Tag Archive | "hybrid"

A PHEV Of Fresh Air From Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi have recently launched the vehicle that they describe as ‘game-changing’ – the all new Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) in their biggest advertising campaign to date. The campaign for this new car comes after the news that Mitsubishi were the fastest growing mainstream brand in the UK during 2013.

PHEV1 A PHEV Of Fresh Air From MitsubishiAmazingly, it is five years since the company last advertised on TV and not just content with promoting the new SUV in this way, they are also sponsoring TV documentaries. They are launching the Outlander as not just another car but rather as a paradigm shift for motoring and an important moment in history.

The campaign shows the vehicle coming to life and driving along a futuristic timeline. It passes major inventions and discoveries in history such as the wheel, electricity and environmentalism before taking its rightful place at the head of the timeline. This is rather a vaunting claim and it remains to be seen as to whether the Outlander is truly that ‘game-changing’.

Effectively, Mitsubishi has laid down a gauntlet to the entire car industry with the Outlander PHEV by pricing it at the same level as the diesel. The result is huge tax savings for company car drives and realistic running costs for fleets. Motor Blogger had the chance to drive it recently as you’ll find out below.

It is powered by both a 2.0L petrol engine and two electric motors, the second of which powers the rear wheels thus giving four-wheel drive capability. You can plug the PHEV in, charge it and use electric power only for short trips, and then rely on the petrol engine to take you on longer trips. The official figure says the PHEV is capable of 148mpg, but even Mitsubishi reckon this is unrealistic. Real-world mpg is still pretty impressive, however.PHEV2 A PHEV Of Fresh Air From Mitsubishi

The PHEV will be ideal for anyone who does mainly shorter trips, with the occasional longer journey thrown in. Anyone who regularly travels loner distances will, we suspect, be better off with the standard diesel Outlander. Out on the road this big motor turns out to be supremely comfortable. With the batteries low down in the body, the corner roll that afflicts these high vehicles is controlled.

The best way to drive the PHEV is to simply stick it in Drive, and let the car sort out the electric/petrol ratio. Either way, it is very quiet. There is a gauge to monitor how the hybrid is using it’s juice.

Drivers can also press a button that forces the PHEV to hold its charge for a more appropriate time – useful, say, when you need to do a motorway jaunt before going to the city. It is possible to use the petrol engine to top the battery up to 70%. You can even determine the level of brake regeneration, which boosts battery power.

We enjoyed our short spin but it has to be said that the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is never going to get your pulses racing but the market for big economical five seat SUV’s is strong so it should do well.

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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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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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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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Audi’s New Plug-in Hybrid

The world of hybrid technology goes from strength to strength as manufacturers get to grips with economy and emissions and a host of new regulations. They are all working hard but one of the highlights of next month’s Geneva show will almost certainly be the Audi A3 e-tron.

The A3 is already a success story in its various guises, including the stunning new S3 Sportback. Now, the new e-tron offers a new glimpse into the future of the German car maker’s intentions with a car that has the potential to achieve 188mpg and exhaust emissions as low as 35g/km.

The hybrid integrates a conventional petrol engine and an electric motor as you‘d expect. The battery can be charged at the wall socket or rejuvenated on the road via the petrol engine. The combination of the two will offer impressive performance, exceptional efficiency and most crucially of all as far as buyers are concerned, freedom from the perils of range anxiety.

A modified 1.4L TFSI engine delivering 150PS will provide the usual power and is linked to the 75kw electric motor by a clutch built into a newly designed six-speed ‘e-S tronic’ auto gearbox; all of which drives the front wheels. The combined motors generate 204PS of power and an impressive 350PS of torque.

The Audi A3 e-tron will travel up to 31 miles on electric power alone at speeds of up to eighty miles per hour or it will run on petrol power alone. In hybrid mode, which is driver selectable, both units work together which is known as ‘boosting’. When the driver stops accelerating both motors will deactivate temporarily allowing the car to glide and thus save on fuel whilst recuperating energy.

There is no doubt that the Audi success story continues. Whilst some car makers struggle, Audi had its best ever sales last year, shifting nearly 1.5 million units worldwide. That’s up over ten percent on the previous year despite the world recession. Not being ones to rest on their laurels however, the company plan an investment in the future of some 13 billion in research and new models over the next few years.

This means that in just three or four years the Audi range will have expanded to some 42 models, including variants. There’s the regular range, the S range and the RS range with hatchbacks, Avants and Sport backs. There will also be a new generation R8. Vorsprung durch Technik, indeed.

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New Plug-in Updates The Prius Philosophy

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in is the latest evolution of the company’s popular hybrid range and sets a new benchmark for low-emission technology. Toyota claim that this new car – available to order now and in the showrooms from July – is capable of 108.6mpg whilst breathing out a health enhancing 59g/km of CO² . In full EV mode, the tailpipe emissions are zero.

The difference between this car and its older sibling is that it relies on lithium-ion batteries rather than the usual Toyota nickel-metal hydride units currently fitted to the Auris and standard Prius. Lithium-ion batteries can carry more energy and recharge to full in just 90 minutes. The downside, inevitably, is that the new units are heavier and more expensive to produce so it’s likely that this new iteration of the popular hybrid will be more expensive.

