Just Car Blog
|Taiwan’s Thunder Power Shines Light On EV Sedan, Aimed At Tesla Model S||
|Chevy To Shut Down Volt Plant For Upgrades||
If you’re patiently waiting for dealer inventory of the 2011 Chevy Volt to build up before buying one, you may have to wait a little bit longer. Chevrolet has announced a four-week shutdown of their Detroit-Hamtramck plant, beginning in June, to ramp up for increased production of Chevy Volt and Opel Ampera models. The plant will receive new tools, updated equipment and an overhead conveyor system that’s expected to increase productivity. The Hamtramck plant is expected to have the capacity to produce 60,000 Volt and Ampera models in 2012, some 45,000 of which will be destined for the United States. The 2013 Chevy Malibu will also be produced in the plant, alongside the other GM models.
When production resumes, the plant will have the capability of producing 16,000 Volts in 2011, which will go a long way towards filling demand and providing dealerships with test units. Initially, the Volt was only offered for sale in California, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.. By the end of 2011, however, the Volt will be available to consumers nationwide and the Opel Ampera will begin shipping to dealerships in the EU and China.
Since it’s launch in late 2010, Chevy has sold 2,029 Volts through April. That’s nearly double the amount of Nissan Leafs sold to date, but Nissan delivered more Leafs to customers last month than Chevy did Volts. Chevy insists that demand for the Volt remains high, and that the limiting factor has been production. We’ll know for sure once GM completes the update of the Hamtramck plant and Chevy reports on their August sales numbers.
|Mercedes S-Class EV Coming Soon?||
Automobile enthusiasts out there must already be aware that the redesigned Mercedes S-Class will be a plug-in hybrid. Now, there is some exciting news about a pure electric variant of the model.
It has been indicated by sources that the company is looking at customer demand for Mercedes S-Class EV. The S-class model would become one of the first EVs in its segment, if approved.
The 2013 S-Class comes up with a head-up display and an interior design, which seems to be inspired from F800 Style concept revealed at the Geneva motor show in March. That could mean that can we expect lightweight seats (made of magnesium and carbon fiber), luxurious wood veneers, and a flowing center console?
The 201bhp, 369lb ft 2.2-litre, four-cylinder motor will be the smallest engine to ever be offered in the S-class. As you know, currently the S-Class model uses S250 CDI. Will Audi respond with an A8 e-tron? Stay tuned.
|Mitsubishi Joins The Electric Car Party In The U.S.||
Mitsubishi has been been selling their i MiEv (for Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) in Japan since July of 2009, and in 2010 the oddly-styled urban commuter went on sale in Hong Kong, Australia and Germany. The United Kingdom joined the distribution network in January of 2011, and the U.S. is slated to get the car (called the Mitsubishi i on these shores) around the beginning of 2012. Like the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i will be powered by batteries and an electric motor only; unlike the Leaf, it will have a range of less than 100 miles under ideal conditions. In fact, current projected range is said to be 75 miles based on U.S testing standards. Where will the Mitsubishi i shine against the Leaf? In pricing, for one.
The Mitsubishi i will start at $27,990 for the base model, excluding the $7,500 federal tax credit. By comparison, the Leaf starts at $33,630, nearly $6,000 higher for a vehicle with similar capabilities. The Mitsubishi i will also come in an “SE” model, including such amenities as a 360-watt, eight speaker audio system, 15” alloy wheels, fog lamps and a leather wrapped steering wheel. If you want more, SE models can be ordered with a Premium package that includes a nav system, rearview camera, heated outside mirrors and a FUSE hands-free infotainment system. Even loaded up, the Mitsubishi i stickers at $32,780, which is still below the price of an entry-level Nissan Leaf.
Mitsubishi has announced a four-step process for ordering their EV in the United States. Prospective buyers must register with Mitsubishi (at i.mitsubishicars,com) to set up an account and spec out an i. Next, you cough up a PayPal deposit of $299 for the car and $99 for the mandatory home electrical inspection. Third, you schedule the home inspection to see if your current electrical service can handle charging the Mitsubishi i, and finally you wait to hear from a Mitsubishi rep who confirms your order and tells you when to expect delivery.
What’s your take on the Mitsubishi i? If you live in one of the markets where it’s currently being sold, have you driven one? Is it a challenger to the Leaf, or is it just a novelty that will disappear from the market when (or if) fuel prices stabilize?
|Will Buick Get Their Own Extended Range EV?||
The U.S. market Chevy Volt is sold in the E.U. as the Opel Ampera. Aside from the name change, the exterior styling of the European version is different (and sharper, if you ask me), and I’m absolutely certain that Euros can’t opt for the Volt’s dysentery-green interior. That’s a good thing, since the green interior was the most hideous thing I’ve seen on a production automobile since the 1970s. Mechanically, the two are identical twins, once you factor in the differing safety requirements by market. Volt sales in the United States have yet to hit GM’s forecasted levels, so the automaker is considering options to expand the car’s appeal. One of the things on the table, according to Autoblog, is a Buick branded version of the Opel Ampera.
Buicks are up-range from Chevys, so a Buick Ampera (or whatever the final name is) would have to sell for more than a Chevy Volt. Since Buick buyers expect a certain ride quality (plush), the suspension would need re-tuning and the interior would need some serious dressing up. The touch-sensitive center stack in the Volt may work fine for Generation X buyers, but Buick’s demographic prefers knobs and buttons, thank you very much. As quiet as the Volt is on the road, it’s not Buick quiet, so the platform would be saddled with added weight in the form of sound deadening. In other words, it’s not quite as simple as sticking a Buick badge on the front and shipping inventory to dealers.
