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Plug In 2014: VIA makes the case for 'free' plug-in hybrid work vans, trucks

  • Exclusive
    Plug In 2014: VIA makes the case for 'free' plug-in hybrid work vans, trucks
  • Official
    2015 Toyota Prius Persona special edition arrives in September
  • Official
    Tesla, Panasonic officially partner up for Gigafactory
  • Rumormill
    2016 Chevy Volt to make auto show debut this season
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Japan's Prime Minister likes Toyota FCV's pickup, zero emissions

Posted Aug 1st 2014 7:46PM

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drives the Toyota fuel-cell vehicle

Japan's prime minister has a lead foot, apparently. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently had a photo op with Toyota's first production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, even getting behind the wheel for a spin (no chauffeur for him, so much respect on our part). His primary impression was that the car had great pickup, before settling on the more politically correct view of noting the vehicle's lack of emissions.

In the 87-second video below, we can see the prime minister's appreciation of the car's performance as Toyota Motor Corp. Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso dutifully rides shotgun. Abe also noted that he was "cheering" for the car's success.

And he will apparently do his part there. The Japanese government will provide incentives worth about $20,000 per vehicle, bringing down its out-of-pocket price to less than $50,000 from about $69,000. Toyota in June announced pricing on the sedan, which will start sales next spring. The car can go 435 miles on a full tank from a hydrogen refueling station, wherever those can be found.

Recent reports claim Toyota will name the model Mirai, which means "future" in Japanese, though the company hasn't made any official announcement. In the present, at least, it is making Japan's leader happy.

News Source: Toyota

Here's why our Lexus NX is uglier than the rest of the world's

Posted Aug 1st 2014 5:30PM

2015 Lexus NX 300h

Take a good look at the image above. That's the US-market Lexus NX 300h, and it looks, well... distinctive. Although the entire NX crossover sports styling that could certainly be described as controversial, it's the front end of the 'ute that seems to draw most of the ire, befitted as it is with Lexus' so-called spindle grill.

Now, take a look at the pair of images just below. The one on the left is from the States (the same model seen above), while the one on the right comes from Europe. Notice a difference? The lower front fascia of the European Lexus NX dips down much lower than the one from the US, and it looks much more refined because of it.

2015 Lexus NX 200t from the US2015 Lexus NX 200t from Europe

Why the disparity between the two designs? According to Top Gear Philippines, the reason why the US gets the more pointy proboscis is because of its classification as a light truck. It seems trucks are required to have some sort of concession to the car's approach angle – in other words, a truck should be able to clear an obstacle that a car might hit. Why does Lexus care if the NX is a car or truck? Well, that has to do with how fuel economy is reported, as trucks are given less-stringent requirements for Corporate Average Fuel Economy purposes.

We wish this weren't the case – the Lexus NX looks much better with its lower fascia in place. As it stands, though, you can still opt for the F Sport package on either the turbocharged NX 200t or hybrid NX 300h, which replaces the front end of the NX with a much more menacing, if not necessarily more attractive, fascia, along with other more overtly sporty finishing touches. Take a look at the 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport in our image gallery below, and tell us which version of the CUV you prefer.

News Source: Top Gear Philippines via Carscoops

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL

Plug In 2014: VIA makes the case for 'free' plug-in hybrid work vans, trucks

Who Makes More Money On Every Truck Sold, Chevy Or Chevron?

Posted Aug 1st 2014 3:14PM

Plug In 2014: VIA PHEV Passenger Van

If you're a fleet manager who's been waiting anxiously for the chance to buy a plug-in hybrid van from Via Motors, your wait is almost over. If you work for the right fleet, anyway.

David West, the chief marketing efficer for VIA Motors, took AutoblogGreen for a ride around the San Jose Convention Center in a Via van sporting an Electric Blue paint job as part of the Plug In 2014 Conference this week and gave us an update on how things are coming along. The big news is that the Via PHEV van production is going to start by the end of September. Via can currently build two vans an hour at its production plant in Mexico, or about 16 a day and could easily double that. "That would get us to 20,000 a year with two full lines running," West said. "We have the capacity."

