The latest version of the Nissan Leaf has been produced here in England and is in fact the very first electric vehicle to be made here. It is said to be the rival for Ford Focus but those who are inspecting the engine, are going to be very surprised. It looks just like a conventional engine and this has been done so those who are used to driving petrol or diesel engines are more reassured when driving an electric vehicle. Lee Twomey is a sales advisor at Nissan has said, “The weirdest part of the car is how normal it looks underneath. Continue reading
Indian car manufacturer Mahindra launched its all-electric car this week, the e2o.
Marketing the car to drivers tired of stressful drives on Indian’s bustling roads, the electric vehicle is extremely low on maintenance and eco-friendly, giving out no air pollution at all.
The economy drive
Costing just Rs 0.50 per kilometre and delivering 100kms to a full charge from a simple 15A power socket, you would assume such a vehicle would have mass appeal in a country where fuel prices are soaring and train rides are anything but comfortable.
India is vast country and whilst the e2o is very economical, the car isn’t capable of supporting lengthy drives due to its limited range and top speed being just 80km/hr, falling well short of any petrol or diesel powered car. Likewise the country’s transport infrastructure doesn’t support the car at petrol stations in emergencies.
Lack of enthusiasm
However probably the biggest reason why consumers are unlikely to be rushing to the car forecourts to purchase an e2o is probably due to its price. More expensive than India’s highest selling premium hatchback, the Maruti Swift and double the cost of the Maruti Alto800, many feel the heavy initial outlay isn’t necessarily justified long-term.
Whilst the vehicle is unlikely to need much maintenance, were the lithium ion battery powering the car to encounter problems, replacing it would be expensive, with the battery not yet locally made.
As we’ve seen in other parts of the world too, the cost of car insurance for electric vehicles can vary, and doesn’t always end up cheaper than for standard petrol vehicles. Also, unlike in certain Western countries where buyers of electric cars receive government subsidies, this isn’t yet the case in India.
With bigger car manufacturers such as General Motors and Nissan having previously shelved plans to release all-electric vehicles in India due to lack of interest, it remains to be seen whether the electric car can establish itself as a mainstay on Indian roads in the near future.
Ferrari’s latest supercar has been shrouded in secrecy for quite some time now, so when it was finally revealed at the 83rd International Motor Show in Geneva this week there was more than a hint of excitement amongst the motoring fraternity.
LaFerrari, the natural successor to the Enzo supercar, has a host of unique features, the most unconventional of all being that it has no traditional seating. Instead the vehicle’s seating positions are moulded into the carbon-fibre frame, with the both steering wheel and pedals adjusting to the driver.
The other significant revelation is that the vehicle is a hybrid, meaning potential insurance policies will differ from traditional car insurance.
With hybrid cars becoming increasingly popular in recent years, the Maranello based manufacturer say LaFerrari is both eco-friendly and supremely efficient at low speeds, receiving 161 of its 950 horsepower from the electric motor arrangement mounted at the rear on its automated transaxle. Working in conjunction with a 6.3 litre gasoline burning V-12 engine, the vehicle generates in excess of 660 pounds of torque
The curb weight of LaFerrari is also significantly lighter than Ferrari’s flagship model, the F12. The lighter weight dramatically increases the vehicle’s speed, with a Ferrari spokesperson remarking that the car was over 3 seconds faster than the F12 around the company’s test track in Fiorano, Italy.
Whilst exact vehicle specifications have yet to be announced by Ferrari, acceleration to 0-60mph clocks in at under three seconds, with the car achieving 124 m.p.h in under seven seconds. The company have also said top speed reaches 230 m.p.h.
Best in class performance
Likely to be pitted head to head with McLaren’s recently introduced P1 supercar, naturally Ferrari is full of praise for the new car, promising “best in class performance” on both the read and racetrack with “absolute capability without any form of compromise in any area”.
Such performance however comes at the cost. With speculation mounting that the car will retail for a princely sum of around $1 million, Ferrari say they will be producing less than 500 units, meaning availability will also be strictly limited with most of the initial run already spoken for.
So whilst we would all like to get behind the wheel of one of these beauties, unfortunately owning the latest supercar off the “Il Commendatore” production line will be a pipe-dream for all but the rich and famous.
