Monday, July 28, 2008

Loremo unveils definitive skin for its high-mpg model

Click above for high-res gallery.

Aspiring German automaker Loremo has unveiled the newest images of their production intent model. Although they're only 3D renderings, they already show what the production model should look like. After the initial prototypes, the car gets the definitive shape, which is slightly more conventional in shape than before but also offers more interior space for its occupants. The long tail is still there, kept for aerodynamic reasons to keep the drag coefficient at 0.20.

Regarding powertrains, we will find three available, and they even disclosed approximate prices:
  • LS: 2-cyl turbo diesel, 20hp, 2 l/100 km (117mpg U. S.). 0-100 km/h (0-62mph) under 20s. Top speed 160 km/h (95mph) - €15,000
  • GT: 3-cyl turbo diesel, 50hp, 3 l/100 km (78mpg U. S.). 0-100 km/h under 10s. Top speed 200 km/h (125mph) - €20,000
  • EV: Lithium-ion batteries, 20 kW (25hp), 0-100 km/h under 15s. Top speed 170 km/h (105mph) - €30,000

Bob Lutz: 30K E-Flex cars in Europe in first year, 1M worldwide by 2020

Now that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged some £90 million for the development of clean vehicles in the U.K., General Motors is seeing plenty to like about the European market for its E-Flex vehicles. The automaker has already reversed its stance on building the electric cars in America and shipping them overseas, with the Ellesmere Port plant now being considered for Opel and Vauxhall EVs. Just how many electric cars could GM sell in Europe? According to Bob Lutz, plenty. In fact, GM believes it could move as many as 30,000 units in the first year of availability, with the worldwide figure of one million by 2020.

While those sales targets are pretty ambitious, so are the goals of Gordon Brown. If the Prime Minister has things his way, all new cars sold in Britain by 2020 will be electric. Oh, and built in the U.K. (editor's note: FAT CHANCE!), which could become a small step closer to reality if GM decides to go with the Ellesmere Port factory.

General Motors opens new powertrain engineering center that will create E-Flex

On Friday GM officially kicked off use of its new Powertrain Engineering Development Center in Pontiac MI. The new $463 million facility includes 120 dynamometer test cells for exercising all manner of new drivetrains. Among those cells 20 are specifically dedicated to testing motors for electric and hybrid drive systems. Others are split among fueled and non-fueled cells for testing gas, diesel, and flex-fuel engines and transmissions respectively. A new quick connect pallet system allows technicians to assemble a test configuration outside the cell and then have it installed and running within 20 minutes. The photo above showse a technician connecting the 1.4L engine and generator combination that will serve as the Chevy Volt range extender.

General Motors dedicates new powertrain engineering center

Click above for high-res gallery of GM's new powertrain facility

General Motors dedicated its new Powertrain Engineering Development Center in Pontiac, MI on Friday. On hand were CEO Rick Wagoner, Powertrain EVP Tom Stephens and the usual array of elected officials trumpeting their involvement in making the new facility happen. Prior to the speech making and pushing of the ceremonial start-up button, we got a tour of the new 450,000 square foot facility that GM proclaims as the largest, most advanced powertrain development center in the world.

VP of powertrain engineering Dan Hancock explained that the center will be responsible for developing the systems that comprise GM's advanced propulsion strategy. GM is consolidating powertrain development operations from four facilities in Southeast Michigan at this new Pontiac location. When the 1,200 relocating staff have moved in there will be 4,300 staff on site. GM is using new systems being implemented to move forward with its Road to Lab to Math (RLM) strategy that will help reduce engineering development costs. The center will lead development of all manner of future GM powertrains from new gas and diesel engines to hybrid systems and the E-Flex system that will power the Volt. Read on to learn about some of the new systems GM is putting in place to help improve its powertrains.

Monticello Motor Club: Exclusive track opens near NYC

Science-fiction writers have predicted this time and time again: one day mankind would discover Heaven somewhere in the vastness of Space. Nobody ever figured it would be in upstate New York, though. But so be it: the Monticello Motor Club, a seemingly heavenly combination of country club and racing track that just opened yesterday.

