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Tesla halts production to prep for Model X

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    Tesla halts production to prep for Model X
  • Report
    Opel dropping Ampera, the European Chevy Volt, because of weak sales
  • Featured
    Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age
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    Smart Fortwo, Forfour reborn with fresh styling on new platform [w/video]
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Japan offering $20,000 incentives for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 7:57PM

That tailwind Toyota may be feeling in Japan won't be from a stiff breeze off the northern Pacific Ocean. The Japanese automaker is getting ready to start selling its first production hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in its native country next year. And the government is ponying up real big in incentives, Reuters says.

The Japanese government will provide incentives worth about $20,000 per fuel-cell vehicle, Reuters reports, citing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That sort of government money will bring Toyota's first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to the customer at under $50,000. Just so we're clear, Japan's incentives for battery-electric vehicles top out at about $8,500. That sound you hear is a bunch of Nissan executives tearing their hair out.

Last month, Toyota said the price for the fuel-cell sedan would be about $69,000 in Japan, and while the company hasn't priced it for US consumption, the word's out that the car may be in the $50,000 range stateside. The fuel-cell sedan, which has a full-tank range of about 300 miles, goes on sale in Japan next April and will start sales in Europe and the US next summer. Honda is also debuting its first production fuel-cell vehicle next year, so Toyota's got company among automakers who are probably all raising a glass and saying "kampai" to the Japanese government right about now.
Related GalleryToyota FCV Reveal
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News Source: Reuters, Automotive News-subs.req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey / AOL

Seoul moves to ban Uber, create own app

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 6:01PM

Barcelona Cabs Strike Against Uber Taxi App

The ridesharing service Uber promises to connect people needing a lift with drivers offering one, and it appears to be pretty useful. After all, you can use it to summon Optimus Prime. For many cab drivers around the world, though, the app is basically the bane of their existence. The French passed a law mandating wait times before pickups in January, and 30,000 European cabbies staged a mass protest in June. The latest group hoping to ban Uber is the government of Seoul, South Korea.

The government in the South Korean capital city claims that the app is illegal because the vehicles shuttling users around aren't registered as taxis, according to the Wall Street Journal's Korea Realtime blog. The attempted ban is only the latest shot across the bow of Uber in Seoul. Officials fined a driver 1 million won ($974) for picking up passengers using the service in April. The authorities say that an alternative is on the way in December that would allow clients to hail legal cabs from their smartphones.

"Comments like these show Seoul is in danger of remaining trapped in the past and getting left behind by the global 'sharing economy' movement," said Uber in a statement to the WSJ. Other locales facing how to cope with the influx of the service's users have instituted driver limits and implemented background checks.

News Source: Wall Street Journal Korea Realtime

Image Credit: David Ramos / Getty Images

Recharge Wrap-up: Nissan Leaf in Puerto Rico, BMW i3 REx tax-free in NJ, BC2BC cancelled

US and China Sign MOU On EVs, Energy

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 4:00PM

nissan leaf

Envia Systems will develop battery technology for United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), a subsidiary of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR). The $7.7 million contract, co-funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE), involves a 36-month development program focusing on high-energy cathode and anode material for lithium-ion batteries and pouch cells for electric vehicles. The goal, of course, is to create better energy storage for less money in an effort to make commercial EVs more efficient and affordable. For the DOE, this also equates to energy security, energy independence and national security. Read more in the press release at the bottom of the page.

The US and China have agreed to work together more closely on EVs, energy and climate issues. US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz went to Beijing for the sixth US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue to meet with leaders. While there, Moniz and Wu Xinxiong of China's National Energy Administration (NEA) signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the DOE and NEA to share information regarding oil reserves. The groups will meet yearly to learn more about how each other manages petroleum stockpiles and policy. Moniz also met with Minister Miao Wei of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and signed an MOU to cooperate on electric vehicles and "related technologies," including the "inter-operability of electric vehicles." Read more at the Energy Department website.

August's BC2BC all-electric vehicle rally, billed as the largest gathering of electric vehicles, has been cancelled. The event, which was to include a drive up the entire coast from Mexico to British Columbia with smaller events along the route, failed to bring in the needed sponsorship to hold the rally for its third year. A Facebook post from organizer Tony Williams also cited loss of venue and lack of support from automakers - "particularly Nissan and Tesla" - as hardships. The event was scheduled to take place August 9 through 17, with only battery electric vehicles invited to take part - no plug-in hybrids or range-extended vehicles. Williams said he'd only try a similar event in the future if sponsorship were provided up front. Read more at Green Car Reports.

