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Ford Plans to Take on Toyota Prius with New Hybrid Line

New “dedicated” hybrid line expected to debut in 2019.

by on Aug.22, 2014

Ford will take dead aim at the segment leader, the Toyota Prius, with its new "dedicated" hybrid.

Already one of the most ambitious players in the battery-based vehicle market, Ford Motor Co. wants to take a run at hybrid market leader Toyota with a new gasoline-electric model it will launch in 2018, according to a new report.

The as yet-unnamed model will be directly targeted at the Toyota Prius, the world’s most popular hybrid-electric vehicle, and will use a dedicated design, unlike other Ford hybrids that are pitched as optional alternatives in conventional vehicles.

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A report by the Reuters news service says the new model will be produced in a plant near Detroit, likely the factory in Wayne, Michigan that currently produces a mix of other Ford battery-cars, including the Focus EV, and the C-Max, which is offered in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid configurations in the U.S.


Tesla’s Musk Has No Plans of Leaving CEO Job

Chief exec blames Ford for taking the SEX out of Tesla’s plans.

by on Jun.04, 2014

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk told Tesla shareholders he plans to remain in charge of the company for at least the next four or five years.

He may be splitting his long days between carmaking, space exploration and solar cells, but Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk says he expects to remain in his post at the helm of the battery-carmaker for at least another four or five years.

Musk outlined his plans for Tesla during the maker’s annual shareholders meeting, noting he plans to stick around through the launch of the upcoming Model X sport-ute, as well as a more mainstream battery-car that the company had hoped to call the Model E. But that has apparently run afoul of a trademark at Ford Motor Co., and spoils Tesla’s plans to have a line-up that spelled out SEX.

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“They are killing SEX,” Musk jokingly told shareholders, noting that Ford had threatened to sue Tesla. But he hints there’s another sexy alternative name Tesla is working on. (more…)

Chrysler Charging Up Over Electric Vehicles

After Fiat 500e, "additional" battery cars "coming" promises electrification chief.

by on Jul.18, 2013

Fiat plans to sell only a few 100 of its 500e battery cars in California -- at a significant loss.

Despite the seemingly entrenched opposition of its CEO, Chrysler suddenly appears ready to charge into the electric vehicle market.

With the new Fiat 500e now rolling into showrooms in California, the smallest of the Detroit makers has “additional vehicles coming,” hints Chrysler’s global battery car chief.

“The 500e is just the first step,” said Mike Duhaime, the maker’s new global director of electrified propulsion and engineering, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “There are battery-electric vehicles in our future.”

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Chrysler is clearly playing a game of catch-up when it comes to battery power, the maker way behind most competitors, large and small, when it comes to plug-ins, pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, and even conventional hybrids. One of the reasons has been the strong concerns about battery power repeatedly expressed by Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.


Battery Makers Facing Shake-Out

A123’s failure likely to be followed by others, warns new study.

by on Oct.23, 2012

The auto industry could see a shake-out among its battery suppliers.

The consolidation in the business of making lithium-ion batteries, a key component in electric vehicles, is moving faster than expected – the recent bankruptcy and sale of A123’s automotive operations to JCI just the latest example.

The consulting firm of Roland Berger predicted a consolidation back in 2010. But in an update to the report issued this week, it is saying the shake-out is unfolding faster than expected and predicts only six to eight international players in lithium battery production will remain in the market by 2017.

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The move could head off a potentially devastating price war among competitors at a time of unexpectedly slow sales of battery-based vehicles. But for auto manufacturers, that could translate into higher component costs that, in turn, slow the growth in demand for electrified vehicles, some analysts warn.


Despite Recent Problems, Fisker Moving Ahead

Second model, Atlantic, could begin production in early 2013.

by on Oct.02, 2012

The Fisker Atlantic could go into prototype production by early next year.

Fisker Automotive has ambitious plans to re-launch its car in Europe soon, take it to the Middle East by the end of the year and begin sales in China in early 2013.

