently purchased 650 F-350 chassis cabs with the CNG-prep option.

"We're almost halfway to our company-wide goal of deploying 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by the end of 2018," said Jerome Webber, AT&T vice president, global fleet operations. "Vehicles such as CNG F-350s from Ford have helped us avoid purchasing 7.7 million gallons of gasoline over the past five years while reducing our fleet's emissions."

Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers
Ford has established a rigorous qualification program for alternative-fuel vehicle modifiers. The QVM program is intended to help modifiers achieve greater levels of customer satisfaction and product acceptance through the manufacture of high-quality vehicles.

Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers offer a wide variety of CNG/LPG options to help customers find the most cost-effective solution to their diverse operating needs. Ford maintains the engine and powertrain limited warranty (five years or 60,000 miles); the modifier is responsible for the system component warranty.

Compressed natural gas
Compressed natural gas is mainly composed of methane. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of approximately 3,600 psi. About 85 percent of the CNG used in the United States is produced domestically.

Another benefit of this alternative fuel includes cleaner emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifies CNG usage can result in up to 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 180,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit

SOURCE Ford Motor Company

Škoda Electric introduces its first battery-electric bus; second fast-charging model slated for next year

In September, Czechoslovakia-based Škoda Electric introduced its first battery-electric bus. The company wants to build on the success of its trolleybuses, of which several hundred will be produced next year mainly for foreign customers. Škoda has also developed a hydrogen-powered and a hybrid bus.
There is a growing emphasis in the world on reducing the negative impacts of transportation on the environment. It is mainly big cities that are looking for environmentally friendly solutions and we offer such solutions. After trolleybuses, hydrogen-powered buses and hybrid vehicles, we are coming out with our own concept of a battery-powered electric bus.
The interest to at least partially replace conventional buses with internal combustion engines with zero-emission (e.g. battery-powered) buses has been recently announced by a number of not only European, but also Czech large cities. During the development of the electric bus, we proceeded with the conviction that the impetus for the development of electro-mobility should not be just the possibility of support from EU institutions, but also a reasonable economic rationality.
—Jaromír Šilhánek, CEO of Škoda Electric
Škoda is currently working on the development of two basic types of electric buses; both are twelve-meter low-floor buses with a power output of 160 kW.
The first type of Škoda electric bus—the one presented in September—will have a range of about 150 kilometers (93 miles) and its charging will take place at the depot during the night, when the vehicle is not in operation.
Škoda battery-electric bus. Click to enlarge.
The production of the second type of bus, with an average range of about 30 km (18.6 miles), is planned for next year. The vehicle will be designed so that the battery can be recharged quickly at the terminals and bus stops.
Škoda Electric is a traditional producer of electric drives and traction motors for locomotives, suburban train units, subway, trolleybuses, trams, mining vehicles, etc. It is a continuation of a longtime tradition of electrotechnical production of Škoda’s factories in Pilsen, which was initiated in the year 1901 in the Electrotechnical plant.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

2014 Lexus CT200h Sport Hybrid is New. Really.

2014 Lexus CT200h F Sport
Lexus first started talking up the possibility of a sportier, more aggressive hybrid luxury sedan two years ago, when they trademarked “CT300h” and “CT400h” to go along with their then-new CT200h hybrid luxo-hatch. We may not have gotten the 300 HP, V8-engined super hybrid that the “400h” moniker suggested (or that Acura, clearly, expected), but what we have instead might be better. Welcome, then, the new-for-2014 Lexus CT200h F Sport hybrid.
The new CT200h is just what the old one was, in some ways. It’s practical, thanks to its 4-door hatchback layout and short, easy-to-park overhangs. It’s fuel efficient and green, giving back more than 40 MPG with ultra-low emissions, according to the EPA. It’s also a Lexus, which means it has enough comfort-adding goodies to go toe-to-toe with your neighbor’s Mercedes C-class or Audi A4. Where the new “sport hybrid” GT200h gets different from the CT200h we all knew and loved found relatively interesting is the car’s updated 4-mode hybrid system, which Lexus describes thusly:
Under certain conditions, the CT 200h can be driven in quiet EV mode, which allows it to drive short distances at low speeds with zero tailpipe emissions. It’s ideal for running a quick local errand or scouting for a parking space in a crowded lot or garage.
The EV mode is one of four choices from the Drive-Mode selector, which also lets the driver choose from among Normal, Sport and Eco modes. Normal mode provides the best all-around mix of performance and efficiency, with a linear and naturally progressive power buildup. Selecting Sport mode invigorates driving feel, yielding crisper throttle response and a tighter feel through the Electronic Power Steering. “Hyper-milers” will appreciate Eco mode, which adjusts throttle response and climate control settings to prioritize fuel economy.
Subtle tweaks to the CT200h’s exterior certainly freshen the car’s appearance, too. Meanwhile, the new F Sport hybrid package adds special lightweight suspension components, 17″ lightweight performance wheels, and a revised vehicle weight distribution (per Lexus) to help endow the Lexus CT200h F Sport with exceptional agility.
Will the new Lexus CT200h F Sport package be enough to convince jaded auto-industry veterans that Lexus can build a competent sport hybrid that doesn’t give up anything to, say, an entry-level diesel BMW? I’ve already reached out to Lexus to try to secure a drive, and I’ll let you know when I know. Until then, feel free to speculate in the comments section, below.

