Wireless Charging of Electric Cars

Wireless Charging of Electric Cars

Infinity Wireless Charging

 

By John Addison (5/31/12)

 

Electric vehicle wireless charging is now in use by electric cars, taxis, buses, car sharing, and racing teams. Is charging without plug connection in all of our future, or just special fleets?

Thousands of car sharing members are now driving electric cars. In San Diego, for example, over 6,000 members share some 200 Smart Electric Drive cars. After a car share member uses an electric car, however, they often forget to plug it in so that the next person can charge it. Now Hertz EV is experimenting with an easier approach – Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC). Anticipating growing popularity, Sears Home Services is already partnering with Plugless Power to install systems for electric car owners.

Hertz, who provides both car sharing and car rental, is installing a Plugless Power inductive charge system. One charging plate will be installed in an EV parking space, the other at the bottom of the vehicle. Using the electromagnetics that we learned and forgot in high school, electricity is transferred through inches of air, charging the vehicles at 3.3 kW/hour.

Google and Duke Energy will also pilot wireless charging in their growing fleet of electric cars as part of the Apollo trial program launched by Evatran at the EBS 26 conference. The Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt are included in the Apollo program.

Wireless Charging’s Potential with Taxis and Buses

In Italy, over 30 buses on fixed routes in Genoa and Turin take advantage of wireless charging at bus stops to make electric transit a reality. The frequent charging allows these electric buses to save weight and thousands of dollars with smaller lithium battery packs.

We have all seen long lines of taxis at airports, hotels, and city centers. As it readies for the Olympics, the city of London will include a new wireless pilot program that includes Addison Lee taxis using Qualcomm Halo technology. The trial will involve a combination of passenger cars and light good vehicles and will be based partially in Tech City in the East of London, an initiative supported by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. Addison Lee has 3,500 minicabs and 250 chauffeur-driven luxury cars. Other partners include Chargemaster, Transport for London, and the Mayor of London’s office.

Qualcomm’s CDMA wireless technology is already in billions of mobile phones, e-book readers, and smart grid devices. It is significant that this communications giant is expanding into wireless charging. Qualcomm’s Anthony Thompson describes Qualcomm’s IntelliDrive Intelligent Mobility vision as including the following:

  • Navigation services – ITS
  • Safety and telematics
  • Apps
  • Content
  • Payment
  • Mobile hotspot
  • Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC)

Qualcomm’s wireless communications expertise will be valuable in shaping standards. It is important that wireless charging frequencies do not interfere with Wi-Fi, radio, and other communication frequencies. Industry standards in the 40kHz to 150kHz are desirable for 3kWh, 7kWh and 20kWh. Standards must include frequency in the communication spectrum, proximity, network topology and architecture.

Wireless Charging will be Standard with Infinity LE Electric Car

At the EV26 international conference, where I interviewed experts for this article, crowds were dazzled by the luxury Infinity LE, a beautiful sedan targeting to go on sale in two years. The Infinity all-electric car will include wireless charging, as well as standard Level 2 and DC Fast Charge (Chademo) connectors.

Evidently, Infinity part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, is not concerned about frequent inductive charging affecting battery life. By making wireless charging standard on the Infinity LE, the Alliance may decide to make it standard on other electric cars including the Nissan LEAF and Renault Fluence.

BMW and Siemens have partnered to create wireless electric vehicle charging for the new BMW I electric cars. GM, Toyota, and others are evaluating the technology in the labs.

Dynamic charging in motion captures the imagination. Imagine driving an electric car with unlimited range along highways and with wireless charging embedded in the highway. HaloIPT in the U.K formed a partnership with Drayson Racing Technologies to test the technology on the track. In the next decade, we may see this on college campuses or even public streets.

WEVC technology providers are optimistic about achieving 90% efficiency. Still, there is the potential for significant energy loss. Safety concerns must be fully addressed. People don’t want their pet cat to be in the middle of a wireless charge. Since, charging only occurs when devices are paired, unobstructed, and communicating, safety fears are likely to be overblown. A mass consumer market would require significant infrastructure investment.

Wireless charging is not new. It is available for a wide range of consumer electronics including mobile phones, game electronic games, and iPads. Heat, inefficiency, and lack of industry standards have all discouraged wide use. But according to a new report from Pike Research, the market for wireless power systems – encompassing mobile devices, consumer electronics, industrial applications, infrastructure devices, and electric vehicles – will triple over the next 8 years, growing from $4.9 billion in revenue in 2012 to $15.1 billion in 2020.

