Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Mar 09

5 Alternative Cars We’re Looking Forward to This Year

 

Carmakers in the U.S. now have more than 60 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles on offer and more are coming.

As gas prices have dropped and Americans have shown their preference for larger conventionally powered SUVs, crossovers, and trucks, anything from the alternative segments that scratches that itch is welcome.

Out of a slew of new alternative vehicles due this year, we’ve picked five newcomers that stand to do this in some ways, or otherwise broaden horizons.

Nissan Rogue Hybrid

Revealed alongside a refreshed conventional and very popular Rogue sibling, the hybrid version of Nissan’s crossover could prove welcome in its own right.

Priced a bit less than the only other direct competitor, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, the Rogue is due in first dealers in April according to analyst Alan Baum, and promises more choices for buyers in what has proven a desirable type of vehicle.

The RAV 4 in its first year has vaulted to near the top of the hybrid sales charts, often being in second or third place and nudging other perennial favorite hatchbacks and sedans out of the way in the process.

Nissan’s Rogue Hybrid with 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, electric motor, and lithium-ion battery promises 176 total horsepower.

Helping it along, as is the case for the 32 mpg combined RAV4 is all wheel drive availability.

Rogue Hybrid front drive models are estimated 33 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. AWD models are estimated at 31 city, 34 highway, and 33 combined.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid

Also taking on a Toyota product, the Ioniq plug-in hybrid tackles Toyota’s all-new Prius Prime, and hits it on all points – range, mpg, price, and arguably styling.

Hyundai’s car is actually one of three Ioniq variants. The battery electric and hybrid version are launching now, and the yet-to-be priced PHEV is based on the hybrid’s 1.6-liter, electric motor and li-ion powertrain.

MPG in hybrid mode is expected in the middle 50s, and electric range from the 8.9-liter battery is expected to be 27 miles.

SEE ALSO: Which Looks More Competitive: Toyota Prius Prime, or Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid?

Performance may be about the same as the Toyota – adequate in a 0-60 mph dash perhaps around 10 seconds, but not amazing – but this vehicle promises to save fuel and cut emissions very effectively.

Many owners will have enough electric range to keep the gas engine off entirely in daily driving. The gas engine will make a long-haul trip also near the top of the charts in energy efficiency among petrol burners.

As for styling, the Ioniqs look more conventional while otherwise parroting the design of Toyota’s Prius upon which they were benchmarked.

A unique dual clutch auto instead of a CVT transmissions may also gather fans who prefer that type better.

Also unique also is a 12-volt starter battery packaged with the li-ion unit, under lifetime warranty, and capable of being “jump started” by the bigger battery if needed.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid


Shoosh! Don’t tell anyone. The Pacifica Hybrid due in dealers as soon as this month is really a plug-in hybrid.

In its efforts not to stress its usual minivan constituency overly much, Chrysler is calling alternative version of its already released Pacific simply the Pacifica Hybrid, but it does plug in.

Alternative energy enthusiasts may otherwise shout to the hills that this is the most efficient such seven-passenger gas-electric vehicle in existence, and by a large margin.

The Pacifica’s 32 mpg rating in hybrid mode and 33 miles gas-free electric range puts it ahead of even small-engined, midsized sedans.

Powering it is a V6 Pentastar engine and electric motor plus 16-kWh battery with 248 horsepower for enough get up and go.
Assuming this vehicle takes off in the marketplace, it also stands to goad others to follow and that will be great for those wanting to see more large vehicles saving fuel like this one will.

Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Based on the Niro Hybrid which comes in three trims ranging from 43 mpg to 50 mpg, the plug-in version due as soon as October raises the bar one step further.

Based on a 103-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine plus 43 horse electric motor, the PHEV Niro adds an 8.9 kWh battery for as much as 27 miles potential range.

Exciting also is the Niro may be priced relatively low as PHEVs go, while coming in a popular compact crossover package.

