Aftermarket: Tesla Model S to get wireless charging from April

February 23rd, 2016 § Comments Off on Aftermarket: Tesla Model S to get wireless charging from April § permalink

Aftermarket specialists can now add wireless charging functionality to your Tesla Model S

Wireless charging specialists Plugless have announced plans to introduce a system that can top up your Tesla EV without the need for lengthy and cumbersome cables.

Owners will be able to charge their Tesla Model S by simply parking on top of the inductive charging pad. Parent company Evatran is taking pre-orders in the US now for first installations in April, though there is no word on when the technology will reach the UK.

In the US, however, a similar system for a Nissan Leaf costs around £1,000. As the Tesla has bigger batteries, you would expect the relevant Plugless pad to command a slight price premium – though installation is included in the price.

For now, the setup is only available for rear-wheel drive Model S cars. The Dual Motor all-wheel drive models aren’t currently compatible, though Evatran says it is working to make Plugless available on all Tesla models in the near future. This will include the Model X and forthcoming Model 3 in due course.

The Plugless system is totally weatherproof, so can be installed both in garages and on driveways. It’s not as fast as Tesla’s innovative Supercharger network, though, with the company claiming only 20 miles of added range for every hour the car is left charging. That means a Model S with the 70 kWh battery would take 13 hours to realise its 260-mile maximum.

We’ll have more information on the Evatan’s wireless charging system – including any plans for UK release – in the coming months.

from: “We’re not serious enough on electric cars”. I concur.

November 25th, 2015 § Comments Off on “We’re not serious enough on electric cars”. I concur. § permalink

As Published on

Everyone lauds the attempts being made to have more electric cars on our roads. There are major drawbacks, of course, with range anxiety prime among them – though with a little bit of management in an urban environment that can be just about coped with now.

But, without in any way detracting from the effort, we should still bear in mind that electric cars are not emissions free.

Well, most of them aren’t. Most rely on power generated somewhere else. And generating that power can invoke considerable emissions. I think we lose sight of that.

I read somewhere recently that an electric car can use as much electricity in one charge as your average fridge does in six weeks. Which is a fair bit if you are charging it every day.

But that shouldn’t be regarded as a downer. Why not use the goal of significantly reducing the environmental impact of power for electric cars as an incentive to produce them more efficiently?

And why not encourage wider use of electric cars by making it even more worthwhile to have one?

All sorts of proposals have been made for Ireland (where monetary incentives are quite generous) such as free parking, tolls etc.

But there is a lethargy about our official approach to them and the numbers sold bear that out. Either we are serious or we are not. And I don’t think we are. We require a different sort of commitment.

I’m prompted to say so on the basis of charges that are coming down the line. This is a great juncture for the Government to step in and say: “We’re going to back electric cars to the hilt and here’s how.”

That would show real intent.

* Speaking of range anxiety . . . BMW is anxious to play down reports its BMW i3 electric car is ready to go further in the not-too-distant future.

Reports suggested it has developed a new higher-density battery that will extend the range to 200km instead of the current 160kmh. But a spokeswoman in Ireland said it was just press speculation.

* On a different electric-car tack . . . Tesla is recalling every Model S that has been bought so far after discovering a fault with a passenger’s seatbelt.

It recently found a Model S in Europe with “a front seatbelt that was not properly connected to the outboard lap pre-tensioner”.

There was no crash or injuries but Tesla says: “However, in the event of a crash, a seatbelt in this condition would not provide full protection.”

* Despite its travails, Volkswagen is pushing ahead with plans for an electric Phaeton to rival the likes of the Tesla Model S. But it will be three or four years down the line.

* Moving away from electrics . . . Toyota here is claimingit is first in Ireland to fit an advanced safety system as standard to a city car. Its ‘Safety Sense’ technology pack will be on the AYGO. The company says there is “no extra cost to the driver”.

* Good to see Jaguar Land Rover here expanding its retail network with the appointment of the Joe Duffy Group as North Dublin’s Jaguar dealer for Sales and Aftersales at HB Dennis.

Based in Airside Motor Park, Swords, the HB Dennis outlet is also a Land Rover dealership.

* And speaking of Land Rover: production of the great Defender will end early next year.

“What it’s like riding in a million-dollar autonomous Nissan” (yes, it is self driving)

November 7th, 2015 § Comments Off on “What it’s like riding in a million-dollar autonomous Nissan” (yes, it is self driving) § permalink

Here’s the ironic thing about today’s autonomous car development programs: The latest prototypes actually require that the person behind the wheel concentrate more, not less.

from cNet Post

That’s because while self-driving vehicles like this Nissan Leaf Piloted Drive 1.0 prototype can do a remarkable job negotiating roads on their own most of the time, a drive of any length and complexity almost always carries with it the specter of an occasional flub or near miss. By contrast, were a human behind the wheel, most of these situations would have never escalated to the point where a need for a momentary swerve or panic braking resulted.

