EV/Plug-in auto news

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Tesla selling like gangbusters in China

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Tesla Motors, China

Earns Tesla

"Will it play in Peoria?" asks the age-old question about how Broadway shows would be received in Middle America. Well, apparently Tesla Motors plays well in Beijing. It's part of Tesla chief Elon Musk's grand plan, of course.

The California-based maker of the battery-electric Model S has delivered about 1,000 of the vehicles in China since shipments started there in April, Bloomberg News says, citing Dougherty & Co. analyst Andrea James, Barclays Plc analyst Brian Johnson and Wedbush Securities analyst Craig Irwin. Tesla also started shipping its first right-had drive Model S sedans to the UK in June.

It is estimated that all those deliveries helped push Tesla's second-quarter global vehicle deliveries close to the 7,550 mark, which is more than the company forecast and would set a new quarterly record (Tesla's second-quarter results will be announced later today). It would also mark about a 45 percent jump from Tesla's 2Q sales a year ago.

The Model S is priced at about $120,000 US in China (the culprits include the top-of-the-line battery pack as standard equipment and steep taxes that the government charges on vehicle imports) but that hasn't swayed status-conscious buyers from footing the bill, apparently. Tesla declined to comment on the China sales estimate when contacted by AutoblogGreen but we may learn more later today.

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Tesla, Panasonic officially partner up for Gigafactory

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Manufacturing/Plants, Tesla Motors

Tesla Gigafactory rendering

The first of perhaps 'hundreds' of gigafactories is now one step closer to reality: Tesla and Panasonic have announced their official agreement to work together on the gigafactory. The two companies have worked together for many years on electric vehicles, but this new deal takes the partnership to a whole new level.

The basic gist, since the agreement itself has not been released, is that Tesla will take care of the exterior (the "land, buildings and utilities") while Panasonic will pay for the machines inside in order to, "manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells" that Tesla will then use to, you know, build battery packs. Panasonic's machines will take up half the space while a network of as-yet unnamed suppliers will be involved in the other half, according to the press release announcing the deal. Read it below.

There's been lots of speculation as to where the Gigafactory will be built, but the exact location probably won't be revealed until later this year, so don't expect any battery packs from the Gigafactory to be coming any time soon. That's why Panasonic is still going to be building Tesla cells in Japan for the time being.

As previously announced, the Gigafactory is expected to make batteries for around 500,000 EVs a year as well as more for stationary storage needs. That means 35 GWh worth of cells and 50 GWh worth of packs each year by 2020. We expect more information to trickle out today along with Tesla's quarterly earnings.

Continue reading Tesla, Panasonic officially partner up for Gigafactory

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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.

Continue reading Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV sales reach 33,000 worldwide

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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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When you put Rimac Concept One batteries into a wheelchair, magic happens

07/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Green Culture

Rimac EV batteries wheelchair Rolli

Rimac Automobili is no stranger to our pages, but it's usually for the Concept_One supercar or its sleek spinoffs. Today, though, the company is talking up a feel-good alternative use for the electric vehicle's batteries: powering a wheelchair for a young fan, Rolly Bugnar, who suffers from a serious and legitimate case of range anxiety.

"We were confident that we could relatively quickly adapt our battery for a wheelchair." - Mate Rimac

So Bugnar contacted Rimac to see if the company could repurpose its batteries for his daily conveyance. Mate Rimac, the company founder and CEO, said, "Since we have already used the technology originally developed for the Concept_One supercar in other products like the high-performance Greyp Bikes, we were confident that we could relatively quickly adapt our battery for a wheelchair. ... It still took us months of development and adaptation, but we are all very satisfied with the performance and reliability of the prototype system."

What did Rimac do? It took the li-ion battery system from that Greyp G12 bike as well as the company's battery management system, vehicle control unit and human machine interface. As you might suspect, the wheelchair now has better range (37 miles vs. just six with the old lead acid batteries) and weighs less. The new batteries went from 70 pounds down to 47, and the EV has more consistent power, too. You can tell Bugnar is a true EV fan, since he likes to keep close tabs on the individual cells and he wishes his wheelchair could go faster.

Sadly, Rimac Automobili doesn't have a plan to sell any wheelchairs like this, but we expect a lot of wheelchair users would enjoy a new ride like Bugnar's. See what we mean in the video below. It might be the most heartwarming seven minutes you'll spend online today.

Continue reading When you put Rimac Concept One batteries into a wheelchair, magic happens

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Opel CEO talks new EV, will likely be fresh face for Chevy, too

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Chevrolet, Opel

Opel Ampera

The rumored demise of the Opel Ampera has been confirmed, but there's good news, too. Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann has been busy Tweeting information about the brand's next plug-in vehicle, admitting that the Ampera is on the way out but that plug-in vehicles are here to stay. His Tweets, in full, read:

After the eventual run-out of the current generation Ampera, we'll introduce a successor product in the electric vehicle segment. Our next electric vehicle will be part of our massive product offensive - with 27 new vehicles in the 2014-2018 time frame. We see eMobility as important part of the mobility of tomorrow and we will continue to drive down costs & deliver affordability.

