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This Labor Day, low gas prices mean more cars on the road [w/video]

  • Official
    This Labor Day, low gas prices mean more cars on the road [w/video]
  • Spy Shots
    Lutz's Fisker-based WM Destino caught in Death Valley testing with changes
  • Report
    Tesla Model S now the least-stolen car in the US
  • Quick Spin
    2014 Volkswagen e-Up!
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Sales of electric motorcycles, scooters will reach 55 million in next decade

Posted Sep 1st 2014 8:00AM

Harley-Davidson's Project Livewire electric motorcycle

Current and future electric motorcycle and e-scooter makers are hoping that global sales of the two-wheeled plug-ins take off as quickly as their electric-powered bikes. Numbers collected by Navigant Research should give those companies a bit of hope. The research firm says the e-motorcycle and e-scooter market is ready to surge as component prices drop while gas prices continue to rise.

Navigant says about 55 million plug-in two-wheelers will be sold within the next decade. And while China now accounts for all but two percent of global e-cycle and e-scooter sales, demand is expected to pick up in other regions, i.e., North America and Europe. That spells good news for both existing e-bike makers like Brammo and future purveyors like Harley-Davidson. In June, Harley announced its first electric motorcycle called the Livewire. Harley started showcasing a concept version of the bike at 30 dealers along Route 66 this summer.

It looks like Brammo wants to make a chunk of those 55 million unit sales happen sooner than later. The Oregon-based electric motorcycle maker just started a late-summer promotion that cut prices across the board. Prices on Brammo's Empulse and Enertia lines were cut by anywhere from $4,000 to $6,995. Take a look at Navigant's press release below.
Related GalleryHarley-Davidson Livewire
Harley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson LivewireHarley-Davidson Livewire

News Source: Navigant Research

This Labor Day, low gas prices mean more cars on the road [w/video]

Posted Aug 31st 2014 3:00PM

Consumer Prices

It's not hard to understand, when gas prices go up, Americans sometimes drive less on national holidays. This year, though gas prices are lower than they have been right before Labor Day since 2010, and that means the American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting that the number of people taking a road trip of more than 50 miles is expected to rise compared to last year. AAA says that 35 million people will make a 50+ mile trip this year, the highest number since 2008 and up 1.3 percent from 2013. There's a video report on this increase available below.

The average price of gas in the US this past Monday was $3.45 a gallon. Not only is that the lowest price it's been on the Monday before Labor Day in four years, it's also 25 cents lower than it was in the end of June and a dime lower than it was a year ago. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that the main reason for the drop is lower crude oil prices from the North Sea. As always, global worries about places like the middle east affect the crude oil price, and the EIA says that the market has a "perception of reduced risk for Iraqi oil exports as well as reports of increasing Libyan oil exports" that is helping to keep prices low.

News Source: US Energy Information Administration, American Automobile Association

Image Credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

Ford hybrid sales rebound following MPG controversy

Posted Aug 31st 2014 1:00PM

Ford C-Max Hybrid

Ford hybrid customers apparently have very short memories. With two EPA fuel economy reratings in the last year, sales of the C-Max, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ haven't been too terribly dented, Ward's Auto reports.

All three vehicles saw sales dips following the August 2013 rerating, although sales of the MKZ Hybrid had begun to rebound as early as November of that year. C-Max sales, meanwhile, took slightly longer, with sales on a steadily improving course as early as February of this year.

The second rerating, in June of this year, has had an even smaller effect on the Blue Oval's hybrids. The C-Max has actually been subject to a sales increase, while both the MKZ and Fusion saw minor sales drops (less than 400 units between the two in the month following the rerating).

That seems to be peanuts according to Ford spokesman Aaron Miller, who told Ward's the company hasn't really seen a negative downturn.

Part of this, Miller claims, is due to Ford's goodwill payments to owners of affected vehicles, which ranged from $325 to $550 in the first case and $150 to $1,050 in the second case, depending on whether the customer leased or financed their vehicle.

"Our marketing team reported that current owners of those (affected) vehicles did not become dissatisfied," Miller told Ward's Auto. "I believe that the goodwill payments made to our customers helped a lot."

Ford's hybrid sales are actually up 2.5 percent through July, which is below the industry average of 2.9 percent. All things considered, though, that's certainly not as bad as it could be.