Here’s the ironic thing about today’s autonomous car development programs: The latest prototypes actually require that the person behind the wheel concentrate more, not less.

 That’s because while self-driving vehicles like this Nissan Leaf Piloted Drive 1.0 prototype can do a remarkable job negotiating roads on their own most of the time, a drive of any length and complexity almost always carries with it the specter of an occasional flub or near miss. By contrast, were a human behind the wheel, most of these situations would have never escalated to the point where a need for a momentary swerve or panic braking resulted.

That may sound discouraging, but it’s not meant to. The radical progress that has been made on autonomous vehicles in just the last couple of years suggests that such incidents will be nothing but a brief transitional hiccup for the technology, a blip on its evolutionary timeline. In fact, my 40-plus minute Nissan test drive in unrestricted, live Tokyo traffic was nothing short of hugely impressive.

 Even with the current state-of-the-art tech’s momentary autonomous foibles, it’s easy to see the promise such vehicles have for greatly decreasing accident rates and traffic congestion, not to mention for restoring autonomy to the world’s elderly and infirm. Autonomous technology isn’t just a game-changer for personal transportation, it’s poised to usher in a whole new game.

On my drive, Nissan’s all-electric hatchback prototype executed a complex drive route including merging, along with left and right turns. It negotiated dense traffic including busses, commercial trucks and pedestrians, all with minimal intervention. It was truly fascinating to have a front-row seat while the car moved itself nearly seamlessly through dense traffic.

Were it not for the logos slathered on the sides of our Leaf, our fellow motorists would likely have never suspected that this was anything other than an ordinary human-piloted car. That’s a remarkable achievement. Just a couple of years ago, a car with half of this vehicle’s capabilities would’ve had the outward appearance of a science project.

In part, this dramatic progress has been made possible because the Leaf’s complex network of cutting-edge cameras, sonar hardware and lidar sensors (remote-sensing technology which uses lasers and radars to measure distances) have been miniaturized and innocuously mounted to its bodywork. Up until now, these sensors have been large and ungainly, incorporating an attention-grabbing, aerodynamics-spoiling spinning element that needed to be mounted on a vehicle’s highest point (the roof) for a 360-degree view.

This Nissan makes use of groundbreaking pre-production flash lidar sensors from Santa Barbara’s Advanced Scientific Concepts Inc. which are exponentially smaller than rooftop sensors and contain no moving parts. I bet you didn’t notice them subtly flush-mounted on the car’s front doors and in the bumpers in the pictures above. In all, this car has no fewer than a dozen cameras, four lidar scanners and five radar sensors attached to its panels. I bet you didn’t notice those, either.

Two years ago, a previous-generation system utilized just five cameras and employed comparatively bulky and primitive laser sensors. In the case of this Leaf, which is one of three such million-dollar prototypes, this network of sensors is acted upon by a trunk full of wires and silicon chippery. This hardware figures to be much easier to miniaturize than the sensor arrays themselves, and Nissan expects to downscale the associated componentry to the size of a laptop by the time it introduces a production system by 2020.

At the wheel keeping tabs on the prototype’s systems during my test ride was Tetsuya Iijima, Nissan’s general manager of its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous engineering department. Iijima has been working on ADAS and self-driving technology at Nissan for a remarkable 18 years — he spearheaded the development of the company’s first intelligent cruise control, which he proudly notes was among the very first systems in production over a dozen years ago (concurrently entering the market with a similar technology from Mercedes-Benz).

During our drive, Iijima constantly scanned a trio of screens, including a 10-inch center-stack display that looked production ready (the current Leaf features a 7-inch unit) and a 12-inch screen in place of traditional analogue gauges. There’s also a third, temporary-mounted tablet screen mounted just ahead of the round gear selector displaying additional information, and a head-up display. The in-cluster display is the one Iijima spent the most time looking at. It shows a radar image of the traffic ahead highlighting objects the sensors detect with either red or green boxes depending on their relevance. These objects can include other vehicles, traffic lights or pedestrians.
The vast majority of our test loop was uneventful in the best possible way — the Leaf accelerated, braked and negotiated turned with alacrity under almost all circumstances. It signaled nearly every time it changed lanes, and it even functioned perfectly in a long tunnel with a substantial bend in the middle and a fair amount of traffic.

