MINI EVs to California, Prius’ to Mississippi, algae-to-biofuels in Texas

MINI electric vehicles to California, Prius’ to Mississippi, algae-to-biofuels in Texas

By Lou Ann Hammond

MINIs take a bigger role in BMW AG’s strategy:

“This step will allow the BMW Group to gain an initial knowledge of how mobility can be achieved efficiently using purely electrically powered vehicles. Our task here is to combine the ultimate driving experience with an efficient electrified drive with practically no emissions”, underlined Dr. Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

MINI, a subsidiary of BMW AG, sent out a press release that said that BMW AG, which consists of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce has an alternative energy strategy. Number one on the list of that strategy is alternative energy, and the company will begin extensive tests on electric drives in MINI vehicles.

One BMW spokesperson conjectured that it made sense that the MINIs would be sent to California since California has a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate on their books. You put two and two together and you have MINI electric cars going to California.

Several hundred cars, built in the Oxford plant, will be modified accordingly in Munich and fitted out for trials. The tests on alternative drives in a MINI body will be used over the next 12-18 months to refine the technology. Details about the drive concept and it’s marketing will be published towards the end of the year.

BMW AG’s strategy is looking at a multi-faceted alternative strategy that includes ZEV vehicles, diesel, battery electric hybrid and hydrogen vehicles.

Toyota sales stay big as long as their cars stay small:

“The truck market continues to worsen, so unfortunately we must temporarily suspend production.” said Jim Wiseman, vice president/external affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA).

Want a Prius? Take a number. Prius’ are hotter than the I-phone. You’ll have to wait longer for a Prius than Angelina Jolie had to wait for her twins to arrive.

This is a move that we have not seen the Big 3 make: the ability, the flexibility to halt production of a slow selling vehicle and move production of their fastest selling vehicle to a bigger facility while a mediocre selling vehicle moves to a different vehicle.

In a move that may help the Big 3 just a little, Toyota has announced that they will suspend production for 3 months of the Tundra and Sequoia because of weak sales. Production is supposed to resume in November. Tundra sales, month over month, were down 52%, only the Hummer H2 took a bigger nosedive at 60% loss. The Ford F-series was down 40%, and the Silverado was down 24%.

The Prius has always been built in Japan, so why is Toyota deciding to build the Prius in North America when the sales of that vehicle were down 33% month over month? Because Toyota can’t produce enough Prius’ in their plants in Japan. Americans are buying every Prius made, and there is a year long waiting list. The Prius will be built at a plant under construction in Blue Springs, Miss, near Tupelo. Production is scheduled to begin in late 2010. Prius will join the Kentucky-built Camry Hybrid as the second Toyota hybrid built in North America.

Sales of Prius for 2008:
12,227 january
10,370 – february
13,056 – march
21,756 – april
17,756 -may
11,765-june

The Highlander mid-size SUV, originally scheduled to be built in Mississippi, will now be manufactured in Princeton, Ind., beginning in Fall, 2009. Sales for the Highlander were down 39% month over month in June.

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The Saudi Arabia of biofuels?

The Financial Times wrote an article on July 11, 2008 called “The curse and blessing of algae” talking about China and their algae problem. But this problem could turn a boom for China. And I’ll bet you PetroSun is already talking to China.

In an article on gas2.org PetroSun has announced it will begin operation of it’s commercial algae-to-biofuels facility on April 1st, 2008. The facility, located in Rio Hondo Texas, will produce an estimated 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million lbs. of biomass per year off a series of saltwater ponds spanning 1,100 acres. Twenty of those acres will be reserved for the experimental production of a renewable JP8 jet-fuel.

The biomass left-over from oil-pressing can either be fed to cattle as a protein supplement, or fermented into ethanol.

China has an expansive amount of coal that they are looking at producing coal to liquid. According to National Geographic China produces the most rapeseed, the product to make biodiesel, of any country. Now the algae that is clogging their port in Qingdao could fuel the barges that will be bringing our cars to us in 10-15 years.

Listen to Lou Ann Hammond on the the John Batchelor show talking about these issues:

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.