The concept is to provide a challenging circuit with the amenities and exclusivity of a country club. The track runs over four miles long with 22 corners and can be set up in any of 12 different configurations. Members can drive their own cars – at an hour and a half drive (or 25-min helicopter ride) it's the closest track to Manhattan – to the club, have them stored their, or rent from a fleet of sportscars (even a claimed F1 racer) on site. Advanced driving and racing courses will be on offer, as well as logistical planning for members' entry into racing events. And when the moneyed club member gets exhausted from driving all out on the track – or, as the club puts it, for accompanying spouses – the Monticello Motor Club offers a five-star club house, complete with spa and a planned luxury hotel. Membership, which is limited to a maximum of 500, costs $125,000 to join and $7,500 minimum each year, but with facilities like these and charter members including Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Glickenhaus and Jeff Gordon, you can bet New York's car-crazed elite will be lining up to join... and we'll be cozying up for a guest pass.

Franchitti to stick to NASCAR, moves down to Nationwide Series

Following the closure of his Sprint Cup ride last month, Dario Franchitti will run several races in the second-tier Nationwide Series before the end of the season. The Scottish driver was reportedly offered several options by Chip Ganassi, and chose to concentrate on NASCAR rather than move back to open wheels or elsewhere.

Franchitti will begin campaigning in the Nationwide Series after the season's road course races are wrapped up in Montreal and Watkins Glen. The No. 40 Fastenal Dodge he'll be driving has been a bit of a transient car, which will have been shared with Scott Pruett, Reed Sorenson, Bryan Clauson and Juan Pablo Montoya before the season is finished. By then, the former Indy 500 winner and IRL champion may have made one more drive in the Sprint Cup at the Pep Boys Auto 500 in Atlanta this October.

Spy Shots: 2010 Mercedes E-Class

Click above for high-res gallery of the new E Class from Automotive Traveler.

Our friend Rich Truesdell over at Automotive Traveler just sent us some pics of the new 2010 Mercedes-Benz E Class that he shot in the desert. While there's still a bit of camo on it, you can clearly see a lot of the new sheetmetal. The car is rumored to be making its official debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show next September, but the final form appears to be set. It looks like the S-Class wheel arches haven't made it to the new E, which resembles M-B's C Class instead. It's handsome, but nothing revolutionary. While there were no badges or underhood shots to confirm it, Rich suspects this to be a mid-level V8 model based on the wheel/tire combo. This might end up being the car that introduces us to Mercedes' rumored diesel-electric hybrid in 2011. For now, check out our mini gallery, then click over to see the rest of the photos and to read the interesting tale of how a spy photog goes about capturing something like this new Benz in the wild.

Bold predictions for Ford's new hybrids?

Same production limitations as the Escape hybrid?

According to MotorTrend Ford will soon roll out new technology that will "meet or beat the competition in fuel economy." At least that's what Ford's president of the Americas Mark Fields is claiming.

A piece of that new technology will be some new hybrid vehicles, as Ford is prepared to launch both the Fusion and the Mercury Milan hybrids late this year.

Since Ford's hybrid system is largely leased from Toyota, does that mean Ford has figured out a way to make better hybrids than Toyota with the same technology? That seems more like marketing spin than reality. And, even if true, can Ford increase hybrid production to levels that will really mean something?

2010: Year of the plug-in hybrid conversion?

A Plug-in hybrid converted by A123Systems

In 2010 a number of plug-in hybrids will be hitting the streets of America. GM plans to launch both the Saturn Vue hybrid and the Chevy Volt, while Toyota will release a plug-in version of the Toyota Prius. A number of plug-ins from niche automakers might also become available in 2010. Unfortunately, GM plug-in hybrids will be available in very limited numbers the first few years and Toyota might only make their plug-ins available for fleet sales.

By 2010, however, a number of second generation Prius hybrids will be 6 plus years old. Obviously, these hybrid cars will still have a lot of life left in them, but what if the fuel economy of these hybrids could be more than doubled for less than $5,000?

NRMA: Australia needs a chain on EV charging stations, ethanol

NRMA Motoring & Services has just released its Jamison Group report known as A Road Map for Alternative Fuels in Australia: Ending our Dependence on Oil. In this report, the group suggests that Australia must act quickly to reduce its own dependence on foreign oil, which has increased by 30-percent in the last four years alone. The report goes on to suggest that Australia follow the lead of Brazil, the United States and Europe in using alternative fuels such as ethanol along with the adoption of electric vehicles. The specific goals spelled out are a 20-percent reduction in oil use by 2020 which would increase to 30-percent by 2030 and 50-percent by 2050.

