Feds move to require car-to-car safety communication

Last modified on 2014-05-26 17:23:14 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Todd Spangler , Detroit Free Press 7:11 p.m. EST February 3, 2014

WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials said today that they are completing an analysis of testing of technology that lets vehicles communicate with each other and will propose requiring automakers to equip new cars and light trucks.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the technology holds the potential to cut U.S. crashes, injuries and deaths on the nation’s streets and highways. His department estimates it could prevent up to 80% of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.

Officials said the government will issue a report this month on the systems, then “begin working on a regulatory proposal” that will be issued before the end of the Obama administration.

The systems use radio signals to continually transmit a vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information 10 times per second, and it would receive the same data from other vehicles. The vehicle’s computer would alert the driver to an impending collision, and some systems could automatically brake.

“It will change driving as we know it over time,” said Scott Belcher, CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. “We’ll see a reduction in crashes. Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars, because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash.”

The group says the technology would add about $100 to $200 to the cost of a new car.

The full benefits would await a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology, and it’s not clear what that level would be. It takes many years to turn over the nation’s entire vehicle fleet, but research indicates that safety benefits would be seen with as few as 7% to 10% of the vehicles in a given area equipped with the technology, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the society, an umbrella group for development of new transportation technologies.

Spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said automakers “have invested significantly in safety technology and systems, and we will review today’s announcement and engage with NHTSA in (the) next steps.”

Said Bergquist, “What remains to be addressed is security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the ‘network effect’ and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework. In light of today’s announcement, the FCC should maintain the (radio) spectrum for safety-critical auto systems until thorough testing is complete.”

Once automakers start adding the technology to all new cars, it would take 15 years or more for half the cars on the nation’s roads to be equipped, according to communications technology company Qualcomm. There are about 5 million to 6 million new cars sold each year.

Contributing: The Associated Press

First Cross Country Supercharger Route is Complete

Last modified on 2014-05-26 16:46:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

February 3, 2014

By Hamish McKenzie, Lead Writer


On Sunday morning, the Tesla Cross Country Rally team completed its record setting trip across the US. We brought you daily updates from the road on our blog. Now, we’re bringing you the numbers.

Total trip time
76 hours, 5 minutes

Total time spent driving
59 hours 34 minutes

Other “non-drive” time
34 minutes
Used to put on chains before crossing Vail Pass.

Total charging time
15 hours 57 seconds

Total miles travelled

Longest distance between Supercharger locations
247 miles from Flagstaff, AZ to Blanding, UT

Longest drive time between Superchargers
4 hours, 56 minutes, 29 seconds to travel 162.5 miles from Silverthorne, CO to Cheyenne, WY
This overnight leg included a blizzard, more than 12 inches of snow, icy roads, and high winds, resulting in significant traffic delays, the closure and then re-opening of I-70, the closure of the I-25, and the re-routing of the drive to CO-14 and then US85.

Total number of closed roads & highways encountered
Two (I-70 and I-25, both in Colorado)

Lowest temperature encountered
-4F / -20C
During the drive between Albert Lea, MN and La Crosse, WI Superchargers.

Number of gasoline-powered support vans that broke down

Energy drinks consumed
Enough to power 1,400 lead-acid batteries
This is an estimate. Tesla uses lithium-ion batteries, which are friendlier to the environment.

Fuel saved per car
136 gallons
Assumes distance of 3,400 miles and average of 25 mpg for a new gas-powered car.

Dollar amount of fuel savings per car
Assumes $3.20 per gallon of gas.


The Route

The new Supercharger route that spans the US cuts a northern pass, taking drivers close to natural and man-made attractions, such as Arches National Park, Colorado Monument, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Badlands National Park, the Grand Canyon, and the Hualapai Mountains. We didn’t have any time for sightseeing, but the views out the Model S windows were amazing. Here’s the exact route we took, including the distance between each Supercharger.

Hawthorne, Los Angeles to Barstow, CA 109 miles
to Kingman, AZ 210 miles
to Flagstaff, AZ 152 miles
to Blanding, UT 249 miles
to Moab, UT 75 miles
to Grand Junction, CO 109 miles
to Glenwood Springs, CO 90 miles
to Silverthorne, CO 94 miles
to Cheyenne, WY 165 miles
to Lusk, WY 158 miles
to Rapid City, SD 149 miles
to Murdo, SD 137 miles
to Mitchell, SD 141 miles
to Worthington, MN 127 miles
to Albert Lea, MN 116 miles
to La Crosse, WI 127 miles
to Mauston, WI 66 miles
to Highland Park, IL 201 miles
to Mishawaka, IN 121 miles
to Maumee, OH 151 miles
to Macedonia, OH 131 miles
to Somerset, PA 176 miles
to Hagerstown, MD 108 miles
to Newark, DE 137 miles
to New York City 128 miles


Superchargers skipped

Our goal for the cross country trip was to achieve the lowest possible charge time for an electric car traveling across the US. With that in mind, we selected a Supercharger route that let us spend minimal time at each post. That means the Tesla team necessarily had to skip some of the Superchargers along the route.

Holbrook, AZ
Quartzsite, AZ
Gallup, NM
Farmington, NM
Normal, IL
Rockford, IL
Angola, IN
JFK Airport, NY
Eau Claire, WI
Madison, WI

Anatomy of a car crash – Here’s what happens, moment by moment, during most metal-to-metal mishaps

Last modified on 2013-05-17 04:12:25 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

By Erik Sofge of MSN Autos



Every car crash is uniquely destructive — from low-speed rear-end collisions, the most common type of mishap, to catastrophic high-speed head-ons. And despite the auto industry’s attempts to prevent them, particularly through the widespread rollout of active safety systems, they still happen: 5.4 million auto collisions were reported in the United States in 2010. Consequently, automakers must prepare for the worst, studding vehicles with sensors inside and out to detect impending danger, and applying techniques both old and new to isolate vehicle occupants from the effects of an unexpected impact. Here is how some of those safety features react during a collision and at what moment.

5 seconds to impact: Forecasting disaster Modern automobiles equipped with active safety systems are nervous Nellies, constantly scanning for threats with an array of long- and close-range sensors. At the furthest extreme is radar, which can detect a potential problem from nearly 500 feet away. Assuming that the questionable obstacle is stationary and you’re traveling at 65 mph, this gives your car’s onboard processors roughly five seconds to churn through likely scenarios and responses.

1 second to impact: Risk assessment Within the final second before impact, short-range sensors — typically cameras, laser range finders or both — reclassify a vague, radar-detected risk as a specific threat. Depending on a vehicle’s make and speed, the car might do anything from simply precharging its brakes to actively applying them. For instance, Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support System, which debuted in this year’s CX-5, tries to halt the SUV to avoid a crash, but only if its speed is between 3 and 19 mph.

1 to 8 milliseconds after impact: Damage report It takes roughly one millisecond for a vehicle’s pressure sensors to register impact. With each additional millisecond, the severity of the crash becomes more apparent, as the kinetic energy flows through the car, tripping other internal sensors: acceleration, pressure, vibration. It’s during this fraction of a second that commands are issued. Airbags are ordered to deploy, and seatbelt pretensioners are fired. Some cars even have features to minimize the effects of, say, whiplash; properly equipped Toyotas will have reconfigured their seats to reduce neck and back injury, shifting the headrests upward and forward.

8 to 15 milliseconds after impact: Airbags fire Depending on where and how fast the vehicle has struck, or been struck, the internal airbags start inflating at the 8.5-millisecond mark. A front impact can mean a slight delay in deployment, to optimize the airbag’s energy-absorbing properties. The exact timing depends on everything from the violence of the collision to the relative size of the occupants, as detected by seat-based weight sensors.

15 to 30 milliseconds after impact: Airbags inflate By now, a high-speed crash has crushed a portion of the vehicle, dumping some of its force into corresponding crumple zones. Even if the cabin isn’t forced inward, the passenger is at risk of bouncing against doors, steering wheel and dashboard. This is when most airbags fully deploy, exploding through their compartments to unfurl in a handful of milliseconds. Automakers have installed more airbags over the years, from front to side to knee-level, and General Motors recently introduced a front-center airbag on the 2013 Acadia, which will prevent occupants from clashing heads or otherwise moving around laterally during side collisions.

30 to 50 milliseconds after Impact: Airbags deflate The goal of any passenger-based safety system is to cushion, to bleed off extreme and errant levels of kinetic energy. That’s why seatbelts typically release some of their tension in a front-end crash, allowing the occupant to plow into the airbag at the precise moment that it starts deflating. Without that perfect transfer, the organs could slam forward inside the tightly held body, or the head could snap back against a rigid bag. Neither scenario is good for the body. To further muffle the blow in these scenarios, Ford has started offering inflatable seat belts, which deploy 40 milliseconds after impact.

50 to 70 milliseconds after impact: Controlled deformation In most collisions this is the home stretch, when the forces involved have done their damage and internal movement tapers off. Modern vehicles are designed to yield in various ways, allowing the crash energy to essentially splash around the vehicle. “Specific deformation sends force around the safety cage,” says Adam Kopstein, who manages safety compliance for Volvo in the U.S., referring to a typical front-end crash. “It travels up the A pillars, through the roof structure, then back down the vehicle around the occupant.” Although the passenger might still be in motion, it’s around this time that the doors automatically unlock.

70 to 300 milliseconds after kmpact: The crash’s last gasp If the collision hasn’t caused a rollover, or secondary impacts — with other vehicles, for example — the crash is over. Occupants come to a full halt inside the cabin, and so do the structures designed to move with them. For many collisions, particularly side and rear impacts, this is often when the occupants first realize that a collision has occurred — when the bags have already deflated and the structure has finished warping itself around them.

Aftermath While the wider auto industry continues to experiment with vehicle telemetry, remotely tracking the state and status of models on the road, GM’s OnStar system provides the only factory-built post-crash safety feature. OnStar’s Automatic Crash Response sends an alert to the service upon impact, allowing OnStar operators to pass along the location and, in general terms, nature of the crash to emergency responders. Since 2009, the service has added an Injury Severity Prediction feature, which uses sensor data to assess potential injuries, giving operators an estimated level of injury: high or normal.

Nissan, Mitsubishi oppose SAE fast-charge standard

Last modified on 2012-10-29 23:59:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Clifford Atiyeh Thu 9:53 AM

MSN Autos

Nissan and Mitsubishi are opposed to a new fast-charge plug standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers this week, despite its backing by eight major automakers.

On Monday, the SAE — which developed and streamlined plug, outlet and charging-station specifications for current electric cars — released new specifications for a high-voltage “fast-charge” design that promises quick recharging in as little as 10 to 20 minutes.

In a statement provided to MSN, Nissan said it was “disappointed” that the SAE introduced a standard that “will not accommodate more than 70 percent of the electric vehicles on U.S. roadways today.” However, the automaker may be primed to change course, stating that it would “ensure that customers are provided with optimal charging technology and infrastructure.” In 2011, Nissan was the first major manufacturer in nearly a decade to sell a mass-produced, all-electric vehicle.

Until now, the only fast-charge plug standard has been CHAdeMO, a Japanese design that has been used in small numbers for the past several years in Japan, Europe and the U.S. Nissan and Mitsubishi are the only manufacturers to offer the CHAdeMO plug as standard on their electric vehicles, the Leaf and i-MiEV; no other major EV manufacturer offers it.

Current charging standards, known as Level 1 (110/120 volt) and Level 2 (220/240 volt), have spread across the entire industry, save for Tesla, which continues to develop its own proprietary designs. The new SAE standard will introduce what is known as Level 3, with capacity for up to 500 volts of direct-current charge. The latest plug is compatible with all charging levels and can be equipped with Wi-Fi communication as utilities begin to install smart electrical grids.

Most automakers have been reluctant to use CHAdeMO since a worldwide standard was not in place and its effects on battery life were largely unknown. Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen have all agreed to adopt the new SAE plug standard as early as 2013 for U.S., European and other markets around the world. None has agreed to use the Japanese standard, which requires automakers to install a second, dedicated port alongside the current lower-voltage SAE standard (see photo, at right).

Mitsubishi said in a statement that it “reiterates its support of the CHAdeMO protocol,” which it said had “long been established as the de facto means of DC quick charging.”

“As of the beginning of October 2012, there were a total of 1,659 DC quick chargers deployed throughout the United States, Europe, Russia and Asia utilizing the CHAdeMO protocol,” the automaker said.

According to the SAE, an electric vehicle with a 25-kilowatt-hour battery can be recharged from 20 percent to 80 percent of its capacity in just 20 minutes. A plug-in hybrid could go from dead to 80 percent in as little as 10 minutes. However, these times assume continuous 200-amp service, a huge draw in power that is as large as the maximum draw of most American homes. Fast charging also creates greater heat, which can stress a battery pack and cause it to fail. Many automakers, including Ford, say they are developing special software to monitor the battery’s condition during a fast charge.

LNG Tanker Explodes on China Highway – Watch Unbelievable Video From Multiple Angles

Last modified on 2013-01-30 03:20:50 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

In our classes, we talk a lot about LNG vehicles but not usually about the transport trucks. Blow is a blurb about a LNG tanker that exploded in China. Follow the link at the bottom to see videos shot from several angles. You will be as shocked as we were!


A tanker carrying liquefied natural gas overturned and exploded on a major highway in central China’s Hunan province, killing five people, including three fire-fighters, state media reported. State broadcaster CCTV reported that the tanker leaked around 20 tons of  liquefied natural gas.   Seven vehicles including two fire trucks were destroyed in the blast, it added.   The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Toyota Recalls 2.5 Million Vehicles in US for Window Switch Fires

Last modified on 2012-10-23 18:55:38 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Toyota is recalling 2.5 million cars in the United States for faulty power window switches that can cause a fire in the driver’s door, according to a statement from the automaker early Wednesday.

Toyota said that the driver’s side window switches may not be completely greased from the factory, which can result in the switches sticking or feeling “notchy.” If aftermarket grease is then applied, the switch could short and cause a fire. Among the included models: The 2007 to 2009 Camry, Camry Hybrid, RAV4 and Tundra; 2007 to 2008 Yaris; 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid; 2008 to 2009 Sequoia; 2008 to 2009 Scion xA and xD; and the 2009 Corolla and Matrix.
Dealers will begin repairing the switches and applying “special fluorine grease” in late October, Toyota said. Affected owners can visit or call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331.
In the U.S., Camry models comprise roughly 42 percent of all recalled cars. Toyota is recalling an additional 4.93 million models worldwide, making it the single largest recall since Ford’s 1996 recall involving 7.6 million vehicles, according to an early report from NBC News. Toyota’s infamous sticking throttle and floormat recalls eventually reached 9 million cars worldwide, but not all at once. In June, Toyota added another 154,000 Lexus RX crossovers to the original 2009 recall.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has not yet posted the current recall to its database, had been investigating a span of 1.4 million Toyota models for window switch fires since February. The agency recorded 161 complaints of fires, 49 warranty-related fire claims, and nine related injuries. No fatalities have been reported.
In 2009, Toyota recalled certain 2007 and 2009 Camry and 2009 Yaris models built in China for potential fires in the driver’s side power-window switches due to “excessive grease application” at the factory. In March, Toyota recalled 186,500 2009 Camry and 2009 to 2011 Venza models for brake lamps that could fail as a result of silicone grease coming into contact with the switches.
This year, many cars have been at risk of fires originating from driver’s side power window switches. On Monday, Honda recalled more than 268,000 CR-V models for switch fires resulting from water contact or spilled fluids. In August, General Motors recalled nearly 250,000 SUVs for a similar problem.

Feds warn of counterfeit airbags being installed as replacements (With Video)

Last modified on 2013-01-30 03:20:08 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Wed October 10, 2012

Washington (CNN) — Car owners who have replaced a vehicle’s airbag in the past three years, take note: That new airbag could be an unsafe fake.

Federal officials on Wednesday warned motorists and auto shops that counterfeit airbags pose a danger to consumers, saying the bags could fail to deploy or even hurt people in car wrecks.

Concerns over counterfeit airbags heightened last month when authorities tested 10 fake airbags seized as part of a criminal investigation. All 10 failed, authorities said. Some failed to inflate, others partially inflated and one exploded, showering the crash test dummy with metal shrapnel.

To date, there are no known injuries or deaths resulting from the counterfeits, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. But officials said they fear the counterfeits could hurt motorists and passengers if they go undetected.

“These seemingly genuine airbags are in fact shoddy fakes,” said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which seized 2,500 counterfeit airbags during fiscal 2012. “These airbags don’t work. They’re not going to save you in an accident. They are a fraud and a danger from start to finish, and you don’t want them in your car, period.”

Officials cautioned that only a small fraction of all cars — estimated at 0.1% — have the counterfeit airbags.

“They are good fakes. They look like the real thing,” said David Strickland, administrator of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “And frankly, a consumer is not going to be in a position to figure out whether they have a fake or a real airbag.”

The agency said the following people may be most at risk:

— Those who have had airbags replaced in the past three years at a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership.

— Those who have purchased a used car but are not familiar with its history.

— Those who own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt or reconstructed.

— Those who have purchased replacement airbags over the Internet, especially at unusually low prices, such as less than $400.

If motorists suspect they may have a counterfeit airbag, they should contact call centers established by car manufacturers to have their vehicles inspected. A list of call centers is available at

Government and industry officials noted that consumers will bear the cost of inspections. “The bad actors here are the counterfeiters,” said A. Bailey Wood Jr., a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Wood estimated the cost of inspecting airbags at between $100 and $200, and the cost of replacing a steering wheel airbag at between $750 and $1,000. “And some cars have eight airbags,” he said.

Strickland said his agency is working with automakers to develop a system to verify authentic replacement parts and to raise awareness of the potential risks of counterfeit parts.

Morton said earlier this year that customs agents arrested a Chinese broker selling nine brands of counterfeit airbags in the United States. That broker has been convicted and is in prison, Morton said, and multiple investigations into other brokers are continuing.

Who Killed The Electric Car? Toyota Now Tries For That Role

Last modified on 2012-10-16 04:52:42 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Dale Buss

Contributor/ Forbes Magazine

Drawing a dramatic line in the sand for a global auto industry that has continued to invest heavily in  all-electric vehicles, a top Toyota executive today simply said what a lot of people are thinking: EVs don’t make business or financial sense at this point.

And then Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, also head of Toyota R&D, announced in Japan that the company was backing up its dramatic conclusion with equally decisive action: Toyota killed plans for a volume launch of its second all-electric car, the eQ, a version of the iQ minicar, and said that it hopes for only 2,600 sales worldwide of its other EV, a RAV4 version, over the next three years.

Now, Toyota plans to sell only about 100 battery-powered eQs in a very limited release in the U.S. and Japan. In 2010, in unveiling eQ and plans for it, the company said it wanted to sell several thousand of the nameplate each year.

At the same time, Toyota has announced a dramatic doubling down on the vehicle-electrification strategy it does like: hybrids. Toyota established, defined and still dominates the global market for gas-electric hybrids through its hugely successful Prius franchise (using technology developed by Uchiyamada). So it plans to have a total of 21 hybrids in its lineup within three years, including 14 all-new ones.

A Nissan executive said he understood Toyota’s move. “It takes an awful lot for a company to invest in and build the infrastructure for EVs,” Brendan Jones, director of EV marketing, sales and strategy for Nissan in the United States, told me. “If you’re going to commit to it, you’ve got to commit to it.”

And as far as concerns Nissan, which trailblazed the segment with its Nissan Leaf EV, “It’s the right thing to do,” Jones said. “We’ll keep on delivering to a market that is only going to grow over time.”

Toyota already was much more conservative about vehicle electrification beyond conventional hybrids than rivals General Motors and Nissan, who established the U.S. market and have been joined by Ford, Mitsubishi and others.

But still, Uchiyamada’s declaration before auto journalists in Tokyo on Monday was about the most damningly direct dismissal of EVs and their prospects that any reputable auto executive has thus far uttered.

“The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge,” Uchiyamada said.

Uchiyamada thereby concisely captured the three main arguments against EVs: They still have very limited range after development efforts worthy of a moon shot behind that very challenge; they remain extremely pricey, even with massive government tax credits on their purchase; and they take too long to be ready to run.

The forthright Toyota executive didn’t even mention what surely has become an increasingly relevant factor in Toyota’s EV calculations: Even at a time when $4-a-gallon gasoline seems to have settled in for a long run in the U.S. market, the changing mid- and long-term prospects for greater oil production in the United States and elsewhere, combined with huge leaps in fuel economy by internal-combustion engines, mean there’s even less of an imperative for auto companies to field EVs.

Toyota even remains disappointed in consumer acceptance of plug-in hybrids like its own Plug-In Prius and the original, GM’s Chevrolet Volt. “We believe that there is social demand for the plug-in hybrid,” Uchiyamada said. “But our efforts to let the customers know what it is have not been enough.”

On cue, Toyota also has just begun a new advertising campaign for its four-member Prius family of hybrids in the United States, showing them traversing a Candyland-like landscape and emphasizing that there’s a right Prius for everyone.