Wireless EV charging has attracted giants such as Qualcomm, Siemens, Delphi, Renault-Nissan, BMW, Hertz, Google, Duke Energy and a number of innovative smaller companies. Wireless EV Charging (WEVC) may prove to be a great fleet application, even if it fails to catch-on with most consumers, or WEVC may be the future of electric vehicle charging.

(Disclosure: Author owns stock in QUALCOMM and Siemens.)

Car Sharing Now Has One Million Members

Car Sharing Now Has One Million Members

 

By John Addison (5/25/12)

 

Car Sharing includes electric cars, point-to-point, smart apps

One million people around the world are members of a carsharing program offered by Zipcar, Enterprise, Hertz, innovative regional services, and programs that let one person make money sharing with others in the community. Car sharing saves money and hassles for families, individuals, fleets, and university students. Car sharing has enabled families to go from 3 cars to 2, households from 2 to 1, city dwellers and university students to live car-free.

Electric car owners can use car rental and car share to get hybrid cars that can take them beyond EV range, SUVs and trucks for big projects, and  the best AWD vehicles for snow and storms. For gasoline car owners, car share programs allow drivers to try an electric car for a few hours.

Smart apps including Google Maps, transit systems, and car sharing companies allow people to easily plan and navigate their week with a mix of transit, ride sharing, walking, bicycling, and using owned and shared cars. Car sharing has helped the U.S. become less dependent on oil; we now use 19 million barrels daily, down from 21 barrels 6 years ago.

The high-growth of car sharing enabled Zipcar to go public and attract 709,000 members. Zipcar’s success has attracted major investment by Enterprise, and Hertz. Seeing a big future that includes cars used as a service, auto giant Daimler has expanded the competition with Car2Go.

Zipcar’s 709,000 Members include Individuals, Fleets, Universities

Zipcar will be the first carsharing program to have one million members. Last count was 709,000, but the number grows daily as city dwellers and university students sign-up so that they can pay by the hour when transit, bicycling and walking won’t due. Don’t own a vehicle? Are you in a household fighting over one vehicle? Car sharing helps members with weekly groceries and other shopping, trips out of town, and an SUV with AWD when the snow falls.

Zipcar has grown organically, by merging with Flexcar, and buy selecting buying European providers as it targets global leadership. Zipcar had an IPO in 2011, generated over $240 million of revenue in 2011, and has stocked valued at around $400 million.

Electric cars provide another way for car sharing programs to attract members and increase revenue, as many members are eager to navigate a city in low-carbon silence. Ten years ago, Zipcar pioneered sharing Toyota RAV4 EV in Boston. Zipcar was early in a San Francisco pilot offering of Toyota Prii converted to be plug-in hybrid and now plans a pilot of the Honda Fit Electric.

Zipcar added 5 Chevrolet Volts to its Chicago fleet and plans to add up to 20 more electric vehicles in the city this year. Zipcar members in London for the Olympics can access one of 10 GM Vauxhaul Amperas, the European cousin of the Chevy Volt.

Enterprise Continues to Acquire Car Sharing Companies

Enterprise recently acquired Mint Cars On-Demand, a car-sharing company serving more than 8,000 members in New York City and Boston. By year’s end, all of Enterprise’s car-sharing services throughout the country – including WeCar by Enterprise, PhillyCarShare and Mint – will be transitioned to the Enterprise Car Share brand name.

Auto rental giants Enterprise and Hertz are aggressively competing with Zipcar as all three expand globally.  Enterprise Holdings operates the flagship Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand as well as the National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands.  Founded in 1957, the Enterprise Rent-A-Car network – with 5,500 branch offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population – has more than twice as many neighborhood locations as its nearest competitor. Enterprise has 1.2 million cars and trucks, 70,000 employees, and annual revenues over $14 billion.

Nissan LEAFEnterprise is now estimated to have over 100 electric cars in its rental and car sharing locations. When I had breakfast 18 months ago with Lee Broughton, director of sustainability for Enterprise Holdings, he told me of their aggressive plans to make 1,000 electric vehicles including 500 Nissan LEAFs available to members from Seattle to Nashville.  “We likewise remain committed to comprehensive, long-term local transportation planning,” stated Lee Broughton, head of corporate sustainability for Enterprise Holdings. “So strategic acquisitions like this underscore the sustainable nature of our longtime grassroots strategy from a social, environmental and economic perspective.”

