We thought it would be worthwhile to give you a weekly update on what’s happening in the world of green cars—by which we mean hybrids, diesels (bio- and others), electrics of various stripes—all energy-efficient vehicles, in other words. So your humble correspondent has taken on the daunting task of providing news, resources, websites, and commentary in an area which right now is just exploding.
The big news this week has to be the spectacular plug-in hybrid 2+2 BMW Vision EfficientDynamics concept, powered by a 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbodiesel and twin electric motors. One motor, placed between the engine and transmission, couples with a second that drives the front wheels. Net output is 356 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. The company claims 0-62 mph in 4.8 seconds and 62.6 combined mpg. We claim to be impressed.
The only U.S. car we can compare it to is the Volt, which is like comparing a hog to a racehorse. Both cars will use lithium polymer battery systems, but BMW’s is lighter and more efficient, recharging on 220-volt current in just 2.5 hours. There’s a good discussion here of the technology involved.
Unlike the Volt, which is designed to give its full performance from the electric drive system, the BMW concept gets its full capability from the blended power delivery. The concept is able to run about 31 miles on electricity alone and complete the NEDC test procedure on electricity. The efficiency of the diesel engine means that the 6.6 gallon tank can propel the car another 400 miles. The electrical energy consumption of the concept is 28.16 kWh/100 miles which compares to the claimed 25 kWh/100 miles for the Volt.
Not only is it gorgeous (though you can bet a production version won’t look quite like this), but the car represents a kind of engineering prowess that we just don’t seem able to master here in the U.S. With a few exceptions, the Asians and Europeans are clearly beating us to the punch.
The most viable green car prototypes developing here seem to be coming from Tesla and Fisker. The former company claims that its Model S (right) electric sedan in one year will use three new battery packs to give it a range of 300 miles before recharge. Present batteries give 165 and 230 miles of range. The Model S will become real, we hope, for $57,400 (and a $7,500 federal tax credit) in late 2011. But there’s a whole lot of “iffiness” with this car.
Fisker’s Karma (right) will cost anywhere from $87,900 to $104,000, depending on model, and seems to be in some ways further along than the Tesla S. Henrik Fisker told Autopia he wants to build 100,000 cars a year and has ambitious plans to do so. The car was recently seen at the Rolex Monterey Historic Races and did one lap. Stepping out, Henrik! The Karma seems like basically Volt technology in a much more attractive package.
Other News from Abroad
Chinese automaker BYD says it will bring an all-electric EV sedan to the U.S. next year. The car will cost around $40,000, seat five, and have a 250-mile range. Warren Buffet is an investor.
The Japanese are not idle. Nissan’s Leaf, as tgriffith told us, is promised for the U.S. in 2010. Honda, it was reported, has committed to selling electric vehicles in the U.S. “early in the next decade,” which is surely the loosest of commitments, but they will have an enormous market here. Last week there was noise about some kind of minicar coming by 2015.
Finally, we learned that the German government plans to put $705 million into electric vehicle technology, and you can bet that will be the tip of the iceberg. Besides BMW, Volkswagen aims to have its first all-electric cars on the market in 2013. The lesson in all this? Where is the U.S.?
How are we going to play catch-up to the rest of the world in creating outstanding electric car technology? Give us your thoughts.