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BMW i3 tries to be the answer for a changing world [w/video]

By Sebastian Blanco

orange bmw i3

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The production version of the BMW i3 was unveiled yesterday at three simultaneous events in New York City, London and Beijing. Given that the i3 grew out a BMW electric vehicle project called Megacity, the urban debut locations make a lot of sense. Since BMW literally spent years researching urban trends in the Megacity project, years when the competition was building and selling EVs already, there is a lot of pressure on the German automaker to come out with an EV that is the right fit for today’s cities.

BMW’s message is that the i3 actually represents the beginning of electric mobility for the company.

BMW had help in this from the Mini E and Active E electric vehicle pilot programs. One way you can see the company’s EV history is in the location of the charge port on the rear passenger side. Most plug-in vehicles today put the charging connector in the front, but both the Mini E and Active E had a rear charge port and BMW didn’t get enough complaints to change it for the i3. If you opt to pay the roughly $4,000 extra for the gas-powered range extender, then your i3 will be built with a second fuel door, this one on the right front of the car. Putting the ports in these locations cuts down on the amount of fuel lines and wires required in the car, which in turn contributes to the i3’s light weight (official figures are not yet available, but BMW estimates the i3 weighs around 2,700 pounds). It’s all connected.

Despite BMW’s years of testing and driver feedback on earlier EV programs, the official message in New York was that the i3 actually represents the beginning of electric mobility for the company. As Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG, said in New York, “The car has existed for nearly 130 years. Today marks a shift – a change – in the future of mobility.

Does it?

Continue reading BMW i3 tries to be the answer for a changing world [w/video]

BMW i3 tries to be the answer for a changing world [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Wed, 31 Jul 2013 14:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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'What On Earth!' documentary shows how cars might look to aliens

By Sebastian Blanco

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There’s a classic The Far Side comic where two aliens, cleverly disguised as traffic lights, discuss eliminating the Earth’s population slowly, one at a time. The joke, of course, is that things aren’t always what they seem.

Apparently, filmmakers Les Drew and Kaj Pindal had a similar idea back in 1966, when they made the animated short called What on Earth! The nine-minute movie is a satirical look at Earth from outer space. Specifically, when Martians arrive on our blue rock, they assume, based on the observable conditions, the automobile is the dominant species. It’s a warm and funny little video, especially the part about how getting crushed and heading to the junk yard is an individual’s final contribution to society. The Film Board says, “This animated short proposes what many earthlings have long feared – that the automobile has inherited the planet. When life on Earth is portrayed as one long, unending conga-line of cars, a crew of extra-terrestrial visitors understandably assume they are the dominant race. While humans, on the other hand, are merely parasites.”

What On Earth! was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 1967, but lost to something called The Box. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, the movie was shown in theaters and on ABC television in the US in the 1960s. Now, it is available for your viewing pleasure simply by clicking below.

Continue reading ‘What On Earth!’ documentary shows how cars might look to aliens

‘What On Earth!’ documentary shows how cars might look to aliens originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Tue, 30 Jul 2013 19:55:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Mitsubishi working on 500-horsepower hybrid Evo?

By Danny King

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Until reality sets in, we’ll settle for this report about Mitsubishi building what can only be described as one super plug-in hybrid. The Japanese automaker, per UK’s Autocar, is working on a version of the Lancer Evolution that would take on the Nissan GT-R.

Specifically, Autocar, citing what it says are “highly placed Mitsubishi executives,” says the PHEV would pair a 2.0-liter gas engine with two 80-horsepower electric motors to provide an awfully impressive 500 horsepower along with fuel economy of 150 miles per gallon (per the more lenient European driving cycle) and an all-electric driving range of as many as 40 miles.

Mitsubishi would use some of the technology employed in the MiEV Evolution II plug-in that raced at Pikes Peak this year, and while we don’t think it’ll look quite like that car (pictured above), we can dream a bit. Remaining an issue for Mitsubishi plug-ins, car execs say, is the continued lack of consensus on a fast-charging standard in the US, as Mitsubishi and Nissan continue to push for the CHAdeMO standard while US and European automakers bang the drum for the so-called SAE/”combo” fast-charging standard.

