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Horse-drawn EVs for carriages? NYC may say 'neigh'

  • New York
    Horse-drawn EVs for carriages? NYC may say 'neigh'
  • Exclusive
    Every US Volvo could get plug-in hybrid model
  • New York
    2015 Ford Focus Electric hides in plain sight
  • New York
    2015 Toyota Camry ushers in 'sweeping redesign' [w/poll]
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Lexus NX debuts in turbocharged and hybrid guise

Posted Apr 20th 2014 12:19PM

2015 Lexus NX200t

2015 Lexus NX300hLexus showed off its polarizing new NX at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show, trotting out both the turbocharged 200t model (Lexus' first production turbo) alongside the hybrid-powered 300h.

We still don't know a great deal about the turbocharged model, aside from the fact that the engine underhood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, although we're hoping to get details sooner rather than later. For reference, the 2.0-liter turbo in the BMW X1 pumps out 240 horsepower while the four-pot turbo in the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 turns out 208 horsepower, which leads us to think we should expect the Lexus to fall somewhere between these two figures.

If Lexus' naming strategy in the past rings true here, though, we can confidently say the 300h will use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery, just like the Lexus ES300h and Toyota Avalon Hybrid. That should mean around 200 system horsepower and well over 30 miles per gallon, although it's probably too early to predict economy with any degree of certainty.

We have images of both the 200t (up top) as well as the 300h (below). We've also included the initial press release from Lexus and a larger gallery of official images, both available below. Scroll down and have a look.

Image Credit: Live images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

BMW Vision Future Luxury Concept is bold and beautiful in Beijing

Posted Apr 20th 2014 10:20AM

BMW Vision Future Luxury Concept

BMW officially unveiled the Vision Future Luxury Concept today (or is it tomorrow?) at the 2014 Beijing Motor Show, giving the world's media an in-the-flesh look at not only a future design theme for the brand, but a rumored flagship model.

This is a looker in person, thanks to its Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe-inspired design, and it's not too difficult to imagine it in production car form, with smaller wheels, larger mirrors and the other minor transformations that take place from drawing board, to auto show and, finally, to assembly line. In general, it seems like there are more than a few parts of this vehicle that are ready for production.

We didn't talk about it in our initial post, but it bears mentioning that this particular concept is wearing an eDrive badge on its backside, indicating that under the Vision Future Luxury's long hood is some form of plug-in-hybrid propulsion. It's anyone's guess as to what engine, battery and motor combinations BMW is playing with, although it does seem questionable whether BMW would launch a PHEV flagship to do battle with a top-rung variant of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (which will likely use V12 power).

Have a look up top for our gallery of live images from the floor of the Beijing Motor Show, and then scroll down for the official press release and images from our original post on the Vision Future Luxury Concept.

Image Credit: Live images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

Montreal sets new EV gathering record: 431

Posted Apr 20th 2014 9:29AM

Electric Vehicle Association of Quebec 431 EV gathering

The Nissan Leaf models are the easiest to spot, since they dominate the foreground. But Tesla Model S EVs and Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids are represented as well. Look a little closer and you'll see a Ford Focus Electric and Mistubishi i EVs. And is that a Cadillac ELR we see?

Yes, it's kind of fun to take a good look at the picture above (click to enlarge), which was released by the Electric Vehicle Association of Quebec (AVEC) showing off the group's successful 431-EV gathering, which should set a new world record for most plug-in vehicles in one place at one time. Previous records were the 225 Leafs Nissan collected at the Silverstone Formula Racetrack in the UK in late 2012, the 260.5 EVs that tooled around Oslo, Norway in September, 2013 and the 305 EVs that were part of the World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE) in Zurich earlier this year. The Montreal record has not yet been certified, but AVEC says it has submitted the event to Guinness and expects to hear back in a few months. Given the ever-increasing number of plug-in vehicles in the world, we suspect Europe will try and reclaim the crown before then.

Check out the Google-translated press release below.

