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Is Tesla Motors becoming a Republican darling?

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    Is Tesla Motors becoming a Republican darling?
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    Honda Concept B Hybrid production version coming to China in 2016
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2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 11:57AM

2015 Volvo S60

For those not paying attention, Volvo has updated its S60 sedan range for 2015 with a new range of engines under the Drive-E label. Wearing the same T5 and T6 badges to note the relative levels of power under the hood, both engines are 2.0-liter four-cylinders, with the lesser being turbocharged and the greater being both supercharged and turbocharged.

Both Drive-E variants are currently only available in front-wheel-drive flavor, though Volvo will still happily sell you an S60 T5 AWD with the older 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder, or a top-of-the-line S60 T6 with a turbo'd 3.0-liter six-cylinder and all the wheels turning.

The car I drove for a week is perhaps the most balanced version of the S60 range, with that exotic sounding twin-charged 2.0-liter mill planted happily in the attractively sloping nose. Provided you're not hung up on front-drive dynamics, the T6 Drive-E might be a solid candidate for your next premium small sedan shopping list, as well.

Driving Notes
  • At 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the output of Volvo's twin-charged 2.0-liter mill is damn close to that of the outgoing turbo-six, while weighing close to 150 pounds less. The engine feels meaty down low, as you'd expect, with audible whine from the supercharger never letting you forget about the forced induction at low rpm.
  • With the transmission slotted into normal Drive mode, throttle response is pretty great when forcefully pulling away from stoplights or entering the highway. Moved into Sport mode, the programming becomes downright aggressive, and the torque available is palpable through your toes. Speed doesn't pile on instantaneously when passing on the highway at 70 miles per hour, but simply tap the throttle from 10 mph around town, and Sport mode will launch you gleefully past your neighbors if you aren't ready for it.
  • Past experience with the S60 had me expecting that this car would be a bit less engaging than it turned out to be. The single-mode suspension is pretty well balanced between a compliant ride and tight handling, unless you really push the car. At a good pace, there's more lean in the chassis than I'd like from a sporting tool, but not so much that I think it detracts from the mission of this laid-back yet quick sedan.
  • The steering isn't particularly meaty or full of feel, but it is quick. On bendy roads, the S60 changed direction in short order, and didn't feel to be overly heavy in the nose – thanks here again to that lighter engine. Go hard and the front-drive S60 will push wide, sure, but handling feels balanced in everyday, lukewarm corners.
  • Noted supercharger whine to the side, the confines of the S60 are mostly hushed at a cruise. The fast-moving Volvo sets a nice stage for conversation, listening to your favorite tunes – I found the Volvo Premium Sound System to be clear, if not rich – or generally making light time of long commutes.
  • The increased fuel efficiency of the Drive-E engine should also be friendly to posh commuter types. Volvo and the EPA quote 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway. Those numbers put it well ahead of the curve for most smaller engined versions of primary luxury competitors – BMW 320i, Lexus IS 250, Audi A4 2.0T, etc. – while offering a lot more power. Looked at conversely, it competes almost toe-to-toe on power with the more potent versions of all those sedans, while being priced lower (sometimes a lot lower).
  • I actually think that BMW's 328d would make a really interesting head-to-head comparison with this T6 E-Drive. Both start in the high $30k range; the Volvo has more power and (I believe) a slightly more refined driving experience; the BMW has better fuel economy, newer tech and the benefit of rear-wheel-drive dynamics.
  • You can decide for yourself about the aesthetics of the Volvo, but I still find this bodystyle to be completely lovely, a few years on from its introduction and having been grafted a slightly redesigned nose. Likewise, the cabin feels on par with the best in the segment in terms of design, materials and comfort, though the suite of technology powering its comparatively tiny-screened infotainment system lags the class. Personally I'd abide the slightly outdated tech for the tradeoff of the amazing front seats – and I work on the Internet, people.
  • Volvo has done a great service in keeping its mainstay S60 relevant with the new powertrain upgrades, overall. As ever with Volvo models, this is a car that should appeal to those drivers with a taste for luxury, indifferent attitude about at-limit handling (no rear-drive bias) and a vague notion that German cars are for "other people."

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

Yamaha PES1 and PED1 electric motorcycles headed for production

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 11:30AM

Yamaha PES1

Yamaha PED1A big player in the two-wheeled world is hopping into the electric market. Yamaha's PES1 (pictured above) and PED1 (pictured right) battery-powered concepts are going into production in the near future, the company announced. Both bikes originally debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show.

