AD #1444 – GM Pedals Green Solution, 1939 Arctic Snow Cruiser, New Hybrid Conversion

August 26th, 2014 at 11:54am

Runtime: 7:02

- China Amps Up Charging Stations
- VW Announces eGolf Price
- GM’s Bike Sharing Program
- CR Crowns Diesel Ram as Top Truck
- India Slaps OEMs with Fine
- Ford Dials Up ST Models Production
- Antarctic Snow Cruiser
- American Axle’s Hybrid Conversion

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In today’s show: a low-cost way to convert cars into hybrids, General Motors launches a bike sharing program, and a look back to the 1939 Snow Cruiser.

China wants to put a lot of muscle behind electric cars. Bloomberg reports that China is thinking about spending $16 billion on EV charging stations. And that, folks, is a huge commitment to growing the EV market. Our back of the envelope calculations suggest that could buy half a million Level III charging stations. According to the research company IbisWorld, there are 99,000 gasoline stations in China. We expect to hear an official announcement from Chinese authorities any day now.

In other EV news, Volkswagen announced the price of its electric Golf in the U.S. market. It’s priced at $35,445. That’s about $5,500 more than a Nissan Leaf, but is only slightly more than a Chevy Volt or Ford Focus EV.

Speaking of going green, GM is starting a bike sharing program for its employees at its gigantic Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. GM is partnering with a bike sharing company called Zagster. The bikes will be locked at solar powered stations across the 330 acre campus. Employees will download an app that will provide codes to unlock the bikes. GM says that riding bikes are a healthy and convenient alternative to walking, driving or using a shuttle to get to meetings at the all the buildings spread across that campus.

The Ford F-150 is the best selling pick-up in the U.S. but Consumer Reports says it’s not the best truck you can buy. Instead, it crowned the Ram EcoDiesel as the best light duty pickup in the market. The truck not only achieved better fuel economy than Ford’s and GM’s trucks, it also outperformed its competitors in other road tests. The diesel version of the Ram costs about $3,000 more than a comparable HEMI 1500 version but Consumer Reports did not factor that into its evaluations.

Recently China began investigating and even fining carmakers for overcharging of spare car parts. And now India is doing the same thing. Fourteen automakers have been fined a combined $420 million over anti-trust violations with spare parts. Automakers must now sell spare parts and diagnostic tools to independent repair shops and honor warranties of cars repaired at those shops. With China and India cracking down, we expect to see other countries doing the same thing.

Hatches!… get your hot hatches here! Sales of Ford’s Focus and Fiesta ST models are going so well the automaker is dialing up production. They don’t sit on dealer lots very long. Focus ST’s are snatched up in 15 days, while Fiesta ST’s are gone in 30. While we’re seeing more super high-horsepower cars like the Hellcat models from Dodge or even the Corvette Z06, it looks like there’s still growth to be had on the lower end of the performance spectrum.

And now it’s time for another trip in the Way Back Machine. Have you ever seen anything like this before? This monstrous vehicle was built for U.S. Admiral Richard Byrd for one of his Antarctic expeditions in 1939. Officially called the Snow Cruiser, it was powered by two 150 horsepower Cummins diesels, carried a crew of 4, with a kitchen, sleeping quarters and machine shop. It even carried a small airplane on top. Cummins and Inland Steel, which sponsored the project, ran full page advertisements about it. But it never worked out as planned and was abandoned in Antarctica, where it eventually disappeared under piles of snow and ice. Reportedly it was rediscovered in 1958, but then got covered up again and has never been seen since.

Coming up next, American Axle is coming out with a clever way to convert front-wheel-drive cars into all-wheel-drive cars at the same time it converts them into a hybrid.

