AutoblogGreen Exclusive auto news

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV sales reach 33,000 worldwide

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, Mitsubishi, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, Europe/EU, Japan, Plug In Conference

Plug In 2014: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It can be difficult to see from the US, where the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid is not yet available, but the all-wheel drive SUV is a big hit in Europe and Japan. In fact, we learned at the Plug In 2014 Conference in San Jose, CA this week that Mitsubishi has sold over 33,000 copies of the PHEV around the world.

The breakdown is that Mitsubishi has delivered 15,000 units in Japan and 18,000 in Europe. Fuminori Kojima, Mitsubishi Motors North America's senior manager of incentives, told AutoblogGreen that the country with the highest sales rate in Europe is Holland, with about 6,000 units sold that thanks in part to generous incentives for plug-in hybrids there. The Euro-spec version on hand in San Jose has three regen levels (the normal D mode, plus B1 and B2). We got to take a spin around the block, but the battery was mostly depleted (it was a popular attraction in the Ride & Drive) and so we were driving on gas.

In the gallery from Plug In 2014, you'll note that the Outlander PHEV requires at least 95 octane (RON) unleaded fuel, which is 91 octane (AKI) premium fuel in the US. We don' know what the US version will need, but we've heard it will be "completely different." The Outlander has a 12-kWh battery and should have an EV range of around 30 miles. Whether or not it will have a CHAdeMO fast-charging port in the US is still undecided, as is the question of whether it will have a 3.3 or 6.6 kW onboard charger.

The timeline Kojima gave for the Outlander's US arrival was October or November of 2015, since the SUV still needs to be tested and homologated for the US, Kojima said, but the real problem is that Mitsubishi can't build enough. "The battery production capacity is limited," he said. "So that's why, [the] first [focus is the] domestic market and Europe showed more demand." As as an example, he mentioned not only the incentives but also said that the charging infrastructure is more built up in Europe. "We'd like to have it [in the US ] as soon as possible, of course," he said.

According to numbers from the European group Transport And Environment (see press release and sales chart below), overall plug-in vehicle sales have been doubling each year since the new breed was introduced in 2010. Last year, almost 50,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in the EU, with the Renault Zoe EV, Outlander PHEV and Volvo V60 Plug-in at the top of the pack.

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2016 Chevy Volt to make auto show debut this season

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, Chevrolet, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

2016 Chevy Volt spy shot

Ever since we saw that spy shots of the 2016 Chevy Volt, we've been hungering for more information on the next-gen version of GM's green halo car. It appears we might not have long to wait, at least for an official tease.

An inside source that wishes to remain anonymous told AutoblogGreen that GM will make two announcements regarding the second-gen Volt at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, MI next week. The first, and most intriguing, is that that we will get our first glimpse of the new Volt at some point during the upcoming auto show season. That means either Los Angeles later this year or else Detroit, Chicago or New York in early 2015. The second bit of news is that GM will be moving production of the electric motors from Mexico to Michigan.

Details and official confirmation are, of course, missing and Chevrolet declined comment to AutoblogGreen. We should know more next week.

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Unplugged Performance sweetens the look of your Tesla Model S for around $6,000

07/23/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Tesla Motors, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

Tesla Model S with Unplugged Performance Tuner Kit

Tesla electric vehicles are no strangers to the tuner set. Saleen is working on a modified Model S. Brabus once offered neon for your Roadster. And new we find a number of body panel upgrades for the Model S from Unplugged Performance.

Unplugged Performance has its offices right by the Tesla's Supercharger in Hawthorne, CA, and sales manager Mark Borushko told AutoblogGreen that Tesla employees often express their appreciation for what UP has done to change the look of the Model S. The upgrade parts are made in the US and were designed in-house by an ex-Ferrari guy, Borushko said.

