When General Motors launched the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid back in 2010, it chose to emphasize how it differed from electric cars by highlighting how its gasoline engine meant folks didn’t suffer from range anxiety.
Now, almost two years after the Volt launched, charging data by a charging infrastructure company suggests that Volt owners have exactly the opposite problem: gas anxiety.
In short, Volt owners do everything they can to avoid using their car’s built-in gasoline-powered range extending engine.
And that means plugging in more often than all-electric cars, like the 2012 Nissan Leaf.
The data comes from electric car charging provider Ecotality, which has been tracking the charging habits of around 6,000 plug-in car drivers in the U.S. as part of a $230 million research project part funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Known as the EVproject, Ecotality offered plug-in drivers a free home charging station, as well as access to its nationwide public charging network, in exchange for collecting anonymous data on charging patterns.
The EVproject was set up to see the viability and demand of electric vehicle charging, but its findings so far confirm what many electric car advocates predicted would happen.
First, the EVProject’s data shows that those with electric cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf tend to charge at home most of the time, with a single nightly charge providing more than enough range for daily driving duties.
“If you have a home charging station, you don’t really need to rely too much on commercial infrastructure,” Colin read, Ecotality’s vice president for corporate development told The New York Times.
“Home charging meets a lot of our needs,” he continued, pointing out that 89 percent of all Nissan Leaf charging takes place at home.
Second, plug-in hybrids, like the 2013 Chevrolet Volt, tend to spend more time charging their cars than their all-electric counterparts.
Moreover, those with Chevrolet Volts are 11 percent more likely to charge away from home than Leaf owners.
With gas prices reaching unexpectedly high levels in parts of the U.S., it is logical to expect plug-inhybrid owners to prefer using electricity over gasoline wherever possible.
“We never anticipated that a 40-mile[sic]-electric-range plug-in hybrid would charge more than a 100 percent electric car,” he said. “You have that gas engine that you’re paying an extra premium for a reason.”
We’re not surprised to learn that Volts charge more often than Leafs, but are you?
Do you own a Volt? And how would you describe your charging habits?
There was a time when anyone who drove a hybrid car--especially a Toyota Prius--was viewed with distain by the majority of other road users.
They were seen as aloof, over-privileged, and perhaps, thanks to a certain episode of South Park, smug about their car buying decision.
But with more hybrids than ever before on the market, have hybrid cars broken through their own stereotypes?
And do people who drive them no-longer conform to the old image of hybrid drivers?
Yes, and here’s why.
The Prius has grown up
Although Toyota’s first generation Prius sedan and second generation Prius hatchback offered impressive gas mileage, many car buyers disliked their high-tech dashboards, underpowered engines, and extremely light power-steering.
The 3rd generation Toyota Prius--launched in 2010--improved on the flaws of earlier models, and became the first Prius hybrid mainstream buyers were happy to drive.
It offered more power, a more conventional interior, and the best gas milage of any Prius to date.
By the time the Prius family expanded earlier this year with the 2012 Prius V, 2012 Prius C and 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, more people than ever before were happy to drive a hybrid.
Motorsport has made hybrid technology cool
When the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius first debuted, most motorsport teams weren’t interested in hybrid engine technology.
But thanks to systems like KERS, hybrid car technology has seeped into everything from Formula One to Drag Racing.
Earlier this year, a hybrid car even won the famous Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race.
As with other automotive technologies, motorsport’s involvement in hybrid technology not only helps improve it, but it helps to raise its profile.
Variety makes picking a hybrid easier
At one point, if you wanted a hybrid car you had to choose between the compact Toyota Prius, and the equally uninspiring Honda Insight.
It also means they can choose a hybrid car which suits their needs, rather than just their gas mileage requirements.
With more hybrid car variety, hybrid cars have become a much more valid vehicle choice for those looking for a new car than they once were.
Hybrid cars don’t look strange any more
Finally, and most importantly, not all hybrid cars look like hybrid cars any more.
And by that, we mean weird, futuristic vehicles designed to cut through the air with the lowest drag possible.
Neither look like the stereotypical Prius of days gone by, and both have conventional interiors too, making them far more appealing to someone making the jump from a traditional gasoline car to a hybrid.
And in the case of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, its performance, load carrying capabilities, and even gas mileage are enough to give more traditionally-styled hybrids a tough time on the dealer lot.
Do you think hybrids are finally cool? Do you think other road users view hybrid owners with distain, or envy?
Some might say that luxury carmaker Fisker's story is a bit of a thriller itself.
Liam's character is blinded by ambition, susceptible to rewards that may come too easily, and the gifted Karma is one example of that in the film.
Tongue firmly in cheek, we can see parallels being drawn with Fisker itself--huge ambition, but struggling with the negative publicity that ambition has brought the company...
