Episode 978 – Toyota Pooh-Poohs EVs, Tesla Offers Free Charging, Chrysler Suspends PHEV Testing

September 25th, 2012 at 11:53am

Runtime: 7:01

Toyota doesn’t see much chance of success for EV’s in the short term because of limited range and long recharging times. Tesla just launched a network of solar power charging stations to allow Model S owners to power up for free. Chrysler announced that it is suspending testing for its plug-in hybrid program. All that and more, plus John answers your questions and comments in “You Said It!”

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for September 25th. I’m John McElroy and man do we have a lot of news about hybrids and electrics today!

As we reported yesterday, Toyota is going to come out with 21 models that can be ordered as hybrids. That’s because Toyota doesn’t see much chance of success for EV’s in the short term. It says limited range and long recharging times are to blame, and that a plug-in hybrid is a better solution.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports finished its test drive of a Fisker Karma extended range-EV and it trashes the car in its report. CR liked the ride and handling and interior materials, but they ran into problems with the car, hated its touch screen, found it cramped despite its huge proportions, and it only got 22 miles per gallon when running on its noisy gasoline engine.

Tesla just launched a network of solar power charging stations to allow Model S owners to power up for free. The superchargers, as they call them, were developed by Tesla and a company called SolarCity. The company says a half hour of charging gives you 3 hours of driving at 60 MPH. And Tesla says the system will create more energy than customers will use which means electricity will be put back in the grid. The stations are located in California, Nevada and Arizona. By next year the company plans to open them throughout the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia.

Chrysler announced that it is suspending testing for its plug-in hybrid program. Three of the 109 pick-ups in its fleet equipped with 12.9-kWh lithium-ion batteries overheated. In the meantime, the company is upgrading its plug-in fleet with new batteries, including 23 minivans. The program, which started last year, is scheduled to end in 2014.

Ford expects sales of the new Fusion hybrid could triple in the U.S. According to the Detroit Free Press, the company is aiming for Fusion hybrids to make-up 15% of all Fusion sales. And of that Ford expects a quarter of them to be plug-ins. Last year, hybrids made up 4.5% of Fusion sales. But the new one is much closer in price to the gas models. The 2013 Fusion hybrid is only $1,600 more than one equipped with a 1.6 liter EcoBoost engine with start/stop. The previous hybrid was up to $8,000 more than its gasoline counterpart.

Don’t forget to join us Thursday morning at 10AM Eastern Time for our live coverage of the Paris Auto Show. We’ve got some great interviews with top executives, and some great cars to look at so join us right here at Autoline.tv for the first reports coming out of Paris.

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

And now it’s time for some of your feedback.

Kit Gerhart is impressed with the fuel economy numbers for the Ford Fusion hybrid. “Why does the Fusion (and C-Max) get such good EPA numbers? Do Lithium batteries have that much more efficient charge-discharge cycles, does Ford have more efficient motors or controllers?”

Kit, good question. Ford seems to trust the longevity of its batteries more than other automakers and seems to work them harder. But you can only do that with a good overall hybrid system. In any case, Ford has a lot of patents on its system and it really seems to have done its homework well.

XA351GT watched our Autoline This Week show on ethanol but doesn’t seem sold on this fuel. “Hmmm, so the drought won’t affect the ethanol supply too much. So why then is the price of gas screaming towards $4 a gallon again? Also if we import ethanol isn’t that defeating the purpose of a home based fuel source?”

Well, XA, the price of gas spiked recently for two reasons. Major maintenance on refineries and the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was beating the war drums about launching an attack on Iran. All that has blown over for the moment and gas prices are starting to subside. As for importing some ethanol from Brazil, you need competitive pressure on American ethanol refiners to prevent them from charging exorbitant prices.

Lawrence watched my review of the Coda EV and says, “Very nice and comprehensive report about this enigmatic EV with China origins. John, I am assuming they fixed the high frequency flashing of those tacky LED turn signal lights because you didn’t mention them.”

Lawrence, the funny thing is, in all the driving I did in the car I never noticed the front turn signals, until afterwards when I was watching some of the video I shot during the event. Maybe that jerkiness had more to do with the capture rate of the video than what you see with the naked eye.

JB is interested in the report we carried yesterday on GM’s new manufacturing process for spot welding aluminum. Will this new spot welding of aluminum be used for the C7 Corvette and upcoming truck lineup? Thanks in advance for your best guess.”

JB, we don’t need to guess. GM has been secretly testing it out on the hood of the Cadillac CTS-V, and the liftgate of the hybrid versions of the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe. GM says it will start using the process extensively next year, and my guess is if you see any aluminum parts on any GM car going forward, it will use this new spot welding technique.