As we learned earlier this week, the Ampera will not be refreshed when the current Chevy Volt is updated, most likely because of slow sales. Opel sold just 332 Amperas in the first five months of 2014. For now, General Motors is still building Amperas in Michigan for export to Europe.

So, what might this new EV mean for the General Motors plug-in fleet? Official spokespeople are being quiet, but we think it's safe to say the new EV Neumann is talking about is not simply a rebadged Chevy Spark EV. This is the first official word about an entirely new EV, and we expect it will come to both the Chevrolet and Opel brands.

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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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Opel dropping Ampera, the European Chevy Volt, because of weak sales

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, Opel

Opel Ampera

Sales of the Chevy Volt in the US have been fairly stable for the last few months (between a low of 1,478 and a high of 1,777 since March), but in Europe, the Opel Ampera (sister-vehicle of the Volt) has been trending downwards. The sales decline is prompting discussion that the vehicle will be killed off in Europe, according to Automotive News Europe.

The car was a relative hit back in 2012, when it was named the European Car Of The Year and sales topped 5,200 units. Compared to 2012 numbers, which were good, Ampera sales dropped 40 percent to fewer than 3,200 in 2013 despite a massive price cut. They are down another 67 percent so far in 2014 and the car has sold just 332 units through the end of May. That's why, according to ANE, the Ampera will be discontinued once Chevy introduces the 2016 Volt in late 2015 (we've got spy shots here). The current Volt and the the Ampera are identical except for the front fascia, and it doesn't make sense to rebadge the new Volt for Opel if they're not even selling a thousand copies per year.

As far as an official word on the company's plans, Opel's Andrew Marshall told AutoblogGreen that the only thing the company is saying right now is that, "We do not comment on potential future product plans." That's vague, sure, but it's also not a resounding vote of confidence for the European Volt. Of course, GM's manager of Electrification Technology Communications, Kevin Kelly, told AutoblogGreen the same thing about the Volt's future when we asked about it based on the Ampera rumors, so we should probably just admit that no one's saying anything official about anything just yet.

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Next Toyota Prius may get optional all-wheel drive

07/15/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Hybrid, Toyota

Toyota Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive

We've been hearing rumors about the next generation of the Toyota Prius for the last couple of years on a pretty regular basis. From the expectation of lithium-ion battery packs with more capacity for electric-only miles to wireless charging and more emotional styling, there's been no shortage of talking points for the car that's expected to see its first light of day at the very end of 2015 (we hope). But one thing we've yet to hear about, until now that is, is all-wheel drive.

According to a report from Automotive News, Koei Saga, senior managing officer in charge of powertrain development of the Prius, said in an interview last week, "I think we will possibly do [all-wheel drive]" for the car's next generation. There isn't any further indication on how the AWD system would work, but we'd put our money on something similar, at least in principle, to the E-Four system that just debuted on the 2015 Lexus NX 300h, which uses an electric motor mounted at the rear to power the car's back wheels when the front wheels lose traction.

The AN report also repeats a rumor we've heard before - that Toyota may offer two different battery pack options in its next Prius, one using lithium-ion chemistry and one using the nickel metal hydride technology that the Prius has featured from its very beginning. While the automaker has yet to talk efficiency, it's natural to expect more capacity for EV driving from newer lithium-based technology over that of nickel-based packs to go along with what we'd also expect would be a somewhat higher price.

We're sure you're just as curious about the next Prius as much as we are, and so we'll leave you with these words, again from Saga: "The batteries will be renewed. Everything will be revised. And I think we will come up with a fuel economy that will surprise everyone."

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Elon Musk promises $1 million, Supercharger for New York's Nikola Tesla Museum

07/13/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Tesla Motors

Earlier this year, Matthew Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, penned a gushing review of his Tesla Model S, and followed it up with a request to Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk for $8 million to help build a museum dedicated to the achievements of the company's namesake because "any less than $8M would pretty much leave us in the same boat we're in now." Musk Tweeted a response that said, "I would be happy to help."

So, the news that Musk will donate $1 million to the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe towards the construction of the museum, which will be built on a 16-acre site in honor of scientist Nikola Tesla, is a mixed blessing. A million bucks is a million bucks, but it's not the amount Inman was hoping for. The museum says, "[Musk] has challenged us at the Center to use our resources wisely, find additional resources, and reach our goal of creating this museum." In other words, anyone have $7 million?

The plan is to locate the museum in Shoreham, New York, on Long Island's north shore, about 65 miles northeast of New York City. It's also the site of Nikola Tesla's last laboratory. He started working there in 1901 on an unfinished project that would have essentially been a precursor to e-mail. Thursday marked the 158th anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birth. The scientist died in 1943.

On top of the cool million, Musk says he will also build a Supercharger fast-charging station on site for those making the trip out to the museum in a Model S. So the Science Center will be just like Lusk, WY. You can check out the Tesla Science Center's press release below.

Continue reading Elon Musk promises $1 million, Supercharger for New York's Nikola Tesla Museum

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