Monday, June 29, 2009

An Electric Car With Chinese Roots

Add one more to the growing list of small private electric-car companies: Coda Automotive, a new brand started by Miles EV, a company that’s been selling low-speed electric vehicles from China for about four years.

The Coda sedan was unveiled last week in Santa Monica, Calif. It is based on the Saibao, a gas-powered car built by the Hafei Automobile Group, a state-owned company in China. The chassis was originally developed by Mitsubishi (which licenses it to Hafei). According to Coda, Hafei sells 200,000 cars a year and has delivered more than a million units since it was established in 2006.

Coda addressed Chinese quality questions by giving the Saibao a big makeover. The electric version had a front and rear redesign by Porsche, a partner, as well as considerable re-engineering to accommodate the battery drive and meet United States safety standards. “We think we have the right combination of existing automotive know-how and a mass-manufacturing partner,” said Kevin Czinger, Coda’s chief executive. Other suppliers include Delphi and EnergyCS.

Mr. Czinger said the core of the Coda is an lithium-ion battery system developed in a joint venture with the Tianjin Lishen Battery Joint-Stock Company, a supplier to Apple, Motorola and Samsung. Mr. Czinger said that the Coda’s 700-pound, 33.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack is purpose-built for auto applications, with 728 cells (compared with more than 6,000 in the Tesla Roadster) in modules of seven. The battery joint venture will be 40 percent owned by Coda and 60 percent by Lishen.

Coda said the new sedan would have a cruising range of 90 to 120 miles and a recharging time of less than six hours from 220-volt service. Zero to 60 will take less than 11 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 80 miles an hour. The purchase price will be $45,000, and buyers could receive a $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives.

On Monday, Coda said it was applying for an undisclosed amount of Department of Energy stimulus funds to build a battery plant in Enfield, Conn., as part of a joint venture with Connecticut-based Yardney Technical Products, which makes aerospace batteries. According to William Yalen, a program manager, Yardney has conducted research on automotive applications, but has not built auto batteries. He said the Enfield factory was scheduled to be operating next year.

Coda may be a small company, but it has big ambitions. The sedan will be introduced next year in a dealer-free, California-only marketing strategy that will depend on the Internet to get the word out. Test rides will be available. The company said it will have the capacity to build 2,700 cars in 2010 (starting in June) and 20,000 a year starting in 2011. That, of course, would be quite an ambitious number for an electric start-up.
Source: [Electric Cars]

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hybrid Cars - Choice Of The New Generation

Its true that everybody uses cars and have very often felt the need to increase the efficiency of your car and at the same time reduce the gas usage to be pocket friendly.

These days of recession where the profit margins are decreasing and oil prices are becoming dearer, driving a car has become very expensive on pockets of every man and not only the common man.

The fuel prices are hiked every alternate day and your expenses for fuel refilling have started reaching astronomical high levels.

These days’ people are opting for public transport or just walking down the lanes to reach their destination. Buying a car is easy but spending money on gas has become so difficult that driving a car would become a luxury in the long run.

Keeping these views in mind the research team has designed a new style of car called as Hybrid cars. These cars are considered to be a future car as they would not necessarily work on gasoline which is so highly priced. They work on dual power that is gas and electric batteries which are fitted inside the car.

While people think of buying used vehicles they give preference to used hybrid vehicles for sale. They are lighter on the wallet and are designed using modern technology also.

These cars are also eco friendly because they have reduced gasoline consumption, and the smoke and greenhouse gas emissions are also significantly reduced.

Buying a Hybrid car is like earning two points from a same transaction, i.e. low cost and environment friendly.

As the hybrid cars are becoming the car of the century there are many giant manufacturers who are plunging them selves into their production as they can sense a huge potential of growth among this segment.

There are big companies like Toyota, Honda, Volvo, and Lamborghini etc. who have entered the market for producing Hybrid cars.

People buy used Volvo cars the used cars fall cheaper then the newer hybrid version. There is an option of buying used Lamborghini cars for sale to fulfill your need, as they are an equally good manufacturer producing hybrid cars.

You can buy these used Volvo cars for sale from various dealers or directly through the internet. Internet is the answer to the modern day’s solution of instant replies. You can instantly get all information about the products that you shortlist at your luxurious time.

You need to search for hybrid cars or go to the advanced search option and check out for hybrid cars manufactured by a particular company and that solves your query. You will get a list of used hybrid cars manufactured by Volvo which are available for sale.

You can select from any of these options and be happy as your pockets are not always light.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Buzz on Electric Cars

General Motors has previously tried to dispel rumors that bankruptcy might affect plans for the hybrid-electric Volt, insisting pre-production and planning will continue.

Now the automaker is getting help tamping down those rumors from Chevy Volt enthusiast Lyle Dennis. The neurosurgeon and author of the Chevy Volt fan site posted a link on his Twitter account this morning to an eight-minute video he filmed during a tour of GM's Advanced Battery Laboratory, complete with shots of the battery pack. (Hint: skip to 2:30 minutes to get to the show-and-tell).

A company spokesperson in the video noted there are 155 unique parts within the sealed battery pack, 147 of which are designed by GM. There are 200 Lithium Ion cells within the LG Chem-designed battery pack, he noted along with a dig at Tesla: "You can't reliably attach 6,000 cells over a large number of batteries."

