Thursday round-up

August 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lexus: to show a new 500bhp hybrid coupe concept at the Sydney Auto Show in October, has released a teaser pic (not worth showing) of the car’s taillights.  Probably an evolution of the LF-LC 2+2 (pictured) seen in Detroit earlier this year.

  • Spy shots of the ‘235mpg’ Volkswagen XL1 plug-in diesel hybrid here. This thing really is up and running, and it’s still got the concept’s gullwing doors and mirror-less side panels.
  • Production version of the Exagon e-GT Furtive is set for launch at the Paris Motor Show; more here.
  • Belgian firm Formula Group T has built an electric race car – using 3D printing tech. The Areion will be supplied to the Formula Student championship, and features an 85kW motor and lithium-polymer batteries; though its top speed is a modest 88mph, it can accelerate 0-62mph in 3.2 seconds. More at Wired Autopia. 3D printing is shaping up to be an effective way of producing low-volume niche vehicles, says Wired.
  • A nice three-and-a-half minutes from Wired’s Adam Rogers on connected/autonomous cars and platooning – “it’s not that the car is smart, but that the collective of cars is smart, they’re going to talk to each other.” Discusses ‘flocking behaviours’, and what this means for the individual driver.
  • GE Global Research is working with the University of Michigan on fitment of a tiny sensor for EVs which continually monitors the driving style for optimisation of the range. More at Wired.
  • The FIA Formula E series has been given the green light for 2014, with demo runs next year. Races will be an hour long (expect battery-swapping) and feature 10 teams of 20 drivers, and the E team is now putting together a calendar of international city-based fixtures on street circuits – Rio de Janeiro is the first city to confirm its interest in hosting an event. The 150mph Formulec EF01, which can run for up to 25 minutes on a full charge, will be made available to teams, but self-developed cars can also race if FIA-approved. Release here.
  • At the other end of the tech scale, but arguably more relevant to the general (Russian) public: AvtoVaz has electrified the Lada Kalina. The EL Lada can do 80mph and 93 miles on a charge, and will be sold as a taxi. More here.

Midweek round-up: BMW’s i-strategy, GE’s high-temperature motor, solar power

August 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

BMW’s going to sell its i-models online, as well as through its differentiated standalone i-brand showrooms; more at Detroit News. Different marketing strategies for a different type of car, logically enough.

  • Heard the one about the Lexus city car? Not as silly as it sounds: a sister model to the Prius C, positioned to rival the Audi A1, Mini and suchlike, and featuring either the Prius C’s 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain or a 1.2-litre direct-injection turbo unit, reports
  • Good news for Detroit: the University of Michigan Solar Car Team has won the 2012 American Solar Challenge for the fourth year running and seventh time since the event was inaugurated in 1990. Despite bad weather conditions, its Quantum car came in 10 hours and 18 minutes ahead of its nearest competitor from Iowa State University, having travelled 1650 miles in eight days from Rochester, NY, to St Paul, Minnesota, and clocking up 44 hours, 36 minutes and 21 seconds on the road. Press release posted here.
  • General Electric has got to the testing phase with a new 55kW permanent-magnet motor for hybrid, range-extended and electric vehicles which can run at very high temperatures yet need only conventional transmission fluid as a coolant. This is said to be 3-5% more efficient than current EV motors, and GE is planning to licence the tech to car-makers and motor-makers with a view to commercial applications by 2015; the next phase of the project will be to develop it so it requires no rare-earth metals (Green Car Congress).

Lexus LF-LC “on track” for production; urban mobility and wireless EV charging

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Lexus LF-LC coupe concept – a 2+2 hybrid supercar – is “on track for development”, claims Autoweek, and could come to showrooms in three years’ time. Seen at the Detroit Auto Show last January, the front-engined, rear-wheel drive LF-LC was said to be purely a show car, “but several Lexus insiders now say the overwhelming reaction means it almost certainly will come to market”, reports Autoweek.

