Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Aug 11

Review & video – 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid vs. Tesla Model S

 

Is this a no-brainer? In any event, hope ya’ll like it …

2014_Porsche_Panamera_S_E-Hybrid_Tesla_Model_S_001
 

Unlike misbegotten comparos between barely similar plug-in cars pitted together mainly because they run on grid power, a Porsche vs. Tesla shootout is almost valid.

The rear-wheel-driven standard 85-kwh Tesla Model S and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid both target similar demographics with comparable curb weight, dimensions, 0-60 time, and glamor. Given one’s an EV, however, and the other a PHEV, they’re otherwise worlds apart.

Therefore this is yet another apple-to-orange matchup. With nary a compromise as endured by lesser EVs, the Model S remains in a category of one and people have noticed.


 

This year Tesla sold an estimated 9,400 through June in the U.S. versus 544 S E-Hybrids. But not to single out Porsche, the Model S is handily walking all over other German, U.S., and Asian upscale luxury performance sedans in that most important arena: the sales race.

Considering this plus the Model S is a nearly pure expression of a maverick vision, Tesla clearly wins. Or does it? Obviously some disagree and a prominent UK publication this year did name the Porsche the winner.

To each his own. What one prefers could reveal good taste and clear judgment – or biases and misinformation. We’ll not speculate who exhibits what, but will venture to compare as long as it’s understood these cars are as dissimilar as much as they are similar.

Proud German Heritage

 
Porsche’s S E-Hybrid was the biggest news during last fall’s otherwise subtle mid-cycle refresh for its Panamera line now boasting 10 variants, with the most-dear fetching maybe $300,000 if you go crazy with options.

The $99,000-plus four-seater replaced the Panamera S Hybrid after only two years on the market and got a 9.4-kwh battery, charge port, and doubly sized 95 horsepower, 229-pound-feet electric motor for part-time EV capability.

Blurring the green vision however is a gas engine. In this case, a 333-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 adds to a total system power of 416 horsepower, 435 pounds-feet torque.

2014 Porsche_Panamera_S-Hybrid
 

Now that dust has settled from press releases touting the Porsche-with-a-plug’s up to “22 miles” electric range and fuel efficiency up to 84 mpg during a European Porsche-staged mileage contest, federally enforced reality has set in.

The Porsche is EPA rated at 50 MPGe – well below 89 MPGe for Tesla’s 85-kwh Model S, and the 60-kwh version’s 98 MPGe. It’s also less than the 37-mile-range Cadillac ELR’s 82 MPGe. Porsche’s EPA-estimated electric range is 15 miles, or 16 “Elec+Gas.”

In regular hybrid mode, once battery capacity one-ninth that of the Tesla 85′s runs out, the S E-Hybrid is rated at 25 mpg combined – respectable for a 4,600-4,900 pound car, but not astonishing.

Proud American Mold Breaker

 

The Model S we review here with thanks to its owner is not the quickest P85+, but rather the regular 85 kwh.

The approximately 4,800-pound car is rated at 362 horsepower (270 kwh) from 6,000-9,500 rpm. Torque is 325 pounds-feet (440 Nm) – less than the Porsche, but full torque is from 0-5,800 rpm.

gas-less
 

Its floor-mounted battery centers the weight low, and can take advantage of a growing free-access Supercharger network to complement its 265-mile-range.

Outside and in the Model S is simplicity exemplified. It seats five adults and optionally two more kids in rear-facing jump seats. The clean-sheet design is a thesis statement in space utilization.

And so far the formula is working for the gas-free gambit from a company with a point to prove. Not hurting things is the cult of personality surrounding the every day hip billionaire Elon Musk who’s crusading to benefit the world – if not also to make his life story required reading for future history classes into perpetuity.

Face Off

 

Tesla’s Model S is actually a range of configurations based on the 60-kwh or 85-kwh battery and costs from $72,000 to low 130s for a packed P85+.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid starts at $99,000, and per Porsche practice, the bottom line engorges at an alarming rate with options.

2014_Tesla_Model_S_Porsche_S-E-Hybrid
 

Cars we sampled were just shy of $90,000 for the Tesla, with base price of $81,070, and the Porsche as equipped was $131,000.

