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Translogic 164: Driving the fuel cell vehicles of the 2014 LA Auto Show

  • Translogic
    Translogic 164: Driving the fuel cell vehicles of the 2014 LA Auto Show
  • Quick Spin
    2016 Smart Forfour
  • Report
    Nissan's London Black Cab postponed because it can't meet emissions targets
  • Official
    2015 Ford F-150 to get up to 26 miles per gallon
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Tesla will fix 1,100 Model S motors in Norway

Posted Nov 26th 2014 7:55PM

Tesla Model S with mountains

As far as we know, Tesla didn't build all of the Model S sedans it has sold in Norway at once, but it is just those vehicles that have been found defective and will soon be fixed. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that the company will replace defective Model S drive units sold in the Northern European country. Not a great way to start the holiday season.

The issue involves a part that connects the Model S' drive motor to the gearbox, according to Dow Jones Business News. The part could break down because the company didn't apply enough grease to the part when the cars were produced. The issue may impact about 1,100 vehicles that had been shipped to Norway, though about one percent of those have already experienced "premature" wear and tear. The repairs for the couplings will take about a month.

We suspect the news won't put much of a damper on Model S demand in a country that's been on the leading edge of electric-vehicle adoption with its high subsidies and cheap electricity. In March, Tesla set an all-time monthly sales record for any type of vehicle in Norway, moving almost 1,500 units that month. In fact, on a per-capita basis, the Model S sold more than the best-selling Ford F-150 here in the states that month.

Audi following Tesla with 280-mile EV family car

Posted Nov 26th 2014 6:30PM

The Audi R8 etron at the Silvretta Rally, front three-quarter view.

The press days are finished at the LA Auto Show, but things said there are still making news. While in California, Audi technical development chief Ulrich Hackenberg told reporters that his employer plans to release an electric car with a range of 280 miles "around 2017." Hackenberg wouldn't say what kind of car - or crossover, perhaps - it will be, but one report said it would be "a large car, fitting five large people with ample luggage space." Most observers expect it to be a sedan to take on the Tesla Model S.

It's no secret that Audi respects Tesla, and there have been hints that The House of Quattro is ready to really flex its progress-through-technology muscles in Tesla's direction. Audi will be applying lessons learned in the development of the coming R8 E-tron to the future electric car, after it managed to double the range of the electric sports car thanks to new battery technology to 450 kilometers, or 281 miles.

This puts another tentative all-electric Audi in the mix and another Tesla competitor, after rumors of a possible electric Q8 from February of this year. If an electric Q8 does happen, it's expected to be a challenger to the Tesla Model X. And that might not be all: Bloomberg reported in June that Audi had "devised blueprints for several high-performance electric saloons and sport-utility vehicles."

News Source: AutoExpress

Tesla in talks with BMW about batteries, charging collaborations

Posted Nov 26th 2014 4:28PM

Tesla Motor's New EV unveiled

With Toyota and Daimler no longer holding Tesla shares, the electric vehicle company might be looking for a new partner – possibly a Bavarian one. In a new interview with Germany's Der Spiegel, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that he has had talks with BMW execs about future collaboration.

"We are talking about whether we can collaborate in battery technology or charging stations," Musk said in the interview, according to Reuters. However, a Tesla spokesperson has tempered things by saying no formal agreements are in place at the moment.

In the same interview, Musk reportedly praised BMW's use of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic in its i sub-brand offerings, and said he would like to have a battery factory in Germany in the next five or six years.