The troubled battery-car start-up’s new chief executive officer Tony Posawatz acknowledged the company had made mistakes but dismissed a crushing review by Consumer Reports — which described the design of the Fisker Karma as flawed –and said the public’s reaction to the plug-in hybrid is what matters most.

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“Customers do like these cars,” said the former General Motors Co. executive who had been responsible for bring the Chevrolet Volt to market.

The Karma has been well received by customers, who are pleased with both its combination of bold styling, instant power, fuel economy and aura of eco-chic, he told the Automotive Press Association during a luncheon in Detroit.


Are Chrysler and Fiat Pulling Back on Battery Power?

Maker selling its GEM battery vehicle division.

by on Apr.28, 2011

The GEM Peapod neighborhood-electrict vehicle.

Chrysler Group LLC is selling its neighborhood battery car unit, Global Electric Motorcars, LLC to Polaris Industries Inc.

Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri said GEM, which is based in Fargo, North Dakota, didn’t fit into Chryusler’s portfolio. However, the sales of GEM does not mean Chrysler was giving up on electric vehicles entirely, he said. A battery-powered version of the Fiat 500 is still an approved program, Ranieri said.

But the trans-Atlantic partnership has otherwise taken a relatively low-visibility approach to battery cars, Fiat scrubbing several electric vehicle projects that Chrysler had previewed after the American maker emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

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GEM, which builds low-speed EVs used in gated communities and golf courses, is considered something of a leader within the low-speed vehicle market, with a well-respected brand and approximately $30 million in sales during the 2010 calendar year. Since the company was established in 1998, they have placed more than 45,000 electric-powered vehicles on the road worldwide.


Nissan Ramping Up Production of Leaf

Maker struggling to meet orders, while competitor Chevy also boosting Volt production.

by on Feb.08, 2011

As many as 20,000 customers are waiting for their Leaf battery cars.

With an estimated 20,000 orders waiting, Nissan is desperately struggling to catch up on demand for its new Leaf battery-electric vehicle and will increase production as quickly as possible, company officials have revealed.

So far, less than 1,000 of the so-called BEVs have been delivered since the nation’s first mass-market electric vehicle went on sale at the end of 2010, with the maker saying it has been consciously taking its time to ensure it gets things right with the first cars off the assembly line.

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But production should jump into the “thousands” starting in March, according to Nissan’s senior U.S. manager of sales and marketing, Brian Carolin.

“I’m confident during April, May you’re going to see a significant number of deliveries,” the executive told reporters.

GM's new global marketing czar, Joel Ewanick, shown with the Chevrolet Volt.

Nissan will not release its specific 2011 Leaf sales forecast, but last autumn it cut off early a preliminary order bank after 20,000 potential customers placed advanced orders – backed by $99 deposits – for the battery vehicle.  Company officials have said relatively few of those orders have been rescinded despite delays in getting Leaf into showrooms.

Many observers have dubbed 2011 the year of the electric vehicle, and a variety of small makers, such as Tesla, Amp and Fisker are seeing the coming months as critical in their efforts to penetrate a market long dominated by big brands, such as Nissan and General Motors.

The latter is struggling to ramp up production of its own battery-based vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt.  While Nissan’s Leaf relies solely on battery power to get an estimated 100 miles range per charge, Chevy took a very different approach, using a plug-in hybrid powertrain for Volt that gets 25 to 50 miles on a charge before a small internal combustion engine kicks in for extended drives.

Both Leaf and Volt have garnered a number of awards since their launch, the Volt most recently being named North American Car of the Year, while Leaf is the only Asian finalist in the World Car of the Year balloting.  (Volt missed the cut.)

Chevy has produced only a few 100 more battery vehicles than Nissan, so far this year, and appears to have more modest aspirations, with a stated goal of selling just 10,000 Volts in 2010.  But CEO Dan Akerson has said he also wants to ramp up production, and the target for Volt in 2011 is 45,000.

