Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ford - The Fusion Hybrid Tops Toyota’s Camry Hybrid

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Hybrid to get 41 city m.p.g.

Ford Motor Co.’s much ballyhooed 2010 Fusion Hybrid will get 41 city miles per gallon and 36 m.p.g. on highways, based on final certification figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the company said Monday.

The move is one of the final steps in getting the vehicle to dealerships next spring. Certification of the vehicle was recently completed at the company’s testing laboratories in Allen Park.

Ford said that the Fusion Hybrid tops Toyota’s Camry hybrid -- its main competitor -- mileage by 8 m.p.g. in the city and 2 m.p.g. on the highway.

The Fusion can travel up to 47 miles per hour using only battery power. After 47 miles, the car’s four-cylinder engine turns on to power the car and recharge the battery.

The Fusion’s nickel-metal hydride battery is lighter and produces 20% more power than the Ford Escape hybrid. It also devised a way to get 28% more power out of the battery cells, said Praveen Cherian, program leader for the Fusion Hybrid.

“It’s not just one thing, but thousands,” he said of the improved mileage numbers. “We’ve optimized the heck out of that vehicle, it’s individual components.”

The battery also can tolerate higher temperatures, and Ford has eliminated its battery cooling system in the Fusion, allowing the battery to cool using regular cabin air.

The company also has improved its regenerative braking system, which captures energy lost through brake friction and stores it for battery usage. Ford said 94% of brake friction energy is recovered in the new model.

The Fusion also includes SmartGauge technology, which helps drivers adjust their driving to get more mileage out of the car.

Ford unveiled the Fusion Hybrid at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month, along with the Mercury Milan hybrid.


Monday, December 8, 2008

A World Without Gas Part 1

It's going to happen, maybe not today, tomorrow or possibly not for a century. But one day, fossil fuels will run out. What then?

By Erik Sofge of MSN autos

It's not a call to arms, or a doomsday prophecy. It's a simple truth: Someday the planet will run out of oil. Whether the endgame comes within decades or a century, and despite whatever attempts are made to restrict global consumption and dramatically increase fuel efficiency, even the most optimistic experts admit it's only a matter of time.

For now, major automakers continue to roll out hybrid cars while teasing the public with more revolutionary models, such as GM's plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, and the hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity from Honda. These might be glimpses of a brighter, more energy-independent automotive future. Or they might be marketing disasters in the making, and yet more reasons to defer the coming crisis for another few years. These are short-term concerns. In the long run, what will it take to achieve an entirely petroleum-free fleet of automobiles? What will the road look like when the gas runs out?

A Complicated Problem

"This question is likely to be a real concern in a 20- or 30-year time frame," says John Heywood, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "We have to start looking for alternatives immediately, but that's when it will really become critical." The problem, however, could hardly be more complicated.

Despite decades of research in battery technology and fuel cells, there is no clear-cut successor to petroleum-based fuels. Gas and diesel offer an irresistible combination of energy density and stability. The only drawbacks are the inevitable release of all those converted hydrocarbons as carbon dioxide and other emissions, as well as the fact they are made from oil. Despite all of the political and environmental collateral damage, petroleum is a tough act to follow.

Over the past decade, there has been no shortage of contenders in the race to replace gas and diesel, including cars powered by compressed air or recycled vegetable oil. For now, though, the world of alternative fuel research is essentially a two-party system, with the most high-profile projects falling under the umbrella of vehicles powered either by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.

Both camps have their champions, decidedly flawed heroes like the Tesla Roadster electric sport car, which could reinvent the public image of electric vehicles (EVs), provided the fledgling automaker can survive long enough to deliver the first batch. Honda's hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, which can be refilled at only a limited number of stations throughout the country, has a waiting list that's so restrictive the car seems more like a public relations stunt for eco-conscious celebrities than a step toward oil independence.

Awkward as they might seem, these are baby steps, some experts say, and only the opening round in a war between EVs and hydrogen for post-oil market supremacy. "It's unlikely we'll do both," says Heywood, who remains tentatively optimistic about battery-powered vehicles. "Electric vehicles can evolve in a grass-roots fashion. It grows bit by bit. There aren't real barriers to getting started."

EVs: Available Now, Infrastructure Issues

EV devotees can buy small, limited-range models right now, such as the $14,000 Xebra from California-based ZAP,a three-wheeler that can travel up to 40 miles on a charge.

I just can't stop thinking of those VERY windy days...

According to ZAP, sales are up — the company sold roughly three times as many Xebras in the third quarter as it did during the same period in 2007. When it comes to mainstream adoption, though, battery-powered EVs face significant barriers, such as the price and capacity of present-day batteries.

Norwegian EV maker Th!nk, which hopes to start selling its battery-powered two-seater City in the United States sometime next year, has unveiled its design for a more mainstream-friendly sedan.

Th!nk Ox - Kinda cool

The Ox would have five seats, and as much as 50 percent more range than the City — up to 155 miles per charge — but according to Th!nk Chief Executive Richard Canny, "The Ox is a vision of where industry might be in 2012 or 2014. With today's batteries, it would be prohibitively expensive."

Th!nk Ox - Looks like something out of a video game.

Th!nk Ox - Ok, these graphics aren't foolin' me - it really is out of a video game. Call me when the car is built.

Continue Reading A World Without Gas - Part 2:


A World Without Gas Part 2

Even if a breakthrough in battery power revolutionized the EV, there's the problem of charging infrastructure. Is the national electric grid ready to accommodate a nightly spike in power as cars are plugged in to recharge? "And what about all those cars parked at night on city streets?" says Heywood. "Will they have extension cords running back into apartments? It's sort of a suburban opportunity. It's still significant, but it doesn't get us to 100 percent right away."

According to Norwegian EV maker Th!nk, its two-seat City should cost less than a Prius and will be available in 2009. It has a range of up to 110 miles on a single charge, with a top speed of about 65 mph.