The possibility of technological cooperation between Tesla and BMW has been a hot topic this year. In June, Musk reportedly met with BMW execs, and the two companies were also rumored to have met with Nissan to discuss charging technology. When Daimler sold off its shares, there was talk of it opening the way for possible collaboration between the two automakers, as well.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP Photo

Renault-Nissan has sold 200,000 EVs, claims 58 percent global share

Most Of Those Are Due To Popular Leaf, Which Has Sold 67,000 In US

Posted Nov 26th 2014 1:56PM

Renault ev concepts

The all-electric Renault Zoe sold 10,000 units during its first year on sale and the French automaker has sold a total of about 51,500 EVs since starting sales of its four-vehicle EV lineup in 2011. Renault's collection also includes the Twizy two-seater, the Fluence sedan and the Kangoo van – just look at the awesome concepts from 2009 in the gallery above. Throw in the fact that the Nissan Leaf has sold around 150,000 around the world and some sales of the e-NV200 delivery van, and we get to a banner headline for the Renault-Nissan Alliance: the companies have sold over 200,000 EVs since the Leaf went at sale in the end of 2010.

The Alliance announced it crossed the 100,000 EV sales mark in July 2013, so we can calculate that the two companies are selling roughly 6,250 EVs a month, with the Leaf making up the bulk of that figure (the car is averaging around 3,000 units a month in the US alone). Nissan says that Leaf has cumulatively sold around 67,000 Leafs in the US, 46,500 in Japan and 31,000 in Europe.

The 6,250 sales per month is a rough estimate, since the Alliance says its sales are up 20 percent this year compared to last. Still, all told, Renault-Nissan claims it has 58 percent of the global market share for EVs, and its battery-powered vehicles have driven four billion kilometers (2.48-billion miles), which has prevented 450 million kilograms of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Who wants to bet when the 300,000 threshold will be crossed?

News Source: Renault-Nissan Alliance

Translogic 164: Driving the fuel cell vehicles of the 2014 LA Auto Show

Posted Nov 26th 2014 12:45PM

Toyota Mirai

The LA Auto Show is known for its environmentally friendly vehicle debuts. At last year's show, hydrogen fuel cell concepts from Honda and Toyota joined a lease-ready Hyundai Tuscan FCEV to cast a green hue over the convention center. This year, automakers took us a step closer to a fuel cell future by offering drives of their hydrogen-electric hybrids.

Translogic host Jonathon Buckley takes a ride in the Toyota Mirai, which is headed for production in 2016. He follows that with a spin in the Volkswagen Passat HyMotion and the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro concept. Which of these fuel cell vehicles holds the most promise? Tune in to find out.

EPA: 2014 renewable fuel standards 'significantly delayed'

Biofuel Producers Get Happy, Frustrated

Posted Nov 26th 2014 10:36AM

NASCAR Texas Auto Racing

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not going to decide just yet how much biofuel to add to the national fuel supply in the future. Last year, the EPA said, for the first time ever, that it might reduce the biofuel component in American gas, but is now saying that the 2014 standards rule will be "significantly delayed."

The EPA said that, basically, since we're all using less gasoline, maybe we don't need as much biofuel (PDF):

The proposal has generated significant comment and controversy, particularly about how volumes should be set in light of lower gasoline consumption than had been forecast at the time that the Energy Independence and Security Act was enacted, and whether and on what basis the statutory volumes should be waived. ...
EPA has been evaluating these issues in light of the purposes of the statute and the Administration's commitment to the goals of the statute to increase the use of renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels, which will reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from the consumption of transportation fuels and diversify the nation's fuel supply.

Reactions to the delay are decidedly mixed. A number of ethanol producers rejoiced, including some in Brazil, since any action that could reduce the ethanol content is being put off. The Renewable Fuels Association says the news is a "cloud of uncertainty with a silver lining" and blames the oil industry for not promoting higher ethanol blends (E15 and E85, for example) in the national fuel supply. On the other hand, the National Biodiesel Board says that the EPA is hurting the industry with the delay, since there is no statue-based biodiesel standard and the new levels should have been published in November 2012. Iowa officials generally agree.

