Episode 1018 – GE and Ford Partnership, BMW Plug-In Hybrid, LEAF Gets an Upgrade

November 20th, 2012 at 11:42am

Runtime: 8:14

General Electric announced it will buy 2,000 Ford C-MAX plug-in hybrids for its fleet, see what Ford is willing to do in exchange. BMW will show off a plug-in hybrid at the L.A. Auto Show next week. Nissan released an upgraded version of the LEAF in Tokyo today with changes based on feedback from owners. All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in “You Said It!”

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. There sure is a lot in the news today about electrics, plug-ins, hybrids and diesels, so let’s get to it.

General Electric announced it will buy 2,000 Ford C-MAX plug-in hybrids for its fleet. In exchange, Ford will promote GE’s charging station and natural gas fueling station with its commercial customers. And Ford will provide GE with alternatively powered vehicles for use at its Vehicle Innovation Center. Also, the Georgia Institute of Technology will monitor GE’s plug-in fleet to study driving and charging habits to help improve all-electric driving and charging performance.

Now for the diesel news today. First up, Audi announced it will offer diesels in the U.S. for the A8, A7, A6 and Q5 starting next year. The company says the diesel models are up to 30 percent more fuel efficient and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent compared to their gasoline counterparts. Next up, Honda announced that starting next year it will offer a new 1.6 liter diesel engine for the Civic and CR-V in the European market. The engine was specifically designed for Europe and will be built at the company’s factory in England. And rounding out today’s diesel news, Volvo announced it’s ramping up production of the diesel plug-in hybrid version of the V60. The company will build a thousand for the 2013 model year and up to 6,000 after that.

BMW will show off its fuel-efficient, high-performance i8 concept roadster at the LA Auto Show next week. It’s a plug-in hybrid that BMW says is capable of 354 horsepower, 0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds and will deliver 78 mpg. The car is based on BMW’s innovative LifeDrive architecture, which uses a lightweight, modular construction and lots of carbon fiber. This gives the i8 some eye-catching design features like the upward-swiveling, windowless doors and electric kickboards stowed under a transparent tailgate.

Nissan released an upgraded version of the LEAF in Tokyo today. It has sold over 43,000 LEAF’s worldwide with nearly half of those sales in Japan. But that is substantially below where the company thought sales would be, so it’s increasing the number of dealerships in Japan equipped with fast chargers to 700, up from 400, by the end of March. The new version of the Leaf includes reduced power consumption, a more efficient regenerative brake-control system, 12 percent more luggage space and a weight reduction of 176 lbs., which increases the range to 142 miles on the Japanese driving cycle, up 18 miles from the previous model. Nissan also chopped the price by $6,000, to $41,000, which is the price tag in Japan.

French supplier Valeo is coming out with an electric supercharger. Unlike belt-driven superchargers, it doesn’t draw power directly from the engine, and that helps boost fuel economy. Valeo sees it being used in small displacement turbocharged engines with stop/start. The electric supercharger helps get the car launched before the turbo can spool up. Valeo says it has 10 automakers testing its supercharger on both gasoline and diesel engines. It says it will go into production sometime around 2015 or 2016.

Coming up next, it’s time for You Said It!.

And now it’s time for your feedback.

motorman wonders, “How is the state and federal government going to collect road tax on home fill-up of natural gas powered cars???”

They’re not, motorman. Road tax only applies to gasoline or diesel sales at the pump. That’s why so many states are looking at raising registration fees or even taxing motorists on how many miles they drive every year.

C-Tech heard us talking about strong hybrid cars, which use an Atkinson-cycle engine and wants to know, “What does the Atkinson-cycle engine mean?”

Let me give it a shot, though some of you out there may be able to explain it better than I can. An Atkinson-cycle engine has a longer expansion cycle than compression cycle. That does a more efficient job of using the energy from the burning air/fuel mixture. But it also reduces the low-end torque in an engine. That’s why you see Atkinson engines in strong hybrids. The electric motors make up for the loss of torque.

Kate McLeod saw our report on Toyota suing Mexico to prevent it from adopting US fuel economy standards. She says, “Not sure why Toyota would be up in arms about 35 MPG fuel economy. They have Scion, Prius, good fuel economy on their cars and no trucks to speak of. I get that there are no loopholes but I don’t understand Toyota being out in front about this. Your thought?”

Good question, Kate. Maybe Toyota thinks that if it gets involved in the effort it will be a lot more credible than other automakers protesting fuel economy regulations.