According to Visor Down, the Yamaha disclosed in its annual report that both cycles would be in production by 2016. "In addition to the advantages of being electrically powered, these motorcycles will offer the operability expected by existing motorcycle fans, together with a new riding experience," said a portion of the announcement.

If their skeletal looks don't give it away, these are some very light motorcycles. In concept form, Yamaha reported that the PES1 sport bike weighed less than 221 pounds, and the PED1 dirt bike weighed less than 187 pounds. Power came from a removable lithium-ion battery pack and brushless DC motor that were housed in a monocoque frame that was shared by both cycles. The concepts were equipped with a transmission with both manual and automatic modes.

Yamaha hasn't released performance figures for either bike yet. However, an earlier video suggested that the top speed of the PES1 was limited to 62 miles per hour. Granted, that was the concept version, and the production model could be faster.

Considering that Yamaha has a long and storied history of building fantastic bikes with internal combustion engines, we have high hopes it can do the same to challenge the electric cycle world.
Related GalleryYamaha PES1
Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1Yamaha PES1

News Source: Visor Down

Image Credit: Yamaha

BMW ups i3 production to 100 units a day to meet demand

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 9:58AM

BMW i3 plug-in vehicle

To reverse the old Field of Dreams quote, they are coming, so BMW is building them. All indications are that US demand for the BMW i3 plug-in will be larger than initially expected. As a result, the automaker is upping production at its German factor by more than 50 percent in advance of stateside sales, Automotive News says, citing BMW boardmember Harald Krueger.

BMW has started making about 100 i3s a day, up from its previous daily rate of about 70 units. So far, BMW, which is expected to begin sales of the i3 in the US later this month, has made about 5,000 i3s. BMW spokesman Dave Buchko confirmed in an e-mail to AutoblogGreen that the company was boosting production of the i3 based not only on US demand but on worldwide demand, but he declined to be specific about BMW's new production rate.

BMW started selling the i3 in Europe in November and had racked up a six-month waiting list by early February. Last month, Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board of management for BMW, estimated that the company would be making a cool 100,000 i3s a year by the end of the decade, and that the global automotive market would support that production level. Check out our First Drive of the i3 here.

News Source: Automotive News-subs req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

Toyota launches updated Yaris in Europe, Vitz in Japan [w/videos]

Posted Apr 23rd 2014 7:59AM

2015 Toyota Yaris (EU)

Toyota first launched the Yaris in 1999, though that model was sold in the North America as the Echo. The second generation arrived in 2005, replaced by the third in 2011. Sometime next year, Toyota is expected to roll out a new Yaris for North America, to be built in Mexico on the same platform as the next Mazda2. But before that comes to pass, Toyota has introduced a mild facelift for the Yaris in markets other than ours.

With styling cues borrowed from the new Aygo and the Yaris Hybrid-R concept, the new Yaris (for Europe) and Vitz (for Japan) are distinguished by updated styling front and rear. Though the European model bears a more aggressive look than the JDM version, both feature the new X motif that seems to be the new look for the whole family – particularly for small hatchbacks.

The back end has also been revised to incorporate new LED taillights and a (faux) diffuser in the bumper. The cabin, meanwhile, has been redesigned to feel roomier and quieter with upgraded equipment. The suspension has also been refined, and in Europe at least, Toyota will continue to offer the Yaris with a choice of 1.0- or 1.3-liter gasoline engines, 1.4-liter diesel or hybrid powertrains.

We'd tell you more about the varied specifications, but Toyota, in all its worldwide wisdom, oddly released one photo and a press release for the EU-spec Yaris, a whole mess of photos but no press release for the JDM-spec Vitz, but videos for both. There's also a performance-oriented G's version for Japan in the gallery above. As for the North American version, we're still waiting for official word from Toyota USA, so stay tuned.
Related Gallery2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz
2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz2015 Toyota Yaris/Vitz

News Source: Toyota

Earth Day certainly is something to celebrate

Posted Apr 22nd 2014 9:33PM

Happy Earth Day, Big Blue Marble!

When we started AutoblogGreen on Earth Day 2006, we had no idea all of the places that covering the less-wasteful side of the auto industry would take us or how interesting the different eco-mobility strategies from the various automakers would be. Eight years later, we're still engaged with this topic. Now that we're celebrating our bronze anniversary, we're happy to once again look at the big picture and remember why every drop matters.