The other problem with EVs is range. Even if batteries were to achieve the 400-mile range of a gas or diesel engine, would drivers be willing to sit in a recharging station for an hour or longer? One potential solution, says Jim Sweeney, a professor of management science and engineering and director of the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency at Stanford University, is a battery rental model, similar to the business model proposed by Israeli start-up Project Better Place.

Project Better Place’s car looks just like a regular sedan according to reports and images on the company’s website, but with an electrical socket and a screen showing the battery power, instead of a gas gauge. The cars are said to have a range of 100 km in city driving and up to 160 km on the highway before needing to be recharged or swapped.

Instead of owning a rechargeable battery pack, EV drivers could stop at a charging station, which would pull a new one off the rack and swap it out. The charging station's battery packs could be charged at night, when the strain on the grid would be lighter, and therefore electricity would be cheaper. "The challenge is that those batteries are very valuable," says Sweeney. "If you design it so you can release them easily and quick take them out, how do you make sure that thieves don't come in and steal those batteries from parked cars? A black market would develop for them."

Hydrogen Power: Costs as well as infrastructure issues

For hydrogen-powered vehicles, range isn't the problem. Hydrogen fuel cells could provide roughly the same driving distance as gas or diesel, with fewer constraints on vehicle size and weight. The larger obstacles include the need to roll out a national network of hydrogen filling stations. Another issue is the high cost and potential scarcity of platinum, which at present is the most efficient catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells. And then there's the hydrogen itself, which must be stored under high pressure onboard the vehicles.

One possible solution to hydrogen tanks is to get rid of them entirely. "In theory, you could hold a lot more hydrogen not as a gas, but bound to solids," says Sweeney. "You would absorb the hydrogen into a solid material, and then it bonds in there and gets released gradually. Essentially it would become a new type of battery." To some extent, fuel cell vehicles are in the same position as EVs, waiting on the fringes of the automotive world for a research breakthrough to push them into the mainstream. But whereas EVs have inched into the market through hybrids, plug-in hybrid aftermarket conversions and a limited number of short-range EVs, hydrogen has barely made it out of the lab.

"To get a hydrogen system up and running, it takes a revolution," says Heywood. "And what would prompt that? Could the government do that? It would have to be willing to spend a lot of money."

Fuel Cell Car

Some hydrogen proponents believe that a gradual introduction of the vehicles will be followed by an expansion of filling stations and related infrastructure, and that the fuel's potential as an all-around replacement for oil — both in cars and for general energy production — will eventually overtake the current buzz surrounding EVs. In a more cooperative vision of the future, the two technologies could share the road. Families could use smaller, all-electric vehicles for daily commuting and errands, and a longer-range fuel cell vehicle for road trips.

To that end, EV development could actually benefit hydrogen in the long term, since both types of vehicles use electric drivetrains, with the primary difference being the source of the current that drives the various motors. Th!nk's Canny isn't ruling out the ultimate alt-fuel automotive holy grail: a plug-in hybrid with an all-electric mode for daily use and fuel cells for extended range. "If we move aggressively on electric vehicles now, the technology will be in place for the batteries and the electric motors and the rest of the hardware," says Canny. "At that point you have range and zero emissions. It's the ideal technological solution."

Other Fuel Possibilities

Although the total number of EV drivers in the United States is still in the hundreds, companies like ZAP claim that their customers have already adopted this sort of dual-technology solution. If hydrogen never takes the place of gas and diesel for extended-range vehicles, there are other liquid fuels on the horizon, such as biomass-derived fuels. Instead of converting valuable corn crops into ethanol, fuel companies could use prairie grass, switchgrass or even new, bioengineered plants. Researchers are also developing methods of turning coal into liquid fuel; the resulting carbon emissions could make it hard for automakers to meet increasingly restrictive federal standards, but if the oil is gone, it might be the cheapest short-term option.

For now, despite public interest in plug-in hybrids and other kinds of EVs, and rising skepticism about the prospects of a hydrogen infrastructure, the details of a gas-free future are still sketchy. One potential casualty might be traditional American car culture — tomorrow's more fuel-efficient cars and trucks might be smaller, lighter and less often used. There could be multiple propulsion technologies sharing the same garage, or an array of bizarre designer liquid fuels that become as commonplace as regular or unleaded gas. Electric vehicles are likely to play some role, particularly if hydrogen's fortunes continue to fall. But the shape of the post-petroleum automobile will come into focus gradually, based on early-adopter feedback and lessons learned from ethanol and other national alt-fuel experiments.

"There's going to have to be a lot of trial and error," says Heywood. "We've done an initial sorting, but there are still more options out there than we'll ultimately be interested in investing in. We've got to keep addressing these questions, coming back to them again and again, in an almost continuous way."

Based out of the Boston area, Erik Sofge is frequent contributor to Popular Mechanics and He specializes in everything scientific and technical.

Read: A World Without Gas Part 1


Friday, November 14, 2008

Is there a “car czar” in the country’s future?

Senior adviser would oversee any financial aid given to automakers

President-elect Obama has raised the idea of appointing a so-called "car czar" to oversee emergency federal aid to automakers, exact tough corporate reforms and ensure taxpayers earn a return on any investment in the auto industry, notes the Detroit News.

Miacoda Tadewi, an aluminum sculpture artist and locally known as the "Car Czar of Omaha" is waiting for president Obama's call.

The Obama transition team hasn't identified who the car czar would be, but the president-elect has three auto advisers. They are economic adviser Jason Furman, Georgetown University law professor Dan Tarullo and Joshua Steiner, a former Clinton Treasury official, but none of them have emerged as the point person on autos yet.

It would be helpful for such an appointee to have an intimate knowledge of the auto industry or at least assemble a panel of expert advisers, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

Mr. Obama raised the possibility of appointing a czar during a meeting Monday with President Bush.

According to a person briefed on the meeting, Mr. Obama "urged help for the automakers including accelerating the $25 billion Congress already passed, exploring other authorities that exist under current law, and identifying someone in charge of the auto issue who would have the authority to bring about reforms that would lead to an economically viable auto industry."