News Source: Domestic Fuels, ABC News, EPA, Domestic Fuel

Image Credit: Randy Holt / AP

Recharge Wrap-up: Porsche adds third 919 Hybrid for Le Mans, Audi to heat factory with geothermal

BMW i Invests In Zendrive; Chicago Petitions For E15

Posted Nov 26th 2014 7:54AM

porsche 919 hybrid le mans

Porsche will be running a third 919 Hybrid LMP1 car in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The extra Porsche will race in the six-hour May 2 WEC race at Spa-Francorchamps as a lead-up to the legendary 24-hour race on June 13 and 14. Porsche hasn't announced the driver lineup for the third 919 Hybrid, but drivers will remain the same for the other two cars. Including the third car is meant to help further test performance and efficiency as part of development for future hybrid systems. Read more at Green Car Congress.

BMW i Ventures is investing in Zendrive, a driving focused data and analytics company. The cooperation of the two companies is meant to help advance safety and efficiency by making the "in-car mobility experience even smoother by optimizing commuting and driving patterns," according to BMW i's Ulrich Quay. The venture capital arm of BMW's i brand also invests in JustPark, Chargepoint, Life360, Chargemaster and MyCityWay, and says it will have more strategic investment announcements in the coming months. Read more in the press release below.

The Audi Hungaria factory in Győr, Hungary will soon be getting geothermal energy from a nearby plant being constructed in Pér. When the facility is finished, Audi expects to source 82,000 megawatt hours of geothermal energy per year from it, or about six percent of its total heating needs. The clean energy helps Audi move "step by step along a path to developing a CO2‑neutral production plant," says Audi's Dr. Hubert Waltl. "The mobility of the future must be CO2‑neutral – and that applies not only to the use of our vehicles, but also to their production." Read more in the press release below.

Supporters have begun a petition drive for the passage of an E15 ordinance in Chicago. Despite pushback from oil companies, the city council is close to passing the "Chicago Clean Air Choice Ordinance," which includes the requirement by retailers to sell the 15-percent ethanol gasoline blend in the city. The ordinance includes an exception for stations selling less than 850,000 gallons of fuel per year. More than 4,000 people have signed the petition so far, with others leaving messages to voice their opinion on the matter in opposition to Big Oil's attempt to block it. Read more at Domestic Fuel.

News Source: Green Car Congress, BMW, Audi, Domestic Fuel

Image Credit: Porsche

Autoblog Podcast #407

Posted Nov 25th 2014 5:45PM

Autoblog Podcast logo

Episode #407 of the Autoblog Podcast is here, and this week, Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, and Sebastian Blanco talk about the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, the Toyota Mirai, and the BMW 3 Series falling off the Car and Driver 10Best list. We start with what's in the Autoblog Garage and finish up with some of your questions, and for those of you who hung with us live on our UStream channel, thanks for taking the time. Check out the rundown below with times for topics, and you can follow along down below with our Q&A. Thanks for listening!

Autoblog Podcast #407:



Topics:
In The Autoblog Garage:
Hosts: Dan Roth, Steven Ewing, Sebastian Blanco
Runtime: 01:07:55

Rundown:
  • Intro and Garage - 00:00
  • Challenge Bibendum - 18:32
  • Toyota Mirai - 28:20
  • C/D 10Best - 44:52
  • Q&A - 53:52

Get the podcast:
[UStream] Listen live on Mondays at 10 PM Eastern at UStream
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes
[RSS] Add the Autoblog Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator
[MP3] Download the MP3 directly

Feedback:
Email: Podcast at Autoblog dot com

Review the show in iTunes

Mitsubishi Mirage sedan confirmed for US

Posted Nov 25th 2014 2:15PM

Mitsubishi Mirage

The Mitsubishi Mirage easily takes the cake as the worst new car I've driven in the last year. Actually, make that the worst new car I've driven in several years (Side Note: when was the last time I drove a Smart Fortwo?). But regardless of what I, or my colleagues, think about the Mirage, it's selling decently – Mitsubishi has moved over 14,000 of them so far this year, which is actually higher than the company initially expected. And now, we've got official confirmation that the sedan version is headed our way.

This isn't really shocking, considering earlier reports, but Motor Trend received further confirmation of the Mirage sedan's arrival during last week's Los Angeles Auto Show. There's no official timing as to when the sedan will arrive, and when I reached out for comment, a Mitsubishi spokesperson said of this report, "Yep. Confirmed."

