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Is Tesla Motors becoming a Republican darling?

Posted Apr 21st 2014 7:56PM

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Fox Business on Tesla Motors

The general political attitudes taken by the left and right in the US are, sadly, divided on the issue of fuel efficient vehicles. Broadly speaking, Republicans dislike the whole idea (even going to absurd extremes like Newt Gingrich saying that inflating your tires helps Big Oil) while Democrats are in favor. The stereotype even gets in the way of people thinking that the DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program is an Obama Administration creation. It's not, and was started under President Bush in 2008.

The political divide has been particularly strong when it came to Tesla Motors. Most readers probably remember when Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney attacked the automaker during a debate with President Obama. New Jersey governor Chris Christie has been fighting Tesla's moves in his state as well. But, wait, is there a change in the air?

The San Francisco Chronicle's David Baker has written an interesting story that looks at some positive statements from prominent Republicans recently, for example when Bill O'Reilly said everyone should get behind Tesla or when Texas governor Rick Perry said he supports the EV automaker selling directly to customers. Baker has an interesting take on this shift and what it might mean for upcoming elections. We recommend you head over to SFGate to read the whole thing. Here's a teaser:

Some Democrats doubt, however, that the GOP as a whole will embrace Tesla and clean tech anytime soon. Wade Randlett, a Silicon Valley executive and major Democratic fundraiser, noted the Republican Party's deep ties to the oil industry - the companies most threatened by electric cars.

Read the whole article.

Cadillac, Daimler execs take swipes at Tesla

ELR drivers getting access to Chargepoint stations

Posted Apr 21st 2014 6:32PM

tesla daimler partnership

Despite the financial ties between Daimler and Tesla Motors, at least one Mercedes exec thinks the electric automaker doesn't have a bright future. And over at Cadillac, the message is that Tesla doesn't pose a threat but offers the luxury arm of General Motors more of classroom experience.

The Mercedes story runs like this. Mercedes-Benz USA president and CEO, Steve Cannon, said at the New York Auto Show last week that Tesla has "no network" and only offers "little shops that don't have service capacity." He also said: "Folks are buying a Tesla now because they're kind of cool, but if you're a Tesla buyer, you have to have multiple cars. With Mercedes, you have a whole network. You've got no worries. ... Tesla is great, but you've got plenty of well-established brands that mean luxury, like Porsche or Mercedes-Benz, and how long do you think we're going to wait and let Tesla be out there alone [selling premium electric cars]?"

"Treehuggers do not buy new luxury cars" – Uwe Ellinghaus

For Cadillac's global chief marketing officer, Uwe Ellinghaus, Tesla's EV success represents little other than "a great opportunity and a learning exercise for all of us, and will help us traditional manufacturers to think twice about electric mobility." He added that, "I am not afraid of Tesla. ... There is no willingness to really sacrifice on the traditional qualities of a luxury car. These are not cars for treehuggers, as treehuggers do not buy new luxury cars." Ellinghaus made the comments during a panel discussion at the 2014 Automotive Forum.

Perhaps the lesson of Tesla's offer of free Supercharging to Model S owners is what led to Cadillac to recently announce a deal with Chargepoint that gives ELR drivers access to that company's 16,500 charging stations. Read more details on that below.

News Source: MLive, Forbes

NHTSA investigating Bosch Power Xpress 240V EV chargers for fire risk

Posted Apr 21st 2014 4:16PM

Boschpower XPress 240V Charger

*UPDATED with Bosch's comment.

Let's stamp out the flames of suspicion right up front. A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation, while involving a 2013 Nissan Leaf and some smoke, is not about another EV fire. Not directly, anyway.