News Source: AVEQ via Green Car Congress

Image Credit: AVEQ

Audi TT offroad concept wirelessly charges E-Tron quattro powertrain

Posted Apr 19th 2014 2:58PM

Audi TT offroad concept in Sonora Yellow

Audi has been diving deep into the concept ideas pool for a while now, with out-there auto-show-only vehicles like the off-road Nanuk Quattro Concept (last year's Frankfurt Show) and the TT-previewing Allroad Shooting Brake (Detroit earlier this year). The automaker has also been hinting at wireless charging through its work with WiTricitiry and the Urban Concept Sportback from Frankfurt 2011. The latest evolution of these ideas is the brand-new Audi TT offroad concept show car, which makes an appearance at the Beijing Motor Show this weekend after being teased earlier this month.

Putting wireless charging into an off-road body makes little sense at first glance - after all, if you're heading out into the wild, you'll be lucky enough to find a standard outlet - finding an in-ground induction pad will be near-impossible. Thankfully, we don't need to worry ourselves with this sort of logical conflict, since this is once again an auto show study.

The powertrain is capable of 408 hp and 479.2 lb-ft of torque as well 123 MPGe.

And that means interesting powertrain details, like a plug‑in hybrid E-Tron quattro powertrain that uses two electric motors (one rated at 40 kW for the front axle, the other at 85 kW for the rear) and can even dispense with the plug part thanks to Audi Wireless Charging technology. The powertrain is capable of a total system output of 408 horsepower and 479.2 pound-feet of torque as well as a provisional fuel efficiency of over 123 miles per gallon equivalent. All with the ability to hit 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. All-electric range is pegged at 31 miles thanks to a 12-kWH lithium-ion battery. More details than you can shake a stick at are available below.

Audi says the TT offroad concept, which blends both coupe and compact SUV, could be a preview of "a new model in a future TT family," so if you've been hoping for another entry in the growing crossover coupe segment, tell Audi you'd like to see this in the real world some day.

News Source: Audi

DOE offers $10M to advance biomass-to-biofuel efforts

Posted Apr 19th 2014 11:06AM

Biofuel Grant

The Department of Energy has made it clear that it favors a technology-somewhat-neutral, "all-of-the-above" strategy for developing energy alternatives for the US, as the new Strategic Plan 2014-2018 (PDF) states. What this looks like in the real world is another $10 million for "Technologies to Produce Advanced Biofuel Products from Biomass."

That's what the DOE is looking for with a new Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) that has the main goal of finding alternatives to petroleum-based fuels (so, advanced biofuels) as well as products (like plastics) that are made from "renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as agricultural residues and woody biomass." The long-term goal for those petroleum alternatives is an effective cost of $3 a gallon by 2022 as the US reduces petroleum use by 30 percent from today's levels. You can find more information in this announcement: DE-FOA-0001085 (PDF), including the fact that lignocellulosic sugars are not going to be supported by these funds.

News Source: Department of Energy

Image Credit: Toby Talbot / AP

A detailed look at the dreams and failure of Better Place

Posted Apr 18th 2014 7:57PM

better place station schiphol

If you've been curious about why Better Place went under, have we got the 8,000-word profile for you. For your weekend reading, check out a detailed history of the company's downfall over in Fast Company. Max Chafkin writes an engaging tale of the ups and downs that Better Place went through, and the personalities involved, foremost among them founder Shai Agassi, are also described in honest detail.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but Chafkin does a good job of showing how the $900-million Better Place project managed to be a beautiful dream, for a while. The public excitement over Better Place really started with Agassi's 2009 TED talk, which he describes this way:

This was science fiction, but Agassi presented it as fact, as if just by announcing his company he had already built it. It was "Shai math," as his employees would come to call it. And it was intoxicating. The TED crowd gave Agassi a long standing ovation.

Read the whole thing here. For good measure, we've included a video of the TED talk below, so you can get a feel of how big the original concept was. Enjoy.

News Source: Fast Company

First Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive rolls off line, coming to US soon

Posted Apr 18th 2014 5:57PM

Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive

Mercedes-Benz is about to give Americans another choice of battery-powered vehicle. Offering more all-electric range than the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3, and with a smaller price tag than the Tesla Model S, the B-Class Electric Drive is officially set to arrive in the US this summer. Indeed, the first examples have begun rolling off the production line in Rastatt, Germany.

