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- 03/07/14--04:58: _Mazda says 83 perce...
- 03/07/14--09:14: _The New Fisker webs...
- 03/11/14--09:59: _Tesla investor says...
- 03/12/14--05:58: _BYD gets order for ...
- 03/19/14--16:00: _Chairman says BMW w...
- 03/21/14--09:51: _How four states are...
- 03/25/14--06:01: _Wanxiang officially...
- 03/27/14--08:15: _A123 says goodbye t...
- 03/28/14--06:00: _Toyota turning land...
- 03/29/14--14:30: _Panasonic not sure ...
- 04/02/14--14:01: _Tesla gigafactory w...
- 04/07/14--10:03: _Smith Electric Vehi...
- 04/07/14--13:01: _GM will make Chevy ...
- 04/14/14--12:59: _Aluminum lightweigh...
- 04/18/14--09:51: _New Fisker claims 5...
- 04/18/14--15:57: _First Mercedes B-Cl...
- 04/23/14--07:58: _BMW ups i3 producti...
- 04/23/14--12:00: _Local production co...
- 04/28/14--15:16: _Is Tesla building a...
- 04/29/14--15:58: _Tesla making plans ...
- 03/07/14--04:58: Mazda says 83 percent of new cars bear Skyactiv moniker
- 03/11/14--09:59: Tesla investor says selling 500,000 EVs in 2020 is totally doable
- 03/12/14--05:58: BYD gets order for 1,200 electric buses from Dalian, China
- 03/19/14--16:00: Chairman says BMW will make 100,000 electric vehicles a year by 2020
- 03/21/14--09:51: How four states are trying to woo Tesla Motors' gigafactory
- 03/25/14--06:01: Wanxiang officially acquires Fisker Delaware plant for $18 million
- 03/28/14--06:00: Toyota turning landfill gas into hybrid vehicles, indirectly
- 04/07/14--13:01: GM will make Chevy Volt production announcement tomorrow
- 04/14/14--12:59: Aluminum lightweighting does, in fact, save fuel
- 04/18/14--09:51: New Fisker claims 50-50 chance it will build cars in Delaware
- 04/23/14--07:58: BMW ups i3 production to 100 units a day to meet demand
- 04/23/14--12:00: Local production could improve Toyota Prius' fortunes in China
- 04/28/14--15:16: Is Tesla building a new skunkworks facility in Lathrop, California?
- 04/29/14--15:58: Tesla making plans for Gigafactory in at least two states
Mazda's US sales are down a little bit but the company's fuel economy is almost assuredly up. That's because its fuel-saving Skyactiv drivetrain technology is essentially taking over US vehicles sales. To the tune of about five out of every six vehicles sold, at least.
While the Japanese automaker's US sales in February fell 2.4 percent from a year earlier, Skyactiv accounted for 83 percent of its sales last month. Most notably, Mazda6 sales jumped 46 percent from a year earlier, while Mazda CX-5 sales were up 72 percent. The company also celebrated the opening of its factory in Salamanca, Mexico, where it will make models such as the Mazda2 and Mazda3.
The company is not resting on its fuel-economy laurels either, apparently. In January, it was reported the company is hard at work on its next-generation Skyactiv technology, which will boost fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent by using diesel-like high compression. As it is, Mazda had the highest fleetwide fuel economy of any major automaker in the US for the 2013 model year with a 27.5 mile per gallon average, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Honda came in second with 27 mpg. Check out Mazda's press release below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
If there's any question where Wanxiang hopes to take the remains of Fisker Automotive, just take a look at The New Fisker, a fresh official website for the bankrupt automaker. While the text available there hedges about just when and how the company will restart production, it is clear from the pictures that the company is ready to make the Atlantic PHEV concept a reality. The site even says, "Hello Future. Meet the Atlantic."
But, for now, The New Fisker is more about the nitty-gritty details about how to convert the brand from a troubled mess into something people will want to spend money on again. Reassuringly, the site doesn't shy away from the automaker's disappointing past with this timeline, which includes the good and the bad from the past seven years. As for the future, Wanxiang is talking about restarting Karma production "as fast as possible," (maybe at Valmet, maybe Delaware, maybe somewhere else) as well as introducing new Fisker models, the Atlantic, Surf and Sunset concepts that we have seen before. The new Karma could be better than the old ones, since Wanxiang says it will use the long production break, "to improve on Karma and give the customers the outstanding experiences they deserve."
