Sales Outlook for Alternative Fuel Vehicles Varied

volkswagen logo
volkswagen logo

Many auto executives in attendance at the Paris Motor Show expressed reservations about the sales outlook for battery powered cars. In the beginning, the numbers were projected to be low, but the latest numbers from Tesla and Renault are indicating near dismal sales in the near future.

The CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, stated at the eve of the Paris Motor Show that the companies should instead focus on plug-in hybrids. These vehicles can run on battery power for limited distances and would be able to utilize standard internal combustion engines as range extenders. Winterkorn said, “We had a realistic view of the technology all along. There will be, for a long time to come, no alternative to the internal combustion engine.”

Volkswagen is among the car manufacturers participating in the annual Paris Motor Show. This year, the exhibits and the discussions would run until October 14th. The company is by far the largest carmaker in Europe thus statements about technology would definitely sound off the direction many carmakers would make moving forward. The German giant though has not shelved its own plans of creating an all-electric vehicle fleet but the management committee of the company has made it clear that plug-in hybrids would be the more pragmatic approach in the reduction of automobile emissions in the near future.

For its part, French carmaker Renault, who partnered with Nissan for its own electric vehicle models, said that there is still hope for battery powered vehicles. The company though admits that sales are far below initial projections to only about 15,000 units since the carmaker unveiled the unit for market release.

According to Jerome Stoll, Executive Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Renault, “You are always disappointed when you fix a big ambition and you don’t meet it.” He added that while Renault was the market leader in electric vehicles, “I am not happy about the size of the market.”

Battery powered vehicles provide more advantages compared to internal combustion powered vehicles. These include quicker acceleration, quieter rides and lower costs. These advantages though are still being underappreciated because of the high purchasing cost together with the limited range capabilities of these electric vehicles compared to gasoline powered ones. Another main issue would be the lengthy time needed to recharge the vehicle in order to get to full range.

Plug-in hybrids also have other issues, such as limited range on battery power alone, but with range extending gasoline engines additional complications occur. These include having two motors, one electric and one gasoline powered, batteries as well as fuel. These add-ons effectively takes up space in the vehicle and removes much of the efficiency benefits of the vehicle. The market needs to develop smaller but more powerful engines to make plug ins more efficient in terms of space and weight in the long run.

As for Volkswagen, it would pushing for an expansion of its plug-in hybrid line with the introduction of the Golf plug-in by 2014. Volkswagen also has partnerships with other European carmakers such as Audi, Seat, Skoda and Porsche together with other brands.

The Detroit Hybrid Electric Car Show

some cars at zero pollution
some cars at zero pollution

Automakers now have to contend with increasing fuel economy standards and government regulations and as a response, more and more hybrids and electric cars have been showcased in the latest Detroit Auto Show currently underway.

Despite analysts’ expectations that the hybrid market would grow significantly in 2012, the main drawbacks continue to be the lower pump prices for gasoline and higher purchase cost for these kinds of vehicles. The automakers such as Toyota, Honda, Ford Motor, and others, continue to build and market hybrids and other plug-in vehicles.

Electric and hybrid cars cost several thousand more than internal combustion engines. BMW said that the ActiveHybrid 5 would be priced at $8,700 above the gas-fueled 535i. For GM, the Volt costs double compared to the Cruze, after the federal tax credit application.

While consumers are able to recover their costs for purchasing alternative fuel vehicles within a year, the lower gas prices has extended that recovery to more years. Another drawback is that the shortages in batteries and other important parts held back sales last year.

According to Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan said, “We have a bottleneck with the batteries.” He added that he is expecting supplies to increase as their flagship Leaf goes online in markets in the United States. The electric car and battery arrays would start to be built in Tennessee, United States.

Ghosn further adds, “A lot of consumers are thrilled that they have the option of buying an electric car. We sold 9,700 the first year. We can double that. I am much more optimistic on the prospects for electric cars than many people. We are very, very far from our potential.”

As for GM, the carmaker is planning to sell 45,000 Volts in 2012 even if they fell short of their 10,000-unit target for the previous year. GM’s CEO, Daniel F. Akerson said that the company would build as many Volts as the demanded by the market. He said, “We’re going to match production with demand. There are new variables in the equation, so we’ll see.”

Toyota for its part would unveil its Prius C, a smaller version of the most popular hybrid in history, the Prius. The original Prius sales dipped 3.2 percent last year mainly due to the disasters in Japan. The company is also making available the Prius V this fall and the plug-in Prius this spring season with unveiling of a hybrid plug-in concept named the NS4 while Lexus, the company’s premium brand would be unveiling a hybrid sports coupe concept.

Other carmakers also had their own versions. For Honda, its upscale Acura brand unveiled two hybrid versions, namely the ILX and the NSX. These vehicles would be built in its new Ohio plant. For Volkswagen, the Jetta model would unveil its hybrid version while Mercedes would also unveil two E-class hybrids. These German hybrids would not be available in the United States. Volvo would also have its very own hybrid plug-in concept.

Volkswagen Unveils Super Efficient Vehicle

volkswagen logo
volkswagen logo

After years of development and previous designs, Volkswagen unveiled its contribution to the green revolution. The vehicle is called the Volkswagen XL1 Super Efficient Vehicle and was unveiled at the Qatar Motor Show.

The vehicle is the cutting edge construction technology of the German automaker. It features an advanced hybrid plug-in drive train in an all-modern body that allows the vehicle to have a mileage of 313 miles to the gallon and producing only 24 g/km of CO2 during its full travel.

Central to this vehicle is the compact 800 cc turbo diesel injected (TDI) two cylinder common rail engine fueled by diesel allowing it to produce 48 PS. Aside from the main engine, it has an electric model able to produce only 75 PS. These two engines are able to provide the proper power to propel the vehicle weighing only at 795 kg.

The TDI engine is joined to the electric motor with a seven-speed DSG gearbox mounted on an automatic clutch attached to each unit. This system allows for the two engines to work together when accelerating or independent of the TDI engine. When run on pure electric motor, the XL1 can run up to 35 kilometers before the diesel engine takes over. Acceleration from zero to sixty-two miles per hour can be achieved in 11.9 seconds and its top speed is 99 mph.

The XL1’s seating is the driver side beside the passenger seat in a body shell composed of advanced new materials providing low weight to strength ratio. The whole body weighs a mere 230 kgs. The material is Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer construction shaped into the car through a process called Resin Transfer Moulding.

Aside from the body weight, the drive train weighs in at 227 kg, the running gears at 153 kg, the bucket seats and the interior at 80 kg and the electrical system coming in at 105 kgs. The total weight is 795 kg where only 23.2 per cent made out of steel or iron. Other weight saving materials includes magnesium on the wheels, ceramics on the brake discs and aluminum for dampers, steering system and brake calipers.

Entry into the car’s cockpit is done through elegant scissor doors hinged on the car’s A-pillar and to lessen the car’s drag, wind tunnel tests were used making the drag coefficient only to 0.186. The length is 3,970 mm and width is 1,682 mm quite near the measurements to the Volkswagen Polo but the height is only 1,184 mm near the measurements of a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.

The Volkswagen XL1 remains to be a concept car for the company but it is the precursor of a new class of cars aptly named Super Efficient Vehicles.