September 13 marks an extraordinary milestone in the history of fuel cell vehicles (FCV). Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota will team up for the European Hydrogen Road Tour 2012, a special, one-month, nine-city European tour to show that hydrogen-powered FCVs are not technologies of the future, but are ready for today.
A total of seven fuel-cell cars will participate in the tour, showcasing each automaker’s hydrogen fuel cell system.
Starting in Hamburg, Germany tomorrow, the FCVs will visit Hannover, Bolzano in northern Italy, Paris, Cardiff, Wales and Bristol, Swindon and London, England. The tour will finish in Copenhagen. The tour will be supported by local organizations in each city with H2 Logic Denmark providing mobile refuelling stations in some stopover cities.
The tour offers the public an opportunity to experience fuel cell technology. This year’s tour marks the first chance for people in several of the stopover cities to actually drive a FCV.
The goal of the tour is to raise awareness of FCVs among politicians, industry leaders, the press and the public and demonstrate that fuel-cell technology exists today and the only thing holding it back is the need to improve the hydrogen distribution infrastructure.
The European Hydrogen Road Tour 2012 is part of the “H2moves Scandinavia” project, the first European Lighthouse Project for hydrogen funded by the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking program established by the European Commission and European industry stakeholders.
The experience that has beeen gained from operating 19 FCVs in Oslo and Copenhagen shows that the technology is reliable now even in harsh Scandinavian winters.
Michel Gardel, Vice-President Communications for Toyota Motor Europe commented: “Toyota has been active in fuel cell technology for the last 20 years and we are working to commercialise our next-generation fuel cell car by 2015. The European Hydrogen Road Tour is a great opportunity for our company and partners to demonstrate the readiness of the technology to European consumers.”
Dr. Christian Mohrdieck, Daimler AG’s Director of fuel cell drive development points out the importance of this technology: ”On our way to zero-emission mobility fuel cell electric vehicles – with their great range while at the same time short refueling times – will play a central role for the future. However, the success of this technology depends crucially on certain conditions being in place, such as the availability of a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure.”
Thomas Brachmann, Automobile Engineering & Research, Honda R&D Europe GmbH remarked that “Honda believes fuel cell electric vehicles are the ultimate mobility solution, providing a practical, clean and near silent answer to transport requirements. The European Hydrogen Road Tour offers a great opportunity to give the public, the media and government officials a chance to experience this zero emission technology for themselves.”
Allan Rushforth, Senior Vice President and COO of Hyundai Motor Europe describes their reasons for joining the tour: “Hyundai is proud to be playing an integral role in the European Hydrogen Road Tour 2012. The Hyundai ix35 FCV clearly demonstrates not only our commitment to producing hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, but also the benefits of FCV. As the availability and performance of this technology improves, we can look forward to FCVs providing sustainable mobility to future generations while dramatically reducing climate change.”
Kyodo News is reporting that Honda Motor Company will end production of the Honda Legend, sold in the U.S. as the Acura RL, and the Honda Inspire, which is not exported to America. Production of the Legend/RL will end this month; the Inspire will be phased out in July.
Honda has already notified dealers that it will stop accepting new orders for the cars.
Sources say the No.2 Japanese automaker wants to devote the resources of its Saitama Prefecture plant, which builds the Legend and Inspire, to more popular compact cars and minivehicles.
Honda says it may decide to produce the next-generation RL at a North American facility when a remodeled version is introduced next year.
The decision to drop the Acura RL won’t have a major effect on Honda America’s sales. In May, Honda sold 50 Acura RLs in the United States, down 20.4 percent from May 2011, the first month the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami impacted supplies of vehicles manufactured in Japan.
Honda Fit EV: Honda has launched the first all-electric vehicle that makes economic sense. Not only has it received an EPA rating of a combined mile-per-gallon-equivalency (MPGe) rating of 118 MPGe, and a consumption rating of just 29 kilowatt hours (kWh) per 100 miles, it actually goes for less than a comparably equipped Honda Fit Sport.
