Toyota reportedly pulls plug on NUMMI plant



It's over. Or more to the point, it will be. Toyota Motor Corp. has reportedly announced that it will end production at Fremont, California's New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., better known as NUMMI. Despite protestations from workers and community members to the contrary, The Associated Press is reporting that Toyota's board has voted to shutter the plant effective March 2010. The plant's future had been called into question by General Motors announcing its intention to pull-out from the groundbreaking joint venture as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.

With General Motors' pullout from the facility and the production of its Pontiac Vibe along with it, Toyota has kept the factory's 4,600 workers busy assembling the Corolla and Tacoma. The move comes amidst word that the Japanese automaker has plans to cut production by up to one million units.

For its part, California officials attempted to rally an incentives package to convince Toyota to keep the plant open, but the effort to keep the plant in operation has evidently failed. With the half-year lead time before the facility's closure, lawmakers will be looking hard to find a new tenant to take over the facility

Think exits bankruptcy, gets $47m for production move to Finland



Recent reports that Think would move the manufacturing location of its City electric cars from Norway to Finland were true. The Norwegian EV company has some even better news, though: it has received approval for its debt settlement plan and will now be able to exit court protection. Think CEO Richard Canny said the ruling means "we can re-start production of the TH!NK City as soon as possible."

Re-starting production will be helped along thanks to a capital increase of $47 million from Ener1, Valmet Automotive and Investinor, the Norwegian Government-backed investment fund. After this latest round of financing, Ener1 will own about 31 percent of Think. Valmet's new investment in Think makes sense because the contract automaker (Valmet also makes cars for Porsche and will soon begin making the Fisker Karma) should start building Think City EVs before 2009 is finished. Norwegian production will be "suspended indefinitely." What does this mean for people who want to buy a City? Canny is hopeful that first customer sales will be made "this side of 2010.

From sexy witches to EVs: Classic Costume Company buys plug-in conversion company



If you had a multi-million dollar costume company – y'know the kind that sells sexy librarian and sexy witch outfits for the October holiday – what would you do with the money? If you're Classic Costume Company, Inc. (CCUC), you decide it's time to buy two car-related companies. You start with Imperial Coachworks, Inc., makers of luxury limos. Then, you add Plug-In Motors to your stable of wholly owned subsidiaries and announce you're going to change your name to Electric Car Company, Inc.

Plug-In Motors currently offers one conversion, a Mustang that they call the Plug-In Panther, but has plans to offer six more, including Ford F-150 and F-250 trucks and Mercury Grand Marquis (or Ford Crown Victoria), "soon." The conversions to pure electric Mustangs cost $75,900 for the minimum range (85 miles) or $99,900 for the maximum range of 200 miles. While it may seem strange for a costume company to buy an EV firm, CCUC has its reasons: government money. In a recent press release announcing its name change, they explained:

Due to Federal and State grants being made available to companies in the transportation and energy industries, CCUC feels strongly that now is the time to pursue opportunities and acquisition candidates that will support our goals and to capitalize on the growing market demand for a cleaner and more efficient form of transportation that will drastically reduce our country's dependence for fossil fuels.

We'll keep our ears open, but we're pretty sure this will be the oddest story we post today

Get a free bikini car wash from Angry Green Girls



The long-standing tradition of using attractive ladies to draw attention to a cause continues unabated out in Los Angeles thanks to Angry Green Girl and her free hybrid-only bikini car wash. The girls in green offered up free car washes to drivers of hybrids, smart cars and anything they consider environmentally friendly. There's a slight bit of Miss Teen USA 2007 in Angry Green Girl's answer to the question about what she's angry about: "The environment, what we're seeing as of present, as of today, will only exacerbate - it's not going to go away of its own accord," but maybe this is somehow the fault of the video editors. The local news anchors at KTLA certainly weren't focused on her message when they discussed the clip.

Distracting anchors and getting on the news was kind of part of the idea. After all, Angry Green Girl's slogan is "Shamelessly promoting everything I got to save our world." Check is all out the videos

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Can I convert an older vehicle to something more environmentally-friendly?



Cash For Clunkers is officially over and helped put almost 700,000 new cars on the road. Now that the easy $4,500 are no longer available to buyers with low-mpg cars, we thought it'd be a good time to answer AutoblogGreen reader Adam's question that he submitted for our Greenlings series. Adam said he would like to know:

What efforts are being made via research & development that will convert existing vehicles to green vehicles? Is it not important to use the existing fleet vs. constant production of new and more vehicles? I am thinking of classic or special vehicles owners want to keep on the road once alternative engines / fuels are commercially available.
There are quite a few conversion options available to turn dirty gasoline internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. If you have a hybrid, you can get an added battery pack and a plug to make your car a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). If you want to burn natural gas in your car or truck, you can get a CNG conversion. Greasecar kits will allow your diesel car to use straight vegetable oil (SVO). There are even cheap kits to turn your gas engine into one that can burn high concentrations of ethanol (E85 fuel) in a "standard" car. If you're ready to make a huge shift, you can even take out your ICE altogether and put in a bank of batteries to make a pure electric vehicle (EV). Here are some short descriptions of these conversion types and links to get more information:

From ICE to E85
This is the easiest conversion to make. At least, it sure loooks easy. All gas engines in the U.S. are probably already burning a little bit of ethanol (most gasoline is sold with up to 10 percent ethanol in it) and changing a gas engine to burn E85 is technically feasible and there are shops around the U.S. that will install E85 kits into your car. The problem is that the federal government has given its imprimatur to only one commercially-available kit. This kit is sold by Flex Fuels U.S. and works on Dodge Chargers, Dodge Magnums, and the Chrysler 300 2wd and AWD 5.7L Hemi. Cost? $1,295.

From hybrid to PHEV

More expensive than an E85 conversion, turning a gas-electric hybrid into a plug-in vehicle seems to be the leading consumer conversion going these days. The most popular conversion kits come from Hymotion/A123 and Plug-in Conversion Corporation. Depending on the pack that is installed, the converted hybrid will get something like 30 miles of electric-only driving (at speeds below around 35 mph) before the gas engine kicks in. The cost of most of these conversions start at around $10,000, so we had to ask recently: where is the government funding for PHEV conversions?

From diesel to SVO

Another popular conversion is to go veg with an SVO kit. SVO is vegetable oil and is also known as VegOil, waste vegetable oil (WVO) and virgin vegetable oil (VVO). For SVO, you need to start with a diesel car and then find space for a separate tank to store the veggie oil (say good-bye to your spare tire). You'll still burn a bit of diesel fuel with an SVO kit when the car starts up, but once everything is heated up, you can get off the petroleum completely as you drive. SVO conversions start at around $2,000. To learn more about SVO

To CNG

Converting a vehicle to burn compressed natural gas or propane has long been the purview of fleet managers across the U.S. Roush offers factory conversions of many big Ford trucks, taking the vehicles directly from Ford and putting in their own propane systems. In Europe, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) conversions are popular and sometimes available with stylish looks. Costs for these conversions vary widely, but start at a few thousand dollars. As with all of these conversions, it makes sense to educate yourself and look out for cheap installers who want to cut corners. For more on natural gas vehicles


To EV

We've covered pure electric conversions in a previous Greenlings. EV conversions often fall into two categories: DIY home conversions done on the cheap and expensive conversions of expensive cars. In the first category, we can point you to previous articles about a teenager who converted his 1988 Mazda pick-up and these shade tree mechanics who lovingly reworked a 1936 Chevy sedan. There are also a lot of ways to learn how to do these conversions yourself. As for the expensive versions – and this would probably interest the classic or special vehicles owners that Adam was asking about – there is no lack of companies who will take your ride and put in batteries and an electric motor. We recommend reading EVAlbum and looking for local conversion shops through the Electric Auto Association to get started. If you don't want to convert your own vehicle, go ahead and order an electric Mustang (for $80,000) or a Shelby Cobra ($125,000). That's pretty expensive, but in the EV conversion game, prices range from $1,000 or so to as much as you want to pay for batteries. You get what you pay for

Hyundai Motor India to phase out Getz



Country's second largest car maker, Hyundai Motor India, is planning to phase out its hatch-back Getz and focus on its other small car i20.

"Getz is to be phased-out gradually. We will stop production of Getz at our Chennai plant," Hyundai Motor India Managing Director HS Lheem said on the sidelines of the SIAM annual convention in New Delhi.

He, however, did not give any specific time frame for the final phase-out of the car.

"We will focus more on the i20 which will replace the segment of Getz," he added.

Invasion of the Smarts



Typically, the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit, Michigan, is a gathering ground for classic American cars, trucks and motorcycles. As you can see from our coverage of this year's festivities, the 2009 edition was little different from past years... mostly.

We noted some sort of concerted effort from the Smart Fortwo crowd to add a German flair to the proceedings, and we saw license plates represented from at least four states. Although we didn't get a good count on just how many of the diminutive little city cars made the pilgrimage to The Motor City, there were at least a few dozen in a row at one point traveling down Woodward Avenue, and we had our digital SLRs locked and loaded with fresh memory cards at the ready to capture the even

Holden Commodore gets new fuel sipping options



General Motors' Holden division down in Australia has been building the company's 3.6-liter high feature V6 at its Melbourne plant since the engine first launched in 2003. Until now, however, the Australian plant has only built the original port fuel injected variant. For 2010, Holden is adding the new 3.0-liter variant that is also being used in a number of North American market models like the new Equinox, LaCrosse and CTS. Another first for Holden is that both engines are now direct injected across the board.

When paired up with the 6L50 6-speed automatic that is now standard on the V6 models, the Commodore Omega is now rated at a combined 25.3 mpg (U.S.) on the Australian driving cycle. The Commodores benefit from weight reductions, new low rolling resistance tires and other upgrades.

