Monday, March 31, 2014

Volkswagen Shows Off Its 40-Year History Of Electric Cars

While its new 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf will be the first-ever plug-in electric VW sold in the U.S., the German carmaker has a surprisingly long history of prototype electric cars.
Two weeks ago, during a drive event for its VW e-Golf and e-Up production models, along with prototype Golf GTE plug-in hybrids, Volkswagen showed off restored examples of some of its earlier electric test vehicles.

Volkswagen has experimented with electric cars since the 1970s, when the Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit) platform was first produced.
These electric conversions were built in very limited numbers--dozens or perhaps 100--to give the company a better understanding of how real-world users treated cars with electric drive.
Volkswagen Golf City Stromer Mk II, historic VW electric car at Tempelhof Airport, Berlin
Volkswagen Golf City Stromer Mk II, historic VW electric car at Tempelhof Airport, Berlin
                                                                                                                                                                            All of them used heavy, low-capacity lead-acid batteries. In the Golf models, they were located under the rear seat and the load bay, resulting in reduced rear space and an awkward and very reclined rear seat-back angle.
On display (though apparently not in  running condition) were two different generations of VW Golf City Stromer--based on second- and third-generation Golf hatchbacks--along with an even earlier VW Transporter T2 Elektro.
The name's not a typo: "Stromer" comes from the German word "Strom", or "Current," with the "City" prefix alluded to the limited range and city-car usage of the test vehicles.
The second-generation Range Stromer, based on a late-Eighties Golf, used VW used heavy lead-acid gel batteries and an anemic 18.5-kilowatt electric motor.

It provided a range of 50 to 60 miles on a good day, and a top speed of around 60 mph. And the third-generation model was little better.
Our contributor Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield wrote about her own second-generation Golf City Stromer, now owned by Volkswagen of Great Britain, which is restoring it.
Perhaps most interesting was an electric conversion of a Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter, better known in the U.S. in its multi-window form as the "VW Van" of hippie and surfer legend.
Volkswagen provided relatively little information beyond the name plates (and, frankly, we were driving new plug-in VWs most of the day), but the T2 Elektro obviously carried banks of lead-acid batteries under its floor as well.

We'd welcome more information on these historic electric Volkswagens.
Meanwhile, enjoy the photos--and reflect on how very far the state of the art in electric cars has come since that first electric Golf 40 years ago!

Source: Green Car Reports

New Jersey Legislature to Tesla’s Rescue?


A few weeks ago, Governor Chris Christie’s administration was widely criticized for forbidding Tesla to sell its cars directly to consumers within New Jersey. Christie defended the unpopular decision, noting that the state’s franchise laws prohibit auto manufacturers from selling directly to consumers. “My job is not to make the laws, it’s to enforce the laws. And Tesla was operating outside the law,” Christie said, encouraging the New Jersey Legislature to fix the problem.
Last week Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), who drives an electric car himself, answered the call. He introduced a bill, which allows any motor vehicle franchisor who manufactures electric vehicles to sell directly to consumers. In an interview with NJTV, Eustace said that he is looking forward to a solution for New Jersey jobs, businesses, and citizens.
Notably, the bill is limited to sales of electric cars, which could help eliminate some of the objections from the auto dealers. The powerful auto dealer lobby has fought direct auto manufacturer sales because they would infringe on auto dealers’ businesses. But as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has pointed out, dealers do not want to sell electric cars because they require less maintenance, which is a dealership’s bread and butter.
“They make most of their profit from service, but electric cars require much less service than gasoline cars. There are no oil, spark plug or fuel filter changes, no tune-ups and no smog checks needed for an electric car,” Musk wrote on his company’s website.
Jim Appleton, president of the auto dealer lobby, the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, said he thinks the limitation in Eustace’s bill is reasonable, though he cautioned that he doesn’t know its details yet. ”To the extent that there is legislation that would allow an all-zero emission vehicle automaker to enter the market for a period of time without franchises, before they eventually convert to a franchise system, it makes sense,” Appleton said.
The Eustace bill may have shown up just in time to keep Tesla in New Jersey. Even with the short reprieve recently granted to Tesla, the car company will still be forced to close its New Jersey shops by April 15 if the bill doesn’t pass by then. But Eustace is hopeful that it will. “Maybe we’ll get something done in 15 days,” Eustace said. “The governor said in one of his town halls last week that he wanted a solution to this. I’ll take him at his word.”