The Nissan Leaf will finally go on sale in Puerto Rico. A new law called Act 81 provides a 100-percent excise tax exemption for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, which will save customers $7,070.76 that would otherwise have been added to the car's $33,480 price tag. Nissan has also worked with Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to expand the EV charging network on the island. These changes have made it feasible for Nissan and distributor Motorambar to sell the Leaf in Puerto Rico. The car was unveiled on the island at an event on July 15 at the Museum of Transportation in Guaynabo. See the Caribbean Business for more details.

The BMW i3 REx is now included in New Jersey's sales tax exemption for zero-emissions vehicles. Reversing an earlier decision, the range-extended version of the i3 is now included on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's list of qualifying vehicles. The range extender is a $3,850 option for the BMW i3, but with the tax included, the base i3 REx would cost over $7,000 more than the dedicated EV. Now, customers can enjoy holding onto the $3,000+ tax, as well as the peace of mind of having the range extending generator handy if the battery runs low. Read more at Inside EVs.
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2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf

News Source: USCAR,, Green Car Reports, Caribbean Business, BMW, Inside EVs

Image Credit: Nissan

Tesla halts production to prep for Model X

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 2:15PM

Tesla Model X

That darling of the electric car world, Tesla, is idling production at its factory in Fremont, CA, for the first time in order to expand the factory in preparation for its future Model X crossover. The $100-million renovation will add 25 robots and upgrades to the body shop and assembly line to support the new vehicle.

Since it will be offering two models simultaneously, Tesla will need to be able to keep up with the pace of demand. "This represents the single biggest investment in the plant since we really started operations and enables us for higher volumes," said Tesla spokesperson Simon Sproule to Bloomberg. The new robots will be able to boost production by 25 percent and will allow the automaker to build the Model S and Model X on the same assembly line. There won't be too much downtime at the California plant, though. The upgrades will be finished within the next two weeks.

With these factory updates, the Model X may finally get its electrically powered wheels on the road. The CUV has been delayed multiple times since its announcement. It was originally supposed to be on sale in early 2014, then later in the year, but now the latest news from Elon Musk places the crossover's launch in the second quarter of 2015.

Until the Model X is on sale, the renovations should also provide a nice lift in Model S assembly. In the company's first quarter financial report, Tesla said that it expected the sedan's production rate to grow from about 700 cars per week to 1,000 per week by the end of the year, with the expectation of selling a total of 35,000 of them in 2014. That should help quell demand in new markets like the UK and expansion in Europe.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

Smart spotted testing new Brabus Fortwo

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 11:30AM

2015 Smart Fortwo Brabus prototype

By now AMG has produced versions of just about everything Mercedes makes, right down to the A-Class, CLA and GLA. But while even the smallest of Benzes have fallen under Affalterbach's knife, Daimler's performance division steers clear of the Smart brand and its products. For that, the German automaker collaborates with another legendary Silver Star tuner.

Brabus first worked its magic on the original Smart Fortwo in 2003, packing a warmed-over 700cc engine with 74 horsepower along with upgraded aero and rolling stock. The second-generation Brabus model took things further with a 101-hp 1.0-liter engine and other go-fast(er) goodies. And now that the new Fortwo is upon us, it looks like Brabus is at it again.

Spied with a camo wrap but no visible body cladding, the new Brabus city car is expected to pack more of a punch than its predecessors, with estimates ranging from 105 to 120 hp – which may not be much for most cars, but promises to transform the Smart into something more aggressive, especially when paired with a sportier suspension, dual exhaust and aero kit.

Expect the new Brabus Smart to debut sometime next year, after which it'll be interesting to see how it might square off against a future Renaultsport version of the Twingo with which the new Smart cars share their rear-engined underpinnings.

Image Credit: CarPix

Production Acura NSX spied getting sharper on the 'Ring

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 10:44AM

Acura hasn't been shy about trotting out the concept version of its upcoming NSX hybrid supercar – we've seen it colorized on Facebook, wearing Super GT drag and running wrapped at Mid Ohio – but until now, we've missed seeing the production version at all. Thankfully, our boys in the field have been diligently camped out by the Nürburgring, just the place for Acura engineers to get the NSX shaken down and ready for the public.

