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AutoblogGreen

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    Nissan Leaf - blue - front three-quarter view

    The Nissan Leaf isn't exactly flying off dealer shelves these days, but the slow-selling EV could receive a sales boost when some production is moved to Tennessee. Bloomberg reports that Nissan is ambitiously expecting to double Leaf sales once the plant comes online in December. The sales boost would then give Nissan a chance at hitting 20,000 sales for the fiscal year that ends on March 31, 2013.

    It isn't out of the question that the Leaf could gain momentum with the help of local manufacturing, but first Nissan will need to get EV buyers in the showroom. Leaf sales have ebbed the past two months, falling behind the Chevrolet Volt in sales by more than a three-to-one margin. And speaking of margins, moving production to Tennessee from Japan should help Nissan's quest to make money on the Leaf thanks to lower labor and parts costs.

    The Smyrna, TN plant will be ramped up for Leaf production by December. The facility will be able to build up to 200,000 Leaf models and 150,000 battery packs per year.

    Nissan expects Leaf sales to double when TN plant comes online originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Mon, 18 Jun 2012 19:48:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Tesla Model S in paint shop

    Tesla Motors is just a few days away from handing over Model S key fobs to the first batch of customers. Yes, the company already gave investor and board member Steve Jurvetson and CEO Elon Musk their Founder Series cars, but this time it's for reals.

    While we wait to watch the sleek sedans, painted in the ten four colors of the company's current palette Signature series, passed to their new owners - the big event will be broadcast on Tesla's website Friday at 3:30 PDT - we can now see more of what goes into the manufacturing of this truly innovative electric car. We've already watched the massive metal stamping that begins the process, now we can view the whole assembly and paint application operation. Scroll below for three more videos from the Inside Tesla! series.

    In other Model S news, Tesla has revealed what's going to be so special about the area between the front seats, a space Tesla is calling the "Opportunity Console." Based on buyer preferences, this customizable space should one day be able to be outfitted with "compartments, shelves or phone holders to make this area more organized." Tesla will reveal prototypes of the consoles this weekend and will listen to customer input on how the final versions develop.

    Continue reading Watch Tesla Model S get assembled, painted; find details of 'opportunity console'

    Watch Tesla Model S get assembled, painted; find details of 'opportunity console' originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Tue, 19 Jun 2012 18:09:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Nothing like a hot Michigan summer to power a few homes.

    General Motors is making good use of that sun by building a solar array on a two-acre plot of land next to its Orion factory, which is about 40 miles north of Detroit. GM is partnering with Detroit-based utility DTE Energy on the project, which involves a 350-kilowatt array that will be able to provide power to the equivalent of about 45 typical Michigan houses. The factory, which was built in 1983, produces about 10,000 vehicles a year, including the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano models. The array is part of the U.S. automaker's effort to double the solar power production used at its factories to 60 megawatts by 2015.

    In January, GM released its first annual sustainability report since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 and said that it met many of its goals to cut its carbon footprint, including making more than 80 factories landfill-free and having them recycle more than 92 percent of their waste. Just this week, GM said it now has 100 "landfill-free" facilities. The automaker said it was looking to further reduce its plants' carbon footprint by 20 percent and also reduce water use by 15 percent. Details below.

    Continue reading GM's Orion Assembly goes solar with 350-kilowatt array

    GM's Orion Assembly goes solar with 350-kilowatt array originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Wed, 20 Jun 2012 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Our most burning question - aside from how many licks it takes to get to the center of at Tootsie Pop - is, how much does a battery-electric vehicle's battery really cost? One analyst says that the price tag will be at about $250 per kilowatt hour by 2015, which spells good news for the EV industry.

    Roland Berger Strategy Consultants' analyst Wolfgang Bernhart told EV Update that the cost of a typical plug-in hybrid-electric battery "in Japan and Korea for contracts with a 2015 delivery" will be at about $250 per kilowatt hour. Raw materials account for almost 60 percent of the costs while labor, utilities and depreciation take up about a third.

    The estimate follows up Roland Berger's analysis last month that said there would be "massive overcapacity" of lithium-ion battery packs by 2015 with supply running about twice the expected demand and driving prices down to less than 200 euros ($253 U.S. at today's exchange rate) per kilowatt hour by that year. About three-quarters of the global market will be controlled by AESC, LG Chem, Panasonic/Sanyo, A123 Systems and SB LiMotive.

    Automotive analysts are watching battery costs closely because batteries typically account for more than a quarter of the cost of a plug-in vehicle. In April, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated battery costs at $689 per kilowatt hour, down from $800 a year earlier. Other estimates for where the prices go from here include $400 per kWh by 2020 and less than $200 per kWh by "soon." We'll let you know which one is right in eight years.