News Source: Ward's Auto

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

There are ways to sneak Tesla Model S into Russia for just 6.5M rubles

Posted Aug 30th 2014 5:00PM

Dmitry Grishin Tesla Model S

Tesla Fever has extended far and wide, winning over critics and everyday enthusiasts alike. The company is rapidly expanding its efforts both in its home market and abroad, but for some of its wealthy fans, that move isn't happening quite fast enough.

Dmitry Grishin is one such enthusiast. The 35-year-old multi-millionaire founder of Russia's Mail.ru is a big fan of Elon Musk's operation, so much so, in fact, that he's decided not to wait for sales to begin in the Russian Federation. Instead, he's gone off on his own and simply imported a Model S to get around Moscow.

The acquisition was not easy, as detailed by The Verge, and Grishin's car isn't quite as full-featured as a Model S sold in America – he's forced to use his phone's data connection rather than the car's . But, Grishin clearly has no regrets, spending a total of $180,000 to bring the EV to Moscow. In fact, Grishin has gone so far as to say he'd invest in the American EV manufacturer, if it hastened the brand's arrival in the motherland.

Head over to The Verge and check out the full profile on what must be on of Russia's biggest Tesla fans and his acquisition of the Model S.

News Source: The Verge

Image Credit: Dmitry Grishin

Audi recalling 70k TDI models worldwide over braking problem [UPDATE]

Posted Aug 30th 2014 1:00PM

Audi A7 TDI

Audi is issuing a recall covering some 70,000 vehicles worldwide, due to problems with their brake boosters. According to Automotive News Europe, diesel-powered examples of the A4, A5, A6, A7 and Q7 are all being called back due to this issue.

The report indicates that while the brakes in these vehicles still function, the enhancing power from the booster may fail due to a possible leaky membrane.

All of the affected vehicles are powered by the 3.0-liter TDI turbodiesel V6, and were built between March and December of 2012. It is unclear as of this writing how many of these vehicles are in the States, though remember, US customers are not privy to 3.0 TDI examples of the A4 or A5. Autoblog has reached out to Audi for specific numbers, and we'll update this space when we hear more.

UPDATE: Audi spokesperson Mark Dahncke confirmed that this recall affects 1,814 vehicles in the United States – all 2013 model year Q7 TDI vehicles built between June 5 and November 29, 2012.

Tesla Model S rentals in the UK are crazy expensive

Posted Aug 29th 2014 7:54PM

Tesla Model S

The bad news about trying to rent a Tesla Model S electric vehicle in the UK for a day is that it will run you about $580. The good news? You get 200 free miles worth of driving. The good news? Considering British fuel prices of about $9 a gallon and fact that the average fuel economy in the UK is around 38 miles per gallon, you're at least getting around $45 worth of travel for your $580. And you're doing it in one of the most popular EVs around.

UK-based EVision is offering right-hand drive Model S to motoring enthusiasts at a starting rate of about $100 an hour (with a three-hour minimum, of course), reports Transport Evolved. That jumps to $580 for the full day. And for a week of pretending that you're James Bond in your sparkling Model S, the car will run about $3,300. And you though rental rates for London flats were expensive.

California-based Tesla started delivering the Model S to the UK in June. The model is priced at about $84,000 and Tesla said at the time that more than 3,400 Model S vehicles had been sold in Europe during the first four months of the year. Those figures were helped by Tesla's decision to reduce the price of the Model S on the continent because of the strengthening Euro.
Related GalleryTesla Model S: Quick Spin
Tesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick SpinTesla Model S: Quick Spin

News Source: Transport Evolved

Image Credit: 2014 AOL

NEVS' reorganization plan approved after all?

Posted Aug 29th 2014 5:45PM

SWEDEN-AUTO-COMPANY-SAAB

What a difference a day makes. Thursday, we reported that current Saab parent National Electric Vehicle Sweden had its application for creditor protection denied by the Swedish court for being "vague and completely undocumented." But NEVS was back in court on Friday, and this time the application was granted. However, the story continued to get weirder as defense contractor Saab AB allegedly revoked NEVS' rights to use the Saab name.