Design-wise, Porsche’s family sedan has upset purists with the elongated profile that borrows the 911′s front end, and like many Americans, has grown to bulbous proportions it attempts to hide. Aesthetically, it does have some nice angles, but Porsche fans have said cars like the Panamera and Cayenne SUV help pay for the truly focused drivers’ cars from Stuttgart.

The Model S appropriated design elements from other vehicles to conglomerate a high-end sedan for a start-up with finite funds. Its rear clip is borrowed from a Jaguar XF, but its closed-grille sleekness cuts a 0.24 coefficient of drag and most consider it more attractive, if not a bit generic.

Is that a Tesla? No, 2010 Jaguar XF.

Is that a Tesla? No, it’s a 2010 Jaguar XF.

Power-wise, the Model S flicks to 60 in an estimated 5.4 seconds, though some have seen it match the Porsche’s estimated 5.2. Top speed is a different matter. The single-speed Model S is limited to 125 mph for this configuration. The 8-speed Porsche is limited to 167 mph. Tesla likes to tout its simplicity, but it also saved engineering and production costs.

Efficiency wise, Tesla wins 10 out of 10 green car points – and a chocolate macadamia nut cookie from mom, a gold star from the teacher, and a pat on the back from Barack Obama.

On the flip side, some have postulated Porsche – and now Mercedes – has it backwards. As GM has shown with the Volt and ELR, and BMW with the i8, more power could come from the electric motor(s), and the gas engine could be smaller.

Frankly, the powertrain formula Porsche and other plug-in hybrids use do create ostensible bragging rights, but a jaundiced eye could see greenwashed ringers fabricated to ace a test – the EPA’s.

It’s all well and good when the battery is charged, and a zero-emission, zero-mpg electric motor does the heavy lifting. But the finite energy ends too soon, and what you’re left with is a hybrid that gets 25 mpg if used like a Camry, but if used like the Porsche it is, mileage sinks to the low 20s to low teens.

tesla_following
 

But the Tesla doesn’t run for free either – unless you plug into a Supercharger or solar. And in any case, it can sap efficiency and range if driven like you stole it.

Some have observed the point of having a high-performance sedan is so that it may … highly perform.

Bottom line: either car may be nursed to maximum mileage but hard use wastes energy in the name of fun.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

That the Tesla emits nothing and is thriftier with the kilowatts is a huge plus. Additionally, electricity when it is paid for is generally cheaper. The EPA pegs Model S cost per mile at 4.5 cents versus 10.8 cents for the Panamera S E-Hybrid assuming charged battery and averaged fuel pricing, or 15.5 cents if it isn’t charged. Estimated energy costs for 15,000 miles per year are $700 for the Tesla, or $1,900 for the Porsche.

But the Porsche does still costs less to fuel than average internal combustion cars. Considering the demographic these vehicles cater to, the not-insubstantial $100 Teslas save per month might be valued as much for its satisfaction on principle, and buyers of neither car need fear suffering want for all the expense.

Further, aside from the tranny delete, Tesla saves itself money in ways that are not necessarily better. Its simple interior does display what others might call de-contenting, whereas the Porsche packs accoutrements, nice little touches, and does it up right, German style. The Model S doesn’t even so much as come with door pockets or center console, but this is part of Tesla’s contrarian stance. And, Tesla does offer an industry best 17-inch touch screen that controls most functions. Plus, Tesla can download software updates from time to time, so the car can evolve to a point. Pretty clever.

backs
 

In the final analysis however, the Porsche comes across a step above on the luxury scale, though some may disagree. Undeniable is Porsche builds on a legacy of a company that is tops in its game and no one can accuse it of trying to bluff its way into the big leagues.

If Tesla did not exist, the Panamera S E-Hybrid would be more clearly seen as a pinnacle among alternative tech. Its appeal is primarily a multi-legged stool held up by 1) Porsche’s reputation, 2) much higher performance than a Prius plug-in or Chevy Volt, 4) ability to run over a dozen miles with zero gas, 4) styling and techno-gee-whiz factor, 5) extremely nice build quality, attention to detail (see number 1).