Mitsubishi working on 500-horsepower hybrid Evo? originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Wed, 24 Jul 2013 11:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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US to join EU in fighting Russian auto recycling fee as trade barrier

By Danny King

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If they’re not going to get you on the front end, they’ll get you on the back end. That’s what the European Union is accusing the Russian government of doing with automotive trade restrictions, and the US appears to agree, Reuters reports. The US is joining the EU in a World Trade Organization (WTO) claim that Russia is violating trade agreements by imposing an auto-recycling fees on cars imported into the country.

Russia doesn’t have such a fee for Russia-produced vehicles. Therefore, such a fee is no different than the import tax that the Russians were told to remove in order to become part of the WTO.

When it comes to the automotive industry, Russian trade agreements have become all the more relevant as more people buy cars in the country. By the end of the decade, Russian auto sales will increase to 4.4 million units annually, which would make it the world’s fifth-largest auto market, and will leapfrog Germany to become Europe’s largest, Automotive News reports, citing a report from Boston Consulting Group.

US to join EU in fighting Russian auto recycling fee as trade barrier originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Mon, 22 Jul 2013 07:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Gulf CEO says oil prices could halve by end of year, cause global instability [w/video]

By Danny King

Joseph Petrowski, Gulf Oil CEO on CNBC - video screencap

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It’s just one in a laundry list of factors, but more fuel-efficient cars could make a difference in lowering oil prices dramatically to half their present levels, plunging to $50 a barrel by the end of the year. That’s what Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski is predicting in a new interview on CNBC‘s Squawk Box, though he is quick to point out that a halving of oil prices doesn’t necessarily translate to a halving of fuel prices. And, as CNN reports, lower oil prices could mean protests in oil-producing OPEC nations.

Petrowski highlights the fact that North America is “producing record amounts of oil and natural gas,” adding that OPEC suppliers are up as well. Additionally, demand from countries like China has ebbed, while the utilities sector has also cut its use of oil. Petrowski estimates that a shortage of pipelines and the need to transport fuel via rail and truck adds about 40 cents a gallon to gas prices. CNN explains that more domestic energy production (and, again, dropping demand in China) means that “demand for OPEC oil may fall by a million barrels a day over the next three years.” Given that Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations rely on high oil prices to fund domestic spending, lower crude prices could cause instability around the world, from Iran to Venezuela to Russia.

Lower oil prices don’t influence gas prices directly, but, they will have an impact on gas prices – and thus the car market in the US. Right now, the price of regular gas in the States has climbed about 15 cents in the past week to $3.66 a gallon, according to AAA. Prices are about even with a month ago, but have risen about seven percent in the past year. For more, check out a video of Petrowski’s interview on CNBC by scrolling below.

Continue reading Gulf CEO says oil prices could halve by end of year, cause global instability [w/video]

Gulf CEO says oil prices could halve by end of year, cause global instability [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Fri, 19 Jul 2013 09:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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All of a sudden, Nissan doesn't have enough Leafs to go around

By Sebastian Blanco

2013 nissan leaf

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March: 2,236. April: 1,937. May: 2,138. June: 2,225.

Those are the US sales totals for the Nissan Leaf over the last four months. According to Erik Gottfried, Nissan’s director of electric vehicle sales and marketing, the numbers are a bit too high. Or production is too low. Or something. Point is, demand is apparently outstripping supply.

Nissan says it’s “going to be short on inventory all through the summer.”

Despite having a stated annual capacity of 150,000 Leaf EVs at its Smyrna, TN plant – over 10,000 a month – Leaf production in the Volunteer State has not yet ramped up to a level that can satisfy demand for 2,200 Leafs a month. According to Automotive News, Gottfried recently told dealers in Texas that, “we’re doing everything we can to get them more inventory. But it’s taking some time. … We’re going to be short on inventory all through the summer. It will be late fall before we can produce enough to satisfy everybody.”