"There is no way gas can compete with electric." – David West, Via Motors

But they can't sell that many quite yet. By the end of December, around 350 Vans will be made, mostly for a $20-million program from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District that will see the vehicles used by fleets that will report energy data to the Idaho National Lab. Via is also finishing up CARB certification for both the van and the company's plug-in hybrid pick-up truck. About 50 percent of Via's technology in the truck will not need to be tested again, since it's the same as what's in the van, but things like crash tests will need to be done twice.

Despite the progress, this is not where Via hoped it would be today. The bankruptcy of battery supplier A123, "took about a year off our timeline," West said. "It's been getting a little slow getting it to market, there have been some challenges, particuarly since we had the country's worst recession right in the middle of this wrap up, but it's inevitable in my mind. There is no way gas can compete with electric."

Maybe that's why FedEx has expressed an interest in buying around 5,000 units, West said. FedEx already has some pilot vehicles, just like Verizon does, and PG&E wants to replace all of their gas trucks with electric vehicles, which would be another 3,000 sales, he said. Besides the fuel savings, vehicles like these, with easy on-site power generation, could also work wonders in post-disaster situations, he said, since they could replace the need for generators.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

Nissan Leaf hits 3,000 sales in July, Chevy Volt climbs over 2,000

Posted Aug 1st 2014 11:27AM

NIssan Leaf and Chevy Volt

It was a good sales month for both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, with the two 'elder statesman' plug-in vehicles reaching numerical milestones in July. The Leaf sold 3,019 units and the Volt crossed the 2,000 sales level for the first time in 2014, hitting 2,020 sales. With Tesla also announcing it is delivering around 2,500 Model S EVs a month (but that's globally, compared to the US-only numbers for the Volt and Leaf we're talking about here) and Ford's plug-in vehicles selling well, we are certainly in a golden moment for EV sales.

The Volt was a bright spot for the Bowtie brand last month.

For the Volt, the 2,020 units sold represents a 13 percent increase from July of 2013 even thought year-to-date sales are down 8.7 percent this year compared to last year. Overall, total Chevrolet deliveries for July 2014 were up eight percent compared to 2013, so the Volt was a bright spot for the Bowtie brand last month.

On the Leaf front, this is only the second time that the EV has sold more than 3,000 units in a month (the other being in May of this year). The year-over-year increase for the Leaf was 62 percent in July and represents the 17th straight month of record sales, as Nissan is more than happy to report each month. Overall, Leaf sales are up 34.6 percent, year-to-date, and Nissan's director of Leaf sales and infrastructure, Brendan Jones, said in a statement that a free public charging incentive was responsible. "Since we launched the No Charge to Charge promotion in the first 10 markets, we've seen a surge in Leaf sales in those areas. Leaf sales in the northeastern US are also picking up with new tax incentives for Massachusetts and Maryland residents." With No Charge To Charge set to expand to 25 markets over the next year, we expect Leaf sales to continue to grow.

We will have our monthly look at all green car sales available soon, so stay tuned.

2015 Toyota Prius Persona special edition arrives in September

Posted Aug 1st 2014 9:29AM

2015 Toyota Prius Persona Special Edition in red

Is the Prius going into "Pimp My Ride" territory? A new official special edition model won't be lowered or have three-wheel motion or anything like that (though that'd be cool), but the world's best-selling hybrid is putting on a few stylish bells and whistles this September.

Toyota has announced something called the 2015 Prius Persona Series Special Edition. Included on the special variant will be 17-inch alloy wheels, a metallic exterior finish, heated power mirrors and chrome shift knob rings and door grips. Inside, you've got special badging and black SofTex fabric stitched with gray. The new Prius Persona will come in two colors: "Blizzard Pearl" and "Absolutely Red." The special edition has base price of $26,985, and the "Blizzard Pearl" option knocks it closer to the $27,400 mark and there's also the $895 (give or take) delivery fee.