Enterprise rents Chevrolet Volts in the middle of Southern California’s hot electric car market at places like the Mark Christopher Auto Center in Ontario, California. Daily people test-drive hundreds of Chevrolet, Cadillac, and other GM cars. Rentals at car dealerships are ideal for letting people drive EVs in real world conditions.

Enterprise also works with corporate, university, and government fleets. Google has 11 WeCar Prii that are converted to be plug-in hybrids. WeCar will offer more plug-in vehicles.

Hertz offers Mix of Rental and Car Share

Hertz leverages its huge presence as it expands with car sharing. Hertz has 8,500 locations in 150 countries. A growing number of hybrid and electric cars are offered in the Hertz Green Travel Collection.

Hertz EV RentalIts global car share program, Hertz on Demand, launched in December 2008 and has grown to more than 700 vehicles, 85,000 members and more than 500 locations worldwide, including corporate fleets, airports, hotels, utilities, government, and universities. The Hertz car share fleet includes many Nissan LEAFs, Chevrolet Volts, Mitsubishi I, and Smart Electric Drive.

Hertz offers relief for range anxiety. Hertz On Demand vehicles include in-car touch one button connection to a 24-hour Member Care Center, who guides drivers to an alternate drop off point or gets help with roadside assistance.

Hertz sees Universities as a good market for electric car sharing. It added the Nissan LEAF at Texas A&M. “Texas A&M University is excited to be one of the first universities in the country to have an electric vehicle in its car share fleet,” said Ron Steedly, Alternative Transportation Manager, Texas A&M University.

City Car Share flexible offerings

For eleven years, City Car Share has been a pioneer in car sharing and electric car sharing. This non-profit started with a dozen VW Beetles. Now, Zipcar, Enterprise, Hertz, and other independents learn from their success. City Car Share’s fleet includes about 20 all-electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi I as well as plug-in hybrids Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius Plug-in.

Like other successful car share programs, members can use different vehicles for different needs. When a small car is needed for small city parking spaces, a Fiat 500 offers members a fun drive. For a big home project, a Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck can be used by the hour.  If friends are in town, a LEAF can be used to give them an electric ride from the airport. If great grandparents arrive, then a Dodge Grand Caravan wheel chair accessible minivan can be reserved.

I-Go Leads with Solar-Powered EV Stations

I-GO Car Sharing, Chicago’s innovative non-profit car sharing organization, has 16 solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations at several Jewel-Osco retail locations, transit stations, municipal lots, Illinois Institute of Technology, and suburbs including Evanston and Oak Park.

Each solar charging station includes a canopy that covers four parking spaces and will be able to power two electric vehicles. Two spaces will be reserved for I-GO at each location. The others will be available to the public. The canopies are expected to produce enough electricity to power 600,000 driving miles for plug-in vehicles.

A Nissan LEAFs and 2 Mitsubishi I are in use. I-Go will have a fleet of 36 all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Car2Go with 200 Smart Electric Drive Vehicles in San Diego

Last November, I drove new 2012 smart fortwo electric drive vehicle (smart ed) through the busy downtown streets of San Diego, America’s eighth largest city. I drive the electric car from near a transit depot to Balboa Park, a popular destination with its vast acres, museums, and famous San Diego zoo. We park the car, sign-off and walk away. If we were paying members, this trip would have cost us only $3 or $4. We got there in minutes without the hassle of car rental or bus transfers. Car2go is a point-to-point car sharing service. You pay 35 cents a minute. If you use lots of minutes, you’re automatically lowered to $12.99 per hour. Keep the electric car overnight and pay $65.99 per day. No surprise fees are charged for being early or late, like some other car sharing services.

This point-to-point car sharing service has proven itself in Austin, Texas, with hundreds of the gasoline sipping smart fortwo. San Diego is an excellent choice for the electric car sharing, since a fast network of Blink and other level 2 chargers are being installed in public areas. Utility SDG&E supplies the electricity using a generation mix that is 20 percent renewable. There are zero coal power plants in California. San Diego already has over 1,000 drivers of Nissan LEAFs, Chevrolet Volts, Tesla Roadsters and other electric cars. San Diego Car2Go Report.

