Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Jun 26

Toyota shows its production-ready FCV

 

When will we see GM roll out its FCV? They tell me they are not done working on it, as in, the project has a purpose …

The top story I put together, and below that, Phil followed up with another …

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People who are still saying they’ll believe fuel cells will become mainstream when they see it are one step closer to this much-delayed “future” as evidenced by Toyota’s plans.

This week the maker of the Prius revealed the exterior design and Japan-market pricing for its production four-passenger fuel cell sedan it first showed last year at the Tokyo Motor Show, and which is pending global launch.

Toyota said the FCV will go on sale in Japan before April 2015, and in the U.S. and Europe in summer 2015. Price in Japan is 7 million yen (approx. $68,700) excluding consumption tax, and no lease price was divulged. As for EU and U.S. versions, pricing and lease details and other specifications are not divulged yet.

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This year also Hyundai began offering its Tucson-based fuel cell vehicle in the U.S., and Honda says it will have a follow-up to its FCX Clarity to compete with Toyota, although it has revealed only a design concept at this point.

Toyota reiterated that hydrogen emits nothing and when compressed has greater energy density than lithium-ion batteries.

It said also it’s a “particularly promising alternative fuel” as it can be produced with a wide variety of energy sources, including solar and wind.

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“Toyota’s commitment to environment-friendly vehicles is based on three basic principles: embracing diverse energy sources; developing efficient, low-emission vehicles; and driving real and positive environmental change by popularizing these vehicles,” said the company in a statement.

The fuel cell vehicle is said to benefit from 95 percent reduction in costs, and Toyota has been developing them in-house for over 20 years.

Toyota began leasing the “Toyota FCHV” SUV on a limited basis in Japan and the U.S. in 2002.

“Significant improvements have been made to the FC system since 2002,” said the company. “The fuel cell sedan Toyota revealed today, for example, features performance similar to a gasoline engine vehicle, with a cruising range of approximately 700 km (according to Toyota measurements taken under the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s JC08 test cycle) and a refueling time of roughly three minutes.”

The company is also developing fuel cells for stationary power in buildings and homes, fork lifts and buses.

 

Toyota Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle In Aspen June 27

By Phillippe Crowe

Toyota announced its first commercial zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCV) is coming to the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival.

First unveiled in Japan on Wednesday afternoon, June 25, the vehicle will make its North American debut at the annual conference on Friday, June 27.

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In a press conference in Japan, company officials revealed the exterior design of the FCV pre-production prototype.

Interior features, along with the vehicle’s name, volume, and full specifications will be released at a later date.

Toyota also announced that the FCV will go on sale in the Japan domestic market before April 2015, and then summer 2015 in Europe and the state of California.

Toyota stated the sedan will be priced in the Japan domestic market at approximately 7 million yen, or at more than $68,000 based on current exchange rates. Pricing in other markets has not yet been set.

“This is a zero-emission electric-drive, mid-size four-door sedan” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “It produces sufficient electrical power to spin the electric motor for about 300 miles on a single fill-up which takes three to five minutes.  This is going to be a very special vehicle. And we believe we can bring it in at a very reasonable price for a lot of people.”

The company also stated today’s announcement builds on Toyota’s existing efforts to provide customers with access to hydrogen refueling stations when the vehicle arrives in California. In May, the company announced a financial relationship with First Element Fuels to support the long-term operation and maintenance of 19 new hydrogen refueling stations across the state.

“The success of fuel cell technology will depend less on the genius of the car, than on the ownership experience,” said Carter. “Stay tuned, because this infrastructure thing is going to happen.”

Related Reading:

Toyota Defends Its Plans For Fuel Cells

Toyota Further Explains Fuel Cell Viability

Toyota Preparing For ‘The Next 100 Years’ With Fuel Cell Vehicles

Toyota’s Fuel Cell Vehicles Can Handle The Cold

 

Jun 25

GM adding 3 acres of solar in Michigan

 

By Phillippe Crowe

General Motors announced it is increasing its renewable energy use with 3 acres of new solar arrays at two Michigan facilities.

