Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kia Soul e-AWD Teased Before Chicago Debut

At this year’s Chicago Auto Show, Kia will pull back the veil on an as-yet-unnamed e-AWD concept based on the Soul crossover. The press release says the concept will have an “advanced and capable” electric all-wheel drive system and that it will be a “bold off-roader” allowing for the ultimate in urban escapism.
Beyond that, all we have is a close-up of the front quarter of this Kia concept, which has some aesthetic changes like blacked-out body cladding, red-trimmed wheels, and what looks like some chunk fog lights on the front bumper. An electric version called the Soul EV just went on sale here in the states, though I have a feeling this will be an electric AWD system that supports a more conventional drivetrain.
An all-wheel drive option for the Soul would definitely boost its appeal, and depending on how the e-AWD system is setup, it could result in much better fuel economy too. While I’m of the opinion that all-wheel drive is more a crutch than a necessity in most places and situations, the fact remains that it’s a popular feature with many buyers. I know people who won’t even consider non-AWD vehicle, because they’ve become so reliant on them, and now is a great time to get on the electrification train.
Is the Kia e-AWD concept more than just a concept though? Is Kia testing the waters, or planning on actually producing this option? Those answers will have to wait for the Chicago Auto Show.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Car Dealers Sue Missouri To Stop Tesla Sales

Last year Missouri car dealers attempted to halt sales of the Tesla Model S with a last-minute change to legislation.T hat rider was eventually dropped from the bill, allowing Tesla to continue with its direct sales strategy, but the Missouri Auto Dealers Association, or MADA hasn’t given up.
A lawsuit filed by MADA against the state of Missouri seeks to halt Tesla sales, saying the direct sales model creates a “non-level playing field”, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lawsuit aside though, that doesn’t change the fact that the language of the law prohibits manufacturers from selling vehicles in competition with existing franchise dealerships. But since Tesla has no established franchises dealerships, Missouri’s then-acting Department of Revenue chief explained that Tesla was operating within the law as it was written. That’s why MADA tried to get the law changed.
But when that didn’t pan out as hoped, it was only left with the litigation option, though the outcome isn’t likely to change. Despite being on the absolute opposite end of the political spectrum from Massachusetts, Missouri is likely to come to the same conclusion as the Commonwealth; Tesla isn’t breaking any laws, as the law is written.
Car dealers across the country have been scrambling to contain Tesla’s direct sales model, meeting with success in some die-hard conservative states (and getting them nominated for a Luddite Awardin the process). There’s even been a national campaign to explain how car dealers manipulating sales process is somehow good for car buyers, even though just about everybody has a horror story about buying a car, new or otherwise. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so transparently loaded with lies about how manufacturers would attempt to screw customers if direct sales were the status quo. Yet when you ask buyers of the Tesla Model S how the purchasing experience was, they’ll gush about it for as long as you’ll listen.
This lawsuit against Tesla is the last desperate attempt by Missouri car dealers to prevent consumers from realizing, yes, there is a better way to sell cars. That way is the Tesla way.

High-tech Volt video aims to captures the imagination of high-tech potential buyers - VIDEO

How do you like this video? Does Chevrolet need to do more things along these lines?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

GM’s Flint engine plant undergoing renovations in anticipation of new Volt

The GM Flint Engine Operations plant is undergoing a $215 million renovation to build 3- and 4-cylinder Ecotec variants with displacements ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 liters and the 2016Volt’s (1.5) is one of these new efficient engines..
Plans at this plant where the present Volt genset is now being built are underway with walls going up, assembly machines due to come in later, and a lot of excitement at the union operation, according to MLive.

“I think just our team alone, everyone is really excited because we’re really involved,” said UAW Local 599 worker Kim Hubbard on Monday Jan. 12, the say the Volt was unveiled.
The union employees are working hand-in-glove with GM engineers to make this an efficient assembly – of the assembly plant.
Hubbard and others are able to give real-time input on issues as they may occur in the assembly plant’s construction.

“A lot of times in the past you have issues that pop up in the assembly plant and it’s difficult to make changes there,” said GM Spokesman Tom Wickham to MLive. “We’re trying to pull all that further upstream.”
Hubbard mentioned workers first spent time in a factory in Japan and at Toluca Mexico where the Volt’s engine will first be assembled before Flint comes on line third or fourth quarter this year.
According to the operations launch manager for GM, Jim Stack, the transition for this factory has been unique.


