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.

Ford Seeking to Lead Hybrid Market


In another strategy poised to push Ford to the top of the hybrid market, the Detroit based company is launching C-Max Energi plug in hybrid. This vehicle has been rated at 620 miles by the Environmental Protection Agency. This was confirmed in a telephone interview and would be appearing on the Energi’s windshield wiper as it arrives in dealerships next month.

This rating has left the competition eating its dust. The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid has been certified at 540 miles and the Chevrolet Volt at 380 miles. This prompted Toyota spokesperson John Hanson to say “Congratulations to Ford” in an email.

Carmakers have only included the estimated range in their selling point of vehicles as consumers start to focus and value fuel efficiency and economy. The recent scholarship indicates the range number as it would become a greater factor in the decision-making process in purchasing vehicles.

According to the study conducted by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at the New York University, “The 21st century is emerging as the century of the ‘supercommuter’.  The recession has made people much more”. This is was further explained by Mitchell L. Moss, Center Director in saying that more and more Americans are willing to travel beyond the bounds of their metropolitan regions for their jobs and commute ninety miles or more one way. He added that with more fuel efficient cars like hybrids and electrics, the future of the supercommuter is set. “It fits their lifestyle, they can drive more using less gas – or no gas”, he said.

Ford noted that the Energi can deliver up to 21 miles of all electric range with an EPA certified 100 mpg in combined urban and highway driving. When using hybrid mode, the car has a combined rating of 43 mpg. All this gives the C-Max as a hybrid vehicle with a rating of 570 miles of total range. According to Ford engineers, “We know customers are sensitive to fuel economy, but they’re also concerned about range because they look at the time between fill-ups.”

Ford expects that the Energi version would account up to twenty percent of C-Max sales in the US alone with a base price of US$33,475 with a federal income tax credit of US$3,750 that would lower the price to US$29,995.

Another plus factor for the vehicle, at least for those in California, is the grant of approval for coverage under the Golden State Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker program under the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program. This, together with the other incentives, would surely create greater demand for the plug-in hybrid car demand.

Passion for Plug Ins Expanding in California


Californians have now a clear passion for plug-ins, with 2012 as the watermark year for electric cars in the state. Just four years ago, the U.S. $100,000 plus Tesla Roadsters was the only electric vehicle able to reach highway speeds. The past few years has seen an ever-increasing wave of plug in vehicles being introduced, not only in California’s showrooms, but all over the United States as well.

This summer alone, nearly a dozen plug in vehicles and crossovers would start to travel the U.S. roadways. About five to six models would be arriving right before the end of August, from electric car manufacturers such as Tesla and Coda Automotive and industry giants such as Toyota and Ford.

California has been long known as a trendsetter, with many factors being used to make this a testing center for what is considered as the golden age of personal transportation. The state has been known as hotbeds of technology and entertainment, with many first adopters having ready cash to spend on the new technology. Currently, an expanded charging infrastructure is being developed together with access to battery-powered cars to coveted carpool lanes on congested freeways.

Amongst the most awaited electric models of the summer would be the Tesla Model S luxury sedan, with its base price of U.S. $58,570 increasing to U.S. $78,570 depending on the size of the battery pack. The upgrade would have a consequent increase in the driving range on a charge. During its development stage, Tesla received more than 10,000 reservations without even the benefit of a test drive. The Model S was initially promised to be delivered in 2009, it was finally unveiled and the first delivery was made last June 22.

According to Paul Scott, co-founder of Plug In America, an advocacy group for electric car, “The people who buy this car are the movers and shakers – leaders in arts, entertainment, business.” Scott is now selling all electric Leafs at a Nissan dealership in Los Angeles, downtown area.

He added, “I sold a Leaf to Danny DeVito. He’s that kind of guy. But you’ve got a lot of people who just will not put themselves into a small car.” He further said that celebrities who live large are the ones who would drive the market if they adopt upscale electrics such as the Tesla, to later influence regular individual purchases.

After introduction of the Model S last weekend, the Tesla Motor Corp is providing thousands of test drives to those who placed reservations, with events to he held in Fremont and Los Angeles, before moving to other cities in North America. Other drivers are also getting behind the wheel of the Coda electric sedan. The U.S. $38,145 vehicle would be tested in events to be held in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area. The car would be made available in four dealerships in California.

