The Audi R8 E-Tron

AUDIlogo
AUDIlogo

Audi has recently unveiled its pure electric vehicle named the Audi R8 E-tron. This is a midengine flagship GT and would become available to the market by year’s end. Despite these pronouncements, there are still many issues that have affected the vehicle from becoming a fixture in dealerships all across the world.

In a recent report by Car and Driver Magazine, the current spiraling battery costs and the limited battery range have affected the delivery of the R8 E-tron. These two factors may result in stopping the program in its entirety. This though has been addressed by Corporate Communications Manager for Audi of America Brad Stertz, as he assured the public that the program has not been derailed. He did stress that the R8 E-tron is a road based laboratory instead of a prototype about to enter production.

According to Stertz, “All along, Inglostadt has been saying there would be a limited production run at first.” He was referring to the corporate base of Audi AG during a telephone interview. He followed it up by saying, “The plan for the R8 E-tron is for the production of ten in an initial series run, which will continue to serve as a technology platform.” He did say that the ten vehicles would strictly be for “internal use only” and the carmaker would “consider the circumstances surrounding the feasibility of subsequent builds.” He did not provide a timetable nor did he directly address the prospects of the R8 E-tron making its way to dealerships by the end of the year.

The vehicle has been in the works for several years, as it first unveiled the concept car during the 2009 Frankfurt motor show. It also drove an R8 E-tron prototype at the 12.9 mile Nürburgring racetrack in Germany as it set a lap record at eight minutes nine seconds for an electric powered, production intent vehicle. The vehicle that ran the lap at the racetrack had a lithium-ion battery pack having 49 kilowatt hours of capacity. The rear driven coupe accelerated from zero to sixty at 4.6 seconds according to the carmaker.

The range is estimated at 134 miles which is an improvement to other electric vehicles in its class. This is attributable to the high energy capacity, which compared to the Nissan Leaf with roughly half the batter capacity. The R8 E-tron’s range is lower than the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive prototypes, which Mercedes estimates at 155 miles.

Mr. Stertz reiterates, “Ingolstadt is continuing to move forward on plug-in hybrid E-tron models for volume production.” This accents the hesitation the carmaker has in developing purely electric vehicle and this conforms to the recent statements by Audi executives on preference of plug-in hybrid powetrain vehicles over purely electric cars.

Audi in pursuing this program, would be introducing its plug-in hybrid variation for the A3 model as a sedan by 2014. The larger A4 sedan as well as its full-size Q7 crossover are also expected to have plug-in technology innovation within the next two to three years.

Partnering the Electric Vehicle in your Garage

NSSANleaf
NSSANleaf

Like many others who seek to put in their share for Mother Nature, a U.S.$33,000 investment on a vehicle is but a small price to pay. This is the all-electric 2012 Nissan Leaf and with its quiet and efficient ride, you find yourself choosing this car over your regular internal combustion engine vehicle.

Currently, a majority of Americans own two cars and many are choosing a highly efficient fuel using vehicle as their alternate vehicle. Amongst the top choices for this are electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf. As one chooses a second car, the question is what would be a good companion vehicle to this environmentally sound vehicle?

In order to assist you in your choice, a range of factors need to be considered. These include the option to have a car aged less than ten years, able to travel long distances, easily purchased and serviced at any local dealer. This is the list of highly recommended second vehicles:

  1. Toyota Prius Hybrid. While this may not be as quick off the block as the Nissan Leaf, it is able to combine great mileage together with trunk space because of its hatchback configuration. This car, because of its long history, easy to use, purchase and maintain.
  2. The 2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon GL. This is a diesel powered beast, able to travel long distances and great luggage space availability. It is able to travel 31 miles to the gallon in city driving can easily be recovered when taken out to the freeway to open up the 1.9 liter four cylinder engine exceeding the EPA’s threshold thirty nine miles to the gallon.
  3.  The 2012 Kia Sorento. This is best for active families, either going on weekend trips or even just soccer practice. This seven seater SUV is able to provide twenty five miles to the gallon, which is quite high but since it is able to carry seven individuals, this is efficient in itself. Another plus for this is the price, at only US$21,250 for an SUV of its size and capacity.
  4. Rental. Another cost efficient option, especially for long drives would be just opting for a rental for your needs. Instead of worrying about the price and the maintenance, together with the fuel costs, opting for a rental can be a hassle free experience for those that take those long trips every so often.

As can be seen, having an electric car, especially for a growing brood may not be enough. You can choose to have a second car, albeit an efficient and cost effective one. Study your options so that your contribution to the Mother Nature with the electric car would not go to waste in the long run.

2012 Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST

While many other electric cars would have avante garde or anime cartoon styling, one of the very few stylish electric cars on the roads today would be the 2012 Ford Focus Electric. The new offering from Ford would be available in major car markets, such as California, New York and New Jersey. The same vehicles would be available in nineteen other locations by the fall season.

What differentiates the Ford Focus Electric is its nearly identical look to the fuel version, with only the small Electric badge as the only difference to identify that under the hood is an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. The seats are low and conform well to body, making the ride completely normal. There are no eclectic electronic dashboard lights, artificial start up sounds, special shifter gizmos or high tech Eco modes. When at the driver’s seat, all that needs to be done is to choose between standard automatic selections of park, drive, low, neutral and reverse.

The main strength of electric vehicles would be their high torque, even at a complete stop, allowing for great acceleration from a standing stop to full speed. The power train is tailor made for highway driving by allowing rapid acceleration between thirty to fifty mph and between fifty five and seventy five mph, with plenty to spare. This was clearly an achievement for Ford auto engineers who targeted individual electric car owners who have trouble shedding their old gasoline car driving habits.

