Toyota redesigning Prius plug-in hybrid to double car’s all-electric range

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RocketNews 24:

Toyota’s Prius is designed for one purpose, and it’s not to deliver the sort of exciting performance that will seduce you into taking a spirited drive through a moonlit mountain pass (that’s another car’s job). No, the Prius promise is that it will get you from Point A to Point B in the most energy-efficient way possible.

But while the standard hybrid Prius remains a popular choice for eco-conscious motorists, sales of its plug-in variant have been stagnant. Toyota is hoping to change that, though, with an updated Prius that can travel roughly twice as far under purely electric power than the current model.

If you’re the kind of person who’s more familiar with the handling differences between front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive than what separates one class of hybrid from another, a brief refresher on just what constitutes a plug-in hybrid may be in order. Unlike a standard hybrid vehicle, the batteries in a plug-in hybrid can be charged directly by plugging the car into a socket. By allowing the car to run in either a purely electric mode or with the electric motor and gas engine working together, plug-in hybrids seek to combine the flexibility of a normal hybrid with the efficiency and lower emissions of an all-electric vehicle.

Toyota released its first plug-in Prius, called the Prius PHV, in January of 2012. Hoping to build on the strong brand awareness and reputation of the normal hybrid Prius, the company was expecting a similarly warm response for the newer, ostensibly more advanced version of the car.

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But while the Prius PHV sought to offer the advantages of both a hybrid and all-electric mode, it couldn’t deliver on the latter for very long. From a full charge, the current Prius PHV can only run 26.4 kilometers (16.4 miles) in full-electric mode before its batteries are drained, meaning that unless you’re headed someplace fairly close, you’re going to need to burn a little gas to get there and back.

Car buyers haven’t seen that as much of an advantage, especially considering that prices for the Prius PHV start at 2,931,429 yen (US$24,634), more than 30 percent more than the ordinary Prius hybrid, which is priced from 2,232,000 yen. The end result is lackluster sales numbers, and three years and three months after its launch, Toyota has only found some 20,000 buyers for the Prius PHV, a mere fifth of what the company was hoping for in that time frame.

In contrast, rival Mitsubishi Motors has enjoyed great success with its Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV, which boasts a 60.2-kilometer all-electric range. Even with its much higher price (starting at 4,123,440 yen), Mitsubishi has been selling Outlander PHEVs at a brisk pace, moving 13,000 in 2015 alone.

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This sales gap has shown Toyota that it needs to step up its game, and the company has announced that the Prius PHV will be getting an update. Equipped with an increased quantity of batteries, and also thanks to weight-saving measures in other parts of the vehicle, Toyota is promising that the refreshed Prius PHV will be able to travel more than 50 kilometers in its all-electric mode, a distance roughly twice what the current model is capable of.

The new Prius PHV is expected to arrive at dealers in the fall of 2016. In the meantime, grab a map and start plotting out all the new places you’ll be able to go without needing a drop of gas.

This Chinese Tesla killer has a fish tank in the back seat!

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RocketNews 24/Business Insider:

The Tesla Model X will be terrific and Google’s autonomous egg car will change the world.

But neither can match the awesomeness of China’s GAC WitStar that was introduced this week at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Not only does China’s Model X lookalike feature a range-extended electric powertrain and autonomous drive capabilities — it’s also equipped with a fish tank!

That’s right — a fish tank! Not since the heyday of “Pimp My Ride” have we seen such aquatic awesomeness in an car. An automotive aquarium! And all of this at the Detroit Auto Show no less.

The WitStar is the latest concept from Guangzhou-based GAC Motors. The futuristic crossover SUV is built on a sedan platform and has a electric driving range of more than 62 miles, reports Motor Trend. When the 13 kWh lithium-ion battery runs dry, the WitStar’s onboard 1.0 liter four-cylinder gasoline power generator will kick in — Chevy Volt-style — to extend the total range to 370 miles. This powertrain setup is expected to achieve 117 mpg.

 

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In addition to the hybrid-electric powertrain, the WitStar’s lineup of autonomous drive tech is also pretty darn impressive. According to Motor Trend, the car will be equipped with a self-driving system featuring laser radar, a high-speed CCD camera, and infrared camera, and GPS.

The car magazine further reports that all data gathered by the sensors, cameras, and GPS system will be amalgamated to create a real-time 3D map of the area around the vehicle. The information will also be used to control various vehicle drive functions, such as acceleration, steering, and braking. Pretty cool.

As for the fish tank, it’s located between the concept’s rear seats, in place of the armrest. Thankfully, GAC decided to used plastic fish instead of the real thing.

Because the last thing anyone wants to see is dead goldfish floating around a concept car.

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The fish tank is the attention-getting feature of the WitStar interior. However, the overall pleasantness of the concept’s “lounge-style” interior shouldn’t be discounted. Everything looks sleek, futuristic, and surprisingly restrained.

The WitStar’s defining exterior feature is the pair of massive, Tesla Model X-esque gullwing doors. (Tesla prefers to call them “falcon wings” on the X).

GAC is one of China’s largest automakers. The company currently markets a line of passenger vehicles under the Trumpchi brand. GAC also operates multiple joint-venture manufacturing operations in conjunction with Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Fiat.

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Link

Nissan’s ZEOD RC prototype racer completes first all-electric lap at Le Mans

 

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Engadget:

 

The 24 Hours of Le Mans (check after the break for details on how to watch, for free) hasn’t even started yet and already history has been made. During warmups, Nissan wheeled its ZEOD RC prototype race car around the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe track running only on battery power, a first.

ZEOD stands for “Zero Emissions On Demand” and the car squeezes a 1.5-liter three cylinder engine that produces 400hp plus two electric motors and the regenerative breaking of a Leaf RC into the frame similar to the older DeltaWing prototype racer. Did we mention that it has no rear-view mirrors

 

Check out this link:

 

Nissan’s ZEOD RC prototype racer completes first all-electric lap at Le Mans

Link

Nissan LEAF to the rescue in Europe

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The Nissan LEAF, the world’s most popular electric vehicle, has not only made garnered huge sales and acclaim around the world with consumers, but also with various government agencies. Law enforcement teams, firefighters and medics across Europe are adopting Nissan LEAF as a key frontline emergency support vehicle. Emergency services in Portugal, France, UK and Switzerland have deployed LEAFs as community support vehicles, with a number of other countries considering making the switch to battery power in 2013.

Jean-Pierre Diernaz, Director of Electric Vehicles, Europe said:

Emergency first responders and law enforcement communities rely heavily on their vehicles. The fact that so many forces across Europe are choosing Nissan LEAF for urban-based community support roles shows how significant zero emissions and low running costs – fuel and maintenance – have become. As well as helping to save the environment, vastly reduced fuel bills mean a fleet of Nissan LEAFs can make a serious contribution to a bottom line, making budget savings that can be reinvested in supporting the communities in which they serve.

Check out this link:

Nissan LEAF to the rescue in Europe

Nissan Leaf UK