After noting our smooth progress, I asked Iijima whether the instant-on torque of electric motors and the lack of a multi-speed transmission makes developing an autonomous EV easier than a traditional internal-combustion vehicle, and his face lit up as he nodded.
Given that there are occasions where Piloted Drive may require human intervention, the person in the driver’s seat needs to continue to pay attention to his or her surroundings. Even when this technology is perfected and autonomous drive becomes at least as safe as human piloting, Iijima says it will be important for drivers to remain awake and maintain situational awareness. To that end, he says, “We may need something to keep the driver involved in the driving task.” That could take the form of vehicle occupant monitoring, something this car doesn’t do (but Nissan is working on), or it could even take the form of something like an interactive game. This, too, may be a temporary need. In its just-revealed IDS Concept at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan envisions a future where the steering wheel actually folds away when not in use, and where the seats shift toward each other to encourage conversation.

As it turns out, fast-approaching cars or an oblivious pedestrian at a crosswalk seems easier for the Piloted Drive to react to than a nearby vehicle whose speed closely matches that of our car — it’s hard for the sensors to determine relative speed in such scenarios.

To illustrate the point, while queuing in slow-moving traffic, our Leaf attempted to merge into the rear end of a commercial truck, coming within inches of wiping off its own front end in what would’ve been a sickeningly expensive slow-motion accident. Only Iijima’s override with the brake pedal saved our car’s skin. Piloted Drive also had trouble detecting a merging Nissan X-Trail under similar circumstances. In that situation, Iijima was able to use the steering wheel as a momentary override, at which point the car immediately retook control seamlessly and uneventfully. Piloted Drive won’t disable itself fully in the latter circumstance, it will only turn off when the driver manually activates the brake pedal or hits an emergency kill switch — integrating momentary manual steering or accelerator inputs seem easy.
Interestingly, while Piloted Drive won’t call out lane-change maneuvers or bends in the road, when it comes time for a significant directional change (as when turning on to another road at a four-way stop), the system will call out its maneuver over the speakers, just like a normal navigation system. Iijima says that’s so that vehicle occupants aren’t taken by surprise. IIjima believes that voice support like this could be a transitional step until people get used to the sensation of traveling in autonomous cars.

The auto industry’s pace of development of autonomous technology has been nothing short of thrilling, and much of the basic “blocking and tackling” work is nearing production readiness. But there’s still lot of scenarios for which it will be very tough to program. For instance, while Nissan’s Piloted Drive can account for a pedestrian in a roadway, it can’t detect that the individual is actually a policeman, urging the vehicle’s driver to proceed with a wave of his hand.

Weather remains a challenge, too — Iijima says sun glare and heavy rain isn’t a problem, but admits fog and snow are more difficult. Will an autonomous car’s exterior sensors need to be heated and self-cleaning in order to work in inclement weather, or will the technology simply shut off when sensors get dirty or packed with snow, the way today’s intelligent cruise-control systems warn check out?

Nissan promises a full-autonomy system like this will be in production by 2020 and Iijima says it will have a “common-sense” price, but admits it will be initially offered on a high-end model. By that time, less capable self-driving systems will also be available on more mainstream Nissans, which will likely be hardware similar to the semi-autonomous tech currently offered on luxury cars like the Tesla Model S or Nissan’s own Infiniti Q50.

In the face of such impressive technology, I couldn’t help but ask Iijima if he thinks manual driving has a long-term future, especially if self-driving cars ultimately prove to be significantly safer, as most experts believe. Iijima pointed to the continued presence of motorcycles in a world where four-wheeled cars are infinitely less dangerous and suggested that “(driving) will become kind of a sport,” in other words, a source of entertainment. Many experts agree, pointing to how some people enjoy horseback riding even though the sun has long since set on using equines as primary transportation.

Me? I’m not so sure. I welcome autonomous technology, especially for boring freeway transits, megacity stoplight-to-stoplight slogs, and for drivers who can’t be bothered to look up from their mobile phones. But I suspect that over the long haul, if human beings are causing a disproportionate amount of accidents versus their computerized counterparts, manual driving will be taken off the table, at least on public roads. Whether that reality manifests itself legislatively or merely practically — likely taking the form of prohibitively high insurance rates — I’m not so sure.

Either way, while the road to autonomy isn’t fully mapped out, it’s clear we’re well on the way to a self-driving future. And thanks to engineers like Nissan’s Iijima, that future is coming up in the rearview mirror far quicker than you might imagine.

