The Truth About Cars » Electric Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Electric Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/electric-vehicles-2/ Musk: Tesla Will Build Cars In China Within Next Few Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/musk-tesla-will-build-cars-in-china-within-next-few-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/musk-tesla-will-build-cars-in-china-within-next-few-years/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=807330 Model S - Tesla Motors China

Though Tesla is now just delivering new vehicles to China, CEO Elon Musk predicts his company will build luxury electric vehicles in the burgeoning market within the next three to four years.

Bloomberg reports the move to localized production would allow the automaker to sell their wares while also avoiding China’s 25 percent import tariff. Right now, a new Model S retails for $118,000 in Beijing due to VAT, shipping and import duties, compared to $71,000 in Los Angeles. Musk hopes to qualify the Model S for local subsidies to help offset costs in much the same way the luxury EV sedan receives federal tax credits back in the United States.

In addition, Tesla is expanding its Supercharger network to China, with Beijing and Shanghai among the first cities to join. No word yet as to how much the automaker is investing in the expansion.

A number of challenges lay ahead for Tesla’s move into the market, including slow adoption of electric vehicles among Chinese consumers and lack of a robust infrastructure, as well the loss of China general manager of operations Kingston Chang prior to the automaker’s entry. That said, Tesla plans to increase overall global sales 56 percent this year, moving 35,000 EVs out of the showroom in so doing.

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US Energy Department Unveils Four-Year Strategy For Alternative Energy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/us-energy-department-unveils-four-year-strategy-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/us-energy-department-unveils-four-year-strategy-plan/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798026 South_Point_Wind_Farm

The U.S. Department of Energy unveiled last week a four-year plan that would advance the goal of energy security by building upon as many alternative sources as possible, further reducing dependence on imported petroleum.

Autoblog Green reports the 27-page plan illustrates the proposed aims of the DOE to double the amount of energy produced by renewables, improve battery technology, usher in advances in biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells, and push further electrification of vehicles.

In addition, the DOE also has strategies ready for testing the nation’s nuclear deterrent for safety, security and overall effectiveness, as well as boosting the tools needed to bring improvements on the nation’s security infrastructure.

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Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797458 Ubuntu_GNOME_13.10_ScreenShot

Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

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Lemon Law King Sues Tesla In Wisconsin Circuit Court http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/lemon-law-king-sues-tesla-in-wisconsin-circuit-court/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/lemon-law-king-sues-tesla-in-wisconsin-circuit-court/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:15:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790041 tesla-model-s-09

Wisconsin lawyer and self-proclaimed “Lemon Law King” Vince Megna has filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against Tesla under the state’s lemon law.

Green Bay Press Gazette reports the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Robert Montgomery of Franklin, Wisc., takes the automaker to task for failing to refund Montgomery’s $99,515 after his 2013 Model S Performance was in the shop for various issues — including failure to start and inoperable door handles — for over 30 days; Wisconsin’s law requires manufacturers to either replace a defective product under warranty after four attempts in one year to fix a defect, or to refund the affected customer. The refund request was made in November 2013.

Megna told the newspaper that under the lemon law then-in affect when Montgomery purchased his Tesla, his client could receive double damages should the court side in their favor. The lawyer also posted a video on YouTube outlining the case and subsequent filing, with a cameo from a cardboard cutout of famed Tesla owner George Clooney.

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NHTSA Asked To Investigate Impala Airbags, GM May Compensate Recall Victims http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/nhtsa-asked-to-investigate-impala-airbags-gm-may-compensate-recall-victims/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/nhtsa-asked-to-investigate-impala-airbags-gm-may-compensate-recall-victims/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:59:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790113 '06-'09_Chevrolet_Impala_Taxicab

Bloomberg reports the Center for Auto Safety, citing a government petition from former General Motors researcher Donald Friedman, is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a defect investigation into 2003 – 2010 Chevrolet Impalas over a glitch in the car’s software that could “misread a passenger’s weight,” preventing frontal airbags from deploying. The agency has 143 records of fatalities linked to failed airbags in the Impala, 98 of which noted the occupants were wearing seat belts at time of death.

The request reflects growing concern over the algorithms used in advanced airbags, designed to meet strengthened U.S. regulations in 2003 after previous airbags were found in 300 cases to prove fatal to small adults and children due to excessive force upon deployment, and where improvements could be made.

Going in-depth regarding the April 2006 sign-off of the improved version of the out-of-spec ignition switch linked to the ongoing 2014 GM recall crisis, Automotive News found that while midlevel engineer Ray DeGiorgio put his signature upon what turned out to be the validation sign-off presented before the Senate hearing last week, former engineers have noted that said document was merely placing “a bow” on a package built upon by several engineers before presentation to GM. The resulting paper trail could shed more light on how the decision came to be made, as the anonymous engineers told the publication said decision to change the part would need to go through several checks and balances before signing-off on the upgraded part.

As for out-of-spec parts in general, Automotive Industry Action Group senior program manager for quality Scott Gray says that while a part may be “out of tolerance,” it may not be “the root cause of a failure” unless said part “affects a component’s fit, form or function.”

At that point, the part would go through two industry-standard protocols: Failure Mode Effects Analysis, and Production Part Approval Process. The first is a constantly updated document that gives engineers the tools needed to evaluate the out-of-spec part and related components in determining where problems could arise prior to approving a design. The second, used by suppliers, determines whether or not the part can be built, with automakers paying for tooling only upon successful completion. Further, if even a single tiny change occurs with the part, the entire part must undergo the protocol again.

