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Recharge Wrap-up: Tesla details factory expansion; Ford and SunPower raise money for Sierra Club

Volkswagen Reports Environmental Program Is Doing Well; Beijing's EV Registration Lottery Flops; Dealer Protection Laws Hurt EV Adoption

Posted Nov 20th 2014 9:57AM

tesla factory before and after

Tesla has revealed the details of the upgrade of its Fremont, CA factory. One major change is the addition of a dedicated production space for the dual-motor P85D version of the Model S. Robots will be doing the battery installation on the Model S to save some time, and new export docks allow Tesla to get the cars out the door and on the way to their new owners more quickly. The new robots that move the cars around the factory have been named after X-Men characters, which makes our inner geeks smile. Check out the factory upgrade in the time-lapse video below and read more at Teslarati or at the Tesla Motors Blog.

A program in Beijing for privileged registrations for EVs hasn't had much success. Of the 1,424 lottery winners, only about 30 percent went on to register an electric car despite a two-month extension of the deadline to do so. Buyers are likely discouraged by the lack of charging infrastructure, which the city hopes to ameliorate with the addition of 1,000 new charging stations by the end of the year, and by requiring new and renovated developments to set aside parking specifically for EV charging. Read more at Green Car Reports.

The UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies suggests that laws designed to protect dealers and consumers are stymieing the adoption of EVs. Laws like the ones certain states have in place that block or otherwise restrict Tesla's direct-to-consumer business model are not helpful for companies that want to introduce new products to the market. They prevent companies from passing on savings to customers for whom they would likely make the difference in a purchasing decision. One possible solution would be to allow exemptions to certain selling restrictions for a certain number of vehicles sold. "This could give automakers the degree of control needed to work out kinks with early customers, develop scalable processes for supporting PEVs, and ensure that effective dealer performance standards are in place before handing the reins over to wholly independent retailers," according to UC Davis ITS. Read more at the UC Davis website.

Volkswagen says its environmental program, called "Think Blue. Factory," is meeting the automaker's own sustainability targets. The main purpose of the program is to move toward eco-friendlier carmaking at each of its plants worldwide. Volkswagen aims to reduce water and energy consumption, waste output and CO2 and solvent emissions by 25 percent, with 5,000 measures toward this goal to be put in place by 2018. In the last three years, Volkswagen has made production "17 percent more environmentally compatible," to use the marque's own words. Examples of measures already put in place have been reducing water usage for tightness tests at its Zwickau and Pamplona plants, and creating a process to filter cooling emulsion to save energy, water and lubricants at its Chemnitz engine plant. Learn more in the press release below.

Ford and SunPower's Drive Green For Life program aims to save customers money on solar power and, now, also raise funds for Sierra Club. Through the program, Ford EV and hybrid customers can get a $750 rebate on a SunPower residential solar system. For each rooftop system installed, SunPower will also donate $500 to environmental and conservation organization Sierra Club. Installing solar power allows drivers to charge their EVs and power their homes using clean energy, while the Drive Green For Life program also helps Sierra club continue its environmental advocacy, including its EV initiatives. Read more in the press release below.

News Source: Teslarati, Tesla Motors, Green Car Reports, UC Davis, Volkswagen, SunPower

Image Credit: Tesla Motors

2015 Toyota Prius V gets updated looks and content

Posted Nov 20th 2014 9:31AM

2015 Toyota Prius V

The Toyota Prius V is the most utilitarian member of the Prii family with a big jump in cargo space over the rest but maintaining the great fuel economy. For the 2015 model year, the company is giving the wagon an update with a big shift in front end styling and upgraded taillights to go with the revised look. Inside, customers also get a little new technology, as well.

The biggest change up front is the reshaped headlights and new bumper that look almost identical to the recent restyling of the Prius + in Europe. Though, the latest parts might be a little polarizing and almost make the wagon look like it has gills at each corner. The top level Prius V Five trim also adds integrated foglights to the design and headlights with LEDs for the high and low beams. Toyota is offering three additional colors too: Attitude Black Metallic, Absolutely Red and Toasted Walnut Pearl.

Inside, drivers can get a new, eight-way adjustable power driver's seat on some models, and there's now a 4.2-inch TFT screen situated between the gauges on the Three trim level and higher to display information like fuel economy, navigation instructions, climate control settings and more. The upper versions also get Toyota's latest Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch high-res touchscreen with navigation. Finally, the Advanced Technology Package on the Five trim now includes Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beams.

