Tag archives for plug-in hybrid

Bloomberg says buyers, not automakers, should get more federal funding for plug-in vehicles

money ludad

The U.S. government would be more effective at spurring plug-in vehicle sales if it provided more financial incentives to consumers instead of automakers. At least, that’s the opinion in a Bloomberg News editorial.

Saying that finding alternatives to gasoline “a worthy public goal,” Bloomberg says the government should expand purchasing incentives beyond the $7,500 it provides for buyers of some plug-ins and hybrids. President Obama has said he wants 1 million plug-in vehicles to be on U.S. roads by 2015; the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards he proposed last year would mandate about a 70 percent fuel economy improvement by 2025. Bloomberg figures the government should hand out money to buyers, not companies, to encourage sales:

Providing loans to companies that can get their own financing in the capital markets is a questionable way to reach [the goal]. A better use of government money would be to encourage consumer demand – by continuing, and expanding, tax credits or other incentives for people who buy vehicles that use little or no gas.

During the past three years, U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank has made more than $8 billion in loans at about a 1 percent interest rate to established automakers such as Ford and Nissan as well as advanced powertrain specialists like Fisker and Tesla, strictly for the purpose of developing electric-drive vehicles. Bloomberg called such a strategy “questionable.” Such automaker loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy.

By Danny King

What $20 million means to both Tesla and Fisker

When is $20 million not equal to $20 million? When, for some, it’s an interest payment and, for others, it’s all someone else thinks they’re worth. Here’s how that one number means two totally different things to two different green car companies.

Speaking to Bloomberg Television about the early repayment of Tesla Motors’ DOE loan, CEO Elon Musk said today that, “ultimately, the US taxpayer actually made a profit above $20 million on this loan. For this loan at least, people’s tax bill actually went slightly down.”

Musk said that, now that the loan has been paid back, more people might take a look at Tesla. “We were attacked a lot in certain quarters for having some government debt,” he said. “I think that actually matters to some consumers out there, whether or not a company actually does have government debt, and being able to say we fully repaid that debt with interest, I think it is helpful to some number of people out there in thinking about buying a car.” So, for Tesla, which recently raised over a billion dollars, $20 million is an easy price to pay to potentially sell more EVs.

Now, let’s look at Fisker Automotive, which is still fending off bankruptcy. We learned this week that VL Automotive and Wanxiang made an offer to buy the troubled automaker for an undisclosed sum. Word out today is that the amount that the two companies are willing to pay for Fisker is, you guessed it, $20 million. That’s about one percent of Fisker’s $2 billion-plus value back when the Karma plug-in hybrid was launched, according to Reuters. It’s unclear how a potential Fisker buyer will have to deal with the outstanding DOE loan amount of $171 million and other issues, but the $20-million offer a striking contrasts to Musk’s statement on Bloomberg Television, which you can watch in the video below.

By Sebastian Blanco

Henrik Fisker: too many pure electric car models; Karma production re-starting “soon”

henrik fisker

Is Fisker Automotive on the ropes? Listening to cofounder and executive chairman Henrik Fisker speak at the Economic Club of Chicago luncheon at the Chicago Auto Show this week, you certainly wouldn’t think so. In an overwhelmingly optimistic speech, Fisker described his company’s ethos and plan to sell green cars around the world.

He wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though, as he talked about his company to the assembled ECC members and media. Fisker said that the company’s first (and thus far only) model, the Karma, was specifically designed to not look like any other luxury vehicle on the market. He admits this choice both limits the appeal and makes a statement, thereby attracting a specific type of buyer. “[The style] means you’re going to have a smaller market, because you appeal to people who dare to be different, who dare to show that they are buying a new type of brand, a new type of technology,” he said.

“There is not a lot of demand for pure electric cars, and I think plug-in hybrids will be the next big step.”

Whatever it looks like, Fisker believes plug-in powertrains are the right mix for today’s market. A plug-in hybrid with around 50 miles of range can drive without any gas on a daily basis but still take you for long trips on the weekends, he notes. “There is not a lot of demand for pure electric cars, but I think you can see hybrids are on the rise and I think plug-in hybrids will be the next big step,” he said. Since he wants Fisker to be a lifestyle brand that doesn’t compete with traditional automakers, there are no plans to make a gas-powered Karma (quirky aftermarket Destino venture aside). “We want to stay in a segment where there is less competition,” he said, not mentioning the upcoming Cadillac ELR.

“You might be able to go, let’s say, 250 miles, but then when you’re out of battery you might need to recharge for a couple days or find a charging station.”