CNN Money reports GM is debating on whether or not to compensate affected customers whose relatives were either injured or killed in recall-related accidents prior to the automaker’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Should GM do so, the liability shield established in the bankruptcy would fall, opening itself to 2,500 lawsuits left behind with “Old GM” in so doing.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports Chevrolet will make an announcement today regarding the next-gen Volt involving a boost of 1,400 jobs and $450 million spent in preparing both the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Township battery plant for the updated EV. Speculation of what will be announced include a new platform for the 2016 Volt to an all-new unnamed EV, as well as Opel receiving a vehicle priced lower than the Ampera.

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Tesla Appealing NJ Direct Sales Ban Ruling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/tesla-appealing-nj-direct-sales-ban-ruling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/tesla-appealing-nj-direct-sales-ban-ruling/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:30:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786673 Tesla brown front quarter

With the Ides of April fast-approaching before direct sales come to an end, Tesla filed an appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court asking to overturn a government ruling that banned the automaker from directly selling vehicles to consumers in its two New Jersey stores.

Automotive News reports Tesla proclaimed the action by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission is not legal and harms consumers in the state:

As the [Motor Vehicle Commission] itself recognized when it licensed two Tesla locations in 2012, New Jersey law was clearly written to prevent car manufacturers from exploiting their greater market power to compete unfairly against dealership franchises that sell their cars, something that simply doesn’t apply to Tesla because it has no dealership franchises.

In response, New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers president Jim Appleton felt confident that “the courts will recognize the compelling state interest in regulating the sale and distribution of new motor vehicles,” and that Tesla would fail to overturn the ruling. He added that NJCAR wasn’t out to push the EV automaker out of the state, but only wanted Tesla to play by the same rules as those in the state’s franchise dealer network.

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Tesla Stays In NY, Loses Key China Exec http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-stays-in-ny-loses-key-china-exec/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-stays-in-ny-loses-key-china-exec/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:59:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785169 Tesla Model S

Automotive News reports Tesla and Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association reached a compromise agreement over the weekend that would allow the EV automaker to keep their five stores while prevent Tesla or any other auto manufacturer from establishing more direct-sale stores in the state. In the words of Governor Andrew Cuomo:

Today’s agreement reaffirms New York’s long-standing commitment to the dealer franchise system, while making sure New York remains a leader in spurring innovative businesses and encouraging zero emissions vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean tells Bloomberg the Gigafactory will source supplies of graphite, cobalt et al from within North America, citing cost and environmental issues behind the decision. Currently, the majority of graphite found in the automaker’s battery packs come from synthetic sources in Europe and Japan, with future natural sources expected to come from Canada.

Over in China, where graphite mines and processing plants are being closed over air-quality issues, Tesla’s general manager Kingston Chang resigned his position for personal reasons. His departure, which the automaker declined to expand upon to Bloomberg, comes just as CEO Elon Musk prepares to expand further into the country’s auto market, who predicts sales to be on par with those in the United States as early as next year.

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Gov. Perry Pushing For Direct Sales In Texas To Attract Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gov-perry-pushing-for-direct-sales-in-texas-to-attract-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gov-perry-pushing-for-direct-sales-in-texas-to-attract-gigafactory/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:09:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782065 Texas Governor Rick Perry circa January 2014

With the possibility of bringing Tesla’s Gigafactory — and its 6,500 jobs — to Texas, Governor Rick Perry is actively pushing for legislation which would do away with the direct-sales ban currently preventing the EV automaker from doing more than presenting their wares to local customers.

The Dallas Morning News reports Perry took his stance on the issue to FOX Business’ “Opening Bell” earlier this week, explaining that it was in the state’s “best interest” to revisit what he says some people would view as “antiquated protections” for Texas’ franchise dealership network:

The people of Texas will say, ‘We don’t need to be protected. We like to be able to negotiate straight away.’ I think it’s time for Texans to have an open conversation about this, the pros and the cons. I’m gonna think the pros of allowing this to happen outweigh the cons.

Currently, Tesla has two showrooms in Houston and Austin, with a third soon to arrive in Dallas. As of this writing, however, none of the trio can do more than provide visitors with information about Tesla’s lineup, prompting interested parties to complete their purchase online or in a state more favorable to direct sales.

The move to allow direct sales would add another incentive for Tesla to build their Gigafactory in Texas, which Perry proclaims would give his state a much-desired cachet. Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association president Lee Chapman, however, disagrees with the kind of incentive Perry wishes to use in luring Tesla:

The system we have was put into effect by the state to protect consumers and dealers. [Dealers are] always open to discussion, [but] at this point, we have not been given anything to discuss other than the right to sell cars here in exchange for a plant.

 

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Tesla Business Model Reconsidered In NJ, Talking Point In 2016 Presidential Election http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-business-model-reconsidered-in-nj-talking-point-in-2016-presidential-election/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-business-model-reconsidered-in-nj-talking-point-in-2016-presidential-election/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:30:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781313 tesla-model-s-logo

Even though the door on Tesla’s direct sales model appeared to be closed in New Jersey, the Garden State is reconsidering its position just as the automaker’s way of doing business could find itself a major talking point in the 2016 run for the White House.