And, by implication, a right EV for just about no one.

MGS Tech at 3rd Annual SO-CAL AUTO X – December 4-6, 2012 REGISTER NOW!

Last modified on 2012-12-19 22:36:43 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Mercedes-Benz to Use Inflatable Rear Seatbelts on New Car

Last modified on 2012-10-13 18:59:17 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

By Dale Jewett

Mercedes-Benz will begin equipping its cars with inflatable seatbelts for rear passengers, making it the second automaker to use the safety technology.

Mercedes said the belt would be introduced on an upcoming luxury car. A likely candidate is the redesigned S-class sedan, which the German automaker is preparing to put into production next year. Prototypes have been spotted undergoing hot-weather testing. A reveal is likely early next year, possibly at the Detroit or Geneva auto shows.

Ford introduced inflatable rear belts on the redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer. It also offers the technology on the Ford Flex and the Lincoln MKT wagons, and charges about $200 for the option. Ford has said the redesigned Mondeo sedan for Europe will use the technology.

The technology marries a small airbag with the rear belts’ shoulder strap. When the car senses a crash, the airbag in the belt inflates. The expanded bag increases the width of the belt, helping to spread crash forces over a wider area of the passenger’s torso and reducing the chance of injuries.

Mercedes says it does not intend to use the inflatable belts for front seats. It notes that front passengers are protected by front, side and, in some cases, knee-bolster airbags.

Automotive Black Boxes: Fact Versus Fiction

Last modified on 2012-10-11 00:36:57 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Electronic data recorders silently ride shotgun in your vehicle. But what do they actually record?

By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos


“Black box” recorders are usually associated with airplanes — more specifically, airplane disasters. Officially known as an event data recorder, the device collects information during a flight to allow aviation authorities to determine what happened during that flight or, more importantly, what went wrong during an in-air mishap.

Similar devices have silently ridden shotgun in many 4-wheeled vehicles for about two decades and serve a similar purpose; i.e., they record what was happening to the vehicle during a particular event.

Vehicle-based EDRs were designed to give automakers feedback on how and when airbags deployed, in order to improve the technology and make vehicles safer. EDR data were instrumental, for example, in development of the dual-stage or “smart” airbag, which deploys at one of two speeds, or not at all, depending on the severity of a collision. This helps reduce the number of airbag-related injuries to adults and children.

Automakers also use EDR data to track manufacturing defects and issue recalls. For instance, the data provided by these devices proved critical in the federal investigation into the unintended-acceleration controversy that has affected Toyota vehicles over the past few years.

All in all, black boxes have had a positive effect on automotive safety since they first hit the road. And it seems as though they are about to become mandatory on all new cars.

But not everyone is in favor of EDRs in cars. Some consumer and privacy advocates point out that they aren’t only used to improve safety, but also help automakers cover their, well, you know what. “Automakers also use [the data] to fend off product liability claims such as airbag malfunctions and sudden unintended acceleration,” says Tom Kowalick, chairman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a noted EDR expert.

Conspiracy theorists even worry that EDRs can and will be used to track drivers’ every movement — wherever, whenever. Imagine federal and state governments able to track where, when and how fast you are going 24/7, every day of the year. Scary, right?

Consequently, there is a lot of apprehension about mandating that every car have a black box. The recording and sharing of personal information has become a touchy topic in our increasingly connected world. To help you decide where you stand on the black-box debate, pro or con, we’ve separated fact from fiction so that you know what type of data an EDR collects — and when — and your rights concerning that data.

Fiction: EDRs are required on all cars

Not yet, at least. The federal government currently doesn’t require automakers to install EDRs in vehicles. Each automaker decides whether to include one, and many do. But that could soon change with pending legislation. “There’s a proposed Senate rule pending that would require EDRs in all vehicles,” says Ron Medford, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “[The new law] would take out the option and say that all car manufacturers must install EDRs.”


Fact: Automakers have to declare the presence of an EDR

Since 2006, NHTSA has stipulated that automakers that include the device in a vehicle have to disclose to consumers that an EDR is on board. (The information is usually found in the owner’s manual.) NHTSA also recently mandated that vehicles manufactured after Sept. 1, 2011, that include the devices must record data in a standardized format.


Fiction: An EDR constantly records your driving habits

An automotive black box begins recording information only after it detects enough force to trigger it, such as in a collision or significant impact after a hard jolt. “The algorithm that sets off the capturing of EDR data can be triggered without deploying an airbag,” says Todd Hutchison, an accident reconstruction expert and vice president of VCE Inc. in Nashville, Tenn. “It can be set off by, say, hitting a curb really hard.” Otherwise, the device remains inactive.


Fact: An EDR records only certain information

Ramtron Event Data Recorder

In addition to the date and time when triggered, the data that EDRs collect include vehicle speed, engine speed, steering angle, throttle position, braking status, force of impact, seat-belt status and airbag deployment. It cannot tell who was driving and where. It can’t tell if the driver was intoxicated, violating a traffic law or using a cell phone.


Fiction: Service technicians at dealerships have access to EDR data

When you bring your car in for service, a technician can theoretically access the data on an EDR, although it’s highly unlikely. While service techs routinely access data about a vehicle through the onboard diagnostic port, they would need special tools and software to tap into an EDR. “Normally, when automotive technicians service a vehicle, they don’t access the black-box data that an accident investigator or police department personnel would,” Hutchison says.


Fact: Specialized training is required to extract and analyze EDR data

Even if a service tech does access a vehicle’s EDR, extracting the data requires the proper diagnostic tools, and specialized software and training are required to properly analyze the data. “You can hook into the data link port, but you have to have specific modules and cables and the software to be able to read the information from the EDR to get pre-crash data,” Hutchison says. “And you have to know what you’re looking for and know how it applies to a particular accident.”


Fiction: EDR data can be accessed without your consent

“For the most part, EDR access is very much a matter of state law,” says Dorothy Glancy, professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law in California. Federal legislation is pending that would make this a legal standard nationwide. However, the proposed law would allow emergency personnel such as police, firefighters and paramedics access to the data without a court order if it helps them better respond to an accident.


Fact: EDR data can be accessed by court order

Currently, several states have statutes that regulate who owns the data from a car’s black box and who can gain access to it. In many states, a warrant is required to access the data without the owner’s consent. But as with any law, exceptions exist and a court order can be used to force a car owner to hand over black-box data in legal proceedings. “We either need the permission of the owner of the vehicle or get a subpoena through the courts to get access to the data,” says Buddy Oakes, an insurance agent in Columbia, Tenn. “It’s not something that happens every day. It probably comes up two or three times a year, but we’re a small regional insurance company.” One potential loophole: When a car is totaled, it becomes the property of the driver’s auto insurance company. The insurer then owns the data and could possibly use them as evidence in a court case.


Fiction: EDR data can conclusively prove fault in a court case

While EDR data is valuable in reconstructing an accident for investigators, they don’t provide conclusive evidence. “I’ll first do an accident reconstruction at the scene to see what types of forces were involved in a collision and what types of evasive action was taken or not taken, and how far the vehicles went after the collision,” Hutchison says. “So you can use the scene data to determine what happened and how it happened.” But not why it happened.


Fact: EDR data is only part of the puzzle in an accident

“The physical aspects of the accident have to match up with the data from the EDR,” Oakes says. “Usually it does. But there could be situations where it doesn’t. And the [EDR data] isn’t something we would put a lot of weight into at that point if the physical damage doesn’t look right.”

It can also be used in “he said, she said” situations, according to Oakes. “That’s where it works best,” he says, “when someone says they were sitting at a red light and somebody hit them. Then we’ll look at the black-box data and find out they were going 30 mph and braked right before impact.”


Doug Newcomb has been writing about automotive-related topics since 1988. His work has appeared in Consumers Digest, Road & Track, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal and many other publications. His book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publishing.

Ford Developing Biometric Driver Stress Detectors To Improve Safety

Last modified on 2012-09-24 19:38:29 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

by Nelson Ireson
June 27

Driving can be stressful, and stress is a distraction. Driving can also be boring, and that can be distracting, too. So what can be done about it?

Ford is working on a system that integrates various biometric measurements like pulse, galvanic skin response, and breathing rate to determine the driver’s “workload,” a concept that relates to attention and performance behind the wheel in a curious manner.

Basically, when workload–the amount of attention and input required from the driver–is too low (i.e., when the driver is bored, say driving straight interstate for hours on end) they are more prone to make mistakes, often through simple inattention, because the act of driving doesn’t require much attention until something goes wrong, and then the attention requirement can’t be met. If workload is too high, the same holds true in a different manner; the driver simply doesn’t have enough capacity to give attention to everything that requires it, meaning some important information may be missed, resulting in a decrease in performance or an accident.

In between these extremes, there’s a sweet spot of workload and driver performance–and Ford aims to keep track of your vitals to help keep you in that sweet spot, by providing alerts and limiting interruptions as appropriate.

The in-car system will gather the information for the alerts from its onboard sensors, leveraging systems like blindspot detection and lane-keeping assist to detect traffic flow and quantity nearby, adjusting its alert status for the environment. Other sensors, like throttle position and steering position evaluate the driver’s responsiveness and attention to what the sensors are seeing and react with alerts accordingly.

In addition to alerts about potentially unseen traffic conditions, the system can keep the driver from being interrupted by phone calls or text messages when full attention is required by the conditions. It does this by leveraging the SYNC and MyFord Touch systems when paired with the driver’s cell phone to automatically apply the existing (manual) “Do Not Disturb” settting.

Ford developing biometric driver sensors to improve safety

How does Ford measure things like heart rate, respiration rate, and galvanic skin response? Through sensors built into the steering wheel and seat belt. Like common gym exercise equipment, metal plates built into the steering wheel can sense pulse and skin conductivity. A sensor build into the seat belt can sense the driver’s breathing. In addition, infrared can sense changes in body and skin temperature relative to the cabin temperature, reactions that might indicate a change in alertness or agitation, especially when taken in concert with the other sensors’ information.

For now, these technologies are still in the research stage, though Ford does have working prototypes. No time frame for such a system’s arrival in production vehicles has been set, but with the increasing penetration of these once high-tech sensors into mainstream vehicles, it makes increasing sense, both in terms of cost and safety, to leverage them into a coherent whole.

New auto safety technologies appear successful

Last modified on 2012-08-04 03:31:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By James O’Toole

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — There are a host of new technologies that promise to keep drivers safe, and at least a few look like they’re delivering.

That’s according to a study released Tuesday by the Highway Loss Data Institute, a non-profit research group supported by the insurance industry, that analyzed insurance claim data in connection with crash avoidance technologies.

Particularly effective, the study said, are “forward collision avoidance systems,” which alert drivers when they are quickly gaining on objects in their path and may crash. Some of these systems feature automatic braking if the driver fails to respond.

Car models available with this feature include the Mercedes-Benz CL Class sedan, the Volvo XC60 and the Acura MDX SUVs.

The Highway Loss Data Institute found that property damage liability claims were 14% lower for models from Acura and Mercedes-Benz featuring forward collision avoidance systems, including automatic braking, than in models without them. Property damage liability claims include damage to other vehicles caused by the insured vehicle.

The Volvo autonomous braking system reduced crashes by 10%, though that finding wasn’t deemed statistically significant.

Injury claims also dipped slightly for most vehicles with forward collision avoidance systems, though not by a statistically significant amount in most cases.

“So far, forward collision technology is reducing claims, particularly for damage to other vehicles, and adaptive headlights are having an even bigger impact than we had anticipated,” said HLDI vice president Matt Moore.

Adaptive headlights, which shift direction as the driver steers, reduced property damage claims by as much as 10%. The data on injury claims varied, but they fell significantly in most cases, including by close to 30% among Mazda models.

Related: Driverless cars are sneaking up on you

Blind-spot-detection and parking-assist systems have yet to show any clear effect on crash rates yet, the study said.

Lane departure warnings, which alert drivers when they appear to be drifting on the road, actually appeared to increase insurance claim rates, though not by a statistically significant extent. HLDI said it would need to study the issue further to explain this finding.

“Lane departure prevention systems that don’t rely on a driver’s response may hold more promise,” said David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The HLDI report said it is gathering data on other high-tech crash avoidance features like blind spot detection, park assist and backup cameras.

“All these systems are beginning to make their way into mainstream vehicles, beyond the luxury models where they started out,” HLDI said in its report.

The report also cited a list of other high-tech crash avoidance features coming to the market but didn’t provide statistics on their effectiveness.

Those include:
•Cross traffic alerts, which warn drivers their vehicle is about to cross into the path of another vehicle.
•Curve speed warning, which relies on GPS and speed information to determine if the vehicle is going too fast.
•Fatigue warning, which tracks driver behavior.
•Night vision assist, which uses infra-red imaging to look at the road ahead and project objects on a display before they are visible through the windshield.

Once these other features have been around long enough and in enough vehicles, HLDI said it may be able to examine their effect on claims, too.

CNN Senior Producer Jim Barnett contributed to this report.
First Published: July 3, 2012: 5:45 AM ET

BYD e6 Electric Taxi Burns After 112-MPH Drunk Supercar Driver Crash

Last modified on 2012-07-20 18:06:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

by: Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

May 29, 2012

Over the weekend we heard the disturbing news that a BYD e6 electric taxi in Shenzhen China had burst into flames and killed three of its occupants after being hit by a speeding drunk driver.

BYD e6 Fire: Aftermath

According to eyewitness reports, the BYD e6 taxi, one of around 400 e6 electric taxis being used in the area, was hit at around 3am on a popular downtown route by a Nissan GT-R driven by a drunk driver traveling at 112 mph or more.

The impact was so great that the e6 was sent slamming into a tree, whereupon it burst into flames.

ChinaAutoWeb says local television stations report its occupants, two women passengers and the taxi’s driver, were unable to escape before the flames engulfed the car.

All three died in the ensuing fire.

Meanwhile, the drunk driver and the occupants of the second car he hit, a gasoline-powered taxi, all survived.

Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012


Images after the accident clearly show that the rear of the taxi had deformed or buckled as a consequence of the impact and subsequent fire, but at this time there has been no formal word of how — or why — the blaze started.

Without any official statements however, speculation points directly at the car’s powerful 53 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which is situated underneath the passenger cabin.

Should we worry?

No. Here’s why.

While the Chinese crash-testing authority, C-NCAP, has made dramatic improvements to its 2012 standards over previous years, its maximum impact speed test is just under 40 mph.

Previously, cars were tested on their ability to survive a 34 mph impact test, and didn’t have to undergo any rear-end or pedestrian crash testing.

In short, it’s likely that the BYD e6 which was involved in the collision was approved for use under less-stringent crash test standards.

Just like their gasoline counterparts, any electric car sold in the U.S. today must pass a strictly-administered suite of crash tests designed to ensure that they meet the required federal automotive safety standards.

Under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cars have to undergo side-impact and rollover tests in addition to frontal crash tests.

Designed to ensure that passengers stay safe in the event of a collision, the tests also examine the car’s battery pack and power electronics, ensuring that, like gas cars, the probability of post-crash fires and explosions are kept extremely low.

In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also carries out its own tests on all U.S. market cars, offering a second safety standard which is prized by automakers and consumers as much as those from the NHTSA.

Earlier today, BYD made an official statement in which it said that in the extensive crash-tests prior to its launch, BYD had not witnessed a single battery fire in an e6 vehicle, adding that some of the tests had led to a 50 percent deformation.

“Any vehicle undergoing multiple crashes and spinning like the one in the May 26 traffic accident will result in great danger for the passengers and driver,” it said in the statement. “Even gasoline powered vehicles might burn,” it concluded.

The tragic accident may also hurt BYD’s reputation in the U.S., where it is preparing an updated e6 for sale to U.S. consumers in the next few years.

Volvo Pedestrian Airbag: How Does It work?

Last modified on 2012-07-03 21:25:05 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published May 23, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Volvo is becoming the first manufacturer to offer a pedestrian airbag. This feature will be offered on the newly-launched V40.

In China 25 percent of traffic fatalities are pedestrians. In Europe the figure is 14 percent and in the USA it’s 12 percent. A far larger number of struck pedestrians are injured. The most serious head injuries involving pedestrians and cars are caused by the hard structure under the hood, the windshield’s lower edge and the A-pillars.

How does it work?

Seven sensors embedded in the front of the car transmit signals to a control unit. When the car comes into contact with an object, the signals change. The control unit evaluates the signals and if it registers what it interprets as a human leg the pedestrian airbag is deployed.

Each of the hood hinges are equipped with pyrotechnical release mechanisms which, when the system is activated, pull out a pin and release the rear of the hood panel. At the same time, the airbag is activated and starts filling with gas. During the inflation sequence the airbag raises the hood; the hood lifts by four inches and stays in that raised position.

The added gap between the bonnet and the hard components in the engine compartment gives space for the hood to deform, creating a dampening effect when it is hit by a pedestrian.

“The airbag has two functions. Firstly, it raises the hood to create distance, and secondly it cushions the impact around the hard parts of the area near the windshield” explains Thomas Broberg, Senior Technical Advisor Safety for the Volvo Car Corporation.

In its inflated position, the airbag covers the entire windshield wiper recess, about one-third of the windshield and the lower part of the A-pillars. The entire sequence from activation of the system to full inflation takes a few hundredths of a second.

The system is active at speeds between 20 and 50 kph. 75 percent of all accidents involving pedestrians take place at up to 40 kph.

The airbag itself consists of a bag and a gas hybrid generator. Upon activation, the bag is filled with gas within a few milliseconds.


Here is a link to a video simulation:


EV-Hybrid Naming Conventions Needed

Last modified on 2012-05-20 16:56:51 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

EV-Hybrid Naming Conventions Needed

{NOTE: We at MGS Tech don’t necessarily agree with Mr Burridge’s category definition conclusion but we do agree that the current term-o-rama that is happening now is causing confusion with the general public and first reaponders}

Current naming conventions and terms for EVs and hybrids have created a cornucopia of confusion for the average consumer.

Ken Burridge the Editor-in-Chief of says, “There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to naming conventions and certainly the automotive industry and governments shouldn’t allow the marketing departments or advertising agencies of manufacturers to confuse the general public about something so important, since personal vehicles are often the most expensive purchase many individuals make in their lifetimes with the possible exception of their residence or a university degree.”.

At the moment the fledgling EV industry is looking like the lawless wild west and it seems as if everyone is trying to be first to coin or trademark terms and patent technologies for the next generation of transport vehicles.  The current situation is more than just a little confusing for consumers and may in fact be harmful and could possibly even slow the eventual acceptance of the new paradigm shift towards greener powered vehicles unless some standards are soon adopted and accepted.

Let’s take a look at just some of the terms currently in use when it comes to electric and hybrid vehicles: EVs, BEVs, zero-emission vehicles, all-electric vehicles, EREVs, HEVs, PHEVs, electric drive vehicles, hybrids, parallel hybrids, series hybrids, FFVs, NGVs, extended-range vehicles and Fuel cell vehicles etc. According to Mr Burridge “one of the simplest and best ways to define and classify vehicles is by what method is used to propel the vehicle, specifically where the energy is directly coming from to turn the wheels”.  When using that distinction as a meta-rule there are two main groups of vehicles in use today:

ICE: Internal Combustion Engine: These petroleum-powered vehicles are currently the largest segment of the vehicle market and rely on the combustion of fossil fuels to manipulate a series of mechanisms (cylinders, drive shafts, transmissions, etc.), which operate in sequence to eventually propel the vehicle.

Electric: An electric current typically supplied from a battery energizes a motor, which can often as a result of it’s function directly turn the wheel of a vehicle without the use of multitude of intervening mechanisms.

The Electric Category can be further subdivided into:

Hybrids, which can use either or both an ICE and an electric motor to propel the vehicle…an example of this type is the Toyota Prius.

All-electric, Pure or 100% EVs: These vehicles rely on the energy stored in a battery pack to power their electric motor.  Examples include: Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Roadster.

A sub-category of the All-electric vehicle are those that have Auxiliary Power Units (APUs), which are often relatively small devices, that only function to produce electric power to recharge an EV’s battery pack or possibly to provide an energy boost to an EV’s electric motors to meet supplemental short-term power requirements.  These APU’s are called “Range Extenders” by various marketing departments such as GM and are found on the Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma.

Historical note: The term APU has been in use to cover this type of operation for decades in both the aviation and heavy equipment vehicle categories and thus should not be used to classify a vehicle as a hybrid even though some green-purists would prefer otherwise.

Want To Use Your EV As a Backup Electricity Source?

Last modified on 2012-05-20 17:15:45 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Want To Use Your EV As a Backup Electricity Source?

Published May 3, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Hydro-Québec announced today it will soon be testing vehicle to grid and vehicle to home systems.

IREQ, Hydro-Québec’s research institute, is teaming up with B3CG Interconnect, based in Saint-Eustache,QC, Canada, and its partners to test vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home power exchanges.

Hydro-Québec generates, transmits and distributes electricity in the province of Québec, Canada.

