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Meet the finalists for Autoblog's 2014 Technology of the Year Award

Posted Oct 28th 2014 1:30PM

Autoblog Technology of the Year

Greetings from (cold and rainy) Petoskey, MI, where many Autoblog editors are testing 14 different cars and trucks that make up the finalists for this year's Technology of the Year Award. Our tech choices run the gamut from complete vehicles (BMW i3, i8) to engines, connectivity features, convenience niceties, safety systems, performance data functions and more. And it helps that many of these technologies are housed in some pretty hilariously fun vehicles.

Have a look below to see the full roster of what made the cut this year, and stay tuned as we crown a winner during the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show festivities in just a few weeks.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

OK Go ride Honda UNI-CUB β in latest amazeballs music video

Drones, Japanese Schoolgirls And More Electric Unicycles Than You Thought Existed

Posted Oct 28th 2014 12:44PM

Ok Go I Won't Let You Down video

When Honda unveiled the slimmed-down βeta version of its Uni-Cub last year, it might have thought the minimalist electric vehicle would find its most enthusiastic audience inside office buildings, where it would simultaneously lighten the load of worker drones and perhaps inject a bit of rolling robotic tech-type fun into an otherwise drab and dreary day. It was wrong. Clearly, this personal mobility machine was destined for greater things.

Honda paid for the new video, which was shot a half-speed. When you watch it, you'll know why.

For instance, it could be used for electric unicycle square dancing (Okay, technically the Uni-Cub β employs one wheel and a caster-type ball, thereby disqualifying it from unicycle status, but whatever.) Or even better, it could be a platform upon which the power pop group OK Go and a few hundred Japanese school girls could perform awesome maneuvers, including the aforementioned electric unicycle square dancing, in their latest totally amazeballs video. Honda reportedly paid for the new video, which was shot at half-speed and when you watch it, you'll know why.

Where before we thought this curious device, with its intuitive steering and self-balancing, would only really ever find a place as a demonstrator of Honda's engineering prowess, we now see it as a foregone conclusion that it will infest our daily lives and fill them with fantastic choreographed journeys of art. Thank you for opening our eyes, Ok Go.

To have your own eyes opened, just scroll below for the visual accompaniment to I Won't Let You Down from the new album, Hungry Ghosts. As is the band's wont, it's all done in one take, and is sure to drop your jaw. Ok, go!

News Source: Ok Go, Billboard via YouTube

Toyota says no one wants a Toyota electric car

Say What?

Posted Oct 28th 2014 11:52AM

Toyota iQ EV

It's no secret that Toyota doesn't really have a heart in pushing pure electric vehicles. The very limited Scion iQ EV project was killed before it went very far and the RAV4 EV project with Tesla was always only meant to produce just 2,600 units, but it didn't even get that far. In short, by all public appearances, Toyota just doesn't see the value of a pure EV.

"No one is coming to our door asking us to build a new electric car." – Toyota's Craig Scott

Toyota's public reasoning for the lack of a Prius C EV, for example, has often been that customers don't want to compromise on range and that hydrogen is a better bet. Company executives like Bob Carter say so over and over again. A new comment by Craig Scott, Toyota's national manager of advanced technologies, says that the Japanese automaker, give a slightly different spin on things. "Toyota actually favors fuel cells over other zero-emission vehicles, like pure battery electric vehicles," he told the Los Angeles Times. "We would like to be still selling cars when there's no more gas. And no one is coming to our door asking us to build a new electric car."

This, understandably, has riled up a lot of EV supporters, many of whom have called on all automakers to sell more electric vehicles. After all, if Nissan can sell around 3,000 EVs a month in the US, couldn't Toyota do something similar? Are there thousands of people coming to the door asking for the fuel cell sedan that Toyota will start selling in the US next year? That answer is unclear, but it certainly doesn't look like Toyota is backing off its H2 bet any time soon.
Related Gallery2013 Toyota iQ EV
2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV2013 Toyota iQ EV

News Source: Los Angeles Times

Next-gen Chevy Volt will get 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine

Posted Oct 28th 2014 7:53AM

Next-gen Chevy Volt teaser

As General Motors gets ready to unveil the new Chevy Volt at the Detroit Auto Show in January, it's starting to reveal a few more details about the updated plug-in hybrid. Today should be fruitful on that front, thanks to an event GM is hosting today that focuses on the new Volt, and we've just had the first bit of new: a bigger engine is coming.

