Filed under: Electric Cars

Toyota to Share Its Hybrid Technology with Major Competitors

toyota_prius_plug-in_hybrid_-_paris_motor_show_2016_01Toyota has made quite a number of remarkable decisions over the past half year concerning its present, as well as future vehicle technologies. After opposing the battery-electric cars for several years, the automaker has finally made a commitment to launch one by the year 2020. Now, Toyota has made the decision to share its hybrid technology with other automakers. This decision was announced in the last two weeks as a part of the company’s power train strategies. The move by the automaker marks an evident change of course.

Since the launch of the Prius Hybrid in 1997 in Japan, the automaker has been known to fiercely guard and protect its hybrid-electric technology. A few licensing deals have been signed including one with Nissan for an Altima hybrid (2007-2011 models) that have been sold in the United States. Toyota also signed a deal with Mazda for the Mazda 3 compact hybrid that was sold solely in Japan. A notable aspect concerning those deals is that they were not only limited, but also fairly low-volume. According to the description given in a report by Reuters, Toyota has a plan of working with the suppliers at an early stage to allow standardization of components and make it easy for other automakers to utilize its hybrid technology.

The fourth generation of Toyota Prius was launched last year. The car’s drive is considerably better, while its fuel-efficiency is also better compared to the previous versions. Unfortunately, the sales seem to have lagged, probably due to factors such as continued cheap gasoline, a change in consumer preferences, and the model’s extreme styling. Toyota also made a shocking decision in its 2017’s Prius Prime, which is the most recent plug-in hybrid. The latest technology defaults the vehicle to run only in the electric mode when the battery charge is still present. This is contrary to a majority of other plug-in hybrid cars except the Chevrolet Volt.

There has been an increased understanding of the advantages of fully-electric propulsion by Toyota. The strategy of sharing the hybrid technology would be of a long-term nature. Changes will be made to technical standards and parts specifications, with most of them being invisible to buyers. The suppliers of Toyota have been known to produce technology that can only be utilized by Toyota. As the simple battery-electric cars gradually gain market popularity, they have a high likelihood of surpassing the continually low market penetration of hybrid cars. Either way, consumers should get ready for more hybrid cars utilizing the Toyota technology. The company is trying to match up to its competitors including Tesla and General Motors.

 

Leave a Comment December 30, 2016

Lucid Motors to Reveal an Air Electric Sedan Car in 2019

Courtesy of insideevs.com

Reports indicate that that Lucid Air will have the capacity to cover up to four hundred miles on a single charge. The key question is the length of time or period it would take for the car to be produced and sold. This startup electric vehicle manufacturer, formerly known as Atieva, made an  announcement last week concerning its plans to produce an Air sedan. It further revealed an interesting photo gallery of the vehicle in question. Now, Lucid Motors hopes that deliveries will begin in early 2019. Production is set to start in 2018 at the new assembly plant worth $700 million in Casa Grande, Arizona. The plant will break ground early next year. Lucid’s Global Manufacturing Director, Brian Barron, confirmed the above information during an interview with Automotive News, adding that the timeline was quite aggressive.

Baron spent around twenty years working for one of the most popular automaker models, the BMW. Because of his vast experience, Lucid Motors believes in Barron to lead and ensure that the Lucid Air sedan is delivered within the set timeline. One of the challenges that Lucid faces is that of introducing a car manufacturing plant to the community for the very first time. Currently, the startup is working collaboratively with community colleges around the area of Casa Grande to not only train, but also hire and certify workers who would enhance production. Barron said that when BMW was established in South Carolina, the region had no automotive industry. Textile industries were the most common.

The state of Arizona has transformed from farming and mining and has become attractive to external investors. The popularity of the location has further increased because of its close proximity to interstate highways linked to the West Coast’s major ports, flight and rail routes. Lucid is trying as much as it can to streamline the process. A positive move is to have a third party that would handle the part of the assembly inside the plant. Currently, Lucid is facing a historic challenge that is usually encountered by startup car manufacturers. The automaker has to grab the interest and attention of the market, followed by manufacturing of the vehicles within a timeframe that is realistic, at a reasonable cost. The company has to set up a factory within a short time. Additionally, Lucid Motors has to compete with major car manufacturers such as Tesla Motors, as well as other startups such as Faraday Future, Karma Automotive and Fisker Inc. The automaker plans to roll out 255 units in 2019.