American car maker Fisker has sold its first car in Britain. Fisker’s Karma is an electric, powerful 397bhp luxury saloon which has been sold to a footballer, although the identity of the footballer was not released.
Fisker’s Karma has a turbo charged inline four 2.0 litre engine as well as two electric motors. The engine acts as a generator thus charging the battery whenever needed. The Karma is unlike most electric cars however, because of its impressive performance. It does 0-60 in 6.3 seconds and has an astonishing torque figure of 959lbft. The top speed is only 125mph but that’s because it has been electronically limited – it will probably go faster. The mpg is an impressive 60 though and road tax will be cheap as CO2 emissions are a paltry 53g/km.
New to the UK
The California based company has no UK dealers but has got a service centre at least. This is crucial, according to Fisker’s co-founder and Europe CEO Barny Koehler, before opening any dealerships. Koehler says that “The cars are left-hand-drive only and in the short term we can handle sales from Europe, but we are talking to a number of parties in the UK who are interested in establishing dealerships.”
Spanner in the works
Fisker, established in 2007 has had significant problems this year, having had to cope with a battery recall as well as a fire caused by a faulty fan, as well as losing 300 vehicles to Hurricane Sandy (we hope this was covered by their motor insurance). None the less, Fisker is a new company so such obstacles will inevitably occur – Koehler notes that “These are things you have to deal with as a car company – we dealt with the battery issue in record time in the US, carrying out the work in just two weeks.”
Well Chevrolet have been threatening to step up to the hybrid market for some time now with some audacious concept designs being released some years back (looking mostly like a futuristic Camaro). The new machine looks starkly different and has placed itself in firm opposition to the Toyota Prius.
A hefty battery
Whilst both pretty similar plug in and drive vehicles (going electric before the battery runs out with the petrol engine kicking in) there are some fundamental key differences. The Volt’s battery is 10 times bigger than the Prius’s, meaning that you can travel a solid 39 miles before the petrol kicks in, which is extremely impressive for a hybrid car. Sometimes you’ll even get over 40 miles out of it.
Costly but effective?
The volts battery is a 16kW-hour battery whilst the standard (non-plugin) Prius’s is a 1.6kW-h battery. What does that mean? Well of course with a larger battery you can go further before the petrol engine kicks in making short journeys much more eco-friendly. The Volt’s huge liquid cooled lithium-ion battery is therefore at an advantage compared to the Prius. Batteries are however expensive to manufacture – volumetrically, the Prius’s Panasonic battery is not only 70% smaller but also a lot cheaper. The Volt’s battery, hardware, cooling system and so on is said to cost in the region of £6000 whilst the plug-in Prius’s larger 4.4kW-hrbattery costs around £1500.
What does this mean in practice?
Well seeing as the Volt can do about 40 miles without the engine coming on, we thought we’d see how long the plug-in Prius would last and found it to go 11 miles instead of the advertised 15. Not only that, but during the ride the engine burst into action 5 times when acceleration was not even that harsh at a paltry 30mpg. Most electric vehicles can keep up with green-light racers due to the electric motor torque. This poor performance can be attributed to three factors – the small battery, and the fact that the electric motor in the Prius is quite frankly too pious with only 80 bhp compared with the volts 149bhp. The third factor is the fact that the prius has a lithium-ion battery which is unsuited to the application due to it releasing energy slowly rather than in short bursts like a nickel-hydride battery. Acceleration is therefore an issue hence the engine starting.
Overall, the Volt did a fantastic 106mpg equivalent (and 33mpg in petrol mode) and the Prius did less at 65mpg. The Prius did triumpg though as its petrol mpg was a respectable 48. Overall, you probably won’t save that much money on these vehicles overall and we think that they’re still hanging off their novelty value – you’ll probably find that car insurance is cheaper though.
Electric and hybrid cars have been praised for their silence, making cities better places to live and free of noise pollution in the future. Its seems however that this silence has its critics, notable, car safety campaigners.
All hail the hybrid
In the current era of high petrol and living costs, low emission rewards and high emission penalties, elevated car insurance premiums as well as global warming concerns, many have seen the electric or hybrid car as a real alternative. In the UK there may only be 2500 electric cars but there are a good 130,000 hybrid cars (mostly the Prius), however these cars have been accused of being too quiet and a potential liability on the road.