Everybody in this case means the expanding markets outside the West Coast, where all the cool EVs have long been allowed to play. AN says that the third-largest market for the Leaf is now Atlanta, where there is only a nine-day supply of the EV. The world’s most popular highway-speed EV (over 60,000 have been sold worldwide, and around 30,000 in the US) got a big price drop earlier this year when the company started making the car in the US. Previously, all Leafs were exported from Japan.

All of a sudden, Nissan doesn’t have enough Leafs to go around originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Mon, 15 Jul 2013 17:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Roadster batteries likely to perform better than Tesla predicts

By Sebastian Blanco

orange tesla roadster with lightwriting

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Once the epitome of EV cool, the Tesla Roadster has kind of taken a back seat to the new electric vehicles in the market it helped spawn. Turns out, even in the background, the Roadster has things to teach us. Or, at least it does to the experts at Plug In America who recently took a closer look at the EV’s battery pack.

See, in 2006, when the Roadster was new, Tesla said the Roadster’s 53-kWh lithium-ion battery pack – good for 244 miles of range when new – would have 70 percent of its capacity after five years or 50,000 miles. With plenty of “old” Roadsters on the road, PIA studied four percent of the packs out there today and discovered that the packs have an “average of 80- to 85-percent of capacity after 100,000 miles driven.” The numbers were self-reported to PIA’s website by Roadster owners in a project that started in January.

The numbers come from PIA’s chief science officer, Tom Saxton, who conducted the first-ever independent assessment and announced the results at the recent Teslive Tesla users conference. According to a statement, he said, “Our study also found no discernable effect of climate on battery-pack longevity. Roadster owners in hot climates are not seeing noticeably different battery capacity profiles than owners in moderate climates.” Last year, PIA surveyed Nissan Leaf owners and discovered that hot climates were affecting the packs more than expected. Surveys on the first-generation Toyota RAV4 EV and Tesla Model S are underway.

Continue reading Roadster batteries likely to perform better than Tesla predicts

Roadster batteries likely to perform better than Tesla predicts originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Mon, 15 Jul 2013 14:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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SRI tackling Baja's General Tire Mexican 1000 in an electric buggy [w/video]

By Danny King

SR1 off-road EV

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Whatdya expect, a Nissan Leaf? Nope, the National Off Road Racing Association’s (NORRA) General Tire Mexican 1000 off-road rally, which starts this weekend, will feature its first-ever all-electric vehicle, and judging by what we see above, it certainly looks the part.

SRI EV1, built by SRI, SRD and EV West, is an open-wheeled monster that delivers 535 horsepower and houses enough battery power to supply a typical American home. For a week.

Concessions needed to be made to accommodate the electric racer, since as the SR1 doesn’t have battery packs big enough to tackle all of the 1,200-plus mile race. The plan is to complete all three of the Special Stages on the first day and then run in portions of the distance on the ensuing three days depending on how the pack fares (there are no Blink stations in southern Baja, as far as we know). Check out NORRA‘s press release and a short video about the SRI EV1 below.

Continue reading SRI tackling Baja’s General Tire Mexican 1000 in an electric buggy [w/video]

SRI tackling Baja’s General Tire Mexican 1000 in an electric buggy [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Sat, 27 Apr 2013 10:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tesla announces 'World's Best Service and Warranty Program,' hints at future 500-mile battery

By Domenick Yoney

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Tesla Motors has just revealed the latest edition of it 5-part announcement trilogy. Whereas the previous first installment had to do with the company’s new leasing program, this episode is all about service and warranty, comes gift-wrapped in the glittery descriptor of “World’s Best,” and is accompanied by hints of a future battery upgrade.

The new plan improves on the California automaker’s service program by adding a valet service that brings you a top-spec Model S Performance – or a Tesla Roadster, if you prefer – to temporarily replace your personal vehicle while it’s being serviced. CEO Elon Musk states that this fleet of Model S service vehicles, which will initially number about 100, will ideally be less than three months old and also be available for immediate sale. Like your loaner more than your own car? You can keep it, paying “a price that is lower by 1% per month of age and $1 per mile” for your new ride and taking, likely, a similar hit on your trade-in.

Musk hinted that a 500-mile battery would not be an unreasonable thing to expect in four or five years.