The fact that it sells like a Cadillac ELR has rarely been noticed because, well, it is a Porsche, not a perceived wanna-be as critics say when mercilessly pouncing on the Volt-based ELR – and as some have even said of self-promoting Tesla.

The ‘Experience’

Tesla and others call the whole ownership enchilada the “experience.” This cliché du jour already sounds tired to our ears, but characteristic of trite over-used expressions, it does summarize truth.

In this case, both cars are a pleasure to drive, but in different ways. Both make you feel special; both have a presence to them; both are smooth, comfortable, fast when desired.

Porsche_back
 

The intangible extra Tesla abundantly delivers is the knowledge that it is uses no gasoline, emits no hydrocarbons. It represents a societal movement in the face of the entrenched establishment as much as it is a means of transportation.

When owners feel their purchase is actually symbiotic support of the greater good, their zeal can become passionate among the more noble – or rabid among some.

With empathy for the cause, we’ll observe the Tesla does out-do the Porsche in sustainability, environmental friendliness, energy security, and it paves the way for more-affordable cars as soon as feasible. Further, any luxury carmaker would envy Tesla’s quiet ride interrupted only by wide grippy tires making themselves heard on the tarmac.

What the Porsche offers is zero range anxiety, high performance, comfort, style, part-time EV capability that may be enough for some. And, it barters the fact that this is an established brand that sends cars to Le Mans and many other racing events. Porsche’s heritage is competition, and for decades it’s been in the business of making testicular road dominators with few if any perceived compromises.

tesla34
 

That said, ride quality coupled with handling manners are superb for both – considering their heft. Remember. These are family sedans we’re talking about. Yes they preen with sporty intentions, and can back a lot of that posturing up, but race cars they are not.

Our Porsche did come with extra sticky wide upgraded 911-spec tires and wheels. The Model S has a super low center of gravity, and while the battery in the floor is advantageous, it can only work with the laws of physics, not defy them.

From a pure performance car standpoint, both are portly at around 4,800 pounds. They manage their bulk well but probably would make Lotus’ Colin Chapman cringe for the extra 1,500 pounds they carry compared to a real sports car like a Corvette Stingray (or possibly the 3,300-3,400-pound BMW i8).

The $30,000 custom-built carbon-fiber li-ion-powered electric drone was also interesting.

The $30,000 custom-built, carbon-fiber, li-ion-powered electric drone was also interesting.

Further, Teslas pushed on tracks have overheated their batteries, sending them into a sort of limp-home mode. Here, at least the Porsche could at up to 42 mph faster, which may partly explain why Porsche didn’t overly depart from the engine/transmission formula.

In sum, both cars have an element of lifestyle accessory to them. Priced as they are, they’re not bought only to save fuel or the environment. Where they couldn’t be any less alike is Porche represents the old guard. While maybe not an “amphibian,” as Elon Musk calls hybrids, in the eyes of some plug-in enthusiasts it looks like a dinosaur trying not to go extinct.

The Model S by contrast is an all-or-nothing experiment daring the world. But no one has ever seen one a decade old. Will it age like Paul Newman – or a classic air-cooled Porsche 911 – or will more issues than have already been discovered here and there begin to crop up?

The Verdict

 

If you like the Porsche, like who makes it, can live with its finite energy storage, and like that it can run without needing a recharge, it’s not a bad choice. Helping things along is – compared to a Volt or Prius – it’s is a more effective road weapon and a snazzier commuter.

If however you’re attune to what’s trending, and also love what Tesla is all about, clearly it is the winner.

2014_Tesla_Model_S_Porsche_S-E-Hybrid_01
 

But again, this is apple versus and orange. When someone other than Tesla produces a large all-electric sedan with similar range and performance, that will be the day a truly even comparison to the Model S can be drawn.

In the meantime, the upstart is crushing it in the sales wars and plowing the way for others to follow. This it’s doing while established players regroup, react, and make forward-looking statements to grapple with Tesla’s effrontery, not to mention government mandates that will make everyone clean up sooner or later.
 