A car czar could serve as a point person for federal agencies that deal with automakers, such as the Treasury, the Labor and Transportation departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Cole said. A czar also could represent taxpayers and explain how the government could reap a profit on any federal loans.

While most industry experts believe 2009 will be difficult, Mr. Cole said there are indications a recovery may not be too far off.

There will be pent-up demand among car buyers after a long weak spell caused by a lack of available credit. In addition, domestic automakers anticipate big labor cost savings in 2010 thanks to a landmark contract negotiated last year with the United Auto Workers, he noted.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

World’s Fastest Rolls-Royce

This thing is too cool:

This 1970 Silver Shadow was a real auto show crowd-pleaser, enjoying standing-room-only audiences. This old-timer has a distinct split personality.

Approach from behind and the distinct boot and classic Rolls-Royce lines generate an aura of sophistication. Come upon the car bonnet first and it’s a totally different story.

Any visions of Grey Poupon and a leisurely day at the country club are replaced with barbecue sauce and burnouts down Main Street, as a gleaming roots-style 671 blower towers over the hood.

This Rolls is motivated by a 572-inch Chrysler Hemi V8 that is also fitted with nitrous-oxide injection. Owners Tod Weston and Nancy Olson report there’s 1,350 horsepower at the ready. The British bomber rides on a Chris Alston chassis with an Air Ride Technologies suspension providing the proper stance.

The cabin retains its Rolls-Royce elegance with a custom Hot Rod Interiors leather interior, four TVs and a Billet Specialties steering wheel.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nobel Prize contributor found working at a Toyota dealership

When his research grant ran out, Doug Prasher gave his work to a colleague. Guess who won the prize.
DealersEdge Daily Headlines

A scientist who contributed to the research behind this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry has been shut out from the glory and will remain in Alabama working as a shuttle driver for a Toyota dealership while three of his colleagues enjoy a $1.4 million payday, reports the New York Post.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Douglas Prasher was one of the driving forces behind research that earned a Nobel Prize in chemistry this week. While his former colleagues will fly to Stockholm in December to accept the Nobel Prize and a $1.4 million check, the former Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist will be earning $10 an hour.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Prasher began research on a fluorescent protein found in a type of jellyfish and - working with a $220,000 grant from the American Cancer Society - was able to isolate and clone the gene that helped create it.

When his grant money ran out, he voluntarily gave copies of the genes he had developed to Columbia University's Martin Chalfie - one of three men to win the Nobel this week for their work on fluorescent proteins.

Dr. Prasher took the dealership job after a year of unemployment so he could put his kids though college.

His contribution was acknowledged by one of the Nobel laureates, Professor Chalfie, who said, “they could've easily given the prize to Douglas (Prasher) and the other two and left me out."

The Nobel committee only allows three people to share a prize. Despite his work, Dr. Prasher lost out.

According to published reports, as a result of the publicity, Dr. Prasher has received job inquiries from several research groups.


Virtual car dealerships open in Phoenix-area Wal-Mart stores

I'm still trying to figure out the difference between this and staying at home shopping on your computer. I mean - who wants to endure the BS of going into a Walmart to use the service? Has anyone had the pleasure of trying to develop pictures at a Walmart self-serve photo kiosk? Oh well, time will prove if this is a good idea or not.

Pilot program allows Wal-Mart customers to shop for new and used vehicles

By Hannah Scott

In an exclusive pilot program with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Live X Auto Exchange will begin to offer electronically enhanced auto trading services that bring an entirely new retail experience to consumers, reports television station KTAR in Phoenix.

Live X Auto Exchange is setting up shop at two Phoenix area Wal-Mart Super Centers. The “showroom” floor features music, televisions and computer screens to bring sellers and buyers together.

"It's a one-stop shop where you can get financing, you can look at all of the vehicles across town," said Patrick Dial, president and chief executive officer of Live X.

Live X uses a pricing intelligence system that takes the haggling out of car buying, Mr. Dial said.

There's one car on each showroom floor, which attracts people initially.

"When they come in and they ask, 'What are you guys doing?' we step them over to our technology and say, 'We're now in the car business, let me step you through it.'"

“Trading assistants” are at each of the showrooms to help people navigate through the online inventory, which features new and used cars from dealerships around Phoenix.

Live X Auto has an exclusive arrangement with Wal-Mart. It is an electronic trading platform that combines a virtual trading experience bringing car buyers and sellers together. Financing can be approved on the spot with several lenders including Wal-Mart's local partner, Desert Schools Credit Union.

There is a three-day, 500-mile exchange policy on most cars.


Monday, October 6, 2008

GM’s Top-Selling Chevy Dealer Out of Business

GM’s Top-Selling Chevy Dealer Out of Business

By Cliff Banks
General Motors Corp.’s top-selling Chevrolet dealer group is closing all of its 13 dealerships this week, citing various reasons for the drastic measure.

Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. sold more than 40,000 new vehicles – most of them Chevrolets – in 2007 and was ranked 11th on the Ward’s Megadealer 100 this year with $2.2 billion in total revenue.

W.T. Heard Sr. opened the group’s first dealership in 1919 in Columbus, GA. The group had dealerships in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas with more than 2,700 employees.

All 13 of Heard’s stores ranked on the Ward’s Dealer 500 list this year.

A statement released by the company cites rising fuel prices, truck and SUV-laden inventory and the overall economic slowdown as reasons for going out of business.
Within the last couple of weeks, GMAC Financial Services stopped financing the inventory for several of Bill Heard’s stores, hampering the group’s ability to floor plan and order vehicles.


GMAC did not say why it did so, but several Heard stores have come under fire the last several years for a slew of allegations regarding violating business and ethical regulations in the states in which they operate.

GMAC reportedly threatened to pull its financing last year after Bill Heard sent 10,000 customers what appeared to be a recall notice but actually was a bid for service-department business.

Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs filed a $50 million deceptive-advertising lawsuit against the group’s four Georgia dealerships for the same offense. It was the first lawsuit filed by the OCA in its 32-year history against a dealership, according to a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle last year.
The report also claims Bill Heard has paid more than $280,000 in fines to the state of Georgia since 1991.

Other states, including Florida, Texas and Arizona have been investigating the false recall notice claims, as well.

In early September, Bill Heard closed its Scottsdale, AZ, store which opened to great fanfare less than two years ago. And last year, the company sold its dealership in Antioch, TN, which at one time was selling more than 1,000 new and used vehicles a month.

GM likely will reopen several, if not all, of Bill Heard’s stores once buyers are found and the deals completed. GM spokeswoman Susan Garontakos says the auto maker will look to find new owners to keep the stores running.

In 2005, GM named Bill Heard one of its “Dealers of the Year,” an exclusive list of auto retailers demonstrating strong sales performance and customer service. Each of the 110 dealers on the list received the 2004 Jack Smith Leadership Award.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Big 3 Look to Federal Loans to Help Refine, Not Reinvent Plug-in Cars

By Barbara McClellan

Commentary: The past is nothing if not a signpost to the future, as history has proven.

So, as the 2008 U.S. presidential election draws near, it’s a good time to remind the candidates, and their respective political parties, that plug-in electric and other fuel-efficient technologies the Detroit auto makers are racing to develop are not a recent phenomenon.

While nearly every global auto maker is hurrying to get such vehicles to market, General Motors hopes to have the first high-volume entry with its Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

American auto makers long have been in the forefront of powertrain innovations that often are credited to foreign competitors. What’s changed is the substantial capital investment required by the industry to retool plants and accelerate research in order to meet fuel-efficiency targets set by Congress in last year’s Energy Act.

Federal loans are needed to keep the Detroit Three competitive in putting cleaner vehicles on the road at affordable prices in this era of technical revolution, not to bail them out from their perceived misdirection in producing large trucks and SUVs to meet customer demand.

Indeed, the Motor City was well ahead of its time 100 years ago when the Anderson Electric Car Co. began producing cars in Detroit powered by a rechargeable lead-acid battery. For $600 more, an Edison nickel-iron version was available.

Anderson Electric Car

Detroit Electric-brand cars were said to be capable of traveling 80 miles (130 km) per charge, with a top speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), considered sufficient for the times.

Doctors needed a car they could depend on, as gasoline engines at the time were not easy to start, nor reliable. And because hand-cranking gas engines required lots of muscle, the electric cars also were popular with women, Detroit says on its website.

Ironically, this contributed to the electric car’s downfall, as it soon became thought of as a woman’s vehicle and men did not want to be seen driving one. To try to overcome this aversion, some models in later years were designed with a faux radiator grill.

Kettering Electric Self-Starter

Another factor in the EV’s demise was the invention of the first working electric starter in 1911 by Charles F. Kettering, of Dayton Electric Laboratories, initially used by Cadillac in 1912.

Additionally, battery-powered cars were expensive. The asking price for a Detroit Electric car in 1914 was about $2,650, compared with $600 for a Ford Model T, the website says.

Anderson Electric changed its name to The Detroit Electric Car. Co. in 1920, but filed for bankruptcy after the stock-market crash in 1929. A buyer kept the company alive by building cars to order, with the last delivered in 1939.

Meanwhile, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford decided to work together to make the electric car the main form of transportation in the U.S. Their vision was to have an infrastructure of charging stations available to the public. But the grand plan never came to fruition as gasoline became a plentiful and cheap alternative.

History repeats itself as the industry once again finds its focus on electric vehicles, only this time with ultra-clean models that have much longer driving ranges than the failed EVs of the past.

The next U.S. president needs to understand American auto makers don’t need loans to reinvent the wheel; they just want to make it better.

Back to Auto Industry News Homepage:

GEM Introduces The Peapod - Neighborhood Electric Vehicle

The "Chrysler Peapod" is actually made by "Global Electric Motorcars" (GEM). It's all-electric range of "community vehicles" has been on sale for ten years now. The Peapod is the latest concept set up for a debut in GEM's 2009 lineup, which also gets an updated and greenwashed name - GreenEcoMobility.

Seems like an electric, four-passenger, 25 MPH, 30-mile-range overgrown golf cart. What do you think?

Cute, Huh?

GEM Introduces The Peapod - Neighborhood Electric Vehicle – the Next Generation of Clean and Green Transportation – No Gas. No Emissions. Pure Electric.

* Chrysler LLC's neighborhood electric vehicle gets a new name - 'GreenEcoMobility' - and new styling that will define and set a new standard for environmentally responsible vehicles.

* Sleek, streamlined styling and breakthrough innovations converge in the next-generation eco-friendly car.

* More to come as Peapod leads expansion of GEM's 'no-gas, no-emissions' clean vehicle lineup.

Auburn Hills, Mich., Sep 23, 2008 - Clean and green transportation gets a new look and feel as GEM, a Chrysler LLC company, introduces the next generation of clean, gas-free and emission-free, battery electric vehicles.

The vehicle’s innovative, groundbreaking design, with its striking pod-like shape and sleek lines, reflects the environmentally friendly nature that has been the hallmark of GEM since its founding 10 years ago.

The user-friendly mood of the vehicle, named the GEM Peapod, is enhanced with the newly designed center console that will offer iPod integration, as well as hands-free operation of the customer's iPhone. Other innovations include ergonomic, supportive, mesh seating, which enables air circulation for comfort and uses eco-friendly recycled and recyclable materials.

“We have evolved the GEM design language to better reflect its eco-friendly performance and its upbeat, positive image,” said Peter Arnell, Chrysler LLC’s Chief Innovation Officer who led the design process. “These vehicles use no gasoline and emit no pollutants. So whether it’s a trip around the neighborhood or the drive to school or work, the GEM Peapod is the ideal way to contribute to a greener planet, and a healthy lifestyle."

