Green Cars

Smarter batteries give electric cars a boost

Smarter batteries give electric cars a boostElectric cars hold promise for the environment and have finally begun turning profits for the companies that manufacture them. Still, prospective buyers understandably balk at the initial cost and poor performance of these vehicles. Because electric cars operate on battery power, they can be slower to start, limited in range and less reliable than traditional cars. Recent innovations in battery design and storage may soon eliminate these flaws, however, and make both hybrid and electric cars more attractive.

Electric cars typically run on lithium batteries which must be replaced every three or four years, and replacements don't come cheaply. In addition, batteries often weigh more than standard fuel tanks. The extra weight causes drag and reduces overall efficiency in the cars. Batteries must also be recharged frequently. Considering the number of commuters who travel hours between work and home, few people want to worry about being stranded by the side of the road because they forgot to plug in before heading out.

Toyota & Tesla redevelop the RAV4 as an all-electric SUV

Toyota & Tesla redesign the RAV4 as an all-electric SUV Call it the curse of the soccer mom; Americans like SUVs that can carry a lot of stuff. They’re great for long family trips or just to pick up a ton of home improvement supplies. That love of space hasn’t translated over into the electric car market until now. Toyota and Tesla are working on an all-electric model of the popular RAV4 SUV that may hit the market in 2012.

Toyota had previously sold about 1,500 electric RAV4s to businesses, municipalities, and the public between 1997 and 2003. That version of the SUV utilized a 27.4-kilowatt-hour nickel-metal hydride battery that is still providing a range of 120 miles for some owners. The car sold for $42,000 which is nearly twice as much as the gas powered RAV4.

Chevy Volt BUYERS BEWARE. Concerns about the 8-year warranty

Chevy Volt BUYERS BEWARE. Concerns about the 8-year warranty In an otherwise inspiring and exciting announcement, the new 8-year battery warranty offered by the Chevy Volt may have been overshadowed by one very peculiar statement.

Early adopters of the Chevy Volt will undoubtedly take a chance on a vehicle, and for that matter, a technology, that is not all that proven on the roads today. Sure, it's undergone fairly extensive road tests such as the Flooded Road Test and months of "mule" testing, but with a car as revolutionary as the Volt, it is difficult to say how it will withstand years of the daily grind and wear and tear of driving.

EcoMotors may give gas & combustion engines new life with OPOC

EcoMotors may give gas & combustion engines new life with OPOC Broadly speaking there are two main groups when it comes to innovating in the green energy space, and at times they mesh together. (1) those who want to displace current energy production using fossil fuels with something else entirely and (2) those who focus on making the existing system much more efficient. EcoMotors is in the second camp – it claims it can build a combustion engine that’s twice as efficient as conventional engines.

As with many companies pursuing a disruptive technology, EcoMotors needed working capital to get there. It seems to have two firm believers because they are the exclusive investors in EcoMotors’ series B funding: Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures. The key value proposition EcoMotors discusses is energy density, which certainly isn’t a new idea when it comes to combustion engines.

Mercedes SLS AMG electric car joins Tesla Roadster in prototype cloud

Mercedes SLS AMG electric car joins Tesla Roadster in prototype cloud If a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery powering each wheel is a prerequisite for your electric car-driving experience then a Mercedes SLS AMG may just be in your future. This sports car prototype claims 0-60mph in 4 seconds, and similar to the 2010 Toyota Prius it comes standard with regenerative braking. The question is, who can afford it?

Mostly the affluent, or people who save religiously for long periods of time because if it’s priced anything like the Tesla Roadster (Mercedes hasn’t released official pricing yet) then it’ll cost over $100,000. So as far as long-term, measureable impact on the environment the SLS AMG won’t get us very far because it’s out of reach for the masses. But at least it shows that electric cars are nearly as capable as their gasoline powered cousins.

Lexus adds humor to new debate series on climate change

Lexus adds humor to new debate series on climate change Hybrid and plug-in carmakers haven’t quite nailed down an all-purpose advertising strategy. Ford used Kermit the Frog for the hybrid escape, Nissan hired Lance Armstrong to pitch the Leaf, and the Chevy Volt dance went viral for all the wrong reasons. Lexus is taking a different approach to promote their CT 200h hybrid with the “Darker Side Of Green” debate series moderated by celebrities.

The premise is simple: throw a cocktail party to celebrate the launch of the CT 200h that features a debate between both sides of the issue of climate change. Throw in a celebrity like Andy Samberg for a healthy dose of hipster wit as moderator. According to Lexus, the winner gets “ultimate green, or dark green, supremacy.”

Tesla’s battery could power Toyota’s comeback

Tesla’s battery could power Toyota’s comeback Toyota’s recent deal with Tesla proved that the automaker was interested in becoming a force in the electric car market. They could blend Tesla’s battery pack technology with their knowledge of mass production and create a car to challenge Nissan’s Leaf. Toyota revealed today that they are testing a battery pack from Tesla in a new prototype.

One of the reasons Toyota went ahead with the Tesla deal was that they were in dire need of a shakeup. Their massive recalls as well as the buzz surrounding the Leaf and Volt put the once mighty Prius out of the minds of many consumers. Tesla had the technology and a startup mindset that could dig them out of their hole, so they inked a deal less than a month after their two CEOs met in the US.

Nissan looks beyond 2010 LEAF to new ultra-efficient hybrid

Nissan looks beyond 2010 LEAF to new ultra-efficient hybrid Ask Nissan for its list of top 10 projects right now and the all-electric LEAF is sure to be on it, but the company is looking beyond that too. Appealing to drivers who don’t want to plug their car in every night, Nissan is developing a car it expects to benefit from double the mileage of a standard gasoline car. That makes the efficiency gains on hybrids like the 2010 Toyota Prius look modest with their 15-30% increase in mpg.

Better features and bigger numbers are a prerequisite for anyone entering a competitive landscape late, and Nissan is a decade behind its two biggest competitors. If it can get the pricing right and maintain a reputation for high quality, safe cars then it may just have a chance at pulling in new customers by leapfrogging Toyota and Honda.

Chevy plans larger rollout and holiday road trip for the Volt

Chevy plans larger rollout and holiday road trip for the Volt General Motors was pummeled by the competition in recent years when it came to innovation. They kept churning out inefficient pickups and SUVs while their rivals like Toyota invested in hybrid technology which led to the Prius. However, Chevy’s Volt seems to have arrived at the right time for the carmaker to flaunt their hybrid technology and newfound mojo.

Taking a page from their promotional push at this year’s SXSW festival, Chevy plans on making the Volt available to as many curious car buyers as possible. Their marketing director Tony DiSalle said, “there’s no better way to sell and market the Chevrolet Volt than to put people in it.”

T.25 City Car goes micro, greener than 2010 Toyota Prius

T.25 City Car goes micro, greener than 2010 Toyota Prius No doubt, the 2010 Toyota Prius is the mainstream hybrid vehicle and is nearly synonymous with fuel efficient, easy-to-use cars (despite Toyota’s recall woes). Toyota did a great thing with its hybrid synergy drive because it built a product that customers embraced - but naturally that begs the question how can we become even more efficient? British engineer Gordon Murray thinks it’s time to go micro to the extreme with his T.25 City Car.

Think the Smart ForTwo is small, the Toyota iQ? They are, but the T.25 is smaller. And yet, it’s capable of seating 3 people while averaging 74 mpg! Two T.25s can drive alongside each other in a single standard traffic lane, and Murray suggests cities may want to empower drivers to do so. It could increase traffic throughput threefold effectively reducing jams during peak travel hours.