Archives – February, 2015

What to Expect from 2016’s Toyota Prius

Toyota_-_Prius_Plug-in_HYBRIDThe Toyota Prius was for a time one of the leading alternative-energy statements. Although there was a sales decline over the past years, this will be rectified in the car’s fourth generation. Despite the fact that there was an 11% decline in sales in 2014, 123,000 units were still delivered with respect to fleet and consumer purchases. This implies that despite being overshadowed by plug-in models such as Chevrolet’s Volt, Nissan Leaf and Model S by Tesla, Prius sales were almost double the combined total of the mentioned models. Generally, the sales rate of hybrid cars in the United States had gone down by 1% within the last three years. This is mainly because of improved conventional options and inexpensive gasoline.

Toyota is therefore putting a lot of effort into coming up with a novel liftback, hoping to make it special. There are also plans to develop a plug-in version that is improved. Toyota however, hopes to expand its market dominance of Hybrid Synergy Drive with the new Liftback. Currently, the automaker’s hybrid cars make up 70% of the United States market. Perhaps Toyota has become its own success’ victim since it has to work extra hard to overshadow its competitors. This is a good thing for the potential buyer though. The photos of the new Prius Liftback have not been officially shown by Toyota. Some of the design cues might be coined from the CH-R Concept.

One of the primary expectations for the new Prius is two battery options. Toyota has been known to be a company that is somewhat conservative. Toyota’s Senior Managing Officer of Powertrain, Koei Saga, said that there is a potential for an improved Prius of a base level and that will have a li-ion battery. Although it has not been confirmed, this could imply that the Liftback variants would have two different mpg ratings. It has also been speculated that the new Prius will have a mpg of more than 55. Toyota has previously stated that one of its goals is to develop a model that is more than the current 50 mpg. Coming up with such a model will increase Toyota’s competitive edge, especially with respect to models like the faster Ford C-Max hybrid car.

Part of Toyota’s plan entails a novel hybrid system and its engine that is thermally efficient. The automaker hopes that the fuel efficiency of its hybrid cars such as Prius will be improved. Another possible option for the new Toyota Prius is an all-wheel drive. Although Prius is a car with front-wheel drive, drivers have always appreciated extra traction.



Leave a Comment February 27, 2015

BMW i5/i7 Plug-in Hybrid Hopes to Overshadow Tesla’s Model S

bmw i8Tesla’s Model S P85D, with almost 1-g of acceleration, long range and a blistering 0-60 time is undoubtedly one of the leading luxury electric cars in the current market. Additionally, it is one of the fastest sedans on sale and this has raised serious concerns from competitors such as Audi, Porsche and Jaguar. Even the BMW with its i3 electric car and i8 plug-in car is also scared. Like other car manufacturers, BMW is rumored to have plans of coming up with a luxury plug-in. This automaker is getting ready to develop a full-sized plug-in hybrid car on the 5-series platform. The new model is expected to have approximately 400 kilowatts as the total power output. It will have an electric motor that will produce 152 kilowatts and a gasoline engine of 245 horsepower. The rear end of the car will have an electric motor of 70 kilowatt.

At present, BMW has referred to the car in question as the P18 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle project. The car will be designed in such a way that it will primarily operate using electric power for a longer distance. The range in electric mode is projected to be at 80 miles. Gasoline operation will only occur at speeds of more than 40 mph when necessary. The car will have an unspecified battery that will be situated at the down center while the engine will be fitted next to a large electric motor. Under the rear seats, there will be a small fuel tank. Unlike the Model S, this new model by BMW will not have an uninterrupted cabin. The new model has a high likelihood of entering the market as the BMW i7 or i5; a sports sedan of low emission that will have an adaptive drivetrain. Some of the most likely target markets include North American, Chinese and European markets.

Consequently, the new model will have a more conventional design and outlook compared to BMW i8 or i3. However, there will be a few similar light construction materials so as to comply with the strict emission standards. This car is definitely set to be a major competitor or even overshadow the Tesla S model. Some of the concerns that might be raised concerning the new BMW model include range and performance. However, the new version’s 80-mile range on pure electric power is much lower than that offered by Tesla’s model S and its performance of 0-60 miles per hour is also lower than Tesla’s.