GEM will also get a new name – GreenEcoMobility, Arnell said, signifying the company’s goal to redefine environmentally friendly vehicles.

Chrysler will show the styling model for the production 2009 GEM at the company’s headquarters Sept. 23. The re-designed GEM is scheduled for production in 2009.

The Peapod represents the first in a series of product launches that will redefine the future of electric vehicles, said the company’s CEO Bruce Coventry.

“With this next generation GEM, we will broaden the market for this clean, emission-free technology,” Coventry said.

In addition to the 2009 GEM Peapod neighborhood electric vehicle, Coventry said, GEM has plans to market a new light-duty, battery electric commercial truck and a larger city electric vehicle, with more range and performance. These vehicles are scheduled for production within the next year, he said.

Today’s GEM is the nation’s No. 1 zero-emission electric vehicle, with 38,000 produced and in use. GEM vehicles are used in settings such as city centers, planned communities, military bases, college campuses, corporate and commercial centers, and city, state and national parks.

“Over the past decade, GEM has established itself as the nation’s leading battery-powered, pure electric vehicle,” said GEM President and COO Rick Kasper. “We have done that by responding to the needs of our customers for safety, utility, versatility and performance in environmentally friendly vehicles."

GEM cars are available in six models: two-, four- and six-passenger cars and three utility vehicles. GEM neighborhood electric vehicles have a top speed of 25 miles per hour, a range of up to 30 miles per charge (battery charge is extended through use of regenerative braking) and are street legal in more than 40 states. The vehicles can be recharged anytime, anywhere with a standard 110-volt outlet. Recharge time is approximately six to eight hours.

By replacing conventional vehicles, GEM vehicles can reduce overall emissions of pollutants, particularly during short trips when conventional vehicles create the most tailpipe emissions. GEM vehicles have been driven a combined 200 million miles and averted more than 150 tons of pollutants from reaching the air, while saving 10 million gallons of gasoline.

About Global Electric Motorcars

Global Electric Motorcars LLC assembles and markets neighborhood electric vehicles. The 10-year-old company is based in Fargo, N.D. For more information about the company and GEM vehicles, to build your own GEM or to locate a dealer, visit, or find out more about the Peapod at


The Making of the Chevy Volt - Lutz defends Volt design

General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz on Tuesday, Sept. 16, wrote a lengthy defense of the newly unveiled Chevrolet Volt on his GM fastlane blog.

Here is a copy of the posting:

We've weathered a lot of skepticism since the Chevrolet Volt concept was introduced at the 2007 Detroit show. The Volt has been called "vaporware" by some members of the media. We've heard executives from other manufacturers tell the press that the battery technology won't work. We've even been accused of using the Volt to "greenwash" our image.

Well, as everyone knows now, the Volt is real, and the covers have come off. And it represents nothing less than the first step in the reinvention of the automobile.

The vehicle's design has come under some criticism, most of it, to me, unwarranted. The challenge to the designers wasn't to design the most beautiful car imaginable and accept the compromises you have to make to do so. It was, make no compromise to fuel efficiency and electric range, and then do the most beautiful design possible, around those aerodynamic dictates.

When you look at the exterior of the Volt, you might notice certain aerodynamic shapes and design elements of some other cars you might see on the road. But beneath the skin, it shares very little with any other car that's ever existed. So I submit that while it's typically design that makes an emotional connection with buyers, in this case, the Volt is going to be bought for emotional reasons, but it will be for the emotion tied to the technology contained therein.

The Volt means a lot to General Motors, and to the industry, on a variety of levels. First of all, this is solid technology that is going to be proven reliable. It's a practical way that we can electrify the automobile and drastically reduce our dependency on imported petroleum. It's also important to GM to help reinforce and continue its proud history of technological innovation, and to help restore the image of leadership that accompanied that history.

In terms of the impact of Volt on the automobile industry, I think you'll see lithium-ion technology filter out to the rest of the industry, even to our competitors who initially said it wouldn't work. I think they've figured out that we may well be onto a winning formula here, with 40 miles of driving powered by electricity from a battery and a small engine -- powered by gasoline or E85 -- to create additional electricity to power the vehicle for several hundred additional miles. I suspect most of our competitors will have vehicles with technology similar to the Volt within four or five years.

What does that mean for society at large? I think it can have an enormous benefit. Our statistics show that 78 percent of Americans drive 40 miles a day or less. That means that nearly 80 percent of Americans can commute powered by electricity from the grid, never using a drop of gas.

When we achieve substantial production, and if our competitors do as well, and the public takes to this new way of driving -- and there's no doubt in my mind they will -- we will drastically reduce gasoline and/or diesel consumption and we will simultaneously be drastically reducing our dependency on oil. This puts the country in a much more comfortable place geopolitically and also helps the environment. So at this point, I think it's very hard to overestimate the importance of the Volt for GM, for the industry and for society in general.

The production version of the Volt represents our progress, and our commitment to seeing that all become a reality in short order. We'd like nothing more than to see everyone drive a Volt and stop going to the gas pump so often to fill up on ever-more-expensive fuel imported from an ever-more-unstable part of the world.

With the Volt, you go home, you plug it in, and you're done. And for roughly 80 cents' worth of electricity, you've got a fully-charged battery, ready to take on another forty miles of gas-free and tailpipe-emission-free driving. If that's greenwashing, then come on in -- the water's fine.

Link to Automotive News source article:
Posted in Bob Lutz, Volt

Back to AutoIndustryNews (with a twist) HOMEPAGE:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

7 Sexy Hybrids You Can't Buy Yet

Free Price Quotes on Hybrids at

Locate the Car You Want at the Price You Want

1. Aptera's Typ-1 to bring space-age looks to Earth

Mere Earthlings will likely do some serious rubbernecking when the Aptera Typ-1 three-wheeled vehicle hits the road, perhaps as early as this year. The vehicle, shown here, is officially classified as a motorcycle and looks more like something out of "The Jetsons" than Detroit. The California-built machine will come in all-electric and hybrid flavors, the latter getting more than 300 miles per gallon of gas. Top speed exceeds 85 mph, and the vehicle goes from 0 to 60 in under 10 seconds, the company says. About four hours plugged into a standard socket recharges a drained battery.

