Episode 543 – Batteries Will Stay Expensive, NACTOY Finalists Announced, GMC Sierra Concept

December 17th, 2010 at 12:41pm

Runtime 10:04

Batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles are going to stay expensive, at least according to the Center for Automotive Research and the National Academy of Sciences.  The finalists for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards have been announced.  A concept version of the GMC Sierra featuring all kinds of off-road modifications is targeting the Ford Raptor F-150.  All that and more, plus a look at some of the Automotive X PRIZE winners.


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This is Autoline Daily for December 17, 2010. And now, the news.

Oh-oh. Don’t expect the cost of batteries in electric cars to come down anytime soon, or at least not until sometime after 2025. That’s according to the Center for Automotive Research and the National Academy of Sciences. They estimate that the battery system in today’s EVs, including the battery pack and everything that goes with it, costs $22,000. In fact, they say the real cost of a hybrid system is about $6,000. Remember, these guys get access to internal company data when they do these studies, so these numbers should be quite accurate.

The finalists for the North American Car And Truck of the Year awards were announced yesterday. The jury of nearly 50 journalists from throughout the United States and Canada started with a list of about 55 new vehicles. They whittled that list in half, then narrowed that down to the top three cars and top three trucks. And the finalists in the truck category are: the Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The car finalists are: the Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Leaf. The winners in each category will be announced at the Detroit Auto Show next month.

Foreign automakers could pick up market share in China next year as the country drops a tax subsidy that favors domestic Chinese makers. According to Bloomberg, many Chinese car customers aspire to own foreign brands which are perceived to have higher quality and more prestige. Any car which had an engine of 1.6-liters or smaller had the sales tax reduced to 7.5 percent, which was down from 10 percent. And BYD is the Chinese car company that benefited the most from the incentives.

Wow, big promotion for Joel Ewanick, who’s just been appointed to Global Chief Marketing Officer. He’ll be in charge of marketing all of GM’s global brands including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, Opel and Vauxhal. Ewanick joined GM earlier this year as vice president of marketing for the U.S. He has also worked at Nissan, Hyundai, Porsche and Yamaha.

It looks like General Motors is targeting Ford’s awesome Raptor F-150. The GMC Sierra All Terrain HD concept has been specially modified for off-road duty. It benefits from a wider, 73-inch track; it has three more inches of ground clearance, special composite under-body panels, a custom suspension setup, and, just like the Raptor, FOX racing shocks. Under the hood this tricked-out Sierra gets GM’s proven 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine matched to a six-speed Allison automatic transmission. Of course it also gets some special design flourishes like a unique grille and widely flared fenders to accommodate those HUGE 35-inch tires. No information on pricing is available yet because GM hasn’t decided whether to build it not. I say BUILD IT.

Earlier in the week Jeep gave us the skinny on some of its updated product, and the embargo finally lifts today. Among other things, the Patriot gets some minor updates for 2011. Outside, this Jeeplette receives a new front-end treatment plus a redesigned rear fascia and a new grille. Can you tell the difference? Neither can we. Designers moved fog lights in toward the center of the bumper, which is a cue borrowed from the Wrangler. The Patriot also benefits an increased ride height for better off-roading and an updated interior with more soft materials on the doors and center console.

In advertising news, Autoblog reports GM’s Middle-Eastern team came up a really innovative way to get the word out about its cars. Rather than plastering some shiny, expensive, over-styled billboard up to get people’s attention, they had an artist hand-draw it. With little more than some scaffolding and a marker he sketched out an entire billboard – albeit a smaller one than we’re used to seeing here in the ‘States. Still, it’s really cool to watch the time-lapse video of him working on it. What makes this ad really ingenious is the tagline: “We saved money by hand-drawing this ad so you pay less for the car.” Clever.

Coming up next, a look at the technology that went into the cars competing in the Automotive X Prize.

You’ve heard of the X PRIZE Foundation. It’s an organization that aims to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. There are competitions in a variety of fields ranging from space flight to human genomics. The Automotive X PRIZE was a challenge to develop vehicles that can deliver real-world fuel economy of at least 100 miles per gallon . . . or an equivalent for EVs. So far the association has awarded $10 million to three teams that built vehicles achieving this goal. Autoline Daily’s Craig Cole has more.

Tier-one supplier BorgWarner played a big part in helping several winning teams cross the finish line.  Recently the company invited Autoline Daily to its Powertrain Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan where it was handing out awards to three groups that used its technology.

