Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Jan 31

GM & Honda Investing $85M On Michigan-Based Hydrogen Fuel Cell Assembly


By Stephen Elmer

Honda and General Motors are taking a step forward on hydrogen-powered cars together, announcing an $85 million investment into hydrogen fuel cell stack production at a plant in Michigan.

GM’s Brownstown Township plant in Michigan will produce the fuel cell equipment, starting around 2020, under the name of the joint venture, Fuel Cell System Manufacturing (FCSM). The project will create 100 new jobs according to the automakers, which share an equal investment in the new venture.

The fuel cell stacks being built will find their way into next-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles starting around 2020, and will be shipped to other factories where they will be installed into the vehicles. When the new fuel cell system is ready, it will be deployed in two separate vehicles, one from each automaker.

GM and Honda first joined forces on hydrogen back in 2013, looking for ways to cut development costs while achieving their goals of lighter, smaller, more powerful and less expensive fuel cell stacks.

The FCSM will have a board of directors consisting of three executives from each company and a rotating chairperson.

“With the next-generation fuel cell system, GM and Honda are making a dramatic step toward lower cost, higher-volume fuel cell systems. Precious metals have been reduced dramatically and a fully cross-functional team is developing advanced manufacturing processes simultaneously with advances in the design,” said Charlie Freese, GM executive director of Global Fuel Cell Business. “The result is a lower-cost system that is a fraction of the size and mass.”

Honda is currently selling a hydrogen powered vehicle, the Clarity, which went on sale in December of 2016.

This article originally appeared at


Jan 30

2017 Chevy Bolt EV Is Less of a Drag Than Originally Believed


By Jeff Nisewanger

It turns out that the Chevrolet Bolt EV is better at slipping through the air during high speed driving than earlier reports had indicated.

When the Chevrolet Bolt’s 217-mile highway range estimate was published last September it surprised many who thought its boxy aerodynamics would drag down its highway driving efficiency.

After all, the car’s lead designer had been quoted a month earlier by Automotive News as saying “It’s a disaster for aero.”

The article went on to quote him as saying the car’s coefficient of drag was measured at .32 versus the Toyota Prius with a Cd of just .24.

Stuart Norris, the managing director of design for GM South Korea, had actually been referring in that article to the general category of squat and wedge-shaped hatchbacks as being “a disaster” but some news accounts reporting the Automotive News interview implied that he was referring specifically to the Bolt EV itself.

Car and Driver magazine then published a detailed review of the Bolt in its October 2016 issue in which a road test showed the car could drive a surprising 190 miles with cruise control set to 75 mph and climate controls set to 72 degrees.

How could this be?

We now know at least one part of what enabled the Bolt’s unexpectedly good highway range.

In an interview last week, Norris said the .32 coefficient quoted by Automotive News last summer was actually the original engineering design target for the car rather than the final measured result.

When pre-production prototypes were revealed in January 2016 the wind tunnel testing was coming in at .312, as Car and Driver magazine reported at the time. With the final production headlight lenses and other exterior parts in place on the car it has since fallen to .308.

Coefficient of drag combined with a car’s width and height describes its resistance to being pushed through the air. Drag has an adverse effect on efficiency as vehicle speeds increase so it does not matter much in city driving but does play an increasing role at higher speeds.

Other factors like powertrain design also play a role in good highway efficiency. For example, the Bolt’s large 60 kWh battery may allow it to more efficiently discharge the power levels needed to maintain faster highway speeds where a smaller battery might struggle a bit. In addition, the Bolt’s motor is also geared to run at a relatively slower rpm at highway speeds than some other electric cars.

According to Norris, computer analysis guides the design process but final surface shape optimizations are done with physical models and wind testing.

He said the Bolt EV was put through 6 full-scale rounds in GM’s wind tunnel to optimize its slipperiness and counterbalance the inherent drag of its space-efficient utilitarian shape. Typical car designs may see the wind tunnel 4 times or less, he said, but even conventional gasoline-powered cars are getting increasing attention now as companies stretch to meet regulatory fleet mileage goals.