Demand for the Prius in the US has plateaued recently as other automakers have broadened their selection of advanced-powertrain vehicles. Through the first half of the year, combined sales of the four Prius variants were down 11 percent from 2013 numbers to about 107,000 units, including about 63,000 of the standard sedans and almost 20,300 of the Prius C compact hybrids. Perhaps there are enough personas out there that sales will get a boost from this special edition. Take a look at Toyota's press release on the 2015 Prius Persona below.

LeefH2 wants to clean up pretty much every diesel engine

Posted Aug 1st 2014 7:57AM

hno green fuels leefh2 lvu

Imagine if a little bit of water could make your internal combustion engine run cleaner and more efficiently, and help it produce more oxygen than a tree. That's what the LeefH2 device is designed to help your motor do. HNO Green Fuels, the maker of the LeefH2, wants to turn your engine – and every other combustion engine – into an oxygen farm while reducing particulate matter and getting more power out of your fuel.

The LeefH2 is a relatively small device that attaches to an internal combustion engine. The larger, High Volume Unit (HVU) is 10 by 8.5 by 6.5 inches, while the smaller Low Volume Unit (LVU) is 9 by 6 by 5.5 inches. Most of the available literature focuses on cleaning up diesel engines, but the same technology can be applied to gasoline and jet engines, which have pollution problems of their own. The LeefH2 uses water to create hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen gets dumped directly into the atmosphere, while the hydrogen gets piped into the combustion chamber (it's not stored). In the cylinder, the hydrogen, rather than being used as fuel itself, helps provide more complete combustion of the fuel, as it burns faster than the standard mixture of air and fuel. Not only does this make the engine more efficient (reducing fuel consumption), it also reduces the amount of particulate matter in the exhaust.

So far, in EPA-approved lab tests, the LeefH2 has been able to reduce the particulate emissions of smaller diesel engines by 49 percent, and larger diesel engines by 43 percent. HNO is confident that it could eventually refine the technology to decrease particulate matter by 70 to 90 percent. HNO projects that a single HVU LeefH2 device can produce, on average, 365 pounds of oxygen per year. That's more than the average tree, says HNO, which produces 260 pounds of oxygen per year.

Right now, HNO is running a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo to raise money for the LeefH2 project. Contributors at the highest level will receive a working prototype of the LVU LeefH2. You can learn more about the LeefH2 in the videos below, or get more details at HNO's website.

News Source: HNO Green Fuels

Tesla delivers 7,579 Model S EVs in Q2, maybe picks Reno, NV for Gigafactory

There Are Now 156 Superchargers Installed Worldwide

Posted Jul 31st 2014 7:30PM

Tesla

When it comes to describing its situation, not even Bob Ross could paint a prettier picture than Tesla Motors. The California automaker has had a good few months and announced today that it delivered 7,579 Model S EVs in the second quarter of 2014. That's the most the company has ever delivered in a three-month period, reflecting an expanded market that now spans new countries in Asia and Europe. Tesla also built 8,763 vehicles in that time frame, another record, thanks to getting more cells from battery supplier Panasonic, and says it remains "on track for more than 35,000 deliveries in 2014."

Alongside the earlier announcement about the official Gigafactory announcement with Panasonic, the automaker also said today that it has broken ground on a "potential" location in Reno, NV, – validating earlier speculation – while it is still looking at locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Work at the site has mostly stopped for now, however, as the company doesn't want to begin pouring cement until state incentives are in place and a "compelling deal for all parties" has been struck. The ball in Nevada, according to CEO Elon Musk, is now in the hands of the state's governor and legislature.

