GM New Technology And Products On Track, 14 Hybrid Models Coming By 2012

By dancurranjr On June 8th, 2009

gmIn all of the statements released by General Motors, the now bankrupt automaker said that its new products and technologies are on track. It said that that the New GM will continue with key vehicle launches in 2009 and 2010 including the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, 2010 Buick LaCrosse, 2010 Cadillac SRX and CTS Sport Wagon, the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox, Cruze and Volt along with the 2010 GMC Terrain.

“Our products are our future, and our lineup of new cars and crossovers are a great foundation for success,” said CEO Fritz Henderson. “The New GM is here to stay, and our brands position us to compete well in profitable segments with vehicles that are second-to-none.”

GM said that it will launch the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid by the end of 2010 and expects to have 14 hybrid models in production by 2012. It said that 65 percent of its vehicles will be alternative-fuel capable by 2014.

“The New GM will become a long-term global leader in the development of fuel-efficient and advanced-technology vehicles,” said Henderson. “In doing so, the New GM will contribute to the development of advanced engineering and manufacturing capabilities in the United States, which are critical to the future of the U.S. economy.”

SOURCE: AutoSpies

Hybrids Receive Attention as Consumers Fear Rising Gas Costs

By dancurranjr On May 2nd, 2009

With the air-conditioning blasting, William Harris gunned the engine of the Ford Fusion Hybrid and sped down Camelback Road, breaking abruptly at a stoplight.

If he didn’t know he was wasting fuel, the digital image of a withering green plant on the dashboard made it clear.

The new Fusion reserves a small spot on the digital-gauge readout for a plant that grows when the car is driven efficiently. After Harris’ two-block acceleration test, half the image’s leaves had fallen off.

Hybrid automakers commonly use digital readouts to coach conservation, showing how much power the engine and air-conditioning demand at different speeds and settings. But the Fusion takes possibly the most creative approach yet.

“People can actually change their driving habits by looking at this gauge,” said Praveen Cherian, project manager for Ford Motor Co.

Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, and other local officials got to try out the new Fusion in Phoenix this week as local dealerships offer the cars, starting at $28,000.

Cherian said Harris wouldn’t kill the plant regardless of how much he accelerated between stops or cranked up the air.

“We give you one leaf no matter what you do because you are smart enough to drive a hybrid,” Cherian said, adding that the plant display can be turned off.

gas-prices-1After last summer’s gas-price spike, fuel conservation has become much more important to all drivers, including those that buy large trucks, Ford officials said.

Ford says the car gets an average of 41 miles per gallon of gas in the city, thanks mostly to running on the electric motor up to a speed of 47 mph.

At highway speeds, as the gas engine is used more, the hybrid gets an average of 36 miles per gallon.

After about 10 minutes of stop-and-go driving, including a quick loop on Arizona 51, the car told Harris he had averaged 33.7 mpg.

“I was just trying it out, seeing what it could do,” Harris said. “If I drove it (conservatively) for another 10 minutes, I’d be getting 40 (mpg) easily.”

After the drive, Harris said he liked the way the car handled and switched seamlessly between the electric and gas systems, but for now, he’ll stick to his 2005 Toyota Prius.

Automakers’ recent commitment to making better hybrids is impressive, Harris said.

“I don’t think most people realize how seriously motor companies take these issues,” Harris said.

Ford invited fleet managers, university researchers and people who placed orders for the new Fords to drive the vehicles. Many had questions, including how long the batteries would last and whether Arizona’s heat could kill the battery.

Cherian said the batteries are rated to withstand Arizona’s heat. Some batteries have been running for more than 300,000 miles in taxicabs and are under warranty for 10 years or 150,000 miles.

The hybrid’s 700-mile range on a tank of fuel means travelers could nearly drive from Phoenix to San Diego and back without a refill.

Cherian said Ford and other auto manufacturers are serious about selling large volumes of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Ford will release an all-electric vehicle in 2010 aimed at fleets and a consumer model the following year, he said.

“We can’t just sell 20,000 hybrids and call it a day,” he said. “That is not making an impact.”

Some Ford fans couldn’t wait for the car to hit the lots before buying one.

“I’m a real Fordophile,” said Bob Stringham of Gilbert, who retired a year ago from Honeywell, and is waiting for delivery of the 2010 Fusion he bought for his wife.

“You know the gas prices are going back up,” he said.

Stringham bought the car early enough to take advantage of a $3,400 federal tax credit. That has been reduced to $1,700 for people who buy the Fusion before Sept. 30.

He drives a Mercury Mariner Hybrid now and is averaging 37 mpg, he said.

“I don’t do any weird hypermiling or anything like that,” he said, referring to the practice of coasting in neutral and light braking some drivers use to save fuel.

“As a mechanical engineer, this just makes so much sense.”

SOURCE: Arizona Republic

The Underwhelming Solar Prius

By dancurranjr On March 25th, 2009

toyota_priusThe solar roof that Toyota is offering as an option on its next-generation Prius hybrid sedan may be even less useful than expected, according to a report in the specialty publication EVWorld. The solar panels, reports EVWorld, will add not a microwatt of charge to drive the Prius.

Last summer, Technology Review looked at the potential impact of adding a solar roof to the Prius when rumors of Toyota’s plans first emerged. The clear conclusion of the experts was this: keep solar panels on rooftops, where they can be tilted toward the sun for maximum efficiency. A solar rooftop would be just a “marketing gimmick,” said Andrew Frank, a plug-in hybrid pioneer at the University of California, Davis, and chief technology officer for UC-Davis hybrid-vehicle spinoff Efficient Drivetrains.