The current design is the fifth iteration of the Volt's battery pack since the the original 18 months ago, the spokesman said. The pack is mounted underneath the vehicle and sealed from dust and water. A poster in the background noted that more than 100 battery packs have been built to date, and the company projects more than 300 will be built by the end of the third quarter.

In a slicker video promotion on GM's website, two test engineers roll the battery pack into a thermal chamber for extreme temperature testing. The company announced the opening of the battery lab in Warren, Mich., on June 8.

"The new global GM battery lab will benefit consumers across America by helping us advance the development of battery technology in the United States and put cleaner, more efficient vehicles on the road more quickly and affordably," said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO, in a prepared statement at the time.

"Our new lab improves GM's competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt," Henderson continued.

In other electric car news, Electrovaya will roll out its Maya 300 all-electric vehicle in 2011, according to Greentech Media.

The battery maker will use ExxonMobil's battery separator film, which is "an integral part of battery system design and critical to overall performance," according to a press release (PDF) from January 2008.

"The car will run on lithium-ion batteries, charge in about eight to 10 hours, run for 60 miles and plug into regular 110-volt outlets. It will cost around $20,000 to $25,000. An extended-range battery option will run for 120 miles on a charge and cost $30,000 to $35,000," Greentech Media reported.

The company will reportedly make the big announcement Wednesday, but information on both ExxonMobil's and Electrovaya's websites is sparse, while the dedicated site, Mayamobility.com, is largely under construction.

It is hard to see, however, how Maya 300, a $20,000 low speed (25-35 mph) plug-in vehicle, could gain market share. Other around-town electric cars such as Chrysler's GEM car are cheaper (about half the price) despite the top speed of only 25 mph with a range of about 30 miles. Is it worth two or three times the sticker price to have twice the range? Maybe it depends on how the vehicle is used.

In the meantime, electric and hybrid vehicle fans will continue to wait until more affordable, longer-range, higher-speed options are available.

Will GM Abandon Hydrogen Cars?

As the automaker emerges from bankruptcy, it will have to decide whether it's still worth betting on hydrogen cars. Hydrogen car advocates have little love for electric cars: "EV people are killing our technologies."

Advocates of hydrogen fuel cell cars are a bit miffed about the attention and money the federal government is showering on companies making plug-in hybrid electric or all-electric cars.

It's not hard to understand why. The government is giving out billions of dollars to carmakers for build different types of electric vehicles. Consumers can get rebates for buying them.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steve Chu has planned to cut millions of dollars from the hydrogen car program for the next fiscal year. The reason, Chu said, is because hydrogen cars aren't likely to be ready for the mass market for another 10 to 20 years, and that's just too far down the road.

"I was at a fuel cell meeting last week, and people were lamenting that all those EV people are killing our technologies," said Dave Barthmuss, General Motors' western region manager for environmental and energy communications, during his talk at the Edison Electric Institute's annual convention in San Francisco on Wednesday. EEI represents the country's investor-owned utilities.

Barthmuss was making a point that it will take different kinds of low or zero-emission cars to move the country away from relying on fossil fuel vehicles. Barthmuss noted that GM already has invested billions in developing hydrogen cars.

As General Motors works on restructuring its business and emerging out of bankruptcy in the next few months, the company will have to think hard about what to do with its hydrogen fuel cell car program, he said in an interview after his talk. The new version of GM needs to be lean, so it will have to allocate its resources carefully.

"It's like we have swam halfway across the English Channel only have to turn back," Barthmuss said. "We don't need any more breakthroughs to bring the cars into the commercial market by 2015."

What GM needs is for the federal government to fund the installation of hydrogen fuel stations across the country. Creating that network of pump stations across the country will be crucial to popularizing hydrogen cars.

California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the "Hydrogen Highway" initiative in 2004 to position California as a leader in adopting zero emission technologies.

That program hasn't been successful – there are 25 pump stations that have been built in the state, Barthmuss said. But only a handful could completely fill out GM's hydrogen demo car, the Equinox, because of the varying amount of pressure used to compress the hydrogen gas (10,000 psi for the Equinox versus 5,000 psi being dispensed at many pumping stations).

GM has been running the Project Driveway program to test the marketability of hydrogen cars. It gives a limited number of Equinox vehicles to consumers to tool around for two months and then gets their feedback afterwards.

California regulators, including the head of the state Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, have written to Chu and other environmental officials in President Obama's administration and argued that the government should fund all sorts of alternative vehicle technologies to achieve its emissions reduction goals.

Critics have said it's far more costly to build a hydrogen car than an electric car, so why bet on hydrogen vehicles when cheaper and still cleaner alternatives exist?

While GM will have to figure out what to do with its hydrogen car program, it's firmly set on introducing its plug-in hybrid electric car, the Chevy Volt, in November next year.

"Part of our restructuring plan is based on the Chevy Volt," Barthmuss said. "That's the key to our reinvention."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Testing Slot Cars for the Real World

Researchers in South Korea demonstrate an electric car that draws power from strips embedded in the road.

While entrepreneurs in the United States continue to pursue an infrastructure for charging electric cars, two research projects –- one in Korea, the other in Israel -– have recently offered intriguing ideas for putting blacktop itself to work in the service of electric cars.

In May, scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology demonstrated how induction strips and inverters embedded in a road can carry a current that recharges specially designed electric vehicles on the fly. The cars in such a system — aimed primarily at urban areas — would be equipped with compact batteries that have a 50-mile range.

