Tag Archive | "hybrid cars"

Electric Car Gets Green Grant

Nothing unusual about that you would think, but what happens if that car is for sale on the millionaire’s aisle at the car supermarket? That’s right; courtesy of BMW and it’s new i8 sports car, buyers can avail themselves of this opportunity.

Drivers who proffer the required one hundred thousand pounds will qualify for the five thousand pound green grant refund. This is because the car can run on battery power.

The new BMW i8 is a part electric, part petrol engine hybrid sports car. With both power sources combined the car delivers 357bhp and 420 of your actual torques. Utilising this power the i8 will get to the magical 62mph mark in just 4.4 seconds which is, you’ll agree, pretty quick. Driven carefully, it is possible to drive 22 miles on electric power only before the petrol engine clicks in. For some, this would mean that a local daily commute is well within the capacity of this vehicle, especially with on-site charging being available at the workplace.

B11 Electric Car Gets Green GrantThe top speed is 155 mph and, as the car only emit’s a 49g/km of the nasty stuff, is free of road tax. In it, you will also be able to thwart Boris’s congestion charge police up in the big city. Thus it is possible for wealthy sporting motorists – the people who can afford it the most – to avoid paying the same taxes as the rest of us. Ironic, no?

The BMW i8 is a great looking car. It is broad and low and has dihedral doors that swing out and up like the wings of a flying insect. BMW insist that, in other ways, the car is ‘sustainable’ and recycled materials are used but they are being a bit disingenuous, we suspect. Still, you can’t blame them – they are in the business of selling new cars.

So if the buyers can afford to purchase this supercar then why not. The Government is set to top up the grant funding so this perk for rich drivers is still on the table. It goes without saying that in petty little Britain there are some voices calling for this practice to be stopped for buyers of the more exclusive cars.

But that’s just sour grapes, isn’t it? It is legal and above board and you can’t blame the car company for wanting to satisfy its clientele. Obviously, the scheme was originally intended for small cars; the idea being to get motorists out of higher polluting vehicles. The fact is however that this hybrid fit’s the stated criteria.

So why not treat yourself to a BMW i8. Sure, it costs just shy of £100k but remember; you get five grand of that back and you are helping to reduce pollution. It’s win-win.

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Porsche Panamera Hybrid Heralded A Success

Say what you like about the Porsche Panamera – and people often do – there can be no doubt that it has become a mainstay of the Porsche range. When this car first appeared about four years ago, reviewers rated it ugly. It has received a facelift a while back and, it has to be said that like an affectionate mongrel dog, it grows on you.

Motor Blogger’s editor is particularly smitten with this luxury vehicle and has never understood the resistance to its looks. It is sleek and elegant and is loaded with Porsche’s legendary reliability. What’s not to love? Over 100,000 worldwide car buyers can’t all be wrong.

On May 15th this year a Panamera S E-Hybrid drove off the assembly line at the Porsche plant in Leipzig, Germany, and it set a new technological benchmark as the first plug-in hybrid of the luxury class. In addition to the Panamera S E-Hybrid with its powerful 416 horsepower, two luxurious Executive versions with an extended wheelbase are making their debut.

The new Panamera S E-Hybrid assumes the top position among the individual Panamera models with advancements in both efficiency and sportiness. The ten versions of the Panamera that are offered, each with individual and unique properties, represent a range that is unprecedented in the Gran Turismo segment. What’s more impressive is that the built-in advanced technology has resulted in fuel savings of up to fifty six percent without detracting from the comfort, individuality and fun of driving the vehicle.

To further optimise the experience of driving this car, all models of the new generation offer greater fuel efficiency and – with the exception of the diesel model – more power. The power of the V6 engine in the Panamera and Panamera 4 has been increased by 10hp to 310 hp while fuel consumption in the two versions has been reduced. The power of the sporty GTS with a naturally aspirated V8 engine was also increased by ten horsepower to 440 hp which, it has to be said, is plenty. yet it consumes 0.8 l/100 km less than in the previous model. In addition to the new S E-Hybrid, there is the Panamera Diesel, which is still the long distance specialist.

