Archive for the ‘Competitors’ Category


Feb 08

Nissan Admits Won’t Achieve Goal of Selling 20,000 Leafs in 2011


Nissan first revealed its 100-mile range Leaf pure electric car in August 2009, well into the four year Volt public birthing process.

The Japanese company took a different tactic than GM announcing pricing earlier (and lower) and opening up online reservations for the car for a $99 down payment.

At that time, GM was frequently criticized for being slow to announce price and for not having an online reservation process.

However, since the cars have started rolling out, GM is already well in the lead in numbers of deliveries.

Nissan capped it total reservations at 20,000, declaring that as the sales goal of Leafs in the US in 2011. At that early stage GM had only committed to building 10,000 Volts in the same timeframe, so it appeared that Nissan might take the sales lead.

Demand for the award-winning extremely flexible extended range electric Volt has been skyrocketing though, and GM has now upped its commitment to building 25,000 Volts in 2011.

Nissan at the same time is now starting to backpedal.

For every one Leaf so far delivered in the US, GM has delivered 6 Volts. Nissan says it will shortly ramp up sales making sure everyone who wants one will be able to have it by the end of the summer. “We’re going to make sure that customers get their cars well before the end of summer,” said Brian Carolin, Nissa VP of sales and marketing. “I’m confident during April, May you’re going to see (a) significant number of deliveries.”

Carolin said buyers should expect “a few hundred” deliveries in March.

He did admit however, for the first time, that it is unlikely Nissan will achieve its goal of 20,000 deliveries in 2011.

“Not every one of those reservations is going to turn into a firm order,” he said. “I think 20,000 will be too high.”

Source (Detroit News)



Jan 31

Lucky Family First to Get a Volt & a Leaf


[ad#post_ad]So far we haven’t found anyone in California or anywhere else with BOTH new mass-produced plug-in cars. Since my wife Rochelle Lefkowitz and I both work from home, we’re not that typical. Still, as early adopters, it’s a privilege to be an ecumenical plug-in household.

Which car is better? The real competition is the electric mile versus the fossil-fuel mile. But we enjoy competition among plug-in design solutions and carmaker races — so here are our initial impressions and our first match-ups. In the spirit of encouraging wide discussion, we’re posting this message broadly. See links at for the latest.

Since we got our Volt on Dec. 22 and our Leaf Jan. 24, I’ve felt like we’ve taken a time machine to the future. Since as the Founder of I’ve been doing little else but talk and evangelize about this for a decade, I thought I’d be ready for this moment. But now that it’s really here, it’s far better than I ever imagined!

Each car is like a 21st century space capsule, gliding silently through streets clogged with last-century vehicles. I was never so aware of the unique and ugly sounds from each gas-guzzler. At stop lights I even feel their low-frequency vibrations. As a driver of a Prius since 2004, which 60,000 miles ago in 2006 was converted to a plug-in hybrid, and as an occasional driver of a RAV4 EV or a Tesla Roadster, I’ve had glimpses of how this feels. But it’s completely different to drive this way almost all the time!

Each car greets the driver with fun as its first feature. The instant torque of electric motors turns each of them into rocketships at low speeds, and easy lane-changers on the highway.

The driver’s seat of the Volt feels like an airplane cockpit. It’s a little intimidating at first, but reassuring after a few minutes of studying the controls and displays — or just ignoring some for a while. The Leaf has a spare quality, and the simpler right-side panel is all about audio and climate.

Each car offers subtle clues about its fundamental character. The Volt puts a whole car between the front left electric door and the rear right gasoline door. Inside, the button to flip open the electric door stands out while I have to work to reach the gas-door release, giving the message, “You’re not going to be using this very often.” The Leaf’s charging ports are under a giant door right in the center of the car’s nose: “There’s nothing going on in here but electricity.”

