After months of teasers and years of testing, BMW showed off the i3 today, its first electric vehicle designed to go into full production. The odd-looking hatchback offers some of the “green cred” of Toyota’s Prius, combined with a promise of BMW-like driving that should please those who don’t want to give up much performance to get there. But because BMW also offers an option of a small gasoline engine to extend the car’s range up to 160+ miles, the i3 ends up encroaching on the territory of both the Chevrolet Volt and even some of the ground is seeking to conquer. …read more
Two well-known computer software hackers plan to publicly release this week a veritable how-to guide for driving two widely owned automobiles haywire.
According to Reuters, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek will release the findings — as well as related software — at the Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas, showing how to manipulate a Toyota Prius and Ford Escape.
The research, conducted with the aid of a grant from the U.S. government, can alternately force a Prius to brake at 80 mph, veer quickly and dramatically, or accelerate, all without the driver’s prompting.
When meeting a duo of computer hackers for the very first time, we imagine hearing the words, “We want to convince you that we can hurt you, without hurting you,” is bound to raise the hounds of anxiety upon your mental makeup. At least, it would ours. And it’s those words, uttered by Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek to Forbes staff reporter Andy Greenberg, that introduce us to the reality that modern-day cars can indeed be hacked.
The next frightening step, which is outlined in the video below, involves entering into a Toyota Prius that looks like a science project gone wrong – missing dash, wires hanging down and a laptop computer hiding in the back seat. It’s kind of like being a human marionette puppet with the strings held high above by Dr. Frankenstein’s techy grandson. In other words, “Are you guys both buckled up?” is no longer a friendly safety-minded reminder, it’s a scared-for-my-life requirement.
See how these two hackers earned a bunch of money from the US government to hack into a couple of cars in the video below. And keep your tinfoil hats close by.
Toyota Prius owners aren’t bad folks. With a few exceptions, they’re just normal people that appreciate the comfortable, high-mileage hybrid. Someone in Arlington, Virginia doesn’t see it that way, though, as 14 examples (and one Smart) had at least one tire slashed last Sunday night.
The serial tire-slasher didn’t any items from the vehicles, but he or she has left owners with substantial bills and sour dispositions. According to a report from ABC affiliate WJLA, some citizens are considering the matter a hate crime.
Despite the targeting of Toyota hybrids and the acquisition of one fingerprint, police have been unable to make any arrests, as the slasher has targeted vehicles across the county. Take a look at the local news report from WJLAbelow.
Google, Stanford University, and a few other institutions have been testing driverless cars on American roads for some time now. Soon, though, the autonomous vehicle will go across the pond for their first tests on the wrong side of public roads.
The BBC reports that the British government has approved testing of driverless cars, provided a real human being is riding along in the event that things go wonky. The okay came from the Department of Transport, which included the testing as part of a 28 billion pound ($42.5 million at today’s rates) investment to combat the notorious congestion on British roads.
The appeal of driverless cars is rather easy to see on the overused UK road network. As the DoT report states, driverless cars “maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front at a set speed and without deviating from their lane – all without the driver’s input.” That means a smoother flow of traffic and a lower chance of accidents.
The cars will be operated by the brains at Oxford University, which had previously tested an autonomous Nissan Leaf. It’s unclear whether Oxford would continue to use the Leaf, or switch to the Toyota Prius favored by Google.
And before our British readers start worrying about driverless EVs hurtling down the M1, the testing will be done on lightly used roads, only.
We can speculate that these changes are at least due in part to lawsuits over mileage claims of hybrid vehicles. The automaker is enhancing 2013 models starting in August by raising their electric cruising speed to 85 miles per hour from 62 mph, optimizing the use of active grille shutters and the climate control system, shortening the engine warm-up period by 50 percent and reducing electric fan speed to minimize the fan’s energy consumption.
It bears mentioning that Ford is doing pretty well in the US electrified vehicle market this year. The company claims to have grown its share in the segment by 12 points to 16 percent while taking a high number of Toyota Prius trade-ins in the process. Conversely, Toyota has experienced a five-percent drop in new-Prius sales over the same period. Additionally, Ford states that it has increased its share of the US vehicle market by one percent this year, more than any full-line automaker.
We’re sure Ford will be monitoring the fuel mileage of its hybrid fleet closely with the hopes of seeing significant improvements, though the automaker offers the expected ‘Your mileage will vary” disclaimer, which you can read all about in the press release below.
TROY, Michigan — For nearly two years, a team of former Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Priusengineers has been working on the next big thing in electric cars: the latest version of the 154-year-old lead-acid battery.
Their aim is to build a battery strong enough to power a wider range of vehicles, something they think the current cutting-edge technology — lithium ion — can’t do cheaply, particularly given recent safety scares.