2. Yet unnamed Honda hybrid to duel the Toyota Prius

Next April, Honda will release a yet-to-be named gas-electric hybrid-only five-door hatchback priced at less than $20,000. The gambit aims to steer market share away from the popular Toyota Prius. An official name and full details of the car will be released later this year, though the company says the exterior will employ a design evocative of the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, shown here. Honda hopes to sell 200,000 of the cars worldwide next year, including 100,000 in the U.S.

3. Is a hybrid-only Lexus brand the future?

Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, already makes hybrid versions of its GS and LS sedans and RX utility, but will a hybrid-only model akin to the hot-selling Prius ever join those on the showroom floor, shown here? Katsuaki Watanabe, the company president, reportedly announced at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show that the answer is yes. Plans for the hybrid-only Lexus will be unveiled at next year's gathering of auto enthusiasts in Motown. Stay tuned.

4. Chevy Volt, the resurrected electric car

The production model Chevy Volt is slated to charge onto showroom floors sometime in 2010. A concept model, shown here, was unveiled to much fanfare at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. General Motors Corp. is banking the car will rev up the company's "green" cred, which suffered for putting the kibosh on its EV1, a tale told in the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?". The Volt will use a battery-powered electric motor that can run the car for about 40 miles on a single charge. After that, a gasoline-powered engine kicks on to keep the car rolling and re-charge the battery. Top speed is estimated between 100 and 120 mph. It recharges in about six hours with a standard 110 volt wall plug.

5. Tesla Model S to come with a hybrid option

Tesla Motors, maker of the all-electric Tesla Roadster shown here, announced in February that its next project will include a gas-electric hybrid option. While most details of the car are under wraps, executives have let slip that the four-door sedan will cost around $60,000 and get in the neighborhood of 225 miles per charge. This June, the company also announced it will manufacture the sedan in its home state of California, not New Mexico as earlier planned.

6. Porsche Panamera to have hybrid option

Porsche, the German car company more known for brawn than environmental sensitivities, is jumping on the hybrid bandwagon. Its Cayenne, an SUV, will come with a gas-electric hybrid option by 2010. And in January, the company announced its upcoming four-dour Gran Turismo, the Panamera, will also have a hybrid option that uses the same drive concept as the Cayenne's. A schematic, shown here, indicates the battery will be positioned below the luggage compartment and the hybrid module is sandwiched between the engine and transmission. Drivers will have the option to use one or both drive systems, depending on conditions. A release date for the hybrid Panamera is not yet known.

7. Will the Venturi Astrolab be commercialized?

At the 2006 Paris Motor Show, the Venturi Astrolab was introduced as the world's first solar-electric hybrid to be commercialized. But commercialization plans are now on hold, Clément Dorance, a spokesperson for the French company, noted in an e-mail. The concept vehicle, shown here, has 38.8 square feet of photovoltaic cells to charge the battery from the sun, even on the go. A plug allows battery charging from the electricity grid when or where the sun doesn't shine. Fully charged, the futuristic vehicle has a range of about 70 miles and can reach a top speed of 75 mph. If interest in the car is sufficient, the company might consider a limited production, Dorance noted.

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Sexy Hybrid Article Credits:

1. Aptera's Typ-1 - Business Wire
2. Honda Prius - Koji Sasahara/AP
3. Hybrid-only Lexus - Itsuo Inouye/AP file
4. Chevy Volt - General Motors via AP
5. Tesla Model S - Gus Ruelas/Reuters
6. Porsche Panamera - Porsche Cars North America, Inc.
7. Venturi Astrolab - Michel Zumbrunn
Link to source article:

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No gas? No problem: Electric car sets example for future

John Wordin and his electric car are trying to set an example for Molokai's environment.

By Sara Kennedy
Molokai News : Environment

Driver concerned about gas prices and the environment

Have you seen a car that looks like no other driving around Molokai? You might mistake it for a fancy golf cart or even a space-age vehicle from The Jetsons.

In fact, it is not an ordinary car, it's an electric car and it's the only one on Molokai.

Owned by Kala'e resident John Wordin, the Dynasty Sedan, shipped from British Columbia, "generates a lot of interest."

To feed the curious minds, he actually does plug the car into a regular wall outlet. Every night, he plugs the car in, and when he wakes up, it's charged. According to Wordin, the car takes four hours to fully charge, equaling one kilowatt-hour, and will run for approximately 30 miles at 25 mph. The vehicle uses a lot of energy uphill, but with a full charge, he makes it around town just fine.

Wordin paid $14,500 for the car, and combined with shipping costs, the total price was around $20,000.

At his Kala'e home, 40 solar panels charge his vehicle and run the house. His water heater and outdoor power equipment are solar as well.

The car, if charged twice a day, costs Wordin an extra dollar on his electric bill and gives him approximately 30 miles. In comparison with gas prices, Wordin can travel 150 miles on five dollars, the cost for approximately one gallon of gas.

Besides helping his wallet, the car helps the environment. The average new vehicle has a smog/pollution index of 0.53 percent, while the electric car emits no pollution into the air.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for every gallon of gas burned, 20 pounds of pollution and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Wordin's concern about the environment has been growing since 1998. He read books and articles on the subject of America's fuel dependency and has been preparing himself for the necessary changes.

"My interest in this has evolved over a period of time," he said.

Wordin is trying to provide an example for the community. He has seen gas prices continue to rise, the economy fall and the environment suffer.

"People are still buying SUVs; something is definitely wrong," he said. "They just don't get it, oil is running out. The world is changing and I see examples everyday."

Wordin's dream is to see the whole island driving electric cars.