Both cars have slipped up some on what’s called “computer-human interface.” We wish they’d listened to suggestions to put prototypes in the hands of Silicon Valley’s usability experts last summer. For instance, the charging signals. Plug in the Volt and the indicator turns yellow (connected), then steady green (charging). Finally it flashes green (done). That’s exactly the reverse of a user’s expectations. The Leaf, with a longer charge time, starts out well, with three indicators that illuminate in succession as the car reaches its charge. But 15 minutes after it’s full, all the blue lights go off. My first morning, when I greeted the plugged-in car, I wondered, “what happened?” Both MyLink and MyLeaf, the phone apps that enable me to monitor and control charging and many other activities, need major overhauls and quicker refresh. (Since the Nissan app doesn’t make Leaf all-caps, I’ve got permission to stop doing so….)

Each car’s manual is full of important information — far more than I got even in the superb orientations from Novato Chevy’s Terry McCarter and North Bay Nissan’s Victor Maldonado. But each is daunting, and, unsurprisingly, written defensively and sometimes in legalese. I downloaded them fromAttachment 936Attachment 936…olt_owners.pdf and…issan-Leaf.pdf. Alas, for a spare copy, pages designed to fit in a glove compartment don’t print well on letter-sized paper. And while the Volt’s Index listings are live links; the Leaf’s aren’t, though once I got inside its chapters I could click to navigate. Nissan and GM may be watching Hyundai, which turned its Equus manual into a downloadable App — and included an IPad with the car.

We all know both cars will get better soon. All carmakers will learn from each other. (The savvy ones aren’t relying on their customer service operations, but have budgeted for large teams to track down and analyze the tens of thousands of comments and suggestions strewn around online.) The automakers can quickly update some software features. One reason we leased the Volt instead of buying it is our expectation for future hardware improvements in Version 2. The Volt’s big challenge is making the car a five-seater. Tomorrow, Nissan could promise to supply every Leaf with rear headrests that lower to the level of the top of the back seats. That will vastly improve the half-blocked rear window visibility. (We remove them and replace them when we have rear passengers.)

Rochelle’s first comment was, “Hey, I love these cars!” (She and our son Josh, both shown at the “Plug-Ins Arrive” page, have been stalwart supporters.) She wishes both carmakers had personalized the mirrors so she doesn’t have to reset them every time she gets in after I’ve driven it. Otherwise, she’s happy to just be able to get into each vehicle, push the on-button and drive it like any other car. She says it was a bigger adjustment to switch from a 1997 Camry to a 2007 Camry Hybrid than from that car to the Volt. She appreciates the rear cameras, especially important now that most safety-conscious cars come with thick side pillars.

Finally, the hard numbers. Our Leaf experience began with a fair test with an EPA-assigned 73-mile range: from the dealer in Petaluma to Redwood City. Driving at 65 MPH the whole way and not bothering to detour around the steep hill in San Francisco between the Golden Gate Bridge and US 101 (which cost about 4 miles of range), we finished a 74-mile trip comfortably with 14 miles to spare. The Leaf is reassuringly predictable: with 80-100 miles of juice, most of the time, we don’t think about range; we just drive around and charge it at night. With 163 miles in four days, it may become our first-to-use car, with the Volt reserved for times we both drive and for distances.

The Volt is a more dramatic story. In 37 days, we’ve driven 2,281.0 miles and used 33.4 gallons. Does an average of 68.1 MPG sound disappointing? Not to us — because it includes two round-trips to Lake Tahoe. Until now, no one could drive a plug-in car that route without refueling along the way: 225 miles including 8,000 feet of Sierra elevations. (Read about that record-setting first trip and see photos at

Here are details on the two Tahoe expeditions: First: 225.7 miles, 6.31 gallons at 35.8 MPG up, and 221.5 miles, 4.36 gallons at 50.8 MPG down. Second: 244.0 miles, 6.37 gallons at 38.1 MPG up, and 242.9 miles, 4.56 gallons at 53.2MPG down. (The second time we more than confirmed the numbers. We don’t know why we got better results even on a longer route with an additional passenger and more cargo.)

