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Nissan breaks annual EV sales record with two months to spare

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    Nissan breaks annual EV sales record with two months to spare
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    2016 Chevy Volt will not need premium gas
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    2016 Chevy Volt will have more EV range, bigger battery
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    Toyota says no one wants a Toyota electric car
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2015 BMW i8 sets everyone's tongues wagging in Northern Michigan

Posted Oct 31st 2014 2:15PM

2015 BMW i8 in Northern Michigan's Tunnel of Trees

2015 BMW i8 parked in front of Good Hart General StoreLike few other cars we can remember, people want to talk about the 2015 BMW i8. Drive one, and you'll soon find out what we mean. They stop you at gas stations. They accost you in Walgreen's parking lots. They stream out of neighborhood bars, beers in hand.

At least, that was our experience this week during Autoblog's Technology of the Year testing. We had the pleasure of driving the plug-in hybrid BMW sports car up to and around Petoskey, MI, a resort town where seeing such exotics is rare enough, let alone in the off season. It made for some interesting conversations – so we began writing down some of the comments the butterfly-doored coupe inspired. Here's a sampling:
  • "Wanna race for pinks? I'll go easy on you." – Acne-covered teenage pizza delivery driver in a sad-looking Ford Taurus parked at a Valero gas station near Grayling (which incidentally didn't actually have gas).
  • The proprietor of the Good Hart General Store, a quaint food emporium/post office nestled into the area's famed M-119 'Tunnel of Trees' route, gestured toward me and then said to a woman in the store: "I've almost got him talked into $5,000 and my Jeep." Her laughing response: "Yeah, bullshit!"
  • "Is that a 'boy car' or a 'girl car'?" – Female cashier at Pond Hill Farm, a farm/pumpkin patch/trout pond/tasting room/pickler/pig race complex.
  • "Is that a Lamborghini, or is that a Ferrari?" – Father with son carrying pumpkins.
  • "Well, you must be quite pleased with yourself." *Pauses and again looks at i8* "Understandably." – 20-something woman carrying a tiny sweatered dog.
  • "That looks like you're driving the future." – Walgreen's clerk who followed us out to the parking lot after we stopped to buy some pens.
  • "I have to ask, with that gorgeous car, are ya'll lost?" – Friendly patrol officer who followed us for eight miles through the Tunnel of Trees, only to turn around and question us in front of the Legs Inn.
In short, this road-bound flying saucer attracts more attention than any exotic we've driven. We're just glad it's so good to drive, or all the impromptu conversations it inspired would've been a lot more awkward.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

2016 Chevy Volt powertrain video teasers

Before We See The New Car, We Get To Look Inside

Posted Oct 31st 2014 1:59PM

2016 Chevy Volt Battery Pack

If there's one thing we've learned about plug-in vehicle fans, you have a thing for seeing your cars get made. The series of videos showing BMW i3 production was strangely popular, as were the shots from inside the VW e-Golf plant. Well, with General Motors pulling the veil off of the 2016 Chevy Volt this week, it's time to take a peek at the production process for that vehicle as well. You're welcome.

Up first we've got a clip from CNN Money showing a little bit about how the new Volt's new battery pack and other powertrain components are made. Those of you who are trying to read the lithium tea leaves and see if the new shape reveals that the 2016 Volt will have five seats might want to check it out.

Then we've got two clips from GM itself, one showing an animation about the updated Voltec powertrain and another with some B Roll of the old Volt. Since GM doesn't want us to see the new car quite yet, we'll have to enjoy this for now. Watch below.

News Source: CNN Money, General Motors

Hyundai/Kia's Prius rival to arrive by 2017

Posted Oct 31st 2014 1:29PM

Hyundai Prius-fighter spy shots

The Toyota Prius is the undisputed king of the hybrid market, but Hyundai and Kia are hoping to challenge its reign in the coming years with their own dedicated model. However, in all likelihood this is the same technology being shared between them. "We will take the lead in the future by raising the competitiveness of our environment-friendly cars like hybrid-only cars, plug-in hybrid cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars," Hyundai Motor CEO Kim Choong-ho said to Reuters, during the launch of another vehicle in South Korea.

