Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kymco to Build BMW i3 Extended-range Hybrid Engine

Chinese-built BMW i3 engine

Taiwanese scooter-builder Kymco will be responsible for BMW’s upcoming i3 extended-range electric car, according to reports circulating in the media this week.
Adding plausibility to the reports is the fact that Kymco, which has factories in China and Indonesia, is already a BMW supplier – selling motorcycle engines to the German company that can be found in the BMW G450X enduro, as well as the BMW C-class maxi-scooters that debuted back in 2011.
Expect the Kymco/BMW motor to look something like this …

Kymco/BMW drivetrain

… and for the engine to be fed by a small fuel tank, which should stretch the i3′s range to almost 220 mi on a combined diet of electrons and fossils. Keep in mind, that’s adding to the i3′s projected 80-ish mile range on a fully charged battery.
In addition, it should be noted that this range-extender is just that: an OPTIONAL ADD-ON that BMW is offering to i3 buyers who suffer from “range anxiety”. This is opposite of what we’d find in cars like the Chevy Volt or Fisker Karma, for example, which are sold as EVs that feature range-extending ICE engines as standard equipment.
More than the functionality of the engine itself, the bigger question BMW might have to face is: will the public accept a premium price tag on (what could be perceived as) a Chinese car?
We’ll soon see …


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fritz Henderson, GM COO, Announces Core Brands as Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC

GM's COO, Fritz Henderson has gone on record stating that their core brands will be Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. This is not much of a surprise as the matter was discussed during their hearings before the House and Senate when they begged for their lives. Pontiac will be downsized greatly and Saturn may just be jettisoned. GM really does not know what to do with SAAB and Hummer and it looks like they wish the two could have been sold in 2006.

One disturbing comment made by Henderson is that if gas prices remain low, Chevy will have a difficult time selling the Volt. GM really needs the Volt to be a smashing success, but it appears they are already preparing for a failure. Other manufacturers are moving quickly to bring plug-in electric hybrids to market and I fear GM will be left in the dust. GM should have offered the Volt this year, using existing lead acid or NiMH batteries, but instead they dragged things out by researching and developing more expensive Li ion batteries. The price of the Volt could have been lower initially with these batteries and coupled with the $7500 federal tax credit, it would have made a very viable purchase for consumers. Instead, we have to wait nearly two more years.

From Automotive News:

"General Motors will go to market with four core brands in the future: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. Pontiac will be shrunk "significantly," a senior GM executive told the Automotive News World Congress tonight.

GM COO Fritz Henderson said that GM is conducting a strategic review of its Saab and Hummer brands and that the "status quo" for the Saturn brand will not work.

"We need to do something different with the Saturn brand," he said.

Henderson stopped short of saying GM would outright shutter the brand, but he made it clear that it would not remain in the same capacity and form it is today.

Likewise, GM is working with the Swedish government on a plan to help the Saab brand.

"We're engaged with the Swedish government as we speak," Henderson said. "We've talked to investors and we'll see where it goes."

Three-quarters of Saab sales are in Europe, he said. "Saab is not a U.S. strategy."

Henderson said the four core brands comprised 83 percent of GM's total sales volume in the United States last year.

Going forward, the Pontiac brand will "shrink substantially," Henderson said. But the fact that GM is investing heavily in the Buick brand in China will benefit that brand in the United States.

"When you see the new LaCrosse, it will be very familiar to the one you've seen GM reveal in China," Henderson said.

Asked if GM should have followed the 2006 advice of Jerry York, Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's former representative on the GM board, to sell Hummer and Saab, Henderson said, "With the benefit of hindsight, you might say we should have moved then."

If oil prices remain low, GM would be challenged to successfully sell key future vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid sedan, he said. But GM is planning its future business around oil being $130 to $160 a barrel in the next few years. GM is projecting oil will be average about $53 a barrel in 2009, he said.

