NHTSA says electric vehicles, hybrids must be loud enough for blind to hear

Government safety regulators have set a new standard that requires hybrids and electric vehicles to generate enough noise so pedestrians and blind people can hear them in crosswalks and parking lots.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates the new standard could prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries annually once all electrified vehicles are properly equipped. Because these vehicles run on batteries, especially in low-speed environments such as parking lots and at traffic lights, they are extremely quiet. While that may be a pleasant effect for nearby residents, it presents a risk to the visually impaired or even to non-handicapped pedestrians who are not paying attention.The situation will become more urgent in large cities where implementation of ride-hailing fleets will grow fastest. Most of these vehicles, whether autonomous or human-driven, will have electrified powertrains. ►Related: The self-driving revolution will be mostly electricUnder the new rule, all hybrid and electric vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to about 19 miles per hour. At higher speeds,  tire and wind noise provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.Automakers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard.  Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, commended NHTSA for the new rule."This regulation will ensure that blind Americans can continue to travel safely and independently as we work, learn, shop and engage in all facets of community life,” Riccobono said.“This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians — especially folks who are blind or have low vision — make their way Continue Reading

Officials to unveil incentives for zero-emission trucks as Smith Electric Vehicles announces Bronx factory

Gov. Cuomo wants the Empire State to keep on trucking - and do it clean and green. Zero-emission trucks sold in New York will now come with $20,000 checks from the Feds via the state, thanks to a new incentive program designed to improve air quality and the environment. State officials will unveil the program on Tuesday in the Bronx and leading electric truck manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles will confirm plans to build a $5 million factory in the borough. The $10 million incentive program -- still being developed -- is funded by the federal Department of Transportation, modeled on an existing California program and makes New York a national leader in green trucking, said Bryan Hansel, CEO of Smith. Smith will announce on Tuesday plans to renovate a 90,000-square foot warehouse in Port Morris and create more than 100 jobs over seven years. “California has always been out front when it comes to the environment,” Hansel told the Daily News. “Now New York is showing leadership.” The incentive program will mark down the cost of 500 vehicles per year, covering commercial vehicles that weigh at least 10,000 pounds, Hansel said. Smith will receive millions in benefits from the city and state to pay for the Bronx factory, including $3.4 million from the Empire State Development Corp., $1.5 million from the state Energy Research and Development Authority and $1.7 million from the city Industrial Devbelopment Agency. “Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, we are creating a better business environment that will result in more jobs for New Yorkers,” said Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams. "This project represents another key building block in the foundation of a stronger economy.” But Hansel said the incentive plan -- funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program -- is what led the Kansas City, MO-based company to choose New York over Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. “We needed to Continue Reading

Electric truck firm Smith Electric Vehicles all the buzz in the Bronx

THE WORLD'S top electric truck manufacturer hopes to open a new factory in the South Bronx that could create more than 100 jobs over seven years.Smith Electric Vehicles has requested $1.7 million in tax breaks from the New York City Industrial Development Agency to help it renovate a 90,000-square-foot warehouse in Port Morris.The Kansas City-based company builds zero-emission delivery trucks that top out at 55 mph. Smith's customers include Coca-Cola, Staples, Frito-Lay and the Marine Corps.Smith would pay Bronx workers $46,372 per year on average, according to its proposal.The Empire State Development Corp. and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. have also vowed to help Smith help the Bronx.The plan's "exciting," said Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, a watchdog group."This is the type of development that will actually help folks that live in the Bronx," said Damiani, who has criticized tax breaks awarded to the Yankees and megadeveloper The Related Cos.Smith CEO Bryan Hansel said the Bronx deal is not final, but the firm has requested New York City land tax, building tax and sales tax breaks. It would start rehabbing the former Port Morris lamp warehouse in Nov. 2012 and open in Dec. 2013. The company expects to spend $5 million on the project. It would open with seven workers and grow to 103 by 2020.The industrial development agency will hold a public hearing on Smith's request for benefits Thursday at 10 a.m. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Self-driving electric vehicles to make car ownership vanish