It goes without saying that Porsche make desirable cars. The changes in design may move with glacial pace but under the skin this is state of the art automotive technology. With the new Hybrid the German company can now claim that green issues are now part of its remit too.

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Power To The People

Once the potential of oil was fully exploited as a fuel source the world started drilling for the black stuff as if there was an endless supply. Now it looks like there isn’t and whilst we search for an alternative to petrol we are, metaphorically speaking, holding the world like a nearly empty ketchup bottle and shaking it over the plate to eke out the last few drops.

In the meantime, in sheds around the planet, very clever people are reviewing and testing all the other options open to us to keep cars on the road. Electric cars are our first option but range anxiety seems insoluble just now and batteries will eventually fail. Thus hybrids came into being where electricity is assisted by or generated by an regular engine. Better, but still no cigar.

So we look at hydrogen. Fill pressurised bottles with gaseous hydrogen, feed it into a fuel cell and by the miracle that is science it will be converted into electricity that powers the car. Provided the infrastructure can be set up to ensure the gas is available where and when we need it they could well be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. Already working examples are appearing on our roads but there is a long way to go.

And it doesn’t stop there. Aston Martin recently successfully raced a Rapide at the Nürburgring 24 Hour event, the engine of which was set up to run directly from hydrogen, augmented by petrol when the gas ran out. In normal use it would be possible to replenish the gas before petrol would be needed.

And, again, it doesn’t stop there. What about liquid nitrogen? Forgotten that hadn’t you? Nitrogen is cooled to minus 196C then heated in the cylinder and fed into a regular engine which forces the piston down and off you go. Or how about compressed air? Tata Motors has built a weird looking vehicle that stores air compressed to 300 bar. As the air is released it powers an hydraulic motor. Clever, but a dubious choice as lots of power is needed to compress the free stuff.

Taking this a step further, a hybrid/air car has been made that recovers energy as it slows down and that energy is used to compress air into a  cylinder. At low speeds the air is released to drive the vehicle. Peugeot/Citroen will sell a version of this from 2016.

So a huge amount of work and effort is being expended in alternative sources of power to replace the petrol/diesel option. Some ideas are feasible, some are doubtful. One thing’s for sure though – one of them has simply got to work and possibly within the next twenty years.

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More Grief For Company Car Users

It used to be the case that company cars were allocated to employees whose work justified it. It thus became a prized ‘perk of the job’ and those that qualified were looked on with envy by those whose time was yet to come. Or maybe never would.

Gradually though, the company car system evolved until such time as it became an employee benefit available to staff a little further up the ladder and was also used to attract the best candidates. Improvements in the quality of car offered at lower grades and prices led to improved offerings at each higher grade of earnings, often justified by the argument that extra acceleration, comfort and many and varied options equated to improved safety. The company car had become a status symbol; a sort of badge of success. A new car on the family drive.

The downside, inevitably, was that it attracted the attention of the taxman who – not to put it too delicately – wanted his slice of the automotive action. The end result has been the development of a complex system of ‘benefit-in-kind’ regulations. Just to put the tin lid on it, as of right now, the rules are going to change again and drivers of mid-range vehicles are not going to like it.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs department has flexed a fevered finger over the calculator and decided that the business mileage Advisory Fuel Rates (AFR), from 1st June 2013, drop by one penny per mile and this will remain in place at least until the end of August. Bear in mind that ‘mid-range’ vehicles in effect means most of the company cars issued.

For petrol engines between 1401cc and 2 litres the rate drops from 18p to 17p per mile. For diesels it’s 14p from 15p and for smaller diesels below 1.6L it’s a meagre 12p. For the smallest and the largest engines the rate remains unchanged. And don’t think you can get away with a fuel card either. Using a card to buy all the fuel will mean that the AFR’s will be used to deduct private mileage. There is no escape.

Petrol hybrids count for the petrol rate and diesel hybrids for the diesel rate. It is all covered. It’s a tragedy that electric cars simply don’t have the range for most business use. With the various leasing and buying options available these days the value of the company car is debated. Some say leasing is best, others the opposite. It is a situation best looked at closely and in some depth, especially with the taxman looking over your shoulder.

