News from the just-getting-started world of extended-range electric vehicles has been a mix of positive reports as well as some stories for which we're still awaiting full resolution.

Both General Motors and Fisker share in common a tenacious ability to keep receiving awards, and they also have both had to contend with minor technical concerns.

Aside from this, we’ll mention a couple more briefed stories, including one about KSPG, a company that has shown a compact range-extending engine at the Detroit Auto Show that can be added to a battery electric vehicle.

KSPG

KSPG Automotive (formerly Kolbenschmidt Pierburg) is a German automotive supplier, and a subsidiary of Rheinmetall AG.

It and FEV have co-developed a 30-kw range extender for battery-electric vehicles. The 800cc, four-stroke V-Twin is the size of a motorcycle engine, weighs about 137 pounds, and is combined with two 15-kw generators.

The range extender is designed to drop into a space around the size of a spare tire well, or anywhere else and thus upgrade a BEV into a serial hybrid.



 

According to AutoblogGreen , KSPG Automotive's Gerd Kleinert said this is a solution for our time.

"We are convinced that this is a kind of bridge technology from the current combustion engine to electric drive," he said. "The biggest point in electric cars is still the battery. If someone offers a battery that is the size of a 50-liter [13.2-gallon] gas tank with the same energy content with the same weight that you can recharge it in three minutes, everyone would drive electric."

Of course unless a battery tech breakthrough happens, EVs with this energy density aren't available yet.

"That's the reason we think there is a need for this bridge technology because it guarantees you will get home," Kleinert said, "even if you run out of electricity. You only need a small battery, which drives the cost down."

Kleinert said that in recent months KSPG has talked to EV makers to design-in its range extender. To offset the cost of doing this, talk is of specifying a smaller battery pack than would otherwise be called for.

KSPG reportedly began working on the range extender about a year ago, first showed it at Frankfurt, and the company said it is capable of producing 10,000 units per year.

It intends to assemble a working prototype vehicle this summer and said it knows MSRP will be a sensitive issue, and without specifying estimates, said the price will be “acceptable.”

For a more comprehensive review of this range extender concept, check out GreenCarCongress .

Fisker

Just days after Fisker’s recall of 239 six-figure Karmas to fix a loose hose clamp, Fisker is issuing another minor recall and again halting sales until it handles the new bug.

This one is a potential software fault that has produced symptoms including random check-engine lights coming on, and inoperative infotainment systems.


Shoppers passing Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, London can eye the Fisker Karma as they arrive for the Winter Sale. The EVer will take pride of place in the prominent Brompton Road window display until February 4.

Fisker has taken steps to say the issues are nothing to be concerned about, and to really let everyone know it cares about its customers, Henrik Fisker committed to calling Karma owners with a personal apology.

And in other wholly positive news, Fisker has been collecting some awards – as the photo at world-famous Harrods shows – and Fisker issued a press release to elaborate.

“In recent weeks, this has included Top Gear’s Luxury Car of the Year, Automobile’s Design of the Year Award, listing in TIME Magazine’s Top 50 Innovations of 2012, a Global Green Design Award, and noted Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte named the Karma their Most Stylish Car of 2012,” Fisker Automotive said.

Henrik Fisker said he is “happy, humbled and very proud,” and added “We have always had a great deal of faith in the appeal of the cars we create, but to have that recognized by critics so early on in the Karma’s lifespan is really fantastic.”

Volt

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson will make his first appearance on Capitol Hill since September 2010, this time to answer a U.S. House panel next week about battery issues.

"Dan has agreed to testify at the hearing, and he looks forward to doing it," GM spokesman Greg Martin told The Detroit News.

As GM-Volt readers are aware, the inquiry is about whether safety regulators properly handled reported Volt fire risks.



 

We’ll note also that this entire process will be viewed by some in the know as nothing more than absurd political theater.

Unfortunately in this election year, there are political opponents who’d like to make certain points, and the Volt has been caught in the middle.

Many observers have noted this whole issue has been overblown, GM has been credited with handling it well so far, but it also has a preemptive ad campaign standing by, if winds of perception fan further flames against it.

"I have a contingency plan. It's ready to go" said GM’s marketing head Joel Ewanick to USA Today.

The ads are described as “honest and straightforward” and would direct people to a Web site or other technical resource to explain the issues.

The dilemma for GM is timing. It does not want to alarm people about concerns, but only wants to respond if necessary.

Meanwhile, GM is not just busy in Washington, but also in Shanghai.

Stories were re-circulating recently by mainstream sources like USA Today and conservative political bloggers too, that GM signed a deal to co-develop an EV with its joint venture partner SAIC in the Peoples’ Republic.

Reports cited quotes made a few months ago by GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky hinting the Volt could be made in China one day.

“If we localize, eventually it won’t have a tariff and it will get the subsidy," he said. "We have made no decision on if, when or where we build Volt in the future.”

Girsky also reiterated assertions that neither SAIC nor the Chinese government have demanded Volt technology.


The Volt at its launch at Auto Guangzhou 2011. From left to right: Ye Yongming, President of Shanghai GM; Chen Hong, President of SAIC Motor; Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of the GM China Group; and Joseph Liu, Executive Vice President of Shanghai GM).

At the same time, observers note future EVs would draw on lessons and technology learned from the Volt, Spark EV, and other GM research.

For now the $75,500 Chinese Chevrolet must try to appeal having a 25-percent tariff slapped on it, and without qualifying for incentives domestic EVs can get that add up to as much as $19,000 .

U.S. lawmakers have said China’s tactics constitute a “shaking down” and violate World Trade Organization rules. It’s also been said that China has a major technology deficit. It is no leader in EVs or hybrids but is alleged to be manipulating GM and others by holding out its massive potential for growth.

We’ve heard these things before, but Girsky’s comment allowing that GM could “localize” Volt production so it could then "get the subsidy" indicates the idea is definitely not off the table.

To further qualify the statement, yesterday GM spokesman Rob Peterson said some have taken Girsky’s comments out of context, and for balance, he said GM would need to see a strong demand for the Volt before building in China.

“We build where we sell,” Peterson said. “If there’s a tremendous amount of market acceptance, yeah we could consider having production capacity there.”

But again, there are no plans, and as we know the Volt is price handicapped, so will a catch-22 keep the Volt away from Chinese production indefinitely?

While this and other Volt issues are still playing out, on the unequivocally good news front, there’s little doubt that the Volt has won a fair number of awards, and is still doing so.

In addition to all the awards it collected last year , the Volt was named “Most Earth Friendly” at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this month.



 

Also favorable for the Volt, Peterson observed, is next month California market Volts equipped with a low-emissions package will begin shipping to dealers there.

For the past 3-4 months, GM has been reducing allocations to the Golden State because its Chevrolet dealers in cases are reportedly reducing prices already to clear the way for the pending HOV-lane accessible Volts.

These Volts will also entitle Californians to apply for a $1,500 rebate as CorvetteGuy reported last month, and should help further increase their competitiveness against hybrids that are already HOV legal.

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