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Ford to Invest $4.5 Bil in New Electrified Products

By 2020, 40% of its nameplates will be offered with battery-based options.

by on Dec.10, 2015

"More than 40% of our nameplates will be electrified," announced Ford CEO Mark Fields.

Ford Motor plans to invest $4.5 billion to add an array of new hybrids, plug-ins and battery-electric vehicles to its line-up by the end of the decade, CEO Mark Fields announced on Thursday.

The maker plans not only to add more battery-based vehicles but also to expand where it will offer those models, with two new produced, the plug-in C-Max Energi and the Mondeo Hybrid, entering the Chinese market in the coming months.

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By the end of the decade, said Fields, “More than 40% of our nameplates will be electrified,” up from 13% today, and the list will include “a full range” of the maker’s products, not just a limited selection like today. Where there are six battery-based products today, Ford will add 13 more by 2020.

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Toyota Reveals Prius Tech Details

Higher efficiency, updated suspension, controversial design.

by on Oct.13, 2015

The 2016 Toyota Prius.

Five weeks after unveiling the 2016 Toyota Prius at a splashy Las Vegas event, the Japanese maker is finally filling in some of the critical details about the new hybrid-electric vehicle.

Among other things, Toyota claims the drivetrain on the 2016 Prius is significantly more efficient than the outgoing model. And buyers will not have a choice of either conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries or a more advanced lithium-ion pack. Improved aerodynamics and weight-saving measures are expected to deliver as much as 10% fuel economy.

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Toyota also is offering a bit closer look at the structure of the 2016 Prius, including details of its new independent rear suspension which is intended to improve the ride and handling of the fourth-generation hatchback.

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Kia Charges Up Optima Hybrid

Battery-based offering belatedly catches up.

by on Feb.07, 2014

Kia's Michael Sprague shows Chicago Auto Show attendees the newly updated Kia Optima Hybrid.

When Kia announced a mid-cycle refresh of its midsize Optima sedan for 2014, something was clearly missing. For reasons that went unexplained, the hybrid-electric version of the four-door maintained the old Optima styling.

The maker will finally correct that omission, previewing a late-entry 2014 Optima Hybrid this week at the Chicago Auto Show. But for those who were hoping to see Kia upgrade the underlying hybrid technology, well, that’s not in the cards for the moment.

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The basic update matches the tweaks given the mainstream Optima model, though there are some specific details designed for the Hybrid to help improve aerodynamics and allow it to alert viewers that it’s a green machine. (more…)

U.S. Fuel Economy Sets Record for 2013

Electrics, hybrids help push toward new high-water mark.

by on Jan.09, 2014

U.S. fuel economy is higher than ever, in part, because of increasing sales of hybrids and electric vehicles.

Despite plunging fuel prices that helped drive a sharp increase in sales of pickup trucks and utility vehicles last year, the fuel economy of the typical new vehicle sold in the U.S. hit an all-time record in 2013.

The average window sticker of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in December was 24.8 mpg – down 0.2 mpg from the revised value in November, but up 4.7 mpg from the value in October 2007, the first month of monitoring by the University of Michigan Transportation Institute.

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The average fuel economy of all vehicles sold during the 2013 calendar year was 24.8 miles per gallon, which was up 1 mile per gallon from the average fuel economy posted for 2012 and 3.9 mpg from 2008, according to the U-M survey. For the 2013 model year, which ended October 1, U-M reports the fuel economy rating for all vehicles is 24.7 mpg, which is the highest level ever. (more…)

Ford Using Sun to Power Solar Energi

C-Max concept charges batter using special panels on roof.

by on Jan.02, 2014

Ford's C-Max Solar Energi Concept will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

Automakers are struggling to find ways to make it cheaper and easier to recharge electric vehicles and Ford plans to show off one possible alternative that replaces the plug with the sun.

The Detroit maker plans to reveal a concept version of its current plug-in hybrid, the C-Max, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that uses a solar panel on its roof to recharge the battery.

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Called the C-Max Solar Energi, it can collect a day’s worth of sunlight and get the same charge as the current C-Max Energi gets when plugged into the wall –albeit needing a full day’s strong sun to generate what you could get from a wall plug in four hours. Ford believes that this type of charging could account for 75% of all driving car owners currently do during a typical day. (more…)

EV Sales Hampered More by Price than Range Anxiety

Survey shows buyers wants vehicles below $25,000.

by on Dec.02, 2013

EVs like the Chevrolet Volt, pictured with GM CEO Dan Akerson, have eased buyers' concerns about the range of EVs. However, they're still too expensive.

