Posts Tagged ‘electric car’
Facing stiff competition in the more crowded electric car market, General Motors is offering huge incentives to move its Chevy Volt off of dealer lots.
Volt buyers can get rebates of $5,000 on 2012 Volts or $4,000 on 2013 models. Alternatively, General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) is offering a special lease deal of $269 a month for 36 months with an initial payment of $2,399 for qualified buyers, the company said Monday.
While automakers don’t make big profits (and often lose money) on electric cars, they are nevertheless an important part of the business. For example, California, the largest auto market in the United States, requires car makers to sell a certain number of plug-in cars if they wish to do business there.
The Volt is a plug-in car that can go about 40 miles on a charge, but also has a a gasoline engine to provide power for longer drives.
Besides those types of regulations, electric cars are important image makers for car companies. “A lot of these companies want to be known as the company people think of when they think of a plug-in car,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the auto Web site Edmunds.com.
Pricing and incentives on electric cars have been getting more aggressive recently as automakers try to improve sales of the cars.
Honda recently announced a new low lease rate for its Honda Fit EV, an electric car that’s available in California. The Fit EV is being offered for $259 a month with no money down. That price includes insurance, maintenance and unlimited mileage. Plus, Honda (HMC)will provide a free home charging station.
Chevrolet dealers sold about 1,600 Volts last month, which is 4.3% fewer than were sold in May of 2012. Nissan (NSANF), meanwhile, saw a big increase in sales of the Leaf plug-in. Nissan sold 2,138 Leafs last month compared to just 510 the year before. Nissan is offering very low lease prices on the Leaf. The Leaf is available for $199 a month with only $999 down. Nissan also lowered the sticker price on the car as they moved production of the car from Japan to the United States.
Consumer Reports is calling the Tesla Model S the best car it has ever tested. The Model S, an all-electric plug-in car, earned a score of 99 out of a possible 100 in the magazine’s tests.
The score would have been higher but for the fact that the all-electric car does need to stop and recharge during extremely long-distance drives. ”If it could recharge in any gas station in three minutes, this car would score about 110,” said Jake Fisher, head of auto testing for Consumer Reports. Fisher called the car’s performance in the magazine’s performance tests “off the charts.” Depending on price, the Model S has driving range of between 208 and 265 miles. A full charge takes about six hours from an ordinary 240 volt outlet, according to Tesla.
The Model S has already won awards from car magazines like Motor Trend and Automobile, but Consumer Reports is widely regarded as being the most influential magazine among car shoppers. Consumer Reports, published by the non-profit group Consumer’s Union, purchases all the cars it tests and does not accept paid ads.
The score of 99 means the Tesla (TSLA) Model S, a sedan that can seat as many as seven people, performed as well or better than any automobile the magazine has ever tested. The score is not unprecedented — most recently, it was earned by the Lexus LS460 in 2009 – but no car at any price has ever scored higher. Prices for the Model S start at about $70,000, not including federal and state tax incentives for electric cars.
The Model S tied for the quietest vehicle the magazine has ever tested, was among the most energy-efficient and had excellent scores for acceleration, braking and ride quality. ”We don’t get all excited about many vehicles, and with this car we really did,” Fisher said. The magazine’s raves for the Model S stand in sharp contrast to the treatment received by the competing Fisker Karma that the magazine pilloried, calling it “plagued with flaws.”Fisker is now in dire financial trouble.
On other hand, Tesla just announced its first profit and raised sales forecasts for the Model S.
Industry analysts have credited the quality of the Model S, in part, with Tesla’s early success in an industry that has not been kind to start-ups. Just recently electric car maker Coda Automotive went under and plug-in car maker Fisker is near its demise. Tesla, meanwhile, is financially healthy thanks to good sales of the Model S plus deals it’s reached to supply components to major automakers like Toyota and Daimler as well as sales of electric car credits, earned under California regulations, to other automakers that sell fewer electric cars. Tesla had previously stated a goal of selling 20,000 Model S cars this year and has now raised that goal.
The question remains whether the car will continue to sell well in the long term, said Todd Turner, an industry analyst with Car Concepts in California. A lot of that will depend on the longer-term dependability of its battery technology, he said. ”All kinds of cars have complexities,” he said. “Everything has to work for a very long period of time.”
Consumer Reports isn’t recommending the Model S, though. At least not yet. To be recommended, a car has to have at least average “predicted reliability,” something that’s based on reader surveys. Also, a car has to have good crash test scores from the government and from the privately funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Consumer Reports has not yet collected enough data to rule on the Model S’s reliability. So far, the magazine itself has had a couple of minor issues with its test car, Fisher said, including a radio problem that was fixed by an overnight over-the-air software download and a cracked windshield.
To maintain its momentum, Tesla will need to move beyond this car, said Ed Kim, an analyst with the auto marketing consulting firm AutoPacific. ”Ultimately, Tesla’s going to have to transition from building six-figure cars for bleeding-edge early adopters to making a car for a more general audience,” Kim said.
Tesla’s next vehicle is supposed to be the Tesla Model X crossover SUV but, after that, the company’s plans call for a less expensive car and, possibly, other products.
After a few years of boom and bust, the electric car market has lately settled into a rut, as established automakers try to meet regulatory goals mostly with a few everyday models converted to electric power rather than designing all-new electric cars, leaving Tesla as the only independent, high-volume EV builder. Here’s the first attempt to shake up that stasis, the launch of a start-up that will revive the century-old name of Detroit Electric cars — with a car that on paper looks much like a Tesla Roadster.
The new Detroit Electric company revealed today after years of fund-raising and stealth engineering it would reveal its first model next month, a two-seat all-electric sports car that would be a harbinger of future models. The company will not just take Detroit as a brand but base its headquarters in the city, vowing to generate 180 jobs and open a Michigan plant that can build 2,500 vehicles a year.
Detroit Electric’s executives hail from former parts of the Lotus engineering group, and it has previously said it had contracts with Malaysian automaker Proton for production overseas, as well as contacts with Chinese automaker Dongfeng. It vows the new model will roll forth this August, followed by more family-friendly vehicles in 2014, but declined to offer specifics about where its key parts such as lithium-ion batteries would come from.
The original Detroit Electric was a popular electric car builder in the early 20th century, when hand-cranked gasoline engines were known for dislocating shoulders and even killing drivers. Despite then-celebrity clientele like Henry Ford‘s wife and Thomas Edison, the company only managed to build 2,000 cars a year at its peak and faded into collapse during the Great Depression. Outside of Tesla, which was backed with billions of dollars in private capital and a $465 million government loan, modern EV companies have fared no better, unable to solve the complex equation of capital, technology and engineering necessary to stay in business. Who says you can’t find optimists in Detroit?
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An electric car that folds up like a child’s stroller for easy parking?
The “Hiriko”, (the Basque word for “urban”), will begin hitting European cities next year. Originally conceived by Boston’s MIT’s Media Lab and developed by a consortium of seven small Basque firms under the name Hiriko Driving Mobility, the Hiriko seats 2 adults and has its motor located in the wheels. Without being recharged, the Hiriko can go 75 miles, and its speed can be electronically set to respect city limits. Starting at around $16,400, its four wheels turn at right angles to facilitate sideways parking in tight spaces.