    Battery costs will fall to $250/kilowatt hour by 2015 originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Thu, 21 Jun 2012 11:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Ford may be taking small steps when it comes to electric-vehicle sales, but it says it's taking leaps in other areas of environmental protection. In its 13th annual sustainability report, Ford said that it reduced energy use per vehicle by 22 percent in the past six years and will cut energy usage by another 25 percent by 2016.

    In "Blueprint for Sustainability: Accelerating Ahead," the U.S. automaker also said it reduced landfill waste and CO2 emissions per vehicle made last year by 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Ford added that it will have cut water use by 30 percent between 2009 and 2015.

    Among energy-saving initiatives are electricity-reducing paint applications and solar panels at Ford's plant in Wayne, MI. Ford has long turned to materials such as soy foam and other sustainable materials to cut petroleum use in the manufacturing of its vehicles.

    Ford is highlighting its sustainability efforts among the environmentally conscious set as it looks to build sales of its Ford Focus Electric, which it debuted last year. Through the end of May, Ford had sold just 16 Focus Electrics since late last year.

    Continue reading Ford's sustainability efforts include big energy consumption drop

    Ford's sustainability efforts include big energy consumption drop originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Thu, 21 Jun 2012 14:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    2012 Toyota Yaris liftback - red - front three-quarter view

    Toyota has already made it abundantly clear the company intends to scale back production in Japan in an attempt to combat the ever-strengthening Yen, and now it looks as if we know one of the ways the automaker plans to do so. Toyota has announced it will manufacture U.S. and Canadian-spec Yaris models in its Onnaing-Valenciennes facility in France. The plant has been producing the Yaris hatchback for European buyers since 2001, though this marks the first time in Toyota history that the automaker has built a vehicle in Europe and imported the model to the States.

    North American-spec Yaris models differ slightly from their European counterparts. In addition to using different fascia designs front and rear, the NA model comes available with an automatic transmission and a market-specific 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. There is some differentiation in safety equipment between the two models as well.

    Japanese automakers have recently revealed that building cars in Japan and exporting them around the globe is quickly becoming a money-losing proposition. Honda has made it clear the company is seeking alternatives to producing models like the Fit and CR-Z in Japan due to the high costs associated with exporting the vehicles.

    Toyota to build Yaris in France for North America originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Tue, 26 Jun 2012 07:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Many alt-rock fans think fondly of Primus, the name of the Bay Area funk-metal group led by legendary bassist Les Claypool. Now, perhaps, alt-fuel fans can get a similarly positive vibe.

    Primus Green Energy is almost finished building a plant in New Jersey for its so-called "drop-in" gasoline made from a combination of natural gas and biomass, and dedicated the plant Friday.

    The factory, which is located in Hillsborough, NJ - about 50 miles west of New York City - will cost about $12 million and will be for demonstration purposes. Primus's first commercial plant will break ground next year.

    Primus' plant makes gasoline from a combination of natural gas and biomass produced from wood pellets. The company says it can make 93-octane gasoline from the products and estimates its cost at about $65 a barrel. That's about 25 percent less than the current cost of crude oil.

    Primus said last month that it raised $12 million in its third round of equity funding through Israel's IC Green Energy Ltd., bringing the New Jersey-based company's total funds raised to $40 million within the past five years. With that kind of money, you could probably sail the seas of cheese.

    Continue reading Primus dedicates 'drop-in' fuel plant in New Jersey

    Primus dedicates 'drop-in' fuel plant in New Jersey originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Thu, 28 Jun 2012 10:10:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Ford is having a tough time in Europe right now and its per-share stock price is lagging, but that isn't stopping the automaker from exceeding other goals. The Detroit Free Press reports that sales of the Blue Oval's EcoBoost turbocharged engines are beyond expectations. In fact, Ford is reportedly on track to sell 1.6 million of these forced-induction vehicles in 2013, or 100,000 more units than it had previously estimated.

    The smaller, more efficient EcoBoost powerplants will make the Ford lineup more efficient, and a program to cut down the amount of platforms the automaker uses globally will trim costs. Ford product development chief Raj Nair claims that the automaker is on track to trim down its platforms from 22 in 2011 to 10 by 2017. The move will likely save Ford many millions of dollars as platform costs drop as scale increases. Perhaps more importantly for consumers, the added efficiency of the powertrains will have a positive impact at the pump.

    Ford to exceed EcoBoost target by 100,000 units originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Mon, 02 Jul 2012 09:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    We've grown quite fond of Mazda's new Skyactiv engine range, and apparently, we aren't the only ones. High demand for these engines has caused Mazda to double its production of both the gasoline and diesel versions, and starting in October, the automaker will produce 800,000 of these efficient mills globally, up from 400,000.

