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2015 Ford F-150 to get up to 26 miles per gallon

  • Official
    2015 Ford F-150 to get up to 26 miles per gallon
  • Los Angeles
    Mullen 700e proves there's no coda for some EV brands
  • Los Angeles
    Audi A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro packs plug-in hydrogen powertrain
  • Official
    BMW i3 wins 2015 Green Car of the Year award
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Vitruvian Energy crowdfunding to make EEB, a trashy biofuel

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 4:02PM

vitruvian energy eeb biofuel

When sewage is treated at a wastewater treatment facility, biosolids are the byproduct. After being separated from the water, biosolids are usually sent to a landfill or incinerated. That doesn't mean that they're without value, however. Vitruvian Energy has created a process to make a usable fuel out of this human waste product, and while the source is pretty gross, it is undeniably abundant, and the results are much cleaner.

EEB can be made for less than $4 a gallon.

In a process that Vitruvian Energy claims is energy efficient, biosolids are femented and introduced to a type of bacteria to create PHA plastic. Reacting the PHA with ethanol creates the ethyl-3-ethoxybutyrate (EEB) biofuel. Vitruvian says EEB can be blended up to 20 percent with gasoline or diesel without any engine modifications. This lowers the carbon footprint of the fuel it's blended into, and serves to oxygenate diesel, leading to fewer harmful emissions. EEB can also be made using other organic waste products, such as corn stover, rice straw and distillers grains.

EEB can be made for less than $4 a gallon and isn't subject to the maddening market fluctuations and international politics of fossil fuels. Furthermore, EEB's carbon footprint is 70 percent less than that of fossil fuels. Vitruvian also sees potential for EEB to be used on its own to power vehicles or burned to produce electricity for the grid.

So far, Vitruvian Energy has used grants from the California Energy Commission and National Science Foundation to develop EEB, and has tested the fuel in a Pontiac Solstice at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Now, Vitruvian is wants to test EEB on a larger scale in the real world in order to prove EEB's viability to interested parties in the wastewater treatment industry. In an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, Vitruvian Energy hopes to raise $200,000 to build a prototype EEB production line and to run a test vehicle for a year on an EEB-diesel blend on the streets of Seattle. Donors can score some interesting perks such as shirts and bumper stickers that say "Get Clean with Poopaline." Learn more about EEB in the video and press release below.

News Source: Vitruvian Energy

Recharge Wrap-up: Couple wins Toyota Mirai; Tesla Gigafactory wages reported

National Biodiesel Board Elects Leadership; DOE Reports Progress In Hydrogen Production

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 8:00AM

toyota mirai winner

A couple who won a Toyota Mirai at the Los Angeles Auto Show are among the first people to own the new fuel-cell sedan. Marianne Ellis bought the winning ticket - auctioned off by the Environmental Media Association to fund environmental programs - as a possible 30th anniversary gift for her husband, David. The excited couple picked up their ceremonial keys at the LA Auto Show on Wednesday. "For us, it's about being at the cutting edge of change," says Marianne Ellis. "It's a chance to support environmental causes and clean energy, while showing it's possible to make a car like this part of your lifestyle." The Mirai will go on sale in California in the fall of 2015. Read more in the press release below.

The salaries for 6,500 full-time employees at Tesla's Gigafactory battery production facility have been reported. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the 4,550 production associates and 200 material handlers will be paid $22.79 an hour. 460 equipment technicians and 360 quality technicians will get $27.88 an hour. 930 engineers and senior staff will earn $41.83, or $87,000 a year. Tesla plans to staff 6,500 people at the Reno, Nevada-based Gigafactory by 2020. Read more at the Reno Gazette-Journal or at Teslarati.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) has elected its governing board members. The board leaders include Sprague Operating Resources Chairman Steven J. Levy, Minnesota Soybean Processors Vice Chair Ron Marr, American Soybean Association Treasurer Mike Cunningham and Nebraska Soybean Board Secretary Greg Anderson. NBB also filled four more spots on the board, discussed federal policies, began program planning and recognized outstanding member involvement in the biodiesel industry. Read more at Biodiesel Magazine.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has reported progress on renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production. The DOE calls electrolysis, photoelectrochemical, biological and solar-thermochemical key areas of hydrogen production and has made advances in each. The DOE is looking into technological advancements in making the clean fuel and ways to reduce production costs. The DOE has also outlined various plans for the 2015 fiscal year with regard to advancing hydrogen technology, with the goal of getting hydrogen prices in line with other fuels. Read more at Green Car Congress.

