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Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1

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    Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1
  • Exclusive
    Refuel 2014: the best way to spend a summer's day in California
  • Video
    Kia Soul EV ad campaign charges up with sexified hamsters
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    Nissan NV200 Taxi
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Recharge Wrap-Up: Tesla gets positive analysis from Credit Suisse, iPhone key for Model S

CarCharging Remotely Reduces Residential Amperage; Ford Halts Some C-Max And Focus Sales; EPA's Clean Air Act Shows Results

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 7:00PM

tesla model s

Credit Suisse analysts are bullish on Tesla. The group gives the electric car company's stock an "outperform" rating with a target price of $325. For its continued success, Credit Suisse cites the vehicles' superior technology, in turn offering more torque, roominess and reliability. Says analyst Dan Galves said of Tesla's competition with ICEs, "If Tesla can get to cost-parity with Internal Combustion vehicles and still offer $1,400 to $2,500 per year fuel savings to the consumer, it won't be a fair fight." Read more at Yahoo Finance or at Business Insider.

In other Tesla news, Tesla Model S owners will be able to unlock and start their car using an iPhone. The Tesla app is adding this functionality soon, perhaps with the update to iOS 8. It's not yet clear how this function will work, but it's one more innovative convenience feature that Model S owners can enjoy. That means drivers will have less to carry in their pockets or purses when they go for a drive. Read more at 9 to 5 Mac.

CarCharging Group has remotely lowered the amperage on some of its residential users' Blink charging stations to 24 amps. This will slow down the charging time for affected customers with 6.6-kilowatt charging by about 15 percent. The company cited safety reasons for the move, with concerns about overheating. The amperage reduction is temporary, until CarCharging is able to provide replacement parts for the chargers. Some are concerned about the delayed action, as well as the fact that the reduction was handled without owner permission. Read more at Plugin Cars.

Ford is halting test drives and sales of certain C-Max hybrid and Focus models due to a safety concern. Cars made during a single week this month at a Michigan factory may not have enough ball bearings in the steering gear assembly, which could lead to loss of control. None of the affected cars have been sold, Ford says, and about 50 units are currently at dealerships. Just over 600 will need to be recalled. Dealerships have been notified of the problem. Read more at Reuters and the The Detroit News.

A new EPA report shows that urban air in the US is becoming less toxic since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The report shows a 66-percent reduction in benzene, almost 60 percent reduction in mercury from man-made sources, 84 percent less lead and more. "This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of," said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, "because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans - preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution - all while the economy has more than tripled." The EPA expects 80 percent more reductions in airborne toxins from cars by 2030 thanks to cleaner vehicles. Read more in the press release, below.

Volkswagen's Chatanooga Assembly Plant has received the EPA's Region 4 Rain Catcher award. The LEED certified facility was honored for its stormwater management infrastructure and practices, such as collecting it for use in its cooling tower and toilets. Read more in the press release, below.

News Source: Yahoo Finance, Business Insider, Plugin Cars, Reuters, EPA, 9 to 5 Mac via Tesla Motors Forum

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

NEVS Saab EV prototype on display, with top speed of just 75 mph

120-Mile Range Is Promising

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 6:29PM

 National Electric Vehicle Sweden Saab EV

National Electric Vehicle Sweden Saab EVNational Electric Vehicle Sweden, the Saab-owning Swedish holding company that is in turn owned by Chinese investors, has some problems (i.e., no cash). But that isn't stopping NEVS from showing off a prototype Saab 9-3 Electric Vehicle this week.

But wait, you might be saying, didn't NEVS already start production of a 9-3 EV? Yes, indeed, and the vehicle displayed this week was indeed built at the Saab plant in Trollhättan in May as one of those early pilot builds. A modified Saab 9-3 Aero Sedan, the EV has had the lithium-ion battery pack jammed under the floor, so all of the cargo and passenger space of the gas-powered 9-3 remains available. "The starting point for our development of the Electric Vehicle project was to maintain all the good attributes and characteristics," said NEVS' vice president of engineering and product development, Stig Nodin in a statement. You can find the press release below.