The goal of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems is to use electricity stored in the batteries of plug-in vehicles as a backup energy supply for electricity grids, such as the Hydro-Québec power system, during peak periods. Vehicle-to-home (V2H) systems, on the other hand, would allow plug-in vehicle owners to use the energy stored in their batteries as a temporary home power source during outages, as they would a generator.

For purposes of the project, a test vehicle equipped with Québec-designed technologies will be assembled at IREQ. TM4, a Hydro-Québec subsidiary, will supply a latest-generation TM4 MφTIVE! electric powertrain system. The battery will be designed with IREQ-patented materials, such as lithium iron phosphate. B3CG Interconnect will partner with the Centre National du Transport Avancé (national centre for advanced transportation) in Saint-Jérôme and Brioconcept, based in Laval, to develop new two technologies: a power battery and associated control system, and a two-way charger designed to both recharge the battery and supply power to the grid.

The project will also receive financial support from the Québec government as part of its 2011-2020 Action Plan for Electric Vehicles. This plan gave Hydro-Québec a mandate to define the implications of these innovative concepts and to carry out all required experiments.

Explosion Damage To GM Battery Lab Could Reach $5 Million

Last modified on 2012-05-04 01:41:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Antony Ingram

GM Battery Lab, Warren Technical CenterGM Battery Lab, Warren Technical Center


A week ago we brought you the news that a chemical gas explosion had injured employees at GM’s Alternative Energy Center in Warren.
Five people were evacuated from the lab, and one employee remains in hospital following treatment for injuries resulting from the blast.
Now, Detroit News reports that damage from the explosion could total $5 million or more, with estimates varying pending a full fire investigation report.
The explosion was created by gases venting from an experimental battery pack, that became ignited inside the enclosed testing room. GM is currently investigating the source of the ignition, but admits it could be difficult, given the extent of the damage.
The room is known as an “abuse” room, where components would undergo intense tests unlikely to be faced in the real world.
The blast “ripped through an adjacent area causing massive damage, blowing open steel doors and blowing out windows”, according to the police report.
A Warren Fire Department report estimated $3 million in damage, property losses of $1 million and contents of $2 million–but a more recent estimate puts the loss at closer to $3 million.
GM spokesman Greg Martin told reporters that the safety of employees was the first priority. “At this time, we do not have a specific dollar amount on the extent of damage, nor can we comment on the immediate estimates placed in reports filed on the same day of the incident,” he added.
The 26 year old engineer injured in the blast is currently described as being in fair condition in hospital, after sustaining a head injury and displaying concussion-like symptoms.
We’ll keep you updated on further developments and news from GM on the explosion, and the condition of the injured employee.

Successful Patient Extrication from Prius in Portland, OR

Last modified on 2012-05-04 01:37:23 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

April 16, 2012

9:13 PM

This afternoon at 1:42 pm, Portland firefighters were dispatched to a two car motor vehicle accident at SE 96th Avenue & SE Market Street. Upon arrival four minutes later, firefighters from Portland Fire Station 7 (Mill Park) encountered one vehicle, a Toyota Prius, on its side with three occupants pinned inside.
Using knowledge they had recently acquired from training involving hybrid vehicles and specialized extrication equipment carried on ladder trucks, Truck 7 firefighters were able to disconnect and de-energize the hybrid vehicle’s electrical lines to prevent being shocked in the process of extricating the victims from the vehicle. Using the “Jaws of Life”, firefighters peeled the roof off the vehicle and got the driver and passengers out. The other vehicle involved had one occupant.

“As hybrids become more prevalent, we are progressively seeing more of them involved in traffic accidents,” said Portland Fire & Rescue Captain Dave Davies. “We must take necessary precautions as first responders so we don’t injure ourselves, or further injure occupants, when rescuing victims from vehicles with new hybrid technology.”
One patient was treated at the scene by Portland firefighter/paramedics and three patients were transported by AMR ambulance with unknown injuries to Oregon Health Sciences University.

A small black dog named Zorro, with an electronic chip, escaped from the Toyota Prius and was last seen headed east bound on SE Market. Zorro is still missing at this time. If you find him, please take the dog to the nearest animal shelter or veterinary facility to access the electronic chip information.
Portland Police are investigating this accident and any questions pertaining to the investigation (cause, fault, seat-belt use, etc.) should be referred to the Portland Police Bureau.

Photos courtesy of Dick Harris, Portland Fire.

Government Vehicles: Green by 2015

Last modified on 2012-04-21 03:36:05 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

By Neil Roland of AutoWeek

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that starting in 2015, all new cars and trucks bought by the federal government will be hybrids, electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel vehicles.

The government operates more than 600,000 fleet vehicles.

Obama, in a far-ranging speech about U.S. energy policy at Georgetown University, said the administration also plans to form partnerships with private companies “that want to upgrade their large fleets” with alternative-fuel vehicles.

The two new initiatives to expand the market for fuel-efficient vehicles are part of a broader administration push announced Wednesday to cut America’s 11 million barrels-a-day oil imports by a third by 2025.

“We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again,” Obama said.

Obama’s speech, titled “A Secure Energy Future,” seeks to seize the initiative from Republicans who have been pushing for more domestic oil drilling and for cuts in federal energy-conservation and alternative energy-source programs.

Boost for Alternative-Vehicle Sales The president said he is directing that all federal agencies plan to make 100 percent of their fleet purchases hybrids, electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel vehicles by 2015.

That would increase tenfold the rate of alternative-fuel vehicle purchases by the government in fiscal 2009 and 2010.

During that period, the U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees the government fleet, bought 145,473 vehicles — about 10 percent of which were hybrids, Bloomberg News reported in November.

Hybrids accounted for less than 1 percent of government purchases in fiscal 2008, the news service reported.

The largest automaker group said Obama’s plan shows “the government can put high volumes of fuel-efficient vehicles onto our roads.”

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said consumer purchases have not kept pace with auto production of alternative-fuel vehicles under U.S. fuel-efficiency requirements.

“The policy question today is how to encourage more consumers to buy these high mpg vehicles,” Bergquist said. “Government fleet sales help answer that question. Other policy approaches surely exist to help sell these vehicles too.”

‘Clean Fleets’ An environmental group, the National Resources Defense Council, praised the planned fleet purchases.

They are a “great way to aggregate demand, get volumes up and drive prices down for new technologies,” said Roland Hwang, transportation program director of the nonprofit group.

Obama didn’t elaborate on his plan to “partner with private companies” on improving the fuel efficiency of their fleets.

On Friday, the president plans to visit a UPS shipping facility in Landover, Md., to view “clean fleets” from AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon, the White House said.

President Obama Outlines $4.7 Billion Plan to Boost Clean Energy Transportation

Last modified on 2012-03-09 01:21:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published March 8, 2012

 By Jeff Cobb

Following his recent State of the Union outline [1] to boost domestically produced clean energy and related transportation, this week President Obama announced $4.7 billion in proposed plans to enable an “all of the above [2]” approach.

Speaking at a Daimler truck plant in North Carolina, the president said his administration wants to give compressed natural gas vehicles a tax credit similar to that which plug-in vehicles are eligible. In all, the proposal would commit $3.7 billion toward clean energy tax credits.

Obama also announced a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge to spur deployment of clean, advanced vehicles in communities around the country, and an “EV Everywhere” plan to make electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as any ordinary car within a decade.

As part of his ambitious plan to get there, Obama reiterated the sentiment spoken by his administration officials since last year to make the plug-in tax credit a transferable point of sale rebate, instead of making consumers wait until filing their taxes.

As outlined in a White House press announcement, the President proposes to improve the current tax credit for electric vehicles by:

o Expanding eligibility for the credit to a broader range of advanced vehicle technologies;

o Increasing the amount from $7,500, making it scalable up to $10,000;

o Reforming the credit to make it available at the point-of-sale by making it transferable to the dealer or financier, allowing consumers to benefit when they purchase a vehicle rather than when they file their taxes; and

o Removing the cap on the number of vehicles per manufacturer eligible for the credit and, instead, ramping down and eventually eliminating the credit at the end of the decade.

Calling it a “Race to the Top,” the $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge wants to catalyze up to 10 to 15 model communities to invest in infrastructure, remove regulatory barriers, and create the local incentives for advanced-tech vehicle deployment to the point of “critical mass.”

“This proposal embraces a strategy similar to that outlined by Senators Merkley and Alexander in their Promoting Electric Vehicles legislation,” the White House said. It differs from it however in that it is “fuel neutral” so if communities favor EVs or CNG or some other technology, the government would like to help level the playing field.

“Deployment Communities would serve as real-world laboratories, leveraging limited federal resources to develop different models to deploy advanced vehicles at scale,” the White House said. “The program would also support the development of up to 5 regional Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) corridors where alternative fuel trucks can transport goods without using a drop of oil.”

 Obama’s speech at the Daimler truck plant was in keeping with announcements to promote clean energy trucking.

Beyond this, he launched “EV Everywhere” that aims within one decade to make electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles are today.

“This national effort is the second in a series of Clean Energy Grand Challenges designed by the Department of Energy to bring together America’s best and brightest scientists, engineers, andbusinesses to work together to solve the most pressing energy technology challenges of our time,” the White House said. “EV Everywhere will enable companies in the U.S. to produce electric vehicles at lower cost, with an improved vehicle range and an increased fast-charging ability.”

Obama’s plan says savings will be around $100 per average driver per month once the mission is accomplished. This factors in up-front savings on subsidized EVs, and will need a major boost also from the president’s 2013 budget.

Adding to the multi-billion, multi-tier plan to get away from predominant reliance on petroleum, the 2013 budget proposes $650 million to advance vehicle and battery technologies at the Energy Department, including investments to support EV Everywhere.

The White House said EV Everywhere will pave the way for “breakthrough R&D for advanced batteries, electric drivetrain technologies, lightweight vehicle structures, and fast charging technology.”

Hazards of Keyless Car Ignitions: Are They Too Dangerous?

Last modified on 2012-04-21 03:35:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By  JIM AVILA (@JimAvilaABC)

March 8, 2012

They are designed to simplify the driving experience:  Push a button rather than turn a key.

But recent fatalities, including this past weekend in Boca Raton, Fla., in which drivers left the car running and died of carbon monoxide poisoning, have highlighted whether keyless-ignition cars are safe.

Adele and Mort Victor were found dead in their bedroom. Their keyless-ignition car has now been impounded by police.

Mary Rivera of Long Island, N.Y., escaped with her life after leaving her Toyota running in her garage in 2009 but her husband died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The ignition didn’t turn off,” Rivera said. “I was very familiar with the car. I drove it every day. I don’t know. I thought I turned it off but apparently I didn’t.”

She was saved by her brother, John, who was worried when he didn’t hear from her.  “I thought she was dead. I rushed to her and was yelling at her and shaking her to have some response,” John Rivera said.

More than 160 car models now offer keyless start.

Toyota said its cars sound a warning when the driver leaves without shutting down the car.

Still, the Center for Auto Safety said it tracked six fatalities involving push-button starters and wants car manufacturers to return to keys.

When asked whether drivers are partly to blame for walking out of the car without turning off the ignition, Clarence Ditlow, executive director with the Center for Auto Safety, said it’s part of the problem.

“Sure, it’s our fault,” Ditlow said. “But this is a device that makes it easy to forget, and the cost of forgetfulness should not be death by carbon monoxide.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants manufacturers to standardize all the push-button starters to avoid confusion.

In the meantime, Mary Rivera and several other push-button start users are suing the manufacturers for alleged losses.

Rivera said manufacturers are “a 100 percent at blame because they designed something that could be left on without a person knowing. So we have to blame them 100 percent.”

Quieter Cars and the Safety of Blind Pedestrians, Phase 2: Development of Potential Specifications for Vehicle Countermeasure Sounds

Last modified on 2012-04-18 00:52:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.



This report documents research conducted to identify potential methods of developing specification for vehicle sounds (audible countermeasures), for use in electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) or hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) operating in electric mode. The research focused on developing objective specifications for detectability using sound pressure levels (SPLs) and spectral profile characteristics. The feasibility of objectively specifying other aspects of sound quality for the purpose of predicting recognizability was explored.

This research was funded by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Human-Vehicle Performance Research and is a follow-on to NHTSA’s Phase 1 research, which initially studied the issue of Quieter Cars. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center) of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) completed this research under an Inter-Agency Agreement (IAA) with NHTSA.

Click here for the full 156 page report.

Connect-Vehicle Technology to Prevent Vehicle Crashes

Last modified on 2012-04-04 17:52:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Aubrey Chang | Feb 21, 2012 |


Consumer Reports magazine has sent its editorial team to Silicon Valley and to a special Ford proving ground in Dearborn, Mich., to look at the new connected-vehicle technology. This new connected-vehicle technology enables vehicles to talk to one another and to road infrastructure such as traffic lights. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication allows cars and trucks to communicate with other vehicles in a given area. ‘Each vehicle broadcasts its own speed, making it easier to avoid potential collisions’, reports a business magazine.

The connected-vehicle technology shown during the demonstration ride has impressed the magazine’s editorial team and has also created hope of potentially saving thousands of lives.  Instead of protecting against the aftermath of a vehicle crash, the vehicle-to-vehicle communication is designed to prevent vehicle crashes from occurring in the first place. This indeed will be the catch in most of the leading business news agencies. And the magazine, which is an advocate of stronger safety features for drivers for eight decades, from seat belts to air bags to electronic stability control, is impressed by this technology.

What exactly would the vehicle-to-vehicle communication do?

Suppose that a car is approaching an intersection at 30 mph with a green traffic light ahead. You wouldn’t be able to see another vehicle coming in on the cross street about to run through a red light. In a typical car, you would enter the intersection and most likely be slammed in the side by the other vehicle, which could seriously injure or even kill you. But in this car, a prominent red warning light flashes on the dash and an alarm blares, giving you time to hit the brakes before entering the danger zone.

Connected-vehicle technology is gaining currency in the auto industry and among safety analysts. The connected-vehicle technology will also allow vehicles to send out an alert as its wheels begin to skid, alerting vehicles behind it to a potential road hazard, as reported in manufacturing magazines.

The magazine says that implementing V2X, or connected-vehicle technology on a mass scale is years away. It must overcome concerns about privacy and cyber security, but even so, it’s likely to be adopted, and that should help improve road safety. While such systems will be more effective when the majority of the vehicle fleet is so-equipped, benefits can be seen even with low levels of penetration.

How would the talking cars protect you?

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems are designed to prevent collisions in a number of scenarios. Let’s take a look at how these features can help drivers avoid accidents:

When you approach an intersection, the intersection assist in the system will alert the driver if another vehicle is traveling at such a speed on a cross street that it could run a red light or stop sign and hit the car in the side. This helps prevent common and often fatal T-bone accidents.

When in an intersection, left-turn assist in the system will alert the driver if there’s not enough time to make a left-hand turn because of oncoming vehicles. This can prevent the driver from turning even when he can’t see the car coming.

When driving on a two-lane road, Do-not-pass warning in the system warns the driver when a vehicle coming in the opposite direction makes it unsafe for a slower-moving vehicle to pass.

The advance warning of a vehicle braking ahead in the system emits an alert when two or more vehicles hit the brakes unexpectedly. This can help prevent a rear-end collision when you’re caught by surprise.

A forward-collision warning in the system will sound if the system detects that a vehicle is traveling at a speed that could cause it to hit a slower-moving vehicle in the rear. It will also send an advance warning of a stopped vehicle in the driver’s lane.

When traveling on a multilane road, the system illuminates a blind-spot/lane-change warning light when a car is positioned in the driver’s blind spot. It also emits a loud beep if the turn signal is activated when it’s unsafe to change lanes.

Rik Paul, automotive editor, Consumer Reports said, “These systems are being aggressively developed because they could be the next big safety breakthrough. But adequate oversight of how the information is used is essential to ensure the privacy of drivers and to prevent abuse.”

NHTSA Closes Chevy Volt Battery-Pack Fire Safety Investigation

Last modified on 2012-03-09 01:12:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By John Voelcker

January 20, 2012

Well, it’s all over but the shouting now.

This afternoon, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a statement saying it had closed its investigation into the causes of a fire in the battery pack of a Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car.

The statement said the agency had concluded that “no discernible defect trend exists” and that “modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.”

It also pointedly noted that no real-world crashes have resulted in any battery pack fires in Volts, perhaps a nod to hearings next week to be chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) in which the topic is to examine the government’s handling of the incident.

The title of the committee’s hearing is “Volt Vehicle Fire: What did NHTSA know, and when did they know it?”

The Volt that caught fire in June had been wrecked in a NHTSA side-impact crash test, turned 360 degrees on a rotisserie, and then stored in an open yard.

Three weeks after the crash test, the car caught fire. In subsequent lab tests designed to replicate the incident, another pack caught fire and a second emitted sparks.


GM engineer fits structural reinforcement to distribute crash energy away from Chevy Volt battery.GM engineer fits structural reinforcement to distribute crash energy away from Chevy Volt battery.

The agency opened an investigation into the causes in November, working closely with General Motors engineers.

Last week, GM announced that it would offer upgrades to Volt owners that would reinforce the crash structure around the pack, along with replacing the coolant filler to prevent over-filling.

Those repairs will begin in February, and the modifications are already incorporated into all Volts assembled this year at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

The NHTSA statement notes that it has developed procedures for de-energizing the battery pack of a wrecked electric car, working with emergency responders and other safety agencies.

GM acknowledged that it had not fully developed and distributed such procedures at the time of the June fire. It has since done so, the company says.

Just as gasoline is drained from a wrecked car after it has been towed to a garage or yard, the battery pack of a wrecked plug-in vehicle must similarly have its energy drained.

The agency’s statement also notes that, “NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers.”


Electric Car Post-Crash-Test Fire Prompts Federal Investigation

Last modified on 2012-02-21 20:20:48 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Published November 15, 2011


By Jeff Cobb

NHTSA’s 20-mph pole side-impact crash test.

A Chevrolet Volt that was side-impact tested [1] for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and caught fire three weeks later has prompted the same agency to begin investigating lithium-ion batteries from all makers.

The second Volt now known to have been involved in a fire in early June after the 20-mph impact did not make the press five months ago, and might have gone unreported if not for the investigation just begun.

NHTSA’s full revelation was reported last week, and details included that the fire might have been prevented if it had known to implement GM’s post-crash protocols. In a statement, NHTSA did not raise undue alarm.

“Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe the Volt or other electric vehicles are at a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles,” the agency said. “In fact, all vehicles – both electric and gasoline-powered – have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash.”

This GM-Volt said [2] last week when a third Volt was involved in a house fire in North Carolina. Thus far many more internal combustion powered vehicles have burned – 200,000 in the U.S. last year alone. To date no one has been killed by an EV fire which cannot be said of traditional vehicles.

Nonetheless, a higher degree of perceived newsworthiness has emanated from the NHTSA-crashed Volt which spontaneously caught fire while stored in a parking lot, and ignited nearby cars as well.

The news sent GM’s stock as much as 3 percent lower on Friday, and it closed 1 percent down while the market as a whole climbed two percent.

It is the newness of EVs that has people concerned, because unknown is what worse might happen. The mystery has been removed from internal combustion vehicles, but not so with EVs.

NHTSA said it is now working with all automakers on post-crash procedures to better ensure safety for electrified vehicle occupants and emergency personnel who arrive at crash scenes.

GM is cooperating and taking its own steps in kind, said Jim Federico, GM’s chief engineer for electric vehicles on Friday.

“We are working with other vehicle manufacturers, first responders, tow truck operators, and salvage associations with the goal of implementing industrywide protocols,” Federico said.

While GM is on board with NHTSA’s latest plans, GM spokesman Greg Martin said Friday that the third-party company that conducted the crash tests for NHTSA did not follow a protocol GM’s engineers had already worked out for just such an eventuality.

Specifically, GM has provision to send a team to drain the battery in crashed Volts, said GM Spokesman Rob Peterson. The company did not tell NHTSA about the procedure, however. He said next year GM hopes to have made a battery draining tool more commonly available.

NHTSA is now recommending that damaged EVs be kept in an open area, not an enclosed building or garage, and they should not be left proximal to other vehicles.

It recommends also that tow-truck drivers and salvage-yard workers contact damaged electrified vehicles’ manufacturers rather than attempting to discharge batteries themselves.

Another GM spokesman, Jay Cooney, said subsequent attempts to subject the Volt to crashes and induce another fire have not been able to, so thus far, this crash fire is a one-off event.

The federal standard is actually less severe than the SUV-force side impact testing conducted by [3] the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, and that organization has had no Volt fires.

But this is now the third fire a Volt has been involved in – and the first where the Volt definitely did cause an electrically induced fire.

Following the Connecticut fire in which a Volt was on location, authorities and GM said the car was not at fault [4]. In the case of the North Carolina fire, the Volt was unofficially cleared [5] as not being the ignition source, but whether it contributed to an in-wall electrical fire is yet to be determined.

This latest post-crash fire was presumably due to a ruptured battery, but the exact cause is still under investigation.

“Apparently, there was some cell activity, latent activity that resulted in the fire,” said a NHTSA official. “That cell activity we don’t know.”

