Chinese Auto Makers Bet Big on Indian Hybrid Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 19th, 2010

Increased investment by Chinese automobile manufacturers in the market here is likely to feature in Premier Wen Jiabao’s talks with industry bodies on his visit to India.

Sources indicate apart from BYD Auto, which is known as Build Your Dreams, a well-known electric and hybrid car maker, Beiqi Foton, a leading commercial vehicle maker and many small and medium sized auto ancillary companies will be looking at making investments in the country. China’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, Beiqi Foton, is understood to be considering setting up a greenfield facility in India shortly. Industry sources informed Foton Motors has already done a feasibility study for its foray into the Indian market.

The company has made enquiries regarding growth prospects in the Indian commercial vehicle industry and has also held talks with components manufacturers to determine the supplier base available for manufacturing vehicles locally. A final decision, however, has not been taken on whether the company would look at entering the country independently or through a joint venture.

Foton is likely to be the second Chinese automobile company to enter the Indian market after Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). SAIC, present through a partnership with General Motors in the Indian market, is working on introducing five new models in the country by 2013.

GM is jointly developing two light commercial vehicles of one tonne capacity with SAIC for the Indian market. Besides, on the cards are two mid-size sedans and a larger utility vehicle.

The commercial vehicle segment in the country grew nearly 41 per cent between April and November, to 460,482 units from the 326,641 units produced during the corresponding period last year. The segment is dominated by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, who together account for 47 per cent of the market.

Foton Motor, a subsidiary of Beijing Automobile Group Co Ltd, is the world’s second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer after Daimler. The company sold 602,021 vehicles in 2009, exceeding sales of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles for the first time since its inception in 1996.

Till October this year, the company had produced 558,000 vehicles, an increase of nine per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year. Its sales grew 15 per cent from a year earlier to 571,100 units during the period. The company is also working on developing a sedan, its first product offering in the passenger vehicle segment.

BYD Auto, on the other hand, has sold 440,000 passenger cars in China and is expected to make a major entry in the US market in 2011 with its plug in hybrid and electric cars. After coming into the limelight, BYD got the attention of maverick investor Warren Buffet who has forked out $230 million to pick up a 10 per cent stake in this company. The company is a subsidiary of a rechargegable battery maker.

SOURCE: Business Standard

Ford to Build Three Electric Models at Green Plant

By dancurranjr On December 18th, 2010

Ford Motor Co. showed off its reborn Michigan Assembly Plant on Tuesday, where in addition to a fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered Focus, the automaker will build hybrid and electric versions of the compact car.

Ford spent $550 million to remake the 1.2 million-square-foot plant, which once produced full-size SUVs, into a flexible car factory. Company officials say Michigan Assembly, the Focus’ global home, will be one of the industry’s most advanced plants, because of its ability to make cars powered by one of four different powertrains.

“This becomes the combination of everything we have talked about for 11/2 years,” Rob Webber, site manager, said on a plant tour.

“It is flexible and global and changing a truck plant to a car plant.”Production of the new gasoline Focus ramps up Jan. 3, on two shifts.

But that’s just the first act. At the end of 2011, Ford will add production of the Focus Electric, which runs on battery power only and will compete against the Nissan Leaf.

And in 2012, a plug-in Focus hybrid goes online. A conventional hybrid version will join the Focus family, too.

“We’ve modernized just about every square inch of this facility to establish a new standard for a high-tech, green, flexible and efficient auto factory,” said Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American manufacturing.

“If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that customer wants and needs can change quickly — much more quickly than we have been equipped to efficiently respond to in the past.”

At Michigan Assembly, he said, “we will achieve a level of flexibility we don’t have in any other plant.”

Ford officials ticked off a number of improvements.

The factory’s paint shop, which had no robots, now has 66. Primer, body color paint and top coat are applied at the same time, as opposed to drying after each stage.

Work stations and processes have been standardized; the assembly line goes up and down to make it easier for workers to build up the car.

Tiny robots, about a foot high, hold and clamp body panels in place to be welded. And robots are programmed to weld according to the vehicle type.

About 550 processes are checked for quality, compared with about 300 at other plants.

The factory, as well as the vehicles it will produce, will be green.

A 500-kilowatt solar panel system — Michigan’s largest, according to Ford — will be installed to help generate renewable energy for production of the Focus models.

Ten new electric vehicle charging stations on the property will be used to recharge the electric trucks that transport parts between adjacent facilities.

The remade Michigan Assembly is part of the One Ford vision of CEO Alan Mulally, who wants the automaker to operate all its facilities, worldwide, as a single company.

That means developing vehicles that can be built and sold in every market, and taking advantage of economies of scale.

The 2012 Focus is Ford’s most global vehicle, with 80 percent common parts and assembly planned on three continents.

SOURCE: Detroit News

Transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant Symbolizes Ford’s Transformation

By dancurranjr On December 17th, 2010

Ford Motor Company held its press preview for the North American International Auto Show at the newly-renovated Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

The plant used to build trucks. Now, after spending $550 million, Ford says it’s the first manufacturing facility in the world to build four kinds of powertrains: gas-powered, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Ford says the plant is a symbol of its own transformation to a company that builds more fuel-efficient vehicles.

CEO Alan Mulally says Ford is deeply committed to better fuel efficiency, but, at the same time, the federal government is considering new CAFE standards of 60 miles per gallon average. Mulally says any new standards have to be technically feasible. And, they can’t be out of reach for consumers.

“The most important thing is the economics of the whole thing,” Mulally says, “because people need to have the vehicles that they want but they also need to afford em.”