NEVS did put out a brief press release confirming the court decision saying: "The District court of Vänersborg, Sweden, today August 29 approved the application for reorganization from National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB." The company allegedly has over 90 creditors, and according to Reuters, it owes them roughly 400 million Swedish krona ($57.56 million). The business says that it is in negotiations with two, unnamed companies to get additional funding.

Also, according to Reuters, Saab AB, best known for making fighter planes, has revoked NEVS' rights to the Saab brand name because the company's application for creditor protection gave the defense contractor that right. When NEVS bought Saab, it only acquired the automaker's physical assets, and had to negotiate for the rights to use the name.

Autoblog reached out to NEVS to better understand what all of this means for the company moving forward. We'll update this story, if we hear back. Scroll down to read the entire, two-sentence press release from NEVS about the court's decision.

News Source: Reuters, National Electric Vehicle Sweden

Image Credit: Bjorn Larsson Rosvall / AFP / Getty Images

Lutz's Fisker-based WM Destino caught in Death Valley testing with changes

Posted Aug 29th 2014 2:14PM

WM Destino Spy Shots

New spy shots make it look like Bob Lutz's idea to convert the Fisker Karma into a fire-breathing sports sedan called the Destino might not be vaporware after all. Two of them were recently spotted testing in Death Valley sporting changes that make them appear closer than ever to actually going on sale.

The idea behind the Destino was always fantastic. Take the Karma (already a great-looking sedan), ditch its powertrain and drop in the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. However, since we first saw the concept at the 2013 Detroit auto show, there hasn't been much solid news about its actual production.

These test cars sport a number of changes indicating that development is still ongoing. Most notably, there are new heat extractors flanking both sides of its bulging hood. That big V8 obviously needs cool air to breathe, and they should help. Plus, the louvers give the Destino a bit of extra menace from the front.

The interior shots show the Fisker covered in Alcantara with some carbon fiber trim, and the transmission tunnel is slightly reworked and fitted with a new gearshift. These photos obviously show an automatic, but a manual is likely possible.

One final change for the Destino is less obvious, and that's its new name. VL Automotive and WM Greentech Automotive recently merged, which gives the sedan the new name of the WM Destino. When it does hit the road, prices are rumored to be around $200,000 to put this supercharged creation in your garage.
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Image Credit: KGP Photography

Renault 141-mpg concept car coming to Paris. For real this time

Posted Aug 29th 2014 12:47PM

FRANCE EARNS RENAULT

Summer is winding down and, in the automotive industry, that means the auto show season is about to ramp up. The Paris Motor Show is just over a month away, and we're starting to get hints about what Renault is going to bring: a hyper-efficient concept vehicle.

Autocar is reporting that an "experimental engineering" concept will make an appearance in Paris, one that will get 141 miles per gallon vehicle. Why 141 mpg? Because that's the level set by the French government for car companies to reach by 2020. 141 mpg is the equivalent of 1.67 liters per 100 kilometers, if you're keeping track in European units. What technology Renault will use to get to 141 mpg was not disclosed.

Of course, a 141-mpg Renault was promised for the Geneva Motor Show this spring, but that didn't happen. Perhaps the fact that a totally new platform is being used, along with the "dramatic weight reduction and a dramatic aerodynamic improvement" that was needed (according to Renault's design boss Laurens van den Acker), held things up.

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Christophe Ena / AP

Recharge Wrap-up: LG Innotek creates rare earth-free DCT motor, BYD reports increased EV sales

US, Chilean Navies Move To Alternative Fuels; CA Funds EV Charging Expansion

Posted Aug 29th 2014 10:15AM

lg innotek rare earth free dct motor

The US and Chilean navies have agreed to work together to develop alternative fuels for ships and aircraft. As a move toward better energy security, the two countries want to develop "drop-in alternative fuels," namely biofuels, to reduce dependence on foreign oil and ensure a reliable supply and cost. The US Navy wants to have 50 percent of "organizational consumption" come from alternative energy sources by 2020. The US is moving toward primarily using a biofuel and petroleum blend, and wants to make sure its allies are able to use the same fuels. Read more in this joint statement from the US Navy and the Ministry of National Defense of Chile.

California approved $1 million in grants for EV charging stations in Encinitas and Sonoma County. Corridor Power was awarded $500,000 to install new chargers in the Encinitas County. Sonoma County will receive another $500,000 to renovate existing stations and to add three new ones. The California Energy Commission hopes the expanded charging infrastructure will encourage more drivers to adopt electric vehicles. Read more in the press release, below.

