By on August 3, 2017

Volvo-self-driving-car

Suppliers have begun putting automotive companies on blast for overly ambitious mobility claims. While self-driving cars are definitely en route, manufacturers have ramped up their arrival time and omitted the necessary pit stops to win favor with investors or the general public. Meanwhile, parts suppliers have been frank on the matter — explaining they know when autonomous cars are really coming because they’ll be the ones providing the tidbits that make them work.

Don Walker, CEO of Magna International, one of the world’s largest OEM parts suppliers, suggests automakers may even be misleading their customers. “A full autonomous vehicle is a long way off for lots of reasons, because of legislation, class-action lawsuits, all the complexities and the costs associated with it,” the executive said.

Speaking Wednesday at the 2017 Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, Walker also took umbrage with the popular claim that electric vehicles could comprise around 25 percent of the new market by 2025. Instead, he claims EVs will only account for 3 to 6 percent of the global market within that timeframe — a figure predominantly dependent on how swiftly the highly regulated Chinese market grows. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2017

2014 B-Class Electric Drive. - Image: Mercedes-BenzBefore it ever got the chance to serve a conventional role in Mercedes-Benz USA’s lineup as America’s lone premium mini-MPV, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class is dead.

Mind you, the B-Class isn’t dead globally. But the B-Class Electric Drive, the only version of the B-Class ever to make it to U.S. shores, is ending production this fall.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED will be missed, if at all, by very few Americans. (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2017

(Public domain)

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. No doubt some of you will recognize that little speech, even if you’re not quite of the correct generation to have seen Blade Runner in the theater. It was on my mind as I sat in my father’s office yesterday and talked to him about the value of my Porsche 993.

“Sell the car and invest the money for your son,” he suggested, before leaning back in his chair and clarifying, “Of course, right now you’d have trouble finding an investment that is doing as well as that car.” The man has a point. I don’t think we’ve hit Peak Aircooled Value yet, as ridiculous as that sounds — but that time will come, and on the other side of that singular moment will be a free-fall into the abyss.

Not just for my 993. Not just for the Boss 302 formerly owned by my brother. It will swallow everything. My car. Bark’s car. Your car. Ralph Lauren’s McLaren F1. Every Hemi ‘Cuda ever made and every Ferrari F40. They will all become utterly, completely worthless. Like scrap metal worthless. You know it’s going to happen. But would you believe that you’ll live to see it? Because chances are that you will.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it’s going to be here sooner than you think.

(Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Cousins Shore, PEI - Image: © Timothy CainThe planning session was brief. At TTAC’s virtual HQ, also known as TTAC Slack, Steph Willems, Corey Lewis, and Adam Tonge were busy formulating an idea.

Fascinated by the Cain family’s recent move to rural Prince Edward Island, the guys wondered if, on electric power alone, Ford’s plug-in hybrid 2017 Fusion Energi SE could cross Prince Edward Island from the north side’s Gulf of St. Lawrence to the south side’s Northumberland Strait, which separates Prince Edward Island from mainland Canada.

Sure it can, I said, but that’s too easy. There are many narrow parts of Prince Edward Island. Crossing Rte. 308’s nine miles from Naufrage to Rollo Bay wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Building on that idea, however, we developed a plan that would grant yours truly a midday office reprieve, or so I thought. From the Cain homestead in Margate, just outside the bustling metropolis of Kensington, I would depart with a fully charged 2017 Ford Fusion Energi and attempt to reach five spectacular beaches along the Gulf of St. Lawrence on PEI’s so-called Green Gables Shore.

Google Maps said I would need to travel 22 miles. The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi has 23 miles of pure EV range. This’ll be a breeze, I thought to myself, and I fled my office and TTAC’s virtual HQ minutes later, thoroughly unprepared for what came next. (Read More…)

By on July 3, 2017

tesla-model-3

Production of the Model 3 is set to begin two weeks ahead of schedule, according to Tesla Motors chief executive and second most famous Twitter user in America, Elon Musk. While that news would probably be more exciting if we had ever been given a definitive timeline for the vehicle, the CEO claims it should equate to the very first car rolling off the assembly line by the end of this week.