Since the beginning, the Volt has used a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine as a range extender when the battery runs dry. The second-generation model will instead get a slightly larger 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that will be built in Flint, MI. That's a step up from the various engines that have been a part of the 2016 Volt's rumored mills, everything from a 1.0-liter or 1.2-liter three-cylinder to a 2.0-liter turbo. The confirmation about the new 1.5-liter powerplant was found in Automotive News, where we also heard again that GM is going to start building the new Volt's electric drive unit in Detroit, moving production up from Mexico.

We will have more information on the 2016 Chevy Volt later today.

Tesla lowers Model S lease price, adds 3-month 'happiness guarantee'

Posted Oct 27th 2014 6:29PM

Tesla Model S

Tesla Motors is offering an enticing deal for potential buyers who might not be entirely sure whether they actually want to own a Model S for the long term. A deal through US Bank not only lowers the cost to lease the EV but also turns leasing the brand's electric sedan into a long-term rental.

Curious buyers who lease a Model S are now able to return it in the first three months with no penalties and with the remaining payments waived, something Tesla is calling the "happiness guarantee." CEO Elon Musk announced the deal on the company's blog, and he said the payments were also as much as 25 percent lower because US Bank "has a much lower cost of capital than us." Currently, a Tesla lease starts at around $800 and can be up to $1,300, with down payments around $6,500. Tesla leasing is available in 38 US states (full list below).

Of course, there is a catch for the offer. If people turn in their Model S within three months, they can't immediately lease another one. Musk doesn't say how long the wait is.

The new leasing deal isn't a solution for those owners who want their Model S to always have the latest and greatest features. However, for folks who are on the fence about one of these electric, luxury sedans, the offer might prove too enticing to pass up. Of course, Tesla has a history of announcing lease details only to change them later, so we're not sure how long this deal will last or if it'll get better in a month.
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Recharge Wrap-up: Tesla considers Model III SUV and wagon, Ford tears Tesla apart

No Incentives For EVs In Brazil

Posted Oct 27th 2014 6:00PM

tesla model s

Worries over Brazil's electric grid mean EVs are excluded from green car incentives. As part of a new efficiency program, non-plug-in hybrids will be eligible for a reduction in import duties, while EVs and plug-in hybrids will not. Brazil's government is concerned that the country's grid lacks the capacity to handle the increased load from an influx of EVs. Brazil plans to create a new incentive program - perhaps a more inclusive one - when the current one expires at the end of 2015. Read more at Green Car Reports.

Tesla could make SUV and wagon derivatives of the upcoming Model III sedan. Tesla's VP of engineering, Chris Porritt, told Auto Express that to reach as many customers as possible, Tesla would consider all its options. "SUVs, estates - who knows?" says Porritt. He also says that while the company is currently focused on products with a broader appeal, another Roadster or other sports car aren't out of the question in the future. Read more at Auto Express.

Ford admits to a Tesla Model S teardown. Ford CEO Mark Fields says that after disassembling, reassembling and driving the model S, his company is "very familiar with that product." He also says the Ford has the capability to build a similarly high-tech, long-range electric car. The questions still remains if Ford has plans for such a vehicle, but Fields says that it fits within Ford's "product philosophy." Read more at Business Insider and at USA Today.
Related GalleryTesla Model S
Tesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model STesla Model S

Mercedes testing plug-in hybrid GLE

Posted Oct 27th 2014 4:30PM

Mercedes-Benz ML-Class Plug-in Hybrid spy shots

Mercedes-Benz is still hard at work developing a refresh for the M-Class, a model that is rumored to change its name to the GLE-Class in the process. This is hardly the improved model's first time testing, but the latest shots reveal Mercedes' plan for a plug-in hybrid version for one of its luxury crossovers.

These new photos of the refreshed M-Class clearly reveal a charging port in the rear bumper like its brand siblings, but the bigger question is the drivetrain underneath. At this point, it's not known whether the M-Class hybrid will share the rumored four-cylinder powertrain with the C-Class PHEV that is also testing or the S500 Plug-in Hybrid with its turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 and an electric motor.

Being a refresh rather than an all-new model, the M-Class' styling receives only a few apparent tweaks. The front end is heavily camouflaged here, but there appears to be some changes to the shape of the headlights. At the rear, the exhaust layout has been modified, and the taillights have their backup lamps at the bottom, rather than in the middle.

All of these changes are rumored to be introduced sometime in 2015. Check out the gallery to see what you think until then.