Leave a Comment February 27, 2015

Oil Prices to Reach 200 Dollars per Barrel

oilOPEC’s Secretary General, Abdulla al-Badri made a predication that oil prices will start increasing towards $200 per barrel. However, he did not make an estimation of the timeline for the increase in oil prices. Currently, the prices stand at $45 to %55 per barrel and this represents the bottom rock. As a result of the oil prices drop, oil companies have decided to cut back on, not only budgets, but also future growth. Abdulla warned that drastic increases in price will be triggered by continued reductions. Abdulla further added that if drivers do not invest in gas and oil, they can expect to buy at $200 or more per barrel.

Matt DiLallo of Motley Fool gave an explanation of the logic behind the mentioned remark by the secretary general. He said that naturally, oil production declines and there is a need for companies to invest in novel production to replace this production decline and add novel production to sustain the growing demand. Oil companies have however shown reluctance in investing in novel production as they experience a decline in cash flows. This could become problematic over time as there is a natural decline of oil fields globally by approximately 5% annually.

News of increases in oil prices may imply good business news for alternative fuel cars. This segment reported slow sales around the world, with several experts citing a decline in the prices of petroleum as the primary cause. As gasoline prices go up, the sales of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles have a high likelihood of increasing also. However, not all consumers are convinced that the prices of oil will steeply rise. Adam Smith Institute fellow, as well as a Forbes contributor, Tim Worstall said that although oil prices may have hit rock bottom, it is highly unlikely that the prices will reach $200 per barrel. Warstall said that key changes in oil industry economics have been caused by new methods. He added that it seems people don’t really understand the economic change that the oil market has undergone because of revolution. In the current world, developing a new oil field is not only easy but also affordable. Warstall argues therefore that with such a situation, it is highly unlikely to encounter demand and supply mismatches that could result to oil prices reaching $200 per barrel. He is thus convinced that there is no way the oil prices are going to steeply increase and reach a maximum high.


Leave a Comment February 20, 2015

The Mystery of Electric Car Powering

imagesAn electric car battery is a product that can play a major role in creating novel industries. The battery is designed in such a way that it can power an electric car for 200 to 300 miles on a single charge. A battery that has the potential to compete and even completely replace a car’s combustion engine does not exist yet. However, if a battery of such caliber could be devised, it might turn to multibillion dollar market in the first few years of its existence. This is according to LeVine, Quartz’s Washington correspondent. Such a battery could result in a great improvement in energy security. Such a battery could also lower the effect on climate change since less exhaust will be released into the environment. The U.S. and several other nations are gearing their efforts towards developing such an electric car battery.

The interest in the electric car battery prompted LeVine to go to one of the Energy Department’s laboratories, the Argonne National Laboratory. He was allowed to fully access the Battery Department for about two years, a period which he emerged with an interesting book titled, “The Powerhouse: Inside the Invention of a Battery to Save the World.” The battery now depends on the national labs of the government for essential scientific research following the winnowing or closure of several America’s corporate laboratories. Therefore, it was an Argonne scientist who was the mastermind behind the invention of battery chemistry that led to a great improvement of electric cars’ performance. The chemistry in question is Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt, NMC. A specific NMC version is used for the Chevrolet Volt, as well as Nissan Leafs’ next generation. A major drawback that has been that only 40 miles are covered by the Volt on pure battery energy alone prior to switching to the gasoline fueled engine.

LeVine’s book revolves around the effort that it will take to invent a new battery capable of achieving five times the current mileage. Stability has always been a major issue with electric car batteries. Therefore, this new battery researched by LeVine should maintain its stability and be affordable. The effort was labeled NMC 2.0 by Argonne’s scientists. As much as these scientists have made forward strides numerous times, they always discover problems. An example of such a problem is referred to as voltage fade, which is a serious instability that could make an electric car battery unusable.

Just as he pushed for solar innovation, President Obama pushed for battery innovation. This led to the invention of Envia and Solyndra. It is thus clear that financing efforts for battery invention is industrial policy form.