Further Reading:

2014 Cadillac ELR Review – Video
Tesla Model S Review
Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid First Drive
2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Review – Video

 

Aug 08

Next gen Volt will be shown January in Detroit

 

They say patience is a virtue … so, now’s your chance to be super virtuous!

Or, we can speculate through the weekend. Yeah, that sounds good. To get us started, I asked Alan Baum who you may know is a green car analyst in Detroit. He suspects GM will make the new Volt a five-seater, cut costs and selling price, increase range, thus offering more on a few counts to get sales volumes up.

teaser_Volt
 

Officially, General Motors confirmed yesterday that it will show its next-generation Chevrolet Volt this January at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Want to know how much it will cost, or EV range, or see details and specs? According to GM Spokesman Randy Fox, GM regretfully declines to offer more than a teaser photo. The company has not even said when it will go into production, and did not confirm it will be a 2016 model year as has been conjectured by industry watchers.

Instead GM issued a press release noting the news of the Detroit reveal was already publicly divulged this week at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefings.

The automaker’s focus is otherwise on accentuating positives for the existing Volt, which are many as indicated by an infographic it issued, but the car has only caught on so far in the marketplace.

SEE ALSO: Is the Chevy Volt Destined To Remain GM’s ‘Niche’ Product?
Among plug-in vehicles, the “extended-range electric” Volt is yet tops, having sold more than 65,000 copies in the U.S., but sales have been flat or declining compared to previous years.

Not helping the issue is GM has nearly given up pushing the car in national ad campaigns. It told HybridCars.com in Detroit this year the Volt is relegated to niche status, and GM is essentially resigned to this.

One impasse seems to be public perception, or put nicely, lack of full comprehension as to the value proposition the Volt could offer.

Chevrolet-Volt-Infographic080714
 

The Volt was developed as a car with close to 40-miles all-electric real-world range to meet the study’s estimates of what three-quarters of Americans need for daily driving – and it was intended as a Toyota Prius beater.

Now late in its life cycle, having received two upticks in battery kilowatt-hour capacity, its 17.1-kwh battery may do that, but GM did not re-certify the 2015 with the EPA. The car started life with 35 miles EPA-rated range, in 2013 increased to 38, and the present 2015 may be better, but that GM didn’t bother re-certifying the car is a big hint its days are numbered.

2015 Volt.

2015 Volt.

And it actually does what GM said it would. With available discounts and incentives now offered for the $35,000 car, the Volt may net out less than a Prius Liftback in the low-to-mid 20s, but even as late-in-life Prius Liftback sales are falling off too, Toyota’s non-plug-in hybrid sells about six for every one Volt delivered.

Speculation has meanwhile been all over the map regarding what’s next for Volt. Will it get up to 60 miles EV range as former CEO Dan Akerson has suggested? Will it get a smaller 1.0-liter turbocharged range extender? Will it cost less? Will GM de-content the car or otherwise cheapen things not immediately perceptible?

In short: Will the engineers and marketers of a company making its bread and butter from conventional tech actually improve the car? Will it be enough, or another hit-or-miss?

The Detroit Bureau said “various sources” said “the new version will not only get a redesign inside and out, but longer battery range and improvements in performance. Perhaps most importantly, GM will aim to reduce the price of the plug-in hybrid to improve its competitors and reverse weakening demand.”

For its part, GM promises this and more automotive electrification, and predicts more people will be buying its electrified cars, be they other models, or the Volt.

SEE ALSO: How Committed Is GM To Vehicle Electrification?
But the Volt is the premier product, if you don’t look at the Cadillac ELR floundering with low sales, and needing heavy discounts.

“Volt is the perfect example of the ingenuity that drives everything we do at Chevrolet,” said Global Chevrolet Chief Marketing Officer Tim Mahoney. “Volt fully delivers on the promises of Find New Roads and will continue to provide consumers with the transportation solutions they need and deserve in the future.”

Alternative energy enthusiasts can only hope GM delivers on its word, which for now is little more than promises in general, and mum on specifics.