Automotive News reports that New Jersey Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced a bill which would allow Tesla to continue selling its cars to the state’s consumers. The bill, which is the third in a series of actions related to the currently strained relationship between the two parties, comes on the heels of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision to reinforce existing law banning direct sales by automakers, which would have unintended consequences for the local economy according to Eustace:

Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car. How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?

For their part, the New Jersey Coalition of Automobile Retailers, lobbying on behalf of the state’s franchise dealer network, stressed that while they have no intention of driving Tesla out of business, they only want Tesla to play by their long-established rulebook. Association president Jim Appleton is willing to work with the automaker to a point, however:

We hold as sacrosanct the franchise system. There is no resolution to this problem that allows Tesla to operate outside the franchise system forever. But we’re open to accommodations if Tesla can make the case that there’s a reason why they can’t.

Meanwhile, Tesla has a new ally in the form of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who, in his support for the business model, puts him in opposition of New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the run to represent the Republican base against the Democrat nominee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Tesla Reader’s Digest Vol. 1: The Politics Of Dancing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-readers-digest-vol-1-the-politics-of-dancing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-readers-digest-vol-1-the-politics-of-dancing/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:19:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=779249 Tesla Roadster and Model S

In the first edition of the Tesla Reader’s Digest, Washington state makes nice with Tesla’s business model as Arizona ponders doing the same — while fighting three other states for the right to host Tesla’s Gigafactory, no less. Meanwhile, General Motors pens a letter to Ohio asking the state to force the EV automaker to play by the same rules as they already do, pricing of the Model S falls in Europe, and Edward Niedemeyer offers his view on how Tesla can topple the auto dealer monopoly.

The Detroit News ran our former EIC (originally published at Bloomberg View) a few inches to explain the situation Tesla faces with its revolutionary-for-the-United States model of doing business from the rent-seeking opposition found in the entrenched dealer franchise system. Though the automaker has already been locked out of Texas and New Jersey due to such opposition thus far, Niedermeyer offers that CEO Elon Musk has a few potential allies — including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, eBay, Costco and TrueCar — who could help him and the U.S auto industry as a whole bring about a future where all automakers can sell directly to customers.

Reuters and CNN Money report the states of Washington and Arizona are or soon will be signing legislation allowing Tesla to market directly to consumers; previously, the automaker’s sole Washington direct-sales efforts were in Seattle, whereas Arizona only allowed showrooms, pushing sales across the border to California.

The Washington legislation came as a result of campaigning from that state’s Tesla-owning constituents with help from a lobbyist, which will allow the automaker to expand into more cities while forcing every other automaker — upcoming or long-established — to sell through franchise dealerships, a situation advocates claim will need to be remedied when legislatures return to Olympia next January.

Arizona, however, is coming around to help improve the state’s chances in becoming the home of Musk’s grand energy project, the Tesla Gigafactory. Autoblog Green also reports Tucson has not only a suitable site for the 1,000-acre, 10 million-square-foot battery factory, but the tax incentives to lure 6,500 jobs away from Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.

As for the other three states, New Mexico is working on an economic package, while Nevada remains silent on their moves, and Texas has incentives galore in spite of banning direct-sales, the latter of which could hurt the state’s chances.

Speaking of direct-sale bans, Automotive News reports General Motors penned a letter to Ohio governor John Kasich over concerns his state could open the door to Tesla. GM’s senior vice president of global communications and public policy Selim Bingol explains his employer’s viewpoint:

We understand discussions are ongoing over legislation which could provide a broad exemption for a single manufacturer, Tesla Motors Inc., to circumvent long-established legal precedent on how new motor vehicles are marketed, sold and serviced in your state.

GM is not alone, as lobbyists representing the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association warned the state legislature last week that by allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers, it would allow all automakers to do the same, casting the franchise model to the wind.

Finally, Tesla may be fighting a different battle in Europe. Inside EVs reports pricing of the Model S has dropped in Germany and Netherlands 6,700 euro and 4,000 euro respectively to 65,300 euro and 66,200 euro. Though Tesla cites currency appreciation against the dollar, low demand and lack of a sufficient Supercharger network may be to blame.

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AAA: Extreme Temps Hurt EV Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/aaa-extreme-temps-hurt-ev-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/aaa-extreme-temps-hurt-ev-range/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:06:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=777009 550x366xIMG_6417-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic.H6TYJJxGdw

Yes, we know water is wet too, but this study from the AAA provides some interesting findings regarding how extreme temperatures affect the driving range of electric vehicles.

Apparently, the extreme temperature problem cuts both ways

Vehicles were tested for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic, and to better compare with EPA ratings listed on the window sticker. The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75°F, but dropped 57 percent to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20°F. Warm temperatures were less stressful on battery range, but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95°F. 

AAA performed testing between December 2013 and January 2014. Each vehicle completed a driving cycle for moderate, hot and cold climates following standard EPA-DOE test procedures. The vehicles were fully charged and then “driven” on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

Anyone who has spent time in Texas in the summer knows that high temperatures are sufficient to render your phone too hot to use, and the cold is notoriously harsh on battery life for any electronic device, let alone an electric car. But how about the use of wipers, HVAC systems and other essentials for winter (and well, summer) driving, all of which requires battery power when used in an EV.