Thus far, no Nissan Leafs have been known to have been involved in a fire. Nor have other brands, so regardless of circumstances, GM has had to face these experiences alone. As the maker of the most mass market battery electric automobiles on the road, Nissan issued a statement declaring its EV to be safe.

“All of our systems have been thoroughly tested to ensure real-world performance,” Nissan said in a statement. “To date, the more than 8,000 Nissan Leafs driving on the U.S. roads have performed without reported incident.”

GM says its vehicle is safe as well. The Volt’s 400-pound battery is protected deep within the vehicle.

If further precautions – such as government-mandated discharging –or other engineering is deemed necessary for electrified vehicles, it is being said that this incident leading to the NHTSA investigation may bring that out.

Report says hybrids are safer for occupants than traditional cars

Last modified on 2012-03-05 20:38:47 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Ashley Halsey III, Published: November 16, 2011

People who invest in hybrid cars are significantly less likely to be injured in an accident because their heavy batteries make the vehicles safer than traditional cars, according to an insurance industry report released Thursday.

The average hybrid is 10 percent heavier than a traditional car of the same size, and the extra heft reduces the odds of being hurt in a crash by 25 percent, the report says.

“Saving at the pump no longer means you have to skimp on crash protection,” said Matt Moore, vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute and author of the report.

The first generations of hybrids generally were smaller, lighter vehicles than those produced more recently. With manufacturers increasingly converting a portion of some traditionally powered car models to hybrids, the hybrid versions are heavier.

For example, a Honda Accord takes on about 480 pounds when transformed into a hybrid version. A Toyota Highlander gains 330 pounds.

Hybrid car sales peaked in 2009 at just shy of 3 percent
of the market, according to
the automotive Web site Their share dropped to 2.4 percent last year and continued to decline in the first eight months of this year.

The institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, is considered one of the most reliable sources of such data because it draws on detailed insurance claim filings rather than police accident reports.

The institute gathered data on 25 models that are produced both as traditional and hybrid vehicles, all 2003-2011 models, and that had been in at least one accident that resulted in an injury claim. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight were excluded from the study because they are sold only as hybrids.

In a separate analysis, the institute found that hybrids are 20 percent more likely to hit a pedestrian than noisier, conventional models.

“When hybrids operate in electric-only mode, pedestrians can’t hear them approaching,” Moore said, “so they might step out into the roadway without checking first to see what’s coming.”

Congress this year gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration three years to come up with sound devices that will alert pedestrians to the approach of hybrids and electric car models.

Tsunami-Damaged Nissan Leafs Show Strength Of Battery Packs

Last modified on 2012-01-22 19:10:39 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

December 26, 2011
 ByAntony Ingram

When we wrote last year about the 2011 Nissan Leaf being waterboarded for your safety, little did we know an even sterner test was about to challenge the safety of Nissan’s electric car.
The devastating and tragic results of the March tsunami shook Japan to the core, and resulted in the country’s industry grinding to a halt while people picked up the pieces, metaphorically and literally.
Nissan stopped production of the Leaf momentarily, but has now gained an unusual insight into the car’s durability. The New York Times reports that Nissan recovered around two dozen of them from the wreckage and have been analyzing the results.
Despite the cars being tossed around and smashed, none caught fire and the batteries in all remained completely intact, still shielded in their airtight steel shells.
This strength raises interesting comparisons with the Chevrolet Volt, now the subject of an NHTSA test after two battery packs caught fire in safety tests.

The car in question caught fire three weeks after the test, which damaged the Volt’s battery and liquid-cooling system. Two subsequent tests also raised concerns.
Where both Nissan, and Ford with the Focus Electric, have encased their batteries in a steel cell, GM deemed the Volt’s floorpan to be strong enough protection for the battery pack.
Even so, and despite no accidents out on the road causing battery fires (and garage fires being attributed to other factors), GM offered owners the chance to drive a replacement vehicle while they investigate the cause of the fires.
Despite the testing fire, the NHTSA has still seen fit to give the Volt its full five-star safety rating, and the Nissan Leaf, which has no liquid-cooling for its battery, also has a five-star safety rating.

These tests and the unintentional damage caused to Leafs in the tsunami should still reassure buyers that electric vehicles are no less safe than their equivalent fossil-fuel cousins – and that manufacturers are putting even more effort into ensuring your safety.

US military planning to go green with hybrid Humvees

Last modified on 2011-12-30 23:26:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The United States military is looking to implement some green-technology into its arsenal as the Army is said to be developing two hybrid-powered Humvess.

It would appear that the US military is about to go green — and not by donning some stealthy camouflage — but by turning towards eco-conscious means of energy to power its vehicles. It’s no secret that the United States military relies on the use of traditional fuel sources to power many of its vehicles, but now the military is aiming to utilize green technology and develop a pair of solar-powered hybrid Humvees called the FED Alpha and FED Bravo.

Both vehicles fall under the FED (Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator) category and are currently in development. While the details are particularly sparse, especially for the FED Bravo which remains classified at this time, information on the FED Alpha is available, albeit only marginally so. While the FED Bravo remains more of a mystery, the FED Alpha is said to be equipped with a solar panel mounted on the commanding Humvee to assist in powering its electrical systems.

One-fifth-scale-model-of-FED-BravoOf course it’s clear that given recent economic crisis and the ongoing volatility in the Middle East, any attempt to curb dependency on foreign energy and provide alternate ways of powering vehicles would be a welcome and prudent strategy for not only the US military, but the country as a whole. A sentiment that Carl Johnson, FED team leader at TARDEC (Tank and Autmotive Research , Development and Engineering Command) shares, “Each vehicle will be important to the FED team’s mission — to improve mpg by about 70 percent compared to a current M1114 HMMWV and reduce the Army’s thirst for fuel on the battlefield.”

Given that both the Alpha and its classified Bravo brother are still very much in the development stage, it will most likely be some time before the military is able to implement them with full force, but if both the Alpha and Bravo can deliver and provide the same performance as their non-hybrid cousins – then it would be some very impressive green-technology being implemented in a sector of the government not known for its reverence towards the environment.

MGS Tech at WSFFA Annual Fire Conference and School – June 16, 2012

Last modified on 2012-07-03 21:28:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

2012 Annual Fire Conference and School

 June 14, 15 and 16 – 2012 Wenatchee Convention Center Wenatchee, Washington

Basic Conference Info: The WSFFA 2011 Annual Conference and Fire School will be held at the Wenatchee Convention Center in Wenatchee, Washington, on June 14, 15 and 16. Vendor night will be on Thursday, June 14 and the award banquet will end the conference on Saturday, June 16. In addition there will be a pre-conference event on Wednesday June 13th which will give individuals the opportunity to take a TCO/Senior Evaluator Course.

When and How to Register: Register for conference before April 15 and save $25 on your registration fee. The fee for WSFFA members will be $180 and for non-members it is $205

Chevrolet Volt Battery Fire; A Common Sense Response from MGS Tech

Last modified on 2012-01-09 21:21:59 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

In response to questions that have arisen from the recent publicity regarding the Chevrolet Volt battery fire at the NHTSA, we at MGS Tech have been asked to shed some light on things that are being reported, and how accurate they may or may not be.

All vehicles have the potential of fire regardless of the type of propulsion they use.  Fire fighters have been dealing with gasoline and diesel fuels as a vehicle fire hazard for over 100 years.  Electric power stored in a battery is not that different than a tank of gasoline. In both cases, large amounts of energy are stored for later use in the propulsion of the vehicle.  When a gas tank is compromised and leaking, an ignition source is all that is needed to ignite a fire.  If a high voltage battery is damaged in a collision, the potential of a direct short within the battery can cause heat build-up, potentially leading to a fire.  However, high voltage (HV) batteries are designed with safety systems that should prevent a thermal event from becoming a run-away battery fire.  In contrast to this single Chevrolet Volt battery incident, 12 volt Lead-Acid cell batteries, found in every car and truck on the road today, are a common cause of vehicle fires, and are a caustic acid spill hazard whether or not the vehicle has been damaged.

The anatomy of a HV battery can shed some light on how their design has been developed for the safety of the general public and potential first responders.  All batteries are composed of multiple cells of a lower voltage that are combined together to create a higher voltage.  This is true weather the battery is Lead-Acid, Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion).  The potential voltage output of a battery depends on the number of cells combined together.  A Prius NiMH battery has thirty 7.2VDC battery cells that are connected in series circuit to produce a total potential output of 210VDC.  A Chevrolet Volt Li-Ion battery has two hundred eighty eight  1.25VDC cells that are connected in a series circuit to produce a total output of 360VDC.  The Tesla Roadster EV has a 990lb main HV battery which contains thousands of tiny batteries connected together.  It should be noted that Li-Ion batteries only contain trace amounts of Lithium, and are not considered a class D fire hazard.  To put that into perspective, the Chevrolet Volt battery is reported to contain only 4 grams of Lithium in its several hundred pound battery.  Years of research and development have been devoted to making hybrid and EV batteries exceed safety standards to protect the driving public and first responders that may eventually be called on scene.  Hybrid and EV vehicles are statistically safer than their conventional counterparts due to stringent safety standards. 

A recent article forwarded to us suggested that a potential procedure is under development that would require a specialized team to respond to the damaged vehicles’ location.  This team would be trained to drill holes in the battery cells to “drain” them and make them “inert”.  However, NiMH and Li-Ion batteries do not have a liquid electrolyte.  It is actually a gel that is absorbed into the battery material.  Since the gel is not a spill hazard, it is not possible to drain them.  In our research, we at MGS Tech have taken many of these battery cells apart and verified that this is true.  In addition, due to the high cost of these batteries, destroying them in this manner when a vehicle is damaged would contribute to a much higher number of vehicles being written off as a total loss.  The concept of a major response of this type to every damaged vehicle is extreme and not necessary.

In reality, vehicles with battery damage should be inspected on a case by case basis.  Insurance adjusters and body repair estimators should be familiar with any potential issues that may arise.  It is still important to remember that all cars that have been involved in collisions have a risk of fire.  HID headlights, gasoline and diesel fuels are a much more likely cause for a car fire after an accident than a high voltage battery.  Electric and hybrid vehicles are at no increased risk.  We have confidence that the manufacturers of these excellently engineered vehicles will come up with an executable and reasonable response plan to deal with any battery issues.  Chicken Little can rest easy tonight knowing that the sky is not falling.

Matt Stroud – President

Paul Bindon – Vice President

MGS Tech



The team at MGS Tech specializes in providing  their comprehensive Hybrid/New Vehicle Technology Safety Course to First Responders nation-wide. For more information please visit the website at and go to the MEDIA tab to review previous articles.    

Federal testers may have caused Chevy Volt fire, GM says

Last modified on 2011-12-30 23:14:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Paul A. Eisenstein,

The spotlight is on the Chevrolet Volt following word that one of the plug-in hybrids caught fire while being tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But has learned that the fire was readily preventable had a few simple steps been taken after a Volt was put through a series of tests three weeks earlier.

Federal regulators have promised a full investigation of the spring incident in which the Volt caught fire and burned several nearby vehicles. That has raised serious questions about the safety of its batteries, though GM officials say it may instead require adapting federal crash tests -– as well as what happens in the field in the event of a real collision.

The fire occurred at a private facility in Wisconsin where NHTSA conducts crash tests on new vehicles. On May 12, the battery car was subject to a so-called “pole” test, where it was rammed into a barrier at 20 mph to simulate a side impact. The vehicle was then subject to what is known informally as the “rotisserie test,” where it is rolled over into various positions to test for leaks that might have occurred during the crash.

Ironically, the Volt did well enough to earn a five-star rating, the best possible.

The wrecked vehicle was subsequently moved to what GM spokesman Rob Peterson called “the boneyard,” where it was left unattended, no action taken to deal with either the vehicle’s charged lithium-ion battery or the coolant fluid that had, in fact, leaked out after the crash test. The gas tank used to power Volt’s back-up gas engine was drained.

Preliminary evidence indicates that over time the normally inert coolant came into contact with some of the LIon battery cells. In liquid form that would not be a problem, but it eventually “crystallized” as the Wisconsin weather turned cold at night, according to Peterson. That eventually led to the battery shorting out and catching fire, apparently, though a formal cause has not been announced by safety regulators.

So, was the fire the cause of negligence by NHTSA? Maybe yes, maybe no, according to the GM spokesman.

“NHTSA didn’t follow our protocol,” which would have required the agency to “de-energize the battery after the crash test,” Peterson said. But, Peterson quickly added that it appears NHTSA employees “didn’t know our protocol,” which was developed after GM conducted its own crash tests.

The federal agency has since been advised what to do when crashing a battery car, which apparently would include other electric vehicles besides the Chevrolet Volt, particularly those using liquid cooling systems. (The Nissan Leaf uses an air cooling system, though it is unclear whether the maker will also be recommending that the battery be de-energized after an accident.)

“I want to make this very clear: the Volt is a safe car,” Jim Federico, the chief engineer on GM’s small and battery-powered vehicles, said in a statement. “We are working cooperatively with NHTSA as it completes its investigation. However, NHTSA has stated that based on available data, there’s no greater risk of fire with a Volt than a traditional gas-powered car.”

Repeated efforts to reach an NHTSA spokesperson failed as the federal government was closed on Friday for Veterans Day.

With electric propulsion capturing a disproportionate share of the headlines lately – at least compared to the minuscule market for battery-based vehicles, which will this year account for barely a 3 percent share of the U.S. market – world of the Chevy Volt fire has generated widespread headlines.

GM officials are worried that the incident could scuttle demand for the vehicle, which is just beginning to see a ramp-up in sales. And the impact could spread beyond Chevy showrooms.

The Obama administration is looking to put 1 million battery cars on the road by 2015 and virtually every major automaker now has a plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicle in late development.

Lithium technology is already in widespread use. And there have already been serious concerns raised about the use of lithium-ion technology, which has been linked to a number of fires involving laptop computers, mobile phones and other portable electronic devices. That has led to restrictions on carrying or shipping the batteries on airplanes, for examples.

But automakers like GM have insisted they are using safer versions of the LIon chemistry than is often used in consumer goods, where it is critical to maximize energy density – or stored power.

While NHTSA may eventually give the Volt a clean bill of health, the Chevy plug-in was previously involved in an unexplained garage fire – though preliminary testing indicated the vehicle was not the cause of the problem.

Looking ahead, GM spokesman Peterson said GM plans to spread the word on the proper procedures for handling a Volt after a collision. It is currently sending a corporate “SWAT team” out to any such incidents to try to learn as much as possible about what happens and how to respond.

The maker has been training first responders around the U.S. and one of the first steps involves disconnecting the battery.

By early next year, said Peterson, the maker expects to distribute a special device specifically designed to de-energize the battery after a collision.

GM Partners with ABB to Use Volt Batteries for Backup Power

Last modified on 2011-11-04 03:19:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Gm ABB GM Partners with ABB to Use Volt Batteries for Backup PowerGrid equipment supplier ABB and General Motors demonstrated on Tuesday an energy storage system that combines electric vehicle battery technology and a grid-tied electric power inverter.

The two companies are building a prototype that could lead to Chevrolet Volt battery packs storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, and feeding it back to the grid.

The system could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be used during periods of peak demand, saving customers and utilities money. The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts.

Using Volt battery cells, the ABB and GM team is building a prototype system for 25-kilowatt/50-kWh applications, about the same power consumption of five U.S. homes or small retail and industrial facilities.

GM and ABB estimate that, during an outage or brownout, 33 recycled Volt batteries will have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours. Over time, batteries lose their storage capacity. After seven to 10 years, their storage capacity decreases to about 70% of what they had when new. Furthermore, the batteries are the most expensive component of plug-in electric vehicles. These tired batteries are still suitable for grid storage.

Chevrolet Volt provides an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on its battery pack, GM expects these batteries will be able to power the Volt for 10 years so the earliest application likely would come in 2021.

“Our tests so far have shown the viability of the GM-ABB solution in the laboratory and they have provided valuable experience to overcome the technical challenges,” said Pablo Rosenfeld, ABB’s program manager for Distributed Energy Storage Medium Voltage Power Products. “We are making plans now for the next major step – testing a larger prototype on an actual electric distribution system.”

ABB has determined its existing power quality filter (PQF) inverter can be used to charge and discharge the Volt battery pack to take full advantage of the system and enable utilities to reduce the cost of peak load conditions. The system can also reduce utilities’ needs for power control, protection and additional monitoring equipment. The team will soon test the system for back-up power applications.

Last year, General Motors signed a definitive agreement with ABB to identify joint research and development projects that would reuse Chevrolet Volt battery systems, which will have up to 70 percent of life remaining after their automotive use is exhausted.

Chrysler Delivers 10 PHEV Ram Pickups to CenterPoint Energy and NV Energy

Last modified on 2011-12-30 21:29:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

PHEV Ram 1500 Chrysler Delivers 10 PHEV Ram Pickups to CenterPoint Energy and NV Energy

November 3, 2011 at  1:24 am

Chrysler Group LLC has delivered a fleet of 10 plug-in hybrid Ram 1500 pickup trucks to CenterPoint Energy’s electric utility in Houston and NV Energy of Nevada as part of a three-year evaluation program.

The 10 PHEV Ram 1500 pickups, developed in partnership with U.S. Department of Energy, are part of a national evaluation program of 140 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that will be used during the next three years demonstration and evaluation purposes.

The Ram 1500 PHEV includes a liquid-cooled 12.9kWhr lithium ion battery pack and a 6.6 kilowatt (kW) on-board charger. Additional features include AC power generation of up to 6.6kW; directional charging; reverse power flow and full regenerative braking used to capture more energy.

For fuel economy improvements, the front axle of the four-wheel-drive automatic transmission can be disconnected when not needed. The powertrain also includes a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine and a two-mode hybrid transmission. The 5.7-liter Hemi is equipped with a Fuel Saver technology that improves fuel efficiency at highway speeds by shutting down fuel delivery to up to four cylinders.

The battery pack is located under the second-row seat of the pickup and is liquid cooled to help maintain a consistent battery temperature. For on-the-job electrical power tools, a 240 volt/30 amp four-prong outlet and 120volt/20amp duplex outlet power strip is located in the rear box.

The choice of a Ram 1500 pickup truck was based upon two-speed transmission technology that was readily available.

CenterPoint Energy currently has six charging stations and plans to install an additional 10 stations at company facilities throughout its 5,000 square-mile electric service territory, while NV Energy currently has 11 public charging stations statewide.

Chrysler has also delivered Ram 1500 PHEV trucks to the city of Yuma, Ariz., to take full advantage of hot weather and conduct thermal testing in the desert southwest. Other cities that have received the demonstration Ram 1500 pickups include San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., Charlotte, N.C., Boston, Mass., Albany N.Y., and Auburn Hills, Mich.

Aside from the PHEV Ram pickup truck, Chrysler is also developing a similar fleet of 25 Town & Country minivans with plug-in hybrid technology for demonstration and evaluation purposes.

Nissan Develops Next Generation Fuel Cell Stack

Last modified on 2011-11-04 02:56:36 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Nissan Fuel Cell Stack Nissan Develops Next Generation Fuel Cell Stack

October 13, 2011 at  3:49 am

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. today released its Next Generation Fuel Cell Stack (2011 Model) for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV).

Through improvements to the MEA (Membrane Electrode Assembly) and the separator flow path, which make up the structure of Fuel Cell, Nissan significantly improved the power density of Fuel Cell Stack to 2.5 times greater than its 2005 model and realized a world’s best (Among auto manufacturers) 2.5 kW per liter.

Furthermore, molding the supporting frame of the MEA integrally with the MEA enabled stable, single-row lamination of the Fuel Cell, thereby significantly reducing its overall size by more than half compared to conventional models.

Additionally, compared with the 2005 model, both the usage of platinum and parts variation has been reduced to one quarter, thereby reducing cost of the Next Generation Fuel Cell Stack to one-sixth of the 2005 model.

The latest technology development is part of the company’s continuing efforts towards the realization of a Zero Emission society.

Biofuels Industry Hopes Floodgates Will Open for Cellulosic Ethanol in 2013

Last modified on 2011-11-04 02:49:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

For years, the biofuels industry has defended itself against a variety of criticisms over the shortcomings of corn-derived ethanol by pointing to a cleaner, better, non-food-based alternative on the horizon: cellulosic ethanol. But despite a federal mandate requiring gasoline refiners to add 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol to the national fuel mix by 2012 (increasing to 15 billion gallons per year by 2022,) the fuel has been slow to get off the ground.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects cellulosic ethanol output for 2011 to reach less than 4 million gallons, and next year the EPA is expected to again lower the Renewable Fuels Standard’s mandate to roughly 2 percent of its original level.

So when, if ever, will cellulosic ethanol begin to show signs of living up to its promise? According a research director at one of the nation’s largest biofuels companies, 2013 is now thought to be the new target for widespread commercial production of the fuel, with large-scale facilities from several major companies scheduled to go online. Greg Hartgraves told Bloomberg News that the industry hopes a 25 million gallon-per-year plant from his company, Poet LLC, as well commercial-scale plants by BP and Abengoa will “open the floodgates” for cellulosic ethanol within the next two years.

