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Automobile Industry


A California School District Is First In The Nation To Include All-Electric School Buses In Its Fleet

As private industries have for years been incorporating electric vehicles into their fleets, now the trend is increasingly moving into the public sector – first with electric commuter buses and now for the first time school buses.

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the Kings Canyon Unified School District has just become the first school district in the nation to incorporate all-electric school buses into its fleet.

These new all-electric buses are expected to save Kings Canyon Unified School District over $10,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs, while also eliminating student exposure to particulate air emissions. Photo courtesy of Motiv Power Systems.

The district ordered four buses from Trans Tech Bus, which is a manufacturer of conventional and environmentally-friendly type A school buses. Called the SST-e, these electric vehicles of Trans Tech’s popular SST model use a Ford E450 cutaway chassis equipped with a Motiv Power System’s electric powertrain.

Motiv builds and designs an electric powertrain control system (ePCS) that can be modified for use in medium to heavy duty all-electric vehicles – including box trucks, flat/stake beds, refrigerated trucks, utility/service bodies, shuttle buses, delivery vehicles, and refuse trucks – that have a variety of batteries and motors.

The Trans Tech/Motiv SST-e school buses have been designed to allow for a lot of customizing flexibility. They can hold either 25 students in traditional seating or 18 students with a wheelchair lift and configurable track seating for up to three wheelchairs.

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Ford Planning Real World Testing To Determine Production Feasibility For C-MAX Solar Energi

As Ford continues the media tour of its new C-MAX Solar Energi concept car, the company says it will soon begin road testing the car in real-world scenarios. Ford says the outcome of those tests will help to determine the feasibility of the concept car as a production car.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi. Photo courtesy of CleanTechnica.com.

The concept car’s recent media tour has included the 2014 International CES, the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, and this month, the Geneva Motor Show.

Some new technologies had to be developed to even make the car possible as a concept car. The car works on a combination of solar energy that’s supplemented with plug-in power.

Ford said the car needs to get “a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as a conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.” The conventional C-MAX gets an EPA-estimated 108 MPGe city, a 92 MPGe highway, and a combined 100 MPGe.

Ford told the European market at the Geneva show that with a full charge the concept car is estimated to have a range of “up to 998 km (620 miles), including more than 30 electric-only kilometers (18 miles).” In addition, the company said that the car could “drive more than 30 km everyday on sun power” alone.

To build the technology needed to power the concept car, Ford worked in collaboration with solar manufacturer SunPower and researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).

Bert Bras, a professor with Georgia Tech’s Sustainable Design and Manufacturing lab worked closely with Ford and SunPower to develop a new lens technology “to amplify the sunlight needed to make a solar-powered hybrid feasible for daily use.”

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California City To Change Building Codes To Allow Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

Over the last several years, California has seen a huge upswing in the number of electric vehicles purchased, and with it a desire for more infrastructure to accommodate owners’ home recharging needs.

In California, the City of Palo Alto’s city council is unanimously supporting a proposal to change the city’s building code to require new homes to be pre-wired to support 240v level 2 chargers. Photo courtesy of Treehugger.com.

This is an increasingly important issue for the state, which found in a 2012 study conducted by the California Center for Sustainable Energy that about 1,000 new plug-in vehicles were being sold every month, and in total, Californians owned more than 12,000 plug-in vehicles at the time of the study (roughly 35 percent of all plug-in vehicles in the United States).

And while so far buying an electric vehicle has come with a lot of rebates and incentives for the vehicle itself, there really hasn’t been much cost help given for other needs, like home infrastructure.

A major stumbling block for many buyers wanting to buy an electric vehicle has been the cost of installing a home charging system. Grist reported that in Palo Alto, Calif., “to wire a new house for an electric vehicle charger, it costs under $200 – a quarter of the price tag for installing a charger at an existing home.”

To address this issue, Palo Alto’s city council is working on an ordinance that would require all newly constructed single family homes to include the necessary circuitry for electric vehicle chargers.

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Tesla Model S Reviewed By Consumer Reports As ‘Top Scoring Car’ In 100-Point Rating Test

Tesla Model S. Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors.

In its latest review of nearly 300 vehicles, Consumer Reports rated the all-electric Tesla Model S as the “top scoring car” with a rating of 99 out of 100 points.

To give you an overview, the Model S is a large luxury hatchback which seats five or seven if you include the rear-facing jump seats for kids up to 10 years old.

The sedan can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, and is equipped with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery which can allow the vehicle to “travel between 180 and 225 miles per charge, depending on the outside temperature,” said Consumer Reports.

Tesla said the Model S can plug into most 240-volt outlets, standard 120-volt wall outlets, and public stations.

Consumer Reports found that “with Tesla’s optional High Power Wall Connector, its takes about five hours to charge. On a standard 240-volt electric car charger, it would take about 12 hours,” with Tesla adding that a 50 percent charge could be achieved in as little as 30 minutes at Tesla Supercharge station.”

Tesla also takes a sleek modern approach to its fueling system, by having the fuel door hidden. The company explains that as you approach the driver’s side taillight, holding a connector, you press the button and a triangle opens to reveal the small charge port. Another great feature of the Model S is its regenerative brakes.

For overall performance, Consumer Reports said that, “In all, the Model S worked better than we expected, especially being the first homegrown model from a brand-new car company. The Tesla Model S fell short of a perfect score in our testing for one simple reason. You can’t jump in any time you want, and drive to absolutely any point on the map at a moment’s notice.”

The company is working to address these issues by increasing its number of Supercharge stations that are exclusively for Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports added that “unfortunately, they will not charge other EVs. The connector is unique to Tesla and, well, Tesla foots the bill for the juice, which mostly justifies this proprietary arrangement.”

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California Adding Five New EV Charging Stations Across LA Transit Spots To Spur Combined Use

The LA Metro Authority has just installed five new electric vehicle charging stations across its transit rail system as part of a pilot program designed to encourage electric vehicle owners to combine driving with public transportation.

Los Angeles electric vehicle charging station. Photo courtesy of Luskin Center for Innovation

The transportation authority hopes that EV drivers will see the stations as a convenience that allows them to “be able to charge their vehicles while using the Metro to run errands, go to events” or commute to work.

This is the first time that the transportation authority has directly incorporated EV charging stations into the transit system. The new charging stations are located in: Union Station, Sierra Madre Villa Station, Willow Station, El Segundo Station, and Universal City Station.

The transportation authority said the locations were selected because of their proximity to major transportation hubs and busy traffic arteries. In addition, they were selected to encourage the use of the transit system – and its Park and Ride lots – from different regions headed to and from Downtown LA.

The charging stations all incorporate the SAE J1772 (North American Automotive Industry Standard) plug. These locations consist of 208/240V 30amp Level 2 charging spots capable of providing up to 7.2KW of power to each vehicle.

All of the newer model electric cars – including the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota Prius Plug-in, and Mitsubishi iMiEV – will be able to plug into the Level 2 charge spots.

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