The focus of Energy Power Systems on a technology older than the automobile itself illustrates the difficulty with lithium-ion batteries. While widely used in everything from laptops to electric cars and satellites, a number of high-profile incidents involving smoke and fire have been a reminder of the risks and given them an image problem.
The overheating of the batteries on two of Boeing’s high-tech 787 Dreamliners, which prompted regulators to ground the aircraft, served to underline the concerns and forced the plane maker to redesign the battery system. Indeed, a growing number of engineers now say the lithium-ion battery revolution has stalled, undercut by high costs, technical complexity and safety concerns.
“Smart people have been working on this for 10 years already and no one is close to a new kind of battery,” said Fred Schlachter, a lithium-ion battery expert and retired physicist from the U.S.-funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Many experts now believe it will take at least another decade for lithium-ion technology to be ready for widespread adoption in transportation. Others, including Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), believe the solution lies beyond lithium-ion.
Interviews with two dozen battery executives, experts and researchers, including the founder of Securaplane, which made Boeing’s battery charger, reveal an industry in which some are having second thoughts about using lithium-ion, and are instead looking to enhance previous technologies or to leap ahead.
These people say expectations were set too high, too fast. People projected that “clean technology” batteries would shrink in size and weight at the speed of the microchip revolution. That hasn’t happened, and Schlachter says it won’t any time soon. “We’re not going to see a different chemistry, unless we’re very lucky, for decades.”
Just as recent developments in technology have allowed cars to improve their mileage using traditional engines, the lead-acid battery research is aiming for improved power in a smaller package.
Lithium-ion supporters, including Boeing Co. (BA), Tesla Motors Co. (TSLA) and General Motors Co. (GM), maker of the Volt, say they can make the batteries safe, and problems with new technologies are to be expected.
GM overcame an early problem when a Volt caught fire during tests run by the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, for instance, and after all,
The recent Geneva Motor Show was a festival of hypercars, with the presence of not one, but three over-the-top debuts: the Lamborghini Veneno, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LeFerrari. The latter two have hitched their carbon fiber bumpers to the electrification bandwagon by using hybrid-electric powertrains not entirely unlike the propulsion systems we’ve come to know in cars like the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt. Does that mean the flow of electrons up the four-wheeled food chain will eventually consume our hallowed supercars? Not if AMG has anything to say about it.
AMG Director of Vehicle Development Tobias Moers recently confirmed that not only will there be a successor to the Mercedes-Benz performance division’s SLS AMG, he notes that its internal combustion engine will most definitely not be sharing living quarters with an electric drivetrain. Instead, AMG plans to focus on further pushing the power and efficiency envelope of the internal combustion engine and advancing the use of lightweight materials to achieve their goals. The first example of this effort can be seen in the new SLS AMG Black Series that incorporates many weight-saving techniques to shed some 154 pounds from the SLS AMG GT (above), which itself is lighter than the standard SLSAMG.
Furthermore, Moers remarks that his company is happy to leave the hypercar segment to companies like Ferrari and McLaren. He admits that, “Ferrari in the hyper-car segment is still a different brand than AMG. We have to be honest…” So rather than taking the SLS further upmarket to do battle with bulls and stallions, Moers hinted that the next-generation SLS may be joined by another performance model that fits neatly between itself and the C63 AMG.
The Italian Stallions’ X1/9 was fairly quick for a stock-engined econo-Fiat, but it suffered from not-very-unexpected reliability problems. The team eventually swapped some motorcycle carburetors onto it and turned decent lap times in the brief period between the green flag and something breaking.
Nowadays, the Stallions run their X1/9 with Mazda rotary power, with results about as good as those of the Scuderia Craptastic Opel GT.
Bloomberg reports China may be set to step up subsidies for hybrid and fuel-efficient new automobiles. The country’s industry minister, Miao Wei, said, “New-energy vehicles are the future. Fuel-efficient cars are now,” while speaking with reporters at the National People’s Congress. So far, the Chinese government hasn’t had much luck talking buyers into fuel-efficient models. Last year, the country forecast total electric vehicle sales to reach 500,000 by 2014, but 2012 only saw 13,000 models sold. Rather than adjust those targets, some analysts believe China will extend incentives to hybrid vehicles as well.
China just concluded a three-year pilot program that gave buyers the equivalent of $9,650 toward the purchase of an EV and $8,045 for plug-in hybrids. Standard hybrids, meanwhile, only saw incentives of $482.73. But that may change as the country moves toward its target of selling a combined five million EV, plug-in and hybrid models by 2020. If China does increase its hybrid incentives, the news may help Toyota more than any other company. Like other Japanese automakers, Toyota has seen sales slide off in the wake of an ongoing territorial dispute between the Chinese and Japanese governments. But stronger incentives may make the Toyota Prius, the world’s most popular hybrid, attractive enough to overcome those hurdles.