We started each of the four drives with a full battery (boosting our average), then had major uphill drives (reducing MPG). The combined 43.2MPG is about what a second- or third-generation Prius gets on that route. (We expect the Gen2 Volt will improve its long-distance “charge-depleted” driving performance, which wasn’t the top priority in GM’s four-year push to meet the Volt’s promised delivery date.) This proves a PHEV’s best selling point: this one car can drive all-electric most of the time at its base location, then go any distance worry-free with good fuel economy, and again drive entirely electrically at its destination.

We’ve reached a sweet moment. Since 2005, CalCars has been trumpeting that plug-in hybrids (and extended range electric vehicles) get100+ MPG of gasoline (plus a penny a mile of electricity). GM didn’t squawk when the Volt sticker said its MPG when using gasoline and electricity would range from 69-168 MPG for 30-75 mile trips. Now our real-world Volt experience confirms both our experience with conversions and our predictions for production vehicles. Many of our Bay Area trips in the Volt have exceeded the car’s typical 35-40 mile all-electric range — and we’ve used our portable charging connector at a destination only once. When we subtract out the two long trips, our local 1,346.9 miles on 11.8 gallons were at 114.1 MPG. (And CalCars colleague Ron Gremban driving his Volt Lynne McAllister showed 205 MPG after their first 468 miles, mostly in Marin County.) As they say, QED — point proven!

Stay tuned for more specifics and comparisons in the future.



Jan 11

Toyota Introduces Prius Family of Vehicles


[ad#post_ad]At this year’s Detroit auto show, Toyota unveiled the long expected Prius MPV as well as a diminutive Prius c subcompact concept.

Originally the environmentally advanced leader of automakers, the last couple of years has seen the aggressive strides of competitors GM, Nissan, and now Ford, all introducing either pure electric or plugin electric cars, with both Volt and LEAF deliveries already underway, eat away at Toyota’s environmental marketing monopoly.

To its credit, Toyota has sold over 1 million Prius hybrids worldwide over ten years, and the car is now in its third generation. This announcement reveals the company intends to expand the iconic hybrid from a single model into a family or series of Priuses.

The Prius PHV, which is a plugin hybrid version of the standard Prius with a lithium ion battery and 13 mile EV range will enter the retail market in mid 2012, the company announced. The plug-in will be initially offered in 14 West and East Coast states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Virginia and New Hampshire) where nearly 60 percent of all Prius models are currently sold. Availability in all remaining states will be a year later.

In addition to this vehicle the automaker introduced two additional non-plugin hybrid models.

The first is a minivan sized car called the Prius v, with the v standing for versatility. The Prius v shares the same Synergy drivetrain only possess 50% more cargo space. Despite its size, the car manages a respectable 0.29 coefficient of drag, meaning it is highly aerodynamic.

It manages spacious seating for five with impressive rear leg room and considerable rear cargo space. To reduce mass a specially designed resin moonroof is available.

The addition of all this size and mass to the drivetrain’s load not unexpectedly drops the fuel economy from that of the standard Prius which gets 50 mpg combined. The Prius v is expected to be rated at 42 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined, which Toyota says is the highest for any SUV crossover or MPV on the market.

Normal, Power, Eco and EV driving modes are available. The car will go on sale by the end of 2011. Pricing has not been announced.

Finally Toyota also introduced the Prius’ little sister called the Prius c. At this point the c is just a concept, though Toyota plans to bring it to market in the first half of 2012. It is a diminutive car smaller than the Prius but that still retains four doors and seating for five.  The c stand for city -centric and the car will offer high mileage cordless hybrid driving at a budget price.

Source (Toyota)



Jan 08

Ford Focus Electric Revealed


[ad#post_ad]The third mainstream electric car being developed for the US market, and the second made by a US company has now been revealed.

