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Episode 527 – LEAF Certified at 99 MPG, GM Reviving G8 in U.S.?, Americans Warming to Bailouts

November 23rd, 2010 at 12:00pm

Runtime 8:12

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified the Nissan LEAF at 99 miles per gallon — 2.3 liters per 100 kilometers — on a combined driving-cycle.  GM is rumored to be reintroducing the Holden Commodore in the U.S.  Even though the American auto bailouts are still controversial, a recent poll indicates that opposition to them is dropping.  All that and more, plus a look at a new type of EV charger.

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This is Autoline Daily for November 23, 2010. And now, the news.

YOUR MILEAGE WILL VARY
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally decided how it’s going to measure the fuel economy of electric cars. And it certified the Nissan LEAF at 99 miles per gallon, that’s 2.3 liters per 100 kilometers. It also works out to 106 MPGs in the city and 92 on the highway. The EPA calculates “fuel economy” for EVs based on a formula where one gallon of gasoline is equivalent to 33.7 kW-hrs of electricity.  The feds also certified the LEAF’s driving range at 73 miles.  That falls a little bit short of Nissan’s initial estimates of 100 miles.  As always, your mileage WILL vary.

THE G8 STRIKES BACK (subscription required)
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes so will the Pontiac G8 . . . sort of, and if the rumors are true, that is.  According to Ward’s, GM is planning on reintroducing the Holden Commodore in the U.S.  The rear-wheel-drive sedan would be imported from Australia again, but this time with a Chevy badge since, you know, Pontiac got Oldsmobiled.  The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Commodore appears “odds-on” to make a return to North America, which should happen within the lifespan of the current model.  The paper goes on, saying that legalizing it for the U.S. would be relatively painless since the work was already done for the G8.  With Chevy bringing the Caprice back for police duty, offering a retail version makes perfect sense.

RECALLED RENTALS RAISING RANCOR
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating how quickly rental-car companies fix vehicles once a recall has been issued. According to the Detroit News, the agency is looking at 3 million vehicles from the Detroit Three that were sold to rental companies. There is no law currently that requires them to fix the vehicles before they can return to service, however, most recalls are for minor issues and most companies repair vehicles once they get a notice, but that can take months in some cases. Since most people ignore recalls anyway, perhaps this is the government’s way of enforcing the issue.

AMERICANS WARMING TO AUTO BAILOUTS
Although it still remains a controversial topic, opposition to the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler is falling. According to a study conducted by Rasmussen Reports, opposition to the bailouts is under 50 percent for the first time since the government agreed to loan the automakers the money. Because the two companies are doing so much better and because GM finally went public last week, people are optimistic the money will be returned. The poll found half of Americans say it’s “very likely” or “somewhat likely” the loans will be repaid fully. However, the Treasury Department recently said taxpayers will lose $17 billion on the $85 billion given to GM, Chrysler and their financial units.

OLD HABITS DIE HARD (subscription required)
But while the American people feel better about the auto industry, Ward’s reports that suppliers are worried. They believe that automakers are going back to their old ways of doing business, meaning unrelenting pressure to cut prices if they want new contracts. They also complain that their workloads and speed of execution are leading to exhaustion among their workers.

OBAMA HIGH ON HYBRIDS
As we’ve pointed out numerous times on Autoline Daily, hybrids don’t sell very well in the American market. They only account for a little bit more than 2 percent of all new-car sales, and half of those sales go to the Toyota Prius. That means every other hybrid on the market, and according to Ward’s, there are 24 of them, are complete failures, at least from a sales standpoint. And now Bloomberg reports that as hybrids have failed in the marketplace, the Obama Administration is stepping in. In fact, it has bought almost 25 percent of all the hybrids produced by Ford and General Motors. All this calls into question how well plug-in hybrids or electric cars are going to sell. After all, they’re going to be even more expensive than today’s hybrids. And you have to wonder how long this segment can continue if it can only survive with massive government subsidies.

With all those electric cars coming out there is potentially a booming market for companies that make the chargers needed to keep those EVs on the road. Up next we’ll take a look at one of those companies, one that I bet you never heard of before.