All of the efforts by manufacturers to make electric vehicles more popular seem to be working; however, there is one issue that they haven’t resolved that may be keeping EV sales from taking off: price.

EVs and all their variants – hybrids, plug-in hybrids, etc. – are still too expensive, in spite of potential savings on fuel.

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Navigant Research, a consulting firm located in Boulder, Colo., surveyed nearly 1,100 people to determine how they feel about new vehicle prices and electric vehicles. The company found that 71% want their next vehicle to cost less than $25,000, while 41% are looking below $20K. (more…)

Despite Fires, Range Issues EV Sales Continue to Rise

Year-to-date sales have blown past all of 2012 results.

by on Oct.24, 2013

BMW is already considering increasing production levels on its new i3. Global electric vehicles sales are up significantly this year.

Despite the concerns including range anxiety and battery fires, sales of both plug in hybrids and battery electric vehicles have increased significantly.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a major promoter of electric vehicles, said sales of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), including both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics, are up significantly compared with last year. More than 59,000 EVs were sold in the United States by the end of August — already surpassing EV sales for all of 2012.

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In addition, sales in California, where major manufacturers such as General Motors, Chrysler, Daimler AG and Honda, have focused their attention sales are more than double the rate of last year, representing 29% of U.S. plug-in vehicles sales. California is the one state with tough regulations that require carmakers to offer zero-emission EV’s as part of their fleet. (more…)

Flood of New Hybrids Take Aim at Toyota Prius

Dominant Japanese model tops 3-million sales mark.

by on Jul.08, 2013

The Toyota Prius continues to dominate the hybrid segment...but it is facing some challenges this year.

Once a rare technology limited to a handful of – mostly Japanese – manufacturers, the industry is unleashing a flood of new hybrid vehicles for 2014 covering just about every niche on the market.  Automakers such as BMW, Ford and Hyundai hope their latest offerings will finally give them the momentum they need to take on the hybrid segment’s best-selling brand, Toyota, which underscored its dominance with the sale of its 3 millionth Prius last month.

For many potential buyers around the world, in fact, the Toyota Prius is no longer a niche vehicle.  The gas-electric hatchback may be the most popular hybrid in the U.S. – routinely outselling all other hybrids combined — but in Japan it is now the best-selling vehicle overall.

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“They’ve turned it into an iconic status of fuel efficiency – whether you love it or hate it,” says Dave Sullivan, automotive analyst with AutoPacific, Inc.  “It’s the benchmark of hybrids.”

That said, 2013 could be a challenging year for Prius. A senior Toyota official cautions that the hybrid might fall short of its sales targets, something that certainly wouldn’t upset competitors like Honda.

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Diesel Soon to Outsell Gasoline, Forecasts ExxonMobil

Growing demand in the U.S. could push it over the top.

by on Mar.12, 2013

The Chevrolet Cruze diesel is one of a wave of new "oil-burners" coming to the U.S. market."

The number of diesel models available in U.S. showrooms is soon to expected to double, according to one trade group, and though many Americans are still skeptical about the energy-dense fuel, the increase in demand could soon lead to diesel surpassing gasoline as the most popular transportation fuel, forecasts energy giant ExxonMobil.

Where demand for gasoline will stay fairly flat in coming decades, predicts a new report, sales of diesel will rapidly grow – much of that increase driven by the commercial vehicle sector.

The study also sees a growing role for hybrid-electric transportation, though even combined with plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, ExxonMobile envisions “electrified” vehicles will still account for less than half of the global market by 2040.

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Diesel will surge past gasoline as early as 2020, and continue to gain share for at least another two decades, forecasts the company’s new study, “Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040.” Over the more than a quarter century covered by the report, diesel demand is expected to account for 70% of the growth in all transportation fuels.

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How Automakers Will Get to 54.5 MPG

Battery cars are only part of the answer.

by on Aug.29, 2012

At 47 mpg, the new Ford C-Max will be one of the market's most efficient vehicles. But it still has a long way to go to meet the new 54.5 mpg CAFE standard formalized this week.

When Ford launches its new C-Max hybrid microvan later this year it will deliver a solid 47 mpg in the EPA’s combined city/highway test, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. Yet that’s still about 15% short of the target the White House has set for the auto industry with the new mileage standards that will be phased in between now and 2025.

Most major automakers signed onto the compromise regulations announced last year and officially released on Tuesday. But most echo John Krafcik, the CEO of Hyundai Motor America, who admits “We don’t yet know how we’ll get there.”

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Electrification will almost certainly play a role, in some form or another.  But don’t expect to see America switch to battery cars, most industry analysts contend.  The technology will likely remain too limited and too expensive over the next dozen years – and the infrastructure just won’t be there, contends Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics.

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