By on June 19, 2017

VW Microbus I.D. Buzz Concept

After countless false starts and endless teasing, Volkswagen seems prepared to deliver on a modern-day microbus. While VW’s T platform is still in existence, the Type 2 that we all know and love died in the late 1970s — though society since developed a deep-seated nostalgia as we collectively forgot how disgusting and impractical real-world hippie culture actually was.

The world has asked for a throwback model for quite some time, something Volkswagen appeased with a 15-year stretch of concept cars, culminating in the 2017 I.D. Buzz revealed in Detroit in January. Then, earlier this year, gossip circulated indicating the Buzz might actually enter production, using the company’s MEB modular electric-vehicle architecture. But those were just rumors, right?

Apparently not. Volkswagen’s brand head, Herbert Diess, confirmed production for the electrified box last week using some definitive language.   (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2017

2017 smart fortwo cabrio electric drive (Euro spec image)

It’s been roughly a decade since Daimler’s Smart Automobile first caressed America’s purple mountains and amber waves of grain with the microscopic Fortwo. Despite a promising first year in the United States, the brand never really managed to carve a space out for itself in a competitive and size-obsessed marketplace. The same is true (over a slightly longer timeline) for Canada.

Standalone Smart dealerships have become a rarity, frequently rolled into Mercedes-Benz sales lots over the years. But both have to ask themselves the same question: Is it worth pursuing sales when Daimler converts the little two-seater into a pure electric later this year and abandons the gasoline engine?

Obviously, the gut reaction is to tell every Mercedes-Benz franchise “probably not” and recommend any standalone Smart dealership immediately consider arson. Small car sales in North America are dwindling and EV sales are miniscule. Claiming a vehicle that exists as one of the least capable examples of both is a good investment is not something any rational person would suggest. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for the unfortunately named Fortwo ED in North America.  (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2017

2017 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty, Image: FCA

It’s hard to hear the name Cummins and not immediately think of a Ram pickup struggling valiantly to pull a gnarled tree stump out of the unyielding earth. Certainly, the company’s diesel inline-six and V8 engines are to the truck world what Nike is to professional sports.

While Cummins’ fossil fuel-powered engines and power systems show no signs of becoming passé, a company ignores the future at its own peril. The green revolution is afoot, we’re told, and internal combustion power will one day occupy the niche currently inhabited by electric propulsion. With this in mind, Cummins has a plan. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

electrify-america-ev-charging-station, Electrify America

As part of its emissions cheating penance, Volkswagen AG previously agreed to support clean vehicles by injecting a juicy $2 billion into green initiatives in the United States. A whopping $800 million of that sum was reserved for California. On Thursday, state legislators pressed the automaker to spend electric charging infrastructure funds in low-income areas, passing a bill included in a budget package supported by Governor Jerry Brown.

The reasoning behind forcing VW to install more charging stations in disadvantaged communities is twofold. First, and most obviously, is the fact that poorer neighborhoods typically don’t receive the same level of infrastructure advancement as affluent or high traffic areas. In fact, they’re probably the last place the state would bother installing EV charging stations. Secondly, it’s a good way to keep this punishment from becoming a business opportunity.

Criticism arose when rival automakers realized Volkswagen’s charging network could become profitable and give it an early advantage in a competitive new market, especially if it could handpick the sites.  (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2017

Toyota Camry NYIAS 2017, Image: Toyota

Despite being Japan’s biggest automaker, Toyota has lagged behind many of its rivals in terms of cutting-edge technology. Most major car manufacturers have already begun developing self-driving vehicles, with some going so far as to make strategic partnerships with companies specializing in the applicable technologies. By contrast, Toyota has a strong R&D program but never saw fit to pursue autonomous development or battery-electric vehicles quite so aggressively as General Motors or Renault-Nissan, for example.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has now admitted that may have been a mistake. At the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday, he promised the automaker would become more committed to achieving technical developments. Toyoda didn’t bring forward a concrete strategy but conceded the spending of additional capital would likely play a role — and an alliance or two isn’t out of the question. (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 8, 2017

Honda Targeting Introduction of Level 4 Automated Driving, Image: Honda

Honda Motor Company finally expressed an interest in developing autonomous cars on Thursday, while also stating its intention to bring two new electric vehicles to market by 2018.

The Japanese automaker has been cautious in making tech-related promises, especially those that relate to self-driving models, even as many of its rivals wear their autonomous development efforts like a badge of honor.

We knew Honda was working on the technology, but any semblance of a goal-oriented timeline was absent prior to this week. As part of its “Vision 2030” strategy, the car manufacturer claims it will coordinate R&D, procurement, and manufacturing to minimize development costs as it branches out into the realm of self-driving and electric vehicles.  (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2017

Model Y teaser, Image: Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors has released its first official teaser image of the Model Y, a future entry in the highly profitable compact crossover segment. At a shareholder meeting yesterday, CEO Elon Musk said he believes the Model Y will eventually outsell the Model 3. While he made similar claims about Model X volume before the vehicle entered production — a prediction which did not pan out — Musk says the company has learned from the errors made in the larger CUV’s development.