Not everyone is a fan of setting aside a day to celebrate the natural world, but we still agree with the idea of spending at least 24 hours in this sort of contemplation. The auto industry likes to get into the act as well. This year, the Diesel Technology Forum is promoting clean diesel, Toyota accepted the EPA WasteWise award for the fourth year in a row, General Motors talked about reducing energy intensity by 32 percent at four plants, Chrysler made some big natural gas savings and Nissan said it celebrates Earth Day every day. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Image Credit: EraPhernalia Vintage / Fickr

Solar Roadways puts up a parking lot, launches Indiegogo campaign [w/video]

Posted Apr 22nd 2014 7:45PM

Solar Roadways demonstration parking lot

Joni Mitchell was wrong when she sang out against paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. Ok, maybe not. Still, we think the demonstration project just built by the folks over at Solar Roadways would get a pass from the Canadian singer-songwriter. That's because the real estate in question is covered with a textured glass surface that can, among many other things, generate low-carbon electricity, melt snow, and throw up safety warnings with its integrated LED lighting system.

This smart road has grown from its original conception to award-winning early prototype to actual installation in a few short years and is now ready for its next step: manufacturing. To do that, the family-based startup needs money for staff and other costs. While it has received funding from the Department of Transportation for its efforts so far, it's now turning to the world at large with an IndieGoGo campaign for help moving this ambitious vision forward.

If successful, the concept will next start appearing in parking lots, driveways and sidewalks before taking that final leap toward paving the way to a solar-powered paradise. Sound too idealistic, too utopian? Well, maybe. But, big change doesn't happen by thinking small. While we consider a lyric from another musician – "You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one" - scroll down for a fresh video from Solar Roadways discussing the possibilities of this awesome idea, and showing off what they have achieved so far.

News Source: Solar Roadways

Epic Electric American Road Trip goes 12,000 miles on EV power

Posted Apr 22nd 2014 4:14PM

EpicEVTrip tesla model s

Twenty-seven states. 12,000 miles. Zero gasoline. Those are the headline numbers for the "Epic Electric American Road Trip" that ended in Venica, CA today, just in time for Earth Day. Norman Hajjar, the managing director of Recargo's driver research division, PlugInsights, made the journey in a stock Tesla Model S both as a way to draw attention to electric vehicles (he's trying to get Guinness World Record to verify that this was the longest vehicle journey ever taken using 100 percent electric power) and to show that long-distance road trips are possible even with today's charging infrastructure.

This was certainly a trip for an EV diehard, since it was made up of 109 hours of charging and 213 hours of driving. That leads to the second part of Hajjar's reason for driving criss-cross across the US: to "draw attention to needs for further improvement." You can relive the journey over at Plugshare or on Twitter.

News Source: PlugShare

Image Credit: Norman Hajjar / Flickr

VW ready to spend $25B on at least 6 EVs in China by 2018

Posted Apr 22nd 2014 12:41PM

VW E-Mobility Group in China

Standing next to the lovely GTE plug-in hybrid during the Beijing Motor Show, VW CEO Martin Winterkorn announced a renewed, $25-billion focus for the German automaker on electric mobility in China. EVs + China is not a new equation for VW (see here and here and here), but the time is now for the plan to come together, apparently. As Winterkorn said in a statement (available below), "We are launching the biggest initiative for e-mobility in China's automotive history."

"We are launching the biggest initiative for e-mobility in China's automotive history" – Martin Winterkorn

With the Porsche Panamera S E-hybrid already in showrooms, the next tip of the spear is made up of the all-electric e-up! and e-Golf, both of which are due later this year. In 2015, the Audi A3 e-tron and Golf GTE will arrive. In 2016, there will be two exclusive-to-China plug-in hybrid vehicles in showrooms: a A6 PHEV and a "new mid-size limousine from the Volkswagen brand." VW Group may even throw in the Bentley Hybrid Concept for good measure. The China-only models will be built in the country and VW is investing over $25 billion between now and 2018, creating an expected 20,000 jobs.

News Source: Volkswagen

Ford says C-Max mpg reduction has hurt sales

Posted Apr 22nd 2014 10:00AM

Ford C-Max

The Ford C-Max is having a rough time. Sales for the five-door hybrid hatchback were down 39.1 percent in March to 2,295 cars, and sales from January through March were down 42.5 percent to 5,566 units. In an interview with The Detroit News, Ford Americas boss Joe Hinrichs places the blame on lowering the model's fuel economy rating.

"We're definitely seeing consideration on C-Max decline over time. We need to reinvest in the product because it's a great car," said Hinrichs to The Detroit News.