News Source: Toyota, Biodiesel Magazine, Green Car Congress, Teslarati, Reno Gazette-Journal

Image Credit: Toyota

OPEC isn't too worried about EVs

Posted Nov 21st 2014 7:57PM

chart showing number of passenger cars in the world

OPEC writes that "pure plug-in electric cars are unlikely to gain a significant market share in the foreseeable future."

Do you notice those thin pink and salmon-colored lines representing plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles up in that chart up there? Yeah, it took us a while to spot them, too. That's pretty much what the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) thinks about the prospects of worldwide adoption of plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles in the near-term – or, heck, pretty much long-term – future.

According to OPEC's 396-page World Oil Outlook report (PDF), plug-in vehicles will represent what's essentially a fraction of a fraction of new-car purchases for the next quarter-century or so. Sure, hybrids are going to take an increasingly large chunk, as well natural-gas vehicles, but plug-ins? Not so much.

In fact, OPEC writes that "pure plug-in electric cars are unlikely to gain a significant market share in the foreseeable future" in part because of relatively high purchase prices, single-charge range limits and questionable battery performance in inclement weather (if you're looking for that part, the section starts on page 100 of the report, which is actually page 126 of the PDF). Of course, if the rate of plug-in vehicle adoption sped up at a more rapid rate, there'd be less of a need for OPEC, wouldn't there? Check out the report here and draw your own conclusions.

News Source: OPEC via Gas2

Image Credit: OPEC

2015 Ford F-150 to get up to 26 miles per gallon

Posted Nov 21st 2014 2:17PM

Ford F-150

The 2015 Ford F-150 is one of the most important US vehicle debuts in years, be it in the pickup segment or the entire marketplace. While we've already known about the truck's engine lineup, its payload ratings and we've even learned a bit about how it drives, the truck's EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings have remained a mystery. The wait is finally over. Ford has announced numbers that put the latest F-150 as the mileage leader among gasoline-powered, full-size pickups in the US, with its new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 topping the charts.

Starting with the entry-level naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, the rear-wheel-drive F-150 is rated at 18-miles-per-gallon city, 25-mpg highway and 20-mpg combined. Opting for four-wheel drive drops those numbers slightly to 17/23/19.

If fuel economy is your absolute priority, then upgrading to the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 is the hot ticket. It improves things further to 19/26/22 in rear-wheel drive trim or 18/23/20 with four-wheel drive. The carryover naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 is rated at 15/22/18 as a 4X2 or 15/21/17 as a 4X4. Finally, the flagship 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 tops the range in available torque and offers buyers 17/24/20 ratings with rear-wheel drive or 17/23/19 with four-wheel drive.

"We are delivering with the toughest, smartest and most capable F-150 ever – and now the highest EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of any full-size gas-powered pickup in America," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development, in the company's announcement.

Depending on engine and drivetrain configuration, Ford contends that the 2.7-liter EcoBoost's top rating puts fuel economy up between 5 and 29 percent over the current generation, thanks in large part to the truck's lighter aluminum construction.

Obviously, these are EPA estimates, and your mileage may vary – ours has. Recently, Autoblog team members have had real difficulty even approximating government mpg estimates on many EcoBoost models, including the new F-150. Scroll down to read Ford's full announcement, including comparisons to rival models.

News Source: Ford

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Elon Musk goes deep, says 'Nobody should be CEO forever'

Posted Nov 21st 2014 11:54AM

Elon Musk

When someone achieves as much as Elon Musk has, it's easy to become fascinated not just with what the person is doing, but who that person is on a personal level. Sure, many of us are curious about what the future of Tesla or SpaceX looks like from inside the mind of its CEO, but some of us are also curious what he eats for breakfast. In a recent interview with Auto Bild, the German interviewers do a great job of getting Musk to open up about his business plans, his daily habits and even some of his deeper, more meaningful musings.

"Nobody should be CEO forever." – Elon Musk

Musk says he would likely remain CEO of Tesla Motors for three or four more years, at least long enough to see volume production of the upcoming Model III and building of the Gigafactory (for which Musk was able to command enormous incentives from the state of Nevada). "I will never leave Tesla forever, but I may not be CEO forever," Musk said. "Nobody should be CEO forever."

When hiring, Musk looks for "evidence of exceptional ability" and "a track record of exceptional achievement." That does not necessarily include a college degree. "If you look at, say, people like Bill Gates or Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, these guys didn't graduate from college, but if you had a chance to hire them, of course that would be a good idea."