Unlike the Model X, the Model Y will use a unique platform and receive a dedicated assembly line at its own factory. Musk also told investors that production expenditures would be significantly lower for the small crossover, compared to the Model 3.  (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt, Image: General Motors

Despite the protestations of many members of the green car crowd, dollars and cents do seem to play a major role in the motivation to purchase an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. Right now, EV proponents and domestic automakers are worried the U.S. won’t renew the green car tax credit — a segment-boosting incentive that shaves thousands off the price of a new electric vehicle.

Some would argue if green car buyers are really devoted to the planet’s health, purchase price wouldn’t be an issue (assuming the buyer’s bank balance is sufficient). Individuals being what they are, motivations and circumstances will vary. Still, no one can argue that a tax credit doesn’t sweeten the pot, just as dealer incentives on the hood of a truck help move sluggish inventory.

In Denmark, however, lawmakers have discovered that once-steady sales of EVs will slow to a trickle when green vehicle buyers are treated like regular car buyers.  (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2017

tesla factory fremont, Image: Tesla Motors

It’s not just the range — it’s the weight, too. Oh, and don’t forget about cost. These are some of the potential stumbling blocks facing Tesla’s introduction of an electric semi truck, say Carnegie Mellon University researchers in a peer-reviewed study expected later this month.

Tesla has two trucks up its sleeve. One, an electric big rig, is slated for reveal this September, while an electric pickup should appear within the next two years. So far, it’s looking like the latter vehicle is the viable one. (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2017

[Havelaar Canada Bison, Image: Havellar Canada]

A paradigm shift must have occurred within the truck community, as electric pickups are beginning to become more than just an easily dismissed theory posited by a bunch of fringe engineering weirdos. Tesla has already announced plans for an electrified pickup, Workhorse is toying with the idea of bringing its W-15 to the consumer market, and now the Canadian division of Havelaar Group has unveiled its own in Ontario.

Dubbed the Havelaar Bison, the pure-electric pickup uses twin motors to drive all four wheels simultaneously, with a battery unit that allows for a maximum range of about 186 miles. The firm claims the truck is designed for the very worst weather conditions the Great White North can throw at it, using its adaptive dynamics to mitigate varied surfaces.  (Read More…)

By on May 30, 2017

2016_nissan_leaf_01

The Nissan Leaf, which burst onto the scene in late 2010 as one of the first mass-market electric vehicles, hasn’t changed much since its introduction. Until very recently, driving range sat well below the three-figure mark. And as its technological edge dulled, the Leaf gained a reputation as one of the fastest-depreciating vehicles on the market.

If you find yourself living in a certain jurisdiction, Nissan and a mid-level government has now made a purchase of a used Leaf far more attractive than it once was. Message to the U.S. and the rest of Canada: Quebec wants your old Leafs. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2017

Workhorse W-15

Earlier this month, we covered Workhorse’s finalization of the W-15 electric pickup for sale to fleet buyers and wondered if there would be any consumer demand for such a vehicle. Apparently, the Ohio-based Workhorse Group was also curious if it might have a role in the retail market, as it’s now considering offering a variant of the plug-in hybrid for regular sale.

Yesterday, Workhorse posted an invitation via Twitter for interested parties to visit its website and reserve a W-15 pickup. It’s already receive some positive feedback on the subject, but it’s not yet an outpouring of support — at least, nothing that would match the nearly 5,000 letters of intent is has received from businesses regarding the purchase of its fleet units.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2017

Tesla Supercharger

Chatty Tesla owners who compel their friends and family to consider buying a Model S or X are apparently behind the company’s U-Turn on paid Supercharger use.

At the beginning of the year, Tesla, in a bid to fund a doubling of its fast-charge network, withdrew a big perk from the purchase of one of its vehicles: free Supercharger use. No longer would new buyers be able to sail off in their new Tesla, confident in their ability to juice up at one of the 750-plus stations scattered across North America. Owners who purchased their vehicle prior to January 1st were grandfathered.

Supercharger hogs were also slapped with an “idling” fee, all in the hopes of freeing up space at the stations. While the pricing structure remains — new buyers receive 400 kWh of annual free charging with their purchase, after which a variable fee applies — there’s now a way to get unlimited free power. (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

2017 smart fortwo cabrio electric drive (Euro spec image)

Will anyone notice? Mercedes-Benz certainly hopes so, as it recently choose to ditch gasoline powerplants altogether and make the Smart sub-brand an all-electric affair.

The automaker announced pricing and specifications for its 2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive coupe and convertible today, billing the two-seater as one of the cheapest EVs you can buy. The droptop variant remains the only electric convertible you can get your hands on, should that be your thing.

While many scratch their heads and wonder why Smart continues to exist in North America, the automaker hopes to entice consumers with a lower starting price and added range. (Read More…)

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