Design Concept of the Day #6: Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow

November 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

And finally, the Mercedes studio’s entry into the Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge. Its would-be Hollywood hero is inspired by the classic Silver Arrow racers – specifically the W125 Silberpfeil of the late 1930s and the Uhlenhaut SLR of the 1950s, apparently – and the plot involves a pair of crash test dummies who take matters into their own hands against the evil Dr. Barrier. The reluctant heroes save the day, of course, “with a little old-school subterfuge.” More at the Design Challenge website.


Thursday newsbriefs

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz is previewing the all-new B-Class – now a more conventional small family-sized car – prior to its launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Stop-start is now standard, aerodynamics have been enhanced, and its four-cylinder petrol engines are the first of an all-new engine series with third-gen direct-injection tech. They come in the B-Class in 1.6-litre form; 122hp in the B180 and 156hp in the B200. The four-cylinder, 1.8-litre diesel is scaled down from the engines in larger Mercs, and comes in 109hp (B180 CDI) and 136hp (B200 CDI) formats.  Also new is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, said to offer the same efficiency as a manual. No mpg and CO2 figures yet, but improvements expected all round. UK sales start next spring.

In other news:

  • Latest feature announced for the EcoVelocity Show (8th-11th September, Battersea Power Station) is ‘Electric Avenue’ – a display of some rather quirky EVs from different eras, including the Peel, Sinclair C5, new Brahms Electric Hearse, microcars from Zerocars, Greenpower racers and Econogo scooters. Honda has also confirmed that the FCX Clarity fuel cell car will be on show for the first time in the UK, and the Insight, CRZ and Jazz Hybrid will all be available for test-drives.
  • Ashwoods Automotive, based near Exeter, is launching a new range of aftermarket hybrid/electric conversion products, including battery management systems, ‘plug in and play’ hybrid modules and simulation software. They’ve been supplying hybrid-converted Transit vans for a while now, promising fuel savings of 15-25%.
  • Electric golf cart sales are booming – amongst retirees in Florida, at least, reports Detroit News. Money-conscious pensioners (gas-conscious seniors, I suppose) are increasingly turning to them as second vehicles for local use, but authorities are undecided whether the slow carts should be declared road-legal or restricted to private communities and the golf course.
  • A rather expensive EV – but a historic one. An 1899 Columbia Electric Landaulet just sold for $550,000 at the RM Auctions sale at Pebble Beach, making it the most expensive EV ever sold at auction (Green Car Reports).
  • Another ‘Electric Avenue’ – more on the network of fast-chargers between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington at Edmunds AutoObserver.
  • More on the Netherlands trials of pay-per-mile road charging at the New York Times.
  • What do you really think about green cars? Car magazine wants to know, and has a short survey. Stick in your two penn’orth.
  • I’ve been catching up with the BMW i/Wallpaper Sustainable Neighbourhoods project. Six teams in six very different world cities, coming up with proposals for the urban environments of the future; much creative thinking emerging.

Monday newsbriefs

July 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Nissan’s posh-line Infiniti brand has confirmed production of its Audi A3/BMW  1-Series rival. This small family-sized exec-hatch is scheduled for 2013, with an all-electric version following a year later; the Etherea concept (pictured; this featured a hybrid petrol-electric powertrain) gives a fair few clues as to its styling. Underpinnings largely shared with the Nissan Leaf. More at Autoweek.

  • Some BMW updates for the new model-year in September. The 520d EfficientDynamics arrives – 184hp, 62.8mpg and 119g/km, aided by stop-start, brake energy regeneration and active aerodynamics, plus a gearchange indicator to help the driver maximise efficiency, a high final-drive ratio and low rolling-resistance tyres, and an eco mode for the auto gearbox, throttle response and electrical systems. From £30,435. Two new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines for the Z4, giving a 20% improvement in emissions and economy over the models they replace, and a 163hp version of the 2.0-litre diesel engine goes in the X1 (62.8mpg, 119g/km) along with stop-start and the EfficientDynamics tech.
  • Toyota has confirmed production of the iQ EV for the US, where it will be sold as a Scion. Launch next year; no word on a Euro-market iQ EV as yet.
  • Detailed feature on Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies, makers of the Fisker Karma’s plug-in hybrid powertrain, various military vehicle/truck plug-in hybrid conversions, and developers of an all-electric powertrain for the US Postal Service fleet, at Edmunds AutoObserver. Companies/supplier firms like this are going to play an ever-more important role in the mainstream consumer vehicle market, I reckon.
  • BMW has unveiled an E-Scooter concept – a two-seater electricbike with accleration equivalent to a 600cc, a 100km range and motorway-speed ability. Interesting thing is that, as it’s a ground-up design purpose-built to be an EV and not a conversion, it is structurally innovative; instead of a conventional mainframe, its battery casing doubles as a frame element. Detailed tech description at Green Car Congress.
  • The Charging Point has the lowdown on this K1 Evelio concept, unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s based on a Slovakian sportster, the K1 Attack Roadster, and is claimed to have a 150-mile range; it has a tubular steel spaceframe, fibreglass body and could potentially develop around 200bhp. Currently just a running prototype, its creators are looking for investors to help get it into production.
  • Spy shots of the next-generation Mercedes-Benz B-Class at Autocar: besides conventional petrol and diesel models, there’ll be an all-electric model, a natural gas version, a hydrogen fuel cell model and one with a range-extender powertrain. To be unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show this autumn, on sale December.


