Hydrogen Powered Electric Vehicles for the Future


Nissan Motors, Ford Motor Corp, and Daimler, three of the leading names in the automotive industry are in the midst of forming an alliance regarding an alternative fuel source. The three would form a new international brain trust with the aim of developing hydrogen technology as an energy source. The goal is to create “the world’s first affordable, mass market-fuel cell electric vehicles as early as 2017.”

Amongst the terms of the agreement would be equal sharing in costs for the development of the common fuel-cell stack, as well as other systems designed “to speed up the availability of zero-emission technology and significantly reduce investment costs.” The announcement was made in Germany through Daimler’s Research and Development Head, saying that the partnership would produce 100,000 vehicles but there was no clear milestone set. For its part Ford, through its spokesperson Alan Hall said, “We’re not talking about volumes in terms of our participation.”

This is very similar to the strategic partnership entered into by BMW and Toyota, whose goal was to develop new technologies. Daimler for its part previously announced it would make a commercially viable fuel-cell car by 2014 or 2015 so the new partnership launch date would be a step back in that promise. Daimler, through its spokesperson Matthias Brock, said the new time frame was ‘revised planning.’ He further added, “In fact, we skip the planned intermediate step with lower volumes and go directly toward large-scale production. All partners together plan to bring a five-digit number of fuel-cell electric vehicles on the market.”

On the other hand though, many experts believe that the three way partnership would be a very positive step and form a stronger alliance in the long run. Nissan Americas Senior VP for Research and Development Carla Bailo, said that "fuel cell technology was the next logical step in the company’s introduction of zero-emission vehicles."

She added, “This progress has helped us convince us that Nissan will be ready to provide an affordable, fuel cell electric vehicle to the mass market as the infrastructure to support comes on stream.”

Ford spokesperson for Europe Monika Wagener also added that the fuel cell vehicles could overcome the range limitations of battery electric vehicles once the hydrogen infrastructure has been properly established.

Thus the electric vehicle revolution continues.

The Electric Smart Car Re-engineered


The 2013 Smart Fortwo ED has new features, such as a larger battery array and an improved motor. There is one aspect of it that would attract the most attention, that is its sticker price.

Counting the federal income tax credit of US$7,500, the US$25,750 sticker price would be reduced to about US$18,250 when the vehicle becomes available to go on sale next spring. Aside from this federal subsidy, there are also state subsidies that can be applied depending on the state where the purchase was made. An example would be California, where its current zero emission program had recently awarded its 10,000th rebate, allowing the purchase price to be reduced a further US$2,500.

For other states aside from California, this sticker price makes the Fortwo ED the lowest priced electric vehicle to made available in the U.S. market. According to Donna Boland, spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz USA, the company did not intend to ‘play games’ and advertise the price to be inclusive of the government tax credits.

Smart USA had brought its electric vehicles to Brooklyn, New York for test drives along the waterfront and around Prospect Park. The borough was also the site for the 2010 test drives for the first Smart car, which was then available for leases, making the event a sort of a homecoming for the vehicle.

Tesla Motors, which had supplied the battery and other components for the MB B-Class EV, was not part of the consortium that had produced the new specifications of the battery and motor for the Smart Fortwo ED. This was confirmed by Heiko Schmidt, Product Manager for Smart during the Paris Motor Show. The battery pack for the upgraded Smart came from Deutsche ACCUmotive, a subsidiary of Daimler who also owns the Smart brand.

The vehicle would have a 17.6 Kwh battery pack with a peak production of 55 kilowatts and is able to produce a maximum output of 74 horsepower in two minute bursts. The motor is a joint venture product with Bosch. The battery can be charged to full using a 240 volt charger in about six hours with an add on price of US$1,300. In three and a half hours, the vehicle would charged between twenty and eighty percent with a travel range of ninety miles according to the company’s engineers. This range though still has not been confirmed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The overall feel of the vehicle is that is quick at acceleration due to an available 100 pound feet of torque with a manufacturer estimated acceleration of zero to sixty miles per hour in eleven and a half seconds. This is a marked improvement from its predecessor, but also quicker than the standard combustion engine Fortwo. The top speed is at eighty miles per hour when tested at the Brooklyn area during a stop and go session.