Leave a Comment December 30, 2016

Lucid Reveals a New Luxury Sedan

Lucid Air - CNET

Lucid Air – CNET

Lucid Motors unveiled its much anticipated electric vehicle with a projected range of more than 400 miles. The car’s acceleration is also high, and it intends to exceed any model that Tesla plans to offer. The luxury sedan in question will give the experience of a luxury jet. Additionally, it will ooze an air of sophistication and elegance, considering its state-of-the-art self-driving capabilities, aircraft-style seating, and high-resolution computer displays. The company hopes that production will start in 2018 at Arizona’s $700 million factory. The pricing will be comparable to that of Tesla Model S. Its 1000 horsepower electric car variant will have a starting price of about $100,000. Next in line will be an electric vehicle with a retail price of $65,000.

Lucid comprises of 300 employees, as the core team aims to improve on the key features present in Tesla’s Model X or S. It also plans to emphasize on creating an interior that is more traditionally luxurious compared to Tesla’s minimalist style. Chief Technical Officer of Lucid, Peter Rawlinson, was previously the lead engineer in Tesla’s Model S development. Derek Jenkins, the design’s vice president was formerly the leader of Mazda’s design center in North America. We are yet to see how this automaker will keep up with the strong competition from Tesla, which is better-established. It will also be forced to battle electric cars having a range of 200-300 miles from major automakers.

The Lucid Air will set a new standard on the performance of the luxury electric vehicles. For instance, it will have a unique two-seat design that allows the seats to recline up to fifty-five degrees. It will also have air suspension design allowing the inversion of the normal engineering to bring the springs nearer to the wheels. Many design themes will also incorporate natural materials, such as textured woven and leather fabrics. Other notable features are 29-speaker audio systems, optional glass and active noise cancellation. The car will also have focused microphones for passengers to use the car’s language voice system. This feature will improve the accuracy of infotainment and navigation requests in the same way as Apple’s Siri.

Recently, the company made an announcement of its collaboration with Samsung’s SDI to produce battery cells with high-power density and energy. The Director of Lucid’s battery technology, Albert Liu, said that Lucid Air will utilize battery cells that offer resilience when charging at high-speeds so as to reduce loss of energy capacity over the car’s lifetime.

Leave a Comment December 23, 2016

General Motors’ Plan to Produce Autonomous Chevrolet Bolt

chevrolet-boltGeneral Motors has a plan of taking advantage of the new self-driving auto law implemented in Michigan. With the production of Chevy Bolt, GM will be the first car manufacturer to produce autonomous cars. According to Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, the automaker is set to immediately start conducting tests for the self-driving Chevy Bolts within the Detroit area. The testing in question is expected to begin as early as January 2017. Doug Parks, the vice president of General Motors said that the automaker has already started testing around 40 autonomous Bolts in Scottsdale, Arizona, and San Francisco. The test runs in Michigan will be on a larger scale compared to the ones currently going on.

The automaker is set to utilize Michigan’s self-driving vehicle policy, as well as current severe weather conditions that take place in Michigan. Mary Barra said that the main objective is to make sure that the autonomous cars produced can be driven safely in all roads and weather conditions. A few days ago, Rick Snyder, the Michigan governor, signed legislation that gave automakers, as well as technology partners, a go-ahead to implement, test, and market autonomous cars in the state. The policy covers more than what has been enacted in other states. It allows for the removal of brake pedals and steering wheels. It also gives companies the permission to provide ride-hailing options with their autonomous cars.

Assembling of the autonomous Bolts will be held at the General Motors plant situated in Orion Township. Non-autonomous fully-electric Chevy Bolts are produced within the same plant along with Chevrolet Sonic subcompact vehicle. The workers of GM will incorporate some of the Chevy Bolt’s sensors, Lidar (radar that uses light rather than sound), and cameras, as well as test out other autonomous technology. So far, testing has been been done only on private roads located a mile from the General Motors technical center. Barra stated that the automaker will open up testing to nearby roads followed by expansion throughout Detroit.

Chevrolet dealers started selling non-autonomous Bolts in Oregon and California this week. The market will be expanded to Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York in early next year. Around mid next year, the Bolt will have spread nationwide. General Motors has been conducting road testing for self-driving cars for many years, and now it has become a significant push by car manufacturers, technology companies, and auto suppliers to increase the popularity of autonomous cars on the United States roads. Tesla Model X and Model S equipped with full autonomy hardware are under production. The anticipated Model 3 will also have it.