The li-ion pack comes from Beijing National Battery Technology (which is owned by the same company that owns NEVS) and can offer a range of about 120 miles, NEVS says. The prototype also has a 100-kW electric motor that offers 140 horsepower that provides a 0-60 miles per hour time of 10 seconds and a top speed of just 75 miles per hour. That's unlikely to be fast enough to outrun Saab's creditors, but NEVS says that the prototype is here "to serve as a reference for specification of coming production model(s)," so let's hope the speed number can be increased while the range at least stays the same.

News Source: National Electric Vehicle Sweden

Ram pickups to keep it steel through 2020

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 3:44PM

Ram 1500

One of the hottest topics in the industry these days is automakers' expanding use of aluminum, especially for vehicle bodies and platforms. While the lightweight metal has historically been the preserve of premium brands and sports cars, Ford shocked the industry when it announced that its 2015 F-150 would go aluminum-intensive for its new generation. As it turns out, the material change doesn't even mean a big jump in the prices for most of its trims. Possibly in reaction to the big change, General Motors is said to be using the lightweight metal in its next-gen trucks, too. That only leaves Ram as an open question among the domestics, and at least for now, the company is apparently in no hurry to push tin.

According to Reuters speaking with two, unnamed insiders, the Ram 1500 isn't getting an aluminum infusion until sometime after 2020. That's not to say the truck is going to be stagnant for the next half-decade or more, of course. According to Ram's five-year plan, there's a refresh for the 1500 coming in 2015 and much bigger changes on the way in 2017. Those same sources tell Reuters that further revisions aren't expected until at least 2021, which is when the aluminum could be added.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne hasn't minced words about his thoughts on using the lightweight metal in pickups. "I have better use of aluminum in this house than a pickup truck," he said in May. Having said that, Marchionne was clear that if the material turns out to be revolutionary in the segment, the company would be willing to follow.

Depending on how successfully Ford and GM make the transition to aluminum, Ram could possibly gain a short-term advantage. There are rumors of a shortage of the metal in the early years as automakers begin using it more and producers ramp up supply. If that actually happens, the brand could find itself in a good position by sticking with steel.
Related Gallery2014 Ram 1500 Diesel
2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel2014 Ram 1500 Diesel

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey / AOL

Toyota FCV puts hydrogen fuel cell twist on ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 2:01PM

Toyota Julie Hamp Hydrogen Fuel Cell #icebucketchallenge

You've probably seen your fair share of Ice Bucket Challenge videos online this week, which are meant to raise money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often called "Lou Gehrig's Disease." Hopefully, you've seen ours. We've watched a lot of these videos, but haven't seen one that makes an alt-fuel point quite like a new video from Toyota.

Julie Hamp, the CCO of Toyota North America, lost a sister-in-law to ALS last year, so for her the cause is personal. Instead of just dumping icy-cold water on her head, Hamp uses water from the FCV fuel cell vehicle parked next to her. Because, of course, a hydrogen fuel cell car emits nothing but water vapor.

Toyota didn't run a lot of hydrogen through the car to collect water, it just got enough to top off the ice bucket. Using the water emissions from a hydrogen vehicle in a creative way is not a new trick. Two years ago, the California Fuel Cell Partnership made the point that you can drink the emissions (just like Mercedes-Benz did earlier this year), but admitted that "fuel cells produce about the same amount of water as gasoline vehicle – about 1/3 cup for a full day of driving." Still, for a good cause, we'll accept the mix of tap water and "emissions."

Check out the video below, if you haven't had enough already.

News Source: Toyota via YouTube

Volkswagen considering a four-door, four-seat XL1

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 10:15AM

Volkswagen XL1, front three-quarter view.