Honda has announced a $389.00/month lease program for well-qualified buyers that covers three years and 36,000 miles. Based on the EPA numbers, the monthly cost of electricity for 1,000 miles is $33.35, based on the national average of $0.115 per kilowatt-hour. That’s a total of $422.35 per month for car and power. Compare that to a three-year/36,000-mile lease for the Fit Sport with Navigation that comes out to $385.72/month, according to Honda’s lease calculator. The cost of unleaded gasoline at the current price of $3.547/gallon and the EPA-estimated 31 mpg combined for the Fit Sport with an automatic transmission yields a month fuel cost of $117.76 for a total of $503.48. The Fit EV saves you $81.13 per month or $2,920.69 over the term of the lease. Even better is the fact the electric Fit’s lease includes collision coverage, routine maintenance and roadside assistance for the duration of the lease.
There are a couple of “gotchas:” First, you have to be approved for one of just 1,100 leases that will be offered through October 2014 and Honda mentions “well-qualified” more than once in the fine print. Second, you have to live in California or Oregon or one of six Eastern states to be named later. Your mileage limit is 12,000 miles per year and there’s a $0.20/mile charge for exceeding it and there is no purchase option at the end of the lease.
In many ways, the Fit EV lease is similar to the program offered for the Honda FCX Clarity.
The Fit EV is more than a pretty lease; it has an EPA-estimated range of 82 miles and, if you have the appropriate 240V charging system, it takes only about three hours to fully charge. If you’re using the 110V outlet in your garage, it could take a while longer. Like 12 hours.
The Fit EV has a 92-kilowatt (123 horsepower) coaxial electric motor generating 188 ft-lb of torque mated to the driver-selectable, three-mode drive system adapted from the CR-Z Sport Hybrid. The Fit EV rides on a chassis with a fully-independent suspension. The Fit EV’s 20-kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery has enough capacity to outlast the new Ford Focus Electric (76-miles), Nissan Leaf (73 miles), and Mitsubishi MiEV (62-miles).
“Just as important as the industry-leading fuel-efficiency and fast recharging time, as a Honda, the 2013 Fit EV will be an absolute kick to drive,” said Steve Center, vice president of the American Honda Environmental Business Development Office.
Inside, the seating surfaces for up to five are covered with bio-fabric. Apparently Honda hasn’t gotten the news that EV buyers prefer leather. There are illuminated meters that keep the driver informed about the charge level, battery usage and driving range. The meters change color depending on the driving mode selected (green, white or red).
You can’t have a battery-powered car without lots of battery-powered electronics: the Fit EV comes with a telematics system allowing the driver to be distracted by a smartphone, personal computer or interactive remote. In fact, the driver doesn’t even have to be in the car to use the systems: with the Fit EV smartphone and computer applications, the driver can remotely view the vehicle’s state of charge, initiate charging and activate the air conditioning and heater, to pre-condition the vehicle while the car is still connected to the charging station, which is actually a pretty neat idea as pre-cooling or heating the car while it’s plugged in will save a large drain on the battery: it’s easier for the system to maintain a temperature than it is to achieve it. The mobile application and website also allows the owner to set charging notifications and alerts to get the best utility rates. The Fit EV comes equipped with a standard Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System that can help locate public charging stations.
Smart ForTwo Electric Drive: After a facilities upgrade costing more than $225 million, Daimler AG began producing the new Smart Fortwo electric drive today at the Smart Hambach plant in France.
“The new smart electric drive and the expansion of the Hambach plant are two important milestones for the future of smart”, said Dr. Annette Winkler, Smart’s senior executive. “With the new smart electric drive we are further expanding our leading position in urban mobility and making fully electric driving accessible to everyone. For this – and for the successor generation to the current smart – we are making significant investments in the Hambach site. And I am convinced that this is money extremely well invested.”
Dr. Joachim Betker, Head of the smart plant in Hambach, emphasised the ground-breaking integration of the electric version in the production process: “For the first time we have realised the consistent and perfectly integrated production of models with electric drive and those with combustion engines. In production, we are now optimally utilising the smart vehicle concept’s eminent potential for different drive systems.”