Leave a Comment February 20, 2015

NHTSA Delays Pedestrian-Alert Noises for Hybrid and Electric Cars

Quiet_Car_--Toyota-Google_ImagesOne of the reasons why electric and hybrid cars are preferred by most people is their calm operation. Regulators have however, noted that this may pose a risk to pedestrians. Following this, numerous attempts have been made to incorporate noise-making devices into new electric and hybrid vehicles. The role of such devices is alerting unaware or blind pedestrians of approaching cars. In 2011, there was the signing of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act into law for the sole purpose of attaining the mentioned objective. Implementation of the law has apparently stopped. The final ruling date for the proposed standards has been postponed until the end of this year by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). This implies that the proposed rule will be implemented in the year 2018.

The delay in question has further prolonged a debate that has been ongoing since the launch of the first hybrid cars more than ten years ago. Some groups, including the administration have raised numerous concerns following the rise of electric and hybrid cars. The administration has raised fears that pedestrians who are visually impaired or blind may be unaware of approaching cars in the absence of normal engine noises. In 2008, a conference was convened by NHTSA following the issue’s publicity. Two successive research studies were also conducted.

The first study was conducted in 2009 and it led to the finding that in comparison to conventional gasoline-fueled cars, electric and hybrid cars were twice as likely to cause pedestrian collision. The second study, conducted in 2011, led to the finding that there was a 35% higher probability of pedestrian collision in hybrid cars compared to conventional gasoline-fueled vehicles. In the first study, only data from twelve states was used. Additionally, the study included injuries from the year 2000, when hybrid cars were few on the roads. This was also ten years prior to the launch of the current electric cars’ generation. Nonetheless, there was the signing of Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act into law, with NHTSA gearing its efforts towards implementing it.

The rules proposed by the agency have been criticized by carmakers on the grounds of the sounds’ loudness. They have proposed for such devices to be put on cars that are quietest and not only on hybrid and electric cars. Some electric and hybrid drivers have also been reported to oppose the devices in question. This is because they like their cars to operate silently. A standard feature that has been provided by several electric car manufacturers is the alert noise.


Leave a Comment February 13, 2015

Going Green City-Wide in Fort Collins, Colorado

44238099001_4028682761001_video-still-for-video-4028843547001The municipalities of Northern Colorado could financially benefit from electric and hybrid car technology. This could be the case if such municipalities are patient enough to reap the savings the technology brings. Although it is initially costly to purchase green vehicles, cities such as Fort Collins have claimed that this cost is eventually worth the payoff. Hybrid car’s on average cost between $3,000 and $4,000 more compared to a gasoline-fueled counterpart. An electric car may cost between $5,000 and $7,000 more. These figures were given by the Fort Collins Operation Services’ Assistant Director, Tracy Ochsner.

Electric and hybrid cars make just more than 5% of the street-legal fleet in Fort Collins. Based on lifetime costs of the vehicle, a Ford Fusion bought in 2012 by Fort Collins will be cheaper than its gasoline fueled counterpart bought by the city in the same year by $11, 460. A Nissan Leaf bought in 2013 by the same city will result to projected savings of $21,625 over the gasoline fueled Ford Fusion. Because of the mentioned savings, Ochsner noted that when the city plans to replace a city vehicle it considers an electric, hybrid or other fuel cars. Fort Collins government started buying hybrid cars in 2000 and currently, there are 37 hybrid cars. The city started buying electric vehicles in 2013 and currently owns seven.

Ochsner said that the city is always in search of vehicles that are fuel-efficient and that operate efficiently. In this way, money will not only be saved on fuel, but the city will depend less on foreign fuel. Emissions are completely eliminated or greatly reduced. The major goal of the city is minimizing greenhouse gases. Fuel-efficient cars can achieve this goal of minimizing greenhouse gases. There are seven fleet-specific charging spots in Fort Collins city. Three more charging stations will be put up this year. Another notable fact about the city is that all its cars are run to approximately 90,000 miles prior to putting them up for sale in an auction. A gasoline fueled car lasts 7 to 8 years in the city while a hybrid car lasts ten to twelve years. Electric cars last ten to fifteen years, partly because of battery limitations associated with an electric car’s mileage. Ochsner added that the city plans on buying more hybrid cars as there are many vehicles that need replacements. As battery ranges increase the distances covered in travel, additional pure-electric cars will be bought. Many of the hybrid and electric cars in question are for in-town and daily tasks.




