Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Sep 04

Volt’s August sales were its best this year


The Chevrolet Volt didn’t beat its all-time best, but its 2,511 units delivered in August were a yearly high.

Its year-to-date total through August of 13,146 sales yet lags its tally of 14,994 last August and is behind its best-ever 3,351 sales last August as well.


In contrast, the Nissan Leaf saw a new all-time record in last month of 3,186 in a time period in which other automakers reported solid results as well.

The rival?

The rival?

As has long been documented, General Motors’ plug-in Chevy has suffered mixed politicized views and has not been understood so well by mainstream consumers, even if its owners generally love the car.

The Volt is also pending a redesign as you all know, to be revealed January 2015 in Detroit, making it more of a lame duck, but both it and the Leaf were launched the same month.

Its uptick for August undoubtedly is a welcome boost for its maker which this year did increase battery size to 17.1 kilowatt hours, theoretically good for an extra couple miles EV range to perhaps 40, though its EPA rating remains at 38.

To date, fewer incidents with the Volt’s liquid-cooled battery have been reported than with the Leaf’s air-cooled battery.

But the Volt has fought issues, despite being well engineered, albeit with shortcomings perceived by some for its tighter rear seat accommodations and room for four.

It remains however the highest e-mileage gas-electric car sold in America with its 40 miles (38 official) and has yet to be outdone in this regard by any other plug-in hybrid.


Sep 03

Looks like the first Chinese-built car imported to U.S. will be a PHEV … by Volvo?


We keep hearing of the looming Chinese threat to U.S. auto sellers of various names, but the first car here may look awfully familiar.

It could also be a competitor to the ELR with a reported 31 miles AER (but who knows what this would really be on the EPA cycle?)

Another question is how long will it be before we also see BYDs, and other Chinese cars in higher quantities? Some have said it could be never, but is anyone betting that will be the case?

By Mark Atkinson


All the anxiety over which horribly-executed Chinese car would land in U.S. dealerships first appears to have been all for naught.

Why? Volvo — owned by Chinese automaker Geely — will be the first manufacturer to offer a model assembled in China, and there’s a chance that its potential customers may barely notice.

The car will be a long-wheelbase version of its mid-size offering, dubbed S60L. The extra 3.2 inches of wheelbase gives more stretch-out room in the back seat, and while pricing hasn’t been announced, Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo Car Group CEO, did confirm it’ll hit the U.S. very soon.

“We are not talking about 2020. We are talking about next year,” said Samuelsson.

As a bonus, the S60L will exclusively be sold here as a plug-in hybrid. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has 238 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque, while the electric motor has 68 horsepower and 148 pounds-feet of torque.


The plug-in-hybrid is expected to have a maximum electric range of 31 miles, with a total range of around 620 miles. But the performance hasn’t been ignored either: the car should hit 60 mph from rest in around 5.5 seconds, helped by its standard all-wheel drive.

Stretched versions of compact and mid-size luxury sedans are all the rage in China, although few have made it to the United States yet. BMW’s pair of GT hatchbacks are sold globally, but really are “China cars,” as is Infiniti’s new long-wheelbase Q70L.

Automotive News


Sep 02

KillaJoule smashes world electric motorcycle speed record at Bonneville


Bill Dube e-mailed this story to me Sunday night.

The article does not say so, but car records are overseen by FIA, and bike records (like this one) are under the FIM.

She’ll be trying for 300 maybe next August …


Last Thursday at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, engineering PhD student Eva Håkansson set several world land speed records in her “KillaJoule” streamlined electric sidecar motorcycle.

Håkansson’s home-built EV smashed the previous fastest electric motorcycle record by 25 mph, and established an all-time best among sidecars of any type.

The KillaJoule was clocked at 241.901 mph (389.219 kph) with two-way average of 240.726 mph (387.328 kph). The former sidecar record was 224.201 mph, set by John Stege using an internal combustion engine.

“Although the KillaJoule is a fun hobby project, its real purpose is to be eco-activism in disguise. The main purpose of this 19-foot, 400-horsepower, sleek, sexy motorcycle is to show that eco-friendly doesn’t mean slow and boring.”