During his speech, Henderson outlined the volatile markets that led to GM's cash crisis late last year. He said that if GM does not get the second installment of the $13.4 billion loan the government granted, it will run out of cash before the end of March. GM is expecting a payment of $5.4 billion in the next few days, Henderson said. That payment was originally due last week, but was delayed by the change in administration.

The government gave GM the first installment of $4 billion on Dec. 31.

GM is working with its stakeholders to refine the viability plan it submitted to Congress on Dec. 2. In that plan, GM said it would direct most of its marketing and engineering resources toward Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.

Henderson said GM's next challenge isn't just streamlining operations and developing advanced technology, it's also fixing its public image.

"Our job is not only to build vehicles people want to buy," Henderson said. "But to communicate that people want to buy our vehicles."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fiat Looks To Purchase 35% Stake in Chrysler

More big news in the automotive sector as Fiat agrees in principal to purchasing a 35% equity stake in Chrysler. While this is good news for Chrysler, I am not sure it makes much sense in the long run. What exactly does Chrysler gain from this merger beside the obvious influx of cash? Fiat apparently wants a dealership infrastructure in the US to sell its products. Tell me what you think. Is this a good merger or no?

From Automotive News:

Fiat S.p.A. and Chrysler LLC confirmed today that the Italian company intends to acquire an initial 35 percent stake in the U.S. carmaker.

In a joint statement, Fiat, Chrysler and Chrysler's majority shareholder Cerberus Capital Management L.P, said they have signed "a non-binding term sheet to establish a global strategic alliance."

The pact "would provide Chrysler with access to competitive, fuel-efficient vehicle platforms, powertrains, and components to be produced at Chrysler manufacturing sites," the companies said.

Under the terms of the deal, first reported on Monday by Automotive News Europe, Fiat would make available its distribution network in key growth markets. "Substantial cost savings opportunities" would be available to the alliance, the companies said.

The transaction already has the blessing of the UAW. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in the press release:

"This is great news for the UAW Chrysler team and we look forward to supporting and working with them to ensure Chrysler's long term viability."

PRESS RELEASE: Fiat Group, Chrysler and Cerberus Announce Plans for a Global Strategic Alliance

Fiat S.p.A., Chrysler LLC (Chrysler) and Cerberus Capital Management L.P., the private investment majority owner of Chrysler LLC, announced today they have signed a non-binding term sheet to establish a global strategic alliance.

The alliance, to be a key element of Chrysler's viability plan, would provide Chrysler with access to competitive, fuel-efficient vehicle platforms, powertrain, and components to be produced at Chrysler manufacturing sites. Fiat would also provide distribution capabilities in key growth markets, as well as substantial cost savings opportunities. In addition, Fiat would provide management services supporting Chrysler's submission of a viability plan to the U.S. Treasury as required. Fiat has been very successful in executing its own restructuring over the past several years. The alliance would also allow Fiat Group and Chrysler to take advantage of each other's distribution networks and to optimize fully their respective manufacturing footprint and global supplier base.

The proposed alliance would be consistent with the terms and conditions of the U.S. Treasury financing to Chrysler. Per the U.S. Treasury loan agreement, each constituent will be asked to contribute to Chrysler's restructuring effort including: lenders, employees, the UAW, dealers, suppliers and Chrysler Financial. Such steps would greatly contribute to Chrysler's long term viability plan. Completion of the alliance is subject to due diligence and regulatory approvals, including the U.S. Treasury.

As a consideration for Fiat Group's contribution to the alliance of strategic assets, to include: product and platform sharing, including city and compact segment vehicles, to expand Chrysler's current product portfolio; technology sharing, including fuel efficient and environmentally friendly powertrain technologies; and access to additional markets, including distribution for Chrysler vehicles in markets outside of North America, Fiat would receive an initial 35 percent equity interest in Chrysler. The alliance does not contemplate that Fiat would make a cash investment in Chrysler or commit to funding Chrysler in the future.