BYD saw sales of its electric vehicles increase sixfold in the first half of the year, selling about 7,600 battery electric cars and plug-in hybrids. The rise in EV sales is thought to be in response to China's programs encouraging people to buy emissions free vehicles. Despite the increase in BYD's EV sales, analysts don't think it indicates mass market demand. BYD plans to introduce more electric models in the second half of the year, including a plug-in hybrid SUV called Tang and the all-electric Denza. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

LG Innotek has created a dual-clutch transmission motor that is free of rare earth metals (pictured). Without needing the rare minerals, the motor can be mass produced without concerns over availability or the rising cost of materials. The motor-equipped DCT is more efficient than a conventional automatic or manual transmission. LG Innotek's rare earth-free motor is also about four percent lighter than standard DCT motors, while offering the same performance. The motor will go into production early next year. Read more in the press release, below.

News Source: Navy, California Energy Commission, The Wall Street Journal, LG Innotek

Image Credit: LG Innotek

Ford Green Zone works magic with GPS to make your drive smarter, cleaner

Posted Aug 29th 2014 8:01AM

ford c-max energi plug-in hybrid

For the most part, plug-in hybrids rely on the power stored in the battery until that charge is depleted. Unless the switch can be changed manually, it's only then that the cars fire up the internal combustion engine and begin using the fossil fuels on board. This is ideal, of course, when one's drive isn't long enough that the car needs to start sipping gasoline at all. On longer commutes, when it's certain that the route is longer than the car's all-electric range, this isn't necessarily the most efficient use of energy.

Ford's Green Zone system is designed to save some of that juice for the parts of the drive that require slower speeds.

Ford is working on a smart system, based on Nokia mapping technology, that uses GPS data to use both the electricity and conventional fuel more efficiently. Since battery power is less efficient at highway speeds, Ford's Green Zone system is designed to save some of that juice for the parts of the drive that require slower speeds, rather than just using up all the electrons right at the beginning of the drive. Using a website or the in-car navigation system, the driver can pinpoint the parts of the route, highlighted in green, where using battery power would be more effective, and set the car to automatically switch to electricity for those sections. Depending on the route, the car could automatically switch back and forth between the two power sources multiple times, particularly if the drive is a mix between city and highway driving.

Of course, Green Zone will be go beyond that. The program is being developed to take traffic and road grade into account, details that allow the car to be make even smarter choices to improve efficiency. Ford even hopes to have Green Zone learn driver habits, and respond accordingly depending on who is driving the car. The system could control other features as well, such as anticipating corners and shifting the headlights to better illuminate the road ahead. Green Zone could also potentially use information from vehicle-to-vehicle networking to control functions in the car.

The Green Zone system still has a few years before it will be ready to be put into production vehicles, but Ford is confident it will make its way onto the road eventually. As with other innovations that improve efficiency and make our vehicles smarter, we can expect to see similar technology from other manufacturers, until it becomes a regular part of driving in the future.

News Source: NBC News

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

Tesla Model S now the least-stolen car in the US

Posted Aug 28th 2014 7:00PM

tesla model s red

When is a Honda Accord more appealing than a Tesla Model S? When you're a thief. The Accord continues to reign as the most-stolen car in the US but the Model S is now claiming a new and interesting title: the least-stolen car in America. Last year, it wasn't even on the list. Of course, sometimes a Model S is stolen and the most famous case ended with tragic results.

Last year there was an eight-way tie for "least-stolen."

For the record, last year there was an eight-way tie for "least-stolen," made up mostly of SUVs and CUVs. The rankings were listed by a value called "claim frequency," which is how many were reported stolen per 1,000 units produced and where lower means it is stolen less. With a 0.4, these were the vehicles least wanted by thieves in 2013: Dodge Journey, Volkswagen Tiguan, Audi A4, Acura RDX, Toyota Matrix, Lexus HS 250 hybrid, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson. This year, the Tesla clocked in with a 0.15. The average vehicle has a claim frequency of 3.51.