News Source: USA Today

2015 Chrysler 200 Rated At Up To 36 MPG


The 2015 Chrysler 200 has given the brand a perfectly average contender in the mid-size sedan segment, good for up to 36 MPG in the city. That puts the new 200 squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to fuel economy, though it’s a marked improvement over the outgoing model.
  • With the 184 horsepower 2.4 liter Tigershark four-cylinder, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is rated at 36 MPG on the highway and 23 MPG in the city, for a combined 28 MPG.
  • With front-wheel drive and the optional 295 horsepower 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 , fuel economy is 19 MPG city and 32 MPG on the highway, for a 23 MPG combined rating
  • With the AWD V6 is rated at 19 MPG city and 29 MPG on the highway, for a 22 MPG combined rating.
That puts the 2015 Chrysler 200 right smack dab in the middle of the mid-size sedan segment, hardly an enviable position, but a big improvement over the 2014 model. The old Chrysler 200 (which was just a warmed-over Sebring sprinkled with shiny bits and a new engine to make it more palatable) was rated at just 18 MPG in the city and 29 MPG with the weezy four-cylinder, the same rating as a 2015 200 equipped with V6 and all-wheel drive.
As the first new car of the official Fiat-Chrysler alliance, there’s a lot riding on the success and reviews of the new 200. There’s also the nine-speed automatic transmission, which comes standard, that’ll be under the magnifying glass. If Fiat-Chrysler can launch the 2015 200 smoothly and without much fuss or fanfare, I’d consider that a win given the bumpy starts suffered by the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee.
Chrysler has definitely outdone itself with the 2015 200. But how will it stack up in a shrinking mid-size car market with plenty of strong contenders to pick from?


Source: Chrysler

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Next-gen Mazda SkyActiv Engines Could Be Cleaner Than EVs

2012 Mazda3 SKYACTIV engine

Can a gas-powered car be cleaner than an electric vehicle? Mazda thinks so, claiming the next-gen of SkyActiv engines will emit fewer emissions than EVs. And they could do it, if you look at the entire well-to-wheel emissions picture, through the use of super-efficient engines and mild hybrid systems that do away with heavy battery packs.
Not to take anything away from Mazda’s excellent line of SkyActiv gasoline engines. These super-efficient motors use high-compression, direct injection, and other fuel-saving technologies to improve MPGs, with the added benefit of extra Zoom-zoom as well. These high-tech engines has given Mazda the most fuel-efficient line of cars in America. Engineers are aiming for diesel-like fuel economy from its gasoline engines, and Gen 2 SkyActiv will up the ante further.
Where the current SkyActiv engines have a compression of 14:1, the next generation will approach 18:1 compression (until recently, most gasoline cars had single-digit compression ratios). Combined with friction-reduction technology and further improvements in fuel deliverly, these improvements will lead to a 30% boost in thermal efficiency and fuel economy. Mazda claims it can bring well-to-wheel vehicle CO2 emissions, of an unspecified “average” Mazda, down to just 80g/km.
Beyond that, the Gen 3 SkyActiv engines will utilize further-improved mild hybrid and supercapacitor systemsthat draw almost no energy from the engines, while dropping emissions down to just 60g/km. By taking batteries out of the equation, these vehicles will be lighter and thus more efficient. With the hybrid system active, well-to-wheel emissions could be just 50g/kkm, equivalent to the Mazda2 EV. That’s making assumptions about the EV’s power source, however, and with the increasing popularity and efficiency of solar panels, a truly zero-emissions electric vehicle is no longer a fantasy.
Still, you’ve got to applaud Mazda for aiming high, and it isn’t like gasoline engines are going to disappear anytime soon. We might as well make them as efficient as possible as long as we’re stuck with them, right?

Source: AutoCar

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tesla CEO Elon Musk: General Motors “Should Have Gone to EV2 and EV3″

EV1 Alongside Chevy Volt
EV1 Alongside Chevy Volt
In a candid interview with Autocar, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk was asked:
“Did GM miss a trick by killing its speculative all-electric EV1 in the late 1990s?”
His response:
“They should have gone to EV2 and EV3, iterating it and making it better.  The EV1 was not a great car. It had a lot of issues. But it was good enough to encourage people to take extraordinary steps to try to keep it and to hold candle-lit vigils when it was crushed. They don’t do that for other GM products.”
The passion displayed by EV1 leasees should have been enough to convince General Motors to carry on with the program.  If GM had done what Musk says (EV2 and EV3), then it seems likely that Tesla Motors probably would not exist today.
GM created a cult of followers with the EV1.  Those followers surely would have stayed with GM for EV2 and EV3.  The word would’ve spread and GM would have become the dominant player in the EV space well before Tesla came on the scene.  If there were a dominant EV maker already in place, then there’s likely no way Musk would venture into that dominated space.
Fortunately, at least for Tesla, GM abandoned the EV1 program entirely, leaving all the room in the world for Tesla to carve its own niche.
Now Meets Old: Tesla Model S Lined Up Next to GM EV1
Now Meets Old: Tesla Model S Lined Up Next to GM EV1
Source: Autocar

