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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

What was Michelin Challenge Bibendum doing in China?

One Of The World's Largest Green Car Gatherings In A Place That Needs It

Posted Nov 18th 2014 7:57PM

collage of images from michelin challenge bibendum

There were any number of things said at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum last week that could easily be taken as platitudes. In the opening address by the CEO of the Michelin Group, Jean-Dominique Senard, for example, we have this: the Challenge has "the goal of imagining and creating the mobility of the future." Does that even have a meaning?

Sort of, yes. At the very least, it means that Michelin poured a lot of money into hosting over 5,000 people from around the world in Chengdu, China for a few days at what has got to be the biggest green transportation event on the planet (EVS is another monster). For the tire maker, the big event was the release of a "green paper" that tries to live up to the event's unofficial slogan of being an "action tank, not a think tank."

Companies like Tesla Motors push Michelin to work even harder.

What action is that? Pete Selleck, the chairman and president of Michelin North America, told AutoblogGreen that Michelin wants to increase a tire's performance-to-weight ratio by 20 percent, which he called "pretty aggressive." The company's massive R&D budget – $2.38 billion over the last three years – is reaping rewards all over the world. "We thought we had maxed out on what we knew about natural rubber, but we're making investments today on ideas of how you mix carbon black and natural rubber." Traditionally, the two were mixed as solids but Michelin now has operations in Thailand where they are mixed as liquids, which can "dramatically improve the microdispersion of the carbon black inside the carbon molecules," Selleck said, and that can offer up to 40 percent more wear.

Selleck also said that companies like Tesla Motors are pushing Michelin to work even harder. "They will force us to accelerate. We have lots of technologies that we're thinking about because we were planning to lay them in a kind of sequential approach, but when you've got a project like that, you've got to throw everything at it, and that's good for us. Those are the challenges we love to figure out."

A bigger challenge is the issue of transportation and pollution in China, which we investigate below.

Why turbo compounding may be the next big thing in powertrains

Posted Nov 18th 2014 5:31PM

Cutaway of a turbo compounding setup in a gasoline engine.

Turbo compounding is the process of using a turbo run off exhaust gasses to provide additional power to the crankshaft via gearing or a hydrodynamic coupling, or to power a generator that distributes energy via a power electronics module. The technology isn't new - the aerospace industry introduced the concept in the 1940s - but an article in Car and Driver says it could be "the next big thing in energy recovery" for automotive engines.

Turbo compounding is a way to take advantage of wasted exhaust gasses to provide more power to the engine. In the cutaway above, the compressor in the upper right (blue arrows) is powered by the turbine wheel to its left (red arrows) to send boosted intake air to the engine. The turbine, however, is also sending exhaust gas down the plumbing to its left, where another turbine connected to a shaft drives a set of gears, essentially a high-ration transmission ultimately connected to the crankshaft in the lower left.

Bowman, which engineers electrical compounding systems for power generation and heavy vehicle sectors, says its solution can increase efficiency by to seven percent with no negative impact. Mechanical compounding is said to supply gains of around five percent, but can have a negative impact depending on engine load.

Engine maker Detroit Diesel won the Truck Writers of North American Technical Achievement Award for its DD15 engine that uses mechanical compounding, and Scania and Volvo also use the tech for their truck engines. When it comes to automaker implementation, we might be looking at Formula One engine makers first: the new 1.6-liter turbo V6s use electrical compounding to run the MGU-H motor/generator to power a battery that provides extra boost during a lap.

News Source: Car and Driver

Recharge Wrap-up: Daimler To Stop Battery Production At Li-Tec, House approves Keystone XL pipeline

EIA Predicts More Ethanol Next Year, Shorter Oil Supply In Coming Years; EV Interface Controller now available

Posted Nov 18th 2014 3:58PM

Andromeda Electric Vehicle Interface Controller

Andromeda Interfaces has launched its Electric Vehicle Interface Controller (EVIC), which displays and allows the user to visualize various vehicle systems. Users can monitor their EVs battery usage, motor controllers and vehicle charging. The EVIC gathers various data - voltage, cell temperatures, amperage, etc. - from the car and displays it in a user-friendly way using easy-to-understand graphics. The EVIC is currently available through Andromeda Interfaces' website. Read more in the press release below.