Though right now it looks as though catching up to the EPA’s timetable for cellulosic ethanol is out of reach for biofuels producers, Hartgrave said that isn’t the case—though he added that continued support from the federal government will be required. “Even if the technology plays out like we believe it will, it’s still not an inexpensive technology, and financing is not a trivial matter,” said Hartgrave. “Without [a] consistent energy policy, it becomes risky for people to invest or finance these opportunities.”

But what has for decades seemed like open-ended government support for biofuels is now one of the chief criticisms facing the industry. Though corn ethanol provides a limited emissions benefit over petroleum and has been blamed for contributing to rising food prices, the Renewable Fuels Standard and billions of dollars in supporting government subsidies have ensured that most gasoline sold in the United States include up to a 10-percent blend of the fuel. Soon, that blend could increase to 15 percent.

Cellulosic ethanol offers a more than four-fold lifecycle emissions improvement compared to corn ethanol and since it is made from inedible plant waste instead of corn, it is expected to have little effect on food prices. Still, with significant production yet to begin in the United States and a the release of a new National Research Council study questioning the longterm legitimacy of the fuel, the the clock is ticking for the biofuels industry to prove that its most promising contribution will ever deliver.

Ford Begins Online Ordering for 2012 Focus Electric

Last modified on 2011-11-04 02:43:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Ford Begins Online Ordering for 2012 Focus Electric

Yesterday Ford Motor Co. began accepting online orders for its 2012 Focus Electric, which was first unveiled a year ago in Las Vegas.

The company is coming in with a limited and partially delayed launch a year or more after Nissan, which has has already sold over 8,000 of its (now) $35,200 all-electric Leafs in the U.S. alone.

The plug-in Focus will cost a bit more, starting at $39,995, and Ford – which quietly delayed release dates to 17 initial markets till next spring, then denied it – says buyers can “virtually build and price one” at its dedicated Web site.

Hybrid ferries are world first

Last modified on 2011-11-04 02:38:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

(UKPA) – 15 hours ago

The world’s first hybrid ferries will be built in Scotland, creating 100

Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, won a £22 million contract
to build two diesel-electric and battery-powered ferries.

The vessels will each accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars and will be
powered by battery banks and a small diesel generator which feeds power to a
switchboard, turning the propeller motors.

Battery power has been used for decades on naval submarines but is a new
technology for ferries.

The project is due for completion in 2013 and is a boost for shipbuilding on
the Clyde, with the last commercial ship fully built on the river completed in

Scottish Infrastructure and Capital Investment Secretary Alex Neil said:
“This award is a perfect illustration of how we are making good on our
commitment to create the vital jobs needed to boost local economies and,
crucially, to help stimulate growth across Scotland.

“The two new ferries will come into operation in 2013 and are the world’s
first seagoing passenger and vehicle roll-on, roll-off ferries to incorporate a
low-carbon hybrid system of diesel electric and battery power.

“The technology will be cleaner, quieter and cheaper to operate and maintain
than ever before. It will help Scotland to meet our ambitious climate change
targets, and demonstrates the vast economic potential of developing green
technology and moving to a low carbon economy.”

The boats, operated by CalMac Ferries, current operator of Clyde and Hebrides
Ferry Services, are designed for use on short-crossing routes around the Clyde
and Hebrides. The first of the two new vessels is expected to be running on the
Sconser-Raasay route on Skye by the middle of 2013, with the second ferry coming
into operation later that year.

Richard Deane, managing director of Ferguson Shipbuilders, said: “The Clyde
has a proud shipbuilding heritage and it is wonderful to be part of such a
groundbreaking project which will see the world’s first hybrid ferries sailing
in Scotland. The project will have a major impact on the local economy,
including the creation of a number of new jobs throughout the course of the
build. We look forward to signing the contracts and starting work in due


Largest Electric-Car Charging Site: Would You Believe Houston?

Last modified on 2011-11-04 03:07:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.



UPDATE: To answer the question posed in our headline: No, we do not believe Houston has the largest electric-car charging site. See below.

When we think of Texas, we think of many things: open roads, desert landscapes, Beyoncé. And of course, we also think of oil, since Texas is one of the country’s largest producers of the stuff.

So it might seem a little strange to learn that Houston, Texas is now home to North America’s largest car-charging site. But then, truth is always stranger than fiction.

The site is Houston’s Tranquility Park Garage, which has been tricked out with 28 charging stations from GRIDbot, a manufacturer based in Austin. These stations will charge the city’s existing Prius plug-in hybrids and its new fleet of fully electric vehicles.

The build-out of the site was made possible by a grant from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, spearheaded by the Good Company Associates. Beyond setting a U.S. record, Good Company’s goal in creating the site was “to evaluate the impacts of electric cars on air quality and the acceptance of this new technology”. If all goes well, this could pave the way for more large-scale charging stations in garages across Texas and the U.S.

Electric-car fans have at least two reasons to celebrate this development. For starters, a station of this size is a symbolic foot in the door for electric vehicles. It doesn’t mean that sales of the Leaf, Prius, or Volt will skyrocket overnight, but it does mean that more of the general public will be exposed to those sorts of vehicles. And as we’ve seen on so many fronts — technological, social, and so on — the more that people are exposed to something, the more they’re likely to embrace it. The fact that the charging station sits deep in the heart of oil country is icing on the cake.

Second, this means that another charge-point manufacturer is ready for its close-up. As charging technology continues to evolve and electric-vehicle adoption rates climb, more companies like GRIDbot will enter the marketplace, meaning that consumers will benefit from competitive pricing on charging stations. That should be exciting news for folks across the electric-car, green, and manufacturing sectors — and maybe Beyoncé, too.

UPDATE: A savvy reader has pointed out that one site on Google’s campus has 33 charging stations. (Visit, then search for “Charleston Ave, Mountain View CA”.) Please insert your own “Houston, we have a problem” joke here.

Will Military Necessity Push Hybrid Vehicle Development?

Last modified on 2011-11-13 23:17:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Kurt Ernst

Delivering fuel on a battlefield is a difficult and dangerous proposition, not to mention the logistical challenges of getting the fuel there in the first place.

A better solution for military vehicles would be battery electric power, or even battery electric power with a range-extending, internal-combustion-engine-powered generator.

And the U.S. military is putting significant effort into getting hybrid and range-extended vehicles to the point where they can reliably be deployed.

The Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV) shown at left is a good example of the military’s latest efforts in hybrid research and development. Featuring a diesel hybrid-electric drivetrain, the CERV can hit 80 miles per hour and climb a 60 percent grade, while using 25 percent less fuel than a comparable but non-hybrid vehicle.

For the military, battery technology has not yet advanced to the point where electric vehicles are a practical battlefield solution.  Military vehicles on deployment require from 40 to 90 kilowatts of power just to run needed accessories and communications gear.

Add to that the power required to move a vehicle along a route for extended distances, and battery power simply isn’t an alternative today. As Lennart Jonsson, CTO of Eaton Corp., explained to Off Highway Engineering, “lithium-ion batteries aren’t yet completely ready for things like (military) plug-in hybrids.”

The complexity of hybrid and electric vehicles poses another challenge on the battlefield. A significant amount of retraining would be required for today’s motor pool mechanics to become comfortable with hybrid drive systems, which will also require significant stockpiles of additional spare parts.

In locations like Afghanistan, where the literacy rate is around 20 percent, retraining foreign military personnel to service complex vehicles poses its own challenges.To simplify maintenance and repair, future military vehicles will need to be more modular and will need to use a level of prognostics to predict failures before they occur.

What does this mean for the average consumer?

Advances in designing hybrids and extended range electric vehicles for battlefield conditions will ultimately trickle down to consumer products, ensuring that the next generation of hybrid vehicles is even more robust and reliable than those available today.

The U.S. Army’s Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV).

Automakers will combine on electric vehicle charging system

Last modified on 2011-10-13 01:13:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Chevrolet Spark electric car
Seven automakers are collaborating on creating a single international standard for an electric vehicle fast charging system to slash the time drivers need to put more juice in their electric cars.

The system will use a common vehicle inlet/charging connector and will have a standard electronic method for the vehicle to communicate with the charging station. This will allow electric vehicles from Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen to  share the same fast charging stations.

The seven auto manufacturers said “the development of a common charging approach is good for customers, the industry and charging infrastructure providers. Standardization will reduce build complexity for manufacturers, accelerate the installation of common systems internationally and most importantly, improve the ownership experience for EV drivers.”

Meanwhile, Nissan said it would slash the price of the home charging system for its Leaf electric vehicle to reduce the ownership cost of the sedan.   Nissan will charge $1,818 for both hardware and installation services.  While some regions have incentives that reduce the cost, many homeowners discovered they would have to pay $2,000 to $3,000 to purchase and install the system.

And GM said its Chevrolet division will produce an all-electric version of the Chevrolet Spark mini-car -– the Spark EV. It will be sold in limited quantities in select U.S. and global markets starting in 2013, including California.

“The Spark EV offers customers living in urban areas who have predictable driving patterns or short commutes an all-electric option,” said Jim Federico, global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles at Chevrolet.

GM did not release more details about the car, but Federico’s comments indicated that it will have a limited range, probably to keep the cost low by not including a large battery.

Chevrolet plans to introduce the gasoline version of the Spark at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in November.

It will be tiny, about 14 inches shorter than Chevrolet’s smallest car, the recently launched Sonic, and about 4 inches longer than what’s sure to be a rival vehicle, the Fiat 500.

The gasoline Spark will be powered by a 1.2 liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 83 horsepower and will come with a five-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission will be available. No price information has been released.

Where Will Electric Cars Be Most Common On U.S. Roads?

Last modified on 2011-10-11 04:19:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By John Voelcker –  October 10, 2011

It’s conventional wisdom that more electric cars will be sold in California than in any other state. Some estimates say Californians will buy more plug-in cars than the next five states combined.

But California has roughly 25 million vehicles on its roads, so while the absolute numbers are high, it won’t be the state with the highest percentage of electric cars.

Which state will see the single greatest penetration rates of electric cars, as a proportion of total vehicles on its roads? Care to guess?

According to Pike Research, the answer will be Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, D.C. (technically not a state, but OK), and Delaware (which just happens to have a Fisker Automotive assembly plant that’s now starting to hire workers–hmmmmmmmm).

Hawaii is a perfect place for electric cars, since it must import all of its refined petroleum products, meaning that it is often the most expensive single state in which to buy gasoline. And its islands are relatively small, so travel distances are limited, meaning range anxiety is less an issue than for drivers in wide-open Plains states.

Pike expects plug-in cars to represent 6.3 percent of all vehicles sold in Hawaii just six years from now.

Following Hawaii will be California and Oregon (tied at 5.4 percent), Washington, D.C. (4.6 percent), and then Delaware (4.5 percent).

The projections come from the “Electric Vehicle Geographic Forecasts” report written early this year, one of several peddled by Pike for prices we presume to be so high that they require a login to view them so as not to cause heart attacks among casual readers.

Thankfully for humble journalists, Pike puts out a cheerful weekly summary that often includes some of the top-line conclusions from their reports. Hence this article.

Pike also projects that overall annual U.S. sales of plug-in vehicles will reach 360,000 a year by 2017, representing a compound annual growth rate of 43 percent between now and then.

Kicking hybrids out of carpool lanes backfires, slowing traffic for all

Last modified on 2011-10-11 02:11:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations | October 10, 2011

BERKELEY —The end of a California program granting free access to carpool lanes by solo drivers of hybrid cars has unintentionally slowed traffic in all lanes, according to transportation engineers at the University of California, Berkeley.

UC Berkeley transportation researchers found that after single-occupant hybrids got kicked out of the carpool lanes, traffic slowed for everyone.

The program, which began in 2005 and ended on July 1, gave consumers an extra incentive to buy low-emission cars. By 2011, some 85,000 low-emission vehicles had gotten the coveted yellow stickers that gave them entry into the carpool lanes, but critics of the perk argued that solo drivers of hybrid cars were clogging up the lanes for carpoolers.

Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) used traffic flow theories and six months of data from roadway sensors measuring speed and congestion along all freeway carpool lanes in the San Francisco Bay Area. They used the information to predict the impact on vehicle speed of the hybrids’ removal from carpool lanes. Additional data collected after the program’s July 1 expiration supported their predictions.

Michael Cassidy, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Kitae Jang, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, presented their analysis in a new report released by ITS.

“Our results show that everybody is worse off with the program’s ending,” said Cassidy. “Drivers of low-emission vehicles are worse off, drivers in the regular lanes are worse off, and drivers in the carpool lanes are worse off. Nobody wins.”

A carpool lane along a four-mile stretch of I-880 in Hayward, for instance, saw a 15 percent reduction in speed after single-occupant hybrids were expelled after July 1.

The counterintuitive results reflect dual – and opposing – influences on traffic speed in the carpool lanes, the researchers explained. One factor is the presence of additional cars, including hybrids, which slow down traffic. One might think that moving vehicles out would allow the remaining cars in the lane to go faster.

But the data show that traffic speed in the carpool lane is also influenced by the speed of the adjacent lanes. Moving the hybrids into the neighboring lanes increases congestion in those lanes, which in turn slows down the carpoolers.

“As vehicles move out of the carpool lane and into a regular lane, they have to slow down to match the speed of the congested lane,” explained Jang. “Likewise, as cars from a slow-moving regular lane try to slip into a carpool lane, they can take time to pick up speed, which also slows down the carpool lane vehicles.”

Human nature likely plays a role, too, the researchers said. “Drivers probably feel nervous going 70 miles per hour next to lanes where traffic is stopped or crawling along at 10 or 20 miles per hour,” said Cassidy. “Carpoolers may slow down for fear that a regular-lane car might suddenly enter their lane.”

Currently, the only single-occupancy vehicles allowed in California’s carpool lanes are federally approved Inherently Low Emission Vehicles, or ILEVs, such as hydrogen fuel cell, 100 percent battery electric, and compressed natural gas vehicles with white clean air vehicle stickers. According to the California Air Resources Board, only 14,000 vehicles in the state have qualified thus far.

A new program, pending federal approval next January, will allow 40,000 super-clean plug-in-hybrids or hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine vehicles to claim green clean air vehicle stickers and enter carpool lanes.

But the researchers predict that this will not be enough. They argue that freeway traffic conditions will improve for everyone by increasing, not decreasing, the numbers allowed access to carpool lanes.

“I think we need to start managing carpool facilities in a smarter way, and letting those hybrids back in the carpool lane would be a good first step,” said Cassidy. “And given the way that regular-lane speeds influence carpool lanes, added efforts to alleviate congestion in regular lanes could benefit all drivers.”

The work was supported by the UC Berkeley Center of Excellence for Future Urban Transport.

MGS Tech at F.D.I.C. – April 18, 2012

Last modified on 2012-07-03 21:29:16 GMT. 1 comment. Top.



Wednesday April 18, 2011 : Classroom Session

Hybrid/New Vehicle Technology: Safety for First Responders

President Matt Stroud, MGS Tech

Hybrid parts locations, high-voltage hazards, power-down
procedures, fire and submersion tactics, myths and misinformation about these
vehicles, air bag (SRS) systems, and alternative-fuel vehicles will be
discussed. The class covers what first responders need to know to safely and
confidently manage hybrid vehicle incidents.




There are plenty of reasons why you should attend FDIC 2012.
However, if cost is near the top of your list, you’ll notice that the
registration fees have not increased from our 2011 event. We worked hard to
keep the prices from increasing while maintaining the same unparalleled content
unique to FDIC.

Of course, you’ll still want to take advantage of the Early Bird offer and
save up to $125.

The sooner you sign up, the better chance you have of picking the Hands-On
Training and Pre-Conference Workshops you want to attend. Availability is
limited, so no course is guaranteed to be open.

Registration Fees Early Bird Rate** Full Rate
Hands On Training®
Full Package
(Includes all general sessions, classrooms & exhibits. May register up
to 16 hours of Hands-On Training and/or Pre-Conference Workshops.)
$500* $625*
2 Day Hands On
Training® Package Only
(Includes all general sessions. DOES NOT INCLUDE CLASSROOMS OR EXHIBITS.May register up to 16 hours of Hands-On training and/or Pre-Conference
$75* $100*
Full Conference(Includes all general sessions, classrooms & exhibits) $500 $625
One-Day Conference(Includes general session and classrooms on selected day only & all
three days of exhibits)
$275 $325
Exhibit Package(Includes exhibition
only all exhibit days:
Thurs. – Sat., April 19 – 21)
$75 $75
One-Day Exhibits(Includes exhibits on selected day only.) $35 $45
Spouse Exhibits Only(Includes exhibition only all exhibit days, Thurs. – Sat., April 19 – 21) $15 $15
Hands On Training® and/or Pre-Conference Workshops
cost per Hands-On Training® course

$120 – 4-Hr H.O.T. Class

$215 – 8-Hr H.O.T. Class

cost per Pre-Conference Workshop

$110 – 4-Hr H.O.T. Class

**Early Bird Cut-Off
Date is March 7, 2012* Price does not include the cost of individual Hands-On Training® and/or
Pre-Conference Workshops
Group Plan 10 (up to
10 members/employees)
(10% off the price of 10 individual full conference attendees)
Group Plan 20 (11 to
20 members/employees)
(15% off the price of 20 individual full conference attendees)
Group Plan 30 (21 to
30 members/employees)
(20% off the price of 30 individual full conference attendees)
Group Plan 40 (31 to
40 members/employees)
(30% off the price of 40 individual full conference attendees)

Cancellation Policy


Cancellations must be received in writing before March 12, 2012 in order to
receive a refund, minus a $110 administrative charge. On March 12, 2012,
refunds are not available. Substitutions may be made at any time by notifying
the registration office in writing.


MGS Tech at Sacramento Auto Extrication Academy – November 2-4, 2011

Last modified on 2011-12-30 23:28:29 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Sacramento Advanced Auto Extrication Academy 2011

Sponsor: FS3, Sacramento Fire, Northern California Regional Public Safety Training Authority



November 2nd, 3rd & 4th 2011. 3-Day Schedule includes:

  • 80% advanced hands on scenarios
  • Industry leading Instructors from California, Arizona and Canada
  • Latest extrication techniques
  • New vehicle construction anatomy
  • Alternative fuel vehicles by Matt Stroud
  • Hydrogen fueled vehicles by Jenifer Hamilton
  • Hands on demonstration of Supplemental Restraint Systems and Airbag hazards
  • Advanced stabilization techniques with struts
  • Heavy lifting techniques using a Heavy Wrecker
  • High strength steel challenges
  • Newest extrication equipment from Holmatro
  • CSFM Auto Extrication Certificate
  • EMS Continuing Education Hours
  • Lunch and Refreshments each day

Register early.  Space is limited.


Northern California Regional Public Safety Training Authority
2409 Dean Street
McClellan, Ca 95652


Cost: $500.00 per student

Class Type: In-Class

Location:                                Sacramento,  California,  Sacramento

Contact Information:


Class Date: 11/02/2011

MGS Tech at Southeastern Extrication School – February 11 & 12 2012

Last modified on 2012-02-14 01:53:41 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Extrication Training

Speakers, Presentations & Training Sessions

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Early Registration
7:00 AM – 8:00 AM Registration
8:00 AM – 9:45 PM High Energy, High Impact Training with Tim Sendlebach
9:45 AM – 11:30 PM NFPA Compliant Vehicle Extrication Training with Kevin Kennedy
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Lunch
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM Hybrid Safety for First Responders with Matt Stroud
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM Breakout Sessions
8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Practical Exercises


High-Energy, High-Impact Training

Tim Sendlbach provides an overview of the skills and personal characteristics necessary to develop and deliver a HIGH-IMPACT training program for your department.  Training is considered the backbone of every progressive fire department.  Fire Departments that lack high-quality, high-impact training are faced with operational deficiencies, cultural stagnation and general dissatisfaction amongst its members.  This HIGH-ENERGY multi-media presentation will Included in this program are numerous examples of innovative training ideas and high-impact forms of delivery that will increase firefighter safety and operational effectiveness on the emergency scene.

Tim Sendlebach is a 23 year student and educator of the fire & emergency services currently serving as Editor-in-Chief for FireRescue Magazine and President of TES² Training & Education Services in Savannah, Georgia. Tim is the immediate past president of the International Society of Fire Services Instructors (ISFSI) and has served as Chief of Training for Savannah (GA) Fire & Emergency Services, as Assistant Fire Chief in Missouri City, TX and as a Firefighter/Paramedic in Kansas City, KS. Tim has earned a Masters degree in Leadership from Bellevue University, B.S. degrees in Fire Administration and Arson, and an A.S. degree in Emergency Medical Care from Eastern Kentucky University.

NFPA Compliant Vehicle Extrication Training

Kevin Kennedy provides a comprehensive study of vehicle extrication training as it relates to NFPA 1670 and NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Standards. The lecture weighs the competencies as set forth by these standards and compares them to the task level assignments that are typically taught at the hands-on training site. This program is designed for anyone that instructs vehicle extrication and is intended to “arm” the instructor with NFPA compliant training venues in an attempt to prevent injuries and potential legal complications.