The first thing you'll likely notice (and no doubt appreciate) is that Acura is staying very true to the concept car. The same wind-tunnel-carved wedge shape is in evidence in the car's silhouette, and details like aggressively scalloped engine vents behind the cabin have made it through unscathed.

We do notice that there are some vertical elements at the bottom of the front fascia/grille that appear to be revised, and the mirrors are considerably less slinky than those of the concept car. Still, by and large, we're seeing a direct translation from show stand to real life here.

There haven't been any revelations about the powertrain in recent weeks, so expect the NSX to come fitted with a 400-plus-horsepower V6 engine mounted amidships, along with a series of electric motors for added grunt. Two of the electric powerplants are expected to turn the front wheels, and effect the most impressive-yet version of Acura's Super Handling All Wheel Drive.
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Image Credit: CarPix

Daimler: 2017 the right time to launch our hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 10:02AM

Zero-emissions vehicle development has never focused purely on off-the-line acceleration. So when a research executive with Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler says it's Okay that companies like Toyota and Hyundai will have a head start selling hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, it's somewhat believable. But is Daimler really fine with being two years behind? It appears so.

Daimler plans on debuting its first fuel-cell vehicle in 2017, Automotive News says, citing an interview Automobilwoche had with Daimler's corporate research chief Herbert Kohler. The German automaker estimated about a decade ago that it would be able to get fuel-cell production costs down to an "acceptable" level in 2012, but it turns out that estimate was about five years too aggressive. Daimler originally started leasing out a limited number of its F-Cell hydrogen vehicles in the US for $849 a month, though later brought that down to $599 a month.

Daimler says it received a boost in its effort to accelerate fuel-cell powertrain development when it reached an agreement early last year with Nissan and Ford to work together on speeding up relevant powertrain technology. While Toyota's first fuel-cell vehicle in Japan is priced at almost $70,000 (before big government incentives kick in), Kohler says Daimler's first fuel-cell vehicle will be priced similar to a hybrid vehicle. Of course, that's a Mercedes-Benz hybrid we're talking about here, but still.

Beating Tesla's coast-to-coast time in a Model S

Posted Jul 22nd 2014 8:01AM

Tesla Model S Sedan # Vb

A Tesla Model S. A race across the country. An average driving speed of 63 miles per hour. Now which part of that doesn't jibe?

A pair of drivers from has set out to beat Tesla Motors' own cross-country time record by taking a Model S from Los Angeles (technically, Redondo Beach) to New York. And beat it they did, finishing the 3,332-mile route in 67 hours and 21 minutes, which was faster than Tesla's time by eight hours and 44 minutes. What's all the more impressive is that the pair had to recharge the car at Tesla's Superchargers 23 times, with an average of 38 minutes per stop, meaning that more than 14 hours were spent sitting still in recharge mode.

And while the car is as fast as it is quiet, Edmunds had to curb its enthusiasm on the throttle to ensure the EV got from Supercharger A to Supercharger B and so on, hence the relatively pedestrian average driving speed of 63 miles per hour. Case in point was the 223-mile run between Las Vegas and Beaver, Utah, which was the longest stretch between Superchargers and included a 5,000-foot elevation climb. That caused the team to bring its highway speed down to about 50 miles per hour in order to avoid being stranded by the roadside. Read about how they made it over on Edmunds.

News Source:

Image Credit: Wolfram Burner / Flickr

Schaeffler Step2 Asks: To gear or not to gear an electric vehicle?

Posted Jul 21st 2014 7:58PM

schaeffer step2 silvretta e-car rally

German manufacturing company Schaeffler ran its own Step2 electric car in the Silvretta E-Car Rally in Austria. The car is a Volkswagen Golf, stripped of its internal combustion guts and equipped with an electric powertrain supplied by one of Schaeffler's subsidiaries. The thing that makes the Step2 a little different, though, is the inclusion of a two-speed transmission.

Most electric cars use a single gear to transfer power from the motor to the wheels, but Schaeffler is re-thinking the status quo.

Tesla Motors famously started with a two-speed transmission but then ditched that strategy and today most electric cars use a single gear to transfer power from the motor to the wheels, and have no problems with drivability thanks to a relatively flat torque curve. This is great: smooth, comfortable driving, no costly transmission maintenance, no waiting for power while shifting, no added weight from the bulky gearbox. Plus, it's not ludicrous to think that including the unnecessary transmission with multiple gears would be less efficient due to mechanical losses. But Schaeffler is re-thinking the status quo.