2014 Lexus Hybrid
2014 Lexus Hybrid
2014 Lexus Hybrid
2014 Lexus CT200h
2014 Lexus CT200h
2014 Lexus CT200h
Source | ImagesLexus.

Tesla Discusses Why Owners Needn’t Worry About Winter - VIDEO


While rumor has it Tesla is working on an all-wheel drive version of the Model S, for now owners are saddled with a powerful rear-wheel drive luxury sedan with months of bad weather to look forward to. To assuage fears, Tesla has released this video highlighting some of the Model S features designed specifically to handle cold weather and snowy roads.
Tesla’s Chris Porritt discusses a few of the features that set the Model S apart, like a warm-up mode that lets you set the car’s internal temperature from your smartphone. This doesn’t even affect the range of the Model S, at least according to Porritt, and only takes a few minutes to reach temperature.
Another big bonus for Tesla drivers is an advanced, torque-vectoring traction control system that provides for superior grip in inclement conditions. The Norwegians already showed how easily the Model S can handle even Scandinavia’s terrible winters, and it’s no wonder the Model S flew off of dealership lots when it went on sale earlier this year.
Not even the winter weather can hold the Tesla Model S back.

Source: Tesla Motors

MINI-E Could Make A Comeback


In 2009, BMW launched a pilot program utilizing 450 MINI-E electric cars, using the information gleaned from the study to build the well-received BMW i3. With a brand-new generation MINI being introduced at the L.A. Auto Show, speculation regarding the return of the electrified MINI has one BMW executive noting that EVs fit the MINI brand “perfectly.”
“It fits perfectly with the brand, and I am convinced that we will offer a suitable solution,” MINI brand managed Peter Schwarzbauer told the assembled German media. Electrifiying future MINI vehicles is in the works, though the specifics are still being hashed out. One idea mentioned over and over again is the idea of a plug-in hybrid MINI, perhaps based on the larger Clubman model.
The MINI is based on BMW’s new UKL1 platform, which was designed to underpin a variety of front-wheel drive vehicles, as well as being adaptable to hybrid or electric drivetrains. I have to agree, an all-electric MINI seems like a perfect fit for the brand, and BMW could use info gained from the launch of the i3 to make the next MINI-E even better, with better range, charging, and performance than the first-generation.
MINI fans speak up, what do you want from an electric car?

 Source: BMW Blog

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nissan Leaf Could Get Multiple Battery Sizes


Sales of the Nissan Leaf have picked up steam after a price cut earlier this year, but executives are still looking to move consumers en masse into electric vehicles. Taking a page from Tesla’s playbook, a Nissan executive hinted that a Leaf with different battery size options could be in the pipeline of future products.
Plug-in Cars spoke with Pierre Loing, Nissan’s vice president of product and advanced planning, who said that “The packaging easiness (of the battery) makes it easier to put more batteries in the car, and you will see this.” He then noted that Tesla offers different battery options at different price points, saying “Maybe you will see this from Nissan.”
That sounds like a not-so-subtle hint, and the move is a practical one to be sure. The Tesla Model has been by far the most successful electric car on the market, and major automakers are looking to the California automaker for their next move in regards to EVs. Nissan has already been caught competing with a Nissan Leaf boasting a 48 kWh battery pack in Spain, twice the size of the production model, which could provide upwards of 150 miles of “real world” driving compared to the 75 or so most Leaf drivers are currently getting.
Seems like a no brainer to me, as Americans love the illusion of choice, and offering a larger battery for buyers wanting more range could draw in early adopters who have a slew of new and exciting EV offerings to choose from. With competitor vehicles like the BMW i3 and and Fiat 500e proving popular despite (or because of?) their newness, Nissan needs to remind buyers that it’s still the original cutting-edge EV.