Nissan Leaf Customers Surveyed Regarding 150-Mile Range


The Nissan Leaf may get a big range upgrade, if a recent survey asking how much customers would be willing to pay for a Leaf with a 150-mile range is any indication. The survey also asked how customers feeling about receiving an 80% charge on a 150-mile Nissan Leaf in 30 minutes, nearly rivaling Tesla Motor’s own Supercharger system.
One of the biggest knocks against the Leaf is its lack of driving range, and no survey is going to convince Americans that they only need 73 miles of driving at a time. While a tremendous price cut has helped motivate Leaf sales, there’s a large segment of the population still unwilling to change their driving habits to match the limited range of electric cars. That’s where the bigger battery comes in.
The survey, sent to Nissan Leaf owners, asked how much they’d be willing to pay for a 150-mile battery pack option, the highest number being $5,000. Nissan has previously trotted out a Leaf with a 48 kWh battery pack, effectively doubling the range of the Leaf to, you guessed it, about 150 miles. The Nissan Leaf S starts at $28,980, though the bigger battery might only be available on the mid-level SV model, which starts at $32,000. That would bring the Leaf’s price into the mid-30s, though the $7,500 Federal tax credit could bring the price back under $30,000. Like the Tesla Model S, Nissan seems ready to offer customers multiple battery options.
Seems like a sure thing, and a wise move, for the Nissan Leaf. That said,I don’t expect the bigger battery to debut until the Leaf gets a major refresh, probably in the next year or two at most. Let’s not gloss over the potential Supercharger rival either; Nissan is already working to install more charging stations at local dealers, as well as providing free charging to residents of select areas.
With a bigger battery pack and Tesla-rivaling range (but for half the cost!), the Nissan Leaf could broaden its appeal exponentially.

Source: InsideEVs

New Cadillac ELR Commercial More Informative, Boring - VIDEO

Though the first Cadillac ELR commercial caused enough controversy to warrant a response from GM, the latest advertisement for the luxury Volt takes a more informative approach. Sure, it might lack the star power and prose of the Cadillac “Poolside” commercial, but it actually tells people what the Cadillac ELR can do. Too bad it’s BORING.
To be sure, the Cadillac ELR needs some good news and help, as sales of the plug-in luxury hybrid have been pathetic to say the least. Even at $75,000 a pop, the Cadillac ELR should be selling a lot better than it is. While I don’t think it’s fair to blame Neal McDonough or the Poolside commercial alone for the ELR’s lack of success, there’s been plenty of criticism directed at the Caddy since GM announced pricing that put it in direct competition with the Tesla Model S.
So far, Tesla has nothing to worry about, and the only commercials the electric automaker seems to need are those made by die-hard fans. Meanwhile, the new Cadillac ELR commercial gets the point across that this is an “uncompromising” luxury car, regardless of what it runs on. Many reviews agree; the Cadillac ELR is a solid product…just seriously overpriced and poorly marketed. This latest commercial may get the facts about the ELR out there, but it does so in a matter-of-fact and frankly boring way. I still think this BMW i3 commercial is the best electric car commercial I’ve seen so far, and there’s not a single line of dialogue.
Maybe it’s time GM tapped a new ad agency, because in my opinion, the Cadillac ELR commercials are now 0 for 2. What say you?

Source: Gas2.0

Volvo Could Introduce KERS Hybrid System By 2020


Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, or KERS, have been used in Formula One since 2009, and Volvo hopes to bring these hybrid systems to production cars by 2020. Using a flywheel to recapture kinetic energy from braking, Volvo says these systems could boost the fuel economy of their vehicles by as much as 25%.
The British-designed KERS system Volvo is testing has been fitted to the rear axle of a Volvo S60 T5 sedan, and can be used to either increase performance or boost fuel economy. In sport mode, the KERS system adds an extra 80 horsepower to the Volvo, shaving 1.5 seconds off of the 0 to 60 MPH time for up to ten continuous seconds.
Meanwhile in economy mode, this type of KERS system can propel the S60 for up to a half-mile using only recovered kinetic energy, and can be fully “recharged” in just 8 seconds of standard braking. Using the KERS system to get the car going could save a lot of fuel, as at-speed even a large car like the S60 only needs about 30 horsepower to maintain a 70 MPH cruising speed.