In order to meet these goals, the Jamison Group proposes twelve specific steps, including the adoption of electric vehicle charging stations across the continent. Also on the docket would be the planting of high-sugar crops for ethanol and various tax subsidies for both farmers who plant and consumers who purchase alternative vehicles.

Finally, take a look at this quote from NRMA Motoring & Services President Alan Evans: "Even the man responsible for 'killing the electric car', Bob Lutz of General Motors, has admitted that the electrification of the automobile is inevitable." So, now we know. It was Lutz and Lutz alone.

Tata sends Indica to Norway to gain electric drivetrain, street cred

Tata Motors announced last week, curiously, they would be building an electric car by the end of the fiscal year in Norway. One of the first questions that sprang to mind was answered today by news that the vehicle in question will be based on the "tried and tested" Indica (pictured above) and not the Nano which we suspect will also be eventually electrified. The program appears to be well underway since unnamed industry sources are claiming that Tata is, "... currently working on five prototypes of electric vehicles on the Indica platform." It isn't clear if they have 5 different configurations of the car or merely 5 "validation prototypes" under construction. They are also said to be depending on lithium ion batteries to give the city car a 200 Km (125 mile) range.

The other question that the annoucement begs is, "Why Norway?". Well, why not Norway? Already home to two electric car makers, Th!nk and Kewet, the Scandinavian country has most of its citizens and therefore, transportation needs, within a few cities. The climate provides an excellent testing environment as well. The location of electric plugs close to parking spots may even be a factor. What's important for non-Norwegians is that Ratan Tata has said that once the car has been deployed in Norway, "...then it will be available to employ in other markets". Who knows, maybe even America.

Lutz: E-Flex to reach 1 million units worldwide by 2020

Click above for a high-res gallery of the Opel Flexstreme.

The first Chevy Volt and its E-Flex brethren are still more than two years away, but vice chairman and corporate quote machine Bob Lutz is already targeting 2020 for 1 million annual worldwide sales. The lofty target would go a long way towards the General's goal of meeting tough fuel economy and CO2 standards in the U.S. and Europe, while also providing customers a mass-market choice that can run mainly on electricity. While E-Flex will be a big part of GM's long-term plans, the technology will be slowly introduced to the buying public and ramped up as battery costs drop. Europe will get 30,000 E-Flex equipped vehicles in 2011, but at a starting price of about £32,000. GM introduced its E-Flex based Flextreme concept last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

We're excited about any vehicle that promises 40 miles on electricity alone and 150 mpg or more for extended driving. Here's hoping we see 1 million units in 2020 or even before, and lets hope Mr. Lutz, who will be nearly 90 by that time, is around to see it.

Volkswagen Scirocco

Good news: the Volkswagen Scirocco, VW’s new hatchback-like coupe, will arrive in Europe in August. In Europe, the VW Scirocco will be offered initially with two petrol engines, the 1.4-liter TSI that combines a supercharger and turbocharger developing 160Hp and the Golf GTI’s turbocharged 200Hp 2.0-liter TFSI. Shortly after the Scirocco’s engine range will be enhanced with the addition of a supercharged 122Hp 1.4-liter TSI petrol unit and a 140Hp 1.4-liter turbo diesel. Depending on the powertrain, the Scirocco???s average fuel consumption ranges from 5.4 to 7.7 litres per 100km (30.6 to 43.6 MPG).

2009 Porsche Carrera 4

The Porsche released details on the all-wheel-drive versions Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S, which are available as Coupe and Cabriolet.

Leaving the aesthetic and engine/gearbox changes aside as they’re the same with the RWD Carrera, the new generation Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S get an electronically controlled PTM Porsche Traction Management which replaces the former all-wheel drive with its viscous multiple-plate clutch. This system was initially developed for the 911 Turbo and modified for the Carrera 4 models.

Porsche promise that depending on the model, the new all-wheel-drive Carrera offers up to 8.5% more power, up to 12.9% more fuel economy, and 15.4% lower CO2 emissions.

The improvements on the 911 Carrera 4S with its 3.8-litre power unit are equally important, with maximum output up by 30 to 385Hp on overall fuel consumption down in the case of Carrera 4S Cabriolet with the PDK gearbox to 10.7 litres/100 km or 26.4 mpg imp. All all-wheel-drive Porsche Carrera models will be available at Porsche dealerships from October 25.