The Michigan Assembly Plant will build the new Focus starting next year, along with an all-electric version of the Focus, and a hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle yet to be announced.

Ford and its Detroit rivals Chrysler and GM have traditionally had trouble making money on small cars like the Focus in North America.

But now, the companies are beginning to see lower labor costs, as a 2007 contract with the UAW starts to kick in. Ford will be hiring a thousand new workers soon to work at its Louisville Assembly plant. The new workers will get half the usual wage of current UAW plant workers. Any new workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant will also make the lower wage.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says another factor that allows the company to make money on small cars is using the same platform – the underpinnings of the car – to build a similar version of the Focus, everywhere in the world that Ford sells cars. Those economies of scale bring down the production cost of vehicles.

The company expects smaller cars like the Focus to become more popular in the U.S. – especially if gas prices continue to rise. Higher gas prices could also spur hybrid sales, but Ford doesn’t expect more expensive all-electric cars like the electric Focus to be big sellers for a long time.

The electric Focus will be competitively priced to compete against the Nissan Leaf, says Mulally.

Ford’s President of the Americas, Mark Fields, says the Focus will also have a similar range as the Leaf, around 100 miles. Fields says two things will limit the popularity of all-electric vehicles. The first is so-called “range anxiety,” which means having to plan every trip around the upper limits of the battery’s capabilities. That capability can vary, depending on the weather, whether the roads are hilly, and driving style.

Fields says the other limiting factor will be price. All-electric vehicles are likely to remain significantly more expensive than gas-powered or hybrid vehicles for many years.

SOURCE: Public

Ford Takes Baby Steps into Eco Friendly Cars

By dancurranjr On December 13th, 2010

And by baby steps, we mean very much baby steps. While Nissan has the Leaf and the European Car of the Year Award and Chevy has the Volt and pretty much every North American green car award ever, Ford is…looking at using recycled cotton in some of its products. Look, there’s a real strategy at work here. Ford wants to build a strategy by which it can easily switch between making traditional gasoline cars and electric or EV cars, presumably because the maker of the world’s largest pickup trucks doesn’t believe that green cars are more than a trend. In the meantime, however, recycled cotton it is!

We should say though that there is method in Ford’s madness. There will be an electric Ford Focus based on the 2012 Mark III model as well as a hybrid version. The strategy is about flexibility and cost savings since the traditional version and fuel efficient version will share components. Ford may come out with a win on this idea.

For now though, Ford will be incorporating recycled cottons into the carpet backing and sound absorption material. This is a big deal for the 107-year old company and isn’t the first move of this nature. Ford has actually worked to decrease landfill mass by using old clothes in their next-generation Focus. The company also uses soy foam seat cushions and uses recycled materials for their underbody systems and seat covers as well as natural-fiber plastic for interior components.

Let’s be real. In the end, Ford’s slower roll into eco friendly cars using more manageable steps instead of making a full shift to creating perfectly environmentally friendly cars that consumers may not actually want may be the right move. After all, according to a recent Consumer Reports study, although Americans want to be more environmentally friendly with their vehicles, they’re probably not ready for fully electric cars – or even most hybrids.

SOURCE: Tiny Green Bubble

Carbon Reduction Goals Open Opportunities for Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 2nd, 2010

The EU and G8 leaders agreed in 2009 to achieve an 80% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 if atmospheric CO2 is to stabilise at 450 parts per million, and if global warming stays under the safe level of 2°C. However, securing the overall 80% decarbonisation goal within the next 4 decades may need 95% decarbonisation of the road transport sector, and objective which will require new efficient and reliable propulsion systems.

A portfolio of advanced power-trains like fuel-cell-electric (FCEV), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and battery-electric (BEV) vehicles would help secure this goal, says a new study commissioned and prepared by a coalition of some 30 of the largest global car manufacturers, oil and gas companies, utilities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the European Commission and governmental and clean energy organisations.

The European Commission tables its strategy on clean and efficient vehicles to move on from short-term recovery measures to a medium-term orientation that strengthens the competitiveness of the European automotive industry by linking it to clean technologies. The strategy also contributes to the Europe 2020 objectives of smart and sustainable growth.

Entitled ‘A portfolio of power-trains for Europe: a fact-based analysis. The role of battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric vehicles’, the report is part of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative (FCH JTI), which targets the accelerated development and commercialisation of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies in Europe. According to the experts, this portfolio draws attention to the complementary nature of these technologies. Each technology offers a solution for different environments and driving behaviours.

The study found that electric drive cars will play a critical role in helping us obtain a greener future; not only can they effectively shrink CO2 but they can help lower local emissions. A full portfolio of power-trains will ensure that consumers’ needs are met. In line with that, environment and refuelling infrastructures are required if Europeans are to achieve long-term sustainability of personal mobility.

Both the European and global markets can expect to sustain an increase in the number of passenger cars between now and 2050, with figures jumping to 273 million in Europe and to 2.5 billion worldwide. Improvements to the conventional internal combustion engine or alternative fuels are not enough. Also weighing on the minds of many is the fact that people are unsure of whether sustainably generated biofuels will be available for passenger cars. Other sectors, including aviation, marine and heavy industry, are eyeing such biofuels for their own use.

Europeans must develop a range of technologies if their long-term sustainability of mobility is to be secured, the experts said. Experts which also included representatives from multinational as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), represented by the European Industry Grouping for the FCH JTI, as well as universities and research institutes.

SOURCE: EuroAlert