Jan 27

Tesla Model S Is World’s Best-Selling Plug-in Car For Second Year In A Row



There’s something to be said for Tesla’s Model S which for the second consecutive year led as the world’s best-selling plug-in passenger vehicle.

Its estimated 50,931 global sales in 2016 – pending final confirmation from Tesla – beats those of battery electric and plug-in hybrid alternatives from major manufacturers costing less and aimed at an ostensible mainstream demographic.

As you’ll see in the list of the top-10 global best sellers below, despite being a relatively luxury class car which could be expected to sell in lower volumes, the Model S is perceived as so good, its demand has kept it on top in sales.

This might also be interpreted as an indictment on the perceived value proposition of lower priced vehicles, as certainly cars costing from the high $20,000s to low $40,000s ought to sell better than one costing from the $60,000s to $160,000s.

So it goes. For now.

The major automakers of the world are otherwise also aware of the runaway success enjoyed since 2012 by the upstart from California, and to stay ahead of regulations, they say they’ll be adding many more competitive plug-ins.

By 2025, the three largest manufacturers of Europe say the plug-in electrified vehicles they will be selling then will range between 15-25 percent of their total volume. That is a huge promise, if it comes to pass, as they currently sell several millions of vehicles annually – as many as 10 million in VW Group’s case – and other carmakers besides are also being pulled into the fray.

Global All-Time Top 10 PEVs Dec 2016

Meanwhile, within a market that started in earnest just after the beginning of this decade, Tesla is doing well. The Model S’ 50,931 estimated sales are a good bit above 31,400 sales of the Chevy/Holden Volt and Opel/Vauxhall Ampera siblings in 2012 when those first-generation models were still fresh.

The Model S does not however top the 61,507 Nissan Leafs sold in 2014 which remains the most plug-in cars sold in one year.

For that matter, neither do any of the other vehicles on the top-10 best-sellers list this year – a list that has seen other upstarts coming in and this one-upmanship process will only intensify in years ahead.

Global Top 10 PEVs in 2016

Notable also, is Tesla was not the world’s best-selling plug-in brand. The 76,243 global combined sales of the Model S and X did not top those of China’s BYD, tallying to 101,183 just in China – reflecting the dominance of that market which also managed to place four best sellers in the top 10 list.

Speaking of which, here it is:

10. BAIC E-Series EV – 18,814


The design of the BAIC E-Series was more than a little “inspired” by the Mercedes B-Class Electric, and in China where it’s exclusively sold, 18,814 units found their way to new owners last year.

In 2015 it sold 16,488, so sales were up 14 percent and has remained in the 10th place position the past couple years.

9. BYD e6 – 20,605


The BYD e6 has been around since 2009, and was U.S. EPA certified a few years back as the carmaker thought to sell it here, though never did.

Last year an upgraded battery almost tripled sales to 20,605 units making it China’s best-selling pure battery electric car.

It is mainly a China market car, but does see taxi duty in other small markets though those sales figures are not reported.

8. BYD Qin – 21,868


BYD’s Qin plug-in hybrid is quick, and popular, having been China’s best selling plug-in car during 2014 and 2015, and last year it sold 21,868 units.

SEE ALSO: China’s BYD Qin PHEV Sells 50,000th Unit As Quickly As Did The Chevy Volt

Due to other rising models, the Qin’s place on the top-10 list fell from number four in 2015.

Its cumulative 68,655 sales from launch through December are the highest among China’s New Energy Vehicles.

7. Renault Zoe – 22,009

Renault Zoe

The Zoe also got a new battery recently, but its popularity in Europe during 2016 was already in place to enable 22,009 sales, a 16 percent increase over 2015.

It is the top-selling EV in Europe.

6. BMW i3 – Est. 25,500

A sight not likely to be seen for a fuel cell vehicle -- a car charging at home. Furthermore, owners of solar and other renewable energy can cut off their need for refueling, save the hassle of going to a fuel station, and this potential independence frightens energy companies, advocates say.

The i3 by BMW saw slow growth of 6 percent last year, and its 25,500 sales meant it fell from its fifth place position in 2015

On a bright note, it was Germany’s best-selling plug-in car. That country’s new incentive program has not boosted sales as much as had been hoped however, and the i3’s volume in Germany was just 2,863 units.