The company was hit with bad publicity over the C-Max when owners in multiple states filed class action lawsuits that alleged the cars weren't able to meet the stated fuel economy. Ford eventually re-rated the model from 47 miles per gallon city, highway and combined to 40 mpg city, 45 mpg highway and 43 mpg combined. To soften the blow of the change, the automaker sent checks to the owners to make up some of the difference. Initially, Ford claimed that demand remained strong for the hybrid. However, the latest sales figures and Hinrichs' statement seem to show the opposite.

Hinrichs also says a replacement for the company's MyFord Touch infotainment system is in the works. He claims that the current system is being held back by software limitations. However, a replacement is at least year away. Ford is rumored to be considering switching from Microsoft to a Blackberry QNX-based infotainment system.

News Source: The Detroit News

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Nissan, Mahindra may bond over EVs

Posted Apr 22nd 2014 8:00AM

Mahindra Reva e2o

Like Lloyd in Dumb & Dumber rejoicing that he's got a "one out of a million" chance with Mary Swanson, electric-vehicle advocates in India can do the same. That's because both local automaker Mahindra and Japan-based Nissan say they would consider working together to promote EVs in that country.

Executives with Nissan and Mahindra, which makes the Reva e2o EV, independently told Autocar Professional that they would consider collaborating with the other company in order to speed up plug-in vehicle adoption in India. Nissan, which already works with companies such as Honda, Mitsubishi and Toyota to various degrees, said this collaboration would most likely revolve around electric-vehicle charging infrastructure advancements, a move that obviously helps all plug-in vehicles. Of course, nothing official has been announced.

Last March, the Mahindra Reva e2o, which costs the equivalent of about $11,000, went on sale in India, with the company estimating at the time that it could manufacture 30,000 of the electric vehicles each year. In February, Mahindra debuted two electric cars at the New Delhi Auto Show, including the Mahindra Reva Halo EV concept sports car and the Mahindra Racing Formula E electric race car. The following month, India's Financial Express reported that Mahindra was targeting Sri Lanka and Norway for e2o sales. That car has a 62-mile single-charge range and a top speed of about 60 miles per hour.
Related GalleryMahindra Reva E2O
Mahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2OMahindra Reva E2O

News Source: Autocar Professional via

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Gisli Gislason

Is Tesla Motors becoming a Republican darling?

Posted Apr 21st 2014 7:56PM

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Fox Business on Tesla Motors

The general political attitudes taken by the left and right in the US are, sadly, divided on the issue of fuel efficient vehicles. Broadly speaking, Republicans dislike the whole idea (even going to absurd extremes like Newt Gingrich saying that inflating your tires helps Big Oil) while Democrats are in favor. The stereotype even gets in the way of people thinking that the DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program is an Obama Administration creation. It's not, and was started under President Bush in 2008.

The political divide has been particularly strong when it came to Tesla Motors. Most readers probably remember when Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney attacked the automaker during a debate with President Obama. New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been fighting Tesla's moves in his state as well. But, wait, is there a change in the air?

The San Francisco Chronicle's David Baker has written an interesting story that looks at some positive statements from prominent Republicans recently, for example when Bill O'Reilly said everyone should get behind Tesla or when Texas governor Rick Perry said he supports the EV automaker selling directly to customers. Baker has an interesting take on this shift and what it might mean for upcoming elections. We recommend you head over to SFGate to read the whole thing. Here's a teaser:

Some Democrats doubt, however, that the GOP as a whole will embrace Tesla and clean tech anytime soon. Wade Randlett, a Silicon Valley executive and major Democratic fundraiser, noted the Republican Party's deep ties to the oil industry - the companies most threatened by electric cars.

Read the whole article.

Cadillac, Daimler execs take swipes at Tesla

ELR drivers getting access to Chargepoint stations

Posted Apr 21st 2014 6:32PM

tesla daimler partnership

Despite the financial ties between Daimler and Tesla Motors, at least one Mercedes exec thinks the electric automaker doesn't have a bright future. And over at Cadillac, the message is that Tesla doesn't pose a threat but offers the luxury arm of General Motors more of classroom experience.

The Mercedes story runs like this. Mercedes-Benz USA president and CEO, Steve Cannon, said at the New York Auto Show last week that Tesla has "no network" and only offers "little shops that don't have service capacity." He also said: "Folks are buying a Tesla now because they're kind of cool, but if you're a Tesla buyer, you have to have multiple cars. With Mercedes, you have a whole network. You've got no worries. ... Tesla is great, but you've got plenty of well-established brands that mean luxury, like Porsche or Mercedes-Benz, and how long do you think we're going to wait and let Tesla be out there alone [selling premium electric cars]?"