In temperate climates like Southern California, EVs will always be a viable, 365-day proposition. In cold countries like Norway, where driving distances are short, fuel is astronomically expense and taxes are high for gasoline and diesel cars, EVs can make sense. But given the drops in range when the temperatures hit either end of the scale, it’s tough to see how they can become a viable, mass-market proposition in the near future for much of the United States and Canada.

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Fewer Than 4,000 Green Calif. HOV Stickers Remain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/less-than-4000-green-calif-hov-stickers-remain/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:56:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776521 2012-Chevrolet-Volt-HOV-052_610x407

For potential California PHEV owners, time may soon run out to obtain the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California Environmental Protection Agency for HOV lane use, as only 3,770 of the 40,000 stickers remain available.

Inside EVs reports a huge spike in applications for the green stickers since the start of 2013, with 12,000 issued last year, and 8,000 more since January. This is in contrast to 2012, when around 500 stickers per month were issued in the first seven months of the year.

The stickers, meant for AT PZEVs such as the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt, will likely be gone by the time BMW brings the i3 extended-range model to the United States this summer, and in spite of the automaker’s best efforts, only the pure-electric i3 will be eligible for the White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued to as many approved EVs, fuel-cell- and CNG-powered vehicles — like the Tesla Model S, Ram 2500 and Honda FCX Clarity — as can be registered.

Both green and white HOV stickers are set to expire New Year’s Day 2019, extended from the same date in 2015.

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Tesla Vacating New Jersey Market Amid Direct-Sales Ban http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-vacating-new-jersey-market-amid-direct-sales-ban/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-vacating-new-jersey-market-amid-direct-sales-ban/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:10:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770345 tesla courtesy nicholas fleury via flickr

In the wake of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision to enact new rules banning direct sales of vehicles by automakers, Tesla may have no other recourse than to vacate the local market come April 1.

Automotive News reports Governor Chris Christie’s administration faces accusations by Tesla from the decision, stating the automaker and the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers both agreed they would “address their issues in a more public forum: the New Jersey Legislature.”

In turn, the governor’s office responded by reminding Tesla that in order to conduct their brand of selling in New Jersey, the automaker “would need to engage the Legislation” in drafting a bill that would allow for direct sales.

Begging to differ, Tesla vice president of business development Diarmuid O’Connell explained his employer’s standpoint:

The statute in New Jersey plainly allows Tesla to be licensed to sell cars there. Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Commission has licensed Tesla under that statute ever since October 2012, and any suggestion that Tesla was told “since the beginning” about any problem with its ability to be licensed there is false. The only thing that has changed is the Christie Administration’s sudden decision to go around the Legislature in an attempt to enact a rule that the statute doesn’t permit. Worse, it has done so without any reasonable notice or even a public hearing.

NJ CAR president Jim Appleton, however, believes the commission is doing what is mandated in the enforcement of the statute. He doesn’t want to see the automaker leave the state, only wanting to help Tesla “operate in a manner consistent with the law.”

The commission’s decision places New Jersey on a list of states barring direct sales, including Arizona, Ohio and Texas.

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Mitsubishi Publishing Real-World MPG Sign Of Openness With Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mitsubishi-publishing-real-world-mpg-sign-of-openness-with-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mitsubishi-publishing-real-world-mpg-sign-of-openness-with-customers/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766201 outlander-phev-snow

In a sign of openness toward its customers, Mitsubishi will begin publishing real-world MPG figures for their entire lineup, beginning with the Outlander PHEV.

Auto Express reports Mitsubishi UK marketing director Lance Bradley stated the plug-in SUV was chosen because his customers, expecting the 148-mpg claimed in official tests, found the vehicle returned 90 mpg instead:

It’s crazy that people think that’s bad, but it’s all relative to the official figure. We’d like to do a graph, maybe just a figure, starting with the PHEV but then rolling it out to other cars. It would come from customer information.

The move comes as the automaker plans to have an PHEV variant for every one of their models within five years’ time. With more buyers reporting what their vehicle averages in fuel economy, future owners could compare the official test results with those found in real-world driving.

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Porsche 919 Hybrid LeMans Racer Goes After The Two Thirds of Gasoline’s Energy That’s Wasted As Heat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/porsche-919-hybrid-lemans-racer-goes-after-the-two-thirds-of-gasolines-energy-thats-wasted-as-heat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/porsche-919-hybrid-lemans-racer-goes-after-the-two-thirds-of-gasolines-energy-thats-wasted-as-heat/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 19:19:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763457 2014 Porsche Motorsport- Porsche 919 Hybrid- Angle

The problem with battery electric and fuel cell cars is gasoline. Petrol is genuinely a superior fuel, at least in terms of energy. It has so much energy per gallon, 116,000 btu/gal, that we can use it in an engine whose theoretical maximum efficiency is only 37%. That means that with all the gizmos a modern gasoline powered internal combustion engine has that increase fuel economy, still two thirds or more of the energy in the fuel is being turned into unusable heat, not motive force.

 

Even with all that waste it still is a more practical powerplant than using batteries or other alternatives. It’s long occurred to me that in addition to improving the efficiency of the engine itself, recovering energy from that waste heat might be a productive way of improving the overall efficiency of the car. Porsche is returning to international endurance sports car racing this year with the 919 that they plan on racing at LeMans, and as part of its hybrid system it incorporates a device that in fact generates electricity from the heat in the exhaust, recovering energy from what would normally be waste heat.