Automakers will increasingly need to provide some amount of electrification to their cars if they hope to meet stringent emission standards in North America, Europe and Asia. And that’s why American Axle is coming out with a clever way to convert front-wheel-drive cars into all-wheel-drive cars at the same time it converts them into a hybrid. American Axle first started developing the system with Saab, but took the whole project over when the Swedish automaker went bankrupt. The system can use any front-wheel-drive vehicle, to which they add a rear axle with an electric motor, and then hook up a battery pack. With both systems engaged, the car operates in all-wheel-drive. And what a difference all-wheel-drive makes when accelerating in the snow. The system also provides torque vectoring, which makes steering in snowy conditions a lot easier.

American Axle calls this eAAM, and it can operate as a front wheel drive car, a four wheel drive car, as a hybrid, or operate in pure EV mode. It’s a clever solution and probably cheaper than other electrification approaches. David Dauch, CEO of American Axle tells Autoline that Qoros, the Chinese-Israeli automaker, will be the first to use it in late 2016, but he says that other automakers are definitely interested.

Be sure to join us for Autoline After Hours. Our guest is Larry Nitz from GM Powertrain. If you want to get the latest insider info at where GM is headed with its engines and transmissions, join us this Thursday night.

And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

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26 Comments to “AD #1444 – GM Pedals Green Solution, 1939 Arctic Snow Cruiser, New Hybrid Conversion”

  1. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Ram hit a home run with the ecodiesel.Sales from what I understand has been very good,and I believe it will only get better.Kudos to Ram.

  2. GM Veteran Says:

    There may be quite a few takers on GM’s bike sharing plan in the Spring, Summer and Fall, but with Winters like last year’s they are going to need some of that newly cleaned up basement space to store them for a few months. Kudos to GM for trying something new. Too bad its not a test fleet of GM electrified bikes. That is more like what the Tech Center might have done in years past.

  3. MJB Says:

    1. +1

    Not to mention, that Ram simply looks better than the F150, IMHO.

  4. MJB Says:

    Glad to see that hatchback sales are strong. I’ve always thought that they just needed a breather before making a comeback in the marketplace. The first car I bought with my own money was a hatchback. There’s nothing likelike one.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I drove a Fiesta ST a month or so ago, and the powertrain and handling were great. If I were shopping now, rather than 5 years ago, my MINI might have been a Fiesta ST.

    The Fiesta has a problem, though. The ST has MFT mandatory, and while I don’t like MFT in any cars, it’s worse in the Fiesta, because of the small screen. Oh well. I’m not in the market, so I don’t need to be concerned with it.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    4, Yep, hatchbacks are great, whether Priuses, Focii, Fiestas, or Golfs. I guess at least a few more Americans are seeing it that way, as Europeans always have like hatchbacks.

  7. M360 Says:

    John – I think this might be noteworthy!
    I took delivery of 2 brand new GM cars, one in 2011 and one in 2013. In both cases I received only one survey from GM and both surveys asked me questions concerning the dealer and the delivery process, but offered only ONE general question regarding the vehicle itself. No other questions about the cars were asked. I got these surveys about 1 week after taking delivery in each case. My point here, is this: if I had uncovered a defect such as the Ignition Switch Recall problem, how and where would I have let GM know about it from an owner’s prospective? By not encouraging feedback via a survey aren’t the people at GM being a bit isolated from their customers? I would expect GM to offer a comprehensive survey regarding the vehicle after 90 days and another one after one year. What do you think? How do other car manufacturers handle owners surveys?

  8. HtG Says:

    DC cool

    A WaPo article on autonomous car demo in DC. Carnegie Mellon’s Raj Rajkumar is in this piece showing what a car can and cannot do in DC’s infernal traffic. Note, the real hell is out among the locals.

    With video!

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Your surveys sound typical of my experience with various brands, except for the few cases over the years that I’ve received JD Power surveys. My two most recent new car purchases were a Toyota and a MINI, both 2010 model year, and I didn’t receive any questionnaires from the companies regarding what I liked, or didn’t like about the cars.

  10. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Also, #7

    Any safety concerns shouldn’t wait for a survey (from anywhere); they can be (and should be) reported to the NHTSA.