Mechanically, the Prius V remains unchanged thanks to the same 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder hybrid powertrain with nickel-metal hydride battery pack pumping out 134 net horsepower. Fuel economy stays at 44 miles per gallon city, 40 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined.

Despite the upgraded looks, the base 2015 Prius V Two is $75 cheaper this year at $26,675, plus $825 destination. Although, the top Five model is $540 more at $30,935 before destination. The latest model year should start hitting dealers in December; scroll down for all of the specs and pricing.

News Source: Toyota

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Elon Musk shuts down speculation that Falcon Wing doors will disappear

Posted Nov 20th 2014 7:55AM

Tesla Model X with open falcon wing doors

Since learning that deliveries of the Model X from Tesla Motors would now be delayed until sometime next summer, speculation has focused on the rear doors of the electric SUV as the likely source of the problem. We think this is a pretty good assumption considering that CEO Elon Musk said as much himself.

Called falcon wing doors because they are said to resemble that bird of prey in flight, they open upwards, hinging in two places – the somewhat similar gull wing doors only have one hinge, where they're attached to the roof – which allows them to be opened in tighter spaces than the sea bird design.

While the original prototype of the Model X had working wings, the engineering for a production model is no doubt a lot more difficult. Noted analyst Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley said yesterday in a report that cut delivery estimates of the postponed car, "A door of that size and weight is going to be very hard to lift. Furthermore, having a hole of that size in the side of the car (that cuts deeply into the roof) could severely compromise structural rigidity impacting handling and safety."

While the challenges of the unique rear portals make some investors wish Tesla would just stick with traditional openings, Musk made it clear that the falcon wings are going forward. Taking to Twitter, he tweeted:
Shares of TSLA, which had been on the rise of late, were down a significant -$9.96 (-3.86 percent) as of this writing. To see the doors that are creating the flap, scroll below for video of Musk giving a demonstration with the Model X prototype.

News Source: StreetInsider.com, Elon Musk

Image Credit: Tesla Motors

BMW i8 named Autoblog's 2014 Technology of the Year [w/video]

Posted Nov 19th 2014 10:00PM

Autoblog 2014 Technology of the Year Award

The winner of Autoblog's 2014 Technology of the Year award was given this year for not just one technology, but for how a suite of technologies worked together to make one impressive vehicle.

The BMW i8 was named the winner Wednesday night at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, just outside the Los Angeles Auto Show. Autoblog's editorial staff agreed that the i8, which drew crowds of attention during our testing days, represents a future of driving that we can't wait to see happen.

"I do believe that green vehicles solve a very fundamental problem, and if a car like the i8 can get a rich man with good knees (to get in and out of the car) to drive something with a plug instead of a 12-mpg sports car, then mission accomplished," says Sebastian Blanco, editor of AutoblogGreen and one of our judges.

The panel reviewed nearly 50 qualified submissions from readers, editorial staff and industry, the panel of judges named the following as finalists: Ultimately, we picked the car that excited us the most. The BMW i8 has a throaty exhaust note when accelerating. It's got carbon fiber, and a plug-in hybrid system that uses a small 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and an electric motor. It has through-the-road all-wheel drive, and in Europe it'll come with laser beams for headlights.

All that, and it's a massive eye catcher. People stop and stare when they see this car, for good reason. It's simply gorgeous. For a more in-depth look at our testing of the car, click here.

Mini forgets to bring car to LA, shows Citysurfer concept scooter

Posted Nov 19th 2014 8:05PM

Mini Citysurfer Concept

See that red thing? It's the Mini Citysurfer Concept. It is not, in case you were wondering, an automobile. Yet despite this apparent shortcoming, Mini has placed it on a plinth at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The electric scooter weighs in at 40 pounds, can hit 15 miles per hour, cover 10 to 15 miles and can be folded up and charged in the trunk of a Mini Cooper (or any other vehicle with a 12-volt outlet and a roomy enough cargo area). According to the British marque, these qualities will give the scooter's owner the "spontaneous and convenient mobility even in those sections of an urban area not accessible to motorized vehicles."

It's not terribly difficult to see the appeal, as Mini explains it. With urban congestion becoming an increasingly serious problem – and some cities beginning to ban cars outright – the idea of an easy to charge and easy to stow runabout is extremely attractive. That's doubly true in the case of the Citysurfer, which is rather well equipped, as far as scooters go.

It rides on pneumatic tires with a disc brake on each end, while the vital electrical bits are protected from dirt and rain by the scooter's trim. In terms of rider comfort, the Citysurfer features a height-adjustable steering shaft and smartphone holder, so riders can navigate over the last mile of the trip.

