Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Sep 01

Tesla P85D is the best car Consumer Reports has ever tested


Wait, isn’t the P85D just another Model S which CR has already declared supreme? And, what happens when the P90D slightly upstages the P85D?

By Craig Cole


The Tesla Model S P85D can add another item to its long list of bragging rights.

The regular Model S version of this all-electric luxury sedan was already the best car Consumer Reports had ever tested, earning an almost unheard of near-perfect score of 99 points. But the higher-performance P85D variant topped that, driving away with a raw score of 103. Consumer Reports’ scale only goes up to 100, so they actually had to alter the scoring system to accommodate this new benchmark.

Part of why this all-wheel-drive sedan did so well is that it took the evaluators’ breath away with its speed. With a measured zero-to-60 time of just 3.5 seconds, it’s the quickest car they have ever evaluated. Tesla advertises that it can blitz to 60 miles an hour in 3.1 seconds, or 2.8 as the “P90D” with a “Ludicrous Speed Upgrade” and 90-kilowatt-hour battery. However, raw acceleration is not the only thing that impressed Consumer Reports testers.

SEE ALSO: Consumer Reports and Edmunds Clock Tesla P85D 0-60 in 3.5, Not 3.1 Seconds

The version of the Model S tested was equipped with an 85-kWh battery pack that delivers an equivalent efficiency score of 87 mpg, which is slightly better than its less fleet brethren. Beyond that, it has an EPA-rated driving range of 253 miles and a top speed of 155 mph.

Despite its impressive performance and emissions-free powertrain, testers at Consumer Reports didn’t love everything about the P85D. They thought its interior materials could be better. They also found its cabin louder and ride rougher than what’s provided by the standard Model S.

Additionally, reliability is a big unknown for this forward-thinking car. The P85D is simply too new to have any quality data. According to Consumer Reports, it’s not recommended at this time, though that may change in the future. The P85D was also once declared “undriveable” by Consumer Reports because of an electronics glitch that locked the drivers out of the car.

This article originally appeared at


Aug 31

Flint builds millionth 1.4-liter engine; Volt media drive is Oct 1


While a changeover at the plant that builds the Volt’s engine has GM gearing up for the 2016 model, it’s also gearing up to show the media the car in Northern California one month from now.


Get ready for stories to pour forth on first drive impressions, and whatever other angles publications will come up with.

Three waves of media are attending a two-day event with a three-hour time slot for the drive. Whoo-hoo!

Meanwhile, other Volt news is Flint Engine Operations has built its millionth 1.4-liter.

The plant is now retooling for the second-generation Volt’s 1.5-liter naturally aspirated range-extender, and the Cruze will get a 1.4-liter turbo. These, as you all know, are GM’s new Ecotec engines.

Flint (MIch.) Engine Operations recently built its 1 millionth 1.4-liter turbo engine, which is used in the Chevrolet Volt, Cruze and Sonic. Employees celebrated the milestone by signing the 1 millionth engine, which will be on display at Flint Engine. Pictured in the photo, (L to R): UAW Local 599 President Dan Reyes, Plant Manager Terri Burden and UAW Local 599 Chairman Dave Aiken.

“Attaining 1 million engines produced is always an important milestone,” said Terri Burden, Flint Engine plant manager. “But this is particularly special because it comes as we prepare to launch an engine that will be a key part of GM’s global engine program for many years to come.”

In January GM said the first year of second-generation Volts will get an engine from Mexico before the changeover to Flint.

“The new drive unit will be manufactured at GM’s Powertrain plant in Warren, Mich., and the 1.5L engine will be manufactured at GM’s Toluca, Mexico engine plant for the first year of production, then shift to the Flint, Mich. engine plant,” said GM.

General Motors employee Randy Werner works on the assembly line at Flint Engine Operations Friday, May 13, 2011 where GM announced it will invest $109 million at the Flint, Michigan facility, and at its Bay City, Michigan plant, to support engine production for current and future fuel-efficient small cars produced for the U.S. market. The investment will protect or add 96 jobs at the two sites. (Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors)

As for the all-new Ecotec small gas engine, including Flint, it will be built in eight plants in six countries.

These will produce a projected 2.5 million engines a year by 2017, said Chevrolet.

What they will go in is a mystery, and the automaker has only announced the Volt and Cruze will get their engines from the family.

