Monday, September 8, 2008

Pics: Tata shows off electric Indica at SIAM Expo

The Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) Annual Expo is happening in New Delhi and Tata Motors has chosen this venue in which to show off a prototype of their upcoming all-electric Indica. Although we had previously told you it exists and would be built in Norway, thanks to Cubic Capacity, we can now show you some pictures of the interior, exterior and under the hood.

There aren't many technical details yet available besides that it sports a single speed transmission and a 120-mile range but we have learned of a few interesting developments. We can say it is to built by Norway's Miljobil Grenland who is also rumoured to be putting the "E" in E-Nano, an all-electric version of the new "people's car" from Tata. Also, perhaps by coincidence, Miljobil Grenland is also the company who just signed a supply agreement with Canadian firm Electrovaya for its SuperPolymer lithium ion batteries. Tata is planning on selling the Indica EV first in Norway sometime next year before bringing it home to India within two years.

Gallery: Tata Indica EV at SIAM Expo

[Source: Cubic Capacity]

Chevy Tahoe hybrid gets put on the stretcher

It isn't uncommon to see full-frame rear-wheel drive vehicles stretched to within an inch of their lives by companies willing to rent them for a night out on the town in style. Usually, the chosen vehicles come from Lincoln or Cadillac, though a new trend has emerged where sport utility vehicles are chosen instead. We've seen plenty of Lincoln Navigators, Caddy Escalades and even Hummers get the stretch, but this is the first time we've seen a hybrid Tahoe undergo the taffy-like procedure. According to LimeLight Coachworks, it wasn't all that difficult to adapt the hybrid system and all of its high-voltage systems to limo duty, but they were very careful anyway. Good thing, nobody wants a few hundred volts of juice running through them on their prom night, even if they want to go green in the process. Apparently, the company considers this more than just a novelty as the fuel savings remained intact right on through the conversion.

Source: LimeLight Coachworks via Jalopnik

Smart ForTwo gets half price parking in Manhattan until 2009

Ironically, New York City seems to be packed with cars and yet it's probably one of the worst cities in America for them. One of the biggest hassles for people who actually choose to drive in Manhattan is finding a place to park your car when you get where you're going. Given the typical congestion in Manhattan, the Smart ForTwo is probably one of the cars best suited for that city, and it just got a bit better. SmartUSA has cut a deal for owners of its cars that gives them half-price parking at six of the biggest parking garages in Manhattan. The deal includes garages operated by Meyers Parking at Madison Square Garden, Times Square, the Javits Convention Center and the Empire State Building. The discount runs through December 31 and the SmartUSA press release is after the jump. Thanks to Yash for the tip!

[Source: SmartUSA]

Trying out the Vectrix electric motorcycle

ABG friend and NextGear host Matt Kelly headed up to San Francisco to check out the west coast launch of the Vectrix electric motorcycle. Marketing Director for Vectrix gives all the details on the nickel metal hydride powered two wheeler. The battery is expected to have a ten year lifespan and the bike gets a two year warranty. The bike isn't cheap at $11,000 but it doesn't use any gas, is clean and quiet and has a 40-60 mile range depending on your riding style. The video is after the break.

[Source: NextGear]

KillaCycle takes off, crashes into parked minivan; Bill Dube OK

Since we have brought you past news on Bill Dube's KillaCycle, we thought that you might like to know that the owner/builder of the machine (and not the normal rider!) is all right after a crash. The accident happened while Dube was giving a demonstration of the electric bike, which is capable of covering the quarter mile in around 8 seconds at over 150 miles per hour. With power like that, it is not surprising that the bike shot out from under Dube while he was putting on a show by doing burnouts. After crashing into a minivan, paramedics took Dube to the hospital for X-Rays.

There is a video at this link of an interview with Bill Dube who explains that the bike uses A123 lithium ion batteries which can propel the bike to sixty miles per hour in less than one second. Right after the interview, you can watch the crash! The accident took place on the 13th in Los Angeles at the Wired NextFest conference. We wish Bill a speedy recovery!