 

Leave a Comment December 23, 2016

Hybrid Cars that Take Less than Three Years to Pay Back

2017-ford-fusion-hybrid

Ford Fusion 2017hybridcarsuv.com

While critics have raised questions concerning the higher cost of alternative energy cars compared to conventional cars, there are some hybrid cars that are worth a purchase. Owners of these cars are likely to be paid back in less than three years. The pay back is possible within the three years even in the absence of government subsidies, which are usually available for plug-in vehicles.

Toyota’s 2016 Avalon Hybrid

This hybrid car would pay back in about 2.8 years. The Avalon is one of Toyota’s top range sedans that is likened to a Lexus having Toyota’s badge. It also closely resembles the non-hybrid version of Avalon. It is known for saving fuel. Its powertrain is a 2.5 liter Hybrid Synergy and was coined from the Camry Hybrid. The non-hybrid version’s powertrain has a capacity of 3.5 liters with a range of 24 mpg. Although the non-hybrid model is more powerful, EPA figures indicate that the Avalon hybrid can save up to 540 dollars annually.

Honda’s 2017 Accord Hybrid Touring

Honda was on a hiatus for model year 2016 and then came back with a revised version of the Accord Hybrid. This car is high-tech and gives a range of 48 mpg. Its non-hybrid counterpart has a range of 25 mpg. The power of the Accord hybrid is also greater in comparison to that of a V6. In terms of price, the hybrid costs $1,305 more, but according to the EPA figures, savings for the hybrid car amount to $621 annually.

Ford’s 2016 Fusion Hybrid Titanium

This model was released this year, with the updated model for 2017 available for sale now. The 2016 hybrid model’s cost is only $160 more than the non-hybrid Fusion Titanium. It promises a range of 41 mpg in comparison to the non-hybrid’s 26 mpg. The 2016 Fusion is likely to pay back in less than five months with the approximate annual savings amounting to $456. The updated 2017 Fusion now gives a range of 42 mpg, with its pricing remaining reasonable.

Lincoln’s 2016 MKZ Hybrid

The pricing policy of Ford for its upper scale Fusion becomes better for the MKZ Hybrid of the Lincoln division. The hybrid luxury car has a hybrid engine with a capacity of 2 liters, while the non-hybrid version has a turbocharged engine with a capacity of 2 liters, as well. There is also a V6 with a rating of 21 mpg. The hybrid, which the gas-saver within the family, offers plenty of power with a range of 40 mpg.

 

Leave a Comment December 16, 2016

Supercapacitor Breakthrough to Allow Electric Cars to Charge within Seconds

BMW i3 Electric

BMW i3 Electric

Augmented Optics, a technological firm, has manufactured a supercapacitor material that allows electric cars to be charged as fast as refueling a normal car. This innovation threatens to make lithium-ion batteries useless. The new material that is set to serve as a replacement for conventional batteries comes as a polymer utilizing the soft contact-lens technology. This technology may increase the performance of the electronic components of the supercapacitors, which play the role of storing and distributing high power volumes. Polymers are composed of organic molecules that have repeated sub-units bonded together into a three-dimensional system.

Tests have been done on the new material by researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of Surrey in Great Britain. Their test findings reveal that the material’s effectiveness is a thousand to ten thousand times more compared to current supercapacitors. Augmented Optics’ technical director, Dr. Donald Highgate said the technology has a high potential. Hughes added that if the material is as good as it is thought to be, it may entirely replace battery technology. It will be shocking to vehicle manufacturers if this new technology turns out to be disruptive. However, cars could still be manufactured on similar factory lines. This project has been kept a secret until this point, with global patents having been filed last week.

A key advantage of supercapacitors is their capability of charging and discharging quickly through numerous cycles. Unfortunately, the efficiency that the current supercapacitors have on holding charges is not as high as that of batteries. For example, some supercapacitors utilized by buses in China need recharging every three to four miles. With the new material, supercapacitors now have a storage capacity that is closer to that of lithium-ion batteries. They have the additional benefit of cheaper costs of production and immediate recharging.

Dr. Ian Hamerton , one of the project’s scientists from the University of Bristol said that they initially did not consider the automotive industry. However, as the findings were revealed, it was evident that this technology would be adopted by the car industry. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors said that he was sure the supercapacitors were a breakthrough for the auto industry, especially for electric cars. According to Augmented Optics’ Chief Executive, Jim Heathcote, the group is in search of partners to whom it can offer assistance in building these storage devices and supplying the polymers. Auto Express reported that the team plans to produce a prototype electric vehicle by the year 2017. Owners of this car will be able to charge it in a few seconds with a driving range of about 150 miles.

