Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $26,825

The pieces are coming together for exactly what's on offer in the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrids. We were able to drive the regular gas-electric and plug-in hybrid versions and were impressed with the feel behind the wheel, but before you know the price, it's tough to tell if the car makes any real sense. While the price for the PHEV is still shrouded in mystery, we at least now know how much it'll cost for the non-plugSonata hybrid: $26,825, including $825 for destination. That's the same as the 2015 hybrid model. For comparison, the 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid starts at $25,675 and the 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid comes in at $30,125.

That's the base cost, which gets you the cloth interior and projector headlights. The 2016 Sonata Hybrid Limited starts at $30,100 ($900 more than before), which ups the 16-inch alloy wheels to 17-inch alloys and magically turns the interior to leather and the headlights to HID Xenon. If you want 60/40 split-folding rear seats, you'll need to opt for the Limited version.

You can also tack on the Limited Ultimate Package for $4,500. The Limited Ultimate Package further improves the car's safety (with lane departure warning and forward collision warning) and sound (with the Infinity premium audio system). The LUP also adds a panoramic sunroof and an eight-inch nav system. Overall, there are seven exterior colors and five interior options. The PHEV price has not yet been announced, but whatever it is, Hyundai has said it expects the car to qualify for a $4,919 tax credit from the federal government.

EPA rates Toyota Mirai at 67 mpge with 312-mile range

The EPA certified the 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan with a 312-mile driving range and 67 miles per gallon equivalent fuel economy both in the city and on the highway. Toyota has been clear for some time that it expected the Mirai to go at least 300 miles, but the Japanese automaker has remained more tight-lipped on the four-door's hydrogen economyOur earlier estimate of 60 mpge was low, but in the ballpark.

"Just as the Prius introduced hybrid-electric vehicles to millions of customers nearly 20 years ago, the Mirai is now poised to usher in a new era of efficient, hydrogen transportation," Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz said during the EPA figures' announcement at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. The company touts the 312-mile range as the longest driving distance of any zero-emissions model currently in the US. It bests the Hyundai Tucson fuel cell's numbers of around 265 miles and 49-mpge city/50-mpge highway fuel economy. The Mirai also surpasses the 270 miles from the Model S 85D.

Toyota is also going into deeper detail about some of the perks of owning a Mirai. They come with three years or $15,000 of complimentary hydrogen and the company's Entune system with a refueling station finder. There's also no-cost scheduled maintenance for the initial three years or 35,000 miles and an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on the fuel cell components. The hydrogen sedan goes on sale in California in October for $57,500 before incentives or $499 a month to lease one for 36 months, with $3,649 due at signing. An eventual launch in the Northeast is also planned for later.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Sets Record

312 miles = Longest Driving Range of ANY Zero Emission Vehicle on the Market

ASPEN, Colo. (June 30, 2015) – The future of mobility is ready to hit the road – and keep going...and going...and going.

The new Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle will offer an EPA-estimated 67 miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) city/highway/combined when it hits dealerships in California this fall, and an EPA-estimated driving range rating of 312 miles on a single fill of hydrogen.

Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz announced the EPA-estimated performance figures at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado. Mirai is the only zero emission electric vehicle on the market that tops the 300 mile range milestone.

"Toyota realized in the early 90's that electrification was key to the future of the automobile," said Lentz. "Just as the Prius introduced hybrid-electric vehicles to millions of customers nearly twenty years ago, the Mirai is now poised to usher in a new era of efficient, hydrogen transportation."

The world's first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, the Toyota Mirai is a four-door, mid-size sedan with performance that fully competes with traditional internal combustion engines – but uses no gasoline. Instead, Mirai creates electricity on demand using hydrogen, oxygen and a fuel cell, and emits nothing but water vapor in the process.

Toyota has matched the Mirai's impressive performance with an equally impressive ownership experience. In addition to outstanding range and fuel economy, Mirai drivers will enjoy a comprehensive, ownership experience offering a range of world-class services, including:

Three years' worth of complimentary fuel [1]

Three years complimentary Safety Connect and Entune, including hydrogen station finder app.

Three years of 24/7 customer call support.

Mirai Complimentary Rental Experience for seven days per year for three years.[2]

ToyotaCare[3], our standard no cost service plan and roadside assistance, is enhanced for Mirai and offers:

No cost scheduled maintenance for three years, or 35,000 miles, whichever comes first[4].

