Last Monday, we regaled you out with stories of Toyota coming to grips with the “new peak oil,” and other topics related to the growing gap (or lack thereof?) between global production and consumption oil. This week I’m feeling a little less apocalyptic, and little bit more indulgent. And really, why not celebrate those precious hydrocarbons while they’re still cheap and plentiful? This Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series may burn ‘em by the bushel, but it sure sounds good doing it. And though cars like the forthcoming 650 HP Shelby Mustang GT500 prove that performance is still alive in the 21st Century, high-revving, large-displacement, naturally-aspirated V8s like the AMG Black’s are going to be facing special challenges under future emissions standards. Which makes its gargling, chortling music all the sweeter to my ears…
It’s no secret that Ferrari has been wrestling with the inevitable conflict between its bellowing V12s and European emission regulations, but that’s not the only challenge facing the Prancing Horse’s powertrain division. Sure, there’s the increasingly-tenuous link between the Scuderia’s Formula One technology and its road cars [sub], but in the short term that actually helps the emissions issue by creating a pretext for bringing KERS to the road (where it otherwise has little role). In fact, the real issue for Ferrari’s powertrain team is not even a “Ferrari issue” at all, but a Maserati issue.
BMW hasn’t offered a four-cylinder engine in the U.S. for quite some time, so I was eager to check out their new 2.0-liter twin-scrolled turbo. A Z4 so equipped arrived in my driveway today.
Not to give too much away prior to the full review, the new 240-horsepower engine works very well when paired with a six-speed manual in the 3,263-pound Z4.
Then I broke it.
Of all the Japanese automakers, none are as far behind on hybrid technology as Nissan. For some time there was a sense that Nissan’s (relatively) huge investment in electric vehicle production would represent a “leapfrogging” of hybrid technology, but now the firm is using the common industry response to questions about future technology: a suite of options, rather than one single technology, will meet tomorrow’s low-energy transportation needs. As a result, Nissan’s been playing catchup, as it admits in a recent press release [PDF]
“We must have a tougher job than any other hybrid team in the industry,” says Mitsunobu Fukuda, a senior powertrain engineer at NATC. “Because our CEO, Carlos Ghosn, used to be known as skeptical about the value proposition of hybrids we had to make a really compelling case that we could deliver value to customers to get him to validate a hybrid program.
In 2004, as a stopgap measure, Nissan licensed hybrid technology from Toyota for use in certain markets.
“It was a bit of a blow to our pride, but that was the right thing to do under the circumstances,” Fukuda says.“Instead of rushing out a ‘copy-cat’ hybrid we wanted to take the time to develop our own hybrid, one that is clearly different – and better. I think we’ve managed to do that.”
What makes Nissan’s forthcoming hybrid system so different? For one thing, it uses Nissan’s “one motor, two clutch” system (currently found only on the Infiniti M Hybrid), which enables a compact design. For another, it’s supercharged.
“We” being Nissan, and “this” being shortening a GT-R powertrain enough to fit a Juke bodyshell over it. It won’t ever make production, and it will probably spin dizzy, short-wheelbase circles every time it even thinks about a corner… but even the haters have to admit that this is a clever way to highlight the Juke’s unexpectedly sporty nature. But despite the argument that “there’s a history of Nissan engineers driving the business,” let’s be clear about one thing: Nissan’s involvement in this project is all on the marketing side. Once upon a time, Nissan’s engineers might have built a little monster like this out of sheer passion, in their spare time. Today, though, the work gets outsourced to specialty race engineering shops, RML in this case. It’s not a knock, that’s just how the world works anymore.
UAW Local #273 members working at Chrysler’s Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance factory in Dundee, Michigan voted to authorize a strike [Ed: despite a no-strike agreement that was agreed to inexchange for Chrysler's bailout] in advance of negotiations over local issues, particularly a recently announced rotating shift schedule that has created unrest at another Chrysler plant in the Detroit area. The proposed schedule is so unpopular that almost 99% of local #273 members voted to authorize a strike if negotiations break down. The shifts, which rotate 12 hr day and night shifts week to week, are intended, Chrysler says, to maximize productivity. The UAW says it is to reduce overtime pay. The normal 3 shift model increases straight-time production by 20% to 120 hours per week.
Dow Jones cites a report in Der Spiegel Magazine which claims that GM Vice Chairman for Corporate Strategy Steve Girsky
has made enquiries at BMW to start discussions on “far-reaching joint projects.”
According to Dow Jones, the Spiegel article does not cite any specific source for its information, and TTAC has not yet been able to find the original article online. According to Dow Jones, GM is
primarily interesting in gasoline and diesel engines… General Motors is at an advanced stage in developing a fuel cell and could offer co-operation in that field… The technology behind GM’s Opel Ampera electric vehicle would also be of interest to BMW, according to the report.
GM has not yet responded to TTAC’s request for comment. A similar rumor was floated by Handelsblatt around this time last year, but BMW was quick to quash it. Are things different this time, or is GM still struggling with unrequited desire? We’ll let you know as soon as possible…
If you’re eagerly jumping up to shout “yes” to the headline’s rhetorical question, you’d better live in Europe… or be prepared to move there. The chances of VW ever bringing its 1.4 TSI engine to the US seem dim, based on the brand’s new mass-market-oriented, big-n-cheap approach. But starting next year, Autocar reports that
VW [will be] the first manufacturer to implement the fuel-saving technology in a mass-produced TSI engine, a system that shuts off two of the four cylinders under low to medium loads, between 1400 and 4000rpm.