Although the Lithium-ion batteries add an extra 130kg to this already hefty car, the electric only range is extended from 2 miles to a much more useable 12.5 and the top speed in EV mode is now a creditable 62mph. Around the town the car should mostly be all electric, only choosing to rouse the sleeping engine if the throttle is floored. Otherwise the car has the same mechanicals as the standard Prius. There will be, for now, a single specification which will include high-tech features like a heads-up display, the Touch-and-Go multimedia centre, voice recognition and the more usual Bluetooth and satellite navigation options, amongst a welcome list of others. The car has economical 15” alloys and a selection of four exterior colours is offered. The main expense for additional options is the choice of black leather upholstery at £1500. How many people will go for that, given the car’s ethos?

The range anxiety problem suffered by fully electric cars can be safely ignored here because the Plug-in will switch seamlessly to hybrid mode automatically if the electric charge is drained. Recharging is both simple and fast using a power point linked to a standard domestic supply or an on-street charging point. The car comes with the charging kit in the price, including five metres of cabling that can be stored beneath the boot floor. The price is expected to be an eye-watering £32,895 but the government will refund £5000 once you’ve purchased. No doubt over time the price of these cars will come down as economies of scale come into action and the technology becomes ever more efficient. In the meantime, if you’re serious about doing your bit to save the planet you could do worse than invest in a Prius Plug-in.

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Coming Soon – Toyota Prius+ Seven Seat Hybrid

There’s no doubt that the Toyota Prius came in for some stick when it was first announced. True petrolheads were aghast at this electric monstrosity when it first went on sale in Japan in 1997 and was finally unleashed on the world in 2001. It heralded, the fuel-sniffers said, the end of motoring as we know it. Well, it hasn’t quite worked out like that and most drivers today accept and, for the most part welcome, the new technology.

Toyota, whilst continuing to satisfy the demands of hairy chested sporting drivers with the brilliant GT86, have continued to expand their hybrid technology with the impending summer launch of the Prius+, a fully hybrid seven-seat MPV. The ground-breaking new model, which combines traditional people carrier practicality with ultra-efficient performance, is also the first mainstream Toyota hybrid to use a lighter and more compact lithium-ion battery pack.

It retains the exceptional efficiency of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive power train. Despite the battery pack, the car is light and has exceptional aero-dynamic qualities. In T4 trim the car breaks the 100g/km barrier thus being eligible, currently, for zero rated road tax and congestion charge exemption. Official consumption figure is 68.9 for the T4 and only slightly less for the T Spirit version which itself only just tips over the 100g/km target.

In a clever move, the company have installed the slim battery pack within the centre consul thus avoiding any intrusion on rear passenger and boot space. Genius. All five rear seats fold, allowing for various load-carrying combinations. The two equipment grades offer all the usual options; auto aircon, panoramic roof, rear view cameras, Bluetooth, leather and the like and there’ll be a choice of seven exterior colours.

The family friendly MPV, based on it’s smaller sibling, was very well received at the Geneva Motor Show. The headline feature inside the Prius is Toyota’s new Touch & Go Plus and Touch Pro navigation systems. Featuring real-time traffic updates and the ability to use Google’s Local Search feature, it will be interesting to see how they manage to bring what has been a successful Smartphone technology to work in a car.

For the greener among you, there are new planet-saving features including a monthly fuel consumption record storing the previous five months of economy data. The ability to calculate how much is being saved on fuel costs might help justify why you bought a hybrid in the first place. You can order now and deliveries will start around July 9th from a very creditable £26,195.

Fear not petrolheads; motoring hasn’t died, it’s just grown up.

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London’s new hybrid bus is leading by example

With Mayor of London, Boris Johnson eventually stripping the bendy busses from the city streets of the capital, a new public urban mobility solution (don’t you just love today’s buzz words) needed to be devised.

Cue the New Bus for London, a replacement for the famous Routemaster that was recently revealed, drawing inspiration in its styling and engineering from the legendary London bus.

The famous rear step-off deck will make a return on the New Bus for London, as will a conductor, even though the bus can be operated without one. Two pairs of doors with Oyster card points and two staircases, front and back, will also feature.

More interestingly though, is that the new public transport vehicle has a hybrid power train.

The New Bus for London features a 4.5-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine acting as a generator to provide power to an air compressor for the bus’ brakes and steering, as well as delivering power to charge a 75KWh battery.

The battery provides power to a Siemens electric motor that delivers a twisting force of 1844lb ft – with it being an electric motor the torque is available from zero RPM too.

It’s the electric motor that does all the propulsion, with the diesel unit tuned to sit at optimum RPM for efficiency – just like the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt range extending vehicle – improving the bus’ ‘green credentials’.

But all this talk (or should that be torque) of the new ultra-efficient bus for the capital has left us wondering something.

With the government showing us the way to go and leading by example, why haven’t hybrids and electric vehicles experienced a bigger take up in urban environments, especially with a £5,000 government subsidy applied to such modes of transport?

Answer: they just aren’t good enough.

The crop of all-electric vehicles such as Nissan’s LEAF, Peugeot’s iOn and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV just don’t have the range to make them functional. Nor are they able to be recharged quickly enough to make them practical.

Plug-in hybrids are getting there but still require a heavy internal combustion engine to be carried around all the time, effectively acting as fuel-economy sapping dead weight when not in use, as well as the hydrocarbon fuel they’re also carrying.

The Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt – employing similar technology as the New Bus for London, with an on board engine acting as a generator for a battery/electric motor combination – appears to be the way forward though.

So then, maybe the real answer to the question of hybrid and electric vehicle take-up is they just aren’t good enough – yet.


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