So, yeah, the Mirage sedan is headed our way. It'll probably come in somewhere around the low, low $12,995 price of the hatchback, and hopefully, it'll be better to drive than its more versatile hatchback sibling. And hey, if it can help Mitsubishi build sales momentum here in the US, then that's a win, right?

News Source: Motor Trend

Saleen says it's out of money, owes millions

Posted Nov 25th 2014 1:30PM

Saleen Four Sixteen

Saleen Automotive is best known for building hot numbers including countless tuned Ford Mustang muscle cars, and more recently, for offering a custom version of the Tesla Model S. Unfortunately, the company needs a huge infusion of cash even faster than its cars if it wants to stay on the road beyond the end of the year. In a new Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Saleen admits that its financial situation is dire, and it has just $7,261 in cash sitting in the bank as of September 30.

That lack of liquidity is just the very tip of the iceberg. According to Jalopnik, poring over the SEC documents reveals that Saleen Automotive owes $5,634,841, which includes about $500,000 in payroll taxes. Over $1 million of those bills are at least 90 days overdue, and the business expects to default on $398,176 owed to the bank unless an extension is granted. The money just isn't coming in to pay for all of this, either. Revenue is down by half, and Saleen is posting quarterly losses in the millions.

With just $668,629 in assets, the numbers don't balance out. Saleen is hoping to find a buyer to inject the millions needed to save it from going under but admits in the SEC filing: "These factors raise substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern."

Steve Saleen re-acquired the rights to the Saleen name in 2012 after a high-profile court battle. Publicly, the company appeared to be doing at least somewhat well, continuing to introduce the muscle cars for which it is known, as well as expanding its offerings into the world of electric cars with an eye toward the future. Clearly, based on this SEC filing, however, things are looking dire for the well-known outfit.

News Source: Jalopnik

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Eco-Motive gets patent for CNG-gas hybrid H-Motor

Posted Nov 25th 2014 12:33PM

Eco-Motive dual fuel 'H' engine

If you've ever wanted a powerplant that looks more like a greeble from a Star Wars spaceship than a block engine, Eco-Motive has your answer. The just-announced dual-fuel "H" engine can burn gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG).

Eco-Motive has been awarded a patent for the engine (number 8807098), which is described this way:

The twin vertical bank hybrid internal combustion H-engine system disclosed herein is basically two separate engines, each one operable on a different fuel type and housed within the same engine block, and each one having individual lubrication systems but sharing a common power transmission system.

Eco-Motive says that drivers can, at the push of a button, switch between fuel sources and that the dual-fuel tech can be used with existing engines. A celebratory press release (available below) says that the new engine is, "the next step toward adoption by major original manufacturers worldwide of a revolutionary, cost-effective technology that can cut global emissions, slash oil consumption and increase fuel flexibility for consumers." The patent, though, simply says that the driver will benefit from the fuel choices by "[taking] advantage of whichever one has lower fuel prices."

2016 Smart Forfour

Posted Nov 25th 2014 11:58AM

2016 Smart ForFour

The Fortwo always has been – and always will be – the prototypical Smart car. While it has been far and away the brand's best seller, it's not the only model to to wear the moniker. A decade ago, Smart rolled out the larger Forfour, but like the brand's other models that have come and gone, it wasn't much of a success. Now, Smart is back and taking another stab at it with the introduction of this all-new Forfour. And this time, we think it's in a much better position to succeed.

Where the previous model shared its underpinnings, production line and front-engined layout with the Mitsubishi Colt, the new Forfour was co-developed with – and will be produced alongside – the new Renault Twingo we drove recently. Like its predecessor (and its contemporary French cousin), the new Forfour is not presently earmarked to be offered in America. But curiosity got the better of us when we were offered the chance to drive it back to back with the Fortwo upon their launch in Barcelona.

