Friday, July 31, 2015

Armored Natural-Gas Plug-In Hybrid Truck To Hit The Roads

Sectran Security armored truck
Sectran Security armored truck

Have you ever thought about the carbon footprint of your money?
Everything we use has to be transported from place to place, including the cash in our wallets. And the big, hulking diesel armored trucks that move money around are hardly the most fuel-efficient vehicles.

Hoping to temper the all-important emphasis on security with some green thinking, three companies have just unveiled a cleaner alternative to the traditional armored truck.
The 26,000-pound vehicle is a plug-in hybrid with a natural-gas internal-combustion engine, according to Autoblog.
Six trucks were converted by Efficient Drivetrains Inc. and North American Repower, and will begin hauling valuables around the Los Angeles area with Sectran Security next year.
Clean Energy Fuels natural gas refueling station Long Beach, California.
Clean Energy Fuels natural gas refueling station Long Beach, California.
Efficient Drivetrains has already tried to market a plug-in hybrid SUV in Asia, while North American Repower specializes in natural-gas conversions.
An armored truck seemed like a good platform for the joint project because these vehicles most of their time in urban traffic, making many stops for deliveries.
During stops, a standard truck's diesel engine is typically left idling for security purposes.

However, California regulations limit idling to 5 minutes, the partners say.
The powertrain's electric component offers a way around that issue, while the naturalgas power helps to reduce emissions while running the engine.
The demonstration fleet of six trucks will conserve 31,000 gallons of diesel per year, and cut emissions by 99.9 percent, the companies claim.
2015 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel Natural Gas
2015 Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel Natural Gas
Natural gas has proven to be more acceptable as a fuel for fleets than individual passenger cars.
The lack of public fueling stations makes owning a natural-gas car somewhat inconvenient, but fleet operators can secure supplies of the fuel to distribute to their vehicles.
After 15 years of selling a natural-gas powered Civic sedan, Honda has withdrawn that model for 2016 after concluding that prospects for natural gas-fueled passenger vehicles remained dim.

Since most fleet vehicles operate within confined service areas, operators count on them not straying too far from a centralized fueling source, often "back at base" every night.
The armored-truck project received a $3 million grant from the California Energy Commission, along with a matching amount of private funds.
While this project will only demonstrate these unusual vehicles, perhaps more will be built if security companies show interest.

Source: Green Car Reports

BMW Mulls Large All-Electric SUV To Counter Tesla Model X: Report

2015 BMW i3 REx  -  Driven, Portland OR, April 2015
2015 BMW i3 REx - Driven, Portland OR, April 2015
Battery-electric vehicles with ranges of 150 to 200 miles and prices under $50,000 are now on the horizon from Chevrolet, Nissan, and Tesla, but details of BMW's entry into that segment are less visible.

On the higher end, we know that German luxury makers Audi and Mercedes-Benz plan pricey all-electric sedans and SUVs with ranges of 250-plus miles. They'll compete with the current Tesla Model S sedan and upcoming Model X utility vehicle.

Will BMW--which has by far the most aggressive and advanced plug-in vehicle program of any German maker--enter that segment as well?

A report in the German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche (via BMW Blog) indicates that the BMW board is now assessing proposals for an all-electric SUV that would be derived from its upcoming BMW X7.
That full-size SUV, powered by gasoline or diesel engines--and likely a plug-in hybrid version as well--will go into production in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for the 2018 model year.
The all-electric SUV proposed by BMW could be derived from the X7, built in South Carolina, and offer a direct competitor to the Tesla Model X.
Tesla Model X prototype on Arizona road, July 2015 [by YouTube user count783]
Tesla Model X prototype on Arizona road, July 2015 [by YouTube user count783]
It would also compete directly with the Audi Q6 all-electric crossover utility vehicle, which will be shown in concept form at September's Frankfurt Motor Show and is expected to go on sale for 2018 as well.
According to Wirtschaftswoche, BMW's new CEO, Harald Kruger, is waiting to assess the public reaction to the Tesla Model X before proposing a final decision on the idea to his board.