All records are yet pending certification by the American Motorcycle Association, and assuming the times are made official, Håkansson will own the following:

• Fastest electric motorcycle in the world
• Fastest sidecar motorcycle in the world (including internal combustion)
• Fastest speed of the event
• Fastest woman on a motorcycle in the world


Håkansson, 33, was born in Sweden and is the daughter of a champion racer, motorcycle designer, EV enthusiast and she has degrees in mechanical engineering, business and environmental science along with a long-time passion for technology and the environment.

She also is married to Bill Dube of KillaCycle electric drag-bike fame, and she is personally credited with building 80 percent of the KillaJoule in their two-car garage in Colorado over the course of five years on a limited budget.

Photo by Anthony Olway.

Photo by Anthony Olway.

“This is a truly historic event. It is the first time in over a century that an electric vehicle beats internal combustion for a vehicle type,” said Håkansson. “The last time this happened was in 1899 when the world’s fastest car was the electric car “La Jamais Contente” driven by Camille Jenatzy. Since then, internal combustion has dominated everything.”

Until now, that is.

Dube’s day job is as a mechanical engineer and research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA.

The two say they are “backyard racers with high-level engineering skills” and did “the math” to calculate what would work “instead of relying on luck, intuition or anecdotal information to find the optimal solution.”

KillaJoule’s record is not very far behind the fastest electric car – also a streamliner – the Buckeye Bullet which holds the U.S. electric vehicle speed record at 314.958 mph, and International record at 271.737 mph.

You can also see more info on KillaCycle’s Facebook Page.


About “400/500″ stated horsepower: “The motor controllers have a limit of approximately 400 HP,” said Bill Dube. “They just happen to set the upper limit of the HP. One of the components has to set the limit. (It is typically the controller.) The next size up controller is about twice the size. This is way too large. We were trying to strike a balance”

"Eva Håkansson is a hardcore 'EV geek' with a green heart and passion for power and speed ... She is also on a mission to encourage girls and women to pursue a career in science and engineering." Photo: Phil Hawkins.

“Eva Håkansson is a hardcore ‘EV geek’ with a green heart and passion for power and speed … She is also on a mission to encourage girls and women to pursue a career in science and engineering.” Photo: Phil Hawkins.


Sep 01

Volt spy shot photoshopped for better viewing


As some of you already knowm, the biggest Volt news in recent days is a publication took it upon itself to color in a spy shot of the Volt with Photoshop.

As usual with copyrighted photos, we can’t actually take it and re-publish it but I’ve already seen re-postings by individuals including the GM-Volt forum which is not such a big issue – hint, hint.


The gray colored Volt is on Carscoops. I’d actually thought of doing the same thing, but not sure how to do it with Photoshop. (If any of you do, and want to volunteer more angles of the car, please let me know).

And, if this is indeed what the new Volt will look like, it has slimmer A-pillars, updated design language, and the article is chock full of wish-list rumors – smaller 1.0 genset, more-efficient electric motor, “at least” 60 miles AER, room for five, more trunk space.

(No word on whether it serves you fresh coffee and donuts in the morning, but if someone wanted that, maybe a writer would speculate it is possible on first reference, then carry through the speculative thought as though it’s a fact, and explain what it “will” do …)

Seriously, all those upgrades and more may be pending (less the coffee and donut feature, maybe the ELR will get that, assuming it’s updated (has anyone seen one hint it will be?).

If the Volt does go beyond everyone’s wildest dreams, and they price it at $35,000 to start, it ought to sell faster than you can say “leftover clearance sale” for remaining units …

(Or will GM get greedy?)

Fact is, we don’t know what the new Volt will have spec-wise, or what it will sell for, GM has not said. Other rumors have been that the details under the skin are not all that radical.

The writer speculated it is “vastly more aerodynamic” but that cannot be proven by looking a picture. The Volt’s coefficient of drag is respectable at 0.28. Maybe the new car is sleeker.

