So what to do with old electric vehicle batteries? Here’s one approach: Toyota and Chubu Electric Power Co. will be constructing a large-capacity storage battery system that reuses recycled batteries from Toyota electric vehicles. This aims at addressing two key issues. It deals with ways to make use of aging EV batteries that have reached the end of their useful life for vehicle propulsion, while also enabling Chubu Electric to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in the utility’s energy supply-demand balance, a growing issue caused by the expanding use of renewable energy.
Initially, the focus will be on repurposing nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) batteries since these have been used in large numbers of electric vehicles for nearly two decades. The focus will then expand to include lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries by 2030. Li-Ion batteries have generally powered the second generation of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in more recent years, and thus will not reach their end-of-use for electric propulsion for some time still.
The energy storage capabilities of EV batteries diminish over time and after continuous charging and discharging. Eventually they become insufficient for powering electric cars but can still store adequate energy for other purposes. Even with their diminished performance, combining them in large numbers makes them useful for utilities and their efforts to manage energy supply-demand.
Based on the results of their initial work, the plan is to provide power generation capacity of some 10,000 kW by 2020. In a related effort, Toyota and Chubu Electric will be exploring ways to ultimately recycle reused batteries by collecting and reusing their rare-earth metals. The automaker has explored battery recycling in the past including at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park. Here, 208 used Toyota Camry Hybrid battery packs are used to store renewable electricity generated by solar panel arrays.
Ford has unveiled its redesigned 2019 Transit Connect Wagon, a popular compact delivery van that's widely used by tradesmen, small businesses, and delivery services. The updated model features all-new powerplants to maximize efficiency and functionality, including a standard 2.0-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder engine with Auto Start-Stop connected to all-new 8-speed automatic. In addition, a class-exclusive 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel engine and 8-speed automatic is available that’s expected to achieve a highway EPA rating of 30 mpg.
The new Transit Connect comes in two available wheelbases to handle five to seven passengers. Two sliding side doors make entering and exciting the vehicle very convenient. The seating can be easily reconfigured so the wagon can readily switch over to cargo duty,
Drivers will appreciate the Transit Connect’s handy suite of driver-assist technologies that includes standard Automatic Emergency Braking, Pre-Collision Assist, and Pedestrian Detection. Optionally available are a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert plus a Lane Keeping System that alerts a driver if they are wandering outside of a lane and can gently provide steering input to stay in a lane. Available Adaptive Cruise Control enables detecting and pacing the car ahead while on cruise control, slowing as necessary so the car ahead is not overtaken.
Inside the Transit Connect, a new instrument panel features a digital driver information center in the cluster and an available 6.5-inch touch screen. Standard 4G LTE connectivity is provided that can connect up to 10 devices to the Internet, along with available SYNC 3 with Ford+Alexa functionality.
Porsche says it plans to invest more than $7 billion (six billion euro) in electrified vehicles over the next four years. As part of this, the automaker will be devoting some $600 million toward the development of is coming Mission E electric sports car and other electrified variants. About $1.25 billion will be dedicated to hybrid and electric powertrains for existing Porsche models
“We are doubling our expenditure on electromobility from around three billion euro to more than six billion euro”, said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG. “Alongside development of our models with combustion engines, we are setting an important course for the future with this decision.”
Porsche’s stunning battery electric Mission E sports car will boast an output of 600 horsepower and deliver quick 0-60 mph sprints in less than 3.5 seconds. Driving range is claimed to be over 300 miles between charges. It will be fast-charge capable.
In addition to its investment in electrification, Porsche will invest some $250 million on manufacturing sites and facilities plus an additional $850 million on smart mobility, charging infrastructure, and new technologies.
Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its all-new Sprinter van, the third-generation of this highly successful commercial vehicle that first came on the scene in 2006. Beyond the model’s updated styling are its many features that mark the Sprinter’s entry into an increasingly connected and environmentally-focused world. The new Sprinter is available for order now in the European market and will be launched there in June, with a gradual introduction into other markets to follow.
