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2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid

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    2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid
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    Translogic 159: V2X Demonstrations at ITS World Congress
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    The ugly economics of green vehicles
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    What happens when you take an engineer sliding in a BMW i8
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2015 BMW i8 configurator is ready to show the future

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 6:30PM

BMW i8 configurator

Good news if you're one of the lucky few that can afford the new BMW i8. The high-performance hybrid's configurator has gone live on BMW USA's consumer website, meaning you can head in and customize till you drop.

If you've ever played with a BMW configurator, you'll instantly feel at home with the i8's. You have the choice of four trim packages (your author refuses to use BMW's pretentious "World" trim names), followed by wheel and exterior paint options. The interior choices are fixed to the trim level, so aside from trim, color and the choice of two wheel options, there isn't a lot to pick out on the i8.

Head on over and take a look.

News Source: BMW USA

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Recharge Wrap-up: Musk sees solar future, Uber sued for tips

Bike Lanes Could Help Traffic Flow; Who Rides Public Transit?

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 4:57PM

solarcity solar panel installation

Elon Musk and his cousin, Lyndon Rive, spoke about their ideas for solar power and energy storage at a private conference in New York. Musk, the Tesla CEO and Rive, CEO of SolarCity, said that within 10 years, every solar system SolarCity sells will come with battery storage, and that it will be cheaper than getting energy from a utility company. Tesla, which provides battery packs for SolarCity, will set aside a portion of its Gigafactory's production capacity for grid-scale energy storage. Rive says his company will be able to produce the most efficient solar panels available, while Tesla has plans for in-home energy storage that not only saves power for nighttime and cloudy days, but also looks good. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and head over to Treehugger for more commentary.

Proper deployment of bike lanes could help improve the flow of traffic while making cycling safer in urban settings. In New York City, adding bike lanes improved automotive traffic according to a study. What seems to work well is putting the bike lane closest to the curb on the left side of a one-way street, with a small buffer zone and a parking lane separating it from car traffic. The addition of turning lanes, with their own traffic signals for vehicles turning left, also allows car and bike traffic to continue smoothly. Read more at Core77.

Uber is facing a lawsuit over its included gratuity. The ride-hailing app charges a 20 percent tip, included in the price of the ride. The Illinois plaintiff claims, however, that Uber keeps "a substantial portion" of that gratuity for itself, rather than paying it out to the driver. The lawsuit, which is seeking group status, looks to make Uber give up any of the gratuity funds it has kept. The plaintiff is also seeking an unspecified amount of cash in damages. Read more at Bloomberg.

A new study breaks down the demographics of the users of public transit. The study, called "Who's On Board 2014," Finds that ridership is mostly inverse from income, with people making over $150,000 per year bucking the trend by riding as much as those in lower brackets. Regardless of region, younger people are more likely to use public transportation, while older people prefer to drive more. African Americans are more likely to ride, with 39 percent using public transit once a week, and 22 percent commuting by transit. Whites use public transit less, with only 10 percent riding once a week, and just five percent using public transit to commute. The study also breaks down actual use and ideal use by neighborhood, and examines other ridership demographics. Read more at Treehugger.

News Source: Treehugger, Wall Street Journal, Core77, Bloomberg, Treehugger

Image Credit: SolarCity

Mitsubishi to showcase Outlander PHEV Concept-S in Paris

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 4:28PM

Mitsubishi Outland PHEV Concept-S

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is rumored to finally come to the US next fall as a 2016 model. In the meantime, the Japanese brand is showing off a concept for an Outlander plug-in at the Paris Motor Show in October with a massive improvement in styling and material quality that the automaker calls the "Sporty and Sophisticated" design theme.

With just a nip and a tuck, Mitsubishi's stylists have made the Outlander PHEV look a whole lot better. Instead of the narrow, squinting look of the current model, the concept shows a more vertical design that puts a big X right on the front end. In the center, there is an updated version of the horizontal grille leading to reshaped headlights. The big changes are found somewhat lower, with an air dam that is much better integrated thanks to black and chrome accents to draw the eye. The company claims that the rear gets similar upgrades with new lights and shining trim running across the tailgate.

The improved styling gets carried inside, as well. According to Mitsubishi, the design features black wood grain trim and silver accents throughout the cabin, and the center console is inspired by Japanese black lacquer boxes. The seats are also covered in hand-stitched leather with horizontal ribs.

For power, the concept uses the Outlander plug-in hybrid's familiar mix of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors with a 12-kilowatt-hour battery.