Image Credit: CarPix

Project Yerel's T-1 EV charges through Turkish countryside

Istanbul University Student Team Creates Long-Range Electric Prototype

Posted Oct 27th 2014 1:57PM

Project Yerel Turkey T-1 EV

So much for the concept of starving college students. A group of engineering students from Turkey's Istanbul University has built one cool-looking electric vehicle that toured the country last month. The car, designed as a prototype for future versions, wasn't cheap, though, as more than $200,000 was sunk into it. Not exactly GM-splurges-on-the-Chevy-Volt numbers, but heady stuff for a college group. The car has a sleek look that may remind some of either General Motors' EV or the first incarnation of the Honda Insight.

The T-1, the end result of Project YEREL, is estimated to have a single-charge range of almost 300 miles from its 30-kWh battery pack, which can fully charge in about four hours. The three-seat car (2+1 arrangement) weighs about 1,100 pounds and tops out at about 75 miles per hour.

The car was five years in the making and won a competition of sorts among 30 universities, according to the Daily Sabah. The upshot is that the vehicle took a tour of 25 Turkish cities covering almost 3,000 miles. It's longest single-shot voyage was from Istanbul to Ankara, which covered about 270 miles. Find out more at the team's website here.
Related GalleryT-1 Turkish EV
T-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EVT-1 Turkish EV

News Source: Daily Sabah, Project YEREL via Inside EVs

Image Credit: Project Yerel / Facebook

Tesla owners go grassroots to promote their favorite EV in Iowa

Company Might Be Forbidden From Selling Cars, But Fans Can Still Talk To Each Other

Posted Oct 27th 2014 11:52AM

Tesla Owners Promote EVs in Iowa

A month or so ago, the Iowa Department of Transportation stepped in to prevent Tesla Motors not only from selling the Model S in the state, but even from offering test drives. That move didn't sit right with some people, but it's not stopping the EV-curious in Iowa from learning about the popular electric vehicle thanks to Tesla's dedicated fan base.

A small number of Minnesota Tesla owners drove to Urbandale, Iowa this past weekend for a mini-EV meet-up in a strip mall parking lot. The event included test drives, a number of converted EVs (some the work of Nabil Hanke's Electric Dream Machine shop) and lots of explaining what a 'frunk' is. As a Model S owner identified only as Jason told local TV station KCCI, "This isn't us fighting anything. I think everyone here understands that this is really about sharing new technology." You can watch a video report over at KCCI 8 News.

It's easy to see why Tesla owners love their cars and the brand as a whole. Tesla just announced that its network of Superchargers has "delivered 14.3M kWh of energy worldwide, saving 2M gallons of gasoline and offsetting 50M pounds of carbon dioxide. The price for this energy to Model S drivers: $0.0."

When the Iowa DOT put the kibosh on the test drives, the state joined others, most recently Michigan, in restricting what the electric vehicle maker can do to promote its products. In some states, the company is allowed to sell vehicles in its stores but in places like Iowa, potential buyers need to order online and then take direct delivery. Events like the one in Urbandale are a different way to drum up EV interest.

News Source: KCCI 8 News

Ethanol fuels political debate in November election

Fuels America To Obama: 'It's Not Too Late To Fix This'

Posted Oct 27th 2014 9:01AM

Renewable Fuels Obama Ad screen grab

November's coming up, so that must mean some election-season lobbying is on the way. One of the subjects being debated in the US right now is the how much renewable fuel must be included in the US gas supply. And advocates are already taking to the digital airwaves to make their point.

This time, it's Fuels America, and on October 22, the group started sending out its message urging the Obama Administration not to agree to a reduction in the renewable fuels mandate. The US Environmental Protection Agency made just such an unprecedented proposal last November. Politico, The Hill and Roll Call are among the Beltway-oriented publications where the campaign will see the light of day. You can watch the video version below.

Fuels America has its own YouTube channel, complete with an 85-second video from last year where a narrator states that "the RFS is good for consumers, and good for the country" (you can watch it below, too). The video also touts renewable fuels such as ethanol as a way to cut both pollution and foreign-oil dependency. Oil companies have long maintained that a higher ethanol blend damages engines and is cost-prohibitive, but not everyone agrees. Looks like one more thing for politicians to argue about.

News Source: Fuels America

Citroen's offbeat C4 Cactus an early sales success, production boosted

Posted Oct 27th 2014 8:00AM

Citroen C4 Cactus

It may not be everybody's prickly cup of tea, but Citroën has reportedly found enough buyers for its kinda strange-looking C4 Cactus that it has found it necessary to boost production at its assembly plant in Madrid, adding shifts on Saturday to help meet demand. With more markets, including Australia, slated to get the C4 Cactus soon, Spanish newspaper La Tribuna de Automocion reported (via Australia's Go Auto) that facility director Jose Carlo Robredo expects production to increase by 20 percent.