"Sure, it's possible," he said. "People just have to realize there are profound changes in the economy, as well as the environment."

Peter Rosegg of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) said the time is not too distant when electric cars will cost less and be more readily available on the market. HECO is looking at the situation, "closely and optimistically." Sometime in the near future the company will be changing its meters to an advanced system that will let customers charge electric cars overnight for a cheaper rate.

Studies done by the Natural Resources and Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute have shown that, electric cars are cheaper than driving cars running on fuel.

eVehicles in Honolulu specializes in electric vehicles and can be reached at 589-2347.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Will Lightning Strike in the UK?

A native car company unveils a 700-horsepower electric supercar at the British Motor Show 2008 — but will it really work?

By Christopher Hubbard of MSN autos

Well here's a shock: a good looking British sports car (sorry Lotus). This is the Lightning GT, and instead of guzzling super unleaded it creates 700 horsepower using batteries.

Or so the Lightning Car Company claims. But we'll leave off being cynical for a moment (don't worry, it is only for a moment) and continue telling you just how good this thing looks. It is all classic GT: long hood, low curving roofline, and massive multi-spoke alloy wheels, complete with a major surprise.

Those blue discs? They ain't the brakes — at least not in the traditional sense. The Lightning GT uses four hub-mounted electric motors, providing direct drive to the wheels. Combined with just 30 battery packs, these deliver the electric equivalent of "700 horsepower+" and each motor can be individually controlled.

This means the car can modify the speed of the wheels depending on steering angle and velocity, and presumably any other parameter the team can program into the system — suspension load, for example. This should lead to exceptionally dynamic handling — assuming all the computers are talking to each other.

Zero to 60 mph will, apparently, take less than four seconds — "when it's fully developed." This leads us to the more eyebrow-raising areas of the Lightning’s specifications. Having just 30 batteries is surprising enough (most electric supercars use far more than that), but the claim is these give the car a 300-km [186-mile] range — on just a 10-minute charge.

This is, quite frankly, unbelievable. That's not to say the Lightning Car Company hasn't achieved it — it does have video footage of the car moving under its own power displayed on the stand at the British Motor Show 2008 — but we would really like to see a full demonstration before even thinking about handing over any money.

Lightning officials say deliveries could start in 2010, but the company still requires investment to make that happen. It also claims "£20,000+ [US$40,000+] savings on annual running costs versus equivalent petrol sports car" — very bold. But if your biggest concern is the lack of an exciting engine note, fear not: the Lightning GT includes a “sound module.”

You can blast out the sound of a smooth V6 or throaty V12, or cruise along in serenity of silence. Make of that what you will. We love the concept of the Lightning GT — the look, the idea, the innovation, the British engineering. But my goodness, we need some convincing that the thing is really going to work.

Awesome. We can't wait!!!


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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

GM readies Volt unveiling to shift focus from the present crisis...

Automotive News

General Motors is rushing to finish the production version of its Chevy Volt and plans to unveil a showroom-ready model of the heavily touted electric car in September, people familiar with the project say.

Battered by a deepening slump in sales and concerns about whether it can ride out the downturn, GM is counting on the Volt to break its costly association with high-mpg vehicles at a time when truck sales are tumbling and gas prices are near record levels.

This car looks so cool!

GM is likely to complete the production version of the Volt by early August and plans to show it off in September, just when the embattled automaker celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding, people familiar with the plans said.

A GM spokesman declined to comment on the timeline for its next announcements on the Volt, which will include naming a supplier for the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack, the single most expensive element of the vehicle and the component seen as critical to its success.

"Everyone is waiting for the next steps," Rob Peterson, spokesman for GM's electric vehicle program, told Reuters. GM designers and engineers are "getting very close" to a production-ready version of the Volt, he said.

GM showed off a concept version of the Volt in January 2007 but has retooled the look of the vehicle significantly since then, in part in order to improve its aerodynamics, representatives of the automaker have said.

GM has already shown a near-production version of the Volt to a Los Angeles-area focus group of consumers as it pushes toward production of the vehicle by late 2010 under a development plan the GM board approved in June.

By unveiling the final version of the Volt at a centennial observation in September, GM will be looking to shift the focus for investors and consumers from its current sales slump toward the more fuel-efficient vehicles it has in development.

The automaker, which saw its stock hit a 54-year low last week, is expected to use the circuit of major auto shows that begins with Paris in October to unveil a series of upcoming vehicles that will underscore its effort to move away from a reliance on light trucks.

Those include the production version of the Chevy Beat, a replacement for the Aveo hatchback, and a replacement for the Chevy Cobalt, a small sedan.


In a further bid to create buzz, the Volt is one of several GM cars set to make an appearance in the action movie "Transformers 2," scheduled for release next summer, a person familiar with the matter said.

GM was heavily involved in the production of the first Michael Bay-directed "Transformers" film, released last summer, and provided a concept version of its 2009 Camaro for a central turn in the movie.

GM is designing the Volt to run for 40 miles (64 km) on a lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged at a standard electric outlet. The Volt will also capture energy from braking, like a traditional hybrid, and feature an on-board engine that will be used to send power to the battery on longer trips.

GM is racing Toyota Motor Corp. to bring the first plug-in car to the marketplace and has already featured the Volt in its advertising, part of a bid to improve the public image of the fuel efficiency of its car line-up.

Just as the Detroit-based automakers once rolled out limited-edition performance cars to create a buzz around their brands, the Volt has emerged as a kind of environmentally friendly "halo car" that GM hopes will have as much impact as the Prius hybrid has had for Toyota.


Two suppliers have been in the running to provide lithium-ion batteries for the Volt: A unit of Korea's LG Chem said last month that it was ready to supply batteries for the Volt, and German auto parts supplier Continental AG, adapting battery technology used by privately held A123 Systems, is also competing for the Volt battery contract.

The Volt marks one of the first attempts to adapt lithium-ion batteries, widely used in consumer electronics, for a car, although Toyota and others are pressing ahead with their own work on the same technology.

