Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tesla Model S Highest Ranked Car Of 2015

Everyone who drives a Tesla Model S loves the car. Part of that is because of its elegant, nearly silent ride. Part of it is its exciting performance. And part of that is because it is just so nice to look at. In its end of the year Best Cars Of 2105 rankings, Consumer Reports like the Tesla Model S so much, it awarded it two spots in the top ten — one for the entry level version of the car, the 70D and another time for the mighty P85D. According to Tree Hugger, CR says, “Two Teslas on our Best of 2015 list? You betcha. We didn’t think it was possible, but the 691-hp P85D wowed us even more than the base model Tesla S.”
Tesla Model S
All that love from Consumer Reports comes as a bit of a surprise, since the organization removed the Model S from its list of recommended cars just a month ago, citing too many reliability issues. Most of those concerns centered on the number of electric drive motors the company has replaced, especially on cars built in 2012 and 2013. Elon Musk responded that the manufacturing process has been upgraded and that the company expects its most recent drive motors will have a useful life of 1,000,000 miles or more.
Others also rate the Model S highly. Says Inside EVs, Autosaur takes the rankings from four automotive news sites —  Edmunds, Car and Driver, CNET, and The Car Connection — and averages them to come up with an overall score. Once again, the Tesla Model S led the pack with an average score of 97 out of 100. The Mazda 6 and Mazda 3 were ranked second and third overall. The worst rated car was the Smart fortwo, which garnered a miserable ranking of only 41 out of 100. Probably an excellent car to avoid if your shopping for a new ride right now.
No matter how you slice the numbers, the Tesla Model S consistently comes out on top. Making things even sweeter, Tesla owners report they are happier with the service they receive than the owners of any other brand, including Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW. A top ranked car backed by top ranked service? No wonder Tesla owners are so full of praise for their cars and the company that Musk built.

Naked Hyundai Ioniq Spied In The Wild

Hyundai Ioniq
Little is known about the technical specifications for the car, other than the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Ioniq will both use a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine. There are no range specifications for the plug-in or the battery version of the car available at this time.
The good news is that the car is clearly a crossover SUV style vehicle. That just happens to be the hottest part of the automobile market right now, so Hyundai is doing itself a favor by positioning the ioniq to compete in that segment. The bad news is that Hyundai — which has some of the best looking cars on the road — seems to have recorded a swing and a miss with the styling of this car.
Ioniq 2In essence, it is the same type vehicle as the Tesla Model X — a 4 door sport utility vehicle with a hatchback. But it does not look nearly as appealing as the Model X. The front is ordinary in a way that other current Hyundai models are not. From the rear doors back, the car bears an unfortunate resemblance to the late and largely unlamented Pontiac Aztek. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the appearance of the Ioniq, but there’s not a lot that’s especially right about it, either.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and if the price is right, lots of buyers will be shopping for precisely this kind of car. From these photos, the Ioniq appears to be somewhat larger than the Prius, which will appeal to many folks. The Ioniq may be more appealing once more is known about its electronics and interior appointments.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi AWD

When it was introduced in the late 90s, the original Honda CR-V was an innovative car-based SUV that promised to combine an SUV’s all-weather capabilities and high seating position with a car’s fuel economy. It was a formula that was wildly successful, and which spawned rivals like the Toyota RAV-4, Hyundai Tucson, and- depending on who you ask- the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 a decade later. Since then, the CR-V has been redesigned four times. With each redesign, the little SUV has grown slightly bigger, to the point that there was now a gap in Honda’s product line for a small, practical little SUV just about the size of that first-generation CR-V.

Enter: the 2016 Honda HR-V EX-L Navi AWD

2016 Honda HR-V
Based on the excellent Honda Fit and fitted with Honda’s Real Time AWD system, the 2016 Honda HR-V we tested was more than capable of handling my generally suburban commute- and gave no indication that it would slip up once “real winter” sets in here in Chicago. The HR-V’s clean, intuitive interior design and 5-star safety rating should also help the little SUV find buyers- but what about the sub-CR-V size? Is the HR-V just too small to be practical?