At an interesting point in the conversation, the interviewers ask Musk to describe himself. He says that he has an innate sense of drive and that he seeks the truth, but it's interesting to watch him dig deep to come up with an answer. "All these introspective questions are interesting," he said. "I don't get asked these very often."

Musk goes on to talk about how he originally expected both SpaceX and Tesla to fail, how he lived on borrowed money to keep his companies afloat and even how he'd like to die on the planet Mars. While we didn't get to hear any more about the demon that is artificial intelligence, the video is an interesting journey through the life and mind of an exceptional person. Watch the whole thing below.

News Source: Hybrid Cars via YouTube


Car and Driver 10Best list cracked by Tesla Model S, BMW 3 Series left off

Posted Nov 21st 2014 11:30AM

Tesla Model S

Car and Driver 10Best LogoCar and Driver is keeping new blood pumping into its annual 10Best cars list with three new entries making it on for 2015 and a perennial favorite falling off. Among the biggest shocks this year is that the BMW 3 Series and 4 Series are no longer named, despite years of some portion of that lineup earning a mention. In another surprise, the Tesla Model S (specifically in S 60 trim to fit under the $80,000 cost cap) makes it to the 2015 roster and is the only electrically motivated member of the group.

Despite the loss of the 3 Series, BMW isn't entirely shut out this year, because the M235i gets its name on the list. Car and Driver argues that the little coupe feels like a welcome throwback to the E46 chassis M3 of the early 2000s. In addition to the Model S, the final newbie to the annual group is the 2015 Ford Mustang GT. The inclusion of these new members knocks the Audi A6/A7 family and Ford Fiesta ST out from the 2014 rundown.

The other seven models carry over from last year, including the Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, Honda Accord, Mazda3, Mazda6, Porsche Boxster/Cayman and Volkswagen Golf/GTI.

The 2015 10Best cars list certainly seems to have something for everyone from the hot hatch fan to the family man and even the green car driver, thanks to the addition of the Tesla. Head over to Car and Driver to read its detailed explanations for each vehicle's inclusion, but if you've got a difference of opinion or just really like the list, let us know in Comments.

News Source: Car and Driver

Image Credit: Car and Driver, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Porsche, Tesla, Volkswagen

Is BMW ready to increase i8 production?

Posted Nov 21st 2014 10:20AM

BMW i8

The BMW i8 plug-in hybrid is really fast. But the car is getting to customers really slowly. The German automaker might be doing something about that.

Bimmer executive Ian Robertson, speaking with reports at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, commented on the high demand for the super-PHEV and said the company may step up production in Germany, Automotive News Europe says. That's because the wait list for the i8 is approaching 18 months in some global markets. And Robertson would like to get that timeframe down to about six months.

No details were disclosed about how fast the i8 is being produced or how much faster that production rate may get. The i8, which retails for about $135,000, started sales in Europe in June and in the US two months later.

As for the smaller, slower i3 electric vehicle, BMW is making about 2,000 units a month, and wait lists are down to about four months. Part of the reason for that is because BMW shifted distribution rates for that model towards the US to meet higher-than-expected demand from stateside consumers and slow German sales. Through the end of October in the US, BMW had sold almost 4,300 i3 vehicles and 271 i8 models, including 204 i8 units last month alone.
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Over 70 utilities announce major EV deal at White House

Posted Nov 21st 2014 7:56AM

Plug-in hybrid

Plug-in vehicle purchases by the American public may be slowing down this year, but have faith. Because utility companies will be picking up a little bit of the slack by stepping up their focus on buying electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for their fleets. A new program touted for both environmental and cost-saving reasons has a stamp of approval from the White House.

More than 70 electric utilities will invest a quarter-billion dollars during the next five years to add more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to the utilities' fleets. Most notably, PG&E announced the utility industry's first plug-in hybrid Class 5 bucket truck. Each one of those vehicles, which can go as far as 40 miles on a single charge and juices up on-board equipment, will save a typical utility company about 850 gallons of gas per year. PG&E operates almost 1,500 plug-in vehicles it its fleet, so those missing gallons can equal quite a lot of dollars.

US Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, PG&E CEO Tony Earley, Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn and White House Senior Advisor John Podesta were among the dignitaries on hand to announce the program at the White House earlier this week. Check out the official announcement below.