The major difference in the plug in vehicle market is the presence of the world’s largest carmakers, with their very own offerings in this car design and platform. Ford initially offered its U.S. $40,000 Focus Electric to its dealers last May and is expecting to sell about 350 cars in California, New Jersey and New York by June’s end. Another carmaker, Honda, is now providing leasing for its Fit EV priced at U.S. $389 per month in California and Oregon. The Japanese carmaker would then be expanding its reach to six East Coast areas in 2013.

Ford Focus Electric Now Highest EPA Rated

Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST

It’s official. The Ford Focus Electric is America’s most fuel-efficient five-passenger vehicle. It has been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as having a 110 miles per gallon equivalent city rating and 99 MPGe on the highway. On combined mode, it is able to run on 105 MPGe.

These ratings have beaten the previous record holder, the Nissan Leaf. The previous levels were at 99 MPGe on combined mode, while the highway driving is rated at 92 MPGe. The Focus Electric has more passenger room and a faster charging system that fully recharges its battery pack in just half the time compared to the Nissan Leaf.

The Ford Focus is a five-door hatchback electric car and was first produced in December 2011. The body of the Ford Focus Electric is the third generation Ford Focus and the power train is a 23 kWh liquid cooled lithium ion battery pack providing the EPA certified range. It has a top speed of 84 mph or 135 kph.

Ford would be unveiling new vehicles in its line, such as the 2013 Ford Fusion. This model aims to build most fuel-efficient gas and hybrid powered midsized sedans. The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid projects to become the world’s most fuel-efficient midsized sedan with the objective of having a range of 100 MPGe in full electric mode.

According to Eric Kuehn, Chief Nameplate Engineer of the Focus Electric, “Ford is giving customers the power of choice for leading fuel economy regardless of what type of vehicle or power train technology they choose. The Focus and the Fusion are great examples of how we transformed our fleet of cars, utilities and trucks with leading fuel efficiency.”

The EPA-approved Focus Electric label is certified that the vehicle has a range of 76 miles on a single full charge compared to the 73-mile range of the Nissan Leaf. The Focus Electric has a range of 100 miles, depending on one’s driving habits. According to the latest statistics of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, an average driver travels about 29 miles a day.

With these statistics, car owners would be able to save $9,700 in fuel costs spread over five years compared to new internal combustion engine vehicles. Savings could even go higher as gas prices continue to rise, such as in California where the price of gas increased by twenty cents per gallon in just a seven day period last week.

Toyota Forges Partnerships


BMW announced that it has entered into a partnership with Toyota Motor Corporation as to the supply of diesel engines and the joint development of car batteries.

This comprehensive technology alliance was announced as part of the Tokyo Motor Show where the importance of green technologies is underscored. This would also properly manage the costs in the development of power trains depending on customer preferences of a varied market.

Toyota has sustained its gasoline-electric hybrid core business while keeping its top spot in the Japanese auto market. The company though has struggled in Europe where diesel power has lead fuel efficiency and compliance with new stringent environmental rules. On the other hand, BMW has great experience in the European diesel market yet has lagged behind in terms of hybrid systems and lithium ion technologies.

The partnership would entail BMW supplying Toyota with 1.6 liter and 2.0-liter engines for its European models starting in 2014. The companies would also start research and development of the next-generation lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars.

According to Klaus Draeger, member of the BMW Board of Management said, “Toyota and BMW are perfect partners. By carrying out basic research together, we want to speed up development of battery-powered technology. Whoever has the best batteries in terms of cost and function will win more customers.”

For Toyota’s part, Didier Leroy, CEO of Toyota Motor Europe said the alliance would bolster both companies efficiency, improve economies of scale, lower development costs and deliver cars to the European market more quickly. The particular provisions of the equity partnership were not made public.

This partnership came three months after Toyota announced its agreement with Ford Motor Company to collaborate on hybrid powertrain development. Toyota has kept its leadership in hybrid sales, refusing to go into production for an all-electric car citing efficiency, infrastructure and range issues. The Ford-Toyota partnership though did not discuss the inclusion on the development of battery technologies.

Toyota’s move of entering into multiple partnerships is no surprise in light of the ever-increasing fuel efficiency standards worldwide as well as the driving need to reduce the overall developmental costs of hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Particular interest is the development of battery technology as it is the most problematic of all the new vehicle technologies.

According to Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s Executive Vice President said “We think that this collaboration will allow for development of next-generation batteries to be done faster and at a higher level,” referring to the partnerships with BMW and Ford.