2016 Honda HR-V | Just Right

In a word: No. In more words, the 2016 Honda HR-V may not take up any more garage space than its Chevy Trax or Fiat 500X competition, but it’s worlds ahead of both in terms of practicality.
“Worlds ahead,” I hear you ask. “Really?”
Yes, really. Whereas the Fiat cute-ute could barely fit a folded-up umbrella stroller, the 2016 Honda HR-V swallowed up the much larger City GT stroller, a diaper bag, my daughter’s pink folding chair (shown), and the new Sit n’ Stand 2-kid stroller we just bought. At the same time. Meanwhile, the Chevy Trax is just nowhere- without room for even the tiniest of folding strollers, the Trax is totally useless as a family car.
In addition to real, actually usable cargo space, the HR-V is comfortable enough for two midwestern American adults (read: large adults) a toddler in a massive baby seat, and a twelve-year-old to happily tool around in all day. Trying the same trick in either of the previously mentioned vehicles will make everyone claustrophobic quickly.
Where does that leave us with the 2016 Honda HR-V? I think it leaves us with a small SUV that isn’t too small, isn’t too big, and fits nicely in an urban garage while giving back just a bit under the 29 combined MPG rating during the week I had it- which brings me to the very clever way the new HR-V “grades” your driving.

2016 Honda HR-V | Gamification of Green

At idle, the ring around the speedo is either blue or white- but that changes to green when you’re driving economically, or a reddish-purple when it decides you’re burning too much gas. It was annoying at first, but after I started thinking about “getting green” as a game, it started to get entertaining and my avg. MPG did creep upwards. It wasn’t a party, but it was more entertaining than “Elmo’s Got the Moves” for the thirtieth time, anyway.
So, that said, I think the 2016 Honda HR-V is a strong contender in the tiny SUV market. And, frankly, the only one I’ve driven (so far) that I’d even consider as a daily driver for a (relatively) young, growing family.

Monday, December 28, 2015

China Emission Standards: So Tough Honda Will Have All Hybrids By 2025

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring
2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

China is the world's largest market for new cars, and it also has some of the world's worst air pollution.
Cities have had to limit new-car sales and restrict car use to combat rampant pollution, while the government is aggressively promoting electric cars as a solution to the problem.

But one carmaker believes that in a decade, Chinese emissions standards will be so strict that it will be virtually impossible to sell cars there without some form of electrification.

"In 2025, we don't expect to be able to sell conventional internal-combustion engines," Honda chief technology strategy officer for automobile R&D Keiji Ohtsu said in a recent interview with Ward's Auto.
Chinese emissions standards in place a decade from now will be so strict that Honda will have an all-hybrid lineup there, likely augmented by some plug-in electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
Emissions standards first announced in 2013 already require carmakers to increase average fuel economy from a mandated 34 mpg in 2015 to 47 mpg in 2020--as measured on the country's own testing standard.
2015 Honda Accord Hybrid
2015 Honda Accord Hybrid
China has also tried to boost sales of so-called "New Energy Vehicles"--including battery-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel-cell cars--through generous government incentives.
The predicted tightening of Chinese emissions standards comes just as Honda is ramping up production of hybrids.

It expects hybrids to account for 20 percent of global sales by 2020, according to Ohtsu.
However, they could account for as much as 80 percent of sales in Japan, and even the 20 percent Honda estimates for the U.S. would be a significant increase over its past numbers.
2016 Honda CR-Z
2016 Honda CR-Z
Honda eliminated the Civic Hybrid from its U.S. lineup at the end of the 2015 model year, and the Accord Hybrid on a one-year hiatus for 2016 before an updated model launches for 2017, leaving only the low-volume CR-Z two-seat hybrid hatchback.
The carmaker also plans to launch a new plug-in hybrid model in 2018, using the same platform as the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell sedan.