Tesla Motors says that more than 20,000 potential buyers have now put down deposits on the Model X. First deliveries are expected before the end of this year.
It's worth noting that the idea of a large luxury electric SUV would be a different and distinct project from the next vehicle expected in the BMW "i" lineup.
Purported Audi Q6 electric crossover teaser image
Purported Audi Q6 electric crossover teaser image
That car, thought to be called the BMW i5, is expected to be a five-seat battery-electric compact crossover, roughly the size of the BMW X3 SUV, with a range of 150 to 200 miles.
It was scheduled to arrive about four years after the launch of the BMW i3, meaning it would arrive sometime in 2017.

That would make it BMW's entry in the smaller segment of 150- to 200-mile electric cars, which seem likely to be led by the Chevrolet Bolt EV in late 2016.
The larger luxury electric entries are expected to have ranges of 250 or more miles, to face off against the current Tesla offerings.

Brammo is Out, Victory Empulse TT is In

When Polaris bought out electric-bike builder Brammo, there was wide speculation about what, exactly, the makers of Victory Motorcycles were going to do with the all-electric go-fast bikes. With the introduction of the “all-new” Victory Empulse TT, however, the answer is clear: Victory is going to sell electric bikes.
The new Victory Empulse, then, is very much the same Brammo Empulse longtime readers of this site are already familiar with. Polaris’ deep pockets were able to afford the Victory version of the bike a few improvements, however, most notably a larger battery pack (+10% for 10.4 kWh nominal), a new seat, and most importantly, a rubber “cush” drive for the rear wheel.
The addition of the Empulse line will allow Victory dealers to steal some of the thunder that cross-town rivals Harley-Davidson have created with their all-electric Live Wire concept, while giving the brand a credible sport bike to entice more aggressive riders who already turn to the brand for their two-wheeled cruising and touring needs. The pricing of the Victory Empulse — believed to be set at $19,999 — will keep the bike from becoming a volume-leader, but remains accessible enough for riders who want an authentic TT experience for under 6-figures.
You can see more pictures of the latest Victory-branded Brammo bikes over at Asphalt and Rubber magazine, which has a full, high-resolution photo gallery as well as more specs on the bike itself. Enjoy!

Victory Empulse TT


Source | ImagesAsphalt and Rubber.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2016 Chevy Volt Pics Surface

GM-Volt forum member “cab” dropped a bunch of pictures of the 2016 Chevy Volt yesterday. These pictures from the wild make me like the 2016 Chevy Volt even more, and I was already a fan. It’s one of the best-looking electric vehicles on the market, imho. With 50 miles of all-electric range, it also means most people can drive electric on it for the vast majority of their trips (95–99%). If you feel a need for a gasoline backup but you want to drive electric, the Volt seems like a given.
Anyway, though, this article is about pictures, so have a look:
2016 Chevy Volt 02016 Chevy Volt 12016 Chevy Volt 22016 Chevy Volt 32016 Chevy Volt 42016 Chevy Volt 52016 Chevy Volt 62016 Chevy Volt 72016 Chevy Volt 82016 Chevy Volt 9
I can’t say I’m a fan of the bright silver grill, and the gold-ish Chevy symbol, but overall, think this is a great-looking car. I can’t wait to see how this beast sells! And can’t wait to review it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why Is GM Only Planning 30,000 Chevy Bolts Per Year?

One of the biggest electric vehicle announcements of the year so far was the surprise Chevy Bolt announcement from GM in January, the revealing of an affordable, long-range electric car from a major manufacturer. This is the second “affordable” and “long-range” electric car announced by anyone, only trailing the Tesla Model 3. But it is actually supposed to go into production before the Tesla Model 3.
2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle – glass ro
Chevy Bolt via GM
With Nissan selling approximately 20,000 affordable, 84-mile Leafs a year in the US alone, and Tesla selling a similar if not higher number of its expensive but long-range electric cars in the US alone (~50,000 world wide), one would think that there would be a huge market for an affordable and long-range electric car like the Chevy Bolt. Even if limited to the US, 30,000 Bolts a year seems absurdly pessimistic. So, why the low target?
Two big reasons come to mind. The first potential reason is that GM doesn’t want to be too optimistic and then get crushed in the media or tarnish the EV market if it doesn’t come close to the target. This already happened with Nissan, because Nissan assumed the many benefits of EVs would lead to much higher Leaf sales. Aside from simply being cautious for that reason, GM may also be scared that buyers would choose the Tesla Model 3 over the Chevy Bolt — that’s certainly what the initial results of our EV owner & lessee survey indicates.