Porsche isn’t the first car company to look into recovering waste heat. In 2005 BMW announced their “TurboSteamer” test bed concept that they said gave 10-15% improvements in fuel economy and power. The TurboSteamer integrated a series of sophisticated (and probably very expensive) heat exchangers into the exhaust and cooling systems to power a two stage Rankin cycle engine that assisted the internal combustion engine. A second generation TurboSteamer was announced in 2011. By then BMW had succeeded in miniaturizing the components enough to fit in the standard packaging of a 5 Series sedan.

2014 Porsche Motorsport- Porsche 919 Hybrid- Technical Drawing- Engine

One difference between turbochargers and superchargers is that superchargers are mechanically driven by the engine while turbos’ turbines are driven by the pressure and heat energy in the waste gases that are the product of combustion. For that reason, turbocharged engines have greater thermal efficiency than normally aspirated motors. The Porsche 919′s hybrid drive puts a new spin on recovering energy from exhaust gases with turbine devices. The 919′s V4 engine does have a conventional exhaust driven turbocharger, but it has another exhaust driven device that’s part of the race car’s hybrid drive. The 919 is a through-the-road 4WD hybrid. In other words, it has gasoline power driving the rear axle and electric power that can power the front axle on demand. The batteries for the electric motor are charged by two different systems. One is Porsche’s “conventional” KERS-like system that’s used in the 918 Spyder supercar which is essentially a regenerative braking setup. Porsche’s describes the other source of electrons as “a system that recovers thermal energy from exhaust gases via an electric generator driven by the exhaust gas stream.”

2014 Porsche Motorsport- Porsche 919 Hybrid- Technical Drawing- Hybrid System

What that sounds like is that instead of driving an impeller that pressurizes the fuel/air charge, as a conventional turbocharger does, Porsche’s ”fundamentally new” device is an exhaust gas driven turbine that spins a generator. In a sense it’s a reversed setup for an electrically driven supercharger. Instead of a belt drive running off the engine, an electrically driven supercharger uses an electric motor to pressurize the induction. Porsche apparently did the equivalent of flipping one of those around and mounting it on the exhaust system.

We’ll probably seem more efforts, for both racing and road cars, to turn that 63% or more of the energy that’s currently waste heat into usable power. Turbocharging guru Gale Banks, who knows a thing or two about using waste heat energy, recently said on The Smoking Tire’s podcast that he was hopeful that engine waste heat could be recovered by large scale Peltier devices. Peltier devices are what heat and cool your drink in heated and cooled cupholders. They’re very interesting electronic heat exchangers. If you apply DC voltage, one side will heat relative to ambient temperature and the other side will cool. Reverse the polarity and hot and cold change sides. Fortunately, like piezoelectric devices, the entire process is reversible. If you make one side of a Peltier device hot and the other side cold, it will start generating electricity, something called the Seebeck effect. The term Thermo Electric Generator, or TEG, has been coined for devices that use the thermoelectric effect to make power.

Banks hope may actually see the light of day. Purdue professor Xianfan Xu is indeed heading a research team that is developing large scale Peltier devices designed to work with the temperature differentials one finds in a typical car engine and exhaust. BMW is also working on TEGs in addition to their work on the TurboSteamer concept.

Porsche isn’t saying just how many kilowatts their exhaust driven generator puts out, but it’s safe to assume that the power it harvests is worth the weight it adds to the race car or it wouldn’t be there. Race cars may use technologies that are not yet economically practical, but the engineers who design and build them aren’t going to use something that is a net energy loss.

Source: Porsche

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Tesla Unveils $5 Billion Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-unveils-5-billion-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-unveils-5-billion-gigafactory/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 15:10:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755721 Tesla Gigafactory

After months of speculation, Tesla drew back the curtain on their most ambitious project to date, the Gigafactory.

Yahoo News reports the Gigafactory’s price tag would total $5 billion, $2 billion of which would directly from Tesla — including a portion from a proposed $1.6 billion convertible note offering that will also be used for future vehicle development — with current partner Panasonic and their partners fronting the remainder of the investment. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley announced it was expecting to collect underwriting fees from the note just one day after also issuing a research memo that called for a doubling of their price target for Tesla shares.

Four sites in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas are under final consideration for the site of the Gigafactory, and the finished project will employ 6,500 workers. The first goal for the Gigafactory is to begin construction this year in time to open its doors in 2017 at the same time the low-cost Model E is set to enter showrooms, with battery costs projected to fall 30 percent in the same timeframe. The milestone will be followed by a push to increase cell and pack outputs by 35 and 50 GWh/yr by 2020, where Tesla expects to move 500,000 units a year into showrooms around the world. Despite widespread reports to the contrary, Musk told Bloomberg that Panasonic’s participation “is not 100 percent confirmed“.

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Panasonic, Partners Plan To Invest $1 Billion In Tesla Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/panasonic-partners-plan-to-invest-1-billion-in-tesla-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/panasonic-partners-plan-to-invest-1-billion-in-tesla-gigafactory/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754985 Toyota Panasonic TF108

In the wake of Tesla shares hitting an all-time high of $259.20 after Morgan Stanley raised its target price to $320/share, battery maker Panasonic is gathering a few partners to go all in on a $1 billion investment in the automaker’s Gigafactory battery production plant.