"Nissan has determined by pictures that the car was not to blame for the incident" – NHTSA complaint

This time, the subject of the NHTSA's lens is the Bosch Power Xpress 240V charging unit. NHTSA wants to know if an overheating charging cord caused smoke (NHTSA says there was no actual fire) in a Leaf owner's garage last fall. NHTSA says it will investigate, "to evaluate the scope, frequency, and consequence of the alleged defect." Up to 50 of the charging units could be involved, and NHTSA decided to act based on a single customer complaint that was filed in August 2013. The investigation opened April 15, so it will likely be a while before we know any more concrete details. For now, you can read the official details of the investigation and the original complaint - which says, "Nissan has determined by pictures that the car was not to blame for the incident. They are blaming the charging station for the failure. They have denied any warranty coverage. The burden of the bill has been placed with the customer" – below.

Nissan's senior manager of corporate communications, Brian Brockman, sent AutoblogGreen a statement that says Nissan will work with NHTSA and Bosch and points out that, "This inquiry is focused on the electric vehicle charger and is directed at the charger supplier, Bosch." Requests for comment from Bosch were not returned, but we will update this post when we hear back.

Bosch spokesperson Cheryl Kilborn told AutoblogGreen that, "Bosch is reviewing the filing and will work cooperatively with NHTSA as we seek to identify the root cause."

News Source: NHTSA, Nissan

Audi TT Offroad concept packs 408 hybrid horsepower, yet returns 123 mpg

Posted Apr 21st 2014 2:02PM

Audi TT Offroad Concept

Audi took the wraps of its TT Offroad Concept at the Beijing Motor Show, after teasing us with sketches earlier this month. "The Audi TT offroad concept provides a glimpse of how we might imagine a new model in the future TT family," says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development. "It combines the sporty genes of the TT with the strengths of a compact Audi SUV."

The latest in Audi's eTron show cars reminds us an awful lot of the the Audi Allroad Shooting Brake concept that debuted a few months ago at the Detroit Auto Show. In addition to very similar physical appearances, the two share the same plug-in hybrid propulsion systems (the "plug-in" part is a bit misleading, as the concept simply needs to be parked over an inductive pad to take advantage of Audi Wireless Charging technology).

Proving that hybrid power never has to be a compromise, the TT Offroad Concept packs a 292 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood. The combustion engine is assisted by two electric motors (rated at 40 kW at the front and 85 kW at the rear) to provide a total system output of 408 horsepower and nearly 480 pound-feet of torque. With all-wheel drive, the concept hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and tops out at 155 mph - while returning a provisional fuel efficiency of 123 miles per gallon equivalent.

Inside the four-place cabin is Audi's forthcoming Virtual Cockpit Technology with a customizable 12.3-inch TFT display projecting high-quality 3D graphics to the driver. Other technology includes three Audi Smart Displays, which serve as mobile infotainment systems both in and out of the car, and a cabin ionizer to remove allergens from the cabin atmosphere. And, when owners tire of driving the TT Offroad Concept, they may tool around with a 1:8-scale radio-controlled car kept in a custom storage box in the trunk.

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

AMA points to EPA document to prove ethanol damages small engines

Posted Apr 21st 2014 12:33PM

Use ethanol in your motorcycle

The fight over converting the national supply of gasoline from a maximum 10-percent ethanol blend (known as E10) to E15 have quieted down somewhat when it comes to passenger cars. For other applications - like "motorcycles and nonroad products" - the struggle continues.

Enter, once again, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), which is highlighting documents submitted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Those documents make it clear that the agency is aware of the potential damage E15 can do to some internal combustion engines. The EPA told the FTC that ethanol increases the amount of oxygen in the fuel, "which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures and potentially increase incremental deterioration of emission control hardware and performance over time, possibly causing catalyst failure."

The AMA rallied riders to Washington, DC last year to protest E15. Ethanol advocate group Fuels America said that event was absurd because the fuel was not intended for motorcycles anyway. The AMA says that it "is concerned about the continued availability of E10 blends and E0 fuels - gasoline with zero ethanol content - if E15 is allowed to permeate the marketplace." The EPA approved E15 for sale in the US back in June, 2012 and pretty much immediately had to make adjustments to the rule to take concerns from owners of small-engine products into account. A "Look Before You Pump" campaign is in effect to prevent these owners from putting high-ethanol blends into their engines.

