This Week’s Top 10: GM unveils the Bolt crossover and Volt redesign, More news from the Detroit Auto Show

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. Chevrolet Bolt conceptThe Detroit Auto Show opened with a bang for Chevrolet as it announced the Bolt electric crossover and the redesigned 2016 Volt. Rumors about General Motors working on a crossover version of the Volt have been fairly accurate – only it has a different name and it will be all-electric, not a plug-in hybrid like the Volt. The Chevrolet Bolt is expected to roll out in 2017 and compete directly with the Tesla Model X electric crossover. General Motors says the Bolt should get 200 miles per charge and will sell for about $30,000 with the federal tax incentive; and it will play a big role in strengthening its leadership role in electrified transportation. (See photo of the Bolt concept car.) The 2016 Chevy Volt was revamped to address needed improvements, including quieting the engine, improving performance and adding space to the interior. It will also deliver a lot more range – an estimated 50 miles per charge instead of its current range of 38 miles.
  2. More from Detroit Auto Show: Winners of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards were the Volkswagen Golf “family” (which will include all-electric and clean diesel versions) and the Ford F-150 and its lightweight aluminum body and improved fuel efficiency. Mercedes debuted its new plug-in hybrid, the C350. Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche downplayed fuel economy in these days of cheap gasoline and focused on performance – zero to 60 in 5.9 second, sports-car like handling, and the ability to reach a top speed of 130. The Nissan Leaf may more than double its output in its next version – up to 200 miles on a single charge. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn unofficially made this comment following a media briefing.
  3. Nissan is working with NASA on a five-year project to enable autonomous vehicles. By the end of this year, a fleet of Nissan Leafs will be tested to use hardware and software jointly developed by Nissan and NASA. Testing will take place at Nissan’s Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
  4. California Gov. Jerry Brown raised the bar again during his State of the State address last week. Gasoline consumption should be reduced by 50% over the next 15 years, 50% of the state’s electricity supply should be powered by renewables by 2030, and energy efficiency should be doubled in existing buildings. Brown, at age 76, just started his fourth and final term as California’s governor and wants to see the state heighten its role in the fight against global warning.
  5. Solar-powered electric car Stella has been nominated by TechCrunch as one of the five biggest Technology Achievements for its upcoming 8th annual “Crunchies Awards.” Stella is up against an impressive list of contenders — Apple Pay, The Block Chain (Bitcoin), Rosetta Mission’s Comet Landing, and SpaceX Lateral Booster. Stella, created by Solar Team Eindhoven from the Eindhoven (Netherlands) University of Technology, has been widely recognized and is gaining support. Stella took first place in the 2013 Michelin Cruiser class at the World Solar Challenge race in Australia. Partners include National Drive Electric Week, Plug In America, and the Coast to Coast EV Connection project. The team calls it the “world’s first solar-powered family car.”
  6. Pope Francis is expected to issue an “encyclical” outlining the Catholic Church’s stance on climate change. It will likely reinforce the church’s strong stance with concern over climate change and its impact on the planet and its population. This has been gaining a wave of media coverage and social media mentions for its symbolism. The leader of the Catholic Church with its 1.2 billion members is joining ranks with most of the world’s leading scientists – uniting religious and moral issues with science, at least on the global warming question.
  7. Here comes the fastest electric car………. The Detroit Electric sports car is moving forward and will soon be built at a new facility in Leamington Spa in England. Detroit Electric is shooting for building the world’s fastest electric car that will hit 60 mph in a mere 3.7 seconds and is powered by a 285-hp electric motor. It’s being built on the chassis of the Lotus Elise, the same as the now-discontinued version of the original Tesla Roadster. While still calling itself Detroit Electric, the company had to move out of that hometown overseas to England last year.
  8. Car-sharing company car2go, will be launching its service in China. That will happen in the Chinese metro market of Chongqing within the next year, and will involve a fleet of several hundred Smart Fortwo small cars. The subsidiary of Daimler AG says it now has 12,500 vehicles operating in 29 locations and serving over one million customers in Europe and North America.
  9. RIN prices have doubledRenewable Identification Number (RIN) prices have recently doubled year-over-year in all three reported categories – biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and renewable fuel. They’re still about 30% below the peak period during the summer of 2013, commonly referred to as “RINsanity.” High RIN prices are expected to shield biofuel producers from falling oil prices, while refiner profits will be cut into by high RIN expenses if RIN prices remain high.
  10. So who will be the dominant force behind self-driving cars? Google or Daimler? Mercedes played it up at the Consumer Electronics Show showing off its “F 015 Luxury in Motion” concept car with its futuristic metallic exterior, swiveling seats to support face-to-face passenger conversations, and touch screens every passenger could access. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that this Mercedes-Benz will provide an escape from the crowded urban environment of the future.

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