If something goes wrong with an old Karma on the road (like, say, breaking down before you put 200 miles on it), will it be covered by warranty? Sort of. Wanxiang says it is bound by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware sale order to an Asset Purchase Agreement that limits the company to a total of $400,000 for warranty coverage, and a maximum of $2,000 per vehicle. The New Fisker apologies for the situation - "We understand if you are an owner and paid good money for your vehicle, $2,000 is not what you bargained for or expected. ... We are already hard at work discussing ways that we can make this a better experience for all current Fisker owners and hope to bring better news to each owner in the near future" - but that's all you can get today.
The New Fisker says Karma warranties will only cover "a maximum of $2,000 per vehicle."
We're reproduced The New Fisker's current FAQ below. Note that there is no mention of the Destino anywhere, despite the ties between Wanxiang and Bob Lutz's project.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Tesla Motors may make good on chief Elon Musk's claim of selling a half-million vehicles a year by the end of the decade, Motley Fool says. Of course, the author of the Foolish report in question owns Tesla shares but, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's check out the logic.
Tesla moved almost 22,500 Model S vehicles last year and it was the best-selling plug-in vehicle in the US during the fourth quarter. The company expects to sell about 35,000 this year but the rate of global sales could be double that by the end of the year. From then on out, it's all about economies of scale, with demand mushrooming overseas, costs dropping as a result of the company's slated "gigafactory" and the introduction of the $35,000-ish Model E by 2017. Add it all up, and you can get to 500,000 EVs a year, the Fool says.
Late last month, Tesla disclosed details about its gigafactory, saying it will be fed by sun- and wind power, will employ about 6,500 people and will produce those half-million battery packs a year. Between the company and its partners, as much as $5 billion will be invested in the plant, which is slated to be somewhere in the southwestern US (but not in its native California).
To put those projected half-million vehicles in perspective, let's look at the unquestioned champion of the green car movement for the past decade, the Toyota Prius and its many Toyota and Lexus gas-electric siblings. It's taken many years to get to this point, but Toyota can now sell about a million hybrids around the world in nine months. Permalink | Email this | Comments
The good news is that the BYD electric buses slated for service in the China city of Dalian will easily be able to go from the factory to the streets on a single charge. Dalian has put an order in for a whopping 1,200 BYD electric buses, which are said to have a single-charge range of about 155 miles. BYD will deliver 600 buses this year and another 600 in 2015. The company has an electric-bus factory in the nearby Dalian Huayuankou Economic Zone.
The announcement continues the sine-wave-like quality of BYD's new announcements, which appear to take either a decidedly positive or negative quality. Last summer, the city of Los Angeles signed a contract for as many as 25 electric buses. By November, however, reports were surfacing about electric buses developing frame cracks during their testing period. Last month, BYD said its buses were tested to last as long as 30 hours in city driving (New York City, to be precise) before needing a recharge, but February was the month we learned that BYD's agreement for London taxi company Green Tomato Cars to order 50 all-electric BYD e6 sedans fell through.
For the most recent happy news, though, check out BYD's press release on the Dalian agreement below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
We know demand for the BMW i3 has been high, both in the US and Europe. It appears that BMW's crystal ball is showing a steady increase in interest between now and 2020. By that year, according to Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board of management for BMW AG, the company expects to build 100,000 units a year. That's not quite as EVs many as Tesla is talking about for 2020 (500,000), but it would represent quite an increase from the roughly 20,000 units that the best-selling plug-in vehicles moved in 2013.
Reithofer told Automotive News that plug-in vehicle production would steadily increase by 2018 before hitting full stride at the end of the decade. He also made sure to clarify that there was external pressure to make 100,000 EVs a year: "we will be forced to build them in a six digits figure to comply with stricter emission rules."