Spied-by-Side: Pagani Zonda and SL65 Black in Colorado

Eyebrows were raised when a photograph from the Rockies began circulating the interwebs. The rare shot shows a pair of delectable supercar test mules – the next-generation Pagani Zonda and the new Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series – undergoing testing side-by-side on public roads. Aside the from the rare occurrence of a non-homologated Zonda on American tarmac, speculation began to ramp up as to what the two were doing together. Conclusion: they must be sharing the same engine.

While that may be the case, it could be a simple instance of AMG doubling-up on their test time, since Pagani renewed its engine deal with the Mercedes tuning house. Previous reports suggested that the supercharged V8 from the outgoing SLR McLaren could be flipped around for duty in the next-gen Zonda, however the SL65 Black uses a much larger 600hp twin-turbo V12. Of course it's impossible to tell at this point, but we'll be keeping our eyes peeled in the meantime.

Lexus Lanes coming to California's Bay Area

Officials are hard at work trying to alleviate the notorious traffic congestion in California. Across the state, drivers sit still in traffic while carpool lanes sit empty, underused by public transit and vehicles carrying multiple passengers. The solution for the Bay Area, as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission sees it, is to allow solo motorists to pay for using the carpool lanes.

The commission is working up a proposal that would start with a pilot project in 2010 or early 2011 on I-680 S over the Sunol Grade and in both directions on I-580 between Livermore and the I-680 interchange. To implement the project over the entire 12-highway system would require the approval of state lawmakers (who are currently considering such a bill for Sacramento), as well as an investment of an estimated $3.7 billion. That would be recuperated and then some in the long run, generating an estimated $6 billion over the course of 25 years, the balance of which would be reinvested into the transportation network. If implemented, drivers running late and motivated to pay the fee would be able to move into the carpool lane at designated spots and pay with in-car transponders. Although the fees have yet to be determined, they are estimated at between 20-60 cents per mile at the outset of the program, eventually ramping up to as much as $1 per mile by 2030. Similar systems in place in southern California got the nickname "Lexus Lanes" because of the perception that the rich would use them all the time, leaving those with less means stranded in traffic. However officials cite studies that indicate that the system would be used by a wide cross-section of the socio-economic populace.

New BMW Z4, in Geneva Next Year

In theirs secret laboratories, BMW is cooking something and that something is a new generation of Z4. Rumors say that the new Z4 will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next year and it will burn rubber on the streets in 2009.

Competition will be stiff for the new Z4 but I know for sure BMW won’t go down without a fight. And they have a few weapons that seem to even the odds. First we have the engines. For sure we know there will be a twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine from the 335i and the Z4 M is set to get a new 4.0 liter V8 from the M3. Some say there’s even a diesel included in the new scheme. Sweet!

BMW thought about our pockets, too, and their new engines will benefit from the EfficientDynamics program that will go easy on fuel consumption and emissions levels. Until next year all we can do is practice our driving skills and save money.

Toyota ups Prius production plans again?

70 percent increase in production?

If you've spent any time shopping for hybrid cars, then you know most hybrids are in very limited supply. Fortunately, in 2009 there will be some relief, at least for consumers interested in the Toyota Prius. The latest rumors claim that Toyota will increase Prius production by 70 percent.

Just a few months ago, Toyota suggested a 60 percent increase in production, so this number doesn't seem out of line. If correct, such a jump in production means that Toyota will be producing almost one half million Prius hybrids per year. Nonetheless, with the third generation Prius due out next year, even a half million Prii might not be enough.

Despite the mockery of hybrid critics just a few short years ago, Toyota's long claimed goal of achieving 1,000,000 hybrid sales per year early this decade now seems easily inevitable. So, how does that egg on your face taste, haters?

BMW Series 7 hybrid too expensive?

Coming in a hybrid version?

BMW is considering a new Series 7 Active Hybrid for the US market in 2009 which utilizes GM's dual mode hybrid technology, such as found in the Chevy Tahoe hybrid, according to InsideLine. Unfortunately, the new hybrid will probably fetch a price well over $80,000, and BMW isn't certain such a hybrid is worth producing.