Car2Go does not have a monopoly in one-way point-to-point car sharing. Hertz and Enterprise have been offering that for years in the rental programs. For example, you drop off your Hertz On Demand car at over 75 locations in greater New York City, Washington D.C., and Hoboken, NJ.

Car2Go is a for-profit subsidiary of auto giant Daimler whose most famous brand is Mercedes. Automakers have analyzed the future of urban mobility. Increasingly we will use cars as a service to meet part of our weekly transportation. Electric vehicles that are shared with point-to-point flexibility will allow us to go farther, faster, cleaner, and at lower cost.

Think Keystone XL Pipeline Will Lower Gas Prices? Think Again

Think Keystone XL Pipeline Will Lower Gas Prices? Think Again

The real solutions to reducing the impact of rising and volatile gasoline prices are more efficient cars and trucks, smarter growth, public transit, and vehicles that run on cleaner, alternative fuels, such as electricity. The latter is my area of expertise.  My colleague, Anthony Swift, knows more about problems posing as solutions, including drilling for increasingly dirty sources of fossil fuels.  In the article included below, he describes a new report which shows that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will actually increase domestic gasoline prices.

Anthony Swift is an attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program. This article first appeared on his Switchboard blog

One of the most misunderstood issues surrounding the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is its impact on U.S. gasoline prices. NRDC, Oil Change International and ForestEthics Advocacy released a report, Keystone XL: A Tar Sands PIpeline to Increase Oil Prices, today that take a close look at this complicated issue and evaluates Keystone XL’s impact on U.S. gasoline prices and supply. The study finds that Keystone XL is likely to both reduce the amount of gasoline produced in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, leading to even higher prices at the pump. Keystone XL’s supporters in the United States cite high gasoline prices as a reason to overlook the project’s tremendous environmental impacts and build the project. There are plenty of compelling reasons not to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline – it will expand a destructive extraction process, put our rivers, aquifers and lands at risk of tar sands oil spills, and would increase our dependence on tar sands – worsening climate change and undermining efforts to move to clean energy. In addition to this litany of problems, rather than decreasing U.S. oil and gasoline prices, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will lead to even more pain at the pump for American consumers.

So how does a pipeline increase gasoline prices?

First, Keystone XL is going divert crude oil from the Midwest, a region of the United States where refineries are designed to produce as much gasoline as possible from a barrel of oil, to the Gulf Coast of Texas, where refineries have reconfigured themselves to produce as much diesel as possible from a barrel of crude.

These differences are due to recent changes in the world market for oil and refined products. Historically gasoline commanded higher prices than diesel, driven largely by increasing U.S. consumption. That has changed over the last ten years as U.S. gasoline consumption has plateaued, due in large part to increasing automobile efficiency standards, and global demand for diesel continues to rise. Today, diesel commands a higher price than gasoline, particularly in the international market.

Gulf Coast refineries, which have access to lucrative international diesel markets, have taken advantage of these international trends by reconfiguring their operations to maximize diesel production. Meanwhile, Midwestern refineries, which do not have access to these international markets, have maintained their focus on the U.S. market. To give an example, refineries in the northern Midwest produce almost 22 gallons of gasoline from a barrel of oil, which refineries in the Texas Gulf only produce about 17 gallons. Moreover, refineries in the Texas Gulf are working with better quality crudes, crude which should produce more gasoline than the heavier, more sulfuric crudes processed in northern Midwestern refineries.

Right now, Canada doesn’t have ‘extra oil’ to put on Keystone XL. In fact there are nearly 2 million barrels a day of empty pipeline capacity available to export additional Canadian crude oil – Canada doesn’t produce enough oil to fill it. That means that in the short to medium term, Keystone XL will allow producers to send oil to the Gulf Coast instead of the Midwest. Simply sending 830,000 barrels of crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries instead of to Midwestern refineries will actually reduce the amount of gasoline produced by U.S. refineries by 80,000 barrels a day – that means about reducing the amount of gasoline available to U.S. consumers by about 1.2 billion gallons a year.

Second, Keystone XL will increase the cost of producing gasoline in the Midwest. Which TransCanada originally pitched Keystone XL to Canadian regulators in 2009, the company asserted that its pipeline would increase the price of Canadian tar sands. TransCanada argued that Canadian tar sands had historically sold on equal terms with Mexican heavy crude, but that increasing supplies in the Midwest had caused Canadian crude to sell at a $3 discount – a discount that Keystone XL would eliminate, increasing revenue to Canadian crude producers.  In 2012, the discount for Canadian tar sands has increased to between $20 and $40 a barrel. Based on TransCanada’s earlier analysis, by eliminating that discount, Keystone XL would increase the cost of crude by up to $27 billion a year.

