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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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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.
Related GalleryToyota FCV Rally Zero Car
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.
Related Gallery2015 VW e-Golf
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.
Related GalleryVolkswagen Street Up!
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.
Related GalleryToyota Esquire
Toyota EsquireToyota EsquireToyota EsquireToyota EsquireToyota EsquireToyota EsquireToyota EsquireToyota Esquire

News Source: Toyota

2016 Chevy Volt will not need premium gas

Current Owners Told GM To Change Pricey Requirement

Posted Oct 29th 2014 11:29AM

2016 Chevy Volt 1.5-liter engine

Buried in the new technical details of the 2016 Chevy Volt released yesterday was a throwaway line about a small but important change that's due to the new 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. The first-gen Volt has always required premium gas but the new powerplant will be happy burning plain old regular.

The Volt's chief engineer, Andrew Farah, told AutoblogGreen that the change was due to today's Volt owners explaining they were not happy paying for top-shelf petroleum. "The ability to use regular unleaded was based directly on customer feedback," he said. "Since the range extender is an all-new engine, it was optimized to use regular unleaded at the outset. Using regular fuel will not have effect on vehicle acceleration or other performance factors."

As Larry Nitz, GM's executive director of vehicle electrification, told AutoblogGreen yesterday, the new engine is more powerful and quieter than the outgoing 1.4-liter engine that's used in the current Volt. Fuel economy and EV range specs for the next-gen Volt are not expected until the full car is revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

News Source: GM

Detroit Electric shows new fastback style for SP:01

Posted Oct 29th 2014 10:32AM

Detroit Electric SP:01 Fastback

There's been a proud history of basing electric sports cars off of the Lotus Elise. Its lightweight architecture has formed the basis for the original Tesla Roadster, the PG Elektrus, the Rinspeed sQuba concept, the Zytek Elise prototype and the Dodge Circuit EV show car. But those projects have all come and gone. That run might not be over, though, as the next to raise the flag is Detroit Electric.

The startup showcased its SP:01 prototype over a year ago, and has been promising production ever since. Now it says it's on the verge, and has revealed a revised design for the production model – albeit in just the one solitary CGI image you see here. The updated shape, which looks rather similar to the comparably sized Alfa Romeo 4C, takes more of a fastback approach instead of the flying buttresses on the original design. The new form is designed to be more aerodynamic and incorporates an integrated rear wing and underbody diffuser to make it all the more so.

Although it's not showing us what it looks like yet, Detroit Electric also says it has updated the front end as well. Chief designer Jerry Chung says "The final design of the SP:01 incorporates signature Detroit Electric design DNA, carried over from the prototype model we revealed last year. Coupled with many motorsport visual cues, the new fastback design, bold face and sharp contours evoke the company's vision of pure electric performance."

Whatever it looks like, the Detroit Electric SP:01 is slated to go into production in the UK – not in Detroit or Holland as previously planned – next year, promising a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed set at 155 miles per hour, all on electric power.

News Source: Detroit Electric

Recharge Wrap-up: Elio explains engine updates, gas prices lowest since 2010

Researchers Aim For More Accurate Range Estimates; DC Cabbies Protest Ride Service Bill

Posted Oct 29th 2014 10:02AM

elio motors

Computer engineers at North Carolina State University are working toward creating more accurate range estimates in electric cars. They hope that it could help relieve range anxiety. The new system takes the whole route into account rather than using an average of the previous miles driven. This approach looks at traffic, grade, weather and other variables that can affect mileage to give the driver a more realistic and less fickle range estimate. The folks working on the project were able to get range figures that were around 95 percent accurate. Read more at Treehugger.

Gasoline prices in the US are lower than they've been in almost four years. According to the most recent Lundberg survey, average prices for regular gasoline were at $3.08 per gallon on October 24. The highest prices were in San Francisco, averaging $3.45, with Memphis averaging the lowest at $2.73. Gas prices have dropped in response to the cost of crude oil, which is low due to high supply and weak demand around the world. Read more at CNBC.

Taxi drivers in Washington DC demonstrated in protest of a bill they felt favors ride services such as Uber and Lyft over taxis. The bill to regulate the ride services, the taxi drivers said, doesn't do enough to level the playing field, which puts the taxi drivers at a competitive disadvantage. The bill was approved by DC City Council in a 12-to-1 vote. "Our fight is not over," says Teamsters Local 922 business agent Royale Simms. "Communities and taxi drivers around the nation and around the globe continue to fight for fairness and we will do the same." Read more in the press release below.

Elio Motors has explained why it decided to use a new engine design for its 84-mpg three-wheeled car. Elio decided that the three-cylinder engine borrowed from the Geo Metro wouldn't allow it to meet its mileage goal. Elio is keeping the three-cylinder plan, but updating a whole host of components, with some designed specifically for the Elio and others chosen off the shelf from other sources. Elio plans to offer up more details on its new engine soon, as well as show a working prototype. Read more in the press release below.

News Source: Treehugger, CNBC, Teamsters Local 922, Elio Motors

Image Credit: Elio Motors

Tesla stock goes on wild ride following negative report

Elon Musk's Tweet Sends TSLA Back Up

Posted Oct 29th 2014 8:00AM

Tesla Motor's New EV unveiled

Trading Tesla Motors stock is not for the faint hearted. For example, the stock was worth $235.24 at the end of trading on Friday but then dropped to $221.67 by the end of Monday. After yesterday's trading, it was back up to $242.77, a gain of almost 10 percent on the day. The movement was apparently due mostly to a negative article in The Wall Street Journal and then a social media response by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

The Journal originally reported that Model S sales had declined 26 percent in September, and that caused the TSLA drop. Later, there was the clarification that this only refered to US sales, but it wasn't until Musk Tweeted that the, "Article in WSJ re Tesla sales is incorrect. September was a record high WW (worldwide) and up 65% year-over-year in North America" that things on the Tesla stock front really picked back up.

Questions remain about Tesla's actual production and sales numbers. Unlike many other automakers, Tesla doesn't release monthly sales figures but it does talk about quarterly figures in investor calls every three months. During the last call in July, Tesla said it had delivered 7,579 Model S EVs in the second quarter of 2014 (the most ever delivered in a quarter) and said it remained, "on track for more than 35,000 deliveries in 2014." This target was questioned by analysts, which led to the Journal piece, and then the response Tweet. We don't know what'll happen with the stock today, but we will know the company's official delivery numbers when Tesla issues its Q3 2014 Financial Results after the close of trading on Wednesday, November 5.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

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