Ford to Spend $500M on Michigan Battery, Hybrid Production

By dancurranjr On December 26th, 2009

Ford Motor Co. has outlined plans to invest as much as $500 million in Michigan to engineer and assemble battery packs for a new generation of electric vehicles and manufacture a new hybrid and plug-in hybrid here — if state lawmakers approve a request for tax credits it is submitting today in Lansing.

These moves would consolidate much of Ford’s electric vehicle research, development, engineering and manufacturing in the state, creating approximately 1,000 new jobs at the company.

“We think it has a great opportunity to help in the economic growth of Michigan,” said Nancy Gioia, director of Ford’s global electrification programs. “It promotes Michigan’s competitiveness.”

Ford’s announcement comes a day after General Motors Co. said it would invest $336 million to upgrade its Hamtramck plant to produce the Chevrolet Volt and the next-generation Malibu.

Ford, which was the first U.S. car maker to manufacture a hybrid, plans to begin production of a battery-powered commercial van next year, to be followed by a battery-powered version of its new Focus compact in 2011. The company also is readying a new generation of gasoline-hybrids.

It currently purchases battery packs for its hybrid vehicles from Delphi Corp., which assembles them in Mexico. But the automaker said battery engineering is a “core competency” that is too important to entrust to a supplier.

If the state does not approve tax credits for Ford, the automaker said it is considering other sites.

The new Ford Focus and other vehicles based on the global compact platform are slated to be produced at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Ford said it has not decided where in Michigan the batteries would be assembled.

SOURCE: Detroit News

Toyota Plugs in the Prius

By dancurranjr On December 25th, 2009

AFTER 12 YEARS of speculation and the odd jibe from cynics, Toyota’s Prius is finally getting a plug.

The car that brought hybrid technology to the attention of the mainstream masses has always offered a mix of petrol engine and battery electric power. However, the electric charge has always been created from either spare energy in the engine or recouped through gathering the brake-force energy.

Now, with the third generation of the car – in full family guise – on our roads, Toyota has finally added the option of recharging the battery directly from the mains.

While the additional power source will be available only on 500 prototypes at first, all signs are that Toyota is preparing to roll out the plug-in option to the general public once electricity suppliers and governments get their acts together on providing recharging points.

Of the initial batch, 150 will come to Europe, with 20 destined for the British market. These will be leased to people who will then feed back their views and reports to the development team in Japan.

So what is different from the current Prius? Well, nothing much in terms of the appearance, except for what looks like a secondary filling cap on the front left wing. This is the plug-point for the car. Bootspace is also slightly compromised by the larger battery. And it’s here, under the boot floor, that the most significant changes have been made, with Toyota finally moving to a 5kW/h Panasonic lithium-ion unit.

Lithium is regarded as the future saviour of battery technology for electric cars, allowing more power to be stored for less weight. While this new battery does add 110kg to the car, it’s a worthwhile trade-off in terms of power.

Where the regular hybrid Prius with its nickel-hydride battery can power the car up to 50km/h on electric power for short bursts, the plug-in lithium battery version can reach speeds of 100km/h without needing to call on the petrol engine for support, and the car can run on battery power alone for between 12km and 20km.

Combine the extended speed range and distance and you see that for city or urban driving, this plug-in Prius is effectively an electric car. The big difference is because it’s hybrid, it also offers the chance to call upon a petrol engine for extended range. While we await batteries that can challenge combustion engines for range and the introduction of a proper recharging infrastructure, it’s the best combination on offer.

On a brief test drive we cruised along at 80km/h completely on electric mode and it was only when we floored the accelerator on the test track that the petrol engine kicked in. Lift off slightly and the engine gives way again to electric power.

On the most gentle of obstacle courses we also got the chance to test the car’s handling and though the Prius has never been dynamically enthralling, the added weight of the battery at the back made little difference to its ability.

In terms of recharging, Toyota promises it will fully recharge from the mains in 100 minutes. With a 12km range if you are pushing the car on, you can expect it to cut your fuel bill, particularly for short commuter runs.

If you take that away from an average journey and run the rest of the time on a mix of regular engine and Prius’s current hybrid system, it’s not unrealistic to suggest you could achieve figures in the realms of 70-80mpg. The estimated emissions level of 65g/km will certainly reap rewards in terms of motor tax.