News Source: Pacific Gas And Electric

Image Credit: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Toyota Mirai offers promising tech, unfortunate looks

Posted Nov 20th 2014 7:42PM

2016 Toyota Mirai

Is there some rule that all cutting-edge, ultra-efficient or emissions-free vehicles need to look, uh, weird? No? Then would anyone care to explain the Toyota Mirai, a vehicle that for all it's hugely, wildly promising technology, will forever be pigeonholed based on its odd styling?

Looks aside, the Mirai represents a big gamble for Toyota, which isn't only selling a hydrogen-powered car – a risky venture in itself – but teaming up with Air Liquide to build 12 hydrogen filling stations across the northeast. And once that's done, it plans on leasing the $57,000 sedans for just $499 month, a figure that includes free hydrogen (there is a reason for that, though). Like we said, this is a big gamble.

Of course, we still can't get over its looks, which you can more closely analyze in our live gallery, available above. Have a glance.

Mullen 700e proves there's no coda for some EV brands

Posted Nov 20th 2014 6:19PM

Mullen 700e Coda EV at LA 2014

"Coda did a good job developing the car ... but when they got to the starting line, it died." – Richard Curtis

Let's get this out of the way right up front: the "new" Mullen 700e is not a whole lot different than the long-expired Coda Sedan, the all-electric version it's based on. Actually, "based on" is too generous. The 700e you see above is really just the Coda EV with different badges. When the 700e goes on sale, it will have some updates from the original Coda, notably in the battery, but if you didn't like the Coda before, you probably won't like the 700e now.

That doesn't bother Richard Curtis Jr., the consolidated president of Mullen Technologies. Previously a Coda dealer in California (he also sold Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt plug-in vehicles), Curtis said that when the Coda Sedan was available it sold well. "Coda did a good job developing the car," he said. "[They spent] $400 million, it's a nice car, it worked well but when they got to the starting line, it died." Curtis said he still gets multiple emails or calls every day from people asking if they can buy a Coda.

Which brings us to the Mullen 700e that's on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week. Curtis and some partners bought the assets from Coda Automotive for an undisclosed amount (it was "a bargain," Curtis said) a while back and has since sold about 50 of the leftover cars. Coda Cars had interest from potential manufacturing partners in Turkey (cancelled because of the Syria situation) and China (also cancelled) before it was sold to Mullen about three months ago. That's why Coda Cars is now a Mullen Technologies company, and why the EV bears the Mullen 700e badge.

Mullen and Lishen are working on a 200-mile, 50-kWh pack.

The two vehicles on display here in LA are still basically Coda vehicles, but Curtis told AutoblogGreen that once the decision to restart production has been made, new vehicles could be rolling off the line in 90 days from the former Coda plant in Harbin, China. Looking forward, Curtis says that US production could happen as the volume goes up. "We've talked to a few different states about building in their states and maybe giving us an incentive," he said, naming Michigan and Nevada.

Those new cars will have bigger batteries, still made by Lishen. While the original cars has a 31-kWh battery pack, the 700e will have a 40-kWh pack and Mullen and Lishen are working on a 50-kWh pack. Other difference include 16-inch low rolling resistance tires (instead of 17-inch low profile tires) and undercladding on the back end. Those changes turn the original 125-mile car into a 150-mile car, Curtis said, and with the new 40-kWh pack, it's over 180 miles. With the 50 kWh, that jumps to over 200 miles. Curtis also said that he was going to look at revised design sketches for the new vehicle during the show and that, "When we finally go into production, we'll have a new front and back."

Curtis said that Mullen still has 85 old cars that are just waiting on new battery packs. When they go on sale, the price tag will look a lot like the Coda's, too. "We're going to try to price it at what the original car was priced at," Curtis said. For the record, that vehicle started at $44,900 before the MSRP was dropped to $39,900.

News Source: Mullen Motors

Audi A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro packs plug-in hydrogen powertrain

Posted Nov 20th 2014 4:59PM

Audi A7 H-Tron

If you think a plug-in diesel hybrid is an expensive proposition, just wait until you hear details about the just-revealed Audi A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro. The "H" in H-Tron, as you might guess, stands for hydrogen, so say hello to a new concept that combines a plug-in battery system with a hydrogen fuel cell. Yeah, exactly.

Let's start with the numbers. On the plug-in side, the new H-Tron has an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery that can power the car for up to 31 miles on battery power. With electric motors on both axles – it's a Quattro, after all, but a through-the-road hybrid with electronic torque distribution management – the A7 H-Tron uses a hydrogen fuel cell and four (!) H2 tanks to offer about 62 miles per gallon equivalent. Audi says the overall fuel cell stack efficiency is "as high as 60 percent" while the electric motors operate at 95 percent efficiency.