Bit of both: BMW X5 XDRIVE40E PLUG-IN HYBRID (2015) 85mpg

November 6th, 2015 § Comments Off on Bit of both: BMW X5 XDRIVE40E PLUG-IN HYBRID (2015) 85mpg § permalink

BMW’S X5 was one of the pioneers of family friendly off-roaders. Tall, spacious and bristling with gadgets, it’s a familiar sight the world over, from Austrian ski resorts to American freeways and outside school gates in the home counties.  
The one in the picture may look like its predecessors but it is different. At 70mph there is no sound to be heard other than a gentle rustle of wind and the remote hiss of tyres on asphalt. It is, frankly, amazing. The quiet is so enveloping that the voices of passengers drop to a hushed murmur.

This is the new BMW X5 xDrive40e plug-in hybrid — no noise, no vibration and no petrol being guzzled, even hustling us down the motorway at the legal limit.  

Plug-in hybrids, in case you hadn’t noticed, are all the rage. Audi, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Volvo are using the tech to help sell SUVs. And BMW — which already has several in its range, including the desirable i8 sports car — is harnessing the technology to help ease the conscience, and tax bill, of drivers.

In this case the system teams up a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with a synchronous electric motor for a combined power output of 308bhp. The key here is that this X5 features a large lithium-ion battery pack that can deliver a pure electric range of up to 19 miles. Top speed on battery alone is 75mph, although you will seriously reduce the range at that pace.

  The X5 has three primary hybrid modes. Get in and start off without selecting anything, as you would in an ordinary X5, and the system will default to Auto eDrive. In this setting it behaves like any old hybrid, using a combination of electric and petrol motivation depending on what you’re doing with your right foot. Mash the throttle pedal to the floor and you’ll get every ounce of power the petrol engine and electric motor can muster, but if you’re pootling around town, the system will give you silent, pure-electric motoring.

So this is the mode for people who don’t want to think about modes; just let the car sort everything out. What you end up with is a fantastically refined SUV — the transition from pure electric running to petrol and electric is seamless. Often the only way to tell that the engine has joined proceedings is to keep an eye on the rev counter, which leaps into life when the car reckons you need a bit of poke. 

 You really have to charge it as much as possible, because if you run around on zero battery you’ve just got a needlessly heavy SUV that’ll get a fraction of the fuel mileage an equivalent diesel will

And it does have a decent turn of performance when you want it; for such a large car, 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds is good going, by any measure. Power is fed through a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and this X5 has permanent four-wheel drive.

If you select Max eDrive the X5 plug-in operates in pure electric mode; it will engage the petrol engine only if you suddenly find you need maximum beans. Around town it works really well — exploiting gaps in traffic is quite good fun as the torque of the electric motor is all there instantly.
The third setting, Save Battery, is self-explanatory; if you’re on a motorway and expect to be driving in a city centre where you might want pure electric motoring, this mode will maintain or even top up a minimum level of charge, which will give you a reasonable range of urban miles under electric power. It’s a handy feature, but the X5 is inefficient in that mode, especially if the engine is acting as a generator to top up the battery at the same time it is powering the car. You’ll feel more sinner than saint using it.

The X5’s cabin is still a good place to spend time, with comfortable seats and masses of space in the back. But if you need seven seats, it’ll have to be a non-hybrid X5, as the rear-mounted battery pack means a third row of chairs can’t be fitted. There is also restricted luggage space — 150 litres less with the rear seats down — although subjectively, the boot still looks quite capacious.

The plug-in X5 is heavier than its diesel equivalent, but because all the extra weight is low the car doesn’t feel unwieldy. You can hurry along a B-road, using its torque to slingshot out of corners, but ultimately, you’ll get early understeer if you’re caning it. And why would you want to do that in a big SUV?

As well as a choice of hybrid power modes, the plug-in X5 gets different driving settings, in common with other models in the range, that adjust throttle response, steering weight and gearshift speed. And while the steering is a little light, it’s perfectly suited in this application; the combination of easy torque response, refined transmission and quiet, smooth running makes the plug-in X5 a relaxing driving experience.

There’s something strangely satisfying about running this car on electric. Not in a polar bear-saving, Swampy kind of way; it’s just a brilliantly relaxing, smooth and quiet way of getting around

It would be a good commuter car for those with a journey combining motorways and city centres. And low CO2 emissions bring the usual tax breaks, although at 77g/km it just misses out on the London congestion charge limit of 75g/km. So close, but no cigar.

