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Saleen hints at tuning Tesla Model S

Posted Apr 15th 2014 9:28AM

Saleen Tesla Model S

Saleen has been dropping breadcrumbs about its plans to develop a modified version of the Tesla Model S for a while now, and has finally released the first renderings that show off its changes to the electric sedan.

The four renderings indicate a comprehensive makeover for Saleen's Tesla. The front bumper is completely different with the absence of a grille and new louvered air intakes at the corners. The turn signals on the quarter panel appear to be open now, and the hood has new creases angled toward the center. One of the renderings promises an additional carbon fiber rear diffuser, carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon fiber deckled trim. The rear also has a larger spoiler and more aggressive rear bumper with brake cooling ducts at the corners. The interior appears relatively untouched, but the seats and much of the upholstery has been covered in a mix of leather and Alcantara.

Previously, Saleen promised to amp up the Model S' performance even farther, but it still hasn't gone into detail about what it's changing or how much it is going to cost. "I fully intend to produce one of the most compelling Tesla's to ever hit the roadway," said Steve Saleen, company founder and CEO in an earlier statement. We have contacted Saleen for more details about its plans for the Model S, and we'll update this story when we hear back.
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News Source: Saleen via Facebook

FEV says new PHEV transmission ready for 'sports car performance'

Posted Apr 15th 2014 8:02AM

FEV PHEV transmission

At the SAE World Congress in Detroit last week, FEV showed off what it calls an "innovative" new plug-in hybrid transmission. The reason for that moniker is that the system does away with the need for a torque converter while offering two speeds, which makes it particularly good during launch. If the electric motor is used to get going, once up to speed, the engine kicks in for "efficient highway driving" and the system is capable of both electronic boost as well as capturing regenerative braking energy.

FEV's Jochen Wolschendorf, executive vp and and chief sales officer for FEV, told AutoblogGreen that this parallel hybrid system was developed for an unnamed customer and is running in test vehicles today, but he couldn't tell us who is interested in this technology. He did say that the two main benefits are that this transmission is "much more compact and less costly." These benefits were made possible because FEV started the design process by using a "clean sheet approach" that did away with any unnecessary complexity, according to the official announcement. It's also ten percent lighter than "a similar dual-clutch transmission" and FEV is hinting that it could be perfect for a higher-end vehicle since it was put through "FEV's extreme dynamic 'Nurburgring' test cycle for sports car performance." Anyone want to try and guess which company is behind this tech?

News Source: FEV

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

Is 120 miles just about perfect for EV range?

Posted Apr 14th 2014 7:56PM

Toyota RAV4 EV

When it comes to battery-electric vehicles, our friend Brad Berman over at Plug In Cars says 40 miles makes all the difference in the world. That's the approximate difference in single-charge range between the battery-electric version of the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan Leaf. It's also the difference between the appearance or disappearance of range anxiety.

The 50-percent battery increase has zapped any lingering range anxiety, Berman writes.

The RAV4 EV possesses a 40-kilowatt-hour pack, compared to the 24-kWh pack in the Leaf. After factoring in differences in size, weight and other issues, that means the compact SUV gets about 120 miles on a single charge in realistic driving conditions, compared to about 80 miles in the Leaf. "The 50 percent increase in battery size from Leaf to RAV has zapped any lingering range anxiety," Berman writes.

His observations further feed the notion that drivers need substantial backup juice in order to feel comfortable driving EVs. Late last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), along with the Consumers Union estimated that about 42 percent of US households could drive plug-in vehicles with "little or no change" in their driving habits, and that almost 70 percent of US commuters drive fewer than 60 miles per weekday.

That would imply that a substantial swath of the country should be comfortable using a car like the Leaf as their daily driver - with first-quarter Leaf sales jumping 46 percent from a year before, more Americans certainly are. Still, the implication here is that EV sales will continue to be on the margins until an automaker steps up battery capabilities to 120 or so miles while keeping the price in the $30,000 range. Think that's a reasonable goal to shoot for?
Related GalleryToyota RAV4 EV
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News Source: Plug In Cars

100 Tesla Model S hatchbacks to get NCE convertible conversions

Posted Apr 14th 2014 6:31PM

Newport Convertible Enterprises Tesla Model S Convertible

The folks Newport Convertible Engineering have made a specialty out of taking coupes and sedans and converting them into convertibles. Sometimes this results in absolutely weird creations like a Range Rover droptop, but its latest project is significantly greener. The company has developed hard and soft top conversions for the Tesla Model S, and they are already quite popular too. An investor in China has ordered 100 of them.