SAN FRANCISCO — So if you're skeptical or nervous about the coming age of self-driving cars, consider this incentive: a $20 Uber or Lyft fare could be slashed to $2.Better yet, it might even be free if the ride provider is, say, a Starbucks autonomous ride-sharing van that's covering the cost of your 40-cent commute by selling you a pricey latte.And this isn't a vision of the future for today's toddlers, but likely to happen within a decade of the anticipated 2020 rollout of autonomous vehicles.Those are just some of the provocative predictions in the first report out Thursday from RethinkX, an independent think tank focusing on technology's impact on transportation, energy, finance and healthcare.According to RethinkX, while self-driving vehicles may still seem like a science fair project to many, the technology soon will become so culturally ubiquitous that it will lead to the abandonment of car ownership, a $1 trillion boost in disposable income and a "catastrophic" shift for the oil industry and driver economy."Mainstream talk about self-driving cars suggests the big transformation could still be decades out, but it's time to adjust our thinking," says Tony Seba, co-author with James Arbib of "Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the ICE Vehicle and Oil Industries."Tech companies such as Alphabet and automakers such as Ford have long been targeting around 2020 for the first commercial rollout of self-driving ride-hailing fleets.That debut is most likely to happen in select cities where both lawmakers and the public are willing to embrace such a radical shift, and experts believe a national embrace of autonomous vehicles will be slow in coming.In contrast, RethinkX is predicting an overnight sensation that will be no less transformative than the Model T's erasure of the horse and buggy, the printing press's impact on literacy and one modern tech Continue Reading

Can Chevy Bolt turn tide for electric vehicles?

A 200-mile range from a quicker single charge are major selling points for the the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, which General Motors hopes can give it a leg up in a market of stagnant or falling gas prices.The Bolt, which debuted Monday at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, will go into production late this year at GM's Orion assembly plant.Another key selling point is price, which has not been officially announced. But Chevrolet and GM officials have said repeatedly the price will be about $30,000 after federal and state tax credits for all-electric vehicles. That is about where Chevrolet originally priced the larger Volt extended-range plug-in electric about six years ago, and it hasn't sold in large volumes.Now with gas prices below $2 a gallon in much of the country, electric vehicles are struggling to gain traction as falling oil and gas prices are leading many consumers to place a higher priority on size, horsepower and storage capacity than on avoiding gas pumps."The average transaction (selling) price in the U.S. is actually over that," said Alan Batey, president of GM North America and global head of Chevrolet. "We think we've really hit the sweet spot here."Most buyers will need an extra option that will include installation of a 240-volt home charging system, and Chevrolet hasn't disclosed how much that will cost. Those whose daily commute is about 50 miles will be able to recharge in about two hours, Chevrolet officials said."The Bolt is finally an EV with a decent amount of range and a potential appeal to a much wider audience because of the way it’s priced,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader.com.Through use of GM's OnStar RemoteLink app and a Bluetooth technology, drivers can use their smartphones to unlock and start the Bolt and transfer data from their phones to the Bolt's navigation system and monitor the charge status. That's a feature that was designed with Continue Reading

City approves tax breaks for Smith Electric Vehicles to open $5 million truck factory in the South Bronx

Plans to open a $5 million electric truck factory in the South Bronx chugged ahead Wednesday, with the city approving $1.7 million in tax breaks for Smith Electric Vehicles. The world’s top electric truck manufacturer hopes to use the benefits to renovate a 90,000-square-foot warehouse in Port Morris and create more than 100 jobs over seven years. “We are delighted to have a manufacturer coming to — not leaving — New York and the Bronx,” said Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. The board of the New York City Industrial Development Agency voted unanimously to grant Smith the sales and real estate tax exemptions. The Kansas City, Mo.-based company builds zero-emission delivery trucks for customers such as Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Staples and the Marine Corps. “The opening of a facility in the Bronx by Smith Electric Vehicles would be a boon to the city’s economy and would represent an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to grow the industrial sector,” said Seth Pinsky, IDA chairman. “By approving these benefits today, we hope to induce millions of dollars in private investment in the Bronx, leading to the creation of dozens of new, well-paying industrial and green jobs.” The deal is not yet final, said a Smith spokesman. But the company has also applied for state benefits and CEO Bryan Hansel told the Daily News that New York is “a great place to do business." Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, a watchdog group critical of many IDA projects, applauded Wednesday’s vote. She said Smith deserves the benefits because it has vowed to “create jobs in a low-income neighborhood with decent wages and good benefits.” The company would pay its Bronx workers $46,372 per year on average. Smith would start rehabbing the shuttered Port Morris lamp warehouse next November and open the factory in late 2013 or early 2014. It would hire seven workers Continue Reading