There is, though, an obvious drawback to owning a plug-in hybrid. You really have to charge it as much as possible, because if you run around on zero battery you’ve just got a needlessly heavy SUV that’ll get a fraction of the fuel mileage an equivalent diesel will. For the record, the claimed combined fuel consumption for this plug-in SUV is 85.6mpg.
First Drive review: BMW X5 xDrive40e

There are more public charging points, that’s true — and some of them even function — but for most, it’ll be charging at home or at work that’ll be the most sensible routine. That all sounds a hassle, but bear in mind that you can fully charge the X5’s battery on a domestic socket in just under four hours.

I made my last run to Munich airport — about 20 miles — mainly on electric power. And there’s something strangely satisfying about doing that. Not in a polar bear-saving, Swampy kind of way; it’s just a brilliantly relaxing, smooth and quiet way of getting around, in a car that’s as far removed from the ridiculous Reva G-Wiz as possible.

Then, on the last stretch of A-road, I gave it maximum right foot for a glorious surge of acceleration, which was hugely amusing. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.
2015 BMW X5 xDrive40e rivals

Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum, £59,995 (view cars for sale)
For Beautiful interior; great on the road

Against Expensive compared with rivals

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2.0 GX5hs, £45,054 (view cars for sale)
For Affordable; impressive range
Against Comparatively low power; performance is on the leisurely side

VW’s ‘dieselgate’ puts spotlight on electric cars in Germany

October 25th, 2015 § Comments Off on VW’s ‘dieselgate’ puts spotlight on electric cars in Germany § permalink

The pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed auto giant Volkswagen is turning up the heat on the German government to make more determined headway in its self-declared “electromobility” goals, analysts say.
The “bitter irony” of the scam that has rocked the automobile sector around the world and plunged the once-respected carmaker into a major crisis, is that the billions of euros VW could potentially face in fines “could have been used to finance an entire electric car programme,” complained Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks recently.
Over the past six years, Berlin has put up 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for research into an electric car, the minister pointed out. And her ministry is looking into a series of measures to promote the electric car, such as tax incentives and purchase subsidies.
Her colleague at the Economy Ministry, Sigmar Gabriel, has said he was ready to support financial incentives, without specifying what form they should take.
And he is in favour of introducing quotas for electric vehicles in the car fleets of public authorities, with the aim of boosting demand.
Such ideas are enthusiastically welcomed by VDIK, the association of international motor vehicle manufacturers, which is calling for a purchase discount of “at least 5,000 euros” per electric car during a still undefined “transition period.”
In 2009, the German government formulated a goal to have around one million electric cars on the road by 2020. And it restated that target earlier this year.
But the goal is looking increasingly ephemeral and at the half-way point, the concrete numbers are woefully short of target, with a meagre 19,000 vehicles on the roads in Germany in September 2015.
The government’s goal “is quite simply not achievable,” said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Research in Bergisch Gladbach.
There was “a lot of euphoria, but no vision for a feasible economic model” for the electric car in Germany, he complained.
– ‘Concerted action’ –
The VW scandal may provide a chance to restart the electromobility debate in Germany.
“But for that, real concerted action is needed between automakers, suppliers and the authorities,” Bratzel said.
Offering car buyers a purchase discount would likely prove only a flash in the pan with regard to kickstarting overall demand, the expert argued.
The main determining factors for the lasting success of electric vehicles would be considerations of “battery autonomy, infrastructure and price,” Bratzel insisted.
Public subsidy of any electromobility initiative remains controversial.
The opposition environmentalist Green party is calling for a general overhaul of the system of taxes for vehicles, arguing that powerful, big-cylinder and pollutant engines should face the highest levies.
But that is a road the government appears reluctant to go down.
Instead, Berlin announced, just a week after the VW scandal broke, the construction of 400 battery-charging stations for electric cars at motorway service stations by 2017, as well as a number of “privileges” for electric vehicles on public roads.
They would, for example, be allowed to use bus lanes and benefit from free parking in towns and cities.
However, at the end of the day, it is the local and municipal authorities that have the final word on such initiatives and they “have no interest in jamming the bus lanes with private cars, even if they are electric cars,” said Bratzel.
As time progresses and the dream of electromobility remains pie-in-the-sky, environmentalist groups are losing patience.
“Every year, Germany squanders seven billion euros on privileges for diesel, which is a pollutant technology,” said Daniel Moser, who is responsible for transport issues at Greenpeace Germany.
The activists believe it will simply not be enough to transfer the privileges to electric vehicles.
What was needed was an entire ecological urban transport system, ranging from trams, to bicycles and electric buses, “not just more private electric cars clogging up towns,” Greenpeace said.