Thanks for all your questions and comments, we get a kick out of reading them and besides, it forces us to think!

Anyway, that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, and join us again tomorrow.

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43 Comments to “Episode 978 – Toyota Pooh-Poohs EVs, Tesla Offers Free Charging, Chrysler Suspends PHEV Testing”

  1. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Not surprisingly, the Karma just comes off as horribly underdeveloped. It isn’t easy to start a new car company from scratch, and using a different type power train, like this plug-in hybrid, doesn’t make it any easier.

    According to CR’s charts for interior room, a Volt has more interior room than the much larger Fisker, both for people and cargo. I wouldn’t have expected that.

  2. G.A.Branigan Says:

    It’s no surprise that tesla’s test car with CR was a major fail.Evidently it started out bad,and went downhill from there.I can’t help but wonder where they are getting money from.They burn through it like it’s manna from heaven and still haven’t produced a decent reliable vehicle.Maybe I could start a losing car company…..

  3. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Opps,I meant the fisker….but maybe they are interchangable,lol

  4. Chuck Grenci Says:

    “Pooh-poohs”, “trashes”, more charging stations, suspends testing, expects increased hybrid sales………………wow ‘EV’s’ all over the place; for/against, better/worse, yes/no. Whatever happens someone’s going to be right (and someone’s going to be wrong); but that’s going to be the “64,000 dollar question”. Stay tuned (I guess), interesting times for sure.

  5. G.A.Branigan Says:

    I believe that ev’s will come into their own….someday.Battery technology has a way to go,as does the grids they will plug into.Maybe an affordable solar/wind home charging unit would be in order for most of the country.Not sure what cities can do about that though…

  6. Bradley Says:

    I wouldn’t read too much into Toyota’s EV comments. The last I knew, they owned a large chunk of Tesla and they were adapting NUMMI to make Tesla cars.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    Considering this Karma is supposed to be the future, they made it small inside and big outside just like the good ole days, and also too heavy, for a “green” car, poor choice of ICE and an interior that is inferior to the Fusion and Malibu, this Karma should help Ford sell more Fusion Hybrids.

  8. aliisdad Says:

    #6, your comment really made me think…I was getting ready to say that Toyota was wise to abandon electric in favor or hybrids, but your input makes me wonder about what they really think…Anyway, I do think hybrids are the way to go, and development efforts should go into hybrid technologies…

  9. T. Bejma Says:

    Don’t know if the regulars on here caught it or not, but it seems like the (well praised on this discussion board) VW Passat quality problems have been pinpointed to Squeaks and Rattles according to TTAC. Still comes down to “You get what you pay for”…


  10. C-Tech Says:

    It seems that Toyota may talk about not believing in full electric cars yet they are hedging their bets with Tesla.

    The Fisker Karma is that beautiful piece of furniture which is not comfortable, nor very functional. The Volt is closer to Ikea compared to the Karma, much more functional, and costs less.

    The Tesla solar power stations seem like a good idea as a home-charging station if the price is right. This Tesla charging station could be useful even if you don’t own a Tesla!

  11. C-Tech Says:

    Perhaps Chrysler should simply license Tesla’s or Ford’s technology and scrap their internal EV and PHEV program. It seems they are behind the curve compared to the other manufacturers

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    #9 yeah big discussion over there on whether this is a quality issue or just an annoyance, when you’re spending that kind of money for a car, you don’t need to hear rattles or squeaks when you drive the damn thing, not when you can buy a competitor with none of those noises, I think it’s an assembly issue, VW may engineer great cars on paper, but getting them build that way is another story

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The big thing Passat offers over the competition is the diesel. Also, you can get a manual transmission in most versions. If you just want a sedan with a gas engine and automatic, the Passat doesn’t seem to offer much over the mostly rattle-free competition.

  14. Kit Gerhart Says:

    As quiet as cars have gotten, it has to be very difficult to design and build them rattle free, but most companies do a very goid job of it. More than once, I have thought I had a rattle, and then found the “rattle” to be something in the glove box that doesn’t even look like something that could rattle.

  15. ckernzie Says:

    Toyota on EV’s… I think what Toyota is saying is that GM (VOLT) has the right technology and Nissan (LEAF) et.al. have it wrong. Pure EV’s are unworkable for the foreseeable future in the N.AM. market and even more so in Japan. The pure EV is a range limited/anxiety fashion statement vehicle that is for people that don’t really need a real car or already have a real car in their driveway. The VOLT on the other hand could actually serve as a primary vehicle for most people. The electrification of the vehicle will continue and pure EV’s will improve but I think I’ll listen to the masters of the hybrid at Toyota and the true believers at GM over the vapourware EV companies and the also rans at Nissan.

