Hybrid auto news

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2015 Toyota Prius Persona special edition arrives in September

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hybrid, Toyota

2015 Toyota Prius Persona Special Edition in red

Is the Prius going into "Pimp My Ride" territory? A new official special edition model won't be lowered or have three-wheel motion or anything like that (though that'd be cool), but the world's best-selling hybrid is putting on a few stylish bells and whistles this September.

Toyota has announced something called the 2015 Prius Persona Series Special Edition. Included on the special variant will be 17-inch alloy wheels, a metallic exterior finish, heated power mirrors and chrome shift knob rings and door grips. Inside, you've got special badging and black SofTex fabric stitched with gray. The new Prius Persona will come in two colors: "Blizzard Pearl" and "Absolutely Red." The special edition has base price of $26,985, and the "Blizzard Pearl" option knocks it closer to the $27,400 mark and there's also the $895 (give or take) delivery fee.

Demand for the Prius in the US has plateaued recently as other automakers have broadened their selection of advanced-powertrain vehicles. Through the first half of the year, combined sales of the four Prius variants were down 11 percent from 2013 numbers to about 107,000 units, including about 63,000 of the standard sedans and almost 20,300 of the Prius C compact hybrids. Perhaps there are enough personas out there that sales will get a boost from this special edition. Take a look at Toyota's press release on the 2015 Prius Persona below.

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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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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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Ford not backing down on MPG-based marketing strategy

06/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hybrid, MPG, Ford

Ford C-Max Hybrid

The Blue Oval may have to back off a bit from the green messaging. Ford has had to lower fuel-economy ratings on a number of 2013 and 2014 model-year vehicles, namely its hybrids. And that may force the US automaker to rethink some of its marketing strategy, Automotive News reports.

Ford has spent much of the year pushing its fuel-efficiency improvements, with everything from a Super Bowl ad saying its Fusion Hybrid gets "almost double" the fuel efficiency of an average vehicle (after the recalculation, it's now more like 75 percent better) to claiming the Fiesta is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid in the US (it's actually the Mitsubishi Mirage) to stating the C-Max Hybrid gets better fuel economy than the Toyota Prius V (it doesn't). Nonetheless, Ford doesn't plan on changing its mpg marketing emphasis anytime soon, the company said in an e-mailed statement to AutoblogGreen.

"Providing customers great fuel economy is a key part of our Ford vehicle DNA."

"Providing customers great fuel economy is a key part of our Ford vehicle DNA," the company said. "We will continue to highlight our vehicles features and attributes in our advertising and marketing, which includes fuel economy and fuel-saving technologies like EcoBoost and hybrids."

Earlier this month, Ford said it would lower the fuel-economy ratings of models such as the C-Max, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ Hybrids as well as most of the Fiesta line because of mistakes in the company's internal testing data. It was the second change for the C-Max Hybrid.

The good news for Ford is that its fleetwide fuel economy is up almost 40 percent from a decade ago, compared to an improvement of around 23 percent for Toyota. Still, while sales of Ford hybrids and plug-ins are about even with last year through the first five months of 2014, C-Max Hybrid sales have plunged 49 percent from a year earlier.

Earlier this year, Ford admitted that the first fuel economy downgrade had a negative effect on sales and we can find proof in the numbers. Before that the change was announced, in August 2013, Ford was consistently selling over 2,000 - and sometimes over 3,000 - C-Max Hybrids a month. In September, it dropped to 1,424, then to 1,438 in October. It didn't climb back above 2,000 until May 2014. The second mpg adjustment was announced in June.

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How Toyota's Le Mans racer may make its next Prius even better

06/21/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hybrid, Toyota, Racing

Toyota TS040

The supercapacitor technology in the Toyota TS040 "offers great possibility for production car use." - Amanda Rice, Toyota

Pop-culture junkies familiar with 1980s touchstone movies will hear the word "capacitor" and think Back to the Future. But the concept of supercapacitors being used in upcoming production models is being pushed by Toyota, not DeLorean. And because of that push, the future might look a little brighter for the Prius.

The Japanese automaker will likely apply electric-motor technology used in Toyota's 24 Hours of Le Mans entry - the TS040 - in future versions of the world's best-selling hybrid, Australian publication Drive.com.au says, citing an interview with Toyota Motor Sports' Yoshiaki Kinoshita. Specifically, the racecar uses supercapacitors because they're effective at storing energy created when the vehicle is under braking, only to quickly redistribute it on demand for rapid acceleration. Kinoshita said Toyota may apply this technology to the Prius within the next five years.

While declining to comment on specifics, Toyota spokeswoman Amanda Rice tells AutoblogGreen that the Le Mans vehicle "represents an advanced vehicle laboratory for hybrid vehicle and component development. The supercapacitor technology used in this vehicle with its fast charge and discharge capability offers great possibility for production car use." In her email, Rice added that the next-generation Prius will have smaller electric motors with greater power density and thermal efficiency, so let's add that to what we know or think we know about the fourth-generation model.

Toyota entered two vehicles in this year's Le Mans race, and one of them had secured the pole-position and was leading much of the race before calling it quits 15 hours in because of electrical issues. Audi ended up winning the race, marking its 13th victory in the history of the French endurance contest.

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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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Ford made three big mistakes in calculating MPG for 2013 C-Max Hybrid

06/18/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hybrid, MPG, Ford, Legislation and Policy

ford c-max hybrid 47 mpg

It's been a rough time for the official fuel economy figures for the Ford C-Max Hybrid. When the car was released in 2012, Ford made a huge deal about how it would beat the Toyota Prius V, which was rated at 42 combined miles per gallon, 44 city and 40 highway. The Ford? 47 mpg across the board.

How did Ford come to this place, where its Prius-beater turned into an also-ran?

Well, after hearing customer complaints and issuing a software update in mid-2013, then discovering a real problem with the numbers last fall and then making a big announcement last week that the fuel economy ratings of six different 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles would need to be lowered, the C-Max Hybrid has ended up at 40 combined, 42 city and 37 highway. In other words, the Prius trumps it, as daily drivers of those two vehicles have known for a long time. The changes will not only affect the window sticker, but also the effect that the C-Max Hybrid (and the five other Ford vehicles that had their fuel economy figures lowered last week) have on Ford's compliance with greenhouse gas and CAFE rules for model year 2013 and 2014.

How did Ford come to this place, where its Prius-beater turned into an also-ran? There are two technical answers to that question, which we've got below, as well as some context for how Ford's mistakes will play out in the bigger world of green vehicles.

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EcoCar2 is on the hunt for a better, cleaner Chevy Malibu [w/video]

06/13/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Biodiesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, Green Culture, Hybrid, MPG, Chevrolet

The students spent three years transforming an ordinary Chevy Malibu into a revolutionary vehicle.

Not far from the building where General Motors once invented the Chevy Volt, a dozen or so college students are standing on the blacktop alongside a test track, watching a professional driver push the limits of a plug-in hybrid car they've built that's far more radical.

These students, from Colorado State University, have spent the past three years transforming an ordinary Chevy Malibu into a revolutionary vehicle. At first glance, it still looks like a regular sedan. But under the hood, they've installed a hybrid powertrain that contains both hydrogen and electric power sources. Even by the standards of the Department of Energy competition they're participating in, it's an outlier.

That's exactly what they had in mind.

"We didn't want to come here and tell them how to build a better Volt," said Tom Bradley, faculty adviser for the Colorado State team. "They already know how to do that. We can tell them how to think about these possibilities in a whole new way."

Continue reading EcoCar2 is on the hunt for a better, cleaner Chevy Malibu [w/video]

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