Nissan has, meanwhile, said it expects to have worldwide production capacity in place, by 2014, to produce 250,000 battery cars.  That would include both Leaf and several other Nissan and Infiniti models now under development.

EV Maker THINK Back in Production

First THINK City urban battery cars roll off new line in Finland.

by on Dec.10, 2009

The First THINK City battery cars roll down the line at a new plant in Finland that also produces Porsche Boxsters.

First THINK City cars on the line in Finland.

Struggling to recharge its business after a brush with bankruptcy, the Scandinavian battery car maker, THINK, has resumed production of its little electric two-seater at a new assembly plant in Finland.

The 18-year-old company has struggled for most of its existence.  But company officials – and THINK’s new investors – are betting that the growing demand for high-mileage and alternative fuel vehicles will help turn the company’s fortunes around.

In the near-term, the City will be the key to a turnaround.  There are currently “around 2,300” backorders for the subcompact battery-electric vehicle, THINK reports, the “majority” going to various European municipal governments and utility partners.

Catching up on that backlog will be the responsibility of THINK’s new lead shareholder, Valmet Automotive, best known for running a specialty automotive assembly complex in the tongue-twisting Finish town of Uusikaupunki.  That facility assembles both the Boxster and Cayman, for Porsche, and will next year launch production of the Fisker plug-in hybrid, the Karma.

A separate line today began rolling out the City, with key customers to begin taking delivery before Christmas,says Richard Canny, the maker’s CEO.  “our first priority is to deliver to these customers now that our vehicles are rolling off the production line again. Our next priority is to build on this order book with continued expansion in Europe and around the world.”

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That comment reflects THINK’s long-standing goal of returning to the U.S. market.  In a conversation with, earlier this year, Canny noted his hopes of modifying the current City model to meet American expectations.  Among other things, that will require increasing the little vehicle’s range from around 112 miles to 15, and boosting top speed from 62 miles per hour to 75 mph.

(Click Here for a review of the THINK City battery car.)


Chrysler Disbanding ENVI But Maintaining EVs

U.S. maker will lead EV development for Fiat, too.

by on Nov.09, 2009

Chrysler is shutting down its ENVI battery car unit, though the maker insists it will "absorb" the project into its conventional sales divisions.

Chrysler is shutting down its ENVI battery car unit, though the maker insists it will "absorb" the project into its conventional sales divisions.

Despite taking more than eight hours to brief the news media on its plans for the future, Chrysler and its new masters, Fiat, left some gaping holes, last week – notable among them, the company’s intentions, post-bankruptcy, for electric vehicles.

Now, it seems, that question has been answered, Chrysler is eliminating its ENVI electric vehicle unit, though well-placed company sources tells that despite some news reports, this morning, it is not eliminating battery car development.

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Quite the contrary.  The U.S. maker will become the “center of excellence” for all electric vehicle development for both its own product programs and those of its Italian parent, Fiat.


40 Battery Vehicles to Debut by 2012

But battery power not likely to make significant inroads for some time.

by on Oct.20, 2009

The Ford Focus EV will be one of more than 40 battery vehicles planned for launch by 2012.

The Ford Focus EV will be one of more than 40 battery vehicles planned for launch by 2012.

At least 40 battery-based vehicles will make their debut between now and 2012, according to a new study by PriceWaterhouse Coopers.  And the rate of new offerings could increase significantly in the years beyond.

But the report cautions that the technology “is not expected to have a major volume impact in the near to mid-term,” in part “because the price premiums” for the technology “are prohibitive.”

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The timing of the PWC report coincides with the opening of “The Business of Plugging In,” a conference designed to spur the development of plug-in hybrid technology.  (Click Here for the full story.)  General Motors is planning to launch its much-heralded Chevrolet Volt in about a year, with Toyota, Ford and a number of other makers plnning their own plug-ins, as well.  Ford is one of many manufacturers spreading its bets across a variety of green technologies; the maker plans to bring out pure battery-electric versions of its Transit Connect van and Focus sedan by 2012, as well.