Beijing‘s noxious smog is a reminder of why China needs to step up investments in clean energy. This includes promoting electric and hybrid cars as an alternative to gas-guzzling cars idling on clogged city roads. Yet for all the subsidies lavished on automakers in this carbon-free niche, none have made any serious headway. The much-praised Toyota Prius is supposedly sold in China, but I’ve never spotted one on the road in Beijing. As for BYD, the domestic battery maker turned automaker, its electric cars have yet to find a market outside of public procurement in its home base of Shenzhen. It suffered a bout of terrible publicity last year when a battery-powered e6 taxi caught fire in a collision. Relatives of the dead driver later sued the company, which claimed that the car wasn’t at fault. …read more Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest
We’re getting a look at the two star Mitsubishi concept cars from this year’s Geneva soiree, just ahead of the official debut for both. As suits Mitsubishi’s ever-deepening interest in electrified vehicles, the brace of concepts both make use of electric drive: the CA-MiEV being a pure electric vehicle and the GR-HEV using a diesel-electric powertrain.
The CA-MiEV concept car may look a bit like a photoshopped Toyota Prius, but in fact the car employs a new electric motor and battery system from Mitsu. We’re told that the EV has a theoretical range of 186 miles, which is nearly double the range of most EVs on the market today and approaches Tesla territory. The vehicle is larger than the company’s current i-MiEV, and would seem to point the way forward for a more mainstream production EV from Mitsu.
The second concept, a rather odd-looking pickup truck called the GR-HEV, has a diesel engine, electric motor, all-wheel drive, and Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control. The front fascia bears a version of the grille we’ve seen on the new Outlander PHEV, with more radically raked (sort of “smiling”) lighting elements.
Look for more information and lots of live images of both Mitsubishi concept cars as the Geneva Motor Show rolls along this week.
The Detroit News is reporting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will investigate some 561,000 Toyota Prius models for potentially defective steering shafts. The affected hybrid models are from the 2004-2009 model years. The story indicates that NHTSA is weighing whether or not to grant a defect petition, which claims that Toyota incorrectly assembled the hatchback’s steering linkage.
As of this writing, there is no recall. However, a recall based on the Prius steering shaft would be the third related to steering issues for the model since 2006. Seven years ago, Toyota recalled 170K Prius models for potential cracking of the intermediate shafts, and in November of 2012, the automaker recalled 670K units to replace the steering shaft extension assembly.
We’ll be monitoring NHTSA‘s signals to see if this investigation turns into a full-fledged recall. For now, stay tuned.
A few years ago it was not uncommon to hear a Toyota Prius buyer say, “I got it for the sticker.” The yellow sticker they were referring to allowed the driver to use the High Occupancy Vehicle (carpool) lane even when alone in the car which, as every other LA driver knows, led to the frequent sight of a Prius with a sole occupant zooming by at 94 miles per hour along the center barrier.
That dispensation for traditional hybrids ended in 2011, but there are both white and green stickers that remain good for sole-occupant HOV use until 2015. The white stickers can be used for battery electric, natural gas and hydrogen fuel-cell cars, green stickers are for plug-in hybrids and those with range-extending internal combustion engines. A California assemblyman has introduced a bill that would push the expiration date for those kinds of cars back ten years, to January 1, 2025.
The allotment of white stickers isn’t capped, but the legislation dictates that no more than 40,000 green stickers can be distributed and so far 9,000 of that tally has been used. It was said that when it came to reselling a used Prius that had a yellow sticker, it was worth $1,500 more than one without – not bad for an investment that cost nothing on the front end.
Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. The ad’s rating is depicted via the shift pattern at the bottom, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising, so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.
Yes, life can be hard and there are mean people out there, but in Prius World, we make mean people go away! They’re not welcome here! And when problems come up or things make us sad, why, we just hum them away! Try it, it’s easy! All it takes is a cute little car—wait, make that a family of cute little cars—a cheery attitude, and a big old smile! But make sure to keep your lips close together so you can still hum! Hum, hum, hum, hum, hum!
Don’t you just love it here, in this perfect little world? Oh look, there’s the FedEx truck from the commercial they shot in the Enchanted Forest across town last year. You remember: the one with the cheery birds and dancing animals not entirely unlike the vibe we’re setting up in this commercial? That little truck is welcome here because it’s electric, and Toyota doesn’t make Prius delivery vans—yet!
So, hey, Brother FedEx Man, keep on truckin’—or, rather, hummin’! Even though you did kind of steal our jingle. Or did we steal yours? Oh, who cares? Happy songs that we can all clap along to are made for sharing, right? And speaking of commercials, that adorable little Geico piggy, Maxwell, he’s welcome here too, even though he’s not computer-generated like we are—or is he? It’s so hard to tell these days! But no matter, we just love the way he says “Wheee!” all the time! It’s such a happy sound, like humming! And it puts people in a good mood! Well, not all people. Not grumpy people or people who buy guzzle-icious pickup trucks or huge SUVs, or even those who choose conventionally powered cars. But people like us? Good Mood City.
