Reading Alex Dykes’ review of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, I was reminded of something by Alex’s description of the Accord’s drivetrain layout. Unlike the Toyota and Ford parallel hybrid systems (similar in function but arrived at independently), or the Chevy Volt’s Voltec drivetrain (a different spin, no pun intended, on the same basic idea that allows the Volt to operate mostly in pure electric or serial hybrid modes), which all connect electric motors and a gasoline engine to a planetary gearset, the Accord now uses an inline serial/parallel hybrid system, a concept that actually goes back a century to the Woods Dual Power automobile. Read More >
The photo illustrating Zombie McQuestionbot’s query about what would it take to get you to buy a hybrid was of a Chevy Silverado hybrid pickup truck. I bet some of you seeing that picture didn’t know that Chevy even sold fullsize hybrid pickups and those of you who are familiar with them, may have dismissed the concept. It was called the 2-Mode hybrid system, introduced with great promise and fanfare but in the end it became the Rodney Dangerfield of hybrid drives. That’s too bad. Had the 2-Mode system been embraced by consumers on a wide scale, it might have saved more gasoline than all the Chevy Volts and Toyota Priuses put together. Read More >
A niche vehicle is one that serves a very specific set of buyers with a vehicle that’s defined by a specialized and uncommon or unique role; and is often knowingly sold in low numbers to satisfy that dedicated group. Sometimes it’s to test a market: The Miata created its own niche in the 1990′s, and became a role model for modern product, like the S2000 and BRZ/FRS. Other are more esoteric niches, like the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Sometimes, niche cars bring buyers to a brand that they would not have thought about before.
Currently, one of our most popular niches is the hybrid segment, dominated by the Toyota Prius. Chevrolet threw their hat into the ring, inadvertently, with the Volt. Though primarily an electric car, it does run the gas engine as a series hybrid with engine lockup if needed for maximum efficiency. The sales have been mediocre, pushing just over 23,000 units in 2013. The Prius? It sold over 145,000 units in the same time period..
Is it any wonder, then, why 43% of Cadillac’s dealers aren’t willing to take the up-market, $75,000 (before $7,500 Federal tax credit) Cadillac ELR? It’s a niche of a niche. And it’s an expensive one for dealers to take a risk on. Read More >
An Australian entrepreneur and a Romanian inventor have teamed up to construct an air powered car built completely of Lego bricks (sans tires and wheels) that has proven capable of running at speeds in excess of 10mph. Read More >
Three of the world’s most important auto shows began last week. Since my invitations to the various press events must have been lost in the mail I, like virtually everyone else in the world, followed them over the internet. I’m OK with that, really. I hate fighting the crowds and by the time a show closes high resolution photos of the most important cars are always all over the world-wide-web, anyhow. With the photos are the journalists’ impressions. Some are good and some are bad, but they all make me think. For example, there’s this article from the Top Gear website on the Tokyo motor show that asserts, on the strength of the cars at this year’s show, “Japan is back.” Hold on – Really? Read More >
Elon Musk, the real-life Tony Stark of our times, has quite the extensive résumé: Founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors; billionaire investor of projects and businesses such as SolarCity and the preservation of Nikola Tesla’s lab; inventor of the Hyperloop rapid mass transit concept; 007 cosplayer…
Yes, you read that right: Musk is a huge fan of the man who loves his martinis shaken and his women to have double entendre naming schemes. So much so, in fact, that he now has one of Bond’s most awesome vehicles ever conceived.
Tis better to own a Leaf or an S than to rent one, it seems. According to Enterprise Holdings Inc., known for driving around in cars wrapped in branded brown paper for some reason, customers who rent electric-only vehicles from their lot soon return their sustainable rides for a one with a sustainable range based on the number of (gasoline and diesel) fuel stops along the way.
Pricing for the Cadillac ELR has been announced, and the swoopy Caddy coupe with the Voltec powertrain has been stickered at an astonishing $75,995, not including the $7,500 federal tax credit as well as other incentives.
One can make the argument that there will be a market for a premium plug-in that wealthy buyers can write off as an expense in one form another, personally, I think GM is out of their mind.
The United States Department of Energy will today auction off Fisker Automotive’s loan from the federal government, on which the moribund hybrid car startup defaulted. Last month the department said that it would hold the auction after “exhausting any realistic possibility” that it could recoup all of the $168 million still that Fisker still owes.
When a major EV and battery expo takes place at the same time as EV charging station maker Ecotality files for bankruptcy, it’s a good question as to how much of the EV and hybrid vehicle industry is truly sustainable and how much exists solely to chase government incentives, but there is no question that it’s a substantial industry, even if, according to the most optimistic forecasts, cars and trucks with electric drive will never make up more than a fraction of annual sales.
The chief engineer for Toyota’s Prius program, Satoshi Ogiso, who is also managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp, gave some hints about the next generation of Toyota’s highest profile hybrid car at a presentation held as part of Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour, a press event that gathered together all of Toyota’s hybrid cars sold around the world for the first time in one place, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, not far from Toyota’s large R&D center in Ann Arbor.
Ogiso, who oversees product planning and chassis engineering for Toyota, said that while the company continues to work on fuel cell cars and expects to be selling 10,000 or more fuel cell cars a year by the 2020s, Toyota is committed to the concept of hybrid cars that combine electric motors and combustion engines. Due to refinements in Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the next Prius will get “”significantly better fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter weight and lower cost, Ogiso said.
When the Lincoln MKZ was introduced, Ford Motor Co. took the unusual step of pricing the MKZ Hybrid the same as the non-hybrid version of the car, $35,925. Assuming that would mean a good take rate for the Hybrid, Ford production planners for the 2013 model year set the mix at 20% for the gas-electric MKZ. The take rate turned out to be so good that for 2014, 40% of MKZs made will be hybrids. That’s what Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of global product development, said at the automaker’s Dearborn campus on Tuesday. Hybrid sales in the U.S. market overall are up 18.3% for the first six months of this year, compared to 2012, and Ford has been benefiting from that surge. Ford’s share of the hybrid and EV market is now close to 16%, a huge improvement of 12% over last year. The C-Max, Fusion and MKZ hybrids have given the company a strong presence in the hybrid market. Ford attributes part of it’s overall U.S. market share increase of almost 1% over 2012 to electrified vehicle growth. For the first six months of 2013, Lincoln sold 3,090 MKZ Hybrid models, an average of 515 cars a month, but now that production delays that hampered the revised MKZ’s launch have apparently been overcome, for the 2nd quarter sales exceeded 715 units each month, closely matching the current build rate at Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico assembly plant.
Source: The Detroit News
Fisker is at its last gasp. After burning through $1.4 billion, “the company is out of cash,” writes Reuters, “for months, key investors have been footing the car maker’s day-to-day expenses to keep it alive in diminished form.” Reuters has an in-depth report on what went wrong at Fisker. Reuters also has the one sentence version:
Read More >
Everybody was betting big on electric cars in China. Everybody thought China will be the world’s biggest market for EVs. It was a bluff. At the Shanghai Auto Show in April, the smart money suddenly was on hybrids. Insiders expect that the Chinese government will extend bigger subsidies to buyers of hybrid cars, after the big electric car revolution in China turned out to be a bust. This is good for Japanese carmakers – for some at least. Read More >