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Chevrolet Spark EV Starts at $19,995 After Credits

Battery car captures nation’s highest mileage rating.

by on May.23, 2013

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV can be purchased for as little as $17,500 in some locations due to federal, state and local incentives.

General Motors will begin selling its new Chevrolet Spark EV at select dealers in California and Oregon next month for a base price of $27,495 including destination charges.

Since the little battery-electric vehicle will qualify for a federal tax credit of $7,500, that will bring its effective price to $19,995 – and possible even lower thanks to various state and local tax credits. The maker also plans to offer a three-year, $199 a month lease after a downpayment of $999.

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That will position the Chevy Spark EV as one of the lowest-priced battery cars on the market, a move Chevy hopes will increase the appeal of the vehicle in a market still skeptical of electric propulsion. Based on EPA forecasts, the maker claims motorists could save as much as $150 a month on gasoline.


Chevy Spark Captures US Mileage Crown

Battery model also faster than gas-powered minicar.

by on Apr.25, 2013

The Spark EV will do 0 to 60 in under 8 seconds, significantly quicker than the gas model.

General Motors claims its new Chevrolet Spark has captured the U.S. fuel economy crown with a 119 MPGe -- or Miles Per Gallon-equivalent – rating. The new battery-electric vehicle has meanwhile been rated at 82 miles range on a full charge, according to the EPA.

The Spark is the Detroit maker’s first pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, since the GM EV1 was pulled from production in 1991. The Chevy Spark EV is part of a wave of new electric vehicles aimed at consumers in California where that state has mandated that manufacturers must sell so-called Zero-Emission Vehicles.

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While automakers are challenging that mandate in court, a number of them, including GM, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda and others, are covering their bases by coming up with what critics have dubbed “compliance cars,” vehicles they will offer only, or at least primarily, in California.


Chinese Cash Could Keep A123 Alive

But Wanxiang may eventual own 80% of U.S. battery maker.

by on Aug.08, 2012

A defect in the Fisker Karma battery pack was traced back to problems at the A123 production line.

Desperate for cash and struggling to restart its production lines after discovering a costly manufacturing defect, battery maker A123 has inked a tentative deal with a Chinese auto parts firm that could generate $450 million in much-needed cash.

But, in the end, the Wanxiang Group could end up with as much as 80% of Massachusetts-based A123, which currently provides batteries for the Fisker Karma and counts General Motors among the other automakers it has signed contracts with.

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The deal “will be beneficial” in a number of ways, said A123 CEO David Vieau, during a conference call to discuss the high-tech firm’s quarterly earnings and the Wanxiang deal. Most immediately, it will provide cash the American company desperately needs after some unexpectedly severe financial setbacks.  It will also help open up more markets for A123’s batteries, especially in China, and could improve economies of scale – translating into lower production costs, Vieau suggested.


Infiniti Reveals LE Sporty Battery-Car Concept

“Luxury can be both desirable and sustainable,” says Ghosn.

by on Apr.05, 2012

Infiniti's LE battery car concept will reappear in production trim "within 24 months."

Following the lead of its mainstream sibling Nissan, the upscale Infiniti brand is about to charge into the battery-car market.

Confirming an earlier report on, the Japanese maker unveiled its LE Concept battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, at the 2012 New York Auto Show, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn promising the production model will follow “within 24 months.”

Though the Infiniti LE is based on the same platform as the Nissan Leaf battery car it would be hard to tell at first glance.  The Infiniti model is lower, sleeker – and faster, “designed to stimulate,” not just transport, emphasized Ghosn, who proclaimed that with the upcoming addition to Infiniti’s line-up, the production LE will prove “luxury (can) be both desirable and sustainable.”

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The maker is holding back on many of the technical details but Ghosn said the concept is “85% accurate” to what the production LE should look like.  There will be relatively minor exterior changes, added Andy Palmer, Nissan’s corporate director of sustainable mobility, pointing to a grille that was clearly designed for the auto show rather than the showroom.


Global Lithium-Ion Auto Battery Sales Set to Grow 600% by 2015.