The plug-in electric vehicles are just one part of BMW's effort to reduce emissions. In prepared remarks delivered at the company's annual accounts press conference (available in full below), Reithofer said, "Customer demand [for i3] is exceeding our expectations. ... We believe the electric motor is a future technology for zero-emission driving in urban areas. Battery technology will continue to progress. ... When it comes to emission-free long-distance driving, however, electric cars featuring hydrogen fuel cell technology offer great potential." He didn't say how many fuel cell cars BMW expects to make and sell in 2020, but BMW's collaboration with Daimler and Renault-Nissan is supposed to launch the "world's first affordable, mass-market fuel cell electric vehicles as early as 2017."Permalink | Email this | Comments
And they're off! Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas are all in the running for Tesla Motors' gigafactory, USA Today says. And the politicians are already talking big, which is the operative word for a factory that could cost $5 billion, require 1,000 acres, take up 10 million square feet and support 6,500 jobs. Oh, and build battery packs for a half-million EVs a year.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez earlier this week said the state was considering a special legislative session to work up an economic package for a possible Tesla factory. The governor is playing up how the state recently cut corporate tax rates and says New Mexico's in talks with the electric-vehicle maker, though she's hush-hush about the details, the Albuquerque Journal says.
Meanwhile, Arizona this week proposed a bill that would allow Tesla (which has a showroom in Scottsdale) to sell its vehicles in the state without a third-party dealership network. There are politicians claiming such a law wouldn't be a carrot of sorts to lure the company's new battery plant, according to AZ Central, to which we say "yeah, sure." The bill, which would need Arizona Senate approval, would put the state diametrically opposite Texas, which has been the most steadfast about retaining the age-old third-party dealer system that Tesla's been trying to subvert. Taking it one step further, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said the city has identified a suitable site and is willing to pony up tax incentives over and above what the state will offer, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
And Nevada? Well, it has Vegas. Of course, Tesla itself has encouraged a bit of March Madness-style guesswork by posting a forum on its website in which readers and writers can hypothesize on where the factory will end up. Stay tuned. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Perhaps Wanxiang is serious about finally, actually re-starting plug-in hybird Fisker production. One of the first big official steps that The New Fisker has taken, other than putting up a new website, is to buy that old disparaged General Motors plant new Newport, DE for $18 million.
Technically, the Delaware plant was included in the Fisker Automotive assets that Wanxiang America won at a bankruptcy auction for $149.2 million last month. What happened last week, according to Delaware Online, is that the plant property was officially transferred to a Wanxiang America affiliate, WX Delaware Real Estate Holding Co. The cost was broken out for the first time and it comes to, you guessed it, $18 million.
In a bygone age, Fisker said it could make up to 100,000 Karma electric vehicles a year at the Delaware plant. The California automaker officially bought the plant from "old GM" in late 2009, but never did anything with it, despite Vice President Joe Biden's enthusiastic appearance at the announcement in 2009 (pictured). Five years and one bankruptcy later, we are are curious as ever to see if either the Karma or the Atlantic ever actually rolls off the assembly line there. Of course, the next big step will be to build an assembly line. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems is officially unplugging from the grid. The company, which was acquired by Wanxiang Group last year, is selling its grid-storage business to Japan-based NEC Corp. The company's Massachusetts and Missouri facilities are going along with it.
A123, whose production and engineering operations are now in Hangzhou, China, is instead making a big bet on micro-hybrids and will focus its efforts on making and marketing 12-volt batteries for three unnamed automakers. The company is also expanding its production and selling of cell products for industrial and commercial uses and wants to make batteries for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure EVs from whatever automakers will have it.
A123 went bankrupt in 2012 and was acquired last year by Wanxiang Group, which agreed to pay $257 million for A123's automotive battery business and related assets in a bankruptcy auction. A123's customers had included General Motors, BMW and the pre-bankruptcy Fisker Automotive. The latter company, whose battery recall was particularly costly for A123, is also an area of focus for Wanxiang, which won a bankruptcy auction for Fisker last month for $149.2 million. Wanxiang officially just took ownership of the old GM plant in Newport, DE, with visions of restarting production for the extended-range plug-in vehicle. You can check out A123's press release about its grid-division divestment below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Chamillionaire certainly wasn't referring to the Toyota Avalon or Camry when he rapped about "ridin' dirty" but maybe he'll change his tune soon. That's because some of the future energy sources for the Kentucky factory that makes those two models will come from gas created from the breakdown of solid waste. So the power behind some of the production at Toyota's largest North American factory will indeed be funky.