2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle – front ex2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle – rear ext
However, I think it’s another factor that is really holding back GM’s target — projected battery supply. An EV Obsession reader made the point pretty clear in a recent comment on the site (minor edits implemented):
“However, battery production is the big thing. They can only build 30,000 because LG doesn’t have that much production capacity. They had never fully built out the Holland, MI, LG plant that supplies GM and Ford. They are doing that now. Since LG’s sales of EV-related batteries have been really poor thus far and they suffer from chronic underutilization, it is difficult for them to invest the billions into plant(s) expansion(s) beyond finishing to nameplate capacity. That’s why Tesla’s Gigafactory is all that much more remarkable. With Panasonic’s Osaka plants churning out about 8 GWh by the end of next year for Tesla, LG won’t be able to match that level of output within that time period. As a result, all of LG’s customers will be sharing something around 6 GWh of production. With the Tesla Gigafactory then adding another 7 or so GWh of production in its first phase, we’re looking at about double the production capacity over LG. So VW/Audi, GM, Ford, and others that have signed up for LG’s output will share production of less than half of Tesla’s production in 2017. As Tesla brings on more phases, the rest will have to move quickly to even avoid falling further behind.”
I don’t think I could have explained the situation better. LG doesn’t have the production capacity, but it is not going to risk a big increase in production capacity until its customers (GM, Volkswagen/Audi, Renault, Ford, etc) show that they can and will sell enough electric cars to warrant it.
Of course, without the ramp-up in production, it is harder for LG to bring down battery costs, so we have a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here. It seems like the best-case scenario right now would be if the Chevy Bolt demonstrated huge customer demand, prompting LG to “quickly” ramp up production, but that is still likely to put LG and all the automakers that rely on it at least 2–3 years behind Tesla.
It’s an interesting situation. If you have more insight on the matter, we’d love to see it in the comments.

California, or: Don’t Call this New VW Camper a Westy

2015 VW Camper Van California
Hey, all you Wetsfalia fans. Come and meet the all-new Volkswagen California! This newly revised T6 VW camper was recently released in the UK market as an update to the “old” T5. And, while it may look an awful lot like the outgoing “T5″ Transporter, there are plenty of improvements under the skin that make the new T6 worth a look.
As is often the case with 21st-century updates biggest changes to the VW camper vans comes under the hood and in the dash. Under the hood, the California sports a new, Euro-6 level emissions compliant diesel engine that develops 148 hp. That’s 10 more hp than the outgoing T5 model, but the T6 gets 44.1 MPG, as opposed to the T5’s 39.2 mpg rating. Inside, the T6 gets new interior surfaces and a more slickly appointed “premium” cabin that AutoExpress UK claims produces “a significant upward ambiance shift, dotted with glossy surfaces and soft-closing compartments.”
So, yeah. Nicer is better.
You can find out more about the new for 2015 Volkswagen California (aka VW camper van) by heading over to AutoExpress for their full review of the not-a-Westfalia and high-resolution photo gallery. I’ve included a few of my favorite shots, below, and would love to hear what you have to say about the latest boxy VW in the comments, below. As for pricing and availability, stateside? Don’t hold your breath for a new-age Bus.