Not only should the purchase scheme keep the loaner fleet nice and fresh, it may also create a cache of certified pre-owned inventory for buyers who are looking for a deal on a Tesla that starts at $69,900 from the factory, or who would rather not wait a couple months for a new, made-to-order car.

As well as no-travel hassle, Tesla has also made its $600 annual service optional without effecting the standard 5-year/50,000-mile warranty. The company has also made the battery portion of the warranty unconditional, meaning that, if you manage to somehow turn it into a useless brick (something that should be quite difficult to accomplish with the Model S), you will get a replacement unit of equal capacity free of charge.

Speaking of battery capacity, during the media call, Mr. Musk also offered some hope for those anxious for packs that hold more energy than the current EPA-estimated 265-mile/85 kilowatt-hour packs now available. In response to a question about upcoming technology improvements, he hinted that a 500-mile battery would not be an unreasonable thing to expect in four or five years. He then added that, eventually, Tesla would likely offer owners the opportunity to upgrade their vehicles with longer-range capabilities.

It all sounds pretty good to us, and we can’t help but think if this upstart company keeps it up, surpassing sales of the Chevy Volt might seem a minor accomplishment. For more details on this newest warranty arrangement, you can get more details in a blog post on the Tesla website.

Tesla announces ‘World’s Best Service and Warranty Program,’ hints at future 500-mile battery originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Fri, 26 Apr 2013 19:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for

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Each Karma 'cost' Fisker $660,000 to produce

By Danny King

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Looks like the $100,000 or so Leo and Bieber plunked down for their Fisker Karma extended-range plug-in vehicles may have been a bargain. The California-based automaker, which appears to be headed for bankruptcy, spent an estimated $660,000 for every one of fewer than 2,500 vehicles it made during its short production history, research firm PrivCo says in a new study. That doesn’t mean each Karma actually cost $660,000 to make, just that all the money spent by Fisker, divided by the number of cars produced, result in that number.

PrivCo has put together a detailed timeline of Fisker’s money gains and losses, and you can see the gory details here. PrivCo CEO Sam Hamadeh, in an April 17 statement, called Fisker “the largest venture capital-backed debacle in U.S. history.” In addition to the $193 million the company drew down from its $529 million credit line with the government, the company raised about $1.2 billion.

The company recently furloughed its US workers and has brought on an advisor for a potential bankruptcy. And last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Fisker will also be subject of a hearing from House Republicans, who will likely have a field day with PrivCo’s report. Add this to the news that Fisker continued to use funds from its US Department of Energy loan after it had violated terms of the loan multiple times, and you can see how Congress members who’ve been bashing green-energy loans the federal government‘s been doling out are looking forward to the April 24 hearing.

Each Karma ‘cost’ Fisker $660,000 to produce originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Fri, 19 Apr 2013 16:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Emperor Bob Lutz doesn't disappoint in SAE World Congress keynote

By Sebastian Blanco

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Sometimes, a little suggestion goes a long, long way. Speaking at the SAE World Congress in Detroit today, Bob Lutz took a proposal from the conference organizers to frame his speech around the idea that he was king of the auto industry for a week and ran with it. He said he’d need to rule over the entire US to get his ideas enacted, oh, and be an all-encompassing emperor instead of a mere king. In other words, Maximum Bob remains as big as ever, attacking the “religion” of climate change, pointing out why diesel doesn’t make sense in the US and explaining why raising the national gas tax just makes sense.

“Reducing fuel consumption by forcing automakers to sell smaller vehicles is like fighting obesity by forcing clothing manufacturer to sell only small sizes.”

Let’s start with climate change, where Emperor Bob said, “I would insist on giving equal time to the growing scientific body that is not convinced that climate change is man-made and I would say, just leave room for honest debate. That’s what this emperor would decree.”