News Source: American Motorcyclist Association

Image Credit: Virtual Farm Boy / Flickr

Honda Concept B Hybrid production version coming to China in 2016

Posted Apr 21st 2014 10:28AM

Honda Concept B Hybrid at Beijing 2014

At the Beijing Motor Show this weekend, Honda took the wraps off of the Concept B Hybrid, a "new-value concept" that will apparently do its level best to get the Japanese automaker back into the entry-level gas-electric game. Powertrain details for the five-door concept hatch are noticeably absent, so we are assuming that what Honda wants with this concept is for us to focus on the looks. Honda says the car's exterior design is "advanced and cool-looking." We like the shape, but think a few changes will do wonders for the production model.

If the busy front end gets turned down a bit in production (it's especially glaring from the front), we can see this becoming a darn good replacement for the Insight at the lower end of the hybrid price spectrum. Sadly, for now, Honda is saying that the mass-production model that uses the Concept B as a foundation will be available "exclusively" on the Chinese market in two years.

Speaking at the Beijing show, Honda president and CEO Takanobu Ito continued to look for ways to green his company's line-up, and said Honda, "will strive to become number one in complying with Chinese CAFE regulations, which are the toughest in the world, and offer a new lifestyle for Chinese customers." Come 2016, that new lifestyle could look like the car you see in the gallery above. Think it's a good one?

News Source: Honda

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

Chinese Nissan Leaf goes on sale in September as Venucia e30

Posted Apr 21st 2014 7:57AM

China Ultra Cheap Cars

The upcoming Chinese version of the Nissan Leaf, the Venucia e30, was not the highlight of the Dongfeng Nissan stand at this year's Beijing Motor Show. That honor goes to the R30, a compact car with "segment-competitive fuel economy" and a starting price of under RMB 50,000 ($8,033 US). But that doesn't mean Dongfeng didn't make some news about the debut of the world's most popular electric vehicle in the world's most populous country.

Dongfeng Nissan will start selling the e30 in the Chinese retail market this September. In a world where EV promises are not always worth the paper they're printed on, it's nice to see this target date is actually ahead of schedule. The sales launch follows EV pilot programs that saw 300 of the EVs rack up a total of one million kilometers (621,000 miles) in Guangzhou, Xiangyang and Dalian since December 2013. The e30 might just be the first or many EVs, since Donfeng-Nissan showed off the Viwa Concept EV last year. There are a few more details in the press release below.

News Source: Dongfeng Nissan

Image Credit: Kin Cheung / AP

Lexus NX debuts in turbocharged and hybrid guise

Posted Apr 20th 2014 12:19PM

2015 Lexus NX200t

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Live images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

BMW Vision Future Luxury Concept is bold and beautiful in Beijing

Posted Apr 20th 2014 10:20AM

BMW Vision Future Luxury Concept

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Live images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

Montreal sets new EV gathering record: 431

Posted Apr 20th 2014 9:29AM

Electric Vehicle Association of Quebec 431 EV gathering

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

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

Check out the Google-translated press release below.

News Source: AVEQ via Green Car Congress

Image Credit: AVEQ

Audi TT offroad concept wirelessly charges E-Tron quattro powertrain

Posted Apr 19th 2014 2:58PM

Audi TT offroad concept in Sonora Yellow

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

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

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

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

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

News Source: Audi

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

Posted Apr 19th 2014 11:06AM

Biofuel Grant

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

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

News Source: Department of Energy

Image Credit: Toby Talbot / AP

A detailed look at the dreams and failure of Better Place

Posted Apr 18th 2014 7:57PM

better place station schiphol

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

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

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

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

News Source: Fast Company

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

Posted Apr 18th 2014 5:57PM

Mercedes Benz B-Class Electric Drive

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

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

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

News Source: Mercedes-Benz via Autocar

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