The company’s processing center in Swartz Creek and engine plant in Flint will each feature 150 kilowatt ground-mount solar arrays. These are expected by General Motors (GM) to generate a combined 400,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year to the facilities’ grids. That is equivalent to the annual energy use of 25 homes.

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The company stated after the projects are complete this fall, GM will house more than 38 megawatts of solar power at 13 facilities around the world and more than 60 megawatts of renewable energy globally when combined with its landfill gas and biomass energy use.

GM said the new installations bring the company closer to reaching its goal to increase renewable energy use globally to 125 megawatts by 2020.

“Ever since our first solar array in 2006, GM has realized the benefits of renewable energy,” said Rob Threlkeld, GM global renewable energy manager. “Not only does it reduce our emissions and lessen our dependence on petroleum, it makes a statement about the role businesses can play in securing a cleaner energy future.”

GM announced its plans for the installations this week in Boston at the annual PV America East Expo, a conference bringing together professionals, manufacturers and service providers in the photovoltaic energy industry.

During the event, conference organizers Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Solar Electric Power Association recognized GM with a Project of Distinction Award – the highest achievement for a photovoltaic solar energy project – for the integrated solar microgrid system at the company’s plant in Baltimore.

GM explained OnStar and energy service company TimberRock Energy Solutions, Inc. partnered to use aggregation software and solar charging canopies with integrated storage to manage the flow of solar power to benefit the electric grid, operated by PJM Interconnection. The site also is home to a 1.237 megawatt rooftop solar array – one of the largest in Maryland – that generates nearly 6 percent of the facility’s electric consumption.

“Through collaboration and innovation, GM, OnStar, PJM and TimberRock have teamed up to give Americans a peek into the future,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.  “The advanced, solar microgrid at GM’s Baltimore site is a state-of-the-art union of electric vehicle, solar power and battery storage technologies. This project’s unique vehicle-to-grid integration, utilizing a solar microgrid, makes it a worthy recipient of the 2014 Project of Distinction Award.”

According to SEIA, GM leads all automakers in the number of solar installations in the U.S. and ranks among the top U.S. corporate solar users in 2013 and 2012. It named GM a “Solar Champion” for the company’s significant impact on establishing a strong solar industry.

GM’s other U.S. solar installations include:

  • A 1.8 megawatt installation at Toledo Transmission, Ohio’s largest rooftop array.
  • A 1 megawatt array at its Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. distribution center, the nation’s first 1 megawatt public solar project.
  • A 516 kilowatt installation at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Michigan’s largest ground-mount solar array.
  • A 900 kilowatt rooftop array on its Fontana, Calif. parts distribution warehouse.
  • A 350 kilowatt ground-mount array at Orion Assembly in Lake Orion, Mich.
  • A 49 kilowatt ground-mount array at GM’s Technical Center in Warren, Mich.

 

 

Jun 24

You spoke (with a Gen 2 Volt wish list), GM heard, but will it comply?

 

If you could have your wish, what would you like to see General Motors do to make the next Chevrolet Volt better?

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According to the automaker which recently polled its owners – including some of you if we read comments here correctly – the top requests are a lower price, a fifth seat space in back, and longer all-electric range.

GM has begun shipping 2015 Volts but the 2016 is the one eyes are on for potential changes. To date, GM is characteristically playing its hand close to its chest as to what these changes may be.

Various reports have gone out indicating a stylistic makeover and not much more — or possibly more electric range, possibly a 1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo range extender to replace the 1.4-liter four, and more.

The Volt’s liquid-cooled battery appears to be faring well durability wise, and its standard 38 miles EPA-rated EV range is OK for a lot of people, but there have been many who’ve voiced desire for more.

What would your top requests be if you could redesign the Volt?

Automotive News

 

Jun 23

GM being sued for $10-plus billion

 

Last year General Motors reported $3.8 billion in net earnings and last Wednesday a suit filed in Riverside California is seeking an amount that could exceed $10 billion against the automaker.

Initiated by law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, the suit says it’s being filed due to the way GM hurt customers who own its products and the way it’s handled approximately 40 recalls covering over 20 million vehicles this year.

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The owner of a 2010 Buick LaCrosse filed case # No. 14-01239; Andrews v. General Motors LLC, in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. It seeks class action status.