New study: Demand could hit $50 billion by decade’s end.

by on Sep.08, 2011

Demand for lithium-ion batteries - for vehicles like the upcoming Toyota RAV4-EV - is expected to jump 600% by 2015, and another 500+% by 2020.

A new study finds reason to be charged up about lithium-ion batteries.  It anticipates sales of the technology will grow by 600% between now and 2015 as more and more makers bring out hybrids, plug-ins and battery-electric vehicles.

The report, by the Roland Berger consultancy, anticipates sales could then surge from $9 billion to $50 billion worldwide by 2020.

The new study, meanwhile, anticipates that while a growing number of companies are getting into the automotive lithium-ion game, the market will be increasingly dominated by five companies, including American A123.

Until recently, automakers like Toyota – with its popular Prius – have relied on time-tested nickel-metal hydride batteries and that has meant that lithium suppliers were largely focused on consumer electronics markets, such as cellphones and laptop computers and, more recently, devices like the wildly popular Apple iPad.


But automakers are rapidly migrating to more advanced LIon systems in conventional hybrids – the first to market was the lithium-powered Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – to take advantage of more compact packaging, lighter weight and increased energy density.  The ramp-up of automotive demand will only accelerate as new plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles, and battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, go into production.


2010 BMW Electric ActiveE Concept

Set for a North American International Auto Show debut.

by on Dec.31, 2009

A claimed 100 mile range to empty.

Conventional wisdom suggests that luxury automakers will have an especially tough time meeting ever-stricter emissions and fuel economy regulations.  BMW has made a history of bucking conventional wisdom, and if the ActiveE concept is any indication, it hopes to do that again.

Set to debut at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit, this coming month, the  all-electric concept is based on the 1-Series Coupe that also will also take its bows at the Detroit Auto Show.   Following the strategy of the battery-powered Mini E, the ActiveE is the second model in Project-i, which was meant to explore the possibilities for bringing a zero-emissions vehicle to market before 2015.


Where the Mini E is a front-wheel-drive two-seater — the batteries occupying the place where conventional rear seats would go — the electric BMW offers space for four adults and even has a 7 cubic foot. truck, barely big enough for two golf bags. With a weight reduction similar to that of the standard Coupe, the EV should not only achieve emissions-free driving (if you neglect how the electricity is generated), but, the maker claims, deliver the sort of driver-oriented road manners BMW aficionados worship.  (more…)

BMW Vision Debuts at Frankfurt Motor Show

This hybrid concept works around CO2 regulations.

by on Aug.31, 2009

BMW Vision

There is no question that Vision is an extremely sophisticated engineering exercise.

How about a 3-cylinder turbocharged diesel M car from BMW?

Well, if you add two electric motors, one on each axle, and lithium ion batteries under a sleek 2+2 body, the additive power effect is 262 kW/356 horsepower, with maximum torque of 800 Newton meters (590 lb-ft.). Is that an M?

BMW claims the sports car will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed 250 km/h. With all that torque, there’s little reason to doubt that Vision is fast. Fuel consumption in the EU test cycle is 3.76 litres/100 km and CO2 emissions are 99 grams/kilometer well under proposed EU standards — the main reason this particular configuration exists.

As a plug-in hybrid, Vision is able to cover the entire test cycle under electric power alone. BMW calculates this reduces the CO2 emission rating to just 50 grams per kilometer, which takes the sources of energy used for generating the electric power consumed into account (EU electricity mix).

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Whether Vision makes it to production or not is moot. We’ll wager one or more BMWs with a powertrain like this will be used to generate credits so that BMW can keep selling more conventionally figured cars that consume many more liters of fuel and emit what would otherwise be illegal levels of CO2.


Auto Industry Observations of David Cole

Here is a frank view of the state of the business.

by on Aug.21, 2009


White House emissaries are, for the first time, “beginning to understand the auto industry.”

At a private meeting this week, I was privileged to hear what I think is a balanced view of the domestic auto industry’s current situation and an astute outlook for the foreseeable future.  