As a division of Hyundai, Kia is part of the twin companies’ attempt to rise in the alternative energy space, so this one is being made by someone who knows they have something to prove.

Hopefully it will meet the bill as it otherwise broadens choices in a contemporary styled design.

Tesla Model 3

Saving the best for last, the all-electric Model 3 has been the talk of the town since last year and it’s believed well more than half a million people have reservations on it.

This unprecedented interest is spurred by a car that promises maybe three-quarters or more of what a Tesla Model S offers at maybe half the price.

At least that’s the ostensible proposition for the EV to be priced from $35,000 plus destination and with at least 215 miles on tap.

In reality, the first models that may be delivered by October, according to analyst Alan Baum, are expected to be top-drawer Founders’ editions given first to employees, friends and family. Expect other higher level trims to also be delivers ahead of any base models, assuming those come along eventually.

Tesla’s Model 3 otherwise stands to overshadow the 238-mile range Chevy Bolt in that it is highly configurable.

Expected are all wheel drive and larger battery versions with performance to fit in a company that says it does not know how to make slow cars.

What the top end of the pricing will be has been speculated, but more is to be revealed in a second unveiling closer to launch.

Baum projects 5,000 units may be delivered by year’s end. If however an aggressive ramp up outlined by CEO Elon Musk on a conference call comes to pass, even more than this could arrive for Tesla’s first high-volume car.

HybridCars.com

 

Mar 08

Will President Trump Put A Wet Blanket On the US Electric Car Movement?

 

Is the United States on its way toward Who Killed the Electric Car, part 2?

That’s unknown, but this week the U.S. EPA is expected to begin a process intended to roll back Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards calling for increasingly stringent tailpipe emissions through 2025, and while it’s at it California is also in federal sites.

California’s waiver letting it set its own clean air rules is also a threat to a new agenda to relax rules automakers say could cost them as much as $200 billion by 2025.

The move would come in the name of regulatory reform, and be headed by the EPA’s new administrator Scott Pruitt installed by President Trump.

Trump, who denies climate change is caused by man, and who has turned his ear to letters sent by all the major carmakers doing business in U.S., is reportedly sympathetic with reversing a regulatory climate set by former president Barack Obama.

SEE ALSO: Automakers Ask Trump Transition Team to Consider Reforming Fuel Economy and Emissions Rules

Last month, Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers representing 77 percent of U.S. auto manufacturers, wrote to Pruitt the CAFE rules are “the product of egregious procedural and substantive defects.”

And, he added, it is “riddled with indefensible assumptions, inadequate analysis and a failure to engage with contrary evidence.”

Whether the process to reverse federal rules could be a swift one, or a lengthy battle with environmentalists has been up in the air. It is more certain that if zero emission rules set by California’s Air Resources Board rules come under attack, the state and supporters would fight tooth and nail.

The New York Times, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said dismantling federal standards calling for fleet average fuel economy to be around 40 mpg by 2025 “will be much more legally simple.”

Americans have preferred trucks and SUVs in light of inexpensive gas. These are most profitable for carmakers.

Step one could be to withdraw the Obama administration’s determination on 2022-2025 rules after which the Trump administration would have a year to set alternative standards.

Speaking on NPR yesterday, EV advocate Chelsea Sexton likened the threat by automakers emboldened by Trump’s known policy direction to a major setback for electric cars.

Advocates like Sexton, who was a star in the original “Who Killed the Electric Car” documentary, have long fought the war of spin on what the real truth is on cars that run partly or fully on batteries.

SEE ALSO: Are Consumers Being Manipulated By Anti-Electric Car Propaganda?

Their purpose is to reduce America’s reliance on a near monopoly energy source – petroleum – and attendant emissions that are not only blamed on climate change, but also simply human health.

Without citing a source, NPR moderator Sonari Glinton let loose one talking point that’s become part of the counter-rhetoric by those who question the efficacy of EVs to solve America’s energy and environmental needs.