A battery-electric model is expected around at that time as well, and may also use the Clarity platform.
Honda will focus more on hydrogen fuel cells, though. While it only plans to sell about 200 Clarity sedans in the first year, it believes they will become "mainstream" by 2030.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2017 Chevrolet Volt Details Emerge: More Features, Same Price

Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt

The redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Volt is now in showrooms, but only in certain regions.
Chevy is limiting second-generation Volt sales to California and other states friendly to plug-in electric cars for the time being, but will roll the car out nationwide early next year.
The 2016 Volt will have a shortened model year, making way for the 2017 Volt's arrival this coming spring.

That 2017 model will get some extra available equipment compared to the 2016 Volt, but will have the same price, according to CarsDirect.
The biggest change in terms of equipment will be the addition of adaptive cruise control as an option on the Premier model.
The system comes bundled with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, low-speed automatic braking, and intelligent high beams--all of which adds $2,185 to the Volt's sticker price.
Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt
There's also a new exterior color option called Citron Green Metallic, essentially a pale metallic green.
Meanwhile, pricing isn't expected to change for 2017.
Chevy will actually lower the MSRP by $50, but that's to account for a $50 increase in the destination charge.

Including destination, the base 2017 Volt LT will start at $33,995, while the Premier will start at $38,345. Both prices do not include any Federal, state, or local incentives that may apply to a purchase.
Chevy apparently won't add a mid-level trim, keeping the LT and Premier (previously referred to as the LTZ) as the only two options.
There are no expected changes to the powertrain, which uses a 1.5-liter four-cylinder and T-shaped, 18.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt

So the Volt's EPA-rated 53 miles of electric-only range and 42 mpg combined should remain unchanged as well.
Despite its limited availability, the second-generation Volt is selling fairly well.

Chevy managed to sell 1,324 2016 Volts in October--the new model's first month on sale--and 1,980 in November.
With wider availability, the 2017 Volt could realize even larger sales volumes when it arrives in showrooms this spring.

Suzuki to commercialize fuel cell motorcycle in Japan; on-road testing begins in 2016

The Nikkei reports that Suzuki Motor plans to commercialize a hydrogen powered fuel cell motorcycle, with plans to start testing it on public roads in 2016 once Japan’s transport ministry finalizes the relevant safety and environmental standards.
Suzuki already has a joint venture with Intelligent Energy Holdings that will produce a Burgman fuel cell scooter. The high-pressure hydrogen tank is small enough for a motorcycle. The first Burgman scooter will be based on Suzuki’s existing 120cc model.
The Nikkei report said that Suzuki hopes to turn its fuel cell two-wheeler into one of its major products; Suzuki also intends to develop compact four-wheel vehicles that run on hydrogen.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tesla is finally ramping up Model X production

Merry Christmas to everyone waiting to take delivery of a Tesla Model X. Those deliveries started happening last week, according to CleanTechnica.

The waiting list for the Model X is at least a year long and may total 40,000 examples or so, according toHybrid Cars. With half of all new Teslas being made consisting of Model X crossovers, that waiting list might be reduced by 800 to 1,000 cars per week. That's pretty impressive, considering that the number of robots required for the Model X is three times that of the Model S sedan.

The first deliveries of the Model X took place in late September, but there were just a half-dozen of them at the time. For this new batch, the first variants are of the Signature variety, meaning that they'll run about $132,000 each. The lesser models are set to debut sometime next year. Those will be priced at about $80,000, not factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit. The base 70D model will be able to go 220 miles on a single charge, will have a 0-60 time of six seconds, and have a top speed of 140 miles per hour.