The interior design of the Smart is not a far cry from the standard vehicle, with its battery pack mounted under floor allowing for a little storage space. There are two dash mounted instruments that resemble tachometers that provide information on the vehicle’s charge and power demand. Other add on features include paddles mounted behind the steering wheel that control the deployment of the regenerative braking system. The vehicle is extra quiet save for a bit of motor whining and better handling for those wanting a small compact compact vehicle with a very small carbon footprint.

Top Ten Plug Ins for 2012


Top 10. The expanded market Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. As new markets in Canada and the UK receive the Opel Ampera, the European version of the Volt, the market base is expected to increase. As for the Leaf, it would also start to show up in Nissan showrooms in the UK and other fifty states in the United States.

Top 9. The SmartforTwo Electric Drive. The Smart Car builder Daimler has said that it would be launching its third generation SmartForTwo Electric Drive car in thirty new markets by the fall of 2012. The delay from the original summer 2012 launch was due to quality control issues with its battery supplier Li-Tec.

Top 8. The Honda Fit EV. This EV from Honda was scheduled to be released in Oregon and some parts of California by the summer of 2012, with only 1,100 scheduled to be built in the next three years.

Top 7. The Mitsubishi i. This is the updated version of the MiEV and is available in both Japan and the United Kingdom since the start of 2012. Costing just about U.S.$29,125 before the application of the incentives from state and federal law, this is clearly one of the most affordable EVs in the market today.

Top 6. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. The Prius Goes Plural campaign in full swing, the Japanese car giant has offered this new hybrid version to its current stable of hybrid models.

Top 5. The Ford Focus Electric. The market ready ones would become ready for the market by the spring of 2012. This is the first pure electric vehicle from one of the Detroit Big Three carmakers.

Top 4. The Fisker Karma. Despite the delays, the Fisker Karma has now become available. The first ones though need to be recalled for some minor repairs but the current issues of the company may eventually make this car an endangered species, especially with its six-figure purchase price.

Top 3. The Toyota RAV 4 EV. This is the joint venture project between Tesla and Toyota. The first few vehicles would become available in California, hopefully by mid-2012.

Top 2. The Ford C-Max Energi. This is a plug in version of the Ford C-Max wagon. This vehicle is scheduled to become available in the United States within 2012 while Europe would have to wait until 2013.

Top 1. The Tesla Model S. This is one of the longest waiting lists for cars in history, with 6,500 individuals placing their order together with U.S.$5,000 two years before its actual availability. This vehicle is one of the most awaited releases for 2012.

Nissan Projects Greater Sales in 2012


Nissan Motors, the Japanese car giant is projecting to sell 1.5 million electric vehicles throughout the globe. The company is seeking to ride on the every increasing consciousness and demand for environmentally products.

The company aims to be the world’s largest producer of zero emission vehicles. Steps in achieving that objective include the creation of a new fuel cell electric vehicle developed in partnership with German maker Daimler.

Currently Nissan, as Japan’s second largest automaker, has sold 15,000 of its all-electric Nissan Leaf. With a 43.8 of ownership stake made by French carmaker Renault, the company plans to expand its electric car portfolio to seven models from its single Nissan Leaf.

According to Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn, “More consumers are demanding products in line with their values, including cars and trucks with a lower carbon footprint. At the same time, we are using technology to make our factories greener and more efficient.”

He further added “Nissan wants to be part of the solution towards a sustainable society for the sake of the planet and as a significant competitive advantage and a strategic differentiator in the global manufacturing sector.”

Aside from the increased targets for electric vehicles, the company is also gunning for a 35 percent improvement in fuel efficiency on 2005 statistics for internal combustion engines it has sold in the United States, Europe, Japan and China.

In another move, Nissan is now developing technologies with U.S. electric giant to explore ways to promote the use of electric vehicles. This expansion has been programmed despite last year’s dismal numbers after an earthquake and a Tsunami that hit the country last March. As a result, many of the car companies in Japan including Nissan reduced production because of the lack of components needed to build cars.

Despite such issues, Nissan has shown the greatest recovery as it declared growth for its year on year production for June with 419,831 units. Nissan was able to sell 1,056,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2011 globally, an increase of 10.6 percent from last year’s numbers.