Perhaps the most interesting bit of news about the new Sprinter is the coming introduction of an electric variant next year, part of Mercedes-Benz’ efforts to introduce electrification in its commercial fleet. The eSprinter will follow in the footsteps of the eVito van that has been available for order since late last year. Deliveries of the eVito are set to begin during the second half of 2018. The eVito will be followed by the eSprinter in 2019. According to Mercedes, its electric commercial vans will offer operating costs similar to comparable diesel-powered models. Electric eSprinter and eVito models are primarily designed for commercial use in city centers.
An array of important optional driver assistance and safety systems are now available in new Sprinter vans that were only previous offered in Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles. Among these are the automaker’s Active Brake Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Attention Assist, and the radar-based DISTRONIC distance control system, When Blind Spot Assist is ordered with the Sprinter’s automatic parking package, traffic and pedestrians crossing behind the van are recognized and autonomous braking will initiate if needed.
"Our new Sprinter is the first van of a new type – a fully connected integral system solution,” shares Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “We have made it even better with regard to its traditional strengths and have supplemented it with intelligent products and services. So, we are unlocking a new dimension in terms of efficiency, flexibility, connectivity, and profitability for our customers.”
Diesel engines are powerful and generally significantly more efficient than gasoline engines, but they have their challenges like soot and nitrogen oxide emissions. Automakers have gone to great lengths to optimize diesel engines while mitigating those emissions in meaningful and cost-effective ways. It’s not an easy challenge.
“We can generally clean up emissions for a gasoline engine with a three-way catalyst,” says Ronald Grover, staff researcher at General Motors Research and Development. “The problem with diesel is that when you operate lean, you can’t use the conventional three-way catalysts to clean up all the emissions suitably, so you have to add a lot of complexity to the after-treatment system.”
That has prompted a research program to improve combustion models for diesel passenger car engines using the Titan supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A 27-petaflop Cray XK7 supercomputer with a hybrid CPU–GPU architecture, Titan is the nation’s most powerful computer for open scientific research. The ultimate goal is to accelerate innovative engine designs capable of meeting ever-stricter emissions standards.
The GM team’s goal is to better simulate what happens in the engine, making use of the Titan to increase the complexity of the chemistry in their combustion models, compare the results of Titan simulations with GM experimental data to measure accuracy, and identify other areas for improvement in the combustion model. ORNL’s goal is to help the GM team improve the accuracy of the combustion model, an exercise that could benefit other combustion research down the road.
“Usually a company will go through a vehicle development process from end-to-end that could take 4 or 5 years,” says Grover. “If you could develop the powertrain faster, then you could get cars to market faster and more reliably.”
EVgo, which maintains the largest network of DC fast chargers in the U.S., reports it has experienced a significant increase in use by electric vehicle drivers over the past two years. In 2016, the company says its network of chargers delivered enough electricity to enable 22 million miles of battery electric driving, with that number increasing to 40 million miles in 2017. Some 1.1 million charging sessions occurred in 2017. EVgo points to the expanding number of EV models available to consumers and an overall increase in the number of electric vehicles on our highways as driving an increasing need for public fast charging.
The company’s fast-charge network now numbers over 1,000 in 66 markets across the country. Its DC fast chargers are typically located in major metro and retail areas to make charging convenient for plug-in drivers.
In addition, EVgo has collaborated with others to complete key charging networks in 2017 that serve the needs of EV drivers wishing longer-distance travel. This includes Northern California’s ‘DRIVEtheARC’ corridor that enables fast charging in the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey Peninsula, Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento regions. Along with EVgo, the partnership includes the State of California’s Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Nissan, Kanematsu, and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
"Nissan is determined to widely spread EV use to help benefit the environment on global basis. The U.S. is among the top markets in the world for EV sales, and California represents a staggering 40 percent of all EV sales in the country, making the state the catalyst for furthering the adoption of EVs into the future," said Hitoshi Kawaguchi, Chief Sustainability Officer of Nissan Motor. "An adequate public charging network is one of the key factors for EV expansion. Northern California has a diverse geography but until now did not possess a true inter-city EV fast charging network. We are excited to implement this network and study EV use in Northern California so that we can apply the lessons we learn to future fast charging network projects around the world."