We got a lot of feedback on our poll asking how old is too old to run a car company. Bradley G says: “Age has nothing to do with running a company. Who is more capable? Lt. Dan Akerson & Bob Nardelli? Or older guys who get it: Bob Lutz & Alan Mulally and don’t forget the Late great Carroll Shelby, proves that you are never too old if you love what you do.”

Amen to that.

We also got a lot of feedback on the most recent episode of Autoline This Week which was all about electric cars. Nick Prudent Says: “Love the show + Peter & John, but totally tired of the anti-Tesla views. Tesla is an American company building cars in America…and you won’t give them a chance. Sigh… Fisker, now there’s a fiasco…

And Brett says: “re: Tesla Model S. Somebody pinch me!! Did I just hear bonafide auto insiders find virtually nothing to complain about (save for price) in an EV??”

Let me make it clear to everyone once again. I am not anti-EV. But I am against government mandates that force automakers to build EV’s even if they don’t want to. And I’m against generous government subsidies that go to well-off people so they can buy an EV.

Thanks for all your letters and comments, and please keep them coming. But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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28 Comments to “Episode 1018 – GE and Ford Partnership, BMW Plug-In Hybrid, LEAF Gets an Upgrade”

  1. Bradley Says:

    I need help with getting excited about Volvo. The perception I have, is they made their name in Safety with a bit of luxry. Ford acquired them and may have helped the company, but diluted the brand. Then with the economic downturn they were sold to Geely. Is Geely the Daddy Warbucks that Orphan Volvo needs?

  2. Kit Gerhart Says:

    That electric supercharger sounds like a great idea, especially for gas engines. You have more immediate boost when you need it for acceleration, and no power drain when you are not using boost, which is most of the time, at least with gas engines. I think turbo diesels may be “boosted” more of the time.

  3. Brett Says:


    My surprise was not because their comments were positive with regard to the EV. My surprise was that there were no, “Yeah, but” caveats about the vehicle, save for price. That’s a very significant threshold to cross, in my opinion, for electric cars in general: that one of them can simply be used as a normal passenger vehicle without range anxiety, poor packaging, etc. It says, “Hey, these things can be mainstream!”

    For so long it has been postulated that you just couldn’t get that out of an EV. It was a pleasant surprise to hear otherwise from some people that bloody well know their stuff.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The thing that surprises me about the early reports on the Tesla S is that it apparently is pretty refined, as far as wind and road noise, and general NVH issues. That has historically been lacking in products of “upstart” car companies.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Volvo lost me years ago, when they quit making 240 station wagons.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    #5 Ditto.

  7. dcars Says:

    John, I don’t understand why your against Government subsides? Weren’t you for GM & Chrysler’s bail out?

  8. Nick Prudent Says:

    Thanks for publishing my comments.

    The “Low Voltage” Episode of Autoline This Week was very spot on. I even learned a few things about the Leaf’s battery. Those guys know their stuff. Sounds like anyone who has driven the Model S has been very impressed.

    Tesla has made the 1st practical 100% EV sedan. Nobody can say that a 250-300 miles EV is impossible. Expensive, yes, but not unreasonably so. They have beaten the Chinese, the Germans, the French government (part owner in Renault) and the Japanese.

    Unlike Fisker, the Model S is being made in the US, which again should be a considerable source of pride for all Americans — even in Detroit.

    Thanks to Tesla, thousands of people will say goodbye to foreign oil & stop sending money to bad guys who hate America.

  9. pedro fernandez Says:

    WSJ reports what we here have known for a long time, Mexico is the hot place for automakers to build their cars over there, I knew NAFTA was gonna help Mexico most of all, but did not realize to what extent, forget about any more transplants moving over here with the current administration’s anti-business policies.

  10. ColoradoKid Says:

    Tesla S – Take all the pre-reviews with a healthy grain of salt . What’s being written and what’s being said behind closed doors are in complete and diametric opposition

    As far as thanking Tesla , the only thing you can legitimately ‘ Thank ‘ them for is robbing your tax dollars blind – bringing over priced overly complicated piles of dreck with the propensity to self ignite onto the public roads – pulling the John Z DeLorean of the 21st century over on an uneducated and ill informed general public – as well as using up more resources and burning off more carbon credits per unit produced than any other manufacture ( save Fisker ) currently in business . Still want to say thanks Mr P ? As to the goodbye to foreign oil .. not hardly . Had a good look at the price tag of a Tesla ?

    + 1 again for the Electric Supercharger . An idea thats been a long time in coming , so lets hope someone starts using them !