 

Aug 07

Volt’s battery dissected

 

Have you seen the diagrams of the Volt’s energy storage system, read the info, but want more?

A man posted a video of him dismantling a Volt T-pack to YouTube and it pretty well shows all the innards.

2011-chevrolet-volt-cutaway

It’s largely self explanatory, so we’ll skip much in the way of commentary here.

We did notice one GM-Volt reader posting comments under it, so it won’t be a surprise to him.

Other than this, we were kind of thin on decent Volt news today.

A rumor has it GM may reveal details of gen-two not long from now, but today, it’s pretty quiet on the Volt front.

 

Aug 06

EPA’s worst MPG cars – 2014

 

This article is just for fun. If you want to tell me supercars are not the issue, and trucks and other fuel hogs are, that’s obvious. More subtle and debatable however is the degree of influence exerted by cars that promise unrepentant wretched excess – and all the illusory joys that go along with.

“Super” cars are the superstars of the automobile world, and as a society, we keep going more and more over the top. They also serve as the glamor poster centerpieces for anyone who idolizes speed, conspicuous consumption, prestige, and wants the best expression of too-much that he/she can afford, and fuel economy or emissions are no great concern.

If people fantasize about what ultimate powerful gas cars can do for them – or aspire to get the best ones they can – that does send ripples into the collective unconscious pond.

In reading many a traditional car mag, as a writer, I frequently pick out little jabs at the whole eco-consiocus car sub movement and this represents a spirit of pushing back … Fuel economy? This thing’s so cool, who cares!

Today there are more 500-plus horsepower cars sold than hybrids. It’s about priorities, vision, world view … So, this is not to demonize speedy cars, let alone limited-market elites, but just to raise consciousness above that of the herd.

Veyron_green1

Lately automakers have found ways to make some seriously powerful cars produce surprisingly respectable mpg numbers to assuage their federally induced consciences, but there are some notable exceptions.

Among many of the most-coveted internal combustion chariots, it remains true that if you want it all, you will still have to pay. And pay again.

Most of the cars on this gas guzzler’s hall of shame could unashamedly accrue fuel bills in three years high enough to pay for an entry level car. And that’s the cheap part. Buying one of these champions of fuel un-economy may set you back enough greenbacks to purchase a decent house.

But this will not be your usual Top-5 ranking. The way this worked out is several offenders tie for the worst EPA-rated miles per gallon – so we’ll file them that way, by their combined mpg.

Bear in mind also, these official numbers may be optimistic. Just as a high-mpg hybrid may do only OK if driven hard, if one actually uses the powerful engines of vehicles on this list, expect single-digit mileage.

What elite carmakers are in process of doing, however, is coming up with novel hybridization strategies. Cars like the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 918 Spyder and more to come look like stars in the mpg test cycle when they need to.

And, their zero-emission electric motors even add to their powerful engines, which still can plummet the mpg when desired. None of those are on this list, of course, but rather what follows are conventional examples of the mature internal combustion carmaker’s art.

17 MPG

M-B_AMG

Two variants of the Mercedes-Benz all-wheel-drive E63 AMG S Wagon are the only offenders in the 17-mpg club.

For a family hauler, mpg is actually not that bad at 15 city, 21 highway, and 17 combined and it’s probably more thrilling than a 22-mpg Honda Odyssey.

If mom or dad want to pass that tractor trailer up ahead when carting the kids on vacation, a mash of the pedal can provide a sneak preview of amusement rides prior to reaching Disney.

The 5.5-liter V8 produces 577 horsepower. This output potential is also useful for accelerating to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds to put those pesky Tesla Model S fanboys in their place.

Or another good use for the powerplant could be as a generator to keep the neighborhood’s lights and refrigerators operating during power outages. OK, maybe that’s less likely.

Mercedes-Benz’ track-worthy grocery getter starts at $102,370 for a unique blend of practicality, fun, and luxury.

15 MPG

Aston

The car pictured, a $278,00 Aston Martin Vanquish is one of eight different offenders that are rated 15 mpg combined.

Aston Martin’s ultimate grand touring car is classified by its interior volume as a “minicompact,” as a classic example of less-is-more. Sort of.