NCE has been working on creating the two versions of the convertible Model S for the last six months, and it involves a lot more than just cutting the roof off. "Some sections needed restructured," said Al Zadeh, the company's CEO, to Autoblog about the changes made to maintain rigidity. A soft-top conversion costs $29,000 and a hard-top $49,000. In addition to these prices, buyers must supply a donor vehicle. Production is due to start in July in California, Dubai, and Barcelona, Spain.

This might be just the beginning for NCE's convertible Model S. Zadeh says that the company has made an inquiry with Tesla about whether it could supply 5,000 cars for conversion to satisfy predicted demand. He will release more details on the project "when the time is right." Scroll down for NCE's official announcement of the 100-car order.

News Source: Newport Convertible Engineering via World Car Fans

Aluminum lightweighting does, in fact, save fuel

Posted Apr 14th 2014 2:59PM

Ford F-150 and its new, largely aluminum body

When the best-selling US truck sheds the equivalent weight of three football fullbacks by shifting to aluminum, folks start paying attention. Oak Ridge National Laboratory took a closer look at whether the reduced fuel consumption from a lighter aluminum body makes up for the fact that producing aluminum is far more energy intensive than steel. And the results of the study are pretty encouraging.

In a nutshell, the energy needed to produce a vehicle's raw materials accounts for about 10 percent of a typical vehicle's carbon footprint during its total lifecycle, and that number is up from six percent because of advancements in fuel economy (fuel use is down to about 68 percent of total emissions from about 75 percent). Still, even with that higher material-extraction share, the fuel-efficiency gains from aluminum compared to steel will offset the additional vehicle-extraction energy in just 12,000 miles of driving, according to the study. That means that, from an environmental standpoint, aluminum vehicles are playing with the house's money after just one year on the road.

Aluminum-sheet construction got topical real quickly earlier this year when Ford said the 2015 F-150 pickup truck would go to a 93-percent aluminum body construction. In addition to aluminum being less corrosive than steel, that change caused the F-150 to shed 700 pounds from its curb weight. And it looks like the Explorer and Expedition SUVs may go on an aluminum diet next. Take a look at SAE International's synopsis of the Oak Ridge Lab's study below.
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News Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory via Green Car Reports

Leno's steam-powered 1925 Doble E-20 is fascinating

Posted Apr 14th 2014 12:44PM

Doble E-20

The steam-powered car is considered an old-fashioned relic in today's age, but in his latest video showing off his 1925 Doble E-20, Jay Leno demonstrates that at its best, steam provided a realistic challenge to the internal combustion engine. This car has some real provenance too. Famous industrialist Howard Hughes is counted among its owners, and Leno claims he liked it so much because it was the only car that performed as well as his Duesenberg.

While the Doble's four-cylinder compound engine makes only 150 horsepower, it produces a staggering 1,000 pound-feet of torque, according to Leno. That much power means that a transmission isn't necessary, and it directly drives the rear end.

For much of the video, Leno puts on his teacher's cap and explains step-by-step how the Doble's advanced steam engine works, and it's a very complicated piece of machinery, especially if your are used to internal combustion engines. One of the most interesting parts is the system's efficiency, because after being used in the engine, the gas is condensed back into water and heated again.

If you're a fan of engineering or mechanical systems, this is a fascinating video to watch, and it's amazing how functional the Doble makes steam power appear. In fact, it's almost possible to see steam as a realistic alternative to modern engines. Scroll down to watch Professor Leno give you an inside look at his idea of the pinnacle of the steam-powered automobile.

News Source: Jay Leno's Garage via YouTube

2015 VW Jetta gets official just ahead of NYC reveal

Posted Apr 14th 2014 10:59AM

2015 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen has offered up the lightest of refreshes on its Jetta for 2015, making subtle styling tweaks to the front, rear and interior while adding a few doses of new equipment. One of the biggest tweaks is the new, 2.0-liter TDI engine, which is now more efficient, returning 45 miles per gallon on the freeway (compared to 42 mpg on the 2014 model) while retaining the previous engine's 236 pound-feet of torque.

