Archive for the 'Hybrid cars' Category

Tesla Roadster officially launches

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Next week, Tesla will officially open its first store in California.  The Tesla Roadster is an all electric sports car that tops at nearly $125,000 when fully loaded.  The company, armed with $40 million investment, has has some powerful investors including the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  Must say the car is pretty slick, with design features similar to a Porsche.  Its cell-lithium ion battery pack gives off no emissions and goes from 0 to 60 in just under 40 seconds.  It can go about 225 miles one one charge and can be fully charged in 3.5 hours. 

Those interested in the vehicles, the delivery time is estimated around 15 months.  The company plans on a production number of 1,500 cars for 2009.

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GM invest in ethanol

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More environmental news from GM as it invests in a biofuel start, Coskata.  The company is looking to commercialize a process to bring cellulose-based ethanol by 2011.  Currently switchgrass and wood chips are the main materials being used to produce cellulose-based ethanol.  GM claims that the production of the company’s ethanol is less than $1 a gallon to produce, about 1/2 that of producing gasoline.  This investment goes in hand with its push with hybrid vehicles, particularly as it pushes more consumers toward E85 biofuel (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline mix) in its FlexFuel vehicles.  

Toyota to launch plug-in hybrid by 2010

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Toyota stated yesterday that they would launch a plug-in hybrid vehicle by 2010, a counter-move to the announced plans by GM for its Chevrolet Volt, due by 2010 as well.  Both vehicles will be based on lithium ion batteries.  According to Toyota, each charge (which takes about 4 hours) uses about 2.7 kilowatt hours of electricity.   The plug-in hybrid, a version of the Prius, gets about 100 miles a gallon, in electric mode.  The plug-in Prius can stay in electric mode until 62mph versus 30mph for the conventional Prius. 

Car that runs on compressed air

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It was announced today that an European automaker, Motor Development International, has come out with an automobile (called MiniCat) that runs on compressed air.  The firm is based in Luxembourg and the cars are manufactured in France.  More on this to come. 

My trip through the AltWheels Alternative Vehicle Festival

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I wanted to take some time and write about my visit to the AltWheels Festival this past weekend in Boston.  It was a great opportunity to see all the latest advances in eco-friendly activities, some that were merely concepts to products that could be purchased on site.  It was also nice to see such a diversity of vendors at the show – from small startups to large automotive companies.   There were, of course, a number of electric-based vehicles at the show and the one area that immediately hit me was the appealing designs of many them.  While an eco-friendly vehicle must be priced appropriately, it must also be appealing to the basic consumer.  Such design limitations have certainly hampered many manufacturers in the past.

dsc00965.JPGOne vehicle I was impressed with was the Vectrix motorcycle (see below).  I spent some time with them and found out the basics of their key vehicle.  While a zero emission based vehicle, it can reach maximum speeds up to 62 mph and has a range of 40-60 miles on a single charge of the battery.  It has a nickel Metal Hydride battery with an estimated life of 10 years or 50,000 miles.   Its lightweight alumimum frame gives the vehicle a weight of 462 pounds.  And the design was slick.  And while the costs are still a little steep at $11,000, it is certainly within reach for those who want performance and design within an eco-friendly vehicle.

I also spent some time with the GM folks and must say it was nice to hear a large American car company dedicated and committed to alternative fuel vehicles.  While the source of ethanol (e.g., corn, grain) is a much debated topic, it is a very good start on shifting our dependence away from non-renewable energy sources.  I was encouraged to hear many of the company’s accomplishments and goals so far.  GM reports that it has nearly 2 million Flexfuel vehicles on the road today that are capable of running on E85 ethanol.  And it is a goal of GM to have 50% of its entire fleet of automobiles be ethanol-based by 2012, including its Chevy Tahoe to its Chevy Suburban.  Most exciting to me was the information on its fuel-cell based Equinox and in particular, its Chevy Volt with its High Energy Battery that can be configured to run on gas, ethanol or bio-diesel to recharge the battery and is hydrogen capable.   While still years away, it has been report that the plug-in hydrogn could have a 300-mile range with combined battery and hydrogen power, with no gas (emissions-free).   Can’t wait to see this vehicle in the mainstream.   

AltWheels Alternative Transportation Festival in Boston

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Adam Denison of GM mentioned to me of an upcoming alternative transportation and energy festival happening in Boston from September 28-29, 2007 at Boston City Hall Plaza.  for more information, check out the website – http://www.altwheels.org/

Many of the automotive industry are sponsors, including GM, as well as some energy companies, including KeySpan and NStar.

Worth checking out if you are in the area – topics include hybrid, hydogen fuel-cell, ethanol, CNG, green buildings, biodiesel, wind power, etc.  Thanks to Adam for giving me the heads-up on this.   

Japan launched its hybrid train

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As reported by AP, Japan is to launch its hybrid train today at Nakagomi station.  The train is expected to be 20% more fuel efficent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 60%.  The key issue still remains the costs of train, estimated to be twice as much as a typical train of equivalent size.  Still, it is encouraging to see that countries are taking the global warming issue headon, even within transportation areas that are not considered heavy CO2 producers (trains represent less than 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector).

The Honda Accord Hybrid is out

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Honda yesterday announced that it was discontinuing it Accord Hybrid, due to poor sales.  Unfortunately Honda has only sold 25,000 Accord hybrids since it was launched in 2004, compared with Toyota’s Prius hybrid, which has sold 729,800 units since 1997.  Much of this is due to the fact that hybrids tend to be more popular with smaller model vehicles, where the mileage improvements are dramatic.  Specifically, the Prius and Civic hybrid deliver as much as 50 miles per gallon and often more, depending on conditions, but the Accord hybrid delivered less. 

Honda plans to continue selling its hybrid Civic, which has sold 153,000 since hitting the market in 2001.  It is good to hear that Honda is still committed to hybrid technology, as the market opportunities in hybrids begin to become more clear.

Can a car with power and style actually be environmentally friendly?

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Came across a very stylish and powerful automobile that is actually environmentally friendly.  While definitely not cheap (base price is $92,000 USD) and not affordable for most individuals, the car appeal will draw buyers.  Tesla Motors has already sold out its limited production of its Roadster vehicle for 2007 and is working on its second model, scheduled for the 2009 timeframe.  The car’s website claims the following about its vehicle:

  • 100% electric
  • 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds
  • 135 mpg equivalent
  • 250 miles per charge
  • about 1 cent per mile

The company uses a two-speed electrically actuated manual transmission (not fuel cell), with power coming from a 3-phase, 4 pole AC induction motor.  It’s Energy Storage System provides power to the entire car. 

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Hybrid cars with fuel cell revealed

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Ford today announced the world’s first fuel cell hybrid electric vehical with plug-in capabilities – the Flexible Series Hybrid Edge.  The vehicles operates in ‘battery only’ for the first 25 miles and can travel speeds up to 85 mph.  When the battery is 40% depleted, it shifts to fuel cell mode (with zeio emission hydrogen) which will recharge the battery for 200 more miles.  Great to see all these advances starting to happen, particularly in the mainstream population.