Toyota, it turns out, won’t even bother plugging its solar rooftop panel into the 2010 Prius’s nickel-metal-hydride battery. EVWorld editor Bill Moore, citing a conversation with Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer for the Prius redesign, writes that

Toyota tried it and apparently discovered that for not-entirely-well-understood reasons, connecting the PV panels to the battery turns them into an “antenna” of sorts, which at the very least seems to disrupt the car’s radio.

So Toyota left it at that. The solar roof will simply help keep the car cool when it’s parked by running a fan to ventilate the car. For the average driver, that could be somewhat useful for, say, half the year.

I spoke with Otsuka while reporting from the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month, and learned that Toyota engineers are targeting a range of 20 kilometers in the EV mode for the plug-in version of the Prius. The lithium-battery-equipped vehicle is to be offered to Toyota’s fleet customers by the end of this year.

That would mark a boost over the 10-to-15-kilometer range offered by the nickel-metal-hydride-powered plug-in Prius that Toyota has been testing. But it remains just a third of the 60-kilometer range that GM is promising for its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, which is due out next year. GM’s design has already set off a debate over the cost effectiveness and efficiency of carrying the battery capacity that such range requires.

SOURCE: Technology Review

GM: Hybrid Drive A Good Fit For Pickups

By dancurranjr On March 17th, 2009

gmIn today’s falling market for full-size pickups, towing capability is more important than ever, General Motors Corp. believes. And that, it says, is one reason for its recent four point gain in market share, to 42 percent, in the segment.

According to AutoTech Daily, GM figures more buyers will embrace the new hybrid-electric versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra currently being launched by the company. The new pickups are fitted with the same two-mode hybrid system — teamed with a 6.0-liter V-8 engine — offered on the 2008-model Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade hybrids.

GM says the two-mode powertrain,which has four fixed gears as well as a planetary gear that combinesthe output of the gasoline and two electric motors, is a good fit for the pickups. The additional gear ratios improve towing capacity — 6,100 pounds for two-wheel-drive versions of the Chevy/GMC pickups — including in all-electric mode at speeds up to 30 mph. Although towing capacity is down significantly from the traditionally powered counterparts (9,700 lbs for a 2wd extended cab truck), GM says its system provides more oomph than Ford and Toyota’s hybrid trucks, which top out at 3,500 and 1,000 pounds, respectively.

Refinements also have been made to other parts of the pickups to better complement the hybrid system and optimize fuel economy, which is listed at 21 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway in the two-wheel-drive model, up 40 percent in the city and 25 percent overall compared
to gasoline-only models.

The 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery drives the 42-volt electric steering unit through a DC-to-DC converter. In addition to recharging the battery, regenerative braking helps extend the life of the regular brake linings.

The 2010 pickups also get low-rolling-resistance tires. A new exhaust system is tuned specifically for the V-8’s cylinder deactivation
system — which cuts cylinders under partial-load operation.

A new hydraulic shock mount on the cab helps reduce vibration. The feature also will be included in GM’s non-hybrid pickups. In the hybrid models, the system is teamed with a new low-noise electric cooling fan for the battery pack.

Despite the benefits, GM expects fewer than 15 percent of its full-size pickup buyers to opt for the hybrid system. This compares to a 25 percent take rate for the Escalade hybrid, which GM says is one of the highest rates for a hybrid drive in vehicles that offer it as an option. The hybrid versions of the Tahoe/Yukon account for about 15 percent of Chevy/GMC full-size SUV sales.

The two-mode hybrid system was developed in partnership with DaimlerChrysler and BMW. Chrysler briefly offered the system in the Durango and Aspen before killing both vehicles in the face of the company’s economic woes. BMW will launch its version in the new X6 crossover later this year. GM also plans to offer the system in the Saturn Vue, although the program has been delayed and is somewhat questionable considering the future of Saturn itself is in jeopardy.

SOURCE: WWJ News Radio

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Expands Its Hybrid Fleet Nationwide

By dancurranjr On February 4th, 2009

Clayton-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car is adding 5,000 hybrids nationwide to its fleet and has designated about 80 of its 6,100 U.S. rental locations as “hybrid branches,” the car-rental company said today.

The “hybrid branches” will be more concentrated in hybrids than other locations and will allow customers to reserve the hybrids online or by phone, spokeswoman Lisa Martini said.

In the St. Louis area, the branches at 8844 Ladue Rd. in Clayton and at 1 S. Broadway in downtown St. Louis received the hybrid location designation. The Lambert-St. Louis International Airport office will soon be named the third local hybrid branch. About 60 hybrids — including the Toyota Prius, Ford Escape and Toyota Camry — will be available among the three locations, Martini said.

With the addition of the 5,000 vehicles, Enterprise will have a total of 7,000 hybrids.

Hybrids typically cost more to buy than their traditional gas-powered counterparts. Since Enterprise’s initial investment will be higher, the rental rate will be slightly more, Martini said. For example, a vehicle in Enterprise’s “standard” lineup costs about $39.63 per day, while a “standard” hybrid like the Prius costs about $43.59 a day, Martini said, quoting today’s rate.

Hybrids have received plenty of attention since gas prices jumped to $4 a gallon this summer. This segment was one of the most talked-about groups of vehicles at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month. But as gas prices have fallen below $2 a gallon, consumers’ interest in hybrids has waned, analysts have said.

Despite the lower gas prices, Enterprise still sees demand for fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles, Martini said.

Although today’s announcements apply to the Enterprise brand, the Alamo and National brand locations rent another 2,000 hybrids. Enterprise-owner Andy Taylor and his family also own these brands.

Together, the three brands operate more than 1 million vehicles worldwide.

Source: STL Today