Fisker also astutely managed to not mention Tesla Motors by name, even when he alluded to the company’s star vehicle, the Model S. Fisker argues a plug-in hybrid beats a pure electric for many reasons, including a cheaper battery. “When you’re carrying around a giant battery, it costs a lot of money on your daily commute and then when you really want to go far, you can’t do it anyway. You might be able to go, let’s say, 250 miles, but then when you’re out of battery, you might need to recharge for a couple days or find a charging station. Whereas our way is, you have a smaller battery and, when you really want to go far, you can go as far as you want.”

This limitation affects all EVs, he said. “In the pure electric car market, my prediction is we’re going to have too many models for too few buyers. And the reason is that every big car company is making one little electric car, mostly to satisfy the overall fleet average,” he said. “With plug-in hybrids, there’s a lot fewer cars on the market, and I think a lot more buyers.”

“In the pure electric car market, my prediction is we’re going to have too many models for too few buyers.”

Speaking of buyers, though, we’re still not sure what the status of Karma sales is. Fisker doesn’t announce its production numbers, but we can look at the numbers that have been publicly disclosed and calculate out from there. In late 2012, Fisker said his company had built a little more than 2,000 Karmas, and we know that it’s been over seven months since any new examples rolled off the line. So, let’s guesstimate that there are 2,200 Karmas in existence, and that’s all that have been around for seven months. In January, a Fisker spokesman said there was a “sufficient supply” to meet demand. This week, Fisker said his company had sold 2,000 Karmas, but that number has been bandied about for months now. In any case, those steady numbers imply that most Karmas that have been built have been sold and that the “sufficient” supply suggests demand is very low. When asked after the speech when Fisker would start making cars again, all Fisker would say was, “Soon.”

By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla Model S wins 2013 World Green Car of the Year

2012 Tesla Model S at sunrise - front three-quarter view, black

The automotive journalist judges behind the World Green Car of the Year apparently with the overwhelming majority of AutoblogGreen readers, as they’ve just named the Tesla Model S their winner. We don’t yet know what the official ballots were, but our informal poll had the Tesla beating the other two finalists – the all-electric Renault Zoe and the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid – with over 82 percent of the vote.

This is just the latest win for the Model S. The all-electric sedan was named “Car of the Year” by both Automobile and Motor Trend in 2012 and even Time Magazine called it of the 25 Best Inventions of the year.

Previous winners include the Mercedes-Benz S250 CDI BlueEfficiency (2012), Chevrolet Volt (2011) Volkswagen BlueMotion (2010) and Honda FCX Clarity (2009).

Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive

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By Sebastian Blanco

Tesla Model S vs Chevy Volt drag race ends exactly how you think it will

tesla model s chevy volt drag race

It may have a sliver of Chevrolet muscle car heritage, but the plug-in hybrid Volt didn’t stand a chance of beating the Tesla Model S in a recent quarter-mile race.

As you can see in the video below, shown recently on That Racing Channel, the Model S took the lead in the race right away, hitting the finish line in 12.562 seconds at 108.34 miles per hour. The Volt took a leisurely 17.201 seconds and only reached 80.36 mph. “Hey, that one on the left was so quiet!” a member of the audience remarks about the Model S right after the race finishes. Yes, that’s part of its all-electric beauty.

About a week earlier, the same Model S set a quarter-mile speed record for a production vehicle, hitting a time of 12.371 seconds at 110.84 mph. Motor Trend has done better than 80.36 mph with a Volt – netting 16.8 seconds at 81.5 mph – but in a race against the much more powerful and much costlier Tesla, it’s just an unfair fight. Check out the video below.

By Jon LeSage

Tesla Model S was fourth-best selling plug-in in US last quarter

tesla model s

2012 4q plugin salesRiding the wave of pent-up demand and a production ramp-up, the Tesla Model S was the fourth best-selling US plug-in vehicle during the fourth quarter of 2012 and was the second-most popular US-made plug-in vehicle. Not bad for a vehicle that costs about twice as much as almost all of its current competitors.

Unlike other automakers, Tesla doesn’t release monthly sales figures. Instead, we learn about sales through quarterly conference calls with investors. In the most recent one, Tesla said that it delivered about 2,400 of its luxury EV sedans between October and December, edging out the 2,371 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids sold by Ford. The Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in was by far the best-selling plug-in during the quarter, moving 7,113 units. Toyota sold 5,016 of its Prius Plug-in hybrids during the quarter, while 4,607 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles were purchased. You can click the chart to the right to enlarge and get a better view of how this all breaks down.

Tesla is looking to boost sales further and has said it has reached its production capacity of 400 vehicles a week. CEO Elon Musk said he’s not interested in going to 500 vehicles a week, which would be possible, before the company further reduces its costs to build each vehicle.

Related GalleryTesla Model S

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By Danny King

Surveying the Plug-In Landscape

BMW i8 concept, a plug-in hybrid grand tourer expected to begin production in 2014.Hannelore Foerster/Bloomberg NewsBMW i8 concept, a plug-in hybrid grand tourer expected to begin production in 2014.