According to a report in Autocar, Volkswagen might have more in mind for the XL1 than mining it for advances to grace the next-generation Golf. Aiming to fight the Honda FCEV due for public consumption next year, we're told VW executives have put a four-door, four-seater version of the XL1 - it could be called XL2 - on the drawing board. The impetus is said to come from the top, with VW Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch intent on staying in the deep end of "super-efficent vehicles."

Autocar suspects the necessary changes could raise the weight of the car from 1,749 pounds to 2,068 pounds, which would make it four pounds less than the 2,072-pound Up! we drove a few years ago. Crucially, however, the mag thinks the extra capacity wouldn't change the two-seater's 310-mile-per-gallon rating, with tech tweaks and the aerodynamic benefit of a longer car offsetting the weight. Speculation is that the back seats would be staggered like the fronts in order to maintain the XL1's overall profile.

We recently heard about another XL1 variant that's gone off the radar entirely, the Ducati-engined XLR that we thought we'd see at the Geneva Motor Show and that was said to be going into production, so this one could go the same way. The biggest hurdle to making such an idea a reality, though, could be the price: the current XL1 costs 110,000 euros ($146,116). If VW really is going to compete with the Honda FCEV and the Toyota FCV - $70,000 in Japan - that might be where it wants to start.

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Refuel 2014: the best way to spend a summer's day in California

Even If We Didn't Get Behind The Wheel

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 10:01AM

Cars line up for Refuel parade lap at Laguna Seca

What's the best way to spend a summer day in California? If you're an electric vehicle enthusiast, there can only be one answer: the annual Refuel event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. This is the second year I've been fortunate enough to attend – thanks to an invitation from Speed Ventures, the outfit behind this battery-powered extravaganza – and both times it's rocked my socks.

This act of heresy is on par with the Pope refusing to enter the pearly gates.

I want to tell you all about the 2014 edition and what you might expect to experience should you attend next year, but first, this mea culpa: I am a disgrace to my profession. Having been offered the opportunity to drive a car from EV West around this iconic race track, I declined. This act of heresy is on par with the Pope refusing to enter the pearly gates, content to watch the faithful file in from the vantage point of purgatory.

I could have even just taken their awesome electrified BMW M3 for a few quick rips around the new autocross course, but I balked at that too. And for all this, I am sorry. So, very, very sorry.
Related GalleryRefuel 2014: On track
Refuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On trackRefuel 2014: On track

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Domenick Yoney / AOL

The plan is to drive an electric tuk tuk from India to London

Posted Aug 22nd 2014 8:01AM

TO GO WITH AFP STORY Thailand-transport-

From space age electric tuk tuks to poo-powered tuk tuks, the idea of a cleaner ride is nothing new. Pictured above is yet another alt-energy tuk tuk, this one from a few years ago in Bangkok. The inventor of that solar-powered vehicle was Morakot Charnsomruad, who now sells the EVs through his company, Clean Fuel Energy.

But today we've got news of someone who wants to take all of these ideas of a renewable-energy tuk tuk and prove its worth. The New York Times profiles an electrical engineer from Bangalore, India, Naveen Rabelli, who wants to drive a solar-powered tuk tuk of his from India to London, UK. The more impressive part is that Rabelli converted the previously gas-powered Piaggio Ape tuk tuk with just $6,500. For that money, he's got a taxi that can go 50 miles on an eight-hour charge (16 from the solar panels). The problem? He thinks it'll cost $43,000 to get to the UK, so he's looking for sponsors who want to partner up for greener transportation. If everything goes right, the trip will commence in the summer of 2015. Read more in the Times.

News Source: The New York Times

Image Credit: Christophe Archambault / AFP / Getty Images

Kia Soul EV ad campaign charges up with sexified hamsters

Posted Aug 21st 2014 6:58PM

Kia Soul EV Hamsters

It's official: Kia's adorable Soul-hawking Hamsters have crossed that line. It was one thing when they first hit the scene, and we got a small chuckle out of their trimmer looks for the refreshed, 2014 Soul. This, though, is too much.