The 7,579 vehicles delivered last quarter continue an upward-moving trend line. In all of 2012, Tesla sold 2,650 Model S EVs. For 2013, the company delivered 4,900 vehicles in Q1, 5,150 in Q2, 5,500 in Q3 and 6,892 in Q4. In 2014, Tesla sold 7,535 Model S EVs in Q1. Add in the 7,579 from Q2 this year, and you've got 15,100 or so, meaning that Tesla needs the next two quarters to average out at around 10,000 each in order to hit the 35,000-vehicle goal. Tesla expects 2015 to be even better, saying that the rate at which its expanding means that its, "annualized delivery rate should exceed 100,000 units by the end of next year." In other words, deliveries for Q4 2015 should be around 25,000 EVs.

A few other tidbits from the shareholder letter and today's conference call:
  • Tesla had a loss of $62 million last quarter.
  • The company's Fremont, CA factory is being upgraded to make the Model S and X on the same line and will be up and running next week.
  • Speaking of next week, the first operational Model X Alpha prototypes should be ready by next week.
  • Tesla expects North America to continue to contribute strong demand for its EVs, despite the Model S being available here for several years now. The company says, "we believe [North America and Europe] remain under-penetrated. We expect demand to continue to increase worldwide as we continue to grow our customer support infrastructure and broaden the appeal of our products, and as consumer awareness improves."
  • Model S drivers have driven 394 million miles in their fancy EVs so far.
  • Musk addressed the issue of drivetrain replacement, saying many early swaps were a result of problem misdiagnosis, including a couple performed on the vehicle belonging to Edmunds. A problem in some early drive units are being fixed with a 50-cent shim. Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja said that from a cost perspective, "impact on warranty reserves have not been significant."
  • A couple of times during the call with financial analysts, allusions were made to developments that are currently not on the radar. Apparently, Tesla is "not showing all our cards" and capital expenditures and R&D numbers are better than appear because "there are things you don't know about." Hmm.
Read more below or click through our gallery of the actual letter.
Related GalleryTesla Factory
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Image Credit: Paul Sakuma / AP

Edmunds' long-term Tesla Model S has been wonderful, woeful

Posted Jul 31st 2014 7:00PM

Tesla Model S

We generally don't report on other outlets' long-term model tests, but Edmunds just completed a 17-month ownership experience with a 2013 Tesla Model S. It's just too interesting not to share.

The site bought a 2013 Model S Performance model for the added range of its 85-kilowatt-hour battery and tossed on a good variety of options for a total price of $105,005, including a wall charger. In terms of driving the electric hatchback, the folks there seemed to love it. There were a few minor gripes, but for the most part it offered sufficient driving range, plenty of space and generally good quality.

However, the ownership experience was hardly flawless. The journalists there were never quite able to hit the Model S' promised range of 265 miles, with a best real-world result of 230.4 miles during their ownership. Also, while they had it, the Model S had a rash of unscheduled trips for service – seven times – and their Tesla left them stranded by the side of the road once.

These weren't just some minor quibbles, either. The drive unit was replaced three times and the main battery once. That massive center info screen had to be manually reset nine times and was completely replaced once, as well. Edmunds writers forgave some of the faults, though. Their Tesla was an early production model, and some of the fixes were a result of technical service bulletins. They never had to pay for any of it, other than buying a new set of tires.

While this is all anecdotal evidence based on just a single Model S, it doesn't make the Model S sound like an easy car to live with all the time. You can get the full skinny on the love/loathe affair directly from Edmunds by clicking here.

News Source: Edmunds

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Recharge Wrap-up: India plans to subsidize EVs, Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London

Posted Jul 31st 2014 5:56PM

london mayor boris johnson range extended electric metrocab

India is set to heavily subsidize conversion to electric vehicles with its National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The government will be providing automakers with cash to create electric cars. It will help customers pay for new electric vehicles, and a 35 percent subsidy for EVs and 25 percent incentive for plug-in hybrids has been proposed. The government will also subsidize kits to convert existing internal combustion vehicles to electric. Plans are in place to install chargers in hope of convincing drivers to make the switch to electric. The goal is to get 6 to 7 million electric vehicles on India's roads by 2020. Read more at The Asian Age.