And when we’re in a good mood, we’re willing to do things to help save the planet, like pay a premium for cars that use less gas because they have batteries in them that can be recharged! The perfect match, electric and gas. Mile after mile its tank could last! So hum, hum, hum, hum, hum, a Prius for everyone! Yes, we know that batteries are made in nasty old factories that pollute and they need smelly old power plants to make the electricity that recharges them, but when those thoughts come into our minds, we just hum! Because this is the car that loves to have fun! It’s got something for everyone!
“Style rebel.” Not a term we’ve often heard before in the presence of a Merc, but exactly the phrase that Mercedes-Benz is using to describe its new entry-level four-door coupe sedan, the CLA. The swoopy new compact you see here is making its first appearance on the eve of the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, though it will officially debut to the public during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin that runs from January 15 to 18. Rebellious? Maybe. Stylish? Absolutely.
The CLA-Class takes the rakish sedan formula first seen on the Mercedes-Benz CLS to a smaller scale, riding on the architecture that underpins the svelte new A-Class hatchback in other markets. It’s a pretty car, especially with the optional sport goodies seen on the silver car in our image gallery, and its design is actually quite efficient. Mercedes has managed to achieve a super-slippery drag coefficient of just 0.23. (For comparison, a Toyota Prius has a drag number of 0.25.)
Only the CLA250 model will be offered in the United States (until the hotter CLA45 AMG arrives, anyway), available with either front- or all-wheel drive – Mercedes-Benz is employing an updated version of its 4Matic system here that features fully variable torque distribution. Powering the CLA250 is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder good for 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated solely to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The standard CLA250 rides on 17-inch alloy wheels, while models with the available sport package roll on five-spoke, 18-inch wheels.
Moving inside, the CLA‘s interior isn’t any great departure from what we’re currently seeing across the board with Mercedes-Benz models, but that’s not a bad thing. Anthracite trim comes standard inside the CLA, though some wood options and aluminum trim are available, as well. Base models use a 5.8-inch multimedia display, though an optional seven-inch screen with the automaker’s Command infotainment system is available. And like all new Mercedes-Benz products, the company’s MBrace2 cloud-based connectivity service is standard. Lots of premium options are available as well, including heated seats, premium sound, dual-zone climate control and satellite radio.
Pricing has not been discussed as of this writing, but expect the CLA to fall somewhere around or below the current entry-level C-Class sedan ($35,350) when it arrives at Mercedes-Benz dealerships in September. Scroll down for the full details in the automaker’s press blast, and have a run through our attached high-res image gallery to see the attractive new sedan from all angles.
A US district court judge in California threw out a class-action lawsuit from owners of Toyota Prius and Lexus HS 250h hybrids who had filed a claim against the Japanese automaker over a 2010 recall involving the vehicles’ anti-lock braking system, Bloomberg News reports.
The claim, made by four vehicle owners on behalf of the rest of the owners, related to a 2010 recall that involved a software update for the vehicles’ anti-lock brakes. The judge denied the claim because the plaintiffs suffered no injury, thus ending three years of litigation. A Toyota spokeswoman told Bloomberg News the company was “pleased” with the court’s decision.
In early 2010, Toyota – at the time also reeling from floormat/unintended acceleration issues involving both Toyota and Lexus models – said some Prius models sold in January of that year had a braking-system design issue that had later been corrected. Both the US and Japanese governments that year required Toyota to investigate the issue, which involved a short, temporary loss of braking during the transition between regenerative and friction brakes on slick or bumpy surfaces.
The Obama administration made a big deal about how it had a long-term plan to green up the federal vehicle fleet back in early 2011. Even with that big target, the overall number of hybrids is going down. And, after spending time buying fuel-efficient US cars, the Obama administration has been turning more to hybrids from foreign automakers – just like the general public – rather than fuel sippers from Ford or General Motors.
According to a Bloomberg report that used data from the General Services Administration, the overall number of hybrid and electric vehicles the US government bought last year went down by a third to just 1,801 vehicles. Over half of them (54 percent) were from Hyundai, Toyota and Mitsubishi. The number one vehicle by volume? The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. The US government also purchased vehicles like the Mitsubishi i and the Toyota Prius. Among US civilian buyers, Toyota claimed the four most popular hybrid spots and the Sonata was fifth.
The stated plan is for the Federal government to only buy alt-fuel vehicles by 2015, but the numbers and percentages of the fleet have been dropping. Bloomberg’s numbers show that the Feds bought 8,139 alt-fuel vehicles in 2009, 6,467 in 2010 and then 2,645 in fiscal 2011. The early number were buoyed by stimulus spending.