“When GM makes a Silverado, they make thousands of dollars … when they make a Chevy Volt, they lose money,” said Glinton to Sexton. “What you are saying is, if these regulations are rolled back, it’s the new death of the electric car.”

That is one possibility, said Sexton, who is out in front of the expected continued war of words and ideology that is brewing.

“Even some of the more aggressive automakers are likely to roll back their plans,” said Sexton, “…we get the same kind of ‘ah shucks we tried as hard as we could, consumers just don’t want those EVs yet, maybe we’ll come back later.’”

But before declaring doom, there will be a fight said the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Roland Hwang.

“The Trump administration cannot with a stroke of a pen roll back federal clean car standards or take away California’s authority to implement his own standards,” he said. “To change either, they need to notify, allow public comment, before rendering a decision. If they try to rollback federal or CA standards, we’ll see them in court.”

At this stage, eyes are on what will happen after the Trump administration begins its power play.

Hwang said the most likely scenario is for Trump to direct the EPA to do a “redo” of the EPA’s 2022-2025 final determination as the first step in attempting to rollback the federal and likely California standards.

A best case scenario Hwang said, is to leave things in place, as organization like the NRDC, and even Consumer Reports have come out in favor of rules as good for the economy, global competiveness, and consumers.

Notable is the U.S. is part of a broader global market and other nations are moving forward rapidly with rules of their own that are akin to present U.S. federal rules. How it would work out that the U.S. could become a relative backwater is uncertain.

Really, many potential twists and turns may only be known in time, and Hwang was not willing to predict a worst case scenario.

“The worse case scenario is – well who really knows?” said Hwang. “If the Trump administration really attempts a wholesale dismantling of federal and California clean car standards then they will be likely facing years of litigation and chaos, of their own making. This will be problematic for the auto industry who needs certainty for their planning. This not puts clean air and climate progress at risk, but also jobs in factories across the U.S. involved in manufacturing clean car technologies.”

As for the California question, this too is a wild card question.

“The EPA has never rescinded a California waiver. It would be unprecedented and face vigorous pushback by states, NRDC and others, in court,” said Hwang. “There is no factual or legal basis for EPA to rescind the waiver. Weakening the federal standards is certainly no basis to revoke California authority. The entire premise of California’s separate motor vehicle authority is that it’s more stringent, or at least as stringent, as federal standards.”

But this is precisely why the Trump administration would go after California. Its zero emission rules act as a de facto second set of requirements for U.S. carmakers to keep the EV agenda going.

SEE ALSO: CAFE Hearings Focus Opposing Viewpoints

By 2025 ZEV rules could mandate as many as one in seven cars sold in California be zero emission. California is the country’s largest car market, and as many as a dozen states have piggybacked on some or all of its rules.

SEE ALSO: CAFE Rules: Only 1-3 percent of cars need to be electric by 2025

This would force carmakers to still have to create cars for those markets, which they have been doing already. To more fully relieve automakers from requirements, California’s rules would need to be neutralized also.

But this would not go down without a fight.

“If they significantly weaken the federal standards or try to take away California’s waiver, it will certainly be a protracted battle. It would be a long, bumpy road to roll back the standards,” said Hwang. “The Trump EPA needs to go through a long process of rewriting the determination, the standard and the California waiver decision, if they choose to go there all this takes time. And then there is litigation. So we are talking about years which puts the auto industry in bind to plan for 2022 compliance.”

The federal rules meanwhile are not only about plug-in cars, but speak to all cars becoming incrementally cleaner. The plug-ins help raise the average score for automaker fleets just like an A student does in a class average where other students score Bs and Cs.

For his part, Hwang thinks there are far more productive things the Trump administration could tackle if the goal is economic progress.

“Attacking these common sense clear car standards is a losing proposition for the Trump EPA and the automakers,” said Hwang. “It will tie up enormous resources better put to use in investing in innovating and building the next generation of clean car technologies.”

By 2025 ZEV rules could mandate as many as one in seven cars sold in California be zero emission. California is the country’s largest car market, and as many as a dozen states have piggybacked on some or all of its rules.