No cost enhanced roadside assistance[5] for three years, regardless of mileage, including expedited towing service and trip interruption reimbursement at a maximum of $500 per day for up to 5 days per incident.[6]

8-year/100,000-mile warranty on key fuel cell vehicle components including the FC stack and power control unit; FC hydrogen tanks; hybrid battery pack and ECU; FC air compressor, boost converter and ECU; hybrid control module (power management control module); and hydrogen fueling ECU.[4]

Beginning this summer, California customers can request a Mirai by visiting www.toyota.com/mirai. Customers are encouraged to visit www.toyota.com/mirai today to sign up for more information and notification of exact Mirai order request launch timing in the coming months.

[1] Complimentary fuel for 3 years or $15,000 maximum, whichever comes first. Fuel program starts after receipt and activation of fuel card; fuel card is nontransferable. Fueling must be done at approved SAE certified stations.

[2] The seven complimentary days per year will expire after each year and any unused days will not carry over.

[3] ToyotaCare covers normal factory scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. 24-hour roadside assistance is also included for two years, regardless of mileage. Valid only at authorized Mirai Fuel Cell dealers in the continental United States. See dealer for details and exclusions.

[4] Covers normal factory scheduled maintenance and is valid only at authorized Mirai Fuel Cell dealers in the continental United States. See dealer for details and exclusions.

[5] Does not include parts and fluids.

[6] Trip reimbursement covers interruptions that require the Toyota dealership to keep such vehicle overnight and such Covered Vehicle is at the time of such disablement more than fifty (50) miles from the residence of the owner of the Covered Vehicle. See an Authorized Mirai Fuel Cell dealer for details and exclusions.

About Toyota

Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Over the past 50 years, we've built more than 25 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 42,000 people (more than 33,000 in the U.S.). Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.67 million cars and trucks (more than 2.35 million in the U.S.) in 2014 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.

Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment. As part of this commitment, we share the company's extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Economic officials say Tesla gigafactory will open in a year

Nevada economic officials say work on a massive Tesla Motors battery factory east of Reno is going smoothly and it should be operational within a year. Steve Hill, director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, told Nevada lawmakers during an interim meeting Thursday that progress on the $5 billion factory was running slightly ahead of what the company expected.

"Certainly by one year from now, that factory will be producing batteries," he said to lawmakers. "We're certainly satisfied and frankly excited about the progress that is being made."

The so-called "gigafactory" will be used to produce lithium-ion batteries for use in Tesla electric cars and potentially in a recently announced battery system to store electricity for homes. Tesla has publicly stated a goal of producing up to 500,000 car batteries a year by 2020.

Hill said more than 740 construction workers have been hired since Tesla Motors Inc. started the building process in October 2014. In a report issued to lawmakers, the Palo Alto, CA, company reported spending more than $140 million on the project so far.

Construction only makes up about a quarter of the factory's $5 billion cost, with the rest coming from the cost of machines that make the batteries.

The company has only hired 12 full-time employees in the state, but Hill said that number is expected to ramp up in the next few months.

Nevada won a bidding war with other states in attracting Tesla to the state in 2014 by extending a record $1.3 billion in taxincentives to the electric car manufacturer. As part of the deal, Tesla is required to hire state-approved auditors and submit regular updates to the Legislature.

Porsche sells 919 Hybrid mockup for $100k on eBay

Want to spend $100k on a new Porsche? Your local dealership will gladly sell you a new 911Panamera, or Cayenne in the right trim level and spec, with all the right boxes ticked. But one buyer in Singapore recently spent that on a Porsche he (or she) couldn't even drive.

The non-functional vehicle in question was a full-scale replica of the 919 Hybrid – just like the ones that just took a one-two finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Only this one was based on the 2014 spec that brought Porsche back to the forefront of endurance sportscar racing. Oh, and it has no running gear - electric or conventional.

Porsche made a baker's dozen of these replicas to serve as showpieces and development models where a fully functional example wouldn't be needed. They're seldom sold, but Porsche Asia Pacific was given the green light to auction one off. Proceeds went towards charities helping disadvantaged children and the disabled.

The fortunate collector ended up paying precisely $106,100 – that's in US dollars, not Singapore's – on eBay for the opportunity to put an all but completely authentic 919 Hybrid in his garage. Said collector won't be able to drive it, of course, but unless he was put through the kind of training that Mark Webber and Nico H├╝lkenberg have been, we doubt it'd be of much use anyway. And that's assuming Porsche were ever convinced to part with one of its high-tech, all conquering prototypes, which it likely won't for many years to come.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recharge Wrap-up: Renault-Nissan hits 250,000 EVs, will the next Toyota Prius be an SUV?