Three years in the making, Ford CEO Alan Mullaly unveiled the Ford Focus Electric car on Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The vehicle is a sleek good-looking aerodynamically tweaked Ford Focus hatchback that powered by an all electric drivetrain, and will go on sale in selected US markets by the end of this year.  Ford reports the car will have a better miles-per-gallon equivalent efficiency that the Chevy Volt. Charging is expected to take between 3 and 4 hours at 240-V, half the time the Nissan LEAF takes to recharge.

The vehicle comes equipped with special MyFordTouch connected dashboard technology, Ford MySync connected feature and can be interacted with via the MyFord Mobile app.

The car will be built in the USA at Ford’s Wayne Michigan assembly plant.

The all electric powertrain is designed for reliability and smooth instant responsiveness.  Top speed is electronically limited to 84 PMPH.  It will have “agile and sporty” acceleration and ride and handling with a more silent though very similar performance to its gas powered Focus sister.

“More than any other electric vehicle on the market, Focus Electric loses none of the dynamics and quality of driving a traditional car,” said Sherif Marakby, director of Ford’s electrification programs and engineering. “It shares many of the same premium components and features as its gasoline-powered counterpart, while delivering distinct efficiencies and a uniquely exciting driving experience.”

Obligatory eco-friendly materials include biofoam seat cushions and recycled fabric for the upholstery.

The battery, like the Volt, is supplied by LG Chem and the pack, unlike the LEAF, will be thermally managed with a liquid cooling/heating system. It holds 23 kwh of energy.

The dashboard is packed with technology and connected features to educate drivers on the available range and the impact of driving style on it.  It includes the MyFord Touch display which illustrates battery state of charge, remaining range and distance to the nearest charing station.   “Until there are more recharging stations in public places, trip planning will be an important part of operating an electric vehicle,” syas Ford in a press release.

The dash displays are customizable from basic to information rich.  The information is intended to allow drivers to carefully budget their energy for the trip they need to take.

Ford is expected to build up to 10,000 Focus Electrics in 2012, and the car will be one of five electrified vehicles the company produces, another of which will be a plugin hybrid.

Pricing hasn’t been announced and real-world range will be 70 miles.

Source (Ford)


Dec 11

First Nissan LEAF Delivered Today


[ad#post_ad]On this date of 12/11/10 Nissan begins to make good on its visionary CEO Carlos Ghosn’s promise to mass-produce electric cars on a large global scale.

First announced in March of last year, the LEAF electric car program has been moving fast and furious.  The company stopped taking orders in the Fall when they reached 20,000 US consumers who had put a $99 deposit down to reserve their car.  The company shocked the world when they announced the surprisingly low price of $25,280 after tax credits for the car ($20,280 in California), and have gotten many rave automotive reviews for the vehicle.

Indeed Ghosn plans to produce up to 500,000 EVs per year shortly, and a US-based assembly plant for the car and a separate one for the batteries are being developed in Smyrna Tenessee that will go online in 2012.

Today the very first consumer in the US will pick up his brand new LEAF in the San Fransciso Bay area of California.

The man is named Olivier Chalouhi and is a 31-year old tech entrepreneur who is credited as the first person to order a LEAF in one of the US launch markets.  Those initial markets include  Southern California, Arizona, Oregon, Tennessee and Seattle.

The eyes of the world will be watching as Chalouhi  picks up his black Nissan LEAF SL at North Bay Nissan of Petaluma. The delivery will be followed by a press conference at San Francisco City Hall Plaza.

Perhaps nowhere else in the country are EVs more popular and important  than in California, when too the initial Volts will be sold.

To commemorate this occasion, Carlos Ghosn has written the following memo which was paced on the Nissan LEAF Facebook page:

For more than 100 years of car manufacturing, we have been tethered to the same gasoline engine concept. That is, until now.
On the eve of the market debut of the Nissan LEAF electric car in the United States and Japan, a date that the Renault-Nissan Alliance has been working toward for many years, some are watching our efforts with great skepticism. That does not come as a surprise. If necessity is the mother of innovation, then skepticism is its father. From the two, solutions come to life.