  16. W L Simpson Says:

    great details on tesla chassis


  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    If you filter through this:

    and other articles, it appears that the “theoretical” maximum power density of the chemical batteries is only about 6X that of today’s lithium ion batteries. That means an EV with one of these “theoretical” batteries that will never exist would have about comparable range to a regular car. That would be nice, but there is still the issue of charge time, and unless there are batteries that can be charged at about 10,000 amps, and an infrastructure to do it, EV’s will never be suitable for long “road trips,” unless the cars and batteries are designed so a dead battery can be swapped out for a full one. I’m not going live long enough to see that.

  18. pedro fernandez Says:

    #14 I.ve noticed Camry has a felt-type strip placed between plastic panels on the dash, console and door panels to prevent the squeak you get from rubbing plastics together, I also noticed my Corolla has no insulation in door panels and very thin carpet and no liner under carpet or headliner to keep out sound, as a result it is a very noisy car, unlike most of the new stuff I’ve driven that mutes sound by adding tons of padding and sound insulators.

  19. Brett Says:

    “The electric car will not succeed because it only meets the needs of 50% of the drivers 80% of the time.” – “common wisdom”, paraphrased.

    If I had had a Nissan Leaf during my previous employment, I would’ve been able to use it exclusively and plug it in every other day to recharge. It would also allow me to attend about 80% of the musical get togethers I participate in.

    Even now, my wife could easily use a Leaf without any anxiety to attend her college classes. I go a week or more sometimes working from my home office and running errands on my bicycle. The Outlander could sit in the driveway, not burning any gasoline, waiting for that rare occasion it was needed.

    I do not believe for a second that I am somehow singularly unique in this circumstance.

    For those occasional trips beyond the Leaf’s capacity, we have our Outlander.

    How many households in America do you imagine might have similar needs? 5%? 10%? Not worth the bother? Sound like a huge number of potential customers in a country with a population of over 330 million people.

    I tell you right now that the electric car is at least 90% of the way to being broadly acceptable to a respectable segment of the car buying public.

    The issue is price far more than range. If they can get the price to no more than 5%-10% over the equivalent IC powered vehicle people will buy ‘em. If range hits a consistent 100 miles, minimum, the take up will accelerate sharply.

  20. Brett Says:


    I know that the Corolla is on it’s way out, but here’s a sound deadening tip:

    DynaMat is expensive. Gutter repair tape from Lowes or Home Depot is the same thing in convenient roll form for way, way, way less. :)

  21. cwolf Says:

    Adding to Bejma’s post,the report also made the spectacular discovery that small cars don’t do well in real world accidents!At the bottom of the heap,even below the Smart,was the Yaris.

    Yet on “leftLane”, new adjustments were made to the ATS mpg ratings. So far the hype is still possitive,except for the early GM statements that the ATS will not only rival the M3, but also have better mpgs. Sad to say,but the M3 beat it by 1 mpg with the ATS’s 2.5 (33 vs 32). Let’s just call it a draw for now.

  22. Kit Gerhart Says:

    When I was living in Indiana full time and working, an EV would have worked for my commuting. I’m not sure I would have wanted one because of things like weak heaters, I’d rather not power my car with coal, etc., but a Leaf would have had plenty of range for my commute.

    Now, I live 7 months/year in a condo in Florida with no place to plug it in, so an EV wouldn’t work. In time, that might change, but I haven’t heard the condo board talking about installing EV charging stations just yet.

  23. cwolf Says:

    Bret, buy an American brand car and DynaMat won’t be needed!

  24. stas peterson Says:

    Elon Musk made a big deal about thefree ‘Supercharging’ facilities. No one asked how any Teslas could one of these recharge without itself being recharged.

    I’d guess one, 1, o-n-e. If you drive to one of these five places California wide, to recharge and a Tesla is just leaving, having recharged, I’ll bet you are SOL for several hours. If late in the day, or at night, the next day, since they are PVs which don’t do squat at night.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    You must mean 328, not M3. The ratings for an M3 are 14/20, with a combined rating of 16.

  26. cwolf Says:

    Kit, you’re as shart as a tack! I should have said 328i.

  27. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The 3 series that has really impressive mpg ratings is the 335i. It has the same 23/33 ratings as the 328, and has ~300 hp. It needs premium, though, unlike the ATS which uses regular, at least for the 2.5 and V-6. The EPA site doesn’t show the ATS turbo yet, but it will probably need premium.