At its launch, Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid immediately raised the bar for minivans by offering the highest fuel economy ever for this class of family-friendly vehicles, along with 33 miles of all-electric driving on battery power and an overall range of 570 miles. At the time its 3.6-liter Pentastar eHybrid made the 2017 Wards 10 Best Engines list. Now this plug-in hybrid powerplant has earned the distinction again as one of Ward’s 2018 10 Best Engines.
Apparently, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid owners are also pretty impressed with this vehicle. In a group of 100 customers participating in a series of monthly ownership experience surveys, 90 percent said they would recommend the Pacifica Hybrid to others. Some 47 percent reported more all-electric driving range than expected with 22 percent saying they’re getting ‘much more’ range. Fully 97 percent of these owners shared they had decided on their Pacifica Hybrid purchase before visiting a dealership.
“Receiving this award, especially for the second time, validates our early conviction – as do reports from our customers," said Bob Lee, head of Engine Powertrain and Electrified Propulsion Systems Engineering at FCA North America. "We knew this was a special project when we were asked to develop the most fuel-efficient minivan ever."
Altogether, the Chrysler Pacifica lineup has earned an impressive of 72 industry awards related to quality, styling performance, and safety. Plus, the model has earned the EPA's best possible environmental rating 0f 10, which quantifies a vehicle's greenhouse gas emissions and impact on climate change. And here's more perspective: Compared to the Chrysler Town & Country minivan it replaced, FCA says that over its lifetime a Pacifica Hybrid will result in lessening emissions equivalent to driving an average U.S. passenger vehicle more than 50,000 miles.
The Pacifica Hybrid is powered by an electric motor coupled to an eFlite electrically variable transmission. Power is supplied by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack positioned beneath the minivan's second-row floor, which means interior volume is not impacted. Charging the battery pack requires about two hours with an optional 240-volt charger, although charging via a standard 120 volt outlet is also possible over a longer duration. The Pacifica Hybrid operates in efficient gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle mode once battery power is depleted. With its 33 mile all-electric capability, typical families running daily errands may find they rarely need the minivan's conventional hybrid power except on long drives.
Those seeking the functionality of a minivan that also delivers exceptional environmental performance will find the Pacifica Hybrid a pretty big deal. It is, in fact, a game-changer. At the time of its launch, all Monroneys (window stickers) on minivans identified the range of competitors in this class achieving 19-28 mpg. The emergence of the Pacifica Hybrid and its efficient Pentastar eHybrid engine prompted a change, with that statement now reading 19-52 MPGe, a nod to the Pacifica Hybrid's impressive efficiency.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica has earned 50 awards to date, the most unique its latest one awarded by Altair Corporation. This 2017 Chrysler minivan has been honored with the “Altair Enlighten Award” for weight loss, the only award of its type in the automotive industry. Altair recognizes advanced automotive engineering and its impact on fuel efficiency through the reduction of vehicle weight. Lighter by 250 pounds than its predecessor, Pacifica claims the highest mpg in the minivan segment.
"The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a testament to our team's engineering capability," says Phil Jansen, Head of Product Development at North America. "It's not only lighter than the vehicle it replaced, it's longer, wider, and more efficient. The Pacifica has also earned superior safety ratings and widespread media acclaim. We are proud to add the Altair Enlighten Award to its list of team achievements."
Jensen further acknowledged weight reduction as a contributing factor to improved fuel economy. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica earns a best-in-class EPA rating of 28 highway mpg and a combined city/highway rating of 22 mpg.
Chrysler’s all-new Pacifica was further distinguished as a finalist for the 2017 Green Car of the Year® award at last year’s LA Auto Show. The Pacifica Hybrid is the only minivan among 40 plug-in models available during 2017 in the United States.
Automakers have been in a frenzy of late to claim a leadership position with electrification. Volvo has now taken a significant step in that direction by announcing its intention to include an electric motor in all of its models launched after 2019.
That doesn’t signify an exclusive leap toward battery electric cars, even though Volvo does plan to launch five all-electric vehicles between 2019 and 2021. Electrification can take many forms including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric-assist systems, plus of course cars that run exclusively on batteries. There will be a mix in the Volvo lineup depending on a model’s propulsion needs and market demands.