How do you like it (those who’ve seen it) and assuming someone re-posts it here (and if you do, try and grab a similar angle of the camouflaged one to see whether it is the same …)

Happy Labor Day.



Aug 29

Is America’s ‘energy independence’ upon us, and is it creating some inertia for EVs?


As I mentioned to you all the other day, I was talking to a retired banker, a pretty smart guy with investments, and when I told him about electrification creating energy security and Tesla he said the U.S. has 100 years of oil at least, so what’s the issue?

Several things, actually, but I began to wonder if this person represents a mindset, so I went digging. If there is truth to U.S. energy companies declaring “energy independence” based on fracked oil, avoiding it won’t help. Naturally MUCH more could be said, but this article is already long, so I’ll let it make its points, and you all can tell me what else there is to consider.

Next I may look at issues surrounding climate change and fracking – i.e., the other side to those putting up 30-second patriotic videos with the flag waving, and saying America has always been self reliant, and thanks to horizontal drilling it will yet be …

2017-2025 CAFE rules are written to allow automakers to produce only 1-3 percent all-electric cars, if they choose though California ZEV rules are stricter. Photo: Chevy Spark EV, sold in California and Oregon. And actually, 2022-2025 are only tentative, and have yet to be finalized in 2018.

With the United States on the verge of producing oil in quantities not seen since 1970, is one of the core reasons behind electrifying transportation eroding before our eyes?

Since the October 1973 Arab oil embargo, getting off foreign oil has been the sober yet unfulfilled promise of presidents and the subject of comic mockery.

“Energy independence” – a kissing cousin to “energy security” and “national security” – has had across-the-aisle appeal and reports are predicting this could become reality by the 2020s or 2030s, albeit in a way not commonly thought of last decade.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling into previously inaccessible U.S. deposits have opened what estimates say could be from several decades to more than a century’s worth of oil and natural gas.

Though issues and data are vehemently opposed by others, energy companies are rushing to extract the profitable stuff out of the ground and this may have reduced the sense of urgency to develop sustainable renewable alternatives.

While the electrification of transportation continues with hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs), some automakers have dragged their heels citing limitations to battery tech, costs, lack of mass-market appeal, and infrastructure.

Every automaker touts its green cred, and none say they’re against electrification. But as reasons come up to only meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules, are some waiting to see how it will go for fuel prices, availability, and politically influenced factors?

2015 Nissan_Leaf_1
The original and best-selling non-compliance car priced within the average new car price.

Since late last decade none but Nissan and Tesla have produced 50-state-available pure electric cars selling in respectable volume, although BMW’s i3 and Mercedes’ B-Class may also in time. Most automakers, if they have EVs at all, offer “compliance cars” in markets where California rules make them a worthwhile sacrifice, if not major revenue source.

Lots of Oil

According to Tancred Lidderdale, an analyst for the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. crude oil production “has been growing rapidly.”

It peaked in 1970 at 9.6 million barrels per day, then began a relatively steady decline to 5.0 million barrels per day in 2008.

“With new technology, crude oil production has resurged and is expected to average 8.5 million barrels per day this year and the EIA projects a further increase to 9.3 million barrels per day in 2015,” said Lidderdale.


At the time of the Arab oil embargo, the U.S. was importing 35 percent of its oil and after a spike in imports and resultant energy insecurity, it is now below those levels.

“The share of total U.S. liquid fuels consumption met by net imports fell from 60 percent in 2005 to an average of 33 percent in 2013,” said Lidderdale. “EIA expects the net import share to decline to 22 percent in 2015, which would be the lowest level since 1970.”

Costs Keep Rising


The U.S. still spends a fortune importing oil and buying fuel at the pump. This isn’t because of record import quantities, but because petroleum prices have quadrupled to record highs, presently around $100 per barrel (42 U.S. gallons).

Thus the U.S. spent about $300 billion last year on imported oil according to a BBC report, or almost two-thirds of America’s entire annual trade deficit.

Source: United States Energy Security Council.

Source: United States Energy Security Council.