On last thing: please consider this a reminder to be safe while operating any vehicle. Especially consider safety on a motorcycle, where a helmet at the very least should always be worn. Oh yeah, maybe it's time to change the bike's name.

George Clooney reminds us to be safe out there when riding on two wheels

We often bring you the latest information on two-wheeled riding, because it can be a great way to save on some gas. We also like to offer friendly reminders in most of those posts, because no matter how good of a rider you are, you are still at the mercy of the other motorists on the road. And, I am sure we don't need to tell you what the motorcycle's chances are when facing off one-on-one with your everyday average sedan. That's why we send our well-wishes to George Clooney and his significant other, Sarah Larson. The couple is recovering from an accident with a car while riding Clooney's motorcycle. Clooney has made news on our site in the past for his appreciation of electric cars like the Tango. Both Clooney and Larson were wearing helmets, which likely made an impact (ha ha) on the relatively minor severity of their injuries.

Now would be a good time to mention the BMW C1, which performed rather well under crash-test scenario's. There are plenty of riders out there who wish that this vehicle, or one like it, were still available.

The Kneeslider: Are motorcycles the future of performance?

We feel like we're ahead of the curve on this one, but Paul Crowe over at The Kneeslider has posted an editorial questioning whether or not performance cars are an endangered species. Considering that CAFE rules are becoming ever more stringent, cars like the Corvette are likely to move to smaller, more efficient motors and correspondingly lightweight chassis architecture. Heck, even the Camaro could get a hybrid option in the near future.

The question posed by Crowe is whether or not motorcycles will make up for the lack of high-performance cars. We think the answer is a resounding maybe. A few speed-addicts might make a move towards two wheels, but the market for fast cars is not going to go anywhere. Remember the muscle car? That era ended a long time ago, but the desire for the vehicles has not gone anywhere, in fact they are more desirable now than ever before. What's more, technology is already in place which will allow high performance and high economy. So, just as some people are switching to two wheels for economy, some might switch to two wheels for performance. With motorcycles, though, a few will have their cake and eat it too.

[Source: The Kneeslider

Gunbus motorcycle finished, proves just excessive enough

When it comes to custom motorcycle builders, there's crazy and there's really crazy. Falling into the latter category is one Mr. Clemens F. Leonhardt, who has just finished building what he refers to as "the world's biggest motorcycle." Excluding some other crazy creations, such as the Monster Bike, the guy's got a point. Unlike other two-wheeled behemoths, the Leonhardt Gunbus is actually ready to ride on normal roads and will soon go into series production. That's right... you'll actually be able to buy one of these. Next on the agenda is an equally massive sidecar, which somehow seems just right for this bike.

A quick glance at the pictures shows just how monumental that 410-cubic-inch, air-cooled, pushrod V-Twin really is. Of course, a monster of an engine must require an impressively large bike, and the Gunbus is certainly that, looking bit like a caricature of a bike with the fittingly attractive blonde model sitting on top. Whatever -- we want one.

Gallery: Completed Gunbus Motorcycle

Volt pics were put up by "human error"

Click above for more high-res shots of the Chevy Volt

Oops. It seems that the General wasn't quite ready to show the world its new Chevy Volt quite yet, and the pictures of the car with all the guys in the suits was nothing more than an accident. Maybe. Marty Padgett, editor of The Car Connection and the first person to notice the pics were up thinks that the Volt pics could have been GM playing a little game and teasing us with early shots. If true, that could help explain why the shots weren't studio shots of the car only, but who knows? We're not complaining, as it's nice to get an early sneak peek at the car we are most looking forward to in the next few years. For what it's worth, we expect to see the new Volt first hand when General Motors celebrates its first 100 years as an automaker later this month. You can bet we'll get some proper shots with nobody in the way.