This move is not a surprise. Volvo announced three years ago that it was replacing the five- and six-cylinder engines that had been powering its models with a new and more efficient Drive-E four-cylinder. This engine architecture was designed from the beginning to include a start-stop motor and regenerative braking, plus ready integration with hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology.
The first use of Drive-E engines in the U.S. was in select 2015 Volvo models. Since Volvo’s plan all along was to transition its models to Drive-E power and this engine was designed for electrification, using electrically-augmented Drive-E engines – or in some cases battery electric drivetrains – in all new models after 2019 represents the next stage of this transition.
Green Car Journal has witnessed the slow but progressive evolution of the primarily gasoline fueled, internal combustion car over many decades. This evolution has included much improved gasoline engines and vehicles, the use of alternative fuels, and cars producing low- or even zero-emissions. It’s been an uphill drive, too often stalled by special interest legislation, economic downturns, wildly gyrating gas prices, and manufacturer subsidized financing for larger and less efficient vehicles. Still, the evolution is well underway.
A second and complementary evolution is also taking place: An electrified, self-driving future for the U.S. and emerging world auto markets that holds increasing potential. Just this week, Waymo (formerly Google’s self-driving car project), signed a deal with FCA to expand its present fleet of 100 fully-autonomous 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to 600. Production of the additional 500 self-driving-prepped minivans will ramp up beginning next month, then these vehicles will be outfitted by Waymo with its self-driving technology.
Concurrently, Waymo has launched its early rider program in Phoenix, Arizona that will give select Phoenix residents an opportunity to experience self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for the first time. Information about Waymo's early rider program can be found at waymo.com/apply.
It’s looking like Tesla doesn’t have a lock on the fast-charging that encourages longer-distance electric vehicle journeys. While clearly in catch-up mode, a number of automakers are partnering with charging providers to install fast-charge stations at key points along major transportation routes. The latest is a partnership between Nissan and EVgo that will enable rapid charging at strategically located stops between Boston and Washington DC.
The 'I95 Fast-Charge ARC' (Advanced Recharging Corridor) will include nine charging sites along 500 miles of Interstate 95 with a total of 50 DC fast-chargers, each offering two fast-charge plugs each. Since technology marches on, the stations will have a capability of charging four or more EVs simultaneously at a power output of 50kW, with pre-wiring to enable easy upgrades for charging at up to 150kW once the technology is available consumer stations.
The Boston-DC project follows a similar project in California. With construction already underway, completion is expected in time for the launch of the all-new Nissan LEAF.
A movement to reduce air pollution and encourage alternative fuel transportation to National Parks has been launched by the National Park Foundation, National Park Service, Department of Energy, and BMW of North America. The first of up to 100 electric vehicle charging stations in national parks and nearby communities has just been launched at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey.
An integrated team from the public-private partnership is identifying park locations for more charging stations, taking into consideration distance from nearby charging locations, natural and cultural landscape considerations, and proximity and strength of EV markets. Already, dozens of parks are exploring site options. This partnership supports the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.
Volvo has marked the 90th anniversary of its first car rolling off its assembly line in Gothenburg, Sweden with the production of the first 2018 XC60 two-row compact SUV, available in T8 plug-in hybrid performance trim. The first generation XC60 – with well over a million units sold in its initial nine-year production run – is the best-selling premium SUV in Europe and represents 30 percent of Volvo’s global volume. Volvo is aiming to continue this model's success with the all-new, second generation XC60.
“Volvo is very proud of its history,” says Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars. “The past 90 years have been exciting, but the 10 years left until the 100 year anniversary may come to be more exciting as industry focus shifts to autonomous driving, electrification, and connectivity. The new XC60 is in many ways the embodiment of these trends.”
Green Car Journal has long recognized Volvo car as a leader in passive and active safety innovations, hybrid gasoline-electric technology, low environmental impact, and most recently advanced autonomous driving technology. Volvo’s flagship XC90 T8 sport hybrid SUV earned the magazine’s 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year award.
Honda sees long-term viability in vehicle electrification and is supporting this with its introduction of the Clarity EV trifecta. Honda is the first automotive manufacture to offer three variants of electrification on one manufacturing platform – in the form of its Clarity Hydrogen Fuel Cell, Clarity EV, and Clarity Plug-In sedans.
