Episode 510 – Autonomous Vans Finish Trek, R2 Set for Launch, Volt Denied CA Tax Credit

October 29th, 2010 at 11:26am

Runtime 7:50

Italian researchers traveled 8,000 miles from Italy to China in four autonomous electric vehicles. A humanoid robot developed by GM and NASA is set for its first launch into outer space. In an astonishing development, the California Air Resources Board is rating the emissions of the Chevrolet Volt several levels below other cars. All that and more, plus a preview of this week’s Autoline Detroit with David Champion from Consumer Reports.

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This is Autoline Daily for October 29, 2010. And now, the news.

Earlier in the year we reported that GM and NASA had teamed up to develop a humanoid robot and now it’s ready for its first launch into outer space. The robot, named Robonaut 2, or R2 for short, will travel in the Discovery space-shuttle to the International Space Station this coming Monday. Up in space, R2 will help astronauts perform tasks that are ergonomically difficult, along with jobs that are dull and repetitive. GM believes the technology could be used to aid in manufacturing and to help develop systems for passenger safety using R2′s sensor capabilities.

Earlier this summer we reported that Italian researchers were riding shotgun in four autonomous electric vehicles traveling 8,000 miles from Italy to China, and now the AP reports the journey is complete. Solar-powered laser scanners and cameras were equipped in the vans to help navigate and detect objects, and the researchers rode in the vehicles in case of emergency situations. The trip took over three months to finish because the vans only traveled 60 km/h, that’s 38 MPH, and could only drive for two to three hours before they had to be recharged which took eight hours to juice up.

How low will television networks go? Over the years we’ve seen all kinds of absurd reality shows. They’ve taken us inside the world of drug-addicted celebrities, they’ve chronicled the lives of people obsessed with plastic surgery, they’ve even given us the inside scoop on little people that own a chocolate shop. Now, according to Autoblog, NBC is cooking up a new series about a NASCAR family. Supposedly it will focus on two brothers with very different styles that race for the same team. Gee, maybe they should name them Kyle and Kurt. The network is currently trying to secure rights for everything the series needs – tracks, sponsors, teams and more. If you’re a big fan of stock-car racing don’t go punching up NBC on your TV just yet. Currently there’s no word if or when the show could hit the airwaves.

Sometimes risky designs can really pay off . . . and sometimes not. Unfortunately for Nissan, its quirky Cube is proving that avant-garde design is just too much for some people. Autoblog reports that after a year on the market the company has only sold 686 Cubes in the United Kingdom. In fact, sales are so bad that dealers aren’t required to have one on hand for test drives! That number doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better, either. Nissan has no plans to introduce a diesel-powered version of the Cube. In the U.S. the Cube isn’t doing a whole lot better. It’s averaging just barely over 2,000 sales a month.

In an astonishing development, the California Air Resources Board is rating the emissions of the Chevrolet Volt several levels below other cars. For example, it’s rated worse than a Volkswagen Jetta TDI or a Toyota Prius, and the same as a Honda Civic. There are two problems here. In testing the Volt with the engine running it emits a fraction of a gram over the limit for hydrocarbons. This, despite the fact that all Volt owners will be trying to run their cars in electric mode as much as possible, meaning those engines will not come on very often. The other problem is that the California Air Resources Board has set a 10-year 150,000-mile warranty for the battery pack in hybrids. But the battery pack in the Volt only comes with an eight-year 100,000-mile warranty. That’s the same warranty that Nissan offers with the LEAF. But because the LEAF only has batteries it does not have to meet the more stringent warranty. As a result, the Chevy Volt does not qualify for a $3000 tax credit from the state of California. GM says it will qualify for the cleanest emissions level, but it will take several years to get there because it first wanted to qualify as an ultra low emissions vehicle in all 50 states, rather than just concentrating on meeting California’s standard. To me this is crazy. It’s an example of overly complex regulations that stifle innovation and creativity, and limit consumer choice due to mere technicalities.

Are Toyota’s quality ratings going to go down simply because of a change in public opinion? We will be diving into that topic, right after this.

My guest on Autoline Detroit this weekend is David Champion from Consumer Reports, along with journalists Doron Levin who writes for Fortune magazine, and Scott Burgess with the Detroit News. In the following clip we talk about how changes in public opinion can affect the way consumers rate the quality of cars.