There appears to be some evidence indicating that this concept could be pointing the way towards the Outlander PHEV's future look. We recently spotted a camouflaged model testing in Europe, and earlier this year the CUV was reported to get a refresh for 2016. Scroll down to read more about this concept hybrid's new look. World Car Fans also managed to get their hands on more high-res photos, so head over there to view 'em.

News Source: Mitsubishi

2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 2:58PM



Toyota offers many flavors of its refreshed 2015 Camry, but those who choose to lower their operating cost-per-mile, squeeze 500-plus miles out of each tank of fuel or run a very efficient and reliable sedan in their taxi fleets will only be interested in one: the Camry Hybrid.

The exterior of the 2015 Camry Hybrid is nearly indistinguishable from its gasoline-only counterparts, with the same all-new sheetmetal and bumpers. The Hybrid is offered in LE, SE and XLE trims, meaning customers are offered base, sport or luxury configurations, respectively.

While Toyota expended quite a bit of effort resculpting and improving the 2015 Camry Hybrid, one area it didn't touch was the powertrain – it is virtually identical to last year's model (just like the gas version). Under the hood is a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine (156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque) and an electric tractive motor (141 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque). Combined, and running through Toyota's unique Hybrid Synergy Drive electronic continuously variable transmission, the two produce 200 horsepower (Toyota does not list a combined torque figure, and we've asked for clarification). A 1.6 kilowatt-hour nickel-metal-hydride battery, packaged behind the rear seats, provides energy storage.

The test car featured here is the Camry Hybrid SE in Blue Crush Metallic, with the optional moonroof, wireless charging and Entune premium audio with navigation and app suite.

Driving Notes
  • Toyota offers several different driving modes for the Camry Hybrid. The standard mode is Drive, which incorporates hybrid/EV driving automatically. Those seeking to squeeze a bit more fuel out of each gallon will press the ECO button, which softens throttle response and reduces the use of the air conditioning compressor. Lastly, there is an EV mode, which runs the vehicle solely on electricity for up to 1.6 miles at speeds below 25 miles per hour – this modest ability to run electric-only helps the Camry Hybrid deliver its impressive urban efficiency. Not wanting to reduce the output of the air conditioning in tropical Hawaii on my test drive, I left the shifter in Drive nearly the whole time. I did press the EV button, just aft of the shifter, several times. Unfortunately, my emissions-free travel was short lived, as excessive speed fired the combustion engine to life after a few short runs.
  • As expected, the Camry Hybrid sips fuel, earning an EPA rating of 43 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg highway in LE trim, and 40 mpg city/38 mpg highway in SE and XLE trims. It is interesting to note that the 100 additional pounds of mass and wider tires on the SE and XLE cost those trim levels efficiency in the city cycle, but their improved drag coefficient recovers the loss on the highway cycle. Over a hilly 35-mile road course, I averaged about 45 mpg – impressively beating the EPA's estimate.
  • The Hybrid SE model has a curb weight of 3,585 pounds, or about 285 pounds more than its naturally aspirated four-cylinder gasoline equivalent. But, thanks to the near-instant torque from its electric motor, Toyota says it launches to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds – I'd consider that conservative, as it feels a bit quicker. Acceleration like that puts it easily more than a half-second quicker than its four-cylinder sibling in the same sprint. More importantly, the hybrid's power delivery is more useable around town (e.g., pulling out in traffic) when its hybrid drive system is operating in its sweet spot.
  • The gasoline-electric Camry's best attributes include its seamless hybrid system (its operation is nearly imperceptible to the driver), strong fuel economy, premium interior for the price and commendable trunk space. Its less appealing attributes include a buzzy four-cylinder during full throttle acceleration, balanced but lackluster handling, and rather numb steering. Reviewing that list, none of those negatives would dissuade me from recommending the vehicle to a hypermiler. However, those desiring a hybrid sedan that will have them seeking an occasional canyon to carve will need to look elsewhere.
  • It is worth mentioning the excellent ergonomics found within the Camry Hybrid's cabin (and the other Camry models, too). The primary instrument cluster is simple to read, and the new 4.2-inch TFT screen nestled between the Optitron gauges features very useful graphics. Heavily used center console controls, such as audio volume, audio tune and climate control switchgear are oversized round dials (improved for 2015) that are well-spaced on the instrument cluster, making them simple to access without requiring a glance to find their position – plus, the physical knobs are easy to grasp in a moving vehicle. The less frequented auxiliary buttons are also large and very well marked, again easy to use without distraction.
  • While the refreshed 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid is an excellent stand-alone choice, it is far from the only game in town. The Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid are all worthy contenders seeking the same buyer, and each approaches from a slightly different angle – the best in this very competitive segment is too subjective to call.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Translogic 159: V2X Demonstrations at ITS World Congress

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 12:45PM

GM V2X

A few years ago, the hot term in car connectivity was V2V, or vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Now, another techy abbreviation has taken hold: V2X, or vehicle-to-anything-you-can-imagine.