While Kim didn't say when the model would be ready, Autocar in Europe spoke to people at Kia, who said that the company's own hybrid was two years away and codenamed the DE. The initial vehicle is reportedly a five-door hatchback that's about 169-inches long, with more conventional styling than the Prius. Its powertrain is reportedly based around a 1.6-liter engine with electric assist. A plug-in version might follow later, and other bodystyles on the platform are possible. A recently spotted test mule might show the current state of development on the project (pictured above).

According to Reuters, the decision for the new vehicle comes in order to meet tighter emissions in some markets. However, it seems like a challenging move for the US market. Hyundai already sells its Tucson fuel cell in limited quantities and the Sonata hybrid, and Kia has the Optima hybrid and Soul EV. Industry analysts are also predicting that hybrids might have a hard time versus internal combustion engines in the coming years. In addition, Toyota is rumored to get fuel economy close to 60 miles per gallon for some versions of the next Prius. All of these factors make selling the models here a potentially difficult undertaking.

News Source: Reuters, Autocar

Image Credit: Glenn Paulina / KGP Photograhpy

Is Land Rover developing an all-electric Tesla Model X rival?

Posted Oct 31st 2014 11:30AM

Land Rover Range Rover Hybrid

Tesla will soon put its all-electric Model X crossover on sale, and if it's anywhere near as successful as the brand's four-door sedan the Model S, then it'll be a hell of an attention getter for mainstream automakers. Land Rover isn't waiting for proof of the Model X's success, though.

According to reports, Land Rover could be preparing an all-electric Range Rover. Likely more crossover than full-size SUV, the new vehicle would probably be far more aerodynamic than current models. But the new EV would still take advantage of LR's high-tech aluminum structure, and could potentially be a close relative of the production Jaguar C-X17, according to Autocar.

It seems unlikely that this new Land Rover EV will have the off-road chops of the brand's other models, but that doesn't mean that will be useless on the rough stuff. AC, citing Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern, claims that a height-adjustable air suspension will allow a low, aerodynamic ride height for high-speed travel while it can easily be transitioned to a higher level for off-road duty.

As for range, AC believes (and we agree) that a successful effort would need to get as close as possible to the Model S' 265-mile EV range.

Autocar is anticipating a price of around 90,000 pounds, equivalent to $144,000, which roughly matches the cost of a UK-market Model S. If the Range Rover EV comes stateside, we'd wager that prices will start under six figures, much like the US-market Tesla.

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

Recharge Wrap-up: Toyota FCV Rally Car To Compete, Barra bullish on Chevy Volt

18 Percent Of US Drivers Have Used Carsharing; Ethanol Producers Complain Of Slow Rail Shipping

Posted Oct 31st 2014 10:04AM

toyota fcv rally car

The Toyota FCV will compete in the last stage of the 2014 Japanese Rally Championship. The sport-tuned hydrogen-powered car will tackle the 177-mile Shinshiro Rally on November 1 and 2, emitting no greenhouse gases in the process. The rally course will help prove the safety of the vehicle before it goes on sale in Japan in the next several months. The Toyota FCV, rumored to be called "Mirai" in Japan, will begin sales there before April, according to Toyota, and in the summer in the US and Europe. Read more in the press release below.

Carsharing is becoming more popular, and more visible, throughout the world, including the US. According to WardsAuto columnist John McElroy, 18 percent of US drivers have used some sort of carsharing service. Additionally, he says 60 percent of Americans are familiar with Zipcar and Uber. Mercedes' Harald Kroeger says promotions like free parking for carshares in Stuttgart are encouraging growth for Daimler's carsharing service, Car2go. Read more at WardsAuto.