What upgrades are there? There's the front spoiler and diffuser (starting at $995), the rear spoiler and diffuser ($1,550), trunk spoiler ($895), side skirts ($1,450) and the Complete Front Fascia System ($1,000). Those prices are all for the unpainted parts. Add a few hundred bucks to each to upgrade to matching paint colors or carbon fiber parts. Borushko said that in the year that Unplugged Performance has been around, they've sold about 30 kits - meaning one of everything - worldwide. There are people who just buy just the trunk spoiler, for example, he said, but about 90 percent of UP's customers opt for the full kit. Borushko said UP will have to see if there's interest in a kit for the Model X, but there likely will be.

Unplugged Performance is a part of Bulletproof Automotive, which offers upgrades for all sorts of vehicles. The Unplugged Performance phone number is the same as the one for Tesla Everything, so we're pretty sure someone over there is a big Model S fan.

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Why Elon Musk is right about batteries being the future of automobiles

07/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, China

China International Battery Fair 2014

Recently, I visited the China International Battery Fair in Shenzhen. This is perhaps the largest battery show in the world, with over 980 exhibitors covering three-quarter of a million square feet. The three-day exhibition was followed by a three-day conference on battery technology and innovation drawing battery scientists from all over the world.

Almost everybody in the battery industry in China attends this show. There were lead acid batteries, NiCad batteries and all kinds of lithium-ion batteries. There were manufacturers of battery electrodes, separators and battery cases. Battery assembly equipment manufacturers were also present.

Most people think of China as a low-tech cheap labor market, but Chinese companies are now making the robots to produce batteries. Back in 2008, Chinese battery assembly equipment manufacturers were struggling to produce cylindrical cells. Today they have mastered the production of cut and stacked cells (which is where the future of lithium-ion technology is heading).

China's central government is investing huge resources into the battery industry to make China the world leader of battery technology.

One hundred years ago the engine was the key to manufacturing an automobile; for electric vehicles the battery is the key: that is where the power comes from. Batteries are the most expensive component in an electric vehicle, sometimes exceeding more than half the bill of materials cost. Tesla's Gigafactory will change the entire automobile industry and give Tesla an incredible competitive advantage, putting Tesla years ahead of all other automobile manufacturers. Tesla will turn its electric vehicle manufacturing volume into a battery cost advantage and make it very difficult for other automobile manufacturers to compete.

The Chinese government also understands the importance of batteries to the electric vehicle industry. The central government is investing huge resources into the battery industry to make China the world leader of battery technology. Close to 900 of the exhibitors at the CIBF were Chinese manufacturers.

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Automaker interest in open Tesla EV patents is decidedly lukewarm

06/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Emerging Technologies, EV/Plug-in, Tesla Motors, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

US Patent Office Tesla Motors Model S drawing

Tesla Motors made big headlines when CEO Elon Musk announced a few weeks ago that he would open up all of the automaker's patents. The response has been interesting, to say the least, with some electric vehicle advocates and investor groups praising the news and others saying that what Musk did wasn't all that big a deal, in the end.

"No major car company would be foolish enough to use Tesla's patents." - Motley Fool

The Motley Fool, for example, says that the patents themselves are not all that revealing since, "There often is only so much information that you can get from a patent. Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner." And who's to say that once you dig into the patents, they won't be outdated? A search of the US Patent Office reveals 1,444 patents for "Tesla and motors" including some from inventor Nikola Tesla and other sources. The Washington Post says Tesla Motors itself only has around 300 patents. The Motley Fool also notes that Musk's statement was not a legal document and that, "no major car company would be foolish enough to use Tesla's patents based on some undefined words in a blog post by one executive who may not even be working at Tesla in five years."

Then there's the fact that the battery technology that Tesla uses, linking up thousands of small format cells from Panasonic, is not something most other automakers have expressed an interest in. The cell patents belong to Panasonic and most automakers use larger format cells anyway.

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China only sold 7,000 electric automobiles in 2013

06/27/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, China

China Auto Show

The goal of the plan is to have five million EVs on the roads by the end of 2020.

China is already the world's largest manufacturer of electric bicycles and electric tricycles, but no less than 13 automobile manufacturers in China offered 18 different models of electric automobiles in 2013.

