December 17th, 2010 at 12:41pm
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.
This is Autoline Daily for December 17, 2010. And now, the news.
BATTERIES TO STAY EXPENSIVE
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.
NORTH AMERICAN CAR & TRUCK AWARDS
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 OEMs TO GROW IN CHINA
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.
EWANICK GETS BIG PROMOTION
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.
GMC HITS THE OFF ROAD
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.
JEEP PATRIOT UPDATES
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.
WHO NEEDS BIG AD BUDGETS?
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.