Skip to main content

We Obsessively Cover the Green Scene…

6 New Articles in the last 24 hours Hide

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

  • Report
    Opel dropping Ampera, the European Chevy Volt, because of weak sales
  • Featured
    Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age
  • Official
    Smart Fortwo, Forfour reborn with fresh styling on new platform [w/video]
  • Second Drive
    2015 Audi A3 E-Tron [w/video]
Tip Us

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
Opel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel AmperaOpel Ampera

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

Quant e-Sportlimousine gets road legal in Europe ahead of production run

Posted Jul 21st 2014 7:57AM

Nanoflowcell Quant e-Sportlimousine

Nanoflowcell Quant e-SportlimousineA lot of companies make promises about future technologies that never come to fruition. It was looking more and more like that would be the case with the Nanoflowcell Quant e-Sportlimousine from the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. With a powertrain most people had never even heard of, let alone understand, its chances didn't seem especially great. However, the business just passed a huge milestone because its cutting-edge, flow-cell energy storage system received approval from German certification group TÜV Süd to operate on public roads in Germany and in the rest of Europe.

The flow cell is what makes the gull-winged Quant so special and so weird. It's an electric vehicle, but it doesn't use batteries. Instead, the four-seat coupe has a completely different way to store energy. There are tanks of negatively and positively charged electrolyte solutions in the vehicle. The liquids get pumped through a cell stack to produce electricity, which in turn powers the car's four electric motors.

"For the first time an automobile featuring flow-cell electric drive technology will appear on Germany's roads. Today we have put the product of 14 years' hard development work on the road. This is a moment for us to celebrate," said Nanoflowcell Chief Technical Officer Nunzio La Vecchia in its press release. With the vehicle's unique drivetrain now legal for European roads, the company says that the next step is to get the Quant ready for production.

Nanoflowcell is still making big promises about the future too. It claims that the Quant can reach a top speed of over 218 miles per hour and accelerate to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds. All of this performance comes with a range of over 373 miles. At the Geneva show, the company also said the car would have a peak output of 912 horsepower and operating power of 643 hp. We'll just have to wait and see if it can meet those impressive pledges. Scroll down to read its celebratory announcement.

News Source: Nanoflowcell

Image Credit: Related images copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

One in seven trucks will be alt-fuel by 2035

Posted Jul 20th 2014 10:57AM

More natural gas. Less diesel. That's a quick synopsis of a study by Navigant Research on future fueling trends for trucks.

Powertrains that are either plug-in or run on natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (i.e. propane or autogas) represent a small minority of global medium- and heavy-duty trucks but will account for 14 percent of those trucks (about one in seven) by 2035. Mind you, diesel-fueled powertrains will account for about 76 percent of those trucks by that year, but at least that's down from the 80 percent figure today, Navigant says.

This trend is good from a standpoint of both reducing oil dependency and trucking costs, given the mileage truckers rack up and the extremely low fuel economy of these vehicles. In recent years, truckmakers like Freightliner, Thomas Built Bus and International have started making vehicles that can run on CNG, which in some areas of the country costs about half as much as diesel. International calculated that some companies would be able to save more than $150,000 in refueling costs during the six-year lifetime of a truck because of lower costs. Emissions from LPG and CNG trucks are also 20 percent to 30 percent less than diesel emissions.

The Navigant report doesn't appear to address whether enough CNG and LPG stations will open to support such an increase in such powertrains in the US, but one can only hope. Take a look at Navigant's press release below.

News Source: Navigant Research

Refuel 2014: Rattlesnake Electric Sport aim carbon fiber arrow at overall electric record

Posted Jul 19th 2014 3:27PM

Rattlesnake 4

"I think we could do something, although I tend to show not tell."

That was the demure response Rattlesnake Electric Sport principal Richard Hilleman sent us after we inquired as to whether he wanted to discuss his latest kart and his desire to set the overall electric lap record at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the upcoming Refuel Sport Electric TT. He went on to say that he could get us some footage from some pre-event testing last weekend, but after suffering a technical difficulty that didn't happen. We've since heard everything should be ready for primetime.