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New Cars, A Concept – And A Gearbox

Not so long ago Motor Blogger detailed the FIAT 500’s bigger brother, the 500L and assumed that was it, for now at least. Not so, apparently, because the larger car has clearly been at the steroids and morphed into the 500XL – a seven seat leviathan that is now production ready. There it is in the picture.

The car maintains the family resemblance from nose to C-pillar but the rear overhang is longer and rear quarter lights bigger. Like its siblings, it’s a good looking car. No details have been revealed yet although the 500XL will probably offer the same engine line-up as the 500L. We’ll see it officially at the Frankfurt Show in September with order books opening shortly thereafter. The name is possibly up for changing so as not to confuse buyers with 500X, a crossover version due next year.

Rolls Royce have confirmed that there will be a convertible Wraith within the next couple of years but they have, they insist, no plans for an SUV type vehicle. What is likely though is that the ageing Phantom may well be replaced by a new model although the time scale is vague. More than three years away allegedly. What is interesting though is that it is likely to be a plug-in hybrid. Who’d have thought it? RR can clearly see that hybrid is the way to go, particularly as restrictions in city centres may well require an electric only option at some future time.

Ford have revealed a new concept in the form of the Fiesta eWheelDrive utilising in-wheel hub electric motors. Right now it is just a test bed but is an intriguing prospect if it should come to fruition. The two motors are in the back wheels. Right now the batteries are under the bonnet but the plan is to house them under the floor in later versions.

By configuring the layout in this way the space under the bonnet becomes superfluous. The thinking is that the car can be the same size as a two-seater whilst continuing to seat four. The concept, it is hoped, will lead to improvements in urban mobility and parking through the production of smaller, more agile vehicles. If that wasn’t enough, the steering design could allow for moving sideways into parking spaces.

The only issue that we can see is that dreaded word ‘urban’. When are car companies going to realise that not everybody lives in the city. Before getting too clever with the technology how about developing an electric vehicle that will suit the needs of country folk too?

Finally, Volkswagen are in the process of developing a ten-speed gearbox and the question is often asked as to why. How many gears are enough? In fact there are very good reasons for eight, nine or even ten gears. More gears give engineers more spread to work with. First gear can be shorter for improved acceleration from rest while the higher gears can improve fuel economy. This greater spread means that smaller, more economical engines can be used in bigger vehicles. Clearly an auto ’box will be essential.

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New Honda NSX – Buy Off Plan!

Over time people have come to learn that it isn’t always a good idea to buy off plan. How many stories have there been about would-be villa owners being suckered into dubious schemes? Not that Honda would be so devious obviously, when it comes to cars; but is it ever a good idea to buy anything sight unseen – apart from some images and a motor show concept? Wouldn’t you want to at least drive the thing first?

That is however what is happening. If you are in the market for a highly desirable sports car then Honda would like to meet with you. At the meeting you can get your order down for a modest five thousand pound deposit. The snag is that nobody seems to know just how much this car will ultimately cost; apart from a lot.

The new NSX is scheduled to come to the UK in 2015. This is the new generation of the famous name first seen in 1990. That original car was designed with the help of one Mr A Senna. That’s the name that Honda have to live up to with this new model. The concept seen at the Detroit show confirmed that the NSX will be powered by a mid-mounted 3.5L V6 petrol engine coupled with two electric motors. The petrol engine drives the rear wheels and the two 27hp motors will drive the front. Thus the NSX becomes a 4×4 described by Honda as a ‘Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive’.

At the time of writing at least twenty buyers have placed their trust and their cash in the hands of Honda. There can be no doubting that the car will be very good – the Japanese company’s reputation hangs on it – but with all the other desirable supercars around that can be looked at, groped and driven, it just seems like a strange thing for moneyed customers to do. Still, their choice.

There are Astons and Ferraris and Lamborghinis and McLarens available now. Sure, they are not hybrids and maybe this is what Honda are banking on. That eco-step forward that will make a supercar acceptable to the Green World Order. It certainly looks the business so let’s hope that Honda have a success on their hands.