Of course, the Karma is no stranger to TV or celebrity. It's well-known that Leonardo di Caprioand Justin Bieber count themselves among Karma owners, while a Karma also featured as Ashton Kutcher's wheels in sitcom Two And A Half Men.
But will the Karma's new cameo role help sales? Or is that a little ambitious?...
The automaker laid out its schedule Thursday for revamping its assembly plant in Bowling Green for the all-new 2014 model.
Production will halt sometime in February to make way for retooling, renovating the body shop and retraining employees, GM spokesman Monte Doran said in a telephone interview. Production on the next model will begin in the third quarter of 2013, he said.
GM has retooled plants before while continuing production, but that wasn't feasible at the Corvette plant, he said.
That's because of the scope of the vehicle's redesign. The 2014 Corvette will have just two carry-over parts from the current model, Doran said: the interior cabin air filter and the rear latch for the removable roof panel.
"With this car, because it's such a dramatic change, we felt like the best thing to do was to halt production so we could completely overhaul the interior of (the) Bowling Green (plant) to get ready for the new car," he said.
About 700 people work at the south-central Kentucky plant, the only GM site that builds Corvettes.
Plant manager Dave Tatman said some temporary layoffs will occur during the production down time but won't last long.
"If there are periods of time that our people will be off, it will be a matter of days, not a matter of months," he said Thursday.
GM last year announced a $131 million investment in the plant, along with plans to add about 250 jobs.
About 150 of those jobs have been added this year and the work force will continue to grow next year, Tatman said.
GM dealers were informed of the upcoming six-month lag in Corvette production, Doran said.
The production stoppage will result in some shortages next year, he said.
"There will be a period of time when Corvettes will be hard to find until the 2014 (model) comes out," Doran said.
Meanwhile, at a Thursday event in Georgia, the automaker unveiled a new Crossed Flags logo to debut with the 2014 Corvette. More than 100 variations were considered before the final design was selected, the company said.
"The flags are much more modern, more technical and more detailed than before — underscoring the comprehensive redesign of the entire car," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design.
Despite filing for bankruptcy protection yesterday, lithium-ion battery firm A123 Systems has said the factories where it makes electric car battery cells will be saved, thanks to a $125 million deal with automotive parts maker Johnson Controls.
Already a huge Tier One global automotive parts supplier, Johnson Controls sells around 120 million lead-acid starter batteries a year to the automotive industry, as well as everything from instrument panels and information displays to headliners and floor consoles.
The purchase of A123 Systems’ automotive business by Johnson Controls will not only give the auto-parts maker the chance to build and sell lithium-ion batteries to automakers, but hopes to safeguard two of A123 System’s battery facilities in the U.S.
Alongside the two U.S. factories--located in Livonia and Romulus, Michigan--the deal will also see Johnson Controls obtain A123’s cathode powder plant in China, as well as equity interest in a joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.
In addition to the $125 million acquisition, Johnson Controls will provide A123 Systems with $72.5 million to continue its operations at those two battery facilities, ensuring production of electric car batteries can continue.
The money--which had to be matched dollar for dollar by private A123 investment--was granted to A123 Systems to help create jobs, support the economy, and bring large-scale automotive lithium ion battery pack manufacturing to the U.S. for the first time.
Up to the moment of its bankruptcy filing, A123 Systems had used just $123 million of the available grant money.
Just to be clear, unlike the low-interest loans made available to automakers like Ford, Nissan, General Motors and Tesla Motors under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, the money made available to A123 Systems was a grant, not a loan.
This means the $123 million used by the firm so far--plus $6 million granted to it by the Bush Administration--has, and never will, require repayment.
“A123, which has been building batteries for electric vehicles as well as the nation’s power grid, quickly established itself as an innovative player in the market,” wrote Dan Leistikow, Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Department of Energy, in a formal response to the news.
“Today’s news means that A123’s manufacturing facilities and technology will continue to be a vital part of America’s advanced battery industry,” he continued.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Johnson Controls’ acquisition of A123 Systems’ automotive arm means that A123’s clients--including Fisker Automotive, BMW, and General Motors--will be able to continue planned production without delays.
This means GM’s all-electric car project, the all-electric Chevrolet Spark, will not be delayed.
They pop up like weeds, these "Electric cars are failures" articles--and you just have to keep killing them.
The latest is an opinion piece titled, "Why the Electric Car Failed," published last week in U.S. News & World Report.
Author Michael Lynch identifies himself as a researcher for the petroleum industry.
To judge by his confrontational tone in the comments, Lynch may have been caught off-guard by a flood of contradictory responses to his piece.
This isn't uncommon when writers lack knowledge and perspective on how the auto industry works, and know little or nothing about the long-term cost curves of electric and gasoline cars.
Lynch's basic point--that the needs and desires ofcar buyers dictate which vehicles they buy--is absolutely correct.