The 3.6-liter versions also get fuel efficiency improvements from the direct injection ranging from 7-13 percent while power improves from 262 to 282 hp. The upgraded engines will be available in the Commodore family starting in September.

SB LiMotive to supply batteries for BMW Megacity electric car



BMW is one step closer to getting its upcoming Megacity electric vehicle on the road. According to the German automaker, SB LiMotive, a 50:50 joint venture of Bosch and Samsung SDI, has been officially selected as the battery supplier for the Megacity project. Samsung, which is already a market leader in batteries for personal electronics applications, will reportedly deliver the individual lithium ion battery cells while Bosch will handle the job of assembling these cells into large-scale packs suitable for automotive use.

Milestone for future electric vehicle

Munich. The BMW Group has opted for SB LiMotive as the supplier of battery cells for the future project Megacity Vehicle. This gives the company access to state-of-the-art lithium-ion storage technology. "The decision is a major milestone along the way to serial production of the Megacity Vehicle. The battery is a key component in any electric vehicle - it determines the range and performance of the car. With SB LiMotive we have selected a supplier who offers the best available technology, combining leading German automotive expertise with future-oriented Korean battery know-how," explains Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

SB LiMotive is a 50:50 joint venture of Bosch and Samsung SDI. Here the two companies pool their expertise to develop and produce lithium-ion storage cells. Samsung SDI is a leader in the use of lithium-ion batteries in mobile phones and laptops. The technology has a proven track record in this area of application with millions of products to its name. However, integration in an automobile requires higher standards in terms of durability, operational stability and safety. Here, Bosch contributes its experience from a company history which goes back over 100 years.

"In this collaborative effort, three global technology leaders are coming together to shape the future of the electric vehicle. With our SB LiMotive joint venture as a supplier for the Megacity Vehicle's battery cells, we are sure that we can play a major role here," says Franz Fehrenbach, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH.

"Our foremost objective is to supply BMW with the best battery technology available in terms of performance, range, and safety. At the same time, we want to establish SB LiMotive lithium-ion battery cells as a sustainable product which, after being used in the car, can be reused in other areas or recycled," says Soon Taek Kim, CEO of Samsung SDI.

By opting for a battery supplier, the BMW Group underscores its commitment to electric mobility. The company concentrates its activities relating to electric motoring and urban mobility solutions in project i, an initiative which forms part of Strategy Number ONE. The first outcome of project i is the MINI E: this purely electrically powered vehicle is currently the focus of a large-scale field test involving some 600 vehicles in the US, Great Britain and Germany. Insights gained during this field test will be just as essential to the serial development of both the Megacity Vehicle as the battery technology. The zero-emissions vehicle will go into serial production in the first half of the next decade.

BMW will create new electric vehicle sub-brand



BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer told Reuters this week that its future electric cars will be badged as BMWs. This contradicts some earlier rumors that the automaker would revive another brand such as Triumph or Isetta for its electric vehicles. The company will stick with its existing BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce brands. Reithofer did reveal that the board has voted to create a sub-brand for electric vehicles. This new sub-brand would be along the lines of the "M" badging currently used for high performance models. These new vehicles will be targeted at urban drivers and include a two wheeler. The first of these new vehicles will likely start appearing sometime around 2012-13.

Chevy Cruze Bumblebee by Irmscher



As Europeans await the official arrival of the Chevrolet Camaro on the continent, the smaller family-sized Cruze is taking its shine. Tuning and design firm Irmscher has transformed the Cruze into a Transformers 2 centrepiece, basing the look and feel on the Camaro Bumblebee. The basis for the car is a 1.8 LT automatic model.

The Irmscher model features orange colour 18-inch wheels with the Turbo Star design and 225mm-wide tyres. These are unique to the Cruze Bumblebee. Irmscher has lowered the body by some 30mm and fitted an orange rear diffuser to match the wheels. Orange is carried through as a double-stripe hanging over the black body as well as on the side mirrors. The tuner is confident that interest will be so deep in Cruze Bumblebee that a series might come out of it.

Prices will be available on request to people wishing for the kit. For the rest who want a test drive of the standard car and not the Bumblebee version, their nearest dealership could arrange one. Alternatively the Frankfurt Motor Show will have factory units available for the public to drive.

BMW 3 Series Coupe and Convertible Facelift Spy Photos



BMW unveiled the facelifted 3 Series sedan. The time will soon come for the Coupe and the Convertible to show their faces in full too. But for now we must satisfy our curiosity with these spy pictures of both models doing final testing before their public debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Modifications include a new front bumper, headlamps, LED rear lights and a new rear bumper. Previous spy pictures showed only the front bumper in disguise but these snapped shots show the true changes. Both models will exhibit these changes when unveiled in September.

Since BMW has a habit of escorting a new product launch or update with a new engine or an upgraded one, our curiosity is running at full speed trying to figure out which new powerplant will accompany these cars. That information might leak out ahead of the show. If not then the wait will be a long one.