The government of South Korea is investing heavily in the project, which was displayed at last month’s C-40 summit meeting in Seoul, a city of 10 million with serious traffic problems.

The Israeli project — a venture of the research and development firm Innowattech, which is linked to the Israel Institute of Technology, takes a slightly different tack. Piezoelectric ceramic tiles are embedded into the asphalt of a road, or the tracks of a rail line, and linked to modules that draw the electricity generated from the pressure exerted by passing vehicles.

Piezoelectric materials are commonly found in microelectronics, like watches and CD-ROMs, which rely on very small quantities of power.

From Green Inc.:

Odds Keep Improving For Electric Cars

If personal cars are to move from gasoline to an alternative — hydrogen, compressed natural gas, batteries or something else — they’ll need new infrastructure to match today’s gas stations. It’s the chicken-and-egg problem of the transportation industry. Without a way to refuel, why would anyone switch away from standard combustion engine vehicles?

The onus is thus put on investors to build or buy infrastructure, in hopes that once they do, the people will come. Now it’s starting to look like some investors are ready to take the risk, including some not known for risky behavior. One example: A small company called Coulomb Technologies is projecting higher-than-expected sales targets for its electric car charging stations, according the the New York Times.

Coulomb says it’ll be profitable by next year, based on the sales of thousands of its slow-charge kiosks. Cities, condo owners and others are looking for a way to get a jump on what looks like a promising market, with the approaching introduction of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and the all-electric Coda from Miles Electric.

Such purchases are a risk, because there’s no guarantee that sales of the vehicles will take off — electrics and hybrids tend to be expensive even for affluent places like California’s Bay Area, where many of the first charging stations will go. Building up volume sales of vehicles that are starting in the $40,000 and above range may take years, or not happen at all if prices don’t come down. But the important thing for now is that the infrastructure is being built in, by Coulomb as well as others like Better Place and GreenlightAC.

The good news for electric cars doesn’t stop there. Despite the urging of oil and gas baron T. Boone Pickens, it seems compressed natural gas vehicles aren’t going to take off. And on the hydrogen side, it looks like General Motors might be ready to cut funding for its fuel cell program, says Gas 2.0. Of course, other companies including Toyota are also working on fuel cells, but it takes more than one to make a party.

Consumers, for their part, will be happier making purchases of electrics and hybrids if they feel confident that the rest of the world is moving the same way. Building a new market is always one part business, one part psychology. The sight of gleaming new charging kiosks should help a great deal with the latter.

Drivers learn how to build their own electric cars

Oil companies probably aren't too happy about what Craig Egan did to his Jeep Wrangler.

Powered entirely by 144 volts of electricity, the Jeep doesn't need a drop of gas.

“The gas station hates me because all I do is get free air for my tires,” Egan said.

Egan is a member of a small but passionate group of enthusiasts who remove gas-guzzling engines from old cars and replace them with packs of rechargeable golf-cart batteries.

It takes time, knowledge, and at least $6,000 to build these do-it-yourself electric vehicles. But Egan, who owns an alternative energy company, has been teaching people the basics.

On Saturday, he showed schematics and PowerPoint lessons to students at an adult-education class arranged by the Northside Independent School District.

“This is technology that's coming toward us pretty fast,” said Rick Smith, who attended the daylong class.

There are obvious advantages to owning a pollution-free vehicle at a time when the United States is trying to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. Egan said it costs about 2 cents per mile to run on battery power.

The downside is that such vehicles are only good for commutes of about 30-50 miles. You can't take them on a road trip. And cool weather up to 70 degrees reduces a vehicle's range.

Safety is also an issue.

“Respect is important when it comes to electricity,” Egan said. It's also important to think about what might happen in a car accident. The heavy batteries need to be secured properly.

Egan said he just learned about a new potential risk when an elderly man called him and asked if electric cars would disrupt his pacemaker. Egan said his gut reaction was, no way. But after speaking with scientists at the Southwest Research Institute, he said, he changed his mind. The batteries create an electromagnetic field and there's no easy way to block that field. So electric cars could be unhealthful to people with pacemakers, Egan cautioned.

Egan said any vehicle can be weaned off gasoline, but light ones — such as the Volkswagen bus — are good candidates. Small pickup trucks are especially suitable because they're built to haul stuff — and batteries are heavy.

Raymond Agueros, a refrigerator repairman who attended the class, plans to try to convert his 1984 Ford Thunderbird into an electric-powered car.

At the end of the day, the small class gathered in a parking lot and took turns driving Egan's electric-powered Jeep.

As it quietly coasted in circles, the only sound was the roar of traffic on nearby Grissom Road. There was no rumble of an engine. No pollutants were emitted from a tailpipe.

In fact, the Jeep doesn't need a tailpipe.

Honda Hybrid Cars Go Electric

Honda To Convert Gas Vehicles To Hybrid Electric Cars

Honda Hybrid Cars are rolling out everywhere on local roadways and highways. Honda hopes to expand its conventional vehicles by converting several models to hybrid and electric car technologies.

Honda is meeting increasing consumer demands as the automaker plans to produce more hybrid cars. Some of these plans include converting its Honda Fit and other models to new electric cars. Moreover, some of these car models are greener and will help the environment.