It has been long overdue and admittedly Toyota lost some of the electric buzz to the likes of Opel’s Ampera, which for all the media attention is still a couple of years from delivery.

Mitsubishi will have its fully electric plug-in city car, the i-Miev, on sale in Ireland next year. For now we’ll have to wait and see if any of these plug-in Priuses make it to Ireland under the test programme.

First impressions behind the wheel suggest it will be another string to the Prius’s bow, making a car that remains something of an icon of green motoring even more attractive.

After several months of bad news about recalls and the loss of its leadership in electric car development, it could offer a much-needed boost to the brand, if they can get it into showrooms.

SOURCE: Irish Times

5 Reasons Your Next Car Will Be Electric

By dancurranjr On December 24th, 2009

Take a look at that gas-guzzler in the driveway. Are you ready to wave goodbye in favor of something cleaner, greener and plugged in?

At the end of 2009, there’s no turning back: We’re going to electrify the world’s auto fleet, and soon. I know, I know — besides hybrids, there aren’t a lot of green cars on your radar right now. Today, 100 percent zero-emission battery-powered cars are scarce on the ground — there’s a motley assemblage of 3,000 of them registered. You can buy a Tesla Roadster if you have a spare $109,000 lying around. Wheego will sell you a Whip, which is a battery-powered “neighborhood” car that can be used locally on roads with speed limits below 35 mph. And there are a few highway-worthy cars on the international market, including the Indian-made Reva, the Chinese-made BYD E6 and the Norwegian Think City.

But despite all this, your next car (or maybe the one after that) will be electric: a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery car. That’s where the auto industry is going, where the world is going. By this time next year, the picture will be dramatically different, with a host of consumer choices, from the sexy Fisker Karma and the versatile Volt to the ultra-cool Coda.

Gas cars won’t disappear overnight, but they will do a slow fade. And here’s five reasons why:

  1. Feeling the heat. The imperatives of climate change mean we’ll have to stop burning fossil fuels, especially coal and oil. The Copenhagen talks did not produce a binding agreement, but trust me on this — one is coming. The successor to the Kyoto talks will be much tougher, and we won’t make the numbers without putting millions of zero-emission cars on the road.
  2. Oil peaking. We may or may not have already reached global oil peak — the point where oil demand exceeds oil supply. The worldwide recession suppressed demand and gave us something of a breather, but the numbers on oil demand (especially from China and India) in the next decade are completely unsustainable, and everybody knows it.
  3. The smart grid. We’re just starting to optimize our antiquated electric system, but the way forward is clear. Utilities are partnering with automakers to enable the easy charging of millions of EVs at night without adding new plants. Off-peak electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel the daily commutes of 73 percent percent of all cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans on the road today if they were plug-in hybrids, a 2007 study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found. What’s more, solar car charging is becoming a reality, and that means a 100 percent zero-emissions loop — the answer to any critic who says that EVs get all their power from dirty coal plants. Even today, with 52 percent of U.S. electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, Plug-in America reports that EVs reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and most other pollutants compared with conventional gas or hybrid vehicles.
  4. The better mousetrap. EVs, on the road starting next year, will be better than gas cars in every way. Forget the idea that they’re slow, or that you won’t be able to get where you’re going. I’ve driven every EV, and all of them were exciting on the road. Every carmaker is building one, and they know it will be a very competitive market demanding excellence in engineering. BMW tells me that the consumers test-driving its Mini E plug-in quickly got over their “range anxiety.”
  5. Plugging in. You’ll have a charging station at home, at work and at play. Starbucks and McDonald’s will have them, and so will the big-box store down the street. Car charging will become ubiquitous — offering you $3 and $4 electrical fill-ups. Some retailers will even offer 15-minute fast charging free to get you in the door.

For all these reasons and more, your next car will have a plug. And it will be fine, trust me on this.

SOURCE: Mother Nature Network

Demand For Hybrid Cars on the Rise in Arab World

By dancurranjr On December 23rd, 2009

Authorities said Tuesday there are currently no plans to levy more fees on hybrid cars as demand on such vehicles has surged recently, a trend attributed to concerns that extra charges are imminent.