Harley-Davidson rolls out new 2009 V-Rod Muscle

The original V-Rod was described as a muscle bike when it was introduced, competing against such intense machines as the original V Max from Yamaha and the Rocket III from Triumph. This year, The Motor Company has seen fit to actually introduce a new model based on that same VRSC platform that carries the name Muscle. Let's get this out of the way now: we're not fans of the moniker. Despite the odd name, we like what makes this machine different from other models sharing the same platform with its liquid cooled 1250cc V-Twin engine. For instance, that new rear fender with its integrated stoplight looks great, as do the dual exhausts with one pipe on each side. One questionable styling choice could be the airbox extensions, which appear riveted into place.

All VRSC models get optional ABS for their Brembo triple disc brakes, including the new VRSCF. The Muscle shares the same 240 mm rear tire that was on our Night Rod Special test bike, and it looks just as mean in this application as it did there, while that fat rubber surrounds new five spoke cast wheels.

Gallery: 2009 VRSCF V-Rod Muscle

Harley-Davidson launches new 2009 Tri Glide Ultra Classic

Considering the growing popularity of the trike market -- and we don't mean the old VW-based creations made popular in the seventies -- we wonder why it took Harley-Davidson so long to introduce its own three-wheeler. Based on the Electra Glide Touring chassis, the Tri Glide uses a belt final drive to connect a new air-suspended rear differential to the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission common to all Harley Big Twins. At the front, rake and trail have been increased to lend a bit more stability to the package while a steering stabilizer is intended to reduce front-end wobble. For the ultimate in ease of use, consider the optional electric reverse gear for an additional $1,195. Dual 15-inch rear wheels come fitted with P205/65R15 tires.

The same Tour-Pak from the Ultra model works on the Tri Glide along with the normal "bat wing" fairing that Harley-Davidson has made famous over the years. Moving all this mass down the road is a new fuel-injected Twin Cam 103 V-Twin engine that offers up 101 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-gallon fuel tank ought to keep you going about as long as your bladder can handle, and the standard cruise control will get you where you need to go with a minimum of fuss. While we personally prefer to tour on two wheels, we're sure HD will find a few buyers for the new Tri Glide, even at its $30,000 suggested retail price, which is actually a decent deal considering how much a conversion kit runs these days.

[Source: Harley-Davidson]

Pics Aplenty: 2009 Volkswagen Golf VI

Click above for high-res gallery of the VW Golf VI

Though we got a preview of the sixth-generation Volkswagen Golf earlier this month, it took VW this long to get its act together and release the full gamut of official images and details. In addition to the new exterior and interior, the Golf VI will also be offered with four TSI gas engines and two TDI diesels, and the superlative 6- and 7-speed DSG transmissions will replace automatic trannies in all but the entry-level models. Electronic nannies will include DCC Adaptive Chassis Control, Park Assist, a Rear Assist rearview camera and the Park Pilot with a visual display. Pricing hasn't bee released yet for Europe, but expect it to start low and end high.

Gallery: Volkswagen Golf VI

Triumph introduces new 2010 Thunderbird

We've seen plenty of spy photos circulating the web of Triumph's long-expected parallel twin cruiser, so the introduction of the new 2010 Thunderbird is anything but shocking. We are a bit surprised, though, by how plain-looking the bike is, appearing very much like a modern Bonneville injected with steroids performance enhancing drugs. With its blacked-out liquid cooled parallel engine, the bike bares a passing resemblance to Kawasaki's rather ancient Vulcan 500 model... not good. In any case, we are counting on competitive performance from the rather large 1600cc engine, which should offer somewhat more than a hundred horses. Considering just how massive the shove one gets from Triumph's Rocket III cruiser, we have high hopes for this new cruiser mill.

Rumors indicate that more variations on this basic Thunderbird theme will come out of the woodwork in due time, including the now-expected touring model. All models will likely share the same basic frame, engine and six speed gearbox. ABS is said to be optional. We look forward to seeing more shots of the new Thunderbird, hopefully ones that show the bike in a bit better light.

