Automotive Newsline

Nissan Introduces First Solid-Oxide Fuel-Cell Vehicle

Using the Nissan e-NV200 as the base vehicle, Nissan has taken the wraps off of the world’s first solid oxide fuel cell car.   The light commercial vehicle has been engineered to run on bio-ethanol electric power.  Stated simply, it means that it can use multiple fuels such as ethanol and natural gas.    The Japanese automaker is working on building zero-emission cars, and this fuel-cell prototype is part of that effort.

The e-Bio Fuel Cell generates electricity by using the solid-oxide fuel cell, with the bio-ethanol storage in the vehicle’s tank proving the fuel source.  The fuel cell uses hydrogen transformed from the fuel through a reformer as well as atmospheric oxygen, with the resulting electric and chemical reaction producing electricity that is used to power the prototype.

Nissan’s solid-oxide fuel cell vehicle can run on 100 percent ethanol or ethanol blending water, which charges a 24-kWh battery with a cruising range of 372 miles.  Currently the automaker is conducting tests on public roads in Brazil.

Mercedes-Benz to Introduce a Distinct Line of Electric Vehicles

The German automaker is planning its own distinct line of electric vehicles, challenging BMW and Tesla Motors in a bet that alternative-fuel cars have the potential to become profitable.  Mercedes-Benz will add two electric sport utility vehicles and two sedans to its vehicle line-up in the next few years.  The automaker will create a new sub-brand for the cars, although a name has not been chosen as of yet.  The current approach in recent years has been to adding batteries and electric motors to existing models such as the Smart EV and the boxy B-Class – an obviously cheaper alternative than designing a brand new electric vehicle.

The Mercedes prototype to be introduced next month will be an SUV with a cruising range of approximately 310 miles on a single charge.   It will also showcase the exterior design language that Mercedes has developed to set its electric cars apart.

In addition to the new “e-cars”, Mercedes parent Daimler AG is planning its first all-electric heavy-duty delivery truck by the start of the next decade.

Car, Trike or Motorcycle? – Elio Motors Resolves Legal Classification

You may have heard about Elio Motors – the enclosed three wheeler with car-like features but classified as a motorcycle by the federal government.  Until recently, that meant that future owners of the Elio (you still can’t drive one yet – although the automotive start-up has taken more than 50,000 reservations for the trike) would have had to have or obtain a motorcycle license to drive one.  According to the automaker, 41 states now have an “autocycle” definition or motorcycle license exemption for the Elio.

In case you haven’t heard, Elio Motors was founded in 2009 by Paul Elio and has been working on an enclosed 3-wheeled vehicle with a targeted base price of $6,800 that will get an amazing 84 mpg.


Standard features for the Elio include seatbelts, three airbags, and automotive-type controls such as a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals.   With the states of Rhode Island and New Jersey being the latest to pass autocycle legislation early last month, Elio drivers will only need their current standard drivers license to pilot the vehicle.

The company plans to limit 2016 sales to 100 pre-production vehicles with a full-on sales effort to commence in 2017.

It’s Official: Volvo to Offer an Autonomous Vehicle by 2021

Volvo has announced its intention to join BMW by also offering a fully autonomous vehicle for sale by the 2012 model year.   However, while BMW has already announced alliances with chip-making giant Intel and automotive camera and software manufacturer Mobileye, Volvo is still looking.

You may recall that Volvo has previously promised that starting in 2020 there would be no deaths or serious injuries in its vehicles.  The company is prepping a wide-reaching test of about 300 vehicles with advanced autonomous systems in Sweden, UK and China – using ordinary customers as sort of beta testers.  Volvo has also acknowledged the industry challenges of navigating the volume of new laws and regulations by country and even jurisdiction that will govern their operation.

Survey: 70-percent of Teens Using Apps While Driving

A recent survey by auto insurance provided Liberty Mutual and SADD (Students Against Destructive Driving) found that some two out of three teens admit to using apps while driving.  What is more disturbing is that 80 percent of teens fundamentally view app use as “not distracting”.  While there has been plenty of conversation and debate about texting and driving (a number of states actually ban this practice for drivers under 21 years of age), teens may consider navigation and music apps as “utilities”, diluting the perception of the dangers related to their use when underway.

“Phone use while driving is one of the most concerning behaviors by inexperienced teen drivers.  Any behavior that takes your eyes and focus off of the road, even for mere seconds, can impair your ability to react to hazards and other vehicles,” said Dr. William Horrey, Ph.D., principal research scientist at Liberty Mutual Insurance Research Institute for Safety.  “It’s not the apps themselves that are dangerous, but how we, and our teens, interact with them while behind the wheel”, he adds.

Ken Chester, Jr. is President & CEO of Motor News Media Corporation – an automotive news service founded in 1989 as The AutoBuyer Plus Corporation. Featured on numerous television and radio programs, viewers, listeners and readers alike relate to Ken's friendly manner and wealth of information about the many vehicles currently for sale in today's complex automotive marketplace.

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