Captain Kevin Kennedy serves as the Senior Captain at Central Fire Station and is assigned to Truck Company #1 for the McKinney, Texas Fire Department. He is a veteran firefighter with 27 years of service. He holds various certifications from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and began his instructional experience in 1984 as an instructor for the Texas A&M University’s Regional Fire School. He has been a featured lecturer and conducted numerous advanced and technician level vehicle extrication schools, freeway incident management seminars, and rapid intervention/firefighter safety and survival classes throughout the United States.

Hybrid Safety for First Responders

Matt Stroud discusses Hybrid parts locations, high voltage hazards, power down procedures, fire and submersion tactics and will dispel myths and misinformation about these vehicles. Our course also goes into depth on Airbag (SRS) systems and alternative fuel vehicles. In addition to the classroom portion, Firefighters have the opportunity to put their newly learned knowledge to use by performing power down procedures and practicing other tactics on a live Hybrid vehicle.

Matt Stroud is a 22 year veteran of Toyota Motor Corporation as a Master Diagnostic Technician, certified in numerous vehicle technologies including Hybrid’s. Due to heavy demand from the fire service, MGS TECH was founded in 2007 with the goal to teach firefighters/EMS personnel how to safely manage Hybrid & new technology vehicle incidents. In addition to his extensive automotive background, Matt has completed multiple extrication courses, giving him a strong knowledge base of fire tactics & terminologies. Currently Matt is working with fire agencies around the country distributing their Hybrid Response Guide (HRG) & educating firefighters/EMS personnel to prevent hesitation and potential injuries to responders and vehicle occupants.

Advanced  Tactics

Randy Schmitz covers advanced tactics that are not  used on a routine basis, but when needed are invaluable. These tactics include floor  pushes, inverted patient removals, vehicle slides, tunneling, ram work, etc.,  all completed in a variety of scenarios. He also incorporates standard  extrication best practices such as including scene safety, complex  stabilization, and glass management into the training.

Randy Schmitz is a firefighter and an extrication  instructor for Calgary Fire Department in Alberta, Canada. He is chairman of the Alberta Vehicle Extrication Association and educational  chairman for Transport Emergency Rescue Committee (TERC) Canada and has  served as a judge at TERC international extrication competitions. Schmitz  teaches extrication courses and new vehicle technology programs across Canada and the United States.

Limited to  40 Students


Ed Henry discusses machine rescue calls such  as a jumper impaled on a fence, a construction worker impaled on rebar, a pizza  boy’s arm caught in the dough mixer, or the restaurant worker with his hand in  the meat grinder. It’s technical rescue and it’s happening in every response  area throughout the country. These types of calls will most likely require  specialized training and equipment. This class covers NFPA 1670 – Standard for  Technical Rescue, case histories, Crush Injury/Syndrome, tool and special  equipment needs and rescue operations.

Ed Henry has been with City  of Charleston  (SC) Fire Department since 2004 and is assigned to a truck company. He is an  instructor for both the South Carolina  Fire Academy  and Connecticut Fire Academy.  He teaches engine and truck company operations throughout the country including  at FDIC and Firehouse Expo. Henry has a B.S. in Fire Service Administration and  is certified as a Fire Officer IV.

Limited to  40 Students

Down in  the Ditch

Les Baker covers the topic of  vehicles that come to rest in different positions in ditches of different  sizes and configurations. Although this topic has received little attention  over the years from the extrication community, local responders constantly find  themselves facing these incidents. Instruction will cover scene assessment,  set up, hazard control, and advanced techniques such as Hercules, Darlington  Roll, tunneling, floorboard operations, etc.

Les Baker, a 14  year veteran of the fire service, is an engineer with the City of Charleston (S.C.) Fire  Department. He has an associate’s degree in fire science from Pikes Peak Community    College. Baker is an adjunct instructor with the  South Carolina Fire Academy, member of the Darlington County  Extrication Team. He also writes a monthly column for FireRescue Magazine and  speaks and instructs throughout the country.

Limited to  40 Students

School Bus  Extrication

Tim Rouse addresses thenumber of  different types and sizes of buses traveling the streets and highways  throughout North America. These vehicles  all share certain characteristics, but each type is also unique in some  ways. Conducting safe and efficient extrication operations at bus  collisions depends largely upon the extent to which rescue personnel know these  vehicles and what to expect when they are faced with a collision involving one.

Tim  Rouse has 24 years in emergency service as both a volunteer and paid  professional. He is employed by Lancaster  County EMS  as a Paramedic Preceptor and with Chester County   EMS. He is an Assistant  Chief and former training officer for the Lancaster County Rescue Squad,  a Midlands EMS Association Instructor since 2000, and one of the founding  and current members of the Lancaster County Extrication Committee which is  responsible for setting guidelines for extrication providing agencies including  training, equipment, and Quality Assurance.

Limited to  30 Students

Lift  Bag/Cushion Operations

Howard Eagan offers perhaps the most  comprehensive look into practical understanding, use, and applications of high  pressure air bags and low pressure cushions offered anywhere within the  professions today.   The focus will be  the safe mitigation of real life scenarios involving vehicles, construction  accidents, collapse scenarios, and big rig entrapments. Students will learn the  basic principles of lifting equipment and how they apply to these various  technical rescue scenarios.

Howard Eagan is an internationally  recognized trainer for air bags/cushions & cross training, and has a resume  of over a thousand lifts in various rescue/recovery applications.  He is also a former state extrication  instructor, senior rescue squad line officer, EMT, and recovery operator.

Limited to  40 Students

Res-Q-Jack Stabilization UniversityInstructorspresent  training on all aspects of res-q-jacks, the most complete line of versatile  rescue struts & jacks available today. The practical exercises will cover  wheel-resting, side-resting, roof-resting, and over-ride vehicle  stabilization and lifts. Exercises will also cover advanced roll-over  & over-ride extrication tactics.

Limited to 60 Students

Contact Us / Register

Southeastern Extricaton School
302 S. McCall Street
Darlington, SC 29532


The  registration fee for this school is $125 per person, which includes keynote  presentations, one breakout session, all course materials, refreshment breaks,  lunch on Sunday, Certificate of Completion, CEU Credits through Florence  Darlington Technical College, a digital copy of all presentations for  department and SES t-shirt. Registrations postmarked after December 31,  2011 will be $150. Spaces are limited, so early registration is  encouraged! Breakout sessions will be filled on a first come first serve basis.  Please indicate the second and third choice on the registration form.  Participants should bring personal protective equipment including helmets, eye  protection, gloves, and turn-out gear. Dress for lecture sessions and meals  will be casual.

Location and Accommodations

The  registration, keynote presentations, and classroom portions of the breakout  sessions will take place the on newly constructed campus of the  Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology  (SIMT). This great campus provides customers with strategic training  and manufacturing technology solutions that maximize workforce productivity in  advanced manufacturing environments. During the Southeastern Extrication    School  weekend SIMT opens its doors to firefighters and rescuers committed to  bettering themselves and their community through extrication training. Please  view the following link for a map, directions, hotel accommodations, and  transportation. Accommodations are the responsibility of the student.

For more information or to register please contact us:

843-307-5333 Les Baker

843-858-4549 Jason Bell

843-250-8497 Jeff Burr

MGS Tech at So-Cal Auto Extrication Academy – November 29-December 1, 2011

Last modified on 2011-12-30 23:29:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The 2011 So-Cal Auto-X Management Team is excited to announce that the 2nd
annual So-Cal Auto-X Academy is scheduled for November 29th through December
1st, 2011. Like last year, the academy is conveniently located at the North-Net
Fire Training Center in Anaheim, California. Spots are filling fast and since we
have lowered the number of participants for this year’s academy, I highly
recommend a timely response to those that would like to attend.

If you
would like an opportunity to learn the latest extrication techniques on over 100
new and late model vehicles using the latest hydraulic rescue tools and vehicle
stabilization systems, So-Cal Auto-X is for you.

There is a simple
payment/registration process and additional information available at

Here is a link for the video that
was produced on last year’s academy by

GM Unveils New Center Airbag

Last modified on 2011-10-10 04:50:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

General Motors announced Thursday that it will put the automotive industry’s first front center airbag in some of its vehicles starting with the 2013 model year. The front center airbag will inflate in between the driver and front passenger to protect them in a side-impact crash.

GM says the new front center airbag is mostly designed to protect the person sitting on the side of the vehicle that is not hit, because without the airbag, that person’s head and torso would hit the other person. GM says it will also help prevent injuries to the head and spine. “Violent side-to-side motions in side-impact crashes cause many spinal injuries,” CNNMoney reports.

GM explains that the center airbag will deploy from the driver’s seat on the right side and inflate between the driver and front passenger seats. “This tethered, tubular air bag is designed to provide restraint during passenger-side crashes when the driver is the only front occupant, and also acts as an energy absorbing cushion between driver and front passenger in both driver- and passenger-side crashes,” GM says in a statement. “The air bag also is expected to provide benefit in rollovers.”

GM says the first vehicles to get the new center airbag will be the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. All Buick Enclave SUVs will get the airbag standard, and it will come standard with Acadia and Traverse models with power-adjustable seats.

“GM won’t say what other vehicles will get this new air bag in the future, but it’s easy to speculate that a lot of them will,” The Detroit News reports.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the front center airbag is a good safety feature for consumers. “The front center airbag has real potential to save lives in side crashes,” says Adrian Lund, president of the IIHS.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year’s best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

UPS Deploys 130 Hybrid Electric Trucks

Last modified on 2011-10-19 23:05:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.


UPS has announced the deployment of 130 hybrid electric vehicles for its fleet this year.

Almost 100 of the vehicles have been deployed in California, with the Los Angeles and San Jose markets receiving 20 HEVs each. The remainder of the trucks are operating in New Jersey, New York and Hong Kong. They join the 250 HEVs UPS already had operating around the U.S.

UPS estimates that the 130 new trucks could save it 30 percent in fuel costs, save 58,371 gallons of fuel annually and reduce CO2 emissions by 592 metric tons.

The HEV fleet features a Freightliner Custom Chassis and a hybrid power system from Eaton Corporation.  The external truck bodies are identical to UPS’s other signature brown trucks.

In August, UPS announced the purchase of 100 fully electric commercial delivery vehicles from Electric Vehicles International.

The class 6 walk-in delivery trucks with a 90-mile range will be placed into service early next year in California’s South Coast Air Basin, San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley.

The company says that it uses its alternative fuel vehicles as a “rolling laboratory” – using the fleet as a way to learn about how new technologies and advancements can be adapted for use in a large delivery network.

Clarification: UPS has pointed out that the hybrid trucks were purchased in late September 2010, and this announcement was to mark their launch, as all vehicles are now deployed.

“Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Safety for First Responders” at Shoreline CC – March 14, 2012

Last modified on 2012-03-17 20:52:51 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Course Description:

A one day, eight hour, train the trainer course for firefighters, EMS personnel, and other accident first responders on how to deal with hybrid and electric vehicles that are involved in highway accidents and other incidents.  Included in the course are discussions about hybrid parts’ locations, high voltage hazards, power down procedures, fire and submersion tactics, airbag (SRS) systems, and other myths and misinformation about alternative fuel vehicles. In addition to the classroom portion, First Responders will have the opportunity to put their newly learned knowledge to use by performing power down procedures and practicing other tactics on a live hybrid vehicle.

Instructor Matthew G. Stroud

Matt , president of MGS Tech, is a 22 year veteran of Toyota Motor Corporation as a Master Diagnostic Technician, certified in numerous vehicle technologies including hybrids. Matt has completed multiple extrication courses, giving him a strong knowledge base of fire tactics & terminologies. Currently he is working with fire agencies around the country distributing his Hybrid Response Guide (HRG) & educating firefighters/EMS personnel to prevent hesitation and potential injuries to responders and vehicle occupants.


Prerequisite knowledge and/or experience

None, but the course is intended for professional firefighters, EMS personnel, police officers, and other first responders.



Wednesday, March 14

9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (lunch and refreshments included)

Course Item Number



Fee of $250.00 includes parking, food, and materials. Personal protective equipment not required.


Room 2120, Automotive Center Showroom, Shoreline Community College.  Please park in the student lots on campus.  A parking pass will be sent to you electronically.



Either register online with a credit card or mail a check for the full amount with a completed registration form to Donna Walther.  100% of the fee will be refunded if notified of cancellation one week in advance of class.


Suggested overnight accommodation (if needed)

Hotel Nexus 2140 N. Northgate Way Seattle, WA  98133; (800) 435-0754  (special rate of $86/night).

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Polk Research Forecasts 1 Million Plug-in Electric Cars by 2016

Last modified on 2011-10-19 22:36:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Nobody has a crystal ball clear enough to see how big the electric car market will be five years from now.  But Pike Research, the Colorado-based clean tech analyst firm, has as much of a grasp on the EV market as anybody.  I’ve come to see the firm’s forecasts as fair and reasonable—based on best currently available knowledge, rather than personal or political biases either for or against electric cars.  In its latest forecast for electrified vehicles released this week, Pike’s Dave Hurst says that the United States will fall short of President Obama’s widely publicized goal of having 1 million plug-in vehicles on American roads by 2015. But just by one year.

Pike forecasts the number for cumulative sales of plug-in electric vehicles will be 667,000 by 2015.  But the good news is that the annual market in 2016 will be 289,000, and will reach 303,000 by 2017. “Technically, our forecast says the U.S. will reach 1 million by 2017, but actually, we’ll come close to hitting it by the end of 2016,” said Hurst, the author of the report.

Demand Outstrips Supply

When I spoke with Hurst yesterday, he seemed disappointed that EV sales haven’t ramped up faster.  “It’s a supply-side issue, not demand side,” he said.  “We’ve seen so many delays in vehicle launches,” referring to delayed introductions from Ford, Mitsubishi, Coda and Fisker.  As a result, Pike believes the total number of electric vehicle and plug-in hybrids sold in 2011 will be just 20,500. Through July, the tally was below 8,000 sales.

“The hard thing for me is, if I break it down by model, for the first half of 2012, there are only two models out there,” he said, referring the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt. Other models, such as the Fisker Karma and Ford Focus Electric will have arrived, but production will be low.  “How are you gong to get big sales with just two models?”  And the rollout of one of those models, the Chevy Volt, “looks like it’s botched at this point,” said Hurst.  “Getting deliveries out to customers has been a lot slower than originally thought.” In July, General Motors sold only 125 Volts, down from 561 sales in June.

On the other hand, Hurst believes that the market will swing “wide open” in 2013, when new players including Volkswagen, BMW and Hyundai start selling plug-in vehicles.  “Toyota is the sleeping giant here,” Hurst said, adding that, “Honda, based on the reputation for quality and strong environmental record, could also make a decent impact on the market by 2013.”

Not Quite 1 Percent

Still, even by 2017, Pike Research’s report, “Electric Vehicle Market Forecasts,” calls for pure electric cars to represent a mere 0.8% of the U.S. market, while plug-in hybrids will account for 1.2%.  (At that point, gas-powered hybrids will make up 3.1%, according to Pike.)

“To me, the 0.8% figure for battery electrics doesn’t seem far-fetched,” said Hurst.  He cited continued supply shortages through 2015, and the high price of many models.  Vehicles like the $57,000-plus Tesla Model S, he said, will be priced only for a niche group of customers who can qualify for a bank loan for such an expensive vehicle.

He believes that sales of plug-in hybrids, with smaller batteries and therefore lower costs, will outpace pure electric cars. “The big reason that plug-in hybrids will be bigger sellers than battery electric vehicle is because of Toyota,” said Hurst.  “If the Prius Plug-in Hybrid can meet expectations in terms of the Prius’s brand promise and price, that could convert a lot of Prius drivers to a plug-in.”  There are more than 1 million owners of the gas-powered Prius in the United States.  Hurst said the price of the plug-in Prius—which goes on sale next year—is not yet officially announced, but could dip below $30,000.

Some EV advocates might be disappointed to see the plug-in market at 2% of overall auto sales six years from now.  But the rate of growth represents a faster ramp-up than conventional hybrids experienced.  Ten years after hitting the market, regular hybrids still only represent about 2% of auto sales.  Electric cars and plug-in hybrids would reach that level in seven years, and climb up from there.

Ford, Toyota team up to build big hybrids

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Rivals Ford Motor and Toyota Motor announced an agreement Monday to work together to develop a new hybrid system for use in light trucks.

The agreement is expected to produce hybrid rear-wheel drive pickups and SUVs sometime later this decade. The agreement brings together Toyota (TM), which has been a leader in hybrid technology, with Ford (F, Fortune 500), which still has a leading position in the pickup and SUV portion of the market, where hybrids are still less common.

“Our collaboration with Ford is a move to make hybrid technology more widely available in sports utility vehicles and trucks,” said Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota executive vice president of research and development.

The companies will separately integrate the new hybrid system in their future vehicles.

The cars that will save Detroit

“Clearly Ford and Toyota will still be competitors,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of global product development. But he said by sharing research and development costs, the companies can both make more rapid advances in hybrid technology.

The entire auto industry faces tough new U.S. mileage standards that could require cars to get as much as 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. And Americans seem to be responding positively to smaller vehicles. For example GM’s (GM, Fortune 500) Cruze has been a best seller.

Bill Visnic, analyst with, said that the fuel economy rules will make it difficult for automakers to continue to sell affordable large vehicles without a breakthrough on fuel efficiency.

“This is a pretty big deal. This is two major players in this market saying we need to develop something to keep pickups and SUVs relevant,” he said.

While Toyota has become a leader in hybrid technology, it has very limited offerings of rear-wheel drive light trucks, Visnic said. And he said while Ford has made some advances in hybrid offerings, it still hasn’t incorporated that into its core light truck models, such as the F-150 pickup, which is still the company’s best-selling model and a major profit generator.

But the lack of demand for large pickups and SUVs outside of the U.S. market makes it difficult for companies to invest the money in the hybrid technology without finding a partner to share in the expense, Visnic said.

The companies also agreed to cooperate on telematics and Internet connectivity for vehicles, which they said would bring more Internet-based services and useful information to drivers.

The companies said there are still details to be worked out in the joint venture.  To top of page

First Published: August 22, 2011: 10:57 AM ET

Airbag Fraud Prompts New California Law

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Consumers must navigate a number of potential dangers when considering a used car. However, buyers may not think about whether the airbags are in their original condition, especially if they are purchasing a car with a salvage title (a car that had previously been in an accident). Because of this naivety, airbag fraud is becoming increasingly common.

June 10, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ — Consumers must navigate a number of potential dangers when considering a used car. They have to make sure the mileage is accurate, determine if the engine is in reasonable condition, and ensure that the brakes and suspension are in working order, to name just a few. However, even the most conscientious buyer may not think about whether the airbags are in their original condition, especially if the buyer is purchasing a car with a salvage title (a car that had previously been in an accident). Because of this naivety, airbag fraud is becoming increasingly common.

The National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) issued a report on fatal crashes in 2008 that revealed troubling information about used airbags. In 255 of 1,446 fatal accidents, airbags had not been replaced after a previous crash. In nearly 50 percent of all fatal crashes with non-deployed airbags, these safety devices were defective or simply missing. So while non-deployments are rare, fatalities are likely when airbags do not work as intended.

This article will describe the trend of airbag fraud, highlight legislation recently passed in California to help protect consumers, and provide some tips to help unwary buyers avoid unsafe cars.

Airbag Fraud: Insurance Fraud and Refund Scams

In the abstract, airbag fraud occurs when the original airbag is not replaced or calibrated to its previous condition. Airbags are expensive materials and the replacement process is a delicate exercise. Unscrupulous used car dealers more likely to shirk this process to save time and money in getting cars ready for resale. By reducing the amount of money put into a car, the potential profit increases. Repair shops also engage in this practice for the same reasons. They stand to make more money by purchasing airbag parts very cheaply over the Internet, yet they can charge a customer or insurance company full price for the parts and labor

As such, airbag fraud has two distinct components: insurance fraud, where the airbag cavity is stuffed with concealable materials such as rags, foam or paper towels while the insurance company is billed for actual airbag parts; and refund scams, where a body shop actually orders a new airbag for a customer but never installs it. Instead, the shop bills the customer for the part and returns the airbag to the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, there are no hard statistics detailing the prevalence of airbag fraud, but insurance officials are concerned about the warning signs driving this trend. Jim Quiggle, Director of Communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud says, “Airbag fraud is a black hole for data,” and, “Nobody knows how widespread it is, but the warning signals are everywhere.” The coalition’s executive director, Dennis Jay, is concerned with online sites selling nonconforming airbag parts in violation of state law. He explains that there are enough instances for consumers buying used cars to be concerned, because there is a potential for a vehicle to not have a functioning airbag.