Honda Hybrid Cars are popular and one of the fastest selling hybrid cars in Japan is the Honda Insight. It was the top selling hybrid vehicle until the Toyota Prius was released. However, Honda wants to expand its current line-up by adopting new green technologies and convert some of its conventional gasoline vehicles to electric cars.

The new Honda automobiles that will soon make this conversion to hybrid technologies will come in various sizes and shapes. The plan is to convert as many cars before the end of 2010. For example, the Honda Fit Hybrid was scheduled for a 2011 release, but the automaker moved the schedule up to late 2010.

Honda also plans to release its Civic model to offer both hybrid and fuel cell versions. The Honda Civic fuel cell version will run on natural gas to produce lower carbon emissions. The Civic has a long track record for proven reliability, and it could become the next big seller in the auto industry.

The line-up for 2010 Hybrid Cars will be interesting and fast coming. Consumers are looking for new electric vehicles and cars to save on fuel as gas prices begin to climb once again. Electric cars also reduce carbon emissions, which are one of the causes for climate change and global warming.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Test driving the Honda Clarity

Hydrogen powered/energy stored vehicles, commonly called fuel cell vehicle, FCV are an interesting idea. We set out to drive a Honda Clarity and met with an owner. What happened next was an interesting mix of surprises and more questions that only time will answer.

The gist is that if you can step aside the passionate debate as to whether to use batteries to store energy or hydrogen as a medium, the real point at stake is the future of the electric drive. While batteries are pushing the performance envelop at breakneck speed, hydrogen is continuing to mature. Hence, when Honda decided to build a Clarity fuel cell vehicle, FCV concept, many wondered if it was just another PR trick. Other car makers, such as BMW have used a different approach, mainly that of burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, ICE.

Driving On Hydrogen. Stepping into the Clarity, you understand why Honda chose the name "clarity". You have a sense of 380 degree vision inside it. It is a modern car, and in many ways hints as to how future sedans will look like. It is spacious, mostly due to the inherent infrastructure of the electric vehicles, EVs design with the little space the motor takes in the front hood. Modern amenities abound, such as air conditioned seats and collision detection radars.

The Sound Experience. Starting the car is an EV experience. Nothing happen, short of faint noise of the hydrogen pump kicking in and the dash indicating the consumption state. On the right side of the dashboard, you have the blue hydrogen level, on the other the green battery's and in the middle how much hydrogen is used. You can gauge it by viewing a small blue dot that gets bigger and turns green as you accelerate. The accelerations were frank and the only thing you could hear with the high pitch sound of the electric motor, synonymous to torquey. The regenerative braking was smooth, as you would expect from a modern sedan. It is above all a sedan and acts accordingly.

Technically Speaking. The AC electric motor drives the front wheels and is rated at 100 kW, or 134HP, with a 189 ft-lb torque which is plenty for a car like that. Why is 134 hp enough? An electric motor delivers 100% of its torque as soon as it spins and the horsepower curve comes in much sooner than with an ICE. It uses a lithium-ion pack rated at 288V kept full by a fuel cell stack rated at 100 kW, that rests between the driver and passenger. The hydrogen tank is located in the trunk and packs 5,000 psi. And this is where Honda has innovated compared to other manufacturers using 10,000 psi tanks. According to the company, the performance gain are nullified with anything higher than 5,000 psi. The turn radius is above most modern gas cars and the Honda Clarity handles very well. It's range is only 280 miles which makes it a great city car and an average long distance traveler. In this aspect, it is on par with the best pure electric vehicles, EVs out there. Fueling up the car felt like a CNG process, except much quicker. It took about 5mn to fill the tank.

Final Thoughts. Honda has clearly put a lot of thought and engineering into its Clarity. From its Eco-friendly material to modern amenities, what impressed us most was the space inside an EV. As much as hydrogen is intriguing, there are still many roadblocks the community is working on. For instance, Hydrogen is still slightly cheaper than gasoline and in this aspect, electricity is cheaper. Water is a precious commodity now days and using it to make hydrogen is something that needs to be handled without detriment to the environment. Another point often brought to the table is that fuel stacks rely on platinum, which is a rare and expensive commodity. Research is happening to bypass using platinum.

Lastly, the debate is still out as to whether using batteries to power electric car or fuel cells to conduct energy is the best way. The advantages at this moment seems to be tipped toward pure electricity, since the infrastructure is already in place and it is cheaper to operate and construct. When the hydrogen community resolve these three issues, diverting water for hydrogen, using platinum and cost effectively building stations and FCVs , it will be a brilliant alternative. The next few years will be fascinating as car makers are betting on one technology or the other. Unfortunately, at this stage the debate is still too emotional and the only experts we need to listen to are the ones who are in the middle of the road, neither for or against but working on solutions.

Ford Fusion Hybrid Offers 2010 Green Car Solutions

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid can double its mileage using new coaching techniques from its dashboard.

Last April, Ford Motor Company took the Ford Fusion Hybrid on a journey which proved remarkable fuel economy and MPG rating. The Ford 2010 Fusion nearly doubled its mileage as it traveled across 1,400 miles on one tank of gas. The car is equipped with a dashboard which informs the driver on how to conserve fuel.

The 2010 Ford Fusion V6 automobile combines the best attributes of a gas engine and electric battery. The vehicle inclusions a new propulsion system which handles the gas to electric transition more efficiently and seamlessly. More importantly, the propulsion system allows the car to operate longer at higher speeds in the electric mode.