The Globe and Mail reports that the plant, set to open in 2017 (just in time for production of the Tesla Model E), will help bolster Panasonic’s supply of lithium-ion batteries already found in the Model S and, soon, the Model X. The Gigafactory would also provide packs to Toyota and various automakers interested in the technology.

Though the proposed factory would lower production costs by placing the entire process under one roof, the main purpose according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk is “to support the volume of the third generation car”:

Meanwhile, investors heeded the advice of Morgan Stanley Tuesday, pushing Tesla share prices to a record peak of $259.20 before falling to $248 at close. The firm raised its target price per share from $153 to $320 based on the potential effects the Gigafactory could have on the United States auto industry in the next 14 years, an assessment Stifel analyst James Albertine believes to be a game-changer in the energy storage market:

While we remain negative on Tesla shares above $200 as an automotive OEM (original equipment manufacturer), the energy storage opportunity requires a broader perspective and could very well justify current, if not higher valuation levels.

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BASF Investing In EV Battery Market Despite Industry Setbacks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/basf-investing-in-ev-battery-market-despite-industry-setbacks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/basf-investing-in-ev-battery-market-despite-industry-setbacks/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:04:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753761 BASF BMW M1 Procar

Though some electric vehicles have seen their share of woes, from fires in individual cars to bankruptcies filed by manufacturers, German chemical maker BASF is going in for the long game by investing in the EV battery market.

Bloomberg reports the world’s largest chemical maker will use a part of its annual $2.3 billion R&D budget on battery materials — one of 10 areas targeted for growth by BASF — in the pursuit of a better battery that will help EVs run longer. Company head of global business management for BASF’s battery materials unit Adrian Steinmetz says his employer is committee to making the battery materials focus a success, noting that newer and safer batteries with a higher capacity will prove beneficial to the overall EV market:

The battery can only be as good as the chemistry inside. It’s a very technically demanding field and you really need to understand the whole interplay between different chemical compounds.

To accomplish this goal, BASF has bought four companies, established a nickel cobalt manganese plant in the United States, and bought patent licenses from rival Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp, one of three market leaders — the others being Sumitomo Chemical and Ube Industries — whose dominance over lithium-ion technology, aided by proximity to related tech industries, reigns supreme.

By 2020, BASF aims to be one of the top three battery materials suppliers, pushing overall market valuation to $20 billion in the same time frame. Part of this plan includes taking the fight to the home turf of their Asian rivals, already begun with the company’s establishment of a battery materials research and development center in Amagasaki, Japan. The R&D unit provides BASF with the majority of its Asian sales.

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Renewable Energy To Power Tesla Gigafactory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/renewable-energy-to-power-tesla-gigafactory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/renewable-energy-to-power-tesla-gigafactory/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752585 tesla-model-s-logo

Sometime this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk will announce everything there is to know about the EV automaker’s Gigafactory, from location and price tag, to its heavy reliance on renewable energy sources.

Autoblog Green reports the Gigafactory will be “heavily powered” by solar and wind energy sources, with older battery packs storing the collected energy. Meanwhile, the factory will mass-produce finished battery packs from raw lithium sources, with the aim of generating 30 gigawatt-hours annually. By taking advantage of economies of scale, costs should be reduced by 30 to 40 percent in the same timeframe needed to bring the $35,000 Model E from the drawing board to the showroom floor.

As for where the $2 billion-plus factory will be built, one rumored location is Nevada. Aside from the obvious solar power available for Musk’s green aspirations, the state also houses the sole commercial brine pool lithium production facility in the United States at this time, though more could be brought in from Wyoming’s recently discovered underground lithium brine in the state’s Rock Springs Uplift formation if needed.

Finally, funding for the Gigafactory could come from a number of sources, including new stock and alliances with other companies interested in what the factory — and the future — has to offer.

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Tesla Q4 Sees $16 Million In Losses, Annual Revenue Climbs To $2 Billion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-q4-fall-16-million-in-losses-annual-revenue-climbs-to-2-billion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-q4-fall-16-million-in-losses-annual-revenue-climbs-to-2-billion/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 16:30:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749913 tesla-model-s-01

Tesla announced their Q4 2013 earnings saw a total net loss of $16 million while pulling in an annual revenue of $2 billion on the strength of higher sales and more efficient manufacturing methods.

Automotive News reports the luxury EV automaker’s annual loss for 2013 totaled $74 million, while Q4 revenues using GAAP accounting standards were $615 million; non-GAAP revenue for the same period totaled $716 million. Contributions to the fourth quarter revenue stream included $13 million via a powertrain-sharing program with Daimler and Toyota, $15 million in regulatory credits, and $5 million from favorable foreign currency rates.

Tesla’s crystal ball for 2014 sees deliveries climbing to over 35,000 units worldwide through expansions into new markets — including China, Australia and the United Kingdom — production output increasing from 600 to 1,000 units/week, and the introduction of the Model X SUV.

Near-term, deliveries for Q1 2014 are predicted to hit 6,400 units, though production of the Model S will be constrained due to battery-cell supplies. Tesla CEO Elon Musk hopes to remedy the issue in the long-term through his “giga-factory” concept, meant to supply the automaker with lithium-ion packs while protecting it from forces outside of their control.