"This initiative represents a key milestone in the rapidly changing landscape of the automotive sector and confirms Fiat and Chrysler commitment and determination to continue to play a significant role in this global process. The agreement will offer both companies opportunities to gain access to most relevant automotive markets with innovative and environmentally friendly product offering, a field in which Fiat is a recognized world leader while benefitting from additional cost synergies. The deal follows a number of targeted alliances and partnerships signed by the Fiat Group with leading carmakers and automotive suppliers over the last five years aimed at supporting the growth and volume aspirations of the partners involved," the CEO of Fiat Group, Sergio Marchionne said.

"A Chrysler/Fiat partnership is a great fit as it creates the potential for a powerful, new global competitor, offering Chrysler a number of strategic benefits, including access to products that compliment our current portfolio; a distribution network outside North America; and cost savings in design, engineering, manufacturing, purchasing and sales and marketing," said Bob Nardelli, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler LLC. "This transaction will enable Chrysler to offer a broader competitive line-up of vehicles for our dealers and customers that meet emissions and fuel efficiency standards, while adhering to conditions of the Government Loan. The partnership would also provide a return on investment for the American taxpayer by securing the long-term viability of Chrysler brands in the marketplace, sustaining future product and technology development for our country and building renewed consumer confidence, while preserving American jobs."

"This is great news for the UAW Chrysler team and we look forward to supporting and working with them to ensure Chrysler's long term viability," said Ron Gettelfinger, President United Auto Workers (UAW).

"We're on board with this important strategic initiative as it will help preserve the long-term viability of our great company, its brands and of course UAW-Chrysler jobs," said General Holiefield, Vice President, United Auto Workers (UAW).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Toyota Announces Plan to Lower Prius Price in Response to Honda Insight

Here is some rather big news. Toyota will be taking an aggressive stance on its pricing of the Prius in order to compete with Honda's Insight. Competition is great, eh?

From Green Car Congress:

The Nikkei reports that Toyota Motor Corp. plans to lower the price for the existing Prius hybrid when it begins selling the more fuel-efficient third-generation Prius (earlier post) later this year to counter Honda Motor’s new Insight hybrid (earlier post).

Japan’s top automaker will continue to sell the existing Prius after the new version’s release in May. While the new Prius, which will boast improved fuel-efficiency, is expected to carry a hefty price tag, Toyota plans to cut the price for the current model to around 2 million yen. Rival Honda is slated to release the Insight hybrid in February, with a starting price of less than 2 million yen.

The new Prius will come equipped with a 1.8-liter engine, compared with the current 1.5-liter version, improving the car’s fuel efficiency 10% to 36-40km per liter. With this improvement, the price is expected to rise to around 2.5 million yen. The remodeled Prius will be offered through all four of Toyota’s sales channels while the existing version will be sold only through two.

Toyota will position the current Prius as a low-end model targeted at corporate users, simplifying the interior design to lower its price.

Sales of the Prius in Japan in 2008 rose 25% from 2007, to more than 73,000 units.

44th US President Barack Obama and His Energy Policy

Barack Obama will be sworn in tomorrow as the 44th President of the United States amidst a gargantuan amount of hoopla. Apparently, Obama will be a saviour to the masses and everyone will live happily ever after. Obama is being hailed as a great choice for our country because he is black. Or is he? Actually, he is more caucasian than anything, due to his mother, and then he is Arab, due to his father.

Which brings me to the point of this post, namely what will be Obama's energy policy, considering his heritage? Will he set up a real policy that begins the process of weaning this country from foreign oil, or will he continue to feed OPEC and other oil producing countries? His campaign was based on change and he has stated he wants a change in energy policy, but will he deliver? I sincerely hope so. George Bush and Dick Cheney did not want any change in the oil policy, which was very evident by our increasing dependence on foreign oil. But will Obama break our addiction?