While Volvo says this sort of rear-mounted KERS system is unlikely to make it to production, a system integrated into a front-drive model could be on the road as early as 2020. Since the whole system only weighs 60 kg, or about 130 pounds, it doesn’t add much extra mass to the vehicle either, as battery powered vehicles get rather heavy fairly quickly (though Volvo has some clever solutions for that as well). Pair this KERS system with Volvo’s new E-Drive engines, and you could have a car approach 75+ MPG.
From Formula One to production vehicles in little more than a decade, KERS hybrids aren’t far off now. Perhaps it will even arrive in a vehicle not unlike the excellent Volvo XC Concept. A boost of power, or better fuel economy. Red pill or blue pill. Which do you choose?

Source: AutoCar

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 Could Get AWD, Supercapacitors


The next Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 could use the same hybrid drivetrain in the Yaris Hybrid-R, paired with supercapacitors and all-wheel drive. But whether it will be a six-figure supercar or something a little more attainable hasn’t been settled just yet.
Rumors have been circulating for years that Toyota and BMW are teaming up on a hybrid sports car, and with the reveal of the Toyota FT-1 Concept, the return of the Supra as a performance hybrid seems all but certain. The blurry details are starting to come into focus, and the picture they paint a very different vehicle from the classic Supra or Z4.
The new car will utilize an all-wheel drive system paired with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain similar to the one the Yaris Hybrid-R Concept, but with one key difference. Instead of a 1.6 liter Toyota gas engine, a BMW motor no bigger than 2.0 liters will be used alongside a pair of electric motors. Engineers are drawing from knowledge gained from the Toyota TS030, the hybrid Le Mans endurance racer that has been nipping at Audi’s heels for the past couple of years.


This is where the supercapacitors come in. Unlike lihtium-ion batteries, which more energy but also a lot longer longer to recharge and discharge, supercapacitors store a little bit of kinetic energy for a big (but brief) boost in power. They recharge with kinetic energy (mostly from braking) just as quickly as they discharge, making supercapacitors a better option than standard lithium-ion batteries. High-strength steel and aluminum will be used to keep weight down, further improving performance. With no hard numbers to pin down right now though, it’s hard to tell where in the supercar hierarchy the next Supra/Z4 will fall.
So where does this leave the in-demand BMW i8? Hard to say; the current BMW Z4 and BMW i8 are distinctly different vehicles, and the ‘i’ brand is being touted as somewhat separate (but not TOO separate) from the regular BMW lineup. While Toyota’s lineup is noticeably devoid of any high-end performance cars, is there room in the BMW lineup for another hybrid supercar?
I don’t see why not.

Source: AutoCar

GM Wants The Same “Set Of Rules” For Tesla In Ohio


In the battle between Tesla Motors and entrenched car dealers, reinforcements have arrived for the status quo in the form of General Motors. With the recent setback in New Jersey, the battlefield has shifted to Ohio, where another proposed ban on direct car sales awaits authorization.
According to Automotive News, GM’s Selim Bingol, VP of global communication sent a letter to Ohio governor John Kasich urging him not to allow Tesla to operate under “a completely different set of rules.” Ohio has become a place of contention after an underhanded effort to ban Tesla sales failed at the last minute, just like the successful New Jersey ban that snuck through at the last minute.
Meanwhile though, states like Texas and Arizona are changing their tune in regards to direct sales, as Musk’s proposed battery Gigafactory could bring thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues to the sunny states. Most major automakers have remained quietly on the sidelines though as the Tesla saga unfolds, and GM ‘s letter is one of the first public statements on the matter.
If you need any further convincing that the dealership model only benefits car dealers and makers, well, here’s your sign.

Source: Automotive News

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Electric Porsche? It Could Happen in 2015!