Less Energy-Intensive Heating For Electric Cars Demonstrated At Frankfurt Auto Show

September 15th, 2015 § Comments Off on Less Energy-Intensive Heating For Electric Cars Demonstrated At Frankfurt Auto Show § permalink

Less Energy-Intensive Heating For Electric Cars Demonstrated At Frankfurt Auto ShowFilm-based heating system for electric cars from Fraunhofer Institute

Onboard accessories can be a major drag on the efficiency of cars.

While it’s hard to imagine a new car being sold without heating or air conditioning, these systems draw a not-insignificant amount of power.

And electric cars particularly, that can have a negative impact on range.

Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute hope to mitigate that impact with a prototype heating system to be demonstrated at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show.
The system uses a “film-based panel” that researchers claim is more efficient than conventional electric heaters.

The film is coated with a thin layer of conductive carbon nanotubes (CNTs). When electricity flows through the film, the CNTs create resistance, generating heat.

Because the film is only a few micrometers thick, and flexible, it can be applied directly to surfaces like door panels.

This helps reduce weight, and allows heat to be more efficiently dispersed into the cabin, researchers say.

Heat is distributed evenly over the entire surface of the film, and those surfaces cool down very quickly when the system is shut off, they claim.

Replacing conventional heaters with this setup could also be a boon to those in charge of packaging car interiors, in theory.

Many electric cars currently rely more heavily on heated seats and steering wheels–rather than full cabin heating–to cut energy consumption and maintain range.

But the Fraunhofer researchers claim a more expansive heating system is actually more necessary in electric cars, because less heat is generated by the powertrain, compared to an internal-combustion car.

For the prototype system, sheets of film were cut into strips, and then glued to door panels.

But researchers hope to eventually develop a spray-on film, which could be applied more quickly and more evenly.

However, this technology will likely remain in the laboratory for now.
No manufacturers have publicly shown interest in it, and promising test results do not inevitably lead to commercial viability.

Tesla Model S rival: Porsche Mission E electric saloon revealed at Frankfurt

September 15th, 2015 § Comments Off on Tesla Model S rival: Porsche Mission E electric saloon revealed at Frankfurt § permalink

Tesla Model S rival has over 600bhp and more than 300 miles of range – and a production version is on the way. Porsche has stolen the limelight at this year’s Frankfurt motor show with the unveiling of this spectacular new 600bhp plus electric-powered concept car – the Mission E.  

Drawing on the electric drive and energy storage know-how gained in the development of the Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid race car, along with the lightweight construction and battery technology created for the 918 Spyder hypercar, the sleek new four-door concept is claimed to closely preview an innovative new 

Telsa Model S rival that’s being readied for launch before the end of the decade.

911 Turbo pace

With a 0-62mph time to challenge the latest 911 Turbo and a claimed range of more than 331 miles, the Mission E holds true to Porsche’s practical performance mantra, while also taking a nod to the future with the latest in 800 volt recharging technology and full zero-emission compatibility.

“We always said that when we do an electric car, it would be a true sportscar. We also said it would offer the performance traditional Porsche buyers demand,” said Wolfgang Hatz, head of research and development, at the unveiling of the Mission E on Monday evening, adding, “We have achieved both goals, while providing it with everyday practicality and an exceptional range.”

Power for the four-wheel drive Mission E is provided by two electric motors – one mounted up front acting on the front axle and one at the rear providing drive to the rear wheels. Produced in-house, both units run in a permanent synchronous state for what Hatz describes as “uniform power development for reliably reproducible accelerative ability” and “greater scope for energy recuperation”.

The German car maker is yet to reveal the individual power loadings for each motor, but confirms a combined output of over 600bhp. This provides the new concept with at least 80bhp more than the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre six cylinder 911 Turbo – the fastest-accelerating production Porsche.

With a kerb weight of over 2000kg, the Mission E is claimed to hit 62mph from standstill in 3.5sec – or just 0.1sec shy of the 911 Turbo’s official time. Porsche also quotes a 0-200km/h time of less than 12.0sec for its new concept, which uses an on-demand four-wheel drive system in which the front wheels are driven only during acceleration, under hard driving or on slippery road surfaces. An electronically controlled torque-vectoring function also automatically distributes drive to each individual rear wheel for improved handling balance.

Hatz describes the handling of the Mission E as “typically rear biased”. He also says computer simulations suggest it is capable of lapping the Nurburgring circuit in less than eight minutes – a time that places it on a similar performance plane to the Cayman S.

With 682bhp, the £79,080 Tesla Model S P85D possesses a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.2sec.  