The Hybrid Fusion can operate up to 47 mph in the pure electric mode. Plus, the city driving range on a single tank of gas is expected to be more than 700 miles. Driving 700 miles on one tank marks a huge technical advancement.

Ford proved that its Fusion Hybrid can reach distances of more than 1,400 miles. The team also used driving technics to conserve fuel, more than doubling its fuel economy. It is still the most fuel-efficient mid-size automobile on the market.

The Ford instrument panel on the Fusion Hybrid is pure quality.

Ford has introduced a new instrument panel which is finished with a soft upper and lower skin which carries through the center console, doors, and steering wheel. The panel display features a contemporary iced blue lighting. The leather wrapped steering wheel was completely redesigned with form fitting palm swells and a new shifter.

When you sit in the new Fusion, you immediately take notice to the new seats. The seat contour has been revised offering more side support with smoother bolsters and comfort. The seats also feature contrasting stitching and leather inserts to give the automobile more attitude.

Ford Fusion features daytime backlighting and 3D elements to create a nice appearance.

The vehicle gauge cluster features daytime backlighting with a black lens. It offers 3-D elements to create a high tech appearance, similar to a fine watch. The gauge needles move from left to right as the ambient lighting system illuminates the front and rear foot wells and cup holders.

Several other elements help differentiate the Ford Fusion from its gas-powered sibling, including unique hybrid "road and leaf" badging on both sides and the rear of the vehicle; unique 17-inch, eight-spoke wheels; and eco-friendly seat fabric made from post-industrial 100 percent recycled materials.

Nano platform to be used for future electric and hybrid cars rollout

According to sources familiar with the development, Tata Motors is drawing up plans to roll out an electric car based on its ultra-cheap car-Nano. If speculation is to be believed, the Indian automaker is likely to develop the model in cooperation with the Norwegian electric car company Miljoebil Grenland. The price and other specifications have not been yet finalised by Tata Motors.

According to sources who requested anonymity, Tata Motors has plans to use the Nano platform to build electric and hybrid cars, adding that the Nano is just not a car for Tata Motors; it is also a platform to create more high-end models that will sell for higher prices and yield better margins.

After Nano, Tata Motors gearing up to roll out its micro-hybrid version also and would also use stop-start technology, likely to be supplied by German engineering major, Bosch. This technology enables the car's engine to switch off automatically at a traffic light when idle and in neutral gear and the engine starts seamlessly once the driver depresses the clutch before moving forward. Though the technology will add another Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 6,000 to the Nano's cost, it would cut fuel bills by around 5 per cent. Bosch is also keen to offer this technology as an after-sales fitting. Currently, Bosch is supplying the fuel and braking systems for the Nano.

Source:[wheelsunplugged.com]

2009 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Car Review

Chevrolet is relegating its 2009 Malibu Hybrid to fleet buyers only due to poor sales. The bow-tie brand will begin working on a “two-mode” hybrid system that should be available in about a year, but until then, non-fleet customers won’t be able to get a hybrid Malibu. So that makes the tester that I had recently one of the last Malibu Hybrids available to the general public. As special as that is, something tells me these cars won’t be showing up at Barrett-Jackson in 20 years. But you never know.

The Basics

The Malibu Hybrid is a “mild” hybrid, meaning that it has an electric motor/generator that assists the gasoline engine, in order to improve fuel economy. A “mild” hybrid works differently than a “two-mode” system. “Two-mode” hybrids can be powered by either the electric motor or the gasoline motor or both, depending on driving needs. “Mild” hybrids, by contrast, use an electric motor to assist the gasoline engine. In the Malibu’s case, the hybrid system does allow for the gas motor to shut off at stoplights, and it also shuts off the fuel supply early during deceleration. Finally, the electric motor can give the gas engine a boost while at full throttle. All this adds up to an EPA-rated fuel economy of 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.

That electric motor/generator mates to a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, and the hybrid powertrain is matched up with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, an antiskid system, front side airbags, and curtain side airbags.

Standard features on my tester included air conditioning, satellite radio, a CD player, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel. Base price? $25,555. The only options were a power 6-way adjuster for the driver’s seat ($200), and the black granite metallic paint ($95). With the options and the $670 destination fee, the as-tested price was $26,520.

Drive Impressions

Turn the key in the Malibu Hybrid, and it fires up in the same manner as a conventional gasoline-powered car. Step on the gas and acceleration is lively, particularly for a midsize car. Back off the gas, and an “eco” light comes on in the gauge cluster, indicating that you are driving in a more eco-friendly way.

Speaking of eco-friendliness, one of the reasons that the Malibu Hybrid wasn’t selling well was its lack of a major fuel-economy boost over conventional Malibu models. Indeed, 4-cylinder Malibus get 30 mpg highway with the 4-speed automatic and 33 mpg with the 6-speed automatic, which is just one mpg shy of the hybrid, according to the EPA. Real-world results were a tad disappointing: I averaged 20.5 mpg in mostly city driving, which isn’t great. I applaud the Malibu Hybrid for shutting off the gas engine when the vehicle is stopped as a fuel-saving measure, but I still expected better results overall.