SEE ALSO: CAFE Rules: Only 1-3 percent of cars need to be electric by 2025

This would force carmakers to still have to create cars for those markets, which they have been doing already. To more fully relieve automakers from requirements, California’s rules would need to be neutralized also.

But this would not go down without a fight.

“If they significantly weaken the federal standards or try to take away California’s waiver, it will certainly be a protracted battle. It would be a long, bumpy road to roll back the standards,” said Huang. “The Trump EPA needs to go through a long process of rewriting the determination, the standard and the California waiver decision, if they choose to go there all this takes time. And then there is litigation. So we are talking about years which puts the auto industry in bind to plan for 2022 compliance.”

The federal rules meanwhile are not only about plug-in cars, but speak to all cars becoming incrementally cleaner. The plug-ins help raise the average score for automaker fleets just like an A student does in a class average where other students score Bs and Cs.

For his part, Huang thinks there are far more productive things the Trump administration could tackle if the goal is economic progress.

“Attacking these common sense clear car standards is a losing proposition for the Trump EPA and the automakers,” said Huang. “It will tie up enormous resources better put to use in investing in innovating and building the next generation of clean car technologies.”

HybridCars.com

 

Mar 07

PSA buys Opel/Vauxhall from GM in $2.3B Deal

 

By Claiborne Booker

Today GM announced it has agreed to sell its Opel and Vauxhall subsidiaries, as well as some financing operations in Europe to PSA.

The holding company for Peugeot, Citroen and DS, PSA will be taking over the automotive brands and the move increases its market share to 17 percent in Europe meaning it is now the second largest European car manufacturer.

“We are proud to join forces with Opel/Vauxhall and are deeply committed to continuing to develop this great company and accelerating its turnaround,” said Carlos Tavares, chairman of the Managing Board of PSA. “Having already created together winning products for the European market, we know that Opel/Vauxhall is the right partner. We see this as a natural extension of our relationship and are eager to take it to the next level.”

Carlos Tavares, chairman of the Managing Board of PSA, and Mary T. Barra, GM chairman and chief executive officer.


“We believe this new chapter puts Opel and Vauxhall in an even stronger position for the long term and we look forward to our participation in the future success and strong value-creation potential of PSA through our economic interest and continued collaboration on current and exciting new projects,” GM’s chairman and chief executive officer Mary T. Barra said.

The sale also includes intellectual property licenses from GM until vehicles transition to PSA platforms. This suggests that the Opel Ampera-e, a rebadged Chevrolet Bolt EV, will be launched in Europe as planned later this year.

GM press release, HybridCars.com

 

Mar 06

Peak Demand Projected For Gasoline By 2021

 

By Jon LeSage

Demand for gasoline has been projected to reach its peak next year in the U.S. and as early as 2021 globally.

Analysts at Edinburgh-based consultancy WoodMackenzie say this will happen in the face of continuing growth in the vehicle fleet due to vehicle engine efficiency. The rising number of hybrid and electric vehicles being sold and higher fuel standards in the U.S. and Europe will contribute to the historic consumption shift.

The dramatic drop in oil prices during 2014 brought oil consumption to a record high last year, with 9.326 million barrels per day last year consumed in the U.S.

That will be changing in years ahead. An expected recovery in oil prices in coming years will be an important factor in demand growth diminishing, WoodMackenzie said.

Reaching that peak will have a huge economic impact eventually, with demand for gasoline in the U.S. accounting for 10 percent of global oil consumption; and global demand for gasoline representing a more than a quarter of the world’s oil consumption, according to WoodMackenzie.

The consulting firm thinks that improvement in battery technology will be a turning point.

“We expect gasoline engine efficiency to continue to improve through better deployment of batteries in hybrid vehicles,” WoodMac analyst Alan Gelder said.