We head to the ITS World Congress in Detroit, MI, to see how the cars of the future will communicate with each other, and the world around them, with demonstrations from Honda, GM and NXP.

Battery price skeptic says Tesla's $35,000 EV won't happen

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 12:33PM

Tesla gigafactory

It's a good thing Dr. Menahem Anderman doesn't run the Nevada state government. The longtime battery-technology researcher, who heads the Advanced Automotive Batteries conference, isn't buying Tesla Motors' claim that it'll get lithium-ion battery costs down to less than $100 per kilowatt hour within the next 10 years. That would be bad news, since that price will be key to the automaker's ability to make a $35,000 electric vehicle.

The good doctor is instead pegging battery costs at about $167/kWh in 2025, and says they will "unlikely" drop below $200/kWh before the end of the decade. He makes a rather detailed case in his report, which can be found here (PDF). Tesla representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from AutoblogGreen on Anderman's numbers, but we all know how confident CEO Elon Musk has been on his company's price predictions to drop the price of a pack by "more than 30 percent."

Tesla has said its planned Gigafactory will provide the scale needed to bring battery costs down enough to make the $35,000 EV. By Anderman's estimates, the battery costs will be more commensurate to a $50,000 EV, which isn't horrible, but it's not the type of mass-market price that the industry (and Tesla stockholders, for that matter) are expecting. Earlier this month, Nevada offered an incentive package worth about $1.3 billion to Tesla, which is planning its plant near Reno. Battery-maker Panasonic is an investor in the factory as well.

Toyota's HaMo urban mobility carsharing program comes to France

Grenoble Gets Upgrade To Cite Lib

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 10:20AM

Toyota i-Road

We're guessing no one's nuts enough to try to take one of Toyota's three-wheeled leaning electric i-Road vehicles up into the French Alps. Still, the town of Grenoble, France, which sits at the foot of the mountains, has received 35 of those vehicles as part of a carsharing pilot program. Toyota's thrown in 35 four-wheel Auto Body COMS vehicles into the program as well.

Grenoble, which is about 200 miles north of Marseille, was presumably chosen because of existing carsharing programs run by Cite-lib. This program, dubbed "Cité lib by Ha:mo," goes a little more futuristic, though, as it's part of what Toyota calls its "Ha:mo" plan (Ha:mo is short for "harmonious mobility"). The program will run for three years and includes 27 charging stations near bus lines and train stations. The public will be charged anywhere from three to 19 euros ($3.80 to $24.50 US) to use the vehicles for between 15 minutes and four hours. The good news is that drivers can pick up the vehicles in one location and drop them off in another.

Toyota started testing the i-Road vehicles in Toyota City, Japan, this past March. The trike is about three feet wide and has a top speed of 28 miles per hour. Check out Toyota's press release below and read AutoblogGreen's "First Drive" impressions of the i-Road here.

News Source: Toyota

Gordon Murray's MOTIV.e City Car still in the running

Posted Sep 22nd 2014 7:57AM

yamaha motiv.e city car gordon murray

Car designer Gordon Murray, known largely for his work in Formula 1 and with McLaren, says progress is going well for the development of the MOTIV.e City Car electric vehicle for Yamaha, according to Autocar. The MOTIV.e was on display at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle event at Millbrook, where Murray updated the attendees about the state of the project.

It was the first showing of the car in the UK since it debuted at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. Murray says that he has been getting positive signals from Yamaha, which has yet to give its final approval. "It's all good news and we expect an important announcement in November or December," says Murray. We look forward to hearing more soon.

The MOTIV.e uses Murray's own manufacturing process, called iStream.

The signs point to the car coming closer to production. Murray says, "We've been doing a great deal behind the scenes on things like model range, factory layout and production procedures." The MOTIV.e uses Murray's own manufacturing process, called iStream, which uses composite technology borrowed from Formula 1 to produce cars efficiently, with maximum flexibility and low environmental impact.

Murray says that besides just the electric powertrain, a gasoline-powered version of the car is also in the works. This could be in reference to the sports car Murray spoke of late last year, which he said would be based on the MOTIV.e platform. Considering the claimed flexibility of Murray's iStream manufacturing system, we won't be surprised if we see other cars based on the MOTIV.e.