But he deems plug-in electric cars a sales failure--after less than two years on the market--because, he says, consumers don't want them.
In fact, most car buyers have no idea that plug-in cars are on sale at all. It's early, early days yet.
Lynch trots out several hoary old chestnuts: Batteries have been with us more than 100 years, electric cars failed in the 1910s, so why would this time be any different?
He apparently doesn't know that only in the last 20 years have we moved beyond lead-acid battery chemistry. Large-format lithium-ion cells, with four times the energy density of lead-acid, entered production just in the last few years.
That weight reduction makes modern electric cars possible.
Then Lynch cites lower-than-expected sales of electric cars as proof that the concept has failed (along with Shai Agassi's resignation as Better Place CEO).
The overall proportion of plug-ins in the global fleet will remain low over this decade; most analysts project that plug-ins will be 1 to 2 percent of a 100-million-unit annual global output by 2020 or 2022.
But if Lynch were to look out 15 years, he might gain a broader perspective.
First, the EPA itself has estimated that gasoline car prices will rise $3,000 in real dollars from 2012 to 2025 to meet new CAFE standards.
Second, Li-ion cell costs will fall 6 to 8 percent a year on average, so starting in about 2020 you get some interesting numbers.
By 2020, gasoline cars will be more expensive, and gasoline will presumably cost more as well--thoughnew cars will use less of it.
Plug-ins already cost one-third to one-fifth as much per mile to operate as gasoline cars, of course, depending on your local electricity rates.
Meanwhile, plug-in electric cars will cost significantly less and they may also have longer ranges. Most analysts feel 120 miles of "real-world" electric range is enough to assuage range anxiety and meet drivers' daily needs.
As those two cost lines come closer--and then cross, as they inevitably will--consumers will start to understand that plug-ins can be viable alternatives to gas cars on the basis of purchase cost.
When that happens--as many commenters pointed out--buyers will start to discover that electric cars are simply nicer to drive: smoother, quieter, and torquier than equivalent gasoline cars.
That's when everything starts to change.
It won't happen this year. It won't happen next year.
But technology innovations often take a long time to reach the mass market.
In the case of cars, they're often encouraged (or mandated) by regulation--as is the case for the first few years of modern plug-in electric vehicles.
But to Lynch's basic point, consumers will buy the car they feel is the best and cheapest way to meet their needs.
As electric cars get cheaper, and gasoline cars more expensive, that's exactly what will happen--perhaps 10 or 12 years from now, possibly sooner.
We might gently suggest Lynch take a longer look at the industry than simply scanning 22 months of sales.
If he did, he might come to a different conclusion.
You may think that would make them more receptive to selling all-electric cars, but a recent survey from AutoRetailNet (via plugincars) suggests otherwise.
In fact, the online publication for dealers reports, 85 percent of Toyota dealers say the automaker was correct to kill production plans for its electric Scion iQ city car just a week before it was due to debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show.
For now, most Toyota dealers agree, with only 5 percent saying they believed all-electric cars would be the best-selling electric car technology in five years’ time.
The majority, a massive 70 percent, said they believed regular hybrid cars would occupy that slot, while 10 percent said plug-in hybrids would be number one.
Even though Toyota isn’t due to release its first production fuel cell car until 2015, 15 percent of dealers said hydrogen fuel-cell cars would sell in greater numbers than battery electrics.
The reasons for this disinterest in electric cars seem wide and varied. On average, it takes a dealer a lot longer to sell an electric car than it does a gasoline car.
In addition, the profit margins tend to be smaller, meaning less income for the dealer.
As a consequence, the job of selling plug-in cars may pass to junior salespeople, many of whom are just as keen to prove themselves with high-profit sales as their peers, but lack the experience and knowledge required to sell a plug-in car.
With the exception of a handful of Toyota dealers in California now selling the 2012 RAV4 EV electric crossover SUV, most Toyota dealers do not have a battery electric car to sell--and don't appear to have much interest in getting one.
They’d much rather sell a hybrid car, although for some, governmental pressure to sell high-mileage cars is unwelcome.
“The government is pushing CAFE regulations too hard and not allowing consumers to spend their own money,” one dealer in Arizona said in the survey. “Most customers will not spend an additional $6,500 to get a 20 percent increase in fuel [economy].”
This line of thought echoes the long-held position of the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) trade group, which has been uniformly and consistentlyopposed to the higher 2017-2025 fuel-economy standards proposed by the EPA and NHTSA, and agreed to by most major automakers.
At dealerships where the attitudes toward electric and plug-in cars are positive, plug-in cars enjoy similarly positive sales figures. At dealerships where there’s an ambivalence toward plug-in vehicles, they can languish on the dealer lot for weeks.