Normally, we'd run through visual changes first, but really, the tweaks made are so minor that only the staunchest of VW enthusiast is going to notice them. The new, optional xenon headlights and their 15 LED running lights are the most obvious changes, while the LED taillights of the GLI and Hybrid should stick out a bit. VW's primary focus, it seems, was on the exterior's aerodynamics, rather than aesthetics.

The trunklid is slightly more aerodynamic, as is the front fascia and the rain gutters along the A-pillars. Sill covers, wheel spoilers and an underbody panel on the rear axle are less noticeable aero tweaks. Both the Jetta 1.8T and TDI include an active grille shutter on the radiator, to further reduce drag at speed.

Volkswagen has made some mild tweaks to the interior, with a color multi-function display and some new chrome trim on "mid and high-level trims." The big changes on the interior are the wealth of new driver assistance features. Blind spot monitoring comes to the Jetta, along with cross-traffic alert and frontal collision warning. It's unclear if these will be options or part of a pre-determined package or trim level.

We'll have more on the Jetta and Jetta TDI from the floor of the 2014 New York Auto Show. Take a look below for the full press release.
Related Gallery2015 Volkswagen Jetta
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News Source: Volkswagen

DOE lays out 'all of the above' energy strategy for next five years

Posted Apr 14th 2014 10:00AM

DOE 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

The US government really does have a plan for how advanced-drivetrain technology will help the country meet its goal of cutting petroleum imports in half by the end of the decade, which means US emissions will need to be 17 percent lower than they were in 2005. The plans involves, among other things, battery improvements, hydrogen fuel-cell technology, biofuels and more vehicle-electrification advancements. Not to mention lions, and tigers and bears. Oh my.

The widest possible swath of companies can expect to benefit from the government-funded efforts.

The details are laid out in the Strategic Plan 2014-2018 (PDF), which the Department of Energy released last week. And it admittedly and proudly takes an "all of the above" approach when it comes to transportation-related petroleum-dependence reduction over the next four years, meaning that the widest possible swath of companies can expect to benefit from the government-funded efforts (thanks, politics). The plan also says the US will double the amount of energy produced by renewable sources such as wind, sun and geothermal sources. A lot of public-private partnerships will continue to be involved, and we envision many photo opportunities.

Check out the Department of Energy press release below and take a look at the 27-page plan here.

Formula E drops Rio from inaugural season calendar

Posted Apr 14th 2014 8:00AM

Spark-Renault Formula E racer

If you've been looking forward to Formula E kicking off its inaugural season of electric racing and holding an event in Brazil, you were probably pretty stoked to see that the calendar included a race in Rio de Janeiro. As well you should: while Brazil has been a mainstay of the Formula One calendar for decades, the Brazilian Grand Prix has been held at Interlagos – closer to São Paulo than Rio – since 1990.

Unfortunately for Brazilian racing fans, however, the Rio race was left off of a recently revised calendar issued by the FIA at this past weekend's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Marrakech, Morocco. The revised calendar keeps the China and Malaysia rounds right where they were in September and October, but leaves the slot that was to be Brazil's vacant before the Uruguay and Argentina races carry on as planned in December and January. Los Angeles has been moved from its slot in February to April after the Miami race (which stays in March) and another round has been listed as TBA in February. The subsequent rounds in Monte Carlo (May 9), Berlin (May 30) and London (June 27) are still slated to carry on as planned.

Formula E has also adopted the F1 points scoring system and announced the first test sessions to take place, open to the public, at Donington Park in the UK in July and August, with two more test sessions to take place during the season. The series has also outlined a timetable for interested manufacturers to begin the application process in September to build their own chassis for the second season.
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News Source: Formula E

BMW details Concept X5 eDrive ahead of New York debut

Posted Apr 13th 2014 4:33PM

BMW Concept X5 eDrive

Already weighing more than most other types of vehicles and with the space to accommodate the extra equipment, crossovers and SUVs arguably make for one of the more ideal platforms to transform into a hybrid. And there have been a handful of them – like the Audi Q5, Infiniti QX60/Nissan Pathfinder, Porsche Cayenne/Volkswagen Touareg, Lexus RX450h/Toyota Highlander and Cadillac Escalade/Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon – but by and large the majority of hybrids on the market are sedans and hatchbacks. BMW, however, looks poised to join the minority with the X5.