Ride and handling are on the sporty side, with just a smidge of stiffness. That’s not to say the ride is punishing, it isn’t. But it is firmer than say, a Toyota Camry. Thankfully, its handling responses are also tauter. Sure, it’s not a sports car, but the Malibu Hybrid isn’t as averse to cornering maneuvers as some of its competitors are. Light, accurate steering helps it cause. Settle into a highway cruise, and the Malibu is generally planted, although some sharper bumps are felt.

The interior is a pleasant place to do business, although too much engine noise intrudes, especially under acceleration. The design is pleasing to the eye, and most of the switches are within easy reach, and are easy to use. Small-item storage is above average. There are a couple of downsides: The seats are a bit stiff on longer drives, and there are too many plastic surfaces throughout the cockpit. One other demerit: Interior space seems a bit cramped compared to others in this class.

Out back, the trunk is plenty large, and it should fit luggage or golf bags with no problems. The decklid is nicely integrated into the car’s overall exterior styling, which is handsome while still hewing to the conservative tastes of the class. No more rental-car look, which was the burden of the previous Malibu. No, this is a handsome ride--in an understated sort of way. The look is marred a bit by a couple of large “Hybrid” window stickers, but that’s a small price to pay for showing off your “green” sensibilities.

Final Thoughts

The Malibu is already a very strong choice in the midsize segment, so it made sense for Chevy to make a hybrid version to compete against Toyota’s Camry Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Unfortunately, the “mild” hybrid doesn’t bring the same fuel-economy gains as a “two-mode” system would. The Malibu is a great car, but unless you really need the one extra highway mpg or you really like the eco-friendly image of being a hybrid driver, I’d stick with the conventional 4-cylinder models.

Positives: Upscale interior, sleek exterior styling, sporty handling

Negatives: A tad noisy, a bit small inside, slightly stiff seats

Base Price: $25,555

Price as Tested: $26,520

Key Competitors: Ford Fusion Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid

Specifications

Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder combined with electric motor/generator

Horsepower: 164 @ 6,400 RPM

Torque: 159 @ 5,000 RPM

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 112.3 inches

Length: 191.8 inches

Width: 70.3 inches

Height: 57.1 inches

Curb Weight: 3,537 lb

Cargo Volume: 15.1 cu. ft.

Fuel Capacity: 16.3 gallons

Seating Capacity: 5

Front Head Room: 39.4 inches

Front Leg Room: 42.2 inches

Rear Head Room: 37.2 inches

Rear Leg Room: 37.6 inches

Source:[examiner.com]

Tesla Motors CEO: Gas Should Be $10/Gallon

"I'm anti-tax, but I'm pro-carbon tax," Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk said onstage at the Wired Business Conference here Monday--a remark that prompted interviewer and Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson to quip that he was a "true Silicon Valley libertarian."

Gasoline "should probably be $10" per gallon, said onetime PayPal co-founder Musk, who is also attempting to make sending satellites into space cheaper with a start-up called SpaceX. "I'm not paying for the true cost of gasoline at the pump...since nobody's explicitly paying for the CO2 capacity of the oceans and atmospheres, it's getting consumed. We will pay for it down the road, but we are sort of ignoring it for now."

Musk's company has put out the Tesla Roadster, a pricey sports car that runs exclusively on electric power. On the way is the Model S, a more affordable sedan. Separate from the technology, Tesla has gained a reputation for financial difficulties and corporate bickering. Earlier this month, former CEO Martin Eberhard sued Musk and the company for libel and breach of contract.

Musk's rash attitude and devotion to cutting-edge innovation has constructed him as a figure less than willing to compromise. He didn't sound too satisfied, for example, with the level of innovation in the Toyota Prius, the car that is practically synonymous with environmental consciousness in the auto industry.

"A Prius is not a true hybrid, really," he said. (A plug-in Prius is on the way.) "The current Prius is like, 2 percent electric. It's a gasoline car with slightly better mileage."

That said, Tesla shines quite a bit brighter due to the utter disarray of the U.S. auto industry, with major automakers falling into bankruptcy and Detroit in a continuing downward spiral. This, according to Musk, was the inevitable result of a completely broken system.

"Great companies are built on great products," he said, and when those products take a turn for the worse, so does the company. Automakers, Musk theorized, focused too much on the money rather than innovation. "The path to the CEO's office should not be through the CFO's office, and it should not be through the marketing department. It needs to be through engineering and design."

Musk said that unions weren't inherently the problem but the way that they were structured was. "It's not out of the question to have unions. But if they do have a union, they've got to understand that they're on the same side of the company," Musk said. "I really am kind of against having a two-class system where you've got the workers and the management sort of like the nobles and peasants." In other words, Musk thinks Detroit could use a dose of Silicon Valley corporate culture.

Surprisingly, Musk implied that Detroit will survive. "I think it'll probably be a healthier place. This has been somewhat cathartic. Maybe, I think, maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I think this will be a cathartic experience," Musk said. "I think GM and Ford, maybe not Chrysler, but GM and Ford will come out of this healthier...and more competitive."

He wants Tesla to be part of that, obviously.

"I'd like to take up some of the manufacturing plants," he said. "When the mess gets sorted out I'd like to have a conversation with whoever's in charge."

Source:[cbsnews.com]

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chevy Volt cost expected to rise

Expensively redundant power features will likely be reworked for later models

The first Chevy Volt electric cars scheduled to reach showrooms in late 2010 will probably cost about $35,000 US in the United States, not the $30,000 US General Motors had hoped, the company says.