This is Kia's latest commercial for the 2015 Soul EV, and it starts off typically enough. The hamsters seem to be tinkering in a laboratory attempting to modify a standard, gas-powered Kia. But then, some Weird Science-like trickery occurs and, well, the results are rather disturbing.

You'll need to watch yourself if you want to experience the horror. Take a look, and then head into Comments and let us know what you think.

News Source: Kia Motors America via YouTube

New Ford dedicated hybrid due in 2018, will it fare better than C-Max?

Posted Aug 21st 2014 6:57PM

2013 Ford C-Max

Everyone likes to go after the champ. When it comes to fuel economy, that means taking on the Prius, which is something that automakers not named Toyota have been trying to do for years. Just because no one has been able to beat the Prius for fuel economy numbers isn't stopping them from trying. Hyundai was just caught with a potential Prius-fighter and now we have news that Ford is joining the party. Well, is going to join again.

The last time Ford said it was going to challenge the Prius, it didn't go quite as planned. The C-Max hybrid was heavily hyped as a Prius-beater and was originally rated at 47 miles per gallon. Of course, it later needed to be recalculated to just 40 mpg and sales tanked. So, it's back to the Blue Oval drawing board, according to Automotive News, which is reporting that Ford is readying a brand new gas-electric hybrid due in 2018 as a 2019 model year vehicle. A plug-in version is in the works, too, and the car will reportedly share a platform with the upcoming next-gen Focus and Escape models.

About those C-Max sales. They have not been stellar for the C-Max hybrid, which started strong but suffered when the reality of the lower fuel economy was realized. So far in 2014 (through the end of July), Ford has sold 11,685 gas-electric models and another 4,759 plug-in Energi versions. The trend for the standard C-Max is downward (from 20,125 during the same time frame in 2013) and upward for the plug-in version (2,915 in the first seven months of 2013).

Recharge Wrap-up: New and old Audis get greener, as does US electricity

Sustainable Firm To Design New Toyota HQ

Posted Aug 21st 2014 4:02PM

audi tt

Audi has made environmental improvements to the its TT while boosting performance. The new TT sees an 11-percent reduction in emissions, and up to 14 percent more power. Audi says that each TT will save around 5.5 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifecycle. Additionally, the TT's manufacturing process has been cleaned up a bit, reducing emissions by about nine percent. Read more in the press release, below, or see Audi's lifecycle assessment here.

Speaking of greening up Audis, Al Swackhammer of Washington converted his 1960 Audi DKW 1000S to run on electric power. Swackhammer first fell in love with the Audi Ur-Quattro, became an enthusiast of Audi and Volkswagen cars, and has owned nothing else ever since. With his DKW, he combined his passion for the classic car with his responsibility to the environment. "I am pleased that I did this project," says the happy owner, "and I enjoy driving it very dearly." Meet the man and his beloved electric Audi DKW in the video below.

Toyota has chosen a sustainable design firm, Corgan, as the lead architect for its new North American headquarters. The new campus will be built in Plano, TX, and will be the workplace of about 4,000 Toyota employees. Corgan, who has already done 47 LEED certified projects, is already designing a temporary office for the site while it finishes the project. Toyota expects to begin working from the site in late 2016 or early 2017. Learn more in the press release below.