As BMW stopped reporting monthly i3 sales figures last year, its sales estimate here is from main country markets.

5. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – Est. 27,700

Of the estimated 27,700 global sales for Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV, 21,446 came from Europe.

This SUV has been delayed to the U.S. numerous times and points to the popularity SUVs could have in this country if made into plug-ins.

In Norway, where they can’t get enough of plug-ins, it actually broke the dominance held by battery electrics until 2015 and was its top-selling plug-in last year.

Popular also in the Netherlands, UK, and Sweden, the Outlander PHEV fell two places on the top-10 list and had been third in 2015.

4. Chevrolet Volt – 28,208


The extended-range Volt climbed from eighth place in 2015 when it was revised for the 2016 model year.

Its 28,208 sales are from the U.S. and Canada only, and the 24,739 sales from the U.S. comprised 87.7 percent of the total.

It was Canada’s best-selling plug-in vehicle with 3,469 sold.

BYD Tang – 31,405


Look at this: A Chinese crossover SUV few people outside of plug-in enthusiast circles have even heard of is third place.

BYD’s Tang has more horsepower than a Chevrolet Corvette and the crossover’s 31,405 sales enabled it to climb from seventh place in 2015 to third.

It also dethroned its family relation, the Qin as China’s best-selling plug-in car.

2. Nissan Leaf – 49,226

Nissan’s former world sales leader in 2013 and 2014 has trailed in second place for two years now as a new 2018 model awaits revelation this year.

The Leaf has been the closest thing to a mainstream market EV, and does lead the world by far with more than 250,000 cumulative sales.

Its chief markets with sales following are Europe (18,716), Japan (14,795), U.S. (14,006), Canada (1,375), and the rest of the world accounts for 328 units.

When the next-generation Leaf is released it’s to be competitive with the Chevy Bolt EV and others expected in the over-200 mile EV club at this sub $40,000 price level, which should help its sales quite a bit.

1. Tesla Model S – Est. 50,931


The Model S sales are preliminary, subject to Tesla’s fourth quarter report in which it is expected to publish the actual figure. Historically, it’s been higher by a few dozen units.

Assuming 50,931 units, sales have actually about flattened, as this is just 1 percent above 2015’s 50,446 sales.

Most Model S sales come from the U.S. – 57 percent, or 29,156 units – and in the states it has likewise been the best selling plug-in for two years running.

Other top markets include China (about 6,000), Norway (2,051), Hong Kong (over 2,000), the Netherlands (1,693), Canada (about 1,500), Germany (1,474) and Switzerland (1,299).

Here's the car whose sales will run away from those of the Model S – as Tesla intends it to do. The Model 3 is expected late this year, and by 2018 sales could be in full swing for this $35,000 and up EV.

Here’s the car whose sales will run away from those of the Model S – as Tesla intends it to do. The Model 3 is expected late this year, and by 2018 sales could be in full swing for this $35,000 and up EV.

The Model S otherwise enjoys status as the first widely available series-production electric car with over 200 miles range, and the highest-range version now is estimated at 335 miles.

It also comes in all-wheel drive, and semi-autonomous “Autopilot” expected to go full autonomous this year. Blazing 0-60 and quarter mile acceleration is also available – enough to out sprint large-displacement four-cylinder motorcycles, something unheard of only a few years ago.

The S model engineered and manufactured in the United States has for these and many more reasons garnered a fan base.

While the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Audi, all say they will have cool electric cars too in the next three years or so, the Model S remains a tough act to follow.

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.


Jan 26

Trump Meets Big 3 CEOs Pledging to Dismantle ‘Unnecessary’ Environmental Regulations


By Jon LeSage


Top executives from Detroit automakers met with President Trump on Tuesday to hear his statements on cutting back environment regulations to spur more domestic job creation.

Trump said he will curtail “unnecessary” environmental regulations and make it easier to build manufacturing plants in the U.S. He expects these changes to support bringing back more manufacturing jobs to Americans, a key theme from his election campaign.

“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist. I believe in it, but it’s out of control,” Trump said.

The new administration will focus on “real regulations that mean something” while eliminating those that he finds unfriendly to business, he said.

