Newsday brings us up to date on Toyota’s plans for a hydrogen car for 2015. At the Tokyo Motor Show in November, the Japanese automaker intends to reveal a hydrogen-powered sedan that would be sold as a 2015 model. It could be available at US car dealerships as soon as next year for a price comparable to a mid-size BMW or Tesla Model S (eg. US$70,000). It is expected to have a range of about 485 km (300 miles). Toyota has declined to forecast sales or production volumes for its new model. Hyundai, Honda and Mercedes are also planning on introducing hydrogen vehicles in 2015. See also the Los Angeles Times, Toyota steps up hydrogen fuel cell development.

The Daily Mail adds to our knowledge of self-driving cars. Ford is going all out testing self-driving automobiles. The company has designed a range of robot driven cars to test for safety. The robots accelerate, steer and stop the car for pedestrians or obstacles using built-in cameras, sensors and GPS trackers. Additionally, the robots can put the cars through much tougher tests than humans, using specially designed rough roads. The post has a video of these tests. Ford is the first car maker to develop robotic technology capable of driving vehicles on the company’s high-impact on-and off-road testing sites at its test grounds in the US state of Michigan.

From TheGreenCar we learn that Audi has opened an e-gas plant in Germany to supply fuel for its natural gas automobiles. The plant in Werlte can convert 6 MW of input power and uses renewable electricity for electrolysis that can produce both hydrogen and oxygen. As there is currently no widespread hydrogen infrastructure for autos in the country, Audi then reacts the hydrogen with CO2 as part of a methanation unit which generates a synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. The plant can produce around 1,000 metric tons of e-gas per year and it will begin to show up at compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations later this year. The new Audi A3 Sportback G-Tron is able to burn natural gas, e-gas or biomethane and has a total range of 808 miles. Customers who purchase the G-Tron will be able to order a quota of e-gas when they buy the car. In future, when there is sufficient demand, the plant will be able to produce hydrogen fuel for autos. See also pv magazine, Audi opens 6 MW power-to-gas facility.

Green Car Reports provides us with a green car glossary so we can understand the new terminology as alternative fuel vehicles arrive in our neighbourhoods. At the same time, the Sierra Club has come out with an electric vehicle guide.

Automotive News covers the ongoing discussion among US states about whether or not to tax green cars in order to pay for roads and bridges. Because green cars such as electric vehicles and hybrids do not use gasoline or diesel, they don’t pay the road tax that is included with the price of gasoline and diesel at the pump. Three states have already enacted legislation to make up the financial losses with added fees on alternative fuel cars and at least five others are debating similar legislation. The state of  Washington this year began charging a $100 annual fee for EV owners. Virginia in April approved a $64 annual fee on hybrid and electric cars. While many applaud the idea of ensuring all vehicles pay for roads, others believe it is hypocritical to use public money to subsidize the purchase of these vehicles while at the same time taxing them.

The approach is “wholly inconsistent” with federal and state government efforts to spur technology innovation, improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions Tom Stricker, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs at Toyota Motor North America,

In an effort to encourage the production and sale of more fuel efficient cars, the Indonesian government has announced there will be no luxury tax on these vehicles reports the Jakarta Globe.

The US Department of Energy has a website where people can compare the current cost of an eGallon versus the cost of a gallon of gasoline or diesel. The site is a quick and simple way for consumers to compare the costs of fueling electric vehicles vs. driving on gasoline.  Last week’s national average eGallon price was about $1.14 versus $3.65 for gasoline. See also Driving for $1.14 Per Gallon.

“The eGallon will bring greater transparency to vehicle operating costs, and help drivers figure out how much they might save on fuel by choosing an electric vehicle,” says US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “It also shows the low and steady price of fueling with electricity.”

Daily Tech reports that General Motors is now offering $5000 in incentives to get people in the US to buy the Chevy Volt. With Volt says slowing down this year, GM announced that it would take $5,000 off the 2012 Volt and $4,000 off the 2013 Volt. This is in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit. The Volt can also be purchased with zero percent financing for 48 months, and the driver receives $3,000 in cash off the price.  For those leasing a Volt, GM is offering it for $269 a month for 36 months, with $2,399 due at signing. Volt sales in the US for the first 5 months of 2013 are unchanged versus the same period in 2012.

The Wall Street Journal observes that leasing has overtaking buying when it comes to EVs. Experian Automotive, a data research arm of the credit company, reports that 93% of people who obtained an electric c ar in the US in the fourth quarter of 2012 leased it rather than financed it. A three-year lease lowers the monthly payment compared with owning an EVwhile protecting the customer against battery replacement costs at some future date. Moreover, in three years batteries may offer longer driving range at a lower price.  Currently Nissan, GM, and Tesla are offering very attractive lease rates for their EVs. The post also notes that leasing protects the driver from the potential low resale value of their car:

The National Automobile Dealers Association said earlier this week that the expected trade-in value this year for a model-year 2011 Chevrolet Volt was $21,235  or 49% of the original price and for the Nissan Leaf it was $14,792, or just 42%. Those figures are well below the 62-63%  residual of similarly-sized, gasoline-powered compact sedans over that period. Consumers who lease electric cars don’t have to worry too much about the resale value

Leasing an EV is the best way to minimize buying risk according to Consumer Reports.

“We think it makes sense to lease electric cars, because the battery technology is unproven and represents a financial risk to consumers. If you were to buy an electric car for the long term, it’s unclear how long the battery might last or how much it might cost to replace in several years. On the other hand, what is clear is that automakers, suppliers, and the government are putting tremendous resources into battery development, so the next generation of electric cars are likely to be more capable, even as their batteries cost less. That means today’s technology is likely to become obsolete quickly, which could have a negative effect on resale values.”

And if you don’t lease the car, you can always rent the battery. The Mercedes Smart EV is doing just that reports plugincars. When you buy the car in the US, you can reduce your upfront costs by leasing the Smart battery for $80 per month plus tax. Included is a guaranteed battery capacity of 41.6 amp-hours, 10 years of annual maintenance on the pack, and up to 10 years of repair or replacement if needed. Since the deal was offered in Europe last year, some 97% of buyers have opted for the leased battery. See also Nissan Announces LEAF Lease-Only Battery Replacement Program.

Clean Biz Asia reports that a melt down at a Hong Kong EV charging station has forced Chinese automaker BYD to remove its taxis from the streets of the city. BYD built the charging station for its planned fleet of 48 electric taxis in the city. Currently 10 of the taxis are on the road. In May 2012 a BYD e6 electric taxi caught fire after an accident in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, that killed three passengers and raised alarm over the safety of electric vehicles containing large lithium ion battery packs.

The Canadian city of Montreal has the country’s first electric car sharing program according to Clean Technica. Communauto, based in the Le  Plateau-Mont-Royal borough of the city, has commenced a new pilot program offering Canada’s first 100% all-electric, one-way car-sharing program. 20 EVs are available for citizens in the borough to take from point A to point B (no return necessary). Drivers of these vehicles will be allowed to park for free in any legal parking area. The cost for using the car-sharing program is 38 cents a minute or $12 an hour, with a “$50 for the whole day” option. More EVs may be made available if there is sufficient demand for the service. See also Earth Techling, Montreal Gets Electric Car Sharing Fleet.

Still with car-sharing, the Globe and Mail examined the trend in All aboard the car-sharing bandwagon. The post notes how car rental companies as well as automakers are getting into the act of operating car-sharing schemes in Europe and North America. Also check out autobloggreen, Hertz 24/7 will make carsharing available to most Americans by 2016 .










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