Friday, May 18, 2007

New EPA mileage numbers for hybrids

One of the major complaints from consumers about hybrids is that most people can't manage to get anywhere close to the EPA ratings.

Starting for the 08 model year, the EPA is adjusting their mileage numbers to reflect something closer to real-world numbers. Of note is that the testing procedure has not changed - the EPA is basically running the existing numbers through a correction formula to get the new ratings.

Also of note is that the fuel consumption really has not changed. The EPA is merely trying to give consumers a more realistic expectation when they are comparing vehicles.

So, here is what the changes give us (when available, comparable non-hybrid models are also listed). The each set of numbers are city/highway/combined ratings. The first set are the old ratings while the last column are the ratings under the new formula.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Microcars for all! - GM unveils Opel/Vauxhall Agila

Picture a Saturn 2 sizes smaller than the upcoming Astra and you are well on your way to understanding what the Opel Agila is all about.

This microcar (a niche that GM has becoming increasingly interested in of late - with their 3 microcar concepts shown at the New York Auto Show and talk about their desire to make stylish/desirable products in this segment with the help of GM Daewoo) is based on the Suzuki Swift (yep, they still make a Swift).

It is powered by your choice of 3 tiny engines (a 1.0l gasoline 3-cylinder with 65hp, a 1.2l gasoline 4-cylinder with 86hp, or a 1.3l diesel with 75hp but 140lb*ft of torque). Given this just over 12ft long car's weight, any should be sufficient.

While it is unlikely that Saturn will see this car (since the Opel Corsa is one size bigger and not planned - yet - for the US market) - ever tightening emissions and fuel economy standards, and increasing gas prices may change things in the coming years.

It is nice to know that tiny cars are not the penalty boxes that many remember from the first push to get fuel efficiency up (late 70's-80's).

DaimlerChysler spins off Chrysler Group

Unless you've been under a rock for the last couple months - you knew that DaimlerChrysler was looking for a buyer for their Chrysler Group. GM, Canadian supplier Magna, and various private equity groups have all been rumored buyers.

Overnight, an announcement was made that Cerberus Capital Management will take a 80.1% stake, for $7.4 billion. The deal includes Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep, as well as Chrysler Financial.

As details have emerged, it has become clear that UAW contracts are expected to stay in force for the near term and no new layoffs (outside of those already announced) are expected, the 19.9% of ownership retained by Daimler AG (the new name of the German portion of the previous DaimlerChrysler) will allow the continuation of work between the new entities on clean diesel, 2-mode hybrids, etc.

Rumors abound that Chrysler Financial will, ultimately, be merged with GMAC (also controlled by Cerberus).

The new Chrysler Holdings LLC that will be formed will retain the health care and pension liabilities of Chrysler Group but will otherwise be debt-free.

The sale is expected to be complete in 3Q07.

Next Saturn Aura spied

Despite the fact that Saturn just brought out the new Aura to critical acclaim, it won't be long until the next Aura debuts.

The current Aura is a modified version of the current Opel Vectra - the new Aura is being co-developed and should be close to identical to the next generation Vectra due out in 2009.

The spy photo (a portion of which is shown here) at the Car Connection shows influences from the recent Opel GTC coupe concept, specifically in the rear quarter area with powerful shoulder-line.

It is rumored that the GTC might also hint at a potential Vectra and Aura 2-door to compete against the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima coupes.

Read about it at:

The Car Connection: 2009 Saturn Aura Spied!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Chevy Volt approved for production!

I'm somewhat an oddity. I am a hard-core automotive enthusiast - but also incredibly conscious of the ecological impact of my hobby.

As that, I am seriously stoked about the Chevy Volt concept.

If you've been under a rock for the last few months, the Volt was the first implementation of GM's E-Flex concept.

In essence, picture the E-Flex (and the Volt) as an electric car. Using cutting edge Li-Ion battery technology (similar to what you'd find in consumer electronics like laptops), the vehicle allows for range of around 40 miles on a charge and the ability to charge in a few hours from standard household current.

While 40 miles would not be enough to entice most folks, GM gets around this by putting a highly efficient secondary power source on board to help charge the batteries and produce electricity for times when the batteries are not sufficient. This provides flexible choices for the secondary power source, from gasoline engines, E85 powered engines, or even fuel cells.

With the secondary source, you get the ability to drive 40 miles on pure electricity while not having to worry that, if something unforeseen comes up, you might not be able to complete your trip and make it home (a major limitation of previous electric vehicles).

Given the optimized size of the secondary power source, you should see fuel economy numbers of at least 50-60mpg while seeing many owners never having to fuel the vehicle for months at a time and effective mileage in the hundreds of miles per gallon. And, unlike most previous electric vehicles, a Volt would have the utility and range of a conventional car (and the ability to refuel to extend your trip) - while giving you extreme fuel savings in your average day-to-day driving.

While this system has created quite a buzz, most (myself included) have been somewhat cautious about warnings from GM that battery technology might not allow the concept to come to market for some time.

Now, Automotive News (via Leftlane News) has reported that GM has officially green-lighted Volt for production. It will be an off-shoot of the Delta II chassis that will also serve as the basis for the next Chevy Cobalt as well as the next Saturn Astra (not the model that comes to market this fall).

Also of interest is that GM expects to make the production Volt available in 2010 and will offer a choice of either a gasoline or fuel cell secondary power source.

I'll be keeping a very close eye on this one and might consider it as one of my choices for my daily driver (while keeping a nice sports car on the side for my enthusiast 'needs').

Read about it at:

Leftlane News: Shocking! Volt Production by 2010?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Chevy sponsors online Transformers game

Anyone following the upcoming Transformers movie has seen how ingrained GM is in the new movie (taking the place of just about every Autobot we knew and loved in their previous form...come on, Bumblebee is a Camaro?!).

Now, Chevy has put a Transformers game online at www.chevy.com/autobot where you can you can register, pick your Chevrolet (and give it a suitably Transformer-ish name) and challenge others to 5-round battles.

It's fun so far - just tell them Bladeicus sent you. :-)