Finally, Tesla’s assets for the outgoing year were $846 million in cash and $738 million in equipment and property, including a new body-in-white assembly facility that will serve as the starting point for the Model X when units begin to roll off the line early next year.

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Beijing EV Licenses Ignored In Spite Of New Car Registration Difficulties http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/beijing-ev-licenses-ignored-in-spite-of-new-car-registration-difficulties/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/beijing-ev-licenses-ignored-in-spite-of-new-car-registration-difficulties/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 12:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=748241 SCMP   28JAN13  CH SMOG

Though the municipal government in Beijing has set aside 20,000 license plates for electric vehicles in an attempt to offset their ongoing air quality woes, very few residents are interested, even if it means waiting a long time to own a gasoline-powered car.

South China Morning Post reports only 1,701 potential EV owners have filed applications for new vehicle licensing thus far. The figure is less than 0.1 percent of the nearly 1.9 million new vehicle licensing applications received by Beijing’s city government for gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Though all 20,000 applications would be issued if more applicants entered their name in the lottery system used to issue licenses, most would rather wait until they received approval for a conventional vehicle. As a result, the city government recently tweaked their lottery to improve the chances of those 640,000 applicants who tried their hand over 25 times to buy and license a non-EV vehicle, resulting in a 2.4 percent chance of success for those who applied more than 37 times.

The reason for the lack of enthusiasm in Beijing for EVs? A lack of supporting infrastructure for charging the vehicles, and a perception of poor performance and unreliability overall, with taxi drivers complaining of limited range and long-wait times to charge in regards of the 1,000 taxis and the 500 charging stations in the city to keep the taxis moving.

Beijing aims to alleviate the issue by installing 1,000 stations within city limits by the end of 2014, extending into the suburbs by 2017. City officials also aim to bring 1.7 million EVs to the road by 2017, as well, with subsidies of up to 108,000 yuan to help encourage more residents to buy electric.

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Tesla S Goes AWD, Comes With Cheaper Batteries, Upgraded Firmware http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-s-goes-awd-comes-with-cheaper-batteries-upgraded-firmware/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/tesla-s-goes-awd-comes-with-cheaper-batteries-upgraded-firmware/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:03:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=738425 tesla-model-s-03

During a Tesla townhall meeting at the automaker’s European headquarters in Amsterdam, CEO Elon Musk announced to owners that an all-wheel drive version of the vaunted S would arrive in showrooms by the early months of 2015 at the latest.

The arrival comes on the heels of the Model X SUV, which will come standard with the AWD system when it makes its showroom debut in 2015. The system utilizes two electric motors, each driving the front or rear wheels while pushing the electric SUV from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds for the Performance option. Power for both the X and S models will come from higher-capacity battery options, eventually including those made with cheaper batteries from Tesla’s “giga factory.”

Planned to be the largest battery plant in the world, the factory will be built in the United States sometime soon, and will be able to recycle older battery units in-house with refitting visiting Teslas with newer packs. The eventual goal is to drive battery costs down by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent while pushing 30 gigawatt-hours of production capacity, just in time for Tesla’s $30,000/200-mile EV debut in the near future. More information will be announced in March, when Musk will also divulge the location of the new factory.

For current owners, a firmware upgrade will be available in a few weeks: Version 6.0 adds real-time traffic data, more control over ride height and suspension settings, and other improvements. Down the road, owners can also upgrade their seats for greater comfort, while future owners of S and X models will have those seats as standard equipment.

Finally, owners will be able to go coast-to-coast thanks to Tesla’s Supercharger stations, whose transcontinental network was completed recently — with a transcontinental road trip to celebrate the occasion — and is now adding capacity at a rate of five of the charging stations coming online per week. The chargers are expected to recharge batteries at a max of 135 kW current.

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Expert: 54.5 MPG CAFE Mark Reachable With Few Plug-Ins http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/expert-54-5-mpg-cafe-mark-reachable-with-few-plug-ins/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/expert-54-5-mpg-cafe-mark-reachable-with-few-plug-ins/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=703954 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Charging Plug, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For automakers worried about meeting the 54.5 mpg CAFE mark by 2025, Johnson Controls — the ones who predicted the end of the steering wheel by 2025 — assured them that the target could be met, and without the need to turn everything into a plug-in or full EV.

Johnson Controls own Brian Kessler, who heads the company’s battery division, claims that a combination of turbocharging, stop-start systems, direct injection and other bleeding-edge fuel economy technology could be leveraged to meet this target. He then added that no automaker necessarily needs to go the route of Tesla, Nissan or Toyota to meet the CAFE target, implicitly endorsing the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to fuel economy regulations over that of the California Air Resource Board’s mandate of electric batteries or fuel cells for zero-emission vehicles.

While most manufacturers have had mixed results with plug-in hybrids and other EVs, they’ve had better luck upgrading the internal combustion engine to meet the challenge before them. Downsized and turbocharged powertrains, like Ford’s EcoBoost engine lineup, were cited as a cost effective solution. 80 percent of the Blue Oval’s line of vehicles can be optioned with an EcoBoost engine, spreading the cost of development throughout the line. Of course, downsized turbo engines are notorious for delivering big numbers on government fuel economy tests, while falling short of real world fuel economy expectations.