GM has found it can't re-engineer features such as windshield wipers and high-powered audio systems fast enough for the all-electric car, so it will be forced to put expensively redundant systems into the first-generation Volt.

The redundant systems will be eliminated later, probably in the second generation of the Volt, after engineers have had time to rework them for the new world of electric propulsion.

"It's starting to look like it's going to be close to $35,000," Dee Allen, a spokesman for GM, said of the first-generation Chevy Volt.

"Because we're going as fast as we're going to get this to market, some of the systems will have to be redundant," Allen said at the Chicago Auto Show.

The redundancies will add cost, but only temporarily, to buy engineers more time to solve the new challenges posed by electric propulsion.

In gasoline-powered vehicles, windshield wiper motors are powered directly off the engine. Audio systems have become enormous power hogs in recent years, with consumers demanding seven or nine-speaker sound in their cars, powered by 200-watt and even 500-watt amplifiers.

Those kinds of "parasitical" power losses are tolerated in gasoline-powered vehicles because they don't cost much or reduce mileage significantly.

But in a car with an electrical propulsion system, like the Volt, such wasted power means would mean greatly reduced range per charge.

"What we've ended up doing is having to re-engineer things most people take for granted," Allen said. The engineers have no doubt they can rework the electrical utilities of the car to meet modern demands, but not in the timeframe given to them by GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz to bring Volt to market, he said.

Lutz, GM's product boss, has pledged to have the Volt in showrooms by late 2010, if at all possible.

If that deadline doesn't prove feasible then the Volt it will reach market in the spring of 2011 -- which still doesn't give the engineers time to re-invent the windshield wiper.

"The second generation will be more refined," Allen said of the Volt, adding that some of the work-arounds devised by GM engineering so far are "elegant," while others are less so. The Volt will move under electrical energy alone, stored in lithium-ion batteries which can be plugged in.

A one-litre gasoline engine on board will power a generator to replenish the batteries when the charge is depleted during extended trips.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

JPMorgan predicts dramatic Hybrid Sales increase

Critical mass, as stated by Merriam Webster, is a size, number, or amount large enough to produce a particular result. Have hybrid vehicle sales reached such a number? Or maybe it’s more of a tipping point. Author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” considers tipping points "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable." Or possibly it comes down to marketing? We tend to eat what we’re being fed. Whatever the reason, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) are not only here to stay, but according to a survey just conducted by JPMorgan, they’ll soon take off in a very big way.

Globally, more than 480,000 HEVs were sold in 2008, a number that represents 1% of totally vehicle sales. By 2020, however, JPMorgan estimates that a worldwide total of 11.28 million hybrid vehicles will be sold each year, boosting HEV sales up to 13%. US hybrid sales are expected to reach 20% of total vehicles purchased by this date, so therefore we can expect similar results in Canada.

How did JPMorgan arrive at their findings? The calculative process is no doubt locked away in a sealed vault along with whatever’s in the “secret sauce” and KFC’s original chicken recipe, but the study does suggest that hybrid sales will be heavily influenced by government pressure on manufacturers to produce fuel efficient vehicles to reduce dependence on foreign oil and limit tailpipe emissions, plus an overall reduction in the price of hybrid technologies.

Whichever way you look at it, a hybrid could be in your future.

Stronach seeks federal help for electric cars

Fresh off his company's acquisition of Germany's Opel, Canadian auto parts magnate Frank Stronach was in Ottawa on Tuesday seeking federal funds to start building electric cars in Canada for sale within as little as three years.

"In 12 years, we see 30 per cent of all cars being electric. There will be very fierce competition in the world for that market, but I feel very strongly Magna will be among the leaders," Stronach, the chairman of Magna International, said at a news conference adjacent to Parliament Hill, where a Ford Focus battery electric car being developed in partnership with Magna was on display.

"One of the main reasons I'm here today ... is that I would like to see that the first electrical car facilities are in Canada. If we could get a loan, we know we could speed it up. If we could get a loan, we could make sure it's in Canada."

The first stage of that process would involve the production of lithium ion battery systems for electric cars. Stronach said the company has so far spent $200 million of the $300 million necessary to develop the project, although he refused to specify how much it is seeking from the federal government.

Stronach said Magna had paid $50 million for the rights to lithium-ion battery technology developed by a South Korean manufacturer, saying the auto parts maker couldn't wait the seven or eight years it would have taken to develop its own products.

Stronach said the company could begin mass-producing battery systems, and entire electric cars, within three years.

In April, Magna announced a major push into electric vehicles through a strategic alliance with Ford Motor Co. to supply key components for a battery-powered vehicle.

Stronach also said Tuesday that the terms of Magna's investment in German auto maker Opel from General Motors Corp. prevent it from selling Opel autos in the United States or China, although he expressed optimism that those terms could be revisited.

He forecast Opel would be profitable within three to four years.

GM sought bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on Monday, and has been divesting assets such as Opel as part of a broad restructuring.

Stronach brushed aside questions about a possible purchase of the Saab or Saturn brands, saying, "We have to digest Opel.

"We'll see how quickly that takes place."

Future of 'green' cars begins with the hybrid

Toyota Motor Corp.'s newest Prius hybrid, with tens of thousands of orders in before it hit dealerships nationwide in May, seems a sure-fire winner in the race to dominate the eco-car market.

Also in the running is Honda Motor Co.'s gas-electric Insight, introduced earlier this year.