Despite that, the EIA forecasts gasoline prices will be “slightly lower” next year, but they are not controllable even if the U.S. was 100-percent self-reliant – something the EIA says is not likely.

Americans pay less than many other markets, but there’s no promise prices couldn’t double in a few years or even triple. Threats therefore remain according to the U.S. Energy Security Council (USESC).

“Oil is a fungible commodity with a global price, and thus even the theoretical elimination of foreign imports through increased U.S. production is not likely to bring long-term price relief to the consumer,” it says in a 2013 position paper. “Over the next decade, demand in China, India, and other emerging markets will continue to grow. Unmatched by substantial growth in supply from the regions where conventional oil is most prevalent and cheapest to discover and lift, this will drive the price of gasoline and diesel to higher and higher levels …”

“Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is not heavily dependent on the Persian Gulf for oil nor has it ever been,” says the USESC. “The region currently supplies under 10 percent of U.S. oil demand, and … never in history has the number surpassed 15 percent. Most U.S. oil imports originate in the Western Hemisphere.”

“Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. is not heavily dependent on the Persian Gulf for oil nor has it ever been,” says the USESC. “The region currently supplies under 10 percent of U.S. oil demand, and … never in history has the number surpassed 15 percent. Most U.S. oil imports originate in the Western Hemisphere.”


The issue yet remaining is pricing controlled by others, most notably OPEC, says the Washington-based non-profit organization co-founded by former Reagan administration National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane, and former CIA Director, R. James Woolsey.

OPEC still holds three quarters of the world’s economically recoverable reserves, but has manipulated prices by curtailing supply since it played hardball with the 1973 embargo.

“A key driver of oil price, and thus price at the pump, is the price of oil required to balance the national budgets of OPEC member regimes such as Saudi Arabia,” said Anne Korin, a senior advisor to the U.S. Energy Security Council. “As described in our book "Petropoly: the Collapse of America's Energy Security Paradigm," in reaction to the Arab Spring, the budgetary expenditures of Persian Gulf regimes skyrocketed as they increased subsidies, grants, and government employee salaries in an effort to prevent their subjects from storming the palaces.”

“A key driver of oil price, and thus price at the pump, is the price of oil required to balance the national budgets of OPEC member regimes such as Saudi Arabia,” said Anne Korin, a senior advisor to the U.S. Energy Security Council, adding the details are explained in her book, “Petropoly: the Collapse of America’s Energy Security Paradigm“.


“Over the past four decades, world GDP grew fourteen-fold; the number of cars quadrupled; global crude consumption doubled,” writes the USESC. “Yet OPEC today produces about 30 million barrels of oil a day (mbd) – the same as it produced 40 years ago.”

Not All Bad


Natural-gas-powered electrical generation and other factors are reducing domestic energy costs and America’s newfound oil and gas deposits have tremendous promise even if they can’t bring down the price of gasoline in the long run.

In a 2013 piece for Politico, titled, “Congratulations America. You’re (Almost) Energy Independent,” prize-winning energy author Daniel Yergin outlined economic benefits to the U.S.

A typical drill pad in the Marcellus Shale gas play of southwestern Pennsylvania. Pictured here are pumps, generators, fuel, chemicals, sand, pipes, service trucks, and other infrastructure required for the involved process of hydraulic fracturing. Photo Credit: Doug Duncan, USGS

Not all good either: A typical drill pad in the Marcellus Shale gas play of southwestern Pennsylvania. Pictured here are pumps, generators, fuel, chemicals, sand, pipes, service trucks, and other infrastructure required for the involved process of hydraulic fracturing. Photo Credit: Doug Duncan, USGS.


“A recent study by IHS, the energy consulting firm where I work, estimates that 2.1 million jobs were supported by this energy boom in 2012, and we project that to rise to 3.3 million jobs by 2020,” he wrote. “It meant an additional $74 billion in federal and state revenues in 2012, and, owing to lower energy costs, an increase of $1,200 in average household disposable income across the United States.”

Similarly, the BBC’s business reporter Richard Anderson documented yet-lingering effects of not being fully free, but overall said things look enviable.