California Passes Automotive Repair Act

To address this growing concern, the California Senate recently passed the Automotive Repair Act (Senate Bill 869), which established the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Among the many regulations the Bureau will enforce, auto repair shops would now be required to return airbags to their original operating condition when replaced during collision repair. Under the new statute, a repair shop or dealer who prepares a written estimate for the replacement of a deployed airbag, and who fails to repair and fully restore it, is guilty of a misdemeanor that is punishable by a $5,000 fine, by one year imprisonment in a county jail, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

A number of automakers, including Honda, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Toyota, applauded the legislation. They found it clarifies repair shops’ responsibilities, reduces fraud, and promotes driver safety.

Check the Carfax History

Even with the new law in place, drivers should take the following steps to make sure that airbag repairs are properly completed. For used car buyers, checking a vehicle’s Carfax history is an important step. This report will indicate whether a car has been in an accident, which would lead buyers to do a VIN number check on each of the car’s airbags. A technician could even check the airbags to see whether the same airbags are still in the vehicle.

For owners having cars repaired, checking the airbag indicator is essential. When the car starts, an airbag indicator should appear instantly and then go out. A continuous flashing light may indicate an airbag system malfunction. If the light never turns on, the airbag may be missing.

Consumers who believe they are victims of airbag fraud should contact an experienced attorney to learn more about their rights and options.

New Roof Airbag Technology Unveiled

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

LIVONIA, MI – TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., a major automotive supplier specializing in safety systems, recently unveiled its new “bag in roof” airbag system that replaces passenger airbags typically mounted in the instrument panel.

TRW’s new bag-in-roof airbag system


The new airbag can help mitigate passenger injuries while also allowing for improved interior design aesthetics, ergonomics and functionality while saving space in the instrument panel, TRW said.

“With the increasing focus on reducing road fatalities, we need to develop new ways to enhance the protection of occupants — one area of focus is the design and configuration of airbags,” explained Dirk Schultz, engineering director for TRW’s inflatable restraint systems. “TRW’s new roof airbag system is a unique development and studies have shown that such a technology provides enhanced styling flexibility for future vehicle interiors in combination with excellent restraint performance.”

By eliminating the need to package a passenger airbag in the instrument panel, TRW’s bag-in-roof design can significantly reduce the development costs of the dashboard since there is no need to develop a specific door that opens with the airbag deployment, the company said. The system is also functionally compatible with a wide range of vehicle architectures.

The airbag unit comprises a cushion and a gas generator that supplies the gas to the cushion in the event of an impact.

TRW has undertaken pre-development work for the bag-in-roof technology for several years — over the previous two years in close collaboration with a major European vehicle manufacturer. This has resulted in the award of a significant production contract with the vehicle manufacturer, TRW said.

Mass-Market Electric Cars Are Mere Months Away—And That Has Charging-Dock Companies Scrambling

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.


Next year the number of electric cars and plug-in hybrids in America will increase by an order of magnitude, and all of those cars will be able to draw electricity from any 120-volt wall outlet. Just not very quickly. Charging from the wall can take longer than 16 hours. A faster fill-up involves installing a dedicated 240-volt “Level II” home charging dock, and to combat range anxiety—the fear of being stranded with no electrons and nowhere to plug in—automakers want to see these same charging docks installed for public use across the country. So far, the Department of Energy and state and local governments have announced plans to install more than 11,000 public chargers in 19 states. Here’s what’s coming.

GE Wattstation:  Courtesy General Electric


GE Wattstation

Thanks to standards set earlier this year by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), charging docks like the GE WattStation—which arrives next year­ in both home and public versions—can connect to any new EV or plug-in hybrid. Designed by Yves Béhar, known for his work on the One Laptop Per Child computer, the WattStation delivers a 24-kilowatt-hour charge, good for approximately 100 miles’ worth of driving range, in four to eight hours, for about $3. (You’d spend $12 to cover the same distance in a 25-mpg car using $3-a-gallon gas.) On public versions, you can pay with a credit card. A commercial unit will cost $3,000 to $7,000, with wall-mounted home chargers closer to $1,500, a blow softened by the federal tax credit covering half the cost.

Chargepoint Level 3 Fast Charger:  Illustration: Paul Woottoon, Photographs


Chargepoint Level 3 Fast Charger

Level III “fast chargers,” industrial-strength electron pumps that can fill a battery in 30 minutes or less, will be essential for taking electric cars mainstream. AeroVironment has said that covering a metro area will require an array of public fast-charging stations 10 to 30 percent the size of the local gas-station market—250 to 750 chargers in Los Angeles, for example. The SAE hasn’t agreed on standards for Level III chargers, and fast chargers are still several months away. But Coulomb Technology’s prototype 480-volt DC ChargePoint station, which the company developed with Aker Wade Power Technologies, is a vision of what’s to come. These chargers handle voltages so high that they might require a trained attendant to ensure safe fill-ups. Such speedy charging could finally free EVs from mere commuter-car duty.

Nissan Home Charging Dock:  Courtesy Aerovironment


Nissan Home Charging Dock

Nissan knows how frustrating it will be to fill the Leaf’s hefty 24 kilowatt-hour battery from a 120-volt outlet, so it’s encouraging Leaf buyers to install Level II home charging docks built by AeroVironment, the company known for its work on GM’s EV1. AeroVironment is training electricians to inspect drivers’ homes, obtain local permits, and install the 240-volt AC docks, whose 3.3-kilowatt rate can fill the Leaf’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery in four to eight hours. Together, the dock and installation cost roughly $2,200; half of that is offset by a federal tax credit.

AAA Will Offer Roadside Charging Service For Stranded Electric Vehicles

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:04 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Rebecca Boyle Posted 06.22.2011 at 3:00 pm 0 Comments

Needs Roadside Assistance Pat Hawks via Flickr

One of the biggest obstacles facing electric vehicles is their range — the best models on the market can only drive about 100 miles on the highway on a single charge, which is pretty limiting in a world with very few EV charging stations. But AAA, the biggest roadside assistance service in the country, plans to offer a solution that has helped many a stranded motorist who runs out of fuel: An emergency supply of juice.

 The automobile club plans to deploy mobile charging units for battery-electric vehicles starting this summer, according to a report initially posted by AAA already has at least one working unit and plans to post additional vehicles in California, Florida, Georgia, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington, Edmunds said.

Roadside assistance trucks will have Level 2 and Level 3 chargers, offering 240 volts and 500 volts of alternating current, respectively. The auto club plans to unveil its first mobile charging unit at an electric vehicle conference in Raleigh, N.C., next month. The first trucks will start operating in August, Edmunds reported.

Nissan, maker of the Leaf battery-powered car, is reportedly working with a company to offer the same service in Japan, and AAA’s announcement came on the heels of Nissan’s news last week.

Using a 240-volt charging dock, the Leaf’s 24 kilowatt-hour battery fully charges in four to eight hours, so it’s not exactly speedy. But a few minutes’ charging time could be enough to get a stranded car back home or to a charging station. Cars with 500-volt ports would recharge even more quickly.

As electric vehicles increasingly make their way onto roadways, auto service suppliers will have to keep up with changing demands. The Department of Energy is already working to install Level 2 chargers at filling stations in 19 states, for instance, and other entrepreneurs are offering solutions like towable extra batteries.

The ability to call AAA for a quick recharge, just as easily as one could call for a tow truck or a few gallons of gas, could be one more option to put electric vehicle drivers’ minds at ease.

Now if the cars would just come down in price

Toyota to reveal GRMN Hybrid concept at Nürburgring 24

Last modified on 2011-06-22 21:49:36 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

by Zach Bowman (RSS feed) on Jun 22nd 2011 at 4:32PM

Toyota GRMN Hybrid Concept II

Toyota GRMN Hybrid Concept II – Click above for high-res image

Toyota is set to pull the sheets back on a new convertible sports hybrid at this year’s Nurburgring 24-Hour endurance race. Co-developed by Gazoo Racing, the GRMN Hybrid Concept II is a slightly updated version of the concept that Toyota displayed at the 2010 Tokyo Auto Salon.

With its gasoline engine mounted mid-ship and a hybrid all-wheel-drive system, the GRMN should deliver drivers plenty of grip and excellent balance as well. Total combined output sits at 295 horsepower, with 245 ponies coming from the gasoline V6 and another 50 arriving via an electric motor. That motor supplies power to the two front wheels only.

The automaker says the machine weighs in at less than 3,300 lbs, though there’s no indication as to what sort of fuel economy to expect from the drop-head. So, when can you buy one? We wouldn’t hold our breath. With its wild looks and pricey all-wheel-drive system, it’ll be a cold day in Toyota City before the GRMN lands on dealer lots.

Diesel-Hybrid-Solar Ship to Transport Toyota Hybrids

Last modified on 2011-06-22 21:45:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published June 16, 2011

By Jeff Cobb


The Auriga Leader diesel-electric-solar car carrying ship.

What is a better way to transport Toyota hybrids from Japan? A hybrid ship, of course – at least that is the hope of those endeavoring to cut costs, pollution and fuel consumption from an otherwise wasteful process.

This month, Toyota will begin shipping its hybrid vehicles via a floating experiment examining the viability of innovative technologies in shipping called the Auriga Leader.

Since 2009, the ship has received a healthy trickle of juice from 328 solar cells. Now it has been fitted with large nickel-hydrogen batteries to offset the massive energy consumption of its diesel engines.

According to Gas 2.0, an average car carrying ship requires 120 gallons of diesel fuel per mile (28,225 litres/100km). Yep, forget about “mpg” familiar to the automotive world. We’re talking 120 gpm – on one level, it makes the offset fuel savings by efficient cars seem rather paltry when you think about it.

The shipping expenses also represent a cost of doing business, and Toyota and the shipping industry as a whole would like to whittle that down any way feasible.

The initial installation of the Auriga Leader’s 328 solar cells did shave slivers from its annual fuel requirement by 13 tons, and they cut annual CO2 emissions by 40 tons. This is about one percent of the energy required by the ship’s electric equipment and .05 percent of its propulsion power.


To date, the ship’s new updated efficiency rating as a result of the massive nickel-hydrogen batteries has not been reported but it is expected to be a fair amount better.

The ship’s generator has also been retrofitted to run on low-sulfur diesel fuel.

The cost-for-benefit analysis for the solar panels have proven them a win, and now the battery-diesel system will also be evaluated.

If the hybrid ship is deemed cost effective, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and the NYK shipping line intend to make the technology commercially available for more ocean-going vessels.

Source: [1]

Toyota Expands Production of Prius V Hybrid Wagon

Last modified on 2011-06-22 21:46:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published June 10, 2011

Toyota Prius V

Toyota has high hopes for the Prius V, the second model in an expanded Prius line of hybrids. The company expect that the additional passenger and cargo space on the V will help push Prius into the mainstream market, and even one day make the quintessential gas-electric car Toyota’s top selling vehicle.

The model—sold as the Alpha in Asia—went on sale on May 13. Based on higher than expected orders, Toyota plans to increase monthly production to 70 percent above initial targets by this fall, according to Reuters and Nikkei business daily [1]. In Japan, customers have to join waiting lists to purchase the Prius V.

Toyota plans to boost production to 5,000 vehicles per month from 3,000. In Japan, The Prius V wagon comes in a two-row, five-seat version and a three-row, seven-seat version. In America, it’s only available as the five-seater.

The V goes on sale in the United States this fall. The exact date and pricing have not yet been announced.

Bob Carter, Toyota Division Group Vice President and General Manager, told that he expects the V to bring in 15 to 20 percent more Prius buyers—almost a completely different group of new folks who historically reject the Prius liftback “just because of size and capacity.”

Toyota has hinted that it expects Prius to outsell its long-time mainstream mass-sellers, the Camry and Corolla, in a matter of years.

“The Prius V looks a lot like a Prius, but it has an extended roofline, giving it nearly 60 percent more cargo room than the existing Prius,” said Doug Coleman, Toyota’s Prius product manager, in an interview with “That’s more than many small SUVs.” Coleman said that Toyota has been studying the idea of a larger Prius for a number of years, and decided that it was the right time to introduce the model.

The Prius V earns its additional room at the expense of 8 mpg. The V is bigger, wider and taller—but delivers an EPA average of 44 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway—instead of the 51/48 of the existing liftback version. We recently gave the vehicle a hard drive around the hills and coastal roads of Half Moon Bay, Calif., mostly using standard mode—rather than Power, Eco or EV—and found it almost impossible to bring the average mileage below 40 mpg.

U.S. Army displays vehicle in a new shade of green

Last modified on 2011-06-22 21:37:02 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published June 9, 2011

By Jeff Cobb

U.S. Army CERV

U.S. Army vehicles have long been green – or at least Olive Drab – but at this year’s Indianapolis 500, the military branch showcased a heavy duty hybrid that was green beneath the skin.

How “green” is it? The Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV) created by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide is being called by the U.S. Army one of the “greenest technologies” in its fleet.

Built for the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), the CERV is sufficiently hard core so as to make a Hummer look ordinary.

The second generation, stealthy personnel transport utilizes Quantum’s “Q-Force all-wheel drive diesel hybrid-electric technology” and a “light-weight chassis.”

While “light weight” is undoubtedly a qualified term, the CERV is said to deliver torque of 5,000 foot-pounds, has a top speed of 80 mph, and can climb 60-percent grades.

Just what you need to get to work or the shopping mall, right?

Actually the high performance vehicle was designed for quick-paced mobility operations such as reconnaissance, surveillance and target designation.

The CERV uses 25-percent less fuel than a comparable vehicle of its size, and one concern in creating such a vehicle is pragmatic.

Less petrol-based energy consumption means less fuel to have to transport.

The primary motivation for the Army to commission the research and development for this hybrid however is a presidential executive order that led to the creation of the “Army Vision for Net Zero” team.

In October 2009, President Obama signed an executive order mandating that federal agencies focus on improving their environmental, energy, and economic performance.

While it was at it, the mandate also called for new building construction to be net zero by 2030, and for a 30-percent reduction in water usage, and 50-percent reduction of waste sent to landfills.

The military was not overlooked in this sweeping mandate, and the U.S. Army has treated the orders as a challenge.

As one answer to the challenge, the CERV was showcased in the popular civilian setting of the Indy 500 as part of the motor speedway’s first ever Emerging Technologies day.

In addition to hybrid vehicles, solar-powered technology sponsored by Purdue University were also on display.

These are indeed changing times.

Ford to triple US ‘electrified’ vehicle production

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:05 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published June 10, 2011

By Jeff Cobb

Ford C-Max

Ford announced yesterday it would raise its annual U.S. production capacity for “electrified” vehicles from 35,000 to over 100,000 by 2013.

While the Focus EV is due later this year, the spotlight was also on four other hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Central among these will be Ford’s five-passenger C-Max Hybrid (pictured) and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid which for the first time were announced that they would be offered in North America. A seven-passenger internal-combustion engine version slated for the U.S. however will not be offered.

The car has proven a hot seller overseas, and in a separate statement, Ford said it will increase C-Max production in Valencia, Spain to continue to fill strong European demand. Since its late 2010 launch, Ford said it has sold 70,000 units in Europe, and taken orders for 30,000 more.

The company said it is now convinced the U.S. market is ready for American-made versions which will complement a broadened selection of electrified vehicles.

“This is a big deal for us because we are seeing a huge growing appetite for fuel efficient green vehicles,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president of marketing, sales and service. “The number of people indicating fuel economy is the main reason continues to rise.”

The C-Max line is expected to compete with the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF. In all, Ford has committed $135 million to build its five electrified vehicles which include also a version of its Transit Connect van and another model not yet announced (possibly a hybridized 2013 Ford Escape crossover).

The initiative is said to be responsible for 220 new green technology jobs at three Michigan plants. These will include 170 positions at the Rawsonville and Van Dyke Transmission plants, and more than 50 new “electrified-vehicle engineers” which have come on board in Dearborn during the past year.

Ford however said it canceled plans for a North American seven-passenger C-Max “multi-activity vehicle” with a four-cylinder gasoline engine, meaning the C-Max will be one type or another of five-passenger hybrid only.

Estimated mileage for the new vehicles was not announced, but the C-Max Hybrid’s efficiency will reportedly exceed that of the Ford Fusion which is rated at 41 mpg.

Both the C-Max Hybrid and C-Max plug-in hybrid will utilize lithium-ion batteries. The latter will use a larger battery pack, but Ford did not specify capacity for either.

Ford did say the C-Max Hybrid will be able to travel at a higher all-electric speed than the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s 47 mph, although it did not say how much higher.

Another critical detail lacking in Ford’s press announcement was pricing, but it did say it will reduce projected MSRP thanks to an estimated 30-percent cut in production costs next year. Part of the cost savings is because Ford has designed the hybrids’ components in-house, and will assemble their systems itself.

In contrast, the transmission in the 2011 Ford Fusion, 2011 Escape and 2011 Lincoln MKZ are supplied by Aisin Seiki Co., of Japan.

Ford likewise developed its own battery systems that will be manufactured in Rawsonville in the suburbs of Detroit for the C-Max Hybrid, and plug-in version. Previously Ford’s hybrid batteries were made in Mexico.

“Both the C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi models will be built alongside the all-new 2012 Ford Focus and Focus Electric at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.,” Ford said, “the first plant in the world to produce gasoline-powered vehicles, full-electric vehicles, hybrid and plug-in hybrids under one roof.”

Source: [1]

Worldwide Military Spending for Renewable Energy to Multiply 15 Times by 2030

Last modified on 2011-10-09 21:58:05 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Published June 18, 2011

By Jeff Cobb


Fuel cell vehicles at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

One of the siren songs for environmentalists is reducing the need for oil so governments don’t feel it necessary to fight wars for it – but ironically, one of the largest drivers in the global push for renewable energy development could well become the military.

According to a study this week by Pike Research, the U.S. Department of Defense as well as combined military agencies in all developed and developing countries are projected to increase annual spending of today’s $1.8 billion to $26.8 billion by 2030.

U.S. DOD renewable energy spending for land, air, and sea mobility alone is estimated to jump 5.6 times in the next four years from $400 million annually to $2.25 billion in 2015. By 2030, it is projected to be spending $7.5 billion annually just on renewable energy for mobility needs.

The various branches of the DOD reportedly combine to form the single largest consumer of energy in the world – more than any other public or private entity and greater than more than 100 other nations.

According to United States Air Force Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, the military renewable energy ball really got rolling with the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act.

A federal mandate also backed it up Oct. 5, 2009, in the form of an executive order [1] signed by President Obama. This required a host of environmentally oriented changes for all federal agencies, including slashing energy budgets and reducing greenhouse gases through 2020.

“It started with the 2009 NDAA and office established by the President a year ago,” Morgan said to GM-Volt [2] yesterday, “However it was a response to the military stating the need to better utilize energy on the battlefield that increases our capability and decreases the risks to the military in the field.”


What it will actually mean for civilian sector electric and hybrid vehicles is open to speculation.

Trickledown benefits from military innovations may be in the span of a year to never depending on what kind of security issues are involved with batteries, biofuels, synthetic fuels, fuel cells – and for that matter, photovoltaics, geothermal energy, hydrokinetics, microgrids, and more technologies included in the sweeping mandates.

What is certain – assuming funding remains in place – is pushing back the renewable energy frontier is not solely up to private equity groups, corporations and individuals. Now the most powerful energy consumers on earth are also making it a priority.

Seeing the implications for civilian transportation, we followed up this week with a call to Senior Analyst, Dave Hurst, of Pike Research. He conferred with Wheelock and agreed that military spending could one way or the other benefit civilian advanced-tech vehicles.

He said one factor affecting whether or not the public sees trickledown depends on how advanced the technology is. If the U.S. military, for example, worked the bugs out of a zinc-air, or other next-generation battery, Hurst said the new technology may not show up in your hybrid or electric car next year or even 10-20 years if it is of strategic advantage to the military, or cost prohibitive for ordinary use – so that is not good news.

If however the military decided to convert a fleet of Humvees to hybrid, or otherwise created a large purchase order, he said, then civilian contractors like LG Chem, A123 Systems, etc., could bid on them. Once defense contracts were awarded, funding to manufacturing would increase production, and ancillary benefits would reach the civilian sector.

In the mobility domain, a focus is yet on biofuels and synfuels for major existing requirements such as tactical vehicles, trucks, tanks, fighter jets [3], naval vessels, and so forth.

Beyond environmental reasons, as Morgan noted, the push for alternative sources is also tactical, strategic – and it is cost-based.

For example, lighter weight batteries for soldiers [4]s to carry can make them tactically more effective. Reducing the amount of fuel consumed by making vehicles more efficient, or offsetting fuel needs with battery-fuel hybrids reduces the amount to transport.

A comprehensive treatment of ramifications is beyond the scope of this article, and involves myriad issues. One thing we can say is we have not heard the end of this, and it will have a ripple effect. Pike Research thinks the info is worth something too – the report costs $3,800 for 1-5 copies, or $5,700 for rights to unlimited copies.

If you want to know more for free, you can download an executive report [5].

Ford to expand use of its gas-saving technology

Last modified on 2010-12-28 00:40:12 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. said Monday that it plans to include its fuel-saving Auto Start-Stop technology — originally designed for and used in its gas-electric hybrids — in a wider range of vehicles sold in North America starting in 2012.