But with full-electric vehicles coming up fast in the development lane and minivehicle makers scrambling to improve fuel efficiency, will hybrids fulfill their promise in the global market for "green" cars?

"We have come closer to the price range our customers are willing to pay," Akio Toyoda, Toyota's incoming president, said at the unveiling of the company's third-generation Prius hybrid on May 18.

A basic Prius model starts at 2.05 million yen, tax included--about 300,000 yen less than the previous model.

The revamped Prius boasts a 1.8-liter engine, up from the 1.5-liter displacement of the previous model. The new Prius gets 38 kilometers to the liter, a 7-percent improvement, and offers better safety features.

Toyota's efforts to roll out more affordable hybrids have paid off. It received 80,000 prelaunch orders for the new Prius--an unprecedented number for a new model.

That lifted total orders for Toyota vehicles by 20 percent in April over the same month a year earlier to their highest level in four years.

The latest Prius model represents one-fifth of the Toyota's total domestic production, pushing it closer to the carmaker's mainstay Corolla.

Price has been the biggest obstacle to Prius sales since its introduction in 1997, when it whetted appetites for the world's first mass-produced hybrid.

Reportedly, hybrids cost hundreds of thousands of yen more to produce than the average gas-powered car. To make the new Prius more affordable, Toyota trimmed costs from its hybrid system.

Toyota's future hybrids will likely come with a lower sticker price. A smaller hybrid is in the works, aimed at offering more than 40 km per liter. The model, due in 2011, will sell for 1.7 million yen or so.

Toyota is confident it can lead the race in the global eco-car market with hybrids alone, ruling out the need to add electric vehicles or other types to its lineup.

"If we can achieve our targets for the smaller hybrid in fuel economy and price competitiveness, we won't need other types of eco-friendly vehicles," said a senior Toyota official.

Toyota pushed its innovative "21st century" car development into full gear in the early 1990s under company chairman Eiji Toyoda.

"Developing a commercial electric vehicle at that time posed a slew of challenges," the official said. "That is the case even today."

In fact, Toyota has a long history of research into electric vehicles, which greatly interested the company's late founder, Kiichiro Toyoda.

Toyota conducted a test run of a prototype electric vehicle in around 1941. It even sold a few units.

In recent years, however, testing showed that an electric minivehicle would only be able to travel 150 km or so at most between charges, even using a next-generation lithium-ion battery. The bigger the vehicle, the higher the retail price, because more batteries are needed.

Moreover, a battery pack's ability to hold a charge and its durability vary by temperature and driving conditions, the automaker points out.

For example, the distance covered on one battery charge would be significantly reduced when a hybrid is caught in a traffic jam on a hot summer day requiring air conditioning.

Honda too sees the hybrid as becoming the mainstream green vehicle.

Amid sharply dwindling revenues due to the global recession, the carmaker has frozen development of a next-generation diesel car that it initially hoped to introduce at the end of this year. And Honda has no plans to market a fully electric model.

Honda is now firmly focused on hybrids, after years of jockeying to come up with the next-generation green car, whether electric or hybrid vehicle. It has managed to considerably reduce the cost to produce hybrids.

From next year, Honda plans to introduce both a small hybrid and a hybrid sports car, aiming to raise the share of hybrids to 10 percent of its worldwide unit sales by about 2015.

According to Nomura Research Institute, the global market for hybrids will expand to an estimated 12 million vehicles in 2020, up from 700,000 vehicles in 2007. That represents about 17 percent of all units sold worldwide.

Hybrids, however, are not the only bright sign for the auto industry.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to ensure 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are on the road across America by 2015.

Plug-in vehicles, which are closer to electric vehicles than hybrids, are recharged using ordinary household sockets.

With that policy, the United States, whose market clout steers the direction of next-generation vehicles, could produce big changes in the eco-friendly vehicle market.

Other automakers, lagging behind Toyota and Honda in hybrids, are scrambling to speed their plans to develop electric vehicles.

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn says he is skeptical of the single-minded focus on hybrids his company's rivals have displayed. Electric vehicles will greatly alter the green vehicle market, Ghosn says.

Because of a shortage of funds in the late 1990s, Nissan was unable to invest enough in hybrid development. Instead, Nissan pinned its hopes on a planned electric vehicle due out in 2010 or later.

Nissan would not be able to lead technological innovations, Ghosn says, if it were to pursue hybrid strategies similar to its competitors.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said Friday it will roll out its new i MiEV electric vehicle in July, with a sales target of 1,400 units for the current fiscal year.

The company says its breakeven point is 30,000 units a year, which it hopes to reach by 2013 by broadening the market for electric cars through an OEM supply deal with PSA Peugeot Citroen in France and other means.

The battle between hybrids and electric cars is not only intensifying competition for the next-generation earth-friendly automotive technology. It is also sparking concerns for automakers whose future plans remain reliant on gas-fueled minivehicles.

To survive, makers such as Suzuki Motor Corp. will have to substantially improve the fuel efficiency of their offerings.

According to Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki, "The presence of minivehicles will be called into question" when more green cars hit the road.

His company's WagonR is currently Japan's best-selling minivehicle. But the WagonR's top mileage is 23.5 km per liter, only about 60 percent of the Prius's 38 km per liter of gasoline.

"We won't be able to survive unless we succeed in raising the fuel efficiency (of our products)," Suzuki said.
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