You can catch that entire interview on our website at AutolineDetroit.tv.

That brings us to the end of this week’s reports on the latest news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

28 Comments to “Episode 510 – Autonomous Vans Finish Trek, R2 Set for Launch, Volt Denied CA Tax Credit”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Even the bong smoking, Birkenstock wearing, tree hugging Californians realize the Volt is full of it!

  2. Dan Clemons Says:

    Excellent! Have a nice weekend John.

  3. Roger T Says:

    I agree with John. California should have accounte for the average time the gas engine is estimate to work on the Volt, then backcalculated it into their equation. Obviously the emissions level of the average Volt owner will be lower than any traditional ice or hybrid. It will be higher that that if the Leaf though. Unfortunate this is happening, California is loosing With this one.

  4. Ron Paris Says:

    Here’s a novel idea. Eliminate ALL federal and state tax credits for alternative energy vehicles and let the free market determine whether they will stand or fall on their own merits at $40k. Works for me, since I have absolutely no interest in either vehicle OR in subsidizing someone else’s purchase of one!

  5. Steve Says:

    Ron – You probably want to eliminate the nanny state too!

  6. HtG Says:

    So why didn’t GM make sure they hit the CARB number? Still, I can’t wait for CA to dump their pension shortfalls on the rest of the planet.

    And John, nice report on the VOLT over on John’sJournal.

  7. Dale Leonard,Lakewood Ohio Says:

    Hey John,I’m a huge NASCAR Fan,but I think I’d rather watch a reality program about “IKE”.

  8. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I guess california didn’t get the memo that the volt gets 230 mpg,or was that 40 mpg,or was that with the ice,or was it without? I think gm and cally are more confused then I am about the joke….the volt.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Nissan Juke and the Chevy Joke, I miss them Cutlass and Grand Prix days.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Good one GA, besides in Cali they’re too busy getting that pot law passed to pay any attention to the Volt. Groooovy baby!

  11. dcars Says:

    Is California’s carb number on the Volt retribution for GM’s part in closing of the NUMI plant.

  12. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I used to be a pretty big NASCAR fan but of late I’m just a follower or the latest news and standings. NASCAR is in trouble and they know it; and I don’t think this will help much (or even, at all).

    Love it or hate it the Volt’s technology can not be denied. California is playing ‘fancy-free’ with numbers are arbitray (to begin with) and is quickly losing all appearances of trying to be the greenest state (certainly not a fair state; favoring the Leaf against a superior technology, the Volt). There are some funky agendas in the land of nuts and fruits.

  13. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Right arm and farm out Pedro ;}>
    @ Chuck: the real joke actually is Cally and their holier then thou attitude:”it’s our way or the hwy”……..like they really know what their doing.
    @ Pedro:I hope cally passes their measure to legalize weed.Then we can blame them for being too stoned (like they aren’t already) to be rational.

  14. HtG Says:

    11.dcars may have nailed it. Remember last night on AAH when the gang was talking about politics and lobbyists having something to do with Volt getting boofed?

  15. jesse Says:

    Well said RON PARIS!!Count me in on that one too!

  16. Reality Check Says:

    I was very surprised the other day when my son-in-law, age 25, asked me why the Hybrid/EV cars had to be “so ugly and sissy looking”, referring to the Prius and the Leaf. My response was, yes, the Prius is, to many, an acquired taste and, yes, the Leaf looks like a bug-eyed squatting frog. There are other choices, for slightly more $$, that look, and drive like real cars – and get fabulous mileage too, if a hybrid is what you want (i.e., the Fusion for one).
    As for the “Left Coast”, they take pride in being contrarian, “sticking it” to the General fits nicely into their agenda. Too bad they can’t fix the mess they’ve made of their state finances as easily as they try to “short circuit” the Volt.

  17. Ron Paris Says:

    Steve: You figured that out, eh?

  18. Matthew Metoyer Says:

    I would think GM knew of the regulations affecting the tax credit. Why would they not try to achieve the credit? Who cares about the other 50 states – they follow California anyway. How many will they sell in the 49 other states compared to California?