This wouldn’t matter for consumers if, as Keystone XL proponents often argue, Midwestern and Rocky Mountain refineries were just using the lower cost for crude to increase their profits. If that were the case, increasing the cost of oil by $20 to $40 a barrel would have little effect on consumers. The problem is, Midwestern refineries aren’t making significant profits. Even with after paying significantly discounted prices for crude oil, Midwestern refinery margins, or revenue per barrel refined, are less than Gulf Coast refineries, which pay significantly higher international prices for oil.

This is because Midwestern and Rocky mountain refineries don’t currently have access to more lucrative international diesel markets. If these refineries are forced to pay the higher international price of oil, they will be forced to cope the same way East Coast refineries have – by reducing their production, further decreasing U.S. gasoline supplies and increasing prices.

There are many reasons to argue that Keystone XL isn’t in the national interest. A closer examination of Keystone XL’s impact on U.S. oil and gasoline supplies provides one less reason to support the project.

Go here to read the full report.

Ford C-MAX Hybrid Challenges Toyota Prius V

Ford C-MAX Hybrid Challenges Toyota Prius V

By John Addison (updated 8/8/12)

 

Miles Per Gallon (MPG) Battle for Best Crossover

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid can now be ordered at a starting price of $25,995, about $400 less than the popular Toyota Prius V.  Both of these exciting crossover SUVs provide plenty of room for 5 passengers and the flexibility to drop the back seat and load more cargo than many traditional small SUVs. Since there will be no 2013 Ford Escape Hybrid, the C-MAX Hybrid will be the logical choice for many current Escape Hybrid drivers.

The C-MAX is a compact hybrid utility vehicle and the company’s first dedicated line of hybrids. The 2013 C-MAX Hybrid will be available this fall with a base price of $25,995. You can get deliveries now for the Prius V with its 42 mpg combined fuel economy, a breakthrough for the crossover driver. The Ford C-MAX Hybrid will also save big-time at the gas station with 47 mpg combined, almost as good as the smaller Toyota Prius Liftback. In fact, the C-MAX Hybrid delivers 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway. However you drive, you’ll be making fewer trips to the gas station.

Last summer, when we traveled in Spain, I saw the roomy C-MAX drive by. Even without the hybrid drive system that will be available in the U.S., 156,000 Ford C-MAX have sold in Europe where unsubsidized gasoline prices are double the U.S., making crossovers more popular than larger SUVs. Now the U.S. will have the beautiful C-MAX with better fuel-economy than the one sold in Europe.

Ford dealers are starting to place orders for America’s most affordable and fuel-efficient hybrid utility vehicle – the 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid – with innovative technologies such as a hands-free liftgate, spaciousness for five passengers and Ford’s claim that it will be fun to drive.

Room for People, Luggage, Work, School, Play

C-MAX Hybrid is a compact hybrid utility vehicle jam-packed with features and room for five people and cargo.

The vehicle has a high roofline (63.9 inches) offering ample interior space and flexibility. C-MAX Hybrid offers 99.7 cubic feet of passenger space compared with 97 cubic feet in Prius v. The spacious C-MAX Hybrid also provides greater headroom in both front and rear seats than Prius v (41/39.4 inches vs. 39.6/38.6 inches).

For cargo, C-MAX Hybrid has 60/40 split-fold rear seats that easily fold flat with 54.3 cubic feet of space behind the first row and 24.5 cubic feet behind the second row.

Hands-Free Music, Navigation, Liftgate

Ford C-Max SmartguageC-MAX Hybrid features the company’s innovative hands-free liftgate, allowing for quick and easy access to the cargo area without messing with keys. A gentle kicking motion under the rear bumper opens the liftgate when used in combination with a key fob the user keeps in his or her pocket or purse that tells the car it’s OK to engage. The same motion can close the liftgate. Cool!

The vehicle also features the newest version of MyFord Touch that offers multiple ways to manage your phone, navigation, entertainment and climate functions through voice commands, menus accessed through controls on the steering wheel, touch screens, buttons or knobs.