The Rattlesnake 4 (pictured above) is a carbon fiber arrow poised to slice into the 1:31.376 time set down by Kevin Mitz in the Kleenspeed EV-X11 in 2012. Originally a MKI Monaco R1 250 Euro Superkart, its drivetrain has been transplanted with a permanent magnet electric motor from Zero Motorcycles, and uses a size-six Sevcon controller to pull juice from the custom three-kWh lithium polymer battery. Hilleman suggests that the new configuration can dish out in excess of 75 horsepower and says testing has seen 0-to-60 times in "the two-second range." With bodywork designed to keep the kart glued to the track, we expect to be impressed as we watch it snake its way through the coil of the infamous corkscrew on Sunday.

After the competition, Rattlesnake 4 will be used as a demonstrator for the RES Road Race Championship series. In addition to this impressive piece of track-destroying machinery, the outfit has also produced a Rattlesnake 3, which is similar to the karts from 2013 but with a ton of improvements involving better weight balance and titanium bits, and has been racing them in the Zero Motorcycles Group2 EKart Championship.

Lady Luck seems to have more than her fair share to say about these matters, and there will be others arriving with similar intentions and impressive arsenals. Still, Hilleman has proven to be a man whose actions manage to meet expectations, so we won't be completely surprised if he achieves his goal. Stay tuned.

News Source: Rattlesnake Electric Sport

US energy boom thwarted by... bad oil field roads?

Posted Jul 19th 2014 9:02AM

Fracking Water Recycling

With all the money they generate, you'd be forgiven if you thought the roads to America's oil wells and shale fields would be paved in platinum and lined in gold. The reality is, though, that these roads are so devastated that they're starting to actively hurt the oil industry.

A large portion of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the semis that bring things in and out of the fields. As Bloomberg points out in an excellent piece, the popularity of fracking has required huge imports of water, sand, chemicals and steel structuring to the fields, consequently increasing the weight and frequency of trucks on roads that were originally designed for cattle ranchers.

"If you drive a cattle truck one or two times a year, you're not affecting that road very much, but the first day you drive a 175,000-pound substructure of a drilling rig up that road you begin to destroy it," DeWitt County judge Daryl Fowler told Bloomberg.

There are other issues, though, that are making life difficult for the men and women in America's oil industry. Roads are crumbling due to torrential rains and spring thaws in addition to the weight of trucks. The result is a situation that's not only hurting profits, it's increasing accidents.

Solutions, meanwhile, are in short supply. Tax dollars are short, with Texas estimating it'd need to spend $1 billion just to maintain roads in its energy producing regions. That's equal to the total road maintenance costs for the rest of the state – to which we ask, wouldn't it make sense for the oil companies, whose trucks are responsible for much of the wear and tear on these roads, to chip in for their upkeep?

Head over to Bloomberg for a comprehensive piece on the problems facing these surprisingly important roads, and what it will take to fix them.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Pat Sullivan / AP

Recharge Wrap-Up: No new Smart Roadster, Africa to UK on one tank, Duke's efficient axial engine [w/videos]

Posted Jul 18th 2014 7:58PM

smart roadster brabus v6 biturbo

Smart will not make another generation of the Roadster, but a Smart SUV might be in the cards. According to Smart's CEO, Annette Winkler, "The Roadster isn't a profitable business case. Everybody is keen on the car, but nobody wants to pay the bill." What Car? states that Smart is likely planning a baby SUV to take on the Nissan Juke and its ilk. But for the immediate future, Winkler says Smart "must focus on how we can maximize potential of the Fortwo and Forfour. That is strategy number one." Read more over at What Car?.

A Mercedes-Benz E300 Bluetec Hybrid made the 1,223-mile trek from Africa to the UK on just one tank of fuel. Driven by Andrew Frankel of Autocar, the diesel hybrid left Tangier, Morocco with a full tank of gas (using the optional 80-liter fuel tank), and arrived in Goodwood with the car indicating 100 miles of range left. Frankel and his co-driver averaged 61.2 miles per gallon (73.6 mpg UK) on the intercontinental journey through four countries, despite elevation changes and a traffic jam. See the first video below for more information, or check out the article at Carscoops.

