This Week’s Top 10: Hyundai and Kia get a steep penalty for incorrect mileage ratings, Nissan Leaf sales still breaking records

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…….

  1. Hyundai Kia MotorsHyundai and Kia will pay a $100 million fine for inflating the fuel economy ratings of their vehicles. The $100 million fine is the largest in Clean Air Act history, and came from an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice based on the sale of about 1.2 million vehicles with overstated ratings. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were far less than what was originally stated – about 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in excess of what the automakers claimed to the EPA. “This settlement upholds the integrity of the nation’s fuel economy and greenhouse gas programs and supports all Americans who want to save fuel costs and reduce their environmental impact,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
  2. Plug-in sales: October saw deliveries of 2,589 Leafs, bringing the year-to-date total to 24,411 – which exceeds the 2013 total of 22,610, the previous record. The Nissan Leaf broke its own record for most electric cars sold in the U.S. in a single year with two months left to sell them this year. The Chevrolet Volt has also been seeing a strong year, already exceeding the annual sales totals for the Volt in any of the full three years it’s been on sale. BMW sold 1,159 BMW i3s – the third month in a row it has sold more than 1,000 i3s. Tesla continued to go unreported in its monthly sales numbers, but the company says that sales went up quite a bit during the month.
  3. Very redesigned Chevy Volt: The refreshed 2016 Chevrolet Volt will be quicker, lighter and more fuel efficient than its predecessor. GM is using the redesign as an opportunity not only to optimize the plug-in hybrid technology it pioneered four years ago. It’s going to be very different with a completely difference drive unit and battery. The car will travel father on battery power, yet GM hasn’t yet said how far it will go compared to its present 38 miles on the battery.
  4. Vincentric, a leader in cost-of-ownership data, released its most recent Hybrid Analysis last week. Among the 10 hybrids with lower ownership costs were the Lexus CT200h and the Toyota Avalon Hybrid, which when compared to their all-gasoline counterparts had savings of over $7,600 and $3,200 respectively. Ten of 31 hybrid vehicles analyzed were identified as having a lower total cost-of-ownership than their closest all-gasoline counterpart. Over the past three years the percentage of cost-effective hybrids has dropped from 44% in the 2012 analysis, to 39% in 2013, to now just over 32%.
  5. Natural Gas Vehicle Conference. The 2014 North American NGV Conference & Expo to be held at the Kansas City Convention Center Nov. 11–14 in Kansas City, Mo. is set to be the largest NGV event of the year and is hosted by NGVAmerica in cooperation with the Canadian NGV Alliance. NGVAmerica has reached out to fleets of all types and sizes with special discounts to register for the conference. For more information on the 2014 North American NGV Conference & Expo, or to plan your attendance, visit the event website at www.ngvamerica.org/conference/2014.
  6. Check out this TedxDetroit video: Debbie Mielewski, the technical leader for plastics research at Ford Motor Co., says she’s been able to get up every day excited to go to work. Much of what is being added to cars these days is plastic, which comes from petroleum resources, and she’d like to do something about it. All of the polyurethane going into Ford vehicles and their seat cushions now comes from soy beans (which Henry Ford would have been proud of, having started that years ago). Using wheat straw (which is the byproduct of the food portion of wheat) to fortify plastic bins in the Ford Flex and Ford Focus, has been another step forward. And there’s more…….
  7. Big numbers from VW: Volkswagen Group claims it will launch more than 20 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in China over the next few years. That will include small cars, large-sized SUVs, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric cars, said Jochem Heizmann, head of Volkswagen Group China.
  8. Home energy storage. Nissan is moving the “electric vehicle batteries as a great source for energy storage” campaign along. Nissan will soon begin testing its Leaf-To-Home energy station in Japan; they’ll be testing the ability of electric cars to provide temporary electrical power to buildings in real-world circumstances. The station converts high-voltage direct current from a Leaf’s lithium-ion battery pack into the 100-volt current used by homes in Japan.
  9. Mercedes-Benz B-class electric cars. Daimler AG’s Mercedes teamed up with Tesla Motors to put an electric motor and battery inside its B-class hatchback. Mercedes-Benz has high hopes for the alliance and sales of the B-class electric cars. The German automaker is hoping the image of working Tesla will be impressive while avoiding the pitfalls of spending billions on a technology few may want to buy.
  10. Hyundai vs. Toyota. Hyundai will roll out its first “dedicated” hybrid, designed to be marketed exclusively as a hybrid instead of being merely a copycat of an existing traditional engine edition of that model. Hyundai Motor Co. said that its hybrids will go up again the Toyota Prius.

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