In all, Murray seems quite happy with the undertaking and the nature of the relationship with Yamaha. "Yamaha's people are brilliant engineers and great to work with," Murray says. "The company is the perfect co-operative partner when you're doing a project like this."

On a bit of a side note, Murray says that in addition to the MOTIV.e EV, he has eight different vehicles in development, including a low-cost, flat-packing light truck called Ox.

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

New world record set with 507 EVs in parade *UPDATE

Biggest National Drive Electric Week Celebration Is In California

Posted Sep 21st 2014 2:55PM

Plug In America New EV World Record aerial shot

Let's be honest, with more and more electric vehicles out in the world, it's getting easier to bring more and more of them together in one spot. Still, the work that goes into convincing over 500 EV owners to show up at one place at one time should be rewarded. And, in the case of the San Francisco Bay Leafs and Electric Auto Association Silicon Valley Chapter efforts yesterday as part of this year's National Drive Electric Week celebrations in in Cupertino, CA, the reward is a new Guinness World Record for the most electric vehicles in a parade. The number? 507 pure EVs gathered (sorry, plug-in hybrids).

Recent similar records were set with now-small-looking events that had 305 cars or 431 EVs. The most recent target that the groups were trying to beat was a record originally set at the WAVE rally in Stuttgart, Germany earlier this year, where organizers also claimed to have 507 EVs. Plug In America (PIA) now says that the Stuttgart number was actually 481, giving California a 26-vehicle lead.

The most unusual EV at the event was Stella, the solar-powered EV that is touring the world. PIA says that this four-person EV "can produce twice as much energy as it needs in a day," so it should feel right at home in the Golden State.

*UPDATE: A previous version of this article said that the parade was organized directly by PIA. We have corrected the error.

News Source: Plug In America

Image Credit: Plug In America / Bruce Southwick

Toyota C-HR hybrid crossover coupe concept leak ahead of Paris

Posted Sep 21st 2014 12:43PM

Toyota C-HR Concept

Last week, Toyota previewed an upcoming concept called the C-HR and promised it would debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show. It didn't say much more or give us anything beyond a silhouette and the shape of the lights, but here we have the first images of the finalized form.

The C-HR envisions a hybrid crossover coupe with angular styling that looks ready to take on the Nissan Juke. It's far sportier than a RAV4, and looks closer to how we'd imagine the next-generation Scion FR-S would look like if it were riding on a jacked-up suspension – with some show car elements thrown in for good measure, like a gloating roof, radical lighting and the usual absence of door handles and usable wing mirrors.

Of course, this being a Toyota concept, it packs a hybrid powertrain, although specifications did not leak out along with the images. Overall the form looks pretty striking, if decidedly unsubtle. We'll look forward to bringing you more as the Paris show rapidly approaches.

News Source: Carscoops

New Fisker Karma will look a lot like the old one

Posted Sep 21st 2014 9:01AM

fisker karma

Fisker Automotive appears to be wrangling up its proverbial ducks and properly aligning them again after halting production nearly two years ago. After filing for bankruptcy, the Chinese company Wanxiang, like an angel made of money, scooped up the maker of the Karma range-extended electric sports car for the sizeable sum of $149.2 million. Now, Wanxiang is looking to relaunch the Karma by early 2015, and the car that we see upon its revival will likely look quite familiar.

An insider who wished to remain anonymous told Automotive News the new Karma "will have to be nearly identical to the 2012 model." Hoping to relaunch quickly, the company doesn't have the luxury of undergoing new safety testing and certification that would be required if it made major changes to the car. Also, the less engineering that needs to be done and the more old parts Fisker can take advantage of, the better.

However, another person close to the project paints a slightly different picture of the new Fisker Karma. "The new Karma will be different in many key areas," said the unnamed source, without giving specifics. "It will have noticeable upgrades."

Throwing a possible wrench in the works are Fisker's old suppliers, who are none too pleased about being left behind when the automaker stopped making cars. Many ended up clearing out the tools they were using to make parts for the Karma. With the time that has passed, one critical supplier suggests that the new Karma might be a bit stale, stating, "You're not buying something that's considered 'state of the art' necessarily."