The technology automatically shuts off the engine when a vehicle stops, which Ford says improves fuel economy at least 4 percent. A light on the dashboard confirms that the engine is off, but all accessories like heat and air conditioning remain on, and drivers don’t have to change their behavior for the technology to work.

Ford says the system, already used in the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid in the U.S. and in some Ford cards sold in Europe, doesn’t require additional maintenance.

The company plans to install it in cars, crossovers and sports utility vehicles sold in North America starting in 2012. Eventually, Ford will install the technology in vehicles sold worldwide.

Ford said that in 2011 it will be the only auto maker in North America offering four vehicles that get 40 miles per gallon or more. Those vehicles are the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Ford’s other energy-saving technologies including two kinds of energy-efficient engines; electric power steering, as opposed to hydraulic; six-speed transmissions, which select the best gear for the fuel economy; and dual-clutch automatic transmission, which efficiently sends the engine’s power through the transmission.

Department of Energy Announces Closing of $529 Million Loan to Fisker Automotive

Last modified on 2010-04-27 21:20:54 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

April 23, 2010

Manufacturing at Shuttered Delaware GM Plant Expected to Create Over 2,000 Jobs

Washington, DC – The Department of Energy announced today the closing of a $528.7 million loan with Fisker Automotive for the development and production of two lines of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). The loan will support the Karma, a full-size, four-door sports sedan, and a line of family oriented models being developed under the company’s Project NINA program.

“The story of Fisker is a story of ingenuity of an American company, a commitment to innovation by the U.S. government and the perseverance of the American auto industry,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “The Boxwood Plant is opening again, employing workers in Delaware, and is serving as a roadmap for all we can accomplish if everyone works together. Thanks to real dedication by this Administration, loans from the Department of Energy, the creativity of U.S. companies and the tenacity of great state partners like Delaware – we’re on our way to helping America’s auto industry reclaim its top position in the global market.”

Fisker, a startup based in southern California, expects to manufacture the Karma and Project NINA lines at a recently shuttered General Motors factory in Wilmington, Delaware. Fisker anticipates that it will employ 2,000 American assembly workers. Industry experts expect that domestic parts suppliers and service providers also will increase employment substantially.

“Not only will the Fisker projects contribute to cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions, these plug-in hybrid cars will help put American ingenuity at the forefront of automotive design and production,” said Secretary Chu. “And they will bring innovative cars to the market place while putting American workers back on the job,” Secretary Chu added.

Fisker’s plug-in hybrid products will be among the first to market and will help to accelerate the introduction of fuel-saving electrified vehicles in the U.S. When full production is reached in 2015, Fisker estimates annual sales at up to 115,000 vehicles. Combining Fisker projected sales volume with the expected sales volume of the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S, sales of electric and PHEVs funded with DOE ATVM loans could exceed 300,000 annually.

Initially, Fisker Automotive will use the proceeds of the loan for qualifying engineering integration costs as it works with primarily U.S. suppliers to incorporate components into the Karma’s design. The engineering integration work will be conducted in Irvine, California, where engineers will design tools and equipment and develop manufacturing processes. The Karma is scheduled to appear in showrooms in late 2010. The second stage will involve the purchase and retooling of the former GM plant to manufacture the Project NINA line of PHEVs, which is expected to begin rolling off the assembly line in late 2012.

Fisker automobiles are driven by electric motors that get their power from a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, or, when that is depleted, by a generator driven by an efficient gas-powered engine. The Karma and Project NINA models will have an all-electric, tailpipe-emission-free range of 40 to 50 miles on a full charge, more than most Americans drive each day. The battery can be charged at home overnight. Using gas and electric power, Fisker plug-in hybrids are expected to have a cruising range of up to 300 miles.

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program supports the development of advanced technology vehicles with improved fuel efficiency that help reduce the nation’s dependence on oil. This is the fourth loan arrangement signed by DOE with an advanced technology vehicle manufacturer.

Hydrogen energy still a viable option in the race to create green cars

Last modified on 2010-04-27 21:14:52 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Israeli scientists are a step closer to developing a hydrogen vehicle.

By Arthur Max, AP

Sun, Apr 18 2010 at 12:23 AM EST
Hydrogen, one of Earth’s most abundant elements, once was seen as green energy’s answer to the petroleum-driven car: easy to produce, available everywhere and nonpolluting when burned.
Hydrogen energy was defeated by a mountain of obstacles — the fear of explosion by the highly flammable gas, the difficulty of carrying the fuel in large, heavy tanks in the vehicle, and the lack of a refueling network. Automakers turned to biofuels, electricity or the gas-electric hybrid.
But hydrogen, it turns out, never was completely out of the race. Now Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs claim to have brought hydrogen energy a step closer by putting it in much smaller, lighter containers.
Rather than using metal or composite cylinders of compressed gas that look like bulky scuba gear, hydrogen is packed into glass filaments which, once out of the lab, will be only slightly thicker than a human hair.
These 370 glass capillaries are bundled into a glass tube called a capillary array, about the width of a drinking straw. The scientists say 11,000 such arrays will fuel a car for 240 miles (400 kilometers) and take less than half the space and weight of tanks currently installed in the few hydrogen cars now available.
“We have shown new materials that can store more hydrogen than any other system,” says Dan Eliezer, chief scientist of C.En Ltd., the company based in Geneva, Switzerland, where the Israelis are developing their invention.
The scientists make no attempt to improve the standard fuel cell, which is not much different today from when it was invented more than 150 years ago. A fuel cell makes electricity from chemical reactions involving hydrogen and oxygen, producing only water vapor as a byproduct. The fuel cell can be compared with a standard car’s engine, while the capillary arrays would be comparable to the gasoline tank.
The system was unveiled in Berlin at a demonstration for The Associated Press at the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, known as BAM, which has been testing the materials since 2008 and has pronounced the system safe. Also attending was a representative of Italian-based Generali Insurance, which has invested $10 million in the project.
Large injection of capital needed
While its backers call the technology a breakthrough, it is unlikely to gain traction without a large injection of capital to scale up development. It also would need a distribution system and the support of major car companies, which have poured billions of dollars into their own closely guarded research programs.
Auto companies “are still investing significant amounts of money in hydrogen and fuel cells,” and have hundreds of researchers working on the technology, said David Hart, director of E4tech, a business and energy consultancy in London. Automakers refuse to disclose details of their research or funding.
Hart said the glass capillaries appear to be an “interesting” technology that would be “very significant” if it were to provide the energy claimed by the company. But if it means creating a new refueling infrastructure, “it may still not be the right answer for cars,” he said.
Like electric cars, the driving force behind hydrogen research is the need to break away from oil and rein in emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, especially carbon dioxide from industry and transport. Transportation adds about 13 percent of manmade carbon to the atmosphere.
Hydrogen boasts zero emissions. It can be produced from water through electrolysis, or harvested as the waste product of nuclear reactors and chemical plants.
“In terms of saving carbon dioxide, you do a great deal more with renewable hydrogen,” said Danny Dicks, a biofuels expert from the British consultancy group Innovation Observatory. “So ultimately, hydrogen is where things ought to be driving toward.”
Automakers focused on other energy sources
Automakers, for now, still are focused on battery power. At the Geneva Motor Show last month, nearly all major manufacturers displayed their latest electric vehicles or plans to produce them. The few hydrogen vehicles on the floor attracted little attention.
It was not always that way.
U.S. President George W. Bush allocated $1.2 billion for hydrogen research and said in his 2003 State of the Union address: “The first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution free.” The Obama administration largely scrapped the program.
In Europe, too, hydrogen is low-priority. The Dutch government, for example, recently announced a euro5 million ($6.75 million) subsidy for hydrogen, but gave eight times more for electric cars. Buyers of plug-ins get tax breaks and rebates, and cities like London and Amsterdam are planting charge-up pillars on their streets.
“Electricity is taking all the subsidy schemes. It’s taking it away from hydrogen,” said Robert van den Hoed of Ecofys, an independent Dutch consultancy on renewable energy.
The main reason is cost. Electric cars are road-ready and in production, while hydrogen vehicles are still experimental. Nissan’s new electric car, the Leaf, will go on sale for about $25,000 in the United States, including a government rebate.
Honda has produced a roadworthy hydrogen vehicle, the FCX Clarity, but it is not for sale. Only 50 of them are available for lease in the United States at $600 per month; Honda says it intends to increase the fleet to 200 this year. Honda declines to put a sales tag on the Clarity, but some experts say the market price would be $1 million each. Toyota, a leader in electric car technology, plans to put its first hydrogen vehicle on the road in 2015.
In December, the German luxury carmaker BMW ended an experimental run of 100 hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines and retreated back into the laboratory for more research. “We learned everything we wanted to learn from this huge field test,” said spokesman Tobias Hahn, and BMW is now working on the next generation.
“We are still committed to hydrogen as the long-term alternative for switching to sustainable mobility,” Hahn said, speaking from Munich, adding that the biggest problem is on-board storage.
Among U.S. carmakers, General Motors produced a test fleet of 100 Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell cars and let 5,000 people test them over a 25-month period. Like BMW, Chevrolet is withdrawing the vehicles to upgrade the technology.
A combination of plug-in electric and hydrogen may emerge as the most eco-friendly solution. “A fuel cell hybrid looks like a good long-term option,” said Hart. “It’s not an either-or. It’s both, most likely.”
Fuel cells for public transportation vehicles
Public transport also is experimenting with hydrogen. The Vancouver Winter Olympics deployed 20 fuel cell buses. The European Union and 31 industries teamed up to run a four-year trial of hydrogen buses on regular passenger routes in 10 cities ending last year, and a new generation of buses will begin operating later this year, said Frits van Drunen, who runs the project for the Dutch public transport network GVB.
“We predict that by 2017 these buses will be priced per kilometer at the same level as diesel buses,” said van Drunen, interviewed at GVB’s hydrogen refueling station in Amsterdam.
At BAM, the Berlin testing site, researchers guided a remote-controlled model truck around the laboratory floor powered by a fuel cell and three hydrogen-filled arrays bound together, about the thickness of a thumb. A similar device lit up a panel with 20 LED bulbs. The researchers say such devices can be built into power packs for laptop computers and even mobile phones.
BAM’s research director, Kai Holtapples, said the C.En system can be on the road within two to five years if it can be developed as a replaceable rack that can be swapped at filling stations. Eventually, cars will be able to refuel with nozzles, like gas pumps today, he said. “Both systems will need some engineering, of course, but some ideas already exist.”
BAM has no financial stake in the capillary array project, he said.
Moshe Stern, C.En’s chief executive, said the electric car will dominate the market for years to come, but the cheap and unlimited supply of hydrogen will make it the power source of the future.
Within a few years, perhaps a decade, hydrogen fuel will shift the world’s energy balance away from oil, he said.
“The real revolution is not the technical revolution, it is the political revolution,” said Stern.
“We are Israelis. We know what it means to be blackmailed by oil,” he said.

Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid may be coming soon

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:55:15 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Tue, Apr 27 2010 at 2:44 PM EST
Last month Porsche revealed the 918 Spyder Hybrid at the Geneva Auto Show. The plug-in hybrid has a 15.5-mile all-electric range (AER) and a preliminary fuel efficiency estimate of 78 mpg. However, this is a Porsche and Porsches are best known for their speed. The 918 Spyder Hybrid has a zero to 62-mpg time of 3.2 seconds and gives drivers a whopping 718 horsepower to play with.
Although the vehicle is not currently available, it piqued a lot of interest from buyers around the world. According to a Bloomberg article, Porsche AG has a growing list of almost 900 potential buyers. Once the automaker reaches 1,000 interested buyers, production may actually begin.
According to Wolfgang Duerheimer, who was interviewed last week at the Beijing Auto Show, “I’m confident that we will soon reach the threshold of 1,000. We need 1,000 seriously interested people to make a sound business case.”  Source:  Bloomberg
This hybrid is attractive to buyers because it can operate in a very environmentally friendly fashion but it can also drive like a true sports car. The multiple driving modes do lead to a bit of a conundrum when determining overall fuel efficiency.
In his coverage of the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid for the Mother Nature Network, blogger Jim Motavalli says “Determining fuel economy in cars like this is a bit of a risk, since the car operates in two distinct modes (with four variations, including both “sport-hybrid” and full-out “race-hybrid.”) It has infinite mileage if you putter around town, but it shoots into Hummer territory when you open it up at 180 mph on the autobahn.”
This all goes back to the green and greener conversation. Is it better to drive a greener vehicle? Many scientists and eco-advocates would say yes. Improving a 10-mpg SUV to a 20-mpg SUV will have a greater overall affect than improving a 40-mpg hybrid to a 50-mpg hybrid.
However, with the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid, the question of green or greener will need to be answered in a single vehicle. Driving in electric-only mode is certainly considered green but is driving 180 mph in a hybrid vehicle much greener than driving 180 mph in a non-hybrid?

Hyundai Has Prius-Killer in the Works

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:47:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Hyundai Has Prius-Killer in the Works

Hyundai is working on a new hybrid-only model to directly compete against the Toyota Prius. “We are studying a dedicated Prius-fighter vehicle, meaning a hybrid-specific nameplate that isn’t based off a Sonata or a Santa Fe,” Miles Johnson, Hyundai product public relations manager, told “It’s its own thing.” While Johnson did not confirm a specific production date, he placed the new hybrid-only model ahead of the Hyundai Blue Will plug-in hybrid concept. “The near-term would be a Prius-sized vehicle,” Johnson said.

NASA to aid regulators in Toyota probe

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:39:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By Ben Rooney, staff reporterMarch 30, 2010: 12:51 PM ET

NEW YORK ( — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday that his agency has enlisted scientists from NASA to help uncover whether electronic defects are to blame for unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been criticized for lacking sufficient technological expertise, has recruited nine experts from NASA to help the agency understand how issues such as electromagnetic interference may have contributed to Toyota’s acceleration issues.
Separately, the National Academy of Sciences will conduct a study of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry.

The total cost for both peer-reviewed studies will be about $3 million, the Department of Transportation said in a press release.

“For the safety of the American driving public, we must do everything possible to understand what is happening,” LaHood said in a statement. “And that is why we are tapping the best minds around.”

Toyota defends Prius safety
The moves come after a massive recall of Toyota vehicles for safety issues, including instances when drivers were injured or killed when their car accelerated without warning. The recall sparked a series of congressional hearings into Toyota’s quality controls and the government’s ability to ensure driver safety.

“Toyota welcomes the opportunity for the National Academy of Sciences and NASA to weigh in on these discussions,” said company spokeswoman Celeste Migliore.

Toyota’s $1 billion sales incentive
“We expect they will bring a thorough and scientific approach to their examination of the issues,” she added. “Separating fact from fiction can only be good for the motoring public and the industry as a whole.”

Despite several hours of testimony from Toyota executives and federal safety officials, many questions remain about the role of certain electronic components in unintended acceleration.

Toyota has argued that the problems are mechanical and that its electronic systems are safe. But many lawmakers and some independent experts have charged that electronic defects can not be ruled out.

“We are confident in our vehicles and in our electronics,” Migliore said. “We will lend our full support and cooperation to DOT and NHTSA as they moved forward.”

NHTSA said it has brought in NASA engineers to study how electromagnetic interference could impact the electronic throttle control in Toyota vehicles. The NASA engineers will also provide expertise in electronics, hardware, software and hazard analysis. The study is expected to be completed by late summer.

While this is not the first time NASA has assisted another government agency in an investigation, such partnerships are relatively rare.

“It’s not common, but not unique,” said Keith Henry, a NASA spokesman.

He said NASA signed an agreement Friday with NHTSA to provide, among other things, engineering support and analysis. The nine engineers that are taking part in the investigation work for NASA’s Engineering and Safety Center, he said, which was formed in 2004 to study the causes of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences will investigate the problem of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry. The study is expected to last 15 months.

As part of this study, NHTSA said a panel of experts will also review industry and government efforts to uncover the causes of unintended acceleration. The panel will then make recommendations to NHTSA based on its findings.

In addition, LaHood said the inspector general of the Department of Transportation will assess whether the NHTSA conducted an adequate review of complaints of alleged unintended acceleration going back to 2002. The inspector general will also investigate whether NHTSA staff had the technical expertise to address those complaints and if the agency needs more resources.

Toyota licences Hybrid technology to Mazda

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:33:41 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

By David Wilkins

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Mazda’s SKY gasoline engine will be combined with Toyota’s hybrid technology in future models

Toyota is granting Mazda a licence to exploit the hybrid technology used in its Prius saloon. Toyota has thirteen years of experience in hybrids and has produced 2.3 million vehicles with hybrid drive-trains, a lead that any new market entrant would find almost impossible to close, even with a well-funded R&D programme.

However, the Mazda hybrids won’t rely entirely on bought-in know-how to get results; they will combine Toyota’s technology with Mazda’s own forthcoming high-efficiency direct-injection SKY petrol engines shown last year at the Tokyo Motor Show. The company expects its first hybrids to go on sale in Japan in 2013 and says that its 2015 cars will emit 30 per cent less CO2 than its 2008 models.

There isn’t really much of a history of co-operation between Toyota and Mazda, which has in the past tended to plough its own technical furrow; it is the only car manufacturer to persevere with the Wankel rotary engine, for example. Mazda has also traditionally been allied with Ford, although those links have loosened as Ford has divested itself of overseas shareholdings in order to concentrate on is core “blue oval” brand.

Nissan Leaf electric car will cost $25,000

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:34:08 GMT. 0 comments. Top. Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writerMarch 30, 2010: 2:18 PM ET

NEW YORK ( — Nissan announced Tuesday that its Leaf electric car will come with a sticker price of $32,780. But after a federal tax credit of $7,500, the car will only set you back about $25,280.

That would make the Leaf considerably less expensive than General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt, which is expected to cost around $40,000, or about $32,500 after the federal tax credit.

The Leaf expected to go on sale in December, one month after the Volt.

By keeping the sticker price low, the Leaf will be profitable for Nissan, said Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning. That means customers should expect more variants of the Leaf in coming years, he added.

Nissan has already said that there will be a luxury Infiniti version of the car.

Industry analysts have frequently said that electric cars would not be profitable for years to come because of the high costs associated with the vehicles batteries.

“We’ve been working in lithium ion batteries for 17 years,” Perry said. “So all that advanced research and engineering work we’ve [already] paid for.”

The Leaf and Volt are not quite directly competitive, although both are electric cars. The Leaf is an all-electric car with an around-town driving range of about 100 miles. The Volt has a range of only 40 miles, enough for a typical days driving, but it also has a gasoline engine to generate electricity for further driving up to about 300 miles.

Nissan had previously said that it expected to price the Leaf competitively to similar gasoline-powered cars such as a well-equipped Honda Civic.

The Leaf’s standard features will include navigation and Bluetooth telephone connectivity, said Perry.

Nissan already has a list of more than 80,000 people who have expressed interest in the Leaf, Perry said. And in coming weeks, Nissan will begin taking refundable $99 deposits for the car.

Those who submit deposits can have their homes inspected to make sure they have appropriate space and wiring to install a charging dock, Perry said. Nissan expects about half those expressing interest to submit a deposit, he said.

Nissan also expects many customers to lease the car. That way, they won’t have to worry about filing or refiling their taxes go get the benefit since it will factored into the lease payments, Perry noted.

The car will lease for a $349 a month with an initial down payment $1,999.

“Our goal there was to get our total operating cost, vehicle, electricity charging station, all in, around $400 a month,” Perry said.

In some states there are also state incentives for the purchase of an electric car. In California, for example, there is a $5,000 credit which would reduce the cost to just over $20,000, Perry said.

Nissan has partnered with an outside company, AeroVironment, to install home chargers for the car. Installation of the charger will typically cost $2,200, Perry said, but there is a tax credit that will cover half the cost up to $2,000. To top of page

California to help in purchasing of heavy-duty hybrid trucks and buses

Last modified on 2010-04-27 21:16:34 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

A $20 million funding assistance program designed to spur the purchase of hybrid trucks and buses that reduce smog-forming pollution and address climate change has been started by the California Air Resources Board.

Click here to read more.

Hybrid Timeline

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:35:06 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

This is a fun site showing the evolution of the Hybrid from 1997 to present, with a few glimpses into what still to come.

Click here to visit the Hybrid Center’s website.

Saturday Night Live on the runaway Toyota

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:40:32 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Plugged In

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:37:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

NFPA develops a program to train emergency personnel on avoiding shock and other hazards from advanced electric-drive vehicles

NFPA Journal®, March/April 2010 | By Fred Durso, Jr.

To get an idea of the hazards emergency responders face when handling hybrid and electric-vehicle incidents, the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System is a good place to start.

Click here to read more.

From CNN (3/15/10)

Last modified on 2010-04-27 20:39:12 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Toyota Takes Aim at California Runaway Prius Story

NEW YORK ( — Toyota challenged a California driver’s story of an out-of-control Prius at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Company executives detailed preliminary findings of a joint investigation conducted by Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into the incident.

Click here to read more.