Ethanol is being help up by rail transport, according to ethanol producer Green Plains. More and more stations are carrying E15 blend gasoline, but grain producers have complained that crude oil is given higher priority by the rail lines shipping it, which rail companies deny. Union Pacific and BNSF Railway say they are stepping up service to make sure that ethanol can be shipped reliably to customers. Read more at Omaha World-Herald.

General Motors "has placed a significant bet [on] the electrification of the automobile," says CEO Mary Barra. In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club this week, she spoke about the Chevrolet Volt, and its importance to GM's future. While Barra admits the Volt's success has been "not everything we wanted," it has provided experience, and shows that EVs have "an important role in the future of GM." The new Volt is more refined, stores more energy, has longer range, uses less fuel and is a big investment for Michigan. She announced that the new Volt's electric drive system will be built in Warren, and that all of its major components will be made in Michigan. "Silicon Valley doesn't have a corner on the market for innovation, creativity and drive," says Barra. "These qualities exist here – in this region – as well." See the speech's highlight video and read more in the transcript below.
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Toyota FCV Rally Zero CarToyota FCV Rally Zero CarToyota FCV Rally Zero CarToyota FCV Rally Zero CarToyota FCV Rally Zero Car

News Source: Toyota, WardsAuto, Omaha World-Herald, General Motors

Image Credit: Toyota

Converted Mazda5 EV goes 457 miles on one charge in Slovenia

Slovenia's Andrej Pecjak Had Kilometers To Spare After Reaching Croatia

Posted Oct 31st 2014 8:00AM

Mazda 5 EV

There's a lot of EV love going on in Slovenia. While we've heard about the country's biofuel work before, the electric vehicle scene has thus far escaped our radar. This will no longer be the case, thanks to the work of Andrej Pecjak and the crew at the Metron Institut.

Recently, Pacjak and his partner Jasna drove an electric car – a converted Mazda5 – from Bled (in Sloveniva) to Dubrovnik (in Croatia), a distance of 736 kilometers, without recharging. That's 457 miles on everyday roads in everyday traffic while loaded up with "all necessary luggage" and covering at least 5,000 meters of elevation changes up the Adriatic coast. The duo drove on some highways, but the overall average speed was an easy 40 miles per hour (roughly). "As far as we now nobody has ever driven so far without charging in normal traffic conditions," the Institut wrote.

The exact technology used in the conversion is not being disclosed (at least, not in English on the site), but Metron is saying that the conversion uses "96 lithium polymer chobalt (sic) based cells stored in special light boxes under the car" for its battery. Throw in a lightweight Letrika IPM motor and controller and Metron claims that "efficiency is so high that when driving up to 80 km/h [50 mph] we do not need any air intakes for cooling (we have a patented cooling system)." We can't verify any of this, but it certainly appears like the trip was a real success.

Pacjak himself is no stranger to EV conversions. Below, you can see two short clips of him scooting on electrons in a Smart Roadster (the "Superpiki") and an old, converted Fortwo (the "Smart Piki").

News Source: Institut Metron

Recharge Wrap-up: meet the '66 ZelectricBug, DOE announces home-scale H2 refueling competition

New Hyundai Hybrid Transmission Integrates Electric Motor; Battery Startup Plans $1 Billion Factory In NC; Shanghai Waives Tesla Plate Fees

Posted Oct 30th 2014 4:58PM

electric 1966 volkswagen beetle zelectric motors zelectricbug

The US Department of Energy has launched the $1 million H2 Refuel H-Prize competition to create small- to medium-scale hydrogen refueling systems. The systems could be home-scale systems that produce hydrogen using utilities at home for refueling, or medium-scale systems to supply locations such as retail centers, apartment complexes or small fleets. The DOE sees hydrogen fueling infrastructure as the biggest obstacle to fuel-cell vehicle adoption and putting the production and refueling in the hands of the consumer could be a way around that obstacle. Read more at Energy.gov and at Green Car Congress.

