By Emily Senger - Friday, February 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
CEO Elon Musk accuses journalist of making up data in poor review
Electric cars aren’t quite ready for the highway, particularly in cold-weather conditions. At least that’s what The New York Times energy and environment reporter John M. Broder found out when he tried to take the much-hyped Tesla Model S out for a long-distance drive in order to review it for the newspaper.
Despite being in constant contact with Tesla spokespeople and engineers over his two-day journey along a portion of Interstate 95, Broder found that the car’s projected distance did not match the actual distance. In his words: “I noticed that the estimated range was falling faster than miles were accumulating.” He hypothesized that the unusually cold weather could have zapped some of the car’s battery life.
After many phone calls to Tesla, and running out of charge on the side of the road near Branford, Conn., Broder finally made it to New York City. The resulting review published in The New York Times Sunday issue was not favourable to the Tesla Model S. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
New rules say that cars must improve fuel efficiency, but will consumers buy them?
Expect to see a lot more electric and hybrid cars on the road in the coming years. Washington recently announced new rules that cars must have almost double the current fuel economy standard of 29 miles per gallon by 2025. Ottawa quickly said it will follow suit with common standards. (The Canadian equivalent would mean moving from 6.6 to 4.4 litres per 100 km). What’s good for the environment, however, is creating something of a dilemma for automakers. They need to continue making big investments in green technology to meet the new requirements, but as yet haven’t found much of a market for green cars. Consumers remain fiercely loyal to the old-fashioned internal combustion engine. In Canada, just 0.03 per cent are buying electric cars. General Motors expects to sell 2,500 plug-in hybrid Chevy Volts in August—its highest monthly rate since the model was introduced in 2010. With sales falling short of projections, GM is shutting down production for four weeks. Sales of Nissan’s electric Leaf, meanwhile, are down 26 per cent from last year. Carmakers will continue making electrics and hybrids—last month Ford said it is hiring dozens more engineers for that purpose—but for now, it won’t do much for the bottom line.
By macleans.ca - Monday, February 7, 2011 at 4:31 PM - 6 Comments
Reporter Chris Sorensen gets behind the wheel of the zero emission Leaf
Read Chris’ article on electric cars vs. hybrids in the Feb. 22 issue of Maclean’s
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The AirPod car is cheaper than any subcompact and it gets better mileage than the Volt or Prius
It may not have the sleek style of the Chevrolet Volt or the provenance of the Toyota Prius, but the new AirPod may have them both beat on enviro cred and price. The bug-like little three-seater, made by the Swiss company Catecar, runs on nothing but thin air. (Thin air that has been highly compressed by an electric motor, to be exact.) The car can go 200 km on a four-hour charge from a 240-volt outlet. The Volt, by comparison, only goes 64 km on a similar charge. Then it must also burn gas. Compared to mass-market hybrids and electrics, the AirPod is also astonishingly cheap. At $9,500, it will cost less than any Canadian subcompact on the market and is a fraction of the Volt’s $41,000 price tag.
The AirPod is the culmination of more than a decade of engineering and testing, but European regulators have only recently given it a green light for safety and roadworthiness. Catecar says the first 150 AirPods will roll off a Swiss assembly line in March, and a new plant will be able to produce 700 per month by 2012.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 10 Comments
The auto industry faces its biggest changes in 100 years
It must have been hard not to gloat. Chris Paine—filmmaker, eco-activist, gadfly to the lumbering beast of the U.S. auto industry—was sitting on a panel as a special guest of General Motors Corp., sharing thoughts on the future of transportation. Paine’s 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? had made him a blood enemy of GM, which is what happens when you suggest a company has conspired with government and Big Oil to scuttle its own product. Yet here was GM, flying Paine out to Detroit three weeks ago to witness the unveiling of—you guessed it—another electric car. At a symposium afterward, industry types who not long ago vilified him as a distorter of truth listened intently as he passed judgment on their efforts to reinvent themselves. “If they’re reaching out to people like me,” the filmmaker concluded, “they must be getting serious.”