The suit described a “disturbing picture” of the company’s dealing with safety concerns and said GM prepped its employees in an “a truly Orwellian fashion” to euphemize and avoid words like “bad” or “failed,” preferring instead “issue” or “condition.”

The result of GM’s public ordeal has cost owners of late-model cars to lose resale value from $500 to $2,600, the suit said.

“GM’s egregious and widely publicized conduct and the never-ending and piecemeal nature of GM’s recalls has so tarnished the affected vehicles that no reasonable consumer would have paid the price they did when the GM brand meant safety and success,” the complaint said.

How this suit by 2010 Buick LaCrosse owner Anna Andrews of La Quinta California will fare is unknown at this point.

Her suit is seeking class action status for those who leased or purchased GM vehicles sold between July 10, 2009, and April 1, 2014, or who later sold such vehicles at a reduced price.

Andrews said she would not have paid as much for her LaCrosse is GM had fully disclosed defects.

Reuters

 

Jun 20

Indianapolis will soon get 500 EVs as mass-transit alternative

 

Would this be a perfect use for the Spark EV with DC quick charging?

People at the company responsible for transplanting a European transportation solution for the first time anywhere in America say they thought for sure U.S. automakers would come knocking on their door, but so far that hasn’t happened.

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Is this a new take on the Indy 500?

Not sure about that, but if the Midwest has had less exposure to electric vehicles than, say California, New York, or other regions, that should start to change this year with the influx of state-of-the-art European EVs into Indianapolis.

The BlueIndy car sharing program beginning December aims to flood downtown Indy by the end of 2015 with 1,000 level 2 chargers and 500 Bolloré Bluecars available from 200 locations for smartphone-app-guided, RFID-wielding customers to hop in and use.

Presently, there are just 10 of the Bolloré group’s four-seaters brought in as demonstrators to give anyone curious a taste of what’s coming, but the commercial operation will begin with 125 cars to start just as the winter holiday season is in full swing.

These Pininfarina-designed, purpose-built urban EVs are constructed around Bolloré’s proprietary solid-state 30-kilowatt-hour lithium-metal polymer (LMP) batteries, and appear to be ideally suited to their task.


Autolib – Paris.

Priced as a limited-availability car to consumers in Europe – sans leased battery – for around $16,000, as peppy rental cars, they are “sturdy” and elemental transportation with a Nissan-Leaf-crushing 120-150-mile urban range, and estimated 93 miles highway range.

The car sharing program will use slightly taller, DOT-certified Bluecar versions for American needs and is modeled on the already profitable Autolib service begun December 2011 in Paris and similar to the city’s Vélib bike sharing program. Autolib now boasts 50,000 subscribers, and has provided over 5 million rentals to date, qualifying it as a financial success faster than expected.

Mayor Greg Ballard.

Mayor Greg Ballard.

So where in the U.S. did this French operation set its sites on to share the love? Instead of some likely place such as San Francisco to plant its business model, synergy was found between Republican Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and a multi-billionaire with a vision for electrification whose name is not Elon Musk, but rather, Vincent Bolloré.

Bolloré’s net worth is $8.7 billion, making him the 10th-richest person in France, number 151 on Forbes’ list of 1,645 billionaires, and he has taken a shining to Indy having branched his “ecomobility” solution from Paris to London, and now the U.S.

The idea is being embraced by Ballard who, elected in 2007 and now in his second term, has presided over six consecutive balanced budgets and has supported sustainable initiatives for years. In December 2012, he signed an executive order to make Indianapolis the United States’ first major city pledging to convert its entire municipal non-police fleet to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2025.

Vincent Bolloré.

Vincent Bolloré.

The city with population around 820,000 – and a car capital in its own right – has limited public transportation, has already adopted bike sharing, and is keen to make itself a model of zero-emissions transportation.

Ballard’s personal motivation comes after a 23-year career as a U.S. Marine with action seen in the Persian Gulf War, and having retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He has backed words with deeds showing he wants to help America wean off of petroleum, especially the imported kind for which he once risked his life.

“The United States’ current transportation energy model, driven by oil, exacts an enormous cost on each and every one of its inhabitants financially and an enormous cost on the country in terms of strategic leverage,” he said. “The United States’ dependence on oil for use in transportation comes at a high cost-both in terms of dollars and lives. To reduce our dependence on oil, developing and diversifying viable American energy sources is required.”

