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Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid could preview next attack on Toyota's champion

  • Spy Shots
    Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid could preview next attack on Toyota's champion
  • Exclusive
    Surprise Costs Have A Cost: Why we turned down the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell
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    Tesla announces 'infinite mile warranty' for Model S EV drive unit
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    Renovo Coupe electric supercar offers 500 HP for just $529,000 [w/video]
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Tar Sands vs. EVs

Posted Aug 20th 2014 7:55PM

tar oil sands

It's pretty common knowledge - especially if you're the type to regularly visit sites such as AutoblogGreen and its ilk - that it's simply cheaper to drive a mile on electrical power than on gasoline. We also know that it is inefficient to convert oil sands into usable fuel relative to other sources of oil. Yet the demand for gasoline remains high, mining the tar sands of Canada remains profitable and it has also undeniably created a lot of jobs, so that petroleum is coming out of the ground.

For a deeper look at the economics, look at this article from Hybrid Cars, which breaks down (and even quantifies) what is involved in producing gasoline from the bitumen mined in places like Fort McMurray, Alberta, and how that compares in cost and efficiency to filling up from the socket. Basically, it takes a certain amount electricity and natural gas to turn the bitumen into a gallon of gasoline in a multi-step process that even consumes some of its own product. It is much more efficient and economical to convert that natural gas into electricity to power our vehicles. The author compares it to feeding bread to cows instead of grain, with the oil sands crude industry as the baker.

Plug-in vehicles eliminate the middleman, along with the associated costs. And though the electric car industry is still young, it is here to stay, and will only grow and improve. What impact will this have on tar sands operations? The conclusion is powerful, particularly after following the journey of the tar sands to the gas tank. Dig deep over at Hybrid Cars.

News Source: Hybrid Cars

Image Credit: Jennifer Grant, Pembina Institute

Should self-driving cars be equipped with adjustable ethics?

Posted Aug 20th 2014 6:31PM

Nissan Leaf autonomous car, front three-quarter view.

Autonomous cars are piloting their way into the wide philosophical sea of ethics. Right now the autonomous cars are unaware of this because the driver's will always comes first, but when we start getting cars that can overrule commands or choose a particular ethical outcome either without or in spite of driver input, we'll have a lot of decisions to make. Which means we have a lot of decisions to start considering right now.

Patick Lin considers some of them in a piece in Wired, starting with the trolley problem - whether a person who has control of a runaway trolley should let it kill five people tied to the track without intervention, or should pull a lever so that only one person on another track is killed. From there, he wonders about the possibility of fixed ethics settings, created by manufacturers, versus user-adjustable ethics settings that, for example, allow a driver to prioritize his own safety over others, or prioritize the safety of children over that of the elderly.

Lin admits that the examples are outrageous in order to stress the point of the question. Still, it's worth a read because we already have cars that can make driving decisions, and it might not be long before "Five-Mode Adjustable Prime Directive" shows up on the options sheet. Head over to Wired to read the full piece.

News Source: Wired

Image Credit: Nissan

Sakti3 says 480-mile EVs possible using safe, affordable solid state batteries

Posted Aug 20th 2014 5:59PM

Sakti3 safety video

Every now and then, we hear a little bit more information from the Michigan battery company Sakti3, which is somewhat secretly working on advanced solid state lithium batteries. In March, for example, the company was named an affiliate of the US Department of Energy's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). This week, according to GigaOM, Sakti3's founder Ann Marie Sastry announced that its solid state li-ion battery will be able to double the range of an electric car (or, make things like cell phones last twice as long between charges). If applied to a vehicle like the Tesla Model S, that would mean 480 miles on one charge. This should permanently remove the phrase "range anxiety" from our vocabulary, shouldn't it?

Even more interesting is the claim that Sakti3 believes these batteries could be had for just $100 per kWh, well under not only today's costs but also the predictions others have made for the near future. Of course, the batteries are not here yet, but the company says its test packs were made on "fully scalable equipment," implying that the time to put up or shut up should be here soon, don't you think?

Another bit of news, if we can call it that, is a video that is supposed to show what happens when you drop hot soldering material onto one of the Sakti3 cells: basically, nothing and the cell continues to work safely. Note, though, that the title of the video is "Please DO NOT try this with your own battery!" which is just good advice. Watch the audio-free clip below.

Despite the relatively low profile, Sakti3 has been able to get investment attention. The company got $4.2 million from GM Ventures and Itochu in 2010 and $2.5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in 2008, for example. In total, Sakti3 has received over $30 million for its better-battery tech. We're ready for the cars any time now.