Hyundai has announced a new six-speed automatic transmission with integrated electric motor for new hybrid models. The new configuration puts most of the hybrid powertrain components within the transmission, and the torque converter has been eliminated. The new engine clutch reduces drag with fewer clutch discs, and the mechanical oil pump has been replaced with an electric one. The result is fewer energy losses, improved efficiency and greater mileage. Read more at Hybrid Cars in Reuters or in the press release from Hyundai below.

Zelectric Motors has completed its electric 1966 Volkswagen Beetle rebuild, and has put it up for sale. The '66 ZelectricBug, as it's called, is powered by a 50-kW electric motor and 20-kWh battery pack, and offers 120 pound-feet of torque. It has a range of 80 miles, and is capable of at least 100 mph. The stock transmission has been rebuilt. It also has some new goodies like high-performance sway bars, custom shocks, and LED lighting. The '66 ZelectricBug is priced at $45,000. Check it out in the video below and read more at Hybrid Cars.

A startup called Alevo says it will build a billion-dollar factory in North Carolina to make longer-lasting lithium iron phosphate batteries. Alevo has purchased an old cigarette factory in Concord for $68.5 million, but it's unclear whether or not the company has secured the $1 billion investment to begin producing batteries. The company plans to create 2,500 to 6,000 jobs and produce several gigawatts worth of batteries per year, which is a tall order for a relatively unknown company. Read more at Gigaom, or in Alevo's press release below.

Tesla owners in Shanghai will be exempt from the city's $12,000 registration fee. About 400 people have already received the free license plates in Shanghai, where the government wants to encourage alternative fuel vehicles. Hangzhou also offers free plates to Tesla owners, and more Chinese cities might offer the same in an effort to reduce harmful emissions. Read more at Automotive News.

Acura NSX prototype gets back on track

Posted Oct 30th 2014 2:30PM

Acura NSX prototype

Developing a new vehicle is not without its complications, we're sure, but usually things follow a fairly predictable progression: you develop a prototype, you test it, test it and test it again, then you put it into production. What you don't expect is that your prototype will burn to the ground, but that's what famously happened to the NSX which Honda engineers were testing a few months ago.

Fortunately, the Acura NSX prototype is back on track, both literally and figuratively, as you can see from this latest batch of spy shots snapped at the Nürburgring. This camouflaged prototype looks pretty much the same as the last one, only, you know... less crispy. Which is to say, it looks pretty much ready to hit showrooms.

The naysayers may point out that Honda chose colder and damper weather to put the NSX back into testing – thereby mitigating the risk of another fire – but we're sure the Japanese automaker has been working hard to fix the flammability issues, whatever may have caused them, over the past few months. At least, we hope they have.

Image Credit: CarPix

Nissan breaks annual EV sales record with two months to spare

Leaf Could Hit 30,000 Sales This Year

Posted Oct 30th 2014 2:00PM

The 2014 Nissan LEAF is available in three trim levels: LEAF S, SV and SL, along with option packages offering advanced systems such as Around View? Monitor and 7-speaker Bose? audio. Enhancements for 2014 include the addition of the RearView Monitor as standard equipment on all models (previously part of the Charge Package) and one new exterior color ? Gun Metallic (seven total available colors).

Nissan has sold more pure EVs in the US this year than any other automaker, ever. And there are still two selling months left.

Last year, Nissan sold a record 22,610 Leaf electric vehicles in the US. This year, through the end of September, Nissan sold 21,822 Leafs and has been selling more than 2,000 a month for the last seven months (in some cases, over 3,000). Basic math skills make it clear that 2014 would handily beat 2013, so now we get to play the guessing game to figure out by how much.

Nissan isn't yet saying what October sales were (the month isn't over yet, and we're expecting the numbers on Monday) but if we look up the general trend for the last quarter of 2013, sales stayed steady (compared to the previous months) in October and November and then shot up in December. Given the overall increase in 2014 versus 2013 (up 36 percent through the end of September), who wants to bet that Nissan will sell more than 30,000 Leafs this year? Anyone?