Other minicompacts for your car-buying dollar are the 15 mpg Aston Martin DB9 and Ferrari California. The Astons have 12-cylinder engines, and the Ferrari has a V8.

A typical profile of these and following similarly rated cars would be 13 city, 19 highway. Again, sounds groovy, just use it in moderation, because these big powerplants let these truants lope at low revs through the federal gauntlet.

Others in the 15-mpg-combined club are classified as “subcompacts.” These are 12-cylinder vehicles including the Aston Martin Rapide S, Bentley Continental GTC FFV, Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.

Also in the subcompact class are 8-cylinder cars, namely the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe.

Undoubtedly fine choices all, these opulent vehicles are blisteringly fast, and guaranteed to make valets vie to park your car up front.

14 MPG

2013-Chevrolet-Camaro-ZL1Conv-stance-main_rdax_646x396

The two relatively inexpensive vehicles in this list are the $55,355 Camaro ZL1 with supercharged V8, and similarly priced and powered Cadillac CTS Wagon.

But not to pick on poor General Motors, there are actually eight stellar choices in the 14 mpg club.

The rest of the offenders are powered by over-6-liter 12-cylinder engines. These also produce gobs of power while looking nearly respectable on the sticker with maybe 12 city, 18 highway. However, once out of sight of the EPA’s mpg marshals, a mash of the accelerator can see them swilling the good stuff like a sailor after weeks at sea.

Mostly compact class, members of the 14-mpg combined club include the Mercedes-Benz CL600, Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe, and Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.

And others actually classified as large are the 12-cylinder Rolls Phantom and Phantom EWB.

These all make good daily drivers, but you’d save fuel with a (for-now now deep-discounted) Cadillac ELR, or Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, or Tesla Model S for commuting.

And, if you go with one of the plug-ins, you may like it so much you’ll rack up fewer miles on the fast internal-combustion car which could let its inevitably plummeting resale value bottom out over the next several years, then maybe even go back up.

Who knows, in 2044 you can auction it off as a 30-year-old, low mileage pristine, vintage example and at a profit. Your grandkids can look at it in a museum that they drove to with their electric vehicles.

13 MPG

ferarri-ff

Here we have three mid-sized cars, the V8-powered Bentley Mulsanne, and a couple 12-cylinder examples.

These are the Ferrari FF, and Ferrari FF with stop-start.

This latter stop-start option adopted from hybrids for a number of conventional cars is helpful in saving fuel.

Looks like it may work, too. Both Ferraris are rated at 11 mpg in the city, but instead of 16 mpg on the highway, the FF with stop-start gets 17.

10 MPG

bugatti-veyron-black-bess-vitesse-01

The EPA lists no 12- or 11-mpg cars, but the unapologetic 8.0-liter 16-cylinder Bugatti Veyron is a swift ride for two.

The perfect plaything for that bored Middle East billionaire, Chinese nouveau riche, or anyone else with the bucks, the seven-figure Veyron is the only member of the 10-mpg club.

Depending on who you talk to, that either makes it public enemy number one or an object of desire for underpaid car guys surfing the Internet from their cubicles the world over.

Owned by the Volkswagen Group, Bugatti has been named among the the world’s fastest cars, although a few elite cars out there may be a tick faster, not least being made by Hennessey which is shooting for a 290 mph street car.

Already looking kind of pedestrian, the base Veyron has 1,001 horsepower, and a Grand Sport Vitesse has 1,200 rated. A 1,200-horsepower Super Sport version was clocked at 267 mph. Estimated 0-62 mph is 2.6 seconds.

The Veyron’s city mpg is 8, and highway is a not-so-terrible 15 mpg.

Its can be priced from $1.5-$2.5 million, more or less, but who’s counting? Since its 2005 launch, VW group intends to sell 450 produced worldwide.

Bugatti has said it is investigating hybridization for 2015, but that will be to push horsepower to the 1,500 range.


Believe the 5,000-horsepower claim or not, this illustrates there’s no limit to what people will dream up and build in the fantasy car space that shapes values for the rest of society.


