Hyundai offers discounts to owners done with dirty VW diesels

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For Volkswagen owners that aren’t satisfied with getting a payout from the company to make up for dirty emissions, and need to rid themselves of their polluting machines, Hyundai may have a solution. The South Korean automaker is now offering Friends and Family Pricing Plus on new Hyundais for owners of 2.0-liter diesel Volkswagens. A Hyundai spokesperson said it’s “an alternative to potentially orphaned diesel owners that will be entering the market for a new vehicle.”

This discounted pricing plan starts with the gross dealer invoice price, which includes destination and advertising fees. From there, the buyer gets $1,250 off the purchase price, as well as 3-percent off of the MSRP, excluding destination charges. Also, any current Hyundai incentives can be added to the Friends and Family Pricing discounts. A list of the eligible VW models is below:

These incentives certainly make the prospect of a new Hyundai rather attractive, especially for VW owners with that sweet settlement money burning a hole through their wallets. The question is, will owners of these cars find any current Hyundais they like as much as their VWs?

[Source: Autoblog]

An early gas-electric hybrid was developed by…Exxon?

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We’re not sure which aspect of Exxon’s 1970s-era efforts to develop advanced and electrified powertrains is the most ironic. There’s Exxon, that of the Valdez oil spill infamy, being on the leading edge of hybrids and electric vehicles. There’s a boat-like Chrysler Cordova getting 27 miles per gallon. And there’s the central role a Volkswagen diesel engine plays in that hybrid development. It’s all outlined in an article (linked above) by Inside Climate News, and it’s an amusing read.

Flush with cash and fearing what it thought was peak oil production in the 1970s, Exxon funded a host of new ventures divisions geared to find alternatives to gas-powered powertrains. In the early 1970s, Exxon lured chemist M. Stanley Whittingham to develop what would become a prototype of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

Then, in the late 1970s, Exxon pioneered the concept of using an alternating-current (AC) motor as part of a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. The company retrofitted a Chrysler Cordova (yes, that’s the model Ricardo Montalban used to hawk) with a powertrain that combined 10 Sears Die-Hard car batteries, an alternating current synthesizer (ACS), a 100-horsepower AC motor, and, yes, a four-cylinder 50-horsepower Volkswagen diesel engine. The result was a rather large two-door sedan that got an impressive 27 mpg. And while US automakers didn’t see the potential in the early concept, in 1980 Exxon and Toyota began collaborating on a project that would involve retrofitting a Toyota Cressida with a hybrid engine. That car was completed in 1981, and may have been one of the seeds that eventually helped sprout the concept of the Toyota Prius.

Soon after rebuilding the Cressida, Exxon would get out of the advanced-powertrain-development business, as oil prices began to fall in the early 1980s, spurring cost-cutting measures. Cry no tears for the Exxon, though, as what’s now known as ExxonMobil is the largest US oil company.

Portland to use sewage gas to shift away from diesel

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Portland, Oregon has a plan to get polluting diesels off its streets, and it involves sewage.

Since 2008, the city’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant has been collecting methane – a stinky greenhouse gas that also doubles as a relatively clean-burning hydrocarbon fuel – produced by bacteria as it decomposes solid waste in sewage. It currently captures about 77 percent of the methane generated there, and uses some to generate electricity, and sells the rest. The other 23 percent is essentially wasted, as it’s flared off, producing carbon dioxide.

But Portland now wants to use 100 percent of the methane produced at the treatment plant, turning it into renewable natural gas for use in vehicles. City Council approved a plan to build a CNG fueling station at the site, and convert or replace diesel vehicles. The plan could make a significant impact, too, as the Bureau of Environmental Services estimates the plant can produce enough natural gas to fuel 154 garbage trucks, with the diverted methane and the move away from diesel saving 21,000 tons in carbon emissions every year.

As renewable natural gas fetches a higher price than the extracted kind – despite being chemically and practically identical – the city will use the gas they generate for vehicles, and simply purchase the natural gas they need to continue to provide their electricity generation needs. While city vehicles can fill up at the onsite fueling station, Portland also wants to sell its renewable natural gas to outside customers to help pay for the project and CNG vehicles. While the construction and CNG conversions are expected to cost about $12 million, the city expects to generate some $3 million in revenue per year from sales.