Driving Notes
  • Like the smaller Fortwo, the new Forfour will be offered with a choice of two three-cylinder engines mounted all the way at the back: a normally aspirated 999cc engine (available in 59- or 70-horsepower states of tune) and a 898cc turbo kicking out 89 hp. Either engine can be mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch transmission (save for the lowest spec, which can only be had with the manual).
  • We sampled the top-spec model, fitted with the same turbo engine as the Fortwo we'll get in the States, sending 89 hp and 100 pound-feet of torque through the five-speed manual straight down to the rear wheels.
  • The Forfour's (relatively) great mass means that, even with forced induction, it still takes 11.2 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour from a standstill. That's a 0.8 seconds behind the Fortwo with the same powertrain, but a solid 4.7 seconds quicker than the next (naturally aspirated) version down. It hardly felt rapid, but it kept pace just fine with European city traffic.
  • Regardless of spec, however, the rear-engined layout it shares with the Fortwo and Twingo makes the new Smart Forfour exceptionally agile. That it felt any less scrappy than the Fortwo is a testament only to the latter's agility, because compared to anything else on the road, the new Forfour will change direction like a frightened street cat. Not only does it have a less pogo-ey ride than the Fiat Panda (one of its natural competitors), it'll turn around in just 29.4 feet, which makes it almost as nimble as the previous Fortwo's 28.7-foot turning circle. (Still not quite as tight as the Fortwo's 24-foot circle.) That's the kind of maneuverability that can, for a Smart driver, make the three-point-turn a thing of the past and parallel parking a cinch in even the tightest spots.
  • The new Smart Forfour will also physically fit into a smaller spot than just about anything available Stateside. At 137.4 inches long, it's not only shorter than any four- or five-door sold in America, it's more compact than most any two- or three-door hatchback, too. It's over two inches shorter (if you can believe it) than a Fiat 500, and nearly ten inches shorter than the old Forfour. In fact, the only thing you'll find in a US showroom with a smaller footprint (aside from the Fortwo) is the Scion iQ. Or a scooter.
  • Despite the compact dimensions, Smart has managed to fit in four seats and four doors. The cabin is not what you might call "spacious," of course, but Daimler engineers have been at least as creative as their counterparts from Renault in maximizing the available space.
  • Not only can the rear seat backs fold flat to create a level load surface capable of swallowing up more than 34 cubic feet of stuff, the rear seat bottoms (which conceal a cargo compartment in the Twingo) can also flip over to a lower position to fit taller items in the back seat of the Forfour. Even the front passenger seat folds forward to make for a 7.2-foot loading length for long items (or a napping space for a basketball player), and though the Forfour loses the Fortwo's split tailgate, the rear doors open nearly 90 degrees to facilitate access.
  • Like other four-door city cars, those rear doors include only pop-out vents instead of roll-down windows, but the Forfour has other ways of letting in the light and fresh air: our tester was fitted with an optional double panoramic glass roof, and while the two-door cabrio is still in the works, the four-door can also be equipped with an electric folding fabric roof panel. Trim and features are otherwise just like the Fortwo – which is to say refreshing and full of personalization options – only with an extra pair of seats and doors in the back.
  • The addition of those extra doors and the longer wheelbase they entail does not do the Forfour any favors in the styling department, though. Daimler's designers apparently tried to translate the Fortwo's rounded-box styling to the Forfour, but while it looks better than the previous duck-billed model of 2004, we're of the opinion that Renault did a better job at styling the Twingo than Smart did the Forfour. But that's a matter of personal preference.
The question we're left with after driving any overseas model is whether or not it should be offered in the States. And with the Smart Forfour, we're just not sure one way or the other. On the one hand, the added usability could stand to attract some new buyers who might be enticed by the idea of frugal, no-more-than-what-you-need transportation – especially if offered as part of the Car2Go car-sharing program – but turned off by the notion of having little more than two seats and a glovebox at their disposal. On the other, the Forfour's pedestrian pace and questionable styling may turn others away and could potentially stretch out what the Smart brand has come to stand for in the minds of American consumers.