The Bavarian automaker showcased the X5 eDrive concept at Frankfurt last year, and as promised, has now revealed the followup it will present at the New York Auto Show in just a few days. The new Concept X5 eDrive, as BMW has now revealed, pairs a 2.0-liter turbo four good for 245 horsepower to a 95-hp electric motor to deliver a combined 340 horsepower. Its lithium-ion battery can power it for up to 20 miles and at speeds up to 75 miles per hour before the gasoline engine needs to kick in. All that without sacrificing the vehicle's utility, maintaining an almost perfectly flat loading floor with 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats, and without sacrificing much on performance, either: with a 0-62 time of seven seconds flat, the X5 eDrive concept is quicker off the line than the production X5 with the 2.5-liter turbodiesel and just a tenth off of the 3.0-liter turbodiesel.

With the full technical details now released (you can delve into it all in the press release below), the only question remains when BMW will actually put the X5 eDrive into production. Given its appearance in New York, though, we gather that whenever it does reach showrooms, it'll reach American ones as well.
Related GalleryBMW Concept X5 eDrive
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News Source: BMW

Washington State governor signs pro-Tesla bill

Posted Apr 13th 2014 9:09AM

I had no idea Seattle has a Tesla dealership!

Maybe Tesla should build its proposed gigafactory in the Evergreen State. Last week, Washington Govermor Jay Inslee signed a bill that will allow Tesla to keep selling its electric vehicles through its showrooms and not have to work through third-party dealerships, Automotive News says. That means the California-based electric-vehicle maker can keep its showrooms in Seattle and Bellevue open.

Oddly, the bill appears to more-or-less grandfather Tesla into factory-to-customer legality, allowing Tesla to expand its number of showrooms while preventing any other automaker who didn't have a state dealership license as of January 1, 2014, to do the same. The news isn't exactly stunning, given the state's largely pro-green attitude and progressive approach to plug-in vehicle technology. A fast-charging-station network has been built along Interstate 5 in both Washington and Oregon, and, as of late 2013, Washington's I-5 stations were getting used about twice as much as they were in 2012.

Still, the bill represents a substantial victory for Tesla, whose representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from AutoblogGreen. Last month, New Jersey said Tesla would have to close its two factory-owned stores in the state. Tesla lost a similar battle in Texas last year, while the company has made some headway in states like Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Ohio. Last year, Tesla chief Elon Musk went as far as saying he'd go to the federal government to try to overturn such laws, but that avenue of attack has not yet been attempted.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: thatguyeric/Flickr

Tesla Model S owners hack their cars, find Ubuntu

Tesla not amused

Posted Apr 12th 2014 5:00PM

Tesla Model S

There are interesting subsets within the group of people that composes Tesla Model S owners. They include celebrities, Drudge Report-reading conservatives, and, more relevant to this post, tech-savvy geeks. Now, give that last bunch an electric car with an easily-exposed Ethernet connecter and they will try to plug into it and snoop around. Don't believe us? Well, several have already admitted to giving it a try on this thread over at the Tesla Motors Club forum.

After wiring into the car's communications system, forum user "nlc" was able to find a number of ports and tap into the data flowing to the center console and navigation screens. Others soon joined in the fun and amongst the slightly esoteric bits of information the "hackers" eventually discovered was that the sub-system runs on a version of Ubuntu operating system, which is a Linux variant.

While one person did manage to use the discoveries to get Firefox to display on the center console touchscreen (sideways), it doesn't seem likely anyone will be able to do more invasive things with the Ethernet entry point like, for example, transform an early 40-kWh Model S into a 60-kWh version (you can't hack extra batteries). For those who want to customize the big 17-inch display, or at least get it to play video, it seems they'll be better off waiting until Tesla is ready to release the software development kit (SDK) it has promised for third-party app builders.

For its part, the California automaker isn't particularly thrilled to have its customers digging beneath the dash. Through its service center, it has already contacted the original Ethernet exploiter to let him know they were aware of his actions and that such activity could lead to a voiding of the warranty. Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Purchase Agreement (MVPA) which buyers sign does contain a clause which reads, in part,

You may not, or may not attempt to, reverse engineer, disassemble, decompile, tamper with or engage in any similar activity in respect of a Tesla Vehicle, nor may you permit any third party to do so, save only to the extent permitted by applicable law.

It could be argued that this light-handed geekery doesn't quite measure up to the legal extent permitted, but we know if we owned a car that costs as much as $100,000, we wouldn't be risking it. Not when there are salvage-titled cars out there on which to practice the black arts. (MWAHAHAHA!)