    In the United States, the 2.0-liter gasoline engine is the only Skyactiv unit currently available, found under the hoods of the Mazda CX-5 (pictured) and Mazda3. Elsewhere in the world, CX-5s can be had with a 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D turbo-diesel engine, which we had a chance to test (and fall in love with) in Iceland. The automaker has confirmed that its next-generation Mazda6 sedan will be available with both of these four-cylinder engines, though it's unclear if the diesel will be available Stateside.

    Part of the reason for this Skyactiv engine increase is the high demand globally for the new CX-5 crossover. Mazda will be upping production from 200,000 units annually to 240,000, all of which are built at the automaker's Ujina facility. Because of strong demand since the crossover hit dealerships in February, Mazda has increased its global sales target from 160,000 units to 190,000.

    Scroll down for the full press blast.

    Continue reading Mazda doubles Skyactiv engine capacity

    Mazda doubles Skyactiv engine capacity originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Tue, 03 Jul 2012 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Tobacco Road? Try lithium.

    Rockwood Lithium, as part of the federal government's Recovery Act, opened a larger lithium factory in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, to help meet what's expected to be an increase in lithium demand stemming from more purchases of plug-in vehicles.

    The expanded plant is a result of a $28.4 million investment from the federal government's Recovery Act and will support about 100 new jobs. Overall, the Rockwood Lithium project, which also includes a Nevada plant, will make enough lithium to make batteries for more than half a million electric-drive vehicles a year.

    U.S. lithium demand has tripled in the past three decades because of increases in electronic components and automobiles that require lithium batteries, forcing the U.S. to import most of its lithium from South America.

    With more domestic lithium supply, automakers are looking to control the costs of battery-electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids in order to better meet more stringent greenhouse-gas emissions standards. President Obama has said he hopes for 1 million plug-in vehicles to be on U.S. roads by 2015.

    North Carolina plant boosts U.S. lithium capacity originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Tue, 03 Jul 2012 14:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Navistar truck

    Navistar International's not beating 'em, so it looks like it's going to join 'em. The truckmaker, which has been pushing its exhaust-gas recirculation process as a cheaper, simpler emissions-treatment method than the selective catalytic reduction method used by its competitors, will likely switch to SCR to better appease the Environmental Protection Agency, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the process that weren't identified.

    Navistar's use of EGR has caused potential customers to question whether the truckmaker's engines could meet EPA emissions standards established in 2010, and recent warranty claims, which have led to two straight quarterly losses, have further fueled questions about Navistar and its emissions-treatment process, according to the Journal.

    Shares of Navistar, whose spokesman says is in discussions with the EPA, are down almost 30 percent this year. Last month, Reuters, citing a Financial Times Deutschland report, said Volkswagen was looking into buying a stake in Navistar to better compete with German vehicle-making rival Daimler. VW has ownership stakes in both truckmakers MAN and Scania.

    Heavy-duty truck emissions have been topical because of the potential to make major gains in emissions reduction from such fuel-guzzling engines. Last August, the Obama Administration set the first-ever fuel-economy guidelines for heavy-duty trucks, mandating semi trucks to cut fuel use by 20 percent by 2018.

    Navistar may switch emissions-treatment method originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Fri, 06 Jul 2012 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Toyota emblem

    Toyota
    is looking to cool its energy usage during the heat of summer. The company's installing eight new gas-powered generators to help reduce demand from the energy grid in and around Toyota City by five percent, as the Japanese automaker looks to comply with the Japanese government's energy-reduction mandate for the summer months.

    The generators will allow Toyota to get almost a third of its required power internally. Toyota has already cut its peak-power usage by about 40 percent from 1996 levels with a combination of more efficient energy sourcing and production techniques. Toyota early last year opened its first Japanese factory in almost two decades and designed it to reduce energy use while speeding up production. For instance, the cars on the factory line are positioned parallel to each other instead of nose to tail so that employees can work on both the front and back of the cars at the same time. The new Miyagi factory cuts assembly-line time by 35 percent.

    The generators are part of a broader efforts by Japan's manufacturers to reduce energy demand from the grid this summer. Earlier this week, the Japanese publication the Asahi Shimbun reported that all but one of Japan's nuclear reactors have been shut down, with the government requiring that power in various areas of the country be cut by between five percent and 15 percent from 2010 levels until Sept. 7.