Two years ago, on June 28, 2012 the China State Council passed the New Energy Automobile Industry Development Plan for 2012 to 2020. The goal of the plan? To have 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by the end of 2015 and five-million electric vehicles on the roads by the end of 2020. Yet in 2013, Chinese automobile manufacturers sold just 6,900 highway-speed electric passenger automobiles and 1,247 plug-in hybrid automobiles. (We've got detailed lists available below). This number doesn't include electric buses, which will play a big role in electric vehicle growth in China, but if sales numbers for passenger automobiles continue in this manner, China's 2015 half-million EV goal will be very difficult to achieve.


For eight-and-a-half months during 2013, there were no national subsidies to promote electric vehicle sales in China, so on some level, China's 2013 sales are not that bad, considering. On September 13, 2013 China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MII) announced substantial government subsidies to spur the sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles in China. The new government subsidies are based on vehicle range and are only available to domestic automobile brands.

  • EV Range over 250 kilometers CN¥60,000 ($9,456 US)
  • EV Range between 150 km and 250 km CN¥50,000 ($8,130)
  • EV Range between 80 km and 150 km CN¥35,000 ($5,691)
  • PHEV Range over 50 km CN¥35,000 ($5,691)
China is one of the few countries in the world which continues to rely on central government planning to regulate industrial growth, and promotions of government officials are directly tied to performance based on those plans. According to the MII's announcement, major cities should implement policies to put 10,000 electric vehicles on the road by the end 2015, while other cities in the program should put more than 5,000 EVs on the road. By the end of 2013, forty cities had signed up for this program. Promotion opportunities for government officials who miss these targets will be very limited.

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2014 Mercedes B-Class ED battery much bigger than previously stated

06/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Mercedes Benz, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive

There was something unexpected hiding in the new configurator for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive: a $600 "Temporary range extender." Since we've never heard of such a thing, we had to click through for more.

The official explanation runs like this:

A suite of options to further increase your driving range includes added insulation of the doors and roof for to increase climate-control efficiency, along with an electrically heated windshield and a range-extending charge function. By pressing a button on the console prior to charging, the maximum charge level for battery will increased for the next charge cycle. The higher-capacity charge can provide up to 17 additional miles of range.

The passive features that increase range should be standard in all models, we think. But we were more curious about the battery charge situation. How do you increase a maximum? And is it a good idea to do so? The configurator includes this disclaimer, after all:

Range extender should only be used on a limited basis, and could shorten battery life if used excessively.

How much is excessive? We investigate below.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes B-Class ED battery much bigger than previously stated

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2015 Mercedes B-Class ED battery much bigger than previously stated

06/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Mercedes Benz, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive

There was something unexpected hiding in the new configurator for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive: a $600 "Temporary range extender." Since we've never heard of such a thing, we had to click through for more.

The official explanation runs like this:

A suite of options to further increase your driving range includes added insulation of the doors and roof for to increase climate-control efficiency, along with an electrically heated windshield and a range-extending charge function. By pressing a button on the console prior to charging, the maximum charge level for battery will increased for the next charge cycle. The higher-capacity charge can provide up to 17 additional miles of range.

The passive features that increase range should be standard in all models, we think. But we were more curious about the battery charge situation. How do you increase a maximum? And is it a good idea to do so? The configurator includes this disclaimer, after all:

Range extender should only be used on a limited basis, and could shorten battery life if used excessively.

How much is excessive? We investigate below.

Continue reading 2015 Mercedes B-Class ED battery much bigger than previously stated

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Chevy Volt owners log half a billion electric miles, 2015 production starts

06/19/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, Manufacturing/Plants, Chevrolet, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

Chevy Volt half-billion miles statistics

As General Motors gets ready to start 2015 Volt production Monday, Chevrolet is looking back at some of the numbers that got the car to where it is today. The headline number is that Volt owners have collectively put more than a half-billion electric miles on their cars. The unsurprising upshot is that, if you went out and bought a Volt, you're pretty keen on getting as many electric miles out of it as possible.