 Source: Plug-In Cars

Lit Motors Reveals Kubo Cargo-Carrying Electric Scooter


In a world where cars are quickly becoming too expensive for many small business owners to operate, there are some clever alternatives and solutions being bandied about. Among them is the Lit Motors Kubo, a unique cargo-carrying electric scooter they’ve turned to crowdfunding to make it happen.
San Francisco-based Lit Motors has been working on the Kubo design on the side, as a sort of pet project. Built to carry up to 300 pounds in the cube-shaped cargo area, the Kubo can easily be a grocery getter for regular people, or a light delivery vehicle for business owners.
The Kubo is purely for city driving, with its 45 mph top speed and 50 mile operating range, and even though it can carry up to 300 pounds, that extra weight is bound to affect the real-world range. Also, the shape of the cargo area is rather narrowing, limiting what you can actually carry to a few boxes. The 4-horsepower motor and disc brakes should give the Kubo better driving dynamics though, and there are certainly some companies that could put the cargo area to good use.
Lit Motors has turned to Kickstarter to fund the Kubo, and has so far raised just $33,000 or the $300,000 goal. Early adopters who just must have one can get an early bird special price of just $5,000, with actual production models costing a few hundred more when/if it goes to market.
So, know of anyone looking to buy a cargo scooter?


Source: Lit Motors

BMW i3 Racks Up 10,000 Early Orders, BMW i8 Sells Out


Via a slow-burning marketing campaign that consisted of many concept cars and changes in design and direction, BMW has amped up the buying public for its line of electric i-brand of vehicles. According to executives, over 10,000 orders have been placed for the BMW i3 electric commuter, and the BMW i8 has sold out entirely in its first year of availability.
You know executives have got to be happy with the instant success of the BMW i3 and i8, and the first vehicles are being delivered to excited buyers in Germany. The BMW i3 will come to America in the first quarter of 2014, where it will start at about $42,275 before adding the $3,950 range extender, which effectively doubles the amount of driving you can do between charges. Despite production delays though, early orders have been promising.
While its funky looks are certainly polarizing, the BMW i3 is both rear-wheel drive and offers perhaps the best option for EV drivers looking for a premium-feeling vehicle, but don’t have Tesla Model S money to spend. Think of it as the car Tesla will eventually build, just a few years ahead of time a decidedly more…German. And for those with Tesla money, there’s the 184 mph BMW i8, a hybrid muscle car with power to spare, which has already been sold out of its first-year production run.
Anyone out there eagerly awaiting a test drive in the BMW i3?

Source: Reuters

Mazda Rotary Motor Finds Second Life As Range Extender


While the rotary engine once set Mazda apart from automakers, these days the design just isn’t fuel efficient enough to meet today’s rigid fuel economy standards. But the idea of using a small rotary engine as a range-extender for a plug-in hybrid is being bandied about by Mazda, and the results are something worth writing home about.
Rotary engines are compact and simple compared to standard internal combustion engines, and lightweight to boot. So even in a small car like the Mazda2, a 0.3 liter rotary engine hardly takes up any space at all. An eletric motor is good for about 100 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs of torque, and the battery bank is good for about 125 miles of driving range on Japan’s admittedly-generous testing scale. The 330cc rotary engine doubles the driving range, and ensures you’re never without the ability to add range in a short time.
The gas tank holds only about 2.6 gallons of fuel, or 10 liters, which works out to be about 45 or so miles per gallon for the rotary engine. That is quite efficient, and this electrified Mazda2 reminds me a whole lot of the BMW i3 with a range extender, but almost assuredly much cheaper. While the rotary never directly drives the vehicle, it may be the best use of rotary technology in the 21st century.
For now the Mazda2 plug-in is mostly just a test vehicle, with a limited top speed of just 75 mph, with the 0 to 60 mph time somewhere in the 12 second range.  There are other Mazda3 alt-fuel vehicles, including a regular hybrid, in the works as well though Mazda still seems to be betting on diesels in the long run
. This car isn’t going to light the world on fire, but it could give rotary engines another life as range extenders for the quirky Japanese brand. Rotary fans can rejoice…sorta.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fisker Files For Bankruptcy, Bought By Mystery Investor