Featuring drivetrain parts from Tesla Motors, the luxury compact hits all the performance parameters mentioned during its debut at last year's New York Auto Show. For a refresher, that's a single-charge range of 200 kilometers (124 miles) along with a 0-to-100 kilometer-per-hour (62 mile-per-hour) sprint in a respectable 7.9 seconds. These achievements comes courtesy of a 28-kWh lithium battery located in the floor of the passenger compartment and a 132-kW (177-horsepower) motor powering the front wheels. Torque specs for the unit seemed to have increased somewhat and are now given as 340 Newton meters (250.77 pound-feet). It boasts an 11-kW charger and can add as much as 62 miles of range to a deleted battery in an hour and a half. Sadly, it is not Supercharger compatible.

The B-Class Electric Drive, which is built on the same production line as the gasoline-powered version, is going to go on sale in Europe around the end of the year and will also come in a right-hand drive version for other markets in 2015. Although pricing has not yet been announced, Mercedes execs expect it to be quite competitive with the BMW i3. Scroll below for the press release (Google translated from German).

News Source: Mercedes-Benz via Autocar

VW may not bring diesel Golf GTD to US after all

Posted Apr 18th 2014 4:30PM

2014 Volkswagen Golf GTD

There is some bad news for hot hatch fans who also love efficiency. The chances of the Volkswagen Golf GTD coming to the US are increasingly slim, according to an interview with Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn in Automotive News. Horn says that the model would cost too much to import from Germany. Cue the sad trombone.

"The GTD would be a great car. The price point is not really attractive. So the probability is sort of diminishing," said Horn. While other Volkswagen diesel engines for North America are built in Silao, Mexico, the factory can't support the high-output 2.0-liter diesel, he claims.

The Golf GTD seemed like a sure thing for the US market. It was slated to launch as a 2016 model for around $27,000. The opportunity of a hot hatch with 181 horsepower, 280 pound-feet of torque and over 40 miles-per-gallon fuel economy seemed perfect. Earlier, VW even brought a few previous-generation models for journalists to try out, and we liked it.

However, the GTD isn't completely off the table quite yet. "Within product planning it's still under investigation, but it's looking less likely," said Mark Gillies Manager of Product and Technology at VW US Media to Autoblog. He didn't say what caused plans to change.

As some sustenance to diesel fans, Horn tells AN that a cheaper version of the standard Golf TDI is coming. VW is also still deciding whether to add tooling to build all-wheel drive vehicles in Mexico. It would allow vehicles the Golf TDI SportWagen concept from the New York Auto Show to be made. Petrol hot hatch fans can look forward to the seventh-generation GTI in June.

Horse-drawn EVs for carriages? NYC may say 'neigh'

Posted Apr 18th 2014 1:29PM

Horseless eCarriage

For more than a century, horse-drawn carriages have been iconic fixtures in New York City. But the Big Apple's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been on a crusade to put an end to the nostalgic rides, saying the carriages are cruel to the horses and a common source of traffic congestion. Amid this simmering controversy, a possible replacement for the horses emerged Thursday at the New York Auto Show. That's when Jason Wenig, an automotive restoration expert and Brooklyn native, unveiled the Horseless eCarriage, a battery-powered creation that took six years to plan and build.

On display in the lobby of the Jacob Javits Center, the antique-looking vehicle is at once a throwback to an earlier era in automotive history and a model of current electric-car technology. It can carry eight passengers, reach a top speed of 30 miles per hour and travel about 100 miles on a single charge. The 46-kWh battery feeds into a variable speed AV motor that produces – no pun intended – 84 horsepower. It's also huge, with a 158-inch wheelbase, a width of 88 inches and a height (to the top of the windshield, without the convertible hardtop) of 86 inches. It also weighs 7,500 pounds with driver and eight passengers.

"If you're going to do something, it's got to be big, bold and daring" – Jason Wenig

Perhaps most importantly, it seeks to retain the charm of the horse-drawn carriage. "I said to them, 'If you're going to do something, it's got to be big, bold and daring,'" Wenig said of his first conversations about the car. "If people are about to lose the brand they understand, this has got to fill that vacuum powerfully."