OPEC To EVs: We Sneer In Your General Direction

OPEC doubts EVs will go mainstream
To hear the people who run OPEC tell it, the world will continue to consume oil in prodigious quantities for at least the next 50 years, come Hell or rising sea levels. Basically, it thinks the people of the world are too stupid and too weak to stop burning fossil fuels. EVs? Forget about them. Never gonna happen, says OPEC in a new 470 page report.
“Without a technology breakthrough, battery electric vehicles are not expected to gain significant market share in the foreseeable future,” it said. “Electric cars cost too much. Their range is too short. The batteries are defective in hot or cold conditions.” Even though battery prices may fall 50% or more over the next 20 years, EVs will not appeal to mainstream  shoppers due to “consumer resistance,” the report says.
OPEC does acknowledge the climate accord reached earlier this month in Paris may signal trouble for the coal industry, but thinks oil production will continue on at about the same level far into the future. In fact, it salivates over the prospect of a some global crisis that will increase demand and drive prices higher again. Who knows? Maybe GM will revive the Hummer brand, so Americans can drive 10 mile per gallon pseudo-armored vehicles to work again.
OPEC doubts EVs will go mainstream
The inevitability of price fluctuations is one of the leading factors driving a shift away from fossil fuels. The price of sunlight and wind never changes — both are free and will be forever. Two winters ago, Americans were paying $4.00 a gallon for heating oil. Today, the price is less than half that. The uncertainty of future prices is one of the factors driving the market for rooftop residential solar.
The world’s major automakers are pouring billions into making better EVs. China wants 90% of new cars to be electric soon. Geely Motors says it will hit that target just 5 years from now. Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW are rushing plug-in hybrid and electric cars to market. Ford and GM are stepping up their investments in electric cars. The Japanese manufacturers are betting heavily on fuel cell technology.
The number of cars in the world is projected to increase rapidly in coming decades, but most of them will not run on gasoline. Where does OPEC think its projected growth in the oil market is going to come from? People may still doubt the science about rising sea levels and melting ice caps, but from Beijing to Paris, Milan to Rome, polluted air is telling residents that they are being slowly poisoned by the very air they breathe. People can’t see the oceans flooding Pago Pago, but they can feel the burning in their lungs as they gasp their way through the work day.
15 years ago, former Saudi oil minister, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, said in an interview with the Telegraph that a moment of reckoning was coming for the oil industry. He specifically mentioned fuel cell technology as one of the principal factors that would alter the energy landscape. “Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil — and no buyers,” he said. “Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, [but] not because we had a lack of stones.”
Within OPEC, nobody is listening to Sheikh Yamani’s words today.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

General Motors Will Introduce Dual Clutch AWD On More Cars

Buick LaCrosse
General Motors will introduce a new dual clutch all wheel drive system built by British supplier GKN Driveline on the new 2017 Buick LaCrosse. The system adds two electronically controlled clutches to the rear axle in place of the traditional mechanical differential. The arrangements lets the car’s onboard computer determine how much, if any, of the engine’s power is transmitted to each rear wheel.
“This has a real performance element to it, with big benefits on acceleration and cornering,” LaCrosse Marketing Manager Doug Osterhoff said in a recent interview. “We think this will have more play” in warm weather states where consumers traditionally are less interested in all wheel drive systems. Less than 10% of buyers opt for the mechanical awd system on the LaCrosse today.
The electronic dual clutch enables what is known today as “torque vectoring” — a way to not only send power to a wheel with traction but also enhance cornering ability by delivering more power to the outside wheel, which helps the car turn. Torque vectoring is becoming a popular concept in cars with electric drivetrains, like the proposed Honda CR-Z with 4 electric motors that is said to be in the works.
The ability to seamlessly shift torque between the rear wheels offers improved ride and handling compared to traditional all wheel drive systems, says Ray Kuczera, GKN’s vice president of global product technology. The two clutch setup is similar to the GKN systems used on the Range Rover Evoque crossover and the Ford Focus RS, according to Automotive News.
“Customers are seeing all wheel drive as more than just a go anywhere traction feature,” Kuczera said. “The two-clutch system can also influence the vehicle dynamics and improve the feeling of the car when you’re going straight or turning. It’s more nuanced vehicle control.”
The GKN system will be featured on Cadillac’s newest SUV,  the XT5, that goes on sale next spring, but with an added benefit. It will be able to disconnect the rear wheels entirely in certain circumstances to boost fuel economy on the open road. “As OEMs get more and more worried about saving fuel, having these twin clutches is the most efficient way to disconnect the rear” while still being able to offer all wheel drive to customers who need it, Kuczera says.The GKN system is expected to be available on other GM products with all wheel drive in the years to come.
Photo credit: Automotive News