90 percent of all Volt trips are done purely on electric power.

The typical Volt driver goes 970 miles between fill-ups, GM says, and that means that 63 percent of all miles are done on battery power. General Motors executive director Larry Nitz gave AutoblogGreen a few more details on the usage habits of Volt drivers, including that 81 percent of commuting miles are electric. Two-thirds of US Volt drivers charge their vehicle 1.4 times a day, a clear indicator of drivers trying to maximize electric miles through opportunity charging. In fact, Nitz said, 90 percent of all Volt trips are done purely on electric power. GM also says that the Volt's official 35 miles of electric range is still doable for many owners who have had their car for more than 30 months.

Looking ahead, we know that one upgrade for the 2015 Volt will be 4G LTE connectivity that can turn the car, like others in the GM family, into a mobile wifi hotspot. We're of course much more interested in when GM is finally going to start production of the next-gen Volt, but GM officials would only tell us that they're very excited about the still-secret vehicle, promising we'll be learning more "soon." Nitz did confirm that today's Volt drivers are most interested in three things from the next-gen model: more range, a lower price and a fifth seat. He did not say whether or not GM will be able to deliver on those requests.

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Chevy Spark EV could be coming to Midwest later this year

06/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Chevrolet, AutoblogGreen Exclusive

2015 Chevy Spark EV

Ohio is not known as a hotbed of EV sales - if anything, the state is a bit anti-EV, thanks to a legislative fight against Tesla's direct sales model - but it might be on Chevrolet's short list to expand the market for the Spark EV in the near future. The latest official GM press release on the battery-powered Spark still says the car is "available exclusively in California and Oregon," but Hybrid Cars found four Ohio dealerships that list a Spark EV on their websites, with hints the the car will be coming to the Midwest state by the end of the summer. See, for example, here, here, here and here.

But that's probably not going to happen, according to Randy Fox, GM communication's manager for passenger cars. Fox told AutoblogGreen that, "At this point in time, we don't have any official plans to expand the Spark EV beyond California and Oregon." The reason is that California and Oregon have the infrastructure to support EVs, Fox said, and GM wants to be able to support its EV customers. "We are continuing to look at other options," he said.

"The selling point for electric cars today is not advertising, it's eyeballs, it's peer exposure" - John O'Dell

John O'Dell, a senior editor at Edmunds.com, told AutoblogGreen that, "It makes sense for [GM] to expand sales and it makes sense to do it in a quiet manner, to get these vehicles on the road. The selling point for electric cars today is not advertising, it's eyeballs, it's peer exposure. If someone in my neighborhood has one and he likes it, then maybe I can trust him. So it's important to get these vehicles on the road."

Chevy sold 182 Spark EVs last month, a significant increase over the 98 sold in April. That's still small potatoes compared to the 3,000+ Nissan Leaf EVs sold last month, but making the electric Spark available in Ohio, say, or GM's home state of Michigan could boost those numbers. AutoblogGreen called a few dealerships in Michigan to see what they had heard. One salesman said he didn't think GM had started production yet but the inventory manager for another dealership said the Spark EV is scheduled to arrive in the Midwest in "roughly the fourth quarter."

What would GM's incentive be to offer the car in markets outside of California where it can gain ZEV credits with each sale? Since the General is consolidating battery production for its plug-in vehicles at the Brownstown production line in Michigan - where packs for the Chevy Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR are made alongside the Spark EV's - would selling a few (hundred?) more EVs a month change the profit/loss equation?

The question of profitability is really a question of whether or not GM is playing the long game, O'Dell said. Every car loses money at the beginning, but focusing on this is a misunderstanding of how the process works, especially with EVs. If a vehicle doesn't take off overnight, if it's not a $100-million movie, then people say it's a flop. Given enough time, selling more Spark EVs could tip the scales. "At the very least, this would take it out of the compliance car category," he said. "The commitment to electrification that they've shown with the Volt and ELR is moving forward."

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