  11. shan Says:

    dealers within a 100 mile radius here in Kentucky are intentionally limiting supply of the Fiesta St, then they order them with gimmicky options to justify the high mark-up of 26k+, such a scam

  12. Lex Says:

    Question to John McElroy:

    What are Subaru’s production plans once they stop building Toyota Camry’s at the Lafayette Indiana plant in 2016? Which model or models will Subaru begin building in Indiana? What plans are there to reintroduce the Tribeca or other 3 row mid size SUV to the Subaru line-up?

  13. DH Says:

    (MFT – what the heck is this? Please don’t use abbreviations if it can be avoided.)

    So China is installing 5 times more EV chargers than they have gasoline stations. Talk about flipping things upside-down! That means it will be more convenient to refill your EV than to refill your gasoline car.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    12, I,m about 40 miles from Lafayette, and I’ve read in local news that they plan to build Forester in Lafayette.

    13, MFT is MyFord Touch. Sorry I didn’t spell it out.

  15. John McElroy Says:

    @Lex: Subaru needs more production capacity and is probably glad to see the Camry leave the plant. In the short term Subaru will just ramp up production of the cars it’s already building there.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    13, An EV needs to be “refilled” a whole lot more often than a gas car. I get 400+ miles per tank with my MINI and Prius, no matter what, and over 500 miles on some tanks. Most EV’s go less than 100 mile on a charge, so you need a lot of “stations,” if there end up being many electric cars. Also, it takes hours, rather than a fee minutes to charge an EV, greatly increasing the number of stations needed per car.

  17. GND Says:

    From the video clip it looks as though the Chinese charging stations will be equipped with charging cables, but I’d bet they won’t fall prey to copper thieves, as North America’s are. Sadly our future EV’s will probably require us to carry our own cables.

  18. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, anyone caught stealing a cable in China will be executed on the spot. That happens only occasionally in the U.S.

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    @18 Kit, don’t you mean “electrocuted”, not executed?

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    19, Maybe that too.

  21. C-Tech Says:

    China, now India, when will the U.S. look into OEM replacement parts pricing? Especially the pricing of BMW, Honda, Audi, and Mercedes parts – ouch!

  22. Brett Says:

    I drive 6.5 miles to work. I’d be all over the Mitsubishi EV if I could afford a car payment.

  23. TJWatson59 Says:

    The snow cruiser was built at the Pullman works south of Chicago. My Dad interned there at the time and lived a few blocks away in Pullman. The day they rolled it out the large crowd was awed. My dad heard on of the workers say that it would never work as they were using smooth (GIGANTIC) tires and it would never grip the ice…After a drive of a couple blocks, they discovered it would not fit under a viaduct and the air had to be let out of the tires for that. They drove it to the east coast and found that roads of the day could not handle it in many places. To get it on the ship they had to disassemble it because it was so large, and your film of it coming off the ship shows the wooden ramp collapsing under its weight. After reaching Antarctica, they found it to be very hard to control, and the Pullman workers words came true, as it could not drive up a mild snowy incline. It was never used to explore, only as a small shelter. There were reports that a Japanese crew scavenged parts from it during the war. It will be interesting when it is uncovered once again.

  24. DH Says:

    The “Level III” chargers described in the video only take 20-30 minutes to refill an EV (not hours). So a Chinese person can drive a Tesla 3 about 200 miles, then refill in 20 minutes, then drive another two hundred miles, and so on.

    Or they could just refill at home while they sleep (thereby eliminating time wasted at gas stations). Please try to keep yourself updated on the latest tech, since the auto world is moving so rapidly! :-)

  25. Jonathan Says:

    American axle has a huge hit on its hands.

    I’m a firm believer this will be the future of the automobile….(depending on cost and mileage.

    I’m a big fan of this new idea and hope you can get a representative on AAH in the near future.

  26. marshy Says:

    FTR – Somoa changed from right to left in 2009….