News Source: Sakti3 via YouTube, GigaOM

BMW, Sixt carsharing making money most places

Posted Aug 20th 2014 4:31PM

bmw activee

The DriveNow carsharing service, which is a partnership between BMW and Sixt, is growing quite rapidly. "We've been surprised about the explosion of new subscriptions, which has helped boost revenue," says Sixt CEO Erich Sixt. The number of DriveNow users has increased from 215,000 at the end of last year to 300,000 today.

Sixt says that DriveNow has been profitable in cities in which it has been established for over a year. Perhaps encouraged by its unexpected success, DriveNow is set to expand even further. The service is currently available in five German cities, as well as in San Francisco, California, and the involved parties are considering a five-year plan to expand to 25 more cities in Europe and the US.

Still, Sixt expects DriveNow to report a "small-to-medium, single-digit" loss for this year, according to Sixt CFO Julian zu Putlitz. It's no big deal, just the result of startup costs in new areas. Sixt, which is Germany's largest car rental company, also reported that its own second-quarter income rose 12 percent to $37.7 million, while sales rose 7.6 percent to $585.78 million.

DriveNow uses a membership and pay-per-minute model that allows customers to rent BMW and Mini vehicles as they need them. The service also acts as a way to let potential customers try out the vehicles and familiarize themselves with the brands before they buy cars of their own at some point. Depending on the location, DriveNow's fleet includes the BMW 1 Series, ActiveE and X1, as well as several Mini vehicles like the Cooper, Clubman and Countryman.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid could preview next attack on Toyota's champion

Posted Aug 20th 2014 2:01PM

Hyundai Prius-Fighter Hybrid spy shot

Hyundai is no stranger to the hybrid game, selling a gas-electric version of the Sonata in the US since 2011. The 2015-model-year version gets 38 miles per gallon combined, which is certainly admirable but not quite in the same league as the hybrid champion Toyota Prius (50 mpg combined). New spy shots reveal that Hyundai might be finally ready to targeting the non-plug-in fuel economy leader. Why else would some mysterious Hyundai prototypes be cruising through the desert hills with a few Priuses in tow?

Our photographers believe these mules hint at an all-new hybrid model, which makes us think of the Blue Will concept from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. At the time, Hyundai said the concept could be a preview of a future dedicated hybrid that would compete with the Prius.

We don't know what it all means for sure, but our spy photographers found four heavily modified Elantra GT prototypes driving around with a standard Prius and a Prius V. As if that wasn't enough of a clue, the four changed Elantras represent different approaches Hyundai might be using to go after Toyota, since there were two versions driving by our photographer's lenses, with different rear extensions indicating that both the standard Prius and the larger V might be in Hyundai's sights.

Despite the inclusion of a battery pack and a high-voltage cable running under the car, there was no obvious sign of a plug, so the old rumors of a Sonata PHEV will likely remain in the dustbin for now. Unless that strange rectangle of tape on the gas cover is hiding something surprising, of course.

Image Credit: Glenn Paulina / KGP Photograhpy

Recharge Wrap-up: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Finishes AXCR, Nissan Leafs drive 528 million collective miles

Pro Golfer Wins BMW i3; Electric Luxury Cars On The Rise; Uber Hires Former Obama Campaign Manager

Posted Aug 20th 2014 10:02AM

mitsubishi outlander phev asia cross country rally

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has successfully completed the Asia Cross Country Rally 2014. The plug-in Mitsu finished first in the EV class, and 14th overall, clocking in at 19 hours, 17 minutes and 12 seconds. For its second year in the competition, the Outlander PHEV used a new suspension with more ground clearance to help it tackle the race's treacherous terrain. Besides the glory of taking on the challenging competition, the rally helped Mitsubishi gather valuable data for EV development. The race took place over 1,367 miles of varied terrain from Thailand to Cambodia. Read more at Hybrid Cars, or visit Mitsubishi UK's Facebook page.

Nissan Leaf drivers have driven more than 528 million miles worldwide. That accounts for a reduction of 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions since the EV's 2010 launch. Nissan projects that Leaf drivers will surpass a collective 1 billion electric kilometers (621 million miles) by January 2015, or perhaps even sooner if sales keep increasing. The mileage data was collected through the car's CarWings telemetry. Read more at Green Car Congress.