Mercedes-Benz F-Cells finish round-world trip

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Three Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell prototypes – hydrogen-fuelled, zero-emissions fuel cell cars – have completed a round-the-world trip and returned to Stuttgart. Their journey took in over 30,000km and 14 countries on four continents, much of it over demanding terrain and in tough conditions, and Mercedes reports ‘reliable operation’. However, most of the refuelling had to be done from a unit on a supporting Sprinter van (diesel), rather putting paid to this being a totally zero-emissions jaunt.

“The time for electric vehicles with fuel cells has come”, said M-B chairman Dieter Zetsche. “Now the development of the infrastructure has to pick up speed. For only an adequate number of hydrogen fuelling stations enables car drivers to benefit from the advantages of this technology – high range, short refuelling times, zero emissions.” M-B says that there are only around 200 hydrogen fuelling stations worldwide as yet, and that a network of around 1000 will be needed in Germany alone to give basic support.

The aim of the 70-day trip was to raise awareness of fuel cell vehicles, lobby for improvements to the refuelling infrastructure but also to demonstrate the cars’ robustness and ‘everyday usability’. The B-Classes took in road conditions from unfinished surfaces in Australia and China to city congestion, and only a minor bodywork-denting accident for one in Kazakhstan caused any problems.

Wednesday newsbriefs

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mazda is to embark upon a programme to give a targeted average 30% cut in fuel consumption of its vehicles by 2015. The Skyactiv programme involves lighter-weight construction, high-compression direct-injection petrol engines (promising 15% fuel economy and torque improvements), lower-compression clean-burning diesels (20%), new manual and auto gearboxes and lighter bodyshells (pictured) and chassis structures. Regenerative braking and hybrid systems will follow.

    • The next Mercedes B-Class – and related models including the A-Class and a new Audi A3 rival – will be on a patented front-wheel drive architecture capable of supporting fuel cells, battery packs or CNG tanks (Autocar).
    • BMW is to collaborate with PSA Peugeot-Citroen on hybrid tech for small front-wheel drive vehicles (Autocar).
    • Porsche is planning a hybrid in each model-line, with the low-volume 918 Spyder Hybrid to serve as a technology testbed. The Panamera, meanwhile, will get the Cayenne Hybrid’s powertrain next year (Autoweek).
    • Ford is to roll out its all-electric Focus (100-mile range) in the States from next year; details of the schedule at Detroit News.
    • Mitsubishi is testing a prototype light commercial EV in Japan in partnership with home-delivery firm Yamato Transport. This Minicab-based vehicle is a separate project from the van tie-up with PSA Peugeot-Citroen.
    • The Daimler Car2Go car-sharing scheme, trialled in Ulm, is to launch next spring in Hamburg. 300 Smart Fortwos will be equipped with dedicated telematics systems and solar roofs, and will be available on demand either by reservation or on the spot  for pick-up and drop-off within a 25-mile wide zone.
    • ECOtality is to install 960 EV charging points, including 40 fast-chargers in the Phoenix metro area, Arizona.
    • Questions are being raised (and quite rightly so) about the crash safety of the Reva G-Wiz, and indeed, other quadricycle-type microcars exempt from the usual EU crash-testing programmes, following a fatal crash in London last week. More at the Independent.
    • And finally: just to remind y’all that electric cars have been around since the proverbial dawn of motoring, a link to a story on the Lohner-Porsche (1900; 36mph; a three-hour operating range).

    In other news

    October 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

    • Mercedes is to run a test lease programme for the B-Class F-Cell fuel cell car in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where there are a number of hydrogen suppliers. Up to 100 cars will participate, and the first will go out to early-adopters later this year (Edmunds Green Car Advisor).
    • Enterprise is to add 100 CODA electric saloons to its rental fleets in California. Good news for the CODA start-up, which has just begun production though is yet to deliver to customers.
    • Norwegian EV-maker Think is preparing  its US launch in December and has just marked production of its 2500th City EV. It’s to open a final-assembly facility in Elkhart, Indiana, which will slot in US-sourced componetry including new lithium-ion battery packs. Production for Europe will continue at the Valmet facility in Finland.

    Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-Cell: production underway

    September 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Mercedes-Benz has begun production of the all-electric A-Class E-Cell at Rastatt; an initial run of 500 will be built for lease to customers in Europe. The five-door A-Class E-Cell has a range of 124 miles and delivers 95bhp and 93mph; its load-space and passenger compartment are unaffected as its lithium-ion batteries are packaged underneath the floor. It features an electronic communications and battery management system, which inconporates billing for its electricity, plus programmable timed charging and remote monitoring, by smartphone, for example. Standard equipment includes climate control (which can be pre-set), parking sensors, side airbags and bi-xenon headlights.

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