Here’s an eye opener for supercars. (Check also the fast-driven Prius out-mpg’d by a BMW M3 – which just loafs at what was a break neck speed for the Toyota. Top Gear also takes a crack at the environmental footprint of the Toyota’s batteries, etc. …)

 

Aug 05

German reports says Audi readying competitors for BMW i3 and Tesla Model X

 

At the risk of the bright blue BEV future having a tinge from hydrogen hype, we keep hearing of promises just a few years away …

In this rose-colored category comes a report by a German-language car publication, Autobild, asserting it “knows” Audi’s plans to have a small CUV to stomp on BMW’s i3 with triple today’s i3 EV range, and a larger SUV ready to take on the Tesla Model X, also with more range.

audi-a2-concept
A2 Concept battery electric vehicle … 310 miles range?
 

If Audi knows where it will be getting the none-too-precious energy storage – i.e., batteries! – this could be a huge positive portent. Volkswagen Group has humbly said it will dominate the world as the number one car sales conglomerate in just a few years.

And if it can get its hands on 300-400 mile range batteries, so will many others, including GM. This would also mean a paradigm shift extraordinaire, if it comes true, and could be an interesting affront to the fuel cell future other automakers are promising.

On the other hand, if Audi’s intended ESS is merely an unofficial “forward-looking statement” – i.e., hope-so-maybe – then we may be reading about vaporware, but at this point, this report is one to consider.

###
DATELINE: Joplin, Missouri: Audi may be lagging behind with EVs at the moment, but it’s reportedly working on two long-range electric crossover SUVs to go head to head against the BMW i3 and Tesla Model X respectively.

According to Autobild, the A2Q small SUV concept (pictured) is an answer to BMW’s first i-series city car and aiming for an astonishing 310 miles (500 km) range with launch around 2018.

2014-audi-q6-4
Audi Q6 – 2014 model
 

The larger Q6 EV intending to square off against Tesla’s Model X promises 435 miles (700 km) estimated range and could be built by 2017.

As we’ve seen before, European range estimates can be optimistic, but even if these were to produce 75 percent of the estimate, they’d be leagues ahead of what is today offered.

This implies also superior energy density is pending, and only so-good batteries at present are among reasons cited for why the Germans have been less than gung-ho about pushing EVs now.

audi_a2_concept_16
 

Also unlike pure design approaches by BMW or Tesla, Audi is looking to build on existing internal combustion vehicle architecture, rather than designing purpose-built EVs.

At the same time therefore, Audi intends to stretch its market potential for all the effort, and offer gas, diesel, and plug-in hybrid versions of its SUVs as well.

The A2Q will rely on the modular MQB architecture used also with VW Golf and Audi A3, but it will offer a unique aerodynamic silhouette reminiscent of the earlier A2, and not to be confused with an e-Golf.

The Q6, which is a derivative of the popular Q5, will reportedly be assembled in Mexico, “not China,” said Autobild.

audi_a2_concept_2
 

Audi’s unique single frame grille is expected to get more discrete along with other evolutionary styling cues.

Of the German language report, the source said, even though Audi’s plans are not officially confirmed, “AUTO BILD knows the plans of Bavaria” implying a high degree of certainty these vehicles are in the works.

Autobild.de via Autoguide

 

Aug 04

Volt sees 2020 in July; Is that enough, or does GM’s vision need to improve?

 

This story mentions Leaf sales, but July was not a close race, as the Volt’s 2,020 sales were two-thirds Nissan’s volume.

But instead of looking at the picture from the little-league perspective, we compare to GM’s vision focused on its entire fleet as perceived from its press release.

In question is how strong is GM’s will to proliferate more electrified vehicles before it absolutely must to upgrade fleet average mpg scores?

GM knows some fans love the Volt, and surely does not want them to feel like it doesn’t see things as they do. But it is the one with the power to make more Voltecs. Since the 2007 Volt pre-prodcution version, GM hasn’t seen fit to produce more variants than a 2009 Cadillac show car for 2014.

Does GM merely keep the Volt program going at a certain minimum pace? Will it be a full decade before GM makes down-market Voltecs (2017 or longer)? GM says it will do more, has huge potential, R&D projects underway, etc. But actions (or inactions) speak louder than words.