Not everyone is enamored with the idea. Traditionalists in the city say the carriages comprise a romantic part of the city's fabric, and they oppose the mayor's efforts to end the horse-drawn carriage era. So do carriage operators, who depend on the rides for their livelihoods.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University showed that 64 percent of New Yorkers support the carriages pulled by the actual equines. Actor Liam Neeson has been a vocal opponent of the mayor, and wrote an editorial supporting continued use of the horses this week in The New York Times. "An entire way of life and a historic industry are under threat," he wrote. "We should ask whether this is the New York we want to live in: a sanitized metropolis, where local color and grit are thrown out in favor of sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars?"

The Horseless eCarriage project was commissioned by NYCLASS, an animal-rights organization that is seeking more humane treatment of the horses. The group approached Wenig about six years ago to ask about the project, and as a native New Yorker an animal lover, it was a natural fit. "I'm not necessarily an activist, but I am an animal lover, so I understood where they were coming from," he said. "All of the sudden, I'm in the barn, trying to hammer out steel."

Sixty-eight carriages would be needed to replace the current stable of horses. Although it took Wenig the past six months to construct the first (and so far only) eCarriage prototype, he believes he could construct the entire fleet in a matter of months, should the project go forward. His current operation is located in Dania Beach, FL, but he says he may open another shop back in his hometown, to help complete the project quickly. In a Google Hangout last week, de Blasio said he expects to take action on the horse issue within the year, so you've got time to peruse the official press release below.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

New Fisker claims 50-50 chance it will build cars in Delaware

Posted Apr 18th 2014 11:51AM

fisker logo

As soon as the bankrupt Fisker Automotive started crawling back from the dead, rumors that the new owners would restart production of the Karma plug-in hybrid crawled as well. We've heard that the car would be built in the old General Motors plant the company owns in Delaware, that it would happen in Michigan or that Valmet would get going again in Finland. Nothing official has yet been announced, but Delaware Online is now saying that it's even money that Delaware to play a role in Fisker's physical rebirth.

"It definitely makes economic sense to consider [the Delaware] facility" – Roger Brown

Roger Brown is the interim president of Fisker Automotive and recently said that there is a "50-50" chance that the Newport, DE will be where the company rises again. "We inherited this situation, and because the facility is one of the assets we purchased, it has ... good bones, it has a paint shop, and you know, it definitely makes economic sense to consider that facility," he told Delaware Online.

Before Fisker's bankruptcy, Delaware offered over $20 million in incentives to get the automaker to build cars there. It never did, and a recent settlement agreement does not give the state much of a return on that money. The bankruptcy proceedings are not yet finished, but Brown made what has to be considered a bold statement. In deciding which locations makes sense to restart production, he said that, "if they provide incentives, obviously that would go into the equation; if they don't, obviously that would go into the equation also."

The closest that the new Fisker has come to saying where it will restart building cars is in documents that new owner Wanxiang filed with a federal court earlier this year. That three-part plan included restarting Karma production at Valmet, using partner VL Automotive's manufacturing facility in Michigan and then building the Atlantic somewhere. Brown gave a timeline to Delaware Online - new Karmas by August 2015, start building the Surf shooting brake by March 2016 and then add in the Atlantic by the end of 2017 - which would give Fisker time to tool up the Delaware plant for the Atlantic. Brown also said that building with VL Automotive has now been ruled out.

News Source: Delaware Online

Toyota launches new Passo hatchback in Japan [w/video]

Posted Apr 18th 2014 9:32AM

2015 Toyota Passo

With considerable manufacturing capacity here in the United States and even a NASCAR program, it'd be all too easy to categorize Toyota as an American automaker. Only it's not. It's Japanese, of course. And back in the Japanese Domestic Market, it offers a whole range of models we'll never see in North America. Models like the Crown sedan, Noah minivan and this, the new Passo hatchback.

Sold in various markets as the Daihatsu Boon, Daihatsu Sirion, Perodua Myvi and (for a time) the Subaru Justy, the Toyota Passo is a compact hatchback that slots in size-wise between the Yaris sold in America and the Aygo offered in Europe (except the Passo is taller than either).