Ultimately, we're sure Daimler will carefully evaluate the Forfour's prospects for the North American market. But at the end of the day, the Forfour still stands a much better chance of making its way to Smart dealers in the US than the Renault, whose American prospects essentially depend on Carlos Ghosn packing his suitcase full of Twingos and physically bringing them to Nissan showrooms.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

Recharge Wrap-up: Saleen renames its Tesla, Nissan announces "No Charge To Charge" in Atlanta

Car2go Reaches 13,000 Members In Brooklyn, Launches Mobile Access

Posted Nov 25th 2014 8:02AM

saleen st tesla model s

Saleen has renamed its Tesla Model S the Saleen ST and has added a version the P85D to its modified lineup. Formerly called the Saleen FourSixteen, referencing the car's 416 horsepower, the ST stands for "Saleen Tesla." While the ST receives no increase in output, modifications include aerodynamic, suspension and brake tuning, as well as some aggressive looks to go along with it. Customers can also opt for Saleen drive ratios, making the 691-horsepower, dual-motor version accelerate from 0-60 in less than three seconds. The Saleen ST380 starts at $132,000, with the ST691 starting at $164,600. Read more at Motor Authority or in the press release below.

After one month of operation in Brooklyn, Car2go has over 13,000 members in its new locale. Users in what is now the carsharing service's fastest-growing market have already logged 55,000 miles for the Brooklyn fleet, with the average trip taking 22.45 minutes. The most popular destinations for Brooklyn users are The Barclays Center, Prospect Park and Williamsburg. Car2go has also announced its Mobile Access feature, which allows users to begin their trips with the mobile app as an alternative to using the member card. Read more in the press release below.

Nissan has announced its "No Charge To Charge" program for Atlanta. That means customers who buy or lease a Nissan Leaf at Atlanta dealerships will receive free charging at more than 12 fast-charging stations in the Atlanta area. Nissan is extending the program to customers who got their Leaf beginning November 1, 2014. Nissan offers "No Charge To Charge" in 12 other markets, with at least 12 more planned for the US. Read more in the press release below.

Tesla has named Ricardo Reyes as its communications chief. Reyes led Tesla's communications department until 2012, when he left the company to work from Square. Returning to Tesla, Reyes will oversee Tesla's online presence and public relations. After looking for someone like Reyes to fill the position, Tesla CEO Elon Musk eventually was able to bring the man himself back to the company. Read more at Businessweek.
Related GallerySaleen Tesla ST
Saleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla STSaleen Tesla ST

News Source: Motor Authority, Saleen, Car2go, Nissan, Businessweek

Image Credit: Saleen

Is Tesla under investigation from the SEC? *UPDATE

Probes Reporter Thinks It's On To Something With FOIA Requests

Posted Nov 24th 2014 7:00PM

China Tesla

UPDATE: Tesla spokesperson LIz Jarvis-Shean told AutoblogGreen that "We don't comment on rumor and speculation."

Let's call this one unsubstantiated at best. Probes Reporter is a site that tries to figure out what's going on behind the scenes by filing a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the Security Exchange Commission (SEC). Based on the responses it gets, it guesses whether or not the SEC is investigating companies. Earlier today, Probes Reporter issued a Tweet that says: "Tesla Motors May Have an Undisclosed SEC Probe - Added to Watch List."

Probe Reporter says that it got a letter from the SEC in early October that cited the "law enforcement exemption" of the FOIA in order to deny PR access to the records it was asking for. PR says that this acknowledges "some sort of investigative activity." Probe Reporter also says that about two-thirds of these sorts of exemptions "are confirmed on appeal," so the company's history with this strategy indicates there is a real chance the electric automaker is indeed facing some sort of investigation. Again, we don't know anything for certain.

For now, Tesla hasn't made any official statement on the matter (we've asked, and will update this if we hear anything) and the stock market doesn't seem to care. TSLA was up 1.62 percent today, to $246.72, in part because analysts say this is just a rumor at the moment, according to ValueWalk.

News Source: ValueWalk, Probe Reporter

Image Credit: Ng Han Guan / AP

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