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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.
Related GalleryTesla Model S
Tesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model S

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.
Related Gallery2015 BMW i8: First Drive
2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive

News Source: Want China Times, Bloomberg, BMW, EVSR

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Saab owners NEVS denied creditor protection by Swedish court

Posted Aug 28th 2014 3:45PM

SWEDEN-AUTO-COMPANY-SAAB

The story of Saab is practically a Greek tragedy at this point. The quirky Swedish automaker that was once known as a pioneer of affordable turbocharging has been followed by years of news that just seemed to keep getting worse. At this point, maybe the brand name should be allowed to fade away into the ether and be remembered for the good times that it gave us.

Saab's latest predicament is that its parent National Electric Vehicle Sweden (or NEVS) has been denied protection from its creditors by the Swedish courts. According to Reuters, the judges called the business' financing plan "vague and completely undocumented." A company spokesperson told Reuters that it plans to appeal.

Seemingly in reaction to the court's decision, NEVS posted a press release on its website announcing that the company had applied "for a reorganization to create more time for the ongoing negotiations." The automaker continues to claim that it's negotiating with two global automakers to sell a portion of the company, possibly Mahindra, but the process is taking longer than it originally predicted. It seems a distinct possibility that this reorganization attempt is simply a way to buy extra time.

With no protection, the Enforcement Authority in Sweden could force NEVS to sell property to pay creditors, of which it allegedly has over 90. It said in the statement, "loss of such assets could obstruct finalizing a contract," with the automakers it's negotiating with and dash even the scant hopes the business has of being saved. Scroll down to read the beleaguered company's full release.

News Source: Reuters, National Electric Vehicle Sweden

Image Credit: Bjorn Larsson Rosvall / AFP / Getty Images

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV van variant coming to Europe

Posted Aug 28th 2014 1:58PM

Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid

Mitsubishi's Outlander Plug-in Hybrid SUV will be hitting our shores this fall. Across the Pond, however, it's heading into more no-nonsense territory. That's because the Japanese automaker is making a commercial van variant of the plug-in hybrid for the UK.

Mitsubishi will start selling a model called the Outlander PHEV GX3h 4Work in the UK, Motoring Research says. Like the SUV, the model will pair a 2.0-liter gas engine with an electric motor and will have an all-electric range of 32 miles. The difference is that the back seats will be taken out and the glass will be blacked out. Hardcore, we say. The model will be priced at 36,905 British pounds (about $61,000), though buyers are eligible for a government grant worth 7,381 pounds ($12,200).

Mitsubishi plans to start selling the Outlander PHEV stateside in Fall 2015. The company said earlier this summer that the US version will be substantially different from the current version, with updates for everything from exterior and interior styling to powertrain efficiency improvements. The model had some battery-melting issues last year in Japan, though Mitsubishi ramped up its production once those problems were solved. Mitsubishi representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the commercial-van variant from AutoblogGreen, but we expect to be hearing more about it soon.
Related GalleryMitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVMitsubishi Outlander PHEVMitsubishi Outlander PHEV

New Fisker Karma spare parts coming soon

Posted Aug 28th 2014 9:58AM

fisker karma

It's easy to fall in love with the Fisker Karma based on looks alone. Figure in the luxury interior, electric drivetrain, and the convenience of the extended range, and it's hard to fault anyone who took the plunge and plunked down their hard-earned dollars for this swank green machine. Things go wrong, sure, as they do with any vehicle, but when the company goes bankrupt and you can't get the parts to get your car running again, let's just hope you really like the way it looks in your garage.

Fisker's new owner, Wanxiang, has some welcome news. "The Fisker team is settling and still negotiating with over 300 suppliers," says Linyun Frank Qi, Fisker Coordinator at Wanxiang America, in a note to the Fisker Owners Club. "Most of them are good to go now which means we will soon have access to all the parts and also means you will soon have access to them too." Qi says he had an accident of his own in the company show car, which is still in the shop, so he can empathize with other Karma drivers.

Wanxiang, a highly profitable auto parts company, bought Fisker earlier this year, along with its battery supplier A123 Systems. The company says it has grown the Fisker team from 20 to 80 people in recent months. The news that parts will soon be available could also be evidence that Fisker is closer to beginning production of the Karma again.

Fisker bought an old GM plant in Delaware as part of the deal to purchase the company, and has said that there is a "50-50" chance of building cars in the state. It also wants to build a second model beginning in 2017.

News Source: Green Car Reports

Image Credit: Fisker Automotive

Uber 'brand ambassadors' using burner phones, credit cards to sabotage Lyft

Posted Aug 28th 2014 7:59AM

Ridesharing Salt Lake City

The ongoing war of dominance in the mobile ridesharing industry between rival services Uber and Lyft (identified by its cars' pink mustaches) is showing no signs of stopping. One recent report based on Lyft data accused Uber's contractors of booking and canceling 5,560 rides since October 2013. New information is showing just how far Uber is willing to go to add to its roster of drivers, as well.