2015 VW Camper Van Gallery

Monday, July 27, 2015

Production Infiniti Q30 Spied in Prague

Infiniti Q30 compact SUV
The compact luxury SUV market that was, arguably, launched by the Buick Encore and BMW X1 a few years ago is one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry. Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, and Volvo are getting into the act, too, but they’ll all be joined by the car you see here: the new-for-2016 Infiniti Q30.
First shown at the 2013 Frankfurt show, the Q30 is expected to “resonate with customers”, says Infiniti. “(It is) an attempt to appeal to generation X and Y buyers.”
Interestingly, this latest Infiniti isn’t built on a Nissan platform. Instead, it’s built on the same MFA platform as Mercedes’ CLA, GLA, and B-series electric vehicles. As such, we can expect it to carry similar 2.0 liter turbocharged gas engines and the 2.2 liter turbo diesel currently found in the 250 CDI series Mercedes. In those cars, these are some pretty hot engines- more than capable, in other words, of delivering on the Infiniti Q30’s promise of “coupe-like performance”.
No word, yet, on when the new Q30 will make an appearance stateside. While you wait for that news, though, you can check out some pictures of the original Infiniti Q30 concept shown 2 years ago. Enjoy!

Infiniti Q30 Concept Gallery


Source | ImagesPaul Tan.

Honda Releases Details on 2016 Africa Adventure Bike

2016 Honda Africa
To say that we’ve been looking forward to Honda’s upcoming 2016 Africa adventure-touring motorcycle is a bit of an understatement. We’ve been excitedly writing about it for years now, starting over two years ago- when a new Honda Africa was still just a rumor.
Back then, we wrote that “the proposed ‘new Africa’ would slot in above Honda’s automatic CTX700 and CB500 models, and – assuming the rumors of an 800 cc variant are true – the ‘I live on my bike!’ guys are absolutely going to rob your house to be able to pay for one.”
Those rumors about an 800 cc version turned out to not be true, though. Instead, we get a awesome and dangerously powerful one-thousand cubic centimeter power plant to kick our legs over as we point the 2016 Honda Africa’s headlight towards the horizon an just, f***ing go.
You can check out the official Honda release (along with detailed technical specs on the bike), below, and expect to see more of the Honda Africa twin on next year’s “Best Bikes” list.

Honda Releases Details on 2016 CRF1000L Africa Twin

998cc adventure motorcycle to feature all-new compact parallel-twin engine
TORRANCE, CA – Honda is pleased to announce further technical details on the new CRF1000L Africa Twin, which will be in Honda showrooms across the United States in early 2016. Like its celebrated forerunners, the CRF1000L Africa Twin is thoroughly equipped for true adventure, with a potent engine and dynamic chassis ready to explore continents, on- or off-road.
From the start of the CRF1000L Africa Twin project there was one motorcycle that consistently impressed with its balance of usability, poise and handling, on the road and in the dirt—the seminal XRV750 Africa Twin. It proved a worthwhile benchmark, even when set against today’s myriad choice of adventure motorcycles. The machine that now bears its name shares no common parts with the old model but it inherits the full the essence and spirit of what made the XRV750 Africa Twin so good.
The “true adventure” approach starts with the engine, which has to perform in off-road situations as well as on-road long-range touring and all points in between. The CRF1000L Africa Twin’s 998cc parallel-twin power plant draws heavily on Honda’s off-road race experience with the CRF250R/450R competition machines, and uses the same four-valve Unicam head design for compact overall dimensions. A lightweight cast camshaft—using the same materials as that on the CBR1000RR—operates the valve train, and twin spark plugs fire the fuel/air mixture in each combustion chamber.
Strong and linear power and torque deliver instant response anywhere in the rev-range—accompanied by a satisfying, characterful deep growl as rpm rises. A 270° phased crankshaft gives the power delivery a distinct character as well, delivering excellent feel for rear-wheel traction. Biaxial primary balance shafts cancel vibration.
The engine’s short height contributes to the CRF1000L Africa Twin’s excellent ground clearance—another prerequisite for a true adventure machine. It also uses clever packaging of componentry to both dynamic and aesthetic effect. The water pump is housed within the clutch casing, and the water and oil pumps are driven by a shared balancer shaft. Further reducing engine size is the lower crankcase design, which stores the oil and houses the pressure-fed pump.
The lightweight six-speed manual gearbox uses the same shift-cam design as found on the CRF250R/450R to ensure positive changes and is equipped with an assist slipper clutch.
For the CRF1000L Africa Twin’s chassis, three key attributes—highlights of the original XRV750—were targeted: off-road performance, touring comfort and the everyday agility that makes for a great all-rounder or day-to-day commuter.
A steel semi-double cradle frame provides a balance of highway touring capability—even while fully loaded—genuine off-road performance, agility and sheer strength. Mass centralization—with items like the battery packaged at the rear of the cylinder head—contributes to a low center of gravity.
The long-travel Showa inverted fork is fully adjustable and features dual radial-mount Nissin four-piston brake calipers and 310mm “wave” style floating discs. The Showa rear shock has hydraulic spring-preload adjustment. Like the CRF450R Rally, the CRF1000L Africa Twin uses 21- and 18-inch front and rear spoke wheels, wearing 90/90-21 and 150/70-18 tires.
Following its design theme of “unlimited adventure,” the Africa Twin is styled with minimum bodywork in a tough, lightweight form that offers both weather protection for the rider and a slim, agile feel. Dual headlights maintain the original’s signature presence and the seat height adjusts .8 inches to either 34.3 or 33.5 inches. A large 4.96 gallon fuel tank—coupled with the engine’s fuel efficiency—stretches the distances between refueling stops.
To tailor the overall electronics package to capably tackle any conditions on- or off-road, the Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) system offers three levels of control, and it is possible for the rider to turn off the ABS system for the rear wheel. (HSTC and ABS not available on base version; equipped as standard on DCT/ABS version.)
The CRF1000L Africa Twin will be available in two color options: Red/Black/White Dakar Rally and Silver.

Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)
Honda’s unique Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) will be available as an option on the CRF1000L Africa Twin, with the use of a common crankcase keeping the width the same as the manual transmission version.
It features the standard manual mode—allowing the rider to operate gear shifts through triggers on the left handlebar—and two automatic modes. D mode offers the best balance of fuel efficiency and comfort cruising. S mode gives extra levels of sport performance, with three different shift patterns to choose from: S1, S2 and S3.
In certain situations on the road, such as during low-speed maneuvers, the DCT partially disengages the clutch to reduce the effect that quick throttle movements have on the chassis. Of course, DCT for the CRF1000L Africa Twin is also fully equipped to operate in an adventure environment. With the G switch on in any riding mode, the connection between the throttle and the rear wheel is more direct, which can be desirable in certain off-road situations.
Further new functionality for the DCT system comes in the form of incline detection. During ascents, upshifts are delayed in order to allow a higher rpm to be held; on descents, downshifts happen earlier to enable better engine braking.

Engine TypeLiquid-cooled 4-stroke 8-valve Parallel Twin with 270° crank and Unicam
Engine Displacement998cc
Bore x Stroke92.0 x 75.1 mm
ClutchWet, multi-plate with coil springs, aluminum cam assist and slipper clutch
Final DriveO-ring sealed chain
Gearbox/Transmission TypeConstant mesh 6-speed manual / 6-speed DCT with on- and off-road riding modes
Honda Selectable Torque Control SystemHSTC 3-levels + switch-off (DCT/ABS model only, not on STD model)
Frame TypeSteel semi-double cradle type with high-tensile strength steel rear sub-frame
Turning Radius8’2”
Curb Weight503 lb. (STD), 534 lb. (DCT/ABS)
Fuel Capacity4.96 gallons
Length x Width x Height91.9 x 34.4 x 58.1 inches (STD), 91.9 x 36.6 x 58.1 inches (DCT/ABS)
Wheelbase62.0 inches
Seat Height (STD position / Low position)34.3/33.5 inches
Ground Clearance9.8 inches
ABS system typeABS 2-channel with rear ABS off switch (DCT/ABS model only, not on STD model)
Front Brakes310mm dual wave floating hydraulic disc with aluminum hub and radial fit 4-piston calipers and sintered metal pads
Rear Brake256mm wave hydraulic disc with 2-piston caliper and sintered metal pads. Also Lever-Lock Type Parking Brake System on DCT/ABS model
Front WheelWire spoke with aluminum rim
Rear WheelWire spoke with aluminum rim
Front Rim Size21M/C x MT2.15
Rear Rim Size18M/C x MT4.00
Front Tire90/90-R21 tube type
Rear Tire150/70-R18 tube type

Source | Images: Honda.