Once the “honest debate” starts, “This emperor would ask that the laws of common sense be applied. And in this case, the laws of common sense simply dictate – always has – that if you want someone to use less of a given commodity, you raise the price of that commodity. How hard is that for anyone to grasp? With all this complicated CAFE and CO2 legislation, we’re attacking the problem from the wrong end of the pump when we dictate that automakers make vehicles that go farther and farther on a gallon is wrong. What happens in the real world, as will always be the case, is people don’t buy smaller, more efficient vehicles and pocket the extra cash. People will continue to buy larger vehicles and spend the same amount of money on fuel because, mentally, they’ve got a sort of finite fuel budget and they think it’s a good deal.”

After all, he said, “Reducing fuel consumption by forcing automakers to sell smaller and more frugal vehicles is like fighting the nation’s obesity epidemic by forcing clothing manufacturer to sell only small sizes. If you want less obesity, then what you would do is you would raise the price of fatty foods.”

Continue reading Emperor Bob Lutz doesn’t disappoint in SAE World Congress keynote

Emperor Bob Lutz doesn’t disappoint in SAE World Congress keynote originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Thu, 18 Apr 2013 14:55:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tesla readying fleet of 80 Model S EVs to use as service loaners

By Danny King

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Fear not, Tesla drivers. When you take your Model S into the shop and need a loaner car, you’ll get… another Model S.

Tesla chief Elon Musk tells USA Today that the all-electric vehicle maker will set aside about 80 Model S vehicles specifically for customers who need to take their cars in for some work. And wait, there’s more. Not only will Tesla make sure the loaners are the top-of-the-line, 265-mile single-charge range variety, but the company will even have Tesla folks bring them to customers’ homes or offices to eliminate the need for the dreaded drive to the shop. Musk credits Lexus with the idea of making sure customers don’t have to downgrade when they take their cars to the dealer garage. Considering you’re paying $600 a year for Tesla’s service plan, it’s the least the company could do.

Earlier this month, Tesla said it had its first-ever profitable quarter for the first quarter and that it sold 4,750 cars through the end of March, 250 more than its sales target.

Tesla readying fleet of 80 Model S EVs to use as service loaners originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 16:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tesla loses court battle with former exec, faces further class action

By Domenick Yoney

David Vespremi

Filed under: The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow and fine, but, if you’re demonstrably in the right, and have (a lot) of patience and a capable lawyer, good things can happen. An example of this might be a particular David versus Goliath Tesla case that has just been resolved.

David Vespremi, former director of communications for the California automaker (and new Epic Torq owner) was part of a mass firing, which ousted Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard called, at the time, a “Stealth Bloodbath” in which 26 employees were let go at once without advance warning. Unwilling to take what seemed like a wrongful dismissal lying down, Vespremi and his legal representative Yosef Peretz took his case to the courts. A similar situation is playing itself out over at Fisker Automotive, where recent sudden layoffs have triggered a federal lawsuit over alleged violations of the US Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which mandates a 60-day notification period before mass layoffs.

In any case, after five long litigious years, Vesprimi has just received word that the court has found in his favor as regards to his entitlement to 10,000 shares of stock options. This translates to $207,000 in cold, hard cash.

While Tesla will certainly be happy to put this case behind it – the company has, no doubt, already spent far more than the final award on the proceedings – it still faces further fallout from the decision.

With the principles of its obligations to former employees vis-à-vis stock options now established, it faces a further class action suit filed on behalf 99 other former workers with carbon-copy claims. While that may add up to a significant out lay for Tesla, it might find comfort in the fact that at least some of that money may very well find its way back in the form of orders for more of its Model S.

We have asked Tesla for a comment on the situation, but did not get a response before publication. We will update this post when we hear back.

Tesla loses court battle with former exec, faces further class action originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 14:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tesla gains legal ground in New York dealer fight

By Danny King

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Tesla Motors gained a legal victory in its continuing efforts to expand sales across the US now that New York Supreme Court Justice Raymond J. Elliott III decided that local dealers will not be allowed to cite the Franchised Dealer Act as a reason to sue competitors, Automotive News reports.

Tesla has been embroiled in a legal tussle in the Empire State (and others) since last October, when New York dealers sued Tesla in an effort to get the California-based company to shutter the state’s company-owned stores. Tesla operates three stores and two service centers in New York.