  28. cwolf Says:

    Some reviewers think the only 4 cyl. should be the turbo version. They state the mpg’s are much the same,but the turbo is so much better. I agree up to a point. Yet the turbo does require premium, and to be honest, I would rather have the other if I were to keep it for a long duration. I would opt for the turbo if leased,but one does not reflect upon my driving habits. The handling aspects of the ATS would suit me just fine.

  29. XA351GT Says:

    Oh John,
    Another reason I’m not a fan of ethanol is this past weekend I was getting ready to take my collector car (1972 Aussie Ford Falcon) to a carshow when I had to abort because the alcohol has eaten it’s way through what were very expensive braided stainless covered fuel hoses.Let’s just say I was very lucky my wife saw the leaking fuel before we became a fireball. I just don’t see any benefit in this crap. It lessens mileage ,damages old engines and parts , doesn’t make fuel any cheaper. It also is debateable if it helps the enviroment all that much. So yes you can say I’m not impressed with it at all.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    How old are those fuel hoses? I’m surprised they failed, unless hey are really old. At least my two 80′s cars are doing fine, so far.

  31. RonE Says:

    Re: #29. Here is a link to Pat Goss of Motor Week discussing Ethanol and classic cars.


  32. XA351GT Says:

    10 years old . I put them on in 2002 when the car was going into the shop for restoration.
    The car hasn’t run as good ever since the ethanol was put in the fuel a few years ago.

  33. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, it makes sense to have the non-torbo four if it is as smooth and quiet as the turbo. It would have plenty of power for many people. If it is at all rough and/or noisy in a way that would make the car seem “sub-luxury,” they shouldn’t use the 2.5.

  34. XA351GT Says:

    Watched the video, Thanks for that. I am going to change my canister filter for the fuel. I drive the car less than a 1000 miles a year probably closer to 5-700, so the current filter only has about 4-5000 miles at most,but maybe the source of my performance issues. I really didn’t think the hoses would require changing yet , but I am going to lines that have liners inside that are Ethanol safe.

  35. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Those hoses should have been clearly labeled “not ethanol compatible” or something to that effect. It seems that suppliers of aftermarket parts are not as conscientious about such things as they should be.

  36. pedro fernandez Says:

    #23 you mean a Mexican built Fusion or Journey? Si, Mexican cars very quiet, so the Mariachi band can practice on the way to a gig.

  37. XA351GT Says:

    Problem is 10 years ago when I put them on we weren’t dealing with ethanol at the pump. Today they do have listed the fuels that won’t effect them ,but back then no one knew we were going to have the crap rammed down our throats.

  38. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Where I have been, nearly all of the gas has had ethanol for 20 years or more. I guess it’s more location dependant than I realized.

  39. T. Bejma Says:

    Disagree that squeak and rattles are assembly issues. Like your felt strip Pedro, Automakers can design in interfaces that do not make noise, add extra fasteners to assure parts don’t move and do testing on shaker machines to confirm the designs. Apparently VW does not do that.

    Not to say that an assembly plant worker can’t miss a fastener or pull off before torques are reached, but that would be more isolated and it appears the Passat problems are an epidemic…

  40. pedro fernandez Says:

    what I don’t get is how slip-ups get by even after the QC check at the end of the assembly lines, I’ve had leaky windows, loose stuff in brand new cars and the dealer had to final assembly those issues.

  41. T. Bejma Says:

    The 100% end of the line check is pretty general but they do a water check so they should have caught a leaky window. There is a sample of vehicles that are taken off the line and a very thorough check done. Shaker testing is usually only done during development.

  42. pedro fernandez Says:

    My X-car Buick had numerous flaws and I suspect this was due to the fact that they had too many orders to fill and I remember waiting 6 mos after I ordered the car, nothing special, just auto, air, 4 cyl no power windows or locks.

  43. Brett Says:


    A good friend has a 2003 BMW 328. He had to put it in the shop because the instrument cluster died. ($1,100 thankyouverymuch). When I hooked up with him this past weekend at a folk festival where we ran sound for one of the stages, he was driving a brand new Ford Focus sedan. A rental while the BMW was in the shop.

    I asked him about it and he said it was way, way better than the Focus of old, but there was too damned much road noise for his liking. Said he’d probably sell the old 328 after it was fixed and find a nice, used 3 series around 2009 vintage with 30k on the clock.

    So I’d have to say that the statement that “buy an American car and you won’t need DynaMat” to be rather subjective. :)