Chief executives Mary Barra of General Motors, Mark Fields of Ford, and Sergio Marchionne of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles met with the president. Other top executives from the “Big 3” automakers were also there with some of Trump’s staff.

These executives declined to answer media questions after the meeting, including whether Trump spoke to any specific regulations he plans to cut.

Barra and Fields did make comments supportive of the meeting.

“There is a huge opportunity working together as an industry with government that we can improve the environment, improve safety, and improve jobs creation and the competitiveness of manufacturing,” Barra said to reporters after the meeting.

Fields saw positive signs in Trump’s decision the day before on the U.S. withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He sees it as a good example of the president’s desire to improve competitiveness and “create a renaissance in American manufacturing.”

Trump had set the tone for the meeting through a tweet soon before the meeting:

Trump tweeet on meeting with automakers

Trump has been clear about wanting to dismantle the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to stop renewal of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since the election, he‘s been pressuring automakers to pull out of Mexico and bring back more jobs to the U.S., through a series of Twitter posts. Automakers have been responding to the pressure, including Toyota’s announcement yesterday that it will create 400 new jobs at its plant in Princeton, Ind.

The carmaker CEOs were advised yesterday by Trump to devise a “series of actions” that will boost U.S. manufacturing and to submit those plans to the administration within 30 days, according to Washington Post.

Auto executives have been in communication with the Trump administration over the Environmental Protection Agency’s abrupt decision to finish the midterm review of the 2025 fuel economy mandate. They’re asking for an easing up of the Obama administration and EPA’s targets for hitting fuel economy gains and emissions reductions that automakers say will cost them billions to reach and could result in job cuts.

Automakers will be interested in seeing whether Trump’s appointment for the EPA administrator will be approved. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said during the Senate confirmation hearing that he would be taking a thorough approach to reviewing the EPA head’s decision earlier this month to approve the fuel economy and emissions timeline.

“It merits review and I would review that,” Pruitt said during the hearing last week.

SEE ALSO:  Trump’s EPA Chief To Review Outgoing Agency Head’s Fuel Economy Ruling

Some organizations had supported the EPA’s decision to move the fuel economy rules forward in January. Consumers Union, which owns Consumer Reports, sees the mandate as attainable, and constructive for cutting cost of ownership down significantly for consumers through fuel savings.

Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign advocacy group, told Washington Post that job creation doesn’t have to clash with regulations having a positive impact on the environment. Fuel economy standards can help consumers save money at the gas pump and free up the country from its oil dependence, he said.

“Despite the rhetoric, there is often reason behind regulations, and in this case there is overwhelming evidence of how beneficial they are for consumers, the industry and overall Americans,” Becker said.

Trump has also pledged to reduce corporate taxes. He advocates other measures that he says will support the U.S. economy and bring back jobs to Americans who have been watching them go overseas.

The president has been threating to enforce a 35 percent tariff on goods imported for sale. He’d threated to impose that hefty tariff earlier this month on BMW because of its new plant in Mexico and plans to import these vehicles into the U.S.

On Monday, Trump met with several business leaders from several industries, including Fields and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Washington Post


Jan 25

Chevrolet To Have More Biodiesel-Capable Vehicles Than Any Other Brand


By Jon LeSage


General Motors is adding to its list of B20-capable vehicles for fleet, commercial and retail customers interested in cleaner, diesel-powered vehicles.

During the National Biodiesel Conference, John Schwegman, director of commercial product and medium duty for GM Fleet, announced GM will add the B20-capable cars and crossovers, and offer the industry’s most expansive lineup of diesel-powered vehicles this year.

That biodiesel-capable vehicle lineup includes Chevrolet Express full-size vans; Silverado HD full-size pickups; the Colorado midsize pickup; Low Cab Forward commercial truck; 2017 Cruze compact car; and the 2018 Equinox compact crossover SUV.

The Chevrolet Cruze diesel will be rolling out this spring in both sedan and hatchback versions. It will come with a 1.6-liter turbo-diesel engine and the choice of a standard 6-speed manual or 9-speed automatic transmission; it’s expected to do better than the 46 mpg EPA-estimated highway fuel economy of the previous-edition Cruze diesel. Rumors are it could actually gain a 50 mpg rating by the EPA.

