BMW Seeks 2,600 New Employees by End of 2011 on Electric, Hybrid Systems

By dancurranjr On December 7th, 2010

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world’s larger maker of luxury vehicles, is increasing hiring as the company expands its lineup to meet environmental regulators’ demand for cleaner-running cars.

The manufacturer plans to add 1,300 employees this year and at least 1,300 in 2011, Michael Rebstock, a spokesman at Munich- based BMW, said today by phone. The maker of BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce models aims to add expertise in electric vehicles, hybrid powertrains and cleaner combustion engines to develop models with lower carbon-dioxide emissions, he said.

BMW scaled back the workforce through buyouts and early retirement programs to 96,230 employees at the end of 2009 from 107,539 in 2007 after Chief Executive Officer Norbert Reithofer initiated a cost-cutting drive to boost profitability. The company is developing an electric city car and a hybrid-powered sports car for introduction in 2013.

The company took on about 1,000 new workers on average in 2008 and 2009, Rebstock said. In addition to research and development employees, BMW is recruiting purchasing and sales specialists, he said.

The automaker is seeking to increase sales this year by about 10 percent to more than 1.4 million deliveries, with further growth to 2 million deliveries by 2020.

Daimler’s Rastatt Plant

Other German automakers are also hiring. Daimler AG added 400 workers this year at its factory in Rastatt, Germany, where it builds Mercedes-Benz A- and B-Class compacts, said Nicole Kicherer, a spokeswoman at the Stuttgart-based manufacturer. Mercedes-Benz also intends to hire 2,500 more employees at a new small-car plant in Hungary.

Volkswagen AG, which owns the Audi luxury brand, may create 50,000 jobs globally by 2015, with about 10 percent of the positions in Germany, its second-biggest market after China, Personnel Chief Horst Neumann told Handelsblatt newspaper in an interview confirmed by Stefan Ohletz, a spokesman at the Wolfsburg-based carmaker.

SOURCE: Bloomberg

Hertz to Start Coda Electric Sedan Rentals in 2011

By dancurranjr On December 4th, 2010

Coda announced at the 2010 LA Auto Show that its electric sedan will be delayed until the second half of 2011. Around that time Hertz Corporation, the world’s largest general use airport car rental brand, said that it will rent Coda’s electric sedan through Hertz’s California locations as part of the Hertz Global EV program.

“Hertz’s partnership with CODA Automotive is another element of our long term strategy to provide consumers with electric vehicle access on a global scale,” said Mark P. Frissora, Hertz Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “As we continue to build out our EV and PHEV infrastructure, we get closer to making electric vehicle travel an everyday reality.”

Taking about six hours to recharge from empty on a 220-volt charging system, the Coda Sedan is capable of a range of 120-130 miles.

The CODA Sedan will join vehicles from Nissan and other manufacturers as part of Hertz Global EV fleet.

SOURCE: EGM CarTech

Will Pedestrian Warning Sounds Be Standard for Hybrids?

By dancurranjr On December 2nd, 2010

Last week, Nissan announced that its 2012 Infiniti M35h would be the world’s first hybrid to come equipped with standard pedestrian warning sounds when it goes on sale early next year. The car will be outfitted with Nissan’s VSP warning system, which makes faint whooshing noises at varying frequencies depending on the speed at which a car is traveling while in all-electric mode.

Other hybrid makers seem to be moving in the same direction—perhaps in anticipation of new regulatory frameworks that could mandate such systems on all vehicles capable of driving in near-silence.

At its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, it was revealed that the Kia Optima Hybrid, which will hit the market sometime next year, will also come with what the company calls, “Virtual Engine Sound System.” That system will be based on one that Kia’s parent company, Hyundai, developed for its BlueOn electric vehicles, which are currently in fleet testing.

The M hybrid’s warning system is also derived from one developed for its parent label’s electric vehicle models. The Nissan LEAF was the first Renault-Nissan model to employ VSP, which consists of a computer-controlled synthesizer running through a speaker mounted into the vehicle’s front bumper. Sound is produced whenever the vehicle is operating at speeds of lower than 20 mph—after which the natural sounds of a vehicle encountering air resistance and friction are sufficient to alert pedestrians to its presence.