There’s clearly a lot of dealer prejudice against plug-in cars, but how should automakers, dealerships, and consumers solve it?
These phony airbags look nearly identical to certified, original equipment parts, the agency said. They even have the insignia and branding of major automakers. But during NHTSA testing, the counterfeit airbags consistently malfunctioned, with results ranging from a failure to deploy to shooting flames and propelling metal shrapnel into the test dummy.
The agency says that 0.1 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads, some 250,000 vehicles, are makes and models for which fake airbags are available. An Associated Press (AP) story reports that NHTSA had been briefed by auto industry officials who said that tens of thousands of car owners may be driving vehicles with counterfeit airbags.
About 1.5 million airbags are deployed each year in police-reported tow-away crashes. While the NHTSA said that it is not aware of any deaths or injuries related to the issue of counterfeit airbags, police accident investigators might not be able to determine if an airbag was fake or genuine.
Based on what is currently known, the NHTSA and its partners have determined that the counterfeit airbags were manufactured in Mainland China.
Who’s most at risk
Most at risk are motorists who have had an airbag replaced following a crash during the past three years and the work was done at a repair shop that was not part of a new car dealership, or they purchased replacement airbags online.
Other at-risk car owners are those who purchased a used car that may have sustained an airbag deployment before the purchase, those who bought a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt or reconstructed
What at-risk consumers should do
Consumers who fall into the most at-risk category should have their vehicles inspected at their own expense and the airbags replaced, if necessary.
- Check the list of vehicles for which counterfeit airbags may be available here.
- Contact the auto manufacturer call center for your vehicle to find out if your vehicle model is among the ones for which counterfeit airbags are known to be available. Click here for the automaker call center contact information.
- If you do not know the history of your vehicle, you may be able to obtain a vehicle history from Carfax.
- Regarding the cost of inspection and replacement, if you have concerns about an airbag that was replaced at a repair shop your insurance company recommended, contact your insurance company.
- If you purchased replacement airbags through eBay, you may be covered for the expense by their “Buyer Protection” policy.
You've probably heard of "Brake Assist", the in-car technology that automatically slows a vehicle when the onboard computer senses that a collision is imminent.
You've probably also heard of "Lane Assist", which lets drivers know when they've drifted out of their travel lane.
Now, Nissan has introduced something called "Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication". And yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: a high-tech tool that compensates when drivers accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.
According to Nissan, this new feature is specifically designed to cut back on accidents in "parking lots and other spaces where a car could collide with walls if a driver mistakenly depresses the accelerator instead of the brake pedal". We'd like to think that the technology will reduce potential run-ins with pedestrians and other vehicles, too, though it's not yet clear that it will.
The system makes use of four cameras on Nissan's "Around View Monitor", paired with sonar sensors. Together, these gadgets detect when a vehicle is in a parking space and if there are walls in its path of travel. Though it doesn't automatically park or un-park vehicles, it can take over the accelerator and the brake if necessary to avoid a collision.
The "Emergency Assist for Pedal Misapplication (with Carpark Detection Function)" is all part of Nissan's Vision Zero safety plan, which has the very lofty goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and injuries from accidents. The Vision Zero plan has led to the creation of a "Safety Shield" for Nissan vehicles, which works to address safety shortcomings on vehicles and counter them during accidents.
While this technology sounds interesting and very useful, leading us one step closer toward fully autonomous vehicles, it's not going to appear on U.S. cars -- at least not anytime soon. It's scheduled to debut on the Nissan Elgrand, a luxury van available only in Japan and key Asian markets. That's a logical choice, since the Elgrand has been the guinea pig for much of Nissan's new safety equipment, and since the Elgrand's well-heeled owners probably don't mind shelling out for this sort of technology.
Does this kind of safety technology interest you? When it rolls out to vehicles in the U.S. and elsewhere, will you buy it? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.
While gas prices in the state of California are finally dropping following last week’s Southern California peak of more than $5 per gallon, the financial and social implications of such high gas prices are still being felt by its residents.
In addition to numerous joke-filled quips about how they plan to live life without cars, many tweets show the financial pain that regular Californians feel about filling up.
Many Californians appear to be forgoing their cars altogether, walking instead of driving.
Others, have started to look into all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid cars.
“Gas prices are insane in California. $87 to fill up. $5 a gallon. Time to look at hybrids...,” wrote Justin Moore
For those who needed gas, but couldn’t afford to change cars, another solution presented itself: driving out-of-state to buy gas.
Meanwhile, those with electric and plug-in cars have been feeling a little more than smug, especially given the number of Americans now saying they’re seriously considering the switch to an electric car.
But perhaps our favorite twitter comment comes from a certain Dwight Graham, who wrote “With high gas prices Electric Cars are going like HotCakes...Just put sum Butter&Syrup on one~Still tastes like regular car”[sic].