Despite the North American International Auto Show taking place in GM’s back yard, no new Voltec models are on display, but extended-range electric vehicles are definitely being promoted there and around the world.

This week GM did have a Volt with advanced connectivity at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And besides this, VIA Motors is talking up its E-REV trucks at the NAIAS, Fisker is making progress, the Ampera is generating UK and European headlines, and Infiniti wants in on the EREV act too.

Volt

A “second-generation connected research vehicle” in the form of a first-gen Volt was displayed at the CES this week by OnStar and Verizon Wireless.

The research concept boasts “a comprehensive in-vehicle experience” via streaming content from the Cloud enabled by the Verizon 4G LTE network and building on OnStar's Advanced Telematics Operating System (ATOMS).



 

Included were: rear seat infotainment management, video chat for passengers via Skype, OnStar demo of smart grid capabilities, real-time diagnostics and Eco Routing, and home energy management.

A press release says the vehicle offers “a more holistic cloud connected in-vehicle experience."

"These applications are just a glimpse of what is possible when you combine the cloud computing capabilities of OnStar and the power of the Verizon 4G LTE network," said OnStar President Linda Marshall. "Moving forward we want to continue to provide our customers with a comprehensive suite of connected services and create a seamless in-vehicle experience."

VIA Motors

VIA is actually a 10-year-old-company and for its first year of E-REV sales it is taking fleet orders for its $79,000, one-ton Chevy Silverado-based plug-in pickup.

It says it has 30 signed sales contracts, expects to sell 2,000-2,700 pickups this year, and as previously reported , will later offer an SUV and van.



The two- or four-wheel-drive pickup uses a 4.3-liter gasoline-powered V6 generator (not a smaller I-4 as previously reported), plus A123 Systems 24.4-kwh batteries, 300-kw (402-horsepower) motor driving the rear wheels. Electric range is 40 miles, total is 400, and 100 MPGe is still said to be possible.

VIA says its VTRUX can serve as a substantial electric power supply. Four on-board 120-volt outlets and one delivering 240 volts are enough to “power an arc welder all day.”

Bob Lutz, GM’s retired vice chairman and now VIA board member, said transportable power is also useful for such varied purposes as three-day camping trips and outdoor parties.

“I do believe the industry is about to be transformed,” said Lutz, explaining that vehicles like the Volt and now those by VIA offer broad possibilities. He said the paradigm change to electrified vehicles “is going to happen, no matter what.”


 

VIA's early adopters include electric utilities, among other companies, and plans are to begin production in the third quarter.

Unlike Lutz's former employers, VIA is already divulging prices will drop – in this case to $69,000 by 2013, and $64,000 by 2014. Apparently future savings are no deterrent to decisions made for corporate and institutional purchasing accounts.

Fisker

Fisker has doubled its Series D fundraising target from $150 million to $300 million, and thus far has secured $243 million this round. Key backers include Advanced Equities, a private equity firm, and venture firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and NEA.

“We have always said that as a private company, we want to stay ahead of the financial curve," Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher told gigoam.com . “In the current market situation, we thought it prudent to continue this policy and raise money that was potentially available.”

The company has now raised over $866 million in private funding aside from the $529 million Department of Energy Loan from September 2009.



 

Meanwhile, Fisker says it has nearly resolved the loose hose clamp issue for 239 recalled Karmas – be they customer cars, in inventory or on the docks. To do so, the company is either repairing the defect or exchanging the entire battery pack with a new one that includes a modified hose clamp.

The process has been comparatively painless, and Ormisher said Fisker is still on track to build $50-60,000 Project Nina EVers in Wilmington, Del.

First order of business at its refitted former GM plant will be assembling prototypes late in 2012. Ormisher said plans are to start selling production Ninas in mid-2013.

Regarding various PR issues Fisker has had to contend with, Alan Levin, director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, was quoted as saying he believes the company that's expected to bring 1,400 direct jobs to Delaware will overcome.

“They will survive this and will move forward,” he said.

Ampera

The Volt’s slightly more upscale Ampera twin – badged as a Vauxhall for the UK – is now officially available for customer ordering in sunny England.

The entry-level Vauxhall Ampera will include a DAB radio, seven-inch touch-screen control monitor, cruise control, alloy wheels, and will sell for £29,995 ($46,045).



 

This price and those following include a government-provided £5,000 plug-in car grant.

The middle-level Positiv trim package includes leather, heated front seats, front/rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, and will sell for £32,250 ($49,507).

The Electron adds a Bose infotainment system with voice-controlled satellite navigation, DVD player, 30GB hard-drive, telephone and music system with touch-screen control. Vauxhall is asking £33,995 ($52,185) for this one.

Recent news for the Opel-badged Ampera is that it is a finalist for a prestigious European “Car of the Year” award.

The deciding jury consists of 59 auto journalists from 23 European countries. They have selected seven finalists from a field of 35 cars that started selling in 2011. Criteria looked at centers on innovative technology and efficiency.

The winner will be announced at the beginning of the Geneva Motor Show on March 5.

Infiniti

Not a whole lot is known about the curvaceous extended-range sports car based on Infiniti's Essence concept and to be built around a mid-mounted 1.2-liter generator plus powerful electric motor and battery.



 

The company has been revealing enticing teaser images – juxtaposed recently with a rather uninspiring, but somewhat informative video.

More inspirational is that Infiniti is committed to making a zero-emissions car with track-ready performance.


 

Infiniti says it will thus be guilt-free greenness rolled into a scintillating package, and it's believed it will be revealed in March at the Geneva Auto Show.

Electric Cars 101

Lastly, we thought we’d tack on this U.S. Department of Energy video. It features electric cars including the Volt without calling them by name.

It's a good tutorial to send to friends who may want to get the low-down on plug-in vehicles.


 

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