EZ EVs

In an interview this week with BlueIndy President Hervé Muller, we were told plans are to dot downtown Indy with Bluecars so students, corporate and government employees, and well, anyone, can readily find one, get in and go a few blocks, a few miles, or more.

Cars will be locatable by a smart phone app, and accessible via rental kiosks which verify driver’s license, other vital info, and accept payment.

The Bluecars will be parked on street, parking will be free and reserved thus no hassle, though users are responsible to plug in the vehicle when done driving.

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The kiosks are to be strategically located and by the to-be-determined start date this December, BlueIndy aims to have 25 locations with five free parking spots per location.

Through 2015, about 15 new locations will be opened each month, said Muller, until a goal of 200 locations is reached for a fairly high Bluecar density making them essentially as accessible as a city bus.

“The principle is we want to have a very large deployment,” he said, thus an effective privately run arm of the public transit system.

And, said Vincent Bolloré in an interview with Forbes, “We want to demonstrate the electric car is not only a very high priced toy for VIPs.”

Speaking of prices, Muller said these have not been established yet, but the goal is to make the car “very close” in correlating with the fee structure in Paris where acceptance has been high.

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Muller estimates this at around $13 per month for an annual membership. Use of the vehicle would tentatively require a flat fee of $5 for 20 minutes, and after that it would be a proportional price per minute. That is, the next 10 minutes would be $2.50, and one hour would be $15.

Muller said the company expects average uses would be 20 minutes, so these really are just for short jaunts, though rates will be available for anyone – those wishing to rent a day, a week, a month, a year.

Neat EVs

As the first mass-produced EV to be fitted with more-energy-dense LMP solid-state batteries, Muller said there are no present plans for the Bolloré Bluecar to be marketed to consumers in the U.S. but perhaps it or an evolved version ought to be.

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It was designed by Pininfarina from the ground up as an EV, a “battery with wheels,” said Muller, and is constructed in Bairo, Italy by Cecopmp under a join venture between Bolloré and Pininfarina known as Vehicule Électriques Pininfarina Bolloré (VEPB).

The car has a nominal power rating of 35 kilowatts (47 horsepower), max of 50-kw (67 horsepower), top speed is electrically limted to 81 mph (130 kph), and 0-37 mph (60 kph) is 6.3 seconds – OK for city use.

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The LMP battery in the floor is “solely made from non-polluting materials, the battery presents no danger to the environment,” says its maker. Also, it is heated, but no liquid cooling system is needed due to normally higher than ambient operating temperatures which don’t affect range.

Not a toy for the well-to-do, if several thousand now trolling the streets in Paris are any indication, it ought to be an effective set of wheels for anyone in downtown Indy.

And if not a powerhouse, no EV shy of a 208-mile, 60-kwh Tesla Model S boasts as much range as the little runabout which could go 150 miles on a good day, yet could be priced somewhere around the low-water mark if it were made available to consumers.

The Bolloré Bluecar measures – in Euro spec – 12-feet long, 5.6-feet wide, 5.3-feet tall, with a 12.4-cubic-foot truck, and gross weight is 2,469 pounds.

Its chassis saves weight where possible, and is constructed of steel and aluminum, with its body constructed of aluminum and ABS plastic.

Profitable EVs?

The Bolloré group plans to ultimately invest $35 million, and $16 million has been committed by Indianapolis Power and Light for the 208-volt level 2 charging stations. Bolloré will also hire employees to support the local system.

Among reasons why Mayor Ballard says the program will be readily adopted is it fills a gap in a limited public transportation system, and there are plenty who could see the light.

This includes 80,000 university students and employees for several major corporations who help comprise the regular populace in the downtown area.

In an interview with the Indianapolis Business Journal, Vincent Bolloré estimated BlueIndy would need 15,000-20,000 regular users to break even. He said he expects to reach profitability within 3-4 years, and regular users could spend about $1,000 a year in total.


Autolib cars in Paris.

For his part, Mayor Ballard has said he thinks BlueIndy could become profitable in 5-7 years.