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Aston Martin To Race With Hydrogen

Using the highly desirable Rapide as a donor car Aston Martin have developed the Hybrid-Hydrogen Rapide S, the first hydrogen powered race car to compete in a major sporting event. It is also the first zero emissions car to complete an entire race-pace lap of the Nürburgring emitting only water from the exhaust. The company will be racing the car in the twenty four hour event at the legendary circuit at the end of May.

The power comes from a prototype bi-turbo 6.0L V12 that can run on gasoline, gaseous hydrogen or a combination of both. Apparently the system installed is comprised of a hydrogen fuel rail, storage tanks and an engine management system. Although this might all be Greek to the average layman, this hybrid/hydrogen kit allows some flexibility of control over combustion depending on the driving circumstances: for example, pure hydrogen, pure petrol or a combination of both can be selected to provide maximum performance. The result is a racing car with the carbon footprint of a Fiesta.

Only minimal changes to the car are needed. Fitting to a conventional engine is straightforward – for the experts. The system means that the need for a complex infrastructure for providing hydrogen fuel isn’t needed, which is a major stumbling block to the production of purely hydrogen powered vehicles for public consumption.

The worry – if that’s the right word – is the hydrogen itself. This is not a word we like to hear in the same sentence as combustion. With the Rapide S the company have taken the matter of safety very seriously. The hydrogen is stored in four high strength carbon fibre tanks. The gas totals 3.5kg and is stored at a pressure of 350bar. Two tanks are in the boot but the other two are right next to the intrepid driver. To the untutored motorist, the fear, if it appeared on street versions, is that of explosion. Racing accidents tend to happen at very high speeds and can be devastating. Let us hope that this system has been tested and re-tested for full race conditions. The car is capable of 190mph and does the traffic light sprint in just under five seconds.

Both Aston Martin and the company responsible for developing the system hope to demonstrate clearly the safety and reliability of hydrogen power. The system is designed to be an important step on the road to providing a viable hydrogen automotive economy. It’s clean and it’s green and it is not inconceivable that we may well see hydrogen systems of this type appearing in premium sectors of the industry in the medium term future.

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Porsche Panamera Gets Greener

Once known as the brand that supped from the cup of the yuppie culture a couple of decades back, the Porsche name has managed to get well past all that nonsense to enter a new phase of popularity. The latest 911 is a state-of-the-art masterpiece (if you can get beyond the divisive electric steering) and the Cayman is simply one of the best drives that money can buy. The Cayenne is hugely popular with customers worldwide but it is the Panamera that is the big surprise.

On first impressions the car is not a looker – at least that’s what the reviewers at the time of launch thought – but it is clear from sales that customers don’t agree. In the USA it is a best seller and is sought after elsewhere around the world. Various styling tweaks have since made the car more appealing and the latest version should finally silence the critics.

As with other manufacturers in the prestige car sector, Porsche have been working with hybrid technology and it was first introduced into the Panamera in 2011. Now there is going to be a new version – the S E-Hybrid -which will be formally announced at the Shanghai Motor Show later in April. The original was good, this new one (pictured) should be even better.

The S E-Hybrid is the first plug-in Porsche. The plug is in the front grill and the lithium-ion battery can charge from a domestic point in about four hours, less from a fast charger. A full charge will give twenty two miles on electric power alone. The battery is topped up in use via a regenerative braking system.

The 4.8L V8 has gone and is replaced by a three litre V6 bi-turbo which on its own will produce around 320bhp. Add in a further 95 from the electric motor and the car will whisk the person with the requisite £90k (est) to 62 miles per hour in a sparkling 5.5 seconds and on to 168mph in fairly short order.

The most amazing aspect of this – remember this is a Porsche – is that the company are claiming 91mpg! Owners won’t get this in the real world of course but even a more modest figure of, say, about 70mpg is a bit of a triumph in a car like this. Even more impressive is the road tax and congestion charge busting 71g/km.