CHARGING AHEAD
Electric cars are not going to go very far unless people have easy access to chargers. That’s why so many companies are getting into the business. Companies like GE, AeroVironment, Lear and Coulomb. But besides the chargers, you need companies that can install them. That’s why General Motors contracted a company called SPX, to be able to install chargers in people’s homes.  Maybe you’ve never heard of SPX before. It’s a company that generally sells specialty tools to car dealerships and independent job shops.  So why would GM select SPX to install chargers for electric cars? Tanvir Arfi is the President of Global Service Solutions, for SPX

“SPX is in the business of all kinds of workshop equipment, all kinds of special service tools and diagnostic equipment  that today we sell at over 300,000 independent and franchised aftermarket repair stations across the country, including almost 22,000 dealerships across the country. And so we have this experience in getting that technology installed at nearly 300,000 locations across the country and then supporting that over the life of that program.”

GM contracted SPX to install what it’s calling its Voltec charger, a hard-wired unit that runs on 220 volts and would be installed in your garage.  One of the clever aspects of the Voltec charger is that it has a light built into the head of the unit, so if you’re fishing around in the dark in your garage, trying to plug it in, the light makes it very convenient.  But SPX has come up with its own design as well, which it believes offers a couple of advantages. Most garage chargers will be hard-wired to the wall so they cannot be moved very easily. SPX came up with a design that gives owners more flexibility.

“Couple of interesting tidbits that this charger has, that we thought would be interesting to the consumer. One is that this is a plug-in charger for a standard 220 volt outlet. What we would do is in your garage there would be a dedicated 220 volt outlet. The charger is mounted by that outlet and plugged in, however, the charger can be taken off because it’s on a hinge, and you can move to a different location or to a different garage, if you have more than one.”

SPX will start selling its own charger in the U.S. market early in the first quarter of 2011, and once it gets certified in Europe it will start selling it there later in the year.

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

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24 Comments to “Episode 527 – LEAF Certified at 99 MPG, GM Reviving G8 in U.S.?, Americans Warming to Bailouts”

  1. HtG Says:

    when a car has a 73 mile range before it needs 7 hours to recharge, what I want to know is, who is buying it? How will they use it?

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Obama needs to reconsider his views on diesels,and diesel hybrids.As far as the G8 goes,maybe gm should rebadge it as a buick gran sport if it’s a performance car.They already have the camaro and since they 86′d Pontiac and have been fighting an uphill battle trying to get our younger buyers into buicks,maybe it would work.

  3. Buzzerd Says:

    All this work people and governments are doing to get people to buy electric and hybrid cars instead of having the balls to tax gasoline. Will America ever get it?

  4. Truman Lewis Says:

    As always a great show, John what are they going to do with all this old batteries once the are burnt out from overcharging, I see computer and rechargeable tools all the time that have a short life due to overcharging. I would like to see a after hours show about this and let Peter come out with his fangs showing.
    May all you guys have a great bird day (not the Kyle Bush one)

  5. ckernzie Says:

    The G8 was always destined to be a rebadged Chevy after Pontiac’s demise. Nobody at GM could admit to that because under bankruptcy & government control the G8 was looked at by the ‘green hoards’ and ‘finger snap’ politicians as representing why the Detroit 3 were in such a mess to begin with, right up there with the Hummer brand. It’s got a big engine, RWD and high performance options, the epitome of pure evil in their eyes. Much to the chagrin of the ‘green intelligentsia’ it is however going to be a runaway sales hit when it makes its way to American showrooms from down-under.
    Wonder if anybody @ Ford is talking about the Falcon today?

  6. ckernzie Says:

    Buzzerd: Couldn’t agree with you more!! Screw CAFE and socialist government intervention telling companies what to build and the consumers what to buy (did America turn Commie while I wasn’t paying attention??) a fuel tax who’s revenues are directed to road & bridge infrastructure or energy efficiency projects will do more to reduce the size of the nation’s fleet & reduce America’s dependance on oil than anything else. The ironic thing is that due to America’s history and how the right-wing views taxes, it causes more of what most Americans don’t want…more government, more regulation and attacks on freedom.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Wow, Gm finally waking up and listening to the public outcry to bring back the G8 as a Chevy or a Buick or both? What about a 2 door or a wagon to go along with the sedan. Htg: those folks with a short commute who are disciplined enough to remember to charge every night.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    if my experiences with rental car companies is any indication of servicing these recalled vehicles: GOOD LUCK, the last rental car I returned was given to a waiting customer despite the fact that I reported that same car had failed to start on me when I had pulled up to get gas in an isolated gas station in the middle of the night.