Toyota is working with Waste Services of the Bluegrass to build a network of wells at a nearby landfill in order to collect the gases. Construction of the system starts next month and will be finished by early next year. The upshot is that the system will produce one megawatt of electricity per hour, which is the equivalent to the power used by 800 houses.
Last spring, Toyota said it would start producing the Lexus ES at the Kentucky plant after getting almost a $150 million offer from the state. That's because that model is expected to add 50,000 vehicles to the existing production numbers at the plant. And those production numbers are already large, as Toyota makes both the standard and hybrid versions of both the Camry and Avalon there.
Mind you, Toyota's not the first to go this route for factory-energy production. In 2011, General Motors' Orion Assembly Plant started getting about 40 percent of its energy for production of models such as the Chevy Sonic and Buick Verano from methane captured from a landfill nearby. The General estimated at the time that the process would cut the company's energy costs by about $1.1 million a year. Check out Toyota's press release about the Kentucky plant and its future landfill gas below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Just about the entire US southwest is ready to jump into the financial bed with Tesla Motors as the electric-vehicle maker looks for a place to put its massive "gigafactory." But lithium-ion battery maker Panasonic? Not so much, says Bloomberg News.
Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga spoke to a group of reporters in Tokyo and said he strategically understood the need for Tesla to go large-scale with its factory production, especially as it prepares to debut an SUV as well as a model that will be priced at about half of what a Model S costs. But, he added cautiously, there will be significant risk involved in the investment and his company hasn't committed to its involvement just yet.
Panasonic or not, Tesla is taking the "go big or go home" approach to a factory that it says will cost about $5 billion ($2 billion already committed from Tesla itself) and may support 6,500 jobs. That latter point has states such as Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas tripping over themselves to figure out the financial incentives necessary to be the further production base for California-based Tesla. Texas auto dealers are already sounding the alarm against changing the state's franchise laws to woo the automaker's battery plant. An open letter sent by the Texas Automobile Dealers Association says it does not believe, "that economic development efforts to bring any business to Texas should in any way be connected to changing established laws in Texas for the singular benefit of any one company. ... We believe this sets a bad precedent for future economic development efforts by linking them to special interest changes in law."
Texas dealers are already sounding the alarm against changing franchise laws to woo the battery plant.
Last fall, Tesla expanded its battery-production agreement with Panasonic, saying at the time that Panasonic would provide almost 2 million automotive-grade battery cells for the Model S and Model X during the next four years. Permalink | Email this | Comments
It's one thing for the Big 3 to get tires and engine parts from cities along the US Rust Belt. It's another thing altogether, though, for Tesla Motors to source far more esoteric materials like graphite, cobalt and lithium from Canada and the northern US. But that's what the California-based company has in mind, and it's all in the name of environmental friendliness and cost, Bloomberg News says.
Tesla is looking to bring its raw-material sourcing to this side of the Pond by the time it opens its massive gigafactory that may produce as many as 500,000 vehicles annually, Bloomberg says, citing Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean. And while the raw-material price may be higher (and driven up further with the additional demand from Tesla), those costs may be offset by the fact that there will be far less transportation and logistics involved.
"Transportation impacts are very significant on the heaviest raw materials if they need to be moved from halfway around the world," Jarvis-Shean wrote in an e-mail to AutoblogGreen, adding that there will be additional cost savings from reduced shipping time and less transit-related working capital requirements. "In the long term, when all costs are considered, it should be cheaper to source most materials from as nearby as possible."
"When all costs are considered, it should be cheaper to source most materials from as nearby as possible" - Tesla's Liz Jarvis-Shean
There are geopolitical issues as well. For instance, China is shutting down some of its graphite mines because of pollution issues, while much of the world's cobalt comes from war-torn Congo, though Tesla says it gets its cobalt from the Philippines. Most of the graphite in Tesla's Model S is of the synthetic variety from Japan and Europe.