Volkswagen claims that the EU6-compliant unit saves 0.4 litres (0.09 gallons) of fuel per 100km, rising to 0.6 litres (0.13 gallons) per 100km when combined with VW’s stop-start system.
VW also says that the benefits become more obvious when driven smoothly and slowly: “At 50 km/h, in third or fourth gear, savings amount to nearly one litre per 100km.”
If you’re currently looking up those conversions for use in future conversations (about hypothetical engine swaps for your Em Kay Eye Vee), you’re officially a “Mr Euro” (here’s a hint: it’s cooler to use the European measures and make everyone else do the math). If you’re wondering about how reliable these engines are going to be, or what it must be like to cruise the freeway on 700 ccs of displacement you’ve probably come to the right place.
First of all, let’s not fool ourselves: this is quite the hypothetical question. For one thing, Fiat is unlikely to federalize the Doblo cargo van that this “Work Up” is based upon until a subsequent generation comes out. In the meantime, the only Fiat Professional vehicle the US market will be getting anytime soon (thanks to CKD production at Warren Truck, according to Allpar) is the Ducato van, which competes fairly directly with Daimler’s Sprinter. But, hypothetically, could this Doblo “Work Up” find a market in the US? Let’s look at what it offers…
It’s been 12 years since BMW offered a four-cylinder engine on a US-market offering, but starting this October, US dealers will begin offering new “TwinPower”four-pot versions of the Z4 roadster and 5-series sedan. And, as BMW’s US-market boss Jim O’Donnell explains to Automotive News [sub], there’s no reason to fear the four… anymore.
It wasn’t in line with our image, because it didn’t have the performance of the six cylinder. We were selling ourselves as the ultimate driving machine and really it wasn’t. Now that the engines have developed so far, it’s not an issue at all.
But now BMW is offering four-bangers because they offer an even better driving experience, right? Less weight, better turn-in, that kind of thing… right?
Read More >
Well, are ya… punk? As part of its “why does Ferrari get all of the €250,000-€750,000 fun” fit of pique, Porsche says its considering a flat-eight engined beast to take on the Italian foe. Autocar reports that
Porsche engineers have long been frustrated by the fact that the company’s iconic flat-six engine cannot be extended much beyond 4.0-litres. It’s also felt that in the Ferrari-dominated market, eight cylinders are a pre-requisite.
Moving to a larger engine would also differentiate the new model from the new 911 and next-generation Cayman range. It’s thought that the creation of such an engine has been made easier by the engineering working currently being done on the new turbocharged flat-four engine, which will be offered in Porsche’s planned entry-level roadster. This all-new motor is thought to be modular, allowing it to be extended into the next-generation flat-6 and a flat-8.
Rattle off a list of the buzzworthy EV makers that seem likely to achieve the “holy grail of EV development,” a multi-gear electric car, and chances are that firms like Tesla, Fisker, Th!nk or even a major OEM like Nissan will make the cut. You probably wouldn’t consider the ultra-conservative British sportscar maker Morgan to be in the running, as they still build body substructures out of wood… surely the brand that’s most stuck in the early 20th Century seems an unlikely candidate for EV technical leadership. Think again…
Read More >
With Chevrolet already offering a Cruze Eco, WardsAuto reports that the forthcoming Cruze diesel made a case for itself based on attributes that go beyond mere efficiency. Which is interesting because a GM source tells Wards that the Cruze diesel will get around 50 MPG on the freeway… and unlike the Eco, it will achieve that high number with an automatic transmission (the Cruze Eco’s 42 MPG highway rating is only for manual transmission models). Equally importantly, the oil-burning Cruze will return better performance alongside better efficiency, with 147 HP and 236 lb-ft, compared to the 1.4T engine’s 138 HP and 148 lb-ft, which would make it the performance model of the range… which some say is just what the Cruze needs.
Joseph Lescota, chair of the Automotive Marketing Management Dept. at Northwood University in Midland, MI, thinks a diesel Cruze will draw buyers.
“Chevrolet has a great price-point vehicle that has tremendous eye appeal and options but may not meet the performance needs of a select market group,” he tells Ward’s.
A diesel version would hit that group between the eyes by adding a sturdy engine, extra torque and top-end performance to the mix, he says.
GM executives meanwhile highlight the diesel option’s value as what GM North America boss Mark Reuss calls “a hedge against the unknown.” Only three percent of current US sales are of diesels, but as American brands start rolling the oil-burning options out, and as Americans are exposed to their higher performance and efficiency, that segment could just grow. After all, who doesn’t want more performance and more efficiency for a mere $1k-$4k premium?
Steampunks and Atomic Age nuts rejoice! WardsAuto reports that Connecticut-based Laser Power Systems is “getting closer” to developing a prototype electric car which develops its power using the radioactive heavy metal Thorium. According to LPS’s CEO,
when thorium is heated by an external source, it becomes so dense its molecules give off considerable heat. Small blocks of thorium generate heat surges that are configured as a thorium-based laser… These create steam from water within mini-turbines, generating electricity to drive a car. A 250 MW unit weighing about 500 lbs. (227 kg) would be small and light enough to drop under the hood of a car… Because thorium is so dense, similar to uranium, it stores considerable potential energy: 1 gm of thorium equals the energy of 7,500 gallons (28,391 L) of gasoline. Prototype systems generate electricity within 30 seconds of firing a laser. This can feed power into a car, without the need for storage.
What about radioactivity? Read More >