Tesla has long argued that it should be allowed to operate its own stores because of the different nature of cars like its Model S and the fact that servicing those vehicles is simply different than working on conventional vehicles. Traditional laws dictate that car sellers be franchises that are independent from automakers.

Tesla chief Elon Musk was in Texas this week lobbying for a law that would allow electric vehicle companies to sell their cars directly to the public. He hinted Tesla could build a factory in Texas, the state with the second-highest number of publicly accessible charging stations to (after California), at some point in the future.

Tesla gains legal ground in New York dealer fight originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Sat, 13 Apr 2013 17:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Fiat 500e priced at $32,500, leases start at $199/month

By Sebastian Blanco

Fiat 500e on the move

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Something interesting happened on the way to make the 2014 Fiat 500e a real car. As the idea for the car was bandied about in public for many years, FiatChrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne complained bitterly, saying the only reason the car was coming to market was because mean ol’ California was forcing Fiat to do so. This was after he said that Fiat would lose $10,000 on each one they sell. That’s all pretty boilerplate stuff. What’s interesting is that Fiat has gone ahead and priced the Fiat 500e so competitively that you’d think they wanted to sell a million of these things. Or lease a million, at least.

The Fiat 500e has a bargain lease price of $199/month for 36 months with $999 down.

That’s the message we take away from the surprisingly affordable lease price of $199 a month for 36 months with $999 down. Those are the same numbers as if you went in to lease a gas-powered 500 Pop. If you want to buy the little electric vehicle outright, it’ll cost you $32,500, but that’s before a potential $7,500 federal tax credit and – since the car will only be sold in California, at least for the first year – the state will kick in another $2,500. Fiat is also promising company rebates that could drop the price down to $20,500, which puts the 500e well into the range of most of the people we know of in the EV buyer demographic.

The 500e is officially rated at 122 MPGe in the city, with highway efficiency at 108 MPGe, for a combined 116 MPGe. The official range number is an impressive 87 miles, and from what we’ve seen, that might be a low estimate. Throw in up to 12 days of free rental cars through Enterprise and something called the Fiat 500e Pass program and you’ve got a non-Tesla EV that allows drivers a long-distance solution when needed. The electric Cinquecento goes on sale in California this summer. Want one? Have your say in Comments.

Continue reading Fiat 500e priced at $32,500, leases start at $199/month

Fiat 500e priced at $32,500, leases start at $199/month originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Sat, 13 Apr 2013 00:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Shell Eco-marathon

By Sebastian Blanco

shell eco-marathon mater dei

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An Oil Company Spends Big To Teach Students To Use Less

The Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 is over, the winners declared. Thousands of excited students came to Houston last weekend with 140 cars and the winning team managed to get upwards of 3,580 miles per gallon. Now that the cars have been packed up and shipped back to schools throughout the hemisphere, from Alaska to Brazil, we can look back and discuss some of the bigger issues that the three frenzied, fuel-efficient competition days – and the months of hard work leading up to the event – raise.

Before leaving Houston, we got to sit down with representatives from Shell, which spends an undisclosed amount of money to put on these Eco-marathons around the world. It’s a huge undertaking, and one that has lots of positive angles and some particularly thorny ones. But first, a short history.

The story goes that the first Eco-marathon started as a bet between two Shell engineers. The year was 1939 and the winner managed to hit 49.39 mpg.

The story goes that the first Eco-marathon was started as a bet between two Shell engineers to see who could go further on a gallon of fuel. The year was 1939 and the winner managed to hit 49.39 miles per gallon in a 1933 Plymouth. They had so much fun they did it again and, by 1949, the winner was getting 150.53 mpg. The numbers kept going up from there. 1968: 244.62 mpg. 1973: 392.02 mpg. And so on. The event was known as the Shell Mileage Marathon, but in 1985, a name change signified the start of the event in its current form. That year, students from 20 European countries in 25 teams competed in the first Eco-marathon in France, and the winners managed to get 1599.45 mpg. The 1997 event was canceled because of heavy rain and in 2006 the first solar cars ran the race. In 2007, the event was held in the US for the first time, in Fontana, CA, and Asia joined the party in 2010. Today, across the three events, over 400 teams participate each year. Next year, a fourth location will draw teams from the Middle East and Africa. The current record is 8,914 mpg, set by a French team in 2003.