Interestingly, this new BMW hybrid vehicle would be the first non-SUV to utilize GM's two-mode hybrid system, a system designed especially for large SUVs and trucks. While there is no doubt that the two mode system could be scaled down for smaller hybrids, there are questions about cost-effectiveness and whether two modes are really needed in small hybrids. Sadly, whether relevant or not, an $80,000+ dual mode hybrid doesn't help answer those questions - at least not in an optimistic fashion.

Toyota begins guerrilla Italian marketing campaign for upcoming iQ

click above for a high res gallery of the Toyota iQ

In a move which sheds some light on just how important the Italian market is for small cars, Toyota has begun a new guerrilla marketing campaign for its upcoming iQ minicar. Using magnets stuck to the sides of parked cars along with leaflets hanging off the side-view mirrors, Toyota is highlighting just how small the new car will be. Coming in at just 2980mm long (that's less than ten feet), the iQ will be the shortest car on the market in Europe which has more than two seats. For perspective, the smart ForTwo is less than a foot shorter, and it can only seat two.

Toyota is aware that its new marketing strategy could damage its green credentials, so it is using recycled paper for all the paper materials. The same crew which was hired to place the magnets on the cars will back around afterwards to retrieve any materials which were left littering the ground. The campaign is scheduled to end in early August and the car should go on sale in Europe in the beginning of next year.

Mercedes to bring A and B-Class to America?

Click above for more shots of the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY

The move to smaller cars in the United States will cover nearly all vehicle classes, even touching such luxury car stalwarts as Mercedes-Benz. Fortunately for MB, the automaker already has a few small vehicles which it can consider selling in the States, and new rumors indicate that the automaker could be considering launching its A-Class subcompact and B-Class compact cars here. Buyers who associate the three-pointed star with luxury alone may be surprised by the A-Class, which is most certainly an economy car, albeit one of high quality. Interestingly, though, the B-Class was initially planned for the U.S. market but was dropped shortly before launch due to the poor Euro-to-Dollar ratio. That particular situation has only gotten worse, but the rising price of gasoline may prompt Mercedes-Benz to reconsider that decision anyway.

It would be pure speculation, but we wonder if Mercedes has some excess capacity at its SUV plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If so, the automaker could retool the plant for the new small cars, a move which could alleviate some of the poor exchange rate issues. We'll cast our official vote for the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY that gets 52mpg (U.S.). In any case, don't expect to see the new models in the U.S. until 2011 or so.

2010 Mercedes E-Class

Its a spy shots of the new 2010 Mercedes-Benz E Class, which was caught in the desert. The test mule still a bit of camo on it, but you can clearly see a lot of the new sheetmetal. Previous photos see here. The car is rumored to be making its official debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2008.

As you see, it looks like the S-Class wheel arches haven’t made it to the new E, which resembles M-B’s C Class instead.

Audi A4, Q5 could be built Stateside

Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2009 Audi Q5.

Taking a lesson from BMW, who have been successfully manufacturing cars and SUVs in Spartanburg, South Carolina for more than a decade, Audi may seek manufacturing capabilities for their A4 sedan and Q5 SUV in the States. The new Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, just announced last week, may be tasked with building upwards of 200,000 vehicles per year -- including the two Audis. Estimated to cost $973.5 million, the 1,359 acre plant is large enough to handle the domestic production for VW, Audi, and even shareholder Porsche... although the proud automaker from Stuttgart vehemently denies even considering it.

Audi RS4 and RS5 to keep V8s

There have been countless conflicting reports about what will power the next generation Audi RS4 and the forthcoming RS5. Fourtitude had heard the rumors and decided to go straight to its sources for clarification. While the four-ringed obessesives weren't able to divulge the identity of their insiders (neither did CAR, which published of one the first stories about future RS powertrains), Fourtitude may have put to rest the rumblings that the next RS4 would ditch it's V8 in favor of a supercharged six.

According to Fourtitude, the 4.2-liter FSI V8 will soldier on in the RS4, and will also find a home in the RS5, which is currently undergoing testing both in Germany and the U.S. While a boost in output wasn't divulged, engineers will supposedly keep displacement the same, while decreasing frictional losses and possibly incorporating a new version of Audi's Valvelift system. If all goes according to plan, expect at least 450 hp from the direct-injected 4.2 and don't be surprised to find the tweaked V8 in the revised R8 around the same time.