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill now moves on to the Senate, where it is unsure if the bill will pass. If it does make it through Congress, President Obama has said he might veto the bill, but that is also uncertain. The Keystone XL pipeline would be used to move oil from Canada's oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Read more at Reuters.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) believes that ethanol production will increase in 2015. In the November issue of its Short-Term Energy Outlook, the EIA predicted an average of 934,000 barrels of ethanol produced per day in 2015, up from the predicted 2014 average of 927,000 barrels per day. This prediction is up slightly from the October issue, which estimated 933,000 barrels per day next year. Biodiesel production is expected to average 84,000 barrels per day in 2015. Read more at Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The EIA also warned that global oil production will not continue to be able to keep up with demand in coming years. The EIA expects demand to increase by 37 percent by 2040, which would require 14 million more barrels of oil to be extracted per day. The EIA doesn't believe the current oil boom will last that long, likely tapering off in the mid-2020s. "A well-supplied oil market in the short-term should not disguise the challenges that lie ahead, as the world is set to rely more heavily on a relatively small number of producing countries," says EIA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. Read more at Green Car Congress.

Daimler subsidiary Li-Tec will stop production of lithium ion battery cells. Instead, Daimler plans to source its cells from LG Chem, while it uses Li-Tec for research. While Daimler seems happy with the quality of cells being produced by Li-Tec, it seems more financially viable to source the cells from elsewhere than to produce them itself. Read more at Green Car Congress.

News Source: Andromeda Interfaces, Reuters, Ethanol Producer Magazine, Green Car Congress, Green Car Congress

Image Credit: Business Wire

There's a truly unfair assumption that green cars are too expensive

Low Gas Prices Might Actually Create Buying Opportunity

Posted Nov 18th 2014 1:59PM

Toyota Recall

It's been a rough year for green car manufacturers. To many consumers, it appears that so-called green vehicles cost more and are more challenging to operate (limited range, low availability of "exotic" fuels, etc.) And with gasoline prices plummeting, American consumers are much less likely to spend more for a green vehicle.

While a green vehicle will generally be more fuel efficient, the time to payback has increased.

It's true that green vehicles are often more costly, due to their secondary (or in the case of battery electric vehicles, primary) power train, advanced computer technology, huge battery array, etc. Meanwhile, the fuel consumption of conventional vehicles has decreased significantly over the last few years, thanks partly to pressure from those pesky government regulators. So while a green technology vehicle will generally still be more fuel efficient, the gap has narrowed and the time to payback has increased. This imbalance has become even more noticeable today, when fuel costs have dropped significantly.

So how much more do green vehicles actually cost? Two key metrics are initial vehicle cost, and total cost of ownership (TCO).

Image Credit: Priuses: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP, Ford Logo: David Zalubowski / AP, Jeep: Jeep, Volt: AOL 2014

Jay Leno rides the Lightning LS-218 electric motorcycle

Posted Nov 18th 2014 12:46PM

Jay Leno on Lightning Motorcycle

Electric motorcycles are fairly proven tech at this point, with multiple options available to riders. The real challenge now is continuing to improve performance to add range, cut weight and boost power. Jay Leno is back on two-wheels again this week for a ride on the Lightning Motorcycles LS-218 electrified sportbike. With victory at Pikes Peak and a land speed record on its belt, this is a real competitor in the EV cycle scene.

Other than a lack of visible exhaust, it's hard to look at the LS-218 and know that it doesn't have an internal combustion engine. It's styling has all of the arrow-like design hallmarks of the traditional competitors. However, with about 200 horsepower on tap from its electric motor, the bike can definitely go. On the salt flats, it managed an average of 215.96 miles per hour, but the company's CEO claims the cycle was going just over 218 mph as it shot through the timing lights.

Once Jay saddles up for his ride, he gives some pretty specific impressions about how the LS-218 feels. Check out the video to hear his thoughts on this two-wheeled lightning bolt on Jay Leno's Garage.

News Source: Jay Leno's Garage via YouTube

2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle likely to get 60 MPGe

Five Kg Of Hydrogen And 300-Mile Range Leads To Simple Outcome, We Think

Posted Nov 18th 2014 11:25AM

2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle

Toyota isn't talking about the Mirai's fuel economy just yet, but that doesn't mean we can't make an educated guess. And we do so by looking at the competition and knowing that the DOE says that "One kg of hydrogen is roughly equivalent to one gallon of gasoline."

For now, the Mirai's H2 competition means the 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell. It can carry 5.64 kg of hydrogen and has a range of 265 miles. If we do the division there (265/5.64) we get 47 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). The DOE says that the miles/kg values are 49 combined, 48 in the city and 50 on the highway while Hyundai lists the official MPGe estimates as 50 combined, 49 city and 51 highway. The simple math gets us pretty close to these official numbers.

Or take the 2014 Honda FCX Clarity. With a range of 231 miles and a max of 3.92 kg of hydrogen on board, division gets us to 59 MPGe. Officially, it's rated at 59 miles per kg (combined), with 58 in the city and 60 on the highway. In other words, simple math is a reliable way to calculate rough MPGe.

So, we know that the Mirai can hold five kilograms of hydrogen on board and that the car has a 300-mile range. We don't even need a calculator to figure out that the Mirai is looking at 60 MPGe. Interestingly, that might be what the next-gen Prius will get.


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