Report says clean car tech supports 288,000 US jobs

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As automakers build more electrified vehicles and improve the fuel efficiency of traditionally powered vehicles, the green car market is slowly growing. The market share of these cars, especially EVs, may be small, but they still have an impact on average fuel economy and emissions. They’re also having an impact on jobs, according to a recent study from the BlueGreen Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report, compiled with the support of the United Steelworkers union, finds that technology that reduces pollution and improves fuel economy ­– in passenger and commercial vehicles alike – affects 288,000 jobs at more than 1,200 factories across 48 states. Michigan tops the list, with 69,593 clean-car jobs, with two more Midwest states, five Southeastern states, and California all being home to more than 10,000 jobs supported by this technology.

The sorts of technologies and parts that fall under the umbrella of this report include hybrid systems and electric propulsion, low rolling resistance tires, efficient transmissions, lightweight materials, direct injection, and turbocharging. The paper lists a number of manufacturers that produce these parts, and highlights their growth, spurred by innovation and encourage by environmental policies. Compared to 2011, these jobs have almost doubled in number, with more than 2.5 times as many facilities.

The report concludes that for this economic success to continue, decision makers need to protect and continue to improve emissions and fuel-economy standards. It says tax and trade policies are tools to encourage domestic manufacturing. It also recommends protecting and strengthening labor standards and workers’ rights to ensure decent wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The report, which admittedly reads a bit like a lobbyist’s pitch, does a good job of highlighting the ways that fuel economy standards haven’t derailed the US auto industry since it fell on hard times a few years back. Sure, job growth tends to correspond with economic growth in general, but making cars cleaner and more efficient appears to be doing its part in the grand scheme of the industry since its recovery. Despite what some might have you believe, environmental and economic trajectories can align nicely.

The first EV showcase opens in Oregon

Forth, the electric vehicle proponent formerly known as Drive Oregon, has opened the nation’s first electric vehicle showcase in downtown Portland, Oregon. Anyone who wants to test drive one of the handful of EVs at the city’s World Trade Center can make a reservation.

There are only three cars on hand so far: the Chevy Bolt, Ford C-MAX Energi, and the Nissan Leaf. Staff will be on hand to help you test e-bikes and learn about charging options and tax breaks that are available for EVs. You can also rent the cars through Turo to get a feel for real-life living with an EV.

The three cars available for testing are from big manufacturers, so you’re probably wondering why they need a special showcase. Why not just sell them off the lot next to other Fords, Chevys, and Nissans? That, my friend, is an excellent question, one that the Sierra Club tackled last year. It turned out that manufacturers were not advertising their plug-in vehicles at nearly the same frequency as their gasoline-powered vehicles.

Despite that lack of EV love from the manufacturers, the US Department of Energy notes that the US plug-in electric vehicle market grew 40% from 2015 to 2016, with 54% of plug-in sales in 2016 being fully electric battery-powered vehicles. China is the champ in the EV market, both in growth (54%), percentage of those plug-in sales that were pure EVs (77%), and sheer numbers — nearly 317,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in China in 2016. The incentives that made that growth possible, though, are set to drop off in the coming years, so they may not be champs for long.

So if the manufacturers aren’t going to get the word out about electric vehicles in the United States, Forth is going to do the work for them — with a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy and matching support from regional partners. Forth also hopes its showcase, which will be in place for three years, will inspire other organizations in other locations to pick up the manufacturers’ and dealerships’ slack when it comes to plug-in vehicles and consumer education. Forth is also taking its showcase on the road with pop-up EV events in the Pacific Northwest.

Hyundai plans to catch up with other automakers, offer EVs

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South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co is developing its first dedicated architecture for electric vehicles, seeking to catch up with the likes of Tesla in the growing segment with multiple, long-range models.

While the platform will not be completed soon, Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia plan to roll out small electric sport utility vehicles (SUVs) based on an existing underpinning next year, said Lee Ki-sang, who leads Hyundai-Kia’s green cars operations.

