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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Hybrid / Green

Critics Say GM Lied About Chevrolet Volt

On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 12:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Critics Say GM Lied About Chevrolet Volt test 1-1

Just one month before the official launch of the Chevrolet Volt, there is a controversy brewing over whether or not the Volt is truly an electric vehicle. General Motors claims on its website that the Volt is not a hybrid, but an "extended-range electric vehicle", but many are saying that the car’s engine uses gasoline as the primary energy source for an electric generator subsequently turning the wheels of the vehicle—exactly how hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius engine, operate. GM has been representing the Volt for the past 3 years as an all electric vehicle, not a hybrid like the Prius.

According to Jim Hall, of 2953 Auto Analytics Inc.: "You have a PR problem with any one of these vehicles." Hall also stated, "GM had this sort of schizophrenic thing about doing its best to manage perception and at the same time going off into traditional old-style GM hype."

General Motors has promoted the Volt for 3 years as a green vehicle that would run on electric power and get 230 miles per gallon. The $41,000 Volt was assigned a unique marketing strategy in hopes that the Volt’s image would be differentiated from the Toyota Prius, giving the vehicle an edge in the market.

The EPA has not released an official rating on the Volt as far as fuel economy, and GM has released a statement that some consumers may realize lower fuel ratings.

Auto critics from  Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics are saying that the Volt uses its combustion gas-powered engine to charge an electric generator which powers the wheels—just as a hybrid operates. They deem the Chevrolet Volt to be an electric plug-in hybrid, NOT the all-electric vehicle that General Motors has claimed for years the Volt would be.

A recent Edmunds review of the car contains the headline that reads, “GM Lied: Chevy Volt is not a true EV.”

Honda Declared America's Greenest Automaker

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 12:25PM | By: Chris Weiss

Honda Declared America's Greenest Automaker  test 1-1

According to a newly released study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Honda is officially the nation's greenest automaker, edging out Toyota and Hyundai. More than just a nod to high-profile green models, the study looked at the overall emissions performance of each automaker's entire fleet. Honda's win marks the fifth consecutive time it's topped the study.

Honda topped the field of eight automakers, who together made up 92 percent of the market for the 2008 model year. Toyota and Hyundai tied for second place, each just one point behind Honda. In scoring that works more like golf than basketball (less is better), the Honda received an all-around score of 86 vs. Toyota/Hyundai's 87. Trailing those three were Volkswagen (90), Nissan (93), Ford (108), General Motors (109), and Chrysler (113). I'd presume that the study was looking at the Volkswagen brand and not the entire auto group, because several of the country's least efficient cars hail from the VW group, including the least efficient (Lamborghini Murcielago) and second least efficient (Bugatti Veyron 16.4).

The USC's study looks at two deciding factors: the per-mile smog of an automaker's fleet and the global warming emissions. Each one is weighted equally. The numbers are compared with the industry average of all eight automakers to make the final score.

“It was a photo finish, but Honda is still the champ,” Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program and the author of the rankings report said in a press release. “Toyota was poised to take the lead, but stalled in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s fleet saw dramatic efficiency improvements, pushing the company into a title contender spot.”

Toyota Prius Takes It to the Next Level With Smart Grid System

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 11:05AM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Prius Takes It to the Next Level With Smart Grid System test 1-1

The Toyota Prius is already the best-selling hybrid and probably  the most recognizeable face of the green movement within the automotive industry. That distinction is about to become even more pronounced. Toyota has said that when the plug-in version of the Prius launches in 2012 in Japan, the company will also launch the Toyota Smart Center, a networked home smart grid system that will work toward better energy efficiency.

The Smart Center will link a home's grid with televisions and mobile phones, allowing homeowners to view their consumption, view the charging status of their Prius, and monitor other aspects of power consumption. The system will help homeowners make better decisions about energy consumption, calculating strategies that can cut usage and save money. Toyota aims to use the system and Prius plug-in toward helping homes to become up to 75 percent more efficient than standard homes with gasoline vehicles parked out front.

Unfortunately, for those who own or plan to buy other plug-in cars, the Smart Center will be designed to work only with the Prius Plug-In. If successful, perhaps Toyota will expand the line with a more universal model.

ALMS Wrap Up Pt.2: Best GT Season Ever Comes Down To The Last Corner

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 10:55AM | By: John Welch

ALMS Wrap Up Pt.2: Best GT Season Ever Comes Down To The Last Corner test 1-1

The LMP classes provided us with fewer thrills than we were hoping for at the 2010 Petit Le Mans, but this minor let down demonstrates the beauty of multi-class racing: the LMP race isn't the only race going on. There are also GT cars, and this year, many GT cars. By the end of 2008 GT1 had grown too expensive for its own good, reduced, in North America, to a near exhibition race between the two defacto-winners, Corvette Racing C6.Rs No.3 and No.4. By 2009 there wasn't even an Aston Martin DB9R racing in the ALMS, needless to say Saleens, Maseratis or Lamborghinis. GT1 had to go, and GT2 had to step up and fill the huge gap left by the massive engined, carbon-braked premier class. No problemo.