C-MAX Hybrid also offers the next generation of SmartGauge with EcoGuide. The left cluster also shows Brake Coach, a feature that helps drivers optimize their use of the braking system so that driving range can be enhanced through proper braking techniques. In the right cluster, redesigned imagery of green leaves shows overall driving efficiency – as drivers improve their efficient driving, they are rewarded with more leaves. Ford displays have made it easy to improve fuel-economy when driving their hybrid and electric vehicles.

Powersplit Hybrid Electric Drive System for Best Miles Per Gallon

C-MAX Hybrid is powered through the combination of a gasoline engine and a battery-driven electric motor. When powered by gasoline, the C-MAX Hybrid uses the all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine –among the most advanced non-turbocharged four-cylinder powertrains Ford has ever offered.

The electric motor of the C-MAX Hybrid is powered by an advanced li-ion battery system designed to maximize use of common, high-quality components, such as control board hardware that has proven field performance in Ford’s critically acclaimed hybrid vehicles. All new Ford hybrid and electric vehicles will use lithium batteries. To save weight and reduce drive system size, Ford has been more aggressive than Toyota in ending the use of NiMH batteries.

C-MAX Hybrid also offers Ford’s next-generation powersplit architecture that allows the electric motor and gasoline-powered engine to work together or separately to maximize efficiency. The engine also can operate independently of vehicle speed, charging the batteries or providing power to the wheels as needed. The motor alone can provide sufficient power to the wheels in low-speed, low-load conditions and work with the engine at higher speeds.

In the C-MAX Hybrid, the li-ion battery pack is recharged when the gasoline engine is in operation. Further, the regenerative braking system can recapture more than 95 percent of the braking energy that would otherwise be lost, and is able to use that power to help charge the battery. C-MAX Hybrid requires no plug-in charging.

C-MAX Hybrid is being produced at Ford’s Wayne, Mich.-based Michigan Assembly Plant alongside Focus, Focus Electric and Focus ST. It is one of five electrified vehicles Ford plans to produce in North America in 2012. In addition to C-MAX Energi, the other vehicles include Focus Electric, Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.

Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-in Hybrid

No Parking Except EVBy the end of 2012, you will hopefully have the option of buying the C-MAX as either a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. The C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid will follow later this year with better electric-mode fuel economy and overall driving range than the Prius plug-in hybrid.

The C-MAX plug-in hybrid, priced at $33,745, will allow you to drive the first 20 miles on a garage electric charge before engaging a fuel-efficient engine. It may rate over 100 mpg. The C-MAX lives up to its name. It maximizes the cargo and passenger space that can be fit on the popular “C” sized vehicle platform. Like the Focus, the C-MAX is a 5-seater. Drop the back seat and you have much more cargo space than the Focus. The C-MAX Energi will provide tough competition to the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

Ford’s near-term electrification plan calls for the company to triple production capacity of its electrified vehicle range by 2013 as it builds on a commitment to give fuel-efficiency-minded customers growing selection of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars and crossovers.

The new Focus Electric, C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid are three crucial elements to the plan. Production has started at Ford’s world-class Michigan Assembly Plant of the 2012 Focus Electric, America’s most fuel-efficient five-passenger vehicle that has been certified to offer the equivalent of 110 miles per gallon (MPGe) during city driving, 99 MPGe highway, and 105 MPGe combined.

C-MAX Hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid will join Ford’s electrified vehicle lineup in the second half of 2012. By the end of 2012, one-third of the Ford lineup will feature a model with 40 mpg or more. Ford Hybrid and Electric Choices

Competitive Choices

Prius v Windy RoadToyota Prius V. My test drive of the new Prius V convinced me that you can get 42 MPG with comfort for 5 people and the flexibility to hold the cargo carried in most SUVs. If you need a crossover SUV, you can get the Prius V now without waiting for the C-MAX Hybrid.  Prius V Test Drive and Review

Toyota Prius Liftback is comfortable for 5-passengers. Drop the backseat and you have room for lots of work supplies, 2 mountain bikes, or enough luggage for a month vacation. This classic Prius delivers 50 mpg at a time of high gasoline prices.

Ford Escape SE is an alternative for Ford lovers who want a traditional SUV or want Four-Wheel Drive (4WD). For 2013 models, Ford will not offer the Escape as a hybrid, but will offer fuel economy with your choice of either the available 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine or 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. The Escape SE with 4WD starts around $27,645 and has OK fuel-economy of 25 mpg combined (22 city, 30 highway). The FWD saves about $2,000 over the 4WD SE Model with Eco-Boost and about $5,000 with the base model with lower mileage.

