UK Developer of Hybrid Car Engines Raises £500,000

By dancurranjr On December 17th, 2010

Bladon Jets, a British developer of micro gas turbine engines for cars and power generation, has raised £500,000 ($786,100) in a recent funding round led by the Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION), a European technology investment network.

Bladon Jets is working with car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover to develop a micro gas turbine engine to insert in plug-in hybrid cars.

In a statement Bladon explained that its batteries provide 50 plus miles (80 kilometers)  of electric range. Bladon jets-powered cars are also capable of travelling longer distances when using an on-board power generator that charges batteries when cars are moving.

Indian industrial group Tata recently made an undisclosed investment in Bladon Jets for a minority equity stake.

In a prepared statement Chairman of Bladon Jets, Paul Barrett, said: “We want to establish micro gas turbine engines as the range-extending power source of choice for hybrid car manufacturers,” he said. Barrett added:  “There is also significant potential for our micro gas turbines in combined heat and power units and other small-scale power generating units, not least in India.”

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

Global Hybrid Car Sales On The Rise

By dancurranjr On December 15th, 2010

Despite being on sale for more than a decade, global sales of hybrid cars will still total less than one million in 2010.

Industry analysts JD Power and Associates predict sales of hybrids will reach 934,000 this year, meaning 2010 will most likely be the last year global sales do not crack the million mark.

The predictions are up significantly from the reduced levels of 2009, when just 728,000 were sold in a tough global economic climate.

Hybrids make up slightly less than two percent of the total global passenger vehicle market.

According to the JD Power data, around half of the growth in 2010 has come from Japan, where the government has implemented substantial tax incentives to encourage the purchase of hybrid vehicles.

November’s sales figures confirmed the Toyota Prius was the highest selling passenger vehicle in Japan for the 18th consecutive month.

Europe has been much slower to embrace hybrid technology, with significant competition coming from entry-level low-emission petrol and diesel vehicles. JD Power predicts sales will reach 107,000 this year, up from last year’s 74,000.

Sales in the US – one of the major markets driving the hybrid movement – will increase around eight percent compared with 2009, although that figure is below the predicted total US market growth of 12 percent. Sales for 2010 are tipped to reach 315,000.

Australian hybrid sales have increased significantly in 2010, largely on the back of Toyota’s introduction of the Camry Hybrid.

In total, 8453 hybrids have been sold in 2010 – 1.11 percent of the 759,546 new passenger vehicle market (excluding commercial vehicles).

In the first 11 months of 2009, just 3891 hybrid vehicles were sold in Australia.

SOURCE: CarAdvice

Hybrids Vehicles to Rule Within a Decade

By dancurranjr On December 13th, 2010

Petrol engines could have had their day, according to a new survey of fleet drivers.

The study by leasing company Lex Autolease found that just 5% of drivers thought petrol-powered options would outsell other fuel types in 10 years’ time.

The poll also found that 78% of drivers thought hybrid or electric vehicles would be the first choice a decade from now.

Lex Autolease consultant Chris Chandler said: ‘Diesel has already overtaken petrol as the fuel of choice in the fleet sector, which is renowned for being an early adopter of new vehicle technologies.

‘For the time being, diesel is king, but we are witnessing a shift in the market, with new developments coming to the fore.’

A fleet shift to hybrids and electrics on this scale would have a massive impact on their availability on the second-hand market. Lex Autolease has a fleet of more than 300,000 vehicles alone.

The Lex study follows other predictions by Mercedes that cars powered solely by petrol or diesel will have all but disappeared by 2050.

Car MPG Comparison: Hybrid, EV or Plug-in?

By dancurranjr On December 12th, 2010

Car technology offers more choices to consumers these days, but it seems the variety of choices when it comes to fuel-efficient cars has also posed a problem for those who could not seem to decide what type of vehicle to buy.

Among the competing choices when it comes to Miles Per Gallon or MPG efficiency are cars classified as Plug-in Hybrids, EV and Hybrid.

New hybrids include the BMW ActiveHybrid 7 and L version as well as the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid FWD. Experts claim the Lincoln Hybrid has the best MPG figure while the BMW Hybrid has the worst MPG figure.

Plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, are cars that combine the features of an EV and the hybrid. The Nissan Leaf, which is due for release in the US this month, is the most anticipated model.

Despite the demand for fuel-efficient cars, Michigan-based auto industry analyst Alan Baum however said the discontinuance of General Motors hybrids plus the decline in the Honda Civic Hybrid sales dragged the 2010 hybrid market down.

Other popular hybrid models like the Prius however increased compared to last year. The Ford Fusion experienced a 7 percent jump in sales while the Honda Insight added a 9.5 percent sales figure.

Baum, who has been running auto market forecasts since the 1980s however sees a brighter picture for hybrid vehicles in 2011.

“With gas prices on the upswing and the retail market recovering, the market for hybrids and other electric vehicles should recover nicely over the next several months and years,” Baum said. “Of course, the explosion of new product will also be a plus.”

He said that with the debut of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf comes the steady growth of regular hybrids.

“The large number of new hybrid entrants from many automakers, many of which will be low volume, collectively will provide reasonable growth prospects.”