The 2018 Chevy Equinox diesel will go on sale this summer, and will probably be the first ever diesel-powered compact crossover sold in North America. GM thinks it will have 40 highway mpg, but EPA estimates haven’t come out yet.

On the fleet and commercial side, the 2017 Silverado HD comes with a redesigned Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel capable of 445 horsepower. Next year, a new Class 4/5 conventional cab truck with a diesel engine will roll out, which is being developed jointly with Navistar.

“With biodiesel production and retail distribution expanding, and so many proven benefits, we believe more fleets will embrace the technology as part of their sustainability plans,” Schwegman said. “If our diesel customers fueled exclusively with B20, we estimate that consumption of petroleum-based fuels could be reduced by hundreds of millions gallons annually.”

GM has stayed committed to diesel-powered vehicles as the industry faces a backlash from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. That controversy has brought in other automakers, most recently Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Last week, the EPA accused FCA of illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected. That decision draws in about 104,000 diesel vehicles including 2014 to 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3-liter diesel engines sold in U.S.

GM Fleet is promoting the diversity and benefits of the diesel offering. Diesel power is ideal for towing and hauling big loads. The Cruze and Equinox “can deliver hybrid-like highway fuel economy with less complexity and driving range that can top 500 miles on the highway,” Schwegman said.

“Diesel propulsion deserves wider consideration by fleet managers across the country,” he said.


Jan 24

New EPA Chief To Review Outgoing Agency Head’s Fuel Economy Rulin


By Jon LeSage

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief will review Friday’s ruling by the agency to confirm fuel economy rules.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who will soon be EPA administrator if approved, responded to inquiries during a contentious Senate confirmation hearing. Legislators were upset by outgoing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s decision to lock in the federal guidelines and timetable through 2025.

“It merits review and I would review that,” Pruitt said during the hearing Wednesday.

Pruitt spoke to another controversial issue separately – California being able to enact its own clean vehicle rules through discussions in 2009 with the Obama administration. The potential EPA head wouldn’t commit to allowing California to keep rule that in place.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Automakers have been lobbying the new administration to extend the midterm review process back to 2018, and to consider reducing the fuel economy and emissions regulations governing the policy. Automakers say that nearly doubling fleet-wide fuel efficiency will cost much more than consumers are showing signs of making profitable by their recent preference for less fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs.

The Obama administration had agreed with automakers in 2012 when the timeline was adopted to hold a review period through April 2018. The EPA was to consider modifying the 2022-2025 model year phase of the program, requiring average fleet-wide fuel efficiency in the low-50s for miles per gallon based on the regulation’s technical guidelines; that has been expected to play out in the upper 30s mpg on window sticker EPA mileage ratings in vehicles sold.

The Obama administration knew the regulation would cost the industry quite a bit – about $200 billion over 13 years. However, the White House saw the overall gains make up for it in motorists saving $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions from the fuel-efficient vehicles.

SEE ALSO:  EPA Finalizes 2025 Fuel Economy Rules Before Trump Enters Office

McCarthy said last week that her ruling was based on an extensive technical record. She said the rules are “feasible, practical and appropriate” and in “the best interests of the auto industry.”

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., on Wednesday said McCarthy’s ruling was an “extreme action” that “broke the deal” with automakers.

Legal experts have said it will take a good deal of effort for the Trump administration to undo the EPA’s decision. The process would be extensive, and may be dragged out by lawsuits from environmental groups challenging the Trump administration’s decision. There are other regulatory actions taken by the Obama administration during its final phase that would easier to address, legal experts have said, according to Automotive News.

Regarding the California emissions rule, newly elected California Democrat Senator Kamala Harris asked Pruitt if he would commit to upholding the allowance for the state to stay with its own regulatory structure.

Separately. California’s new Democrat Senator Kamala Harris asked Pruitt whether he would commit to upholding the California waiver. Pruitt did not say outright that he would uphold the waiver, which allows California to pursue its own emission standards that are more stringent than the federal rules. He hasn’t committed to supporting or blocking California’s rules, which are more stringent than the federal standards.

Automotive News,