Thursday thoughts

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • Didn’t get too concerned over the BBC story earlier this week about the costs of running an electric vehicle, as the figures were based around predicted high depreciation of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (as admitted by Mitsubishi). Surprise surprise: expensive, niche-appeal vehicles lose a higher proportion of their initial value. Anyway, the debate’s continuing. A spirited defence for the Mi-EV comes from former Red Dwarfer-turned EV enthusiast Robert Llewellyn in his latest episode of Fully Charged. A “spurious load of old codswallop”, says Llewellyn of the BBC’s claims. However, the Beeb’s analysis looks pretty sensible and realistic to me. Fact is, we don’t know how much these new EVs are going to be worth three years down the line, though the guy from Glass’s Guides is in a position to make a more educated forecast than most.
  • Marketing gone mad: General Motors is trying to trademark the term ‘range anxiety’ for use in its advertising of the Chevy Volt, a range-extended EV which comes free of such concerns. Tesla has responded by saying: “By all means GM can have ‘range anxiety. To Roadster owners, the term is as irrelevant as ‘gas stop’ or ‘smog check’. We are, however, looking into trademarking ‘Tesla grin’”. Expect this one to run for a while too.
  • Some actual news: Mercedes-Benz is fitting new diesel engines and new transmissions in its Vito and Viano vans, giving an average 15% improvement in fuel consumption, plus emissions reductions. The optional BlueEfficiency package includes stop-start (manual versions), low-energy power steering and fuel pump, and low rolling-resistance tyres, improving economy further. These vans sell in huge numbers, so this is a very positive step.
  • Clean Green Cars has compiled a table of emissions from all car manufacturers selling in the UK. It’s rating cars on their output of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and particulates, and averaging out results across the fleet. Coming out best are Mini, Fiat, Suzuki, Toyota and Mazda; worst offenders are Mercedes, Subaru, Chrysler, Land Rover and Jeep.
  • Nissan is signing deals and memorandi of understanding all over the place for supply of the Leaf  and development of EV recharging infrastructure. New in this week are agreements in Hawaii and Jordan. The Kingdom of Jordan wants to be ‘a leader in zero emission mobility in the Arab world’, and intends to buy 300 Leafs for its public sector fleet.


Midweek matters

August 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

The only truly cost-effective hybrid is the Mercedes-Benz S400, at least in Canada: the British Columbia Automobile Association looked at 16 hybrids on offer, crunched the numbers and concluded that only the Merc paid for itself in terms of fuel savings versus extra purchase price over a five-year ownership period (Green Car Reports). But surely it’s not all about money, is it?

  • Rumour-mill #1: the next-generation Volkswagen Beetle – to be revealed next January in Detroit – could have a hybrid option. The 150bhp 1.4-litre Twincharger petrol engine/27bhp electric motor combo from the upcoming Jetta CC is under consideration. No diesel-electric hybrids, however, as they’re too expensive and most interest in hybrids comes from markets which prefer petrol (Autocar).
  • Michigan is experimenting with special electricity rates for EV/plug-in hybrid owners, approved this week by state regulators. Detroit Edison is offering low-rate overnight charging or a $40 a month flat-rate charge for each vehicle, and will subsidise up to $2500 a household to fit a charging point and meter. The offer’s available to the first 2,500 customers signing up as a trial-run deal to enable DTE Energy to evaluate electricity demand and usage patterns from EV owners.
  • More DIY EV conversions – and the makers of a documentary called Revenge of the Electric Car are calling for yours to feature. The Revenge isn’t a Christine-style possession; it’s about getting your own back on fossil fuel, Detroit, etc., and a retaliation against the baddies of their previous doc, Who Killed The Electric Car?. First comment comes from the maker of the EV-GT40, based on a fibreglass late-’60s GT40 replica.

BYD and Mercedes to build electric B-Class

August 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Chinese car-maker BYD is to team up with Mercedes-Benz to build an electric vehicle based on the outgoing B-Class, reports  Autocar. The car will be sold in China only, under a new brand-name. The B-Class’s flat floor is said to be well-suited to accommodating batteries and an electric powertrain, and only minor modification to the front-wheel drive layout is needed.