Will the next Toyota Prius be an SUV? Mazda and Toyota recently reached an agreement to share powertrain technologies, which will help Mazda comply with California's tightening ZEV restrictions with a plug-in vehicle. On the flip side, Toyota will have access Mazda's Skyactiv diesel powertrain, which a source tells Motoring will be used in an SUV based on the Toyota Prius (and, as Hybrid Cars suggests, on the Toyota C-HR concept). Interestingly, the collaboration will also give Mazda access to Toyota's fuel cell technology, which could mean more hydrogen powered cars on the road and the subsequent expansion of hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Could it also make way for a long-awaited hydrogen powered rotary-engine sports car from Mazda?Read more at Motoring.

Samsung SDI unveiled two new lithium-ion stationary batteries at Intersolar Europe. In doing so, Samsung throws its hat in the ring with the likes of automakers Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, using knowledge from electric vehicle batteries in the arena of home solar energy storage. In addition to its 3.6-kWh battery, its new 5.5-kWh and 8.0-kWh batteries offer storage solutions at a larger, more practical scale for solar customers. Called the All-in-One, the battery system, borrowed from electric vehicles, is made up of a photovoltaic inverter, battery PCS and lithium-ion battery, and promises efficiency, compactness, fast installation and an affordable price. Read more from Samsung SDI.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance has sold its 250,000th electric vehicle. The quarter-millionth EV was a white Renault Zoesold to a French computer engineer from Bordeaux named Yves Nivelle. While he credits a government program offering a €10,000 rebate for EV buyers trading in an older diesel vehicle for helping him make the decision to pull the trigger on the new Zoe, "I have to say, I was convinced the first time I drove the car. It's a real pleasure to drive and it feels good to do my part for the environment," says Nivelle. The Alliance had sold around 31,600 EVs from January to May this year, up 15 percent from the first five months of 2014. See the video above, and read more in the press release below.


Renault-Nissan Alliance sells its 250,000th electric vehicle

• Historic EV milestone reached in early June
• Alliance sells half of all EVs globally
• EV sales up nearly 15 percent through May vs. same period last year
• Nissan LEAF remains world's best-selling EV
• Frenchman from Bordeaux bought 250,000th Alliance EV: a Renault ZOE

PARIS/YOKOHAMA (June 24, 2015)—The Renault-Nissan Alliance, the world's leader in zero-emission mobility, has sold its 250,000th electric vehicle: a white Renault ZOE sold to a French engineer.

The Alliance reached the historic milestone in early June, 4 ½ years after the launch of the Nissan LEAF, the world's first mass-market zero-emission vehicle.* The Alliance today accounts for half of the electric vehicles sold worldwide. Nissan LEAF remains the best-selling electric vehicle of all time, with more than 180,000 units sold.

From January through May, the Alliance sold about 31,600 EVs -- up nearly 15 percent over the same period of last year.

"Demand for our electric vehicles continues to grow thanks to government incentives and the expanding charging infrastructure," said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. "The positive response of our customers is also driving demand. These vehicles enjoy some of the highest levels of satisfaction rates from our customers around the world."

Frenchman from Bordeaux takes delivery of 250,000th EV
The 250,000th owner is Yves Nivelle, a computer engineer, who traded in his 21-year-old diesel car for the subcompact Renault ZOE. Nivelle bought his EV after the French government introduced an environmental bonus in April to allow owners of older, polluting diesel cars to trade them in and get a rebate of €10,000 on a new EV.
"The government's environmental bonus was a big factor in my decision to get an EV," Nivelle said. "But I have to say, I was convinced the first time I drove the car. It's a real pleasure to drive and it feels good to do my part for the environment."

Alliance has full range of six 100% EVs; Renault leads in Europe

With six models on the road, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is the only global car group with a full range of 100% electric vehicles. In addition to the LEAF, Nissan also sells the e-NV200 van, which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since last year. In addition to the ZOE, Renault also sells the Renault Kangoo Z.E van, the SM3 Z.E. sedan and the Twizy, a two-seater urban commuter vehicle.

Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan has sold 185,000 electric vehicles worldwide since December 2010, when the Nissan LEAF went on sale. LEAF has collected numerous industry honors, including the 2011 World Car of the Year, European Car of the Year 2011, and Car of the Year Japan 2011-2012. The LEAF is sold in 46 markets. Nissan's top EV markets are the United States, with about 80,000 sales since LEAF's launch, Japan with about 53,500 units, and Europe with about 41,500.

Renault, based in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, has sold 65,000 electric vehicles worldwide since its first model, the Kangoo Z.E., went on sale in October 2011. Kangoo Z.E. was voted International Van of the Year 2012.