Compare Leaf sales with the other plug-in vehicle that went on sale alongside the Leaf at the end of 2010: the Chevy Volt sold over 23,000 units in 2012 and 2013 but is way down so far this year (14,540 through the end of September). An updated Volt will go on sale in the second half of 2015. Nissan has not disclosed when a new Leaf will go on sale. Nissan has sold over 142,000 first-gen Leafs around the world and over 64,000 in the US.
Related Gallery2013 Nissan Leaf
2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf

The internal combustion engine is killing us, literally

In UK, Exhaust Emissions Kill More Than Crashes Do

Posted Oct 30th 2014 12:27PM

Belgium Smog Alert

That dirty look parents (OK, some parents) give a cigarette smoker blowing smoke towards their kids? Maybe those should extend to drivers of cars using conventional internal-combustion engines. Which would make for a whole lot of stink-eye.

Diesel emissions have been tied to asthma and lung cancer.

A former intern for the US Environmental Protection Agency has written an article saying gas-powered cars are causing far more of the world's health problems than people care to admit. In many US states, cars and trucks are the largest pollution source, and light-duty vehicle emissions can cause coughing, lung irritation, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Diesel emissions have been tied to asthma and lung cancer, as well. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) says more than 9,000 Californians are killed each year from automobile and truck pollution. In the UK, vehicle emissions kill more people each year than auto accidents, Energy Biz says, citing an MIT study.

The good news is that more people than ever are adopting zero-emissions vehicle technology found in battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, and a number of governments are promoting zero-emissions vehicle sales. A collective of eight US states, for example, is aiming for 3.3 million zero-emissions vehicles sold by 2025, and they've already surpassed 260,000 units. The bad news is that those plug-in vehicles still account for a sliver of total new-vehicle sales, so those vehicle-pollution effects show no signs of abating anytime soon.

News Source: Energy Biz

Image Credit: Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP

VW planning 20 new plug-in models for China

Posted Oct 30th 2014 10:02AM

Volkswagen e-Golf

With just about everything getting super-sized for China, Volkswagen is following suit with its plug-in vehicle plans for the world's most populous country. VW, Europe's largest carmaker, is looking to sell more than 20 different plug-in models in China within the next four years, Reuters says, citing comments Volkswagen Group China head Jochem Heizmann made in Shanghai. The company is hoping that translates to sales of more than 100,000 plug-ins in China by the end of the decade. Go big or go home, right?

There's a huge plug-in vehicle opportunity in China, especially given the bad pollution situation in cities like Beijing and Shanghai and the Chinese government's incentives for plug-in vehicle buyers. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said at the Beijing Motor Show this spring that the company would spend $25 billion on at least a half-dozen plug-in models for China by 2018. VW will start selling the e-Golf in China this year and the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid in 2015.

VW said in August that it would start selling the e-Golf in the US for about $35,500 in November. That's a $6,500 price hike from the base Nissan Leaf.
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2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf2015 VW e-Golf

News Source: Reuters

Bicyclist deaths spike on US roads

Posted Oct 30th 2014 8:00AM

Superstorm Sandy

While the roads might be getting just a little safer for motorcycle riders, their two-wheeled compatriots on bicycles appear not to be so lucky. A recent study sponsored by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that annual cycle deaths in the US were up 16 percent from 621 in 2010 to 722 in 2012. In the same period, fatalities for motorists increased only one percent.

While the numbers are on the rise in those years, they represent an improvement over decades ago. According to the study, the highest bicycle death toll since data has been recorded came in 1975 with 1,003 fatalities. The '80s registered an average of 889 annual victims, 792 in the '90s and 696 from 2000 to 2012.

The data also sheds some light on who is at risk riding a bike these days and where. Adults older than 20 represent 84 percent of fatalities in 2012, compared to 21 percent in 1975. Unsurprisingly, urban cyclists who have to deal with lots of traffic and other distractions are the ones who are most in danger. According to the study, 69 percent of fatalities happen in these busy areas, versus 50 percent in 1975.

