How does GM encourage adoption of its mild-hybrid system? Make it standard
By Lawrence UlrichPosted 01.20.2011 at 12:15 pm 2 Comments
“Mild” hybrids, with their puny batteries and weak electric motors, have largely failed in the marketplace. Next to “full” or “strong” hybrids such as the Toyota Prius—which has a sizeable battery pack and a powerful electric motor and can run under electric power for short stretches—cars like the now-discontinued Chevrolet Malibu hybrid were more expensive than the conventional model but provided only a negligible boost in fuel economy. With the 2012 Buick LaCrosse, however, GM is launching eAssist, a mild-hybrid system that the company hopes will change that equation.
Before the average electric car can travel 500 highway miles on a single charge, we’ll need better batteries than the lithium-ion packs used today. Last week, when Toyota told the press that it was working on a magnesium-based electric-car battery that could beat or even replace lithium-ion, the news dashed across the Internet. But anyone inclined to start calling magnesium the “new lithium” needs to keep a few important things in mind.
GM's EN-V concept (it stands for "Electric Networked Vehicle") is designed to fill the niche of urban, short-range transport, where space is limited but travel distances are typically shorter than suburban or rural drives. I saw three designs of the car (shaped like a deep-sea diver's helmet, MF Doom's mask, and Urkel's clown car, respectively), all of which are about half the size of a Smart car and fitted on a two-wheel base co-designed by Segway.
We’ve heard it said that electric cars make driving like using an iPhone app. It’s not true, but Ford’s choice of venue for the reveal of the Ford Focus Electric—the Consumer Electronics Show—probably won’t help change that perception.
As if it further needed to drive home its eco-friendly, anti-oil message, the Chevy Volt will soon boast a body made partially of recycled equipment originally used in the Gulf oil leak cleanup efforts. Specifically, GM will use recycled plastic from oil booms, which are sort of floating containment walls meant to keep oil in one place.
Modern electric cars are still in their infancy, and one of the most onerous growing pains has to be their limited range--even the otherwise-pretty-awesome Nissan Leaf can only go about 100 miles on a charge. In answer to that issue, the Pru trailer concept offers a 700-mile boost in range, extra storage space, and sweet details like topographical analysis via Google Earth.
The Nissan Leaf is the first of its kind: a truly mass-market battery-electric car. Starting in December, Nissan will begin selling and leasing the car in North America, Europe and Japan. Globally, it will build 50,000 Leafs for the 2011 model year.
Back in July, two all-electric, driverless vans set out from Italy bound for China, an 8,000-mile trek through two continents, several countries, and endless driving variables like traffic, weather conditions, and roadway conditions.
That the Chevy Volt exists at all is something of a miracle. The project, which was announced at the Detroit Auto Show nearly four years ago and goes into production next month, has survived two CEO shakeups, major bankruptcy, and an unprecedented rescue by the Federal government. For every wave of goodwill, the Volt has endured a backlash of bile and skepticism. By now, the car has become a political football, a proxy for anger over the bailout of GM and Chrysler and a symbol of the future of the American auto industry. That's a lot of baggage for a compact car to carry. And it's a remarkable amount of baggage to accumulate before anyone even knew how the finished car would drive.
Now, after several hours and nearly 200 miles driving and riding in saleable Volts, we know how the finished product drives. And the news is very good.
It was something of a photo finish, but the winners of the Automotive X-Prize are in. Taking top honors: Edison2’s “Very Light Car No. 98,” a single-cylinder gas/ethanol burning four-seater that gets 102 miles per gallon of fuel. Edison2 took home half of the $10 million prize while two other teams split the other half.