A key reason why the Very-Light Car is so efficient is that it’s powered by a tiny, single-cylinder engine.  It displaces just 250 cc and runs on E85.  It’s based off of a Yamaha motorcycle powerplant, but the team COMPLETELY redesigned it for the X-PRIZE competition in order to stretch every drop of fuel as far as possible.  This attention to detail resulted in an efficiency score of nearly 103 miles per gallon!  Forced induction played a huge role in hitting that fuel-economy target.

Borg Warner is an industry leader in turbocharging.  And just like the Edison2 team, it sees forced induction as a key solution to meeting upcoming fuel-economy and emissions regulations.

The Alias is a two-door, three-wheeled car built by a company called ZAP.  It has a claimed range of 100 miles and a target price of $35,000.  Another electric that competed in the alternative side-by-side class is the streamlined Aptera 2e.  Rounding out the winner’s circle is the appropriately named “Very-Light Car.”  Weighing in at a little more than 840 pounds it was designed and constructed by a Virginia-based team called Edison2.  It competed in the mainstream class, although there is very little that’s conventional about this four-seater, aside from one important aspect.  Oliver Kuttner, the company’s Founder and Chairman, explains.

Thanks for that report, Craig. Beyond turbochargers BorgWarner technology also helped the ZAP and Aptera teams take the checkered flag. Both groups used the company’s E-Gear Drive Transmission, a gearbox specifically designed for electric vehicles to make them as efficient as possible. Look for this unit to hit the streets fairly soon in the Ford Transit Connect Electric and the Coda sedan.

And that’s today’s report on the top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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

36 Comments to “Episode 543 – Batteries Will Stay Expensive, NACTOY Finalists Announced, GMC Sierra Concept”

  1. pedro fernandez Says:

    Why bother with the formalities, just give the nod to Volt as car of the year, it would be anti-American to pick one of the others, anyway. BTW Explorer, NOT A TRUCK! Jeep should get that prize. The Jeep Caliber er, Patriot is still a phony baloney POS. This report on more power from smaller engines makes me think that the days of 200k mi. engines is coming to an end.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @Pedro:The explorer is just as much of a truck as the grand cherokee.Neither one should be in that catagory IMHO.

  3. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Sonata!!! Well Maybe.

    Anyway, GM you have been borrowing Joel Ewanick from Hyundai for some time now. We now need him back. Thank You.

  4. tj Martin Says:

    Pedro & G.A.

    You’re both right . The Durango is the ONLY truck on the list .

    And yeah I’ll bet the Panel will vote the VOLT as NACOTY . Which is more a statement of the lack of any real breakthroughs or new cars on the market than anything . Hyundai as COTY . Give me a break . Carbon Copy of the Year Maybe .

    BWTM ! Battery prices for E/V’s and Hybrids to remain expensive . Add that cost to the now defunct Tax Rebate on Hybrids ( and soon to be E/V’s ) and you’re looking at one hefty price tag for either . My guess is sales will only plummet further . Yippee !

    Now if G.A. and I could only talk some sense into the manufactures and the US Government , maybe we could get those Diesels on the road in the US of A .

    Well….. its a nice dream .. anyway .

  5. tj Martin Says:

    Oh No ! HyundaiWhatTheFrickAreYouSmoking’s Jr. H.S must of let out early today for Teacher/Parent conferences or something . Either that or if he is in the UK his mommy must of skipped dinner tonight . Anyway . There goes any chances today for Intelligent Conversation .

    See Y’all Monday

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    GA you are correct Sir! I was not aware that the Jeep was based on a Merc platform, no wonder everyone thinks it’s great. The Volt has been winning every award out there, I doubt they will give it to the more deserving Sonata, a car that just 5 yrs ago, would have been considered impossible to sell at that price.

  7. HtG Says:

    Do mainstream consumers pay attention to these awards? I know I don’t.

  8. jim Says:

    Batteries may cost $6000, but what does our country spend to defend the Middle East so we have a cheap supply of crude?

  9. Ron Harrington Says:

    The Durango shares its platform with the Grand Cherokee, so, it’s no more or less truck than the others.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    For the purpose of NACOTY, aren’t all tall wagons considered “trucks”? I’m pretty sure PT Cruiser was a “truck.”