Tesla has, of course, worked hard to make the Model S an unlikely target. It can be shut down remotely, it can be tracked and it has a hacker princess and cash prizes working to protect from other attacks. Tesla's Alexis Georgeson told AutoblogGreen that Tesla hasn't been able to verify the "least-stolen" moniker but said that, "We take the security of our cars very seriously and relentlessly continue to improve our vehicles via over-the-air updates, an ability unique to the industry. We will continue to work to stay ahead by providing the most sophisticated tools and technologies in our cars and working closely with security researchers to identify and address potential vulnerabilities."

Value Walk says that another reason for the low theft rate is that there might be very low demand for Model S parts, since the cars are still under warranty and there aren't many on the road. Still, the claim frequency is a fair comparison, and by that metric the Tesla Model S looks just awful to at least one group of people.
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News Source: Value Walk

Helsinki could make owning your own car a thing of the past

One Account Would Access Carsharing, Public Transport, More

Posted Aug 28th 2014 5:44PM

TRAVEL HELSINKI

Helsinki, Finland is no stranger to transportation alternatives. From EV testing to a solid public transportation system, the northern European city knows that private cars are not the only option to get around. In the future, though, private cars might not be a logical option at anyone living there.

Navigant calls it "the final piece of the puzzle that makes this scheme truly transformative."

According to Navigant Research, Helsinki is working on an integrated system that would let users have one account that pays for carsharing, bikesharing, public transport and more. Navigant says that combining all of the various transportation modes into one payment network is "the final piece of the puzzle that makes this scheme truly transformative." It's certainly bigger and broader than anything we've heard of before to encourage people to give up their private vehicles.

In an urban environment, having simplified access to whatever method of conveyance you need at any given moment is idea. Want to bike the half-mile to the bakery? Get your ride on. Got to go to the hardware store for a load of fertilizer and a shovel? Check out a carsharing vehicle. Want to take the family to the zoo? Streetcar it is. Minimizing the hassle to access all of these options is going to make the day-to-day realities of private car insurance, refueling and repairs seem a lot less appealing. Or, as Navigant puts it: "The concept is the transportation version of other businesses that are moving from selling a product to selling the service or utility the consumer wants from that product. Planned obsolescence no longer makes good business sense, and consumers can benefit from constant improvements in technology." Rear the whole thing here.

News Source: Navigant Research via Green Car Reports

Image Credit: Pekka Sakki / AP

Recharge Wrap-up: EVSR returns to Mt. Washington, China Mulls $16 Billion For EV Charging

Foxconn And BAIC Start EV Rental Service; BMW Innovations campaign launches

Posted Aug 28th 2014 3:57PM

bmw i8

Foxconn and electric carmaker BAIC are partnering to provide an electric car rental service in China. Slated to kick off next month in Beijing, Hangzhou and Jiangsu province, the company, called Henyu, will offer the EV rentals by the hour. Henyu hopes to offer 5,000, to 10,000 electric rental cars within a year, and wants to become the largest EV rental group in China. The company will also deploy BAIC's E150EV to ten cities for rental outside of Beijing. Read more at Want China Times.

Hoping to convince more people to make the switch to electric cars, China is considering investing $16 billion to install charging facilities. Anonymous sources have said that an announcement about the program will be made soon. China has already announced and implemented various measures, such as incentives and tax breaks, to encourage more people to drive emissions free and improve urban air quality. China aims to have 30 percent of its government vehicle purchases be EVs by 2016, with higher targets after that. There's more from Bloomberg.

BMW is launching a campaign to highlight technology features from the i8 to be used in other BMW vehicles. Called BMW Innovations, the program will include television ads showing how the i8's full-color heads-up display, LED headlight technology and Surround View Camera System are making their way into cars such as the 3 Series, 5 Series and X3, respectively. BMW Innovations also includes digital and social media campaigns, as well as hands-on technology presentations at dealerships. See the new ads below, and learn more in the press release.

EVSR is set to return to Mt. Washington for the Alternate Energy Summit. It is the team's first time back since EVSR set the electric vehicle record at the Climb to the Clouds hill climb earlier this year. EVSR will run the cars up the hill again, and it will hold a workshop about electric racing, called "Redefining Motorsports - A How-To Guide for Creating a Revolution in Speed." The Alternative Energy Summit takes place on September 13 and 14 as part of National Drive Electric Week, and is free to the public. Read more in the press release, below.
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News Source: Want China Times, Bloomberg, BMW, EVSR

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

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