Hyundai Prices Sonata Hybrid Below Toyota, Ford

By dancurranjr On December 27th, 2010

As Hyundai finishes preparations for its first hybrid, the automaker has released the model’s pricing rundown. No surprise here: It’s going to underprice the competition.

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata hybrid has only one trim, and it will start at $25,795, excluding a $750 destination charge. By contrast, the 2011 Toyota Camry hybrid starts at $26,575, and the Ford Fusion hybrid starts at $28,240. The Toyota Prius technically is a midsize vehicle, according to the EPA — and it’s cheaper and more fuel efficient than the Sonata hybrid at 50 mpg combined and $21,650 — but that vehicle is smaller nonetheless.

The Sonata hybrid gets an EPA rating of 35 miles per gallon city, 40 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined. The base trim comes standard with 16-inch aluminum wheels, LED headlight accents, LED taillights, front fog lights, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, push-button start, remote keyless entry, dual automatic climate control and a 4.2-inch LCD screen in the gauge cluster. For $30,795, you can add the Premium Package:

It includes a panoramic sunroof, 17-inch wheels, navigation system, backup camera, premium stereo, leather seats and auto-dimming mirrors.

Hyundai has confirmed that the hybrid will go on sale in January instead of December. This means Hyundai’s previously stated $1,300 federal tax credit no longer applies as the credit program expires Dec 31.


Honda to Start Testing EVs, PHEVs in Japan

By dancurranjr On December 26th, 2010

Honda Motor Co Ltd announced Dec 20, 2010, that it will start field tests of its electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in Japan.

On the same day, the company showed prototypes of an EV based on the Fit minicar and a PHEV based on the Inspire sedan.

Honda announced a prototype of the EV and the platform of the PHEV at the Los Angeles Motor Show, which took place in November 2010. And the vehicles announced this time were their new versions designed for the Japanese market.

“For expanding the use of EVs, the balance between price and performance is important,” Honda President Takanobu Ito said. “It is still difficult to achieve the balance. But there may be markets in specific regions such as rural areas where there is no service station.”

Honda will conduct the field tests in Saitama and Kumamoto prefectures in Japan. For each field test, five EVs and five PHEVs will be used. And the company will conduct similar field tests in Torrance, the US, by using three EVs and three PHEVs.

It is also planning to conduct field tests in Stamford, the US, by using the “EV-neo” electric two-wheeled vehicle and the “Monpal ML200” electric cart in addition to EVs and PHEVs.

“Though we have not determined a specific period of time for the tests, it will be about two years,” the company said.

In Saitama Prefecture, the vehicles will be tested in various areas depending on their characteristics. For example, in Saitama City, Honda will examine how the EV and the electric two-wheeled vehicle can be selectively used in the areas around train stations.

In Kumagaya City, Honda will test the “Park & Ride” system, which combines EVs, PHEVs and trains in the area around the Kagohara Station. In Chichibu City, the company will establish a system by using the Monpal.

This time, Honda also disclosed a charging station equipped with photovoltaic batteries developed by Honda Soltec Co Ltd. The station has a rapid charger manufactured by Kyuki Corp, a subsidiary of Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc, and three normal chargers manufactured by Nihon Unisys Ltd.

“Supposing that an EV travels 40km per day, we would like to supply electricity to four EVs by using only solar batteries,” Ito said.

As for charging technologies, Honda developed a system to monitor the use of chargers, etc in real time by using car navigation systems and smartphones. The system utilizes the company’s “Internavi Premium Club” telematics service, which uses a dedicated communication device equipped in the Fit.

Moreover, Honda mounted another communication device on vehicles to collect data on the use of automotive batteries.


Electric Car Wars Hit the California Central Valley

By dancurranjr On December 19th, 2010

The charger is not universal yet but if you own a Nissan Leaf, one of the first all electric cars on the market, this is how you charge it away from home — for free.

“Right now we don’t have any intention of charging the customer any money for charging. And you realize this is the first stage of the electrical, 100% electrical car,” said Ashish Desai, general manager of Lithia Nissan in North Fresno.

Desai is has already installed four stations. There are no Leafs on the lot yet but three Valley customers have pre-ordered them online.

Desai: “The actual MSRP is somewhere around $27/30 (thousand) but with the rebates fluctuating you can look at somewhere down to $18 or $20,000.”

An overnight charge from home will get Leaf owners about 100-miles on the road … that’s less than half as far as a traditional car or truck. If drivers stop at one of Desai’s quick charge stations a 30-minute hook-up can return the battery to 80%.

Desai: “Is this a complete perfect electric car? No. Because of the range anxiety and I’m pretty sure the next couple of models they are going to solve that.”

Lithia Nissan invested about $50,000 to make this new technology possible in the Central Valley. That includes new tools to take care of the Leaf as well as a new 240W electrical line to power this charging station.

Leaf is not charging the zero emission field alone.

“People need to understand that it is not a hybrid it’s truly electric,” said Brett Hedrick of Hedrick Chevrolet in Clovis.

Hedrick is selling the new Chevy Volt … An extended range electric car promising at least 350 miles on the road and requiring a shorter time to charge … However gas is still a part of the car’s make-up.

Hedrick: “But what the gas is … there’s an onboard generator that will recharge the battery and extend the range.”

The MSRP for a Volt is $42,000 before government rebates. Both dealerships said these new electric cars will be on the road within the next two weeks.


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