Power comes from a 1.0-liter engine with 69 horsepower that can be had in front- or all-wheel drive, or a 1.3 driving 95 horses to the front wheels alone. A continuously variable transmission is on duty regardless of engine choice. Front-drive models get a stop/start system, but even all-wheel-drive versions are eligible for government tax credits. That's because, though the new Passo only appears to be mildly updated, the engines have been thoroughly reworked to deliver 30-percent better fuel economy than the previous model, coming in 20-percent better than the standards being enacted by the Japanese government for next year.

Powertrain configurations aside, Toyota is offering JDM customers a wide array of trim and equipment levels, all of which you can read about in the press release (and scope out in the video) below.
Related Gallery2015 Toyota Passo
2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo2015 Toyota Passo

News Source: Toyota

Chevy and GMC trucks get CNG option pricing

Posted Apr 18th 2014 8:01AM

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD CNG at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, front three-quarter view

Chevrolet and GMC have clued us in to pricing of the bi-fuel option for the 2015 Silverado and Sierra 2500HD CNG and 3500HD CNG pickups: it starts at $9,500; we're still missing the rest of the pricing inferred by the word "starts," however. If you remember from the Chicago Auto Show introduction, the 6.0-liter V8 puts out 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque when drinking gas, 301 hp and 333 lb-ft when inhaling CNG.

Chevrolet figures that a bi-fuel Silverado HD is worth $2,000 in savings if driven 19,500 miles on CNG and 7,500 miles on gasoline in the span of a year, a recoup rate easily attainable to high-mileage fleet owners. It can be specced on double- and crew-cab pickups with single rear wheels, not on dualies.

The 2015 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana short-wheelbase passenger and cargo vans also get CNG options, starting at $10,825 for the three-tank system, and $12,090 for the four-tank system that can only be had on the cargo hauler. You'll find a bit more info on all of the permutations in the press release below.

MG Dynamo Concept EV is a 90-year celebration

Posted Apr 17th 2014 6:20PM

The MG Dynamo concept electric car, front three-quarter view.

As part of the celebrations for its 90th anniversary, and as a study of European appetites for small electric vehicles, MG has unveiled the Dynamo (click the photo above to enlarge). We didn't get detailed battery specs, but the little hatch is less than 12 feet long, weighs 2,376 pounds and gets up with 70 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. It has an 80-kilometer range when topped up, but rapid charging can restore 80 percent of its juice in just 30 minutes.

You can get a glimpse of the Dynamo and other current and future MG wares at the London headquarters of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) from April 16-28. The press release below has a little more info on the concept car, MG's banner quarter of UK sales and the MG90 event coming up at the Silverstone circuit in June. Wondering if and when an electric MG might reach production? So are we. MG's certainly not hinting, but at least we know the thought is in their minds...

News Source: MG

Every US Volvo could get plug-in hybrid model

Posted Apr 17th 2014 3:19PM

Volvo XC Coupe Concept PHEV

Whether we're talking XC90, S60 or V60, if Volvo sells it in the US, there is a decent chance that you will some day soon-ish be able to buy it with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. That's the message from Dean Shaw, VP Corporate Communications at Volvo Cars of North America, who spoke with AutoblogGreen during the New York Auto Show this week.

Volvo's recent past has been a bit cluttered with plug-in (and wireless) vehicle test projects and early plug-in hybrids as it has tried to find its electrification legs. We loved the all-electric C30 (but not its price tag), understood why Europeans flocked to the V60 plug-in hybrid and dug the Concept XC Coupe PHEV (above) that was displayed at the Detroit Auto Show in January. With yet another plug-in concept - the S60L PPHEV - being unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show this weekend, we figured it was time to get some electrification clarity. Speaking with Shaw made it clear that this run of vehicles shows that Volvo is just about ready to get serious about PHEV technology.

Let's start with the V60 PHEV, which Shaw called a test bed.

Let's start with the V60 PHEV, which Shaw called a test bed. "It was a product we could sell, but it was also a learning curve for us. [Volvo] was sold back in 2010, but the strategy that was part of the sale was that, in the future, Volvo would have a very clear focus on very high-efficiency, small gasoline and diesel engines. We're talking two liters, four-cylinders, with a range of anything from 140 up to 300-plus horsepower. At the top end, we'd augment it with electrification." That pretty much exactly describes the S60L PPHEV.

But that's all phase one. The real trick is what comes next.
Related GalleryVolvo Concept XC Coupe
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