Continue reading Shell Eco-marathon

Shell Eco-marathon originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Fri, 12 Apr 2013 14:54:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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House Republicans will hold hearing on Fisker, Henrik asks for travel funds

By Danny King

2012 fisker karma

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House Republicans have been critical of the Obama Administration over new-energy loans to companies such as Tesla Motors, and will hold a hearing later this month to discuss struggling California-based Fisker Automotive, the Wall Street Journal says.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said he will also accelerate a probe into Fisker’s business, and told Automotive News that Fisker, “is a design company, not a manufacturing company. It was destined to fail from the beginning. The greater concern is, does this affect more viable companies, whether they received loans or not?”

Co-founder Henrik Fisker, CEO Tony Posawatz and COO Bernhard Koehler are among those being asked to testify in the April 24 hearing, the Journal reports. Fisker resigned as the company’s executive chairman in March.

“Fisker is a design company, not a manufacturing company. It was destined to fail from the beginning” – Darrell Issa, R-CA.

Republicans have criticized the Obama Administration for US Energy Department loans to companies such as electric-vehicle maker Tesla, now-bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC and Fisker, whose $529-million credit line with the government was frozen after just $192 million was distributed because the automaker missed certain production quotas. Nonetheless, Fisker (the man, not the company) has asked for travel expenses reimbursement, but told the Detroit News, “If they are not going to reimburse me as guided by (a staff member), I am still planning to travel on my own expense to testify as I have nothing to hide.”

Last month, Fisker furloughed its US employees and hired a law firm for a potential bankruptcy proceeding.

House Republicans will hold hearing on Fisker, Henrik asks for travel funds originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Thu, 11 Apr 2013 18:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Shell Eco-marathon: 1959 Fiat 600 brings hypermiling history to Houston

By Sebastian Blanco

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Long before the Fiat 500 came to the US to try and capture the public’s imagination, a Fiat 600 was cruising in the Shell Mileage Marathons (the precursor to today’s Eco-marathons) and setting records by getting over 300 miles per gallon. The little red cutie was on display at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 in Houston, TX this weekend to remind the students participating in the challenge – and the public stopping by to see what all the crazy cars were about – incredible that fuel efficiency is nothing new.

“They’d crank it, run and then kill the engine and coast. Same thing they’re doing here. They just did it with real cars back then.”

The 1959 Fiat 600 in question is currently in the hands of Ken Smith, who maintains a website on its history. For years, the car sat a junked state near the Talladega Museum before making headlines when it was discovered in 2007. “We didn’t know what it was at first,” he told AutoblogGreen, but bought it anyway and discovered that it had a fuel-saving past, running in the Wood River Mileage Marathons. Those events ended in the late 1970s, but with the Eco-marathons now back in the US, Smith thought it made sense to display the car. He also showed the car at the 2012 event in Houston.

The Fiat 600 ran at least three times in the Mileage Marathons, Smith said. It managed 173 mpg in 1967, 244 in 1968 and 304 in 1973. The car looks like a normal Fiat 600, but there were serious changes made inside.

“Basically, what they did was everything that ran off the pully at the bottom, they took off,” he said. “The alternator is gone, the water pump is gone, the radiator is gone. There’s no fan. They used electric pumps to circulate the water, and they used a small heater core as a small radiator for the air to come through, and the air would pick up the heat and help cool the water. But they didn’t run the engine that long. They’d crank it, run and then kill the engine and coast. Same thing they’re doing here. They just did it with real cars back then.”

You can read more about this year’s Shell Eco-marathon here and here.