“Model 3 passed all regulatory requirements for production two weeks ahead of schedule. Expecting to complete SN1 on Friday,” Musk tweeted late last night, causing half a million Tesla fans to engage in a collective round of giddy, high-pitched squealing. However, the most enthralled members of the company’s rabid fan base are likely to be the 30 people who get to wrap their quivering digits around the steering wheel of their very own Model 3 before the end of July.  (Read More…)

By on June 30, 2017

gibraltar_g1_tesla_motors_model_s

I doubt that very many of you have seen Robb Holland’s series over on Jalopnik about turning a salvage-title Z06 into a Pikes Peak car. That’s okay; unless you’re a particular fan of Corvettes or of Robb Holland you aren’t missing much.

At the heart of it, the series is a fairly typical exercise in what I call “Journalist Stone Soup Motorsports” — you call everybody in the world to get as much free stuff as you can and then you offer to mention them on your website. Some people are much better at this than others; Mr. Holland’s vehicular opus looks like it consumed about a thousand man-hours of free labor and maybe fifty grand worth of free stuff. Feel free to compare that to the incompetent promotional efforts of your humble author, who won an AER race last month with uh, um… some year-old, half-worn tires courtesy of Dunlop. (Thank you, Dunlop!) This is no doubt due to the fact that Robb is a handsome, well-liked television personality, whereas I’m primarily notable for being kicked out of NASA Performance Touring twice in four seasons.

There is, however, something of value in Robb’s most recent article. In the process of excusing the Corvette Z06 from overheating shenanigans (hmm… why does this sound familiar?), he asks, “Personally, I think the whole [overheating] thing is load of crap… First, how long should a street car be able to run on track before having to stop? One minute, five minutes, 100 minutes? Twenty-four hours? What’s the benchmark? A race track is a very different environment than the street. You can’t design a car to work well in both.”

It’s easy to dismiss this by pointing out all the cars that can complete SCCA and NASA sprint races with bone-stock drivetrains, but if the question isn’t relevant now, it’s about to be extremely relevant. The electric car is coming, and it’s not going to handle racing terribly well. In fact, it’s not even going to handle hot weather or off-track high speeds terribly well. So what does it need to be able to do?

(Read More…)

By on June 12, 2017

Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar

Despite being Volvo Cars’ official performance arm since 2015, Polestar has always felt like a separate entity. Its current offerings for the North American market are limited to amped up versions of the S60 and V60 — distinctive in personality and produced in extremely limited quantities. However, Volvo’s parent company Geely wants to make a change, converting Polestar into its own global performance brand focusing on, get this, electric cars.

Apparently, Geely wants Polestar’s future role to mimic Mercedes’ AMG by having it continue to produce modified Volvos while also honing in on exclusive models singularly fixated on performance. However, if many of those are intended to be EVs, questions must be raised as to how things might change at Volvo.  (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2017

2017 Bolt, image: General Motors

General Motors will begin selling the Chevrolet Bolt nationwide in August, a month earlier than it originally planned. While California power nerds like Bill Nye and Steve Wozniak received their EVs months ago, GM’s rollout schedule hinged on dealerships getting their ducks in a row before the rest of America could gain access.

“We were waiting for the training to be done, we were waiting for the right tools to be in place,” Steve Majoros, Chevy’s marketing director, said at a media event. “We are kind of ahead of schedule on implementing all of those things as well as making sure we have enough sufficient inventory.”  (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2017

CCS Charging pic

Government officials and automakers are accusing Volkswagen of twisting its emissions-cheating penance to its own advantage. As part of its sentence for equipping over half a million vehicles with defeat devices, the United States is forcing VW to spend billions of dollars on a decade-long program that promotes environmentally friendly transportation and green technologies. The company opted to invest a large part of those compulsory efforts into establishing an EV charging network within the U.S.