More on

Nissan LEAF 2016 electric car upgraded with improved range

September 11th, 2015 § Comments Off on Nissan LEAF 2016 electric car upgraded with improved range § permalink

25% increase in LEAF driving range – 155 miles (250km) on a single charge

Significant battery updates improve performance

New NissanConnect EV infotainment system with greater functionality; off-board telematics for remote operations

Nissan has updated its LEAF electric car with a new 30kWh battery that promises to give drivers 155 miles of motoring range. It’s hoped the new battery will also help to broaden the LEAF’s appeal and boost sales. » Read the rest of this entry «

Budget 2015: new road repair fund and car tax overhaul

July 11th, 2015 § Comments Off on Budget 2015: new road repair fund and car tax overhaul § permalink

George Osborne announces a new road improvement fund with VED car tax paying directly for road repairs

“Every single penny” raised by vehicle excise duty will go into a new road fund to pay exclusively for highways maintenance by the end of the decade. George Osborne revealed the creation of the road fund in his July 8 Budget in one of the biggest reforms to motoring in recent years.

Osborne said: “We will create a new roads fund from the end of this decade and every single penny raised in vehicle excise duty will go into that fund to pay for roads. The tax paid on people’s cars will be used on the roads they drive on. It’s a fairer tax system for motorists.”

Vehicle excise duty will also be overhauled from 2017 because figures show that under the current scheme three quarters of all new cars would be exempt.

The 2017 system will see new cars paying based on updated emissions ratings that take new technology such as hybrids and pure-electric cars into account. After the first year, there will be three duty bands – zero emission, standard and premium.

Diesel motorway pollution smog traffic

No extra revenue will be raised by the new system but Osborne believes it’ll be “more secure” and fairer, too.

Osborne said it’s not right that those who can afford new cars pay no tax while those who can only afford as used vehicle have to shell out for tax when both are using the roads.

Fuel duty will also be frozen for the rest of the year, as previously announced, while the time limit on having the first MoT carried out will be stretched from three to four years, saving motorists “billions”.

Budget 2015: reaction

Commenting on the budget, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The Chancellor has seen the writing on the wall. His VED income is set to fall sharply as cars get greener and he has acted to avoid that. Costs for many drivers will rise, but two things help offset the financial pain. One is that new car prices have dropped in real terms over many years and the other is that money raised from VED will be ring-fenced for road investment, something not seen since the 1930s.”

New VED road tax bands from April 2017

The new VED rates affect cars registered from 1 April 2017. The first year rates will continue to be set according to CO2 emissions although only zero-emission cars will be exempt from paying.

After the first year, a flat standard rate of £140 a year applies – although zero-emission vehicles continue to be free. Cars with a list price above £40,000 will attract a supplement of £310 on their standard charge for the first five years. All cars that were first registered before the new system comes into effect remain on the existing VED scale which will not change.

VED tax bands: April 2017 onwards: table

VED car tax bands for cars first registered from 2017 onwards
Emissions (g/km of CO2) First year rate Standard rate
0 £0 £0
1-50 £10 £140
51-75 £25
76-90 £100
91-100 £120
101-110 £140
111-130 £160
131-150 £200
151-170 £500
171-190 £800
191-225 £1,200
226-255 £1,700
Over 255 £2,000
Cars above £40,000 pay £310 annual supplement for five years

 History of Vehicle Excise Duty in the UK

  • • 1889Vehicle Excise Duty first introduced.
  • • 1909 – In the ‘People’s Budget’ David Lloyd George announced that the proceeds of VED would be used to fund the building and maintenance of the road network.
  • • 1920 – The terms Road Fund and Road Fund Licence came into existence.
  • • 1936 – Ring-fencing of the Road Fund ended by the Finance Act.
  • • 2014 – 69% of new cars registered in Great Britain were exempt from VED in their first year on the road because they emitted CO2 of less than 131g/km and fell into bands A-D.
  • • 2013/14VED raised £6.1 billion with the money going into the Treasury’s general consolidated fund.
  • • 2017 – New cars to be charged VED with no first year exemption with new rates emissions ratings introduced for updated tech.
  • • 2020 – By the end of the decade, all VED paid will be ring-fenced and used for road building, maintenance and repairs.

What do you think of the changes affecting motorists in the 2015 budget? Let us know in the comments section below…

Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid due in 2015 (20 Miles Max EV Range)

June 4th, 2015 § Comments Off on Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid due in 2015 (20 Miles Max EV Range) § permalink

There are a few particular stats concerning the new Mercedes S500 Plug-in Hybrid that grab your attention when skimming the spec sheet. Namely, combined fuel consumption of 100.9mpg, CO2 emissions of 65g/km and 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds.