40 percent of luxury cars will be powered by some form of electrification by 2030, according to Audi. Whether it's battery-electric, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid, electrons will be doing their share to get the well-heeled from place to place. According to an article at The Sydney Morning Herald, PHEVs are "the most promising option." The BMW i8 is a fine example, as is the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, and Audi and Mercedes-Benz have plug-in plans of their own. Lexus, not so much. Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald.

PGA golfer Hunter Mahan has taken delivery of a BMW i3 he won by scoring a hole-in-one. BMW offered a free, all-electric i3 to the first player to score a hole-in-one in the 2013 BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club, which Mahan did on the 17th hole. The BMW Championship raised money for Evans Scholars Foundation. BMW Hole-in-One Scholar Melyzjah Smith, who was awarded a full four-year college tuition and housing scholarship in honor of Mahan's slick shot, was on hand to meet the golfer as he received his i3. Read more in the press release below.

Uber has hired President Obama's 2008 campaign manager as its senior vice president of policy and strategy. David Plouffe will help the ride-hailing app navigate government policy and relations. The Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association didn't think the move was a good one. The group's president, Robert Werth, released an official statement that says, "Uber loves to portray itself as a plucky little tech startup fighting against an imaginary Goliath. But look who just bought themselves one of the best spin doctors in the country. As deceitful as Uber is, they are going to need him." Learn more at The New York Times.

Adomani EV school bus approved for use in California

Posted Aug 20th 2014 7:55AM

adomani electric school bus

Your children or grandchildren may very well be riding an electric bus to school soon, and probably sooner still if they live in California. We've just recently seen the funding of the National Strategies demo buses. Now another fully electric school bus has been approved in the Golden State. The California Highway Patrol has greenlighted the Adomani EV bus for use in the Gilroy Unified School District (GUSD).

Lucky pupils in the Garlic Capital of the World will be riding a 2007 Blue Bird All American school bus, converted from diesel to electric by Adomani. It has a range of 40 miles, plenty of charge to meet the route's 22 miles. The EV bus uses the same charging plug as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt for easy charging. The GUSD has installed solar panels to power its charging station, making the Adomani Blue Bird truly capable of emission-free rides.

The bus was apparently quick to be approved upon inspection, with verbal approval coming just one day later. Newly appointed Adomani board member Jim Reynolds, a school bus industry expert, says, "That is by far the fastest I have seen approval come in. I was anticipating a few months of processing."

Adomani wants to convert more school and commercial buses, providing up to 100 miles of electric range, and says it can retrofit the vehicles in a matter of a couple weeks. The company, pleased with the swift turnaround of the Gilroy project, is moving its headquarters from Florida to California. Adomani founder and CTO says, "After the conversion for Gilroy, moving to California seemed like the right fit, though we plan to retrofit vehicles throughout the country." Learn more in the video below or over at Domestic Fuel.

News Source: Domestic Fuel, NBC Bay Area

Image Credit: NBC Bay Area

Looking back at the Citation IV concept that likely shaped the GM EV1

How Chevy's Time In The Wind Tunnel Taught GM An Aero Lesson

Posted Aug 19th 2014 7:45PM

1984 Chevy Citation IV Concept

GM EV1Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. We're not sure how that applies to the GM EV1, but we'd still like to share something from Autoline Daily, an online automotive new show with our friend John McElroy. He's been covering the business for decades now and recently found something interesting: pictures of the 1984 Chevrolet Citation IV concept, seen above.

Displayed half a decade before the first electric concept that would become the EV1 (inset), McElroy says it's now clear that the elegant, aerodynamic EV1 took a lot of styling cues from the Citation IV, which was developed in part thanks to GM's new-at-the-time Aerodynamics Laboratory. We agree with him that the spats over the rear wheels, the flush glass, and the covered headlights all bear a certain kind of similarity between the two cars. That the colors almost match is a nice coincidence. The Impact (the concept version of the EV1) looked "frumpier," McElroy says, because it wasn't as long as the Citation.

You can read a lot more about the Citation IV here and check out McElroy's thoughts in the video below. Find the Citation starting at around 3:45.

News Source: Autoline Daily via YouTube

Surprise Costs Have A Cost: Why we turned down the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Dealer Added $70 A Month To Advertised Price, Which Tipped The Scales

Posted Aug 19th 2014 5:44PM

Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

They say you can always tell the pioneers. They're the ones with the arrows in their backs. Unfortunately, that was our experience pursuing – and eventually rejecting – the new hydrogen fuel cell-powered Hyundai Tucson.