However, seven state attorneys generals have urged the Environmental Protection Agency to closely monitor Volkswagen’s course. They contend that such a network would give the company an unfair advantage in the forthcoming electric revolution, allowing VW to profit from its misconduct.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2017

ff_91_exterior_6

China’s Netflix equivalent, LeEco, confirmed it would be eliminating the better part of its North American workforce today. LeEco has recently gotten involved in a myriad of expensive tech-focused endeavors that have wound up screwing its finances six ways from Sunday. One of those projects was serving as the primary financial backer of America’s Faraday Future, the electric car company we’ve been scrunching our faces at for over a year now.

Faraday seems to have encountered or created every problem an automotive startup could imagine and, with its primary source of income shrinking its U.S. employee base by 70 percent, things have never looked worse.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

2017 Bolt

If the automotive market were a foot, electric vehicles would be the curled-up toe on the outside edge. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, you’re not entirely sure what it’s there for, and some people think it’s weird. Still, it clearly has a purpose to serve and it’s hard to imagine the foot without it. There’s potential in that digit.

Strong Chevrolet Bolt deliveries in California pushed up the state’s EV sales by 91 percent in the first quarter of this year. It may still account for only 2.7 percent of the Golden State’s new vehicles, but it’s still more than many of us expected to see this soon. Sales of the more-affordable, longer-ranged EV seem to suggest the market might begin to gobble up plug-ins as more affordable models with superior range continue to arrive.  (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2017

CCS Charging pic

Plug ‘n Drive sounds like the world’s less appetizing fast food restaurant but is, in actuality, a not-for-profit organization with a strict focus on encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles. It’s so committed, in fact, that it is opening a “Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre” near Toronto’s York University in order to provide the general populace free opportunities to pilot EVs.

Of course, you don’t just get to test drive electric vehicles — there is an agenda here. Plug ‘n Drive also wants to use the location as a base to educate people on how to get the most out of EV ownership, make a case for the environmental and economic benefits of electric transportation, and explain government programs like Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. Think of it as an EV church, where the faithful can worship and and non-believers can be converted.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2017

tesla factory fremont

Tesla Motors is headhunting engineers from Mexico to work on automated equipment at its Freemont, California factory. While the brand can still call the forthcoming Model 3 “the most American” car in the world — once it takes delivery of Nevada-produced 2170 battery packs — it might not be able to make the same claim for its workforce.

The brand has had union troubles with the German robotics unit supplying the automated assembly lines essential for the Model 3’s timely production. While the recruitment effort in California may not be a direct response to that, it is definitely part of Tesla’s efforts to ensure it can adhere to the timetable it has set for the electric vehicle. The company has preorders out the wazoo and wants to build 500,000 cars a year at the Fremont plant by 2018, which requires a sextupling of 2016’s production figures.  (Read More…)

By on April 26, 2017

bmw grille

As vehicle sales growth gradually cools off, BMW has found itself continuing to lose ground to its competitors — but it wasn’t always this way. The company spent years as the luxury brand par excellence before seeing the likes of Jaguar, Tesla, and historic rival Mercedes-Benz begin syphoning off its consumer base.

It looked to be in denial for some time, but it is now evident that Bayerische Motoren Werke has become painfully aware of its own shortcomings. The company has even begun holding employee rallies to address its problems and potentially scare the crap out of workers. Since January, the German automaker has taken its marketing team, factory managers, 14,000 engineers, and a portion of its general workforce through day-long events that illustrate just how far it has fallen.   (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2017

Eneos Gas Station With Hydrogen Pumps

The United States and Canada don’t have much of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure to speak of, but Japanese automakers continue sending fuel cell vehicles across the ocean anyway. Vehicles like the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai have been touted as the environmental saviors of tomorrow but, with the exception of California, there really isn’t a place for them in the North America of today. So why do Japanese manufactures continue to bother with hydrogen?

The main reason is because Japan has bought into a future that America doesn’t seem interested in. With three of its automakers already producing fuel cell cars, the government as adopted a fairly aggressive plan to adopt hydrogen for homes, business, and cars by 2030 — meaning the U.S. probably won’t see these vehicles vanish anytime soon.  (Read More…)

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