Subaru Impreza offers All-Wheel Drive (AWD), where the Ford C-MAX Hybrid does not. The Impreza is a smaller hatchback than the C-MAX Hybrid and only averages 31 mpg to the C-MAX’s 41 mpg. The Impreza is also $8,000 less than the C-MAX Hybrid with an excellent AWD system for those deal with regular rain and snow driving. Subaru Impreza Review

10 Best Hybrids

 

New Infinity LE All-Electric Luxury Sedan on Sale in 2014

New Infinity LE All-Electric Luxury Sedan on Sale in 2014

Infinity LE frontBy John Addison (5/18/12)

The Infinity LE brings a new level of elegance to the all-electric 5-passenger sedan. Whether gliding down the highway or attracting a crowd in front of a favorite restaurant, the sculpted body and LED lighted grill are arresting. Premium appointments invite the driver to use a new generation of telematics and infotainment. Sexy.

Car expert Nick Chambers states, “The Infiniti LE features lightweight and highly sculptured aluminum body panels that Nissan had to develop a new manufacturing process for in order to create the sharp creases that run along the length of the vehicle. While individual preferences certainly vary, it is almost unarguable that the LE concept is a much better looking vehicle than the Leaf.”

For the American market, the new Infinity LE will be made in Tennessee along side the Nissan LEAF. The Infinity LE will use Nissan LEAF’s proven all-electric drive system with 24kW of lithium batteries for a 100-mile range. The new Infinity will have a larger 100kW electric motor with 134-hp and 240 lb-ft of torque for more performance than the LEAF’s 80kW motor. In the past year, my Nissan LEAF has always delivered needed acceleration, even when taking uphill freeway onramps and needing to quickly reach 70 mph. The Infinity LE will deliver more.

Nissan Motors to Announce 51 New Vehicles in Next 5 Years

Infinity LE angleAndy Palmer, Executive Vice President of Nissan Motors, plans to announce 51 new production vehicles over the next 5 years. The Infinity LE, currently a concept car, will go on sale in 2014 and probably be labeled a 2015 model year. Price has not yet been decided. When Palmer was asked about Nissan’s commitment to electric cars, he said, “We are all in.” Nissan has invested $4 billion in all-electric cars and advanced batteries and drive systems for hybrid electric-cars. In months, Nissan will open its new Tennessee plant that can produce 150,000 electric cars and 200,000 lithium battery packs annually. Nissan is all in.

Twenty-eight thousand Nissan LEAFs are now on the road. I have driven ours for over a year. It has been problem free for my wife and I. We have never spent more than $35 per month for electricity to keep it charged, thereby saving us over $100 per month on gasoline. First-year sales of the LEAF are greater than first-year sales of the Prius.

The LEAF is a convenient 5-passenger hatchback. We have lowered our backseat to put 2 mountain bikes inside. The Infiniti LE is a sedan where the backseat in the displayed concept cannot be lowered.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is also delivering in Europe the Renault Fluence all-electric cousin to the LEAF. Better Place plans to deliver 100,000 of the Fluence to Israel and Denmark, where thousands of charge points and battery switch stations are installed and in used to replace empty batteries with full in less than 5 minutes. From vans to luxury sedans, we will see a growing number of electric offerings from the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Wireless Charging for the Infinity LE

Infinity Wireless ChargingThe Infinity LE will include wireless inductive charging as a standard. When a contact plate at the bottom of the car aligns with a companion plate on a garage floor, no-fuss charging can take place. It can charge immediately or when it is programmed to begin, such as when electric utility rates are lowest. The Infinity LE will also be equipped for public charging with a J1772 connector for garage 110v outlet or Level 2 charging at 6.6kW/hour and CHAdeMO DC Fast Charging. The AESC 24kW lithium-nickel-manganese polymer battery will not be switchable.

Electric cars are heralding a new generation of stealth performance, apps that assist and guide us, and the convenience to “fill-up” at the nearest electric outlet. The Infinity LE joins new luxury electric cars such as the Tesla Model S, Fisker Karma, Cadillac ELR, Audi E-Tron Spyder, BMW i8, and Rolls Royce 102EX.