    Utilities are planning for rolling blackouts in order to manage supply and prevent unexpected blackouts, according to the publication. Companies like Panasonic are moving holidays into the summer to cut power use, while Kyushu Railway Co. will reduce its number of routes, according to the paper.

    Continue reading Toyota installs generators to cut power-usage at Japan plants

    Toyota installs generators to cut power-usage at Japan plants originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Fri, 06 Jul 2012 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Green Illusions book coverWell, here's one guy who might not win too many popularity contests around the People's Republic of Berkeley.

    A visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley has published a book that argues that electric vehicles hurt the environment more than they help it and that EVs are more of a marketing symbol than a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Wired reported.

    Author Ozzie Zehner, who titled his book "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism," writes that the production of the copper, aluminum and rare-earth metals required to make an EV and its motor's magnets create more pollution than what would be saved after those cars hit the road, according to the publication.

    Zehner, a former General Motors employee, also argues that EV prices aren't likely to fall much further because the technological advances related to their production have already been achieved. The book casts a vote for public-transportation improvements as a better way for governments to help the environment than funding electric-drive technology.

    Naturally, people such as author Nick Chambers and Green Car Reports editor John Voelcker took issue with Zehner's arguments, Wired reported. Among other points, both Chambers and Voelcker predicted further substantial drops in battery-pack prices, while Voelcker said that much research is being conducted on using non-rare-earth metals in electric motors, which would further cause the environmental impact of making an EV to drop.

    EVs do more environmental harm than good, author argues originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Sat, 07 Jul 2012 16:55:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Protean electric in-wheel motor technical drawing

    It looks like the company that first got us excited about modern in-wheel motors is finally going forward with commercialization. To paraphrase (poorly) a certain Mr. Sam Cooke, "It's been a long, a long time coming, but I know a Protean Electric Drive[TM] gonna come. Oh yes, it will."

    Originally England-based and called PML Flightlink, the company now resides in Troy, MI, and will soon be exploring a third continent. With $84 million of help from investors, Protean Electric has announced it will open a production facility in Liyang, China that will be able to handle a modest amount of volume. It still seeks to license its technology for larger customers, however.

    Scroll below for all the details in the official press release. Or, even better, check out the video version of that document below, which includes footage of the product in action.

    Continue reading Protean Electric snags $84 million to produce in-wheel motors in China

    Protean Electric snags $84 million to produce in-wheel motors in China originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Thu, 12 Jul 2012 10:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    nissan leaf in factory

    The Renault-Nissan Alliance, along with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), produced a two-minute video to coincide with the Rio+20 environmental conference that pitches the sister companies' advances in plug-in vehicle technology.

    The video, which aired on CNBC and can be seen below, waxes poetic about how people "want cars that liberate them from fossil fuels" and reiterates Renault and Nissan's investment of $5 billion in battery-electric vehicle development. Among those interviewed in the video was a California resident that drives "on pure sunshine" because he uses solar power from his home's roof panels to charge up his Nissan Leaf.

    Renault and Nissan are hoping such a pitch doesn't fall on deaf ears, at least here in the U.S. Earlier this month, Nissan reported that June sales of the Leaf dropped 69 percent from a year earlier to 535 units. Through the first six months of the year, Leaf sales fell 19 percent to 3,148 vehicles. Nissan has said sales will pick up once domestic production of the Leaf starts up at Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee plant later this year.

    Continue reading Renault-Nissan Alliance pushes electric vehicle vision at Rio+20

    Renault-Nissan Alliance pushes electric vehicle vision at Rio+20 originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Fri, 13 Jul 2012 09:54:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Schoolhouse Rock taught us that three was the magic number. McKinsey says it's 250.

    That was the consultant's conclusion in its report on the lithium-ion battery packs that power electric vehicles. McKinsey estimated that lithium-ion battery pack costs may fall to about $160 per kilowatt hour in 2020, a big drop from the estimated costs of $600 today, once production rates increase and technology improves.

    Better yet, McKinsey said that automakers that could source battery packs at $250 per kilowatt hour will likely be able to build EVs "competitively," or at least when it comes to measuring total cost of ownership when compared to conventional vehicles. McKinsey factored in a $3.50-a-gallon average fuel price, which is slightly more than gas is selling for now in the U.S. but less than where gas prices were at this spring.

    Battery-pack pricing is extremely topical because they account for such a large portion of the manufacturing cost of an EV and price reductions are viewed as key to reaching President Obama's goal of having 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015.