Renault was the No. 1 EV brand in Europe for the last two months, with a market share of 26 percent. Renault's top markets are France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Norway. In France, where ZOE is the most popular EV with almost half the market, the government's environmental bonus allows drivers to lease the ZOE, including the battery, for as little as €99 a month.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance was recently chosen as the official passenger-car provider for the United Nation's COP21 climate conference in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. The Alliance will provide a fleet of 200 EVs to shuttle delegates to the annual conference. It will be the first time the U.N. will use a zero-emission fleet for its entire passenger car shuttle at a COP event.

GM Targets Tesla With 200-Mile Bolt EV Mantra: 'For Regular People, Not Elites'

GM CEO Mary Barra and Chevy Bolt EV electric car image at 2016 Chevrolet Cruze launch, Jun 2015
GM CEO Mary Barra and Chevy Bolt EV electric car image at 2016 Chevrolet Cruze launch, Jun 2015

If we heard it once, we heard it a dozen times this week.
The upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV 200-mile electric car is "for regular people, not for the elites."

You'd almost think that General Motors had adopted the "1 Percent" meme that appears to be the lasting legacy of Occupy Wall Street.

We heard it from GM CEO Mary Barra at Wednesday's unveiling of the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.
"Making technology attainable also extends to electric vehicles," she said.
"To make the biggest impact, it takes an engineering organization with the scale and the expertise to build electric vehicles for everyone, not just the elite."
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

She noted this year's launch of the 2016 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, and January's Bolt EV Concept car "with an estimated range of 200 miles."
"Like the Volt," she said, "it will be affordable."
But Barra was hardly alone.

Earlier that day, GM's executive chief engineer for electric vehicles, Pam Fletcher, said pretty much the same thing in a breakout session on plug-in cars.
GM will make "electric cars approachable to the all, not just the elite," she said.
She echoed herself not 10 minutes later: "We will make electrification approachable, meaningful, and relevant to all."
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show
And again: The Bolt EV will be "available to the masses," and it will help to correct the impression that a 200-mile electric car is "a $100,000 car."
While the base price of a 2015 Tesla Model S 70D starts at $75,000, certainly many high-spec Model S versions can run to $130,000 or more.
And Tesla sells the only electric cars with ranges of 200 miles or more; Model S versions range from 240 to 275 miles this year.
So, OK, we get it: Chevy will have electric cars for regular people, not those snobby "elites" who buy those really, really expensive Teslas.
2015 Tesla Model S P85D - 'Chiseled by man and nature' [photo: George Parrott]
2015 Tesla Model S P85D - 'Chiseled by man and nature' [photo: George Parrott]

The word "elites" came up so often, frankly, that we wonder if GM focus-grouped it to find out which facets of electric cars Chevy's buyers didn't like--and set out to counter them.
It's similar to the cultural meme around the Toyota Prius hybrid, famous lampooned in the "Smug" episode of South Park as a four-wheeled avatar of cultural arrogance.
But there's a broader lesson to be drawn here.
Thus far, General Motors is very specifically not targeting the company that has sold more electric cars by far than any other.
2015 Nissan Leaf
2015 Nissan Leaf
That would be Nissan, which--with its alliance partner Renault--has now delivered more than 250,000 electric cars.
Tesla, in contrast, hasn't quite reached 100,000, while GM trails at perhaps 80,000.
But Tesla's far easier to engage in the coded language of class warfare.

After all, it's from Silicon Valley (not Detroit), has an unassailable reputation for advanced technology (which GM covets), and makes no pickup trucks (Chevy's best-selling U.S. model).
You might almost think that GM's study two years ago of whether Tesla Motors poses a threat to its future prospects had concluded that, in fact, it does.
And the drumbeat continued. One person close to the messaging process later commented, "In electrification, building electric cars for everyone isn't Chevy's third priority, it's the first."

That would refer to the fact that Tesla has built two generations of electric cars--the 2008 Roadster and the 2012 Model S--and its promised $35,000 Model 3 will be its third generation of electric cars.
More bluntly, that person summarized, "It's Chevy vs. Tesla and it's on!"
While Tesla says its Model 3 will go into production late in 2017 (within a year of the Bolt EV), that company's frequent delays in past and present product schedules lead many observers to view the claim with skepticism.
On the same day Barra spoke, meanwhile, and halfway around the world, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn pointed to an engineering prototype for a Nissan Leaf with a range likely to come in at 200 miles or more.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn presenting at company annual meeting, Yokohama, Jun 2015
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn presenting at company annual meeting, Yokohama, Jun 2015
Nissan hasn't been as public about its plans for the next generation of Leafs, or for current models with higher ranges--in part because it doesn't want to hurt steady sales of today's Leaf.
But the next Leaf could come to market within a few months of the Chevy Bolt EV.
We'll be curious to see what Chevy's messaging will be to compete with that car.
Fasten your seat belts. This promises to be a fun ride.

Source: Green Car Reports