Of course, Tesla's still trying to figure out where to put its gigafactory, and has said it will be in one of four states: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico or Texas. The factory will cost an estimated $5 billion and may support 6,500 jobs, so state governments are already starting to campaign to be the automaker's future production home. Regardless, Jarvis-Shean estimated that the sheer economies of scale from the gigafactory will reduce battery-pack costs per kilowatt hour for the company's "mass market" model (sometimes referred to as the Model E) by 30 percent after a full year of production. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Sometimes, you just don't want anyone to know what's happening. That's how Smith Electric Vehicles must have felt about stopping production of its all-electric delivery trucks in Kansas City, MO late last year. There was no press release issued and even the local newspaper, The Kansas City Star, didn't find out about the shutdown until a new quarterly filing was just submitted to the US Department of Energy.
The DOE gets reports from Smith because the federal agency gave the company a $32-million grant in 2010. That money was used to build 439 of a planned 510 demonstration vehicles (PDF) that are being used by entities around the country and feed information back to the DOE via the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. We placed a phone call to Smith Electric for more information on the production suspension, but it went unanswered. The DOE sent an email statement to the Star that said the, "DOE continues to work with Smith Electric on the path forward for the remaining vehicle production." All vehicles were supposed to be delivered by the end of August, 2013.
Started in the UK, Smith's arm in the US has a history of promising good news but then not delivering. The company was going to file a $125 million-IPO (but didn't). The company also had plans to build trucks in Chicago, but that never happened, either. Same deal with a proposed production facility in New York. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Thing are apparently happening to get the next-generation Chevy Volt ready for public consumption. The most obvious proof is in a preview of an announcement (possibly coming tomorrow) that the two main places where General Motors gets the Volt ready -the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and the Brownstown Township battery assembly facility - will be getting big money upgrades and lots of new positions. The Hamtramck plant builds the Volt and its fancier cousin, the Cadillac ELR, as well as the global versions of the Volt.
The Detroit News reports that GM will add 1,400 jobs and spend roughly $450 million at the two locations in order to build the redesigned Volt. What's less clear is exactly what the updates will bring us. We've heard that the new volt will be a 2016 model and come on a new chassis. Speculation in The Detroit News about tomorrow's announcement runs the gamut from a new compact PHEV with less electric range and a lower price (which makes sense) to an updated Volt with more electric range (heard it before) to a new all-electric vehicle (the moon shot). If there's any hints to be gleaned in the international Volts, there are also reports coming in that the Opel brand will get an all-electric vehicle that is cheaper than the Ampera. Read into that what you will.
We pestered GM's Kevin Kelly on the new Volt (again) and he said (again) that he couldn't give out any more detail other than what's been reported. He just told AutoblogGreen that there will be an announcement tomorrow and that it will be about the Hamtramck and Brownstown facilities and involve the Volt. So, stay tuned. Permalink | Email this | Comments
When the best-selling US truck sheds the equivalent weight of three football fullbacks by shifting to aluminum, folks start paying attention. Oak Ridge National Laboratory took a closer look at whether the reduced fuel consumption from a lighter aluminum body makes up for the fact that producing aluminum is far more energy intensive than steel. And the results of the study are pretty encouraging.
In a nutshell, the energy needed to produce a vehicle's raw materials accounts for about 10 percent of a typical vehicle's carbon footprint during its total lifecycle, and that number is up from six percent because of advancements in fuel economy (fuel use is down to about 68 percent of total emissions from about 75 percent). Still, even with that higher material-extraction share, the fuel-efficiency gains from aluminum compared to steel will offset the additional vehicle-extraction energy in just 12,000 miles of driving, according to the study. That means that, from an environmental standpoint, aluminum vehicles are playing with the house's money after just one year on the road.
Aluminum-sheet construction got topical real quickly earlier this year when Ford said the 2015 F-150 pickup truck would go to a 93-percent aluminum body construction. In addition to aluminum being less corrosive than steel, that change caused the F-150 to shed 700 pounds from its curb weight. And it looks like the Explorer and Expedition SUVs may go on an aluminum diet next. Take a look at SAE International's synopsis of the Oak Ridge Lab's study below.Permalink | Email this | Comments
As soon as the bankrupt Fisker Automotive started crawling back from the dead, rumors that the new owners would restart production of the Karma plug-in hybrid crawled as well. We've heard that the car would be built in the old General Motors plant the company owns in Delaware, that it would happen in Michigan or that Valmet would get going again in Finland. Nothing official has yet been announced, but Delaware Online is now saying that it's even money that Delaware to play a role in Fisker's physical rebirth.