“If the U.S. achieved energy independence, not only would the country spend far less on cheaper, domestically generated power, but the money would be going primarily to US-owned energy producers,” wrote the BBC of shale deposit energy. “The U.S.’s oil import bill also constitutes about 2 percent of the country’s annual economic growth. As the U.S. economy averages about 2 percent growth a year, the country would, in effect, be getting a year’s growth for free.”

Anderson observed a resurgence in U.S manufacturing and companies “reshoring” and committing billions because energy costs are now lower which could spur a new “golden age for U.S. manufacturing.”

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. Articles written to investors are saying between "53 and 250" years of U.S. oil could remain.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. Articles written to investors are saying between “53 and 250″ years of U.S. oil could remain.

But not all is rosy even if the International Energy Agency (IEA) and oil companies like BP predict U.S. “energy independence” due to domestic oil and gas by 2035.

Citing U.S. Department of Energy data, the USESC reports price shocks due to OPEC price manipulation are estimated to have cost Americans nearly $2 trillion from 2004 to 2008.

Further, the RAND Corporation estimated the U.S. Department of Defense spends between $68 billion to $83 billion annually securing global oil tanker passage.

Further still, past armed conflicts and yet-threatened U.S. interests add to an inestimable amount in military spending, destroyed property, wounded bodies, and lost lives.

Consumer Choices

Undoubtedly reducing or eliminating major economic drags and concerns about unstable geopolitical hotbeds remains appealing.

To get there, the U.S. Energy Security Council advocates fuel-neutral policies promoting oil price competition by domestic energy choices, only one of which being electricity.

The USESC notes that for $100 at the assembly line, vehicles could be made compatible with gasoline, methanol, and ethanol.


Its report suggests opening vehicles to fuel competition is the key to reducing the strategic importance of oil. This would mean natural-gas derived fuels as well – not a savory topic for environmentalists but natural gas is already coming in through the back door via fuel cell vehicles, and otherwise politics present challenges. The USESC bluntly declares the last four decades of Washington policies have wrongly focused on reducing oil imports (whether by drilling or by increased mpg) rather than on breaking oil’s virtual monopoly over transportation fuel, and have thus failed to reduce the price at the pump.

Among recommendations to policymakers, a 46-page USESC document outlines ways to a level playing field between transportation energy sources. It advocates fuels be equally taxed, relative energy value accounted for, devaluing “mpg” as an EPA standard for reward, factoring for difference in emissions, and more – all to spur fair competition acceptable to Democrats, Republicans, and anyone else.

“Competing technologies and fuels to the internal combustion engine and to gasoline and diesel have often been viewed as political pet projects by the opposing party, resulting in a swift death when control of the Congress or White House shifted,” notes the USESC. “What is needed is an integrated, multi-pronged approach that cuts across Administrations and covers transportation fuels and vehicles. It is unlikely we will achieve true and lasting energy security without it.”

Along with hydrogen, natural-gas derived energy is still being touted, and it’s a realty that must be faced by plug-in advocates.


Some environmentalists cynically say it’s like America hit the oil lottery, albeit from questionable sources, and greedy interests today don’t mind taking risks with future generations.

Despite those allegations and more, the world is already set up for a fossil fuel paradigm. If – as some have said – Americans only make significant changes when a crisis hits, it appears petroleum proponents are making headway and those who stood to profit before yet do.

Nor do automakers appear especially eager to break the love affair with gasoline and diesel, so smarter policies than today could help with motivation, says the USESC.

Electrification End Game


In its favor, electricity from batteries remains 100-percent U.S. derived, spews zero tailpipe emissions, though production remains coal-dependent in some regions with the grid becoming cleaner year over year.

Plug-in car advocates say the only long-term solution is not relying more than necessary on the crutch of newfound natural gas and attendant real and potential consequences, and pushing for true sustainable solutions.

Eventually, even if the U.S. has decades worth of oil or more it will eventually run out as energy producers take arguably unnecessary fracking risks. Further, petroleum has other industrial uses more valuable than burning and polluting the atmosphere.