Gallery: 2010 Triumph Thunderbird

Harley-Davidson launches two new 2009 models

Harley-Davidson, the definitive American motorcycle manufacturer, has released its 2009 models, and there are a few surprises to take note of, including the introductions of two brand new bikes. The VRSCF V-Rod Muscle (above) builds on the same liquid cooled platform of past VR models and adds a new rear fender design, dual side exhaust pipes and revised bodywork to the wide 240 mm rear tire that some models already feature. The second new bike is The Motor Company's first trike, the Tri Glide. Using a brand new rear differential along with air suspension in back, Harley looks to capitalize on the growing three-wheeler trend in the states.

In other news, HD has also revised the frame of all its '09 Touring models, and we recently got the chance to feel the new, more solid-feeling frame ourselves. It's a definite improvement, especially important since the revised Tour-Pak is capable of holding even more gear and weight. Nearly all new Duna and Sportster models feature a new front fender said to more closely follow the contour of the front wheel, improving the appearance of the bikes in the process. Take a closer look at the two completely new models here:

Gallery: 2009 VRSCF V-Rod Muscle

Dodge leaving NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2009:

With the tightening of the purse strings at parent company Chrysler, the weakening economy and slow truck sales in general, Dodge has decided to pull out of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series following the completion of this year's festivities. This announcement should hardly come as a shock as Dodge made the decision to run just one factory-backed racer for 2008. That lone truck was being run by Bobby Hamilton Racing and we have no details on what the team plans to do for '09. The fact that Dodge has pulled support for the NASCAR Trucks has many pondering if the beleaguered automaker will do the same for the automotive side of the racing series. According to Dodge Motorsports senior manager Mike Delahanty, there are no reasons to jump to conclusions. We'll keep our collective ears to the ground. Thanks for the tip, Hernando!

Electric motorbikes all the rage in Vietnam

As the price of oil goes through the roof, people the world 'round are responding. Here in America many have reduced their driving or traded in their SUV for a hybrid. Others, horror of horrors, have even started taking the bus. In Vietnam, where many folks have been riding 50cc "motorbikes" for years, the reaction has been to switch to electric versions. According to state-owned e-newspaper VietNamNet, "they are selling like hotcakes." One retailer (name not given) interviewed for the story, whose shop is on Vo Thi Sau Street in HCM city, claims to be moving 500 units a month. That's a lot of scooters, excuse me, motorbikes. Typically the parts for these machines are originating in Taiwan and China with assembly taking place in Vietnam. Prices are between VND 6-7 million (US$377-$442).

How goes the electric scooter in America? Most of our faithful ABG readers are quite familiar with the situation with Vectrix sales. The only other scooter manufacturer importer of any note, is Zap, who sell the Zapino. I actually read a very positive initial review of the newest batch of Zapinos (only the ones with ABS) by very knowledgeable electric scooter guy, usatracy, on my favorite EV forum. Strangely, no press release was issued by ZAP to inform us of the improvement in their product.

[Source: VietNamNet]

Triciclo Pompéo - ethanol powered three-wheeler made for Brazil

There are plenty of people who would love to have the fuel mileage of a 250cc motorcycle, but choose not to ride one because of the inherent safety problems and the lack of weather protection. Brazilian company Triciclo thinks that they have the answer to this issue, and it's called the Pompéo. Using a small motorcycle engine which is capable of running on either gasoline or ethanol (important for the Brazilian market), the Pompéo is said to have decent performance due to its low weight. Also important is the fact that the machine - which looks kind of like the front half of a car - is fully enclosed, meaning that the occupants will stay dry no matter what the weather outside. Seat belts provide a measure of safety lacking from the typical motorcycle, although in some countries it will be classed as such regardless. Finally, the cost is said to be in-line with a 400cc motorcycle, meaning the Pompéo should be quite affordable.

We love the idea of the Pompéo and hope it reaches success in Brazil. Currently, there are plans to export the vehicle, but nothing is said of the European or North American market as of yet. Be sure to watch the short video after the break.

[Source: World Car Fans / Triciclo]