Roger Brown is the interim president of Fisker Automotive and recently said that there is a "50-50" chance that the Newport, DE will be where the company rises again. "We inherited this situation, and because the facility is one of the assets we purchased, it has ... good bones, it has a paint shop, and you know, it definitely makes economic sense to consider that facility," he told Delaware Online.
"It definitely makes economic sense to consider [the Delaware] facility" - Roger Brown
Before Fisker's bankruptcy, Delaware offered over $20 million in incentives to get the automaker to build cars there. It never did, and a recent settlement agreement does not give the state much of a return on that money. The bankruptcy proceedings are not yet finished, but Brown made what has to be considered a bold statement. In deciding which locations makes sense to restart production, he said that, "if they provide incentives, obviously that would go into the equation; if they don't, obviously that would go into the equation also."
The closest that the new Fisker has come to saying where it will restart building cars is in documents that new owner Wanxiang filed with a federal court earlier this year. That three-part plan included restarting Karma production at Valmet, using partner VL Automotive's manufacturing facility in Michigan and then building the Atlantic somewhere. Brown gave a timeline to Delaware Online - new Karmas by August 2015, start building the Surf shooting brake by March 2016 and then add in the Atlantic by the end of 2017 - which would give Fisker time to tool up the Delaware plant for the Atlantic. Brown also said that building with VL Automotive has now been ruled out. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Mercedes-Benz is about to give Americans another choice of battery-powered vehicle. Offering more all-electric range than the Nissan Leaf or BMW i3, and with a smaller price tag than the Tesla Model S, the B-Class Electric Drive is officially set to arrive in the US this summer. Indeed, the first examples have begun rolling off the production line in Rastatt, Germany.
Featuring drivetrain parts from Tesla Motors, the luxury compact hits all the performance parameters mentioned during its debut at last year's New York Auto Show. For a refresher, that's a single-charge range of 200 kilometers (124 miles) along with a 0-to-100 kilometer-per-hour (62 mile-per-hour) sprint in a respectable 7.9 seconds. These achievements comes courtesy of a 28-kWh lithium battery located in the floor of the passenger compartment and a 132-kW (177-horsepower) motor powering the front wheels. Torque specs for the unit seemed to have increased somewhat and are now given as 340 Newton meters (250.77 pound-feet). It boasts an 11-kW charger and can add as much as 62 miles of range to a deleted battery in an hour and a half. Sadly, it is not Supercharger compatible.
The B-Class Electric Drive, which is built on the same production line as the gasoline-powered version, is going to go on sale in Europe around the end of the year and will also come in a right-hand drive version for other markets in 2015. Although pricing has not yet been announced, Mercedes execs expect it to be quite competitive with the BMW i3. Scroll below for the press release (Google translated from German).Permalink | Email this | Comments
To reverse the old Field of Dreams quote, they are coming, so BMW is building them. All indications are that US demand for the BMW i3 plug-in will be larger than initially expected. As a result, the automaker is upping production at its German factor by more than 50 percent in advance of stateside sales, Automotive News says, citing BMW boardmember Harald Krueger.
BMW has started making about 100 i3s a day, up from its previous daily rate of about 70 units. So far, BMW, which is expected to begin sales of the i3 in the US later this month, has made about 5,000 i3s. BMW spokesman Dave Buchko confirmed in an e-mail to AutoblogGreen that the company was boosting production of the i3 based not only on US demand but on worldwide demand, but he declined to be specific about BMW's new production rate.
BMW started selling the i3 in Europe in November and had racked up a six-month waiting list by early February. Last month, Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board of management for BMW, estimated that the company would be making a cool 100,000 i3s a year by the end of the decade, and that the global automotive market would support that production level. Check out our First Drive of the i3 here. Permalink | Email this | Comments
The Toyota Prius is the world's most popular hybrid vehicle, but it may take domestic production capabilities for the model to achieve a high level of popularity in China. Japan-based Toyota is aiming to produce an increasing percentage of Prius components in China in order to bring down its price there, Bloomberg News reports. Eventually, the goal is to make all Priuses sold in China in that country in order to avoid the steep 25-percent import tariff.