If you've got hacks – or third party apps, for that matter – you'd like to see performed or integrated into an electric vehicle, let us know in the Comments.

News Source: Tesla Motors Club via Transport Evolved

Sri Lanka wants 100,000 EVs by 2016

Posted Apr 12th 2014 9:26AM

Pedestrian, car and railroad bridge, near Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

An automaker in an island nation about the physical size of West Virginia has some big thoughts about electric-vehicle adoption. Anuruddha Lihinikaduwa, CEO of E-Lanka Automotive, says Sri Lanka - just 25,000 square miles big with a population of about 20 million people - will have 100,000 electric vehicles on its roads within two years, the Sunday Leader reports.

With the country trying to spur plug-in vehicle sales to reduce both pollution and nationwide refueling expenses, Lihinikaduwa says E-Lanka will be able to take on larger plug-in automakers like Nissan and Tesla. Import duties on EVs in Sri Lanka are just a fifth of what they are for gas-powered vehicles, and the government and E-Lanka are both working on an expanded electric-vehicle recharging network throughout the country. The stirrings for expanded EV sales are in already happening. India's Financial Express reported last month that India-based Mahindra was targeting Sri Lanka (in addition to Norway and the UK) as a potential new market for its battery-electric Reva e2o. Additionally, the president of the Vehicle Importers' Association of Lanka recently said the country would expand its network of charging stations to help boost sales of EV imports.

Still, the 100,000-EV prediction is awfully optimistic, especially given that there are just 60 (!) EVs in the country now and E-Lanka is only selling about six a month. Put another way, 100,000 EVs in Sri Lanka would equal about 1.5 million in the US, calculated out on a per-capital basis. There were around 100,000 plug-ins were sold in the US last year.

News Source: The Sunday Leader

Image Credit: james_gordon_losangeles/Flickr

California could put $60,000 MRSP limit on EV rebates

Posted Apr 11th 2014 8:00PM

CARB $60,000 EV rebate limit chart

In California, electric vehicles have been selling so well that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is discussing ways to reduce the amount spent on the state's Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP). The program, which provides rebates to EV buyers, is $30 million in debt this year, according to the Capitol Weekly. A new discussion document that was presented at CARB's April 3 meeting lists two main ways that the state could save money while still supporting EV sales.

There could be a $60,000 price limit on plug-in vehicles that CARB would subsidize.

Option one is to reduce the rebate by $500, which would mean pure EVs would get $2,000 and plug-in hybrids would get $1,000. The other option would be to put a $60,000 price limit on plug-in vehicles that CARB would subsidize. Currently, this would only affect two vehicles: the Tesla Model S and the Cadillac ELR. You can find the details in this PDF; see pages 20-23 for discussion on reducing the rebates.

CARB's numbers show that cutting the rebate by $500 would result in "only a minimal short-term impact in the growth of sales of eligible vehicles." The benefit would be that," the budget savings associated with the short-term market delay will more than offset this impact by providing rebates for about 41 percent more vehicles during fiscal year 2014-15 under a fixed budget." As far as limiting the rebate to vehicles that cost less than $60,000, CARB makes the obvious point that, "rebates are more effective in influencing purchase decisions related to vehicles with a MSRP lower than $60,000." CARB thinks this limit will impact no more than two percent of the EV market, "but will allow the program to be more effective in influencing consumer purchase decisions."

Plug In America does not support CARB's proposal. PIA's senior policy advisor, Jay Friedland, told AutoblogGreen that:

At this early point in the market, Plug In America is working hard along side a coalition of automakers, NGOs, utilities and consumers to maintain the CA Clean Vehicle Rebate at current levels with all vehicles included. Tesla is a leading California EV manufacturer - and has been indispensable to creating the market generally - and should not be excluded from the program. Every EV reduces pollution for kids and adults alike and our dependence on petroleum.

We asked Tesla for a statement, but have not heard back. The company told the Capitol Weekly that the proposed changed would "jeopardize the purchase of more than 2,500 Tesla vehicles in the state" and possibly slow down manufacturing.

*UPDATE: This article originally stated that the CVRP funds are used to give out tax rebates. They are actually just rebates.
Related GalleryTesla Model S
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News Source: Capitol Weekly, Plug In America


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