I first heard about Hyundai's new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2013. As a tech buff, the thought of driving a new, clean technology vehicle sounded exciting. Best of all, Hyundai was wrapping the new vehicle in a smart, familiar package, as a loaded current-generation Tucson SUV. The FCV Tucson was billed as $499 a month with $2,999 down, with free fuel and free maintenance. Our family needed a new, small, fuel efficient SUV, so I signed up for information on the upcoming lease program.

Someone has to go first. Why not us?

In the spring of 2014, I learned more at a Clean Fuel Symposium, held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The panel was packed with experts on alternative fuel vehicles. One spokesperson outlined the chicken or egg problem with alternative fuels like hydrogen: fuels first or vehicles? Another said something that I should have heard more clearly. "If the argument [to move to alternative fuel vehicles] has to start with a change of behavior from consumers, that's a hard row to hoe." I would soon to learn what an FCV would really cost, both in hours and in dollars.

Nonetheless, I was ready to try jumping the hurdles and get an alternative fuel car. A low impact on the environment, plus free fuel and a solo car pool lane sticker? What could go wrong?

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL, Hydrogen Pump: Michael Sohn / AP Photo

Thieves stealing copper from EV charging stations in Vancouver

Posted Aug 19th 2014 1:59PM

Copper Wire

In Europe, most EV charging stations don't have a wire permanently attached. Unlike North America, European EV drivers need to carry a cable around with them. This is a bit of a hassle, but it's far easier than pulling up to an EVSE and finding the cable simply cut out. That's what's happening to some Level 2 EVSEs in Canada. We have no idea how widespread this problem is – and we note that this isn't the first we've heard about vandals attacking EV charging stations – but vandalizing charging stations sure seems like a needless setback to the EV community.

Transport Evolved reports that a number of EVSEs in and around Vancouver, BC have had their cords removed recently, likely for the valuable copper inside. The vandals hit the charging stations with bolt cutters and sometimes manage to attack the same station multiple times, since the station owners spend the money to fix the damage. Transport Evolved says that the high price for some of the copper ($4 Canadian per pound) means that stealing one EVSE cable can offer a "tidy profit." Street lights in the area have been targeted as well.

Copper theft is not a problem limited to cool Canadian cites. The American automotive capitol can tell you stories, since Detroit has suffered all sorts of problems because of copper thieves, from potentially worse floods to darkness. Earlier this year, Michigan enacted a new law that puts a $25 limits on metal-for-cash transactions at scrap yards and requires scrap yard owners to mail checks to people selling them oft-stolen items like copper wire.

News Source: Transport Evolved

Image Credit: Theen / Flickr

Autoblog joins Elon Musk and Danica Patrick in accepting ALS Ice Bucket Challenge [UPDATE]

Posted Aug 19th 2014 1:30PM

Autoblog team gets ready for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you've been living in an off-the-grid cabin in the woods for the last couple of weeks or abstain entirely from social media activities, you've probably seen someone you know dump a bucket of ice and water over their own head recently. While the origins of the so-called Ice Bucket Challenge are shrouded in a history typical of Internet memes, its effectiveness in raising money and awareness for the ALS Association has been astonishing.

Celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, sports, technology and more have generated untold millions of video views in support of the organization that is helping patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), and generated a much needed influx of cash, as well. Recent reports have some $15.6M raised in the last two weeks.

Of course, the big-hearted world of automotive celebrities has taken part in the drenching charity effort as well. Follow on below for some of the biggest names on four wheels getting iced for charity, with a smattering of your favorite Autobloggers thrown in for good measure.

And, if you've taken the challenge yourself (or have had the gauntlet thrown down), share your own video by leaving us a link in Comments, or tweeting us with #IceBucketChallenge to @therealautoblog. You can also skip the fuss and just donate to ALS directly, but make sure you at least watch Elon Musk get soaked before you do.

UPDATE: Chrysler/SRT bigwig and all-around cool car guy Ralph Gilles has graciously responded to our challenge. You can see his soaking in the video added below. Additionally, Autoblog's own Jeremy Korzeniewski has stepped up to the charity bucket as well, so be sure to watch his icy bath, too.

Recharge Wrap-up: Venturi to break electric world record, app shows where bike lanes are needed

Roger Penske, Rick Hendrick Among First BMW i8 Customers; Uber Ban Lifted In Berlin

Posted Aug 19th 2014 11:14AM

bmw i8 customers pebble beach

Electric automaker Venturi hopes to post a new electric land speed record this week, despite Bonneville Speed Week being cancelled. The VBB-3, developed with Ohio State University, is powered by two 1,500-hp electric motors. If the salt flats are sufficiently dry, the team hopes to set a new electric world speed record of over 600 kilometers per hour (373 mph), and possibly 700 kph (435 mph). The Venturi BB-2.5 set a record of 495 kph (307 mph) in 2010. Read more at Electric Autosport, and keep abreast of Venturi's progress at its Twitter account.