  • Evantran has fitted its first three Plugless Power wireless induction charging installations in test Nissan LEAFs, reports Green Car Congress. Its ‘Apollo Launch Programme’, in partnership with Hertz, Duke Energy and Clemson University International Centre for Automotive Research, has been trialling the system for a month already and will continue for three more months; a further three cars will be converted, and Evantran is looking for more fleets/commercial partners running their own Nissan LEAFs or Chevy Volts to take part in the trial. It’s also offering six months’  free electricity for the first 500 buyers of the system.
  • Research reading of the week: Urban Mobility Blueprint from Ernst & Young. Emphasis here on the need for carmakers to move away from traditional sales models and towards collaborations for car-sharing, combining public and private transport modes, infrastructural integration and connectivity – all the usual stuff, crucial for building a transport strategy or, as E&Y puts it, “an emerging ecosystem”.
  • Autocar has spy shots of the next-generation Ford Mondeo, to be launched at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn. A Euro-market version of the Ford Fusion hybrid system, using a 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT, is likely, they say.

Detroit Auto Show 2012: The hybrids are here

January 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Going all-electric is a step too far for most, but the choice of hybrid cars is growing. Toyota’s previewing a member of the next-gen Prius family with the NS4 concept, a plug-in hybrid with a smartphone-like operating interface and advanced automatic crash-sensing systems; the LF-LC 2+2 coupe, meanwhile, showcases the thinking on the future of Lexus design.

Honda’s Acura division has – after much teasing last year – finally produced a new-age NSX concept.To be built and developed in the US and go on sale by 2015, this  super-coupe will combine a mid-mounted direct-injection V6 and electric motor, driving torque to all four wheels. On a slightly more accessible note, the upcoming Acura ILX compact saloon will come with an Accord-style hybrid option.

Volvo’s showing off the V60 PHEV (plug-in hybrid) with a view to its US launch, Volkswagen the Jetta Hybrid, and Mercedes-Benz its E400  and E300, the first with a 3.5 V6 petrol engine and the latter a four-cylinder, 2.1-litre Bluetec diesel. Neither of the Mercs can do more than a mile or 35mph in all-electric mode, however.

Arguably the most important of the hybrids at the show, however – at least for us in Europe – is the Ford Fusion, aka next Mondeo. It’ll come in two forms (as well as conventional gas or diesel), standard Hybrid or plug-in Energi, both with a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine, and Ford says the Energi will be more efficient than either the Chevy Volt or Prius PHV.

Friday round-up

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The end-of-week round-up. Yee-ha. Sorry, couldn’t resist that. Anyway, in no particular order:

No more Deep Ellum Blues: the city of Dallas, Texas is to get 200 ECOtality EV charging stations in the coming months. The first were opened this week in the historic downtown Deep Ellum neighbourhood. “Throughout Texas and across the United States, consumer demand for  electric vehicles is growing at an exponential rate”, says ECOtality. More at EON Businesswire. Deep Ellum’s an old industrial district of Dallas, originally home to a Model T Ford plant, juke joints, blues clubs and rough gangster gambling dens, now cleaned up and marketed as an ‘arts and entertainment district’. Gratuitous off-topic clip here, as it’s Friday and I’m in the mood for some music.

  • Had a chat with Giles Brown, founder and organiser of the EcoVelocity show. He said that it was clear from the last 2008 London Motor Show that there was demand for a ‘green’ consumer motoring event, though it wasn’t viable until there was a sufficient range of suitable mainstream vehicles to promote and display. Now there is.  Show’s going to be good.
  • Solar Roadways of Idaho is devloping, yes, solar-panelled surfaces for roads. The electricity could power vehicles via inductive charging, road signs or heating elements for de-icing. More, including video, at the Green Car Website.
  • That Smart ‘pedelec’ (electric-assist pushbike) is going to be launched at the Friedrichshafen Eurobike Show (from 31st August). It’s built by German bike-maker GRACE, and will go on sale early 2012. It’s got a three-speed gear hub, a 25o-watt motor, regenerative braking, four selective levels of power-assist, disc brakes and a USB interface.
  • Infiniti unveiled the JX crossover at Pebble Beach yesterday. Not much detail on spec yet, but a hybrid version will follow. There’ll also be a hybrid version of the new Lexus GS-series, another debutante at the Pebble Beach show.
  • Heard about the hybrid caravan? Electricity is generated from the turning of its wheels and stored in batteries; a full charge gives on-site power for up to four days. The Knaus Tabbert concept could go on sale as an aftermarket modular package early 2012. More at (use Google Translate); thanks to @WilkinsDavid.
  • DIY EV of the day: the 1981 Chevrolet Camaro of  Ron Adamowicz, a drag-racer good for a 10.08-sec quarter-mile (Green Car Reports).