How does 6 manufacturers, all fielding two or more fully funded cars, sound? Maybe even a four-way points battle for all three championships: Drivers, Teams, and Manufacturer? You got it, and just for fun, that points battle came down to the last corner on the last lap. Purty dang exciting, especially considering some of the catastrophic accidents seen this season. Those BMWs have been rebuilt, what? Eight hundred times? Since March? Yeah, that sounds right . . .

The Petit Le Mans was a fitting end to a grueling season, the Corvette Racing ZR1s out for blood and everyone else just trying to survive to the 70% mark. Having never gone a season in ALMS competition without winning a race, things looked pretty bleak for the fledging GT2 squad coming into Road Atlanta. New engines and the associated teething problems that come with them have kept the yellow and black fiends out of the winner's circle for nine rounds; would their season end with heartbreak?

Risi Competitzione and BMW Rahal/Letterman enter Petit Le Mans determined to capture the Manufacturers title, while Porsche veterans Flying Lizard Motorsports attempt to use a relaxed strategy to ensure they get the Drivers title, then race balls out to the finish for the Manufacturers and the win. Endurance races have seemed like elongated sprints for the ALMS this season, and Petit would be no different. These cars and others duked it out for 1,000 kilometers and covered the holes in LMP excitement rather well. GTChallenge, a pro-am class made up of Porsche GT3 Cup cars, came down to the wire as well, and what of that silly 911 Hybrid deal? It lasted the entire race, and under different circumstances could have been very competitive. More on the stunning Porsche Hybrid, race results and recap inside the post.


Ford's Innovative Liquid-Cooled Battery System

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 9:33AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford's Innovative Liquid-Cooled Battery System test 1-1

The Ford Focus Electric debuts in the U.S. late next year and in Europe in 2012. The Focus will be powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery that employs heated and cooled liquid to help maximize battery life as well as all-electric-powered driving range. Focus Electric is one of five new electric vehicles that Ford plans to launch over the next several years in North America. The all-electric Ford vehicle will not use any gas and is expected to have a driving range of up to 100 miles.

According to Ford, “Thermal management of lithium-ion battery systems is critical to the success of all-electric vehicles because extreme temperatures can affect performance, reliability, safety and durability." Ford implemented an advanced active liquid-cooling and heating system to help control the temperature of the lithium-ion batteries which enables them to power the vehicle at optimal conditions in any temperature.

“All-electric vehicles do not have a conventional engine on board, so it is critical we maximize the performance of the battery under various operating temperatures,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford director, Electrification Program and Engineering. “Active liquid systems are more effective than air systems at regulating lithium-ion battery temperature, as a result, the active liquid system on Focus Electric will play a key role in providing our customers with the best performance possible."

Chevy Volt Gets New $500 Charger and Tax Breaks

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:41PM | By: Chris Weiss

Chevy Volt Gets New $500 Charger and Tax Breaks  test 1-1

The Chevy Volt has just gotten a whole lot cheaper. In Lansing, Michigan. The Lansing Board of Water and Light announced this week that it will offer Lansing residents a matching grant of up to $7,500, which will double the tax break offered by the federal government, cutting up to a full $15 grand off the Volt's base price. That means Lansing Volt buyers will have the opportunity to walk away from the Chevy dealership with a $26,000 Volt. Not only does Lansing's program double the overall incentive to buy a Volt, it pays right on the spot rather than in the form of a tax credit.

In other Volt news, Chevy announced a new 240-volt charger that will cost $490 and will cut charging time to four hours.

Lansing's program is limited to the first 25 plug-in buyers, so if you live in the city and want to buy a plug-in at some point in the near future, you'd best act fast. While the program applies to plug-ins in general, the Chevy Volt will hit the market long before the Nissan Leaf, so all 25 spots are likely to go to Volt buyers. However, the program allows for people buying Volts or other federally eligible plug-ins elsewhere and then moving them to the Lansing area for coverage under the program.

There are already at least 29 people signed up for the grant, confirming that it will be highly competitive. Lansing hopes to allocate more money to the program to expand it to more consumers.

Kia Details Its Pop Concept

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:36PM | By: Chris Weiss

Kia Details Its Pop Concept  test 1-1

Kia teased its Pop concept weeks ago. Until the Paris Motor Show commenced, we were limited in what we could tell you about it. We knew it was a distinctive, 2 + 1 urban commuter that looked like it came from another planet. But Kia was rather coy with the details of what exactly was behind those capsule-like doors. Once the company unveiled the concept in Paris, it came clean with the details.

Under that short, flat hood, Kia has a 50 kW electric motor powered by an 18 kWh lithium-polymer gel battery. The battery is smaller and lighter than more common lithium-ion packs.The combination powers the Pop up to 100 miles and takes about six hours for a full charge. The concept's top speed is given at 87 mph.

In creating the Pop concept, Kia sought to look far into the future and well beyond the auto market of today. In doing so, it took inspiration from outside sources like ultralight racing bicycles and gliders (and presumably insects and sci-fi-derived spacecraft). The designers aimed to make something resembling a nucleas or "wild atom," and indeed, the Pop does give the appearence of the smallest possible unit of automotive technology, though it's actually slightly longer than cars like the Smart ForTwo.

