Electric Cars Muddy the MPG Waters

By dancurranjr On November 23rd, 2009

plug-in-hybrid-car-phevWith more electric, fuel cell and hybrid vehicles on the road today, measuring miles per gallon isn’t as easy as it was in the old days, the Washington Times reports.

Alternative-fuel cars have different ways of computing mpg. For example, the new Chevy Volt electric car has a projected fuel economy equal to 230 mpg.

Edmunds.com is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to come up with fuel-cost ratings to assist buyers in comparing the cars. On Sept. 15, the agency asked for public comments on emissions and fuel economy standards for plug-in electric and hybrid cars.

“A consumer could reasonably assume, based on the way that they have been using window stickers now going back to 1975, that the Chevy Volt is over four times more efficient to operate than the Toyota Prius. And [that] would actually be completely wrong,” said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com.

Edmunds.com would like for the EPA to stop allowing car makers to promote vehicles based on mpg. “If car companies are building cars with very high monthly costs from a fuel perspective, that’s the sort of information that needs to be out there,” he said.

Anwyl said the agency is interested in the proposal from Edmunds.com and has been inquiring of the company how customers use the Internet comparison sites when making decisions.


6 Myths About Hybrid Vehicles Unplugged

By dancurranjr On November 22nd, 2009

insightWhether you call them myths, urban legends, fables or old wives’ tales, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. These vehicles, abbreviated PHEVs, hold great promise as the key to weaning America from its dependence on imported oil, which represents nearly two-thirds of all the petroleum burned in the United States today.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has taken a lead role in developing and testing plug-in hybrid technologies. At the lab’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR), vehicle systems engineer Forrest Jehlik and his colleagues work to bring these cars to market quickly and cheaply. Here, he dispels some commonly held myths about plug-in hybrids.

Myth #1: A significant number of plug-in hybrids are currently for sale.

Although several major auto manufacturers — including General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, and Volvo — have plug-in vehicles currently in the development pipeline, the first wave of these cars is still at least a year away from officially hitting the market, Jehlik said. The first plug-in hybrid for sale will likely be the Chevrolet Volt, which General Motors claims can travel up to 40 miles on a single charge. The Toyota Prius and other hybrids currently on the roads are not plug-ins — their batteries are charged by kinetic energy transferred from the brakes and wheels.

Myth #2: Researchers can measure the fuel economy for a plug-in hybrid just as easily as they can for gasoline-powered cars.

Establishing fuel economy standards — how many miles a plug-in hybrid vehicle can travel per gallon of gasoline burned — is a complicated question. The answer, Jehlik said, depends entirely on the driving and charging habits of the vehicle’s owner. If a particular plug-in hybrid gets 40 miles on a single charge, then a driver who has a 15-mile commute each way to work and does 10 miles of additional driving each day before charging the battery overnight would, theoretically, use no gasoline at all. If the same driver had a five-mile-longer commute, she’d probably burn just over a gallon of gasoline per week, despite driving 250 miles.

Myth #3: Prices for plug-in hybrid vehicles are currently so high because manufacturers are trying to make a killing on them.

“The truth of the matter is that the components required to build a viable plug-in hybrid are still quite expensive,” Jehlik said. In many cases, the battery for a plug-in vehicle by itself costs nearly $10,000. Because the price of petroleum remains relatively low, consumers may not yet be willing to invest the extra money in a plug-in vehicle — even with sizable government rebates.

Myth #4: The batteries in plug-in hybrid vehicles are unreliable, possibly unsafe, and require frequent replacement.

Most plug-in hybrids currently under development use lithium-ion batteries in their battery packs. Although complex chemical processes produce energy within the battery, vehicle system engineers have built in advanced control systems to prevent fires or other safety issues. “Researchers have devoted just as much time and effort to developing inner-pack safety systems as they have to the batteries themselves,” Jehlik said. “Consumers don’t need to worry about battery malfunction.”

Jehlik and his colleagues in the CTR have also tested the current generation of lithium-ion batteries in what are known as “lifecycle vehicle tests,” which take the car through its paces for more than 150,000 miles. Even at the end of the car’s life, the vast majority of batteries still function quite well, Jehlik said. “When these cars become available for sale, the batteries are going to last as long as any part of them will,” he said.

Myth #5: Scientists have identified lithium-ion batteries as the only battery technology that could work in plug-in hybrid cars.

Although lithium-ion technology came to replace nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries as the preeminent focus of electric vehicle development efforts, scientists at Argonne and around the world are currently investigating several different approaches for energy storage that could help to bring down the cost of plug-in hybrids. “Manufacturers are looking at these possible solutions not as silver bullets but as silver shotgun pellets,” Jehlik said. “The organizations that hedge their bets among a number of different technologies will likely be the ones that bring vehicles to market the earliest and the most successfully.”

Myth #6: America’s electric grid can’t handle the increased load caused by the charging of millions of electric vehicles.

According to Jehlik, the nation’s current electric grid has the capacity to accommodate the imminent rollout of plug-in hybrids onto the country’s roads. “If everyone were somehow able to buy a plug-in hybrid tomorrow, that would probably present a problem as far as the supply of electricity is concerned,” Jehlik said, “but given the pace that they are likely to enter the market, we won’t face a system-wide failure.”