In July, all new electrical generating capacity in the US came from renewable sources. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects' newest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report says new electric generation put into service last month came from wind (379 megawatts), solar (21 megawatts) and hydro (5 megawatts). So far this year, 53 percent of new energy generation capacity has come from various renewable sources, and none from coal or nuclear. Currently, renewable energy accounts for 16.3 percent of the US electric generation capacity, providing about 14 percent of actual electricity. Read more in the press release from the Sun Day Campaign below.
Related Gallery2015 Audi TT
2015 Audi TT2015 Audi TT2015 Audi TT2015 Audi TT2015 Audi TT2015 Audi TT

News Source: Audi, Youtube: Audi Deutschland, Toyota, Sun Day Campaign

Image Credit: Audi

China Racing signs Piquet, Tung for Formula E

Posted Aug 21st 2014 2:30PM

China Racing

With the first dress rehearsal now complete and the inaugural race in Beijing now just a few weeks away, the last few seats are filling up fast for the FIA Formula E Championship as the China Racing team has announced its driver lineup.

Driving for the Chinese team will be Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Ho-Pin Tung, both experienced drivers who raced in GP2 and A1GP. Piquet may be the more recognizable name around the world, as the son of former world champion Nelson, Sr. has raced in everything from Formula One to NASCAR. He was forced out of the former during the Renault crashgate affair in which he was implicated for intentionally causing a crash on track in order to help his wingman under team orders. Nelsinho, as he's known, currently leads the Global RallyCross championship.

Tung, meanwhile, is undoubtedly the most prominent racing driver ever to emerge from China. In addition to A1GP and GP2, Tung has competed at Le Mans, Indy and the FIA GT1 World Championship. He'll be the only driver racing in front of a home audience at the Beijing race next month.

China Racing is also the only team thus far to have signed a reserve driver. Antonio Garcia is a three-time Le Mans class winner with the Corvette racing team and, like Tung, has tested in F1 as well. The announcement leaves only one race seat open, alongside Franck Montagny at Andretti Autosport.

News Source: Formula E

Xcar takes a closer look at the electrifying Renovo Coupe

Posted Aug 21st 2014 1:01PM

Renovo Shelby electric car

Xcar Films went to Pebble Beach and gave ex-Intel engineer and Renovo Motors CEO Christopher Heiser a platform to talk about his new electric supercar based on the Shelby Daytona Coupe. The relevant nuggets: 500 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque from direct-drive twin sequential axial flux motors powered by a lithium-ion battery, 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds, top speed over 120 mph, 2,500 pounds, $529,000 to purchase.

While Heiser spends almost six minutes talking about the car and what it means to him, almost all of it is information we already know. When he gets to the bits that perk our ears, like when the mentions of advanced technology and upgraded parts, he skips the details. After four years of having to drive it at night to keep the secret, we don't even get to see more of what's inside, much less a daytime run with the Xcar chaps.

So we'll look forward to the next installment. In the meantime, this one's another beautiful entry in the Xcar catalog.

News Source: XCAR Films via YouTube

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Nissan NV200 Taxi

Posted Aug 21st 2014 11:57AM

"You're a long way from home!"

When I signed up to drive a pre-production version of the Nissan NV200 Taxi, I expected to have a higher-than-normal level of interaction with the public at large. However, while I was hoping for unsuspecting Ann Arborites to perhaps hail me down, or maybe even get a hop-in when stopped at an intersection, I didn't really think I'd be hassled in parking lots so much. And yet, almost as if all of the Dad-Joke energy in the universe was drawn to my tall, yellow ride, seemingly everywhere I parked I heard some iteration of the phrase above.

Har har, guys.

So, my week as a taxi driver didn't go as I'd planned – not a single fare was earned. But I did get a good sense for why and how Nissan is making another significant push into the workaday world of commercial vehicles.