"Treehuggers do not buy new luxury cars" – Uwe Ellinghaus

For Cadillac's global chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, Tesla's EV success represents little other than "a great opportunity and a learning exercise for all of us, and will help us traditional manufacturers to think twice about electric mobility." He added that, "I am not afraid of Tesla. ... There is no willingness to really sacrifice on the traditional qualities of a luxury car. These are not cars for treehuggers, as treehuggers do not buy new luxury cars." Ellinghaus made the comments during a panel discussion at the 2014 Automotive Forum.

Perhaps the lesson of Tesla's offer of free Supercharging to Model S owners is what led to Cadillac to recently announce a deal with Chargepoint that gives ELR drivers access to that company's 16,500 charging stations. Read more details on that below.

News Source: MLive, Forbes

NHTSA investigating Bosch Power Xpress 240V EV chargers for fire risk

Posted Apr 21st 2014 4:16PM

Boschpower XPress 240V Charger

*UPDATED with Bosch's comment.

Let's stamp out the flames of suspicion right up front. A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation, while involving a 2013 Nissan Leaf and some smoke, is not about another EV fire. Not directly, anyway.

"Nissan has determined by pictures that the car was not to blame for the incident" – NHTSA complaint

This time, the subject of the NHTSA's lens is the Bosch Power Xpress 240V charging unit. NHTSA wants to know if an overheating charging cord caused smoke (NHTSA says there was no actual fire) in a Leaf owner's garage last fall. NHTSA says it will investigate, "to evaluate the scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect." Up to 50 of the charging units could be involved, and NHTSA decided to act based on a single customer complaint that was filed in August 2013. The investigation opened April 15, so it will likely be a while before we know any more concrete details. For now, you can read the official details of the investigation and the original complaint - which says, "Nissan has determined by pictures that the car was not to blame for the incident. They are blaming the charging station for the failure. They have denied any warranty coverage. The burden of the bill has been placed with the customer" – below.

Nissan's senior manager of corporate communications, Brian Brockman, sent AutoblogGreen a statement that says Nissan will work with NHTSA and Bosch and points out that, "This inquiry is focused on the electric vehicle charger and is directed at the charger supplier, Bosch." Requests for comment from Bosch were not returned, but we will update this post when we hear back.

Bosch spokesperson Cheryl Kilborn told AutoblogGreen that, "Bosch is reviewing the filing and will work cooperatively with NHTSA as we seek to identify the root cause."

News Source: NHTSA, Nissan

Audi TT Offroad concept packs 408 hybrid horsepower, yet returns 123 mpg

Posted Apr 21st 2014 2:02PM

Audi TT Offroad Concept

Audi took the wraps of its TT Offroad Concept at the Beijing Motor Show, after teasing us with sketches earlier this month. "The Audi TT offroad concept provides a glimpse of how we might imagine a new model in the future TT family," says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development. "It combines the sporty genes of the TT with the strengths of a compact Audi SUV."

The latest in Audi's eTron show cars reminds us an awful lot of the the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake concept that debuted a few months ago at the Detroit Auto Show. In addition to very similar physical appearances, the two share the same plug-in hybrid propulsion systems (the "plug-in" part is a bit misleading, as the concept simply needs to be parked over an inductive pad to take advantage of Audi Wireless Charging technology).

Proving that hybrid power never has to be a compromise, the TT Offroad Concept packs a 292 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood. The combustion engine is assisted by two electric motors (rated at 40 kW at the front and 85 kW at the rear) to provide a total system output of 408 horsepower and nearly 480 pound-feet of torque. With all-wheel drive, the concept hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and tops out at 155 mph - while returning a provisional fuel efficiency of 123 miles per gallon equivalent.

Inside the four-place cabin is Audi's forthcoming Virtual Cockpit Technology with a customizable 12.3-inch TFT display projecting high-quality 3D graphics to the driver. Other technology includes three Audi Smart Displays, which serve as mobile infotainment systems both in and out of the car, and a cabin ionizer to remove allergens from the cabin atmosphere. And, when owners tire of driving the TT Offroad Concept, they may tool around with a 1:8-scale radio-controlled car kept in a custom storage box in the trunk.

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL


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