However, Jehlik noted that the country’s electric infrastructure would need to change eventually—not only to keep up with added demand, but to ensure the smarter transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity.

Source: PhysOrg

BMW Begins to Take Orders in Japan for 1st Hybrid Cars

By dancurranjr On November 14th, 2009

bmw-5-series-conceptBMW Japan Corp. said Thursday it has begun to take orders for its German parent’s first gasoline-electric hybrid cars with delivery planned to start next summer.

Available for ordering are the BMW Active Hybrid 7 and 7L of the flagship BMW 7 series.

Among other foreign auto dealers in Japan, Mercedes-Benz Japan Co. has already launched a hybrid car in a bid to take advantage of government tax breaks for eco-friendly vehicles.

The BMW hybrids raise fuel efficiency by 15 percent from the level for its BMW 750i by combining a 4.4-liter V-shaped eight-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. They feature an idling-stop system that automatically stops the engine when the car comes to a halt, to help prevent unnecessary fuel consumption.

The Active Hybrid 7 will sell for 12.8 million yen and the Active Hybrid 7L for 14.05 million yen

Ferrari To Produce Its First Hybrid

By dancurranjr On November 13th, 2009

2007_ferrari_599_gtb_fioranoFerrari will come out with its first hybrid system on the upcoming replacement for its 612 Scaglietti grand touring car. Britain’s Autocar magazine quoted unnamed Ferrari sources confirming that the Italian exotic car company is working on a hybrid system that will see electric power going to the front wheels, giving the car all-wheel-drive capability. The system reportedly won’t be available before 2014.

Although Ferrari has not officially confirmed the report on the magazine’s site, Ferrari CEO Amadeo Felisa confirmed at the most recent Frankfurt Auto show that the first Ferrari hybrid was “likely to be” a V12 model.

Spy shots have since appeared suggesting that the 612’s replacement will be the next all-new V12 car from the home of the Prancing Horse. The hybrid system would not be available at that car’s launch, but debut closer to the 2015 model year, said the latest report, released last week.

The current 612 offers a massive 5.7-litre V12 engine driving the rear wheels, but this hybrid system would focus more on improving handling and acceleration than fuel economy, according to the company insiders.

But Ferrari is nevertheless interested in reducing fuel consumption and lowering the emissions produced by its products, even though they and exotic car fans in general have long maintained that the limited numbers of these cars sold and the relatively low mileage they accumulate account for a tiny blip in the overall carbon footprint of the global auto industry.

Felisa confirmed that Ferrari’s new-for-2009 California hardtop convertible would receive a start-stop system in 2010, which automatically turns off the engine at red lights and restarts it instantly upon letting go of the brakes, which is the system that accounts for the majority of real world fuel savings in most gas-electric hybrid vehicles.

Ferrari is not the only Italian car maker going the planet-friendlier route, while still maintaining its focus on high horsepower performance. Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann also admitted in August that the Volkswagen-controlled company will launch a hybrid model by 2015, likely in the Gallardo, he suggested to a German auto trade journal in August. Winkelmann said Lamborghini was not planning to go the all-electric route, which Mercedes-Benz will pioneer among supercars with its upcoming SLS eDrive, and which Lambo’s sister company Audi has recently confirmed it will pursue with an all-electric version of its mid-engine R8.

SOURCE: Globe and Mail

Fisker Buys Mothballed GM Factory to Build $40,000 Plug-In Hybrid Cars

By dancurranjr On November 12th, 2009

fiskerFisker Automotive is buying the old General Motors factory in Wilmington, Delaware, to produce an affordable, family-oriented plug-in hybrid sedan to cost under $40,000 after federal tax credits.

Fisker expects the production facility will create or support 2,000 factory jobs plus more than 3,000 jobs for vendors and suppliers when the factory goes on-line in late 2012.  Plus thousands more consctruction jobs between now and then to retrofit and upgrade the factory, which dates from 1947 and used to produce Pontiacs, Saturns and Chevrolets.

Right now, Fisker is calling the project to build an affordable plug-in hybrid car Project NINA. But it is unlikely the model itself will be called Nina. Fisker’s other plug-in electric car is the Karma, an $80,000 beauty that looks and acts like a sportscar. It should. Company founder Henrik Fisker used to be design director for Aston Martin. The Karma is being produced in Irvine, California, where company headquarters are located.

Fisker expects to produce 75,000-100,000 fuel efficient PHEV hybrids a year at this former GM factory, which was chosen for its size, production capacity, world-class paint facilities, access to shipping ports, rail lines and available skilled workers, according to a statement by Henrik Fisker at the ribbon cutting.

Access to shipping is important, because Fisker expects to export more than half of the sedans it produces in the USA..  Fisker Automotive announced today, Nov. 4, that it is partnering with the  Emil Frey Group one of Europe’s most prestigious auto groups, to import, market and service Fisker hybrids in Switzerland, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland will provide Fisker with a strong operational base in Europe.  .

The Wilmington Assembly plant has a proud history. It was built by General Motors in1947 and over the years it churned out more than 8.5 million cars, including the Pontiac Streamliner, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn L-Series and the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky/Opel GT roadsters.

SOURCE: Examiner