Take a look below for the official press release on the Citysurfer Concept from Mini, and then head into Comments if you'd be interested in this sort of solution for urban driving.
Related GalleryMini Citysurfer Concept
Mini Citysurfer ConceptMini Citysurfer ConceptMini Citysurfer ConceptMini Citysurfer ConceptMini Citysurfer ConceptMini Citysurfer ConceptMini Citysurfer Concept

News Source: Mini

Honda spending $13.8 million on hydrogen infrastructure with FirstElement

Posted Nov 19th 2014 7:00PM

Honda FCEV Concept

Honda is partnering with FirstElement Fuel to increase the number of hydrogen refueling stations in California. The two have signed a letter of intent to provide $13.8 of financial assistance that, with some state money, could let FirstElement build "at least 12 stations." This is the second OEM that FirstElement is working with to install H2 stations in California. It signed a deal worth an unspecified amount with Toyota to help build 19 stations.

State officials in California have said they are willing to spend $100 million to $200 million to build 100 hydrogen stations in the next few years. Honda says that FirstElement could build "at least 31" or them thanks to automaker and government investment.

At some point after March 2016, when its new fuel cell car will go on sale in Japan, Honda will start selling the production version of the FCEV in the US. Honda hasn't disclosed a price, but the fuel cell stack has a power density of 3.1kW/L and a range of 300 miles, combined with a refueling time of three to five minutes. The vehicle is Honda's next step to its target of a 30-percent reduction (based on 2000 levels) in CO2 emissions by 2020 from its US vehicles. Earlier this year, FirstElement said that it expects hydrogen stations to become profitable in about five years.

News Source: Honda

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Sebastian Blanco / AOL

2015 Toyota Prius C is still colorful, still gets 53 mpg [UPDATE]

Posted Nov 19th 2014 6:40PM

2015 Toyota Prius C

UPDATE: A previous version of this story said the Toyota Prius C returned 53 miles per gallon on the highway and 46 mpg in the city. This is incorrect. The Prius C actually returns 53 mpg in the city and 46 on the highway. The text has been edited to reflect this.

Few vehicles can match the affordable fuel economy of the $19,000, 53-mile-per-gallon Toyota Prius C, and that fact isn't likely to change for 2015, as the Japanese company has issued a moderate refresh of its sub-compact hybrid.

As mid-cycle refreshes go, this is a pretty standard affair, with a larger grille and tweaked LED headlights at the front of the Prius C, and more expressive taillights at the back. Toyota made some minor changes in the cabin, updating materials throughout, but not fiddling too much with the overall level of equipment.

Aside from those modest changes, this is the same fuel-efficient five-door, retaining its 1.5-liter, 73-horsepower, 82-pound-foot four-cylinder, while an electric motor tosses in an extra 26 ponies, for a total system output of 99 horsepower. Along with the 53-mpg city rating, the C will return 46 mpg on the highway.

Take a look below for the full press release from Toyota, and then be sure to check out the full gallery of live images, straight from the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.

News Source: Toyota

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Volkswagen HyMotion says hi in the SportWagen and Passat in LA

Posted Nov 19th 2014 4:41PM

Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen HyMotion

Volkswagen HyMotionToyota is certainly grabbing attention with the pricing of its Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, but Volkswagen is proving it understands hydrogen too at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show with versions of the Golf SportWagen and Passat that showcase its HyMotion system. The German brand is already testing the technology with a fleet of vehicles in the US.

What's surprising is how easy VW makes incorporating the HyMotion seem. The truly novel part about the tech is its hydrogen fuel cell that generates the electricity used to drive the vehicles. The electric motor and transmission come straight from the e-Golf, though, in this guise the powertrain produces 134 horsepower, a jump over the 113 hp of the electric Golf. VW estimates that the SportWagen HyMotion can hit 62 miles per hour in 10 seconds, but where the fuel cell really excels is in range. The company claims that the system offers 310 miles of driving distance.

The SportWagen also shows that fuel-cell vehicles can be just as useful as their traditional, internal-combustion counterparts. The hydrogen is stored at 10,150 psi in four carbon fiber tanks underneath the vehicle. A lithium-ion battery in the rear gets its power from regenerative braking and provides power when setting off, when the fuel cell is still building up electric power. None of the parts intrude on the passenger compartment, and according to VW, refueling takes just three minutes.

VW is also showing off the Passat HyMotion that uses the same drivetrain but stuffed into the sedan. A bunch of the vehicles are already roaming around California for testing. Audi uses a similar version of the system in the company's fuel cell A7, as well.