Leave a Comment February 13, 2015

A Review of BMW’s 2016 328e Plug-in Hybrid

BMW_i8_IAA_2013_01BMW has released a plug-in 3-series dubbed the 328e. This is following the release of such cars by other automakers such as Audi and Mercedes Benz. A major question arising following the production of such a plug-in hybrid by BMW is concerning the extent of the electric vehicle range that people can expect from the car. Audi has set its baseline at 30 miles on pure electric energy. BMW on the other hand has set a maximum of 22 miles on pure electric energy for its plug-in hybrid vehicle. For the Mercedes C350 plug-in hybrid car, they have cited a range of 20 miles on pure electricity.

Considering the fact that the new plug-in car by BMW will have a short range, there are some advantages that will be enjoyed. One of the key advantages is that its lithium-ion cells are fewer than those of Audi, making the BMW’s plug-in battery smaller than the Audi’s. This implies that it will be much cheaper than Audi. The whole component set of the hybrid car would also have less weight. According to the development engineer of BMW, this new model will have numerous advantages, including minimal emissions. This means that it is an environmentally friendly plug-in vehicle.

The new model by BMW has a 2-liter gasoline engine that is turbocharged. The car has an automatic transmission through which the rear axle receives output. There is an eDrive’s trick within this transmission in that BMW has replaced the conventional torque converter with a torque transformer. This transformer is commonly referred to as the electric motor. The electric motor in question performs its functions on the input shaft and for this reason, there is no energy that goes to waste. When the car decelerates, the electric motor serves as the generator. The car has a battery pack situated at the back that plays the role of providing the juice needed for car operation. A disadvantage is the battery pack’s housing is so big that it causes the trunk floor to be pushed up by an inch or more.

Two-hundred and forty-five horsepower is achieved by incorporating the two plug-in hybrid’s power plants. A short test drive revealed that the new plug-in hybrid by BMW begins in the electric mode. In this way, the car is ready to move when the start button is pushed. A notable feature is that the car provides a wide range of driving modes such as Max eDrive and EcoPro. The car performs well in the Max eDrive, which is a pure-electric mode.



Leave a Comment February 6, 2015

Hybrid Sales Slow but Steady Following Lowered Gas Prices

gasGas prices have greatly dropped over the last few months and can go as low as $1.69 a gallon. Even with the decreased price, the cost of hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius has remained constant. According to Toyota owner, Rick Collins, shoppers have a tendency to have a short memory when shopping for cars. Most opt to purchase trucks and SUVs when the prices of gas go down. Meanwhile, the hybrid cars are left sitting on the lots. It is however, worth noting that the hybrid cars in question do not sit on the lots for a very long. Shoppers still prefer hybrid vehicles mainly because of their aggressive deals and pricing from car manufacturers. Contrary to this, Chevrolet dealer Mr. Knoepfler, claims that shoppers are not really attracted by the hybrid car’s pricing.

Knoepfler adds that a majority of the customers are aware of the fact that gas prices will eventually go up. They clearly know that they will be in possession of the vehicle for a long time during which gas prices will not remain constant. Knoepfler added that the automaker does not sell conventional hybrid vehicles. Instead, it sells electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt. Despite the gas prices, people are switching from hybrid to electric cars. Car dealers have noted that considering the fact that the economy is gradually improving, consumers will not have a problem driving cars, whether hybrid or non-hybrid cars.

Those who will choose hybrid cars will have numerous reasons to celebrate. There are several benefits of owning or driving a hybrid car. One of the major reasons is with respect to minimizing environmental pollution. Emission of fuel fumes rich in greenhouse gases is a major disadvantage of conventional gasoline cars. These emissions are extremely low when driving electric or hybrid cars. Another reason why it would be beneficial to choose hybrid cars is in terms of mileage and range. Hybrid cars have a better range and can cover longer mileage compared to traditional gasoline-fuelled cars.

Buying a hybrid car during this period when the gas prices are low is even better since owners can fill up their tanks for as low as $20 to drive as far as 600 miles. This is according to Rick Collins of Toyota. He emphasized the fact that shoppers need to take advantage of the low prices of gas and purchase hybrid and electric cars. Toyota is a global automaker that has manufactured several hybrid cars, as well as plug-in hybrids and electric cars.


Leave a Comment February 6, 2015

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