The Smart EV has a 55kW electric motor good for a 0-60 km/h (0 – 37 mph) time of 4.8 seconds and top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph). The the motor is powered by a 17.6 kWh battery gives the Smart EV a range of about 145 kilometers (90 miles) in city traffic. We’re not sure if there is perhaps some big difference in the cars going to Germany and the cars coming here, but the Smart USA website says the 0-60 km/h time is 6.5 seconds and that the car is electronically limited to 96 km/h (60 mph). In an urban environment at warm temperatures, the EPA’s LA4 test cycle indicate the Smart’s range is up to 98 miles on a full charge. That drops to 63 miles in combined city and highway driving. Of course, with a top speed of 60, highway driving is likely going to be limited, mostly by the driver’s chutzpah and/or other motorists’ patience.
Since the Smart EV is built with components from Daimler AG and joint ventures with Bosch (EM-motive) and Evonik (Deutsche ACCUmotive), Daimler says it is the first truly European electric car.
The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive goes on sale in Germany this summer and is expected to begin arriving in the U.S. in late fall. No U.S. prices have been set at this time, but German buyers have a couple of options: they can buy the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive for the equivalent of $23,650 for the Coupe or $27,500 for the Cabriolett and rent the battery for $81.33/month. Or they can just buy the whole shebang for $29,630 for the coupe or about $33,500 for the Cabriolet. It should be noted those prices include Germany’s 19 percent value-added tax.
The fall arrival will actually be the second time a Smart electric car has landed in the U.S. Daimler had a test program for the battery-powered Smart last year. 250 were shipped over and leased for a whopping $599/month, about the same that Honda charges for the larger fuel-cell-powered FCX Clarity. With leases like the one offered for the Honda Fit and those being offered on other competing electric cars, Daimler may need to rethink its pricing strategies.
Dario Franchitti has won the Indy 500 for a third time. The Target Ganassi driver took the checkered flag under caution following Takuma Sato’s crash on the final lap.
Franchitti beat teammate Scott Dixon, who lead the race earlier; Tony Kanaan, who was leading at the end; Oriel Servia and Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe, who had won the pole position. Altogether, there were 35 lead changes, a new record.
In his winning effort, Franchitti averaged 167.734 in his new Honda-powered Ganassi DW12. All the 2012 drivers had “DW12″ cars built to new safety standards adopted following the death of Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon last October.
According to a statement released today, 3M and Chesapeake Energy Corporation have entered into an agreement to cooperate in the design, manufacturing and marketing of a new range of compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks for vehicle applications.
Currently, the most expensive component on a CNG vehicle is the tanks. The new tanks to come from the new partnership will reduce costs while increasing performance thus enabling CNG to become a serious player in the alternative fuels market.
3M says its new CNG tank will be 10 to 20 percent lighter with 10 to 20 percent greater capacity, all at a lower cost than standard pressure vessels. In addition to these benefits, the 3M tanks should be safer and more durable than those currently on the market.
“3M believes in the potential of natural gas, and this agreement illustrates our commitment to the industry,” said George Buckley, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of 3M. “We are excited about this collaboration to speed the development and adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles.”
Increased political support and private investment are making natural gas a viable automotive fuel alternative with large growth potential. With more than a 100-year known supply of natural gas in the United States and an average price per gasoline gallon equivalent of $1.00 to $2.00, the fuel is plentiful, affordable and domestic. The fuel also burns more cleanly than gasoline, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent.
“This partnership brings together two leading companies from different sectors, both committed to advancing the natural gas transportation fuel market,” said Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake’s Chief Executive Officer. “We applaud 3M for recognizing the future of natural gas as a low-cost, cleaner alternative to gasoline, and for creating innovative tank technology that will make natural gas vehicles more affordable and accessible to fleets and individual consumers nationwide. Our country needs a solution to break the foreign stranglehold on our fuels market, and today’s announcement is another step to transition our nation away from costly imports.”
Chesapeake has pledged an initial $10 million toward design and certification services, market development support and a commitment to use the new tanks for its own corporate fleet conversion to CNG. 3M will manufacture the tanks and focus its capital on all future operations and production.
3M has engaged Hypercomp Engineering, Inc. of Utah for the design and certification of tanks. The company expects the tanks to be available for sale during the fourth quarter of 2012.
Although CNG has been in use by fleets for a number of years, it hasn’t had the opportunity to make a mark on the consumer market. Conversions are widely available but the Honda Civic Natural Gas is the only factory-built CNG vehicle currently offered to the general public.
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