It seems that the irritating sound of petrol engines has its benefits, notably warning pedestrians, cyclists as well as other cars of your presence. A recent research piece showed that when taking into account total vehicle figures, there was an increased possibility of pedestrians being run over by an EV than a standard car. There have therefore been suggestions that make it compulsory for electric cars to make a noise to effectively warn passers-by.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe has specified an international standard which will be made law by 2013. Mr This who runs the scheme has said that in a growing market for hybrid and electric cars, there is an increasing danger to road users. The development of a warning sound for such cars will enhance safety and new legal standard will mean that its implementation will be made compulsory very soon.
We think that this is a great idea, particularly when people are being warned of the dangers of using the streets whilst using headphones. Many people are attuned to the sound of cars and navigate their way across street often without looking properly. Whilst this practice is dangerous with standard cars, it may prove more of a problem when the introduction of electric vehicles becomes more widespread.
Whilst car performance and handling has remained relatively unchanged since ten years ago, we have seen improvements and radical changes in several key areas including safety, fuel economy and of course electronics.
The emergence of electric goods
In the 90’s you would have been lucky to have a digital display dash board (unless of course you had a Mitsubishi GTO). Probably unlucky in fact, as analogue dash boards and tachometers tended to be clearer and more accurate. In the iPad-age however, things are changing. We are starting to see much more colourful LCD panel dash boards as well as sat-nav systems controlling various aspects of your car, especially in high-end models. Pioneering manufacturers have introduced electronically controlled suspension such as ‘Magnetic Ride’ as well as night vision and automatic parking technology.
The advantage of software
Software’s increasing integration into the automotive world is increasingly clear in the electric car market. Think of the possibilities! We thought ECU mapping of fuel injection modules to enhance performance and fuel economy was good when compared to old-fashioned carburettor tuning. However think of the possibility of programming your electric motor, throttle response and suspension directly, instantly. Tuning wise, Maplins would become the new Halfords. Your Ipad would become your dash board. Oh wait, it already has.
The Honda Micro Commuter
Honda are now testing a small electric car which is synchronised to a tablet, although they haven’t specified which tablet. The tablet acts as a dashboard as well as performing many other functions, slotting in front of the driver. It can act as a screen for a rear view camera, as well as showing a variety of vehicle statistics, as well as acting as a sat nav.
The micro-commuter will be categorized as a quadricycle, meaning that it weighs under 400kg without batteries and can be driven (albeit at high car insurance prices) by 16 year olds. The motor, chassis and batteries all sit under the floor meaning that there is an easy platform to change the bodywork around, allowing for different models to be built cheaply and efficiently.
This is the first step in the integration of two of most people’s prized and most used items – their car and their phone. Where phones and tablets have come to dominate work and social life, we may well see them turning into part of your transport. Whether acting as a car key, dashboard, sat nav or tuning module, software developers will no doubt be excited by the unlimited possibilities arising from such new developments
Turbo power is currently the “in thing” within the automotive world and Jaguar are the latest to shout about their next turbo charged creation. The C-X75 hypercar is yet to actually be confirmed for production, however Jaguar are making all the correct noises that point towards the C-X75’s eventual production with the car currently in the development stage.
Under the bonnet will sit a small 1.6 litre engine, however attached to this will be, not only a turbocharger, but a supercharger too! This is quite a remarkable setup and the engine itself will rev all the way up to 10,000rpm, which is impressive as well.
Jaguar has confirmed that the innovative engine will push out around 500bhp – so it certainly packs a punch! The impressive engineering and tech doesn’t stop their though as two electric motors will be positioned on the front and rear axle. Jaguar are very confident that their creation will outperform rivals in the hybrid supercar niche.
Furthermore, those working on the project are also sure that a 200mph top speed will be achievable and that a 0-60mph time of under 3 seconds will also be possible.
With that sort of performance, expect the car to be pretty expensive when getting a car insurance quote!
The Jag will also come equipped with a liquid-cooled, 200kg battery pack – the heaviest component in the car. The electric range is suggested to be 60km whilst the car will still reach 60mph, from a standstill, in just 6.0 seconds without needing to resort to the traditional engine.