The C4 Cactus competes against compact crossover-like vehicles that include the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. With a relatively low starting price, offbeat styling and extreme efficiency – 141 miles per gallon on the European cycle, or two liters per 100 kilometers – it's a unique package that is apparently attracting plenty of attention from shoppers in Europe.

News Source: Go Auto

These 8 states helped sell quarter-million electric vehicles in US

Multi-State ZEV Action Plan Still Shooting For 3.3 Million By 2025

Posted Oct 26th 2014 3:28PM

Nissan LEAF Press Conference

Counting the cars that go across the Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges every day doesn't exactly sound like fun. But when we're talking about the Multi-State ZEV Action Plan that eight US states are using to boost zero-emission vehicle adoption, though, we can think of it as a positive thing. That's because a quarter million vehicles cross those iconic bridges every day, and that's how many zero-emission vehicles have been sold in the US.

Technically, the number's closer to 260,000 and counting. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) made that announcement Thursday, noting again (with pride, likely) that 100,000 of those ZEVs have been sold in the Golden State. California is also sinking about $50 million into deploying H2 refueling stations for the incoming batch of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. But the other states in the Action Plan – Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont – are stepping up their ZEV efforts, too.

The Multi-State ZEV Action Plan was announced last year, and this spring set a goal to account for a collective 3.3 million ZEVs sold by 2025. Together, those states represent almost a quarter of the country's new light-duty vehicle sales, and have vowed to boost demand through initiatives such as promoting workplace charging and supporting the establishment of charging networks. Check out CARB's press release below.

News Source: California Air Resources Board

Image Credit: mayorgavinnewsom / Flickr

Formula E opens FanBoost voting, lets drivers 'cheat' with fan support

Social Media Can Literally Affect The Race

Posted Oct 26th 2014 9:30AM

FIA Formula E -  RaceBeijing E-Prix, ChinaSaturday 13 September 2014.Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/ Formula Eref: Digital Image _SBL5713

NASCAR, take note: this is one fun idea. FIA Formula E Championship organizers are letting the general public vote for their favorite racer in the first-ever electric-vehicle racing circuit. And the so-called FanBoost feature is far more than a popularity contest.

The three highest vote getters will each receive a five-second "speed burst" that can be used during the circuit's second race in Putrajaya, Malaysia on November 22. That means their cars will be programmed to allow a five-second boost of 243 horsepower, up from the standard 202.5 horsepower. Wouldn't we all like to have that behind the wheel? Since we can't juice up our own cars using digital votes, the next best thing is to vote at the Formula E Fanboost site, which also allows you to broadcast your choice over social media channels.

Formula E's first race took place last month in Beijing, China. There, Lucas di Grassi took home the checkered flag after pole-position winner Nicolas Prost and fellow race leader (at the time) Nick Heidfeld crashed shortly before the finish line.

Formula E's organizers announced that the racing series will shift from a single-make series to an open one for its second year, meaning that Renualt will no longer be the only electric-motor provider. Formula E's first US race will take place in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day 2015. For more on the boost-in-popularity option, take a look at Formula E's press release below.

News Source: FIA Formula E

Ford decides C-Max shoppers not interested in fuel economy

Posted Oct 25th 2014 3:00PM

Ford C-Max Hybrid

If you say a car – the Ford C-Max Hybrid, for example – is "fun to drive," can anyone really come up with some empirical evidence against your claim? What about calling it "versatile"? We wonder if Ford has been thinking along these lines when it talks about the green little hatch.

Ford is refocusing its sales strategy for the C-Max Hybrid after the model took a sales hit on both sides of the Atlantic recently, Automotive News reports. That sales dropoff may stem from the fact that Ford has had to revise its fuel-economy figures downward for the C-Max twice since last year, most recently in June. That made the company's once-proud fuel-economy comparisons with the Toyota Prius kind of pointless.

Ford is going a different route, calling the model versatile (which, to be fair it was also doing a year ago), technologically advanced and fun to drive. Since the C-Max has about 50 more horsepower than the Prius, that last part may be true. Ford representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from AutoblogGreen about the mpg-mention-free advertising direction, but we will update this post if we hear back.

Sales of the C-Max Hybrid have suffered in the US. Through September, Ford sold 15,245 C-Max Hybrids, down 36 percent from last year. We shall see if a new focus away from the car's lowered mpg numbers helps. At least Ford can be pleased with sales of the C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid, which are up 51 percent compared to 2013.
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