Shell Eco-marathon: 1959 Fiat 600 brings hypermiling history to Houston originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Mon, 08 Apr 2013 18:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tesla increases lease calculator costs; Supercharging, 'mystery' announcement coming soon

By Sebastian Blanco

tesla model s driving

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Even Tesla Motors hasn’t totally figured out the details of the just-announced Model S “lease” program. Yesterday, when the financial product was first revealed, the small print on the company’s online calculator described a 66-month loan and a tiered monthly payment structure, depending on which model you chose: $1,199 a month for the 85-kWh Model S, $1,421 for the 85-kWh Performance model and $1,051 for the 60-kWh version. Today, all three of these prices have been increased slightly, to $1,252 (85-kWh), $1,483 (Performance) and $1,097 (60-kWh). Tesla spokesperson Shanna Hendriks told AutoblogGreen, “We made a small change to the site overnight – changing the 66-month term to a 63-month term. We were incorrect with putting 66 months initially. I believe this is the reason for the discrepancy.”

Today, all three of these prices have been increased slightly.

So, yeah, there’s some confusion out there. Since the announcement, the Internet has been abuzz with critics taking Tesla to task for CEO Elon Musk’s insistence that the “true cost of ownership” can be driven below $500 a month. It can, using Telsa’s calculator, if you live in a world where you’re always getting paid $100/hour and therefore your 15 minute gas station stop is valued at $25. And you fill up four times a month. With premium gas. In a car that gets terrible fuel economy. We found that making these assumptions were the best way to get our “effective monthly cost” down to $500 or less. Oh, and claiming your Model S for business purposes helped tremendously. You can see why Tesla’s stock went down 7.3 percent since the “lease” news came out.

Nonetheless, Musk is confident that his numbers are right – he told Automotive News that “Even if you don’t count the time savings, you can own the car for net cash out of pocket for $500 a month, no marketing gimmicks. Some people wanted to call bull—t on us because we had certain default [calculations] set up on the site, and we have fixed them” and also “I just want to make sure people really do appreciate that $500 is a real number and not some sort of marketing fiction” – and is promising more announcements throughout all of April. Next week, we’ll learn something about servicing and the week after that will be one about Supercharging and after that, Musk said, “there will be a mystery announcement. Then we’ll shut up and hopefully people won’t be sick of us.” It all depends on what those announcements will be.

Tesla increases lease calculator costs; Supercharging, ‘mystery’ announcement coming soon originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Wed, 03 Apr 2013 18:55:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Diesel benefits shrink as gas engines get more fuel-efficient, torquier

By Danny King

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Could all of the work some automakers are doing to increase diesel engine adoption in the US be going up in a cloud of smoke? Maybe so, as torquier and more fuel-efficient gasoline engines and cheapening hybrid technology are cutting into what had been perceived as the advantages of diesel drivetrains, the Detroit News says.

While companies like General Motors and Chrysler have announced plans to add diesel models, Ford, Toyota and Hyundai are eschewing the technology for passenger cars. Hyundai CEO John Krafcik estimated that a diesel-powered car costs, on average, $5,000 more than a similar gas-powered car, while the price premium for hybrid-powered vehicles is about $1,500.

US diesel sales jumped 25 percent last year, but diesels sill only account for 2.7 percent of the overall market.

Additionally, gas engines are being developed to deliver more torque at the low end, which provides one of diesels benefits without the drawback of (currently) about 36 cents more per gallon compared to regular unleaded. While US diesel-vehicle sales did jump 25 percent last year, they sill only account for about 2.7 percent of new US cars, or slightly less than hybrids’ market share, the newspaper says, citing Edmunds. Diesels account for about half of the new vehicles sold in Europe.

In February, General Motors unveiled the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, which will be GM‘s first diesel passenger car in the US since the 1986 Chevrolet Chevette. The Cruze Diesel, which is turbocharged, will deliver 148 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque as well as 42 miles per gallon highway fuel economy.

Late last year, Germany‘s largest automakers, including Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, joined up for their “Clean Diesel. Clearly Better.” campaign, which promoted diesels as a relatively inexpensive way to boost fuel economy and combat rising refueling prices. Last year, VW‘s clean-diesel sales jumped 32 percent from 2011 to almost 83,000 units, while diesel sales for Audi in the US were down 1.6 percent to 7,179 vehicles.

Diesel benefits shrink as gas engines get more fuel-efficient, torquier originally appeared on Autoblog Green on Tue, 02 Apr 2013 18:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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