The question of whether peak oil demand will be reached has been a hot topic of debate over the past decade by oil companies, regulators, economists, auto executives, and environmental groups. Oil companies and oil processors face a period of change as several nations, and a United Nations-backed plan, consider getting rid of fossil fuels entirely in the next 20 years or so.

Vitol, the world’s top oil trader, expects global demand for gasoline and diesel to peak in 2027-2028. Royal Dutch Shell predicts oil demand could peak in the 2030s.

The International Energy Agency expects oil consumption to grow in the foreseeable future, but at much slower rates.

SEE ALSO:  Does America Still Need Green Cars Now That It’s Swimming in Oil?

There are other economic and fuel consumption factors to consider. Growing vehicle sales and fuel consumption in Asia will play a part. Fuel efficient vehicle sales are expected to increase, but the global gasoline car fleet is expected to grow by more than 10 percent by 2025 to above 1 billion vehicles, WoodMac predicts.

“We still see global oil demand growing but the role of transportation shrinks,” WoodMac analyst Alan Gelder said.

WoodMac sees demand coming more form the petrochemical sector, with oil feedstocks going into plastics. Demand should also see an increase from the diesel and gasoil used in commercial transportation by buses, ships, and airplanes.

The study expects that overall consumption will see an historic drop.

“Traditionally we had (annual) oil demand growth north of 1 million barrels per day. We are transitioning over the next decade to growth of around 500,000 bpd a year,” Gelder said.

Reuters, HybridCars.com

 

Mar 03

Volt is Country’s Best Selling Plug-in Car So Far This Year

 

With two months out of 12 completed, and yet early in the year, the Chevrolet Volt is the best-selling plug-in car in America.

That has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? February’s 1,820 sales added to January’s 1,611 come to 3,431 for the Bowtie-branded car with a plug and gas engine backup.

Next down is an estimated 2,900 estimated sales by the Tesla Model S through February, then 2,728 sales for the Toyota Prius Prime, and 2,114 for another Chevy product you may have heard of, the Bolt EV.

Another data point of interest is out of three dozen regular hybrids tracked on the HybridCars.com Dashboard, only four have higher (and they are substantially higher) numbers than the Volt.

How the rest of the year will go of course is anyone’s guess.

We’ll post the entire charts below for your perusal.

 

Mar 02

Panasonic Solar Roof Will Energize Toyota Prius Prime in Japan

 

On Tuesday Panasonic unveiled a next-generation solar roof panel that will be optionally used on the Japanese-market Toyota Prius Prime.

With more than triple the energy generation of former 50-watt roof panels on the Toyota, the HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobile could find its way onto other brand cars and will be able to power accessories and charge the battery with 180 watts output.

The idea of using available real estate on the car and capturing the sun’s energy may sound great, but even with superior photovoltaic cells, Toyota estimates on a sunny day maybe only 3.7 miles of electric range may be added.

That won’t do away with the need to plug in for the Prius Prime estimated in the U.S. with 25 miles range, but every bit counts.

Whether further advancements could inch the solar juice upwards enough to make the idea widespread is unclear, but Panasonic said new chemistry is responsible for its latest innovation

“Panasonic’s solar cells have a unique structure that combines a crystalline silicon substrate and an amorphous silicon film, and feature high conversion efficiency and excellent temperature characteristics,” said the company.

Notable also is Panasonic is a solar cell and battery supplier to Tesla, and is leveraging that relationship to potentially do business with other carmakers.

“Panasonic will make efforts to expand the use of the ‘HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobile’ and contribute to the achievement of an environmentally friendly society in the automotive as well as the housing and industrial fields,” Panasonic said.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the Model 3 will “probably” have a solar roof option as well, and if the idea continues to gain traction, it may become more common.

To date, Panasonic has not announced it would put the bent-glass covered roof on the U.S. market Prius Prime however.

The company is reportedly working on a solution to enable the roof to pass U.S. rollover tests, but for now this is a work in progress with no timeline given.

Meanwhile inquiring minds want to know: is this something GM should do and do you suppose it will?

HybridCars.com