As it is, Toyota sold just 1,400 Prius vehicles in China last year, compared to about 234,000 in the US and 315,000 worldwide. Hindering sales is the fact that the Prius costs about as much as an entry-level Audi in China, where Volkswagen is the country's best-selling automaker. Toyota has been selling the Prius in China for almost a decade but may soon find local sources for the batteries and other hybrid parts for the Prius and Camry Hybrid, Bloomberg says, citing comment from Hiroji Onishi, Toyota's China chief, at the Beijing Auto Show.
Part of the problem is that the Chinese government provides less than $500 worth of subsidies for each hybrid sold, compared to about $9,600 for an electric vehicle. While that subsidy may rise as China municipalities take on the country's growing pollution problems, there's lingering concern over spurring sales of a car that's made by competing Japan.
Toyota starting making some of its Prius vehicles in China in 2005 but halted production on the second-generation version of the hybrid four years later. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Tesla Motors has a secret. The California automaker has leased, and is now renovating, a 431,000-square foot former Daimler-Chrysler distribution facility in Lathrop, CA, but is not saying exactly what it will be using the space for. At least, not yet.
About an hour's drive east from its Fremont, CA factory, the property is located just off the north-to-south Interstate 5 (I-5) and has extra acreage to expand the building by another 124,980 sq-ft, if needed. Designed to handle a lot of shipping in and out, one side of the structure is gifted with 32 truck docking bays.
With no official word on the type of activities that are planned for the facility, it is only natural that we would want to speculate a bit. There is one clue out there that can aid our hypothesizing. The job section of the company's website lists a number of openings that would indicate manufacturing of some sort is intended for the space.
We'll go ahead and rule out serial vehicle production, since the Fremont space still has ample room for that activity to handle the upcoming Model X and the more affordable future vehicle. It's far too small to be a battery gigafactory, so could it be instead a kilofactory ? Probably not. Of course, it could just be a new site for producing components for the Fremont production lines, but that doesn't sound nearly as exciting. It also doesn't seem to be worthy of secrecy. The coolest - though not necessarily most accurate - thing we can come up with is a skunkworks. A secret lair where new concepts are conceived and developed away from the prying eyes of the public. Yeah, we'll go with that.
When we contacted Tesla for clues about the facility's purpose we got a boilerplate response, though interestingly, they might have thrown us another mysterious bone in the process. And we quote, "Tesla is continuing to invest and create jobs in California as part of our ongoing infrastructure expansion. In the last two months, we have signed leases for more than 625,000 square feet of Californian real estate, independent of sales and service centers. These recent investments reinforce our commitment to California and will help us continue to bring compelling electric vehicles to market at affordable prices."
With a 194,00-sq ft discrepancy between the known Lathrop acquisition and the numbers given by the automaker, it seems that may be yet another decent-sized unknown building in the mix. It's all enough to boggle our easily-beboggled minds so, to paraphrase a certain Tom Waits, we ask you, dear reader, what's he building in there? Permalink | Email this | Comments
Ever since February, when Tesla officially announced that it would build a gigafactory to make the incredible number of lithium-ion batteries it expects to need to power its electric vehicles, we thought it would be located in one of four states. Those four states - Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada - have been lobbying the automaker ever since, hoping to hear that the new, $5-billion plant and its 6,500 jobs would set up shop within its borders. Turns out, two of them might get some good news soon.
CEO Elon Musk said Tesla will announce locations in "at least two" states where it could build the gigafactory, according to Bloomberg. He said, "What we're going to do is move forward with more than one state, at least two, all the way to breaking ground, just in case there's last-minute issues. The number one thing is we want to minimize the risk timing for the gigafactory to get up and running."
"We want to minimize the risk timing for the gigafactory to get up and running" - Elon Musk
This isn't to say that Tesla will actually build two gigafactories (at least, not yet, but Musk hinted there may come a day when the automaker will need a second one), just that it is going to make sure there is no hiccup in the supply of lower-cost battery packs for the upcoming lower-cost Tesla EV, sometimes referred to as the Model E. The gigafactory is expected to not only produce more li-ion cells than were made globally in 2013 but also to reduce the cost of the overall pack by 30 percent, setting the stage for the $35,000 Tesla EV (estimated) to appear. Permalink | Email this | Comments