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Reality Check Says:
    October 29th, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    “I was very surprised the other day when my son-in-law, age 25, asked me why the Hybrid/EV cars had to be “so ugly and sissy looking”,”

    Did you tell your son-in-law why a Prius looks like it does? If you design a car to have very low aero drag, and have a utilitarian hatchback body, it tends to look like a Prius.

    The Fusion hybrid doesn’t get nearly the gas mileage of a Prius and doesn’t work nearly as well for hauling stuff, but it gets good mileage and looks like a generic front drive sedan, which many people want.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just met a new Malibu owner, very happy with car, except for the seats, he claims that on a 2 hour trip they’re very uncomfortable and if he had realized that he would have never bought the thing. Has anybody heard anything about this??

  21. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Volt VS Leaf who cares?

    They are just technological testing platforms for progressive new technologies. EVs are going to take a while.

    Read your history. I might have been a babe back then, but People thought Personal Computers were a joke and a toy when the first Mac PC came out back in 1984. The naysayers said they were a pipe dream back then, kind of like many Boomers dismiss EVs today.

    Ah, it’s nice type this on my Laptop, in which Im quite sure will be obsolete in 5 years compared to the new cornuccopia of Tablets around the corner.

    Get the message?

    Technology will naturally evolve and advance faster than you think when companies start putting serious capital in EV Tech-which is happening RIGHT NOW!!!!

  22. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Autonomous cars= another way the masters want to control transportation.

    The Autonomous Car, its no longer a pipe dream guys. Since Google and other companies are now investing major Capital in this Technology. It’s only a matter of time when such tech will be optional on high end luxury cars, and will trickle down into economy cars.

    I know there are bad drivers out there, but the only way to control really truly bad drivers is to get them off of the road in the firs tplace. We can do it by tighter legislation with tougher driving standards. Or, we can create a crisis and force people to live in Smart Growth Mega Cities when many people ride light rail and high speed rail (60-90% adult pop), where only expert to decent drivers, hardcore enthusiasts, and nostalgists have a car (10-40% adult pop).

    The masters seem to be taking advantage of this Terror threat to make Airplane Travel: unconscionable, unbearable, and unacceptable. This in turn will force more people on the roads including many bad drivers who so……. need a plane making the roads more crowded, wane down the Oil supply which will create a crisis that will force people to move into those Smart Growth Mega Cities where car use for the most part is highly controlled.

  23. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    In essence, all Conbustion Propulsion Technology is on the Chopping Block, but will take a much more longer time for Aircraft.

    It’s easiest to do it with the Train, then the Bus, then the Car, and then the Plane.

  24. dcars Says:

    Hey Smokey, I agree!
    “Technology will naturally evolve and advance faster than you think when companies start putting serious capital in EV Tech-which is happening RIGHT NOW!!!!”
    I have this to say about the Volt or any other technology, if people will buy it, then its worth doing.

  25. Nick Stevens Says:

    “I was very surprised the other day when my son-in-law, age 25, asked me why the Hybrid/EV cars had to be “so ugly and sissy looking”,”

    Tell your son in-law that he has mistaken them for the “New Beetle”. The Prius is NO Pontiac Aztec or Subaru Tribeca. it is a REAL 50 MPG++, TECH LADEN MASTERPIECE, and “sissies” can’t even SPELL that. AND, as thjey say, “FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION”. I have NO problem whatsoever that the Prius does not look like a dumb-ass truck like the Didge Ram idiots commute 120 miles a day in (if they have any $ left) and need to foreclose their trailer to pay for it.

  26. Nick Stevens Says:

    Re CA and the STUPID, STUPID Volt,

    There IS Justice! I’ll be DAMNED!

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    So it turns out the Volt’s gas engine does directly move the car whenever it goes over a certain (illegal) speed, what a stupid thing to do! it most likely raised the cost of the car and for what? I have yet to hit those speeds in my lowly Corolla, it is both illegal and very dangerous. Anyway the type of people who buy this Volt are not exactly speed demons, just like those who buy the Prius.

  28. M Campbell Says:

    Interesting twist in CR’s survey with them making a point to exclude reporting recalls if you didn’t experience the problem. So because my brakes hadn’t yet failed before the recall was completed means that my car didn’t have a problem?

    Did I not still have to visit the service department and incur all the associated costs (time/money/hassle) of a car with a problem? Come on Consumer Reports, when is a fault a fault?