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Advances by Converter Firms/Converj/Ampera /Fisker/Piaggio; Retreat by Chrysler
Nov 12, 2009 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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The ICE (internal combustion engine) retrofit industry is gaining momentum. Below we have news that Bright Automotive has signed its first contract for a conversion with the U.S. Army. And ALTe is a new company coming out of "stealth" with a Ford Crown Victoria taxi conversion. We've added ALTe to our reorganized and expanded page on ICE Conversions­ice-conversions.html and to our PDF presentation on the business opportunity. For new PHEVS: GM's Cadillac Converj evolves from concept to production-intent; the Opel Ampera will move forward now that Opel won't be sold after all; Fisker will produce its second generation vehicle in a former GM plant in Delaware. A first look at the Piaggo PHEV motorcycle. And as many expected, it appears that Chrysler is putting its plug-in plans on the back burner.

BRIGHT GETS FIRST CUSTOMER PHEV RETROFIT: Indiana-based Bright Automotive continues to raise money and develop its plans for the IDEA lightweight PHEV delivery van scheduled for 2012. Meanwhile, it has launched Bright eSolutions­esolutions/ to consult on engineering, design, powertrain, battery technology and plug-in hybrid conversion technology services. It announced its first conversion contract: the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command (TACOM) for a $1.4 million project to convert military non-combat vehicle into a parallel PHEV for evaluation, including V2G testing. See a drawing at­ice-conversions.html#ba and more about Bright at­auto/­10002860/­million-dollar-army-contracts-are-a-lifeline-for-ev-and-battery-companies/ and the earlier­auto/­10002704/­a-bright-future-indiana-plug-in-hybrid-company-needs-government-funding/ .

ALTe: NEW GAS-GUZZLER CONVERSIONS COMPANY OUT OF STEALTH: This Michigan company exhibited at the Detroit "Business of Plugging In" conference and was interviewed there by Green Car Congress's Michael Millikin -- story and photos at­2009/­10/­alte-20091026.html . The team of auto industry veterans led by John Thomas, former general manager at Tesla will target fleet customers with taxis, shuttles, SUVs and other popular vehicles. Its "proof of concept" Ford Crown Vic taxi improves fuel economy 80-200%, going from 14-43 MPG, with a return on investment of less than two years. The company has ambitious plans to 'get big fast.' More at its website .

CADILLAC CONVERJ CONCEPT NOW OK'D FOR PRODUCTION: GM's Board of Directors has approved the premium version of the Chevy Volt for production. At the North American Concept Vehicle of the Year Awards in June, it was voted the "most significant concept vehicle of 2009." No production date has been announced, but it will certainly come after the Volt, still on schedule for November 2010.­article/­20091109/­AUTO01/­911090394/­GM-to-put-electric-Cadillac-Converj-into-production

AMPERA WILL BE GM PRODUCT AFTER ALL: GM's decision not to sell its European brands Opel/Vauxhall means that the Ampera will go forward. GM has appointed its often-controversial vice-chairman Bob Lutz (an early Volt backer) as Opel chairman. The diesel Ampera, like the Converj, is another of what GM calls "EREV" for extended range electric vehicle, otherwise described as a series PHEV.

Fisker Automotive will build its $48,000 "Project NINA" sedan (expected to cost $40,000 after a federal tax credit) at the former GM Boxwood Road plant, near Newport, DL. GM shuttered the 52-year-old plant in July; most recently, the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice were produced there. Fisker is buying it for $18M from its $528M federal loan. Vice President Joe Biden and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell were at the announcement. With production beginning in 2012, the plant could eventually build 100,000 vehicles a year and support 2,000 factory and 3,o000 vendor and supplier jobs. Fisker is currently outsourcing production of its first vehicle, the pricier Karma, to Valmet Automotive in Finland.

PIAGGIO'S MP3 PHEV MOTORCYCLE: We haven't mentioned this previously. The Financial Times has a first look at this vehicle, which is not only the world's first hybrid scooter, it's also the first PHEV.­cms/­s/­2/­c2728474-b799-11de-9812-00144feab49a.html

CHRYSLER BACKS AWAY FROM ELECTRICITY: While continuing already-funded development of a small test fleet of a PHEV minivan and truck for 2011 and a possible EV in 2012, Chrysler, now led by Fiat's Sergio Marchionne, is now re-focusing in incorporating internal combustion engine technologies from Fiat for the next five years. Most observers see this as a significant setback for the prospects of plug-in vehicles this still-large company with many U.S facilities. Some have pointed out that 60,000 plug-ins by 2015 (1-2% of total vehicles manufactured by Chrysler) is "half a million fewer electric vehicles by 2014 than it promised in its application for the $12.5 billion federal bailout it received from taxpayers"­2009/­11/­10/­chrysler-fiat-plug-in-hybrid-electric-vehicles-evs/­#more-13913 . With a different view, Car Connection's Richard Reed thinks it could be good news that plug-ins will be integrated into mainstream development at Chrysler:­marty-blog/­1038132_chrysler-retools-its-ev-program-possibly-for-the-better

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