They’re not a misprint – this is the greenest S-class yet, with a 3.0-litre petrol-fuelled V6 joined by a 114bhp electric motor taking its energy from a big lithium-ion battery pack in the boot. It’s also the first of a raft of new plug-in Mercs, with 10 further hybrids planned by 2017.

Mercedes Benz S500 PHEV Plugin Hybrid via

Mercedes Benz S500 PHEV Plugin Hybrid via

Mercedes Benz S500 PHEV Plugin Hybrid via

Mercedes Benz S500 PHEV Plugin Hybrid via

Hold on. Aren’t there hybrid versions of the Mercedes S-class already?

Yes, the petrol-electric S400 and the diesel-electric S300 BlueTec. In their case, though, the electric motor’s job is more to take the edge off the combustion engine’s consumption and augment its performance than provide much in the way of meaningful zero-emissions mileage.

The S500 Plug-in Hybrid can manage far more than a bit of low-speed gliding around car parks. A much bigger battery pack (and the ability to plug it into the mains or a faster wallbox charger to pre-charge it) means it can manage up to 20 miles on electric power alone before the petrol engine kicks in. That said, on our initial 11-mile drive at low speeds through city streets the V6 whirred into life just around the corner from our destination.

Charging takes around two hours at a wallbox or between two hours 45 minutes and four hours through the mains, via a socket in the rear bumper.

What’s the Mercedes S500 Plug-in like to drive?

Just as imperious as the non-hybrid limo models, but with the added serenity of near-silence when running in electric mode.

There are occasionally a few more noticeable clunks and shunts from the seven-speed transmission than you might ideally like but otherwise this is as refined as luxury travel gets. Adaptive air suspension ensures ride quality is suitably smooth and when you touch the brake pedal the system does a decent job of overlapping the mechanical brakes and electric motor deceleration unobtrusively.

For what it’s worth, this car is jolly fast too: when both the electric motor and the V6 put their heads together there’s a total of 436bhp and enough performance for enthusiastic chauffeurs to pin their passengers far into the S-class’s cushioned head rests.

There are four driving modes to choose from: E-mode (electric power only), E-save (uses as little battery power as possible), Charge (charges the battery as you drive) and Hybrid (the default mode, which does a little of everything).

Mercedes S500 Plug-in technology highlights

Being an S-Class, it’s rammed with clever and complicated tech. A party piece Mercedes seems particularly proud of is the car’s ability to turn the local topography to its advantage; for example, if you’ve programmed a hilly route into the sat-nav the S500 will use the electric motor to help the car uphill and flatten the battery as much as possible so it can recharge on the way down. Equally, the system will make sure you get to urban areas with as much charge as possible so you can make the most of the electric motor.

There’s also a ‘haptic accelerator pedal’. If you’ve set the transmission to Economy+ mode, on downhill stretches or when following traffic a series of pulses through the throttle pedal tells you that you should really take your foot off the gas to allow the drivetrain to coast or regenerate energy. That’s right, the hybrid S-Class is sentient to the point where it will essentially chide you for tailgating.

You can also set the interior temperature before you climb in via your smartphone, which can be linked to the climate control and heated seats, steering wheel and armrest. The app will even tell you how much charge is left in the battery from the comfort of your front room.

Any downsides?

A sizeable chunk of boot space is lost to a doorstep-shaped ledge that covers the big battery pack and the plug-in S-class is available in long-wheelbase form only – but it’s otherwise identical to any other model in the range. It does carry a more heavyweight price tag though, at around £17,000 more than an S350 BlueTec diesel.

The jury’s out on the exact extent you’d be saving the planet by choosing the plug-in. That spec sheet-dominating 65g/km CO2 figure owes a little to the rather generous way hybrids’ emissions are calculated by the EU (the electric-only range is carried wholesale into the calculations), since the engine generates 149g/km of CO2.

On a separate note, the twin-screen S-Class dashboard is beginning to look a little dated already – maybe Merc has a more elegant instrument panel in the pipeline for when facelift time rolls around.


You’d hesitate to call it ‘green’ wholeheartedly, but the Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-in’s efficiency figures are undeniably impressive. For buyers with largely city-based driving habits and access to charging infrastructure, it’s arguably the pick of the range.

Most buyers will forgo the faffing with power cables and plump for the more affordable S350 diesel, though. The S500 Plug-in is expected to make up around 3-5% of S-class sales in the UK.

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