Without stopping production, work is continuing on current projects including the present generation Volt.
“We’ve had to rearrange the plant. It’s been like a board game, you’ve got to find open spaces,” Stack said to MLIve. “That’s the one big challenge for us.”
This also helped the core team, he said, about new equipment coming in.


“For this plant, it’s a brand new assembly system,” Stack said.


2016 Chevrolet Volt TV Ad Released 6 Months Before Car - VIDEO

2016 Chevy Volt Ad:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2017 Ford Raptor Makes 450 Horsepower From EcoBoost V6

The Blue Oval delivered the goods at the Detroit Auto Show, trotting out a new Ford GT with 600 horsepower and the 2017 Ford Raptor, a successor to the off-road homerun. Replacing the 6.2 liter V8 in the 2017 Raptor is a 3.5 liter EcoBoost engine, which Jalopnik reports should be good for about 450 horsepower. That’s a 10% improvement over the old V8, and could clear the path for more dramatic revisions to the Ford engine lineup.
Ford has so far been mum on the 2017 Raptor’s new power ratings, only saying that it’ll make more than the 411 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque the outgoing 6.2 liter motor made. Most buyers would have been happy with 420 or 430 horsepower, which would put it on par with the 2015 Mustang. But during a live broadcast, Ford Global Product VP Raj Nair said that the EcoBoost V6 would be good for 450 horsepower in the Raptor. That’s 20 horsepower more than the Mustang GT, and just 100 ponies shy of the 5.2 liter V8 in the Shelby GT350. The Raptor also gets a 10-speed automatic transmission, four more speeds than the pony car has to offer.
While Ford has been quick to confirm that V8 engines aren’t being put out to pasture just yet, it’s clear that the Blue Oval sees smaller-displacement turbos as the definitive replacement for displacement. It’s an important statement that Ford’s top-of-the-line truck now packs a V6 instead of a V8, and within a decade the Mustang may be the only car wearing a Ford badge to even offer an eight-cylinder configuration.
It’ll be the end of an era if that happens, and the birth of a new, even more exciting one. Perhaps a hybrid Mustang might happen in my lifetime after all?

Toyota takes aim at Musk's criticism of hydrogen 'fool cells'

Tesla's Elon Musk has called hydrogen fuel cell cars "a load of rubbish" and "fool cells," and he's nowhere near alone in his disdain for the technology. Toyota has been fighting back waves of condescension for years now, and did so again when Senior VP Bob Carter took the stage at the recent J.D. Power Automotive Summit this month.

His target was comments that Musk made at the Automotive News World Congress at the Detroit Auto Show, when Musk said an FCEV was an "extremely silly way" to store energy, that "the best-case hydrogen fuel cell doesn't win against the current-case battery" and that hydrogen's failings will become obvious in the next few years. Carter's response was that the fuel cell initiative isn't about the next few years. "This is not a 24-to-36-month play, but when you start looking into the 2020s," then you can see the necessity of hydrogen fuel cells, which Toyota considers an extension of EV technology, he said.

The Toyota Mirai will begin its defense of the FCEV industry in the US later this year. The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is already available in California and Honda's hydrogen car will arrive in 2016. Until then, we can let some more of Carter's words ring in our ears: "If I was in a position where I had all my eggs in one basket," he said of Musk's BEV-only focus, "I would perhaps be making those same comments."

Source: Automotive News

Monday, January 26, 2015

BMW i3 Electric Car Super Bowl TV Ad

BMW i3 Super Bowl Ad:

Should GM Name Its Bolt Electric Car The 2018 Chevrolet EV2?

Without a doubt, Chevrolet dominated the news in plug-in electric cars at the recent Detroit Auto Show.
It unveiled not only the new 2016 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, but also a concept that showed what a 2018 battery-electric hatchback with a 200-mile range might look like.
The subcompact concept was called the Bolt. No, not Volt: Bolt. 

Or, as reporters found ourselves saying by the end of the show: "Bolt-with-a-B, not Volt-with-a-V."
Which highlights the challenges that would follow if Chevy actually gave the electric car--which will reportedly go into production in mid-2017--a name so similar to "Volt" that many people don't hear the difference.
Especially some Spanish speakers, for whom "V" sounds are pronounced with a "B" anyhow.
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
One reporter noted that while interviewing GM executives about the concept, he was asked no fewer than four times what he thought about the name.
Clearly, Chevrolet is at least considering renaming the car. So the problem then becomes what to call it.
That's where a few electric-car advocates come in, having floated the idea that it should be called the "EV2" on forums and in private discussions.