 

 

Leave a Comment December 16, 2016

Porsche and Audi Vying With Volkswagen over Electric Vehicle Leadership

Audi e-Tron

Audi e-Tron

In-house fighting has ignited rivalry between the premium brands of Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi. Volkswagen is cutting costs following the scandal on diesel emissions cheating. Senior executives responded to Reuters concerning the internal conflict revolving around the manufacture and development of electric cars. The automaker is emerging from the hyped “Dieselgate” scandal. The international racing events analogy, which includes Le Mans 24, was used by Reuters. This analogy describes the rivalry within the automaker that will manufacture its plug-in car models. Volkswagen denied the rumor that the rivalry in question is beyond control in the boardroom.

The battle for resources is cut-throat. Every car manufacturer with the capacity to build engines is now interested in a leadership role. This leadership concerns battery packs, battery-cell and electric-motor expertise. This information was provided by one of the executives of a Volkswagen division that wanted their name to be kept anonymous. Cost cutting will also involve a dramatic reduction of jobs as the automaker faces lawsuits and penalties accrued from the Dieselgate scandal. This could affect all brands including Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, and Skoda. The company and its union came to an agreement recently to reduce thirty thousand jobs at VW brand’s core. This will be in place of a commitment so as to avoid forced redundancies.

The ambitious goal by Volkswagen to launch up to thirty new electric car models by the year 2025 will also have impact on labor. Assembling of electric vehicles is less complex compared to conventional combustion engine cars. Additionally, fewer workers will be required to assemble. The issue will be thorny, particularly in an industry that is dominated by workers who have numerous collective wage agreements. Audi, Porsche and VW executives who did not want their names revealed, said the conflict in question was not a new phenomenon. They further added that healthy internal competition is great since it would trigger greater commercial and technical achievements. Based on a reliable source, leadership changes effected in the last year have thrown that off.

The corporate office of Volkswagen dismissed the above comments and denied there being any power struggle. It claimed that the reports were pure speculation with no foundation. Although Audi has in the past been making huge profits, it has been a loser in some internal battles that cropped up in recent years, especially following the development of car components for the Porsche brand. We just have to wait and see which automaker will eventually take the leadership role.

 

Leave a Comment December 9, 2016

Toyota Starts a New Electric-Vehicle Project

Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

Toyota Motor Corporation is trying to follow the footsteps of Tesla Motors, Nissan Motor and General Motors in the development of electric cars. Toyota is well-known for the production of hybrid cars that utilize traditional engines, and it has been skeptical of delving into the fully electric car market. Instead, it has been investing in researching on hydrogen fuel-cells. The automaker’s president, Akio Toyoda, who was in charge of branding the luxury division of Lexus, will oversee the newly set-up electric car Department of Business, planning alongside other executives. The push for electric cars follows Toyota’s president’s move to increase autonomous car research.

A one million dollar investment has been made on the project with several employees hired in Silicon Valley. Toyota, which is the largest car maker globally in terms of profit and sales, has substantial financial resources to utilize in future projects. Meanwhile, Volkswagen AG, its primary competitor has settlement costs and fines amounting to billions of dollars in relation to cheating on emissions tests in the United States. Mr. Toyoda, who is the grandson of the automaker’s founder, has plans of manufacturing cars that can drive themselves by the year 2020. However, Toyota has a likelihood of engineering vehicles that require driver engagement in the operation process.

While the pioneering work of Google on autonomous cars has resulted in a great investment in driverless-car research, electric-car research is also making progress. It is essential for automakers to react to the current regulatory and emission pressures that are overshadowing the lack of demand for battery cars such as BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf. Although Toyota has been focusing more on fuel cells, the automaker seemed to be interested in joining the electric car market many years ago. Toyota started by investing in Tesla in 2010 before launching the Model S electric car sedan. Toyota made an agreement with Tesla to purchase batteries from Tesla, a deal which ended following disagreements between Toyota and Elon Musk.

Toyota still has plans of selling thirty thousand fuel-celled cars per year by 2020, which will coincide with Tokyo’s Summer Olympics. But there are some challenges currently faced. For instance, there have been delays in constructing hydrogen refueling stations, especially in California. This has hampered the sales of Mirai’s fuel-cell car. Recently, Toyota announced that it had plans of setting up a unit for building a battery-powered vehicle that will be marketed quickly. This move has come at a time when the Prius hybrid car sales have been declining in the United States.

