by Jon LeSage, editor and publisher, Green Auto Market
Here’s my take on the 10 most significant and interesting occurrences during the past week…….
- Highlights from Tokyo: Fuel-cell cars took the lead in green car debuts at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show; electric cars, hybrids, and autonomous driving were also central at this year’s event. Honda has launched its first production version of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle; the Clarity Fuel Cell (replacing the FCX Clarity model name). It will go on sale in Japan in early 2016, and will be brought to the U.S. later. The Lexus LF-FC concept car is a large hydrogen fuel-cell luxury sedan that may preview the next-generation Lexus LS. The Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo concept has self-driving capabilities and a bulbous shape. The Mitsubishi concept battery electric eX has a 45 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The Nissan IDS Concept electric car includes a wireless inductive charging feature. The IDS Concept may be setting the look for the next-generation Nissan Leaf, which is likely coming out in the 2018 model year; and it may come with a 60-kWh battery pack. The second Nissan concept car introduced at the show was the Teatro for Dayz mini-electric car. The Subaru Viziv Future has a turbocharged internal-combustion engine to power the front wheels, and an electric motor to power the rear wheels; it may someday be available as a hybrid crossover.
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- The latest on Volkswagen: The recall list is getting longer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued a new Notice of Violation to Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche saying that the 2014 VW Touareg, 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 crossover with 3.0-liter diesel engines contained the illegal software. This covers about 10,000 vehicles from the 2014 and 2015 model years, and an unknown number of 2016 model year vehicles are involved.…….. A panel of federal judges will meet in early December to decide on a single venue to handle the expected a wave of class-action lawsuits. So far, more than 300 lawsuits have been filed against VW following breaking news that the automaker cheated on diesel emissions tests.
- Honda Clarity launch details, and BMW announcement: The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell hydrogen-powered car will go on sale in Japan and the U.S. next spring. In the U.S., sales will start in California where a network of hydrogen fueling stations have been constructed. Driving range estimates have varied from over 300 miles on a tank of fuel to 435 miles. Its price is expected to start at $63,000, and the marketing campaign is expected to tell how its driving range and interior space are more than what Toyota is offering in its Mirai fuel cell car. Honda is also looking into a program offering a portable hydrogen station. BMW AG said last week that its first fuel-cell vehicle would likely be a larger-sized sedan which would go on the market after 2020. That’s right after BMW’s hydrogen R&D partnership with Toyota will end. The two automakers are developing a method to compress hydrogen at ultra-low temperatures to increase fuel storage volume.
- Jaguar electric vehicle: Another luxury electric car may be coming out soon. Jaguar plans to launch a battery electric model called E-Pace, which will probably be a variant of the new Jaguar F-Pace SUV. Light carbon fiber and lightweight aluminum, and an aerodynamic shape, should help enhance the range it can travel on a full charge. The Jaguar E-Pace will use at least two electric motors, one or more for each axle for an all-wheel drive system.
- Autonomous EV from Nissan: The Nissan concept car, IDS, mentioned in the Tokyo Motor Show coverage above, is being designed to be driven autonomously. The Intelligent Driving System (IDS) can be self-driven, and with its 60 kWh battery pack, will be able to go 200 miles between charges. CEO Carlos Ghosn says that it’s being designed to learn the habits of its owners to modify the way it drives, including recommending restaurants to stop at for meals. Ghosn thinks it would be ideal for crowded urban environments – and would “compensate for human error which causes more than 90% of accidents,” he said.
- Carsharing will grow six-fold: Navigant Research estimates carsharing will grow six times by 2024 – from $1.1 billion this year to $6.5 billion in global revenue by 2024. While it’s been around for about 15 years now, it’s expected to mushroom in growth due to the popularity of one-way carsharing services; the adoption of electric vehicles in carsharing fleets is growing as carmakers help promote the technology, and this is also helping growth in carsharing usage. Those living in crowded cities appreciate having more options for multi-modal on-demand mobility, the study says.
- Self-driving car research: A self-driving car study done by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that crash rates in driverless cars were higher than conventional, human-driven vehicles; but the self-driving cars were not at fault and the severity of the crashes were lower than for conventional vehicles. The study conducted a preliminary analysis of the cumulative on-road safety record in 2013 of self-driving vehicles for three of the 10 companies that are currently approved for such vehicle testing in California (Google, Delphi, and Audi).
- Prius owners holding cars for long periods: Concern over the reliability of hybrids like the popular Toyota Prius is finding more good news. A study done by iSeeCars via Wards Auto found that the Prius is No. 2 on the list of longest-owned vehicles with 28.5% of original Prius owners keeping their cars for 10 years. The Honda CR-V crossover was No. 1 on the list, with 28.6% of owners keeping these vehicles for 10 years. “There are a rather large contingent of Toyota Prius owners who are happily touting the fact that their cars have logged 100,000 miles or more,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly.
- BYD sees strong performance results: Chinese automaker BYD has been seeing stronger sales and financial results this year – net profit for the third quarter totaled 1.49 billion yuan (about $236 million), up from 28.2 million yuan a year earlier. BYD’s sales of plug-in hybrids and electric cars soared 220% year-over-year in September to 6,013 vehicles. The Tang SUV, BYD’s third plug-in hybrid passenger vehicle, accounted for nearly half the total with 3,044 sold. The Qin plug-in hybrid saw 2,115 sold in September. Generous government subsidies and a popular new model (Tang) helped sales increase.