Advances we have achieved in technology now allow us to move forward with the affordable, mass-marketed 100% electric cars – Nissan LEAF being the first.

This drive toward new, sustainable mobility is born from one simple premise: Electricity is the new fuel for cars. The electric car has the potential to transform the industry, and it has already begun to change the way we think about cars and fuel.

Recently, a reporter asked me how the Environmental Protection Agency should indicate miles per gallon on the fuel economy sticker that goes in the window of each new Nissan LEAF. My response: Miles per gallon? Infinite. There is no gallon. Though the EPA rates Nissan LEAF at 99 miles per gallon, it is a measurement as outdated in the new mobility age as the idea of tailpipe emissions. An electric car has neither a tailpipe nor emissions.

As the global community thinks more and more about sustainability, more is at stake than simply seeking ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. There is a need to shift away from a total dependence on this finite resource – oil – as we continue to meet the transportation needs of people all over the world. If the car is sustainable, then so will be the industry.

Skeptics point to concerns about the lack of infrastructure for electric vehicles. We share this concern. That is why our approach extends beyond the car itself. We are engaged every step of the way – from car and battery development to battery-recycling and charging stations.

We realize that public and private cooperation is essential to the success of the electric car, and we have more than 80 partnerships with governments and organizations worldwide to develop the infrastructure to support EVs and widespread marketplace acceptance. In the United States, these partnerships reach from Hawaii to Connecticut, from Washington State to Florida, and every day more partnerships are being negotiated.

There are moments in life when you can feel that you are on the verge of something truly significant. It is a feeling of optimism and potential, the result of preparation and the right timing.
Little by little, the skeptics are becoming believers. Governments, industries and a growing number of consumers are overwhelmingly embracing a car that many have not yet driven. Soon, more and more people will have an opportunity to see, drive or own their own electric car. In Nissan LEAF, they will fully understand all the benefits we have been talking about: the quiet ride, quick acceleration, smooth handling and – best of all – zero emissions.

This is the future of mobility, and the future is starting now.
# # #
Carlos Ghosn
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Renault-Nissan Alliance

Congratulations Nissan and Mr. Ghosn, we applaud your effort, and wish you well.  As with the Volt, buyer in the rest of the country will have to wait up to 18 months before they can pick up their cars.

Also unveiled this week is the movie trailer for the upcoming film Revenge of the Electric Car.   The film is written and directed by Chris Paine who also created the 2006 film called Who Killed the Electric Car, the story of the EV-1 that played a role in jump starting the electric car revolution of which we are bearing witness.   A little known fact is I started without having known about the EV-1 story at all, and having never heard of or seen the original film.  Of note Paine declined to interview me for the film despite GM’s strong suggestions that he do, due to the role of this site in the car’s development.  See the video below:



Dec 10

GM CEO: “I Wouldn’t be Caught Dead in a Prius”


Remember when Bob Lutz used to grab all the headlines with his colorful and controversial comments?

[ad#post_ad]Bob Lutz is retired from GM now, but it looks like CEO Dan Akerson is willing to walk in his shoes.

Akerson was in Washington DC Friday where he gave a speech to the Economic Club. He was also scheduled to have a meeting with US government officials to discuss executive pay caps on companies that took bailouts.

He is particularly concerned that such caps may prevent the company from hiring and retaining top executive talent.

“We have to be competitive. We have to be able to attract and retain great people,” said Akerson. “We’ve been able to retain them but we’re starting to lose them and I think that’s an issue for our owners to recognize.”

Though the government’s ownership in GM was significant reduced by the recent IPO, it still is a 33% owner.

Akerson also believes GM is well positioned for profit and expansion in international markets in 2011, and is humbled by the bankruptcy process. “We survived a near-death experience and we deeply appreciate the support we got from the American people,” Akerson said.

The most controversial statement he made though took the unusual tact of a direct insult to a competing automaker.

“We commonly refer to the geek-mobile as the Prius,” he said. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius.”

Of the Volt he said, “this actually looks good.”

Source (AP)


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