Duke Engines promises simplicity and efficiency from the axial engine it's developing. Rather than lining up the cylinders, this engine arranges them in a circle, which allows Duke to avoid unnecessary weight. The five-cylinder, four-stroke motor manages the same amount of powerstrokes per revolution as a standard six-cylinder mill, but weighs 30 percent less. It also has much fewer parts, says Duke. Its high compression ratios mean more power with less fuel, which adds up to more efficiency and fewer emissions. The second of the two videos below, which we first found over at Sploid, explains Duke's axial engine.

2015 Chevy Volt gets larger battery, though range remains the same

Posted Jul 18th 2014 6:30PM

chevrolet volt

The Chevrolet Volt isn't changing much for the 2015 model year. According to specifications uncovered by Inside EVs, though, the new Volt's battery does have a slightly larger capacity. According to the spec sheet, this doesn't translate to increased range. Real world driving, though, might tell a different story.

The 2015 Volt's battery storage is slightly higher than the outgoing model's, up from 16.5 kilowatt-hours to 17.1 kWh. According to GM's manager of electrification technology communications, Kevin Kelly, speaking to Green Car Reports, the increased capacity is "a late change done in the cell... just another continuous improvement to surprise and delight our customers." The stated electric range, however, stays at 38 miles.

Inside EVs followed up on its original report, and found that drivers could see some advantage to the battery tweak. When they spoke to Kelly, he told them, "As a result of this change, we would expect that some customers may see a slight improvement in overall EV range." It's worth noting that when battery capacity increased from 16 kWh to 16.5 kWh for the 2013 Volt, electric range increased by three miles to the current 38, while MPGe went from 94 to 98.

The price of the 2015 Chevrolet Volt remains steady, at $34,995. The actual cost to the customer is considerably less with the $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as any local incentives.
Related Gallery2014 Chevrolet Volt
2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt

US diesel vehicle sales are up 25% this year

Posted Jul 18th 2014 4:32PM

Going against popular perception, diesel vehicles are showing some pretty good pickup. The context, of course, is US sales of oil-burners. And those sales are on the rise as more Americans look to cut refueling costs via more fuel-efficient vehicles.

US clean-diesel sales through June have jumped 25 percent from a year earlier, outpacing the 4.2 percent increase of total vehicle sales, says Diesel Technology Forum, citing research from and Baum & Associates. In fact, diesels, which account for about three percent of US vehicle sales now, may double that marketshare by 2018, as more Americans are attracted to a powertrain that on average delivers about 30 percent better fuel economy than similar gas-powered engines. In all, there are 46 diesel models in the US, including 27 cars and SUVs, so it's not just all about big torquey rumbling pickup trucks anymore.

Oddly, Volkswagen – a leader in the US clean diesel initiative – saw a sales decrease of about eight percent from a year earlier to about 42,000 units. That said, sister company Audi boosted diesel sales almost fourfold to more than 8,100 units. And the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel has moved almost 3,000 units through June. Check out the Diesel Technology Forum's press release, below.

News Source: Diesel Technology Forum

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Nissan's Carlos Ghosn taps the brakes on autonomous car progress

Posted Jul 18th 2014 3:45PM

Nissan Leaf Autonomous Drive

"Self-driving cars remain a long way from commercial reality."

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn shocked the automotive industry last year when he announced that his company plans to offer consumers an autonomous car by 2020. The automaker even showed off its self-driving Leaf prototype as proof. He was bolder recently with the pronouncement that select markets could have them in 2018, if laws allowed. The boss' optimism appears to be waning, though, and he's now sounding a lot more conservative about the future. While driverless vehicles are still on the way, Ghosn is hedging his bets with a more gradual implementation of several systems.

During a speech in Japan, Ghosn laid out Nissan's new roadmap toward autonomous driving. Instead of plunking down a complete vehicle in 2020, the new plan has a rollout with waves of innovations. According to Automotive News, the first milestone comes by the end of 2016 with the introduction of traffic-jam assist and fully automated parking. In 2018, some models get automatic lane changing, and finally around 2020, another feature will allow cars to handle intersections without driver inputs. All of this new tech still requires someone at the controls for most of the time.

"Self-driving cars remain a long way from commercial reality," Ghosn said in his speech, according to AN.

The latest announcement isn't quite the driving utopia that Ghosn alluded to last year. At the time, he said: "I am committing to be ready to introduce a new groundbreaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it." Evidently, that plan may have gone a little off the rails.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Nissan


Autoblog iPhone App