Tesla Model S chills out

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Tesla Model S (the saloon) is  undergoing cold-weather testing. Video of it sliding around in the ice at the Tesla blog. First deliveries begin in July, and online configurator tools will shortly go live; latest news on interior trim and options, and the Personal Delivery service (yes please…) at the blog.

General post-Easter news catch-up:

  • The Toyota Prius Plug-in goes on sale in July in the UK, and it’s priced at £27,895 (once the £5000 government grant is taken into account). Official CO2 output is 49g/km.
  • The Infiniti LE – unveiled at the New York Motor Show last week – is effectively going to be the posh Nissan Leaf (the 2013 version, reports Autocar, with improved  range). The NY concept also featured a home wireless charging system, which could be the first such set-up to reach production, says The Charging Point.
  • There’ll be a hybrid version of the Jaguar F-Type, reports Autocar, following on from the conventional iterations of this two-seater sports car. Roadster models to come first; production-ready examples will be unveiled at Paris Auto Show this autumn.
  • The 2014 Acura RLX – smart US-market saloon – unveiled in NY will also have a hybrid variant. Two motors, a 3.5 V6, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and over 370bhp through all four wheels, reports Inside Line. And there’s a hybrid version of the new-generation Lexus ES, too. Oh, and of the Lincoln MKZ  (featuring the new 2.0-litre Ecoboost four-cyl engine).
  • Another EV-around-the-world trip: the Citroen C-Zero of Electric Odyssey is in the Rocky Mountains on its way down to California.
  • Lithium-sulphur batteries ‘could be  the power storage devices of the future’, according to research from Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich. They’re quoting smartphones and e-bikes as likely recipients of these optimised batteries with porous nanoparticles (woo!) but the tech could work for cars too. Science bit at Alpha Galileo.
  • Honda is going to launch the Insight, Fit/Jazz hybrid and the CR-Z coupe in China, and is considering local production of hybrids and EVs there. More will be announced at the Beijing Auto Show, where Honda is also revealing two new concepts.
  • Ford is running a competition in the US to win a Focus Electric, in partnership with Yahoo! Screen: it’s a reality-TV extravaganza, with teams from selected cities taking part in a series of challenges. More here.
  • We will ignore the story about Justin Bieber’s chromed Fisker Karma. Move along, nothing to see here.

Early Porsche hybrid on the Veteran Car Run; Ford Focus Electric on sale; hopeful hydrogen tech news

November 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Have just received an invite to drive on the RAC Future Car Challenge this weekend as a last-minute substitution on the British Gas team. I’ll be in a Toyota Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid), setting off from Brighton early Saturday morning for the 60-mile run to London. The Future cars then meet the veterans who come down to Brighton the following day: I’ll be looking out for this one, the Lohner-Porsche ‘Mixte’, a very early hybrid. Ferdinand Porsche (pictured here in a Mixte in 1903) built upon his early Electric Voiturettes for Austrian company Lohner, and combined the wheel-hub motors with a petrol engine which acted as a generator – much like the powertrain concept of today’s extended-range EVs. Only 11 were sold, but one won a hillclimb event and another was used to chauffeur a certain Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Full story (written by myself) on the Lohner-Porsche Mixte here.

  • In other news today: the Ford Focus Electric has gone on sale in selected states in the USA, priced from $39,995, which puts it head-to-head against the Chevrolet Volt. Federal tax credits of up to $7,500 are available, however.
  • Storing and transporting hydrogen could be easier, using surfaces of aluminium coated with titanium: this gives efficient catalysation, and the hydrogen can be stored at higher temperatures and lower pressures as a stable aluminium hydride. Lots of potential for automotive applications; more at The Engineer.

Historic hybrid, Thursday newsbriefs

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Never mind Driving to the Future, let’s look back at the past for a minute: a 111-year old hybrid, said to be the world’s first, is to take part in the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run in November. The Lohner-Porsche ‘Mixte’ combined the wheel-hub electric-drive system of the even earlier Lohner-Porsche Electric Voiturette with a four-cylinder engine, which acted as a generator – like today’s extended-range EVs. Around 300 Lohner-Porsches were built; they were very expensive for their time, but they were quick; there were even four-wheel drive racing versions with a motor at each wheel. Just 11 Mixtes were made, though; more on this model here.

Ferdinand Porsche (pictured, splendidly moustachioed, at the wheel of a 1903 Mixte) worked for the Viennese coachbuilder Jacob Lohner before going to Daimler-Benz and, ultimately, forming his own company. Lohner is reported to have said, upon Porsche’s departure, that “he is very young, but is a man with a big career before him. You will hear of him again.” No kidding. Anyway, the Lohner-Porsche will be driven on the Run by Ernst Piech, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson, and Jacob’s descendant Andreas Lohner.