Though Infiniti and Kia announced their standard warning systems just recently, they’re far from the only carmakers offering or exploring artificial noises for hybrid and electric vehicles. The Chevy Volt includes GM’s Pedestrian-Friendly Alert System (which is currently driver-activated, but may become automatic in future models.)

Toyota has also begun offering optional pedestrian alert systems on its hybrids in Japan, where regulators moved recently to require carmakers to provide optional warnings on all hybrid and electric vehicles. Toyota is said to also be considering offering the option on vehicles sold in the United States.

Driving the emergence of these systems are worries that the spread of near-silent vehicles could pose a threat to the pedestrian safety—particularly for the visually impaired. While many plug-in vehicle advocates have called these fears overblown, carmakers seem resigned to the prospect that one day, this relatively inexpensive (and by most accounts unobtrusive) feature, could become the industry standard—if not the law.

SOURCE: HybridCars

BMW Ends Rumor, Confirms Production of Efficient Dynamics Plug-In Hybrid Concept

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

It’s been pretty clear that BMW’s EfficienctDynamics concept was going to eventually result in some sort of production vehicle, but today BMW confirmed at least one variant, a diesel plug-in hybrid that will hit 60 in just 4.8 seconds while achieving 63 mpg.

Sure, this hybrid will be a toy only for the rich kids, but there are some pretty interesting developments in this plug-in hybrid that could eventually reach beyond the caviar crowd. For instance, the 1.5-liter, turbo-diesel three-cylinder engine could help spark a trend in downsized engine production, as the engine is already slated for use in other upcoming BMW vehicles. Combined with two electric motors, the EfficientDynamics production vehicle will provide 328 horsepower and offer a top speed of 150 mph.

More interesting, however, is the carbon fiber body of this coupe. As with the upcoming Megacity plug-in vehicle, carbon fiber is becoming a critical complimentary technology for BMW’s plug-in vehicles. If carbon fiber costs could be reduced and mainstreamed, the impact upon the auto industry would be massive, even revolutionary if also harnessed into battery power.

Anyway, the production version of the EfficientDynamics plug-in hybrid is expected to undergo some cosmetic changes, and AutoWeek is reporting that even a gasoline-engined version is possible for the US market. For now, however, the diesel version offers 30 miles of EV range, with the diesel engine extending range up to another 370 miles.

Expect the EfficientDynamics production plug-in vehicle to hit dealerships in October of 2013, with a price in the $150,000 range.

Toyota To Launch 11 New Hybrid Models

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

The world’s top automaker Toyota Motor plans to launch 11 new hybrid models by the end of 2012, the company said Thursday, as the race to build more environmentally friendly vehicles heats up.

The planned vehicles, consisting of all-new and redesigned models, will expand Toyota’s hybrid-engine range — which runs on gasoline and electricity — at a time when rivals such as Nissan are developing all-electric vehicles.

The automaker is eyeing annual sales of more than 50,000 units for a Prius-based plug-in hybrid to be launched by early 2012 in Japan, the United States and Europe, with a price tag of around 3 million yen (36,045 dollars).

It is also planning to launch an all-electric vehicle based on its current iQ minicar, which will be introduced in Japan and Europe, with a China launch also under consideration.

Toyota’s rivals have moved to embrace the nascent electric vehicle market, with Nissan soon to launch its all-electric Leaf, which produces no tailpipe emissions — a car which has become the fulcrum of Nissan’s green ambitions.

But Toyota has so far only dipped its toes into the all-electric market, with its president Akio Toyoda last week offering a cautious outlook, citing as a major obstacle the creation of a convenient recharging system.

His comments came as Toyota showcased its “RAV4 EV” concept vehicle that is on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show in the US this month.

The all-electric version of Toyota’s RAV4 sports utility vehicle was developed with Tesla Motors, the US electric vehicle firm in which Toyota owns a 50-million-dollar stake.

The new plans come as the automaker works to rebuild an image plagued by safety recalls in the past year over unintended acceleration, engine, steering and brake problems. The recalls affected around 12 million vehicles in total.

Toyota added Thursday that it intends to introduce a fuel-cell powered sedan-type car around 2015 in the US, Europe and Japan. It is aiming for a price tag of under 10 million yen.

It is also ramping up efforts to develop next generation batteries that outperform current lithium-ion models.