  9. tj Martin Says:

    @ G.A Branigan

    Amen !

    @ Truman Lewis- Thats the second most important question about the viability of E/V’s that everyone is conveniently ignoring

    Along with that nasty habit the batteries have to self ignite along with that odd Memory trait they’re so good at springing on you

    ( when you constantly recharge a battery before it is completely discharged : say 20% : after several early charging 20% becomes Completely discharged . e.g. your range just got decreased by 20% . Keep recharging early , as one would think a responsible person should , and you’ll gradually continue to decrease the range/time of the batteries capacity )

    Now you all know why your lap top and cell phone batteries seem to continually discharge quicker .

    Physics 101 OOPS !

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    Memo to those prospective Fiat 500 buyers: Italian words you may want to become familiar with when you experience the passion of Fiat. Rosso, azzurre, nero, bianco and most importantly,rotto, aiutami Tony, per favore.

  11. shan Says:

    I think the one and only viable solution to our energy crisis is adopting a renewable fuel. All of our resources should go to developing a fuel that’s derived from Algae or cellulose form of ethanol. The latest fad for electrification of cars, both pure electric and hybrid, is simply too costly and limited in its potential for consumers. The internal combustion engine can still be tweaked and engineered to be even more efficient. The only thing we need to eliminate is the gasoline made from petroleum. So, enough of this nonsense of range anxiety and worries about rare metals to make the expensive batteries.

  12. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Lee Iacocca suggested a fuel tax over twenty years ago, and while he mentioned 25 cents a gallon (which was pretty hefty back then), a dime or 15 cents a gallon would do wonders for our crumbling highway bridges and infrastructure while also putting a lot of people to work; good idea then, still is now.

    The Leaf rated at 73 miles range (while still lofty and alluded by John as falling a little short) is well over 25% short, which I’d say could be categorized as a little more than a little short.

    Lithium ion aren’t as prone to recharge memory as the older technology NiCad and Nickel Metal Hydride, and the manufacturers are programing their vehicles to run the batteries from about 30 to 80 percent charge to maintain their longevity, so it will be important to get the correct charger that does not allow these batteries to be overcharged. They then will be able to provide serviceable times in electric vehicles. The Prius is already proving this with the Nickel Metal Hydrides.

    Welcome the G-8 back; maybe as the new Chevy Impala SS?

  13. HtG Says:

    Hi tjM, I have the book Breakthrough by N’haus and S’berger. Can you refer me to the sections where the limits of the grid are described. The book seems to be mostly about the environmental movement.

  14. Jon M Says:

    Hybrids selling in low numbers! UGH! All those naked tree huggers must be in mourning. Pity its autumn with all those leaves falling, leaving no snot rags for those green folk to wipe away their tears. But alas, fret not ye tree-wrapped nudies, Obama and his socialist troops will surely step in to force your grandiose climate change agenda down the throats of all those horrific Americans who still buy demonic IC powered engine, forcing us all to buy what Obama, Al Gore, and every other green freak demand we drive.

  15. tj Martin Says:

    HtG ;

    Two thumbs up for buying the book . Read it all first , you’ll find the references to weakness of current E/V and other Green plans in action at present . They start with a history , then move on to the problems . But the foundation they lay is quite disturbing . FYI Both extremes : the Extreme Green as well as the Extreme Right Head in the Sand folks hate these two . Supposedly Obama used them for his Green initiative ideas in the beginning , but somehow got off track from their common sense approach .

    Also dig around their website . They constantly update it with current info .

    http://www.thebreakthrough.org

    The ConEd reference is in a couple of interviews I’m trying to dig out for you . May have to wait till after TG .