Still, with only about 1,800 Fisker Karmas having been sold before the disruption, the renewed model, similar as it may be to the old, will still seem fresh to all those eyes that haven't yet beheld the sleek EV. Even if, as some worry, it takes a bit longer to get production back on track, there's sure to be many happy to see the new car (and even some of the old ones) on the road.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Fisker Automotive

Stop-start problems could lead to rise of ultracapacitors

Posted Sep 20th 2014 9:00AM

Battery

The proliferation of start-stop systems in today's cars and trucks is pretty simple to explain. With these systems, manufacturers have an easy, mostly unobtrusive way of boosting a vehicle's fuel economy. As with just about anything though, there are drawbacks to modern start-stop tech.

In particular, they're not great when paired with today's lead-acid batteries. These batteries limit the ability of the start-stop function to operate based on factors like charge level and temperature. If the battery is outside the parameters, the stop-start system won't function, curbing any potential fuel economy gains. Obviously, this problem will only become more noticeable as the battery ages.

Ultracapacitors could solve this problem, though, according to a new report from Ward's Auto. Because ultracapacitors can be cycled rapidly and they can store quite a lot of energy – they don't function via chemical reactions, like standard batteries – they could handle the stop-start duties when the battery isn't up to snuff.

There are other applications for the high-powered capacitors too, including regenerative braking functions, where their ability to harness energy can really be taken advantage of. Ward's has a great breakdown of the pros and cons in a fairly extensive feature on the future of this potentially big automotive technology.

News Source: Ward's Auto

Image Credit: AndyArmstrong/Flickr - CC 2.0

Recharge Wrap-up: Smart Fortwo ED "Yo" Video; Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event highlights

ClipperCreek Amps Up EV Charging

Posted Sep 20th 2014 8:30AM

smart fortwo electric drive yo

Last month, Smart used the Yo app to give free rides to San Franciscans in the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. For those who are curious - or as Smart puts it, "electricurious" - about the event, but weren't in the Mission or SoMa neighborhoods on the day it went down, Smart filmed the fun to bring the rest of us along for the ride. In the short video, we get to see the action behind the scenes in Smart's mission control-style operation, as well as the riders' reactions to the tiny electric car. Check out the video below for more.

The 2014 Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Event took place at Millbrook last week. The show featured the latest in clean car technology. It included exhibitions, demonstrations and talks about the current state of green cars and of what's to come in the future. Green Car Guide summed up key details of the event, pointing out that new car emissions are down over one third in the last 10 years, and buyers have more low-carbon choices than ever before. See some show highlights in the video below, or read the full event wrap-up at Green Car Guide.

ClipperCreek is providing more power from its EV charging stations without increasing price. The HCS-40 and CS-40 chargers now offer 32 amps continuously, up from 30. The HCS-40 240-volt, level 2 home charger has a price tag of $590. It's rated for indoor or outdoor use, and can be installed by any licensed electrician. Read more in the press release, below.

News Source: YouTube: Smart USA, Green Car Guide, ClipperCreek

Image Credit: @smartcarusa

The ugly economics of green vehicles

All Of Us Want Cleaner Cars, But How Many Of Us Are Willing To Pay For Them?

Posted Sep 19th 2014 6:45PM

Oil Prices

It's fair to say that most consumers would prefer a green vehicle, one that has a lower impact on the environment and goes easy on costly fuel (in all senses of the term). The problem is that most people can't – or won't – pay the price premium or put up with the compromises today's green cars demand. We're not all "cashed-up greenies."

In 2013, the average selling price of a new vehicle was $32,086.

The truth is that most Americans can't afford a new car, green or not. In 2013, the average selling price of a new vehicle was $32,086. According to a recent Federal Reserve study, the median income for American families was $46,700 in 2013, a five-percent decline from $49,000 in 2010. While $32,000 for a car may not sound like a lot to some, it's about $630 a month financing for 48 months, assuming the buyer can come up with a $6,400 down payment. And that doesn't include gas, insurance, taxes, maintenance and all the rest. It's no wonder that a recent study showed that the average family could afford a new car in only one of 25 major US cities.

AutoTrader conducted a recent survey of 1,900 millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) about their new and used car buying habits. Isabelle Helms, AutoTrader's vice president of research, said millennials are "big on small" vehicles, which tend to be more affordable. Millennials also yearn for alternative-powered vehicles, but "they generally can't afford them."

When it comes to the actual behavior of consumers, the operative word is "affordable," not "green." In 2012, US new car sales rose to 14.5 million. But according to Manheim Research, at 40.5 million units, used car sales were almost three times as great. While the days of the smoke-belching beater are mostly gone, it's a safe bet that the used cars are far less green in terms of gas mileage, emissions, new technology, etc., than new ones.

News Source: AutoTrader, Think Carbon

Image Credit: Cars: Automakers, Dealership: Rick Bowmer / AP

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