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The 2013 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid (PHEV) earned the highest possible “five-star” Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In its testing, the 2013 C-MAX Energi, Ford’s other PHEV on the market, received a 4-star overall rating from NHTSA.
NHTSA has elected to test plug-in vehicles separately from vehicles powered by gasoline internal combustion engines. The Ford Fusion and the Ford Fusion Hybrid already received five-star safety ratings. The C-MAX hybrid received a four-star rating.
At the end of April, Ford had sold 778 units of the Fusion Energi since the PHEV went on sale in February. The company has sold 3,951 units of the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid since it went on sale in October 2012.
The NHTSA five-star rating for the Fusion Energi comes in addition to the 2013 Fusion being named a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in December. The Top Safety Pick + designation is the highest rating the organization has for vehicle safety.
The Fusion Energi also features the Personal Safety System with safety belt technologies and front impact airbags. The Personal Safety System is a network of components that work together to tailor the deployment of the front airbags during frontal collisions. Other driver assist technologies available on the Fusion Energi include:
The Fusion Energi gets an EPA fuel economy rating of 108 MPGe.
In a forecast of the Lithium market through 2017, Roskill Information Services estimates that rechargeable batteries will, in the base-case growth scenario, contribute 75% of the growth in forecast lithium demand to 2017, when total demand for lithium is expected to reach slightly more than 238,000t lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE). Roskill is an international metals and minerals market research firm.
Batteries accounted for 27% of global lithium consumption in 2012, up from 15% in 2007 and 8% in 2002. This end-use was responsible for 44% of the net increase in lithium consumption over the last ten years, and 70% over the last five years.
Other end-uses, including glass-ceramics, greases and polymers, have also shown high rates of growth, but are predicted to moderate over the next five years as emerging economy growth slows. The lithium industry is therefore becoming more reliant on rechargeable batteries to sustain high rates of future demand growth, Roskill concludes.
In addition, in the period to 2017 Roskill forecasts that the main market driver for lithium-ion batteries will gradually switch from portable consumer electronics to electric vehicles, especially hybrid variants.
Reflecting the concentration of lithium-ion battery manufacturers and associated cathode material producers in China, Japan and South Korea, the East Asia region has become an increasingly important consumer of lithium products over the last decade. In 2012, East Asia accounted for 60% of total global consumption with Europe accounting for a further 24% and North America 9%.
Roskill’s analysis suggests that the price of technical-grade lithium carbonate, the main product produced and consumed in the lithium market, recovered some of its global economic downturn losses as the market tightened in 2012, averaging US$5,300/t, up 15% from 2010. This is below the 2007 peak of US$6,500/t, but well above the US$2,000-3,000/t levels seen in the early 2000s.
Lithium extraction, which totalled more than 168,000t LCE in 2012, is undertaken predominately in Australia, Chile, Argentina and China, with roughly half of lithium output from hard rock sources and half from brine. Production is dominated by Talison Lithium in Australia, SQM and Rockwood Lithium in Chile, and FMC in Argentina.
Just more than two-thirds of lithium minerals extracted in Australia are processed into downstream chemical products in China, where producers such as Tianqi Lithium (who recently acquired Talison to secure a captive supply of mineral feedstock) operate mineral conversion plants.
Galaxy Resources commissioned a new 17,000 tpy LCE mineral conversion plant in China in 2012. Canada Lithium is in the process of commissioning a 20,000 tpy LCE plant in Quebec and several existing Chinese mineral conversion plants are also expanding capacity. FMC has increased brine-based processing capacity by a third in Argentina, while nearby Orocobre is also constructing a new brine-based operation due to be completed in 2014.
In addition, Rockwood Lithium plans to complete a 20,000 tpy LCE expansion in Chile in 2014. Combined, this additional capacity totals just under 100,000 tpy LCE, enough to meet forecast demand to 2017.
As the opening of new and expanded capacity is concentrated over the next two years, Roskill forecasts that the lithium market could witness increased competition and supply-side pressure on pricing, with prices for technical-grade lithium carbonate potentially falling back to around US$5,000/t CIF in 2014.
The Nikkei reported that Toyota Motor Corp. plans to increase its output of lithium-ion batteries for the Prius and other models to more than 200,000 units a year.
Most of Toyota’s hybrids still rely on NiMH batteries. The Nikkei report said that Toyota hopes to extend the range of its hybrid cars by reducing their weight with smaller lithium-ion batteries.
PEVE, in which the carmaker holds an 80% stake and Panasonic Corp. the remainder, has a production line at its Teiho factory in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture that can turn out 36,000 lithium-ion batteries per year, but the line does not have the capacity to meet Toyota’s production target.
Environmental concerns over the practise of hydraulic fracturing to tap shale gas will be on the European Union's agenda this year, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told a German newspaper.
The Alto and the 800 have long been Maruti Suzuki’s best selling models. However, more stringent emission norms have meant the 800 has been removed from sale in major cities. The Alto, on the other hand, has gone on to become India’s best selling car, despite being a little behind the times when it comes to design. Both the 800 and the Alto have been great sellers for the company for years, but they were due for a revamp.
After a dip in sales of the Alto, the company carried out a makeover of the chassis and released the Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 under the A-Star. It has been just four months since the launch and the sales figures are astounding, even setting several milestones. So far, an average of 25,000 units per month have been sold. Perhaps this is not as surprising when one considers that even before the actual launch it clocked a record breaking 6,500 sales. Within the first week, it had already broken another record by reaching the 21,000 mark. While other players such as Ford, Toyota and General Motors saw dips in sales in November 2012, Maruti Suzuki sales witnessed a strong increase. Continuing this trend, within just 124 days, sales of the Alto 800 reached the 1 lakh (100,000) milestone.
Needless to say, automobile manufacturers who do not have Indian bases do not reach such numbers annually. The Hyundai Eon and the Chevrolet Spark, which are considered to be Alto 800’s main rivals, do not sell even half of what the Alto sells per month. The country’s confidence in the Maruti Suzuki brand has enabled this level of success and the brand’s dominance of the Indian car market.
Maruti Suzuki has been promoting the Alto for over 10 years and in order for them to continue to do so, they have revamped both the exterior and interior, reflecting a more modern and attractive design. The Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 is more spacious than its predecessors; it has more leg, shoulder and head room and it is the brand’s first to get the new front grille design. It is possible that the company will introduce this design feature on other models as well. The platform and engine options remain the same, though the fuel efficiency has reportedly improved by 15%. The CNG (compressed natural gas) version, which is available in India, has a very efficient mileage of 30 km per litre.
Small cars are not guaranteed to be successful in the Indian car market. A good example of this would be the Tata Nano which, despite huge publicity, has not seen the high sales that were expected. However, Honda, which recently launched the Amaze sedan, is toying with the idea of creating a low-price car under the Brio model which it claims will compete with the Maruti Suzuki Alto 800 and the Hyundai Eon. Only time will tell if they are successful in their endeavour, but presently it looks as though Maruti Suzuki has made a brilliant move by introducing the Alto 800 which is likely to increase consumer confidence in their brand and keep ahead of competition.
The German Federal Government is hosting an international conference on e-mobility, “Electric Mobility Going Global” later this month (27-28 May) in Berlin; Germany’s chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel is scheduled to give a speech on the first conference day.
The conference is conducted in cooperation with the National Electric Mobility Platform (NPE). The German Federal Government is inviting speakers and participants to discuss the potential and challenges of electric mobility.
Among those slated to speak is the new US Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, as well as Dr. Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, China.
The conference language is German, with simultaneous translation to English. Video streaming will be offered through the website of the conference.