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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.

UberTaxi now operating in Seoul using licensed cab drivers

Posted Oct 25th 2014 8:58AM

South Korea Taxi Driver Protest

In countries across the globe, ride-hiring app Uber has faced criticism from taxi drivers, who claim the service is unfair, citing the way its (unregistered) drivers can be hired, eliminating the need to stand on a corner hailing. In the South Korean capital of Seoul, though, Uber and the taxi drivers are living harmoniously, thanks to a new service.

Called UberTaxi, the app has signed up a number of official, registered cab drivers who can be hired from a smartphone. Drivers won't be paid a commission, according to The Wall Street Journal, although they'll receive a $1.90 subsidy for each fare they handle that's been ordered by the app.

While the new pairing is a positive sign for Uber, the app's core service, the low-cost UberX, remains illegal in South Korea. WSJ also reports that the country is taking aim at the premium UberBlack livery service, and is even going so far as to develop an app that would give taxi drivers the same capabilities without using the ride-hiring service.

News Source: Wall Street Journal

Image Credit: Ahn Young-joon / AP

Recharge Wrap-up: onshore wind energy is cheapest, Tesla Model S teardown videos

Dutch Artist To Turn Smog Into Jewelry; DOE Funds Biofuel Growing Projects; Renault's Sustainable Mobility Website Turns 5

Posted Oct 24th 2014 3:58PM

wind turbines

Renault's sustainability mobility website is celebrating its fifth anniversary. The site focuses on electric and hybrid cars, cycling, public transport as well as policy and events regarding getting around in a clean, green way. It also features a monthly forum where scientists, bloggers, politicians and other experts weigh in on sustainable transport. Visit the website, or read more in the press release below.

Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde wants to turn Beijing's smog into jewelry. Roosegaarde plans to capture particulate matter from a park using a giant air purifier, then turn it into gems. This would give the particular park the cleanest air in the city. The smog gems would them be set in rings and sold. Each ring would represent 1,000 cubic meters of clean air in Beijing. Read more at Treehugger.

A study commissioned by the EU shows that onshore wind electricity is cheaper than natural gas, nuclear and coal power. The study takes into account climate change, human health and the like for a more complete total cost of energy production. The study found that the cost per megawatt-hour is about $133 for onshore wind, $235 for offshore wind, $168 for nuclear, $207 for gas, $274 for photovoltaic and between $205 and $295 for coal. European Wind Energy Association's deputy CEO Justin Wilkes says, "Not only does the Commission's report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly." Read more at Domestic Fuel.

The US Department of Energy is offering $14 million in funding toward landscape design projects for cellulosic feedstock. The DOE wants landscape designs that incorporate the bioenergy resources into agricultural and forestry systems already in place. It targets high-impact, sustainable production with a goal of 1 billion gallons of biofuel a year. Applications are due January 12, with concept papers due November 11. Read more at Ethanol Producer.

IHS Technology did a complete teardown of the Tesla Model S. In two videos, IHS Technology's Senior Director of Teardown services Andrew Rassweiler talks about the findings and features of some of the car's most interesting components. The videos offer materials, specifications and analysis for the media control unit, instrument cluster, battery and more. Get to know the Model S more intimately in the videos at IHS Technology.

Toyota sells off Tesla shares, too

Posted Oct 24th 2014 2:15PM

Tesla Toyota

The incredible rise of Tesla's stock price has done little to now stop two major shareholders from ditching their stake in the American EV manufacturer. First, Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, ditched its four-percent stake, and less than a week later, Toyota is doing the same thing, selling off an undisclosed bit of its Tesla investment.

The move comes as Toyota winds down sales of the RAV4 EV, which gets its batteries and electric motor from Tesla at the company's Fremont, CA factory.

"We have a good relationship with Tesla, and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects," Toyota spokesperson Kayo Doi told Bloomberg via email.

According to Bloomberg, Toyota maintained a 2.4-percent stake as recently as March 31, making it the tenth-largest of Tesla's investors. As the Japanese shed an undisclosed percentage of its shares, though, another automaker might be eyeing the California company.

Value Walk has a speculative story that claims BMW could be looking at tying up with Tesla, based on a reported meeting between execs from the two companies. The fact that the Munich-based company's carbon-fiber expertise fits nicely with the Palo Alto company's EV knowhow is apparently the driving force behind this speculation. But as usual, take this with a grain of salt.

News Source: Bloomberg, Value Walk

Image Credit: Paul Sakuma / AP

The Price Is Right plays One Away with Tesla Model S

Posted Oct 24th 2014 12:45PM

The Price Is Right gives away a Tesla Model S

When it comes to game shows, The Price Is Right is about as mainstream as American TV gets, beaming lust for fancy new prizes into millions of homes every day. Recently, the show held its annual Dream Car Week, which this year included a Tesla Model S along with a Porsche Cayenne, a Land Rover Range Rover Sport, a Maserati Quattroporte and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

The contestant invited to come on down an take a crack at the bright-red Model S was Vanessa Ansoorian, who told host Drew Carey that she had originally promised her brother a car if she won one, but once she saw what it was, she began rethinking her stance. Of course, before being able to drive away with the electric car, she needed to win the game, which in this case was One Away. That means that she got a string of numbers – 6-8-4-1-1 - and needed to move each digit up or down one to find the car's price. Can you get it? We won't give away the right answer, or if she won the car, but we look forward to your guesses in the comments below, where you can also watch the tense video clip.

In 2010, The Price Is Right also offered up a Tesla (in that case, a Roadster) on Earth Day. You can see how that attempt went here.