Friday newsbriefs – and flying to the future

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

A plane story: EADS, Diamond Aircraft and Siemens have built a hybrid aircraft concept. The two-seater DA36 E-Star, showcased this week at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, has a Siemens 70kW motor driving its propellor; a small Wankel rotary engine (supplied by Austro Engine) functions solely as a generator to supply the motor with energy, and an EADS battery provides power during takeoff and climb. The battery is then recharged when cruising. The tech could save 25% of fuel, and is scalable to larger aircraft, says Siemens, and the plane has now taken two-hour test flights. More, including video, here. Also, a team from the Institute of Aircraft Design at the University of Stuttgart has just flown its e-Genius prototype for 211 miles and two hours, averaging 100mph and returning the equivalent of 260mpg; more on that project here. It looks as if electric flight is on the verge of becoming a realistic possibility. However, the EAA Flight Venture competition for electric planes has now been delayed a year to allow participants more time to gain the necessary certification, reports Green Car Congress.

  • GM India is showcasing an all-electric Chevrolet Beat in New Delhi. The Beat BEV features a 300-cell lithium-ion battery, a 45kW electric motor and a 130km operating range; it’s just a demo vehicle, however, to evaluate the feasibility of electric vehicles in India. Full release here.
  • A one-off hybrid Lexus LS 600h L ‘laundaulet’ limousine has been built for the wedding of Prince Albert of Monaco on 2nd July. This features a one-piece transparent, 8mm-thick polycarbonate roof and has been specially reinforced with Kevlar and carbonfibre composites to compensate for the removal of its metal roof and pillars. It will “operate in zero-emissions mode for most of the newlyweds’ tour of the principality”, says Lexus. Belgian coachbuilder Carat Duchalet worked closely with Lexus engineers based in Brussels to create the car, which took over 2000 hours to build and which has been finished in a water-based Midnight Blue paint.
  • Norwegian EV-maker Think Global has filed for bankruptcy. The Oslo-based firm, once owned by Ford, has now been restructured and relaunched four times in its 20-year history; this time, it has suffered since the ending of a four-year deal with battery-maker and investor Ener1, said to be owed some £20million. Norwegian courts are to appoint a trustee to oversee the short-term running of the business and production has halted at the Valmet facility in Finland.
  • In better news, Fisker is hiring around 120 engineers, technicians and production-line workers for its plant in Wilmington, Delaware. The company’s preparing for the launch of its second plug-in hybrid, a premium saloon currently code-named Project Nina and scheduled for launch at the end of 2012. The Wilmington facility, a former GM plant, has been comprehensively recommissioned; more on this at Fisker’s website. Let’s not argue just yet whether Nina is a plug-in hybrid or, as Fisker calls it, an electric vehicle with extended range (“EVer”), though in my book, the Karma coupe is definitely the former rather than the latter.Fisker has also just announced a deal with EV Connect for installation and service of charging points for Karma buyers in the US and Canada.
  • Kenya, which imports over 100,000 new and used cars every year, is to exempt electric vehicles from import duty. There’s no charging infrastructure as yet, but this may be developed as part of a programme to improve the country’s roads (Africa Business Daily, via Autoblog Green).

Lexus CT 200h: set to be sporty

August 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lexus is teasing more details of the CT 200h hybrid, due on sale in the UK in early 2011.  The littlest Lexus – aimed at the likes of the 1-Series and A3 – is to get lateral performance suspension dampers instead of a conventional rigid set-up, promising heightened ride comfort, sound insulation and steering feel as well as ‘sharp, sporty handling’. Lexus promises class-leading structural rigidity, and is positioning the full-hybrid CT 200h as a ‘driver’s car’ – it’s not just a posh Prius, then. The full low-down comes at the Paris Auto Salon this autumn.

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