The 3-in-1 Clarity launches Honda’s journey toward an admittedly lofty goal of 75 percent fleet electrification by model year 2030. According to American Honda General Manager Jeff Conrad, offering consumers a choice of three electrified options in a premium five-passenger mainstream vehicle is key to success in an electric vehicle market challenged by “cheaper than bottled water gasoline.”
With a stated best-in-class 40 mile electric only drive range and hundreds of miles in hybrid mode after that, Honda anticipates its 2017 Clarity plug in hybrid to be the best seller in the Clarity lineup. Pricing and availability will be announced shortly. Read our first drive impressions of Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell sedan here.
While hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles represent but a blip on the radar at present, there has been a 300 percent growth in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles sold in 2016, with an unprecedented 2500 FCVs making it to highways. It’s an important development in a field that has been striving to gain traction for some time. In fact, several mainstream automakers look to FCVs as the logical path to mass market vehicle electrification.
“Despite the growth, the number of fuel cell vehicles sold and leased are minuscule compared to the market,” says Naqi Jaffery, president and CEO of Information Trends. “However, the growth portends well for the future of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Information Trends’ report, Global Market for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles 2017, points out that California grew the fastest in terms of sales and leases, but remained behind Japan in terms of volume.
To date, Toyota’s Mirai FCV leads the global market with 2,000 units produced and placed with consumers in 2016. The Hyundai Tucson FCV is a distant second, trailed by Honda Clarity. The Clarity, however, is just getting ramped up with a major commitment by Honda.
As Japan implements its ‘hydrogen society’ efforts and California expands the state’s hydrogen fueling network, Green Car Journal anticipates a continued market growth momentum in the rarified fuel cell electric car segment.
An ultra-fast DC charging solution that can add hundreds of miles of range in under 15 minutes has been announced by ChargePoint, the world’s largest electric vehicle charging network. ChargePoint’s Express Plus uses a modular and scalable platform that’s aimed at charging centers and businesses located at transit depots or along major roadways or transit depots. The goal is to augment the company’s extensive existing network of EV chargers to enable rapid refueling of EVs on long trips or to support the rigorous daily routines of electric buses and trucks.
Express Plus offers the highest charging capacity in the industry and is capable of delivering up to 400 kilowatts (kW) to an electric vehicle for a rapid recharge. The company envisions Express Plus charging centers as starting small and growing as needed by adding charging capacity without further construction. Express Plus will be available this coming July.
Illustrating once again that technologies proved on the race track ultimately trickle down to production cars, NVIDIA is applying its artificial intelligence (AI) prowess to driverless electric race cars that will compete next year in the FIA Formula-e Roborace Championship series. Being used is NVIDIA’s DRIVE PX2 graphics processing unit (GPU) that has the computing power of 150 MacBook Pros and is the size of a lunchbox.
Ten teams will compete with identical driverless cars in the series’ one hour races. Teams will develop their own real-time computing algorithms and artificial intelligence technologies to gain a competitive edge as they strive to beat their competition.
Featuring design cues from the iconic VW Microbus, the BUDD-e is VW's first concept vehicle using the all-new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB) designed specifically for plug-in vehicles. The MEB architecture represents a fundamental change in future electric-powered Volkswagens, from body and interior design to packaging and drive characteristics. An all-electric range of about 230 miles means a vehicle like the BUDD-e could serve a family's primary transportation needs. Options to keep batteries topped off include cordless inductive charging and the ability to be charged to 80 percent in about 30 minutes with an available rapid charger.
BUDD-e is probably more ‘connected’ than any car before it and thus gives a comprehensive look at the future of connectivity with the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only does the car’s completely new infotainment system make traveling more interactive and media more tangible, it also creates a seamless link between the car and the outside world. As an example of connectivity to a Smart Home, a driver or passengers could control air conditioning, turn lights on or off, determine if their kids are at home, or even put the whole house into energy-saving sleep mode. Plus, in the future the BUDD-e will automatically turn on lights in and around the house as soon as the car approaches.