In the E-Car Rally, the goal is not to complete the course in the least amount of time, but rather using the least amount of energy, and the alpine driving event allowed Schaeffler to put the Step2 to the test. The rally, as well as other driving tests and simulations, has shown that by using the two-speed transmission with a low and high ratio, the car is actually more efficient. The group reports the gearbox-equipped Step2 reduces energy consumption by about six percent.

With greater efficiency, obviously, the car also can drive farther on a single charge. Shaeffler's vice president of automotive research and development, Uwe Wagner, says, "With a two-speed gearshift system, a low ratio for high tractive force and a high ratio for good overall efficiency also at high driving speeds, we offer higher dynamics and at the same time we achieve a longer range of electric operation."

The Step2 sounds like a fairly simple conversion from a standard internal combustion car. Beyond replacing the powertrain, fuel tank and exhaust system with an electric motor, battery and the two-speed transmission, little else was changed. Schaeffler modified the front axle, but left the steering and brakes alone. No regenerative braking to boost the efficiency numbers here. In terms of power, its output peaks at 70 kilowatts (about 94 horsepower), with 50 kilowatts (67 horsepower) offered in continuous operation. Learn more about Schaeffler's Step2 in the press release, below.

News Source: Schaeffler

Recharge Wrap-up: LG to power 200-mile EV, Formula E Buenos Aires track revealed

Volvo, ABB Fast-Charging Buses; Brazilian Ethanol Gets Corny

Posted Jul 21st 2014 5:57PM

formula e buenos aires eprix

Formula E has revealed the circuit layout for the Buenos Aires ePrix, which will take place on January 10, 2015. The 1.5-mile track designed by Santiago Garcia Remohi features 12 turns of varying speeds. Bruno Senna, driver for Mahindra Racing, says, "Looking at the track, you have to say it's got a good combination of corners. There's a chicane, some high-speed turns with a change of direction and slow-speed as well." The third race of the all-electric series' inaugural season will take place in the city's Puerto Madero district. It is the fifth of 10 tracks that Formula E has revealed so far. Read more at Formula E's website and check out the interactive track map here.

LG Chem says its batteries will power electric cars with driving ranges greater than 200 miles in 2016. The company's CFO, Cho Suk-jeh, didn't specify which cars when making the statement, but LG Chem currently supplies batteries for General Motors, Renault, Hyundai, Kia, Ford and Volvo. Last year, former GM CEO Dan Akerson said that the automaker was working on a 200-mile EV. LG is also officially working with Renault on long-range EVs. Reuters has more.

In Brazil, where ethanol is generally made from sugarcane, a glut of corn has lead to lower prices, causing at least one ethanol producer to favor the grain over the cane. Based in a remote part of the country where corn is grown, Usimat plans to increase corn-based ethanol output from 67,000 metric tons to 100,000 metric tons this year, while some sugarcane-based mills are closing. "We are living in a cane hell and corn heaven," says Usimat manager Sergio Barbieri, who pays $6.73 per bag of corn, as opposed to $8.07 for sugarcane. More corn-based ethanol projects are being considered in the corn-producing region of Mato Grosso. Head over to Reuters for more.

Volvo is partnering with Swiss engineering group ABB to bring fast-charging electric and hybrid buses to commuters around in other countries. The two groups are kicking off the partnership with a project putting 12 of Volvo's Electric Hybrid buses, along with automatic chargers provided by ABB, to use in Luxembourg's public transit system. As public transportation needs increase, the two companies hope to offer an affordable and sustainable option for urban mobility. Read more at Reuters.

News Source: Formula E, Reuters, Reuters, Reuters

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive gets official US launch

Posted Jul 21st 2014 3:58PM

Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED

It's finally time to plug in the first production Mercedes-Benz-branded electric vehicle in the US. The Daimler division, which also sells a few of its battery-electric Smart ForTwo vehicles here in the states, has officially launched sales of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED. Even better, the US will be the first market in the world to give the general public access to the new plug-in.

As with many other EV debuts, the flyover states will have to wait a bit. Mercedes-Benz is only selling the B-Class ED in 10 coastal states, including California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Maine, and hasn't said anything about when a broader release might happen.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Energy rated the B-Class electric with an 87-mile single-charge range, which is comparable to that of the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. The other shoe dropped, though, when it was revealed that the model has an 84 miles per gallon equivalent rating, which is about 30 percent less then both of those other EVs. The culprit for the model, which puts out 177 horsepower and has a base price of $41,150, is its heavier curb weight. Check out Autoblog's "First Drive" impressions here.