Obama said he is in favor of tax credits for those who purchase battery electric vehicles, when they become available. Already, Congress has passed legislation allowing up to $7500 in tax credits on car puchases with a certain sized battery. The battery must be greater than 4 kWh's energy density. For comparison, the Toyota Prius' battery is 1.3 kWh's. Will Obama push to have this tax credit increased? It needs to be $10,000 minimum in my opinion. Chevy is going to price their Volt around 40K MSRP and without the 10 grand in credits, the masses simply will not be able to afford it.

What about alternative energy? Will Obama push for the Pickens Plan, or push for solar or wind? Is he going to allow more oil drilling here in the States? Along with the current economic crisis, our energy crisis should be his primary focus as this nation cannot continue to give our money away to nations that hate us. We need to completely transform the transportation sector and utilize alternative energy, mostly in the form of electricity, and do it fast.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Subaru Stella EV To Make its Debut This Summer

More good news for those of us who desire alternative energy vehicles. Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), who make Subarus, will commence delivery of the Stella plug in vehicle this summer. Unfortunately for those of us who live in North America, these cars will be for sale only in Japan.

The Stella EV will have a top speed of 62 mph (100 kph) and a range of 50 miles or 80 km. I presume that Subaru is going to try and keep the cost low for this vehicle as the battery pack only contains 9.2 kWh's of energy. The battery technology is Lithium ion with a nominal voltage of 346V. The 50 mile range is sure to give most commuters some anxiety and the 62 mph top speed may deter freeway use. However, for those individuals who need not travel on roads with posted speed limits greater than 55 mph, this car could be perfect.

I would personally prefer to see this car with a 100 mile range and 70 to 75 mph top speed. These numbers easily cover the overwhelming majority of US commuter's needs. Of course, you would need twice the battery capacity which probably doubles its cost. We need mass production of Lithium batteries to bring their cost down and make the technology more available to the masses.

The next two years are going to be great for alternative energy vehicles. I am personally very excited to see the next years unfold. We will soon have a great choice of electric vehicles at showrooms and also competition for our hard earned dollars.

Thanks FHI and Subaru for giving us one more choice!

From Green Car Congress:

uji Heavy Industries (FHI), maker of Subarus, will begin delivery of the plug-in STELLA (earlier post) this summer, according to FHI President & CEO Ikuo Mori in his New Year press conference speech.

More than 100 units are to be delivered mainly in metropolitan areas of Japan. FHI is calling 2009 the “First Year of Electric Vehicle”.

The Subaru Plug-in STELLA Concept combines the electric drive system employed in the R1e (earlier post) with the Subaru STELLA minicar platform. FHI plans to use the plug-in STELLA Concept in the development and test-marketing of the next generation of EVs in Japan in the near future.

The STELLA EV seats four, has a maximum speed of 100 kph (62 mph) and a range of 80km (50 miles) per charge. A 9.2 kWh, 346V Li-ion battery pack drives an electric motor with 40 kW output and that develops 150 Nm torque.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Crude Oil at $35 Per Barrel Today But Where Is Cheap Gas?

My little crude oil widget tells us that the price of a barrel of crude is selling for $35 at the time of this writing. This represents a mere fraction of the prices we witnessed in 2008, when the going rate was $144 per barrel. These low prices persist even as OPEC has cut production output by 4 billion barrels daily.

Here is what I do not understand, "Why are prices at the pump still $2 per gallon or more?" Everyone knows that when the prices for crude go up, we see an INSTANTANEOUS rise at the pump, so why is the opposite not true? Why are gas prices still $2 a gallon now when they were $1.50 a couple months ago at the same crude prices?

I believe that oil companies are keeping the prices high intentionally to keep their profits up. They got so used to huge profits these past few years that they must now be going into withdrawal. Like a drug addiction, greed is overwhelmingly powerful and my thinking is that Big Oil needs more profits.

What are you paying at the pump today? It is still $1.99 in central Ohio but should be lower.