News Source: TVLubber3 via YouTube

Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales

Posted Oct 24th 2014 11:32AM

Toyota Prius

"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," – Ed Kim, Autopacific

Fuel prices in the US have been tumbling for the last several weeks, with the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.120 as of October 20, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That price reflects a serious recent drop from $3.299 on October 6. Reports have even suggested that those low numbers might not change for a little while, perhaps as long as years. While drivers certainly love paying less at the pump, the change may be hurting the market for more fuel-efficient models, including the Toyota Prius.

According to a report from National Public Radio, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and EVs are down around 5 percent for the year, but trucks and SUVs have seen a 17 and 20 percent improvement, respectively. Autoblog Green's By the Numbers reports indicate similar figures of around a 5.4 percent drop so far in 2014. In fact, as of September, green-car sales have endured their fourth straight month of declines. That segment of the market fell 11 percent year-over-year in August and 9.6 percent in September.

"As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes," Ed Kim, Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific tells Autoblog. That paints a bleak picture for hybrids, because at the moment, the Prius is doing pretty poorly. For the year through September, its sales are down 11.39 percent, off by 10.15 percent for just that month.

Of course, the Prius also has things twice has hard. Not only does it have to deal with the falling fuel prices like the rest of its segment-mates, it's about to be replaced. Rumors suggest that some versions of the next generation could get as much as 60 miles per gallon. "I do think that the next Prius will reignite interest in the segment, especially if it offers the 10-percent fuel economy improvement that Toyota has been claiming," said Kim.

That improvement still might make things tough, though. According to Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs speaking to Autoblog via email, "The next-generation Prius – and other hybrids and electrics – have a big challenge against traditional gas vehicles, which keep improving with every version in terms of fuel economy."

Meanwhile, the overall US auto market is booming. As of August, the Seasonally Adjusted Sales Rate showed the best figures since 2006, at about 17.5 million units. "Right now, gas prices are dropping, sales of fuel-sippers are also falling (or at least not growing) and sales of pickup trucks and SUVs, including big ones, are way up," said Krebs. Scroll down to listen to the full report from NPR.
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Porsche rules out Macan, 911 hybrids

Posted Oct 24th 2014 10:16AM

Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Believe it or not, between the 918 Spyder, the Cayenne and the Panamera, Porsche offers more plug-in hybrid models than any other brand. Yes, Porsche. But don't expect that trend to continue. At least, not in the immediate future.

According to Top Gear, the E-Hybrid powertrain in the Cayenne and Panamera is too big to fit into the smaller Macan. A future hybrid system could be small enough to fit, but with the current technology still fresh, that'd still be some ways down the twisting road.

It stands to reason, then, that if the system wouldn't fit in the Macan, it wouldn't fit in the Boxster or Cayman, either. But what of the 911? Surely Porsche would like to stick it to BMW and its new i8, and proved it could do a hybrid 911 when it rolled the GT3 R Hybrid (pictured) out onto the race track over four years ago. But Zuffenhausen is reportedly in no rush to put that idea into production – not for the current 911 and not for the next one, either.

Porsche has indeed proven its performance hybrid chops with the 918 Spyder and the 919 Hybrid LMP1 racer. But for now, it looks like the current trio of Porsche PHEVs will have to carry on by themselves.

News Source: Top Gear

2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek gets more infotainment, safety tech

Posted Oct 24th 2014 8:45AM

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid

A couple of months ago, Subaru rolled out a series of minor enhancements for the Impreza, and now it's performed a similar upgrade to its more rugged counterpart, the XV Crosstrek. For 2015, the XV benefits from available EyeSight driver assistance suite, steering-responsive fog lights and a new 6.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with a seven-inch version on higher-spec models).

Otherwise the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek and XV Crosstrek Hybrid are essentially the same as the 2014 models they replace. The requisite 2.0-liter boxer four drives to all four wheels as always, with or without hybrid assist, through either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Look for the updated model to reach dealers this December, and in the meantime, feel free to peruse the press release below.

News Source: Subaru

Elio Motors $185-million request advances under DOE's restarted ATVM loan program

Paul Elio's 84-mpg Trike Constantly Getting Closer To Reality

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:59AM

Paul Elio With 84-mpg trike

Controversial, helpful and finally put on hiatus, the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program from the Department of Energy (DOE) has had a tremendous impact on the current flock of plug-in vehicles. Before being paused in 2011, the ATVM handed out money to Ford ($5.9 billion), Nissan ($1.6 billion) Fisker Automotive ($528.7 million), and Tesla Motors ($465 million). That took care of around $8.3 billion of the Bush-era program's original budget of $25 billion, leaving around $16 billion with nowhere to go. In April, the DOE announced it would restart the program, this time focusing on suppliers.

Speaking at the SxSW Eco conference in Austin, TX a few weeks ago, DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said that the next wave of ATVM loans will be for the supply chain to "provide the new components that the advanced vehicles will need" as well as funding projects that will help end coal dependency because, "We think it is important now to get more and more financial institutions in the game of these cleaner projects."

But there is still room for vehicle manufacturers in the program. Today, Elio Motors announced it has passed the first review phase for this next round of ATVM loans and its application is "substantially complete." Elio is working on a $6,800, 84-mile-per-gallon three-wheeled vehicle and is getting ready to build thousands of units in Shreveport, LA in 2015 and is asking for a $185 million loan "to accelerate the company's plans to begin production" of the efficient trike. Find out more in Elio's press release below.

News Source: Elio Motors, Secretary Moniz

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