 

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Toyota Will Put Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle On Sale Next Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/toyota-will-put-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicle-on-sale-next-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/toyota-will-put-hydrogen-fuel-cell-vehicle-on-sale-next-year/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 12:30:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=694449 toyota-fuel-cell-vehicle-concept-13

It doesn’t have a name yet, and the prototype that Toyota unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show was covered in camo, but the Japanese automaker promises that they will be selling a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in the United States next year. The company is claiming it will have a range of 300 miles and will refuel in less than five minutes. The Corolla sized sedan has been tested in North America’s hottest and coldest locations and Toyota says that the emissions free car will have an electric motor rated at greater than 100 kW (>130 hp) and be able to accelerate from zero to sixty miles an hour in about 10 seconds.

“We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel; just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Bob Carter, Toyota’s senior VP in charge of U.S. auto operations. “For years, the use of hydrogen gas to power an electric vehicle has been seen by many smart people as a foolish quest. Yes, there are significant challenges. The first is building the vehicle at a reasonable price for many people. The second is doing what we can to help kick-start the construction of convenient hydrogen refueling infrastructure.”

toyota-fuel-cell-vehicle-concept

Toyota’s not saying what the car will cost but it claims that it has significantly reduced the cost of building a fuel cell, approximately 95% in a little over a decade. Toyota spokeswoman Jana Hartline says that Toyota will give consumers “a variety of options” when the H2 FCV, including outright sale. That would make the Toyota FCV the first fuel cell vehicle available for purchase in the U.S. Honda has made fuel cell cars available but only on leases.

toyota-fuel-cell-vehicle-concept-11

Besides the cost of the fuel cells, which typically use precious metals as catalysts, the other barrier to fuel cell vehicles in a lack of fueling stations, so while you’ll be able to buy a Toyota FCV, you’ll only be able to do that in California, which has at least a rudimentary hydrogen infrastructure. Toyota is working with UC Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program to map out where additional stations should be placed, and based on their models, they say that an additional 68 hydrogen fueling stations will be needed when the cars go on sale.

toyota-fuel-cell-vehicle-concept-07

California currently has nine public hydrogen fueling stations, mostly around Los Angeles and San Francisco. Another 19 are under development. The state of California has approved $200 million in funding to build hydrogen stations in the state in 2015 and another 20 stations are expected in 2016.

toyota-fuel-cell-vehicle-concept-14 (1)

Carter said that Toyota also plans to independently address the issue of fueling stations. “Stay tuned, because this infrastructure thing is going to happen.”

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UAW Sets Up Organizing Committee At Tesla Motors’ Fremont Assembly Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-sets-up-organizing-committee-at-tesla-motors-fremont-assembly-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-sets-up-organizing-committee-at-tesla-motors-fremont-assembly-plant/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 16:27:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693745 Workers at Tesla's Fremont plant celebrate the 1,000th Model S body built, 2012.

Workers at Tesla’s Fremont plant celebrate the 1,000th Model S body built, 2012.

United Auto Workers president Bob King has said that the labor union is interested in organizing Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California and that a group of workers at the site have set up an organizing committee for the UAW. That factory is where Tesla assembles the battery powered Model S. Tesla has prided itself in being different from Detroit and its headquarters’ location, the Silicon Valley, is not exactly a labor hotbed.

While under King the autoworkers’ union has been more collaborative than confrontational with automakers, should the UAW organize Tesla that would undoubtedly affect the corporate culture at the EV startup. “Elon [Musk]‘s attitude was always, ‘We’re going to Silicon Valley-ize the car business,’ ” Karl Brauer, with Kelley Blue Book told the SFGate.com. “If he goes union, he’s going to take a huge step toward falling in line with the industry that he used to make fun of.”

It’s a testy subject. Despite King’s comments, when contacted by the San Francisco Chronicle, the UAW’s public relations director would not comment. Neither would Tesla, nor many of their employees. For Musk’s part he seems ambivalent. When Tesla purchased the Fremont facility from Toyota (which had formerly operated it with General Motors as the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (Nummi) plant) Musk said, ”on the question of the union, we’re neutral.”  However, Tesla Motors’ last annual financial report listed possible union activity under business “risks”: ”The mere fact that our labor force could be unionized may harm our reputation in the eyes of some investors and thereby negatively affect our stock price. Additionally, the unionization of our labor force could increase our employee costs and decrease our profitability, both of which could adversely affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.”

In August, King told WardsAuto that Musk had repeated his neutral position at a meeting with union representatives, but that other Tesla executives were less open to the idea of an organized labor force. Musk, King said, was ”very open and said he would respect what the workers wanted. But his operating management has done the opposite.”

Tesla’s Fremont plant is the only remaining car assembly plant on the West Coast. When it was called NUMMI, it employed 4,700 workers, most recently building Tacoma pickups and Corolla sedans. Current employment is estimated to be about 2,000, many of who are experienced autoworkers, having worked at the facility under prior management.

Employee reviews of Tesla posted online mention a fast pace and long hours. That’s typical of many Silicon Valley startups, which typically focus more on engineering than manufacturing. While work hours are a traditional wedge issue that labor unions use to rally workers onto their side, the frenetic pace in Silicon Valley is part of the culture there. ”Engineering lends itself to a different style of self-starters, independent-minded people, survival of the fittest,” said Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation labor union. ”Manufacturing is different.”

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