To date, only the Volt (1.5 liter) and Cruze (1.4 liter turbo) have been announced as recipients of the Flint-built engine.


Aug 28

10 CARB states now open for 2016 Volt pre-orders


Ten more states outside of California are now open for 2016 Volt pre-ordering.

California was opened in May, and officially Chevrolet is not confirming previously leaked info that first deliveries would take place in November.


“Deliveries are expected later this fall,” said Chevrolet Communications Rep Michelle Malcho yesterday. “ No exact timing as of yet.”

Those wanting to order a 2016 Volt now can do so in the following states: California, Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Volt Ordering Begins This Month for Fall Deliveries

“California will be first,” said Malcho of those who will get their gen-two Volts.

According to info leaked by a dealer, first reported by InsideEVs, those first Volts could be in owner’s hands in little more than one month.

Then maybe we’ll have more fresh Volt news. Certainly people are thirsty for info. The one drive review by KickinInCanada we posted from the forum has been reported by several media sources.

In the absence of greater revelation, we’ll post a video some of you may be familiar with from Autoline After Hours. This has Chief Volt Engineer Andrew Farah in the studio discussing the new Volt shortly after its reveal in January.

Also, for your edification is a walk around of the Bolt concept.


Aug 27

GM is building a $470M electrified vehicle plant in China


By Sarah Shelton


Building on its current momentum in China, General Motors announced it will be part of a new venture to construct an electrified vehicle factory in the People’s Republic.

GM is joining SAIC Motor Corp Ltd and Wuling Motors to build the $470 million plant. A GM representative said the factory will be dedicated to producing only “new energy vehicles,” China’s term for battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles. Annual capacity is projected to be 200,000 vehicles per year, according to Reuters, and no completion date was released.

This new factory expands on a collaboration already in place between GM and SAIC Motors. Last month, GM announced that it is creating a new vehicle family from the ground up, which will replace several existing models. SAIC Motors is working alongside GM to develop the powertrain architecture and engine for this new line.

“This new vehicle family will feature advanced customer-facing technologies focused on connectivity, safety and fuel efficiency delivered at a compelling value,” said Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “It will be a combination of content and value not offered previously by any automaker in these markets that are poised for growth.”

GM noted that this product line will be manufactured and sold in China, Mexico and India, among other markets.

“There are no plans to export the vehicles to mature markets such as the United States,” said GM.

SEE ALSO: Chevy Bolt is Sharp End of the Spear For GM’s Push Toward Electrification

If BEVs and PHEVs are included in this vehicle family, it’s likely that they will be built at the new Guangxi factory, though the automaker has not yet confirmed this.

Unlike some automakers, which are struggling in China’s market, GM has been posting healthy earnings recently. Much of the strong margins are attributable to sales of luxury vehicles and SUVs, however, not electrified cars.

“GM performed well ahead of the overall industry in China, which was up an estimated 7.5 percent last year. We experienced especially strong growth in demand in the luxury segment as well as in the SUV and MPV segments,” said GM Executive Vice President and President of GM China Matt Tsien in January.

“GM expects industry demand to rise once again this year in China, our largest global market,” he added. “We will continue to take advantage of the growth opportunities by expanding our unmatched lineup of vehicles and services as well as all areas of our business to ensure we remain a leader.”

A version of this article also appears at


Aug 26

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle pros and cons


Does the Volt have anything, at all, to worry about.


Will hydrogen fuel cell vehicles be to their makers as the failed Edsel was once to Ford?

Or, despite flak being piled on them from certain quarters, will they arise from a questionable proposition today to a clear win within 10-15 years, or less?

No one really knows, but to be sure, FCVs do present pros and cons which one may selectively tune in to, or attempt to contemplate with fairness and balance for the big picture.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota Mirai FCV First Drive – Video

This article won’t be a deep dive, but will summarize some of the key benefits and detractions commonly cited by proponents and opponents of FCVs – and we have some good fresh info from the U.S. Energy Department on a couple issues people may be fuzzy on.

Green or Not so Green?

While some plug-in advocates are among those who question whether society ought to even spend the time and money to proliferate FCVs, in the pro-hydrogen camp are industry and government.

Chief among proponents are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, governmental agencies in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. And, most automakers are open to their prospects, with at least two dozen major brands having varying degrees of commitment to the “hydrogen society,” as Toyota envisions it.