Price is an issue, since the Volt already starts at $41,000. I see the Volt coming south in price, with a Buick variant priced near the current Volt’s sticker. Range and performance would need to be the same or better, which would require GM engineers to look at ways to shave pounds off the current Ampera. It’s possible, but far from a done deal: if it happens at all, don’t expect the extended range EV in Buick showrooms before 2013.
|An Opel Ampera… Police Car?||
The above image comes courtesy of Opel Germany, who thinks it may be a good idea to produce the Opel Ampera (the EU’s Chevy Volt) in a police version. Starting at a price just below $58,000, that’s going to be a tough sell even in Green-obsessed Germany. As much as I was impressed by my time with the Volt, I’m pretty sure that it would have too many limitations to be a functional police cruiser, even if you used it exclusively in urban environments. First there’s the issue of the Ampera’s range; if the standard car’s range is impacted by using things like the radio, climate control and headlights, how do you think a version equipped with strobes, a light bar, more (high wattage) radios, electronics and siren would fare? Would an EV range of 20 miles be acceptable to police agencies, even if the car could still be driven via the gasoline generator? When do police cars at busy departments get enough down time to effectively charge the batteries?
Then there’s the whole matter of acceleration and top speed. The Volt was, admittedly, quicker than I expected it to be, but it’s still no match for anything with sporting intentions. Its top speed of 100 miles per hour is good enough for congested city streets, but it simply won’t cut the Sempf on the Autobahn. Even the Germans will have a hard time embracing a “green” police car with limited battery range and an economy car top speed. I wish Opel Germany a lot of luck with their sales efforts on the Ampera Polizei, because they’re certainly going to need it.
|Toyota iQ EV Prototype for Geneva||
Toyota will be bringing in a new electric vehicle prototype to the Geneva Motor Show. The drive train will be based on the famous Toyota’s Synergy Hybrid Drive system. With this electric vehicle the company has in its arsenal, full hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell hybrid vehicles.
The EV gets the same all-electric drive as in Toyota iQ. With zero emissions and feeble running sound the car is sure sighting Toyota’s future plans.
The newly stacked up ultra flat and compact Lithium-Ion battery provides a range of 105 Kilometers (65 miles) while taking up minimal space, so that the car can seat four comfortably and still provide space for cargo.
The EV will undergo testing in Europe this year and will be on a lease-out program in Europe from 2012. Also headed from Toyota to Geneva are the Yaris HSD Concept concept car, the seven-seater hybrid Prius Van + and the sports car concept FT-86 II. The Toyota press conference will be held on the 1st of March.
|Mazda to Lease Out Electric Vehicles to Japanese Customers||
Mazda has announced that they will develop an electric vehicle for the local government bodies and fleet customers in Japan. The vehicle is based on Mazda Demio and will be leased out to customers by spring 2012. Mazda’s intention is to collect feedback and user requirements about the electric drive technology. The EV to be leased out will have an estimated range of 200Km (124 miles)
The car is being launched as Mazda’s plans of “Building Block Strategy”, whereby efficient engines, lesser emissions and reduced weight are of great concern. This as an encouragement Mazda will gradually bring along technologies like regenerative breaking and hybrid systems to its vehicles.
Vehicles adopting Mazda’s eco-friendly SKYACTIVE technologies will arrive at markets this year; this would be a first stride towards a “Building Block Strategy”. Mazda has already stated that they would be introducing the Minagi Concept during the Geneva Motor Show; Minagi Concept largely incorporates the SKYACTIVE technologies.
Mazda will also focus its R&D on EVs specified for commuters. Since internal combustion engines are for now irreplaceable, the company hopes to improve on this front as well. Mazda will work on eco-friendly technologies which will bring great driving pleasure along with increased environmental and safety performance.
|Tesla Model S Alpha On Road for the First Time||
Ahead of deliveries beginning in 2012, the Tesla Model S Alpha has hit the road for the first time. Tesla will test the car in two phases – Alpha and Beta. Tesla had started the Alpha testing session in 2010 and will now rigorously test the car hereafter in different climatic conditions. Before the car reaches its customers Tesla will extensively test the vehicle using computer simulations and test vehicles.
The Tesla Model S is an EV (Electric Vehicle) that can seat 7 has efficient aerodynamics, provides good stability and handling, crash safety, performance and range. The Model S has more cargo space than most sedans. The powertrain features a liquid cooled floor mounted battery and single speed gearbox. The body is made of stamped aluminum.
It has premium interiors making it a luxury sedan. There’s a 17 inch touch screen with in-car connectivity for GPS navigation, streaming radio etc
The Model S does 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds and has a top speed of 120 mph making it a performance sedan. The three battery pack options are 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge. Recharge can be done within 45 minutes.The Model S looks great and we can hope that it gets better by the time production starts.
|First Lot of 350 Chevy Volts Heads for US Dealerships||
So the Chevy Volts have started reaching for the dealerships. Though it might take time till next year for a full roll out, the first lot of 350 Volt EVs has hit the road to dealerships in California, Texas, Washington DC and New York.
Apart from this development, we also hear that the first retail Volt has been auctioned off for $225,000.
Though the details of the first bidder have not yet been made public, GM has said that the proceeds of the auction will go to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation to support math and science education.
The roll-out of the Volts to dealerships marks an important day in the history of electric vehicles, and for Chevrolet in particular. Hope to see more Volts hitting the tarmac soon.