Jaguar have even employed the efforts of the Williams Formula 1 team with the design of the car as the bonded monocoque, that is formed from a carbon fibre tub and connected rear frame, has been created with the help of the F1 team.
Jaguar have also stated that the C-X75 will be four wheel drive due to the intelligent systems that power all four wheels.
The car is suggested to have a sale price, whenever it reaches showrooms, of between £700,000 and £900,000. Whilst it is an extremely expensive car, it will be fantastic to see it go into production. Jaguar have said that they’d like to build around 200 examples of the car. Good luck to them!
The future of the supercar looks good – doesn’t it?
BMW have this week confirmed that they are to increase the production of the Birmingham Hams Hall engine facility. In doing so the new three cylinder turbocharged i8 engine will be produced. This is the engine that is set to power the production version of the innovative and rather futuristic i8 Spyder.
The Story of the i8
The i8 Spyder is set to take the automotive world by storm. Not only will it look like it’s from out of space, but it will be quick too whilst also being extremely economical. The three cylinder engine, largely thanks to its turbocharger, will deliver 344bhp from a petrol-electric hybrid powerplant that will be also be capable of delivering an astonishing 78mpg. So far details of a price haven’t been revealed and it’s difficult to say how much a car insurance quote on such a car would cost at this stage.
However, the performance of the engine is great news. What is also good news is the fact that these fresh new engines will be built over here in the UK as part of a planned £500m investment for UK factories over the next couple of years. This is yet more fantastic news for the UK car industry and the economy in general. Nissan are doing their part for the UK car industry with their wonderful Sunderland plant and now it looks like BMW are helping to bolster the growing car industry in the UK.
The i8 was originally unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show as a concept and, four years later, in 2013, the first models of this unique and ground-breaking car will roll off the production line. The BMW i8 will be part of BMW’s new brand, BMW i. The “Project i” cars are to be sold separately to normal BMW’s and Mini’s and other i models are sure to follow the i8, including the i3 which is also currently in the pipeline.
The i3 will be a very small city car and is also expected to go into production at some point next year. A prototype of the i3 is set to be showcased at this summer’s 2012 London Olympics, so make sure you keep an eye out for it.
With the i8 and i3 we could be looking at one potential future of the automobile. With the i8’s planned top speed of 160mph and a 0-60 time of sub 5 seconds, coupled with turbo power, I am very much interested in the future of the automobile!
Are you excited about the future of the car industry and the future models that are in the pipeline? If so, let us know why. If you’re a bit disgruntled by the seemingly inevitable move away from massive engines and petrol guzzlers, then please also let us know why by leaving us a comment in the box below.
For the last couple of years electric cars have started becoming a bigger part of the motoring world and although the growth may be slower than initially expected, more charging station, eco incentives and models of electric cars are being released.
For example, in the last week alone there have been calls by environmental groups to give Scottish electric car drivers a £10,000 incentive and Nissan want to roll out more charging points at UK motorway service stations.
Electric Car Critics
However, there are still a lot of critics of electric cars, claiming that they take too long to charge, only work well when they still have a petrol engine and cause more environmental damage in production that they reduce in operation.
What’s more, electric cars now face a new hurdle as 3 were crash tested in America last week only to then burst into flames days later, calling into question the safety of the wiring and build of electric cars when they crash and how much motor insurance quotes would be on them!
A New Alternative
With the world’s source of petrol being depleted and environmental damage becoming more of an issue for most countries, an alternative to traditional petrol and diesel cars is needed and electric cars has been seen as the most sensible alternative for some time.
However, there now seems to be a new horse in the race for solving the petrol problem and that is hydrogen cars. Although there have been teething problems with hydrogen cars, mainly due to the fact that it is highly flammable, we now have our first hydrogen filling stations in the UK.
The filling time for hydrogen is very similar to petrol and so avoids the problem of long charge times that electric cars have. The production of hydrogen cars is also less damaging to the environment as there is no production of batteries and once running they simply emit a harmless water vapour.
The Future of Cars
Whatever your opinion on electric and hydrogen cars, it is hard to deny that a solution is needed to the petrol problem and these are currently the 2 front runners in the search for a new eco-friendly, renewable fuel source, but over the next year we may see hydrogen pull ahead slightly.
What do you think? Are you a fan of hydrogen or electric? Or do you already own an eco-friendly car?