All the usual goodies are there including bi-Xenon lights, climate, parking sensors and so on plus the added security benefit of the Porsche Vehicle Tracking System approved to Thatcham’s category 5 level. Buyers will even get a complimentary driving experience at  Silverstone to learn more about their car. If the funds are available this has got to be the premier eco-drive available. All the joy of Porsche ownership with pleasure of knowing that the very best green credentials are on show.

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Silent But Deadly

Over the English Channel at that bastion of frugality and common sense known as the European Parliament they have recently had an actual vote. Yes – that’s right. Amazingly, the members signed off their expenses, poured out of the nightclubs and bars and headed to work to cast their opinions on the noise electric cars should make. They didn’t come up with any viable ideas obviously but all agreed that a new rule was needed. This is likely to come into force by the end of next year.

It is a much belated victory for the various campaign groups who long ago realised that the new quiet cars coming onto the market were a threat to life, particularly at low speeds. The Guide Dogs For The Blind Association have been saying this for years so any legislation is not before time; after all, cyclists have been encouraged to fit and use a bell or warning device for a long time now and even the heftiest biker can’t compete with a tonne or so of car.

The USA and Japan already have laws in place to cover this issue. In Europe it was first thought that an artificial noise should be voluntary – like bikes – but it seems, quite rightly, that this policy needs to be strengthened in law. It makes sense that vulnerable others be protected -the blind and partially sighted who have to be acutely aware of noises, obviously, but also children and pedestrians on speed restricted streets, the elderly and the infirm.

Current statistics show that there are some 2700 electric cars and nearly one hundred and fifty thousand hybrids and plug-ins on UK roads. This number is expected to rapidly double within the next two years or so. Even the biggest of them is virtually silent when running on electric power alone. Research has apparently already shown that a pedestrian is more likely to be struck by an EV than a petrol-powered vehicle.

A couple of years ago some entitled wag in the House of Lords suggested a cow-bell as being appropriate. That’s the sort of blue-sky thinking that our Nation needs, isn’t it? Meanwhile car makers have got to come up with a solution, bearing in mind that the vulnerable need to be able to hear it over background noise and that different people hear at different decibel levels. It has also got to be non-aggravating for the driver. A graduated noise that sounds like a car might be a good idea.

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McLaren P1 – The Extreme Hybrid

When is enough power enough? Why, when it is 903 brake horse power, that’s when and especially when it is found in the superb new McLaren P1 that will greet the world at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. The price is still to be announced but you can probably think of a ball-park figure.

This is technology at the cutting edge. Beautiful design coupled with the latest advances in hybrid performance. The P1 has a mid-mounted (always the correct place for an engine) petrol V8 displacing 3.8 litres coupled with a lightweight electric motor that together generate a maximum torque figure of 900Nm. Performance facts will no doubt be revealed in due course. We can confidently predict that it will be quick.

The combination of the two power sources ensures an instant throttle response and huge performance but also helps to make the car perfectly usable as a daily driver. Emissions of the combined motors are, astonishingly, under 200g/km, owing to the options of hybrid motoring.

An electric only mode is available which will allow the car to travel around six miles on battery power alone. The battery is charged by the petrol engine but can also be plugged into a wall socket anywhere for a full charge-up in a couple of hours, thanks to an on-board charging lead stored in the boot. Maximum power comes when both motors are used simultaneously and when the battery is fully discharged the V8 will take over to maintain drive and commence the charging procedure.

An Instant Power Assist System button is deployed on the steering wheel which allows the 176bhp of electric power in an instant in the manner of a Formula 1 racing car. Also inspired by F1 is the Drag Reduction System. This is also activated from the steering wheel and it cleverly reduces the wing angle which lowers the drag by 23%, we are told.

It is impressive to see this sort of hybrid technology being applied to supercars. Those enthusiasts who believed that the end was in sight for cars like this can breathe a sigh of relief. The more advanced these hybrid systems become – be it via electric, compressed air or hydrogen power – the safer we can be in the knowledge that manufacturers will continue to build exciting cars and not just euro-boxes for the masses. Well done McLaren. If you need anyone for an extended P1 test at any time…

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