News Source: Mercedes-Benz, InsideEVs

Opel dropping Ampera, the European Chevy Volt, because of weak sales

Posted Jul 21st 2014 2:15PM

Opel Ampera

Sales of the Chevy Volt in the US have been fairly stable for the last few months (between a low of 1,478 and a high of 1,777 since March), but in Europe, the Opel Ampera (sister-vehicle of the Volt) has been trending downwards. The sales decline is prompting discussion that the vehicle will be killed off in Europe, according to Automotive News Europe.

The car was a relative hit back in 2012, when it was named the European Car Of The Year and sales topped 5,200 units. Compared to 2012 numbers, which were good, Ampera sales dropped 40 percent to fewer than 3,200 in 2013 despite a massive price cut. They are down another 67 percent so far in 2014 and the car has sold just 332 units through the end of May. That's why, according to ANE, the Ampera will be discontinued once Chevy introduces the 2016 Volt in late 2015 (we've got spy shots here). The current Volt and the the Ampera are identical except for the front fascia, and it doesn't make sense to rebadge the new Volt for Opel if they're not even selling a thousand copies per year.

As far as an official word on the company's plans, Opel's Andrew Marshall told AutoblogGreen that the only thing the company is saying right now is that, "We do not comment on potential future product plans." That's vague, sure, but it's also not a resounding vote of confidence for the European Volt. Of course, GM's manager of Electrification Technology Communications, Kevin Kelly, told AutoblogGreen the same thing about the Volt's future when we asked about it based on the Ampera rumors, so we should probably just admit that no one's saying anything official about anything just yet.
Related GalleryOpel Ampera
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Smart highlights safety of new Fortwo by crashing into much bigger brother

Posted Jul 21st 2014 11:01AM

Smart ForTwo versus S-Class crash test

Smart is just getting ready to launch its new Fortwo and Forfour minicars, riding on a completely different platform, and the diminutive brand wants to show that its latest creations can stand up to some serious abuse. For such a tiny car, the crashworthiness of the Smarts is a legitimate concern when taking on larger, heavier vehicles. To prove their survivability, the company filmed a head-on collision pitting the latest Fortwo against a Mercedes-Benz S-Class weighing more than twice as much.

When it unveiled the latest cars, Smart touted that it crash-tested them against the larger Mercedes-Benz C-Class and S-Class. Among their updates, the Fortwo and Forfour use a substructure containing ultra-high strength, hot-formed steel and maximum-strength, multiphase steel. They also have larger crumple zones.

Of course, Smart can make all the claims that it wants about the cars' safety, but actually showing it to people is much more convincing. At 5,088 pounds, the S-Class dominates the 2,478-pound Fortwo in terms of weight. Scroll down to see how the little hatchback fares against the more expensive, luxury sedan in a 31-mile-per-hour frontal crash.

News Source: Daimler AG via YouTube

SAE announces J2601 hydrogen fueling standard

Posted Jul 21st 2014 9:57AM

Standardizing refueling systems isn't a quick process, and a new set of fueling standards for hydrogen stations were about 13 years in the making. But SAE International (SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers) said this week that it finally settled on a hydrogen refueling standard for light-duty vehicles. For the record, it's called SAE J2601.

The standard is for both 35 and 70 megapascals (MPa) pressure systems for commercial refueling of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Most importantly, the standards allow for a refueling time in the three- to five-minute timeframe, which is comparable to the time it takes to fill up the tank with gasoline – at least one that's not on a semi truck.

Automakers are just starting to get the ball rolling on production-ready hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Hyundai's first Tucson fuel-cell crossovers showed up in California in May. And Toyota, which has long maintained that it will debut its first production hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in 2015, may have some of those cars in showrooms by the end of the year, perhaps starting in the $78,000 range.

Granted, there are just a dozen hydrogen fueling stations in the US, including 10 in California, one in Connecticut and one in South Carolina (Los Angeles just added another one in May). This spring, Toyota and FirstElement Fuel Inc., which is headed by ex-GM and Hyundai executive Joel Ewanick, said they would work together on a project that would add as many as 19 hydrogen refueling stations in California during the next few years. You can check out SAE International's press release below.

News Source: SAE International

Image Credit: Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey | Toyota / AOL


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