Efficiently turning all of that electricity into movement means the A7 Sportback H-Tron Quattro has a total power output of 398.3 pound-feet of torque. The 4,299-pound concept can allegedly go from 0-62 miles per hour in 7.9 seconds and has a top speed of 112 mph. The car's total range is 311 miles.

The A7 H-Tron is not the first plug-in hydrogen vehicle concept. That title goes to the Ford HySeries Edge. Mazda also considered putting a hydrogen range extender in the Mazda5 plug-in van.
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News Source: Audi

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo could only work in a video game [w/video]

Posted Nov 20th 2014 3:00PM

Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo

There's something wondrous about the Vision Gran Turismo series of concepts that has let companies go wild with completely imaginary concepts for Gran Turismo. For Chevrolet's crack at the idea, it has taken a page out of its performance past with the Chaparral Can-Am racers of the '60s and '70s, with its designers having reinterpreted that period look for the future of motorsports as the Chaparral 2X.

In real life, the 2X looks even better than in earlier photos. The design takes inspiration from someone in a flying suit with head down and arms outstretched, an influence you can really see that in the vehicle's shape. The driver lies facedown inside with the instruments projected onto a visor.

Unfortunately, the powertrain here is a complete flight of fancy and works purely in the video game world. It imagines a laser propelled by lithium-ion batteries and an air-powered generation to make 900 horsepower. The 2X has a theoretical top speed of 240 miles per hour and hits 60 mph in a lightning-quick 1.5 seconds.

Scroll down to see the concept on video with Chevrolet designers describing their inspiration and read the company's full announcement. It's also downloadable in Gran Turismo 6.

News Source: Chevrolet via YouTube

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 PHEV offers the best of both worlds it's ready to conquer

Posted Nov 20th 2014 1:41PM

2015 Mercedes-Benz S550 PHEV

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class just keeps growing – both in terms of dimensions and in terms of variants. Nevermind the S-Class Coupe for a moment and focus only on the sedan: in North America alone, you can get the big Benz in S550, S600, S63 and S65 spec, and at the Los Angeles Auto Show this year, Daimler has rolled out the new Maybach version as well. But if it's a more environmentally friendly way to woosh around town in serene luxury that you're after, you'll want to look at the new S550 Plug-In Hybrid.

Joining Daimler's growing range of battery-powered models alongside the E400 Hybrid, B-Class Electric Drive and Smart ED (the latter soon to be replaced by an all-new version), the S550 PHEV is the German automaker's first plug-in hybrid. It was first announced over a year ago and made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year, but now the US-spec car is making its North American debut in LA.

Promising "the performance of a V8 and the fuel consumption of a compact model," the S550 PHEV pairs a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 to an 80-kW electric motor, the S550 PHEV packs a combined 436 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque to reach 62 in just 5.2 seconds, top out at 130 miles per hour or drive up to 20 miles on electric mode alone. On the European combined cycle, it'll return an impressive 84 miles per gallon, all the while never skimping on the luxury.

Scope it out in our gallery of photos from the show floor in LA and delve into the details in the press release below.

BMW i3 wins 2015 Green Car of the Year award

Beats Out CNG, Hybrid And High-Efficiency Gas Finalists

Posted Nov 20th 2014 12:25PM

BMW i3 wins green car of the year

The popular little BMW i3 (popular in the US, at least) was named the 2015 Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show today. The award doesn't just take into account a car's green credentials but also its "availability to the mass market." While the i3 is a bit expensive, starting at $41,350, it is becoming available at BMW dealers across the country, which cannot be said about a lot of other new plug-in vehicles released these past few years.

The other finalists this year were the CNG-powered Chevy Impala Bi-Fuel, the Audi A3 TDI, the Honda Fit and the VW Golf. The BMW i3 with range extender gets a fuel economy rating of 117 MPGe and 39 miles per gallon (in gas mode) with a 72-mile EV range. The EV-only version gets 124 MPGe combined (137 in the city and 111 on the highway) and has an EV range of 81 miles.

Green Car Journal has handed out the award every year for ten years now, naming the Honda Accord Hybrid/Plug-In Hybrid the winner last year, the Ford Fusion models (plug-in hybrid and hybrid) in 2013, the Honda Civic Natural Gas in 2012 and the Chevrolet Volt in 2011.

News Source: Green Car Journal


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