Driving Notes
  • My NV200 test vehicle wore a 2013 model year designation but was technically specified as a 2014 taxi model with New York City livery.
  • Though Nissan NV200 taxis are popping up, or about to, in markets all over the country, my test car was liveried for New York City where the model is now in service. It was NYC taxis and other fleet cars that honed the NV into the vehicle you see here; cabbies and passengers helped tailor its content to fit real needs.
  • From a passenger perspective, this means the luxury of room, if not luxurious materials. The rear bench seat has acres of legroom to go with just enough width to fit three abreast. There's also room for a fourth passenger in the front, though that sorry sucker will miss out on amenities like a really big rear entertainment screen (sadly non-functional in my demo car) and easily accessible 12-volt and USB charging ports. There are even independent climate controls for passengers that get too hot or cold.
  • As I mentioned, materials and surfaces tend towards durable and not stylish. Nissan tells me that the simulated leather seating surfaces are easy to clean, which I can believe, and also anti-microbial, which seems like a great idea. One extra effort against cold and flu season.
  • The driver's seat, meanwhile, has a breathable cloth surface on the seat bottom and back that is also a little bit grippy, for what it's worth. The seat itself is pretty flat and soft, perhaps designed to wear well, but it won't be the most supportive chair for long stints behind the wheel.
  • The driver also faces one of the most austere dashboards and instrument clusters I've seen in some time – though that's hardly unexpected for a work vehicle. The 5.8-inch infotainment display is unspectacular in view of regular passenger cars, but is kind of a high-end feature in this segment. Everything else, from the hard-surfaced steering wheel to the flinty gray and black plastics and the basic switchgear all seems aimed at long life and cost reduction.
  • Handling is actually very direct and nippy for the tall-but-short (wheelbase) NV200. Quick steering allows for easy maneuverability, both at low speeds and between lanes, and forward and lateral visibility are excellent, allowing for confident swashbuckling with traffic. Comparisons with the outgoing Ford Transit Connect are apt, and accurate.
  • And the powertrain? Well, I'll just say that each one of the 16-valve, 2.0-liter four's 131 horsepower are called into regular service. That power output, with 139 pound-feet of torque, is enough to move this little van around in city traffic without major penalty, but your 85-year-old, Lincoln Towncar-driving grandpa wouldn't be fooled into calling it "quick." Mat the throttle, listen to the continuously variable transmission let the engine drone, and check you watch – you're not going anywhere terribly soon. Hey, it's a taxi, not a racecar.
  • Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city (25 on the highway), which is about double what the ubiquitous Ford Crown Victoria cab is regularly reported as getting in service. Though it's fair to mention those figures are less impressive than those observed by the Ford Escape Hybrid cabs that have seen an explosion of popularity in NYC.
  • I'm hardly an expert, but this NV taxi feels as though it's smartly constructed for drivers and fleet companies, while still offering easy, comfortable transport for riders like you and me. And if you happened to see a version in Michigan, wearing NYC stickers and being driven by a large Dutchman, flag it down – you'll probably get a free ride and a high-five.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

2015 Ford Mustang fuel economy ratings leaked

Posted Aug 21st 2014 10:30AM

2015 Ford Mustang GT

Thinking about buying a new Mustang, but want to know what kind of fuel economy it'll get? Well we have our first indication as the pony-car enthusiasts over at have gotten a hold of the Monroney window stickers for a few of the new 2015 Mustang models.

Although the V8 model is not among them, we can now see how the EPA has rated those models with a half dozen pistons or less. The Mustang EcoBoost with the turbo four and a manual transmission has been rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. The V6 manual gets 17 city and 28 highway, while the V6 automatic squeezes out a bit more in the city at 19 mpg but carries the same 28 highway rating.

By way of comparison, the latest Chevy Camaro with the V6 and a stick shift gets the same 17/28 EPA rating as a similarly equipped new 'Stang, and the V6 automatic Camaro gets 18/27 (slightly behind the Ford, but if you opt for the Camaro 2LS with its V6, automatic and 2.92 rear axle ratio, you'll be looking at 19 and 30).

Dodge doesn't offer a manual on the six-cylinder Challenger, but with the new eight-speed automatic, it gets the same 19/30 rating as the Camaro 2LS, both better than the six-cylinder, automatic Mustang on the highway – though the EcoBoost has, as expected, emerged as the most fuel-efficient pony car on the market.
Related Gallery2015 Ford Mustang GT
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