From all of VW's indications, the HyMotion powertrain is useable today, but don't expect to be driving one anytime soon. The company warns in its announcement of the system: "Before the market launch, a hydrogen infrastructure would have to be created: not only a broad network of hydrogen fuel stations, but also the production of the hydrogen itself." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. Still, scroll down to read all of the technical details about VW's fuel cell solution.

News Source: Volkswagen

The real reason automakers are giving away free hydrogen

Posted Nov 19th 2014 4:01PM

2016 Toyota Mirai

Just like Hyundai did with its Tucson fuel cell, Toyota is offering free hydrogen fuel with the $57,500 Mirai H2 sedan. Toyota is being a bit vague about the details, saying simply that Mirai drivers will get, "complimentary hydrogen fuel for up to three years." Turns out, the reason that the hydrogen avant-garde will not be paying anything at the pump isn't because the automakers want to give them a boost or because the OEMs are kind. Instead, it's simply impossible to accurately charge people for hydrogen right now.

It's simply impossible to accurately charge people for hydrogen right now.

At an in-depth hydrogen seminar this week as part of the Mirai preview, three representatives from various hydrogen organizations revealed that the current hydrogen stations (most of which are in California) are not set up to accurately measure the hydrogen that is dispensed. Without this little bit of information, you can't charge customers for the fuel they use. Toyota is well aware of this, and Toyota Motor Sales' national manager of environmental, safety and quality communications, John Hanson, said that, "There are no set standards, so there is no way to charge people for anything."

Alberto Ayala, the deputy executive officer for the California Air Resources Board, said CARB is in the middle of developing a way to sell a given amount of hydrogen, "which up to this point doesn't exist. If you think about it, it's a real simple yet real practical challenge. If you're going to pay for X amount of hydrogen, you're actually getting that amount of hydrogen." Ayala said it's not a difficult technical problem to measure the hydrogen as it goes into the car, but "we just have not done it. We are at a point where we are solving multiple remaining questions [with hydrogen infrastructure], and that just happens to be one of them." The National Institute of Standards and Technology says that there has been a discussion to change the current tolerance of two percent up to 10 or 20 percent, but that new technology should be able to measure accurately to within one percent.
Related Gallery2016 Toyota Mirai
2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai2016 Toyota Mirai

Image Credit: Toyota

Chevy Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo concept blends the past and the future [w/video]

Posted Nov 19th 2014 3:01PM

Chevrolet Unveils Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo

The Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo is the rare concept car that salutes a seminal moment in history, yet also borders on science fiction.

Revealed Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the concept uses the name of one of Chevy's historic racing partnerships, with Chaparral Racing, which dates to the 1960s. Chaparrals raced successfully at a range of levels, including IndyCar, Trans-Am and SCCA competition. But the history ends there, as the concept's main purpose is as a racecar in a downloadable update for the PlayStation 3 game Gran Turismo 6.

Reinforcing the forward-looking feel, the Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo concept uses a 671-kilowatt laser propelled by lithium-ion batteries and an air-powered generator to make up to 900 brake horsepower of thrust. This allows the concept to achieve a speed of 240 miles per hour, while sprinting to 60 mph in 1.5 seconds in the video game.

Furthering the fantasy element, the driver is also supposed to lay in a face-down prone position with arms and legs splayed out toward the 17-inch wheels, and the instruments are projected onto the driver's helmet visor.

"Think of it as adapting a wing suit to a racing car, where the driver's movements control certain aspects of the aero package," Frank Saucedo, who oversaw the team that worked on the concept, said in a statement.

News Source: Chevrolet via YouTube

Two-car households may soon be a thing of the past [w/video]

Posted Nov 19th 2014 2:41PM

traditional two car wooden...


With the rise of suburbia, the two-car garage became a fixture of the American home. In the future, it may a residential relic.

The percentage of two-car households in the United States will decline in coming decades, experts say, and as a result, a leading consulting firm is warning automakers they must brace for the possibility of weakened long-term sales. Americans are migrating toward urban centers and increasingly choosing car-sharing services for transportation, auditing firm KPMG says. Gradually, they'll own fewer cars and shed significant ownership costs.

"The economics of mobility on demand are powerful." – Gary Silberg.


57 percent of the 115 million American households have two or more cars today. Over the next 25 years, that percentage is expected to drop to 43 percent of all households, according to projections released on Tuesday during the opening day of the Los Angeles Auto Show.

"If that happens, the overall number of cars in America will actually decline," said Gary Silberg, the company's automotive sector lead partner. "The industry economics would look fundamentally different than they do today."