Hyundai will launch an electric SUV, followed by a sibling model by Kia Motors next year, Lee said, citing strong demand for SUVs.

The subcompact or compact models would have a range of more than 300 km (186 miles) per charge, and would be “more competitive” than rival offerings, Lee said.

And Hyundai said in a statement on Thursday that it plans to launch a new luxury electric vehicle under its Genesis marque in 2021, after introducing a plug-in hybrid version of an unidentified Genesis model in 2019.

The separate platform represents a major push into the battery electric-car segment for a firm which has long trumpeted rival fuel-cell vehicles, reflecting strong investor pressure to compete more vigorously in a market that has been stimulated by U.S.-based Tesla’s longer-range models.

And tough fuel-economy and emissions regulations in the United States, Europe and China are compelling automakers to push fuel-efficient cars even though low oil prices have undercut demand.

Hyundai’s electric-car platform would allow the automaker to install a battery pack in vehicle floors to accommodate more battery capacity and maximize cabin space, Lee said.

“The electric-vehicle platform will require high up-front investments, but we are doing this to prepare for the future,” he said at Hyundai-Kia’s green car research center in the city of Yongin, outside Seoul. He did not reveal the cost.

Lee, a senior vice-president at Hyundai Motor, was speaking during an interview on the eve of an auto show that kicked off in Seoul on Thursday.

Analysts said Hyundai had no choice but to build separate electric-vehicle platforms to be relevant in the segment.

“The separate platform may incur losses initially, but Hyundai will be left behind the market if they don’t offer long-distance models, like 300 km, 500 km and 600 km,” said Ko Tae-bong, an analyst at Hi Investment & Securities.

CAUTIOUS OUTLOOK

Hyundai Motor’s IONIQ hybrid sedan fell short of its sales target, while Kia’s Niro hybrid SUV exceeded its forecast last year.

Kia Motors was also working on its first fuel cell vehicle, following Hyundai Motor’s lead in the segment, Lee said.

Despite Hyundai’s beefed-up plans for the electric car market, Lee was cautious about the outlook given the planned phase-out of government subsidies in China and other markets.

Limited charging infrastructure and problems with battery technology, such as lengthy charge times on long-range vehicles, were also holding back demand, he said.

Lee expected electric vehicles to account for about 10 percent of total global vehicle sales by 2025, from some 1 percent now, with China leading the way. Fuel-cell cars, by comparison, were unlikely to take off until 2025 but had long-term potential.

In China, Hyundai Motor was considering sourcing batteries from Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) or a couple of other Chinese firms, because of subsidy restrictions on South Korean batteries, he said.

As part of efforts to meet Chinese electric car quotas, Hyundai and Kia planned to introduce electric versions of its China-exclusive sedans and SUVs, while readying electrified models under local brands made with Chinese joint venture partners, he said.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin

[Source: Autoblog]

Honda and GM will build fuel cell stacks together in Michigan

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Honda and GM are working together on hydrogen fuel cells, and in fact they have been for the past three years. The result of this joint venture is a new, more economical fuel cell stack that the two companies have codeveloped and will mass produce in Michigan by 2020.

The joint venture is unimaginatively called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC, and will produce the stacks at GM’s existing Brownstown battery facility outside Detroit. Today’s announcement touted an $85 million investment from the two companies and the creation of 100 jobs.

We’re told the new stack is roughly the same size as the one Honda currently uses in the Clarity FCV, but with fewer materials (including reduced use of precious metals) and is simpler in construction. There will also be more automation used in producing the newly designed stack. Both the simplicity and ease of manufacture should contribute to the lower cost that the joint venture is seeking to achieve.

We know Honda has committed to selling fuel cell vehicles like the Clarity, while GM has tested several iterations of its Equinox FCV but never offered them for sale to the public. At today’s announcement, GM’s Mark Reuss said the company may “think outside the box” when it comes to applications, which we take to mean the fuel cell stacks could be used outside of automobiles. GM is currently testing fuel cells in aviation and maritime settings. All we know is that the new stacks will be used in future products from both companies.

While cost is one hurdle for fuel cell vehicles, the infrastructure for distributing the hydrogen has been and continues to be a major issue.