SEE ALSO: Two Dozen Automotive Brands Are Looking For The Hydrogen Highway

Most bullish may be Toyota, with Honda, Hyundai and Daimler right there with it, if not quite as outspoken. They are looking at a “long-term play,” as Toyota’s Senior Vice President Bob Carter has phrased it.

Meanwhile battery electric advocates, such as Tesla, and those in harmony with its goals, say the better solution is battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Hg Bus
A fuel cell bus in Switzerland. Interests around the world are embracing hydrogen’s potential particularly for larger and longer-range vehicles. While upstream emissions remain for FCVs as well as BEVs, it’s considered easier to clean up centralized power sources rather than individual vehicles emitting from tailpipes.

Fuel cell vehicles furthermore compete with BEVs for funding and subsidies, and since both are still being developed beyond first-generation efforts, the sentiment is why not settle which is best, and just do that?

The problem is powers that be have not settled which is best, it’s a debate. So, the consensus such as it is, has become one of pressing onward with the “all of the above” technological approach, and may the shakeout prove worthwhile in due time.

Pros and Cons of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

Pro – Zero Tailpipe Emissions

Like battery electric vehicles, FCVs emit nothing from their tailpipe. Actually BEVs don’t have a tailpipe at all, but FCVs emit water vapor.

Water, it’s generally agreed, is pretty harmless, but one UK journalist at the Mirai media launch last year did ask whether intersections during winter would have ice formed one day from many slowly dripping FCVs. Toyota’s lead engineers said they did not think that would be a concern as quantities are only slight. And, water vapor in any case is a whole lot better than greenhouse gases.

Con – Not Really Zero Emissions

FCVs in California are required to use 33 percent renewably sourced gaseous hydrogen. The rest comes from natural gas which is anything but zero emission.

Efficiency numbers well below BEVs are one big “con” – is this the price of convenience? Even the least efficient BEVs get in the upper 80 MPGe range, and more efficient ones are rated 100-120 MPGe.”The energy efficiency of a fuel cell is generally between 40–60 percent,” said Plug-in America’s Chief Science Officer Tom Saxton. “EVs are 90 percent or more efficient from battery to wheel. Add to that the energy loss using electricity to convert water to hydrogen.”

“You can convert natural gas to hydrogen, but that has the same carbon footprint as burning the natural gas,” said Plug-in America Chief Science Officer Tom Saxton. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Natural gas is CH4, the carbon has to go somewhere.”

SEE ALSO: Hyundai Tucson FCV Nabs Wards 2015 ’10 Best Engines’ Recognition

While some may have tried to say otherwise, usually, proponents stress more renewable sources are being developed, and that much is positive assuming it happens as predicted.

A recent Swiss study found in order for FCVs to be truly good for the environment, renewable hydrogen is needed.

“The result was conclusive,” said Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. “Fuel cells for cars are only ecologically sound if they are able to run on hydrogen from renewable energy sources.”

So, just as researchers are looking ahead for superior energy dense batteries to make BEVs a better proposition than they are today, so also are other researchers like the National Renewable Energy Lab, and others working toward cleaner hydrogen.

Pro – Fast Fill Up

Present refueling stations are limited, and have been reported as suffering down time, but a FCV can refill in 3-5 minutes with enough hydrogen to go 200-300 miles.


A Tesla Supercharger at 120 kilowatts would need around 30 minutes to do the same, and that’s the absolute quickest today. Level two charging at 240 volts and varying amperage can take several to many hours depending on how large the battery is being filled.

In short, FCVs are as convenient as filling up as a Chevy Suburban, and that’s enough to give a warm fuzzy feeling to many a consumer.

Con – Limited Infrastructure

There are but a handful of stations in California and while cost estimates have varied, we’re talking billions to build out a nationwide network of reliable hydrogen stations.

It’s quite the contrast to the electric grid which is in every home, utterly pervasive and more easily expandable, if needed.

The first retail FC station to dispense by the kilogram at Cal State.

Meanwhile, FCV early adopters are effectively tethered to their local stations. The Northeast is the next region projected to open for FCV sales.

Work is underway, and private and government monies are being spent to make this feasible.

Pro – Long Driving Range

A Mirai with 5.0 kg of hydrogen is rated for 312 miles range. A Tesla Model S with a 1,200-pound or more battery can do 270.

If desired, automakers could add compact hydrogen tanks for hundreds of miles of extra range. FCVs here too share advantages petroleum-powered vehicles have in compact, dense energy storage.