  11. ColoradoKid Says:


    BTW Fisker is ‘ Made in the USA’ as well as Tesla . Neither of which should bring about even a moment of ‘ Pride ‘ . Abject embarrassment would be the more appropriate response to both companies existence .

  12. ColoradoKid Says:

    One last comment ;

    John said ” And I’m against generous government subsidies that go to well-off people so they can buy an EV ”

    +1 x 1000 squared ! Especially when those receiving the US subsidies fail to live up to even a single part of the agreements signed to receive said subsidies . Fisker and Musk . Guilty as charged !

  13. ColoradoKid Says:

    # 12 should of read ;

    Especially when those companies producing the E/V’s owned by wealthy individuals receiving ……..

    Apologies again . Guess I need a bigger pot of coffee

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    Electric super chargers sound as durable as plastic electric water pumps, no wonder every tech I meet prefer the old stuff over this plasticky, electric crap being made nowadays.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    These magazine people at CR, C & D, and others, are only saying that the Tesla S drives decently. They are not saying “go out and buy one.” At least CR is not saying that, and they are not getting into the political aspects of the car. They are just talking about how it drives, nothing more and nothing less.

  16. dcars Says:

    Rick Wagoner received over 10 Million dollars in his severance package from GM.

  17. dcars Says:

    Fritz Henderson got a $709,080 per year salary as a consultant after he left GM.

  18. Lex Says:

    If General Electric and Ford can put there brain power together and create a truly affordable around (25K) Plug-in Electric Vehicles that would be something.

  19. 12345678 Says:

    The show last Sunday with the great Czaba Czere and Jim Hall was excellent.

    There was sure no bias against the Tesla S, instead, they sang its praises, including Czaba who actually drove it for several miles.

    The car may be sound technologically, but makes absolutely no economic sense and Tesla will eventually go broke.

  20. 12345678 Says:

    Dcars, #7:

    He should not be for GM and Chrysler’s (second) bailout either. They were conducted atrociously and thousands of innocent dealers had to be shut down by force as part of this disgraceful bailout, which started under G W Bush, BTW, and became much worse under Obama, who made sure that his buddies at the UAW were “protected” and allowed to contribute tens of millions to his coffers over the objections of their rank and file.

  21. HtG Says:

    Tesla S

    There isn’t much better in this world than a low center of gravity. Those 7000 batteries laid flat under the Tesla S surely contribute to the handling.

    Sorry to be banal today. Family due to arrive for multiple day stay. Did I say multiple day?

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yes, some dealers were shut down, but many tens of thousands of production jobs were saved, both with GM and Chrysler, and with many suppliers who also have Ford, Toyota, and others, as customers. Were there really thousands of dealers shut down? If so, it was barely “thousands,” as in 2000, but without the bailouts, all of the GM and Chryslers dealers would have closed, or become used car lots. Also, a lot of dealers were closing anyway, given the state of the economy in 2008.

  23. W L Simpson Says:

    Re: GE & EVs—-

  24. W L Simpson Says:

    On-highway diesel fuel prices have been higher than regular gasoline prices almost continuously since September 2004, a break from the historical pattern of diesel fuel prices usually being lower than gasoline prices except in cold winters when demand for heating oil pushed diesel fuel prices higher. The main reasons why diesel fuel prices have been higher than gasoline prices in recent years are:

    High worldwide demand for diesel fuel and other distillate fuel oils, especially in Europe, China, India, and the United States, and a tight global refining capacity available to meet demand during the period of high economic growth from 2002 to mid-2008.
    The transition to less polluting, lower-sulfur diesel fuels in the United States affected diesel fuel production and distribution costs.
    The Federal excise tax for on-highway diesel fuel of 24.4 cents/gallon is 6 cents per gallon higher the gasoline tax.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Thanks for that link. I hoped to see info about specific motor ideas, but it was still interesting.

  26. Steve Says:

    Below is a link from Road and Track on the Atkinson Cycle engine.


  27. Jeff Says:

    Given that many mfrs are getting back into diesel power for their cars, won’t it simply raise the price of diesel fuel to where it’s more expensive than gasoline? Don’t forget, diesels are more costly up front, are typically more costly to maintain, and – so I’m told – diesel comes from the same process as home heating fuel, so we’d see a spike in fuel prices every Fall/Winter due to increased demand. Not that I’m anti-diesel, I loved my 2004 TDi, but the savings just aren’t there anymore.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I liked my 2004 TDI too, but diesel fuel cost 20% more than regular gas for most of the time I had it, and yes, it had more costly maintenance. At that time, you couldn’t even get the “VW approved” oil except at a dealer.