Carmakers hedge bets with electric vehicles

Automakers are moving aggressively to develop electric cars as governments in key markets in China, India, Europe — even California — consider banning gas and diesel engines.Paris officials this month announced a plan to ban gasoline-powered cars from city streets by 2030. The move came after the city’s mayor said diesels would be banned by 2024, when Paris hosts the Summer Olympics.California Gov. Jerry Brown is considering a ban on sales of internal combustion engines in that state — perhaps in a decade. Bans in China and Britain would take effect in 2040, while India says it is setting an “aspirational target” of all-electric sales by 2030.The flurry of activity comes at a time when the Trump administration is focused on rolling back stringent gas mileage rules put in place under former President Barack Obama. Those rules — which encourage development of electric and fuel-cell powered cars — would require automakers to produce fleets that average over 50 miles per gallon by 2025.Electric-vehicle boosters worry the Trump administration will eliminate a federal tax credit that provides up to $7,500 to drivers who purchase electric cars. And they say the U.S. lags in creating the charging stations necessary to drastically boost the number of EVs on the nation’s roads.Automakers say they can’t wait for Washington to move forward because they have to compete in foreign markets where the future of gas and diesel engines looks dim.General Motors Co. earlier this month said it was planning for a future in which none of its cars or trucks are powered by gasoline or diesel. It said it would introduce at least 20 new all-electric, zero-emission vehicles by 2023, including two in the next 18 months that are based on the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt.That same day, Ford Motor Co. said it would introduce 13 new electric or hybrid vehicles globally in the next five years.Speaking in Washington, GM CEO Mary Barra Continue Reading

New York Hertz hopes addition of Nissan LEAF Electric Vehicle will recharge business

Car rental giant Hertz has seen the future, and it's electric.The company Monday unveiled the newest addition to its New York fleet - the Nissan LEAF Electric Vehicle, which Hertz plans to have available for city drivers by next January.Hertz - which has a Connect program similar to that of Zipcar - is hoping a car that has been charged and requires no gas will appeal to drivers paying hourly rates.Richard Broome, a Hertz spokesman, said he expects 15 to 20 all-electric vehicles to be on the road here by the end of next year.As an incentive to renters, Hertz Monday offered a $75 credit to drivers who go electric - equal to about six hours of free driving. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Automakers say electric vehicles will soon become viable alternatives to gas-guzzlers

Choices, choices, choices. After a century of producing cars that ran solely on gasoline, the world’s automakers are working overtime to present a variety of options, including hybrids, biofuel-powered cars, and vehicles that run on hydrogen. Some of the biggest bets are riding on Americans getting charged up over the notion of mass-produced electric cars. Most eagerly anticipated is the 2010 Chevrolet Volt, which General Motors is calling an “extended range electric vehicle.” According to Rob Peterson, manager of electric vehicle technology communications with General Motors in Detroit, the Volt features a nearly 400-pound T-shaped lithium-ion battery that’s aligned down the vehicle’s center spine beneath the passenger compartment. The battery propels the Volt for its first 40 miles on a charge. That number is significant, Peterson says, because nearly 80% of the U.S. population faces daily one-way commutes of less than 20 miles. Once the battery reaches a lower state of charge, the Volt’s gasoline-powered generator kicks in to recharge the battery, allowing it to continue powering the vehicle down the road for a few hundred additional miles. But those who stay within that 40-mile round-trip to work each day wouldn’t need the generator  and could ostensibly do 100% of their commuting on pure electricity. Some observers believe cars that run on lithium-ion batteries, on which GM is banking heavily, are more likely to be profitable in the long-term than current hybrid technology. Because so-called two-mode hybrids feature two separate power trains — one gas and one electric — they are expensive to manufacture, and even economies of scale will not mitigate that cost. In addition, the nickel-hydride batteries used exclusively in today’s hybrids is also exceptionally costly, owing to the fact that nickel is an expensive metal that’s expected to become even more so over time. The price to Continue Reading

Analysis: New tech pushes the electric vehicle revolution into overdrive

Connie Francis sang about “Where the Boys Are” in 1961. Well, the bright boys and girls are flooding into transportation.It is the place of cutting-edge invention: not cell phones, they were so last year; not computers, they were so last century. The smartest students leaving university may well find the adventure of creating in transportation.A science-led revolution is in the making in transportation. Leading this revolution is the electric car. It is no longer a drawing-board dream. It is here and gaining market share, albeit miniscule at present.The surge to electric-powered transportation goes beyond the Tesla and Elon Musk — although Musk has been a catalyst. All manufacturers are now making or investigating electric cars. But the electric car is only a beginning: buses, trucks, trains, boats ships and even airplanes are in the mix.China is throwing government and private resources into an electric future. France, Britain and eight other countries have declared that they will ban the internal combustion engine by mid-century. Volvo has said that it will stop\making fossil fuel-powered cars.At the extreme end of the electric car excitement are automated vehicles. These have caught the imagination — and the dollars — of Google and Uber. But Detroit is also is coming to realize that it has to go electric. General Motors has paved its way with the EV1 and the Volt. Others are scrambling.The political pressure behind the urge to go electric is clean air, reduced noise and, for many countries, the end of a huge oil bill.One hundred and forty years after Thomas Edison first perfected a light bulb, electricity is once again a major disruptive technology – and not just on the surface of the Earth. Electric aircraft are in design with short-haul, small-load passenger versions flying in Dubai. Mighty Boeing has teamed up with innovative JetBlue to work on an electric-powered aircraft, although these might have to wait for much better Continue Reading