The next generation of BEVs are to offer 200-250 miles of range and cost half what the Model S does, but the energy storage potential is one that has caught the attention of those in favor.

Con – Hydrogen is Expensive

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), hydrogen is still finding its price. The only station that’s classified as fully retail currently sells hydrogen at about $13.50/ kg, said a DoE representative yesterday.

Toyota’s Environmental Communications Manager Jana Hartline estimated yesterday maybe $10-$12 per kg, which would mean $50-60 for a complete fill for the 312-mile Mirai.

The DoE is also on board with the FCV promotion. A representative said because FCV fuel economy is greater than 60 mpgge (miles per gasoline gallon equivalent), one can travel “2-3 times farther on $13.50 than compared to today’s gasoline vehicles.”

That’s still not as efficient as a 114 MPGe Nissan Leaf on electricity costing an average 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, but point taken.

Compared to a 50 mpg Prius, assuming today’s average $2.577 per gallon for gas, 6.24 gallons to go 312 miles would cost $16.08.

At $13.50 per kg, 5 kg to fill the Mirai would be $67.50. At a low of $10 per kg, it would be $50 to fill the tank for that 312 miles.

As for the aforementioned Leaf, figuring 114 MPGe and the U.S. average 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, cost to travel 312 miles is $11.07. A 93 MPGe Tesla Model S P90D would cost $13.57 for 312 miles.

That’s quite a bit less than $50-$67.50.

Good thing Toyota as well as Hyundai and Honda are making hydrogen “free” (or folded into the price).

Pro – Hydrogen Costs Projected to be Cut By More Than Half

Looking further at the best-case 67 mpgge Mirai, the hydrogen cost picture is due to get better.


“If the tank is ~5 kg and DOE’s short term hydrogen production goal of $7.00/gge is met, the fill up will be $35.00. However, if DOE’s aggressive long term target of $4.00/gge is met, a fill up would be only $20.00. (See: DoE Record #14013.)

“If produced at high-volume, the cost of hydrogen from renewables / electrolyzers could be around $5/gge even using today’s electrolyzer technology,” said the DoE. “The cost of hydrogen from renewables will decrease even further using longer term approaches (e.g., direct solar photo-electro chemical conversion). DOE’s early market goal is $7/gge regardless of the production pathway.”

Con – There are Many More Uncertainties

So much needs to happen in building out infrastructure, securing renewable hydrogen, ultimately getting fuel costs down for the time when hydrogen is no longer included with the car.

A long-term play, indeed.

The joke used to be FCVs are the future, and always will be the future. Well they’re here now, and more are believed in the works as is the build-out to make them feasible.

It’s a vision, and it does take resources that could be used toward BEVs. Those pushing it forward see it as making sense.

Pro – FCVs are Technologically Advanced

Say what you will about the physical styling of cars by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Daimler, under the skin, they are pure Buck Rogers.

At least, that is how people who are taking a fancy to them see things. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so while some may yet frown, others do smile when they see what’s being offered.

FCVs are actually a form of hybrid. The Mirai in particular borrowed hardware and computer controllers from the Prius and Camry Hybrid to reduce production costs. It does have a small traction battery to teeter off of, and is not purely and only driven by the fuel cell stack, though this is the primary motive source.

Same is generally true of the Hyundai Tucson and Honda FCX Clarity.

What is more, it could be feasible to wed battery tech further to FCVs and make a plug-in hybrid FCV as Audi has already demonstrated with its A7 h-tron plug-in prototype.

Con – FCVs are Unproven

No one has seen a 10-year-old production FCV (as is true for BEVs), and it is known the fuel cell stack decreases in efficiency. Failures are naturally of a different order than, say, a blown head gasket or spun rod bearing.

What may not sound impressive is the hours of service estimated. The U.S. Energy Department told us Toyota’s converted Highlander FCVs were good for about 2,500 hours or more. This might equate to around 75,000 miles.

Today the DoE says things are looking better when we asked whether they might go 100,000-200,000 miles like an internal combustion car.

“We have demonstrated more than 3,900 hours in the lab and the DoE target is 5,000 hours or 150,000 miles,” said a representative.

Hartline, said Toyota has subjected the Mirai, for example, to extreme Alaska cold, and Death Valley heat.

Its engineers have abused the car as part of testing and she said they would not deliver a car to market that was not up to Toyota standards.