In other news today:

  • A Scottish whiskey distillery has turned self-sufficient: the owner’s Nissan Leaf is powered by electricity produced from biogas, a waste product of the distillation process. All done in an anaerobic digester (you know, the things they keep talking about in The Archers). Bruichladdish, on the Isle of Islay, is making a special ‘Leaf’ edition run of its organic single-malt to celebrate. Cheers! Full story, press release and video at Autoblog Green.
  • Ford has teamed up with SunPower Corp. to offer Focus Electric buyers an approved solar charging system. The SunPower set-up includes 2.5kW-worth of high-efficiency rooftop solar panels, said to be capable of generating enough electricity for 1000 miles a month.
  • Opel/Vauxhall is adding new EcoFlex efficiency-optimised models to its range for the 2012 model-year. These include versions of the Astra 1.7 CDTI equipped with stop-start which emit just 99g/km of carbon dioxide and returns from 76.3mpg; Corsa 1.2 and 1.4 petrol models now with stop-start; Meriva 1.3 CDTi with stop-start; improved Agila 1.0 models; and an Insignia with a new 1.4 turbo engine giving a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions. Full low-down at Green Car Congress; more here when UK-specific details are confirmed.

Monday newsbriefs

August 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Is this pic for real or is it a Photoshop job? Never mind: it gives a taste of the scenery for the EcoVelocity show at Battersea Power Station on 8th-11th September. Latest confirmed attendees include the plug-in Toyota Prius PHEV (pictured), which will be on static display, though the production Prius, Auris Hybrid and Lexus CT 200h will all be available for (suitably-licensed) show-goers to test-drive.

In other news:

  • The first green car conference/motor show in India takes place this week. Green Automobil 2011 Expo opens on Wednesday in New Delhi and promises to be “a platform to showcase cutting edge research and technologies in the field of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles”. Its forum “will outline the roadmap for developmental plans and commercialisation of green automobility in India”, and be an opportunity for the industry to “explore market opportunities, and deliberate upon policies and initiatives to encourage future investments in delivering such commercially viable vehicles in India.” Good stuff. (Thanks to @greencardesign).
  • Toyota’s going to build the RAV4 EV in Woodstock, Ontario, with its electric powertrains sourced from Tesla in Palo Alto. From California to Canada… let’s not talk about the carbon footprint of shipping that stuff northwards. Just gives a glimpse of the logistics involved in putting vehicles together.
  • Great reception for the Ford Focus Electric on the David Letterman show: Ford CEO and former Boeing man Alan Mulally drove the prototype onto the set of one of America’s biggest talkshows, and was hailed as a ‘hero’ for saving Ford. The Michigan-built Focus Electric goes on sale in the US later this year (Edmunds Inside Line).
  • The average 54.5mpg mandated by the Obama admininstration will come at a price, say doom-mongering engineers in a survey for Ward’s Auto. Americans will all end up driving aerodynamic blobs, apparently… Full story pic (and a great pic) at Inside Line.
  • But Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks 54.5mpg is “an incredible stimulus for the American car industry. I think we can get this done”. He’s not keen on EVs, however, preferring compressed natural gas and further optimising the combusion engine. Detailed rundown of Marchionne’s recent speech at the Center for Automotive Research at Edmunds Auto Observer.
  • Latest episode of Fully Charged sees Robert Llewellyn taking on Top Gear. Further comment from his colleagues at the Charging Point. And George Monbiot’s having a go, too, at the Guardian, with the very pertinent point that TG has well and truly breached the BBC’s  guidelines on editorial honesty (I agree. I’ve done the BBC and C4 ‘compliance’  training courses and know the implications). But can we all now shut up about TG and its stance on EVs, please?
  • Toyota’s planning to take the EV lap record at the Nurburgring, reports Charging Point. It’s going to try and beat the 9min, 1.338sec set by the Peugeot EX-1 with a car similar to the Radical-based e-Wolf Alpha – and could be pitching to supply cars for an FIA EV championships, says James Allen.
  • Chevrolet’s first all-electric car in the US could be a version of the Spark (aka Beat, or Daewoo Matiz), says Green Car Reports.
  • The Technical University of Denmark has taken delivery of an AC Propulsions eBox to test vehicle-grid communications. It’s one of just 25 eBox prototypes in existence; the eBox is based on the Scion xB, and has a  range of well over 100 miles and a top speed of 95mph. Actor Tom Hanks has one, says Autoblog Green.
  • Only 16% of German motorists would consider buying an EV in the near future, according to research by Gartner Inc. Full story at Green Car Congress.

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