Mercedes Vito gets voltage

July 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz has started production of its electric Vito E-Cell van. Just 100 will be made this year, but a run of 2000 is planned for 2011. The E-Cell’s lithium-ion batteries give an operating range of just 130km, and top speed from the 60kW motor is only 80kph, but it will be suitable for localised deliveries and deployment from a central base with charging facilities. Its loadspace is unaffected by the electric conversion, and payload is around 900kg. Mercedes is leasing the first 100, rather than selling them outright, in a four-year trial deal to cover servicing and maintenance; subsidies are available to German users, and right-hand drive versions are on offer to British customers.

More hybrids from Mercedes

June 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

There’ll be a couple of new hybrids in the next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class, reports Autocar, which has spy shots of a test mule. These could include a diesel ‘mild’ hybrid as well as a petrol model with a V6 engine. The standard V6 petrol will gain stop-start and direct injection, promising a fuel economy improvement of nearly 25%, and there’ll be a new small 2.1-litre diesel. No DiesOtto compression/spark-ignition engine, however; that’s been delayed in favour of the hybrids. Expect styling to be similar to that of the F700 concept (pictured).

Autocar’s also reporting today that there’ll be an improved version of the Ecoboost 2.0 turbo engine in the upcoming Ford Mondeo facelift. This 237bhp engine will have its emissions reduced to 179g/km; revisions will also be made to the 2.0 and 2.2 diesels. These tweaked Mondeos go on sale in the UK in October.

Friday round-up

March 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

And finally…

- Ferrari plans to fit its Hy-Kers hybrid system – as in the 599 Hy-Kers concept – in all its production models within three to four years.  Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo told Automotive News that the company aims to cut its emissions by a minimum 35% in three years.

- BMW is going to lease its electric 1-Series coupe, previewed by the ActivE concept, in Berlin, London, Paris and several US cities. A test fleet of up to 700 cars will be available. The 170bhp ActivE can do 160kph and has a range of 170km. As with the Mini E trials, this programme will feed into the development of the Megacity electric vehicle.

- Rental firm Europcar has pre-ordered 500 electric vehicles from Renault for delivery in the third quarter of 2011. The cars will be deployed in Europe’s largest cities; first on the fleets will be the Fluence ZE saloon, the Twizy ZE city car and the Kangoo ZE van, with the Zoe ZE supermini and further variants to follow. Renault also confirmed a deal with Avis earlier this month.

- Mercedes-Benz is to spend E1billion a year over the next two years to develop batteries and more efficient powertrains, reports AutoBeat Europe. Most of this spending will be on electric vehicles, nearly doubling the current investment. Daimler plans to produce its own long-life lithium-ion batteries  in Germany from 2012.

- A joint venture has been set up between train-maker China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation and the Liaoning Shuguang Automobile Group to make electric vehicles. Times Electric Automobile of Dandong will be a subsidiary unit of China South, reports Edmunds.com, and it is to receive  investment of $37.4million.

Week-end odds and ends

February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz is to launch its E300 BlueTec diesel-electric hybrid early next year, reports Autocar. Much of its hybrid powertrain – including motor and lithium-ion battery pack – will be shared with the S400 hybrid, but the twin-turbo engine’s a version of of the 2.2-litre diesel in the E250 CDI. It’s said to be capable of over 56mpg.

Two titbits from supplier firms. Continental AG has developed an ‘intelligent’ accelerator pedal which pulses to indicate when a driver should change up or down a gear. In tests, this reduced fuel consumption by an average 8%. Continental says that drivers are more likely to take notice of a pulsing pedal than a visual display on the dashboard, as in current gearchange-indicator systems, and that this could be linked to sensors to warn drivers of hazards ahead, as well (AutoBeat Europe).

Valeo is to significantly increase the number of components it makes for hybrid powertrains, reports AutoBeat Europe; at the moment, it only supplies a battery-cooler in this sector. The company will lay out its new strategy at an investors’ meeting next month.

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