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dissecting the biggest factors in why millenials aren't driving

Posted Nov 19th 2014 12:20PM

Drive It Home

Millennials are driving less than previous generational groups. It's a reality which America is dealing with at the moment, which automakers are trying their best of overcome and which sociologists are apparently studying with increasing intensity. The question is, why?

That's the question which Citylab, a website run by The Atlantic, seeks to answer in this latest piece of analysis. According to the site, there are a number of factors to consider, each of which contributes in its own way to the decline in American driving.

For one thing, Millennials are relocating to city centers where driving is less prevalent. For another, the study finds, white Americans drive more than other ethnicities, and the ethnic diversity of American society is on the rise. Education plays a factor in that more educated adults tend to drive more than those with lower levels of education, as do income levels – and while the Millennial generation may be more educated than those that came before, their income levels have dropped.

Millennials are also living more by themselves, starting families later, getting their driver's licenses later and buying cars later. Environmental factors and the influence of technology also play their part, painting a picture of a wide array of factors spelling bad news for cars and drivers. Head on over to Citylab for the full detailed breakdown.

News Source: Citylab

Image Credit: Bret Hartman/AP

Recharge Wrap-up: Chevy Volt named KBB "Best Buy," slow BMW i3 sales in Germany

Audi Makes E-Diesel From Blue Crude; Uber Partners With Spotify

Posted Nov 19th 2014 9:58AM

Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt has been awarded Kelley Blue Book's Electric/Hybrid Car Best Buy for 2015. KBB cited the car's electric commuter capabilities, extended range, acceleration, design and overall value as reasons to place it above the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 and Toyota Prius. It works well in the real world, and doesn't leave drivers with range anxiety. Plus, it's comfortable, and a fun car to drive, according to KBB. Read more at Kelley Blue Book.

The BMW i3 is seeing slow sales in Germany. BMW has sold about half the number of i3s it expected in its home country, with about 1,900 sold in the first nine months. BMW projected sales of 5,000 to 6,000 in the first year. BMW partly blames long shipping times for the slow sales, and the company is offering incentives in hopes of getting more people to adopt the electric car. In the US, BMW sold more than 1,000 units each month between August and October. Read more at Green Car Reports.

Audi is pursuing new carbon-neutral synthetic fuels - or e-fuels - such as Audi e-diesel. Audi's newest project uses electrolysis of water to create hydrogen, which it then reacts with CO2 extracted from the air. The result is a liquid - called Blue Crude - full of energy from hydrocarbon compounds. The Blue Crude can then be converted into a sulfur-free synthetic diesel called e-diesel. This e-diesel can be used as a drop-in fuel, blended into fossil diesel for a more renewable fuel. Read more at Hybrid Cars.

Uber is partnering with Spotify to allow passengers to choose what music they listen to during their ride. Users will be able to choose their own playlist that will be ready and playing for them when they are picked up. It offers a more personalized experience from the ride-hailing service, which, according to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, is "nirvana" for music lovers. Paying Spotify users will be able to use the feature initially in London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney and Toronto. Check out the video below and read more at Wired.
Related Gallery2014 Chevrolet Volt
2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet Volt

News Source: Kelley Blue Book, Green Car Reports, Hybrid Cars, Wired

Image Credit: Chevrolet

Chicago's fast-charging network up and running under NRG eVgo

Posted Nov 19th 2014 8:01AM



Chicago's long-delayed fast-charging network for plug-in vehicles is up and running after being taken over by the NRG Evgo program that's underway in Texas as well as the Pacific Northwest, Phoenix, Nashville and Washington, DC.

NRG Evgo is partnering with Chicago-based JNS Holdings Corp. to deploy direct-current (DC) fast chargers throughout the Chicagoland area. The system will be complemented by the "No Charge to Charge" program NRG has with Nissan. Under that program, those who buy or lease Nissan Leaf electric vehicles get two years of free fast-charging through the NRG Evgo. Nissan first announced "No Charge to Charge" for Texas last September.

While NRG Evgo didn't disclose the number of stations to be deployed, the Chicago Tribune said there were about 17 NRG eVgo stations throughout Chicago and would be about 30 in operation by mid-January. Under NRG eVgo's EZ-Charge program, a single car can be used at eVgo stations as well as stations from the Blink and AeroVironment networks. Earlier this year, Evgo said it was debuting its networks in 10 US markets this summer, with another 15 markets slated for mid-2015. There's more in NRG's press release below.

News Source: NRG eVgo

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