The speaker was Dr. David E. Cole, engineering professor emeritus from the University of Michigan and chairman of Ann Arbor’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR). Industry, academia, government and media have long recognized Cole for his intimate knowledge of the auto industry and his balanced views of it.

This is not surprising, since before earning three degrees in mechanical engineering, he grew up in the industry as son of the legendary Edward N. Cole, president of General Motors and lead developer of both the small block Chevy V-8 engine of 1955 and the radical rear-engined Corvair of 1960.  

First, let’s dispense with the false rumor going around the internet this summer alleging that representatives of President Obama’s automotive team had met with Cole and proposed repealing the “laws of physics” which interfered with environmentalist goals for cars. He’s never met with any of the Obama team, he reported, and the rumor is a distorted version of a meeting Cole had several years ago with a couple of Congressmen who questioned the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  

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On the whole, like GM’s Bob Lutz, Cole feels White House automotive emissaries are, for the first time, “beginning to understand the auto industry.” “They’re not at the grad school level yet,” he commented, “it’s more like third or fourth grade, but they’re learning.”


Biden to Announce Battery Grants

Veep visit to Detroit comes as oil prices soar again.

by on Aug.05, 2009

While Vice President Joe Biden will discuss the economy during his Detroit visit, he's also expected to announce the first in what could be billions of dollars the federal government plans to invest in the development of an advanced battery development infrastructure.

While Vice President Biden will discuss the economy during his Detroit visit, he's also expected to announce the first in what could be billions of dollars the government plans to invest in an advanced battery development infrastructure.

Vice President Joe Biden will be taking a trip to Detroit, on Wednesday, where he’s expected to not only address issues of the economy and the struggling U.S. auto industry, but also to announce the first federal grants aimed at spurring the development of the nation’s nascent advanced battery industry.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced plans to invest $2.4 billion to promote both the development of battery technology and the facilities to produce them, here in the U.S.  He noted that it was critical to stop ceding dominance in the field to other nations — notably Japan and China, which are considered furthest along in the development of lithium-ion technology.

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Biden’s appearance at the quasi-private NextEnergy Center, a high-tech incubator, will come at an appropriate moment. After plunging to less than a quarter of last year’s peak, this past spring, oil prices have been steadily on the rise again, in recent weeks.  On Tuesday, bidding pushed petroleum up about $70 a barrel, again.  Though still barely half last year’s record, industry reports suggest the numbers could top $80 in the coming weeks.


VW and Chinese BYD Partner on Electric Vehicles

Companies sign memorandum of understanding to explore lithium ion batteries and vehicles.

by on May.26, 2009

BYD showed a prototype plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit during January of 2008.

BYD showed a prototype plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit during January of 2008.

Senior executives at Volkswagen AG and privately-held BYD have signed a memorandum of agreement to “explore the options for partnership in the area of hybrids and electric vehicles powered by lithium batteries.”

BYD, short for Build Your Dreams, showed a prototype plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit during January of 2008. The company claimed at that time that the complicated series and parallel hybrid drive system would add about $6000 in cost to one of its small sedans. The fledgling Chinese automaker is a major international supplier of rechargeable batteries for cell phones, computers, digital cameras, and personal electronics. U.S. based Berkshire Hathaway has taken a small, 10%, position in the company.

The VW link-up came after a visit by a delegation from the Chinese automaker headed by BYD’s Chairman of the Board of Management, Wang Chuanfu to VW’s Elektrotraktion Technology Center in Isenbüttel, Germany.

Wang and Dr Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen, signed the formal proposal after technical discussions and test drives of a variety of vehicles such as the Golf twinDrive and the prototype for an electric vehicle.

“Volkswagen will consistently expand its successful ‘BlueMotionTechnologies,’ said Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board for Technical Development at VW.  “Hybrids and electric vehicles will play an increasingly important role, of course. Particularly for the Chinese market, potential partners such as BYD could support us in quickly expanding our activities.” Hackenberg personally briefed the Chinese managers.

The Chinese market is closed to outside companies who do not form partnerships with Chinese makers. (more…)