  11. Kit Gerhart Says:

    No, I’m wrong. The PT was a car, but many other non-truck wagons like Flex and Escape have been considered trucks for the competition.

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    So in that case, NONE of these candidates are really “trucks”. Wasn’t the Ford F 250 new this year?

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Sorry, I was wrong again. Flex was considered a car, but Freestyle, that other recent station wagon based on 500/Taurus was considered a truck.

    Other not-so-trucky NA Truck of the Year finalists have been:
    Enclave, CX9, CX7, Edge, Murano, Element, Forester, and RAV-4.

    A complete list of the NA car and truck of the year finalists and winners is at:

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    tjM says:
    “Hyundai as COTY . Give me a break.”

    I’d be surprised if they gave it to the Sonata, even if deserved, since Hyundai won just two years ago with the Genesis.

  15. tj Martin Says:

    Phew ! HS went away !

    @ Rod Harrington Damn ! You’re right ! There is no Truck in the NATOTY Awards list . Just a bunch of car based SUV wanna be’s . Thats kind of pathetic even if it has happened before ( as Kit has pointed out so well )

  16. tj Martin Says:

    Kit ;

    If they give the NACOTY to the Hyundai Sonata I may just have to swear off cars completely and switch to …….. heck I don’t know .. Bicycles or M/C’s

    On second thought though . What do I care whicj car that bunch gives any award to ? In reality its meaningless .

    The Automotive Industry 2010 Subtitled ” The World Gone Mad “

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    TJ I’ve never heard anybody say that they’re buying a car or truck because of some award. Mostly it’s CR or JD Power survey results that steer them towards or away from certain brands/ models.

  18. Phoenix Mark Says:

    The COTY and TOTY awards are nominated and voted on by journalists. That way, they get to test drive all these cars for free.
    How is the new Explorer any different than to old Taurus wagon / Freestyle? I hope Ford didn’t spend too much in development costs.

  19. ArmyEd Says:

    Hey John,

    How about a report on something completely different! I have been interested in amphibious all terrain vehicles for years and now there is a relatively new company in Indiana, Mudd-Ox, producing the ultimate affordable AATV. It has a hydrostatic drive and room for six and can go just about anywhere off-road. If you are looking for something different automotively to report on I would suggest the Mudd-Ox.

  20. cwolf Says:

    Hey John! Resolve the delema. What are industry rules as to what is considered a truck? The dictionary says its a wheeled platform use to haul a heavy load. Rednecks think its something ya can throw in a fridge,kids and the ol’lady in the back end. When you buy plates you will find out real fast whether its a car or truck.
    I could give a rats petute what vehicle gets an award because they have to be based only on first impressions over a short duration of actual driving. But I wonder how many journalists are sponsored by an auto company and if it could sway there vote? Not fingering this program,but beginning sponsor ads gave me the thought.

  21. TomL Says:

    Thanks to Saab we are now seeing small engines with turbo’s, getting great mileage and performance.They(SAAB) have stuck with turbo’s for years and now its big news.

  22. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >It looks like General Motors
    >is targeting Ford’s awesome
    >Raptor F-150. The

    Since GM is spending tens if not hundreds of millions on the Volt, and Ford is marketing an electric version of their Transit Connect to commercial users, I would like to propose an idea: Why not compressed natural gas (or alternatively, propane) powered versions of the F-150 and Sierra?

    It might very well be that for those who need a big pickup truck, CNG may keep more tons of fossil fuel carbon dioxide out of our environment in proportion to cost, than a sophisticated hybrid electric or pure electric vehicle. And, with less pollution than a Diesel engine.

  23. Salvador G. Says:

    You’ve heard of the X PRIZE Foundation?

    JohnMc., I think the X Prize got it wrong, they shouldn’t try to build a lightweight car that gets the most miles per gallon of fuel; they should try to build a car that gets the most miles per gallon of fuel using the NHTSA new safety standards for 2015 and on.

  24. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Commenting on the NATOTY: at least the Grand Cherokee is ‘trail rated’ (sort of truckish). But I agree there needs to be a better way to distinguish car versus truck.

    Comment on the battery cost: Earlier in the year GM predicted battery cost to halve’n in the coming years (i.e. second gerneration battery packs), so I’m guessing it is too early to decry how the pricing will ultimately go.