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Bolstered by a surge in SUV, pickup, and other mainstream vehicle sales, General Motors’ July sales overall were the highest they’ve been since 2007 – up 9 percent year-over-year, and the Chevy Volt was up 13 percent with 2,020 deliveries.

The Volt sold relatively well considering its record, but GM is focused more on the bread and butter cars that keep its bean counters happy. Its bigger sellers crested into the five-digit range, and the Chevy Cruze and Equinox sold above 20,000.

GM’s top seller in July? Helped by a 69-percent increase in fleet sales, the Silverado pickup did 42,097 and the Equinox was second to it with 25,321. The Volt’s 2,020 was down near the lowest, but it did outsell the Buick Regal’s 1,246, Cadillac XTS’ 1,939, Chevy Caprice’ 357, not to mention the Volt-based Cadillac ELR’s 188.

A while back GM ceased advertising the Volt outside of California and at tech events where it says would-be buyers will understand it, and has conceded it has sort of given up pushing the car as hard.

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Nissan sold 3,019 Leafs in July.
 

Its in-house news report however was accentuating the positive.

“Sales of utility vehicles soared in July because American families feel better about the economy than they have in a long time, and they are finding an incredible variety of redesigned and all-new models in our showrooms,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “Small, compact, medium, large – sales were strong across the board.”

Chevrolet’s 2015 Volt since July has a 17.1-kilowatt-hour battery, up from the 16.5-kwh rated at 38 miles electric range, the longest of any plug-in hybrid yet sold, including new releases from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche costing much more.


Volt ads from the early days show GM really tried, but today it says Joe and Jane Mainstreet just don’t comprehend what it can do for them, or know it even exists.
 

Its price has been cut to $35,000 and incentives are available, but growth has not been what it has been for Nissan’s all-electric Leaf, which during 2012 lagged the Volt, but for the last year and a half has set records trending upward. For July Nissan reported its second-best Leaf sales of 3,019.

The Volt may also be doing only so well now as it is expected to be replaced with a second-generation product. GM has said nothing much about it officially, and has left speculators guessing whether it wil get much more EV range, or not.

According to GM Authority, Chevrolet may make an announcement next week for a reveal by end of 2014 of the 2016 Volt.

Helping the present Volt, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety did just rank it as a Top Safety Pick+. It faired acceptably in the tough small overlap test which smashes a car head-on into the driver’s half to simulate a solid clipping of something immovable.

SEE ALSO: Is the Chevy Volt Destined To Remain GM’s ‘Niche’ Product?

 

Nissan’s Leaf faired only poorly with the crash dummy experiencing potentially more injuries.

Whether this will have much bearing on car shopper choices is debatable, but Nissan is promoting free public charger access for two years to new Leaf buyers, while enjoying new eastern state subsides that have added to its appeal.

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GM showed the MPV5 early on but never built it or other potential plug-in cars.
 

Surveying the big picture, GM’s McNeil noted fleet sales were up 69 percent, consumer sales are also on the rise, and shoppers are not as worried about fuel prices, while employment is reportedly improved.

And, said McNeil, trucks carried the day.

“In particular, there is a lot of pent-up demand for our new large SUVs and we expect pickup deliveries to be strong, as they usually are in the second half of the year.”

Woo hoo! People have adjusted to relative fuel costs! Let’s hear it for pent-up demand for large trucks!

In other news, Autoblog reported Mitsubishi says thus far it has sold 33,000 of its Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV with e-range comparable to the Volt. It’s done this without even entering the U.S. market with it yet, and is expected in the U.S. next year.

SEE ALSO: How Committed Is GM To Vehicle Electrification?

 

This vehicle that was launched two years after the Volt is approaching half of the Volt/Ampera sales. GM in 2010 showed an MPV5 Crossover SUV concept based around the Volt, but has done nothing with Voltec except build the Cadillac ELR.

GM is actually canceling the Ampera for Europe, and has announced no trucks or larger vehicles that could save fuel like the Volt, and develop economies of scale.