  16. tj Martin Says:

    Chuck Grenci

    You’re correct in saying the Lithium Ion Batteries aren’t AS prone to Recharge Memory . But they still do it .

    Apple Computers , if you take the time to READ the instructions ( no I’m not mad at you ) is very clear that you must , with their lap tops as well as iPads/Phones/Pods completely discharge the batteries on a regular basis or in their own words ;

    ” You will observe a steady and rapid decline in battery life ”

    And thats in a Lap Top , Phone etc. Not a car which is constantly subjected to extreme heat- cold and shock

    I’m guessing other PC and Smart/Cell Phone companies also give the same instructions . Or maybe not so you’ll replace the battery sooner .

  17. pedro fernandez Says:

    Precisely why the Volt system will not let the battery get below a certain charge level, to maintain longer battery life, this has been pointed out by GM since the inception of the Volt.

  18. sw Says:

    It’s got a big engine, RWD and high performance options, the epitome of pure evil in their eyes.
    Thanks for descibing my CTS-V!
    :)

  19. tj Martin Says:

    @ pedro

    The problem is if you read my post is that you , the owner need to let the battery completely discharge on a regular basis ( or to its minimum safe point ) you’ll continually lower the battery life .

    So if the batteries normal low is say 10% , but you keep recharging at 25% at some point the battery will quit at 25% , and you’ll have lost 15% of your range .

    So Chebbies so called Battery Fail Safe is like everything else about the VOLT . A Fraud .

  20. XA351GT Says:

    Woo Hoo the return of the G8. I hope that also means the ute as well . If so the El Camino will be reborn . I want to put out there that the Police Caprice is NOT the G8/Commodore it is the longer wheelbase Statesman. So with the Impala/Caprice/Malibu names already being used could we see the Bel Air name come back ? I don’t think they’d use Chevelle or Nova and oh god not the Lumina . What a stupid name that was.
    I could see the wagon as a Buick maybe the G8 as a new GN . I guess we’ll have to see.
    As for Ford bringing over the Falcon. They should have done that long ago. I don’t think it’ll happen unless the Taurus flops as a Police car. I know it wouldn’t happen before 2014 at any rate as that is when the next Gen. Falcon that will share underpinning and chassis with the next Mustang comes out. When it does and if the would by some miracle ship it over I hope they’re smart enough to send the ute as well. It would be a perfect replacement for the Ranger.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    Tj I don’t believe that the Volt lets you discharge the battery beyond a certain point, besides they have always stated that battery life will be extended if you don’t let it run down completely, so which is the truth? Are Nicd different in electronic equipment vs an automobile application?

  22. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    Yawn More Americans harkening back to Dangerous and Unfit to Human Beings Industries like Manufacturing, being envious of a 19th Century Dictatorship (CHINA) where unlike the US where 1 Group of people were Slaves=EVERYBODY IS A SLAVE.

    Associate Degrees, and Trade/Technical Diplomas Mandatory for High Schools NOW!!!

    :D

  23. XA351GT Says:

    Can anyone answer how much running a heater or A/C will affect the Leaf’s range. Here in SE PA we have very wildly varying temps. If the climate controls pull down the mileage would this make this a car only good for 65-80 degree temps?? Not very practical IMO.

  24. Richard Tait Says:

    That charger from SPX is interesting, but also a no-brainer. I’m wondering why ALL Volt chargers aren’t of this type. In fact, I’m waiting for a “genius” to “invent” a step-up transformer-type unit that plugs into a 120v outlet, but puts out 240v on the other end. Sometiems I amaze even myself!

    TANGENT: There are a lot of comments here about “socialism”. And not one of the persons talking about it seem to understand what socialism is. The JOB of government is to LEAD and in doing so it has to be involved in how things are run. Screw CAFE, of course. But if left up to car and oil companies alone we wouldn’t be able to afford to own the cars that we view as a part of our “freedom”. Fuel prices would be high and cars would drink fuel like fish drink water. Car companies claim they can’t meet CAFE mileage, but surprise, surprise they eventually do…and then BRAG about it as if it was their conscience that made them do it. Either way, who wins in the long run? You and I. So quit with the bullshit Republican-Democrat arguments already. We’re car guys. Leave the politics at the door.