The name EV2 would be a nod to GM's long history in electric cars, making the Bolt the logical follow-on to the General Motors EV1.
Several hundred of the much-loved but ill-fated battery-electric two-seaters were leased in California from 1996 through 1999, after which GM took back the cars and notoriously crushed them.
GM's former CEO, Rick Wagoner, later said that killing the EV1 was the decision he most regretted from his tenure at the company (during which tens of billions of dollars of shareholder value were destroyed, ending in bankruptcy).
GM EV1 electric car at Missouri S&T, Rolla, Missouri [photo: Jalopnik/Joel Johnson]
GM EV1 electric car at Missouri S&T, Rolla, Missouri [photo: Jalopnik/Joel Johnson]

So calling the Bolt the EV2 might signal GM atoning for its sins, at least in the eyes of the electric-car faithful. The name would likely mean little or nothing to the broader buying public.
But, it raises another question: What does GM have to do to be forgiven for killing the EV1? In some eyes, it seems, there will never be forgiveness.
"I don't care how far you can drive on a Bolt, I would never buy a GM Electric car after what they did with the EV-1 from 1996 [to] 1999," wrote one member of a Nissan Leaf online forum.

"For those of you who never knew of this vehicle, look it up. I'm not bashing GM, I don't trust them."
Nonetheless, GM has sold more plug-in vehicles in the U.S. since Dec 2010 than any other maker, although Nissan could take that title this year.
Leaf sales are growing steadily, while the runout of the first-generation Volt will continue before the launch of the 2016 Volt in the second half of the year.
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Electric-car advocates unwilling to move on may want to ask, however: Does the same logic apply to refusing ever to buy a Ford, given the well-documented and virulent anti-Semitism of Henry Ford during the first half of the last century?
GM is clearly determined to be among the world's major electric-car makers, along with Nissan, Tesla, and a small handful of other global makers. 
That's largely due to the tougher CAFE standards through 2025 that were enacted in 2009 and 2010--but GM undeniably retains huge institutional knowledge in electrified cars.
Whether it would nod to the past with the name EV2, or set a fresh course with another name (not Bolt, please), may indicate how the company views its checkered past in electric vehicles.
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
We're betting against the name EV2 for several reasons:
  • All Chevies (except the low-volume SS sport sedan) use words as model names;
  • The word "EV" is highly specialized (the public just says "electric cars"); and
  • We doubt very much GM has any interest at all in looking back to that episode.
But, hey, we've been wrong before.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mysterious Toyota RND Concept Teased

Toyota has posted a photo online of a mysterious concept car named RND due to be revealed in the UK on January 26. The photo reveals almost nothing about the car, other than it will be available in black.
Toyota says the car is production ready, with pricing and parts supply systems already in place. It also claims the car has “the potential to transform the look of every vehicle on the road.” Does that seem reminiscent of Elon Musk’s recent statement that the Model III will look like nothing ever seen before? Let’s hope Toyota is not planning on giving us another pseudo-car like the Renault Twizy.
Since the photo tells us nothing, we are forced to look to the press release for clues about the Toyota RND. The first thing that is odd is that the introduction is taking place in England, not at an auto show in Detroit or New York or even Geneva. What’s up with that? Toyota says:
Toyota is breaking with motor industry convention by revealing a new product outside the familiar surroundings of an international motor show. Instead its new RND Concept will make its world debut in the UK on 26th January, ready for fast-track development that should see it changing the face of motoring within weeks.
The first image released today hints at how the concept’s design marks a radical shift in direction for Toyota, taking the “fun-to-drive” qualities of its cars to a higher level. Although presented as a concept, Toyota acknowledges the RND will be unveiled in its production-ready form.
Manufacturing and product supply have been secured and on-the-road pricing has been fixed at a level that will make the RND Concept accessible to the widest possible market.
Matt Harrison, president of Toyota GB, says. “I can say that this is something we are proud of and that will make a valuable contribution to the world we live in.” That certainly clears things up, huh? Stay tuned……