    And I can’t see how any of those light cars can get road certified by the Highway Department; so many parts need to be crash approved before anything can get built these days.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    As far as this car and truck of the year stuff, it boils down to this: If it’s not clearly a car, it’s a truck. A CR-V, RAV4, and Forester are not trucks that you’d use to tranport loads of lumber or bags of concrete, but they clearly are not cars in the usual sense. They are 8 inches taller than a Cruze or Accord, and all of them are narrower than an Accord. The definition of “truck” is very blurry these days, but having body-on-frame construction certainly is not part of any current definition of light truck.

  26. Jon M Says:

    Certainly batteries for EVs and hybrids are expensive. Remember, though, the whole environmental movement is a big business. Companies and and environmentalists all want to us to “go green” lest we erase ourselves and our planet from the galaxy. But make no mistake about it, there is a lot of money to be made with “environmentally-friendly” products. They love to use scare tactics such as global warming and carbon emissions to promote sales. Not that batteries for EVs are inexpensive, but they’ll say we should buy them or end up choking on oxygen depleted, carbon enriched air. If the environment is the true cause to fight for, then make “green” products affordable for all.

  27. Mohammad Rafi Says:

    I love the looks of the GM off-road truck and would love to have one for my off-road driving, but my concern with this truck and all the other trucks of its kind (all the trucks out there that have been modified to look like smaller monster trucks) is their safety when it comes to one of them colliding with a smaller vehicle. How can trucks with such high bumpers be allowed to be out there on the road (instead of being driven only off-road) alongside smaller cars like the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Honda Fit, etc.? How is this possible and what will a crash b/w these trucks and a small car look like? I don’t suppose it’ll be very pretty for the smaller car and its occupants. Please shed some light on this matter. Thanks.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Mohammad Rafi,
    I share your thoughts 100 percent, and felt the same way about Hummers. Thankfully there won’t be any more Hummers built, and I hope monster trucks like the “Sierra All Terrain HD concept” won’t make it to production, or, if they do, they won’t be street legal.

  29. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Who cares, every new Hyundai now come with alloys standard= they arent a true mass market brand in the vein of a Ford, Toyota, or Honda.

    Dont even try it Ford, you cant put alloys on what you have already as standard without seriously overpricing yourselves.

    Heck, Even Chrysler doesnt have Standard Alloys on its lower priced cars like 200.

    Like I said, if time for you mainstream Auto Journalists to treat Hyundai as Asian Chrysler with better quality cars. Come on, like Chrysler can do it without seriously overpricing out of their base. If they do it, they must be truly serious about going upmarket as a Benz contender.

    By the way, Chrysler’s website takes too loong to play around with it. They still are on the lower rung of Auto company websites.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    Smoke, What do you think of Kia using Michelle Wie in those Soul ads, don’t you think it will turn the Soul into a chic-mobile, like the Beetle?

  31. Bob Says:

    Peter De Lorenzo (Autoextremist) ranted against the phony-boloney Car of the year-Employee of the month awards long before last year’s TRAVESTY with the PATHETIC, Ugly, POS FOred Transit COnnect getting the award instead of the AWESOME 32 MPG EPA CHEVY EQUINOX Sales CHAMPION.

    This year, MORE OF THE SAME DISUSTING BS. I will be sick if the idiotic, stupid Leaf gets it, and I ALSO think the stupid Volt does not deserve it but it will get it anyway.

    The SONATA is far superior to these two, AND more significant. Watch its sales.

    AND if the CRUZE was in the top 3, IT Should have gotten the award. In a perfect world…

  32. Bob Says:

    Andn not that I care one iota about the stupid trucks, but I think thr new CHerokee should get the Award.

  33. Bob Says:

    As for what is a truck, I could care less what the official definitions are. A MINIVAN IS NOT A TRUCK IT IS A DAMNED TALL STAION WAGON WHICH IS A DAMNED CAR PERIOD.

    Enough of this travesty to count minivans as… truicks!

  34. pedro fernandez Says:

    Good to hear from Bob again. Volt will win because all these idiots think it will be the make or break car for GM. WRONG!!!

  35. Chuck Grenci Says:

    If the Volt wins it will because of the engineering exercise (not as a halo GM vehicle).
    I do agree that perhaps neither the Volt or Leaf should have made the final list (at least not in the category of COTY).

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “Bob,” formerly N.S., J.S., and T?
    A minivan drives like a truck, sucks gas like a truck, and if you fold or remove the seats, will haul stuff like a truck. It is not a car, no matter how much you SHOUT.