With deaths on an upswing in recent years, the GHSA is advocating for wider acceptance of safety equipment, and it wants to reduce riding while drunk. The study indicates that only 17 percent of those killed on bikes were wearing a helmet, despite such headgear being proven to lower fatalities. Also, 28 percent of cyclists who die are legally intoxicated.

In addition to those changes for bicyclists, the GHSA suggests that cities with high death tolls need to consider giving riders their own lanes and possibly even separate traffic lights to make cycling safer. Scroll down for the announcement of the study's results.

News Source: Governors Highway Safety Association

Image Credit: Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Volkswagen rolls out sporty Street Up!

Posted Oct 29th 2014 6:31PM

VW Street Up!

When Volkswagen unveiled the production Up! hatchback at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, it showcased a series of concept versions alongside it. At the Geneva Motor Show the following year, it returned with another quartet of whimsical Up! concepts. There were more before and there will be more after. But few of them ever reached production. We have the three- and five-door models, the electric e-Up! and soft-roading Cross Up!, as well as Skoda and Seat versions, but aside from the cool convertible concepts, the one we really wanted was the GT Up!, and that never made the cut. But Wolfsburg seems to be out to at least partially right that wrong with the release of the new Street Up!

This sportier take on the German city car features a sport suspension, 16-inch alloys, racing stripes running up the hood and roof and along the doors and side panels and an interior decked out with contrast stitching, black headliner, unique shift knob and steering wheel. It even comes bundled with premium stereo and climate control. Unfortunately the same engine choices apply, so the most punch available is 75 horsepower. But appearance aside, the sport suspension ought to improve the vehicle's nimble handling around city streets. A mini GTI it may not be, but a sportier hatchback is never a bad thing.
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Volkswagen Street Up!Volkswagen Street Up!Volkswagen Street Up!Volkswagen Street Up!

News Source: Volkswagen

Toyota pimps out Esquire van for Japanese businessmen [w/video]

Posted Oct 29th 2014 4:57PM

Toyota Esquire

A few months back we reported on a dealership owner in Japan who was petitioning Toyota to make a luxury van. The problem, he reasoned, was that he couldn't take as many friends, colleagues and clients around with him in his Lexus LS, and his Toyota Alphard van wasn't luxurious enough. Well, it seems like he wasn't alone, and Toyota has listened.

The Japanese auto giant has just revealed the Esquire, a new luxury van designed with just such customers in mind. It's significantly smaller than the Sienna we get in America, smaller than the aforementioned Alphard and about the same size as (this writer's favorite) the JDM Noah van (on which we gather it's based). But what sets the Esquire apart is its upscale appearance.

The boxy van is distinguished by its dominant T-shaped chrome grille with a unique emblem that encompasses a shield, sword, "the collar of a gentleman's suit" and the letters Esq. The flank is characterized by a strong beltline with chrome lower window frame and an expansive greenhouse with tinted rear glass. Inside the flexible cabin you'll find accommodation for seven or eight passengers (depending on specification), synthetic leather upholstery and wood and metallic trim. There are even wheelchair-enabled models on offer as well.

Power comes from either a 2.0-liter four driving 150 horsepower and 142 pound-feet of torque through a CVT to the front wheels or all four, or from a hybrid powertrain that pairs a 1.8-liter four (97 hp / 105 lb-ft) to an electric motor (81 hp / 153 lb-ft) for a combined 134 hp. Toyota expects to sell 4,000 units annually through two dealer networks, with prices ranging from 2.6 million yen ($24k) to 3.2 million yen ($30k).

Push comes to hybrid shove, we're not sure this model would have a place in Toyota or Lexus showrooms on this side of the Pacific, but it could be just what Japanese businessmen have called for for a night out in Tokyo. Scope it out in the video below.
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News Source: Toyota

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