Source: Gas2

VIA Motors Plans To Sell 50,000 Hybrid Trucks A Year By 2018

VIA Motors has just begun delivering its first plug-in hybrid vans to customers this week. Deliveries of its hybrid pickup trucks to fleets will begin in February and to individual customers by the end of this year. But already, Chairman Bob Lutz tells Bloomberg he expects the company to be selling 50,000 plug-in hybrid trucks and vans a year by 2018.
Lutz told Bloomberg that FedEx, Pacific Gas & Electric, Duke Energy, and Verizon have already placed orders. Sun Country Highway — which operates a network of electric-car charging stations along Canadian highways — has also signed up for 1,000 pickups and vans, he says. Prices for the hybridized trucks are $65,000 for the pickup and $79,000 for the van. Since they are essentially the same vehicle under the sheetmetal, there is no explanation given for why the van costs a whopping $14,000 more.
The vehicles VIA offers are based on the standard Chevrolet Silverado full size pickup truck and the Express cargo van. VIA adds its own proprietary hybrid powertrain that allows both vehicles to have a combined fuel economy rating of 100 MPGe.  Electric only range for the pickup truck is 40 miles; for the van it is 35 miles.
That’s assuming drivers actually remember to plug in once in a while. Fleet experience with the Chevy Volt has been dismal, since most fleet drivers can’t be bothered to recharge their vehicles and just continue to drive as long as there is gas in the tank. There is no word if Chairman Lutz is planning to ride along to make sure proper recharging procedures are followed. Unless the vehicles are plugged in, their real world fuel economy will be no different than the donor vehicles, which cost half as much to buy.
Bob Lutz is a legend in the automobile manufacturing business, of course, but will his hybrid trucks actually hit the 50,000 a year target he has set for 2018? Hybrid trucks have found it tough going in the marketplace. The road to hybrid heaven is littered with failures, from Boulder Electric to Echo AutomotiveFord and Chevy have both backed away from this market after playing with prototypes for years.
The reason, of couse, is the high cost of these beasts. It takes a massive battery to move a big, heavy vehicle and batteries are expensive. Some observers suggest that the battery in the Tesla Model S accounts for 40% of its purchase price. With gas prices plummeting, individuals may still want to have a high efficiency car to help save the environment, but the steely eyed accountants at the nation’s major corporations are unlikely to be swayed by such appeals to ecology. It’s the bottom line, baby. That’s all that matters.
If I were Mr. Lutz, I wouldn’t bet my entire personal fortune on the success of this VIA Motors adventure.

Friday, January 23, 2015

2016 Honda HR-V Subcompact SUV Rated At 31 MPG Combined

2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V

We now have EPA fuel-economy for the 2016 Honda HR-V crossover, which is based on the Fit subcompact.
With the sole option of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, Honda's smallest-ever crossover is rated at 31 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway) when ordered with front-wheel drive and the CVT automatic transmission.

All-wheel drive models get 29 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway).
There's also a six-speed manual option for front-wheel drive models, which achieves a rated 28 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway).
2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V

The newly-released fuel economy ratings, first spotted by Autoblog, put the HR-V near the top of the burgeoning tiny-crossover class.
In the combined ratings the CVT-equipped HR-V proves more efficient than the recently-introduced 2015 Chevrolet Trax, which is rated at 29 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway) with front-wheel drive and its sole powertrain option--a 1.4-liter turbocharged four and six-speed automatic.
With all-wheel drive, the Trax gets 27 mpg combined (24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway).

The HR-V also beats the 2015 Buick Encore, which gets slightly lower mpg than the Trax despite sharing a platform and powertrain with the Chevy.
The same goes for the Nissan Juke--arguably the progenitor of this segment.
There are too many Juke permutations to list here, but the most efficient model is the standard front-wheel drive version with the six-speed manual, which gets 30 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway).
2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Honda HR-V

The HR-V's 1.8-liter engine produces 138 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The basic platform is shared with the Fit, giving Honda a smaller model to slot below the CR-V in its lineup.
It will be built alongside the Fit in Celaya, Mexico, and arrive in showrooms later this year.
When it does, it will meet an onslaught of similarly-sized crossovers.
That includes the 2015 Jeep Renegade, 2016 Fiat 500X, and 2016 Mazda CX-3. It'll be interesting to see how the HR-V stacks up when official gas-mileage ratings for those models are published.