Porsche Panamera Electric Hybrid

The Porsche hybrid 918 Spyder went into production last year thanks to the “outstanding customer response” for the $845,000 vehicle. Given Porsche’s interest in green speed, it comes as no surprise that in a recent interview with German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport, Porsche CEO Matthias Müller revealed his desire to launch an all-electric sports car. But can Porsche create a fast EV with a practical range?
We know that an all-electric Porsche will not be offered with an optional gas-burning range extender. Müller has stated that he believes a small engine needlessly adds weight. Instead, the proposed electric Porsche will rely on a battery pack big enough to provide a driving range of anywhere between 190 and 250 miles.
But Porsche wasn’t able to accomplish a range of that size three years ago. In 2011, the company built three experimental, all-electric Porsche Boxster E models, and entered them into a large-scale trial to study the feasibility of EV development. All three Boxster Es were slower than the average Porsche (which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re slow) and had a driving  range of “just” 107 miles. So Porsche, has some work to do if they want to deliver that 200-ish mile range.
Porsche may be able to learn a thing or two from sister companies Audi and Volkswagen, however. The first Audi e-tron concept debuted in 2009 was “a monster” with four electric motors which, together, produced an impressive 313 HP coupled with a jaw-dropping 3300 lb-ft of torque. And engineers and researchers were able to improve the battery pack, even going as far as to change the chemical makeup. The result is an Audi EV with close to 400 km, or 250 miles of driving range between charges.
Similarly, Volkswagen recently announced plans to work on a powerful new battery for its EV fleet. Speaking at the Geneva motor show, Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser said that “an 80kWh unit is under development using our own technology. It would provide between three and four times the battery power in a given package.” This means that a battery of equivalent physical size to that used in the new 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf could hold the amount of energy in a top-end Tesla Model S.
Of course, Müller did not provide a timeframe for when Porsche will decide if going all-electric is a wise business decision, but the company has to come up with something big to follow up the 919 Hybrid race car it showed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show. Expect a “concept” version of an all-electric Porsche to bow at next year’s Frankfurt and Geneva shows, then.

Source | PhotosLeft Lane News

Tesla Model S Gets the “Unplugged” Treatment

Unplugged Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S has made it. You can tell, because- in addition to selling like plug-in hotcakes- the wealthiest and most discerning buyers of Elon’s electric luxury car have begun to turn to the automotive aftermarket to help make their Tesla just a little bit more their own. These are early days in the Tesla tuning business, but the war may already be over. Ben Schaffer, and his California-based Bulletproof Automotive company, are launching a new line of Tesla upgrades called Unplugged Performance, and they’ve got big plans for the Tesla Model S.
That Ben is utterly qualified to refine the Model S is beyond question. Ben’s Bulletproof Automotive, has produced some of the most well-known cars in the Japanese tuning industry. In addition to his company’s towering industry cred, though, Ben is a for-real Tesla fan. “As the owner of a Tesla Model S P85+, I share the belief that the Model S is a historic automotive achievement,” he explains, obviously enamored with the car. Still, “regardless of how incredible a car is (from the factory), there is always room for further improvement, and the Tesla is no exception.”
After driving his Tesla for a few months and getting a feel for what the community was looking for, Ben gathered a hand-picked team of Art Center College of Design graduates and an ex-works Ferrari composites engineer under the “Unplugged Performance” umbrella, and got to work.
As of today, Unplugged Performance offers a tastefully aggressive front spoiler, side skirts, rear under spoiler (diffuser), and a sporty rear decklid spoiler- you can see these fitted to the cars in the red and blue images …

Unplugged Performance / Tesla Model S Aero PKG


… as well as a redesigned front bumper cover and fascia, that you can see below …

Unplugged Performance / Tesla Model S Front Fascia


… all of which give the Tesla Model S a sharper, sportier look more in keeping with the P85+ model’s Mercedes AMG/BMW M levels of performance. But it’s important to remember that these aftermarket parts offer more than just a different look- these have been modeled to reduce underbody airflow and help to keep the Model S more stable at the supercar speeds the car is capable of.
Unlike some of the less-established companies who are now rushing to cash in on the Tesla’s popularity, however, Unplugged isn’t stopping at exterior add-ons. Unplugged is “busy developing modifications that will increase the Model S’s power, improve the car’s suspension (for sportier handling), and adding (a sense of) more exotic luxury to the car’s interior.” On both the hardware and software sides, then, Unplugged Performance will be able to benefit from its close ties to Bulletproof, GT-RR, and Ben’s other allied companies.
“Unplugged Performance is about creating a future for our fellow Tesla owners,” says Ben, eagerly. A future where they’ll be able to “get the most out of their Tesla experience by really personalizing and upgrading their cars. Whether it’s new heights of performance, styling, or driving satisfaction, Unplugged Performance will be developing upgrades that are worthy … of such a revolutionary car.”

Sponsored Content | PhotosUnplugged Performance.