Muller however said the number of customers needed to break even was not firmly established, as BlueIndy’s planners study and adapt to a market quite different than that of Paris, a city of 2.2 million, and with Autolib extending into the far-more populous suburbs.

Among customers will be one-time or infrequent users, as well as those who see this as a way to get by without personal car ownership.

Bollare

Studies have shown car sharing may eliminate the need to own and maintain a car, and one study by Alixpartyner showed 48 percent of American car sharing or self-service vehicle users end up not buying or selling cars.

It also showed that without car-sharing or self-service vehicles, Americans would have bought or would buy an additional 1.2 million vehicles between 2006 and 2020.

At this point it may be too early to tell, but Muller said, “we are very confident in the model” the Bolloré group has proven ahead of schedule in Paris, and which is now spreading to London, and sooner or later, “we are confident that it will reach profitability.”

In any event, it took an ambitious European company to come in and do this at a time when Chrysler has no EVs, Ford has limited sales of its Focus EV, and General Motors has been undecided whether its Spark EV city car will be sold outside of California and Oregon.

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As is the case with Tesla, a billionaire and a vision are pushing the agenda and EV proponents see this as a positive portent, as Mayor Ballard also pointed out.

“Bolloré’s EV sharing program will give the residents, visitors, and businesses the opportunity to use an EV in their everyday travel. This will immediately have a large impact on the community’s use of oil and demonstrate that EVs are a viable alternative today,” he said. “Once people experience the technology, I strongly believe people in our community and beyond will want to use and even may buy an EV. Further, the pro-gram will allow owners of EVs to charge at the new charging stations, which is extremely important.”

 

Jun 19

Tesla dealer struggle making headway in NJ – NADA fights back on behalf of all states

 

Whether the National Automobile Dealers’ Association does have arguments that hold water there is little doubt the court of public opinion overwhelmingly has seen a leaky sieve.

As things are, legislators in the Garden State have pushed back, and in separate news, the NADA has started a Web page and issued a video.

New Jersey Bill Approved To Let Tesla Sell Direct

 
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New Jersey’s assembly approved a bill on Monday 77-0 to allow Tesla to sell factory direct, but the battle for Tesla is not over.

The next step is for the bill to be voted on by the N.J. senate and – assuming it is approved – signed by Gov. Chris Christie, assuming he will.

While the bill was crafted as a retort against the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s Mar. 11 vote to reinforce existing laws that shut Tesla out, its wording is open to zero emission vehicle makers, but Tesla is the obvious candidate.

Under the proposed legislation any ZEV maker licensed by the NJMVC on or before Jan. 1, 2014 may sell factory direct. (Do you know any others contending?)

SEE ALSO: NJ Auto Dealer Association President Challenges Tesla’s Allegations

Democrats control both chambers, and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald made it clear the move was a politically motivated one in the state’s tug-of-war over the Tesla question.

“Tesla is an innovative company that has produced a top-rated, environmentally conscious product,” said Greenwald in a statement. “Their commitment to innovation, job-creation and customer satisfaction is precisely the kind of entrepreneurial spirit we should be encouraging in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision threatened to hamstring those efforts.”

Gov. Christie sided with the previous NJMVC decision to uphold laws on the books, and has said if the state’s direct sales ban is to be revoked, it must be done by new legislation.

NADA Fights Back Against Tesla

 
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Tired of being bashed as a “dinosaur” business model and various other unsavory descriptors, the National Auto Dealers Association is fighting back against Tesla on behalf of franchised car dealers.

Actually, the NADA does not call out Tesla by name in a two-and-a-half-minute video and its Web page called “Get the Facts,” but who else has focused the public’s ire against it?


 

Everything in the video is a rebuttal against allegations fostered by Tesla and its supporters in favor of its factory direct business model to “cut out the middleman.”

The NADA site justifies the franchised auto dealer business model with – as the name implies – facts that it says support its existence as good for consumers and the economy.

Many of the points are in line with points raised by auto dealer franchise proponents a comprehensive series we began on the subject.

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Many progressively minded observers have largely sided with Tesla which has fanned the flames of public distrust and a bad guy image some are ready to pin on car dealers.

For more info, please consult the NADA’s Web site.