Porsche President Confirms a Panamera Plug-In Hybrid

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:10PM | By: Chris Weiss

Porsche President Confirms a Panamera Plug-In Hybrid test 1-1

On a busy first day at the helm of Porsche, new CEO and president Mathias Muller revealed that Porsche is working on a plug-in hybrid version of its Panamera hybrid. Muller told press that he had driven the prototype version of the new plug-in and called the car "very convincing." The model hasn't been confirmed for production, and Porsche is still considering its viability. The good news is that it looks like the company may be following suit of its 918 Spyder in making the plug-in Panamera a model that combines high-end performance with greener intentions.

The version of the Panamera discussed is built upon the Panamera Turbo's 500-hp 4.8-liter twin-turbo V8. The plug-in hybrid will get an unspecified electric motor in addition to that big powerplant and should be able to offer emissions-free city driving as well as electric-assisted high performance.

This new plug-in model is distinct from the non-plug-in Panamera hybrid that Porsche has been known to be working on for several years. That model will be based on the Cayenne S Hybrid's powertrain: a parallel hybrid system pairing a 333 hp supercharged 3-liter V6 and a 47 hp electric motor. In July, Porsche confirmed that the Panamera S Hybrid will launch by the end of next year. In the Cayenne, the hybrid powertrain boosts efficiency by 20 percent while delivering all-electric driving at speeds up to 31 mph.

Volt To Make Its Official Debut During World Series

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 3:41PM | By: John Welch

Volt To Make Its Official Debut During World Series test 1-1

Welp, its about damn time. Chevrolet has finally announced when they will bombard us with Volt marketing, and there is no Volt song or dance in sight. Settling on a slightly, uhm, manlier medium for introudcing their much-hyped hypermiler, Volt commercials will officially debut during the 2010 World Series. That would be a series of fairly important baseball contests, for those who will click off this page and return to Second Life.

The spots will highlight Chevrolet's place in American culture, possibly featuring reminders of important Chevrolets built over the course of the company's 100-year history. This is a rumor mind you; GM has been totally silent regarding the content in the ads, announcing only that they will begin airing Volt spots during Major League Baseball's fall classic, and continue to run the ads for the remainder of the autumnal season.

GM is scheduled to begin production of the Volt for retail sales on Nov. 11 at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The Volt is being marketed as a "halo car" to underscore GM's green credentials. The campaign will run on TV, radio, and in print media. Because of the amount of ad support Chevrolet is putting into the World Series, MLB and Fox have agreed to push the start time of Game Three of the World Series to a more managable 6:57 pm - instead of effing midnight or whatever MLB had originally planned. This will be the earliest starting time for a WS game since 1987. The purpose of the early start time? Still clouded in mystery rolled in an enigma and swallowed by a cunundrum. In other words, we have no idea.

Though GM has declined to report exactly what they have spent on the ads, they are certain that they are close to if not the largest investor in this year's World Series. GM plans to resume this advertising campaign during the NFL's Super Bowl, in Feburary 2011.

GM Specifies Volt Electric Range of 20 to 50 Miles Depending On Conditions

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: Chris Weiss

GM Specifies Volt Electric Range of 20 to 50 Miles Depending On Conditions test 1-1

For as long as we can remember, the Chevy Volt has been defined by a 40-mile electric range. Chevy quotes that range in official materials and it's been the most practical number that we've seen to denote how far the car will drive under battery power. Much more practical than the 230 mpg number the company once touted.

Of course, any such figure, even those prized mpg numbers from the EPA, are subject to a certain amount of variation based on how, when and where you drive. And the Volt is no different. GM recently clarified that Volt drivers can expect to get anywhere from 25 to 50 miles of all-electric driving depending upon a range of factors.

Spokesman Rob Peterson said last week that after further testing Chevy had come to the new conclusion. Certain predictable factors like use of air conditioning, heating, extreme weather, aggressive driving and hilly drives can limit the range of the Volt. The extra 300 miles provided by the range-extending gas engine was unaffected by the new announcement.

Despite these newly detailed caveats, GM is sticking with its 40-mile range for "most drivers under normal conditions." This is an important distinction, since Chevy has said that that figure gives the car enough electric range for 75 percent of U.S. drivers to get to work under pure battery power.

Petit Le Mans 2010; Audi, Peugeot, Hybrids, Oh My!

On: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:33PM | By: John Welch

Petit Le Mans 2010; Audi, Peugeot, Hybrids, Oh My! test 1-1

It's been a while since we covered America's most entertaining road racing association, probably because it has been a while since the American Le Mans Series has raced. The Autoshopper was there in March for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and though we can't make it to Braselton, we will cover every heart-stopping minute of the 2010 Petit Le Mans. To ramp up excitement for the event we have here a primer for the slightly uninitiated, a short guide to the new cars, new teams, and of course, the fearsome diesel monsters that will be murdering the Road Atlanta tarmac on Saturday. 

Two practice sessions down, two more scheduled for today. Venture inside the post for a break down of the new teams, and the time sheets from this morning.