It’s been more than 18 months since Fisker Automotive last built a car, and the vultures have been circling for over a year now, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Last week Fisker finally filed for bankruptcy, and was sold for a paltry $25 million to a mysterious investment group that hasn’t revealed what its intentions are just yet.
That means taxpayers were out about $139 million on the Fisker investment, folly which caused private investors even more. In total, around 2,000 Fisker Karmas were built, though not even that many were sold. Bob Lutz is offering customers new and old the option of inserting a supercharged V8 under the hood, though prices for used Fiskers are in the toilet.
The buyer of Fisker is the shadowy Hybrid Tech Holdings LLC., a group that did not announce its intentions or primary investors in a very brief, legalese-laced press release. Last we heard a Hong Kong billionaire was at the top of the list of potential buyers, and before that a German company was interested in restarting Karma production. While some are hopeful that Fisker could make a comeback, and the Karma could be built again, it seems unlikely given that each vehicle lost about $35,000 for the hybrid carmaker. Why would anyone want to restart production of a money-losing vehicles?
Fisker didn’t actually own most of the technology it used in the Karma, which is why a company once valued at more than a billion dollars sold for so little. Beyond the car’s design itself and the Fisker name, neither of which is particularly valuable right now, there just isn’t much included in this sale. We may not even ever know who wound up with the keys to Fisker at the end of the day.
Maybe I’m wrong, and Fisker will rise from the grave again, like Saab has somehow managed to do. But I wouldn’t invest in it, emotionally or financially. Would you?

Bosch to Introduce its eBike Drive Unit to the USA


When Bosch announced that it would be bringing its eBike drive system to the US in 2014, the buzz was palpable. After all, the mighty German brand tows around an honorable reputation that’s been building for more than 125 years. So, when it established its eBike Systems Product Division in 2009, success seemed guaranteed. Fast forward to the present and Bosch’s ebike drive units have been so successful in fact, that the U.S. may have to wait a bit longer while backorders in Europe get filled. That got me wondering if it was worth the wait for a Bosch-equipped eBike when so many other e-bikes are ready to ride out the door.
Of its three drive unit product lines, Bosch will introduce its Performance Speed model, its most robust unit, which has been tweaked to comply with US rules and regulations. The unit boasts 350 watts and can reach a maximum speed of 20 mph, depending upon terrain and rider weight. Speed — while attractive — may lose its selling sexiness to power in the future as more consumers view e-bikes as the family “car” for hauling loads and transporting people.

This is where the extra 100 watts that the Performance Speed unit has over its closest competitors could come in handy. However the Bosch-equipped bikes to be sold in the US are designed for sport performance. Skeptics resisting the idea of an electric mountain bike should know that Trek’s Powerfly electric mtb scored a  hit with European hikers who were looking for a more efficient way to reach remote, alpine trailheads.
Things to know about Bosch’s Performance Speed ebike drive unit:
• the Bosch system consists of a drive unit, a battery back, a display/HMI with remote control and a charger, plus a assembly kit.
• Haibike, BH Bikes’ Easy Motion, Cycle Union’s Kreidler brand, Felt, and Cannondale will be the first brands to sell bikes with the Bosch drive system in the US
• There are no current plans to sell the Performance Speed unit separately
• Bosch expects the eBikes to be available through retailers in May 2014
If however, you live in e-bikes’ hotbed — Germany, where Bosch already roosts comfortably as the market leader, you’ll have another option once challenger Shimano introduces its STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System) groupset for e-bikes in August 2014. This is take two for Shimano, which failed to gain a foothold  for its first version of the STEPS drive system back in 2010 because it was deemed too complicated and expensive at the time. This new version will work with Shimano’s external and internal rear hubs, but is initiating the launch by focusing on the Di2 internal hub.
Things to know about Shimano’s STEPS:
• STEPS consists of a battery, front gear set, mid-motor drive unit, cycle computer, and dedicated eBike chain.
• At 3.1 kg. (6.8 lbs.), the drive unit claims to be one of the lightest units on the market.
• The system engages only when a rider is pedaling and cuts out once 25 km./hour (15.5/mph.) is reached.
• STEPS can be used in temperatures ranging from -10C – 50C (14F – 122F)
Germany will serve as a test market for the initial product rollout in August 2014. Bikes developed specifically to accommodate STEPS will be manufactured by BIKE&CO and ZEG and sold through their respective dealers.

Source: Gas2.0