 

Leave a Comment December 9, 2016

Motor Trend Awards Chevrolet Bolt the Car of the Year Title

chevrolet_bolt_concept_front_naias_2015Despite the fact that there are a few weeks remaining before Chevrolet Bolt enters dealerships, Motor Trend announced that it was the ultimate winner for the Vehicle of the Year Award. This is the first time a fully electric car has won the prestigious award. The ceremony marked the beginning of the yearly LA Auto Show held in Los Angeles. The award was received by the Electric Vehicle Chief of General Motors, Pam Fletcher, and Alan Batey, the North American Toyota president. Other finalists acknowledged during the 2017 awards include Cadillac CT6, Audi A4, Jaguar XE, Genesis G90, Chrysler Pacifica, Tesla’s Model S 60/75, Volvo S90 and Porsche 91.

Motor Trend recognized the Bolt because of a number of features offered by the model. One of the key aspects is the car’s EPA rating that has been confirmed to be 238 miles/charge. This is close to triple the range offered by the majority of pure electric cars currently on the market, with the exception of Tesla’s Model X and Model S. These two models have longer ranges, however, Model 3, which isn’t set to hit the market for a year, and will be considerably more expensive than the Bolt. The Bolt was also recognized because of its low retail price, considering its good range. Its base price is $37,495 excluding a federal tax credit of $7,500, as well as the numerous state incentives available, bringing the drive off cost to an affordable $30,000 or less.

Even if the Bolt did not have a battery propulsion system giving a long range, it would still be a great contender for the award. This is according to the jury of Motor Trend, which claims that this world-class small vehicle offers quietness, smoothness, and an electric motor that offers an instant-on torque. The ride is not only sporty and firm, but the road noise transmitted is well damped.

In other categories of the award, the new model of Mercedes-Benz, GLC, was named as the sports utility vehicle of the year. The winning truck per Motor Trend was the newly revamped Ford’s Super Duty.  Motor Trend has also acknowledged plug-in car winners in the past, with Tesla’s Model S taking the vehicle of the year trophy three years ago (2013). The top honor was given to Chevrolet Volt in the year 2011.

Similar awards to be held in North America named the Bolt as one of the three finalists. Trophies for the award in question will be given in January. An award organized by Green Car Journal named 2017 Bolt Green Car of the Year. Hence, Chevy Bolt is clearly a new winning entrant.

 

Leave a Comment November 25, 2016

Toyota Creates a Sub-Company to Boost Electric Car Production

toyota_coms_single-person_electric_car_10470066394Toyota made an official announcement confirming its plans to set up a sub-company to be responsible for the development of electric cars. This startup is will commence work next month. The new venture isn’t a major reassignment of assets as the team has only four people, with each person drawn from a different Toyota group branch. The automaker believes that this simple manpower should lead to development of fast-selling products. The group will make use of the technical knowledge of the whole Toyota group. According to Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, the speed will be embraced by the sub-company in its work approach. Toyota is currently focused on fuel-cell cars but has created this team to focus on electric vehicles. It is following the steps of Mira, since EVs are currently as viable as other mainstream vehicles.

While fuel-cell vehicles have a competitive advantage in terms of fuelling and the range offered, limited hydrogen infrastructure implies that electric cars are still better in terms of the rates of adoption. For instance, the United Kingdom has less than ten hydrogen filling stations. On the contrary, there are thousands of charging points for electric vehicles. Toyota has maintained that it will continue supporting the production of fuel-cell cars alongside electric car development. The official details concerning platforms, timeline or powertrains have not yet been given. However, according to a last week’s report by Nikkei, Toyota plans to produce an electric vehicle with a range of 186 miles by 2020. The report further claimed that the first Toyota EV is likely to borrow Prius’ platform in order to save time and lower development costs.

Toyota has hinted that its next Aygo car could have an electric powertrain. This will be part of the automaker’s swing towards fully electric Toyotas. From 2020, Toyota will be producing new pure electric car models. The current Aygo model is manufactured alongside the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 at the same factory. A majority of mechanical components are shared by the three models. By doing so, the manufacturer hopes to generate cash in a market area with extremely tight margins. Johan van Zyl, the CEO and president of the European Toyota branch said that while hybrid cars are being targeted in every market sector, the A-segment may need a different strategy. The automaker has always maintained that powertrain technologies utilized should not necessarily compete with each other. Instead, the automaker focuses on the use of the technology best suited for each application. There is an anticipated evolution of plug-in hybrid, pure electric, fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles. The future will clearly have electric cars as part of the technological spectrum offered by Toyota.

 

Leave a Comment November 25, 2016

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