During Lyft's introduction to New York City, Uber set up a systematic approach to sway as many of its rival's drivers as possible to switch sides. According to The Verge, the company hired a street team of so-called brand ambassadors and gave them cell phones and credit card numbers to use. Their job was to hire Lyft drivers for a ride and try to talk them into changing teams. These recruiters would also take down driver information and cross-reference it so that their compatriots didn't waste energy by going after the same person multiple times. One anonymous ambassador speaking with The Verge, said that they received $750 each time they swayed someone to swap employers.

Now, Uber has decided to take a similar strategy nationwide with Operation SLOG, for Supplying Long-term Operations Growth. It recently announced the plan on its blog and immediately copped to the controversy that the company has experienced saying: "There's been a lot of discussion – and a lot of misinformation – about Uber's driver recruitment and the ridesharing industry's at large."

Uber claims that its drivers are small business owners, and it believes that the best way to add to its roster is direct marketing. "We can't successfully recruit drivers without talking to them," the business says on the blog. It also flatly denies ever intentionally canceling rides, despite earlier claims to the contrary. At the end of the post, Uber offers people the chance to sign up and join the team.

News Source: The Verge, Uber

Image Credit: Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

California first to likely give extra funds to low-income EV buyers

SB 1275 Passes In California Assembly, 46-23

Posted Aug 27th 2014 7:44PM

California State Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Charge Ahead CA supporters

If you're of the opinion that current federal and state support for electric vehicle shoppers in the US are really just hand-outs to the already well-to-do, you might like what California State Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) is up to. De Leon sponsored a bill earlier this year called the Charge Ahead California Initiative (State Bill 1275) which today passed the California Assembly by a vote of 46-23. The state Senate is expected to send the bill to Governor Edmund Brown soon.

The bill will "establish an income cap to stretch valuable public dollars to incentivize clean car purchases that would not otherwise occur."

What does Charge Ahead do differently? Well, it changes the already-popular and effective Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) that hands out $2,500 to zero-emission vehicle purchasers to not only have a bigger funding pile but also to "establish an income cap to stretch valuable public dollars to incentivize clean car purchases that would not otherwise occur, and would step down rebate levels over time as technology costs decrease." The bill has ways to encourage going green as well as going car-free. If you are in the "low-income" category, then you can get a minimum of $2,500 for cashing in your clunker for a ZEV. If, on the other hand, you're a low-income resident getting rid of a car to shift to the car-free/carsharing lifestyle, then you will get a minimum of $1,500. All others get, at most, $1,000. These amounts are less than previously reported, but the final bill has not yet been signed. SB 1275 also supports new carsharing programs, new EV charging stations and, "provides access to financing options that would lower combined monthly car payments and fuel costs."

You can learn more about Charge Ahead in this PDF, read the bill here and see a press release below.

News Source: Charge Ahead California

National Plug In Week grows to 115 cities across 35 states for 2014

Posted Aug 27th 2014 5:57PM

national plug in week

Forget about one National Plug In Day. We're going to need seven this year. And lots of cities will be participating in the party.

National Plug In Day is becoming National Drive Electric Week for 2014, with festivities taking place between September 15 and 21, according to advocacy group Plug in America. Organizers expect at least 35,000 attendees to attend events in more than 115 cities across 35 states.

And for good reason. Ride-and-drive events, food and drink, and family activities will be standard procedure for everyone who want to get a better look at the various EVs and plug-in hybrids parading through town. And many of the events will have a local spin. Houston's will be in front of a solar-powered IKEA store. In Southern California, UCLA and Santa Monica High School will hold lectures and educational programs about new drivetrain technology. And in New Hampshire, 50 EVs will be whirring their way up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern US.

Last year, National Plug In Day's organizers Plug In America, Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association planned the annual event for around 95 US cities, up from 60 in 2012 and the "measly" 29 that celebrated the first-ever event in 2011. You can find more info in Plug in America's press release below.

News Source: Plug In America

Recharge Wrap-Up: Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid bus, SiC could make Tesla Model S $6,000 cheaper

US And EU Considering Lowering Biofuel Targets; GM Brings Bikesharing To Tech Center

Posted Aug 27th 2014 3:56PM

volvo 7900 electric hybrid bus

Volvo is officially introducing its 7900 Electric Hybrid bus at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Germany next month. The coach bus reduces carbon emissions by up to 75 percent, and does its part to reduce noise pollution as well. It uses 60 percent less energy than comparable diesel buses. In city routes, it runs on electricity an average of 70 percent of the time. Volvo has also introduced safety features like auto brake technology to help avoid and mitigate collisions. Read more in the press release, below.