Sunday’s Automobiles section takes the measure of purely electric and hybrid vehicles that are currently on sale or coming to market in the next couple of years.

Bradley Berman spent a week with the BMW ActiveE, a purely electric version of the 1 Series coupe that serves as a test platform for BMW’s electric vehicle program. By gutting the internal-combustion innards and packing the vacated spaces with 192 battery cells, BMW created a surprisingly dexterous and spirited machine, he writes, even though the new powertrain adds nearly 1,000 pounds to the car’s curb weight.

Lawrence Ulrich surveys the available plug-in offerings and looks forward to debuts from Fiat, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and other major automakers, as well as that of the highly anticipated, and long-delayed, Tesla Model S.

With so many variations on gas-electric powertrains, Lindsay Brooke compares competing hybrid technologies, noting their commonalities and stark differences. Check out the accompanying graphic to learn which systems have been embraced most enthusiastically by automakers.

And Daniel McDermon rides the 2012 Zero DS, a purely electric dual-sport motorcycle with significantly greater riding range than its 2010 incarnation.

Check out all the stories and the accompanying slide show, and share your thoughts on the present and future of plug-in passenger vehicles in the comments below.


Fisker widens European distribution, launches U.S. ad campaign

This Tesla-Fisker tit-for-tat thing could get fun.

Last week, Fisker launched its first national advertising campaign for its extended-range plug-in luxury sedans in the form of a multi-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on the same day Tesla unveiled its all-electric Model S, Hybrid Cars reports.

Fisker, which has generated more than $100 million in revenue through sales of its Karma sedan, included a statement in the ad from company founder Henrik Fisker that noted that the automaker’s path “wouldn’t be easy” and that the company “set out to redefine and reshape how the world thinks about cars.”

Additionally, the California-based company said it widened its European distribution network after granting Guanieri, which operates BMW, Ferrari and Porsche dealers in Spain, exclusive rights to import the Karma to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Fisker is also opening an Oslo showroom in an old shipyard and added that, in the Netherlands, the Karma has outsold the Audi A8, Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series through the first four months of the year.

As for the U.S., the production date for the less-expensive Fisker Atlantic has been delayed in part because the U.S. Department of Energy froze most of the $529 million in loans earmarked for Fisker. Fisker first showed off the Atlantic at the New York Auto Show in April.

Related Gallery2012 Fisker Karma: First Drive

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By Danny King

Was Tesla Model S January’s best-selling plug-in?

Tesla Model S

And America’s best selling plug-in vehicle for 2013 is…the Tesla Model S? That’s what Inside EVs calculates by way of extrapolating the company’s production capacity of 400 units a week and the fact that the company’s still working down its backlog of orders.

Tesla, of course, is mum on its sales numbers, with spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks saying only that the company will reveal some sales details during its fourth-quarter 2012 earnings call scheduled for later this month.

So, that leaves us with speculation. With as many as 1,600 Model S sedans being delivered a month, Tesla in January may well have led all automakers, as General Motors and Nissan were hamstrung by inventory issues for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in and Leaf EV, respectively. Leaf sales in January fell 3.8 percent from a year earlier to 650 units, while the Volt moved 1,140 units, which was twice as high as 2012 figures but down from 2,633 units in December. Meanwhile, the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid moved 338 units in January, while Toyota sold 874 of its Prius Plug-in Hybrids. So, if Tesla did deliver 1,600 Model S vehicles in January, well, that’d be quite something.

Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive

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By Danny King

Green Technology of the Year finalists announced, broad range included

Green Car Technology Award nominee Fisker Automotive powertrain

Green Car Journal, which gives out its Green Car of the Year Award at the Los Angeles Auto Show each November, has created a Green Car Technology Award. The first award of its kind will be will be presented at the Washington Auto Show January 31, 2012.

The award was created not for specific vehicle models but for components that help reduce fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions. Motors, on-board communications systems and powertrain components are among the technologies that fit GCJ’s bill.

With that in mind, Green Car Journal‘s 10 nominees include the Fiat MultiAir, the Fisker Automotive extended-range plug-in powertrain, the Ford Energi plug-in hybrid, the Mazda Skyactiv system, and both the Tesla Model S and Toyota RAV4 battery-electrics (which were both built by the same cast of characters). Ford’s EcoBoost direct injection system and its Stop-Start hybrid systems also made the list, as did the Honda Eco Assist fuel-saving system and the Nissan Easy-Fill Tire Alert system.

Green Car Journal gave this year’s Green Car of the Year Award to the Ford Fusion. Check out the announcement press release below.

Related Gallery2012 Fisker Karma: Second Drive

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By Danny King