“We absolutely still need to electrify our cars,” said Luke Tonachel, Senior Analyst and Director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

And while energy security has been equated with national security, Tonachel noted the U.S. Department of Defense says climate change is a national security issue also.

The DoD wrote climate change effects will be “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence” on page 8 of its Quadrennial Defense Review 2014.

No Easy Answers


Issues remain beyond this overview. Industry observers admit more needs to be done to accelerate plug-in car acceptance, including reducing costs, increasing energy storage, and appealing to the hearts and minds of consumers.

The move is still underway, things have started slower than some hoped, but justification for a shift toward electrification is still very much present, say supporters.

“We need to electrify our cars to protect public health and avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” reiterated Tonachel. “To reduce carbon pollution levels sufficiently to address climate change and air quality issues, the car fleet needs to be predominantly electrified and charged with clean energy by 2050. Getting there means adopting standards that clean up power plants and accelerating the pace of electric vehicle adoption today.”

Politico, BBC, USESC, U.S. Energy Outlook 2014.


Aug 28

GM introduces sub-1-hp ZEVs with pedals for its employees


No offense intended with the kind of misleading title… :)

How long before they are using electric bikes?

Could they make an EREV bike? If so, and Toyota makes a plug-in hybrid bike, will GM’s bike have triple the AER? These are just idle rumination here at 1:45 a.m. after I wrote my big long energy independence draft I can’t show you yet …

In all seriousness, what with hiring the first female CEO, and now hippy friendly bikes, GM is sure looking kind of progressive despite all the rancor it’s faced in other quarters … – Jeff

By Phillippe Crowe


General Motors is rolling out zero-emissions vehicles with less than one horsepower each. That is, it’s using bicycles.

More specifically, the automaker will be promoting employee bike sharing in and around its expansive Warren Technical Center campus.

This is not the first time GM has used bikes. Another time was during WWII because of fuel rationing. This time, it’s because of greenness, efficiency and health reasons.

As things stand, GM says it’s the first of its kind by any U.S. automaker, and it will enable its 19,000 employees to commute more easily both on and off campus.

To get it all accomplished, GM is working with Zagster, a private bike sharing company that has developed similar programs for other businesses. GM said its employees can use Zagster bikes stationed throughout the Tech Center to travel between its 61 buildings covering the 330-acre campus.

“GM is investing not only in the long-term health and productivity of its workforce, but sending a strong message to other employers around the country that bike sharing is a mainstream transportation option for employees,” said Timothy Ericson, co-founder and CEO of Zagster.

Posting on GM’s internal Web site OverDrive, GM said its engineers and designers expressed enthusiasm for riding bikes at a car company, where walking, driving and timed shuttle buses are the typical ways employees get from one part of campus to another.

“This is an awesome idea,” said John Waechter, designing engineer at the Tech Center. “I can’t wait to quickly get to meetings without walking to a car and finding parking. This is good for exercise, good for on-campus mobility and a nice way to actually learn more about non-auto transportation.”

According to GM, to participate, an employee registers online, then reserves a bike through text message or a smart phone app that provides an access code to unlock the lock box mounted on the bike. Zagster’s geofencing technology installed at each bike station, is powered by solar energy panels – an energy feature comparable to the large public bike share systems, and unique to the GM/Zagster partnership. It is also said to be the first private bikeshare system to employ this technology.

Zagster added each bike comes equipped with a basket to safely transport a laptop, notebook and other small belongings. Riders must wear helmets and use bells to alert pedestrians when they are approaching.

“GM is transforming transportation with our products, plants, people, and partnerships,” said GM Director of Sustainability David Tulauskas. “This bike sharing program is a great example of engaging our employees through this first-of-its kind partnership and also helps them look at transportation in a different way than we traditionally have.”

GM’s program expands Zagster’s existing service in Detroit – which has been used by more than 2,750 users in the last year.

GM said it began a pilot program of the bike share for 50 Tech Center employees at the end of July. After the successful trial and mounting enthusiasm from employees, everyone on campus can now participate.