A new report finds that silicon carbide (SiC) will likely be the key to cheaper EVs. Using SiC or gallium nitride (GaN) instead of silicon power electronics is more efficient, and allows components to be smaller, lighter and cheaper to manufacture. The report states that SiC is close to being commercially ready and will be used as early as 2020. SiC could reduce battery costs in a Tesla Model S by $6,000. The use of SiC could make charging faster, make EVs cheaper and more convenient and possibly convince more people to ditch their fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Read more at Inside EVs.

General Motors is instituting a bikesharing program to allow employees to get around its 330-acre Warren, MI tech center. Through a partnership with Zagster, a total of fifty bicycles will be placed at at least seven locations around the campus. The center is home to 19,000 employees, 61 buildings, and 11 miles of roads. The bikes are part of ongoing sustainability efforts by GM. Read more at Bloomberg.

The US and EU are looking to lower their biofuel goals, according to a new report. The US is considering cutting 3 billion gallons from the required renewable fuels for 2014. This adjustment comes in response to a decrease in demand in gasoline over the last seven years, and would be the first step to relaxing the Renewable Fuel Standard. In Europe, concerns over inflation of food costs are causing regulators to consider lowering the ceiling of food-based biofuels from 10 percent to 7 percent. Read more at Domestic Fuel.

Brammo offers massive price drop on electric motorcycles

Enertia Plus Now At $6,995, Down From $10,995

Posted Aug 27th 2014 1:58PM

Shelina Moreda shows off the Brammo Empulse R

The sun may be setting on summer, but it's just rising on the best electric motorcycle deal ever. Brammo has just launched an end-of-summer promotion that chops thousands of dollars off the price tags of several of its models. If you've been mulling a move to a two-wheeled electric vehicle, this is likely the best value you will see for some time.

The Enertia Plus is the least expensive electric motorcycle you can buy.

Though the Oregon-based company likes to focus on its premier products, the Empulse and Emulse R, its Enertia Plus is a pretty sweet commuter bike. It has a simpler one-gear drivetrain and offers between 40-to-80 miles of range. Now, at $6,995 – down from $10,995 – it's the least expensive electric motorcycle you can buy.

Of course, the Empulse models are probably the best-handling and best-looking battery bike currently on the market, and with $5,000 slashed from the bottom line, they only become even more compelling. Step back in time and grab a 2013 machine and you can save an additional $2,000.

If you want to ride into summer's sunset, we suggest stopping by a dealer for a test drive. For Angelenos, that will mean a visit to Brammo's newest retailer, Hollywood Electrics. To get a good technical look at what goes into an Empulse, scroll below for video featuring the company's director of product development (and all-around nice guy) Brian Wismann explaining its workings using a cut-away model.

As a bonus, we've also thrown in an awesome video from Brammo's racing sponsor, Icon, which features a pair of prototype Empulse RR bikes enthusiastically tearing up some curvaceous blacktop in the Northwest wilds. While these machines are not available for sale at any price, we suspect something similar may make its way into the line up before too long.
Related Gallery2014 Brammo Empulse
2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse2014 Brammo Empulse

News Source: Brammo, Brammo

2015 Volvo XC90

Posted Aug 27th 2014 11:27AM

Volvo XC90

The new XC90 isn't just about the new XC90 – it's as much about the new generation of Volvos that will result.

Around the turn of the millennium, Volvo seemed like the perfect automaker to make a crossover. It had, after all, already established for itself a reputation for building all-wheel-drive wagons for transporting families in safety and comfort. But while its competitors marched one by one into the luxury utility market, Volvo held out. That was, anyway, until the debut of the original XC90 in 2002. And it's never looked back since.

Over the past baker's dozen years of production, Volvo has produced over 600,000 examples of the XC90 – not to mention another half-million or so of the smaller XC60 that followed. In other words, the decision to build the XC90 in the first place may very well have been among the smartest that Volvo has ever made. But after an unusually long lifecycle, Volvo has finally retired the first-gen XC90, and it's replacing it with the model you see here. And with it, it's ushering in a bold new era for the Swedish automaker.

After a series of three particularly handsome concept cars and even more teasers and advanced details, we're finally looking at the new 2015 Volvo XC90 here at its birthplace in Sweden. The big-production live reveal with media in attendance from around the world is testimony in and of itself to the importance of the new XC90's arrival to a marque that's always had a loyal following and is, after a period of stagnation, only growing. Because the new XC90, you see, isn't just about the new XC90: it's as much about the new generation of Volvos that will result.

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Noah Joseph / AOL

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