According to figures by the Jordan Customs Department (JCD), a total of 4,796 cars have been cleared from the free zone since the beginning of 2009, with 859, or 18 per cent of the total number, entering the market between December 1 and 21.

The value of the environment-friendly cars, which are mostly imported from the US is JD102.5 million, the JCD indicated.

During the past month, people started to speed up clearance procedures for hybrid cars in the free zone, where over 2,850 hybrids were cleared between January and November, said Nabil Abu Rumman, president of the Jordan Free Zone Investors Association.

“There are rumours that the new government plans to impose more custom fees on hybrid cars early next year, but we have not received anything about such plans,” he added.

Current fees on green cars, which use both gasoline and electricity, range between JD1,000 and JD4,000 depending on the size of the engine, according to Abu Rumman.

Earlier this year, the Environment Ministry requested customs fees to be imposed on large-engine vehicles, saying that only hybrid vehicles under 2,000cc should be exempt from taxes and fees because they are more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly. But the Finance Ministry announced then that it had no plans to impose such fees.

JCD Director General Ghaleb Sarayreh told The Jordan Times on Tuesday that there are no plans to introduce more fees or taxes on hybrid cars, saying this issue has not been discussed by the new government.

“Even if a decision in this regard was taken, it will take into consideration the vehicles on display at the free zone,” the official noted.

Nadim Haddad, the marketing and sales manager at the Central Trade and Auto Company, a Toyota agent in Jordan, said that in addition to the availability of maintenance and spare parts for such cars at some dealerships, rumours about new custom fees were the main reason for the increasing demand.

Jordan is the largest importer of fuel-efficient cars in the region due to high fuel prices in addition to the fact that importing vehicles is not exclusive to agents, Haddad said.

According to Luay Shurafa, the regional manager of General Motors (GM) in the Levant area, said Jordan is the region’s first country with demand for hybrid models, expecting hybrid SUV sales to overtake conventional SUV sales in Jordan in the coming few years because buyers want to take advantage of low customs fees on hybrid models in addition to the element of fuel efficiency.

Haddad stated that maintenance and spare parts are available at agencies for hybrid cars, which are made to suit the topography and the climate of the Kingdom.

The battery costs between $4,000 and $5,000 while the price of the electric motor is $7,000, according to Haddad.

Abu Rumman explained that availability of green car maintenance and spare parts will increase in the coming year with more affordable prices because most manufacturing companies will focus on producing such types of cars.

SOURCE: Jordan Times

Volume Sales of Plug-In Toyota Prius to Begin in Two Years

By dancurranjr On December 22nd, 2009

Toyota will start leasing 150 of its Prius plug-in hybrids in the United States this winter and plans retail sales of tens of thousands in two years.

The North American arrival, scheduled for around February, is part of a global rollout of 600 units.

With a longer electric-only cruise range than the standard Prius, the plug-in is Toyota’s answer to the Chevrolet Volt extended-range hybrid being launched next year by General Motors Co.

The plug-in Prius gets a lithium ion battery and will have an electric-only range of 14.5 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in and the car drives like the standard Prius hybrid.

The Volt also uses a lithium ion battery pack to power an electric motor for about 40 miles. After that a small gasoline engine recharges the battery but never runs the car.

Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada said Toyota plans retail sales of several tens of thousands of units in two years, after leasing them in the United States, Japan and Europe.

In the meantime, Toyota may tweak the technology and the design, especially for overseas markets where drivers may need bigger batteries to travel longer distances.

“We will see what happens in the field,” Uchiyamada said at the launch of leasing in Japan. “We may have to adjust the number of batteries carried on board. So please stay tuned.”

The plug-in Prius is nearly identical to the third-generation Prius launched earlier this year. It has the same electric motor and 1.8-liter gasoline engine as the standard Prius.

But the plug-in gets lithium ion batteries, instead of nickel-metal hydride ones. That allows for higher voltage and more energy storage.

Toyota said the retail plug-in Prius would be “affordable,” but the company didn’t give details on its retail or lease pricing. The leased cars will be used by governments and businesses.