    Whether $250 or $160 or some other number turns out to be accurate, lots of people are making predictions about the cost of li-ion packs later this decade. Last month, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants analyst Wolfgang Bernhart told EV World that the cost of a typical plug-in hybrid-electric battery "in Japan and Korea for contracts with a 2015 delivery" is falling to about $250 per kilowatt hour. Tesla Motors' Elon Musk was recently quoted as saying that $200 per kWh would happen "soon" but some say that prices around $400 per kWh will still be here in 2020. In April, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said battery costs had dropped to $689 per kilowatt hour, down from $800 a year earlier.

    Plug-in vehicle battery costs of $250 per kWh coming with "dramatic" price fall originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Fri, 13 Jul 2012 11:54:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Honda is anticipating needing some more Civics to sell, and so it is increasing production capacity for both the standard 2012 Civic and the Civic Hybrid at its plant in Indiana, the one where it currently also builds the Acura ILX Hybrid and the Civic Natural Gas.

    Honda Manufacturing of Indiana says that, once Civic Hybrid production is added, the plant will be the "most diverse alternative-fuel production capability of any plant in North America." To make that happen, HMIN will spend $40 million to bump up annual production numbers to 250,000, up 50,000 from the current production capacity rate. Along with the added vehicles, Honda will hire 300 new workers "production associates" later in 2012. Currently, Honda's overall North American capacity is 1.63 million vehicles a year. After the expansion in Indiana and other plants, this number will reach 1.72 million.

    Continue reading Honda adding Civic Hybrid production to Indiana plant; part of overall increase

    Honda adding Civic Hybrid production to Indiana plant; part of overall increase originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Thu, 19 Jul 2012 10:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Honda broke ground on a production line at its Malaysian factory that will make hybrid versions of the Jazz (as the Fit is known in markets outside the U.S.) - as well as other vehicles - in an effort to more than double hybrid sales in the country.

    The second line, which will start production by the end of 2013, will make 50,000 vehicles a year. Honda is investing 350 million Malaysian ringgit ($110 million U.S. at current exchange rates) in the line.

    Last year, Honda, which currently imports its Jazz Hybrids to Malaysia from Japan, sold 4,600 hybrids in Malaysia. This year, the automaker plans to sell 10,000 hybrids there. Malaysia is Honda's largest Southeast Asia market for hybrids.

    Continue reading Honda will start making Jazz (Fit) hybrid in Malaysia

    Honda will start making Jazz (Fit) hybrid in Malaysia originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Tue, 24 Jul 2012 18:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    Sales are about to take off, eh? Toyota Motor Co. is counting on meeting what it says is "rising demand" for the Lexus RX450h by moving production of the crossover SUV hybrid north of the border.

    The Japanese automaker plans to build about 15,000 units of the model annually at its factory in Cambridge, Ontario, starting in early 2014 (read this for a review of the 2010 model). Toyota will increase annual production at the factory that's about 50 miles southwest of Toronto by about 40 percent to 104,000 units, spread across Toyota and Lexus models. In all, Toyota will invest $100 million in the plant's expansion and hire about 400 more workers there.

    Toyota's luxury badge has boosted hybrid sales this year, but not as much as models like the Prius. Still, Toyota, which doesn't break out Lexus hybrid sales by particular model, said it has boosted Lexus hybrid sales through June by 52 percent from a year earlier to 15,868 units in the U.S.

    Continue reading Lexus RX450h to be made in Canada

    Lexus RX450h to be made in Canada originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Thu, 26 Jul 2012 14:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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    GreenTech MyCar

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    That's what the ostensible electric-vehicles advocates at Plug In Cars are saying about GreenTech Automotive and its proposed MyCar neighborhood-electric vehicle.

    With ex-Democratic National Committee chief Terry McAuliffe as its chairman, GreenTech is more notable for its political connections than automotive expertise, and, at an expected pricetag of more than $15,000, MyCar may not find an audience, Plug In Cars said.

    Additionally, GreenTech, which is pitching itself as a job-builder for economically-starved Mississippi, is looking to get some of its funding from the federal government's EB-5 program, which lets overseas citizens invest $500,000 in domestic companies in exchange for quicker green-card processing, and that method is a dicey way to raise money, Plug In Cars says. The company's failure would embolden politicos who've been rallying against supporting electric-drive technology, the website says.

    Earlier this month, GreenTech Automotive unveiled the MyCar, garnering some press by getting visits from former President Bill Clinton (D) and state Gov. Haley Barbour (R) for the occasion. GreenTech, which is building a 300,000-square-foot factory in addition to its 376,000-square-foot Mississippi plant, estimated that MyCar would sell for about $15,000, with a government-regulated top speed of 25 miles per hour and a single-charge range of about 115 miles.

    GreenTech's low-speed MyCar may hurt electric vehicle momentum more than help originally appeared on AutoblogGreen on Sun, 29 Jul 2012 08:36:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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