Of course all the vehicles are warranted and just as the fuel is “free” (included in the price), automakers know they will have to pay dues, and this includes offering buyers/ lessees assurance that they will be covered if something goes wrong.

Pro – FCVs are Heavily Subsidized

(Note – this is a “pro” if you’re a consumer, a con if you’re philosophically a free-market advocate.)

The Hyundai and Honda FCVs are lease only, but Toyota will sell its FCV. It’s eligible for up to $13,000 in total subsidies in California, which helps whittle down its $58,325 price to as low as $45,000.

Con – FCVs are Still Pricey

Leases for around $500 per month or purchases of upwards of $60,000 are double the average new car price. What’s more, the cars are certainly being underwritten by respective manufacturers as part of their self-sacrificial – actually enlightened self interest – in floating the enterprise until that day when profitability can arrive.

In time, economies of scale are expected to see prices decrease.

Mirai launch, Huntington Beach, Calif. November 2014.

Hartline said she could not discuss actual production costs but cited the original Prius which was not profitable until second generation.

She also said some original Prius cars are still running around on their first battery, and they too were subjected to intense scrutiny, but came out on top.

That is the goal for FCVs which ready or not, are on their way.


Aug 25

Fisker News: A second go-around for Fisker?


This is the tale of two Fiskers — 1) Henrik may want to start a new company; 2), the new owners of his original namesake are setting up shop in Elon’s back yard.

Remember Fisker’s pure series hybrids with the GM engines and A123 batteries?

Think he has learned from his mistakes and can do it right the second time?


By Sarah Shelton

Henrik Fisker may no longer be part of Fisker Automotive, but that doesn’t mean he’s done building cars.

At last weekend’s Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, Calif., Henrik hinted about his future.

“I’m looking into starting a new company,” he said, as reported by USA Today. “There’s a whole new group of young people ready for the next thing.”

According to USA Today, he’s looking at connected cars as potentially the next big venture.

These days, bringing up Fisker can leave a bad taste in some people’s mouth. Software bugs and battery issues began plaguing the company’s plug-in Fisker Karma immediately after its launch. Weighed down in part by $168 million in outstanding federal loans and $1 million in back taxes, Fisker Automotive declared bankruptcy the following year.


But it should be remembered that before these controversies, Henrik Fisker put a beautiful plug-in hybrid on the road.

“Driving one for a week, we had opportunity to bask in an experience that’s part of why some pay for this echelon of car,” said editor Jeff Cobb in his 2012 review of the Fisker Karma. “In a culture where you are often perceived by what you drive, showing up in a Karma is the next best thing to being some kind of star.”

SEE ALSO: Wanxiang Teases Elux (formerly Fisker) Karma

Henrik described his hybrid as an “EVer”– Electric Vehicle with Extended Range. Two rear-mounted electric motors gave the sports car an EV range of 25 to 50 miles. These motors were reinforced by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder engine, which was built by General Motors.

“Fisker’s Karma is well-designed, one of the best looking cars on the road, and its existence is remarkable considering obstacles that have had to be overcome,” Cobb wrote.

At the moment, it doesn’t appear that Henrik is letting his past troubles hold him back. His recent automotive efforts include a collaboration with a Los Angeles Ford dealer to create the Fisker Rocket: a modified Ford Mustang with a supercharged 725 horsepower engine and unique body styling.

While there’s no further detail on Henrik’s upcoming plans, it’s certain that any car he releases will be turning heads.

A version of this article also appears at

Second go Around

Wanxiang has signed an 11-year, $30-million lease in Southern California’s Moreno Valley with intent to carry forth the EVer dream.

The long-term lease is being taken as a sign of serious intent, and this is the first time SoCal has had a car plant in more than two decades since GM closed a Van Nuys facility in 1992.

“This is a landmark for our city,” said Moreno Valley Mayor Jesse Molina in a statement that lauded the company’s promise to hire locally from the area’s “highly qualified workforce.”

Now based on Costa Mesa, Fisker’s plant will be in a 555,670 square foot building on Perris Boulevard in the city’s South Industrial area, according to Mike Lee, Moreno Valley’s community and economic development director.

Last year Wanxiang paid $149 million for the bankrupt carmaker, plus $257 million for A123, which made batteries also for BMW’s hybrid 3- and 5-Series and the Chevrolet Spark EV.

Sales for Fisker could start next year, according to reports.

LA Times