According to Eric Kuehn, Chief Engineer for Global Electrified Programs at Ford, “We wanted the Focus Electric to be a vehicle first, that just happened to be electric.”

Electric cars by nature are quiet as the electric motor only provides a whisper of its whirring while in motion. Ford engineers took it to luxury extremes as it provided extra insulation and sound dampening materials to lower overall road noise to ultra luxury levels even with a 107 kilowatt motor running at eighty five mph. It also has a single speed transmission that allows for direct linear velocity and no delay in response in engaging the motor’s features, unlike an internal combustion engine.

All these improvements result in high efficiency performance at just one third the fuel costs of the standard Ford Focus. Furthermore, the Focus Electric uses a 6.6 kilowatt charger, making charging to full in just a few minutes over four hours when attached to a 240 volt outlet. This also provides for twenty miles of driving range in an hour.

Currently, the Ford Focus Electric has a base sticker price of U.S.$39,995. Deducting the U.S.$7,500 federal tax credit as well as the U.S.$2,500 rebate from the State of California, putting the final price at just about U.S.$30,000, it is still a bit pricey. With an EPA rating of 110 mpg, the premium value would be earned as one uses the Ford Focus Electric.

Nissan Leaf Upends Preconceived Notions

NSSANleaf
NSSANleaf

The ideas that have pervaded about electric cars such as the 2012 Nissan Leaf is that these kinds of vehicles are expensive and are able only to travel short limited distances. While there have been Nissan Leaf tests done that the vehicle can run 15,000 miles in just a year, others have pushed the boundaries of the electric car milieu.

One such trailblazer is a 2011 Nissan Leaf owner that has traveled 36,000 miles in just eleven months. The performance of this vehicle has proven that electric cars do more than just a short hop, skip, and jump to the nearest convenience store.

Steve Marsh is the owner of this Nissan Leaf, as he faced a 130 mile daily commute to his workplace at Taylor Shellfish in Washington State. Faced with monstrous gasoline bills for the travel, he opted to purchase a Nissan Leaf to see if his fuel costs would go down, as promised.

He said, “I really bought it with the idea that there was a chance I could save money buying this car. My Honda Accord had over 300,000 miles on it and I started thinking about another car. I have driven more than 200,000 miles on every car we have owned so I looked at the Leaf expecting it to do the same.”

The savings he earned were not quite what he predicted, but still was beyond expectations. He added, “I thought maybe my net cost of ownership would be nearly zero taking into account the much lower operating costs – like getting gasoline for $0.80 per gallon. I now know that this expectation was unreasonable, but after all the tax credits and no sales tax in the state of Washington, I feel it is like purchasing a $23,000 new car. So far, at 36,000 miles, I’m now under $20,000 in equivalent costs.”

While he made the decision was made out of financial reasons, he still paid a $99 online reservation fee before test driving the car. He was only able to test drive the Nissan Leaf when the 2011 model was available in Seattle.

He recounts, “It was cold, no snow but it was really cold. My wife looked at it and said, ‘It’s a regular car!” She was expecting something small like the Smart Car. We drove it around the block and that was the end of our tour.”

Marsh’s commute is well above the 73 mile EPA approved distance of the Nissan Leaf. It wasn’t the commute though that was the issue. He said “We bought the house when the kids were born. We’ve lived here for 22 years and now our kids are about to graduate from college. This house is paid for and this is the shortest commute I’ve had in my working life. It gives me a chance to wind down on the way home from work.”

The 130 mile commute is not easy for the Leaf, especially on the freeway. The only solution was to get a charging station at his workplace. Ecotality did not agree to install one at his workplace. What he was able to do was convince his company to install one as it is good PR for the company, to which they agreed.

During all that travel time and distance, the 2011 Nissan Leaf has performed impeccably. His travel is between 62 and 65 miles one way, depending on the route taken. He averages sixty miles per hour and admits that the Leaf gets to rest during the weekends. There is one downside though, sacrificing heat for range, to make sure he gets to work or home when traveling during winter.

The Kia Optima Breaks World Record

KIA
KIA

As confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Kia Optima hybrid has established the record for the lowest fuel consumption in a hybrid gasoline engine car. The record was set by the tandem of Wayne Gerdes and Chris Bernius as they drove around all forty-eight states of the Union in a Kia Optima Hybrid.

The duo drove the Kia Optima Hybrid for fourteen days at an average of 564 miles per day. The vehicle required only 5.5 tanks of gas to complete the route. This counts up to 1,418 miles per full tank of gas for the 7,899-mile journey. The average fuel consumption for the vehicle is 64.55 mpg, which is over 61% lower than the figure set by the Environmental Protection Agency for standard mileage for a car in the United States.

The previous record was at 52.27 mpg and the Kia Optima Hybrid beat the record by 23 percent to earn the title of “Lowest fuel consumption driving through all 48 contiguous U.S. states in a gasoline hybrid car.”

The Kia Optima Hybrid is a front engine front wheel drive five-passenger four-door sedan. It is powered by a dual overhead cam sixteen valve Atkinson cycle 2.4-liter inline-4 able to produce 166 horsepower for the gas engine producing 154 pounds per foot of torque. The electric motor is an AC permanent magnet synchronous electric motor with a combined power rating of 206 horsepower producing 195 pounds per foot torque with a 1.4 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack.

The transmission for the vehicle is a six speed automatic with a manual-shifting mode. The car is able to run from zero to sixty mph in 9.2 seconds with a top speed of 123 mph still at governor limited. The EPA rating for fuel economy on city or highway driving is between 35 to 40 mpg.

This is truly one of the reasons why alternative fuel cars would solve the global oil crisis.