GM celebrates its centennial on Sept. 16, the anniversary of its founding by Billy Durant. It kicked off a series of events last year to mark the date, but those have been overshadowed by concerns about its performance and whether it has sufficient cash to ride out the downturn in U.S. sales.

GM's U.S. sales are off 16.3 percent this year, and analysts expect the automaker to raise additional capital to shore up liquidity as it looks to turn around its U.S. operations.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Top Ten electric vehicles you can buy right now

Top 10: EV/Plug-in, Tesla Motors, Zap, Phoenix, Miles EV, American Electric Vehicle, GEM, ZENN, Universal Electric Vehicle

I think all the news of the Tesla Roadster and the Chevy Volt that came out since last summer has reminded a lot of people that there are some serious contenders to the gasoline engine. The electric vehicle (EV) community certainly thinks 2006 was a good year for EVs. In fact, the past has seen some truly cool EVs, and the list of retired EVs is long and, for some, emotional: the EV1, the Ranger EV, the RAV4 EV and so on. But there should be no time for mourning and instead a look toward the future. Actually, we don't even need to guess what great EVs are coming down the pipe, there are already some wicked cool EVs available today. If you're ready to get off the gas in 2007, consider one of these, the Top Ten Electric Cars of 2007 (Aside from the Roadster, which certainly deserves the Number 1 spot, the list is in no real order).

Tesla Roadster - This car has reinvigorated the EV market like no other. While technically no one can buy it this year (all 100 vehicles that will be available later in 2007 have already been spoken for, I can't help but place it at No. 1. With a 0-60 time beneath four seconds and a look that makes you just want to hop in and drive, the Roadster (More)

UEV Spyder - Universal Electric Vehicle's Spyder made an impressive debut at the Santa Monica Alt Car Expo last December, even though I heard a lot of people ask, "Is this the Tesla?" This EV will be available with different battery configurations at different price levels (some comparable to the Roadster). You don't hear so many people talk the Spyder up, but it seems to share many of the same qualities that make the Roadster so exciting: speed, zero emissions, and sports-car styling. (More)

Phoenix SUT
– Yeah, it's expensive ($45,000), but EVs aren't cheap. Heck, retired Toyota RAV4 EVs regularly go for more than $50,000 on eBay, and the batteries in those things are old. Phoenix has been working with Altairnano Technologies on new batteries and is bringing this sports utility truck to market with better range than the RAV4 (but, admittedly, not as much size). Phoenix says they hope to sell 500 SUTs by the end of the year. Perhaps a better name will pump up sales. (More)

Miles ZX40 – While the Spyder and the Roadster don't really ask the driver to make any sacrifices (aside from in the bank account), EVs like those from Miles are not a replacement for a "standard" car, but a solid contender for second vehicle for certain families or individuals, or as a main vehicle for those who don't have to go very far. The Miles ZX40 is like a lot of NEVs – limited to a top speed of 25 mph, a range of around 50 miles per charge and a price of about $12,000-$20,000. (We don't actually know the price of the ZX40, but other NEVs are priced in this range). Another Miles model, the OR70, can go 35 mph. (More)


ZENN – Another player in the NEV field, ZENN's cars are "zero emission, no noise." Get it? ZENN. These NEVs have a lower range than Miles' offerings (only about 35 miles) and are a bit smaller, too. When I drove one in D.C. last year the battery was on its last legs and in need of a charge, but still drove well. The various options can add up to $2,500 to the $12,500 base price. But the most exciting part about ZENN's offerings are yet to come: the EESTOR ultra capacitor is still shrouded in mystery, but the potential is great for this new EV power source (as is the disappointment if the EESTOR doesn't live up to the hype). (More)

GEM e2 – Yes, they look funny. No, they can't go very far or very fast. But GEM electric vehicles have been available for years and the company has a wide range of models available (two through six seats, with or without a flatbed) and prices ($7,000-$12,500). GEMs are used around the country on various campuses, but models like the e2 are obviously targeted to home users. (More)

Smart EV - Available in Switzerland and the UK, the tiny Smart EVs are zero-emission versions of their fossil-fuel drinking cousins. These cars share the easy-parking abilities and unique styling of the standard Smarts, but are only available in the fortwo configuration and only to "to blue chip companies who are happy to meet our requirements to power the cars using only renewable energy sources," says Smart UK. Conversions for your standard Smart are also available. (

Mullen L1X-75 – Some of our readers are skeptical of Hybrid Technologies, maker of the Mullen L1X-75, saying their press releases promise more than they can ever deliver. The L1X-75 certainly promises a lot - 100-mile range on a 4-6 hour charge - and this comes at a price ($125,000). Still, the sports car look will attract the eye of those you zip by, and I'd certainly give one a whirl. (More)

G-Wiz EV – available in the UK (and desired by Sir Elton John), the G-Wiz costs a little bit (£8,299 to £6,999) more than some of the short-range EVs in America, but you get something extra in England, too: exemption from certain taxes and London congestion charges and free parking in some areas. There are even free charging stations in some locations. (More)

Kurrent – A tiny and very distinctive-looking NEV, the Kurrent's price ($10,600) includes home delivery because, as American Electric Vehicle president Scott Thornton told AutoblogGreen, if AEV allowed the Kurrent to be sold at just any dealership, the customer might not be able to drive it home thanks to U.S. laws that restrict NEVs to roads with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or below. Lead-acid batteries deliver a range of about 40-mile range. (More)

For Number 10, I cannot ignore all of the homemade EVs and converted EVs. People have been creating their own electric vehicles for year, and the trend continues.

There are more EVs available today, and if you feel I should've included any in this Top Ten list, add it yourself in the comments. Also, there are a lot of upcoming EVs to get excited about - Tesla's WhiteStar sedan, Zap!'s Lotus APX - so if you're sick of gassing up your car, consider going all-electric. They're not for everyone, but they might be perfect for you.