A new app is trying to fix Wiesbaden, Germany's bike problem. A bike organization named the city the worst in the world for cycling. In response, a local group developed an app that uses crowdsourced routes to suggest where bike lanes and paths should go. The app tracks users routes as they ride, and maps them to show where the city could benefit from improving its infrastructure. The app and its results have the attention of government officials, too. See the video below, or read more at Fast Company.

BMW has delivered the first i8s at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California. The first customers include Roger Penske, Rick Hendrick and Tony Fadell (founder and CEO of Nest). The lucky new owners were also treated to a gourmet meal from Chef Thomas Keller, who was also among those to receive the i8 at the event. As mentioned, BMW also auctioned off a special edition i8 at Pebble Beach for $825,000, considerably more than the car's base MSRP of $135,700. Read more in the press release from BMW, below.

Uber's Berlin ban has been suspended by a local court. The city banned the car-hailing app for failing to meet passenger safety standards. The court will now decide whether to uphold the ban or toss it out. This was the second time this year that Uber had been deemed unlawful in Berlin. Uber continued to operate throughout its ban, despite threats of fines. If upheld, Uber could be fined $34,000 for picking up a passenger. Read more at The New York Times.
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News Source: Electric Autosport, Fast Company, BMW, New York Times

Image Credit: BMW

100-mile EVs offer plenty of range, for now

Oak Ridge Says The Numbers Show We Should All Be Happy With Double-Digit Range Limits

Posted Aug 19th 2014 7:56AM

Nissan Leaf charging

We've heard that the next big paradigm shift in electric vehicle acceptance will come with more 150- or 200-mile EVs. But a new study called Optimizing and Diversifying Electric Vehicle Driving Range for US Drivers says that cars that can go that far really won't make sense for anyone to buy until the battery cost can be dropped to $100 per kilowatt hour. Automakers today are incredibly secretive about how much each kWh in a pack costs, but it's safe to say we're nowhere near that goal just yet. Informs says that, until that threshold is reached, "the majority of US consumers for battery electric vehicles (BEV) will be better off choosing an electric vehicle with a range below 100 miles."

Why? Well, the study looked at 36,664 sample drivers and found that it is more important to focus on "deployment of charging infrastructure to improve usability of short-range BEVs" instead of building EVs that have longer ranges. Tell that to General Motors and Tesla. GM execs have talked publicly about a new EV with a 200-mile range and, well, Tesla's cars can already go the distance and we know that a cheaper version with that much range is coming. Still, the study found that cheaper batteries and a more robust charging infrastructure will have the biggest impact on optimizing EV range, not these newfangled EVs.

The study appeared in the journal Transportation Science, published by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). The research was done by Zhenhong Lin, senior R&D staff member at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, TN. Does it ring true with you?
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News Source: Informs

This anti-Tesla conspiracy theory isn't nearly as creative as it could be

Posted Aug 18th 2014 7:56PM

Tesla

Here we go again. Remember the anti-Tesla "truther" leaflets that were going around San Francisco a few months ago? There's another bit anti-Tesla message making the rounds, but this time we just don't find the same level of creative detail.

As published on Gas 2.0 and copied for your reading pleasure below, the screed claims that a number of Senators and White House staffers were bribed to allow the "toxic tesla crime-mobile" on the street. You know, the one that "is full of lies and cancer causing material." And there's also this bombshell: "Some of the people involved have worked at Tesla and claim to have witnessed: 'Organized crime on a first hand basis.'" Well, then, let's call the cops right this moment.

But wait, the conspiracy runs deep, apparently, "Members found out that major media outlet owners (Engadget, Google, AUTOBLOG GREEN [sic], Gizmodo, Jalopnik, etc.) had stock in the Tesla and battery cartels and, thus, covered up the first investigation results." For the record, none of us here at AutoblogGreen have or are allowed to have Tesla stock, so we can knock that rumor down right now. But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

All in all, this little tirade isn't nearly as good as the last one, but we'll take this sort of creative fiction any day. The truth is out there.

News Source: Gas 2.0, Boycott Tesla

Image Credit: Copyright Paul Sakuma / AP

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