In the last 12 months, such spectacles have become a norm in the auto industry, a looking-glass world where environmentalists now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Big Three executives, and the head of General Motors openly muses about the electrification of the U.S. auto fleet. Words are cheap, of course. But these ones point to the carmakers doing something we never thought they would—decoupling themselves from oil—and recently the carmakers have backed the talk with action. Two weeks after GM unveiled the production model of the Chevy Volt, an electric car equipped with a gasoline generator to recharge its batteries, Chrysler stunned the auto world by introducing three electric-powered vehicles it developed in secret. The cars are projected for sale in 2010, which will put them on pace with both the Volt and a plug-in electric car Nissan Motor Corp. plans to test-market within two years.
And those are just the electric cars. Toyota is working on a plug-in version of the Prius that after a full charge would allow drivers to go 10 km while using scarcely a drop of gas. Ford is road-testing its Escape plug-in hybrid as we speak. Honda? Just got its hydrogen fuel-cell car approved for sale by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—an industry first, and a last hurdle before the car goes to market.
For people like Paine, it’s all a little dizzying. “I don’t trust car companies as a rule,” he told the liberal radio network Air America. “But they’re certainly making it look very real.” As recently as two years ago, GM maintained that its previous electric car, the EV1, was not commercially viable; now it’s staking its future on similar technology. Chrysler cranked out its three electric prototypes in one-quarter the time it normally takes to develop a new model, raising questions about whether it is truly ready to join what increasingly resembles an arms race.
Then again, fear has a way of clarifying the mind, and if one GM executive compared the Volt to “a moon shot,” it’s because Detroit is in desperate need of a success. According to some estimates, half of the cars sold in the world by 2020 will run on something other than gasoline. And fuel-saving alternatives are already the fastest-growing segment of the market, with sales of hybrids, including plug-ins, projected to climb to 2.5 million by 2015, from 500,000 in 2007. Yet the Big Three have allowed their Japanese competitors to dominate the field in recent years, with Toyota claiming more than half of the U.S. hybrid market last year.
Whether Detroit’s Hail Marys will close the gap is unclear. Consumers may rightly wonder whether they should commit to a vehicle developed in less time than it takes to age a decent bottle of wine. And what if the economy craters? What if the price of fuel goes back down? Sure, a car like the Volt costs one-sixth what it takes to drive an average car. But its projected US$40,000 price tag may drive a lot of mid-market buyers back toward fuel-efficient gas models.
With so many obstacles still ahead, drivers shouldn’t expect the Big Three to turn on a dime, says Dave Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “This is going to be incremental,” he cautions. “These companies will start by selling 40,000 models, then 100,000 and so on.” Still, Cole isn’t one to overlook the psychological hurdle the industry has just crossed. At long last, carmakers are ready to part company with the internal combustion engine, he says, with implications for practically everyone on the planet: “We’re at the threshold of the biggest change in 100 years of the auto industry.”
By Colin Campbell - Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 11:13 AM - 0 Comments
Forget the GM Volt and the Tesla Roadster. We want this, the Lightning GT. …
Forget the GM Volt and the Tesla Roadster. We want this, the Lightning GT. The brochures say this electric car will do 0-60mph in 4 secs flat. And it has the equivalent of 700 horsepower, which is about 600 more than your Toyota Prius. Some reports say it will do 200 miles on a 10 second charge, which sounds pretty much impossible. But who cares… It’s British and it looks like an Aston Martin. Now for the bad news. If you want one, you’ll have to put down a $30,000 deposit. We love electric cars.
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 3:47 PM - 0 Comments
In the money:… The plug in electric car is fast moving from pie-in-the-sky concept
In the money: The plug in electric car is fast moving from pie-in-the-sky concept to on the ground reality as evidence mounts that high fuel prices are forcing drivers to hang up their car keys. BMW plans to have an electric version of its Mini on U.S. roads by next year. Nissan aims to offer an electric car to commercial fleet customers by 2010, with consumer models to follow two years later. Meanwhile GM is sticking to its goal of getting the Chevy Volt into dealer showrooms by 2010. The company is working with 30 U.S. utility companies to make sure the electrical grid can handle the extra power demand. Until the cars are actually available, and people prove they’re willing to shell out for them, there will be questions about the viability of plug ins. But things have definitely come a long way from when the electric car was written off for dead.
Trading down: I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that Malcolm Bricklin is suing Chinese car maker Chery for fraud. In a lawsuit Bricklin accuses the company of reneging on a joint venture that would have seen Bricklin’s Visionary Vehicles sell Chery cars in the U.S. Instead Chery ditched him and signed on with Chrysler. What is surprising is the language and alleged losses thrown around in the suit. Continue…