The mayor of London wants to create an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London by 2020, he announced during the Corporation of the City of London Air Quality reception. To fight air pollution in the city, Mayor Boris Johnson is trying to convince the government to keep diesel vehicles not meeting the Euro 6 emissions standard, as well as gasoline vehicles registered before 2006, out of the district unless they pay 10 pounds to enter. He also wants to convince the European Commission to adopt his plan to limit NO2 emissions ten years ahead of the 2030 target. Read more about the ULEZ at the BBC's website.

Metrocab showed off its Range Extended Electric taxi during reception. As part of the ULEZ plan, all taxis would all be zero-emissions capable and only use electric power in the ULEZ. "The aim is to have 7,000 zero-emissions-capable taxis on the streets of London by 2020," Johnson says. Of the new Metrocab developed by Frazer-Nash and Ecotive, Lord Mayor Alderman Fiona Woolf says, "It's superb, an absolutely beautiful machine and a masterpiece of British engineering. Totally silent, it's the Rolls Royce of taxis and can do 100 mpg." Read more in the press release below.

News Source: The Asian Age, BBC, Metrocab

Image Credit: Metrocab

Infiniti to get Leaf-based electric sedan after all

Posted Jul 31st 2014 5:45PM

Infiniti LE

Infiniti suffered a huge blow a few weeks ago when CEO Johan de Nysschen jumped ship after two years on the job to take the helm at Cadillac. As boss, he spearheaded change within the Japanese luxury brand and was among the biggest champions of the Q50 Eau Rouge. However, the company is far from sunk. Plans put in place prior to de Nysschen leaving are still on the table, according to Nissan product planner Andy Palmer to Automotive News, and that could mean a rosy future for the once AWOL LE sedan (pictured above) and other models.

Back in 2012, Infiniti promised that it would have the LE on the market as a premium electric sedan by 2014. It was supposed to share the battery pack with the Nissan Leaf but with a more powerful, 134-horsepower motor. But have you seen one on the road recently? The luxury EV was eventually shelved, but de Nysschen pledged the idea wasn't dead. Maybe now is a better time for it. According to Automotive News, the LE is rescheduled to launch in 2017 or 2018. The latest version would use the Leaf platform but with a more potent, next-gen battery to give it a range over 90 miles.

Of course, the LE isn't the only thing on the way from Infiniti; it also appears to be planning a two-pronged approach for small cars. Palmer recently tweeted that the company would build the forthcoming Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover in the UK in 2015. Additionally, the automaker is firing up a new joint venture factory in Mexico with Mercedes-Benz; building compact models there starting in 2017. According Automotive News, the Mexican-built models will be more US-focused while the UK-built ones will appeal more to Europeans.

Finally, it looks like de Nysschen's plan for a flagship Infiniti sedan may still see the road too around 2018. It will be called either the Q80 or Q90 and use four-door coupe styling with a turbocharged V6 boasting about 600 horsepower, according to AN. For a guy who is no longer with the company, he appears to still be casting a long shadow over its future products.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Hyundai readying Juke rival with 'edgy, dynamic styling' for 2017

Posted Jul 31st 2014 4:58PM

2011 Hyundai Curb Concept

Love it or hate it, the Nissan Juke has drawn attention to itself and to its maker. Little wonder, then, that Hyundai wants to follow a similar formula.

According to our compatriots over at Edmunds, Hyundai has a whole raft of new products in the works – as you'd expect from the world's fourth-largest automaker – including replacements for the current Tucson and Elantra sometime next year, but also a subcompact crossover to target the Juke, not to mention tiny softroading rivals like the forthcoming Chevrolet Trax. Details at this point are few and far between, but it appears Hyundai is committed to making it as zany as the Nissan it will target. The Korean automaker revealed the Curb concept (pictured above) along similar lines at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski tells Edmunds not to expect a mini Tuscon, but to "Think of maybe something that looks like a Juke or something that has edgy, dynamic styling." Considering how off-the-map Hyundai went with the Veloster and its unconventional array of doors, we know the Korean automaker can think outside the box for this Gen-Y crossover. Whether the edge tiny CUV market has space for more than the Juke, however, is another matter. One way or another, look for the tiny Korean crossover to arrive sometime in 2017.
Related GalleryHyundai Curb Concept
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News Source: Edmunds

8 automakers, 15 utilities collaborate on open smart-charging for EVs

Posted Jul 31st 2014 3:57PM



We're going to lead with General Motors here. GM is one of eight automakers working with 15 utilities and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) at developing a "smart" plug-in vehicle charging system. Why did we start with GM? Because it's the first automaker whose press release we read that mentioned the other seven automakers. Points for sharing.

For the record, the collaboration also includes BMW, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Ford. The utilities include DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.

The idea is to develop a so-called "demand charging" system in which an integrated system lets the plug-ins and utilities communicate with each other so that vehicle charging is cut back at peak hours, when energy is most expensive, and ramped up when the rates drop. Such entities say there's a sense of urgency to develop such a system because the number of plug-in vehicles on US roads totals more than 225,000 today and is climbing steadily.

There's a lot of technology involved, obviously, but the goal is to have an open platform that's compatible with virtually any automaker's plug-in vehicle. No timeframe was disclosed for when such a system could go live but you can find a press release from EPRI below.

News Source: EPRI, BMW, Honda, General Motors

Image Credit: General Motors

Tesla selling like gangbusters in China

Posted Jul 31st 2014 1:57PM

Earns Tesla

"Will it play in Peoria?" asks the age-old question about how Broadway shows would be received in Middle America. Well, apparently Tesla Motors plays well in Beijing. It's part of Tesla chief Elon Musk's grand plan, of course.

The California-based maker of the battery-electric Model S has delivered about 1,000 of the vehicles in China since shipments started there in April, Bloomberg News says, citing Dougherty & Co. analyst Andrea James, Barclays Plc analyst Brian Johnson and Wedbush Securities analyst Craig Irwin. Tesla also started shipping its first right-had drive Model S sedans to the UK in June.

It is estimated that all those deliveries helped push Tesla's second-quarter global vehicle deliveries close to the 7,550 mark, which is more than the company forecast and would set a new quarterly record (Tesla's second-quarter results will be announced later today). It would also mark about a 45 percent jump from Tesla's 2Q sales a year ago.

The Model S is priced at about $120,000 US in China (the culprits include the top-of-the-line battery pack as standard equipment and steep taxes that the government charges on vehicle imports) but that hasn't swayed status-conscious buyers from footing the bill, apparently. Tesla declined to comment on the China sales estimate when contacted by AutoblogGreen but we may learn more later today.

News Source: Bloomberg News

Image Credit: Ng Han Guan / AP Photo

MyCarma surpasses crowdfunding goal of $25,000

Posted Jul 31st 2014 11:54AM



MyCarma, you had us at the "electric fist bump." The smartphone app maker's myEV "electric-vehicle logger" app recently set out on a crowd-funding campaign to raise $25,000 on Indiegogo. And the outfit beat the deal by about $3,400, getting cash from 205 backers in the process.

myEV is now set to debut in October. It can track energy use and state-of charge on 'nearly all' production plug-in vehicles (it'll be compatible with 33 models when it launches in the fall). The smartphone app reveals a ton of data related to battery-charging levels and energy consumption. And the product even has a social-media element by letting people compare energy consumption of their plug-ins and theoretically brag about it.

The product will also include a window sticker with a QR code. That code lets other plug-in drivers notify you – in a "privacy-protected way," of course – to ask if they can unplug your vehicle from a charging station. That's where the "electric fist bump" comes in. Or maybe another gesture if you say they can't unplug you. But we'll try to stay positive here.

In addition to those fist bumps, backers of myEV will get to buy the product at a discounted rate. Check out MyCarma's blog post announcing the campaign's success below, and link to a video about the product below.

News Source: MyCarma via Transport Evolved

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